Author's Note: I was deeply angered and disappointed when NBC cancelled my favorite show "American Dreams." I hated even more how they left the viewers hanging with every storyline of each character open-ended. So "American Dreams: And the Beat Goes On" is my attempt to close those open ends. I've considered the way the writers and creators of the show intended to continue the story and added my own creative thoughts. I want your input! If there's someway you think a character should have ended up -- let me know! I'll consider each idea and try to use as many as I can. I'll do my best to do justice to the show. I hope you enjoy my attempt on finishing "American Dreams" properly.
Chapter 1: Runaway
She squeezed Chris tighter as the motor bike rounded a corner. They had already been on the road for an hour and Meg's face was still moist from tears. Her mind and body was numb. She couldn't think straight anymore. The constant back and forth argument occuring inside her head made it hurt to think anything specific anymore and the cool night breeze blowing past her took away any feeling she had left. She had only one image in her mind. This image confused her because she would have expected to see the image of Roxanne as she and Chris drove off. But no, the image embedded in her numb brain was of her father. Her father in her bedroom doorway trying to scare her into staying. The image of him became clearer and more detailed the longer it lingered. She could see the emotion in his face, in his eyes. At first she saw anger and disapproval. Then she saw the tears welled up in his eyes. They softened his stern look. There was a saddness and hurt in his face. There was a sign of a father's love in his attempt to protect his little girl. This set Meg off into another bout of tears. Now she could hear her father saying the words that pierced her straight to the heart. "Meg you and me...we've uh, we've had our differences. And I know sometimes it's gotten pretty bad. But you go and do this -- and I know I can't stop you -- but you walk out that door, and leave your mother and your family, with that coward who should be serving this country...well...then don't come back." She buried her face into Chris's back and held on even tighter than before.
Chris, feeling the tightened grip from Meg and the wetness soaking through his jacket and shirt, knew Meg was crying again. He pursed his lips and shook his head. He wanted Meg with him -- he loved her. But yet at the same time he didn't think it was all that great of an idea that she was going to Berkely with him. Watching her saying goodbye to Roxanne confirmed his suspicions about her going away. She was leaving a lot of people who loved and cared for her. He'd never had that. I guess that's why he loved Meg so much. She made him believe in love, that someone could really, truly care deeply for another, that they'd do anything for them to be with them. The only one who'd ever stuck around in his life was his mom, but even she wasn't really there. She was always working or with some guy. Those things always came before him anyday. Spotting a flashing neon sign for a 24-hour cafe he began to slow down to pull off. He could use a coffee to warm up and a smoke. He thought Meg could use a warm embrace and a payphone to call back home.
Meg lifted her head from Chris's back as she felt the bike slowing down. She blinked to clear the tears from her eyes to see what Chris was slowing down for. She leaned forward to rest her chin on his left shoulder and turned her head slightly. Chris smiled broadly feeling the slight brush of Meg's soft gentle lips on his left ear.
"Why are we stopping?"
"I need a smoke," he explained tilting his head slightly to see her out the corner of his eye. "Plus, I thought we both could use some warming up."
Chris edged the bike into a parking space and killed the engine. Meg swung off the bike and Chris followed suit. Meg took off for the door but was stopped short as her right hand was caught. Chris spun her around and lifting his right hand to her jaw line pulled her close. All the cold numbness Meg had felt melted away. She leaned in harder as the warmth spread from their lips throughout the rest of her body.
"I love you, Meg," Chris said as his lips backed away from hers and leaned his forehead on her own. Before she could reply he laid his thumb on her mouth. "You've given up everything to be with me. I'm gonna do whatever I can to make you happy." Then he removed his thumb and grabbed her bottom lip between his own lips.
After seeing his daughter diappear from the television screen, Jack couldn't stand to be in the room anymore. He angrily shoved himself out of his chair headed for upstairs.
"Not now Helen, I don't wanna hear it," Jack said reeling around with his hands in the air. He set his jaw and stared into his wife's concerned face blinking heavily trying desperately to hold back the tears that were threatening to fall in front of his family. With a couple of nods, he gathered himself and stormed out of the room.
Some heavily tensed looks exchanged between Helen and Pete caught J.J.'s attention.
"What's going on?" he asked his eyes darting from his mother and uncle who both avoided his gaze by looking at the floor.
"It's Meg. She left," piped up Patty in her normal tone of know-it-all.
At this everyone reacted. Will and Beth casually turned their heads to Patty expecting her to explain further. Instead she just tucked her hair behind her ears and pursed her lips. Helen with a jolt lifted up her head her eyes wide. Pete quickly jerked his head back taking another swig of his beer.
"Left?" questioned J.J.
"She ran away. With Chris," Patty stated almost in question form as if it was old news and everybody should know by now.
At this everyone began talking at once except for Pete who took another drink of beer.
"Meg wouldn't run away," said Will.
"Is this true?" asked Beth looking from Patty to Helen.
"I knew that guy was bad news," said J.J. to no one in particular. "She wouldn't listen to me."
"Yes she would," Patty answered Will. "I heard her talking about it on the phone."
"You're lying," Will answered back.
"No I'm not. I--"
"Patty. Will. Go upstairs and get ready for bed," instructed Helen. With no movement from either of her younger children just stares she stood, putting her hands on her hips, and yelled out, "Now!"
Will relunctantly left his spot on the floor and walked out of the room.
Patty rolled her eyes and sulked out mumbling under her breath, "I'm the one who found out. I shouldn't have to leave the room like I'm a child..."
Pete drained the rest of the beer from his bottle, hoisted himself on his crutches, and approached Helen. "Tell Jack I'll be waiting in the car when he's ready to take me home."
"I'll take you home Uncle Pete."
"Thanks J.J.," Pete said hobbling out of the room.
"I just have to get my keys," J.J. called after him barely able to notice his uncle's nod of understanding. He turned to face Beth as she rubbed her right hand up and down his back and grabbed for his hand with her free one. He squeezed it giving her a half smile. He leaned in and kissed her cheek. "I'll be right back," he told her rising from the couch.
Beth followed him standing also while nodding, a somber look on her face. She folded her arms absolutely dumbfounded. J.J. crossed the room, placed a hand on his mother's shoulder, then walked towards the kitchen. Helen and Beth stood in silence watching him go.
"Well, I better check on John," Beth spoke feeling like she yelled with the heavy silence that surrounded her.
Not knowing what to say, but wanting to be supportive she walked over to Helen and gave her a quick hug. When she pulled away both women exchanged understanding looks. Then Helen watched Beth as she left for upstairs. When Beth was out of sight, Helen slowly scanned the room. It was now she noticed the television was still on. The silence in her head was broken as laughter broke from the speaker. Closing the gap between her and the console she turned the nob. The screen went blank. Slowly she turned and in complete shock sank into the couch.
Meanwhile, upstairs Jack was staring at a family photo gripped tightly in his hands. He only saw one face in the picture though. Everyone else surrounding her became a blur of colors.
"Meg--" Jack began but every following word caught in the lump that was forming in his throat.
He set his jaw and rested his left elbow on the dresser. He leaned his forehead into his left hand and wiped down his face covering his mouth. He continued to stand quietly alone as Patty peered at her father around the corner of the his bedroom doorframe.