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TITLE: I Is For In-laws
SUMMARY: Jill Danko has her first meeting with her new in-laws.
PART ONE: MIKE'S ORDERS
Mike Danko was sitting on the sofa in the cramped little house, still clutching the sheet of paper in his right hand. He had read it so many times that he had it memorized. The words 'report to Tan Son Nhut airbase in Saigon on September 30, 1971' echoed in his head. He looked at the calendar on the dining room wall. It was August 22nd. He'd been in Alabama just over two years, much longer than he thought he would be. He never thought he'd be here long enough to fall in love, much less get married, but that's what he'd done. His wife, Jill, was out at the moment, probably running errands. He wasn't sure how he was going to tell her about this. They'd both known it was going to happen, they just hadn't been sure when.
Jill was surprised when she pulled up in front of the house to find Mike's car already in the driveway. She parked behind him and got out, removing two bags of groceries from the back seat. Mike came to the door and opened it as she was climbing the steps. He took the bags from her as she followed him into the house. "Why are you home so early?" She asked curiously as he placed the bags on the counter.
"There's no easy way to say this, so I'm just going to say it. I got my orders this morning," he answered reluctantly, afraid to look her in the eye.
"Oh," Jill said softly, trying not to start shaking. "When do you have to leave?"
"I have to be in Saigon on the 30th of September. So, I guess I have to leave around the 27th or so," he sighed. "I asked for and got 30 days of leave before I have to go, so we'll have plenty of time together before I have to leave."
"I suppose you'll want to go to California to see your folks during that time," Jill remarked, putting groceries away.
"Yeah, I'd like to go see my folks, but I want you to go with me," he smiled at her.
Jill cringed at the thought. Since their marriage in March, she'd had two telephone conversations with Mike's parents and neither had gone very well. His mother had been pleasant but aloof, while, on the other hand, Mike's father had been almost openly hostile. It was clear that he didn't approve of his son's choice of a wife.
"Mike, this'll be the last time you'll get to see your parents for over a year. You don't need me tagging along," she said quietly.
"Hey, it might be the last time I see them for over a year, but it'll also be the last time I see you for over a year, too, and I don't intend to let you out of my sight for one second of the next 30 days. I'm going to drive you so crazy that you'll be begging me to leave on that plane in a month," he vowed, pulling her into his arms.
"That might be hard to do. I've kind of gotten used to having you around," she whispered, kissing him. "You must be hungry. I'll fix dinner."
That night, lying beside Mike in bed, Jill kept thinking about the news he'd given her. The words 'I got my orders' kept reverberating in her head. She'd been expecting this for a long time now, but it still came as a shock to hear the words spoken out loud. She hadn't been lying to Mike when she'd told him she'd gotten used to having him around. He'd become everything in the world to her, even more so since their marriage. The thought of spending the next 13 months without him was so unbearable that it made her chest ache. She quietly got out of bed and walked over to the window. She was staring out of it at the moonlight when Mike came up behind her and slipped his arms around her. She sighed as she leaned her head back against his chest.
"Can't sleep, huh?" He breathed in her hair.
"Uh uh," she admitted.
"Maybe I can help," he offered as he gently kissed her neck.
Jill smiled as Mike's lips found all of the sensitive spots on her neck. There were times when she thought they couldn't get enough of each other. Times when just a look or the slightest touch would set them both on fire. It helped obliterate all memories of Cleve from her mind. She placed her hands on top of his and squeezed them.
"So, do you want to talk about what's bothering you or do I already know?" He asked, grasping her hands.
"I was just thinking. I guess I got a little scared," she admitted in a small voice.
"Baby, I'll be fine. You'll see," he said, turning her to face him.
"I just don't want to lose you over there," she explained as tears began sliding down her face.
Mike sighed as he pulled her into his arms, her body shaking with sobs. He'd known that this wasn't going to be easy for her, but it wasn't easy for him, either. The last thing he wanted to do was leave her. He looked down at her as her sobs dwindled down to sniffles.
"Are you okay?" He asked as he brushed her tears away with gentle fingers.
She nodded as she pulled him closer to her. He led her back to bed and pulled her close to him, although he knew she wouldn't stay. She entwined her fingers with his as she drifted into a restless slumber.
