For Now and Forever
EPISODE #83 (Wednesday,
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
Leticia Stokes hummed softly as she slipped on her coat and wrapped her scarf around her neck. After grabbing her handbag and slipping on her gloves, she briskly walked towards the front door and opened it to face the crisp winter air.
"Talk about timing, Mrs. Stokes," Burt Lamont laughed as he stood in the doorway, his finger positioned to ring the doorbell.
"Oh, hello, Burt," she smiled warmly. "Janet told me that you were stopping by to take her to dinner. Come in."
"Is she ready?"
"She should be down in just a little bit. Please forgive me for not staying, but I was just stepping out. If you'd like, you can wait in the living room. I'm sure she won't be long."
"Thank you," he nodded politely before walking through the foyer and into the living room as Leticia left. He stood in silence and carefully surveyed the opulent surrounds of the Stokes home and shook his head. Would he ever be able to get used to such extravagance? Would he ever be able to find his place in both the Callison and Stokes families?
"Hello, Burt," came the voice from behind him.
He immediately recognized it and spun around with a jolt. "Hello, Judith."
THE CAMPBELL HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Maggie? Heeellooo?" Eliza Campbell said and waved her hand in front of her best friend's face as they sat on the floor. "Are you going to just sit there or are we gonna study for that English test?"
"Oh...um...what?" Maggie Callison shook her head slightly as if to return her focus to matters at hand. After realizing that she'd completely lost herself in thought, she let out a weary sigh. "Sorry. I...I can't concentrate with everything that's going on."
"Well, no wonder!" Eliza let out a short laugh. "I'm sure it's been crazy for your family ever since that woman got killed."
"You don't even know the half of it!"
"Did he do it?" Eliza bit her lip and stared at Maggie intensely in anticipation of a good story.
"Of course not!" Maggie snapped angrily. "Reginald couldn't hurt anyone! I don't care if Annabelle was the most horrible person that ever drew breath, he still wouldn't kill her!"
"Okay, sorry!" Eliza stuck her lip out into a pout and slouched back against the base of the sofa. "So...well...are you gonna help me study, or what?"
"Are you girls getting a lot of work done?" Eliza's mother Corinne Campbell asked as she walked into the room. "Darling, you better do well on that test. Your grades for last term left much to be desired!"
"Yes, Mother," Eliza grumbled.
"And, Maggie, you poor dear." Corinne walked over and sat down on the sofa next to her. "I just don't know how you can study with everything that's going on." She glanced up at the grandfather clock in the corner and noted the time. "Oh, it's time for the news!" She quickly got up and walked over to the radio and switched it on.
"And in local news," the announce said in a dramatic, urgent tone, "Albanyville police are still investigating the shocking murder of local woman Annabelle Lake. Although police are refusing to release a list of suspects, unconfirmed sources report that their prime suspect is Daily Post editor Reginald Callison. When questioned, the police stated that no charges have officially been filed and the investigation is ongoing. We will keep you posted to further developments. This is WALB Radio News."
"This is just all so tragic!" Corinne exclaimed with a shake of her head. "That poor woman."
"That poor woman?" Maggie popped her head up and glared at Corinne.
"Well, yes!" She shook her head in disbelief. "First she has to put up with your mother's histrionics and then she's tragically killed by your brother who's apparently too tied to your mother's apron strings to think clearly and rationally."
"I beg your pardon!" Maggie jumped up off of the floor as her temper began to flare. "I'll have you know that my brother isn't guilty of anything! He didn't do it!"
"Well, of course you think that," Corinne laughed thinly. "You're only a child. I'm not surprised that they keep these things from you. If your parents were any kind of decent people, they certainly wouldn't want to burden you with all of this."
Maggie bit her lip to keep from opening her mouth as she felt her face begin to flush with anger. How dare Eliza's mother make such assumptions about her family when she clearly didn't know anything about what had really happened? Taking a deep breath, she balled her hands into fists and prepared to speak.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"I...suppose you're here to see Janet," Judith muttered as she slowly walked around the room and stopped at the bar to pour herself a martini.
"Um, yes," Burt replied awkwardly. "We're...going out to dinner."
"J-Judith..." He paused for a moment as he tried to find the right words to approach the subject. "H-how have you been doing since...since..."
"The accident?" She turned to face him and took a lengthy sip from her drink. "I would suppose that if I said 'as well as could be expected', it would sound rather cliché, wouldn't it?"
"Not at all." He watched her movements closely. In spite of the horrible tragedy that she'd suffered, she still carried herself with a carriage and a grace that couldn't be rivaled. She appeared calm and cool on the outside, but he knew her too well. Burt knew that despite her appearance, she was a broken mess on the inside. That duality of personality was one of the things that had forced him to fall in love with her. Of course, that had all been so long ago.
