TWO YEARS LATER….
“Where exactly does Grant think you are?” Dennis raised his head from the pillow to ask sleepily as Marley climbed out of his bed and swept her clothes up off the floor.
“At eight in the morning?”
“My husband trusts me implicitly.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“He doesn’t have much choice. Considering what Grant did to me….”
“It’s been over three years, Marley.”
“I know. I can count it on Daisy’s birthday candles.” She zipped up her skirt. “Or, it could simply be that Grant can’t wrap his mind around the possibility that my life might not start and end with him. That I might have other options.”
“I’m more than an option.” Dennis sat up, grabbing her hand. “I love you. I want to be with you. All the time. Not just on random mornings and illicit afternoons.”
“Oh, come on,” she kissed him lightly. “Don’t tell me all the sneaking around doesn’t make it even hotter.”
“Not after all this time. Enough is enough. When are you going to leave Grant and finally start living the life you and I were meant to?”
“When the time is right,” she assured him. The same way she always had. “If I leave Grant now, then I’m the guilty party. I won’t be eligible for a penny.”
“Who the hell cares about that? It’s not like either of us needs money.”
“It’s the principle of the thing. My taking a huge chunk of Grant’s capital would be a major blow to his ego.”
“You don’t think your dumping him for another man would get the job done equally well?”
“Why not both?” Marley laughed. “I am done begging for scraps or settling for less than I deserve. This time around, I want it all.”
“And that includes Daisy,” Dennis sighed, knowing that, in the end, that’s what this really was about, and always would be.
“I deserve that child. I’ve more than paid my dues. Everything I’ve put up with from Grant and Sarah both…. I’ve earned Daisy. And she loves me, she does, you know she does. She has absolutely no problem leaving Sarah’s to come stay with me.”
“And Grant,” Dennis reminded.
“Grant!” Marley snorted. “He hasn’t the foggiest idea how to be a parent, especially to a little girl. He leaves all the decisions up to me, from what she eats to how she dresses to what books we read. I’m the one truly raising her.”
“What about Sarah?”
“Sarah is even more hopeless than Grant! She’s constantly second-guessing herself when it comes to making the simplest decisions, constantly running to me for advice and reassurance. Honestly, Dennis, it’s like I’ve taken on both her and Daisy. Like I have two helpless children instead of one. God knows, Olivia hasn’t been any help to Sarah where Daisy is concerned. On the one hand, she doesn’t know a damn thing about being a good mother – at least she realizes that much. And, on the other, she’s too busy fussing over Devon and Mackenzie, using those babies to kiss up to Jamie at every opportunity.”
“Yeah,” Dennis admitted ruefully. “She is over there… a lot.”
“Try all the time. She’s all but moved in.”
“I tried to warn him…”
“Everyone did.” Marley shrugged. “Everyone with any sense and a pair of eyes, that is. But, whatever, it’s his life. With the kind of free reign he’s given her, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Olivia lording it over the Cory mansion this afternoon, acting like the mother of the groom – or worse!”
“Oh, yeah, that’s right…” With all the excitement of Marley surreptitiously slipping into Dennis’ bed this morning, distracting him to the point where he could barely remember his own name, much less his social colander. “Steven is getting married today.”
With Amanda bent over in the shower, arms locked at the elbows and braced against the edge of the tub, Morgan entered her from behind, his hands slipping around to cup her breasts as he thrust inside her, getting so excited by Amanda’s jumble of pleasure and pain grunts that he came almost instantly, making it up to her by sliding his fingers between her legs and getting Amanda off with a series of hard, almost violent strokes while kissing the back of her neck, just beneath her hair.
She turned around, smiling, wrapping her arms around Morgan’s shoulders and slipping her tongue into his mouth, coming up for air only long enough to purr, “So much more efficient, screwing in the shower. Gets the job and done and washes away the evidence all in one, fell swoop.”
His hand still between Amanda’s thighs, Morgan pressed her back against the wall and offered, “Ready to go again?”
“Uh-uh,” she ducked away with a laugh. “Don’t you know most household accidents happen in the bathroom? If you get carried away, lose control, slip and fall, no way am I going to be able to explain away the bruises.”
“And just who, except for me, is going to be seeing those alleged bruises?” Morgan asked, equally playful.
Only to watch Amanda’s face darken with a combination of guilt and frustration.
And then Morgan remembered. “Oh, Jesus. Kevin is getting out of prison today.”
“So I guess you aren’t superstitious,” Jen observed to Steven as the pair of them woke up in each other’s arms.
“Neither are you.”
“That whole bride and groom not seeing each other on their wedding day…”
“Totally,” she agreed.
Steven said, “The whole wedding thing is kind of stupid. I mean, I know you wanted your dad to walk you down the aisle…”
“That’s really the only part that mattered to me,” Jen said, knowing perfectly well that Steven might well be the solitary man on the planet who wouldn’t get offended by her saying that. “I’m sorry Amanda got so carried away planning everything, so now we’re stuck with this huge, Cory Rose Garden extravaganza.”
