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

 

EPISODE #109 (Thursday, 4/4/02)
Same Day
February, 1936 - Afternoon

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"I'm so glad that you're here," Joyce Preston smiled as she stood in the doorway.  "We have lots of things to talk about."

"That's what you said on the phone," Naomi Jackson reminded calmly.  She hadn't expected the sudden telephone call requesting---making that ordering---her presence for an impromptu meeting.  "Now, why don't you just tell me why you wanted to see me."

"All in due time, dear," Joyce commented before turning to slide the large wooden doors closed.  After taking a deep breath, she walked over and sat down in a chair across from Naomi and paused to take a lengthy sip of her coffee.  "I see that you brought the baby."

"Of course," Naomi nodded and then looked down at her infant son who was cradled in her arms.  "That's what you asked me to do.  But...I don't understand why you specifically told me to bring him."

"Are you really that simple minded?" Joyce laughed.  "That baby is they key to both of us getting exactly what we want."

"Both of us?"  Naomi eyed Joyce carefully as a knot began to form in the pit of her stomach.  Although she couldn't exactly put her finger on it, she was suddenly quite sure that Joyce Preston had more up her sleeve than she'd even started to let her in on.

THE LAMONT HOME - BACK YARD

"Sweetheart, here's your sweater," Burt Lamont said as he walked up behind his girlfriend Janet Stokes as she sat on a pallet in the grass, working on a painting.  "I know that it's rather nice today, but once the sun goes behind the clouds, it's going to cast quite a chill."

"Thank you, dear," Janet smiled as she took the sweater from him and wrapped it loosely around her shoulders.  "It's been so long since I've taken the time to work on my art that I was beginning to think that I'd lost my touch."

"You're too talented for that," he nodded and then sat down next her her on the ground.

"Thank you," she blushed and then returned her focus to her work.  "I'm really glad the weather turned out so nicely today.  I just got this sudden itch to paint and I knew that this would be the perfect spot.  Do you see the way that the clouds are moving behind those trees?"  She pointed off in the distance to a small grove of trees, not yet showing the first buds of spring.  "The stark nakedness of the branches shows quite a distinct contrast to the white clouds and golden sun.  I think this painting is going to show the ability for hope to shine through even the most barren pit of one's soul."

"That's...um...rather deep, Janet," he commented as he furrowed his brow in confusion and again glanced at the painting.  "I think you're doing a really good job at capturing the contrast."

"I try.  You know, the sun and those trees is kind of like a metaphor for us and what we've been through," she muttered softly as she brushed another color onto her canvas.  "The rays of hope that continue to shine through even though...well...our pasts."

"You mean Judith, don't you?"  Burt let out a small sigh when he realized what was truly on her mind.  He knew that his long ago affair with her sister wasn't something that she could readily forget.  Even more difficult to get past was the fact that he'd fathered her sister's child---a child that was now dead.

"In a way, yes," she nodded and then leaned back to look at her work from a different perspective.  "But also my past with Gordon Scott.  Burt, we've both...got things in our pasts that haunt us.  We can't necessarily go back and change anything.  We've just got to accept what we've done and move on."

"That's very philosophical of you."  His eyes narrowed as he turned to look at her curiously.  "Are you...trying to say that you forgive me for what I did with Judith?  Can you really get over my past with your sister?"

"Why not?" she asked as she paused in her work to gaze at him lovingly.  "You didn't know who she was.  You didn't know who I was, for that matter.  That was my own fault.  I wasn't honest with you when we first met.  You had no way of knowing how we were connected."

Burt stopped and lowered his head as he considered the truths that she was telling.  She was right, after all.  Everything had all been a huge, cruel twist of fate---his romance with Judith, their baby, his eventual love for Janet.  Now that Judith was a part of his past and the baby was gone, maybe it was finally time to put the past to rest and move on.  Certainly there was no way that any of it could affect them anymore.  All of the secrets were out and there was no longer anything that was being kept hidden.

"Do you ever think about getting married?" he finally spoke in an almost casual tone.  "You know...someday?"

