The episode begins as the camera pans up the enormous structure that is Madison Tower.
Up in the penthouse, Sebastian is pouring himself a drink. “Wipe down everything she touched. In fact, do it twice. I’m very grossed out right now that the trash was even in this penthouse.”
Holly is scrubbing hard at the coffee table and looks up, “Yes, sir.”
Jessica walks in, just coming back up from the lobby. She pauses at first, watching as Holly disinfects and is not happy. She walks over to where Sebastian has holed himself up in the corner, away from the possibility of coming into contact with any of Layla’s germs. “I didn’t realize you were this type of person.”
Sebastian looks at her and sighs, perhaps even a little annoyed. “What are you talking about?”
“I realize what she did was wrong, but don’t you think you were a bit harsh?” Jessica asks her husband.
Sebastian seems amused, “Are you inferring I have somehow made a mistake?”
“We should set an example for our children. A positive example, don’t you think?” she asks him. “What you did was immature.” She doesn’t even wait for him to respond to that as she turns around and walks up the stairs.
Sebastian stares at her, lips pursing together in anger. He squeezes his glass so hard that it shatters in his hand.
Holly continues to clean, minding her own damn business.
Layla is walking back to her apartment. Her lip is bleeding, and she has a cut on her cheek. She is covered in black soot and completely soaked all the way through her clothes. She can barely stand as she sways from side to side.
She unlocks her door and steps inside. Every step she makes hurts. The hallway light comes on, and she comes around the corner into the small kitchen. As she walks through, she uses her hand against the wall, the fridge, the stove to keep herself upright.
“All I’ve ever done in my life is work hard,” she says softly to herself as she slowly lowers herself down onto the bed.
Little Sugar even whines, knowing that something is wrong with her owner. As a tear rolls down Layla’s face as she lies on her bed, Sugar comes over and jumps onto the bed and begins to paw at Layla’s hand, whimpering and leaning in to lick away her tears.
Layla reaches up to pet the pup, “Sugar, you are all I have.”
Suddenly her phone chimes. She pulls it out of her pocket to find a text from Jessica Gaston.
Jessica: Sorry for texting so late. I wanted to be sure you got home safely. By the way, congratulations on getting first place and getting accepted into the IMS. From what I’ve seen, I am sure you have a lovely voice.
Layla turns off the phone, hugs it to her chest, and cries.
Amber is directing traffic as she has gotten a crew to place a banner over the entryway to the high school. Along with a larger-than-life picture of Juliana on it, the bright pink banner also states: “Congratulations Juliana on Getting Into the IMS! Love, Mom!”
There’s also the largest set of bouquets anyone has ever seen on either side of the entrance, with each one reading, “Congratulations, Juliana. Love, Dad!”
“Just a little to the left,” Amber directs then. “Stop! Right there. Perfect!” As the crew tie down the banner, Juliana is watching the entire thing.
“I mean, I got in, of course, but why are your name and dad’s name all over these decorations?” she asks. “How embarrassing.”
Amber turns to her, “It’s just this one time. Let me celebrate with you.”
Juliana turns to her, “Speaking of! Why didn’t dad come home on a special occasion like this? All I got was a text. He didn’t even call.” Juliana stomps her foot on the pavement.
Amber places a hand on her shoulder, “Dubai is so far away. Your father is working very hard for this family. Show a little understanding, okay?” She points to the bouquets, “I mean, look at those flowers he sent over!” Amber pulls out her phone. “I know. Let’s take a selfie and send it to him.”
Reluctantly, Juliana leans in close to her mother, who takes a picture.
The principal comes walking towards the entrance. He places a wreath of flowers around Juliana’s neck and is about to give her some more flowers when Amber snatches them from her hand. “Thank you, principal.”
Juliana snatches the flowers from her mother.
“Congratulations on getting accepted, Juliana.
Amber turns to the principal. “No school lunches today. I am catering lunch for the entire school.”
The principal seems impressed. He knows that Amber has very deep pockets.
“And tonight, I want to treat all the teachers to a very special dinner,” she continues.
The principal smiles at that, though he now has an awkward-looking pair of golden front teeth.
A car pulls up, and Riley and Mariah get out of the car. The principal sees Riley and immediately covers his mouth. Mariah just stops and looks at the decorations. Unhappily, she glances at Juliana, who is looking so damn smug right now.
Angrily, Mariah stomps off.
“Mariah! Nice job making it on the waiting list!” Juliana rubs it in as she runs after the girl.
Riley starts to go after Mariah, but Amber steps in her way, “First on the waiting list?” Oh, how dreadful.” Amber says though she doesn’t seem all that supportive. “You were so proud and confident, but look at you now.”
Riley is starting to get heated up.
“You should have remembered your place before acting out. Imagine, thinking the International School of Music would accept your daughter who must really lack talent,” Amber continues to rub it in.
“Mariah does not lack talent,” Riley tells her. “If you want to know who lacks talent, it’s your daughter. There’s something off about this audition. There’s no way Juliana got in before Mariah.”
“There’s the proof right there!” Amber points to all the decorations she bought. “Juliana scored better than Mariah, and that’s all there is to it.” Amber starts to walk off, and Riley looks like she might just smack her across the back of the head when Amber turns back around. “I heard even an orphan scored better than your Mariah,” she says with as much swarm as possible. “Perhaps you should pay her a visit. Who knows, if you give her enough money, she might give up her place, and Mariah will get in.”
Amber turns and walks to her car, cackling like a movie villain while Riley just seethes at the nerve of this woman.
Inside the classroom, everyone is making a fuss about Juliana’s success when Juliana sees Mariah over there with a sour face out of the corner of her eye. Juliana slides out of her desk and walks over to stand in front of Mariah’s desk.
“My mom bought all this food to celebrate my success. You aren’t going to eat any?” Juliana asks.
Mariah slowly looks up at Juliana, “You need to walk away. I’m not in the mood for your shit.” She puts her earbuds into her ears and goes back to her schoolwork.
Juliana isn’t put off that easily as she grabs a chair and sits down, leaning on Mariah’s desk and knocking out one of her earbuds. “I just bet you are hoping someone on the list dies, so you can have their place.” Juliana begins to laugh, “That’s the only way you’re getting in now, loser.”
Mariah just stares at Juliana.
“Wow, you look like you really might kill someone,” Juliana continues to goad her rival.
Mariah is trying her best to ignore Juliana.
“Not that it would matter,” Juliana adds.
Mariah glances up. “What’s that supposed to mean?”
Juliana rolls her eyes that she even has to explain how life works to Mariah. “Everything was already predetermined. All the rich kids got in, didn’t you notice? Not one failed the audition. Of course, they picked out a few of the more talented lesser kids just to make it seem fair. Which means they’ll never pick someone like you.”
Mariah is considering everything that Juliana is telling her.
“You can’t even afford to dress properly at the IMS….”
“Juliana!” Mariah snaps.
“Look, I’m just keeping it real. In the history of the college, never once has the first person on the waiting list been accepted. So, you may as well stop your useless daydreaming and give up.”
Mariah is trying so hard not to punch Juliana right in the face. She turns her attention back to her work, but Juliana just won’t shut her mouth.
“Tomorrow is orientation and then a few days later, the big celebration at Madison Tower.” Juliana finally stops when her phone rings, and she flips it open. “What’s up, Sloane? Orientation notice?”
Mariah glances up. Even Sloane got in.
Juliana smirks at Mariah, “Of course I got mine.” Juliana gets up and walks away from Mariah, “What time are you leaving? 8? I’ll leave then too.”
Mariah is still stuck on the fact that Sloane got in. She remembers the girl coming out very upset at having messed up part of her audition. “She definitely fucked up.”
Moments later, Mariah is standing in front of Zoey’s office, but there is one obstacle in her path.