When Mike woke up the next morning, Jill was sleeping on the far side of the bed, her arms wrapped tightly around her, as if she were trying to protect herself from something or somebody. He got out of bed as quietly as possible so he wouldn't wake her, knowing how restless she'd been the night before when she'd finally fallen asleep.
Jill woke up about half an hour later. When she reached for Mike all she felt was emptiness. She put her robe on and walked into the living room where Mike was sitting on the couch, reading the morning paper. He smiled as Jill sat down beside him.
"Good morning," he said, kissing her tenderly. "I made coffee."
"Oh, thank you," she said gratefully, going into the kitchen. "How long have you been up?"
"I don't know. Half an hour or so. Babe, I was thinking about what you were saying yesterday...about visiting my folks. Will you come with me??" Mike asked, following her into the kitchen.
"I don't know, Mike," she hedged. "I mean, I really have no intention of ever returning to California. I told you that a long time ago. Besides, your father hates me."
"Baby, he doesn't hate you," Mike corrected quickly. "How can he hate you when he's never even met you?"
"He's talked to me on the phone. He's made it quite clear how he feels about our marriage," she pointed out firmly.
"Well, I'm not going without you," Mike declared. "We'll go to California together and make some good memories of our own. Please come with me, Jill. Please?" He begged as he kissed her.
"Okay," she relented. "When would you want to leave?"
"Let me call my folks tonight and let them know we're coming. I guess we could leave in a couple of days. It'll take us three, maybe four days to drive across country if we take our time," he grinned, kissing her once again.
They left for California three days later. Those three days had been spent packing and unpacking. By the time they finally left Jill was a nervous wreck. That coupled with the fact that Mike's father didn't exactly jump for joy when Mike told him they were coming left Jill's nerves seriously on edge.
They got on the road early in the morning. Jill snuggled closer to Mike as he drove the car. He could tell how uptight she was and it worried him. His father wasn't always the easiest person in the world to get along with. What Jill was reading as rejection was just the way the old man was. He'd been raised that way and he was too old to change now. Mike and his siblings had learned long ago to just accept the way he was. Plus, Mike knew some of the decisions he'd made over the years regarding his military career hadn't exactly pleased his father either.
It took them three and a half days to get to California. Mike decided to stop for the night at a hotel about two hours away from his parents' home. It was late and he was too tired to feel up to dealing with them that night. His parents were always best taken early and in small doses. He led Jill into the small hotel room and collapsed on the bed in exhaustion.
"I'll call my folks and tell them we'll be there in the morning," Mike mumbled , staring up at the ceiling. "I figure we could both use a good night's sleep."
"Why does that sound ominous?" Jill asked wearily, stretching out beside him and resting her head on his shoulder.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean anything by it. I just meant that I know we're both tired and we could use a good night's sleep," he amended, propping up on one elbow to look at her. "I know one of us hasn't been sleeping well on this trip."
"I'm sorry, Mike," she apologized, unable to look him in the eye. "I just have this sense of...I don't know, dread, I guess."
"Babe, there's nothing to be afraid of," he reassured her, trailing his finger down her cheek. "They're just people, like people everywhere, I guess. I just happen to be their son. Hey, once they meet you, they're going to be as crazy about you as I am. I promise," he said, leaning down to kiss her.
"I hope you're right, because right now I'm beginning to feel like the second Mrs. DeWinter," she gave him an uneasy smile as she returned his kiss.
"Baby, please relax. You're not in the middle of a Hitchcock movie. I'll tell you what. I'll make a deal with you. If things get that bad we'll both leave. Fair enough?" He asked, moving closer and pulling her into his arms.
"You'd do that?" She queried, not sure whether to believe him or not.
"Yeah, I'd do that. I don't want you to be unhappy," he promised as she snuggled closer to him.
PART TWO: MEETING MIKE'S PARENTS
The next morning Mike and Jill got up early. Mike had told his parents the night before that they would try to be there by lunchtime. They had breakfast in the hotel coffee shop and got on the road shortly after nine. Jill had enormous butterflies in her stomach as they got on the freeway and headed for L.A. She still had vivid memories of the last time she'd been here. Mike kept glancing at her as he drove.
