The Long Way Around

Oscar and Jaime

I don't own them, just play with them on occasion. They belong to Universal and I'm sure a bunch of other people. Louise Wells belongs to Messyhead. I thank her for the loan she (Louise) comes in so handy.

Thanks to Mara for once again helping me out of a rut.

This story prevailed besides Oscar's stubbornness.

Oscar really hadn't give much thought to holidays over the last 30 years. As a child he had enjoyed family times at Passover/Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas/Hanukkah much like everyone else. But since his college days he had found them more of a day to get work done. People weren't around and the dorm or later the office was quiet and he could bury himself in paperwork and accomplish something.

Every year he had to tell some well-meaning colleague that he appreciated the offer but he didn't want to intrude on their family time. He did however accept Louise's Thanksgiving meal that she brought to the office for him every 4th Thursday in the month of November. He wasn't a fool to pass up the best turkey and pumpkin pie this side of well, anywhere.

Of course there had been the year that Russ had insisted he come home with him and they had ended up eating cheeseburgers and french-fries at Denny's because it was the only place with enough nerve to be open on a holiday.

At least that had been better than the year Steve had talked him into renting a charter fishing boat and going to Florida for the long weekend. He still wondered if they had gotten trapped in a Charlie Chaplin movie with all the mishaps they had endured. Not to mention the meal of sardines and crackers. Yum.

He made a face remembering their feast. But looking back on it now, it really hadn't been so bad. He and Steve had had a good time getting to know each other better and he had learned a lot about himself as well. But he hadn't been able to eat sardines since.

He saw no reason that this year would be any different. Or at least he hadn't until he had met Jaime for breakfast that morning. She had ordered his staple meal--two buttermilk pancakes, two eggs scrambled and coffee and had been waiting for him with a look of excitement and a little apprehension.

"What's up Babe?" he had asked her after accepting her kiss. "Everything alright?"

"Sure, everything is fine." She smiled and his heart melted just a little. That girl had a smile that could melt a blizzard at 20 below. "I was just hoping that I could persuade you to leave work early on Wednesday so that we won't get to Jim and Helen's too late. There is a flight out of Dulles at 4:00 and I'd love to be able to take that one. I like to help her with the meal.

He hadn't any idea what she was talking about and he had blundered the whole thing badly.

"Oscar! Thursday is Thanksgiving, don't tell me you forgot?"

"No, I didn't forget" he had admitted. "I just wasn't thinking about it being anything special."

She had watched silently for several moments, taking special care in buttering her waffles. "I guess it is true what they say about you Oscar Goldman." She had flashed a smile, but he could tell she was hurt. "If you look up workaholic in the dictionary, your picture is right there."

"I don't work the whole day he had defended. "Louise usually brings me food and I sit and eat it and listen to the game. But it is a good day to get caught up. I don't like to bother people in their family time." He had brought out his standard excuse. But he could tell before he even got it out of this mouth, it wasn't going to fly.

"Jim and Helen are family." She looked him directly in the eyes.

And then he had made his fatal mistake. "Yes, I know they are, but they aren't my family."

And now he was sitting at his desk still smarting from the look she had given him and wondering how he was going to fix it. He liked Jim and Helen very much. They were warm, wonderful people and he always loved them for taking Jaime in the way they had. But they belonged to Steve and Jaime, not him. Didn't they?

"I thought we were, well you know." she had shrugged. "I thought we were special to one another."

"We are." he had insisted. "You know how much I care for you." The words came out so much easier now then they had the first time he had tried them out.

"Then why don't you want to have Thanksgiving dinner with us." she had included herself with her foster parents and his heart had turned over at her words.

But to tell the truth, he just hadn't thought of being included in her family. He was sure he loved her and their talk more than not lately would turn to hints of marriage, but not to Jim and Helen and certainly not to Steve. He had just never considered that he would have to be involved. And he had been stupid enough to say so to Jaime.

She had thrown some money on the table and left him sitting there dumbfounded. That had been three hours ago and he still felt stunned. The fact that she hadn't answered her phone the five times he had called wasn't making the situation any better. Damn. When he screwed up he did a very good job of it.

He tried to attack the stack of paperwork on his desk but found for the first time in a very long time he couldn't concentrate on it. Work had always been his solace, something he could hide in, loose himself in. But this time it wasn't going to happen. The look on Jaime's face wouldn't go away. He picked up the phone to call her again, but didn't even complete his dialing. She had been really angry. What was the point?

He was thankful for a 10:00 meeting with Russ and some of the higher ups and then accepted a lunch invitation from Rudy, which he managed to drag out until 1:00

Back at the office, he once more tried to get some work done but when no messages from Jaime were waiting for him he felt his mood sliding back down the scale. "You are being ridiculous Goldman." He scolded himself. "Stop acting like a teenager and get some work done. "

He heard Louise Wells in the outer office and he cringed at the thought of her coming in to see him. She would drag his problem out of him and he didn't want to talk about it. Jaime was being childish and unreasonable and she should be glad that he was giving her time to spend with her family and not interfering.

He thought about pretending not to know that Louise was out there and buzz Callahan to tell her he was going to be making a very important phone call and couldn't be disturbed. But before he could form the words, his office door opened and Louise came bounding in.

"Hello Louise." He gave a short smile. "Coming to wreck havoc and mischief once again?"

"That is my specialty." She sat down in the chair that was open for visitors. "Callahan is right, you do look like you swallowed pickled juice.

"Callahan does think she is an expert on everything." Oscar managed a grin. "But in this case she is wrong. I'm fine."

"She said she you haven't done much today."

"What is she my task master? I've done plenty."

"I'm sure you probably have considering you do more in a day then most do in a week. I was just relating what she told me. That's all."

"Well, I'm fine, just tired I guess. Thanks for stopping by."

She gave him a look that clearly said he was not going to get rid of her that easily. To prove it she went over to the table by the window, picked up a mug, poured some coffee for herself and sat back down.

He decided to ignore her and picked up a file.

"I imagine you will be going to Ojai for Thanksgiving?" she looked over the rim.

"You too?" Oscar looked up startled. Why would you think that? Why is it that everyone assumes I'm going to California for Thanksgiving but me?"

"Well you and Jaime have gotten quite close over the last few months." she took a sip of her coffee. "And when things start to go well in that capacity, it's just natural that you would go and meet the parents so to speak."

"I've met Jim and Helen. Many times. I get along with them just fine."

"Yes, you have and yes you do. But Oscar this is a whole 'nother ball game. You've spent time with them as Steve's friend and boss and as Jaime's friend and boss. Never as Jaime's boyfriend."

"Don't say that word, it sounds so high school." he shook his head, but the impact of her words were beginning to hit him. "This morning Jaime asked me if I would mind leaving early tomorrow, that she had gotten us a 4:00 flight out of Dulles. I honestly had no idea what she was talking about. I expected her to go to California but for the life of me couldn't figure out why she wanted me to go."

"You aren't as dumb as you look Oscar Goldman." she got up and laid her hands on his shoulders. "And you haven't been living in a dating void for the last 40 some years either. So you must have a problem. And you have to ask yourself what it is. Does Jaime think this relationship is more serious than you do? I know you would never take her away from her family and friends so that's not a reason. You surely can't be embarrassed to be dating her and if you were than I think it would be your family you were hesitant to go see."

"I'm not hesitant. " he took off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "I just wasn't planning on going. I never thought about actually being, well, one of them."

"Then it's high time you start thinking about it. Oscar Goldman." she sat down on the desk beside him and straightened his tie. Because I'd say that it's time in the words of some wise man to fish or cut bait. And I'm thinking that fishing is more in your line of work."

She sat up, patted his head like he was four and walked out the door. Oscar settled back in his chair and picked up his glasses, chewing on the stem. He had some thinking to do.

************

He sent the roses first. It was a nice bouquet of red long stemmed buds with a note that asked if he could come over at seven. He wasn't planning to find out though, he was just going to show up and hope she didn't slam the door in his face. When he got the apartment where she was staying, he rang the bell hoping he didn't look as nervous as he felt. He hated being nervous; it went against every fiber of his being. But it was just how it was going to be.

She came to the door in a pretty blue top with pants to match and her hair back in a ponytail. She smelled of springtime. "Hello." she gave him a smile and motioned for him to come in. He could tell he wasn't forgiven yet but it was a possibility.

"Are you hungry?" she asked, heading off the kitchen where the remains of a pizza laid on the counter.

"Yes, thanks. " he answered even though he wasn't. It would give him something to do.

She turned on the oven and put two pieces on a baking sheet. "It tastes better hot. " she smiled, but he had trouble gauging it.

"Jaime," he started to reach for her hands but then put his own in his pocket. "Look, I'm sorry about this morning. "

"It's alright, " she said softly. And he knew that it wasn't.

"No, it's not." he shook his head. "This morning you assumed something that I had never thought of but I should have thought of. I'm not making excuses for myself but you do have to remember I haven't been in a relationship like this for a very long time and I don't always know what's right. I did assume that you wouldn't want me honing in on family time. But I've come to see that I was wrong."

"Very wrong. " she shook her head so hard, her silver hoops jingled. "There isn't anyone in the world I care for more than you Oscar. And as such I want you with me for not just things like holidays, but for everything. If this relationship is going to the place I think it might be, then we need to discuss these things. Look, I might have jumped into the whole thing the wrong way. I did just assume you would want to come. And maybe I shouldn't have."

The buzzer went off on the oven and she reached into to pull out the cookie sheet. He couldn't help but wince as he watched her do so without aid of a hot pad. She was remarkable in so many ways.

"No, you should have. " he said, his voice low. "I was the one that wasn't thinking. And I'm sorry. I would never do anything to hurt you."

"I know. " she said softly and kissed his cheek. "Here's your pizza."

"Thanks."

He reached for the plate that the two slices were laying on but stopped. "Jaime?"

"Yes?"

"I love you."

"I know." her smile brighter than the sun in July. "I love you too."

He had meant to say the words before but had resisted. As he pulled her close for a kiss, he wondered why. Well, he thought as her arms slipped around his neck, her mouth urging his for another kiss, he would never let that happen again.

"Anything else I can get for you Oscar?" Helen asked him, pointing to the several dishes of food on the table. "More mashed potatoes?"

He shook his head. "No thank you. I've eaten so much I don't think I can move now. It was all delicious."

"Well don't forget we have pie." She smiled at him.

He groaned, but smiled. He had to say one thing about Jaime's foster parents; they sure knew how to celebrate Thanksgiving. He had never seen so much food in his life, nor enjoyed eating it so much.

"Why don't we go and check out the ball game." Jim addressed him. "We can come back for that pie later."

"Sounds good. Who's playing?"

"The Redskins and um." The older man looked around for the TV guide. "Well, they are playing someone."

Oscar smiled as he eased down on the couch and arranged a pillow behind his back. He would have been the first to admit that he had been anxious about today. Not only had there been the whole fiasco with Jaime about being part of the family, but also he had realized that Jim and Helen might not be willing to accept him as their foster daughter's boyfriend. He wasn't sure if his beautiful, young daughter (if he would ever have one) came home with a guy two decades older than her and said this is the guy I'm in love with, if he could have handled it.

The thought had kept him up half the night and he had thought of nothing else on the plane ride. Not even Jaime's distractions had kept his mind far from it. But five minutes after he was in the house, he felt no tension, not a drop of discord. They took him in just like they always had. Helen served a beautiful dinner; he and Jim talked about the weather, the economy and disagreed on the president. Steve called from Florida, where he was visiting a friend and still the ground didn't shake and swallow him up.

The game was in the third quarter when Helen offered refreshments and Oscar who was so full he wouldn't need to eat for a week said that would be nice. He got up to help the woman, but Jim waved him back down. "Relax and enjoy the game son, I'll get it."

Son. He really had arrived. And it hadn't hurt at all.