“There are more important things right now than who’s right and who’s wrong,” Rachel pleaded. “You need me, Jamie. I need you. To hell with everything else – at least for a little while. Let’s fight one battle at a time, instead of fighting each other. Please. What do you say?”
Her eyes locked onto Jamie’s, forbidding him from looking away, demanding that he pay attention to her, that he acknowledge her request – one way or another.
And Jamie didn’t shy away from the challenge. He met Rachel’s gaze head-on, giving her exactly what she’d asked for, considering his mother’s plea. They held the stand-off for what felt like eternity.
Then, without saying a word, Jamie stepped forward and embraced Rachel tightly, allowing her to cling to him in a way she hadn’t been able to with anyone else.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” Jamie whispered into the top of Rachel’s head. “I am so sorry it had to come to this.”
Rachel nodded, her face crushed against his chest. “We don’t deserve this. Neither of us deserves this.”
Jamie hesitated, considering a host of answers before choosing to discard them all. Instead, he confessed, “I don’t know how I’m going to manage. I never thought I’d – again – This is exactly where I was twelve years ago. Trying to raise two kids on my own. Only instead of school-age boys, it’s a pair of baby girls. How the hell am I going to pull this off?”
“I’ll help you,” Rachel swore. “We’ll all help you. You won’t be alone, Jamie. And you did a wonderful job with the boys, I’m sure you’ll…”
“It’s different this time.” Jamie could only ignore so many facts before reality crept in. “It’s different because Vicky… I was sorry to hear she’d died. For Jake, for Marley, Donna, the twins, especially for Steven and Kirkland. I know what it’s like to lose a parent. But, I – Vicky, she didn’t mean much to me by then. I didn’t need to… I could just focus on the boys. Lorna is… she’s my life. I – Look, Mom,” Jamie broke their embrace, crossing to the table where he’d put down Lorna’s rings after having fallen asleep still clutching them in his fist. “She left these. In the girls’ diaper bag. She’s sending me a sign. She’s counting on me to find her. I can’t let her down. I won’t.”
Rachel stared at the three golden bands in her son’s palm, unsure of what to say or how to react, knowing only that she’d come with an objective in mind, and that she was resolved to see it through, no matter what.
Finally, she said, “I’m sorry, too, honey. I’m sorry you’re in so much pain.”
He told her, “I can play along, Mom. But, only up to a point. I won’t give up on finding my wife.”
“And you shouldn’t,” Rachel agreed, happy he’d given her this opening. “Because none of us know what really happened to Lorna.”
Jamie nodded slowly, understanding that this was as far as his mother was capable of bending right now, realizing that to push her any further would mean a break.
He changed the subject. He said, “You mentioned a funeral for Carl and the kids?”
“A memorial service,” Rachel corrected. “There isn’t – they haven’t – They’ve had no luck finding any,” she gagged over the word. “Bodies.”
Jamie merely nodded again, declining to offer his own theory as to why that was. “Let me know where and when.”
“I love you, Mom.”
“I love you, too, honey.”
“We’ll… figure this out.”
“No,” Rachel sighed, sounding more defeated than Jamie had ever heard her previously. “I don’t think so. I don’t think we ever will that.”
“What are you doing here, son?” Not that Grant was unhappy to see him, but Kirkland also wasn’t in the habit of just dropping by his father’s house, unannounced. Not anymore.
“I wanted to talk to you. To you both,” Kirkland indicated an equally curious Marley. “I wanted to tell you guys. I – Lorna… Dad thinks Lorna was on that plane with Carl and Cory and Elizabeth.”
Grant and Marley both gaped at Kirkland in shock.
“Dad thinks Carl kidnapped her. Lorna, she went missing a couple of hours before Carl did. She left Devon and Zee alone in the park and she… disappeared.”
“That’s…” Marley stammered. “No…”
“Yeah,” Kirkland nodded emphatically. “Although Dad, he also thinks this is all just a scam Carl is pulling. That he’s not dead, he faked the whole thing. You know, like you did,” the look his son gave him made Grant want to shrivel up on the spot.
