For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

 

EPISODE #142 (Wednesday, 3/12/03)
Same Day
June 1936 - Afternoon

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"What's going on here?" Ruby Thomas asked as she stood in the doorway while her eyes darted from Naomi Jackson to the other people in the room.

She'd come by to visit her boyfriend's sister in hopes of bridging the rift that had existed between them, but she'd clearly walked in on a conversation that was certainly about something other than Naomi's job as a maid for the Manchesters.

"What are you doin' here?" Naomi snapped angrily, frightened that Ruby might ruin all of her plans.  "You spyin' on me?"

"No, Naomi, I'm not spying on you," Ruby firmly replied.  "I just came by so that we could work out our differences."

"Naomi, dear, I take it that you know this girl?" Joyce Preston asked, flashing her secret accomplice a look of caution.

"Yeah, I know her," Naomi muttered.

"Well, if you'd like to have a visit with your friend, we could put this off until later."  Dane Manchester briefly glanced over at his wife Sara and then exhaled slowly, relieved for the interruption.  The last thing that he wanted was to sign over any part -- no matter how small -- of his and his wife's inheritance to Naomi even if it was supposed to be for the care of her child.

"She ain't no friend of mine!"

"Naomi, what's going on here?" Ruby asked, her suspicions mounting.  "I...thought you were a maid here."

"I am a maid!"

"But..."  Ruby's eyes moved from Naomi to the other people in the room.  "What did you mean when you said that they needed to take care of your baby?  Naomi, what's going on here?"

ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL - TALBOT'S OFFICE

"Did you see that?" Judith Linford asked -- more of an order than an actual question -- as she carefully pushed Dr. Talbot Campbell back into his office, shutting the door behind them.  "Did you see the way he was talking to that nurse?"

"Judith, it's not that unusual to see a doctor talking to a nurse.  This is a hospital, after all."  However, despite Talbot's rationalizations, he certainly had noticed the odd familiarity that had existed between Dr. Fred Rutherford and the young nurse.

"Well, I know that!  But...but, did you see the way they were standing?  Did you see the way they touched?  Surely you're not going to stand there and tell me that's the typical way your staff interacts with one another!"

"We have no way of knowing what was going on between them or what was being said."  His head turned towards the closed door as he began to sort through his own suspicions.  "I think that to jump to a conclusion based on just a few seconds would be doing a great disservice."

"Oh, honestly, Talbot!"  Judith shook her head, unable to believe that someone so bright and intuitive was acting so naive.  After a few moments of silence, she decided on a different line of questioning.  "So, who's that nurse?  I'm not sure I've ever seen her here before."

"Um...she's new," he explained.  "Just moved here from Madison a few weeks ago."

"Name?"

"Judith, I really don't see what you're trying to get at."

"Just curious.  That's all."  She walked back over to the door and opened it just a tad so that she could peer out into the hallway.  Seeing that both Fred and the nurse were nowhere in sight, she heaved a sigh of relief that he hadn't seen her and, therefore, didn't know what she'd witnessed.  "So, Talbot, who is she?"  She paused and waited.  "If you don't tell me, all I have to do is talk to anybody on staff here and point her out.  They'll tell me."

"Her name's Donna Allison," he finally revealed as he followed Judith out of his office and down the hallway.  "Like I said, she's only been on staff here a few weeks.  She's very quiet about her personal life..."

"I'm sure."

"...but I've been very pleased with her work.  She's a good nurse."

"Who seems to be good at playing doctor," Judith muttered under her breath.

"Judith, you can't read too much into this.  To jump to conclusions based on one...."

"Well, well, well!  What do we have here?" came the voice of Corinne Campbell as she walked up behind Talbot and Judith.  "My darling husband and his...patient."

"Hello, Corinne," Talbot responded coolly, not even attempting to turn around to look at her.  "What brings you down to the hospital today?  Auxiliary business?"

"Partly," Corinne nodded while she carefully examined the scene between her husband and Judith that she'd walked up on.  "But mostly because I wanted to see my wonderful husband."

"I've got a very full schedule today and don't have time for idle chit-chat."

"But you do have time for small talk with her?"  Corinne glared at Judith.  "Here for a full physical today, Mrs. Linford?"

"I needed to discuss some personal matters with Talbot.  That's all."  Judith folded her arms across her chest and took a defiant stance.  As much as she valued Talbot's friendship and respected his opinion, her views about his wife were an entirely different matter.

"Personal matters?"  Corinne cocked an eyebrow.  "Why doesn't that surprise me?"

"Oh, honestly, Corinne, do you have to do this here?" Talbot groaned, more than a little embarrassed by his wife's thinly veiled insinuations.

"I could ask you the same question!"

"Mrs. Campbell -- Corinne," Judith cooed with viperous innocence, "green really isn't your color."  With a sly smile, she leaned over and gave Talbot a gentle peck on the cheek.  "Thank you for all you help, dear.  I think I should leave you to your...wife."

As Judith strolled off towards the elevator, Corinne's eyes burned with hatred.

"Are you still going to try to insist to me that there's nothing between the two of you?" she snapped angrily in a forceful whisper.

"There isn't anything going on between us!  I've told you before -- she was my patient and now we're just friends."

"I'm sure."

"Look, do you have an actual reason for being here?"  He spun around and glared at her.  "I don't have time to stand around and listen to a bunch of wild accusations."

"Actually..." she paused and took a deep breath, "I wanted to go over some of the plans for the fundraiser.  I wanted to get your opinion on...."

"I told you, Corinne, whatever you and your auxiliary decide is fine with me."  He stopped and made a quick check of his watch to note the time.  "I've really got to get moving on my rounds."

Before Corinne could say a word of protest, Talbot walked away from her and down the hallway without as much as a "good-bye".  As she watched him walking away, she could barely contain her fury and outrage.  She was now more certain than ever that Judith was trying to take away her husband -- if she hadn't started making progress already -- and that was something that Corinne was determined to put a stop to no matter how she had to do it.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"You are spyin' on me!" Naomi accused angrily.  "You're so dead set on findin' some way to make me look bad to Calvin that you'll string together a bunch of words you overheard into somethin' that's got nothin' to do with the truth!"

"I'm not sure what I overhead," Ruby tried to explain evenly.  "That's why I'm asking you about it."

"Do something with your friend," Joyce hissed into Naomi's ear through clinched teeth.

"Naomi, would you like to introduce us to your friend?" Sara Manchester spoke up, slightly uncomfortable because of the obvious tension between the two girls.

"I done told you!  She ain't no friend of mine!"  Naomi glared at Ruby.  "She's just my brother's girl."

"Well, we can see how close the two of you are."  Dane's eyes almost crackled with amusement due to the scene that was going on.

"Get her out of here," Joyce hissed again as she reached over and grabbed Naomi's arm tightly, causing the young woman to wince.

"Naomi, I asked you a question," Ruby continued.  "Are you in some kind of trouble?  Is there something that Calvin needs to know?"

"The only trouble I'm gonna be in is because of you!" Naomi screeched and lunged at Ruby, grabbing her by the arm and dragging her out of the room.  "You just had to come over here and try to get me in trouble with my boss, didn't you?"

"T-that's not what I was doing!" Ruby insisted as Naomi pushed her out into the hallway, quickly sliding the large wooden doors of the library closed behind them.  "I just stopped by because I'd hoped that we could have a little talk."

"A talk?  About what?"

"Naomi, I know that we don't exactly get along."  Couldn't stand one another was more like it.  "But your brother and I love each other very much."

"Don't remind me."

"I really would like for us to get to know one another better.  I want to like you -- really I do.  And I want you to like me."

"Then keep your nose outta my business!"  Naomi's jaw tightened, her eyes firmly fixed on Ruby.  "What I do ain't none of your business."

"But, Naomi, I can't get over this feeling that there's something wrong.  I can't ignore this feeling that you're in some kind of trouble."

"Mind your own business!"  The more Ruby pressed her, the angrier Naomi got.  "I'm working here as a maid for these people.  Don't you think I'm humiliated enough by that without you comin' over and rubbin' my nose in it?"

"That's not what I'm doing!"  Ruby paused and inhaled deeply as she tried to regain her perspective on the situation.  "Remember, I'm a maid, too.  Why would you be embarrassed for me to see you at work?"

