“I know because…” Rachel took a deep breath, bracing herself for their inevitable shock and horror. “Because I was in on Carl’s plan from the start. I understood why he had to take off with Cory, Elizabeth and Lorna. And I gave him my blessing to do it.”
No one moved. No one breathed. Certainly no one spoke. They weren’t even sure if they were listening. Because, if they were, they still couldn’t possibly be hearing what Rachel had just confessed to.
That the last three years had been a lie. That Rachel had known all along Carl, Elizabeth and Cory were alive. And that Lorna was with them. They’d all mourned. They’d all thought Rachel was mourning the most of any of them. But, the truth was…
Iris smiled with satisfaction. Finally – finally! – the world was privy to the real Rachel.
But, Russ was the one who spoke first. He stepped forward, not merely his lips, but his every feature narrowed into a grim line. He said, “So that means it was all an act? All of it, Rachel? Everything?”
She understood what he was asking, and could only nod her head, weakly. “I’m sorry, Russ. I never meant to hurt you. But, I had to be convincing. People had to believe that I really thought Carl was dead, that I was moving on. My children’s lives were at stake. I had to do it for them. Wouldn’t you do anything to save your children?”
“Yes,” he confirmed. “But, I like to think I wouldn’t drag other people into my plans. At least, not without asking their permission, first. You could have told me, Rachel. I would have helped you. I would have done anything for you.”
Felicia, however, wasn’t nearly as magnanimous. Unlike Russ, whose face had lost its animation with the reveal, Felicia’s was animated to unprecedented proportions as she attempted to make sense of her best friend’s betrayal.
“What about my child?” she demanded. “Was saving your family worth sacrificing mine?”
“I didn’t,” Rachel swore. “Lorna’s life was in just as much danger as Elizabeth and Cory’s. Carl saved them all.”
“While you let me think she was dead!”
“No,” Rachel reminded. “I didn’t. I was the one who urged you to never lose hope. Do you remember that? When everyone - ever Lucas – wanted you to believe that Lorna was never coming back, I was the one who insisted she would be. I told you and told you that you didn’t know the whole story, that there was more going on than met the eye.”
“You didn’t tell me where my daughter was! Or that she’d been injured!”
“I couldn’t, Felicia, please try to understand. The more people who knew, the more risk there was to all of them. And your grief, it needed to be just as sincere as mine in order for Carl’s plan to work.”
“You both knew,” Felicia looked from Rachel to Lucas.
“No,” her ex held his ground. “I didn’t.”
“But, Carl said – “
“Carl is a liar,” Lucas’ voice remained steady. “So is Rachel.” And then Lorna’s father reminded, “Not everybody in this room thought Lorna was gone for good. Even with your fine acting, Rachel. Jamie never lost faith. Not even for a minute. Or are you now claiming he was in on it, too?”
All eyes turned to Rachel’s son. He should have been the first to react to Rachel’s bombshell. But he’d remained silent, not moving so much as a muscle, listening to the squabbling, the accusations, the denials without joining in. The might have thought it was shock. But, it reality, it was something much, much worse.
Not until Rachel moved towards her oldest son and, voice cracking, pleaded, “Jamie… Honey…. You understand, don’t you? You understand why I had to keep this from you. It was for your own good. You and Devon and Mackenzie. The only way to make sure that you had Lorna for the long term was to keep her from you in the short. She would have been killed, along with Cory and Elizabeth, if Carl hadn’t thought fast and done what he did. It couldn’t be avoided. Jamie… Please… Say something.”
He shook his head. He looked Rachel in the eye. And he said, “You and I, Mom? You and I – we’re done.”
“May I come in?” Kevin knocked on the door to Steven’s old room, the one his future son-in-law was currently getting dressed in for his wedding to Kevin’s daughter.
“Sure,” Steven said, turning around, almost ready except for the loose tie of his tuxedo. When he recognized who it was, he observed, “Guess your release went off without a hitch.”
“It did. Everything did.”
“Great,” Steven mumbled, turning his back, pretending to need the mirror.
Kevin didn’t stop him. Instead he moved into a spot where Steven would be unable to avoid Kevin’s eyes in the reflection and pressed on. “I want to thank you. Again.”
“You mean, for being a chump and letting another man go to prison for something I did? Sure, why not? Always fun to be reminded.”
“You weren’t a chump, son. You were a hero. You did what I asked you to do. For Jenny’s sake. I’ve never seen her happier. And that’s all thanks to you.”
“A real man wouldn’t have – “
“A real man sacrifices himself for the woman he loves. And that’s what you did. You were not only willing to go to jail in order to save Jenny’s life, you were also willing not to go. Believe me, I realize I had the easier end of our bargain these last two and a half years. Not to mention for the rest of our lives. I served my sentence. Yours is a case of life imprisonment without possibility of parole. But, it’s what’s best for Jenny. We both know that. Just like we both know that I will never, ever be able to repay you. The only thing I can do is give you my word that I am going to do my damnedest to try.”
