'OK, so Nancy still doesn't get the basic concept of sitting Shiva', Andy thought, 'At least she gave it a day and a half this time.' The limo pulled on to the tarmac at Chester airport and Andy braced himself for the encounter. The merging of his two worlds. Nancy and Anneke. Then and Now. Before and After. This was going to happen, for real, right now, whether he was ready or not.
He was glad that she stayed in the limo as he greeted his family at the bottom of the stairs. Olivia was overjoyed to see him, shouting "Daddy! Daddy Daddy! Daddy!' Never had hearing his real name been more welcome. He took a moment to take it all in: his girls. His perfect family unit. He nuzzled into Anneke's neck and took a deep breath. "I'm so glad you're here. It's been weird. Really weird. I need you. I need to feel normal again."
Andy's discomfort escalated in the limo. Natalie insisted on sitting between both her parents, and he knew better than to argue with a 2 year old. He watched while Nancy and Anneke tried to make nice, but even then Nancy could barely take her eyes off of Natalie. For the first time in days, Andy could read Nancy clearly. Unlike the predominantly Dutch appearance of her older sister, Natalie was so obviously a Botwin. She had Judah and Shane's coloring and eyes. As Nancy fell into those eyes, Andy recognized her longing for connection in any form it would take. It was a familiar dynamic. He had spent years being the object of that longing.
As usual, the extroverted Olivia had decided that Nancy was her new best friend, and she proceeded to tell her all about the airplane ride. The nonstop chatter from his daughter provided the cover for him to study Nancy and Anneke in the same frame. Dark and Light. Night and Day. Pain and Joy. Love and Love.
Andy was grateful for the chaos that accompanied their entry into the house. Just the process of introducing his family to his family provided a welcome distraction. He hadn't really thought through the dynamics of having Anneke and Nancy and Jill and his daughters and the twins and Silas and Doug and Rabbi Dave and the Rebbetzin all within the same four walls, but at least for a moment it wasn't all about Nancy. Well, at least not overtly.
Rabbi Dave picked up on the general discomfort and did his best to carry the conversation where needed. He was himself in something of a spot. His lovely bride did not have the full details of his brief dalliance with their neighbor; it was something he had never quite found the right moment to explain. He caught Andy's eye and shared a moment of connection. He gestured toward the kitchen and the two stole away for some alone time.
"Your daughters are delightful, Andy. Mazeltov," Dave started. "And Anneke is charming. I'm so happy for you."
"Thank you." Andy reflected for a moment, "I never knew it could be so easy. It really is, you know. Easy. So easy." His voice trailed off as his thoughts turned inward.
The rabbi paused and then ventured, "Do you ever find that you miss the...the not-easy?"
Andy's reaction was automatic and vehement, "No! There's no reason to create trouble for trouble's sake. Life gives us enough burdens without generating them for no reason. Look at where we are and why we're here. Shane is proof enough. There's no need for it. I just want my life, my easy life, my life with my wife and my daughters and my restaurant and my friends. I want nothing to do with this mess. Nothing to do with her! After all, we're all just bit players in her stage production and even though the posters and playbill say "a lighthearted, sexy romp" we all know deep down that it's actually a tragedy. By the third act, everyone associated with the production winds up dead, until only the playwright is left standing alone on stage wondering who could possibly be responsible for all these bodies piled up around her. No thank you. I had my share of not easy. I did my time. I'll take my boring life now, thank you very much."
"But what if the playwright decides she wants to change the ending?" Nancy asked from the doorway. "What if she is finally ready but doesn't know how?"
TO BE CONTINUED