“Mom, Charlie is pregnant,” Elizabeth announced to Rachel – and everyone else around Cass and Frankie’s Thanksgiving table. “And Cory is the father.”
For a moment, nobody said anything. And then the reactions started coming in, everyone tripping over each other in an attempt to speak first. Cass and Frankie were demanding to know what the hell was going on, while Charlie screamed back that this was none of their business, glaring at Elizabeth all the while.
The aforementioned guests, familiar with the drill after many, many years of… eventful Bay City Thanksgivings, quietly withdrew into the background, hurriedly gathering up their coats and purses, and heading for the door, not even bothering to thank their hosts, realizing that now wasn’t the time.
In what felt like mere seconds, the three Winthrops were left alone with the three Hutchins’. Lori Ann (who was, technically, both) sensed that something grown up was going on, and scurried up to her room.
Once again, nobody said anything until Frankie, taking a deep breath to calm down, asked Charlie, “Is it true? Are you pregnant?”
Her daughter nodded, shooting for defiant, but coming off more undecided.
“And Cory is the father?” Rachel spoke up.
“Yes,” he said.
“Anyone care to explain how the hell that happened?” Cass had lost all semblance of the calm he displayed in the courtroom, and thoroughly reverted entirely to Dad mode.
“The usual way,” Cory reassured.
“What, exactly,” Cass sneered, “Is usual about this situation?”
“I thought you and Elizabeth…” Rachel wasn’t sure how to phrase her question.
“Cory and I are twins,” Elizabeth said. “Guess Charlie had a tough time telling us apart.”
“Are you two finding this funny?” Cass demanded of both Hutchins’ siblings.
“No,” Cory swore honestly.
“Little bit,” Elizabeth confessed.
“Charlie, honey…” Like Rachel, Frankie was at a loss for words. “What’s going on here?”
“Pretty much what Elizabeth said. Cory knocked me up. I was going to get rid of it.”
“What, Mom? I thought you were all pro-choice and stuff?”
“Well, yes, of course, but making such a huge decision without any input from – “
“I thought you believed in a woman’s right to choose. Independently. Not as part of a committee.”
“We’re not a committee, Charlotte,” Cass snapped. “We’re your parents.”
“What made you change your mind?” Rachel wondered. “About the abortion?”
“Who said I changed my mind?”
Elizabeth interjected, “Charlie is still thinking about it. But I thought you’d want to know, Mom. The baby being Father’s grandchild and all.”
“What about you, Cory?” Cass preferred to focus on the more immediate paternal relative at hand. “Do you have anything to say about this, at all?”
“I’m sorry. I should have never let this happen.”
“Why did you let it happen?” Rachel still failed to understand… much of anything.
“You mean the baby?”
“I mean… Charlie and your sister are… were …”
“He had his reasons.”
“Are you defending him?” Rachel asked her daughter in disbelief.
“Yes, I am.”
“Unbelievable!” Cass exclaimed.
Frankie shot her husband a desperate look. “I think that what may have happened and why is no longer relevant. The more important question is, what are we going to do?”
“Nothing,” Charlie said. “You’re not going to do anything. The only person with a decision to make here, is me.”
“You want her to have it, don’t you, Mom?” Elizabeth prompted.
“What – I – I’m sorry, this is all such a shock, I haven’t really thought about – “
“You know how much Father would have wanted a grandson.”
“It might not be a boy,” Charlie reminded.
“It will be.” Elizabeth seemed eerily confident about a whole host of things.
“Carl Hutchins’ wishes are of even less bearing here than ours.” Cass figured if he was going to be ignored, then certainly the dead grandfather deserved equal treatment.
“We could name the baby after him,” Elizabeth went on. “Carl Hutchins the Second.”
“We?” Cory wondered.
“Well, you don’t want anything to do with the baby or Charlie. So that just leaves me.”
“If I keep it,” Charlie reminded smugly, swiftly discovering the satisfaction that could come from holding an entire group of people on the edge of their seats – and refusing to let go. Charlie looked around the room. And decided this might not be so bad, after all.
“I have been trying to figure out precisely what relation this child of Charlie and Cory’s will be to Lori Ann,” Donna confided in Matt as they returned home from Cass and Frankie’s. “But all I’ve managed to do was give myself a frightful headache.”
“Let me see if I can help with that.” Matt waited until Donna had settled on the edge of the bed, then perched on his knees behind her, rubbing her shoulders with both hands.
She groaned. “You are a life-saver, Matthew, I don’t know what I would do without you.”
He kissed the top of her head and reminded, “Good thing you’ll never have to find out.”
Donna continued purring contentedly, swaying in rhythm with Matt’s kneading of her tense muscles.
It was only when he believed he’d gotten her into a relaxed enough state that Matt felt confident enough to venture, “You and Marley seemed to be getting along pretty well, tonight.”
“Well, no china got broken, the word ‘monster’ was not invoked and there were no snide references to the parenting practices of Joan Crawford. So I would say, yes, the evening was a triumph, by those standards.”
