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

 

EPISODE #111 (Monday, 4/8/02)
Same Day
February, 1936 - Evening

ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - EMERGENCY ROOM

"Oh, Reginald, they just have to be all right," Jillian Stokes cried out as they raced through the doors of the emergency room.  "They just have to be!"

"Jillian, I'm sure everything's fine."  Reginald Callison tried to be as reassuring as possible, but he wasn't even managing to convince himself.  "All that the hostess at The Riverside said was that your father and sister were in an automobile accident.  For all we know it's not even a major one and..."

"Nurse, where's my father?" she asked as she ran up to the nurses' station.  "Nelson Stokes.  He and my sister Judith Linford were in an accident tonight and..."

"Ma'am, I'm sorry, but I really can't tell you anything," the nurse replied rather curtly.  "I'm afraid that you're going to have to wait for the doctor to..."

"Look, Reginald, there's Dr. Campbell," she interrupted as she saw the doctor off to the side talking to another doctor.  "I'm sure that he'll know what's going on."

As Jillian quickly approached Dr. Campbell, she began to feel as if her heart were going to pound out of her chest.  When she got closer to him, she could begin to hear part of their conversation.  What she heard nearly sent her crashing to the floor.

"Oh, Dr. Campbell," she overheard the other doctor say.  "Have you heard anymore news about the fatal Stokes accident?"

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"So everything went according to plan?" Joyce Preston grinned slyly as she pressed the telephone receiver to her ear.  "Good, good.  That's just the news I like to hear.  Now, you know exactly what to..."

"Joyce?" Dane Manchester spoke up as he stood, previously unnoticed, behind her.  "Who are you talking to?"

"No, I'm sorry, but we don't want a subscription to that magazine," she continued with her conversation as she motioned to him that she would be with him in a moment.  "No, my daughter already subscribes to that one.  Yes, you're welcome."  Taking a deep breath, she hung up the phone and turned to face him, more than a little concerned about how much of her conversation that he'd really heard.

"So, who was that on the phone?"  He looked at her curiously.

"Oh, just some magazine salesman," she laughed casually as she strolled across the room to the bar.  "It's funny how people think that just because you've got money then you'll automatically spend it on any foolhardy thing that you can find."

"A magazine salesman?"  He furrowed his brow and eyed her suspiciously.  He was certain that that was no salesman that she was talking to when he first walked in.  However, she was clearly not going to be very forthcoming about the true nature of the call.  "You sounded awfully happy to be getting a call from a salesman."

"Happy?  Why do you say that?" she laughed with amusement.  In an attempt to hide her nervousness, she turned her back to him and began to mix herself a cocktail.

Dane folded his arms across his chest and eyed her carefully.  He wasn't buying a word of her act.  She was definitely hiding something.  "What did you mean when you said 'everything went according to plan'?"

"You must have misunderstood," she smiled and turned around to face him.  "I believe that my exact words were 'we're already using that plan'."  She paused and took a sip of her drink.  "He was asking about a bulk rate for subscriptions.  You know, the deal where you get 4 different movie magazine subscriptions for the price of 3?  I'm certain that's the one that Sara signed up for last week.  There's simply no need to do it again!  Does she really need double copies of Movie Mirror?"

"Of course not," he nodded.  "She reads enough of those silly things as it is."

"My thoughts exactly!"  Joyce slowly walked over to him and allowed her fingers to glide across his shoulders.  "So, have you thought anymore about how we can put Sara in her place?  I think that we can use this Naomi girl to our advantage.

"And how do you suppose that?"

"Well, I'm certain that I can make nice with her," she explained, "and I can find out the absolute least amount of money she would settle for.  Of course, I'd convince Sara to give her much, much more."  She paused for a moment and smiled slyly.  "I'd set up all the arrangements.  Naomi would get the smaller amount and the rest would be divided between us.  Once Naomi's gone and out of the picture, it shouldn't be too difficult to make Sara think that she's asking for more money.  Naturally, everything else that she gives Naomi would go directly to us until Sara has nothing left."

"You're pretty slick, aren't you?" Dane responded bluntly.  "Stabbing your own daughter in the back."

"After what she did to me, after what happened between her and my husband, I see it as tit for tat," Joyce replied calmly.  "She doesn't deserve a penny of that money!  It should all be mine.  I'm just letting you keep your share out of the goodness of my heart---and as compensation for helping me right a grave injustice."

