For Now and Forever
EPISODE #78 (Wednesday
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - LOUNGE
"Well, of course you're scared of the truth," Stephanie Lake said coldly, "considering your entire existence is based on a lie! I hate what you're doing to Mrs. Callison. What the hell has she ever done to you? I...I don't even know you anymore! You've become bitter and cruel and...and I hope I never wind up like you!"
Shocked and mortified by her daughter's emotional attack, Annabelle Lake reached back and slapped her across the face. "Don't you ever....ever talk to me like that again! I am your mother! Everything I've ever done in my entire life has been for you! I've given up and sacrificed more for your well-being and safety than you'll ever know! I...I..." Her voice trailed off when she realized that she was about to say more than needed to be said.
Meanwhile, Stephanie stood in silence as tears began to stream down her face which still stung from the physical and emotional impact of her mother's slap. Her body trembled with anger and pain, but, suddenly, her eyes were opened. She'd been used and manipulated by her mother for years. She'd had her love and loyalty taken and used against her. Well, no more! Stephanie was done! As she seethed with anger, she spun on her heel and stormed toward the doors of the lounge.
"Stephanie!" Annabelle called out as her daughter walked away from her. "Stephanie, you come back here this instant! I am not done with you!"
"But I'm done with you," Stephanie muttered bitterly. As she burst through the doors of the lounge and back out into the main ballroom, she had one purpose in mind. She had to find Francis Callison. There were a few things that she wanted...needed...to say.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Oh, Burt, this is so exciting!" Janet Stokes exclaimed as she held onto his arm. "I can't believe that you're really a Callison! It must feel so strange to find out that you have an entire family that you didn't know about."
"Strange would be an understatement," Burt Lamont muttered uneasily as he cautiously eyed his newfound cousin Reginald Callison who was standing next to them with Janet's sister Jillian. "This has taken quite a bit of getting used to. Actually, I'm still not used to it."
"It'll take time, I'm sure," Jillian nodded before turning to her fiancé Reginald. "Won't it, dear?"
"It's a lot for all of us to get used to," Reginald grumbled before Jillian shot him a cautionary look.
"It's times like this that force us to be thankful for our families," Jillian smiled warmly and then reached over to touch Janet lovingly on the shoulder. "I don't know what I'd do without my sisters or my parents. Even though Father isn't exceptionally happy with me, at the moment, I still love him with all of my heart." A look of sadness spread over her face as she thought about her father's staunch opposition to her planned marriage to Reginald and about how he'd callously cut her out of his life.
As Burt listened to Jillian's warm words concerning the love of family, his thoughts grew dark and tormented. Yes, he was happy to have finally found the family that had cast him aside all those years ago, but he couldn't help but think about the family he might have had--the child that he would never have been able to claim as his own--the child that had been carried and lost by Jillian and Janet's older sister Judith.
"Burt, are you all right?" Jillian asked with concern. "I-I know this must be difficult for you, finding out that your mother kept the truth about your real father a secret from you for so many years."
"It's a tragedy," he muttered softly and looked away to hide the tears that he was trying to fight back, "when a father cannot or will not acknowledge his own child. W-what kind...of man would do that?"
"Oh, but, Burt," Janet replied softly, "you know it wasn't your father's fault. He never knew about you. He...he died before he had a chance to make things right."
Just like Burt's baby had died before he had a chance to make things right.
"I don't blame Landon...my father," he muttered before taking a deep breath for strength. "The man I blame is his father. My grandfather is the one who didn't want me. He's the one who refused to accept me as a rightful member of this family."
"Now, wait a second!" Reginald spoke up angrily.
"Um, excuse me," Charles Callison interrupted with a smile that quickly faded once he saw the tension that had suddenly begun to build. "May I speak with Burt...alone?"
"Of course, Father," Reginald replied with a weak nod and took Jillian and Janet by their arms and led them away.
"Mr. Callison, what's this all about?" Burt asked with curiosity. "Is there...something I've done wrong?"
"Oh, no, not at all," he laughed warmly as he laid his hand on Burt's shoulder. "And, please, call me Charles or...or Uncle Charles. You know, I've never had a nephew before."
"A-all right...Uncle Charles." Burt blushed slightly. He was finding all of the attention quite overwhelming. "Well, then, what did you want to speak to me about?"
"Well..." Charles eyed him carefully as he considered the best way to voice his suggestion. After a long moment, he took a deep breath and spoke. "Considering the fact that you are part of this family, my older brother's son, I wanted to ask you if...if you would considering taking on our family's name to honor him."
"W-what?" Burt stammered, both shocked and confused by the request. "What do you mean?"
"What I'm trying to say is that I would very much like for you to take on Callison as your last name." Charles reached over and gave his arm a slight squeeze. "I want you to officially change your name of Burt Callison."
The request nearly took Burt's breath and he took a couple of steps backwards in shock. This was most definitely something he had not expected.
Meanwhile, just a few feet away, Reginald had been close enough to overhear the entire exchange. As his father's request rang in his ears, he found his face begin to flush with anger. He did not approve of the wide open arms with which Burt was welcomed into the family nor of the extreme lengths to which his father was going to atone for past sins that may, or may not, have actually happened. In fact, he opposed them greatly. However, was there any way for him to fix things before his father set out to ruin the family name?
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - FOYER
"Mrs. Callison! Mrs. Callison!" Stephanie called out as she attempted to catch up with Francis. "Please, wait!"
Hearing her name, Francis stopped in her tracks as she reached the elevator. Her eyes still clouded with tears, she turned to see who had been calling her. First catching sight of the manager, she quickly called him over so she could retrieve her coat.
"Jasper! Jasper, get my coat for me please," she ordered urgently. "I've decided that I won't be staying, after all."
"Yes, ma'am," Jasper St. John nodded politely, "but I was so hoping you'd stay. With that Lake woman running the show, it's almost been like a three ringed circus. Your presence has helped to add a touch of class and grace to an evening already marred with the smudgy fingerprints of that vile woman!"
"T-thank you for your kind words, Jasper," she smiled weakly, "but I really can't stay here any longer. Please tell my mother and Dr. Rutherford that I've taken ill...nothing serious...and that I've gone up to the penthouse to retire for the evening."
"Yes, ma'am," he nodded again as he helped her on with her coat and then quickly breezed off in search of Francis' mother and date.
"Mrs. Callison, wait!" Stephanie again called out as she finally reached her. "Please, you can't leave because..."
"Ah, Stephanie," Francis sighed with a scowl, "I see your mother has resorted to sending her own daughter to take care of her dirty work now. Is there any limit to the depths to which that woman will sink?"
"No, Mrs. Callison, you don't understand!"
"Oh, I understand very well," Francis spat as she turned her back to Stephanie and repeatedly pressed the button for the elevator. "They say that everyone has a purpose in life. It's my guess that your mother's main purpose in life is to make my life a living hell! Now, she's got you following along right in line."
"Would you please just listen to me?" Stephanie begged as she tried to fight back her own tears. "I'm not here because Momma wants me to be! I'm here on my own!"
"Hasn't your family done enough damage?" Francis questioned angrily as she kept pushing the button over and over, quickly growing impatient. "You completely ruined my son's engagement party with your vile antics and your mother seems determined to turn this family affair into a side show featuring her prized daughter as the main attraction!"
"Would you just listen!" Stephanie snapped as she reached out to grab Francis' sleeve.
Feeling Stephanie's hand on her arm, Francis jerked herself backwards as her eyes filled with fire and hatred. "Don't you ever touch me!" she spat. "Don't you or your wicked mother ever come near me again!"
"My mother's wrong!" Stephanie said sternly as she tried to look Francis dead in the eyes. "Everything that's happened...everything that's she's done has been wrong!"
"W-what?" Francis stammered as a look of confusion spread across her face. "W-what are you talking about? You...you sound like you're saying you don't agree with what your mother's doing."
"That's because I don't!"
"I...think you need to explain yourself."
"That's what I'm trying to do if you would just listen to me!" Stephanie stopped and took several deep breaths to calm herself down as she waited to make sure that she had Francis' full attention. "It all happened the night of the engagement party...the night you found Mr. Callison and my mother together."
"T-that was probably the worst night of my entire life," Francis muttered as she hung her head, the memory almost too painful to bear. "That was the night my entire life feel apart."
"My mother has no business being with your husband! He doesn't love her. He loves you! She's only gotten his mind so twisted and confused that he only thinks he loves her and it's been going on ever since that night!"
"I...I don't understand," Francis sighed as she gently rubbed her temple as if to help her process what she was being told. "Why...are you telling me this?"
"That doesn't matter." Stephanie's head dropped as she remembered the painful argument with her mother. "What does matter is that if my mother hadn't done what she did that night, you and your husband would still be together. None of the last few months would ever have happened."
"I'm certain that Annabelle pulled some vile tricks," Francis spoke up angrily, "but it was my husband's choice to betray our marriage! It was his choice to destroy everything that we'd worked so hard for for so many years!"
"That's what I'm trying to say!" Stephanie reached out for her again and grabbed her by the arms. This time, Francis didn't pull away. "It wasn't his choice! In fact, he had no choice in the matter at all! What you saw that night isn't really what you saw! Even your husband doesn't realize what really happened!"
Francis stood in silence and stared Stephanie in the eyes. What could she be talking about? Why didn't Charles have a choice? Exactly how far had Annabelle gone to wreck her marriage? She wasn't entirely sure of the answers, but she was finally ready to listen to everything Stephanie had to say.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"I bet this is all very strange for you," Eliza Campbell muttered as she rested her head on Randy Lamont's shoulder while they danced. "I...I just don't know what I'd do if I were in the same situation as you are. Of course, I don't have any brothers or sisters, but if I did and I found out that one of them wasn't my whole brother or sister, I think I'd just die!"
"Well, that's pretty much the way I feel," Randy sighed as he held her in his arms. The news that his father wasn't his brother Burt's father had come as a horrible shock to him. Although Burt had said over and over that no matter who his father was, their relationship wouldn't change, Randy knew that that was highly unlikely.
As he looked around the room at all of the important people dressed to the nines in tuxedos and evening gowns, he felt horribly out of place. This new world of his brother's was most definitely not one that they were raised in. It was also a world that Randy was positive he didn't belong in. Burt, however, was a different story. He was a Callison and this was now his world. How long would it be before he grew accustomed to it and everything that it had to offer and slowly forgot about the world he'd come from...Randy included.
"Are you okay?" Eliza asked as she lifted her head from his should and looked at him carefully. "You're not sorry you came, are you?"
"No, I'm fine," he replied with a sigh.
"You know, if someone would have told me before the Fall Dance that we would still be going out, I don't think I would have believed them." She let out a small giggle and returned her head to its resting place on his shoulder.
"Yeah, I can hardly believe it myself," he commented half-heartedly.
"After the dance, I was sure you'd never speak to me again," she continued with her ramble, "but I just knew that you had just as much fun with me as I had with you. That's why I kept calling you."
"And to think that I would never have gotten up the nerve if it hadn't been for Maggie!"
Randy fought the urge to roll his eyes. Why couldn't she just shut up and dance? Was it that hard for her to stay quiet for any length of time?
As they continued to sway to the music, he began to let his eyes wander around the room and see all of the guests dressed in their fancy attire. Suddenly, he found a sight that nearly made his heart skip a beat. There, standing all alone in a corner, was Maggie Callison--the person responsible for him and Eliza being together.
Even though they continued to spin around the dance floor, Randy couldn't take his eyes off of her. She looked stunning in her evening dress, far more adult than she really was. And, though he found it hard to believe, it appeared like she was staring at them! He squinted his eyes in disbelief, but when he opened them again, there she was looking straight at them.
"Randy! Are you even listening to me?" Eliza's voice drug his thoughts out of the clouds and back down to earth. Apparently, she'd been chattering the entire time only he'd been far too distracted to notice.
"Um...yes, of course I'm listening," he lied.
Lifting her head off of his shoulder again, she quickly noticed that his attention was clearly focused on something else. With a discreet turn of her head, she looked in the direction he was staring and quickly became livid. He was too busy watching Maggie!
"She looks so lonely over there by herself," he murmured softly. "We really should go over and talk to her."
"No, we will not!" Eliza snapped as she tried to contain herself. "This is supposed to be a magical night for us. Isn't that what you said? Why would we want to drag her into the middle of it? It's going to be like the Fall Dance all over again!"
Randy gave a weak shrug of his shoulders and decided against speaking to Maggie. He had promised Eliza a magical night, after all. Of course, he'd only done it to stop her from harping on it. He hadn't even wanted to come; it was all her idea. Then again, that's the way things usually were. In fact, their entire relationship, such that it was, was all her idea. Somehow, he'd found himself along for the ride since he'd had nothing better to do. Realizing how completely bored with the entire evening he was, he let out a weary sigh and prayed that it would all be over soon.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
Fred Rutherford rocked back and forth awkwardly as he stood next to Mary Albany. With a discrete glance, he looked over and watched her smile, nod, and wave at various guests with whom she was acquainted. He fought to suppress a chuckle when he thought about how much she reminded him of a bulldog. He really should have fought the urge harder.
"And what, may I ask, do you find so funny?" Mary questioned as she turned to face him with a scowl. "You better be standing there counting your blessings that you're even allowed in the same room as my daughter."
"I really don't think you have much say in the matter, Mrs. Albany," he replied snidely. "Your daughter is a grown woman and is quite capable of making decisions on her own...especially when it comes to which man she choices to spend her time with."
"Well, that remains to be seen," she said gruffly as she returned her focus to the party guests. "If I were you, I wouldn't get too comfortable. I have a feeling your role in my daughter's life will be short-lived."
"And what makes you say that?" he asked with a shocked laugh. "I'll have you know that Francis and I have grown very close over these past few months. In fact, I...I would really like to become an even bigger part of her life."
"I bet you would," Mary muttered with a slight roll of her eyes. "Look, Freddie, let me put it to you in simple words that you might understand. My daughter will forever be in love with her husband. Charles has always been and always will be the most important man in her life other than her boys."
"Apparently, you don't know your daughter that well," Fred laughed.
"I know her a hell of a lot better than you do or ever will!" She kept her eyes straight ahead and refused to even give him the courtesy of looking in his direction as she spoke. "Francis will always love Charles. You're just holding his place on her dance card until he grows up and gets over this foolishness with that woman."
"I really think you're...." His voice trailed off as he bit his tongue. He really didn't need to get into a heated argument with the mother of his planned future bride. After taking a deep breath to settle himself down, he spoke again. "Well, I guess we'll just have to see, won't we?"
"And you'll see that I'm right." She fought the urge to smirk and betray the glee that she felt over getting his goat. "I'm always right."
Fred made a slight clearing of his throat as he realized that this was most definitely a debate that needed to be tabled for a later date. Suddenly, he caught sight of Annabelle, standing across the room in the doorway of the lounge, discreetly motioning for him to join her. He let out a grateful sigh and lifted his head to heaven to say a silent prayer of thanks for the excuse to leave the warden's ever watchful eye.
"I think I'm going to go get a drink," he said with a smile as he turned to face her. "Would you like for me to get you something?"
"I'm fine with the punch I have," she muttered.
After nodding curtly, he quickly walked away from Mary and headed towards the lounge with a sense of curiosity. What could be so important that Annabelle would risk talking to him there, surrounded by the entire Callison family?
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - FOYER
"W-what do you mean?" Francis asked, unsure of what Stephanie was saying. "Why wouldn't Charles know what really happened? He was there! Granted, he was soused to the gills, but he knows that he slept with her!"
"That's not what I mean!" Stephanie tried to explain. "I...I mean..." Could she really do it? Could she betray her own mother? Could she reveal all of the horrible, wicked things that she'd done to destroy Francis' marriage?
"Would you just tell me what you're trying to say!" Francis ordered as she quickly grew anxious and agitated.
"Your husband wasn't in his right mind that night!" Stephanie finally spoke. "He didn't know what he was doing!"
"He was drunk," Francis spat, "but he knew enough to climb into bed with her!"
"No, he didn't!"
Francis stared at her, unable to speak. How couldn't he know what he was doing? What in the world was she saying?
"I...I shouldn't be telling you this," Stephanie muttered as she looked down at the floor with embarrassment. "This is my mother, after all, but...but I just can't bear to see you go through so much pain because of her. It's just not right!"
"Just tell me! Tell me what you're trying to say!" The intensity of the moment finally got to Francis and the fragile, emotional wall she'd put up around herself to deal with the daughter of her hated rival finally broke and she dissolved into tears.
Stephanie, truly heartbroken and remorseful for the deep anguish her mother's schemes had caused, instinctively reached out for her and took the broken woman into her arms in an attempt to comfort her.
"M-Mrs. Callison," she muttered weakly. "My...mother d-drugged...your husband."
"W-what?" Francis quickly pulled away and stared at Stephanie blankly as her mind tried to process the unbelievable revelation she'd heard. "Did you say drugged? What do you mean?"
"Momma knew that your husband would never betray you if he was in his right mind. She knew that his love for you was stronger than any of her charms or wiles." As the truth began to spill forth from her lips, Stephanie couldn't have stopped it if she'd tried. It was like a damn had suddenly burst and every horrible secret of her mother's came spilling out. "She...she got some kind of drug. I don't know what kind or how, but...."
"But somehow, she slipped it to him during the engagement party. She never did tell me all of the details, but I know that whatever that drug was, it put his head into a fog and he didn't know what he was doing." She paused and took a deep, cleansing breath to punctuate the sense of release that she felt because of the intense burden that was being lifted from her shoulders. "If it weren't for that drug...if it weren't for what happened that night...he would never have betrayed you. He loved...loves...you too much for that. Ever since that night, he's felt such intense guilt about what happened. My mother has been using that guilt against him. She's convinced him to rely on her and she's convinced him that you're better off without him. He's only with her to spare you...because he loves you!"
"O-oh, my god," Francis stammered as she fell back against the wall. Charles hadn't willfully turned his back on their vows and their marriage. He hadn't sought out the warmth of another woman's arms because he'd grown tired of her. He'd done it because of a cruel, heartless scheme perpetrated by a shallow, vengeful woman. Charles had always loved her and still loved her. Overcome with the sense of shock and disbelief that Stephanie's revelation had brought, Francis could only stand there with her mouth agape and eyes wide open. "Oh, my god."
TO BE CONTINUED
As the truth behind her actions begins to spread, Annabelle becomes a hunted woman.
For Now and Forever
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