"Married? At City Hall?"
Mark had to physically hold the phone away from his ear to avoid the high-pitched screech in his mother's voice. He was already regretting calling her, but Kara had insisted and she'd already called her parents and listened to their disappointment.
"Yes, Mom," he confirmed. "On Tuesday at three. It's the only time that Kara and I both have off when City Hall is open. You don't have to be there, I was just letting you-"
"Not be there?" his mother interrupted, her tone indicating that she would most definitely not entertain the thought. "Oh, your father and I will be there. It's just we thought perhaps that you might want a rabbi—"
It was his turn to interject. "No, Mom. Kara is Catholic, remember?"
That statement didn't deter her. "Well, there could be a priest there as well, I suppose."
He wanted out of this conversation. "I haven't been to temple since high school, Mom. What makes you think I'm going to start now?"
He heard his mother sigh. "At least let us throw you a party at the country club in a few weeks, Mark. You can't just get married at City Hall and that's it."
He cringed when she mentioned the country club. It brought up memories of Maureen and Joanne's commitment ceremony, which had been in the very same country club his mother was talking about. No way in hell would that happen.
"We're planning to go out to dinner afterwards," he offered, though he knew his mother would still balk. He could picture her drumming her fingernails on top of the kitchen counter as she was talking to him.
"We could have the party at the house," she continued. "One weekend when you aren't working."
"I'm a first year resident, Mom. I'm always working. And I have a film-" He stopped short, realizing that the film wasn't something he was ready to talk about with his mother yet. Even though deep down, he knew he had to.
Just as he'd told Roger, Alexi had seen the footage from his time at his dad's practice and had practically eaten it up. She still wanted both of his parents to sign releases, even after he'd refused, saying there was enough other footage to string together a story without bringing his family into it. She wasn't buying it, and objectively, he knew she was right.
He just couldn't picture his parents agreeing.
"Film?" his mother asked. "You're still filming?"
"Yeah," he said casually, "just a little side project for the hospital. Informative patient video." He was surprised how easily the lie rolled off his tongue and why he thought he even needed to lie to the first place.
Either way, she bought it. "Oh, that's nice. We'll come on Tuesday, Mark. Three o'clock. We'll take you and Kara, her parents, and your friends to dinner afterward, so make reservations somewhere nice. Your father likes Carmine's in midtown. We can discuss a party at the house then."
She was going to push a party, but he was getting out of an actual wedding fairly easily. There had to be a catch and he'd be sure to prepare himself for it.
He was still pondering that very thought as he pulled at his tie while he and Kara waited for their turn to be married. It was just before three and his parents were nowhere in site.
Not that he minded, of course.
He and Kara were flanked by Roger, Mimi, Maureen, and Joanne. Mimi held Angel against her hip, the baby happily sucking on three fingers. Kara's mother was there, holding a slightly fussy Tom. Kara's father hadn't been able to get the day off of work, which Mark found a major plus. He liked Kara's mother enough, but her father and he would never see eye to eye.
"I'm sure they are coming, dear," Evelyn took him, obviously mistaking his fidgeting for worry.
Oh, it was certainly worry. Evelyn just had it backwards. "That's what I'm afraid of," he muttered, still pulling at his tie. Kara's hand gripped his shoulder and squeezed it gently. He looked up at her. She was wearing a tasteful beige dress - ("White," she'd told him, "doesn't fool anyone, especially when we show up with a baby in tow") - and heels. Her brown hair was loose, and the gentle waves framed her face. She gave him a small smile.
"We could just run in the opposite direction, you know. Living in sin has been working out for us, after all."
He almost laughed. "No way. You're not getting out of this that easily. Five more minutes and we get to go in and get married in peace, without my-"
"Mark!" His mother's voice cut across the room as she walked in, his father in tow.
"Mother," he finished and forced a smile on his face. He could do this.
Thankfully, the ceremony itself was short. There were no substituted sappy vows, just the standard words required by the state of New York. He and Kara finished with an abbreviated kiss, cut even shorter when out of nowhere Maureen started throwing rice.
True to her word, his parents ushered them all out and into midtown for dinner, though she thankfully let him, Kara, and Tom ride in their own cab. The dinner was uncomfortable, but peaceful. Maureen remained on her best behavior, though Mark chalked that mostly up to the glare Joanne shot her way the second they sat down. Mimi kept raising her eyes at the prices and Roger put on his best fake smile and ordered the most expensive thing on the menu.
Evelyn and his mother spent the meal chatting, probably planning the rest of his and Kara's lives. Tom tried his best to shove an entire dinner roll in his mouth with his grubby little hands. Angel tried to copy him and ended up puking on their waiter's shoes, which Roger and Maureen found absolutely hilarious.
