For Now and Forever
EPISODE #126 (Monday,
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - BRIDE'S ROOM
Jillian Stokes stood at the window and gazed out at the bright, sunny day -- a perfect day for a wedding. She inhaled deeply and fanned herself because, although the day was perfect, it was also hot -- unbearably hot. It had been weeks since the last rain and Albanyville had been seeing record temperatures for so early in the season. However, even that didn't bother Jillian. It was her wedding day and she refused to let anything, even the temperature, spoil it.
She walked back to the dressing table and sat down before carefully sliding a few more pins into her hair. Her make up was perfect; her hair was perfect; and her dress was perfect. Everything was perfect -- except for one, minor detail.
As her expression darkened, she thought about the one thing about her wedding that wasn't going quite like she'd always imagined it. True, her reasoning concerning the development was noble and generous, but the mere fact that she'd even opened her mouth to suggest it troubled her. Gazing intently at her reflection in the mirror as she nervously twisted her engagement ring around her finger, Jillian prayed that she hadn't made a huge mistake.
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - DRESSING ROOM #1
"Up or down?" Sara Manchester asked as she stood behind her cousin, Stephanie Lake, both facing the mirror, with Stephanie's hair in her hands.
"I'm not sure," Stephanie muttered as she peered at her reflection. "I like it down, but this is going to be such a sophisticated affair..." She paused and bit her lower lip as she considered her alternatives.
"Well, I know that Jillian will probably wear her hair up." Sara picked up a brush off of the dressing table and began running it through Stephanie's hair. "So down might make for a nice contrast."
"I want it up," Stephanie announced suddenly. "If Jillian's going to wear her hair up, so am I."
Sara looked at her cousin intently and took a couple of steps backward as she considered Stephanie's orders. Finally, Sara picked up several bobby pins from the table and returned to her spot behind her cousin so that she could carefully twist Stephanie's long hair into a stylish and sophisticated chignon.
"You're not wearing your hair like this just because Jillian's going to, are you?"
"Of course not! An important event like this deserves just the right look." Stephanie turned her head slightly as she examined her reflection. "After all, I'm not a little girl, anymore, and I..."
"Hold still!" Sara snapped as she grabbed Stephanie's head and forced it back around. "How do you expect me to do this when you keep fidgeting?"
Sara continued to work diligently on Stephanie's hair until she was finally pleased with the result and then stepped back to admire her work.
"So, what do you think?"
"Perfect!" Stephanie smiled as she slowly turned her head back and forth to examine her hairdo.
As Stephanie continued to gaze at her reflection, Sara bit her lip nervously as she considered a question that had been on the tip of her tongue all morning, but she'd been too nervous to ask. Realizing that it was something that needed to be said, she took a deep breath and spoke.
"Do you think this is a good idea?" she asked. "Is it really smart to be involved with Jillian's wedding like this?"
"It's not just Jillian's wedding!" Stephanie reminded firmly. "It's a new a start for all of us. This wedding is going to be the thing that helps us put all of the bad stuff from the past year behind us. Today is..."
"I know, I know," Sara sighed. "The first day of the rest of our lives." She paused and eyed Stephanie suspiciously. "Do you really believe that or are you just saying that because it sounds like the right thing to say?"
"I...um..." Stephanie stammered and then slumped back into her seat in front of the dressing table, a look of worry and fear covering her face. "Oh, Sara, you're right," she confessed. "This is all wrong! I can't...do this. Not today! I don't even belong at the wedding, let alone in it!"
"It's a fine time to think about that, now!" Sara quickly rushed up behind Stephanie and grabbed her by the shoulders, forcing her to look up at her reflection in the mirror. "This wedding starts in less than an hour! You can't just tell Jillian that you're not going to do it."
"Oh, gee, a few minutes ago you sounded like you were trying to talk me out of this and now you're trying to talk me into it?" Stephanie snapped her hand around to look at Sara with confusion.
"It's just that...well..." Sara hung her head and sighed, fully aware that the situation was much more complicated than it sounded. "I'm not convinced this is such a good idea. I mean, I think you and Jillian are both doing this for all the wrong reasons. But..."
"But you can't just back out of this an hour before the wedding!" Sara grabbed Stephanie's arm tightly and shook it in an attempt to drive home her point. "What are Reginald and Jillian going to say? More importantly, what's Paddy going to say?"