“Please, I just need to see her for a few minutes,” Mariah explains. She tries to go past him, but he steps in her path again.
“How many times must I tell you that she’s very busy?” Matthew explains. “If you want to see her, make an appointment.”
Mariah’s desperation is showing.
“Stop making a scene and go home.”
Mariah’s attention has been taken by the large arrangement of flowers right outside of Zoey’s office. The banner reads. “Congratulations, Sloane Kline.”
Mariah begins to sizzle as she stares at the lettering. She saw Sloane come out of the audition in tears, and she knows that Sloane fucked up in there, and Mariah didn’t miss a single note or a single beat. Juliana’s words echo in her brain as she grabs the decoration, pulls it off the bouquet of flowers, and then begins to walk down the hallway, tossing the flowers onto the ground as she screams out in rage.
“What do you think you’re doing?” asks Matthew as he rushes to pick up the fallen flowers.
Mariah doesn’t miss a bit as she tosses the next one on the floor.
Matthew yells out, “Hey!”
Juliana, Sloane, and Penelope come running down the hall at all the noise, “Mariah! What are you doing?” asks Juliana as everyone looks at the destroyed flowers lying all over the hallway.
Penelope looks over at Mariah and then asks Juliana, “Do you know this bitch?”
“Why are you destroying my stuff?” asks Sloane.
Mariah looks at Sloane’s name tag and walks up to her, “You’re Sloane Kline?”
“What’s it to you?” Sloane asks.
“I saw you leaving the audition in tears!” Mariah snaps at her. “You messed up your audition, didn’t you?”
Sloane’s eyes go wide, “What are you talking about? Do you even know who my mother is? How could I make a mistake?”
“I know exactly who your mom is, and she’s the reason you got in, not for any talent you have,” Mariah says to her. “I know who your grandpa is.” Mariah suddenly grabs Sloane by her school uniform, “That’s what happened, right? You got in because of who your family is, isn’t that right?”
Sloane reaches for Mariah, and the two begin to struggle back and forth, “I don’t know what you’re talking about! Let me go!” Sloane yells back.
“What is this?!?” Zoey Kline says as she steps out of her office and has to step over flowers. Sloane immediately rushes to her mother’s side and hides behind her.
“This is the only way I could get to see you,” Mariah tells Zoey.
Zoey is appalled at Mariah’s behavior. “What?”
Mariah doesn’t even let her say another word, “Tell me why I didn’t get in. I didn’t make any mistakes, but Sloane did. I sang every word and every note perfectly. So, tell me why I didn’t get in! I want to see the scores. I won’t accept the results until you release the scores.”
Zoey slowly steps up to Mariah and, with a smirk, tells her, “You’re just like your mom. Playing the victim.”
“What did you say?” asks Mariah.
Zoey doesn’t repeat herself. Instead, she advises, “Accept the result. You just weren’t good enough.”
Mariah scoffs and motions towards Sloane, “What about her mistakes?” Sloane knows she messed up her audition, and she also knows that there’s truth to what Mariah is saying, but she’s not about to admit a thing. She stands there, behind her mother, keeping her mouth shut and nervously tucking her hair behind her ear repeatedly.
“Her mistake wasn’t all that bad,” Zoey admits. “You see, the audition promise isn’t always about the perfect singer. It’s about potential. Picking that talent that shows promise. Sloane has promise. You might be a decent singer, but you have no potential. So, stop acting out and leave this instant.”
Mariah is so angry right now that tears are forming in her eyes, “I will not. I know this entire thing was rigged from the start. I’ll never accept your result until I see the scores.”
Walking up behind towards the scene in the background, Jessica Gaston is just catching the tail end of this conversation.
“The audition was rigged? Are you sure you want to stick with that accusation?” Zoey asks.
Mariah nods her head, “Everyone knows the ones who got in were already chosen, even before the competition. That’s exactly why Sloane got in even though she messed up her audition.”
For Zoey, despite being true, those were fighting words. This girl is pissing her off. She begins to huff but pauses before she blows her top when she sees Jessica across the hall. She calms herself and says plainly. “You can leave, or I’ll call security and have you removed.”
“Didn’t you bribe my tutor, lady? She told me to do a German song when there wasn’t a German song in the rules?”
“Lady?” Above any accusation that Mariah is leveling at her, to call her a ‘lady’ is far worse. Did this child really call her ‘lady’ like she’s old or something?
Mariah smirks, “You didn’t teach me, so you’re not my teacher.” Suddenly, Mariah just collapses onto the floor. She lies there, “I’m not moving until I see the scores.”
Sloane has had enough as she rushes over, grabs Mariah’s arm, and tries to pull her up. “Get up! Get up! That’s enough!”
Mariah pulls, and Sloane is thrown to the grown. Juliana and Penelope just stand there gawking, mouths open.
“Sloane!” Zoey yells out. She rushes to her daughter’s side, “Are you alright?”
Sloane clutches at her arm, “My arm, mom!” Zoey hugs her daughter to her side, “What’s wrong with it?” she turns and glares at Mariah, who suddenly looks very apologetic.
Jessica is watching the entire thing, unsure what to make of it all.
Riley runs into the police station, stopping only long enough to find Mariah sitting at an officer’s desk. “Mariah!”
Mariah turns around, tears streaming down her face as her mother approaches, “Were you hurt?” she asks her daughter.
“It was my Sloane who got hurt,” comes a familiar voice. Riley turns around to see Zoey and Sloane sitting at another desk. Sloane is nursing her arm. “Your idiotic daughter doesn’t know her own strength.”
Riley is getting mad. “What did you just say?”
She starts for Zoey, but Chris plays interference, “Now, now. You’re already looking at one set of assault charges. Do you want to go for a matching pair? From now on, you’ll speak for me.”
Zoey and Sloane rise up, and Zoey smiles at Chris, “Please, take care of this for me, Mr. Letter. And show no lenience for that delinquent child over there. What’s the phrase? The fullest extent of the law?” She turns and looks Riley in the eyes before walking off, with Sloane following her out.
“Why is she leaving?” asks Riley. “How can you just let them go when you haven’t even heard my daughter’s side of the story?”
“For one, Mrs. Kline and her daughter aren’t the ones who committed a crime,” Chris explains. “Your daughter is the one under arrest here.” Chris digs into his pocket and pulls out a USB drive, and hands it to the officer, “Here is footage from the tower.” He turns to Riley, “And I know you’d want to see it too, so I cued it up here on this tablet. I may not be your attorney, but I am a kind attorney. Please, help yourself.”
Riley looks at the tablet for a moment, and already, she knows she’s not going to like what she sees. She reluctantly takes the tablet and presses play. It’s cued up right at the spot where Mariah pulls Sloane down.
“Mom! She was pulling on me,” Mariah explains, tears streaming down her face.
“Nonsense!” Chris exclaims. “Assault and property damage.” He rewinds the footage that shows Mariah destroying Sloane’s flower displays. “Do you want to add slander?” He says to Mariah before turning back to Riley, “Weren’t you also called before the school violence committee?”
Riley turns to look at the attorney.
Chris just tsk tsks at her, “You should be raising this young woman properly. How can you just let her run around like a wild animal?”
“Listen here!” Riley finally screams.
“Oh my gosh!” Chris says, jumping back away from the crazy woman. “Swipe up. There’s another one you might want to see.”
Reluctantly, Riley swipes up, and another video pops up. It’s her with that statue against Zoey’s throat.”
“At least we know where your daughter gets her poor behavior,” Chris asides.
“This… this…” stammers Riley.
Chris doesn’t let her get another word out, “I am informing you that my client is suing both you and your daughter. I have to protect the well-being of my clients. I shall make you pay dearly for the trauma you have induced up them.” Chris cackles, very pleased with himself. He nudges Riley, “Ask me for how much?” He doesn’t wait for an answer, “$100,000.”
