For Now and Forever
EPISODE #93 (Wednesday,
THE STOKES MANSION - TERRACE
As Burt Lamont stepped through the French doors and out onto the terrace, he found a shivering and sobbing Janet standing quietly in the snow. Her emotional appearance disturbed him greatly.
"J-Janet," he spoke up tentatively. "Janet, are you all right?" He paused for a moment for an answer, but none came. "Janet, darling, please come inside. It's freezing out here. You're going to catch your death of cold."
"D-death," Janet Stokes muttered, almost as if she were talking to herself.
"Janet, please come inside." He walked up behind her and wrapped his arms around her in an attempt to keep her warm.
"Oh, Burt! The baby!" She turned around to face him as icy tears streamed down her face.
"I know that the loss of Judith's baby has been difficult for your entire family," he said softly as he tried to be as vaguely understanding as possible. "I mean, Judith can be difficult enough under normal circumstances. This was just a horrible tragedy. Of course, you---as loving and sympathetic as you can be---would have the most trouble dealing with such a terrible thing."
"No, Burt!" she spoke up, her voice cracking from emotion. "The baby!"
"Darling, what...are you trying to say?" He searched her eyes for some clue as to what was going on inside her head. "What about the baby?"
"Your baby!" she sobbed, clearly in deep emotional pain. "I remember! It was your baby!"
THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE
"Hello, Grace," Dane Manchester smiled as he walked up to the counter. "I was hoping that you'd be working today."
"What do you want, Dane?" Grace Davis replied coolly as she kept her eyes focused on a stack of books she was sorting, refusing to even look at him.
"I just...wanted to see how you were doing." He paused for a moment in hopes that she would glance up at him. "I know that your mother's passing has been very traumatic for you. I've been...worried."
"I appreciate your concern," she muttered curtly, "but I'm dealing with things in my own way. I'm trying to stay busy. That includes working which you seem to want to keep me from. Now, if you'll excuse me..."
"Grace, don't be like this," he sighed as he reached out and touched her lightly on the hand, finally drawing her attention. "What happened that night between us was special. It was a beautiful moment shared between two people who share an intense connection."
"It was a horrible, tragic mistake!" she snapped with fire in her eyes. "You played upon my vulnerability due to my mother's condition! I had no business being in that car with you! I should have been out on the road walking to town to get Douglas so that we could have been with her when...when..."
"Grace," Dane spoke softly, "don't do this to yourself. Of course you feel some sense of guilt and remorse for giving into your feelings. I admit that the timing was a little...inappropriate, but..."
"Inappropriate?" she spat angrily. "My mother was lying on her deathbed!"
"Grace, there's no need to act like this," he said sternly in a hushed tone as he quickly glanced around the store to see if anyone had overheard her outburst.
"I must look really foolish to you, Dane." Grace clinched her fists together underneath the counter in an attempt to hide her anger. "I was naive and stupid to believe all of those wonderful things you've said to me. I just should have listened to everyone who told me what a rotten creep you really are!"
"Grace, you don't mean that." He reached across the counter and touched her gently on the arm, but she immediately yanked her arm away.
"I mean every word. I was frightened and panicked and you took advantage of that just to feed your own ego!" She paused to take several long, deep breaths to calm herself. "I just want to forget that that night, and you, ever happened!"
"Oh, but you'll never be able to forget," he smiled coyly. "A young girl can never forget her first crush. It's a memory that stays with you forever."
Grace glared at him with fire in her eyes. She didn't think she could ever detest anyone as much as she detested Dane at that moment. His multitude of charms and flirtatious demeanor no longer mattered. The spell had been broken and she could finally see him for who he was---a manipulative weasel. She had never really mattered to him. The only thing that he'd been truly interested in was the gluttonous feeding of his own ego.
Suddenly, the tense moment was interrupted by a new customer in the store. More accurately, a new player in an already tense scene had arrived.
"Hi, Grace," Trevor Callison said with a smile as he strolled up to the counter. He quickly noticed the seething looks being given to Dane and immediately realized that something was not quite right. "Dane," he nodded politely. His eyes moved from Grace to Dane and back again. Something was most definitely wrong and he was more than a little curious as to what it might be.
THE STOKES MANSION - TERRACE
"W-what did you say?" Burt asked nervously. Surely he couldn't have heard her correctly.
"I know, Burt!" Janet cried. "I know that the baby that Judith lost was your child! I know that you were the father of her baby!"
"B-but...I....oh...." he stammered, unsure of how to react to the stunning announcement.