"He'll understand!" Stephanie snapped and then jumped to her feet, pulling her arm out of her cousin's grasp. "If I go to him and tell him why I can't do this today, he'll understand!"
"No!" she replied firmly as she threw her shoulders back and strode quickly towards the door. "I can't do this today and the sooner I tell Paddy and Jillian, the better it's going to be for all of us."
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - DRESSING ROOM #2
"Nervous?" Trevor Callison asked as he watched his older brother, Reginald, pace around the room.
"You asked me that the last time I tried to get married," Reginald quickly replied, not even missing a beat in his stride.
"I'm nervous as hell," Reginald confessed with a sigh and then slumped down into a chair by the door. "I'm nervous that something's going to happen again that's going to keep me from marrying Jillian . I'm nervous about this idea of Jillian's to actually include Stephanie, of all people, in what should be our day."
"Well, didn't you try to talk Jillian out of it?"
Reginald looked up at his brother, shook his head, and laughed. "You've obviously not being paying attention. Once Jillian's set her mind to something, no one talks her out of it. I guess you've just been too busy with..." He stopped himself and his expression grew solemn. No, it would be best not to mention something so troubling on what was supposed to be a joyous day. "I'm...sorry. I didn't mean to bring up...."
"Grace?" Trevor asked, now his turn to begin to nervously pace around the room. "It's okay. You didn't bring her up. I'm always bringing her up in my head every moment of every day since she's been gone. I just can't understand how...." Noticing the dark cloud that had descended on the conversation, Trevor stopped himself. He couldn't let his worries about Grace Davis spoil the day.
"Are you all right?" Reginald asked with concern. "I know that all of this as been difficult for you and...."
"Let's not talk about any of that right now," Trevor spoke up before taking a deep breath in an attempt to push away all of his troubled thoughts. "Let's just think about your big day."
"And Stephanie and Dane...."
"How did Dane end up involved in all of this?"
"I'm still trying to figure that out," Reginald grumbled. "Jillian mentioned Stephanie and I opened my mouth about Dane and...."
"I see." Trevor furrowed his brow as he thought about their options. "You know, it's not too late to just call off the whole thing."
"What? Are you kidding me? Why, Jillian would...."
"I'm not talking about the wedding! I'm talking about Dane and Stephanie." Trevor folded his arms across his chest and began to, once again, pace around the room. "There's still time to just tell the both of them that you don't want them anywhere near the wedding."
"If I only could," Reginald sighed, "but Jillian is determined to use our wedding as a symbol of new beginnings for all of us -- a way to put all of the horrible things that have happened over the last year behind us. Besides, I couldn't do that to Paddy. For whatever reason, he's friends with Dane and he's in love with Stephanie."
"I guess that there's only one thing to do." Trevor walked up behind his older brother and gripped Reginald's shoulder firmly.
"Just grin and bear it."
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - DRESSING ROOM #3
Dane Manchester stood and watched his best friend Patterson Monroe intently before letting out a small laugh and then shook his head.
"What's so funny?" Patterson asked as he turned away from the mirror and glared at Dane.
"You," Dane chuckled. "And that tie. If you keep fighting with it, you're going to miss the wedding."
"I've never been able to tie these stupid things," Patterson grumbled as he turned back to look at himself in the mirror, his frustration clearly showing on his face. "Would you do me a favor?"
"Go and see if Lorraine's here. She can tie these better than anyone." Patterson fumbled with the tie again before letting out an exasperated groan.
"Why do you need Lorraine when I'm here?"
"Let me have it." Dane took the bowtie out of Patterson's hands and turned Patterson around so that his back was to him. With a few swift movements, Dane slipped the tie around Patterson's neck and tied it into a perfect bow.
"H-how did you do that...so fast?" Patterson spun around to face his friend, a look of astonishment on his face.
"Look, my father is one of the most prominent lawyers in Chicago. He's got all of those well-to-do clients and is always throwing some kind of swank party that he'd drag me and Grant to. Always back tie. I could tie one of those things before I could even ride a bicycle."
"Thank heavens," Patterson sighed in relief as he turned to look into the mirror again. "I've been fighting with that thing for almost an hour and...."