Riley’s mouth drops open. She looks at the lawyer, who has decided it’s the most opportune time to apply some chapstick. “Are you insane?” Riley screams at him.
Chris finishes with his chapstick and pops his lips. “And it seems my work here is done.” He walks over and picks up his briefcase. “You know how much if you want to settle. Otherwise, I’ll see you both prosecuted in court.” He walks over and nudges her, “Why’d you have to go and make an enemy of Zoey Kline? Dumb move. You’ve got no power. You’ve got no connections. You ain’t got shit, lady. Anyway! Have a good day.” With that, Chris turns and walks out of the police station.
Riley knows they’re fucked now. She leans down and hugs her child as they both begin to cry.
Meanwhile, Kyle has heard about the incident and arrived at the police station.
As he rounds the corner, he sees Riley helping Mariah as they are heading for the exit. He recognizes her immediately, though he hasn’t seen her in years. He suddenly turns around, not wanting to be seen by her, and disappears around the corner, allowing Riley and her daughter a chance to leave seeing him.
As they walk down the hall, Kyle steps back into the hallway and watches them leave. “Riley Oh?” he says, remembering her from years ago. Something touches him on the shoulder, and he turns around into the face of a dog, and he screams out before realizing it’s just Chris and his stupid dog-shaped briefcase.
Of course, Chris finds this all hilarious, cracking himself up. “You just missed your wife and daughter. They left a while ago,” Chris informs him.
“Did they? I guess I’ll go back to work then,” Kyle says and starts down the hallway.
“Did you know it was your wife’s schoolmate that attacked her?” Chris asks as he walks alongside Kyle.
Kyle hadn’t known that. But when he doesn’t answer the question, Chris turns to him. “I have a theory. You see, I’m a bit of an expert on illicit love affairs,” he boasts, though to be honest, he’s never had one. “Keep it zipped up, buddy.” Chris laughs as he walks on ahead of Kyle, who just shakes his head at Chris.
Sloane is sitting in front of her vanity, looking down at a Barbie doll in her hand. She absentmindedly fiddles with the doll’s arm as Mariah’s words haunt her.
“You got in because of who your family is.”
She reflects back to her audition.
Sloane is singing behind the curtain, but stage fright is getting the better of her. The room seems to be spinning as she sings, going off-key on occasion. The portraits seem to be staring at her. She fiddles with the buttons on her sleeve so much that they have come loose.
As her mind torments her, she suddenly stops singing and flees the audition room.
She begins to dismember her Barbie doll, pulling the head off first and then each of her limbs. When she finishes, she looks at herself in the mirror and begins to fidget with her hair nervously, first one side then the other, tucking hair behind her ear as she has often been doing with all the pressure being heaped upon her.
“It was just a little mistake,” she tries to tell herself as she looks herself in the eyes. “It’s just a thing that happened, and it won’t happen again. Just keep your mouth shut, okay?”
Mariah is lying in bed, and Riley is sitting on the edge of her bed, putting some ointment on some of the wounds on her hand.
As Riley begins to place the bandages on her daughter’s hand, Mariah has fallen asleep from exhaustion. Ever since the audition, Mariah has been distraught.
Riley isn’t that better off. She’s gotta come up with $100,000, or they’re going to jail. She bites her lip as a tear rolls down her cheek. What has she gotten herself into? Why did that woman have to come back into her life?
“Really? Look, I don’t care if you drag this out. Tell them I won’t settle. Put the fear of God into those peons,” Zoey is talking on the phone, probably to Chris.
Kyle walks by hearing her on the phone.
“Thanks so much, Mr. Letter. Right. Chris. Your help is appreciated.”
Zoey is humming a happy tune as she hangs up the phone. Kyle walks all the way in.
“What’s got you in such a good mood?”
Zoey’s mood immediately sours, “Why would I be in a good mood? My daughter failed to get first place at the audition.” She is touching up her make-up, but as she works, her new ruby necklace is seen by Kyle.
“Is that new? That necklace?” he asks.
Zoey freezes. She forgot about the damn necklace.
“It looks new,” Kyle says to her.
Zoey says the first thing that comes to mind, “My father got it for me.” She immediately removes it and puts it away.
Kyle doesn’t seem very happy about it. “Are you already tired of the necklace I bought for you?”
Zoey rises from her seat, “I don’t have to wear it every day, you know. I like to change it up a little now and again. Nothing wrong with that.”
Kyle just stares at her, and Zoey gets annoyed. She walks into the bathroom and closes the door.
Kyle knows there’s something up. He’s just not sure what it is.
Matthew is driving Zoey as Zoey talks on the phone, “Of course. Someone like her shouldn’t be allowed into the institute. Don’t worry, I won’t let anyone soil the name of the school that will soon be mine.”
As she hangs up the phone, she says to herself, “Layla Kwon. You tried to deceive me. I’ll make sure you never set foot in my sacred school.”
“You realize if you cancel Layla’s admittance, Mariah Oh is the next in line,” Matthew reminds her as he continues to drive.
Zoey is well aware. “I won’t let that happen. I’ll make Layla sign a statement that she won’t enroll and then cancel her admittance on the first day of class. It’ll be too late then for Riley’s brat. I’ll get rid of both of them at once.”
“The waiting list, it’s just a formality. Students who work hard to get their spot in this school rarely give it up.”
The words of the admittance officer ring in Riley’s head as she walks out of the office. It’s the day of next year’s orientation, and students are arriving for the festivities. Riley had hoped that maybe there was a sliver of hope that Mariah could squeeze in, but that hope was just dashed.
As she starts to go around the corner, she nearly bumps into Zoey Kline. The two stand there looking at each other for a moment before Zoey rolls her eyes and walks past her.
Riley suddenly decides she’s gotta do something and rushes after her. “Zoey!” she says, grabbing the woman by the arm.
Zoey spins around and glares at Riley, then looks down at her arm.
“Look, I’m sorry for everything,” Riley hates the thought of apologizing to this witch, but she’s determined to suck it up for her daughter’s sake. “Hate me all you want, but please, can you do something for my daughter?”
Zoey seems appalled, “What?” She then scoffs and snatches her arm from Riley’s grip. Without saying another word, she turns and starts off down the hall.
Riley isn’t about to let anything get in the way of her daughter’s dream. She runs after Zoey, grabs her by the arm again, much to Zoey’s dismay, and drops to her knees and looks up at the woman, “I know you, and I don’t get along. I get it. But my daughter has done nothing wrong. Please. Don’t let her be collateral damage in whatever is going on between us. Isn’t it wrong to let her suffer because you and I have a past? You have the power to help her, so I’m on my knees. I’m begging you to please help my daughter.”
Zoey looks down at the woman. Her mortal enemy. This is so sweet for her. “Are you asking me to use my connections to get her into this college?” Zoey scoffs down at Riley, “You’re no different than anyone else when you’re child is on the line. Didn’t you resent those with money and power? I never expected to hear these words come out of that mouth of yours.”
“What do I need to do?” asks Riley. “I’ll do anything. Can’t stand the sight of me? I’ll never appear before you again. I’ll never come near this school until my daughter graduates. You want me to clean your house? I’ll do it. What will it take?”
Zoey snatches her arm away from Riley, “Whatever happened to all that false bravado? You were so confident your daughter would make it on her own, by her own talent.” Zoey steps towards Riley and then squats down until she’s at eye level with the woman. “Instead of begging me, the answer is simple. Go kill one of the students who got accepted. Then your daughter is next in line.” She leans in real close, her lips next to Riley’s ear. “I know how persistent you can be.”
With that, she rises back up to her feet, “If you don’t want to ruin your daughter’s life, you better get my settlement money ready.” She turns and walks off, a smirk on her face and a skip in her stride, leaving Riley there on her knees in the hallway.
Layla is walking down the sidewalk towards the college when others begin to talk about her like she isn’t even there, saying very unflattering and untrue things about her.
“I heard she works at a strip club,” one of them says.
Another chimes in, “I heard she has a rich boyfriend to paid off the judges.”
Layla stops walking and turns around, “Did you see me?”
The students look confused, “What?”
“I asked you if you saw me at a strip club or talking to any rich guys?” Layla asks, tired of all this shit.
One of them turns to the other, “She’s actually talking to us. I feel really dirty now. Let’s go.”
They walk off as Layla watches them leave.
A few moments later, Layla walks into the auditorium. There are some familiar faces already seated. Cross and Penelope are sitting next to each other in the center, while Carson and Juliana sit together towards the front. Juliana is the first to spot Layla and begins to clap, “The star has arrived. I didn’t think you’d have the courage to show up.”
As Layla takes a seat, she turns to Juliana, “Stop fucking with me. There’s nothing any of you can do to stop me from going to this school. How about this? Let’s just pretend we’ve never seen each other before.”
Sloane just walked in, hearing Layla’s words. “Just who the hell do you think you are? You won’t last a week here. I promise you that.”
Layla ignores Sloane, but as she turns her head, Penelope is right in her face. “Get lost, you fraud. No one wants you here. You’re a damned disgrace.”
After the other night, Layla has had quite enough. She grabs Penelope by her shirt and stands up, and pushes her against the wall. “I said, leave me alone.” Penelope actually looks worried for a moment, and Layla smirks, “What? Are you scared?”
“Let go of her right now,” Cross demands.
“Everyone, please take a seat,” comes a female voice.
Layla releases Penelope, who walks back to her seat, but not after glaring at Layla. Layla sits back down.
The lady at the front is looking at a binder, “Layla Kwon? Which one of you is Layla Kwon?”
Layla raises her hand.
Moments later, Layla is walking down the hall to the Dean’s office.
She stands there for a moment, just looking at the door. She’s unsure why she’s being called to the Dean’s office, but if how she’s been treated so far today is an indication, this also will not be pleasant.
Layla takes a deep breath and then reaches for the doorknob when it opens up, and on the other side, looking at her, is Zoey Kline.
Zoey smiles, “Please, come in.”
As Layla enters the Dean’s office, Zoey casually mentions, “We have quite a bit to discuss. If you weren’t aware, my father is the director of this school.” As Layla walks up to the desk, Zoey takes a seat behind it and picks up a piece of paper. “I just need you to sign this paper that gives up your admission claim.”
Zoey slides the paper across to her. “Sign this, and I won’t pursue the matter any further. You did come in first place, so I’m allowing you to save face here, Layla. Just sign the paper, and you can go.”
Layla is as polite as she can be when she calmly tells the woman, “I plan to attend this school.”
Zoey’s false smile disappears, “Excuse me?”
“I’m not sure why you’re asking me to give up my spot in this school.”
Zoey smirks, “You’ve got some nerve, don’t you? You have this look of innocence, all the while you were making fools of us all with your little charade. You realize that forging documents is a crime, don’t you?”
Layla isn’t swayed by the woman, “Everything I received was earned by my talent and has nothing to do with my job as the tutor.”
“Nothing to do?” Zoey asks her. “I can go ahead and call the police right now and have you arrested.”
“I worked hard to teach those kids, especially your daughter, Sloane. Weren’t you so happy when her grades improved because of what I taught her?” Layla asks her. “If the fee is an issue, I’ll find a way to return all of the money.” Layla shakes her head, “But I’m not giving up my admission.”
“You are a fool,” Zoey tells her. “Don’t even bring up my precious daughter, Sloane. The thought that you might have had some influence on her disgusts me.”
“I’m a human being, just like Sloane.” Layla snaps at her. “She’s not the only precious human being on this Earth.”
Zoey reaches for a glass of water and throws it at Layla’s face, splashing her with the cold water as Layla stands there in shock, “How dare you compare yourself to her! You, a disgusting little street urchin, comparing yourself to my princess?”
Layla has had enough of this bitch. Her shock suddenly turns into a smug smirk. “I wonder if your princess knows what kind of person you are.”
Zoey scoffs, “What are you talking about?”
“The garden on the 35th floor. The owner of the penthouse,” Layla says casually, watching Zoey’s reaction.
Zoey’s now the one in shock. She turns her eyes towards Layla. “What did you just say?”
Layla reaches up and wipes her face with the sleeve of her jacket. “Sloane doesn’t seem to care much for Penelope. Imagine what she would do if she finds out what you did to Penelope’s father.”
Zoey takes a step towards Layla, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”
Layla isn’t afraid of this woman. “You know exactly what I’m talking about. You and the others leave me in peace to attend this school, and I will keep my mouth shut.” Layla reaches for the paper she was supposed to sign, and she tears it into little pieces. As they flutter to the floor, Layla heads for the door, but Zoey runs after her and spins her back around.
“What is all this nonsense?” Zoey is all smiles again. When Layla doesn’t return her smile, she lets hers fade. “What did you see?”
“Should I discuss such inappropriate things with the dean of this school?” Layla asks her, pushing Zoey’s hand off of her.
Zoey’s voice gets more stern, “You were mistaken.”
Layla pulls her pink phone from her pocket and taps it, “I wonder if others would feel the same way if she saw what I have here.”
Zoey’s eyes go wide.
Layla just smiles, “I look forward to attending your school. If you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to the orientation.”
As Layla walks out of the room, Zoey begins to panic.
“Why suddenly do you want to spend more time with April?” Sebastian asks Jessica on the phone.
Jessica is with April at the hospital, “The admission season is over now. The kids have been accepted, and now I feel I should focus more attention here.” Jessica walks over and takes the sick child’s hand into her. “Her condition seems to be getting worse.”
Of course, leave it to Sebastian to have everything under control as he watches her on his laptop, having set up a camera in April’s room.
“That sounds good,” he tells her. “I’ll stop by after work.”
Sebastian hangs up the phone and sets it down hard on the desk. This completely messes up his plan.
He flashes back to the day he picked out her engagement ring and hands it off to the sales clerk to be wrapped up. All is right with in the world until his phone rings.
“Jessica! I am happy you called,” he tells her. “Are you coming back after the break? My parents would like to discuss our wedding date….”
Jessica interrupts him, “I think we should call it off.” Jessica has spent the summer overseas, but it was more of a way to get some distance from Sebastian. “I can’t deny my true feelings any longer,” she admits to him. “I’ve already told your father that I’m getting married soon. To someone here.”
Sebastian sits there, grinding his teeth but saying nothing.
“I’m sorry, Sebastian. I can’t take your calls anymore.”
Jessica quickly hangs up the phone.
Sebastian is still stunned, but when she hangs up, he snaps out of it. “Hello? Hello?” He slowly lowers the phone and begins to mutter to himself, “Who says you can do that? Who says you can just call it off?”
Sebastian throws his phone across the room back in the present, “Who says you can do that?!” he shouts out, startling Asher, who is standing by. That fucking child is not that important. “I need a new phone,” he tells Asher, who quickly exits the office. Suddenly, Sebastian’s office phone rings.
“We’re in trouble.”
Zoey is pacing in the garden room. She hasn’t even taken off her jacket when Sebastian walks in. She sees him and lets out a sigh of relief that he’s finally arrived.
“You sure she knows about us?” he asks her. “Absolutely sure?”
Zoey nods her head, “She knows about this place. She knows about you and me. She must have seen us come in here. If she talks, we’re done for.” Zoey is frantic right now.
Sebastian shakes his head, “Listen, there are no cameras on this floor….”
He doesn’t even get to finish when Zoey tells him, “She recorded us on her phone. We need to get her phone and get rid of it.”
Sebastian actually grins, “This is interesting.” He looks at Zoey, “I will take care of it. Don’t worry.” He leans in for a kiss, and she pushes him away.
“Are you crazy?!” she screams. “This isn’t the time for that!” She hugs her arms around herself, “I’m about to lose my mind.”
Sebastian still seems amused, “You’re letting that orphan ruin a good time? Aren’t you the great Zoey Skye?”
Zoey, on the other hand, is not amused. Not in the least. She approaches him. “Layla Kwon is not someone we can underestimate. How can you be so relaxed right now? Any moment, she could release that video onto the Internet, and it’ll be all over.”
“How?” Sebastian says with a relaxed sigh. “Because I’m goddamned Sebastian Gaston. That’s why. I’m not going to let a child bring me down.”
Zoey isn’t reassured. “What’s your plan?”
“Girls like her are a dime a dozen. They pretend to be smart and try to use things to their advantage. What they don’t see is when it backfires right in their face.” He turns to look out the windows, the city lighting up on the other side of the glass.
He’s smiling confidently. Zoey Kline is not.
Riley has been following Layla Kwon since she left the school orientation. She hasn’t approached her but is trying to find out what she can about this girl who stands in the way of Mariah going to that school.
Layla walks down a long stairway, and slowly Riley follows. Going down the stairway, Riley gets an idea as she creeps closer to the girl and slowly extends an arm.
“Once your gone, or you give up, Mariah will get your spot…” she thinks to herself, but as her hands get closer to push Layla down those stairs, Riley stops.
She can’t do it.
Riley watches as Layla gets to the bottom of the stairs and turns down the street.
Riley rushes after her.
Not too long after, Layla is picking up some trash around the dumpster at one of her evening jobs. From the corner, Riley watches as the girl works hard without complaining. She even has a smile on her face.
Off to the side, something catches Riley’s eye. A broken broomstick. Riley slowly reaches down, picks up the stick, turns to look at Layla, and slowly creeps up behind the girl.
As Layla looks to the side, suddenly, in Riley’s mind’s eye, she pictures Mariah there. Doing just what Layla is.
“What the fuck am I doing? I can’t take away what the girl worked so hard for. There has to be another way,” Riley thinks to herself as she starts to step back.
She quietly places the broken stick back on the ground and starts to hurry off. When a couple of workers come out of the kitchen and just throw trash bags onto the ground. It’s not even tied as the contents spill out onto the pavement. They quickly go back in, and the owner comes back out.
“What have you been doing all this time?” he asks. “Look at all this trash still.”
Layla looks up and then sees there’s more trash. “That wasn’t there before,” Layla tries to protest.
“Listen to you,” the owner says. “This is why I don’t hire college kids. So many excuses. I only hired you because you begged.”
Riley watches the scene.
A little while later, Riley is walking up the long steps to her apartment and getting tired. She’s exhausted from following Layla around this evening. As she crosses the street to the next set of stairs, Kyle is lurking in the background.
He sees her and starts to follow her as she heads up the next flight of stairs.
As Riley takes one step after another, it looks like Kyle is going to call out to her, but instead, he runs to try and catch up when a voice is heard as Riley reaches the top stair.
“Ms. Oh! I heard you might be moving out,” an elderly lady asks. “Did that owner pester you to move out again?”
Riley shakes her head, “No. Mariah and I need a smaller place. That’s all.”
Kyle stands there off to the side, eavesdropping.
“Where will you be moving to?” the lady asks.
Riley smiles at her, “We haven’t really decided yet. It’s just the two of us, so I’m sure we’ll find a place.”
“Take your time,” the lady says as Riley heads up even more stairs.
Kyle watches as Riley takes one, then another, then she pauses to catch her breath before moving on and finally disappearing. He knows he missed an opportunity and is a little frustrated with himself as he turns and heads back down the stairs.
“Stop the treatment,” Sebastian tells Asher.
The two men are standing outside of April’s hospital room, watching her through the window.
“She’s only alive now because of life support, so there’s no sense in keeping it going,” Sebastian continues. “It’s time to stop.”
Asher doesn’t seem too thrilled about it.
“She’s lived a long enough life while being cared for by fake parents,” Sebastian continues. “Don’t you agree?”
“It’ll break your wife’s heart,” Asher tells him.
Sebastian scoffs. “It’s time for her life to become miserable.” He turns and places a hand on Asher’s shoulder, “Get everything ready.”
Sebastian turns and walks off.
Asher, however, stays and watches the girl.
“This isn’t such a good idea,” a drunken Chris replies. Kyle and Chris have met up at a bar, and after a few drinks, Kyle tells Chris what he wants to do. Chris isn’t sure about this plan. “You do know who the plaintiff is, don’t you?”
Kyle gets ready to take another shot, “I’ll deal with Zoey. I gave you the settlement money. You make sure she gets it and make sure she knows it’s from Riley.”
Chris swirls his drink around in his glass, “I guess technically, there’s nothing illegal about it, so I have nothing to lose. Here,” Chris says, holding up his glass.
Kyle clinks his glass against Chris’s.
“Wasn’t Riley your first love?” Chris asks.
Kyle is about to drink but stops when the question is asked and looks at Chris.
“Ha!” Chris exclaims. “I knew it. You’re so easy to read. Really, I thought you were just ambitious. I had no idea you were sentimental too.”
Kyle rolls his eyes and takes a drink.
“But seriously,” Chris continues, “How can you just drop one hundred large without batting an eye?” Then Chris’s eyes go wide, “You guys aren’t….”
Kyle looks a little pissed off at that accusation, “We aren’t. I just don’t like seeing her bullied by Zoey.”
Chris nods his head, though he might not believe Kyle’s explanation. “You know if Zoey finds out, we’re both dead meat, right? I can’t defend her for murder if I’m dead too. But I can see why she did it. Asked for so much money, knowing that Riley was your first love. But let me tell you something as a divorce lawyer.” Chris is on a drunken ramble at this point, and Kyle is slowly losing his patience. “I’m very quick-witted when it comes to….”
“Will you shut it already!?” Kyle finally snaps. “Motherfucker…” He leaps from his stool and looks like he might just smash Chris right in the face. Chris just gawks as he sees Kyle explode.
Before he does something crazy, Kyle grabs his jacket and walks out of the bar.
Chris’s eyes follow him, and once the door closes, he yells back, “I’m going to let my mother know that you yelled at me!”
“Why are we here?” a very underwhelmed Zoey asks.
Angel appears to be leading this particular meeting at Madison Tower, gathering all the mothers in the building whose children are going to IMS. “The freshman parents are all signing this petition.”
Jessica and Amber are also there.
“It’s a petition asking the school to cancel Layla Kwon’s admission,” Angel continues as Zoey reads over the petition.
“Hurry up and sign it. I’ll sign that thing next,” Amber says. “I’m not gonna sit back and watch that little fraud weasel her way into such a prestigious school. It’s time to take action!”
Zoey glances at the document, flipping the first page up, seeing at least two pages of signatures already. She hands the golden clipboard back to Angel without signing. She knows she can’t sign that document yet, not until they get their hands on Layla’s phone.
“We can’t just let her in,” Angel says. “That school is for the privileged and talented. She’s neither.” Angel turns to Jessica, “I’ve already signed it. You’ll sign it, of course.”
Jessica doesn’t even seem to be paying attention to any of the conversations around her as she is more focused on her sick daughter. But as Angel addresses her, Jessica glances up at the clipboard being handed to her. “Is that really necessary?”
Angel and Amber both seem surprised.
“She got in fair and square, and now you want to take it away from her? It doesn’t seem right,” Jessica explains. “I won’t sign.” She stands up and walks out of the room.
Amber just points, “Look at her, acting all stuck up,” she says, completely unaware of her own self.
Zoey doesn’t care about Jessica, “Why did you do this without speaking with me first?” Zoey has her own agenda here. “You should have brought this to my attention.”
“Excuse me?” asks Amber. She glances nervously at Angel, then back to Zoey before stammering, “Well, you see, it’s like this. We didn’t want to get you involved directly because of your status as the Dean, so we went ahead and took the initiative ourselves. Why are you so upset?”
Zoey looks over at Angel, “Does Layla know about this petition?”
Angel nods, “She must know. It’s not like we’ve been keeping it a secret.”
“I didn’t tell you to do this!” snaps Zoey. These two bitches are about to ruin everything. “What will you gain my messing with this student? I will handle this myself as the Dean.”
It may be too late as all three of them get a text.
“Am I really the only one who wasn’t qualified?” the text reads. There’s a sound file attached.
It’s a sound file of the night the other students grabbed Layla and trapped her in the old van.
Moments later, seven upset parents and five sullen college students are gathered at the penthouse, and the same recording is being played. Obviously, when Layla was in that van, she recorded everything on her phone.
Every word, every insult is played for all to hear.
When it’s over, Sebastian folds his arms across his chest and demands, “The truth. Every word. Do not leave one damn thing out.”
“Is there really a need to ask them? We heard it for ourselves,” Amber says, obviously uncomfortable with what she’s heard. “Besides, it was obvious who directed everything, right, Cross?”
Cross looks up at Amber.
“Sounds like Penelope made all the plans, and Cross took charge of her plan,” Kyle says.
Amber looks at Juliana, “Please tell me that you had no choice but to go along with all of this.”
Juliana pouts, nodding her head.
“I didn’t even hear Carson on this recording at all,” Chris says. “Obviously, he wasn’t there or didn’t take part in any of this.”
Angel agrees, “My son is too innocent to bully someone like that.”
“You morons,” Sebastian snaps at them. To Angel, he says, “Who do you think shot the video? Carson.” He looks at Amber, “And Jenny was shooting off her mouth more than everyone. Sounds like they all took turns drenching her in alcohol. That was nothing less than a lynching.”
“My husband is right,” Jessica finally chimes in. “All of them were involved. It’s terrifying and shameful what they did. And we, as their parents, are just as responsible. While our children were terrorizing Layla, we tried to find a way to kick her out of college. We are all complicit.”
Zoey rolls her eyes, “So?”
“So, we need to apologize to her. For everything,” Jessica states. “We have no right to stop her admission into the college.”
Both Angel and Amber’s mouths drop open. There goes their plan.
“Are you actually suggesting that we just let that brat off the hook for everything she’s done?” Zoey asks. “What happens when this all goes public? Cross and Penelope are just as at fault as the others, perhaps even more so. A scandal like this could cause their expulsion. I don’t think you quite understand the consequences here.”
Jessica isn’t buying any of this, “So what? We sweep it under the rug?”
Sebastian places a hand on Jessica’s shoulder, “Let’s stop fighting amongst ourselves.” That suggestion doesn’t make either Jessica or Zoey happy. “I think we should call Layla and have a chat with her. Tomorrow is the first-anniversary celebration of Madison Tower. If this hits the press, the party is ruined. Until then, everyone lay low and do not antagonize Layla Kwon.”
Sebastian is already plotting something for tomorrow night that will hopefully end this once and for all.
Jessica went from the meeting right to the hospital. As she told Sebastian, she planned to spend as much time with April as possible.
She does her best to make the young woman comfortable. April has been in the hospital for 16 years. There’s never been a hint of hope from the doctors that she’ll recover. There’s never been a hint of hope that she’d awaken from her coma. There’s never been any hope whatsoever, but day in and day out, Jessica made time to come to the hospital, even if it was just for a few moments to see her daughter. Despite Sebastian’s recent display of actions towards Layla, he’s been nothing but supportive of Jessica and April, and for that, she’s been thankful.
But as she gently wipes April’s skin with a washcloth, she notices that April’s lips have started to turn blue. She drops the washcloth and rushes around to the other side of the bed, only to find the machine has been turned off.
She quickly hits the power button, and everything lights up.
“Who turned this off?” she asks out loud.
There’s a pounding on the door, and as Jessica looks towards the door, a note slides under it and into the room. Now that April is getting oxygen, she walks over and picks up the note, looking out the window to see who might have slipped it under the door, but there’s no one there.
She opens the note and immediately gasps. The color of the lettering on the note is red. Blood red.
“You’re being fooled by Sebastian Gaston,” the letter reads. There are smears of red coloring everything to make it look like it was written in blood. “April is not your daughter.”
Jessica rushes out of the room and into the hallway, looking down each side to see who might have slid this note under the door, but the hallway is deserted. She runs to one end of the hall and looks down and then runs all the way to the other side and looks down, but there’s no one around.
Unable to find anyone, she looks at the note once more.
The next morning, Jessica sits quietly in a waiting room while she waits for the results of a DNA test. She had to know, and she’s not leaving until she gets an answer.
It isn’t long before someone in a lab coat walks out and hands her some paperwork. Jessica quickly flips it open.
“According to the test, you are not her real mother,” the lab test tells her.
To say that Jessica is in shock would be an understatement. When she doesn’t say anything, the lab tech excuses herself to head back into her lab.
“How can it be that she’s not my daughter?” Jessica finally says to herself, stunned. She has to sit down before she collapses, tears streaming down her face. “This can’t be.” Then suddenly, something else dawns on her, “Where is my real daughter?”
Layla Kwon has decided to answer the summons to Madison Tower. She knows she has the upper hand in all of this, so there’s nothing they can do to her if they want to keep their little adulterous secret.
The test from Sebastian Gaston tells her to come to the 50th floor, so she walks in and heads right for the elevators.
As the elevator door opens when it reaches 50, Asher is standing there waiting for her.
When Layla awakens, she finds herself in the boiler room of Madison Tower. She has been duct-taped to a chair, and sitting across from her are Sebastian Gaston and Zoey Kline.
She tries to move, but the tape, as well as the zip ties around her feet, keep her from going anywhere.
“You’re going to go this far to keep from college?” Layla asks them.
Sebastian and Zoey glance at each other and just smile.
Layla is starting to panic, “Aren’t you afraid I’ll expose your affair? Perhaps if you hadn’t had an affair in the first place, you wouldn’t have something to expose.”
Sebastian finally speaks, “Let’s just keep this simple, shall we? Give us the phone and the original video, and we’ll let you walk out of here.” He stands up and empties out her purse onto a table. Not finding what he’s looking for, he finally asks. “Where’s your phone?”
“You’re fucking stupid if you think I’d bring my phone here to a meeting with you,” Layla snaps at him. “For what you’ve done here, the moment I’m free, I’m going to upload that video to the internet. Your faces will go viral along with your nasty affair.”
Zoey rises up and walks towards Layla, “You’re pretty bold for someone tied to a chair. I wonder how long you’ll be able to endure. Hope it won’t be too painful.” She suddenly grabs Layla by the hair and pulls her head back sharply.
Sebastian walks over and places some tape over Layla’s mouth.
Arm in arm, Zoey and Sebastian walk out of the boiler room. Sebastian looks back to smirk at Layla briefly before they disappear out the door, leaving Layla to wonder what will happen next.
Jessica is running down the sidewalk. It’s not a pleasant job, but a flat-out run as she tries to sort through everything she’s learned that day.
Who is April?
Where is her real daughter?
How is Sebastian involved?
When she can run no further, she stops, bent over trying to catch her breath, sweat dripping from her hair.
Moments later, she’s walking into the penthouse.
She turns on the flashlight on her phone and enters Sebastian’s office, and begins to look around.
As she pulls open each drawer, Sebastian’s OCD comes to mind as everything is laid out perfectly in its chosen spot. Not a mess to be found.
She finds a small table, and the moment she touches it, the surface lights up. There’s a small mock-up of Madison Tower. She notices something inside, and she removes the front of the small building and pulls out a cube.
Jessica slowly unwraps it and screams accidentally dropped the cube.
As it lands on the ground, we see that it’s an actual finger with a wedding ring on it. It looks like it’s been encased in epoxy or resin.
What hits Jessica the hardest is that she knows exactly whose finger that is.
Shortly after she broke up with Sebastian, she found out she was pregnant. Her fiancé was playing the piano, singing her a song when suddenly a gunshot rings out and hits her fiancé in the back of the head, and he immediately collapses against the piano while Jessica screams and drops to the ground.
Blood has splattered all over the piano and runs onto the floor.
Suddenly, the door is kicked up, and two men enter.
With machine guns, they begin to spray the house with bullets. None of the shots were ever directed to Jessica, but everything else inside the house was a target.
A figure enters the doorway, but Jessica faints before she can see the identity of the person who enters.
We see that it’s Sebastian.
Without a care in the world, Sebastian lifts up the fiance’s hand and cuts off the man’s finger with a pair of scissors.
A few months later, Jessica gave birth to a baby girl. However, the birth was too soon. The premature birth resulted in the baby never waking up but just sleeping constantly.
Jessica cries as she watches the baby asleep through a window and standing behind her, Sebastian appears to be very pleased with himself.
“This is all my fault,” Jessica cries. She can barely stand as she leans against the window and just sobs.
Sebastian puts his arms around her and holds her up, “Don’t you worry. I’ll take care of her from now on. Let’s name her April.”
Jessica turns to him, “No. It’s over between us.”
“Jessica, I have never forgotten about you. As soon as I heard about what happened, I rushed to your side. After we broke up, I married and ended up with twins, but my wife died after giving birth. Please, my twins need a mother.”
“That’s absurd,” Jessica insists. “You should leave.”
Sebastian isn’t easily swayed, “I will take care of you and April from now on. Just like she were my own.”
As Sebastian places an engagement ring on her finger, Jessica can only look at poor April lying in the nursey.
“How could he….” Jessica is now piecing everything together as she begins to cry. “How could he do something like that?” she asks herself.
She’s startled as she hears a buzzing sound.
It’s her own phone. She answers it, quietly whispering, “Hello?”
A distorted voice comes across the phone, “Are you ready to listen?”
“Who are you?” she asks.
“Do you believe me now that Sebastian Gaston has played you for a fool?” the voice asks.
Jessica isn’t sure what’s going on, “How can I possibly believe you when I don’t even know who you are?”
“Do you want to find your real daughter?”
Tears are streaming down Jessica’s face, “My daughter?” she stammers into the phone. “Is she alive? Where is she?”
The voice tells her, “You’re the one who will have to find her. I will guide you, and you’ll find her if you listen to what I tell you. If you do anything foolish, both April and your daughter will die, just like your fiancé did overseas.”
Then Jessica asks the hardest question she has, “Did my husband really kill him?”
“You’ll believe what you want to believe. The real issue here is that April’s heart will soon stop beating. When that happens, what Sebastian did will be buried forever.”
“You’re going to kill my daughter if I don’t do what you say? I don’t care what you say. April is my daughter, whether I gave birth to her or not,” Jessica pleads into the phone, her face stained with tears. “If you lay a finger on her, I’ll find you, and I’ll kill you myself.”
When no answer comes, she asks, “Hello? Hello?”
She looks at her phone to find the caller has hung up as she slowly sinks to the floor, trying to process everything she’s learned in the last few hours.
Suddenly, she knows what her next move will be.
Sebastian is sitting in his music room, headphones on as he listens to a classical piece. His eyes are closed, and he has a drink in his hand. Despite the headphones, the speakers also play music throughout the room.
Jessica slips into the room, Sebastian’s back it to her.
She grabs a small statue and raises it up as she slowly walks towards him.
As she gets next to him, Jessica watches him being oblivious to everything around him. She raises the statue to bash him in the skull, but for some reason, she can’t do it.
Suddenly, Sebastian’s eyes snap open as if he senses someone near him. He turns around, but there’s no one there.
Having no clue how close to death he truly was, he turns back to enjoy his music.
Jessica is crouched down behind the couch, crying softly to herself. Her phone vibrates again.
She opens up her text messages.
“Saint Croix Hospital. Look for a child wrapped in a blue jacket on December 2004.”
What other choice does she have?
Riley is taking any job that comes up, and today she is delivering food. She finishes a delivery and rushes back to the company moped, and as she puts on her helmet, her phone chimes.
“Hello? What?” Riley seems confused. “Zoey has dropped the charges?”
Something’s not right.
“Do you know why?”
We hear Chris’s voice on the other end, “Mrs. Kline has been gracious enough to drop all charges. That’s all you need to know.” Of course, the truth is even stranger than the story he’s trying to tell her. “She doesn’t want to be thanked, and in fact, if you happen to cross paths with her, do not mention the incident at all. Goodbye.” Chris hangs up before Riley can say another word.
Riley isn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth, though she finds it odd. “She’s not someone who would do something like that.” All she knows is that both she and Mariah are off the hook.
“Mariah, what are you doing?”
Riley opens Mariah’s bedroom door, and Mariah is ripping up all of her music books. One by one, ripping each and every page from the books.
Riley’s eyes go wide as she rushes in to try and stop, “What are you doing?”
“Stop!” Mariah screams. “Let me go!”
“Why are you doing this?” Riley asks.
Mariah screams out, “I’m not going to sing anymore! Ever again!” Mariah slumps to the ground. All her effort was for nothing when the ones with privilege get all the rewards.
Riley drops down to the floor with her daughter, “What are you saying?”
“You were right,” Mariah tells her. “Talent? Useless! If you don’t have money or power, you get nothing in this life! Someone lowly as me, I don’t deserve to have my dreams come true.” Mariah is sobbing now.
This causes Riley to start sobbing as well as she grabs her daughter and hugs her tightly as the two cries. “I’m so sorry. It’s all my fault,” Riley tells her as she hugs her daughter and cries.
The next morning, Angel spits her tea back into her cup as she nearly chokes, “What are you saying? Layla Kwon is in the mechanical room?”
Amber is shocked as well, “You should have just taken her phone and destroyed it!” Of course, the others don’t know what else is on Layla’s phone. They just assume it’s about the kids. “Did you find the phone?”
All the adults are there, except for one. Jessica is missing.
“We’ll get her to talk soon,” Sebastian tells them. “Don’t worry about her. I’ll take care of it. There’s no need for any of you to go into that room. If you provoke her, there’s no telling what she might do.”
“This seems like a bit much, don’t you think?” asks Kyle. “Locking her up like that?”
Amber is down for whatever, “Think of our kids. We have to protect them.”
Zoey looks at Sebastian, “Where’s Jessica?”
Sebastian answers, “She’s not feeling well, so I came alone.”
“Does she not care about her kids?” Amber asks. It seems weird to her that Jessica wouldn’t be here when this involves the twins.
Sebastian glares at her, and she shuts her mouth. He gets up, “We have quite a bit to do to get ready for tonight’s party.”
Chris stands as well, “I’m excited. It’s been a while since we had a huge party like this. Our damned kids, they’ve ruined everything.”
Sebastian shakes his head, “It’s just a small setback. It’ll be remedied soon.” He looks around the room, “We’ll hold a grand celebration on another day to congratulate them on being accepted to the IMS.”
Amber leaps to her feet, “Yes! I will plan the entire thing. Just leave it to me.”
Zoey rolls her eyes at Amber, though the woman doesn’t notice.
Jessica only told Sebastian she wasn’t feeling well. She’s arrived at the hospital that the caller mentioned. But she immediately notices that something’s not right. There is construction all around the hospital.
A foreman sees her and walks towards her, “Can I help you?”
“Isn’t this Saint Croix Hospital?” Jessica asks.
From what Jessica could gather about the hospital, it was a children’s hospital, mostly housing children without parents. Orphans.
The foreman nods, “Well, it was. They’ve closed down. This property was purchased by someone else who’s turning it into a club.”
Shit. Jessica asks, “Do you know where they sent all the records?”
The foreman shakes his head, “I’ve no idea.”
“What about anyone associated with the hospital?” she asks.
The foreman thinks for a moment, “Well, there was a director. But as soon as he got his money, he split. Might have even changed his phone number. I don’t really know. As far as I know, this place is done.”
He nods, “This place was infested with mold, and there was no heat. I’m surprised it was allowed to stay open as long as it did. I think there was some funny business going on here if you ask me. Whatever money they were making, they didn’t put anything into the building and just let it rot.” He starts to walk away from her, “This place was a dump. The best thing we could do was bring it down.”
“I’ll pay you generously,” Jessica tells the detective. After hitting a dead end at the hospital site, Jessica had no choice but to hire a private detective to try and track down where the records went. Or at least find the former director.
The detective is more than happy to take her money, “You say the place closed down? It might take me a while to find this guy or those records.”
Jessica was prepared for his indifference. She knows what it takes to cure indifference. She reaches into her purse, pulls out an envelope packed full of cash, and places it on the detective’s desk.
Curiously, the detective reaches for the wallet, and as he tilts it, stacks of 100 dollar bills fall from the inside into his hand as his eyes go wide. There’s a good chunk of change here.
“Find what I want, I’ll pay you twice that amount,” she tells him. “Find it by tonight, I’ll pay you threefold.”
Layla has been tied to this chair for nearly eighteen hours. She’s been going in and out of sleep for most of that time. Her hair is drenched in sweat.
As she tries again to free her feet, we can see where the skin has been rubbed raw from the zip ties used to secure them.
She even tries to scream through the duct tape covering her mouth, but the sound isn’t loud enough to reach the hallway with all the equipment running in the room.
Layla uses her feet to try and scoot the chair towards the door.
Sebastian is trying on the suit that he plans to wear to tonight’s party. As he fastens the cuffs, he glances over at his wife, sleeping in the bed.
As soon as she got home, Jessica quickly put herself to bed to not raise any suspicion of what she was up to.
Sebastian walks over and sits on the edge of the bed, causing Jessica to open her eyes. “Still not feeling well? Should I stay home with you?” he asks her.
“No,” Jessica says, shaking her head. “This is your party. You should be there. If I start feeling better later, I’ll come down.”
Sebastian nods his head, “Take your time. I’ll be waiting for you.”
Jessica forces a smile, “Sorry to worry you.”
“Nonsense,” he tells her. “You’re all I care about right now.” He leans down and presses a kiss on her forehead before rising up and walking out of the room.
As the door closes, Jessica sits up in her bed and climbs out. She’s fully clothed, so she slips on her shoes and grabs her phone from the nightstand, and dials.
“Did you find anything?”
Her eyes go wide. “Where?”
Jessica never expected to end up at the driving range when she saw the person she was looking for. The detective sent her a photo of the former hospital director. The director doesn’t seem happy with his hit when he turns back to her. “2004? I doubt you’ll find any records from then. When the hospital shut down, all the records were destroyed.”
He prepares for another hit when he asks, “Did you leave a child at our hospital?”
“Why did you stop running the hospital?” she asks. “What happened to the kids?”
The man doesn’t get his hit in as he turns to look at her with a bit of annoyance. “Do I owe you any sort of explanation? I took care of orphans for all of my life. I devoted my time and effort to ensure they had a roof over their head and food in their stomach. Now, I’m retired.” He’s no longer in the mood to entertain this woman. “If you abandoned your kid there, you’ve no right to look for them now.”
Now Jessica is mad. She throws her purse on the ground and steps up to the director. She snatches the golf club from his hands and throws it as far as she can. “How can you afford to build this driving range after selling your hospital? Where did you get all that money? From what I’ve heard, that hospital was barely standing, and yet, you somehow got rich after selling it? How about if I use the detective I just hired to find you to find out the truth about what happened with that hospital? Is that what you want me to do?” She’s right in his face now, and he doesn’t look like he’s very comfortable with where this conversation is going. “I wonder how many laws you broke while you were running that hospital filled with mold? I’m going to look into your finances. I’m going to come here every single day. I’ll keep coming until you can produce those records. I know there’s a law requiring you to keep them for a certain amount of time, and I wonder how long that is? By the time I’m done with you, I’ll own this driving range.”
“Goddammit,” the man mutters under his breath.
The sun has set as the man opens up a storage unit. “You want to look at the records. Here you are. Help yourself. You’re an annoying piece of work, lady.”
The inside of the unit is filled with boxes. “Good luck finding anything.” He places the key in her hand. “When you’re done, bring me back the key. Also, don’t take any photos and don’t leak any of this information. I’m breaking about a thousand federal laws right now.”
As he walks off, Jessica opens the first box.
Luckily, each box is labeled with a date, and she quickly finds 2004. She begins to flip through the files, “Where are you, baby? I’ll find you,” she says to herself as she pulls one folder, then another, then another.
Finally, something catches her eye.
Layla tries to fight sleep, but she fails as her head lays to the side, eyes closing.
Zoey is preparing for the party, adding jewelry to her outfit.
The ruby jewelry that Sebastian gave her, of course.
She’s wearing a long red gown that pools around her feet.
Zoey gets up and heads for the door.
Moments later, she’s opening the mechanical room.
The residents of Madison Tower are all gathered out front as fireworks begin to explode. They oo and ah as the sky lit up with various colors and designs.
Penelope, Cross, Carson, and Juliana are outside as well, all smiles as the night explode with pretty colors.
Riley is sitting in the grass by the river. From where she sits, she can see the fireworks going off at Madison Tower. She’s got a bottle of liquor in her hand and drinking heavily from it.
Needless to say, she’s sufficiently drunk.
She lifts the bottle and takes several large gulps, and after she swallows, she cries out into the night in frustration.
Then her eyes turn towards Madison Tower and those fireworks.
A determined look crosses her face as she struggles to get to her feet.
Kyle and Zoey have arrived at the party.
Sebastian is at the door, greeting everyone as they enter.
Chris and Angel enter next, followed by Amber.
Riley, red cheeks and all, staggers up to the entrance of Madison Tower.
Inside, the party is ongoing. Classical music is playing, and everyone is dancing, having a grand time.
Riley practically falls over as she walks into the lobby of Madison Tower. Everything is decorated to the nines, but there doesn’t appear to be any security.
She stumbles up a few steps before turning and seeing everyone up on the next level dancing. She leans against the railing, and right there, without a care in the world, Zoey Kline is all smiles.
“It’s all your fault,” Riley slurs her speech. “Zoey Skye, this is all your fault! You’re the reason why I am living like this. You’re the reason my daughter is so miserable. It’s all because of you.” Riley takes the stairs leading up to the party room.
She walks into the party and immediately grabs a bottle of champagne, and takes a healthy drink. She then lifts the bottle up as she sees Zoey and starts to walk in her direction.
The next morning, the birds chirp outside as the sun breaks through the window and onto Riley’s face.
It’s not the sun but the phone that wakes Riley up from her hungover sleep.
As she reaches for the phone, we can see there’s dried blood on her hands.
She brings the receiver to her, “What? Hello? Who’s this?” she manages to stammer out. “International School of Music? Why are you calling?”
Suddenly, she is awake a little bit more. “Say that again?”
“A spot has just opened up for Mariah Oh. Can you bring her down for processing?”
“Wait, what? A spot opened up?” Riley asks. “I was told that never happens.”
“One of the students who got accepted died suddenly yesterday.”
The phone slowly lowers down to Riley’s lap. “No—no way.”
What happened last night?