THE GARDENS RESTAURANT
isn't this much better?" Patterson smiled as he sat across the table from
Stephanie. "There are just...too many bad memories in that house for
you, right now. Maybe you should considering moving out sooner than you'd
"I'd...really like that,"
she agreed with a nod, "but...well...that takes money and...."
She paused and bit her lip as she looked away. "I was saving up to
get a place of my own. That's why I took that job on that serial,
but...well...then I...disappeared and...." She paused and took a deep
breath. "I'm sure that they've fired me. I know that they've
recast my part with somebody else."
"Well, not necessarily,"
he smiled slyly.
Stephanie eyed him curiously. "Surely, they didn't just save the part
for me. I mean, I just vanished without a word---no phone call, no
letter. I just didn't show up for work! Patty is an important
character. They couldn't just ignore her until I came back."
She paused and took a deep breath as she looked down at her hands that were
tightly clasped together in her lap. "Even I didn't know if I was
"I knew you were coming
back," Patterson said firmly. "And I...well...hope you don't
mind, but I took the liberty of seeing Mr. Lowell a few weeks ago."
"You did what?"
"I...I told him about what had
happened with your father and...well...explained the situation and..."
"Oh, Paddy, you didn't!"
she gasped and then buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.
"I'm sorry, but..."
He reached across the table and took her hand, giving it a reassuring
squeeze. "Well, they did recast your part, but the actress really
wasn't that good. From what Mr. Lowell said, even though you haven't been
on the show that long, you've developed quite a loyal following. The audience
just refused to accept the other actress in your role and demanded that the real
Patience Hart return!"
he smile broadly. "And after I assured Mr. Lowell that you would
return, he simply fired your replacement and sent Patty up to her room to
knit. In fact, I talked to him just today right before I came to pick you
up from the hospital. He said that your role is ready and waiting for you
whenever you're ready to go back to work."
That's...wonderful!" Stephanie exclaimed and then jumped out of her chair
to rush to his side and threw her arms around him. "You did all of
that for me? You...risked your life to save me and now...now you've saved
"Steph, it's like I told
you." He grinned as he held her chin in his hand and gazed deeply
into her eyes. "I'd move heaven and earth for you. I...love
you, Stephanie Lake. I love you."
I...I..." Her voice caught in her throat. "I love you,
too! When I...was gone, I d-didn't think I was ever going to see you again
and I...I just couldn't bear the thought of it, but...but...I knew in my heart
that if anyone was going to save me, it was going to be you and...."
She paused and looked away as she fought back her tears.
"Stephanie, I love you,"
he said again and took her into his arms. "I'll scream it from the
highest rooftop in Albanyville if I have to."
"P-Paddy, I...I..." she
said in between sobs as she rested her head on his shoulder. "I was
so scared. I k-knew that he was...my f-father, but...but..."
"It's okay, honey, it's
okay." He held her even tighter and gently stroked her hair as her
body began to shake due to her emotional sobs.
muttered softly and then pulled away from him so that she could look into his
eyes. In response, he lifted his hand to her cheek and brushed away her
tears. "You have no idea how happy I am, right now,
but...but..." Her voice caught in her throat and she quickly looked
away. "But just remembering how I felt when I didn't know if I was
ever coming home---if I was ever going to see you again."
"It's all right,"
Patterson said reassuringly. "I understand. You've been through
an ordeal that no one should ever have to go through."
"Thank you," she smiled
weakly. "Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for saving
me. Thank you for being my friend and...loving me." As she
began to wipe away her own tears, she laughed uncomfortably. "I
must...really look a mess, right now."
"You look beautiful to
"Well, that's just because
you're apparently blinded by love," she laughed as she touched him lightly
on the cheek. "Everybody else is going to see me as the stupid girl
whose make-up is a complete disaster." She laughed warmly.
"Now, I'm going to go to the ladies room and pull myself together."
"You just hurry back," he
smiled again. "We've spent entirely too much time apart, as it is,
and I never want to be separated from you again."
Stephanie grinned broadly as she
rose from her seat then kissed her index finger and pressed it to Patterson's
lips before hurrying off to the ladies' room. Once inside, she stood at
the vanity and gazed at her reflection in the mirror. Although she could
clearly see that she was a mess, she inhaled deeply and smiled. Patterson
loved her. He loved her! No matter what horrible, awful things that
she'd done in the past, he'd managed to look over them and love her! As she
exhaled slowly, she smiled. Maybe there really was such a thing as a happy
Stephanie," came the unfortunately familiar voice from behind her that
immediately caused Stephanie's body to grow tense.
"Helen!" Stephanie said as
she spun around to face her. "What do you want?"
"I just...wanted to tell you
that...I'm glad that you okay," Helen
Van Dyne replied awkwardly. "I know
that none of what's happened has been easy for you and..."
"Oh, just save it!"
Stephanie snapped angrily. "I have nothing to say to you!"
She balled her hands up into fists and prepared to push past her foe.
"Stephanie, wait!" Helen
spoke up and reached out to grab Stephanie's arm. "I'm not here to
cause trouble. Honestly, I'm not. I just want to offer
my...condolences over what happened to...your father. That's the
truth. I don't care what problems there might be between us or what you've
done in the past, no one should have to..."
"Oh, I see, now,"
Stephanie spat smugly. "You're just trying to get on my good side so
that I'll keep my mouth shut! I bet you were really praying that I'd
dropped off the face of the earth!"
insisted. "That's not...how it was, at all!"
"I just bet it was!"
Stephanie seethed angrily. "Well, you just remember that I know all
about how you like to chase after every available---and not so available---man
that you can find!"
"Oh, you're a fine one to
talk," Helen retorted, her sense of cordialness quickly disappearing.
"I saw you all snuggled up to Patterson Monroe, out there. What, you
couldn't connive your way back into Reginald's life so you decided to go after
his best friend?"
"You shut up about Paddy!"
Stephanie shouted. "Shut up about Paddy and stay far, far away from
me! I don't want to have anything to do with you. Do you hear
me? Nothing! You leave me alone or I'll go straight to Jillian and
tell her about how your having an affair with her sister's husband.
Certainly you wouldn't want that, now would you?"
"You leave Mark out of
"Well, well, well," came a
voice from the doorway, startling them and causing them to spin around in its
stammered, unsure of what to say or how to react.
"Yes, very well put. Now,
why don't you tell me all about this affair that you're having with my