"Married?"  Janet paused in shock and turned to look at him.  "Of course I...think about getting married.  What girl doesn't?"  She eyed him suspiciously.  What had brought this on?

"I was thinking...well, because of Reginald and Jillian's wedding....  It was making me think about the future."  He hesitated for a moment and glanced down at the ground.  "I know that it didn't turn out quite the way everyone thought that it would, but I...well...it just made me think about the two of us."

"Burt, are you...asking me to marry you?"  She stared at him as a mixture of anxiety and anticipation began to churn inside of her.  "Are you...trying to propose?"

"No," he replied softly.  "Well, at least not yet."

"O-oh," she muttered and hung her head, clearly disappointed.

"Now, don't get me wrong.  I do want to marry you someday," Burt tried to explain as he gently put his finger under her chin and lifted her face so that he could look deeply into her eyes, "but I want the moment that I ask you to be my wife to be the most beautiful and romantic moment of your life.  It's just not the right time, yet."

"Oh, Burt, just you proposing would make it the most wonderful moment of my life," Janet sighed dreamily.  "I don't care where we are or what we're doing.  Just being with you will make it special."

"Thanks for saying that," he grinned, "but I have a very specific idea of how I want everything to go.  I know exactly how I want to take this next step in our lives.  I want to be absolutely certain that nothing could spoil that moment when I ask you to be my wife."  He paused and leaned in to kiss her tenderly on the lips before speaking again.  "Because once we're husband and wife, they'll be nothing that can ruin our happiness."

As Burt held Janet tightly in his arms, the sense of hope that she'd felt quickly turned into a sense of fear.  If he thought that there was nothing left that could tear them apart, he was dead wrong.  If Burt were to ever find out that she was the one directly responsible for the death of his own child, he'd surely hate her forever and any hope that they might have had for happiness would be ruined.

As she lifted her head from his shoulder, she glanced at the painting that she'd been working on---the bright sunlight pouring through the trees had been intended to symbolize hope.  Now, however, as she checked the sky that she'd been so diligently copying onto her canvas, she noticed that the sun had disappeared behind the clouds.  And not just any clouds, at that.  They were now storm clouds and they were quickly rolling in.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"What do you mean by 'both of us'?" Naomi asked as she eyed Joyce carefully.  "The way I see it, my son is the rightful heir to Thornton's estate.  Anything that he had should go to him!"

"Well, of course you'd see it that way," Joyce sighed.  "But if you have any intentions of getting your hands on that fortune, you're going to need my help.  Surely you don't think that it's going to come free of charge.  There'll be a little compensation required."

"I should have known," Naomi grumbled as she began to quickly rise for her seat.  "You don't care a damn thing about helping me get what should be mine...er...my son's.  All you want to do is get your greedy little hands on your husband's money!"

"That's not true!" Joyce insisted as she followed Naomi who was heading for the door.  "Of course, I want what should be rightfully mine---I was his wife, after all---but it's only right that you get what you deserve, too.  I can assure you that I'm very sincere about that."

Naomi paused as she reached the door and considered what Joyce was saying.  True, she didn't exactly trust Joyce, but she was very aware that this scheme was something that she might not be able to pull off on her own.  Considering exactly how much money was at stake, what would it matter to toss Thornton's wife a few measly dollars?  The rewards did far out weigh the cost.

"So, what are you proposing?" Naomi finally spoke as she turned back around and returned to her seat.  "How do you intended to help me get what rightfully belongs to my son?"

"Well, I admit that revealing that my late husband is that father of your child would be a persuasive argument on its own," Joyce explained as she sat back down.  "However, my daughter has the unfortunate quality of being far too trusting where her husband is concerned.  Because of that, I'm certain that he would do everything he could to talk her out of doing the right thing."

"But...how...are we going to get around him?"  Naomi furrowed her brow as she tried to comprehend what Joyce was saying.

"It's simple, really," Joyce smiled slyly.  "She'll listen to me.  I can plead your case to her.  I can subtly work to convince her that giving you and your baby your rightful share of Thornton's estate would be the right thing to do.  You see, without my influence, you'd have a long uphill battle to fight.  You agree to let me help you and I can assure you that you'll get everything that you deserve."

