For Now and Forever
ONE AFTERNOON, A FEW DAYS LATER, IN CHARLES' OFFICE
"Mr. Callison?" Lorraine spoke up as she knocked lightly on the door. "You have a visitor."
"Who is it, Lorraine?" Charles shuffled papers around on his desk as he worked on a report. "I'm a little busy at the moment."
"Umm...it's Annabelle Lake."
Charles looked up immediately and took a deep breath. "Well....send her in, Lorraine." He leaned back in his chair and tried to prepare himself for Annabelle's entrance. He was sure she'd use the guise of official business as a cover for her own personal agenda. Soon, she breezed into the office.
"Charles! Douglas just sent me down with these papers that need you signature." She went straight to the desk and laid the forms in front of him. Charles grabbed a pen and quickly scribbled his name before handing them back to her.
"Now, is there anything else? If not, you're more than free to go."
"Oh, Charles," she purred as she moved closer to him. "Why do you work so hard to stay so distant from me? That's not going to accomplish anything."
"It's going to accomplish exactly what it's supposed to." He looked at her sternly. "Now, I have a lot of business to take care of, so if you don't mind..."
"Charles, when are you going to admit to yourself that you want more than what you already have?" She leaned into him and reached out to caress his cheek. He quickly responded by pushing her hand away.
"Annabelle, I've told you over and over that I love Francis and I will never even consider betraying that love. I am a Callison and we have a standard of honor to uphold!"
"Ah, yes, but you're still a man." She swiftly moved from the desk to a spot on Charles' lap. She softly nuzzled his neck and ran her fingers through his hair. "After 23 years of marriage, I'm sure things can get boring and dreadfully routine. I can fix that for you, Charles. I'm not asking that you end your marriage, just that you broaden your horizons to the many other experiences that life has to offer..
"Annabelle, you need to go." He forced her out of his lap and got up to move away from her.
"Charles, I've said it before, and I'll say it again." She smiled at him seductively. "You'll wake up one day and realize exactly how much is missing from your life. You'll want a little taste of the forbidden. When that day comes, you'll come looking for me. I'll be waiting." She licked her lips before she turned to saunter out of the room. Charles slumped back down in his chair and began to wipe the beads of sweat that had begun to form on his brow. He knew she was more trouble than he needed in his life, but her words were beginning to ring true.
I can't let her get to me. he thought. I love Francis and I won't let Annabelle ruin that. I can't!
MEANWHILE, IN REGINALD'S OFFICE
"Come in," Reginald called out in response to the knock at the door. He tossed the morning edition of The Daily Post onto his desk and looked up in time to see Stephanie walk in. "My, I haven't seen you in a long time. How are you doing, Stephanie?"
"I'm doing fine. Looking forward to finally getting out of Albanyville High." She smiled warmly as she ventured further into the room. It had been so long since they'd been this close to one another. She tried in vain to hide her nervousness.
"Well, Stephanie, what brings about this visit? We haven't been in touch in a while. What do you want?" He folded his arms across his chest as he tried to analyze her movements and expressions.
"Um, I've just been thinking a lot about you lately." She ran her fingers through her hair as she spoke softly. "Thinking about you and want we once had. Those were such good times, weren't they, Reginald?"
"Stephanie, that was a long time ago. I'm sure you know by now that Jillian and I are going to be married. Let's just leave the past in the past and move on." He fumbled nervously with a pencil. Stephanie was just as beautiful as the last time he'd seen her.
"But, Reginald, you were the best thing that's ever happened to me!" She moved closer to him and put her hand on his shoulder. "I loved you so much. I really wish things could have worked out differently. I still wish you'd chosen me over Jillian."
"But I did choose Jillian." He took her hand in his and looked deep into her eyes. "I love her, Stephanie. That's not to minimize any of the feelings that I had for you, but Jillian is my life and my future. Betraying her with you is a mistake that I'll have to live with forever and I can't allow myself to make that same mistake again. You must get on with your life."
"I've tried, Reginald. Really!" She fought back tears as she turned away from him. "If you could just give us another chance, I know that we could be just as happy as we were before. I could make you forget all about Jillian. She doesn't deserve such a wonderful man like you. I love you and I always will."
Stephanie's declaration took Reginald off guard. No matter what had happened between them, he did still care for her. But he loved Jillian. He looked hesitantly at Stephanie as he contemplated what to say.
A LITTLE LATER, IN TREVOR'S OFFICE
"...and I really don't care much for Annabelle Lake." Lorraine looked at Trevor and found him standing by the window gazing off into space. She let out a heavy sigh as she realized that, once again, we wasn't paying attention to a word she'd been saying. "Trevor, what's wrong? Things just aren't the same between us, anymore."
"Lorraine, honey, nothing's wrong." He walked over to her and took her in his arms. "I just have a lot on my mind today with the paper."
"You always seem to have a lot on you mind," she muttered. "And usually none of it is about me. I feel like you're not even paying attention to me, anymore! We haven't even talked in days! Now that we're here together, you're head keeps taking you somewhere else. It's like I'm not even in your life, let alone in the same room!" He pulled away and just looked at her. Oh, how quick she was to pick up on everything he was trying to hide. She knew him entirely too well. "We never spend time together any more. How are we supposed to have a relationship if we're never together?"
"Lorraine, you're worrying entirely too much." He tried to dissuade her fears. Secretly, he was trying to dissuade his as well. "I've just been really busy lately. It has nothing to do with you. Once things settle down a little bit, I'll be free to spend as much time with you as you want."
"Do you promise?" She looked at him doubtingly. Even if they were to spend more time together, would he really be there with her, or off in his own head as he usually was?
"I promise." He took her in his arms and kissed her deeply. For just a moment, Lorraine's fears subsided and she felt the calmness that she had so enjoyed with Trevor. Soon, however, her doubts and misgivings reappeared. Trevor's promises were all well and good, but why couldn't Lorraine believe that everything would be alright?
IT'S FIFTH PERIOD ENGLISH CLASS AT ALBANYVILLE HIGH
Dane Manchester Grace wrote across the top of her notebook as her mind began to wander away from the lecture on Tennyson. Surely, Sara Summers was too shallow of a girl to hold Dane's interest for long. He acted like he really enjoyed the conversation that he and Grace had shared at The Well. If only Sara hadn't shown up and ruined it! Grace loves Dane she wrote again. She didn't see the person standing behind her.
"Dane Manchester?" Stephanie spoke up as she read the writing on the notebook. She laughed wickedly as she sat down in the desk next to Grace's. "Now, don't tell me you're in love with Albanyville's resident lothario?"
"You shouldn't have been looking over my shoulder." Grace lowered her voice to a whisper as she looked up to she if the teacher was watching. "Besides, it's none of your business!"
"Well, let me give you a little piece of advice." Stephanie leaned closer to whisper in her ear. "Give up on any dreams or illusions you might have about the charming Dane. You don't stand a chance. He's in love with someone else, you know? He can only truly love one woman at a time."
"I know all about your cousin Sara. I had the...pleasure...of meeting her the other night."
"I'm not talking about Sara." Stephanie found the words catching in her throat. She knew that when Sara learned the truth for herself, she would be devastated. Now, if she could just prevent Grace from making the same mistake. Though she didn't know her well, Stephanie knew that Grace was a sweet and gentle person who deserved much better than the likes of Dane. "He's only truly in love with Jillian Stokes. That doesn't mean that he doesn't play the field. Far from it, actually. Dane sure likes the attention of the ladies and he's quite a playboy. He won't have any problem at all encouraging your little crush on him despite his relationship with Sara or his love for Jillian. Understand that and don't be a fool by letting him get to you."
"But if I can just convince him to give me a chance, I'm sure he'll see that one woman can be enough! I'll prove to him that I can love him so much that the other women in his life won't even matter." Stephanie grabbed Grace's hand when she realized that she wasn't listen to a word she was saying. She realized that a stubborn Grace would just have to learn the truth about Dane the hard way.
"Look, Grace, Dane will never change and there's nothing you can do about it." She leaned away as the teacher began to walk their direction. "You'll be better off if you find someone honest and decent to devote your love to. Dane is not that man!" Grace wondered if maybe Stephanie was right. Could Dane really be as horrible as she'd claimed, or did Grace really stand a chance and Stephanie was just trying to scare her off for Sara's sake?
MEANWHILE, AT JOE'S CAFE
Lorraine was dining alone when Patterson walked in and spotted her across the room. He quickly went over to her. "Hello, Lorraine." He smiled. "Can I join you?"
"Of course, Patterson." She motioned for him to sit down. He looked at her for a moment and quickly noticed that there was something weighing heavily on her mind.
"Honey, what's wrong? You seem troubled. I hope it has nothing to do with your relationship with Trevor." He reached out and patted her hand gently as he carefully watched and analyzed her expressions.
"Oh, no, nothing's wrong." She tried to cover her fears, but he saw right through them. "Trevor and I are wonderful. I haven't seen him much lately because he's been so busy, but we're doing wonderful."
"I hope you forgive me if I find a hard time believing you. You've never been very good at lying. Maybe it's not my place to nose around in your relationship with Trevor, but there's one thing that I can definitely tell you."
"W-what's that?" She looked up at him with anticipation. She so wanted him to reassure her that Trevor loved her and would never leave her.
"You are the most wonderful woman I've ever met. If Trevor Callison is stupid enough not to realize that and he lets you slip away, then he never deserved you!" Patterson pulled her close and hugged her tightly. She began to think about exactly how special Patterson was to her. Why did she ever leave him? It was true that she wasn't in love with Patterson. She wanted to experience the all consuming love that she'd heard about so often...the kind of love she had for Trevor. She pulled away and looked at him. She knew Patterson was good for her. If they'd stayed together, Lorraine was sure that she wouldn't be filled with doubt and worry as she was now. She sighed and began to wonder where they went wrong.
"Thank you," she said softly. "Thank you for being my friend and thank you for caring about me."
"Lorraine, I'll always care about you. You're one of the most special people in my life." He thought back wistfully on their past together. Why couldn't he have been the one who could give her what she needed? "I'll always be here for you. Anytime. If you ever need me, I'm here." She hugged him again and held on as if she were clinging to a life preserver and going down for the last time. She prayed that he was right and everything would be fine with Trevor. Everything had to be alright. She couldn't bear to loose him. Lorraine knew it would destroy her.
LATER, AT THE CALLISON HOME
Charles walked through the front door and promptly grabbed Francis and kissed her before even hanging up his jacket. She was slightly stunned, but deeply pleased by her husband sudden display of affection. "Charles, dear, how was your day?"
"Oh, the same as usual." He sat down on the sofa and motioned for her to join him. "More importantly, how was your day?"
"Well, I had lunch with the ladies' auxiliary for the hospital, but other than that, it was the usual." Francis looked at Charles and tried to figure out what was going on. She always knew that he loved her very much, but in recent years he seemed to be much more concerned about the family business and the boys than about her and her life.
"I certainly hope all those organizations you're involved in appreciate everything that you do for them." He pulled her closer to him and she gladly rested comfortably in his arms. "They've got the best of the best with you. Just like I do."
"Oh, Charles," she sighed. She glanced up to look at him and was quick to notice an unusual smudge on his collar. It was lipstick! Francis looked closer and realized that it was definitely too dark to be her shade. "So...what all have you been up to at the office today?" She subtly fished for information.
"Just the typical. Meetings and authors and paperwork. Nothing different than any other day." Francis pulled away from him, but couldn't take her eyes off the lipstick on his collar. Could her husband be involved with another woman? Surely not! Charles had way to much honor to betray her like that. She knew he loved her too much to break her heart. He couldn't be seeing another woman. Could he?
IT'S EARLY EVENING AT THE WISHING WELL
"Okay, this calculus problem makes absolutely no sense to me." Sara ran her fingers through her hair in frustration as she stared vacantly at her text book. "I just can't wait for this semester to be over. Actually, I can't wait for all of college to be over."
"At least you're in college." Stephanie looked back down at her book and tried, once again, to read the passage of Hamlet she'd been pouring over for nearly an hour. "At this point, I just want to make it out of high school. I'm eighteen! I'm an adult, I shouldn't have to be bothered with all the immature children that crowd the halls of Albanyville High!" Sara put her pencil down and looked over at Stephanie. She bit her lip and hesitated a moment before she spoke.
"Steph, what would you say if I told you I was going to try to get Dane to marry me?"
Stephanie sat straight up in her seat and quickly pushed her books aside. She knew she'd have be very cautious in her response. "Well, first I'd ask you if you've lost your mind! Look, Sara, don't get your hopes up for anything as far as Dane's concerned. You know his opinions on marriage. He's not the marrying type! You'd have a better chance of getting him to a monastery than to the alter."
"Oh, but I think I can get him to marry me. I know he loves me very much! He's always telling me how special I am to him and how much he loves me and doesn't want to be without me. Sure, it might take some effort to convince him. I know he's a huge flirt and he loves all the attention he gets from other girls, but I know he loves me and wants to be with me."
Stephanie thought for a moment about her previous conversation with Dane about his feelings for Jillian. Sara was way too caught up in Dane to even think rationally about him. Stephanie knew that if Sara kept seeing Dane, there was no way to avoid her getting hurt. "Look, I know Dane cares about you a great deal, but you know what kind of man he is! One woman will never be enough for him. You know there've been others even since you two have been together. Dane is not going to marry you! Gosh, I don't think Dane is gonna marry anyone!"
Sara stuck her bottom lip out defiantly and crossed her arms over her chest. "He will, too, marry me! I can get him to! I don't care what you say, you don't know him as well as I do." Stephanie shook her head in defeat. She knew there was no talking to Sara as far as Dane Manchester was concerned. She wouldn't listen to reason.
"Hello, ladies!" Douglas spoke up as he walked over to the table. Stephanie was relieved that he'd arrived just in time to break the tension that had formed between them.
"Hello, Douglas," Stephanie smiled.
"I-uh-I," he stammered. "I just wanted to know if you got the flowers I sent you." Stephanie was shocked and taken aback. The lilies had been from Douglas, not Reginald! She fought to hide her disappointment.
"Um, yes I did. They were lovely." She tried to hide her discomfort as she fiddled with the straw in her soda. "There was no name on the card, so I had no idea who they were from."
"Hey, maybe I should leave you two alone." Sara quickly got up from the table as Stephanie shot her a look of disapproval. "You need to talk." She swiftly moved away leaving the awkward duo to look at each other in silence.
"Well, I'm sorry, that was my fault." He finally broke the quiet as he sat down beside her. "I actually forgot to sign the card. It was kind of a spur of the moment thing and it totally slipped my mind."
"Well, that's quite alright." Stephanie began to warm up to Douglas as the shock began to wear off. "I was just a little surprised they were from you. I had no idea that you were, um, interested."
"I am." He smiled at her nervously and reached out for her hand. She didn't pull away. "I've thought your were beautiful and charming for a long time, now, but I never had the courage to say anything until the other day. I really would love to get to know you better. You know, maybe go out. See what happens?"
Stephanie thought for a moment. Sure, I want Reginald, but what if Momma's wrong? What if I can't get him away from Jillian? A girl like me has to have options. Besides, Douglas is a successful lawyer and Momma thinks the world of him. He wouldn't be bad for a consolation prize. "We can do dinner sometime." She finally spoke up. "In fact I'd love it!"
"G-great!" He tried to hide his shock. He just knew that someone as lovely and popular as Stephanie would never be interested in him, but here she was agreeing to go on a date! "Um, so I'll call you and we can make plans?"
"Sure," she smiled at him. Keep your options open, Stephanie. Keep your options open!
MEANWHILE, AT THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE
Trevor walked up and down the aisles of the store cautiously as he looked for Grace. He turned the corner and headed for the front door just as she came out of the back room and stepped behind the counter. He smiled warmly and went straight to her. "Hi, Grace, how are you doing?"
"Oh, hi, Trevor." She looked up and smiled at him. "I'm doing fine. I'm working here at the bookstore after school, now, so I can help Douglas with my tuition money for nurse's school. He's done so much for me already and I really don't want him to have to pay for everything."
"Well, I'm sure you've got excellent grades. Have you applied for any scholarships? I know my family has set up a couple at AU. One is in my uncle Landon's name and Father set up one strictly for students of medicine in the name of Patterson Monroe's father. Since you're going into nursing, you're sure to qualify. You should check it out."
"Thank you, Trevor, I'll do that. A scholarship would help a lot!" She looked at him and hesitated for a moment. "Um, look, Trevor, I'm really sorry for being so harsh with you on the docks. I had a lot on my mind that night and I really wasn't in the best of moods."
"Hey, it's okay. Besides, I really admire your strong will. You sometimes come across as very shy and quiet. A lot of people can interpret that as meaning you're naive and an easy target to be preyed upon. It's nice to see that, underneath it all, you've got a strength of self and a determination about you. That'll help you not be a victim of the world."
"Actually, I really don't think I'm that strong." She blushed slightly and lowered her head. "I just think that it's one of those things where if you're put in a certain situation, you've got to be strong to make it through. Kind of an instinct thing." She thought about Dane and how she wanted him and was determined to make him see that Sara was wrong for him. Maybe she really was stronger than she realized.
"Well, I really wanted to ask you something." Trevor smiled at her as he leaned across the counter. "Um, do you want to go have dinner with me after the shop closes?" He thought for a moment about Lorraine, but this was something he just had to do.
"I really can't. I've got a lot of homework I have to do tonight." she replied. Trevor was heartbroken and he suddenly felt very embarrassed and very foolish. "Well, actually, do you think we could go to dinner some other time?"
His mood noticeably brightened as a smile spread across his face. "Sure, that would be great! I-um-I'll call you and we'll set something up." She waved to him as he sprinted out the door.
Trevor is such a nice guy she thought as sent went back to unpacking books. I'm so glad that I met him. He's going to be a great friend.
LATER THAT EVENING, AT JILLIAN'S APARTMENT
"Reginald, promise me that after we're married, our lives will always be like this." Jillian snuggled in his arms as they sat on the sofa listening to soft music on the radio. "Just you and me in love."
"Don't forget the kids." He laughed as he teased her. "You know I want a house full of kids!"
"Oh, honey, can we please not start right after we're married? I want to finish school. I know I'll probably be home with them, but I at least want an education so I can teach them things so they'll be ready for the world when they grow up."
"Look, Jillian, we've got plenty of time to think about having children and helping them grow up." He played with her flaxen hair and kissed her gently on the top of her head. "We have the rest of our lives together."
Oh, how Jillian loved this man with all her heart. She would be devastated if anything happened to ruin the life she had planned with him. She thought about Dane and the brief, yet torrid, past they had. Why couldn't he leave her alone? What they shared had ended a long time ago. Why bring it up now? Surely Reginald couldn't hold her relationship with Dane against her since it happened before they'd even met. Would Reginald feel threatened by her past with Dane? He had no reason to. Jillian made sure that he knew she loved him more than any other man in the world.
As Jillian's thoughts wandered, Reginald's, too, began to drift. He thought about Stephanie's sudden visit to his office. Why was she coming to see him now? He thought he had ended things with her nice and neatly long ago when he realized exactly how much he loved and needed Jillian. He'd realized his fling with her had been a mistake and he thought she'd understood. He knew he'd been wrong to use Stephanie as a means of avoiding a commitment to Jillian, but once he realized that a commitment was exactly what he wanted, he ended the affair. He felt badly that he'd betrayed Jillian like he had. Jillian never knew about his relationship with Stephanie, Reginald made sure of that. Now his guilt was starting to bother him. Should I tell her the truth? he thought to himself. Should I come clean about everything before we get married so we can start fresh with no secrets between us? Would it do more harm than good? "Jillian, there's something I feel I need to confess to you." He began his revelation cautiously as he pulled away from her and looked deeply into her eyes.
"What, dear? You sound so serious." She grew nervous. He wasn't getting cold feet? He wasn't going to take back the engagement, was he?
"I-I have to tell you something that might forever change your feelings for me." He had to do it. He had to be honest. "And I have to warn you that you might not love me any more after I say what I need to say." Jillian's jaw dropped. There was nothing in the world he could tell her that would change her love for him.
"Stop right there!" She put both her hands on his shoulders as if to hold back the truth. "Reginald, there is nothing you could ever tell me that would change how I feel about you! The last thing in the world I would want is to have something interfere in our relationship. If what you're about to tell me is going to cause problems, I don't want to know. If you have to tell me, then tell me, but you must know that I love you and nothing will change that!"
He paused for a moment and considered his options. Should he tell her the truth and destroy any faith or trust she had in him? Was it worth breaking her heart to ease his conscience? He knew she would still love him even if she knew the truth, but just because you love someone doesn't mean they can't hurt you. "Um...actually..." he stammered for a moment as his courage left him. He couldn't hurt her. "It's really nothing....nothing important at all." He leaned back on the sofa and thought again about Stephanie.
TO BE CONTINUED
Dane continues to pursue Jillian.
For Now and Forever
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