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

 

EPISODE #145 (Friday, 8/27/04)
A Week Later
July 1936 - Afternoon

LERNER'S DEPARTMENT STORE - LADIES APPAREL

"And this gown is just exquisite," the sales girl said as she held out the evening gown for inspection.  "Just look at this fine detailing.  You're certain to be the belle of the ball in this!"

"It is nice," Stephanie Monroe nodded, her eyes focused on the gown.  "But...."

"But?"

"It's red.  I'm not sure that I...well...I don't think that color would work for me."  More accurately, she was concerned that a red dress was exactly what everyone would expect from her -- the old her.  Stephanie was determined not to feed the energies of her nay-sayers and detractors.

"But, Mrs. Monroe, it is a Fourth of July ball," the sales girl pointed out.  "The color scheme is red, white, and blue.  This dress would fit perfectly!"

"I know, but..."  Stephanie grimaced.  True, it would fit the theme, but still....  "Do you have something in white?  Or maybe black?  Black is always a good evening color."

"Have you considered separates?"  The sales girl hurriedly pulled several pieces from the rack of gowns she'd selected for Stephanie to see.  "This evening blouse and ball skirt would make a delightful combination!"

"Oh, I don't know," Stephanie sighed.  "I just want this night to be perfect.  The dress I pick has to make a statement -- the right statement."

"Looks like your doing the exact same thing I'm doing today," came a warm familiar laugh from behind Stephanie.  "I swear, picking the right gown for one of these functions can be an event in and of itself."

Stephanie tensed up at the sound of the voice.  Just what she didn't need today -- nitpick fashion tips from the glamour-puss of Albanyville.  Taking a deep breath and putting on her best smile, she turned to face her newest friend and one-time rival Jillian Callison....

THE WISHING WELL SODA SHOPPE

Randy Lamont pushed the doors of the soda shop open and all but forcibly dragged himself inside.  He didn't want to be there.  He didn't want to listen to her or hear what she had to say.  But he'd made a promise to his brother Burt -- more of a split-second decision as a means of ending an uncomfortable conversation, but a promise none-the-less.  He'd promised to give Janet a chance to change his mind.  As he saw her sitting alone in a booth in the back corner, he began to slowly walk over to her.  No, he didn't want to be there.  Not at all.

"There you are," Janet Stokes said as she tried to manage a warm --  although still uncomfortable -- smile.  "I was worried you wouldn't come."  She motioned towards the booth across from her.  "Have a seat, Randy."

"I'm only here because of Burt," he explained bluntly.  "Nothing else."

"I understand that, Randy.  Really I do."  She leaned back into her own seat and swallowed hard.  "And I also know that we've had a lot of talks about this."

"What is it they say about beating a dead horse?"  He refused to look at her directly.  His eyes drifted to the movie posters and school pennants that lined the walls.

"Randy, I hope this isn't what that is."  Janet lifted her hand and motioned for the soda jerk to bring her the two malts that she'd earlier arraigned for him to make.  "I just want a chance to be able to sit down with you and iron out our differences -- to come to some kind of common understanding and common ground.  No pressure.  No hard sell."

"And you think bribing me with one of these is going to do the trick?"  He eyed the malt as the soda jerk set it in front of him.

"Randy, it's not a bribe.  Consider it a...peace offering.  Do you think you can do that?"

"I guess so," he muttered and slid down into his seat, still refusing to look directly at her.  Now, however, his eyes were focused on his malt instead of anything on the walls.

"Just listen to me with an open heart and an open mind."  She reached across the table and grabbed his hands tightly in an attempt to make a connection between them that he could neither break nor ignore.

"I can't drink my malt if you don't let go of me."

"The malt can wait a moment."  She paused and exhaled slowly and then smiled in relief when he finally looked up at her, making eye contact.  "You and I have a lot in common, you know."

"We don't have anything in common."

"But, yes, we do.  We have the most important thing in common that there could be -- we both love your brother very much.  That love is what connects the two of us."

Randy sat in silence, considering what she'd said.

