For Now and Forever
#149 (Monday, 9/27/04)
July 4, 1936 - Evening
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"You really did it, didn't you?" Reginald Callison asked with a sneer.
"Did what?" Burt Lamont looked at him and shook his head, unable to understand exactly what his cousin was getting at.
"You just waltzed into this town a nobody -- just some guy who picked up his downtrodden family and moved in to take care of a stable of horses." Reginald stood directly in front of Burt and stared at him. "Then, suddenly, you're a Callison -- Landon's son. And then you're wooing and romancing one of the heirs to the East Coast's largest textile companies. Now that you've married Janet, you're a member of two of the most prominent families in this town. You haven't just climbed the social ladder, you've run right up it!"
"How dare you try to insinuate that I'm using Janet! Besides, I'm every bit a part of the Callison family as you are. I'm a Callison by blood! You've seen the documentation! You've seen the reports and records that your own father's private detective found!"
"Documents and files and records can be altered and falsified to say whatever you want them to." Reginald moved closer to Burt, getting practically nose to nose with him. "I don't give a damn what those records say! You're not part of this family and you never will be!" He jabbed his finger into Burt's face to punctuate his point.
"Get out of my face!" Burt spat. "I don't have to prove a damn thing to you! Your father accepts me! Janet loves me! Those are the only things that matter."
"So," Reginald chuckled heartily with an air of amusement, "you've worked so hard to land yourself in a rather cushy spot, haven't you. How much will it take?"
"You heard me." Reginald's jaw tightened. "How much will it take? I'm prepared to phone the bank first thing in the morning. Exactly how much money will it take to send you packing out of this town and out of our lives for good?"
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"I'm really proud of you," Patterson Monroe smiled as he lead his wife, clad in a completely different gown than she'd originally arrived in, into the room. "It was awfully big of you to offer to go home and change. You didn't have to do that, you know."
"I know," Stephanie responded coyly with a tilt of her head, "but I also know that by changing clothes, I'd be the better person for it."
"Honey, you really didn't have to do it. Jillian's probably got a closet full of gowns that she's never even worn. You bought that dress just for tonight." He gently put his hands on her shoulders and turned her to face him. "Not that you don't look fantastic in that dress, but I know you put a lot of thought into the other one. You wanted tonight to be special with a brand new dress. You shouldn't have had to go home and change into a dress you already had hanging in the closet."
"Paddy, I know." She couldn't help but laugh. He was so concerned about her feelings. "But, like I said, if I want everyone here to see exactly how much I've changed -- how much I'm not like the Stephanie Lake they want to keep me as in their minds -- I know I've got to change the way I react to things. Now, the old me would probably have ripped that dress right off of Jillian and sent her packing home to change clothes, but that's not who I am now."
"So you and Jillian didn't get into a little tiff in the ladies room?" His eyes narrowed as he eyed his wife suspiciously.
"A tiff?" Stephanie tapped her chin with her index finger as she considered his choice of words. "I wouldn't exactly call it a 'tiff' -- more like a discussion. We calmly weighed the pros and cons of who'd go home to change and I made the offer. Jillian tried to talk me out of it, but I insisted." She turned away from him and smiled slyly. "It was all very cordial, actually."
"Well, then, I'm proud of you. I know that with the history you and Jillian have, it'd be really easy for both of you to dredge up all of that old stuff."
"Paddy, there's nothing for you to worry about." She turned back around to him and smiled. "In fact, we were so pleasant to one another that I kinda slipped and told her about the baby." Stephanie lowered her head and blushed.
"Oh, Steph! I thought you wanted to wait and tell Sara first."
"I know," she sighed, "but you know how I've been itching to tell someone ever since we found out today. Jillian and I were having such a warm moment that it...just slipped out."
"You better go find Sara and tell her the good news, then. If she finds out you told someone else before her, she's not gong to be too happy."
"But, wait, Paddy, that's not even the best part!" She grabbed him and looked up into his eyes as she bit her lower lip. "Jillian's going to have a baby, too!"
"We're both going to have babies!" She clasped her hands together tightly in excitement. "Oh, Paddy, isn't that wonderful? We got married at the same time and now we're going to have babies at the same time!" As her head began to spin with ideas, Stephanie's eyes shifted back and forth as if she were considering every single one of them. "Wouldn't it be something if one of these babies was a little boy and the other was a little girl and they grew up and got married to each other?"
"Whoa, Stephanie, slow down." Patterson couldn't help but laugh at her excitement. "Right now, let's focus on having the baby first. We've got plenty of time to plan out the rest of their lives."
"Paddy, we're all going to be so happy!" She flew into his arms and hugged him tightly. "There's nothing but joy and happiness in our futures for all of us and nothing is going to happen to change that."
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"How dare you?" Burt spat back angrily, his hands balled up into fists. "You know, to hear your father talk, you're nothing short of the second coming, but right now I see exactly what kind of man you are!"
"Don't be so sanctimonious, Burt," Reginald replied coolly. "I'm the kind of man who would do whatever it took to protect his family and that includes getting rid of some opportunistic mongrel." He moved even closer to Burt. "Take the money, Burt. It'll be much easier for you this way. You'll have a tidy sum to go start a new life somewhere else where you'll be far away from this family."
"I'll tell you what you can do with your money!"
"Don't make this difficult." Reginald was so calm and confident that it was rather unsettling. "You know this would be best for all of us."
"How? How can you do this?" Burt shook his head in confusion, still in shock from Reginald's proposal. "I...thought that we were friends. We've always gotten along. You've had no problem with me before."
"That's back when I took you at face value. That's back when you were just a simple guy working on a farm who seemed to want to make the best out of his life." Reginald stepped back and began to slowly pace around Burt. "But then I saw to what lengths you'd go to do that. You set out to con your way into not just my family, but Jillian's family, too. I love my family, Burt, and I love my wife's family. I refuse to let some two-bit hayseed with some outlandish story of long-lost paternity con his way into all of this. It wouldn't be right -- not to my father and not to Janet. How could you use them like this?"
"You disgust me," Burt hissed, his jaw tightening up. "I love Janet. I married Janet. And I've grown to care a great deal about your father and your family. Look, I admit that I wasn't exactly ready to do back flips over the idea of who I really was and I came in with guns blazing, furious and angry with your family for throwing a innocent little baby and his mother aside like garbage, but I realized that it wasn't your father and it wasn't your family as a whole who deserved my anger -- it was your grandfather. He's the one who caused all of this hurt and pain. He's the one who should be reviled and held up for contempt!"
"Don't you dare drag my grandfather's name around in the dirt!" Reginald reached out and grabbed Burt by his collar. "My grandfather was a good man. He was a hardworking and generous man who built this family and our business from the ground up! How can you even attempt to make judgments and assessments about him when you never even knew him?"
"I never had a chance to know him! He saw to that!" Burt grabbed hold of Reginald's wrist as the duo began to struggle. "I'll tell you what you can do with your money and your attitude -- you can take both of them and go to hell!"
"What the devil is going on here?" came the voice of Jillian Callison from behind them. "Reginald? Burt?"
The sound of his wife's voice startled Reginald and he immediately let go of Burt and took several quick steps away from him. His face was beat red with anger and he was breathing heavily. He couldn't have covered up the intensity of the situation if he'd tried.
"Honey, what's going on? What happened?" Janet Lamont raced over to Burt's side and took his arm. "What's wrong?" Her eyes instantly went to Reginald. "What did you do? What did you say to him?"
"Just telling the truth," Reginald muttered, unable to look in Jillian's direction. He knew how overly generous and kind she was. He knew she wouldn't be able to understand. "And it appears that your husband and I don't see eye to eye."
"I'll say we don't." Burt pulled Janet to him and put his arms around her. "Look, don't worry about it. I'm fine." He placed his index finger under her chin and lifted her head gently so that he could look deeply into her eyes. "Honest." He paused and turned towards Reginald. "It's over now. We just had a little disagreement." His eyes bore a deep hole into Reginald before he turned back to his wife and took a long, deep breath. "I think I need some air. Care to join me?"
"Of course, I would." Janet smiled warmly as her husband took her by the arm and led her away. However, she couldn't help but turn back to look at Reginald. She was certain that something serious had happened and it wasn't merely as innocent as a simple "disagreement."
"What happened?" Jillian's tone was stern and severe once her sister and brother-in-law were out of earshot. "What did you say to Burt?"
"We had a difference of opinion," he replied coolly. "It's obvious that we don't agree on a few things."
"What I walked up on was more than just a difference of opinion!"
"Sweetheart, I think you're making too much out of this." He gently took her by the arm and began to walk with her across the room back to where their families were gathered. "I had to make sure that Burt's intentions towards Janet were honorable and he simply took it the wrong way."
"There's nothing for you to get yourself worked up over." He stopped and turned to her and smiled. "I love your family very much and anyone who intends to become a part of it better pass inspection." A hearty chuckle punctuated the levity he was trying to inject. "I was just testing him."
"Testing him?" She gasped at how cavalierly he was treating what had happened. "Reginald, you and Burt were almost involved in a full-fledged brawl! That was no 'test,' as you put it." She paused and inhaled deeply. "Now, what did you say to Burt? Either you're going to tell me or I'm going to find out from Burt!"
Reginald stood silently for a few moments and nodded, mentally weighing his options. It would sound better coming from him, after all. Finally... "I offered to pay Burt to leave town."
The words hung in the air. Jillian was visibly stunned and didn't quite know what to say. "Reginald!"
"Now, wait!" He threw up his hands to silence her. "Before you go jumping to conclusions, let me explain."
"Explain? Explain?" She raked her fingers through her golden hair, unable to fathom what he'd said. "How could you? How could you do something like that? Burt's your own flesh and blood!" His jaw tightened as she spoke the words. "No wonder it looked like Burt wanted to slug you in the jaw! I know I would have!"
"Jillian, like I said, I just wanted to test him -- to see what he'd do." He took a long deep breath. "And he passed with flying colors."
"Oh, Reginald, what were you thinking? I know there's been tension between the two of you for months -- ever since everyone found out that Burt was your uncle Landon's son. I haven't forgotten your behavior at the hospital the night that Daddy died!"
"You're making too much out of this."
"I don't think I am! Reginald, I swear to you...." Suddenly, a sharp pain pierced her side and she doubled over slightly in reaction. "Ohhhh...." she moaned.
"Jillian? Jillian, what's wrong? Are you all right? The baby...." He flew to her side and put his arm around her to support her until the pain had passed. "What happened?"
"I...don't know," she muttered, quite startled and uneasy about what had just happened. However, as soon as the pain had come on, it was gone. "I'm...fine. I don't know what it was, but...I'm fine, now. It's gone." She rubbed her abdomen gently.
"Should I call Dr. Campbell over here to take a look at you?"
"No, I'm fine." Her tone was unnervingly calm -- almost as if she was trying to stave off her own internal concerns. "I have a checkup scheduled for in the morning. I...I'll ask the doctor about it then." She allowed her husband to lead her by the hand, his arm still around her waist, as they continued to walk across the room. "Reginald, please try to get along with Burt. He's your family -- a part of both of our families, now. Please, do this for me?"
"O-okay," he nodded, his eyes focused only on her. "Anything for you, Jillian. Anything for you." And, in that moment, he meant every word he said because Burt Lamont was now the furthest thing from his mind. His thoughts were only of his expectant wife and the unnerving sequence of events that had just happened.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Dane, where have you been?" Joyce Preston asked as she briskly walked up to him and grabbed him by the arm. "I've been looking all over for you."
"Well, I don't know where you've been, but I've been right here." Dane Manchester lifted his martini glass to her in a mock toast.
"Don't be glib," she chastised. "Do you know what your wife was talking to Trevor Callison about?"
"No, I don't." The mention of Trevor's name immediately grabbed Dane's attention. "Were you eavesdropping on them?"
"Of course I was, Dane! Someone's got to be looking after the state of your marriage since you clearly have no intention of doing it yourself."
"I hope your not trying to insinuate that I've got a reason to be concerned about Sara's friendship with Trevor." He took another sip of his drink. "They've been friends for years. That's all it is."
"Are you trying to convince me of that or are you trying to convince yourself?" A smug grin spread across her face. She was certain that Dane was acting more unconcerned than he really was. "Besides, my daughter does have a history of betraying you -- or have you forgotten her little affair with my husband?"
"Joyce, we've gone over that before. I really don't think there ever was anything between Sara and Thornton Preston."
"Your a fool, Dane. A blind fool! And that foolishness is going to cost you everything you have."
He paused for another moment to take another sip of his drink, but more accurately to give himself time to consider what his mother-in-law had said. "So.... Did you overhear what they were talking about?"
"Not everything," she confessed, pleased that she had his full attention and interest. "But I got the distinct impression that they were discussing all of the manuscripts that Thornton had finished but hadn't published. I think that the young Mr. Callison was trying to make an arrangement with Sara so that they could finally publish those works."
"That makes sense to me," Dane nodded. "He was under contract with Callison Publications when he died."
"But do you understand what this means?" She reached out and grabbed hold of his arm. "Because of Thornton's will, Sara has the rights to those works -- my husband's work! That is one of the only things that he bequeathed to her and her alone! That little gold-digger has full rights to my husband's work! She's gotten her hands on everything! Do you have any idea how much money she could make once those books are published and if they're best sellers?"
"Joyce, you're talking about your own daughter," he reminded, alarmed by the severity of her reaction. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you were more concerned about what you perceive Sara stole from you than from any sort of concern for her and the state of our marriage."
Realizing that she might have overstated her case, coming horribly close to revealing her true motives and intent, Joyce began to backtrack and stammer. "Well...um...naturally, it's still a sore spot for me. She did sleep with my husband in an attempt to get her hands on his money and convinced him to change his will, completely cutting me out of it."
"There you are, Dane!" Patterson called out as he hurried over to the scheming in-laws -- thoroughly interrupting their conversation, much to Joyce's relief -- with Stephanie on his arm. "Where's Sara? Steph and I have some wonderful news to share with you."
"She was talking to Trevor Callison earlier," he replied, his eyes moving immediately to Joyce. "I haven't seen her since."
"Oh, Paddy, there she is," Stephanie spoke up, catching sight of Sara who was walking across the room towards them. "Sara! Oh, Sara, come here!"
"What is it, Stephanie?" Sara Manchester asked as she hurried over to them. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong!" Stephanie practically beamed with the anticipation of her news. "Everything's wonderful! Paddy and I have some exciting news to tell you." She bit her lower lip nervously and looked up at Patterson.
"Well...?" Sara looked at both Patterson and Stephanie with curiosity and then over to her husband who shrugged and shook his head to indicate that he didn't have the faintest idea what the news could be.
"We wanted you to be the first to know...." Stephanie paused and took a deep breath. "We're going to have a baby."
"A...baby?" Sara gasped and then immediately flung her arms around her cousin. "Oh, my goodness, that's wonderful! A baby! But...but are you sure? It's so soon!"
"Yes, we're sure," Stephanie nodded. "We just found out today. I'm so excited. I've been dying to tell someone all day."
"Paddy, my good man, congratulations." Dane stuck out his hand and gave his good friend a hearty handshake. "You two sure haven't wasted any time."
"I admit that we weren't planning on having kids so soon," Patterson confessed sheepishly. "But I actually think this is going to be the best thing for all of us. This baby is really going to make all of us a family."
In the midst of all of the congratulatory good wishes, Dane's attention was drawn towards Joyce who'd quietly slipped away and moved across the room. As he watched her, he saw her chatting with a waiter -- getting another drink, perhaps? He wasn't sure, but by the tone of her earlier conversation, he was well aware that she was up to something and he was certain that he didn't like that idea at all.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN DANCE FLOOR
"That was simply beautiful," Leticia Rutherford said as she broke away from her husband Fred, with whom she'd been dancing, and applauded the orchestra's performance. "I really have to hand it to Francis and her Ladies Auxiliary. They've really managed to pull together an amazing benefit."
"I agree," Dr. Fred Rutherford nodded. "They've raised quite a bit of money tonight for that new children's ward at the hospital."
"Dear, do you think you'll be all right for a few minutes while I go talk to Francis? I want to tell her what a good job she's done."
"I can take care of myself," he laughed and then finished his drink. "I'll just go over to the bar and get another cocktail." He leaned in and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll see you in a few minutes."
As Leticia left and disappeared out of sight into the crowd, Fred inhaled deeply. All the cooing and fawning he was having to do over his wife was beginning to wear him down. Sure, Leticia was genial and loving enough, but even a blind person could see how stuffy and prim she could be. In a word, Fred found her quite dull and he loved excitement. However, the immense size of his wife's bank account went a long way in making her more attractive to him.
He approached the bar and lifted his hand to catch the attention of the bartender, but was startled to find another hand land gently on his shoulder. The touch was familiar and he spun around in shock to face the hand's owner.
"Donna, what the devil do you think you're doing?" he asked in a severe whisper. "We shouldn't be seen together here."
"Don't be silly," Donna Allison laughed. "You're a doctor. I'm a nurse. This is a hospital fundraiser, after all. There's nothing unseemly about two professional colleagues talking socially about the successes of the night concerning the children's ward."
Fred paused to consider what she'd said and realized that she did have a point. However, he also knew that their relationship was far more than professional. He had a lot a stake and didn't need any sort of public slip-ups to threaten everything that he'd worked so hard to achieve.
"Business -- that's all we can talk about. Hospital business." His eyes darted around the room checking to see if anyone were watching them, paying attention too closely.
"Well, you sure are jumpy tonight." Donna lifted her hand to carefully caress his cheek. "Perhaps we should get together later. I bet I know a few ways to relax you."
"Stop it, Donna," he snapped, grabbing hold of her hand and forcing it away. "Someone could see you. I told you that what goes on between us is private. It stays behind closed doors and we don't need to make a public spectacle out of it. If my wife were to find out...."
"I know. I know," she muttered and hung her head. She'd made so much progress with him and now was afraid that she'd pushed things too far. "I...can see you again, can't I?"
"Of course, you can," he smiled, both his tone and manner loosening up slightly. "But only when we can be alone. What we have is just between us. You know that I have...um...special circumstances that...."
Fred was cut off mid-sentence by a very loud clearing of the throat definitely meant to politely, yet definitely, interrupt their conversation.
"Dr. Rutherford?' Jasper St. John, the manager of the ballroom, spoke up.
"Mr. St. John, yes?" Fred asked as he turned away from Donna to face him. Jasper's carefully raised eyebrow and knowing smirk belayed the suspicions that were swirling inside the man's head. "Nurse Allison and I were just discussing the fundraiser and the children's ward."
"Yes, I can see that," Jasper responded dryly. "Perhaps you should be discussing the...um...fundraiser with your wife?"
"She's busy discussing it with Mrs. Callison." Fred's jaw tightened. The last thing he was in the mood for was the snooty manager's insinuations. "You wanted something?"
"Oh, yes, I almost forgot." Jasper reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out an envelope. "One of our waiters found this at the front door and it was addressed to you. I'd assumed you'd dropped it on your way in and I thought I'd return it." Jasper handed the envelope over to Fred, making sure to keep his hand extended for the customary tip. When, after several long moments, his hand remained empty, Jasper pulled it away and scowled at the good doctor. "If I see your wife, I'll be sure to tell her where you are."
"Oh, um, yes," Fred muttered, immediately realized what Jasper was getting at and then dug deeply into his pocked for some change and handed it over to him.
"Oh, thank you, sir!" Jasper exclaimed with false gratitude as he examined his handful of coins. "Now I can continue to pay for my dear gray-haired old mother's medical bills." With a roll of his eyes, he deposited the coins in his own pocket and then turned to walk away.
"Fred, what is it?" Donna asked as she watched Fred as he held the envelope out in front of himself. "Who's it from?"
"I'm afraid I don't want to know," he muttered, half to himself. Unable to contain his nervous suspense any longer, he ripped it open and pulled out a carefully typed letter -- it was from his blackmailer!
And whoever it was was there at the fundraiser and watching his every move.
THE GRAND SUNSET ROOM - MAIN BALLROOM
"Married," Judith Linford grumbled to herself as she wove her way through the crowd of guests. "How dare she? How dare she trick Burt into marrying her?" She paused long enough to finish off the last gulp of her drink and then immediately flagged down the nearest waiter. "Get me another vodka martini -- straight up."
"And make it a double!"
As the waiter hurried off to fill her order, Judith continued to silently fume. She loved Burt with all of her heart, but he'd been vulnerable to her younger sister's wide-eyed and innocent act. However, Judith knew Janet for the cunning, manipulative, nutcase she really was. Judith knew that she'd used her "vulnerability" to ensnare Burt. She knew that Janet had managed to wrap the kind-hearted and sincere Burt Lamont around her little finger and had used every trick in the book to convince him to run off and get married. Well, Judith wasn't about to stand for it -- not at all!
But what could Judith do? She'd fought for months to show Burt Janet's true colors to no avail. If only she could remember every little detail about the night she'd fallen down the stairs and lost the baby she'd secretly shared with Burt. If only she could remember the role that Janet had played in that tragic night.
"I guess you're proud of yourself," came the cold voice of Corinne Campbell from behind her. "You made quite the public showing earlier with that donation. I'm sure you scored a lot of points with my husband."
"Corinne, I really don't feel like being social with you right now," Judith snapped, refusing to even turn to look at her. "I have a lot on my mind."
"Really?" Corinne walked around Judith so that she could face her. "Your head wouldn't happen to be filled with thoughts of my husband, would it?"
"Honestly, Corinne, Talbot is the furthest thing from my mind at the moment."
"Forgive me if I find that hard to believe." Corinne folded her arms across her chest and glared at her presumed rival. "I'm not blind, you know. I've seen the way you behave around my husband. I've seen the way you bat your eyes at him and coo at him. I've seen the way he looks at you. If you think I'm going to just stand idly by while you get your overly manicured claws into my husband, you've got another thing coming."
"I'm not having this discussion with you, Corinne," Judith muttered sternly as she pushed past her in an attempt to get away. "I've got far more important things to deal with right now than you and your joke of a marriage."
"You listen to me, Judith Linford," Corinne spat as she grabbed her by the arm and spun her around, "You think I don't know about you? Well, you're wrong! I know all about the type of woman you are! You're a pathetic, miserable woman and you're not happy unless everyone else is as miserable as you are! Well, I'm not going to let you have Talbot! Do you hear me?"
Corinne grabbed Judith forcibly by the arms, pushing her slightly backwards and causing the heel of Judith's shoe to catch in a crease in the carpeting. Thrown slightly off balance, Judith stumbled backwards and against the wall, but caught herself before she could fall.
"You're headed for a fall, Judith! A big fall!"
Just then, Judith's eyes grew wide with horror.
"Oh, my god," Judith gasped, her eyes wide with horror and shock. "Oh, my god."
"What's the matter with you?" Corinne asked full of discomfort. The mere look on Judith's face told Corinne that something wasn't right. "Have you taken ill? Or...or are you just faking it so you can garner some sympathy from my husband?"
"Oh, my god," Judith muttered again, utterly terrified by the myriad of thoughts and memories that were flooding back to her. She dug her nails deeply into the wallpaper behind her to steady herself as the color drained from her face and her legs grew weak. "Oh, my god. I...I remember. I remember."
TO BE CONTINUED
Fred's night goes from bad to worse.
For Now and Forever
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