To deflect the pain, Grant instead asked, “What possible reason would Carl have for snatching Lorna?”
“I’m not sure,” Kirkland admitted. “Dad… Dad isn’t being very clear about it.”
“Is Jamie alright?” was all Marley wanted to find out.
“No,” Kirkland shook his head. “He’s a mess.”
“I can imagine,” Marley whispered, still horrified by the news.
Grant snuck a peek at his wife, then, realizing she’d be no help, pressed, “Isn’t it more likely Jamie is just in shock? That he isn’t thinking rationally?”
Obviously trapped between instinctively defending his father and confessing his own qualms on the matter, Kirkland hedged, “He sounds pretty sure of it.”
“Is there any proof Lorna might have been with Carl?”
“No,” Kirkland admitted, feeling like it was a betrayal. “Grandma doesn’t think so. And even Alice… they tried to talk Dad down, but…”
“Jamie is not an easy man to convince once he’s got his mind made up.”
“Damn it, Grant,” Marley snapped. “She’s his wife. He loves her. They have children, a family. Do you just expect him to give up on her? Is that what you would do if you were in Jamie’s place?”
“Now wait a minute,” Grant held up his hand, as if warding off a blow. “All I was saying was that…”
Marley cut Grant off, turning to Kirkland, “Would you give you dad my best, please, honey? Tell him if he needs anything, with the girls, or… tell him I’m happy to help.”
“You and I,” Grant reminded, still smarting from her earlier attack. “Are the last people Jamie wants anywhere in the vicinity of his and Lorna’s kids.”
“This is an emergency,” Marley argued. “You don’t let past pettiness get in the way when it’s an emergency.”
Grant opened his mouth, his retort all ready, then changed his mind and shut it with an audible click. Not the time, not the place. Definitely not in front of Kirkland.
“Thank you for filling us in,” Grant clamped a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We appreciate it.”
“Yeah. No problem. I figured you’d want to know. I mean, you and Lorna… and Marley and Dad….”
Grant smiled weakly, indicating he was familiar with the vaguely perverse twists and turns of Kirkland’s family tree. “You know, son, if it ever gets too much for you, at Jamie’s place. If you’re feeling overwhelmed or… overlooked, you know you can always crash here. Your room is – “
“For God’s sake, Grant,” Marley sounded even more pissed off than before. “Would you give it a rest? Do you really think now is a good time to try and steal Jamie’s son from him? Again? You don’t think Jamie deserves a break? Under the circumstances?”
“I’m sorry,” Grant hissed. “I’m sorry that my first priority is my son and his well-being. Which quite obviously isn’t the case with you.”
“Hey, guys,” Kirkland cringed. “Don’t. Okay? Please.”
“It’s alright,” Marley rushed to reassure. “We’re fine, Kirk. We’re all just… we’re all under a lot of stress. The shock…”
“Yes,” Grant chimed in obediently. “The shock.”
“Let us know if you need anything. You or your dad. Anything at all. Please.”
“Okay. Sure. Will do.”
“Are you alright, son?” Grant couldn’t let go of what, as he’d said, was his priority.
“No,” Kirkland confessed. “I’m not. But, I need to be. So, I’ll figure something out. I guess.”
“Where’s your wife?” Matt asked Jamie over the phone, interrupting his brother mid-Hello, much less anything else. “She’s supposed to be looking after C-Squared while I’m on sick leave, and she isn’t answering her phone or her e-mail. Lorna swore to me she’d be able to handle this, even with a new baby. What’s going on?”
For a moment, Jamie was so shocked he couldn’t think of a thing to say.
So Matt continued, “And don’t tell me she’s so broken up over Carl she’s lost her will to run rough-shod over people.”
“Matt…” Jamie cleared his throat.
“Carl wasn’t the only person on that plane.”