"Are you okay?" He asked her in a concerned voice.
"Yeah, I was just thinking of the last time I was here. I was excited for about two days," she said, forcing a smile as she looked over at him.
"Well, this time will be better," he promised.
"It already is."
As Mike pulled onto his parents' street, a feeling of trepidation came over him as well. He could still remember his fathers' words echoing through his head when he'd told him about Jill. It was almost as bad now as it had been when he was seven years old and being told he was being sent to military school for some minor infraction.
He winced when he remembered the conversation he'd had with him when Mike had called inviting his parents to his and Jill's wedding. He'd never told Jill about that as he didn't see any point in upsetting her. His father had basically told him that if he wanted to ruin his life by marrying Jill, that was fine, but neither he nor his mother would be a party to it.
By the time Mike pulled into his parents' driveway he'd broken out in a cold sweat. He nervously looked over at Jill one more time as he turned the engine off.
Jill didn't see him looking at her. She was too busy staring at the house. It was a large white colonial style house with a curving driveway and ivy covering one wall. To her eyes it was ten times more impressive than her mothers' house in Atlanta. Without a doubt, she knew that there was no way she belonged in this house or meeting these people. 'This was a mistake', she mentally berated herself.
"Jill?" Mike's voice broke through her reverie. "Are you ready to go in?"
"Mike, I can't do this," she whispered, terrified. "They're going to hate me."
"Hey, it's going to be okay. You've been through much worse stuff in your life than my parents. You're going to be great. Trust me," he reassured her, taking her hand and squeezing it tightly.
She looked into his eyes for what seemed an eternity, forcing herself to calm down. Mike was right. She'd been through worse stuff than meeting his parents, but on the other hand, she'd been bolstered by alcohol through most of that. She was startled by the sound of Mike opening her car door. He took her hand as he helped her out of the car.
"I'll get our bags in a few minutes," he said, putting a comforting hand on her waist as they walked toward the front door.
Mike took a deep breath as he rang the doorbell. Less than a minute later, the door was opened by a tall man with graying hair who looked so much like Mike that Jill knew he had to be Mike's father.
"Michael, I'm glad to see you're still punctual. All of that military school training has paid off very well," the man greeted, opening the door to let Mike and Jill in.
"Yeah, well, the Army tends to frown on lateness, too, Pop. Jill, this is my father, Charles Danko. Pop, I'd like for you to meet my wife, Jill," Mike announced proudly.
"Young lady," Mr. Danko said shortly, giving a barely imperceptible nod of his head. "Your mother's on the back patio with your brother."
"David's here? That's a nice surprise," Mike said as they followed Mr. Danko to the back of the house.
"If you say so," the older man stated curtly, opening the patio doors and leading them outside. "Mother, look who's finally arrived."
A short woman with beautifully coiffed gray hair approached Mike. She was dressed in a pastel pantsuit and expensive shoes. "Oh Michael, it's so good to see you!" She exclaimed, kissing him on the cheek.
"It's good to be here, Mother. I'd like you to meet my wife, Jill. Jill, this is my mother, Marie-Claudia Danko."
"Jill, welcome," Marie greeted aloofly. "It's good to meet you in person instead of always talking on the phone. This is Michael's brother, David," she said, pointing to the younger man still seated at the patio table. David looked like Mike except for eyes that were more gray than blue.
"We were beginning to wonder when Mike was going to bring you out of hiding. It's nice to finally meet you," David stated in a chilly voice, shaking both of their hands.
"Please sit down. Would you care for something to drink?" Marie asked as she showed them to the table.
"Water would be great. It was a long trip," Mike glanced over at Jill, who merely nodded.
Mike's mother went into the house but reappeared a few minutes later with two glasses of water, which Mike and Jill both accepted gratefully. She then sat at the patio table between Mike's father and brother where an uncomfortable silence ensued before everybody started speaking at once. They then all stopped speaking and burst into laughter.
"That almost sounded like when you, David and your sisters were children, all talking at once around the dinner table," Mr. Danko commented.
"Yeah, well, I really only remember that sound at holidays," Mike remarked tartly.
"So, when are you supposed to report to Saigon?" Mr. Danko asked, wisely changing the subject and ignoring Mike's remark.
