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Thursday, January 31, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 31

Who do you think you are?

"I . . . think I'm Sister Martina Agnes."


"You've written something false on these papers, and you're not from our order.  I thought something was odd about you, but I couldn't place it.  Now I have done a little asking, and I see you're claiming to be part of The Sisters of Notre Dame, and it's just not true.  And if you're here under false pretenses, pretending to be staff with these people with emotional needs, it's punishable by law."


Think.  What are you going to do, now?  This could be bad.  


"And furthermore, you're not even interacting with the clients here, you're not providing help to the staff.  Aside from washing some dishes, you've not been keeping with any requirements or parts of your job description."


At this, Sister Rebecca Katherine approached, standing off to the side with a few other staff members who were listening.  She said, "Sister Elizabeth Mary, perhaps we should take this into another area without any of the residents privvy, eh?"


The nun stopped and looked at Sister Rebecca Katherine.  As they spoke, several nuns got the idea to remove the three or four patients from the area, and began to scramble to do so.  She said, "With all due respect, Sister, and I do have a great deal of it for you as one of our elders, this woman is a fake!"


Sister Rebecca Katherine looked to Tina, and said, "Possibly.  We have to get to the bottom of it.  Sister Martina Agnes, do ya have anything to say for yourself?"


She's got to be kidding?  Tina's mind raced, as she tried to construct something to say, but couldn't.  She had no idea what order of nuns she could throw out she was part of, she had no idea what to say or what could prove otherwise.  Just then, she flashed on Mitch, being in a cell in the same building that she was, and saw herself in a plain blue shirt and government issue pants, and panicked.


"I . . . I am not from The Sisters of Notre Dame,"  she heard herself say.  Her clear-blue eyes searched the room.


"I thought not!"  Sister Elizabeth Mary folded her arms over her chest.


Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "Then where are you from, Dear?" and folded her arms over her chest as well.


"I'm from the Nuns of Florence Nightingale.  And I'm a registered nurse, a dog groomer and a palm reader!"


Both clergywomen's lower jaws dropped and before Sister Elizabeth Mary could say anything, Tina jumped up and ran around the outskirts of the room, and started yelling, "You can't catch me!"  After circling the room, with several nuns grabbing at her to try and stop her, one blocked her way, only to be knocked down onto the floor with a thud.  Tina jumped onto the couch and began bouncing up and down and laughing crazily.  


Sister Rebecca Katherine, arms still folded over her chest, was not buying any of it, but stood back and watched.  


Sister Elizabeth Mary yelled out, "She might hurt herself!  Or someone else!"


Another nun yelled, "Get the orderlies, she's daft!"


And another voice, "She's delusional, the poor dear!"


Sister Rebecca Katherine walked over to the couch, and calmly staring at Tina, said, "Are ya having fun, yet, Dear?"


Tina didn't stop jumping but said, "Fun?  Fun?  Yes, actually, this is fun!  But it's more fun to take blood pressure!  I like to squeeze that bulb."


The nun unfolded her arms, pushed up her sleeves, and reached up, grabbing Tina's arm, which stopped her bouncing.  Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "Get down, Dear."


"Down?  No!  I'm going up!"  and Tina began jumping again.  By this time, Sister Elizabeth Mary had sent for the orderlies, and two large men came into the room, one grabbing Tina around the waist and hoisting her down from the couch.  


"Hey!"  she said, "No need to do that.  I'll go willingly!"


A voice rang out, "She must have been pretending, the poor, sick woman."


Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "Yes, pretending.  That sounds about right."  Then, more to herself, "Rebecca Katherine Broderick, keep your tongue."


The orderlies escorted Tina, who was laughing and dancing, and as her gales became softer as they took her further away from the family room.  Sister Rebecca Katherine looked at Sister Elizabeth Mary and said, "Now that was a horse of a different color, ay?" and the two of them followed the procession.


In her mind, Tina's thoughts rushed through as she danced her way to her room.  Father MacNamara, who had now made his way to the area, said, "She'll be fine here for the evening.  Be certain to lock the door.  "Sister Rebecca Katherine?"


She heard her name called, and followed quickly.  "Yes, Father."


"Make sure she goes not keep that habit on.  This is a travesty.  An embarrassment.  But of course, the woman is sick.  We must take proper steps to insure her safety, hence the state will be down our backs."  He handed the nun a clipboard, "Have her sign these papers for committal, if she chooses.  That will be a start."


"Yes, Father."


"And tell her to stop that infernal laughing."


"Yes, Father."


He stormed off, and Sister Rebecca Katherine looked at Tina, and calmly said, "Stop dancing, Dear Heart."


Tina stopped and continued to giggle.


The nun said, "Stop laughing, please."


She did.  She sat on the bed, and hugged herself.  "I want my mommy."


"Take off the habit, and knock on the door from the inside when you are done.  Put on a nightgown or something to sleep in," and she turned and left.  


Standing outside the door, she was joined by Sister Elizabeth Mary, who seemed distraught.  She said, "My goodness, I certainly hope I did not push this woman into a mental collapse.  It's just a crime to be here, with the residents, without being who you say you are."


"You did the right thing, Sister.  You were right to call her on it."


"She seems, delusional, at best."


"Indeed.  That is how she seems."


"Sister, are you able to manage this on your own?  I'd like to go and speak with Father."


"Of course, I will see you later."


Sister Rebecca Katherine turned and sighed, and heard a small knock.  She opened the door and said, "Thank ya," and took the habit from her.  "Beads, Dear?"


"Here!" she said, and started spinning around the room.  "I want to stay here, it's nice here.  People are nice here.  Can I squeeze a bulb?"


"Do you really want to stay here?  If so, you are able to sign yourself in."  The nun offered.


