E.T. was phoning home, and because James first saw this movie more than 20 years ago, he knew exactly how it was going to work out. Even though E.T. had found a home with ELL-EEE-YOT and little Drew Barrymore, he was gonna make that call home, and by the time the movie ended, E.T. would be on his way back to where he belonged. James felt a lump in his throat.
In the darkened movie theater, he reached out to take Juliet's hand, and realized she was reaching for him, too. He knew they were thinking the same thing: they would never get back where they belonged. They'd made their decision and that was that. It would be decades before they got to go to a movie they'd never seen before. She'd never know her nephew, never talk to her sister again. He'd never meet his daughter, now that he actually wished to be a part of her life.
Sure, they joked about it. How a few decades from now they'd stalk Cassidy and Clementine and Rachel and Julian, and then sit across from them at the local Perkins or Shoney's. They'd be the overindulgent elderly couple across the aisle waving and making faces at the misbehaving little boy. They'd be the understanding old folks who said "Oh, no problem" to the little girl's harried mom when her toddler spilt her milk in a puddle at their feet.
But mostly they knew that when they decided to leave the Island, they left behind any chance to do more than that. And that knowledge sometimes hurt. James swallowed the lump in his throat, and squeezed Juliet's hand a little tighter.
But then Elliott and E.T. took off on a bicycle chase, and the movie score rose and soared. Juliet took his hand and placed it on her belly. He could feel the baby kick at each crescendo. James looked over at her, and she looked back, grinning through tears. And the lump in his throat disappeared.
They'd made a choice, and in making that choice, there were things they'd given up, but what they got in return was certainly worth it. And that made the choice a good one.
Their situation was extreme, but not unique. Everyone made choices in life: take this job or that one; ask out this girl or that one; buy this home or that one. And every choice closed off some avenues and opened others. And if you were happy with the avenue you were on, then the stuff you gave up was just a casualty. So you either jumped off a helicopter or stayed seated; rescued a woman with a bag over her head or quietly walked away; got on a sub for Ann Arbor or sat with your thumb up your ass on the Island for another 15 years.
So, James would joke about getting a commercial driver's license and driving a bus over Edmund Burke. They'd stay glued to the news on September 22, 2004 and watch crash coverage with sweaty palms. Elderly stalker fantasies aside, they'd never again see some of the people they most wanted to see. But, yeah, it was worth it.
It was already snowing when they left the theater. The flakes began falling harder on the drive home and reflected off the headlights in bright pinpricks of white. By the time they reached home, the snow was already sticking the road.
Miles and his new girlfriend, Janine, met them at the door. Miles lived in walking distance, but it was possible he needed to drive Janine back to her off-campus apartment. And as much as James and Juliet were dying to know if Miles and Janine were sleeping together, they weren't going to ask. So, they said good night with no small talk, and sent Miles and Janine on their way.
They closed up the house and watched the snow fall for a bit longer. They made love that night under their thick quilt, and afterwards, lay facing each other in the warmth of their little cocoon. The quilt briefly slipped down to expose James' shoulder, and he quickly covered back up.
When the morning came, he immediately knew snow fell most of the night. He heard no cars on their street, and the lack of the constant, distant hum from the main road less than a mile away made the morning deafeningly silent. He was thrilled it was a Saturday, and Christmas break at that, so he doubted he'd be called in for an extra shift with campus security. He snuggled close to Juliet, reveling in the warmth and blissful silence for 5 . . . 4 . . . 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .
"Mama! Daddy! It snowed! There's snow!"
James knew the silence wouldn't last long, and he was right. Jimmy pounced onto the bed, huge blue eyes alight with excitement. "Let's go make a snowman!"
"How 'bout we just snuggle up for a bit?" James offered.
"Okay!" Jimmy agreed, and snuggled into his mother's back. That lasted about two minutes. "Hey, Mama, can we make snow cream today? And drink hot choclick?"
So much for a warm, quiet morning in bed.
They used blueberry pancakes to hold Jimmy off for a bit. Shortly after 8, Miles knocked at the door, and entered, Janine in tow. James and Juliet made eye contact across the room, raised eyebrows at each other. So, Janine had spent the night at Miles' house.
Janine was a sophomore at the university, and a member of the Michigan dance squad. Frankly, she was way too young for Miles, and James enjoyed giving him shit about it. Two days ago, though, Miles busted out with, "She was born in 1963. Say, James, tell me again, when was your wife born?"
