For Now and Forever
EPISODE #79 (Thursday,
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - FOYER
"M-Mrs. Callison," Stephanie Lake muttered weakly. "My...mother d-drugged...your husband."
"W-what?" Francis Callison quickly pulled away and stared at Stephanie blankly as her mind tried to process the unbelievable revelation she'd heard. "Did you say drugged? What do you mean?"
"Momma knew that your husband would never betray you if he was in his right mind. She knew that his love for you was stronger than any of her charms or wiles." As the truth began to spill forth from her lips, Stephanie couldn't have stopped it if she'd tried. It was like a damn had suddenly burst and every horrible secret of her mother's came spilling out. "She...she got some kind of drug. I don't know what kind or how, but...."
"But somehow, she slipped it to him during the engagement party. She never did tell me all of the details, but I know that whatever that drug was, it put his head into a fog and he didn't know what he was doing." She paused and took a deep, cleansing breath to punctuate the sense of release that she felt because of the intense burden that was being lifted from her shoulders. "If it weren't for that drug...if it weren't for what happened that night...he would never have betrayed you. He loved...loves...you too much for that. Ever since that night, he's felt such intense guilt about what happened. My mother has been using that guilt against him. She's convinced him to rely on her and she's convinced him that you're better off without him. He's only with her to spare you...because he loves you!"
"O-oh, my god," Francis stammered as she fell back against the wall. Charles hadn't willfully turned his back on their vows and their marriage. He hadn't sought out the warmth of another woman's arms because he'd grown tired of her. He'd done it because of a cruel, heartless scheme perpetrated by a shallow, vengeful woman. Charles had always loved her and still loved her. Overcome with the sense of shock and disbelief that Stephanie's revelation had brought, Francis could only stand there with her mouth agape and eyes wide open. "Oh, my god."
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - LOUNGE
"Thank god!" Dr. Fred Rutherford sighed as he closed the doors of the lounge behind him. "You just saved me from the ever watchful eye of Francis' mother!"
"What the devil do you think you're doing here?" Annabelle Lake snapped angrily. "How dare you bring her here! I'm trying to cement my relationship with Charles. The last thing I need is to have her and her mother skulking around trying to woo him back!"
"I really didn't have much choice!" he grumbled and then folded his arms across his chest defiantly. "Her kids and her mother wanted her here. Something about still being a member of the family and..."
"The hell she is!" She started to pace around the empty lounge, a cloud of cigarette smoke following her wherever she went. "That woman is out of this family!"
"Annabelle, she is still married to him. The divorce hasn't gone through yet!"
"That's only a matter of time," she smirked. "Charles is finally ready to move on with his life away from poor Francis. I don't need her popping up to remind him about that boring past they share."
"Trust me, I don't like it much, either." Fred thought about his plans to marry Francis as soon as her divorce was finalized. If she couldn't let go of Charles or if the divorce didn't happen, he could kiss his own life good-bye. However, he let out a small sigh of relief. Thank god he'd thought of a backup plan. "I want Charles and Francis apart just as much as you do."
"Then keep them apart!"
"I'm doing the best that I can," he snapped, "but I can't force her to do anything! There's only so much persuading I can do. I've got to let her think that she's making these choices on her own or we're both out of the ballgame."
"You might be out of the game," Annabelle smiled slyly, "but I just slid into home."
"W-what are you talking about?"
"Just this." She held out her hand so that she could show off the shiny, new engagement ring that Charles had just given her. "He asked me to marry him after the divorce."
"Well, isn't that just great news." A broad grin covered his face as he thought about how the engagement would push Francis that much closer to him.
"It won't be if you don't hold up your end of the deal!" As her expression turned icily serious, she slowly approached him and shoved her finger into his chest. "Now get out there and get that woman the hell out of this party!"
"I'll do the best that I can," Fred sighed with a nod before turning to head out of the lounge in search of his date.
Now alone in the room, Annabelle took a long drag off of her cigarette and wondered if it would be appropriate for a woman of her age to wear white at her wedding.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - FOYER
"M-Mrs. Callison? Are you all right?" Stephanie asked as she reached out to steady her.
"S-she...drugged him?" Francis covered her mouth with her hand as she tried to let everything that Stephanie had told her sink in. "W-why? Why would she do something so...so horrible?"
"Because she knew that it was the only way she would ever get your husband to stray." Stephanie hung her head in embarrassment. "He...he loves you, Mrs. Callison. He always has."
"If...if she hadn't drugged him...." Francis' voice trailed off as she thought of all of the dark and painful months she'd had to endure after the engagement party. She thought about the horrible words that she'd shared with her husband and the horrible things that had been said about her because of the separation--all because of Annabelle!
"If she hadn't drugged him, I'm convinced that you and Mr. Callison would never have separated." Stephanie kept her hand on Francis' shoulder as she tried to show her as much support and understanding as she could. "If it hadn't been for my mother, none of this would ever have happened."
"Why are you telling me all of this?" Francis asked in confusion as she inspected Stephanie closely. "Why are you betraying your own mother?"
"It's...a long story." Stephanie looked away as she fought back the tears that the memory of her mother's horrible words brought. "But...I want to try to make amends for everything I've done. I...know that I'm partly responsible for everything that happened at Reginald and Jillian's party." Only partly responsible, of course. Dane Manchester had had a much larger role, but that was neither here nor there at the moment. "I just hope that maybe I can make up for some of that."
"T-thank you, Stephanie." Francis lifted her hand to touch the young woman's cheek. "Thank you so very much." However, her expression soon turned darker as she stepped away and turned to face the entrance to the main ballroom.
"W-where are you going?" Stephanie asked nervously.
"I'm going to go have a few words with your mother." Francis began to seethe with anger. "There are a few things that she and I need to get straight and I need to tell her to stay away from my husband!"
As Francis stormed away, Stephanie sank back against the wall and took several long breaths. She'd done it. She'd finally told the truth about what horrible things her mother had done. Why, then, didn't she feel so good about herself?
"I'm sorry, Momma," she muttered softly as she choked back a tear. "I'm so, so sorry."
Meanwhile, as Stephanie watched Francis walking away, she had no idea that she, too, was being watched from a distance....
"Oh, Stephanie," the mysterious figure muttered, "I see that your mother's lies have done it again."
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Have you seen Annabelle?" Charles Callison asked as he walked up to Reginald and Jillian. "I left her standing right over there just a little while ago while I went to talk to Burt and now I can't find her."
"With any luck she did a back flip off of the balcony," Jillian Stokes muttered half to herself and half to Reginald.
Reginald fought to keep his somber expression as he attempted to choke back a laugh, but found it nearly impossible.
"D-did I miss something?" Charles asked with curiosity.
"Oh, I...um..." Jillian stammered as her mind began to race. "I just said that it looks like the mayor's wife has put on a few pounds since the engagement party, yet I've seen her at the buffet table more times than I can count on one hand."
"Ah," Charles chuckled, "yes, she has been making rather good use of the caterer."
"Actually, Father, I'm glad your here," Reginald spoke up as he grabbed Charles' arm to hold his attention. "There's...something I want to discuss with you."
"There is? What is it?"
"It's about Burt," Reginald said matter-of-factly. "I...I couldn't help but overhear what you asked him earlier."
"Reginald, you shouldn't have been eavesdropping!" Charles clinched his teeth angrily. "That was a private conversation between me and your cousin."
"That's just what I'm talking about!"
"Reginald, darling, just calm down." Jillian began to rub her fiancé's back in an attempt to settle his nerves.
"No! I will not calm down!" he growled and pushed her hand away. "Father, how can you just suggest that Burt Lamont change his name to Callison? How?"
"Because he is a Callison. He is Landon's son. He should have the family name. It's his birthright! We at least owe him that." Charles looked at his eldest son earnestly as he hoped that he'd understand.
"We don't owe that man a thing!"
"Reginald!" Jillian chastised sternly. "I can't believe you're acting like this!"
"If I didn't know better, I'd say that you were jealous of Burt." Charles stared at his son intently.
"Jealous? Of Burt?" Reginald let out a howl of laughter. "That's the most preposterous thing I've ever heard. Why would I ever be jealous of him?"
"Um...excuse me, Mr. Callison," the man spoke up as he tapped Charles on the shoulder.
"Artie! How good to see you," he smiled as he turned around to shake his hand. "I hope you're getting a lot of good shots for the paper."
"Oh, yes, sir!" Artie smiled as he held up his camera for him to see. "In fact, I just wanted to get a few shots of you and Mr. Lamont over by the cake. I think pictures of the two of you together would be just the thing to go with the article in tomorrow's Post."
"Article? What article?" Reginald asked as he quickly looked from his father to Artie. "I didn't authorize any article on this spectacle for The Post."
"But I did!" Charles stated firmly. "You might run the newspaper, Reginald, but I own it!"
"Um...Mr. Callison, this way," Artie said as he took Charles' arm and led him across the room to Burt leaving Reginald to grow even angrier than he'd been before.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Where's Annabelle?" Francis questioned angrily as she stormed over to Mary, Trevor, and Grace. "Where is she? There are a few things I need to say to her!"
"Whoa, honey, calm down." Mary Albany put her hands on her daughter's shoulders to settle her and looked directly into her eyes. "What's going on? What has that woman done to get you so upset?"
"Oh, it's just horrible!" Francis sobbed as she turned away to hide her pain. "That...woman cannot get away with what she's done!"
"Mother, what is it? What did Annabelle do?" Trevor Callison reached over and touched her gently on the arm. "What is it now?"
"Mother, what's wrong?" Reginald immediately walked over to them when he saw the emotional state that his mother was in. "If I'd realized how upset that being at this party would make you, I never would have invited you."
"No! Reginald, dear, that's not it!"
"Then what is it, Mother?" Trevor asked again.
"It's...it's..." Francis buried her face into her hands and sobbed. "That...woman...Annabelle...she's done something so horrible that I...I just don't know how to tell you."
"Just tell us, dear," Mary urged with concern. "Just tell us what's she's done."
"Well, first of all, your father has asked that woman to marry him!"
"Okay, it's official," Reginald muttered with a nervous laugh. "He's lost his mind!"
"No, it's not him! It's not your father." Francis paused for a moment and took a deep breath. "It's all been Annabelle's doing. She's taking all of the guilt that he's had over what happened and has managed to use it to twist his mind around until he doesn't know what's going on!"
"Well, he should feel guilty!" Trevor interjected. "He should feel horrible for what he's done!"
"But none of it has been his fault!" Francis reached out and grabbed her sons' hands as she tried to get them to understand. "It's all been her!"
"Mother, please don't try to make him blameless in all of this. Father didn't do anything that he didn't want to do!" Reginald clinched his teeth tightly. He just couldn't understand how his mother could still defend him even though she knew everything that had happened.
"But that's what I'm trying to say!" Francis eyed each of her sons individually and bit her lip. "He didn't know what he was doing. That witch Annabelle took his ability to chose away from him."
"Francis, darling, why don't you just tell us what your trying to say." Mary spoke up.
Francis looked at each of them individually and took a deep breath. "That night...the night of the engagement party, the night that I found your father with...her.... That night he didn't have a choice. She took that away from him when she drugged him."
"W-what?" Reginald's jaw dropped in shock and confusion. "Mother, what are you talking about? What do you mean Annabelle drugged him?"
"I don't know exactly how she did it, but she slipped him some sort of drug that made him vulnerable to her. That drug put him in an altered state so that he didn't have the strength nor the will to resist her. If she hadn't given him that drug, your father would never have succumbed to her schemes and our family would still be intact!"
"I just can't...believe her!" Trevor gasped as he ran his hands through his hair. "How could she do something so vile and so...so evil? How could she do this to our family?"
"Because she is evil," Reginald muttered as his eyes filled with hatred.
"I...I need to go find her," Francis said with a shake of her head, as if she still couldn't believe everything that she'd learned. "I need to ask her why and I need to say a few things to her!"
"No, mother, you've been through too much because of her, already." Reginald grabbed hold of her arm in an attempt to stop her. "Let me deal with her."
"No, Reginald. This is my fight and this is my marriage that she's tried to destroy." Francis pulled herself free of her son's grasp. "This is my fight."
As his mother quickly stormed away, Reginald turned to look at his brother and grandmother. "It might be her marriage, but it's our family!"
"What are you going to do?" Mary asked with concern. "Surely, you're not going to..."
"I most certainly am!" he replied through clinched teeth. "If I have anything to say about it, I'll find that woman first and there won't be anything left for Mother to talk to!"
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"It really has been a wonderful party," Janet Stokes smiled as she and Burt Lamont stood next to the reception table as they watched Artie continue to take pictures of Charles and various important guests. "Why, even the cake looked gorgeous!"
"Mr. Callison...I mean Uncle Charles," Burt muttered as he looked around uncomfortably, "apparently spared no expense on tonight. Of course, the cake does look a little mangled after everyone's come by and gotten a piece. I still haven't had any."
"Well, honey, let me get you some," she smiled as she turned and reached for the knife to cut off a piece of cake. "Ouch!"
"Janet, what it is?" he asked with concern as he grabbed her arm. "What did you do?"
"I...I grabbed the knife wrong," she stammered, a little shaken with what she'd done. "It's...it's sharp and...I..." She looked down at her hand that still held the knife and began to grow dizzy.
"Here, let me have that," he said as he took it from her and sat it back down onto the table before taking her hand to look at it. "Oh my! Janet, you've cut yourself pretty badly."
"It's...nothing," she muttered as he looked down at the cut on her hand that was starting to bleed. "It's just...a small cut and..."
The sight of blood triggered a memory in the back of her head. Suddenly, she began to flash back onto when the police had found her next to Gordon Scott's body, covered in his blood. However, the memory started to change and shift. She was no longer with Gordon, but inside the Stokes mansion at the top of the stairs and she could hear her sister Judith scream in terror. Why was Judith screaming? What was going on? Was she thinking about the night Judith had fallen down the stairs? Had Janet seen something? Did she know why Judith had fallen? Why couldn't she remember?
"Janet, are you all right?" Burt asked as he held a napkin to her hand to stop the bleeding. "What's wrong?"
"I...I don't know," Janet said with a shake of her head as tears began to stream down her cheeks. "I...I just don't know. Oh, Burt, please hold me. Please."
"O-okay," he replied softly as he took her into his arms and began to stroke her hair. "It's just a cut. It's really not that bad. Why is it upsetting you so much?"
"I don't know," she sobbed. "I don't know."
"Well, I do know that that knife is way too sharp to be on the table. Anyone could have cut themselves with it." As Burt held Janet in his arms, he caught sight of Jasper as the maitre d' approached the table. "Mr. St. John! Miss Stokes has cut herself."
"Oh, dear!" Jasper gasped in shock. "I...I am so sorry, Mr. Lamont. Please, let me take care of it." He grabbed Janet's hand and started to inspect it. "It doesn't seem to be too bad, but you can never tell. Just let me go into the back room and I'll get a bandage."
"And take this stupid knife with you!" Burt urged sternly. "It's way too sharp. Anyone could cut themselves."
"Knife?" Jasper eyed him curiously. "What knife?"
"The knife that's on the table next to the cake. It's the one she cut herself with and..." Burt turned to grab the knife so that he could hand it to Jasper, but was stunned by what he found. It was gone! He furrowed her brow in confusion. He was certain he'd lain the knife right there. Where on earth could it have disappeared to?
TO BE CONTINUED
Stephanie receives a shock.
For Now and Forever
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