THE PAGE TURNER BOOKSTORE

The Page Turner Bookstore"So, Grace, do you still have that crush on me?" Dane asked with a sly smile as he eyed her closely.

"I...I..." she stammered awkwardly as she immediately looked away from him.  "I think I do have a new book of historical fiction that came in just last week.  It's the newest book from Callison Publications...one of their recent discoveries and..."

"You're avoiding my question, Grace."  He reached across the counter and grabbed her hand, forcing her to turn in his direction.  "Why is that?"

"I...I don't know what you mean."

"Oh, I really think you do."  His voice softened and took on a low, throaty tone.  "I think you're avoiding giving me a straight answer because you do still have that crush on me!"

"Oh, don't be silly, Dane," she laughed weakly.  "That was last spring!  So much has happened since then and I..."

"Grace, you don't just forget your first crush."  He looked at her and grinned as he still held onto her hand.  "A first crush is a very strong and powerful thing.  In fact, I don't think those feelings ever completely go away."

Grace DavisShe eyed him carefully and felt her breathing start to grow shallow.  He knew a lot more about what he was talking about than she cared to let on.  She'd thought that she'd long gotten over Dane and his suave charms.  However, she suddenly found them staring her in the face and they were most definitely affecting her more than she thought was still possible.

"What makes you think you were my first crush?" she said with a casual laugh as if in an attempt to avoid lending any weight to his comments.  "Actually, I think that was Henry Swackhammer in the third grade."

"You don't fool me, Grace," he murmured as he refused to look away from her.  "I could tell by that kiss at the engagement party how you really felt."

"Dane, that was last summer!"

"And?"

"And...and..."  She began to feel herself growing increasingly nervous.  "And I'm seeing Trevor!  I do have a boyfriend, you know.  I don't think it's the least bit appropriate for you to be asking about whatever feelings I might have for you."

"Ah," he smiled.  "So you do have feelings for me!"

Grace felt her face turn beat red as she blushed.  She'd thrown herself right into that one without even looking!  "You know what I mean!"

Dane Manchester"It must be rather awkward," Dane chuckled.  "You dating your sister-in-law's ex-boyfriend and all.  That must make for some rather interesting family dinners."

"Trevor and Lorraine were over a long time ago," she said flatly.  "That has nothing to do with our relationship."

"Well, if you say so."  He flashed her another sly grin.

"Look, I-I really need to...get back to work," she stammered as she grew more and more nervous.  "I have a lot of books to sort."

"I understand."  His eyes burned a hole into her and his hand remained on top of hers.  "But...let me just leave you with something to think about."

"W-what do you mean?"  Grace turned to look at him curiously.

"Just this."  

In an instant, Dane leaned further across the counter and pressed his lips against hers.  Her eyes grew wide from shock, but she couldn't force herself to pull away.  After a few moments that seemed like an eternity, he stepped back, once again flashed her his charming grin, and quickly hurried out of the store leaving her extremely torn and confused about long forgotten feelings that had once again started to bubble to the surface.


THE LAKE APARTMENT - LIVING ROOM

800 W. Rose St. Apt #3"Stephanie, you are not the one to blame in any of this."  Patterson rose from his position on the sofa and walked over to her and again took her into his arms.  "If anyone's to blame, it's your motherShe's the one who did all of those horrible things.  If it weren't for that..."

"I can't believe that you're blaming my mother for her own death!" Stephanie snapped as she spun around to face him.  "How could you?"

"I'm just saying that whatever trouble your mother found, she brought it on herself."  He looked at her earnestly in hopes that she would understand what he was trying to say.  "That's all.  Of course, she's not responsible for her own death, but she is responsible for what she did before hand."

"I...I know you're right," she sighed.  "I'm sorry I took your head off."

"Under the circumstances, it's completely understandable."

Stephanie Lake"It's just that...well..."  She turned her head away and bit her lip.  "On top of everything else...as if what happened to Momma wasn't enough...now I have to figure out what I'm going to do about school."

"School?"  Patterson stepped back a little and furrowed his brow as he tried to figure out what she was trying to say.  "I'm sure you're professors are going to understand that you need to take some time off because of this.  They aren't so uptight and professional that they can't comprehend how difficult this is for you."

"Oh, no.  It's not that."  Stephanie paused and inhaled deeply.  "It's just that, well, I've been working in the admissions office just to pay for school.  Momma was working to take care of all of my other expenses---rent, food, that kind of stuff."

"O-oh, I think I understand."

"There's no way I can support myself and go to school just by work study!"  She bit her lip and looked away, hoping to hide the desperation that she was feeling.  "I...I'm not like you.  My parents didn't have a ton of money to leave to me when...they died."

"My parents didn't have a ton of money," he laughed awkwardly.  "True, my father made very good money as a doctor, but we didn't live extravagantly.  My parents were very frugal.  What they didn't absolutely need, they put back and saved.  That's the money that they left to me in trust.  That's the only reason I can pay to live and go to school and take care of Todd.  If it weren't for that, I don't know what I'd do."

"Well, I'm not as lucky as you are," she sighed.  "I...I guess I'm just gonna have to drop out of school and find a real job."

"Oh, Stephanie, don't do that."  Patterson's eyes filled with concern and worry.  "We can think of something."

"There's just not enough hours in the day for me to work to support myself, make money for school, and go to school!  Besides, I showed you my grades from last semester.  I almost feel like I'm wasting my money on school as it is."

"Well..."  He rested his chin in his hand a nodded as he racked his brain trying to come up with a solution.  "You could move into my house.  There is that spare bedroom.  At least that would take care of the place to live problem."

"Me?  Move in with you?" Stephanie gasped.  "Have you lost your mind?  I...I couldn't!  Paddy, there's no way we could live together!"

Patterson Monroe"We'd just be like roommates."

"But...but...no!"  She shook her head vigorously and waved her hands at the preposterousness of the idea.  "We can't live together!  We're not married!  W-weren't not even dating!"

Patterson's face immediately fell.  True, they weren't "officially" dating, but...well, he had been finding himself growing more and more fond of her.  Actually, he was beginning to feel much more than fondness for her.

"Oh, don't look at me like that!"

"W-well," he stammered, "I'm just a little shocked, that's all.  I never suspected you, of all people, to suddenly turn so provincial."

"This is the new me that you've fought so hard to bring out," she reminded with a slight smile.  "Us living together just wouldn't be right.  What would everyone think?"

"I...I guess you're right," he sighed.  "It wouldn't look too appropriate.  Well, don't worry.  I'll help you figure out something."  He took her into his arms again and held her tightly in an attempt to reassure her.  He just had to figure out some way to help her through everything.


THE CALLISON HOME - LIVING ROOM

2210 Elmwood Lane"Could you forgive me?" Charles asked as he stared at Francis with pleading eyes.

"I...I don't know," she muttered softly and quickly looked away.

"We all know, now, that nothing that happened that night at the engagement party was my fault.  It was all Annabelle!"  He held her hand tightly in his own as his heart began to race.  "If...it hadn't been for her, none of this would ever have happened."

"I...I know that, Charles," she sighed.  "I know that if she'd never drugged you, you would never have strayed, but you did!  I can't push that out of my head so easily."

"But, darling, I love you so much."  He reached out and gently took her chin into his hand and turned her face so that she couldn't avoid looking at him.  "I never stopped loving you.  No matter what was going on between me and Annabelle, in my heart I always wished that it was you."

Francis Callison"You don't...know how wonderful that makes me feel."  Francis felt her eyes begin to mist over with tears as she tried to choke back her emotions.  "But...but I can't erase the pain and the hurt with the snap of my fingers.  I know you love me.  I always knew, but...but..."

"But, what?"

"It's not what happened the night she drugged you that I'm having trouble with," she confessed softly.  "I understand what her true roll in all of that was.  I know you weren't responsible.  What I'm having trouble dealing with and moving past is everything that happened afterward."

"I...I don't understand..."

"Oh, Charles, too many hurtful things have been said and done.  I know that you continued to be involved with Annabelle because she saw your guilt and remorse and twisted it to her own advantage.  I know how devious and crafty she could be, but I can't get over how you kept deliberately hurting me over and over and over again.  That's something you did because you chose to and..."

"But, Francis, I only did those things out of love.  I just...wanted to force you to move on with your life so that you wouldn't be drug down with me."

"You deliberately hurt me to spare me?"  She looked at him curiously.  "I...I find that a little difficult to accept.  No matter what you say your reasons were, I still feel that pain.  The heartbreak that you caused me is still fresh in my mind."

"Darling, I love you!  Can't you see that?  Can't you find it inside your heart to forgive me for all of the horrible things that I've done?"

Charles CallisonHe looked at her earnestly and saw the obvious confusion on her face that betrayed her conflicting emotions.  Taking a quick, deep breath he pulled her close and kissed her deeply and passionately.  It had been so long since their lips had met that the resulting rush was nearly overwhelming and intoxicating, much more powerful than any drug that Annabelle Lake might have slipped him.

In spite of her previous protests and apprehensions, she didn't resist him.  Oh, how long she'd dreamed of being held tightly in his arms again with the tender touch of his lips against hers.  In that moment, it was if time had stood still and the past year had never happened.

However, her mind soon cleared and her doubts began to resurface.  Francis quickly pushed him away and turned to hide the tears that were filling her eyes.

"O-oh, Charles," she sobbed, "I...I can't do t-this.  I just...can't!"  Overcome with emotion and anxiety, she bolted from the sofa and ran out the door.

Now alone in the room, Charles let out a heavy sigh.  He knew that he'd hurt her terribly and he knew that it would take time to overcome the months of damage that their marriage had suffered.  However, their kiss had only convinced him that his wife still loved and wanted him as much as he'd always loved and wanted her.  As he took a deep breath, the cloud of darkness that had covered their lives slowly began to lift to let through a tiny ray of hope and, for the first time in what seemed like forever, Charles smiled.



 


TOMORROW

Fred tries to cover all of his bases.




 


produced/written by G. Matthew Smith

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