Author's Note: This is the final chapter of "In This Life". Thanks to all of you who have read and reviewed so faithfully. "Better Days" will be finished up next so a brand new Philly story can begin.
She had always tried not to care what people thought of her-always vehemently denied that the opinions of others had any impact on her opinion of herself. Tonight though, as she sat at the table alone in the middle of the restaurant, she couldn't pretend it didn't get to her.
These weren't just people-these were friends, family members, people whose thoughts and opinions she held most dear. People who now glared at her from across the room, who shook their heads in silent rebuke, who whispered to each other in plain sight. Even her daughter, the one she'd hoped most would understand had judged her, no matter her claim. Phyllis knew what judgement felt like. God knows she'd felt it many times in her life and judgement was just what she'd received from her daughter.
Daniel had been one of the few friendly faces tonight and she'd nearly cried when she'd kissed his cheek and watched him leave-even if he was only heading to his room. She felt as if she was losing her ally-and she now stood alone-in front of an all too unfriendly firing squad.
Billy stepped into the room, his eyes immediately finding hers. She watched as the eyes of the room followed him, their scornful expressions still plastered on their scornful faces.
He reached the table, pulling a chair closer to her, keeping his back to the brood of jurors. "So this is what it feels like to be a pariah, huh? I've had some experiences as the resident screwup, but the pariah is a bit different-a bit more daring."
That disarming grin flashed at her and she smiled at him. He always amazed her at his ability to bring levity to any situation-even a situation as terrible as this. He touched her hand lightly, mindful of the eyes he could feel burning a hole in the back of his head.
"Why don't you let me take you home?"
He paused, seeing the flash in her eyes and knowing immediately what she was thinking. "To my place?" He added softly.
She nodded, standing and allowing him to wrap the shawl he already held in his hands around her. For a fraction of a second, she'd swear she'd seen shock on his face. No doubt he was expecting a fight. He expected her to beg him to go back to Jack's, to give her a chance to talk to him, to have a chance to make him understand, but she hadn't done that. She was fresh out of fight tonight.
The drive had been almost silent. He'd tried making conversation once or twice, but he'd eventually stopped when he could tell she was deep in thought. Maybe this was what she needed-to think, to work through this day in quiet. If quiet was what she needed, he could certainly grant her that.
As he opened the door, he glanced over at her, his eyes scanning her face, trying to read her thoughts. She stepped inside as he held. Immediately, she walked to the couch, falling into it.
He closed the door behind him, moving to join her.
"Is your Mom coming back here?" It was strange, this newfound sene of openness. They were no longer a secret. Everyone knew and though it didn't come out the way she would have liked, there was something quite freeing about that.
"No. They have a suite at the club. They're staying there. Apparently they're due back in Chicago in a couple of days, so this was just a short trip."
Billy hesitated. He knew what he wanted to say, but he wasn't sure how she'd take it. "You know, I know today was crazy and I hate that Jack found out the way he did but..."
"You're glad...you're glad its over. You're glad he knows...that everyone knows." Phyllis let out a slight laugh as she saw his expression. "No, I know...I get it. I mean I've been dreading this for so long. I was so afraid of what would happen-of how Jack would react, but now that it's done-I can't say that I'm sorry the truth is out."
Billy held her hand in his. It continued to amaze him, not just how good they were together, but how in tune they were. It was as if they shared the same thoughts. He wondered if that was the reason they used to butt heads at Restless Style-because they were so much alike and didn't want to admit it.
"Yeah," he said softly. "Today wasn't all bad. I mean there were parts of it that were pretty wonderful."
"Wonderful? You might be being a tad optimistic there, don't you think? What part of this day was wonderful?"
Billy smiled. "Well, I got to spend most of it with you. That's pretty wonderful. We can be together now-that qualifies as wonderful and...".
Phyllis stared at him as he leaned in close to her.
He continued, "And when you agree to move in here with me-that will be pretty wonderful too."
"Move in? You want me to move in?" Phyllis leaned away from him, her eyes widening in surprise. "You don't think that might be a little too fast?"
"What are we waiting for exactly? I love you. I know you love me. I want to be with you. I know you want to be with me." He paused, looking at her. "Oh wait," he said smiling, "Do you need to be married before you move in because..." He brought his hand to his pocket.
Phyllis' hand flew to her mouth.
Billy laughed. "I'm kidding. That's a joke. You can calm down. I do actually think that would be a little too fast, but this...this is just about finding happiness and grabbing on."
"Billy, I...I just...".
"Is this what you want, Phyllis?"
It was such a simple question and she had to stop and think about how long it had been since she'd stopped asking herself that.
"Yes," she said quietly. "I want this. I want to be here...in this house..with you."
Billy smiled. "Well then-I think that's my answer."
"You gonna state at that button all day, or you actually gonna hit it?" Billy stepped up behind her and stared at the computer screen.
She turned around in the chair. "I am. I'm just trying to envision the looks on the faces of..."
He kissed her gently. "Don't do that. Don't let them do that. They Phyllis I know and love doesn't let anyone control her-least of all a town full of self-righteous hypocrites."
She smiled at him. "You know some of these self righteous hypocrites happen to be your family."
"Yeah, well, what are you gonna do?" Billy pulled her tight against him, grabbing her hand and bringing it up to his lips. He kissed it softly and then held it stretched out in front of them. "I want everyone in this town to know how happy we are. I want them to know we're getting married, that we made it, that we beat all the stupid odds. I want everyone to have a chance to be happy for us."
"Some people won't be," she said, the reality of her words having been a difficult thing to accept. "I know you want your family to come around, but the truth is they might never be ok with this. They might never wish us well. They might never be happy for us."
Billy nodded. The idea made him sad. He hated the idea of being separated from his family, but if being with Phyllis meant he had to make a choice, well that decision was easy.
"Have you thought about that, Billy? Have you thought about how publishing this engagement announcement might effect your family? What if they never get over this? What if they never accept it? What if they can't be happy for us?"
Billy leaned forward, his hand touching the keypad as he clicked the submit button.
"Well then, I'm marrying the girl of my dreams. I'm getting the fairytale ending. I'll be happy enough for all of us."