For Now and Forever
EPISODE #75 (Friday
THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM
"You listen to me, Judith," Janet Stokes 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 Linford grabbed her sister 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.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"A letter?" Sara Manchester asked curiously as Mrs. Preston stepped further into the room.
"Yes, dear, a letter. It explains everything." Mrs. Preston carefully looked at the room filled with reminders of her late husband. Of course, it hadn't been a loving marriage, but Thornton had meant something to her. "It explains why my husband left you and your husband his estate."
"Then surely this letter proves that I was not having some sort of affair with your husband!" Sara kept her eyes focused on the widow. This letter just had to prove to Dane that, despite her lies concerning her work, she had not betrayed the vows of their marriage.
"Well, actually, it doesn't mention anything about your affair with Thornton." She turned to look at Sara and began to carefully examine every detail of her face. The young girl looked so much like Mrs. Preston had looked when she was about the same age. "However, I'm sure that it explains his interest in you."
"Would you quit dancing around the subject and just tell me!"
"For one, Thornton deeply disapproved of your deceptions where your husband was concerned," Mrs. Preston began as she slowly paced around the room. "He didn't think it was right for you to deceive your husband and disobey his requests for you not to work."
"That was none of your husband's business!" Sara snapped, the tension beginning to get to her. "I only did what I did for my husband, not to hurt him! There was no other way to save his chances to get his degree!"
"Well, whatever your reasoning, my husband did not approve." Mrs. Preston's eyes quickly landed on a framed photograph of her husband that sat on his desk. She smiled briefly when she remembered when it had been taken...their honeymoon. It all seemed so long ago.
"That's why he included Dane in his will?" Sara furrowed her brow, not fully understanding her late employer's motives.
"Yes. He did it as punishment for you. If you were to inherit the estate alone, you would have the means to be completely independent of your husband. Since Mr. Manchester...Dane...shares in your inheritance, he can resume his rightful roll as your husband. He can exert the will that a husband should exert."
"But...that's nearly archaic!" Sara's hand flew up to her mouth with the realization that her joint inheritance with Dane was meant to put her back under her husband's control...to force her to resume the roll of the dutiful wife.
"And that, my dear, is my husband in a nutshell. I can't say that I necessarily agree with his views, but that is just how it is. I assume that since he gave me quite a long leash and free reign to do as I pleased, he didn't want you to end up as I had."
"I...I don't understand?" Sara carefully approached Mrs. Preston, still trying to absorb what she was being told. "Why was I even included in the will in the first place? That's what truly doesn't make any sense!"
"Oh, I agree with you there," Mrs. Preston continued. "Or, at least I did until I discovered what my husband had discovered. When I learned that he'd left you almost everything, I was convinced that it was because you'd had an affair with him and conned him out of his fortune..."
"That's not how it was!"
"Well, I'm still not convinced of that entirely." Mrs. Preston cautiously approached Sara and reached out to touch a lock of her hair causing Sara to flinch in awkwardness and pull away. "However, I now know that there was more to it than that...much more."
"W-what do you mean?"
"Mrs. Manchester...Sara...my husband found out certain things about you." Mrs. Preston took a long, deep breath. Could she really tell Sara something that would change her entire life? "Things that I'm sure you have no idea about."
"I...I don't understand what you're trying to say. What things?"
Mrs. Preston eyed her carefully as her hands began to shake with nervousness. It had been so long. Did she really have the right to upset this young woman's life again?
THE STOKES MANSION - JANET'S BEDROOM
"Oh, Janet you must really be a fool," Judith laughed smugly as she folded her arms across her chest. "You honestly think that Burt has never loved anyone else in his entire life but you? Do you really think that he's been waiting all this time for you to just come traipsing along into his life?"
"No," Janet muttered, realizing how implausible it all sounded once it was repeated by Judith. "I...I know he's probably been in love before. I've been in love before. Why wouldn't Burt have been in love before. But...but I just don't believe that a man as kind and honest could have ever loved someone as selfish and spiteful as you!"
"Well, believe what you want, dear, but Burt did love me!" Judith began to walk around the room, letting her fingers glide across various surfaces and tabletops in an effort to appear nonchalant. "He loved me so much that he wanted to marry me."
"No! I refuse to believe that!" Janet's face began to flush with anger as she balled her hands up into fists. "He might have had an affair with you, but that's all it was! It was never love!"
"Oh, it was love. We had a deep and passionate affair." Judith turned to watch her sister's reactions. "He wanted to marry me. He wanted me to leave Mark and run away with him."
"Then why didn't you?" Janet just couldn't believe everything that Judith was telling her. It was just so impossible...so improbable.
"Because it would mean leaving my entire life behind. I would have had to leave Mother and Daddy and Manhattan and give up my entire life!" Judith hesitated as she quickly looked away. The pain of her rejection of Burt still affected her and she couldn't help but wonder how different her life might have been if she'd only agreed to run away with him.
"You didn't do it because it never happened!"
"No! It did happen, Janet. It happened exactly like I told you! I have regretted that moment ever since." Judith fought to keep herself together. Being forced to face the pain of Burt's loss was almost too much for her, but she just had to make Janet understand. "Burt was...Burt is the love of my life. I never stopped loving him."
"You don't know the first thing about love!" Janet began to feel herself grow more and more angry. "The only person you've ever loved is yourself!"
"Oh, you couldn't be more wrong. I love Burt. I love Burt more than you could ever imagine loving him!"
"That might be true," Janet said softly as she glared at her older sister, "but he will never love you! He loves me and there's not a single thing you can do about it! If you don't give up on this idea of yours that you can keep Burt and me from being together, than I'll make sure Daddy and everyone else knows what kind of underhanded stunts you've been pulling to keep us apart."
"You think you have the upper hand, don't you?" Judith sneered coldly. "You think you hold all the cards. Well, I'm here to tell you that you don't! I'm the one who's in control of everything. I'm the one who'll determine what happens to you and Burt!"
"What in heaven's name are you talking about?"
"You see, sister dear, Burt might know everything about you...you're affair with Gordon Scott, your murderous tendencies, your mental instability, but I can guarantee that there are things that you don't know about Burt!" Judith threw her shoulders back with determination, a confidence that she would be the one to rise from the battle for Burt's heart victorious.
"I...I don't understand what you're saying. What things?"
"Let's just say that I know things that will change everything." Judith turned on her heel and headed for the door. "And when those things become public knowledge, you won't stand a chance."
"Stephanie, I'm so sorry about Todd," Patterson Monroe said as he reached across the table and took her hand into his. "I just don't know what got into him. I've never seen him act out like that."
"It's okay," she muttered as she hung her head. "I'm sure it's got to be difficult for him. He'd gotten so used to having Lorraine around all of the time. Suddenly, she's off and married to Douglas and here I am hanging around. It's no wonder that..."
"No! Don't you dare try to put the blame of this onto yourself! You've done nothing wrong." However, Patterson was forced to admit to himself that all of the upheaval in young Todd's life most certainly played a factor in his troubling behavior.
Stability was something he'd fought so hard to provide for his younger brother since the deaths of their parents, but he'd failed miserably. He'd brought Lorraine into his life, gotten him attached to her, and then had to stand by as they both lost her to another man.
"I...I guess that it's just in my nature to cause trouble," she sighed as she hung her head. "I schemed to disrupt Reginald and Jillian's lives, I caused Sara to hate me, I brought about Helen and Clark's horrible plots..."
"You stop right there!" Patterson slammed his fist down onto the table, frustrated with her attempts to shoulder the blame of every horrible thing that had happened. "Whatever Clark Saxon did is not your fault! You didn't ask him to come into your life. You didn't invite him to ruin it!"
"But it was all because of what I did to Reginald and Jillian! If it hadn't been for that, Helen and Clark would have had no reason to want to..."
"If you're going to lay blame, then place the blame on the right person."
"Who?" She eyed him curiously.
"Your mother! That's who!" He leaned back into his chair, folded his arms across his chest, and clinched his teeth. "If it weren't for her filling your head with silly notions about you winning Reginald away from Jillian, none of this would have happened! Every horrible thing that's come out of that has been because of your mother!"
"And Dane! If it hadn't been for him, none of this would have happened!"
"You still refuse to see your mother for the kind of woman that she is, don't you?" Patterson shook his head slightly, still unable to believe how staunchly she could defend her mother in light of everything that she knew. "Why, she drugged Charles Callison in an attempt to seduce him and destroy his marriage!"
"I thought we weren't going to talk about this anymore!" Stephanie sunk down into her chair and stuck out her bottom lip in a pout. Why did every conversation she had with Patterson turn into a argument about her mother? Why couldn't he just let her handle things the way she thought they should be handled?
"Because, Stephanie, as soon as you can see her for what she is...as soon as you can break away from her control..." He paused to take a breath. "Only then will you be able to find happiness with yourself and with other people. You've got to show everyone that you can stand on your own two feet!"
"Maybe I can show people I can stand on my own two feet by not leaning on you all of the time!" she snapped angrily as she bolted from her chair and ran for the door.
"Stephanie! Wait!" Patterson called out as he chased after her. Finally he caught up with her as she stood outside the cafe, leaning against a light post. "Honey, surely you don't mean that."
"Oh, Paddy," she sobbed as she fell into his arms. "I'm so...so sorry. I didn't mean that. You must think that I'm horribly ungrateful."
"No. Not at all." He wrapped his arms around her tightly and pulled her head against his chest. "I know this is all so difficult for you."
"I...I just don't know what to do," she said as she continued to sob. "I don't know what I would have done these last few months if it hadn't been for you."
Patterson continued to hold Stephanie in his arms, each finding a sense of warmth and security in each other's embrace. However, neither one of them saw the shadowy figure in the darkness. It was a figure of someone who was watching them very closely, waiting for just the right moment.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"Mrs. Preston, would you just tell me why your husband left me his estate!" Sara said as she walked closer to the widow. "I just don't understand what I could have done to make him want to put me in his will."
"You?" Mrs. Preston laughed. "What makes you think that this has anything to do with you? This has nothing to do with you!"
"I...I don't understand what you're trying to say." Sara eyed her closely. It seemed like Mrs. Preston was talking in circles. Nothing was making any sense. "Your husband left me almost his entire estate! This has everything to do with me!"
"Don't you see? This has nothing to do with you! You didn't inherit my husband's estate because of you, you inherited it because of me!"
"I'm not following you." Sara furrowed her brow and ran her fingers through her hair as she tried to understand exactly what Mrs. Preston meant. "What does any of this have to do with you? It's pretty obvious that he didn't put you in his will because he didn't really like you very much."
"Ah, you noticed that, did you?" Mrs. Preston let out a thin laugh. "Sara, that's exactly the reason my husband named you in his will. He didn't do it for you, he did it to hurt me! He knew that this would force me to face things that I've been running from almost my entire life."
Mrs. Preston buried her face in her hands as she took a deep breath, trying to will herself to continue. "You see, Sara, I was not always the glamorous society lady that you see before you today. In fact, I was born of very, very humble beginnings. We had no money. The only thing that I knew that I did have was my looks."
"And this has what to do with me?"
"If you'd shut up and let me finish, you'll know!" Mrs. Preston snapped. "As I was saying, I was a very striking beauty. Of course, I still am, but more so in my youth. I used my looks and my charms to get what I wanted out of any man that I wanted. But...I was too young and naive to know the price that those kind of games carry."
Sara watched Mrs. Preston cautiously, unsure what direction her story was taking. One thing she did know, however, was that whatever secrets she was about to reveal, they were causing Mrs. Preston great discomfort.
"I found myself with child," Mrs. Preston continued as she turned to avoid Sara's eyes that were filled with curiosity and questions. "I did the only thing I could do and I married the father. But...but I just wasn't in love with him. I wasn't meant to be a mother. I felt this life inside of me and it just didn't feel right."
"I'm sure it was awkward at first," Sara spoke up as she approached her.
"It didn't get better. Once the baby was born, I...I didn't know what I was doing. Diapers, formula, teething, colic...I just didn't know what I was doing! I didn't have the first maternal bone in my body." She turned and fought back tears of mourning for the person she should have been and the failure that she believed she'd become. "Eventually, I grew to resent the baby. If it weren't for the baby, I could have had anything that I'd wanted. I could have been anybody!"
"But you were somebody!" Sara insisted as she grabbed Mrs. Preston's arm in a display of support and sympathy. "You were a mother!"
"No! No, I wasn't! I wasn't a real mother! I just gave birth to this baby. I was never a mother." Mrs. Preston suddenly pulled away and buried her face in her hands. "I...I just couldn't do it. I started spending more and more time away from home. I kept leaving the baby with my husband while I went running around, trying to forget the horrible life I had. Finally, I met a man who could give me the life that I'd always wanted. He was an up-and-coming businessman. I just knew he was going to be so successful...and rich!"
"He...he didn't know about the baby. He didn't want children. He just wanted me." Mrs. Preston inhaled deeply as she thought about the horrible thing that she'd done...
"Oh, my precious baby," she sobbed as she leaned over the tiny bed and wiped the lock of hair of the child's forehead. "I just...I just can't do it anymore. I can't be the mother that you need me to be. I hope you understand. I hope you know that I have to find my own happiness. I've met a wonderful man and he wants to make a wonderful life with me. But...but I can't take you with me. You'll be so much happier here...without me. I...I ..."
"I walked out on my child...my husband and family," Mrs. Preston continued. "I walked out on them and into a new life."
"With Mr. Preston?"
"No, not with Thornton. This was long before I ever met Thornton Preston. I'm talking about my second husband. We were married for several years until he died. He left me quite wealthy, but...well...let's just say that our nation's economy wasn't good to me. After his death I lost everything. I was penniless again."
"Eventually, I met Thornton. I had gotten so accustomed to a life of privilege that I didn't know how to handle poverty." Mrs. Preston's mind drifted back to the difficult times that she'd had. "Thornton was already a successful author. He was a king in social circles and could throw that grandest cocktail parties. He was my ticket back to the world I belonged in. I managed to find my way into his heart and we married. Of course, the happily ever after didn't last long."
"I...I know that you two didn't have a happy marriage." In spite of herself, Sara was begin to feel such sympathy for the widow.
"Far from it. We actually grew to despise each other. The only reason he never divorced me was that he knew I'd take a large chunk of his wealth in the settlement. We just sorta went our own ways. I knew he'd never give up a dime of his money to me willingly."
"But...what does this have to do with me? Why did he leave everything to me?" Sara eyed her closely as she tried to put together the pieces of her story.
"To spite me! Weren't you listening! He'd do anything to keep me from my rightful share of his money! It should have been mine! I was his wife. I earned it by putting up with the old coot!" Mrs. Preston clinched her teeth firmly, furious that she was being denied what should have been rightfully hers. "He left you his estate to spite me! He did it to get even with me. He knew I wouldn't rest until I found out why!"
"Then tell me!" Sara said pleadingly. "Why me? Why did he leave everything to me?"
"Haven't you figured it out yet?" Mrs. Preston sighed as she slowly approached Sara. "That child I abandoned. That child I couldn't take care of...was you. You're my daughter!"
THE STOKES MANSION - UPSTAIRS HALLWAY
"Judith, what are you talking about?" Janet asked as she followed her sister out into the hallway. "What things? What secrets?"
