Written by: Nadine Petrovitch
Synopsis: A short tale about what happens when Francine tries to be nice.
Timeline: June 1990.
Author's Notes: The result of a title challenge. This story started out as something quite different than what you're about to read. As I wrote, it took on a life of its own. I'm not complaining, mind you, but Francine and Amanda had ideas that were not the same as mine. One warning . . . it's fluff, plain and simple.
Author's Note Update: After a posting of another story from this challenge, I was reminded that I also participated! Here is my version of BS&BS . . .
Thanks: To my wonderful beta, Skye. Thanks for keeping me real. You're a peach! I also need to thank my significant other for some well-placed suggestions, his Thesaurus, and Francine wouldn't say/do that's. And he says he doesn't watch SMK. ;) Any remaining errors belong solely to me.
Disclaimers: The story is mine (notice I did not say plot), and Will is mine. Everything else SMK belongs to Warner Brothers and Shoot the Moon Enterprises, Ltd. A few references to original episodes and a paraphrased line or two can be found if you know where to look. No infringement is intended.
The morning started uneventfully for the petite blonde woman as she woke and stretched. She slipped into a pink and red baseball T-shirt and headed for the bathroom with a small smile on her lips. Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she smirked at the shirt, which had been red and white just last week.
"One of us needs to learn how to do laundry," she said to her reflection.
A buzz from the speaker next to the front door startled her and she grabbed the first thing from the top of the laundry pile. Muttering under her breath in frustration, she realized she was pulling on a pair of red flowered gray flannel pajama pants that were two sizes too big. With a sigh, she padded barefoot across the hardwood floor, the waistband of the pants clutched in her left hand to prevent them from falling off her slim waist. As she reached the door, she leaned against the wall and pushed the answer button.
"Who is it?" She sighed.
"Francine? It's me . . . Amanda. I have that . . . delivery you need."
"Oh! Amanda! Come on up, I'll buzz you through." She pushed a second button and heard the click as the outer building door opened. There was a soft knock on the door a moment later and as she pulled it open, a fleeting feeling of panic came over her. Glancing down at her attire, she snorted, shaking her head. 'Great. Just what I don't need to be seen in. Especially by her.'
"Good morning! I have the dish you were asking about. The baking instructions are . . . " Amanda stopped talking abruptly and Francine groaned inwardly. 'Here it comes.' She took the casserole dish out of Amanda's outstretched hands, but the brunette didn't seem to notice.
"Um, Francine? What are you wearing?"
"Why do you care? Doesn't everyone have comfortable around the house clothes? I'm sure you do." She turned and walked as best she could into the kitchen, her slightly amused guest following behind.
"Would you mind closing the door, please?" Francine attempted to change the subject.
"Oh! Yes, I'm sorry." Amanda backtracked and shut the door quietly, turning once again to head into the kitchen.
"You were saying, Amanda?" Francine prompted as she glanced back at her.
"Oh, yes . . . sorry. I got a little . . . distracted there for a moment. You know, I could take those pants in for you a little if you'd like." She reached out and pinched the fabric of the other woman's waistband with a thoughtful look on her face.
"Thank you, but I really do like them this way." Francine took a step back and leaned against the counter.
"Well, all right, if you're sure." She shook her head and continued. "I wrote the baking instructions – temperature, length of time, serving hints – right here on the sticker on the lid. I hope it helps."
Francine lifted the lid off the dish and smiled appreciatively. "Mmmm . . . homemade Beef Stroganoff. I don't know what possessed me to tell Jonathan I could make his favorite meal. I mean, he pretty much realizes that I'm not a domestic person. You're really a lifesaver, Amanda. I don't know how I can repay you."
Amanda shrugged and ducked her head. "Aw, well, it was nothing, really. I just made a double batch . . . "
Francine placed the casserole dish in the refrigerator and turned back around. "Anything, really, just let me know."
Amanda chuckled and said with a grin, "I'm sure I could think of something. But really, it's not necessary."
"Within reason, of course. No baby-sitting while you and Lee take off for the weekend or anything like that." She waved her hand at her guest and reached for a coffee mug. "Coffee?"
"No, thank you, I really should be getting home. Lee wants to take Will to Rock Creek Park this morning and they're waiting for me at home."
Francine's face lit up and she pointed at her colleague. "Do you know what you need?"
A small smile flickered across Amanda's face. "Well, I can think of a few things, but I'm sure they're not anything you would have in mind." She took in the other woman's annoyed look. "Go ahead." She sighed.
"You, Amanda Stetson, need to take a weekend to go away alone and pamper yourself . . . "
"Pamper myself? Can I do that? Are mothers allowed to do that?" She feigned shock as she placed her hand against her chest.
