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

 

EPISODE #144 (Thursday, 8/26/04)
Same Day
June 1936 - Evening

CALVIN'S HOME - KITCHEN

"Are you sure there's not something bothering you?"  Dr. Calvin Jackson eyed Ruby Thomas 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?"  He 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?"

She 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?

THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER

Dr. Fred Rutherford pushed the front door open and stepped into the mansion.  He clinched his fists tightly in an attempt to stop his hands from shaking and then reached into his pocket so that he could pull out a handkerchief to blot the perspiration from his brow.

The tension and stress of dealing with his mysterious blackmailer was getting to him.  It seemed like his every waking moment was consumed with thoughts and worry about who this person was and exactly what they were planning on doing with their information.

He walked over to the side table and set his doctor's bag down before snapping it open and pulling out the latest mysterious note he'd received.  The note had reminded him of the information that the blackmailer had on him as well as explicit instructions on how to make payment in Baily Park -- a payment Fred had just returned home from making.

As he eyed the letter nervously, he silently prayed that the payment -- although not quite the full amount that had been requested -- was enough to pacify his blackmailer.  Fred had finally managed to get his hands on everything he'd been working for and didn't need to have all of his hopes and dreams go up in smoke.

"Another late night at the hospital, doctor?" Judith Linford asked as she stood in the doorway to the living room.  She'd heard the front door open and, suspecting that it was her step-father trying to slip into the house unobserved, had crept to the door in hopes of catching him in the middle of something unseemly.  "It's getting to be practically a habit."

"I...um...what?"  Startled by her presence, he quickly looked at her, crumpling up the blackmailer's note into his hands to keep it from being seen.  "I had a...late shift."

"You've had quite a few of those lately."

Judith folded her arms across her chest and moved further into the room, keeping her eyes locked on him the entire time.  He was visibly nervous and anxious and it immediately made her suspicious.

"You're looking a little green, doctor," she commented as she eyed him up and down.  "You're not coming down with something, are you?  I'm sure that being around sick people all day long puts you at a greater risk of catching something."

"I surprised that you're concerned," he replied and turned his back to her so that he could discreetly toss the crumpled letter into his bag and snap it closed.  "How so unlike you."

"Well, I'm only thinking of Mother, after all."

"Of course."  Fred paused and took a deep breath to steady his nerves and release tension and then turned to face her, shoulders thrown back in a display of confidence and strength.  "But I'm the picture of health.  Not a thing wrong with me.  There's no need for you to worry."

"I see," she muttered as she rubbed her chin with her index finger.  "But still...."  She cocked her head slightly and narrowed her eyes.  "You seem a little nervous, doctor.  Anything wrong?"

"No.  Nothing."

"You act like you're hiding something."  Judith's eyes went immediately to his doctor's bag, still sitting on the table.  "You were looking at something when I came in -- a letter of some sort."  A love letter, perhaps?

"You're mistaken."  Fred picked up his bag and walked past Judith and into the living room.

"No, I don't think so."  She immediately followed behind him.  He was hiding something.  "You were definitely reading something and it's made you upset."

"Judith, you've got an overactive imagination.  You can't stand the thought of me being married to your mother and you'd like nothing better than to find some way to destroy our marriage."

"Guilty as charged," she smirked.

"Well, your desire to find something unseemly is clearly clouding your judgment and perspective -- making you see things that aren't really there.  Give it a rest, Judith."

"I'll rest once your filthy hide is out of our lives and thrown out into the street where it belongs."  She walked over to him and looked him right in the eye.  "I'm watching you, doctor.  I'm watching you very closely.  I can tell you're up to something -- it's written all over your face -- and I'm going to find out exactly what it is."

"You better watch your step, Judith," Fred sneered coolly.  "I'd certainly hate for you to stumble into some kind of trouble that you wouldn't be able to get yourself out of."

"Is that a threat?"  Her hand flew up to her chest in an exaggerated motion, displaying mock fear.  "Are you threatening me?  Your own step-daughter?  Why, doctor, how could you?"

"Not a threat," he grinned smugly.  "Just a word of advice that it might be of great benefit for you to heed."

He stared right into Judith's eyes and she momentarily felt a chill run through her.  She couldn't put her finger on exactly what it was, but there was something about his look, his demeanor, that informed her that he was serious -- deadly serious.  Yes, the good doctor would like nothing better than to wring the life right out of her with his heeling hands.  Judith was certain of that.  Despite the clear and obvious threat, it only strengthened her resolve to get to the bottom of things.  She had to rid her family of Fred Rutherford once and for all -- before it was too late.