"1971," James answered.
Miles shook his head, whistled, said, "Damn, man. You give me shit about my girlfriend, and your wife's not even a teenager." Miles looked over to Juliet in the next room, Jimmy perched on what little remained of her lap. She was helping him tie his shoes. Miles whistled again, "Not even a teenager. You are one sick fuck."
So, today when Miles and Janine showed up on their doorstep minutes after 8AM, confirming they were sleeping together, James decided to leave it alone. Miles was happy, Janine was hot, eh no skin off his nose.
They couldn't hold Jimmy back any longer, so out they went, for snowball fights and snowman making and sledding and snow angels. At first, James felt slightly guilty Juliet had to stay behind. She couldn't button her winter coat any longer, and they couldn't afford a new one. Well, that wasn't quite true, it's just a new coat wasn't completely necessary, and did not meet with their plans for frugal living. They bought only what they absolutely needed and poured every single extra cent they had into their Microsoft stock portfolio. So she couldn't button up her coat anymore? Well, it kept her warm enough as long as she was just going to/from the car. Still, he felt guilty she couldn't be out playing in the snow.
Or he felt guilty until he felt jealous. Two hours into their morning snow time, and James was chilled to the core. He just knew Juliet was relaxing in front of the fire with a good book, and he was out here freezing his nuts off. Miles didn't look so hot, either. That's what years of living on a tropical island will do to you – thins your blood. And given that Miles, James, and Juliet had grown up in LA, Alabama, and Miami, respectively, it wasn't as though their blood was particularly thick to start with. Janine and Jimmy, on the other hand, were both born and raised in Michigan, and seemed in no hurry to get in out of the cold.
Eventually, though, they, too, were ready to go in for hot chocolate. They stamped off snow boots, and stripped off coats, scarves, gloves, and hats just inside the door. Janine was wearing spandex under her snow pants, and damn . . . she had a fine ass. Phew! James couldn't stop staring. Miles was hitting that? Damn!
James stared a little longer, got an odd sensation, and looked up to see Juliet staring right back at him. "Help me in the kitchen, please James?" Shit. Caught looking.
"Maybe try to be a little subtle when you're staring at another woman's ass," she said when he got into the kitchen. Mental note to self, he thought: DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCE STARE AT ANOTHER WOMAN IN FRONT OF YOUR WIFE. Somehow, that seemed important to note and remember.
But Juliet was half smiling at him, so he knew he wasn't completely in the doghouse. He said, "Well, hell, I just don't remember all this spandex the first time around. People always dressed like that in the '70s?"
"First off, it's the '80s, update your references," she lectured. "Second: Yes! Of course they did. Olivia Newton John? Remember? Let's Get Physical?"
"Let's get physical. Now there's something I can get on board with," he said, sidling up behind her and wrapping his arms around her. He kissed her on the neck, more of a tease than anything. In the very next room, they could hear Janine teaching Jimmy the words to the Michigan fight song and then heard Miles grumbling about wet socks. Still, he kept his face planted in the crook of her neck, smelling her hair, feeling her closeness.
The phone rang, startling him from his reverie. It rang again, but he made no move. "You gonna get that?" she asked.
"Probably one of your clients," he murmured into the soft skin of her shoulder. A handful of courses, a few shifts at the hospital, some highly placed Dharma references, and she'd earned her license as a Michigan-certified midwife.
The phone rang again. "Just get it please," she jostled him, and for good measure the baby delivered a swift kick to the palm of his hand.
"All right, all right, stop gangin' up on me you two, I'll get it." He lifted the receiver from the wall. Their new phone with a long cord and buttons on the handset instead of a dial on the receiver.
"What?" he barked grumpily into the phone.
It was Jin on the other line, and he sounded concerned, nervous. Jin didn't typically overreact, and he wasn't one for practical jokes, so what he was saying didn't quite make sense.
"Wait. What?" James asked now, coming awake. His shoulders were exposed, and he thought quickly to cover them, but as the fog of sleep completely cleared he realized it wasn't cold, and he wasn't in Ann Arbor.
Jin answered, "Jack, Kate, and Hurley. They are here in the North Valley. Do you want me to bring them in?"
OK, so actually there's gonna be one more chapter. So I lied back then about only 2 more chapters. I haven't added any content, just changed up how I split this up. I'm going on a ski trip this weekend (sort of - I'll be reading/lounging in the lodge), so I want to get this ALL DONE by then.