Fandom: Phyllis and Billy (Philly)
Title: Never Too Late
Summer walked into the guest bathroom, grateful to see her mother’s flatiron on the counter.
“She won’t mind,” she muttered, leaning down beside the counter to unplug the cord. She held the cord in her hand as her eyes fell on the wastebasket, a cardboard box lay barely covered by a makeup cloth.
Summer leaned down, her hand grabbing the box as her mind flashed back to her mother’s strange behavior over the last few days. Her mom had been distant, tearful, spending hours in bed, barely eating…
Given the circumstances, she’d chalked it up to mourning her marriage and a little bit of self pity but now, as she held the box in her hand, she had to wonder if it was much, much more.
Summer walked down the stairs slowly, the breath slowly leaving her body as she saw her mother casually dressed and sitting on the couch, her hands wrapped around a cup of tea.
“Mom,” she said her voice trembling a bit. This was some kind of weird role reversal.
Phyllis turned. “Hi sweetie. I made some tea if you want some. It’s still warm. It’s over on the…” She stopped, her eyes falling on the box in her daughter’s hand. “Summer, what are you doing with that?”
She walked across the room, handing the box to her mother before sitting on the couch beside her. “I wasn’t snooping if that’s what you think. I just needed to borrow your flatiron. Mine wouldn’t heat up this this morning and when I went to grab the cord, I saw this…”
Phyllis sighed. This was another one of those moments–the ones where the universe seemed determined to rub her nose in the mess her life had become. Some would call it karma. Some would call it bad luck, but it was now her reality and she didn’t have a clue how to deal with it.
“Mom,” Summer said softly. This was awkward and she knew it, but she felt she had to ask. “Are you…”
“Sweetheart, this isn’t your problem, ok? I’m a grown woman. That’s exactly why I didn’t mention this to you. I can handle this. I made the choices–I’ll deal with it. I’m not going to do anything else to cause this family anymore pain. If Billy knew….” She stopped, shaking her head.
“But you don’t have to deal with it by yourself…I’m here, Mom and I can help. I’m not a little girl anymore. I can handle this.”
Phyllis leaned in, pulling her towards her. She squeezed her gently, her eyes tearing a bit. “Thank you, sweetie–for the offer, but I have to handle this.” She stared at her daughter intently, “Right now, all I need from you is that you promise to keep this between us. Nobody else needs to know about this.” Hearing her daughter’s whispered agreement, she pulled away, standing grabbing her purse before heading for the door.
“Wait,” Summer called. “Mom–where are you going?”
Phyllis shook her head. “Don’t worry, sweetie. It’s fine. I’m gonna be fine. I have to take care of this myself.” She smiled at her before closing the door behind her.
The tears felt hot against her cheeks as she leaned against the wall, trying desperately to catch her breath. She’d give anything to go to him with this, but she couldn’t. It wasn’t fair. She’d run to him for the last time.
“Alright already.” Billy yelled, walking quickly to the door. He pulled the door open, surprised to see Summer standing there.
“Summer,” he muttered, his voice hesitant and confused. “What are you doing here?” His heart suddenly began to pound. Phyllis–what if something had happened to her. “Your Mom?” He said, his eyes suddenly filled with fear.
That was a lie.
“I mean she’s not…”
She promised her she wouldn’t tell anyone.
“Is she here? By any chance?” Summer tried not to show her concern.
“No, she’s not. I haven’t seen her in days.” He studied Summer’s face, the concern in her eyes was obvious. Something wasn’t right. She was worried. “Why don’t you come in?”
“No. It’s okay. I was just checking to see if Mom was…”
She sighed, stepping into the room. The concern and compassion in his eyes mirrored hers. She loved Jack and she wanted to believe he was right for her mother but lately he’d been so cold, so unwilling to accept any responsibility for their problems. Her mother had made mistakes, but Jack wasn’t perfect either.
“What’s going on?” Billy asked, his earnest expression causing her to question her promise.
“I can’t….” She closed her eyes. “Just call her, please call her. You need to talk to her.”
“I thought you wanted me far away from her. If memory serves I don’t have any right to be anywhere near her after what I did.”
She shook her head. “I know I said that but that was before…” She stopped. “She just…she needs you…more than you know…more than she knows…”
Billy saw the worry in her eyes, heard the desperation in her voice, “Summer, what is it–what’s wrong? Is Phyllis ok?”
He was so sincere, so concerned. He was everything Jack should be and yet he wasn’t. The look in his eyes wasn’t one of a man that made a rash, reckless decision.
She wasn’t a child–she spent so much time telling everyone that. It was true. She’d grown. She’d lived and she’d loved. She knew what love was, knew what it felt like, knew what it looked like.
The look in his eyes was love.
She took a deep breath. “Mom’s pregnant and I’m afraid she’s about to do something she’ll regret.”
Everything slowed and for a moment he’d swear his own heart stopped beating. His breath caught in his throat. The air in the room stood still. No sound. No movement. Just the thought, the word…
He blinked. He had to find her, to see her, to promise her that everything was ok.
“Where is she?” he asked, his words breathy, as he began searching for his keys.
Summer shook her head. “I don’t know,” she admitted. “That’s why I came here. I was hoping when she left this morning that this was what she meant. That she was coming here to tell you and not…”
Billy stopped, his feet suddenly feeling heavy beneath him, “And not what? What did she say?”
“Summer! Damnit! What did she say?!”
She flinched, the tears now running down her cheeks.
Billy ran his hands over his face, through his hair. “I’m sorry, ok. I didn’t mean to lose it on you. I’m just…” He paused, locking eyes with her. “Look, I know you have your opinions of me and I know you don’t want me with your Mom, but know this–I love her. I’d do anything in the world for her. The only thing I want is to keep her happy and safe. I just want to know she’s ok. So when you come here and tell me that she’s out there somewhere, that’s she’s pregnant, that she’s alone….” He managed another stilted breath… “I just…it makes me crazy.”
