“I want Lorna to move out. And then I want to move in,” Olivia clarified. “Today.”
Jamie absorbed her words without blinking. Without doing much of anything, really. He simply remained standing as he was, arms crossed against his chest, face impassive, waiting for Olivia to go on.
Olivia had nothing to go on about. She hadn’t really planned for anything beyond this point. She figured that Jamie would capitulate. Just like he had last time.
He did not appear to be capitulating.
Which put Olivia on a path dangerously close to whining.
“Come on,” she wheedled, attempting to anticipate his objections, since Jamie didn’t seem eager to actually offer up any for her to take down. “It makes perfect sense. Of course, you wouldn’t want Lorna around the girls after what she did. Not only would it be disrespectful to Rachel, but Lorna is obviously unstable – she’s a danger to Devon and Zee. You’ve got to protect your daughters. Everyone knows they prefer me to her, anyway.” Olivia tossed that last part out defiantly, daring Jamie to contradict her.
“Devon and Zee do care about you,” Jamie agreed, denying her even the satisfaction of a contradiction. “Just like I did.”
Olivia doubted his use of the past tense was a mere slip of the tongue.
“It would be good for everybody,” she insisted. “I could look after the girls again – they’d like that. And the police never need to know that Lorna is faking her memory loss. Without that, they’ve got no motive for her to shoot Carl.”
“So what happens when Lorna is found innocent?” Jamie wondered.
That gave Olivia pause. She’s never considered the possibility.
“But… Rachel saw her do it.”
“My mother is mistaken,” Jamie said firmly.
“Well, in that case, I – it would be up to you.”
“Really? Are you sure you wouldn’t just come up with something else to blackmail me over?”
“No! I – I wish I didn’t have to do this.”
“Who, exactly, is forcing your hand?”
“Dennis,” she told him truthfully. “This is all Dennis’ fault.” The logic made perfect sense to Olivia. “He and Marley are getting married.”
“So… He’s finally getting her. After all these years, he is finally getting everything he ever wanted. It isn’t fair. I want him to understand that he can’t expect to have Marley and this baby, too. It’s going to drive Dennis crazy to have you raise his child – it’s such a sore point for him. You know, because of Iris and Elliot and Alex.”
“A sore point you have no qualms about exploiting.”
“He’s making me,” Olivia insisted. “All he has to do is publicly claim his baby and – “
“You just said he couldn’t have both it and Marley.”
“Well, I…” Olivia backtracked. “What I meant was – “
“I don’t want to hear about it,” Jamie cut her off, finally showing an ounce of emotion – even if it was negative. And directed at her. Anything was better than his indifference. “I have more than enough going on in my own life to worry about whatever games you’re playing with Dennis. No beating around the bush, Olivia – say it straight out: Are you threatening to tell the police that Lorna has her memory back unless I kick my wife out of my house and let you move in? Today,” he added that last detail to demonstrate that he had, in fact, been listening closely.
“Yes,” Olivia said. Hating the way it sounded. Hating herself for being forced to stoop so low. Hating Jamie for making her take such drastic measures.
“Fine,” Jamie said.
“What – what does that mean?”
“I’ll talk to Lorna,” Jamie explained calmly. “And I’ll get back to you.”
“You mean… you’re going to tell her?” This wasn’t how Olivia had imagined it going at all.
“It’s her future. Shouldn’t she get a voice in the matter?”
“Well…” Olivia didn’t know why it felt so wrong, it just did. In all her years of laying out such… ultimatums, she couldn’t recall the last time anyone decided to tell the truth.
“You may still get your way, Olivia,” Jamie sighed tiredly, then added firmly, “But, we’re going to do it my way.”
“Your wife thinks I shot you,” Lorna informed Carl, standing over his hospital bed in much the same way Iris had earlier. Only without the pillow.
Her one-time mentor looked up, still somewhat dazed from the medication, and more than a little dumbfounded by Lorna’s forthright declaration.
“Indeed,” was about all he chose to offer in response.
“That’s nuts, Carl. Why – why would I do that?”