As Dane's eyes narrowed, he became increasingly sure that Joyce wasn't being nearly as upfront as she was claiming.  She was definitely up to much more than met the naked eye.  A magazine salesman?  Dane didn't believe a word of it.

ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - EMERGENCY ROOM

"Dr. Campbell!  Dr. Campbell!" Jillian called out as she ran to him.  "My father and Judith...how...are they?  What's wrong?  What's happened?"

"Oh, Jillian," Talbot sighed as he hung his head.  "I'm sorry but..."

"I heard you say 'fatal'," she interrupted.  "What do you mean....fatal?  It's not...them, is it?  Where's my father?  What's going on?"  Her voice grew increasingly louder as her body began to shake, nearly on the verge of hysterics.

"Jillian, just calm down," Reginald spoke up as he came up behind her and put his arms on her shoulders to steady her.  "I'm sure that you've just misunderstood."

"No!  I heard him say that the accident was fatal!" she screamed.  "Dr. Talbot, please tell me what's happened.  Where are they?"

"Jillian, I'm sorry," Talbot replied softly as he tried to find the best words to break such tragic news.  "We did everything that we could, but...it was too late.  By the time the ambulance got there..."

"Too late?" she cried.  "Too late for what?  Oh, please, god, don't tell me..."

"Dear, I'm sorry but your father is dead," Talbot sighed and reached out to take her hand as a show of comforting support.

"D-dead?"   Her voice shook as her eyes began to glaze over.  Dead?  Her father was dead?  "No!  T-there's got to be some kind of mistake!  My daddy can't be dead!  He...he...c-can't be..."

"Jillian, I'm...sorry," Talbot said again with a solemn shake of his head.

"O-oh...god!" she sobbed.  "Oh, g-god!  D-daddy!  Oh, D-daddy!"

As Jillian's entire body began to shake, she felt her knees start to give way and the room began to spin.  Her father was dead.

"Darling, I've got you," Reginald spoke softly and comfortingly as grabbed onto her tightly before she could completely collapse from anguish and shock.  "It's going to be all right.  I've got you."

"Oh, Reginald, no!" she sobbed as she held onto him tightly.  "Not my father!  No!"

"Sweetheart, just come over here and sit down," Reginald said and carefully led her over to a chair so that he could gently ease her into a seat.  As he stood by her side, another important question entered his mind---one that Jillian was clearly too distraught to even consider.  "Dr. Campbell, what about...Judith?  She isn't..."

"Thankfully, no," Talbot sighed.  "She's very lucky.  In fact, she only managed to receive just a few minor cuts and bruises.  Granted, she's going to be very sore for several days, but she's going to fine."

Although Nelson was dead, Judith was alive.  At least there was something to be thankful for.  As the news started to sink in, Reginald's reporter instincts began to kick in.

"So, Dr. Campbell, do you know anything about the accident?" Reginald asked curiously as he continued to hold Jillian tightly in his arms.  "How did it happen?  Where..."

"Well, apparently from what the police said, the accident happened along Andersonville Rd.  It seems that they were on their way into town."

"Who was...driving?"

"Judith," Talbot replied calmly.  "The roads were still a little wet from all the rain that we've had these past few days and...well...she seems to have be going pretty fast."

"Too fast?"  Reginald furrowed his brow as he considered that information.

"Yes," Talbot nodded.  "And, apparently, she couldn't make that last sharp curve.  You know, why the county hasn't done something about that road, I'll never know.  But, anyway, the police said that it doesn't look like she even made an attempt to slow down."

"W-what?" Reginald stammered.  "Do you mean that she tried to take that curve at full speed?  Dear, lord!"

"There was a witness that came along just as the accident happened," Talbot continued.  "From what they said, Judith's car went airborne over the embankment and rolled several times.  It's completely demolished.  By our best guess, Mr. Stokes died on impact---massive head trauma.  It's a miracle that they weren't both killed."

"W-where's Judith?" Jillian finally spoke up as she wiped the tears from her eyes and tried to compose herself.  "I have...to see her."

"She's been giving a statement to the police," Talbot explained before hesitating to continue.  "She doesn't...know about your father, yet.  We haven't...told her."

"This is going to kill her," Jillian realized as she made a weak attempt to rise to her feet.  "She...worshiped our father.  Of course, we all did, but...well...with her it was different.  I just don't know how...  Oh, god, first the baby and now this?"

"Would someone please tell me what's going on?" Judith Linford ask with a mixture of worry and annoyance.  "I can't get any of these people to answer any of my questions.  Where's Daddy?  What's happened to Daddy?"

