For Now and Forever
EPISODE #134 (Thursday,
ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - THIRD FLOOR CORRIDOR
"Are you all right?" Dr. Fred Rutherford asked as he watched Francis Callison closely. "You're acting...a little strange."
"I'm fine," she muttered softly, still unable to look at him.
Not taking what she'd said as an acceptable or believable answer, Fred gently reached out and took her chin into his hand, turning her face so that he could look into her eyes. The gesture caused Francis's breath to catch in her throat as her head began to spin with a thousand different conflicting thoughts and feelings.
Why did the mere sight of Fred still make her feel so strange? Why did she really feel so uncomfortable around him? She wasn't sure and it was the realization of those unanswered questions that suddenly made Francis feel more uncomfortable than before. The feeling of his hand on her face startled her and she jerked away from him.
"What is it, Francis?" he asked her again. "Why are you acting so uncomfortable around me?"
"I'm not...uncomfortable. It's just that...."
"Does the sight of me make you think about what could have been between us?" He examined her reactions carefully. "Is that it? Is there a part of you that thinks you might have made the wrong choice?"
As Fred silently waited for a response, Francis looked away from him as she searched for an answer that would explain exactly how she felt.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - FOYER
Helga Grimm struggled to remain absolutely silent as she pressed her ear against the large wooden doors of the library. Joyce Preston and Naomi Jackson were having what appeared to be a very important conversation and Helga was determined to find out what they were discussing.
Ever since Naomi had come into the house, everything had seemed in disarray. In fact, Joyce and Naomi had shared private "chats" on more than one occasion. Although Helga wasn't one to pry into the personal affairs of the Manchesters -- in fact, she couldn't stand either Sara or her mother -- she was more than a little curious about exactly what was going on.
Trying to stay very still, Helga listened carefully. Unfortunately, the heavy wooden doors blocked out a great deal of the sound -- something she was certain they were built to do. However, as she listened closer, she was certain that she heard the words "trust fund" and "baby." In what context, she couldn't be sure, but....
"What are you doing?" Sara Manchester spoke up, having come up behind Helga without the housekeeper knowing. "Eavesdropping?"
"I...um...." Helga stammered, immediately knowing that she'd been caught. "This door has been squeaking, lately, and I was just seeing if I could take care of it."
Sara stared at her, not believing a word of it. "You were eavesdropping! After all the grief you gave me over spying on Mr. Preston for Mr. Callison, you have the nerve to do the same thing! Who's in there? Who are you trying to spy on?"
"I'm not spying," Helga insisted firmly. "I told you that...."
"I know. I know," Sara sighed with a disbelieving shake of her head. "The door is squeaky." She paused for a moment, folded her arms across her chest, and stared at Helga. Finally, after several moments of considering what the housekeeper had said, Sara spoke again. "I'm going to forget about this if you promise never to spy on people in this house again. This is my home and I expect anyone in my home to have a certain level of privacy."
"Yes, Mrs. Manchester," Helga nodded, trying to conceal her annoyance.
"Now, I think it's time for you to go start dinner."
As Helga headed off for the kitchen, Sara reached for the door knob to the library and prepared to enter. However, a sudden rise in the tone of the conversation inside immediately caught her attention. More accurately, it was the mention of her own name!
Hearing her name mentioned in such a tone struck her as odd. Curious about the context of the conversation, Sara took a deep breath and carefully pressed her own ear against the door.
ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - THIRD FLOOR CORRIDOR
"I was just thinking about Leticia," Francis explained awkwardly, "and how we've gotten to see so little of one another since you two married."
"Does it bother you that I got married?" Fred kept his eyes locked on her as if he were waiting for some sort of indication about her true feelings concerning his sudden marriage. "I mean, so soon after you and I were...well...involved."
"Bother me?" She furrowed her brow as she considered his choice of words. "Well, no, I wouldn't exactly put it like that, but...."
"I just have trouble...understanding how...." She paused for a moment as she tried to choose her own words carefully. "Well, you proposed marriage to me, but you eloped with Leticia only days later."
"You're not jealous, are you?" Fred laughed as he enjoyed the obvious fact that he'd been on Francis's mind.
"Oh, no. Not at all." she replied quickly. "I just find it all rather...well, odd, I guess you could say. You professed your love for me and proposed marriage, but then...."
"But then you told me how much you loved your husband and turned down my marriage proposal," he reminded. "Look, Francis, Leticia and I had gotten to be rather close during the time you and I were seeing one another. Especially after her husband's death. She seemed to need someone and my heart went out to her."
"Needing someone isn't a reason to get married."
"No, you're right," he agreed. "But it was more than that. I...didn't want to see that at the time because of you, but...well...when you ended our relationship, it made me realize some things and...."
"Well, well, well," Corinne Campbell spoke up as she stepped out of the conference room. "What do we have here?"
"Hello, Corinne," Fred said coolly as he tried to ignore his boss's wife and keep his focus only on Francis.
"Doctor, are you trying to practice your bedside manner?" Corinne's eyes darted from Fred to Francis and their awkward, uncomfortable demeanors immediately told her that she'd interrupted a very personal conversation. "I thought that your marriage to Leticia Stokes might have put an end to all of that." She looked at Francis and smiled smugly. "I guess I was mistaken."
"Corinne, I don't know what you're thinking, but I can assure you that you're mistaken!" Francis insisted firmly as she took several steps away from Fred. "He's an old friend whom I haven't seen much of lately and we're catching up."
"Old friend?" Corinne cocked an eyebrow as she considered the choice of words. "Well, if that's what they're calling it, these days...."
"Corinne, don't you have someplace to be?" Fred asked pointedly. "Like a coven?"
"Well!" she snapped in offense. "That was rather rude." She threw her shoulders back defiantly and glared at both Fred and Francis. "It seems to me like some people don't value the importance of marriage."
"I'm not going to stand here and listen to this from you," Fred spoke up as his jaw tightened. "I don't care who your husband is. Francis and I were having a private conversation that we would like to continue. So, if you don't mind...."
"I see." Corinne's eyes moved from Fred to Francis, yet again. "Well, let me let you get back to your little...whatever you want to call it." She paused and smiled with false warmth. "You know I've never been one to pry."
And with those words, Corinne turned and quickly walked down the hallway, leaving Fred and Francis alone again.
Once Corinne was out of earshot, Fred glanced down at his watch and noted the time. "Francis, dear, I'm due for a break in a little bit. I could always take it early and we could grab a bite of lunch in the cafeteria. Or, better yet, I could take you to The Gardens and we could...."
"I...I really can't," she spoke up nervously. "I've got...a lot of things to do today. I've got to go over to the old house and take care of some things. There's a lot to do before Reginald and Jillian get back from their honeymoon."
"I understand," he smiled, not moving his eyes from her for even a second. "Then we'll have to plan on you and Charles getting together with me and Leticia for dinner some evening."
"Yes," she agreed with a smile, "let's do that."
And, after another smile, Francis turned and walked away leaving Fred to follow her with his eyes until she'd turned the corner and disappeared out of sight. Once she was gone, he smiled slyly to himself. Was it just his imagination or was Francis more troubled by his marriage to Leticia than she'd tried to let on. Perhaps the happily married Mrs. Callison didn't have the roguish doctor quite as out of her system as she tried to lead herself to believe. It was that thought that quickly made the gears inside Fred's head begin to turn.
THE LAMONT HOME - KITCHEN
"Now, if you'll just hand me that bowl, over there," Janet Stokes said as she held a potato in the sink underneath the running water and scrubbed it with a vegetable brush, "I can finish this and you can start grating the cheese for this casserole."
Burt Lamont pulled the bowl out of the cabinet and handed it to her before leaning back against the counter and folding his arms across his chest. "Amazing," he smiled as he watched her closely. "Simply amazing."
"Why do you say that?" She glanced up from the potatoes and looked at him. "Haven't you ever seen a woman wash vegetables before?"
"Oh, many times," he laughed. "But I would never have thought that you'd be the type of woman to scrub her own produce. Surely, your parents didn't make you pull kitchen duty."
"Far from it, actually," she laughed as she placed the freshly washed potatoes in the bowl and then reached for the paring knife. "Father hated for us to go anywhere near the servants unless we needed something from them. That meant that the kitchen was off limits. Even for Mother. But I always managed to slip down there so I could sit with the cook while she prepared dinner." She smiled warmly as she thought about the childhood memory. "I always loved Maeve. She was our cook. She'd always bake me cookies."
"So, you learned the fine art of potato peeling from her?"
"That and a few other things." She popped her head up and scowled when she realized that Burt wasn't doing anything but watching her work. "Honey, grate the cheese or I'm never going to get this dinner finished." Once Burt had begun to follow her instructions regarding his portion of the dinner preparation, she went back to both her potatoes and her story. "When I spent time with Maeve, she'd tell me stories about when she was a little girl in Ireland. I swear she had a million and one ways to cook a potato."
"Did Judith and Jillian spend a lot of time with you in the kitchen?" Burt asked as he dragged the block of cheese across the grater.
"Not quite," she laughed and then walked over to the refrigerator to grab a bottle of milk. "Judith couldn't have found the kitchen if someone had given her directions and Jillian was always far to busy with social obligations and the various classes Mother put her in."
"Classes?" He paused in his grating and looked up at her. "What kind of classes?"
"Oh, Mother had this idea that to be refined young ladies, we all needed to have an appreciation of the arts. Jillian took piano, I, of course, took art, and Judith.... Well, let's just say Judith had a lot of classes. None of them ever lasted very long, though. She was always too interested in boys -- or an attractive male instructor -- to be very dedicated." She paused and grinned. "Besides, all the other girls in her classes hated her."
