“May I… come in?” Felicia’s hesitation, her downright fear of being sent away, stabbed at Lorna’s heart with such ferocity, it was all she could do to keep her expression neutral as she let her mother into the house. “How are you, Lorna?”
“Fine.” Lorna hoped her deliberate cheer got the point across adequately.
“And the girls? They’re… adjusting?”
“To me? Kind of. I think if you pressed, they’d admit they preferred me as a picture on the mantelpiece, rather than the mean lady who makes them finish their vegetables and go to bed.”
“It’s not easy when you’re not there from the beginning,” Felicia commiserated.
“I guess you’d know.”
Felicia nodded. “Are you starting to remember…”
“No,” Lorna cut her off abruptly. “But, I read about it. You and me. Before I came to Bay City. And Jamie filled me in, too.”
“I can’t imagine I came off too well in his version. Jamie and I have had our… issues.”
“He said you and I butted heads more often than we didn’t.”
“Ha. No surprise there.”
“But, he also said it was because we were so much alike. And because we loved each other so much.”
“Oh,” Felicia didn’t really have a snappy comeback to that one.
“What was it like?” Lorna couldn’t help asking, wanting to hear it from Felicia’s point of view now that so much time had passed. “What was it really like for you to find out I was your long-lost daughter? I must have been your worst nightmare. I read about what I did… to your other daughter. To Jenna. You must have hated me.”
Lorna inhaled in surprise. “Wow. That’s… I guess sugar-coating isn’t your thing.”
“Nope. I hated you. And then I grew to love you. Funny how that happens, isn’t it?”
Lorna refused to let go. “But Jenna was probably more the daughter you expected.”
Felicia had to laugh, informing her daughter, “Your sister was a demure, well-behaved, sweet, loving young woman. But when I imagined what my daughter would have been like, that was most certainly not what I expected.”
“Are you kidding? A girl who was part me, part Lucas? Which end result of that screams sweet or well-behaved?”
“I’m sure you know which fork goes with the salad and which one is for dessert.”
“It didn’t come naturally,” Felicia assured. “I like to believe I have a certain joie de vivre that gets me through most social occasions. But neither your father nor I have ever been accused of good behavior. And don’t get me started on sweet and demure. Big-hearted, sure, but never sweet. I expected a hellion. And, what do you know, I got one.”
“So you didn’t mind… me not being like Jenna?”
“Jenna was Jenna, and Lorna is Lorna. Trust me, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”
“Oh,” when lost for words, Lorna and her mother apparently defaulted towards the same syllable. She added, “I read about when I was in a coma… You sided with Morgan over Jamie.”
“I sided with the man who wanted to save your life. I won’t apologize for that.”
“Wow. You’re tough.”
“You better believe it.”
Not sure how to respond to that, Lorna changed the subject abruptly, addressing another issue she’d been scared to up till now, but unable to resist the opportunity. “You knew my grandmother.”
“Yes. I knew Helen.”
“When I woke up and I couldn’t remember anything from the past twenty years, other than Carl, she was the only other person I felt anything for. Carl told me she was dead. I went and I visited her grave. It looked like nobody had been there for a really long time. It made me realize that I might be the only person left who remembers her. I’m glad you do, too,” Lorna finished feebly, realizing she hadn’t expressed herself well at all.
And yet Felicia seemed to have understood her all the same. “Helen loved you. She thought she was helping us both, taking you away from me. I used to be furious at her. But now I’m glad you had her when you were growing up. And I think of her fondly.”
“It’s so strange. Suddenly having parents after not having them for so long. I don’t blame Devon and Zee for being wary of me.”
“I don’t blame them either. Or you. I realize I’m a total stranger where you’re concerned.”
“You seem… okay,” Lorna didn’t trust herself to say any more than that.
Felicia smiled. “Considering the source, I’ll take that as the highest of compliments.”
Lorna asked, “Did you come to see the girls?”
“All of my girls, yes. I have a proposition for the entire Frame family. How would you like… “ Felicia’s confidence flagged. “Would you like to spend Thanksgiving with me?”
“Thanksgiving,” Lorna repeated dumbly, having forgotten the holiday was even coming up. It had hardly been a priority while living with Carl.
“I’m having it at my house. Cass and Frankie will be there with Charlie and Lori Ann. Lori Ann is Jenna’s biological daughter. You don’t remember, but you thought it was important that Devon and Mackenzie and Lori Ann all grow up together. You wanted them to be close.”
