For Now and Forever
EPISODE #39 (Thursday
THE LAMONT HOME
Burt walked along the upstairs hallway and headed for the stairs. He had a lunch date with Janet and didn't want to be late, but the sound of sobbing coming from his mother's bedroom stopped him dead in his tracks. Burt quickly turned and noticed that the door was slightly open. Very cautiously, he walked over and quietly looked in. Penelope was sitting on her bed and looking at what appeared to be an old book. The distressed look on her face worried him and he knocked lightly on the door.
"Ma?" Burt asked as he pushed the door open. "Are you alright?"
"Oh, Burton!" Penelope jumped slightly in shock and quickly shoved the book behind her. "I-I'm fine."
Her actions had been swift enough to prevent Burt from seeing what she'd been looking at. However, it clearly was a photo album. As he stepped further into the room, he wondered why his mother seemed to be hiding it.
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE
Francis stood in the doorway and glared at her daughter Maggie as she sat on the floor snapping her gum while she listened intently to the radio. With determination, Francis walked briskly over to the radio and quickly switched it off.
"Hey, what did you do that for?" Maggie exclaimed as she bolted up right and looked angrily at her mother. "I was listening to that show!"
"Young lady, you've spent entirely too much time listening to the radio and not enough time on your school work!" Francis stood with her hands on her hips as she looked down at Maggie who was beginning to pout. "I just received your grades for the first half of this semester and they leave much to be desired."
"Ohhhh," Maggie grumbled as she folded her arms across her chest and stuck out her bottom lip. "It's just mid-term! They don't really count! I'll have them back up before Christmas break."
"Well, you better!" Francis pulled the report card out of her pocket and held it up for Maggie to see. "Just look at this! English...'C', Algebra....'D', History....'D'...."
"I got an 'B' in Home Ec.!"
"Don't be fresh!" Francis slapped the report card down on top of the radio before returning her focus to her daughter. "Until your grades come up, no more radio!"
"No 'but, Mother' me!" Francis turned and quickly sat down in the chair beside where Maggie was sitting on the floor. "You're grades have to come up! If you've got any intention of making something out of yourself, you have to lay the foundation now. No college would even think to look at you with grades like these."
"Mother, college is still a couple of years away. Why do I have to think about all of that now?" Maggie shoulders slumped. She knew it was useless trying to win this argument with her mother, but it was worth a shot.
"But you have to start planning now, dear."
"I don't know how you expect me to study considering everything that's on my mind!" Maggie began to feel her temper rise again as she glared at her mother.
"W-what? What's on your mind?" Francis felt slightly taken aback. She knew the obvious answer, already, but it was one problem she didn't want to deal with.
"Everything that's being going on between you and Dad." Maggie's mind began to drift back to the day before. She'd been over at Eliza Campbell's house and her mother Corinne had made a few backhanded comments about Francis. "Momma, it's all my fault! If I hadn't ratted Dad out, we would still be at home! We wouldn't be living here with Nana!"
Francis felt her breath catch in her throat. She'd known that her separation from Charles' had been difficult for their children, but none of them had seemed to want to discuss their concerns with her. Now the result of their troubles was clearly reflected in Maggie's eyes. Francis' heart quickly began to break.
THE LAMONT HOME - PENELOPE'S BEDROOM
"Is that a photo album you're looking at?" Burt questioned cautiously. He had to have answers to his mother's secrets, but he was desperately worried about upsetting her too much. Her health was much too important. "I-I don't think I've ever seen it before."
"Um, yes, Burt, it is an album." Penelope's fingers gently grazed its dusty cover as she carefully slid it further behind her.
"Where did you get it? What's in it?" He walked closer to her to get a better look, but she quickly shifted her position on the bed so that he couldn't see.
"Oh, they're just pictures of you and Randy when you were babies." It wasn't a total lie. There were pictures of her children in the album. "Some pictures of me and your father before he left us." Still, not a lie.
"Can I see them, Ma?" Burt reached out his hand to her, but she backed away. "C'mon, Ma. I want to see the pictures of us and Pa. I want to remember when things were better."
"Oh, it's best to just forget all that foolishness now." Penelope exhaled slowly and hung her head. "Your father's gone and, besides, things really weren't that great when he was around, anyway. Let's just let it rest."
Burt let out a heavy sigh as he watched his mother closely. Why did she look so wistful at first when remembering his father, but then seemed so cold when mentioning him again. How many things was she really hiding from him. "Okay, Ma, if you think it's best." He knew not to press the issue. It seemed like every time he tried to bring up her mysterious resentment of the Callisons, she'd have another spell. He greatly feared upsetting her again. Her health was much too precious for that.
"Well, I've got a stack of dishes in the sink, Burt." Penelope rose from the bed with the photo album still clutched in her hands behind her back. She discreetly slid it back to its home under her bed and slowly walked towards the door. "Are you coming?" she asked as she turned to look back at Burt.
"Um, yeah, Ma," he muttered as he carefully eyed the exact spot where she'd put the album. He was sure that it held the key to all of his mother's secrets. Burt just knew he had to see what it contained without his mother knowing. "Yeah, I'm coming." As his mind begin to whirl with a million thoughts, he quietly followed Penelope's lead from the room.
THE LAKE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM
"Oh, Charles," Annabelle giggled in a slightly school-girlish short of way as he nuzzled the softness of her neck. "The things you do to me."
"More like the things you'd like me to do to you." Charles let out a small chuckle as he pulled away from her and looked at her closely. She was so beautiful. Not in the same way that Francis was beautiful, but beautiful none the less. He wondered for a moment how two women could be so beautiful, but in such different ways. Francis had such an quiet, elegant beauty while Annabelle's was more raw and sensuous. They were so different from each other.
"Charles? Are you listening to me?"
"Oh, I'm sorry, dear," he smiled as he extracted himself from his own musings. "I-I must have lost myself in thought again."
Annabelle's brow furrowed slightly. She quickly realized that he'd been thinking of his wife again. Why couldn't she push her memory from his mind? How could she get him to completely let go of Francis? Her own thoughts were quickly interrupted by the opening of the front door.
"Momma, Mr. Callison," Stephanie spoke up rather awkwardly as she led Clark into the apartment. "I-I hope we're not interrupting anything."
"No, Stephanie, not at all." Charles said as he rose from the couch. "In fact, I really need to be going. There's a lot of work I have to finish." He turned to look at Annabelle. "I've got to go over Preston's contract again. I just know there's something in it I'm missing. There's got to be some reason he's fighting so hard to get out of his commitments."
"I understand, dear." Annabelle's eyes followed Charles as he grabbed his jacket and headed for the door. "I'll see you later?"
"Of course, Annabelle." He nodded politely to Stephanie and Clark and then left.
"So," Annabelle said as she turned her attention toward her daughter and her young suitor, "this must be the mysterious Mr. Clark Saxon. My daughter has told me so much about you."
"I-I don't really know how mysterious I am, Mrs. Lake." Clark slowly approached Annabelle and took her outstretched hand. "I'm pretty much an open book."
"Really?" Annabelle eyed him curiously as she reclined back onto the couch and casually lit a cigarette. "So what exactly are your intentions concerning my daughter?"
"Mother!" Stephanie gasped in shock. She knew that her mother could be rather blunt, but she'd hoped that she wouldn't be so immediate about it.
"Settle down, dear, I'm just asking this nice young man some questions." Annabelle continued to smile as she patted a spot next to her on the couch. "Come sit down, Clark, and tell me about yourself."
"Um, not much to tell, really." His nervousness was apparent. Why hadn't Helen warned him about Stephanie's mother? He'd never been good with girls' parents. "I'm a senior at AU and a member of Delta Phi fraternity..."
"Yes, from what Stephanie has told me, your social credentials are quite exquisite." She continued to eye him closely. True, he appeared to be just the sort of young man she's always wanted for her daughter, but something just didn't sit right. Annabelle had learned a long time ago to trust her gut instinct. This time, her gut was telling her to be weary of Clark Saxon. "Stephanie, would you join me in the kitchen?" she asked as she rose from her place on the couch. "We need to prepare some refreshments for your friend."
"Yes, Momma." Stephanie smiled nervously at Clark and then followed Annabelle's cloud of smoke into the kitchen. "Momma, what are you doing? Why are you asking Clark all those questions?" she asked as she glared at her after the kitchen door had swung closed.
"I just want to know the type of boys you're associating with, dear. That's all." Annabelle set a silver serving tray on the counter and began to pull glasses out of the cupboard.
"Well, you're embarrassing me!"
"Better a little embarrassment now rather than a lot of embarrassment later." Annabelle began to fill the glasses with iced tea. "Don't get too involved with this Saxon boy."
"What?" Stephanie was shocked. Clark was exactly the type of young man her mother had always pressed her to become involved with. He was from a socially prominent family with quite a bit of money. What could possibly be her problem with him?
"Something is telling me that there's something not right about him. He's not right for you."
"Momma! He's perfect!" Stephanie crossed her arms and stuck out her bottom lip. "Don't you want me to be happy?"
Annabelle did, indeed, want her daughter to be happy with a wealthy, socially prominent boy. However, she couldn't shake the nagging feeling that Clark Saxon was not the one. She pursed her lips tightly and tried to figure out why she had the feeling that Clark would only bring Stephanie trouble and heartache.
THE SUNSET HOTEL - MARY'S PENTHOUSE
"Maggie, whatever is going on between me and your father has nothing to do with you." Francis gently lifted her daughter's face so that their eyes met. Francis began to feel the tears well up inside her as she saw Maggie's own tears begin to flow. "None of you children have any reason to shoulder any of the blame."
"But it's my fault! Everything is all my fault!" Maggie buried her face in her mother's lap as her body began to shake with her sobs. "If I'd just kept my big trap shut, none of this would ever have happened! You must hate me for ruining everything!"
"Don't you ever say that Margaret Rose Callison!" Francis said sternly as she gently shook her daughter. "I could never hate you! Do you hear me? Never!"
Maggie looked so pitiful as the tears streamed down her face and her bottom lip began to quiver. Despite what her mother had said, she knew full well that everything that had happened these last few months had most definitely been her fault. She'd tried so hard to push those thoughts out of her head, but they kept returning over and over again.
"I still love you with all my heart and I know your father feels the exact same way."
"Oh, it's all my fault!" Maggie exclaimed as she quickly got up and ran from the room, nearly knocking down her grandmother in the process.
"What in the devil is going on here?" Mary asked as she stood in the open doorway and looked at Francis. "I go out for just a couple of hours and come back to a scene right out of Ma Perkins. What's going on? Why is Maggie so upset?"
"Oh, Mother," Francis sighed as she sunk back onto the sofa in despair. "It's this entire mess with Charles. Maggie holds herself responsible for everything that's happened. I knew she'd been trying to hide her true feelings about everything that's been going on, but it just all starting coming out."
Seeing her own daughter's distress and tears, Mary quickly went to her and held her in her arms for comfort. "Oh, Francis, things will get better. Trust me. Things always have to get better. It just takes time."
"Oh, Momma, how can you say that? How can you believe that with everything that's happened." Francis began to cry more freely in the security of her mother's arms. "How can things ever be better? My husband's left me for another woman; my children's lives are all in disarray because of it. The boys might not want to admit it, but I know they're just as torn up about it as Maggie."
"Francis," Mary spoke up as she pulled away from her and looked her firmly in the eyes. "Francis, listen to me. Do you still love your husband?"
"I-I don't know, anymore. How can I still love him after everything that's happened? How can I still love Charles after all the pain he's caused for me and our children?"
"Listen to me." Mary gently placed her hand on Francis' chin and held her head still so that she was forced to look at her. "Search your heart. Search long and hard. Find out if you still love him."
"A-and what if I do?"
"If after you've searched and learned that you still love Charles as much as you always have in spite of everything that he's done," Mary paused as she took a deep breath for strength, "then you need to fight for him tooth and nail. Don't let that horrible Lake woman take away from you everything that you love. Do everything in your power to get him away from Annabelle and save him from himself."
THE LAMONT HOME
Burt gently pulled his bedroom door closed and headed for the stairs. Suddenly, he stopped in front of his mother's room and looked intently at the shut door. The sound of clinking dishes downstairs in the kitchen clearly told him that his mother was preoccupied with finishing her chores for the day. Could he risk it? He just had to know what was in that photo album.
Very quietly, he pushed Penelope's door open and immediately saw the exact spot under her bed where he'd seen her slip the album. Pausing just a moment to make sure he still heard his mother in the kitchen, he snuck over and knelt down beside the bed. Pulling up the dust ruffle and reaching under the bed, he found the album immediately.
Slowly and with much interest, he began to look through the album. Just as his mother had said, there were countless pictures of him and his younger brother Randy as babies and small children. Burt smiled as he remembered some of the happy moments captured in the photographs. However, when he turned the page again, he spotted another picture that quickly peaked his interest.
It was a picture of his mother when she was much, much younger. She was quite beautiful and striking then. Of course, that was long before the hardships that they had been forced to face. His brow furrowed when he realized that he'd never seen the picture before. Careful inspection made him realize that he'd never seen any of those pictures of his mother before. When he turned the page again, he found more pictures of his mother, but this time they were mixed in with pictures of a man that Burt did not recognize.
With dark hair and strong, handsome features, Burt knew immediately that they weren't pictures of his father. There was no resemblance between them at all. Another turn of the page revealed pictures of his mother and this man together. One photograph in particular quickly caught his attention.
The man had his arms wrapped tightly around Penelope's waist and she was looking up at him with a glow of dewy admiration and love. Love? Was that the right word to describe how his mother looked? Yes. Burt was almost sure of it. From the looks of the picture, his mother appeared to be very much in love with this man. How odd. Remembering his mother's habit of carefully documenting each picture by writing the subject and date on the back, he pulled the photograph from its slot in the album and began to turn it over. The sound of creaking at the bottom of the stairs stopped him dead in his tracks. Penelope was coming up the stairs!
Quickly, Burt put the picture back in its place and slid the album back under the bed. He quietly tiptoed to the door and peered out. She hadn't appeared in the hallway yet. With one swift movement, Burt exited his mother's room and rushed into his own and shut the door. When he heard his mother in the hallway, he took a deep breath and prepared to leave.
"Burt, if you don't hurry, you'll be late for your date," Penelope said as he quickly left his room and breezed past her.
"I'm leaving now," he called over his shoulder as he hurried down the stairs and out of the house.
Penelope paused for a moment. Burt's tone of voice was rather odd, but she couldn't put her finger on exactly why. Realizing she was now alone in the house, she stepped into her room. Her eyes grew wide when she immediately saw the dust ruffle of her bed in slight disarray. It was most definitely not how she'd left it. Burt! Burt had been in there snooping! She quickly knelt down beside the bed and reached under it. Behind the exact location of the disturbed ruffle lay the photo album. Had he seen everything in the album? Did he know the truth?
Penelope let out a worried sigh and realized that if Burt had discovered what she'd fought for so many years to hide, he'd surely have confronted her with it instead of rushing out. As she gently ran her fingers over the cover of the album, she realized that she had to be more careful. She had to keep the truth hidden. Burt could never know what secrets the album held. If he did, they would surely destroy them all.
TO BE CONTINUED
Jillian and Judith discuss Janet's secrets.
For Now and Forever
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