For Now and Forever
EPISODE #110 (Friday,
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"Darling, you have no idea how glad I am that you agreed to have dinner with me tonight," Dr. Fred Rutherford smiled as he held Leticia Stokes' hand in his. "After the other day, I was afraid that you'd never speak to me again."
"Oh, Fred, you've been so sweet and so kind," Leticia sighed. "It's just that with Nelson pulling at me, I haven't been able to think straight. I know in my heart that whatever we might have had ended a long time ago, but seeing him just...well...brings back a lot of memories of a time when things were much different between us."
"I can understand that," he nodded. "After so many years of marriage, it's perfectly natural for you to still feel some sort of connection to him. However, I hope that those lingering memories of the past don't cloud your judgment. I hope that they don't make you see things differently than they really are."
"Don't worry, dear. I know exactly what kind of man Nelson is. The blinders that I've been wearing for years are finally off." She glanced down at her hand, held tenderly in Fred's, and relished in the feeling of his soft touch. "I know the kind of life that my marriage to Nelson turned into. I don't want that kind of life anymore. I want to be with someone who appreciates me."
"Darling, I appreciate you," Fred assured her and gripped her hand more tightly. "I would never condescend to you the way that your husband has done all of these years."
"I know that, Fred."
"In fact, I want to show you exactly how much I appreciate you." He smiled slyly as he slipped his other hand into his pocket.
"What do you mean?" she asked as he eyed him curiously.
"I hope that you'll take this as a small symbol of how much I care about you," Fred explained as he pulled the beautiful ring---Annabelle's ring---out of his pocket and held it up to the light for her to see. "I hope that you'll accept this gift as a token of my devotion to you."
"Oh, Fred, it's...it's beautiful!" Leticia gasped as she looked at the ring. "But, I..."
"No, don't say a word," he smiled as he took her hand and slid the ring on her finger, "at least not until I finish with what I have to say." He paused and took a deep breath. "Leticia, darling, I love you. I love you more than I think I've ever loved anyone in my entire life."
Fred's declaration caught Leticia completely off guard. Sure, they had grown closer during the past few months and she was quite aware of the intense romantic feelings that were starting to develop between them, but she'd never suspected that he felt this strongly about her. As she gazed down at the ring which was now residing comfortably on her hand, his profession of love still rang in her ears and she wasn't entirely sure of what to say in response.
SPRINGHILL MANOR - LIBRARY
"I can't believe that you invited that...girl...to move into our house," Dane Manchester grumbled as he sat in his favorite chair and read the newspaper. "First you move your mother in, then you move that tramp cousin of yours, and now this? What the hell are we running? A flop house?"
"Dane, it's not like that and you know it," Sara Manchester reminded her husband. "Momma's here so that we can work to make up for lost time; Stephanie's here because she had no place else to go; and Naomi is only living here because of the baby. There's still something about her that I don't trust. If she's here with us in this house, then we can keep an eye on her and figure out exactly what she's up to."
"I'll tell you what she's up to!" he barked angrily. "She's trying steal our fortune! She wants to take away every penny that we inherited from Thornton Preston."
"Well, if he is the father of her child, then that baby certainly has some kind of claim on his estate," she rationalized as she slowly paced around the room.
"You're not suggesting that we simply hand over everything to her lock, stock, and barrel, are you?" Dane asked as he immediately stopped his reading to glare at his wife with surprise. "If you think that I'm giving up everything we have because of some little brat, then you've lost your mind!"
"Dane, no, that's not what I'm suggesting," Sara sighed. "I'm not saying that we give her everything. But if this baby is Mr. Preston's son, then it at least deserves something. Maybe we can...work out some kind of an agreement that provides for the baby and...let's us keep some of what we have."
"Some?" he laughed incredulously. "We're keeping all of it! I'll be damned if I'm giving that little urchin one red cent!"
The intense conversation was suddenly interrupted by the shrill ring of the telephone. Thankful for the unexpected end of the discussion, Dane quickly rose to take the call.
"Hello, Manchester residence," he said politely as he pressed the receiver to his ear. "Oh! H-hello. Um...yes, it has been a long time. I didn't...expect to ever hear from you. What? Oh, I see. Yes. Yes, sir. Yes, sir. I...I understand." He paused as a deeply uncomfortable look covered his face. "Oh, no, sir. You won't have anything to worry about. Yes, sir."
"Dane, who was that?" Sara asked as he concluded the conversation and hung up the phone. "Who were you talking to?"
He let out a heavy sigh and slumped back down into his chair before responding. "My father," he explained.
"Your father?" she gasped, more than a little shocked. Neither one of Dane's parents had even made an attempt to contact during the entire time that they'd been marriage. She was immediately curious as to why her father-in-law would suddenly call out of the blue. "W-well...what did he want? Surely he's not...still upset about our marriage. Is he...ready to accept that we're married?"
"Far from it," he muttered as his jaw tightened. "Father just called to announce to me that he was running for state senator."
"Senator?" Sara's eyes grew wide with shock. "That's...wonderful!"
"Yes, it is," he sighed. However, his expressions gave away his true feelings. He wasn't nearly as happy with the development as he wanted to appear. "He just wanted to warn me not to do anything to embarrass him. He warned me...both of us, actually...not to do anything that would cost him this election."
"Well, that sounds kind of...extreme," she commented. "What in the world could either one of us do that might embarrass him."
"To father, this entire marriage is an embarrassment," he shot back angrily. "And I can only imagine what he would think if this stupid mess over Thornton Preston's half-breed child were to hit the newspapers. We'd be stuck right in the middle of it on the front page!"
"Exactly," he sighed. "And I can guarantee you that my father is not a man to be crossed. If we did something to inadvertently cost him this election, he'd do everything he could to make our lives a living hell. You can count on that!"
As Sara watched her husband's reactions concerning his father, a new sense of worry and dread started to take hold of her. From everything that Dane had told her, his father wasn't prone to making idle threats. It was that realization that chilled her to the bone.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"I can't believe that she's out with him again," Nelson Stokes grumbled as he paced around the room. "Why can't she see him for the weasel that he is? Why is she being so gullible about him?"
"Well, mother seems to feel unappreciated and unloved---romantically speaking, of course," Jillian Stokes spoke up as she sat on the sofa. "I know that...well...you two have had a rather tense relationship over the years and you can be a little overbearing and..."
"I know, I know," he mumbled and hung his head. "I confess that I've made mistakes. I...took her and what we had for granted. I realize that now."
"Maybe it's just too late," Janet Stokes supposed as she sat next to Jillian. "Maybe too much has happened between the two of you for her to just simply forgive and forget."
"I refuse to believe that!" he shouted angrily. "There has to be some way to make her realize how much I still love her. I have to make her understand that I want to make things right between us."
"That Dr. Rutherford fellow can clearly spot a vulnerable woman when he sees one," Judith Linford commented as she walked into the room and joined the conversation. "He's a sly one, I have to give him that. He knows exactly what mother wants to hear and isn't hesitating to dish it out. That foolish old woman is just gobbling it up!"
"I know that I've make mistakes," Nelson confessed softly. "Not only with your mother, but with all of you." He paused and turned to Jillian. "You especially, dear. I've been so...bull headed that I...I've pushed you away and I..."
"Father?" Jillian eyed him curiously. What was he trying to say.
"I haven't been there when you needed me," he sighed. "You love Reginald and I've...done nothing but try to stand in the way of your happiness. I should have been supporting you and loving you and rejoicing in your happiness instead of...casting you aside like I did."
"Father, you only did what you did because you care," Jillian responded as she quickly rose from her seat and rushed to his side. "I can't agree with your opinions of Reginald or with the way you handled things, but...well...I've always known it was because you care."
"Darling, I'm...so sorry," he muttered and then took his youngest daughter into his arms. "If you want to marry Reginald, who am I to stand in your way. This entire mess with your mother has forced me to rethink every single one of my opinions and actions and I...well...realize that I might not have been as correct in my thinking as I once thought."
"Oh...Daddy!" Jillian sighed as she tried to fight back her tears of joy. "Do you...really mean that?"
"Yes, dear," he smiled as he held her in his arms. "And if he loves you every bit as much as you say he does, then I couldn't be happier for you. I mean that."
"Oh, my," Jillian laughed as she tried to wipe away her tears. "I feel...so foolish."
"And why's that?"
"Here we are having...a wonderful family moment and I have to leave," she explained. "Actually, I've got to go meet Reginald. He's taking me out dancing. We're trying to get our minds off of...everything that's going on with his family."
"Well, you go and have a wonderful time." He looked down deeply into her eyes and smiled. "Send him my best."
"What a touching moment," Judith sighed with only a faint note of sarcasm as Jillian hurried out of the house. "I know that when you finally convince mother that she's making a fool out of herself, it's going to be just as emotional."
"I can only hope that I can convince her of my sincerity," he muttered as he again began to slowly pace around the room. "Right now, she's not even listening to a word I've said. Of course, I can't really blame her for that. I certainly haven't been around lately when this family has needed me."
"Oh, Daddy, don't say that!" Judith gasped. "You're a wonderful father!"
"If that were really true then I would have been her for you when..." His voice trailed off and he bit his lip. "When you lost the baby. I should have been on the first plane out of New York, but I...was stuck in a meeting. I knew that your mother was here and could handle things and I...didn't think that I was needed."
"Daddy, I always need you!" Judith exclaimed. "How could you think that I wouldn't? Besides, you were tied up with business and couldn't get away. I understood that. You did send all of those flowers. I knew that even though you weren't here, I was still in your thoughts and in your heart."
"The baby," Janet muttered, more to herself than to anyone else.
"Janet, dear, did you say something?" Judith asked curiously as she turned to eye her sister closely.
"N-no," Janet replied awkward as her eyes grew vacant. "I...didn't say...anything."
The baby! Judith's baby! You killed your own sister's baby! It's your fault. Everyone was right about you. You're crazy. When Burt finds out what you've done, he'll hate you. He'll wish that you were dead!
"No!" Janet cried out and then bolted from the room.
"Janet!" Nelson called out as he prepared to chase after her. "Janet, darling, what's wrong?"
"Oh, Daddy, just let her be," Judith sighed as she grabbed her father's arm. "She's always...having these little spells. They don't mean anything."
"But there's something wrong with her!" he insisted. "This kind of behavior isn't normal. Something's clearly not right inside her head."
"For Janet, this is normal," Judith reminded. "She just gets like this for no reason and then it passes and it's like nothing ever happened. Just let her go."
"This is all my fault," he muttered wearily. "She clearly wasn't ready to come home from the hospital. She's still...troubled. Even I can see that!"
Just as Nelson was about ignore Judith's advice and chase after Janet, the telephone rang. He immediately stopped and turned to answer.
"Hello," he spoke firmly and deliberately into the receiver. "Yes, this is the Stokes' residence. Who? What? W-Well, w-what happened? Is...she all right? I...understand. Yes, of course. I'm...on my way."
"Daddy, what is it?" Judith asked as she rushed to his side and grabbed his arm. "What's wrong? You don't look well."
"That was...the hospital," Nelson muttered, slightly in shock. "It seems like...your mother..."
"What, Daddy, what?"
"There's been an accident," he explained as he tried not to panic. "The nurse wouldn't give me any details, but...your mother is in critical condition."
"Oh, no!" Judith gasped. "Oh, Daddy, we've got to get to the hospital! We've got to go!"
"Wait!" he called out as she rushed for the door. "We need to get Janet so that she can..."
"Daddy, there's no time for that," she tried to reason. "In the state she was in when she ran out of here, she's not going to do anyone any good at the hospital. We've got to go."
"All...right," he nodded as he grabbed his coat and quickly followed her.
"Daddy, do you have my keys?" Judith asked anxiously as she began rummaging through her purse. "I can't find my keys!"
"I've got them right here," he said calmly as he fought the urge to loose control. "Remember, you've been letting me use your car while I've been in town."
"Oh...yes...I forgot," she stammered in between deep breaths. "I'm...driving. We've got to get to the hospital. Mother has to be all right!"
As they ran out the door, Nelson said a prayer that Leticia would be okay. He just didn't know what he would do if anything happened to her before he had a chance to make things right between them.
THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
"I...I don't know what to say," Leticia stammered awkwardly as she began to feel her heart race inside her chest. "I...never expected to hear you say that. Well, at least not yet."
"I didn't expect it either," Fred smiled warmly. "It's just that...well...you have such a profound effect on me. Knowing you has completely changed my life. I go to bed at night with thoughts of you and they're still inside my head when I wake up in the morning."
"Fred, darling, I...often think the same things, myself," she confessed softly as she hung her head. "But...we haven't really being seeing one another long enough to..."
"I know that it's sudden. I know that it must come as a shock to you," he began to explain as he held onto her hand. "It's been quite a shock for me, as well. I thought that I was too old and too jaded by life to feel this way, but you---just being you---have made me realize that there's more to life than my work at the hospital. You've brought a ray of sunshine into my life that seems to make every one of my days just a little brighter and...well...the birds chirp a little sweeter."
"You're going to make me blush," she laughed.
"Oh, please do!" he ginned impishly. "You're so beautiful when you blush."
Leticia paused for a moment and considered what he'd said before taking a deep breath and speaking again. "I'm flattered by all of this. Really I am," she said as she tried to choose her words carefully. "And...I don't think words can even begin to express the warm feeling inside me that hearing that causes, but..."
"There's always a 'but'," Fred sighed, obviously crestfallen.
"Darling, I just can't say it back," she tried to explain carefully. "It's just...too soon. I hope that you weren't expecting me to..."
"No, not at all," he replied softly. "I wasn't expecting anything from you at all. I didn't tell you I love you because I wanted to hear it back. Now, don't get me wrong, it would thrill my soul to no end to hear those same words from you, but I only told you because it's true. I just...didn't think that I could go another day without proclaiming what I feel in my heart."
"Oh, Fred, I truly wish that I could tell you that I love you, but...well...it's just too soon." She lowered her head and took another deep breath. "But I...do have my own confession to make."
"Yes," she nodded. "These last few months that we've spent getting to know one another have been...one of the most joyous times of my life. You make me feel things that I...well...thought that I was incapable of feeling ever again. I gave up hope a long time ago of ever feeling this way again."
"Wait, please let me finish." She looked deeply into his eyes and continued. "Right now, I can't say that I love you, but I also can't say that I'm never going to say it. If I were to tell you that I have no feelings for you, it would be a bold faced lie. I do have feelings for you, but...I'm not sure that I can call it love. It...might be, but...I'm not sure. I'm sorry."
"There's nothing to be sorry for," he grinned. "In fact, you've given me one of the greatest gifts that I could ever imagine."
"Yes," he nodded. "You've given me the gift of hope. Even though you can't openly return my love now, I have hope that, one day, you will be able to. And I can assure you, that day will be the happiest day of my entire life." He paused and looked down at the ring that he'd placed on her hand. "I hope that you'll keep the ring even though...you don't exactly share my feelings right now. Keep it and wear it as a symbol of hope---hope for the future."
"I...will," she smiled as she glanced down at the ring and saw it sparkle in the light. "I'll wear it as a symbol of hope...for our future."
As Fred again took Leticia's hand into his, he smiled. However, his smile was not brought upon by Leticia's emotional confession. This smile was more of a smile of victory. He almost had her right where he wanted her, but there was still something holding her back. He could tell that she wanted to profess her love for him, but something was clearly stopping her and he was convinced that it was more than the excuse that she'd given.
Looking deeply into her eyes, he knew exactly what the real reason was---Nelson. No matter how her husband had treated her or what growing feelings for Fred that Leticia might have, there was still a part of her that refused to let go of her husband whether she wanted to admit it or not. Of course, if Nelson were completely out of the way, there would be nothing for her to hold onto but a ghost; and Fred was certain that Leticia was much too level headed and practical for that.
"Okay, read that line again," Patterson Monroe said as he carefully followed along in his script. "The one about how Patience has never felt this way before."
"Oh, Paddy, I just don't know if I can do this!" Stephanie Lake cried as she flung her own script down onto the table and buried her face in her hands.
"Yes, you can," he insisted firmly. "You've been on the air for a couple of days, now, and nothing catastrophic has happened. You didn't mess up your lines. I was listening. You were very good."
"You're just saying that," she grumbled. "I was horrible!"
"No, you weren't!" he laughed, amused by her overwhelming anxiety. "Mr. Lowell, himself, told you that the switchboards at the station lit up as soon as the show went off the air. Everyone was wanting to know who the new actress was in the role of Patience Hart."
"Well, yeah," she muttered as she slowly lifted her head so that she could look at her script again. "They did...seem to like me."
"They didn't just like you, they loved you!" He paused and reached across the table to take her hand. "You're going to be so popular that that show isn't going to know what hit it. I bet that in no time, the announcer's going to be saying 'And now, The Trials of Prudence starring Stephanie Lake!'"
"Norma would have a fit," she laughed as her spirits began to lift. "She's the real star of the show. She is playing Prudence, after all."
"Oh, Prudence shmudence," he chuckled. "You can do it. I have faith in you."
"You've always had faith in me, Paddy," she smiled. "Even when I didn't have faith in myself. Why is that?"
"Because you're worth believing in," he explained. "Because I..."
"B-because I know you can do it." It wasn't exactly what he was about to say, but the sudden mid-stream change spared him from potential embarrassment. After the few awkward moments that followed, Patterson realized that he needed to take the conversation in an entirely different direction. "So, what are you going to do about school?"
"That's a lost cause," she sighed. "Actually, I officially dropped out the same day that I got the part. I just can't...pay for school and save up enough money to get out of Sara's house."
"I wish that you could've stayed in college. You're really very smart."
"Me?" she laughed. "I'm far from smart. Sure, I've got some common sense---just some, mind you---but I'm no where near as book smart as you are. You seem to get 'A's on everything. I've got to fight for just 'D's. No, I did the right thing."
"Well, just as long as you're happy with your choice."
"I'm very happy," Stephanie smiled. "Unbelievably nervous, but very happy."
"Okay, then," Patterson sighed and then took a deep breath. "Let's work on this scene some more. I've got to make sure that you're in top form for tomorrow's show."
Meanwhile, just a few tables away, someone sat, unnoticed, watching Patterson and Stephanie. As his eyes narrowed, he focused entirely on her.
"Oh, my darling, Stephanie," he muttered softly to himself. "It's been too long since we've been together. All because of that damned mother of yours. How dare she keep us apart! Well, it won't be long now, princess. Finally, after all this time, we'll be together just like we always should have been. You just hold on. Daddy's coming."
"Oh, please, dear lord, let her be all right," Nelson prayed as he took deep, labored breaths. "Please let Leticia be okay."
"Daddy, just hold on," Judith said as she turned the wheel sharply to the right and pulled out onto the main highway. "I'll get us to the hospital just as fast as I can."
"Darling, just be careful," he cautioned. "These roads are still wet from the rain we've had for the last few days."
"Daddy, I know what I'm doing!" she snapped as she pressed down on the accelerator. "I've got to get us to the hospital!"
"Judith, dear, slow down," he spoke up as the car whizzed along the highway. "You're going too fast!"
"No, Daddy, we've got to get to Mother!"
"Be careful!" He gripped onto the door handle as she squealed around a curve. "Slow down!"
"Daddy!" she cried out as a sense of confusion and fear began to take over. "Oh, Daddy, something's wrong!"
"Wrong?" he questioned anxiously. "What do you mean? What's wrong?"
"Oh, Daddy, I can't slow down!" As she felt the car race forward, she repeatedly pressed down on the brake, but quickly found out that the car was not responding. "Something's...wrong!"
"Judith, be careful!"
The car squealed around yet another curve.
"I'm trying! The brakes aren't...working!" She felt a sense of panic begin to overtake her as she struggled to maintain control of the vehicle. "I can't...slow down!"
"Judith!" Nelson cried out as the car began to go even faster down a large hill. "Judith, be careful!"
"Oh, Daddy, I'm trying! I'm trying!"
Suddenly, she remembered a sharp, hairpin curve that was coming up in the road and she began to say a silent prayer that she could get the brakes to respond in time. As the headlights cast their light out upon the darkened roadway, she pressed the brakes again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again.
"Daddy!" she cried out. "I can't...stop! We're not...going to make..... DADDY!"
TO BE CONTINUED
A death in the family.
For Now and Forever
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