“That sounds…,” Lorna nodded. “I’ll talk to Jamie, see if he’s made any other plans but, yeah… I’d – I’d like that. Thanksgiving.” She sounded almost as surprised to be saying it as Felicia was to hear it. “We’ll be there.”
“You haven’t said anything.” It took Grant until the next morning, with Daisy safely off to preschool and Sarah back from having driven her, to get up enough courage to broach the subject that had kept him up most of the night. “About Marley. Yesterday.”
Sarah shrugged, avoiding Grant’s gaze as she moved around the living room, picking
Daisy’s toys up off the floor. “It’s done. What will my saying anything change?”
“It will help me feel like you don’t hate me,” Grant offered feebly, trying for a joke, falling way, way short.
She exhaled in frustration. “I don’t hate you, Grant.”
“You have every right to.”
“I just wish you had come to me, first. We could have fought Marley together.”
“I was afraid she’d draw out the divorce proceedings. It might have taken years before we were able to get married, in that case.”
“So what?” Sarah turned to face him, hands on her hips.
“What do you mean, so what? You’re the one who wanted us to get married as soon as possible.”
“I wanted us to be together,” Sarah corrected. “A stupid piece of paper didn’t make a difference to me. I don’t love you any more today than I did yesterday.”
“Really? Because I love you more.” Grant tried to make Sarah smile. Another epic fail. “Seriously, any other woman I know would have taken Marley’s bait and flown off the handle. She’d have played right into her hands. You barely blinked.”
“Our relationship hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing. You’ve given me a lot of practice at rolling with the punches.”
“I’m so proud of you.”
“I don’t need you to be proud of me. And I don’t need you protecting me. Not from Marley, not from anyone else. You did it once before. You dumped me because you convinced yourself it would be for my own good. That didn’t work out well for anyone.”
“I don’t get any credit for trying?” At this point, Grant would have even settled for a smirk – as long as Sarah stopped looking so serious. No one as young and as beautiful as Sarah deserved to look so serious.
“No! Because, again, you didn’t ask me what I wanted. You just went ahead and made an arbitrary decision based on what you thought would be best for me.”
“Sorry. Occupational hazard. Politics...”
“I thought we were partners. If you’re going to keep treating me like a dumb kid – “
“You are anything but dumb, Sarah.”
“But, I am a kid? At least, in your eyes?”
“I just want to take care of you,” he pleaded. “I want to do anything I can to make your life perfect. To make sure you never regret… anything.”
“You mean, to make sure I never regret – you?”
Grant sighed. “I was hoping to be a bit more subtle than that. But… yes.”
“Cut it out,” Sarah said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“It’s driving you crazy. It’s certainly making you act crazy.” For the first time since they’d started talking, Sarah looked Grant straight in the eye, so there was no way for him to miss her meaning. “I am not Vicky,” she said. “I am not Amanda or Lorna or Marley or any other woman you’ve ever been with, okay? I am not going to cheat on you, betray you, leave you or keep you from your kid? I love you, and I will always love you.”
No matter how many times she said it, Grant still couldn’t get over at the effect her words had on him. They made him positively weak in the knees. “Thank you, Sarah.”
“But,” she held up a warning finger. “I won’t put up with crap. If you have a problem, that means we have a problem. And we should be the ones to fix it. You don’t get to go behind my back, making decisions for my own good without consulting with me first. Maybe Vicky needed you to do your own thing so she could have someone to blame for when she did her own thing. And maybe Marley needed you to do her dirty work so she could keep her hands clean and her reputation pure. I haven’t had a clean reputation from the day I was born. And marrying you didn’t help. We’re in this together now – you and me against the world, right? As long as you remember that, no one’s going to be able to touch us. You’ll see.”
“I’m GQ Todd,” he said, stretching out his hand. “We’ve met before, but I wasn’t certain if you’d remember me.”
“GQ, of course,” Frankie said, shaking his hand and leading him inside the house despite not being sure what Allie and Jen’s ex could possibly want from her. “What can I do for you?”
“I’m wondering if you might have a few minutes to talk about… Zeno Tantalus.”
“Zeno?” Frankie’s eyes widened. The only connection she could make between GQ and Zeno was that GQ had been the one to rescue Allie after Charlie’s attack – which had been prompted by Zeno’s rejection of Charlie.
