For Now and Forever
EPISODE #89 (Thursday,
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE - LIVING ROOM
"Well, I'm sure you can understand what a shock it was to see you," Dorothea Jackson explained as she sipped on her cup of coffee. "After all, you haven't even as much as written me a letter in months."
"I've been a little busy," her daughter Naomi Jackson muttered flatly.
"I can see that." Dorothea glanced in the direction of her infant grandson who was being held securely in his mother Naomi's arms---a grandson that Dorothea had known nothing about until Naomi's unexpected arrival. After a long, thoughtful pause, Dorothea spoke again. "Naomi, why didn't you tell me about the baby?"
"Because I knew how you'd react." Naomi tried to remain cool and aloof. She was determined not to let her mother get under her skin like she always seemed to do. "I knew that it would just start another round of arguments. I just didn't feel like dealing with it."
"Oh, but, Naomi!" Dorothea let out a heavy sigh. "How do you expect to take care of this child? You're...you're not even married!"
"Why don't you let me worry about that!"
"And what about the father?" Dorothea eyed her carefully. "Certainly he's going to do something to help you raise this child. If he were any type of real man he would have married you!" She paused again and looked at the baby closely. "Honey, who is the father?"
Naomi sat in silence and gently rocked her son as he lay peacefully in her arms. Did she dare to tell her mother the truth? Could she risk revealing her plans to the one person she knew could never approve?
"How are you doing?" Patterson Monroe asked after what seemed like an eternity of silence. He eyed Stephanie Lake carefully, unsure about exactly what feelings were churning deep down inside of her.
"Numb," she muttered as she stared blankly down at her hands as they rested in her lap. "I just...can't believe that no one was there. You'd at least think that one of the Callisons would have come to the memorial service!"
"Steph, considering the circumstances, I'm sure you can understand." He reached across the table and forced her to take his hand so that he could give it a gentle squeeze.
"Douglas wasn't even there and she was his secretary."
"Honey, you know that his mother just died, too."
As Patterson continued to watch her carefully, his heart broke for her. No matter what horrible things that Annabelle Lake had done, no matter what kind of turmoil she'd thrown at the Callison family---a family as near and dear to him as his own---she was still Stephanie's mother. No matter what had happened, there was still a bond of love that a child has for her mother.
"I...I know," she sighed. "I just...thought that...maybe...."
"Look, Dane and Sara were there," he nodded as he tried to find positives to out-weigh the negatives, "so was her mother. It's not like we were the only two people there."
"Dane and Sara wouldn't even speak to me." Stephanie took a deep breath as she tried to fight back her tears. "Heck, they wouldn't even look at me."
"Well, Sara's mother was nice enough," Patterson nodded. "I thought the arrangement of flowers that she brought was quite beautiful."
"Yeah," she smiled briefly as a warm memory flooded over her. "Roses. Red roses were always Momma's favorite flower. That was really nice of Aunt Joyce to remember that."
"See, it wasn't all bad. It really was a lovely service."
"But...but..." As her eyes began to fill with tears, she quickly turned away to hide her sudden outburst of emotion.
"But what happens now? What am I supposed to do without Momma?" Stephanie bit down on her bottom lip to keep it from quivering. "I...I just got two more bills in the mail this week. There's no way I can pay them! How...how am I supposed to be able to afford to live without Momma? I can't...I can't do it on my own!"
"Yes, you can! You're Stephanie Lake, the most popular girl at Albanyville High!" Patterson smiled broadly in hopes that his positive outlook and good humor would prove contagious. "You can do anything!"
"I'm not in high school anymore, Paddy," she sighed. "I'm in college...and not doing very well at it, either, I might add. My days of being the most popular anything are over. The only thing I could get voted today would be town pariah!"
"Steph, you're being way too hard on..."
"Excuse me," the deep, booming voice came from behind them. "I really don't mean to interrupt, but, young lady, that voice!"
Both Patterson and Stephanie turned around simultaneously to see who was speaking to them and they both furrowed their brows with curiosity.
"Oh, please forgive me," the man chuckled as he reached into his breast pocket. "Let me give you my card."
Stephanie took it from him and looked at it intently, not quite understanding what it meant.
"Young lady, have you ever thought about working in radio?" Willis Lowell asked as he inspected her carefully. "You have the most perfect voice. So full of emotion and character!"
"Well, I...I never really considered it before." Her eyes darted from the stranger to Patterson and back again.
"Um...Mr. Lowell, what are you trying to say?" Patterson spoke up as he eyed the card intently.
"What I'm trying to say," Mr. Lowell sighed, "is that this young lady could be quite a success. Look, I'm running late for an appointment. Miss, if you ever decide to pursue a career in radio, don't hesitate to look me up. I really think I could use a voice like yours."
And with a courteous nod of his head, Mr. Lowell was off just as suddenly as he had appeared.
As Stephanie continued to stare blankly at the card, Mr. Lowell's words continued to echo inside her head... "A career in radio...."
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
Leticia Stokes walked briskly down the stairs and turned to step into the living room when she paused suddenly. Her daughter Judith was sitting alone in a chair by the large French doors and gazing out at the snow covered lake. Leticia sighed wearily. Alone was how Judith seemed to spend nearly all of her days. Ever since the accident, Judith rarely left the house.
"Judith," Leticia spoke up as she finally walked into the room, "how about going into town with me today? I hear that there's a wonderful after-Christmas sale still going on at Lerner's. I think that we're both due a few new dresses."
"That's okay, Mother," Judith Linford sighed, never taking her eyes off the lake. "You go on without me. I'm sure that you're more than capable of picking out clothes on your own. I'll just stay here."
"Oh, darling, why won't you come with me---get out of the house, do something?" Leticia stood there, awkwardly wringing her hands. Why did Judith have to be so difficult all the time? "All you seem to want to do is either stay in your room and sit in that chair looking out at the lake. I just don't know how that can be good for you!"
"It's what I want to do, Mother," Judith muttered flatly. "Now, if you're going to go shopping, you better hurry before all of the good bargains are gone."
"Oh, please come with me. It would do your mood and your spirits a world of good to get out among people. You can't just shut yourself off like this from everyone! You can't keep yourself locked inside this house for the rest of your life mourning your dead child!"
"I will do as I please," Judith spat as she quickly turned to face her. "If I want to wall myself up in the basement and rot there, it will be my decision! It would be a far better fate than having to deal with the loss of my precious child." And her hold on Burt Lamont, as well, but no need for her to bring that up.
"Honey, all throughout that pregnancy, you acted like the baby was nothing more than a bother for you and..."
"Well..." Judith's voice trailed off slightly. True, she had been more than a little annoyed by the restrictions placed on her by the child she'd been carrying. She sighed with the realization that it was true that sometimes you didn't appreciate what you had until you lost it. "Well, I see things much clearer now."
"Judith, do you want to be trapped in mourning for the rest of your life?" Leticia walked further into the room and eyed her daughter closely. "Don't you want to eventually become the person you used to be?" Leticia winced slightly as the words came out of her mouth. The person Judith used to be was less than pleasant, but it was much better than the wet mop she appeared to be now! "Please come with me. We can stop at The Gardens for a bite to eat---get some air and some good food. We can see people. The ladies at my bridge club are always asking how you're doing and..."
"Oh, all right!" Judith snapped as she slowly rose from her seat. "If it will get you to shut up, I'll go!"
"Now, that's much better. You go upstairs and get dressed." Leticia began to scurry around the room, her mind a flutter with plans as if she were planning a gala affair. "I think that lovely emerald green dress would be nice. You know the one with the little matching jacket?"
"Yes, Mother," Judith sighed.
"Now, where is that husband of yours?" Leticia asked as she gently tapped her chin with her index finger. "He should go out to eat with us. I think that would be lovely."
"I haven't the foggiest idea where Mark is," Judith muttered, disgusted at the mention of her husband. "And, actually, I really don't care. He could go back to New York for all I care."
"Oh, Judith," Leticia replied with shock and disdain. As her daughter walked out of the room and headed up the stairs, Leticia could only stand and shake her head. Whatever would she do with that daughter of hers?
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE - LIVING ROOM
"Naomi, what are you planning to do?" Dorothea asked again as she stood with her hands on her hips. "How do you expect to care for this child without a husband?"
"Why don't you let me worry about that?" Naomi snapped angrily. "I've taken good care of myself by myself so far that taking care of the two of us on our own shouldn't be that big of a problem."
"Oh, dear, you really are in for a rude awakening!" Dorothea shook her head with the realization of how completely naive her daughter could be. "The father of that baby should be here to help you! He gave you that child and he should take responsibility for it! Now, honey, why don't you tell me who little Aubrey's father is and..."
"Who the father of my son is is none of your business!" Naomi jumped up off of the sofa with her baby and spun around to turn away from her mother.
"Young lady, don't you ever turn your back on me when I'm speaking to you!" Dorothea said sternly. "Haven't you even stopped to think about what all of this is going to mean for this child?"
"I am determined to do this alone---without a husband or a father for Aubrey." Naomi said firmly as her teeth clinched. Why did her mother have to be so judgmental? Why did she have to be so self-righteous? Naomi knew it would be a mistake to let her mother know that she was in Albanyville, but she also knew that if she were to have kept her presence a secret and then it was later discovered, there would have been much more trouble in the long run.
"Oh, Naomi," Dorothea muttered in frustration as she slowly shook her head. She had never been able to get her headstrong daughter to listen to reason. Why did she think that she would be able to now?
Meanwhile, across the room, Naomi silently stared out the window and smirked slightly. As she held her son tightly in her arms, she knew full well that he would be the key to getting everything that she'd ever wanted.
CALLISON PUBLICATIONS - CHARLES'S OFFICE
"Dad?" Trevor Callison spoke up as he rapped lightly on the door which was slightly open. "Are...you busy?"
"Trevor!" Charles Callison exclaimed and quickly rose from his seat so that he could walk over and greet his son. "This is a pleasant surprise. There's not anything wrong down at the paper, is there? I know you've been working a lot of extra hours trying to help Reginald out what with everything he's got going on right now."
"Um...no," Trevor shook his head. "Everything's fine with The Post. This isn't about that. In fact, this isn't professional at all."
"Really?" Charles eyed his son carefully as he contemplated what could have motivated his sudden visit.
Over the past few months, Trevor and Charles had barely been on speaking terms considering the elder Callison's relationship with Annabelle Lake. In fact, Trevor had been so repulsed by his father's actions that he took the drastic step to move out of the family home and into his own apartment. The only times that Trevor had even bothered to communicate with his father concerned the family business. It was a break that pained Charles greatly.
"I...um..." Trevor stammered as he stepped further into the office.
"Son, I just want to tell you how sorry I am for everything that's happened to this family for most of the past year. It's all my fault." Charles lowered his head, more than a little embarrassed by his foolhardy actions. "I just can't believe that I was such a daft idiot where that woman was concerned. Oh, if I only had it to do all over again, things would all have been so different."
"A-actually, um, that's the reason why I'm here." Trevor paused for a moment and nervously looked at his father. There was so much that he wanted to say, so many feelings that he needed to express, if he could only find the right words.
"Father...Dad, I was...I'm...sorry." Trevor awkwardly glanced down at the floor, slightly embarrassed about the situation. "I shouldn't have...well...come down so hard on you. I mean..."
"Trevor, there is no need for you to apologize for anything!" Charles said sternly as he quickly approached his son. "I'm the one who should be apologizing here, not you. I'm the one who was an old fool who was easily duped by Annabelle's lies and schemes. You were only standing up in the defense of your mother. You saw right through everything and I'm...I'm proud of you for that. You were loyal to your mother and to this family while I did nothing but try to tear it apart!"
"Dad, it's...not all your fault. Annabelle was very clever---more clever than any of us gave her credit for." Trevor eyed his father cautiously, the uncomfortable wall that had grown up between them still not fully torn down.
"Well, I'm still an old fool," Charles sighed. "I just hope I can make up to your mother and this family for all of the pain that I've caused. I don't care if it takes the rest of my life to..."
"D-Dad..." Trevor muttered as, layer by layer, the wall started to crumble. In one brief instant, the two men, father and son, fell into each other's arms and embraced. No matter what horrible things had happened---no matter what wicked tricks and schemes that Annabelle Lake had pulled, the were still family. And, during this difficult time, this family had to come to gather and stand as one unit.
Quickly feeling slightly embarrassed and awkward by their emotional displays, Charles and Trevor pulled apart.
"W-would you consider moving back into the house?" Charles asked tentatively. "You're old room is still there---just like you left it."
"Um...actually, no, Dad," Trevor replied. "I've gotten rather used to the apartment. I think I'll stay there." He paused for a moment and looked at his father earnestly. "But...that doesn't mean that I can't visit all the time."
"I...I'd like that," Charles smiled.
"Um...well...I have to go," Trevor muttered as he glanced down at his watch. "The funeral for Grace's mother is this afternoon and I really need to be there for her."
"Yes. It's really hit her hard. She's...not accepting it all too well. It even seems like she's pulling away from me a little bit."
"Trevor, I'm going to try and clear my calendar for this afternoon," Charles spoke up urgently and walked around to the back of his desk, "I really need to be there to show my support and sympathy to Douglas and Grace. But...if I can't make it, please send my condolences."
"I sure will, Dad," Trevor smiled as a sense of relief and release washed over him.
Maybe the dark cloud named Annabelle Lake was finally beginning to lift from their family. Trevor couldn't help but feel glad that the woman was dead. If only Reginald weren't the one accused of the crime....
"Well, that was odd," Patterson spoke up as Mr. Lowell quickly walked away from the table. He eyed Stephanie curiously and when no response or visible reaction came, he spoke up again. "Stephanie? Are you listening to me?"
"Um...oh...what?" she asked as she popped her head up. She'd been too busy staring at Mr. Lowell's card to hear what he'd said.
"I said that was odd. That Mr. Lowell just showing up like that and raving about your voice." He furrowed his brow in curiosity and looked at the card, still clutched in Stephanie's hand. "What does it say? Who is he?"
"He's...a radio producer..." she muttered, half to Patterson and half to herself, "for WALB."
"Well, maybe he wants you to star in a new radio show," Patterson laughed. "You know, maybe one of those serials in the afternoon. I can hear it now! The Romance of Stephanie Lake!"
"Oh, very funny," she grumbled and sunk down into her seat. "What romance?"
Patterson's face fell slightly. "You...know what I mean." He paused for a moment. "Wouldn't it be kinda neat if you did become a big radio star?"
"Oh, that's silly! I'm not an actress! There's no way I could ever be on a radio show!" But still, the idea was intriguing.
"Please! I've seen you in action! You're just so naturally dramatic anyway!"
"And what's that supposed to mean?" Stephanie narrowed her eyes and looked at him in annoyance.
"Don't get your feathers all in a ruffle," he laughed, slightly amused with how easily she could become defensive. "I just meant that you have a tendency to act dramatically in real life. A lot of those scheming stunts that you've pulled weren't really you. They were just a role you were playing because you thought you had to. I'm sure being on radio---and getting money for it, I might add---wouldn't be much of a stretch for you."
"Well, it's not going to happen," she grumbled again, "I'm not an actress. I don't know the first thing about acting!" But still....
"Oh, all right," he sighed as he rose from the table. "Well, I need to go to the restroom. If you'll excuse me?"
"Um...yes, of course."
As Patterson slowly walked away, Stephanie continued to eye the card that Willis Lowell had given her. A radio producer? Could Stephanie really become an actress on the radio? It would help solve the financial dilemma that she'd found herself in. While she contemplated the pros and the cons of the idea, she briefly glanced up from the card and caught sight of something that greatly peaked her interest.
In the back corner of the cafe sat Helen Van Dine and a very handsome mystery gentleman. Stephanie stared at them intently and felt herself growing deeply angry at the sight of a giggly Helen enjoying herself in the company of the man. How dare Helen have so much fun after she'd worked so hard to ruin Stephanie's life? As she began to seethe, Stephanie couldn't help but find the gentleman oddly familiar. She was just sure that she'd seen him somewhere before.
"Um, excuse me," Stephanie spoke up as she grabbed the attention of a nearby waitress. "That couple sitting at that back table..."
"Yes," the waitress asked as her eyes darted to Helen and her date. "Cute couple."
"Who is he?" Stephanie leaned in closer as if she were about to hear a very intriguing secret.
"Well, I'm not one to gossip," the waitress smiled slyly, "and I must add that I'm not one to pry, either, but..." She glanced around for a moment as if she were checking out the security of the area and she was about to deliver top secret information. "Well, I do manage to overhear things when I'm pouring coffee and serving food."
"I'm sure you do," Stephanie nodded, eager for the waitress to continue. "Who is he?"
"Well..." the waitress' voice trailed off into a whisper, "his name is Mark Linford...."
TO BE CONTINUED
Stephanie gets an ear-full.
For Now and Forever
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