For Now and Forever
EPISODE #152 (March
A Week Later
July 1936 - Afternoon
MANOR - KITCHEN
Ruby Thomas paced anxiously around the kitchen as she mentally rehearsed how she was going to talk to Naomi Jackson. No matter what flimsy excuses Naomi had given, Ruby didn’t buy a word of anything she’d told her. None of it rang the least bit true to her. Ruby was convinced that Naomi was in some kind of trouble – real trouble – and Ruby was determined to find out exactly what was going on.
“What the devil are you doin’ here?” Naomi asked as she came into the kitchen. “Helga said you wanted to see me? What’s this about? I told you not to be comin’ here!”
After a long, deep breath in an attempt to collect her thoughts, Ruby turned around to face Naomi.“I’m here to find out, once and for all, what kind of trouble you’re in,” she explained calmly, “and I’m not leaving until you tell me the truth.”
GENERAL HOSPITAL – SECOND FLOOR CORRIDOR
“If you’ll just bring the results of Mr. Noble’s test to my office as soon as you get them,” Dr. Talbot Campbell said to the nurse as walked down the hall together.
“Yes, Doctor,” the young nurse nodded before leaving his side right as he turned the corner just in time to see a most unexpected sight – Judith Linford standing at the nurses’ station and filling out some kind of paper work. “Judith? What are you doing here?” he asked as he walked over to her. “You’re not sick, are you?"
“Oh, no. Nothing like that,” she laughed warmly before she set the clipboard down onto the counter. “I’m just signing up for a little volunteer work.”
“Volunteer work?” He fought, with little success, to hide the surprise her announcement brought.
“Don’t look so shocked. I can be quite charitable when the mood strikes.”
“So, exactly where in the hospital are you planning to volunteer?”
“In the children’s ward,” Judith replied. “It would also probably come as quite a shock to you if I were to tell you that I owe it all to your wife.”
“Corinne? How so?”
“It was the hospital benefit she chaired.” She paused and returned to finishing the volunteer form. “All the talk about sick children in need made me think about the baby I lost. This is just a way of being able to channel all of those feelings into something good.” Her eyes narrowed as she carefully examined his expression for some sign that he believed her story. “What’s that look for? You act like you don’t believe me.”
“It’s not that, Judith. Honestly.”
“Then what is it?” She set the clipboard down again and looked at him directly.
“Oh, I suppose I’m a little embarrassed, that’s all,” he sighed with a slight blush and a shake of his head.
“Embarrassed? What on earth for?”
“For prejudging you,” Talbot confessed. “I’ve never taken you as the philanthropic type, to be honest. However, knowing how deeply affected you were by the loss of your baby, I really shouldn’t be surprised.”With a warm and nearly coquettish smile, Judith turned her back to him in order to set the clipboard back down on the nurses’ station counter. Talbot had no way of knowing the real reason for Judith’s sudden interest in volunteer work.
REGINALD & JILLIAN’S HOME –
“You do know it really would be much easier if you did hire a housekeeper?” Lorraine Davis reminded as she watched Jillian Callison scurrying around the kitchen. “If our finances were where Douglas and I could do it, I’d have one in a heartbeat.”
“I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having a housekeeper. Remember I was raised with an entire penthouse full of staff. I just want to do things myself like every other ordinary housewife.” Jillian picked up the cookbook she had propped up in front of her on the counter and examined the recipe closely. “Oh, why the devil do they make these things so difficult to understand? Can’t they write these things in plain English?”
“Let me see.” Lorraine walked over and took the book from her so that she could see what Jillian was trying to read. “This one? Honey, that says ‘350° for two hours.’”
“I don’t have that much time,” Jillian muttered to herself. “I’ve still got to peel the potatoes and these biscuits aren’t going to make themselves. Can’t I just cook it at 700° for one hour?”
“Jillian, dear, it just doesn’t quite work that way.”
Lorraine’s shoulders slumped and she bit her bottom lip as she shook her head in bewilderment. As much as she deeply admired Jillian’s effort, it was quite obvious that she was far from destined to be a Master Chef any time soon.
“Can I help?” Lorraine finally asked as she saw the growing look of panic in her friend’s eyes.
“Would you, please? If I don’t get things moving, none of this has any chance of being ready for Reginald by the time he gets home next week, let alone tonight!” Jillian began to frantically pace around the kitchen before stopping and heading towards the stove. “Could you taste this sauce for me and tell me what you think? I want your honest opinion.”
“O-Okay.” Lorraine had already heard more than a few stories from Reginald – by way of her own husband, Douglas – about Jillian’s valiant, yet futile, efforts in the kitchen and was well aware that she might be taking life into her own hands.
“Well?” Jillian bit her lip, anxious about what her best friend thought of her attempt at cooking. “I know it needs to simmer a little more and….”
“Jillian, honey, I don’t know how to say this, but….”
“Well… Um….” Lorraine exhaled slowly in an attempt to give herself a moment to think of the best, and nicest, way of expressing her opinion. “You might want to start over. I… I think you got the salt and sugar mixed up and….”
“Oh, I’m never going to get this right.” Jillian slammed the cookbook down onto the counter and balled her hands into fists in frustration. “I bet Stephanie’s not having this much trouble.”
“Stephanie?” Lorraine’s grew wide at the mention of the name. “You do remember that Stephanie has Mrs. Oliver to help her, don’t you? Stephanie’s not doing any of this by herself.”
“Yes, I remember Mrs. Oliver. But Stephanie specifically said that she was trying to do without her help. In fact, I was just talking to her the other day and….”
“You were chatting with Stephanie?” Lorraine shook her head, unable to believe her ears. “Since when… Since when did the two of you become such good friends? Surely, you haven’t forgotten….”
“No, I haven’t forgotten,” Jillian sighed. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget; however, I’m determined to put all of that behind us. That was the entire point of the double wedding. Besides, she’s having a baby, too, and we’re both going through a lot of the same adjustments."
“Well….” Lorraine furrowed her brow as she tried to comprehend the idea of Jillian and Stephanie Lake as friends. “Be that as it may, don’t think for a minute that Stephanie is going to last very long doing everything by herself. Mark my words, it won’t be any time before she’s got poor Mrs. Oliver waiting on her hand and foot. And you be careful around her! You know I don’t trust her.”
“Don’t worry.” Jillian couldn’t help but laugh at how worked up the mere mention of Stephanie’s name could make Lorraine. “Besides, it’s not like she and I have suddenly become best friends or anything. That’s what I’ve got you for, after all.” She let out a warm laugh but then paused and anxiously bit her lip as her attention returned to the disaster-in-the-making that was also known as dinner. “So… Do you think you can be my best friend and help me make this dinner something that resembles edible before Reginald comes home from the office?”
Lorraine didn’t say a single word, but instead grabbed the spare apron that Jillian had draped over a kitchen chair and went right to work.
SPRINGHILL MANOR – KITCHEN
“Naomi, I want to know exactly what’s going on here,” Ruby repeated her question as she kept her eyes locked on her boyfriend’s sister.
“I ain’t got the slightest idea what you’re talkin’ about.” Naomi’s voice was calm and cool as she began to casually walk around the kitchen, acting like she was doing housework. “I’m doin’ what anybody would do in this job – the same stuff you do at your job.”
“That’s not what I mean and you know it.”
“Aw, why you gotta keep pokin around here tryin’ to cause trouble for me?” She slammed her fist down and spun around to face Ruby. “Calvin pestered and nagged ‘til I went out and got a job and now you seem all determined to make sure I lose it!"
“Naomi, you know that’s not what I’m doing.” Ruby carefully walked over to Naomi and reached out for her in an attempted show of friendship and support, but Naomi quickly jerked her arm away. “Honey, all I’m trying to do is be your friend.”
“No, what you’re trying to do is get in good with my brother by poking your nose into my business! Just like all of y’all! Y’all ain’t happy unless you can find some reason to tell me how I’m messin’ up my life or something, but the only one tryin’ to mess up my life right now is you!”
“Naomi, you know that’s not what I’m trying to do.” Ruby paused and took a long, deep breath as she tried to think of a way to diffuse what had quickly become an intensely volatile conversation. “You know I think the world of your brother. He means everything to me and it tears me up inside that you and I aren’t closer. I want to like you, Naomi. I do! I want to be friends with you.”
“Then stay outta by business!” Naomi again slammed her fist down on the counter before pacing around the room as she tried to calm herself down. “If you wanted to be my friend so much, you’d stop trying to ruin things here for me!”
“Things? What things, Naomi?”
“My position here, that’s what!” she snapped. “You’re bound and determined to get me thrown outta here!”
“That’s not what I’m trying to do.” Ruby quickly softened her tone as she began to try a different approach. “But I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m not convinced that you’ve been completely honest about what’s going on with you here in this house. If you’re one of the housekeepers here, why does that other woman act like you don’t do anything around here at all?”
“Oh, that ol’ bat is just jealous of the work I do. She don’t like me.”
“Even if that’s true,” Ruby continued cautiously, “that doesn’t change what I overheard.”
“What you overheard? You didn’t overhear nothing!”
“I overheard you and the Manchesters talking about baby Aubrey and some kind of an arrangement for him.” Ruby moved closer to Naomi and looked her dead in the eyes. “Are you going to stand there and tell me I didn’t hear that? There is something else going on here besides you just being a housekeeper for these people – something that has to do with that baby.”
“I swear to you if you start spoutin’ off to people with these lies you’ve done made up in your head, you’ve had it!” Naomi reached out and grabbed Ruby tightly by the arm. “Now, you get outta here before you cause me any more trouble with these people!”
“You heard me! Get outta here!”
Ruby exhaled slowly as she quickly realized that she wouldn’t be getting anywhere productive with Naomi today.
“All right, I’ll go,” she finally said, “but you better believe that I know that you’re not being completely honest and there’s not a thing you can say to me that will convince me otherwise. I’m going to find out exactly what’s going on here and if you’re in some kind of trouble, you better believe that I’m going to tell Calvin about it so that he can get you out of it.”
After the pantry door had closed behind Ruby as she left the house, a nervous and anxious Naomi began to once again pace around the kitchen. Her mind raced as she thought about how determined Ruby was – almost as if she was a dog with a bone. Naomi knew that Ruby wouldn’t rest until she landed herself smack in the middle of Mrs. Preston’s plan for them to get their hands on Thornton Preston’s estate. Ruby was quickly becoming a far greater problem for her than she’d ever thought possible.
ALBANYVILLE GENERAL HOSPITAL – SECOND
“You really didn’t have to personally escort me down to the children’s ward,” Judith smiled as she walked alongside Talbot. “I think I could’ve found my way on my own.”
“I’m sure there are very few things in this world that you can’t do on your own,” he chuckled. “I’m just still a bit surprised that this is one of them. I have to confess that before I really got to know you, I would never have guessed you as the maternal type.”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret.” She paused in front of the nursery window in the maternity ward and watched the nurses attending to the little newborn babies in the bassinettes. “Until I… Until I lost my own child and experienced that type of deep, emotional pain, I would never have guessed that I was the maternal type, either. Truth be told, I still don’t know whether I really am. I just know that I loved that baby I lost more than anything else in this world.”
As Judith’s mind drifted to thoughts of her unborn child – a child she shared with Burt Lamont who was now married to her own sister – she pressed her hand against the glass of the nursery and tried to choke back her emotions. However, before an actual tear could fall, her expression turned dark and cold as she thought about her sister, Janet, and how it had been Janet’s actions and the resulting tumble down a flight of stairs that had cost Judith her unborn child.
“I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult this has all been for you.” Talbot reached out for her, gently placing his hand on her shoulder as they both looked through the nursery window. Then, as if overcome by an impulse he could neither ignore nor resist, he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her. “Losing a baby that meant so much to you had to have been an unbearable strain – not just for you, but for Mark as well. It’s no wonder your marriage couldn’t survive the weight of all that grief.”
“Yes, my marriage,” she muttered as she closed her eyes, allowing herself to be swept away by the sense of tender comfort and support both his arms and words brought. “It was such a… horrible time for us.”
Safe in Talbot’s arms, Judith’s mind began to drift back to those days right after she’d lost the baby and how Talbot – not her own husband, Mark Linford – had been then one who’d managed to get her through her greatest period of grief. It was a debt she clearly knew she could never repay. But that wasn’t why she was at the hospital today.
True, the loss of her child did make her feel an emotional need that work in the children’s ward would most likely fill; but the truth of the matter was that it was all merely a ruse – a cover story for what Judith truly hoped to achieve. When she finally brought herself back into the present, she opened her eyes and saw the image of her in Talbot’s arms reflected back at her in the nursery window’s glass.
“I… I’m sorry,” he muttered softly with a slight tone of embarrassment when she quickly pulled away from him. “I shouldn’t have….”
“No, Talbot, it’s quite all right. I needed that. I needed you.”
But as Judith again looked at the refection in the glass, she looked past the image of her and Talbot because, behind them in the distance and back down the corridor, was her step-father, Dr. Fred Rutherford, talking to an attractive nurse. It wasn’t the first time Judith had seen them together nor was it the first time she’d gotten the distinct impression from them that there was something much more going on between them than a general professional interaction.
As Judith closely watched Fred and the nurse’s reflection in the glass, she resisted the urge to smile slyly. No, her recent interest in volunteer work really had nothing to do with her lost child, nor her desire to seek retribution on her sister for causing the loss. It also had nothing to do with her dear Talbot nor the enjoyment Judith would most definitely receive by allowing her constant presence to get under his wife, Corinne’s, skin. No, the true motivation for volunteering at the hospital was that it would allow her to be a constant presence with her ever-observant eyes on the “good Doctor” Rutherford and the nurse who Judith strongly believed was his mistress. She was certain that, given enough opportunity and time, she would find just enough proof of Fred’s dalliances and true vile nature that she could rid her family of him for good.
REGINALD & JILLIAN’S HOME –
“Honestly, Jillian, how you can even stand to be in the same room….”
“Well, it’s much less stressful to let bygones be bygones.” Jillian walked back and forth from the laundry basket that was setting on the bed to the closet as she and Lorraine chatted. “Nothing good can come from holding a grudge against Stephanie, after all, and as long as she doesn’t start trying to meddle in either my life or my marriage, I see no reason to….”
“I suppose you’re right,” Lorraine sighed as she continued to help fold laundry. “I guess that just proves that you’re a much better person than I could ever hope to be.”
“Nonsense! Honey, you’re one of the kindest, most giving people I know!”
“You have no idea how much hearing you saying something like that means to me.” Lorraine lowered her head in embarrassment and blushed. “I’ve… I’ve always looked up to you, Jillian – admired you and your sense of style and grace.”
“Whatever Stephanie does or doesn’t do, she’s Paddy’s problem, now.” Jillian paused and pulled a dress out of the closet and held it up in front of her as she examined herself in the mirror. “What do you think? Should I wear this tonight for dinner? I want to look nice for Reginald when he comes home.”
“I have a feeling you could be wearing a potato sack and still look stunning.” Lorraine cocked her head to the side, watching Jillian, as she thought about what her friend had said earlier. “Do you really think that Stephanie is just Paddy’s problem? I mean… well… Todd’s involved, you know, and I… well, he means the world to me – both of them do, actually. I never had any brothers or sisters growing up. I truly think that’s why Patterson and I never really worked out romantically. I always thought of both him and Todd as the brothers I never had. In so many ways, I feel responsible for Todd – just as much as I feel responsible for Mikey.”
“But Mikey’s your baby,” Jillian reminded before she hung up the dress and walked over to set down next to Lorraine on the bed. “It’s not the same thing. Todd is Patterson’s responsibility – Stephanie’s, too, now – not yours.”
“Oh, I know you’re right. It’s the exact same thing that Douglas has been telling me over and over. It’s just that….”
“It’s just nothing.” Jillian grabbed Lorraine’s hands tightly to reinforce her point. “I’m not saying you can’t be friendly or concerned. I’m not saying you can’t be friends, but you have to let Patterson handle Todd and Stephanie on his own. It’s not your place.”
Jillian paused and watched Lorraine closely, hoping that somehow her words of advice had managed to sink in. Finally convinced that, if nothing else, she’d given her friend something to think about, Jillian decided it was long past time to change the subject.
“Now, enough about that,” Jillian patted Lorraine’s hand before rising to her feet. “You’ve still got to help me finish this laundry and get dinner ready to go on the table before Reginald gets home. I don’t know how I would’ve managed to have gotten through this afternoon without you.”
“Which is why you really should get a housekeeper,” Lorraine pointed out as she followed Jillian, who was carrying the half-full laundry basket, out of the bedroom and down the hallway towards the linen closet. “I’m not saying she’d have to do everything for you, but you have to admit it would be a big help to just have an extra pair of hands around the house and….” She paused when she saw a curious look cross Jillian’s face. “What… What is it? What’s wrong?”
“Lorraine, do you… smell that?” Jillian scrunched up her nose and sniffed the air as she tried to identify the odd, yet familiar, odor that had started to fill the house. Then, at almost the exact same moment, both the young women’s eyes grew wide with realization. “Oh, my goodness! It’s dinner!” she cried out as she hurried towards the stairs. “We got so busy talking and putting away the laundry, we forgot all about it being in the oven. It’s burnt!”
“Now, Jillian, don’t panic.” Lorraine chased along after Jillian – laundry basket still clutched in her hands – who was headed towards the stairs. “I’m sure it’s not nearly as bad as it seems. We can fix it and then….”
“Oh, it’s no use.” Jillian took to the stairs, nearly two at a time, in her haste to hurry towards the kitchen and the waiting culinary catastrophe. “I’ve ruined dinner – everything’s ruined!"
“Jillian, calm down. I’m sure it’s not that bad. Honey, slow down and be careful that you don’t….”
However, before Lorraine could complete her urgent cries and before Jillian could even contemplate what was going on, it happened. Later, Jillian wouldn’t be able to recall whether it was one step or two that she’d missed in her panic. The only thing she could remember was losing her footing and tumbling head over heels while becoming entangled in the laundry basket she’d been carrying. Meanwhile, Lorraine could do nothing but look on in sheer horror and scream.
TO BE CONTINUED
Joyce makes plans for Ruby.
For Now and Forever
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