For Now and Forever
EPISODE #125 (Sunday,
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"We're married Judith," Mark Linford reminded her before taking a sip of his drink. "What's mine is yours and, more importantly, what's yours is mine." He swirled his martini around in his glass and listened as the ice cubes clinked against one another. "If the judge does grant this divorce, I'm going to receive quite a hefty chunk of your inheritance." He paused and eyed her sternly. "Is it really worth you losing all of that money---your daddy's money---just to end this marriage?"
"Actually, yes, it is," Judith Linford replied matter-of-factly. "However, you're not getting a dime out of me! Do you hear me? Not. A. Dime." She paused and smiled broadly before turning on her heel and walking quickly towards the foyer. "Because I have one thing that you don't have. I have one thing that will convince the judge to grant this divorce and leave you with nothing!"
Mark shook his head again and rolled his eyes in response to Judith's dramatics. "And what might that be?"
"Proof," she turned and grinned slyly. "You can come in here, now!"
"W-what?" he asked in confusion. "There's...someone else here?"
Then, at that moment, Mark received the shock of his life as a more than familiar figure stepped into the living room from the foyer. That person was Helen Van Dyne.
THE DAVIS HOME - GRACE'S BEDROOM
"Oh, my lord," Lorraine Davis gasped as she shook her head in shock. Her sister-in-law Grace Davis had just delivered a stunning piece of news that had completely taken Lorraine's breath. "Honey, are you sure? How...could this have happened? I just don't...."
"I...know," Grace muttered with tears in her eyes, her head hung in remorse and embarrassment. "I didn't want it to happen. I didn't...even suspect that...."
"Well, that doesn't matter, now, does it?"
"But now we have to figure out what we're going to do." Lorraine rose from her seat on the edge of the bed and began to slowly pace around the room as she tapped her lower lip and thought. "This is going to kill your brother. He...he's always had so many hopes and dreams for you and..."
"I...I know." Grace paused and inhaled deeply as she tried to fight back the sobs that wanted to break free. "We...don't have to tell him, do we? I mean...well...he's been through so much as it is with Momma and her death and you and...M-Mikey."
"Dear, we have to tell him," Lorraine said firmly, yet compassionately, as she again sat down next to Grace and took her hand. "There's no way to avoid it. You can't hide this forever. He has to know. And then...maybe we can figure out what we're going to do."
"You keep saying 'we.'" Grace looked up at Lorraine and shook her head, not understanding the choice of her sister-in-law's words. "We have nothing to do with this! This is my problem and this is...."
"Oh, really?" Lorraine eyed her sternly. "So, tell me, since this is your problem, what do you plan on doing about it?"
"I...I...." Grace looked away again, unable to meet Lorraine's eyes. "I don't know."
"Honey, I've already told you. We're a family. What effects one of us effects all of us. You do not have to go through this alone!"
"Now, we have to figure out what we're going to do." Lorraine looked at Grace closely and saw the far off look in her eyes. "What is it? What are you thinking about?"
"Trevor," Grace replied softly. "This is...going to hurt him. Oh, Lorraine, how can I hurt him like this? How could I have been so...."
"Well, it's a little too late to start thinking about that now," Lorraine interrupted, more crisply than she'd intended to sound. Realizing her tone, she pulled back momentarily and inhaled deeply. "But...I guess I'm really not in a position to pass judgment, am I? Yes, this is going to hurt him. I can't deny that, but we can't think about that now. What's done is done and we have to move forward. There's no changing the past. Now, we just have to find a way to...."
The light sound of knocking at the bedroom door intruded on their conversation.
"Yes?" Lorraine spoke up calmly, attempting to mask the worry and concern in her voice. She motioned for Grace to compose herself and then slowly rose from her seat to open the door. However, before she could reach it, it swung open, revealing Lorraine's mother on the other side.
"Girls, I just...came up to tell you that dinner was ready," Edwina Blake said softly and then stepped into the room, closing the door behind her. She paused for a moment as her eyes moved from Lorraine to Grace and then took a deep breath. "I...wasn't meaning to eavesdrop, but...well...these doors aren't that thick and...."
"You overheard, didn't you?" Lorraine nodded, realizing that yet another person was now aware of Grace's secret.
"Yes," Edwina sighed and walked over to Grace, taking her hand. "Honey, I'm sorry. I never...suspected that this is what was wrong, but...well...maybe I can help."
"Help?" Lorraine looked up at her mother and furrowed her brow, unsure of how she could be of assistance. "How?"
"Well," Edwina began, "I think I know of a solution to this...problem. Granted, it's not going to be an easy one, but, then again, most good solutions aren't. It's the right thing to do if you're not going to...."
"Go on," Grace spoke up, interested in what Edwina had to say.
"But, if we're going to do this, we have to do it as soon as possible before...well...you can't keep this a secret, anymore." Edwina kept Grace's hand firmly in hers and sat down next to her on the bed. "But, first of all, we have to tell Douglas. He has to know what's going on."
"I...I can't," Grace sobbed. "I can't...bear to see him so disappointed in me. I can't...tell Trevor that..."
"Grace, dear, I'm going to be brutally honest," Edwina said firmly. "At this point, you don't have a choice. You have to consider what's best for you and...well...you have to make a decision before it's too late. I'm sure that you're going to agree with me that this is what's best and I'm sure that Douglas is going to realize that, too. In any event, you have to tell Douglas tonight."
THE MONROE HOME - LIVING ROOM
"Gee, it's so quiet," Stephanie Lake laughed as she stood in the middle of the room and strained to listen at the silence. "So, where are Todd and Mrs. Oliver?"
"She took him out to the movies and then a sundae," Patterson Monroe replied. "Seems that Todd is quite the little fan of Shirley Temple."
"Easy to see why," she grinned as she carefully walked around the room. Suddenly, her heart began to flutter with the realization that they were all alone. Of course, it wasn't like they'd never been alone together before, but this time seemed to be different. There was so much more that hung in the air between them. So much that was good and warm and tender. "Well...I guess that we better go if we're going to make it out for dinner."
"Who said we were going out for dinner?" he smiled with sly amusement.
"Paddy, you asked me over here for dinner, remember?" She eyed him curiously, not able to believe that he'd forgotten. Just then, a look of worried surprise appeared on her face. "Oh...don't tell me that...."
"We're having dinner right here," he explained as he took her by the hand and led her towards the dining room, "just the two of us. No restaurants for us, tonight. I wanted to be alone with you."
"Cook?" he laughed. "Not on your life! I want this dinner to at least be edible. Mrs. Oliver started dinner before she left and I just finished it up."
"How much finishing did you do?" She eyed him suspiciously, clearly remembering the last attempt at cooking he'd made. To say that it was less than edible would have been an understatement.
"Don't worry," he chuckled. "All I did was take the pots off the stove and put everything into bowls. Mrs. Oliver did all of the major work."
"Oh, thank god," she sighed in relief. "Honestly, Paddy, you're going to be the first doctor in history who'll need directions on how to boil water!"
"Stephanie, I'm not that bad!"
"No, you're not," she smiled warmly. "Not bad at all. Actually, you're rather...good."
As she stepped into the dining room, she immediately saw the lavish table adorned with a fine linen table cloth and set with crisp china, brightly polished silver, and sparkling crystal. In the center of the table were two, tall candles that Patterson began to light. As the flames of the candles rose in the air, they cast a soft, dreamy light on the room which intensified when he lowered the lights.
"You...went to a lot of trouble," Stephanie stammered, taken a little aback by the lavish display. "Or, rather, Mrs. Olivier did."
"True, she cooked dinner," he said as he held out her chair for her, "but the work on the table was all my doing. I wanted tonight to be special. Just the two of us."
Stephanie eyed him curiously. There was something different about him---a change in his voice, a subtle, yet striking, expression on his face. He was clearly up to something, but she wasn't sure what it could be. However, thinking of the various possibilities was beginning to make her heart race.
"I can't believe that you actually got Mrs. Oliver to go along with this," she commented as she draped the fine linen napkin over her lap. "She doesn't really...like me or approve of our...relationship."
"Oh, she just hasn't had a chance to really get to know you." Patterson reached across the table and took her hand. "Not like I do."
"I think she knows me about as well as she'd like to," Stephanie sighed. "She really doesn't like me."
"Honey, I don't care who likes you are not." He rose from his seat slightly and leaned across the table to place his index finger under her chin and lifted her head so that their eyes met. "The only thing that matters to me is that I like you. And I do like you, Stephanie. More than that, actually."
"So...." Her voice trailed off as she turned her head to hide the redness in her cheeks caused by his comments. "So, why the big production tonight? Why did you go to all the trouble of preparing this lavish dinner instead of going out?"
"I wanted to be alone with you. I wanted this to be a special night."
"Oh, Paddy, any night that I'm with you is a special night."
The statement brought a warm glow to his face as he returned to his chair, keeping his eyes focused on her the entire time. "Well, then, I wanted it to be more than special. I wanted it to be perfect."
"You're sounding rather serious." She looked up at him again and took a deep breath. There was clearly something on his mind, but she didn't have the slightest idea what it could be.
"I'm very serious." He paused and picked up the crystal goblet that sat beside his plate so that he could take a sip of wine. "Stephanie, ever since you disappeared, I've thought about nothing but you. Not knowing whether I'd ever see you again made me face some very difficult truths that I'd been avoiding for a long time."
"I...know what you mean."
"It made me realize a lot of things and it forced me to come to a very clear decision about the direction of my life." Patterson clasped his hands tightly together in his lap in an attempt to keep them shaking from nervousness. "Because of those decisions, there's something that I want---no, need---to say to you. That's why...."
Stephanie eyed him intently and tried to speak, but discovered that she couldn't make a sound. Her own voice had become lodged in her throat and all she could do was simply gaze into his eyes. What decisions had he made about his life? What important thing did he have to say? She wasn't sure, but the anticipation made her heart race even faster.
THE STOKES MANSION - LIVING ROOM
"Helen!" Mark gasped in shock before he'd had a chance to catch himself. However, he quickly regained his composure and took on a more casual tone. "What a surprise to see you. Jillian's not here, now, but I'll be sure to tell her..."
"Darling, you can stop your performance anytime," Judith spoke up and quickly walked over to Helen to give her a cordial, loving hug. Of course, that was all a performance, as well, for his benefit. "Helen, dear, so good to see you."
"M-Mark, I'm not here to...see Jillian," Helen muttered awkwardly, more than a little unnerved by Judith's overly affectionate display. "I'm here because...your wife invited me."
"Judith invited you?" His eyes quickly moved from Helen to Judith and he shook his head in confusion. "Why in the world would she invite you? Are you two working on plans for Jillian's wedding or...."
"You really are in denial, aren't you, darling?" Judith laughed smugly. "You know full well why I'd want to see Helen."
"Oh, Mark, I'm sorry," Helen cried out as she ran to his side and grabbed his arm tightly. "I didn't mean to! She knows, Mark! She knows all about...."
"W-what?" He quickly turned to look at her with shock and feigned confusion. "Helen, I don't have the slightest idea what you're talking about. What could Judith possibly know?"
"She knows about...our love!" Helen's lower lip began to quiver as she fought back her tears. "She...overheard me and Stephanie and...she knows!"
"Helen, I think that you...have me at a loss." He grabbed her hand tightly and forcibly pushed it away. "I don't know what you're talking about! What 'love' are we supposed to have?"
"B-but...Mark?" Helen took a couple of steps back, her eyes brimming with tears, not understanding what was going on. "Our relationship. She knows about our relationship."
"Helen, we don't have a relationship. Well, other than our acquaintanceship through Jillian." He calmly walked back over to the bar, quickly downed his drink, and began to fix another. "I don't know what little stunt you're trying to pull, but..." The echo of clapping filled the room, interrupting him mid-sentence.
"Beautiful performance, darling," Judith laughed heartily. "Simply beautiful! I never realized that you had it in you. I think you've missed your calling. You really do belong in New York---on Broadway!"
"What are you trying to do, Judith?" Mark questioned angrily. "What sort of trick are you trying to pull? Surely, you haven't talked this naive little girl into lying for you so that...."
"Lying?" Helen spoke up, stunned and hurt by his behavior. "You know that this isn't a lie! She knows about our affair!" She ran over to him again. "She knows about our love!" Instantly, Mark spun around to face Helen and grabbed her arm tightly causing her to wince and cry out. "Owww! You're...hurting me!"
"Shut up! Do you hear me? Shut up!" He felt his blood begin to boil and beads of perspiration began to dot his forehead. "I don't have any idea what you two are talking about! Any so called 'affair' is nothing but some kind of twisted fantasy that you've been playing out inside your head!"
Suddenly, Judith stepped between Mark and Helen and pushed him away from her. "You're starting to sound like a desperate man, darling," she cooed softly. "Are you worried? Are you frightened?" She paused and smiled gleefully. "You should be. You're right. This could be a very messy divorce. It could be in all of the papers in all of the best gossip columns---with your name right at the top, listed as the adulterous husband."
Mark stepped back and took several long breathes. No matter what he said or how hard he protested, he couldn't deny the truth. Judith knew everything. After a long moment of silence, he decided to try a different approach. "You know, Judith, anyone that knows you wouldn't necessarily blame me for seeking warmth and affection elsewhere. In fact, I suspect that I could garner quite a bit of sympathy and..."
"Darling, the only thing you're going to garner is a semi-comfortable seat at a soup kitchen!" She laughed wickedly at her own comment. "Have you forgotten that the only reason you've gotten as far as you have in your career is me and my family? If it weren't for us, you'd still be some lowly public defender trying to scrape up change for the automat! Just because Daddy's dead and we live here, don't think that I don't still have connections in New York. This new job of yours could be over before it even starts!"
"W-what are you trying to say?" He felt a knot form in his stomach and he took a quick sip of his martini.
"If you fight me on this divorce, I'll make sure that you lose your job," Judith explained calmly. "And I'll make sure that there's just enough scandal that no respectable law firm would want your name associated with it in any way!"
"You still can't prove anything. You'll never be able to convince a judge of this!"
"Really?" Judith stepped behind Helen and carefully placed her hand on the younger woman's shoulder. "You see, Mark, our dear Helen, here, has agreed to tell the truth---in court!"
"Helen's going to testify on my behalf about your affair." Judith flashed her husband a wicked grin. "And by the time she's finished, everyone will see you for the lying, manipulative cad that you really are."
"It'll only be her word against mine." He shot Helen an angry look. How could she have betrayed him like this? How could she be a party to something that she knew would destroy his career? "And I'm certain that I can be a most convincing witness."
"Possibly," Judith nodded. "But can you refute the testimony of two witnesses?"
"What...are you talking about?" Mark eyed her curiously. He and Helen had been very careful. No one had known of their affair except for....
"Stephanie Lake," Judith explained. "She witnessed the two of you together in a, shall we say, compromising embrace. I'm certain that she could corroborate Helen's claims."
"Be realistic, Judith," Mark laughed. "Stephanie Lake? Isn't that the girl that caused all of those problems for Jillian and Reginald? I don't think anyone would believe a word that came out of her mouth, let alone a judge!"
"Seems like she was convincing enough to clear someone of murder," Judith reminded. "It shouldn't be too difficult for her to help convict someone of adultery."
Mark merely stood in silence as he realized that Judith's assessment was probably more accurate than he was willing to verbally admit. As his gaze shifted from Judith to Helen and back again, he immediately began to feel the foundation of his house of cards shift and fold.
"But, darling, I'm not without a heart," Judith cooed softly. "I can make certain...provisions."
"What is it, Judith?" he asked, realizing that he had no choice but to play along with her game. "What do you want?"
"It's simple, really," she smiled and moved closer to him to kiss him on the cheek with fake tenderness. "A clean, uncomplicated divorce. Don't fight me on this, Mark. You agree to my terms and I can make sure that you keep your career. I'll also make sure that you advance quite quickly." She paused and stepped away from him as her eyes grew cold again. "You contest this divorce, however, and I'll call in a few favors that some very important people owe to Daddy and I'll make sure that you never practice law again. You'll be ruined."
Mark considered what she was saying and inhaled deeply. "All right," he nodded reluctantly. "So, what are your demands? What do I have to do?"
"Go through with this divorce---still citing adultery on your part, of course---and leave Albanyville. Go back to New York and never set foot in my sight again!"
"That's it?" He eyed her suspiciously, not fully able to believe the simplicity of her demands. "That's all I have to do?"
With a look of resignation, Mark's jaw tightened. He was trapped and he knew it. He had no other choice. Without saying another word, he downed the rest of his drink in one swallow and sat the empty glass down onto a side table before turning on his heel and storming towards the door.
"Mark! Wait!" Helen called out as she chased after him. "Don't you see? This isn't all bad. You're free! You're free of her and now we can be together!"
The sound of Helen's voice made his blood begin to boil and he snapped his head around to face her with fire in his eyes. "You betrayed me, Helen! You...tried to destroy me!"
"N-no," she muttered softly, taken aback by his anger, "that's not what happened! I swear it! I never meant for this to happen, but...now that it has, we can be together. I...love you, Mark. I..."
"You can go to hell!" he spat as he pulled away from her. "Both of you!"
Helen merely stood in stunned and heartbroken silence as tears began to fill her eyes. Moments later, the sound of the front door slamming shut rang out like a shot, causing her to jump. "I hate you," she seethed as she turned to face Judith. "You're a heartless and vindictive...."
"Oh, I'm hurt," Judith interrupted with mock remorse before subtly rolling her eyes. "Surely you don't think that your opinion of me matters in the slightest? Let's be realistic, shall we?" She laughed haughtily and then casually strolled over to Helen and crossed her arms tightly across her chest. "Now, let's discuss what we're going to do with you."
"What...you're going to do with me?" Helen eyed her curiously, unsure about what she was trying to say. "What do you...mean?"
"Of course I'm not going to let you hang around as a constant reminder of my failed marriage." Judith dramatically laid her hand on her chest and sniffed back an imaginary tear. "Or the pain that you've caused me by having an affair with my dear, beloved husband."
"You never loved Mark! You told me yourself that you...."
"Well, that doesn't really matter, now, does it?" Judith walked back over to the bar and carefully picked up Mark's empty glass as if it were contaminated and then proceeded to drop it into the waste basket beside the bar. "I want you out of Albanyville. I want you gone and I never want to lay eyes on your disgusting face again!"
"L-leave?" Helen gasped. "I can't...leave! I've got college to finish and I..."
"I'm sure that there are plenty of schools out in California who'd be more than happy to accept a girl of your...qualifications," Judith smirked. "And, besides, I'm sure that your dear daddy needs you, right now. He isn't well. In fact, I'd hate to see his condition worsen. That would be such a tragedy."
"But...but..." Helen began to feel a sense of panic rise inside of her. "But I helped you with Mark, just like you wanted me to! I...agreed to testify in a divorce hearing about our relationship!"
"And I do thank you for that," Judith smiled, "but now it's time for you to go. Get out!"
"I...won't!" Helen snapped defiantly. "I won't leave Albanyville!"
Pursing her lips together tightly, Judith slowly turned, walked over to the credenza, and picked up the receiver of the telephone so that she could quickly dial a number. After a few long rings, the call connected and she smiled slyly. "Hello? Yes, Mr. Van Dyne, you don't know me, but...."
"Wait!" Helen cried out as she ran to Judith's side. After snatching the receiver out of her hands, she slammed it down and then carefully bowed her head in acceptance. "All right," she muttered softly. "I'll...leave. You win."
"Of course I win, darling," Judith laughed. "I always win. Now get out!"
Realizing that there was nothing left to say, Helen quickly hurried out of the house leaving Judith alone to savor her victory. Heaving a sigh of relief, she relished in the thought of her freedom and then walked over to the mantle to pick up the pad of paper and the pencil she'd been using earlier, before Mark had gotten home.
She eyed her to-do list carefully and tapped her bottom lip with her pencil as she contemplated each item.
Judith smiled inwardly. After today, she was one step closer to her ultimate goal.
THE DAVIS HOME - LIVING ROOM - LATER
Lorraine and Edwina sat in silence, neither one of them able to utter a word. Grace's revelation to Douglas had been more difficult on all of them than they could even have imagined, but what was done was done. Awkwardly, Lorraine lifted her head to address her mother, but couldn't find the right words. However, an astute and aware Edwina nodded in response to her daughter's silent comment and then rose from her chair to join Lorraine on the sofa.
Just then, the sound of the front door swinging open jolted both of them out of their unspoken dialogue. It was Douglas. He'd returned.
"Honey, is she...?" Lorraine asked as she quickly jumped up off of the sofa and ran to him. He could only nod silently.
"Everything's taken care of," he finally spoke as he took his wife into his arms. "She should be there in a couple of hours. I...told her to call once she'd gotten settled in." Still overcome with shock and confusion, he walked over to his chair and sunk down into it, weary from the day's events.
"It's going to be all right, Douglas," Edwina said softly as she came over to him to put a reassuring hand on his arm. "This was for the best. There really wasn't any other choice."
"I...know," he sighed and then leaned forward, burying his head in his hands. "It's just that...I had so many plans for her. She had so many plans for herself. And now...."
"Dear, those plans aren't over," Edwina said firmly. "They've only been put on hold. Once she can put all of this behind her, she can continue on with her life as if nothing has happened."
"Is it really going to be that easy?" Douglas asked with uncertainty. "Is she really going to get over..." He couldn't say it. He couldn't speak the horrible truth that he hadn't even wanted to hear, let alone believe.
"Yes, she is," Edwina reassured. "I called Lorraine's father and he made a few phone calls and arraigned it so that Grace could continue with her classes. Granted, some of the school work she did here isn't going to transfer, but...well...that's little price to pay for...."
"Can we please just not talk about this anymore?" he interrupted as he raked his hands through his hair. "I just don't...want to think about this right now."
"I understand," Edwina nodded and then returned to her seat on the sofa where Lorraine soon joined her.
For the next several minutes, they all sat in silence, none of them knowing quite what to say. The only topic of conversation that was weighing heavily on their minds was one that had already been debated and discussed at length and none of them had the energy to rehash it again. Finally, Lorraine mustered up the strength to pose a question that had been lingering in the back of her mind ever since Douglas had left with Grace.
"Mother," she spoke up tentatively.
"How did you...know what to do?" Lorraine asked curiously. "I mean, how did you know who to call and...."
"I'm a mother," Edwina responded calmly. "Mother's always know how to handle certain situations. You'll be finding that out for yourself with Mikey. And...well...my volunteer work at your father's school as given me the chance to deal with more than a few awkward and...well...unfortunate situations."
Suddenly, the explanation was interrupted by a knock at the door that made all of them tense up. Who could possibly be paying them a visit?
"I'll...get rid of whoever that is," Douglas sighed with a weary shake of his head and then rose from his seat and went to answer the door. However, their unexpected visitor was someone none of them had planned for and someone none of them had taken into consideration even though they clearly should have. "T-Trevor!" Douglas gasped in shock. "What are...you doing here?"
"I'm here to see Grace," Trevor Callison laughed as he stood on the front porch, a bouquet of flowers cradled in his arms. "I was hoping that I could take her out for dinner. I know things have been unbelievably busy these past few weeks what with Grace's mid-terms and then Mom's hearing and the newspaper, but I was hoping that now that everything's started to settle down, I could make up for not being able to spend a lot of time with her."
Douglas quickly glanced back at Edwina and Lorraine who were now standing side by side in the middle of the room, none of them knowing quite how to react or what to say.
"Um...could you tell her that I'm here?" Trevor asked as he looked at Douglas curiously. He could clearly see that Douglas wasn't acting normally and this behavior troubled him.
"I...can't do that," Douglas muttered, unable to meet Trevor's eyes. "She's...not here."
Trevor glanced down at his watch, noted the time, and furrowed his brow. "Well, she should be home from class already. I know her last one was a couple of hours ago and.... Oh! I feel foolish. She had to work tonight, didn't she? I don't know why I didn't think of that. Really, I guess I should have called first, but I was so excited about finally having a free night to spend with her that I...."
"N-no, Trevor, she's not at the bookstore," Douglas interrupted. "Actually, she...doesn't work there anymore."
"What?" Trevor cocked his head slightly and stared at Douglas curiously, rather surprised by the news. "Grace didn't tell me anything about quitting."
"Well, it was rather sudden," Douglas explained. "None of us expected it, but..." He couldn't do it. He couldn't tell Trevor what he had to hear. Without saying another word, Douglas simply left Trevor standing in the doorway and turned and ran up the stairs.
"Would someone please tell me what the devil is going on here?" Trevor asked in confusion as he looked at an awkward Lorraine and Edwina. "Where's Grace?"
"Trevor, she's...not here," Lorraine spoke up as she walked over to him.
"Yes, that much I've figured out!" he snapped angrily, the tension inside him beginning to build. "Where is she? What's happened to her?"
"Trevor, I don't know how to...."
"Lorraine," Edwina spoke up as reached into the pocket of her apron. "Even though we didn't think about Trevor, it seems that Grace did."
"Mrs. Blake, it's good to see you again," Trevor smiled politely despite his worry and confusion. "Could you tell me what's going on?"
"Maybe we should just let Grace do the speaking for herself," Edwina replied as she pulled a letter out of her apron and then handed it to Trevor. "Now, I'm going to go make some coffee and leave you two alone."
"A...letter?" he muttered with a shake of his head as he eyed it with trepidation. "I don't...understand...."
"Maybe you should read it. Maybe...it'll tell you everything you need to know." Lorraine glanced back over her shoulder in the direction of the kitchen and took a deep breath. "I'm going to...go help Mom with that coffee."
As Lorraine headed off to the kitchen, Trevor stepped into the house, shutting the door behind him, and laid the flowers down on a side table before unfolding the letter. As he read Grace's words, his eyes widened with shock and confusion.
Trevor stared at the letter blankly, unable to believe the words that were written in Grace's own handwriting. She was gone. She'd left him and Albanyville and it sounded like she was never coming back. He felt like the wind had been knocked out of him and he sunk down onto the sofa as his eyes began to brim with tears. Here he'd thought that everything was finally going to be all right. He'd thought that all of their troubles were going to be past them and that only a bright future lay ahead of them. Now, suddenly, it was all over. She was gone and Trevor just didn't know what to say, how to react, or what in the world he was going to do.
THE MONROE HOME - DINING ROOM
"Paddy, what is it?" Stephanie asked curiously. "What's so important that you went to all this trouble?"
"Stephanie, believe me, this was no trouble," Patterson smiled and then rose from his seat so that he could pace nervously around the room. "What I want to say is that...well...ever since you disappeared, I've had to do a lot of thinking about things."
"What things?" She turned in her chair so that she could look at him as he paced.
"Life. Love. The meaning of it all." He stopped in front of the china cabinet long enough to pick up a picture of him and Todd and their parents that had been taken when Todd was only a baby. After letting out a wistful sigh, he set the picture back down and then turned around to face Stephanie. "No matter what I did, I couldn't get over that gnawing feeling deep inside my gut that I was never going to see you again. I couldn't get over my fear that your father had taken you someplace far, far away and you were never coming back."
"But I did come back, Paddy!" she reminded. "I came back because of you. You're the one who found me when no one else could---when no one else even believed that I needed finding. If you hadn't shown up when you had, lord only knows where I might have ended up. You risked your life for me!"
"And you saved my life," he pointed out. "If you hadn't...."
"P-please, Paddy, can we not...talk about that," she muttered softly as she looked away from him and down at her empty plate. "I...don't want to think about that. I don't want to...."
"I'm...sorry," he said softly and quickly went to her side so that he could kneel down beside her and take her hands into his. "God, these last few months have been horrible for you. First you had to deal with Clark and then your mother died and then...." He stopped mid-sentence as he caught himself. There was no needed in rehashing every horrible event that she'd been forced to endure. She'd been through enough and there was no need in dredging up such hurtful memories. Noticing her discomfort, he immediate switched gears. "You know, if someone had told me this time last year that I'd be here with you, loving you like I do, I would have thought that they were crazy. I couldn't stand to be in the same room with you, then!"
"And I thought you were only some pompous, moralistic jerk who had nothing better to do than deride me for my faults." She hung her head and thought about how wrong they'd both been.
Patterson nodded his head slightly. Although he hadn't wanted to fully admit it at the time, she'd been right. He had wrapped himself up in the lives of everyone else around him, including Todd. He'd been so devastated by the loss of his parents that he hadn't wanted to get close to anyone new. What if the same fate that had befallen his parents befell anyone else he might have cared about? It was a highly illogical feeling, he clearly realized---then as well as now---but it had always been stuck in the back of his head whether he'd wanted to admit it or not. And then Stephanie vanished, abducted by her own father.
If he hadn't gotten to know her so well, maybe he would have suspected that she'd simply run away just like everyone else had. Maybe he wouldn't have been so persistent in his search for her. Maybe she would have vanished, never to be seen again.
"Paddy, do you remember when everything changed?" Stephanie asked, dragging him from his thoughts. "Do you remember the night at the engagement party when you became my source of hope and inspiration? Because of you, my whole life changed."
"Yeah, I remember thinking that I'd lost my mind for feeling sorry for you," he laughed. "There you were---Stephanie Lake, nastiest girl in town---getting exactly what you deserved for what you tried to pull on Reginald and Jillian and I, of all people, was feeling sorry for you!"
"I didn't deserve anyone feeling sorry for me," she sighed. "I brought all of that on myself. I can't believe that I let Momma convince me that Reginald loved me."
"Well, your mother did a number on a lot of people. Knowing what we do now about what she did to Reginald's parents and how she'd pushed you in his direction, it makes a lot of things that you've done a lot easier to understand."
"Easier to understand, but not excusable. I...had no business..."
"Let's not dwell on all of that, anymore," he smiled and then rose to his feet so that he could begin pacing again. "That's all in the past. You set out to change the way you do things and I think you've finally succeeded."
"Only because of you, Paddy," she grinned. "If you hadn't taken a chance on me, I think that I'd probably still be going about things the same way. If you hadn't decided that I was worth it...."
"Oh, and you are worth it, Steph," he beamed proudly. "You're worth more than you'll ever know."
"You took a chance and believed in me," she smiled as she looked up at him. "And, in the process, you became my knight in shining armor---the prince of my fairytales that my...daddy always told me about." She hung her head as a troubled thought crossed her mind. "Now...if only everyone else could believe in me like you do."
"Actually, I think that's starting to happen," he commented slyly.
"W-what? What do you mean?"
"I saw Reginald today," Patterson explained. "He told me about your little visit with Jillian right before their wedding."
"Oh, Paddy, I didn't do it to cause trouble! Honestly, I...."
"I know you didn't," he nodded. "And, more importantly, both Reginald and Jillian know you didn't."
"Yep," he laughed. "In fact, I think that they finally might be willing to accept that you're not quite as bad as they thought you were. Granted, they're both still a little skeptical, but who can blame them?"
"I certainly can't. Not after everything that's happened."
"Anyway, they've set a new wedding date," he continued as a knowing smile covered his face. "And Reginald asked me to make sure that you were invited to the wedding."
"W-what?" she gasped in shock and disbelief. "Me? Are you serious? They actually invited me to their wedding?"
"Oh, Paddy!" she exclaimed and then flew into his arms so that she could kiss him in excitement. "I...never would have believed that this could happen, but...but you...."
"Stephanie, even they can see that you're a different person, now," he smiled softly as he held her in his arms. "I just feel lucky that I'm the one who saw it first." He paused and pulled away from her slightly so that he could look down into her eyes. "Stephanie, I love you. Call me crazy, call me naive, call me foolish. Call me whatever you want to, but I love you. I love your joy and your excitement and your spirit..."
"And I love you, Paddy," she smiled up at him. "You've been my strength and you've supported me through more than anyone should ever have to. The entire time that...I was away, the only thing that kept me from losing hope was you."
"You know, like I said, while you were gone I had a lot of time to do a lot of thinking." He took her by the hand and led her back to her chair so that she could sit down. "The thought that I might never see you again scared me to death."
"But you saved me! I'm here!"
"Yes, you are," he smiled. "But, please, there's something I have to say before I loose my nerve. Please let me finish."
"O-okay," she stammered, both anxious and frightened about what it might be.
"The thought of never seeing you again and never being able to tell you how I really felt about you made me feel just like I felt when I'd found out my parents had died," he confessed. "After I'd heard about their plane crash, I prayed for just one more chance to be able to tell them how much I loved them and how much they meant to me. I felt guilty that I hadn't taken every opportunity to tell them that."
"Paddy, they knew."
"I...know," he muttered, a tone of sadness and remorse briefly entering into his voice, "but...well...when I had to face the possibility that I might never see you again, either, and that I'd never have the chance to tell you how I really feel, I made a vow to myself that I wouldn't let another moment or opportunity pass to tell the people I love how much they mean to me. Life is too short for that."
Stephanie bowed her head as she thought about her parents and the horrible things that they'd done. However, despite how much they'd hurt people, despite how much they'd hurt her, she still loved them.
"I...know that this is going to sound rather sudden," Patterson continued as he moved to her side and again knelt down beside her, "but, like I said, life is too short. If something else were to happen and I...."
"Oh, Paddy, don't think like that!"
"If I never had the chance to do this, then I'd never be able to forgive myself." He reached into his pocket, pulled out a tiny velvet box, and held it out in the palm of his hand for her. "This is something I want to give to you."
Stephanie eyed the box nervously and then looked at Patterson. What was it? What could it be?
"Go on," he laughed. "Open it."
As she fought to keep her hands from shaking, she took the box out of his hand and carefully lifted the lid, revealing a beautiful diamond ring that sparkled under the light of the candles. "Oh, Paddy!" she exclaimed. "It's...beautiful!"
"It was my mother's," he explained calmly. "My father gave it to her."
"And you...want to give it to me?" Her eyes grew wide with surprise. "But...Paddy, it looks like...an engagement ring."
"It is," he grinned. "It's my mother's engagement ring and, now, I want you to have it."
Stephanie's breath caught in her throat as a sense of nervousness overcame her. Surely, he wasn't going to....
"Like I said, I know this is a little unexpected," he began softly as he took the ring from out of her hand and held it out in front of her, "but I can't deny how I feel and I can't let this moment pass." He took her hand into his. "Stephanie Lake, will you marry me?"
TO BE CONTINUED
For Now and Forever
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