Naomi paused and glanced down at her son who was soundly asleep in her arms.  Could Joyce Preston be trusted?  Naomi wasn't certain, but couldn't deny that she did have a point.  It would be a great help to her if she had assistance on the inside.  True, Naomi was positive that she could achieve her goals on her own, but it would definitely take much longer without Joyce's help.

"So, what's your price?" Naomi asked curiously.  "How much is this 'assistance' going to cost me once I get the money?"

"Half," Joyce replied flatly.  "I get half of whatever money you get."

"Half?"  Naomi recoiled with shock.  "You're crazy if you think that I'm going to give you half of what's rightfully my son's!"

"Either you give me half to help you," Joyce grinned slyly, "or I'll make sure that that little baby of yours gets nothing!  Just as easily as I can convince her to turn over the money to you, I can convince her to turn you out into the street without a dime."

Naomi sat in silence as she continued to go over her options inside her head.  Half of a fortune or no fortune?  Which was more important?  Giving up half the money for a guaranteed thing or risking it all for everything?  Finally, she spoke.

"Ok.  I agree to give you half," Naomi said softly as she hung her head.  "But only if you can promise me that you're going to convince your daughter to turn over the money."

"I'm as good as my word," Joyce smiled.  "I assure you of that."

"And I have one little condition of my own."  Naomi leaned back in her seat and grinned smugly.

"What condition?"  Joyce's jaw tightened.  Naomi was clearly going to be a lot more difficult than she'd originally thought.

"As of this moment, I'm living here," Naomi announced flatly.  "Me and my baby are going to be living in this house.  After all, all of this should be ours, anyway.  And also, this way I can keep an eye on you and make sure that you're living up to your end of the bargain."  And it would also get her out of Calvin's house and out from under his watchful eye.

"Live here?" Joyce gasped in shock.  "Why, I couldn't..."  Seeing the determination in Naomi's eyes, Joyce quickly backed down.  Perhaps this could be something that she could use.  "All right.  I'll talk to Sara and convince her that..."

"Convince me of what?" Sara Manchester's voice came from the doorway.  "Mother, what's going on here?"

Joyce quickly turned to look at her daughter and realized that she would have to put her plans into motion much sooner than she'd expected.  Now was the time.  Silently, she prayed that nothing would go wrong.

THE DAVIS HOME - LIVING ROOM

Douglas Davis coughed repeatedly as he came down the stairs, briefcase in hand, and headed for the door.  He didn't exactly feel up to par, but realized that he had to make his afternoon appointment with Charles Callison.  The freedom of Charles' wife was at stake and there was too much riding on Douglas' job as her attorney to allow him the luxury of a sick day.

"And where do you think you're going?" Lorraine Davis asked sternly as she appeared at the foot of the stairs.  "You march right back up to our room and get back into bed."

"I can't," he mumbled, slightly dizzy, and grabbed onto the railing for support.  "I've got to go meet with Charles."

"Not like that, you're not!"  She took him by the hand and led him into the living room and away from the front door before motioning for him to have a seat.  "You've been sick for days.  Now, you're running a fever.  You've got this same bug that I had and you know as well as I do that the only thing that's going to get you better is lots of rest."

"I don't have time to rest," he grumbled as he slumped down into his chair.  "Francis' freedom depends on me."

"Darling, it's not like she's going on trial tomorrow," Lorraine reminded as she sat down next to him on the armrest of the chair and put her arms around him.  "They're going to understand that you're sick and you need your rest.  Making yourself sicker isn't going to do anyone---especially Francis---any good."

"I know that, but..."  He paused and glanced down at his hands which felt cold and clammy.  "Well, this is very important to me.  I owe Charles Callison a lot.  He...gave me a chance when no one else would.  I was right out of law school when he took a chance on me and hired me as part of Callison Publications' legal team."

"Darling, I know that, but..."

"Time and time again, he's trusted me," Douglas continued.  "He put me in charge of the Preston contract when everyone else in the department wanted it.  No one there thought that I could handle it, but...I did."  He paused and took a deep breath.  "Of course, I completely messed that one up when Preston decided that he wanted out of his contract."

