SCARECROW & MRS. KING
© august 2001
disclaimer: lee stetson, amanda king, and the rest of the cast of characters we’ve come to know and love belong to warner bros. and shoot the moon enterprises and possible other copyright holders. i intended no true infringement on their copyrights; i only wanted to borrow these marvelous characters for a short time in my own scenarios and hopefully return them no worse for wear; the only things i’ve gained from this story are the satisfaction and pleasure of having written it and in knowing that others may have enjoyed it too…
summary: dotty discovers the truth about the stetsons…
timeline: august 1987
notes: decided to experiment with a new writing style for an idea that came to me…please let me know if you enjoyed my tale and why and, if not, why not…and, please, don’t bother wasting your time or mine by sending any flames…
The water going up my nose wakes me from my pleasant dream of the Captain and a rendezvous in the clouds. I groan and push myself up to a seated position in the tub. The water’s lukewarm, the bubbles are practically gone, and I ache from being in the same position for so long. But, mmmmm, I close my eyes and inhale some of the apricot cinnamon that still permeates the air. Once more, I glance at the waterproof clock that Amanda has recently put on the shelf. At first, I was a bit reluctant to the idea of having a clock in the bathroom, reminding me of precious moments ticking away, but Amanda’s right. The boys do take too long in the bathroom each morning and having the clock’s helped. I suppose I should be grateful they’re not girls who would naturally take even longer.
I carefully climb out of the tub and shiver as I reach for my robe. Wrapping it around me and tying the belt, I recall the fading images of my dream and smile. Tonight’s date with the Captain was as stimulating as always and the bath relaxed me quicker than I thought it would. I probably should’ve just stayed the night with him but he has that early morning flight and can’t afford to be distracted during the night. I smile, thinking of our past distractions. Stifling a yawn, I realize, a bit regretfully, that while we may still have it, we do need our sleep more than we used to and I should get to bed before I fall asleep right here.
I let the tub water drain and then unclip the pins from my hair and brush it through. I wipe away some of the steam from the mirror and stare at my reflection. Not bad at all, Dotty, not bad at all. A sigh slips out. In spite of his schedule, it would’ve been nice, for once, to stay with the Captain without worrying about how Amanda would react. She’s working late tonight. Again. I shake my head and chuckle slightly. Such a contradiction, my daughter. She can accept my need for companionship and male friends but gets completely embarrassed when she considers what else might happen with them. I suppose it’s not easy thinking about one’s parent that way but really…Am I embarrassed by her? Amanda’s a grown woman and mother of two children. Hasn’t she realized I know exactly how those boys came into this world? It’s not that I think Amanda’s a prude when it comes to sex. Aside from the fact that she does have two children, I see the way she looks at Lee. The way she’s in constant physical touch with him. Editing room, my foot.
As I put the bath beads back in the cabinet below the sink, I see a small brown bag from our pharmacy. Amanda probably didn’t have time to unpack it so I open the bag, intending to do it for her. Let’s see…cotton balls, toothpaste, shampoo, and bandages. Interesting. A man’s disposable razor. Phillip is growing up quickly but even he’s not concerned about shaving yet. There’s only one person who would be the recipient of that razor. I’m sure Amanda was probably doing him a favor and simply forgot all about it being in her bathroom. Probably why she kept the bag closed in the cabinet. Though I’m curious to hear her excuse, I don’t want to tease her about it. Yet. I simply put it all back in the cabinet as I found it.
Sitting on the edge of the tub, I stare into the open cabinet. If only Amanda would end the excuses. Not for me. For her. I adore Lee. I’ve told her that a thousand times. I’d love to see him with a permanent place in this family but any word about marriage sets her squirming and she changes the subject. I sigh. How much longer can she lead this double life of hers? They act appropriately enough for a couple in love when they’re with the boys but surely she’s tired of sneaking around to spend private time with him. And why should she have to? They’re both adults. The boys have both accepted Lee’s presence in this family. They’d understand Amanda spending some time alone with him. There’s no doubt in my mind that Lee wants to be part of this family or that Amanda wants him to be. So why are they doing this to themselves?
Suddenly thirsty, I close the cabinet door, turn off the light, and head down the stairs. Halfway down, though, I hear voices. Amanda and Lee. Home early. They must’ve come in when I was asleep in the bath. I’m about to call out when I hear Lee ask about me.
“Mother’s with Captain Kurt again which means she won’t be back ‘til well after midnight.”
“So we have the house to ourselves?” Lee asks with, what I’m sure is, that killer smile on his face.
I smile at the soft moan I hear and quickly decide to forgo my drink and allow them their privacy. If they didn’t hear the tub water draining, I’m not about to interrupt now. They need this time alone. Where did I put my ear plugs? No matter, I’m so tired and relaxed that I’ll probably be asleep long before they make their way upstairs. At least Amanda has the good sense to take advantage of whatever free time she does have with Lee. I shouldn’t worry about her so much. I’m sure she knows what she’s doing.
Just as I reach the top step, Amanda breathlessly announces, “Lee, we can’t.”
I’m not sure I heard right and Lee, apparently as unsure, asks, “Why not? The boys are with Joe and your mother’s not home. This is the first chance we’ve had in weeks where we don’t have to sneak around.”
I can barely hear her say, “That’s what I mean, Lee, I can’t sneak around anymore. It’s too much.”
He must be holding her because I hear her slow sigh of contentment. I really should leave them alone.
“I know. I’ve been hoping it would get easier as I got more involved with the family but it hasn’t. For the past year, we’ve been trying so hard for everyone to get used to me that we’ve forgotten to take time for ourselves. Alone.”
Exactly what I was just thinking, Lee. Now if only you can convince Amanda.
“It’s more than that, Lee, and I think you know it. It’s getting more complicated.”
“I know, I know. We barely solved the Martini kidnapping before we were pulled into the Kabul assignment. And we’ve been working overtime on that now for two weeks. We really do need some down time.”
Kabul? Kidnapping? I thought they were working on a documentary about komodo dragons. I turn around on the stairs as if facing downstairs will help me hear better.
“Lee, it’s more --”
“How about if I ask Billy for Friday off?” Lee interrupts.
Lee continues, “I’m sure he’d be willing to give us a long weekend considering all we’ve been through. I’d even ask Doc Kelford to make it a legitimate sick day by telling him my arm’s still sore from that slice Hickman gave it.”
Amanda’s quiet and I carefully go down a few steps. I’m not fond of spying on my daughter but Amanda’s always tight-lipped when it comes to her job. Besides, my curiosity is getting the best of me and I want to know more. Like who Doc Kelford is and how this Hickman fellow hurt Lee’s arm and why did Lee tell me he hurt it by tripping into some camera equipment.
“You know we can’t do that, Lee. We’re the ones undercover. We can’t jeopardize the operation.”
Operation? Undercover? I know Amanda said IFF works for the government but this talk sounds like it belongs with the CIA, not a documentary film company. Just what is my daughter involved in?
“You’re right,” Lee says almost reluctantly, “but I’m worried about you. You’ve been too professional to let it show at work but I know you and I know you’ve been distracted by something the last few days.”
“You noticed,” Amanda comments in a surprised tone.
I thought there was something bothering her, too, but she brushed my concern aside. She told me it was work and I let it go. Why would she be surprised if Lee was concerned about her? I wonder if it’s something more.
Interrupting my thoughts, Lee says in a disappointed voice, “Of course I noticed. But you’ve been in your ‘this is work’ mode and didn’t want to talk so I didn’t push. Hey, come back over here….Amanda?”
I don’t hear her answer and I’m a bit afraid of where this conversation is leading. I creep down another two steps. I thought things were going so well between them.
Lee’s voice softens, “Honey, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Is Amanda crying? She loves her job. It’s never affected her like this before. Oh, Amanda, what’s wrong?
“I’m not…I mean I don’t know how to…It’s just that I wasn’t expecting…I don’t know how you’ll…”
Amanda, darling, just say whatever it is. I’m sure it’s not that bad.
“Talk to me,” Lee requests. “Please.”
I guess he’s hugging her because her voice is muffled and I have trouble understanding her. Evidently so does he but I still can’t hear her repeat what she’s said.
“Pregnant?” he suddenly asks in a loud shocked voice. “Why didn’t you tell me you suspected something?”
Pregnant? Amanda’s pregnant? No wonder she’s been so moody lately. And nervous. And her crying. I’m sure they didn’t plan it but, in this day and age, it’s nothing to be ashamed about. We’ll just sit the boys down and talk to them. I’m sure they’ll understand. Oh, a baby! Won’t it be wonderful if it’s a girl?
“Because I wasn’t sure,” Amanda says as she sniffles again. “We’ve never talked about this possibility, Lee. I didn’t know how you’d react.”
And how do you feel, Lee?
“I’d be happy, Amanda. Thrilled even.”
Thank God. Not that I’m surprised, mind you. Oh, I wish I could see your face. This is so exciting! I see how you are with the boys, Lee. I realize babies are another matter but you’ll make a wonderful daddy. And, now that you’ve settled that, there’s just the teensy item of a wedding to discuss.
“And if it were true,” Lee continues, “I’d be the happiest man on Earth.”
Wait. Amanda’s not pregnant? She thought she was but she’s not? Is that what she told him before? Darn, I wish I could hear them better. I go down another two steps.
Amanda finally asks, “Are you disappointed?”
This time Lee pauses. I hope it doesn’t mean he’s not. I couldn’t be wrong about him. He’d make a wonderful father. I know it. And he just said he’d be thrilled to have a baby.
“I’m not sure.”
“Oh,” Amanda comments sadly.
Oh, my poor baby.
“It’s just that, for a split second, when I thought that maybe you were…It…It didn’t…Well, having a baby with you didn’t seem like a terrible thing to have happen so I guess maybe, yeah, I’m a little disappointed it’s not true. But --”
“Really?” Amanda interrupts in a slightly hopeful tone.
”Really,” Lee agrees.
I think he’s kissing her. Good. I really should leave them alone now. I turn around on the steps to go back up.
“But,” Lee continues, stopping me in my spot, “at the same time, I guess I’m not disappointed either. A baby, Amanda. We’d certainly have a lot of explaining to do to your mother and the boys. Not to mention at work.”
“I know,” Amanda says quietly.
“What about you? You’ve kept this to yourself for days. How do you feel?”
“I thought it was stress from work,” Amanda slowly answers, “but when I looked at the calendar and realized that I could be pregnant, it was…I was…surprised…I just didn’t have the time to run out and buy a pregnancy test and the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. Until two days ago. When I realized it wasn’t going to happen and that it really was just stress, I started thinking that maybe it was for the best because we have such a complicated relationship but, Lee, it…it hurt…I didn’t realize how much…”
My poor baby. Lee’s comforting her but she needs her mother. If only she’d said something to me. I’ll just go down and --
Lee interrupts me when he quietly says, “Maybe we need to make some changes before we talk about having a baby.”
I stop right where I am. That’s right, dear. Bring up marriage. Well, I’m certainly not going to interrupt now.
“That’s what I mean, Lee. We have to end this,” Amanda says quietly.
What does she mean? Just because she thought she was pregnant and isn’t? That’s no reason to end a relationship.
“End this?” Lee repeats in a choked voice. “Our marriage?”
“Don’t you see, Lee? This isn’t a marriage. It’s more like an affair.”
“I seem to recall a justice of the peace. Exchanging rings. Vows. A honeymoon,” Lee states in an annoyed tone.
Honeymoon? My daughter got married? Without telling me? When? Where? How could she?
“Some honeymoon. I have a scar on my chest as a permanent souvenir,” Amanda bitterly comments.
I manage two steps down when Amanda desperately apologizes, “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I didn’t mean --”
“I know,” Lee interrupts in a choked voice.
I hear slight movement but they’re both silent again. Perhaps they’re holding each other. I hope so. I’m still standing on the step, not sure what to do. They eloped? Scar? Oh, my, gosh. I immediately sit down. California. Amanda’s vacation. She was shot. Lee called me and I flew out there. I was so terrified about losing her I never thought about the discrepancies in his story about how he found out and got there so quickly. I never really believed Amanda’s story about Lee’s separate fishing vacation but went along with her scheme. Obviously she didn’t want me to feel uncomfortable or think terribly of her for wanting to take a vacation together with -- but it wasn’t a vacation. It was their honeymoon! She got married. My daughter got married and didn’t tell me. Why? Didn’t she think I’d be happy for her? Didn’t she think I’d want to see her marry again? Didn’t she think I’d approve? She knows I love Lee so why wouldn’t she say something? They must’ve talked about it. I know my daughter and I’m sure this wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision. For her not to tell me about something like this…Something’s going on. But what? What else is there? My gosh, I’ve been hinting to them both about getting married when they’ve been married for -- six months?! They’ve been married for six months and didn’t say one word. What was she thinking? What were they thinking?
“So now we make some changes,” Lee says softly.
Darn, I’ve been so wrapped up in my thoughts, I’ve missed out on what they’ve been saying.
“But are you sure you want to do this? It’s a big step.”
What’s a big step?
“Amanda, if there’s one thing I’m sure of in my life, it’s that I want you as my wife.”
I don’t have to see her face to know Amanda’s blushing. I’m her mother. I can tell.
“But what about keeping my family safe?”
“Our family,” Lee insists, “and I’ll be the first to admit that that was one of the dumbest ideas I ever had. And you. You’re the one with the practical head on your shoulders. I can’t believe you went along with it.”
I can tell he’s teasing her but I’ve no idea what it means. Why wouldn’t we be safe if they were married?
“But have you thought about what it really means to tell Billy and let everyone at the Agency know?”
Agency? What agency?
“We show Billy the license and see what happens. If anyone says anything, we’ll deal with it.”
“Anyone meaning Dr. Smyth.”
“Anyone meaning anyone. We’ve been married for six months, Amanda, and no one’s found anything out of the ordinary about our work.”
“Unless they already know.”
“C’mon, Amanda, no one’s going to dig that deeply unless we’re up for review.”
What review? How would anyone know, Amanda, when you didn’t even tell your own mother? You’re acting as though this is a matter of national security.
“Look who we’re talking about, Lee. Billy --”
“Billy approves of our relationship. He’s told us half a dozen times, already.”
“Relationship, yes, but marriage? And what about Francine? Harry? T.P.? Dr. Smyth?”
“Harry and T.P. are too, I don’t know, polite to say anything before we do and if Francine or Dr. Smyth knew, they’d already be holding it over our heads. I’m telling you, Amanda, no one knows. Besides, our record for the past six months, the past year, should speak for itself. We’re the best team the Agency has and they’d be crazy to split us up.”
Again with the agency. Who are all those people? Is Amanda somehow mixed up with those federal agents from last year’s mess?
“What if they do?”
“Then we’ll deal with it.”
“But we’re partners.”
“That’s right. We are.”
“Stop it, Lee, I’m serious.”
Stop what? What’s he doing? I wish I could see.
“I’m being serious. If they split up our working relationship, it won’t change how I feel about you. I don’t just think of you as my work partner, Amanda.”
Oh, Lee, that’s so sweet.
“Besides, we couldn’t stay partners for much longer anyway.”
“What?” Amanda asks shocked.
“You’re not the only one who’s been thinking the past few days. The Martini kidnapping got me started thinking.”
“About?” Amanda asks for me.
“I’m not sure how much longer I want to stay in the field.”
Field? What field? My gosh, they’re really starting to sound like they’re spies or something.
“But, it’s your job, Lee, your career. You love it. You’re good, no, great at it. The best.”
“I’ve been in the field a long time, Amanda. Remember when Paul retired? I think I’m finally understanding what he went through. I’m tired, Amanda. I know I could still keep at it but…Honey, if we’re going to seriously talk about having a baby then I’m even more sure I don’t want to be in the field. The risks involved. I don’t want my child to grow up without a father like...”
They’re quiet again and again I’m wondering exactly what they’ve been keeping from me. Now I’m positive it’s more than just their elopement. There’s something about their jobs. I know Lee’s parents were killed in a car accident and I can understand his being worried about becoming a father but what does his job have to do with it?
“So, what do you think?”
Darn, I missed out again. What’s Lee asking about?
“I’m not sure I would want to be in the field without you, Lee. A new partner? It took me three years to break you in.”
Amanda chuckles before she says, “I don’t know, Lee. We’re talking about an awful lot of changes. I don’t think I’d even want to work in the field once I got pregnant and had a baby. It’s like you said…the risks. Sure, I’d miss some of the excitement but, I told you once, a big reason why I stayed with this job is because I wanted to help make the world a better place for Phillip and Jamie. I’m sure I can find other ways of doing that at the Agency. If you don’t mind me still working there, that is.”
She makes the world a better place by working for a film company?
“I love you, Amanda. I want you to do whatever makes you happy. Fulfills you…Are you sure about all of this?”
“Lee, we’re not talking about making any drastic changes tonight. Or tomorrow. We have some time to think about what we really want. Maybe we should reconsider that promotion you turned down last month. Billy’s not going to keep asking you forever.”
“Maybe…You know, maybe we could arrange something for you, too. Keep the partnership going. What do you think?”
“I think that I like the way you think, Scarecrow.”
Scarecrow? What kind of pet name is that? And why does it ring a bell? Where have I heard it before?
“Well, if you liked that idea, maybe you’ll like this one, too.”
“Uh, oh, you have that look in your eye.”
“How about a honeymoon? A real one this time.”
“Wait, you’re right. We shouldn’t have a honeymoon without a wedding…”
“But we --”
“All right, then…”
“Lee, what are you --”
Oh my gosh, is he getting down on one knee? Is Lee proposing? I am so glad I came home.
“I love you with all my heart….Will you marry me, Amanda King?”
NO?! Good thing I’m still sitting down.
I can hear the surprise and disappointment in his voice. Oh, Amanda, what are you thinking?
Amanda laughs. A giggle, really. “I didn’t mean no, no. I meant no, Amanda King….It’s Stetson. Amanda Stetson. And if you can’t --”
I sigh in relief when I hear them laughing. Amanda, I hope your sons never put you through what you just did to me. As my heart stops pounding, from the thud I hear, it sounds like they’re both on the floor in a tickling match. I couldn’t have asked for a better cue. I creep down the rest of the stairs and peek from the doorway. I’m half-right. No tickling but they’re quite occupied at the moment and don’t notice me. The question is how to approach them. Direct is best, I suppose.
“You know,” I say, “I’ve found that after a certain age, the floor no longer holds the same appeal it once did.”
Two entangled bodies suddenly go stiff. Their heads turn towards me and I relish every bit of their embarrassed faces. I can’t keep the grin off my face and these two still haven’t recovered.
“Mother,” Amanda squeaks as she and Lee straighten and reposition themselves, “you’re home.”
“We, ah, didn’t realize,” Lee stammers as he quickly buttons his shirt.
“Obviously, dear,” I comment. Pretending as though I didn’t see anything unusual, I continue, “I’m just going to get myself some milk. I’ll be out of your way in a minute.”
I head into the kitchen and hear the two scrambling to their feet.
“Yes, darling?” I ask as I busy myself with pouring the milk.
“When did you get home, exactly?”
My back is still turned to them so I can’t see their faces but I imagine they’re pretty worried. “Oh, a few hours, I suppose. I took a nice long bubble bath. Apricot cinnamon, you know. I just drifted off into some wonderful dreams.”
As I put the milk container back in the fridge, I notice, out of the corner of my eye, the looks of relief they exchange. Amanda’s practically sagged against Lee. Taking my glass, I leave the kitchen.
“A bubble bath. That’s nice, Mother,” Amanda says as I kiss her on the cheek. “Good night, Mother.”
“Good night,” Lee adds.
I pat him gently on the arm as I pass by, “Sleep well, darlings.”
I leave the room but can’t resist getting in the last word. As I climb the steps, I call out, “Oh, Lee, your wife bought you a new razor the other day. You’ll find it in the bathroom cabinet under the sink. See you in the morning.”
Quite pleased at the silence from the room below me, I snicker quietly to myself as I reach the top of the staircase. Hmmm, I hope they can still get some sleep tonight; they’re in for a long interrogation in the morning.