"And you'd have been fighting with it for almost another hour."
"Thanks," Patterson smiled. However, his smile slowly began to fade as he saw Dane's reflection in the mirror, a sly smile covering his own face. "Okay. What are you up to?"
"Nothing," Dane replied with a smirk. "I was just wondering if Jillian needed my expert services in getting dressed. Maybe I should just slip down to her room and give her my warmest wishes."
"Don't even think about it!" Patterson turned and threw up his hands. "If Reginald caught you in Jillian's room, he'd kill you...unless Sara got to you first."
"Oh, don't worry. I'm not going to do anything." Dane walked over to the window and peered out, seeing the crowd of guests as they continued to arrive. "I'm just supposing."
"You should be saying a prayer of thanks that you're even here. Reginald can't stand you, you know."
"Oh, I know, all right," Dane laughed. "I just think it's because he's jealous."
"Well, whatever the reason, he had the decency to let you be a part of the wedding. Stephanie, too. This is supposed to be a day of new beginnings, not a rehash of the past."
"Well, I think that me and Stephanie being a part of this has more to do with Reginald and Jillian's feelings for you than some kind of magnanimous gesture on their part."
"Just don't do anything to ruin it." Patterson eyed Dane with suspicion and warning. "This day is very important to me and I don't want anything to go wrong."
Dane smiled slightly and then let out a hearty laugh. "Paddy, boy, whatever in the world could go wrong?"
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - VESTIBULE
"Hello, Burt," Judith Linford smiled coyly as she sauntered over to where he was standing.
"Judith," Burt Lamont nodded curtly before turning to look in the other direction. He was trying to avoid her just like he'd been trying to do for months. Unfortunately, he'd been having little success.
Ever since she'd separated from her husband, Mark, Judith had used every available -- and not so available -- opportunity to see him. He couldn't believe that he'd thought that this wedding would have been any different.
"Burt, darling, certainly you're not trying to avoid me?" She moved closer to him and gently laid her hand on his shoulder. Her touch made him wince and he quickly pulled away. "I see," she muttered softly. "It's going to be like that, is it?"
"Don't you have something to do?" Burt asked coolly. "Like go find your seat and wait for the ceremony to start?"
"Actually, I'm looking for Janet," she explained in reference to her sister, Burt's girlfriend. "Have you seen her?"
"She's in with Jillian and your mother helping Jillian get ready," he explained. "I'd think that you'd want to be there, too. It's not often that your sister gets married."
"Marriages are highly over rated. That's why I can't wait for mine to be officially over." She smiled slyly and leaned closer to him so that she could lower her voice and he could still hear her. "My official separation papers came today, you know. It's only a matter of time before Mark and I are divorced and I can move on with my life as a free woman."
"Nothing about you is free, Judith," he shot back. "Being involved with you always carries a high price -- one I'm not willing to pay."
"You didn't always feel that way."
"That was a long time ago and you know it!" He inhaled deeply as he felt his frustration begin to overtake him and then lowered his voice. "I love Janet. She's my life and my future. Why can't you accept that? I love her, not you."
"Oh, darling, you've only been roped into her poor-innocent-me routine. I can guarantee you that Janet is far from poor and very far from innocent."
"As you made such a point of telling me," Burt snapped and then turned to look her dead in the eye. "You know, Judith, for the longest time I felt really sorry for you after...what happened. I felt...well...responsible for you. But no more!"
"Of course you felt responsible. It was your baby that I lost -- our child."
"And when that baby died, so did any connection we might have had," he reminded carefully before quickly taking a couple of steps away from her. He'd found himself standing much to close and realized that he needed to keep as much distance as possible. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I'm going to go see my family and see if there's anything I can help them do."
As Burt walked away, Judith's coy demeanor quickly turned to icy determination. Her sister had Burt wrapped tightly around her finger and Judith knew it. The only thing that Judith didn't know was exactly how to break the hold Janet had on him. But she was determined to find out.
GOOD HOPE CHURCH - BRIDE'S ROOM
"Let's see," Leticia Rutherford said as she carefully paced around the room, a pad of paper and pen in hand, and carefully checked off her list. "The organist is ready. Reverend Rutledge is ready. I just checked on Reginald and...."
"How is he?" Jillian asked as she spun around in her seat to look at her mother. "Is he...as nervous as I am?"
"He put up a brave from, but Francis said that he's shaking like a leaf," Leticia laughed. "But I guess that's to be expected after what happened last time."
"Mother, can we not bring that up?" Jillian pleaded as she remembered the disaster that had been her and Reginald's first attempt at a wedding, months earlier. "I want today to be perfect. I don't want any of those...bad memories creeping in."
"It will be perfect," Leticia smiled warmly as she touched her daughter lightly on the cheek. "As perfect as the love you and Reginald share."
"I've got it!" Janet Stokes called out as she rushed into the room. "I almost thought I'd forgotten it and left it at home, but I'd just left it in the car."
"What is it?" Jillian asked, slightly confused by her sister's urgency. "What was so important that you had to run out of here like you did?"
"Well, we were talking about good luck and I remembered that old tradition about weddings," Janet explained and then carefully held out the long velvet box for Jillian to see. "You remember -- 'something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.'"
"Yes, I remember, but...."
"Your dress is new," Janet continued and then slowly lifted the lid of the box, "and this is the other three wrapped up in one."
As both Jillian and Leticia saw the contents of the box, they gasped.
"Janet, isn't that...."
"The sapphire necklace that Father gave me on my sixteenth birthday," Janet nodded. "The one that Grandmother Stokes wore when she got married. I...want you to wear it today."
"I'd...love to!" Jillian exclaimed as she took the necklace out of the box. "Oh, Janet, this is so wonderful. Wearing this today will almost be like...."
"Having our father here with us," Janet smiled and then took the necklace from Jillian so that she could gently slip it around Jillian's neck. Neither girl could see the pained expression on their mother's face that the talk of their late father had brought.
"Girls, I...I'd better go and make a few last minute checks," Leticia spoke up awkwardly. "I...I need to make sure that everything...is in place."
"I'd better go, too," Janet spoke up as she hurried after her. "I need to find Burt. He feels so out of place at these types of functions. He's not sure whether he should sit on our side because of me or with the Callisons." When she reached the door, she turned back around and smiled at Jillian. "It won't be long now until you're finally Mrs. Reginald Callison." And with that, Janet quietly shut the door behind her and Leticia, leaving Jillian awash with nervous anticipation.
"Mrs. Reginald Callison," Jillian sighed to herself as she gazed at her reflection in the mirror. Wrapping her arms around herself, she smiled. To be married to Reginald was something that she'd wanted for so long.
Their journey to this point had been a long one and they'd weathered many troubles and storms -- both Dane and Stephanie's machinations, Reginald's suspicion of murder, and their first, interrupted wedding to name a few. However, that was all in the past. Dane and Stephanie hadn't succeeded in separating them, both Reginald and his mother had been proven innocent, and now it was their long-awaited wedding day -- a day for a fresh start and a new beginning for all of them. Nothing could go wrong.
Just then, a soft knock came at the door.
"J-Jillian, I have to talk to you," Stephanie spoke up as she quickly stepped into the room.
"Stephanie!" Jillian exclaimed in shock when she saw how she was -- or, more accurately, wasn't -- dressed. "You're still in your robe! Why aren't you dressed? It's almost time for the wedding and your not even ready!"
"That's what I...wanted to talk to you about," Stephanie explained awkwardly. "It's...about this wedding. I just can't...."
"Can't? Can't what?" Jillian sat up straight in her seat as her muscles tightened. Both Stephanie's appearance and tone made Jillian leery and ill at ease and she was becoming more and more nervous by the moment. "Surely, you're not talking about...."
"Jillian, I'm sorry." Stephanie walked over to her and took a deep breath. "I know that you've gone out of your way to include me in this and you have no idea how much it means to me. Especially after everything that I've done."
"You cleared Reginald's mother of murder," Jillian reminded. "You came through for him and his family -- for all of us, actually -- when we needed it the most. Paddy loves you. That in and of itself means something."
"I know, but...." Stephanie's voice trailed off as she looked away, unable to meet her former rival's worried eyes. "But...well...I just don't belong here. This isn't right. I can't do this. I can't be a part of this wedding. Not today."
After all, what could go wrong?
TO BE CONTINUED
Will the wedding begin?
For Now and Forever
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