For Now and Forever
EPISODE #91 (Monday,
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"Hello, Judith," Joyce Preston spoke up calmly as she came face to face with a person from her past.
"J-Joyce!" Judith Linford exclaimed, more than a little taken aback. "What...are you doing here...in Albanyville?"
"Let's just say that it was a family emergency," Joyce replied icily. "I could ask you the same question. Did you run out of people's lives to ruin in New York?"
"Surely you're not going to hold that against me?" Judith smiled coyly as she quickly regained her composure. "That was ages ago."
"There are some things you don't forget."
"Mother should be here in a moment." Judith casually looked around for a glimpse of her. "We were out shopping earlier but she had to run home. We're meeting back here for lunch. I'm sure she'd love to see you. It has been ages."
"At least since the funeral," Joyce nearly spat. "Speaking of which. How's that sister of yours? Is she still bouncing around inside that padded cell?"
"Actually, no," Judith replied, a suddenly plan formulating inside her head. "In fact, she's here in Albanyville, too."
"Oh, really?" Joyce felt her face flush with surprise. Janet Stokes was in Albanyville? This was shocking news. "You'll just have to send my warmest regards."
"I'm sure she'd be thrilled to receive them," Judith didn't fight to hide the sarcasm in her voice. "I'll be more than happy to pass them along to her. In fact, I just can't wait to tell her that I saw Joyce Scott today!"
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
Leticia Stokes hurriedly pulled on her coat and gloves. A quick glance at the clock on the wall proved what she already feared---she was late! She'd only intended to run home to drop off the overabundance of packages that she and her daughter Judith had acquired during an afternoon of shopping before meeting Judith for lunch. However, she'd gotten a little side-tracked. Those pesky afternoon serials! She'd only flipped on the radio for a moment and she hadn't been able to pull herself away from Mary Noble's latest crisis. Now, Judith was surely sitting all alone at the restaurant waiting on her, growing more and more irate with every passing moment.
She reached for the door and prepared to rush off to meet her daughter when she found a very unexpected visitor on the other side.
"Hello, Leticia," Fred Rutherford smiled warmly. "I...hope that I haven't come at a bad time."
"Um...well, yes and no," she blushed awkwardly. "I'm supposed to be meeting Judith for lunch and I'm already a little behind schedule."
"Oh," he muttered, clearly crestfallen. "I'm...sorry. I really enjoyed the evening we spent chatting the other night. I'd hoped that you'd be willing to do it again, this time in a more formal setting."
"Fred, that's awfully nice of you, but..."
"I'd hoped these might persuade you..."
With a swift movement, Fred pulled a large bouquet of flowers from behind his back and handed them to Leticia. Her hand immediately flew up to her mouth in shock. It had been so long since anyone had given her flowers! She fought to hide her surprise, but quickly realized that she wasn't doing a very good job.
"Oh, Fred, I...I just don't know what to say," Leticia smiled as she took the bouquet from him and turned to walk into the living room. Fred quickly followed.
"I'd hoped that you'd say 'yes' to my invitation." Standing there nervously with his hat in his hand, he knew that he had to play his cards right. There was just entirely too much at stake. "Leticia, may I be completely honest with you?"
"Y-yes, Fred, of course," she replied as she put the flowers in a large vase on a side table and turned to face him.
"Ever since that night we ran into each other---the night we shared such a wonderful dinner---I haven't been able to think about anything else but you." And her money, but he sure wasn't about to admit that! "You are like no other woman that I've ever met before. I'd hoped that you might feel the same sort of things about me, but..."
"Fred, it's just that..." Her voice trailed off as she looked away in discomfort. True, she did find him deeply attractive and incredibly charming, but the break up of her marriage was still fresh in her mind. She just wasn't ready to embark on another romantic involvement so soon. However...
"I know," he sighed with the appropriate tone of disappointment showing in his voice. "You don't think that a woman of your stature should be seen socially with a mere doctor. I...I know that we come from different worlds, but..."
