Author: paulmcuk PM
It's the night of "The Decision" and Ed has just chosen Carol. So why is he running after Frankie? An alternative take on what happened next.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Humor - Words: 26,750 - Reviews: 5 - Favs: 2 - Published: 08-13-04 - id: 2010023
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
STUCKEYBOWL – THE NIGHT OF "THE DECISION"
Carol, Nancy and Molly are chattering away excitedly. Every now and than Nancy or Molly gives a little squeal of excitement. Ed emerges from his office and wanders over to Mike who is observing the girls. Ed gets himself a beer and sits beside Mike.
"You heard the news?" asks Ed eventually.
"Thanks." Ed gives him sideways look. "I notice you don't seem very excited."
"I'm not an excitable man by nature, Ed. I prefer to maintain a laconic demeanour."
There is another series of squeals from the girls. "I think I prefer you that way," Ed tells Mike.
Mike nods. There is a moment's silence and then he says. "You foxed me you know? I figured you'd chosen Frankie."
"I did," says Ed. "Only then I didn't."
Mike nods again. Ed tries to look around without actually looking around. He turns back to Mike. "Listen, have you seen her?"
"Saw her as she left."
"Was she ok?"
Mike shrugs. "She was going too fast to ask." He turns a quizzical look on Ed. "Did she say anything to you before you left to find Carol?"
"Not much. Why?"
"I just thought she would have, that's all."
"Well she didn't."
They are silent for a moment. Then Mike takes a deep breath and says, "I think you should talk to her before she goes."
"She's already gone."
"You can catch her before her flight boards."
"What's the point, Mike? I'm sorry things had to end like they did but maybe it's best to let her just leave."
"I really do think you should talk to her."
"There's nothing left to say."
"I think there is."
"Can't tell you that, Ed."
"Answering why not would provide a clue to the answer to why which, as I mentioned, I can't tell you."
"Did she tell you something?"
"Can't tell you that, Ed."
"Mike, you're not making any sense."
"I'm trying not to."
Ed rolls his eyes. "Did she swear you to secrecy or something?"
"Then why can't you say?"
"Can't tell you that, Ed."
Ed stops and thinks for a moment. "I notice you say 'can't' and not 'won't'."
"Such is my choice of word in this particular circumstance."
"And since she didn't swear you to secrecy and you clearly haven't lost the ability to talk that leaves only one thing. It's doctor patient confidentiality isn't it?"
"Can't tell you that, Ed."
Ed is concerned now. "Is she sick? Mike, if she's sick you have to tell me."
"I couldn't tell you if anyone was sick Ed. Just as you couldn't tell me anything you happened to find out about a person in your professional capacity. That's your professional capacity as a lawyer, not as a man who runs a bowling alley. I don't think bowling scores are really considered protected information."
"So she IS sick?"
Mike looks serious. "Can't tell you that, Ed."
Ed looks like he's ready to strangle him but Mike looks so serious that his concern is heightened. He turns abruptly and heads for the door. He pauses as he passes, Carol, Nancy and Molly.
"Carol, I'm really sorry but I have to go."
"Where?" asks Carol.
"To see Frankie."
Ed quickly kisses her. "I love you."
With that, he almost runs out of the door. Carol watches him, stunned. She then turns to face the gazes of the equally stunned Nancy and Molly. She forces a smile. "Well that's not how I expected our first night as a couple to go."
AIRPORT - LATER
Ed is at the airport scanning the crowd for Frankie. Eventually he sees her heading for the departure lounge.
She turns. For a moment her face brightens, but it quickly clouds over and she resumes her walk. Ed, however, is running and soon catches her. He grabs her arm. "Frankie, wait."
"They've called my flight."
"I'll buy you a ticket for the next one. We need to talk."
"I don't know."
Frankie is confused. "You want me to miss my flight so we can talk but you don't know what about?"
"I don't have time for games, Ed. You chose Carol, I'm getting out of your life, let's just leave it at that."
She turns to walks away again and Ed grabs her. "No."
Frankie looks slightly manic as she turns on him. "Ed, I'm currently maintaining an air of nonchalance as if getting dumped is no big deal and I'm a modern kind of woman who takes that kind of thing in her stride and, in fact, was pretty much ready to move on anyway. But that facade is starting to slip and will soon be replaced by that of the blubbering wreck who goes up to total strangers and asks them what she did to make one of the nicest men she'd ever met drop her like a hot brick the moment Carol Vessey snapped her fingers." She pauses for breath. "This is a public place, Ed and you really don't want to see blubber-woman."
The speech silences Ed and Frankie marches away. Ed watches her for a second then, in desperation, calls after her, "Are you dying?"
She stops and turns back. "Dying?"
"No, I'm not dying."
"So what is it? I know there's something and I'm not letting you fly out of here until I find out what it is."
Frankie stares at him for a moment then suddenly seems to be overcome by weariness. She walks to some nearby seating and sits, putting her head in her hands. Ed is again concerned and goes over to her.
"Frankie what is it? You ARE sick aren't you?"
She looks up into his worried face. "I'm not sick, Ed." She pauses before adding, "I'm pregnant."
Meanwhile, Carol, Molly, Nancy and Mike are sitting, rather subdued, by a lane. Shirley approaches with a tray on which there is a bottle and four glasses.
"Here is the champagne you asked for. I'm sorry it took so long to bring it to you but Stuckeybowl doesn't actually stock champagne."
"I think you'd better put it on ice, Shirley," says Molly. She looks at Carol. "For now."
Shirley nods and retreats. Nancy turns to Mike. "Mike, what's going on?"
"Can't tell you that, Nance."
"Stop saying that!"
Molly chimes in. "Can you at least tell us that it's not going to affect Ed and Carol?"
Mike grimaces. "I honestly can't tell you that, Molly."
Molly and Nancy look at Carol, who looks pensive but forces a small smile.
Back at the airport, Ed looks like he's been hit in the face with a shovel.
"Do you want me to get you some water or something?" asks Frankie.
Ed doesn't seem to hear her. "Pregnant."
Ed looks at her. "Is it mine?"
Frankie stares at him a moment before shaking her head and standing. "Goodbye, Ed."
She starts to walk off and Ed runs after her. He places himself in front of her to make her stop. "I'm sorry, I don't know why I said that. Wait, please."
The look on his face is so earnest that Frankie allows herself to be led back to the chairs. "I thought we were careful." Says Ed when they have retaken their seats.
Frankie just shrugs. "We were. Nothing's a hundred per cent."
Ed nods. "When did you find out?"
"I'd suspected for a week, but Mike only confirmed it today."
Frankie nods. "If I seemed even more emotionally unstable than usual today, that probably had something to do with it."
"Why didn't you tell me, Frankie?"
"I had to be sure of you, of US. Sure that we a future. And with Carol sniffing around I suddenly wasn't sure of you at all."
"I told you I'd told her to stop."
"You told me that she wasn't serious. The implication being that if she was serious then it was bye bye Frankie. You never once told me that Carol Vessey wasn't a problem because you would rather be with me. You never told me you loved me." She pauses. "If it was just me I might have let it go, but once I knew about the baby I couldn't take that chance. I had to be certain, and I could never be certain until you had faced a straight choice between me and Carol Vessey and chosen me."
"But if I'd known about the baby I'd have..."
"Chosen me instead of Carol? That's why I didn't tell you. You had to choose me for me and not because I was pregnant. It would be meaningless otherwise."
She looks at Ed as if challenging him to refute her statement. He can't. She looks at her watch. "I can still make my flight."
She stands, but Ed stands too. "Don't go to Houston."
"I'm not going to Houston."
Ed is confused. "But, Leon..."
"My future isn't with Leon. At best he would be a safe harbor while I licked my wounds." She indicates her stomach. "And he didn't sign up for this."
"So where are you going?"
"Where does every girl go when she's in trouble? Home to Mom."
"Well then don't go there. Stay here."
"What do you mean, what for? You're carrying my baby."
"So? We're not a couple any more."
"That doesn't mean you have to deal with this alone. Just stay a while so that we have a chance to talk about this properly.
Frankie looks uncertain.
Frankie is too emotionally drained to resist. She nods her agreement and Ed picks up her bag before leading her back out of the airport.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE - LATER
Ed enters a darkened Stuckeybowl and walks into his office. He flicks on the light and is startled to find Carol sitting in his chair.
"I figured you'd have gone home. I was going to come over."
"I decided to wait. I doubted I'd be able to sleep – or make a sandwich without slicing off a finger."
"I'm sorry I ran out on you like that."
"That's ok. As long as you sorted out whatever it was you had to sort out."
"Actually, Carol, there's something - "
He gets no further because Frankie choose that moment to put her head round the door. "Ed, I'm just going to use the bath-" She stops as she sees Carol. "Oh."
Carol stares at Frankie, then looks at Ed. "Ed, what's going on?"
Ed looks from Carol to Frankie and back again like he's caught between a rock and a hard place. Frankie breaks the deadlock. "Why don't you explain while I'm in the bathroom."
She leaves. Ed looks at Carol who says, "I'm all ears."
Ed tries to think of the best way to break the news but decides that there isn't one. "Frankie's pregnant," he says simply.
Carol reacts almost like she's been hit. It was the last thing she was expecting. Ed continues. "I didn't know until Mike – well, he just said I needed to talk to her."
Carol finds her voice. "Is it - ?"
"It's mine," confirms Ed.
Carol digests this. "So you brought her back."
"I had to. This - it changes everything."
Carol takes this statement at face value. "I see." She stands. "I suppose you're right. If you'd known then you wouldn't have had anything to decide tonight." She heads for the door. "I'll leave you two alone."
Ed moves quickly to block her path. "Carol, wait. I didn't mean it changes how I feel about you. It just means I have things to deal with."
Carol smiles, but it's not a confident smile. "I understand."
Frankie returns at that point and, with a sideways glance at Carol, addresses Ed. "Look, Ed, why don't I just check into a hotel?"
"No, it's fine."
Carol is confused. "What's that?"
Ed explains. "Frankie handed her apartment keys back to the landlord so she's going to stay at my place tonight."
"At your place?"
It suddenly occurs to Ed that carol might not be thrilled about that. "Just for tonight," he adds hastily.
Carol is silent for a moment, then she says, "She can stay with me."
Ed and Frankie both look amazed at the offer. "I don't think so," says Frankie.
"It's fine, really. I have a spare room."
"You also have my boyfriend," responds Frankie sharply. "I'm not about to share a house with you even for one night."
Carol takes this on the chin. "Your choice." She turns to Ed. "Why don't YOU stay with me tonight, Ed? I expected you to anyway."
Ed looks at Frankie who struggles to hide the fact that she's been hit hard by the notion of Ed staying at Carol's. She shakes it off. "Go ahead. Give me a key and I'll let myself in." She adds for Carol's benefit, "I know where everything is."
Frankie holds out her hand for the key while Carol looks at Ed for an answer to her invitation. After a few moment's indecision, he walks over to Carol and takes her hands. "Carol, this whole thing has got me so confused. I don't think I'd be very good company tonight."
Carol does her best to conceal her disappointment. "Fine. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, then."
She gets up and walks about. Ed watches her and is about to follow when Frankie says, "I'm tired, Ed. Can we go?"
ED'S HOUSE – THE NEXT MORNING
Frankie is speaking on the phone. "Ok, thanks anyway." She hangs up and looks up as Ed enters. "My apartment's been rented out."
She nods. "First thing. My fault for having breakfast and a shower before calling I guess."
"So are you going to find someplace else?"
"I don't know. I was figuring I could just cancel my cancellation and see out the last month of the lease. If I go for another place they're going to want me to sign up for the full six months and I'm not going to be around that long."
"Because my life isn't in Stuckeyville any more."
"It can be. You can stay here as long as you like."
Frankie shakes her head. "What do you want from me, Ed? Do you expect me to sit here so you can play expectant father by day and then go home to Carol at night? Still wanting the goldendoodle? Well I'm sorry but I'm not going to organise my life so that you can everything you want."
"You know, it's not all about you," retorts Ed. "This is my baby too and I'm not going to feel guilty about wanting to be a part of his or her life."
"I'm not saying you should. But like it or not, it was your decision that took my life out of Stuckeyville. Two days ago I had a boyfriend and a job here, today I have neither."
Ed is stung by the accusation. "You still have a job," he says quietly.
"I walked out."
"I didn't fire you."
"That doesn't matter. Even if I planned to stay, which I don't, we both know that I couldn't work with you."
"Three words, Ed. You, me and Carol."
"Frankie - "
"Carol doesn't want me working with her shiny new boyfriend before she's even had a chance to enjoy the new car smell; I don't want to work with the man who dumped me two days ago; and you, Ed, you don't want the grief you'd get from both of us."
Ed shakes his head. "We're all grown-ups, Frankie. It will be awkward but we can deal with it."
"Carol will understand."
"Really?" says Frankie, her voice heavy with sarcasm. "She sounds very understanding. I can understand why you chose her over me."
"Ok," says Ed, "first rule of you working with me will be to stop constantly referring to the fact that I chose Carol."
"If I did that you might start to get the idea that I'm ok about it."
