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Thursday, August 27, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 16

The next day, Timothy was sitting at a table by the wall of windows at the penthouse, drinking tea.  He was also reading his son's newspaper, The Sun, and perusing its pages and chewing occasionally on Kimberley biscuits that Todd had shipped in for him.  If it wasn't marshmallow Kimberleys, it was Chocolate Hob Nobs.  Either way, it was a taste of home.

It was then that he thought of her, and stopped, looking out the window for a moment, to try and see the art gallery doors.  If the air was clear, and it wasn't too traffic-laden, he could see, and sometimes watched to see if Dorian would appear, outside the glass opening.  He'd never seen her, but he watched, just the same.  Today, the sky was perfect blue, and cloudless, and he stared into the city, trying to catch a speck that could be her.  

He was interrupted by the phone, ringing across the room.  He casually got up and went to it, and said, "Hello."

"Mr. Broderick, Timothy?  This is Jack Ribsky, calling."

"Mr. Ribsky," Timothy said, surprised to hear the man's voice on the other end.  "I'm guessing this involves Todd?"

"Yes, it does."  He cleared his throat, "Something . . . well, we found something that I think may clear some things up for Todd and his wife."

"Like what?"

"That series of journals belonging to my sister-in-law."

"Connie," he stated, "yes, ya mentioned."

"Yes.  I've not been able to read through them all, neither has Pamela, but there many things in them that . . . I think may be of interest to him.  She'd been with Peter for almost 30 years.  I mentioned them when you were here, and no one bit."  He paused.  
"Also, there's something else."

"Go ahead."

"A trunk, in the back bedroom.  We didn't intrude, but it seems the things inside may belong to Todd."

"What kinds of things?"

"Assorted items.  A couple of football related things, a notebook or two, papers, letters, we think.  It's pretty good in size.  And, there's a little hold up with the house.  I know he doesn't want anything to do with it, but it's going to probate, and the courts require his presence."

"I was afraid of that."

"Will you let him know about all this?"

"Yes, I'll inform him."

"I . . . know he had a difficult time when he was here.  I just, wanted to pass this on."

"I thank ya for calling me," Timothy said.  "But can ya do me a favor, please?"

"Sure, if I can."

"Can ya take the trunk to y'ar house?  I'm certain he won't want to be there at Peter's house, and neither will I, if he agrees to come."

"I understand.  I can do that.  Pamela, well, it's purely selfish on her part, but she wants to talk to Todd.  Says she has something to say to him, that she should have said last time.  She asked me to ask, so . . ."

"Thank ya, and I'll possibly be seeing ya soon, then."

"Yes," he said, hanging up.

Timothy sighed, and hung up the receiver.  He pondered how this next visit would affect Todd, and whether or not they should even make the trip.  He thought back to the moment that he had come into the basement the day that Peter died, and saw his son, blood-covered on the floor, and Blair, willing him alive with her being, and Bitsy, staring off, strangely, holding Ray.  It was an eyeful, and one he wouldn't soon forget.  He was certain that Todd wouldn't ever want to go back, but wasn't certain he wouldn't end up there despite that fact.


"Dad says he's coming by, something to talk to us about," Todd said, helping Blair get the dishes off the table before bringing the children up to get ready for bed.  "My turn, right?"

"No, you got to do it last night."

"Well, I'll just do it again, if that's okay.  You're busy, and I want to connect with my kids as much as I can after a day's work."

He disappeared on the upper level, as she finished the kitchen and went to the family room to wait on his return, and the arrival of Timothy.  Jack sat across from her.  She said, "What's up, Jack, something on your mind?" 

"No, not really, just . . . well, what might be a good thing to give Jenna as a gift?"

"Hmm.  Not sure.  Special occasion?"

"Some anniversary, of us first talking, or something."

"I see.  A flower?"

"A flower?  No, I don't think so.  Something good."

Blair lifted an eyebrow.  "Okay, a puppy?"

"She can't have a pet in their apartment building.  And she'll be in college, too busy."

"Hmm.  I see."

"I don't know, I want it to be special, but not crazy."

"A nice card?"

"A nice card?  That's not a gift.  It's paper."

"Okay, well I'm just about fresh out of ideas."  She was tired.  Being a full-time mom and working with Todd at The Sun was wearing her down a bit, never mind the little dramas with Tina and the strange happenings regarding Sam, as well as nursing Jewel and chasing Ray. 

He said, "This is tough."

She added, "You could ask your father.  He always surprises me with just the right thing."

"Maybe I will, figured you might know, being a girl and junk."

"On a day when I've got more energy, maybe," she said, putting her head back and closing her eyes which was interrupted by Todd's arrival at the foot of the stairs. 

"Mommy, Jewel said 'night.'"

"She did, did she?"  Blair asked, not opening her eyes.

"Yeah.  She's getting a lot more words out.  Pretty soon we won't be able to shut her up, like her mom."

"Hey!" she said, acting incredulous.  He sat down beside her and put his arm around her shoulder, and her head automatically perched against his upper chest.

Jack said, "Well, here's where I take off," and stood up, and then said, "Night, Mom and Dad."

"Night Jack," Blair said, yawning.

"Paints.  And brushes."  Todd said.

"Huh?"  Jack asked.

"Paints and brushes, that's what you can get her for the anniversary.  Or, I've got a better idea.  The first time you ever spoke to her, she was crying, right?"

"Yea, I think so."

"Then what about a silver teardrop necklace?" he said, absently playing with Blair's hair.

