March 1977
Soap Notes

Dear Readers,

What makes a daytime couple "click" with viewers? Well, youth and beauty don't hurt. But those qualities alone are not enugh. The most popular daytime couples have an electricity between them which comes across loud and clear. Our cover couple this month, Ryan's Hope's Jack and Mary Fenelli, are the most dynamic lovers to spark the daytime scene in a long time. As portrayed by Michael Levin and Kate Mulgrew, Jack and Mary have a tumultous relationship. From the first day they met, right up to their present day problems, there's never been a dull moment with this couple. They fight and they love with the same intensity and we, the fans, are the ones who benefit. Between Jack's injuries and Mary's unexpected pregnancy their problems are particularly painful now, and our cover story will bring you up to date on their situation. But the fine work of Michael Levin and Kate Mulgrew makes them eligible for cover status any day of the week in our book!

Jack already resents the child he never meant to father
Photos from this article

At every moment, Jack Fenelli knew exactly who he was and what he wanted, and with equal assurance, precisely what he didn’t want; it added up to a very long list.

He didn’t want anything to do with Johnny Ryan and all his other clutching, noisy, intrusive Ryan in-laws; or rules, regulations and restrictions of any kind; or any wavering of his high moral standards and ruthless dedication to journalistic truth. But first and foremost, right at the very top of his list, Jack didn’t want to be a father. And what was burning him up day and night was that his conviction had already been compromised by a simple, unplanned, unwitting event: his wife Mary was pregnant.

Oh, she hadn’t done it on purpose, he was beginning to believe, but she was pregnant nonetheless. At first he thought she had plotted it, duping him into forgetting about birth control in a moment of passion, but now he knew better. Or did he? The doubt would always be there and that was just all he had to think about as he lay, strapped down with pain, on a bed in the Ryans’ apartment. He mulled it over constantly, always remembering the horrible argument he’d had with Mary before the accident.

It had all started with Dee, like so many of the troubles in his life now. Maeve had had a severe back problem and would be unable to take care of little John if Dee dissolved into one of her helpless states, so Mary volunteered to take the boy to their apartment for a few days and Jack had reluctantly agreed.

But Jack had just accepted an assignment for a long feature article that would take at least 36 hours of research and typing and the arrival of little John turned their house —and his concentration—into chaos. The kid tossed and turned, alternately crying and chattering away, destroying Jack’s good mood. When they tried to sleep, he kept them awake with his tears and the tension between Jack and his wife grew into a thunderhead about to burst.

In the morning Jack rushed little John back to Dee and Mary returned home after work to find her nephew gone and a glowering, enraged Jack in one of his pitch-black moods. “No babies, Mary. Not ever,” he thundered when she tried to explain the child’s behavior. He wasn’t cut out to be a father, Jack raged, and they could get along just as well without kids in their lives. The battle continued, with Mary alternately sobbing and lashing out. “I’ll get an annulment,” Mary threatened. “Refusal to have children is grounds for dissolution in the Church.” Steaming, Jack hastily accepted an assignment in Washington, D.C. and stormed out.

Filled with remorse, he telephoned Mary from the Capitol, apologizing wildly for his temper tantrum. He promised to rush home and make love to Mary until she forgot they had ever argued. But traveling in the midst of a driving rainstorm, an exhausted, overworked Jack fell asleep at the wheel of his car, narrowly escaping death when the auto sped out of control and oveturned. A long period of recuperation in Riverside Hospital took every ounce of energy he had; the pain was devastating. At first he and Mary re-established their love, but deadened by morphine, his body wracked by his injuries, Jack began to emotionally pull back again.

Mary carried two secrets in her heart when she visited his hospital room: because of injuries which severed important abdominal arteries, Jack might never resume normal sexual relations—he was impotent; and she was pregnant with a child she knew her husband would never love.

Mary didn’t know how it had happened, but it was fact and she began to treasure her unborn child as it grew within her every day. She prayed Jack would love it too and see it as a reconfirmation of life for both of them. But Jack was furious and would not be reconciled to fatherhood. When his medical bills grew too great and Mary suggested he be moved to her parents’ apartment to recover, his main point of resistance was little John. He thought the tyke would be running up and down, disturbing his sleep and well-being. He loathed the idea of being in Johnny Ryan’s debt and only Maeve could calm him enough to make him realize it was the only way.

As soon as be arrived, every one of Jack’s prophecies seemed to come true. Little John cried all night and plagued him by day. Once, slipping by his grandparents, the boy snuck into Jack’s sickroom, overturned a tray of medicines, spilling the pills all over. Terrified he would swallow some, Jack struggled out of bed, his body in agony, and collapsed. Johnny and Maeve saved little John but the emotional damage to Jack had already been done. He didn’t want kids, he loathed the little brats, the accident with little John only cemented his feelings. He didn’t want Mary’s child, yet it was a fait accompli and he was powerless.

Perhaps if he knew he was impotent, that this would be his only child, he would bend, soften. But until Mary decides he is physically and mentally able to handle this disastrous news, it will be every one’s secret but his. With their marriage already on shaky ground, Mary fears the revelation of his sexual dysfunction will destroy their chances together, and until Jack knows the truth, the birth of their child will be something much less than a blessed event.

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