produced/written by G. Matthew Smith



EPISODE #143 (Wednesday, 8/25/04) click here for a printable version of this episode
A Few Days Later
June 1936 - Evening


THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM - CHICAGO, IL

Chicago, ILSara Manchester"Do I look okay?" Sara Manchester asked as she took her husband Dane's arm and stepped off the elevator.  "I want to make a good impression with your parents."

"You look fine," Dane muttered, not completely paying attention to her.  He was way too nervous about seeing his parents again for the first time in months.

They'd never supported his marriage to Sara -- in fact, he'd never quite supported it, either -- and had even cut him out of the family as a result.  But now they'd been invited to what was probably one of the most important nights in his father's career -- a fundraiser to support Dane's father's run for state senate.  To say that Dane was nervous would have been an understatement.

"Sara, darling, you look magnificent!" Sara's mother Joyce Preston exclaimed, following them out of the elevator.  "Once Dane's parents meet you, they're going to love you!  I bet they'll quickly wonder why they ever had such strong opposition to you and Dane being married."

"I hope so," Sara said softly, more to herself than to them as her eyes darted around the room for any glimpse of her in-laws so that she could make a quick assessment of them before being thrust into the spotlight.  "I really hope so."

Unfortunately, Sara couldn't get over the gnawing feeling in her gut that told her that Dane's parents weren't going to be won over so easily.


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THE MONROE HOME - KITCHEN

43 Landings Ct."And then I'll just add a little dash of...."

"Are you sure you really want to do that?" Mrs. Oliver asked as she peered over Stephanie Monroe's shoulder.  "I don't think that's going to add to the flavor at all."

Stephanie stopped mid-shake and subtly glared at the housekeeper.

"I think I know what I'm doing," she spoke pointedly.  "After all, I spent quite a bit of time at my mother's side in the kitchen while I was growing up.  I picked up quite a bit from her."

"I'm sure you did," Mrs. Oliver nodded in agreement.  "However, from the way I hear it, the kitchen wasn't the room of the house where your mother had the most experience."

"And what are you trying to imply?"

"Ladies, how's everything going in here?"  Patterson Monroe knocked on the kitchen door as he pushed it open.  "Dinner going to be ready soon?"

"It won't be much longer." Stephanie replied in her best "cheery" voice as she hurried over to her husband and pushed him back out of the kitchen.  "But if you keep sticking your head in and distracting me, it'll be next week before we get to eat."

Patterson Monroe"Oh, okay," he laughed warmly.  "But can you blame me for being curious about what new dish you've decided to spring on us from your mother's recipe book.  Besides, Todd's getting a little antsy."

"Now you just go back in there and make sure the  table is set for dinner."  Stephanie leaned in and gave him a loving peck on the cheek.  After seeing no movement from Patterson, Stephanie gave him a gentle swat on the arm.  "Move it!"

"Okay," he grumbled sheepishly as he scooted back out of the room.

Stephanie stood quietly and waited for the kitchen door to finish swinging shut before speaking again.  "You see?  Paddy loves my cooking.  He loves the way I do things."

"Well, Patterson has always been the type of boy to do whatever possible to avoid hurting anyone's feelings," Mrs. Oliver muttered in an aside that was clearly meant to be audible enough for Stephanie to hear.

"What are you trying to say?"

"Now, Stephanie, dear, don't take this the wrong way, but..."

"But?"

Mrs. Oliver hesitated for a moment as she walked over to the stove, stuck a large wooden spoon into the pot of stew, and stirred it around for a bit before ladling out a small amount to taste.

"I know that you haven't lived in this house for very long," she finally spoke after making a pronounced grimace in response to her tasting, "so I'm sure that you're not fully aware of how we do things here.  I'm sure you don't know all the ins and outs of what Patterson and Todd enjoy and have grown accustomed to."

"How we do things here?"  Stephanie folded her arms across her chest and watched the housekeeper closely.  There was definitely a point Mrs. Oliver was trying to make and Stephanie was certain she wasn't going to like it.  "And what do you mean by that?"

"Well..."

"Don't be shy on my account."  Stephanie continued to glare at her, her sarcasm evident.

Mrs. Oliver"I mean, just look at this."  Mrs. Oliver walked over to a cabinet and pulled the doors open to reveal stacks and rows of cans.  "Of course, I appreciate you going to the market and doing the grocery shopping for this week, but that's usually something I take care of.  And, well..."

"This is my home and my family now, Mrs. Oliver."  Stephanie walked over behind her and looked up into the cabinet, not sure about exactly what Mrs. Oliver was trying to say.  "I think it's only natural that there are certain things like grocery shopping that I'd take care of as the lady of the house."

