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

 

EPISODE #122 (Tuesday, 6/11/02)
A Few Days Later
March, 1936 - Late Afternoon

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"Did I do all right?" Janet Stokes asked nervously as she sat on the sofa and sipped her tea.  "I didn't...say anything wrong, did I?"

"You were wonderful!" Jillian Stokes exclaimed and patted her sister on the hand.  "You went right into that hearing and told the judge exactly what you saw the night Annabelle was killed.  There's no way that Reginald's mother could have done it.  You saw Stephen Lake kill Annabelle and that's exactly what you told them."

"Yes, but the district attorney sure made some compelling points in his attempt to discredit her statement," Mark Linford spoke up as he stood at the bar, mixing himself a martini.  "Janet does have a past history of mental instability as well as memory loss."

"Mark's right, dear," Judith Linford sighed with a shake of her head.  "How are we to know that all of this wasn't just something that our little Janet simply made up in her head?  Lord only knows what really goes on inside that brain of hers!"

"Would you please stop talking about me like I'm not here!" Janet snapped and then fidgeted nervously in her seat.  "I know what I saw!  I saw Annabelle's husband murder her!"

"We know that, darling," Burt Lamont said softly as he sat down next to her and took her into his arms, "and we believe you.  We know that you didn't make any of this up, but...well...the district attorney and the judge don't know you like we do and..."

"And we're just praying that your statement will be enough," Jillian sighed with a shake of her head.  "Reginald and his family have been through too much over these past few months.  Surely they can see that Francis didn't do it.  Maybe this will be enough to convince them to, at the very least, postpone the trial."

"I just don't know why they shuffled all of us out of the court room," Burt muttered as he rubbed his chin in thought.  "Who else could possibly show up to testify?  Why would they seal the courtroom except for Francis' immediate family?"

"I...don't know," Jillian replied.  "But, whoever it was, it must have been important to..."

"Well, well, well!  Looks like the entire family's here!" Dr. Fred Rutherford exclaimed as he came through the door, closely followed by Leticia Stokes.  "Looks like we won't have to call a family meeting after all."

"Mother!  You're back!" Jillian exclaimed and rushed over to hug her tightly.  "How was New York?  Did you...take care of everything?"

"Yes," Leticia nodded weakly.  She began to feel a rising lump in her throat and she turned to quickly glance in Fred's direction.  He returned her look with a silent nod.  "Girls, there's...something that I...have to tell you."

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Now, just come right in here and sit down," Patterson Monroe said as he led Stephanie Lake through the large doors of the library.  "You've had a big day today and you need to rest."

"And I've got your room upstairs all fixed up for you," Sara Manchester continued as she trailed along behind them, carrying her cousin's suitcase.  "The only thing I want you to be concerned about is resting and getting back to normal."

"Honestly, I don't know why you're making such a big fuss over her," Dane Manchester sighed with a roll of his eyes.  "It's just Stephanie, after all.  She runs off with her dear old daddy, he flips out and goes loony, and she shoots him and..."

"Dane, will you just shut up!" Patterson snapped as he wrapped his arms protectively around Stephanie's shoulders.  "Stephanie's been through an unbelievable ordeal.  The last thing she needs is your 'expert' summarization!"

"You know, this is just a bit too much for me today," Dane grumbled.  "Why don't I just leave you alone to share this tender moment."  With his jaw clinched in annoyance, Dane headed for the front door.  Moments later, the sound of the door slamming shut echoed throughout the house.

"Stephanie, I'm...sorry about the way Dane's behaving," Sara spoke up softly.  "After everything you've been through, that's the last thing you need."

"It's okay," Stephanie sighed as she hung her head.  "After all, it's Dane!  What else could we expect from him?"

"Look, I'm going to take your things upstairs and give you two a chance to be alone."  Sara carried the suitcase towards the stairs.  "If you need anything, just call for either me or Helga and we'll be right here."

"Thank you, Sara," Stephanie smiled gratefully.

Once they were alone in the room, Patterson reached over and took Stephanie's hand into his.  "I was very proud of you today, Steph."

