For Now and Forever
REGINALD & JILLIAN’S HOME – LIVING ROOM
Jillian Callison sat in silence on the sofa in her living room with her mother, Leticia Rutherford, on one side; her mother-in-law, Francis Callison, on the other; and surrounded by her sisters, Judith Linford and Janet Lamont, and husband, Reginald Callison. Everyone waited with baited breath for her reaction and response to the woman who was apparently her new housekeeper and nursemaid, Mrs. Eudora Whitehead. Unfortunately for Jillian, her mother-in-law had taken it upon herself to hire Mrs. Whitehead without even so much as consulting Jillian. That was a sticking point which she was far from comfortable with.
“Jillian, darling, you’re not saying anything.” Reginald finally spoke after several long moments of silence while everyone had waited for Jillian to fully react. “I think it’s wonderful how Mother went out of her way to find just the right housekeeper with the proper qualifications so that we wouldn’t have to be bothered with it.”
“Of course you would,” she grumbled, unable to will herself to look at him directly.
“Now, Mrs. Callison, I already have a daily schedule worked out,” Mrs. Whitehead interrupted as she began to read from the pad of notepaper she held in her hands. “Dr. Campbell has recommended a course of necessary vitamins which will compliment your daily meal plans for proper nutrition and….”
“Wait! Stop it!” Jillian threw up her hands and quickly jumped up from her seat as she pulled herself out of Francis and Leticia’s grasp. “I am not in favor of this at all! I don’t need a housekeeper! I don’t want a housekeeper!”
“Jillian, please?” Reginald’s voice was deliberately gentle and soothing so as not to overly excite his wife. “You heard what Dr. Campbell said before we left the hospital – this baby isn’t going to be an easy one and you have to do whatever you can to avoid unnecessary stress and….”
“The only unnecessary stress I’m experiencing right now is this!” She motioned around the room towards the various members of her family who were quickly growing quite uncomfortable, “and that woman who I did not invite into my home!” She walked swiftly to where Mrs. Whitehead was standing and glared directly into her eyes. “And I want you to leave. Now.”
“Are you still thinking about what Eliza’s mother said to you?” Maggie Callison asked as she propped herself up onto her elbows and looked at Randy Lamont who was sitting beside her on the blanket facing the lake.
“A… little,” he muttered, unable to look at her. Instead, he continued to focus his eyes on the lake where his girlfriend, Eliza Campbell, was rather unwillingly frolicking in the water with Maggie’s de facto boyfriend, Stanley Fitzpatrick. “I just can’t get what she said out of my head… or how she looked at me… like I wasn’t even good enough to be seen in her presence.”
“Randy, you can’t listen to a single word Corinne Campbell says.” She reached over and grabbed hold of his arm, finally forcing him to turn to face her. “She’s a petty, spiteful woman. I don’t think she’d ever think anyone was good enough for Eliza.”
“She wasn’t talking about just anyone, Maggie. She was talking about me.”
Maggie looked at the deeply pained expression on Randy’s face and let out a slow sigh.
“Anyone who could ever think you weren’t good enough doesn’t have the first clue what they’re talking about,” she said as she took his hand. “You’re the nicest, most decent, most honorable boy I’ve ever known. You’re more than good enough for anybody!”
“If I remember right, that’s not what you thought when you first met me.” He pulled his hand away from hers, quickly jumped up from the blanket, and began to walk away. “I believe you called me a complete idiot and told me I should’ve stayed wherever it was that I came from. I’m not so sure you weren’t right.”
Having Randy remind Maggie of their first, confrontational meeting caused her eyes to well up with tears and she quickly turned away from him, unable to see the pain the memories clearly brought him.
“I… I’m sorry about that,” she muttered, more than a bit embarrassed by her earlier judgmental behavior. “I didn’t give myself a chance to know you first. I… made assumptions that weren’t true.”
“But you did make them…. Just like Eliza’s mother made them…. Just like every other person. To everyone else I’m just “that Lamont boy” who doesn’t have any future or anything to offer anyone. Mrs. Campbell’s right. I’m not good enough for….”
“You stop that, Randy! You stop that right now!” The forcefulness in Maggie’s voice caused him to turn to look at her. “Don’t you let anyone – especially Corinne Campbell – ever tell you that you aren’t good enough. You’re more than good enough for anyone.”
