For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

 

EPISODE #101 (Monday, 3/25/02)
Same Day
January, 1936 - Afternoon

GOOD HOPE CHURCH - SANCTUARY

"Mr. Callison, I know that you've done your very best to thwart our investigation into the murder of Mrs. Lake," Detective Jim Fitzpatrick spoke pointedly and deliberately, "but surely you must realize that the truth always comes out.  You can't hide things forever."

Janet Stokes winced at those words.

"Oh, god," Reginald Callison gasped as he hung his head.  "I...I..."

"We know about the scarf, Mr. Callison."

"Scarf?" Jillian Stokes asked as she felt herself growing more and more confused.  "Reginald, what is he talking about?"

"I'll...explain it all later," he sighed.  This glorious day was beginning to turn into a nightmare.

"We know that you've been covering for someone.  We know that you've been protecting the real killer."

"Reginald?"  Jillian's eyes filled with worry.

"I'm sorry that we have to do this, Mr. Callison," Jim muttered.  "Especially today."  He then carefully began to look around the room until he found what he was looking for and stepped away from the now unhappy bride and groom.  He then motioned for the officers to move to the front of the church as he took on a more stony expression and paused to take a deep breath.

"I'm really sorry, ma'am, but you're under arrest for the murder of Annabelle Lake."

"W-what?" Francis Callison gasped in shock as two police officers quickly came up beside her and pulled her from her pew in order to put handcuffs on her.  "What's going on?"

"Ma'am, I'm really sorry to have to do this today," Jim replied firmly, "but I have to do my job.  I'm afraid that you're under arrest for the murder of Annabelle Lake."

"But, I...I..."  She shook her head vigorously as she looked around in panic as if to find someone who could help her.

"Mom, it's going to be okay," Reginald muttered as he quickly stepped beside her.  "We'll take care of this.  Don't you worry.  We'll make sure that this is all over quickly."

"Charles!" Francis cried out as the police began to lead her from the sanctuary.  "Charles, help me!"

"Fitzpatrick, what do you idiots think you're doing?" Charles Callison snapped angrily as he grabbed Jim by the collar.  "How can you think that my wife could have anything to do with this?"

"Mr. Callison, I can understand how you're feeling," Jim replied calmly.  "I wish I could tell you more about our investigation, but I really can't say anything right now."

"Well, if you think I'm just going to stand here while you cart my wife off to some filthy jail cell, you've got another thing coming!" Charles growled as he grabbed his hat out of the pew and stormed up the isle behind Francis and the police.  "I'm getting to the bottom of this!  Douglas, I need you."

"I'm right behind you, Charles," Douglas replied as he got up, kissed Lorraine quickly on the cheek and took off behind him.

"Oh, Reginald," Jillian sighed as she clung to his arm.  "That's what all of this was about?  This is why you wouldn't say anything in your defense?"

"Darling, I can't talk about this now," he muttered and took her into his arms.  "I...have to go with them to the police station."  He paused and looked down lovingly into her eyes.  "I'm...I'm sorry.  Our wedding is...is ruined."

"It's okay," she smiled weakly as she tried to fight her tears.  "This...this is more important.  Go.  Your family needs you."

"I promise you that this is only a postponement," he nodded with conviction.  "Our wedding isn't cancelled.  It's just postponed until this mess is over."

"I...I know," she sighed and looked away.

"Reginald, are you coming with us?" Trevor Callison spoke up as he stood behind them.  "I'm going with Maggie and Nana to the station."

"I'm...coming," he muttered in response and then quickly, yet tenderly, kissed Jillian.  "I'm really sorry."

"I...know," she sighed before pulling away so that he could leave with his family.  Standing alone at the alter, she looked around the room at all of their guests who were either starting to gossip amongst themselves or where slowly starting to leave.

"J-Jillian," Leticia spoke up softly and reached out to lightly touch her daughter on the shoulder.  "I...don't know what to say.  This is only a temporary set back.  You and Reginald will get married.  I have faith in that."

"I...know," Jillian sniffled and turned away to hide her emotions.  Suddenly, unable to contain her breaking heart any longer, she pulled away and ran from the room.  Her beautiful day had been ruined and now she was terribly frightened that it was all just a bad omen of even worse things to come.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Oh, I see that you're back," Sara Manchester said as she looked up from her movie magazine to watch her cousin Stephanie Lake walk into the room.  She immediately noticed the somber mood on Stephanie's face.  "What's...wrong?  You look upset."

"It's...nothing," Stephanie muttered awkwardly as she slumped down into a chair.  She glanced up and eyed Sara curiously.  Could she risk confiding in Sara again after they'd been estranged for so long?  Could they managed to have the closeness that they'd once had?  After taking everything into consideration, she took a deep breath and spoke.  "I...went to Reginald and Jillian's wedding."

"Stephanie, you didn't!" Sara gasped in shock.  "Please, please don't tell me that you're up to your old tricks again!  How could you go there and try to cause trouble?  Haven't you learned your lesson?  I just knew that..."

"Sara, that's not what I was doing!"  Stephanie clinched her jaw tightly.  Why did everyone always have to assume the worst about her?  "I went to see Jillian so that I...could apologize for everything that I did before."

"Y-you...what?"  Sara stared at her blankly, not quite sure that she'd heard her correctly.  "What do you mean you 'apologized?'  Stephanie, what are you up to?"

"Nothing!  I'm not up to anything!"  Stephanie sunk back into her seat, folded her arms across her chest, and stuck her bottom lip out in a pout.  "I just...wanted to tell Jillian that I was sorry.  I...had no business trying to take Reginald away from her when it was obvious to everyone---me included---that they were in love with one another."

"Well, I...I don't know what to say."  Sara shook her head in disbelief.  This was definitely not the Stephanie Lake that she'd known since birth.  However, Sara turned to eye her suspiciously.  There had to be more to the story.  "So...what are you really up to?  You aren't known for being the most giving of people.  What made you want to apologize?  Wouldn't it have just been easier to just forget about it."

"I...I thought about that," Stephanie sighed and hung her head, "but...well...  Being around Paddy is making me realize that I can't move past my own history or people's opinions of me unless I try to make up for the things that I've done and try to show people that I'm not the same girl."

"I'm really impressed."  And shocked.  "You and Patterson have gotten to be pretty close, haven't you?"

"Um...yes," Stephanie blushed.  "He and I are...good friends."

"Are you sure that's all it is?  I don't think a good friendship could bring about such a change in attitude."  Sara slightly raised an eyebrow as she considered the possibilities.  "We were friends since birth and I couldn't stop you from diving head first into some stupid scheme."

"I...I know," Stephanie sighed.  "I...should have listened to you.  I hope that I can make up for some of the stuff that I've done to you so that we can be close like that again."

"Who are you and what have you done with my cousin?" Sara laughed as the distance that had existed between them for months began to seem smaller and smaller.

Suddenly, their conversation was interrupted by the slamming of the front door.  They both cringed with the realization of who it was.  At just that moment, Dane Manchester walked into the room.

"What the devil are you doing back here?" Dane spat as he stared at Stephanie and then turned to look at Sara.  "You know, considering that you can't stand the sight of her, she's been here a lot today!"

"Um...well..." Sara muttered and nervously looked away.

Dane glanced from Sara to Stephanie who was squirming in her seat uncomfortably.  He instantly knew that something was going on.

"Okay, out with it!" Dane ordered sternly.  "What the hell's going on here?"

Sara flinched from the harshness of his tone and took a deep breath.  She knew that she couldn't put off the inevitable.  She had to tell Dane that Stephanie had moved in at her request, but how?

ALBANYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - MAIN SQUAD ROOM

"Charles, don't worry," Douglas consoled.  "I'm sure that we can get Francis out on bail in no time.  I'm going to make sure that she doesn't spend one night in jail."

"You better make sure she doesn't!" Charles snapped.  "She's gone through enough because of Annabelle---now this!  My lord!  When is it going to end?  When is this nightmare going to be over?"

"You and I both know that there's no way that she could have killed Annabelle."  Douglas began to slowly pace around the room as they both waited for news about Francis.  "I don't care how upset she was after learning about what Annabelle did at the engagement party, there's no way she could have killed her."

"I know that and you know that," Charles let out a worried sigh, "but can the police be convinced of that?  I know that the district attorney has been breathing down their necks to solve this murder.  I'm just afraid that they're going to try and pin this all on the first likely suspect."

"Well, if that were the case, they would have formally charged Reginald."  Douglas glanced up and saw Jim motioning for him.  "Charles, I need to be in the room with Francis while they question her."

"O-okay," Charles stammered and then shook his head as he watched Douglas disappear into another room.  "I just wish I could make sense of all of this.  And I wish I knew what the hell was going to happen inside that interrogation room."

`````

A short while later, Jim was doing a very thorough interview with a frightened and nervous Francis under Douglas' watchful eye..

"So, Mrs. Callison, you admit to being in the lounge with Mrs. Lake?" he asked with much interested as he held his pen poised to write down every word.

"Y-yes," Francis stammered, utterly terrified of saying the wrong thing.  "I was in there with her...twice."

"Twice?"

"Yes."  She took a deep breath and swallowed hard.  "The first time was early in the evening and..."

"Let's talk about the second time, shall we?"  He paused and looked at her closely.  "When was that?"

"It was...after I'd found out about how she'd drugged my husband," she confessed and hung her head, the entire story more than a little embarrassing for her.  "I was...angry with her.  I wanted to...to confront her with what I'd found out."

"How did you know she was in the lounge?"

"Well, I...um...just assumed that she was since that was the last place where I'd seen her."

"I see."  Jim paused and tapped his chin with his pen as he thought deeply.  "So, did you argue?"

"Oh, yes!  I confronted her.  I told her that I knew everything about what she'd done to keep me and my husband apart.  I told her that I wouldn't stand for her conniving and interfering in my marriage!"

"You must have been very, very angry, Mrs. Callison."  He hesitated and then leaned across the table to look directly into her eyes.  "During the course of this argument, did you at any time become physical with Mrs. Lake?"

"Physical?"  Francis furrowed her brow and shook her head in confusion.  "I...I don't think I understand what you're trying to ask."

"Detective, do you really think this is necessary?" Douglas spoke up as he put his hand on Francis' shoulder to comfort her.  "This has just been horrible for her as it is and I..."

"I'm sorry.  Maybe I didn't phrase my question clearly."  He ignored Douglas and leaned back into his chair so that he could take in the full scope of her expressions and gestures.  "During your argument with Mrs. Lake, did the argument ever become violent?"

"I...I..."  She bit her lip and nervously looked away.

"Francis, it's okay," Douglas whispered to her.  "We talked about this earlier."

"Mrs. Callison," Jim spoke up again.  "Did you ever have the occasion to strike Mrs. Lake?"

"Y-yes," she muttered softly and hung her head.

"And what was the reason for this attack?"

"Detective, do we have to do this now?" Douglas interrupted.  "Can't you see that she's under a great deal of stress and nearly in shock?  Can't we postpone this questioning until a later date?  This woman needs to be at home with her husband and children and..."

"They haven't even set bail, yet, Mr. Davis," Jim reminded as his jaw tightened.  "And, besides, I think we've put off solving this murder long enough.  Apparently you don't see the seriousness of this matter.  This town hasn't seen a murder in over 30 years.  I refuse to let this crime go unsolved on my watch."

"Hmmm...30 years?"  Douglas smirked slightly.  "What do you call Arlene Donaldson?"

"Missing!" Jim replied flatly.  "No body was ever found.  For all we know that woman just left town.  There's not one shred of proof that she's dead or that a crime was committed."

"And you'll quickly see that there's not one shred of proof that my client is guilty of this crime."  Douglas folded his arms across his chest and glared at the detective.

"Then what do you call this?" Jim asked as he fought to suppress a slight grin before slipping the telltale scarf out of an envelope.  "Do you recognize this scarf Mrs. Callison?"

"Y-yes," Francis nodded.  "It's...it's mine."

Douglas eyed Jim suspiciously.  What in the world was the detective up to?

`````

Meanwhile, outside the interrogation room...

"Darling, are you all right?" Jillian asked as she walked over to Reginald who was pouring himself a cup of coffee.  "I...came just as soon as I could change clothes and take care of our guests."

"Thank you, dear," he smiled and then kissed her tenderly on the cheek.  "I'm sorry that today had to turn out like this---of all days!"

"It's not your fault," she sighed and then wrapped her arms tightly around him.  "This is why you refused to say anything to the police, isn't it?"

He nodded silently and then looked away to hide the worry on his face.  "She's gone through so much because of that woman.  Annabelle always knew the exact things to say to upset Mother.  I...I don't blame her for what happened, but I...I couldn't just let Annabelle's curse continue to haunt her."

"What happened?" she asked calmly.  "What really happened that night?"

"Well..."  His voice trailed off as he thought back to the night of the party when Annabelle had been murdered.  "I'd just found out what she'd done to Father at our engagement party.  I'd found out exactly why my parents weren't together anymore.  I went looking for her.  I wanted to confront her and warn her to stay away from our family."  He paused and winced slightly as if the memory were too painful for him.  "I...saw Mother running across the room from the direction of the lounge.  She was so upset.  I knew...I knew then that I couldn't let Annabelle continue to torture our family."

"What...did you do?"

"I was going to confront her," he muttered as his eyes grew coldly vacant.  "I was going to threaten her."

"Oh, Reginald!"

"Not...with violence," he muttered and he shook his head.  "I was going to threaten her with humiliation.  Remember, I'm a journalist.  I was going to threaten to dig so far into her past and dredge up every nasty thing about her I could find."  He paused as a wicked smirk covered his face.  "And then I was going to anonymously mail that information to The State ExaminerThe Post is too honorable a paper to print such filth."

"But you never had a chance to do that, did you?"

"N-no.  When I went into the lounge I saw Annabelle laying there, she was already dead."  He paused and inhaled deeply, the disturbing memory still fresh in his mind.  "Mom's scarf was right by her body.  I knew it was hers because...I gave it to her for Christmas.  I just knew...knew that, considering everything that had happened, if the police ever saw that scarf there, they'd immediately suspect her.  That's why I hid the scarf."

"I understand that, Reginald, but why did you pick up the knife?"  Jillian's eyes filled with worry and concern.

"I...I don't know," he sighed and hung his head.  "I had just hidden the scarf and was about to wipe the finger prints off of the knife when I heard Stephanie coming in.  I just froze."

"And that's when she found you," Jillian nodded as the entire story became clear inside her head.  "Oh, darling, you did all of this for your mother.  You kept quiet about what really happened because if you tried to defend yourself---tried to prove your innocence---then the police would start to look for other suspects and you were afraid that the trail would lead to her."

"Yes," he confessed and then lifted his head to look at her.  "I...didn't do a very good job protecting her, did I?  The police still managed to figure everything out."

"Darling, you did the best that you could."  She took him into her arms and held him tightly.  "I...I'm just so touched by how far you'd go to protect your family, but...but..."

"Yes?"

"Why the devil didn't you tell me?" she continued angrily.  "I've been worrying myself sick!  I haven't known what to think.  I knew...that you couldn't be guilty of murder but...but...you just wouldn't say anything.  Why couldn't you trust me enough to tell me the truth?  Why did you have to put me, of all people, through this?"

"I just didn't want to put you in a position where you'd be forced to keep my secret.  I didn't want to get you involved."

"I'm already involved!" she reminded as she gently touched him on the cheek.  "Being in love with you makes me involved in everything that you do.  We're going to be married.  Everything that you go through, I go through."

"I know," he sighed again and hung his head.  "I just...wanted to protect you.  I'm sorry.  Now it looks like it's all going to be for nothing.  Mom's under arrest for murder.  I didn't do a very good job."

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Dane, I...I..."  Sara hesitated slightly as her voice caught in her throat.  "I invited Stephanie to move in with us until she can get back on her feet."

"You did what?"  Dane's eyes grew wide with shock and began to blaze with fury.  "What the hell do you mean you invited her to move in?  Here?  In our house?"

"Yes."

"Have you completely lost your mind?"  Dane flailed his arms as he began to angrily pace around the room.  "After everything this...this witch has done to you---to us---you invite her to move into our home?  Just a few weeks ago you couldn't even say her name, now you want to be under the same roof?"  He stopped in his tracks and turned to glare at Stephanie who was sitting silently on the sidelines, afraid to speak in her or Sara's defense.  "What did you say to her to talk her into this?  How did you manage to scheme your way into this house?"

"I...I didn't do anything!" Stephanie cried out.  "I didn't talk her into anything.  It was...her idea!  She invited me."

"Dane, please just listen to me," Sara begged as she grabbed onto his arm in an attempt to convince him to hear what she was saying.  "She's my cousin.  She's my family.  I just found my mother right when she lost hers.  She doesn't have anyone to..."

"She doesn't deserve anyone!" he spat and spun around to glare at Sara.  "After everything she's done to you and everyone else, she doesn't deserve to get anything!"

"She's my family," Sara continued as she tried to remain calm.  "I know...she and I have had our differences.  I still haven't...haven't forgotten about everything that she did to keep us apart, but...but...she's my cousin.  She was going to be evicted and didn't have any place else to go.  I just couldn't let her live on the street."

"Let her live in the gutter with the rest of the trash for all I care!"

"Dane, please try to understand," Sara sighed.  "She's my cousin."

"I...I knew that this would be a bad idea," Stephanie muttered as she slowly rose from her seat and moved towards the door.  "Sara, I didn't mean to cause you so much trouble.  I'm just going to go and..."

"No!" Sara spoke up firmly.  "This is my house, too!  You're here because I want you to be here and you're staying!"

"I...well..."  Stephanie bit her lip and eyed both Sara and Dane nervously.  "If you say so, but...well...this is only temporary.  I'm going to get a job and move out of here and into my own apartment as soon as I can.  I don't want to put you out."

"I can't believe I'm hearing this," Dane muttered and shook his head.  "She's going to be living under the same roof with us!"

"I think I better...go and let you two...talk."  Stephanie glanced from Sara to Dane and quickly hurried out of the room.  As she rushed up the stairs, she didn't notice a sneaky Joyce Preston who had slipped out of site to keep her eavesdropping a secret.

Now alone together, Dane turned his full attention to Sara.

"I can't believe this!" he shouted angrily.  "You deliberately went behind my back!"

"I didn't do it on purpose," she replied calmly and hoped that she could make him understand.  "I just went to see her so that I could see how she was doing and I found out that she was going to be evicted.  It was all so spur of the moment and..."

"You could have at least asked me," he muttered, completely disgusted with the entire situation.  "Of course, I would have said 'no way in hell,' but..."

"I told you that it was spur of the moment!  There wasn't time!"  She paused and folded her arms defiantly across her chest.  "And, besides, even if there had been time, how can I ask you if you're never here?"

"I'm here.  It's just that you're always off in class or having some mother-daughter bonding time."  He paused and rolled his eyes.  "You know, we'd be able to spend more time together if you'd give up your classes."

"If I what?"  Sara froze and looked at him with mixture of shock and disbelief.  "Are you trying to say that you want me to drop out of school?"

"Sure.  Why not?  It's not like you need it for anything.  You've already got a husband and a small fortune.  What do you need school for?  You need to stay home and be a proper wife!"  Dane clinched his teeth tightly.  Sara had entirely too much independence for his liking.

"I will do no such thing!" Sara snapped.  "I love school.  I'm doing really well in my classes.  Why should I give it up?"

"Look, I told you when we got married that when I got married I wanted a real marriage."  Of course, he'd intended to have a real marriage with Sara---blackmail or no blackmail---but she'd ruined all of that with her affair with Thornton Preston.  "You agreed with me.  Now it's time that you started acting like a real wife!"

"I will not drop out of school!" she responded flatly and then turned angrily on her heel and stormed out of the room leaving Dane alone to seethe.

Maybe Joyce had been right about Sara.  Maybe she was too full of herself and too independent.  Maybe Sara really did need to be brought down a peg or two.

ALBANYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - MAIN SQUAD ROOM

"Good news!" Douglas exclaimed as he hung up the telephone and turned to face Charles.  "I managed to convince the judge to go ahead and set bail for Francis.  He agreed with me that considering her status in the community and since her entire family is here, she's not a flight risk."  He paused and looked awkwardly at Charles.  "But the bail is $5,000."

"I don't care how much it is!" Charles barked.  "If it means that she won't have to spend one night in this place, it's worth it.  Just let me get in touch with Mr. Barron at the bank and I'll have him withdraw the money from our account and..."

"Um...Dad?" Trevor Callison spoke up.  "I...already talked to Mr. Barron.  He's already sent some money over.  He's just as shocked and upset about this as we are."

"Thank you, Trevor," Charles sighed in relief.  "As usual, you're one step ahead of me."

"Charles, just come with me and you can sign the papers to have Francis released."  Douglas took Charles by the arm and led him down the long hallway.

"I just can't believe this," Reginald sighed and rubbed his temple.  "Our own mother in jail and accused of murder.  I just don't...see how any of this is possible."

"Don't worry.  We'll get through this," Trevor nodded as he placed a firm hand on his older brother's shoulder.  "We're Callisons and we're a pretty tough bunch."

Reginald paused and glanced around the room.  "Nana, where's...Maggie?  I don't want her to have to see Mom in a place like this."

"Neither do I," Mary Albany spoke up.  "That's why I had my driver take her on back to the hotel after he dropped me off here.  Naturally, she didn't want to go---you know how she is---but I told her that there would be no discussion."

"Good, good," Reginald nodded and then turned to see Douglas and Charles walking back towards them.  "Dad, where's Mom?  I thought you were getting her out on bail?"

"I just signed all the papers, Reginald," Charles replied.  "They should be bringing her out to us any minute."

"You just get her home and get some rest," Douglas spoke up.  "This has been a long enough day as it is.  I'll stop by first thing in the morning and we can go over the details of the case."

"Thank you, Douglas."  Charles reached out and gave his attorney's hand a firm shake.  "I just don't know what we'd do without you.  You really are the brightest young lawyer that I've ever seen."

"Thank you, Charles.  I...I really appreciate hearing that."  Suddenly, Douglas let out a horrendous cough and his hand flew up to cover his mouth.

"Douglas, are you all right?" Charles asked with concern and inspected him carefully.  "You're looking...a little flushed."

"Oh, I'm fine," Douglas sighed.  "I just think I'm coming down with that flu that Lorraine had."  He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket and used it to carefully blot the beads of perspiration from his brow.

"Don't you get sick on us!  We need you!"

"Don't worry.  I'd have to be half dead before I'd even think of letting your family down."

"Good.  That's good to hear."  Charles reached out and grabbed Douglas' shoulder firmly.

"Oh, Charles!" Francis called out as she raced down the hallway and into her family's waiting arms.  "I...I was so worried about all of you."

"Worried about us?" Trevor questioned curiously.  "You're locked in a jail cell---accused of murder---and you're worried about us?"

"Of course I'm worried about you.  I'm your mother."  She gently touched Trevor on the cheek and smiled warmly as she fought to hide her own fear and nervousness.

"Darling, I'm so, so sorry about all of this," Charles said softly as he pulled her slightly off to the side.  "This is all my fault.  If it hadn't been for my own stupidity and gullibility where Annabelle was concerned, none of this ever would have happened.  Everything bad that's happen to this family these past few months have been all my fault."

"Charles, stop beating yourself up over this.  We've both made mistakes."  She paused and looked deeply into his eyes.  "The person who's really to blame is Annabelle.  She's the reason for all of this family's troubles.  Now, that's not to say that you weren't wrong for continuing to be involved with her, but...well...let's just forget about that right now."

"Francis!  There you are!" Dr. Fred Rutherford called out as he raced into the room.  "I came just as soon as I found out.  It's all over the news."

"Wonderful," Reginald grumbled with a shake of his head.

"Fred, you shouldn't have bothered coming here," Francis sighed as she gave him a thankful hug.  "There's really nothing you can do here."

"I had to be here, darling.  I had to be here for you."

"Thank you, Fred.  Your support really means a lot to me."  She took and deep breath and hung her head.  "This is so difficult for all of us.  I...I don't know how they can think that I could possibly be guilty of murder."

"Don't think about that right now.  You've been under too much strain today as it is."  Fred took Francis' arm and gently led her across the room, closely followed by Charles' intense stare.  "Let me take you home to the penthouse so that you can get some rest."

"I...I'd like that," she replied.  "After today, I need some rest."

"F-Francis," Charles spoke up tentatively.

"Yes, dear?"

"I just..."  He paused and took a deep breath.  "I just want to...to let you know that I'd really like for you to...to come back to the house.  I'd feel much better knowing that we were under the same roof as...a family.  We should go through this all together."

"Oh, Charles, I don't know," she muttered in reply and then glanced at Fred.  "I'm not sure that I'm ready to..."

"Not...permanently.  I...understand that things just can't instantly go back to the way the were before."  He paused again.  "I'll...sleep in the guest room.  I just think that it would be much more comforting for you---for all of us---if we were all together.  At least for tonight."

"I think it's a wonderful idea!" Reginald exclaimed.

"And I'll even spend the night in my old room," Trevor announced with a smile.

"I can phone home right now and have my driver meet us there with Maggie," Mary grinned slyly.

"Francis, dear, you don't have to do this," Fred whispered softly into her ear.  "You don't have to feel like you're being pressured into anything.  Just let me take you back to the penthouse and..."

"No, Fred," she spoke up with a decisive nod of her head.  "I really do need to be with my family right now.  Charles is right."  She looked at him and smiled before turning towards Fred.  "Thank you so much for taking the trouble to come down here to see about me, but I think I am going home with my family."

"A-are you sure?" Fred questioned with awkward disappointment.

"Yes.  I'm very sure."  She smiled broadly.  "I'll...call you tomorrow and let you know what's going on."

"All right," Fred mumbled with annoyed disappointment and then turned to slowly leave.  Maybe Francis Callison was really turning out to be a long shot after all.  Good thing he'd already started working on his backup plan.

"Francis, I'm glad that you're coming home," Charles grinned as he came up behind her and took her into his arms, "at least for...tonight.  It's almost going to be like it used to be---all of us together in one home."

"Yes, it is, isn't it?" she smiled as she rested her head on his should.  "It's almost going to be just like it used to be."

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Reginald makes a shocking announcement.

For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions