Gerard speaks to Frank about his fears.
“Honey, close the door. You’re letting flies in.” Monica said glancing up from the bowl of fruit salad she was preparing.
Elle walked into the house and slid the glass door shut. She climbed up on a chair next to Monica. “Can I have some?” She asked eyeing the watermelon.
Monica removed a chunk of the fruit and sat it down on a nearby plate. “Wash your hands first.”
Elle sighed and climbed back down. She walked over to the kitchen sink and stood on the little step stool that Gerard had made especially for her. As she washed her hands she sang to herself. Monica smiled over at her. She had a sweet voice and was always singing. When her hands were clean she returned to her original spot and popped the piece of watermelon in her mouth.
“How’s it going in here?” Gerard asked walking into the kitchen.
“Just fine.” Monica answered.
“Daddy, Frank is being bad.” Elle told him.
Gerard walked over to where they were and laughed, “How come, Bug?”
“He won’t come in.” Elle explained.
“Let him stay outside.” Monica said. “It doesn’t make any difference.”
Gerard could tell by her tone she was annoyed. Elle looked at him waiting for an answer. Maybe Elle was getting on her nerves Gerard thought. He smiled at Elle. “Come on. Let’s go talk to Frank.”
Monica turned, “Gee, you really need to get the hamburger patties ready.” Her tone was cross.
“I will in a second.” He answered before sliding the deck door open. He let Elle pass through then slid the door closed. He really wanted to question Monica again about her present bad mood but now was not the time. Tonight after everyone left he intended to talk to her again. Something in their life wasn’t right. She wasn’t happy and he needed to find out why.
“Hope it’s okay I came early.” Luke said as he walked into the kitchen. Monica turned from the counter and nodded.
“Of course. Kelly is in the living room.”
Luke started to leave the kitchen but he stopped and turned abruptly. “Monica, can I talk to you a minute?”
Monica nodded, “Sure. What about?”
“Sunshine and me.” Luke said taking a deep breath. “Look, I know you’re not happy about the decisions we’ve made.”
“Yeah, that’s right.” Monica said cutting him off. “Not at all. But it really doesn’t matter, does it? Nothing I say matters to anyone so why do I bother?”
Luke was surprised by her words. Not that she was upset about the plans but that she thought no one listened to her. “You bother because you love your daughter.” He said softly.
“Yeah, I love all of my children.” Monica crossed to the refrigerator and pulled the door open. “But that doesn’t change anything. It doesn’t matter when they make decisions. Kelly knew I fought Kara to stay in school and she did. I wanted Kelly to finish her last year of high school." She sighed, "The whole year. I just don’t understand the need to run out and be adults. What is the rush?”
Luke tried to choose his words carefully. “I’ve loved Sunshine since the first time I saw her. Never in a million years did I think a girl like her would love someone like me. But she does and we just want to start our lives together.”
“Are you sure you two are ready for all the responsibilities? Are you sure you can afford an apartment? What about food and clothing? Or do you think that Gerard and I will bail you two out if something happens?”
Her words were full of anger and Luke tried to control his own temper. “We’ll make it on our own. If I have to have three jobs then that’s what I’ll do. We won’t ask you for anything.”
“What’s going on?” Gerard’s voice startled both of them. He walked into the kitchen with Elle and Frank following close behind.
Luke glanced at Monica. “We were just talking.” He said softly. “I’m gonna go find Kelly.” He left the kitchen.
“Bug, can you sneak upstairs and check on Rush? Make sure he’s still sleeping?” Gerard asked. He wanted to talk to Monica alone.
“Okay, Daddy.” Elle smiled. When she was out of earshot Gee turned to Monica. “What was that all about?”
Monica shook her head. “Nothing.” She walked over to the cabinet and pulled out the large stack of paper plates.
“What did you say to Luke?” He asked watching her closely. Her hands were shaking.
“Can’t I have a conversation without you being involved?" She asked trying to control her anger.
“Sugar, what’s going on?” He had wanted to wait to talk to her but he just had to ask. He couldn’t stand to see her so unhappy.
Monica leaned against the counter and closed her eyes, “Please stop asking me that. I can’t answer you because I have no answer."
He moved behind her quickly and enveloped her in a hug. “Talk to me.” He whispered in her ear.
Tears filled her eyes. She simply shook her head.
“Mom, Frank and Jamia just drove up.” Kelly voice called out from the other room.
Monica quickly pushed back, dislodging herself from Gerard’s embrace. She swiped at her eyes. “We’ll talk later.”
“Promise?” Gerard asked looking into her eyes for the answer.
She simply nodded.
A moment later Jamia appeared in the kitchen with the bowl of salad in her hands. “Luke and Kelly are helping Frank corral the twins.” She explained. "And I'm here to help."
Monica forced a smile on her face. “Glad you’re here.”
Gerard kissed Monica’s cheek then went to welcome Frank. Jamia noticed the tension between them. “So what can I do?” She asked.
“I think it’s all under control.” Monica said. “I figure we’ll eat outside. I don’t think it’s too hot.”
Jamia shook her head, “No, it’s pretty nice out. So Kara and Bob in town yet?”
“I'm not sure. They’re staying with Mikey and Alicia.”
“Bet they still pine for that pink room.” Jamia kidded. The pink room now belonged to Elle who loved it dearly.
Monica laughed, “Pretty sure they don’t. I do wish we had room for them to stay here though.” She missed her oldest daughter.
“Miss her, don’t you?” Jamia asked understandingly.
Monica nodded, “Yeah and pretty soon I’ll get to miss Kelly too.”
“Hey, that’s not for months and even then, she and Luke won’t be that far away.” Jamia reminded her.
“Yeah, kids growing up and leaving is just a part of life.” Monica said with a sigh. “That’s just how it is.”
Jamia took a seat at the kitchen table and watched her friend closely. She looked so sad. “Yeah, it’s part of life but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.”
Monica didn’t answer. She continued to gather up plastic ware and napkins.
“Monica, what’s wrong?” Jamia asked softly.
“I’m so tired of people asking me that question.” Monica said slamming the cabinet door.
“Hey, Man.” Frank greeted Gerard as he neared the car.
“I need to talk to you.” Gerard said in way of a greeting.
Frank nodded, “Sure.” He was relieved to see Kelly and Luke.
“Hey, Frank.” Kelly smiled as she grew closer. “And how’re my Joe and Maddy?” Frank let go of their hands and they ran to Kelly. She often babysat the twins and they loved her. “Come on. Let’s go into the backyard and play.”
“Swing.” Joe said excitedly.
Maddy ran and grabbed Luke's hand. Kelly was always kidding Luke that Maddy had a crush on him.
“Oh course we'll swing” Kelly nodded. They walked around the side of the house towards the backyard. The twins especially loved the swing set Gerard and Mikey had built for the kids.
“So what’s up?” Frank asked turning to Gerard.
“Come on. Let’s sit on the porch.” He and Frank took seats in the wicker chairs before Gerard explained, “It’s about Monica. Shit, Frank. Something is wrong. I’m afraid she’s not happy with our lives.” He took a deep breath, “I think it might be because I’m gone so much.” He took out a cigarette and lit it before continuing. “I’ll quite the fucking group if I have to. I won’t lose her.”
Frank was shocked, “It’s that bad?”
“Yeah.” Gerard said looking out across the yard to the road in front of the house. Sometimes, like now, he still could remember the accident there that had almost taken her from him. He knew in his heart he’d do anything to keep from losing her. “Yeah, she’s pulling away from me.”