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In This Life

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EPISODE 7

SCENE 1

EXT. HORTON BACKYARD - EVENING (SAME DAY AS EPISODE 6)

JACK has just told JENNIFER the truth about him being sick. JENNIFER is in complete shock and doesn't want to believe what she just heard.

JENNIFER: (barely audible) What... what did you just say to me?

JACK: (murmuring) I could be dying...

JENNIFER is in denial. She is grasping at straws for any kind of explanation because she can not accept this reality.

JENNIFER: You son of a... How can you make something like this up? What kind of a person are you-

She comes to where he is and raises her arms to hit him, but he grabs her wrists and pulls her towards him, then wraps his arms around her. JENNIFER is shaking violently in his arms.

JENNIFER: (sobbing now, her words are almost incoherent) How can you even say something like that? How can you even...

JACK: Stop it... Jennifer, please... stop it...

JENNIFER: I don't understand... You can't be telling me the truth--you're just saying this to get Abby-

JACK: (knowing how much it must hurt her to hear this) No... No, you know I would never make something like this up to get Abigail...

JENNIFER: Jack, you've thought this before--I mean you thought you were dying before and it was just a-

JACK: It's not a lab mix up this time, Jennifer. This is real. (beat) It's real and it's not going to go away no matter how much... how much I want it to...

JENNIFER: Jack-

JACK: Listen to me--I didn't want you to find out this way, all right? I didn't...

He has tears in his eyes now too, but he does not want to cry in front of her so he is trying to maintain his composure.

JACK: Do you remember last Christmas? All three of us got the flu, remember? We were knocked out for days and we couldn't get out of bed... And you remember how even after you and Abigail were up and about, how I just couldn't seem to shake that bug? Two, three weeks later, I was still coughing and feeling run-down...

JENNIFER: I remember... I told you to go see Dad, but you didn't want to. You wanted to just wait it out because you thought it would go away on its own.

JACK: Yes, well... I decided you were right, that I should just suck it up and go see your father and maybe get some antibiotics. I figured he'd lecture me on skipping my flu shot and that would be that. (beat) But, as usual, I was wrong.

JENNIFER feels her stomach twisting inside as she fears what he is trying to tell her.


SCENE 2

IN PROGRESS

JACK is explaining how he learned he was sick, and JENNIFER is completely beside herself at hearing this.

JACK: It turns out that it wasn't as minor as I thought it was... He ran some tests on me--he was worried that the fatigue might have been due to some sort of anemia or something dreadful like that, and it was wearing down my resistance so I couldn't recover from that flu... (laughs shakily) Of course the irony of it is, it was even more dreadful than he thought...

JENNIFER: Oh God, Jack...

JACK: He said my lymph nodes were swollen, and... given my history, he wanted me to do a biopsy.... Well suffice it to say, it was not the news I was hoping for.

He pauses for a long time, JENNIFER does not want to push him to say anything more until he us ready.

JACK: (soberly) It seems that in some rare cases of Hodgkin's patients, the chemotherapy causes another form of cancer to develop later on... Acute nonlymphocytic leukemia. (beat) Quite a mouthful, isn't it?

He turns to look at JENNIFER and sees that she is crying, and he doesn't know what to do or say to make this any easier for either of them.

JENNIFER: (whispering) Why didn't you tell me?

JACK can't get the words out and can only mouth, I couldn't...

JENNIFER: No, Jack, you could have told me... Why didn't you let me help you through this?

JACK: I could barely even deal with it myself, Jennifer--I didn't want to. And I didn't know how in the world I was going to tell you when I couldn't even admit it to myself...

JENNIFER: I would have been there for you... I would have-

JACK: (interrupting her because he can not bear to let down his guard right now) Your father had heard of a university in Nigeria that was conducting experimental treatments. They were supposed to be more effective than traditional chemotherapy, but had a smaller chance of working. If you were one of the lucky ones, you could beat this thing for good, but if not... Anyway, he arranged for me to participate in the therapy. I had to fly there every few weeks so they could do follow-up check ups on my progress...

JENNIFER: Oh God... That's why you were gone... That's where you were all those times...

JACK: Things looked good at first. And I honestly thought I could keep this all from you until they gave me a clean bill of health and then we could go back to life as we knew it, and you'd never have to know. (beat) Only the last time I went back, they saw that the treatments hadn't taken after all. My cell counts went down again... They didn't think there was anything more they could do. So I came home-

JENNIFER: And we were gone...

She feels incredibly guilty for ever doubting him, for not having been there for him when he needed her the most.

JACK: I'm down to my only choice now... Chemotherapy. (laughs) Again. Your father informed me that I had to make a decision shortly on whether I would go through with it or not, because time was... was running out...

JENNIFER: (almost afraid to ask him) And... what did you decide?

JACK goes over to the broken piņata and takes it down from the tree.

JACK: (softly) I've got a daughter. There was no other choice. How can I not fight this for her?

JENNIFER wishes he were fighting for them too.

JENNIFER: Oh God, Abby... How do I tell Abby?

JACK: No! No, Jennifer, you can not tell Abigail--you can't!

JENNIFER: Jack, she has to know-

JACK: She is eight years old! The only thing she needs to worry about is when the latest Pokemon card is going to come out, or... or which boy band she likes best--she shouldn't have to worry about whether her father is dying, Jennifer! Please... Spare her this.

JENNIFER sees how this upsets JACK and although she's not sure she agrees, she does not want to upset him any further.

JENNIFER: All right... I'll respect your wishes, Jack. I won't tell her until you think it's the right time.

JACK: (relieved) I appreciate that...

JENNIFER: (coming closer) Jack, I'm glad you told me-

JACK can not deal with the closeness right now and pulls away.

JACK: Uh, Jennifer... I-I think I should probably go see Abigail... I promised I'd read her a story...

JENNIFER: (tries to touch his arm to reassure him) Jack-

JACK: Jennifer, I really should go to her. I just... need to be with her right now...

JENNIFER: (hurt that he is pulling away but she does not want to push him ) Her favorite bedtime story is on her nightstand. She'll beg you to read it twice, but she usually falls asleep before you can even finish it the first time...

JACK: (sorry to be hurting her this way but just not ready to reach out to her) Thank you. I'll try not to let her down.

JENNIFER watches him go inside the house.

END EPISODE 7

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