"The end of September," Mike answered, taking a sip of his water.
"And what are your plans after that?" Mr. Danko probed.
"I'm not sure. Right now, my main plan is getting back alive," Mike answered shortly. He was beginning to feel like he was facing the Spanish Inquisition.
"Well, I'm sure that would be your main plan. I was just wondering what your long-term plans are. I mean, do you plan to stay in Alabama or are you going to relocate out here?" Mr. Danko pressed.
"Pop, I really don't want to talk about this right now. I don't know what my long-term plans are. I just want to get back in one piece. Can we please talk about something else?" Mike demanded.
"Sure, we can change the subject," his father remarked quietly.
The afternoon limped along. His mother went into the house shortly after five to start dinner.
Jill followed her inside. "Excuse, me? Mrs. Danko?" Jill asked timidly. "I was wondering if you needed any help with dinner."
"Oh, no, dear. Thank you for asking. You go back outside and visit," Mrs. Danko smiled.
Jill walked back outside and sat down beside Mike, who squeezed her hand as he stood up. "I'm going to go upstairs and take a shower. I'll be back down in a few minutes."
Jill gave him a look of sheer horror when she realized he was going to leave her alone. But his father's voice broke through her terror.
"I'm sure Michael told you that we dress for dinner," his father informed her in a steely voice.
"No, sir," Jill answered meekly.
"Michael, your mother fixed up your old room in the attic. It has its own bathroom and shower. Make sure you show your wife where everything is," he snapped, standing up and walking inside.
Jill was furious as she followed Mike up the stairs and then up a second flight of stairs leading to the attic. She'd never been so humiliated in her life. She picked up her suitcase and threw it on the queen-sized bed. "We dress for dinner? Who the hell does he think he is? Ozzie Nelson?" Jill asked, pulling a granny dress out of the suitcase. "Why didn't you tell me about this, Mike?"
"Baby, I'm sorry. I didn't think he'd make a big deal about it. Look, let me get in the shower first since it takes me longer to dress," he said, trying to kiss her, only to have her duck away from him. "Jill, please don't do this."
"At least you can say my name," she snapped furiously. "So far, he's only addressed me as 'young lady' and 'your wife.' Go on, take your shower."
Mike came out of the bathroom 15 minutes later, a towel wrapped tightly around his waist. He opened the suitcase and took out a dress shirt and a pair of dark slacks. Jill sat on the bed, watching him, thinking to herself that nobody had a right to look that good wrapped in nothing but a towel. He caught her eye and smiled before leaning down to kiss her. She was still angry at him but she was smart enough to realize he was trying to make up.
"If we had time I'd really make things up to you," he stated as he kissed his way down her face before capturing her lips with his own.
"If we had time I'd let you," she said, her words muffled by his mouth. "This isn't getting me in the shower."
"Okay, go. The towels are in the cabinet above the toilet. I have to get dressed anyway and I don't need any distractions," he said, straightening up. "What did you do with my underwear and socks?"
"Mike, they're in the same place they've been this entire trip. Under the lid of the suitcase," Jill answered, hanging her dress outside the bathroom door as she closed the door. It was only after she was standing under the shower that she let the tears fall. Meeting Mike's father in person was even worse than talking to him on the phone. His body language screamed disapproval. Mike's mother had been nice enough but Mike's brother hadn't said two words to Jill since their arrival. She stood under the water until it began to get ice cold before turning it off and getting out. She opened the door a crack to release the steam.
She opened the door to find that she was alone. She walked out and retrieved the towel from the floor where Mike had unceremoniously let it fall. She was silently fuming as she got dressed. She thought Mike would've at least waited for her to get dressed before he went downstairs. She hated when she had to play a game where she didn't understand the rules. She dressed and applied a light makeup, looking at herself in the mirror after she had finished. She hoped she looked presentable enough. She nervously brushed her hair one more time before going downstairs.
She heard voices coming from downstairs, so she followed the sound until she came to a formal dining room. Everybody stopped talking when she entered the room. Mike got up and pulled her chair out for her, ignoring her glare as she sat down.
"Jill, Michael was telling me that your mother lives in Atlanta. That's such a lovely, historical city. Michael's father was stationed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina when the boys were small and I remember we drove up to Atlanta for a day trip," Mike's mother said.
"Mike never told me he lived in North Carolina as a child," Jill commented, pointedly looking at her husband.
"That's because I never lived in North Carolina," Mike said through gritted teeth. He knew bedtime was definitely going to be interesting. In fact, it was probably going to be downright hostile.
"I know. Like I never lived in Atlanta," Jill whispered back.
"Okay. Point taken," Mike conceded.
Mike and Jill excused themselves for the evening early, both pleading exhausting from the trip. Jill preceded Mike into the attic bedroom, unzipping her dress as she walked into the room. When it fell to the floor at her feet she stepped out of it and threw it at the bed in a fury.
"Who are you and what the hell did you do with my husband?" Jill screamed at him.
"Would you please keep your voice down? I don't know what you're talking about," Mike whispered at her furiously.
"How dare you tell your parents anything about my mother! Did you have a chance to tell them about my father, too, or are you saving that for breakfast tomorrow morning?" Jill asked in a stage whisper.
"Jill, I didn't tell them anything. All they asked was where you were from and I told them that you'd always lived in Alabama. That's all. I didn't say anything else, I swear," he said, hoping she'd calm down.
"Why didn't you wait up here for me before dinner? I felt an inch tall walking into that dining room and finding everybody waiting for me. The Mike I married in Alabama would never do that to me. But since we've come into this house that Mike seems to have vanished. Or, is this the real Mike and the one I married is the phony?" She asked, fighting back tears.
"Baby, I'm sorry. This hasn't been easy for me, either. There's something about being around them that brings out the seven-year-old boy in me again," he answered quietly, approaching her.
"Mike, I want to go home. You promised me if I were unhappy we'd leave. Well, I'm unhappy. I'm going to be losing you in a month, anyway. I don't want you to leave with us on bad terms. I love you," she concluded in a shaky voice, tears sliding down her face.
"I'll tell you what. Let's spend tomorrow with David. We can go out, see some sights, have lunch, that sort of stuff. I'll tell my folks that we've decided to drive down the coast. Okay?" He compromised, pulling her into his arms.
"Okay. Maybe David'll say more than two words without your parents being around," Jill agreed.
They both undressed and changed into their nightclothes before getting into bed. Mike pulled Jill closer to him but she stiffened up when he began to caress her. She wanted to make love to him, but not in this house.
When she woke up the next morning, it was barely light in the room. She picked her watch up from the nightstand and squinted at it. It was almost 6:30. She glanced over at Mike, who was still sound asleep. She decided that she needed some air, so she pulled her robe on over her gown and silently padded her way downstairs. She was surprised to find Mike's father sitting at the kitchen table when she entered the room.
"Good morning," he said in a chilly voice, looking up from his paper. "Coffee?"
"Yes, thank you," Jill said, sitting down and taking the empty cup he offered her. She was pouring her coffee when she noticed him staring. She looked down at the pale white scars on the insides of her wrists. She quickly finished pouring her coffee and set the pot down.
"Does my son know you were in a psych ward?" He finally asked.
"Yes, but it isn't what you think. I spent two days under psychiatric observation before I was released to my grandfather's custody," Jill said nervously.
"Michael passed up a lot of opportunities. He could've gone to West Point or Annapolis or even The Air Force Academy if he so chose. Instead, he moved up through the ranks the hard way. I was very disappointed when he gave up West Point. If he had gone to the Point, he'd probably be a Lt. Colonel by now," he said, looking at Jill in disapproval.
"Sir, Mike gave up all of those things before he ever met me," Jill began.
"I realize that. But if he'd gone to the Point, he would've been associating with a different class of people. And I know for a fact that he'd never have gotten stationed in some backwater like Ft. McClellan, Alabama," he said with disgust.
"What exactly are you saying, sir? That I'm not good enough for your son?" Jill asked quietly, fighting to hold onto her temper.
Unknown to Jill and Mike's father, Mike was standing outside the kitchen doorway. He'd been worried when he'd awakened to find his wife gone. He'd hoped to stop her before she decided to wander around. He knew his father would come unglued if Jill opened one of the doors and set the burglar alarms off. Now standing outside the kitchen door, the conversation he was hearing upset him a great deal. All this time he'd been trying to reassure Jill that his father didn't hate her and that this was just the way the old man was. He took a deep breath as he heard Jill's last question.
"Don't even answer that question," Mike's voice boomed from the doorway.
Jill jumped and glanced over towards where the voice came from. She'd never seen Mike look like that in the entire time she'd known him.
"Jill, I want you to go upstairs, get dressed and pack our things," Mike continued, eyes dark with fury. "My father and I are going to have a talk."
Jill hesitated, not sure what to do.
"Go on, I'll be upstairs in a few minutes," he reassured her, smiling faintly.
Jill nodded and hurried out of the room.
After he was sure Jill was out of earshot he looked at his father. "Let's go into your study. I don't want to wake up Mother and David."
PART THREE: CONFRONTATIONS AND REASONINGS
Mike and his father stepped into Mike's fathers' wood and leather decorated study. Mike closed the door quietly behind them. "Maybe you'd like to explain to me what that was all about," Mike demanded, shaking with rage.
"I didn't mean for you to hear that," his father said, sitting behind his desk.
"I'm sure you didn't. I can't believe I was so stupid! Jill kept trying to tell me that you hated her. I don't know why I didn't listen to her. I mean, she's so attuned to people. She's never been wrong before. I don't know why I doubted her this time. Maybe it's because you're my father and I didn't want to believe her," Mike continued.
"Michael, I don't hate your wife-" his father started to say.
"Just... stop," Mike interrupted, holding his hand out. "You see, I heard your whole conversation. You were in the Army. You know they don't give you much choice about assignments. And as for better classes of people, you meet what you term 'white trash' everywhere you go. I even remember seeing them on the streets of Paris when I was seven years old. I'm sorry Jill isn't Wendy, but I didn't love her! I'm sorry Jill's father isn't a Five-Star General but she's so much more. She's sweet and she's funny and...you know, I don't know why I'm trying to justify her to you! I'm going to go upstairs to help Jill pack. We'll be out of here in about an hour. Go wake Mother up so I can say goodbye to her," Mike concluded in a disgusted voice, preparing to walk out the door.
"Michael, please don't do this," Mr. Danko begged.
"I'm going to tell you something. When you declared open war on my wife you also declared war on me!" Mike said, opening the door and stalking out.
Jill was trying to pack their things, blinded by her tears. She was terrified of what Mike was going to say or do to his father. She'd only seen him that angry once before and the level of his rage had frightened her worse than anything Cleve had ever done to her. She looked toward the door, startled, as she heard Mike's footsteps approaching. She wiped at her tear stained face as he entered the room.
"Are we all packed?" He asked curtly as he walked in.
"Almost. I just need to finish packing the overnight case," she sniffled as she closed the suitcase.
"Go ahead and get it together while I take this down to the car," he said as he picked the suitcase up off the bed.
"Mike?" She stopped him as he got to the door. "I'm sorry."
He dropped the suitcase by the door and strode toward Jill as she burst into tears. "Baby, don't," he begged, stroking her hair and back as she cried. "None of this was your fault. My relationship with my father is complicated. I'm the one who should be apologizing to you. I shouldn't have subjected you to the verbal assault you underwent downstairs. I am so sorry. Please forgive me. For this morning, for last night, hell, for everything," he smiled at her ruefully.
Jill pulled away and was about to say something when they both heard a knock on the door. Mike reluctantly released Jill and went to open the door.
"What's going on? Pop's about to have a stroke," David said as he walked in, looking from Mike to Jill and back again.
"We're getting ready to leave. It's a long story and I really don't want to get into it here," Mike answered shortly, picking up their suitcase once again as he walked out of the door, David on his heels. "Jill, when you get the overnight case together bring it downstairs."
"Okay," Jill agreed quietly.
"Mike, wait!" David yelled, following Mike out to the car. "What's going on?"
Mike opened the trunk and threw the suitcase in. "Pop decided to pull the Spanish Inquisition treatment on my wife," Mike said, still seething.
"Oooh," David said, making a face. "So, where are you and Jill going to go?"
"I don't know. I thought we'd drive down the coast," Mike snapped, slamming the trunk closed.
"Would you mind a tour guide for the day? I wanted to talk to you, anyway. I never got a chance to explain why I'm in town," David continued.
"Yeah, a tour guide would be nice," Mike smiled. "Let me go say goodbye to Mother and collect my wife. You want to ride together or follow us in your car?"
"Why don't you follow me? I know a great place for breakfast," David volunteered.
"Sounds good. I'll be back in a few minutes," Mike said, walking toward the house.
Mike's mother was in the living room when he came back into the house. He looked toward the stairs as Jill was walking down. She waited by the stairs as Mike went to say goodbye to his mother.
Mrs. Danko walked up to Mike and hugged him tightly. "Michael, please don't do this. Whatever's been wronged can be made right."
"No, Mother. Not this time. I love you and I'll call you as soon as we get back home," he said, returning her hug. He then looked over to Jill. "Are you ready, babe?"
"Yeah," Jill said, handing the overnight case to Mike as she hugged his mother. "It was nice to meet you."
"Jill, please talk to him. A son shouldn't be estranged from his father," his mother pleaded tearfully.
"I'm sorry," Jill whispered, fighting another flood of tears.
At the restaurant Mike and Jill sat side by side on one side of the booth while David sat across from them. After ordering coffee, they started talking.
"So, you said you were going to explain why you're here instead of home in New York," Mike began.
"I'm getting divorced, Mike," David said, toying with his coffee cup.
"Oh, no, David. No wonder Pop didn't seem thrilled to have you there," Mike observed.
"I was working a lot of overtime. I came home from work early one day and the kids were in the backyard. It was freezing cold outside, Mike. I asked Tracy why they weren't in the house and she told me 'Mommy locked the door.' Well, I went in to find out why Lisette had locked my kids out of the house and found her in our bed, 'entertaining' our mechanic," David explained ruefully.
"What did Pop and Mother say?" Mike asked.
"I just told them I left her. I couldn't tell them why. I could forgive her screwing around on me, but I can't forgive her screwing around with our kids right under her nose. I've been talking to lawyers about getting custody," David lamented.
"Good luck. From what I understand, unless she's a drugged out, axe murderer, you won't stand a snowball's chance in hell," Mike told him.
"Even if she's a drugged out, axe murderer, getting custody could be a problem," Jill threw in.
"I like her. She has a sense of humor," David laughed.
"Thank you," Jill smiled.
A short time later, Mike excused himself to go to the men's room. David took the opportunity to give Jill some insight into their father's behavior.
"Right before Mike graduated from military school and went to college he was dating a woman named Wendy. In fact, we all thought he was going to marry her. My parents were crazy about her. Her father was a retired General and she had a great bloodline, which is all my old man cares about and which also explains how I came to marry 'The Anti-Christ.' I don't know why Mike and Wendy broke up, but for what it's worth, I'm glad they did," David grinned.
"Thank you, David," Jill smiled shyly as Mike came back to the table.
They left David later that afternoon and drove down the coast. That night they stayed at a hotel in Pacific Palisades in a room with a great view of the coastline. Mike was lying in bed watching TV when Jill came out of the shower. She got in bed beside him and pulled herself across his lap. He smiled as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her.
"Um, you taste good," he murmured against her lips.
She snuggled closer to him and wrapped her arms tighter around him, resting her head on his shoulder. They sat like that for so long that Mike thought she'd fallen asleep. But, when he looked at her she glanced back up at him and smiled.
"I love you so much," she whispered as she pressed herself closer to him. "I don't know how I got so lucky."
"I guess you could say I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Just think what would've happened if you hadn't decided to go wandering that day," he grinned.
"No, I think of what would've happened if I kept Garry's change that first day you came into the bar," she corrected, stroking his chest.
"Oh, so our getting together was Garry's doing?" Mike guessed.
"Well, that and Jimmy's stubbornness," Jill smiled, moving her hands gradually lower.
"You know what happens to you when you start moving your hands like that," Mike said, nibbling her neck as he gradually rolled her onto her back. She smiled up at him as he lowered his head toward her.
As their bodies became one, they both thought about how lucky they both were.