“You’re home,” Jeanne struggled to keep the surprise from her voice. Ever since they’d moved out of the Cory mansion, Matt had made a point of keeping his distance from her as frequently as possible.
“Yeah,” Matt nodded, leaving out the part where he had to dash from Donna’s before Michele and Bridget came home from their school’s Valentine’s Day dance. “I got Chinese food.” He indicated a paper bag on the table. “Want some?”
“Sure!” She took off her coat, grabbing a random white container, a plastic packet of soy sauce, and a pair of chopsticks, tentatively sitting down next to Matt who, for once, didn’t glare at her like he wished she’d spontaneously combust on the spot.
“You’re in a good mood,” Jeanne observed.
He shrugged. “I had a good day.”
“I’m glad,” she told him sincerely.
Matt cocked his head to look at her, going back and forth on whether to say something, deciding against it at the last minute and, instead, offering, “You look in pretty decent spirits yourself.”
“Things have been going well,” she said. “At work and… in general.”
“You really want to still do this, don’t you?”
“No matter how I treat you, you still want to be married to me.”
“I do,” Jeanne nodded, then smiled. “Pun intended.”
Matt couldn’t help smiling back before sobering up to ask, “Why?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean that I have a pretty good sense of my selling points as a husband. The biggest one is my money. Or rather, my family’s money. But, now that we’ve been forced to slum it – “
“I was never interested in your money, Matt.”
“My name then? Mrs. Matthew Cory would open up some pretty major doors in Bay City society for you. Except you haven’t even tried.”
Jeanne laughed. “Can you imagine me in Bay City society? Me? Who says the first thing that comes to her head, then waits for the confused head-scratching? I was not built to be a Lady Who Lunches. Besides, charity work is for suckers.”
“You haven’t used my name to move up at KBAY-TV, either.”
“I’m good at what I do. I’ll get promoted on my own merits. I wouldn’t want to put you on the spot there, in any case. Caesar’s wife, and all. You know…”
“So why then, Jeanne? What do you want from me? From this marriage?”
“I want to be with you.”
She sighed. “Remember when I told how I wasn’t interested in nice guys? Because nice guys are weak and get walked all over?”
“You made me see that wasn’t true. You made me understand that nice guys don’t have to finish last. And you made me admit that maybe a nice guy – like my dad, who I spent my whole life blaming for not protecting my mom from Jerry Grove and everybody else who messed with her – is what I needed all along.”
“You think I’m a nice guy?” Matt cringed.
“The nicest I’ve ever known.”
“You’ve got to get out more.”
“Why? When I have everything I want right here.”
“I’m everything you want?” Matt didn’t know how to react to that.
Jeanne merely nodded.
“I believe you…” Matt said.
“Kirkland’s upstairs,” Lorna told Grant and Marley when they came by the next morning.
“How’s he feeling?” Grant wondered.
“Fine. Good. He and Steven went to a basketball game last night, no problems.”
“We’re happy to hear it,” Marley said, then checked. “So you think he’s up to hearing about Grant and I?”
“Physically? Sure. I’d break it to him gently, though. Kid’s been through a lot.”
“I know how to handle my son,” Grant bristled.
Lorna just shrugged and stepped aside so they could mount the stairs.
“Grant,” she called to him just before he disappeared around the bend, Marley having gone on ahead.
“Yeah?” he paused, half-turned.
“You did the right thing,” Lorna said. “Marrying Marley.”
The two locked eyes for a long moment, her implication explicitly clear to both of them.
“I know,” Grant said.
“I’m happy you called,” John told Donna, moving in to kiss her as he came in, Donna turning her cheek at the last moment, offering a more chaste variation of his original intent.
It threw John for a moment, but he followed her into the foyer, peeling off his gloves, wondering, “What did you want to talk about?”
“You. Me. Us.”
He smiled, “My favorite topic.”
“I love you, John,” Donna said.
He startled, stunned, then, once the words had sunk in, allowed a grin to nearly split his face in two.
It froze in place, however, the moment Donna added, “But, not enough.”
John shook his head slowly, approaching her. “How about you let me be the judge of that?”
“No.” She took a step back, keeping the same amount of distance between them. “No. I won’t let you do that to yourself, John. I won’t let you… settle.”
“You,” he stressed. “Are not settling for me. You have never, ever been settling for me.”
“But, you would be for me,” she told him softly, wanting to spare and hurt at the same time. “I can never love you as much as you deserve to be loved. I know that about myself. I’m just… I’m not capable of it. Other people are. I see it all the time. Other people can love wholly and completely, to the point where they’re willing to do anything for the other person. I’ve always been all about me. Even when I’ve known what the right thing to do is, if it was wrong for me, I wouldn’t do it. Even when it was for someone I loved.”
“This doesn’t sound like you, Donna.” John tried to put his finger on why. “This sounds like something somebody else told you about yourself.”
“You mean, because self-awareness hasn’t exactly been my forte up to this point?”
“Well, yeah,” he admitted sheepishly. “That’s part of it.”