"Proud of me?"  She furrowed her brow in confusion.  "For what?"

"Oh, c'mon!" he laughed.  "You just got out of the hospital today and---before you even came home---you went to Francis Callison's hearing so that you could testify about what your father did.  You didn't have to do that, you know."

"Yes, I did have to do that," she insisted firmly.  "Mrs. Callison didn't kill my mother; Daddy did.  I couldn't just...let her take the blame for that.  I had to tell the truth.  That family's been through too much as it is.  It was the right thing to do."  She paused and let out a small laugh.  "Gee.  The right thing to do.  Who would ever have thought that I would do the right thing?"

"You've come a long way, honey," he nodded and gave her hand a squeeze.  "You're not the same girl you were a year ago."  He wrapped his arm around her and pulled her closer.  "I knew that you'd do the right thing."

"I just don't understand why they made such a big deal about my testimony.  I mean, they cleared the courtroom except for the Callisons and you and Sara.  Why the secrecy?  Why the big deal?"

"Well, I have to take responsibility for that," Patterson confessed.  "After everything you've been through these past few weeks, I didn't want to subject you to a bunch of overzealous reporters and gawkers.  I...um...asked Mr. Callison to make sure that you would be given a certain level of privacy.  He agreed with me."

"You...did that for me?"

"Darling, I'd do anything for you!"  He leaned in and kissed her tenderly on the cheek.  "Can't you see that?"

"Actually, yes, I can."  Stephanie looked away from him, a little embarrassed by the fluttery feeling that was stirring inside of her.  However, when she turned, her eyes landed on a framed photograph of her father holding her and Sara when they were little girls.  Seeing the picture of her father sent a chill through her body and she immediately began to remember the night that he'd reappeared to her after having been thought dead for years---the night that he forcibly took her with him.

"S-Stephanie, are you...all right?" Patterson asked with concern.  "You look..."

"I'm fine," she replied almost too quickly.

"No, you're not."  He kept his eyes locked on her as he watched her expressions.  Suddenly, it dawned on him.  "It's being here, isn't it?  Being in this room---in this house---is reminding you of...."

Before he could finish, she nodded silently.

"Well, then, how about I get you out of here for a bit," he suggested with excitement.  "I know that Dr. Campbell wanted you to rest, but do you think you're feeling up to going out to lunch?  Maybe The Gardens?"

"I'd love to."  She bowed her head sweetly, touched by his display of thoughtfulness.  "But, Sara's been so busy trying to get everything ready for me that I'm not sure I should..."

"She's going to understand," he reassured firmly.  "Now, get your jacket on and c'mon.  I'm getting you out of here."  He took her by the hand and led her into the library before turning to call up the stairs.  "Sara!  I'm taking Stephanie out to lunch!  We'll be back later!"  And with that, he gave her hand another gentle squeeze and smiled at her lovingly before leading her out the door.

THE DAVIS HOME - LIVING ROOM

"Now, you just sit right there and let me fix you some hot tea," Douglas Davis smiled as he hurried around the room.  "I don't want you to have to lift a finger to do anything."

"Douglas, I'm fine!" Lorraine Davis laughed before leaning over to the bassinet that sat next to her so that she could brush a lock of hair out of their newborn baby's face.  "I had a baby.  It's not like no one's ever had a baby before."

"Yes, but you had quite a few problems," he reminded before turning to see his sister Grace Davis coming down the stairs.  "And, Grace, I want you to help out, too."

"O-okay," she nodded weakly.  She was clearly off in her own world and was only half-listening to what he was saying.

"Are you...all right?" he asked with concern as he looked at her curiously.  "You don't seem...like yourself."

"I'm fine," she muttered before biting her lip in an effort to keep it from quivering.  She'd felt on the verge of tears for days---often bursting out into hysterical fits of sobbing during which she'd lock herself in her room.  She'd managed to keep her heightened emotional state a secret, but was realizing that she wouldn't be able to keep it a secret forever.  However, now was not the time.  She just couldn't bear to tell them what was going on.