"And whether you believe it or not, I can understand the way you feel about me and my family.  Sometimes I'm not too comfortable with my family, either.  You try growing up being the middle child between two sisters like Judith and Jillian."  She let out a laugh, hoping to lighten the tension that still existed between them.

"It's not you," Randy muttered.  "It's not you and it's not your family, it's just...."

"It's Burt, isn't it?"

Silence.

"You don't have a problem with me, really, do you?  We've always gotten along.  You do like me, don't you?"  She bit her lip, nervous about what his possible answer might be.

"I like you, Janet," Randy confessed softly and hung his head.  "I've always liked you."

"Then tell me why you've got such a negative attitude about me and your brother wanting to get married?  If you've always liked me, why don't you want us to be happy?"

"It's not you!" he blurted out suddenly.  "It's never been you!  You have nothing to do with this!  Burt's the only family I have and...."

Janet leaned back in her seat and considered his outburst and everything that he'd said.

"And you're afraid that by marrying me that I'm going to take him away from you.  That once we're married, he's going to forget all about you."  She nodded as all of the pieces fell together.  It was just like Burt had suspected.

"Back in Kentucky, there was the four of us -- Ma, Pa, me, and Burt.  We were a family."  Randy's voice stuck in his throat and he quickly looked away from her.  "Then Pa ran off and left us and Ma got sick.  Burt worked two, sometimes three, jobs just to keep a roof over our heads and pay for Ma's doctors.  He didn't have to do all that, but he did it because he loved us.  We were his family."

"He still loves you, Randy.  You're still his family."

"And then he packed us all up and moved us here," he continued, tons of emotions and feelings bursting forth that couldn't be stopped.  "He did it so that we could have a better life, but it was the worst thing in the world that could've happened to us -- to our family."

"Randy, it's hasn't been that bad."

"That bad?  It's been horrible!  Ma died and then we found out that Burt had a different father than I do -- a dead, rich father.  A father who didn't run out on him like mine did.  Our whole family fell apart.  Burt isn't a Lamont anymore.  He's a Callison.  I'm the only Lamont.  I'm the only one in my family."

"That's just not true!"  She squeezed his hands and pulled them across the table towards her, dragging Randy's full attention towards her at the same time.  "Burt is always going to be your brother.  He's told you that.  You two are a family.  I don't want to take that away from you.  I just want to join your family.  I want to help your family grow."

"Ever since we found out about Burt's real father, he's been changing.  No one else seems to be able to see it, but I do -- long meetings with Mr. Callison, family dinners in that big house across the lake, swanky society functions that we'd never been permitted to even see through the windows let alone be a part of...."

"And he's included you whenever he's had an opportunity."

"I don't belong there.  I'm a Lamont, not a Callison or a Stokes.  Ever since the Callison family came into our lives, they've taken him away and changed him bit by bit."

"And you're afraid that by marrying me, my family is going to take away even more of him from you."  Janet nodded in realization.  That was the crux of the problem.  "You think that the Callisons have taken away a huge part of your brother and your family and you're afraid that marrying me is going to take away what little of your brother and family you have left, aren't you?  That's what all of this boils down to, isn't it?"

Randy sat in silence, unable to look at her.  Yes, that was it.  That was the whole story.  But now that he was confronted with the truth about his feelings, how in the world would Janet be able to convince him that he was wrong? 

LERNER'S DEPARTMENT STORE - LADIES APPAREL

Stephanie inhaled deeply and then slowly turned around.  "Jillian, how good to see you.  What are you doing here?"

"Same as you, I suspect," Jillian laughed as she walked over to check out one of the gowns the sales girl was holding.  "I need a new dress for the fundraiser.  What better place to find it than Lerner's?"

"You mean you're not having one custom made by one of your designer friends in New York?  You're not having one hand stitched and beaded?"  Although she was trying not to, Stephanie could barely contain the sarcasm in her voice.

"We only got our invitations last week, Stephanie," Jillian reminded.  "And, yes, although I've known about the ball for quite a while now, there just wasn't enough time to have designs drawn up and narrowed down and fabric selected and...."

"I get the picture."

"Mrs. Callison, I'm sure you'll find just the gown you're looking for," the sales girl spoke up.  "Our styles rival anything that you could find in one of those Manhattan fashion houses."

"Yes, they're just wonderful," Jillian smiled.  "Like that one."  She pointed at one of the dresses hanging on the rack.  "That one is especially nice.  I like the detail around the neckline and those sleeves are just darling."

"I was thinking about getting that one," Stephanie spoke up.  Of course, that wasn't exactly the truth -- she hadn't even seen that gown, yet.  "I think it would look fabulous on me."

"Mmmm...I don't think so."  Jillian shook her head as she tapped her chin with her finger.  "I don't think it would flatter your figure at all.  It's almost too sleek."

"Excuse me?"

"Well, Stephanie, you are more curvy than I am...."

"Are you trying to say that I'm fat?"  Stephanie's jaw tightened as she balled her hands up into fists and propped them on her hips.

"N-no.  Not at all, dear," Jillian stammered, taken aback by how her comments were received.  "I was just saying that not every gown works for every woman.  We each have our own beauty strengths and weaknesses and we've got to learn to hide the weaknesses and accentuate the strengths.  It's one of those things that I learned in finishing school."  She paused momentarily, realizing that perhaps she still wasn't explaining herself as well as she'd wanted to.  "Steph, I'm not trying to criticize you at all.  I'm just offering my advice and expertise.  You've got to admit that I've got a little more experience at getting dressed up for things like this than you do.  I'm offering my advice as a friend."

"With a friend like you, who needs enemies," Stephanie mumbled under her breath.

"So, just out dress shopping today?" Jillian said casually after a long pause.  The tension in the air was more than a little apparent and she decided that a change in subject was desperately in order.

"Well, it's actually just one in a series of errands I've got to run before I go in to the radio station to do today's show."  Stephanie's eyes went back to the gown she and Jillian had been discussing.  "Just your usual stuff, a stop by the hospital, shopping for an evening gown...just your average errands."

"The hospital?"  Jillian's eyes grew wide with surprise.  "You're not sick are you?"

"No," Stephanie laughed.  "Todd's come down with an earache and I needed to pick up some drops for him."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that.  But at least it seem like things are working out between all of you.  I know that at the wedding there seemed to be some tension between you and Todd."

"Still is, actually," Stephanie sighed.  "But this has all been such a big adjustment for him.  It's going to take some time for all of us to get used to everything."

"I can completely understand that," Jillian nodded.  "You know, it's funny how life can throw little curve balls at you just when you think you've got everything all settled and planned out."

"Yes, it is."  Stephanie watched Jillian closely and saw that Jillian's attention, too, was drawn back to the evening gown.  "Are you...thinking about buying that one?"  She paused.  "Like you said, it has a sleeker line.  It would look good on you."

"I'm...not sure."  Jillian examined the dress again.  "I do like it, but...well...I'm not sure it's exactly what I'm looking for.  I'm not sure if it's the fashion statement I want to make."

"So like you to put so much thought and planning into a dress."

"Well, I'm a firm believer in that what a woman chooses to wear makes a statement about how she is as a woman and how she wants to be seen."

"Really?"  Stephanie's eyes narrowed, her curiosity peaked.  "And what kind of statement do you think this gown is saying?"

"Honestly?  Glamour, sophistication...."  She paused.  "I see it as a gown that the wealthy heroine of a sweeping romantic movie would wear for a ball with her dashing hero."

"And that's not the statement you want to make?"  Stephanie blinked her eyes in surprise.  "Sounds like a pretty good statement to me."

"Honey, I just started shopping," Jillian laughed.  "You never simply grab the first dress you see without taking into consideration all of your choices.  There very well could be another gown that makes that statement even better.  I've got to carefully consider all of my choices."

"So you're not getting it?"

"Probably not," Jillian sighed.  "I hardly ever pick the first dress I see.  I always have to over-think decisions like this.  I suppose you could call it a character flaw."

You admit to having a character flaw?  Stephanie struggled to fight her urge to smirk.