"Mrs. Linford, if you don't settle down," Nurse Fay Rutledge said sternly as she pushed her down the hallway in a wheel chair, "I'm going to have to give you a sedative."

"Sedative my eye!" Judith barked angrily.  "Let me out of this chair!  Someone please tell this women to let me out of this chair!"

"I can't let you out," Nurse Rutledge responded.  "It's hospital policy."

"I don't give a damn about your silly policy!" Judith shouted as she quickly jumped to her feet and pushed both the chair and the nurse away.  "Tell me what's happened to my father!  Where's Daddy!"

As Jillian's eyes darted from Dr. Campbell to Reginald, she knew that the news of their father's death would be the worst thing in the world for Judith to hear.  In fact, she was certain that it would destroy Judith.  From that moment on, their lives would never be the same.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"So, you plan on playing Naomi and Sara against one another?" Dane asked as he eyed Joyce suspiciously.  "Who's to say that you won't play me for a fool, too?"

"Dane, I've made an honorable agreement with you," she reminded.  "And I always honor my agreements."

Those words made Dane chuckle with amusement.  "You've made an 'honorable' agreement with that girl, too," he reminded.  "But you're going to use her to get exactly what you want.  I'm not willing to be a stupid pawn in your games." 

"You just leave Naomi to me," Joyce smiled slyly.  "She's the real pawn.  You're my partner.  As long as the two of us are working together, then there's no way we can fail."  She paused for a moment and took a sip of her drink before returning her attention to him.  "And, besides, if you decide to back out of our little agreement, it would make me very disappointed in you.  In fact, I just might have to encourage my daughter's little independent streak.  You wouldn't want that now, would you?"

"Joyce, you are a master manipulator," he grumbled.  "You know that I can't have Sara doing anything that might reflect negatively on me or my father."

"How much is my daughter's obedience and loyalty worth to you?" Joyce asked bluntly.  "If it's worth as much as I suspect, you're going to have no problem holding up your end of our deal."

"Momma, are you ready to go out to dinner?" Sara Manchester asked as she strolled into the room, interrupting Dane and Joyce's conversation.

"Oh, yes, of course," Joyce smiled before giving Dane a brief, knowing nod.  "It will give us an opportunity to talk about your college plans after this semester is over."

"College plans?" Sara repeated curiously.  "I don't understand what you mean."

"Well, we'll have enough time to talk about that over dinner," Joyce explained with a warm smile.  "So, how's Naomi doing?  Did you have a chance to talk to her about the estate?"

"I didn't bring it up," Sara confessed.  "I thought it would be best to build a sense of trust between us first.  She just left to go get some more of her things from her brother's."

"Ah, I see."  Joyce downed the rest of her drink and then carefully led Sara towards the door.  "We'll be back later, Dane."

"Great," he grumbled half under his breath.  As he heard the front door close, he made his own way over to the bar and stirred up his own drink.  After his discussion with Joyce, he sure needed one.  The ice cubes had barely had a chance to melt when he heard the front door open again.

"I don't know why you're still nervous," Patterson Monroe laughed as he followed Stephanie Lake into the room.  "You're going to be fine."

"Wonderful!" Dane muttered with disgust.  "Don't tell me that I've got to spend an evening alone in the house with you!  Maybe I can find Helga and we can play a game of rummy."

"Not likely," Stephanie replied coolly.  "I heard Aunt Joyce say earlier that she let Helga have the night off so that she could go to the movies.  And, believe me, the last person I'd want to spend an evening with is you!"

"All right, you two, just calm down," Patterson spoke up as he stepped between them.  "Can't you two just get along?  Since you're living under the same roof, you can at least be civil."

"Civil war is more like it," she grumbled as she stuck out her bottom lip in defiance.

"Paddy, I can't believe that you're spending all of your time with her.  I gave you credit for being smarter than that!  You know everything that she's tried to do to Reginald and Jillian and me!"

"Gee, Dane, I remember everything you've tried to do to Reginald and Jillian, too, and I'm still friends with you!" Patterson reminded pointedly.  "I guess that I'm just a sucker all the way around, huh?"

"You know what I mean," Dane sighed in annoyance.  "I remember when you couldn't say anything nice about her at all.  Now, she's got you brainwashed into..."

"Dane, she's a different person, now!"