"Oh, no, Fred! It's not that at all!"
"It's...not?" He eyed her curiously. Was his charm beginning to work? Was he about to reel in another catch?
"It's just that...well, you know that I'm married---separated, actually---and I just, well..." Leticia felt her voice begin to crack slightly.
Although she knew that it probably wasn't proper, it had been so long since she'd felt the stirrings of any kind of romance. Nelson had never been the hearts and flowers type, after all. She'd nearly resigned herself to that part of her life being over, but...well, if Helen Trent could find love and romance at 35 and beyond, then why couldn't she? Drat that Francis Callison for introducing her to those afternoon serials!
"What, Leticia, what? Tell me what you're feeling?" Fred moved closer to her and reached out to touch her gently on the cheek. Suddenly the moment was broken by the delicate chimes of the doorbell.
"We'll just let Ruby take care of that," Leticia blushed before pausing to take a deep breath. "Fred, what I was trying to say is..."
"Mrs. Stokes?" Ruby Thomas, the Stokes maid, spoke up as she stood in the doorway to the living room. "You have a...a visitor."
"Ruby, dear, just tell whoever it is that I have company and cannot be disturbed," Leticia smiled in an attempt to cover her feelings of awkwardness.
"But, Mrs. Stokes," Ruby muttered with a quick and nervous glance over her shoulder, "I...I..."
"Oh, blast this waiting!" the loud voice boomed in from the foyer. "I will not stand here waiting like a guest!"
The voice was immediately recognizable to Leticia and her jaw dropped with shock. As if on cue, her husband Nelson Stokes walked briskly into the room.
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"So, Judith, are you still cavorting with every available, and not so available, man you can find?" Joyce asked pointedly with a clear note of disdain in her voice.
"Actually..." Judith gave a slight smirk. "I'm married now."
"Really?" Joyce's eyes grew wide with shock. "Poor fellow. Well, I guess that I can't be too surprised. Your dear daddy was always pressuring you to settle down. How is the old coot anyway?"
"Daddy is doing just fine," Judith replied coldly, quite annoyed with the Joyce's condescending tone regarding her father.
"So, tell me..." Joyce paused as her eyes narrowed and she took a deep breath. "Has that sister of yours managed to kill off any more of her lovers? Or was Gordon the only one...so far?"
"Janet is of no concern to you!" Judith snapped as her jaw began to tighten. "I admit that what happened was unfortunate, but Gordon was a horrible letch who was only out to take advantage of any impressionable young girl he could find."
"Now, Judith, you don't expect me to see you as impressionable, do you?" Joyce let out a thin laugh. "Have you and Janet managed to trade off on lovers again? Or was my husband the only one?"
Judith looked away with discomfort as thoughts of Burt Lamont quickly ran through her head.
"I still can't believe it," Joyce sighed. "How could the woman that I thought was my best friend so callously betray me? How could you have the gall and the audacity to carry on with my husband?"
"Joyce, we've all made mistakes in our lives," Judith sighed, weary that she was being forced to repeat a conversation that she had already had many times before. "Gordon was one of the biggest mistakes of my life. That's why when I saw what was happening between him and Janet, I tried to do everything in my power to stop it. Of course, she would never listen to me! Oh, if she had I could have saved us all a lot of pain and heartache."
"Yes, and my husband would still be alive!"
"Oh, gee, Joyce, I think I hear Jasper calling for you," Judith laughed with a wicked grin. "Bitter, party of one!"
"You might be laughing now, Judith, dear," Joyce spat haughtily, "but I'll be the one who has the last laugh. You Stokes girls ruined my life when you ripped my darling Gordon away from me and...."
"You know, I'm quite exhausted and I really don't feel like dealing with a harpy from the past," Judith sighed with a roll of her eyes. "If you'll excuse me, I have a table waiting. I'd ask you to join me, but I like breathing fresh air." And with a clinch of her teeth and a sharp turn of her head, Judith angrily stormed away leaving Joyce alone to seethe.
