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Occasionally Yours: Episode Eight
Published Aug 14, 2011


Written By

spladoum

Storyteller
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Why won't she say she needs me?
I know she's not as strong as she seems ...

~ Rick Astley, "Cry For Help"


Alas ... **sniff sniff** ... the next-to-last episode is upon us. Please make sure to go read "Tales from the Childhood" by RatRaceRob if you haven't already! Two is so much awesomer than one!


Why won't she say she needs me?
I know she's not as strong as she seems ...

~ Rick Astley, "Cry For Help"


Alas ... **sniff sniff** ... the next-to-last episode is upon us. Please make sure to go read "Tales from the Childhood" by RatRaceRob if you haven't already! Two is so much awesomer than one!


... so things were sort of back to normal. Sort of. Except that both Gwen and Holden were out of their respective jobs and he was gonna be a dad. Of two. At age 26.

Yikes.

The money Gwen received for the return of her designer gowns would be enough to make rent and pay bills for THIS month. But they were both already fretting about NEXT month. She'd have to sell off half her wardrobe. And heaven knew the dry cleaning costs on suede and satin were practically robbery! Maybe it was hard to wash sweat out of a silk dress. She didn't exactly KNOW this kind of stuff.
Gwen didn't exactly recall mentioning that times were tough in anyone's ears, but maybe she had. Lately Rosalind dropped by every afternoon around 3 p.m., sometimes just to sit and chat, more often to bring something for dinner. A roast, a big steak, a fish. The meat was always delicious. The side dishes, which came straight from Holden's garden, always left something to be desired. After eating the smallest potato he'd ever seen in his life with the last meal, Connor politely excused himself and went outside to see the plants for himself. Holden followed.

"Was that some sort of new mutant strain of potato?" Connor asked. He examined the leaves of the plant closely. Holden laughed. Sort of.

"They're supposed to be normal potatoes, but ... well, you see how they come out when I grow them."

Connor looked up at him, squinting against the afternoon sun. "These ARE normal potatoes, I think. Do you fertilize them with anything?"

"Yeah, I buy--"

"Whoops, that's where you're going wrong. Don't buy anything, use fish."

"Seriously?"
Connor looked at the other plants. "Y'know, I think that's what's been wrong with your plants all along, Wozny. It's not that you're unlucky with them, it's that you don't know how to get the best out of them." He went back inside.

When he returned he had a book in hand. "Read this. You've got the makings of a good garden here, you just need a little help."
So. Holden read the first book on gardening that he'd ever read. Naturally he found out that he was doing a lot of things wrong. What shocked him was finding out that he was doing a lot of things RIGHT. Maybe Gwen hadn't been so far off when she'd told him to go into gardening for a living, after all? There was a thump on the bedroom door and the sound of a very young child giggling as she toddled away. That was the way Lydia announced that she was in the house lately, so that meant River was up front. She and Gwen had made up their feud in record time over pizza and ice cream soda. They'd pressed Holden into watching an awful romantic comedy with them (at least HE thought it awful--they both cooed constantly the whole 90 minutes) and gone giggling into Gwen's room once it was mercifully over. The next morning Gwen tearfully asked Holden why he hadn't told her that River was having such a hard time ("I just found out myself," Holden protested) and insisted that the next time she came over she should bring little Lydia.

And River began to do just that.
And things went along swimmingly ... until the afternoon that Rosalind made a dish of whole trout. Everyone ate it, everyone liked it--and all three of the women inexplicably threw up later in the evening.

Holden and Connor stood outside the bathroom, listening to the trio retch in unison, and cringed.
"Do you feel sick?" Connor whispered.

"No," Holden answered. He had gone pale from worry. "Lydia, do you feel sick?"

"No no," Lydia said.

"I mean, River's pregnant--" Holden continued.
"I think Rosalind is too."

"You think? You don't know?"

Connor looked at him. "Holden, you've seen my wife's arms. Asking her if she's gaining weight isn't exactly an option for me."
Fortunately, there was no need to ask. When the women came staggering back to the front of the house and Gwen tiredly offered beer, River declined immediately and Rosalind thought about it for a moment. "... I'm not sure yet, but I think I'm gonna be a mom. I'd better not."

"But you're not any bigger! Well, maybe five pounds?"

"Seven, I'd guess," River said, looking closely.
Connor nudged Holden. "See?"

"See what? She's laughing!"

"Because they're GIRLS! WE could never get away with saying that!"
"Alright. Turn around for me, to the left? Great. ... Just one ... or two ... more shots ..."

Every day this week Rosalind had been over with her camera, snapping shot after shot of Gwen modeling her designer gowns. The pictures were a necessity for an internet auction, of course--people didn't like looking at dresses hanging on a coat hanger--but lately Gwen hated putting the gowns on. Maybe it was just stress, but they all felt a bit tight.
The camera clicked and beeped. "That should do it. Ow. Ow. OW."

Gwen looked on curiously as Rosalind tried and failed to stretch her back. Instantly Connor was on the scene, offering her a massage. "Settle down. Let me get your shoulders."

"Thanks, honey," Rosalind murmured. As soon as he finished she was headed up front to open her and upload the photos into her images editor. Connor and Gwen followed.
Gwen looked at the shots splashed across the laptop's screen and winced. It was tempting to think that the photos were just out of proportion, but she frowned down at her abdomen. "Is it just me, or do I look poochy in the pink dress?"

"It's probably just the dress," Connor said. "It looks like it's made from whipped cream."

"Connor," Rosalind protested, but Gwen was laughing. "He's right. Why did I buy that dress, anyway? ... oh, gosh. Look at this green one. My hips are huge! Don't focus on my hips."
"But that's where all of the important detail is," Rosalind said. Gwen turned away and groaned. "I can't look anymore. God, I'm so fat!"

"Everything all right?" Holden asked. He had just come in with a few fish wrapped in a newspaper. He took the fish and went outside to the garden. Connor glanced over the paper and chuckled to himself, which immediately drew the attention of both women.
"What now?" Rosalind asked, afraid to be answered.

"Nothing, it's just one of these gossip columns. I see your name, Gwen."

Intrigued, she came over and peeked at what hadn't been obliterated by jellyfish juice. "'Gwen Glover fat!' What the hell?"

She immediately took the paper from him and began to read for herself. Behind her back, Rosalind silently ordered Connor to keep quiet. He did, with some difficulty.
Gwen kept on reading aloud, her voice growing squeaky with outrage. "'Gwen Glover, the absentee headliner of the recent symposium held at the W.J. Billings Theater, has resurfaced belly-up! The redheaded beauty, who is NORMALLY svelte and sexy'--ohmagawd, I'm gonna KILL whoever who wrote this crap--"

"What does it actually SAY?" Connor asked.

"I don't know, I can't read it! Can you look it up online?"
Rosalind rolled her eyes as she typed. "So now it's news that you gained three pounds? You actually want to make yourself crazy over this?"

"You don't get it!"

"No, I don't. At all. If you're really worried about it, stop eating the junk from that food truck."

"You eat the same junk!"

"Maybe, but I'm not tabloid fodder and the size of a stick of chewing gum," Rosalind pointed out.
By now Holden had come back inside, drawn by the yelling. "I kinda wanna know what's going on in here, but I'm kinda scared to ask."

"The stupid tabloid says I'm fat!" Gwen wailed. "God! I gain some weight and suddenly I'm a worthless pig?"

"Actually," Rosalind interrupted, "the point of the story is to imply that you're pregnant."
She pushed her chair out of the way so that everyone could read the headline in all of its gory glory.

"No," Gwen stammered. She stepped back as if the computer itself was responsible for this predicament. "It's not ... it's not possible!"

