"So," Jessica Conlon said as the waitress left their table. "Are you seeing anyone here in Indianapolis?"
James Conlon lifted an eyebrow. "Excuse me?"
"Just curious. You haven't mentioned another woman when we've talked."
"I've been busy," her father explained. "Getting settled into the new job and all. I haven't really had time to socialize very much."
"Other than things will help you in your career, I guess," she finished, obviously knowing him too well.
James gave her a sheepish grin. "I guess."
Jessie picked up her fork and toyed with the lettuce on the plate before her. "You haven't really dated anyone since you and mom -," she pointed out slowly. "At least, no one you've told me about -"
"You're fishing," Jimmy accused with a grin.
"Well, you *would* tell me if there was someone special, right?"
"Someone special, yeah," he acknowledged. "But I didn't think I had to report back to you about each and every date I go on."
"I have to tell you and Mom about my dates," Jessie replied, also grinning.
"Not *quite* the same thing, Jessie."
"Then you *have* gone out and just not told me about it."
Jimmy sighed deeply. "No," he admitted honestly. "Like I said, there hasn't been a lot of time of that kind of thing since I got here."
"Annabeth's a nice lady," Jessie pointed out.
Jimmy shook his head. "She's too young for me," he reminded her.
"So? Age doesn't matter that much, does it?"
"It can. And there's also the fact that I'm her boss. Workplace romances are never a good idea." He took a couple of bites of the salad he'd ordered, watching as she did the same. "Why the questions?" he wondered aloud.
She lifted her shoulders. "I don't know. Just curious, I guess. I worry about you being all the way out here, alone. At least back in New York, you had people around who cared -"
"Ray's here," he reminded her. "So it's not like I'm stranded in the wilderness totally on my own," he finished with a wry smile.
"Okay. But it's *still* not the same as having someone to come home to, to talk to."
He knew where this was heading, and shook his head. "Jessie, your mom and I aren't getting back together -"
"Dad, I know that. I've heard the whole story about how you'll always love her, but you and she just can't be together anymore. I get it, okay? And that's not what this was about."
"Then what *is* it about?" he asked in a quiet voice.
She put down her fork and looked at him. "Mom's - seeing someone."
Jimmy froze momentarily. "Really? Anyone I know?"
"I don't think so. He's a professor of English at CUNY."
"Is it serious?"
"Who knows? They've been seeing each other for a couple of months now. Mom doesn't usually go out with the same guy more than twice. I always thought it was because none of them were you." Jimmy gave her an embarrassed smile.
"What's he like?"
"Gary's a nice guy. He's got a couple of kids from a previous marriage."
"Boys or girls?"
"Boys. They're both in college." She hesitated a little before continuing. "We all went out to dinner around Christmas."
"That sounds serious," Jimmy noted.
"I didn't think she had mentioned it."
"No," Jimmy confirmed. "But there's no reason she should. She's a grown woman who can make her own decisions. She deserves to be happy."
"Do you really mean that?"
"Yeah. I do. Your mom's free to be involved with whoever she wants."
"Just like you are," Jessie agreed. "So why aren't you? Involved with someone, I mean."
"This conversation's becoming repetitive," Jimmy told her. "I told you -"
Jessie sighed and shook her head. "I know. You've been too 'busy'. You know, this is one reason why I thought about coming out here to college instead of BC. At least here, I'd see you a little more often than I do now. In Boston, I'll be farther away - and I doubt I'll see Mom very much after I move out -"
"Your mom loves you, Jessie," Jimmy pointed out quickly. "No matter what's going on in her personal life. She'd never cut you out like that."
"Like you have?" The accusation was subtle, but it was there.
"I haven't cut you out, honey." He sat forward a little in his chair. "Jessie, we talked about this when I made the decision to come out here to take this job. I didn't leave you. We still talk on the phone - and while I've agreed that maybe I haven't come to visit as much as I said I would, I'm going to change that."
"You don't want me around," she accused openly this time.
"Of course I do. I'd like nothing more - but I want you to do what's best for you. BC's a good college."
"So is Notre Dame," she countered. "Some people would say it was a *better* college. More prestige, etc, etc. *And* it's closer to you. That's the biggest draw. For me, anyway."
Jimmy sat back. "I hadn't realized that you missed me that much," he told her.
"Of course I miss you. You're my dad. I don't like you being all alone. And even *with* Ray being here, you are. Back in New York, we went out to eat weekly. I miss that."
"You miss my 'putting you on the witness stand', was the way you put it I believe," Jimmy questioned with a small smile on his face.
Jessie returned the grin. "Actually, yes, I do. It made me realize that you cared. Most of my friends' parents are too busy with their jobs and lives to pay much attention to what their kids are doing. Or to even care, until something - happens." Her expression closed slightly, and Jimmy knew that she was remembering Caroline, a friend who had died of a drug overdose a year ago. That had been another draw of this job. After prosecuting the drug dealer who had sold to Caroline, he'd been sick of having to deal with pimps and dealers and gang bangers. Indianapolis had been a place where he could change that. Do something different - and there was of course the added incentive that he might actually be able to get further in his career a little faster.
"It's okay, Jess," he said in a quiet voice. "You know your mom would raise all kinds of heck if you came out here to go to college."
"I know. She thinks this is just about my wanting to get away from her. It's not. I'd probably miss her if I lived here just as much I miss you living there - if that makes any sense."
Jimmy mentally castigated himself - the one thing he'd never wanted was for Jessica to feel pulled in two directions. It was something that he and Susan had agreed on. One of the few things, actually. "Jessie, it's your life. Whatever you decide, it's fine with me. And I'm sure it will be fine with your mom -" he stopped as Jessie rolled her eyes.
"You haven't been around her lately. She's gotten crazy, worrying about my spending so much time talking to you on the phone and researching Indiana colleges."
"Can't say I blame her. We worked as hard as you did to get that early approval for BC," he reminded her.
"That's not what she's worried about."
"I know," Jimmy said. "She's afraid she's going to lose you."
"Like she lost you," Jessie finished.
"She didn't lose me, Jessie. What happened between your mother and I -"
"What *did* happen, Dad?" Jessie asked. "I know you've said that you and she just didn't have much in common anymore, but there has to be more to it than that."
"Your mom didn't want me to become a politician," he said. "And the late hours I spent in prepping cases didn't help any. She likes a quiet life. You know that. She doesn't like to play the games she would have to play when I decide to run for public office."
"You're going to run?"
Jimmy picked up his fork again. "I'm seriously considering a run for Indiana Attorney General," he admitted. "Nothing official yet."
"But it's going to happen."
"It's what I've been working toward for most of my adult life," Jimmy reminded her, uncertain of her reaction. After spending so much time with her mother, he wasn't sure that his daughter wouldn't react the way Susan eventually had done - with disapproval.
But Jessie's smile surprised him. "Then I hope you win. I think you'd be a great Attorney General."
"Really," she nodded. "I never understood mom's attitude about it."
"She just doesn't like politicians," he said in a dismissive manner.
"I guess." Jessie started eating again before asking, "Are you still working out?"
The change of subject surprised him for a moment, but he quickly recovered. "Can't you tell?" he questioned.
"Hard to see in a suit," she replied.
"I joined a gym right after I got here. Spend an hour or so there most mornings when I can."
"That's something else I miss. Your trying to get me to run with you in the morning," she said. "If I moved to Indiana, I might be willing to do that occasionally."
"That sounded like a bribe, young lady," Jimmy told her, hoping that she couldn't see how much the idea appealed to him.
"Maybe it was."
"You don't like to run," he reminded her.
"That's not true. I've been running three days a week."
Jimmy was honestly surprised. "You have? Your mother didn't mention it the last time we talked -"
"She doesn't know. She thinks I've been going to school early to study and for club meetings."
"I can't say that I approve of your lying to your mother, Jessie -"
"It's not lying, really. I just didn't want her to get on my case about it. She would have - she'd have seen it as just another way that I'm like you." As though she knew he was going to question her about that remark, she continued. "I'm thinking about entering a mini marathon this spring."
"A marathon? Is this the same girl who questioned me for days about why I'd want to run without someone chasing me?" Jimmy teased.
Jessie made a face and laughed. "Okay, so I did. But I get it now. Are you going to run competitively here?"
