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Loose Ends

By MaxCale

Romance

Delightful Dinner

The day was like any other Wednesday for Amy and Ricky and they both spent it looking forward to their weekly dinner that evening. Ricky was putting the finishing touches on their dinner when he heard a knock at the door. He opened it and smiled when he saw his two favorite people in the whole world. They felt the same because they both greeted him with a smile.

"Hey."

"Hey," Amy responded, setting John down to let him walk over to his toy bin. Ricky finished getting their dinner ready while Amy set the table, keeping an eye on John.

"So how was your day?" Ricky asked.

"Pretty typical. You?"

"Same," he said before slicing the meatloaf and cutting a piece into bite sized chucks for John. Amy walked over to the counter and picked up the serving platter with the meatloaf on it and carried it to the table. "What's new with your family?" he asked, spooning a serving of mixed vegetables onto John's plate before putting the rest into a serving bowl.

"Robbie and John have been bickering lately."

"Oh?" Amy chuckled.

"Yeah. Robbie's new favorite word is 'mine' and John's new favorite phrase is 'uh uh'." Ricky chuckled. "We've just been making sure to only have one of them out of their playpen at a time when they're in the same room so they don't bicker over toys." Ricky carried over the mixed vegetable bowl and John's plate as Amy put him into his high chair. They silently sat down and served themselves.

"So anything else going on besides the battling tots?" he asked, taking a bite of his meatloaf.

"My parents have been getting along a lot better. In fact, they've started having date night once a week while Ash and I keep an eye on Robbie." Amy took a bite of mixed vegetables and washed it down with some grape juice.

"Are you guys still having family dinners though?" Amy nodded.

"We're all getting along so much better now and we've gotten closer so mom and dad decided to basically let us have weekends off. She and dad have their date night on Saturdays but she always fixes dinner for us anyway and we just heat it up come dinner time." Amy chuckled and Ricky gave her a questioning look. "It's turned out that we have family dinners during the week and a 'siblings only' dinner on Saturdays. It's kinda nice." Amy took a bite of her meatloaf and glanced over at John to make sure he was eating his dinner and not just playing with it. "So what's new with your family?" Ricky took a drink of water to wash down his meatloaf before answering.

"Mom's decided to repaint the living room so she and dad are gonna be working on that the rest of this week. Don't worry. She said it'll be done and dried before I drop John off on Saturday." Amy had food in her mouth so she just nodded to say 'okay'. They continued eating quietly for several minutes, the only sounds coming from their silverware. Ricky kept glancing at Amy though. He was thinking about his latest dream about her and what he'd discussed with Dr. Fields. He'd spent the rest of that day and all day today thinking about their discussion and he was ready to commit to a relationship with Amy. He hadn't slept with anyone since Amy got back from New York because he hadn't wanted to; he just wanted to spend time with her. Ricky put another slice of meatloaf on his plate as he prayed Amy would say yes to his next question.

"Amy?" She looked up from her plate just as she was swallowing a bite of food.

"Hmmm?"

"Would you have dinner with me this Saturday night?" Amy gave him a quizzical look, not sure if she'd heard him correctly.

"I guess. I'd just have to let Ash know I won't be eating with her. What's the occasion?" she asked, genuinely curious. Ricky smiled, happy she'd said yes but not ready to come out and tell her the real reason he wanted to have dinner with her. He'd already talked to his mom and she agreed to watch John so Ricky could take Amy out to dinner.

"When you were in New York I realized just how much I'd taken you for granted." Amy nodded for him to continue. "So I decided I wanted to do something for you to say I realized what a jerk I'd been and I was truly sorry, and I've finally figured out the perfect place to take you to dinner." Amy was touched at his words and smiled at him.

"Ricky, I know you're sorry for your past behavior towards me. You don't have to take me anywhere."

"I know but I want to. So, dinner Saturday?"

"Sure. What time?"

"I'll pick you up at 7:30."

"Wait, if we have dinner that late it'll be past John's bedtime when we get back," Amy said a little worriedly. Ricky smiled at her to reassure her.

"My mom's gonna watch John. I took her up on her offer to keep John overnight so we can just relax and have a good time."

"Oh, ok." Ricky took another bite of his meatloaf as Amy placed a second helping on her own plate.

"So how are things with the girlfriends?"

"Good. We're closer now than we ever have been," she told him with a smile. Ricky smiled back.

"And what about things with Grace?"

