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

 

EPISODE #143 (Wednesday, 8/25/04)
A Few Days Later
June 1936 - Evening

THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM - CHICAGO, IL

"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 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.

THE MONROE HOME - KITCHEN

"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 that your mother had her most experience in."

"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."

"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.

"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'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

"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'..."

"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."

"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...."

"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?"

"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?"

"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."

THE LAMONT HOME - KITCHEN

"So, how was your day today, Randy?" Janet Stokes asked before taking a sip of her lemonade.  "Anything exciting happen?"

"Nothing much," Randy Lamont muttered in between bites of casserole.  "Just spent some time with some friends and stuff."

"Stuff?" Burt Lamont repeated curiously, looking up from his dinner plate.  "What kind of stuff?"

"You know -- stuff."  Randy fidgeted uncomfortably in his seat.  He felt like he was under interrogation by his older brother and his brother's fiancée.  "I met Eliza at The Well and we had a malt and later I rode a horse down to the lake.  Nothing really exciting."

"Well, I'm glad that you made it home in time so that we could sit down to dinner together," Janet smiled warmly.  Ever since Burt had told Randy about their plans to get married, the tension between her and Randy had been so thick you could have cut it with a knife.  Janet hoped that by spending more time with Randy she could subtly ease the awkwardness and change his mind about his opposition to their planned marriage.  "We really should get together and do things like this more often."

"Whatever you say," Randy muttered again, not even making an attempt to look directly at her.

"I agree with Janet," Burt nodded and reached across the table to take her hand.  "You know, after we're married, I'd like to make dinner together a regular event -- all three of us sitting down together as a family."

"We're not a family."

"I'm sorry, Randy?  What did you say?"  Burt looked across the table at his brother, not fully hearing what he'd quietly said.

"You want me to put on this big show of how we're just one big happy family like some Norman Rockwell painting and that's just not how it is," Randy explain point-blank.  "It's never going to be like that."

"Of course it's not going to be like that," Burt laughed.  "Real life is never like that.  But if we try, we can have the best life and the best family we possibly can.  Janet and I are going to get married and then, one day, you're going to get married and then we'll both eventually have families of our own.  But we're not going to have two separate families -- we're all going to be one family, Randy."

Randy sat in silence, his eyes focused only on his plate full of half-eaten food.

"Do you understand what I'm trying to say?" Burt asked and leaned across the table slightly to make sure his question was directed squarely at his brother.  "Just because Janet and I are getting married doesn't mean the end of this family.  As far as I'm concerned, it's only the beginning."

"Whatever you say," Randy murmured and then quickly scooted his chair back from the table.  "Look, maybe this little dinner wasn't such a great idea."  And with that, he rose from his seat and swiftly walked out the kitchen door and onto the back step.

"Burt, go after him!" Janet spoke up suddenly.  "You've got to make him understand!"

"No, Janet, he's got to accept everything in his own time," Burt sighed with a shake of his head.  "This has all been just too much for him to take in and deal with so quickly -- Ma died and then we found out that we didn't have the same father and then I sprung our engagement on him.  The boy's had his entire world turned upside down.  We can't expect him to just adapt and accept everything at the drop of a hat."

"But he's got to understand.  He's got to realize that I'm not trying to take you away from him.  I'm not trying to come between the Lamont family.  I just want to be a part of it."

"I think deep down he knows that."  Burt gave Janet's hand a gentle squeeze of reassurance.  "He just doesn't want to accept it.  But with some time I think he'll really grow to like the idea."

"Time?" she eyed him desperately.  "How much time?"

"Well, maybe in a few months...."

"A few months?"  Janet shot up out of her chair and nervously began pacing around the room.  "Oh, Burt, the way he's acting now, Randy's never going to accept me as part of your life and he's never going to accept the idea of us getting married!"  She stopped in front of the sink and stared out the window at Randy who was sitting alone on the swing in the backyard.  "Maybe we should just go ahead and get married anyway.  Once he sees how things are really going to be, maybe then he'll understand."

"No, we can't do that."

"W-what?"

"As long as Randy has these reservations -- as long as Randy is still so opposed to this marriage, we can't even think about setting a date for the wedding let alone actually getting married.  I can't even consider it until I know that he's behind us one-hundred percent."

Burt's words echoing inside her head, Janet wrapped her arms around herself and kept her eyes locked on Randy, outside in the yard.  She had to find some way to change that young man's mind.  She just had to!

THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM - CHICAGO, IL

"I hope you two have been getting acquainted," Dane smiled warmly as he left his father's side and rejoined his mother and wife.  "There's nothing I want more than to have my two favorite ladies become the best of friends."