"I might. There aren't as many triathlons around here as there were back in New York. But I'm keeping my ears open. First time one comes up, I'm there."
"Why not just run a marathon?" she suggested. "Or a duathlon?"
"I might just do that."
"There's a big tri this summer. Maybe you could come out and run it with me?" he suggested.
"That would be cool."
"Yeah," Jimmy agreed. "It would be."
Six weeks later, Jimmy was at the gym one morning, just out of the shower and approaching his locker when his cell phone rang. Thinking that it might be the Annabeth or Maureen with word about the Devlin case, he unlocked the door and opened it, grabbing the phone without bothering to look at the caller ID.
"Conlon," he said.
"What the hell is going on, Jimmy?" Susan's familiar voice asked without any preamble.
"I'm fine too, Susan. You?" he replied, not entirely happy with her tone - or her rudeness in not at least saying 'Hello'.
"This is *your* doing, isn't it?" she accused. "You suggested that she check out colleges in the area when she came to visit, didn't you?"
"Calm down, Susan," Jimmy said, keeping his voice quiet in the large room, knowing that sounds carried easily.
"Calm down?! How dare you -"
Jimmy sank onto the nearby bench. "It would help if you told me what's going on, Susan."
"My daughter just informed me that she's been accepted to attend Notre Dame next fall!"
"She's *our* daughter Susan," he reminded her. "She brought her grades up?"
"Yes. She's been working overtime to do it, and she did. I'm surprised she didn't tell you about it herself."
"I haven't heard from her in a week," Jimmy informed her. "I knew she applied to Notre Dame," he confirmed, but before he could continue, Susan was off and running again.
"I *knew* it! Everything was set for her to go to Boston. But suddenly she wants to move halfway across the country - just like you."
"Maybe she wants to spend a little time with me," he suggested. "Is there something wrong with that?"
"No. But she could just as easily just hop onto a plane to do that from Boston -"
"Look, Susan, can I call you in a few minutes? I'm at the gym and need to get to the office."
"Oh, of course. Far be it from me to interfere with your *job*." She was angry. Her jab at his job was proof of that.
"What do you want me to do, Susan?" he asked.
"Talk her out of it, of course! Tell her that she needs to go to Boston."
"And what if I don't *want* to talk her out of it?" Jimmy countered. "She's a grown up, Susan. She's more than capable of making her own decisions. If she wants to go to Notre Dame, I'm not going to tell her that she can't just because you'd rather her go somewhere else."
The silence dragged on once he'd finished. "Susan?" he questioned. Still more silence was his reply, and he decided that she'd hung up on him. Sighing heavily, he grabbed his clothes out of his locker and began to put them on.
"What's the status on the Davenport case?" he asked Annabeth when he saw her as soon as he got off of the elevator.
"We're starting jury selection this morning," she informed him, giving him a look. "You look a little flustered this morning. Everything okay?"
"My ex called this morning. Seems that Jessie's been accepted by Notre Dame and wants to go there instead of BC."
"Oh. And I take it that she's not happy with that decision?"
"No. She's accusing me of setting it up to get Jessie out here with me."
"It won't be as if she's in the same city," Annabeth pointed out. "South Bend is over two hours away by car."
"I know. But still closer than New York or Boston," he said, unable to hide the smile that the thought brought with it.
Annabeth paused, looking up at him. "You're glad she decided to come to Indiana, aren't you?"
"In a way," Jimmy admitted. "It'll be nice being able to drive up to see her if I want to instead of having to hop a plane. And it's close enough that she could come down here if she wants to."
"I don't want Susan to feel shut out. And it could mean that she'll end up down here -"
"And that would be a problem? I thought you said once that your divorce was amicable?"
"It was. But things change, apparently." Jimmy glanced at his watch as they approached his office doorway. "You're going to be late for court, counselor. And Judge Harding doesn't like it when lawyers keep him waiting."
Annabeth grinned. "He likes me," was her airy reply, but she turned away. "Good luck," she called over her shoulder.
"Thanks. You too." Jimmy entered his office, removing his overcoat and hanging it on the rack next to the door before glancing at the message notes that he'd taken from Phyllis downstairs. None were from Susan *or* Jessie.
Sitting down, he took out his cell to call his daughter, but at the last minute closed it again. It was ten-thirty there. She was probably in class, which meant her cell was turned off. He'd have to try later in the day. Unbuttoning his jacket, Jimmy sat down to start working on the never-ending supply of paperwork that came with the job.
It was the middle of the afternoon when his cell rang and he saw Jessie's name on the caller ID. Excusing himself for a moment from the discussion of the Davenport jury, he moved toward the windows. "Jessie. I was hoping you'd call."
"Oops," she replied. "I guess Mom called you."
"You guessed right."
"She's not happy with it. But I don't care. Unless - unless you'd rather I go to BC instead, too?"
"It's your decision, honey," he told her. "If you think you'll be happier at Notre Dame, then that's fine. I'm not going to try to talk you into changing your mind."
She sounded surprised by the news. "I thought you'd back Mom up on this like you always do."
"I'll tell you what I told her: You're a grown woman and can make your own decisions."
"I'll bet she didn't like hearing that, either," Jessie said. "She still *treats* me like I'm ten sometimes."
"She's just worried about, Jessie. Worried about losing you."
"I know. Could you find the time to come out this weekend, Dad? Maybe if you and she were in the same room, you'd be able to make her see that I'm not leaving her. ND is a very prestigious college. Even more than BC, I think."
"That depends on who you're talking to," was his response, his mind working on whatever plans he'd made for the weekend. There was nothing that couldn't be postponed, he decided. "I'll be there on Friday evening," he told her.
"Thank you, Dad. I feel better knowing that I won't have to face her alone."
"How was school today?"
"Okay. My senior advisor was really pleased when I told her about being accepted to ND. She went there."
Glancing toward the others, Jimmy said, "Listen, Jessie, can I call you back later? We're kind of in the middle of something here -"
"Sure, Dad. I'll be around all evening."
"Good. Talk to you then."
"Okay. Bye, Dad."
"Bye." He closed the phone and turned back to the rest of his team. "Sorry about that."
"Everything okay?" Ray asked, having heard about the latest news over lunch with his friend.
"I think so. I'm going to New York for the weekend to get everything sorted out."
"Good idea," Annabeth agreed.
"Glad you approve," he replied with a grin. "Now. Where were we?"
Jimmy met Jessie for dinner on Friday evening - a little surprised when she told him that her mother had gone out with Gary. "You didn't tell her I was coming?" he'd asked, and shook his head when he saw the answer in her expression. "We need to talk about the way you've been lying to your mother, Jessie," he had told her, deadly serious.
"I just didn't want her to get defensive about it. She would probably have called and told you not to bother coming home because she wasn't going to talk to you about it."
Jimmy hadn't really been able to argue with her about it. The one time he'd tried to call and talk to Susan after that early morning call, she had insisted that she didn't want to talk and hung up on him. She hadn't even given him a chance to tell her about his planned visit.
They spent the rest of the evening discussing Jessie's plans for moving to Indiana after the end of school, and about going for an early morning run together the next morning. "You sure you'll be ready when I call?" he asked, still a little skeptical of her sincerity.
"I'll be ready," she assured him with a knowing smile. "You really don't believe that I'll go with you, do you?"
"Why don't we just wait and see?" he suggested, not willing to get his hopes up about running with her.
At the apartment, two people were just getting out of a car when their taxi stopped on the curb and they got out to face Susan and a man that Jimmy figured had to be Gary Graham.
"Jimmy," Susan gasped, obviously surprised to see him as she sent a look of accusation in the direction of their daughter. "Jessie didn't mention that you were coming in."
"It was a last minute decision," Jimmy said, and then extended his hand toward the other man. "James Conlon."
"Gary Graham," the man said, taking Jimmy's hand in a firm shake. "Heard a lot about you," he said.
"Really? Some of it good, I hope," he said, hoping to ease the tension.
"Some," Gary replied, turning to Susan. "Uh, Susan, I'll be going -"
"Gary, I'm sorry -"
He glanced at Jimmy again before speaking. "It's okay. You have some family business to see to, I think. I'll just be in the way. I'll call you tomorrow."
With a nod in Jessie and Jimmy's direction, Gary went back around the car and got inside before starting the engine and pulling away from the curb. Susan turned to look at her daughter and ex-husband, clearly not happy. "Come on, Jessica," she said. "It's getting late."
"What about Dad?" Jessie asked.
"I'm sure he has a room at a hotel somewhere," Susan pointed out, moving toward the door of the brownstone.
"Yes, I do, Susan," Jimmy confirmed. "But I thought since I've come all this way, we might as well talk about why I'm here."
"If it's the reason I think it is, it will wait until tomorrow," Susan declared, taking out the key and putting it into the lock. "I'm in no mood tonight for a 'discussion'. Come along, Jessica."
"Mom - you're not being very fair," Jessie declared, remaining by her father.
"It's okay, Jessie," he said. "It will wait. I'll see you tomorrow morning."
"I'll be ready," she assured him, giving him a hug. "Thank you for dinner."
"You're welcome. Night, honey."
"Night," she replied in a short tone, never looking at him once. He stood on the sidewalk outside of the brownstone after they went inside, hands in his pockets before going to find another cab to take him back to his hotel. An early night wouldn't be a bad thing, he decided.
After all, he had a running date with his daughter in the morning.
Susan was waiting when they returned from their run and breakfast the next morning. "Where have you been?" she asked Jessie. Jimmy wondered how she managed to always look so unruffled - never a dark hair out of place, always dressed just right. She was still a beautiful woman, he realized - not for the first time.
"Dad and I went for a run in the Park," Jessie explained. "I'm going to go take a shower," she announced, clearly deciding to get out of the line of fire.
Susan's eyes widened as they swung back to Jimmy. "A *run*?"
Jimmy lifted his shoulders, aware that he was at a definite disadvantage, wearing a pair of sweats and jacket over a tee-shirt, smelling of perspiration. But he also knew that was exactly why Susan was speaking to him. "She's decided she likes running. She told me that she's considering running in a mini marathon."
"How long have you known about this?" she wanted to know.
"Since her visit to Indianapolis," he had to admit.
"She never mentioned it to me. Just like she never mentioned anything about Notre Dame. It's your influence, Jimmy. You put her up to this."
"No, I didn't, Susan," he said tiredly. "Notre Dame was entirely her idea. She didn't mention it to you for the same reason she never mentioned running - because she knew you would react precisely the way you are," he pointed out in an even tone of voice.
"So now it's *my* fault?"
"It's no one's 'fault', Susan," Jimmy said. "Jessie - Jessie's growing up. She's spent the last several years dealing with the mess we made of things -"
"*I* didn't make a mess of things," Susan insisted. "*You're* the one who suddenly decided that he wanted to move on to 'bigger and better things'."
"And I hoped you'd see fit to support me in that decision."
"Why? You didn't ask me before making it. You simply came home and informed me that you were going to work toward the possibility of running for AG one day."
Jimmy took a deep breath. "Susan, we've been over this before. I didn't come here to argue with you about things that aren't important anymore."
"*Why* do you do that?" Susan wanted to know.
"Remain so damned calm all the time! You never raise your voice no matter what I do or what I say -"
"Is that what you want, Susan?" he asked. "For me to lose my temper?"
She sank onto the sofa. "No. I'm just - I'm worried about Jessie," she confessed finally. "The idea of her being so far away -"
"She won't be that far away from me -"
"That's the problem."
"You're jealous," he accused.
"No. I'm afraid she'll find out that you're not the knight in shining armor that she thinks you are. Maybe I *should* just let her go. Maybe it's time she found out what's *really* important to you."
Jimmy frowned, confused. "What are you talking about?"
"Oh, she'll enjoy having your attention - until you start canceling dinners at the last minute because of a case - or a dinner party comes up that you just *have* to be seen at to further your *career* instead of doing something she wants to do."
"That's not very fair, Mom," Jessie interjected, drawing the attention of her parents as she entered the room. "It's true that Dad was always working when you and he were married - but he did it to put a roof over our heads; so you wouldn't have to work and could stay home with me. He has almost always been there for me when I've needed him - until he moved to Indianapolis, anyway. And I don't see anything wrong with his wanting to go into public service. I'd be proud to be able to tell people that my dad was the Indiana Attorney General or even Governor."
"That's the point, Jessie," Susan insisted. "He didn't *have* to work to do that."
"But he wanted to do something to give back for his good fortune," Jessie countered, and Jimmy stood watching with a sense of pride. "He's a good man, Mom. You must have thought so once, or else you wouldn't have married him to begin with."
Susan met Jimmy's eyes. "I never said that he wasn't good man," she said in a quiet voice. "I don't suppose anything I say or do is going to change your mind, is it, Jessie?"
"No," Jessie replied. "But I want you to be happy for me and support my decision. Can you do that?"
Another look between Susan and Jimmy before she answered. "Of course I can. It's not your fault that you inherited your father's stubborn streak - and his ability to talk the birds from the trees," she added, rising to give Jessie a long hug. "I do love you. Don't ever forget that. And remember that if you ever need to talk, you know where I'll be."
"I love you, too, Mom."
"And I'll expect at least one telephone call a week."
"I think I can do that."
"You'd better. Because I don't think you want me coming all the way out there to make sure you're okay."
Jimmy spoke. "I need to go back to the hotel and take a shower and change. Then Jessie and I were going to spend the rest of the day together. You're welcome to join us if you'd like."
"Uh, I - already have other plans," Susan announced.
"Gary?" Jimmy guessed.
"I told him about Gary, Mom," Jessie confided.
"I thought you might."
"He seemed like a nice guy," Jimmy said.
"He's also a lucky guy."
"I'll tell him you said so."
"I wouldn't. He might not appreciate hearing it from your ex."
They laughed together, the tension gone as quickly as it had come. "You're probably right," Susan nodded. "Don't you have a basketball game tonight, Jessie?" she asked pointedly.
"Yes," Jessie confirmed. "Dad's going to take me."
"Oh," Susan said. "Gary and I were planning to go -"
"You still can," Jimmy said. "No reason why we can't all be there to watch her play."
"I guess not," Susan agreed. "We'll see you there, then, I guess."
"Are you coming with me, Jessie or would you rather I pick you up in say - an hour?"
"I'll come with," Jessie said. "Let me get my jacket."
Jimmy and Susan went out into the hall to wait near the door for her to return. "I meant what I said, Susan. He's a lucky man. You're a catch. And if he doesn't think so, tell him he'll have to answer to me."
"I'm sorry about - earlier," she apologized. "I shouldn't have blown up at you that way."
"It's okay," he told her. "I might have done the same thing in your shoes."
"No, you wouldn't have. You would have just stood back and let everyone else do what they wanted to do without argument - even if it wasn't what you wanted." She smiled. "It's your one fault at times."
"Okay, let me rephrase that: It's one of your faults."
Jimmy grinned. "That's better."
Jessie came bounding back down the stairs to give her mother another hug. "See you, Mom. And thanks again."
"You're welcome. Have fun."
Jessie stood with her father as they waited for the cab. "You and she still care a lot about each other, don't you?"
"Is it that noticeable? Especially when we're arguing?"
"Not then," Jessie acknowledged. "But other times - yeah. It's noticeable."
"Jessie, your mom and I -"
"I know," Jessie sighed as the taxi pulled up. "You're not going to get back together. But that's okay. I mean, back when you two first split, I used to try and dream up ways of getting you back together. But now I realize that you're both happier apart than you are together."
Jimmy opened the door of the taxi and let her go first before joining her in the back seat and telling the driver to take them to his hotel.
"Did you mean what you said about understanding why I wasn't around when you ere younger, Jessie?" Jimmy asked as they headed toward her school.
"Yeah. I mean, I didn't then. But I finally figured out that you didn't *want* not to be there, but you had to be because of who you are."
"When did you get to be so smart?" he wondered.
Jessie grinned as she slipped her arm through his. "Comes from being your daughter, I guess."
"That's something I think your mom would agree with."
"I *know* she would." She looked at him. "Are you cool with her bringing Gary to my game?"
"Why shouldn't I be? I want your mom to be happy. If that means she's with Gary, then I'm fine with it." He thought for a minute. "Has he been coming to your games on a regular basis?"
"For the last few weeks, yeah. Mostly since I got back from visiting you in Indy."
Jimmy was already sitting in the bleachers minutes before the game when Susan and Gary appeared. Standing up, he called, "Susan! Over here!"
He saw her glance at him, then turn to Gary, who nodded and followed her in coming toward his position. Moving his jacket, he indicated the now empty bench. "I kept a couple of seats open," he told them, taking Gary's offered hand. "Gary."
"Thanks, Jimmy," Gary said, sitting on the other side of Susan from him, his eyes scanning the sidelines where the two teams were just coming out. "There she is."
Jessie, her dark hair pulled back into a ponytail, looked up into the crowd and waved, smiling, that smile growing even wider as she gave her father a 'thumbs up' signal.
Jimmy returned the signal as the coach called the team together for a huddle. "I've missed this," he told Susan. Before his move to Indy, he'd made time for every one of Jessie's games - another bone of contention between himself and Susan. She continually pointed out his ability make time for things that mattered to Jessie - while he hadn't seemed to want to do the same for her during their marriage.
"She missed your being here," Susan said, and Jimmy heard the tiny undercurrent of criticism in her tone.
"That may be. But *she* understands why I couldn't be," Jimmy replied, keeping his eyes on the sideline where his daughter was getting ready for the start of the game. Even though he wasn't looking at her, he could feel Susan's physical withdrawal.
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Gary's fingers move to grasp Susan's hand, either to comfort her or to prevent her from continuing the battle, Jimmy wasn't sure which. But it seemed to work, because she fell quiet, her gaze locked on the floor below as the game began.
A little over an hour later, the final buzzer sounded, ending the game. Jessie's team had won by ten points - over half of which had either been directly scored by Jessie or could be attributed to her assistance.
Jimmy made his way to the sidelines with Susan and Gary in his wake, grabbing his daughter up in a bear hug when she stepped away from her team celebration. "You were *fantastic*!" he declared.
"Thanks," Jessie said, turning to accept her mother and Gary's more reserved congratulations.
"Hey, Jess!" a blonde girl called, crossing to them. "Coach Myers is taking us to Tonio's to celebrate," she said, talking about a local pizza place that the kids in the area liked. "You coming with?"
Jessie turned to look at her father, obviously torn. "I -"
"Go on," Jimmy said. "I'll see you tomorrow before I leave."
"Go. Be with your friends."
She gave her mom a hug. "See you later," then hugged her father again. "Thanks." She turned to follow her friend and team mate, only to turn back and say, "Meet for a run again tomorrow?" as she walked backwards.
"It's a date," he confirmed with a wide smile.
Jessie turned back around and continued on her way, turning only once more to wave at them as she and the rest of the team headed for the locker room area.
Jimmy put his hands into his pockets as Susan told Gary, "Let's go, Gary."
Gary glanced at Jimmy before nodding in his direction. "Bye."
"Bye," Jimmy replied, aware that Susan still wasn't ready to forgive his earlier comment. For Jessie's sake, he felt the need to try and apologize. "Listen, Susan -"
She shook her head. "Never mind, Jimmy. I've learned to live with the way things are."
Gary gave him a tiny smile before turning away with Susan to leave the gym. Alone, Jimmy watched them go with a deep sigh, and wondered if any of his old friends might be free for dinner this evening.
After another early morning run, father and daughter had lunch together before he left for the airport. Jessie gave him another hug when they stopped to drop her off at the brownstone en route to the airport.
"Thank you for coming, Dad," she said. "And for not trying to talk me out of my decision like Mom wanted you to do."
"Like I said, you're a big girl and can make your own decisions. Besides," he admitted, lowering his voice and grinning, "I like the idea of your being within driving distance instead of having to take plane to see you if you went to Boston."
"So do I," Jessie agreed. "Call me when you get there?"
"You know I will," he promised, looking up as the front door of the brownstone opened and Susan appeared. From the expression on her face, she wasn't yet ready to bury the hatchet - except perhaps in his back, he thought, so he simply called, "Bye, Susan."
"Good bye, Jimmy," she replied evenly. "Have a safe flight."
He got into the taxi and headed back to JFK for the flight back to Indiana. For the first time since he'd moved, he realized that he was looking forward to getting there - maybe because he knew that in just a few months, Jessie would be close by.
That made all the difference, somehow.