Bad Examples

This is a fictional story about the Party of Five characters created by Amy Lippman and Chris Keyser. This is set after "Party of Freud" (Season 5, Episode 16) and has events taken from later episodes. It is the first of a two-parter written by me, Emily Hudak. I did this as a creative writing entry for my English class. This story was written in February, 1999 and is my original plot, except for the events taken from the show.

"Hello? Anybody home?" Kirsten yelled into the Salinger home. Diana immediately started crying. "I'll take that as a yes," she mumbled to herself.

"Kirsten?" Bailey called from upstairs. "Is that you?"

"Yeah. Where are you guys?" she called back as she walked through the house looking for them.

"We're upstairs," Claudia yelled back. "In Diana's room."

Kirsten quickly bounded up the stairs and saw the whole clan gathered in the nursery that used to be Owen's room. "What's wrong? It's not time for her nap and it's too early for bedtime," she stated while glancing at her watch. "Is she ok?" Kirsten was worried about her surrogate daughter.

"Oh, she's fine, Kirsten. Don't worry," Julia reassured her. Kirsten breathed a sigh of relief. Julia, Griffin, Bailey, and Claudia were squeezed on the twin bed pushed into the corner of the nursery. Sarah was sitting in the antique rocking chair that had been in the Salinger family for years, rocking Diana. Charlie and Owen were sitting on the floor, playing Chutes and Ladders. "We were all home for once, so we decided to play a game with Owen. Or rather, watch Charlie play a game with Owen." She laughed. "And Diana was napping so we came in here. We were too comfortable to get out."

"So, what brings you all home?" she inquired.

"It's Griffin's birthday. A ripe ol' 22, right Griffin?" Bailey kidded his sister's soon-to-be-ex-husband. Even though they were to be divorced, Julia and Griffin still were a part of all the family's gatherings. He would always be a part of the family, no matter what happened to their marriage. They'd been through too much together.

"Oh, yeah," Griffin replied gruffly after a second. He had been staring at Julia the whole time. She gave him a nasty look.

"Happy birthday, Griffin. I had no idea." Sensing the tension in the room she changed the subject. "Well, anyway, I brought up the mail. Here, Charlie." She handed him a pile of bills. He smiled at her.

"Do I get some? Do I get some?" Owen asked eagerly.

"Hmm." Kirsten looked through the rest of the mail. "No, sorry, honey, none for you. However, there is something here for Claudia." She was about to hand the envelope to Claudia, but something on it caught her eye. "Oh. No, this is for Charlie. I thought it was for you, Claud, 'cause it had the school's address on it."

Claudia's face fell. "I'm gonna go—" she started.

"No you're not," Charlie contradicted. "Let's see what's going on here first." He looked at Julia, who shrugged her shoulders. He opened the letter as Claudia cringed. He looked it over for a minute before handing it over to Bailey and Julia to look at. "A C- in Algebra II?! That's your best subject! What happened?!"

Sarah stood up. "I'm, uh, gonna take Diana downstairs for..."

"...a bottle," Kirsten supplied. "I'll come with you." Sarah handed Diana to Kirsten. "Owen, Griffin, do you want to come with us?"

"Can I have some juice?" Owen asked.

"Sure, buddy," Griffin responded. "Come on." Sarah took Owen's hand and they quickly walked out of the room.

"O.K. I'm going to let you explain before I explode again," Charlie said reasonably.

"Well, um, o.k." Claudia took a deep breath. "When I got back from Andover, we had already done the stuff we were doing at Grant. So, I, uh, didn't pay attention much."

Charlie looked startled. Had she been skipping school again? After all they went through last year, could she ever do that again? "Claud, were you truant again?" he asked bluntly.

"Oh, no," she replied, astonished. "I can't believe you think that little of me. I would never skip like that again. No, I was there; I just didn't pay attention. When I realized I had no idea what I was doing, it was too late to get help, and I, uh, got a 71 on the final." She gave him a hopeful look. "How could you do that, Claud?" Bailey asked, disappointed in his bright little sister.

"What do you know? You practically flunked out!" She spat at him. As soon as the words came out of her mouth, she started crying hysterically.

"Shh, shh, it's ok," Julia hugged her to comfort her.

"Yeah, listen, Claud, just try to do better next semester, ok?" Bailey said pleadingly.

"Sorry, Claud, it's just that we expect more from you because you're the youngest and all. We just want you to excel, to do better than we did. We love you, Claud. Always remember that," Charlie said emotionally.

"Group hug!" Julia shouted.

They were all hugging as Kirsten, Sarah and Griffin walked into the room. Kirsten was cradling Diana in her arms and Sarah had Owen on her hip.

"So everything's cool here?" Sarah asked as she jiggled Owen on her hip.

Kirsten shifted Diana in her arms. "Looks that way."

"We've reached an agreement." Charlie smiled.

"Cool," Griffin said. "I'd hate to lose our star fiddle player." He grinned at Claudia.

She blushed. "Yeah, well..."

"O.K. Well, I think it's time for dinner," Julia called out good-naturedly.

"What should we order?" Bailey asked the group. "I'm voting for Chinese. How's-"

Owen cut him off. "Look!" He pointed out the window. "Snow!"

"Oh, my god," Sarah said as she let Owen down to go look out the window.

"Wow!" everyone chimed in as they crowded around the window.

"Oh, look!" Claudia exclaimed. "There's already about five inches on the ground!"

"It hasn't snowed in San Francisco in years!" Charlie burst out. "The last time it snowed was, like, 1983, right before Claud was born. Come on, Owe, let's pick up the game and then play out in the snow." Charlie and Owen picked up the game and left the room with Bailey, Sarah, Claudia and Griffin. Julia, Kirsten and Diana were left in the nursery. Julia looked incredibly ill.

"Julia, are you ok?" Kirsten asked, alarmed.

Julia looked like she was either going to faint or throw up. "Um, you know what? It's probably just a little bug or something. I'll stay away from Di until it's gone." She turned to leave.

"Uh, Jule, how do I say this? Um, I don't want to be rude, but is there a chance that this isn't just a bug?" she asked hesitantly.

Julia turned back around to face Kirsten. "What are you saying? Are you saying that you think that I'm pregnant?" Julia laughed nervously.

"So, the thought has crossed your mind. And?" Kirsten implored.

Julia sighed. "I am. I want to tell everyone, but there's a problem."

"What's that? Can you tell me?" Kirsten was doing her best to keep Julia calm, but inside she was a wreck. What if Julia had medical problems? How would that affect her and the family she felt a part of? She seemed calm, but she was really worried about Julia.

"Well, I went to the doctor's and found out that I was three and a half months pregnant." She paused.

"Wow. That far? Have you told anyone? Charlie?"

"I told Sarah. But no one else. I wouldn't tell Charlie until I told everyone else. He's not my guardian anymore. I don't have to tell him everything," she said defensively.

"But he's your brother. You're a family. Some things need to be told, especially happy things." Kirsten was saying the right things.

"Well, there's more to the story. I want this baby. But, I don't know if it's Ned or Griffin's."

"Oh." Kirsten looked uncomfortable. "Who's do you want it to be?"

"Well, I think that Griffin would be a better father than Ned," she said reasonably.

"So, you want your soon-to-be-ex-husband to be the father of your child instead of your current boyfriend. Interesting. Want to tell me why?" Kirsten sounded skeptical.

"I just think that Griffin could handle being a father better than Ned could, that's all, " she said innocently, clearly hiding something.

"Ok, well, I'm not going to push. Just do me a favor. Tell everyone while we're all here together, ok? To quote Claud, 'Why can't we all be together for the happy stuff for once?' " Kirsten smiled.

"Yeah, well, I was going to tell everyone tonight at dinner. I wanted everyone to know, including you. It's not like when I was sixteen. I'm three years older now, and I'm ready for the responsibility. I mean, I kind of practiced on Owen, didn't I?" Julia laughed. "No, really, Kirsten. I want to be a good mother. I don't think that I can be with Ned as the father." Now that Julia had her baby to think about, it was sinking in that Ned was hurting her. She was still blocking most of it out, but she knew she had to get away from him. "I think that it's Griffin's child, anyway. The timing's right." Julia had made up her mind.

"Well, I think that your attitude is very commendable. I just don't get where Ned fits into all of this. I'm worried, Jule. If something's wrong, tell someone, anyone. Do it for your safety and your baby's safety." Kirsten didn't want to see anything bad happen to Julia or her child.

"Thanks, Kirsten. I will. I enjoyed talking to you. Thanks again." Julia hurried out of the room.

Kirsten looked around. "Well, it looks like it's just you and me, honey," she said to Diana. What do you say we go downstairs and make hot cocoa for everyone?" Diana cooed. "That's what I thought," she said as she carried Diana out of the room.

Outside, Bailey was making a snowman with Owen. "That's it, Owe. Make the body really big."

Sarah, Charlie and Griffin were looking on. "He's great with him, isn't he?" Charlie commented. "He'll make a great father someday. I wish I had been that good with kids when I was that age because I got four of them a couple of years later." Charlie and Griffin laughed. Sarah was silent. "Sarah, did I say anything to offend you? I mean," Charlie looked ant Griffin, who shrugged his shoulders, "if me saying anything about him being a good father someday..."

Sarah cut him off. "Don't worry, Charlie. Everybody just keeps saying how we'll be great parents soon. I just...don't like how people just assume we'll have kids soon just because we're living together." Julia came outside in time to hear Sarah say this to them, and walked over toward them to talk to her best friend.

"Uh, Charlie, Griffin, can I talk to Sarah alone?" She gave them a look.

"O.K. Let's go see what Claud and Kirsten are up to," Charlie suggested to Griffin as they walked toward the house.

Julia took Sarah aside. "Sarah, what's going on?"

"Well, I thought I was pregnant and it turned out I wasn't so it kind of got to me. I was really hoping it was true," she said bluntly.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Sarah. Well, you know, it could happen anytime." Julia smiled.

"Yeah, we were gonna tell everyone tonight. Speaking of which..." Sarah trailed off.

"Don't start, Sarah, ok? I haven't I haven't told Griffin yet, so..."


"Hey, Owe? It's kind of cold out here. Let's go in," Bailey said. Julia went over and picked up Owen so that he wouldn't bother Bailey and Sarah.

Bailey held hands and walked slowly toward the house, while Julia put Owen down and raced him to the house.

When the four of them walked into the house, Griffin, Claudia, Charlie and Kirsten were sitting at the kitchen table drinking hot chocolate. "Hey, there you guys are," Charlie said. "I was about to come out and tell you to come in and warm up." Kirsten got up and handed mugs of hot chocolate to them and put Owen's on the table. Diana started crying. Charlie stood up. "She's wet. I'll be right back," he said as he went up the stairs to change her.

Julia, Sarah and Bailey pulled chairs up to the table. Owen tried to climb onto Claudia's lap.

"Owe, Owe, hold on!" Claudia laughed. "Let me put my hot cocoa on the table first!" She set her mug on the table and pulled Owen up onto her lap.

Charlie came down the stairs, sans Diana. "She fell asleep as soon as I put her down," he explained.

"So, dinner?" Claudia prompted.

"Well, we can't go out anywhere," Griffin stated.

"Why not?" Bailey asked.

"Because of the snow," he answered. He got blank looks from everyone. "No one in San Francisco has snow tires. I know I don't. We can't get through the storm if we don't have snow tires. That means we can't go anywhere."

"Oh." Charlie was disappointed. He had wanted to go to the restaurant for dinner. "Well, the only food we have here is soup and baby food. Claud and I were gonna go shopping tonight, right?"

"Yup." Just then, the doorbell rang. "I'll get it," she said. "Come on, Owe, let's get the door." They raced toward the door.

"Who could get through the snow?" Charlie wondered.

When Claudia opened the door, she stopped suddenly. "Oh, god," she whispered.

"Claud," Owen asked, "who is it?"

Claudia stood there motionless for a moment. "Um, come in. I'll call Charlie," Claudia said. "Charlie!" she called. "We've got company!"

Charlie came into the front hall. "Claud, what—" he stopped. "Oh, hello. We haven't seen you in a while. I thought you guys had forgotten about us," he said cordially.

"We could never forget about you guys. You're our most interesting case. We thought you'd enjoy a surprise visit." He was teasing them uncharacteristically.

"Well, you remember Claudia, right? What a dumb question of course you remember Claud," he fumbled. "Claud?" He looked at her expectantly.

"Hi," Claudia said sweetly, but sarcastically. "Have you come to separate my family again?"

Charlie gave her a look. "Claudia," he warned. "And, this big boy is Owen." Owen smiled.

"Wow. You've grown so much haven't you?" He spoke to Owen like he was a baby. Owen rolled his eyes.

"Come right this way," Charlie said. "The rest of the family's in the kitchen." When the four of them walked into the kitchen, Julia, Bailey, Griffin and Kirsten gave each other exasperated looks.

"Oh, god," Julia moaned.

"It's nice to see you, Julia, Bailey. And isn't this your husband, Julia?" The man looked toward Griffin.


Sarah was bewildered. "Who is this? How do you know him?"

"Uh, Sarah, this is..." Bailey started.

"Mr. Day, Department of Social Services."

Sarah's face hardened. "Are you the one who took Claud and Owen away when Charlie was in the hospital?"

Mr. Day ignored the comment and continued. "I hope you guys have cleaned up your act," he said disapprovingly.

"Yeah, I asked for cancer," Charlie said sarcastically.

"Well, let's see. Your brother is a recovering alcoholic. Your underage sister, who was your legal ward, got married without your permission. You neglected your youngest brother, who was barely old enough to be potty trained. And, your youngest sister was truant last year, without you even noticing. Cancer wasn't your only problem last year," he shot back.

Diana picked this time to wake up from her nap and started crying for her daddy.

"Is that your daughter, Charlie?" Mr. Day asked.

Everyone looked surprised. "They know about Diana?" Bailey asked.

"Yeah. I told them when I got custody from Daphne," Charlie explained.

"Will you go get the baby?"

"Oh, yeah." Charlie ran up the stairs, taking them two at a time. Owen followed him.

"Now, while Charlie's gone, I'll move on to you, Bailey. What's going on in your life?" he asked.

"Um, well, Sarah and I bought a loft south of Market, I still run Salingers', and I haven't fallen off the wagon. Other than that, it's been same old, same old." Bailey looked at Sarah lovingly.

"So, you're living with her? What's your relationship to her?" he asked accusingly.

"She's my girlfriend."

"So you're setting a bad example for your younger brother and sister by living with a woman who is not your wife. Is that correct?"

"Look, Sarah is just as much a part of this family as Griffin, and if you start..." Julia silenced him with a look.

"But it's not right to show a five year old that you don't believe in abstinence. When he gets older, he'll look back on this and make the wrong decision because of the example his older brother set for him. And what about Claudia?" he asked authoritatively.

Sarah was getting really mad. If only the social worker knew about all the hardships she and Bailey had endured. Did he know about how he'd cheated on her, or how he'd almost killed her? Did he know about how they'd loved each other the whole time he was seeing Annie? Did he know anything about what obstacles they'd had to get over to be where they were today? She had to say something.

"Look, I know you think that you know everything, but some things just aren't black and white!" she burst out.

"Sarah, honey, it's ok," he soothed her. "They don't know everything about our lives. He's just making a general statement." He turned to Mr. Day. "Now, look, Mr. Day, you already know that our family circumstances aren't the ordinary ones. We've had a lot to get through since our parents died, and I think we've done pretty well. I understand what you're saying. Owen may be young, but he's still a Salinger. And that means we're going to have to explain our mistakes to him someday when he's older. We have totally weird lives, and he knows that. He also knows that we're happy, and that makes him happy. So, we're just gonna leave it at that right now. And Claudia, on the other hand, is almost sixteen years old! She knows not to follow our examples unless we tell her to because she's lived our lives with us for the past five years and she knows how messed up our lives are. She knows what goes on in our lives, and is always learning from our mistakes. They can deal with this, and so can we, in our own way. I hope that's good enough for you," he said emotionally.

Claudia was sitting in her chair, exasperated. She was glad Bailey had stuck up for her. They were still adapting to her being mature enough to handle the big things in the family. They all, except for Charlie, treated her like she was still eleven, and not almost sixteen. It was so annoying! All she could think about was when their parents died and Julia was included in almost everything, at fifteen. And Bailey made all the decisions, at sixteen! She wasn't sure if they kept her out of things because they could handle it now, or if it was because they thought she couldn't handle it. It made her mad, whatever the reason. She felt like they didn't trust her, and that made her feel like she didn't belong in the family. She didn't like it one bit.

"Well, we'll see if it's enough. I've heard enough about your life, Bailey. Julia?" Julia looked up from her hot cocoa. "Your turn."

"Well," she looked at Griffin. "Since we last saw you, Griffin and I separated and I went back to school. That's it," she said.

"So, you're a freshman?" he asked.

"Yeah. At Stanford. I live in the dorms, but I come home a lot. I come home at least once a week to visit with the family. We try to get together for dinner twice a week, once at the restaurant and once here, for Owen." Julia thought that she made a good impression.

"O.K." He made a note on the papers. "Next? Claudia?"

Julia breathed a sigh of relief. Now no one would have to find out she was pregnant until she wanted them to. She wanted to tell them tonight, but after the social worker left. She was confused as to why he still came. Claudia was almost sixteen, practically an adult, and Owen could have been Charlie's kid! So why did they keep checking up on them? They had done a pretty good job of raising him up to now, so why not just leave it at that? Her thoughts were interrupted by Charlie and Owen trampling down the stairs. Charlie was holding Diana.

"Hey, what'd I miss?" Charlie asked as he sat down. He gave Diana to Kirsten.

"Well, Mr. Day was critiquing Sarah and my lifestyle. He said that we were setting a bad example for Owen and Claud. What do you think, Char?" Bailey asked for his big brother's opinion, hoping he was on his side.

"Bay, come on. I know that you and Sarah love each other, and I know how much you've gone through to be together. So, I think, considering the circumstances, that you're not setting any bad examples for Owen or Claud, who is fifteen, by the way. Owen doesn't know anything except that you two are happy together and that he's happy when he's with you. Isn't that what matters?" Charlie gave Mr. Day a victorious look.

"Well, any way, Claudia? What have you done in this past year?" Mr. Day was embarrassed, so he got back on topic. Before Claudia could answer, Mr. Day's cell phone rang. "Mm-hmm." Pause. "But-." Pause. "Oh, my." Pause. "I'll be right there." "O.k. Bye."

"You're leaving?" Griffin asked hopefully.

"Yes. I'm afraid we have an urgent case." He turned to Charlie. "Don't worry. I'll be back."

"Can you get out? It's really coming down out there," Charlie said politely.

"I'm from up north, so I have snow tires. I can get out easily," he explained.

"O.k. We'll see you later." He walked him to the door.

"Don't forget. I'll be back to finish this visit."

"How could I forget? We'll be waiting," he said as he descended the steps. He proceeded to watch him back out of the driveway. He shouted, "He's gone!"

"Finally," Claudia breathed a sigh of relief. "I thought I was going to get taken away from you again. I mean, when they find out that Owen ran away and everything, there'll be trouble. I'm sorry, Char, but you know what they did last time." Claudia was about to continue, but Owen cut her off.

"Will we get taken away because of me?" he asked in a small voice. "Did I do a bad thing?"

"No, honey," Claudia said as she leaned over to comfort him. "You had no way of knowing the big picture. But," she said, turning towards Charlie again, "last time I was babysitting, and the place was a mess, and they took us away! Why, Char? Why can't they realize that we need to stay together? Why don't they understand? Why?" Claudia was hysterically crying.

Charlie came over and held her as she cried. "Shh, shh, it's ok. You're not going to get taken away again. I won't let that happen. None of us will. Shh, shh."

She sniffled. "I'm sorry, Charlie. I guess I overreacted. I just don't want to see us separated, and for a minute there I thought that we would be. I'm sorry," she said sheepishly.

"We all have days when things upset us so much that we can't hold it in," Kirsten said. "We all understand that it's kind of scary when social services comes. We all get scared. No one wants to see this family broken up. You know that."

"Except for social services," Julia mumbled.

Claudia took a deep breath. "O.k. I feel better now. Sorry for the outburst," she apologized as she sat back down next to Julia.

Julia put her arm around her. "Are you sure?" she whispered.

"Mm-hmm," she assured her. "So, anyone up for dinner?"

"I'm starved," Griffin said. "But there's nothing in the house. That is, except for baby food and cans of soup."

"Yeah, well, there was a sale last week, so Claud and I bought, like, twenty of them, right, Claud?" Charlie grinned.

"O.K. So, let's make soup. Who wants what?" Kirsten asked. "Charlie?"

"Uh, everyone will probably just have their usual," he told her.

"Well, what are the 'usuals?' I don't live here, remember?" she reminded him. "I'm not always included in your little family dinners." She didn't say it rudely, she was just stating a fact.

"O.K.," Bailey said. "The usuals are: Charlie-Chili. Julia-Chicken Noodle. Griffin-Mushroom. Claudia-Vegetable. Sarah and I usually share Clam Chowder, and I think your favorite is Broccoli and Cheese."

"Wow, he's good," Kirsten said.

"But," Bailey continued, "I don't know what you want, Owe. What do you want?" he teased Owen.

"Chili, like Charlie!"

"O.K." He pulled the cans of soup out of the cabinet and winked at Sarah. She followed him outside. "I'm sorry that you're so upset about not being pregnant. I know how much you wanted that baby."

She looked at Owen's snowman. "Our baby would've had a good life with us, right?"

"Yeah," he assured her. "We'd love it, and my family would love it, and that'll be enough. My family loves anything that hasn't had to live through the awful last couple of years." He laughed.

"Yeah, it would have been just been you, me, our baby, and your humongous family! I love it! Too bad." Sarah sighed.

Bailey laughed again, and then grew serious. He was thinking about Owen. "How do you think that he would take it, if we ever did have a baby? He freaked out when Diana was born. Do you think he'd feel the same way about a baby of ours?" Bailey was really worried about the littlest Salinger, especially because he secretly wanted custody of Owen. Charlie had Diana and Claudia to worry about. And Claudia could be a handful, like Julia was at that age. But Charlie was too preoccupied with Diana and Owen to pay an adequate amount of attention to her. So, Bailey could have Owen, and Charlie could do better with Claudia and Diana. It seemed like a logical solution.

"I think he'd be fine, if we still paid a good amount of attention to him," she reasoned. She didn't want Owen to complicate things. She loved him, a lot. But, she didn't want to focus on him totally, and not her and their baby that they wanted so much. Owen may be only five, but he was the whole family's responsibility, not just Bailey's. Charlie was Owen's guardian, and like his father. But, Sarah knew that Bailey needed to take care of his loved ones. She just hoped that it wouldn't make trouble for them.

Just then, Kirsten walked out. "Brr. It's cold out here. Listen, guys, your soup's ready. I'll warm it up for you when you're ready to come in." She stood there, staring at them for a second. They were so deeply in love. Why couldn't she and Charlie have that? Did he even know how much she loved him? She didn't know. She hoped that they could get past Daphne and her divorce and all the stuff that had pulled them apart. One good thing though, was that Daphne had given them Diana. Kirsten would always be grateful for that. She wanted Charlie back, not just as friends, but as more. If only they could get over it all to be together. God, she hoped so. She shook her thoughts out of her mind. She saw a secret look between Sarah and Bailey. "You two look like you've been conspiring. What's going on?" she teased.

"You'll find out with everyone else," Bailey said with a grin. Sarah and Bailey held hands as the three of them laughed and walked toward the house.