Monica's friends try to reach out to her.
"You two want to talk alone? Ray asked
"No, Man. Take a seat." Gerard answered.
"So, what's up?" Ray asked sitting down across from them.
Gerard took out a cigarette and lit it before answering. "I'm not really sure." He said slowly. "But something isn't right between Monica and me."
Ray wasn't totally surprised. Christa had already mentioned to him that Monica hadn't seemed like herself for weeks. She had said she was very worried about her friend and that she wondered if the Way's were having marital problems. Now it seemed that guess might just be right. He had wanted to share his good news but that would have to wait.
"I think the stress of me being gone so much is starting to get to her." Gerard added sadly.
"Have you talked to her about it?" Ray asked.
Gerard nodded, "Yeah, I've tried. Up until today she kept saying things were fine. That nothing was wrong. A few minutes ago in the kitchen she admitted something was wrong and promised we'd talk about it tonight."
"Then there's really nothing you can do until then." Frank said.
Gerard sat back and took a deep drag. "Until we left for California she was happy. Things haven't been the same between us since I got back." He knew he needed to tell Ray the decision he'd made. "If me being gone so much is gonna ruin my marriage then I know what choice I'll make."
Ray understood what he was saying. "The end of the band."
Gerard couldn't meet his eyes. "Yeah. I'll work on my comics full time." He saw a look of sadness in Ray eyes. "I know, Man. It's not what I want to do but it just might be what I have to do."
"Hey Chloe." Monica said looking up and seeing the little girl and Christa enter the kitchen.
"Auntie Monnie." Chloe giggled running to give Monica a hug. When she stepped back she moved into Jamia's arms.
"I was wondering if I was gonna get a hug." Jamia teased.
Christa had known as soon as she'd walked into the kitchen that she and Chloe were intruding on a private conversation. "Hey, are the rest of the kids out back?"
"Yeah a backyard full of Rug Rats." Jamia laughed.
Christa set the bowls down on the counter. "I'll just take her out back." She wanted to let Monica and Jamia get back to their conversation.
"Kelly and Luke are out there with them." Monica explained. She stood and took Chloe's hand. "Come on, let’s go see everybody."
"I can take her out." Christa offered.
Monica waved away the offer. "Have a seat. I'll be right back."
Christa shot Jamia a questioning look. Once Monica and Chloe had gone out on the deck she sat down at the table and whispered. "She tell you what's wrong?'
Jamia sighed, "Not really. I know she’s upset about Kelly and Luke."
"Yeah, I know that, too." Christa said cutting her off. "But what else?"
"She didn't tell me." Jamia said sadly. "But damn it so obvious she's stressed out. I just wish I could do something to help."
"What are we talking about?" Alicia asked walking into the kitchen. She placed her side dish on the counter and joined them at the table.
"Where's Ryan?" Christa asked. She knew Chloe was really looking forward to seeing him.
Alicia smiled, "Don and Donna kept him last night. They called just as we got here and were just leaving their house."
"Good" Christa said with a laugh. "Cause Chloe would really be upset if he wasn't here."
"I think your daughter had designs on my son." Alicia giggled.
Christa nodded, "Yeah, she just might." She was about to answer Alicia's original question when Monica slid the door open and reentered the kitchen.
She walked over, said hello and gave Alicia a quick hug before asking, "Did Bob and Kara come with you?"
"No." Alicia answered with a frown. "Kara didn't call? She and Bob got tied up at the airport. When I talked to her they were still there.”
Monica sat back down. "No, she didn't think to call me." Her tone was hurt.
"Oh well she probably just called me cause they're staying with us. Kara said that they were coming straight here since they were running so late."
Monica looked down at her folded hands and remained silent.
Jamia looked over at Christa. They could tell Monica was upset her daughter hadn't called. "Hey, they'll be here soon."
Monica looked up at Jamia. "Yeah, no big deal." She said with a forced smile.
"Monica, what's wrong?" Christa asked deciding to come straight to the point.
Jamia cringed remembering Monica's anger earlier when she'd asked the same question. She was surprised when Monica answered.
Both women waited for her to continue.
Monica took a deep breath. "I know I'm just being stupid. My life is everything I've always wanted…" her voice trailed off.
"But you're not happy." Jamia said softly.
Blinking back tears that suddenly filled her eyes Monica nodded. "Yeah."
Christa reached across the table and touched her arm. "We all get depressed sometimes. Having Gee gone so much lately I'm sure hasn't helped."
Monica tried to put her feelings into words. "I started feeling like this when he was gone and I kept telling myself that when he got home I'd feel differently. But it hasn't gotten any better." A single tear rolled down her cheek. "If anything, it's worse.”
Gerard was about to enter the kitchen when the sound of Monica's voice stopped him. He leaned against the wall out of sight and listened. The despair in her voice broke his heart. Her words did the same.
Monica was about to say more when she heard Rush's voice calling to her. She wiped her eyes and stood. "I'll be right back."
Once she has started up the backstairs Gerard entered the kitchen.
"Hey Gee." Alicia greeted him. "Mikey still out front?" She had left her husband talking with the other guys on the front porch.
"He's out back." Gerard answered. He could feel the woman watching him. He squared his shoulders and grabbed the hamburger patties out of the refrigerator. "Guess I'll start grilling. Mom and Dad are here now." He turned to look at them. "Unless you think we should wait for Bob and Kara?"
"Kara said to tell you not to wait. They're not sure how late they'll be." Alicia answered. As she watched her brother-in-law closely she had a sinking feeling he'd overheard their earlier conversation with Monica. "Gee, it'll be okay." She said softly.
Gerard sighed, "I don't know what to do. Since I've been home she's like a different woman. She snaps at the smallest things. Maybe she's wrong. Maybe this wasn't the life she always dreamed of. Maybe what we have isn't enough."
"Look, we all feel down sometimes." Christa said joining the conversation.
"Yeah." Jamia agreed. "She's just been dealing with a lot. Just be supportive of her."
"That's what I've been doing." Gerard said sadly. He washed his hand and walked over to the table. "Just tell me what to do? I just want my Monica back."
Upstairs Monica had reached Rush's room and was surprised to find her son crying. His cries quieted as soon as he saw her. As she got closer to his bed he smiled and lifted his chubby arms for her to lift him. "Hey, Baby Boy." Monica said as he hugged her tightly.” Why’s my Baby crying?
"Mommy don." Rush's voice was still sleepy.
"Mommy's not gone. I'm right here, Baby. Mommy will never leave you." She swallowed the lump of fear in her throat. 'Mommy prays she'll never have to leave you' She whispered. A vision of her young daughter flashed into her mind. Fate couldn't be that cruel to Elle. Not again. Monica knew she needed to get back downstairs to her guests but for just a moment she needed to be with her baby. Walking over to the rocker she sat down and held him in her arms. "Mommy loves you." She said kissing his downy hair.
Rush smiled and Monica leaned down to kiss away the tears from his cheeks. She thanked God everyday for allowing Rush to come into their lives. As she rocked him she thought about her children. Suddenly anger overcame her. She had to get her life back in order. It was slipping away from her and she couldn't let that happen. This had to be settled. She was glad she’d called Paul and left a message for him to call her. This had gone on long enough.
"In here, Bug" Monica called out. She smiled when Elle appeared in the doorway. Her black hair pulled into ponytails, her eyes smiling. "Daddy said to ask you if it's okay if I take my tea set outside."
"That's fine." Monica answered.
Elle walked over to the rocker. "Rushie gonna come outside now too?"
Rush began to crawl off Monica's lap. "Mes out." He said.
Monica laughed, "Okay, hold up. Lets put your shoes on." Rush was wiggling wanting her to hurry. When his shoes were secure she held his hand and started downstairs. Closely behind them Elle walked with her tea set in a picnic basket. When the three of them entered the kitchen the conversation halted. Monica waited until Elle took her brothers hand and went outside before speaking.
"So what are we talking about?" She had a good idea but wanted to hear them admit they'd been talking about her. Deep down she knew it was out of concern but her angry was getting the best of her. She was tired of people trying to figure her out.
"Gee was just asking us how many hamburgers we thought he should grill." Christa lied.
Monica didn't believe that story for a minute but let it pass. She nodded and walked towards the door. "I'm gonna go out back and mingle."
"You are gonna eat a hamburger, right?" Gerard asked Monica.
She turned but avoided the question. "Oh, don't forget the Veggie burgers."
Gerard knew what she was doing. "I know I have to make the Veggie burgers. I asked you if you were going to have a hamburger. I know you didn't eat breakfast."
Monica snapped, "Gee, do we really have to discuss my eating habits right now?"
He hadn't meant to unset her but he'd been worried. For the past week he had noticed she wasn't eating properly. "Monica, these are our friends." He said softly.
"I know that Gee." Monica shot back. "Now, I'm going outside." She left without another word.
"What's up with the not eating?" Christa asked.
Gerard sighed, "Just something else I'm worried about. She doesn't eat and I know she's been having trouble sleeping at night."
"Maybe she should make a doctors appointment." Jamia suggested.
"I told her that." Gerard said, "She blew me off."
"Hey, we’ll gang up on her later and see what we can do." Alicia promised. "And even if she gets mad we'll tell her what we think."
"I'd be prepared for her to get mad at you, then." Gerard said, "Cause that's pretty much what she'll do."