Family

Betty Draper trudged across the dark hall of her two story home. The children had been tucked in twenty minutes ago with the promise of going to the neighborhood pool when the weekend finally came. Betty turned and looked at the guest bedroom, now occupied by her father Gene Hofstadt. She could still see the shadow of his now frail body in the small, twin sized bed.

With a heavy sigh, Betty recalled the past several months with her father. Hearing from her brother that her father had suffered a series of strokes, none of which she had been previously informed about; seeing her father's new wife Gloria take control over Gene's life, only to leave him when his health worsened further. The separation proved to be the last straw for Betty, who wanted to see her father once more – on her terms, in her home in Ossining, New York.

Touching the fullness of her belly, Betty had a feeling that 'current condition', influenced her husband's word of agreement in having not only Gene come to the house, but her brother, sister-in-law Judy, and all three of their little girls. My next little girl won't be like those little brats, Betty thought to herself an attempt to cheer herself up. Shaking her head, she turned away from the guest bedroom before she began to cry once more.

"It's for the best, Daddy," Betty promised her father as she stood by his bedside. She would have given anything to climb into his bed once more like she did when she was little girl. But the roles were now reversed, Betty was the grown up, whether she wanted to be or not.

"The plans that you all make," Gene muttered once more, taking Betty's hand in his. "If I told you once I told you before, I am just fine."

Betty nodded her head, attempting to keep a brave face. "We'll see each other every day."

"In his house," Gene muttered, not bothering to hide his feelings for Betty's husband, the man who took his little princess away from him ten years ago.

"You mustn't speak like that," Betty chided. "Don wants you here just as much as I do."

Gene looked at his daughter and let out a loud laugh. "I'm still sane enough to know you're lying," he joked.

Betty lowered her head to keep him from seeing her tears. "I'll see you in the morning," she promised.

"Goodnight Princess," Gene said, kissing her hand.

"Goodnight Daddy," Betty said softly, turning to go.

Betty touched the doorknob to her bedroom. She hadn't expected Don to react the way he did – stand up to William and be willing to take care of her father, a man that Don admittedly disliked. It often troubled Betty to see that the two most important men in her life couldn't stand being in the same room for more than ten minutes at a time, but she had chosen Don the moment she married him ten years ago, giving up part of her father in the process. And now I am going to lose him forever, Betty thought to herself, cracking the bedroom door open ever so quietly as to not disturb the sleeping children next door.

Entering the master bedroom, Betty found the room empty. Walking to the window, Betty spotted Don walking the family dog, Polly. She slowly waddled to the closet, pulling out her light blue nightgown – the one that Don mentioned was his favorite. Pulling the silk dress over her body, Betty once again pondered Don's noble actions. Not only did he stand up to an intimidating and domineering William, but he came up with a permanent solution for Gene's failing health, while keeping his Philadelphia residence intact.

Betty carefully brushed her light blonde locks, careful to preserve whatever beauty she retained during her seventh month of pregnancy. She stared at the foreign image reflected in her vanity mirror, longing for her old figure. Despite dozens of compliments to the contrary, Betty once again felt fat and unattractive – everything she was trained not to be as a child. She once admitted to her therapist, Dr. Arnold Wayne, that she felt she was nothing without her beauty, a former model with no true substance beyond her pleasing outer shell. Feelings of low self-worth, coupled with father's failing health sent her into the darkened depths of another world that she hadn't felt in years – before she first started going to therapy.

Lost in her thoughts, Betty didn't notice Don's entrance into the room. Resting his hand on Betty's shoulder, she jumped from her seat, startled once again.

"Sorry," Don chuckled as Betty turned to face him. She offered him a small smile as she walked over to the bed. Don ducked into the bathroom as Betty snuggled under the covers, propping her head up with a pillow.

Don came out and crawled to his side of the bed. Turning to face him, Betty placed a gentle kiss on his mouth, sliding into his arms.

"What was that for?" Don asked as Betty rested her head on his shoulder.

"You don't know how much it means to me having him here," she murmured.

Don kissed the top of her head. "I can't stand that brother of yours," he said aloud.

"You shouldn't let him get to you," Betty assured him. "He's always been jealous of your success – while he's still working under Daddy."

"You don't mind not seeing them until the holidays do you?" Don joked.

Betty playfully pushed Don forward, positioning herself behind him. She flexed her fingers, bringing them down to Don's lower back in slow massaging movements. "You seem tired," Betty said softly, feeling guilty for being so demanding over the past few months. It wasn't just her father that seemed to upset Betty these days. Things – little things – that she never noticed before seemed to grow and fester into major annoyances. Her husband wound up taking a brunt of the abuse, choosing to take a soothing, childlike approach to his partner in order to keep her happy.

Don let out a satisfied moan as Betty continued her soothing movements, figuring it was the least she could do after putting him through so much over the past few months, and now adding her father on top of everything else.

"Thank-you again," Betty whispered into Don's ear.

Don reached for Betty's left hand, kissing the tips of her fingers. "I know that you're worried about your father."

"I can't lose him now," Betty murmured, her voice beginning to shake.

Don turned his head, caressing the side of Betty's face. "One day at a time," he whispered, an adage he told his clients on more than one occasion. Don moved his body to the foot of the bed, unfolding the covers as he began to massage Betty's feet. She let out a satisfied moan as Don removed the tension from her body.

"Promise me that we won't be like them," Betty said softly.

Don looked up and met her eyes. "Be like who?"

"That you won't leave me if I get sick, or develop crow's feet, or go grey…" Betty's voice began to trail off as she thought over every possible way to lose her beauty.

Don chuckled, moving back to the front of the bed.

"I'm glad you find this so funny," Betty said frustrated, starting to pull away.

Don touched her arm, pulling her back into the bed. Tilting Betty's chin up, Don told her "I will never leave you."

Betty leaned against Don's chest. "How could she be so cold?" Betty wondered. "Leaving him in that state, defenseless and alone."

Don protectively wrapped her in his arms. "Maybe you were right about Gloria all along," Don suggested. "But they aren't us. I will always love you, I can promise you that."

Betty snuggled closer, turning off the bedroom light after a long day, hoping to find the strength to endure the days ahead, which were sure to be interesting with their newest resident across the hall. With a new baby on the way, and her father back in the house, the concept of family was growing more and more each day, bringing in new challenges and new beginnings.