“I have something important to tell you,” Carl strained to make Rachel feel his sincerity despite the prison issue glass partition between them. “It may sound odd at first, but, I beg of you, please hear me out. This is something I feel I must do, and it concerns you, most of all.”
Rachel braced herself. Why did it seem like she was constantly bracing herself these days? “I’m listening.”
“I love you, Rachel,” he began.
“I know that,” she said, strongly suspecting the above wasn’t the part he feared might sound odd to her.
“It destroys me to witness the sort of suffering that I have brought into your life.”
“I knew what I was getting into when I married you,” Rachel insisted, though she had to admit – at least to herself – that it didn’t make the inevitable any easier to deal with.
“You did, yes, you did. But I also presume you expected your friends and your family to come around eventually, to cease judging me on my past actions and to see the grace and honor which you brought into my life.”
“I don’t give a damn what other people think about you, Carl. I know who you truly are, and that’s all that matters.”
“Nevertheless, it cannot be easy for you, listening to Lorna, Jamie and the rest go on accusing me of terrible, horrible, unspeakable things.”
“It’s not my favorite way to spend the day,” she conceded.
“I cannot put you through that any longer.”
“I don’t see that there’s anything either of us can do about it.”
“There is one thing. I have decided, Rachel – I have decided to terminate my appeals process. Rather than fight the charges against me, I will meekly accept my punishment and serve out my time. I will die in prison. Perhaps that will, at long last, quiet the jackals calling for my blood.”
“Carl!” Rachel exclaimed. “No! You can’t! You have a good case. You can beat this. Well, some of it, anyway. It doesn’t have to be a life sentence!”
“And expose you to the hell of endless trials, the media coverage, the unending repetition of my sins, real and imagined, the public scrutiny, the scorn, the condemnation? No. I cannot do this to you any longer. I will not.”
“I can take it,” she swore.
“Alas, I cannot take watching you try.”
“So you’re just – what? – giving up?”
“Yes,” he said. “There is an American aphorism about giving the public what it wants. The public has made it most clear that what they want above all is my head on a platter. If we do not give it to them now, they will simply keep coming at me over and over, fangs bared. It is my duty as your husband to shield you from that.”
“And it is my duty, as your wife, to encourage you to keep fighting. I don’t… I can’t lose you, Carl.”
“Perhaps,” he swallowed hard. “It would be for the best.”
She gasped, pressing her hand to the glass despite repeating warning from the guard. And the fact that it brought them no closer together.
“Think about it, Rachel. With my harboring no possibility for parole, perhaps it is, in fact, in your best interests to – “
“Sever your ties with me.”
“No!” She shouted loud enough to be heard over the other cacophony of voices in the waiting area. No one so much as turned around. Shouting wasn’t exactly unheard of there.
“You should not be tethered to a condemned man.”
“You are my husband. For better or for worse, till death do we part.”
“What is all this,” he indicated their surroundings. “If not a sort of living death?”
“I will never give up on you.”
“For your own good…”
This time, her “No” was cold and quiet steel.
“I am so sorry,” Carl broke down, covering his face with his hands. Again, no one noticed. Tears weren’t exactly an anomaly, either. “Look at what I’ve done to you. I’ve destroyed you, precisely as Cory accused me of.”
“Don’t listen to him. Don’t listen to anyone. They don’t understand. Only I understand.”
“I’ve destroyed your life, your family.” He looked up abruptly, a near messianic gleam in his eye. “But I shall fix it. I promise you, Rachel, I shall fix it. I know exactly how now. You shall see. I finally understand how I can make everything right.”
“Why?” Charlie wanted to know as she and Cory were both getting dressed; her, rather sheepishly, all but sneaking around, picking her clothes up off the floor and putting them back on, him casually and unselfconsciously, as if this sort of thing were routine. She had a myriad of questions, and yet they all boiled down to a single word.
He seemed to understand exactly what she was asking. Though he had a roundabout way of answering. “You don’t love my sister.”
“I would like you to stop jerking her around.”
“I don’t love you, either.”
“Of course not.”
“You slept with me so I would dump Elizabeth?”
He met her eyes without hesitation or embarrassment. “Yes.”
He shrugged. “I didn’t force you.”
“I know that! I’m not an idiot. I’m not saying I didn’t want to… it… you. But, it doesn’t change anything. People sleep with people they don’t love all the time. Your mom was, like, totally famous for it,” Charlie’s last was an obvious attempt to wound. And distract.
Cory appeared neither. “Perhaps your father went to her for pointers.”
Charlie couldn’t help smiling grudgingly. “Touché,” she mumbled.
“Elizabeth isn’t like you and I. She’s sensitive.”