“Did you know that Allie was living out at Zeno’s place now?”
“No,” Frankie said slowly. “I didn’t. I – Zeno and I… we haven’t… he was very upset over what happened with Charlie. I don’t blame him. But, he blamed me for Charlie not taking her medication and trying to burn down the farmhouse. He lost a great many of his mother’s things. They meant a lot to him. She meant a lot to him.”
“You used to live out there, too, right?”
“Many years ago, when Orly was still alive.”
“Look, Mrs. Winthrop, I’ll level with you. Allie’s mom and I, we’re a little worried about what’s going on out there.”
“What do you mean? What do you think is going on?”
“Zeno’s got serious problems with the county. Weren’t you there when he pulled a gun on some folks?”
“They were trespassing!” Frankie leapt instinctively to her onetime stepson’s defense. “I may not have approved of how Zeno went about it, but he had every right to object to those people being on his land.”
“You stopped him from shooting them.”
“Well, I don’t know if he actually would have gone through with – “
“What happens the next time, when you’re not around to stop him?”
“What makes you think there’ll be a next time?”
“Allie told Amanda that, if anything, the county has amped up their efforts to take Zeno’s farm and use it to grow corn for ethanol production.” GQ hesitated. “It’s a good cause. Do you have any idea why Zeno is so adamantly against going along with the program?”
“Because he’s Orly’s son,” Frankie told GQ grimly.
“From everything I’ve heard about her, it sounds like Ms. Tantalus would have been all for saving the environment.”
“Not at the expense of people starving,” Frankie said. “She always used to ask: Who are we saving the planet for, in that case?”
“Well, it sounds like Zeno has taken her stance to the next level. Amanda is afraid things could get out of hand, get violent even.”
Frankie cocked her head to one side. “Are you here on Amanda’s behalf, or your own?”
He squared his shoulders, defensive. “I offered to help look into the situation.”
Frankie guessed, “You still care about Allie.”
“She’s my son’s mother. I want her to be someone he can be proud of. Allie and I already have a lot of explaining to do where Hudson is concerned. Why make the situation any worse?”
“I’m not sure what you think I can contribute to that.”
“I want you to tell me if Allie is in any danger from living with Zeno. I want you to tell me what’s really going on there in Oakdale.”
“Thanks for coming to see me,” Jamie told Marley, ushering her into his office at the hospital.
“Of course, Jamie,” she reassured him, stepping up on her tip-toes to give him a quick peck on the cheek, which Jamie accepted stoically. “You know I’d do anything for you.”
He smiled uncomfortably. “I wish you hadn’t told Olivia and Dennis about Lorna getting her memory back.”
“That was before you asked me not to,” she defended, squirming. “I didn’t realize it was a secret from Carl. As soon as you asked me to keep quiet, I did. I haven’t told anyone else since.”
“What about before that?” Jamie asked. “I need to know. Did you tell anybody else about it before I asked you to keep it under your hat?”
“No! I only told Dennis because… because, well, I don’t know if you’ve heard, but we’re together now. Again. For good this time.”
“And Olivia… I didn’t mean to tell Olivia. It’s just that, when she told us about the baby,” Marley snuck a surreptitious look at Jamie to gage his reaction to her being in on the news. His face remained frustratingly neutral. “When she told us about the baby, I had to ask about how Lorna was taking it. How – how is Lorna taking it?”
“That’s… I… That’s very… open-minded of her. I know if I were in her position…”
“You were. Years ago. With Dennis.”
“Yes,” Marley conceded. “I guess I was.” Then, in a desperate attempt to change the subject, Marley said, “Goodness, Jamie, you’re turning into the old woman who lived in a shoe. So many children, she didn’t know what to do.”
“I’ve got it under control, thanks,” he said tersely.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean…”
“It’s fine, Marley. Everything is fine. I just need your absolute promise that you haven’t told anyone else about Lorna, and that you’re not going to.”
“I haven’t. And I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt you like that. You used to be able to take that for granted about me.”
“Yeah, well, there were a lot of things I used to take for granted that I now find myself reassessing. Because the stakes are suddenly a lot higher than they ever were.”
“Carl didn’t kidnap Lorna to protect her from Iris, did he?”
“No,” Jamie spat. “He did it because he blamed me and Lorna for coming between him and Mom. And he thought we both deserved a taste of our own medicine.”