“I’ve been doing a lot of soul-searching lately – much to the chagrin, I’m sure, of those who’d insist I don’t posses one.”
“That was never me,” he reminded.
“I know. And I’m grateful. So very grateful. Which is precisely why I am telling you all this now. You deserve someone who can truly love you. Not someone like me.”
“Even if I believed that were true,” John challenged. “Which, for the record, I don’t. But, even if I believed you weren’t capable of loving me as much as you say I deserve, what would you say if I claimed it didn’t matter? I’m willing to take what I can get, if it means being with you.”
“No,” Donna stressed. “No. Absolutely not. Never. I know what it’s like to settle for what you can get. Why do you think I kept running back to Reginald most of my life, begging for table scraps and a pat on the head in between kicks under the table? How do you think I ended up with Carl, or Jake, or Catlin Ewing – do you remember him? All men who certainly had other priorities. I did it because I truly believed I didn’t deserve any better. But, that isn’t you, John. You deserve a woman who wants to be with you more than anything. One who will put you first. One who knows how to do that.”
“You could learn,” John joked in a manner that made it clear he was deadly serious.
“No,” she told him sadly, truthfully. “I honestly don’t think I could.”
“Married,” Kirkland repeated the word as he glanced from his father to his aunt, and back again. “You two guys got… married.”
“Yes.” Kirkland had been sitting stretched out on his bed, and Marley now perched next to him, while Grant remained as he was, standing behind her, shifting his weight from one foot to the next.
“That was… fast.”
“Not really,” Grant said. “Marley and I have been dating since…”
“I walked in on you guys the summer before last,” Kirkland couldn’t help reminding with a smirk, prompting both adults to blush crimson.
“Er, yes,” Grant agreed. “Since before that.”
“It’s been almost two years,” Marley calculated.
“Well, with these last six months off. I thought you told Grant you never wanted to see him again.”
“I made a lot of mistakes last year,” Marley reminded. “Trying to run off with Bridget and Michele was one of them. Covering up Lorna’s accident was another.”
“Yeah,” Kirkland agreed stiffly, not thrilled by the remainder.
“And forcing your father out of my life was the third. Fortunately, all the mistakes could be rectified. Lorna and Devon are healthy. Michele and Bridget are home, along with my promise to never, ever do anything like that again. And your dad and I are married.”
Kirkland furrowed his brow, looking up at Grant. “Does that make you my uncle, too?”
“I’m your father,” Grant stressed, unamused.
“Okay,” Kirkland shrugged.
Grant and Marley exchanged glances.
“Okay?” Marley clarified.
“That’s all you’ve got to say, son? Okay?”
“What do you want me to say? You’re not here to ask for my permission or my blessing. It’d be too late in any case, right?”
“We’d like you to be happy for us,” Marley ventured.
“Are you guys happy?”
“Of course we are.” Marley stood up, linking her fingers through Grant’s, smiling up at him as he offered up a stiff lipped expression in return.
“Then what do you need me for?” Kirkland wondered.
“I’m sorry, are you in a meeting?” Jen looked in confusion from Jamie to Alice. She’d come to his office to receive the results of her blood tests. Jamie wouldn’t fill her in over the phone.
“No.” Jamie rose quickly, beckoning her inside. “Come in, Jen.”
“Why…” Jen indicated her great-grandmother, sitting across from Jamie’s desk.
“I asked Alice to come. I thought you might want someone from your family here.”
Jen deliberately shoved aside the implication of Jamie’s statement to focus on the cold, hard facts any lawyer’s child would grow up knowing. “You can’t… Doctor/patient confidentially says that…”
“I kind of skirted the rules,” Jamie admitted. “Officially, I asked Alice here for a consult as fellow physician, but…”
“What’s going on, Dr. Frame?” Jen demanded, her voice cracking.
“You can call me Jamie,” he reminded.
“I think Dr. Frame is more appropriate under the circumstances.”
“Sit down, honey,” Alice urged, patting the empty chair beside her.
“What?” Jen steeled herself. “Tell me. Now.”
Jamie took a deep breath, exchanging a furtive look with Alice before facing Jen, waiting for her to take the proffered seat before informing, as neutrally as possible. “You have leukemia.”
She didn’t say anything. She simply sat, frozen in place for a long beat, then abruptly nodded her head a single time. “Okay.”
“Acute myelogenous leukemia,” Jamie clarified, deciding to keep talking while Jen absorbed the diagnosis. “The bad news is, it’s a very fast growing cancer of the blood and bone marrow. But, the good news is, it’s also the most common kind, which means there is a great deal of research out there on treatment options. Basically, your bone marrow is making unformed cells called blasts. Blasts are supposed to develop into white blood cells. But, they aren’t in this case. Your bone marrow is also making some abnormal red blood cells and platelets. This leads to not enough iron, and ultimately severe anemia, which is why you fainted the other day.”
“What’s the treatment?” Jen asked in a hollow voice. “You said there was treatment.”