After dinner, his mother insisted on seeing their apartment in "quaint little Brooklyn." She let Kara take her on a three-minute tour as Mark plopped a half-asleep Tom into the playpen in the living room. His father sat on the couch.
"I got a phone call. From someone at Landmark Productions."
Mark turned from the playpen, frozen in place. She wasn't supposed to call him. He'd said no.
"Your mother said you mentioned something about helping out with a training film at work. Therefore was no reason someone would be asking me to sign a release for something like that."
Oh, Alexi was going to hear from him. He'd said no very forcefully and loudly.
"Yeah, well," he stammered, trying to find a way to get past this moment. "I'm sorry—"
"I signed it."
"-She wasn't supposed to—what?"
"They faxed me a release and I signed it. For your documentary."
Mark blinked. He had no clue what to say. This was the last thing he'd have ever expected.
His father stared at him, no apparent expression on his face.
"Um...thank you?" he finally managed, knowing he couldn't do anything to hide his surprise. His father didn't respond, letting an awkward, yet normal, silence settle between the two of them. Mark eased himself into the armchair next the couch, his fingers nervously tracing its fabric.
"This is really a darling apartment!"
His mother's overly cheerful voice was a welcome reprieve. He got up immediately as she and Kara entered the room. As if also sensing his father's tension, Tom chose the same moment to start fusing. There was a round of quick good-byes as Mark scooped the tired baby up.
It was nearly an hour later after Tom had been settled into his crib when he looked up to find Kara standing in the doorway to Tom's room wearing a silk bathrobe.
"I've got a ton of laundry to fold and charting, but it seems rather silly to do either of those things on our wedding night."
"Yeah," he agreed. "Today my father signed the release."
Kara frowned. "What release? And what does have do with tonight?"
"Nothing. The release for the film. Someone at Landmark called him. He actually signed it."
She paused a moment. "This is a good thing, right?"
He considered the question. The footage was interesting, connected the dots in places, places he wasn't sure he wanted connected. Because if that footage was in there, he'd be forced to admit…
No, he thought, he couldn't. He was certainly not his father.
"I don't know," he finally answered. "I just don't know."
Two weeks later, he tried not to think about his father as a guy with a camera followed him around a few hours each day to get more footage. It felt strange to be followed, though he supposed it was because he was used to having the camera in his hand.
He wondered if this was how everyone he'd ever filmed felt.
His own battered camera lay in his locker. Today was a clinic day, which he'd almost told Alexi to forget about. She gave him a look that said no way and a stack of blank release forms.
"She spent the entire night sniffling, Mark. I almost called Kara since you were working but Roger told me I was overreacting. I'm not, right?"
Angel simply sneezed and reached for the end of Mark's stethoscope, unfazed by her mother's worry.
"Mar!" she declared when she got hold of it. Mark gently grabbed it out of her hand, exchanging it for the small stuffed bear he always kept in his pocket on clinic days. Angel immediately stuck it her mouth.
Standing next to the exam table, Mimi muffled a cough of her own and shifted her weight. His radar immediately went up. She was pale and when she noticed him looking, she glanced at the floor.
"She's sick, isn't she?"
"She's sneezed," he answered. "She's got a cold. You, on the other hand, are-"
Mimi took a step back and smiled. "I'm fine. Just up all night, worrying."
"Uh huh," he answered, not believing it for a second. Angel chose that moment to launch the stuffed bear across the exam room and clap her hands in glee.
"Angel's sick," Mimi said again.
This wasn't going to easy. Roger was a giant pain in the ass when he was sick, but gave in pretty quickly to diagnosis. Mimi, however, was more stubborn. Despite her past and the fact the statistically she should be either dead or at least in poorer health than Roger was right now, she hadn't been. Her last bout of pneumonia had been almost three years ago and she's bounced back. Roger'd been on antibiotics four times this year already. Roger, in fact, had just gotten over the flu last week and his T-cell wasn't as good as Mark would like.
Reality set in and again he was reminded of why he went back to school in the first place.
He questioned if the camera was in the way, shooting a look at the cameraman to stop filming. The guy didn't move.
"She signed a release," he pointed out. "I'm not supposed to stop filming."
"He's right, I signed it," Mimi confirmed. "But I'm fine. Angel is—"
"Fine," he threw back. He took a deep breath and met her eyes. "Mimi, I need to examine you."
She looked at him for what felt like a minute, but was probably only a few seconds. "Okay," she said. "But maybe then the camera..."
"Is off," he finished and this time the guy did comply. "There's break room down the hall. Disgusting, but free coffee. Take five, okay?" The guy nodded, leaving Mark, Mimi, and Angel.
Mimi just shook her head. "I can't be sick. Roger's been sick and…" She sighed. "No lifetime guarantees. No matter what you do, Mark." She lifted Angel up and let herself lean against the exam table.
He wanted to prove her wrong. He had to.