"Honey, you don't look fine," Lorraine spoke up and then rose from her seat to walk over to her sister-in-law.  "Are you sure you're feeling okay?"  She reached out and placed the back of her hand on Grace's forehead.  "Hmmm.  You don't feel hot.  You don't have a fever."

"I said that I'm fine!" Grace snapped angrily just as the doorbell rang.

Lorraine and Douglas simply stood and stared at Grace, both quite taken aback by her outburst.  However, before either one of them could say anything in response, the doorbell rang again.

"You just hold that thought," Lorraine said firmly.  "Let me get rid of whoever that is and we'll continue this.  There's clearly something wrong with you and we're going to find out what it is."  She quickly walked over to the door and flung it open only to be completely surprised by their unexpected visitor.  "M-mom?"

"Lorraine!" Edwina Blake exclaimed and set down her suitcase and armload of gifts to open her arms wide so that she could hug her daughter.  "Oh, it's so good to see you!"

"W-what are you doing here?" Lorraine asked, still slightly in shock.  "Where's Dad?"

"He's knee deep in classes and the university couldn't let him have time off," Edwina explained as she picked up her things and carried them into the house, only to have Douglas rush to her side to lend assistance.  "Besides, you didn't actually think that I was going to let you have a baby and not come to see you, did you?"

"Of...course not," Lorraine smiled before closing the door and turning to follow her mother and husband back into the living room.

"Mrs. Blake, it's so good to finally meet you in person," Douglas said politely as he hugged his mother-in-law and gave her a warm peck on the cheek.  "I know we've chatted on the phone several times, but..."

"I completely understand," Edwina laughed.  "I hope you don't mind my just dropping in?"

"Not at all, Mom!" Lorraine exclaimed.  "We just weren't...expecting you.  I wished you'd have at least called.  We could have picked you up at the airport."

"Oh, that's quite all right."  Edwina carefully looked around the room.  "Now where's the precious grandbaby of mine?"  Instantly, she caught sight of the bassinette and rushed over to pick up little Mikey.  "He's adorable!  You two must be so happy."

"We are, Mom, we are."  Lorraine stood beside her husband and wrapped her arm around him, hugging him tightly.  "And you must be Grace," she smiled when she saw the young woman standing quietly off to the side.  "Lorraine has told me so much about you.  It's nice to finally meet you, too."

"T-thank you," Grace muttered softly, more than a little uncomfortable.

"You must be so excited about having a new baby in the house," Edwina continued as she cradled Mikey in her arms.  "In my opinion, babies just brighten up a home unlike anything else in the world.  Of course, dear, I'm sure that you're finding that out."

"I...I..." Grace stammered, unsure of what to say.  Suddenly, she felt her lip begin to quiver again as tears began to well up in her eyes and she quickly bolted from the room leaving everyone else in utter shock.

"W-what did I say?" Edwina asked in confusion as she looked at both Douglas and Lorraine for some kind of answer.  "I...didn't mean to upset her.  I was just talking about the baby and..."

"It's...all right," Douglas sighed and then took the baby from her arms.  "She's been acting rather strangely for weeks.  We don't...know what's wrong with her.  I thought that maybe she was sick, but she insists that she's fine and..."

"Hmmm."  Edwina paused and furrowed her brow as she thought.  "She won't tell you what's the matter?  Certainly, there's something the matter.  People just don't react like that for no reason."

"We know that, Mother," Lorraine responded.  "We just can't get her to talk about what's got her so upset.  It's almost as if she's trying to seal herself off from everyone."

"Well, maybe she won't talk to either one of you because she's too close to you," Edwina rationalized.  "Maybe that makes her uncomfortable.  Let me go see if I can get her to talk about what's wrong."  She quickly began to follow Grace into the kitchen.

"No, Mom, don't!" Lorraine spoke up firmly.  "I don't think that you prying into her personal matters is going to accomplish anything.  She doesn't know you.  I might do more harm than good."

"Yes, I suppose you're right," Edwina sighed with a nod.  "It's just that, well, even I can tell that she's acting peculiar.  I mean, she's almost acting just like you did when..."  She quickly stopped herself mid-sentence when she realized that she was about to voice an unfounded speculation.