She said, "Careful, Dad, you're losing your non-romantic facade."

"God, Dad, Mom's right.  You're worse than a girl.  But it's cool.  I like it," he smiled and bounded up the stairs.

"Todd, that was a sweet suggestion, and unique.  You always knew just what to get me."


"You've done so many romantic things like that for me.  Maybe you're passing it on."

The doorbell rang, and Todd jumped up, "I'll get it, it's just that leprechaun Timothy Broderick!" he said, in an Irish brogue.

"Son," Timothy said, hugging him.

"Dad," he responding, slapping his father's back gently.  "Come in."

"Hi, Dad," Blair said, and the older man bent to kiss her forehead.  

"Bridgette," he said.  "So good to see ya."

"Same here."  He and Todd both sat.

"I came to, well, there's no easy way to do this one," he said.

"Okay, what's up?"  Todd said, leaning a bit forward, and Blair, whose arms were wrapped around her husband's bicep, leaned forward with him, leaning her head on his arm.

"It might be back to Chicago for ya," he said.

She said, "What?  Oh no he's not!"

"Blair," Todd said, quietly.

"No, Todd!  Look what happened last time?  Dad, you should know, he was devastated when he got back."

"Blair, I'm all right.  Look," he touched his chest as if displaying himself.  Then to Timothy, "What's it about, Dad?"

"Well, first, the courts want ya there for the probate session regarding the house.  Also, there's a trunk, something that ya may be interested in, some things of y'ars."

Todd's expression was noticed by both his wife and his father.  He fixed his jaw.

"Those journals that belong to Connie.  The ones dating back almost 30 years?  He feels that seeing them might make ya see things more clearly."

"Is that all?"  Todd asked, not quite convinced.

"No.  A personal request.  From Pamela," Timothy said.

Todd swallowed, visibly to the other two, and said, "Pamela?"

"She requested that she get to talk to ya.  She wants to say something to ya, in person, I suppose."

"I was just there," he said.  "Maybe she could have said it then?"

"She must have decided this after seeing ya.  Anyway, you can choose just to attend court and leave.  Ya don't have to do anything.  Ya don't even have to go."

He looked down, and Blair ran her hand over his head.  "He's right, Todd."

"No, I should go.  This woman, she  . . . lost her sister at my father's hand."

"What does that mean," she asked.  

"Means I'm going,"  he said.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Todd's Saga 41: Happily Ever After

“Yes Phil, I’m closing the OTB office in New Orleans and moving it up to Llanview.  I’d like you to stay on as my assistant, but I’ll understand if you choose to stay in Louisiana...You’ll stay on. That’s great.  Then here is what I need you to do.” After giving Phillippa her instructions, Todd turned to find Viki glaring at him.  He looked around bewildered. “What?”

“Todd, the wedding is in a couple of hours and you haven’t even started getting ready.  What are you doing?”

“Just getting some details taken care of concerning OTB.  I don’t want anything to stop this honeymoon trip.  I promised Blair no last minute distractions.”

“Todd, you and Blair deserve this trip.  We’ve got everything covered so you don’t have to worry about the children.  Honestly, I’m thrilled you and Blair trust me to take care of Rose Victoria.  Jessica and Bree can’t wait to help.  Dorian and David are taking Jack and Sam to Paris, so they're going to be okay.”

“Oh God, don’t remind me.  I know Jack needs to get away because of the whole thing with that teacher. But I still think the boys would have been happier if Dorian was taking them to Comic-Con and then the beach.”

Viki laughed. “Just thinking of Dorian surrounded by all those convention fans and their weird get-ups is hilarious.  She would go nuts.  Of course, David would be in his element.”

Todd smiled, he was imagining the story he could write with Dorian surrounded by costumed heroes.  “I think I’ll need to have a chat with David.  The two of us might be able to get Dorian to see reason.  I want the boys to have some fun, the last couple of months have been anything but.”

Viki suddenly realized that Todd still wasn’t moving to get dressed.  “Well, we’ve managed to waste some more time just talking.  I think you need to concentrate on getting ready now.”

“I don’t know what all the rush is.  We’re just renewing our vows.  Blair and I are already married, remember?”  Todd turned back toward his bed.  His tuxedo was all laid out, but he found himself hesitating.

Viki walked up to her brother and touched his arm. “What’s the matter?”

Todd looked down at her, tears glistening in his eyes.  “I’m having a hard time believing this is all real.  Three years ago,  I was questioning my own sanity.  After all this time, I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that my mother held me prisoner and put my twin brother in my place.  If it weren’t for you and Blair and the kids, I’m not sure I’d be standing here right now.”

Viki put a hand on Todd’s cheek. “You’d be here.  You’ve lived through some horrible things in your life, but each thing has only made you who you are.  We fight our demons differently, but the thing is, we fight.  What our parents did to us only served to temper us and make us stronger than them and in the end, we won, Todd.  This isn’t all a dream or even a fairy tale, this is real life.  You and Blair are together because you got passed all the bad and finally learned to trust each other.” She gave him a gentle hug. “Get dressed. You don’t want to leave your bride at the altar by herself.  I’ll see you at the church.”

She started to leave, but Todd caught her hand and stopped her. He gave her a simple kiss on the cheek. “Thanks.”   She smiled and left the room.  Todd looked around, sighed and proceeded to get dressed.


