Another one-shot: this one is set sometime before Elizabeth and Franco broke up this week. I'm still working on my other stories, but they're taking a backseat right now. Sorry!
Elizabeth was working down in the Emergency Room and things were finally calm. She pulled her gloves off as she stepped out of Cubicle 2 and slid the curtain closed behind her. She fought off a yawn even though it was not even 8 o’clock. She knew there were other patients behind the other curtains, but there wasn’t anyone in the waiting area so she knew she could just breathe for a couple of minutes. The quiet was shattered when the automatic doors opened and Jake came running in. She stood up straighter, concerned to see him.
“Jake! Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
A curtain slid across the metal bar in a nearby cubicle. Jake threw himself at her, hugging her tightly.
“Nothing’s wrong. I just found something really cool and I wanted to show you. Franco brought me.”
She looked around him and there was Franco carrying a box with something in it. Jake motioned for Franco to put it on the floor so he did. Jake unwrapped the package in the box and Elizabeth’s heart stuttered. He flipped it around so she could see it fully.
“I don’t quite understand it since it’s kind of abstract, but it feels like it’s moving.” He looked up at her with bright eyes. “Don’t you think so?”
She blinked back tears and smiled at him while running one finger down the side of the canvas.
“It’s called ‘The Wind.’ It’s the view of the world from the back of a motorcycle.”
He flipped it back around to look at it again. He studied it while she watched him quietly. He caught her eye again.
“Wait. Is this that hair place with the big yellow door?”
“This is so awesome.” His expression turned to confusion. “How do you know all this?”
“Because I painted it, Silly.”
His tone was of awe, not disbelief.
“You did this? Really?”
“Yes, really. I wasn’t always a nurse, you know.”
“I’ve never seen you paint before. How come?”
“Because I spend my time taking care of you boys and working so we don’t go hungry.” She grinned. “Or naked.”
He laughed but sobered quickly.
“Why didn’t you tell me? Why did you give credit to Franco?”
“Sweetheart, he was your therapist and he was helping you. That’s what was important at the time.”
“But I get my love of art from you.”
She took the painting and tugged him to her in a hug. She wiped her cheeks clean when she pulled back.
“Now you know.”
“Can I put it up in my room?”
“Well, maybe. We need to ask the owner. It’s not really mine.”
“What? Whose is it and why do you have it?”
Her fingers of one hand lingered on the red blur.
“I painted it for your dad. Oh my goodness, so very long ago.”
“Then why do you have it?”
“He was quite the traveler back then. He knew it wasn’t something he could take on his bike so I kept it for him. Eventually, I think we both forgot.”
“What if he says no?”
They all turned at Jason’s voice. He was standing in the opening to one of the cubicles. Elizabeth couldn’t help but ask.
“Are you okay?”
“Just here with Spinelli.”
She smiled, knowing how Spinelli could be. Jake watched as Jason made his way to them. Jake pointed to the painting.
“My mom says this is yours.”
Elizabeth held it out to him and he took it. She thought she noticed a slight tremor, but kept quiet. His voice was quiet.
“Things were easier back then, weren’t they?”
He looked at her and the look in his eyes made her catch her breath. She placed her hand on his upper arm.
“Yeah, they were.” She glanced back and forth between Jason and Jake. “I think I’ve got a solution. Maybe you can keep it in your room at his apartment. That way you can both enjoy it.”
She waited to see if Jake would accept it. She had no doubt Jason would give Jake the painting because he wanted it, but she had felt and seen how he reacted to it and wanted him to not have to give it up. He was studying his dad who still had eyes on the canvas.
“Is that okay…Dad?”
Jason’s head whipped up so quickly she was afraid he’d hurt himself.
“It’s okay if you want it in your room at home.”
Jake tilted his head as he watched his dad.
“No, Mom’s right. It’s your painting. It should be at your place.”
“Then, yes, let’s put it in your room.”
“Maybe over my bed?”
“Your mom’s the artist. She’d know if that’s a good spot or not.”
“Mom, can you go with me to help me find a good spot?”
“Wait just a minute. You can’t go over there.”
Three sets of eyes swung to Franco when they heard his voice. Elizabeth opened her purse and pulled out her wallet. She found some cash.
“Jason, will you take Jake to get a snack?” Jason covered her hand with the money and moved it back to her wallet, indicating he wanted her to put it away. He glanced at Franco and back at Elizabeth. She went ahead and put her money away. “I’ll be fine. I promise. There’s a snack area just down that left hallway. Franco and I need to get something straight.”
Jason stared at Franco.
“We won’t be gone long.”
She tried not to smile but could see she wasn’t fooling Jason.
“I know.” She watched them until they disappeared around the corner before facing Franco. “What is your problem?”
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
“Jake doesn’t even like Jason.”
“Jake doesn’t really know Jason yet.”
“That doesn’t explain why you have to go over there.”
“I’m Jake’s mother.”
“So? Jason is…Jason.”
“He’s Jake’s dad.”
“You look at him.” His arms flailed about. “With heart eyes.”
“That doesn’t even make sense. Besides, I make eye contact with everyone.”
“It’s different with him. You can’t take your eyes off him when you’re together.”
Her mouth dropped open.
“What are you talking about?”
He scoffed and flung his arms out wide.
“You really don’t know.” His tone turned biting. “Why can’t you just hate him?”
“He’s my friend.”
“Exes shouldn’t be friends!”
Her voice held a hint of exasperation.
“We share a child.”
“Doesn’t mean you have to spend time with him.”
She placed one hand on her hip.
“Actually, yes, it does. Jake has two parents and we need to be able to get along and communicate so we can decide how best to raise him. I’m not messing this up again.”
“So Jason is more important than me.”
“This isn’t about you.”
“We’re getting married.”
“That is the plan, yes.”
He stood to his full height.
“It bothers me that you’re so close to Jason.”
“I’m sorry it bothers you, but I’m not going to change that.”
“Not even for me.”
“Not even for you. It’s important for Jake to get to know his father and I’m going to help them.”
“And if I forbid it?”
“Do you really want to go there?”
“I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.”
“Yes, actually. You are.”
She inhaled and blew it out slowly. She regarded him thoughtfully. He eventually fidgeted at her stare. She wrung her hands together.
“What? I just want us to be happy.”
She held out one hand toward him so he did the same to her. His face changed when he realized she placed her ring in his hand.
“This isn’t going to work. I can’t believe it took me this long to realize it, but I won’t put up with you trying to control me.” She stepped back. “Good-bye, Franco.”
She caught Cody’s eye as she turned and knew he would follow her to the snack area. She would cry later about another failed relationship, but she was thankful she had found out now and not after she was married to him. She stopped in the doorway and watched Jason and Jake talk to each other at a table across the room. Jason glanced up and looked her over. She crossed the room.
“I was telling Jake if it was okay with you we could go hang the painting now.”
“Oh.” She looked at Jake. “Are your brothers at Gram’s or next door?”
“We dropped them at Gram’s.”
“Okay, I’ll pick up the boys and you can drop Jake off when you’re done.”
“Why don’t you pick up the boys and bring them over? That way, everyone can see the apartment for the first time.”
She knew he was trying to make things easier for Jake.
“Sure. Ready to go, Jake?”
“Is it alright if I ride with my dad? I figure if you painted it about being on the back of a motorcycle and you painted it for him he probably has a motorcycle.”
“He does have a motorcycle.”
“I want to hear about it.”
“That’s fine with me.”
“Alright, then. I’ll go get the boys and meet you.”
Jake picked up the painting.
“Can I go show Cody?”
She nodded. He ran to the doorway and they could hear voices, but not words and could see him gesturing.
“He’s right, you know.”
“It is awesome.”
“You always supported me. No matter what.”
“I’m trying now.”
“I know, but you don’t have to worry anymore. We’re not getting married.”
She could see the surprise on his face, but Jake came back before he could say anything.
The boys were noisy and shoving each other as they walked up to Jason’s building. She let them go at it until they were standing in front of Jason’s door.
“Boys. Enough, please.” The boys took turns knocking on the door until her hands swung out and grabbed each of their knocking hands. “Manners.”
The door swung open and Jake waved them in. The three boys started talking over each other almost immediately and she shut the door after following them in. They were soon out of sight and she could only assume they were headed towards Jake’s room. Jason came out of a separate area and glanced towards where the noise was coming from.
“You want the tour?”
She returned his smile.
The door he had come through led to the kitchen and the space where the boys had disappeared into was a hallway that had two bedrooms and a bathroom.
“Danny and Jake will share a room.”
She could hear the apology in his voice.
“Hey, it’ll be good for them.”
The boys were sitting on the floor when Jason and Elizabeth finally showed up.
“It’s really cool, Mom. When we got here Dad remembered there are bunk beds so we can’t really put it over my bed, but look at all the walls.” She laughed. “You’re the artist. Where do you think it should go?”
She tapped her finger against her lip as she looked from wall to wall. She tried to ignore the vision of Jason leaning against the doorjamb. She pointed to a wall.
“I think it should go on this wall. It’s across from the beds and from the door so you can see it when you walk by.”
“What do you think?”
Jason looked at Jake.
“I think she’s right. How about you?”
“Works for me.”
“I’ll go get a hammer and nail.”
Once he was gone Jake stood up and hugged her.
“How did it go?”
“He knows a lot about motorcycles…and everywhere.”
Jason came back into the room and motioned for the boys to join him. She smiled and hoped this, Jake and Jason together, was the beginning of what should have been before.