"I'm serious." Francine replied, ignoring her friend'sattempt at a joke. "You need this. Let me take you to my spa next weekend. No kids, no pets, no work, and no men. Just us girls. Well, except for Manuel. He gives the best massages . . . " She sighed dreamily at the thought. A moment later she shook her head and continued. "Everyone else does this, Amanda. Really. You need to pamper yourself for a change."
"Everyone else doesn't live in my house, Francine. Do you know what would happen if I leave for a whole weekend?" Amanda shook her head. "Lee has certainly come a long way from seven years ago, but without Mother there I just don't think it would be a good idea. Will is still so young."
Francine straightened and crossed her arms. "You're going, and that's all there is to it." She reached out, turned her friend around by the shoulders and gave her a gentle shove toward the door. "Now, go. Before Lee comes here after you. You seeing me this way is bad enough. I'd never live it down if he saw my favorite comfy clothes."
Amanda stopped and turned as she reached the door. "Good luck tonight, Francine. Tell Jonathan I said 'Hello.' You know, the two of you should come over sometime this week for dinner."
"Don't change the subject, Amanda. We're going." She placed her free hand on her friend's back and slowly pushed her out the door, the waistband of her pants again grasped in her other hand. "I'll call you when I have all the details worked out." She closed the door before Amanda had the chance to disagree again. At the sound of footsteps behind her, she turned with a smile. The smile froze on her face as she took in the appearance of her usually impeccably dressed fiancé.
"Jonathan, darling . . . what are you wearing?" She covered her mouth to stifle a laugh as she stared at his Hawaiian print Bermuda shorts and black dress socks pulled up to mid-calf.
"My feet were cold! I'm used to carpeting and radiant heat . . . not hardwood and cold tile floors! He pouted at her as he slid his arms around her waist. "And I can't find my slippers. And anyway, who are you to ask me what I'm wearing this morning, hmmm? I seem to remember saying you needed to get rid of those horrid pants just last week."
"But Jonathan, do you know how long I've had these? I love these pants. I know they're too big, and not very attractive, but I don't get to be completely comfortable most of the time. Humor me, okay?" She leaned up and kissed him with a grin. "Come on, I have fresh coffee, and a proposition for you."
"Who was that at the door?" He stopped abruptly and smiled. "Did you say a proposition?"
"It was Amanda, and that's what I want to talk to you about . . . "
6:00pm - the Stone Condo . . .
"Fran, this Stroganoff is incredible! How did you manage to pull this off with me sleeping in the next room?" Jonathan grinned at Francine across the table.
"I have my ways." She smiled in response, and then looked down at her plate, changing the subject quickly. "So, this weekend is all set. I called Lee before dinner and finalized all the details with him first. Amanda can't say no to him . . . " She finished with a wink.
He laughed and shook his head, raising another forkful of Stroganoff in salute. "You don't play fair, Fran."
"I've never claimed to," she responded, reaching for her wineglass.
6:00pm - the Stetson household . . .
"Come on, Amanda. Francine is right. You deserve a little time for yourself. Will and I will be fine for two days. I know what I'm doing,and your Mother is just a phone call away. Besides," he added, leaning over and whispering in her ear, "our reunions are always something worth going away for." The phone rang at that moment and he pulled back to wink at her. "I'll just bet that's her right now. You tell her you're going, all right?" hecommanded with a grin.
Amanda answered the phone with a sigh. There was no way she could say no to him, and he knew it. Francine knew it too; that's why she had gone to Lee with her idea. "Hello?"
A saccharine voice came over the line at her. "Amanda! Just the person I wanted to talk to! Have you heard the good news?"
Amanda rolled her eyes and sighed into the phone. "Francine, you don't play fair."
"So I've been told. Pack your bags, because we're off to New York in three days! It's not . . . "
Amanda immediately perked up. "New York?" she exclaimed with a smile. "I've always wanted to see New York. I mean really see New York, you know? I've taken the boys there for the Thanksgiving Parade but I really didn't see much of anything but the floats and people . . . lots of people . . . "
"Amanda!" Francine interjected quickly. "What I was going to tell you is the spa isn't in New York, New York. It's in, well . . . New York, Virginia."
Amanda stood silent for a moment.
"Amanda? Did you hear me?"
She cleared her throat and spoke hesitantly. "Yes, it's just not what I expected to hear, that's all. You're full of surprises this week." She was glad the other woman couldn't see the smirk on her face.
"Yeah, well, don't go spreading this stuff around. You know how those girls in Steno can be," she huffed. "You'd think none of them had ever told a little fib before."
Amanda laughed. "Well, actually, I've never been to New York, Virginia, either. So, I guess I'm in for an adventure." She gave a resigned sigh. "It seems we're on for Friday."