“I was thinking. Maybe – maybe you should tell Marley about Carl’s letter.”
The repose Matt thought he’d created for Donna instantly froze beneath his fingers, as did every available muscle and nerve in the vicinity.
“Whatever for?” She craned her neck to peer at him in frustration.
“Michael is her father. If he’s still alive – “
“If,” Donna stressed. “If. What if this is all just some game Carl is playing with me? Why should I get Marley’s hopes up before I know for certain? She’ll only blame me for it in the long run.”
“Maybe Marley could help you decide what to do.” Matt sat down next to Donna.
“No. Out of the question.”
“It could bring the two of you closer.”
“At this point, a forklift couldn’t do that.”
“I know you hate how angry she’s been at you.”
“For what? Weeks? Months? Years? Decades? One grows accustomed to it.”
“Still, finding Michael and bringing him home might be just what the two of you need.”
“And where does that leave you, Matthew?”
“Darling, you have been beyond supportive of me throughout all of this, but if you believe I
haven’t noticed just what a toll it’s taken…”
“I’m fine. I just want to get things settled, one way or another.”
“Then we shall settle them,” Donna said firmly, standing up and striding over to her bureau, where she’d placed the papers from Carl. “You and I will get to the bottom of this. Immediately. For your sake,” she smiled at Matt.
“How was your Thanksgiving?” Kirkland asked Sarah when he stopped by the house the next morning. She’d called and asked him to come over. She wouldn’t tell him why over the phone.
“Oh, you know, the usual: Turkey, stuffing, apple pie, Charlie is pregnant with Cory’s baby even though she’s dating Elizabeth…”
“Yeah. Michele texted me. That’s…”
“Par for the Bay City course?”
“And just think, it was only a few years ago that Iris was outing my baby’s father over Thanksgiving dinner.”
“Shame she got the wrong guy, though.”
“Shame I got the wrong guy,” Sarah corrected.
“What’s up?” Kirkland didn’t feel it was really his place to offer an opinion on that particular subject.
“Grant dropped in yesterday.”
“Bearing frankincense and myrrh?”
“No. Just his latest bit of manipulation. He told me he was cutting Daisy and me loose. Again. Except this time, the official reason is because he loves us so much, and I’d taught him how love
was unselfish and how when you cared about somebody you did what was best for them instead of you, and always put them first.”
“Well, he’s not wrong about that.”
“No,” Sarah agreed. “He’s not. I know it was all a con to make me see him in a different light, but, here’s the thing, the whole time he was talking, all I could think was, yeah, that is love, or what love’s supposed to be, anyway. Except the only person who ever treated me like that wasn’t Grant. It was you, Kirkland.”
“I love you. I haven’t hidden that in a long time.”
“No. You haven’t. But, I didn’t appreciate it. Not until I heard Grant explain… He made me realize just how rare the thing he was describing actually is. And how lucky I was to find it. With you.”
“I suspect that wasn’t his intention.”
“Probably not.” She stepped forward, taking both of Kirkland’s hands into hers. “Can you forgive me for being such an idiot, and selfish, too? For thinking only about myself? For treating you, the way Grant treated me?”
“You can’t compare the two situations.”
“I can. I took your looking out for me, your loving me, for granted. Like it was something I deserved – “
“You do deserve to be loved, Sarah.”
“ – Without giving anything back in return.”
“I wasn’t looking for anything in return. That’s not how it works.”
“I know. I finally get it. Is it – is it too late?”
She smiled, hopefully. “For you… and me?”
“Are you okay?” Marley watched Dennis slowly climb out of bed, moving creakily, as if sore after an overly intensive workout. “Tryptophan hang-over?”
She’d tried a joke. It didn’t work. Dennis didn’t so much as crack a smile while reaching for his pants and shirt.
He sighed, forgoing doing his buttons to sit down on the bed. He said, “I owe you an apology.”
“It’s okay. I know you’re not with me for my sparkling wit.”
“I’m sorry I thought, even for a moment, that you might have been the one behind my kidnapping.”
“Oh. That. Well, I guess you had to consider every option, and those photos were pretty incriminating…”
“It was my mother. She and Olivia set up the whole thing. They admitted it.”
“Yes. I’m so sorry, Marley.”
“Why would they do that?”
“They didn’t want to. I overheard them discussing it. They had no choice.”
“No.” She dismissed that part of it. “Why would they take you and Daisy?”
“Daisy was just a cover. That’s why they returned her to Sarah as soon as they thought it was safe. Not that she didn’t go through hell in the meantime. But, their plan was always to get me and Olivia alone. They thought, if we were alone – “
“You’d fall back in love with her.”
“I was never in love with her!”
Marley hesitated. And then, in a small voice, she said, “You’re in love with her now.”
“No!” Dennis sprung up as if she’d slapped him.
“Yes,” Marley said, sounding less angry and more resigned. “You two can’t stay away from each other.”
“That’s because she’s always in my face.”
“You slept together after – “
“I made a mistake. People make mistakes.”