"That had nothing to do with you!" Lorraine said firmly.  "You did excellent work on that contract.  Even Mr. Preston said so.  He did retain you as his own personal attorney while he was in town.  That's because he was impressed with your skills.  Charles doesn't hold what happened with Mr. Preston against you.  He knows that none of the conflict over the contract was your fault."

"I...know that, but...well..." he sighed and then slumped back into his chair.  "Look, I started out at the very bottom of the legal department.  I've worked long and hard to just make it where I am.  No one thought I could do it.  Well, no one but Charles.  Old man Chamberlain has been head of the department for years.  He was bosom buddies with Charles' father."

"Douglas, I know that."

"Chamberlain is getting up there in years.  He hasn't directly handled any of Callison Publications' legal matters in a long time," he continued.  "That's why everything's been dispersed between the underlings of the department---me included.  He's supposed to finally retire in a few months and that leaves the top spot in the department wide open."

"But what does that have to do with Francis' case?"  Lorraine eyed him curiously.

"Don't you see?" he asked as if the answer were obvious.  "Charles believes in me or he wouldn't have personally put me in charge of his wife's defense.  He believes in me!  If I can prove that Francis is innocent, if I can prove myself to Charles and everyone else in the department, I have a damn good shot at a promotion.  Don't you understand what that would me for me---for us and our family?"

"But it's not worth making yourself sick over!"

"Lorraine, my father never had a chance to give his family everything that he wanted to," Douglas confessed as he hung his head.  "Oh, he tried, don't get me wrong, but he just couldn't do it.  He couldn't handle it.  I want...to give my family a better life than I ever had.  I want this promotion so that you and our baby never have to worry about anything ever again."

"But I'm worried about you!"  She grabbed his arm tightly in hopes of making him understand her point of view.

"I don't have time to be sick," he muttered.  "I have a meeting to go to.  I can't let Charles and Francis down.  More importantly, I can't let you down.  I can't let myself down.  Can't you understand that?"

"I...I guess so," Lorraine said softly.  "But..."

"No 'buts'," Douglas said firmly.  "Now, I have a meeting to go to."  He slowly rose to his feet, kissed her tenderly on the cheek, and headed for the door.  "I'll be home later and then I'll go straight to bed.  I promise.  Don't worry about me.  I'll be fine."

As Lorraine watched her husband walk out the door, she let out a weary sigh.  She certainly understood where Douglas was coming from and knew that he only had the best intentions.  However, she couldn't help but worry.  After, he was her husband and she cared about his well-being.  Silently, she prayed that he wasn't pushing himself entirely too hard.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"S-Sara!" Joyce stammered in shock as she jumped out of her seat and rushed to her daughter's side.  "I...didn't hear you come in.  How...long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," Sara replied as her eyes darted from her mother to Naomi.  "So, are you going to tell me what's going on here?  What do I need convincing of?"

"Sara, I'd...hoped I could spare you a little bit of this news," Joyce began as she carefully chose her words.  She had to play her cards just right.  "I mean, this is probably more my problem than yours and...well..."

"Spit it out, Momma!" Sara ordered as she glared at Joyce.  "What's going on?  Who's this girl?"

"I'm Naomi Jackson," she spoke up as she rose from her seat, baby still cradled in her arms, and walked over to Sara.

"Naomi, dear, please let me handle this," Joyce spoke with false sweetness.  "This has all been shocking enough for me, as it is.  I'm sure that it's going to be just as shocking for my daughter."

"Okay, are you going to tell me what's going on?" Sara asked again as she folded her arms tightly across her chest.  "I can tell that something's up.  What did you mean when you said that you needed to convince me of something?"

"Sara, please, just come over here and have a seat and I'll explain everything," Joyce replied as she took her daughter's hand and led her over to the sofa.  Once Sara was seated, Naomi sat down next to her and Joyce returned to her own chair.  "This has all been a little difficult for me to deal with.  I guess...that it's usually that way for most wives."

"Momma, what are you trying to tell me?" Sara sighed, quickly becoming annoyed with the verbal tap dance that Joyce was performing.  "What's been difficult?  Who is this girl?"