"Believe me, I'm not going to get that idea anytime soon," asserts Ed. After a pause he adds, "So are you coming back to work? You can at least finish the cases you started."
Frankie grapples with indecision for a few seconds before acquiescing. "I guess I can do it for a while. Just until you find someone else."
Meanwhile, Carol and Molly are having a breakfast of coffee and pancakes.
"So she's at Ed's house right now?" asks Molly incredulously, when Carol reveals the events of the night before.
Carol nods. Then she sighs. "God, Molly, what have I done?"
"What do you mean?"
"When I took Ed away from Frankie I broke up a family."
"You didn't know that."
"I didn't stop to find out. I never tried to look at it from Frankie's point of view. I even told her to her face that I wasn't trying to take Ed away from her before going and doing just that."
"You had to," insists Molly. "Once you realised how you felt about Ed you had to tell him."
"Did I?" asks Carol. "Maybe I should have kept my mouth shut. I mean, they seemed happy. Don't you think they seemed happy?"
"Well - "
"They were happy," confirms Carol. "And if I hadn't interfered they'd have been even happier."
"Carol, you shouldn't beat yourself up about this. If Ed wanted to be with Frankie he would be with Frankie."
"Would he? Molly, you know how long Ed's been – interested – in me."
"You mean obsessed?"
"Well, yeah. So is it any wonder he picked me?"
"He picked you because he loves you."
"What good is love if it leaves a child growing up without a father?"
Molly doesn't know what to say.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE - LATER
Frankie is at her desk when Mike looks in. He is surprised to see her. "Hey, Frankie."
Frankie looks up. "You know, Dr. Burton, I could probably sue you for breach of confidentiality."
"You'd need a good lawyer."
"I am a good lawyer."
Mike considers this. He holds up a muffin. "How about if I give you my muffin as an out of court settlement?"
Frankie pretends to agonise over the decision before saying, "Deal."
Mike enters and hands over the muffin. "Seriously, Frankie, I'm sorry for sending Ed after you. I just felt that you and Ed should talk about it."
"No, you were right. It would have been a mistake to run off like that. But when Ed told me he didn't want me – I just wanted to get as far away as I could."
Mike wants to console her. "It's not that Ed didn't want you, Frankie. He just - "
"Wanted Carol more. I know. But that doesn't make it feel any better." She sighs. "And in some ways it would be easier not being here. Ed's running around doing everything he can for me. Makes me realise that it would have been good, having a baby with him."
Mike starts to feel the conversation is getting too deep for him. "Speaking of Ed, is he around?"
Frankie shakes her head. "He went to see Carol."
Mike nods. "How's she handling all this?"
"Don't know and don't care."
Mike decides to change the subject. "Are you back with us for good?"
"Just until Ed and I sort things out."
"Ok, well don't forget to come and see me for a check up if you're still here in a month."
"Sure, thanks Mike."
Mike leaves and heads for the exit. He meets Carol coming in.
"Hi, Mike," she greets him. "Is Ed in his office?"
"Actually no. Frankie said he went to find you."
Carol is surprised. "Frankie's here?"
"Um, yeah. She's working."
Carol's expression is unreadable. "Well, I guess I'd better go and find Ed before he finds me."
She heads out. Mike shakes his head ruefully and follows.
THE GOAT – 2 WEEKS LATER
Carol, Molly and Nancy are drinking in the Goat. Carol spots Frankie enter alone and order an orange juice. She looks at her friends.
"Think I should invite her over?"
"It would be a very noble gesture," says Molly.
Carol gives her a look. "I'm not trying to be noble. I just feel bad about what happened. She's happily dating a guy and suddenly, whoosh, Carol Vessey swoops him and takes him away from her like a – big – swooping – bird - thing."
"Little tip," says Molly. "Work out your metaphors before you start speaking."
"I think it's a good idea," says Nancy. "She is having Ed's baby."
"Thanks for reminding me."
"What I mean is that all this will be much easier on Ed if you and Frankie can get along."
Carol nods and crosses over to where Frankie is now sipping on her drink. "Hi, Frankie," she says when she gets there.
Frankie gives her a baleful look. "What do you want?"
Not a good start, but Carol perseveres. She points, "I'm over there with Nancy and Molly and wondered if you'd like to join us."
Frankie is surprised at the offer but isn't about to accept. "No thanks. You wouldn't be very good company."
Carol tries to rise above the insult. "I know you're upset with me, Frankie, but I'm sure that we could be friends. We probably have lots in common."
"Oh we do," says Frankie, "we've both had sex with Ed."
Carol gives up. "Ok, bad idea."
Carol leaves and heads back to her friends. Frankie makes a point of not watching her go and sits with her drink for the next minute until someone takes the seat beside her. She glances up – it is Nancy.
"Weren't you a little hard on her?" asks Nancy, gently. "She's trying to be friendly."
"I don't need her as a friend."
Nancy tries a new tack. "You know, Ed's the one that made the choice. Aren't you blaming Carol for something he did?"
Frankie thinks about this. "Maybe."
"I can live with it," says Frankie.
Nancy can see Frankie's attitude is borne out of pain and is sympathetic. "Frankie, I know you're hurting, but life will be much easier if you let people in."
"I'm not ready to let Carol Vessey in," says Frankie. "Maybe I never will be."
Nancy can see she's not going to persuade her. "I'd better get back." She gets up to leave.
"Nancy," says Frankie.
She looks back.
"Thanks for making an effort. I appreciate the human contact."
Nancy smiles. "Look, you want to have lunch or something sometime?"
Frankie smiles back. "Love to."
"Ok, then," says Nancy. Then a thought strikes her. "Don't tell Carol though."
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE - 2 WEEKS LATER
Ed and Frankie are quietly working. Frankie looks at Ed's bowed head, judging whether or not to tell him her news. She decides she should. "A friend of mine called last night."
Ed looks up. "You have a friend?"
Frankie ignores the joke. "From law school. Her dad's a senior partner with a law firm in New York and she went to work for him after she graduated. Anyway, they have an opening and she said she could swing it for me if I wanted it."
Ed is a little surprised by the news. "Is it a good job?"
"Good enough that I wouldn't get it if I hadn't gone to school with the bosses daughter."
Ed nods. "So, are you going to take it?"
"It's not that simple."
"You know how it works Ed. They're not going to take me on pregnant."
"They can't refuse you a job for that. You could sue."
"They'd just say they had a better candidate. Which would actually be true since I'm relying on nepotism."
Ed shrugs. "Then I guess you can't take the job."
"Well, there's one way I can," responds Frankie softly.
It takes Ed a second to grasp her meaning. "You're not serious."
"It's not too late."
Ed is astonished and reacts angrily. "You'd kill your child for the sake of a job?"
Frankie responds equally strongly. "Don't you dare take the moral high ground on this, Ed. It's my future that's on the line here."
"Your future doesn't end if you have a baby. You can pick up your career later."
"That's easy for you to say. Just how many successful single-mother lawyers do you know? Ten bucks says you can't name one. It could be two, three years before I can get back out there and when faced with a choice between a single mother and some eager kid straight out of law school who do you think people are going to hire?"
"So it might be hard. At least you'll still have a future to fight for."
"You think I want it this way?"
"I think you want it however is easiest for Frankie." Ed stands and throws some papers into his bag. "I have to be in court."
He marches out. Frankie watches him go, as tears slowly start to roll down her cheeks. Gradually she gives in to the tears and lets them flow. She doesn't see Ed return to the door to pick up something he'd forgotten. He stops and watches her for a while, then quietly slips away.
CAROL'S PLACE – THAT NIGHT
Ed is pacing, while Carol sits calmly and watches him.
"I'm not saying she's making the decision lightly," says Ed in agitation, "but this is my baby too and she can't just get rid of it like that."
"I can sort of see her point of view," says Carol gently.
"You know how much work a law degree takes. She's worried that all those years of study will be wasted. And didn't you say her parents re-mortgaged their house to pay for her to go to college?"
"Yeah," says Ed, thoughtfully. "They're not rich."
"So she also feels she'd be throwing their sacrifice back in their faces. And if she loses her career she may never be able to pay them back."
Ed finds himself being swayed by her arguments. Then a thought strikes him. "Why are you taking Frankie's side?"
"Maybe because the only reason she's in this position is because you chose me over her."
Ed stares at her a moment. "You're right. It's my fault and it's up to me to fix it."
"Actually I was saying it's my fault," says Carol. But Ed is lost in thought and doesn't hear her.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – NEXT DAY
Frankie is already at work when Ed comes in.
"Frankie, I need you to draw up a partnership agreement."
She looks up, surprised at Ed's getting straight to business without even saying good morning. "Ok. Who are the clients?"
"You and me. I'm offering you a full partnership."
Frankie is stunned by the offer. Eventually she finds her voice. "You don't need a partner. You don't even really need an associate."
"I don't need a partner now because I only take on as much work as I can handle. I turn plenty away and if I have a partner I won't have to."
"I don't have the experience."
"You're a fast learner. And I'll be here to advise you." He pauses. "Of course, as a full partner you can take all the time off you need when little Ed is born."
Frankie stares at him for a moment, then shakes her head. "I can't, Ed. It's a wonderful offer, but you're making it for the wrong reason. You don't want me as a partner, you just want to give me a way to have a career and a baby."
"I can't think of a better reason," asserts Ed. "But I wouldn't make the offer if I didn't think you could do it."
Frankie isn't convinced. "I don't know, Ed. It just feels wrong. I haven't earned it."
"Have you earned that job in New York?"
Frankie has to concede the point but isn't ready to concede the argument. "But – what if you regret it later on?"
"That's my problem. But I'll be trusting in you to see that I don't."
She wrestles with her thoughts for a few seconds before saying, "Can I get a bigger desk?"
Ed smiles. "Whatever you want."
"Then I guess I'd better draw up this agreement."
"I'll be checking it carefully before I sign it," warns Ed.
"Darn," says Frankie as she opens her laptop. Then she frowns and looks up. "What do you mean 'little Ed'?"
"I thought it had a ring to it."
"I'm not naming the baby Ed."
"Because I hate it when people name their children after themselves. It's so pretentious. And the poor kid has to go through life being called 'Junior' just so people don't confuse him with his dad."
"So what are you going to call him?"
"I haven't decided yet."
"Don't I get a say?"
"You can offer suggestions."
"I suggest Ed."
"What if it's a girl?"
THE SMILING GOAT – THAT EVENING
Ed and Mike are playing pool. Carol is watching.
"I swung by the office today, Ed," says Mike.
"You're Tarzan now?"
"Excellent use of the play on words as humor there, Ed," says Mike.
"Thank you," replies Ed. "What did you swing by for, Apeman?"
"No particular reason."
Ed nods. "Uh-huh. So if I hadn't pitched in with the Tarzan joke it would have been a pretty dull story."
"Not quite. I was about to add that I noticed that, um - ," He glances at Carol, "F-R-A-N-K-I-E is still in your office."
"I can spell, Mike," says Carol. "Almost all English teachers can."
"Yeah, sorry," says Mike, abashed. He turns back to Ed. "So she's hanging around?"
"For now, yeah."
Mike looks at Carol for her reaction. She is placid. "I'm completely on board with Frankie working with Ed. She needs support right now. I'm just glad he was able to talk her out of having an abortion."
Mike looks at Ed. "How did you do that."
Ed is uncomfortable – he hasn't told Carol yet. But he's trapped so he reveals what he did. "I made her a partner."
Carol gives him an incredulous look. "You made her a partner?"
"It's the perfect solution."
"Perfect for Frankie."
"For both of us. Frankie gets career security and I make sure she stays around."
"You want her to stay around?" asks Carol.
"Of course," says Ed, before quickly adding, "So she can have the baby."
"Of course," says Carol. She wants to say more but this isn't the time or place. "I think I'll go and talk to Molly and Nancy."
She heads off to her friends. Mike watches her go, then turns to Ed. "Are you sure this partnership thing is a good idea?"
"I was," says Ed as he looks over at Carol, who is clearly telling Nancy and Molly what he has done. He shakes himself out of it. "She'll get over it." He turns back to Mike. "Of course I'm sure. Why wouldn't it be?"
"Partnerships can be hard word, Ed. I know."
"Frankie is not Dr. Jerome."
"That is apparent," says Mike with feeling. "But it doesn't mean you're going to see eye to eye on everything."
"Mike, I've already worked with Frankie for months. I know what she's like and we're great together." He hurriedly adds, "Professionally I mean. Besides, she's still new at the lawyer business. She's used to running to me for advice every five minutes and that's not going to change for a while."
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE - NEXT MORNING
As Ed enters he finds Frankie gazing fondly at her desk. He quickly sees that it's not her usual desk, but a brand new one that is either solid oak or is doing a very good imitation of it. Frankie looks up and beams at him.
"Say hi to my desk."
"Hi, desk." He adds a little wave for good measure.
Frankie smiles. "Do you like it?"
"It's nice," says Ed. He looks from it to his desk, which suddenly looks rather small and tatty. "It's bigger than mine."
"Really?" says Frankie. "I didn't notice."
She reaches in her bag and takes out a name plate with "Frankie Hector LL.M" emblazoned on it. She places it carefully on her desk, after first wiping away an imaginary speck of dust. She then adjusts the nameplate a few millimetres to the left. Satisfied she then goes and sits in her (new) chair.