Blair finished dressing her daughter.  Her sweet baby girl was thriving from all the attention she had been getting in the last few days.  She had been born with a mop of brown curls and bright green eyes.  She was generally a very quiet baby but when she was upset, it was her father who calmed her down.  Blair tugged the little rose shaped tam onto her daughter's sleeping head. "There you are my little rosebud. Daddy's going to just love this outfit."  Blair suddenly felt panicked, she picked up her daughter and held her close to her heart.  “Oh Rose, Daddy is going to be so mad at me.  He’s gone to all this planning to give us a true honeymoon, but I don’t think I can leave you.  I’ll just have to convince him it’s too soon.”  She kissed her sleeping daughter and laid her back into the bassinet.  There was a knock on her bedroom door and suddenly Starr, Langston, Kelly, and Dorian were sweeping into the room.   They all started to talk at once and Blair shushed them.  “Quiet. Rose is sleeping.  I don’t want her getting fussy at church.”

Langston spoke up.  “Look, I’ll take Rose into my bedroom so she can sleep and I’ll keep an eye on her.  That way the rest of you can get Blair ready.”

Blair nodded and Langston carefully rolled the bassinet down the hall to her room.   As Kelly and Starr began to lay out her dress, Blair walked over to her jewelry box and pulled out an old tattered photo.

Dorian joined her and looked at the photo in her hands.  “You were right, all those years ago.  He is the one for you.  I’m sorry I ever doubted his love for you.”

Blair smiled. She looked over at Starr giggling with Kelly. “We loved each other so much that day.  Today that love is stronger and richer than ever.  We’ve finally found that trust we searched for so long ago.  It took us a while to get here, but I remember something Todd said to me on New Year’s Eve 2011.  I had pointed out how the good times with him were great, but the bad times were terrible and he said.  ‘That’s life.’  To him, it was as simple as that.  That night he promised that he loved me and that he loved our children and that he would be there for us and he asked if that was enough.  I couldn’t answer him.  I was afraid to trust." She ran a finger down the photo.  "Dorian, the night Peterson threatened us all if Todd didn’t leave town, I finally realized Todd was right.  It was enough.  He was leaving to keep us safe, but I wasn’t going to let him go without letting him know we would be here when he came back." She turned her wedding ring and kissed it. "I love him so much sometimes it hurts.”

Dorian put an arm around Blair.  “I know.  Let’s get you dressed.  It’s time you both got what you wished for.”


In the midst of getting ready for the wedding, Victor paused to take a look at the morning edition of The Sun. The headline read:

Todd Manning the Real Man behind Tony Butler.

Two pictures, one of Todd Manning and another of Tony Butler were on the front page.  The story of Todd’s faking his death and reinventing himself as Tony Butler followed.  His meteoric rise as Tony Butler in the business world and his hand in helping the Feds with the recent conspiracy scandal in Washington made for good copy and it had taken Victor every shred of patience he had to finally talk Todd into letting him print the story.

Tea moved up behind Victor. “So how does it feel to be back in control of The Sun?”

Victor looked over his shoulder at his wife. “It feels right.  I know Todd still owns the controlling interest but he promised he would stay out of the way.  I think he really wants to pour himself into OTB and that’s fine with me.”

“Well, I’m just glad he realized you deserved a share of his inheritance.  After all, you were the one responsible for The Sun going international in the first place. “

“Yeah, but I admit I was surprised.  I still have no real memory of my early years of growing up.  All I have are Todd’s memories.  The knowledge that I actually helped my crazy mother when I became Todd still doesn’t seem possible.  Todd and I did an intense audit of the eight years I was him and it turns out there were numerous money transactions and deals with what now appears was a front for Irene’s organization.  I can understand why he hated me when he came back.”

“It still didn’t give him the right to shoot you.”

“He was under Irene’s control and didn’t know it.  After this last year and everything with Peterson’s organization getting control of her projects then being turned into one of those projects.  I can definitely understand.  It’s over, Tea.  I’m here.  I didn’t die and I have him to thank for getting my life back.”  Victor turned and drew Tea into his arms.  “How’s Dani doing?”

“She’s very confused.  She had no idea Arturo was using her. It was a shock to find out he worked for Peterson.  Jack is just as shell-shocked about his summer school teacher.  Peterson was so controlling, he had everyone being watched.  It’s scary how much power he had here in Llanview and to find out all about his other plans is mind-boggling.”

“The guy’s a narcissistic egomaniac and I hope both he and that whacked out sister of his get put in the darkest hole the government has and never see daylight again.” Victor frowned  “I don’t want to think about him for now.”  His eyes wandered down and his hand slowly moved down Tea’s back.  “Do we really have to go to this wedding?  Shoot they’re already married, why are they even doing this?”

Tea stopped Victor’s hand from going lower. “Well from a legal standpoint, Todd was considered dead.  He just officially got his name back, but I think it’s for the same reason we renewed our vows.  We wanted to show our love to the world and I think Todd and Blair want to do the same.  Besides, I think he needs his best man there.”

“Whatever.  Okay, well get Dani and the boys, I want to get this over.  I can only take so much of a happy Todd."


Todd walked into St James.  Memories flooded back: CJ and Sarah showing up to be in his wedding. Little CJ saying so importantly. "I'm the Usher"  Todd remembered looking at his sister Viki and asking if she wanted to stay and CJ walked up to Viki and asked if she was with the Bride or the Groom and Viki had answered, "The Groom, he's my brother." Todd took a deep breath. Both he and Viki had come so far from that day. 

Todd headed down the aisle and paused at the altar looking back. He again found himself remembering Blair walking down the aisle pregnant with Starr. They had been so happy.  Life had interfered with that happiness, life, and his own mistakes, but this time everything had changed.  They had come full circle.  