"Would you both stop talking about me like I'm not even in the room!" Stephanie spoke up angrily before turning her attention to Dane.  "My friendship with Paddy is none of your business!"

"He's my best friend so that makes it my business!" Dane shot back.

"Well, Dane, for some best friend, I sure haven't seen a lot of you lately," Patterson reminded.  "Seems to me that ever since you came into all of this money, you don't have time for anyone, anymore.  Is the lord of the manor too busy to come down into the village and visit us commoners?"

"Paddy, you know that's not how it is," Dane sighed as his tone quickly softened.  "I've just been...busy.  Classes are getting tougher and I've been fighting to get my grades back on track.  They really started to slip last semester while I was working at the printing plant.  It's not going to be long before I have to start applying to law school.  I've got to make sure that I've got everything in order and..."

"Dane, I know how important law school is to you," Paddy nodded.  "And I know that even without working, you've been under a lot of strain."

"Lately, any strain that I've been under has been because of her!"  Dane shot an angry look at Stephanie.

"Me?" she gasped in shock.  "What have I done?  Nothing!  That's what!"

"I'm forced to share my home with you!  Being within fifty feet of you is enough strain!" Dane shouted back.  "Honestly, how Paddy can even stand to breathe the same air as you, I don't know."

"Dane, that's enough!" Patterson snapped angrily.  "I refuse to let you talk to her like that."

"I can't stand to see you ruin your entire life because of that little witch," Dane said angrily.  "And that's exactly what you're doing.  You're just too blinded by her innocent act to see that."  After pausing to take a deep breath, he swallowed the rest of his drink in one gulp and turned to head for the door.  "I can't stand to be around you two, right now.  It's turning my stomach."

"I can't believe him!" Stephanie shouted as they heard the front door slam.  "Who the devil does he think he is?"

"Just calm down," Patterson sighed and then pulled her into his comforting arms.  "Don't let Dane get to you.  He can be a little pig headed.  He'll come around and see that you're not as horrible as he thinks you are."

"I don't care what Dane Manchester thinks about me!" she snapped.  "He can think that I'm the devil incarnate for all I care!"  Resting her head on Patterson's shoulder, Stephanie took a deep breath and began to feel herself calm down.  The security of Patterson's arms had always seemed to have a reassuring effect on her and now wasn't any different.

"I know that you don't care about Dane," he muttered softly as he relished the feel of her in his arms, "but...well...can't you at least try to get along with him.  It would make living here a whole lot easier if you two weren't fighting all the time."

"I hate it here," she grumbled.  "Even though it's been great to be around Sara, trying to put everything that happened between us in the past, having to be here with Dane just ruins it.  I don't think I can stand to be here another minute!"

"Well, you're going to have to be here for a little longer than that," Patterson reminded.  "You're not going to be able to afford to move out onto you own until you've been working for a while and saved up enough money."

"I know."

"Speaking of which, I better go home and let you work on tomorrow's script."  He pulled away from her and headed for the door.  "The harder you work, the sooner it will be."

"Another fight with Dane and it might be sooner than you think," she laughed.

"Just keep yourself focused," Patterson reminded.  "It'll all come together and you'll wonder how you ever doubted yourself."

After Patterson had left, Stephanie flopped down on the sofa and took a deep breath before opening her script to reread her lines for her next show.  However, as she read the dialog of her character's trials, she couldn't help but think of her own.  With a determined nod of her head, she decided that moving out of the house and away from Dane had to be her top priority.  After that, she could think about finally showing Sara exactly what kind of a horrible man that she'd married.

ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - EMERGENCY ROOM

"Where's Daddy?" Judith asked again as her eyes darted from Jillian to Reginald and then to Talbot.  "Why won't any of you tell me?"

"Judith, I..." Jillian spoke up softly, unsure of how to break the tragic news.  Of course, how could she tell Judith that their father, whom Judith's loved more than anything, was dead?  Realizing that there was no putting off the inevitable, Jillian inhaled deeply and prayed for strength as she grabbed Reginald's hand tightly.  "J-Judith....he's..."

"Judith, dear, your father is dead," Talbot interrupted, sparing Jillian the horrible task of revealing the heartbreaking news.  "He didn't survive the accident."

"D-dead?" Judith stammered as she stared at the doctor with vacant eyes.  "N-no, there's...got to be some kind of m-mistake.  Daddy can't be..."

"Judith, it's going to be all right," Jillian spoke softly as she began to draw upon her own secret well of strength.  She had to push her own grief aside for the moment and think about her sister.  "Dr. Campbell said that he died instantly.  That means that he didn't suffer and..."

