tagMatureLife is a Soap Opera Act 02

Life is a Soap Opera Act 02

byHLD©

This is the second part of Gabriel and Bailey's tale. If you haven't read the first part, you might want to check it out. As with the first part, there is more romance than sex, so if you're looking to get off quickly, this is the wrong story for you. Enjoy!

***************

Andy woke up on Saturday morning promptly at six o'clock. He had never needed an alarm clock. Rolling out of bed, he threw on a pair of jeans and a t-shirt then went outside to feed the animals. He played fetch for a little while with Bucky, the family's black lab.

When he smelled bacon, he went inside. Joanne was in the kitchen. He walked up behind her and grabbed a handful of her backside. She playfully swatted his hands away and prepared two plates.

He poured a glass of milk for himself and orange juice for his wife. After nineteen years of marriage, they had their morning ballet down to a fine art.

They sat next to each other on the benches that lined the table in the kitchen. This was their time. Ordinarily, on a Saturday morning, the twins and any number of their friends would be sleeping over. Being teenagers, they usually stayed up late and slept in. During the week, he would have left for the shop by now and Joanne would be going to work.

But not on Saturdays.

Later in the morning, the family would all do their usual chores, whether it was cleaning the house, caring for the animals, tending the garden or doing yardwork. Then they'd have dinner together before the girls inevitably went off to do something with their friends.

They had a comfortable routine. And it was coming to an end.

A part of him felt a little bitter. After all, these were his girls. They were his life. Everything he did—good, bad or indifferent—was all for them. They were his pride and joy.

Despite the times when he didn't like them very much or when they made typical boneheaded teenage decisions, he loved them more than anything. They had him wrapped around their pretty little fingers, and he knew it. But he would have it no other way.

Now it seemed that they were moving on. Or at least taking their first steps. He knew this day was coming. He had prepared himself for when they would leave and never come back to live under his roof. He even looked forward to it.

But it just seemed too soon.

When they were at Gabriel's, everything they talked about made sense. He didn't like the idea of the girls driving into town every day at seven in the morning, going to school, working and then coming home, some nights after dark. As any father did, he feared for their safety. He worried about the times when they were out of his sight.

To him, they were always four years old, their hair up in pig tails, running around the yard in their Easter dresses. Or they were the newborns he rocked to sleep at night after being born in this very house. He never thought of them as young women.

But that's what they were now. And he had to accept it. He didn't have to like it, but he had to live with it.

He knew that an hour on the road each way wasn't good. Nor was it cheap. If he could afford to buy them new cars that got better gas mileage and he knew weren't going to break down, he would have. If he could rent an apartment in town, they could live some place safe, but he and Joanne simply didn't have the money.

Gabriel MacKenzie did. Try as he might, Andy couldn't bring himself to dislike Gabe. He was polite and kind. He was smart, handsome and financially secure. He was also only four years younger than Andy. And he was pursuing his daughter.

Still, Bailey could do worse. Like that Mahoney kid who kept calling. Seedy, unkempt and rude, the only other prospect in Bailey's life was definitely not the kind of boy a father wanted for his daughter.

"It's not like they're leaving for good," Joanne interrupted his reverie. She had always been adept at reading his mind.

"I know," he said softly. "I just didn't expect it to be like this..."

"Like what?"

"Them moving in with some guy."

"He's not 'some guy'," Joanne snorted. "Gabriel is the kind of man who comes along once in a blue moon. And you know it."

Andy knew she was right. Part of him was jealous of Gabriel. He seemed to be everything Andy wasn't: rich, good-looking, with a big house and a job that wasn't dirty.

"You don't like that there's another man in Bailey's life," Joanne got straight to the heart of the matter.

"It's not that. I just—"

"Bullshit." Every now and then, people need a verbal smacking around. Andy knew he was due. And he knew whenever it was his wife doing the talking, she was always right. "You don't like that Bailey has someone in her life and you're afraid that she won't need you anymore. It's okay to feel that way. But you know what? No one else will teach her to hunt or take her out for her first four-wheeler ride. And no one else will let her dance on his toes and carry her around on his shoulders. Because that was you. You're always going to be her daddy. And both of the girls are going to love you like no one else."

"I just didn't think I'd have to let go so soon."

Joanne's eyes softened and she smiled wistfully. "That's the point of raising kids, Andy. We did a good job. They're smart and hard-working. They're going to college and with a little bit of luck they'll be able to make a better life for themselves than we could give them."