He saw Andrew Carpenter talking to the current pastor. When he and Blair talked about renewing their vows in the church, she had insisted on asking Andrew.  It had taken every ounce of persuasion he had to talk Andrew into presiding again.  Todd caught Andrew’s eye and then walked to meet him.

“Todd, I hope this is the last time we have to do this.  I know you and Blair love each other, but you’ve never been able to make it work before.  Cassie tells me you’ve changed and for your and Blair’s sake I pray that is true.”

“Reverend, no one wants this marriage to work more than me.  I’m done trying to fight the whole world.  All I want is the chance to help Blair raise our new daughter and spend time getting to know Jack and Dani properly.  I’m grateful you are willing to help us start this new life.” Todd held out his hand.

Andrew looked at it for a moment and then shook it. “I guess we all want those chances, Todd.” Andrew glanced around. “It looks like some people are beginning to arrive.  Are you ready?”  Todd nodded and followed Andrew to the side altar to wait.  

Todd watched as Victor, Jack, and Sam came up the side aisle towards him. “Where are Tea and Dani?”

Victor and Jack groaned in unison and Sam chimed in. “They went to find Mom.  They both wanted to see what she’s wearing.”

“You know this is ridiculous.  You should have just skipped all this froufrou and taken Blair on the honeymoon.” Victor said superciliously.

“Hey, don’t take that tone with me.  I heard all about the reception and renewal of vows you and Tea had, Bro.”

Sam snickered.  “He even had Dani sing a special song.”

Todd raised an eyebrow at his brother and Victor waved his hand.  

“Whatever,” Victor said and looked pointedly at his son. “Thanks, Sam.”

Tea walked up the aisle.  “Victor, you and Todd can chat later.  Right now you and the boys need to take your places by the Maid of Honor and Blair. It’s time.”  She watched  as Victor and the boys went back to the entrance. Then she turned toward Todd.  “With everything that has happened in the last couple of months we haven’t really had a chance to talk.”

“Tea, do you really think this is the time?” Todd was uncomfortable, he was happy and didn’t really want Tea to rain on his happiness.

“I think it’s the best time.  I know now that you and Blair have always been meant for each other.  When you came back, I was furious and confused, but then I realized that your brother filled something in me I never would have gotten from you.  After he died and I lost our baby, all I felt for you was loathing." Todd started to speak but Tea stopped him. "I know, he turned up alive and I had him back, and through no fault of yours, he left again and I blamed you and that was wrong of me.  You swore you would bring him home and I didn’t believe you. I told Blair she was a fool to believe you but she did. She knew the real you, the one I never really saw." Tea stopped and cleared her throat.  "I’m sorry, Todd.  Thank you for bringing him home.” Before he could say anything, she gave him a quick kiss on the cheek and left.

Todd put a hand to his cheek and smiled a bit ruefully. He took out his handkerchief and wiped off her lipstick.  Looking at the stain, he made a mental note to tell Blair about Tea’s apology and kiss.  “You don’t want her pushing Tea out a window again, do you Manning?” he chuckled and pocketed the handkerchief.  The music started and Todd moved to his place beside Andrew and turned to get ready for Blair. His heart swelled as he looked at his side of the church.  He watched as Clint escorted Viki and they joined Jessica and Brody.  Natalie and John sat behind them with Liam and his eyes widened as he saw Tina and Cord there also. Tea and Dani took their places on the front row waiting for Jack and Sam to join them. On Blair’s side were Cassie and River, Kelly and Joey and Langston and Marco. David escorted Dorian and Addie in and they took their places at the head of the Cramer clan. 

 The music changed again and Sam carried in the rings as Bree spread flower petals. Todd’s heart tugged for a moment as he remembered his lovely little Hope.  Then Victor walked in alongside Starr who carried her sister Rose. Todd shook hands with his brother and kissed his two daughters and then returned to his place to await Blair.

Todd’s heart almost stopped when he saw the gown Blair was wearing.  Her hair was piled high on her head and the years dropped away as he saw her walking up the aisle in the same gown she had worn for their second wedding. The only difference was that Jack escorted his mother up the aisle this time.  He moved to accept her hand from Jack and he heard Jack’s quiet little statement: “Don't hurt her again.  She loves you.” Todd met his son’s eyes. “Don’t worry, I won’t. I love her more than life itself.” Jack nodded and handed his mother’s hand to his father.

Blair smiled at Todd.  She had seen his face at her entrance and knew he remembered.  It was a new day and they still had a whole life to live. They would never turn back time, but they could certainly move forward because the past was just that, the past.  “Are you ready?” she asked him.

Todd wrapped her hand with his. “I told you the fairy tale wasn’t over. This is it, Babe, a whole new beginning.”  They turned and started their new journey.

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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 15

The next day, Jack went to open the door.  "Hello, Jack, is your mother at home?"  Dorian said, from the doorway at Unforgettable.

"No, she's not.  My dad's not either.  Aunt Tina was babysitting today, until I got here. Sam's upstairs, doing homework.  Ray's napping, Jewel's napping.  Anything else?"  He hadn't moved from the door to invite her in, and still held the knob in one hand.

"Isn't that a bit rude?" she asked.

"Maybe," he said.  

From behind her, he heard a familiar voice.  "Jack, that's not very nice," his father said, coming up behind Dorian.  

Blair was right behind Todd.  "I should say not.  Dorian's your aunt, young man."

Jack moved aside.  "Come in, Auntie Dorian," he said, clearly patronizing her.

Dorian stepped in, and Blair looked to Todd.  "God, he's so like you, Todd," she said.

"Your aunt really wins over us Manning men," he whispered toward her.  

Dorian had made her way into the foyer, and was standing there, looking around.  She said, "You two are just getting in?"

"Yeah, we were out on the town," Todd said, sarcastically.

"Blair, it seems different here in the foyer, is something new?"

Todd said, "It's the artwork.  We've added more of Momma's."

"Lovely," Dorian said, "especially this one," she pointed to a painting of Starr, holding Hope, and both were sitting on a brightly colored lounge chair with large, colorful, floppy hats.  "So darling."

Blair said, "What can we do for you, Aunt Dorian?"

"Yes, Auntie Dorian, how's it hanging?"  Todd added on, taking her wrap and smirking.

She raised one eyebrow, "It's fine, Todd, thank you.  I, uh, well, I'll get to the point.  I came to discuss Jack."

All eyes in the room landed on the teenager, and he looked from his mother to his father. "Me?  How did I get to be the topic of discussion?"


"Viki, if it's not an intrusion, I'd like to see Tina," Cord said, standing outside Llanfair.

"Well, Cord, I have to apologize, then.  It's never an intrusion, but Tina simply isn't here."

"Really, well, where is she, if you know?"

"She's on her way, likely.  She was babysitting today at Todd's.  She is the nanny for the children while Todd and Blair are working.  Sometimes, she's at The Sun, and other times, she's at Unforgettable.  Today, was a day at Unforgettable."

"Well, thank you, Viki, and it's always nice to see you," Cord said, starting to turn.

"Wait, Cord.  You can come in if you like, and wait for her?"  Viki offered.

"Don't mind if I do," he said, and followed her to the Lord library.  

She sat, and he did, and she said, "Your father is at the office as well.  I'm home early today because The Banner seems to be able to run itself these days."

"That's a good sign, right?" he said, smiling.

"Yes, I suppose it is."  

Nigel walked into the room.  "Mr. Roberts, can I get you anything?  Madame?"

"Nothing for me, Nigel, no, thank you."  Viki said. 

"I'd like a cup of coffee if it's not too much trouble," Cord asked.

Nigel nodded and left the room.  Viki said, "So, you've come to see Tina.  You won't mind me asking, Cord, what this is about?  I mean, after the other day . . ."

"You mean when she toppled me over onto the rug right there?  I don't hold a grudge much, you know that."  He was smiling, again.

"Well, then, I suppose that's a good thing."

"She wanted to see me, before I go back to the ranch.  Something about an apology.  You know Tina."

"Oh yes, I know Tina, indeed.  So, she got you here, just for an apology?"

"Seems like it.  That's what she said.  I offered to accept the apology on the phone, but she said she wanted to see me in person."

"I see," Viki said, and began to imagine all sorts of Tinaesque plans that her sister may have concocted.

Cord smiled again, and Nigel returned with the coffee.  Cord took it, sipped it, and then placed it gently on the coffee table, on the saucer Nigel had handed him.  "Great coffee, as always, that butler of yours makes."

"Yes, he's a gem."

"Speaking of gems, I uh, would like to ask you something, Viki."

"Sure, what is it?"

"Is it true that Tina tried to steal the Bhadra Diamond from Dorian Lord?"

Viki folded her hands and slightly rolled her eyes.


"You're the topic of the discussion, young man, because you've made a rather negative choice.  I'm here to back your father, and insist that you attend college,"  Dorian began.

Jack seemed startled, and like the older Manning man in the room, wasn't sure it was because she was backing Todd, or because of what she said.  He was speechless.

She continued, "This is ridiculous, thinking you can make it in today's world, without a college education.  Now, I know I am not usually aligned with your father," she said, slightly turning her gaze to Todd, who was still in his gray suit and had his arms folded over his chest, "but in this case, I am definitely on his side."

Blair slipped her hand delicately in Todd's arm, and leaned against him.  Both of them were at the base of the staircase, watching the events unfold.

"It's a little late for that," Blair said, under her breath, but loud enough for her aunt to hear.  

Dorian said, "Now, Blair, really.  I've not come here to hash out old tiffs."

"Tiffs?"  Blair was incredulous.  "Dorian, nothing you've ever had with Todd was a tiff.  More like battles.  Conflicts.  Wars."

"Can I say something?"  Todd raised his hand slightly, as if in school.

"No!"  Both Blair and Dorian responded.  He shrugged and leaned against the railing, listening, and let them continue.  

Blair said, "So, basically, you're too late and too little.  I've had enough, Dorian, honestly."

Jack raised both eyebrows at his mother's fervor.

Dorian said, "Must we go over this again?  Todd himself knows what I mean."

He shrugged again, and when he began to respond, Dorian cut him off, saying, "See?  As much as we disagree on everything else in the world, we do agree on our family.  Todd feels just as I do, about this.  Jack must go to college.  Starting in September."

Blair stepped in front of her husband who was just moving to talk.  She said, "Don't talk for my husband.  In fact, don't talk.  This happens to be none of your business."

"How is that so, Blair, dear?"  Dorian was containing her dismay at the insults.  "I helped raise that boy."

"Maybe, but it stopped when his father came back, and you did nothing but pull him down and try and separate us, as always."

"I did no such thing," she shouted.

Todd stepped forward, and Blair silenced him with an elbow, saying, "You certainly did.  You made it clear, every time something went wrong.  You didn't care what he went through, you just plowed on through, Ms. Auntie Righteous."

At that, both women were beginning to yell, so much so that it was difficult to determine who was saying what, or what was even being said.  Todd finally bellowed, "Blair!"

Both of them stopped and looked at him.  He said, "Dorian, I know you said this was about Jack, but it seems to really be about me, so I think I should be able to say something."

"Yes, Todd, you go ahead, you join right in.  I'm sure you agree that Jack needs to go to college, and get a degree,"  Dorian said.

"Actually, Auntie Dorian, this family has already moved past that," Todd said.

"Oh," she seemed taken aback, but relieved.  "Well, is that so?  I trust you've put down the foot of the Mannings, so to speak, and taken charge, then?"

He folded his arms again, and shook his head 'no.'

Her face collapsed.  "No?  No what?"

"I didn't take charge.  I listened to my son, and to my wife.  I want him to be happy.  If he doesn't want college right now, then he'll work his way up, from the very bottom.  But no, I'm not forcing him, or trying to force him, into anything that's about his own life and his future.  That was Peter Manning, not me."

She was speechless, and Jack, who was just watching the discussion as if it were a tennis match, got a very satisfied, smug look on his face as he folded his arms over his chest, and leaned himself against the side of the sofa.

Blair said, "Is that all, Dorian?"  She went to the door and held it open.

"Blair, I'm warning you," she said, beginning to walk, "to stand up for yourself and that son of yours, before it's too late."

"And I'm warning you, to reel it in before it's too late for you.  And you know what I mean," Blair said in response.

Dorian didn't say anything more, she just went to the door.  At the very last moment, she looked back and said, "Todd, I'm disappointed.  I thought for certain this was going to be a meeting of the minds, today."

"That meeting already took place among all of us, Auntie Dorian.  I'm listening to my son and what he wants.  I believe that's the right thing to do."  Then he changed his voice to an overly-cheery one and said, "Thanks for stopping by!" as she went out the door, and it slammed behind her.  

Blair went into the family room and plopped onto the sofa near Jack, who was perched on the arm.  "That woman!" she said.  "Infuriating!"

"She's not all that bad," Todd said, also entering the family room and sitting next to his wife.  He put his arm around her, and she leaned her head onto his shoulder. 

"She's not?"  Blair asked.

"No.  She was trying, and no one even noticed."  Todd said.  Jack turned his head back toward them and listened.

"Trying what?  To be a control freak again?  I've had just about enough of her kind of effort,"  Blair said.

"She was trying to make up for things.  She had a chance to be on my side, and she was . . . well, I think she was hoping that if she and I could be aligned on something . . ."

Blair's jaw dropped, and she said, "And then you would tell Timothy, and then . . ."

"Yep, that's the ticket," he said.

Jack said, "Why doesn't she just go tell Grandpa Timothy she's sorry and she loves him and junk?"

"It's not your Auntie Dorian to do that," Todd said.  "She just can't."  He paused, "Well, yet."

Blair looked up at Todd from his shoulder.  "You saw all that?"

"Sure.  I tried to talk, but no one would really let me,"  Todd said.

"That's true, he did,"  Jack backed his father.

"Maybe she'll see the light, and finally do what you said, Jack.  But it will take some time. That's just how she is."  He turned back to Blair.  "Remember when Starr had aplastic anemia, and I arranged the toy store visit?"

"She never did want you to be good with or for the kids.  She tried at every turn to ruin that."

"Well, she wasn't doing that today, she was looking to take my side.  I'd say it's an accomplishment. Took long enough!"

Jack stood up, and said, "This whole thing is weird.  She already had things straight with you, Dad, back when . . . well, you know when."

"Yep, and then, it all took a nosedive when my psycho father showed up.  His name should have been Charles Manson Manning, and of course, that's not my fault."  Blair was glad to hear him say this.  "But she had to blame someone.  Her nephew was missing, her niece was beaten," his voice crackled, "and her Blair was in a mess because of Todd again."

Blair looked at her hands, "No, Todd."

"Yes, Blair.  That's how it was, and that's how she saw it.  In her head, if you had never taken me back, none of that would have happened."

"Aw, she just should let all that go, Dad.  We all have.  You love Mom.  There wouldn't be a Ray or a Jewel if that happened.  She needs to suck it up,"  Jack said.

Todd was quiet a moment, "Maybe so, but that's why she said what she said.  And I bet she regrets it.  And it will take time, but she'll be at Timothy's door, sooner or later, taking it all back.  Or trying to, in her own way."

Jack said, "Well, maybe, but I don't care what she does anymore," and headed up the stairs, saying, "Gotta get my homework done, stuff like that, and get to sleep.  School in the morning."  He yawned, "It was a big morning at work today."

"Night, Son," Todd called.  

It was almost strangely silent in the family room, and Blair said, "Todd, you know she's wrong about you, don't you?  You know she's wrong about your role in my life."

He tipped his head and hugged himself across the chest.  "Maybe."

"Oh, Todd," she said, turning toward him, and using her hand to gently turn his face toward hers.  "She is wrong.  Look at our beautiful family.  All of it is worth it.  All of it is worth this."

He looked into her eyes.  "Would you tell me if it wasn't?"

"Wasn't what?"

"Worth it?"

"Yes, I would.  I would tell you.  But it is, Todd.  This beautiful family we made is worth it all."

"Come here," he said, unfolding his arms.

She folded into them.

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Todd's Saga coming to an end . . .

Karena's book, "Todd's Saga" ends this week with the publishing of the 41st Chapter on Tuesday, Aug. 24.

What's in store?

MEMORIES UNLOCKED, her next work, will be coming VERY SOON!

Stay alert and watch for updates!!

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Your comments are 'payment' for the work of the authors. Our writers like to hear your feedback. Please leave a comment when you read.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Chasing the Monsters: 14

Sam got up, out of his bed, turned on the light and looked in the mirror.  He was breathing heavy, and his eyes looked scared.  He said, "I don't want to sleep," and then picked up his Spiderman doll, and said to his reflection, "Mom and Dad thought I was."

He carried the doll with him into the hall.  He knew he did not have to be quiet by Jack's room, since his older brother fell asleep with earphones in every night.  But when it came to his parents' room, which was diagonal from the nursery, he tiptoed and moved silent, like a panther, and imagined one, black and sleek, in his mind.  He pushed open the nursery door, and could hear the small breaths of Jewel, who had just recently, shortly after her first birthday, moved into the nursery with Ray.  His mother had told him that when Ray turned four, he would move in with Sam.  He wished it was sooner.

Ray was in a 'big boy bed,' as Blair had described it, against the far wall.  He walked over to it quietly, and shook Ray gently.  "Hey.  Wake up."

"No, sweeping." Ray said.

"Wake up, and be quiet," Sam said, in a whisper.  He watched Jewel's crib and knew she was out like a light.  A heavy sleeper, like Ray was, she was in baby dreamland.

Sam shook one more time, and said, "Wanna play?"

Ray sat up immediately.  "Pway?" he said, softly.

"Yeah.  Wanna play, like the other night?"

The littler boy nodded.  Sam put his hand out, and Ray took it, and both of them padded, Sam in bare feet, and Ray in footy pajamas, into Sam's room.  


Shaun opened the door, and surprisingly, he was wide awake, and had been watching television.  Todd could see the lights still on and a show blaring on the screen.  Todd said, "I have to talk to you."

"No problem, Todd.  You okay?  The kids?"

"I . . ." Todd looked around, and realizing that he losing control, said, "I need to sit down."

"Sure, come on."  Shaun said.  He still had not gotten back full use of his leg; the one that had been stabbed in the foot with the tranquilizing needle was still going in and out of numbness.  Something with the nerves.   

Todd sat, and Shaun shut the television.  Todd said, "This is an intrusion.  I know."

"No.  It was only The Golden Girls.  What's up?"  Shaun said, sitting across from Todd.  He was using a cane.

"The Golden Girls?"

"Yeah, well, long story."

"When . . . my father . . . Peter . . . when he was here, last year, there was something Sam said, something about him being weird."

"Yeah, sure, I remember."

"What do you know about that?"

"Nothing much.  He said he was weird.  No detail.  I went to the guy, after that, and made sure he knew the deal with me and those kids."

"I . . . still appreciate you putting your life on the line, Shaun."

"That's my job.  You going to tell me what this is about?"

"Sam's . . . having a hard time.  We can't help him.  He's still as upset as he was a year ago.  Tonight, he had a nightmare.  Blair, she started thinking that maybe . . . that . . ."

Shaun's eyes narrowed.  "She started thinking what?"

"She was afraid that maybe Peter had . . . hurt Sam, the way he hurt me."

At that moment, Todd knew he would never have been able to describe Shaun's face if he tried.  The man looked as if death had passed over him.  His skin, usually a deep, chestnut brown, and glowing with natural radiance, seemed flat and greenish.  He said, "Peter.  Malcolm was Peter."

"Yeah, you knew that, right?" Todd asked.

"Yes, I suppose I did, but to tell the truth, Todd, it never clicked up here much until right this minute.  I don't think so.  I mean, he never got the chance, Sam was never alone with him, that I know of.  Although . . ."

"Although what?"

"I don't know, I just never liked his eyes, you know?  As far as I know, he never got near Sam without someone else there.  You . . . might have to ask Sam, Todd."

"I don't want to do that.  I wanted to avoid it if I could."

"From what I know, no.  Sam wasn't alone with him, and he was only at the house a few days before the incident."

"He told Blair that Peter tried to get him to go to his cabin, but he said no.  He never told anyone, until he was at the hospital."

"He said no, that's all there is," Shaun said, getting up.  He turned his back to Todd, and grabbed a beer from the refrigerator.  "Want one?"

"No, thanks.  He said no, I guess, that's true.  I . . . I believe he would have told her if there were more."  Todd relaxed a little.

"I do too, Sam's a forthright kid, he'd say something."

"You're right," Todd said, standing.  "I'm sorry to have bothered you at this hour, Shaun.  Blair couldn't sleep, she was just crying, and it was all I could think of."

"You never have to apologize for coming to me about those kids.  They mean a lot to me."

Todd left, and Shaun leaned against the door.  Looking upward, he said, "Lord, I know I don't talk to you enough, but please don't let that madman have raped that little boy."


"I made a castle," Sam said.  "See?"  He and his brother were playing in the dark, but in a tent Sam rigged up out of blankets, and a flashlight as a light source.  

"Castle, for the pwincess."

"Right, now, you bring the horses over the drawbridge."  He lowered the Lego drawbridge and the smaller boy listened to what he said, bringing the toy horses over.  "Good job!"

"I'm tired." Ray said.

"Not yet, Ray, please?"

"I wanna go to sweep."

"You do?"

He nodded.

"But we're having fun?"

"I know but I tired, Sam."

"All right," he said.  He knew he had to be a good big brother, so he shut the flashlight, and he and Ray snuggled down to go to sleep in the tent.

Ray said, "Tell me a story?"  He went in and out of mispronouncing his r's.

"Okay, I will.  Once there was a princess, her name was Princess Jewel.  She lived in a castle called Unforgettable, with her father, King Todd and her Mother, Queen Blair."

"Mommy and Daddy."

"Shh, now, let me tell the rest."

"Okay," Ray said, yawning. 

Sam continued to tell the tale.

In the master bedroom suite, Blair was out on the balcony, getting air.  She couldn't imagine dealing with Sam being abused, never mind watching Todd deal with it.  She rubbed her shoulders, in the cool, evening air, and breathed deeply.  Was Todd right?  Was it time to move?

He opened the glass door behind her and was on the balcony with her.  She said, "He said, no, right?  He said there's no way, didn't he?"

"He did say no.  He said he knew nothing about anything like that happening to Sam.  I mean, what did we expect?  Would he ever hide that from us?"

"No, he wouldn't."

"He said, if we wanted to be sure, we should ask Sam.  But he didn't feel Sam would lie to us . . ."  He stopped, "You're shivering.  We're going inside, come on."  They went into the bedroom, and Todd said, "I can just ask him, outright . . ."

Blair interrupted, "Sssh."

Todd stopped, and both of them listened.  It was now close to 1:00 a.m., and they heard soft talking.  Blair walked to the bedroom door and poked her head into the hallway.  She heard it again, soft talking, and it was coming from Sam's room.  "It's Sam, Todd."

"Let's go see what's up," he said, holding her hand.  

They walked together and stood outside his door.  "And so, King Todd was never going to allow the mean Ogre Petrov get the children.  So, he took out his sword and cut off Petrov's head and said, 'off with his head' and," he stopped to yawn himself, "he had a huge celebration dinner with macaroni and cheese and tacos, and ice cream for dessert."

Todd and Blair opened the door, and flicked on the light.  There was the tent, set up, and one side was fully open.  They could see Sam, inside the tent, lying on his back, and Ray, curled up next to him, asleep.  Blair said, "Sam, what are you doing?"

"I guess Ray was afraid, so I let him sleep with me."

Todd said, "Really?  Is that so?"

"Well, no."  He came out of the tent.  Todd hadn't noticed how dark the underneath of his eyes were.  "I guess not."

"What's the real story, Sam?"  Blair said, tucking an extra blanket over Ray.

"I . . . went and got him."

"Out of bed?"  she asked.

"Yeah.  I wanted him with me.  So Peter's ghost can't get him."

She looked up at Todd.  He said, "Buddy, Peter's ghost isn't coming for anyone.  Peter's dead.  People who are dead can't hurt us.  Remember, you and I talked about that?"

Todd crouched down, so he was close to the tent opening, then reached in and took Ray out, placing him in Blair's arms, and she whisked him off to his bed.  Todd climbed into the tent and said, "Hey, this place is big enough for me."

"Yeah, it is!  Cool!"

"Sam, why are you so afraid of Peter?  He's gone."  Todd said, patting his son's arm.

"He killed Mixie.  Mixie was my best friend, Dad, besides you.  And he did mean things to you and Grandma Bitsy.  He beat up Starr.  He called her names and he stole Ray.  And he gave Shaun medicine to make him sick."

"Sam, did he do anything else?  Anything else that scares you, maybe something so bad you don't want to tell me about it?  Maybe you're scared Mommy, and I can't handle it?  You don't have to be afraid of that.  We've got your back on everything."

"No, nothing else."

"Why did you tell Jack he was weird?"

"'Cause he was.  He had a weird face.  His eyes were like mad, and his face was like happy.  He tried to get me to go into his cabin with him once."

"Just once?"

"He offered me some cookies and milk.  But I am smart, Dad, I know not to go with strangers.  I didn't like him, ever.  Was he really my grandpa?"

"No," Blair said, appearing at the door.  "Timothy's your grandpa.  Timothy's Daddy's father.  Peter was just a sick man who was married to Bitsy, that's all."  She put her hand out, and Sam came out of the tent.  "To bed young man.  And don't get your brother up anymore."

"Okay, Mom." Sam got into the bed, and covered himself.  "Mom, can I have the light on?"

"Yes, sure," she said.  She looked at Todd, trying to read him, and he joined his eyes with hers.  Suddenly, she felt peace wash over her.  "Night little one," she said, kissing his forehead.

Todd bent to kiss his son, and said, "I love you, you know that?"


"And it's okay to be scared.  But it's also okay to move on from Mixie dying, Sam.  He was your best friend, and you have a lot of memories, right?"

"Yeah," he said, sniffing.

"Well, he wouldn't want you to be sad, would he?"

"No, he wouldn't.  He saved you from the bear, and he dug me out, so we wouldn't be sad."

"Right.  Just remember that, okay?"

"Okay, Dad."

"See you tomorrow, Big Guy," Todd said, leaving the door ajar and the light on.  

Blair was with her back to him, her hands in a prayer formation over her mouth.  "Todd, it's true, right?  Peter didn't touch him?"

"I don't think he did, no.  Not for lack of trying, but no, I don't think he did."  She turned and hugged him around the neck.  He embraced her, and said, "It's been a long night.  Let's go to bed."

Sam, turning over in his bed, said, "Dad's right.  Mixie wouldn't want us to be sad," and closed his eyes.

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