“It’s okay,” Steven shrugged. The same way he wouldn’t have cared about having a small wedding, he didn’t care about it being a big one, either. “I guess Amanda knew Allie would never let her go to town like this for her. And, besides, it was the one thing she and Grandma could talk about without it turning into an argument. It made them both happy so, what the hell?”
“That’s how I felt about it, too.” Jen nodded. Neither found it odd that this was the first time both were voicing these opinions out loud. They’d simply assumed the other felt the same way and saw no point in bringing it up.
“I love you, Jen,” Steven said unexpectedly. Well, unexpectedly for him, anyway.
“I know.” She kissed him. “You don’t have to say it. You show me every day. I’m not one of those girls that needs hearts and flowers and love letters. I’ve got you. That’s enough.”
“I want to say something,” Steven admitted. “At the wedding. I think I should.”
“Well… It’s because, people, I think most people – I don’t think they get us.”
“Who cares if they don’t?” Jen shrugged.
“I do. I mean – you know how I feel about ignorance. About people not understanding something that should be perfectly obvious if they only took the time to think it over.”
“I thought that only applied to science.”
“I used to think so, too.” He scratched his chin, the concept as new to him as it was to her. “But, the closer we get to the wedding and the more people just don’t comprehend what it is that’s so amazing about you and me and why we belong together, the more it – “
“Yes!” Steven exhaled in relief. “That’s exactly the right word – the more it annoys me. I don’t want them to just throw up their hands in defeat and mumble, “Whatever – as long as you’re happy.” I want them to see why you make me so happy. Because you do.”
“So this is less of a wedding, then, and more of a seminar?”
“Yeah,” Steven admitted sheepishly.
Jen beamed. “Now I’m actually looking forward to it!”
“You don’t have to get up,” Rachel assured Russ as she hurried to finish dressing and applying her make-up. “I just have so much to do before the wedding. The flowers haven’t been delivered yet and this is a new caterer…. I also want to make certain there’s a tent available in case of rain and that there’s enough space for everyone to park and…”
Russ sat up, kicking off the blankets and rubbing his eyes with the balls of both hands, a bit overwhelmed by Rachel’s energy this early in the morning. “You’re making me feel like a slacker. The only plans I had for the next few hours involved a cup of coffee, and maybe figuring out the cummerbund to my tuxedo.”
“I can help you with that,” Rachel reassured, while, at the same time, skimming through the night’s worth of emails on her phone.
“I think you’ve got enough to do today,” Russ observed, standing up to rub Rachel’s already tense shoulders. “I’m still not sure how this wedding turned into your project.”
“Well, Amanda is doing a good part of it, but she’s so busy at Brava…. And Jamie – This isn’t exactly Jamie’s area of expertise. Besides,” Rachel turned to face Russ. “It makes me happy to do it. It’s been such a long time since this family had a joyful occasion to celebrate. In fact, the last gathering we had in the Rose Garden was….” she trailed off.
Russ finished her thought. “Carl and the children’s memorial service.”
“Yes.” Rachel swallowed hard.
“Are you going to be alright, today?” Russ stroked Rachel’s cheek. “The memories…”
“I have happy memories there, too. Mac and I were married on the same spot. Sandy and Blaine. Jamie and Lorna.”
“Yes,” Russ agreed. “Now tell me you’re going to be able to stand there today and see Jamie and not think about….”
“We still have no evidence that Lorna’s disappearance had anything to do with Carl. And even if it did, you know it was all Hamilton’s doing.”
“The voters obviously didn’t think so. He was reelected by a huge margin.”
“That was merely because I couldn’t convince them of his involvement in Carl’s murder. The man not only drove my husband to his death, but a pair of innocent children – and maybe a young mother, too. So what if Bay City’s unemployment rate is down and the economy is booming? You’d think people would be able to see beyond their own needs and shallow self-interests and understand what an unrepentant monster he is.”
“And that’s exactly what I meant about you being alright today.” Russ kissed Rachel.
“I’ll be fine. This… He – Hamilton – I will not let him ruin my grandson’s wedding.” She hesitated and asked Russ, “What about you?”
“What about me?”
“Are you going to be alright?”
“Why shouldn’t I be?”
“Steven,” Rachel reminded. “Steven Frame.”
Her ex-husband sighed, “Whatever issues I had with the original owner of that name, I made my peace with it a long time ago. Steven is a terrific kid. A little… unusual.”
Rachel laughed. “You’re being kind.”
“But he’s Jamie’s son and your grandson, and I love him for that. He also looks just like his grandfather. Which I know makes Alice happy. Don’t worry about me, Rachel.” He took her in his arms. “Remember, it may have taken me almost fifty years, but, in the end, I finally got the girl of my dreams.”
“Aren’t you coming to Steven’s wedding?” Frankie asked Charlie when she realized her daughter wasn’t dressed yet, despite Frankie, Cass and Lori Ann being almost ready to head out the door.
“Kirkland’s going to be there,” Charlie mumbled.
“So what?” Cass wondered. “It should be fun for you to see him again. He hasn’t been home in two years. I should think you two would have a lot to catch up on.”
“If someone told you your ex – whatshername, Kathleen – was going to be there, would you be all excited about going?”
