Loose Ends

Awkward

"So you admitted you just wanted to sleep with her, but you didn't mention the bet?" Henry nervously asked Ben while taking a sandwich from the lunch tray that was sitting on Ben's bed.

"Yes and no," Ben said with a sigh, putting some more chips on his plate. Ben had invited Alice and Henry over for lunch to fill them in on his talk with Amy.

"So do you think she'll wanna talk to me and Alice?" Henry said as he glanced nervously at Alice. "I think it would be in our best interest not to mention that bet, especially since Ben willingly backed out of it after falling for Amy." He gave Alice a pleading look and she rolled her eyes.

"Obviously the girl's tryna figure out how everything got so screwed up so maybe she'll talk to us and maybe she won't. If she does the least we can do is tell the truth, for once." Ben and Henry exchanged nervous glances before looking back at Alice. "Oh grow up you two! Amy now knows you went out with her under false pretenses so I doubt the bet's gonna come up," she told them matter-of-factly as she placed some more carrot sticks and dip on her plate. The three friends finished eating their lunch in silence.

"Hey, let's get outta here and get shakes from the Dairy Shack," Henry suggested. "They're half off for the next two weeks," he said in a singsong voice.

"Why not?" Ben said with a smile. Maybe getting some fresh air for a little while could help lift his mood a little higher. Amy, Lauren and Madison were just finishing up their own lunch at the Dairy Shack as Ben and his friends got into her car to head their way.

"So how are the Q & A sessions going so far?" Lauren asked Amy as she finished off her fries.

"Good so far. I've discovered that I've got a lot more allies that I thought I did and that I need to spend some time getting to know some people a little better."

"Oh? Like who?" Madison asked, taking the last bite of her cheeseburger.

"I'm gonna take some time this summer to get to know Ricky and his foster parents a little better."

"Well that sounds nice," Madison said, swallowing a drink from her soda. "So you think you and Ricky will ever be a couple?" Amy giggled.

"Honestly I don't know. For now we're just gonna hang out and try to become actual friends. Beyond that I don't know." Amy finished the last bite of her turkey burger and took a drink from her soda. "So what have you two been up to this past week?" Madison scrunched up her nose and frowned.

"Just working at the food court during the day. My dad's been giving me lectures on relationships at dinner though." She sighed. "He really doesn't like Jack and just can't see that he's made some mistakes but he's not a bad guy!" Amy chuckled and Madison glared at her.

"I'm not laughing at you, Madison. I think what you just said applies to several people we know, myself included. We're not bad people we're just teens who've made some poor choices." Madison nodded and smiled.

"Yeah, I guess you're right."

"Let's go get those shakes," Lauren suggested. They had just picked up and paid for their shakes when they turned around and saw Ben, Alice and Henry standing in line to order. They all made eye contact briefly before Ben and his friends exchanged glances and Amy and her friends did the same. The girls walked back to the booth they were just sitting at.

"Um, Amy?" Madison whispered.

"What?" Amy whispered back.

"Do you consider ben, Alice and Henry friends or not, after everything that's happened I mean?"

"Well," Amy began in a whisper and then stopped. "Why are we whispering? They can't hear us from over there. I consider Ben and his friends acquaintances. Ben and I've been through too much together and he's done too much for me to ever consider him an enemy but we've both hurt each other too much to be close friends."

"Even after getting Adrian pregnant?" Lauren asked, her eyes getting a little wider. Amy nodded.

"That was an accident, and being a teen parent myself I have no right to judge him for it."

"So how are we supposed to act around him? Do we trust with stuff about what's going on with us or not?" Madison asked, still not sure what their next move was gonna be. Amy chuckled in her direction.

"Madison, if you wanna be friends with them and tell them what's going on in your life that's up to you. Just know that I won't be doing that." Amy took a sip of her shake as Lauren shook her head.

"You're our best friend, Amy. If you don't trust them with what's going on in your life then I don't trust them with that kind of info about me either." Madison nodded. The each took another long sip of their shake.

"Do we go over and say hi?" Henry nervously whispered to Ben and looked at Alice for confirmation of what to do next. Alice rolled her eyes.

"We can't avoid them forever. We live in the same community and we go to school together." Ben nodded.

"Let's go say hi." They walked over to see the girls silently enjoying their shakes. "Hi Amy, Lauren, Madison," he said, going around the booth to greet each of them. "Mind if we join you?" Amy looked at each of her friends with a questioning look and they both just shrugged non-committedly.

"Sure." Ben and Henry sat on the seat next to Madison while Alice joined Amy and Lauren on the other side of the booth. Everyone took a few sips from their shakes, no one sure what to say. Henry tried to break the awkward silence.

"So…What's everyone been up to since school got out?" He asked, looking at everyone.

"Not much. Just working and taking care of John," Amy replied.

"Same here," Madison added while Lauren nodded.

"What about you guys?" Lauren asked politely?

"Just working at the butcher shop mostly," Ben said. Alice shrugged.

"I've just been hanging around the house doing nothing and hanging out with these two whenever."

"Same here," Henry added. There were several more minutes of silence as everyone sipped on their shakes. Henry was growing more anxious by the second and after about three minutes he couldn't take it anymore.

"Amy, I know you've talked to Ben about some things and I gotta know. Are you mad at me and Alice for anything?" Ben stepped on his foot and Alice glared at him. "Ow! What! I wanna know!" he whined, looking between his two best friends. Amy giggled.

"No, Henry, I'm not mad at you or Alice for anything. In fact I'm glad Ben has both of you around." Everyone at the booth looked at Amy like she'd lost her mind and she giggled again. "Everyone needs friends that they can count on to be there and have their back through thick and thin. Lauren and Madison have stuck by me and I'm glad that Ben has the two of you to stick by him. He's gonna need close friends now more than ever and I'm glad he won't have to face parenthood alone," she explained with a genuine smile before taking another sip of her shake.

"Oh, ok," Henry said, relieved Amy wasn't upset with him. The teens finished their shakes, talking only about general topics like TV shows and music, and then headed their separate ways.

"Did that seem awkward to anybody else besides me?" Henry asked as they got into Ben's car to head back to his house for Alice and Henry's cars.

"Definitely. Everyone was being way too polite. They don't trust us" Alice responded with a frown. Ben gave her a questioning look.

"What makes you say that?" he asked, pulling out of the Dairy Shack parking lot. Alice gave him a patronizing look and began to explain the situation as if Ben were a small child. "Oh, Benny boy. When you don't know someone very well you don't tell them anything personal about yourself, your family or what's going on in your life. Did you notice how all we talked about were topics any normal teenagers would talk about, even though we've been wrapped up in each other's lives for almost two years? Did you notice how we avoided talking about John even though parents have a tendency to talk about their child to complete strangers any chance they get? She may not hate you but she definitely doesn't trust you with any more personal info about her life, and me and Hank by extension because we're your best friends." Realization came over Ben and Henry's faces.

"So wait. Does this mean we're not friends with Amy, Lauren and Madison or we are so long as we don't discuss anything too personal?" Alice rolled her eyes and looked at Henry from the rearview mirror.

"It means we're acquaintances, not friends."

"Oh." While the two sets of trios were dispersing for the afternoon, Ruben, George and Leo were about to have an awkward encounter of their own at the grocery store. George wanted to have pork steaks and garlic mashed potatoes for dinner but they were out of potatoes and garlic so he made a quick run to the store. Cindy was busy cleaning the house and had asked Ruben to take the grocery list off the fridge and do the grocery shopping. Leo had a hankering for chocolate cake and decided to run to the Safeway bakery to pick one up instead of waiting for the cook at home to prepare one. They crossed paths at the checkout line. The sight of each of them reawakened various emotions. Ruben remembered his daughter's past behavior as well as his own poor decisions and was too embarrassed to speak to George. George was angry at Ruben's daughter but also ashamed for hurting his family by sleeping with Cindy and then selling Ruben his house. Leo was ashamed of how his son had treated George's daughter but also wanted to tell George how much he admired the strong young woman Amy had become. They stood there for several moments just looking at each other. Finally Leo cleared his throat.

"George, I have a confession to make to you." George gave Leo his full attention.

"Oh?"

"Amy came by last Saturday to speak to Ben about their relationship and end it on a positive note. I shamelessly eavesdropped on their conversation and I want to tell you that I admire the strong, mature young woman Amy's become and I'm sorry she was hurt by my son in the process."

"Thanks, Leo. As much as I hate that she had to be hurt, I'm also proud of the young woman she's become." Leo turned to Ruben.

"Ruben, how's Adrian doing?"

"She's doing well, all things considering." He nervously turned back to face George. I can't hide from the man indefinitely; we're neighbors. Ruben sighed. "George, may I have a word with you? In the parking lot? Where there will be fewer people to overhear us?" George inwardly sighed. I guess I can't ignore him forever. He's my neighbor after all. George simply nodded.

"I'll wait for you by the door after I've paid for these," he said, holding up a small sack of potatoes and a bagged clove of garlic. Ruben nodded. The three men paid for their purchases and Leo bid them goodbye. George and Ruben walked to Ruben's car and George waited while he loaded his groceries into his trunk. He closed the trunk and sat on it, motioning for George to join him.

"Amy came to see me last Thursday," he informed George. "She asked me why I'd made certain decisions that ended up impacting her life and she asked me if I was aware of how much my daughter was harassing her." George narrowed his eyes slightly in anger, knowing what Adrian had said about Amy and Anne but remained silent as Ruben sighed. "I don't know if Amy's told you or not but Adrian was downright cruel to her with the things she said and implied in the past, and I moved in next door to her completely unaware of it. I didn't think it all the way through. I've apologized to Amy already, George, and now I need to apologize to you. I never meant to cause your family grief by moving in next door and not keeping a closer eye on Adrian after I came back into her life." Ruben had been staring at the ground while making his apology and now he turned to look at George.

"Neither of us thought it through when we discussed selling you my house." Ruben hadn't expected George to say that. "I didn't consider that living next door to the woman I'd had an affair with might upset my ex-wife as well as my daughters. I also didn't know how much friction there actually was between our daughters and, like you, had I been aware of it I wouldn't have sold you the house. I've talked to Anne and the girls about it and we're willing to put it behind us and move forward so you might as well do the same." George got off the trunk of Ruben's car and turned to face him. "Before I leave you should know something. Amy told us what Adrian said and implied about her and Anne and because of it your daughter is not allowed on our property until she changes her ways. If Adrian feels like making apologies she'll just have to call our house. See you around, Ruben," George said before turning around and heading to his own car.

Ruben rubbed the back of his neck to ease some tension that was building there. Living next door to the Juergens is gonna be awkward for a while. While Ruben was getting into his car to head back home, Adrian was in her room playing on her computer. Her cellphone rang and she pounced on it when she saw that Grace was calling.

"Hey, Adrian."

"About time you called me back! What have you been doing the past two days?" Grace laughed.

"Adrian, I'm at med camp. There's a lot to do each day. So your voicemail said you wanted to run some things by me?"

"Yeah," Adrian said with a sigh, flopping on her bed and staring at the ceiling. "But first I gotta fill you in on a few things." Grace listened quietly for over an hour and a half as Adrian told her about Amy's conversation with her dad, her parents' conversation about her, her mother lecturing her, Ricky coming over to talk and reiterate that they were over for good, her run-in with Ricky and Amy at the grocery store, and her newfound sense of peace when she thought about her baby.

"So what I wanna know is if you'd be willing to help me become a better person, again. I know you tried to help me before but I'm really committed to it this time. I really wanna be the kind of woman my son or daughter will be proud to call their mom. So, will you help me?" Grace smiled.

"Sure, Adrian. Maybe we can help each other."

"What do you mean?" Grace debated for a few minutes how much of her conversation with Amy to reveal to Adrian since she considered Adrian her friend. Remembering everything that Adrian had just revealed to her from various conversations, however, made Grace aware that Amy didn't trust Adrian so she probably shouldn't tell Arian anything too personal. "Grace?"

"Well…..Amy called me a couple of days ago to chat and I realized that I wasn't the best friend I could've been to her and I wanna change that and become a better person too. So I figure if we're both trying to be better people, at the same time, then we can help each other."

"Wait, you talked to Amy but you didn't bother to call me back!?"

"She called me before you left me that voicemail," Grace calmly reassured her friend. "Weekends are jammed packed with activities here at camp. You said to call when I had some time to talk and I've got time to talk for the rest of the day so that's why I'm calling now."

"Oh. So what exactly did you and Amy talk about." Even though Adrian couldn't see her Grace shook her head.

"Uh uh, Adrian. Amy called to have a chat with me about our friendship and as her friend I'm not gonna pass anything along to you. If you wanna know anything about Amy you'll need to talk to her yourself." Adrian groaned.

"Part of me wants to but part of me doesn't."

"What do you mean?"

"Grace, my mom had me as a teenager but she's not around all the time and it happened seventeen years ago. Amy's the only teen mom I know that's close to my age and around that I could talk to. But part of me knows that if I talk to her we'll talk about pretty much everything Ricky and my parents talked to me about and I've already decided I don't wanna be the person I was when I did and said those things." She turned over onto her stomach and played with her bedspread. "Besides, my parents forbid me to contact her in any way and it's not likely that she's gonna call me anytime soon."

"Just give it some time," Grace said sympathetically, giving Adrian the same advice her mother had given her.

"I know, I know. It just makes living next door to Amy so…..awkward. Ironically now that I wanna talk to her I can't." Grace talked to and comforted Adrian for another hour before Adrian was ready to end the conversation.

"I'll call or text you when I have some more free time, okay?"

"Ok, Grace. Talk to you later." Adrian ended the call and stretched out on her side, trying to think of a way to convince Amy to talk to her. Back at the Juergens household the phone was ringing. Ashley answered it.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Ashley? This is Jack."

"Hi, Jack. What's up?"

"Is Amy around?" Ashley heard a car pull into the driveway and looked out the back door window to see who it was; it was Amy.

"She's just pulled into the driveway. Hang on." Ashley set the phone down to go to the doorway and let Amy know Jack was calling her. Amy came in and picked up the phone.

"Hi, Jack."

"Hi, Amy. My dad said you wanted to talk to me?"

"No, I just wanted to formally thank you for helping me get my job."

"Huh?" Confusion was evident in Jack's voice and she smirked.

"I'll always be grateful that you played a role in helping me be able to keep and take care of my son and I don't recall ever actually thanking you for your help so that's what I wanted to say: Thank you."

"You don't have to thank me, Amy. Grace said she wanted to help you find a job but didn't know where to start looking. I didn't know either so I asked my dad if he had any suggestions on how we could help you. It was just fortunate that the church had a job available. Really, I didn't do all that much."

"I still appreciate it and I'm grateful to you."

"Well, you're welcome, Amy. Was that all you wanted to talk about?"

"Yep."

"Okay, then. Talk to you later, Amy."

"Bye, Jack." Amy hung up the phone and headed up to her room to drop off her purse and charge her phone. Ashley took her snack into the living room with a smile. Even though she's trying to be tougher, Amy's still basically a kindhearted person. But now you just gotta be her friend or on her good side to see it.

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