“What happened?” Lorna took one look at Jamie’s face as he walked through the front door, and understood it had to have been something monumental. “Is Rachel alright?”
He nodded slowly, moving from the door to the couch as if in a daze, and taking a seat on it’s arm, staring straight ahead for a long moment before exhaling a breath he seemed to have been holding for the bulk of his life.
“Fine,” he finally told Lorna, who’d come to stand in front of him, looking concerned, her hands on his shoulders, her thighs wedged between his. “Mom’s fine. And I… I’m fine, too.”
“Then why do you look so….”
Jamie spoke slowly, still forcing himself to believe it. “Mom said she blames me for everything that’s happened with Carl. She says that it’s my fault for always prioritizing the women in my life over her. She said that because I never put her first, I drove Carl to do what he did, and that she will never, ever forgive me. That last one, by the way, is a direct quote.”
“The bitch!” Lorna burst out. For a split second, she looked horrified by what she’d said, one palm instinctively flying up to cover her mouth. But then, just as quickly, she changed her mind, deciding to stand by her statement. “That is complete and utter bull crap. It doesn’t even make any sense.”
Much to Lorna’s surprise, Jamie said, “I agree.” He looked up at Lorna, smiling. “My mother pretty much cut me out of her life today. She blamed me for not respecting her enough, not loving her enough. She said that she changed her entire life for me, and she resents the hell out of my not doing the same.”
“She’s the mother, you’re the child. That’s not how it works.”
“I know,” Jamie nodded fervently. “I finally… know. The whole time I was driving home, I kept waiting for the devastation to hit me. I kept waiting to feel as destroyed as she obviously expected me to be. But, Lorna, all I felt was… relieved. My mother is right. She did change her entire life for me. And, as a result, from the time that I was a little boy, I have felt responsible for her well-being. I did everything I could think of to make her happy. But, it was never, ever enough. I always felt like a failure. I wondered what the hell was wrong with me that I couldn’t give my mother what she needed. And then, today, I realized that what my mother needed was for me to ignore the fact that her husband kidnapped my wife and let me think she was dead. That he drove my brother to
attempted murder. That he brought my mother to a place where she could sanction the assassination of a man who was just doing his job – in front of his children! My mother needed me to hand-wave all of that away and tell her I supported her actions. And when I didn’t, she threw a full out temper tantrum, cursing me for what a rotten son I was in refusing her. That’s when I realized that nothing I could ever do would make her happy. There would always be something else she needed from me. Something else I failed her in, each more and more ridiculous than the last. I realized that I would never be the son she thought I should be. And, for the first time in my life, I felt… free.”
“I’m sorry, Jamie,” Lorna told him sincerely. “I am so sorry she did that to you. Trust me, I know what it’s like to have your mother tell you, over and over again, that you are not the child she wished for. That you disappoint her just by being yourself.”
“It’s okay,” he told her honestly. “Really. Like I said, I kept waiting to feel crushed or even hurt. But, I’m not. I’m grateful to her for finally making me see the light. My mother made it clear that she will never be happy if she isn’t the most important woman in my life. And that’s just not going to happen now.” He slipped his arms around Lorna’s waist, pulling her closer. “That position has already been filled.”
“I love you,” she told him.
“I love you, too.”
“But, I know how much you love your mother, also.”
“I do,” Jamie confirmed. “But, this time around, her terms are just too steep. No matter what she says or what she accuses me of, I will never forgive Carl for what he did to you, me and the girls. If that’s the price of my mother’s love these days, then it is just too damn high.”
“So what now?” Lorna asked.
“I don’t know.” He buried his face in her neck. “The ball is in my mother’s court.”
At first, Dennis couldn’t believe his eyes. After days of seeing no one but Daisy, the sight of Oliva on the beach, just sitting there, staring out at the water, felt like a mirage.
He approached her slowly, too surprised to say anything.
It was Olivia who turned and saw him. She spoke first, voice shaking, “D-Dennis?”
“Where are we?”
But Dennis had a question of his own. “How did you get here?”
“I don’t know.” She coughed into her fist, trying to desperately to clear a throat clogged with mucus and who knew what else. “I just… woke up here.”
“The same thing happened to me!” he exclaimed.
Olivia took a deep breath, visibly trying to gather her wits, which seemed to still be suffering from the ill-effects of whatever drug had been used to subdue her. “One minute I was at home and the next…. Oh, shit, he didn’t….”
“Who?” Dennis demanded, feeling like he might finally get some answers.
“I never imagined he’d….”
Olivia suddenly looked at Dennis in a panic, adrenalin overruling the drugs. “Is Daisy with you?”
“Yes! She’s been with me the whole time.”
“Where is she?” Olivia scanned the beach, desperately.
