“So Stetson, what now?” Amanda looked over at her husband. She was out of a job, and he was on indefinite suspension. Billy had promised to start looking over everything he could to convince Smyth that dissolving this team would be a mistake. Billy knew, however, that Smyth was stubborn, and that it would take time. He promised that it would be at least a week before he could do anything to make a slight dent in this mess. And that eventually it would be resolved. After all, why would Smyth want to break up the most successful team The Agency had ever seen? Despite their personal involvement, which had a significant history, they were still getting the job done properly. Smyth was just on another of his personal vendettas – as to why he seemed to have it in for Scarecrow was beyond anyone’s logical reasoning. Popular theory among some agents was that maybe he was traumatized by the story of “The Wizard of Oz” as a child. Then again, no one could imagine Smyth as a child; other agents thought he hatched from somewhere at his present age, and with his unpleasant demeanor already in place.
Lee was thinking in a fairly positive manner – Amanda had had that effect on him since shortly after they met. He was fairly sure that they would have their jobs back quickly, but that there would be repercussions. He was sure that the rumor mill was already turning over this news – not just his suspension and the termination of Amanda’s job, but the reasons why both had happened. And it would spread quickly – Francine knew about their marriage, and she was the queen of the rumormongers. She had assured them that she would keep a lid on it, and with her keeping her mouth shut, the rumor mill would go into overdrive at the both of them being gone. But no one could keep a lid on Dr. Smyth – he was a worse gossip than Francine. He was sure to open his mouth to crow about finally grounding Scarecrow and Mrs. King.
And how he managed to do it, or rather, how they managed to ground themselves. Amanda could image him snickering about it now.
“What do we do now? We spend the rest of the day packing up my apartment, tell your mother and the boys about everything and spend tonight at the house in Arlington. Together.” Lee looked back at Amanda, and from the look on his face, he wasn’t kidding. He had pulled up in front of his apartment building, and got out of the Corvette.
Amanda followed him up to the apartment before she spoke again. “Telling them what? That we lost our jobs, or—“ Amanda paused. “Lee, are you sure you want to do this? Lee?” He had headed straight for the bedroom, and she wasn’t sure she should follow him. She looked around briefly – what *was* going on here at night after they split up. Smyth had mentioned having agents listen into the apartment every other night? Was someone else coming to Lee’s apartment at night? She was going to have to address this soon, but this was neither the time nor the place – they had to figure out what to do about the boys, and thankfully, they had a little time to do so. It wasn’t quite lunchtime, and the boys had baseball practice today which would keep them at school until at least 4:30. Summer break was scheduled to start in couple of weeks, though, and then they would be underfoot all day.
Amanda made up her mind to head into the bedroom but stay at the doorway. She found Lee at his closet throwing things into a bag. “Why are you packing a bag? Where are you going?” What happened to the stuff that he was supposed to have been packing up last night while he was here? Amanda’s mind was racing with other thoughts; this disturbing one got pushed to the bottom of the queue.
“With you, to your place.”
“You’re serious!? You want to tell them today and just move right in? We can’t do that? They’re not ready to hear this from us. We only just told them that we’re dating a few months ago, and to tell them that we actually got married and have been sneaking around to be together. I don’t know, Lee, how are my boys going to take it? And Mother, oh, she’s going to be so disappointed that I didn’t tell her anything-“
“Amanda, take a deep breath and calm down.” Lee came out of the bathroom. Even after 4 years, he still couldn’t fathom how she or her mother could talk for so long without taking a breath. “They’re going to be fine. Philip and Jaime aren’t the little boys that they were when we first met. It’s not like we’re going to tell them about what we really do for a living.”
“Really? Then how are we going to explain that we got married 5 months ago and didn’t want to tell anyone? For their safety? Ok, what’s so dangerous about being documentary producers? How do we explain that one, Lee? And how do we explain the lovely bruise next to my eye from hitting the ground last night?” Amanda didn’t seem the least bit pleased about this and she was going to break her necklace chain from how much she was moving that heart back and forth on it.
“Amanda, that bruise doesn’t look bad at all. You, um… you bumped into a door!”
“We’ve used that one. Mother’s going to start thinking that either I have an inner ear problem or that you’re beating me up if we keep having me ‘bump into’ something.”
“You were mugged?”
“Every six months?”
“Amanda, unless Billy can do something about both our jobs and our professional partnership, I don’t see the harm. Even if we’re both re-instated I want your family to know. I suppose we could tell them that we could have put our jobs at risk, or funding for some of our documentaries, or –” Lee came over to Amanda, and grabbed her hand, stilling it from the nervous movements along the chain.
“Or we could just tell them that we work for the government, and that we have clearances for sensitive information, and we had to hide this to protect them. That there are people who want some of the information we handle, and that we thought hiding this would be a good idea. We do work for the government, and we do handle sensitive information.” Lee knew that Amanda hated lying to her mother and her sons. But she also disliked being disloyal – this explanation would handle both of those subjects without compromising her ethics.
“And the bruises?” Amanda smiled, almost knowing the answer.
“That would explain why you’ve been ‘mugged’ every six months.” They both laughed for a moment, and Lee zipped up his bag.
“Amanda, it’s still not the full truth, and as much as I would like to be able to tell you that you could tell them everything, you can’t. I know that bothers you. But I would like to tell them that we are married, that we have been for a while. If it would make your mother happy, we can hold another ceremony. If it would make Philip and Jaime happy, I won’t move in tonight, but it certainly will be easier to get you over here more often for the night.” Lee pulled Amanda into his arms for a reassuring hug – he wasn’t quite sure, though, if the hug was more for her or for him. “As for anything else we must face, we’ll figure it out as we go along. That’s how we’ve handled everything so far, right? And the consequences haven’t been that bad…” He leaned in to kiss her. “Now, I’m as packed up as I want to be. Whatever shall we do for the rest of the afternoon, Mrs. Stetson,” he teased as he wiggled his eyebrows at Amanda.
“Why, I just don’t know what you mean. We’re going shopping. If you’re making dinner for the family tonight, we need supplies.”
“I’m making dinner?” Lee thought quickly as to when he might have made that promise. “When did I say I was making dinner?”
“You just did.”
When Philip and Jaime got home after practice, they found their mother and Lee in the kitchen, working on dinner. Both boys had a natural affection now for Lee. Jaime had taken a little while to come around, while Philip had taken to Lee almost immediately. The fact that he drove a Corvette had helped. Their grandmother came downstairs when she heard them come in and immediately sent them upstairs to change clothes and get cleaned up for dinner. Both Lee and Amanda, and the boys could stand a little more time in the status quo before the bomb dropped, Dotty thought. With that she chuckled to herself. *She* could have used a little more time in the status quo, but it was not to be.
When Dotty had gotten home from her flying lesson, she was still slightly concerned about Amanda and how subdued she had been the previous night, but the sight of Lee’s silver Corvette parked in front of the house calmed her. Amanda was always 250% happier when Lee was around, and Dotty was sure that today would be no exception. And she was proven right when she had found Amanda and Lee tangled up together in the kitchen. What drew Dotty’s attention was not the fact that this dashing man was kissing her daughter senseless, and not the dazzling smile that Amanda had on her face, but instead, the shiny wedding rings she caught sight of. When they realized they were being watched, they broke apart quickly, and headed to opposite sections of the kitchen – Lee to the stove where the wok was sitting, and Amanda over to grab a bag of rice. Dotty laughed at them, and when they turned to look at her, she asked that they had better tell her what’s going on.
“Lee came over and he’s making dinner tonight, Mother. That’s all.”
“No, Amanda, that’s not what I’m referring to. What’s going on with the wedding rings? I’m your Mother, sweetheart, I’m not blind or stupid, and don’t you bother hiding that hand in your pocket, Lee Stetson, I know what I saw on my daughter’s hand, and on yours.” Dotty smiled as Lee stopped, looking guilty, mid-stream from putting his hand in his pocket.
The three of them had sat down in the family room and both Lee and Amanda came clean about the wedding, apologizing the entire time for not telling Dotty, but emphasizing that the secrecy had to do with their jobs. She now knew that they had been working together for 4 years, starting dating 18 months ago, and married 5 months earlier. She didn’t know the exact particulars of their jobs, but that they did have access to sensitive military and political information, and there were people who would want that information. Dotty was relieved – “well, at least you’re not spies,” she laughed. Lee and Amanda simply looked at Dotty, smiled and nodded, as if in agreement. Dotty knew that there was something else going on with this picture, but she wasn’t really sure that she wanted to have any more information than she did.
It wasn’t an impulse that they had gotten married – this was the real thing. She wasn’t overjoyed that her daughter had eloped, and although they weren’t admitting it, Dotty knew that it must have been Lee’s idea. But she realized with the way they were explaining their jobs and why they hid such news from everyone was to protect herself and her grandsons. And from the look on Lee’s face when he looked at Amanda, Dotty had no doubts that their explanation about their marriage was not something to be taken lightly.
This, however, explained a lot about her daughter’s strange behavior in the last 4 years: all the late night phone calls, and Amanda rushing off here and there, and it shed light on her behavior in the last few months – they had had to sneak around to get a night together whenever they could and that certainly wasn’t healthy for a newly married couple, as far as Dotty was concerned. It also did nothing to assuage her newfound fear that their jobs might hurt the family, but Amanda looked so relieved – she had finally been able to be truthful about her personal life to her mother.
Lee had even come clean about being the one who was sneaking around in the garden, not the neighbor’s dog that was the favorite excuse, and that he was the reason that no flowers ever grew under the kitchen window. He also offered to put down new soil and build a small fence around that window so that something could get the chance to grow, although, he admitted, he would miss popping up at the window and startling Amanda while she was in the kitchen.
Dotty was pretty steamed about the state of the garden, but not half as much as she was about missing her daughter’s wedding. Lee forged ahead and promised Dotty that they would renew their vows on their 1st wedding anniversary for the world to see and share in, and that she could throw as big a reception as she wanted to plan. He knew that he’d pay for it when Amanda next got him alone, and that Dotty would go into overdrive over the renewal and reception, but if it smoothed a few feathers with his mother-in-law, then it was a small price to pay.
They did admit to one other skeleton in the closet – that IFF had found out about their relationship, and ultimately they had to admit their marriage – and that one of them had lost their jobs, while the other was suspended. Dotty figured it out before either could continue, that Lee got to keep his job because of his seniority, but that was shaky too, considering his indefinite suspension.
After getting assurances from them that there were no other skeletons in the closet, no unexpected pregnancies on the way, no dead bodies in the garage, Dotty left the two of them alone again in the kitchen to finish making dinner, and to make a couple of phone calls. As she passed Amanda’s room, she took note of a bag that she had never seen before, and assumed it was Lee’s. Yes, she would have to make those phone calls fast – they deserved some time alone together this night that they didn’t have to sneak around to get. Their jobs could have hurt their relationship more than it could have harmed their family, because it was their jobs that prevented them from having any decent time alone together.
Dinner was a quiet affair, and somehow the boys knew something was going on. Everyone enjoyed the stir-fry that Lee had made, and Dotty was suitably impressed with his cooking skills, especially to find that some of his skills were honed around the world in his travels for work and in being shuttled around the world with his uncle, the Colonel. Despite the conversation with Dotty, Lee and Amanda kept looking at each other nervously. Dotty was also valiantly trying to keep some type of conversation going with the boys, but that was easier said than done.
Normally Philip and Jaime wouldn’t stop talking or fighting, no matter who was at the table. Lee had had dinner with them in the past, and at least Philip would fire questions non-stop at him about the car. Tonight, they had not heard more than a dozen words from Philip, and most of those were related to passing the rice, the water, and the napkins. Jaime was actually holding some short conversations with Lee about baseball practice, school, and his latest science project. Lee tried to talk to Philip, but didn’t get any response other than a blank stare.
Amanda clearly was worried, and when she passed Lee in the kitchen while they were clearing the table, she expressed that this might not be a good time to tell them. “Amanda, when will it be a good time to tell them? When we’re celebrating our 10th anniversary? When the boys get married? Your mother isn’t going to be able to keep this a secret forever, you know, and she won’t want to either.” Amanda nodded. Lee was frustrated, you could hear it in his voice, and he was right – there was no time like the present, and she was just being a chicken.
“Philip, Jaime! We need to talk. Family meeting.” When she saw Philip and Jaime heading for the kitchen, she added: “In the family room.” Just then, the doorbell rang, and Dotty ran to get the door. She led Joe into the family room, congratulating him on his simply wonderful timing.
“Joe! What are you doing here?” Amanda turned completely pale.
“I’m not sure. Dotty called me and said I needed to get over here tonight, because there was something important going on. Is everything all right?” He looked from Amanda to Philip and Jaime, knowing that no one was hurt, but not sure what to expect. That’s when he noticed Lee standing a couple of feet away from Amanda; he had to have something to do with whatever it was that Amanda had to say, and he looked as nervous as she did.
Dotty had seated herself on the sofa, with the boys on either side. Joe found a seat on a nearby chair. Lee and Amanda stood up together, and looked at each other as if they were standing in front of a firing squad.
They had been standing there for about 30 seconds when Lee cleared his throat and immediately stared at his shoes. ‘Why is this making me nervous? I wasn’t this nervous when I asked her to marry me, or when we actually got married. What’s so difficult about telling her sons? Our sons,’ he corrected himself. He looked up and saw Dotty smiling, Jaime studying them carefully, and Philip looking like he was ready to beat someone up. Lee looked over at Amanda, and then back down at the floor.
Dotty looked as nervous as they did, and she grabbed each of her grandson’s hands. Philip looked suspiciously at his grandmother, and then over to his mother. She looked happy, nervous, was fidgeting and had a hand on her stomach to settle the butterflies that were romping around in there. Jaime was still studying Lee and Amanda. Then he noticed a glint of gold on Lee’s left hand when he ran his hand nervously through his hair. “Uh, Mom? Do you two have something to tell us?” he commented in a teasing tone.
Philip looked up, noticing the hand his mother had to her stomach, “Aw, Mom, don’t tell us you’re pregnant.” With that said, he looked pointedly, and not kindly, towards Lee.
“No, fellas, I’m not pregnant. But Lee and I do have something pretty important to talk to you about.”
Jamie spoke up again in a more serious tone of voice. “Are you two going to tell us something then, that we should have already noticed?” Amanda looked questioningly at her son, who was smiling, as he pointed at Lee’s left hand.
Philip then noticed the wedding band as well, and the anger that Lee had observed in his face came through loud and clear in his words. “We trusted you! How could you do this!” Dotty, Joe and Amanda all reprimanded him to sit down at the same time. Lee looked uncomfortable and stuffed his hands into his pockets. Everyone in the room thought Philip’s outburst was a reaction to the news.
“Boys, your mom and I didn’t mean to tell you this way, but, well, um…” Lee trailed off and looked helplessly at Amanda. Jaime was smiling. He couldn’t be happier that Lee was going to be his stepfather; despite the bad feelings he had had a few months earlier when they had first started dating, he really liked Lee. He wondered briefly what had gotten Philip so hot under the collar. Philip was the one who kept trying to convince Jaime that Lee was a great guy; now it seemed like he wished that Lee would disappear into the floor.
“Fellas, Lee and I have known each other for some time now, and we’ve been seeing each other for longer than we’ve admitted to you. There was a reason for it, but that’s not an excuse. We should never have hidden this from you. Due to the nature of our jobs we have access to information that people from other countries would love to have, and there are rules at the office about this sort of thing, so we couldn’t tell anyone about us. No one knew that we were seeing each other, except for all of you here, and that was difficult because you didn’t know how long we really had been seeing each other. When we decided that it was time to take the next step, we knew we couldn’t tell anyone. And well, one thing led to another, and we-” Amanda was cut off by her oldest son’s angry voice.
“So you shacked up together, and didn’t bother to tell his wife, right?” Philip was bright red and if looks could kill, Lee would have been dead 5 minutes earlier. Amanda wondered if her oldest son had been hit on the head with a baseball earlier that day, or just was so angry that he wasn’t listening to what they said. Then it registered what he had said. Joe and Lee beat her to the punch and spoke simultaneously.
“Wife?” Lee quizzed.
“Stetson, what does he mean by ‘wife’?” Joe didn’t look too happy at the news.
“What are you talking about, Philip? What wife?” Amanda was confused.
Philip cut his mother off once again. “You scum. How could you treat my mom this way? Don’t you have any respect for her?” He got up off the couch and started pacing the room. Much in the same way that his stepfather had paced Billy’s office not a few hours earlier.
“Philip, that’s enough.” Lee finally found a detached professional voice and it had stopped Philip in his tracks. “I respect your mother greatly. She is a wonderful woman, an incredible mom, and the best co-worker that anyone could ask for. That’s part of why I married her.” Lee smiled at Philip who now was standing in the middle of the living room with mouth hanging open in shock. Which everyone, again, thought was because of the news. “Besides the fact that I couldn’t think of living the rest of my life without her.”
“Then why do you have someone else answering your phone at your place? Someone female who isn’t Mom. If Mom is so wonderful, then how come she doesn’t know about this other woman?” Philip stalked right up to Lee, staring him in the eye.
Jaime was grinning from ear to ear. He could now see the wedding set on his mother’s hand, and was thrilled. He figured that Philip was misunderstanding something or another. Maybe it had been Mom who answered the phone – after all, they were married, and it would be natural to answer the phone at Lee’s place, right? Amanda registered her youngest son’s reaction and set the thought aside, as she had expected that she would have to sell the idea to her youngest son, not the oldest, but here Jaime was, happier than she had ever seen him in a long time. She was going to have to get some answers and get them now.
Everyone was talking at each other at the same time. Jaime was trying to convince Philip that he’s got to be wrong. Philip was also calling Jaime all sorts of names, the most common of which was ‘worm brain’. Philip was also accusing Lee of already being married, Joe was yelling at Philip to leave Jaime alone, while trying to fight with Lee over what other woman would be in his life. Dotty was trying to convince Jaime to go into the kitchen and leave the situation, and valiantly trying to keep Lee’s hands down at his sides, as he looked like he needed to punch something, and the first thing he could get would be Joe.
Amanda couldn’t take it anymore. “Would everyone please stop yelling RIGHT NOW!” That got everyone’s attention and they all turned towards her as she moved behind the couch towards the kitchen. “I don’t understand what’s going on here. Lee and I were announcing our marriage, and World War III attempted to break out in my living room. Philip, what did you mean about another woman answering Lee’s phone?”
“Amanda, we should talk about this-” Amanda cut Lee off.
“We will talk about this now, Lee. What other woman was in your apartment? And Philip, when did you call over there to hear someone else answer the phone? Perhaps you dialed the wrong number.” Amanda started clutching at straws, but she knew that there was something else going on.
“I didn’t dial the wrong number, Mom. I have Lee’s number memorized.”
“Amanda, I can explain.” Lee didn’t look guilty to Amanda, but instead very calm, very rational, and very much like he was about to interrogate a KGB operative.
“You’d better, Stetson. Or else you’re going to have to deal with me.” Joe was livid.
“Joe, shut up, sit down, and let me hear what Philip and Lee have to say.” Joe stared at his ex-wife as if she’d starting sprouting snakes out her eyeballs.
“Mom, the other night, you were so down, Grandma asked me to call Lee and invite him over for dinner so that you’d cheer up. You’re always so happy when he’s around, and he’d given me his number before, so I called. But some lady picked up in his apartment and answered it ‘Stetson residence’, and I figured that it was probably a girlfriend or… a wife,… and-“ Philip’s voice faltered when he looked in Lee’s direction, “I’m, uh, really wrong about this, um, aren’t I?” When his eyes had settled on Lee, he took in the scowl on his new step-father’s face.
“So, you’re the mystery caller who hung up the other night? She isn’t a girlfriend, and she isn’t my wife. My wife, your mother, is standing over there behind the couch looking like she’s ready to kill me.” Lee looked down at his shoes. They were looking more and more interesting as the night wore on.
“Who is she, Lee? I’m not deaf. I’ve heard rumors around work, but I thought that it was the steno pool being jealous.” Everyone turned to stare at Amanda. “Old girlfriend?”
“Yes, she is an old girlfriend. No, we are not involved. And there is a valid reason she is coming to the apartment. And that’s all I’m going to say to any of you until I have a chance to talk to Amanda alone.” With that Lee crossed his arms over his chest, and didn’t say another word.
“Well, um, I think that’s my cue. Boys, get upstairs and pack. You’re going to stay with your father for a couple of days. Amanda, I hope you don’t mind that I made these arrangements without consulting you, but it looks like you’re going to need the time.” She held a hand up as Amanda opened her mouth to speak, “Don’t thank me now, I need to go up and pack. Captain Kurt’s picking me up and I’m going to stay at his condo. But you have some more explaining to do.” With that, she walked out of the family room, heading upstairs, as Joe walked angrily out the front door.
To Be Continued…