"I can guarantee that there are things about Burt that you don't know," Judith stated firmly as she continued to walk away from her. "And I'm not sure you want to know!"
"Tell me!" Janet shouted as she grabbed Judith's arm and spun her around to face her. "What are you hiding from me? What do I need to know about Burt!"
"Well," Judith smiled coyly as she laid a gentle hand on her stomach, "it probably has more to do with me than with Burt. True, he was very much involved, but I'm the one who has to carry this secret."
"What the devil are you talking about!" Janet began to feel herself growing more furious with each passing moment. What could Judith possibly be talking about? What did she know about Burt?
"I'm talking about this baby!" Judith spat. "This baby is Burt's, not Mark's! I'm carrying your boyfriend's child!"
"No!" Janet gasped as she recoiled in shock. "You're lying!"
"No, dear, I'm not." Judith exhaled slowly as a glow of victory spread across her face. "Burt is the father of this child. So, you see, no matter what you might do, he'll always be connected to me. If you think you can keep us apart forever, you're sadly deluding yourself."
"No! You can't do this to me!" Janet wailed in anger. "I won't let you do this to me and Burt! You're lying! You are a lying, vengeful, jealous witch!"
"Oh, throw names around all you want to, Janet, but that doesn't change the truth. I'm carrying Burt's child and that means everything!"
"That means nothing because you're lying!"
"Janet, you know Burt and I had an affair in New York! You know that this is the truth." Judith smiled gleefully. "I can tell by the look on your face that you know that what I'm telling you is true. You don't want to accept it, but you know it's true!"
"No!" Janet shouted angrily. "You're just trying to keep me and Burt apart! Just like you tried to keep me and Gordon apart! You're not happy unless everyone else is as miserable as you are! Well, I'm not going to let you!"
"And what are you doing to do about it?" Judith asked with a laugh. "Go cry about it? There's nothing you can do! Once this baby's born, he won't be able to stay away form it or me! You're going to loose him, Janet, and there's not a thing you can do about it!"
Judith turned on her heal and began to walk away with triumphant confidence. She knew the type of man Burt was. There was no way he'd let his own child be born and not want to be a part of its life. They would be tied together forever.
"I won't let you do this!" Janet screamed as she began to shake violently. "I won't let you ruin my life like you've always tried to ruin my life!"
"There's nothing you can do about it."
Janet's eyes began to burn with rage. All of her life, Judith had tried to take away everything that had mattered to her. She'd fought tooth and nail to make sure that Gordon wouldn't love her and tried to convince him to stay with his wife. She'd been the one to convince their father to send her to the institution...a place Janet knew she didn't really belong. Now, Judith was determined to take away the one man who could finally make Janet truly happy. Well, Janet wouldn't let her! Janet would fight her to the end. She would never let her have Burt!
In an instant, Janet's rage began to boil over as she balled her hands into fists. Keeping her eyes focused firmly on Judith, Janet lunged at her. A stunned and horrified Judith turned just in time to see Janet's face, twisted in anger and fear, coming at her. Judith moved to the first step at the top of the staircase in an attempt to move out of her way, but Janet crashed into her, sending her precariously off balance.
As Judith's ankle turned, her foot slid from the first step down onto the second step. Her weight shifting dangerously, she reached for the banister but only succeeded into completely loosing her footing. As a terrified scream tore from Judith's chest, she tumbled head over heals down the long staircase until she landing in a crumpled heap at the bottom.
"O-oh, my god," Janet gasped as she stood at the top of the stairs, tears filling her eyes. "Oh...my god." She covered her mouth in shock as she began to tremble. Never taking her eyes off of her sister, now lying motionless at the foot of the stairs, she began to sob violently and fell to her knees. "W-what have I done?" she asked herself as she grasped onto the top railing of the banister and hugged it tightly. "Oh, my god. I've done it again, but this time I've killed my own sister!"
TO BE CONTINUED
For Now and Forever
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