“I don’t know. Back at the house?”
“Alone? You left her alone?”
“She’s watching a video. I think. She’s fine.”
“We have to find her.” Olivia scrambled to her feet. “We have to get to Daisy before he does.”
And she took off running down the beach, a stunned Dennis doing his best to keep up.
“Bad time?” Kevin knocked on the door to Lila’s City Hall office.
“Pretty bad,” she admitted, waving him inside, nonetheless. “Place is a madhouse since Chase’s death.”
“I read the Deputy Mayor has been sworn in.”
“Yeah. But now the DA has handed in his resignation. Son of a bitch does nothing for years, and now that he’s finally got a real case to prosecute – Carl’s – he begs off. The official reason is family commitments, but dude’s just yellow. He’s shaking in his boots at the thought of pissing Carl off and getting a little taste of Hutchins’ revenge for his trouble.”
“So what now? If there’s no one to prosecute Carl…”
“You want the job?” Lila asked, only half-serious.
“Oh, no,” Kevin took a step back, arms raised defensively. “I’m a Family Law attorney. I don’t do criminal cases, and I have no interest in starting now.”
“Well then, beats me. I guess the new Mayor will appoint someone. Problem is, Chase was a DA for twenty years. If his guy dropped the ball, he could always step in and add some of his own fancy footwork. New guy’s a career politician. Which means he has no useful skills whatsoever. Who knows how badly he’ll botch this?”
“You sound like you want Carl to fry.”
“I do,” Lila’s eyes blazed. “I love Rachel like a mother. She’s been better to me than my own mother ever was. But, Carl killed Chase.”
“And you loved him, too,” Kevin contributed.
“He was a good man. He wasn’t perfect, God knows. He’d be the first one to tell you that. But he didn’t deserve this. Doug and their kids didn’t deserve… this.”
“Neither did you. Stuck between Rachel and…”
“Stuck nothing. I know whose side I’m on.”
“You’re a remarkable woman, Lila.”
She went back to her paperwork. “Yeah, yeah, yeah.”
“I… speaking of who deserves what. You deserve to be happy.”
“Don’t we all?” She didn’t even look up.
Kevin said, “I spoke with Amanda earlier today.”
“That must have been a barrel of monkeys by half.”
“She said something – something I thought you should be made aware of.”
Lila cocked her head to one side. “What in the world are you getting at, Counselor?”
“Amanda, she said that you and Morgan were never going to happen.”
Lila snorted. “Girl doesn’t need a crystal ball to see that.”
“She said, Lila, that she was the one who made certain of it.”
There was an entire welcoming committee waiting for Rachel when she finally arrived home from the hospital the next morning. Matt and Donna, Amanda and Allie, Cory and Elizabeth, Kirkland and Jasmine, all gathered in the library under a joyful banner bearing Rachel’s name – and trying it’s hardest to inject some actual joy into what, in reality, was a most somber occasion.
It wasn’t only that Rachel was still terribly weak, needing to clutch Matt’s hand just to lower herself into a chair, looking utterly exhausted by the few steps of effort.
It wasn’t only that Cory still had his ankle bracelet on or that Amanda looked eager to put as much distance between herself and this party as possible at the earliest opportunity.
It was the fact that Rachel was coming home to a house without Carl. And that she knew herself responsible for his absence.
“Thank you,” she whispered weakly, indicating the banner and all of them gathered there. “Thank you for… making an effort.”
“Can I get you anything, Grandma?” Jasmine hovered. “Are you thirsty? Hungry?”
“No, darling. I have everything I need… here,” Rachel indicated the bottle of pills she’d be chained to for the rest of her life.
“Maybe we should get you up to bed,” Matt offered.
“No. No, thank you. I’ve done enough lying in bed. I’d rather sit here and enjoy your company. Allie,” Rachel beamed. “Your mother tells me congratulations are in order.”
“Thanks, Grandma.” Allie awkwardly stretched forward her hand so that Rachel could see the ring Zeno had given her.
“I hope you’ll be very happy.”
“Thanks,” Allie looked pointedly at Amanda. “I already am.”
“And Cory,” Rachel said. “I’ve spoken to your attorney. He thinks that, with your father turning himself in, he should be able to get your charges dropped. I hope, honey, that, this time, you’ll agree and not cause any trouble.”
“As long as Father keeps his part of the bargain,” Cory said grimly, making it clear the jury was still out on that one. “I’ll keep mine.”
“Kirkland,” Rachel turned to her grandson. “It was very nice of you to come. I can’t imagine it was easy, considering your father….”
Kirkland frowned, confused. “Dad? What about Dad?”
“He didn’t tell you?” Rachel seemed offended. “Your father and I had… words at the hospital.”
