SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY

54 Spring Lake Dr., Albanyville, IL"Ah, now this is the life," Dane Manchester smiled as he propped his feet up on the ottoman and turned the page in the late edition of The Daily Post.  "I told you that it would be good for us to move in here."

"I guess," Sara Manchester muttered as she flipped through her History text book in an attempt to study for a test.  What with her having been working for Thornton Preston, she'd been left with relatively little time for studying and her grades had started to drop accordingly.  Now, she'd have to spend all of her free time trying to make up missed assignments in hopes of making passing grades for the term.

"Helga!" Dane called out as he glanced down at his empty glass that sat on the table next to him.  "Helga, I need a fresh drink!"

Helga Grimm"Yes, Mr. Manchester," housekeeper Helga Grimm muttered through clinched teeth as she trudged into the room and snatched up the glass.  "Is there anything else I can get you, sir?"

"No, just another scotch and soda."  He let out a slight chuckle and allowed his eyed to drift over the top of the paper as he watched Helga do as he'd requested.  "This is the life.  It's what I missed so much about living at home."  He turned to shot his wife and angry look.  "You never took care of me like Helga does!"

"I'm your wife, Dane, not your maid."  Sara's eyes burned with anger and she began to find it increasingly difficult to concentrate on her studies.  Ever since the truth about her secret employment for Mr. Preston had come out, Dane had been growing more and more difficult to deal with.

"Same difference," he muttered as he snapped the newspaper back up in front of his face.

"Is there anything else, Mr. Manchester?" Helga asked as she sat the full cocktail down next to him.

"No.  You may be excused."  He smirked with glee as he watched her exit the room and then returned his focus to the matters at hand.  "So, Sara, tell me about Thornton Preston."

"Um...well..." Sara stammered as she looked at him closely.  What the devil was he up to?  "There's not much to tell, really.  Mr. Preston was an author who wrote several books.  Tainted Woman was his last published novel and it was made into a movie.  Callison Publications signed him and planned to release his latest work, The Manhattan Conflict, but..."

Dane Manchester"No, I'm not talking about that!" Dane snapped angrily.  "I mean, tell me about your relationship with Mr. Preston."

"I worked for him!  I was basically his secretary!"  She furrowed her brow slightly.  What was he trying to get at?

"Oh, come now, Sara," he laughed as he turned the page to the sports section.  Although he was displaying slight disinterest, he was listening very carefully to every word she was saying.  "You don't expect me to believe that he left almost his entire estate to someone who was only his secretary!"

Sara's jaw dropped with shock.  "Dane, what in heaven's name are you trying to imply?"

"Do I have to spell it out for you?"  He made a quick glance over the top of the paper to catch her reaction.  "I at least gave you credit for being smarter than that!"

"Dane, I don't think I like what you're trying to get at!"  She quickly closed her book, jumped up from the sofa, and started to storm out of the room.

"Did Mr. Preston's wife know what she was talking about?" Dane asked pointedly.  "Where you having an affair with him in an attempt to get to his money?"

Sara stopped dead in her tracks as she reached the large sliding doors of the library and spun around to face him.  "How dare you!  I would never think of doing something so...so horrible!"

"You were awfully concerned about our financial situation," he commented as he kept his eyes on her.  "Who's to say you didn't think that the ends justified the means.  You two were quite chummy, weren't you?"

Sara Manchester"That was all in a fatherly way!  He was like a mentor and a friend to me, not a lover!"  Sara began to feel her face burn with anger and embarrassment.  How could Dane even think that she'd have an affair with Thornton Preston just to get her hands on his money?  She loved Dane!  She would never do something so tawdry.  Besides, how would that explain Dane's inclusion in the will?

"Well, whatever," Dane sneered as he tossed his newspaper aside, gulped down the rest of his drink, and rose to head toward the door.  "I'm going out."

"Out?  Where?"

"Just out," he smirked.  "Don't wait up."

As Sara heard the sound of the front door closing, she returned to her seat on the sofa and tried to concentrate on her studying that needed to be done.  However, she couldn't rid her mind of thoughts of Dane's horrible accusations.  He just couldn't believe that she'd had an affair with Mr. Preston!

"Um, Sara," Helga muttered awkwardly as she stood in the doorway.  "You have a...."

Mrs. Thornton Preston"Sara, I need to speak to you!" Mrs. Preston announced as she pushed past an irritated Helga and into the room.  Sara had been so lost in thoughts of her husband's accusations that she'd never even heard the doorbell.

"What is it?" Sara sighed.  The last person she felt up to dealing with was Mr. Preston's haughty widow.

"I just had this delivered to me," Mrs. Preston said as she held out an envelope for Sara to see.  "It's a letter, written by Thornton.  Apparently, I was supposed to receive it in the event of his death."

"W-what does it have to do with me?" Sara questioned as she eyed the letter curiously.  "Does it explain why he left me and Dane his estate?  Does it prove that I was not having an affair with him?"

"Oh, my dear Sara," Mrs. Preston muttered with nervous apprehension.  "This letter explains everything!"


LADY J'S JAZZ CLUB

Lady J's Jazz Club"I'm so glad that you agreed to have dinner with me," Calvin Jackson smiled at Ruby Thomas as the warm sounds of jazz music wafted through the air and filled the room.  "This is one of my favorite places to spend time when I'm not at the hospital."

"This place just has a wonderful atmosphere," Ruby replied as she began to tap her foot in rhythm to the invigorating beats pumped out by the band.

"It's made even more wonderful with you here."  With a touch of nervousness, he reached across the table and took her hand into his.  "Ruby, I'm not sure how to explain this, but ever since that day in the park, I've thought of nothing else but you.  I find you deeply fascinating."

"Oh, Calvin," she blushed as she lowered her head.  "I'm no where near as fascinating as you want me to be.  You, however..."

"Me?"

"Yes, you!  Why, you're a doctor; and, from what I've gathered, one of the most respected doctors at Memorial.  I'm sure that must have taken a lot of work on your part.  The medical profession isn't one that a lot of our people can easily go into.  That kind of education must take a lot of money."

Ruby winced slightly as she thought about what she'd said.  She was sure that it had taken a lot of money.  However, considering Calvin's well-to-do background, it mustn't have been too difficult.

Dr. Calvin Jackson"Unfortunately, any kind of higher education takes money," he nodded as he grew slightly nervous.  "However, I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that helped with a lot of it.  I got my degree from Howard University in Washington, DC.  It's a wonderful institution."

"Y-yes, I've heard."  Ruby took a deep breath as she tried to steady her nerves.  A prominent doctor, a well-to-do background, a scholarship, a prestigious Negro university...she was quickly beginning to feel more and more inadequate.

"Is...something wrong?"  He eyed her closely and noted her discomfort.  

Suddenly, he realized that he'd misspoken.  Why had he mentioned the financial assistance he'd received for his college education?  Surely that might imply that he hadn't been able to afford school on his own!  He was sure that she would be uncomfortable with him if she really knew that he was only a poor maid's son and not from a wealthy family like she clearly was.

"Um...no, nothing at all," she muttered, unsure as to what to say next.

"So, Ruby, tell me a little about yourself."  He just had to know what he was up against.  How in the would could his true background compare to what hers actually was?

Ruby Thomas"Oh, there's not much to tell really."

"I'm sure you have plenty to tell!  Like, how about your parents?  What happened to them?  How did a Negro family come into so much wealth in times such as these.  I'm sure that wasn't easy."

"Oh, no!  You better believe it wasn't easy."  Ruby fidgeted uncomfortably in her seat as her heart began to beat faster, in time to the staccato snare beats of the music.  "I um...well..."

"I-I'm sorry.  I really shouldn't pry."  Calvin felt embarrassed for his questions.  Her parents deaths were still something that clearly affected her and he'd been wrong to bring up the topic for such selfish reasons.

"That's okay," she muttered as she allowed herself to relax.  "Let's just not think about the past.  Let's forget who we are and where we came from and just enjoy the here and now."

"Ruby, I am enjoying the here and now," Calvin smiled as he lifted his hand to gently caress her cheek.  "I think this is going to be the start of a beautiful friendship."

She bit her lip nervously as she looked deeply into his eyes.  It might be beautiful now, but what would happen if Calvin were to learn that she was just a poor maid?  He'd surely want nothing to do with her.  She quickly realized that she was setting herself up for emotional devastation, but realized that she couldn't fight the attraction she felt for him.  Against her better judgment, she decided to ignore all the potential consequences...at least for the night.  She could think about those tomorrow.


THE STOKES MANSION - TERRACE

76 Mapleton Way, Albanyville, ILAs Judith leaned against the railing and watched the lake in the distance, her mind began to drift to thoughts of Burt and Janet and Mark.  She knew that she was still in love with Burt as surely as she knew that winter was just around the corner.  She also knew that Janet would never let him get out of her clutches.

A sudden burst of wind blew in off of the lake and Judith wrapped her arms tightly around herself in an attempt to block the chill.  Why was Burt so insistent on staying loyal to Janet?  After everything he now knew about her, he should be running for this hills.  Janet was a murderess, after all!  None of it made any sense to Judith.

She did know, however, that if it weren't for Janet, Burt would be able to remember the intense love that they'd shared.  If it weren't for Janet...holding onto Burt with her manipulative neediness!  Judith was sure that Janet intended on rubbing her face in the fact that she was now the one who held Burt's heart and not Judith.  That made Judith's blood boil!

And how dare Mark treat her with such scorn and contempt.  It's not like he was a moral innocent!  Judith had known for quite some time about her husband's own indiscretions.  However, she preferred to ignore them.  All they did was give Judith her own license to do as she pleased.  What pleased Judith was Burt.

Oh, why couldn't Burt just be from a family that was equal in status to the Stokes family?  Why did he have to be some poor horse trainer?  They could never be together!  If she were to divorce Mark for Burt, she'd be the laughing stock of all Manhattan society.  Judith could just hear them, now....

"Just look at that Judith and her pathetic lover!"

"She must really be desperate to scrape the bottom of the barrel!"

"Maybe she's just run out of eligible quality men.  After all, everyone knows exactly how Judith can be!"

"No man with any decency would ever want to be with someone as scandalous as her!"

"I bet she's even supporting that lowlife with her Daddy's money!"

Judith shivered slightly, as much from the voices in her head as from the chill in the air.  She just couldn't be open about her love for Burt.  However, she'd be damned if she just handed him over to Janet!  Janet might not feel any sense of obligation to social propriety or their family's good name, but it was no reason to rub Judith's nose in her romance with Burt.

Judith Stokes LinfordAs she took several deep breaths of the crisp air, the sun began to disappear into night.  No, she couldn't let Janet just take away the only man Judith had ever truly loved.  However, she realized that there was no way Judith could ever have him for her own.  Maybe Mark was right.  Maybe it would be better if Burt just went away and never came back.  Maybe it would be better for all of them.

However, Burt and Janet were still as devoted to each other as always.  He'd never leave her.  Judith was certain that that had more to do with Burt's warped sense of misplaced devotion and loyalty than any true love.  But, despite the truth about Janet's lies and her past, he was still as committed to her as ever.  Janet had even apparently forgotten and forgiven Burt's own past with Judith.  That was something that deeply shocked Judith.

How could Janet just simply act like nothing had happened between Burt and Judith?  Was she simply choosing to ignore the truth?  Was she sticking her head in the sand and ignoring the past that Burt and Judith shared?

Judith wasn't sure, but realized that these question most definitely needed answers.  Taking a deep breath, she turned and walked back into house and towards the stairs.  As she looked up the long staircase, she knew that there were questions that needed to be answered, things left to be resolved, and things that needed to be said.  After taking another long breath, she started her ascent up the staircase.  There were a few things she needed to say to her sister.



 


TOMORROW

Dane believes in tit for tat.




 


produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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