For Now and Forever
EPISODE #77 (Tuesday,
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Oh, Charles, that was beautiful," Annabelle Lake cooed as she grabbed his arm and cozied up next to him.
"I'm so glad you thought so," Charles Callison smiled slyly. "In fact, I have one more thing to say to make this evening complete."
"What would that be?" she asked with a note of curiosity. "Should I have the orchestra stop so that you can...."
"No, Annabelle, darling, what I have to say is just for you." His expression took on a serious tone as he looked deeply into her eyes. "Darling, I know that our relationship has been far from conventional. You also know that, no matter happens, Francis will still hold a dear place in my heart."
She winced slightly at the mention of his wife's name.
"However, you've grown to become very special to me. In spite of everything that's happened, you've become someone I rely on a great deal; and, for that, I love you...."
"Oh, Charles!" she sighed.
"That's why I want to ask you this...." He paused for a moment and reached deep into his pocket to pull out a tiny box which she eyed in excited disbelief. Flipping the lid open, he spoke again. "Annabelle Lake, after the divorce is final, will you marry me?"
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - FOYER
"Mother, I just really don't think I should be here," Francis Callison whispered as she, her mother, and Dr. Fred Rutherford stepped off of the elevator and handed their coats to the waiting attendant. "This is a Callison family function and...well...I am giving up my roll as Charles' wife."
"The fact that this is a Callison event is exactly the reason you belong here!" Mary Albany said firmly. "You are still legally Charles' wife and, therefore, a Callison. Even after the divorce, your children will still be Callisons! You will forever be a part of this family."
"Mother, I realize that," Francis sighed as she nervously fingered the ornate silk scarf at her neck and looked around awkwardly, "but, considering what's going on between me and Charles, I don't think it's right that I'm here."
"We were invited! Reginald hand delivered the invitations himself. He knows that you belong at a Callison function, why can't you?" Mary stood with her arms folded across her chest and glared at her daughter.
"Mrs. Albany, I'm sure you can understand Francis' reluctance," Fred spoke up as he took Francis' arm. "This situation with her husband isn't exactly the most pleasant of circumstances."
"What I see is that my daughter is being pig headed and stubborn," Mary replied as she glared at her daughter's date. His joining her had not been in her plans for the evening, but she'd had to relent when Francis had insisted that the only way she would attend was if Fred were on her arm. "And I'll urge you to keep your comments and opinions to yourself! They are most definitely not warranted or needed."
"Mother!" Francis snapped angrily. "Why do you always have to be so short with Fred? All he was doing was..."
"Francis, darling, it's all right," he said softly as he touched her gently on the arm. "Your mother is only trying to look out for your best interests. Any good mother would do the same." Privately, he resented the constant opposition Mary posed to his blossoming romance with Francis. If his plans to marry the soon-to-be divorcee were to be successful, it would clearly be against the wishes of her mother.
"Nice attempt to butter me up, Doc," Mary said with a sarcastic sneer. "However, whatever you're selling, I'm not buying."
Taken aback by Mary's frankness, Fred could only stand in silence. She was clearly going to be a formidable stumbling block in his quest to take Francis' hand in marriage...one stumbling block that needed to be eliminated.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Oh, Charles!" Annabelle gasped in shock from the sight of the beautiful diamond engagement ring.
"Please say that you'll marry me," Charles smiled as he took the ring out of the box.
"Of course I'll marry you!" she exclaimed as she fought to suppress her squeals of glee while he slipped the ring onto her finger. "Darling, you just have no idea how happy you've made me!"
"But that can't be any happier than you've made me."
"Let's get married as soon as the divorce is final," she insisted eagerly. "Let's do it the next day, if possible."
Charles laughed heartily at her exuberance. "Darling, why the rush? We have all the time in the world."
"Oh, I know that," she smiled coyly. "It's just that, well, I know how things can happen...unexpected things...and I, well, don't want to take any chances. I don't want to wait any longer than necessary." She inhaled deeply as she held up her hand to gaze at the ring as it sparkled in the light. "This is just like a dream! And...and I don't ever want to wake up from it."
"Annabelle, there's no need to wake up," he muttered softly as he placed a finger on her chin and lifted her face so that he could look deeply into her eyes. "This is not a dream. It's all very, very real." Overcome with the emotion of the moment, he pulled her into his arms and kissed her passionately to seal their engagement. It was a kiss that was not looked upon favorably by anyone within viewing distance. In fact, the kiss was looked upon with scorn and resentment by everyone watching, especially by his sons Reginald and Trevor who were standing just a few feet away.
As their lips parted, she grabbed his hand and began to pull him towards the orchestra stand.
"Where are we going?" he asked with a laugh.
"I'm so happy, I want the world to know!" she exclaimed. "I want to announce to everyone, right now, that we're going to be married."
"No," he said firmly and froze in his tracks, bringing Annabelle to a grinding halt. "Not tonight."
"This is Burt's night," he explained carefully, not wanting to upset her or ruin her happiness. "Let's hold off on any grand announcements until some other time."
She eyed him with disappointment. She wanted to let everyone in town know that she had finally gotten everything that she'd ever wanted. She was going to be Annabelle Callison, a member of the most prominent family in town. Finally, she was going to be a woman of substance and means. However, she respected his wishes and nodded in agreement. Forcing the issue would not be a good idea.
"I knew you'd see that it would be...." Charles voice trailed off as he caught sight of Francis as she slowly walked into the room flanked by Mary and Fred.
"Yes, dear?" Annabelle asked as she looked at him curiously, unsure as to why he'd stopped in mid-sentence.
Carefully following his gaze, she felt her face flush with anger when she saw Francis. How dare she show her face! How dare she put in appearance to deliberate try to sabotage her evening!
"I see that your soon-to-be ex-wife has decided to barge her way in," she muttered with a scowl. "I would think that she would know when she's not wanted."
"Annabelle, that will be enough," he chastised with a harsh look. "I don't want you doing anything or saying anything out of the way to Francis. I'm sure she's just here for the children."
"Whatever you say, darling," she muttered as her eyes burned with hatred. She didn't care why Francis had shown up; all she knew was that she didn't belong.
"Now, you just stay right here and keep yourself out of trouble," he continued as he gave her a cautionary glance. "I need to go find Burt. There are a few things I want to talk to him about."
"All right," she cooed softly as she tried to cover the rage that was building inside of her. "I'll stay right here and wait for you to get back."
He looked at her again, unsure whether to believe her. However, he realized that he had no choice but to leave her on her own and quickly walked away in search of Burt. As soon as he disappeared into the crowd, Annabelle again turned her attention to Francis and felt her blood began to boil. Francis had no right nor reason to be there. She didn't belong! As Annabelle's jaw tightened, she took a deep breath and headed straight in her direction so that she could give her a piece of her mind.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"So, are you having fun?" Trevor Callison smiled as he held Grace Davis in his arms while they swayed to the lilting strains of the orchestra. "When my family throws a party, they go all out."
"I remember the engagement party," she laughed and rested her head on his shoulder. "Actually, I do feel a little out of place. All of these people are so glamorous and I'm...I'm..."
"You are the most beautiful girl in the room," he said softly as he finished her sentence. "Honestly, I don't know why you fret so much about how you compare to everyone else. Can't you see that you're every bit as wonderful and special as everyone else thinks you are?"
"Well..." She lifted her head to look up into his eyes and sighed. He always thought so highly of her. More highly, probably, than he really should. After all, he was a Callison and she was only a Davis. Their worlds and backgrounds just didn't mix. "I just wish Douglas could have been here, but Lorraine's home with the flu and he really didn't want to leave her alone."
"That's understandable," he nodded, "considering the baby and all." He pulled her closer and kissed her lovingly on the forehead. "Do you have any idea how much I love you?"
"As often as you tell me, I think I do." Grace let out a nervous laugh. Being with Trevor was almost like being swept up in a fairy tale, a story so sweet and tender that it just couldn't possibly be true. She always felt so self-conscious and insecure around him, constantly afraid that she'd do or say the wrong thing. She just couldn't avoid her fear that once she got to the end of the story that there would be no "happily ever after."
"Hey, do you want me to get you some more punch?" he asked as he took her hand and led her from the dance floor. "I know you said that you really liked it."
"Y-yes, I would," she smiled. "Thank you."
"Now, you just stay right here and I'll be right back." Trevor turned to walk away, but stopped long enough to look back at her and smile. Whether she truly believed it or not, she always looked so beautiful to him. In fact, if need be, he'd testify in a court of law that he thought she was the most beautiful girl in the world.
As Trevor moved out of sight, Grace stood with her hands clasped in front of herself and rocked back and forth to the melody of the music. An awkward sigh escaped her lips and her eyes darted around the room in hopes of finding someone she knew so that she would have someone to talk to. She quickly spotted Jillian, but she was too caught up in dancing with Reginald. Grace just couldn't bother them. On the other side of the room sat Patterson and Stephanie. Grace quickly made a face at the sight of Stephanie and realized that if Stephanie could find acceptance at a Callison function in light of everything that she'd done, maybe there was still hope for Grace, yet. Suddenly, Grace's thoughts were interrupted by a gentle tapping on her shoulder.
"And why are you standing here all by your lonesome and looking so solemn?" Dane Manchester asked with a laugh. "I would think that you'd be wrapped up with lover boy Trevor."
"Um...he's...um," she stammered awkwardly and blushed. "He went to get some punch."
"Oh, I see." Dane flashed her his trademark grin and moved closer to her. "Grace, do you remember the last time we were in this room together?"
As she felt his intense gaze upon her, her face flushed even more. In fact, she did remember the night of Reginald and Jillian's engagement party quite well. Almost as well as she remembered the impetuous kiss that she and Dane had shared.
"Wasn't that the night that you were exposed for trying to wreck Reginald and Jillian's lives?" she questioned coolly.
"I believe your memory of those events is flawed," he commented with an uncomfortable growl. "Stephanie is the one who orchestrated that entire mess. She's the one who was really responsible for trying to break them up. She tried to destroy my life, too, with her lies that I was directly involved."
"So you keep saying." She tried to subtly glance his direction, but found herself made more uncomfortable by his intense gaze. "Tell me, if she tried so hard to destroy your life, why are you here celebrating her birthday?"
"I'm only here because Annabelle insisted. If it wasn't for her, Sara and I would have just stayed home. In fact, Sara's trying as hard as she can to stay as far away from Steph as possible. She just can't forgive her for her manipulations and lies."
"Well, that's neither here nor there." Grace inhaled deeply as she felt his warm breath on her neck. "Speaking of your wife," she continued, "why aren't you at her side? I would think that as uncomfortable as she must be here, you'd be doing what you could to support her."
"Look, my wife is really of no concern to me," Dane grumbled. "Our marriage isn't worth the paper the license is printed on." He kept his eyes locked on her and lifted his hand the gently stroke her soft cheek. "You know, standing here with you right now, I can't help but think about that kiss we shared that night. It was so magical and special."
She turned to gaze up into his eyes as she began to feel a knot form in the pit of her stomach.
"I wonder how different things would have been if it hadn't been for Sara and her...lies." He moved even closer to her.
"W-what do you mean?" she stammered, made uncomfortable both by his closeness and the odd feelings that he still aroused in her. He'd been her first intense crush. After learning about what kind of treachery he'd been involved with in regards to Reginald and Jillian, she'd pushed him out of her thoughts and fought to move past the foolishness she'd felt. She'd never stopped to consider that she was still quite vulnerable as far as he was concerned.
"Grace, do you know that if it hadn't been for Sara, I would have asked you out in a instant." He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder. "If it hadn't been for Sara, things could have been oh so different. I've treasured that kiss ever since that night. It's something I hold on to. It makes me regret passing up one of the greatest things that could ever have happened to me."
As Dane's words burned in her ears, she began to feel her hands shake with nervousness and her heart nearly pound out of her chest. How could things have been different? Could they have really had a chance together? After everything she knew about him, could she still trust him? Yes, Dane still had an effect on her. It was that realization that both frightened and thrilled her.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Are you okay?" Patterson Monroe asked as he sat at a table with Stephanie Lake and watched the guests on the dance floor. "You don't act like you're really enjoying yourself."
"I can't believe that my mother turned this into a birthday party for me," she grumbled. "I don't belong here with all of the Callisons. Look at the way they all look at me! Reginald and Jillian shoot me the evil eye whenever they see me."
"Well, at least Sara's here," he reminded as he tried to stay positive for her benefit. "That must mean something. Maybe she's finally ready to move past all of that Dane mess."
"Oh, she's only here because Momma made her come!" She folded her arms across her chest and sunk down into her seat. "She really doesn't want to be here. She doesn't want anything to do with me!"
"Honey, you two were so close once." He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and gave her a reassuring hug. "Can't you work through your differences? I know you miss having her in your life and talking to her all of the time."
"I've tried! I've tried to talk to her! But...but she refuses to see me." She avoided looking at him and kept her eyes focused on the paper napkin, nearly torn to shreds, that she held in her hands. "I've even gone by her house to see her, but that horrible housekeeper of hers just refuses to let me in! She tells me that Sara's not home or that she's not receiving visitors. How can I make everything up to her if she won't even see me?"
"Well, maybe it just takes time." Patterson let out a sigh of frustration. He knew that she'd been working to change into a better person and she'd progressed a great deal. However, it seemed that no one would give her the second chance she really deserved. No one but him. Seeing the tears that were starting to well up in her eyes, he reached into his pocket and pulled out a handkerchief so that he could gently wipe them away.
"I feel so foolish," she muttered through her tears. "Some happy birthday to me this turned out to be."
"Well, maybe I can do something to cheer you up." He smiled slyly and reached into his pocket to pull out a long, slender box.
"W-what?" Stephanie eyed the box with a mixture of surprise and excitement. "A present? You bought me a birthday present?"
"Um...I didn't actually buy it," he laughed as he watched her expression change from sadness to awkward joy. "But it's something that means a lot to me and I hope it will mean just as much to you."
Her hands shook with nervousness as she took the box from him and carefully lifted the lid. What she saw inside made her gasp in shock.
"They're pearls!" she exclaimed as he took them out of the box and gently put them around her neck. "Oh, Paddy, they're so beautiful!"
"These mean so much to me because they were my mother's," he explained in a low voice that was tinged with sadness as he remembered his late mother. "I want you to have them. I hope they come to mean as much to you as they do to me."
"Paddy, they do!" Stephanie's heart began to race as she felt the pearls around her neck and she reached up to touch them, almost in disbelief that he'd given her something of such deep importance. "Paddy, why? Why did you give something so special to me?"
"Because I wanted to show you how much I believe in you," he smiled as he gently rubbed his thumb across her check. "I wanted to show you how much I care about you." Looking away for just a second, he took a deep breath. "You know, after Lorraine...did what she did, I didn't think that there would ever be anyone that special in my life again, but there you were and..."
"Oh, my god!" Stephanie gasped as she interrupted him. "What in the world is she doing?"
His eyes followed the direction of her gaze and saw that she was watching her mother who was quickly approaching Francis Callison. A sense of dread suddenly filled him. He was more than aware of what Stephanie's mother was capable of and greatly feared what kind of scene she would cause.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"I want a word with you!" Annabelle growled as she violently grabbed Francis' arm. "How dare you show your face here! You are not wanted and..."
"Unhand my daughter!" Mary Albany spat and grabbed Annabelle's hand to push her away. "Can't you have one night without making some sort of scene? Are you that low class?"
"Look, old woman, if anyone is responsible for a scene here, it's her!" Annabelle's eyes blazed with anger as she glared at Francis. She only took them away to momentarily glance in Fred Rutherford's direction as if to ask him what he was thinking by bringing her to her party.
"I will have you know that we were invited," Mary said through clinched teeth. "Reginald, Trevor, and Maggie wanted their mother here! She is here for them!"
"Annabelle, I am not getting into this with you," Francis muttered in hushed tones as she glanced around the room and saw all of the eyes that were on them and witnessing the scene. "This is neither the time nor the place. Do you really want to make a spectacle of yourself in front of all of Charles' family and friends?"
Annabelle took a cautious step backwards and inhaled deeply in an attempt to ease her rage. As she bit her lip nervously, she realized that all eyes were on her. They were watching her with scorn and contempt as if to say "how dare you treat Francis like that?". Poor, sainted Francis...the thought burned inside her head. How dare she show her face and attempt to steal her place in the spotlight that she'd fought so hard to achieve? How dare she try to ruin what had become the happiest night of her life? Well, she refused to let that happen! She refused to allow that pathetic woman to destroy the last chance she might ever have at joy and security.
"Come with me," Annabelle muttered with venom as she grabbed Francis' hand. "We're not having this discussion out here in public."
"You are not having this discussion at all!" Mary interjected as she reached out to pushed Annabelle away.
"Mother, I can take care of myself," Francis spoke up defiantly as she threw her shoulders back with a newfound strength. "In fact, there are a few things that I would like to say to Mrs. Lake in private."
Mary stood in shock. Did Francis really know what she was asking? Did she know what she was getting herself into? Finally realizing that a showdown with Annabelle was something that her daughter needed to do, she nodded in support and turned to grab Fred by the arm and lead him away.
With a steely determination, Francis followed Annabelle across the ballroom and towards the empty lounge. Annabelle smirked at the irony that what could be her final victory over Francis would take place in the exact spot where all of her plans were first set into motion.
As the doors of the lounge closed behind them, they turned to face each other, each prepared for what could be an emotional face off.
"Leave this party!" Annabelle finally spoke as she stood with her hands on her hips. "You do not belong here!"
"No!" Francis spat angrily. "You are the one who doesn't belong. You schemed and connived and pushed your way into Charles life and into the middle of my marriage. You pulled every possible trick in the book to get your hooks into him!"
"And it worked," Annabelle smiled slyly. "Of course, I did put forth some effort to turn Charles' attention my way. Just a little effort, of course. It didn't take much to distract him from his pitiful, boring wife."
"You might have wormed your way into his life and into the middle of our marriage, but you will never take the place I have in his heart." Francis kept her hands, balled into fists, down by her side as she felt her anger and rage build. "You will just be a low class distraction for him. He will never feel about you the way he feels...felt...about me."
"Oh, really?" Annabelle let out a wicked laugh. "Then how would you explain this?" She quickly lifted her hand to wave her new engagement ring in front of Francis' face that was now filled with shock and fear. "Do you know what this is? Do you? This is an engagement ring!"
"Your dear husband, the man who you seem to think will never be able to replace you in his heart, gave this to me tonight." A victorious smiled crept across her lips. "He gave it to me when he asked me to marry him. Of course, I said yes." She inhaled deeply as she savored the moment and watched all of the color drain from her rival's face.
"You're evil, Annabelle," Francis spat as she struggled to hold back her tears. "And if you think that he's never going to see that, you're blind as well!"
"No, you're the one who's blind." Annabelle let out a wicked cackle that echoed through the emptiness of the lounge. "You're a pathetic, washed up mess. You couldn't even hold onto your husband! You couldn't even keep him interested enough in you so he had to turn to me for affection. You are a cold a bitter woman. Why any man would want to be saddled with you for so many years, I don't know. The only hold you've ever had on him was your children. That's the only part of you he was ever interested in!"
Francis recoiled from the bitter attack. She refused to believe what Annabelle had said. Surely Charles had stayed with her for so many years because he loved her. It couldn't just have been because of the children. But...but what if it were true? What if he had stopped loving her years ago and had only stayed out of pity and loyalty to his family until he just couldn't take it anymore? Overcome with emotion, Francis broke down into tears and ran from the room. She just couldn't take Annabelle's "truths" and the possibility that they were accurate. As she ran out of the lounge, her eyes, blurry from her tears, couldn't have seen Stephanie standing there with her mouth hanging open in utter shock.
"Mother, how could you?" Stephanie spoke up as she stormed into the room. "How could you be so cruel and heartless to her? You know how difficult this has all been for her!"
"Oh, please!" Annabelle sighed as she rolled her eyes. "Don't tell me you're going to climb up onto your high horse again and tell me what a horrible person you think I am!"
"I'm not saying you're horrible," Stephanie muttered softly, rather embarrassed because of the scene she'd witnessed. "What I'm saying is that what you've done is horrible...what you're still doing is horrible."
"Not horrible for me." Annabelle casually lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply. "That woman has to see that whatever pathetic attempts she makes to hold onto Charles are a waste of her time. He loves me, not her! Stephanie, Charles proposed marriage to me! He wants to marry me! He wants me, not her."
"He only wants you because he thinks that he's destroyed the life that he had with her. This entire relationship you have with him, this entire marriage you have planned, is going to be based on a lie!"
"Don't you ever let me hear you say that again!" Annabelle snapped as she balled her hands into fists. "Don't you ever talk about what I told you about that night at the engagement party! Why, if someone were to ever hear you talking about that, my life would be ruined!"
"Well, of course you're scared of the truth," Stephanie said coldly, "considering your entire existence is based on a lie! I hate what you're doing to Mrs. Callison. What the hell has she ever done to you? I...I don't even know you anymore! You've become bitter and cruel and...and I hope I never wind up like you!"
Shocked and mortified by her daughter's emotional attack, Annabelle reached back and slapped her across the face. "Don't you ever....ever talk to me like that again! I am your mother! Everything I've ever done in my entire life has been for you! I've given up and sacrificed more for your well-being and safety than you'll ever know! I...I..." Her voice trailed off when she realized that she was about to say more than needed to be said.
Meanwhile, Stephanie stood in silence as tears began to stream down her face which still stung from the physical and emotional impact of her mother's slap. Her body trembled with anger and pain, but, suddenly, her eyes were opened. She'd been used and manipulated by her mother for years. She'd had her love and loyalty taken and used against her. Well, no more! Stephanie was done! As she seethed with anger, she spun on her heel and stormed toward the doors of the lounge.
"Stephanie!" Annabelle called out as her daughter walked away from her. "Stephanie, you come back here this instant! I am not done with you!"
"But I'm done with you," Stephanie muttered bitterly. As she burst through the doors of the lounge and back out into the main ballroom, she had one purpose in mind. She had to find Francis Callison. There were a few things that she wanted...needed...to say.
TO BE CONTINUED
Stephanie tells the truth.
For Now and Forever
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