Author's Note: I started this piece after the first engagement party, but I haven't had the inspiration to finish it until now. I really wanted to see someone confront Emma about her behavior in a way that would make a difference. Her character hasn't been well-developed on the show, so I wanted to give her a little more depth. Most of the dialogue here is my own invention, although I did borrow a few lines from the show when they fit into the story. Enjoy!
A Conflicting Engagement
"Emma, what are you worried about?" John asked emphatically. "He makes her happy."
"That may be, John, but he's hurt her in the past. I couldn't stand it if he did that to my baby girl again," Emma replied.
"Do you have any idea what he's done for Frankie?" he asked, clearly exasperated with Emma's rantings.
"Besides making her cry? No, I don't."
"Emma, your daughter would have died if it weren't for him."
"What?" Emma asked forcefully, her shock evident.
"Frankie was locked in a theatre that was about to be demolished, and Cass risked his life to save her."
"He did what?"
"A man named Griffen Saunders thought Frankie knew about his crimes, so he locked her in the prop room to keep her from revealing his secret. If Cass hadn't been so determined to find her, she would never have made it out safely."
"Why didn't anyone tell me about this?"
"I suspect Frankie didn't want to worry you."
"Well, I'm worried, all right. Would you excuse me?" she asked without waiting for a reply.
Finding Cass talking to Felicia, Emma interrupted their conversation. "I need to talk to you right now."
Realizing she meant business, he gave no argument. "Of course. Excuse me, Felicia."
Once they were alone on the porch, Cass braced himself for the onslaught.
"I just found out that my daughter was almost killed," Emma yelled.
"Emma…," he began.
"You are supposed to love her. Why didn't you protect her?"
"I tried, but she wouldn't listen to me."
"Because you lied to her, I bet."
"Yes, Emma…you're right. She never would have been with Griffen Saunders if I hadn't lied to her."
"So it's your fault."
"Partially, but Frankie's a big girl. She makes her own decisions."
"So you're blaming her?"
"I don't think blame has any relevance here. All that matters is that she's safe."
"Emma, I would die before I let anything happen to Frankie. I almost did, in fact."
"And that excuses your behavior?"
"Absolutely not. I hurt your daughter, and not a day goes by that I don't think about it. But, I love her, and I'm going to spend the rest of my life making her happy."
"I wish I could believe that."
"Frankie has forgiven me. Perhaps you can too."
"Mary Frances in love…she can't see you for who you are."
"And who am I?"
"You are a slick ladies' man who doesn't deserve someone like my daughter."
"You know, I used to think like you do. It's one of the reasons I ran away from her in the first place."
"So, you're a coward, too."
"I was," he admitted.
"And I bet you're going to tell me that her love changed you."
"No, but she made me want to be a better man."
"And how long will that last?"
"Excuse me?" he asked, his anger rising.
"I know your type. You're a gambler…you like excitement. Eventually, you'll get bored and move on."
Shocked by her assertion, Cass barely stifled a laugh as he said emphatically, "Get bored with Frankie? Are you kidding me?"
"Look, Cass. You seem sincere enough, but you're a rich, successful man. I just don't know what you could possibly see in her."
"I guess you wouldn't," he said sadly.
"I beg your pardon," she responded in anger.
"You don't seem to have any idea how special your daughter really is."
"Is that right?"
"Yes, that's right. All you've done since you've arrived in town is to denigrate her."
"That's not true. I love her."
"I know you love her, Emma, but that hasn't stopped you from being cruel. Do you have any idea what it does to Frankie when you refuse to accept her for who she is?"
"I accept her," she said defensively, even as Cass' words made her begin to question herself.
"No, you don't. You want her to be just like you."
"What's wrong with that?" she asked weakly.
"What's wrong is that you're missing out on this amazing person. Frankie is brilliant and witty, and she has the most generous heart. The way she cares for people, the way she sees the best in them—it's a rare and precious gift, Emma. She's spirited and feisty and wonderfully unique, yet she has this vulnerable side that she hides from the world. She can be hurt, she has been hurt, and yet she loves with her whole heart."
"Do you? Do you really see what a wonderful daughter you've raised?"
Taking a moment to collect her thoughts, Emma stared at her future son-in-law. When she finally spoke, her voice was quiet but powerful. "Cass, I don't think that anyone has ever stood up to me the way you did just now, and I can't say that I like what you've said."
"I'm sorry, Emma, but…."
"Let me finish. It's obvious to me now that you truly love Mary Frances, and I'm grateful for that. The last thing I wanted to do was cause my baby girl pain…."
"It's okay, Mama," Frankie called from the doorway.
"Mary Frances," Emma said, turning to her daughter even as tears began forming in her eyes.
"Cass, can you give us a few minutes?" Frankie asked softly.
"Of course," he said gently, pausing to give Frankie a hug. "I love you," he whispered in her ear before releasing her and heading inside.
"How much did you hear?" Emma asked, clearly shaken.
"Enough," Frankie replied.
"He really does love you," Emma admitted.
"I know, Mama," Frankie responded gently.
"I'm sorry I gave him such a hard time. I was just afraid for you."
"You don't need to be. I really can take care of myself."
Pausing for a moment, Emma steeled herself to confront her mistakes. "Baby, is Cass right? Have I hurt you?"
"Mama…," Frankie began uncomfortably.
"Mary Frances, don't try to spare my feelings. I need to know the truth."
Frankie nodded. "All my life, I've been different, and I've had a hard time finding a place in this world. You are my mother, and I desperately needed your support."
"I tried to help you," Emma said defensively.
"You did, Mama, but you also tried to make me into something I'm not. I needed a place where it was safe to be me," she said, tears welling in her eyes.
"And Cass gives you that, doesn't he?"
"Yes, he does," she replied, a hint of a smile tugging at her lips even as a tear slipped down her cheek.
"I'm so sorry, baby," she said, her own tears flowing freely.
"It's all right, Mama," Frankie replied tenderly, pulling her mother into an embrace.
"I love you, Mary Frances," Emma said, hugging her daughter tightly.
"I love you, too, Mama."
They held like that for a long time, their tears easing the pain between them.
"Is everything all right out here?" Cass asked softly from the doorway.
Pulling back from her mother's embrace, Frankie turned to look at him. "We're fine," she managed, smiling gratefully at him.
Emma stepped completely out of the embrace then, wiping her eyes vigorously. "I'm gonna leave you two alone," she said, as she headed toward the door. Stopping for a moment, she touched Cass' arm and said a soft "thank you" before continuing into the house.
Cass smiled at Emma, then turned his complete attention to Frankie. Moving to join her, he took her hand in his and led her to the bench.
Sitting down together, he cradled her face in his hands and gently began wiping her tears away with his thumbs.
"Are you all right?" he asked.
Smiling, she nodded. "For the first time, Mama and I really seem to understand each other."
"Thank you," she said, wrapping her arms around him and giving him a slow, sweet, and loving kiss.
"You're welcome," he replied sincerely, kissing her once more.
"Cass, do you really think I'm brilliant?" Frankie asked playfully, her eyes dancing.
"You heard that, did you?"
"Yep, brilliant and funny and spirited and sexy…," he said moving in to nuzzle her neck.
"Oh, yeah, but I left out that particular adjective when talking to your mother."
"Good plan," she said laughing.
"So, do you think anyone would notice if we skipped out of here?" he asked, his kisses along her neck becoming more passionate.
"I think they probably would, yes," she responded, her hands slipping under his coat to caress his back.
"So, we should stop what we're doing," he said, even as he blazed a trail of kisses along her jaw line.
"Mmm….we really should go and see about our guests," she murmured as his lips descended upon hers.
"We…owe them…that," he said in between kisses, burying his hands in her hair.
"Break it up, you two. You aren't married yet," Emma's imperious voice called from the doorway.
Cass and Frankie jumped apart like two teenagers caught in the act, and Emma simply couldn't hold her stern look in place. Smiling, she said, "Come on…you've got a party to attend."
"Yes, ma'am," they said in unison, heading to the door and pausing only to straighten their clothing before rejoining the party.
"We'll continue this later?" he asked, whispering in her ear.
"Count on it, counselor," she replied.
"Cass, may I speak to you for a moment?" Emma asked.
"Sure," he replied. "I'll see you inside, Frankie," he said, kissing her quickly on the cheek.
"I'm sorry I was so hard on you," Emma began.
"It's okay, Emma. You were just protecting your daughter."
"I should've had more faith in her choices."
"She's a smart girl, you know."
"Yes, she is. Did you know that she has an IQ of 162?" Emma asked proudly.
Smiling, he replied, "Oh, yes. I wheedled that information out of her on our third date."
"Oh, really? And where did you take my daughter on this third date of yours?"
"Actually, she dragged me to her class reunion."
"Her class reunion, huh? Well, aren't you are the big spender!"
"It wasn't my choice, believe me, but once we were there, she wowed every single person in that room."
"Including you?" she asked knowingly.
"Especially me," he replied, putting his arm around Emma and leading her back into the party. "She was so beautiful that night."
"I wouldn't expect anything less from my daughter," Emma gushed, her words blending into the conversations of the engagement party celebration.
Two hours later, the cake had been devoured, the toasts given, and the gifts opened and discussed at length. As the last of the guests began to depart, Cass and Frankie also decided to call it a night.
"It was a good party, wasn't it?" Frankie asked.
"Yeah," Cass replied.
"I'm glad you were here, Mama," Frankie continued.
"Me too, Emma," Cass added genuinely.
"Do you have to leave?" Emma asked, her disappointment evident.
"Well, don't worry. We'll stop by for breakfast before we go to work, okay?"
"Yeah, sure," Cass chimed in.
"Cass, do you mind if I borrow Mary Frances for just a moment?" Emma asked.
"I don't mind at all," he said, squeezing his fiancée lightly on the arm. "I'll be outside, Frankie."
"See you in a minute," she replied as her mother dragged her to a remote corner of the room.
"You're staying with him tonight, aren't you?" Emma asked accusingly.
"Mama!" Frankie replied in exasperation.
Taking note of her daughter's frustration, Emma quickly backed down. "I'm being judgmental again, aren't I?"
"He's my fiancé, Mama," she said softly, clearly surprised by her mother's retreat.
"I know that, Mary Frances. I guess I'm just old-fashioned."
"Oh, Mama," Frankie said soothingly. "If it makes you feel any better, we waited until after we got engaged."
"It does a little, I guess," she replied, shaking her head at the thought. "Tell me this, Mary Frances—does he make you happy?"
"I'm happier than I've ever been."
"Then I'm happy for you."
"Thank you," Frankie said gratefully, hugging her mother tightly.
"You're welcome, baby," Emma replied, holding the embrace for a moment before pushing her daughter towards the door. "Now, get out of here before I change my mind."
Smiling broadly, Frankie replied, "Goodnight, Mama. I love you."
"I love you, too. Scoot," she added with a playfully dismissive wave of her hand and a genuine smile.
Her arms loaded with presents, Frankie called to her fiancé as she came out to the porch, "Cass."
Smiling at the sound of her voice, he replied, "Don't tell me—your mother has fallen for me. She wants you to step aside, so she can have a clear shot. Is that it?"
"Not quite, but I think she actually gave us her blessing."
"She did?" Cass asked in amazement.
"Mmm hmm. And I saw Caroline put something in your pocket."
"Yes, she did. Her card."
Taking the card from his pocket, she asked, "Doesn't that dame ever give up?"
Smiling, he replied, "I think she likes being an enigma. What she doesn't realize is I've never particularly fancied enigmas."
"Hmm. Let's go home," Frankie replied, kissing him quickly on the lips.
"So we can finish what we started earlier?" he asked suggestively.
"I'll race you," he said, turning and sprinting to the car.
"Hey, that's not fair, Winthrop! I've got all these presents to carry!" she yelled, even as she began rushing to the car.
The sound of their laughter filled the quiet country air, followed by the revving of an engine. Whatever trials the future held for these two lovers, one fact was abundantly clear—there would be no conflict in their engagement tonight.