For Now and Forever
EPISODE #49 (Thursday
Stephanie Lake moved briskly along the sidewalk as she headed toward the library. "Two research papers due on the same day!" she grumbled to herself. "How am I supposed to get them both done and keep up with my work study? Don't these professors ever talk to one another? Don't they know that it's too much work?" She juggled her books again and turned the corner. An odd sight directly in front of her stopped her dead in her tracks.
She furrowed her brow, not exactly believing what she was seeing. Clark Saxon and Helen Van Dyne were standing and talking to each other. She quickly remembered Helen's spiteful comments at Jillian's engagement party and grew curious as to what they were discussing. Surely Helen wasn't filling Clark's head with stories about how she'd schemed to separate Reginald and Jillian! Stephanie grew nervous and feared what Clark's reaction would be. She knew Helen would greatly over exaggerate her manipulations and was terrified that he'd never want to speak to her again.
Silently, Stephanie crept up on them unnoticed and positioned herself behind a bush so that she could hear their every word. She just had to know what Helen was saying about her.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Mr. Preston!" Douglas Davis spoke up as he stood in the doorway of the library. "Helga told me to come on in."
"Hello, Mr. Davis," Thornton said as he rose from his desk and approached him. "I'm glad you came so quickly."
"From your housekeeper's phone call, it sounded urgent." Douglas shook Thornton's hand, followed him back to his desk, and took a seat on the opposite side of Thornton. "And please, call me Douglas."
"All right, Douglas." Thornton took a deep breath and looked intently at him.
"So, I'm assuming you've called me here to discuss your contract." Douglas carefully braced himself for a heated discussion of its terms and conditions. "I should tell you before hand that no matter what you say or try to do, Callison Publications is not prepared to release you from your obligations. You are still contracted to hand over The Manhattan Conflict and we expect you to make it available for publication at once! Now, I have gone over your contract again and I've made a few possible revisions that I'd like for you to look at. I think they might make things more to your liking." Douglas reached into his briefcase and prepared to pull out the edited contract.
"Put that silly thing away." Thornton waved his hand to signify his disinterest. "I didn't call you hear to discuss that blasted contract."
Douglas grew quiet and looked at him curiously. "Then why did you call me over here?"
"I want to talk to you about my will, Douglas." Thornton took a deep breath and leaned back in his chair. "I need you to make some revisions for me."
"But, Mr. Preston, I am not your attorney. I am Charles Callison's attorney. I don't know if I should really be handling your personal matters. Don't you have your own attorney to handle such things?"
"Yes, in fact, I do." Thornton kept his eyes firmly focused on Douglas. He hoped he hadn't made an error in judgment. He hoped Douglas could be trusted to keep his personal matters secret. Through his dealings with him over his contract, he'd come to respect Douglas and his skills as a lawyer. He knew he could adequately handle the changes he needed. "However, my personal attorney is in New York and he's tied up with other matters. I consider these changes to be very important and I need to have them made immediately. I will trust that you keep this between us."
"Of course." Douglas clearly knew the confidence that was required between attorney and client. Though he represented Callison Publications in their business dealings, this was a personal matter. He was positive he could keep his alliances separate.
"No one must ever learn of these changes." Thornton paused for a moment as a dark cloud passed over his eyes. "At least until they are needed to be revealed. No one is ever to see this will until after my death."
THE WISHING WELL SODA SHOPPE
"He is just so cute!" Eliza Campbell gushed as she propped her chin in her hands and stared at Randy as he sat at a table across the room.
"Would you quit mooning over Randy Lamont and help me study for this test!" Maggie shot her friend a hateful look and began to quickly grow annoyed. "My mother will absolutely kill me if I don't pass this test! If I don't get my grades up, she'll never let me go to the Fall Dance."
"You'll do fine," Eliza assured. "Just stick with me and I'll get you through. You just have to help me get Randy to ask me to that dance!"
"We tried that already." Maggie gritted her teeth and glared at her. "It didn't work, remember? Just give up on this little crush of yours and find someone else to take you."
"I don't want anyone else to take me! I want Randy!"
Maggie slumped back into her seat and rolled her eyes. "Your mother is going to have a fit! You know Randy lives in that old farm house out by my family's stables. His brother works there! She'll never let you go to the dance with him! She can be rather...rather..."
"Well...yes!" And Maggie couldn't say that she disagreed with Eliza's mother...at least not in this case. Though Eliza's mother Corinne Campbell had made several unkind remarks concerning Maggie's mother Francis, Maggie clearly understood her position as far as boys like Randy were concerned. Girls with the social background and upbringing that Maggie and Eliza had did not associate with boys like that!
"I don't care what she thinks! She's not dating him!"
"And apparently, neither are you."
"Would you quit being so argumentative and just help me!" Eliza folded her arms across her chest and stuck her bottom lip out in a pout.
"If you want to go to the dance with him so bad, then why don't you just ask him yourself?"
"Oh, I couldn't!" Eliza gasped as her hand flew up to her chest in shock. "I couldn't never ask a boy for a date! That just wouldn't be proper!"
"And I suppose conning him into asking you out would be?"
"Well, that's different! You know as well as I do that boys don't ever know what they really want. It's always up to us girls to make up their minds for them." Eliza allowed her eyes to drift over to Randy again and she let out a small sigh.
"That's it!" Maggie spoke up as she shot up out of her seat. "I see that I'm going to have to take drastic measures if I have any hopes of getting you to focus your attention on me and my problems!" She grabbed Eliza's hand and pulled her out of her seat.
"What are you doing?" Eliza gasped as she tried to resist. "Let go of me!"
"Not until we settle this once and for all!" Maggie kept her firm grasp on Eliza's hand and drug her over to where Randy was sitting. "Hello, Randy," she spoke up as she glared at Eliza before turning to face him.
"Um, hello, girls," Randy muttered hesitantly and quickly grew nervous. He could tell something was clearly up, but what?
"Randy, are you still dateless for the Fall Dance?" Maggie asked rather pointedly.
"Y-yes, I am." He blushed slightly at the awkwardness of the situation. "In fact, I've decided that I'm not going."
"Well, you're changing your mind!" Maggie smirked slightly and then looked at Eliza. "She's dateless, too! Or, rather, she was."
Eliza's jaw dropped in horror. Surely Maggie wasn't going to do what she thought she was going to do.
"I don't think I understand what you're getting at." Randy's eyes jumped from Maggie to Eliza and then back again.
Maggie let out a sigh and rolled her eyes. "What I'm saying is that you two aren't dateless anymore." She looked at both of and saw the looks of confusion on their faces. In one, swift movement, she pushed Eliza towards Randy and took a step away. "You two are going to the dance together! That's final!" As Eliza's jaw dropped in horror and embarrassment, Maggie quickly turned on her heel and stormed away.
"Oh, I can't believe she did that!" Eliza gasped as she turned to face Randy. "I'm so mortified!"
"Well, it's not necessarily a bad idea." he commented as he smiled at her.
"You and me going to the dance together isn't such a bad idea. Neither one of us has a date. Why don't we go together?"
"Why, Randy, if I didn't know better, I'd think you were asking me for a date!" Eliza lowered her head coyly and faked a blush.
"Well, maybe I am." He smiled at her and suddenly began to grow excited about the dance.
As a grin began to spread across Eliza's face, she decided that maybe Maggie did know what she was doing after all.
As Stephanie kept her presence hidden behind the bush, she listened intently to Helen and Clark's conversation. When she heard her named mentioned, she immediately grew frightened.
"Do you have to be such an idiot!" Helen snapped as she glared at Clark. "You weren't supposed to manhandle her! You were supposed to seduce her!"
"Well, she's not quite as easy as you said she was." Clark kept his calm in spite of Helen's rantings. "She's not frigid, or anything, but she's not the least bit loose, either."
"Well, I refuse to believe that!" She folded her arms across her chest and turned away from him. "You know how she threw herself at Reginald Callison! You know all those nasty tricks she pulled to break him and Jillian up! What kind of girl would do such horrible things and not be easy?"
"I don't know, but she's not!" He took a deep breath and briefly thought about the night he'd gotten too carried away. "Look, I thought she was just playing hard to get. You know, so she wouldn't seem quite as eager. Girls like that are obsessed with their image and what people think. I just thought if I pressured her a little bit, she'd give in like she was supposed to!"
"I didn't tell you to attack her!"
"I didn't attack her." He grumbled slightly and looked down at the ground. "I tried to convince her. There's a difference."
Stephanie's jaw dropped as she continued to listen. She couldn't believe what she was hearing! Clark and Helen were working together in some sort of scheme. But why? As her heart began to race, she strained to hear more.
