Author’s Note: When I was getting nostalgic and looking at old stories, I had to dig out this one. This is a good example of what I mentioned about Frankie being out of character when I attempted to write for her again.
If you’ve read In the Family, you should see what I mean quickly enough. If you haven’t, you’ll be completely spoiled by this because they discuss events at the end of (and after) that story.
And, like I said, she’s out of character, so it might be better to skip it if you want to hold onto her the way she was.
“Admit it—you’re feeling guilty.”
“About leaving my parents with four small children? Yes, I am,” Frankie admitted, shaking her head a little. Rico put a hand over hers, and she sighed. She didn’t think she’d ever suffered from post-partum this badly, not even when she miscarried, and she knew that was why he’d dragged her out of the house for a night out, a night away from all the pressures at home. They were happy, they had a good home and a good life, and she didn’t know why she kept bawling at random moments like this. In fact, she hated it.
“Frankie, your parents wanted us to take the night out, and Squirrel couldn’t have been happier than when you put on one of your nice dresses to come out tonight. Mouse is bound and determined to teach Raccoon to walk, and maybe Cincillà will sleep through the night for a change.”
Frankie nodded tiredly. She’d really wanted more time between Raccoon and any other children, but she just seemed to be so damn fertile that contraception didn’t even matter. She figured that was a part of why she was having such a hard time with all of this. She loved her children, but she would also like to spend time with her husband without thinking that she would have to pass the next nine months as a blimp again. Rico said she wasn’t fat, and he was doing so good with all the children—but it just made her feel worse, as useless as she seemed to be these days.
Rico reached across the table and brushed away one of her tears. “Oh, Girasole, I wish I could make you smile again.”
She didn’t try and force one for his benefit. “I suppose I should go back to the doctors and let them drug me up instead.”
He shook his head. “I don’t like that solution any more than you do. I think we may need to change things a little—too much time inside the villa is not good for anyone.”
She looked at him. “We go outside everyday. It’s not like we’re always cooped up indoors or anything. It’s a good home and a good life. I’m just… hormonal.”
“And terrified to interact with the locals much in case someone recognizes one of us,” he pointed out, and she nodded. That was another reason why it was hard to enjoy this dinner. He’d asked for a quiet romantic corner, a dark one, and they’d gotten it, but she felt so exposed. He was going to be at risk for the rest of their lives, and she knew it would probably be easier if he did have plastic surgery, if they changed his face, but she didn’t want to lose the man she fell in love with, and she knew that was shallow. It would still be Rico, just… different.
“Yes, that, too.”
A bright flash across the room startled both of them, and they looked over to see what the commotion was. Photographers snapped dozens of pictures of a woman in an old-fashioned gown, one that belonged in some kind of black-and-white movie until the waitstaff pushed them back and out of the room. Frankie looked at Rico, and he nodded, both of them uncomfortable with the spotlight that woman could put on them just by being here. They might need to wait until she left before they did.
“I hate this,” the woman muttered, taking a seat at the table across from them. “Why did I agree to do any of this? I don’t remember anymore.”
“Because the anniversary of the film was coming up, and they offered to arrange a huge event to benefit research into a certain disease if you did.”
“Oh, right. Can’t you just shoot me and put me out of my misery?”
Her companion laughed and reached for her hand. “This is because they made you dye your hair, isn’t it?”
“I couldn’t believe I thought a wig would be better,” the woman said with a shudder. “How much longer is this trip?”
“I say we ditch them tomorrow. I know how to make us disappear.”
“Do you mean that, hero?”
“Of course I do, my silly heroine. I hate this more than you do.”
“Yeah, right. You’re not wearing the dress.”
“I’ll take it off for you, though.”
The woman flushed red, and Frankie forced her attention away from them. She didn’t want to eavesdrop, though it was rare to have other Americans in this area. She didn’t recognize that woman, though she probably should, right?
Frankie reached over to take Rico’s hand. “I’m sorry. I was… listening to them. In some ways, they remind me of us.”
“In wanting to disappear?”
“In the stuff that always gets us in trouble, too.”
“Cincillà and Procione are not trouble,” Rico disagreed, bringing her hand to his lips. “Not even Tropolino or Cocolona. You’re obsessed with this idea that you’re going to end up pregnant again, and it’s not necessarily true. If you’ll recall, there wasn’t anything used on our honeymoon, and after you had Raccoon, we were a bit… lax in paying attention to certain details as well. I didn’t said anything before, but I believe part of this myth has its roots in Mickey’s deliberate sabotage of your birth control.”
“Frankie, you were supposed to… give him lots of children. That’s it. That’s all he saw in you. And while it’s not pleasant to hear or say, I think he would have made sure that you were doing just that regardless of whether or not you were ready for another child.”
Frankie winced. “I still hate him. So much…”
Rico moved over to her side of the table, wrapping his arms around her. “Shh, Girasole. He’s gone, and tu sei mia.”
In a strange way, hearing that about Mickey made her feel better, and being held like this made it a lot better. This was what she’d really been missing, these quiet moments when she was alone with Rico and he held her or she held him and nothing and no one else mattered. The children always seemed to come in and interrupt, and it was okay—they were important and mattered—but she needed to find more time for this, they both did.
“I think I’ll just sleep here, okay?” she asked, and Rico laughed, his fingers playing with the strap of her dress idly. She didn’t care about the food anymore. This was good.