"They're going good. We're becoming good friends but I feel it's gonna take a little more time before I consider her a really close friend," she told him honestly. He nodded in understanding.

"School starts in a couple of weeks. You excited?" Amy shrugged and stared down at her plate.

"A little. It's been nice talking to friends and acquaintances on and off all summer. I just hope the drama stays low once school starts up again and we're seeing each other five days a week. Not to mention our school's got a reputation for spreading gossip and there's no telling how people are going to treat us once we're back at school since they don't know how much we've all been trying to change this summer." She sighed and took a drink from her glass. She looked so worried and sad that Ricky couldn't help himself. He reached across the table and gave her hand a reassuring squeeze which caused her to raise her eyes and look at him. He gave her a small smile.

"It'll be fine. Even if the rest of our classmates haven't changed for the better this summer, we have. If we just focus on our own lives and don't give 'em anything to talk about, there shouldn't be a whole lot of drama." Amy nodded but Ricky could tell she still wasn't convinced this school year would be better than the last. He decided to try and convince her anyway. "Besides, you've got friends, and acquaintances, you know you can trust in your corner who'll have your back should any rumors or gossip about you start spreading around." His last statement made Amy feel a little better and she smiled. We have matured quite a bit this summer I guess she thought to herself.

"Yeah. Thanks."

"No problem," he told her with a smile, getting up from the table to get the angel fruitcake they were having for dessert.

"So what about you? It's your Senior year. Are you excited?" Amy asked, also rising from the table to carry the remnants of their dinner to the counter to be put away. Ricky shrugged.

"It'll be nice to finally be done with school. But other than that it's just another year."

"Are you sure you don't wanna go to college?" she pressed, putting the last few slices of meatloaf and a few scoops of vegetables into one container.

"I don't see the point," he said without looking at her, cutting the cake and putting slices on small saucers.

"Ricky! It's college. A time to try new things and figure out what you wanna do for the rest of your life!" she told him with exasperation as she placed the Tupperware container in the fridge and walked backed to the table with him, carrying a smaller piece of cake on a small plastic plate to place on John's high chair tray. Ricky rolled his eyes as he sat down.

"Amy, what's the point? I have a job I love and without school I can work longer hours and make more money. "Besides," he added, taking a bite of his piece of cake. "College just seems like a more complicated form of high school and I think I've been in school long enough." Amy gave him an irritated look.

"Oh please, Ricky. So what if it's more complicated. It's not like you can't do it if you put your mind to it. You just gotta have a little more faith in yourself, that's all." She took a bite of her cake and looked up to see Ricky giving her a quizzical look. "What?"

"Why are you pushing this?" he asked with curiosity. Amy looked at him confused, as though the answer should be obvious.

"Because you're selling yourself short by not even trying." He continued to stare at her quizzically. "What? I know you can do it but apparently you don't," she replied, taking another bite of her cake. Ricky was surprised at her admission.

"You really believe in me that much?" Hurt flashed in Amy's eyes at his question and Ricky was slightly alarmed when he saw it, not sure what he'd just said that hurt her feelings. "What?" he asked, the alarm evident in his voice.

"We're friends," she said simply, hurt still in her voice. "Of course I believe in you." She stared down at her plate and finished eating her cake in silence, not looking back at Ricky for several minutes.

"Amy, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." She wouldn't look at him. "Amy, what did I say wrong?" Still she refused to look at him and continued quietly eating her cake. "Amy, will you look at me, please," he pleaded. She slowly looked up, sadness replacing the hurt in her eyes. "Please tell me what I did wrong just now?" Amy sighed. Apparently he wasn't going to let this go.

"We've gotten to know each other really well and gotten very close so far this summer, Ricky. And I thought we'd grown close enough that we were now good friends, possibly even best friends. At least, that's how I think of you." She shrugged, looking down at her plate again. "Guess we're not as close as I thought we were if you had to ask your friend if she believed in you." Ricky wanted to kick himself. He quickly reached for her hand that was resting on the table.

"Of course I think of you as my best friend, Amy. I just didn't know you felt the same and I didn't wanna say anything 'til I saw a sign that you considered me an actual friend yet." Amy looked up at him and chuckled.

"Ricky, we've been finishing each other's sentences, communicating nonverbally, gotten pretty good at predicting what the other is thinking and we've learned to read each other's body language. All those things plus the fact we talk about anything and everything openly should've been clear signs that we've somehow managed to become best friends over the past month and a half." Ricky lowered his head and chuckled.

"Yeah. It's just that I really like spending time with you and talking to you, Amy, and I didn't wanna make any assumptions about our relationship and risk losing that." Amy was about to comment on his use of the work 'relationship' when John chose that moment to speak up.

"Done!" he cheered, raising his arms and smiling, apparently proud of himself for eating all of his cake. Amy and Ricky laughed as they got up from the table to clean up. Ricky carried their dishes to the sink while Amy got a wet paper towel to wipe off John's hands and face. Once the table was cleared and wiped down and John was cleaned up, Ricky came over to Amy as she placed John on the floor to play for a moment while she retrieved her and John's jackets and her purse.

"So are we good?" Ricky asked, helping her into her jacket. Amy lifted her hair out of the neck of her coat and turned around to face him with a smile.

"We're good," she told him while pulling her purse strap onto her shoulder. She walked over to John's toy bin and picked him up.

"So I'll call or text you Saturday when I'm leaving my mom's and heading your way," he told her as he walked her to the door and opened it for her.

"Sounds good." She turned to face him. "Goodnight, Ricky. Thanks for dinner," she said with a smile. He smiled back.

"Anytime. Text me when you get home?" She nodded. He placed a kiss on John's forehead and then Amy left to head down the stairs. Ricky closed the door with a sigh and a smile on his face. It shouldn't be too hard to make the leap from best friends to dating, right? Amy made the short drive back home and quickly got John ready for bed, sending Ricky a quick text to say she was home before reading him a bedtime story. Even though he'd had a small piece of cake a full tummy made him sleepy and he nodded off before Amy finished the story. She walked him from her room to the nursery and placed him in his crib. She gave Robbie, who was already sound asleep, a kiss on the forehead before she walked out of the nursery and quietly closed the door behind her. Ashley was just coming out of the bathroom as she did so.

"Hey," Ashley said quietly so as not to wake the boys.

"Hey," Amy replied, also quietly. The sisters waited until they were closer to Amy's bedroom before speaking again.

"So how was dinner?"

"Good," Amy told her, walking into her bedroom and leaving the door open, signaling Ashley could follow her inside to continue their conversation. Amy plopped down on the edge of her bed and Ashley did likewise. "As of tonight Ricky and I've agreed that we've progressed from friends to best friends," she told her sister with a smile. Ashley smiled back, an amused look in her eyes.

"So…think you guys will progress to boyfriend girlfriend anytime soon?" Amy actually blushed. Ashley's smile got even bigger when she saw this. "Spill." Amy sighed and looked at the ceiling for a few moments looking for the right words. Ashley cleared her throat to let her sister know she was waiting for a response.

"Well…somewhere along the way I fell in love with him and I don't know what to do about it," she sadly admitted, shifting her gaze to stare at her bedspread.

"What do you mean?" Ashley asked, getting more comfortable on Amy's bed.

"I mean we've only been hanging out and talking for a month and a half, Ash. A month and a half! In that short amount of time somehow we've learned to read each other and communicate nonverbally and then…" she paused, looking for the right words. "Well, it hit me last night," she said with a giggle. Ashley gave Amy a surprised look and shifted her position so Amy would know she had her undivided attention, and curiosity. Amy laughed at her sister's sudden enthusiasm about her conundrum.

"For about a week now every time I see his name on my caller ID I get butterflies in my stomach and I instantly feel insanely happy and giggly."

"Uh oh," George said from Amy's bedroom doorway, startling both girls and making them jump a little as they turned their attention to their father, who had apparently materialized out of thin air. He had a smile on his face but Amy could see a hint of concern in his eyes. "Who's the lucky guy making my Ames all happy and giggly?" he asked, walking into the room and leaning on the end of her bedframe. Amy shared a look with Ashley who just shrugged her shoulders, nonverbally saying 'might as well tell him'. Amy looked back at her father.

"Ricky," she admitted and couldn't help but giggle again as she watched shock spread across her father's face and render him momentarily speechless. He quickly composed himself and cleared his throat.

"So are you two like, dating now or something?" he asked nervously. Amy smiled at her father's obvious discomfort and shook her head.

"I only realized I was in love with him last night after he called me to talk for a bit."

"I see. So are the two of you thinking about dating at some point?" Amy shrugged.

"I don't know, dad. I haven't told Ricky that now I'm in love with him too and when I got back from new York I made myself a promise that I'd put love and romance on hold and strictly focus on John for a while, a long while. I hadn't planned on falling in love with anybody any time soon." George chuckled and Amy raised an eyebrow in question. George walked over to the bed to join the girls and Ashley scooted over to make room for him.

"Ames, you can't control who you fall in love with and when it happens. If you're in love with him not dating him's only gonna make you unhappy, and possibly strain your current relationship with him. So there's two questions you need to ask yourself here."

"What?"

"Number one: why did you decide to take a break from romance. Number two: will you honestly be content just spending time with Ricky and not dating him." Amy and Ashley both looked at him confused, not sure how answering those questions would help Amy decide what to do. Seeing their expressions George explained. "Ames, if you're taking a break from romance because you're afraid of getting hurt again, then no one will ever be able to love you." Amy looked shocked and hurt at his words and her face said so. George reached for one of her hands and gave it a small squeeze. "Ames, if you're barricading your heart then when someone comes along who's in love with you, they'll never be able to get close enough to show you that love because you won't let them. And I'm speaking from experience." He laughed when he noticed the girls' surprised expressions at this admission.

"After Kathleen cheated on me I decided I didn't wanna date anyone seriously for a while; I'd just keep it casual. I had a couple of girlfriends before I started dating your mother and those relationship's didn't last long because I kept the girls in question at arm's length, emotionally anyway. When I started seeing your mom I realized I was in love with her but she'd never love me the same way if I didn't let her in, you know? And even when I did I didn't let her in all the way. That contributed to our communication problem." Realization, and a little bit of awe, washed over their faces. "As for question two, Ames, when you're in love with someone and they don't feel the same it just sucks. But…it sucks worse if you never tell that person how you feel so you can find out if they feel the same way or not. If they do, then the two of you can move forward in your relationship. If not, then at least you're not stuck wondering and you can move on if just being their friend is too painful for you." Amy quietly processed her father's words for a few moments and then smiled. She reached over and hugged him and he hugged her back, even though he didn't know what the hug was for.

"Thanks, dad."

"No problem, kiddo."

"When did you get so good at emotional conversation," Ashley asked her father, causing him to chuckle.

"I was pretty bad at them before wasn't I?" Both girls nodded. "Back then I believed that my job as the dad was to provide for you girls and keep the creeps away from you. It turns out because I acted like that I didn't know you two as well as I should've. This summer I've learned how my girls think and why they do some of the things they do and I've also figured out, a little late in the game, that sometimes telling you girls about my mistakes and admitting I'm just as human as you are can be better for you than a lecture or playing twenty questions to find out what's going on."

"I'm glad we're talking more, dad," Amy told him.

"Me too," Ashley agreed.

"Happy to help," George said with a smile. He kissed each of his girls on the head and told them goodnight. After he entered his own bedroom Amy and Ashley shared a smile; they were both very proud of their dad at that moment.

"Oh, I wanted to tell you. I'll be having dinner with Ricky this Saturday instead of with you and Robbie."

"Oh? Is it some kind of special occasion?" Amy chuckled and shook her head.

"I asked him the same thing when he asked me. Turns out he felt so bad for taking me for granted while he was walking in my shoes that he decided to do something nice for me when I got back from New York to apologize for it. He said he'd finally found the perfect place to take me out to dinner." Ashley smiled, amusement returning to her eyes.

"Awwww, Ricky's got a soft spot for you." Amy giggled.

"No he doesn't! He just wants to do something nice for me."

"So is it like a date date?"

"No, we're just gonna have dinner together as friends twice this week instead of once."

"Even though you wanna date him?" Amy licked her suddenly dry lips.

"I do, Ash. But I don't know if he feels anything for me beyond friendship. I mean, he hasn't tried to make a move on me or anything and I don't wanna spook him and ruin what we've been working on all summer."

"There's only one way to find out you know. You gotta tell him." Amy nodded and then a thought occurred to her.

"Ash, is it going to make you uncomfortable if I do start dating Ricky?" Ashley gave her sister a reassuring smile.

"No, I'm over him. It's like dad said. If you find out the person you like doesn't feel the same way then you move on. I'm good, Amy. If it's what you want then go for it." With one last shared smile the sisters bid each other goodnight and Amy followed Ashley to her bedroom door, closing it after Ashley headed downstairs to her room. Guess now all I've gotta figure out is how to bring up the suggestion we start dating she thought as she crawled under the covers and turned off the lamp on her nightstand.

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