"Truthfully, it's been more difficult than I could have ever imagined." Judith turned away from him to hide the apparent vulnerability that she'd begun to feel. "I...I never really wanted that child. In the beginning, I was frightened by the entire idea of childbirth and childrearing. However, I discovered that I wanted that baby more than I could ever have imagined. Do you know why, Burt?"
"Judith, don't do this to yourself." He wanted to reach out for her, to comfort her because of their secret shared loss, but he couldn't bring himself to make the effort.
"I wanted that child because it was yours." She paused as she felt her lip begin to quiver and fought to keep her voice from cracking. "It...was the only thing I had left of you. It was the only thing I had to...hold on to."
"Judith, you have to accept this and move on. You have to put this in the past. Isolating yourself like you've been doing isn't going to change anything and it isn't going to bring the baby back."
She slowly turned to face him, full of heartache and pain. "How can you be so cold? How can you be so unfeeling? My baby...our baby...is dead! Of course, you didn't want this child! It was merely a pothole in the road for your love affair with my sister!"
"You know that's not how it is," he said softly as he reached out for her only to find her quickly growing hysterical as she backed away.
"Isn't it?" She let out a weak laugh. "So, Burt, tell me; what does it feel like to mourn a child that no one knows exists? How does it feel to be all alone in your grief? Well, that is if you really have any grief. You didn't have any interest in that child, anyway. Do you lay awake at night, all alone, and think about our child that will never be? Do you?"
"Judith, I can't tell you how badly I do hurt because of this!"
"I guess this does make things a lot simpler for you, doesn't it?" She eyed him carefully, making sure to pay attention to his every movement and gesture. "Now, no one will ever have to know about the bastard child that you shared with your girlfriend's sister. No one will have to know because the baby's dead!"
"W-what's going on?" came the voice from the doorway. "What are you two arguing about?"
Burt quickly froze in place at the sound of the voice. How long had she been standing there? How much had she overheard? He slowly turned to face her and nervously approached her, never once taking his eyes of the confused face of his girlfriend Janet Stokes.
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT - MAIN DINING ROOM
Leticia sat alone at her table and enjoyed her dinner. Her mind whirled with thoughts about her daughter Jillian and soon-to-be son-in-law Reginald as well as her daughter Judith and the tragic loss of her child. She was so consumed with her own thoughts that she didn't hear Fred Rutherford walk up behind her.
"Well, hello, Mrs. Stokes," Fred smiled broadly.
"Oh, Dr. Rutherford," Leticia blushed slightly as he moved around to the other side of the table to face her. "My head was off in the clouds. I didn't hear you walk up. I'm so sorry."
"That's quite all right," he laughed with a nod of his head. "I just came in for a bite of dinner and saw you sitting here all alone so I just thought I'd come over and say 'hello'." Fred furrowed his brow and looked at her carefully. "Well, I assume that you're alone."
"Yes, in fact, I am," she confessed. "What with the girls always out, I often find myself dinning alone with Judith. However, she's been so withdrawn that she's really not that much company so I like to go out for dinner. I still might be alone, but at least I'm surrounded by other people in much cheerier moods."
"I can understand that." He glanced down at the empty chair across from her. "Would you mind if I joined you? That way we could both enjoy dinner and neither one of us would have to dine alone."
"Actually, I think I would enjoy that very much." She kept her eyes focused on him as he sat down and couldn't help but recognize his sophisticated manner and debonair style. "But, if we're going to enjoy dinner together, you must call me Leticia. Mrs. Stokes just sounds too formal."
"All right, Leticia," he grinned coyly, "but you have to call me Fred."
She nodded her agreement and they both sat there for a few silent moments. A sudden sense of awkwardness had set in and neither one of them was sure where to take the conversation next. Finally, one of them spoke.
"So, Fred," Leticia began with a slight hesitation, "how is your relationship with Francis going? I'm sure it has to be difficult for both of you considering everything that's happened with Annabelle Lake and Reginald."
"Yes, it has been quite difficult for Francis," Fred admitted, "but I think you've been misinformed. Francis and I are only friends."
"I-I'm so sorry," she stammered as her face flushed with embarrassment. "I was under the impression that you two were seeing one another socially."
"Well, Francis and I do go out on occasion." He paused and motioned for the waiter who brought over his cocktail from his previous table. "But it's more for friendly companionship than romance. I consider her a dear friend. Nothing more."
"I...I see." She continued to eye him with much curiosity and fascination. His manner and his demeanor very much peaked her interest. "I could have sworn that you two were, shall we say, involved."
"Far from it, actually." Fred let out a slight chuckle. "In fact, Francis is really not my type."
"And why is that?"
"Well, she's more of a motherly, homebody type of woman. Not that there's anything wrong with that, of course." He took a sip of his cocktail, yet refused to take his eyes off of Leticia. "However, I prefer a more refined woman...a woman with more of a sophisticated slant." He looked deeply into her eyes to emphasize his point. "In fact, I prefer a woman more like yourself."
Leticia felt her face flush and she immediately reached for her glass of wine and took a large sip. She clearly found Fred quite charming and the more that she talked to him, the more intrigued she was getting.
THE CAMPBELL HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Now, wait a second, Mrs. Campbell," Maggie spoke up as she felt her temper rising. "I don't understand how you can..."
Her retort was immediately interrupted by the shrill ringing of the telephone. With an annoyed sighed, Corinne threw up her hand to silence Maggie and quickly moved to answer it.
"Eliza, dear, it's for you," Corinne said with annoyance. "Please don't be on for too long. I don't want the line tied up. I'm expecting your father to call."
"Yes, Mother," Eliza replied with a roll of her eyes as she took the receiver from her and watched her walk out of the room. "Hello? Oh, hi, Randy! Nah, I'm just sitting here studying for that silly English test with... I'm just studying. Nothing important." Eliza tried to cover her ear so that she could better hear Randy on the other end, but soon began to motion for Maggie to switch off the radio that had started broadcasting some kind of orchestral performance. "Now, that's better. I can hear you, now, Randy."
As Eliza cooed and giggled in her conversation with Randy, Maggie merely sat on the floor and glared at her.
"Oh, I miss you so much when we're not together," Eliza sighed. "I just wish we could spend every hour of every day together. Oh, Randy, I just knew you felt the same way." As she continued with her conversation, she slyly turned to glance over her shoulder to make sure that Maggie was listening to her every word. Satisfied that Maggie was, Eliza returned her focus to the conversation.
Meanwhile, Maggie tried to tune out Eliza's idle prater so that she could concentrate on her studying. Or, more accurately, so she would not hear Eliza's gooey professions of romantic devotion to Randy Lamont. In spite of her best efforts to ignore what was going on, Maggie couldn't help but stare at Eliza and listen intently. The more Eliza giggled and fawned over Randy, the redder Maggie felt her face turn.
Finally, unable to listen to any more, Maggie loudly stacked her books on top of each other and scooped them up off of the floor as she stood. "Eliza, apparently you have no intention on even attempting to study," she snapped angrily. "And I can't get any studying done with you giggling like an insane circus clown." She hurriedly yanked on her coat and hat. "I'm going home!" And with those words, Maggie stormed out the door, letting it loudly slam behind her.
With a curious tilt of her head and a cock of her eyebrow, Eliza turned to watch her leave. What in the world is wrong with her?
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"Burt, what's going on?" Janet asked as she stood in the doorway. "What are you and Judith arguing about?"
"I...um..." he stammered awkwardly before turning to glance at Judith who was making a half-hearted attempt to hide a sly smile. "I was just checking on Judith to see how she was doing since the accident."
"Yes," Judith grinned as she walked over to him and touched him on the arm, making sure that Janet could clearly she her physical closeness. "Burt was just being an absolute dear. He's so caring and thoughtful like that. Of course, I'm sure that none of that comes as news to you, Janet."
"Oh, no, of course not," Janet muttered as her eyes darted back and forth from Burt to Judith. "He's the most kind and loving man I think I've ever known. It's just like him to be so concerned about my sister."
Although the reasoning seemed logical, she couldn't get over the odd feeling that something else was going on. She could clearly see Burt's discomfort and Judith's smugness. As a gnawing feeling began to fill her stomach, Janet began to grow nervous and anxious with the suspicion that they were keeping something from her. Where they talking about her behind her back? Where they discussing her past mental problems? Did they suspect that she'd been experiencing lapses in memory that she could neither explain nor understand?
"You're very lucky to have Burt," Judith continued as she walked around the room. "He's so strong and supportive." She subtly turned to glance in Janet's direction in order to see her reactions. Noting the cloud of discomfort that had settled over her younger sister, she smiled inwardly and continued. "I'm not sure that anyone is worthy of the attention and devotion of someone as wonderful as Burt."
"Judith, that will be enough," Burt said sternly as his jaw tightened. "There's no need for you to go on and on about this."
"Oh, come now, Burt," Judith laughed, "I'm sure that Janet, here, knows that she really doesn't deserve someone like you. Don't you, Janet?"
The color began to drain from Janet's face and she felt her hands begin to shake with nervousness. Why? Why was she suddenly having such intense feelings of panic? Why was the mere sight of Burt and Judith talking making her so upset?
"Janet, are you all right?" Burt asked with concern as he slowly walked over to her. "Honey, you're not looking very well. Are you feeling all right?"
Suddenly, Janet felt her eyes flood with tears and she immediately turned and ran from the room, still unsure about exactly what was making her so upset. Burt quickly turned to look at Judith with eyes full of confusion and worry, but she only shook her head and shrugged her shoulders. Taking a deep breath, he ran after her in hopes of finding out what was going on. Left alone in the room, Judith took a long sip of her cocktail and smiled deviously.
TO BE CONTINUED
Reginald and Jillian argue about his silence.
For Now and Forever
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