“I know.” The self-righteousness drained out of Matt’s voice. Keeping it up had been a major effort in and of itself. “Cory and Elizabeth, too. Lila and I had to break the news to Jazz. Believe me, I know. And I’m sick about it. Worse than sick. Every time I start to think about… Let’s just say Donna wasn’t completely off-base about that stress thing.”
“Are you feeling alright?” Jamie asked anxiously.
“More or less. I’ve had some shortness of breath, some palpitations.”
“If it gets worse, don’t take any chances, go right away – “
“Don’t worry. I’m keeping an eye on it. I’ll head straight to the hospital this time, I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Which is another reason why I can’t be worrying about C-Squared right now. I’ve got my hands full as it is. Why isn’t Lorna doing her job? Or answering her phone, for that matter?”
Jamie swallowed hard. “Lorna was on Carl’s plane, Matt.”
“Lorna was what?”
“On Carl’s plane. I’m sure of it.”
“Hold on, man, hold on. I’ve been following the news all night and most of today, too. Nobody said anything about – “
“They don’t believe me.”
“The authorities. Mom.”
“So how can you be sure…”
Jamie filled him in as concisely as possible, wondering when it would stop hurting so much just to form the words.
“Oh, damn… Jamie…”
“What can I do?” Matt wanted to know. “What can I do to help?”
Jamie thought about it, and then he asked, “Go to Donna. She knew about the compound. Maybe she’ll have some idea of where Carl’s taken off for now.”
“I’m sorry,” Allie couldn’t help repeating as they were coming back from the hike they’d planned days before. “I’m usually a lot more fun on a date than this.”
“That’s okay.” Zeno sounded like he meant it, too. “Like I said, I’m surprised you even still wanted to come. With your grandfather and all…”
“Carl wasn’t my grandfather. Though,” Allie admitted. “I did call him Grandpa when I was little. We were close. Really close. I thought he was so dashing and glamorous and romantic. Especially when he’d recite poetry, or Shakespeare. I loved him.” She seemed almost embarrassed by the memory.
“You know me,” Zeno reminded. “I’m not a big bloodlines kind of guy. Anyone you love is family, far as I’m concerned.”
“Frankie?” she guessed.
“You still think of her as your mom?”
“One of them. Though her leaving the way she did, that did take some bloom off the rose, if you know what I mean?”
“I do,” Allie nodded. “I was just a little kid when Grandma and Carl got married. I thought everything was great, we were this happy family. It wasn’t until I got older that I began picking up on how Mom felt about him. And Uncle Matt. And Uncle Jamie. And, you know, pretty much all of Bay City.”
“And that changed how you felt about him?”
“Hm,” Zeno said.
Allie observed, “I know a disapproving Hm when I hear one.”
He shrugged. “None of my business.”
She guessed, “You don’t think I should be letting other people tell me what to think.”
“Pretty much,” Zeno concurred pleasantly.
“That’s not easy.”
“Never said it was.”
“I’m not… I’m not very strong. Not like you.”
“You’re plenty strong, Allie. You didn’t let other people tell you what to think when you were the only one who wanted to give Hudson up for adoption. And you didn’t let them tell you what to think about Gregory, either.”
“I – that was different. What I did, I did it for Hudson. And for Gregory, too. It wasn’t about me.”
“You stood your ground, that’s what matters.”
Allie thought back, admitting, “I think… I think I hurt Carl’s feelings when I… I kind of turned on him. One day we were the best of friends, and the next I was avoiding him and acting like a rude, little brat. I was acting the way I thought my mom wanted me to act. I guess I wanted her approval. So badly, I didn’t think about how Carl felt.”
“You were a kid. Kids do dumb things.”
“Yeah, well, the not thinking about other people’s feelings, I kind of carried that habit into adulthood.”
Zeno grinned, about to say something, when his attention was diverted by Charlie standing at the front door of the farm-house as they approached. She seemed as surprised to see Allie as Zeno was to see her.
“Hey,” Zeno offered cautiously. “What’s up?”
“Hi, Charlie,” Allie said.