Summer nodded. “I get it. I can tell that you love her and I wish I could tell you where she was…when she left this morning she said she was going to take care of it herself.”
Billy felt his heart drop. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. “You don’t think?”
Summer closed her eyes. She wanted desperately to make him feel better, to tell him something that would give him hope. “I don’t know. The things she said…that she couldn’t do anything else to tear the family apart.”
The look on Billy’s face crushed her. This is what it looked like to watch a heart break.
“I tried to stop her from leaving. I did. I promise.”
Billy touched her arm. “It’s not your fault,” he said quietly. “I’ve got to go try and find her. Do you have any idea where she’d go? Do you know her doctor?”
“She used to go the practice in the hospital, but that was a while ago. If she’s changed…if she’d go there for this…I don’t know.”
Billy nodded. “It’s a start.”
Billy switched off the car, his head falling against the steering wheel as he sat there. He pulled himself from the car, glancing up at the night sky. It had been a long time since he’d felt quite this hopeless. Even when Phyllis had told him she didn’t love him, even the times she’d pushed him away, he’d still had that flicker of hope–tonight that flicker had vanished.
He had gone to the hospital, to clinics, to health departments all over town. He’d called Summer over and over to see if she’d heard from her, called Avery, even Daniel…nothing. He’d gone to Michael, to Lauren. He’d lost track of the number of times he’d dialed her number, of the messages he’d left, of the times he begged her to call him. Nothing.
As he walked to the door of the first drink he’d pour himself, how he’d drink until he couldn’t think anymore. He walked in, walking straight to the bar cart, grabbing the scotch and pouring. He held the glass to his lips and turning towards the couch.
The glass nearly slipped from his hand.
She lay there, her legs pulled underneath her, much like the way he’d found her after the trial. He sat the glass down, kneeling down beside her.
“Hey,” he said softly, his fingertips tucking a lock of her hair behind her ear.
She stirred, her eyes fluttering open. She sat up quickly, surprised by her presence. “Sorry,” she hissed, “I let myself in. I still have the key you gave me…I hope you don’t mind.” She hesitated. “I can give it back.”
“No…you keep it,” he said softly, touching her hand. “You’re always welcome here.”
God she missed him. “Thanks,” she whispered.
“Why are you here?” Billy didn’t look away. Emotions inside him battled for control. He was so happy to see her. His entire day had been spent searching for her, worrying for her, desperate to find her and now she was here…in front of him. He loved her–so much and that could overcome everything….almost. Their baby–how could she not tell him this? How could she betray him…make a decision like that and never even tell him? Didn’t she know he would be there–whatever she chose…whatever she needed?
He stood up, resentment winning. “I mean why now…when it’s too late?”
Phyllis winced. His words stung. “Too late?” Her eyes stung. “I didn’t think…I mean I didn’t realize you….I just…I would’ve come here sooner, but it took a while for me to process…for me to decide what I…” She saw the stunned expression on his face.
She moved to stand, “Maybe I should go,” she said softly. She took a step, the world tilting a bit and she clutched the sofa.
Warm breath caught in her throat as she felt his hands on her skin. “Easy,” he whispered, “Didn’t they give you any instructions? Maybe you should call Summer. Did she pick you up?”
“You talked to Summer?”
“She came here earlier–looking for you. She was worried. We both were. She was trying to stop you from doing something she knew you didn’t…..” He sighed. “Well…”
She drew in a quick breath, the pieces now coming together. “She told you.”
He nodded. “You didn’t.” It was hard to differentiate the sadness from the accusation, resignation seemed so expertly interwoven with the hint of blame in his tone. “Of course now, I guess it doesn’t…” His voice broke. Why was he tortured over what might have been?
“I guess it doesn’t matter now.”
“Oh God,” her hand covered her mouth, “No…it’s not..I mean..I did, but…”
Billy sat down beside her when she returned to the couch. He followed her with his eyes as she reached for her purse, her hands trembling as she opened the snap and reached inside.
“I thought I needed to handle it myself. I thought this was just another mistake…another one in a series of bad choices. I convinced myself that this would just do more damage to this family–tear it apart even more, do I did..I made an appointment to end the pregnancy. I thought that would be the best thing for everyone.”
He shook his head, his heart breaking at the thought of her entertaining the those thoughts.
“So I was there, sitting there..in that room with all these women–these happy, pregnant women and I realized how much joy my children have brought to my life. Sure, it hasn’t always been easy, but they’ve brought happiness to so many. Then I thought about the other children in this family and how special they all are–how no matter what, they always bring people together. This baby won’t tear this family apart. If anything this baby could bring this family together.”
She looked at him, his eyes steady on hers.
“And then I thought about you….about the kind of man you are, how you’ve always been there for me, how you’ve always taken care of me, how you’ve always told me how you really felt–how you loved me, even when I was too stupid and stubborn to say it back, how you love your kids….”
She pulled out the small black and white print out, “how you’ll love this one.”
Billy took the paper, his hands trembling, his vision blurring as his eyes studied the blurry image. He smiled, his eyes full of tears as he reached out to touch her face. “So you didn’t?”
She shook her head.
“Any you’re ok..the baby’s ok. This…us…this is what you want? That’s why you came here tonight? That’s what you came here to tell me?”
“Yes,” she said, her voice shaking with the gravity of the moment. “Unless it’s too late.”
He shook his head, cupping her face and kissing her. He pulled away only for a moment, and only to whisper, “It’s never, ever too late.”