“Well, look who’s back and all grown up,” Sarah observed, walking up to Kirkland as he was ordering a beer from the bartender.
“Hey, Sarah,” he turned around, wondering how exactly one greeted the mother of one’s biological father’s illegitimate child. “You here with Daisy?”
“I brought her here, anyway. Once Marley showed up, though, the rest of us might as well not exist.”
“Yeah, Marley’s always been good with kids.”
“She’s great with Daisy. Even when she has every right not to be.”
“So how is it working out? This co-parenting thing? I know when Marley, Dad and Grant all shared custody of me, things got… complicated.”
“It’s okay,” Sarah shrugged, also seemingly at a loss for words to describe her unconventional arrangement. “Grant is a good dad to Daisy. And Marley is an awesome mom.”
“You mean stepmom.” All of Kirkland’s warning bells went off simultaneously.
“Right. I mean…. Well, when Daisy is with Grant and Marley, she’s really acting like her mom, so… And she knows so much more about it than I do. After raising Midget and everything.”
“Don’t let them push you around,” Kirkland warned. “Grant or Marley. I know how those two can get. They don’t like sharing. Grant still hates it that I consider Jamie my dad, and he never wastes an opportunity to put him down and remind me where I really come from. And Marley…. Marley, she gets… attached to things. Especially things that she thinks should have been hers in the first place.”
“You mean like what she did to your mom?”
“Just watch your back, okay?” Kirkland refused to commit to anymore than that. Partially out of loyalty, and partially because he really, really wanted to be wrong.
“It’s nice to have you in my corner.” Sarah smiled. “I gotta admit, I kind of didn’t expect it.”
“Well, the stuff I did to Steven…”
“Even Steven could overlook it when it came to a choice between you and Grant. He was willing to claim to be Daisy’s dad, remember? We both know how Grant gets. And we both don’t want her ending up like me. A tug of war prize.”
“Would you like to meet her?” Sarah offered. “You haven’t seen her since she was a baby. Daisy knows she has a big brother. She’s seen your pictures, but I bet she’d love to see you in the flesh. Come on,” Sarah grabbed Kirkland’s hand. And he let her.
Rachel’s mouth dropped open as she struggled to respond to Jamie’s declaration. But, he never gave her the chance. Instead, Jamie brushed right past Rachel and made a beeline for Lorna.
He asked her, “Do you hear them? All of them? Do you hear how they’ve been lying to you for years? How can you trust any of them after this?”
Visibly affected but determined not to let Jamie see how much he’d gotten to her, Lorna noted coolly, “Your mother lied to you. Carl didn’t lie to me.”
“He didn’t tell you we were married! He didn’t tell you about our kids!”
“No,” she parsed. “I didn’t remember. I still don’t. I don’t remember any of you. Everything you’ve just said. Mom, Dad, Husband, Kids…. Those are just words to me.”
“They don’t have to be. Let me take you to Devon and Zee. They’re upstairs. Let’s go see them right now. Devon looks so much like you. And Zee, she’s got your – ”
“No!” She backed away. “No! I don’t want anything to do with you or your damn kids.” Lorna turned to Carl. “Let’s just go home. I’ve had enough of this.”
“You are not going anywhere,” Felicia lunged desperately for Lorna.
Just as Jamie insisted, “You can’t leave,” and grabbed her wrist.
“Get your hands off me!” She shoved him, hard, and Jamie instantly let go, raising both arms as a visible promise that he wouldn’t touch her again without her permission.
But, he didn’t back down, either. “Aren’t you even a little curious? Don’t you want to know more about your life before – “
“This isn’t my life,” Lorna insisted. “It can’t be. It doesn’t make any sense. Parents? Married? Kids? That’s not me. I must have… It must have all been part of a plot or… something.” She checked with Carl, “Right? You had me running a scam? You needed me to marry Rachel’s son so that….” Lorna trailed off, unable to think of what their endgame might have been, but certain there had to be one.
“Jamie is telling the truth,” Lucas said. “You were married. You were in love. You had a family. You were happy, Lorna. Maybe for the firs time in your life, you were genuinely happy.”
She snorted. “Now I know you’ve got the wrong girl. Alright, fine.” She pivoted to face the door. “If none of the rest of you are leaving, I still am.”
“Where will you go?” Elizabeth asked in a voice that shot for concern, but came off more as snide.
“Home,” she repeated.
“This is home now,” Cory said softly. Other than Carl, he seemed like the only other person capable of getting through to her. “We are home. Finally.”
“The boy is right,” Carl’s voice softened into a purr. “The danger that haunted us all for so long is finally at an end. We have no more reason or need to hide. We are once again free to resume our lives.”
“That’s what I’m trying to do,” she pointed out what, to Lorna, was obvious.
“Well, in that case, listen to Cory. Bay City is home.”
“That’s bully for you. You’ve got all this,” Lorna indicated the Cory mansion. “Where am I supposed to go? Something tells me this place isn’t exactly known for its five-star hotels.”
