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

 

EPISODE #108 (Wednesday, 4/3/02)
A Week Later
February, 1936 - Afternoon

THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER

"Mrs. Stokes," Ruby Thomas spoke up as she stood in the doorway.  "Dr. Rutherford is here to see you."

"Wonderful!" Leticia Stokes exclaimed as she quickly rose from her seat on the sofa and switched off the radio.  Prudence Hart and her trials would just have to wait.  "Tell him to come on in."

Moments later, Dr. Fred Rutherford sauntered into the room and immediately took Leticia into his arms.

"Darling, you have no idea now much I've missed you," he said with a smile as he looked deeply into her eyes.

"I've...missed you, too," she responded, more than a little surprised by his forwardness considering the opinions of her family concerning their relationship.  "To be honest, I wasn't expecting to see you today.  I thought you had that incredibly long shift to work at the hospital."

"Oh, I do," he nodded.  "But I just couldn't let a day pass without seeing you.  Just being in your presence brings a joy to my day like nothing else in this world."

"Fred, you say the sweetest things," she giggled in spite of her proper demeanor.  "But I...don't think it's a good idea to be so casual here.  I told you how Judith is less than thrilled with the idea of us seeing one another."

"To hell with her!" he exclaimed with a wicked laugh.  "This is exactly what I think of your daughter's approval."  And with that, he pulled her even closer and kissed her deeply and passionately.  Caught up in the moment and in her own feelings, Leticia did little to stop him.

ALBANYVILLE POLICE DEPARTMENT - MAIN SQUAD ROOM

"Hey, who was that on the phone?" Officer Russ Leeds asked as he walked into the office with a large envelope tucked under his arm.

"District Attorney," Detective Jim Fitzpatrick nodded as he returned the receiver to its cradle.  "He wanted to congratulate us on the fine job we did in solving the Lake murder.  He said that without our keen detective work, he wouldn't even have a case."

Russ looked at Jim carefully and was quick to realize that something wasn't quite right.  The phone call from the D.A. should have put him in high spirits, but instead he looked as if something were deeply troubling him.

"You don't sound too happy about that," Russ finally commented.

"Um...well..." Jim stammered.  "I guess that this entire investigation still has one too many questions that haven't exactly been answered."

"Questions?"  Russ furrowed his brow.  "What kind of questions?  I thought that it was all pretty much cut and dried."

"Well, it is," Jim nodded, "but...well...I guess my own gut instincts are working over time.  Something about all of this just doesn't sit right with me."

"I think you're just trying to work another angle.  We've got all of the evidence.  We've got the proof that Francis Callison did it.  What more do you need?"

"I guess you're right," Jim sighed and then looked up at Russ and saw the envelope he was carrying.  "So, what's that?  What's in the envelope?"

"Oh! This!"  Russ walked over to the desk and tossed the envelope down in front of Jim.  "This is actually what I came in here for.  The Riverside Police sent this over.  Apparently, they've made a positive I.D. on that body they found in the river."

"Oh, really?"  Jim rubbed his chin as he thought.  "So, who is it?"

"I haven't looked.  I figured that you'd want to be the first person to know."

"I sure do."  Jim quickly opened the envelope and slid out the police report before skimming over it.  As he read the identity of the body, his eyes grew wide with surprise and confusion.  "Well, this is interesting."

"Who is it?"

"Don't know what this really has to do with anything," Jim sighed.  "From everything in this report, it's just like I suspected---an accidental drowning.  Seems that the guy was a student over at the University."

"Does it tell you a name?"

"Yeah," Jim muttered as he read the report again, though this time much more thoroughly.  "The body belongs to a guy named Clark Saxon."

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"I...I'm sorry," Fred muttered awkwardly as he slowly pulled away from her.  "I really shouldn't have...been so forward."

"No, it's all right," Leticia smiled warmly.  "If I'd had a problem with you kissing me, I would have told you.  I would have stopped you and I...didn't do that, did I?"

"No, I guess you didn't."  He grinned and then gently ran his finger along her cheek.  "Do you have any idea how beautiful you look today?  You nearly took my breath when I saw you.  You have such an effect on me that I...guess that I don't know what I'm doing half the time."

"Fred, if you think you're going to get somewhere with me by using flattery..."  She paused and smiled again.  "Then you're right."

With yet another smile, Leticia reached out and took Fred's hand and slowly led him over to the sofa so that they could have a seat next to one another.

"You know, dear, I don't think I've felt like this in a long time," she said.

"Really?"  He cocked an eyebrow as he looked at her curiously.  "What do you mean?"

"Well," she began, "it's been a long time since I've had a man who's treated me like you do.  I don't even think that I can remember when a man's worked so hard to woo and romance me."  She blushed slightly as she bowed her head.  "It's...a little surprising, to be honest.  I'm not exactly some young ingénue."

"No, you're not," he agreed and took her hand.  "You're a mature, wonderful woman who is wise beyond her years.  You have a grace and a beauty that is unmatched---even by your daughters.  They can only hope to be as lovely as you are some day."

"Oh, Fred, stop," she giggled.  "You're going to make me blush."  She paused and looked up at him and gazed deeply into his eyes.  "You know, being around you almost makes me as giddy as a young school girl getting ready for her first cotillion."

"It's good to see that I'm having the desired effect," Fred chuckled, "because the only thing in the world I want to do is make you smile.  Making you happy is the most important thing to me."  He leaned in to her again and carefully brushed his lips against hers.  Just like before, she made no attempt to stop him or to push him away.

At just that moment, Ruby stepped back into the room, but this time she was not alone.  Nelson Stokes was standing by her side and to say that he was livid by the scene they'd walk in on would have been an understatement.

WALB-RADIO - WILLIS LOWELL'S OFFICE

"M-Mr. Lowell?" Stephanie Lake spoke up nervously as she rapped lightly on the slightly open door.

"Ah, Miss Lake, come in, come in," Willis Lowell grinned broadly as he waved her into the room.  "I'm sure that I don't have to tell you that I was rather shocked to receive your phone call this morning.  After our first meeting at the Cafe, I was certain that you weren't interested."

"Well, I...I wasn't," she confessed softly.  "I mean, I think it's a great opportunity, don't get me wrong, but I'm really not an actress."

"Well, now, that remains to be seen, doesn't it?" he nodded and then motioned for her to take a seat.

As he leaned back in his chair, he folded his hands under his chin and inspected her closely.  After a several minutes, Stephanie realized that he was staring.

"Is...something wrong?" she asked curiously.

"Oh, no.  Nothing at all," he smiled and then reached into his top desk drawer to pull out a small stack of papers.  "Here you go, Miss Lake."  He leaned across the desk to hand them to her.  "That's a script from one of the afternoon serials that we produce here for the network.  That particular script is for A Ray of Hope.  If you don't mind, I'd like for you to turn to the beginning of the third act.  Do you see where the lines for Marlene Bauer are highlighted?"

"Y-yes."

"Good.  I want you to start at the beginning of that act and read all of her lines for me."  Mr. Lowell again leaned back into his chair and prepared to listen to her.  "Now, to give you the appropriate background for the character, Marlene has just discovered that her fiancé, Frank Kincaid, has been spotted in the arms of her chief romantic rival Daphne Cory.  This act deals with her own personal agony over what she's discovered."

"Y-you want me to...read her lines?"  Stephanie's voice shook slightly from nervousness.  Could she really be an actress on the radio?  What if she were completely awful?  What if she ruined her only chance?

"Of course," he nodded.  "I have to hear how you might sound on the radio.  Make sure that your voice sounds distinct and carries the emotional weight of the scene.  Remember, the audience at home won't be able to see you.  You have to convey everything that Marlene is feeling through the sound of your voice alone."

"I...understand," she muttered as she quickly scanned her lines in hopes a preparing herself.

"You can begin whenever you're ready."

After taking a deep breath and clearing her throat, Stephanie said a silent prayer and began her recitation.  As she said her lines, she glanced up every few moments to catch a glimpse of Mr. Lowell as he listened carefully to her delivery.  On and on she read as she tried to use her voice to display the desired emotions that the scene seemed to call for.

"That'll be enough, Miss Lake," Mr. Lowell finally spoke up as he threw up his hand to motion for her to stop.  "I think I've heard more than enough."

"Y-you h-have?" Stephanie stammered.  "I...was pretty bad, wasn't I?  I'm...sorry.  I can work on it.  I promise I can!  Just let me...practice a little or...or I can get a vocal coach and..."

"You were fine," he smiled as he rose from his seat and walked over to her.  "In fact, you were excellent!"

"I...was?"

"Most definitely!"  He leaned up against his desk and rubbed his chin as he thought.  "And I think that I've got the perfect job for you."

"Y-you do?"

"Oh, yes.  You see, there is an actress on one of our serials that's convinced that she can be a big time Hollywood actress so she's leaving the show to go try her luck out in California.  She seems to think she's the next Katherine Hepburn."  He paused and rolled his eyes.  "I really do hate to be the bearer of bad news to her."

"You really want to hire me?"  Stephanie struggled to contain both her surprise and excitement.

"Yes, that's what I said," Mr. Lowell smiled, genuinely amused by her enthusiasm.  "It's a very important role of one of our leading serials---The Trials of Prudence---and I think that you'll be perfect."

Stephanie nearly beamed as the news started to sink in.  She was actually going to be an actress on the radio!  Surely, from what Mr. Lowell said, the part would be a major one---maybe even the star!  It shouldn't be no time before she could save up enough money to move out of Dane and Sara's house.  Maybe, finally, she could be able to stand on her own two feet and show Patterson that she was a girl who was worthy of his love and devotion.

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"Unhand my wife!" Nelson barked angrily as he stood in the doorway.

Feeling awkward and embarrassed because of the scene that she'd witnessed,  Ruby quickly retreated from the room.

"N-Nelson!" Leticia gasped as she quickly pulled away from Fred, rather startled by his sudden and unannounced arrival.  "What...are you doing here?"

"I'd come by to invite you out for dinner tonight," Nelson explained and quickly walked over to her side before pulling out a large bouquet of flowers that he'd held hidden behind his back.  "I'd hoped that these might say things that I, myself, have found difficult."  He turned and glared at Fred.  "I see that I've arrived just in time to keep you from being manhandled!"

"Mr. Stokes, I assure you that's not what's going on," Fred spoke up and immediately rose to his feet so that he could be on the same eye level as Nelson.  "Leticia and I were just..."

"No, Fred, you don't owe him any kind of explanation at all!" She reminded.  "You are a guest in my home.  Nelson simply has to accept that I'm moving on with my life.  He has to realize that he can't just fly off the handle when he sees me in the arms of another man.  Just because we're getting a divorce doesn't mean that my chance for love and romance is over!"

"Darling, that's...not what I think," Nelson said softly as he sat down next to her and cradled the flowers in his arms.  "You're beautiful and desirable and I...I know that any man would be a fool not to be attracted to you."  He paused and took a nervous, awkward breath.  "I'm sorry I flew off the handle like I did.  I hadn't planned on coming off that way, but...well...I guess the sight of you in another man's arms did make me a little jealous and..."

"Maybe you should phone before stopping by," Fred spoke up as he folded his arms across his chest and stared at Nelson.  "That could prevent all of this...awkwardness next time."

"Y-yes," Nelson nodded, uncharacteristically agreeable.  "I...think that would be a good idea."

"Y-you do?" Leticia gasped with surprise as she turned to look at her husband.  "Well, that's pleasant news to hear.  What's...caused this change?  You seem...different."

"I've just been thinking," Nelson confessed as he hung his head.  "I know that I've...been rather difficult over the years.  I've been so wrapped up in my own sense of importance that I've barely even acknowledged how important you are to me.  I've realized that I've been taking you for granted and...well...now that I'm faced with losing you, I realize that that's something that I just can't deal with."

"Oh, my," she muttered with surprise.  This was a surprising development.  "Nelson, I can't believe that I'm hearing this.  I've...I've waited for you to realize these things for years, but...but I could never get you to listen to me."

"Darling, I've been listening," Nelson confessed softly, "but now I'm actually hearing.  Please, take these flowers.  Please tell me that you'll call off this divorce."

"Nelson, I...I don't know," she sighed as she took the bouquet into her hands and carefully sniffed the flowers' delicate aroma.  "I'm just not sure that one apology and an impassioned speech along with a bouquet of flowers can erase all of the years of neglect and condescension that I've felt."

"Leticia, dear, he's only trying to play on your sympathies," Fred finally spoke up as he sat down next her, across from Nelson.  "You're finally at a place where you know what you want out of life.  Don't let him use your good and kind nature against you.  Don't let this false display cause you to reconsider your own goals and desires."

"Please, darling, all I'm asking for is another chance," Nelson begged as he turned to shoot Fred and hateful, yet self-satisfied, glare.  "Don't end our marriage before you give me a chance to make things right.  Call off this divorce."

As Leticia sat between her two suitors, she wasn't sure what to do.  Of course, her long marriage to Nelson and their past and the love that they shared still held a special place in her heart, but his behavior and attitude over the years had made her give up on any hope of him changing a long time ago.  However, his unexpected display had touched her deeply and had given her hope that maybe he was willing to change.

Then again, there was Fred who had been nothing but kind, romantic, and supportive.  He'd never asked for anything more of her than her own happiness---something that Nelson had never done even early on in their marriage.  Fred had been unbelievably charming and supportive and she couldn't deny that she was deeply attracted to him.  In fact, she really hoped that she might have a future with him.  Now, however, the draw of the past and the promise of the future were at odds with one another and were pulling her in different directions.  Leticia was clearly torn and unsure of what to do.

Meanwhile, Fred kept a watchful eye on Nelson.  His rival was clearly up to something.  Nelson's sudden change in attitude didn't just happen on a whim.  Fred suspected that sly Nelson knew exactly what he was doing and knew exactly how to get under Leticia's skin enough to confuse her.  What irritated Fred even more was that it seemed to be working!  As Fred's eyes narrowed wickedly, he realized that if he had any hopes of getting Leticia to the alter in time to save his own hide, he had to go to extreme lengths to eliminate the competition.  Nelson Stokes had to be out of the picture for good!

WALB-RADIO - BROADCAST STUDIO

"Now, this is where you'll be working," Mr. Lowell said as he pushed open the door to the studio and led Stephanie into the room.  "I know that it doesn't seem quite as exciting as it must sound on the radio, but we can work quite a bit of magic in this room."

"Well, if you say so," she nodded and carefully looked around the room to see several people standing with scripts in their hands while they went over their lines.

"Now, you'll be playing the role of Patience Hart--or Patty as the audience refers to her.  She's the younger sister of the lead character Prudence," Mr. Lowell explained.  "So far, Patty has only been a minor character---more of a confidant for her sister.  However, we're planning to change that and the role will become a little more prominent."

"Really?" Stephanie looked up at him with excitement.

"Yes.  You see, Patty has recently started to date amnesiac Paul Davenport.  What Patty doesn't know is that Paul is really Prudence's fiancé Daniel Riley who was presumed killed in a fall off a ski slope in Switzerland."

"Ah...I see," she nodded as she cocked an eyebrow.  Although it all seemed a little too far fetched, it was a soap opera, after all.

"Willis, dahling!" a tall, austere, and attractive woman smiled as she hurried over to them with her arms opened wide.  "Have you come down to listen in on today's show?"

"No, actually, I'm giving this lovely young woman a tour of the studio," he explained as he nodded to Stephanie.

"A tour?" the woman furrowed her brow slightly.  "I didn't realize that we allowed tourists into the studio during air time."

"She's not a tourist, Norma," Mr. Lowell laughed.  "This is Stephanie Lake.  She's our new Patience."

"Our new Patience?"  Norma inspected Stephanie carefully.  "What happened to our old Patience?"

"Well, let's just say that she left to pursue other interests," he laughed slyly.

"I see," Norma nodded.  "Well, let me introduce myself.  Dahling, I'm Norma Malone."  She extended her hand so that Stephanie could shake it.  "I'm Prudence---or 'Pru' as I like to call her.  This is my show!"

"Our show, Norma," he corrected.

Norma turned and shot him an angry look.

"Whatever," she grumbled.  "I'm Prudence and this show is called The Trials of Prudence, after all."  She paused and glanced down at her watch.  "Oh, dear.  It's almost air time.  Dahling, I'll see you both later after the show."  Norma turned to walk back to the small crowd of actors who were quickly gathering around the microphone but turned to give Stephanie another cautionary glance that made her quite nervous.

"Don't mind her," Mr. Lowell smiled.  "Norma has a tendency to...be a little full of herself.  She thinks that she's bigger than she is just because she came from the theatre.  Really, she only did a few off-off Broadway shows.  If it weren't for this serial, she really wouldn't be anybody.  Her voice is more famous than she'll ever be!"

"I...guess," Stephanie stammered awkwardly.  Maybe this wasn't as great an idea as she'd thought it was going to be.

"Don't be nervous," he continued as he led her into the control booth so that they could listen in on the broadcast.  "You'll fit in perfectly."  He pulled out an envelope that he'd been carrying under his arm and slid out a small stack of stapled pages before handing them to her.  "Here you go.  It's your first script."

"Gee, thanks," she smiled, her excitement beginning to grow again.

"This is for tomorrow's show."

"T-tomorrow?" she gasped with shock.  "I'm...going to be on the air...tomorrow?"

"Yes," Mr. Lowell laughed.  "Patience is a very important character.  We've had her upstairs in her room knitting for a month now while we've searched for just the right actress.  We've really got to get this story underway.  Now, you go home and go over your lines and I'll see you tomorrow afternoon at 1 o'clock for the first run through."

"Okay," she muttered as she carefully eyed the script that she held in her hands.

"Trust me," he smiled again.  "You're going to be perfect."

As Stephanie took a deep breath and began to quickly scan her script, she felt the butterflies in her stomach begin to spiral out of control.  What if she went live on the air and completely stumbled over her lines?  What if she made an utter fool of herself by thinking that she could actually be an actress?  Suddenly, she wasn't so sure that this entire job was as great of an idea as she'd thought.

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Joyce puts her plans into motion.

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

©2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions