Oh, The Places You'll Go

Growing Pains

Notes: I asked people to give me years from my Lost and Found 'verse and in return I promised snippets. slidellra sneaked in there with two - but I'm powerless to resist her. So here this is.

Even Ray's Ma had to admit it, Frannie glowed. She glowed through the ceremony at the church, she glowed through the crazy family feast afterwards and she glowed now, walking up and down in a dimly-lit room, singing soft lullabies to the tiny baby that lolled on her shoulder.

Ray leaned against the door frame watching her. How had this happened? How had his baby sister, the kid who'd followed him everywhere nagging to be allowed to join in, the teenager who'd run off with the first man that showed an interest, the woman who'd cast about for something, anything to give her life direction, how had she gotten here — trained police officer and mother? If Ray was to give it much thought, he wouldn't have been able to decide which freaked him out more — the fact that they paid Frannie to have a gun or the fact that some donor bank had let Frannie have some sperm. For free.

Ma had gone through the roof when Frannie blurted out her news over the dinner table one Friday night. Did the whole nine yards about shame and dishonor and what would your Papa say Frannie and didn't that open a can of worms? Somehow Ray had steered Frannie out onto the porch, still yelling and had taken her by the shoulders, looked deep in her eyes and asked her if this was going to make her happy. She'd sobbed and said yes, yes it will. And she'd stroked her barely swollen belly with such tenderness that it made Ray want to cry. But he was out in front of the neighbors so he pushed it down, tugged Frannie to him, dropped a kiss on her head and told her he was on her side.

And now here was Angelo, ten tiny fingers, ten tiny toes, and it turned out that he was the love of Frannie's life. None of those men she'd chased with the tenacity of a bloodhound even came close. It was in the way she held him, the way she crooned, the secret smile she shared with him, the stories she whispered in his ear. It filled Ray with pride and it emptied him out with loneliness.

Frannie looked up at him and smiled, Angelo turning his head to snuffle into her neck. It was the perfect tableau — Madonna and Child — and Ray wanted it. He wanted to want it. This normal family life: a wife and a child to come home to at the end of every day, church on Sundays and a vacation in Florida every year. It was everything he'd ever wanted. Everything he was supposed to want. But at night, when he closed his eyes, he saw what he needed. And that wasn't normal at all. Not in his neighborhood. Not in his family.

"You know, Ray, the Catholic Church sucks," Frannie whispered.

"Because I couldn't stand up for you?"

"Because they're a bunch of narrow-minded bigots."

"You want to teach your son that language?" Ray shrugged. "They don't like divorce, so what's new?"

"That's not all they don't like," Frannie eyed him shrewdly and Ray had the weird sensation of being undressed. By his sister. Which was. No. Change the channel.

"They're not too hot on single moms either," she continued. "But I don't care. I have Angelo and he's all I need."

"Apart from Mike."

"Maybe. I'm just saying, Ray, that making the decision to have Angelo on my own? It was hard but it was the right choice. The best choice. And you were there for me. You still are. Standing up by a font has nothing to do with it. I wanted you to know I'm here for you too. If ever you need ..."

Ray couldnít help but wonder if post-natal hormones came with the added side effect of perspicacity.

"You're a good woman, Francesca Vecchio," said Ray, pushing himself upright. "Don't tell anyone I said so."

He sauntered over, carefully casual, and dropped a kiss on the baby's sweet-smelling head and another on Frannie's warm cheek.

"I think I'll go get some air," he said, casting one last look over the pair of them.

Angelo was warm and safe in Frannie's arms. And Frannie? She had what she wanted, what she needed, but it hadn't come easy. She was a brave woman, his sister. Ray should maybe follow her example, stop hiding, take a chance and be brave too. Yeah, maybe. Tomorrow.

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