Amy makes it 6 months in Florida, but to Frank, it feels like a lifetime. She calls him every single day, sending pictures of the beach and underwater shots from her dives too. He likes it the best when she sends silly selfies and he goes as far as to frame his favorite -- a snapshot of her holding an ice cream cone and smiling so big it makes him smile too every time he looks at it. It sits on the bookshelf in the new apartment in Williamsburg and he taps it lightly with his knuckles whenever he passes it.
He misses her like hell and Karen knows it too. She sees the way that Frank snatches up his phone every time it rings and how his furrowed brow only relaxes after Amy’s answer to the “you okay?” he always asks before they even say hello. Karen feels that she’s intruding on these calls and makes a point of slipping out of the room, or taking Max on a walk so that Frank can pace their little apartment in peace. He always fills her in later and it makes her happy to hear how much these two care about each other.
One day, she comes back a little earlier than anticipated because it starts snowing and she hovers in the doorway, listening. Frank sounds relaxed and he laughs, a real laugh, at something Amy says. Karen’s heart clenches for a moment and she bites her lips, trying not to cry at the tenderness in his voice.
“Alright, kid, love you too.”
Karen waits until she hears Frank set his phone down before unclipping Max’s leash and closing the front door behind her.
“We’re back!” She announces, following Max into the living room. Frank smiles at her and pulls her into his arms, burying his nose in her hair.
“Amy’s coming back.” He whispers and Karen takes a step back.
“What? Is she okay?”
“Yeah. Says she misses New York and that she’s done with the beach.” Frank grins. “She wants to enroll at that fancy-ass high school.”
Karen laughs and presses a kiss to Frank’s nose.
“And I’m guessing you’re going to pay for it?” She teases and Frank nods, his face serious.
“I’d give that kid the world if I could.”
“I know it.” Karen says softly. “Is she going to stay with us?”
“If that’s okay.” Frank takes one of her hands. “I know we’re just kinda… well… still figuring shit out between us, but,”
“Frank.” Karen says firmly. “Of course Amy can come stay. I mean, she’s the one who’s kind of responsible for this.” She gestures between the two of them and around the apartment and they both smile, remembering how Amy had texted Karen to come to the bus station right at the time that her bus was departing. She’d watched from the window as Karen ran up to Frank, golden hair flying in the wind and wrapped her arms around his neck, kissing him hard. Amy had choked out a half-laugh, half-sob when she saw Frank slowly raise his hands to Karen’s face and finally, finally kiss her back.
“She can stay as long as she wants.” Karen continues. Frank smiles big and kisses her slow and deep as Max dances around their feet.
Frank is hardly able to keep still as he watches for the bus from Jacksonville, his trigger finger tapping against his thigh. He takes a final pull from the paper coffee cup in his hand and lobs it into the trashcan, checking his watch. Two minutes late, he thinks, and pushes down the thoughts that immediately rush to the surface of an accident, a shooting, a fire. He does the breathing exercises that Curt taught him, which at first he wrote off as bullshit, but that have actually helped him more than he’d care to admit.
Just as he’s about to give into his anxiety and call Amy, the bus swings around the corner and parks at the terminal. Frank stands up and adjusts the baseball cap on his head, eyes fixed on the bus door, which opens far too slowly for his liking.
Amy is the first one off the bus and she doesn’t stop to collect her luggage, just pushes open the glass doors to the terminal and makes a beeline right for Frank. She jumps, literally jumps, into his arms and he wraps his arms around her, holding her close for a moment before setting her down. Her hair is streaked blonde from the sun and her nose is covered in freckles, but it’s his same Amy all right. Same wicked smile, same big brown eyes.
“Hi.” She says and smiles just as big as in the picture with the ice cream cone.
“Hey.” Frank twists his mouth to stop himself from grinning like an idiot, but mostly fails. Amy takes his hand and pulls him back out into the cold towards the bus, where the long-suffering driver is pulling luggage out of the storage space. She’s talking a mile a minute about the bus ride, how some guy tried to sell her weed, how she’s already ordered a uniform for the fancy school, how Frank needs to pay her tuition, like, tomorrow, how all she wants is to eat a burger and take a shower and Frank soaks it all in.
Later, he’s sitting on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table and Amy’s favorite movie (SpiderMan 3 of all things) playing on the TV. The girl in question is curled up into his left side, her wet hair leaving a stain on his t-shirt and Max is lying in the crook of her knees. Karen comes in from the kitchen carrying two mugs of tea and smiles when she sees the scene in front of her, sitting down on Frank’s other side and leaning her head on his shoulder.
Frank is barely breathing, afraid to wake Amy up with any movement and he can’t stop staring at her, at the way her eyelashes rest on her cheekbones, how her hand has curled around a handful of his t-shirt. Kid, you do something to me, he whispers. Karen hears him and kisses his shoulder and Frank can’t believe, just can’t fucking believe that he gets to exist here, in this moment, with his girls and his dog, watching a terrible movie.