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Stephanie moved to sit at the desk with Jack. She saw the picture of Julie and smiled.
“What’s going on?”
“I was just thinking about something.”
Tommy sat in the kitchen while he waited for Julie to get home from school. Jack was getting dressed and they were going to the studio for a family portrait.
He straightened his tie and looked at the image on the wall of the family just a few years ago. His parents looked so happy and he and Julie were as far away from each other as possible.
Maybe this was stupid. Maybe he was trying too hard?
“You okay?” Jack asked as he walked into the kitchen and grabbed a bottle of water.
“Yeah. I just wonder if this is a bad idea?”
“Why would it be a bad idea? I think you’re right. We talked last night and I agree with you. I think it will be great.”
They both jumped when the front door slammed and Julie came in. She looked at them in the kitchen and sighed.
“What did I do wrong?”
Tommy raised his eyebrows.
“Who said you did anything wrong?”
She scratched her head and shrugged.
“You’re both all dressed up like you have an important meeting. The only thing you would do together dressed like that would be about me, so what happened?”
Jack sat down and smiled.
“Jules, don’t you remember? We have an appointment with the photographer for this afternoon.”
She was quiet and then looked at Tommy.
“Oh, well no thank you,” she got up and went into the family room.
Tommy looked crushed and Jack walked after her. Tommy reluctantly followed.
“It’s not really something to respond to in that way. You need to go get changed so we can go,” Jack said.
Julie looked at him and picked up he bag.
“I have homework, sorry,” she said.
Tommy sat next to her and looked at his hands.
“I would really like for you to come and do this, okay?”
She looked at him and her eyes filled with tears.
“It won’t make them any less dead.”
He sighed and nodded.
“I know. That wasn’t my plan,” he said and stood up. “It’s fine. I’ll cancel.”
Jack watched him walk out and he sat down next to Julie.
“There was no reason for you to do that. He never asks anything like this and it is important to him.”
Julie wiped her eyes and crossed her arms, not saying anything.
“He wasn’t doing this to replace your parents. He was trying to keep you from losing more.”
“I don’t understand what you mean.”
Jack sat back and sighed.
“You’re 14. He wants you to grow up and have pictures and memories. He doesn’t want to replace your parents, but he doesn’t want you to grow up and not have the things you would have had with them. It’s not about making it like they are still here; it’s more about giving you pictures to commemorate your life, our lives, as it is now. Years from now, he’s hoping you will look back and know you were loved. He wanted you to have pictures, Jules, memories.”
Tommy walked in and looked at them.
“I can’t cancel without losing the deposit, so I guess I’ll just eat that. I’m going out for a drive.”
Julie looked at him and shook her head.
“No, give me a minute to get ready and I would like to go and have our picture taken.”
Tommy was surprised.
“Because I’m a teenage girl and I’m allowed to have mood swings, so let it be,” she said and ran upstairs.
Jack grinned at him and shrugged.
“Just go with it.”
Stephanie wiped her eyes as she listened to the story.
“So how come I’ve never seen this picture? You just have Julie’s picture from that time.”
“We had the picture of the three of us framed and put on the wall in the house. It was there for a while, maybe six months and something really bad happened.”
Stephanie wasn’t sure where this was going.
“Did someone take it?”
“I wish,” he sighed. “I hit a drought. Tommy and I both did, but with him, it wasn’t that big of a deal. For me, it was tragic.”
“A drought? A sex drought?” Stephanie asked and he looked at Bee.
“Shh, she doesn’t need to hear this.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” she laughed. “But how does the picture fit into your ‘drought’?”
He blushed and shrugged.
“Julie actually figured it out after one of her friends pointed it out.”
“She was 14 and knew about your um, exploits?”
“No, of course not,” he said. “I mean, she knew when I brought women over, but not about the drought of 2002.”
Stephanie tried really hard not to laugh.
“You named it?”
He looked her dead in the eye.
“It was profound.”
She nodded and bit her lip to stop from giggling.
“Anyway, Julie came home one day and told us her friends were talking about us. I thought they were talking about my looks, because you know, I’m me.”
He rolled his eyes.
“You can laugh.”
She shook her head.
“Never. I will never laugh about the great drought of 2002.”
He looked at her and flashed his dimples.
“Very nice. And it wasn’t the great drought, just the drought.”
“Sorry,” she laughed and then coughed to mask it
“Anyway, apparently, because of the picture, everyone thought Tommy and I were a couple. The way we were posed made it look like we were Julie’s parents and the stupid photographer had me put my hand on Tommy’s shoulder and it looked very suspicious. When we brought women home, they saw the picture and ended things.”
“And you didn’t think about that?”
“Well no,” he sighed. “I mean we never thought about it because it wasn’t true and we were just trying to give Julie a nice memory.”
“And you did,” Stephanie smiled.
“Well, the drought ended when the picture came down and it never came up again.”
Stephanie was quiet and he rolled his eyes.
“Fine, let it out. Go ahead and laugh.”
She looked at him and walked over to kiss his cheek.
“That story might just start another drought.”
He looked horrified.
“What? Why? What did I do?”
“There’s nothing that gets a wife going like hearing about all the sex her husband used to have before he met her,” she said and walked to the couch.
“But I was just telling you a story from long ago. I love you and don’t want a drought, please,” he said and moved to her.
She giggled and looked at him and he crossed his arms.
“Oh Jack this is the best story ever,” she said and broke out in a fit of laughter. “I’m sorry, but I’ll never understand how you and Tommy didn’t realize what a handsome couple you made. How could people not assume you were together?”
“Well, looking at me, it’s clear that anyone would want a piece of this,” he said and sat down next to Bee. “But I’m out of Tommy’s league, really.”
She rolled her eyes and he grinned.
“You know, some women actually like to think they’re the prettiest in the relationship.”
Jack pulled her onto his lap and held her as she pouted.
“You are by far the prettiest in our marriage. In fact, you bring things to the table that no woman has ever brought before.”
“The stomach for your arrogance?”
“Maybe, but I was thinking about the ability to make me feel lucky to be alive. You make me happy to be in this world and I look forward to each and every moment with you. You’re brilliant and sexy and beautiful and tolerant. You are the most amazing mother and doctor and I adore the way you work with chocolate,” he wiggled his eyebrows and she laughed.
“You’re pretty beautiful yourself,” she said.
“Well yeah,” he said and they both laughed as they kissed.