"No!" Judith cried out and slowly began to back away from them.  "Why...are you saying these horrible things?  Why are you lying to me like this?"

"Judith, I know that this is going to be difficult for you to accept," Jillian continued in a soft, comforting tone as she tried to chose her words carefully, "but there's nothing that we can do about it now.  We've...just got to make it through the best that we can and..."

"No!" Judith screamed.  "Daddy can't be dead!"  Then suddenly, she turned and began to race down the hallway away from them.  "Daddy?  Daddy!  Oh, Daddy, where are you?  Why...are you doing this?  Why are you..."

About halfway down the hallway, Judith froze in her tracks and buried her face in her hands as she began to sob.  The truth had finally hit her.  Her daddy was dead.  With that realization, she began to shake and fell to her knees crying.

"Oh, Daddy!" she wailed.  "Daddy!  I'm...sorry!  You told me...to...s-slow down!  I'm sorry!"

"Reginald, I knew this would happen," Jillian muttered as her eyes began to fill with tears.  "I don't...know how any...of us can...accept this."

"Honey, I know," Reginald replied softly as he took her into his arms and held her tightly.  "I know."

"J-Judith," Talbot spoke up as he slowly walked down the hallway to her.  "Judith, you don't have to...go through this alone."

"Oh, Talbot," she sobbed as she turned to look up at him through her tears.  "It's...all my...fault.  I...killed him."

"No, you didn't," he correctly sternly and then held out his hand so that he could help her rise to her feet.  "It was an accident.  The roads were wet and you know how bad that curve can be.  The brakes failed.  There's nothing you could have done."

"But it...should have been....me," she cried and then fell into his arms.  "It should have been...me....and not...Daddy."

As Talbot wrapped his arms around Judith to comfort her, they were being watched by Nurse Rutledge.  In fact, they were being watched very closely.  At the site of Talbot and Judith's embrace, Nurse Rutledge immediately ducked behind the nurses' desk and quickly picked up the telephone to place a very important call.

"Hello?" she spoke softly into the receiver.  "Corrine, dear, it's Fay.  Yes.  Remember how you asked me to keep an eye on your husband?  Well, you just won't believe what I'm seeing!"

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Let's see," Stephanie muttered to herself as she curled up on the sofa and began to go over her script.  "I'm supposed to give Prudence a pep talk about moving on with her life even though her fiancé is dead.  But...then I'm supposed to have a dinner date and..."  She furrowed her brow as she read her lines to herself.  "And from what Mr. Lowell told me, I eventually fall in love with this guy and it turns out to be my sister's fiancé who everyone thinks is dead?  That's the silliest thing I've ever heard.  People just don't come back from the dead!  I guess they think that just because this is some silly washboard weeper that listeners will buy anything."

Suddenly, the loud ringing of the doorbell intruded on Stephanie's studies and she paused as she waited for Helga to answer it.  After a few more loud chimes, she realized that Helga wasn't there.  She was out at the movies.

"I guess that I'll just have to get that myself," she grumbled and tossed her script aside so that she could get the door.  "Who in the world could be stopping by at this time of night, anyway?"  Who, indeed!  "H-hello?"

"Hello, Princess."

Shock would not be an accurate word to describe Stephanie's reaction from seeing her father on the other side of the doorway.  He had, after all, been dead for years!  Of course, he'd only been presumed dead, but...well...dead was dead!  Unless it was one of those silly serials which, suddenly, didn't quite seem so silly anymore.

"D-Daddy?" she muttered awkwardly and reached out to grab the doorframe in an attempt to steady herself.  "D-D-Daddy?"

"Yes, Princess, it's me," Stephen Lake smiled warmly as he reached out for her.  "I'm here.  There's nothing for you to worry about ever again."

"But...but..."  She slowly began to back away from the door.  Surely, she was seeing a ghost.  It couldn't be her father.  He was dead!  No, it had to be someone who looked eerily like him.  It had to be some sort of cruel trick!  "My father's dead!  You can't be him!  No, you're...just someone who looks like him.  Who...put you up to this?  It was Dane, wasn't it?  He's trying to...get even with me for..."

"No, Stephanie, I'm not someone who just looks like your father," he spoke slowly and clearly.  He knew how much of a shock that his arrival was for her and knew that he had to approaching things very carefully.  "I am your father.  And I'm very much alive, I might add."

"Daddy?"  She paused and looked at him closely.  It looked like her father, but how could she be certain?  How could she truly know that it was him?

"Do you remember when you were little and I would read you all of those fairy tales?" he asked as he slowly moved closer to her.  "You were the princess who was always waiting for your prince."

"And you always used to say that life could really be like a fairy tale..."

"But sometimes you've just got to help it along a little."  The memory of her, as a little girl, sitting on his lap as he read bedtime stories to her made him smile.

"Daddy, is it...really you?"

"Yes, Princess, it's really me.  I know that...I've been gone a long time, but...you've got to understand that I didn't want it to be like that."

"But...but they told me that you were dead!"  Stephanie eyed him curiously, still not fully willing to believe that her father was alive.  "Momma said that..."

"Let's not talk about your mother," he muttered softly.  "I'd rather not...think about her right now."

"Did you know that she's...dead?"

"Yes, dear.  I know all about that," he nodded.  "I...read it in the newspapers.  They said she was murdered?"

"Yes," Stephanie muttered, the loss of her mother still too fresh in her own heart.  "It was all so...horrible.  I...I'm the one who found her."

"Oh, no," he gasped and then reached out to take her into his arms.  "You shouldn't have...had to go through that!  I'm...so sorry.  I..."

"Oh, Daddy, it's really you, isn't it?"  She pulled away from him slightly and looked up to gaze into his eyes.  It was him!  It was her father.  He wasn't dead at all.

"It's really me."

With his arms still around her, the slowly walked back into the library where he casually glanced around the room.

"It looks like you've done pretty well for yourself," Stephen commented.  "This is a very nice home you have here."

"It's not...mine," Stephanie confessed with a sigh.  "It's Sara's and her husband Dane's."

"My, my," he chuckled warmly.  "You mean little Sara is married?  My lord, I can still remember the two of you playing in the back yard.  Remember when she pushed you down and you ruined your brand new dress?"

"Oh, my god!" she gasped.  "I do remember!  Oh, I hated her for that.  I loved that dress!  I got even with her, though."

"Yes, but tying her pigtails in knots while she was asleep wasn't a very nice thing to do."

"She left me alone after that, though, didn't she?"  She couldn't help but laugh at the memory.  Sara had refused to talk to her for weeks!  Of course, that was after hours of trying to unknot her hair without having to cut it all off.

"Yes, she did," he nodded.  "No one hurts my little girl.  No one.  I've made sure of that."

"Huh?"  Stephanie eyed him curiously.  "What...are you talking about?"

"Well, after I went away, your mother took you and disappeared," he began to explain as he continued to walk around the room.  "It took me a long time to find you.  I never stopped looking.  Once I'd managed to locate you here in Albanyville, I kept a close watch over you.  I would have...come to see you sooner, but...well...I wasn't sure how you'd react to me."

"Oh, Daddy, you don't know how many times I'd lay in bed at night and dream that you were coming back for me," she sighed dreamily.  "I missed you so much."  She paused and furrowed her brow slightly.  "Daddy, why did you go away?  Why did everyone think you were dead?"

"Well, I didn't have much of a choice," he sighed with a shake of his head.  "I had gotten into...well...some trouble, you could say.  I'm sure that you remember those 'friends' of mine that would stop by all the time."

"I never did like them," she grumbled and scrunched up her nose as she shook her head.  "They were always so mean and rude---pushing you around and stuff."

"They weren't the nicest of guys," he admitted.  "Anyway, they had it in for me.  I disappeared and went into hiding for a while in hopes that they would just give up and move on.  But, guys like that don't give up.  Finally, in an attempt to get to me, they threatened you.  I..."  He winced slightly as if the memory were too painful, but still continued.  "I realized that the best way to keep you safe would be to make everyone think that I was dead.  Once everything had settled down, I'd always planned to come back for you, but...well...you're mother took you and disappeared."

"Oh, Daddy," she gasped.  "And you...you've been looking for me all this time?"

"All this time," Stephen smiled.  "But now that I've found you, nothing is ever going to keep us apart again."  He paused and took a deep breath.  "Now, come on, Princess, it's time for us to go."

"Go?"  Stephanie eyed her father curiously.  "Go where?  What do you mean?"

"It's time for us to leave Albanyville.  It's time for us to finally be together."  He held out his hand for her.  "C'mon, Stephanie, it's time for us to go."

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Stephanie's dream turns into a nightmare.

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

©2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions