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

 

EPISODE #123 (Wednesday, 6/19/02)
Same Day
March, 1936 - Late Afternoon

THE GARDENS RESTAURANT - LADIES' ROOM

"Stephanie, wait!" Helen Van Dyne spoke up and reached out to grab Stephanie Lake'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!"

THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM

"Well, Dr. Rutherford---I mean, Fred---I guess that all that's left to say is 'congratulations'," Burt Lamont smiled as he walked over to him and extended his hand.  "I have to agree this is all, well, rather unexpected, but I hope for only the best for you and your new wife."

"And I'll second that," Mark Linford spoke up as he, too, shook the doctor's hand while giving Burt an uncomfortable glance.  "Welcome to the family.  You'll just have to ignore my wife.  She can be a little...well..."

"Difficult?"

"Well, that's not exactly the word I was searching for," Mark laughed, "but it'll do."

"Dr. Rutherford," Janet spoke up as she, too, approached him.

"Please, Janet, call me 'Fred'," he smiled warmly.  "After all, I am...well...your step-father, now.  There's no need to be quite so formal."

"All right, Fred," she blushed.  "I just...wanted to say that I support both you and my mother.  I just want you both to be very happy."

"And that's all I want, too," Fred nodded and then leaned in to give Janet a brief peck on the cheek.

Meanwhile, across the room, Jillian Stokes had pulled her mother aside.  Although everyone else seemed to be full of congratulations and good wishes, there were still a few questions that she felt needed answers.

"Mother, are you...sure about this?" Jillian asked in a voice just above a whisper.  "This is so sudden.  I didn't even...know that you and Dr. Rutherford had gotten so close, let alone were considering marriage."

"Well, too be honest, it was rather unexpected for me, too," Leticia confessed privately before carefully putting her hand on her daughter's arm and guiding her even further away from the others.  "I hadn't...planned on marrying Fred.  It just...happened."

Jillian eyed her mother curiously, not completely understanding what she was trying to say.  "Mother, marriages don't 'just happen'.  They're not just some kind of accident that you wind up in when you're not paying attention."

"No, that's true.  I agree with you."  Leticia looked away as if she were embarrassed by what she was about to reveal.  "But, in this case, that's exactly what happened."

"I...I don't understand."

"Jillian, I'm telling you this because I know that you're probably the most level headed one of the girls."  Leticia paused and bit her lip before taking a deep breath.  "And I want you to promise me that you won't say anything about this to either one of your sisters.  Especially Judith."

"A-all right," Jillian nodded, more worried and confused than before.  "What is it?  What do you have to tell me?"

"What I'm trying to say is that I barely even remember the wedding ceremony," Leticia confessed.  "Fred and I had gone out to dinner and he...well, he was being quite romantic.  I had a few glasses of wine with dinner and...well, I'm embarrassed to say this, but I had a little too much to drink and..."

"Oh, Mother!  No!"

"We were talking about love and romance and marriage," Leticia continued calmly.  "Fred told me that he loved me and wanted to marry me.  Of course, I told him that it was too soon and I couldn't even think about such an important step like that, but I told him that I was open to the possibilities.  I guess that, well, before the night was over, I'd had just enough to drink that I realized that I was more open than I thought I was."

"Mother, you married him because you were drunk and didn't know what you were doing?"  Jillian gasped in shock.  "Oh, Mother!  We can fix this and..."

"No, dear," Leticia sighed with a shake of her head.  "I admit that if it hadn't been for the wine, I probably would not have married him in New York, but..."

"But what?"

"But the wine is not the reason I married Fred.  It only helped me to let go of some of my own apprehensions and..."

"Mother, you were clearly not in your right mind!"  Jillian grabbed her mother's arm in an attempt to force her to listen.  "We can get this marriage annulled.  It would be a simple matter of having Mark draw up the papers.  You're certainly not ready to just jump into another marriage!  You were right.  It's just too soon and..."

