Opal and her daughter, Jenny, first came to Pine Valley in 1981, and Opal was intent on getting her daughter into show business. Until Jenny got her big break, Opal made her work at the sleazy bar (Foxy's) as a cocktail waitress while she was in high school so she could support them both. Later, Opal opened a beauty shop, which she called the Glamorama. After Jenny died, she left town. Opal returned to Pine Valley in 1989 and joined forces with Palmer to break up Tad and Dixie's marriage. The two schemers soon fell in love and married in November 1990. On December 25, 1992, the Cortlandt's welcomed their son Peter (Petey) into the world.
Opal and Palmer's marriage was always filled with minor tiffs (including an affair that Palmer had with Janet Green, who at the time he believed was Jane Cox). But in the summer of 1998 their marriage fell apart. Opal alerted the authorities when she learned that Palmer had stashed away a treasure trove of stolen Nazi artwork. While serving in the military, Palmer had stolen the paintings when his squadron defeated a Nazi platoon. Palmer refused to give back the paintings to their rightful owners. Palmer felt betrayed by Opal and became increasingly nasty to his wife. At about the same time, Opal learned that the son she'd been forced to abandon while she was still married to Ray Gardner, Adrian Sword, had arrived in Pine Valley. Opal had had an affair with Frank Dawson, a man who took her in when she was fleeing from the abusive Ray Gardner. Ray showed up at her hiding spot one day and forced Opal to leave with him. Opal was fearful that the child, an interracial baby, would be abused---or worse---if Ray got his hands on the infant. So she claimed that she was babysitting and walked out on the child. A twist of events took place and that child, Adrian Sword, was part of a government operation tracking Palmer and his stolen paintings. Palmer eventually turned over the paintings, but his marriage to Opal was hopelessly in shambles. Adrian bullied Palmer into signing a divorce agreement that gave Opal fifty-percent of everything he owned. The reasoning was that Palmer would never have gotten his money back if it were not for Opal's famous Purdified Chicken recipe that was served at the Chicken Shack. Palmer cleaned all of the valuable stuff out of Cortlandt Manor and moved into a suite at The Valley Inn.
After her ordeal with Palmer, Opal set out to start her life over. She renovated Cortlandt Manor and opened a salon, naming The Glamorama in honor of her former shop. She also dropped her last name, joining the ranks of Madonna and Cher as just "Opal."
Opal maintained an active role in the lives of her family and friends while she adjusted to life without Palmer. She helped Tad mourn the loss of Dixie after she was presumed dead and she bonded with Krystal, the mother of Tad's daughter Jenny. Opal also continued to have premonitions and read Tarot cards and tried to warn residents of Pine Valley whenever she foresaw something negative headed their way.
Palmer and Opal joined forces in voicing their concerns when their son Petey returned to Pine Valley and set his sights on Adam Chandler's daughter Colby. Both Opal and Palmer were unable to dissuade Petey from teaming up with Adam in order to get closer to his daughter. Opal was disappointed when Palmer moved to Switzerland and Petey later joined him there.
In April of 2010, Palmer made a return to Pine Valley and had intended to visit Opal but before he had a chance to see her he had a heart attack in his hotel room and died. Opal was devastated when she learned Palmer was dead and she admitted he was the love of her life. She lamented that she missed her opportunity to tell him that she loved him but her friends and family assured her that Palmer knew how she felt about him.
Opal grieved for Palmer and regretted the time they had wasted apart from one another. She urged her loved ones to cherish the time they had and she often gave unsolicited advice regarding matters of the heart to many residents of Pine Valley, especially her Opal's closest gal-pal Erica.
Opal proved her loyalty to Erica when Erica was committed to Oak Haven after she stabbed David Hayward. Erica claimed she had been held hostage for months while a doppelganger took her place and that David had known the woman that claimed to be Erica was an imposter. Erica was sent to Oak Haven for a psychiatric evaluation when no one except for Opal believed her story. Opal committed herself to Oak Haven and told Erica she was there to break her out. Tad realized what his mother was up to and took her home.
Erica's story was proven to be true and she decided to make a trip to L.A. to search for a love from her past and she invited Opal to go with her. Opal initially accepted the offer but later declined when she reconnected with a love from her own past. Sam Brady and Opal met up at their high school reunion, although Opal's nemesis Verla Grubbs tried to separate Sam and Opal as she had done in the past. Sam made it clear he was only interested in Opal and she on a trip with him to see his home in Hawaii.
When Opal returned from Hawaii, she celebrated the news of Tad and Dixie's engagement and she also planned to catch up with Erica. Instead, Opal saw Erica's fiancÚ Jackson moving out of the home he shared with Erica and broke the news to her friend that Jackson was leaving her. She also told Erica that Stuart Chandler was alive because of David Hayward and Adam was hosting a party later that evening to welcome Stuart home.
Opal helped Erica devise a plan to win Jackson back and they attended Adam's party. When they arrived, they saw Jackson speaking with Krystal and Erica pulled him away for a private discussion. Opal continued to mingle with the other guests, many of which were her family and friends and she celebrated life in Pine Valley as a shot rang out.