"You're not getting it, are you?" Jillian asked curiously.

"After you so kindly told me how inappropriate it would look on me?"  Stephanie's hand flew up to her chest as if she were stunned that Jillian thought that Stephanie wouldn't automatically take her recommendations.

"Now, I didn't say 'inappropriate'.  I mean, it could work with some alterations -- a larger size to fit you through the bust and then take it in a little through the waist and...."

"A larger size?"  Stephanie's jaw begin to tighten again.

"You know what I mean," Jillian laughed uncomfortably.  "Oh, well, look at the time.  Reginald's parents are having us over for dinner tonight and I promised myself that I would get this entire dress business taken care of today.  So, if I'm going to get anything accomplished, I better get myself moving."  Her eyes went back to the gown.  "Don't worry.  You'll find the right dress."

As Jillian walked away, Stephanie bit the inside of her cheek, the gears inside her head working a mile a minute.  Margie, the prop girl at the radio station, was a whiz with a needle and thread.  After all, she was always making her own clothes.  Perhaps....

"I'll take that one," she blurted out, startling the sales girl.  "That one Mrs. Callison and I were looking at."

"But I thought she said...."

"Who cares what she said?" Stephanie snapped.  "I want that dress!  Have it wrapped up and sent to the radio station and put it on my account."  My account -- she liked how that sounded.

"Y-yes, ma'am."

"Now I've got to get going.  I've still got errands to run before today's show."  She paused and eyed the girl curiously.  "You do listen to my show every day, don't you?"

"That's hard to do when I'm here every afternoon."

"Well...whatever.  Just do what I asked you to do.  Have that dress sent to the radio station."

"Yes, ma'am."

As Stephanie hurried away, the sales girl went about her assigned task of packing up the gown for shipment.  A few minutes later, Jillian came back through, still in search of the right dress.

"Any luck, Mrs. Callison?" the girl asked.

"None," Jillian sighed.  "Nothing I've seen even comes close to that first dress."  She paused and rubbed her chin as she examined it, still hanging on the rack.

"The dress you and Mrs. Monroe were looking at?"  The girl's voice caught in her throat.  "But I...."

"Oh, my own rule be damned.  It's perfect!  I'll take that one!"  Jillian held out her finger and pointed at the dress in question.

"T-that dress?" the sales girl gasped.  "B-but, Mrs. Callison, you can't buy that dress!"

"What?  Why can't I...oh...I see."  Jillian carefully looked at the tag.  "You're absolutely right.  Thank you so much.  I definitely have to have a smaller size.  You do have this in a smaller size, don't you?"

"Well, yes, I do, but...."

"Wonderful!" Jillian exclaimed in relief.  "Then you just wrap it up and have it sent to my home and put it on my account."

"But, Mrs. Callison...."

"I'll be expecting it later this afternoon."  Jillian turned and began to hurry off down the aisle.  "Thank you so much for your help!"

As Jillian turned the corner and disappeared out of sight, the sales girl shook her head with worry and dread.  Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Fourth of July Ball!

THE WISHING WELL SODA SHOPPE

"You're not saying anything," Janet spoke up after several long minutes of awkward silence.  "I am right, aren't I."

Randy refused to look up at her.  She'd pretty much hit the nail right on the head.

"Oh, Randy, say something!"

"For as long as I can remember, it's been me and Burt," he began slowly.  "We dealt with Pa's leaving together.  We dealt with Ma's sickness together.  Now that she's gone, he's...all I have left."

"Randy, you're not a little boy anymore.  You're a grown man."

"I know that!" he snapped angrily.  "It's just that...."

"Suppose the roles were switched," she broke in, not willing to give over control of the conversation.  "What if you were in your brother's shoes.  What if you wanted to get married and Burt didn't want you to because you were his only family.  How would you feel about that?  Would you like it?"

"Well...no, I guess not."

"If you got married, would that mean you loved Burt any less?"  She paused for a moment for an answer.  When nothing but silence came, she went on again.  "Do you think that having someone else in your life -- a girl, perhaps -- would make you love him any less?  Do you think that would make you stop thinking of him like your brother?"