"No, Jillian," Leticia said firmly.  "I admit that if I hadn't been drinking, I probably---no, definitely---wouldn't have married Fred so impetuously, but..."

"But what, Mother?"

"But I did.  I married Fred.  I married him of my own free will."  She paused and took a deep breath.  "The wine only allowed me the freedom to follow through on my own feelings.  It enabled me to do what I wanted to do.  If I hadn't wanted to marry Fred, no amount of wine would have made me do it."

Jillian shook her head slightly, still in shock over her mother's revelation and gently rubbed her temple as if she were trying to force the news to sink in.  "So...are you trying to say that you're in love with Fred?  Did you marry him because you love him?"

"Yes," Leticia smiled.  "I love Fred.  Well, at least I think I'm in love with him."

"Mother!  Thinking you're in love with someone is not enough of a reason to marry someone!"

"Jillian, it's done!  Fred and I are married and we're going to stay married."  Leticia looked directly into her daughter's eyes.  "Now, I'm trusting you to keep what I told you between us.  You cannot tell your sisters about the circumstances surrounding my wedding to Fred.  Janet has enough going right now and Judith...well, you know how she can be."

"But..."

"Not a word!"

"Now, what are you two talking about over there?" Fred asked with a smile as he walked over to them.

"I...um...nothing, darling," Leticia replied softly.  "Just girl talk."

"Ah, I see.  Well, why don't we all continue this conversation over dinner?  A big celebration in honor of your mother's wedding."

"Oh, that would be wonderful!" Leticia exclaimed.  "I just need to go upstairs and freshen up a bit.  That plane ride nearly wore me out."

"I'll come with you," Janet said as she followed her mother to the stairs.

"I'm...going to have to decline," Jillian spoke up remorsefully.  "I've already made plans with Reginald.  I'm sorry."

"No, that's more than all right," Leticia nodded with a smile.  "After everything you two have had to deal with over the last few months, you both deserve to finally have some time together without the specter of a murder hanging over your heads.  You go and have fun!"  She paused and then grinned slyly.  "And finally set a date for this wedding!"

"We will, Mother," Jillian laughed.  "Trust me.  We will."

"Now, while Leticia and Janet are upstairs getting ready, why don't I fix you a drink, Fred?" Mark asked as he walked over to the bar.  "You, too, Burt."

"I'd like that, Mark.  Thank you very much."

Burt and Fred began to follow Mark just as the doorbell rang.

"You two start without me," Fred spoke up.  "I'll get the door and I'll be right there."

With quick strides, Fred headed for the front door with a sly grin on his face.  Although Judith's reaction to his marriage to Leticia was less than stellar, it had been the reaction that he'd expected.  However, the glowing reception he'd received from the rest of the family had come as a pleasant surprise.  Maybe everything was going to work out even better than he'd planned.

However, as he swung the door open, he realized that there were still a few things left that could cause him a lot of problems.

"W-what are you doing here?" he asked nervously in hushed tones.  "How can you even think about showing up here?  What are you trying to do?  Ruin everything that I'm working on?"

"I don't care 'bout none of that," Sammy Benedict said with a glare.  "I needed to see you and I figured that this is where you'd be."  He paused and reached into his jacket.  "There're some things we need to get straight and we need to do it now."

THE GARDENS RESTAURANT - LADIES' ROOM

"Mrs. Linford!" Stephanie gasped in shock.  "W-what are you doing here?  How...long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," Judith replied coolly as she stepped further into the room.  "So, why don't you both tell me exactly what you're talking about?  I believe you said something about an affair with my husband?"

"Y-you must have misunderstood," Stephanie quickly replied as he eyes darted to Helen.  "We weren't..."

"Stephanie, dear, apparently Jillian has given you entirely too much credit," Judith laughed.  "From the way she's talked about you, you're supposed to be a grade A schemer, liar, and manipulator."  She moved closer and looked directly into Stephanie's eyes.  "Clearly, she's been exaggerating."

"I...think that I'll leave you two alone to talk," Helen spoke up and quickly headed for the door.

"Not so fast!" Judith barked angrily.  "I want a word with you, Helen."

Helen froze in her tracks, frightened by the forcefulness and power of Judith's voice, and slowly turned around to face her.

"Stephanie, dear, a little tip," Judith smiled slyly.  "If you're going to hold something over someone's head, never talk about it to anyone.  And, especially, never talk about it in public where you might find yourself overheard.  Now, if you'll excuse us, there are a few things that I'd like to discuss with Helen."

"O-okay," Stephanie muttered, her voice nearly catching in her throat.  She quickly turned to leave, but then couldn't resist one last glance at Helen.  As the women's eyes met, Stephanie smiled gleefully.  Of course, this wasn't exactly when or how she wanted the truth about Helen's secret relationship with Mark Linford revealed, but she couldn't resist reveling in the knowledge that Helen was about to find herself in very hot water.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

As the door closed behind Stephanie, Judith kept her eyes firmly focused on her newly discovered rival.

"So, Helen, tell me about this affair you seem to be having with my husband," she ordered as she kept her calm demeanor.

"Y-you must have m-misunderstood what...she said," Helen replied nervously and immediately looked away.  "I don't...think that she even said anything a-about..."

"Look at me!"  Judith reached out and grabbed Helen tightly by the chin and jerked her head around so that their eyes met.  "I'm not stupid.  I heard everything that was said.  I know that you're having an affair with Mark."

"It's...not like she made it sound!  Mark said that you two had more of an arrangement than a marriage and..."

"Oh, he did, did he?"  Judith laughed heartily.  "Of course, he said that!  Do you think that he would have tried to seduce you by saying that he had a loving and devoted marriage?"  She walked nonchalantly to the mirror and casually checked her make-up.  "But...he was right about our relationship.  It's not a real marriage.  It's never been a real marriage.  He doesn't love me and he never has."  She spun around to face Helen again.  "He hasn't told you that he loves you, has he?"

"N-not in so many words, no," Helen confessed and hung her head.  "But...but I know he does!  I can tell he does just by the way he acts."  She rushed over to Judith and grabbed her by the arm.  "Please, you've got to believe me.  I never meant for this to happen.  I didn't set out to...steal your husband!  It just...happened."

"You haven't 'stolen' anything!" Judith laughed again.  "Let me let you in on a little secret---Mark isn't in love with anyone but himself!  Not me and most certainly not you.  You're only a pretty young girl that he can use to fluff up his own ego.  Now, if you've got it inside your head that he'd leave me for you, you'd better forget that notion right now!  Mark would never willingly divorce me.  Especially not for you."

"But...if he doesn't love you, then..."

"You really are a stupid girl, aren't you?  Do you honestly think that everything that Mark has came from his own hard work?"

"Well," Helen muttered as she thought deeply, "he is quite wealthy and he's a very successful attorney and....  Not that that means anything to me!  I didn't...fall in love with him because of what he has.  I love him for who he is and how he makes me feel and...."

Judith shook her head and rolled her eyes.  "You really are naive, aren't you?  But, I guess I shouldn't be surprised.  I was just as naive at one time."  She took Helen's arm and pulled her closer.  "You see, when Mark and I first met, he was a notorious playboy---girlfriends as far as the eye could see and not the first indication that he'd ever want to settle down.  I saw that as a challenge.  His cavalier manner and vast wealth of charms excited me and I was determined that I would be the one to change his mind.  I'd be the one to make him want to commit."

"And...it looks like you did.  At least for a while."

Judith let out a weary sigh and folded her arms across her chest, both amused and disappointed by Helen.  "I pulled every trick in the book to make Mark love me.  The more he resisted, the more I had to have him.  Finally, I won.  He professed his undying love for me and I just knew that I had him hooked!  Little did I knew that the hunter was really the hunted."

"I...don't understand.  What do you mean?"

"You see, for all of Mark's social charms, he didn't have anything," Judith explained calmly.  "He was working for some small law firm on insignificant cases and making very little money.  However, Mark knew how to live big and could easily convince people that he was much more important than he really was.  He charmed my father right off.  Daddy had never approved of any of the men that I'd dated, but he loved Mark.  He thought Mark was the perfect man for me.  Naturally, this glowing seal of approval made me want Mark even more.  Mark, on the other hand, only saw a chance to improve himself."

"Surely, you're not saying...."

"Mark is an opportunist," Judith stated flatly.  "If it weren't for his marriage to me and his connection to my family, he would be doing good to find a job as a public defender!  All the while I was trying to charm him, he was doing the same thing to me for entirely different reasons.  He knew that if he could charm his way into my family, he'd instantly have all the right connections---both professionally and socially.  Daddy put him in contact with all the right people and I got him membership at the country club.  It wasn't until after we'd marriage that his charms began to fade and I realized exactly how I'd been caught up in my own trap.  As much as I saw him as a challenge and was using him to please Daddy, he was using me and my family as a means of climbing the social ladder.  If you think he's going to give all of that up, you're a fool."

"But...if he's using you, why are you still married to him?"  Helen furrowed her brow and shook her head slightly, unsure that she understood the exact dynamic in the Linford marriage.

"Propriety," Judith replied matter-of-factly.  "In the social circles that I travel in, a divorce is quite the scandal.  And Daddy...well, let's just say that he would have been less than thrilled.  Besides, what grounds would I have had?  True, I've known about Mark's indiscretions for quite some time, now, but I never had any kind of solid proof that would legitimize a divorce proceeding."

Helen bit her lip nervously as she kept her eyes focused on Judith.  "Until now," she muttered almost to herself.  After pausing to take a deep breath, she began to pose a question that had been hovering in the back of her mind.  "Judith, to be honest, I'm rather surprised with your reaction to this.  I would have expected you to be a little more...upset."

"Oh, I'm not upset!" Judith laughed.  "Like I said, I've known for some time about Mark's other activities.  This comes as no surprise to me.  You're involvement with him, however...  Well, anyway, I digress.  Actually, I'm rather interested with this sudden piece of news.  You could almost say that this was a good revelation."

"What?"  Helen took a step backwards and shook her head, not sure she could believe what she was hearing.  "What do you mean?"

"Helen, dear, your tawdry little affair with my husband doesn't upset me in the slightest," Judith smiled slyly.  "In fact, it only makes things much easier for me."  She paused and took a deep breath.  "And if you know what's good for you, you're going to help me."

Helen felt a knot form in the pit of her stomach as a sense of foreboding flooded over her.  She didn't like the sound of what Judith was imply.  She didn't like it, at all!

THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER

"Look, you just can't show up here!" Fred barked angrily as he tried to shield Sammy from view.  "What if anyone saw you?  Have you lost your mind?"

"Look, Doc, I needed to talk to ya," Sammy explained, "and as soon as I heard that you'd gotten back from your little trip..."

"We can't do this here," Fred muttered nervously and then glanced back over his shoulder to see if anyone was about to step into the foyer.  After taking a deep breath of resignation, he pushed Sammy back out through the door and quietly shut it behind them.  "Now, what is so damned important?  I told your boss that I could get him the money within the month.  There were just a few little details that I had to work out and..."

"I knows what you said, Doc."

"You tell him that everything is going exactly like I planned it."  Fred grabbed Sammy's arm and lead him further away from the door.  "I've got a few more weeks left before the deadline and..."

"Deadline's been moved up," Sammy interrupted.  "The boss told me that your time's up."

"W-what?"  Fred's eyes grew wide with shock and worry.  "He...can't do that!  He said he'd give me another month!"

"Hey, I don't make the rules," Sammy shrugged.  "He said that he'd given you enough time as it was and now it was time to pay up---one way or another."

"But...but..."  Fred swallowed hard and glanced back at the door and then began to rub his chin and he tried to think clearly despite his panic.  "Look, I'm about to come into a large sum of money.  I've got everything set up, but it's just not ready yet and..."