"When I what, Mother?"

"I...um..." Edwina stammered.  "When you were that age.  Grace is only about eighteen, isn't she?  Well, Lorraine, you were quite moody at that age.  Why, you could go for weeks at a time without even saying two words to me or your father."

"Yes, I remember," Lorraine sighed and shook her head.  "But I don't think it's as simple as that.  There has to be more to it than that."

"I agree," Douglas nodded as he handed Mikey to Lorraine.  "She's just...not herself."

As Lorraine cradled her baby in her arms, she carefully thought about Grace and her odd behavior.  Yes, something was definitely wrong and Lorraine was most certainly worried.  With a look of firm determination, she made a silent vow to found out exactly what was going on.

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"What kind...of announcement?" Jillian asked nervously as her eyes darted back and forth from her mother to Fred.

"With any luck, she's going to tell us that she's realized what kind of louse this man is and that she's going bounce him out on his ear!" Judith spoke up as she glared at Fred.  "Honestly, mother, how you can even think of betraying Daddy like this is..."

"Judith, that will be enough," Leticia replied calmly.  "The last thing I want to hear is you rambling on about what a horrible, wicked person I am for 'betraying' your father.  Not now."  She glanced over at Fred who simply smiled and nodded.

"Now, if you'll all listen, your mother will tell you all the big news," Fred said, oozing uncharacteristic warmth.

Judith exhaled slowly, realizing that she wouldn't get anywhere until she allowed her mother to make her announcement.  "Oh, all right," she muttered with resignation.  "So, what's this 'news' that you're making sound so important?"

"Actually, I'm rather curious about that, myself," Jillian nodded.  "Mother, what's going on?  What do you want to tell us?"

"Well, I..." Leticia began tentatively and then paused to look at Fred for reassurance.  "I'm sure that what I have to tell you will come as quite a shock.  Ideally, the timing would have been better and I would have been able to prepare you for this, but...."  She paused again as she carefully looked into the eyes of her daughters who were now all standing right in front of her hanging on her every word.

"Go on, Momma," Janet urged.  "We're listening."

"I...know that this will probably be difficult news for you to hear, but...."  She stopped and looked at Fred again before giving a subtle shake of her head.  She couldn't do it.  Leticia couldn't muster up the strength to tell them.

"What your mother is trying to say is..."  Fred took his own brief pause and grabbed hold of Leticia's hand in a display of unity and support.  "Well, your mother and I were married in New York."

"W-what?" Jillian gasped.  "Did you say married?"

"Oh, certainly they didn't!" Judith laughed.  "Clearly you've misunderstood.  Mother couldn't have married this...this man.  That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard!  Why, for all her faults, she's got entirely too much class to..."

"No, Judith, you heard Fred correctly," Leticia spoke up, her confidence rising.  "We were married in New York.  Fred is now my husband."

"Mother, you can't be serious," Judith hissed through clinched teeth.  "Certainly you wouldn't betray Daddy like this.  He's barely dead and you've run off and married this...this...low life?"  Her eyes grew wide as the announcement began to sink in and she shook her head in disbelief.  "Mother!  How could you?  How could you do this to Daddy?"

"I didn't do anything to your father!" Leticia snapped angrily.  "This has nothing to do with him.  This has everything to do with me and Fred.  Your father is dead."

"But, Mother!"

"No!"  Leticia felt the muscles in her neck begin to tighten and she gripped her new husband's hand for strength and support.  "I won't hear another word!  Your father and I were going to be divorced.  It's not like I've run off on him.  Fred and I...love one another very much and..."

"I can't believe that I'm hearing this!" Judith screeched and covered her hears with her hands as she shook her head violently.  "No!  I won't allow this!  I won't allow you to do this to Daddy!"

"You don't have a say in this!"

"You've lost your mind!  That's it!" Judith screamed even louder.  "You've turned old and senile.  That's the only explanation..."

"Judith, just calm down," Mark spoke up as he came up behind her and placed a firm hand on her shoulder.  "This isn't going to..."

