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In This Life

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JACK is standing at the door, trying to work up the nerve to knock on the door. After the last fight with JENNIFER, he isn't even sure anymore if she'd still want him here at ABBY'S party.

BILL walks up the porch and sees JACK standing there.

BILL: Jack?

JACK: (startled) Oh hello, Dr. Horton.

BILL: (laughing slightly) Do you plan on standing here all day?

JACK is embarrassed.

JACK: Uh, no, I... thought I should wait a bit longer and be fashionably late...

BILL laughs again and pats JACK on the shoulder.

BILL: Well I wouldn't be too much longer or there won't be any cake left for you.

JACK: (forcing a smile) In that case, perhaps I've let enough time pass now-

Before he can finish the sentence, JENNIFER opens the door.

JENNIFER: I thought I heard voices-

JENNIFER sees JACK and they look at each other, both feeling awkward about seeing each other for the first time since their fight over ABBY. BILL notices the tension and tries to ease it.

BILL: Well are you going to let us in, Jennifer Rose?

JENNIFER: (laughing sheepishly) I'm sorry, Daddy, of course you can come in... (kisses him on the cheek) I'm glad you could make it. I thought you were heading back to Capetown today?

BILL: I switched to a later flight tonight. I was not going to miss my granddaughter's birthday...

As he is talking, JACK and JENNIFER are looking at each other, both trying to think of the right thing to say to each other. BILL breaks the tense silence.

BILL: (clears throat) So, I hear children frolicking in the backyard--I guess the party's that way, huh?

JENNIFER: (still looking at JACK) Uh... yeah, Dad, they're all back there... (after a few moments, she realizes she's been looking at him; she gets embarrassed and finally breaks eye contact) They're about to break open the piņata...

BILL goes and leaves them alone.

JENNIFER: (aware of the awkwardness of the moment) Abby's been waiting for you.

JACK follows her as they walk towards the backyard and all the while he is trying to think of what to say. The last thing he wants is to ruin ABBY'S birthday by fighting with her.

JACK: So... how's the birthday girl?

He immediately wonders why he said something that stupid. JENNIFER is amused at his nervousness and feels a little more at ease because of it.

JENNIFER points out the window that looks out into the backyard. ABBY is outside along with Will, Brady, Belle, and a few other children. She is blind-folded and getting ready to hit the piņata but is being given conflicting directions by her friends.

JENNIFER: (smiling as she watches her daughter) She's having the time of her life... I'm just so glad we were able to pull this off in such a short time period. (turns to look at JACK) I wanted her to have a good birthday.

JACK: (softly, without taking his eyes off ABBY) It looks like she will...

JENNIFER: Jack... Look, about the other day-

JACK: Uh, Jennifer... maybe it's best not to bring up the subject again right now, don't you think? It's Abigail's day and I certainly don't want to spoil it.

JENNIFER: I wasn't going to going to start a fight with you... (pauses to think of the right way to say this) I just... I was going to say that I'm sorry. I said some things I shouldn't have said... I really didn't mean for us to get in a fight like we did-

JACK: Wait a minute--are you... are you actually apologizing?

JENNIFER: (with a smirk) Pick your jaw up off the floor Jack--I am capable of saying I'm sorry, you know.

JACK: (can't resist gloating) Well, not to rub it in, but I think I want to mark this date in my palm pilot. It's quite a momentous occasion-

JENNIFER hits him soundly on his arm before he can finish his sentence.

JENNIFER: Jack! You keep talking like that and this cease fire is over!

JACK: I didn't realize we had a cease fire.

JENNIFER: Well, we do. (beat) We don't want to spoil Abby's day, remember?

JACK: No... No we don't...

They continue to look at each other, until finally JENNIFER breaks the silence again.

JENNIFER: Good, I'm glad we agree on that. We'll have plenty of time to talk about things later...

JENNIFER turns to go outside, but JACK stops her.

JACK: Jennifer?

JENNIFER: Jack--she's waiting for us...

JACK: Yes, I know, I just... wanted to thank you.

JENNIFER: (smiling) You're welcome, Jack. Now what do you say we go out there and throw our daughter the best party she's ever had?

JACK: Complete with a pony-

JENNIFER: Don't start, Jack...

They step out into the backyard to join the party.



ABBY'S party has ended. ABBY and ALICE have both gone to bed, and JACK and JENNIFER are cleaning up in the backyard. As they are cleaning, JENNIFER keeps sneaking glances at JACK, who is oblivious.

JENNIFER: Okay, you can go ahead and gloat.

JACK: (has no idea what she means) Excuse me?

JENNIFER: (rolling her eyes) Are you going to make me say it again?

JACK: (he thinks he knows what she's talking about, but enjoys watching her squirm) Was there something in particular you wanted me to gloat about?

JENNIFER: The pony, all right, Jack? You were... right about the pony. She loved it. (beat) And she loved you for remembering.

JACK: Well... I figure before we know it she's going to be this teenager who thinks all we do is embarrass her. I just thought I should indulge her while I can.

He continues to pick up paper plates that are strewn about.

JACK: (muttering) I'm going to kill Vern for running out before he could help with this...

JENNIFER: (overhearing) Oh Jack, don't you think he did enough by actually bringing the pony over here? I wasn't about to ask him to clean up too...

JENNIFER continues to watch him, worried that he looks even more run-down than he did the other day, and wondering if he may be pushing himself.

JACK: (eventually realizing she is looking at him) Is something wrong?

JENNIFER: No, it's just that... you look a little tired, Jack. I can finish up here, maybe you should just go upstairs and check on Abby-

JACK: (cutting her off) I'm fine.

JENNIFER: Are you sure?

JACK: Yes, I'm sure.

JENNIFER: Okay, because if-

JACK: (firmly) Jennifer, I'm fine! (regrets snapping at her) I'm sorry... I'm sorry, I didn't mean to...

JENNIFER: (softly) It's all right...

JACK: (trying to make as little a deal of this as possible) I am a little peaked. I had forgotten that running after children under the age of eight tends to take the wind out of one's sails...

JENNIFER isn't really convinced by what he just said, but doesn't say anything.

JACK: Jennifer?

JENNIFER: Yeah, Jack?

JACK: Thank you. Again. Thank you for letting me be a part of this. I certainly didn't want to miss it.

JENNIFER: (smiles) I'm glad you could come, Jack. I wasn't sure if you were going to be here at all- (she stops herself, realizing she said that all wrong) I'm sorry, that... that didn't come out the right way-

JACK: (knowing exactly what she meant) No, don't apologize. You simply said what you felt. (beat) I'm glad I know where I stand now. (goes back to cleaning to avoid looking at her)

JENNIFER: Jack, I didn't mean-

JACK: Yes, you did.

JENNIFER feels guilty for saying all the wrong things again. She doesn't want to keep hurting him, but she keeps finding herself acting on all the resentment she's bottled up in the last few months.

JACK: (quietly, surprising JENNIFER) You're still going to keep full custody of her, aren't you?

JENNIFER: (wishing she didn't have to hurt him this way) Jack, one party isn't going to undo the last six months. Showing up with a pony and being her hero for the day isn't going to change the fact that you barely saw her in all that time, and that you have a habit of leaving just when she thinks you're finally here to stay-

JACK: (clearly in pain over what she is saying) That is not fair, Jennifer.

JENNIFER: Isn't it? (her pain is evident now too) The truth hurts, doesn't it, Jack? But you never could take the truth, could you?

JACK: The truth is I am here now. The truth is I am never leaving her again-

JENNIFER: And how do you expect me to believe that after all the other times you said it, and then turned around and broke those promises? (beat) Do you have any idea how it would break my heart every time she would ask me if you still loved her when you were gone? Do you know what it is like to see your daughter crying because she misses her father so much, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it?

JACK: (softly) I never meant to hurt her, Jennifer-

JENNIFER: Do you notice how you seem to say that all the time, Jack? No, you never mean to hurt us. But you know what? You do. It hurts when you do this. It hurts when you walk away, and when you shut us out. I have stood by you through everything, Jack--everything! And I would have continued to do it, too, because I know no matter how many times you hurt me, I am always going to love you and I am always going to come running back to you. But our daughter deserves better than that!

JACK: Don't you think I know that?? That's why I'm here now! I want to be there for her now!

JENNIFER: Why now, Jack?! What's different about now?

JACK: (doesn't want to tell her, tries to avoid the issue) Does it matter why? All that matters is that I am not going anywhere-

JENNIFER: Why should I believe you'll stick around this time and not disappear again when we least expect it?

JACK: Because...


JACK: Because-

JENNIFER: Because what, Jack?

JACK: (he becomes flustered, and blurts it out) Because I could be dying, all right!!

JENNIFER is in shock, and JACK instantly regrets telling her when he sees her reaction.

JACK: (softly) I... I could be dying, Jennifer...


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