"The boss gave me clear orders," Sammy responded sternly as he again began to reach into his pocket.

"No!  Don't!"  Fred immediately lunged from Sammy and grabbed his hand tightly.  However, he was shocked and confused to discover that it was holding only a cigarette case.  "W-what?  But I...thought..."

"What's wrong with you?" Sammy asked angrily as he jerked himself away.  "Ain't a guy allowed to have a smoke?"

"I-I'm sorry," Fred stammered.  "I...I thought that you w-were going to..."

"The boss is dead," Sammy announced bluntly.

"W-what?  How?"

"Not important," Sammy shrugged and turned away from Fred.  "He's dead.  Not much else to tell."

"S-so...does that mean...?"

"He told me before he died that your time had run out," Sammy continued, completely ignoring the question.  "I know he gave you a month, but he was tired of your games.  He said I was supposed to show you that he wasn't one to double cross."

Fred eyed Sammy carefully, both fully aware of and slightly confused by what he was saying.  Had Sammy's boss ordered Fred's hit?  Is that why Sammy was there?  But, if so, why was he toying with him?  Why hadn't Sammy already done the horrible dead?

"Ah, don't just stand there all bug-eyed," Sammy laughed heartily as he lit his cigarette.  "Look, Doc, I like you---against my better judgment, I might add.  Like I said, the boss is dead.  What would be the point in doin' you in?"

"Y-you're not going to..."

"Nah," Sammy shook his head.  "And don't worry.  The boss had me destroy his files right before he died so there's nothing on paper that can ever be used to trace you back to him.  Guess that means that you're a free man."

"But what about you?" Fred asked curiously, still suspicious.  "You know all about your boss's dealings.  Who's to say that you're not going to...."

"I told you that I liked ya!  What more do you want?"  Sammy took a long drag off of his cigarette.  "Besides, I'm gettin' outta town.  Even with the boss's death, it's still a little too hot around here for me, if you get my drift."

"Well...I...." Fred stammered.  "Thanks."

As Sammy began his long walk down the driveway to his car that was parked around the corner, just out of sight, Fred turned and headed back for the house.  A satisfied smile spread across his lips, he reached for the doorknob.  Now that his debt was null and void, whatever money he would get out of Leticia would be his and his alone.  That realization made him happier than he'd been in quite a while.

THE SUNSET HOTEL - RM. 336

"I can't believe that you managed to get away from your family," Jillian cooed softly as she rested her head on Reginald's shoulder while he twirled her around the room to the strains of Bing Crosby's latest record as it played on the radio.  "I know that today was a big day for them."

"It wasn't easy," Reginald Callison smiled and pulled her tighter into his arms.  "I almost didn't want to leave.  It's so good to have this entire mess over.  Mom's cleared of murder and now we can all put this horrible ordeal behind us."

"I guess that Janet's testimony really came through, didn't it?"

"Um, well..."  His voice trailed off and he pulled away slightly.

"Reginald?"  She looked up at him curiously, immediately aware that something wasn't quite right.  "What is it?  It was her testimony that proved your mother's innocence, wasn't it?"

"Actually, no," he confessed with a sigh and then walked over to the bar to pour them both a drink.  "It seems that the D.A. had a field day with her mental history.  He called her an 'unreliable witness' and said that 'anything that she claimed to remember should be discounted as false and prefabricated'.  The judge was...inclined to believe him."

"Well, if it wasn't Janet's testimony, than who..."  She furrowed her brow slightly as her mind began to race through all the possibilities.  Suddenly, her eyes grew wide with shock and realization.  "It wasn't..."

"Stephanie," he nodded as he handed her a drink.  "It seems that before her father died, he told her how he'd killed her mother."

"She was the big mystery witness?"

Reginald nodded silently and then took a long sip of his drink.  "She came forward with the information while she was in the hospital recovering from her abduction.  She...wanted to testify to what her father had told her so that Mom's name would be cleared.  Paddy knew what kind of publicity this entire mess has generated and asked Father to have the courtroom cleared for her benefit.  She told the judge everything.  I guess that testimony from the daughter of the victim against her own father in behalf of the woman charged with the crime was rather convincing.  The D.A. had no choice but to drop all charges once he realized that there was no way a jury would be able to find Mom guilty considering Stephanie's testimony of her father's confession."

"This is just too...unbelievable."  Jillian sat down on the edge of the bed, clearly stunned by the news.  "Stephanie Lake, of all people, did the right thing?"

"Yes, I know," he laughed awkwardly as he sat down next to her and wrapped his arm around her.  "I wouldn't have believed it either if I hadn't witnessed it first hand, but I was there."  He took a deep breath and swallowed hard.  "I hate to say it, but my family really owes her a lot."

"Maybe Paddy's right about her after all," Jillian muttered, almost to herself.  "Maybe she has changed."

"Stephanie?  Changed?"  Reginald laughed with amusement.  "I don't think she'll ever change.  One good deed doesn't erase everything that she tried to do to you and me.  So, she had a fit of conscience.  Or maybe Paddy managed to talk her into it, somehow.  A leopard just doesn't change it's spots.  It'll take more than just this to convince me that she's made some grand transformation."

"But, Reginald..." she paused for a moment and bit her lip as she looked up at him.  "This isn't the only good deed that she's done, lately.  Remember, when the police thought that you'd killed Annabelle, she came forward with that witness who saw someone else go into the lounge and..."

"And that witness identified my mother!" he reminded bluntly.

"Well..."  Jillian winced slightly.  "Granted, it wasn't the best thing that could have happened, but she was trying to help."

"Don't tell me that you've turned into a cheerleader for Stephanie!"

"I wouldn't exactly put it like that," Jillian responded with a shake of her head.  "I don't see myself ever becoming best friends with her or anything, but...well...maybe Patterson really has had an influence on her.  He does bring out the best in people and...well...there's something that I never really told you."

Reginald looked at her intently and nodded, signaling for her to continue.

"Well, you remember our wedding?" she began carefully.  "Actually, our almost wedding?"

"How could I forget!" he grumbled.

"Anyway, before the ceremony started, Stephanie paid me a little unexpected visit in the bride's room and..."

"She what?" he barked angrily.  "I swear if that little witch did anything to..."

"Honey, would you just listen to me?"  Jillian grabbed onto his arm in an attempt to calm him down.  "She wanted to see me so that she could apologize."

"W-what?"

"She said that she was sorry for everything that she did to come between us and that she realized that we loved one another and belonged together."  She paused and took a deep breath and waited for the stunned reaction she knew he was going to have.

"Surely, you don't think she was serious, do you?"

"At first, I was convinced it was just another one of her games," Jillian confessed, "but she seemed so sincere and so...well...remorseful.  I think she really was being honest with me.  Maybe she has changed.  It would make sense since Paddy seems to be in love with her."

"Paddy seems to have lost his mind, too!"  Reginald shook his head in disbelief.  "Next thing I know, you're going to tell me that you want to invite her to the wedding."

"Well..."

"You can't be serious!  After everything that she's done?"

"That's exactly why," she explained calmly.  "She's really come through for your family and...well...she seems genuine in her attempts to put whatever bad things happened in the past behind her.  Maybe we should do the same thing.  Maybe we should just let go of the past and move on.  Inviting Stephanie might just be the thing to show the fates that we're not afraid of them.  Besides, you know Paddy's going to want to bring her and..."

"You really want to invite her?"  He eyed her closely, still not sure he was in favor of the idea.  "Well, I'll make a deal with you.  You invite Stephanie and I'll invite Dane."

"Oh, I don't think so!" she answered quickly.  "I don't want Dane Manchester within fifty feet of my wedding!  Have you lost your mind?  That's the most ridiculous idea I think I've ever heard!"

"Well, if you really want to laugh in the face of fate...."

Jillian let out a weary sigh of resignation and slouched forward, resting her chin in her hands.  "It would be a way to show him that, no matter what he's done or ever might do, we'll be together."