He'd fought so hard and so long to shield her from the devastating truth. He knew that Janet could still be quite fragile. She'd been through so much tragedy and heartache and he loved her so much that the last thing that he ever wanted to do was hurt her.
"J-Janet, please...I..." He struggled to find the right words, the right explanation.
Should he assure her that she had misunderstood? Should he try to explain away the truth with a horrible series of lies in order to spare her? Finally, he realized that she needed to know the truth. Although she might be rather delicate emotionally, she most definitely wasn't stupid. Maybe it was finally time to come clean.
"Oh, Janet, I'm so sorry," Burt sighed as he reached out for her and pulled her into his arms. "I never...wanted you to find out like this."
"It's true, isn't it?" she muttered as she fought to choke back her tears. "You and...my sister! My own sister!"
"Janet, please listen to me," he begged as he pulled away from her and placed his hands firmly on her shoulders in an attempt to force her to hear him out. "It was a long time ago. It was before you and I ever met. Even after we had met and fallen in love, I didn't even know that you two were sisters. Remember?"
Remember? Janet furrowed her brow slightly and bit her lip as she struggled to think about what he was saying. He sounded as if she were supposed to already know about his relationship with Judith. Did she know? Was that one of the many things that was now nothing more than a hazy fog in her mind?
"It was in New York. Our relationship ended badly and I left. I never knew about the baby!" His voice cracked slightly under the strain of the truth. "It wasn't until...until after you and I had fallen in love that I even knew you two were sisters. It was only then that I found out about the baby! Remember, I didn't even know about you and Judith until that day out at the house."
That day? What day? Janet inhaled deeply as she tried to force herself to remember things that her mind had apparently decided were better off forgotten. Did she know about his relationship with Judith? Did she already know about the baby?
"Oh, I don't know!" she cried, overcome with emotion and fear over the gapping holes in her mind. "I...I..."
"Janet, I never wanted to hurt you. You have to believe that," he sighed as he again pulled her into his arms. "That's why I never told you. I just...I just knew how difficult it would be for you to understand. I knew that I'd have to tell you eventually, but then Judith lost the baby and...and I guess I thought that there wasn't any reason to dredge it all up. But...you have to believe that if you ever did know the truth, I never wanted you to know like this---to overhear such a horrible revelation. I should have...I should have told you myself. You shouldn't have had to overhear it."
"But...I...." Janet's voice trailed off as she blinked away her tears. Her eyes began to glaze over and a confused look spread across her face. "But I didn't overhear it."
"What?" Burt pulled back and looked at her curiously. "You didn't...overhear me and Judith talking inside? You didn't overhear us talking about the baby?"
"N-no," she muttered, suddenly very afraid. "I...I didn't overhear you. I was...out here."
"But I...don't understand." He lifted his hand to gently rub his forehead as he thought. "If you didn't...find out from overhearing our conversation, then...how did you know?"
"I...I..." Janet took a deep breath as a sense of internal panic began to set it. "I don't know! I don't know how I know! I just...know."
THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE
"Grace, are you all right?" Trevor asked as he eyed her curiously. "This jerk isn't giving you any problems, is he?"
"Oh, Trevor, I...I..." Grace stammered, unsure of what to say. How much had he overheard? Did he suspect the truth about her and Dane? "Trevor, I'm sorry! I'm..."
"Calm down, Trevor," Dane muttered with a tone of disgust. "Nothing's going on. I don't know why you have to always assume the worst about things."
"Because I know how you are, Dane," Trevor said coolly as he snapped his head around to face him. "I haven't forgotten that mess at Reginald's engagement party. You might have convinced some people that you didn't have anything to do with that, but I'm not fooled by your act."
Grace winced slightly, feeling very foolish and naive.
"I'm not getting into that with you, Trevor, but it wasn't an act." Dane clinched his teeth tightly. "And I don't know what you've assumed is going on here, but this is a place of business. I'm only here to purchase as book for some leisurely reading. I saw Grace and, since I'm concerned about her considering her mother's passing, I just wanted to offer my condolences and see if she was doing all right. Is there a problem with that?"
Trevor's eyes narrowed as he inspected Dane carefully. Could he possibly be telling the truth? Finally, he turned to look at Grace and waited for her confirmation or denial.
"Is that what's going on?" Trevor asked with concern.
"Y-yes," she stammered as she awkwardly looked away. She just couldn't bear to meet his eyes. "Dane was just...offering his...sympathies."
"See, I told you," Dane smirked with a self-satisfied grin. "Now, if you'll just let me finish paying for this book, I've got to make my afternoon class." He handed Grace his money but she refused to look at him. "You two lovebirds have a good day."
And, with a nod of his head, he tucked the book---just a random one that had been laying on the counter---under his arm and walked out of the store. Once outside, he held out the book and glanced at its cover---The Gardener's Guide to Perennials. With a slight laugh he decided that he'd have to give the book to Helga. Lord knew that he didn't have any need for it.
Meanwhile, inside, Trevor motioned for Grace to come around to the front of the counter where he took her into his arms.
"Oh, Grace, I'm sorry you have to be subjected to that scoundrel," he sighed as he gently stroked her hair. "I know that seeing him must remind you of how horribly foolish you felt for having that silly crush on him."
"Y-yes, it does," she muttered as her breath caught in her throat. "I don't...know what in the world I...could have been thinking."
"Well, guys like Dane Manchester always seem to know the exact words to sway an impressionable young girl into thinking exactly what they want them to think." Trevor smiled and kissed her lovingly on the forehead. "Now, I don't want you to worry about him. Whenever he comes nosing around, you just remember how much I love you and respect you for who you are. Dane's self-centered behavior has no effect on us at all."
As Grace felt Trevor's arms wrapped around her, she fought back the tears that wanted to break forth. No matter what he said, Dane did have an effect on them. She'd been taken in by his charms and she'd made a horrible and tragic mistake. Silently, she feared what would happen if Trevor ever learned of her vulnerability and betrayal. One thing was certain, however, she was now more convinced than ever that she certainly didn't deserve the love and devotion that Trevor willing gave to her. She wasn't worthy of him and she was growing more and more frightened of what would happen when he realized the exact same thing.
Jillian Stokes hurriedly pushed through the front door of the cafe and let out a sigh of relief. She'd managed to slip past a distracted Dane Manchester unnoticed as he walked down the street. She'd managed to avoid him for months---she barely even saw him at Burt Lamont's ill-fated coming out party---and the last thing that she was in the mood for was an unpleasant run-in with her ex. Thank goodness that he seemed to be too distracted by the book that he had to notice her presence.
She quickly spotted her fiancé Reginald Callison sitting at a nearby table and went to join him.
"Well, you don't look like you're in the best of moods," she spoke up with concern as she sat down. "I take it that your meeting with Douglas didn't go well?"
"I don't know why Father keeps insisting that I need an attorney," he grumbled. "All of their constant badgering is worthless. I have nothing to say and the sooner that they realize that, the better off we'll all be."
"But, darling, we only want you to reveal what you know so that we can show the police that you didn't have anything to do with Annabelle's murder!" She grasped his hand firmly, hoping against hope that she could convince him that revealing the truth would be the best thing for everyone.
"But there's nothing to tell," he replied stoically and swiftly pulled his hand away to lean back in his seat and cross his arms across his chest in a defensive stance. "I've already said everything that I'm going to say on the matter."
"Reginald! Our wedding is coming up! Do you really want a murder investigation hanging over our heads?"
Jillian's eyes pleaded with him to open up, but when his stony expression didn't change, she let out a weary sigh and slumped back, defeated, into her own seat. He could be so stubborn! Taking a deep breath, she decided to try another approach.
"Didn't Douglas say that Stephanie came to your office to see you about the murder investigation?"
She winced slightly as she spoke the name of her one-time rival. Jillian still hadn't quite gotten over the schemes that Stephanie Lake had pulled in her attempt to steal Reginald away. No matter how much Patterson Monroe asserted Stephanie's changes, Jillian still wasn't sure that she could be trusted. However, at this point, she was determined to search for answers anywhere they might be.
"I could have sworn that I heard him say that Stephanie found some kind of witness to..."
"I said drop it!" Reginald snapped as his eyes burned with anger. "Why can't everyone just leave this alone? You know how Stephanie is! Why should any of us believe a word that comes out of her mouth? Clearly she's making this witness up out of thin air so that she can get back in our good graces. Sure, she might be spending lots of time with Paddy now, but that girl is obsessive. Why should we think that she isn't up to some new sort of scheme to endear herself to me?"
"But, darling, what if she's telling the truth?" She eyed him pleadingly and bit her lip. "I know...that she can be a very convincing liar, but why would she lie about something that has to do with the murder of her own mother? Of course, she's not the most honest of people, but I just can't believe that she's so selfish that she doesn't even care about what really happened to Annabelle!"
"You and Father and Douglas just need to leave this alone!"
"But it's only because we love you and we're worried about you!"
"Look, darling," he spoke up softly as he reached across the table to take her hand, "we're supposed to meet with your mother and my mother and Nana to finalize those last minute details for the wedding. Can we please just forget about all of this for one afternoon? Can't you just let it go so we can get through today and the wedding in peace?"
Jillian took a deep breath and nodded in defeated agreement. However, she wasn't entirely sure how they would be able to get through their long awaited wedding considering the looming specter of a possible murder indictment. Reginald might be able to ignore the true magnitude of the situation, but it was something that wasn't very far out of her mind and that utterly terrified her.
Meanwhile, sitting unnoticed just a table away, was Larry Rawlings, investigative reporter for The State Examiner. As he struggled to listen carefully to every word of the conversation, he hurriedly jotted down what was being said nearly word for word. What a juicy story this would make! The social wedding of the year marred by murder and scandal. He smiled gleefully at the thought of the resulting story. However, his thoughts quickly turned to the revelation of the new witness that Stephanie Lake had discovered. How accurate was this witness and what exactly did they know? That was a new piece of information that Larry was certain needed further investigation.
ALBANYVILLE UNIVERSITY - STUDENT CENTER
As Stephanie Lake strolled into the center and shook off the chill of the winter air, she looked down at the paper she carried in her hands and winced. A "D-"! She thought she'd been so well prepared for that test, too. She sighed in disgust and shook her head silently. Maybe college was nothing more than a waste of her time, after all. True, since her mother's untimely death, she couldn't really afford school---especially since she was having such a difficult time making grades. Why should she continue to subject herself to such torture?
As she bit her lip, she thought about her encounter with radio producer Willis Lowell. He'd told her that she had a perfect voice for radio and that she should think about a career as a radio actress. The thought had seemed rather preposterous at the time because she wasn't an actress and had never had any desire to be one. However, with the growing realization of the futility of college, maybe a career in radio was something she should explore. Mr. Lowell did think she had a great voice. Maybe she should give him a call.
As Stephanie walked through the student center, her eyes remained focused on the large, red "D-" that was scrawled across the top of her test. Not paying attention to where she was going, she collided with another student. Immediately popping her head up, she was dismayed to find out who it was.
"Stephanie, you really need to pay attention that was you're doing," Helen Van Dyne muttered snidely. "You could have knocked me down!"
"And the problem with that would have been?" Stephanie smirked with disgusted sarcasm. "I'm sorry I ran into you. I can honestly say that running into was the last thing on my mind!"
"Well...apology accepted, such that it is." Helen furrowed her brow as she took a step backward and eyed Stephanie cautiously. Finally, after a few awkward moments, she took a deep breath and spoke again. "I just...want to tell you how sorry I was when I...heard about your mother. I know that we don't get along, but...well, even you shouldn't have to go through something like that."
"Oh, please!" Stephanie seethed as her eyes filled with anger. "You can just save your false sympathies! You and your attitude of what's 'proper' is nothing but a stupid act, anyway! The last thing I want or need are your condolences!"
"What do you mean 'my attitude is a stupid act'?" Helen snapped. "You're the one who seems to make it a habit of lying and scheming! No one's even come close to forgetting everything you tried to do to Reginald and Jillian!"
"You know, Helen, your self-righteousness really gets under my skin!" Stephanie clinched her teeth tightly as she tried to hold in her outrage. "You want to talk about everything I did? Well, what about what you did? What about what you're still doing?"
"W-what are you talking about?" Helen asked with confusion and concern.
"I'm talking about Clark Saxon! I know all about how you two plotted together to ruin me and my name!"
"Well, honestly, you did a fine enough job ruining your name all on your own, in case you've forgotten."
"Then, if that's the case, what was the point in you having Clark try to woo and seduce me so that you two could tell everyone what a loose and wanton girl I am when you both know that's not the case at all?" Stephanie glared at Helen as she waited for her to answer.
"I know no such thing about you, Steffi," Helen replied coolly. "Remember, you're the one who threw yourself at Reginald! He loves Jillian and they're going to be married! I was just trying to make sure that you'd never do anything again that might hurt them. What kind of girl tries to come between a devoted couple like that anyway?"
"You are such a hypocrite!" Stephanie snapped. "You want to chastise me for something when you're involved in something much worse!"
"W-what are you...talking about?" Helen asked as her eyes filled with worry.
"You can stand there and play the role of devoted friend and judge until the cows come home, for all I care," Stephanie growled, "but I know the truth about you!"
"Yes," Stephanie smiled slyly as a look of triumph filled her eyes. "And if you think that I'm going to forget everything that you've do to me, you're sadly mistaken!"
TO BE CONTINUED
Calvin and Ruby realize the truth.
For Now and Forever
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