“Hi,” Charlie mumbled. To Zeno, she said, “I need to talk to you.”
“I’m busy,” Zeno indicated Allie.
“Actually,” Allie demurred, “I’ve got to get going. Like I said, I’m not particularly good company today. I’ll call you?” she asked Zeno.
“Yeah, sure.” He turned his back on Charlie to give Allie a quick kiss good-bye. “I’ll talk to you soon.”
“Bye,” Allie waved to Charlie.
“Bye,” Charlie raised a dismissive hand.
“Felicia wants us to find Lorna,” Cass got right to the point, figuring Jamie didn’t need another set of impotent condolences. What he needed was action.
“We told her we’d be happy to do it,” Frankie added, “But, that we wanted to speak with you first. Make sure you were okay with it. And that it didn’t interfere with anything you might have planned on your own.”
Stunned that someone was finally taking him seriously, rather than tip-toeing around, making cryptic references to Jamie’s fragile mental health, he took a beat to absorb the information, before telling Frankie and Cass. “Amanda loaned me some of her Brava investigators. They haven’t turned up much. This sort of thing isn’t exactly their beat.”
“It is ours, however,” Cass reminded.
“Yeah. I know. You guys are good.”
“So you have no objection to our taking on the case?”
“No. None. Please. Anything you can do…”
“Listen, Jamie,” Frankie broached a subject Cass had rather vehemently warned her not to in the car on their way over. “I know the three of us… we’ve had a pretty rough time of it ever since I came back to Bay City.”
“Doesn’t matter,” Jamie told her stiffly. “Nothing matters right now except Lorna and bringing her home. Not to mention, Cory and Elizabeth, too.”
“It matters to me,” Frankie insisted. “We’re family. All this bad blood, it isn’t good for anybody.”
“Forgotten,” Jamie said.
“What about forgiven?”
“Anything you want. Say the word and it’s done. Cecile, Charlie, it never happened, okay? Just tell me what you need from me. How I can help. Money, right? You’ll probably need money? Expenses, that sort of thing?”
“Don’t worry about that now. Cass and I have plenty to get us started, we’ll keep you posted on our progress. You and Felicia both.”
“Felicia,” Jamie shook his head. “I remember what kind of downward spiral she went into when she thought she’d lost Lucas. And then Jenna… I don’t know how she’s going to survive this.”
“She got Lucas back,” Cass swore. “We’ll get Lorna back for her, too.”
“For her and for you,” Frankie promised.
“I just wanted to say…” Lila timidly began.
“I don’t care to hear it,” Rachel cut her off. “Not now. Possibly not ever.”
“I’m sorry,” Lila pressed on, in any case. “I never intended for any of this to – “
“What did you intend?” Rachel turned around where she was sitting, facing Lila, figuring if her former daughter in law wanted to get into this, what the hell, let’s really get into this. “What precisely did you expect to happen as a result of your actions?”
“I think we’ve had enough lies for the present time, don’t you, Lila?”
“Honestly, I expected Chase not to find a damn thing.”
Her response took Rachel by surprise.
“I expected to prove to him,” Lila went on, gathering confidence with each word. “That he was barking up the wrong tree. That Carl was walking the straight and narrow now, just like he always claimed. And like you always believed.”
The rebuke in Lila’s rejoinder was obvious. And not something Rachel felt up to addressing at this time. “And when you realized that wasn’t the case…”
“I came to you,” Lila reminded. “I warned you about what Chase was up to.”
“When it was too late to do anything about it, you did, yes.”
“I’m sorry,” Lila repeated. “You have no idea how much my heart breaks for you, for your lost babies. I love you, Rachel. You have been more of a mother to me than my own mother ever was. You’ve stood by me when you had every right to throw me out. I made a mistake in judgment. I will never, ever forgive myself for that. And I don’t expect you to, either. However, if there is anything – anything at all I can do for you to help make this even a tiny fraction easier, please don’t hesitate to ask. Whatever it is, I’ll do it gladly. You have my word.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|