"Why not?" several voices asked.
It had been a month to the day since her spectacularly disastrous date with Jesse Simanski. No one had mentioned his name since that night. But now the pieces slowly fell into place: the ill-fitting clothing, the regular queasiness, the sudden desire to go through pints of ice cream for lunch, all traceable from three weeks ago. And she hadn't been HALF so close to any other man for YEARS.

"It was ... only for a minute," she said weakly. "We didn't ... we didn't even ..."

Judging by her friends' faces, they weren't exactly persuaded by her excuses.

"Are you gonna tell him?" Connor asked.
Tell him.

Tell him?

Somehow, the thought had never entered her head. Possibly because the only contact Gwen had ever had with Jesse (outside of being wrapped around him while sitting in a big kiddie pool of warm bubbly water) was through her very public, very parent-funded website.

... her parents ...

A fist of cold fear socked her right in her heavier-by-three-pounds gut. Her parents. Her parents were on a cruise. But they wouldn't be gone forever. And when they returned ... there'd be nowhere for her to hide.
"Gwen!"

By now River had shown up uninvited as usual. She passed Lydia off into the nearest set of arms and knelt beside Gwen. "She's okay. Maybe having a bit of a panic attack over something, her pulse is pretty high. Something happen?"
Connor left Rosalind and Holden to try to explain this mess and went outside with a teething toddler clinging to his shoulder. By the teeth. Unlike the others, he actually had a way to reach Jesse Simanski. Granted, it was a roundabout route that was going to force him to talk to someone he'd just as soon NOT be talking to. But Connor was used to being abused. And it wasn't like he was going to call Simanski himself.

“Agent Frio! To what do I owe this pleasant surprise?”

"Hey there. Need a favor, please."

“Ah. All business. Not as pleasant a surprise, then.”
"I need Jesse Simanski's number. A number where he can actually be reached."

“Planning to apologize? I think if you never see or speak to him again, it’ll serve as all the apology he needs.”

Connor had to actively stop sarcasm from leeching into his voice. "This isn't exactly for me personally. This is for that girl he was with when he passed through town. The one who was with him when he was picked up from the public pool."

“I can give you the unlisted Simanski home number, but I’d advise Miss Glover to call from a residential landline for best results. Even I haven’t figured out the criteria for how Jesse’s brother screens incoming calls.”

"Thanks."
He went back inside, and promptly saw that this bit of information would not be wanted, at least not immediately. Maybe not at all. That evening, after Gwen was safely in bed, Holden asked River if she would consider marrying him sooner rather than later. She agreed, they set the date of the ceremony for the upcoming Saturday, and procured a "wedding package" from the local party store. Perhaps this all had to do with a certain coupon that he found online. It was set to expire the very day of his wedding. Coincidence, maybe.

There was a small hitch in the plans when they asked the elderly fire chief if they could borrow uniforms for the ceremony. The chief worried that it might cause issues since Holden was still in litigation talks with the city, but finally relented and gave them two very worn-out training suits that smelled kind of funny. In any case, River McIrish became River Wozny with a minimum of fuss.
Gwen and Rosalind played a beautiful duet of U2's "One" as the happy couple danced in the light of the setting sun.

So far the wedding was going well. The food truck was offering 2-for-1 burritos, and only a few people were annoyed that little Lydia had dumped beach sand and starfish into their water glasses.
Once everyone's stomach settled and the DJ started playing booty music, Gwen packed the instruments away and wandered off to stare at the rolling water. The sound of the water was soft and constant, and soothing. It muffled the sound of the electronica, and kept her from noticing that someone had come to stand near her. She finally saw him and started. "God, Connor!"

"You've been looking this way for the past minute, I thought you saw me."
Had she? Gwen shrugged apologetically. "Sorry. I'm on edge recently."

"No kidding." He came closer. "So what are you planning to do?"

"About? ..."

He looked semi-insulted. "Gwen."
"What do you care?" There was a honest question behind the blunt words. He chose to answer it.

"Maybe I don't. Maybe it's my wife who cares."

"Great. That makes me feel a lot better."

"... and maybe I do care, and I honestly want to know if you've actually given any thought to this, or if you're planning to lay back and let your friends take care of your life for you."

Maybe she deserved that.
"... I don't know what I'm going to do."

"What about Jesse?"

"What about him? Do you even know how he knows me?"

"He saw you in a music video."

"There you go. That should tell you about where his head is." She sighed, almost angrily. "What's a guy like that going to want with me once he finds out I'm pregnant?"

"You don't even want to try to find out?"
The look on her face was one of embarrassment, suspicion, and uncertainty all mashed together. When she spoke next, all three came out in her voice. "Why are you asking me all of this?"

"Because," he said, and went silent for a few moments. The waves crashed on endlessly. "Because you don't take chances, Gwen. Somewhere along the line you learned to play it safe when you ought to be standing up for yourself."

"Wait, what?"

"You don't really know Rosalind, do you? You don't know what she is?"

"... no?"
"She's a felon, Gwen. Convicted of twenty counts of forgery at age nineteen. She's served time in jail. She's spent years of her life paying for something she was forced into as a minor. And I've watched have to make some damned hard decisions, and face the consequences for years and years of breaking the law. And I learned to love her for it."

He stopped, but she said nothing, and he continued on. "My family has never understood what I have with her. None of them likes her very much. My parents are not going to get to see their first grandchild because they're chosen not to. But my point is, they know they have one because I made sure they knew."
He locked his gaze with hers. "Is it fair to your parents that they have to find out through a tabloid about their grandchild? Is it fair to Jesse not to tell him at all?"

"..."

"Gwen, in less than a year from now you're going to be responsible for a child's life. At some point in life, you've got to grow up."
Grow up. Grow up. Grow up. That was all anyone had to say lately. How was she supposed to know how to just ... do ... something she'd never had any experience with before? Why didn't anyone understand she was doing the best she could?
"I can't tell my parents, Connor. You're just going to have to trust me on that."

"Okay," he said in a dubious voice. "But still, what about Jesse?"

But just then the obnoxious DJ shouted for everyone to return to the pavilion for the cutting of the cake, and that question went unanswered.
And in a big house in a swanky part of a different town, a young man was on a phone call. He wasn't entirely paying attention. Yet. "… so hey man, they say Gwen's pregnant. You tying the knot? You didn't invite me to the wedding! That ain't cool!"

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"Man, come on! It's all over the Midnight Starz, you ain't seen it?"
Thomas Pippendorfer-Blofonzki sat down at a computer, grumbling at his friend's idiocy. That is, until he saw that it was true. All too true. At least "true" according to the Midnight Starz website. Gwen hadn't gained any damn twenty-four pounds on her thighs!

… if she'd gained anything at all, it was that tiny bulge on her tummy …

…!
"MOM!" **ding dong**

**ding dong**

**dingDONGdingDONGdingDONGdingDOOOOOOONG**

Maria cursed to herself as she rushed down the stairs. If it was that UPS guy playing games again …
She opened the door angrily, only to choke with fear. The Blofonzki clan stood there. The men regarded her with angry eyes. Mrs. Helene seemed strangely calm.

"Where's Kendrick?" Mr. Blofonzki said in icy tones.

"Mr. Glover? … he ees playing golf."

"We'll wait for him," Buddy Blofonzki snapped, and pushed his way in. Tommy sulked in his wake. Mrs. Helene followed serenely.
Maria quickly ushered the senator into the sitting room with the rest of her family and took their orders for drinks.

"How are you, Maria?"

"Ees something wrong, Mrs. Helene?"

"Oh yes. Something is very wrong." For a moment, Maria could have sworn Mrs. Helene was giggling, not yawning.
Once Mr. Kendrick and Mrs. Judith Glover came home and heard the accusations from both Buddy and Tommy (Helene had almost nothing to say on the matter), both the drink orders and the lunch itself became outrageous. Maria gasped at the requests. Broiled lobster with caviar and white truffles? THIS time of day? A watercress and heirloom tomato salad with shiitake mushrooms? Brandied plums? The bottle of 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon?

She spent the next hour cooking frantically as the shouting from the sitting room grew ever louder.
She brought out the platters of food to dead silence. The two families sat across from each other at the formal table, facing each other with sour looks. Normally this sort of food would be a grand feast. But judging by the expressions on the faces of hosts and guests, the meal was more of an apology than a celebration. She loaded the dishwasher with the heavy pots and left for the day right afterwards, wondering just what Miss Gwendolyn had gotten herself into this time. "Gwendolyn."

Gwen sighed. She'd already heard this. Everyone else in the room was listening to it for the first time.

"It goes without saying that we are EXCEPTIONALLY disappointed with you. You have shown such a complete lack of respect for us and for what we've done for you—"

"Make her crazy?" Rosalind muttered.
"—and you have behaved abominably towards poor Tommy."

"She used 'abominably' in a sentence!" River chortled. "Does she get a prize for that?"

"Whuss 'abmabe,' Mama?"

"We are coming to your house to get you on Tuesday. Do not call me back, do not ask me any questions. You have your things packed and ready to go by then or you will be leaving them behind. Goodbye, Gwendolyn." And that was the end of the message.

It was now Sunday evening, barely twenty-four hours after Holden's wedding. He was packing his things to prepare to move in with his wife. Gwen had decided to stick it out alone in the house for another month, but now that idea was non-viable.
She didn't have the money to pay another deposit on another apartment. It was going to take every dime she had to break this lease. She couldn't move into the house where River stayed—there were no more rooms for rent, and River was already stretching her landlord's patience rather thin by expanding her household from two to four.

"Ow," Connor suddenly said, which drew everyone's eyes his way. He rubbed a spot on his side conspicuously near his wife's elbow. "Hey, Gwen. You know, we've got a third bedroom, and if need be, there's always the garage."

"Really?" Gwen said, doing her best to sound surprised. Rosalind rolled her eyes. "Yeah, yeah, get packing."

So they continued to pack hastily. River and Rosalind took charge of the clothes, Holden and Connor carried the heavier boxes, and Lydia trundled around completely underfoot. They had a lot to get done before Tuesday.
Through it all, Connor had wondered more than once if he shouldn't just give Jesse's number to Gwen and let the chips fall where they might, as it were. But the opportunities kept sliding away. Ever since her first collapse, no one left her alone. It was clear to all of them that this pregnancy was causing her a lot of stress: possibly from anticipation of what her parents were (now) going to do to her, possibly also from the thought of having to raise a child with no viable income. Jesse's name had come up approximately once. Everyone struggled to keep their voices under control, but the tension was thick and suffocating until Gwen acknowledged the justice of their position. She didn't really KNOW the guy, after all. He'd gotten what he wanted, hadn't he? There was no point in trying to find him to tell him that she was having his baby—he'd probably just turn her away, or worse yet, call her names and THEN turn her away. Why go all that way just to be insulted? Why not stay in town where she could be watched by people who cared? Connor wasn't so sure. For starters, a first and last name plus a landline was actually more than enough information for a federal agent to dig up a lot of dirt, and he'd spent more than one late night doing some fairly substantial homework on Simanski—read the files, noted the low-wage job, traced that back to his adolescence, seen that his school performance had steadily declined ever since he lost his parents. From there, naturally, Connor had read about Jono Simanski and seen what he'd had to endure for the past nine years, summarizing that Jesse's poor grades and regular absenteeism were directly related to his twin's condition and Jesse's role as caretaker. If nothing else, the guy was used to being responsible when it was necessary. And if his behavior during the end of his date was anything to go by, he at least LIKED Gwen. People had gotten married with far less assurance.

But even more than that, Connor worried that with this ill-advised decision to "let it all blow over," Gwen might be making a mess for herself in the future.
He still remembered the day that his brother Jared was served with an unexpected summons to come to family court. When Jared found out that he had been a father for three years and that his daughter's mother had hidden it from him all that time (and now wanted retroactive child support), he broke every dish in the kitchen. Anger, yes, but also a great deal of sadness. What was worse, Connor believed, was from that day forward Jared had thoroughly resented his child, looked on her as an imposition. And that wound had only festered as the years had gone by. It had never healed. Even now, he could see that seething muddle of anguish and anger on Jared's face as he mumbled, "Why?" over and over. Something told Connor that if Gwen managed to earn the ire of a man who was patient enough to take care of the mentally unstable, she wouldn't be doing herself any favors, to say nothing of how unfair this could potentially be for the child.

It wasn't his decision to make. And by all appearances, she had already decided for herself. But still, he found himself wishing and hoping that there was something he could do … something … anything.

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21 Comment(s) so far


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#12RatRaceRobAug 16, 2011

Gwen Glover, you are not even close to fat \:rolleyes: .  Connor Frio, give the girl the ding dang number will you please \:mad\: .  Small darling Lydia, dump beach sand and starfish in these peeps drinking water until they see sense \:wub\:

#13mogan44Aug 16, 2011

Holy crap, 8 and 31 had me howling lol I really don't want this series to end.  Will we get to see Gwen's baby?!  

#14orlovVIPAug 17, 2011

\:eek\: \:eek\: Didn't see THAT coming. . .of all the scenerios I imagined after the last episode, this was not one of them. Thrilled for Rosalind and Connor, likewise for River and Holden, but Gwen. . .I can't help but feel sorry for her; I understand her reluctance to contact Jesse, but Connor is right, Jesse needs to know. If Gwen knew Jesse like we all do, she would know how incredible he would be as a father. . .maybe not husband material, but definately Daddy stock. It would be interfering, but Connor ought to make a call. . .Let's hope the next Chapter ( \:\( ) is a really long one; like 120/180/240 pages. . .I can't stand the thought of this story ending. Innumerable THANKS for this story, for your hard work, for your sense of humor. . .I anxiously wait. . .\:wub\:

#15spitzmagicAug 18, 2011

OM freakin G \:D \:D \:eek\:   Conner you pick up that phone and make that call !!!!! April oooohweeee...I loved this chapter..Is she really...I didn't even realize the two woohooed..I have to go back and read it again....to see where this might have taken place..if it was in the hot tub boy oh boy that's some super hot tub...wow Jesse a dad \:D \:D and I'm happy for everyone else too \:wub\:Conner pick up the phone make that call...Great chapter April I loved the screens they were spot on 17 and 25 LOL...congrats on the feature too \:D \:wub\:

#16flody888Aug 18, 2011

Oy! Three babies on the way! And one of them is a Simanski!!! \:D I can't wait to see what happens next and I know it's going to be phenomenal since you said this is the next to last chapter!!!! Sadness! \:\(

#17ohgodcaitlynAug 19, 2011

Whoa! Big surprises there! She has to tell Jesse, and her parents need to cool down. I can't believe this series is almost over! I'm dying for more now!

#18Bo0GeRBELLAug 20, 2011

**ding dong****ding dong****dingDONGdingDONGdingDONGdingDOOOOOOONG**I was in TEARS! Great chapter! \:rah\:

#19fruitopiaVIPAug 20, 2011

No, it can't be almost over.  Great chapter.

#20RavenRave95Aug 24, 2011

\:D

#21TheGoldenQueenApr 14, 2012

Amazing...simply awesome \:\) I hope you'll make more!!!

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