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In This Life

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It is Thanksgiving day and JACK is getting ready. He is dressed in a dark gray suit, a white pin-striped shirt, and dark red tie. As he is adjusting his cufflinks, the radio plays in the background. JACK has it tuned to a news station, but he is barely listening.

RADIO ANNOUNCER (V0): ... Get out those long-johns, it looks like we will be getting winter a little early this year as a cold front is about to hit Salem later this week. Don't be surprised to see snow as early as next week! And now to your sports news...

JACK: (to himself, as he tries to get the cufflinks on) Why can't I ever seem to get this right?

He continues to struggle with them. Outside his room, JENNIFER is walking by. JACK'S door is slightly ajar and she sees him trying to get the cufflinks on. She debates for a while whether or not she should go in, then finally she decides to do it.

JENNIFER: (smiling) Need a little help?

JACK: (embarrassed laugh) Uh, well... If you insist...

JENNIFER gives him a knowing smile and walks over to help.

JACK: (rambling, because this reminds him of old times when she would help him get dressed, and he is a little uneasy) These always give me so much trouble... I don't see what's so difficult about getting them through these little holes, but... (realizes what this is starting to sound like, lets out another nervous laugh)

JENNIFER: It's not so tough, Jack. (looks up at him, flirtatious tone) All you need to do is relax, and... (snaps them shut) then everything just falls into place. (beat) See?

JACK: (looking at her) Yes... I see...

JACK and JENNIFER lock eyes for a few moments, then JENNIFER breaks the silence.

JENNIFER: (softly) I'm glad you decided to wear these. (touches the cufflinks gently) If Dad were here, he'd get a kick out of seeing you wearing them.

JACK: (smiles, remembers when JENNIFER gave them to him) Well, they were... one of the best Christmas presents I've ever gotten.

JENNIFER: (touched) Really?

JACK: Really. These and... my very own Horton Christmas Tree ornament. I knew I had really made it to the big leagues then.

JENNIFER: (laughs) Yeah, that was pretty special, wasn't it?

JACK: Well, you know what they say... Once you're on that tree...

JENNIFER: ... you're in for life...

She smiles at him, enjoying this closeness between them, and especially relishing the fact that JACK is not pulling away from her.

JENNIFER: Hey, your tie's a little crooked.

She reaches up to adjust his tie. Much to her surprise, JACK puts his hand on top of hers and gives it a small squeeze.

JACK: Thank you, Jennifer. For... (doesn't really know the right words to say) thank you...

JENNIFER: (nodding) You're welcome, Jack. (beat) So...

JACK: So...

JENNIFER: (smiles) Shall we?

JACK looks at her for a while, then slowly--unsure at first, but then gains confidence--holds out his arm for her to slide her arm through. She does, and then smiles at him.

JACK: Let's go.

OUT on JACK and JENNIFER as they head down the stairs.



ABBY has come downstairs and sees a freshly baked pumpkin pie on the dining table. The piped whipped cream is too much for her to resist, so she reaches in a finger to taste it, but JACK gets to her in time before she can sneak a sample.

JACK: (grabbing her waist from behind) Gotcha!

ABBY: (squealing because he is tickling her) Daddy!!

JACK: Thought you could get a little preview of the pie, did you? (ABBY giggles) Well I'm sorry, Miss Abigail Johanna, you will have to wait until dinner is over, just like the rest of us.

ABBY gives him her best puppy dog look.

JACK: Oh no, young lady, that's not going to work on me again, so don't even try it.

ABBY: (feigning innocence--she knows just how to work her father) What do you mean, Daddy? What's not going to work?

JACK finally gives up and sighs.

JACK: (muttering) You know you get that sweet tooth from your mother. (smiles to himself as he gives her a kiss) Among other things...

JENNIFER comes out of the kitchen with a casserole dish.

JENNIFER: What was that, Jack? I thought I heard my name.

JACK: Oh nothing, nothing... (notices what she is carrying) Uh, Jennifer...


JACK: Is that what I think it is?

JENNIFER: (smiling proudly) Uh huh... What do you think?

JACK: (leans in and sniffs it--it's green noodle casserole, all right) It's... green. Very green.

JENNIFER: (teasing him) It's supposed to be, Jack. (catches ABBY as she's about to touch the pie again) Oh no you don't, Abby!

JACK: (to himself) Our guest has not even arrived yet and it's already pandemonium and mayhem here...

JENNIFER smiles, having overheard him.

JENNIFER: It'll be great, Jack, you'll see. Try to have fun, okay?

JACK: (smirking) Fun. Yes... I guess I could open up my home to your grandmother for today. After all, it is your grandmother, and one person is hardly any trouble at all... (notices JENNIFER seems to be avoiding his eyes) Jennifer?

JENNIFER: (busy setting the table) Yeah, Jack?

JACK: There is only going to be one person coming over, right?

JENNIFER: (trying to sound casual) Why do you ask?

JACK: Because there are already four place settings, and you're setting more plates. (puts his hand on top of hers) There are more people coming--aren't there?


JACK eyes her carefully.

JENNIFER: Okay, I admit... there are a few more people coming...

JACK: A few more... Jennifer, you said this would be a small, quiet family dinner? What happened to small and quiet?

JENNIFER: So it won't be so small...

JACK: How 'not so small'?

JENNIFER does not say anything.

JACK: Hope and her family?

JENNIFER: No, no... They'll be at the Bradys this year...

JACK: Doug and Julie?

JENNIFER: No, the Bradys invited them too.

JACK: (becoming suspicious) Then-

The doorbell rings.

JENNIFER: (starts to turn around) Jack, could you do me a favor and get that? I've got to get the biscuits out of the oven...

JACK: (still suspicious) Wait, Jennifer-

JENNIFER has already gone into the kitchen. ABBY tries one more time to sneak a taste of the pie, but JACK snatches her hand away again, much to her frustration. He takes her with him to answer the door.

JACK: (as he heads for the door) I know that deflecting tactic well, Jennifer! I perfected it-

JACK opens the door and is shocked to see who has come to their house for Thanksgiving.

OUT on JACK'S shock.



JACK and JENNIFER'S first visitors have arrived, and JACK is shocked to see who they are: JO, ADRIENNE, JUSTIN, ALEXANDER, JOEY, VICTOR, and JACKSON.

JO: Hello, son.

JACK: (struggling to find his voice) J-Jo... and Adrienne? Justin?

ADRIENNE: Well? Are you just going to stand there or are you going to give your little sister a hug? (she laughs and comes forward, practically knocking him over with her embrace) Happy Thanksgiving!!

JO: (joining in the embrace; she is very emotional) Oh Billy... It is so good to see you again... (to ABBY) And you! Come here, my beautiful little angel--let Grandma give you a big hug!

ABBY: (running into JO'S arms) Grandma! I missed you!

JO: I missed you too, Abby. Look at you, you've gotten so big since I visited you in Africa two years ago...

ABBY twirls to show off her new dress.

ABBY: Daddy says I'm growing like a weed!

JO: (laughing) Yes, I'd say he's right...

ADRIENNE: And what about a hug for your Aunt Adrienne too, huh? (scoops up ABBY in her arms) You I wish we lived closer so I could come see you more often. I don't have any girls of my own to spoil... (gives her a kiss; ABBY giggles)

JUSTIN: (comes forward, with the boys just behind him) Surprised?

JACK: (very overwhelmed) I... uh... (laughs nervously) Yes, I think surprised would aptly describe what I am feeling at the moment...

He takes a deep breath and looks at all of them, then hears a noise behind him. He turns around and sees that JENNIFER has joined them. She has tears in her eyes.

JACK: (softly, realizing she must have planned all of this) You?

JENNIFER nods and smiles.

JENNIFER: Happy Thanksgiving, Jack.

JACK looks back again at his family and tries hard to keep his composure. JO reaches out a hand to gently squeeze his arm, then pulls him into an embrace. JACK brings up his hands and returns the embrace. The emotion overwhelms her as she thinks of what JACK is going through, and she begins to cry.

ABBY: (tugging on JO'S sleeve) Grandma, why are you crying?

JO: (manages to cover up with a smile) Because, sweetie... (looks at JACK, tries to think of what to say) I've really missed all of you...

OUT on JACK and his family as they savor this moment.


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