Randy hesitated for a brief moment as his eyes met Maggie’s and the silent words of a thousand unspoken conversations hung in the air between them until finally….
“Even you, Maggie? Am I good enough for you?”
Randy’s question caught Maggie off guard and she sat in stunned silence as she tried to quickly gather her thoughts. Unfortunately, before she could give him an answer, Stanley’s uproarious voice began to grow increasingly louder, causing them each to turn in his direction and see him running in their direction.
“Mags! Randy!” he called out as he waved at them. “Are you guys going to actually get in the water or not? I thought that was the entire reason for coming out here in the first place!”
“I… um….” Maggie stammered, not quite sure what to say or how to react. Her uneasiness was quickly increased by the sight of Eliza hurrying up the hill towards them, clearly far from happy that Stanley had seemed to abandon her in the water.
“Stanley!” Eliza cried out in anger. “Don’t you dare run away from me! If I manage to get my hands on you, I’ll….” Before she could say another word, she noticed the obvious awkwardness shared by Randy and Maggie and immediately knew something was going on. “You two seem rather… cozy up here all by yourselves… rather content to leave me along with that goon Stanley.”
“I am not a goon!” Stanley snapped. “Geez, I was just having a little fun.”
“Clearly you’re not the only one.” Eliza’s eyes darted from Maggie to Randy as she observed the looks of embarrassment on their faces as well as the awkward tension that seemed to exist between them. Without wasting a moment, she grabbed onto Randy’s arm and pulled him tightly to her side. “I thought you two were coming down to the water.”
“Yeah, Mags,” Stanley nodded. “What gives?”
“We were… we were just about to head down,” Randy muttered, unable to look at either Maggie or Eliza.
“Actually… no.” Maggie jumped up from the blanket and began to hurriedly collect her things. “It’s getting late and I really want to stop by and see Jillian. Stanley, would you take me home please?”
“Aw! But, Mags!”
With her bag slung over her shoulder, Maggie grabbed his hand and pushed past Randy and Eliza as she led him towards his jalopy, never bothering to even look back over her shoulder at Randy. If she had, she would’ve seen him watching her as she walked the rest of the way up the hill – and Eliza watching him very closely.
REGINALD & JILLIAN’S HOME – LIVING ROOM/FOYER
“Jillian, darling, I think you’re overreacting and being a tad unreasonable,” Reginald said softly as he tried to avoid getting his wife any more upset than she clearly already was. “You heard what Dr. Campbell said and….”
“Yes, I heard what he said – he said that there’s a chance I might not be able to have this baby. I understand that. But there’s no reason why you have to force this… this… woman on me. I am not an invalid! I don’t need a nursemaid! Besides, you heard Janet. She’s more than willing to help me with anything I need.”
“Dear, you know your sister just got married,” Leticia carefully reminded. “She has more than enough work of her own to help set up house with Burt. You can’t honestly expect her to put all of that on hold just to run into town every day to help you keep house.”
“Oh, I wouldn’t worry about that,” Judith openly smirked with a sideways glance towards an increasingly uncomfortable Janet. “I have a feeling that our dear sister is going to have an opening in her busy schedule very soon.”
“Jillian, you know we only want what’s best for you,” Francis spoke up. “For both you and the baby. We only want to do whatever we can to make these next few months as easy for you as possible.”
“Then if that’s the case, the best thing everyone can do is simply leave me alone!” Unwilling to listen to another word, Jillian pushed past Reginald and stormed out of the living room causing everyone to erupt into a clamor of concerned panic.
“Let me go have a word with her,” Reginald said quickly, motioning for everyone to sit down. “I’m sure if I can get her to calm down and listen to reason, I can convince her that having Mrs. Whitehead’s help is for the best.”
As Reginald hurried out of the living room and into the foyer, he found his wife in tears and clutching the edge of the banister at the foot of the stairs.
“Jillian, are you all right?” he asked as he came up behind her and put his hand lovingly on her shoulder. “You’re not ill, are you? The baby…?”
“I’m fine,” she muttered weakly, attempting to choke back her tears. “Just a little embarrassed, I suppose. I don’t… know what’s come over me. I didn’t mean to… to lash out at everyone like that. I know everyone is only concerned about me and the baby, but….”
“But you had an idea in your head about how you thought this married life of ours was going to go, didn’t you?” Reginald pulled his wife into his comforting arms and cradled her head against his shoulder.
“You know me far too well, Mr. Callison.” She let out a weak laugh. “You know I was determined to be the best, old fashioned wife you could ever hope for without any help from anyone. I just didn’t… plan for either a baby or any of the difficulties that’s going along with it.”
“Sweetheart, there’s nothing wrong with needing help. You could have an army of maids, housekeepers, and assistants and you’d still be the best wife I could ever hope to have. I know you wanted to do it all on your own, but we’ve got to put all of that aside and think about what’s best for the baby. If that means having Mrs. Whitehead helping you around the house and taking care of you when I’m not here, then so be it.”
Jillian looked up at Reginald and let a soft grumble. “Well, Dr. Campbell did recommend her and she does have nurses’ training, which I suppose could be helpful, all things considered….”
“Does that mean you’ll agree to hire on Mrs. Whitehead?”
She paused for a brief moment and quickly weighed her options.
“Yes,” she finally nodded, “but only on a trial basis. If there’s any reason I decide that this isn’t working out, then I want that woman out of this house.”
“Oh, I have a feeling that by the time all is said and done, you’ll realize exactly how indispensable Mrs. Whitehead is going to be.” A smiling Reginald pulled Jillian into his arms and hugged her tightly. “You’ll see. This is all for the best.”
However, no sooner were the words of agreement out of her mouth, Jillian was already having second thoughts. Despite her privileged and pampered upbringing, she was quite the independent sort and had grown unaccustomed to being under anyone’s watchful eye. Having Mrs. Whitehead’s constant presence in the house was something she knew she was going to have trouble getting used to.
THE MONROE HOME - KITCHEN
“Todd won’t eat that, you know,” Mrs. Oliver stated very matter-of-factly as she watched Stephanie Monroe making sandwiches for the little boy’s lunch. “You know how particular that child is.”
“It’s just a ham sandwich.” Stephanie did her best to ignore her housekeeper’s obvious attempt at interference. “You told me yourself that he likes ham sandwiches.”
“Yes, but he likes the ham very thinly sliced.” Mrs. Oliver peered over Stephanie’s shoulder at the pieces of ham and shook her head in disapproval. “Mr. Saltzman at the market knows exactly how we get our meat cut. I don’t know why he sent you home with that.”
“I didn’t get the ham from Mr. Saltzman,” Stephanie casually explained. “I was running late coming home from the radio station yesterday, so I stopped in at the Costello’s Market instead. He was running a nice special on cold cuts and….”
“Costello’s? Oh, we never go to Costello’s! He always gives an inferior cut of meat – nothing like the quality from Mr. Saltzman. I’d be very surprised if that sandwich is even edible. Before you start doing these things on your own, you really should ask first.”
“I think I’m more than capable of going to the grocery.” Stephanie spread a thin layer of mayonnaise on a slice of bread and then slammed the sandwich closed in frustration. “And I’m more than capable of making a sandwich.”
Mrs. Oliver pursed her lips and shook her head in disapproval. “So you say, Stephanie, but don’t forget to cut the crusts off of the sandwich or Todd won’t….”
“Todd is just a little boy and he’ll eat whatever it is I give him to eat. Honestly, Mrs. Oliver, I think you’ve given that child far too much authority around here. That boy needs to understand exactly who is in charge.” Stephanie walked over to the door leading into the living room and pushed it open enough so that she could call for Todd. “Todd! Lunch is ready!”
Almost before the door had a chance to swing back closed, Todd ran into the kitchen, nearly knocking Stephanie over in the process, and plopped himself down in his chair at the table. Unfortunately, as soon as he saw the sandwich she’d prepared for him, he immediately turned up his nose in disgust.
“I don’t like the crust,” he grumbled almost under his breath as he folded his arms defiantly across his chest and sunk down into his chair. “Won’t eat it.”
“Todd!” Stephanie snapped angrily. “You like ham sandwiches. That is your lunch today. You will eat it if you want lunch.”
He scrunched up his nose and began to poke at the sandwich with his finger almost as if he were afraid to touch it.
“I tried to tell you he wouldn’t eat it,” Mrs. Oliver leaned over and whispered to Stephanie.
“Todd! Eat your lunch!”
“Young man, I believe we should watch our tone.” Mrs. Oliver sat down in the chair next to the little boy and slid his plate in front of her. “Now, what if we just trim the crusts off just like this…?”
He leaned forward in his chair and watched as she carefully cut all of the crust away until the sandwich looked just like he wanted it. Before she’d barely even had a chance to remove the last crumb of crust, Todd grabbed the sandwich with both hands and began to devour it. As Mrs. Oliver sat back and smiled at a job well-done, Stephanie glowered at her. Once again, Mrs. Oliver had set out to deliberately make her feel incompetent and inferior in her own home and Stephanie didn’t like it – not one bit.
REGINALD & JILLIAN’S HOME – LIVING ROOM
“You sit down right here and put your feet up while Mrs. Whitehead takes care of those dishes.” Reginald fluffed up a cushion on the sofa for Jillian to rest her back on before helping Jillian slowly down into her seat. “You’ve had quite a bit of excitement today and I want you to take it easy.”
“Darling, you didn’t have to usher everyone out of here so soon. I was rather enjoying having everyone around.”
“I know our mothers mean well, but… I know how overbearing they can both be – mine especially.” He sat down next to her and took her hand into his. “And although I can’t quite put my finger on it, there’s something going on between your sisters.”
“There’s always something going on between Judith and Janet,” Jillian sighed. “I’m sure Judith is merely stewing over how Burt and Janet ran off and eloped so impulsively. You know how Judith has never approved of that relationship.”
“Judith clearly has the same opinion of Burt that I do.”
“Reginald, please?” she begged softly. “If you really want me to relax and take is easy, don’t start in on Burt again.”
“Don’t worry,” he laughed warmly. “Your brother-in-law is absolutely the last person on my mind right now. Unfortunately….”
Jillian furrowed her brow as she waited for her husband to continue his thought which didn’t sound like it was going to be a good one considering the tone of his voice.
“I have to go down to the newspaper for a bit and take care of some business.”
“What about Rodney? He’s your senior assistant editor. Can’t he take care of whatever it is that needs to be done? I was looking forward to having you all to myself for the rest of the afternoon.”
“I know,” he sighed, “but there are some jobs that only I can handle. I promise I won’t take too long. Besides, you’ve got Eudora here to look out for you now when I’m away.” He flashed her a teasing grin.
“Don’t remind me,” Jillian sighed as she watched her husband, who was already halfway towards the door and reaching for his briefcase. “You just hurry home.”
“I love you!” Reginald called back from the foyer, quickly followed by the sound of the front door opening and then an unexpected collage of voices.
“I hope you’re up for another visitor,” Maggie smiled as she stood in the doorway to the living room, a rather oversized arrangement of flowers in her arms. “I brought these for you. I hope you’re not overrun with them.”
“Oh, they’re lovely!” Jillian exclaimed. “And I don’t think a home can ever be overrun with beautiful flowers. Just set them over there on that table and I’ll have the new housekeeper put them in water in a bit.”
“Mrs. Whitehead? I heard Mother talking about her earlier.”
“Yes,” Jillian sighed, “but I’ve spent far too much time talking about her today. Why don’t you come sit down and tell me how you’ve been spending your summer.” Anything to keep her mind off of the distressing news regarding her unborn child which she’d received that morning.
“Well, there’s really not much to tell.” Maggie walked over to the sofa and sat down next to Jillian. “To be honest, it’s all been kinda dull – except for your wedding and the baby and all….”
“Ah, yes.” Jillian looked away in an attempt to disguise the discomfort which resulted from mentioning the baby before taking a deep breath to renew her strength and desire to shift the conversation towards more pleasant matters. “You look like you’ve gotten some sun,” she observed when she looked at Maggie. “Have you been spending time out at the lake this summer?”
“We were actually out there for a little while earlier.”
“Stanley and I and… well… Eliza and Randy.” Maggie’s voice trailed off as she mentioned her best friend and her boyfriend. “You know… just a bunch of us down at the lake. No big deal.”
Jillian leaned cocked her head to the side and lifted an eyebrow as she evaluated what her young sister-in-law had said. After several moments, she realized that what Maggie had said and how she’d said it didn’t exactly convey the same sentiment.
“I’ve got a feeling that there’s a little more to the story,” Jillian finally said. “Did something happen out at the lake that you want to talk about? Is something bothering you?”
Maggie sat in silence as she contemplated confiding in Jillian about all of her conflicting emotions concerning Randy and all of his anxieties and feelings of unworthiness due his background.
“Why are boys so hard to understand?” she finally asked softly. “Just as soon as I think I’ve got them figured out, they go and do something to completely confuse me again.”
“Any boy in particular or just boys in general?”
“Just… in general.”
“It’s hard to say,” Jillian sighed, “but between you and me, I’ll let you in on a little secret – they don’t get much easier to understand when you get older, either.”
“Great,” Maggie grumbled as she slumped back into the sofa. “Just great.”
THE MONROE HOME – LIVING ROOM
“I don’t think I’ve ever been so glad to be done with a class,” Patterson Monroe said as he came barreling through the front door, a stack of textbooks in his arms. “I don’t know how they expect us to concentration on applied biology in a room with such poor ventilation. If I’d known we were going to have a heat wave like this one, I wouldn’t have decided to take summer classes this term.”
“I’m sorry, dear, but did you say something?” Stephanie asked as she rushed around the living room gathering up her own things. “It’s been like a tug of war around here with Todd today. I don’t know what’s gotten into him. First I couldn’t get him to pick up his things and then lunch was a complete disaster and I can’t even begin to tell you how Mrs. Oliver just lets that little boy get away with….”
“Steph, honey, just slow down.” He grabbed her gently by the shoulders to stop her as she walked past him. “You’re going a mile a minute.”
“I know,” she sighed, “but it’s just that Todd’s had me about to pull my hair out all day today and now I’m running late for the radio station. You know that Norma would just love to find some reason to criticize me to Mr. Lowell or some proof that I was being ‘unprofessional’ as she likes to put it. I can barely even miss a line in rehearsal before she’s trying to convince Mr. Lowell that I have no business being part of the show. She’s just upset that I’ve started to get more fan mail than she does.”
“Well, I was hoping I’d get a chance to talk to you about something.” Patterson watched his wife as she continued rushing around the room.
“Paddy, can it wait? I barely have time to think right now.” Stephanie paused and bit her lip anxiously as she tried to remember where she’d set her purse. “Now, what did I do with…?”
“Honey, can’t you stop for just a moment and listen to me?”
“Paddy, if you can’t tell me whatever it is you want to tell me while I’m getting ready, then it’s going to have to wait.” Spotting the edge of her handbag poking out from underneath a sofa cushion, she quickly snatched it up and made everything she needed was still inside and not strewn about the room like Todd had such a habit of doing. “I barely got Mrs. Oliver and Todd out the door and to the park in time for me to even start getting ready to head to the station. Norma has it in for me. I can’t be late and give Mr. Lowell a reason to fire me.”
“Maybe that wouldn’t be such a bad thing,” he grumbled under his breath.
“I’m sorry, sweetheart. Did you say something?”
Patterson stood firm, threw his shoulders back and inhaled deeply before speaking again. He knew what he was about to say – something he felt needed to be said – wasn’t going to go over well, but he’d put it off for far too long.
“I said that maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad thing if you were to lose your job on that radio show.”
His words stopped her dead in her tracks and she turned to look at him, not quite sure she heard him correctly.
“I… I’m sorry,” she reacted with a shake of her head, “I’m not… sure I understood you. It almost sounded like you’d be happy if Mr. Lowell fired me.”
“I mean I wouldn’t be unhappy if you were fired,” he hurriedly attempted to clarify. “I just mean that… well…. We’re married now and you’re having a baby. Maybe it would be best if you quit this job at the radio station and stayed home.”
Stephanie stood very still, almost frozen in place, and blinked her eyes repeatedly as she tried to wrap her brain around what her husband had just said. Once she’d managed to process what he’d clearly decided was a simple and logical request, she quickly realized that she didn’t like it – not at all – and couldn’t quite believe what she was hearing.
TO BE CONTINUED
Patterson and Stephanie have different ideas about her future.
For Now and Forever
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