Note: This is the fifteenth in a series. The series starts here: Steve Stalks Kayla
Kayla is sitting on the couch at the loft, an expression we’ve never seen before on her face. Her eyes look sunken, almost dead. Her dress is torn, and there are bruises on her neck. Jack comes up behind her and touches her shoulder, and Kayla flinches.
Kayla takes a shower, and alone in the bathroom we see how close she is to breaking down. But when she comes downstairs the core of steel in Kayla’s character is on full display. She shows nothing to Jack, no confusion, no weakness, no pain. Jack is defensive and still angry, spoiling for a fight, and he asks where she is going. “To see Steve,” she says, throwing it in his face.
Kayla doesn’t tell Steve about the rape. How can she tell him his baby brother raped her? She begs Steve to leave town with her, to go and get away from everything. Steve is confused by her insistence, but willing to do whatever will make her happy. They drive to a cabin in the mountains. Here, far away from Jack, Kayla relaxes a little. They go for a walk in the woods, and Kayla points out how the snowy branches all around them look like a cathedral.
“It would be a shame to let it go to waste,” Steve says. They kneel down together in the snow, and Steve puts that ring—finally, permanently—back on her finger. Their vows are simple, but they say everything. “With this ring, Steven Earl Johnson and Kayla Caroline Brady become one. Right now, and forever.”
Back at the cabin, for their wedding night, Kayla desperately wants everything to be normal. She puts some powder on the bruises on her neck and asks Steve to turn out the light. But when Steve reaches for her, she flinches and pulls away. He asks her to tell him what’s wrong. She knows the time has come, that she’ll have to. But for tonight she asks him to just hold her. “I feel safe in your arms,” she says.
Steve knows something is very wrong, but he doesn’t press for answers, not now. He just puts his arms around her. It breaks my heart to see Kayla shy away from what she always relished, with Steve. She’s finally gotten what she wanted for so long, and she can’t enjoy it. Jack took that from her.
The next day Steve wakes up first, and he sees the bruises on her body. He insists she tell him who put them there, and finally, Kayla does. She tells him how Jack found out about their affair, and how angry he was. How he held her down, tore at her clothes, and raped her. “I hate him,” she says quietly. She, who could never hate anyone.
Steve jumps out of bed and starts pulling on his clothes. All of his reactions are crystallizing into one driving force—killing rage. “What are you going to do?” Kayla demands. “You’re going to go kill Jack, then come back here?”
“I don’t know what I’m going to do, Kayla!” Steve shouts, and there’s a helplessness there too. He just knows he has to do something, to avenge her. “You’ll be all right here?”
Kayla slowly shakes her head, her eyes, so full of pain, locked on him.
All the rage drains out of him, and he kneels down by the bed like his rage was the only thing keeping him upright. What Kayla needs from him right now is not for him to kill Jack. He holds her and lets her cry out her distress on his shoulder.
But Jack is on their trail now. When Steve goes out to get more firewood, Jack’s henchman attacks him. Jack takes Kayla back to the loft with him and holds her prisoner there. The injured Steve slowly makes his way back to Salem. He climbs up to the roof of the loft, and he and Jack fight.
It is Jack who raped Kayla and held her prisoner. It is Jack who Steve fights with. It is Jack who falls from the roof. But it is Billy who lands, Billy who goes to the hospital, Billy who has serious internal injuries. In the hospital, Kayla puts her own issues aside as Steve struggles with the fact that his brother might die because of him. No matter what Jack has done, Steve doesn’t want that. When Jack needs a new kidney to save his life, Steve doesn’t hesitate. He gives Jack one of his kidneys.
After the surgery, Steve moves into the loft with Kayla. Now what? For the first time we see Steve and Kayla tentative and unsure around each other. There’s an awkwardness between them. Kayla is struggling to deal with her rape, and neither of them is sure how to handle it, or how to behave around each other. A strange role reversal is in play, where Steve is the one pushing her to open up, and Kayla the one who thinks he can’t understand.
He keeps pressing her, and finally she opens up a little. She’s wondering what she might have done to bring the rape on herself. “Maybe I led him on,” she says.
Gratified she’s talking to him about it, eager to reassure her, Steve tells her it wasn’t her fault. Nothing could justify what Jack did. Besides, if she’s going to blame herself, she has to blame him too. Kayla argues that it’s not the same, and he argues that it is the same, and Kayla bursts out, “It’s not the same! He didn’t rape you.”
This is the first open acknowledgment of the rift between them. They both may have made mistakes, but Kayla paid the price.
Realizing she needs more help than he can give her, Steve encourages Kayla to go to rape counseling. Jack, still recovering in the hospital, sees her outside the counselor’s office and tells her heatedly that it’s as good as announcing to the world that she thinks he raped her. Kayla counters that he should have thought of that before he did it.
After this encounter, Jack’s body begins rejecting the kidney. Steve comes to pick up Kayla from her appointment and they hear the news about Jack. Marcus says Jack’s doctors think this is a psychological rejection because of all the animosity between the three of them. If they go to Jack and tell him they forgive him, it might help.
“Then that’s just what we’ll do,” Steve says. Once again, Billy’s life is at stake, and once again, Steve is ready to do whatever it takes. Forgiving Jack or not has nothing to do with it. It’s just a means to an end.
Kayla is incredulous. She refuses. Steve says fine, he’ll go to talk to Jack by himself. “Are you going to tell him you forgive him for what he did to me?” Kayla asks.
When Steve says, yes, he is, and he hopes it saves his life, Kayla is appalled at this betrayal. “Do what you have to do,” she says bitterly.
Steve goes to see Jack. But, in the end, he can’t tell him he forgives him. He tells him the truth, that what Jack did to Kayla ripped her heart out, and that Kayla, and Steve, are both still angry. But, he says, the only one who will be hurt, if Jack rejects that kidney, is Jack. Why should he throw his life away just for pride and spite?
When Steve gets home, Kayla is sitting silently in front of the fire, practically vibrating with anger and betrayal. Steve gives her some yellow roses in a painfully futile gesture, then even more painfully tries one more time to get Kayla to talk to Jack.
“I already did my part to keep Jack alive,” Kayla says. “It got me raped.”
Steve broke her heart once, for Billy’s sake, and she understood and forgave him. When he risked his own life to give his kidney to the man who raped her, she understood that too. All along she has tried to respect his feelings for his brother, to not take sides, often going against her own wishes so Steve wouldn’t be caught in the middle. But if there’s no limit to what Steve will do for Billy—and it looks like there isn’t—where does that leave her?
That night, Kayla has a dream. Steve and Jack are fast friends, laughing and talking, their arms around each other. Steve says, “I’m really glad we didn’t let that little thing with Kayla come between us.” And Jack: “I know! She blew the whole thing out of proportion.” Steve: “She did, she did.”
This truly is Kayla’s worst nightmare. If Steve is taking his brother’s side, is it possible that he just doesn’t see what happened to her as being that big a deal?
Steve hears her wake up and comes in to try and comfort her, but Kayla jerks herself back from him. No matter where their minds were, their bodies always used to be in sync. That is no longer true. Now their physical separation mirrors the distance between them.
In her counseling session later that day, Kayla admits the truth: she’s angry not just at Jack, not just at herself, but also at Steve. She’s angry for everything he did to push her towards Jack, everything that led up to her rape. And she’s angry that after what Jack did to her, Steve still cares about him, cares about him enough to give him a kidney, enough to ask her to tell Jack she forgives him. “I was the one that was raped,” she cries. “What about me?”
So now Kayla is taking sides—her own. She comes home and tells Steve she’s been doing things his way and it hasn’t worked out so well for her. She’s not getting better. She tells him she needs to take responsibility for her own life, and deal with her own problems as best she can. And what she’s decided to do is press charges against Jack. If Steve feels caught in the middle, that might be a problem—but now it’s his problem, not hers.
It is a problem. One of the reasons Steve doesn’t like the idea of Kayla pressing charges is that he sees exactly what she sees: that he was complicit in the events leading to Kayla’s rape. For Kayla, that makes it all the more important that Steve side with her now. But in Steve’s mind, his guilt lessens Jack’s guilt. Why should Jack be the one punished when Steve set the whole thing in motion?
When Steve tells Jo that Kayla is pressing charges, for once she has good advice for him. She tells him that just because you love someone, it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t pay for what they’ve done.
Steve says he knows Kayla is doing the right thing. Why can’t he feel it? He says, “I hated Duke, why don’t I hate Billy?”
Jo says, “Because Billy didn’t rape Kayla, Jack did.” This is nonsensical on the surface, but it articulates the disconnect between Jack and Billy for the first time. Steve can’t see his brother clearly because all he sees is the little baby in the orphanage. This is what is making him try to protect Billy from the consequences of what Jack did.
After Kayla has filed charges at the police station, Steve and Kayla go home together. Steve really does want to help Kayla. And Kayla wants to lean on him, but how can she? She can feel his ambivalence when what she needs is his strength. The one thing she knows would help—for him to side with her against his brother—is the one thing she isn’t sure she can ask for. It’s also the one thing she isn’t sure she would get if she did ask. So she has nothing to say to him.
Steve senses her hopelessness, and it scares him. He pleads with her not to shut him out. He says, “There must be something we can do.” He picks up a pillow and tells her to hit him with it. Kayla says that isn’t going to help, but she registers his desperation, and it gets through to her. “It’s just so hard,” she says, opening up for a moment. She truly doesn’t know what to do.
Steve responds to this opening, trying to touch her again, to reach her, but she turns away. He backs off, and they talk about him moving out. Steve says he’ll go out for awhile, give her some time to think about it.
When he comes back, Jack is there. He’s just been arrested, and processed, and he’s out on bail. He’s angry, and he’s grabbing Kayla and threatening her. Is this really Billy, his baby brother? Steve has to face that it is. He finally realizes he can’t be on both sides on this one. He throws Jack out, and he tells Kayla he’s on her side, he’ll stand by her whatever she wants to do. She says, almost desperate in her relief, “I’ve been waiting so long to hear you say that.”
He holds out his arms to her, and she goes willingly into his embrace. The wall has been breached.
A few days later, Kayla goes to the DA’s office to discuss the case. When she comes home she asks Steve, with trepidation, if he would be willing to testify against Jack.
Steve asks, “Did you think I’d put him before you?” He says it with resignation, acknowledging everything he did to make her think so. Then, briefly—he knows this is a touchy subject now—he tries to explain. He talks about how much he loved that little baby, how he would have done anything in the world for him. (Kayla’s face shows she knows that already, only too well.) But Billy was only a fantasy; the brother he loved is gone. There is only Jack, and Jack doesn’t deserve all the love and loyalty Steve was giving him.
“I’ll testify for you,” Steve tells her. “I’ll do anything to take away the pain I gave you.” Kayla comes into his arms and kisses him. No words are necessary. He knows how much he hurt her, and she knows how much that fantasy mattered to him.
At the hearing, Steve testifies about the bruises he saw on her body after the rape. But this is Kayla’s moment. She doesn’t shy away from admitting her mistakes. She had an affair. She wasn’t honest with Jack. She let him think that someday she would sleep with him. “But that night, I was honest,” she says. She looks directly at Jack. “I didn’t want you kissing me, I didn’t want you touching me, and I certainly didn’t want you making love to me … you had no right to take me against my will.”
The judge rules there is sufficient evidence to go to trial. Afterwards, Harper advises Jack to cut his losses. Jack’s lawyer offers a plea bargain. Jack would plead guilty to a lesser charge, assault, and serve a suspended sentence.
Kayla agrees to the deal. Jack admitted his guilt. Steve stood by her. She got to tell her story. That’s all the resolution she needed.
A few days later, Kayla comes back to the loft after filing for her divorce. We can see the difference in her, in the way she carries herself, the expression on her face. She’s feeling better.
Steve is lifting weights in the living room. He’s wearing a ripped tank top and an 80’s bandana headband. And yet somehow, in this horrible outfit, he still looks sexy. How does he do it? Kayla thinks so too. She touches his sweaty arm and smiles, and it’s a smile we haven’t seen for awhile. Steve recognizes it instantly. He kisses her, and she kisses him back with a return of the effortless passion they’ve always shared.
Kayla, welcome back.