"She didn't leave him," Jill sighed. "She's taking a few days, Jimmy. She looked awful, then when Lindsay piped up she was pregnant? I'm worried about her."
"I knew being a stay at home Mom would do this to her."
"They're good together. They have adorable kids. She seemed happy, Jimmy…I think Kenny has given her a rough time lately."
"Oh, I know he has. He has her barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen, of course she walked out."
"Daddy," Emily whined. "Where is Mommy? We were reading a book."
"Aunt Maxie was teaching her to read," Samantha piped up. "When is she coming home?"
"A few days," Kenney trailed off, looking around the disarray in the living room. A break. From me. The kids. God, I miss her, and it's only been 24 hours. I drove her away. "Come on, she's pregnant, she deserves a vacation before she has another baby. Em, we can read. What book?"
"She didn't leave because you guys were fighting. Again?" Samantha asked. "My parents fought all the time…I thought you guys were different."
Kenny gulped at that. "We're not like them. She'll be back in a few days."
"I thought she liked having us here."
"What? Of course she does. Nothing is more important to Max then the four of you. She's been through a lot too, cut her some slack."
"If you guys get divorced, what happens to us?"
"We're not getting divorced."
Max took a steadying breath, as she settled down on the cool sand. Not like our little beach, she thought, Emily would love this. It would be romantic with Kenny…I miss that. We've changed, our lives have changed…I've loved him since I was 22, was I so blinded by that I ignored our problems? I still love him.
Max shook herself out of her dark thoughts. Squinting up, she sat back slightly. "Hi…do I know you?"
"I see a sad and beautiful woman all alone on a beach? It is the stuff movies are made of."
She smiled despite the corny phrase. "Really? How do you know I'm sad? Or alone?"
"I've seen you walk out here for the last two days."
"I should be disturbed. Are you a stalker because I've been there before?"
"A stalker? Nah. Bill Carter."
"Maxine Lacos," she said, as he sat down next to her. "Um, listen…you seem very nice."
"And you see very alone. Let me buy you dinner."
She slid her hand with her wedding and engagement rings in her pocket. "You don't know me."
"Why don't we get to know each other?"
"Go home, Jimmy said, noting his distracted behavior.
"What?" Kenny asked. "I'm fine."
Not fine, Jimmy thought, he's devastated over Max. Is she coming back? Is that what this is about? "Have you heard from her?"
Kenny felt his stomach clench at that. Called once, said she was there and safe. That she loved me…why, Honey, why? God, I need her, miss her…How does she handle the four of them every day? "Yeah. She's fine. Walking on the beach. She's fine."
"Give her the time she needs."
"She's…Yeah. I know."
"Come on, take a few days off. Spend some time with your kids. Max will come around."
"Is this what you do? Pick up sad and alone women on the beach?" Max asked. "I could be a crazy person."
"I don't think a crazy person would be taking long walks on the beach."
She bit her lip to keep from laughing. He's sweet, really, what am I doing? Married, pregnant, family at home…And I'm flirting with some guy on the beach? My overprotective, coddling, smother me to death, husband…who is the love of my life. That sweet, fun loving, loyal, strong, wonderful, man. Damn it. "Maybe not. Listen, you seem really nice. I'm not…I'm soul searching right now, and I don't want…I'm not what you're looking for."
"What are you looking for?"
Max paused at that. "A break from my life."
"Come on, I'll buy you a drink."
"Daddy!" Emily cried. "Push me higher!"
Max's twin, he thought, pushing the swing again, looks like her, acts like her…Melts my heart, just like her Mom. "How high do you want to go, Em?"
Kenny gave her another push, and glanced at Lindsay digging in the sandbox. We make great kids…And Samantha and Nate, she can't be serious. She won't leave me, I can't do this without her. Crap, I have to go get Nate from soccer…how does she do this everyday? "Ah, right, Em…Shit!"
"Daddy!" she sobbed, as she flew out of the swing and hit the hard dirt. "Daddy!"
"Em," he stammered, looking at her twisted arm, as she screamed. "Ah, Em, come on. I got you, Princess. We'll go to the doctor and…I got you."
"Just that?" Bill smiled, as they sat across from each other.
Max couldn't help but smile back as she sipped her diet coke. "I'm off alcohol right now. This probably isn't the best choice either. What do you do?"
"Besides pick up women on the beach? I'm a vet."
We were talking about getting a dog, Max thought, before I found out I was pregnant. "Taking care of sick puppies?"
He nodded, sipping his beer. "Dogs, cats, horses, whatever needs my help. What about you?"
She shook her head. "Nothing right now."
She smiled, and pushed her hair back. "I was a cop for a long time…I'm raising my kids."
She nodded. "Two daughters, plus a niece and nephew that live with us. I'm married, and…I'm sorry, I should of told you from the start. Oh, and I'm pregnant."
Bill laughed, and leaned back. "Anything else you want to tell me?"
"Oh, I have a colorful past, but those are the basics. I'm taking a few days just for me. Kenny and me…we need a few days apart. We've had some stuff…I need some space from it. You seem really great, but…it's not…I should go."
"Come on, stay. You obviously need someone to talk to."
"Kenny?" Jill asked, as she watched him pace the waiting room for a long moment. "You can go back with Emily. We got the ex-rays back, she broke her arm, she's going to be fine. She's charming all the nurses."
"Broken arm?" Kenny repeated, scooping up Lindsay. Max is going to kill me…she is so much better at this. Call her, no…she. "Crap…she's okay?"
"She barely cried. She's asking for you…and for her Mom."
He felt his stomach clench up at that. She should be here. It would of never happened if she stayed. She's going to hate me even more. "I'll have to do."
She would want to be here, Jill thought, she's all about her kids. Everything she does is for them.. "Do you want me to call her?"
Taking time, space, he thought, don't bug her. I can do this. "No, I'll do it later. Where is Em?"
"Follow me," Jill said, watching as he adjusted Lindsay in his arms. "It's a clean break, it'll heal up just fine."
Kenny nodded, as they walked into the room. "Hey there, Princess."
"Daddy!" she squealed, holding up her bright yellow cast. "Look!"
"That's something," he said, sitting down next to her. "Want to get ice cream on the way to get Nate?"
Emily nodded, snuggling in closer to him. "With sprinkles?"
"Whatever you want."
"Thanks," she said, as they walked back toward the hotel. "I hope you have better luck with whoever you pick up tomorrow."
"I want to pick you up again."
Max smiled, despite herself. "The pregnant, whiney, mess? You should flee from me."
"Your husband is an idiot."
"He has his moments, but no. He's great, we're just…I know I need to go home."
"That's crazy, Em," Nate laughed, as she chased him into the kitchen with her cast. "You're crazy. Whoa."
"What?" Kenny said following them into the kitchen and freezing. "Hey! What are you guys doing? Jesus Christ!"
"Kenny!" Zach yelped, jumping off Samantha and the kitchen table. "Hi, uh, hi."
"You have got to be kidding me," he said, as Nate continued to stare at them. "Guys, out. Nate, go. Em, go…What the hell?"
"We were," Zach stammered, pulling up his pants. "Uh, we were."
"Having sex on the kitchen table?" Kenny deadpanned, as Samantha straightened out her shirt. "Go home, Zach."
"Okay," he said, looking back at Samantha. "I'll call you and. Bye."
"Like you and Aunt Maxie haven't done this all over the house," Samantha stated.
"That isn't the point. We're adults."
"I love him."
"You're 15. That's way too young."
"We used a condom. I'm on the pill."
"What?" Kenny asked. "The pill? Did…Your Aunt took you to get the pill? Did she know…Max."
"She trusted me."
"On the table? I can't deal with this right now."
Max looked at the cell phone in her hands. Five days, she thought, I don't think I've gone hours without talking to Kenny in years. I miss him…why am I doing this? Call him. Tell him you want to come home. Sighing, she dialed.
"Max?" he said in way of greeting.
"Hey," she said softly. "I didn't want to wake anyone up."
Come home, please come home. No she needs this. At least she called. "They're all asleep, it's late."
She gulped, pulling her legs up to her chest. "Emily hasn't driven you nuts yet?"
"She's you, Max, she knows how to drive me crazy."
"I want to come home," she blurted out. "I miss you, I miss them…I hate not being there."
"Thought you wanted space. That you were being suffocated."
He is mad, he told me, all those years ago, that this is what he couldn't handle. Me leaving…Oh, god. "I did need space…but we can't fix whatever is wrong this way."
"You want to fix it?"
Yes, God, I love you, he thought, so much. Anything you want. Tell her, she's still the same person, even after everything… "It's all I want."
Max laid back on the bed and stared at the ceiling. It'll work, we can fix this…we can have this baby, we'll be okay. "Me too."
Em's arm…Grounding Samantha for life. Not over the phone. "I took some time off this week. Tomorrow? Six hour drive?"
Max bit her lip. "Yeah. I'd leave right now."
"And I'd like nothing more then you crawling into bed with me in the middle of the night. Yeah, tomorrow…how you feeling?"
"Pregnant. You've seen me in the morning."
"I can't wait to see you. I love you, Honey."
Max smiled, through her tears that threatened to fall. "I love you too. I'll see you tomorrow."
"You did what?" Jimmy said. "On the table?"
"It just…I love her, Dad," Zach stated. "The table wasn't great, but…I love her."
"Kenny caught you?" Jimmy said, wondering why he hadn't gotten that phone call yet. "I get you like her, but…We're all going to sit down."
"She's upset too, and … Max took off, she doesn't think she's coming back. Her parents and everything? Dad, I want to be there for her. I love her."
"Kenny Lacos?" a man said, the next morning, as he opened the front door. "You've been served."
"What?" he asked, taking the envelope. Now what? Samantha hates me, Em broke her arm, and I don't really know what to expect from Max in a few hours.
"I just deliver them."
Glancing back into the kitchen, and the table he spent a hour disinfecting last night, he tore open the envelope. Crap, he thought, reading it, crap.