"The lady of the house...."  Mrs. Oliver repeated the words softly and pursed her lips together tightly as if she'd taken a sudden taste of lemon juice.  "Well, be that as it may...."  Her voice trailed off momentarily.  "I've been with this family for a very long time.  I held Mr. and Mrs. Monroe in the highest regard and I promised them that I would always look after Patterson and Todd.  That's not about to change now that you've...well...entered their lives."

Stephanie's jaw tightened.  She didn't like the direction this conversation was taking.

"Did you know that Todd has a very sensitive palate?"  Mrs. Oliver raised an eyebrow and eyed Stephanie closely.  "There are certain seasonings and foods that he just doesn't care for.  He'll simply refuse to eat something he doesn't like.  We have to make certain allowances...."

"I think you've made too many allowances with Todd," Stephanie interrupted.  "You cater to his every childish whim.  Todd needs to develop a wider range of tastes and...."

"And did you know that Patterson has a couple of allergies?" Mrs. Oliver continued as if she'd never heard Stephanie.  "Even the slightest bit of the wrong food or seasoning mixed in with food can cause a horrible rash."

"I understand that, but that's something I'll grow accustomed to in time.  I know me and Paddy being married is a big adjustment for all of us.  You've gotten used to being the only woman in the house, but I'm here now and...."

"Well, Lorraine did spend a lot of time with us before...."

Stephanie Lake MonroeStephanie's muscles tensed with the mention of her husband's ex-girlfriend and close friend.

"Mrs. Oliver, don't get me wrong -- I do appreciate your advice and input."  Stephanie was doing her best to remain calm and maintain a smooth and charming exterior, but it wasn't easy.  "However, as I said before, Paddy and I are married now.  I live here and I'm the lady of the house.  You're our housekeeper.  You work for me."  She paused for a moment when she saw the pained and uncomfortable expression on Mrs. Oliver's face and couldn't avoid the urge not to smirk.  "We'll do things my way.  If you have a problem with that, you're more than welcome to seek employment somewhere else.  I'm sure that with your credentials, you'd have no trouble.  We'd understand."

"I see," Mrs. Oliver responded softly.  "Well, then, I guess I'll leave you to dinner."  And, without saying another word, she quickly walked out the kitchen, leaving Stephanie alone with her cooking.

Once the housekeeper was out of site, Stephanie's face turned bright red and she clinched her fists tightly in order to relieve the frustration and anger she'd been holding in.  She'd show Mrs. Oliver who the lady of the house was and she'd make sure that she wouldn't be able to forget it!


THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM - CHICAGO, IL

Chicago, IL"There's no reason for you to be nervous," Joyce Preston whispered into her daughter Sara's ear.  "You look stunning.  Anyone in their right mind would be proud to have you as their daughter-in-law."

"Well, Dane's parents aren't just anyone," Sara Manchester muttered, her voice shaking with anxiety.  "Mr. Manchester is running for state senate and..."

"Sara, there they are," Dane Manchester spoke up as he took his wife's hand and nodded across the room.

As she followed her husband's lead, Sara inhaled deeply, hoping that the breath would calm the butterflies in her stomach.  Unfortunately, those pesky butterflies weren't about to be deterred.

"Father, Mother," Dane spoke up as he walked up behind them and waited for them to turn around to greet him.  "It's so...good to see you again."

"Dane!" Olivia Manchester exclaimed and threw her arms open wide so that she could hug her youngest son.  "It's been far too long."

"Yes, Mother, it has."  His tone was cordial, polite, and respectful -- the only tone he'd ever been allowed to use with her.

"Let me look at you."  Olivia stepped back to arms length, keeping her hands on her son's shoulders, and eyed him up and down.  "You're looking healthy -- fit as always.  I take it that your studies are going well?"

"Yes, Mother."

"Splendid!"  Her attention left him as she began to look around.  "Where's that girl you ran off and married?  You did bring her, didn't you?"

"I didn't 'run off'..."

Sara Manchester"That would be me, Mrs. Manchester," Sara spoke up at Joyce's prodding and extended her hand to greet her mother-in-law.  "I'm Sara, Dane's wife."

"Sara," Olivia repeated the name as she stepped away from Dane so that she could stand directly in front of Sara.  She cocked her head sideways and inspected Sara closely.  She carefully looked her over from top to bottom, nodding every so often as if she were making a mental inventory.

"Is...something wrong?" Sara asked nervously, her eyes darting towards her mother as if to catch some sort of clue as to what mistake she'd made.

"Oh, not at all, dear," Olivia smiled.  "I just want to see the type of girl my son's decided to make his bride."  She paused as she rested her chin on her index finger.  "You're not blonde.  I'm surprised."

"Blonde?"

"Why, yes," Olivia laughed.  "You see, my darling Dane has always seemed to have a penchant for fair-haired girls.  Dane, whatever happened to that girl from Manhattan you were dating?"

"I...um..." Dane stammered, immediately uncomfortable by the direction of the conversation.  "She...Jillian got married a few weeks ago."

"Pity," Olivia sighed.  "She was from such a good family."

"So, where'd Father disappear to?" Dane spoke up in an attempt to steer the conversation in a different direction.  "I could have sworn that he was right here."

Olivia Manchester"You know your father," Olivia laughed.  "He's so into this political campaign that he's always going here and there trying to make a good impression with his possible supporters."  She began looking around, hoping to catch a glimpse of her husband.  "Oh, there he is!  Nigel!  Nigel, dear, come here and meet our new daughter-in-law."

"Well, well, well," Nigel Manchester spoke up as he pulled away from one of his campaign managers and joined his family.  "If it's not the prodigal son."

"Father," Dane nodded politely.

"And this must be that girl you married."  Nigel nodded towards Sara.  He stopped for a moment and eyed her closely.  "I guess she'll do."

"Mr. Manchester, it's so good to finally meet you," Sara smiled warmly and extended her hand.  When it simply hung in the air without Dane's father even acknowledging that it was there, she quickly pulled it back.  "I've...heard so much about you."

"Too bad I can't say the same," he muttered in reply.  His attention was soon drawn by Joyce who standing right behind Sara.  "And who's this lovely lady?"

"I'm Sara's mother," Joyce beamed proudly and stepped forward, extending her own hand which Nigel quickly accepted.  "My name's Joyce Preston.  Perhaps you've heard of my late husband -- Thornton Preston."

"The author?"  Olivia's eyes grew wide with surprise.  "Dane, you didn't tell us that Sara was the daughter of such a famous author."

"But, I'm not...."

Joyce Preston"Actually, Thornton was Sara's step-father," Joyce corrected.  "Sara's real father..."  Her eyes darted to Sara and then back to Olivia.  "Well, he died when Sara was very young.  She never really had a chance to know him.  But my darling Thornton was extremely devoted to Sara.  In fact, he regarded her as his own flesh and blood."  She quickly stepped in front of Sara in an attempt to hide the obvious shock that registered on Sara's  face as a result of Joyce's blatant lies.

"I see," Nigel nodded, taking in everything Joyce was saying.  "But...aren't you far too young to have a daughter this old, Mrs. Preston?"

"You're much to gracious," Joyce laughed warmly, her hand fluttering up to her neck in feigned embarrassment.  "Mrs. Manchester, you're husband is quite the charmer, isn't he?"

"Quite," Olivia replied dryly.

"You know, Mr. Manchester, I've always been fascinated by politics."  Joyce moved closer to him and took him by the arm.  "Perhaps I can get you alone and you can fill me in on the particulars of you campaign?"

Nigel Manchester"Maybe a little later," Nigel smiled as he patted Joyce's hand.  "First, I'd like to have a few words alone with my son."

Dane felt a lump start to form in his throat.  "Yes, Father."

"Ladies, if you'll excuse us, Dane and I need to have a talk."  Nigel took his son by the arm and nodded politely.  "It'll give you girls a chance to become better acquainted."

As Nigel quickly led Dane off towards a private corner for their "talk", Dane dreaded hearing those words of fatherly advice that he knew he was about to get.

"So, what do you think of Sara?" Dane finally asked once they were out of earshot.  "She's a wonderful girl with a good head on her shoulders and...."

"She's completely wrong for you, son," Nigel interrupted.  "Not the right breeding at all.  You really should have married that Stokes girl.  Now there was a girl with the perfect background and upbringing."

"Jillian married someone else," Dane reminded carefully.

"Why do you always let the good ones get away?" Nigel sighed.  "Well, what's done is done.  Her mother is charming enough, though."  He turned and glanced back in Joyce's direction.  "What do you know about that girl's real father?"

Dane Manchester"I...um..."  Dane paused and took a deep breath.  "Not much, really.  Only what Joyce and Sara have told me."  He paused again.  "It's like Sara's mother said, her father died when she was very young.  Joyce later married Mr. Preston and he pretty much thought of Sara as his own daughter."  His stopped and his eyes darted back towards his wife.  "He did leave his entire estate to us, after all."

"So I've heard."  Nigel covered his mouth with his hand and slowly nodded, clearly deep in thought.  "Maybe we can work with this.  Maybe my advisors can fix this with the press."

"Fix this?"

"Dane," Nigel sighed and shook his head, "why did you have to run off and marry that girl?  I've told you a thousand times that a boy of your stature shouldn't even consider marriage until he's much older.  And marriage to a girl like that!"  He shook his head again.  "You just never think about how  your public actions reflect on this family.  If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times, you can do whatever you wish with whomever you wish as long as you're discrete.  But you never make one of those private indiscretions public."  He looked back at Sara.  "And it doesn't get much more public than by getting married.  I can tell you one thing -- Grant would never have done this to this family."

"No," Dane muttered, annoyed by the mention of his older brother's name.  "No, I'm sure he wouldn't have."