“I’m sorry,” Marley said sincerely. “I’ve had a lifetime of experience with my mother putting herself and her men ahead of me and her other children. But, this is all new to you.”
“No, actually, it’s just a very unpleasant blast from the past. I thought Mom and I were done with that. But, like I said earlier, I can’t take anything for granted anymore. Or anyone.”
“I can’t believe you’ve never been to Carlino’s before,” Charlie teased Elizabeth as they waited for their food to arrive, Elizabeth having picked through her order as if navigating a foreign language.
Elizabeth shrugged. “Father says processed foods dull the palate. He wouldn’t even let Cory and me eat in the school cafeteria. We always brought our own lunch from home.”
“Wow. Talk about princess in a tower.”
“Well, I’m out now,” Elizabeth said defiantly, trying to take credit for an achievement she realized wasn’t wholly hers.
“In more ways than one,” Charlie giggled at the inadvertent pun.
Realizing what she said, Elizabeth laughed, too. Although somewhat hesitantly. “So,” she asked. “What’s next?”
“What do you mean, what’s next? Ordering food is just the first part. You’ve still got to eat it.”
Elizabeth blushed. “No. I meant, what’s next for people who are… dating?”
“Oh. Right. I keep forgetting. You’ve never done this before.”
“Well, you have,” Elizabeth reminded. “So you tell me. Like, when you and Kirkland were dating, what kinds of things did you do?”
“Well, if it were up to Kirkland, we probably would have been having sex all the time.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth repeated. “Did you? Did you and Kirkland have sex… a lot?”
“You know how guys are,” Charlie said, then offered a lopsided grin and amended, “Oops, I forgot. I guess you don’t.” She raised both hands, palms up to the ceiling and recalled, “It’s funny. It took me forever to get Kirkland to screw me. I was ready, like, eons before he was – who would have figured, right? But, once we finally got to it – pun totally intended – it was, like, all he wanted to do.”
“What about you?” Elizabeth asked. “Did you want to do it all the time, too?” She tried to make the question sound casual.
Charlie wrinkled her face. “Not really. I spent so much time thinking about it and trying to get Kirk to get with the program that, by the time we did do it, I was kind of all, blah, is that what all the fuss is about?”
“What about Zeno?” Elizabeth wondered.
“Zeno was totally different,” Charlie leaned forward conspiratorially. “With Zeno it was like, whoa, now I get it. I thought it was all my fault. Me not being into it with Kirk. But, Zeno said I should try someone who knew what he was doing, and he wasn’t kidding!”
“Did you love him?” Elizabeth asked, again shooting for totally casual, no investment in Charlie’s answer one way or the other.
“I dunno,” Charlie mumbled, her bravado of a moment before crumbling.
“You tried to kill Allie because – “
“Yeah, well, I was nuts then, ask anyone.”
“What about now?” Elizabeth did as directed, managing to fill her simple query with meaning upon meaning until even she wasn’t sure which version she wanted Charlie to answer. Not that it was any different from everything else she’d asked previously.
“Now? Who knows?” Charlie replied brightly. “I’m kind of making this up as I go along.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth said.
“Mom?” Matt knocked timidly on the door to Rachel’s art studio, having seen her light on even at this late hour.
“Matthew!” She turned, thrilled to see him. “I didn’t know you were back!”
“Donna’s and my flight landed about an hour ago. We came straight home. I – I need to talk to you. It’s kind of urgent.”
“Is something wrong?” Rachel reached for a towel to clean off her wet hands, already heading towards her son, eyes filled with concern.
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “Donna and I, we didn’t just go to Switzerland for vacation. We were doing some research. On Carl.”
“Oh,” Rachel frozen in her tracks. “I see.”
“We found the clinic where Lorna was treated after her head injury. The doctor who took care of her, he died, Mom, before we got a chance to talk to him.”
“I see,” Rachel’s head spun, as time moved both quicker all around her, yet slower in the space between her and Matt.
“The last person he spoke to… was Iris.”
“Iris!” Rachel leapt on the name with a combination of enthusiasm and dread.
“Yeah, Mom, Donna and I, we found out a lot of things. I’ll tell you all of them, right now. I’ve got proof. But, first thing I think you should know… Carl told you the truth. Iris really did set him up. She’s the reason he left the country the way he did. Carl has been telling the truth about that, at least, all along….”
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