"I'm not you!" Naomi snapped.  "Unlike you, I'm better then this!"

"U-unlike me?"

"I've done better than this before.  I've been on stage in front of hundreds of people."  Naomi's face beamed with a pride that was also slightly bittersweet before returning to its previous coldness.  "I've just had a string of bad luck.  You, on the other hand...well...let's just say that a maid is about all you'd amount to.  Why you even think you're up to the standards of my brother is beyond me."

"Naomi, I...."

"He's a respected doctor," she continued.  "Of course he's embarrassed when his doctor friends ask him about his girl and he has to tell 'em that she's nothing but a scrub woman."  She paused and smiled slyly.  "That is if he even tells 'em the truth.  For all I know, he lies to 'em to spare himself the embarrassment."

Ruby stood in silence, unsure of what to say.

"Do us all a favor," Naomi said as she again grabbed Ruby by the arm and drug her towards the front door.  "Stay outta my business and stay outta Calvin's life.  We'd all be better off without you."

After slamming the door behind Ruby, Naomi exhaled slowly.  She'd definitely not expected to see her there today.  How much had she really overheard?  Did she know the truth about what Naomi was up to in Springhill Manor?  Naomi couldn't be certain.  However, she was positive that Ruby had heard enough to make her suspicious.  Ruby had already proven to be trouble for Calvin.  Now she was proving to be trouble for Naomi as well -- trouble that she most certainly didn't need.

For whatever reason, Calvin trusted and believed Ruby.  What if she went blabbing to him about what she'd overheard?  Worried that Ruby Thomas could destroy all of her hopes and dreams, Naomi knew that she had to find someway to discredit her and remove her from both her and her brother's lives -- for good.

THE DAVIS HOME - KITCHEN

"Yes, that's a good boy," Lorraine Davis cooed as she cradled her infant son in her arm while she continued working on the evening's dinner.  She looked down at him -- completely absorbed in the task of taking milk from his bottle -- and smiled.

If someone had told her months ago how much her life would truly change with the birth of her baby, she wouldn't have been able to understand the true magnitude of those words of wisdom.  Of course, she knew that having a baby would result in a whole world of new responsibilities and chores, but she never realized exactly how much joy would come out of those new tasks -- tasks made possible by the new life she'd carried inside her.

"Lorraine," her mother Edwina Blake spoke up as she pushed the kitchen door open, "you're got...a visitor."

"A visitor?"  Lorraine reached down and adjusted the temperature on the oven so that the roast she had cooking wouldn't be done too quickly and then turned towards the door in time to see Stephanie Monroe walk into the room.

"Honey, I tried to tell her that you weren't in the mood for...."

"Mom, it's okay," Lorraine sighed and then walked over to the bassinet in the corner of the room so that she could lay Mikey down.  Turning back to face Stephanie, she inhaled deeply and said a silent pray for strength.  "Is there something I can help you with?"

"I...think I'll leave you two girls alone," Edwina said with an uneasy smile and left the room, allowing the kitchen door to gently swing shut behind her.

"What can I do for you, Stephanie?"  Lorraine held her shoulders back in preparation for what she anticipated to be some kind of verbal attack.  She and Stephanie had never really gotten along and the tension had only increased with Stephanie's involvement with Patterson Monroe.

"There's something I want to talk to you about," Stephanie finally spoke.  She tried to choose her words carefully.  She didn't want a full-fledged heated confrontation, but there were several points she felt needed to be made perfectly clear.  "I want you to stay away from Paddy and Todd."

"How did I know you were going to say that?"

"I mean it, Lorraine."  Stephanie stepped closer.  "I don't know what you're up to, but my family isn't any of your business."

"Your family?"  Lorraine let out a thin, bemused laugh.  "You just married into it.  Paddy is an old and dear friend of mine.  Both he and Todd are like brothers to me."

"And you think that by marrying me, he's made the worst mistake of his life."

"Your words.  Not mine."  Lorraine turned away from Stephanie, the resulting chill in the air being more than a little noticeable.  "Look, Steph, I care about both of them very much.  Granted, I admit that Paddy is more than capable of making his own decisions -- right or wrong -- but Todd's just a little boy."

"And he's my responsibility now!"

"Would you please keep your voice down?"  Lorraine immediately went to the bassinet and checked on Mikey.  "My son is taking a nap and I'd don't want your histrionics to wake him up."

Stephanie slowly walked over next to Lorraine and gazed down at the sleeping baby.  "He really is a beautiful child."

"Thank you, Stephanie.  Mikey's my pride and joy."

"And he should be what you're focused on.  Both him and your own husband -- not my family."

"I've already told you.  I care about Paddy and Todd a great deal."  Lorraine walked over to the sink and began washing potatoes -- anything to distract herself from Stephanie's crazy insinuations.  "And I'm not going to abandon Todd when he needs me."

"Todd's my responsibility now!"

"You don't care about Todd!" Lorraine snapped angrily as she spun around.  "You've never cared about Todd.  You're only acting so concerned about him now because you're married to Paddy and you know that you have to care about Todd to make Paddy happy!"

"I'm warning you, Lorraine.  Stay away from my family or you'll regret it!"

Lorraine froze in her tracks, her gazed defiantly leveled at Stephanie.  "Is that a threat?"

"Let's just say it's a word of advice."  Feeling that she'd made her point, Stephanie turned on her heel and stormed out of the kitchen, nearly knocked down Lorraine's husband Douglas -- just arriving home from work -- in the process.  "You're married to her!  You talk some sense into her!"

"W-what was that all about?" he asked as the door swung shut behind Stephanie.  "What was she doing here?"

"Trying to cause trouble," Lorraine sighed. "Why else would Stephanie be anywhere?"

"Oh, Lorraine."

"Honestly, Douglas, that girl is always going out of her way to get under my skin."  She went into her husband's arms and began to soak in the safety and security that they always brought her.  "Do you know what she's trying to do?  She's trying to keep me away from Todd!  She as much as threatened me if I didn't stay away from him."

"Well, maybe you should give her and Paddy some space," Douglas commented as he held her tightly.  "You know as well as anyone that it takes some time to grow accustomed to a new marriage.  The added responsibility of looking after a child has got to make that adjustment period even more difficult for her."

"You sound like you're taking her side!"  Lorraine pulled away and looked at him in surprise.

"Honey, I'm not taking anyone's side.  I'm just saying...well...maybe you should give them a little space.  I'm not suggesting that you give up on your relationship with Todd altogether.  Just give them some time."

"But the things that she...."

Douglas pressed his index finger against his wife's lips to silence her.  "Don't worry about Stephanie.  You know that she can be a lot of hot air.  Just give her a little time."

"Oh, alright," she sighed, resigned to the fact that this was a conversation that was better off not continuing.  Remembering the roast that she had in the oven, she returned to the task of fixing dinner.  "Why are you home so early, anyway?  I wasn't expecting you for another hour or so.  I've just gotten started here and...."

"I'm...not going to be able to be here for dinner," he interrupted reluctantly.

"W-what?"  She turned to face him, shocked by his news.  "But I thought you promised me that you would n ever miss sitting down to dinner with us as a family."

"I know, I know," he nodded with a sigh.  "But I told you about that new author Charles wants me to sign and I...."

"You're not leaving until in the morning!"

"Well, it turns out that Macalister is flying in early, so I've got to be in San Francisco tonight to meet with him."  He paused and looked at her with apprehension.  "And I could be gone for a few days."

"Oh, Douglas!"

"Honey, I'm sorry, but it just can't be helped.  This could be a big deal for the company.  Charles is really depending on me for this."

"I know," she muttered with disappointment.  "It's just...."

"I'll be back before you know it."  He turned and headed for the door.  "Now, I've got to throw some things in a suitcase and get to the airport.  My flight leaves in a half an hour and I've got to hurry."

As the kitchen door swung shut behind him, Lorraine looked at the half-prepared dinner and frowned.  So much for always eating dinner together as a family.  Douglas's wonderful promotion wasn't turning out quite like she'd anticipated.

Meanwhile, on the front porch, Stephanie stood and inhaled deeply, collecting her thoughts.  She was determined to keep Lorraine from undermining her role as Patterson's wife and Todd's maternal figure.  After all, just because she'd turned over a new leaf, it didn't mean that she'd completely forgotten where the old leaf was.

SPRING LAKE

As the sun beamed down onto her face, Janet Stokes carefully guided the horse along the path towards the lake.  It wasn't quite as hot as it had been during the course of the summer and she'd decided that it would be a perfect time to take the horse out for a late afternoon ride.  Ever since Burt had started teaching her how to ride, she'd found a sense of calmness and tranquility in her occasional treks out with the horse; and those were the exact feelings that Janet felt that she needed now more than ever.

She was still haunted by the memories of what she'd done to her sister Judith -- the loss of Judith and Burt's baby from a tragic fall down the stairs that Janet, herself, had caused.  True, Judith had only sketchy memories of the night she fell, but those memories were slowly becoming clearer and clearer.  And Janet was becoming more and more frightened that the truth would come out and she'd lose Burt -- the greatest love she'd ever known -- forever.

She'd been overjoyed when Burt had proposed marriage to her.  Unfortunately, the looming specter of Judith's memories as well as opposition from Burt's younger brother Randy cast a dark shadow on her happiness.  Burt wouldn't consider rushing the marriage out of concern for his brother's feelings.  Janet knew that if she were ever going to be Burt's wife, she'd have to change Randy's mind.

As the horse slowly approached the lake, she saw him in the distance, sitting on a rock and skimming stones across the water.  It was exactly where she'd suspected he'd be.

Janet dismounted her horse and took the reigns in her hands and began to guide the horse to the edge of the water -- right next to where Randy Lamont was sitting.

"It's really a nice day for a ride, isn't it?" she spoke up, almost startling Randy, as she glanced over to Randy's own horse that was tied to a nearby tree.  "I never realized how peaceful it could be until Burt started teaching me."

Silence.  Randy didn't say a word and didn't even look at her.

"Would you care for a little company?"

He slowly turned and looked up at her.  "If you have to."

"Oh, Randy, why do you have to be like this?" she sighed wearily as she sat down on the rock next to his.  "I thought you liked me.  We've always gotten along.  I didn't know you resented me so much."

"It's...not you," he muttered, his focus returning to the sun's reflection on the water.

"Well, it certainly feels like it's me.  Randy, I love your brother very much -- more than I ever thought I could love a man.  And he loves me.  He's everything I've ever wanted in life."  She paused and watched him carefully, trying to gauge his emotions.  "Is that such a difficult thing for you to understand and accept?"

"No."  Randy looked down at his hands as he nervously passed a rock back and forth between them.  "Like I said, it's not you.  It's just...."

Janet paused and listened closely, waiting for him to continue.  "It's just what, Randy?" she spoke up after several moments.  "What is it about me -- about my relationship with your brother -- that you suddenly don't like?  Is it because of my past?  Is it because of what I did back in New York?"

"No, it has nothing to do with any of that," he replied quickly.  "Like I said, this doesn't have anything to do with you.  I do like you, but..."

"It feels personal."

"It's not!"

"Then tell me what it is."  She reached over and grabbed his hand.  "Help me to understand.  Talk to me."

"Ever since we came to this town," Randy began, carefully choosing his words, "ever since we got mixed up with the Callisons, everything's gone wrong.  Ma died and Burt...well...we found out that Burt and I don't have the same father."

"That doesn't change the fact that he's still your brother and will always be your brother."

"I know that, but...whether he realizes it or not, it changes who he is.  He's not a Lamont.  He's one of them."

"You make it sound like he's part of the enemy."  Janet let out a soft laugh -- an attempt to calm a potentially volatile conversation.

"Not the enemy, but...."  Randy looked up at her and swallowed hard.  "Janet, he doesn't see it, but I do.  He's changing.  Ever since we found out that Landon Callison was his father, Burt's been changing.  Sure, at first it was only little things like the way he carried himself and the way he dressed, but now he's going to all of these big social functions with all the rich and prominent people in town and...well...we're just Lamonts."

"I see."

"Janet, we never had anything growing up.  We're just a poor family who were raised on farms.  It was a struggle just to make ends meet.  We were doing good to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table.  We're not...like those people."

"You mean like me, don't you?"  She leveled her gaze at him, relieved that she was starting to get to the root of the problem.

"A wealthy Stokes and a poor Lamont.  It doesn't make any sense.  Our families just aren't socially compatible."

"I don't love your brother because of his last name or how much money he has or what kind of background he has," she tried to explain.  "I love him because of the kind of man he is.  I love him because of how he makes me feel inside.  When I'm with Burt, I feel like the luckiest girl in the entire world."

Randy nodded silently as he actually heard what she was saying.  "But now that Burt's a Callison, he's more socially acceptable to you.  Callisons and Stokeses are compatible.  Not Lamonts and Stokes.  Not Lamonts and Callisons.  Did you know that Charles Callison wanted Burt to change his last name?"

"Burt told me.  But he's not going to do that.  He might not be a Lamont by birth, but he's a Lamont in spirit.  Who his father is isn't going to change that."

"But he is changing," Randy murmured.  "He's changing because he knows he's a Callison.  He's changing because of you."

"I think I understand now," Janet sighed and nodded.  "You think that if he stops being the brother that you've always known -- the Lamont brother -- that he'll leave you behind, as well."  She paused and looked at him intently.  "And you hold me partly responsible because of who my family is."

He sat in silence, not even acknowledging that what Janet said was true.  However, his silence was all the confirmation that she needed.

"Randy, people change over time.  It's just a fact of life.  People grow and develop new interests.  The experience of life forces people to change.  There's no avoiding it.  To avoid growing and changing, you'd have to avoid living."  She watched him closely to see whether her words were sinking in.  "True, Burt's not exactly the same person he was last year.  Neither am I."  She paused again.  "Are you?"

"No," he replied softly.

"Look at me, Randy."  She reached over and grabbed his chin, turning his head towards her so that she could have his full attention.  "Do you love your brother?"

"Of course, I do!" he answered quickly.  "Burt is everything I have left of my family."

"Then don't you want him to be happy?  You know that marrying me would make him happy.  He's told you as much himself."  She stopped and took a deep breath.  "Trying to stand in the way of your brother's happiness -- a brother whom you claim to love -- is a very selfish thing."

She rose from her position on the rock and slowly walked back to her horse.  Before mounting, she turned back again.  "Remember, to be happy is to live."  Another pause for effect.  "And I think we both know what the opposite of living is.  Thank about that."

Without saying another word, Janet climbed back onto her horse and carefully guided its gentle gate back up the path.  With the sun beaming down onto her face, she let out a worried sigh.  Maybe she'd managed to get through to him.  Maybe she'd convinced him to -- if not wholeheartedly support her marriage to his brother -- stop standing in the way of their happiness.  Maybe it wasn't too late.

Meanwhile, back at the lake, Randy picked up a stone and carefully flung it across the water, watching it skip along the surface.  And he began to think.

SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

"Looks like there's no love lost between Naomi and her friend," Dane laughed as he attempted to ease the tension in the room.  "Well, I guess that without her here, we've got to postpone discussion about that blasted trust fund."

"Not necessarily," Joyce spoke up.  "I mean, true, this is about taking financial care of Naomi's son, but she doesn't have to be here for it.  You've got to admit that she's not the quickest of girls."

"Then she has no business being in charge of any money!"

"Dane, I agree with you 100% about that."  She slowly began to walk around the room as she formulated her proposal.  "I'm afraid that if she were to be left to her own devices, she'd squander that money as quickly as she could and there'd be nothing left for that poor baby."

"Then that settles it."  He nodded smugly.  "We don't give her a cent.  No trust fund."

"Oh, but Dane!" Sara cried out.  "We can't just leave that little baby without anything.  He's Mr. Preston's son!"

"So you say."

"Dane, I thought that we'd settled all this."  Joyce walked over and took her daughter's hand in a display of solidarity.  "We're going to set up a trust fund for little Aubrey.  Naomi has nothing to do with this."

"Someone has to administer this so-called trust fund.  We can't expect her to do a reasonable job of it."  He stared at Joyce coldly, almost daring her to dodge the issue.

"We're giving her baby the money that should rightfully be his."  Joyce was clearly going to stand firm on her position.

"We're not giving her anything!  Any money that's set aside for that kid is coming from me and Sara.  You've got nothing to do with it!"  He paused and cocked an eyebrow as an idea struck him.  "Therefore, Sara and I should be the administrators of the trust fund.  That way we can oversee exactly what that girl uses the money for."

"Momma, Dane does have a point," Sara nodded.  "The money that we're allotting for the trust is in our names.  We should be the ones to administer it."

"Oh, but, Sara," Joyce sighed, not at all thrilled with the idea, but realizing that she had to play her hand right, "Naomi doesn't like Dane.  In fact, you heard her say that she didn't trust him.  I...I don't think that having Dane in charge of the trust is a good idea at all."  She shot Dane a sly grin.

"Maybe you're right, Momma," Sara muttered and tapped her chin as she thought.  "But Naomi and I have really gotten to know one another.  Do you think she trusts me?"

"I...I suppose so."

"Then I'll be the administrator."

Dane shot his own sly grin back at Joyce.

"Sara, you've already had to go through so much because of this."  Joyce grabbed her daughter's hand tightly and pulled it close to her chest -- almost a motherly gesture.  "It hasn't been easy for you to have the weight and responsibility of this child's well-being hoisted upon your shoulders.  You've had to have Naomi -- a total stranger -- live in your home.  You and Dane have had your lives disrupted."

"Will wonders never cease," Dane muttered under his breath, "she speaks the truth."

"W-what are you suggesting?"

"Who you need to administer the trust is a completely uninvolved third party -- someone without anything financially to gain or lose."  She patted Sara's hand lightly.  "Me."

"Over my dead body!" Dane shouted angrily.  "You have no business controlling anything that has to do with that trust fund!"

"Dane, I think this is best.  I'm sure Sara agrees with me."  She glared at Dane with eyes so cold that even the devil himself got chills.  "With me in charge of the trust fund, it takes all the burden off of your shoulders.  Neither one of you would have to worry about this distasteful matter ever again."

"Honey, she does have a point."

"So does a snake's tooth, but I'm not buy a word it'd say either!"

Before anymore could be said, the conversation was broken by the sound of the telephone ringing.

"Mr. Manchester, the telephone is for you," Helga Grimm spoke up as she pushed the wooden doors open and stepped into the room.  "It's your father."

"My father?"  Dane quickly glanced at Sara and shook his head, clearly surprised that his father would be called.  They hadn't been on the best of terms since Dane's wedding to Sara.  "Helga, I'll...be right there."

Once Dane was out of the room, Joyce turned her full attention to her daughter.  "You believe that this would be the best thing, don't you?  With me in charge of the trust, this entire mess will be over for you and Dane and you can just forget about it."

"Well, it does make some sense."  Sara paused and considered the idea.  She knew that she could trust her mother to keep a tight reign on Naomi and do what was in the best interest of the baby.  "But I'm afraid that it's going to take some work to convince Dane of that.  Honestly, I don't know why he has to be so mistrustful."

As Dane slowly walked back into the room, both Sara and Joyce turned to look at him and immediately saw the look of surprise and apprehension on his face.

"Honey, what is it?" Sara asked as she went to his side.  "What did your father want?  He's not...trying to cause you trouble, is he?  He's not still angry with you for marrying me, is he?"

"I...I'm not sure," Dane mumbled, slightly in a daze.

"What is it?  What's wrong?"

"Nothing's wrong."  He walked over to his chair and sunk down into it.  "You remember that I told you that he'd decided to run for State Senator, don't you?"

"Yes, of course I do."  She eyed him curiously.  "I also remember that you said that he warned you not to do anything to embarrass him.  What does that have to do with....  Oh, Dane!  You haven't...?"

"N-no, I haven't done anything that'd get in the way of his campaign.  In fact, I think it's just the opposite."

"What?"

"He's throwing a big political fundraiser in Chicago in a few days," Dane began to explain.  "He thinks it'd be a good idea to have everyone there to present the image of a warm and loving family to the voters.  He was just calling to invite us."

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

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For Now and Forever
produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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