"Well, Dane, dear, let's not rush things."  Olivia patted her son gently on the shoulder.  "But Sara and I have been getting to know one another."  She turned her attention towards her new daughter-in-law.  "You know, dear, my son really shocked us when he sprung the news of this marriage on us.  You see, we didn't even know that he'd been seeing anyone seriously."  She paused for a moment.  "Well, not since that lovely Stokes girl, at least.  Dane, you said that she got married?  Oh, how horrible that must have been for you!"

"It...um...wasn't quite that bad, Mother."  He looked away, uncomfortable with the topic of conversation.  "But Sara is a wonderful young woman and the most devoted wife a man could hope to have.  I'm sure you'll see that."

"Oh, I'm sure we will, dear."  Olivia reached over and touched Sara lightly on the cheek.  "You are a very pretty young girl.  I can see how someone like my son would be interested in you.  So, did you and your father have a good talk?" She turned her focus back to her son.

"We talked, yes," Dane nodded.  "I'm not sure how good it was, though."

"Dane, don't tell me that you upset him again?"  Olivia shook her head in disappointment.  "Why must you always do that?"

"Mother, please.  Not here.  Not now."

"Dane, should I leave you and your mother alone to talk?" Sara spoke up.  In truth, being around her in-laws had made her quite uneasy.  She felt like they'd been sizing her up from the moment they'd met.  In fact, she was certain that it had to be close to what livestock had to undergo before being sold at auction.  Sara desperately wanted to slip away to escape the prying, inquisitive eyes of Olivia Manchester.

"Perhaps that would be a good idea," Olivia nodded and then casually looked around.  "Where did your mother go, dear?"  When she finally spotted Joyce, her tone grew much colder -- Joyce was standing off to the side and chatting with Dane's father.  "Oh, there she is.  It looks like she's found my husband.  Sara, dear, go join them and keep her company while I discuss a few things with my son."

"Y-yes, ma'am," Sara nodded, grateful for the chance to escape, but still not quite certain whether involving herself in a conversation with her mother and Dane's father would be any easier.  She went over and gave Dane a quick peck on the cheek and then quietly excused herself.

Once Sara was at a safe distance, Olivia and Dane continued with their talk.

"I'm sure you know that this marriage has been very upsetting for your father."  Olivia took her son by the arm and slowly led him through the crowd, nodded politely in recognition of various campaign contributors along the way.  "I mean, the way it happened so suddenly.  It took us all by surprise."

"Mother, I'm well aware of that," Dane confessed.  "After all, how could I not be considering that he cut me out of the family and out of the will as soon as he found out."

"Perhaps he reacted a little harshly," she conceded.  "But he only did it for your benefit.  He just wanted you to understand that, by taking a wife, you were becoming your own man and you had to stand on your own two feet without any help from us.  I'm sure you realize that we can't continue to coddle you for your entire life."

"I know that, Mother."

"And, besides, we had to be certain that girl's intentions were honorable.  We had to see whether she had any interest in you outside of whatever money she might get her hands on through your eventual inheritance."  Olivia paused and let out a thin laugh.  "But, I suppose that's neither here nor there now that you two have inherited her step-father's estate.  That could actually turn out to be a good thing."

"What do you mean?" he asked curiously.

"Well, money does tend to make a person a little more socially acceptable and I'm sure your father's advisors can work with her background and current situation to make her appealing to voters."

"Why would Sara have to be appealing to voters?"

"Your father might be the one running for public office, but a vote for your father is like a vote for our entire family -- each and every single one of us.  We all have to maintain the proper image in the public's eye.  Now, that means you can't do anything that might put a black mark on your father's name."

"Mother, you know that I'd never...."

"Intentionally, no," she sighed.  "But you have to admit that you can be...well...rather rambunctious.  I'm just trying to give you a bit of advice."  She stopped and looked at her son curiously.  "So, Dane, dear, what were you and your father talking about?"

"Nothing really," he muttered.  "Just about Sara and the marriage and some political stuff."

"He looked a little upset.  I just wondered...."

"Like you said, my marriage to Sara was sort of upsetting for him."

"Why must you always do your best to get under your father's skin?"  Olivia shook her head in disappointment.  "You know that he's only wanted the best for you -- the best schools, the best social and professional opportunities.  If you could have only gotten into Harvard then none of this would have happened."

"Mother, you know that I didn't have the grades to get accepted to Harvard."  His jaw tightened.  This was a conversation that they'd had hundreds of times in the past and he really didn't feel up to revisiting it.  "Besides, Albanyville University is very respected school."

"I'm sure it is," she conceded again, "but it doesn't have the name recognition or prestige of Harvard.  Your brother went to Harvard."

"Yes, I know."

"And he never manages to upset your father like you do.  Of course, he's had his moments just like any boy growing into manhood, but he's never gone out of his way to do things like you seem to do."

"And where is Grant tonight?" Dane asked pointedly.  "After all, Sara and I made it here to show our support for Father.  I would have suspected that the wonderful Grant Manchester would have been here, as well."

"Well, Grant's a very busy man," she explained.  "He'd planned on being here, but got called away on business at the last minute.  Your father understands."

"I'm sure he does," Dane muttered.  "He always understands about Grant."

"Oh, look!  I see the governor's wife."  Olivia lifted her arm and waved.  "Do excuse me.  I need to go speak with her."  Before leaving, she paused and looked at him with concern.  "Please try to be on your best behavior.  The press are everywhere tonight."

As Olivia walked away, Dane let out a long sigh.  Nothing had changed between him and his parents.  They were exactly like they'd always been.  Deep down, he realized that they were exactly like they always would be.  Perhaps staying far away from them in the future was the best thing for everyone involved.

CALVIN'S HOME - KITCHEN

"What a wonderful dinner," Ruby Thomas smiled as she pushed herself away from the table and began collecting dishes.  "You've really picked up your mother's knack for cooking."

"I only really just follow her recipes," Dr. Calvin Jackson laughed while he helped her with clearing the table.  "The way Mama cooks, it's not that hard to make dinner if you just do it her way."  He followed her over to the sink, but then put his hand on her shoulder to draw her attention.  "Actually, I'm glad that you could get away from Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford long enough to spend an evening together.  You've seemed rather...distant for the last few days."

"Really?"  She tried to make her tone sound as casual as possible.  The truth of the matter was that she had kept her distance from him, somewhat, but she really didn't want him to know that.  "I'm sorry.  I've just been...well...things have been kinda hectic around the house."

"I understand."  Calvin took a plate out of her hand and carefully set it on the counter.  Although he really couldn't put his finger on what it was, he was certain that something was bothering her and he wanted to have her full attention.  "But even during dinner tonight, you seemed to have your mind on other things."

"I think you're just over analyzing things," she laughed uncomfortably.  "I was simply basking in the glow of a quiet evening together."

"Now, Ruby, I think I know you well enough by now to be able to tell when something's on your mind."  He gently took her chin into his hands and lifted her face so that he could look into her eyes.  "Is something troubling you?  I hope Naomi hasn't gone and done something to upset you again."

"Naomi?"  She shook her head.  "Well, your sister is how she is, but, no, she hasn't done anything to me."  Ruby bit her lip nervously and quickly looked away.  "But, I'm sure that she'd understand how much time taking care of a houseful of people requires.  After all, she spends so much time working for the Manchesters.  Honestly, I'm really surprised that she has any time at all for that baby of hers."

"Well, whatever faults Naomi has, I do have to give her credit for the way she takes care of Aubrey."  Calvin began running water into the dishpan and grabbed some soap to float in it so that they could start the dishes.  "I'm just relieved that the Manchesters don't have a problem with Naomi living there with the baby.  Some folk just wouldn't be too keen on having a servant's child that age in the house."

Ruby put several plates into the water and began diligently scrubbing them.  "The Manchesters seem to be good folk."

"I really don't know them that well.  I can only go by what I've heard from other people.  Douglas seems to have a great deal of respect for Mrs. Manchester.  I've never heard him say much about her husband, though."

"Yes, they seem like good people."  Ruby's mind began to drift back to the scene she'd inadvertently witnessed between Naomi and the Manchesters -- a scene that had been replaying inside her head ever since that day she walked in on a very curious discussion between them.

"Are you sure there's not something bothering you?"  He eyed her closely.  "If Naomi's done something to you again, I want to know about it.  She might be my sister, but I'm not blind to how she can be."

"No, she hasn't really done anything to me."  Ruby dried her hands on a dishtowel, turning her back to Calvin, and slowly moved away.  "It's just that she...."

"She has done something, hasn't she?"  Calvin came up behind her and put his hand on her shoulder.  "What is it now?  What has that fool sister of mine done that's gotten you so out of sorts?"

Ruby hesitated and bit her lip nervously.  Yes, Naomi was up to something, but nothing to do with Ruby, herself.  There was something odd going on between Naomi and the Manchesters.  Ruby was certain of it.  However, all she really had were suspicions based only on a half-heard conversation that she'd had no business overhearing.  Was it her place to tell Calvin a bunch of speculations and suspicions based, essentially, on nothing?  Would telling him about her concerns -- which, truthfully, could be completely unfounded -- cause more trouble between her and Naomi that she wasn't really eager to deal with?  And, after all, was it really her business?

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

Ruby's suspicions intensify.

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

©2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions