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sure as the sea, it's just you and me

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“Thank you so much for everything, Frankie.” Robert kisses her cheek. “Tell Grace we’re sorry we couldn’t thank her in person.”

“She knows where to find you,” Frankie says. “You know. In the house we flooded.”

“You beat me to it that time.”

“I’m like a verbal cheetah.”

“If you’re lonely,” Sol adds, putting a hand on her shoulder, “give us a call. Carl and I are happy to come save you, any time, day or night.”

“Day’s better,” Robert says dryly.

“No offense,” says Frankie to Sol as Robert leads Carl out to the car, “but if I’m lonely, it’s the kind of lonely only one person can help me with.”

“I know the feeling,” Sol says, casting a glance Robert’s way. He hugs Frankie. “Enjoy your alone time. You two have earned it.”

“Damn right we have,” says Frankie.

Sol gives her a parting smile, and then he’s gone into the car with Robert, and the era of cohabiting with the ex-husbands is officially over.

Well, until he runs in a half hour later to grab his toe shoes. Frankie’s put them on by then (finders keepers, pal), and isn’t willing to give them up without a fight. It’s a whole big thing, which is exactly what her Graceless afternoon needs.

 

+

 

She relinquishes the shoes, and settles into life alone. Temporarily alone, that is. Alone until Grace gets home, which she definitely will.

While she waits for that blessed hour, Frankie cleans the kitchen.

Yeah.

It’s that bad.

Then she moves on to the living room. By the time evening rolls around, she’s dusted the whole downstairs and rearranged the book shelf by spine color and listened to three episodes of Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! . That Ali Wong is a real god damn delight.

She tries to distract herself by pondering ways to get A.W. as a daughter-in-law, never mind that both of her boys are in committed relationships. But every time that she tries to imagine convincing Allison and Bud to couple-marry Ali and her husband (come on--Allison and Ali; how cute is that?), her mind wanders instead to the fact that Grace isn’t here, and where Grace is, and who she’s with.

She knows that Grace won’t see Nick once and turn her back on everything she and Frankie have promised each other, but it’s hard to tell that to the pit of dread in her stomach. Nick Skulka has a serious case of irresistibility. Frankie hadn’t liked him at first -- until she did. Who wouldn’t? The guy is funny, and spontaneous, and willing to break the rules, and so generous with his adoration. Exactly what Grace needed. Exactly what Grace already had, just in the wrong shape for it to matter as much as it did.

Who can look perfection like that in the face and give it up?

Grace, Frankie tells herself firmly.

But Frankie’s been promised forever and then left before. She knows Grace is everything to her that Sol couldn’t be, even if it took forever to see it. And yet the thought of Grace coming back, hers, seems so obviously too good to be true in the newly-dusted living room at 6:42 PM in a way it hadn’t in the dark, two beds pushed together into one.

It’s here that Frankie decides she’s earned herself a good Crying To NPR On The Couch party. (Especially since Carl isn’t around anymore for emotional support cuddles, or -- an even greater loss -- emotional support Your paws smell like Fritos! paw-sniffing sessions.) Sure, all the WW...DTM! zingers feel a little insensitive when she’s having an emotional crisis, but it’s better than silence. In silence, it’s hard to ignore the fact that you’re alone.

So when Grace gets home, Frankie doesn’t hear it at first.

“Frankie? Are you crying?”

She looks up to see Grace standing there, looking suspiciously exquisite for someone who should be travel-rumpled -- AKA, typical post-travel Grace.

“Carl’s gone,” Frankie says, latching onto the ready excuse as she pauses the NPR app on her phone. “And those two weirdos who pick up his poop, but whatever.”

“I thought we were looking forward to Carl and the weirdos being gone,” Grace says, sitting down next to her.

“We were,” Frankie says, dejected. She isn’t sure quite how it’s possible that she feels even more miserably nervous now that Grace is sitting beside her than she did when Grace was gone and maybe ‘fessing up to the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the freezer so she could be put in prison with her hubby and renew their vows in orange jumpsuited splendor.

Grace took off her wedding ring ages ago, but Frankie still sneaks a glance at her hand like it’ll magically spill the beans.

No such luck.

“How’s Nick?” Frankie asks at last.

“He’s all right. A little down, but he didn’t try to fight me on it. For once.”

Frankie looks up, away from Grace’s hands. “So you did it? You’re really splitsville?”

“What else did you think was going to happen?” Grace laughs incredulously, one of her not-funny-haha laughs. “That’s what I went there to do.”

“I don’t know. I thought something would get in the way of it. Like maybe you’d run into Guy on the trip back and realize the cannibal thing wasn’t such a dealbreaker after all, and by the time you got home you’d have Husband #3 in tow.”

“The cannibal thing wasn’t the problem--” Grace protests.

Frankie doesn’t have time to get into Grace’s weird cannibal apologist attitudes. (Right now, anyway.) “Have you ever noticed how something’s always in the way, when it comes to us?”

Grace bites her lip. “I have.”

“I don’t want to waffle on believing you, even though it is one of the finest foods ever invented. I know you meant what you said on Forever Party night.”

“I did. I do.”

“I did, I do, too. And you know I’m a notorious optimist. A dreamer of wondrous dreams. But there are some dreams that just feel too big. Like a Ray Donovan/Outlander crossover extravaganza. Or this.” She gestures back and forth between herself and Grace.

Grace catches her wrist. “Listen.”

“What?” Frankie goes obediently quiet, leaving room for windchimes and waves. After a moment, she fumbles with her ears to check that she hasn’t forgotten her hearing aids. In a stage whisper, she asks, “What am I listening to?”

“Nothing,” says Grace, reaching over to tug fondly on Frankie’s earlobe. (Frankie’s cute earlobe, if you ask Circa 2015 Grace. A hard compliment to forget.) “It’s just you and me.”

“You and me and all the time we’ve got left,” Frankie says. The look in Grace’s eyes sets her mind a-bloom with possibility, the way she feels when the brush leaves the first stroke of paint on the canvas.

“To do whatever the fuck we want,” says Grace.

“No interruptions,” says Frankie.

“Exactly.” Grace moves her hand to Frankie’s face, brushes her thumb lightly over Frankie’s lips. “So. What do we do now?”

Against her touch, Frankie smiles.