For Now and Forever
EPISODE #17 (Tuesday
GOOD HOPE CHURCH
"I just want to wish you and Dane all the luck in the world," Stephanie muttered nervously as she extended her hand to Sara. "I really do mean that."
"What kind of trick are you trying to pull now, Stephanie?" Sara questioned coldly. "What kind of horrible, evil stunt are you cooking up? How dare you, of all people, show up at my wedding and try to cause trouble! Haven't you caused enough harm?"
The color drained from Stephanie's face as she felt her body begin to shake.
"I really don't think that it was a good idea for me to come here," Charles muttered to Annabelle as he sipped his punch. "These people are watching us like hawks."
"Oh, you know how they are," Annabelle cooed as she carefully stroked his back. "The people in this town thrive on any little bit of gossip they can find or make up. The fact that you're a Callison only makes it worse. You have to remember that, although there are many advantages to having that name, there are also drawbacks."
"I realize that. It's something I've dealt with for years." He rested his chin in his hand as he let his mind drift. "But all of their curious looks just remind me that I've done something horrible. I can't forgive myself for how I've hurt Francis. How can I expect them to act any differently?"
"But, Charles, there were so many different things involved." She moved closer to him and gazed deeply into his eyes. "You weren't in complete control of your senses. You can't be held accountable because of that."
"I know I was drunk, Annabelle. I know that under normal circumstances, I might have acted differently." He turned away from her in an attempt to hide his shame. "However, that doesn't change the fact that I what I did was wrong. I have to take full responsibility for that! If I hadn't have wanted to do what we did, no amount of alcohol would've forced me to betray my wife."
Annabelle smiled inwardly to herself. "Well, if Francis can't forgive one little mistake..."
"That wasn't a little mistake!" he snapped as he spun around to face her. "That was a mistake that destroyed my life!"
"Well, if it was such a big mistake," Annabelle said pointedly as she leaned back and folded her arms across her chest, "then why are you still seeing me and not begging your wife to take you back?"
"This isn't a trick!" Stephanie's voice shook as she tried to fight back her tears. "You're my cousin! You're the closest thing to a sister I've got. All I've ever wanted for you was for you to be happy!"
"So you set out to take away the one thing in the world that could make me the happiest?" Sara glared at her. "You're pathetic! I don't know why it took me so long to see you for the horrible wretch you really are. The only thing in this world that matters to you is what you want and need...to hell with everyone else!"
"N-no! That's not they way it is!" Stephanie looked at Dane and caught the sly grin he was trying to hide. He was thoroughly enjoying the pain she was suffering.
"Get out of here, Stephanie! I never want to see your horrible face again!" And with that, Sara grabbed Dane's arm and quickly stormed away.
Stephanie held her head in her hands as she tried to catch her tears. She realized that she had no one to blame but herself. Sara's anger was completely justified. If only it hadn't been for Dane! If only Dane had just left Sara alone. She lifted her head and saw the crowd of eyes that had witnessed the verbal beating she'd just received. Once again publicly humiliated, Stephanie rushed from the room.
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE
"I-I just can't believe my marriage is over." Francis gazed down at the floor; her mind unable to focus on anything. "Everything I've ever known is now just gone. My marriage, my life, my dreams... Am I right not to be able to forgive Charles for what he's done? Am I right for leaving him and my marriage?"
"Dear, I don't know what I would have done if I'd caught your father in the same situation," Mary said as she walked over to her. "Thank god we never had to go through a crisis like this. Though I don't know if I would've been able to forgive him, I do know that I wouldn't have been able to forget!"
"Oh, I can just imagine what everyone in town is saying!" Francis buried her head in her hands. "There has never been a divorce in the Albany family! Not even in the Callison family! I can't be the first! I can't! What are the women in the hospital auxiliary going to think of me?"
"Who cares what those busybody crows think?" Mary's housekeeper Dorothea Jackson spoke up as she handed Mary a cup of tea. "There are worse things in the world than divorce. Don't you dare let those cackling hens make you feel bad about yourself. None of this is your fault. You've done nothing wrong!"
"I-I know that," Francis muttered.
"Dottie is right!" Mary nodded her head in agreement.
"You let those women have whatever silly opinions they want. You have to hold your head up high, honey, be proud of who you are. Don't ever let them take your dignity." Dorothea patted Francis gently on the shoulder.
"But I still love Charles so much! In spite of everything that's happened, I love him with all my heart. But how can I forgive him for what he's done?"
"Darling, that's something you have to work out for yourself," Mary replied as she held Francis' hand reassuringly. "No one can make that decision for you. Whatever you decide, I'll support you every step of the way."
"But surely everyone will think I'm a horrible person if I get a divorce! How would I ever be able to hold my head up again?"
"You forget what everyone else thinks!" Dorothea said firmly. "You have to do what's right for you."
Mary silently nodded her head in agreement.
GOOD HOPE CHURCH
"I know I could never make up for all the pain I've caused Francis and my family," Charles muttered. "I've completely thrown away all the love she's offered me over the years. I am so unworthy of her."
"Oh, Charles you can't say that!" Annabelle tried to hide her glee at Charles' remorse. She realized that she could most certainly use this to her advantage. "If she can't realize how lucky she is to have you, then she's the one that doesn't deserve you!"
"Lucky to have me? I-I don't think so. How can she consider herself lucky to be married to an unfaithful husband who carelessly ripped out her heart? I'm not good for her, Annabelle! I've hurt her once, I can't allow myself to hurt her again. She's so much better off without me. Landon would never have done something like this."
"What are you trying to say, Charles?" She held on to his arm as she looked at him eagerly.
"I-I have to stay away from Francis for her own good. I have to make sure that I never let her be hurt by me again."
"Are you trying to say you want to divorce your wife?" She carefully nudged the conversation in the direction she desired.
"I-I hadn't thought of that." He rested his chin in his hand as he carefully thought about what Annabelle had said. He really couldn't imagine a life without Francis. She was, after all, the person he loved most in this world. However, he realized that holding on to her would mean that he would have a greater chance of hurting her again. He knew he'd been weak. Could he even ignore the possibility that he would succumb to temptation again? Finally he accepted what he must do. "I have to keep her away from me...for her own good. If that means a divorce, then that's the way it has to be."
"Oh, Charles," she said softly as she held him in hopes of providing him with some comfort. "Come home with me, Charles. Let me take your mind off this horrible mess."
He looked at her and carefully weighed his options. He slowly nodded in agreement and she led him to the door. Desperately, he hoped that Annabelle could take his mind of the deep pain he was suffering. He had to do anything he could to forget Francis...for her own good.
"Oh, Patterson!" Stephanie sobbed as she ran up and threw herself into his arms.
"Steph, what's wrong?" He asked as he carefully held her. He looked up to see Lorraine glaring at their embrace. Cautiously, he pulled away.
"I-I tried to talk to Sara," Stephanie sobbed. "I just wanted to tell her that I hope she's happy. I wanted to tell her how sorry I was for everything."
"It didn't go well, did it?"
"It was horrible! She'll never be able to forgive me for trying to get Dane away from her."
"And why should she?" Lorraine spoke up as she looked sternly at Stephanie. "You're a scheming little liar who'll do anything it takes to get what you want. To hell with anyone else! Even your own family!"
"Lorraine, that's enough..." Patterson shot her an angry glance as he tried to silence her. "Can't you see how sorry she is for everything? Can't you understand that Stephanie wants to make up for all the terrible things she's done?"
"I-I really am trying to do better." Stephanie looked away in embarrassment over Lorraine's outburst. How could she argue with her when everything she'd said had been the truth?
"And she's doing really well, too." He looked down at Stephanie and smiled as he tried to reinforce her determination to put her manipulative ways behind her.
"How can you honestly be fooled by her?" Lorraine let out a thin laugh. "You've seen what kind of stunts she pulls! Surely you're not stupid enough to believe her!"
"I do believe her and I do support her."
"I think I'm going to be sick!" Lorraine spat as she turned and stormed away.
Stephanie looked up and sighed. Getting back in good graces with everyone was going to be much harder than she thought. Meanwhile, Patterson began to worry about what was wrong with Lorraine. She just hadn't been acting like herself lately.
TO BE CONTINUED
Could a chance meeting between strangers lead to romance?
For Now and Forever
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