Before Gerard could protest, Ray spoke.
“She’s coming over here after her shift and you two are going to talk like civil human beings. Which means you won’t make any off color comments that might piss her off. Because if you do, she’s gone. She said so herself. She’s doing you a favor by letting you have a second chance. And at this point, I think you’re on second chance number four. You know this as well as I do. Paisley’s a strong woman and she’s not afraid to assert herself. I think you learned this almost a year ago. I’d keep it in mind or risk the chance of losing the best thing that has ever happened to you.”
Gerard frowned as he plucked the cigarette out of his friend’s fingers. After taking a pull, he blew it out slowly.
“Are you playing referee for the last time too?”
Ray leaned against the doorframe and crossed his arms.
“I’m an ass aren’t I?”
Ray nodded gravely, “Yes.”
Gerard stood up and walked to the sliding glass door. Looking out he watched the wind push the tiny swingset he and Mikey used to play on.
“What’s wrong with me?”
Ray didn’t answer, instead he let Gerard figure it out for himself.
“Why can’t I be happy. Why can’t I let Paisley be happy? I must be twisted like Frank hinted at.”
“Gerard, you’re not twisted.”
He turned around to see Paisley standing in Ray’s place.
“Paisley,” Gerard started, taking a step towards her.
“Don’t speak. Not yet. Let me start.” Paisley positioned herself next to him. Placing her hand on his forearm, she held his gaze.
“You mean so much to me. I’ve never been as close as I am to you, with anyone else. Never. I love you, but I don’t love you telling me what to do. That is something I won’t stand for. I understand your side of the argument. I do, but I wish you would consider mine. You’ll still be the breadwinner, but I want something to do. I’ve always wanted to have a family of my own, but I’ve never wanted to be a housewife.”
“You, Paisley Walker, are my better half. I’m not afraid to admit it. I’ve learned I can’t function without you. I’m a mess and none of my friends want to associate with me. You keep me sane. Ever since my grandmother died, I’ve not been okay. But with you, things are definitely better. With you, I’m Dr. Jekyll. Without you, I’m Mr. Hyde.”
Paisley smirked at his analogy.
“Since I’ve known you, I feel like I’ve changed for the better. I know sometimes it feels like I’ve taken one step forward and three steps back, but I’m trying Paise. I really am. I want you to be happy and if having a part time job makes you happy, then by all means go for it. I guess I did sound a bit ridiculous on that, didn’t I?”
“Ridiculous doesn’t even begin to cover it.”
Gerard frowned, “Am I forgiven?”
Paisley ran her hand up and down his arm in thought, “Yes.”
“So I’m back in your good graces?”
Paisley wrapped her arms around his neck, “Yes. Until you screw up again.”
She smiled into his kiss.
“What happens then,” he asked quizzically.
“You get down on your knees and beg my forgiveness.”
She giggled as she ran her fingers though his hair, cradling the back of his head in her hand. The two of them remained in their position, Gerard’s hands on the small of her back and her waist, as Ray held Helena on the front porch.
Kissing the baby on her forehead he watched the couple from the front door.
“I think he’s ok now. What do you think?”