The Good Life

Written by Amy E

Set 4 years in the future

"Good morning" Kirsten sang as she came downstairs to start breakfast.

"Sleep well did you?" countered Charlie. Claudia gave them a look that said, I don't wanna hear it.

"Did Andrew wake up last night? I didn't hear him." Kirsten asked.

"Yeah, I was already up. So I took care of him. Wet diaper, that's all." Charlie replied.

They had to keep track of how much and when Andrew slept, ate, and drank, though he was four months old. It was a wonder that he was as healthy as he was, being a drug baby. The first three months of his life he lived with foster parents trained to wean drug babies, and then he came to Charlie and Kirsten. They named him Andrew Paul in memory of Kirsten's first husband, who was killed in a plane crash two years ago.

It was hard for her awhile after the crash. Charlie was worried she'd drag back down into a depression, but he was there to help her fight through it; and now they were married with a baby, a toddler, an elementary schooler, and a senior in high school. Everybody's life was falling into place. Charlie had made peace with Kirsten's parents; Bailey and Sarah were getting married in a month; Claudia was getting ready to go to USC in the fall - full scholarship, even residence; Owen was doing well, in school and socially; Emily had accepted Kirsten as mommy even though she regularly saw her real mother. The only worry Charlie had, other than the adoption, was Julia. She was a junior at Stanford, still living in the shed and still married to Griffin. If you could call it a marriage. He looked out the window at the bright sunlight. Life is good, he sighed.

"Hey Charlie!" Kirsten waved her hand in front of his face, "are you done daydreaming?" He smiled at her. She looked at him, concerned. "You've been nodding off alot lately; you okay?" she asked.

"Yeah, I just haven't been sleeping well lately." he replied.

"You're not having night sweats or getting sick are you?"

"Kirsten, I'm fine. I've just got alot on my mind right now. I'm fine." He repeated. She was always worried even when he got a cold. Nothing compared to Claudia though. She always went overboard hovering over him. Probably always would.

"Do you want Emily up or should I let her sleep?" he asked.

"Let her sleep. I'll be dragging her all over this afternoon with Claudia; we're looking for Prom & Graduation dresses; & she probably won't get her afternoon nap in. Since she's going to Daphne's tonight, shell need all the rest she can get." Charlie chuckled, knowing how Emily usually returns from Daphne's exhausted.

"Don't forget to remind Kevin about the picnic tomorrow!" Kirsten yelled after Charlie on his way out.

Bailey/Sarah's
"Sarah! Calm down. We've got a month to go before the wedding."

"I know Bailey, but finals are here....and I'm worried that the wedding isn't going to fall together in time."

"Your mom is taking care of the wedding stuff along with Miz Sheila, or whatever her name is, from that wedding place."

Sarah looked at him exasperated, "It's Ms. Shindle and her business is 'Wedded Bliss'.

Bailey waved his hand, "Whatever. You are supposed to concentrate on finals. They're important."

"Oh, and our wedding's not?" she asked.

"That's not what I meant." Bailey replied. "Your mother and Kirsten and I are taking care of everything. We've been over the plans several times."

"I know Bailey, but I've been planning for this wedding for the longest time, since we were in high school. I just want everything to be perfect."

He smoothed her hair back from her face. "You know we could be married with a JP and it would still be perfect to me. You make it perfect." Sarah's face melted with love and they kissed long and deep.

"Um, I've gotta get to work. I've got several stops to make on the way." Bailey pulled away from Sarah uncomfortably. She looked at him with a question in her eyes. What's wrong? she wondered. Bailey bolted from the apartment.

Sarah was sure she said or did something wrong.

Mall
Kirsten & Claudia were shopping for dresses. The mall was extremely crowded for a Friday afternoon, it seemed like everyone and their mother was shopping for Prom. As they went from shop to shop, Claudia explained to Kristen the type of dress she wanted to get.

"I don't know Claud," Kirsten frowned, "I'm not sure that dress is you." Claudia had found what she considered the 'perfect' dress. "I mean I know you're growing up, but that diamond cut in the middle is really too risque for a Prom. It looks more like something a model would wear down a Paris runway."

"Come on Kirsten, please!" This is comfortable and fun and the deep purple is perfect for my coloring!" Claudia pleaded.

"Think of it this way," Kirsten countered. "What would your brother've said to a woman in that dress at his Prom?" Claudia looked at the dress forlornly and hung it back up. They ended up deciding upon a deep purple slip style dress. Kirsten compromised by letting the dressmaker slit the side to above the knee.

Afterwards Kirsten gave her a big hug and she treated her to lunch at the English Tea Room.

Bay Memorial Park
Charlie & Kirsten, along with Owen & baby Andrew were having their annual remission picnic with Kevin, his wife Janet, and their secretary Robin. It was a beautiful spring day, about 70 degrees. Not a cloud in the sky.

Robin was new to the business, so Kevin & Charlie were explaining how they got started. The wives had heard these stories before; they seemed to get bigger each year, so they unpacked and talked amongst themselves. Janet asked where Emily was and Kirsten explained that it was her week-end with Daphne. They looked over at the guys who've got poor Robin snowed with their stories.

Janet let on that she is pregnant. About 3 months, she said.

"Oh that is so wonderful! I'll bet Kevin is just ecstatic," Kirsten gasped.

"I hope our news doesn't upset you," Janet responded.

"Oh no. I've got two wonderful children and a brother & sister-in-law that I've had a hand in raising. After all this family's been through, I've learned to be happy with what the Lord gives you and not dwell about what or why he lets certain things happen." The sun shined even brighter for the rest of their picnic.

Later that evening as everyone was packing, Kevin talked to Janet about how exhausted Charlie's been at work. "Did Kirsten say anything to you?" He asked.

Janet shook her head "She just mentioned that with all the stress they've been under lately that he's not been sleeping well; you know, the wedding, Claudia's going away, the adoptionů.." When's his check-up? Do you know?" she asked.

"In two weeks I think he said. I'm sure he'd tell us if anything was wrong."

Mall
Another Sunday arrived and with less than four weeks before the wedding, Sarah, Kirsten & Julia were shopping for a few last minute wedding items.

"20 more days, not counting today." Sarah mumbled.

"What?" asked Julia

"She's counting the days before the wedding," Kirsten informed Julia

"I think every bride-to-be does that." Julia sighed wistfully, "I was married so spur of the moment, that I didn't." Julia looks around the 'Wedded Bliss' store. It's filled with everything a bride could imagine - for the engagement, wedding, honeymoon. "This so reminds me of when Charlie gave Griffin & I that beautiful wedding at the house."

"I know I couldn't be there for you then Julia, but I'm here for you now if you want to talk." Kirsten told her.

"Thanks Kirsten, I'm okay. My marriage isn't great, I wouldn't even say it's good, but being married does keep the guys at bay." Julia replied. "There are so many things I wish I could change about our marriage, but I think it's too late."

Kirsten asked why she continued being married.

"I don't know. Because we've been married for four years and it feels comfortable I guess. I can't think of what my life would be like without the coldness, the tension.

"Happy, maybe", Sarah cut in.

"But its not always like that", "I love falling asleep next to Griffin and having him there when I wake up in the morning. Sometimes we talk and laugh and giggle like when we were dating." They stopped into front of a kitchen accessories store and looked through the front window. Julia turned to Sarah. "I'm sorry. I shouldn't be going on about how confused our marriage is. I know you & Bailey will be perfect together, you have always belonged together. Just like with Charlie and Kirsten, there's something about the two of you that just clicks. Like you're one half of each other.

"Hmmm, that sounds nice, Can I use that for my vows?"

Julia smiled. "You're writing your own vows?

Sarah shrugged. "Maybe, we've talked about it. But you know Bailey. He doesn't think he can put anything into words."

"Can you just see Bailey sitting down to write his own vows?!" Julia excliams. All three laughed. They moved onto 'Frederick's of Hollywood', teasing Sarah about the honeymoon.

Salingers' Restaurant
Charlie & Bailey were talking about the upcoming wedding while getting ready to open the restaurant. "You seem a little tense Bai. Worried about that wedding night?" Charlie joked. Bailey didn't laugh.

"No, actually I'm worried about what might happen before the wedding night." As he started putting down the wine glasses.

"You wanna talk about it?" Charlie asked.

"Well you know Sarah & I, we've never...." he lowered his voice to a whisper even though noone else was in the room. "We've never actually, you know, made love."

Charlie lowered his voice in response. "Why? I thought you two were two all the way for several years. At least since you started living together."

"No, first she wanted only to be friends, then I got involved with Annie. When we decided it was time, I backed down. I knew how she felt about going all the way and I didn't want to make her feel obligated. I think at first she appreciated that...."

Charlie broke in "and that made her love you more."

"Yeah, well now as the wedding approaches I'd rather wait but I get the impression she doesn't."

"Why don't you just talk to her about it. Tell her what you feel. Maybe after talking you'll both feel the same, maybe you won't. But I tell you Bai from experience, if you don't tell the woman you love what you're feeling or thinking, it could backfire."

"You think I should?" Bailey asked. Charlie nodded.

Coffee house
Julia & Sarah had finished shopping and stopped at an Arabica coffee house before going home. It was surprisingly quiet. This particular coffee house specialized in classical music to help its clients calm down after a hectic day at work. Kirsten had leave to pick up the kids from her mother, who moved to town to be near her daughter and grandchildren.

"I'm worried, Julia."

"Wedding nerves?" Julia questioned.

"No, I think there's something going on with Bailey and he won't tell me what it is." Sarah replied.

Julia shook her head. "You have to get him to talk Sarah. That's where most of Griffins & my problems originated. He didn't tell me any of the problems he was having with the shop and I was too worried about Charlie at the time to pay attention to the signs."

"I don't know if I should be telling his sister this, but the problem is our being together." Sarah confided.

"Together, as in...?" Julia asked.

"Well, not quite that. You see, each time we start to kiss deeply or go further he stops. Then he makes up some lame excuse and runs away. I'm worried that I don't, or wont, satisfy him."

Julia shook her head. "You, not satisfy Bailey? I don't think you have to worry about that Sarah. It's just wedding night nerves. Maybe he's afraid of what you'll think about him or his performance."

"You think?"

Julia blushed then exclaimed, "God, I can't believe I'm having this conversation about my brother."

"Promise me you won't tell him?" Sarah asked.

"Of course not! Besides I'm looking forward to confusing him when he walks into a room and we stop talking because the conversation's about him. But try to get him to talk Sarah. I, out of anyone, know the value of keeping conversation going."

"Why don't you try to work things out with Griffin?"

"I suppose we could, it just gets harder. You get more lazy. I've got one more year of school and I think then maybe things won't be so bad. Were both willing to let sleeping dogs lie for now. We've had counseling before and though we did have a brief period of extreme happiness, the counseling was very hard and hurtful; for both of us."

Salinger house
"Daddy! I'm here!" cried Emily as she came in the house. Charlie was laying down in the bedroom, wiped out from a long week of meetings and his annual check-up. Emily bounced on the bed. "I painned for you!" she shrieked. "Mommy says you tired; my picur make you all better." She laid the picture down on his stomach and laid down next to him putting her face right up to his. Kirsten walked in.

"Come on honey, daddy's tired. You can help me start dinner." She pulled Emily off the bed. "You okay Char?" she asked as she pushed the little girl from the room. Charlie yawned

"Yeah. Kevin schedules these meetings with new clients and they always want to meet the concept man and the hardware designer. I hate meetings, that's not me. I wish .."

"What? "

"Nothing", Charlie replied. "Never mind."

"Okay, I'll let you rest for awhile." Kirsten said. "I'll call you when its time for dinner. Andrew's napping so he shouldn't bother you."

Holbrook cottage
"Hey what's this?" Griffin asked as he came home from work. Julia's got the dinner table set w/formal dinnerware and candlelight. "Candlelight dinner, you dressed in something slinky; you gonna ask for a divorce?"

"God Griffin, can't I do something nice, without you having to make a remark?" asked a crushed Julia.

"I'm sorry. I just never know where I stand with you."

"I know." Julia replied, "and part of that's my fault." "How 'bout if I go back out the door and walk back in - start over?" Julia shrugged.

Griffin bounded out the door, waited a few seconds, and slunk in, tiredly. "Man, what a day." He took off his coat. "Whoa, what's going on here?"

"Dinner" Julia replied.

"Yeah? Well it and you look great." They stood there awkwardly for a few moments then proceeded to sit down. Griffin stepped in front of Julia and pulled out her chair. Julia smiled. "I love your smile. It lights up every room." Julia thanked him. It's a good start to a nice evening and perhaps a new beginning.

Bailey/Sarah's
Bailey and Sarah were watching An Officer and a Gentleman. "Man that scene really gets me." Bailey said.

"Which one?"

"The one where they're in the hotel room in bed. How can anyone film such a graphic scene?" Sarah decides this will be a good place to take a leap.

"It makes me kinda horny." She states boldly.

"What? How can you say....what do you know about that?" Bailey replied.

"Just because I'm a virgin doesn't mean I don't have hormones Bailey. Sometimes I watch you do things around the apartment and I just want to attack you."

"What!?" asked an astonished Bailey.

"And you know what keeps holding me back from attacking you? You," continued Sarah.

"Me?"

"Yeah. You." She nodded. "You've been kind of closed off lately. Like everytime we start something you don't want to finish it. Do you know how that makes me feel?"

"Come on Sarah. You know why I never finish making love to you". Replied Bailey.

"No, actually I don't Bailey." Sarah said, sounding frustrated. "I feel like I'm lacking in someway. Like maybe you don't want to be bothered with teaching a virgin."

Bailey broke in, "That's enough Sarah. I've been holding back because you had told me a long time ago that you wanted to wait until your wedding night. I respect your wishes. I know your hormones are going nuts. Mine are shot. I always break off because I know I won't be able to stop and you probably wouldn't either. Our wedding night is special and I want it to last forever, make it memorable," he paused.

"So in other words you're thinking about me? Sarah asked.

"Of course, always. I love you. "As long as you're not disappointed." She chuckled as she grabbed his shirt.

"Never!" exulted a relieved Bailey.

Salingers' Restaurant
Kirsten had called everyone earlier in the week to join them for a mid-week meal at the restaurant. Normally they went on Sunday, but Kirsten asked them to come Wednesday.

"Hey what's up?" Bailey asked as he and Sarah sat down. They were the first to arrive. It was Bailey's day off from the restaurant and he wouldn't be there tonight except family always came first with Bailey.

"Why don't we wait for everyone else to arrive?" Charlie said. Since they no longer fit into a booth they got one large table with Charlie at the head and Bailey at the other end. Kirsten sat next to Charlie with Andrew in his pumpkin seat next to her. Emily was on Charlie's other side.

"We're here. No thanks to Owen" Claudia said breathlessly as they came in.

"Hey - it's not my fault!" yelled Owen. I didn't throw my uniform in the mud! Mick did it!"

Kirsten asked what happened.

"Owen & Mick decided to have a little mud soccer, that's what." Explained Claudia. "First they threw the balls in the mud, then their shin guards. Then it got out of hand and started throwing in the cones and jackets and anything else they could find, including their school clothes." Bailey shook his head and chuckled. Owen was a lot like him.

"Okay then, Owen, you can wash your stuff when we get home, including your clothes." Reproaches Kirsten. Owen slunk down next to Bailey across from Sarah while Claudia sat next to him. Just then Julia came in with Griffin.

"Hey guess who made it tonight?!" Julia exclaimed.

"Griffin it's good to see you." acknowledged Charlie.

"Yes, we've really missed you at our family dinners lately." Said Kirsten. "Sit here." She patted the chair next to her.

"So, what's going on?" asked Julia.

"Yeah, you never answered my question." Replied Bailey.

"We thought that this might be the last family dinner for awhile, maybe a year," Kirsten responded. She looked at Griffin. "That's why its so great everyone could make it."

"Why that long? I don't get it." Claudia asked "I mean, no one's going anywhere, right? Charlie? Julia?"

Charlie answered "No. It's just that Sarah's finishing up school - which means lots of finals & studying. Right after that is the wedding and then a month long honeymoon. Shortly after that Claudia'll be going away to college. When will we really be able to get together for a nice relaxing dinner?"

"Besides," Kirsten grabbed Charlie's hand, "we have some good news. First, Charlie's in the clear for another year and, most important, the adoption is proceeding smoothly. We got official word that both of Andrew's biological parents have signed the adoption release and parental rights forms. Soon he'll officially be Andrew Paul Salinger. Right sweetie?" She looked down and smiled at the baby. He laughed back.

"Everyone, Andrew just laughed! That's the first time! They all came over to coo at the newest Salinger. Claudia looked around at the table, thinking This is good. Life is good.