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In This Life

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It is utter chaos at the Deveraux home. Thanksgiving dinner is finished and the adults are sitting at the dining table having coffee, trying to hold a conversation despite the fact that four children on a sugar rush are running amok around them.

VICTOR: (after having chased JOEY and JACKSON all over the room, now corners them and pretends to arrest them) Haha! I gotcha this time!!

JOEY: Wait, you forgot to read me my rights--it's not a real arrest unless you read me my rights!

JACKSON: Yeah, it's not a real arrest!

ALEXANDER: All right, Sheriff stepping in here. What's all this whining about, punks?

ABBY: (bored) I'm tired of playing Cops and Robbers... I always have to be tied up and rescued! (pleading) Can't we play something else now?

JOEY: (to his brothers, rolling his eyes) Girls...

ABBY: (offended) I heard that! So what if I'm a girl?

ALEXANDER: Fine, Abby, don't have a cow... (shoots his water gun at JACKSON, who shoots his water gun back at him but hits ABBY instead)

ABBY: (reacting) Hey!!!

VICTOR: (laughing at the scene) Ok, well what do you want to play, then?

The other boys laugh too; ABBY glares at them.

ABBY: (perks up) You mean you'll let me pick this time?

ALEXANDER: (muttering) Yeah, sure, why not...


They have been observing all of this with a mixture of amusement and bemusement.

ADRIENNE: (grinning) Jack, I'm surprised you haven't tried to lay down the law here in the last hour or so...

JACK: I beg your pardon?

ADRIENNE: Well it's just that you're not exactly one to put up with... such disorder. (laughs and gestures towards the children, who are arguing LOUDLY over what to play next)

JACK: (grimacing, but tries to be diplomatic) Well... they are children, after all.

Everyone tries to hold in their laughter. JACK notices and arches an eyebrow.

JACK: Care to tell me what's so amusing?

JUSTIN: Well, Jack, it's quite strange to hear this coming from you, that's all.

JACK: Why?

ALICE: Darling, you are the one who had Abby on a strict sleeping schedule from the time she was only a week old, don't you remember?

JACK turns to JENNIFER, who merely smiles and shrugs at him. He starts to say something, but the children come running back to the table and interrupt him.

ALEXANDER: (scanning the table) Is there any pie left?

JUSTIN: (wary) First, tell us if you plan to eat it or use it for... ammunition...

JACKSON: (to ALEXANDER) Told ya they'd find out...

ADRIENNE: Sorry, guys, I think you'll need to go back to the drawing board and think of something else to play that doesn't involve flying edible objects.

ABBY: (comes up to JACK) The boys are fun! I wish I had very my own brother to play with all the time!

JACK: (caught off guard by what she just said, tries to laugh it off) Your very own brother, huh?

ABBY: (nodding enthusiastically) Oh yes! Can I get one? Can I get a baby brother, please?

The entire table falls silent as all the adults look to JACK in sympathy.

JACK can not think of what to say.



ABBY has just asked JACK if she can have a baby brother, and he does not know what to say to her.

JENNIFER: C'mere, baby... (pulls ABBY towards her)

This is just a bit too much for JACK to handle; he slips away quietly without ABBY noticing. JO follows him.

JENNIFER: (having seen JACK leave and wanting to reach out to him, but wanting to act perfectly normal ABBY) Sweetie, baby brothers don't just... They don't just come out of nowhere...

ABBY: I know that, Mommy. I know it takes a mommy and a daddy to get a baby brother.

JENNIFER: Yes... Yes, it does-

ABBY: And I have both, so isn't that all it takes?

JENNIFER looks up at everyone else at the table and tries to think of the right response.



JACK has slipped outside without ABBY noticing, and JO has followed him because she is worried about him.

JO: (touches his shoulder) Jack...

JACK does not say anything.

JO: Jack, talk to me, please. I know how much this has got to be hurting you.

JACK slowly turns around to face her.

JACK: (laughs softly, though inside he is hurting a lot) I keep thinking if I just live my life as normally as possible around her, I can protect her. I can spare her all of this. (beat) But I don't know how much longer I can do that. Every time I look in her eyes...

JO reaches up to touch his face. She is crying because she sees how much pain he is in over this.

JACK: Every time I look in my daughter's eyes, I can't help but think of the fact that I may let her down yet again, Jo-

JO: What are you talking about, son? You will not let her down-

JACK: (very emotional) Oh no? How about the fact that I may not be able to give her that baby brother she wants? Or the fact that I may not be around for her next birthday, or chase the monsters out from under her bed when she has a nightmare, or... (his voice starts to shake; he stops now because he knows if he doesn't, he will cry, and he does not want to cry)

JO: (can not bear to see him like this) Now you listen to me, Billy. I've got something to say to you, and I want you to listen good.

OUT on JACK waiting for what JO has to say.



ABBY wants to know why she can't have a baby brother.

ABBY: If all it takes is a mommy and a daddy, what's the problem?

ALEXANDER: (tiring of this conversation) You're such a baby, Abby...

ADRIENNE: Alexander!

ABBY: (overlapping, to ALEXANDER) Shut up!

JENNIFER: Abby, that's not nice-

ALICE: (reestablishing order once again) All right, children, that's enough.

They quiet down in response to her.

JENNIFER: (flashing a grateful smile) Thanks, Grandma.

JACKSON: (to the rest of the children) Come on, let's go play video games!

ABBY: (as she runs off with the boys) Okay, as long as I get to pick the video game...

JENNIFER watches her go off, relieved that she no longer has to answer any more questions.

JENNIFER: (looking at ALICE, ADRIENNE, and JUSTIN) I don't know how much longer we can keep the truth from her...



JO is hurting for her son and wants to give him hope.

JO: I know I wasn't around when you were growing up. And I know when I did show up, it was probably too late and you didn't need a mother anymore, but... but I am your mother, and I want to help you. So you're going to let me help you, all right?

JACK half-smiles.

JACK: Well, when have I ever been able to stop you from mothering me?

JO: (glad he isn't pushing her away) Oh, Billy... I won't pretend to know what you're going through. I know I can't even begin to imagine what it is like for you, not knowing what's going to happen. But son, you have to stop thinking that you're a bad father because of this--because you're not.

JACK: No, Jo--I am a bad father because I've let my daughter down too many times in the past, and I may never get a chance to really make up for it-

JO: (firmly) Stop that! You stop that right now, do you understand me? Now I know how much you love that little girl in there, and how you would give your life for her- (stops, when she realizes her mistake in her choice of words) Everything you have ever done since she was born was to make sure she was happy and secure. All right, so maybe you've made mistakes, but what parent hasn't? (reaches up to touch his face and make him look in her eyes) I don't have to tell you about mine, do I?


JO: No, let me finish. (beat) It's true no one knows what the future holds. And that's got to be terrifying for you--I know it is for me. But don't live your life wallowing in regret, son. Believe me, it's no way to live.

JACK is quiet, thinking about what she has said.

JO: All right, I guess that's the end of my lecture. (she smiles; so does JACK) How about we go back inside before they eat the rest of that pie?

JACK smiles, then follows her inside.



JACK and JO have returned to the dining table, and the children--finally exhausted from all the games--have gathered around as well.

ALICE: Well, Jennifer Rose, if you don't mind, I'd like to continue a Horton tradition tonight.

JENNIFER: Oh, of course, Grandma!

ALICE: Every year, we like to go around the table and mention one thing we are grateful for. I would really like it if we can do that here tonight...

JO: Mrs. Horton, that sounds wonderful. I'll start. (she looks around at her family, and beams) I'm grateful to be spending Thanksgiving with my children. (remembers STEVE, gets a little choked up) I am so happy they are with me here today.

ADRIENNE: (squeezes JO'S hand and smiles) Well I'm thankful that we've been blessed with four wonderful children--who certainly make life interesting each and every day.

JUSTIN: (laughing) And I'm thankful we are able to keep up with them!

ALICE: (smiling at JENNIFER and JACK) I'm grateful that my beautiful granddaughter and her family have come home again.

JENNIFER: I'm thankful... (looks at JACK) I'm thankful for second chances...

It is now JACK'S turn. He's never been particularly fond of this tradition, and does not really know what to say, but knows how special this is to everyone. As he tries to think of what to say, he looks at ABBY, then looks at JENNIFER.

JACK: I'm thankful... for you. (looks at everyone) All of you.

OUT on JACK'S smile.


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