Ed watches the performance until she is settled. "Happy now?"
Frankie points to his desk. "Can I have your Newton's Cradle?"
Frankie is disappointed. "Can you tell me where you got it?"
"It was a gift." He holds up the file he is carrying. "Could you take a look at the Collins case for me? See if I've missed anything."
He makes to toss it onto the desk but Frankie yells out, "Not on the desk!"
Ed stops, but says, "It's going to happen some day. Might as well be today."
Frankie reluctantly nods and Ed places the file down with exaggerated care before going to his own desk. Frankie opens the file but doesn't start reading. Instead she says, "Ed?"
Ed looks up. "Yes?"
"I've been thinking about the name."
"I told you, 'Ed'."
"Not the baby, the firm."
"I'm not following."
"We can't go on being called 'Edward J Stevens' now we're a partnership."
Ed thinks about this. "How about 'Edward J Stevens and Partner'?"
"How about 'Hector and Stevens'?"
Ed gives her a look. "Hector and Stevens?"
"It's not happening."
"Fine, 'Stevens and Hector' if you want to get all macho about it."
"Stevens and Hector it is," says Ed.
"I'll order a sign," says Frankie, then she frowns. "Wait, I'm a partner now. I shouldn't be ordering my own sign. Sign ordering is a low-grade task for low-grade employees like assistants and secretaries not high-grade partners like me."
"If it worries you so much, why not ask Shirley," suggests Ed.
"Perfect," says Frankie and head for the door. She pauses before leaving. "My first minion. It's quite a moment."
Frankie looks around for Shirley. She can't see her, but she sees Phil polishing one of the lanes by means of moonwalking back and forth with cloths tied to his feet. It's a measure of how far she has come in her time working with Ed that she isn't in the least bit surprised by this. She goes over to him as behind her, a middle-aged man, Mr Abbot, heads for Ed's office.
"Hey, Phil. Have you seen Shirley?"
"Hey, Boscette. Shirley's going to be a little late today." He smirks. "Seems she got lucky last night."
Frankie smiles. "She met a guy?"
"No, she found a voucher for a free haircut by lane twelve. But it's mornings only and not valid after today."
"Lucky girl," says Frankie.
"Is there something I can help you with in her absence?" asks Phil.
"Not really. It's law firm business. I need a new sign that says 'Stevens and Hector' to make people aware of the Hector part."
Phil nods knowingly. "I understand. Look no further, Boscette. I know a great sign guy. I'll organise it."
Frankie smiles. "Thanks Phil."
She turns and heads back to the office.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – ED'S OFFICE
Frankie enters unaware that Ed isn't alone. "Do you know that Phil's started calling me Boscette?" she says as she comes in. "Isn't that cute?"
She notices that Ed is with Mr. Abbot. "Oh, I'm sorry," she says and approaches the man offering her hand. "Hi. I'm Frankie Hector, Ed's partner and mother of his child. What are we doing for you today?"
The man shakes her hand but replies, "Nothing, it seems. Ed tells me you don't do divorces."
"Sure we do," says Frankie.
"No we don't," says Ed.
Frankie turns to Ed. "Ed, it's not like we're snowed under with work. Let me deal with it."
"I made a business decision not to take on divorce cases."
"That was back when you made the decisions. Now we make them."
"But Mr. Abbot's case is - ," begins Ed.
"Ed, as a partner I should have as much say as you over which cases we take on."
Ed struggles for an argument to this but gives up. He throws up his hands. "Fine, your case."
Frankie smiles and turns to Mr. Abbot. "Take a seat, Mr. Abbot."
She sits at her desk and Mr. Abbot takes the chair opposite. "Ok, tell me what the firm of Stevens and Hector can do for you."
"I want to divorce my wives," says Abbot.
"Well," says Frankie, "that's - ". She stops. "Did you say wives?"
Mr. Abbot nods. Frankie looks over at Ed, who smiles.
STUCKEYBOWL – 1 WEEK LATER
Ed and Frankie return to Stuckeybowl from a day in court. As they reach the office they stop dead as, outside it, there is a huge metal box, almost six feet tall and two feet wide. Ed stares at it in amazement. "What the hell is this?
"It think it's a server," says Frankie.
"What does it serve? Cans of soda?"
Ed looks at her quizzically. She explains. "I thought we could network our computers via a server." He raises an eyebrow and she hurries on. "It's more secure, it would increase our storage capacity, and it would be more efficient to keep all our electronic records in a central server that we can both access."
Ed looks at her for a moment, then nods. "Sensible."
"Glad you think so."
"But this thing looks like it could handle a hundred computers."
"And we have how many?"
"Good," say Ed. "Now guess my next question."
"I didn't order it," insists Frankie.
"No. Well, I ordered a server but not one this big." She looks embarrassed. "You see, what happened was, well, Phil said he knew this guy - "
Ed rolls his eyes. "Phil always knows a guy. Trouble is that all too often the police know him as well." He turns and shouts. "Phil!"
Phil comes running over. He smiles. "I see you've discovered your new server."
"Of course we discovered it, Phil. We can't get into the office because of it."
Phil smiles at Frankie. "Did the Stubbster come through for you or what?"
"Phil, I asked for a server suitable for a small business," says Frankie. She slaps the side of the server. "We could run NASA off this thing!"
"Your equipment can never be too big," says Phil, adding with a grin, "Am I right, girlfriend?"
Frankie just stares at him. Ed takes over. "Where did you get it?"
"My supplier prefers that I don't reveal that particular information."
"Uh-huh. Phil, if I call the cops and ask if they've had a report of a stolen server, what will they say?"
"It's not stolen," insists Phil. "It was surplus to requirements."
"Surplus to whose requirements? The CIA?"
Phil is impressed. "That is a phenomenally good guess, Bosco."
"It belonged to the CIA?"
Phil shakes his head. "Right business, different initials." He grins. "Gimme an F, gimmie a B - "
Ed is horrified. "You stole the FBI's server?"
"Not stole. I have documentation that vouches for the legitimacy and authenticity of the beautiful piece of technology." He pauses before adding. "As long as nobody reads it too carefully."
"Take it back Phil," instructs Ed.
"Bosco, my supplier is not the kind of man that you take things back to."
"I don't care. Tell him, Frankie."
Frankie is uncertain. "It is kinda cool. So big and powerful and - " Ed gives her a look and she caves in. "Take it back, Phil," she says.
Phil can see further argument is useless. He shakes his head sorrowfully, then turns and shouts to Eli. "Eli, I need to borrow your chair again!"
He walks away. Ed and Frankie exchange a look then they both squeeze past the server to get into the office.
A second later they come back and look at the door. There is a new sign on it. It reads "Stevens, Stubbs and Hector." They look at each other and then, in unison, shout "Phil!"
ROCK 'N' ROLL HALL OF FAME, CLEVELAND – 6 WEEKS LATER
Ed and Carol are enjoying a day out in Cleveland. Carol peers at an object in a glass case. "Wow, Chuck Berry's actual ding-a-ling. Somehow I thought it would be bigger."
She looks at Ed, who isn't paying attention. Instead he's checking his cell-phone. "Why do you keep looking at your cell-phone?" she asks.
"I don't," says Ed.
"Ed, I wore Buddy Holly's glasses, but you didn't notice because you were checking your cell phone. I talked to you for 20 minutes in an Elvis voice, and you didn't notice because you kept checking your cell phone. I even offered to give you a ride in my little red corvette, but you didn't even hear me because you were CHECKING YOUR CELL PHONE!"
"Sorry," says Ed. "Frankie's having a scan today," he explains. "She said she'd let me know if there was anything wrong."
"Why should there be anything wrong?"
"No reason," says Ed, checking his phone again. He puts it in his pocket but no sooner dopes he do so than it beeps to let him know he has a message. He pulls it out again and examines the screen. "It's from Frankie," he says before accessing the message. He reads for a second then breaks into a broad smile. "It's a boy!"
"They told her the sex. I'm having a son."
His joy is infectious and Carol smiles with him. "Congratulations. Hey, why don't we dump these has-beens and go a find a bar to celebrate in? I have some news of my own to share."
Ed crinkles his face. "Um - "
Carol sees through him. "Do you want to get back home and see Frankie?"
"Do you mind?"
"Of course not."
Ed smiles. "I'll let her know we're coming," he says, before tapping in a text message. Concentrating on the phone as he is, he doesn't notice Carol's face, which betrays her lie.
ED'S HOUSE – LATER THAT DAY
Ed and Carol come in to find Frankie sitting on the couch with her feet up, watching TV. She looks up as they enter.
"How was Cleveland?"
"Forget Cleveland," says Ed, hurrying over to Frankie while Carol hovers in the doorway. "How are you?"
"I'm fine. Fat, but fine."
"You look great," insists Ed. "So what did they tell you?"
"I told you. It's a boy."
"That's about all there is. I went to a clinic not a psychic."
"He's healthy though, right?"
"Have you thought about what you're going to call him?" says Carol from the doorway.
Frankie pauses before answering, as if checking the statement for signs of sarcasm. Ed looks at her expectantly. "Yeah," she says at last, "I want to name him Glen."
"Glen?" says Ed.
"After my grandfather. I thought Glen Edward."
Ed seems lost in thought.
"Is that ok?" asks Frankie.
"Sure. Fine," says Ed. "Glen Edward Stevens."
Frankie expects argument, but Ed seems too distracted. "Glen Edward Hector. Perfect."
Frankie is puzzled by Ed's distracted manner but she suddenly starts and put a hand to her tummy. "Oh wow. I felt him kick."
Ed looks at her keenly. "Really?"
Frankie nods, smiling. Her eyes widen with joy. "There he goes again!"
Ed leans forward and places his hand on her stomach. He doesn't stop to ask, and she doesn't object. After a few seconds he too feels a kick and his smile broadens to it's fullest extent. As he concentrates on feeling for the baby, Frankie happens to glance up at Carol, just in time to see her turn away and leave. Frankie looks thoughtful.
STREET – A LITTLE LATER
Ed has encountered Mike as he is on his way to see Carol and Mike is on his way to meet up with Nancy. They walk and talk.
"It was amazing, Mike," says Ed with feeling, referring to feeling the baby kick.
"I know. I've been there."
"This was different," says Ed.
"Sarah's a girl. She gave little girly kicks. Glen gives strong boy kicks."
"Yeah. Frankie's naming him Glen."
"After Glen Miller?"
"Frankie's grandfather was Glen Miller?"
"No Mike, Frankie's grandfather is Glen Hector."
Mike shrugs. "Never heard of him."
They walk in silence for a few seconds. Ed looks thoughtful, as if fearing to say his next words. Eventually he starts. "Mike, do you remember when I tried lucid dreaming?"
"Kinda. Didn't you kiss Nancy in that?"
"Yeah, but I also I dreamed about me and Frankie in the future. We were old and married and still had sex once a week."
"I'd expect nothing less of you."
Ed ignores him. "And we had kids." He pauses for effect. "One of them was called Glen."
Mike considers this for a second but dismisses it. "Coincidence."
"Why, Mike? Why would I dream of having a son named Glen? I don't know anyone called Glen."
"It's just a name, Ed."
"I don't know," murmurs Ed. "Maybe it means something."
Ed shrugs. "Maybe it means I'm supposed to be with Frankie."
Mike is surprised to hear Ed say that. "Since when did you start believing in fate?"
"Since my dreams started coming true."
"You're not serious. You're with Carol now. It's what you've always wanted."
Ed sighs. "To be honest, Mike, things aren't going so great with Carol. It's like there's this barrier between us. I think she resents the fact that Frankie's pregnant."
"I know," replies Ed with a sigh. "But I'm going to be a part of this baby's life. Carol has to accept that or we've got no future."
OUTSIDE CAROL'S HOUSE – A LITTLE LATER
Ed is approaching Carol's house and he sees a taxi waiting outside. Carol emerges from the house with a suitcase and Ed rushes up to her.
She looks up, surprised to see him. "Oh hi, Ed."
Carol acts like she's been caught out. "Um, yeah. Remember I told you Keith Kessler was visiting?"
Ed thinks for a moment but the name means nothing. "No."
says Carol resignedly, "you wouldn't." She sighs, then
explains. "Keith Kessler is a former student of mine who is now a
successful writer. Don't you remember I gave him the writing sample
that you read for me. You said it was my best work."
Ed looks like he's trying to remember, "Oh yeah. I remember now."
"What was the story about Ed?"
Ed is obviously bluffing, "It was...about that gu-woman, that...you know had to deal with all that stuff."
She starts to move away but Ed stops her. "Wait. Where are you going?"
"Keith liked my work," says Carol. "He offered me a job writing for his magazine."
"That's great," says Ed, with genuine enthusiasm. "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I did tell you," chides Carol, gently. "But you were busy swapping baby stories with Mike, even though you really don't have many baby stories yet, and weren't paying attention."
"I'm sorry," says Ed. "Tell me now."
"Oh, yeah. Well, that's great news. So, where's the magazine?"
Ed is surprised. "New York? You're going to New York?"
"Just for a week or so while I meet with them and write my article."