Charlie snorted. “Your sister is a lot of things, but that’s one word I wouldn’t use to describe her.”
“That’s because you don’t really know her. She’s… innocent. In her own way,” he interrupted before Charlie could disagree again. “She sees the world in black and white. Father saw to that. Grey confuses her. She’s like a little kid in that respect. I know Elizabeth has hurt a lot of people in her time. But if I can keep her from getting hurt, I’m going to do it.”
“You think I’m going to hurt her?”
“How can you not? She’s in love with you. And you’re just… acting out, using her to do it.”
“Well, look at you! Get away with shooting your dad one, measly time, and suddenly you’re an expert on all human behavior!”
“I was always an expert on human behavior. Shooting my dad was just my first time trying to do something about it.”
“And was I your second?”
He considered her question. “Yes. In a manner of speaking.”
It was really hard to accuse a person of manipulating and playing games when they were so damn honest and upfront about it. So Charlie changed the subject.
“It was… nice,” she admitted, almost shyly.
“Good. Nice is what I was shooting for.”
“More than nice.”
“That’s good, too.”
“But it didn’t mean anything.”
“I just wanted to make that clear.”
“You think I’m going to break up with Elizabeth now, don’t you?”
“How could you not?” He repeated, albeit in a different context.
Charlie refused to answer.
“I told Lila everything,” Morgan stopped by Amanda’s office before heading to the hospital for the day.
“Then how come I don’t smell her Eau de Social Climber all over you this morning?”
“It… didn’t go well.”
Amanda’s eyebrow went up with interest. “Do tell.”
“She thinks I should have been honest with her in the first place.”
“But you were trying to protect her,” Amanda’s eyes narrowed, genuinely puzzled.
“I know, right?”
“If I thought there was a guy out there willing to make any sort of sacrifice for me – hell, I’ll take giving up his seat on the bus, at this point – “
“When was the last time Amanda Cory took the bus?”
“I’d be all over him in a heartbeat.”
“Lila clearly doesn’t share your sentiments.”
“Lila is an idiot. I suspected as much due to her really, really inexplicable friendship with Grant, but this just seals the deal.”
“Well, in any case, she’s through with me.”
“Oh, is any woman ever really through with Dr. Morgan Winthrop?” Amanda teased. “How long were you and Lorna on and off before my brother finally flipped her off switch for good. Or, depending on how you look at it,” she giggled at her own joke. “Her on-switch.”
“What about you?” Morgan challenged.
“What about me?” If Amanda was faking her lack of understanding, she was doing an Academy Award-worthy job.
“Are you through with me?”
“Are you sure you don’t have your pronouns reversed there, pal?”
“Look, Amanda, you/me, we’ve tried it every which way, no strings, strings, you being married – “
“You being in love with Lorna.“
He didn’t dispute her point. Instead, Morgan asked, “What about just… playing it straight for once?”
“Meaning: You, me… no lying, no games, no blackmail, no setting ground rules ahead of time. Just two ordinary people seeing where things go.”
“Watch whom you’re calling ordinary!”
He noted, “You’re stalling.”
“And you’re pushing.”
“It’s what I do.”
“It’s what I do,” she countered, then counter-proposed, “Can I think about it?”
He shrugged. “Sure.”
“Yes,” Amanda said.
“GQ didn’t rape me!” Allie rose out of her chair, looking in disbelief from Frankie to Zeno. “I never said that. I never told you he raped me!”
Zeno, who didn’t exactly look convinced himself, yet willing to give Frankie’s theory a shot, attempted to calm her down by offering, “Frankie thinks he took advantage of you being upset and… and you said you’d been drinking…”
“I was drunk,” Allie agreed. “But I still knew what I was doing.”
“You just think you did, Allie,” Frankie corrected soothingly. “The fact of the matter is, considering your complicated history with GQ, there was no way you could have been making rational decisions the state you were in.”
“Okay, fine,” Allie said, crossing her arms defensively. “Let’s say I wasn’t thinking straight – “
“Because of the alcohol, yes.”
“But wasn’t it my fault to get drunk in the first place? I made that choice before I started drinking? How are you going to hold GQ responsible for that?”
“GQ’s responsibility was in recognizing that you were incapacitated, and not trying to – “
“I’m the one who put the moves on him,” Allie asserted, while Zeno winced behind her.
“I’m sure you think so,” Frankie began.
“So now I don’t know why I did what I did?”
“People rarely do, especially when they’re upset. And Zeno told me you and GQ had a fight before you left the house… “
“Actually, Zeno and I were the ones who had the fight.”
“But it was about GQ?” Frankie refused to let go.
“GQ and I go a long way back.”
“Exactly why your… encounter the other night was about a lot more than just… the other night. He manipulated you.”
“No. I manipulated him.” She turned to Zeno. “I explained everything to you. Why are you letting her – “
“Zeno,” Frankie interrupted. “Could you step outside for a moment? I’d like to speak to Allie alone, woman to woman.”
He hesitated, then shrugged, walking out of the room and closing the door behind him without a word.
Frankie turned back to Allie. She said, “You have to do this. For Zeno’s sake.”
“I have something important to tell you,” Lila managed to catch Jasmine between school, homework, college applications, social engagements and cheerleading practice. She had to give Kirkland credit for one thing, his cheating on Jasmine just before the start of her Senior Year gave Lila’s daughter plenty of extra time to focus on more pressing things. And, luckily, Jasmine was taking full advantage of it, instead of moping over a clearly doomed relationship.
“What have you done, Mama?” Jasmine wanted to know.
On any other occasion, Lila would have wanted to know why Jasmine assumed she’d done something – and something negative, at that? But the child’s suspicious mind-set fit in perfectly with Lila’s agenda for the day.
“You were right,” she began. “I was wrong to keep Grant’s not really being dead a secret from you.”
“You were wrong to keep it from Sarah and Kirkland. I don’t really matter, here.”
“You’re my daughter, I should be honest with you. Always.”
Jasmine took a deep breath and sat down on her bed, looking up at Lila expectantly. “Are you about to be now?”
Lila perched next to Jasmine. “The reason I wasn’t honest with you to begin with is because Grant and I… Grant and I…” Wanting to give a sense of needing it dragged out of her, Lila finished up with a definitive, “Grant. And I.”
Jasmine got the picture. And she looked properly shocked. Just like Lila needed her to be. “Mama! For real? Even while he was married to Sarah?”
“No,” Lila rushed to reassure. Then qualified with, “Well, yes.”
“Pick one.” Her daughter’s tone was less than encouraging. Lila had to remind herself that it was in the name of a good cause.
“Grant really was in love with Sarah, absolutely, one hundred percent, yes. But, you know
there’s always been this… pull between the two of us.”
“You told me you were just friends.”
“And we were. For a long, long time.”
“Until I helped him fake his death.”
“That’s a real bonding experience, alright.”
“Grant was fully intending to never see Sarah again. It broke his heart, but he felt he had to do it. He was lonely. And I was…”
“Easy?” Jasmine wondered.
“Watch your tone, young lady.”
“So you’re sleeping with Grant.”
“Only after Sarah told him they had no future together.”
“Which was five minutes ago!”
“She made herself very clear.”
“And you made yourself very available.”
“Don’t make me regret confiding in you, Jasmine,” Lila said, all the while thinking that everything was going perfectly.
No matter what Dennis did, he couldn’t seem to figure out how people were getting on and off the island, whether it was to bring them fresh food, take away garbage or spirit Daisy home.
At least, Dennis hoped that’s where Daisy had been taken. All during the long nights when he’d stayed up, sitting in the shadows, staking out different parts of the island in the hopes of catching a glimpse of their… benefactors, he’d fretted to Olivia, “Daisy is alright, don’t you think? She’s back with Sarah now?”
“I’m sure she is.”
“Because Sarah would never forgive me if I let something happen to Daisy.”
“Let’s worry first about ever seeing either one of them again,” Olivia sighed, her confidence, unlike Dennis’, long depleted when it came to being set free.
“We haven’t been forgotten,” Dennis insisted. “They’re keeping us here for a reason.”
“I don’t know. But we’ll find out. We’ll find out and we’ll get out of here, you’ve got to have faith.”
Olivia laughed, “You know that party game question: Who would you want to be stuck on a desert island with? Did you ever, ever, ever answer – me?”
“Can’t say that I did,” he confessed.
“Like I would have been your first choice. Ever. For anything.”
“No. But you came in a good, solid second a bunch of times.”
“That high, huh?”
“I don’t hate you, Dennis,” Olivia said abruptly.
Her candor prompted him to respond just as much from the gut. “I know.”
“Kind of hard to tell from either of our behaviors, isn’t it?”
“Nobody ever accused us of being mature.”
They’d been drawing closer and closer together with each word, until Dennis reached out his hand and tucked a strand of Olivia’s hair behind her ear. “Beautiful.”
She let him. And then she said, “Mine.”
Neither one could say who made the first move. All both knew was that, in a moment, they were in each other’s arms, Dennis kissing Olivia, or Olivia kissing Dennis, not that it mattered, not that anything mattered.
They also didn’t know how long they stayed as they were. All Dennis and Olivia did know was that, when they finally came up for air, Iris was standing only a few feet away, looking at the two of them with undisguised horror.
And right behind them was Marley.
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