"Sign myself in?"


"Yes," she said, "you can sign yourself in to St. Anne's as a patient if you feel you need help.  We can help you get better."  The nun handed her the clipboard and the pen, and waited.


I won't be able to get out, but I'll be able to stay here, and no jail, and later, just do the escape I was planning anyway.  Right?  RIGHT?


The nun folded her arms, and tapped her foot, impatiently.  Tina looked up, "You know I need help, don't you?"


Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "I can't say, Dear.  Do you feel you need help?"


"Yes, I do.  I . . . I get attacks.  Panic, or something.  I act silly.  Sometimes, I think I'm another person."  Okay, that was a bit much, Tina, even for you.  She signed the papers and handed them back.  At least, it wouldn't be prison for fraud and endangerment.


"Good night, Dear.  Shut the lights and sleep, now."  Sister Katherine closed the door, which locked, this time from the outside.


Shit!  Now I have to figure out how to be nuts.  That shouldn't be that hard.  I've had a lot of experience.  I've known Mitch, my sister has DID, and my brother, well, he pretty much had the reign of pretend nuttiness, that's if he was pretending.  Problem is, I've got to have a disorder by morning, or I'm going to end up in jail for fraud, danger to the patients, and whatever crime it is to dress like a nun!  


She paced in her room.  She was not sure why she ever chose to come to Llanview as a nun, except that it seemed like a good idea at the time, and her experience in the past made her think she could handle it.  After all, she was a nun once, years back.  Well, for a few weeks.    


Looking in the mirror, she said, "How did you get yourself into this one?  Why did I come here?  What was I thinking?   This, Tina-Lord-Clayton-Roberts-whoever, was a big mistake and might be your biggest yet."


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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 30

"You did great.  You're one badass shopper," Todd said, taking her hand and her packages.  "Where to for lunch?"


"I don't care, whatever you want."


"Hey, no problem.  As long as we eat."


"Did you get anything done?"


"Who, me?"


"Yes, you."


"I read some articles on the tablet."


"You were supposed to be shopping for Jack."


"Nothing hit me."


"Something's about to."


"Come on, I'll buy you Chinese dumplings."


She smiled, tucking her arm in his.  He carried the packages, and she moved as close to him as she could.  The smell of his hair and the spicy fragrance of his cologne were so familiar, she could recognize it in a pitch-black room.  They ordered lunch and sat to eat it, chattering over the kids and the gifts, and Todd, bringing the tablet out, to share headlines of the day.


Blair said, "Well, I've done my part.  I have Starr, Momma, Dorian and Hope all done.  I have Sister Rebecca Katherine, you and Viki left.  What can you say for yourself, Mr. Manning?"


"I have more people than you did."


"Huh?  How do you figure?"


"I have Jack, Sam, Ray, and Timothy to buy for."


"How is that more than me?"


"I also have you.  And you, you and you."


"Oh, stop.  I don't need anything.  Not material gifts, anyway.  I only need you.  You give me everything, everyday.  So, thanks!"


"For what, keeping you up nights?"


"No, for saving me.  My hero."


"I'm not a hero, Blair.  I was saving myself.  I save you, I save me."


"You've said.  But you saved me, Todd, that's what matters.  You risked your life, and yourself, and you were so very brave.  You're trying to deflect from this, and I'm not going to let you.  You were courageous.  You were smart and you were strong.  I'll never understand what this thing is that you and I have, but it's beautiful and I wouldn't trade it for all the normal in Llanview."


"There is no normal in Llanview."


"Well, you know what I mean."


"You gonna eat that?"  he poked at her plate with his fork.


"No, Todd, go ahead.  You just can't hear good things about yourself, can you?  You never could."  She flashed on a moment, in the bedroom at La Boulaie when she tried to tell him how handsome he was, and he simply couldn't stand it.  She smiled.  "It doesn't matter, I can keep saying them until they stick."


***


Tonight, after all of them are sleeping, I should be able to sneak out.  I mean, unless there are nuns on duty around the clock here or something.  Tina combed her hair and tucked it into her headpiece once again.  She had taken a long afternoon nap, and the day was moving along at a faster pace than she had expected.  She lifted the copy of the newspaper she was able to get for herself, and looked at it, her brother's face, smiling, next to Blair's and Starr's.  Their daughter has gotten so . . . grown up.  She's singing now, in public.  Wow.  Blair's as trampy as usual.  Look at that red dress cut to there.  You'd think she'd realize she's not twenty-five anymore.  I never understood why he cared about that gold-digger.  She took her rosary beads and put them on.  They hung across her chest.  Catching a view of herself in the mirror, she said, aloud, "Gee, Tina, you made a better nun the first time."


Her plan was to make it through the rest of the day, pretending and following what the other nuns did, and then after dark, making a run for it.  She wasn't positive how to get from At. Anne's to Dorian's, but she would find a way.  The nun outfit would be a help; she knew that she could hitch a ride.  In this get-up, who's going to say no.  I've still got that little .22 in my bag, in case someone tries to get fresh with me.  Still, how will I find Dorian's?   


She talked to herself aloud, "Here's your chance to just call Todd and see if you can get him to help."  She stared back at the paper, and said, "No.  He's not going to want to help you.  You've read all about what he's been through and never tried to reach out.  It's going to seem too obvious, and Viki, well she'd never approve.  No, 'Sister,' you're on your own."


She left her room, closing the door behind her, and it shut with a soft click of the lock.  She, for some reason, as the cards fell, was alone in her room.  She had not yet been assigned a roomate from the nun staff.  She had lucked out, since it would have been much harder to pretend to be a nun all around the clock than just the few hours she was among them.  That was a lucky break.  And I'm going to get another one, I just feel it.  I'll leave just after dark, stow away in someone's car or one of those buses that brings the patients to and from the city.  Or, I'll just hitch a ride to Llanview Center and ask for help finding Dorian's estate.  What was it called again?  Something like La Goulet, or something. . .I'll find it.  Then, I can sneak into the grounds and wait until dark.  When Dorian leaves, I'll go inside and get it.  She sighed, plotting and picturing the necklace that was made from the Bhadra Diamond, the one that she almost had her hands on, and that Mitch Laurence got "powers" from.  


She shuddered.  "Mitch.  Thank God he's in jail where he can't get to me or the necklace."  I have to get that piece.  Once I have it, I can fence it to Pasquale and be rich.  Then, I'll be able to afford to make that home for dogs that I always wanted to, in honor of my puppy, David Vickers.  Ever since her little dog had gone missing, she had done everything in her power to get her back, to no avail.  Now, aside from the wealth and glamour she always desired, she wanted to create this refuge for animals in her dear pup's name.  She sighed.  I must have that necklace; the one that impostor Zeus, or whatever his name is, made for Blair out of that diamond.  Those powers better be gone, now that it's cut up.  Mitch called it empowerment but others thought it was a curse.  Dorian better have it in that house with her other jewelry, or I've got more problems on my hands.  Just get the necklace, make my way back to Florence, see Pasquale, get the money, and live it up.


She finally made her way to the family room, where several patients were meeting with loved ones, and she nodded as she passed, smiling as kindly as she could muster.  Lost in thought, she ran straight into Sister Elizabeth Mary.  She said, "Oh, excuse me," to which the nun said, "No, excuse me.  As a matter of fact, I was looking for you."


"Oh really?  Why?"


"You have written here that you were part of our order, and that's not the case."  A few of the other nuns, including Sister Rebecca Katherine, stopped and looked up.  "Just who do you think you are, anyway, 'Sister Martina?'"


***


Williams drove up to Unforgettable, and Todd and Blair got out of the car without the packages, which Todd was having delivered to The Sun for safe hiding until the appropriate time.  They walked in, and Sam ran to them.  "Mom, Dad!  We did the tree!  It's great, like Logan's, only better!"


"That's great, Sam, let's see," Todd said, taking his hand and the two of them followed Sam to the family room.  


Todd said, "Wow, that's really amazing.  Great job, Grandpa, and Jack, too."


"We had a good time doing this.  Sam was very good at figuring out where to put the ornaments."  Timothy said.


Jack, who was sitting by the fire, was staring into it, quiet.  Blair went to his side, and sat, and facing the fire next to him, said, "Are you all right, Son?"


"Yeah, Mom.  I'm okay."


"Good," she said.  "I had a good day, too."


"Yeah?"  he asked, still staring into the fire.


"Yeah.  Your father and I went shopping.  I was able to get some girl gifts.  He actually did nothing, but that's your father.  He was working the whole time.  Imagine?"


Todd interrupted.  "Hey, Jack, you guys did a good job."


"Thanks."


"Hey, uh, Mom, you want to come over here and find this mistletoe Sam's talking about?"  Todd said.


She said, "Sure," and got up.  He took her by the hand and lead her to the archway between the foyer and the grand dining room.  There, they stood under the little artificial plant and he kissed her, first just lightly, then moving his hands up to the sides of her face and lingering.  


"God, is that mushy stuff ever going to stop?"  Sam announced.  "Dad, can you give me lessons how to hold my breath that long under water?"


This made Todd and Blair both laugh, and they stopped their kiss, and Todd said, "You're just jealous," and scooped Sam into his arms and bringing him under the mistletoe, he kissed his forehead, and Blair kissed his cheek.  "There," Todd said.


"I'm glad you're not still gone, Dad," he said.


Blair teared up, and Todd said, "We all are.  Especially me," and reached his hand to the side of her face.  Running his index finger along it, he said, "yeah, definitely me."


Timothy had made his way to the fireplace, and sat by Jack, who was stoically looking into the flames.  He said, "Lad.  Your father is all right, can you see that?"


He nodded. 


"Well, I have a date, tonight, with your Great Aunt Dorian.  And tomorrow, you and I have a date, so don't make plans, boy."


"Where are we going?"


"Some place that I think will make a lasting impression on ya.  Are ya up for it?"


"I guess, yeah."


"Lad, you can see they're working at it.  She's getting over things, and he will recover."


"I know."


"What are you thinking of, if you have the guts to tell me?"


"Nothing."


"You don't have them then?"


"What?"


"The guts?"


"I have them."


"Then, what are you thinking of?"  Timothy pressed him.


"Why people are so messed up in this world.  Why they hurt other people.  Why it had to be our family, why it had to be my mother who was shot and lost her daughter, stuff like that."


"That's a lot of nothing."


"I guess."


"Are you thinking about the drink?"


He didn't answer.  Instead, he said, "Leave me alone, please?"


"I will.  But I will be here tomorrow, at nine in the morning, and ya be ready."


"Okay, whatever."


Timothy stood, and turning to Todd and Blair, he said, "Bridgette, I am glad to see that you're feeling well and that you both got some shopping done."


"Not so fast, both of us didn't do any such thing."  She said, kissing Timothy's cheek.


Todd said, "I have to work, you know."


Timothy said, "I'm going.  I have a date.  And tomorrow, I'll be here nice and early to take Jack out."


Todd looked at him, "You hear that, Jack?"


He looked at his father and gave the thumbs up.  "Yep," he said, unenthusiastically.


Timothy left, and Todd picked up Sam like a sack of potatoes, and threw him over his shoulder, saying, "Bedtime for you, and you, Mommy.  You've had a big day."


She licked her lips, and said, "You're right, Daddy.  I'll be turning in now."  


She turned to Jack, and he said, "I have to go to bed, too, I guess, since Grandpa Pest is coming to take me out."


Todd's face changed, "That's disrespectful.  He's not a pest, and even if he is, you need this right now, and you know you do."


Jack didn't answer.  Instead, he took the stairs two at a time.  Todd, with Sam, and Blair followed.  At the top of the stairs, Todd put Sam down and watched him run to his room.  He turned to his wife and said, "Well, Mommy, got any gifts to unwrap?"


She put her arms around his neck, and said, "Plenty, Mr. Manning."


*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***
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Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Devil You Know: Chapter 36


Todd had tried to get some work done, but after the practice and running into half of his family, his concentration was nil.  And it only got worse, when he thought he saw someone in the reception area.  He got up and hobbled to the door, where he found Dr. Kevin Collins outside. 

“I was looking for your assistant, but she doesn’t seem to be here,” Kevin said.

“She wanted to help out with the Nurses Ball, so I gave her the rest of the day off,” Todd said. 

“Robin Scorpio-Drake was Maxie’s cousin, so it makes sense,” Kevin reasoned. 

“Something I can help you with, Collins?  I’m kinda busy,” Todd asked as he went back into his office.

“I was wondering the same thing about you.  Is there anything I can help you with?  You took quite a header there on stage,” Kevin asked, concern evident.

“Ah, I got a hard head.  Ask any of my family,” Todd replied.  “Besides, I’ve come back from worse.  Went over a cliff in Ireland years ago.”

“And you managed to survive.  That’s quite impressive.”  Kevin milled around the office before turning back to Todd.  “I was wondering if you, maybe, wanted to talk…about what you saw today.”

“What do you mean, what I saw today?”  Todd knew what he was getting at, but he’d be damned to admit it. 

Kevin realized this would be a tough nut to crack.  “Blair said that before you passed out, you said Peter Manning.  He was the man who raised you, correct?”

“If you can call it that,” Todd muttered under his breath.  When he noticed Kevin trying to catch what he said, he tried to wave off the shrink.  “Peter Manning was my adoptive father, a fact I didn’t learn until I was almost twenty-five years old.  When he and his wife divorced, he was awarded custody mostly because he was named my guardian by the terms of my biological father’s trust fund.”

“And was he a good father?” Kevin knew the question was prying but he gave it a shot.

“What is a good father, huh?  I mean, really.  I like to think of myself as a good father, and I schemed multiple times to keep my kids away from their mother when they were little.  Hell, I even paid my lawyer five million to marry me to keep custody,” Todd told him.

“Okay, compared to you, was Peter a good father?”

“Well, I never hit my kids, if that’s any comparison.”  Todd’s gaze was turned away from Kevin and focused no where.  He was getting lost in memories. 

“Todd, have you ever talked about Peter Manning with anyone?  About him hitting you or how it felt to learn so late in life you were adopted?”  Kevin asked.

Something about that seemed to snap Todd out of the fog.  “Why do you want to know?” he asked, suspiciously.

Kevin shrugged his shoulder.  “I observed you earlier and after you left, Blair told Lucy and I a bit.”  He looked at Todd, straight in the eye.  “She’s worried about you.”

“Well, she doesn’t have anything to worry about.  She knows me better than anyone else and she knows that I’m a bit…messed up,” Todd assured him.  Then he glanced down at his watch.  “Look, Doc, I have to get home.  I have my sisters and my stepfather, sort of, coming over for dinner.”  He stood up and Kevin did the same.  “Um, I’m sure I’ll be talking to Lucy more about the Ball, so, with that, I’ll say goodnight.”  And then, Todd hustled Kevin out of the office before locking up himself. 

By the time he got home, he saw that Viki, Clint, Tina and Cord were already there, and, even worse, Viki, along with Blair, was fawning over a number of the pictures Harry had given them.  He took a deep breath and walked into the library.  “You pulled out the baby pictures already?”

“Yes, mostly because they are so adorable,” his eldest sister replied, an indulgent smile on her face.  “In fact, you know who you remind me of here?” she asked, holding up one of him from around his first birthday.

“If you say the old man, I swear--”

Viki actually laughed at that.  “No, no, no.  Not Father.”

“Good,” Todd huffed.

“You remind me of Kevin in this picture,” Viki informed him.  Her eyes never lost their bemusement.

Todd’s eyes rolled back in his hand.  “If you all will excuse me, I’m going to take a long walk off our short dock outside.”  He decided then that he may actually have preferred to resemble Victor Senior, rather than his annoying nephew. 

“Now, Todd.  Behave yourself,” Blair chided him.

“Why, is Kevin coming?”  But he saw the flash in her eyes and he calmed down.  “Fine, but can we please put the pictures away, at least for now?” 

“That’s alright, but Blair, I’m going to take this one, if it’s okay,” Viki said.

“Take as many as you’d like.  Harry really gave us too many,” she replied as the doorbell rang.  As Todd turned towards it, Reginald made a beeline and opened the door to Harry Redding. 

Todd made his way over, his hand outstretched.  “Harry, great of you to join us.  Please, come in.”

“Thank you again for including me in this dinner.”  Harry took off his jacket and handed it to the butler.  “I must admit, I have been looking forward to meeting the rest of your family more since you introduced them earlier at the hotel.”

“Well, that’ll wear off in no time,” Todd grimaced, until Harry turned back to him, when Todd plastered a smile on his face.  He then led the elderly man into the study.  “Harry, this is my family.  Family, Harry Redding.”

Blair offered the man a lopsided smile.  “Since Todd still hasn’t learned how to be a gracious host, allow me.  Harry, these are Todd’s sisters, Viki and Tina and their husbands, Clint Buchanan and Cord Roberts, respectively.”

“And you are sir?” Cord asked politely.

“I was married to Todd’s mother, Barbara Manning, until her death.  He recently got back in touch with me and he and his family visited me in Chicago after Thanksgiving,” Harry told them.

As if on cue, Sam Manning came racing down the stairs.  “Grandpa Harry, I thought I heard you.  I’m so happy to see you!” he called out as he tried to launch himself into the man’s arms. 

“I’m so happy to see you too,” he responded.

Jack made his way down the stairs as well and Starr and Sarah came through the front door.  Todd’s children each gave Harry a hug before introducing him to their cousin. 

When Blair went to check on dinner, Todd followed her into the kitchen.  “So, Dr. Collins had a chat with me this afternoon.  You were talking about me to him?”

Blair’s back stiffened as she turned and faced Todd.  “After you passed out, he was concerned.  He’s a doctor, it’s his job.”

“He’s a shrink.  You know how I feel about shrinks, Blair,” he stated as softly as he could. 

“Todd, you thought you saw Peter in the ballroom and you passed out.  I’m sorry, but I have to say it.  I’m getting more and more worried about you,” she told him.  “And it’s not just since Chicago.  You were having nightmares of shooting Victor for months and you never have dealt with what you were put through with Irene.”  She put her hands on his strong arms.  “Todd, you’ve never really faced what happened to you in Ireland.”

“Blair, that was twenty years ago.  There’s nothing to deal with!”  His voice got louder than he had intended. 

“Yes, and all this time, you’ve shut down about it,” she cried but then tried to reign in her emotions.  “Todd, I love you so much.  You don’t need to be strong about any of this.  I know you’ve had things to face, terrible things.  Let us help you, me, the kids, your sisters.”

“Blair,” he began, calmer than before, “Blair, I’m fine, I promise.”  He gathered her up in his arms and kissed her passionately.  “Come on, it me.  You’ve known I’ve had issues for as long as you’ve known me.  I’ve gotten through them before, I’ll get through them now.”  He looked back towards the dining room.  “Our company can only be getting suspicious of us.  Let’s get the food in there and eat.  I’m starving.”  He turned and head back to the dining room.

Before he could take two steps, however, Blair caught his hand.  “Fine,” she said, gulping in a breath.  “You say you are okay, you’re okay.  But Todd, if I see anything…”

Todd saw the tears threatening to fall.  He stepped back to her and wiped them away.  “Fine.  I’ll make a deal with you.  You see anything, I’ll get help, I promise.”  Then Todd headed back out of the kitchen.  Before he stepped into the living room, though, he felt the need to take several deep breaths.  Then, to himself, he said, “Now Manning, you just gotta keep a lid on this, at least until after the holidays.”

As Todd walked back into the dining room, he never saw that Jack was standing there or that his son had heard him.



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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Diamond in the Rough: Chapter 29

Williams brought the limo around to the entrance of the mall, and she stepped out, taking his hand.  "It feels weird without the kids."


"Timothy's there, Jack, too.  The kids are fine."  Todd said.


"I know," she said, and she could feel him massaging her hand with his thumb as he held it.  


"Let's get Starr done first.  For some reason, she's easier," he said.  "I was thinking, a Mercedes.  A little red one, with a convertible top."


"Todd!  Now, we agreed that our kids won't be spoiled."


"We did?"


"Well, we talked about it."


"Yeah, but does that mean we can't get them gifts?"



"Todd, a Mercedes is out of control.  Seriously.  How will we match $50,000 of toys for Sam?"


"They have to match.  Okay."  He said.


"They do, remember, each kid gets the same."


"LIttle Ray is getting a Mercedes?"


She rolled her eyes, "No, Todd, I mean each kid should get a gift that's about the same amount."


"How about if they all get ten gift certificates to their ten favorite places?"


"Ten?  Why ten?"


"Okay, twenty."


"No, Todd, you're forgetting, the kids can't be bought, it's overkill."


"I don't want to buy them, I want to give them everything."


She stopped and fixed her husband's collar.  "I know you do, but slow down, My Love."


"Eight gift cards?"


She laughed, and threw her arms around his neck.  "I just love you, Todd Manning.  You're so in love with those kids."


He said, "Hey, you're giving me away here, my rep is at stake."  He looked into her eyes, and ran his fingers through her hair.  He said, "So, I'll go to the sports place over there, for Jack, and you go to wherever you women go for Starr."  

She smiled, "Hmf, you!  You'd think you never had Christmas before!"


No one can blame you for that.  For some reason, the face of Sam Rappaport, framed in his short, white hair, appeared in his mind.  He missed him.  So much.  Sam's voice kept talking, and he kept trying to ignore it.


She said, "You went somewhere.  Are you all right?  What happened?"


"Nothing, I . . . thought of something.  Someone."


"Do you want to say?"


"Sam."


"He's all right, he's with Timothy.  You just told me that yourself."


"No, Sam.  Coach."  The door is small.


She winced, and her face darkened, "Oh, Todd."


"Sometimes, I still hear him, Blair.  At weird times, like just now."


"I hear him, too."


"I don't know why he chose now to talk to me, but he did.  He's been hanging around up here for a while," he said, touching his head.



She said, "What did he say?"


"He said, 'You were fourteen.  You were a boy.'  Not sure why I remembered that right now.  But, he said it when I thought I should have been strong enough, he told me I wasn't.  He was telling me then, that I was not prepared to handle Peter.  And he's telling me now, that I'm not prepared for the rest of whatever is in my head, and that I should back off.  I think."

"Maybe.  Or he could be telling you that you aren't prepared for it alone.  And that is where I come in.  This is not going to be you against the world, Todd.  It's us.  From now on.  You have to remember that. Now, off we go.  Let's meet back here in a while."  He stood still, not moving.  She added, "No one is going to mess with my man!" and she sauntered off, hips swinging.


His eyes stung, and he said, "That's it, Babe, you're Blair.  Nobody's messing with that."


***


At Unforgettable, the boys and Timothy were set to put the tree up, and decorate the lower level of the house for Christmas.  Jack said, "Sam, take that garland off your head before I call you names."


"What names, Jack?  You're my brother."


"Never mind," Timothy said, "No name calling here."


"The tree is starting to look good," Sam said.


"It is, little one, go grab the rest of the ornaments."  Timothy instructed, and Sam went.


Jack said, "So, when do I go to these 'meetings?'  When do I start?"


"Soon.  Possibly as early as next week, if you're ready."


"I guess."


"Ya have no choice.  It's either me, or a rehab center, and ya don't want to be in one for the holidays, away from your family.  Ya don't have to talk, if ya don't want.  Ya can just listen to others.  There will be other people there, adults.  Once ya see what it's like, ya can go to the teen sessions."


"They have teen ones?  At AA?"


"Yes, there are teen groups, lots of different choices.  I suppose it says that there are a lot of folks out there needing help."


"Yeah, great."  He was less than enthusiastic.


Sam came back into the room.  "Here, Grandpa!"


"Thank ya, Sam."  He took the box and handed a few ornaments to Jack. 


***


Sister Rebecca Katherine pulled up a chair by Bea, who was drawing, again.  This time, her hair was tied back in a ponytail that went part way down her back.   The nun had a vase in one hand and the newspaper tucked under her arm.  She said, "Hello, Dear Heart."


Bea looked up.  She smiled.  She put her picture forward for the nun to see.  The sister said, "My my, it's a lovely lake, with some flowers, and . . . my goodness, what is that, Dear?"


She could not really see it clearly, it was barely sketched in, but along the lake, hunched down in the distance was a figure, it seemed to be a child.  Sister Rebecca Katherine was not certain, but that was what she surmised.  Only the outline was visible; Bea had not fleshed it out.  The nun said, "Would you like to write to me?"


Bea shook her head no, and continued to look down.  The nun studied the picture longer, and said, "The perspective is lovely, Bea.  Honestly, you're quite talented."


The woman did not look up.  She began to rock.  Sister Rebecca Katherine said, "Dear, who is this child?"  Bea did not respond, but continued rocking.  It was as if she was in a bubble and nothing could break through.  The nun slid the picture back toward her and said, "I have something of my own to share today.  My family."


Bea did not answer or look up, and her rocking continued.  She began to move the sketch pad back toward herself, but did not stop focusing on the table top.


The nun said, "Look, it's my family," and she placed the newspaper on the table, with the photo of Jenna and The Mannings, in Bea's view.  It took a few moments for the woman to change her focus and really "see" it, but when she did, Sister Rebecca Katherine regretted putting it in her sights.  Bea started to rock faster, and her breathing sped up to a dangerous rate.  The nun said, "No, Dear, it's all right," and reached to take the paper away, but Bea grabbed it and started to shake it, staring at the picture and tearing at it with her clawing hands.  Unable to calm her, Sister Rebecca Katherine had to call for assistance, and within seconds, Bea was being restrained by two orderlies, her mouth open in a silent scream, tears streaming on her face.  


"Jesus, Mary and Joseph," the nun said, crossing herself.  She began to pray under her breath, as Bea was taken from the room and she followed along, after them, distraught.


After assuring she could not hurt herself, the orderlies left Bea, who had received a sedative from the doctor, and went on their way.  The nun sat by her bed, and put her hand on Bea's arm.  "Dear Bea, I am sorry, for whatever upset ya.  Forgive me."


Bea, who was crying, turned her face to Sister Rebecca Katherine's and sighed, taking her hand and moving it to Sister Rebecca Katherine's tears.  The nun felt the woman brush a tear off her cheek, and then, Dr. Levin spoke.  "Sister, you must go."


"I would prefer to wait, Doctor."


"You must go, Sister.  She needs to rest."


The nun, whose feet felt like cement, trudged her way back to the solarium, where minutes before they were exchanging pictures.  The newspaper was all but shredded, and Sister Rebecca Katherine noticed that the photo was untouched.  The paper was shredded, but the photo was intact.  It was almost as if she was attempting to tear out the photo, instead of destroying it.  "Ya did it again, Creena," she said, "trying to read something into this, as if the woman would care about that picture.  She's not well, and you're not going to cure her.  Whatever the poor thing has faced is bigger than both of ya."


She picked up the newspaper, and tucked it, wrinkled and torn, under her arm.  The sketch pad was still there, and Bea's pencils, and she began to pick them up.  As she did, the drawing caught her eye again.  The lightly sketched-in figure was bent, over his own knees, hugging them, hair hanging down.  For some reason, she knew it was intended to be a boy, even though it could be questionable because of the lack of detail.  "The poor dear," she said, heading off to the chapel to pray.


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Port Charles Chronicles: Chapter 48


      Alison watched in surprise as Sam suddenly backed up against her.  He was clearly afraid.  She knew Miles was scarred, but not scarily so, and why was Sam calling him Daddy?
“Sam, it’s alright there’s nothing to be frightened of.  That’s not your father.  I told you, he’s your uncle.”

     Sam looked up at her and pointed at his father.  “He’s a ghost.  He’s dead, my mom and my Uncle Todd told me he was gone.”


     Walker quickly interjected. “Alison, I can handle this.  Thank you for bringing him, if you’ll leave us alone I can explain to him.”


     “But Miles....” She faltered. The look of anger that flared in Miles‘ eyes told her she had overstepped. “I’m sorry, of course, you want to explain.  I’ll be in my room.  Sam, behave. Remember your grandmother.”  Alison headed up the stairs to her room keeping an eye on the happenings below as she went.


     Sam watched her go, then looked back at the man in front of him.  He had been watching the man as he spoke to the lady and had started to notice some differences between this man and his father.  The glasses and the way he had his hair slicked back were strange, but there was no mistaking his voice.  He’s real. My dad is alive.  As the lady left, Sam straightened his shoulders. With more courage than he was feeling, he said. “Why did you lie to her.  You’re my Dad, not my Uncle.  Why, Dad?   Jack told me you were dead.  Mommy said so, too.  Why do you look weird?”


     Walker frowned.  Sam’s innocent questions irritated him.  “Nevermind why I look like this.  Come with me.” He took Sam’s hand.


      Sam walked with him, looking around with interest now that he knew his father wasn’t a ghost. “Dad, why are you here?”


     Walker pulled Sam into his office and shut the door behind them.  He looked down at his son. “I like it here and I don’t want to go back to Llanview.”


     “But Jack really misses you and so does Aunt Tea.  She’s been so sad since losing her baby.  Can I call her and Mom and tell them you’re not dead after all?”


      Walker sat down and stood Sam in front of him.  “Sam, things are different now.  I can’t let you call and tell them that.  I’m afraid your Uncle Todd will try and kill me again.”


     “No Dad!  Uncle Todd was just sick.  He didn’t really want to hurt you.”


     “Stop that!” Walker shouted suddenly. He shook Sam in anger. “I don’t want to hear you talk about your precious Uncle Todd again.  Do you understand me?” God, he hated Todd Manning.  The man had ruined everything and now his own son seemed to worship the man.


      Sam’s eyes widened, as his father grabbed him. Why was he so mad? Uncle Todd was his pal.  He braced himself and said staunchly. “He’s my friend and Mom says you should stand up for friends.”


      In anger, at Sam’s words, Walker slapped his son.  “Enough!  You won’t talk about him again. This is what’s happening.  You’re going to live here with me.  You will obey me and never try and contact your mother or anyone.  You’re my son and you’re going to respect me.”


      Sam’s had fallen to the ground from the slap and he held his hand to his cheek.  Tears formed.  “You’re not my Dad.  He would never hit me.”


     Walker got down in front of Sam. Coldly he looked at his son. “Oh, I’m your dad.  I allowed Blair to raise you and that was a mistake.  It stops now.  Your mom let you have entirely too much freedom and she never disciplined you or Jack.   Look at all the trouble Jack got into.  I should have stepped in sooner, then Jack wouldn’t have been so stupid.  Of course, with Todd as his father, I’m not really surprised.”


     Sam began to cry.  “I don’t want to be here, I want to go home to Mom.  That lady hurt Grandma Addie.   You’re mean and I don’t believe you’re my dad.   You better let me go home or you’re going to be in trouble.”


    “Stop sniveling, you’re not going anywhere but up to your room.  Alison will bring you down for dinner.  You can forget about seeing your mom again, you're going to live with me now.”  Walker pulled Sam off the floor, his patience was at its end. He hauled him out of the office and up the stairs to the room he had laid out for him.  Opening the door, he pushed Sam in.  “It’s not all bad.  I had them make the room exactly like the one at home, except for a telephone.  Everything you had there, is here, including your God-awful obsession with Spiderman.”


     Sam looked around, it was just like his room at home, but that made it worse.  He was scared.  His dad was different and mean.  He walked over to his bed and picked up the Spiderman action figure sitting there.  Spiderman would know what to do.  I need to find a way to let mom know where I am.  He looked around, his dad was right, there wasn’t a phone, but there was a computer, just like his new one.  Jack had been teaching him a little bit about them.  He already knew how to find games.  He turned it on and sat down.  He needed to remember just what Jack showed him.  “Spidey, if I can get hold of Jack, he’ll tell Mom and then they can get me.  Cross your fingers.”  Sam crossed his fingers and began tapping on the keyboard.  The screen came up.  “Now what do I do?”  He gnawed at his lower lip.  His tears came back as he realized he should have been paying better attention.  In his head, he heard his Uncle Todd saying. You’re not going to be scared because you’re a brave kid.  Spidey’s counting on you.


      He rubbed the tears out of his eyes.  I can do this.  I’m brave. Jack hit a symbol on the screen.  After several tries, Sam saw something familiar come up on the screen. “ I did it.”  Sam was happy.  He was about to continue when he heard footsteps outside his door.  Sam turned off the computer and grabbed the action figure. “That’s the mean lady, Spidey,  I don’t want her to know what I’m doing.  She’ll hurt Grandma some more.”  He moved away from the desk and sat down on the floor just before Alison opened it.


      “Sam, it’s time for dinner.  Come along.”


       He got up, putting the figure down close to the computer and followed her out of the room.


****


    Todd arrived for his appointment with Dr. Collins a little ahead of schedule.  He told the limo driver to return for him in an hour and walked into the office.  The sign was still on the counter exactly like the last time.  It seemed like forever since that morning when in reality it was just several days.  The headache, that had started before leaving the lake house, was getting worse.  He sat down in the lobby and leaned his head against the cool interior wall.  It felt good. and the pain lessened.


    “This isn’t going to help.”


     Todd”s eyes flashed opened in time to see his mother reaching to put her hand on his shoulder.  He cringed and sprung up from the couch to move away from her.


     “He won’t be able to get rid of me any more than your wishing it so.  I am in your soul and in your head.  This is merely a waste of time.” Irene followed him, again reaching out to touch him.


     “Get away from me!” Todd put out an arm to ward her off, his voice rising  volume.. “I will find a way. You’re not going to get me.”


     Kevin had been heading for the door when he heard Todd’s voice.  He emerged in time to see Todd responding to someone only he could see.


      Todd was mesmerized by his vision. Irene's eyes seemed to glow red.  It’s like she was suddenly demonic.  Todd found himself standing in the park again.  


       She said. "It's time to go." 


       Todd shuddered and closed his eyes. “This isn’t real, it isn’t happening.   Blair, I need you!”  It was too much. Todd felt like his head was exploding.  He cried out as the pain hit him and lost consciousness.


       Kevin began moving as soon as he heard Todd’s plea.  He reached Todd as he collapsed.  He pulled out his flashlight and checked Todd’s pupils. They were still reactive.  That was a good sign, but Kevin wondered about the lesions.  Todd’s anguished cry indicated he was in some pain right before he dropped.  It’s possible his vision had triggered something.  He was reaching for his phone to make the call for help when Todd stirred.  “Easy Todd, lie still.”


       Todd moaned, “I don’t think I could get up this minute if I tried.  God, that was a bad one.” He slung his arm over his eyes, the light in the room was just adding to the pounding still going on in his head.  For a brief moment, he felt like heaving, but took deep breaths, finally quelling those feelings.


       “You left the hospital too soon, Todd.  This is going to get worse.  Dr. Drake tried to tell you.”


       “I don’t need the lecture, Doc.  I’m not going to have the operation and that’s that.   I came here because of Irene.  Help me off the floor.” Todd struggled to a sitting position.  There was no way he was letting Irene get the better of him.


       Kevin frowned but gave Todd a hand and helped him to a chair in his office.  “Sit there and rest.  Irene was out there with you, wasn’t she?  Before your collapse?”


       “Yeah, I was resting my head because of a headache and the next thing I know she was sitting there taunting me.  She wouldn’t let up about being in my soul and in my head.” Todd took the bottle of water Kevin suddenly handed him, twisting the top off and drinking it almost to the bottom. He looked up at Kevin. “She said you couldn’t help me.  Please tell me she’s wrong.  She’s just waiting for me.  This morning she said I was hers, it was only a matter of time and it would be either by my own hand or the assassin’s.  You have to be able to do something.”


       “I can certainly try to eradicate her, but only if we can get to the bottom of why you’re still seeing her.  The lesions are a very real and tangible reason.  I know you can’t stand being in the hospital and I understand why.  But we have to get you past that fear.” Kevin sat down opposite Todd.  “I’m going to be honest with you.  I believe your mother and the torture she perpetrated on you is responsible for the lesions, but I also think there’s more going on.  Whether you admit it or not, your headaches are the results of the damage in your brain.  That needs to be addressed.”


       “I can’t do it, Doc.  Don’t push.  You said something else was going on.  What do you mean?”


       “I know your torture consisted of repeated shock treatments, but you had a flashback to something else, too.  You remembered being injected and whatever they injected you with, hurt.  It’s my belief that your mother might have been experimenting on you in other ways.  I’d like to try hypnosis to see if we could bring any other memories to the top.  I think with controlled hypnosis, we could prevent what just occurred in the front office.  You started seeing your mother after you killed her.  You just told me she said she was in your soul and in your head.  Has she said those words to you before today?”


      Todd suddenly recalled his mother lying at his feet on the dock. She was covered in her own blood and all he wanted was for her to hurry up and die. Then she reached toward him with her bloody hand. “You’ll never be rid of me. I’m in your soul and in your head...” she gasped and died.  Todd blinked and looked at Kevin.  “Those were her last words to me.”


       Kevin nodded.  His suspicion was confirmed.  “That explains a lot.   Todd, I believe Irene brainwashed you.  The fact that she said those words to you and you keep hearing them, tells me they were used to trigger something.  You were found not guilty of killing your brother because of the PTSD, but now I’m wondering if Irene tampered with your memories.  It’s possible you didn’t kill your brother at all.”


****


    Sam sat quietly at dinner eating his food and keeping a close eye on his father.  He listened to the talk between the mean woman and his dad.  There was something wrong because the lady kept calling his dad Miles and his dad didn’t correct her.  It was weird.


    “Sam, stop daydreaming, I asked you a question.  Why were you, your mom, your brother, and grandma in Port Charles?”


    “Mom brought us there to see Starr and Uncle Todd.  Someone tried to kill him.” Sam quickly covered his mouth with his hand. He hadn’t meant to say Uncle Todd’s name.  He looked at his dad afraid he had made him mad again.


    Walker scowled, this was news he wasn’t happy to hear.  Who had tried to kill Todd?  There was only one man he could think of, Tomas.  Damn him, this obsession with Blair is going to ruin everything.  “You said tried, I take it he’s alive?”


     Sam gulped, his dad didn’t appear mad at him even though he looked upset. He answered slowly. “He’s alright.  He almost died, but he’s better now.”  Sam sighed softly to himself when he realized his dad wasn’t going to ask any more questions.


    Alison was confused by Miles’ response to the attempted killing of Sam’s uncle.  When Miles had explained his need for securing Sam, he had explained the story about Todd Manning and his real relation to Sam.  She had been surprised to find out that the Todd Manning she knew was really an imposter and the twin of the actual guy.  “Miles, I’m surprised this news bothers you.  I was under the impression you didn’t like Todd Manning.”


        Walker looked glacially at Alison. “It’s none of your business what bothers me, Alison.   Sam, if you’re finished eating I want you to go back to your room.  Alison, make sure he gets there.  I have some phone calls to make.” He set his fork down, tossed his napkin and left.




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