“You felt sorry for her when you thought she’d lost her baby.”
“That’s because she made me think it was mine. And it never even existed in the first place. She didn’t want me then, she wanted Jamie.”
“And when I found you on the island, you were…”
“Aw, hell, I didn’t know what I was doing. I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life trapped and alone.”
“Not alone. With Olivia.”
“You’ve never heard the expression: Unless she was the last woman left on Earth?”
“You love her,” Marley repeated.
“I love you.”
“You want to love me. You think you should love me. You feel obliged to love me. But, Olivia is the woman you want. Admit it, Dennis. If not to me, at least to yourself.”
“Wow, didn’t expect to see you here,” Zeno opened the farmhouse door to Frankie. “I figured you had enough to take care of at home.”
Frankie peeled off her coat, shaking loose bits of snow over the porch before bringing it inside and hanging it on a hook. “Well, no one is exactly letting me take care of anything at the moment. Charlie is locked in her room, refusing to talk to anyone, Cass is fuming and glaring at me like this situation is somehow my fault. At least Lori Ann still loves me. But I actually took her over to spend the day with Lorna, Jamie and her cousins before I came here. I figure she doesn’t need to be in the middle of all that tension.”
“Anything I can do to help?” Zeno asked, mostly out of politeness. They both knew his ill-advised fling with Charlie had to have played some role in her ongoing downward spiral.
“Can you turn back time?”
“Not even Cher can do that.”
Frankie smiled wistfully and pulled up a chair. “If I had one wish, that’s what I would ask for. The ability to turn back time.”
“How far back would you go?” He was genuinely curious. “To before you lost your memory, and Cass thought you were dead?”
“Tempting,” Frankie admitted. “But, then, I would have never met your mom. Or you….”
“Cass and Charlie are you real life. We were just stand-ins.”
“No. Never. We were all victims, in a way.”
“You know how mom absolutely hated that word. She said we might not be able to control our circumstances – “
“But we can always control how we react to them. Yes, I know. There were no victims in your mother’s house. Just survivors.”
“Why did you come today, Frankie?” Zeno was always happy to remember his mom – up to a point. Some parts of her he liked to keep solely just to himself.
“I wanted to talk to you about your mother, Zeno. And about your father….”
With Jasmine spending her holidays at Matt and Donna’s, Lila was left to celebrate with Grant. And Grant was left to celebrate with… well…
Sarah and Daisy were out of the question. So was Kirkland. Alice invited him. Out of obligation, Grant presumed. But Alice was also hosting Russ, Iris, Olivia, and Eduardo Rivera along with his son and grandchildren. Considering both Grant’s and Lila’s past history with Chase, it made for a rather restrained and overly polite evening. Grant almost wished Kevin had been there. At least his former attorney was always good for a snide quip. And now that Kevin and Amanda were no longer married, Lila wouldn’t have found him so objectionable either. But Alice explained that her grandson had flown out to California to be with Jen and Steven.
As a result of having to be on his best behavior the night before, Grant woke up cranky, and proceeded to stay that way throughout his lunch with Lila.
They’d gone to Victoria’s. Grant justifying the choice by pointing out that he was an investor, and it was in his best interests to see the place thrive.
Noticing him scanning the room for what felt like the fifth time in as many minutes, Lila finally informed, “Kirkland isn’t here. I asked the hostess when we came in. She said he worked last night and is taking today off.”
“With my wife, I bet,” Grant grumbled, poking his fork into his steak as if trying to kill the cow a second time.
“Well, what did you think would happen when you left that child thinking she was a merry widow? Sarah is young and she was lonely…”
“Why are you defending her? It was your being pissed off about Kirkland cheating on Jazz that led to your telling Sarah I was alive in the first place!”
“I can be mad at him and at her and at you, all at the same time. I’m one of those multi-taskers.”
“And, okay, fine, I left Sarah alone and vulnerable. I should have guessed she’d fall for the first Lothario who showed up. But I never expected it to be my son. How could my own son have betrayed me like this?”
“Beg pardon? Look, I resigned my membership in the Kirkland Frame – don’t look at me like that, Grant, it’s the name the boy wants to be called and that’s his right – I resigned my membership in that club months ago. But, in this particular case, he’s 100% right, and you’re 100% wrong.”
“I’m wrong for thinking my son stuck a knife in my back by sleeping with my wife?”
“She wasn’t your wife on either occasion, Senator. First time around, you were married to someone else, and the second time, you were, excuse the expression, dead. So was the boy a scoundrel for leading my Jasmine on while he was really longing for someone else? Sure. But Jazz is the only victim here. You don’t even rate.”
“I thought you were my friend,” Grant all but pouted.
“I am. Which is why I’m laying a little truth on you this festive holiday weekend. You going on, blaming Kirkland for Sarah kicking you to the curb only makes you come off more pathetic than
usual. You are responsible for absolutely everything that’s happened to you. And until you accept that, you don’t have a chance of winning back your wife. Or your son. Or your self-respect.”
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