"My name is Naomi!" she reminded as her jaw tightened.

"Naomi, darling, please be quite so that I can explain everything to my daughter," Joyce said as she quickly threw up her hand to silence her.  Once Naomi was quiet, Joyce paused and took a deep breath before beginning her story.  "Sara, you see, while Thornton and I were living in New York, he...well...was prone to having dalliances with young girls."

"Mr. Preston?" Sara gasped, the news coming as quite a shock to her.  "But...he just never seemed like the type to...well...you know."

"Well, men like my husband never do seem like the type.  Anyway, I knew about his affairs.  In fact, I kept a very close track of them.  I know that I probably should have been upset but...well...I always knew that those girls never really mattered that much to him.  They were only minor diversions.  I was still his wife and he wasn't going anywhere.  It's because of those affairs---his track record, so to speak---that I suspected...what I did about you when I first came to town.  It would have been so like Thornton to have had an illicit relationship with his secretary."

"But, Momma, I told you that nothing..."

"I know, I know," Joyce nodded.  "I over reacted.  I completely misinterpreted things and...well...I'm sorry about that.  But that's really not what I wanted to talk to you about."

"Okay," Sara sighed as she eyed her mother with confusion.  "Then...what are you talking about?  What does this...I mean Naomi...have to do with anything?"

"I was having an affair with Thornton!" Naomi spoke up only to have Joyce shoot her a threatening glance.

"Y-you...and M-Mr. Preston?" Sara gasped in shock.  "But I....you're..."

"Negro?  Is that what you're trying to say?" Naomi asked bluntly.

"Y-yes," Sara nodded, a little embarrassed because of the situation.  "Mr. Preston never struck me as the kind of man to...well...you know."

"I understand exactly what you mean, dear," Joyce nodded and then shot Naomi another look as if to silently warn her to keep quiet.  "Anyway, I knew about Thornton's indiscretions, but they never really mattered to me since they were all quite minor and meaningless.  They never really lasted long."  She paused and took a deep breath.  "However, it seems that part of his past has decided to catch up with him.  It's so like Thornton to die and avoid all of this unpleasantness."

"I still don't think I'm following you," Sara muttered as her eyes moved from her mother to Naomi, only pausing a moment to glance down at the baby in Naomi's arms.

"What she's trying to say is that Thornton left a little something for me to remember him by," Naomi spoke up.  "My son.  His son."

"Oh, dear lord!" Sara gasped.  "This little baby is...Thornton Preston's...son?"

"Yes, Sara," Joyce nodded as she hung her head, clearly from embarrassment.  "Naomi gave birth to my husband's illegitimate son.  I only found out about the baby a few days ago.  I'm sure you can understand what a shock it was for me."

"I'd tried to track down Thornton ever since he left New York," Naomi began to explain.  "But I...didn't have the proper resources to find him.  In fact, it's only because of a stroke of luck that I discovered that he was living here in Albanyville.  I came to town to tell him about the baby, but...well...when I got here I found out that he'd died."

"This is just so hard to believe," Sara sighed as she shook her head.  "How do we...know that she isn't making all of this up?  How do we know that this is...really Mr. Preston's son?"

"Because he is!" Naomi shouted angrily.  "Don't you think that I know who the father of my own child is?"

"That's not what I mean," Sara muttered softly.  "What I'm trying to say is that how do we know that you're telling the truth?  How do we even know that you had a relationship with Mr. Preston."

"I know," Joyce spoke up.  "I made it a point of keeping tabs on my husband.  I knew the names of every young girl he'd been involved with.  I sort of...made it my little insurance policy.  If I thought that any of them were getting too involved---getting too close---I'd pay them a little visit.  Usually when they found out that the wife knew about them, it was enough to scare them away.  I knew all about Naomi---well, almost all---and never viewed their relationship as a serious threat to my marriage, so she never really concerned me.  Until now, at least."

"I admit that this is all rather shocking, but what does that have to do with me?  What do I need to be convinced of?"

"Sara, surely you understand how important this all is?"  Joyce eyed her daughter carefully.  "This baby is Thornton's son---his rightful heir.  This child has a certifiable claim to my husband's estate---an estate that you and Dane inherited."