CALVIN'S HOME - KITCHEN

"What is it, Ruby?" Calvin repeated his question.  "What's Naomi done, now?"

"It's...nothing," she stammered, turning her back to him so that she could hide her concern and worry.  "I just...."

"Yes?"  He came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders in hopes of giving her the strength and security to tell him what concerns were on her mind.

"Well, I...I went to see Naomi at the Manchesters' the other day," she began cautiously.  "I...well...I'd hoped that I could have a chance to sit down with her and talk some things out.  You know as well as I do that your sister and I don't exactly see eye to eye on a lot of things."

"Oh, how well I know," he sighed with a shake of his head.  "I take it that this peace summit didn't go well?"

"Not exactly."

Ruby bit her lip and again thought about the unusual and awkward scene between Naomi and Mr. and Mrs. Manchester that she'd walked in on -- a scene that still didn't quite sit right with Ruby.  Something was definitely wrong with the situation in the Manchester home and Naomi was deeply involved in it.  Ruby was certain of it.  However....

"Go on," Calvin urged.  "What happened?  What did Naomi do this time?"

She hesitated before going into the long story of what she'd seen and heard during her impromptu visit to Springhill Manor.  Perhaps Naomi had been right and Ruby had only simply misinterpreted what she'd heard.  Perhaps she was reading entirely too much into everything and making assumptions based only on a few words and phrases that she'd strung together without any solid facts.  If that were indeed the case, did she really have any right to state her assumptions as fact and get Calvin worked up and worried over what could very well be nothing?

"Naomi's a maid for the Manchesters, right?" Ruby finally asked.

"Yes, of course she is.  You know that."

"And as a maid, she pretty much does the same kind of work I do?"

"Cleaning.  Some cooking, yes," he nodded, not quite sure what Ruby was getting at.  "I mean, Naomi did tell me that they've got an actual housekeeper who takes care of a lot of the major details like running the house and such and that Naomi pretty much answers directly to her.  I'm sure that there are some things that you do that she doesn't necessarily do.  After all, you're Mr. and Mrs. Rutherford's only maid."

"True."  Ruby considered what he'd said.  With the housekeeper's help, Naomi didn't have nearly as many responsibilities that Ruby had.  It did seem odd, however, that the Manchesters would need more help around the house than the Rutherfords.  But, then again, the Manchesters were new money and, at least from what Ruby had heard, the newly rich tended to do things to a little excess.

"Honey, what's this all about?  Why so many questions about Naomi's job?"  Calvin eyed her curiously.  "When you went to visit, you didn't get the idea that Naomi's causing problems for her employers, did you?  I swear, if that girl's ruining this job, I'm going to...."

"N-no, it's not that, really, but..."  Well, it was that, but there was more to it.  Ruby was certain of it.  "Oh, I just noticed that there were some differences between what she does for the Manchesters and what I do for the Rutherfords.  It just seemed a little odd to me that even though we've got the same type of job, we're doing different kinds of work.  But...now that you've mentioned the housekeeper, it does sorta make sense."  Sorta.  But not quite.

"Is that really all it is?  Is that what's been on your mind?"

"Yes.  That's it."  Ruby wrapped her arms around Calvin's neck and hugged him tightly.

But, no, that wasn't all there was to it.  No matter how the housekeeper had described Naomi's work ethic, it still didn't explain the conversation she'd partly overheard.  True, the Manchesters seemed like good people and, perhaps, even if Naomi were shirking her duties, they've taken a bit of pity on her because of Aubrey, looking the other way in a lot of instances, but....  Well, it might explain it -- much too easily, in Ruby's opinion -- but it still didn't satisfy the voice inside her head that was telling her that there was much more going on that couldn't be so easily explained.

Even so, she realized that until she knew exactly what it was, she couldn't very well go telling Calvin a bunch of things that she really didn't know for sure.  With that taken into consideration, Ruby realized that she had to know what was going on with Naomi before she could even think of mentioning anything to Calvin.  Something going on in that house just wasn't right and Ruby was determined to find out exactly what it was.

THE PRESIDENTIAL ARMS BALLROOM - CHICAGO, IL

"It's been so good to take this time to get to know you better, Mrs. Preston," Nigel Manchester smiled.  "My wife has always been such a fan of your late husband's work and I have to add that talking with you has been a wonderful joy."

