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

 

EPISODE #8
May 1935

IT'S A FEW WEEKS LATER IN MAY 1935, IN THE LIVING ROOM OF THE CALLISON HOME

"Let's see...hmmm..."  Francis tapped her lower lip with a pencil as she looked at her list and thought deeply.  "Grand Sunset Room...check....caterer....check....orchestra....check..."

"I just talked to the florist yesterday and he said that everything was taken care of."  Jillian leaned over to look at Francis' list.  They'd worked so hard on making this engagement party the event of the year and it was all falling together.

"Wonderful!"  Francis through her arms around her future daughter-in-law and hugged her tightly.  "This is going to be the best time our family has had in ages!"  She pulled away suddenly and looked down at her hands.  The joyous feelings of just moments ago suddenly began to slip away from her.  Jillian eyed her carefully and noticed the change in her attitude.

"Mrs....I mean, Mother, what's wrong?  You seem like something's troubling you."

"O-oh, it's nothing."  Francis began to think about her husband and the lipstick smudge she'd found on his collar a few weeks before.  She'd tried to block it all out of her head, but the image kept coming back to haunt her.  She refused to believe that the man she loved and had devoted her life to could be so cruel as to betray her with another woman.  "I'm just thinking about Trevor and Lorraine," she lied.  "There seems to be some kind of trouble going on between them and I'm just so worried that he's going to get hurt.  I know he loves her very much, but he's so dedicated to the paper.  She can't understand that.  I don't think she's as supportive of him as she needs to be.  Besides, I'm sure there's something still going on between her and Patterson!"

"Actually, I sort of got that impression too that day we saw them together at The Gardens."  Jillian sifted through a few new dress designs that she and Francis had received.  Privately, she began to think about Reginald and Stephanie and what had happened between them.  Could the same thing be happening to Trevor and Lorraine?  "It's obvious that something's going on.  I know that Patterson and Lorraine used to date, but that was over before she even started to see Trevor."

"I know, but something's not right.  I just don't want Trevor to get hurt."

"Mother, Trevor is a grown man, he can take care of himself."  Jillian hesitated for a moment and took Francis' hand.  "I-I need to talk to you about something...about something very personal."

"Oh, of course, dear, what is it?"

"I found out that Reginald cheated on me with someone else.  I-it was a long time ago right after we started dating.  We weren't really serious then, not like now, but the other girl is intent on making trouble for us."  Jillian looked away and felt a little embarrassed.  It was difficult to discuss such personal matters with her fiancé's mother, but she trusted Francis implicitly and valued her opinions.

"Reginald?"  Francis was shocked.  She'd had no idea that her son was capable of such actions.  She'd raised him to be truthful and honest and not some sort of philanderer.  "Oh, Jillian, I am so sorry!  I'll never forgive him if he's hurt you!  Who...who is this girl trying to cause trouble for you?"

"It's Stephanie Lake."  Jillian cringed a little when she thought of her.  She'd never really liked Stephanie, but now she detested her more than she ever thought she could detest another human being except for Dane.

"Y-you don't think she'll cause problems for the wedding?  We've planned so much for this party!"

"No!  Stephanie is the past as far as Reginald is concerned.  His future is with me.  She may not like that, but there's no changing it.  I've accepted what happened and I've forgiven him.  In fact, things are better now between us than ever before.  We have nothing but a bright future to look forward to."

"Oh, I'm so happy that you and Reginald could work this out!"  Francis threw her arms around Jillian and hugged her again.  "Now, you listen to me, if he does anything to hurt you, you let me know!  I'll turn him over my knee like he was a little boy again and tan his hide!"  Jillian couldn't help but laugh at the mental picture of Francis taking a switch to her grown son.

"I'm sure that the past is just that for Lorraine and Patterson, too.  Granted, neither one of them is nearly as horrible as Stephanie Lake!  They've become just good friends.  Trevor has nothing to worry about."

"I hope so."  Francis looked down at a framed picture of Trevor that sat on the coffee table.  "I really think the world of Lorraine, but if she were to do anything to hurt my son, I'd never forgive her."  She meant every word.  If Lorraine were to do anything malicious to destroy Trevor, Francis would make sure she'd live to regret it.

MEANWHILE, RIGHT OUTSIDE CHARLES' OFFICE

"I'll take care of that right away!" Reginald called out as he left his father's office.  As he absent-mindedly scanned a report he was carrying, he collided with someone.  Surprised and embarrassed, he looked up and saw Annabelle.  He took a couple of steps back and looked at her cautiously.  He thought about what he'd seen between her and his father and felt his stomach turn.

"You really should watch where you're going!"  Annabelle snapped at him.  Realizing this approach would not benefit her nor Stephanie, she softened her tone.  "I-I'm sorry, Reginald.  You just startled me, that's all.  Is your father busy?  I need to talk to him."

"You have no business being anywhere near him."  He looked at her coldly as he watched her every move.  "He doesn't want to have anything to do with you, so go slither back to Douglas' office and leave him alone!"

Annabelle feigned embarrassment as her hand flew up to her chest in indignation.  "W-why are you being so rude?  I cannot believe you have the nerve to speak to me in that tone of voice!"

"You listen to me, Annabelle," he said through clinched teeth as he grabbed her arm tightly and yanked her closer to him.  "I know everything about what you're trying to do to my parents and it all stops now!"

"W-what?  What are you talking about?"  She tried to look innocent, but she'd never been a skilled enough actress for that to work.

"I saw you and my father kissing in his office!" Reginald spat as he squeezed her arm tighter.  She struggled to pull away, but his grasp was unrelenting and his fingers closed tighter like a vise.  "I know you're trying to come between my parents and I refuse to let that happen!  You better stay away from him or you will most certainly regret it!"  Realizing that he did, indeed, know what was going on she stopped struggling against him.

"He wants me, Reginald," she asserted.  "He's tired of his boring little life of playing house with Francis.  He craves some excitement in his life...excitement that I can give him.  No matter what you do, you can't change how he feels."

"Stay away from him!"  He pushed her backwards and she nearly toppled over the desk.  "And you can tell Stephanie to stay away from me and Jillian!  Whatever little scheme she has of separating us will never work!  My entire past with her is out in the open between me and Jillian and everything is perfect between us.  It will be a cold day in hell before I let her do anything to destroy what we have."  Annabelle stood up straight and pulled herself together.

"What you feel for Stephanie is burned into your mind just like what Charles feels for me!  You both might try to fight it and deny it, but neither one of you can ignore it!  Face it, Reginald, you're little lives aren't quite as perfect as you've convinced yourself that they are!"  She suddenly turned on her heel and quickly stormed away.  She realized that if she and Stephanie were going to succeed in their goals they'd have to work harder and been more cunning than they'd been so far.  Both Charles and Reginald were going to be much harder to crack than they'd ever thought possible.

A LITTLE LATER, AT THE WELL

"I'm so glad that we've started to spend time together."  Douglas smiled across the table at Stephanie as he pushed his food around his plate.  "I never really thought you'd say 'yes' when I asked you out."

"Why wouldn't I?" she asked while she played with her hair.  "You're quite a handsome man, Douglas.  I've really enjoyed myself on our dates.  I find you deeply fascinating."  It wasn't a lie.  Stephanie had always thought highly of her mother's employer.  Now that she'd gotten to know him better as a person, she found him to be quite charming and dynamic.  He wasn't at all like the little boys in her class.

"Well, I know there's a slight age difference between us.  You are still in school, after all."  He suddenly began to feel awkward.  He often had to remind himself that she had yet to graduate high school.  She seemed so much older and more sophisticated.

"Douglas, I'm only in high school for a few more days!  Graduation is next week.  Besides, I'm 18.  I'm old enough to do whatever I want!"  She looked up at him coquettishly as she reached across the table to give his hand a little squeeze.  Sure, he wasn't quite as wonderful as Reginald, but there was a lot that a man like Douglas could offer her.  He was a successful lawyer and very easy on the eyes.  Still, he wasn't Reginald and that was who she really wanted.

"You have no idea how honored I am to be seen with you on my arm.  I just know that you make me the envy of every man in town!"  He watched her closely and realized that she was lost in thought.

"No, Stephanie, you're the one who's deluded.  You've deluded yourself into thinking that what happened between you and Reginald meant something.  It meant nothing!  You were nothing to him but a means to avoid commitment.  Once he realized a commitment was what he wanted, he had no use for you.  He committed to me, not you.  I have the ring and the promise.  You have nothing!"  

Stephanie remembered Jillian's words and felt a chill travel down her spine.  Her best efforts had done nothing to destroy Reginald and Jillian's plans to marry.  Maybe Dane and her mother were wrong.  Maybe Reginald really was a lost cause.  She looked at Douglas and realize that he wasn't so bad as a consolation prize.  She could have done much worse!  She could have been with that boring sap Patterson.  She tried to hide her amusement at the thought, but Douglas was quick to notice.

"What's so funny?" he asked her as he smiled.

"Nothing," she laughed.  "I was just thinking how lucky I am that you asked me out.  I was thinking how much I enjoy myself when I'm with you."

"And I enjoy myself  with you."  He began to look nervous and glanced down at his hands.  "S-Stephanie, I've gotten an invitation to Reginald and Jillian's engagement party.  I don't have anyone to accompany me.  W-would you like to be my date for the party?"

"Would I?"  She could barely contain her excitement as she flew from her chair and threw her arms around him.  "There is nothing in the world I'd want more!  I'd love to go to the party with you!"  She kissed him deeply, but secretly thought that the engagement party would be a wonderful setting for another grand attempt at landing Reginald for herself.  She just needed Dane's help to do it.

A LITTLE LATER AT DANE'S APARTMENT

"Damn," Dane muttered as he pulled away from the kiss he was sharing with Sara.  He reached over and grabbed the ringing phone, but hesitated for a moment before picking up the receiver.  He sighed deeply as he looked at Sara who was visibly annoyed with this interruption to their romantic interlude.  "Hello?" he finally said, answering the disruptive caller.  "What do you want?  Well, Sara's here....oh, I see.  Oh?  Really?"  His mood began to quickly improve as the conversation continued.

"Honey, who is it?"  Sara moved closer to him in an attempt to hear what was being said on the other end of the conversation, but Dane cautiously pulled away from her.

"Umm...I'm a little busy at the moment."  He looked at Sara as she attempted to keep herself covered with the sheet.  "Well, that definitely is good news...especially after you totally messed everything up before.  Well...give me a few minutes.  Yes, you're right, that would be a perfect opportunity.  Okay, see you in a little while."  Dane hung up the phone and ran his hands through his hair.  Lightly, he slid his fingers across Sara's leg as he tried to find the right excuse.  "I-I have to go take care of something."

"Who was that?  Who was on the phone?"

"It's just something I have to go take care of.  I'll only be gone for a little while."  He climbed out of bed and began to get dressed quickly.  "It won't take long.  I'll be back soon.  Just stay here until I get back."  He turned to look at her and began to feel a little guilty for leaving her alone at such a tender moment between them.  However, this is way more important.  Stephanie had an idea how to use Reginald and Jillian's engagement party to separate them permanently.

"Alright," Sara sighed.  "I've got to study for that English Lit final anyway.  Do you still have your notes from last semester?"  Sara slowly slipped the straps of her gown back up over her shoulders and followed Dane into the living room.

"Yeah, they're in my desk.  Those old tests can be worth a little money to the right, underachieving freshman."  He smiled at her and caressed her cheek.  "Not that you're the least bit underachieving.  Besides, what you give me is worth much more than I could ever get from any of those stupid guys."  He kissed her deeply before turning away and heading for the door.  "I'll be back soon."

After Dane had left, Sara threw herself onto the couch and began thumbing through her English Lit book.  After a while, she heaved a deep sigh and threw the book to the floor.  She eyed the desk across the room and quickly decided that the old test would help her more than rereading 150 pages ever could.  Rummaging  through the desk, she began to grow frustrated when she found everything from receipts to half chewed pencils to old algebra assignments.  She pulled the drawer out further to get a better look at its contents.  With a solid thud, the entire drawer fell to the floor spewing papers and debris everywhere.  "Wonderful!" she muttered sarcastically before kneeling down to straighten up the mess.  As she sifted through the papers, she was quick to notice that one of them was a copy of the entrance exam for Albanyville University.  Sara looked at it closely and noticed all the answers were written in...but not in Dane's handwriting!  What in the world is Dane doing with a copy of the entrance exam? she thought to herself as she carefully looked at every page.  Her eyes grew wide when she saw the small handwritten note on the bottom of the last page...Don't be worried, you'll do fine.  I hope this helps you.  Agnes.  Sara smiled quietly to herself as a light of understanding went off in her head.  She realized exactly who Agnes was.  Quickly, Sara began to get dressed and prepared to pay a visit to the university's admissions office.

MEANWHILE, AT JOE'S CAFE

"So, you've been pretty quiet."  Patterson watched Lorraine careful as she sat slumped down in her seat.  Although he was almost through eating, she'd hadn't even attempted to pick up her sandwich.  "Is it Trevor?  Did something else happen between the two of you that you haven't been telling me?  You've moped around like this for weeks now."

"I think Trevor and I are over."  She swallowed hard and looked away quickly as she felt her eyes begin to tear.  She'd managed to push what she'd heard Trevor say in his sleep to the back of her mind, but she couldn't forget it.  "I know he's in love with someone else."  Patterson was shocked, but tried to hide his true feelings about the end of Lorraine's relationship with Trevor.

"Honey, how do you know he's in love with someone else?"

"H-he told me," she lowered her head and vacantly watched the steam drift off of her cup of freshly poured coffee.  "Well, not directly.  He...he..."

"Lorraine, tell me.  Tell me what happened.  You'll feel better if you get all of this off of your chest."  He reached across the table and grabbed her hand firmly.  She looked up at him and dried her eyes.  Taking a deep breath, she began to explain what had happened.

"Trevor came to see me.  I hadn't seen him in weeks.  He told me he'd been wrong to neglect me and wanted to make things up to me.  He told me how much he loved me."  She hesitated as she thought about the events that followed.  She still found it difficult to really believe what had happened.  "L-later, he was asleep and apparently dreaming.  He was talking to someone and telling them how much he loved them.  I thought he was talking to me!  H-he wasn't.  He was saying 'I love you' to someone else."

"Lorraine, how do you know it was someone else?"

"H-he called out her name!"  She threw her head into her hands and began to sob.  As much as Patterson didn't want Lorraine and Trevor's relationship to work out, his heart broke for her as he saw the deep emotional pain she was suffering.  The last thing that he'd ever wanted was for her to get hurt.  However, he'd always felt that that was exactly what would happen if she'd persisted in loving Trevor.

"W-who is she?" he asked cautiously.

"That's not important.  It doesn't matter.  All that matters is that he's not in love with me and probably never was!"  She looked up at Patterson and tried to force a smile at him.  "I know a few weeks ago I said something about us starting over.  We haven't really talked a lot about it since."

"Well, you've had a lot on your mind.  This whole mess with Trevor has gotten you torn to pieces."  He looked at her and wondered how anyone could even think to be so cruel to her.  "I would love nothing more than to put back together what he had, but I know it can't happen over night.  I know that you have to put him behind you first."

"Heaven help me, but I still love him.  Despite everything that's happened and everything that I know, I still want us to work out."  She silently remembered happier times with Trevor when she'd believed that her life was perfect and nothing in the world could hurt her.  "I honestly don't know if a future between you and me is possible, Patterson."  She watched him as his face fell.  "I-I'm not saying it's out of the question, though.  Just not right now.  This entire mess with Trevor is still fresh.  We have to take things slowly.  I-I don't think I would be able to stand experiencing such pain again."  He gave her hand another gentle squeeze and smiled at her warmly.

"I understand.  If something more does happen between us, we'll go just as slowly as you want.  The last thing I want is for you to be hurt."  Patterson meant every word.  He knew he'd have to wait for Lorraine to get over Trevor before they even had a remote chance of getting back together.  He also realized that maybe that would never happen.  He only wanted what was best for...if that wasn't him, then he'd just have to accept it.  What was best for Lorraine was what was most important.

MEANWHILE, IN BAILY PARK

"So, what's so important that you had to pull me away from my nice little afternoon with Sara?" Dane asked as he walked up behind Stephanie.  "You know, I'm still not happy with you after that little stunt you pulled with Jillian."

"Dane, I just knew it would work!  How was I supposed to know that she already knew he'd had an affair?"  Stephanie twisted her gold chain and chewed on her lip nervously as she eyed Dane closely.  She could tell he wasn't happy with her or her impetuous actions.

"But did you have to tell Jillian that you knew about me and her?"  He glared at her as he stood with his arms folded securely over his chest.  She lowered her head slowly.  She almost felt like a child being chastised by her father.  "Jillian knew that the only way you could have known about that was if I'd told you!  She's not stupid!  Surely she's realized that you and I are working together to break her and Reginald up."

"I'm sorry!  I've told you that a million times.  I didn't aim to bring you up, but she just made me so mad how she could just stand there acting so superior.  I just had to bust her bubble!"  She looked up at him through her long lashes and fluttered her eyelids gracefully.  "Besides, at least I know where I stand.  The mere knowledge of the past isn't going to cause her to dump Reginald.  I'm sure the same is true for you.  What you and Jillian had is in the past, too."  Dane squirmed a little uncomfortably at the thought of what had happened between him and Jillian being in the past.  "But, what if they both think that it's still going on in the present?"

"I've thought about that."  Dane grinned and rubbed his chin as he pondered the possibilities.  "But what does all of this have to do with their engagement party?  You said on the phone that you had an idea how to use this party to our advantage.  How are we gonna do that when heaven knows we won't get an invitation?"  Stephanie let out a laugh as a grin spread across her face.

"I don't know how you'll get into the party, but I've been invited!"  She watched his expressions and was very satisfied with the look of surprise that registered on his face.

"How in the world did you managed that?  Reginald and Jillian can't stand the site of you!"

"Well....I've been dating Douglas Davis for the last few weeks.  It gives me something to do."  She twisted a tendril of hair around her finger as she walked to a nearby bench to sit down.  "After all, I can't spend all my time worrying about Reginald and the ice princess."

"And?  Well...get on with it..."

"And since Douglas is Charles Callison's attorney, of course he got an invitation to the party.  And naturally he needed a date.  Since he's been dating me, of course I was the logical choice."  Dane grew rather smug as he thought of all the possibilities and quickly sat down beside her on the bench.

"Excellent!  If Jillian thinks that you and Reggie were still involved, she'll drop him in an instant!"  Dane paused while he thought of what Jillian's reaction would be and how he would just "conveniently" be there to help her pick up the pieces.  His face quickly clouded over when he realized that there was no way he could be there to help Jillian through the fall out.  "Now, how do you propose to get me into that party to witness all of this?"

"Well, Dane, I guess that's just something you're gonna have to figure out for yourself."  She smiled at him and patted his leg before rising to leave.  "I've got my plan in place and I've got my way into that party.  Your part is up to you.  I can't do everything for you, can I?"  As Dane watched her slowly walk away, his mind began to whirl as he tried to think about how he could possibly crash this party.

LATER, AT THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE

"You busy?" Trevor asked as he leaned over the counter.

"Actually, no."  Grace smiled at him as she finished unpacking a box of books.  "In fact, I was just about to take a break."

"Great!  Then why don't we go next door and grab a soda."  He couldn't help but be mesmerized by her.  Her golden hair and delicate features could have him transfixed for hours.  He watched her nervously as he waited for her response.  Their friendship had been rather shaky since their impetuous kiss.  Now slightly uncomfortable around each other, they were each working to put their own feelings into perspective.  Trevor loved her.  He knew that much.  He also knew that Grace had no interest in him beyond friendship.  He'd decided then that he must refocus his feelings on his girlfriend Lorraine.  Of course, his feelings for Lorraine weren't the same as they were for Grace, but he knew he had to try.  If friendship was the only kind of relationship he and Grace could share, then that would have to be enough.  "I've got a present for you."  He held out the gift wrapped box with the pretty pink bow for her to see.

"A gift?  For me?"  She looked at it, a little unsure what to say.  "For what?"

"Your birthday, silly!"

"H-how did you know it was my birthday?"  She reached out for the box, but he playfully snatched it away.

"I have my ways.  Now, don't tell me you can't accept a birthday present from a friend."

"Of course not."  She sighed as she realized that there was no reason they couldn't be friends.  She knew, however, that she had to be careful not to lead Trevor to believe that there could be anything more than that between them.  "Okay, let's go get that soda.

When they had finally settled into a booth in the cafe, he held out the gift for her again.  This time when she reached for it, he didn't pull it away.  He waited nervously as she carefully pulled the wrapping from the box.

"Can't you just tear into it?"  He tapped his foot rapidly on the floor.  He hoped she'd like it.  Trevor had searched all day for just the right gift.

"I can't!  The paper is too pretty to ruin."  She paused for a moment and eyed him closely.  "You didn't wrap this yourself, did you?"  Trevor smiled meekly as he tried to look innocent.

"Well....actually...no.  The saleslady over at Lerner's did it.  I've never been able to wrap anything and have it turn out decent.  Usually it just looks like a wad of paper."

"Oh, Trevor!  I love it!"  She looked down at the beautiful cherry music box that the paper had contained.  Carefully, she opened the lid and listened to the delicate tune the box played.  Trevor heaved a sigh of relief.  Now relaxed, he settled back into his seat.

"I'm glad.  I saw it and thought of you.  So sturdy and strong like the cherry, yet so sensitive and delicate like the tune."  Their eyes met for and instant  and they both began to feel caught up in the moment.  Trevor slipped his hand across the table and took her hand in his.  Suddenly, she yanked it back and looked away.  Both became immediately uncomfortable and began to wonder if a friendship between them was really possible.  "I...um...so...how are finals coming?"

"Good."  Her eyes darted around the cafe as she rested her hands in her lap.  She frantically tried to find anything to look at other than Trevor's eyes.  She couldn't deny how captivating the truly were and, despite her best efforts, she couldn't help but feel a little excited every time she saw him.  "Graduation is almost here.  I can wait to get it all over with."

"Ummm...so how are things going with this big, secret love of yours?"

"Not good."  She sighed deeply as she thought of Dane Manchester.  His dark, good looks made her feel things she'd never felt before.  Every time she thought of him, her heart would beat faster and she found it hard to catch her breath.  "I've barely even seen him since the first time we met.  He seemed interest in me, but now I'm not even sure he really knows I'm alive."  She looked down at her hands and began to feel forlorn.  She wondered if she was being foolish to even think she had a chance with Dane.

"Grace, I'm sure everything will work out for the best.  If he can't see what a wonderful, special girl you are, he must be completely blind."

"A-and how's Lorraine?"

Trevor flinched a little at the mention of his girlfriend's name.  "Um....she's fine.  You know, I really feel bad about staying with her even though my feelings...well...my feelings for her aren't quite what they should be.  Grace...I...well...I love you.  It can't be right what I'm doing to her."

"You know that I can't return your feelings!  I told you we could only be friends."  She swallowed hard and spoke very pointedly to him.  "Look, Trevor, even though you and I have no future, you have to be truthful to her.  If you don't love her and don't think you could ever love her like you need to, you've got to tell her!  It's not fair for her to be misled like she is.  You've got to be honest with her and tell her that you don't love her.  If you don't, you're only going to wind up hurting her more than you already have."

He paused for a minute and thought about what she'd said.  He knew she was right.  It wasn't fair to Lorraine to continue his charade.  As much as he did care for her, he wasn't in love with her and realized he probably never would be.  "You're right, Grace.  I can't continue to keep this from Lorraine.  It's not fair for her and she's only going to be hurt even more.  She doesn't deserve that."

"S-so...what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to tell her the truth."  Trevor looked at Grace with a new determination in his eyes.  He finally realized the right thing to do and knew that he couldn't avoid it any longer.  "I'm going to tell her the truth and tell her we can't see each other any more.  I know she's going to be hurt, but it's the right thing to do.  It's the honest thing to do.  She deserves at least that."  Trevor inhaled deeply as he realized this would be the hardest thing he ever had to do in his entire life.  He felt good about wanting to be honest and truthful, but how could he feel good about destroying every hope and dream that Lorraine had ever had about them?

MEANWHILE, JUST OUTSIDE CHARLES' OFFICE

Francis' heels clicked against the tile of the hallway as she strode towards the large oak doors that led to Charles' outer office.  She'd gotten out of a committee meeting with the hospital auxiliary early and had decided to stop in and see her husband while she was in town.  As she reached out for the door, a familiar voice called out to her from behind.

"Well!  Hello, Francis.  What are you doing here today?"

Francis turned to see Annabelle Lake walking toward her with a stack of files in her arms.  "Oh, hello, Annabelle.  I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd surprise my husband.  He's been working late a lot because of that whole Preston mess.  I thought it would be nice to force him to take a little break."  She inspected Annabelle closely noting her dark, upswept hair and clingy, jersey dress.  They were nearly the same age, but Francis saw no comparison in their personal styles.  She has a grown daughter!  Why can't she dress more appropriately?  She really should try to look her age.

"Oh, that's wonderful!  You know, that husband of yours works entirely too hard."  Annabelle stepped closer to Francis and shifted the weight of the files in her arms.  She gently twisted the strand of pearls that encircled her neck.  Francis couldn't help but notice the bright red color of her nails.  "You are so lucky to have found a man as wonderful as Charles.  He's so handsome and successful.  How did you do it?  You must tell me how you landed such a catch as him!"

Francis quickly began to grow irritated with Annabelle's comments.  "I didn't 'land' Charles...as you put it...we met and it was almost love at first sight.  Other than our children, he's been the joy of my life ever since."

"Well, you were much younger then..."  Annabelle's words trailed off leaving Francis to feel her face begin to burn.  "Actually, Charles and I had lunch today!"  A lie.  "He's so much more relaxed and entertaining when you can pull him away from his work.  Of course...I'm sure you already know that."  She smiled dryly at Francis and watched her reactions closely.  She grinned when she realized that she was beginning to get to her.  Casually, Annabelle slipped her hand into her pocket and pulled out her lipstick.  Shifting the weight of the files, yet again, she began to apply a new coat to her already crimson lips.

Francis absent mindedly twisted her wedding ring around her finger and watched Annabelle closely.  Suddenly, something very familiar stuck her.  She wasn't sure why, but a strange feeling of awareness began to come over her.  As she looked closer, she felt her heart began to race.  The lipstick!  The lipstick that Annabelle was wearing was the exact same shade as what she'd found on Charles' collar weeks ago!  She swallowed hard as she became increasingly uncomfortable.

"What's wrong, dear, you suddenly look ill?"  Annabelle returned the lipstick to her pocket and flashed her a smile of false concern.

"I-I," she stammered.  "I really must go."

"Ah, yes, I have lots of things to do, as well.  So good to see you again, Francis.  You really mustn't be a stranger around here."  Quickly Annabelle turned and began to walk off down the hall and grinned confidently to herself.  Red always was my color.

As soon as Annabelle was out of site, Francis turned and again reached out for the door to her husband's office.  Hesitating, she released the knob and backed away slowly before turning and running silently from the building.

MEANWHILE, IN THE ADMISSIONS OFFICE AT ALBANYVILLE UNIVERSITY

"Sara!" Agnes Martin called out as she looked up from her desk and saw her old friend.  "What are you doing in here?  I don't think I've seen you since last semester.  What kinda grade did you get in Hackett's Psychology class, anyway?"

"Umm...I got an 'A'."  Sara looked around the office nervously and began to rock back and forth, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.  "Uh...Agnes...I've got something to ask you."  She hesitated for a moment as she again scanned the office to see if anyone was nearby who could hear.

"Sure, what is it?"  Agnes leaned onto the desk and rested her chin in her hands as she looked up at Sara.

"Well....I don't know if you know, but my cousin Stephanie is starting college here in the fall.  She's gotten her preliminary acceptance letter, but she hasn't taken her entrance exams yet."  Sara's eyes darted around the office again.  "She's pretty nervous about this test.  H-how easy is it to get a copy of the exam before hand?  I know they change the test every year, but is there a way to get a copy so she knows what to expect?  You know, kinda something for her to study from?"

"Please!" Agnes chucked, "They say they change that test every year, but I've worked in this office since my freshman year and it's still the same test I took to get in to AU.  I guess Dane told you about the favor I did for him.  I told him not to tell anyone, but...well...I guess since it's you, it's okay."

"Oh, of course!  I'd never say a word!"  Sara's eyes narrowed as she began to look at her friend intensely.  "Dane knows how worried my cousin is and he told me you might be able to help."

"I guess Dane told you that whole story."  Agnes laughed as she remember how panicked Dane had been at the thought of the exam.  "It's hard to believe that Dane Manchester---the walking epitome of cockiness and self-confidence---was petrified of taking that test!  Honestly, it's really not that difficult.  You know that!  Now, Sara, don't get mad, but Dane and I sorta dated for a little while that summer before he started school.  It was never really anything serious and we both moved on before the semester started.  Anyway, I was already working here in the office and I just felt so bad for him.  It was nothing to lift a copy of that test and copy the answers down on it.  If I remember correctly, Dane aced that exam."

"Yeah, he did."  Sara was enthralled by Agnes' story.  Hmmm....Dane really did cheat on his entrance exams!  "B-but isn't that all sorta risky?  What if the dean found out?"

"Oh, lord!  If the dean found out, we'd all be expelled!  AU sees cheating as an offense comparable to murder!"  Agnes' laughed drifted off as she peered across the desk at Sara.  "Of course, no one's gonna find out, are they?"

"Oh, of course not!"  Sara smiled reassuringly.  "My lips are sealed about this entire subject!"

"So, do you want me to get a copy of that test for your cousin?"

"Ummm...let me talk to her about it.  She might not be too keen on cheating."  Sara reached across the table and shook Agnes' hand.  "Well...I've really got to get going.  Good to see you again!  And thanks for all your help."

"Anytime!  If you decide she needs that test, just let me know."

Sara strode out of the office and smiled confidently to herself.  Ah, Dane, now I have you right where I want you.

TO BE CONTINUED

NEXT TIME

The end of Trevor and Lorraine.
Stephanie worries about Sara's welfare.
Dane gets an invitation.

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

©2001- 2010 Classic Soap Productions