"And you were going to go without telling me?"
"I left you a note."
She indicates an envelope by the door with "Ed" written on it. Frowning, Ed picks it up and opens it. His face crumples into incomprehension as he reads. "What does this mean?"
"What it says."
"It says you want to break up!"
Carol shakes her head. "No, Ed. It doesn't say I want to break up. It just says I think we should."
A touch of desperation enters Ed's voice. "You don't mean that. You can't mean that."
"It just wasn't the right time for us," says Carol, struggling to maintain composure herself. "Hell, there's never been a right time for us. All the problems we had getting together and then when we did, there's Frankie. Don't you think fate is telling us something?"
"Like you should be with Frankie."
"I don't want to be with Frankie," insists Ed.
"No," says Carol, "but it seems like you need to be with her."
"I tried to tell myself that, but it's not. I'm your girlfriend but you're mind just isn't on me. Sometimes I think you resent the time you spend with me because it takes you away from her."
Ed shakes his head emphatically. "No."
"And then there's the fact that it's the right thing to do. Frankie and the baby need you more than I do."
"Carol - "
"Go to her, Ed. Be happy."
With that she hastens to the taxi and gets in. Ed watches in silence as it drives away.
STREET – A LITTLE LATER
Ed is sitting on a bench trying to come to terms with what just happened, and to sort out all the thoughts whirling round his head. Was Carol right? She was right about one thing, he realises. He had been spending too much time with Frankie. But he didn't want to be with Frankie did he? Or did he? He was excited by the baby, and they were getting on really well. And then there was the dream. Mike was right, he didn't believe in fate. But still.
He looks up and sees Mike, Nancy and Sarah across the street. Sarah is perched on Mike's shoulders and Nancy is hanging onto his arm as they stroll down the street, the poster family for domestic bliss. That could be him, Ed realises. Him and Glen – and Frankie. She's not Carol. She'll never be Carol. But perhaps he should just be happy that she's Frankie?
The trio opposite have spotted him. Nancy waves, and Sarah sticks out her tongue at him, at Mike's instigation. Ed waves back and they head on their way. Ed decides he needs to see Frankie.
ED'S HOUSE – A LITTLE LATER
When Ed enters he finds Frankie putting a few things into a bag.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
"Moving out," says Frankie. "I should have done it weeks ago. Got too comfortable I guess."
"You can't go."
"Don't worry, I'm not leaving town. In fact, you'll see my new place soon enough because I need you to help me move my stuff in."
Ed moves closer to her. "You don't have to move out."
"I do," insists Frankie. "And you should be happy. You can have Carol over without me cramping your style."
"Carol broke up with me."
Frankie is stunned by the sudden revelation. She stops her packing and stares at him. All she can say is, "Why?"
"She thinks my mind is more on you than her."
Frankie takes a second to take this in. "Is it?"
"Maybe it is. Lately at least."
"I guess I should be pleased," says Frankie. "At least now she knows what it feels like." She zips up the bag and hoists it onto her shoulder. "I'll pick up the rest of my stuff tomorrow," she says as she heads for the door.
Ed watches her a second, then calls out to her. "Frankie!"
She stops but doesn't turn back.
"I do care for you," says Ed. "And I'd be willing to try and make a go of it again."
She closes her eyes for several seconds, resisting the urge to go to him. Instead, when she opens her eyes they are full of resolve. Without looking back she says, "Not quite convincing enough, Ed." And leaves.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – NEXT DAY
Frankie comes in to work and finds Ed already there. He is absently playing with his Newton's Cradle, watching the balls click together with a morose expression on his face.
"Hey," says Frankie.
Ed flicks his eyes to her. "Hey." And flicks them back to the Newton's Cradle.
Frankie is concerned. "You okay?"
Ed stops the cradle and looks up. "Oh, I'm great. In the space of a few months I've gone from a man faced with a choice between two wonderful women to a man that no woman wants. I'm just dandy."
"I'm sorry, Ed," is all Frankie can think to say.
"Can you tell me something?" asks Ed.
"Why did you say no? Was it my punishment for choosing Carol?"
Frankie shakes her head. "No, Ed. I wasn't trying to punish you." She pauses. "If you want the truth, I almost said yes."
"We might have made it work," says Ed.
Frankie shakes her head. "I know you'd have tried. You might even have convinced the rest of the world. But I'd always have known I was second choice." She looks at him frankly. "How could I live with that?"
Ed has no answer. Instead it says, "Seems like I can't do anything right. "I get involved with you and then go off with Carol. Then I ignore Carol to spend time with you." He shakes his head. "I deserve to be alone."
Frankie walks over to him and takes his hand. "No you don't. You deserve to be as happy as you try to make everyone else."
"I didn't try and make Carol happy."
"Only because you were busy making me happy." She pauses, before adding. "And for what it's worth, I really don't think she wanted to break up with you, Ed. Talk to her and you'll see."
Ed doesn't seem convinced, but he nods. "I'll talk to her when she comes back from New York."
Frankie didn't know about New York. "What's she doing in New York?"
"Leaving me," replies Ed, grimly.
CAROL'S PLACE – ONE WEEK LATER
Carol enters and is surprised to find Ed waiting.
"What are you doing here?"
"Waiting for you."
"How did you know I'd be back today?"
"I didn't," says Ed. "I've been sleeping here the past three days. I still have my key from before you broke up with me."
"Ed, don't make me do it all again. I don't think I could stand it."
"Good, because I don't ever want to be apart from you again."
"We've been apart ever since you found out Frankie was pregnant," says Carol. "Our relationship lasted about two hours."
"I know," says Ed, "and I'm sorry. But you have to understand that it wouldn't have happened if you were anyone else."
"Well that makes me feel a whole lot better."
"It should. It's only because you're you that I was able to take you for granted. We've been friends for so long that I was thinking of you as Carol my good friend. Someone who'd be excited for me about the baby." He pauses. "I forgot that Carol my girlfriend wouldn't be thrilled. And that I should make sure she knew she always came first."
Carol is moved, but isn't quite ready to yield. "Frankie needs you - " she begins.
"And I'll be there for her," insists Ed. "She and the baby will be part of my life." He pauses. "But you are my life."
He goes over to her and takes her in his arms, but she pulls back. "It's not that simple, Ed."
"I've been offered that job." She pauses, fearful of voicing her next words. "If I take it I'll have to move to New York."
Meanwhile, Frankie is sitting on a bench eating her lunch. She is watching a young man who is singing and playing guitar. He is young, about 24 Frankie guesses, and good looking in an unkempt kind of way. His guitar case is on the ground in front of him for donations, but he hasn't been very successful so far despite, Frankie thinks, being rather good. He looks up and notices Frankie watching while he plays and smiles. She smiles back and when he finishes one song he calls out to her.
"What's your name?"
The man thinks about this for a second before saying, "For the next three minutes you're Michelle."
"Because I want to play a song for you and I don't know any songs called Frankie."
Frankie smiles. "Ok, I'm Michelle."
"Ok," announces the young man to the world in general, "this one's for Michelle."
He breaks into a rather good rendition of The Beatles' "Michelle", which ends just as Frankie is finishing her lunch. She walks over to him. "That's got to be worth ten," she says, dropping $10 into his case.
"It was worth it just for that smile," replies the man.
She rewards him with another smile before saying "Bye" and heading on her way. But she barely takes five steps when a a police cruiser pulls up and a pair of cops get out. They approach the young man and Frankie pauses to watch.
"What are you doing?" demands one cop of the man.
"Singing," he replies. "I know I'm no Clay Aiken but I'm disappointed you couldn't tell."
"Don't screw with us," says the cop. "We already told you to move on once."
"And I did," insists the man. "I moved to here."
The cops exchange a look. They don't like the guy's attitude and decide to teach him a lesson. "Ok," says the first cop, "you're under arrest."
"Performing in the street without a licence."
The cop grabs hold of him but a voice behind him says, "That's not a criminal offence."
He turns and sees that it is Frankie who has spoken. "Excuse me?" he says.
"That's not a criminal offence," repeats Frankie. "You could charge him with a public nuisance offence but only if you have a complaint from a member of the public." She looks around. "Nobody seems to be complaining."
The cop looks at her thoughtfully, then turns back to the man. "What's your name?"
"You don't have to answer," says Frankie quickly, earning herself a sharp look from the cop.
"No, that's cool," says the man. "I'm Jason. Jason Stone," he adds, looking not at the cop, but at Frankie.
"Where do you live?" demands the cop.
Jason shrugs. "Around."
"How much money do you have?"
Jason looks in his guitar case. "About twenty bucks."
The cop smirks. "Ok, I'm arresting you for vagrancy." He looks at Frankie. "That's a criminal offence." He lays his hand on Jason's shoulder.
"Wait, I'm not a vagrant," pleads Jason. "I just don't have any money or a place to stay."
The cops aren't listening and haul him away. Frankie heads back to Stuckeybowl to get her car.
Back at carol's house, Ed is struggling to take Carol's bombshell in. "You want to move to New York?" he asks Carol.
"I want to write," replies Carol. "New York is just where the opportunity is."
"You can write here. The newspaper - "
"That's a dead-end, Ed. I don't want to write about bake-sales and giant vegetables. I want to write about things that matter to me."
"Have you told them you'll take the job?" asks Ed.
Carol looks down. "I figured when I got back you'd be with Frankie. I wouldn't have wanted to hang around Stuckeyville then."
"But what about now?"
Carol is clearly torn. "It's a great opportunity, Ed." She thinks quickly. "I can come home at weekends. And you can visit me in New York. Then maybe when I've got some experience I can get a job in Cleveland."
Ed is silent for a moment, then he reaches over to her and kisses her. "Of course you have to take the job. We'll work something out."
Meanwhile, Frankie has arrived at the police station and is arguing with the cop who arrested Jason.
"You can't just hold the guy because you didn't like his attitude," she says.
"I'm not," replies the cop. "I'm holding him on a charge of vagrancy."
"You know that no judge will convict on a charge of vagrancy."
"It's the law."
"The last time anyone invoked that law they were still charging old women with witchcraft."
The cop shrugs. "Still the law."
"Ok," says Frankie with a sigh, seeing she'll get nowhere with reason, logic or threats, "how much is bail?"
"Can't bail a vagrant," says the cop with a smile. "He's got nowhere to go."
The cop thinks he's won but he's unprepared for Frankie's next move. "He has a place to go," she says suddenly. "He's staying with me."
FRANKIE'S APARTMENT - LATER
Frankie enters, followed by Jason and his guitar case.
"Are you sure about this?" he asks uncertainly.
"Sure I'm sure."
"Are you going to expect sexual favours in return?"
"Because I wouldn't mind."
Frankie smiles. "That won't be necessary. Make yourself at home."
Jason rests his guitar against the wall, noting in passing that Frankie has one of her own propped up there, and heads for a chair. He is about to sit when –
He pauses in mid-sit.
"Sorry," says Frankie. "I don't mean to offend but, when was the last time those clothes were washed?"
Jason considers for a moment. "What month is this?" he asks eventually.
"Ok," says Frankie, "you go take a shower while I put your clothes in the machine. I have some of my ex-boyfriends things you can wear until your stuff is clean."
Jason raises a slight eyebrow and Frankie suddenly feels the need to justify herself. "I wear them to laze around in sometimes. They're comfortable."
Sensing her defensiveness, Jason holds up his hands. "Hey, you don't need to explain to me. I'm just wondering why any guy in his right mind would let you go. Especially when - " He gestures to Frankie's stomach, noting her obviously pregnant state.
"Long story," says Frankie. "Now got those clothes off."
Jason smiles. "I like that. Say it again only sexier."
FRANKIE'S APARTMENT – A LITTLE LATER
Frankie answers the door to find Ed standing there. "What brings you here?" she asks when greetings have been exchanged and she has let him in.
Ed holds out a file. "You left this at the office. I remember you saying you were going to work on it tonight so I brought it over."
"Oh thanks," says Frankie, taking it from him. "I'd have kicked myself later when I found out I didn't have it." She flips through the file, but then casts a glance at Ed, noting his sombre demeanour. "Something wrong?" she asks.
"Carol's back," says Ed simply.
Frankie raises her eyebrows. "And she didn't want to get back together?"
"No, she did but - "
He stops as Jason emerges from the bathroom wearing sweat pants and top that are old, gray, but comfortable. "Do you mind me using your toothbrush?" he asks Frankie.
"There's a spare one in the cabinet," she says.
"Ok." He looks at Ed. "Hi."
"Hi," says Ed, and Jason goes back into the bathroom. Ed looks at Frankie. "Who's that?" he asks, as casually as possible.
"That's Jason. He's a, um, well I guess he's a client."
"The cops arrested him for no better reason than they were bored."
"Ok, he's a client. So why is he wearing my clothes?"
"Because my clothes wouldn't have fit him."
Ed gives her a look. Frankie explains. "He has no place to stay. They arrested him for vagrancy."
"So I take it he hasn't got any money either?"
Ed nods. "Uh-huh. Frankie, one thing I usually like in my clients is that they be able to pay me."
"You've done pro-bono work before."
"I have. For friends or for charities. Not usually for some random guy off the street." He shakes his head. "I'm not comfortable with this, Frankie."
"It's a simple case, Ed. I'll deal with it and it won't take up much of my time."
"That's not what I mean. If you want to take this guy's case on, that's fine. But I don't like the idea of him staying here. You know nothing about him. He might be dangerous."
"I told you, Ed. The cops picked on him for no reason."
"That doesn't mean he's not wanted by some other cops someplace else for some very good reason. You want to help him out, give him some money for a motel."
"He's staying, Ed" says Frankie, firmly. Then, in an effort to break the tension she asks, "What were you going to tell me about Carol?"
It's the wrong subject to cheer Ed's mood. "Never mind," he says.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – 1 WEEK LATER
Frankie come up to the office and notices that the blinds are down. She tries the door. It is locked. Frowning she rattles the door knob.
"Ed?" she calls out.
"Just a minute," comes Ed's muffled voice.
Frankie stops and a few seconds later the door opens. She enters and looks around cautiously. "What were you doing?"
"Nothing," lies Ed.
Frankie walks over to the couch and checks behind it.
"What are you looking for?"
"Carol's still in New York," says Ed.
"Then may I suggest that you deal with you, erm, 'loneliness', at home or at least in the bathroom."
It takes Ed a second to realise what she's getting at. "You think I was - ?" he can't say it.
"Locked door, blinds drawn, guy alone in room. Elementary my dear Stevens."
"I'm not a teenager any more," points out Ed, adding, "Not that I – when I was a teenager."
"Yeah, right," says Frankie. "So what were you doing?"
"It's a secret," says Ed.
Frankie chuckles. "No, you're not a teenager any more." She spots what appears to be a box, about two feet square, covered in a blanket. She points. "Is that it?"
"Yes," says Ed.
Frankie instantly heads over to it but Ed blocks her path. "You can't see it."
"It's a surprise."
"I like surprises."
This, of course, stops her dead in her tracks. "Ok," she says and heads to her desk. "But as a partner I think I should have a key to this office."
"I'll get you one cut," says Ed.
Frankie sits at her desk and starts getting work out. But Ed remains standing, watching her for a moment. Eventually he says, "Frankie, do you think you could run the office alone?"
She looks up. "For how long?"
Frankie frowns. "What's this about, Ed?"
"I told you Carol's moving to New York," says Ed. "I want to be with her."
"You're going to move to New York?"
"I'm thinking about it."
"But everything in your life is here."
"Everything except Carol."
"Yeah, but, you're only just done persuading me to stay here so you can be close to your son when he's born. Now you're talking about leaving town."
"I'll know where you both are and that you're safe," says Ed. "And New York's not so far that I can't visit. I'll be keeping my house and the businesses so I'll be around from time to time."
"But you'd want me to run the office alone?"
"I don't know, Ed," she says frankly. "There's still so much I don't know."
"I'll only be a phone call away," says Ed. "And I can come back to help with tricky cases."
Frankie ponders for a while. "I'm not sure it would work," she says at last. "I could manage for a while but what about when I have the baby?" She thinks for a second. "I don't know, maybe if we brought someone temporary in to keep things ticking over while I was gone, but we'd lose a lot of business."
Ed looks troubled. She's only confirmed what he already knew, but he was hoping for a more positive response to help him make up his mind. Seeing his worried look, Frankie tries to sound more positive. "I'm sure we can work something out," she says. "If I'm settled here I can maybe take less time out with the baby than I planned. And you could spend weekdays here for a few weeks. Let me work out a schedule and some costings and see what I can come up with."
Ed smiles. "Thanks, Frankie."
"No problem." A thought strikes her. "Hey, what about Stuckeybowl? You're going to need a manager."
"I already have two."
"Yeah, but one of them is Phil."
"Good point," says Ed with a frown. "Maybe you could keep an eye on him when Eli's not around."
"I could, but I don't know anything about running a bowling alley. Unless the screw up is of the spectacularly obvious variety, I might not notice it in time."
Ed shrugs it off. "I'll just tell them that they can't make any changes unless both agree. Then Eli can put the brakes on Phil's wilder ideas."
"Perfect," says Frankie and turns back to their work. After a moment, Frankie looks up again. "By the way, Ed."
Ed looks up.
"For what?" asks Ed.
"For bringing me back to Stuckeyville. For making me stay. For making me a partner." She pauses. "For stopping me having an abortion." She goes on. "I don't think I've really thanked you for all that."
Ed smiles. "You're welcome."
FRANKIE'S APARTMENT – THE NEXT DAY
Frankie and Jason enter the apartment. They are in buoyant mood.
"That was awesome," says Jason.
"Glad you enjoyed it."
"Did you hear the judge laying into the prosecution for wasting her time?"
Frankie smiles. "I was there."
"You kicked ass," says Jason, before adding with a grin, "and saved mine." In his enthusiasm he kisses her cheek. When he pulls back their eyes meet. Slowly he leans forward to kiss her lips. Frankie allows the briefest of touches before turning her head away.
"Steady on, there," she says.
"I want to thank you," says Jason.
Frankie raises her eyebrows. "That good are you?"
"I don't mean it like that," he says. "It's just – I really like you, Frankie. You're sweet, and beautiful - "
Frankie laughs. "I'm fat and moody. Have you seen what being pregnant has done to my butt?"
Jason smiles and looks behind her. "Looks great to me." He moves to take Frankie in his arms but she gently fends him off.
Jason is disappointed but backs off.
"Not yet," says Frankie. And Jason smiles.
DINER – THE NEXT DAY
Frankie is having lunch with Nancy.
"So what do you think?" asks Nancy.
"I think it's a great idea," says Frankie with a smile. "You have such strong maternal instincts – you should do it."
"I've been thinking about it for a while," says Nancy, "but you're the only person I've told because, well, it was but seeing you in your condition that finally made me decide to go for it."
"You haven't even told Mike?"
"Not yet," says Nancy. "I'm sure he'd love the idea but I want a wait a while before I let him in on it."
Frankie nods and they eat in silence for a moment. Then Frankie says, "Can I ask you a question?"
"About what?" asks Nancy.
"About pregnancy," says Frankie. "And sex."
"The sex usually comes first."
"If only I'd spoken to you before."
Nancy smiles. Frankie continues. "It's just that you're the only woman I know here who's had a baby so - "
"Hey," says Nancy, "I'm happy to help. Question away."
Frankie smiles, but seems unsure how to broach the subject. "It's sex," she says at last.
"What about it?"
"Is it safe?"
"Frankie, you're already pregnant."
"Safe for the baby."
Nancy comprehends. "Oh I see." She smiles. "Sure it's safe. Mike and still had sex right up until the final week."
Nancy is surprised. "You want details?"
"Well, on your side is good, especially in the later stages. But anything goes as long as the guy isn't bouncing up and down on your stomach. That's really all there is to it, except to generally take it easy."
Frankie nods. "Thanks."
"Forget the thanks," says Nancy, agog. "I want to know who you're going to have sex with."
STREET – 1 WEEK LATER
Ed, Carol and Molly emerge from the diner after enjoying lunch. Molly hears music and looks across the street. "Oh, my God," she says.
Ed and Carol follow her gaze and see Frankie and Jason, each with a guitar. They are playing and singing "Somethin' Stupid". There isn't much money in their guitar cases, but they seem to be having a ball.
Molly and Carol both look at Ed for his reaction and he doesn't disappoint. He heads across the street to the pair. He reaches them and then has to stand there while they finish the song.
"Hey, Ed," says Frankie when they have finished.
"Hi," says Ed. "Can I speak to you?"
Frankie looks at Jason, who takes the hint. "I'll go and grab us a couple of coffees," he says, and leaves.
When he's out of earshot, Ed turns to Frankie. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like?"
"I thought you'd won Jason's case."
"So why is he still here?"
"You think I should run him out of town?"
"Of course not. But he needed help and you gave it. Why is he hanging around instead of moving on like a good little hobo?"
Frankie is annoyed. "Maybe he likes it here. What's wrong with that?"
"Nothing. But you've done your good deed. You're not responsible for him any more."
"Ed, I'm letting him stay because I like him, ok? He's young and fun and he makes me feel good about myself. I haven't had that since – well, since you made me feel good about myself."
Something in the tone of Frankie's voice brings to a conclusion. "Are you sleeping with him?" he asks.
"Not that it's any of your business, but yes."
Ed points at Frankie's stomach. "That's my baby in there."
"I think he's too young to understand."
"But his – will be – and the baby's – it's just not right!"
"I'm sorry if this is weird for you, Ed, but I can have sex with whomever I choose."
"But why Jason? You literally picked him up off the street." Frankie rolls her eyes but Ed continues. "And isn't he a little young for you?"
"He's twenty three."
Frankie shrugs. "Nancy was quite impressed."
"Yeah, well, that's Nancy."
"'You go girl', were her exact words."
"I don't care how impressed Nancy is by your toy boy, Frankie. I'm not happy."
"Well I am. It's nice to have a little companionship at nights again. I've missed it."
Ed realises he's getting nowhere, and inwardly knows she's right anyway. He contents himself with one last question. "Do you love him?"
Frankie stares at him long and hard before answering. "What's love got to do with it, Ed?"
She looks up and sees Jason returning with two coffees and goes to meet him halfway. Ed walks away.
STUCKEYBOWL - LATER
When Ed returns to Stuckeybowl he's still a little agitated by his encounter with Frankie. He can't quite put his finger on why it ticks him off that she is sleeping with Jason, he just knows it does. He decides to bowl a couple of games to relieve his frustration. He strolls over to a lane, picks up a ball, then looks at it with a puzzled expression. He squeezes it and it crumples in his hand. It's made of sponge. He picks up another one – it too is sponge. "Phil!" he yells without even looking round.
Phil comes over. When he is still about twenty feet away, Ed turns and throws the ball at him. Phil yelps and cringes as it flies towards him, then looks up puzzled as it bounces harmlessly off him. A smile slowly forms on his face. "Phil Stubbs, man of steel!" he declares loudly.
"It was made of sponge, Phil."
Phil's smile fades, but soon bounces back. "Hey, but you threw it pretty hard there so I think I can still claim 'Man of Bronze'."
"Phil, why are the bowling balls made out of sponge?"
Phil looks blank. "I have no idea."
"Come on, Phil," says Ed. "The bowling balls are all made out of sponge. Don't tell me your not involved."
"Bosco, I swear, I had nothing to do with it. I wish I did because it's a really cool gag but sadly I must assert my ignorance."
Ed appraises him coolly for a moment before, "Ok, Phil, I believe you're completely ignorant."
Phil accepts this with a smile and a nod. Shirley approaches. "Is there a problem?" she asks.
"The bowling balls are made of sponge," explains Ed.
"Yes," confirms Shirley.
Ed gives her a look. "You knew about this?"
"I did. And I still do."
"You did it?" asks Ed.
Phil is impressed. "A magnificent piece of practical jokery, there Shirl. Totally deserving of a Stubbs hi-five."
He raises his hand. Shirley considers for a second, then her right hand flips up like it's spring mounted and Phil slaps it. Shirley turns to Ed. "Although I have accepted Phil's hi-five, I should point out that I was not making a joke, practical or otherwise."
"So why did you do it?"
"Fast-moving, heavy balls are in inherently dangerous thing to have in the presence of a baby. They could cause serious harm, whereas sponge balls are only likely to cause cute gurgles of happiness."
"Let me get this straight," says Ed. "You're baby-proofing Stuckeybowl?"
"That is correct," replies Shirley.
Phil nods in understanding. "That explains the potty in the men's room."
Shirley nods. "You'll also find, Phil, that the storage room where you go to watch TV and read Spiderman comics has been converted into a diaper-changing facility."
Ed looks at Phil. "You watch TV and read comics?"
"Only on scheduled breaks," insists Phil.
Ed turns back to the matter in hand. "Shirley, I appreciate the sentiments but the baby won't be born for a while yet and even when it is, it's not likely to be crawling around Stuckeybowl anytime soon. So could you put the real balls back?"
"If you wish."
"And I don't think Stuckeybowl needs a diaper-changing facility."
"Or a potty on the men's room."
"Actually," says Phil. "Someone already used it."
CAROL'S PLACE – 1 WEEK LATER
Ed is leading a blindfolded Carol into her house.
"Ed, what are you doing?"
"It better not be the start of something kinky. I'm too tired."
"Not kinky," says, Ed. He positions here carefully, then whips off the blindfold. "Ta-da!"
Carol blinks, then looks. "Why did you blindfold me just to show me something that's covered in a blanket?" asks Carol.
She is referring to the box-shaped object that was covered in a blanket in Ed's office. Ed has forgotten to take the blanket off.
"Damn!" he explains. "Ok, don't move." He takes a corner of the blanket and pulls it off with a flourish. "Ta-da!"
Carol looks. There inside a cut-away box is a model of a town. Buildings, people, trees, the whole works. "It's a little toy town," she says, cautiously.
"Look closer," says Ed.
Carol does so and a realisation hits her. "It's Stuckeyville," she says. "There's Stuckeybowl, and the school, and the courthouse."
"Here's you and me," says Ed, pointing to a tiny pair of figures by a tiny bench in a tiny park.
"Oh, my God," says Carol. "How did you do all this?"
"I got some pieces from a model shop," he says. "The rest I made myself. Then I just had to stick it all together and paint it."
"It must have taken you forever," says Carol, still looking at all the details.
"Yeah," says Ed. "I think I may be addicted to glue."
Having finally got over her initial surprise and delight, a thought strikes Carol. "But why did you make it?"
"Isn't it obvious?"
"Probably only to you," says Carol with a smile.
Ed smiles back. "It's simple. Now when we go away to New York, we don't have to leave Stuckeyville behind. We can take it with us."
Carol smiles. "That's wonderful."
"And," says Ed, "we can make Mini-Mike and Mini-Nancy rob the bank and go on the run like Bonnie and Clyde."
Carol laughs. Then a thought hits her. "You said 'we'."
"You said when we go to New York."
"Of course I did," says Ed. "There's no way I wouldn't be with you."
Carol shakes her head. "I can't ask you to leave everything you have here for me."
"Carol," says Ed, "without you, everything I have here won't mean much. Besides," he goes on, "there's something else special about Mini-Stuckeyville."
"Look under the jewellery shop."
Hesitantly, her suspicions rising, Carol locates the jewellers and lifts the tiny ship up. Underneath, there is a life-size diamond ring.
"Will you marry me?" asks Ed.
Carol looks up at him, her faces a mass of emotions. Her eyes well up with tears as she says, "No," and places the shop back over the ring.
Ed is stunned. He was sure so she'd say yes he hadn't planned how best to react if she didn't. So he doesn't react. He just stares at her, his smile fixed on his face like it was glued there.
"This isn't the time to get married," explains Carol. "Even if everything was going great I'd probably think it was too soon, but with all we've been through lately, I think we need to get used to being together before we can think about getting married."
Ed finds his voice, doing his best to hide is disappointment. "Yeah, you're probably right. It was a stupid idea."
"It wasn't stupid," says Carol. "It was beautiful." She kisses him. "Thank you for asking."
Ed is still crushed but fighting against it. "So Just what is the proper etiquette after a rejected marriage proposal? Do we shake hands and say good night or is rampant sex still an option?"
Carol smiles. "I'd say that sex is still an option."
"That's your department."
"Ok, rampant it is."
She can see that Ed is still trying to mask his feelings. "It might not be much consolation," she says, "but if you want, we can move in together."
Ed is startled by the offer. "In New York?"
"Here," says Carol.
Ed glances at the models of he and Carol in Mini-Stuckeyville. "Are you talking about Mini-Me and Mini-You?"
Carol shakes her head. "Big me and big you. In big Stuckeyville."
"But what about New York? Your career?"
"The song says that if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere," says Carol. "Well, Stuckeyville is anywhere."
Ed smiles, takes her in his arms, and kisses her.
ED & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – THE NEXT DAY
"Hey, Ed," says Frankie as she enters. "I've been working on some numbers and I think we should be able to keep the office running when you go to New York." She pulls out a sheet of paper and waves it at him. "I realised that with our new server you can actually do some work from New York so if we - "
"I don't need the numbers any more," interrupts Ed.
"But I stayed up all night doing them."
Ed takes the paper from her and looks at it. It's just one page of hand-scrawled numbers and notes. "It took you all night to do that?"
"Well I missed Letterman," says Frankie.
"I appreciate the sacrifice," says Ed, "But like I said, I don't need them. I'm not going to New York."
Frankie is surprised. "You're not? What about Carol?"
"I asked her to marry me," says Ed.
Frankie's expression is unreadable. "And?"
"She said no."
Frankie simply raises her eyebrows, inviting him to continue.
"She had reasons of course, good logical, think-with-the-head-not-the-heart ones, but it was still a no." He pauses. "But on the plus side she did say she was staying in town and suggested we move in together."
"Well I guess two out of three ain't bad," says Frankie as she plucks the unwanted sheet of paper from between Ed's fingers and heads back to her desk.
"Is that all you have to say?" asks Ed.
"On the subject of you and Carol? Most definitely."
Ed shakes his head ruefully. "I know we hurt you Frankie, but don't you have it in your heart to wish Carol and I happiness?"
"I do wish you happiness," says Frankie. "It's just that a part of me also wishes you eternal heartache. It makes knowing what to say in these situations kinda tricky."
CAROL'S PLACE – TWO WEEKS LATER
Ed and Carol are in bed – use your own imagination as to what they've been doing – and are cuddled up together, Carol's head resting on Ed's shoulder.
"So," says Ed, "when are you going to move in?"
"I am in."
"I mean to my place."
Carol raises herself up and looks at him. "You think we're moving in to your place?"
"I assumed it. Didn't you assume it?"
"No. I assumed something else."
"You assumed we'd move in here?"
"It's what I assumed." She adds. "After all, I've lived here longer than you've lived in your house."
"Well, yes, but - "
"And this is the nicer house."
Ed looks around the room. "You think this is nicer than my house?"
"Sure. Don't you?"
"Your place reminds me of my mother's place."
"Well there you are."
"That's not a good thing, Carol."
Carol sits up. "Are you saying I have bad taste?"
"No," insists Ed. "You have great taste. In clothes."
"Nick did most of the decorating," says Carol, defensively. Then, in a more determined voice, "But it's still my house and I don't see why we should automatically move into your place."
"If we're living together we can't live in both houses. It would fail the key criteria of living together."
"I know that."
"So why don't we list the pros and cons of living in each house and come to a sensible conclusion."
"Ok," agree Carol. She reaches for her writing pad that she keeps by the bed to write down ideas that come to her in dreams and divides a blank page into two halves. On one side she writes "My house" and on the other "Ed's house". "Right," she says, "let's start with my house. Pro; It's my house."
"It's going to be a long night," mutters Ed.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – THE NEXT DAY
"I'm not going to be working this afternoon, Frankie," Ed informs her as he arrives.
"You're the boss," she says. Then she frowns. "Actually you're not the boss any more. Why the hell won't you be working this afternoon?"
"Carol and I are going house hunting."
"You need more houses?"
"Apparently," says Ed. "But it makes sense. Fresh start. No baggage."
"What baggage does a house have?"
"And Jennifer, and Bonnie and – "
"Shut up, Ed."
"Those were just the tip of the 'cons' iceberg. Do you hate my curtains?"
Frankie is understandably surprised at the question. "I'm pretty ambivalent about them."
"Turns out Carol hates them."
"She sounds picky," says Frankie. "Maybe you should dump her."
"Sorry," says Ed. "I forgot I'm not supposed to talk about Carol in the office." A sudden thought strikes him. "Hey, you want my house?"
"I don't really want to sell it. Why don't you have it?"
"I can't afford it."
Frankie looks at him with surprise. "I can't take your house, Ed."
"Glen will live there too. Call it child support."
"I'm going to call it you acting all weird again. You don't really want to give me your house."
"Sure I do. That way I know that you and Glen will always have a roof over your heads."
Frankie smiles. "You're amazing, you know that, Ed?"
"You're not the first to say it."
"I mean it," says Frankie. "But you need to understand that every time you do this kind of thing you make me feel like crap."
Ed frowns. "What?"
"I know you're doing all this because of the baby and I'm glad because it means he's going to have a great father. But it makes me think about what a wonderful family we could have been but never will be." She pauses. "And I'm sick of it, Ed."
Ed doesn't know what to say except, "I'm sorry."
"So please stop trying to build a nest for me and Glen, Ed. I don't want to learn to depend on you, because you're not mine to depend on."
Frankie returns to her work. Ed thinks for a moment then says, "Frankie."
She looks up.
"Do you want to rent my house?"
Frankie thinks for a moment. "I could use a bigger place when the baby comes. How much?"
"Same as you're paying for your apartment."
"The house is worth more."
"I'm meeting you half-way," says Ed. "Let me do that at least."
Frankie surrenders. "Ok. Deal."
MOLLY'S OFFICE – 1 WEEK LATER
Molly is at her desk working when she hears a voice.
Molly looks up and is surprised at who it is. "Frankie."
"Your secretary wasn't there so I came right in."
"That's fine," says Molly, uncertain as to why Frankie is there. "Take a seat."
Frankie does so and Molly continues, "So, how are you? We haven't really had a chance to speak since before, well, before."
"No," says Frankie. "You're usually with Carol and since I'm avoiding Carol - "
"Right, yeah, awkward," says Molly. Then she realises something. "Oh, but you talk to Nancy sometimes."
"Nancy made an effort to talk to me," says Frankie.
"Yeah, I didn't really do that," confesses Molly, squirming inwardly.
"Actually," says Frankie, "it was something Nancy said that brings me here."
"What's that?" asks Molly, relieved at the change of subject.
"She told me you're holding a big student musical review."
"Um, yeah, we are," confirms, Molly, unsure what this has to do with Frankie.
"But she said it was going to crash and burn because you don't have anyone to be musical director since Mr. Siminsky refused to have anything to do with any music composed later than 1855 and all the acts refused to play anything composed before 1955."
"Well I don't know that it will crash and burn," begins Molly.
"Oh, Nancy said that's what you said."
"Ok, yeah," admits Molly. "But why does that concern you?" A thought strikes her. "Are you applying for the job? I heard about your performance the other day."
Frankie shakes her head. "I only know three chords and two of those sound the same. But Jason's really good. He can play guitar and piano, and he reads music too."
"Jason," says Molly. "He's your - ?" she lets the question hang.
"Yes, he is," says Frankie. "So, how about it? He could really use the work."
"It's only a few weeks," says Molly. "And it doesn't pay much."
"That's fine," says Frankie.
"Ok," says Molly, "he's hired."
STUCKEYVILLE HIGH SCHOOL AUDITORIUM – 3 WEEKS LATER
Rehearsals are underway for the musical revue and "The Warren Cheswick Experience" are giving it their best onstage as Jason watches, expressionless. They reach the end of their song and Warren looks at Jason. "So, what did you think?"
Jason considers his answer carefully. "Some bands get by on their looks, some on their attitude," he pauses, "but you guys will have to learn to play."
Warren is downcast. Jason closes in for the kill. "Oh, and change the name."
"Change the name?" exclaims Warren. "The name is perfect. It exudes class and mystery. It makes the audience wonder who is Warren Cheswick and just how experienced is he."
"No," says Jason, "it makes people think that Warren Cheswick can't come up with a good name so he just rips off Hendrix. Next!"
Warren and the gang shuffle off the stage. "Who's Hendrix?" asks Warren of Mark as they leave.
The next act – a one-man band - starts setting up as Frankie enters and goes over to see Jason. They kiss, to the amusement of the kids that are scattered around the auditorium. "How's it going?" she asks.
"Ok," he says. "I think we might have a show once I've filtered out the crap."
"Don't be too hard on them," says Frankie. "This thing is supposed to be fun."
"Being hard on them is how I get my fun," he tells her, causing her to shake her head in mock dismay.
"Well I've been talking to Principle Hudson and she said they have an opening for a teacher's assistant in the music department."
Jason is suddenly cautious. "Yeah?"
"Uh-huh. She's been impressed with what you've done on the revue and she thinks you'd have a good chance of getting the job."
Jason seems far from enthusiastic. "I don't think so, Frankie."
"Well, fact is, taking this job has already made me feel like I'm getting tied down."
"It was a four week job. How is that being tied down?"
"Hey, to me, any job is being tied. I'm the original rolling stone."
"You can't be the original."
"No," he concedes, "but I'm like him, whoever he was. I mean, I like it here, it's a cool little town. But I'm ready to move on."
Frankie's face shows her disappointment and he hurries to clarify. "Hey, I don't mean I want to move on from you. You're great, I love being with you."
"Well, you can't stay here with me and go away."
"I know that," he says. "that's why I want you to come away with me."
Frankie is too surprised to answer. There is a cough from the stage. Jason looks and the one-man band asks, "Should I start?"
Jason glances at Frankie, then back at the student. "Take five, yeah?"
The student nods and shuffles off the stage, drum beating and cymbals clashing as he goes. Jason turns his attention back to Frankie.
"Where?" she asks.
"Anywhere," he says. "We go wherever the mood takes us. Florida, California, Vegas, anywhere you ever wanted to see."
"I always wanted to do something like that," muses Frankie. "Just take off in a van across the country."
"Then, let's do it."
She is clearly tempted but shakes her head. "I can't. I'm going to have a baby."
"You can have a baby anywhere," insists Jason. "There's hospitals if we need them. And he's not going to need a school for years."
"It won't work," she says. "I have responsibilities - a career that's important to me."
"I guess it's a question of which dream to want to follow," says Jason. "You can stay here and be a small-town lawyer bringing up your baby to be like all the other small-town, kids. Or you can come with me and really live, really see America, and bring up a child with the same free sprit that I know you have."
Frankie is carried away by his words and the vision of the two of them (soon to be three of them) out on the road. Suddenly she remembers all the dreams she had before ending up in law school. Rock star, actress, general all-round cool bohemian type. Being a lawyer suddenly felt staid, boring. On an impulse she says, "Ok."
Jason smiles. "You'll come?"
"Frankie smiles back. "I'll come."
Jason grabs her face and kisses her. "That's great," he says. Then he frowns. "Just one thing. I don't have a van."
"We'll get one," says Frankie.
ED & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – THE NEXT DAY
"Are you insane?" demands Ed.
"There's nothing insane about it," retorts Frankie.
"Then what is it, Frankie?" he asks. "What exactly do you call abandoning your life and running off across the country like a pair of reincarnated hippies?"
"An adventure," says Frankie calmly. "A time to reflect, a new life."
"Yeah," says Ed, "that really pays the bills."
"We'll get by. Jason always has."
"Jason only had one set of clothes and was arrested for vagrancy when you met him!"
"Like I said, we'll get by. I've waitressed and tended bar. I can always get work."
Ed can't understand. "What's going on here, Frankie? A few months ago you were prepared to have an abortion to save your career and now you want to just throw it all away. Do you really love Jason that much?"
"I don't love him at all," says Frankie. "He's nice and we have a good time, that's all."
"Because he's made me realise that there's more to life than my career. He's told me stories of the things he's done and the places he's been that would amaze you. He's only twenty three but he's lived more than you and me put together." She pauses. "And he's reminded me that I used to want that too. I went into law to please my parents, not to please me. Once I was in I went for it with all I had because that's how I am, but it was never my dream."
Ed listens to this little speech calmly, then says, "And what about the baby."
"He'll be fine. I'd never do anything to put him at risk."
"You don't think heading off into nowhere is a risk?"
"I'm prepared. I'll put some money aside in an emergency fund. If I hit a problem I can be on the first plane home." She pauses. "I do want this, Ed."
Ed shakes his head. "It's not all about what you want Frankie. What about me?"
"I'll clear up my outstanding cases before I go and I'll sign my share of the business back to you."
"It's not about the business!" he says with feeling. "Don't you think that I might want to see my child born. Don't you think I want to feel his first tooth, hear his first word. Watch him crawl and walk and teach him to ride a bike. What I don't want is to spend the whole time wondering where the hell in the country he is."
Too angry to say any more, Ed storms out of the office, leaving Frankie startled, but with things to think about.
STUCKEYBOWL – LATER
Ed is bowling alone. He's not doing great because he's taking out his frustration on the pins and is playing with more force than finesse. Frankie comes out of the office and watches him. After a few moments she walks over and takes a seat beside him. He notes her arrival but doesn't acknowledge it.
"I'm sorry, Ed," she says, eventually. "You're right. I'm being very selfish about this."
He stops bowling and looks at her, but says nothing.
She continues. "You've done everything you possibly could for me since you brought me back that night. The partnership, the house – you even offered to get back together." She sighs. "And you deserve better than for me to just throw all that back in your face."
Ed finally speaks. "So you'll stay?"
"I still plan on going," says Frankie. "But there's no rush. I'll stay here at least until the baby is born. Then we'll see."
Ed nods. It's not all he wants, but it's a start. Frankie stands and approaches him. "You know those baby books you've been reading?"
"Do they say that being pregnant can mess with your hormones? Make you all weepy, stuff like that."
"Yeah, they do," says Ed.
Frankie sniffs, and Ed can see that she's holding back tears. "Well I guess it's affecting me today so – if you don't mind, I could really use a hug."
Ed hesitates just a second before taking her in his arms and hugging her tight.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – ONE WEEK LATER
Frankie is working away while Ed is pretending to work but is actually reading a baby book. He looks up as Mike enters.
"Hey, Mike, what can I do for you?"
"Nothing," says Mike. "I'm here to see Frankie. Hey Frankie."
She smiles a greeting. "Hi Mike."
"I brought you that information on birthing classes you wanted," he says, handing over some leaflets to her.
"Birthing classes?" asks Ed.
"Yeah. I figured I should sign up for for some," says Frankie. "I've never done this before, remember."
Ed nods and is silent for a moment while Frankie continues to read.
"Who's your birthing partner?"
"I don't have one."
"What about Justin?" He'd taken to calling Jason Justin because of his youth and passing resemblance to Justin Timberlake.
"Jason," chides Frankie automatically, "and I don't think birthing classes are really his thing." She looks at Mike. "I was thinking of asking Nancy. She's probably the closest thing I have to a friend in Stuckeyville."
"I'm sure she'd be glad to," says Mike. "In fact, I'd encourage it. Since she's been hanging out with you she's been getting broody and I'm always looking to add to the Burton clan."
"Then maybe I shouldn't encourage her," says Frankie with a smile. "But I need someone."
"What about me?" asks Ed.
Frankie gives him a look. "You?"
"Who better then me? I am the father."
Frankie shakes her head. "It would be too weird. You have to hold me and stuff."
"Don't be silly," says Ed. "I'd like to think we've come far enough in the past few months that we can touch each other without it being weird."
"Well what about Carol?" asks Frankie. "You almost broke up because you were spending too much time with me."
"Carol and I have come a long way too. She accepts that I want to be involved with the baby and I know not to make her feel shut out."
Frankie looks uncertain. She looks to Mike for the casting vote. "Do you think Ed being my birthing partner is weird?"
"I think everything Ed does is weird," says Mike. "But if it were my baby, I'd want to do it."
"I guess that settles it then," says Frankie, before adding to Ed, "but you'd better tell Carol it was your idea."
STUCKEYVILLE CLINIC – 2 WEEKS LATER
Frankie is at her birthing class. She is the only person there without a partner. The course leader looks at her with sympathy.
"I'm sure he just got held up," says Frankie, embarrassed.
The course leader smiles and nods but obviously half believes that Frankie has invented Ed. She looks at the clock. "Well, I'm afraid we'll have to start. Your - Ed was it?" Frankie nods. "He'll just have to catch up."
She turns to the class as Frankie lowers herself to the mat, "Ok, everyone, welcome to the - "
She gets no further as the door opens and in comes Ed dressed in sweats and with a whistle in his mouth. He blows on it, grabbing everyone's attention and then says, "Ok, people, let's have babies!"
"Dear God," says Frankie, as everyone stares at Ed in amazement. His enthusiasm undaunted, he gets down beside Frankie. He has a stopwatch around his neck which he shows her.
"What's that?" she asks.
"Three minutes, forty two seconds."
"You boiled an egg?"
"It's the time it takes for me to get from my house, to your house and then to the hospital." He lets the stopwatch drop. "Of course, that's under ideal circumstances, during the daytime. Later we'll do a dry run where I have to get dressed and then carry you down the stairs."
"Can we start?" asks the course leader.
"Sure, go ahead," says Ed. "Oh, you don't mind if I pitch in with a few suggestions do you?"
"Yes," says the course leader firmly, "I do."
FRANKIE'S HOUSE – 2 WEEKS LATER
Ed is moving some of his stuff out of Frankie's to take to his new house. Frankie and Jason are watching as he struggles to move a heavy chest of drawers.
"You want a hand with that?" asks Jason.
"I'm fine," grunts Ed.
Jason looks at Frankie, who shrugs. "I'll go and practice then," he says and heads upstairs.
As soon as he is gone, Ed stops struggling with the chest of drawers and collapses on the sofa. Frankie shakes her head. "Why won't you accept Jason's help?"
"Because I am a man," says Ed between pants.
"Like I said, I am a man."
At that moment, Mike and Nancy enter through the open door, each carrying a box. "Hi guys," greets Frankie.
"Hey, Frankie," says Nancy. She looks at Ed. "What's up with you?"
"Nothing," says Ed. "I am a man."
Nancy nods as if this makes sense and turns to Frankie. "We brought you those old things of Sarah's."
"Oh, thanks," says Frankie.
Nancy and Mike lay down the boxes and Frankie starts going through them. They are full of typical baby things - clothes, toys and general practical items. "These are great, guys," she says. "Thanks."
"I'm just glad they're useful to someone," says Nancy.
"But we might need them back in a year or so," says Mike.
Nancy gives him a look. "Why?"
"Come on, Nance. Don't think I haven't noticed you checking out baby stuff."
Nancy just gives him a look of wide-eyed innocence. Ed gets up and takes an interest, poking through the things critically. "You know, guys, this is really good of you, but I'm going to buy all this kind of stuff anyway."
"There's no need," says Frankie.
"But I want to," says Ed.
Mike picks up an item at random. "See this?" he says to Ed. "Costs seventy five bucks. They use this for like a month and a half." He picks up another item. "This was fifty. She grew out of it in three weeks." He goes on. "But the magic number for everything you have to buy for a baby is $100. Need a car seat? It'll run you about a $100. Need a high chair? It'll run you about a $100. Need a stroller? It'll be about a...well, you get the idea."
Ed digests the reality of the situation. "Thanks, guys," he says at last. "This is all great stuff and we really appreciate it." He turns to Mike. "Hey Mike, can you give me a hand with this chest of drawers."
"Sure," says Mike and goes to help.
"How come you can accept his help?" asks Frankie.
"He's not twenty three," says Ed.
Frankie and Nancy exchange a look. "Men!" they remark in unison.
ED'S & FRANKIE'S OFFICE – 1 DAY LATER
Frankie is working intently. She doesn't see Ed in the doorway, dressed in his sweats and complete with whistle and stopwatch. He observes her for a few seconds then gives a sharp blow on the whistle.
"Jesus!" screams Frankie as she almost leaps out of her chair in surprise.
"On your feet, Frankie" says Ed, coming in and laying out a rubber mat on the floor. "Game is on."
"Don't do that, Ed. I almost had the baby right here."
Ed ignores her. "Come on, let's do some breathing exercises."
"I don't want to do breathing exercises," says Frankie. "I've been breathing for years. I have mastered breathing."
"I have something new I want to try."
"What do you mean, 'something new'?" asks Frankie.
"I'm not happy with the technique they're teaching there."
"How would you know what makes a good technique?"
"I read a book."
"What's happening?" says Mike as he enters. "I thought I heard a whistle."
"What's happening," says Frankie is that I'm dealing with the most dangerous thing in Stuckeyville. An ill-informed Ed."
She tries to get back to work, but Ed blows his whistle again and points to the mat. "Step up to the plate, Frankie."
Frankie stands, marches over to him and grabs the whistle hanging round his neck. She yanks on it and a struggle ensues.
"You're choking me!" gasps Ed.
"Then let go!" says Frankie.
Eventually the cord snaps and Frankie has the whistle. She goes over to Mike, who has been watching with amusement and hands it out to him. "Ten bucks if you swallow this."
Mike thinks for just a second.
"No way he'll do that," says Ed.
Mike smiles, then takes it, puts it in his mouth. He swallows (with difficulty) then grins. Frankie claps while Ed looks at him, astonished. "How can you, a doctor, do something so stupid as swallow a whistle?"
"A bet is a bet, Ed," says Mike. "But hey, if you want it back, come see me tomorrow."
DINER – 10 WEEKS LATER
Carol and Molly are having lunch.
"So anyway," says Molly. "I can't decide whether to choose one or just have sex with both of them."
Carol doesn't respond. She just stares into space with a pensive look on her face.
Carol blinks and looks at her.
"Something on your mind?" asks Molly.
Molly gives her a look.
"Come on," says Molly, "share. You know you can never solve a problem until you've told me about it."
Carol considers how to start. "Well, you know Frankie's talking about leaving town when the baby is born?"
"I know," says Molly. "I can't keep up with her. She's coming, she's going, she's staying, she's leaving. I've never had any trouble staying put."
"Yeah, well, Ed wants the baby to stay in town."
"Of course he does, but what can he do? He can't tie Frankie up and lock her in the basement."
"No, he has another solution," says Carol. "He wants to let Frankie go and keep the baby here."
"No, Molly. He wants to keep the baby." She pauses. "He wants us to keep the baby."
It takes Molly a couple of seconds to react. "Oh, wow. How do you feel about that?"
Carol sighs. "I don't know. I wasn't planning on being a mother just yet, still less the mother of Frankie's baby."
"It's Ed's baby too," Molly reminds her gently.
"That's why I don't think I can say no," says Carol. "I feel I have to do it for Ed."
"Is that a good enough reason?"
"I thought about that. All I could do was ask myself if Ed would do it for me."
"I know he would."
Molly nods. "What does Frankie think about this?"
"That's the thing," says Carl grimly. "He hasn't told her yet." She sighs. "He's 'waiting for the right time'."
"Which will be some time the other side of never," observes Molly.
"I know," says Carol.
They are quiet for a moment as each sips on their coffees. Suddenly carol has a thought. "You know what? There's something else I can do for Ed. I can take the burden of this off his shoulders."
"What are you going to do?" asks Molly.
Carol drains her cup and stands. "I'm going to see Frankie."
FRANKIE'S HOUSE – A LITTLE LATER
Frankie opens and is surprised to find Carol there.
"Ed isn't here," says Frankie automatically.
"I know," says Carol. "I want to talk to you."
"We don't have anything to talk about."
"I think we do," insists Carol. "Can I come in?"
Frankie looks for a moment as if she's going to refuse, but she steps aside and gestures Carol in. It's the first time Carol has been in Ed's old house since Frankie moved in and she can't resist looking around a little.
"You've redecorated," she observes.
"A little," says Frankie.
"You changed the curtains."
Now she's here, Carol finds it hard to broach the subject. She looks around again. "Justin not here?"
"Oh, Ed said Justin."
"It's Jason and no, he's not here. Now do you want to say whatever you have to say?"
"May I sit?"
Frankie gestures to a chair but remains standing as Carol sits down. After taking a second to compose herself, Carol begins. "Are you still planning to leave town after the baby's born?"
"Yes," says Frankie. She gets suspicious. "Why? Has Ed sent you to try and talk me out of it?"
"Ed doesn't know I'm here."
"But you're going to tell me I shouldn't go?
"No," says Carol candidly. "I think you should if that's what you want." She pauses. "But you should leave the baby here."
"Don't drag your baby across the country. Leave him here."
"I'm not going to abandon my baby."
"I'm not asking you to. I'm saying you should leave him with Ed." She pauses. "And me."
Frankie is angry. "You think I'm going to give my baby to you?"
"You wouldn't be giving him to me, you'd be giving him to Ed."
"And who would the baby call mom?"
"I don't know, Frankie," says Carol. "Who would you call mom? The woman who raised you or the woman who left you and took off across the country in a bus?"
"Get out," says Frankie.
"Think about Ed. You say you won't give up your child but you expect him to."
"I'm his mother," says Frankie softly. "It's different."
"No it isn't."
"Yes, it is!" spits Frankie. "You don't know. You've never had a child growing inside you. This child is right here, it's a part of me. It's not the same!"
Carol isn't giving up. "Think about it, Frankie. Where will Glen have a better life? Here with his father or out on the road with you and Jason?"
"I'll love my baby!"
"That's not what I asked!"
Frankie is agitated and starts pacing. "So what if I say no? Is Ed going to try and get custody by making me out to be an unfit mother?"
"Ed would never do that to you," says Carol. "But tell me, if a man in Ed's position came to you, do you think you could make a case?"
Frankie doesn't answer. She doesn't even seem to be listening as she leans against the back of the sofa for support. Carol presses her advantage. "Live your life however you want, Frankie, but don't sacrifice Glen's childhood for it. You know he'll be better off here."
Frankie's face screws up in pain.
"Ed might think about getting custody," says Carol. "He might, if I tell him to. At the very least he can stop you leaving town until - "
She gets no further as Frankie grunts in pain and clutches at her stomach.
Carol watches in horror as Frankie loses her grip on the sofa and falls to the floor.
Meanwhile, Mike and Ed are shopping for baby supplies. Ed gazes at a seemingly endless array of diapers. "Which ones do I get?" he asks.
"All of them," says Mike.
"All of them?"
Mike explains. "You don't know which ones Glen will prefer."
"He's not even born yet, Mike. I seriously doubt he's developed brand loyalty."
"I'm just giving you the benefit of hard-earned experience," says Mike. "Sarah used to get real grouchy and we couldn't figure why. Then one time the store was out of our usual diapers so we switched brands. Sarah cheered right up."
Ed stares at him as if wondering whether to believe him. Eventually he nods and heads down the aisle, grabbing a sample of each brand.
"And don't forget Butt Paste," says Mike.
Ed looks around. "Where is it?"
Mike shrugs. "Ask someone."
"I'm not asking for Butt Paste, Mike."
"Ten bucks, Ed."
Ed gives him an exasperated look, which Mike responds to with a smug grin.
Meanwhile, Carol has rushed to Frankie.
"It's starting," gasps Frankie.
"Are you sure?"
"Nothing else could possibly feel like this."
Carol is panicky but controls herself. "Ok, can you get up?"
Frankie nods and, with Carol's help, gets to her feet. "My car keys," she says, pointing to the table.
"I'll drive you," says Carol.
"I can do it," insists Frankie stubbornly.
"Don't be stupid," snaps Carol. "You're coming with me."
She helps Frankie out of the house and into her car, then runs to get in the driving seat. "Are you ok?" she asks Frankie, gunning the car into life when Frankie nods yes.
As they pull out, Frankie reaches for Carol's cell-phone on the dash. "I have to call Ed."
"Speed-dial one," says Carol.
Frankie keys in the number and waits.
STUCKEYBOWL – ED'S OFFICE
On Ed's desk, his cell-phone chimes "Baby Love" to the empty room. It keeps going until eventually Phil appears in the doorway and looks at it. He screws up his face and shakes his head, slapping it a few times. "I'm going to have that tune in my head for the rest of the day," he complains.
Frankie hangs up in despair. "He's not answering!"
"It's all right," says Carol. "I'm here." She notices Frankie giving her a look. "Well I'm better than nothing!" She says.
Meanwhile, Ed and Mike have moved on to the baby powders.
"Do babies have a brand preference for these too?" he asks.
"Not that I know of."
Ed nods. "So which one?"
"None of them."
"What? There's like a dozen of them here. One of them must be ok."
"You don't need baby powder. You should use corn starch instead."
"Ok," says Ed, "I fell for the diaper thing, but I'm not falling for that."
"Corn starch," insists Mike. "The baby is less likely to inhale it and get lung infections. I'm a medical man, trust me."
Ed ignores him and puts a container of baby powder in his cart. Mike pulls it out and puts it back on the shelf. Ed pulls it down again.
"You don't want that," says Mike.
"Of course I do. It's baby powder. See it says so right on the package."
Mike takes it away from him and puts it on the shelf, "Yeah, but you shouldn't use it on babies."
Ed gives in. "I guess they should call it Non-Baby Powder, huh?"
STUCKEYVILLE HOSPITAL – A LITTLE LATER
Frankie is sitting up, eyes bulging and panting vigorously. Carol is behind her, arm around her shoulder, holding her hand.
"Aaaarg!" says Frankie, squeezing Carol's hand as a contraction hits.
"Aaaarg!" says Carol as Frankie almost breaks her hand.
"Where's Ed?" pants Frankie.
"I don't know!" says Carol. "He's not answering his cell-phone. I called Stuckeybowl and told Phil what's happening."
"What did he say?"
"Say hi to Boscette for me."
"Call back and speak to Eli!"
"Don't worry," soothes Carol. "I'll help you."
"Aaaarg!" says Frankie.
"Aaaarg!" says Carol.
"Ed's my birthing partner!" yells Frankie. "I hate to admit it but I need him."
"It's ok," insists Carol. "I know what to do."
"Ed practised on me," explains Carol. "He used to keep blowing a stupid whistle but I think he lost it."
"Aaaarg!" says Frankie.
"Aaaarg!" says Carol. Then Carol is concerned. She looks at her watch. "Your contractions are only thirty seconds apart!"
Frankie looks abashed. "Not really. I faked the middle one just so I could hurt your hand more."
Before Carol can respond to this, the door opens and the doctor enters. He looks at Frankie, then at Carol, and smiles. "So, is this your first?"
"Oh, no, we're not - " stutters Carol.
"No need to be coy," says the doctor jovially. "I've seen it all." He turns to the equipment tray and picks up a large pair of forceps which he clacks together experimentally. Frankie eyes widen in horror. "Just in case," says the doctor with a smile.
STUCKEYVILLE HOSPITAL – LATER
Frankie is in bed, gazing fondly at Glen who is sleeping in a cot by her side. She reaches out and gently caresses his head.
The moment is broken by the noisy arrival of Ed who bursts into the room – then stands shock still as he sees the blissful scene of mother and child before him. Frankie smiles. "What kept you?"
"I – I - " stutters, Ed.
"I understand," smiles Frankie. Then adds, "Want to see your son?"
Ed comes forward and stands beside the cot, looking down in amazement at Glen. "He's so small," he says.
"All men say that," says Frankie.
Frankie smiles. "Hold him."
Ed looks at her as if this is an absurd idea, then he looks back at Glen and steels himself before reaching down and ever so gently picking him up. He smiles at Frankie, who smiles back. Ed sits on the edge of Frankie's bed as the door opens and they both look up to see Carol standing there.
"Don't come in," says Frankie.
Carol looks hurt, and Ed even more so, but Frankie's face is determined and Carol steps outside. Ed is about to challenge Frankie but she starts to get out of bed.
"What are you doing?" he asks.
"I need to talk to Carol alone," says Frankie.
"You shouldn't be walking about," protests Ed, but Frankie makes her way slowly to the door. Ed watches her go, wondering what is going on, but a tiny noise from Glen brings his attention back to the bundle in his arms.
OUTSIDE FRANKIE'S ROOM
Carol is waiting outside and is surprised when Frankie emerges.
"Should you be up?" she says.
"Probably not," admits Frankie. "But I wanted to talk to you. I didn't get a chance to before."
"Well, you were busy," says Carol. "Giving birth and everything."
Frankie nods. "But, I wanted to say thanks for, you know, everything. If you hadn't been there with me I don't know what I'd have done."
"I kinda think I might have started it," says Carol. "But, you're welcome. I'm glad I was there."
They each give a tentative smile. Frankie lets out a big breath. "Well that wasn't so bad. Seems we can communicate after all."
"I've been trying to communicate for months," points out Carol.
"Yeah, but that was entirely inappropriate and purely to assuage your own sense of guilt for stealing my boyfriend."
Carol decides not to argue the point. "You're probably right."
They smile again, a little less tentatively this time. "Oh, could you do me a favour?" asks Frankie.
"Sure," says Carol.
"Next time Ed proposes," says Frankie, "say yes."
Carol is surprised and shows it. "Why does it matter to you if I say yes?"
"Because Ed deserves it," says Frankie. "And also because I want my son to spend his weekends in a stable environment."
Carol raises her eyebrows. "Weekends? Does that mean - ?"
"I'm not leaving," confirms Frankie.
Carol reacts with caution. "You seemed pretty determined before. Said it was what you wanted."
Frankie sighs. "That was the fear talking."
Frankie nods. "Fear that being a mother meant the end of my life. No more Frankie Hector, just 'Mom'. Going on a wild road trip with Jason seemed like a way of shouting out to the world that I was still one of the wild ones. Still me."
Carol nodes her understanding. "So what changed?"
"Seeing Glen, holding him. It made me realise how things change. That me isn't a constant, it's something that continually evolves. The Frankie Hector I was yesterday wasn't the same Frankie Hector who was at college, just as she wasn't the same one used a fake ID to get her first tattoo or the one who pushed Billy Taylor off the monkey bars for kissing her. They're all a part of me but none of them are me." She pauses. "And I'm happy that a new part of me has begun."
"That sounds like quite a revelation you had there," observes Carol.
Frankie nods. "Having a baby will do that. You should try it."
"Let me take a couple of years to think about that," says Carol. Then a thought strikes her. "What about Jason? Will he stay with you?"
Frankie shakes her head. "I don't think so. We don't have that kind of relationship. It was always going to be a question of when we parted company, not if."
Carol can think of nothing to say, so she says nothing. Instead she looks in on Ed, who is still busy cooing over Glen. "Shouldn't you be back in bed?" she tells Frankie.
Frankie looks down at her hospital gown. "I guess."
Carol reaches to push open the door.
"Carol," says Frankie.
Carol stops and turns.
"I was just thinking - will you be Glen's Godmother?"
Carol is stuck dumb with surprise so Frankie fills the silence. "I realise it's a kind of strange idea but since you'll be spending a lot of time with him anyway it makes a kind of sense." She pauses. "And whatever I may have thought about you in the past, I know you'd look after him like he's your own."
Carol finds her voice. "Are you sure about this?"
"It's an offer made in a moment of high emotion and rare connection that will soon pass and in all likelihood will never happen again," says Frankie. "But yes, I'm sure."
"Well since you put it like that," says Carol. "I'd be honoured."
They both smile – full smiles this time.
"The only question is," says Frankie. "Who wants to tell Ed?"
"Me!" says Carol instantly.
"No, me!" says Frankie.
"Me," says Carol again, rushing for the door.
"Don't you dare!" yells Frankie, following at the best speed she can manage.
Ed looks up, dumbfounded, as the pair dash into the room.
EPILOGUE – FIVE MONTHS LATER
Frankie enters Stuckeybowl with Glen in a baby carrier strapped to her chest. She heads over to a cordoned off section of Stuckeybowl.
"Hi, Nancy," she says.
"Hey, Frankie," replies Nancy. "Hello, little Ed," she says to Glen as she takes him from Frankie.
"Stop calling him that," says Frankie. "You'll confuse him."
"Sorry," says Nancy. "But he'll always be little Ed to me."
Frankie looks around. "Business is booming I see," she says as she observes a dozen or so children of varying pre-school age engaged in various activities. One young baby is being bottle-fed by Shirley, each staring unblinking at the other and a couple of toddlers are attempting to throw the sponge balls down the lanes.
"I know," says Nancy, proudly. "Thanks for persuading Ed to let me set up in here."
"Hey," says Frankie, "it's not like the place opens until noon."
Nancy smiles, then looks up. "Uh-uh, here he comes."
Frankie turns to look and sees Ed emerging from his office and hurrying over. "Hey there, little guy," he says, taking Glen from Nancy.
"Hi, Frankie," says Frankie.
"Sorry, hi," says Ed, not taking his eyes from Glen.
"I'll be in the office," says Frankie and heads away. Then she stops and turns back. "Oh, Nancy."
She looks up. "Yeah?"
"This time, don't let Ed take Glen to court with him."