"I wouldn't have any idea why."
"The cheese, Burt." Janet nodded towards the block he held in his hand. "Dinner's not going to be ready if you keep stopping."
"Speaking of dinner..." He returned to his assigned task as he kept his attention divided between the cheese and her. "I really wish you'd reconsider and join me and Randy tonight. I don't know why you can't stay."
"You and Randy need to spend time alone together as a family. These types of evening might not happen all the time after we get married."
"I just hope he takes the news well," Burt sighed. "He's had a rough time of it what with Ma's death and then us finding out...well...that we don't have the same father."
"He's going to be fine," she reassured. "Randy and I have always gotten along." She hesitated for a moment and then carefully dried her hands with the dishtowel before walking away from the sink.
"Janet, are you all right?" he asked, quickly sensing a change in her mood. "How Randy might react does bother you, doesn't it?"
"No. It's not that. It's just...." She turned her back to him to hide the nervousness she felt -- nervousness brought on by the prospect of Judith's increasing memories of the night she fell. "What would you say if I suggested that we make this a short engagement. I mean, let's not wait too long before we get married. Would you think I was being too anxious?"
"Too anxious? No, not at all," he laughed as he set the cheese aside and walked up behind her to take her into his arms. "I can't wait to get married, either, but...well...I don't want to cheat you out of the wedding you've always dreamed of. I wouldn't feel right about that."
"Oh, Burt, big lavish weddings have never meant that much to me," she explained carefully. "Besides, Mother just finished planning a big wedding for Jillian and I don't think it would be fair to simply force another big event like that on her."
"I don't think she'd feel like anything was forced on her. What mother wouldn't want to plan a big wedding for their daughter?"
"True," Janet nodded, "but...well...I don't really want a big wedding. That would take too much planning and...well...a lot of time. Maybe a small, intimate ceremony would be better. That wouldn't be too difficult to plan and we wouldn't have to wait to get married."
"Why are you so insistent on having a short engagement?" Burt turned her so that he could look into her eyes. "Is something wrong? Did...Judith say something to you to upset you?"
"N-no, it's not...that," she stammered and then looked away from him. "It's just that we've already been through so much and I...and I just don't want to waste any time. I don't want to give fate too much time to step in and derail our plans."
"Oh, honey," he laughed as he held her tightly in his arms, "there's nothing to worry about. There's no way that fate, Judith, or anything else is going to keep us from getting married and spending the rest of our lives together."
As Janet felt the warmth and security of Burt's arms around her, she suddenly became increasingly away of the tick-tick-tick of the clock. However, when she looked up at the clock on the wall, she realized that the sound wasn't coming from there.
It was, in fact, the sound of her own heart, beating out the time.
Time that she was frightened was quickly running out.
Before her last chance at true happiness would slip away from her forever.
ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - SECOND FLOOR
As Fred walked down the hallway, he concentrated on the patient's chart which he held in his hands, not paying attention to where he was going. Suddenly, he collided with a thud into a nurse whose arms were full of her own charts and files, sending them crashing to the floor.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, nurse!" Fred spoke up apologetically and quickly dropped to his knees to help her collect the dropped files and charts. "I should have been paying attention."
"Yes, you should have!" she snapped angrily, not even bothering to look up from her task of hurriedly collecting the charts. "I don't know why you doctors have to walk around like you own the hospital! There are other people here who...." When she finally looked up at Fred, her breath caught in her throat. "I...um...oh...."
"Yes, nurse..." He looked closely at her nametag. "Nurse Allison. As you were saying?"
"I was...um...saying...." She quickly rose to her feet and took the collected stack of files back from Fred. "I was saying that I should have been watching where I was going. Dr. Campbell called down and requested these records immediately and I...I guess that I was in such a hurry to take them up to him that I...I wasn't paying attention."
Fred stood and folded his arms across his chest as he examined the nurse carefully. "You're new here, aren't you? I don't think I've seen you around before."
"Yes, I am," she smiled sweetly, finally overcoming her sense of surprise. "I just joined the staff this week. I recently moved from...from Madison."
"Ah, I see." Fred kept his eyes locked on the pretty young nurse. "Are you finding your way around fairly easily?"
"Somewhat," she replied as she began to walk down the hall with him. "It's taken some adjustment and I'm still not sure I know where everything is or who everyone is, yet." She stopped and turned to look at him. "So you're the infamous Dr. Fred Rutherford. You know, the girls in the nurses' lounge warned me about you, doctor."
"I bet they did," he laughed. "Just a word of advice. Don't necessarily listen to what they have to say. They have a tendency to stretch the truth a bit."
"So, not everything that they told me about you is accurate?" She looked up at him and fluttered her eyelashes.
"Not everything," he grinned broadly, "but I am married, now."
Taken off guard by her flippant reply, he paused and cleared his throat in hopes of easing some of the awkward tension that had started to build.
"Well...um...Nurse Allison, I really need to check on a patient."
"Please, call me 'Donna,'" she smiled. "I can call you 'Fred,' can't I?"
"Well, I don't think it would be quite appropriate to be so familiar with one another." He kept his eyes locked on her. "Fraternization, you know."
"I won't tell if you won't," she said softly as she headed for the elevator, "Fred."
As she walked away, he turned and followed her with his eyes until the elevator doors closed behind her. Nurse Donna Allison. He smiled inwardly with the decision that he needed to get to know the new hospital staff member better.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - FOYER
As she held very still, trying not to make a sound, Sara pressed her ear against the door and strained to hear the conversation taking place on the other side. Silently, she cursed the solid construction of the house that resulted in the thick wooden doors which nearly blocked any sound from escaping from the library while the doors were closed. However, once she'd grown accustomed to hearing the muffled conversation, she began to make out bits and pieces, here and there.
"But, I...baby...trust fund."
Suddenly, the doors flew open and Sara found herself face to face with her mother who looked nearly as surprised to see Sara as Sara did to see her.
"W-what are you doing?" Joyce asked nervously as she quickly glanced back over her shoulder at Naomi.
"I was...um..." Sara stammered, embarrassed by her actions and unsure as to how to explain them. "I was just about to knock and...."
Joyce stood and eyed her daughter carefully, her story not exactly ringing true. Could Sara have possibly been eavesdropping? Had Sara overheard what she and Naomi had been discussing? And, if so, exactly how much had Sara heard?
"If I didn't know better, I would have thought you were trying to spy on us," Joyce laughed casually and led Sara into the room. Keep calm. Don't act like she's caught you in anything. "Now, you wouldn't have been trying to eavesdrop on us, would you?"
"W-what? Eavesdrop?" Sara quickly looked from her mother to Naomi and back again. "Of course not! Why would you even...think such a thing?"
"Oh, I'm only teasing you, dear." Joyce let out a warm laugh and looked to Naomi again. "I know that you wouldn't do something so mistrustful."
"So...." Sara again looked towards Naomi. "What were you two talking about? I hope I didn't interrupt something."
"We were just talkin' about the baby," Naomi spoke up before Joyce had a chance. "I told her that I'm tired of just sittin' around here and waitin' for you to make up your mind about that trust fund you promised us. You said you were gonna take care of me and my baby. Since you cheated us out of what's rightfully ours, you owe us that."
"I see." Sara fidgeted uncomfortably. "I'm sorry if you think I'm holding out on you, Naomi. Really, I'm not. I'm sure you can understand my reluctance to...."
"You're reluctant because you're greedy!" Naomi snapped. "You want it all no matter who you step on to get it! My little boy doesn't matter to you at all and...."
"Naomi, that will be enough!" Joyce spoke up sternly as she threw up her hand. "I told you that I understand your concerns and I explained to you that Sara only wanted to take this time to get to know both you and Aubrey better. We're all practically family, after all."
"So you said."
"Now, please, if you'd leave me and my daughter alone to talk...."
Naomi didn't say a word as she quietly walked out of the library. She only looked at Joyce sternly and then left, closing the doors behind her.
"She's growing a little anxious," Joyce explain softly in case Naomi was doing her own eavesdropping. "I can't necessarily say that I blame her. We moved her into this house months ago under the pretext of getting to know her while we found out exactly how valid her claim is."
"I have to admit that I'm still a little skeptical." Sara walked over to the sofa and picked up the movie magazine that Naomi had casually tossed aside earlier. "But...what if she's being honest? What if that baby is really the rightful heir to Mr. Preston's estate?"
"Sara, I've had several long talks with Naomi." Joyce followed her daughter over to the sofa and sat down. "And, honestly, I believe that she's being sincere. I hate to admit it, but I really think that baby is Thornton's son." She paused and casually glanced in Sara's direction to check her reactions. "Now, I can't really tell you what to do. I mean, you're the one in charge of Thornton's estate, not me, but...well..." She reached over and patted her daughter gently on the hand. "I'm sure that you'll do what you think is best."
As Sara silently weighed her choices in regards to Naomi and her baby, Joyce nervously prayed that she'd given her enough of a nudge in the right direction. No matter what Sara had claimed, Joyce was certain that she had been, in fact, eavesdropping. If Sara were suspicious enough to spy on her own mother, Joyce was afraid that, perhaps, Sara didn't trust her as much as it seemed.
Taking a deep breath, Joyce prayed that her time wasn't running out to get her hands on what she knew was rightfully hers.
TO BE CONTINUED
Randy shocks Burt.
For Now and Forever
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