"I'm still not completely sure I understand when to single-click and when to double-click," Emily commented as she rose from behind the desk.
"You'll get the hang of it, Mom. Just look at your little cheat sheet," Lorelai reassured as she slipped into her denim jacket and slung her purse over her shoulder. "In no time you'll be clicking and double-clicking with the best of them. And then next week we'll tackle right-clicking."
Emily held up a hand and shook her head. "One thing at a time. Please." Her eyes fell once more to the paper propped up next to the keyboard, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "Thank you again for writing these down for me," she said, gesturing to the bulleted instructions written in her daughter's curly script on pink stationary complete with little yellow daises in the bottom corner.
"No problem," Lorelai answered. "Now you won't have to call me every time you need something." She heard the harshness of her words and watched the smile disappear from her mother's face at the same time. "Okay, that sounded really bad. I just meant that you could still do something on the computer if you want, even if you can't get me on the phone."
"It's fine Lorelai." The sparkle that had been in Emily's eyes seconds ago was gone as she rounded the desk. "I do appreciate your help with all of this," she said motioning towards the papers and files spread out over the surface of the desktop. "Hopefully your father will take an interest in something other than golf soon and you won't have to concern yourself with these matters."
"It's okay, Mom. I don't mind, really." Lorelai hoped she sounded convincing.
The awkward moment was broken by a loud thumping. They exchanged equally puzzled looks and Emily followed Lorelai into the foyer and closer to the noise.
A pair of navy blue, velour-covered legs mounted the stairs, disappearing from their view.
"Dad?" Lorelai called out as he reached the second floor and began to jog back down the stairs.
Richard rounded the landing, jogged down to the bottom, and then began jogging in place. "Ah, Lorelai, so good to see you."
Lorelai gave her mother a questioning look. Her mother's face was stern and if Lorelai was reading it correctly, slightly mortified by her father's antics.
"Whacha doin', Dad?" Lorelai asked, smiling at him as if he'd lost his mind.
"Just finishing my second lap on the stairs," he explained, then gave his wife a pointed gaze.
Lorelai turned to her mother for a further explanation.
Emily looked daggers at her husband. "Richard, must you do this now?"
"Emily, you know what the doctor said about building up my stamina," he replied before jogging up the stairs again. "Lap three, Emily," he called back down to them.
"Mom, what's going on?" Lorelai asked.
"Oh, he's just trying to prove a point," Emily answered in what she hoped was an offhand manner as she moved closer to the door.
Lorelai watched as her father jogged down the stairs, turned, and headed back up once more. Realization dawned on her face with a surprised look. Her hand flew up to cover her open mouth as she gaped at her mother, surprise and horror etched clearly on her features. "Oh…my…God."
Emily turned from her daughter and opened the front door, a clear signal that it was time for Lorelai to leave.
"Oh my God," Lorelai repeated, looking at her mother and shaking her head in disbelief. "It's just like that movie with Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton."
"Lorelai, as usual, I have no idea what you're talking about," Emily countered, her tone and countenance decidedly cold. She glared back toward the stairs and demanded, "Richard, will you please stop!"
Lorelai looked from her father, who was jogging down the stairs again, to her mother. "That's probably best for all of us. Bye, Dad, Mom. See you guys for dinner tomorrow night."
"Goodbye, Lorelai," Richard replied coming to a stop next to his wife.
"Yes, goodbye, Lorelai," Emily echoed, "see you tomorrow." The words were barely out of her mother's mouth when Lorelai heard the door close behind her. She visibly shivered and headed for her Jeep.
On the other side of the door, Emily stormed past her husband and into the living room. Richard followed. She stopped in front of the loveseat. Instead of sitting down, she whirled around, shoulders squared, chin jutting out, eyes blazing with fire. Yet her tone was tensely calm "Did you really have to try and prove your little point with Lorelai here?"
"I wasn't aware that she was here. Anyway, I was just exercising," he protested, a look of boyish innocence on his face. There was a twinkle of something else in his eyes however.
"She knows exactly what your little stair reference was about," Emily gestured in the general direction of the offending architectural feature. "There was no need to bring this up in front of her."
"How on earth would she know what I was referring to?" he asked as he edged closer.
"I don't know how. She was talking about Jack Nicholson or something. It doesn't really matter how she knows."
Richard sat down on the sofa. "Well, so what if she knows. She's a grown woman. I'm sure on some level she is aware that we –"
"You didn't see her face," Emily protested as she crossed to the bar cart in the corner of the room and paused, her hands poised in midair. When confronted with the bottles and decanters arrayed on the surface, none of which contained any alcohol, she sighed and dropped her hands to her sides.
Richard watched his wife's back for a moment. He saw her shoulders slump as she stared at the nonalcoholic beverages that had been substituted for their regular selection, at her insistence. She'd done this in every aspect of their lives and he understood why. She had been terribly frightened by his recent heart attack and resulting bypass surgery, but that was months ago and it was time to get on with their lives – in all respects.
Emily stared at the glittering crystal and glass before her, taking deep breaths and trying to calm herself down. She didn't want to fight with Richard. Well, part of her did. She missed their usual lively exchanges. It was a bit like a tennis match and they were both expert players, but he was supposed to avoid stress. So, she would not argue with him. Emily took a few more deep breaths and heard him approaching behind her before she felt his hands on her shoulders.
"Emily, it's okay to be angry with me. I can take it," he explained.
She took another deep breath and then turned to face him, looking up into his eyes. His hands remained on her shoulders. "I am not angry."
"I think after forty-four years, I've learned when you're angry. Actually, I think I learned that within the first forty-four minutes," he teased.
"Well, I am not angry. Irritated maybe, infuriated even, but not angry," she assured him, pleased that her tone sounded neutral even to her own ears.
"Okay then," he said and gave her shoulders a quick squeeze before he dropped his hands to his sides. He took a deep breath in preparation for what he knew would follow. They'd had this conversation before. "Emily, you have got to quit treating me like I'm going to keel over at any moment."
Emily crossed her arms and tried to breathe through her nose. She didn't speak. She knew that she couldn't speak right now without yelling.
"It has been months since the surgery. You've gone with me to all of my doctor's appointments. You know that I'm in better health now than before the heart attack." He was clearly struggling to maintain his own temper. "I want to get back to our normal lives and that includes arguing with you if we're angry." Richard saw that his wife was struggling to hold herself in check. Her hands clutched her arms so tightly that her knuckles were turning white. Her eyes sparkled with a mixture of emotions and unshed tears. He reached up to caress her cheek. "That also includes making love." The tenderness of his voice and his touch were her undoing and a tear escaped the corner of her eye. Richard brushed it away with his thumb and waited for her to respond.
Her voice trembled and broke when she spoke, a few more tears escaping onto her cheeks. "I just don't want anything to happen to you."
"It won't," he assured her confidently as he brushed away her tears.
"You can't promise that," she countered.
"No, I can not promise you that with absolute certainty," he admitted, his left hand returning to cup her cheek, "but it is highly unlikely. I've had numerous EKGs and a stress test. Dr. Goldstein gave me a clean bill of health. He said weeks ago that if I could climb the stairs without getting winded, then we could make love without worrying."
"I don't want to lose you, Richard. I can't," she declared.
"You're not going to lose me anytime soon, Emily," he soothed and tenderly kissed her lips. "I'm not going anywhere," he murmured as he wrapped his right arm around her and drew her close.
Emily's hands grabbed hold of the front of his track suit as he kissed her again. It was a kiss filled with love and reassurance, and she drank it in. As she rested her forehead against Richard's broad chest, he encircled her in his arms. They stood silently for a few moments before Richard lifted Emily's chin and locked eyes with her. "Emily, I want my life back. I want our life back. Just promise me you'll think about it."
"I want that, too." Her reply was barely above a whisper.
He gave her a rakish grin and boasted, "You know I did five laps on those stairs and didn't even break a sweat."
Picking up his on his attempt to lighten their conversation, she batted her eyelashes. "You did, didn't you? That's very impressive."
"I thought so," he agreed.
"Well you should get some sort of reward," Emily flirted.
Richard's grin broadened. "Just what I was thinking."
"A gold star perhaps," she suggested playfully.
"I had a different sort of reward in mind," he explained suggestively.
"Oh you did?" she asked sweetly. "An extra helping of dessert, maybe?
"You're getting warmer," he replied giving her a squeeze.
"Hmmm…." she pretended to consider the options available and then wound her arms around his neck. "Something more like this?" she asked before pulling him down and pressing her lips to his. This kiss was decidedly different than those they had just shared and grew passionate rather quickly.
"Warmer," Richard stated after she ended the kiss.
She raised an eyebrow. "Just warmer?"
"Oh, much warmer," he answered, "almost steamy, in fact, but still a tad shy of what I had hoped for."
Emily gave a low laugh and lightly batted his chest. "You're incorrigible."
"It's been months, Emily," he reasoned.
"You think I don't know that?" she countered.
"Well?" he asked with a jaunty smile. His eyes twinkled.
Emily took her husband's hand and headed for the staircase.