"Oh, Mr. Manchester," Joyce Preston giggled, "you are quite the charmer, aren't you?  I can definitely see who that son of yours takes after."

"Well, that remains to be seen," he replied dryly.  "But, please, there's no need to be so formal.  Considering that your daughter is married to my son, we're practically family.  You have to call me 'Nigel'."

"Well, then, Nigel," she cooed and then turned to her daughter Sara Manchester and nodded, signifying that perhaps the evening wasn't going to turn out to be quite as awkward and disastrous as she'd suspected.

"And, as much as I hate to do this, I'm going to have to ask you to excuse me."  Nigel reached down and took Joyce's hand.  "I'd like to have a few moments alone with Sara to discuss a few things with her about Dane."

"Oh, of course.  I understand."

"Mother...."  Sara turned and shot Joyce a panicked look.

"Now, Sara, there's nothing to worry about.  I'm nearly positive that Nigel here isn't going to bite."  Joyce let out a small, throaty laugh as she oozed charm from every pore.

"Sara?  If you'll join me?"  Nigel held out his hand for her, but she hesitated for a moment before taking it and allowing him to lead her off for their own private discussion.

Once they were a good distance away from Joyce -- and other prying ears -- Nigel's demeanor changed drastically.  Suddenly, he took on a very "strictly business"-type air.

"W-what did you want to talk about, Nigel?" Sara asked awkwardly, following her mother's lead.

"That's 'Mr. Manchester,' girl," he corrected.  "Always 'Mr. Manchester' to you.  I'm surprised that your wonderful mother hasn't taught you any manners.  But, then, I suppose it's hard to teach anything to the kids of today."

A sense of dread and foreboding flooded over Sara.  No, this wasn't going to exactly be a warm and cozy family chat.

"I'm...sorry," she muttered, unable to look at him.  After several long, tense moments, she took a deep breath and finally posed the question that had been running through her mind.  "So...exactly what did you want to talk to me about in private?"

"I just want to get to know the girl who roped my son into a marriage that he has no business being in," Nigel stated matter-of-factly.  "I'm sure you can imagine how shocked his mother and I were when he phoned us with the news that the two of you were getting married.  After all, he'd always assured us that he had no intention of getting tied down until he was much older -- which, incidentally, is as it should have been."

"I didn't rope Dane into anything...."  Well, actually, she had, but her father-in-law didn't need to know quite everything about the circumstances leading up to the wedding.

"Well, you must have done something to change Dane's mind so drastically.  Whatever faults that son of mine might have, there is one thing I've always had to give him credit for -- he knows his own mind and he's got quite a strong will.  Practically the only good quality he's inherited from me.  He wouldn't have just up and married some girl without something bringing on such a sudden change of heart."

"Your son loves me," she pointed out.  "And I love him.  Love can make people have changes of heart and...."

"Ah, the ignorance of youth," Nigel sighed with a shake of his head.  "Now, girl, I'm sure you're far too young to understand and appreciate this, but there are many different reasons much stronger than love to get married.  After all, Dane is from a good family.  He's exceptionally bright and, if I do say so myself, quite handsome.  He has a healthy trust fund -- well, he did at the time, at least...."

"W-what are you trying to say?"

"Oh, don't act so coy and innocent and naive with me, girl."  He grabbed Sara's arm, forcing her to look directly at him.  "Granted, I haven't been my son's age in quite some time, but I'm not so old that I don't know about girls like you."

"Girls like...."

"When I was Dane's age, I had girls chasing after me right and left.  Of course, back then I was just starting out in my law studies and I wasn't nearly as in the same financial situation that Dane was, but I had potential.  All those girls saw that and saw where I was going and they found that very appealing.  But I couldn't be bothered.  True, they provided a pleasant diversion, but none of them were anything that I could allow myself get too preoccupied with.  None of them had the requirements to be a proper wife.  None of them until I met Dane's mother.  She was everything that  a man in my situation could want in a wife -- beautiful, cultured, good breeding, from a fine family...."

"I don't...know what you're trying to say."

"You just won't give up, will you?"  Nigel's eyes narrowed as he looked at Sara closely.  "It's so obvious what your intentions were when you conned my son into marriage.  I don't know why you won't be honest about it.  It would save us all a lot of trouble."

"My intention was and always has been to marry Dane -- the man I love with all of my heart -- and spend the rest of my life with him."  