“You and Jamie?” Amanda’s eyes went wide.
“Yes,” Rachel repeated coldly. “Jamie and I. I told him how disappointed I was by his behavior of late. I made it clear that it was his and Lorna’s treatment of Carl that set in motion the chain of events that led to Carl’s arrest.”
“Oh, God,” Cory buried his face in hands. “Here we go again.”
“Yes!” Rachel snapped. “Precisely. Here we go again. Since the day Carl entered my life, you children have done nothing but suspect him and hound him and pull out every trick in the book to discredit my husband not just in my eyes, but the law’s, as well. Matt working with Alexander Nikos, Amanda in her Hadley Prescott disguise, and Jamie and Lorna constantly throwing up her past with Carl in my face, accusing him of all sorts of horrible things. He put up with it as long as he could – for my sake; because he loves me. And then he snapped, as any decent person mercilessly harassed for decades would. This is solely Jamie’s doing. In executing his wife’s childish vendetta, he never once stopped to consider my feelings, or what the consequences would be for me. And that,” Rachel said, with a combination of pain and finality in her voice, “Is why Jamie is no longer a part of my life.”
At that, a collective gasp went up around the room, Amanda’s being the loudest.
Rachel added, “Of course, he is welcome back at any time. I would never permanently turn my back on one of my children. I still love Jamie as much as I ever have. But, I will no longer put up with his disrespect and his setting everyone around him up on a pedestal while tearing me down. As soon as Jamie admits it and apologizes, I will be more than happy to forgive him and let bygones be bygones. In the meantime,” Rachel requested, “Matt, will you help me upstairs, please? I’m afraid you were right, after all. I’m much more tired than I first thought.” She told everyone assembled. “Matt took such good care of me while I was in the hospital. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
“Ah,” Amanda smirked, sotto voice, to Elizabeth. “And Mom ceremoniously picks a new favorite. Bet you and I were never even in the running.”
Elizabeth giggled, acknowledging that her big sister was absolutely right.
“Just a second, Mom,” Amanda spoke up, louder now. “Before you go, there’s something you need to know. It’s about Cory Publishing.”
“Not now, Amanda,” Matt attempted to hush her as he helped Rachel rise to a standing position. “Mom doesn’t need to hear about business now.”
“I think she should hear it from me before she hears it from someone else.”
“It’s alright,” Rachel smiled gratefully up at Matt, clutching his shoulder for support. A gesture that made Donna narrow her eyes, displeased. “What is it, Amanda?”
“Well, you know all the trouble we had with Carl’s illegal money being pulled out of Cory Publishing?”
“You mean the money the government claimed Carl had obtained illegally,” Rachel corrected.
“The money that was confiscated and almost cost us controlling interest,” Amanda stuck to the facts, having no interest in arguing with her mother about it.
“Is Iris causing trouble again?” Rachel wondered. “Is she trying another take-over?”
“No,” Amanda said. “Actually, quite the opposite. It’s good news. Because of Carl turning himself in, I’ve been able to convince the Feds to unfreeze his funds.”
“Oh! Why, that is wonderful news! In that case, Iris will never be able to bother us again.”
“There’s a catch, Mom. Basically, Carl’s money, and the stock that he bought with it, has been turned over to me.”
“Well,” Rachel considered the implications. “It isn’t optimal, but we should be able to manage. There are still my shares and – “
“Your shares, too, Mom.”
“What?” Rachel blanched.
“According to the Justice Department, after so many years of marriage, it’s impossible to separate Carl’s dirty money from your personal holdings. So to make a clean break, they’ve given me your stock, too. I am now the majority stockholder in Cory Publishing. You and Carl are out for good.”
“Have you eaten anything?” Marley asked a gaunt and drawn Sarah, dropping in on her to see if maybe she’d heard anything from Dennis and Daisy.
“You sound like Kirkland,” Sarah mumbled. “I don’t need food, I need my daughter.”
“I understand how you feel,” Marley reassured soothingly, at the same time guiding Sarah to the kitchen, where she looked into the refrigerator, took out a container of yogurt and handed it to Sarah, along with a spoon.
Despite the younger woman’s look of distaste, she nevertheless obediently swallowed a few spoonfuls before setting the yogurt back down on the counter. Marley considered it a start, at least.
“Sarah,” Marley ventured tentatively. “I – I had a thought about who might have done this.”
Sarah looked up eagerly. “Who?”
“Have you ever considered the possibility that it might be… Grant?”
The desperate hope in Sarah’s eyes somersaulted into fury. “Grant is dead.”
“He’s been….dead… before.”
“That was different!”
“Yes,” Marley said cautiously. “And no.”
“Get lost!” Sarah pointed towards the door.
“Just hear me out,” Marley refused to budge. “You know how guilty Grant felt about robbing you of your youth, saddling you with a husband and baby during a time in your life when you should be out and having fun.”
“He got over it,” Sarah snapped.
“Maybe he didn’t. Sarah, Grant was willing to give you up for your own good. What if… What if he decided that you’d be better off without Daisy, too?”
“So he took her? You think he faked his own death and kidnapped my baby?”
“In Grant’s mind, he was probably doing you a favor. Letting you be young again.”
“And what about Dad? Did Grant run off with my dad, too?”
“That may have been because of me,” Marley offered. “Maybe he was trying to get back at me – “
“Grant doesn’t give a damn about you, anymore. He loves me!”
“Of course, he does. But, you know Grant. The way he shows his love, it’s… non-traditional. He is always making these grand, dramatic gestures that he thinks you’ll be happy about, but…”
“How could Grant have thought I’d be happy without my daughter?”
“You know Grant,” Marley repeated.
“Just because he stole Kirkland from Vicky, doesn’t mean he’d do the same to me. I’m not Vicky, and Grant isn’t the same Grant. Not with me.” Sarah demanded, “Why are you doing this? Are you just trying to cover your tracks? Did you put Dad up to this? Did you tell him it was finally your chance to have a family together? Did you tell him I
owed you guys Daisy, that she was to make up for Mom messing with you and keeping me?”
“Oh, honey,” Marley said sadly. “I wish that were true. For both our sakes.”
“Quite a bombshell Amanda dropped on you,” Donna mused to Rachel, having knocked on her mother-in-law’s door and entered quietly after confirming that Rachel was awake.
“Who does that child think she is?” Rachel fumed. “If Mac had wanted to leave her controlling interest of Cory Publishing, he would have. He specifically left it to me so that I could keep an eye on her.”
“I suppose the Justice Department feels more confident of the shares staying out of Carl’s hands if Amanda is the one controlling them, rather than you.”
“Carl has no interest in Cory Publishing! He only invested that money for my sake, so we could keep it in the family.”
Donna merely smiled pleasantly at that, declining to remind Rachel of just how disinterested in Cory Publishing Carl had been when he first arrived in Bay City.
“I don’t understand it,” Rachel went on, anger returning the color to her cheeks. “First Jamie, then Amanda. How could they both be so ungrateful, so insolent, so…. petty as to betray me like this?”
Donna once again kept to herself the observation that whenever her children turned on Donna, popular opinion held that it was her fault for being such a flawed parent. But, of course, that metric could never be applied to the saintly Rachel. Obviously, in this case, all blame must fall on the vindictive children.
“At least Matt hasn’t turned his back on me,” Rachel sighed contentedly. “He really was my rock at the hospital. I knew I could always count on him.”
“Yes,” Donna said. “That’s precisely what I wanted to speak to you about.”
“Don’t do it, Rachel,” Donna warned.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Don’t turn Matthew into your substitute Jamie. Honestly, I don’t know if you’re consciously doing it in order to make Jamie jealous, or if you unconsciously are incapable of functioning without a son following you around like a devoted puppy dog. In either case, Matthew is not available for the job.”
“How dare you?” Rachel pushed herself up to a sitting position.
“I will not allow you to do to Matthew what you did to Jamie, the way you smothered that dim-witted boy to a point where he didn’t know if he was coming or going, where he was incapable of making a move without his mommy’s consent. I watched the havoc you wreaked with him when it came to women. The way he fell for girl after girl who used him for her own purposes, then tossed him aside as soon as he didn’t give into every single one of her whims – and blamed him for not being man enough to satisfy her. And yes, Rachel, I realize that my Vicky is right at the top of that list, so don’t bother pointing it out. It doesn’t make my observation any less true. Heavens, look at whom Jamie is with now! A beautiful brunette with a checkered past reformed by the love of a good man. Sound familiar?”
“Yes,” Rachel said coldly. “She sounds a great deal like my other son’s wife. Except for the reformed part. And the beautiful.”
Donna didn’t let Rachel childish barb slow her down. She had a more important point to make. “I’m not saying that I also haven’t benefited from the number you did on your boys’ heads. The only difference is, you were so busy doting on Jamie that Matt was left more or less to his own devices. He was allowed to make his own choices. In love and otherwise. And I intend to make sure it stays that way. I know you, Rachel. The only reason you were able to survive the lean years without Jamie adoring you unconditionally – the ones where he dared live his own life with a woman he loved; whether or not you approved – was because you’d trained Carl to fill the same role. But now both are gone. And you’ve got a vacancy to fill. Well,” Donna leaned over to make sure Rachel heard every word. “Not with my husband.”
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