"Oh, Judith," Joyce muttered with disgust to herself, "you and Janet are the cause of everything bad that's happened in my life. If it weren't for you two tramps, my life wouldn't have become such a shambles. I wouldn't have been left penniless when Gordon died and I wouldn't have had to marry that old codger Thornton." She smiled slyly as she thought about a score that needed to be settled. Maybe this was fate's way of telling her that now was the time.
THE WISHING WELL SODA SHOPPE
"And you will just never believe what he said to me!" Eliza Campbell exclaimed as she leaned in to snuggle next to Randy Lamont who was sitting next to her in the booth. "Well, he said that Mrs. Stanhoffer was the nuttiest old bat that ever taught Biology! Well, I thought I was going to howl!"
"Yes, I'm sure it was quite funny," Maggie Callison muttered with a sigh as she glanced from Eliza over to Randy and then to the boy who was seated next to her before sliding down into the booth.
"It really wasn't that funny," Randy muttered awkwardly, more than a little embarrassed by the big deal that Eliza was making out of his off-handed comment.
"I think it's hysterical!" Stanley Fitzpatrick laughed before taking a sip of his soda. "Don't you, Mags?"
"Oh, yeah!" Maggie exclaimed with false exuberance. "A laugh riot!" Her eyes darted from Eliza to Randy again.
"Gee, Mags, I think it's swell that you forgive me for missing the Fall Dance," Stanley smiled as he grabbed her limp hand. "I thought you never would forgive me for getting sick and all."
"Yeah, what was it again?" Maggie asked as she swiftly pulled her hand away and began to tap her chin with her finger. "Swine Flu? Or was it Small Pox?"
"Now, Maggie, quit teasing Stanley," Eliza laughed as she tried to cover her annoyance with her best friend's cavalier attitude. Meanwhile, she gave Maggie a quick kick in the shin underneath the table.
"Ouch!" Maggie cried out suddenly as she shot Eliza an angry look.
"Maggie is something wrong?" Randy asked with concern. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she grumbled. "Just a sudden pain in my neck."
"But you're holding your leg," Stanley quickly observed as his eyes filled with confusion.
"Oh, you know how Maggie is," Eliza laughed warmly as she leaned across the table to address Stanley. "She can get so uncomfortable in situations like this."
"What ' situations' are you talking about?" Maggie was growing more worried about what Eliza was up to.
"Well, situations like this," Eliza smiled. "You and Stanley finally out on your first date in months. A simple misunderstanding keeping the two of you apart and now here you both are together...."
"I wouldn't exactly think it was as serious as all that," Randy commented with a sideways glance towards Eliza. "We're just a bunch of friends out for a soda after school."
"Ah, boys," Eliza giggled in an attempt to cover her own displeasure with the flippancy of Randy's remark. "You only can see things in the simplest of terms."
"Well, I for one agree with Eliza." Stanley reached over and took Maggie's reluctant hand into his. "It's amazing how some things work out."
Resigned to her undesired fate, Maggie sunk further down into the booth as she allowed Stanley to hold her hand.
"Oh, I definitely agree!" Eliza looked over at Randy and let out a soft sigh. "It's almost like everything is working out just the way it was meant to. You with Maggie and me with Randy!"
Randy subtly shook his head in disbelief before propping his elbow on the table and resting his chin in his hand. There was clearly no stopping Eliza's ramblings.
"What I really can't believe is that my dad is the guy who arrested your brother for that woman's murder," Stanley laughed as he turned to Maggie. "Isn't that just the craziest thing?"
"Please don't remind me," Maggie sighed and buried her face in her hands. "That's the last thing I want to think about right now." She looked up and glanced at Stanley. "Well, one of the last things..."
"So, Stanley, has your father let any information slip out about the investigation?" Eliza asked as she focused all of her attention on getting a piece of good gossip. "Do they really think Maggie's brother did it?"
"Well, he doesn't exactly confide the details with me," Stanley let out a sly smile, "but he does ask for my opinion from time to time. He tells me that I have a very sharp mind and I'm very deductive."
"Really?" Eliza began to act more and more interested.
As Eliza and Stanley continued with their idle chatter, Maggie quickly began to work to tune them out. The last thing she wanted to hear about was Stanley's "expert" analysis of the police investigation or Eliza's exuberance over the entire mess. As she slowly lifted her head, she found herself staring at Randy who seemed to be just as bored with the entire conversation as she was. To Maggie's surprise, she discovered that he was looking right back at her. Consequently, neither one of them could tear their eyes away.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"N-Nelson!" Leticia exclaimed, the shock of seeing her husband apparent on her face. "What...what are you doing here?"
"Leticia, I've...been doing a lot of thinking since you left New York." Nelson's eyes moved from his wife to Fred. "And I...well... Oh, blast it, Leticia, I just can't let you ruin our marriage by running off!"
"You can't let me?" Her eyes narrowed as she tried to contain her sudden irritation. "What makes you think that you have any business 'letting' me do anything? The entire time we've been married, it's been all about what you deem appropriate. It's been about what you think is right. Well, when is my turn? When does my life get to be about me?"
"Leticia, darling," Nelson spoke up as his voice began to soften, "that's...not what I meant and I..."
"No!" she interrupted. "I'm tired of you dictating my life! I'm tired of you dictating our daughters' lives!"
"Um...Leticia..." Fred muttered awkwardly, more than a little embarrassed from witnessing the deeply personal exchange. "Maybe I should go."
"No, Fred, that's all right." She reached out and placed a firm hand on his shoulder. "This discussion is finished!"
"Leticia, if you would just listen to me." Nelson eyed her pleadingly. His change in emotion and demeanor was not lost on his wife.
She paused for a moment as she contemplated what to do. Finally, with a defeated sigh, she gave in and nodded silently.
"Could you excuse us for a moment, Mr.--um--" Nelson eyed Fred suspiciously.
"Fred Rutherford, Mr. Stokes," he smiled as he tried to act nonchalant while he stuck out his hand in a greeting. "Dr. Fred Rutherford. Your wife and I have become good friends since she's been in Albanyville."
"Then you won't mind if I speak to my wife alone." Nelson kept his eyes locked on Fred.
"Um...of course not." Fred took a deep breath and turned to nod politely to Leticia before moving out of the living room and back into the foyer.
"Now that we're alone," Nelson continued, his manner softening once again. "Leticia...darling, I've been a fool. I'm here because I want you give up this foolish idea that you have of a divorce. Darling, I love you and I always have."
"You have a fine way of showing it!" Leticia snapped coldly. "All you do is tell me what I should think and what I so do and what I should say. You're the exact same way with the girls. Well, except for Judith." She paused for a moment and rolled her eyes. "She gets to do whatever she wants to while you keep a tight leash on Janet and Jillian."
"I admit that I can be rather obstinate," he sighed as he hung his head, "but it's only because I care. It's only because I want what's best for this family." He paused and took a deep breath. "In fact, that's another reason why I'm here."
"What do you mean?"
"Unless a miracle has happened, Jillian is still set to marry that Callison boy in just a couple of weeks." Nelson's jaw tightened at the thought of his youngest daughter's wedding. "I'm sure you must realize that New York isn't so far away that I haven't heard about the unseemly death of that woman we met at Jillian's engagement party."
"Oh, Nelson, don't start in with that again!" Leticia shook her head in frustration and turned away from him as she slowly began to pace around the room. "Nothing you can do is going to change Jillian's mind! For heaven's sakes, you disowned your own daughter in an attempt to stop this wedding and it didn't work!"
"It didn't work because you deliberately went behind my back and sent Jillian money! If you would have just done as I wanted, she would have seen how tough life is on her own and she would have called off this farce of a marriage to that boy!"
"If you think that I would just stand by as you callously cast our own daughter aside, then you're..."
"We've had this disagreement a thousand times! That's not what I was doing!" Nelson felt his face began to turn beet red in anger. Why couldn't she understand what he was doing? Why did she have to be so argumentative? "If you'd just let me do things my way, we could have made our daughter realize what kind of a mistake she was making. But, no! You had to go behind my back and..."
"I'm not discussing this with you," Leticia stated firmly. "I admit that I had my own misgivings about Reginald, but I can see now that Jillian really does love him and he loves her."
"The boy is under suspicion of murder!" He paused and took several long, deep breaths to calm himself. "Look, time is running out. We have to put a stop to this wedding before our daughter makes a mistake that she's going to regret for the rest of her life!"
"Oh, I see, now." She turned to face him and folded her arms tightly across her chest. "That's what all of this romantic talk that you came in here spewing is really about. You came here to sweet talk me so that I would side with you against our daughter!"
"Not against, darling, for!" His face slowly began to soften as he looked at her earnestly---almost pleadingly. "I only want what's best for this family."
"What you really mean is that you only want what you think is best for this family!" She leveled her gaze at him and stared at him intently. "Well, I've had enough of what you think is best! No amount of empty words of devotion is going to change my mind. In fact, I'm rather enjoying my new independence. I've discovered a whole new world and I'm moving on with my life."
"W-what do you mean?" Nelson eyed her curiously as he quickly grew afraid of what was behind her declaration.
"What I'm saying is that I'm discovering that there is life without you." A brief, sly smile crossed her lips before she regained her stoic demeanor. "And I'm discovering that I'm not too old to still believe in romance. In fact, Fred is quite interested in me romantically and I feel the same way about him. You might even say that we've begun to see one another socially." She paused for effect. "I don't need you or your strong-arm tactics anymore, Nelson!"
Nelson took several steps backward as if the force of her words had delivered a physical blow. Surely she couldn't mean what she was saying! Surely there was still a chance to repair the rift in their marriage!
Meanwhile, unnoticed by either Nelson or Leticia, Fred was carefully listening outside the door. Upon hearing her grand announcement to Nelson, he couldn't help but smile.
JOSEPH HAYNE RAINEY MEMORIAL NEGRO HOSPITAL - CALVIN'S OFFICE
"Busy?" Ruby asked hesitantly as she rapped lightly on the slightly ajar door.
"I'm never too busy for you!" Dr. Calvin Jackson laughed as he quickly rose from his chair and walked over to greet her. "What are you doing here? Not that I'm not happy to see you, but..."
"Oh, I had to run a few errands," she smiled as she deliberately tried to be evasive. She just couldn't tell him that those errands consisted of grocery shopping so that she could prepare that night's dinner for the Stokes family. "A little shopping."
"I...see..." His voice trailed off for a moment as his mind drifted to thoughts of the lavish things that Ruby's wealthy background could afford her---things he could never buy for her himself. "Well, I'm glad you're here. Now I have something to take my mind off of things."
"Take your mind off of things?" Ruby eyed him curiously. "Calvin, is something wrong? A difficult day at the hospital?"
"Oh, no, not that," he sighed and folded his arms across his chest as he leaned back against his desk. "More of a family problem. My sister decided to spring a surprise visit on Momma."
"Well, that sounds like a good thing!"
"You don't know my family." He let out a small, uncomfortable laugh as he realized the exact truth of that statement. "My sister's relationship with our mother is difficult at best. It seems like every time we turn around, she's done something else to get Momma all upset."
"Oh, no," Ruby sighed as she placed a gentle and caring hand on his arm. "Would it help if you talked about it? I'm a very good listener."
"Yes, indeed, you are." He smiled at her again.
