Rachel spent most of the evening at Jamie’s house talking to Felicia about the possibility of Lucas being Carl’s shooter. After the initial shock wore off, Felicia had been forced to concede that Rachel’s – or, rather, Donna’s – theory did harbor some merit. However, Felicia insisted that she had nothing to contribute, either pro or con, on the matter.
Rachel left after having gotten Felicia’s promise to at least talk to Lucas and see what she might discover. Felicia agreed, but Rachel suspected it was more due to her wanting to clear Lorna once and for all, rather than any interest in implicating Lorna’s father.
Felicia was still in love with him, Rachel realized. And she always would be, no matter what Lucas did or didn’t do.
Rachel was more than a little familiar with the concept.
By the time she got home, Rachel expected Carl to be done with whatever it was he and Lorna were holed up working on this week, and be waiting for her back in their bedroom.
He was in the bedroom but, despite the hour barely being eleven, he was also already in bed, seemingly asleep.
The word seemingly sprung unbidden to Rachel’s mind because, while her husband was lying under the covers, eyes closed, Rachel was pretty certain he was putting on a show.
Carl slept on his back, not his side, like he was doing now. Also, his breathing sounded completely different when he was asleep than when he was awake. After all these years, Rachel knew the difference instinctively.
Even if she didn’t know why he was experiencing the urge to play possum.
“Carl,” she said softly, testing him.
He didn’t budge.
That was another clue. Even in the middle of the night, even in the deepest of sleeps, whenever Rachel called her husband’s name, he instinctively turned towards her. But, it wasn’t something he would be aware of. So it wasn’t something he would know to fake.
Carl didn’t want her to recognize that he was awake.
Which meant that he was avoiding her for some reason.
Rachel pondered the possibilities as she took off her own clothes, changed, and climbed into bed next to him.
She curled up against Carl’s back and wrapped her free arm around him, burying her face in his hair. Which, she couldn't help thinking as she drifted off to sleep, smelled ever so faintly of… Lorna's perfume.
“Where’s Jen?” Steven demanded, arriving at the Harrison house first thing the next morning after Kevin called to say that his wife had just arrived and asked Kevin to call him. She hadn’t come home or so much as contacted him the entire previous night.
“In there,” Kevin gestured towards the parlor.
“Has she said…”
“Not a word. She was waiting for you. She wants to talk to us both at the same time.”
Steven nodded, and followed his father-in-law.
“Hey,” he said softly upon seeing Jen, not sure what the correct response would be under the circumstances other than the truth. “I’m glad you’re okay.”
“I’m okay,” she confirmed. “I just needed some time to think.”
“I can’t believe the two of you lied to me like that.”
Kevin and Steven took seats across from Jen. There really wasn’t a lot either of them could say to that.
Except for Steven, who’d never quite learned the concept of leaving well enough alone. “What would you have done if we’d told you the truth?”
Jen blinked in surprise. Of all the responses she’d been expecting, that wasn’t one of them. Kevin wasn’t particularly sure where Steven was headed with this, either. Like so many other things, it appeared to only make sense in Steven’s head.
But, the younger man was used to blank stares in response to his utterances, and so pressed on, taking no offense. “If your dad and I had told you what we were planning to do, how would you have responded?”
“Well, I – I would have told you not to do it.”
“So you would rather I went to jail, instead?”
“No! Of course, I didn’t want you to go to jail. I didn’t want Daddy to go to jail, either. There must have been some other way.”
“We could have let you die,” Steven said simply.
“Jesus,” she shook her head, all but burying her face in her hands.
“Steven did what he felt he had to do, and I did what I felt I had to do. Because we both love you.”
Jen looked from one to the other, “That’s a pretty tough position to counter, guys.”
“I know,” Kevin smiled. “I am a lawyer.”
“And I’m your husband,” Steven added. As if that carried equal weight.
“I was so angry,” Jen admitted.
“You had every right to be.”