“Actually, I would be,” Cass said. “I’d love to know what she’s been up to. Once you’ve really cared about somebody, you wish them the very best going forward. Whether or not that includes you. And, by the way, an ex of mine is going to be there. Lila – does that ring a bell?”
“That’s different,” Charlie said. “Lila is still the same as she was when you dumped her. She’s living at her mother-in-law’s house, she doesn’t have a new guy. She’s got nothing to rub in your face.”
Frankie interrupted, primarily due to her own sense of guilt about what Charlie had said, “I really don’t see what that has to do with – “
“Kirkland graduated from college,” Charlie said. “He’s been living on his own, probably hooking up with every girl at Notre Dame. He’s not a loser like me, still stuck in Mom and Dad’s house, needing to tell you where I’m going every minute of the day, having to check in when I get someplace like I’m still in high-school, you watching me take my medication every morning…. Kirkland’s accomplished something. I haven’t.”
“That is absolutely not true,” Frankie raised her voice, looking to Cass for reinforcement. “You have accomplished something very, very important. You’ve gotten well.”
“You mean I haven’t tried to kill anybody in over two years now. Do they have a chip for that?”
“Actually, Charlie,” Cass said. “The Alcoholics Anonymous metaphor is very apt. You have been in recovery, and you will be for the rest of your life.”
“Whoo-hoo,” she drawled without a trace of enthusiasm.
“From where I’m standing, you’ve accomplished a great deal over the past two years.”
“Does that mean you two are finally ready to take me off my leash?” Charlie challenged.
Cass and Frankie exchanged looks. And then they both said, “Yes….”
“Hail the conquering hero,” Jamie waited a reasonable amount of time for Kirkland to disembark off the plane and walk a solid five feet from the gate before throwing manly propriety to the wind and enveloping his son in a hug.
“Cut it out, dad,” the boy mumbled, equal parts pleased and embarrassed. “I’m back from college, not the Peloponnesian War.”
“Glad to hear you paid attention in class,” Jamie observed, grabbing Kirkland’s suitcase off the baggage carousel.
Only to have the boy whisk it from his grip. “I got it. Thanks.”
“Right,” Jamie said. “I keep forgetting. You’re not a kid anymore.”
“Even if I was, I could still pull my own weight.”
“Yeah,” his father sighed. “Yours and everyone else’s.”
Pretending he didn’t understand what Jamie was referring to, Kirkland deftly changed the subject. “So Steven get cold feet, yet?”
“I suspect the concept is too abstract for your brother. If I asked, he’d probably look at me funny and remind that it’s June, not January. By the way, it was nice of you to skip out on graduation to come play Best Man.”
“No big deal. Just trading in one ceremony for another.”
“Except one’s all about Steven, and the other would have been about you.”
“Me and a couple thousand other people who’d all just done the same thing. Not really that big of an achievement when you think about it.”
“Graduating from college in just two years? I’d say that was pretty impressive.”
“I had all those transfer credits from BCU, plus two summers worth of extra seminars on top of it,” Kirkland reminded.
“It’s good to have you home,” Jamie said. “It’s been a long two years. Your sisters have missed you, too. Us going up to Notre Dame for holidays and summer breaks isn’t the same as having you home.”
“I didn’t want to get in the way,” Kirkland shrugged. “You and Olivia….”
“You wouldn’t have been in the way, I told you that repeatedly. And, besides, I got the impression it wasn’t so much my love life keeping you in Indiana, as yours.”
Another shrug. Once upon a time, there would have been a blush, too. But, Kirkland had made it clear he wasn’t a little kid anymore. “You told me to have a good time at college. So I… did.”
“I’m glad,” Jamie told him sincerely. “You deserved it.” They were in the car, driving toward the Cory mansion, Kirkland in the passenger seat, when Jamie prodded, “So. You bringing a date to the wedding?”
“If that’s your way of asking if I have a girlfriend….”
“It was my way of asking if Grandma needs to adjust the seating arrangements.”
“The answer is no to both. What happened at Notre Dame is staying in Notre Dame.” And that was the last word Kirkland deigned to utter on the subject.
Rachel was in the process of doing a final walk through of the grounds, just to make sure everything was in order before heading upstairs to get dressed, when the doorbell rang. The entire staff occupied with wedding preparations, Rachel moved to answer it herself, freezing when she saw who was standing on the other side of the door.
She’d have recognized him anywhere. He’d grown substantially taller, maybe as much as a foot, towering above Rachel when, before, he’d barely come up to her nose. His face had filled out, too. The adolescent features she remembered, maturing and sharpening. And the hair… those gorgeous curls she’d once twirled around her finger and agonized over cutting, especially the first time, were gone now. His hair was cropped short and it had darkened, too.
But, still, Rachel would have recognized him anywhere.
Her voice shook. “C-Cory?”
His smile, though…. The smile was still exactly the same. It didn’t matter that once he’d looked up at her and now he was looking down. When he smiled, he looked exactly the same. “Hi, Mom.”
|Receive email notification every time www.anotherworldtoday.com is updated|