"Couldn't she wait until she was older before she got serious about a guy? And why Gabriel? Why would he be her first serious boyfriend?"

"How old do you want her to be?"

"Thirty?"

Joanne, pushed their plates back. "Bailey is her Daddy's girl. When all those other boys were calling April, you were the one who took her out for dinner and over to Billy Bob's for miniature golf. Do you remember when April had her first date? You and Bailey spent all night changing the oil and rotating the tires on that old Buick. You've always been the man in her life because ... well, because all the other boys were chasing April."

She took her husband's shaking hands in her own.

"You're not losing her, Andy. Look at me. She's always deserved better than any of the boys around here and you know it. It's okay for you to not like Gabriel. That's what daddies do."

"It's not that I dislike him..."

"I know, honey." She put her arms around him. "Does this ring a bell: Once upon a time, there was a shy girl who lived on Parsons Street. When she was a sophomore in high school, a boy started calling on her. He was a senior and drove a '73 Camaro that was too fast and too pretty for her daddy's liking. His hair was too long and he didn't say 'sir' or 'ma'am' and his grades weren't very good. The first time he came to pick her up, the girl's father was cleaning his .30-06 in the living room. But that didn't stop the boy. He swept the girl off her feet and they fell in love, even though he knew he wasn't good enough for her daddy. Does that sound familiar?"

Andy smile ruefully.

"They're going to be okay," Joanne said, kissing him on the cheek. "Even if Gabriel and Bailey don't work out, they're always going to be our girls. No one who comes by to take them out will ever be good enough for you. But you know what? My Daddy came around. And so will you."

"I know," he wiped his eyes and squeezed his wife. He gave her a loving kiss. "My little girl just had better not come home knocked up. You know I'm a better shot than your father."

They both laughed and held on to one another. Everything was going to be all right.

"Want to go for a ride in the Camaro?" he asked, forcing a smile.

"Not a chance, Big Boy," Joanne retorted. "I'm not limber enough to work around the shifter anymore!"

She let out a surprised yelp when Andy scooped her up in his arms and carried her to their bedroom. A long time ago, it had been his parents's room. It was where the girls were born and before that, on a night when his folks were out to dinner, it was where the twins had been conceived.

*************

A little while later, the four girls showed up after spending the night at Morgan's. April and Morgan were in the used Oldsmobile Andy had bought for the twins to share. Bailey and Kimmy were riding in Gabriel's expensive Lexus sedan. Andy had to suppress his envy, but he appreciated how generous Gabe was with is home and his things.

The foursome piled into the house and began going through April and Bailey's room. They packed up boxes of clothes and much to their father's delight, left many of their personal things in their room. He didn't want them suddenly and totally moving out.

Joanne squeezed his hand, knowing how hard it was for him to watch his daughters taking some of their things away.

"Gabe invited everyone up to his house for dinner," Bailey gave her dad a hug. He found that he didn't want to let go. "He wants to talk to everyone and their parents. And I think he wants Mom to cook."

Andy looked a little surprised.

"He says he doesn't know his way around the kitchen," she shrugged.

"Then it's a good thing you'll be around to fatten him up a little," April teased and Andy couldn't help but frown.

After packing up their things, the girls were back in the cars and headed over to Kimmy's to get her things as well.

Later in the afternoon, Joanne coaxed him out of his funk and they drove up to Gabriel's house along with Morgan's parents. They talked idly. All four were happy for the opportunity Gabriel was offering. Even together, they couldn't afford to pay market value on any apartment or house that was even remotely close to being clean and safe. And here the teenagers were: moving into four thousand square foot house in a gated community that was worth more than all of their property put together.

The girls had already arrived. They were getting settled in. Even though he had been there before, there were parts of the house Andy hadn't seen. Bailey took him by the hand and gave him the grand tour of everything except for Gabriel's room and the master suite. He truly was amazed at how some people lived, and he was a little ashamed that he couldn't give that to his daughters.

Joanne and the other moms were in the kitchen preparing dinner. After being given a list, Gabe had dutifully gone to the store and filled his pantry with groceries. The girls were upstairs claiming their rooms and moving in. The men were downstairs, watching TV and talking.

To no one's surprise, Gabriel was the perfect host. He had a healthy stock of beer in the fridge, a nice selection of wines but also soft drinks and bottled water around. His house was immaculately clean, unlike what Andy expected out of a bachelor pad.