“We can start with chemotherapy. That’s usually a week, to see if we can put the illness into remission. We’ll give your body a month or so to recover, then check to see if all the leukemia cells have been destroyed. If they haven’t been, we may need to do another course of medication.”
“How many courses in total?”
“Two. Maybe three.”
“And if they don’t work?”
Jamie shook his head. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Yes, this is a very aggressive cancer. But, we can be just as aggressive in return. You have an excellent chance of making a complete recovery.”
“This is a great deal of information to take in at one time.” Alice rested her hand on Jen’s shoulder. “Don’t try to do it all at once.”
“Jamie said this is a very fast growing cancer. So we need to act right away.”
“A day or two won’t make a difference,” Jamie reassured. “Take some time. Is there anyone you’d like me to call for you? Your dad or GQ or… Steven?”
“I’m fine,” Jen insisted. “I’m fine. I don’t need to talk to anybody.”
“Jamie and I are both here to answer any questions you might have,” Alice said.
“I need to do some research.” Jen stood up, heading for the door. “I’m good at research.”
“Call me,” Alice begged. “Anytime. Day or night.”
“Thank you,” Jen tossed off perfunctorily, then, right before taking off, turned to instruct Jamie and Alice. “Don’t tell anybody about this, okay? Not my dad, not GQ, nobody.”
“You have my word,” Jamie said. “Although, Jen, support from family and friends really is vital at a time like this.”
“I’ll handle it,” Jen promised. “I’ll handle it myself.”
“Aunt Marley?” Bridget and Michele asked in near-unison, having coming into the sitting room at Donna’s request to find both Marley and Grant waiting for them.
“When did you get out of the hospital?” Michele wondered.
Grant glared up at Donna from the couch. “You were supposed to tell them.”
She shrugged blithely. “I decided to let you surprise them. Aren’t surprises lovely, girls?”
Bridget and Michele didn’t seem too sure about that.
“Are you feeling better?” Bridget asked.
“Much,” Marley swore, needing to all but sit on her hands to keep from stretching them out, desperate for a hug. But, her nieces looked so cautious, she didn’t want to pressure them. “You have no idea how much I missed you both.”
“We missed you, too,” Michele conceded.
“Go on, darlings,” Donna urged the pair forward. “Give your aunt Marley a welcome home hug!”
From the expression on Donna’s face, Marley couldn’t tell if her mother was genuinely eager to make her feel welcome, or if she was pushing the girls in order to make the moment feel even more uncomfortable. Grant, for his part, knew exactly where he fell on the issue.
Michele stepped forward first, allowing Marley to squeeze her tightly, while the child’s arms remained at their sites.
Bridget was more keen, returning the embrace and even kissing Marley’s cheek, swearing, “I’m glad you’re all better.”
“So am I,” Marley kissed Bridget back, then did the same to Michele, holding each girl by one hand so that they formed a circle. “And I have some wonderful news! At least, I hope you two will think it’s wonderful.” Marley looked over her shoulder, drawing courage from Grant’s reassuring expression. “You two like Grant, don’t you?”
Michele and Bridget exchanged vague glances before looking back to Marley, Bridget offering a lukewarm, “He’s okay.”
“You remember all the fun times we’ve had together? The snowball fight at Christmas, and our epic Monopoly games…”
“That was before,” Michele clarified, in case Marley had forgotten.
“I know,” Marley said softly. “I know that I have a lot to make up to you both for.”
Michele indicated Grant. “He was going to help you kidnap us.”
“He did it because I asked. And think of what Grant was willing to give up. You know how much he loves Kirkland. But, Grant was ready to leave him behind, for my sake. Doesn’t that prove how much he loves me and how much he wants to make me happy?”
“It made Kirk real mad,” Bridged noted.
“Kirkland and I are fine,” Grant reassured the twins. “I hope the three of us can be, too.”
“Why does it matter?” Michele observed. “Kirk’s your kid. We’re nothing to you.”
“That’s not true,” Grant said. “You are not nothing to me. I care about you girls very much. As Kirkland’s sisters, as Marley’s nieces, and – “
“Grant and I got married!” Marley interrupted in her most chipper voice, unwilling to bear the anticipation any longer.
“Congratulations!” the salutation came not from either twin in front of them, but from a voice behind both Marley and Grant.
They swiveled their heads in union to see Sarah approaching, smiling broadly.
Grant froze in place, his face draining of color, but Marley didn’t notice as she turned her back and rose from her seat on the couch, hurrying to greet her, calling out, “Sarah!” with sincere delight as she embraced the younger woman.
Over Marley’s shoulder, Sarah’s eyes met Grant’s. She continued smiling.
“How are you?” Marley rested her arms on Sarah’s shoulders, holding her still for a good look. “I haven’t seen you in such a long time! How have you been?”
“I’ve been fine,” Sarah assured her. “I’ve actually been great. It’s been a pretty amazing six months.”
“You’ll have to tell me all about it,” Marley beamed.
“Oh,” Sarah said. “I’d be happy to.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|