"Don't touch me!" Judith spat as she jerked away from her own husband.  "Don't you dare touch me!  I bet you're all in favor of this, aren't you?  You'd be in favor of anything that would hurt me!"

"Judith, this has nothing to do with you," he retorted in disgust.  "Why do you think that everything that happens has to be about you?"

"W-well," Janet spoke up tentatively, "if this is...what you want, Momma, then I'm...very happy for you."

"Thank you, Janet," Leticia smiled although she kept her eyes firmly on her eldest daughter.  "I knew that if anyone would be happy for me, it would be you."

"M-Mother, I'm happy for you, too," Jillian explained carefully and reached out to take her mother's hands.  "I'm just a little...shocked, that's all."

"Oh!  I'm so happy for you," Judith spat as she mocked her younger sisters.  "You two disgust me!  How could you act this way about Daddy?  Didn't he mean anything to either one of you?  How can you just..."

"Judith, this has nothing to do with our father!" Jillian stated firmly and shot her sister an angry look.  "This is about our mother and what she's decided to do for her own happiness.  We have to..."

"I don't have to do anything!" Judith shouted angrily and then began to storm towards the front door.  "You can stand there and play welcome wagon for this...this...this two bit flimflam man, but I refuse to lower my standards as our mother seems to have so readily done!  Unlike you, I still hold our father near and dear to my heart and I...and I..."  She paused only long enough to choke back her tears of mourning and anger.  "I refuse to turn my back on him!"

As the front door slammed loudly, sending echoes throughout the house, Fred awkwardly glanced at his new bride and inhaled deeply.  He instantly realized that getting the wealthy widow to the altar had been the easy part.  Making it past the intense scrutiny of her daughters---Judith most especially---was going to be the real challenge.

THE CALLISON HOME - LIVING ROOM

"I-Is that it?" Francis Callison asked as she followed her husband, Charles, through the front door of their home.  "Is it really over?"

"It's really over, Mom," Reginald Callison smiled as he and his siblings, Trevor and Maggie Callison, and their grandmother, Mary Albany, came into the house behind his parents.  "I think that the greatest words I've ever heard were when the judge said 'case dismissed!'"

"I just...can't believe that it's really over," Francis sighed with an astonished shake of her head.  "All of these long, horrible months that we've gone through are finally over.  And...and the craziest thing of all is that we have Stephanie to thank for it."

"You're right, dear," Charles Callison agreed with a nod of his head.  "No matter what that girl has done in the past, she's really come through for us.  If it weren't for her testimony, you wouldn't be..."

"Certainly you're not saying that you're intent on showing gratitude to...to Stephanie Lake, are you?" Reginald gasped in surprise.  "She's done nothing but lie and cheat and..."

"And without her statement against her own father, our mother would still be awaiting trial for murder," Trevor reminded pointedly.  "I hate to admit it, but we really do owe her a lot."

"I'm with Reginald," Maggie spoke up snottily.  "After everything she did to him and Jillian, I don't see how we can..."

"Margaret Rose, that will be enough," Mary chastised firmly as she laid a cautionary hand on her granddaughter's shoulder.

"But...but..." Maggie stammered.  "Did you see how Paddy was hovering over her?  It's...it's almost like he was connected to her hip!"

"Besides," Reginald interrupted, "we really didn't need Stephanie's testimony.  After all, Janet was an eye witness to the murder.  She's the one who saw Stephen Lake kill Annabelle---not Stephanie!"

"Yes, but...well..." Charles said cautiously, "certainly you realize that Janet Stokes' tenuous mental history would have become twisted in the district attorney's hands.  He would have used her past to discredit what she saw.  I agree that Janet's testimony was important, but..."

"What I think Dad is trying to say is that even though Janet was an eyewitness, it wasn't enough," Trevor chimed in.  "Douglas needed more to prove Mom's innocence.  That D.A. would have torn Janet apart.  Stephanie's testimony was just what we needed.  How could the D.A. argue against a girl who was testifying to the fact that her own father---who, incidentally, kidnapped her---confessed to killing her mother."

"Well..." Reginald muttered with annoyance.  "I just don't like feeling as if we owe her anything.  After everything she's done..."

"Darling, I understand how you feel considering the past that you and Jillian have with her," Francis said softly as she laid a gentle hand on her son's shoulder, "but she had nothing to do with what horrible things her parents did.  Remember, as soon as she found out what length's her mother had gone to to keep me and your father apart, she came to me with the truth.  And she didn't have to testify against her father in my behalf.  She did it because she came forward on her own and wanted to."

"I agree with your mother," Charles smiled as he finished pouring the last glass of champagne and then handed a glass to each member of his family.  "Only apple cider for you, Maggie."

"Oh!" Maggie grumbled and made a face as she scrunched up her nose.

"Now, I'd like to propose a toast," Charles spoke up as he lifted his glass in the air, signifying for everyone else to do the same.  "I just wish that Douglas could have been here to share in this moment.  We really owe him a lot, as well."

"Well, dear, he does have that new baby at home," Francis reminded as she took her husband's arm.  "Certainly you remember what that's like---not wanting to be away from the baby for even a moment."

"Yes, I do," Charles grinned and looked proudly at each of his children before kissing her tenderly on the cheek.  "Now, as I was saying---a toast.  To the person who made this wonderful, joyous moment possible.  To the person responsible for clearing your mother's name as well as the good name of this family."

Reginald and Maggie quickly glanced at one another and raised their glasses reluctantly.

"To Stephanie!"

THE GARDENS RESTAURANT

"Now, isn't this much better?" Patterson smiled as he sat across the table from Stephanie.  "There are just...too many bad memories in that house for you, right now.  Maybe you should considering moving out sooner than you'd planned to."

"I'd...really like that," she agreed with a nod, "but...well...that takes money and...."  She paused and bit her lip as she looked away.  "I was saving up to get a place of my own.  That's why I took that job on that serial, but...well...then I...disappeared and...."  She paused and took a deep breath.  "I'm sure that they've fired me.  I know that they've recast my part with somebody else."

"Well, not necessarily," he smiled slyly.

"W-what?"  Stephanie eyed him curiously.  "Surely, they didn't just save the part for me.  I mean, I just vanished without a word---no phone call, no letter.  I just didn't show up for work!  Patty is an important character.  They couldn't just ignore her until I came back."  She paused and took a deep breath as she looked down at her hands that were tightly clasped together in her lap.  "Even I didn't know if I was coming back."

"I knew you were coming back," Patterson said firmly.  "And I...well...hope you don't mind, but I took the liberty of seeing Mr. Lowell a few weeks ago."

"You did what?"

"I...I told him about what had happened with your father and...well...explained the situation and..."

"Oh, Paddy, you didn't!" she gasped and then buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.

"I'm sorry, but..."  He reached across the table and took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze.  "Well, they did recast your part, but the actress really wasn't that good.  From what Mr. Lowell said, even though you haven't been on the show that long, you've developed quite a loyal following. The audience just refused to accept the other actress in your role and demanded that the real Patience Hart return!"

"T-they did?"

"Yep," he smile broadly.  "And after I assured Mr. Lowell that you would return, he simply fired your replacement and sent Patty up to her room to knit.  In fact, I talked to him just today right before I came to pick you up from the hospital.  He said that your role is ready and waiting for you whenever you're ready to go back to work."

"Oh, Paddy!  That's...wonderful!" Stephanie exclaimed and then jumped out of her chair to rush to his side and threw her arms around him.  "You did all of that for me?  You...risked your life to save me and now...now you've saved my job?"

"Steph, it's like I told you."  He grinned as he held her chin in his hand and gazed deeply into her eyes.  "I'd move heaven and earth for you.  I...love you, Stephanie Lake.  I love you."

"Oh, Paddy, I...I..."  Her voice caught in her throat.  "I love you, too!  When I...was gone, I d-didn't think I was ever going to see you again and I...I just couldn't bear the thought of it, but...but...I knew in my heart that if anyone was going to save me, it was going to be you and...."  She paused and looked away as she fought back her tears.