"Oh, my," Sara muttered, the true graveness of the situation finally sinking in.

"And I have every intention of making sure that my son gets everything that should rightfully be his!" Naomi announced firmly.  "Everything that Thornton had should now belong to my baby.  Ma'am, I don't mean to cause you any ill will, but I have a child to think of.  I will do whatever it takes to make sure that my son receives everything that is due him.  I'll even take you to court if I have to."

"But I...I..." Sara stammered, completely thrown off guard by the entire situation.

"Listen to me, Sara, I know that this is an awkward situation," Joyce spoke softly and deliberately, "but that baby has a legal claim on Thornton's estate and..."  She paused and turned her attention to Naomi.  "Dear, would you please excuse us so that I can speak to my daughter in private?"

"Oh...um...yes.  Of course," Naomi nodded as she clutched her baby to her chest and quickly hurried out of the room.

"Now, Sara, as I was saying," Joyce began again once Naomi was out of earshot, "that baby has a legal claim on everything that my husband left to you and Dane.  It's entirely possible that if she takes you to court, she can take all of this away from you.  I think that I have an idea that might just satisfy her enough and might also allow you to keep everything."

"An...idea?"  Sara furrowed her brow as she listened carefully.  "What kind of an idea?"

"I'm thinking about a settlement," Joyce explained calmly.  "If we play our cards right, we can give her enough money to provide for her child, yet still leave the bulk of the estate intact.  But to do this, we need to keep a very close eye on her."

"H-how do we do that?" Sara asked curiously.  "I mean, if that really is Thornton's child, he certainly does deserve something."

"Oh, I agree," Joyce nodded.  "Surely you don't think that I'm so cold hearted that I believe that Thornton's son shouldn't receive his own birthright."

"O-of course not."

"I think that we should ask Naomi and her baby to move into the house," Joyce announced with firm conviction.  "That way we can watch her every move.  That way we can determine exactly how much would be enough to make her leave quietly so that she doesn't put a nasty stain on Thornton's reputation.  Certainly you cared enough about him to want to do that."

"O-of course," Sara muttered as her head began to spin with thoughts about Thornton Preston, his newly discovered child, and her own inheritance.  As she sat in silence and considered her mother's suggestion, one thought kept returning to the forefront of her mind---how in the world was Dane going to react to yet another unwelcome guest in their home?

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"This is just all too much," Leticia Stokes muttered as she shook her head in a vein attempt to drown out the conflicting pleas of her dueling suitors.  "I...I need time to think."

"Think?" Nelson Stokes asked angrily.  "After all of these years of marriage, you need time to think?  Darling, please don't do this.  Call off this foolish divorce!"

"Leticia, sweetheart, I understand how difficult this must be for you," Dr. Fred Rutherford spoke up with fake earnestness.  "I understand if you need time.  I just want you to know that I care about you deeply and I only want what's best for you.  I only want your happiness---even if it's with your husband."  He fought to urge to smirk gleefully with his carefully calculated move.  Surely is feigned thoughtfulness would win him points in his favor.

"Don't listen to him!" Nelson barked.  "He's just trying to play on your sympathies.  Don't let this charlatan pull the wool over your eyes!  See him for the lying snake that he is!"

"Enough!  Enough!" she shouted as she jumped to her feat and ran across the room.  "I can't listen to anymore!"

"Darling, I'm sorry if what I said upset you," Fred murmured softly.  "I hope that you believe me when I tell you that I think you are the most wonderful woman that I've ever met.  You deserve only the best that life has to offer.  I can only...hope that you would consider that to be me.  I know that...the short time that we've known one another can't even begin to compare to the decades that you've spent with him, but you've given me more joy and happiness in such a short time than I think most other men have known in an entire lifetime."

"You really are a smooth one, aren't you?" Nelson laughed incredulously.  "You just pour on the charm and expect her to fall at your feet."

"Nelson, I said that will be enough!" Leticia shouted again before softening her tone as she turned to Fred.  "Darling, thank you for being so understanding, but...I...well...this is all beginning to make my head spin."

"Leticia, don't listen to him," Nelson pleaded.  "I've loved you from the moment I met you.  You're my wife!  I've treated you like a queen and..."

"A queen?"  Her eyes grew wide from shock.  "Nelson, you've regarded me as no more than one of your business properties for years, now!  You walk around barking orders and treating me like a child if I even think about disagreeing with you.  If that's how you think a queen should be treated, then..."

"I...I know that I've made mistakes," Nelson muttered as he hung his head.  "I know that I haven't always been a perfect husband, but..."

"No!  I'm done listening to this today."  As she turned to face both men, she took on a posture of strength and determination.  "And not just from you, Nelson, but from you, too, Fred."

"I...understand," Fred nodded.  "I'm...sorry that I've put you in such a...difficult position."

"It's not your fault," she sighed as her expressions softened.  "It's just...this entire situation.  I need...time to think."

"And I'm more than prepared to give you all the time in the world," Fred smiled warmly before turning to shoot Nelson a subtle, spiteful glare.

"Thank you, Fred.  You don't know how much your devotion and support means to me."  She paused and took a long, deep breath.  "Now, I'm not meaning to be rude, but I'm going to have to ask you both to leave."

"As you wish," Fred responded calmly.

"Leave?" Nelson questioned.  "You're throwing us out?  I can't believe this!  You could at least..."

"I said I want you both to leave," she repeated firmly.

"All right," Nelson replied through clinched teeth and rose from his seat.  As he made his slow journey to the door, he kept a watchful eye on Fred to make sure that his rival was following suit.  Once he'd reached the foyer, he quickly realized that the good doctor was no longer behind him.  However, he could hear his voice drifting in from the living room.

"Leticia, would it be okay if I phoned you tomorrow?" he heard Fred ask.

"Of course, it would," Leticia replied.  "In fact, I...would like that very much."

As he waited for Fred to join him, Nelson's jealousy and anger began to build.  How could Leticia not see him for the cad that he was?  Was she so blinded by his charms that she refused to look at him with open eyes?

"Gee, Nelson, you look like you're about to pop a vein," Fred chided with a wicked laugh as he joined him at the door.  "If I were you, I'd get that blood pressure checked before you have a heart attack.  I'd hate for anything to happen to you."

"I bet you would," Nelson spat as he swung the door open so that Fred could step outside first.  

Once the door had closed behind them, Nelson was quick to corner Fred alone so that they could have a chance to speak privately, away from Leticia.

"I know what your game is, Rutherford," Nelson announced with conviction.  "I know that you're only interested in my wife because of her money.  I've seen men like you a thousand times.  No matter what sweet nothings you're filling her head with, I've still got one major advantage over you."

"And what, prey tell, might that be?"  Fred cocked an eyebrow as he waited for Nelson's revelation.

"She still loves me," he explained calmly.  "No matter what problems that we might have, that's one thing that's not going to change.  She still loves me.  Even you can see that or you wouldn't be fighting me tooth and nail."

"Well, for someone who seems so convinced of that," Fred grinned smugly, "you seem bound and determined to push her right into my arms."

"It'll be a cold day in hell before I see her won over by the likes of you," Nelson replied sternly.

"Well, we'll see about that, won't we."  And with another smug grin, Fred got into his car and began the long trip down the driveway.

Damn that Nelson Stokes.  He was certainly going to much harder to get past than Fred had ever considered.  Even more difficult were the lingering feelings that Leticia still had for her husband.  Fred just had to find some way to clear a path for himself.  Time was quickly running out and he had a deadline to meet.  Francis Callison was clearly no longer an option and Leticia was his only chance to ensure his continued health and well being.

As he glanced up in his rearview mirror, Fred noticed that Nelson was close behind him in his own car.  Damn that Nelson Stokes!  He had to eliminate the competition and make sure that nothing stood in his way.  A cold day in hell!  With another glance in the mirror, an idea popped into Fred's head and he smiled slyly.  Nelson better have made sure that he packed a heavy coat because Fred was certain that he saw a snow flake about to fall.

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

As Fred makes a shocking confession, Nelson receives startling news.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions