For Now and Forever
EPISODE #73 (Wednesday
THE STOKES MANSION - FOYER
"Gee, just look at this place," Jillian Stokes gasped as she stood in the foyer next to her older sisters Judith and Janet and Judith's husband Mark. "This makes the apartment in Manhattan look little!"
"Yes, it does," Judith muttered curiously as she carefully looked around. "I just can't believe that Mother is divorcing Daddy and moving to Albanyville."
"I guess she finally got tired of his high handed control tactics." Janet walked through the foyer and into the grand living room. "And since we're all living here in Albanyville now, I'm sure she wants to be close to her family."
"But to buy this huge mansion and insist that we all come live here with her?" Judith still couldn't quite understand it all. How could their mother just up and desert their father? Why, it was just such an awful and scandalous idea that she just couldn't think about it!
"Oh, stop looking a gift horse in the mouth," Mark muttered as he quickly walked to the large French doors on the back side of the living room that overlooked Spring Lake. This house was much more suited to his lifestyle than that hotel penthouse. This was almost as good as one of the finest estates in Manhattan!
"Well, this is a little much," Jillian observed. "After all, once Reginald and I are married, we'll be moving into our own home. This could just be too much!"
"Nonsense!" Mark pushed open the French doors and took a deep breath of crisp autumn air.
As the rest of the family began to explore their new home, Judith couldn't help but be drawn to a large painting of their mother that rested over the fireplace in the living room. Silently, she began to seethe. How in the world could her mother do this? How could she desert their father? Judith was sure this was something she would never understand.
THE MONROE HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Oh, I just can't believe how big you're getting," Stephanie Lake smiled as she sat on the floor with young Todd Monroe and rolled the ball towards him. "You'll be starting school in no time!"
"Yup," Todd muttered as he kept his eyes focused on the ball as it rolled back across the floor toward Stephanie.
"Now, if this just isn't a sight for sore eyes!" Patterson Monroe walked into the room from the kitchen carrying a tray of milk and cookies and let out a warm laugh. "Two of my most favorite people on earth enjoying each other's company."
"He's really a good kid, Paddy. You should be so proud of him." She reach over to rub Todd's head and slightly mussed his hair. With an irritated look, Todd threw up his hands and quickly pulled away.
"It hasn't been easy considering...well, everything that's happened." Patterson winced slightly as he thought about the tragic accident that had claimed the lives of his and Todd's parents. He didn't like to think about it very often and rarely tried to remind Todd of the turmoil that their lives had been thrown into. He'd only wanted to remind his brother of what wonderful, caring parents they'd had and of how much they'd loved them.
"I really am envious of you," Stephanie spoke up as she watched Todd as he rolled away to play with another toy, completely ignoring the now stagnant ball. "I just don't understand how you manage to keep up with your school work and Todd as well as deal with everyone else's problems. I can barely manage two research papers and my job in the admissions office.
"Truthfully, if it weren't for Mrs. Oliver, I don't know what I'd do."
"And don't you forget that, young man!" Mrs. Oliver breezed into the room from the kitchen and smiled at Patterson before shooting Stephanie a hateful look.
Stephanie quickly sunk down and took a deep breath. She was more than aware of Mrs. Oliver's deep dislike of her and her disapproval of Patterson's friendship with her.
"Todd, why don't you go and let Steph put your coat on you so we can go to the park before it gets dark." Patterson was finding himself greatly enjoying these little moments with Stephanie. It seemed to be the only times that they weren't forced to deal with memories of Clark Saxon or Lorraine's horrible betrayal of his love. In fact, if it hadn't been for Stephanie's intense loyalty and friendship, Patterson wasn't sure if he'd be able to handle everything that had been going on as well as he had.
"No!" Todd wrinkled up his nose and stomped his feet as he balled his hands up into tiny fists.
"Young man!" Mrs. Oliver scolded as she shook her finger at him. "Don't you behave like this. All you've talked about all day is going to the park. Now, you just march right over to...Stephanie...and get that coat on!"
"No! Don't want Fanny!" Todd stuck out his bottom lip and scrunched up his nose. "Want 'Rain! 'Rain!"
Patterson eyes grew wide with shock and quickly flashed Stephanie a look of sincere apology. Todd had been extremely fond of Lorraine and his break up with her hadn't been easy on Todd. Patterson just wasn't sure how to answer his brother's questions concerning why Lorraine wasn't coming to see them anymore.
"Oh, stop being difficult!" Stephanie snapped, without thinking. "We're just going to the park! I thought you liked the park."
"Not wif you! I want 'Rain!"
Stephanie clinched her teeth tightly. In spite of herself, she was finding herself growing quickly annoyed with the little boy's tantrum. In one swift movement, she reached out and grabbed Todd by the arm in hopes of forcing his jacket on him. A stubborn Todd responded by flailing his arms wildly, hitting her in the face in the process.
"Todd Nathaniel Monroe!" Patterson snapped as he rushed over and grabbed the boy before giving him a swift whack on the behind. "I cannot believe you're acting like this! I thought I told you, no hitting!"
"Ahhhhhhhh!" the little boy wailed. "I want 'Rain! I hate Fanny! I want 'Rain!"
"Well!" Mrs. Oliver gasped. "I guess Todd doesn't want to go to the park with Miss Lake." She sat down on the couch and took Todd into her arms and held him tightly as he began to sob. "Now, Todd, you hush that crying right now! You're a big boy!"
"Y-yes, m-ma'am," Todd sniffled.
"What if I just take you to the park? Would that be okay?" She held his head on her shoulder and gently rubbed his back.
"Oh, Steph, I'm so sorry," Patterson said as he helped her up off of the floor and looked at her with pleading eyes. "I just don't know what's gotten into him. I've never know him to be like this."
"I-It's okay," Stephanie muttered, quickly feeling quite uncomfortable and out of place.
"No, it's not! Todd has no reason to act like this!" He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her closer. After a few minutes he pulled away and turned to Mrs. Oliver. "Maybe you should just go to the park without us. I think I'm going to take Stephanie out for a bite to eat."
"You're not coming with us?" Mrs. Oliver question with a tone of shock.
"Um, not today." He turned to again look at Stephanie and was quick to notice the hurt and embarrassment on her face. He just had to make up for Todd's behavior.
Over the past few months, Patterson had found himself growing increasingly close to Stephanie and had desperately hoped that Todd would, as well. His break up with Lorraine had been extremely difficult, but he hadn't realized that it would affect young Todd as strongly as it had. Now, Patterson began to grow worried that this would be another tragic loss that Todd would have to face. Would the child ever be able to warm up to Stephanie? Did he really resent her for seemingly taking Lorraine's place as a frequent visitor? Patterson quickly began to grow worried about how Todd would react if Patterson ever fell in love again. He had a sinking feeling that no matter who that would be, Todd would most definitely not approve.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"Judith, did Mother say when she was going to be here?" Jillian asked as she carefully looked around their new home.
"All she said was that she had to go run a few errands," Judith replied as she sat down on the sofa in front of the grand fireplace. "She said that she'd be here later."
"I'm so glad that she hired Ruby to be one of the housekeepers," Jillian smiled as she stood at the foot of the long winding staircase and carefully ran her fingers along the intricate banister. "I really like her."
"You would!" Judith folded her arms across her chest in annoyance and clinched her teeth. "Why, that girl is the most incompetent..."
"Now, now, darling," Mark said as he tried to suppress a small chuckle. "Don't get yourself all worked up. Whatever Ruby's shortcomings, I'm sure your mother will have her whipped into shape in no time."
"Come on, Janet! Let's go pick out our rooms!" Jillian called out as she began to hurry up the stairs. "I'm getting the one with the balcony that faces the lake."
"That's not fair!" Janet scowled as she raced up the stairs after her. "You're getting married in February and moving out!"
"Well, if you want it that badly, you can have it then," Jillian smiled slyly, "after I move out!"
As both Jillian and Janet reached the landing at the top of the stairs, Judith's eyes kept close watch on them until they disappeared down the hallway. Judith was still a little uncomfortable having both Janet and Mark in the same town, let alone under the same roof. She was surprised that Janet hadn't run right to Mark and told him how Judith had told Burt Lamont everything about her scandalous past in New York. However, it had been a week since Janet had come home after her mysterious disappearance and she had yet to say a word.
"Well, lets go check out our suite," Mark said as he headed for the stairs.
"No!" Judith blurted out before she had a chance to catch herself. "I...I mean, let's just stay down here awhile. I think I'm...I'm going to sit out on the terrace and watch the lake for a bit."
Mark turned and eyed his wife curiously. "You don't like the idea of Burt and Janet being in love with each other at all do you?"
"W-what makes you say that?" She spun around quickly to face him, frightened that her feelings were so transparent.
"Just look at you! I mention their names in the same sentence and you get all flustered and nervous." He kept his eyes firmly on her as she approached her slowly. "You do still have feelings for him!"
"Of course not! Burt Lamont is in my past and I would thank you to just shut up about it!" As her teeth clinched tightly, she turned away from him and hurried out onto the terrace.
She just couldn't stand to be in the same room with Mark and his incessant questions about her feelings for Burt. Leaning against the railing of the patio, she felt the crisp autumn breeze blowing in off of the lake and she took several deep breaths to calm her nerves.
"I know you, Judith," Mark continued as he followed her. "I know you didn't stay here in Albanyville just because the doctor told you to. You stayed here because Burt was here!"
"And I just bet you're how he found out all about Janet's past with Gordon Scott!" He narrowed his eyes as he stared intently at the back of her head. She was trying to act as if she weren't listening to him, but he was well aware that she was paying attention to every word. "You don't want him, but you'll be damned if someone else does!"
"You don't even the slightest idea of what you're talking about," Judith muttered as she tried to fight back tears.
"Oh, don't I?" Quickly realizing that there was no talking to her, Mark turned on his heal and stormed out of the house leaving his wife to think about exactly how much of what he'd said was the truth.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"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!"
"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..."
"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?"
"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."
"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...."
"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
"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..."
"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.
"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?
"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
As 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....
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.
As 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.
TO BE CONTINUED
Dane believes in tit for tat.
For Now and Forever
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