Disclaimer: Scarecrow and Mrs. King and related characters are the property of Warner Bros. and Shoot the Moon Productions. This story belongs to the author. Do not copy or reproduce without consent.
Summary: How do you write a summary for a story with no real plot? I assure you, any resemblance to any plot living or dead is purely coincidental. Perhaps - The evening after the kiss some of us waited three years for?
Timeline: The evening after the tag in ATWAS.
Feedback: Is expected, nay demanded.
Archive: Yes, eman, you have my official permission to archive this here. It will also be at 'The Teddy Chronicles' http://www.angelfire.com/my/teddystetson/index.html
Author's Notes: Once upon a time, I was driving around aimlessly, scanning the radio stations. I heard a piece of a song and thought, 'Hey! That sounds like my life.' I paused the scan and listened some more. When I heard the chorus and the next verse, a whole story idea planted itself firmly in my brain. At first, I was going to work some of the song lyrics into the story, so I went immediately to Barnes&Noble, Wal-Mart, and Sam Goody to find the CD. To my horror, it hadn't been released, yet. It wasn't an artist that I listen to regularly, but I ordered the CD anyway. When it came in, I was really peeved to find that there were no printed lyrics included. So, for the last few months, I've been listening to that song over and over. The story, of course, has evolved a bit and the only lyrics I'm using are going into the characters' mouths as dialog. It turns out that I probably could have written the story without buying the CD in the first place . . .
The CD is Pam Tillis' Thunder and Roses and the song is 'Please,' written by Michael Dulaney, Jeffrey Steele, and John Hobbs.
I would, of course, like to take a few moments to thank my beta team - both the ones who gushed and the ones who beat me up a bit about this story. When it comes right down to it, there are two rules that my fanfic lives by -
#1 All feedback is good feedback.
#2 Ultimately, the story is what the author (with a little help from the characters) wants it to be.
The Right One
"Phillip King, don't argue with me!" Amanda shouted down the stairs in the general direction of her older son. "I know you're old enough to look after yourself, but I don't know when I'll be home and I'll feel better if your grandmother is here."
"But, Mom . . ." Phillip whined as he mounted the stairs.
"Is she home yet?" Amanda called to the boy from behind her now closed bedroom door. "She's fifteen minutes late already; she said she'd be home by seven. I have to leave soon. Where are my shoes?"
Phillip knocked cautiously on his mother's door. She had been acting a bit strange ever since she had come home from work. Although, strange seemed to be getting almost, well . . . normal for his mother lately. She kept a really odd work schedule and sometimes would get a phone call, drop everything, and rush off with no explanation. And that play she was just in; that was really strange. The real thing really had been better than the rehearsals, though, just as his grandmother had predicted.
"Phillip, please . . ." Amanda began as she opened the door.
"Mom, really, we can . . ." the young man interrupted, determined to plead his case.
Amanda took his face in her hands and looked him directly in the eye. "Phillip," she said with a sigh, "I love you. I trust you. But, after what happened last time . . . remember?" She treated him to the 'Mommy knows best' look until he nodded. "I'll just feel more comfortable if I know that your grandmother is here for you fellas. She's not a baby-sitter, she's a . . . a resource. Someone for you to fall back on. Do you understand?" She held his gaze intently.
"Yeah, I guess," Phillip offered dejectedly.
"Good," his mother replied, gently tousling his hair. "Now, do you know where my shoes are? I can never find the right pair of shoes."
Phillip glanced from his mother, decked out in her pink terry cloth robe and slippers, to her bed, which was covered with three different dresses and five pairs of shoes.
"Uh, Mom," Phillip said, nodding toward the bed, "you've got five pairs right there, and, like, six million more in your closet. What's the problem?" He shook his head in confusion. Maybe being raised by just his mother and grandmother wasn't going to really help him understand girls better, after all.
"No, sweetheart," Amanda explained, "I need the right pair of shoes. They're black. In fact, they look almost exactly like that blue pair there," she indicated a pair on the bed, "but they're black. I wore them last week and now I can't find them."
"So wear the blue ones." Phillip wondered why this thought hadn't occurred to his mother, she was usually such a level-headed person.
"I can't," she said, shifting into 'lecture' mode. "I'm wearing a black dress. It took me forever to decide that and I'm not changing my mind now, so I have to find the right shoes. Besides that, I had to fix the hem on that dress." She pointed to a simple, full-skirted black dress lying across her pillows. "So I'm not going to have that time wasted. Those shoes are here, somewhere. Phillip, help me. You look under the bed and I'll go look in your grandmother's room." Amanda moved toward the open door.
"Are there any Christmas presents under that bed?" Phillip asked speculatively as he lifted the corner of the dust ruffle.
Amanda paused at the door and turned to him, smiling slightly. "Phillip, I don't hide presents under my bed." She shook her head and turned into the hall.
"Yeah right," the boy muttered. "At least, not any more. Way to go, ya idiot, now you'll have to stake out her new hiding place."
Phillip rummaged under the bed, snaking his arm as far as possible around the odd collection of boxes and bins hidden by the dust ruffle. For a moment, he was certain he had a shoe in his grasp, only to have it slip from his fingers. He stood and moved to the end of the bed.
"Mom!" he yelled through the open door to the room across the hall. "I thought you were going to a meeting for work. This looks more like a date dress." Phillip eyed the black dress for a moment before stooping down to search under the bed again. The dress looked as though it would swirl out if his mother spun around quickly. Definitely a date dress.
"It's no use," Amanda mumbled as she returned to the room. Glancing at the bedside clock, she took a deep breath and bounced slightly on the balls of her feet.
"Any luck, sweetheart?" she asked as Phillip's head emerged from under the dust ruffle.
"Are these the right ones?" He held a pair of black pumps above his head as he scrambled to his feet.
"Yes!" Amanda exclaimed exuberantly. "Now, let me get ready." She shooed him gently toward the door, but paused before he left. "Have you finished cleaning up from dinner?"
"Mom . . . I made the dinner; Jamie's supposed to clean up," he explained petulantly.
"It's your night to clean up. You made the dinner for a class assignment; that doesn't change anything else." Amanda smiled and gently chucked the boy under the chin. "You know, I'm still trying to figure out how 'frank-n-mac' covers all four food groups."
Phillip sighed and rolled his eyes. "That's easy. You got your hot dogs for the meat group . . ."
Amanda gave him a wry look.
"Well," he responded, "they're some kind of meat. Then you've got the macaroni for the grains and cereals group. And the cheese counts for dairy."
"What about fruits and vegetables?" Amanda queried. "I don't remember seeing any on your plate."
"Duh, Mom," Phillip shook his head at adult obtuseness. "That's because we drank it."
Amanda's wry look became a surprised chuckle. "Cherry Kool-Aid does not count as a fruit, Phillip."
"Well then, how do they get away with calling it cherry?" he asked innocently.
As Amanda reached out to ruffle his hair, he ducked to the side. "Go clean that kitchen. Crusty old macaroni is even less fun the next morning. And tell your brother to come inside," she added as Phillip darted out the door. "It isn't summer yet. You still have school tomorrow and I'm sure there's still homework as well as chores to do."
"Jamie's doin' homework, Mom. He's doin' that 'watch the phases of the moon' assignment," Phillip called back to his mother as he made his way toward the stairs. He met his brother, telescope and tripod carefully bundled under one arm, at the top of the staircase.
"Well?" Jamie asked.
"It's a date," Phillip replied sagely. "I'm sure of it. The dress, the shoes, the hair; she's got all the classic signs."
"You think he'll come inside?" the younger boy asked.
"Nah, she keeps sayin' it's a meeting for work," Phillip lowered his voice. "But I haven't spent all these years in this house with two women and turned out that stupid. I'm tellin' you, it's a date." Phillip looked at his brother intently and nodded, casting a speculative glance toward their mother's now closed bedroom door.
"All right then," Jamie whispered back. "I guess you're the expert on this stuff."
Amanda sighed and regarded herself in the mirror. The dress was right - alluring and enticing without being blatantly sexy. The shoes were right. Thank you, Phillip, she added. The hair was . . . well, it would have to do.
She wrung her hands together, then noted the slightly compulsive gesture and smoothed them over her waist. Am I nervous? she mentally implored her reflection. Am I scared?
She turned to the bedroom window, glancing down the street in search of a flash of silver. She moved the thin curtain aside, idly fingering its ruffled edge. Her other hand moved across her lips, which were upturned in a soft smile. The kiss had been very real this time - not a cover, not an excuse, and definitely not interrupted. Closing her eyes, she could still imagine Lee's lips pressing against hers, hesitant and uncertain at first, then curious and questing, and in the end passionate and almost demanding. Making up for lost time, she mused. Calm down, Amanda. It was just a kiss.
Is it worth it? Should I even care? What a time to have these second thoughts. She took one last look at herself in the mirror as she walked toward the door. As she touched up her slightly smudged lipstick, Amanda took a deep breath and gathered her confidence around her.
She paused once more before opening the bedroom door. With her hand on the knob, she rested her forehead against the hard, flat surface. Why is dating so much harder when you're serious about the guy? she sighed inwardly. Oh my gosh! I'm going out on a real date with Lee Stetson. Where do we go from here? Her thoughts turned briefly to the two boys downstairs and what might come down the road that she and Lee had turned onto this afternoon. Ooh, I like him; I really like him a lot. Please, let him be the right one. Please, let him be everything that I've been waiting for. Please, let him be the right one.
"I'm sorry," Amanda offered as she shook her head. "Here we are, supposed to be having a nice dinner, and all I'm doing is going on about the boys." She regarded Lee across the table. He seemed to actually be interested in the details of Jamie's astronomy assignment. He licked a crumb of carrot cake from his upper lip and lightly placed his fork on his plate, never losing eye contact.
"Amanda," he scolded gently, "I said I wanted to get to know more about you. What better way than to hear all about the two most important people in your life? Now," he continued, taking her left hand in his right, "you were saying that this assignment would be very easy for Jamie. Why?"
Amanda's eyes traveled from Lee's moistened lips to their joined hands, where his thumb was making small circles across her knuckles, sending delightful shivers through her. She returned the caress, brushing one fingertip lightly against his palm. "Umm . . . well," she stammered, struggling to bring her thoughts back to what she had been saying and away from all that she was feeling. "Two years ago, Phillip had the same assignment. Somehow he managed to get Jamie to do all his observations for him. I didn't find out until two days before the project was due."
"I really like that kid," Lee interrupted. "He makes the best use of all his resources."
"Lee!" Amanda scolded, removing her hand from his and swatting him playfully on the forearm, "He took advantage of his brother's helpful nature. There wasn't much I could do about the assignment, but I made sure Phillip was doing Jamie's chores for the next month."
"Well then, see?" Lee teased, taking her hand firmly in his own once again. "He paid for Jamie's time. Sounds like a fair deal to me."
"But he didn't learn the astronomy lesson," Amanda insisted. "When Phillip took the test, he barely passed because Jamie had done all the work for him." Her voice trailed off as Lee began to toy with her fingers, one by one. A field of butterflies took wing in her stomach; they flew to her heart and set it aflutter, sending whispering waves of desire through her.
"But he learned something else even more important, didn't he?" Lee's voice deepened, though his words were soft. "Just because we don't always learn what we think we're supposed to, that doesn't mean it isn't the right thing at the time, right?"
Lee stared at her expectantly, Amanda thought, as though he meant for her to read something more into his observation about Phillip. She took a sip of her wine, wondering, not for the first time, if wine with dessert was a good idea after two glasses with dinner.
"I guess," she offered hesitantly. Lee tightened his grasp on her hand and she continued more confidently. "I guess sometimes you never know for sure what you're supposed to learn or . . . or get out of something until you've learned it. And then when the pop quizzes come along, you find out that you know all the right answers after all."
"You always know all the right answers, Amanda." Lee said almost too softly for her to hear. And then he smiled. It was a smile that she felt could surely warm most of the District for a month, or her heart for quite a bit longer.
"Well," Amanda breathed softly as she and Lee entered her darkened back yard. "Dinner was nice. Thank you." She took a step away from Lee, although did not release his hand, and glanced casually around the yard.
"It was nice," Lee agreed, trying to close the widening distance between them as Amanda moved away. "It was very nice," he whispered, slipping one arm around her waist and pulling her back against him. He nudged her hair to one side and bent to nuzzle her ear. His lips were silken against her skin and his breath was tantalizingly warm. She was suddenly grateful for the cool breeze that wafted around them.
"But, you know . . ." Amanda mumbled and stepped nervously away once more. "We talked for so long that we didn't . . . well, we never did get to . . . we didn't get to dance tonight . . . and you did say dinner and dancing . . ." The words tumbled out awkwardly.
"Amanda," Lee warned tenderly, "dancing isn't exactly my strongest suit. I'd rather . . ."
"I've danced with you before, Lee," Amanda reminded him. "It's just different if it's us, really us, and not as part of a cover or something." She stepped into his embrace with wary eagerness, laying her head on his shoulder. "I know there's no music, but . . ."
"I dance better without music," Lee murmured and pulled her still closer.
As they swayed together on the patio, Amanda felt Lee dust her hair and neck with tiny, electrifying kisses. She relaxed in his arms and allowed her thoughts to drift. His very real, very solid presence around her kept them from drifting too far, however. Please let him be the right one.
Lee drew back and caught her gaze. "Are you OK?" he asked hesitantly. Amanda searched his eyes, wondering if he had doubts that mirrored her own.
"Mm-mm," Amanda replied, casting an anxious look toward the boys' window. She returned Lee's stare frankly, gauging his merits. Can he be the dad, the friend, the man? Can he be the right one for all of us?
"Are you sure?" he asked, still tentative. "You seemed a million miles away for a minute there."
Am I sure? Amanda's thoughts echoed. That's what it's all about, isn't it? Am I sure? Is he sure? Her gaze drifted again to the second story window.
"Have I, uh, told you how beautiful you look tonight?" Lee waveringly interrupted her musing.
"No-o," she drew out the word, grateful to leave her uncertainties for another day. "I don't think you have. Are you going to correct that?"
"I certainly will," Lee replied, his smile giving away his returning certainty. "But I think I need to see the full effect of the dress." He reached for her hand and spun her quickly away from him, murmuring appreciatively as the dress flared out around her thighs.
She spun back to him almost as quickly. He gathered her close to him again, chuckling softly, "Maybe we should go dancing more often."
"I'm game if you are," Amanda joined in his laughter as she settled into his arms.
"You are . . ." Lee whispered intently. He raised one hand to her face, tracing her hairline from temple to jaw. His gaze held hers as he leaned in. Amanda held her breath as butterflies took flight again, spreading their achingly pleasant warmth. When Lee's lips were scant centimeters from her own and his breath tickled her cheek, he murmured, "You are beautiful."
As his lips claimed hers confidently, Amanda's thoughts drifted no further. Please, please, let him be the right one.
The sound of quiet laughter alerted Phillip. He rose from his bed and stepped to his open window. His mother was dancing on the back patio with a strange man, even though there was no music playing. After a few moments, they sat together at the picnic table - very close together, he thought. Stepping back slightly, Phillip trained Jamie's telescope on the couple in the backyard.
"Phillip?" Jamie whispered from his bed. "Is she home?"
"Yeah," Phillip replied, "and she's with a guy - he looks kinda familiar, but I don't know where from."
Phillip moved as Jamie raced to the telescope, crowding out his older brother. "They're kissing!" the younger boy observed.
"Whaddya expect, dufus?" Phillip asked derisively. "It's a date; I told you that. You think we get to meet every guy she's ever dated?"
"No, but I've never seen her make out in the backyard before," Jamie pointed out petulantly.
"Good point," Phillip agreed. "Maybe we'll get to meet this guy pretty soon."
Jamie struggled to find words to express an idea that had begun to bother him slightly. "Yeah, maybe . . . but, I mean . . . you know . . . like, look at them. They act like . . . like a couple of people from one of Grandma's old movies . . . all kissing and hugging and stuff. Mom's never done that before."
"How would you know?" Phillip regarded Jamie with sibling disdain. "She did it with Dad. I mean, she had to, you know? And you don't go kissing like that," he gestured out the open window, "on a first date."
"Yeah, well, I don't know if I wanna meet him if he's gonna make her act like that." Despite his words, Jamie studied his mother and the man closely. Phillip was right; he did look a little familiar.
"You wanna know what I think?" Phillip asked his brother as he pulled away from the telescope. "I think that all those times Mom wouldn't explain where she was, she was really with this guy."
"I'm not a little kid, you know!" Jamie retorted. "I can figure that out. It's a good thing that I'm done with the astronomy project; now we can keep the telescope set up right here. You think she's gonna go out with this guy again?"
"Oh yeah, dude," Phillip answered. "I'm not sure how I know, but I do. Maybe when you're older, you will, too. There's something about this guy, Jamie. I think maybe he's the one who's gonna stick around."