"Stephanie, I love you," he said again and took her into his arms.  "I'll scream it from the highest rooftop in Albanyville if I have to."

"P-Paddy, I...I..." she said in between sobs as she rested her head on his shoulder.  "I was so scared.  I k-knew that he was...my f-father, but...but..."

"It's okay, honey, it's okay."  He held her even tighter and gently stroked her hair as her body began to shake due to her emotional sobs.

"I'm...sorry," she muttered softly and then pulled away from him so that she could look into his eyes.  In response, he lifted his hand to her cheek and brushed away her tears.  "You have no idea how happy I am, right now, but...but..."  Her voice caught in her throat and she quickly looked away.  "But just remembering how I felt when I didn't know if I was ever coming home---if I was ever going to see you again."

"It's all right," Patterson said reassuringly.  "I understand.  You've been through an ordeal that no one should ever have to go through."

"Thank you," she smiled weakly.  "Thank you for being there for me.  Thank you for saving me.  Thank you for being my friend and...loving me."  As she began to wipe away her own tears, she laughed uncomfortably.  "I must...really look a mess, right now."

"You look beautiful to me."

"Well, that's just because you're apparently blinded by love," she laughed as she touched him lightly on the cheek.  "Everybody else is going to see me as the stupid girl whose make-up is a complete disaster."  She laughed warmly.  "Now, I'm going to go to the ladies room and pull myself together."

"You just hurry back," he smiled again.  "We've spent entirely too much time apart, as it is, and I never want to be separated from you again."

Stephanie grinned broadly as she rose from her seat then kissed her index finger and pressed it to Patterson's lips before hurrying off to the ladies' room.  Once inside, she stood at the vanity and gazed at her reflection in the mirror.  Although she could clearly see that she was a mess, she inhaled deeply and smiled.  Patterson loved her.  He loved her!  No matter what horrible, awful things that she'd done in the past, he'd managed to look over them and love her!  As she exhaled slowly, she smiled.  Maybe there really was such a thing as a happy ending.

"Hello, Stephanie," came the unfortunately familiar voice from behind her that immediately caused Stephanie's body to grow tense.

"Helen!" Stephanie said as she spun around to face her.  "What do you want?"

"I just...wanted to tell you that...I'm glad that you okay," Helen replied awkwardly.  "I know that none of what's happened has been easy for you and..."

"Oh, just save it!" Stephanie snapped angrily.  "I have nothing to say to you!"  She balled her hands up into fists and prepared to push past her foe.

"Stephanie, wait!" Helen spoke up and reached out to grab Stephanie's arm.  "I'm not here to cause trouble.  Honestly, I'm not.  I just want to offer my...condolences over what happened to...your father.  That's the truth.  I don't care what problems there might be between us or what you've done in the past, no one should have to..."

"Oh, I see, now," Stephanie spat smugly.  "You're just trying to get on my good side so that I'll keep my mouth shut!  I bet you were really praying that I'd dropped off the face of the earth!"

"N-no!" Helen insisted.  "That's not...how it was, at all!"

"I just bet it was!" Stephanie seethed angrily.  "Well, you just remember that I know all about how you like to chase after every available---and not so available---man that you can find!"

"Oh, you're a fine one to talk," Helen retorted, her sense of cordialness quickly disappearing.  "I saw you all snuggled up to Patterson Monroe, out there.  What, you couldn't connive your way back into Reginald's life so you decided to go after his best friend?"

"You shut up about Paddy!" Stephanie shouted.  "Shut up about Paddy and stay far, far away from me!  I don't want to have anything to do with you.  Do you hear me?  Nothing!  You leave me alone or I'll go straight to Jillian and tell her about how your having an affair with her sister's husband.  Certainly you wouldn't want that, now would you?"

"You leave Mark out of this!"

"Well, well, well," came a voice from the doorway, startling them and causing them to spin around in its direction.

"I...um...we..." Stephanie stammered, unsure of what to say or how to react.

"Yes, very well put.  Now, why don't you tell me all about this affair that you're having with my husband!"

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

There's a meeting in the ladies room.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions