Chapter 3: Truth

After dropping Jude off at Harley's, Rick swung by the Spaulding estate. His earlier conversation with Philip was cut off when Alan dragged Philip into an unexpected meeting. Philip invited Rick to come by before he picked up Mel at Cedars.

Lizzie, James and Zack greeted their Uncle Rick with hugs. Lizzie, growing into her role as the woman of the house, showed Rick into the den and promised to return with her father.

Rick used the time alone to think about the dinner. Although he loved to spend time with Mel, he didn't anticipate another confrontation with her father. Clayton had real concerns and they were legitimate. But what was Rick supposed to do? Stop caring about Mel just because they were born with different skin color? Wouldn't that make him as bad as the bigots that Clayton wanted to protect Mel from?

"I can't do it," he said to himself. "I won't."

"What won't you do?" Philip asked, entering the room. He went to the bar, poured a glass of water and offered a glass to Rick who declined. "You look worried," he commented after taking a drink. "If the dinner bothers you that much, don't go."

"I have to," Rick said. "Mel is excited. I don't want to disappoint her."

Philip nodded. "Well, maybe it won't be like the last time."

Rick rolled his eyes. "Yeah, right. Clayton is not about to back down."

Philip perched on the arm of the sofa. "Mel's a grown woman. She knows what she wants and she wants you. Clayton will have to accept that."

"Like you'll accept the man Lizzie brings home."

"If he's anything like you, I won't have a problem with him."

"I have baggage," Rick said. "I'm older than Mel, I have a child, and I also have a string of bad relationships a mile long."

"That's called life," Philip said. "You're not the bad guy here. I've seen you with Mel. You're happy. For the first time, everything is going the way it should. Don't let her father come between you."

"That's easier said than done. Clayton isn't one to give up, not when it comes to Mel."

Philip lowered his glass to the end table and gave Rick a hard look. "Are you willing to give up? If Mel isn't worth fighting for, back off. Let her go."

Let her go?

Rick shook his head. "It's too late to let her go. I'm falling in love with her."

"Well, fight for her, my friend." Philip moved to Rick and gave him a strong clap on the back. "I'm in your corner and I'll be there for you tonight."

*~*

Remy's fingers snapped as he listened to the Miles Davis track that came through the headphones. He owned almost everything the late Jazz musician had ever recorded, but Remy couldn't resist listening to the musical genius whenever the opportunity arose.

It always amazed Remy how easy it was for him to close off the world when a smooth Jazz track played in the air. If only he could pursue music as a career instead of his present major, life would be perfect.

"Remy."

A sharp sensation rippled through him as a hand closed over his shoulder. He lowered the volume and turned to look down into Marah Lewis's smiling face. He returned the expression.

"Hi, Lewis. What's up?"

"Not much. I was passing through the Quad and saw you in here. How did you do on the mid-term?"

Remy groaned. Geology was not his best subject. He came into the music store to forget about how badly he'd done on the test. He shook his head.

Marah's hand squeezed his shoulder. "Me, too. I'm gonna ask my TA for extra credit."

"You can do that?" He removed the headphones and put them up. He gave Marah his full attention. "That sounds like a plan. If I have to take ESS1 over again during the summer session, my dad will kill me."

Marah nodded. She and Remy were good friends. They shared long talks, mostly about their families. Remy and his father's lack of common ground was often Remy's topic of conversation.

"What are you doing later?" she asked. "Wanna come with me to Company for dinner? My treat."

Remy's eyebrows rose. "Your treat? That sounds like a good deal, but I can't tonight. I'm taking a rain check on that one."

Her blue eyes reflected disappointment. "I bet you have a hot date tonight."

"I wish," he replied. "Family dinner thing. If I could get out it, I would. Trust me, I'd rather hang out with you at Company than go to this."

Marah frowned. "Why go?"

"That's a good question, but unfortunately, I don't have a good answer." He shrugged. "It's family and I can't say no."

"I understand, I guess." She fell into step beside him as they left the store. "If it's not too late, stop by my room and tell me how it went."

"Okay," he said. "You'll see me later."

A smile came to her glossy pink lips. "I look forward to it."

*~*

Mel tried to fight it, but excitement had her on pins and needles. She wanted so much for the dinner to go well. Not only because her best friend was acting as hostess for the very first time in Springfield, but also because her father would see living proof that interracial relationships can make it in a racist society. She didn't need her father's permission to be with Rick, but she would love to have his support.

She finished making her notes on her last patient, then showered and dressed in a yellow tank dress and matching sandals. She moved so quickly that she was waiting for Rick in the front lobby with ten minutes to spare.

Tonight had to go well, she thought, crossing her fingers in her lap. Clayton could be a bear when provoked and she desperately wanted the dinner to have the opposite effect. Dawn and Nikolas had dealt with prejudice as it came up and it didn't change their love for each other. And although she hadn't said the words to Rick, she knew that she was falling in love with him.

Her cell phone rang. She fished it from her handbag and answered the call. Thinking Rick was on the other end, she smiled from ear to ear. "Hello!"

"Wow!" Her father's laugh came across the digital line. "I hope you're always this happy to hear from me."

"Daddy, of course I'm happy to talk with you." She moved to the wall-length windows that showcased Cedars' circular drive. From this position, she would see Rick as he pulled up. "What's up?"

"I'm calling about the dinner at Dawn's," he said. "Is it still on?"

Mel frowned. What was he up to? "Yes. Why wouldn't it be?"

"I don't know," Clayton replied. "Wishful thinking."

"Are you trying to get out of this?" Mel asked. "To cancel now would be rude. Dawn has put a lot of effort into this. She's expecting you to be there."

He groaned loudly into the receiver. "I have to start preparing for my sabbatical."

"You can do that later. Your sabbatical is in two weeks. Attending a dinner won't put you behind schedule." Mel paused and inhaled a deep breath, which she slowly released. "What's up, Daddy? Will you be there or not?"

"Will it be so bad if I don't come?" he asked.

"The truth?" she countered.

"Always."

Mel didn't hesitate. "Yes. Tonight is very important and very special. I want you to be there. For me and for Dawn. She still calls you 'Daddy Clayton.'"

"She does?" he asked, his voice warm and thoughtful. "I thought she'd outgrown it."

"It slips out," Mel confided. "You're like a father to her. She considers us her family, too. Leaving Port Charles was a big step for her and Nikolas. They should know they can depend on the Boudreaux. Every last one of us."

There was silence on the other end until Clayton suddenly chuckled. "You presented your case well. I'll be there."

"Thanks, Daddy."

Rick arrived after the call ended. Mel slid into the passenger side of Rick's huge Chevy Blazer. As they shared a kiss, Mel uncrossed her fingers. Hearing her father's laugh gave her hope. And the taste of Rick's lips made her feel that everything would be okay.

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