At the sound of the buzzer, Matt reached for the doorknob. It was Donna who grabbed his wrist, stopping him.
He turned to her in confusion. “He’s letting us in,” Matt reminded.
“I don’t care,” Donna said.
“What are you talking about? You don’t care if Michael is alive?”
“No,” she said. “Not if him being alive harbors the possibility of hurting you.”
“He might be in trouble. He might need you.”
“If Michael needs me, let him find a way to get in touch with me. He always has before.”
“I told you, I’m okay with this.”
“I am not.”
Matt tried to make her understand, “I don’t want you spending the rest of your life wondering what could have been.”
“Nothing. Nothing could have been. If this person we’ve chased around the world is, in fact, Michael, then nothing could have been – because he doesn’t wish it.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know Michael. Whenever he has wanted to be with me, nothing in the world proved capable of stopping him. And when he didn’t, nothing could convince him otherwise.”
“Let’s just go up and see,” Matt wondered why he was the one pleading Michael’s case, all of sudden. Shouldn’t it have been the opposite?
“I love you, Matthew,” Donna said.
“I love you, too.”
“And I know I have done a myriad of things to hurt you.”
“Yeah, well, that works both ways.”
“So let’s not do it anymore. Let’s not go asking for trouble. Why open up this can of worms when we can, instead, turn our backs on anything that might possibly come between us? The fact of the matter is, I love you more than I want to know who is on the other side of that door.”
“Is it because you want to keep your memories of Michael the way they are? Are you afraid of finding out that he really did leave you – again?” Matt knew it was a cruel question. But he wasn’t about to let Donna avoid her own demons by claiming it was for his benefit. That could only lead to more trouble in the long run.
“Perhaps,” she conceded. “I’ve never claimed to be a saint.”
“I don’t think anyone’s ever accused you of being one.”
“On the other hand, I am known, far and wide, for my all-encompassing self-interest.”
“That sounds more familiar.”
“And my self-interest is saying that there is nothing and no one better for me, than you.”
“I’m not afraid of going up against Michael,” he insisted. “You’re worth it.”
“There is no need. I know where I belong. I’m not interested in ghosts. Not when I already have my perfect man in the flesh.”
“Did you really ask my mother to adopt your baby?” Cory asked Charlie once he’d gotten her away from the Christmas festivities in the library, and upstairs to a room where they could talk in private.
“Love your use of pronouns,” Charlie quipped.
Cory sighed. “I can’t win here, can I? If I express any objection to what you want to do with the baby, I’m informed that it’s your body and your choice. But if concede that the decision is entirely up to you, then I’m shirking my responsibilities.”
“Yeah, wow, sucks to be you. I bet the only thing worse would be getting stuck with a kid you don’t want, by a guy who was just using you to make a point, and then, in a couple of months, having a human being rip out of you like the monster in Alien while you scream your head off.”
“I never claimed my situation was harder than yours. I know you got the worst of it, and I am truly, truly sorry. As for using you to make a point – isn’t that what you’re doing with
“At least I didn’t knock her up.”
“Is that why you’re letting her manipulate you? Guilt?”
“Please. Elizabeth couldn’t manipulate a puppy into barking. Those devious Hutchins genes obviously skipped a generation. She is so damn obvious about everything.”
“But you’re still going along with it.”
“What am I supposed to do? My mom and dad practically threw me out of the house.”
“They did not.”
“They told me they weren’t going to lift a finger to help me take care of this kid. Like you, they played the “It’s your choice” card. Which is just another way of washing their hands of the problem. Your mom is the only one who wants it. And Elizabeth said she’ll pay for the privilege, too. As long as I stay away from little Carl’s Jr,” Charlie smiled at her own joke. “She’ll pay my way through – “
“It’s the best offer I’ve gotten so far.”
“I don’t want you giving Mom the baby. Our baby,” Cory offered Charlie the pronoun she’d been seeking earlier.
“You want it for yourself?”
“Then what’s the problem?”
“Well, to start with, my mother is much too old to be raising an infant. She’s a great-grandmother, for goodness sake. A child deserves a parent who can keep up with it. And one who won’t die when they’re still young enough to need them.”
“What would have happened if your parents felt the same way? Weren’t they, like, on Social Security when you and Elizabeth were born?”
“There are a lot of things I wish my parents had chosen to do differently. Having Elizabeth and I is just the tip of the iceberg.”
“True. We wouldn’t be in this mess now if they’d taken precautions. Something you might want to keep in mind for next time.”
“I don’t want to have children,” Cory agreed. “Ever. The Hutchins line stops with me.”
Charlie poked herself in the belly. “Not exactly.”
“I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about it until…” He shook his head, not wanting to get into it and, instead, told her, “I don’t think my father is really dead. I think he and my mother are just biding their time until they can make their grand escape together. In fact, one of the reasons I think she’s still here, is because of the baby. She wants it not just for herself, but for both of them. My father knows he’s lost Elizabeth and I. This baby would be a fresh chance. My father is constantly getting fresh chances. No matter how many children he’s destroyed, there’s always another opportunity down the pike.”
“So what do you care if he is alive? That’d make it even better for you. Your mom and dad disappear with the kid, you never have to see or think about it again.”
“My father came to Bay City in order to avenge his father. Can you imagine how long his hit list has grown since then? Him and my mother together, or my mother alone, will just continue the vendetta against everyone they feel has ever wronged them. That’s an insane way to grow up. I know.”
“You got any better ideas?”
“Actually, yes. I do.”
“Home already?” Grant looked up from the book he’d been trying to convince himself was fascinating for several hours now, despite having progressed no further than the introduction.
Lila walked into his hotel room, flopping down on the bed across from where he was sitting and explained, “Amanda showed up. Suddenly the temperature dropped a few hundred degrees.”
“Knowing Rachel, she was happier to see you at Christmas than she ever is to cross paths with that cold-blooded daughter of hers.”
“Blood… water… etc…. I know the drill. I left Jazz at the house. She was having a good time.” Lila changed the subject. “How was opening presents with Daisy?”
“My daughter appears to dearly love… things.”
“You blame her? That’s about all you give her these days.”
“It’s about all Sarah allows me to giver her! You should have seen her hovering about, like she thought I might grab Daisy and make a run for it.”
“Wouldn’t be the first time. Kirkland – “
“And Kirkland!” Grant was really warming up now. “The way he was sitting there, so smug, arm around Sarah like she was his property. He was practically salivating.”
“So, basically, same way you used to look at her.”
“And the sickeningly adoring, besotted way she was looking at him…”
“You mean, the way she once used to look at you?”
Grant growled, “You are just determined not to cut me an inch of slack, aren’t you?”
He laughed and conceded, “It’s good for me to have you around. How would you like to make the situation permanent?”
“Excuse me, Senator?” She sat up, wondering what the hell Grant’s scheming little mind could be up to now.
“I’ve been thinking, I need to get away from Bay City for a while. Clear my head.”
“Give Sarah a chance to miss you.”
He hesitated, and then Grant said, “You’d think that would be my motive, wouldn’t you? Even I thought it was. At first. But then, I realized that every wrong turn I’ve made in my life, it came from holding on to things too tightly. Maybe what I really need is to let go.”
“You’re not going to sing, are you?”
“I could. Would that help convince you?”
“Convince me of what?”
“My sincerity. I really do want to step back and reassess… pretty much everything. I love Sarah. And I love Daisy. But, if I’m headed down the same path that led to first Vicky, then
Kirkland hating me, then that’s a rather bad course.”
“Won’t get any argument from me there.”
“I can’t think straight in Bay City. I need a change of scene. And I want you to come with me.” In response to her raised eyebrow, Grant hurried to add, “As friends. Just as friends. Strictly platonically.”
She reminded, “You know, you’ve made me this offer before.”
“Yes. But, at the time, I was asking you run away with a dead man.”
“I have a daughter in Bay City.”
“Who’ll be off to college in a few months. What else is keeping you here?”
“Loves you,” Grant agreed. “But just where do you think you fall on her priorities list, between the memory of Carl, Jamie, Matt, Elizabeth, Cory and Charlie’s baby, whatever mess Allie is in these days, Steven, Kirkland, Jasmine, Jamie’s girls, even Amanda….”
“I see your point.”
“You made it for me,” Grant reminded, then held out his hand. “Don’t tell me you too couldn’t use a brand new window to look out of. Maybe one with a beach and an ocean?”
“I never intended to stay in Bay City in the first place,” she confessed. “It all just sort of snuck up on me.”
“And you got Jazz out of it, which would make anything worthwhile.”
“But now, how about thinking of yourself – again? You used to be awfully good at that.”
“You son-of-a-bitch,” Lila couldn’t help laughing.
He moved to take both her hands in his. “You have my word, I won’t hurt you like all those men you’ve counted on before. I won’t let you down. I will be there whenever you need me, for whatever you need me. I will be your friend, nothing more, nothing less, and everything in between. We’ve both been in love before, and that hasn’t worked out too well for either of us, has it? Isn’t it about time we tried just falling in like, and being with a person who gets us and
accepts us and doesn’t make demands they know we can’t meet?” He pleaded, “Run away from home with me, Lila.”
And Lila said, “Okay.”
“You’re home,” Iris said softly, having more or less resigned herself to never seeing Russ again after he’d stormed out days ago upon learning of her and Olivia’s roles in Dennis and Daisy’s kidnappings.
He nodded, noncommittal.
“Are you… here to pack?”
“It’s my house,” Russ reminded.
“Oh. Yes. Of course. Would you – would you like me to – “
“I’d like you to listen, Iris. Do you think you could do that? Just this one time?”
“Of course, darling.” The endearment slipped out unconsciously, and Iris covered her mouth with her hand, as if she’d made a dreadful mistake.
“I went to Rachel,” Russ began.
“Marvelous,” Iris couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her tone, even though she knew it would only make the situation worse.
Much to her surprise, Russ carried on as if she hadn’t said a word. “I always turn to Rachel when things go wrong with yet another woman. I think – I don’t know – maybe it’s because I’m still trying to figure out what made things between us go so far south.”
“I believe that would be her extramarital affair and the passing off of another man’s son as yours.” Once again, Iris suspected she probably shouldn’t have said that. But, once again, she couldn’t help it.
“I wasn’t the man she needed.”
“Not at all. It was your bank account that didn’t pass muster.”
“This time, I wanted so badly to be the man you needed.”
“You are, darling,” Iris swore.
“Then why would you go and do something so asinine as – “
“But that had nothing to do with you. That’s just who I am.”
“Who you are,” Russ repeated.
“I’m sorry,” Iris said.
“Don’t!” He held up a warning hand. “Don’t apologize for being who you are. Because if you did that, then I’d have to start, and there’d be nothing left of our life together but the two of us confessing sins.”
“Our… life together?”
“Rachel told me I should leave you,” Russ seemed to be bouncing from topic to topic without a particular plan or destination in mind.
“I am certain she did.”
“She said there was no way I could ever forgive you for what you’d done.”
“Paragon of clean living that Rachel, herself, is.”
“I asked her about Carl. Why she expected all of us to forgive what he’d done, but couldn’t imagine me doing the same with you?”
“And her answer was, something, something, Carl is a saint who was framed, something, something?”
Russ didn’t even bother trying to suppress his grin. “Remarkably close.”
“She and I have met before.”
“I’m sorry,” Russ said.
Prompting Iris to sputter, “Why in the world are you apologizing to me?”
“Because I never gave you a fair shake. Because from the moment we met, I was there with the censorious eyebrow and the wagging finger – and the belief that my job was to rescue you from yourself. I saw where that ends with Rachel. Utter delusion. Rachel has distanced herself from everyone she loves – and from everyone who loves her – because we won’t tow the party line
on Carl. And she can’t live in a world where her love didn’t turn him into exactly the man she demands him to be. Hell, even Carl couldn’t live in that world. I don’t want that to be us. I see you, faults and all. And you see me the same way. My job as your husband isn’t to fix you. It’s to love you.”
“You… love me?” Iris’ voice cracked.
“Oh…” She had no idea what to say to that.
“So no more eyebrow raising, no more finger wagging.”
“And no more lies,” Iris swore, stepping into his embrace.
He buried his face in her hair and moved it downwards. The last thing Russ said before their lips met was, “Let’s not get carried away….”
“Are you ready?” Cory asked Charlie as they sat in his car, far away from Rachel’s home, in another driveway altogether.
She nodded hesitantly, but felt compelled to add, “I’m not doing this because of what you said about your mom. I really don’t care about your dad, if he’s alive or dead, or what he and your mom might have planned for the baby. I’m doing this because of what you said about Elizabeth. If I give the baby to Rachel, this mess is just going to get worse, not better. I’ll be trapped for good. You’re right, I don’t love Elizabeth. I am just sticking with her to make a point. And also because…”
“She loves you?”
“Yeah,” Charlie blushed, hoping he couldn’t see it in the shadows of the car. “That’s kind of nice. Somebody loving me to the point of crazy desperation, willing to do anything to be with me. Usually, it’s the other way around. I’m the loser who gets the brush-off.”
“You’re not a loser. And neither is Elizabeth. This is just a losing proposition, no matter how you slice it.”
“It’s all my fault. I started it. I went after Elizabeth.”
“And I went after you.”
“God, we screwed up.
“We did,” he agreed. “Which is why we’re the ones who need to fix this.”
“This will work, won’t it?” Charlie pleaded with Cory.
“I think so.”
“And if it’s both of ours decision, nobody can say anything about it, right?”
“Well, in theory, my mother could sue for custody. So could your parents. But I doubt a judge would side with either one of them.”
“I’m nuts,” Charlie reminded.
“No, you’re not.”
“I’ve got papers that prove I am. Or can be, anyway. Your mom could use that against me, say I’m not capable of making my own decisions.”
“You’re making a pretty good one. And I’ll back you up, every step of the way.” Cory opened his car door. “You ready?”
Charlie nodded, for the first time in she couldn’t remember how long, actually feeling certain, instead of merely going through the motions.
They walked up the driveway and rang the bell.
The door opened.
Charlie took a deep breath, snuck a quick peek at Cory for support, and blurted out before she lost her nerve, “Would you like to adopt our baby?”
A long, thoughtful pause.
And then Marley opened the door all the way, and said, “Yes.”
With all her holiday guests gone, Rachel sat alone at the mansion and waited for the inevitable. She wasn’t fooled by Jamie’s obvious and condescending lie that the topic of her adopting Charlie and Cory’s baby hadn’t come up so much as once at the Frame’s celebration. She knew what was really going on.
They were all against her. Every single one of them. Lorna and Jamie would be filling Cass and Frankie’s heads with horror stories about how Rachel being a part of the child’s life would mean exposing it to the unhealthy influence of Carl. Not that Frankie would need much convincing; she’d held a grudge against Carl for years, fueled by Cass’ own hatred. And Amanda would be working her charms on Morgan to take her side against Rachel with Cass and Frankie. Even Felicia, whom Rachel had once considered her best friend, had thrown her lot in with Lucas and the rest of them. The pressure would start coming in from all directions, any minute now.
At least, Rachel knew Elizabeth would support her taking the baby. Elizabeth would do anything to keep Charlie for herself, and, right now, Rachel was willing to go along with her daughter, as long as it helped Rachel keep her grandson. She was sure it would be a boy. She could feel it.
Cory was another story. Like Jamie, whom she also had to admit had been her favorite growing up, her other beloved son had turned his back on her when it mattered the most. Obviously, Rachel had spoiled them both, without managing to make clear the loyalty they owed her in return. She’d devoted her entire life to her ungrateful children, only to be kicked to the curb the moment she dared put her own desires ahead of theirs.
She wouldn’t make that mistake a third time.
Not with her grandson.
So that evening, Rachel sat at home, and thought not about all of the people who had betrayed her, not only her children and friends like Felicia, but people she’d thought would always be on her side, like Russ.
Instead, Rachel thought about the one who never would. Not this time. This time, she would finally get it right. This time, she would be the perfect mother. And make sure that she was appreciated and respected the way she deserved.
They all thought she was beaten. They thought she was down and out with no chance of fighting back. Well, she would show them! Rachel had hit rock bottom before – more times than they could imagine – only to rise like the Phoenix again and again, defy the odds and triumph. They’d see. They’d all see.
Meanwhile, outside the Cory mansion, a shadowy figure watched through the window.
This has been the last episode of “Another World Today.” When AWT launched in 2009, it was with the full sanction and financial support of Procter & Gamble Productions. In 2010, when P&G left the soap business following the cancellation of “As the World Turns,” I made the decision to continue, as I didn’t think it would be fair to the fans to lose their beloved show twice. For the past 4+ years, I have run the site on my own, both the creative and the technical sides. Unfortunately, providing AWT to you for free took time away from my paid writing work. I had hoped to make up that difference with sales of my e-books, but that did not happen. As a result, I can no longer afford to keep AWT going.
My favorite part of producing AWT has been hearing your suggestions and working them into our collaborative story. It’s what inspired both my series, “Counterpoint: An Interactive Family Saga” and my current project. If you would like to continue helping me spin soapy, serial tales of love, romance, and family drama, please join me at www.AlinaAdams.com/live, where I am writing my next book live on the web for all to see – and comment. I can’t wait to read your thoughts on where the story should go next!
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