“Well…” Her question put Carl in a most interesting conundrum. He could either plead ignorance and admit that truly, there was no reason for Lorna to have acted in such a manner. Or he could tell her all the reasons why she might have wanted to do so – and finally admit that he’d spent the past three years lying to her. Neither was particularly attractive under the circumstances. Which was just how Lorna wanted it. “To begin with, this has been a most difficult time for you, my dear….”
“Yes,” Lorna agreed like the good, pliant girl he’d trained her to be. “Living with a man I can’t even remember. Having a couple of ungrateful brats calling me “Mommy” when I haven’t the slightest idea what that even means. A new mother of my own, a father who hates your guts and refuses to admit that he helped you save my life. I’d say that’s been pretty difficult, yeah. Except the problem there is, you’re the only good thing in my life right now. You’re the only one who gets me. You’re the only one not trying to push me into being someone I’m not. Why the hell would I shoot you, of all people?”
“That is quite the conundrum,” Carl agreed.
“Do you believe I did it?” she challenged him.
“You shall have to forgive me, Lorna, my current state precludes me from forming a cohesive narrative of that night.”
“So you didn’t see me then?” Lorna locked eyes with Carl.
“My memories… they are still immensely fragmented. Surely, you understand such an unsettled state of mind, better than anyone.”
“Rachel says you saw me. She says you told her you did. Before the ambulance came.”
“Alas, I have no recollection of that time period, whatsoever. They inform me that I lost a catastrophic amount of blood. What I may or may not have said in delirium….”
“You didn’t see me,” Lorna deduced firmly, leaving him no room to argue.
“I cannot say,” was as far as Carl was willing to go on that account.
“But, you have to help me,” Lorna leapt upon Carl’s ambiguity as if it were a firm denial. “The police want to question me. I’ve been stalling them so far, but you know how they operate. You told me yourself. All of Bay City is out to get you. Especially now that the Justice Department dropped its case. So when they question me about your shooting, do you really believe they’re going to stop with just the facts pertinent to your case, or do you think they’ll take advantage to put me under oath and make me tell them everything I know about your business and your holdings?”
Carl swiveled his head slowly, looking at Lorna with a new respect. “Go on,” he ordered.
“I don’t know what to do,” she confessed, sounding altogether confused and genuinely at loose ends. “I know I didn’t shoot you. But, the more I deny it, the deeper they’re going to dig. I’ll lie, Carl. You know I will. But, what if I slip up? What if I accidentally tell them something they have no business knowing. I could end up burying us both!”
“What the hell were you thinking?” Amanda railed helplessly at her daughter, while Allie sat quietly in the visitor’s area of the Oakdale Police Station, stoically looking anywhere but at Amanda.
“I was thinking that Zeno needed help.”
“Did he ask you to shoot at the councilwoman?” Amanda eagerly leapt on the possibility of proving that Allie had been coerced.
“Then what made you think – “
“That’s what Zeno did with the protesters. Before. I thought I could do the same thing.”
“You might have killed somebody!”
“They had no right to be on our land.”
“They had every right. I spoke to the Arresting Officer. The city has papers – “
“They’ve been after Zeno’s land for years. They can make more money growing corn for ethanol than they do now with the taxes Zeno pays.”
“Their job is to do what’s best for their city. That’s the entire point of Eminent Domain.”
“So if, tomorrow, Chase Hamilton decides that the Brava building would do more good as an orphanage than as a publishing house, would you just turn it over to him?”
“That – That has nothing to do with…” Amanda threw her arms up, exasperated. “At least I know I certainly wouldn’t take a shot at him!”
“No. You’d sic a thousand lawyers on him. Zeno doesn’t have that option.”
Amanda’s eyes narrowed. “Is that what this is about? Has Zeno been trying to get you to pay – “
“No! Jesus, Mom, I told you before. I want to give him money. He’s the one who refuses to take it. Because, you know, of what happened with him and Frankie. She thought bailing out the farm meant she could tell him what to do.”
Intrigued, Amanda changed tactics. “Sounds like you and Zeno don’t have a very strong relationship, if he thinks you’re going to manipulate him like that, too.”
Her daughter rolled her eyes. “And sounds like you think I’m an idiot if you think I’m going to let you manipulate me like that.”
“I am not trying to manipulate you, Allie.” Even though, frankly, that’s precisely what she’d been doing. “I am simply trying to make you see reason. You could go to jail for this. It isn’t your first offense. Your record is hardly pristine.”
“Sharlene dropped the charges over Gregory.”
“True. But, they weren’t sealed. And then there’s the fraud you committed against GQ. All of that can be used against you.”
“Whatever.” Allie shrugged.
“No!” Amanda plopped herself down in front of Allie, grabbing both her daughter’s wrists and forcing Allie to look at her. “Not whatever. This is your life we’re talking about. I left you alone when it came to deciding what to do about Hudson. I left you alone with Gregory. And, both times, you made some horrible decision. This is three strikes and you’re out, Allie. If you’re not willing to fix this, I am. I’m hiring a lawyer, and I’m going to ask for a meeting with the District Attorney.”
“To do what?”
“To tell her that Zeno put you up to everything.”
“Marley!” Daisy called out with glee, running straight into her former stepmother’s arms, not even bothering to remove her coat as she and Grant returned from school.
“There’s my big girl!” Marley scooped Daisy up and spun her around, laughing as Daisy’s hat flew off, and they both had to fumble to catch it.
“What are you – “ Grant began.
But Sarah held up a hand to cut him off, shaking her head and tilting it in Daisy’s direction, entreating Grant not to make a scene. “Marley was just leaving. And… I… actually… I thought maybe Daisy would like to go with her – for a little bit.”
“What?” Grant and Marley’s heads spun around in tandem – and in equal shock.
“It’s been a while since they’ve spent time together,” Sarah defended. “And, well, it’s almost the new year. I thought we could all use a… fresh start.”
Marley looked at her with gratitude, understanding exactly what Sarah was doing. “Thank you,” she said sincerely.
Grant looked at her with horror, not understanding in the slightest. “What’s gotten into you, Sarah? Has Marley been threatening – “
“She hasn’t done anything,” Sarah insisted. “I’ll explain in a minute, but Daisy is going to overheat if she stays in her coat. Let her go with Marley now. She’s already dressed.”
“I’ll have her back in a couple of hours,” Marley trilled gaily, unwilling to push her luck or risk Sarah changing her mind.
“What the hell was that all about?” Grant demanded as soon as Marley had waltzed out the door.
“She… I… Marley and my father are getting married.”
“So… she came over here wanting to make amends, asking for a fresh start.”
“I hope you laughed in her face and showed her the door.”
“I’m hardly blameless in the bad blood between me and Marley, Grant. I had an affair with her husband.”
“There is nothing that you have done, or could do, that would ever compare to the kinds of stunts Marley’s pulled.”
“She doesn’t want a rerun of what happened at Thanksgiving. Daisy doesn’t deserve to grow up in a family where everyone is carrying a grudge against everyone else.”
“Then you, me and Daisy should leave town, ASAP.”
“Or we could start to make amends. Wouldn’t that be easier? And healthier?”
“She wants Daisy to be a flower girl at her wedding. Can you imagine how much Daisy would love that? Especially since she didn’t get a chance to be one at ours.”
“That was your decision,” Grant reminded. “Because you wanted Daisy to believe that you and I have always been together. How is that supposed to happen if we continue to let Marley lurk around the outskirts of our marriage?”
“But that’s where her marrying Dad is perfect luck! Marley and Daisy can still have a relationship!”
“Of course, they can. Marley will insist on it. I’m sure she’s planning to hold on to those infernal custody papers she blackmailed me into signing for all of eternity.”
“It’s going to be okay,” Sarah reassured her husband. Hoping he couldn’t hear the guilt in her voice.
“How’s Elizabeth holding up?” Cass wondered.
“Fine, I guess,” Charlie said. “Rachel sent everybody home from the hospital. She said she’d call if there was news. But, it looks like Elizabeth’s dad is going to be okay. Uncle Morgan was the one who operated on him.”
“She must be very relieved,” Frankie said.
“Yeah. She is.”
“How about you?” Frankie asked.
“What? Me? Yeah, sure, I guess I’m relieved, too.”
“No. I meant, how are you holding up? I know you were scared about being there to support Elizabeth. You weren’t sure if you’d know what to say or what to do…”
“Or what I’d hear,” Charlie mumbled.
“What’s that now?” Cass raised his head, twigged by her tone.
Charlie sighed, “You didn’t warn me that people say… weird stuff, when they’re freaked out. Elizabeth… it’s like she was a different person.”
“Stress does have that effect on people,” Cass agreed.
“What did she say to upset you?” Frankie wondered.
“I – It’s… nothing. I guess I just didn’t expect… She was so… I don’t know the word for it.”
“Vulnerable?” Frankie suggested.
“Maybe…” That didn’t seem quite right.
“Human?” Was Cass’ guess.
Charlie rolled her eyes. “I know Elizabeth is human, thanks, Dad.”
“But did you before?”
“What are you talking about?”
“Previously, you only saw Elizabeth as a means to an end. She wasn’t a person, she was a target. And then, going over to the hospital today, you must have seen her as nothing more than a burden – “
“Cass!” Frankie interjected.
Cass ignored her to ask, “Am I right about that, Charlotte? You didn’t go see Elizabeth because you were truly concerned about how she was feeling. You went because we told you to, and you were looking to prove us wrong.”
“Kind of,” Charlie conceded.
“Only your plan to blow in, blow out and pay some token lip service hit a snag. Seeing Elizabeth upset about her father forced you to consider her feelings for a change, not just your own. Her humanity became unavoidable. Don’t look so embarrassed, Charlotte, those are all good things.”
“She… needed me,” Charlie confessed awkwardly. “I don’t think anybody’s ever needed me before.”
“And how did that make you feel?” Frankie jumped in.
“That a start.” Cass smiled.
“And that is definitely progress.”
“How is feeling scared progress?”
“You don’t want to fail her,” Frankie guessed.
“No,” Charlie shook her head. “That’s not it, at all.”
“How did it go with Carl?” Jamie asked Lorna as soon as she came home and gratefully collapsed into Jamie’s arms on the couch.
“I made some progress,” Lorna nodded her head thoughtfully, resting it on Jamie’s shoulder. “I knew he’d never buy it if I played damsel in distress and flat out begged him to help me. But, telling Carl I was afraid of accidentally exposing his business dealings when the police questioned me? That got his attention. Now he’s invested in keeping them from looking too deeply into what went on the three years we were gone. And that means keeping them from considering me a suspect.”
“Do you really have information to bring Carl down?” Jamie asked, wondering if that might be the course they should have taken, all along.
She shrugged. “I know where a couple of bodies are buried. I did work pretty much side by side with him after I lost my memory and he decided he could trust me. Nothing that would neutralize Carl for good, as far as you and I are concerned. But enough to make the Justice Department re-open their investigation? Probably.”
“So what’s the next step?”
“Carl needs some time to ponder just what a can of worms he’d be opening by backing up Rachel’s claim that I shot him. Maybe after he does that, your mother will come to realize that her eyesight isn’t as good as it used to be.”
Jamie turned his head to kiss her. “I’m proud of you.”
“For batting my eyelashes while subtly threatening an old man in a hospital bed?”
“For taking on Carl. I know just being in the same room with him makes your flesh crawl.”
“I’d tear my flesh off and hand it to him, if I thought it would keep you and the girls out of Carl’s cross-hairs.”
“Well, you may not have to go quite that far,” Jamie attempted to transition neatly. “But, something else has come up.”
As quickly as possible, Jamie filled Lorna in on the latest threat from Olivia.
“Does that woman have no shame whatsoever?” Lorna demanded, her anger obviously directed at Olivia, not Jamie.
“It appears not.”
“How about any sense, then? Does she really think that forcing you to move me out and her in is going to make you finally accept her with open arms?”
“I don’t know what Olivia is hoping to accomplish with this. All I do know is that she’s a loose cannon I can’t risk running around Bay City, mad at me, right now.”
“So you want to do what she says?”
“No. I most certainly do not.”
Lorna hesitated, “Actually….”
Her smiled intrigued Jamie. “What? What are you thinking?”
“Go ahead,” Lorna urged. “Give in to Olivia. Have her make herself at home.”
“Because…” he prompted.
“Because.” Lorna tapped his chest with one finger. “While Olivia thinks she’s playing us, I am going to take advantage of the situation to play Carl. And win.”
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