Jeff Winger did not forget that it was Mother's Day. In fact, he went on a longer-than-usual jog to at five that morning to prepare for the occasion. After all, it was the day that took up one of his dreaded mandatory phone conversations with his mother (along with the phone calls on her birthday and his), and he wouldn't be caught dead missing one for fear of what his mother would do. The call had lasted a record breaking twenty minutes and had ended surprisingly well aside from a short argument about why he wasn't back on the job. Regardless, he remembered why he didn't like to keep in regular contact with her. He was forty years old and got along just fine, besides lying and cheating his way into the so called justice system and the admission into a dumpy community college. You're already accepted!
Jeff sat on the couch for some well-deserved relaxation. After flicking through the on screen TV guide twice over (nothing was ever on at two o' clock on a Sunday), Jeff unhappily settled on a show about remodeled cars before he was interrupted by his ringing phone. It was Annie. After a few rings, he decided to let it go to voicemail. He liked Annie, but he didn't really want to hear it today. He just wanted to have a normal Sunday and maybe hang out with everyone later, and he would talk to her then. Right now, however, he was watching mindless television and fully intended to waste the rest of the day ahead of him. That was until the phone rang again. He humored her.
"Hey, Annie," Jeff wore a smart smirk, preparing a sarcastic comment "don't you know not to call people on such a momentous holi-"
"Jeff..." There was despair in her voice, but this wasn't an uncommon occurrence. Annie got upset when she saw a dead possum in the road just as easily as anything of large concern.
"What is it Annie? Let me guess" Jeff started with mocking concern "Did someone ask for your ID again even though you're 'clearly' twenty one? Was there a creepy guy at the grocery store?" He put on a false serious tone and asked "Would you like me to talk to-"
"Jeff! I don't need the snark right now! It's serious!" Annie voice was shaking, Jeff imagined that she was crying or just had been. "Can I just please come over? Please? I don't want to go home, Jeff...and UGH- I knew I shouldn't have called-"
"Oh my god, something actually happened, didn't it?" Jeff felt a sudden pang of regret for making those remarks, but it passed quickly. "Of course you can come over, Annie. Just hold on a second."
"Thanks," Annie's breath hitched with a sob before she hung up the phone.
Not ten minutes after he started taking inventory on drinks, there was a small knock on his door immediately followed by a series of louder, more forceful ones. Jeff approached and opened the door, leaning his weight onto the frame for an unmistakably intentional pose with the intention of charming his visitor. Annie, unfortunately for Jeff, didn't notice and simply hugged him without a word. Jeff held her closer with one arm and wore a noticeable look of worry on his face. He gently pulled her inside his apartment and shut the door with his free hand, before giving her a full embrace.
Annie sobbed unrelenting, gripping fistfuls of his shirt (luckily for Jeff it was a workout top that couldn't be wrinkled or ruined) between her hands. Jeff didn't know what to say. He didn't want to suggest a drink and make him seem like he was taking advantage of the situation, but couldn't even make an attempt to comfort her because a) he didn't know what was going on and b) Annie clearly didn't want to talk about it yet, so he just held her until she let go.
When she did, Jeff offered her a seat on the couch and she obliged, still sniffing. She sat stiffly, staring at her knees that the modest floral dress she was wearing had left exposed. This was highly unusual for Annie. Granted, she was more reserved than usual when she was upset, but even then she wouldn't shut up. Jeff took a seat next to her and sighed.
"Annie. Look at me." She made brief eye contact and Jeff looked into sadness, but continued. "You know you're going to have to tell me what's going on. To be frank, you're kind of freaking me out and I don't like this."
Annie didn't break eye contact and slowly choked out "She didn't even acknowledge me, Jeff." At this, Jeff was slightly confused, but then something clicked. He put a hand on Annie's shoulder and his stare tightened, partially from anguish and mostly from unbelief. He asked although he was confident that he already knew.
"Who, Annie? What did you do? Please tell me you didn't try and see your mom."
Annie looked back to her knees and recounted her experience:
Annie had woken up early that morning, went to the store, and got her mother a card and a bookstore gift card for mother's day. She hadn't gathered up the courage to go the past couple of years because she was deathly terrified of what her parents would have done or said in response to the reunion. This year, however, she gathered up enough confidence to finally go and give her mother a mother's day gift, partially to be the bigger person and partially because Annie missed her, no matter how mean she had been.
Abed and Troy were going out to lunch with Troy's mom in honor of the special day, and Annie had told them of her plans, warning them that she might not be back until around dinner, depending on the reception, but she was sure it would be fine. Abed hesitated with an unquestionably surprised and non-supportive look on his face, but Troy elbowed him conspicuously, and Abed shrugged but kept his mouth shut at Troy's inaudible begging to not argue. Troy put on a smile after somewhat overcoming his initial skepticism.
"Good luck, Annie. I hope that your day turns out really great."
"Thanks, Troy. You too" Annie grinned wide and grabbed her car keys off of the table. "It will be great."
She was proud of herself and thus told her plans to Britta and Shirley (Pierce wouldn't have fully understood the significance of this milestone, and he probably would have made a weird comment, anyway). However, their reactions had been too close to Abed's than Annie would have liked.
Britta added a 'realistic' perspective as was normal; "Honey, I know that you want to reconnect with your parents, but they haven't made any effort to rekindle their relationship with their own daughter in three years. They don't deserve for you to be so nice! I mean, they could just be waiting for you to make the first step, but just...please don't be too upset if you don't get the warm welcome you want. You deserve it, Annie, but that doesn't mean it will happen."
Shirley was sympathetic, but also warned her not to be too hopeful; "Sweetie, I don't think that you should go over there thinking it will all be rainbows and sunshine! I think it's great that you're going over there, but I would rather you be prepared. All that aside, I'll be praying for you, dear. Let me know how it goes, okay?"
Despite the advice to the contrary by vast majority, Annie imagined going up to the house and being tearfully received by her father and accepted, albeit begrudgingly, by her mother. She'd give her mother the card and apologize for what had happened to push her mother so far as to kick her out of the house. She was clean and had been, and her mother would just have to believe her. Annie would tell them how successful she is in finding friends, a good place to live, and her nearly 4.0 GPA that she received with her hard work and determination. They'd be proud of how she had matured and it would be happily ever after.
Annie pulled up to her old driveway around noon, went up to the nice wooden door and rung her old annoying doorbell, card in hand. After two more rings, the woman opened the door just wide enough for Annie and her mother to see face to face. Her mother's face was stern and her glare piercing. Annie smiled and opened her mouth to explain herself when she was met with the swift breeze of a slamming door. Annie yelled,
"Mom! I just wanted to say happy Mother's Day!"
No one replied.
She yelled louder, "Come on! It's been three years!"
Her words fell on deaf ears once again. Defeated, Annie carefully set the cream envelope on the doormat and walked back to her car. She opened the door slowly and climbed in the driver's seat. They key turned, the car started, and the gas pedal was pressed. She pulled out of the driveway and onto the road, surrounded by suburban green grass and sunny skies overhead.
She stared at the road, her eyes slowly pooling with despised salty tears. Occasionally, she would free a hand from the steering wheel to wipe away any tears that had spilled over. No matter how she tried to ignore what had just happened and how mortifying it would be to come home with empty hands and red, swollen eyes from crying, having to explain that everyone had been right about their suspicions. Britta, Abed, Troy and Shirley had all been worried about the story having a bitter ending, and as always, they were right. Annie felt even worse because she was always the one using poor judgment when she wasn't trying to be the voice of reason for the others in the study group. She was always so immaturely positive about everything, and it brought her into the worst situations before the group brought her down to the terribly awful real world. When would she learn?
At this point, her tears were falling like rain, impeding her vision of the road. For fear of putting herself in danger, she pulled over to the side of the road. She climbed over the seat to grab the tissue box in the back of the car. She wiped her eyes and blew her nose, attempting to cease her sobs after the next few moments and was for the most part successful. Thinking about the approaching conversation with the group (at least Troy and Abed), she decided against going back home until later to make it seem like everything went well. There was only one place left to go...so she called Jeff.
"And...Here we are..." Annie was exasperated, telling the story as quickly as possible to keep dry-eyed. She looked earnestly at Jeff, hoping he would see her pain how she perceived it, without a usual snarky remark meant to be humorous (although they usually were).
"Annie. That's ridiculous." Annie rolled her eyes at Jeff's words, but he put his hand on her shoulder and searched her eyes. "Seriously, Annie, listen to me." Annie regained composure at the nonjudgmental concern that Jeff provided. "You did the right thing, Annie. It's not your fault that your mom is a huge crazy jerk that doesn't know a good daughter when she has one. I'm proud of you, Annie. You put yourself out there and took a chance. You showed that you were trying and being a good person. You are a good person Annie. Believe me when I say that there is nothing wrong with you. Your mom just made a terrible decision."
Annie closed her eyes and a single tear trailed down her face and neck. She swallowed and spoke up in unfortunate protest with a question. She wasn't so much speaking to Jeff as she was to herself. She grabbed at the bottom of her dress and kept her eyes down.
"Why doesn't she love me? I try so hard to make her proud, happy...to make her feel anything toward me beside toleration. Even before she found out about the Adderall it was like this." She didn't cry further but her voice was distressed and all too sincere for Jeff's liking.
"Annie. Seriously. First off, your mom does love you; she just has a crummy and lousy way of showing it. If she didn't love you, she wouldn't have raised you to be so wonderful, even if it was unintentional. Second, you don't need your mother's approval to have worth. You have stuck through and you do the best you can to jump over the hurdles life gives you. It's up to you to be proud of yourself. People are going to say mean things to you because it's evidently every person's job to cut as many people's self-esteem down as low as possible. It's your job to be confident in yourself and your choices. Nobody else is going to do it. Believe me, if anyone should be proud of themselves, it's you, Annie. Don't believe one thing that woman thinks about you. If I were you, I would have replaced that card with a brick and threw it through her window...and that's why you're the nice one and I'm the one who makes poor life choices."
After a little bit of time spent searching Jeff for any trace of dishonesty regarding his speech, she made a little nod and smiled. "Thanks Jeff... I guess... I know... that you're right. I guess I just was expecting an unrealistic happy ending. I put my hopes up too high so when I got shot down, it was just that much farther of a fall. At least I did it, and you know what? I tried and I'm proud of myself for that."
"Good. You should be."
"But, Jeff...if it's all the same to you, can I stay here for a little bit longer? I'm still not feeling to well about explaining this to Troy and or Abed when I get back."
"Sure. Stay as long as you want. I don't want you going home looking like this anyway." He ruffled her hair. "You look terrible."
Annie laughed, and pushed on his arm "Gee, thanks. We can't all have Adonis-like good looks."
"Adonis-like, huh?" Jeff gave his signature smile and he and Annie habitually looked down at abs.
Annie snapped out of it and yelled, laughing "...shut up!"
"Didn't say anything." Jeff stretched his arms straight up and lowered his arms over the side of the couch and over Annie's shoulders. Annie would have normally made a snide remark about his narcissism, but she relished the moment. She rested her head on his chest and he kissed the top of her head. They sat still for a while with the auto repair show acting as background noise, and then Jeff spoke up.
"Annie, are you sure you're okay?"
Annie looked up at him and nodded quickly, reassuring Jeff but mostly herself.
"I think so. I will be, at least. You know me, Optimistic Annie, with a record speed recovery time."
Jeff gave her a gentle and sympathetic smile, quickly combing his index finger through her hair, moving it behind her ear.
"I'm glad. It's just that you know I worry about you, Annie. You're really special to me and I hate seeing you upset. If I could, I would do anything to stop you from getting hurt, and I don't think I tell you that enough. I admit I am kind of unapproachable at times, but you know that you can come to me for anything. Even if I say it's stupid, or not worth crying over, or whatever, I like knowing that you trust me, Annie, and I like hearing from you. That's because I trust you. I like to know that it's mutual, because trusting is the one area I admit I'm not too skilled in."
Annie pulled back from him for a second, appreciative of the moment, letting it soak in. Maybe today wasn't so bad. Sure, she was hurting, but she had such a great support system in her friends that she hadn't in the past. They wouldn't let her down or leave her in the dust. She loved them and she was comforted in Jeff's words that the feeling was reciprocated. She could never be more thankful for them. Annie leaned in to kiss Jeff, but he pulled away with a regretful smirk and an explanation.
"Not that I don't want to kiss you, because I believe me when I say I really want to kiss you, but... I can't believe I'm saying this but... you're… vulnerable right now and I'm not enough of a jerk to take advantage of you, considering what happened."
"...that's okay, Jeff. I understand. Troy and Abed should be home by now, anyway."
"Totally. I don't know what I was thinking..." Annie was disappointed and slightly hurt, but understanding of the ethics behind the refusal, though she didn't want to be.
"I'll see you later tonight with everyone else?"
"Eh...we'll see." Jeff looked down at Annie and they laughed together. it was nice. She knew that everything was going to be okay, it wasn't a happily ever after...but it was sufficient. It was going to be better, and that's all she needed to hear.