He was fully convinced that there was no finer woman in Albanyville than Ruby Thomas---so warm and loving. And rich! It was that fact that stuck in the back of his head and wouldn't let go. How could he, working son of a simple housekeeper, ever be able to compete with the lavish lifestyle that Ruby was clearly accustomed to? After a brief moment, he took a deep breath and spoke again.
"Well, you see, my sister has always...well...been high spirited, to say the least." He lifted his hand to massage his temple, the stress of his current family situation having clearly gotten to him. "Ever since we were kids, she seems to bend over backwards trying to get a rise out of Momma. She's really done it this time."
"It sounds pretty bad." Ruby sat down in the chair beside the desk and lifted her head to look at Calvin as she listen to him intently.
"Very. To make a long story short, she arrived---unexpectedly---with a baby."
"Yes!" Calvin shook his head, still in shock from the news.
"And she never told any of you that she was expecting?" Ruby paused as he shook his head. "Well, I can understand how that would be upsetting, but once the shock wears off I'm sure... Oh, I see. Your mother doesn't care for her husband. That's it, isn't it?"
"Oh, my lord!" She slumped back into her seat and let out a sharp gasp. "Well, I can understand, now! This must be a horrible shock to you. I can't imagine how a family that is as socially prominent as yours is might react to news like this!"
"It's not just a socially prominent family, Ruby." He sighed as he thought about the reality of his own family situation. "Any family would be shocked by this." Looking directly at her, he was taken in by the understanding and care that was expressed on her face. True, she'd been taken aback by the news regarding his sister, but she was definitely not acting judgmental. Maybe she would understand that he wasn't from as prominent a family as she'd been led to believe. Maybe she would be able to accept the truth.
He had almost decided to reveal everything about himself that he'd struggled for months to keep hidden when, suddenly, the office door flew open and Naomi Jackson breezed into the room.
"Calvin, I just can't deal with Momma anymore!" Naomi shouted angrily. "If I have to listen to that woman's rantings about my baby for another minute I think I'm gonna scream!"
"I...um...now isn't..." His eyes darted from Naomi to Ruby and back again. This was not the way he'd intended for Ruby to meet his family! Naomi had a big personality and an even bigger mouth. He knew that she wouldn't hesitate to reveal anything and everything that she knew and that fact worried him to no end.
"Oh, I didn't realize that you had a patient." Naomi inspected Ruby carefully, eyeing her up and down. "You are a patient, aren't you?"
"Um, no. Actually..." Ruby spoke up, quickly growing uneasy. "I...I'm..."
"She's a friend of mine, Naomi," Calvin said flatly as his jaw began to tighten. "Not that that's really any of your business."
"Well! I can see that you're puttin' on airs now, too!" Naomi stood with her hands on her hips and pursed her lips tightly. "Just like Momma! She thinks that just because she works..."
"Ruby, I'm really sorry about this," he interrupted as he quickly rushed to move between her and Naomi. "I had hoped that you two could have met under more plesant circumstances."
"I...understand." Ruby carefully peered around him and at Naomi and furrowed her brow slightly. He clearly hadn't exaggerated his sister's disposition in the least. In fact, she was convinced that, if anything, he'd under-played it! Ruby shook her head, not quite sure how a family as fine and upstanding as Calvin's could have raised such an unseemly appearing young woman.
"Ruby, I hate to cut this short, but I'm afraid that all of this is going to keep you from your plans," he said as he took her hand and gently, yet urgently, led her towards the door. "I'll...call you tomorrow about plans for dinner."
"O-okay," she nodded as she began to feel even more out of place.
After a quick peck on the cheek, Ruby stepped out into the hallway as the door quickly shut behind her. As she began to walk down the long corridor, she stopped suddenly to turn and eye the closed door with much concern. She couldn't help but think about how out of place Naomi seemed considering everything she knew about Calvin's social status. She also couldn't help but think that there was something else terribly wrong. Ruby was convinced that Calvin was keeping something else from her, but what in the world could it be?
TO BE CONTINUED
Janet realizes a piece of truth!
For Now and Forever
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