“You can come with me,” Jamie said evenly, not pushing her, but making it clear that she would be more than welcome. “To our home.”
Lorna snorted. “Fat chance.”
“I – “ Felicia began.
“The same goes for you,” Lorna cut her off.
“You could stay here,” Rachel piped up. “Any friend of Carl’s is – “
“A daughter-in-law of yours?” Jamie snapped.
“Is welcome,” Rachel finished, more than a little bit relieved that Jamie had at least acknowledged her existence once again, even if it was only in anger.
“There’s plenty of room,” Cory chimed in. “Really, really plenty of it. There’s a reason it’s called the Cory Mansion. And it’s not named after me.”
“What choice have you got?” Carl pointed out reasonably.
Lorna looked from him to Rachel to Felicia to Jamie… and quickly back to Carl. “None at all, I guess.”
“Hey, guys…” Steven slowly descended the stairs, holding Jen by the hand, surveying the situation. “Sorry for interrupting but… we’re kind of supposed to be getting married right about now.”
“Steven,” Rachel sighed, as if this were the final straw in a day that had already put her into sensory overload. “We…”
“Yeah. I see. Hey, Cory.”
“Welcome back from the dead, Carl.”
“Thank you. I apologize for intruding on your joyful occasion in such a gauche manner, son. I assure you it couldn’t be helped.”
Steven ignored the flowery language to ask, rather bluntly, “You okay, Dad?”
“Not really,” Jamie admitted.
Steven’s expression suggested he’s figured as much.
“He’s a good guy,” Steven informed Lorna, indicating his father. “You should listen to him. Take him at his word.”
“Thanks, kid,” Lorna snarled. “Don’t you have an eternal trough to pledge or something?”
“I don’t think anyone is exactly in the mood anymore,” Jen offered, sounding a lot more chipper than anyone could have expected from the bride-to-be.
“Rain-check?” Steven asked her.
“Sure,” she shrugged, unconcerned.
“You believe him?” Lucas demanded once he and Felicia has exited Rachel’s home, both reluctant to leave Lorna behind, but realizing there was very little they could do to keep her in Bay City, much less cajole her to return into their lives. “You believe Carl Hutchins over me?”
“He says Lorna’s life was in danger.”
“He also says I knew about it. He says I approved of what he did.”
“If this was the only way to save her…”
“You think I wouldn’t have told you? I wouldn’t have told Jamie? I would have let the two of you spend three years grief-stricken, missing her, mourning her, trying to keep her memory alive for Devon and Mackenzie, and I’d have kept my mouth shut?”
“You’ve done it before, Luke,” Felicia spat the one fact that had been running through her mind ever since Carl’s announcement. “You let me spend seventeen years mourning you. You and Lorna both kept your secret from me.”
“That was… That was different.”
“How?” she crossed her arms, hoping against hope he’d be able to provide her with an answer she could live with.
“Well, for one thing, I didn’t leave of my own accord. Donna had me kidnapped, remember? The same way Carl did with Lorna. Donna did it so I couldn’t tell you the truth about her being Jenna’s biological mother. It was years before I even had the option of contacting you and, by then, you’d long gone on with your life. You’d moved on.”
“Not from you. Never from you.”
“Telling you about what I’d been doing for the compound would have put you needlessly at risk.”
“So you kept your being alive a secret!” Felicia crowed triumphantly. “You and Lorna leaving me in the dark for my own good. Then. And now.”
“I had nothing to do with this insane story Carl is spinning. I swear it, Fanny. I swear on everything we ever had together.”
“Which is what?” Felicia challenged. “What did we really have, Luke? A teen-age fling? A few months of legally wedded bliss? And then a year of being at each other’s throats, all the while pretending everything was fine. That’s what you’re swearing on. Because that’s what we’ve had, Luke.”
“And I wouldn’t have missed a moment of it,” he swore.
“We missed all of it!” she exclaimed. “Our entire life together was spent apart. You want me to trust you? My God, I barely know you.”
“You know me,” he insisted. “You know me. In a way that has nothing to do with years, and everything to do with heart.”
“You want that to be true. We both wanted it to be true so badly we were willing to overlook all evidence to the contrary. Just like I was willing to overlook the obvious. Your insistence that Lorna was dead and that Rachel and I shouldn’t be going on wild goose chases… it was because you knew she was still alive. And you didn’t want us figuring out the truth until you and Carl was ready.”
“Rachel claims she was in on it, too. Why wasn’t she discouraging you, in that case?”
“Because she knew that my daughter was coming home eventually, and she didn’t want me to lose hope. Because she loves me, Luke.”
“I love you, Fanny,” Lucas said. “Or do you not believe that either?”
“You’ve made it awfully difficult,” she admitted.
“I’m sorry about that,” Lucas told her. “You have no idea how sorry. But, right now, I need to know: Who are you going to believe? Me… or Carl?”
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