"No!" he blurted out.  "Nothing and no one will ever change the way I feel about Burt.  He's my brother."

"Even if you two don't have the same father?"  Janet leaned back in her seat and eyed him closely.  She had to see if there were some kind of indication that she was getting through to him.  He just had to give up his foolish idea about standing in the way of her planned marriage to Burt.

"He's still my brother."

"And that's exactly how Burt feels about you," she nodded.  "I don't care whether his father was Landon Callison or whether he marries me, a Stokes -- it doesn't change the relationship that you two have.  It doesn't change everything you've been through together for the last eighteen years.  He's your brother.  I can't change that.  I don't want to change that.  Oh, Randy, I love you!  You're...like the little brother I've never had.  Do you understand what I'm trying to say?"

"I...I guess so."  He looked up at her slowly, not really wanting to admit that she was right, but unable to avoid the logic of her reasoning.

"Please, Randy.  Please stop standing in the way of our happiness.  You do want your brother to be happy, don't you?"

"Of course, I do," he muttered.

"Then please give your blessing for us to get married.  You know he wants to marry me.  I want to marry him.  It's what I want most in this world."  Janet bit her lower lip, hopeful that he would agree, but still anxious that the progress that she'd made might turn out to be for naught.

"O-okay," he muttered again with a nod as he slowly looked up at her.  His eyes were starting to water, but he was determined not to cry.  After all, just like Janet had said, he was a man, now, and men didn't cry.

"W-what?" she stammered, unable to believe her ears.  "Okay?  Do you mean it?  Are you going to give us your blessing?"

He didn't say anything, he simply nodded.

"Oh, Randy!" she exclaimed with excitement, grabbing his hands tightly and pulling them to her in gratitude.  "Oh, you won't be sorry about this.  I promise you that!  You're going to make your brother so happy.  We're all going to be happy."

"J-Janet, I'm...I'm sorry," he finally spoke, his voice catching in his throat.  "I've always...I've always liked you.  I know Burt loves you.  I never wanted you to think I didn't like you.  I didn't want to be mean to you, I just...."

"I know," she smiled softly and patted his hand.  "You were just scared.  Change is a very scary thing, after all.  Very few people I know like to go through it.  It doesn't matter who you are or what family you belong to."

"Janet?"  Randy finally looked up at her, blinking away the moisture in his eyes.

"Yes, Randy?"

"Let me...tell Burt myself that I'm giving the two of you my blessing.  Please?  Let me do this.  I'd do anything to make this up to the both of you."

"Do you mean that?"  She eyed him suspiciously, a sudden thought popping into her head.  "Do you really mean that?"

"Of course I do!  I haven't been fair -- far from it, actually.  Let me do this to make it up to you.  I want to make all of this up to you."

"Well, in that case...."  Her voice trailed off as a seed of a plan began to take root inside her mind. 

She'd made so much progress so far, did she dare risk it by asking what could be the impossible?  Would voicing her idea completely counteract everything that had happened today?  However, despite the nagging voice warning her against it, she couldn't ignore the possibilities.  They had made progress -- great progress.  She didn't feel like she could ignore the opportunity to use that progress to her advantage.  After all, the ticking on the clock was getting louder and louder.

"What?  What is it?"  Randy looked at her carefully, not sure what she was going to say.

"Randy, if you really do want to make this up to me like you've said, there is something you can do."

"What?  Anything."

"Okay."  Janet paused and took a deep breath.  Here goes nothing.  "This is what I have in mind...."

THE CALLISON HOME - DINING ROOM

"Just put those flowers right over there," Francis Callison said, waving her arm, as she breezed into the room.

"This is going to be a beautiful dinner party, Mrs. Callison," Hannah Meadows said, setting the arrangement in the middle of the dining room table.  "We've got our best china and sterling and dinner is right on schedule."

"I just want this to be perfect."  Francis carefully surveyed the room as she bit her lip nervously.  "This is our first family dinner in the new house since the wedding.  Nothing can go wrong."

"So, how are things coming along?" Charles Callison asked as he walked into the room, the evening edition of the Daily Post in his hand, and kissed his wife Francis lightly on the cheek.  "No disasters brewing in the kitchen, I take it?"

"The only thing brewing in the kitchen will be the coffee after dinner," she laughed and then turned to look at him in annoyance.  "You're not going to wear that are you?"

"What's wrong with it?"  Charles stepped back and held out his arms for full inspection.  "This is a perfectly good suit."

"You wore that to the office today," Francis reminded.  "It's all wrinkled and creased.  And...and look!  Your tie isn't even straight!"

"Honey, it's just dinner with the kids," he laughed.  "I'm sure they've seen me in much worse shape."

"I don't care."  She folded her arms across her chest and stuck out her lower lip in a mock pout.  "This is going to be our first...."

"I know.  I know," he nodded, having heard the words nearly a million times.  "Our first family dinner in the new house."

"Since the wedding," Hannah spoke up, finishing the statement, and then laughed.

"Oh, you two!"  Francis shook her head in bemused annoyance.  "I mean it!  This is very important to me."

"I know," he laughed and then again kissed her on the cheek.  "We're just teasing you."

"Well, now scoot!"  She patted him on the arm, gently nudging him out of the dining room and towards the stairs.  "Go upstairs and change."

"Yes, dear," he called back with a nod as he headed through the foyer, passing their youngest child Maggie Callison in the process.  "Tread lightly with your mother, sweetheart.  She's a bundle of nerves about this dinner."

"Don't tell me she's going on about it being the first dinner in the new house since the wedding again," Maggie grumbled.  The simple, silent nod from her father was all the answer she needed.

As Charles disappeared up the stairs, Maggie strolled into the dining room.

"Maggie!" Francis exclaimed in horror.  "You're not dressed!"

"I'm dressed!"

"Not in that, you're not!"  Francis hurried over to her and swiftly pushed her towards the door.  "That jumper you've had on all day will not do for dinner.  Go put on that nice new blouse and skirt we bought at Lerner's last week."

"Oh, all right," Maggie muttered with a sigh just as the doorbell rang.  "I'll get it!"

As she made her way to the front door, Maggie continued to mutter and grumble under her breath.  Her mother sure could get all worked up over the silliest stuff.  When she flung the door open, she was surprised to find her older brother Trevor Callison on the other side.

"Trevor!  You're early.  Mom's gonna have a fit.  She's not ready yet and, to listen to her, neither is anyone else in this house."

"Hey, kiddo, I know I'm early," Trevor responded as he stepped into the house, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.  "I wanted to have a chance to talk to Dad before dinner.  Is he around?"

"Yeah, Mom sent him upstairs to change."  She let out a giggle.  "Seems the fashion warden isn't too approving of anything we're wearing."

"Same suit as the office today?"

"Yep."

"Gee, I hope I pass inspection," he laughed as he headed to the stairs and then took them two by two on the way up, leaving Maggie to trudge up along behind him.  "Dad?  Dad, I want to talk to you."

"Trevor!" Charles called out as he poked his head out of the bedroom he shared with Trevor's mother.  He'd just finished putting on a clean, fresh shirt -- not a wrinkle in sight.  "What's all the commotion about?  What is it?"

"Dad, I wanted to talk to you for a bit before dinner," Trevor explained, stepping into the bedroom.

"Well, what is it?  What's so important?"

"I...."  Now that he was there, Trevor wasn't exactly sure how to broach the topic of conversation considering he knew that it was one that had proven tense in the past.  "I wanted to ask you how your private detective was coming along?  Has he found out anything about Grace?"

"Trevor, I...."  Charles paused and let out a weary sigh.  "Trevor, close the door.  I need...to talk to you."

"Yes, Dad?" Trevor said, closing the bedroom door as directed, and walked over to his father.  "What is it?  Is Grace okay?  Did you find out anything?"

"Trevor, I've told the detective to stop his search," Charles finally said.  "Hiring him to look for her isn't a good idea."

"W-what?  You can't be serious!"

"I'm very serious.  Grace left town and doesn't want you to find her.  I don't know why, but I'm sure she has her reasons.  You have to respect that and move on."  He turned to face the mirror so that he could work on tying his tie -- an attempt to maintain a casual tone to the conversation.  "There are plenty of other girls out there.  You shouldn't let yourself get so focused on one girl who clearly doesn't want any contact with you."

"But...but...."  Trevor shook his head back and forth, unable to believe what he was hearing.  "Dad, I love Grace!  There isn't another girl for me and there's never going to be.  What...what if she's hurt?  What if she's in trouble?  What if she needs me and she just doesn't know how to tell me that?"

"Son, if she's in some kind of trouble, let Douglas handle it.  He's her brother.  She's his responsibility, not yours."

"Dad, if you're not going to help me with this, then I'm going to do it myself!"  Trevor spun around angrily, his hands balled up into fists, and headed for the door.  "I'll find Grace if it's the last thing I do."

"Son, wait!" Charles called out.  "There's actually something else I wanted to discuss with you."

"What is it?" Trevor sighed in annoyance.  He felt betrayed by his own father and the last thing he wanted to do was to continue with the conversation.

"I need you to help me with a little business matter," Charles began carefully.  He had a plan, but he new he had to play is cards carefully.  "Do you remember our dealings with Thornton Preston, the author?"

"Yeah, I remember," Trevor muttered.  "We got Sara mixed up in all of that by having her spy on him."

"Well, that's part of what I want to discuss with you."  Charles paused.  "Preston  was a very prolific author.  Before he died, he'd completed several novels that we've got the publishing rights to since he was under contract with us.  I want to make good on that contract and publish those works and I need you to act as sort of a go-between between Callison Publications and Sara.  She did inherit Preston's estate including his unpublished manuscripts, after all, and you are good friends with her."

"Dad, I'm a newspaper reporter.  I'm not some kind of publishing executive.  Don't you have someone else at the company who could take care of this?"

"Well, I'm sure I do," Charles nodded, "but you and Sara are friends.  I just...think that it would make things easier since you two already have a good relationship."  He paused.  "Son, do this for me.  Do this for the company.  I know I'm asking a lot from you.  You're always so busy with the newspaper and I know this is just going to add more work for you...."  And less time to go on a foolhardy chase after Grace Davis.

"Well, if it's that important...."

"It is, Son.  Very important.  You see, while we do have the publishing rights, we don't exactly own any of the manuscripts.  If they do get published, it will be through us, but if Sara doesn't want to have them published, then there's nothing we can do.  And that's not even considering the work that would be involved to review and edit them to get them ready for publication if Sara decides to go through with it."

"I see."  Trevor let out a long sigh.  "Okay, I'll do it.  I'll work with Sara on this."

"Good," Charles smiled broadly and then gave his son's hand a firm shake.  "You know I'm always glad to have you involved in the company.  You much too talented to be just a reporter."

As Trevor thought about the new workload ahead of him, he realized that he couldn't put his thoughts of Grace out of his head.  He was still determined to find her -- with or without his father's help.

THE LAMONT HOME - KITCHEN

"Burt!" Janet called out as she flung open the screen door and hurried into the kitchen, Randy following along right behind her.  "Oh, Burt, I have wonderful news!"

"Janet, honey, what is it?" Burt asked in between sips of lemonade.  He'd been out working with the horses in the barn for most of the afternoon and had just come back into the house to take a break from the heat.  "What's got you so excited?"  At that point, he noticed Randy just behind her and a look of confusion spread across his face.  "What's...going on?"

"Randy and I talked," she explained carefully, barely able to hide her excitement.  "We got a lot of things straightened out."

"You...did?"  Burt's face registered his shock.  Sure, he'd hoped that the meeting between Janet and Randy at The Well would bring about results and progress, but he knew how stubborn his little brother could be and he hadn't gotten his hopes up.  "I take it that your little pow-wow went well?"

"Better than I could ever have imagined!"  Janet rushed into his arms, completely ignoring the fact that Burt was rather dirty and grimy from his work, and kissed him lovingly.  "Randy finally realizes what we've been trying to make him understand all along."

"Randy is this true?"  Burt still couldn't believe his ears and he walked over to his brother to get definite confirmation.  "Is she saying that you're ready to give our marriage your blessing?"

"Yes," Randy nodded.  "That's exactly what she's saying.  Oh, Burt, I'm sorry.  I've been a major jerk these last few months.  I've just been so wrapped up and myself that I never even bothered to think about anyone else.  You're my brother and I just want you -- all of us -- to be happy and...well...if marrying Janet is going to do that, then I'm all for it.  I know...I know that you're never going to forget about me just because your married.  Just like I'd never forget about you."

"Randy, you have no idea how happy this makes me."  Burt pulled his brother into his arms and gave him a big hug, slapping him on the back.  "You'll see.  We're all going to be one big family.  We're going to be the Lamonts of Albanyville.  And, one day, when Janet and I have kids and when you get married and have kids, we're all going to be one huge family."

"Kids?" Janet laughed.  "Let's not get too ahead of ourselves.  We've still got to get married, after all."  She paused and shot Randy a subtle look -- almost as if she were giving him a cue.

"And, you know what, I've been thinking about that."  Randy slowly walked around the kitchen table.  No matter how much his attitude regarding Burt and Janet had changed, he still wasn't sure about this.  It all seemed too quick and too rushed.  However, he'd made a hurried promise to Janet and he felt that he had to honor it.  "Burt, why...why should you and Janet wait?"

"What?"

"Well, because of me, you two have had to put your lives completely on hold.  That's not been fair to either one of you."  Randy paused and looked down at the table, his hands nervously playing with the edge of the tablecloth.  "I know the two of you love one another very much.  Since that's the case, why should you even wait to get married?"

"Are you...suggesting that Randy and I elope?"  Janet clasped her hands together in excited surprise -- almost as if it were the first time she'd even heard the idea.

"I...I don't know about that," Randy muttered, shaking his head.  "That just seems too casual.  Janet, you deserve to have the wedding of your dreams with a church and a beautiful dress and all of your family."

"Oh, Burt, as long as your the man I'm marrying, it will be the wedding of my dreams," she sighed and rushed into his arms.  "I think it's a beautiful idea.  Mother's already done that huge wedding for Jillian and it just wouldn't seem fair to her to force her into planning another big affair."

"Your mother wouldn't feel forced into doing it, I'm sure," Burt laughed.  "She'll want to and I'm sure she'll be very disappointed if you don't let her."

"But, Burt," Janet pleaded.  "We've...we've waited so long."  She paused and leaned in closer so that she could whisper in his ear.  "And if we wait, your brother could change his mind again and then where would we be?"

"This is all so sudden."  Burt pulled away from her and then slowly began to pace around the kitchen as he ran his hands through his hair.  "There's still some planning to do even if we do elope.  You've got to get a dress -- you're not getting married in just anything -- we've got to find a minister or a judge, get the marriage license...."

"One of the guys I graduated with said that there's a little chapel with a justice of the peace over in Davenport," Randy spoke up.  "He and his girl just up and ran off and got married graduation night.  He said that there was nothing to it.  They draw up the license right there and you sign it and the justice of the peace performs the ceremony."

"Well, Randy, for something just off the top of your head, it's almost like you thought a lot about this."  Burt eyed his brother suspiciously.  "But...it does sound a little easier than I thought."  As the excitement Janet had started to prove contagious, he quickly looked back and forth at her and Randy.  "We should elope, hmm?"  He paused and inhaled deeply.  "So, when do you want to do this?  This weekend?  Next month?"

"Next month?" Janet eyes grew wide with shock.  "No!  If it's so easy, why should we wait?"

"W-what?"

"Oh, Burt, darling, I don't think I could bear to wait another month to be your wife."  She flew into his arms and hugged him tightly, almost desperately.

"Well, when?"

"Tonight," she blurted out, looked past Burt and towards Randy.  "Let's not wait another single moment.  Let's get married tonight."

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

Going to the chapel?

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

2001- 2011 Classic Soap Productions