For Now and Forever
EPISODE #74 (Thursday
THE STOKES MANSION - UPSTAIRS HALLWAY
As Judith Linford stood at her sister Janet's door, she hesitated for a moment. She prepared to knock, but her hand hung in the air apprehensively. Finally, she rapped on the door lightly and waited for a response. There were things that needed to be said...things that couldn't be put off any longer.
"What is it, Judith?" Janet Stokes asked with apprehension after opening the door to find her rival on the other side.
"W-where's Jillian?" Judith asked nervously, referencing their younger sister.
"She went out. She had to go meet Reginald for dinner." Janet eyed her curiously as Judith pushed past Janet and into the room.
"Oh," Judith muttered as she realized that she'd been so lost in her own thoughts downstairs that she'd never even heard her leave. Taking a deep breath, she turned to face Janet. "I need to ask you a few things."
"What about?" Janet quickly grew even more nervous in her sister's presence. Surely she wasn't still determined to torment her with a barrage of questions about where she'd been during her weeks away.
Judith bit her lip in apprehension, but realized that she couldn't stop what she'd already set in motion. "Burt Lamont. I need to talk to you about Burt Lamont."
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"Darling, are you okay?" Dr. Fred Rutherford asked as he reached across the table and grasped Francis Callison's hand firmly. "You're not having second thoughts about all of this, are you?"
"I...I'm not sure," Francis confessed as she lowered her head with embarrassment. "Do I really have the right to end my marriage after so many years? People just aren't supposed to get divorced."
"You are completely justified in wanting a divorce from Charles!" he said with reassuring earnestness. "That man betrayed your wedding vows. He's the one who ended your marriage, not you."
She looked at him carefully as she thought about what he'd said. True, Charles had been the one to destroy their marriage with his tawdry affair with Annabelle Lake, but could she really turn her back on him and all of the love that she still held for him?
"Look, Francis, this is something you have to do." Fred nodded as he spoke as if to reinforce his statements. "You can't allow yourself to be put in a position where you can be made a fool of again."
"I...I know you're right," she muttered half-heartedly. "That's why I agreed to meet with your attorney...why I finally filed those divorce papers. I just couldn't bear it if I allowed Charles to hurt me again."
"You're doing the right thing." Fred gave her hand another reassuring squeeze.
"Well, if it isn't Francis Callison!" Leticia Stokes exclaimed as she quickly approached the table. "I've been meaning to phone you for days to go over the plans for Reginald and Jillian's wedding."
"Leticia!" Francis gasped, rather surprised by the sudden appearance of her son's future mother-in-law. "What are you doing here in Albanyville? I was certain that after that disastrous party, you'd never want to set foot in this town again. Well, at least until the wedding."
"To be honest, that had been my intention," she confessed with a little embarrassment. "But, as I'm sure you know, all of my girls are here, now. It just tears out my heart to have to be separated from them for so long."
"Oh, I most definitely understand. I just don't know what I'd do if the boys or Maggie ever decided to move away." Francis glanced over at Fred and gasped slightly when she realized that she hadn't made proper introductions. "Oh, my! You must think I'm so rude. Leticia, this is my friend, Dr. Fred Rutherford."
"Nice to meet you, Dr. Rutherford," Leticia smiled warmly. "I'm Leticia Stokes. My daughter Jillian is engaged to marry Francis' son Reginald."
"Oh, yes, of course!" Fred smiled in response.
"So, Leticia, where's Nelson? Don't tell me he let you make this trip all by yourself." Francis looked at her curiously as she remembered that great disdain that Nelson Stokes had had for the city of Albanyville and its inhabitants.
"Um, actually..." Leticia looked away briefly, quite flustered and uncomfortable with the question regarding her husband. "Actually, Nelson is back in Manhattan."
"Oh, I'm sure he'll be joining you soon. Especially if you plan on staying here in town for a while," Francis commented.
"Well...no, he won't." Leticia again glanced away, unnerved by Francis' innocent questions.
"Leticia, what's wrong?" Francis asked as she reached up to take her hand. "Is something wrong with Nelson?"
"Francis, dear, I've left my husband," Leticia stated firmly. "We're getting divorced. I just couldn't...couldn't deal with his heavy handed approach to me and the girls any longer. I just couldn't take it."
"Oh, dear, I'm so sorry." Francis' eyes met Leticia's as they shared a common bond...two woman at the end of marriages. Two women who had lives in sudden upheaval. "I...I know what you're going through."
"Yes, Jillian told me that you and Charles were having...well, problems."
"A slight understatement." Francis lowered her head to hide the pain that seemed to be permanently etched on her face.
Meanwhile, as Leticia and Francis commiserated over their failed marriages, Fred sat in silence, lost in thought. Leticia Stokes was divorcing Nelson Stokes, a wealthy Manhattan businessman. Surely she would snare a divorce settlement even grander than Francis would. As he eyed them carefully, he began to wonder which one would see her divorce finalized first.
THE RIVERVIEW NIGHTCLUB
As the energetic sounds of the band filled the air, Dane Manchester stood in the doorway of the nightclub. With a smile, he inhaled deeply, taking in the new sense of freedom that had begun to take over him.
"Well, hello, Mr. Manchester," Kitty Benedict cooed seductively as she stepped from behind the hostess stand. "Meeting your wife?"
"Not likely," he muttered as he carefully surveyed the club, taking note of all the attractive women present. "I'm here for a little enjoyment of my own and I can guarantee you that that doesn't include my wife."
"Oh, really?" She lowered her head slightly and gazed up at him through her long lashes. With a careful, calculated hand she coyly brushed away a lock of hair from her cheek. "Well, my shift is over in just a little bit. Maybe I could join you for a drink. That is, if your wife doesn't mind."
"What my wife minds is no longer any of my concern," Dane muttered with a slight sneer. "I put forth every effort to honor my marriage...more effort than she apparently ever had any intention of putting forth."
"Now, that's a big change from what you told me before." Kitty glanced around in time to see her relief step up to the hostess stand. With a sly nod to the other young woman, she moved closer to Dane. "What happened to change your mind?"
"Let's just say that my wife clearly has her own agenda that doesn't necessarily include me. That being the case, I believe that makes me free to do as I like."
"And what do you like to do?" She grabbed onto his arm and pulled him closer.
"I like to enjoy myself," he smiled. "And have a drink. I see that your shift is over. How about joining me at the bar?"
"I thought you'd never ask."
Arm in arm, Kitty and Dane strolled to the bar, found two available seats, and ordered drinks. A gin and tonic for Dane and a Chardonnay for Kitty. They each took several sips of their drinks, never taking their eyes off one another.
"What are you thinking about?" Kitty finally asked as she licked a drop of wine off of her lips. "I'm very good at seeing when a man has his mind focused on something."
"I bet you are," Dane smiled slyly. "Actually, I was thinking about you."
"Oh, really?" She let out a soft laugh as she tried to feign surprise. "Do tell!"
"More specifically, I was thinking about your...offer, shall we say?" He took another drink before setting his glass down onto the bar and moving his hand onto her thigh. "I was wondering if the invitation still stands."
"I think something could be arranged." She covered his hand with her own and slid his hand a little further up her leg.
With a wickedly knowing grin, Dane swallowed the rest of his drink in one gulp. "I think this place is getting a little too crowded. Why don't we slip off somewhere a little more...intimate. How about your place?"
"Why, Dane Manchester, I thought you'd never ask!" With a laugh, Kitty slid out of her seat and took Dane by the hand and led him out of the club.
THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM
"Honestly, Judith, I don't know what more there is for us to say about Burt," Janet sighed as she watched her sister closely. "He knows everything about Gordon Scott. I know that you two were once involved. That's all history to us, now."
Judith tried to suppress her shock at the calmness with which Janet was dealing with everything. She'd always been the emotional sort and it seemed quite out of character.
"Why didn't you tell everyone that I'm the one who told Burt about your history with Gordon?" Judith asked pointblank as she carefully examined her reactions. "Why didn't you run and tell everyone about my past with Burt?"
"Because I don't see any need in dredging it all up." Janet calmly walked around her room, picking up various knickknacks, examining them closely, and then returning them to their proper places. "What good would it all do? Why, if I told everyone that you were the one who told Burt, I'm sure that it would cause no end of trouble for you. Why would I want to do that?"
Judith kept her eyes focused on her sister. Although her tone was all sweetness and light, Judith could clearly see that it was only a thin cover for much deeper emotions.
"W-what are you trying to say?"
"Judith, do I have to spell it out for you?" Janet smirked slightly and turned to face away from her. "If Jillian found out what you did...if Mother found out what you did...if Daddy found out what you did...what do you think they'd think of you? Why would I want to hurt you like that?"
Judith inhaled deeply in shock. Janet was threatening her! Well, not in so many words, but Judith was clearly aware of what Janet's words meant.
"Burt is all wrong for you! Can't you see that?" Judith was quickly growing uncomfortable and struggled to regain control of the conversation.
"He's wrong for me and right for you?" Janet spun around quickly to face Judith. "Now, what kind of warped logic do you use to come up with that one?"
"He...he just is!"
"You've told a lot of truths lately, Judith, dear," Janet muttered as she carefully circled her sister. "Now, let me tell you a few. Burt is in love with me, not you! I admit that I was quite taken aback, at first, with the knowledge of your little fling. But, that's all it was...a fling! You mean nothing to him! He loves me! He could never love you!"
"Burt did love me, Janet!" Judith shouted as she began to feel her face turn red in anger. "He told me over and over again how much he loved me! He wanted to marry me, Janet!"
"I refuse to believe that," Janet said through clinched teeth.
"Well, refuse all you want to, but there are a few things that you have to face!" Judith reached out for Janet and spun her around to face her. "Your little warped mind has got you living in some sort of fairy tale world where you're the precious princess and Burt is the knight in shining armor. Well, this princess wasn't locked in the turret of a castle, she was locked in a nut house!"
"Judith, you are a spiteful, vicious..."
"You listen to me!" Judith shouted angrily. "Burt is only standing by your side out of pity! After everything you've been through...of your own doing, I might add...he feels sorry for poor, poor, pitiful Janet! Poor fragile Janet! Poor nutty Janet!"
"You don't know what you're talking about! Burt loves me!"
"Until he grows sick of playing nursemaid to you! Until he grows tired and weary of spoon feeding you reality!" Judith grabbed hold of Janet's shoulders and began to shake her as if in an attempt to force some sense into her. "When he finally grows tired of you bleeding him dry of every ounce of emotion and strength that's left in him, what do you think he's going to do? I'll tell you what he's going to do, he's going to run as far away from you as he can!"
Janet began to shake in fear as she fought to hold back her tears. Could Judith really be right? Was Burt only standing by her out of pity? Could he really get past all of the horrible things that she'd done?
THE RIVERVIEW NIGHTCLUB
"And what are you looking at?" Mark Linford asked as he walked up behind a distracted Helen Van Dyne who sat alone at a table.
"Oh, um, Mark! Hello." She blushed slightly as she turned around to face him. "I just thought I saw someone that I knew."
Helen glanced around again, but let out a sigh when she realized that she'd lost track of the man she'd seen. Helen was positive that she'd spotted Dane Manchester with a woman who was most definitely not his wife. However, she quickly deduced that she'd had to have been mistaken. From everything that Jillian had said, Dane was adamant about being faithful and loyal in marriage. After all, it had been one reason he'd always insisted on not getting too seriously involved with anyone. Still, Helen clearly realized that Dane was one man who could never be taken at his word.
"Okay, you've disappeared on me again," Mark laughed as he snapped his fingers in front of her. "When I saw you sitting over here all by yourself, I thought I might be able to keep you company, but you seem to be keeping yourself company!"
"Oh, Mark, I'm so sorry. Please forgive me." Helen flashed him a warm smile. "You're more than welcome to join me. I was actually supposed to meet a few of my sorority sisters, but they had to cancel. I'm here all alone."
"Not anymore," he smiled slyly as he took his seat and slid closer to her. "I think it's a crime for a girl as lovely as you to be all alone."
"You're just too nice," she replied with a giggle. "You're so good for a girl's ego."
"And you're quite good for mine, too." Mark took a sip of his cocktail and gazed deeply into Helen's eyes. She was very beautiful. A bit like Judith in some ways, but not nearly as shrewish. He found hints of mystery and adventure in her eyes, yet touches of innocence, as well.
"Too bad that you're married," she finally sighed after a long pause. "I'd be very interested in you if you weren't married."
He leaned back into his chair as he thought about her statement. Judith was married but that had never mattered to her as far as Burt was concerned. Truthfully, it had never mattered to him either.
"And what does my marriage have to do with anything?"
"Well, I probably shouldn't say this considering you are married to my best friend's sister..." Helen hesitated for a moment and took a deep breath. "But, well, if you weren't married, I would be very interested in you. I find you deeply fascinating."
"I can assure you that the feeling is mutual." He reached across the table and took her hand into his, never once taking his eyes off of her. "I should tell you that Judith and I are really married in name only. I don't know whether you've noticed, but there's quite a bit of tension between us."
"I have noticed that to a certain degree." Helen fought to look away from him, but was held captivated by his presence and his voice.
"We each lead our own lives. She definitely does what she wants to do and so do I."
As Helen sat in silence and thought about what Mark was saying, she tried to resist the urge to fight her better judgment. Becoming involved with a married man...even if the marriage was in name only...was just too tawdry to consider. It just wouldn't be proper. However, Mark Linford was quite captivating...
THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM
"Janet, you're just a pathetic little girl trying to play grown-up in her own mind!" Judith taunted viciously. "Everyone feels sorry for poor, pitiful Janet...even Burt!"
"No! That's not true!" Janet shouted as she covered her ears in an attempt to drown out Judith's rantings. "Burt loves me! Me! He never loved you!"
"When are you going to wise up?" Judith asked with a shake of her head. "This is going to be just like with Gordon Scott. What are you going to do when Burt grows tired of your fragileness and runs away from you? Kill him just like you did Gordon?"
"No! You don't know what you're talking about! Gordon Scott was an accident!" Janet began to sob and she buried her face into her hands as she fell onto her bed.
"Are you saying that you didn't love Gordon, too?" Judith watched her sister's display of emotion with a slightly raised eyebrow. She'd clearly hit a nerve. However, Janet's behavior was making Judith increasingly regretful. She truly didn't want to hurt her sister, but...well, all's fair in love and war.
"You know I loved Gordon! I loved him with all of my heart!"
"Apparently enough to kill him. You loved him to death, didn't you, Janet?"
"And what's going to happen to Burt?" Judith questioned calmly as she kept her focus locked on her sister. "Is he going to wind up in his grave because of you, too?"
"You listen to me, Judith," Janet spoke up with fire in her voice as she jumped up off of her bed. "I love Burt and there's nothing you can do about it! Burt loves me, not you!"
"He did love me! And he still loves me! He's just with you out of pity!" Judith grabbed Janet and gave her a firm shake.
"You're vile and disgusting and he would never want anything to do with you ever again!" Janet pulled herself away from Judith and bolted across the room, putting a great distance between them.
"Oh, Janet, I wouldn't be too sure of that," Judith muttered slyly as she carefully rested her hand on her swollen stomach.
TO BE CONTINUED
Sara and Janet each receive shocking news.
For Now and Forever
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