"What foolishly romantic ideals."  His face scrunched up in disgust.  "If you expect me to believe that, you're a fool.  I can tell you're a bright one -- that much is obvious -- far too bright to get caught up in such childish notions.  No, you saw money and security and social status when you met my son.  You saw a way to get into this family and get your hands on everything that I've worked my entire life to gain."

"Mr. Manchester, I mean no disrespect, but you couldn't be more wrong!"  Sara threw her shoulders back defiantly.  How dare he make such assumptions and insinuations about her when he knew absolutely nothing about her?

"No, girl, I don't think so."  Nigel's tone grew colder as he all but stared a hole right through her.  "Yes, I know about girls like you.  Girls like you are good for frivolous diversions -- something to occupy a man's time or, even, something kept on the side and in the shadows.  No, girls like you aren't proper marriage potential."

"How dare...."

"I've got my eye on you, girl," Nigel continued, not even giving Sara a chance to respond.  "I know what you're up to and I will not allow it.  You might have pulled the wool over my son's eyes, but you won't do it to me.  In time, he's going to see exactly what type of girl you really are and then he's going to rid himself of you.  You just watch."

And with that, Nigel abruptly turned and walked away, leaving Sara to quietly fume.  How dare Dane's father make such assumptions about her?  He didn't know her.  He didn't know anything about her relationship with Dane.  Even so, it was obvious to her what kind of influence Dane's father had on him.  Sure, everything was fine between Dane and Sara at the moment, but she was quickly beginning to fear what might happen if Dane started listening to everything his father was saying -- if he hadn't been listening already.

THE MONROE HOME - KITCHEN

"So, how's that dinner coming?" Mrs. Oliver asked as she poked her head into the kitchen.  "I've got two boys out here who are practically starving to death."

"It's almost ready," Stephanie Monroe replied coolly without even turning around from the stove.  "Just a few more minutes."

"I think that's what you said ten minutes ago."

"I said it's almost ready," Stephanie repeated, her jaw tightening.  "But if you keep sticking your head in here and interrupting me, I'm never going to get it done."

"I just wanted to see if you needed any help."

"I don't need your help."  Stephanie gripped the edge of the counter firmly in an attempt to relieve the tension that the housekeeper's intrusions were causing.  "I thought I made that very clear to you earlier."

"You've got to keep stirring!" Mrs. Oliver blurted out, racing over to the stove and snatching the spoon out of Stephanie's hands.  "If you don't keep stirring, it's going to stick and burn and then dinner's going to be ruined!"

Stephanie took several steps back and exhaled slowly.  As she ground her teeth, she glared at Mrs. Oliver.

"I'm not going to burn it!"

"Do you see this?" Mrs. Oliver asked, lifting a small spoonful up in front of Stephanie's eyes.  "Do you see this faint, brown crust I scraped off the edge?  It was already starting to burn!"  She turned back around, returned the spoon to the pot, and began to stir again, pausing only long enough to glance up at the clock on the wall.  "Yes, just a few more minutes and it's going to be perfect.  See, I told you that you needed my help.  Why, what would've happened if I hadn't been here?"

"I'm sure you're going to tell me."

"I most certainly am!  If I hadn't been here, you would have systematically ruined dinner.  Stephanie, dear, you need me."

"What I need is some air," she grumbled angrily and turned to storm out of the kitchen.

"But you've got to help finish dinner!  It's almost ready!"

"Looks to me like you've already taken care of everything," Stephanie snapped as she threw the door open.  "Finish it yourself!"

"Stephanie, honey, what's wrong?"  Patterson Monroe jumped up off the sofa and hurried over to his wife.  Her tone and expression immediately let him know that she was not happy.  "What happened?"

"That...that...woman!  That's what's wrong!"

Her bottom lip began to quiver as he took her into his loving arms to comfort her.

"She has to criticize and correct every single thing I do!  Nothing is good enough for her!"

"Sweetheart, you can't let yourself get worked up like this," he said softly, rubbing her back gently as he held her in his arms.  "Mrs. Oliver is only trying to help."

"Help?  Help?"  She pulled away from him and blinked repeatedly, not quite sure she could believe the words she was hearing.  "She's trying to take over!  She's trying to take control of my home -- our home!"

"Steph, she's been the only consistent woman in this house since my parents died.  She's been the one in charge of the day to day running of this house.  Surely you can understand that, with you here, the roles are going to change and it's going to be a big adjustment for her -- for all of us, actually."

"I know that, Paddy," she pouted, her heightened emotion starting to ease.  "But it's my home now.  I'm the woman of the house.  She's just the housekeeper."

"She just wants to help if you'll let her."  He looked down into her eyes and carefully brushed away the beginnings of a tear with his thumb.

"Don't wanna eat Fanny's cookin' anyway," Todd Monroe spoke up in a grumble from across the room.  "Fanny can't cook like Ollie."

"Todd, that'll be enough," Patterson cautioned sternly.  "Stephanie's a little upset at the moment and you being rude isn't going to help matters any."

"Don't like Fanny," Todd grumbled again under his breath.

"See!  Do you see what I'm up against?" She asked, her voice beginning to rise.  "Mrs. Oliver hates me!  Todd hates me!  Everyone in my own home hates me!"

"Honey, I think you're forgetting the most important person in this house -- me.  I don't hate you.  I love you.  I'm always going to love you."

"Oh, brother," Todd grumbled again.

"Todd!" Patterson snapped, his patience wearing thin.  "Look, why don't you go upstairs and play with your toy cars for a while until dinner's finished so that Stephanie and I can have some time to talk."

"Too hungry to play."

"Todd!"

"Okay.  Okay."

As Todd stomped up the stairs, Patterson inhaled deeply.  Why did something simple like a family dinner always seem to bring out so much tension?  Finally, with the young boy out of sight, Patterson walked over to his desk and picked up an envelope and handed it to Stephanie.

"This came in the mail today.  I think it might lift your spirits a bit."

"What is it?"  She took it from him and eyed it curiously for a moment before opening it.  As she slid out the enclosed card and read it carefully, her eyes widened with surprise and excitement.  "An invitation?  An engraved invitation?"

"Yes," Patterson laughed.  "It's for the Ladies Auxiliary's Fourth of July Ball fundraiser for the new children's ward.  We've been invited."

"But...why?  Why us?"

"Honey, my father was chief of staff at the hospital for a long, long time.  He's still very respected by everyone there and there's a medical scholarship in his name."  He took her hand and led her over to the sofa so that they could take a seat.  "After he died, everyone at the hospital pretty much adopted me and Todd.  I always get invited to these things.  A lot of times I don't go unless I have to, but now...."

"Now?"

"Now's different.  I don't have to go, but I want to go."  He looked into her eyes and smiled slyly.  "After all, this is the first formal invitation to an event that we've received since we've gotten married.  This is going to be our official debut as a married couple in Albanyville society."

"Society."  Stephanie's mouth hung open, both stunned and excited.  "Me -- us -- part of Albanyville society?"  As the idea sunk into her head, it was amazing how quickly her spirits rose, the tension and emotion of her encounter with Mrs. Oliver slipping away.

"Well, as much a part of it as a medical student and his new wife can be," he laughed.  "A new wife who, I should add, is also an up-and-coming radio actress."  He stopped, grabbed her hand tightly, and looked her directly in the eyes.  "Now, this is what I want you to do.  This is going to be a formal affair and I want you to go to Lerner's and buy yourself and brand new gown.  My wife is going to be the most beautiful woman at that ball and I want you to make every other woman there green with envy."

"A...new evening gown?" Stephanie gasped with excitement.  "Oh, Paddy!  Oh, I love you!"  She threw her arms around him and hugged him tightly.

Patterson couldn't help but chuckle because of how quickly and drastically her mood had changed -- just like he'd known it would.  Yes, he loved her dearly and only wanted what would make her happy.  This ball was going to be the highlight of the social season and he wanted the night to be perfect for her in every way.

THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER

Janet Stokes shut and locked the door behind her after stepping into the house.  It was an automatic action that she wasn't even thinking about.  After all, her thoughts were completely consumed with the dinner she'd had earlier with her fianc Burt Lamont and Burt's younger brother Randy and Randy's opposition to her and Burt's plans to marry.

She loved Burt with all of her heart and couldn't comprehend why Randy was so opposed to their planned marriage.  She and Randy had always gotten along.  In fact, Janet had been certain that she and Randy had become friends.  But since the death of their mother Penelope, the revelation that Burt and Randy didn't share the same father, and the announcement of Burt and Janet's engagement, Randy's entire attitude had changed.  He fought the idea of marriage at every turn and every attempt that she'd made to get him to see her and Burt's point of view had turned into a contest and a battle of their wills.

As Janet crossed the foyer and headed towards the living room, she thought about how she could possibly convince Randy to support their plans to marry.  There had to be a way.  She loved Burt and Burt loved her.  Despite those facts, Janet was worried that time for a happy future was running out.  There was the looming specter of her older sister Judith and the tragic events of that night, months and months ago, during when Janet had gone temporarily out of her mind and pushed a pregnant Judith down the stairs resulting in the loss of Judith's baby -- Burt's baby.  Thankfully, Judith couldn't clearly remember the events of that night nor Janet's role in her fall.  But Judith's memory was gradually returning in bits and flashes.  Janet knew that it was only a matter of time before Judith remembered everything.

"Janet, I thought I heard someone come in," Judith said, martini in hand, as she turned to face her sister.  "Did you have a nice night out?"

"It was fine," Janet muttered, pulled awkwardly out of her own troubled thoughts.  "Burt, Randy, and I had dinner."  She paused, looked around the room, and listened for any other movement in the house.  However, the only thing she heard was the soft music coming from the radio in the corner that Judith had turned on earlier.  "Is anyone else still up?"

"No.  Mother went to bed quite a while ago and Fred...."  Judith's voice trailed off, clear disgust and disdain in her voice at the mention of their step-father.  "Well, the good doctor went upstairs a while ago, too."

"Then I...think I'll go to bed."

Judith eyed her sister carefully.  There was something odd about her -- something serious on her mind.  Immediately all of her thoughts concerning Fred left her head.  Judith had something new to latch onto.

"Janet, dear, are you all right?  Did something...happen tonight at dinner?"

"No, not really," she muttered in reply.  "It's just been a long night and I think I'm getting a headache, so...."

"Something's definitely bothering you.  I can tell."  Judith smiled sweetly and did her best to make her curiosity appear like genuine concern and interest.  "Darling, I'm your sister.  If there's something on your mind, you know that you can talk to me."

Janet paused and looked at her sister with great suspicion.  No, Judith wasn't the concerned older sister that she was trying to portray herself as.  Janet knew her all too well.  Judith  was fishing for information.

"I said that I'm just tired."

"You and Burt aren't having problems, are you?"  Judith fought to resist the urge to smile in glee at that notion.  "Oh, Janet, did you two have a fight?"

"Burt and I are not having problems and we did not have a fight!" Janet snapped angrily.  "This is none of your business!"

"Burt realizes that I've been telling the truth about the night I fell, isn't he?  He realizes that you know more about that night than you've been telling, doesn't he?"

"This has nothing to do with Burt!  It's Randy.  Randy's what's got me upset!" Janet blurted out.

"Randy?"  Judith blinked her eyes repeatedly, not quite prepared with the answer she'd gotten.  "My goodness, what does that little boy have to do with anything?"

"Randy's not a little boy, Judith.  He's a grown man with a mind of his own and he just...."

"Yes?"

"It's...nothing."

"No, you were about to say something.  Go on."  Judith walked closer to Janet as she hung on every anticipated word.  "What kind of trouble is Randy causing?  What's he done to upset you so much.  I thought you and Burt's brother got along.  Randy doesn't suspect something about your part in the loss of his brother's child, does he?"

"I had no part in that, Judith!  I've already told you that!  This has nothing to do with that!"  Janet sighed and raked her hands through her hair in frustration.  "If Randy would just see that Burt and I love one another and want to make a life with one another.  If he'd just stop standing in the way of us getting marr...."  Janet froze before she could say too much.

"W-what?"  Judith let out an audible gasp.  "Standing in the way of....  Married?  You and Burt are planning to get married?  Janet, you can't!  You can't marry Burt!"

"That's it, Judith.  I'm not discussing this with you.  This is none of your business."  Janet quickly spun on her heel and all but ran for the living room door.  "Nothing about me and Burt is your business!"

"You can't marry Burt!  You won't marry Burt!" Judith called out as she chased after her.  "Once he realizes that you've been lying to him about what happened the night I fell and have been keeping the truth from us, he'll never marry you!  Do you hear me?  Everything that you think you have with Burt is a sham -- a lie!"

Janet raced for the stairs.  She had to get away from Judith.  She couldn't listen to her spell out every single fear that Janet had been dwelling on for months.  Once she'd reached the top of the stairs, she gripped the banister in her hands and tried to catch her breath.  She couldn't let Judith be right.  She just couldn't.

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

Janet makes a breakthrough.

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions