The Sweet Satisfaction of Knowing the Answer: 1

by Miss Kitty E

Sean doesn't have all the answers. He just hopes that someday he will.

If he keeps his eyes open, asks questions, and really applies himself to the task, eventually everything will become apparent to him. He'll know what movies to make when, and the money will flow into his projects easily. Everything he is a part of will make it to production, post-production, and a successful wide release.

And he'll be the perfect father. Ali's and Lizzy's education would be his highest priority, and every day they would be challenged to learn something new instead of spending most weekends watching TV with the nanny.

When he has all the answers, he'll know how to pull his mother out of a down spell. She could call and he would have the time to listen to her talk about her health, and about being lonely and he'll be able to say something that could ease her mind. Or else he'll know that it is pointless to try.

And he'll know why he woke up everyday feeling like he'd been kicked in the stomach, wanting only to curl up and be very still. And he'll know why he didn't love his life any more.

Sean wakes up when Christine's alarm goes off. 6:30a.m. is a very responsible time to be awake, so there's no reason to resent consciousness so much. He lies in bed, watching his wife travel across his field of vision to the same three points; the closet, the bathroom, and the dresser. He wishes he could pull her back into bed, tuck her head under his chin, and have something to say.

He doesn't have anything to say.

Christine is fully dressed in her soccer mom chic- pressed khaki slacks, pastel blue top, brown sandals, pony tail -when he finally sits up and rubs his face. She smiles at him in the mirror as she puts in her earrings.

"I have a lunch meeting today. And a load of errands."

Sean can guess what they are, but she rattles them off anyway. Stop by the tailor, get the acrylic nail that popped off fixed, drop off the deposit for Ali's summer camp, get some spring clothes for the baby. "I'll take care of dinner," he says. He doesn't have anything nearly so important scheduled.

"Beautiful, thanks." Christine comes over and bends at the waist to kiss him quickly. He tips his face up like it's an instinct. "If you could pick up the girls from day care, too, that'd be a big help." She goes back to the dresser and slides on a gold bracelet and her wedding ring.

Sean puts two feet on the floor and silently berates himself into getting up. He stretches, and says, "Will do."

He pours himself a bowl of cereal in the kitchen, and above him he hears the racket of getting Ali's stuff together. Some minor crisis occurs, he can hear Ali's high-pitched whine of indignation and Christine's sharp tone. Whatever it was, it obviously caused no huge delay because soon enough there's the loud tumble of feet down the stairs, and Christine wondering aloud if she forgot anything.

"See you this evening, hon!" She calls from the front door. Sean can't see her from here.

Ali calls out, too. "Bye, Daddy!"

The slam of the door leaves Sean in a completely silent house. He sits with that for a few minutes and turns the TV on and the channel to CNN. He is not surprised to find out the world is still an angry place. He finishes his breakfast quickly and turns off the TV. The day has officially begun.

It is kind of pathetic but what is and always be a shining ray in Sean's life, is his daily planner. He's bought the same style of planner for eight years in a row, and nothing quite feels done till he's crossed it off the list of what to do when in it. He flips it open to the days date and reads:

"Call Clara."

"Hammer out Vancouver dates."

"Run," which is circled three times and underlined angrily.

He writes down "Pick up kids" in the 3:00pm slot, and that's it for Tuesday. It's an easy day to make up for the fact he had three meetings, and an audition yesterday.

There's a pile of mail for him on the desk. He sees two large, fat envelopes that are probably the scripts his agent wants him to read. He checks his email first, to make sure nothing has come up or been cancelled. There are about eight that need answering immediately, and one from Elijah called "The grass is always greener..."

He sighs as that kicked in the stomach feeling works its way up to his chest.

"New York, and I are still getting along very well," it starts. He goes on to talk about how the neighborhood is great, and that he has at last found a place with decent Vietnamese food. "Hao's Hao's, you will experience the difference."

Elijah moved to New York only to miss LA. He moved back to LA only to miss New York. Wanting both, he got himself a small apartment, not a home, but a place to stay, and whenever he feels the compunction to go, he goes. He's been filming in Canada, shooting Toronto as Chicago and before that Sean was in Vancouver. It's been seven, maybe eight months since they last saw each other.

