There was silence between Olivia and Fitz in the car except for the occasional blare of a horn or siren on the road. Olivia sneaked a glance at Fitz and the hard set of his jaw. She opened her mouth to say something but decided against it. From the white knuckled grip he had on the steering wheel and the steely way he glared at the road, he was seething in a way that would just lead to an argument if she started a conversation. Besides, she was angry too.
They trailed Gerry home from the police station. He was driving Fitz's car. It was best that they cool off and talk when they were both more open to understanding a different perspective than their own. Maybe then Fitz would understand why she hadn't shared with him what she knew about Karen. Hopefully he would also understand why condoning Gerry's brutish behavior was wrong.
Gerry had not been arrested, only taken into custody and awaiting the arrival of a parent or guardian. When Olivia entered the precinct, the first face that greeted her was that of Officer Ralston, the same Officer Ralston who had, months ago, given her the warning for running the stop sign and, weeks later, interrupted her make out session in the car with Fitz. He smiled at her. "Hello Ma'am, we are practically family now. I see you more than I see my in laws. Oh, do not look so worried. Your boy is fine. Your husband has cooled him down." Before she could respond, he was out of the door laughing at his own joke.
Even though Gerry was calm, he would not tell Fitz why he had attacked, Ethan, his best friend. His refusal enraged Fitz who was losing his calm.
"You either tell me why you did this or, I swear, I will leave your ass here overnight. I never taught you to reason with your fists. It is your choice, Gerry," Fitz said. They were in a small holding room alone. They were nose to nose, the material of Gerry's t-shirt pulled in a bunch round his neck.
"Fitz, let him go," Olivia said, rushing into the room. She grabbed his arm, but he did not budge.
"I will when he tells me why he acted like an idiot today. Ethan is your best friend and teammate. Do you think Duke won't rescind your acceptance if they find out you have a record, Gerry? You don't do this so there has to be a reason. What is it, Gerry!"
Gerry looked away, jaw quivering and red faced, but he would not relent.
"Gerry, you found out about Karen and Ethan. Is that why you did this?" Olivia said.
Gerry's head snapped up at Olivia's comment, betraying him. He tried to cover his reaction, but it was too late. Fitz released Gerry and turned towards Olivia.
"What? Found out what about Karen and Ethan? I thought you said they broke up. What the hell is going on?"
"I think you should sit down, honey. I was planning to tell you earlier this week, but so much has been going on. Karen and Ethan…they—" Olivia said.
"He had sex with her, Dad," Gerry said.
Fitz turned back to Gerry who began to explan. "Karen's been acting weird lately. Ethan too. So I confronted him about it at the park. I pretended like I knew what was going on. I told him I knew what he had done to Karen. He started apologizing for sleeping with her. I guess I lost it, Dad. The next thing I know the cops are there and I am here. He was my best friend. I knew he liked her, but I did not think he would do this. I'd do it again, Dad. I'm sorry, but he…he…deserved it!"
Fitz looked from Gerry to Olivia. His complexion turned a deep shade of red. "Did he force—?"
"No, Fitz. I think the worst he should be called is an insensitive teenage boy," Olivia said.
Fitz pulled out a chair and sat down slowly. He rested his head against his clasped hands. "Gerry, I owe you an apology. In the future, please talk to me before you try to deal with things especially if you can get in trouble, not that there will be a next time. Ethan's dad might press charges depending on how bad the damage is. I know Jim. He seems sensible, but Ethan is his son so…who is at the damn door?" Fitz said, looking around at the door.
Jim stood at the door knocking. Fitz jerked up from his seat and opened the door. Jim rushed inside.
"My wife is in the emergency room with my son who is getting stitched up from the damage your son did to his face. I was planning to press charges, but Ethan explained what happened. I guess Gerry had good reason, but I will be expecting you to cover all of our medical expenses. And I will make sure he keeps his distance from Karen. Do we have a deal, Grant?" Jim said.
"Yes, just make sure you hold up your end. I do not want to see Ethan anywhere near Karen or I may have to step in next time," Fitz promised.
Jim lifted his upper lip in what looked like a snarl. He grunted and left the room.
"It is time to go home," Fitz said. He patted Gerry on the back and directed him to leave the room. Gerry stood and walked out scowling slightly. Fitz grabbed Olivia's hand and pulled her from the room. She frowned at his roughness but had no choice but to follow.
"How could you keep this from me?" Fitz asked, pulling Olivia from mindlessly reading the license plates of the cars on the road in front of them.
"I…I was not trying to keep this from you, Fitz. Karen had been trying to talk to me for awhile, but I was so preoccupied with the nausea, school, wedding plans...everything. By the time we talked she had already…been intimate with Ethan. I take responsibility for dropping the ball. I do not know if I could have stopped her, but I do think our talk helped her…even if it was after the fact," Olivia said. She felt her words were sorely inadequate.
"How did it help her, Liv? She had already been with that little fucker. He took away her innocence. I know she is devastated. She is just a baby," he said with an edge in his voice.
"That is the same sort of male chauvinist thinking I talked to her about. Just because she had sex one time does not mean she is a streetwalker, Fitz! She is still innocent. Maybe Ethan was a virgin too! Did he lose his innocence? Has Gerry had sex? Will you go after the girl? Gerry was wrong. I love that he wants to protect Karen, but—"
"Livy, I see where you are going with that line of argument, but the world is not as enlightened as you are. You should have told me," he said, glancing over at her.
"Have you ever talked to Karen about sex and boys? Karen told me that Mellie said sex is something women should use as leverage. What have you told her?"
"I…we haven't really talked about it a lot…or at all, but I did tell her that abstinence is best. She took this class at church about it and I know they talk about it at school," he said.
"Most kids will not abstain, Fitz. That is the point of talking to them...before. We need to give them the information, shower them with love, and hope they make the best decision. And I'm not so enlightened. I wish my parents would have talked to me. I was just as clueless as the rest of them."
"We are not arguing about the same thing, Livy. You are going on and on about sex education and the problems with how boys and girls are socialized. This is not some academic social or cultural conversation. I am only concerned with Karen and not correcting the way parents talk to their kids. I just wish you had told me, Livy. That is all," he said.
"Yes, but one informs the other. I apologize for not telling you. Karen is going to be mortified when she finds out about all this. She swore me to secrecy, but I told her I would have to tell you at some point. I need to take her to the doctor for an exam and for birth control. She needs to know the facts so she can make informed decisions…going forward," she said.
"Birth control? I cannot take this. I wish I could rewind her to four years old and then freeze the frame," Fitz said with a wince while shaking his head.
"I know, honey. You will need to talk to Karen tonight. Please do not forbid her from seeing Ethan. Try not to mention him much at all. If you and Gerry go in all heavy handed, you will ensure that she gets back with him. I don't like Ethan for Karen, but he seems remorseful. Between that and your challenging her not to see him, she will most surely want to see him. We have to let her make the decision, okay?" Olivia said.
They pulled into the driveway. Fitz grunted a response that she couldn't make out. Olivia noticed how unconvinced he sounded and looked. She reached over and squeezed his arm.
They walked into the house in a single line, first Olivia, then Fitz, and lastly, Gerry. Karen was standing by the kitchen wall. She hung up the phone when they walked in.
"Liv, I told Lauren and Sybil we found your dress and the bridesmaids' dresses. We need to schedule another shopping day for shoes and jewelry," Karen said. Her eyes danced with excitement until she noticed their faces and how they were all standing there looking at her.
Granny was in the kitchen at the stove stirring a big pot of chili by the smell of it.
"Did my mom leave?" Olivia asked. She knew she needed to keep the atmosphere light until they could deal with this later.
"Oh yes. She would not stay for dinner. She said she he had to meet your sister, Savannah, for dinner," Granny said.
"Where's the funeral?" Karen asked, still observing Fitz and Gerry.
Olivia was intending to usher her upstairs, but Gerry spoke first. He moved to stand in front of Karen and reached out to hug her. "Karen, I am sorry I did not protect you from Ethan. You will not have to worry about him bothering you again. I think he got the message." Gerry walked away and further into the kitchen following the aroma. He'd lost his scowl. "GG, is that chili? It smells good," Gerry said. He was looking in the pot over Granny's shoulder.
Karen's eyes widened like saucers. She looked at Olivia and then Fitz. "Honey, I think we should talk." Fitz reached for Karen, but she jerked away.
"Gerry knows? Dad too? Liv, you promised not to tell!" she screamed.
"Do not blame, Liv, Karen. I found out on my own. I knew you were acting strangely for a reason so I confronted Ethan about it. He admitted it. He is getting his face sewn up now. Dad and Liv just bailed me out of jail so I know he will not keep bothering you," Gerry said a little too proudly.
"Gerry, we did not quite bail you out of jail. You were never arrested. But he is right, Karen, Ethan will leave you alone. Let's talk about this," Fitz said.
"Dad! Gerry! What did you do? This is so embarrassing," Karen cried as she ran up the stairs to her room.
"I'll go talk to her," said Olivia. She couldn't hide the weary edge to her voice.
"I should go, Livy," Fitz said.
"Okay," Olivia said, plopping down in a chair. "Gerry, make me a bowl of that chili, please."
Fitz looked surprised that Olivia did not argue more.
Granny gave Olivia a wink when Fitz left the room. "That was the right thing to do, Liv. He should take some of that load. You are with child, dear."
Olivia smiled at Granny and let out a sigh.
Fitz found Karen on the bed. She was lying on her stomach with her head sandwiched between two pillows. It sounded like she said, "Go away" when he entered her room.
Fitz sat on the bed beside her. He removed the top pillow, but she only cried harder and put the bottom pillow atop her head.
"Kare Bear sit up so I can see your face," Fitz said softly, rubbing her back. "I will sit here the remainder of the day and all night until you do."
Karen sat up. He pulled her onto his lap.
"Dad, I am a little too old to be sitting on your lap," she mumbled.
"I know. Just this one last time." He took a few tissues from the box on the table beside her bed and dabbed the tears from her cheeks.
"Do you remember that time when I was preparing to go on a trip to a conference out of town when you were little? You really wanted to go, but I could not take you, of course. The morning I was supposed to leave, you hid inside my luggage. Had it not been for the edge of your nightgown peaking out, who knows where you would have ended up? You were a quiet stowaway." They both laughed at the memory.
"I guess I did not want you to go," Karen said, smiling against his chest.
"You said in your squeaky little voice, 'Daddy, you cannot go anywhere without your Kare Bear,' so I made your mom drive you and Gerry to the airport to see me off. Karen, you are growing up so quickly, but I still see you as my little Kare Bear who needs her dad for everything," Fitz said.
"But dad, I am not a baby anymore. Are you disappointed that I had sex?" To Fitz she sounded like a baby even though she asked a very adult question. He closed his eyes and remembered his conversation with Olivia. He sighed.
"No. I just want the best for you. I do not want you to be hurt. Are you okay?"
"Well, I was not at first. But after I talked to Liv, she made me feel better. She is going with me to the doctor, too."
"I can go too, Karen," he said, "What day are you-".
"Dad, no, no, no! I mean… you don't have to, okay?"
Fitz was silently thankful. "Do not be too mad at Gerry. He loves you so much. I know you all fight, but he wanted to protect you when he confronted Ethan. You've broken up with him…right?" Fitz asked. He kept his voice even so as not too sound pushy.
"Dad, how would we be a couple after all this?" Karen said.
"Well I think it is best that you two are not together. Sometimes people are not good for each other. I think Ethan is not good for you. I am not saying he is a bad person or anything…just not good for you, Karen. Besides, he is going away to college soon."
Karen averted her eyes and pushed off his lap. "Dad, I do not want to talk about this anymore."
"Okay, Kare…just know you can talk to me about anything," he said, "I'm here.
"Yeah, Dad. I know." Karen smiled at him, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.
"Fitz, you have set a precedent," Olivia said sleepily against the pillows at the headboard of their bed. "You must massage my feet every night before bed."
"That is fine with me since it gets me closer to getting what I want every night," Fitz said.
"I don't know about every night," she said, her eyes fluttering closed.
Despite the tumultuous day, he was very content. He didn't think he could love her more, but he felt more in love with her today. They were a team despite their differences. She loved his children like her own. He watched her drifting off to sleep, carrying the child they had made together.
"Livy, you are a wonderful mother. I love you."
She smiled, her eyes still closed. "Thanks, Fitz, I love you too." She opened her arms and invited him in for a hug.
Karen kept very still on the bed. Gerry had knocked, but she was not ready to talk to him yet. She ignored him. She was still embarrassed, but mostly she did not want him to ask her any questions about Ethan. Gerry was right. She was not good at lying to him. She didn't want to risk him figuring out the truth. She and Ethan were practically back together.
It had started one day last week when she had gone to the soccer fields with some of her teammates to practice for a summer tournament. After practice, Ethan had shown up wanting to talk with her. She pulled him aside quickly, knowing that Gerry would be picking her up soon. She didn't want him to risk Gerry seeing them and creating a scene.
"Say what you have to say, Ethan. Gerry is picking me up and he'll be here soon," Karen said, crossing her arms.
"Karen, I know I have said I am sorry too many times. I want to explain why I was such an asshole," Ethan said. He looked down at his shoes and then directly at Karen. "The time we…it was my first time too. When you started crying… I knew I had done something wrong… so I-I turned away. I was just pretending to watch TV. I was not mad or irritated at you. I was mad at myself because you were not enjoying it. Then you thought I did not like you anymore and wanted to break up…that I had been playing games… I'm not…not like that, Karen. I know you don't want anything else to do with me, but I couldn't let you think I was trying to hurt you on purpose…I think I love you."
Karen looked into his eyes. She did not want to believe him, but he looked so sad. She looked over his shoulder and saw Gerry pull into the parking lot.
"I have to go, Ethan. Gerry's here. I'll call you later," she said hastily. She ran to meet Gerry with a big smile on her lips. That night and every night since, Ethan and Karen talked by phone.
Karen had not agreed to be his girlfriend again, but she was very close. Her heart sped up when her phone buzzed. It was Ethan calling. She tiptoed to her bedroom door to ensure Gerry was gone and locked the door.
"Hey," Karen said. She jumped in the bed and snuggled under the covers.
"Hey," Ethan said.
"Ethan…I'm so sorry about what Gerry did. I swear I didn't tell him about what happened between us. He can be so nosey sometimes. Are you okay?"
"Yeah…I'm fine. My face hurts but the painkillers help….You don't need to apologize, Karen. Gerry got me to admit it. I deserved it. He told me I could date you as long as I kept my hands to myself…I didn't so…" Ethan said.
"Gerry had no right. He doesn't get to approve who I date."
"I do not know how we are going to work this out. I promised my dad that I would not see you again. I want to talk to Gerry—"
"No, give him some time. Maybe my dad's wedding we can talk to him together," Karen said.
"Does that mean we will get back together and stay together after I go to college?"
"I do not know, Ethan. When you go to college, things will be different. You are going to meet other girls. I do not want you to think you need to be faithful to me," Karen said. She felt very grown up and wise when she said this to Ethan, but secretly she wanted him to keep asking.
"Let's talk about something else," Ethan said.
"Okay… um…how bad does your face look?"
They both chuckled.