"I probably should've stayed home, honey," Olivia mumbled as she gingerly lowered herself onto the passenger seat. Fitz took the purse and plastic bag she held in her hand as she settled in the seat. "You and Gerry could be at Duke now instead of stopping every five minutes because I have to pee. I thought I'd be better after resting at the hotel last night, but it's worse today. We have to make it to Durham before it gets dark."
Fitz smiled and rubbed her ample belly. He closed the door. "We wouldn't have nearly as much fun if you and Little Grant had stayed at home. Isn't that right Gerry?" Fitz glanced over at Gerry who was just pushing away from his new black Volvo C70, parked carefully beside the gas pump in front of them.
"Yeah, Liv. Kare has been responsible for nearly half of our stops," Gerry said with a bright smile, "I'm going in to get her and Ethan so we can get back on the road. Keep an eye on Thelma for me." He nodded his head in the direction of his car.
They watched his light jog across the lot. Olivia's gaze lingered until the door of the convenience store closed behind him. She smiled and continued staring after him even as Fitz walked around their car and hopped inside. The shutting car door broke her gaze. She looked over at Fitz. "He seems so happy. I think he's going to be okay. But I can't believe he named that car. I didn't think people did that anymore, least of all, teenagers."
"For as much as it cost, the car should have a name. He'll be okay. Between classes and lacrosse he will be totally preoccupied. Your talk with him really helped too and of course Granny's gift that was way over the top. She tied my hands when she didn't ask me about it first and just sprung it on us at his party. Her heart was in the right place, but Gerry's old car was more than sufficient. The insurance and the upkeep on it is going to be expensive."
"You know GG, she has a mind of her own and deep pockets to do what she wants. You should have expected her grand gesture. Didn't she buy you a car when you went to college?" Olivia asked, biting into a banana.
"Granddad was alive then. He bought cars for Lauren, Sybil, and me. Difference was, we were at the end of high school and we kept the same cars throughout college. F.J. made us get jobs to pay for the expenses. Granny should have talked to me about it first so we could have set up a plan for him to pay the insurance and upkeep. I've told Gerry he's responsible, but I know that Granny is going to go over my head."
Karen and Ethan exited the convenience store with Gerry following behind him. Karen held an extra large fountain drink container. The cup was transparent so the multicolored layers of the slushy were visible. Karen skipped over to Olivia's window.
"Hey Liv, Dad, you want to taste? I was able to get 10 flavors in one. See the layers?" Karen asked, extending the large container inside the car."
"No, Kare. That's just too much sugar for me." Olivia said. Fitz shook his head while narrowing his eyes at Ethan. "You shouldn't have gotten the largest size."
"I'm sharing this with Ethan. Besides it's a slushy and will take longer to digest," Karen said.
"Karen! To be so smart, you can really be dumb. It's just crushed ice with sugar and food coloring...basically sugar and water with chemicals to color it. I swear if you waste that on my seats, I'm going to kick you out of the car and then you're going to pay to have it professionally cleaned," Gerry said.
"Let's get back on the road," Fitz said. He ignored Gerry and Karen's bickering. Ethan didn't say anything. Though Ethan and Karen continued dating without incident, Fitz hadn't really warmed up to him. He usually glared at Ethan when he visited Karen at the house or was present for a family gathering. Ethan was always respectful, but he didn't say much unless Fitz asked him a question. He was a little more relaxed when it was only Olivia around.
"Ethan, how is it on the road with these two? I hope they aren't arguing the whole way," Olivia said.
"It's fine, Mrs. Grant." Ethan said. He lifted one side of his lips in what Olivia guessed was his attempt at a smile.
"We should only have to stop one more time to refill the tanks and then we should be in Durham. We'll call each other if we have to stop before then," Fitz said before cranking the car.
"Okay, Dad, but I'm sure Big Gulp here will have to stop before then," Gerry said. Karen punched Gerry in the arm before snatching Gerry's keys and running for his car. Gerry took off behind her. In the chase, Karen dropped her oversized slushy. She threw the keys at Gerry and got into the car in a huff. Ethan got in behind her. Gerry jogged inside the store and returned to the car with a smaller version of Karen's slushy.
Olivia and Fitz chuckled at the scene that unfolded before them.
"Gerry reminds me so much of you. He's such a caretaker. The house is going to be so quiet when we get back...well at least until Little Grant is born. Karen is going to really miss him despite their constant fighting." They followed Gerry out of the parking lot and onto the road leading to the interstate. Olivia let her seat back and turned up the air conditioner.
"I'm hoping Ethan and Karen break up. They'll be long distance so…," Fitz said.
"Fitz! Ethan is a good boy. When are you going to stop holding a grudge against him. All that is in the past. He's been a perfect gentleman since then. You shouldn't glare at him like that. And besides, as long as you reject him, Karen's going to want them. That's just how it works. She is too young to get serious, but you're going to give her the perfect reason to keep the relationship going."
"Nothing changes the fact that he slept with my daughter. I don't have to like him." Fitz noticed Olivia rubbing her arms. "Are you cold?"
She looked at him sheepishly. "Yeah. I'm going to give you pneumonia, babe. I just can't find the right temperature."
Fitz reached into the back seat for a blanket. He didn't adjust the air conditioner because he knew that would make her hot.
"Thanks. So you seem still pretty upset with GG. I thought you had gotten over that." Olivia sensed and underlying current of something she couldn't quite name coming from Fitz. It was pretty foreign to her. She was usually the one worrying about things, unsettled, or anxious.
He looked over and smiled at her, giving her thigh a comforting squeeze. His smile didn't match his words. "It's still bothering me. Despite our wealth which comes from Granddad's invention, F.J. and Mom always taught us to make our own way and not rely on Granddad's money. F.J. has his winery, Mom, her teaching, Lauren and Sybil, their careers. We've never relied on Granddad's money. I don't want Gerry and Karen to expect things to be handed to them."
"Babe, Granny means well. Don't be mad at her about this. She wanted to do something nice for her great grandson. I agree she should have at least told you first. She means well, Fitz. And you've done an excellent job with Karen and Gerry. They aren't entitled."
"I know, honey, but this won't be the last thing. I've been thinking that it might be better for Granny to go back home," Fitz said.
Olivia frowned at him. She could tell now that this was something he'd been thinking about. "You're kidding, right? You really want GG to leave?"
"Yes. I think it's for the best, especially since we are married now and the baby is coming. We need our space, Livy. It's not like she needs us to take care of her."
"Where is this coming from, Fitz? I'm really shocked. This isn't typical you know. I should be the one who wants GG to go...she's my in law. She can be pushy, and overbearing, but she never forces her way. Every time I've insisted on something different than she's wanted, she's accepted it. She's in her 80s and shouldn't be living alone," Olivia insisted.
"Granny is not your average 80 year old. She's in perfect health and will probably outlive us all. She moved in to make sure you weren't another Mellie…to get to know you on her own terms. My family can be, well, overwhelming, intrusive, and overprotective. She loves you of course, but now I think she wants to stay to protect us from Mellie, Savannah, or anyone who threatens us. That's not her job."
"Fitz, that doesn't make sense. You're making GG, your elderly great grandmother whose 5'3" and weighs one hundred and nothing, sound like the Godfather."
"Small size doesn't mean weakness, babe. I recall a little lady who first, singlehandedly broke my hand, and second, attempted to drug me, when I crossed her a couple of months ago," Fitz said.
Olivia rolled her eyes at his attempt to make light of the situation. "We should talk to GG and see what she wants to do. Maybe she feels obligated to stay to help out with Little Grant. After all that's happened with Mellie and Savannah, I can't blame her for wanting to step in, especially now that it seems that Mellie and Savannah were working together," Olivia said, as she looked at the thick trees that lined the expressway, so different from the flat rolling plains of Colorado. Her voice changed as it did whenever she talked about Mellie's collusion with Savannah. "What Mellie tried to do to you...hurting herself and pinning it on you was horrible, but I can't believe she would hire my sister to seduce her own son just to hurt us. It just doesn't make sense on both sides. I'll never understand either of them." Olivia had tried hard not to think about Mellie or Savannah. Whenever she did, it became an exercise in reliving the pain they'd caused. She would try to think of what she could have done to prevent it.
When Fitz saw her tears, he took her hand. "Don't cry, honey. You are always blaming yourself, and I don't understand why. Savannah and Mellie are to blame. There is nothing we could have done to stop them. We didn't know what was happening with Gerry. I never thought Mellie would do anything to hurt either of them. "
"Fitz, sometimes we...you and I...get so caught up in each other that we are in this bubble. Maybe we missed something that would have made us see what was going on. And then there's Karen. I totally missed what was going on with her even though I saw something was wrong. "
"That's not true, Livy. You're just worrying too much. Just because we love each other doesn't mean we walk around with our heads up our asses. Sometimes parents miss things. Karen and Gerry are doing fine," Fitz said kissing her fingers. "This long car ride has taken it's toll on you. I think you should try to rest."
"No amount of rest is going to change this. But I don't think this is the time to push GG away." Olivia let her seat back and turned on her side, using her pillow to get as comfortable as she could with her expanding belly.
Fitz reached over and rubbed her stomach until he heard her light snoring.
When Olivia was awakened by furious little movements against her abdomen. She sat up and rubbed her belly. "Okay, okay, I'm up, Little Grant," Olivia said, wincing a little. It was dusk dark outside and she was in the car alone. She looked outside and realized that they were already at their destination. They were parked at Gerry's dormitory. Olivia heard Fitz's voice outside, but he sounded angry. Fitz was standing beside Gerry. Her heartbeat sped up when she saw Mellie and Cyrus standing across from them. She didn't see Karen or Ethan.
"I'm not raising my voice. All I'm saying is that we had an agreement. We would bring Gerry to school and you all wouldn't come until after we left. Why are you here, Mellie? Haven't you caused enough trouble?" Fitz said forcefully.
"Gerry is my son also, Fitz. I have every right to be here to help him move in. Cyrus, please start taking his bags inside," Mellie said. She sounded eerily calm and pleasant. Olivia knew Mellie was trying to get a rise out of him. She was probably hoping that he would make a scene. Olivia slipped on her shoes, wiped her eyes, and stepped out of the car as best as she could.
"Hello Mr. Beene, Mellie. That was a heck of a drive, even though we did sleep over at a hotel last night night. Where's Karen?" Olivia asked brightly but calmly as if nothing was out of the ordinary. She positioned herself between Gerry and Fitz.
"Wow, Olivia, you sure have grown! Are you due soon?" Mellie asked.
Olivia picked up on the insult in her voice. She wanted to diffuse the situation so she ignored it. However she surprised herself with what came out of her mouth. "Mellie, I wouldn't want to bore you with motherly talk. I know that's not your thing," Olivia said smiling sweetly.
"The Grants are big so I guess the baby won't be slight like you," Mellie said.
"Hi, Olivia, please call me Cy. You look well. Karen is with Ethan and his parents. You just missed them," Cyrus said. "We are sorry to intrude. We thought we could catch up with Gerry after you all had left, but you were delayed so we ran into each other, but I'm sure we can manage this little change in plans, right?"
"I agree, Mr. Be- Cy. Gerry why don't you show us to your room, Cy and I can help take up your bags while your mom and dad talk," Olivia said.
"You shouldn't carry anything, Olivia," Fitz said.
"How about I carry this basketball," said Olivia. She had walked over to Gerry's car and grabbed the basketball that was visible since the top was down. Gerry and Cy grabbed a few bags from the trunk and Olivia followed them up the steps to the side walk that led to the front door. Olivia turned back and gave Fitz a look that said, "Try to work this out for Gerry's sake."
"I guess she's the perfect little doting wife," Mellie said acidly.
"Get in the car Mellie," Fitz said. "I need to talk to you, and don't try anything. We have witnesses.
"Okay, I have a few words for you too, for that matter," Mellie said.
When the car door shut and they were alone inside, Mellie was the first to speak.
"Fitzgerald Thomas Grant, how could you let that woman seduce our son! And don't think I don't know about Karen too. Can't you see how being with Olivia has hurt our family? When did you start putting her before your own flesh and blood?" Mellie accused.
"Stop it with the lies and accusations. After you told Karen to use sex as a tool? And Mellie, you have always put your needs before Gerry and Karen. You were the one who had an affair in the first place. You were the one who rarely kept your scheduled visitation," Fitz said. "When are you going to stop this war and using our kids as pawns?"
"I've made mistakes in my life, but you were never able to forgive me, Fitz. I've only wanted to make up for them with Karen and Gerry. Olivia's sister sought me out first. At the time, I didn't know who she was. I was in the post office, and I heard a woman crying. She was looking at a photo. She dropped it on the floor. I picked it up and it was of Olivia. Naturally, I was shocked and intrigued. I walked over to give it to her and get more information about everything. She said she wasn't because she had just found out some bad news about her friend. I walked outside with her and she totally switched. She said she knew who I was and would offer to break you two up if I paid her. I immediately rejected her and threatened to call the police. She ran to her car, but I got her license plates and had her watched."
"Did you use the same company that you had following me?" Fitz asked sarcastically. He didn't believe her claims.
Mellie ignored his comment. "I got reports that she was meeting Gerry regularly. When I saw the pictures, I realized what she was doing. Let's just say I took care of it and now she is gone. You need to be thanking me, Fitz. I protected my son where you and that wife of yours fell short. I will always look out for my family."
"Mellie, you are certifiable. Here's the agreement. I'll be with Gerry for tomorrow's orientation events. You can take the last day's events. Just stay away from Olivia and me. That's all I ask. Do we have a deal?" Fitz said angrily.
"Don't you believe me, Fitz? I am not the monster you paint me to be. I got rid of Savannah. I helped you dodge a bullet. She was crazy and dangerous," Mellie said.
"You and she are kindred spirits, Mellie. Do we have a deal?" Fitz repeated.
"I won't stand for this disrespect. I am the mother of your children and I haven't done anything to deserve what you are saying to me. We will be at all Gerry's events tomorrow and the next. That is the deal," Mellie said before exiting the car.
Fitz let his head fall back against the seat.
"So she denied hiring Savannah? But did she meet with her?" Olivia said while she brushed her teeth. They were at their hotel that was a few miles from campus. Karen was in the adjoining room. Fitz lay back on the bed in his boxer briefs, absently flipping through the channels as he waited for Olivia to finish her nighttime regimen and come to bed.
"Yes, honey, you have it all correct. You've repeated it back to me several times. We can't believe anything Mellie says. She's a pathological liar. What she says changes nothing. It's like she's forgotten what she accused me of not too long ago," Fitz said. He heard her spit, gargle, and spit again.
"But I think if we analyze her story and compare it to what Savannah told you, maybe we can arrive at the truth," Olivia reasoned. He observed her turn off the bathroom light and walk to the chair beside the bed. She braced on the chair and lowered herself down. He smiled since this was the new way she sat in chairs.
"You're laughing at they way I sit down. How shameful especially since you are the cause of all this," Olivia quipped, waving her hand above her belly.
Fitz moved toward her with a knowing smile, "Yes, I take full blame especially since I enjoyed bringing all this to be."
Olivia couldn't help but smile back. "I know that look, Fitz. We need to get to the truth of all this. All that can come later."
Fitz lifted her out of the chair and laid her on the bed. "You're right. We have miles and miles of road to ride on our journey back home. We can talk about it then." He lay down beside her.
"Karen will be in the car," Olivia reminded him. She lifted her arms as he removed his t-shirt, the one garment she felt comfortable enough to sleep in since being pregnant increased her body temperature.
"That's right," he realized. "Well when we return home then." His eyes greedily swept over her chest. He grasped one breast while kissing up the curve of her other one until his mouth closed over her nipple. He sucked on it firmly while rubbing the other between his fingers. Olivia gasped. "Be careful, they're still sensitive," she said, grabbing a handful of his hair. He lifted his head, releasing her nipple, but she pushed it back down. "Don't stop," she murmured. He chucked softly and sucked both nipples, giving them both equal attention.
"You'll be disappointed when they shrink back to their normal size. I know they're you favorite," she said enjoying the sensations.
He lifted his head. "Livy, I love every part of your body, but if I had to pick a favorite," he said looking down at her.
"It would be farther south." He began rain kisses down her chest.
"Over a rise in the landscape." He kissed the crest of her belly. "And down a steep incline." He kissed the underside of her belly.
"Deep in a valley covered by a low underbrush." He rubbed his nose into the apex of her thighs.
She laughed. She was propped up on her elbows. "This is sad, Fitz. I can't even see your head over my belly."
He bent both of her knees and knelt before her. He spread her thighs. "This is my favorite place."
Olivia reached for something to hold on to as his tongue's forays made her coil tighter and tighter. Fitz joined her on the bed and lifted her on top of him. She met him stroke for stroke until they climaxed together. He lifted up and kissed her before lifting her up and settling her on her side in front of her. He grabbed two pillows and positioned one between her legs and the other under her stomach. "Are you comfortable?" He asked, settling close behind her.
"Umm Hmm, but you should really stop lifting me up so much. You're going to hurt your back," she said sleepily.
"Livy, go to sleep."
"Karen, you can stay with Ethan and his parents through the festivities, but you're having dinner with us tonight," Fitz said sternly. They were on the quad at the new student bazaar that was set up on the university quad. Tables representing various university organizations, student groups, and community businesses were represented.
"Thanks, Dad. Bye, Liv." Karen said, pecking Fitz on the cheek and skipping up ahead to join Ethan and his family as they visited each people.
"I don't like it, Liv. She's too close to Ethan," Fitz remarked as he watched give Ethan a hug up ahead.
"Well they are dating, Fitz. We have to let it take its course. Once we leave tomorrow, the chances of their relationship lasting the distance and vacillations of teenagers will greatly decrease. Karen will have school and soccer to keep her occupied, not to mention helping us change diapers in November when Little Grant makes an appearance," Olivia assured him.
They walked a couple of yards behind Gerry who was visiting the tables with Mellie. Cyrus was not there. Olivia had convinced him to hang back and let Mellie take the lead for Gerry's sake.
"Fitz, just think, we'll do this in two years for Karen and then in 18 years with Little Grant."
"I guess you'll be pushing me in a wheelchair then, babe," Fitz said, chuckling.
"I don't think so honey. Look at GG. In 18 years, you'll still be over 13 years younger than GG is now," Olivia said.
"I guess so," Fitz said.
They passed the table of a company that sold care packages for students. Olivia pulled Fitz over. "Look, honey. I think we should get two of these to send to Gerry, one for each semester. What do you think?"
Fitz and Olivia looked up, both recognizing Gerry's voice. He was calling Fitz and beckoning for him to come forward. "Let's go Liv. I think he wants us."
"No, you go, honey. I think he just wants you. Look. They're at the lacrosse table. Maybe the coach wants to meet you or something. You go ahead. I'll order the care packages," Olivia said.
"Are you sure?" he asked.
"Yeah, you go," Olivia said. She didn't relish the opportunity to be around Mellie. In fact, she hated being in her presence.
"Okay. I'll be right back," He gave her a light peck on the cheeks and joined Mellie, Gerry, and Cyrus at the table. Olivia saw Fitz shake the hand of the man behind the tables. She turned her back to them when she saw Mellie looking her way with a wicked smile. She actually thinks she can make me jealous, Olivia thought. How pathetic.
Olivia finished completing the order form and walked over to sit on a nearby bench. Her phone buzzed signaling an incoming call.
"Hello," Olivia said.
"Hello, Olivia, how's that draft coming?" Jake inquired.
Olivia groaned inwardly. She was making progress, but still grossly behind.
"It's coming along fine," Olivia said.
"So you'll have the complete draft by August 1st?" Jake asked expectantly.
"Yes," Olivia lied. "I'll have it."
"Are you satisfied with my service, Olivia?" Jake asked.
"Yes, of course, Jake. Why are you asking? " Olivia asked.
"Well it seems like your husband isn't. He's been putting out feelers for literary agents. Our community is small in Denver so I heard about it. If you are satisfied, then what is he doing?" Jake inquired.
"There must be a misunderstanding. I'll check with him okay?"
"Okay, Olivia. I'll be in touch closer to August. And of course, contact me with any questions or ways I can help you finish this draft.
"Okay, bye." Olivia said, somewhat perturbed about this news. She turned around to see Fitz, Gerry, Mellie, and Karen posing for what looked like a family picture.
Olivia teared up a little at the sight. She suddenly felt like the odd one out.
"Look at them, they look like the perfect family, don't they?" said Cyrus when he walked and stood behind Olivia.
Olivia closed her eyes when she heard Cyrus' voice. "I guess so. I was wondering where you were."
"Mellie is deliberately trying to make this visit as hard as she can for both to you. I couldn't be a party to it so I stayed at the hotel until now. Sometimes, she can be so calculating, but other times, she is so caring. I can see the good in her. Maybe I'm just old and blind," Cyrus said.
"You seem to really love her, which makes it difficult to be objective." Olivia observed.
"I know it seems like she hates you, Olivia, but you just remind her of everything she lost. She's really harmless, despite actions to the contrary. If you ever need anything at the school district, just let me know. You may be wondering why I'm offering you this. As long as you are with Fitz...as long as you two are a couple and happy, Mellie will move forward. I know that sounds selfish, but..." Cyrus said.
"Thanks. You don't have to explain." Olivia said.
He squeezed her arm and walked towards Mellie. Olivia watched him walk away. She didn't know if she felt more sorry for him or Mellie.
Olivia awakened with a start. She looked around the car. Karen was asleep in the backseat and Fitz was driving.
"You okay, Livy?" Fitz asked.
"Yes, how long have we been on the road?" she asked.
"Almost 3 hours. We'll have to stop for gas very soon." Fitz responded.
"I'm glad Gerry is all settled. He seemed so excited about everything. I'm glad he has Ethan as a roommate. They can keep each other in line," Olivia said.
"Yeah, I hope so," he said.
They drove in silence for awhile.
"Why do you want me to fire my agent?"
"Why are you asking me that? I thought that was what you wanted," Fitz countered.
"No, I never once said that. You dreamed that up all on your own. So we are clear that I am satisfied with Jake's job," Olivia confirmed.
"It's not his job that I'm worried about. He is too familiar with you, Livy. I don't like it." Fitz said.
Olivia sighed. "I will admit, Fitz, that he was until we got married. Now he is just like a business associate."
"Okay, Liv," he said unconvincingly.
Olivia settled back into seat knowing this wasn't the last of it. His okay did not mean he was acquiescing to her wishes.
Wanting to make the best of their road trip, Olivia decided to switch to a lighter topic of conversation. "Well honey we'll be leaving out next week to visit your family in California. Thank God, we're not driving. What's the itinerary?" Olivia asked.
Fitz knew what she was doing by changing the subject so he went along and let the conversation move in another direction.