In the last paragraph Elijah writes, "I'm happy, but it's getting hard to know where I want to be. Sometimes I think LA is home, sometimes New York. Sometimes I think the only place where I really feel at home is Mom's house, sometimes it's five years ago in New Zealand. The grass seems greener on all sides, everywhere except wherever I'm standing. I miss you." The kicked feeling is at once worse and better. Elijah misses Sean- Sean, and his sister, and his mother, and Dom -and knowing that makes Sean miss him even harder.

"Write back, call me, and visit, - elijah" And thanks to that, he goes through the rest of his day carrying some feeling of being wanted inside him.

Sean has always lived in suburbia, and probably always will. He lives in a nice one, tucked away further into the city, where the houses are more expensive. Everywhere he looks, things are white and orderly. The streets are wide, well planned and have few curves. The strip malls are decorated in every manner of bastardized architectural styles, one on Minea Avenue looks like a Spanish villa, and the one Babcock is full of columns and pediments. None of the cars he passes are older models than 2001. The houses all have immaculate lawns, and are painted muted colors just like community charter mandates.

The suburbs are a great place to raise children. Things are clean and safe and quality made. Everyone looks nice, and smiles when they pass you, walking their dogs, pushing their Eddie Bauer strollers with two kids inside dressed in Baby Gap, or jogging in designer sweats. You don't know their names or anything about them, but they look nice. Sean has it better than ninety percent of the world. And he is unhappy.

"What did you learn in school today, Ali?" She's in the back seat behind him, and next to Lizzy. He's picked her up from school, and just gotten her sister from the daycare.

"We made teepees." His daughter answers, and he can hear the distraction in Ali's voice. She's intently watching cartoons a small TV screen, Sean doesn't like it very much, but the TV keeps Lizzy distracted and happy for the half an hour drive between the Lizzy's daycare and home.

"Oh yeah?" he asks, a little louder. "What did you learn about teepees?"

"Indians used to live in them." Sean has been watching her in the review mirror, and sees that she hasn't taken her eyes off the screen yet.

Sean drives, and comes to a red light. "Well, what did you else did you learn about them?"

"They used to put feathers on headbands, we made those, too," she tells him, looking away from the screen briefly. "And the boys had one braid, and the girls had pigtails.

Fair enough, Sean thought. "Are there any Indians in your class?"

"Yeah," she said airily. She was watching the screen again. "Anoushka's an Indian."

Sean sighed, but didn't bother correcting her. He thought about pulling into the Spanish Villa strip mall's Barnes & Noble and getting Ali two books, one about Native Americans, one about India. But he's already passed it, and there are groceries in the car, and he promises to remember to do it tomorrow.

Christine, Ali and Lizzy have chicken, rice, and some frozen vegetable mishmash. Sean has salmon and asparagus from an aluminum tin with "The Zone" written on it in important looking letters. He likes to think eating the same twenty dishes for six months is working. Yet, he can't force himself to get on the scale and find out. It's supposed to work, supposed to change your metabolism and everybody said it works. The last thing he needs is to be unhappy with his body on a cellular level because it won't freaking give him an inch and do what it's supposed to.

He takes the first bite and tells it and his body and his cells and his metabolism to just work. And Christine makes the mistake of telling Ali to eat her vegetables.

She looks at her mother and continues pushing them around.

"Ali, honey, you know the rule. At least three bites."

Her nonchalant refusal does not bode well for Ali's adolescence Sean thinks. He knows that Christine has two choices, she can speak sharply, make a threat and Ali will begin to cry, or she can needle and prod and Ali can complain.

Sean tries. "Eat your veggies, Ali, and I'll have a present for you tomorrow." He'll get her those two books on the way home.

"Sean," Christine says his name like he's just given her a headache. "You can't promise her a present for something she's supposed to do every night."

He knows that. "I know, honey, but I was already planning to. If she just-"

"What kind of present?" Ali asks.

"Next time she'll just want to hold out to see if she'll get another present." She pushes her food around angrily on her plate.

"Christine." How big will this get? Will it last the night, and into tomorrow morning? "She can hold out all she likes next time, but-"

Ali interrupts, "Daddy, what kind of present?"

"You'll see, honey."

His wife looks at him severely. Great, great. Sean is fucked if he does and fucked if he doesn't. He looks back at his wife, unwilling to be either angry or regretful. "Just this once. Just this once, and I'll be the bad guy next time."

She does not explicitly forgive him, but she does not continue the fight.

After dinner Ali practices her flute, breathy, faltering notes that ignore any semblance of a beat, and Christine begins the epic struggle that is getting Lizzy to take a bath and get ready for bed. Sean cleans up the dishes and when he's done he feels like running. Not on the treadmill, he did that already today. Instead he imagines going out the front door, picking a direction and just running.

At one time, his body would have effortlessly obeyed the order. He remembers marathon training, the road passing steadily underneath his feet, his body working all the time, yet feeling strangely calm. Meditation through motion, he'd called it, and he feels like he's been motionless for far too long.

Christine comes down, ringing a wet corner of her blouse. She falls back into the couch, pulling her legs up and tucking her feet under Sean's thigh. "Lizzy's in bed, but I doubt she'll stay there for long."

Sean takes up the remote and turns on the TV. Tonight Dateline has stories about how your food may be giving you cancer, common household products that may be putting your family in danger, and a common medical malpractice that you should know about.

"Tag team, then?" he asks, and she nods.

Sean watches eating up the sparse facts, though he knows it fuels his anxiety. He still doesn't have all the answers, but at least he knows that farm raised salmon can have carcinogens in their food. He wonders vaguely about the salmon he had for dinner tonight, and decides he really should check that out. Lizzy does get up twice, Sean putting her back into bed first, then Christine. Ali takes her time getting ready for bed, but she's thankfully no trouble.

Everything seems almost fine until he and Christine go upstairs. She takes her make up off as Sean brushes his teeth. She changes clothes and Sean's eyes flit from the mirror to the smooth curves of her back. Her body is familiar to him, a well loved sight that he sees everyday. He finds himself fiercely longing to lose himself there the way he used to.

Christine sits on the bed, but does not turn out the light. "I could have handled the situation tonight without you bribing her. You could have backed me up and not made me into the bad guy, Sean."

Sean feels that he has been soundly kicked in the stomach again. Just once he wishes the end of a fight was really the end of a fight. Everything had to be hashed out three or four times before Christine was satisfied, he knew, but he wished it didn't have to. "Honey, I'm sorry."

"Then why did you do it, Sean?" She is not angry, really. She gets under the covers like she thinks this will be over soon, and when she fluffs the pillows there's no abnormal force. He feels put out, being so calmly and rationally chastised.

"I was already going to get her the books, Chris. I just thought it would get her to eat without all the fuss."

"All the fuss?" she scoffs. "All that fuss is called parenting. She's setting down her expectations of us now, you know. If she thinks we'll cave, she'll treat us like we'll cave."

"I'm not going to do it again, alright?" He climbs into bed finally and hopes that this is over.

She nods her head, and slides down further under the covers. "Thank you, that's all I ask. Goodnight, babe."

" 'Night."

The light goes out, and he touches her shoulder, sliding his hand down her arm. She makes a soft noise, but does not move. Sean lies back against his pillow and prepares himself for the two and a half hours it well take for his mind to slow down, for the desire to run as far and as fast as his sluggish body will let him to fade.

The next day is much the same except Sean meets with a casting director who initially seemed interested in him, but now seems to be second-guessing. He can't quite figure out what he did wrong, though he replays what he said over and over again in his mind until it begins to be distorted. He gives Ali the books after dinner, and he can tell she was expecting something else.

Still, he sits with her for more than an hour, going through each book, helping her to pronounce the names. When it's time for her to get ready to sleep, she stands up on the bed and bends down to smack a kiss on his mouth the way she used to when she was a toddler. Sean is momentarily overwhelmed by the unembarrassed, unencumbered, unconditional love of his daughter.

He goes downstairs and finds that Christine's hackles have been raised with the reminder of the offending gift, and they hash it out for a third time. Sean suddenly feels more firmly that he had done the right thing and when they go to bed that night, he resents his wife's familiar, but firmly aloof body.

The day after that is much the same and so is the next and the next until Sean can look back at the completed week and realize he had to fight every second of it. The next week is much the same, as the one that came before it. The month fares no better and Sean begins to realize that the light at the end of the tunnel is receding from him.

2 - Fic Index - Main