"I'll pick you up at noon. It's about two hours from here and check-in is at 3:00. That gives us plenty of time."
The two women exchanged good-byes and hung up. Amanda turned to see her husband leaning against the wall behind her, their sleeping son in his arms and a grin on his face.
"Well, the three of you ought to be proud of yourselves." She poked him in the chest as she walked by. "There's a good movie on TV tonight;why don't you go put Will down and join me in the den?"
Francine shifted from foot to foot as she waited on the front stoop for someone to answer the door. She had been standing there for at least five minutes now and was getting quite agitated. Impatiently punching at the doorbell again, she was rewarded with the muffled voice of Lee Stetson.
"Hold your horses . . . I'm comin'!"
"It's about time." She sighed. The door flew open and the figure just inside the door took her completely by surprise. Lee stood in the entryway, Will on one hip, a bottle in one hand, and the phone tucked between his shoulder and ear. She had just gotten over the Mr. Mom remark that popped into her head when she realized what he was wearing.
"Oh, for crying out loud!" Francine exclaimed as she brushed past a visibly annoyed Lee. "This has got to stop." She muttered to herself. "Is Amanda ready?" She turned and placed one hand on her hip as she tried not to laugh out loud.
"Before you say another word, you'd better remember who signs your paychecks." Lee had hung up the phone and shifted the baby in his arms to point at her with the baby bottle.
"The illustrious Scarecrow," she shot back. "ButI don't see him anywhere around. All I see is you, wearing those incredibly hideous Bermuda shorts you and Jonathan had to have and a pair of black dress socks. What happened, Lee, forget halfway through dressing thatyou were playing house today?" As she finished, she raised an eyebrow at him and turned to head for the kitchen.
"Can it, Francine," Lee muttered in response. "As a matter of fact, I threw the first thing on I grabbed this morning. I just happened to still have my socks on from last night. Not that it's really any of your business," headded with a pointed stare. Francine watchedas he placed Will in his highchair, dropped a handful of Cheerios on the tray, and turned to head upstairs. "I'll go let Amanda know you're here, keep an eye on Will for a minute, would you?" His words faded as he disappeared up the stairs.
"Now, wait a minute, Stetson . . . " Her protest was interrupted by a squeal from her charge. Turning slowly, she took a deep breath. "Will! How are you today?" She sat down in the chair across from the little boy and watched as he gummed a fistful of the cereal. "Just take my advice, and don't ever dress like your father. He's definitely slacked in his old age."
"I heard that!" avoice bellowed from the stairs. "Amanda will be right down." He walked over to the highchair and leaned down to kiss his son on the forehead. "Don't listen to her, buddy, she doesn't have a clue." He whispered. Glancing up at the other occupant of the kitchen he winked at her and straightened. "I do have to thank you, Francine. Amanda really does need some time to relax. She hasn't done much of that in the last year."
Francine snorted and shook her head. She heard footsteps on the stairs and lowered her voice. "She hasn't done much of that in the past five years, Lee. This is long overdue." She held out a hand and finished with a satisfied grin. "I'm going to make sure she is completely relaxed this weekend."
3:30pm Friday – New York, Virginia
"How were you supposed to know there'd be an accident on I-60?" Amanda tried desperately to calm her friend's frazzled nerves.
Francine sighed as she pulled her car into a space across from the spa's entrance. "The detour wasn't that bad, Amanda." She held up her hand and shook her head. "But if I ever get that . . . that . . . COMMERCIAL, out of my head, I'll, I'll . . . "
"I told you I was sorry." Amanda interjected quietly.
Francine continued, not acknowledging her apology. "'Plop, plop; fizz, fizz; oh what a relief it is.'" Her head bobbed in time to the jingle she had recited. "Just as soon as I'd get it out of my head you'd sing it again. Really, Amanda. What was that supposed to accomplish?" She sighed as she reached for the door handle. "Besides being completely annoying?"
"That was the last thing I heard last night before bed. I couldn't get it out of my mind. My mother always swears singing it over and over will work. Besides, it's not my fault your radio isn't working."She stepped out of the car and stood looking across the roof at Francine. "I guess it wasn't the best way to pass the time." She cringed as the driver's door slammed.
"I guess not. Thanks to your mother's ingenious cure I will never forget that drive." She grabbed her suitcase out of the hatch and stalked off, leaving Amanda to retrieve her bag and follow along.
Amanda rolled over with a groan and swatted at the offending buzz, which threatened to awaken her.
"Amanda! Come on. Yoga starts in three minutes and you're not even showered! I thought you mothers all got up before the sun." Francine's unusually chipper voice seeped into Amanda's consciousness.
"We do, Francine." She sighed sleepily. "That's why it'd be nice to sleep in today. When did you turn on the alarm? I thought this was supposed to be a relaxing weekend. Do you realize Lee and Will are still asleep at home?And will be for another two hours?" She groaned again and stretched.
Francine patted her arm and smiled. "Yoga is relaxing, dear. I'm going to go across the hall and get a mineral water while you get dressed." She poked her head back in for one last comment. "Wear something comfortable!"
Amanda closed her eyes again and sighed as the door closed completely, only to be startled from her bed a moment later by a scream. She ran to the door and reached to pull it open just as her frazzled roommate entered. "Are you all right?"
"It's a conspiracy. I just know it." She flopped down in an oversized chair next to the door and glanced up at Amanda. "Even Ripley wouldn't believe this one."
"Francine, what's going on? What happened out there?"
The blonde woman shook her head slowly. "You'll never believe me. I was heading over to the breakfast bar when I heard a noise a few rooms down. I turned to say good morning and there was a woman standing there pounding on the door, and I swear to you, Amanda, she was wearing nothing but a pair of black socks and . . . " She took a deep breath. "Bermuda shorts." There was silence for a moment and Francine glanced over at her friend. Amanda opened the door and peeked out. The hall was empty except for the woman working the breakfast/snack bar. After one last, quick glance, she pulled her head back in the room and turned to look at Francine.
"There's not a soul in the hallway." Amanda said patiently. "I told you we needed more sleep than that. Especially after all those Bohemian Flings you drank in the bar last night."
"You don't believe me." Francine stared at her in shock. "I'm telling you, she was there. I don't see things. I'm a trained agent. She was there . . . " Her voice trailed off as she looked at the door, her eyebrows knit in frustration. "And they're Dreams, Amanda, Bohemian Dreams."
"Whatever." She waved her hand at Francine. "I believe you, really, I do. Now, let's get something to eat and start our day. We both could use a little relaxation, it seems." She smiled brightly as the other woman muttered, "Great, just great."
In front of the Stone Condo . . .
"I had a wonderful time, Francine. Thank you so much." She looked over at her friend sitting in the passenger seat. "I'm just sorry the weekend turned out to be so . . . weird . . . for you. Are you sure you're feeling all right?" Francine'sonly response was a snort. "I called Lee and he'll be here shortly to take me home. That way your car will be available to you whenever you're ready to come back to work." She was startled by Francine's voice.
"Gweat. I'm going ubstairs." She leveled a stare at her co-worker and wagged a finger in her face. "Yee tan not see me yike dis, Amanba."
Ten minutes later . . .
"So what was Francine's problem? I wanted to check with Jonathan about next weekend. I can't believe she made you stand outside and wait for me." He leaned over the console between their seats and kissed her. Pulling back slightly,he grinned at her. "What happened this weekend?"
"Well, everything was going fairly well until last night." Amanda paused and smirked. Shaking her head she continued. "Francine scheduled facials and make-overs for us. Well, it seems . . . see, Francine had an allergic reaction."
"Oh no!" Lee chuckled at her.
"To the lip-gloss," she added, shaking her head. "Poor thing. Her lips are huge and her chin and cheeks are all broken out and puffy. I could barely understand her when she talked to me."
His chuckle deepened into a hearty laugh. "No, I think it's more like poor Jonathan at this point. No wonder she was no where to be seen when I got here."
Amanda nodded in agreement. "And she kept seeing things. I think those Bermuda shorts you and Jonathan picked up last month really upset her. Then, this morning . . . well, that was the last straw. There was supposed to be some French movie on,and we decided to watch it. Well, Francine decided. Anyway, we sat down and got comfortable only to find she had ordered the wrong movie. She's not too fond of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. She kept mumbling something about trying to get away from work. At least that's what I think she was mumbling about." She laughed again at the memory.
Lee laughed harder. "Oh, I wish I would've been a fly on the wall this weekend. I did better than she did and I had a ten-month-old to keep happy. So? How was your weekend? Did you get to relax at all?" He reached across the small space to rub her neck.
"Mmmm. Manuel has nothing on you." She turned her head to smile at her husband. "It was . . . interesting . . . very interesting. The spa'sidea of relaxation is quite different from mine." Glancing at him, she sighed. "Where is Will, anyway? I missed him. Not that I mind being able to ride in the 'Vette. I miss this, too," she added quietly.
"He's with your mom. They thought it'd be nice if they spent some time together this weekend." He winked at his wife. "I dropped him off on the way to Fran's. I hope you don't mind." He reached for her hand. "I missed my wife. Remind me never to go along with one of Francine's scheme's again, huh?"
"I don't think that'll be a problem, Lee. I have a feeling it will be a very long time before she tries anything like that again!"