For Now and Forever
EPISODE #28 (Wednesday
SPRINGHILL MANOR - FOYER
"Helga!" Thornton Preston called out as he stepped through the doors of his new home. "Have the driver bring in my bags."
"Yes, Mr. Preston," the faithful housekeeper replied as she rushed out to the car.
Thornton casually survey his new surroundings. He'd rented the estate sight unseen through an agency. He hadn't realized that the place had been constructed to resemble a veritable castle. He smirked at the thought...a castle for a future Hollywood king. As Helga hurried back in past him carrying and armload of small boxes, Thornton silently climbed the stairs to further inspect his new home.
"Mr. Preston?" Helga spoke up as he made his descent down the staircase. "How are negotiations coming with Mr. Callison?"
"He's being quite the stubborn fool!" Thornton walked across the foyer and slid open the large wooden doors that lead to the library. He looked around and nodded his head. He was very pleased that everything had arrived just as he'd instructed. "As soon as he realizes that it would be extremely foolhardy to keep me bound by this ridiculous contract, the better off we'll all be!"
"Mr. DeMille phoned before you arrived," Helga announced as she stood tentively in the doorway. "He said it was urgent and you were to phone him at once. He mentioned The Manhattan Conflict..."
Thornton threw up his hand to silence Helga. "Please, don't discuss these matters openly. I don't need everyone on the planet knowing of my dealings with Cecil."
She casually raised an eyebrow and turned her head to survey the room. They were the only ones there. What could he possibly be worried about? "Um...Mr. Preston, we are alone, you know? The movers have all left and you gave your driver the rest of the day off."
"Oh, yes, I did, didn't I?" He sat down into one of the large, stuffed chairs in the library and lit his pipe. "Well, pour me a brandy, Helga. I've got to think of someway to get out of this contract. Tainted Woman is sure to be a smash hit at the box-office and Cecil insists on directing the film version of Conflict. He claims to be able to get me quite a hefty sum for the rights to it."
"But doesn't Callison Publications hold all the rights to your next novel?"
"Exactly, my dear." He took the snifter from her hands and held it up so that he could inhale the aroma of the brandy. "If I let Callison Publications do the negotiations, I certainly wouldn't receive the same amount of money that I would if I dealt with Cecil directly." He pulled the manuscript for The Manhattan Conflict out of his briefcase and eyed it closely. "Trust me, what he's offering is more than Charles Callison could ever offer through one of his stupid contracts."
Helga slowly maneuvered around the room straightening and arranging photographs and mementos. She picked up a picture of an elegant, brunette woman and examined it closely. "When will your wife be joining you here in Albanyville?"
"Please refrain from mentioning Mrs. Preston," Thornton ordered as his jaw clinched tightly. "And put that picture away! The less I have to be reminded of that woman, the better."
She nodded curtly and quickly turned the picture face down as she laid it in a drawer and quickly pushed it shut. She knew Thornton's feelings about his wife and realized that she need not make the mistake of speaking of her again.
"Are you sure you're alright?" Grace asked as she examined Janet closely. "Just a moment ago you seemed as if you'd seen a ghost. Why, you're as white as a sheet."
"I-I'm fine." Janet raised her hand as if to brush away Grace's concern as well as her own troubled memories of the past.
"Grace!" Trevor called out as he approached the girls and interrupted before Grace had a chance to question Janet further. "How lucky for me that I found you here!"
"Well, hello, Trevor." Grace smiled warmly at him and quickly noticed the picnic basket that he carried down by his side. "What's this?"
"Actually, I was just heading over to your house to see if you'd like to enjoy this wonderful afternoon in the park." He grinned at Grace and nodded politely toward Janet. "I hope you like chicken salad."
"I love chicken salad!" Grace exclaimed. She quickly turned and looked nervously at Janet. "A-are you sure you're okay?"
"Grace, thank you for your concern, but I'm fine." Janet casually motioned for Grace to join Trevor. As she watched the happy couple walk away, her mind again began to drift to things better left forgotten. Why were all of these old memories rearing their ugly heads now? Why couldn't she just leave the past in the past? Suddenly, a familiar voice intruded on her dark reflections and brought her back to a happier present.
"I had a feeling I'd find you here."
"Oh, Burt!" Janet all but glowed at the sight of him standing in front of her. "I-I didn't hear you walk up."
"I didn't scare you did I?" He took a seat beside her on the bench and looked deeply into her eyes. "I-I have to confess that I haven't stopped thinking about you since the other night."
"You've been on my mind a lot, too." She blushed slightly as she lowered her head. She couldn't believe he was beginning to stir such feelings in her so quickly. Was that why the past was starting to haunt her more and more?
"I see you've been painting again." Burt held up Janet's artwork and smiled his approval. "Granted, I don't know a whole lot about art, but I'm just amazed at the work that you do." Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of Trevor and Grace relaxing on a blanket under a small grove of trees. He turned cautiously and began to watch them intently. Trevor Callison was the type of man he'd dreamed he could have been...successful, well to do, prominent. If only Burt had been born with the same advantages. If only...
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Helga, I can assure you that Mrs. Preston will most definitely not be joining me." Thornton glared intently out into space as he was forced to think of his wife. "I'm sure she's way too busy gallivanting around Europe to even be bothered."
"I tried to tell you about her! I had a feeling!" Helga shook her finger in his direction as if she were scolding a child. There had never been any love lost between Helga and her employer's wife. She was sure things wouldn't change any time soon. "As soon as I met that woman, I knew she was a viper. I tried to warn you about what kind of woman she was, but you had to know everything! You had to find out for yourself!"
"Helga, that's enough," he muttered. He rose from his chair and began to nervously pace the floor. Out of sight and out of mind was exactly where he liked to keep his errant wife. The less he had to deal with her, the better. "I admit I realized my error in judgment entirely too late. I should have listened to you. You've always been such a good judge of character."
"One of these days, Mr. Preston, you'll understand that I know what's best for you."
"Yes, I know." Thornton let out a heavy sigh and took another sip of brandy. "But what can I do about it now? To divorce her would cost me a lot more money than staying married to her would. That's all she really cares about anyway. I'm much better off keeping her as my wife and letting her run around doing whatever it is she does. What that woman does is of no consequence nor concern to me." He turned to face her and motioned with his hands for her to leave. "Now leave me alone, Helga, I have much work to do if I'm to get out of this contract."
"Yes, sir." Helga nodded curtly and slowly backed out of the library before pulling the heavy wooden doors closed.
THE LAKE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"I'm so glad you could come over to help me with this silly Algebra homework," Stephanie said as she pushed open the door and led Clark into the apartment. "I guess high school really didn't prepare me very well for college. I don't have a clue as to what Professor Dunlap is saying."
"Well, freshman math can be quite rough." Clark carefully surveyed the modest apartment and smiled inwardly to himself. Of course, it wasn't quite what he was used to, but it was tastefully decorated with many homey touches. It wasn't at all like his parents home with its museum feel.
"Apparently, Momma hasn't gotten home yet." Stephanie dropped her books onto the floor and flopped down onto the couch. "So, where should we start? I was thinking page one." She giggled at her own remark and looked up to find Clark watching her closely. "W-what's the matter? Did I do something wrong? Do I have something on my face?"
"Oh, no, not at all," he laughed as he walked over to her and joined her on the couch. "I was just thinking about how beautiful you are. I'm not kidding you when I say that I think you're the most beautiful girl on campus."
"Oh, Clark!" She blushed slightly as she giggled and bowed her head in polite modesty. "You most definitely know how to win a girl over."
"Well, I hope I am winning you over." He slid over next to her and gently stroked her soft hair. "Stephanie, I've grown to care for you a great deal in such a short time. I-I know we just met, but I feel such a closeness to you."
"I-I feel the same way, Clark."
He moved even closer to her and leaned in so that his lips carefully brushed hers. Their kiss was tentative at first but quickly grew with ardent passion. Still entwined, his hand slipped down to the buttons of her blouse and he skillfully began to undo them.
"C-Clark, w-what are you doing?" Stephanie stammered as she tried to pull away. "N-no, Clark. It's t-too soon."
"But don't you feel the same way about me as I do about you?"
"Of course I do!" She inhaled deeply and tried to decide what to do. The old Stephanie would have been on him in a minute, but this was the new and improved Stephanie. The new version was supposed to have scruples and morals. She thought about Patterson and what he would think of her and realized that she couldn't go through with it. "Clark, I can't! It's just too soon."
"Alright," he muttered as he pulled away from her. He was clearly disappointed that she'd put a stop to his advances. "I'm sorry, dear, but you are just so beautiful. I know it's too soon, but I can't help but want you. However, I'll wait until you're ready."
"Thank you." She held her head down. She was almost embarrassed by her newfound morality. "I-I think you better leave."
He nodded his agreement and slowly got up, gave her a quick kiss on the cheek, and walked out of the apartment.
Alone, Stephanie let out a deep sigh as she sulked on the couch. "This newfound virtue is going to be harder than I thought," she muttered to herself as she remembered how wonderful Clark's touch had felt. Deciding that studying would take her mind off of him, she reached down to grab one of her books. Out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a newly framed picture of Dane and Sara from their wedding. Stephanie took the photograph into her hands and examined it closely. How odd that Sara was the epitome of happiness while Dane looked as if he were being led to a hanging.
"How did she manage to convince him to marry her?" she muttered as she looked at the picture. "I bet if I figure that out, I can find a way to get back at him for destroying everything that I had."
THE MONROE HOME - LIVING ROOM
"That's very good, Todd!" Lorraine exclaimed as she sat on the floor coloring with Patterson's little brother. "You're doing very good staying inside the lines."
"'Raine?" Todd spoke up as he tugged gently on the sleeve of her blouse.
"Are you going to stay with Paddy and me forever?" He looked up at her with his large, blue eyes.
Lorraine let out a heavy sigh as she tried to fight back her tears. Though no blood relation, Todd had become almost like a little brother to her. Actually, the closest thing to a child that she'd ever had. Now she was expecting one of her own. Unfortunately, the father was not Todd's brother Patterson. How could she promise to stay with them forever when she herself didn't know whether that could be possible?
Before Lorraine could make any guarantees, Patterson walked through the door fresh from a late class and smiled as he saw his two favorite people in the world sitting on the floor and enjoying each other's company. "Now if this isn't the perfect sight to come home to, nothing is!"
"Paddy!" Todd exclaimed as he quickly got up and ran to greet his brother.
"Sorry I'm late, but Dr. Faraday wanted to talk to me about becoming a tutor."
"I thought you might have stopped by the office this afternoon and we could've had lunch," Lorraine said as she walked over to him and gave him a light peck on the cheek.
"No time. I didn't have a lot of room between classes, today." Patterson sat his books down on the side table before walking over to the couch to sit down. "I did stop in at The Well for a quick bite. I ran into Stephanie and her new beau. He had to run and she and I ate and chatted for a bit."
"I don't know why you associate with that girl," the Monroe's housekeeper Mrs. Oliver said as she walked into the room and started gathering up Todd's toys that were strewn across the floor. "After everything she's done, I'd expect that you'd want to stay as far away from her as possible."
"Don't you start, too," Patterson moaned as he shook his head. "Why can't you all see how she's trying to change? She really wants to be a better person!"
"Well, I wouldn't turn my back on that child if I were you," Mrs. Oliver warned as she shook her finger at him. "Why, your dear parents must be turning over in their graves to know you're associating with the likes of her! You listen to me, young man, you stay as far away from that wretched girl as you can!"
Patterson rested his head in his hands. Why couldn't they see that Stephanie had changed? Why couldn't they see she was working to be better? What did he have to do to prove to them that the old Stephanie was gone for good?
TO BE CONTINUED
How will Francis respond to Dr. Rutherford's advances?
For Now and Forever
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