“Not at the two of you. At me. I never thought I’d be the kind of woman who’d let men throw themselves on swords for her.”
“What does gender have to do with any of this?” Steven wrinkled his nose, genuinely confused. “I’m sure Chase Hamilton would do the same thing for his guy. It’s about loving somebody; male, female, whatever.”
“Yeah, I know. But, I have this image of myself as being independent and competent…”
“You fought off leukemia,” Steven reminded. “Independently and competently and with a hell of a lot more grace than I would have; trust me.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t see it through, did I? I let your dad take the fall for my crime.”
“You mean,” Kevin amended. “You let me talk you into letting me take the fall for your crime. That’s a hell of a difference. I did what I did out of my own free will.”
“You went to jail so that I could be with Steven.”
“That’s… wow, how the hell am I supposed to ever repay you for that?”
“Well, forgiving me would be a nice start.”
“You know I forgive you, Daddy.”
“And forgiving Steven would be a nice finish.”
His son-in-law interjected, “I can grovel for myself, thank you very much.”
“You don’t have to,” Jen reached over, taking her husband’s hand and squeezing it. “I’m the luckiest woman in the world, aren’t I? I thought I already knew that, but I didn’t have the faintest idea. I don’t know what I did to deserve having you both in my life. But, I am damn sure I am never, ever going to take it for granted. Thank you,” she leaned to quickly kiss first Kevin on the cheek, then Steven on the lips. “Thank you.”
“Play with me, Daddy,” Daisy tugged on a prone Grant’s hand, urging him to get out of bed. “Play with me, you promised.”
“Daisy!” Sarah barked, having left the room for only a moment to get Grant’s breakfast, not realizing that her daughter – who’d already been told several times to leave Grant alone and let him rest – would take advantage of the distraction to sneak back in and continue haranguing her father. “I explained it to you. Daddy is sick. He can’t play with you right now.”
“He promised,” Daisy repeated with all the righteous insistence of a pint-sized lawyer waving a legally binding contract.
“I did promise her,” Grant admitted. “After you went to work with Kirkland, I told Daisy I’d be the one to stay home and play with her from now on.”
“Well, circumstances change.”
“She’s four years, Sarah. She doesn’t even understand what the word circumstances mean.”
“It means,” Sarah informed Daisy firmly. “That you need to go to your room and play quietly until Daddy feels better.”
“When?” Daisy demanded.
“I don’t know,” Sarah confessed with a sigh.
Daisy crossed her arms and pouted. Sarah, with more important things on her mind, simply took her daughter by the arm, walked her out the door and deposited her in the hallway. At which point, Daisy commenced wailing. At which point, Sarah closed the door on her.
“Oh, come on, now,” Grant attempted to sit up and plead Daisy’s case. “She’s just a little girl.”
“She’s a spoiled, little girl. She’s got to learn she can’t have her way all the time.”
“I’ve always dreamed of having a little girl to spoil…” Grant smiled.
“And you can get right back to it as soon as you’re up and around again.” Sarah sat down next to Grant, placing the tray of food on the bed next to him.
“Even you don’t know when that will be,” Grant reminded Sarah of what she’d told Daisy.
“Soon,” she predicted while, at the same time, picking up the cup of tea she’d made Grant and holding it up to his mouth.
“You look tired.” He reached up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind Sarah’s ear.
“I’m fine,” she shrugged off his caress, putting down the tea-cup and reaching for the bowl of oatmeal.
“I still think you should have taken Kirkland up on his offer to help.”
“You don’t think I can do this on my own?” Sarah asked sharply, visibly offended.
“Of course, you can. But, there’s no reason for you to.”
“I want to do it,” she insisted. “I want to show you how much I love you.”
“I already know that.”
“This is what people were talking about,” Sarah said. “When they claimed you and I didn’t belong together. That I was too young, and you were – “
“Too old,” he exhaled.
“Well, they’re wrong. I’m going to prove them wrong. I can take perfectly good care of you on my own. I don’t need Kirkland or anybody. I’m going to show them how wrong they were. Here, with you, is exactly where I belong. For better or for worse. In sickness and in health.”
“Till death do us part,” Grant added grimly.
“It’s good to see you up and about, Olivia,” Marley graciously offered Dennis’ ex when she arrived, uninvited, at Marley’s art gallery.
“Thank,” Olivia snapped tersely.
“How are you feeling?”
“Like crap,” she told the truth.
“I’m sorry to hear that. And I’m sorry about… I’m sorry about the baby.”
“I just bet you are.”
Marley sighed. “Okay. So, obviously, you aren’t going to believe a word I say. In that case, what do you want, Olivia?”
“You pushed me down those stairs,” she accused.
“I didn’t,” Marley dismissed. “You’re the one who insisted on coming up – though what you thought you were doing, I have no idea. You’re the one who started our fight. I was on my way to get married, for God’s sake! What did I need with you? And you were the one who lost your footing and fell.”
“You can’t prove that.”
“I don’t need to. The only person whose opinion matters to me is Dennis, and he knows what a liar you are.”
“Then you’d better hope Dennis is the presiding judge at your trial.”
“I’m filing charges,” Olivia said. “Assault. Attempted murder.”
“It’s hardly your first offense, is it, Marley? Just how many times do you think you’re going to get away with your crimes on the grounds of being blonde and rich? Or, what is your favorite go to? Batshit crazy?”
“No judge in their right mind would entertain a case based on your word and your word alone.”
“Do you really want to risk it? Three strikes, Marley…”
“What choice do I have?” she fired back. “You’ve made up your mind, haven’t you?”
“Well, I might be tempted to reconsider.”
“If what?” Marley braced herself.
“If you were to, say, break up with Dennis….”
Rachel told herself she was imagining things. That there was nothing going on between Carl and Lorna.
She told herself this for most of the day. And into a part of the evening, as well.
Carl hadn’t been interested in Lorna for years. Decades, as a matter of fact. More than one of them. After everything that woman had done to him, it was amazing Carl even stood having her in his home.
Then again, moving Lorna in had been Carl’s idea.
And they’d just spent two years together as, more or less, each other’s only confidants. He’d saved her life, she was obviously grateful for that. Jamie said Lorna considered Carl her savior.
Carl liked it when people were grateful to him. Especially women. Especially beautiful women. Especially beautiful, young women.
Who were married to a man Carl despised.
He may have forgiven Lorna, but he’d never forgiven Jamie for his role in driving Carl out of the country.
Jamie was obviously still in love with Lorna.
He’d be devastated if…
No, Rachel told herself. That might have been how the Carl of old would have operated. But, this was a new Carl. A Carl who would never betray Rachel or cause her pain….
… By absconding with their children. And making her think they were dead.
All in the name of a greater good.
Carl did have a… unique… relationship with the concept of good.
Rachel decided she had to know. One way or the other.
She stopped by Carl’s office, fully expecting to find him and Lorna there, deeply engaged in work. And nothing else.
They weren’t there. That was most odd.
Carl wasn’t in the study and he wasn’t in their bedroom.
He wasn’t in Lorna’s room, either.
Rachel felt sure of it.
Even if, passing surreptitiously by the door, she distinctively heard voices on the other side. A woman. And a man.
And they weren’t exactly making idle conversation.
Rachel understood precisely what she was hearing.
The only question was, did she dare confirm her hunch?
She hesitated, hand on the doorknob.
And then, with a deep breath, Rachel headed in.
“I can’t do this to Sarah,” Grant said, dismissing Lila’s queries about his health by blurting out what was really on his mind. “Or to Daisy, either.”
“I hardly think they imagine you got sick on purpose, Grant.” She sat down next to him, trying to remain light-hearted in the face of his near-feverish mania.
“It doesn’t matter. I married Sarah promising I’d make her happy. This is not the life I envisioned for her.”
“I hear you. Tough break. But, you’ll get through it. I talked to your wife downstairs, she’s certainly determined to do anything necessary to get you on your feet again.”
“She had to feed me today. I wasn’t strong enough to hold up my own goddamn bowl of oatmeal. Do you have any idea how that made me feel?”
“Like Hell, Grant, I get it. But, it’s only temporary.”
“Maybe yes, maybe no. According to my stepmother, I’ve got a damn good chance of suffering another stroke in the next ninety days. A much worse one.”
“So let Alice and her MD degree keep an eye on you. Change your diet. Exercise. Lose the cigars. I don’t know.”
“Neither do I. You can’t imagine what it’s like, Lila, lying here an invalid, nothing to do but stare at the walls, waiting for the other shoe to drop? And Sarah, it’s like you said, she is determined to do everything on her own. She won’t let anybody help, not even Kirkland. She says she wants to prove all our naysayers wrong.”
“She’s a tough kid. I gotta admit, I was one of those naysayers, I never dreamed she had it in her. You’re a lucky man.”
“Too lucky. I should have known it was too good to last. I finally have everything I ever wanted. A daughter I can raise who doesn’t consider some other man her “real” father; a wife who actually loves me for me – warts and all – instead of secretly carrying a torch for somebody else or using me as a means to an end. I don’t deserve this life. I should have known I wouldn’t be allowed to live it for long.”
“Would you stop being so morbid!” Lila slapped Grant’s shoulder with the side of her hand. “Just appreciate what you’ve got!”
“Things are bad enough as they are now,” he went on. “I can’t imagine forcing Sarah to watch me continue to deteriorate. The next stroke could leave me a vegetable. Or worse, just incapacitated enough to be a burden, but with enough faculties left to be cognizant of all the pain I was causing.”
“Okay,” Lila shifted gears. “I get it now, you’re depressed. It’s real common after a bad medical scare. I saw it happen to Matt after he had his heart-attack. Hell, it scared Donna enough that she was withholding his husbandly privileges, and you know that’s not how she rolls. You’re not used to being taken out of commission, so you – “
“I’ve been shot twice,” he reminded.
“Well, one time was by your own hand.”
“Fine. But, the other was by Carl. I also lost my spleen in a car accident, and, once upon a time, I had a virus I thought was going to kill me. Believe me, Lila, this isn’t newfound self-pity or clinical depression talking. It’s common sense. More than I’ve been making for years, as a matter of fact.”
“Jury’s still out on that one, Senator.”
“Listen to me,” Grant grabbed at Lila’s wrist, forcing her to take him seriously. “I have spent my whole life doing nothing but causing pain. My father, my mother, my brother. Vicky, Kirkland, Marley, all of them. I made a mess out of my life and theirs. I swore I would spare Sarah that. She says she wants to prove everybody wrong. That’s because, deep down, she has to know they were right. This is exactly the fate Lorna predicted for us. Sarah spending the best years of her life with a decrepit, old man, then the rest of as a widow, and a single parent.”
“Ticker’s still… ticking, Grant.”
“Yes, but for how long?”
“None of us knows that.”
“But, wouldn’t it be better for Sarah if I bowed out now? She’s still young, she still has her entire life ahead of her. The life she deserves, the one I robbed her of.”
“You’re talking nonsense,” Lila insisted.
“I did it before,” he said.
“What? Talk nonsense? Yeah, I’d say you have.”
“No. Faked my own death.”
“It’s for the best, Lila.”
“The hell, you say!”
“It’s best for Sarah, and for Daisy. It’s the best thing I can do for them right now.”
“No,” she attempted to stand up.
“Yes,” Grant used the last of his strength to pull her back down. “And you’re going to help me.”
AWT won't be publishing on the Martin Luther King Day holiday. We'll see you again on Thursday, January 23!
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