"And we can keep an eye on him," Reginald smiled slyly.

"Lord, Dane Manchester an invited guest at my wedding," she grumbled.

"Don't forget Stephanie!"  He grinned impishly.  "If you're really intent on putting everything in the past, you could make her a bride's maid."

"Don't press your luck!  I said that I wanted to laugh at fate, not tempt it."

"Speaking of weddings," Reginald muttered softly as he took the glass out of her hands and set it on the floor before nuzzling her neck tenderly, "you said something about a June wedding?  There's still time to..."

"Oh, I like the way you think, Mr. Callison," Jillian giggled warmly.

"And I like more than they way you think, soon-to-be Mrs. Callison."

THE GARDENS RESTAURANT - LADIES' ROOM

"What do you want from me?" Helen asked nervously as she hung her head, unable to meet Judith's stern glare.  "What horrible thing do you have planned for me as punishment?"

"Oh, dear, it's not for you," Judith grinned slyly.  "You see, my marriage has long outlived its usefulness.  More accurately, Mark has been a thorn in my side almost since we cut the wedding cake.  He's got this inane idea that we're moving back to New York."

"Yes, I know," Helen revealed.  "He told me.  He...wants me to transfer to a school there so that...."

"Typical," Judith sighed with a roll of her eyes.  "Always like Mark to plan ahead.  But, this time, I've got a surprise for him that I'm sure he would never have planned on."

"What...are you going to do?"

"It's very simple, really," Judith began to explain as she slowly began to pace around the room, almost like a vulture encircling its prey.  "I'm going to divorce him."

"W-what?  You can't...do that!  On what grounds?"

"You really are stupid, aren't you?"  Judith paused and looked Helen dead in the eye.  "Adultery, of course."

"But...but..." Helen stammered in confusion.  "How am I supposed to help you with that?  What are you talking about?  Mark said that he knew that you'd had affairs, too!  You can't...."

"I can and I will!" Judith said firmly.  "And any outside relationships I may or may not have had are really none of your business.  If I'm not mistaken, the topic of conversation right now is your tawdry affair with my husband!"

"I can't do that!  If I testify against Mark, he'll hate me!"

"Oh, what a pity," Judith remarked dryly.  "If you don't help me, then I risk losing quite a bit of money to Mark in a divorce settlement."

"I won't do it!" Helen shouted angrily.  "I won't betray Mark so that you can save a few measly dollars!"

"You will do it."  Judith reached out and grabbed Helen's arm and gave it a tight squeeze.  "You're going to get up on that witness stand and testify to every sordid detail of your affair with my husband!"

"And if I don't?"

"I'll name you as a respondent in an alienation of affection suit."

"A...what?"

"It's simple.  I'll sue you for stealing my husband!"  Judith crossed her arms firmly across her chest and smiled smugly.

"Y-you can't!" Helen panicked.  "You've got...no proof!"

"I'm certain that I can convince your little friend to testify against you," Judith calmed replied.  "After all, there doesn't seem to be any love lost between you."  As she furrowed her brow, s he lifted her well-manicured finger up to her chin in a display of mock exaggerated thought.  "Let's see.  Didn't Jillian tell me just the other day how your father was suffering from a heart condition?  I'm sure that I could get such a law suit in all the right society pages in California.  I'm certain that news about what his precious little girl has been up to wouldn't sit too well with him."

"You...wouldn't!  You wouldn't do something like that....would you?"  Helen began to slowly back away from Judith, fully realizing that she was a woman of her word.

"Oh, I would and I will!"

Helen exhaled slowly and thought over Judith's ultimatum.  Her father's love or Mark's?  Which was more important?  Her father was the obvious answer, but could she really risk losing Mark?  Could she betray the man that she loved with all of her heart?  Helen wasn't sure, but knew, full well, that Judith wasn't going to give her much time to make that decision.

TO BE CONTINUED

TOMORROW

Judith gives Mark and ultimatum.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions