Loose Ends

Cat Got Your Tongue?

Ricky pulled up to his parents' house, Amy still on his mind. Upon walking into the house, he heard his son's laughter and smiled. He found John and his mom in the living room on the floor playing.

"Hi, Ricky. How was work?"

"Work was work," he said, sitting down to place a kiss on his son's head, getting a smile from him for his efforts.

"So this morning you said you wanted to talk. What's on your mind?" Ricky smirked. Leave it to mom to jump right in.

"I need your advice on a romance question." Margaret was intrigued.

"Oh? What's your question?"

"I need your advice about what type of romantic gesture best says 'I appreciate you and I'm sorry for being such an idiot.'" Margaret raised an eyebrow in confusion.

"Sweetheart, I'm gonna need a little more information than that before I can answer your question." Ricky sighed. He wasn't sure how to explain what he'd been feeling the past couple of weeks but he'd give it a shot.

"The first two weeks of Amy's music program I was literally walking in her shoes: living at her house, going to school, then work, then picking up John and taking care of him. I knew she did a lot for our son but I never realized just how much until I was doing it myself, and by myself. I mean sure her family pitched in from time to time but I was basically a single parent for two weeks. I got a new appreciation for her and realized just how much I'd taken her for granted. I had no idea what she went through every day all week." He ran a hand through his hair and Margaret looked at her son with a mixture of understanding and pride on her face. Understanding because she knew what caring for a small child was like and pride that her son had developed an understanding and appreciation for Amy.

"After those first two weeks I also really started to miss her." He gave a mirthless chuckle. "You know that expression 'absence makes the heart grow fonder'?"

"Yes."

"Well, I finally understand it. I missed talking to Amy face to face, being able to see her every day. I know we talked over the phone and she Skyped in at night to see and talk to John but it just wasn't the same!" Margaret tried her best to hide a smile. She knew Ricky well enough to know what was going on here. So he's developed romantic feelings for her and doesn't know what to do about it. If only he'd stop running from his emotions she thought with sadness.

"After walking in her shoes I know I need to tell her I'm sorry for taking her for granted but just coming out and saying that seems so….so….just not good enough. I've never been a romantic guy so I need a woman's advice on what would be romantic enough to say all that." He looked at his mother then, pleading with his eyes for her to help him. She looked at him with love and understanding and placed a comforting hand on his shoulder.

"Son, romance is in the eye of the beholder." She could tell from his expression that her answer hadn't helped him and she chuckled. John chose that moment to climb into his dad's lap and Ricky absentmindedly wrapped his arms around him, waiting for his mother to explain. "What I mean is that every woman is different so what would be considered romantic to one may not be seen as such by another. If you want to do something romantic for Amy, you've got to plan a gesture around what you believe she would find romantic. I know that's probably not the answer you were looking for but if you want to do something romantic for Amy then you've gotta tailor the gesture to Amy." Ricky sighed but nodded. He picked up John and his mother helped him collect John's things and return them to his diaper bag. Margaret kissed both her boys on the cheek and sent them off with a wave. Ricky fastened John in his car seat and drove back to his apartment. Tailor it to Amy. What would Amy think was romantic? He had no idea. He'd gotten to know her a little at band camp and over the past year and a half he'd become well acquainted with her temperament and personality, but he didn't exactly know what made her tick romantically. This was gonna be harder than he thought.

Ricky spent some quality father-son time with John until his nap and passed John's nap time straightening up his apartment, trying to avoid thinking about Amy and his supposed romantic gesture. Thankfully after John woke up Ricky was too preoccupied playing with his son to stress about it. Meanwhile Margaret was busy finishing up dinner for her, Shakur and Amy. She couldn't help but smile to herself. Amy seems like such a sweet girl and part of me kept hoping those two would come together; she seems good for Ricky. Even though Adrian seems like a nice young woman as well who's made some bad choices, Amy just strikes me as more stable for Ricky. Hopefully this discussion tonight will bring us all a little closer, and Ricky's romantic gesture could help. Shakur walked in a little while later and greeted his wife with a kiss.

"Dinner smells wonderful. What are we having?"

"Salad, chicken alfredo pasta, mixed vegetables, and garlic bread with pound cake for dessert."

"Sound delicious." He checked his watch and saw that it was 4:45. "So do we know what this discussion with Amy will be about tonight?"

"I don't know, she just said it was personal. My guess? It's about her and Ricky in some way." Shakur nodded and began setting the table. He had just finished when there was a knock at the door. Shakur opened it to find Amy standing on the doorstep and motioned for her to come in.

"Margaret," he called out. "Amy's here. He led her into the living room. Margaret walked in a few moments later and smiled.

"Hello, Amy. It's nice to see you again."

"Hello."

"Dinner's almost ready so why don't we get settled in the dining room." She led the way and they each sat down.

"So, Amy," Shakur began, "what is it you'd like to discuss with us?"

"I'm here tonight to try and figure out why the two of you allowed your son to hurt girls repeatedly and why you both ignored me until Ricky took me to court." Before either of them could respond the timer went off, signaling that dinner was ready. Shakur and Margaret began dishing up their dinner. Amy offered to help, but Margaret waved her off and dinner was quickly arranged on the table. Once everyone had served themselves, Margaret addressed Amy's statement with a question of her own.

"Amy, are you upset with Ricky about something?"

"No. Why do you ask?"

"You said you wanted to know why we allowed Ricky to hurt girls repeatedly, which leads to me wonder if Ricky has done something to upset you and you're coming to us as a last resort." Amy shook her head.

"No. I know Ricky's father molested and beat him so I know that he has emotional baggage he's still dealing with. What I'd like to know is why neither of you did anything to attempt to curb his habit of sleeping around." Suddenly a light bulb seemed to go off in Shakur's head.

"Amy, I don't know how many details you have about Ricky's childhood and I feel it's not my place to give them to you if he hasn't already. What I can tell you is that Ricky has what can best be described as a love-hate relationship with sex because of his childhood abuse and Margaret and I know it's not our place to tell him how to view or feel about sex. As parents we're not happy that our son has chosen to sleep around," he continued. "We simply told him that sex has consequences and if he chose to have sex then he needed to be mature enough to face any consequences of his actions." Amy could follow and understand Shakur's logic. What she still didn't understand, however, was why they took such a backseat role in Ricky's life after they knew she was keeping John. After swallowing her mouthful of food, she asked her next question.

"So did the two of you tell Ricky to be involved in deciding what was best for our son?" Margaret was the first to swallow her own bite of food and answer.

"Yes. When he sat us down and told us he had gotten you pregnant, we asked him what he was going to do next. At first he told us nothing and I encouraged him to take full responsibility for what happened to his child. It wasn't until later that night that he told us he had changed him mind." Amy took another bite of food and processed this piece of information. Thinking back to the first time he showed up at her house, so far everything she'd uncovered during her little knowledge quest seemed to line up. Ricky must have decided not to be involved that morning when he talked to his parents, still felt that way when he crossed paths with her father that afternoon, changed his mind after her father's insult, came over to tell me he wanted to be involved, came back to talk to me that night, and then gone home to tell his parents he'd changed his mind.

"So when did you find out I was keeping John?" They thought back to the night they'd first heard that news.

"Ricky came home and told us after his first day of working at the butcher shop," Shakur replied. Amy did some quick calculating. That was a couple of weeks before I had John and the mediation didn't happen until right before John's first birthday.

"So why didn't either of you reach out and introduce yourselves to me if you were planning on seeing my son from time to time?" Margaret gave Amy a confused look while Shakur momentarily choked on his water, caught off guard by her question. He was the first to recover.

"What do you mean?"

"I mean if you both had decided to be grandparents to my son after finding out I was keeping him instead of giving him up for adoption, how come I didn't see or hear from either one of you until Ricky took me to court?" They exchanged a glance, silently saying to each other I didn't know she wanted us to. Margaret turned back to her with a question of her own.

"Why didn't you reach out to us, Amy, if you wanted us to be a part of your life?"

"I had no reason to," she said simply, finishing the vegetables on her plate. They exchanged another glance, again silently communicating. What does she mean by that?

"What do you mean you had no reason to?" Shakur asked her, taking a bite of his pasta.

"Ricky never mentioned either one of you to me. I didn't even know your names until a couple of months ago when I asked my dad if he knew your home phone number." That was news to them and it showed on their faces. "Ricky never offered to introduce me to his parents or mentioned you in any of our conversations so I got the message loud and clear that Ricky was entangled in my life because we'd conceived a child together but I wasn't welcome in his. When neither of you reached out to introduce yourselves, it was clear that the two of you felt the same. John was part of your family but you had no desire to get to know me." Guilt washed over their faces.

"Amy," Margaret began gently, "it was never our intention to make you feel unwelcome in our family." Suddenly her tone became slightly accusatory. "However, it's a two-way street you know." Looking up from her pasta Amy gave her a quizzical look. "You never made any effort to contact us either, even though you just admitted that you knew how to reach us." Returning to a more neutral tone Margaret continued. "While I understand how you came to the conclusion we weren't very approachable, did it even occur to you that we felt the same way when you didn't reach out to us?" Amy shook her head.

"I don't see how you could've come to that conclusion when you knew about me before I knew about either of you." Shakur and Margaret were both a little taken aback at her bluntness. "I only asked my father if he knew how to contact either of you in case you wanted to discuss Ricky's proposed custody arrangement, but no call ever came."

"Why did you think we would want to discuss the proposed arrangement with you," Shakur asked, genuinely curious. Amy looked him straight in the eye with a no nonsense expression that held just a little bit of anger.

"Do you trust random strangers with children that are under your care?"

"No." he replied.

"Why not?" Shakur thought the answer was obvious but apparently Amy wanted to hear it spelled out. It was Margaret who responded, however, picking up on where this was going.

"Amy, I'm sorry. I didn't think about how you would feel about the arrangement considering what you've just told us. Shakur looked at her with confusion written all over his face and in his body language.

"Come again?" he asked his wife.

"Shakur, Amy didn't know us from Joe Smo down the street. Naturally she had reservations about her son being in our care unsupervised for part of the weekend. We may have been the parents of her child's father but Amy didn't know us and since we had given her the impression we had no interest in welcoming her into our lives, naturally she wasn't thrilled with the prospect of joint custody and therefore the mediator's ultimate decision," Margaret explained to her husband. Again the light bulb went on and he turned back to face Amy, guilt in his eyes.

"I don't know why I didn't think of that."

"Neither one of us did," Margaret told him with a small smile, resting her hand over his where he had placed it on the table. "We were so focused on trying to help our son and give him an incentive not to run off again that we forgot that our involvement affected people besides Ricky." Amy didn't know what Margaret was talking about.

"What do you mean by 'your involvement'?" Margaret turned to face Amy again.

"After Ricky came back from seeing his mother, we offered to play a bigger role in John's life. We hadn't spent that much quality time with John and we wanted to change that. We also figured that if Ricky knew we were ready and willing to help out more, we would have the opportunity to spend more time with our grandson and he wouldn't consider just taking off again." Amy could understand their point of view because she thought of her own parents. Even though they were disappointed in me for getting pregnant and fifteen, they adore spending time with John, especially dad she thought with a smile. I guess a lot of parents entangled in my life are simply out to help their kids and I just keep ending up with the short stick by not speaking up sooner. Margaret took Amy's smile as a sign that the air was starting to clear and she wanted to make sure Amy knew they cared about her as well as John and Ricky.

"Amy, you have always been considered part of our family and we have both always been concerned about Ricky's behavior towards you." Shakur nodded in agreement and Margaret continued. "When he first told us you were pregnant, we asked him what he was going to do by asking him if he had talked to you yet and encouraged him to talk to you when we found out he hadn't. After the mediator made his decision we told Ricky that the decision was just the beginning of working out holidays and birthdays that fell on weekends and he needed to remember to treat you the way he wanted you to treat him." Now Amy genuinely smiled, touched at Margaret and Shakur's concern for her.

"Thank you for that. I guess this awkwardness I felt towards the two of you could've all been avoided with a little more communication, huh?" The three of them shared a smile and a laugh at her statement, Margaret and Shakur nodding their heads in agreement.

"I think it's time for some pound cake," Margaret announced, getting up to cut and serve up their dessert. They spent the next few minutes enjoying their dessert and hearing Amy recount her trip to New York. They quickly cleared the table together and Amy announced it was probably time she headed home. Margaret and Shakur walked her to the door.

"Amy," Margaret began gently, "I think you and Ricky really should sit down and talk sometime soon. After you do, I'd like you and I to spend some time getting to know each other better. You're a part of our family too and I want you to feel welcome in our home and comfortable with us taking care of John." Shakur nodded in agreement before adding "And feel free to call us anytime. We're here for you as well as Ricky." Amy smiled, glad she had a few more allies in her corner.

"Thank you," she said to Shakur before turning to Margaret. "And I plan on talking to Ricky Monday night, although it may take us a few days to finish that conversation because I doubt we'll get everything cleared up in a couple of hours," she said with a small chuckle.

"Well if the two of you need more time we'd be happy to keep John overnight or even for an entire weekend." Amy actually liked that idea. She knew Ricky's parents were good people; after all, they were foster parents and loved Ricky, a troubled teen, like a son so she knew John would be fine in their care for a whole weekend.

"If we decide to do that one of us will let you know. Thank you for dinner and for clearing the air with me tonight."

"Anytime, Amy. Anytime," Margaret said and Amy could tell that she meant it. Margaret gave her a hug before she left and she and Shakur waved and watched Amy drive away. They went back into the house and sat down on the living room couch, thinking about what had been said over dinner.

"I hope those two can work everything out," Shakur said, his arm around his wife as she leaned her head against his shoulder.

"They're good kids. Getting everything out in the open will help them both." She sighed. "It won't be easy though." She didn't see Shakur nodding his head. "Ricky doesn't like to discuss his emotions and something tells me Amy has some trust issues. It's going to take some time but I know they're both up to it. They love John too much not to do this." They both sighed and sat cuddling on the couch, lost in their own thoughts and praying everything worked out sooner rather than later.

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