"Clark, you were supposed to work you're little charms and get yourself into her bed!" Helen began to wring her hands. This was not working out the way she'd intended, at all! "You were supposed to tell all of your fraternity brothers how easy she is! You were supposed to take her to your Autumn Ball and denounce her as the tramp that she is in front of everyone so she has to leave town in shame! I can't have her hanging around waiting for another chance to destroy Reginald and Jillian!"
"Why do you care so much, Helen?" He glared at her as his jaw clinched. "Why do you care what happens to Jillian and Reginald?"
"Because Jillian is my best friend! She's suffered enough because of that vile Stephanie Lake!" Helen paused and took a deep breath. "You promised you'd help me! You can't back out on me."
Clark lowered his head as he began to grow increasingly uncomfortable with their schemes. This was all much more shady than he'd set out for it to be. Stephanie really couldn't be as horrible as Helen claimed she was, could she?
Stephanie recoiled in horror. Clark had been only using her! He was trying to use his considerable charms to con his way into her heart and into her bed only to humiliate her! She chocked back her tears and sunk back into the shadows. She couldn't let them see her emotional state. She couldn't let them have the satisfaction of knowing that they'd put one over on poor, wicked Stephanie. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment as she realized that, once again, she'd misled herself into believing that someone cared for her when they really hadn't. Completely devastated by the betrayal and the humiliation of it all, she slipped from her spot behind the bushes and quickly ran away.
"Okay, are you going to tell me what's bothering you?" Fred Rutherford asked as he carefully watched Francis Callison pick at her crumb cake. "You've been fiddling with that forever! I think I know you well enough, now, to be able to tell when something's on your mind."
"It's really nothing," she muttered halfheartedly as she thought about her visit to see her husband Charles. It had been so awkward and tense, yet being there in their house together had seemed so right.
"I'm supposed to believe that?" He reached across the table and took her hand, forcing her to look up at him in response. "You've let me be here for you before. Let me be here for you, now."
Francis let out a heavy sigh and looking him in the eyes as she hesitated. Finally, she realized it might do her some good to talk about her conflicting emotions...especially with someone who'd been as good a friend to her as Fred had been. "I went to see Charles the other day."
"What?" His eyes grew wide with shock and nervousness. "Why?"
"Well...it's because of Maggie. She's not doing very well in school, right now." She paused and choked back a tear as she thought about the turmoil her daughter was in because of her separation from Charles. "S-she blames herself for what happened. Because she's the one who led me to find Charles and Annabelle together, she thinks this entire mess is all her fault. She's sure we hate her because of it."
"Oh, Francis! I'm so sorry." He gave her hand a little squeeze and she smiled weakly at him in response. "But do you think it was a good idea to see Charles alone? I know how much tension there must be between the two of you."
"That would be putting it mildly." She looked away from him and tried to will herself not to cry. However, the entire situation was starting to get the better of her.
"Have you thought any more about the divorce?" Fred was a little hesitant about broaching that subject. He knew he couldn't force Francis' hand, but he clearly realized that his own time was starting to run out.
"Actually, no," she confessed as she quickly looked away. "I-I'm actually having second thoughts about that."
"What?" he gasped and quickly began to grow nervous. "After all Charles has done to you? Surely you can't just sit back and let him walk all over you! What about his affair with Annabelle?"
"I have to think about my children, Fred! This separation is causing them so much pain. How much more would a divorce cause?" She swallowed hard as she thought of that reality. "My children are now, and have always been, the most important thing in my life. How can I hurt them by divorcing their father because of my own hurt pride?"
"This man cheated on you and lied to you!" He fidgeted nervously in his seat. He couldn't let her talk herself into forgiving Charles and acting like nothing had happened. If she didn't divorce Charles, there would be no way he could convince her to marry him. He'd wasted too much time on her to have to find another wealthy woman to pull his fat out of the fire. "He's the one that hurt your children, not you! You'd have nothing to be ashamed of by divorcing him. A divorce would be completely understandable!"
Francis furrowed her brow slightly as she considered his comments. He did have a valid point. If she stayed with Charles just for the sake of the children in spite of everything they already knew, what kind of an example would she be setting? Either way, the damage to her family had been done. There was no going back to the way things used to be.
"Francis, you need to free yourself from him so that you can find a man who truly loves you and respects you and wants to be with you." He took his hand and gently lifted her head so that their eyes met. "Like I do."
"Oh, Fred. I-I...don't know."
"How much more can you torture yourself? How much more can you take? Cut the ties and set yourself free from all of this misery."
"Maybe you're right," she sighed. "Maybe a divorce really is the only answer. Maybe dragging this all out is doing more damage to the children than just ending it now." She paused and bit her lip as she began to think. "I-I guess I should call Douglas and have him draw up the papers."
"No! You can't do that!" His stern tone alarmed her and she eyed him curiously. "I mean," he said as he calmed himself. "I mean you shouldn't use Douglas. He's Charles' attorney and surely he'll only want to draw up a divorce settlement that would be beneficial to him. You have to get your own, independent attorney."
"Yes, I guess that would be the smart thing to do."
"And I know of an excellent one. If you'd like, I'll call him and set up an appointment for you."
"I-I would really appreciate that, Fred." Francis looked up at him and smiled. He had been such a source of support for her throughout this entire mess. He was there with words of advice every time she needed him. "I can't believe how much you care."
"Oh, I care a great deal!" He held her hand and thought about exactly how much he cared. "In fact, I hope that once this is all over, you will finally consider me next in line to be the recipient of your love and devotion."
She lowered her head and blushed slightly. "Actually, Fred, I've been thinking about that."
"Yes. I-I've grown to care for you a great deal. I'm very grateful for everything you've done for me." Her eyes met his and she began to feel an unusual sense of warmth and calm wash over her.
Fred gave her hand another gentle squeeze and leaned in to her so that his lips brushed hers. Now, however, unlike before, she didn't push him away. Francis allowed herself to be drawn into the kiss that he so readily gave her...drawn into his web, as well.
As she finally pulled away from him, Francis became filled with a fresh sense of hope for the future. Her life with Charles might truly be over, but her life did still go on. She began to relax, knowing that Fred would most certainly be a part of that future. Meanwhile, Fred's eyes were quickly drawn to a man sitting at a corner table, watching them very closely. He tried to hide his obvious shock and horror. Fred recognized him immediately. He worked for them! Knowing full well that his time was beginning to run out, he said a silent prayer of thanks that he'd convinced Francis to continue with the divorce. Now, all he had to do was get her to take another trip down the isle.
THE MONROE HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Oh, my god, Stephanie!" Patterson Monroe exclaimed at the sight of a tearful and emotional Stephanie standing in his doorway. "What's wrong?"
"O-oh, Paddy!" she sobbed as she ran into the house. "Oh, I'm such a stupid fool!"
"What is it? What's wrong?" He quickly followed her and sat down next to her on the couch. She looked so pitiful as she buried her face in her hands and cried her eyes out. "C'mon, Steph, tell me. Don't you know you can talk to me?"
"O-of course I do." She swallowed back her tears and tried to dry her eyes. The more she'd thought about the conversation between Clark and Helen that she'd overheard, the more upset she'd become. "T-that's why I'm here. Y-you're the only one...the only one I can talk to. I can't tell Momma about this. She'll just say 'I told you so'. I-I don't really have any friends. Just you."
"Then talk to me!" He reached over and put his arm around her and drew her closer as he tried to give her some comfort. "Tell me what happened. What's got you all upset like this? It's not Clark, is it?"
Stephanie shivered slightly and turned to look at him with her red rimmed eyes and swallowed hard. Fearful of confessing her naivety and foolishness, she bit her lip and tried to think of how she could tell him how wrong she'd been about Clark Saxon.
"O-oh, Patterson, yes, it's Clark!" She started to sob again and laid her head on his shoulder. He quickly grabbed a handkerchief out of his pocket and carefully tried to catch her tears.
"I knew it," he muttered under his breath and scowled. He'd known something wasn't quite right about Clark, but wasn't sure what. Now Stephanie was crying her eyes out over him. He hadn't seen her this upset and devastated since the night of Reginald and Jillian's party. "Tell me what happened. What did Clark do?"
"He was just using me!" she blurted out. "He was scheming with Helen Van Dyne! They wanted to make me the laughing stock of AU and all of Albanyville!"
"Oh, god!" Patterson gasped slightly at the seediness of it all. "Why? Why would they want to hurt you like that?"
"Oh, Helen's just trying to exact some revenge on me for what I did to Reginald and Jillian! Haven't I paid for that enough? After Dane blamed that entire mess on me, I pretty much lost every bit of respect anyone could possibly have had for me." Her voice quivered slightly as she paused and looked up at him. Despite the great devastation she felt, she couldn't help but smile at him. "Everyone, but you, Paddy. You're the only one who was willing to give me a chance. You're the only one that really cares!"
"Your mother cares," he reminded her as he sat and stroked her soft hair in an effort to calm her down.
"Yes, I know," she muttered as she snuggled closer to him and found great comfort and security wrapped in his arms. "She tried to tell me that she didn't trust Clark. She said that something in her gut told her he was up to no good! I refused to listen to her. I should have."
"Well, I can't say that I'm one of your mother's biggest fans, but the one redeeming quality she has is her love for you. She might have an odd way of showing it, sometimes, but I know you're the most important thing in the world to her." He cracked an awkward grin. "I hope Clark books a flight out of town before she manages to get hold of him."
"Oh, no! Momma can't ever know what happened!" Stephanie pulled away from him as her eyes filled with fear.
"No? Why not? Surely you'll want to confide in her. She's your mother, after all."
"No! I can't tell her how stupid I was to believe Clark and fall for his charms. I can't tell her she was right!" She quickly rose from the couch and began to pace the room. "Why, she'll think she always knows what's best for me. She'll refuse to ever let me live my own life or make my own choices! Granted, some of the choices I've made haven't exactly been the best ones, but they're mine! Momma thinks that the only boy I should give my heart to is a boy with money and prestige and a prominent social position."
"And you don't find those things quite as important now?" He looked at her curiously. Stephanie had changed a lot!
"Well..." she paused as she considered the question. "I'd be lying if I said that finding those things in a man wouldn't be nice. Of course, I'd love to find a man who could provide me wealth and social prominence, but..."
"But what, Steph?"
"Well...I-if I really had to chose between love and money, I'd have to choose love." Her eyes appeared to light up as she seemed to be having her own epiphany. "Yes! Love! True, honest love is the most important thing! Without that, all the money and respectability wouldn't be worth anything!"
"Stephanie, I'm so proud of you!" Patterson quickly went to her and hugged her tightly. "That's what I've been trying to get you to see all along."
"But, love is what I thought I had with Reginald." She looked away as her eyes clouded over again. "It's what I thought I could have with Clark. Sure, they both have the money and the social standing, but that isn't what drew me to them. Was it?"
"Only you can answer that." He stepped back to look at her, still so emotionally broken and frail. "So, what exactly were Helen and Clark trying to cook up?"
"Oh, I don't know," she muttered as she tried to avoid thinking about it. "Something about proving how easy I was and announcing to everyone how I'd thrown myself at Clark. They wanted to make everyone think I was any man's for the taking. You know that's not how it is!"
"Steph, you tend to talk a big game when it comes to men. You've got that coy and flirtatious thing down to a science."
"Yeah, I do," she blushed slightly. "It doesn't always work to my advantage, though. It didn't work on Reginald...well, the second time, it didn't. I thought it worked on Clark, but he was just using it against me."
"I-I guess we've both been lied to and used." Patterson's thoughts momentarily turned to Lorraine and her betrayal by leaving him to marry Douglas. "I thought that Lorraine really loved me, too. I-I thought we had a future together."
"Oh, Patterson!" Stephanie gasped. "I-I'm so sorry! I shouldn't have run to you with this. You've got enough of your own problems to deal with. I-I'm sorry."
"No, it's okay." He smiled at her and suddenly remembered the impetuous kiss that he'd given her. "In fact, you've managed to take my mind off of that. I think you're the only thing that has. Besides, I promised you I'd stick by you through thick and thin. I'm not going to just up and abandon you."
"You really are special. You know that?"
"Thanks. You, too."
They stood there for a moment, just looking at each other. For some reason, a wall of awkwardness was now between them. It felt as if there were still so many things left unsaid, but neither of them could find the words. What was this strange new feeling that seemed to come over them?
"Come here," he finally spoke as he opened his arms to her. She went to him willingly and he hugged her tightly. It was a hug that had been intended to display comfort and support, but neither one of them seemed willing to let go of the other. They just stood there, wrapped in each other's arms, enjoying the warmth and security of it all.
He pulled away from her slightly and looked down into her eyes. What was this feeling that was coming over him? Over her? Suddenly, their lips met in a kiss and they both held on to each other more tightly savoring every tender moment of their newfound passion. What did it all mean? Neither one was sure, but neither one wanted it to stop.
TO BE CONTINUED
Judith drops a bombshell that will change lives forever.
For Now and Forever
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