His exercise equipment was broken-in but also well-maintained. His landscaping was the envy of the neighbourhood. More amazing, he did all the work himself. Of course, he had been off work for over a year so it wasn't like he didn't have any free time.

Andy and the other girls's fathers started talking NASCAR. Gabe only knew a little about racing, but when the conversation turned to football, he jumped right in. Being a Steelers fan knocked him down a peg or two in Andy's book, but he couldn't fault anyone rooting for their home town team. For someone who didn't have a job doing "real" work, Gabriel managed to impress Andy with the depth of his knowledge on a variety of subjects, but also in his willingness to defer to other people's expertise instead of making up bullshit trying to impress them.

What truly won Bailey's father over was the vintage car in the garage. On top of his Lexus, Gabe kept up a BMW 3-series coupe that had belonged to his mother, but his pride and joy was a 1970 Buick Skylark GS 455 convertible. It was candy apple red with a black top and racing stripe. Covered in chrome and obviously hand-polished, it looked fast just sitting in the garage. It wasn't the car itself that Andy appreciated, it was how the car was cared for.

Andy believed that you can tell a lot about a person in the way they take care of the things that are important to them. His own shop was spotlessly clean, the tools meticulously maintained and cleaned. Andy watched out for the men and woman who worked for him and was rewarded with loyal people surrounding him and a well-deserved reputation for good work and reliable service.

As he looked around Gabriel's house, he saw things that were in their place. Gabriel paid a handsome price for high-quality tools and fixtures, but also did his best to keep everything in good, working order. In listening to the way Bailey—and more importantly, April—talked about Gabriel, Andy realised that his daughter would always be put first and would be treated well. As the four men talked muscle cars for a while, Andy recognised that of all the boys to show an interest in his girls, Gabe was the best he could hope for.

The age difference bothered him a little, but the double standard of older men with younger women soon rendered that a non-issue. He saw that Gabe would never do anything to hurt Bailey, even if they broke up. He appreciated the other man's generally positive outlook on life and that he had made something of himself. In getting to know Gabriel, Andy found out that his family had never been wealthy and that he and his brother both had to earn everything they had gotten. And that counted for a lot in their town.

A little while later, dinner was ready and the thirteen of them sat down to eat. There weren't enough seats in the dining room, so some people spilled over into the living room. Andy and Joanne ate with Gabriel, who was full of show business stories, often involving his brushes with more famous actors or bloopers from the TV shows he had been on.

When the meal was done, Gabriel wanted to talk to everyone. Along with the parents, Gabriel laid out some common sense rules for living in his house and he even had a rental agreement that would protect him (and the girls) for the rest of the school year. They talked about expectations and responsibilities. The bills were divided and a due date established for the rent.

Throughout the night, Andy was both impressed and relieved at how mature his girls had become. Somehow, a few of the lessons he and Joanne tried to teach them had sunk in.

He was also relieved to know that Gabriel wouldn't be there for much of the time. His job in New York combined with some other jobs his agent had found would take him away. Andy didn't want Gabriel and Bailey moving too fast, and he certainly didn't want people to think that she was "shacking up" with a guy twice her age.

When the evening was over, the misgivings Andy had before were almost gone. He was saddened by his girls moving out—even part time—but he knew that it was the best thing for everyone. They promised to come home on the weekends, for a good Sunday dinner if nothing else. Gabriel was getting house-sitters and the girls were getting a nice safe place to live and the parents were getting a little piece of mind.

Joanne held his hand for the entire ride home. None of the adults spoke as they realised that their daughters had just moved out of the house.

That night as he fell asleep, Andy was unsure if he liked the silence that had come over his home.

*******************

"Do you really have to go?" Bailey asked, snuggling up to Gabe.

"I'm afraid so," he replied. They sat on the couch watching the beginning of the Fontana race and the Sunday night football game on the split screens. With Monday being a holiday, the other girls were out on the town.

April, Kimmy and Morgan had invited Gabe and Bailey to come along, but they declined. Partly because they wanted some time alone. And partly because at heart, they were both homebodies.

"Work calls," he said, kissing the top of her head.

"I'm going to miss you," she said softly.

"Let's not talk about that now," Gabe said firmly. He had an early flight on Wednesday morning. She would be in class or at work most of the day on Tuesday and they had promised to drive out to her parents's house on Monday for a Labor Day cookout. They knew they only had a little bit more time together and they wanted to make the most of it.

They sat in silence for a little while longer. The night before was torture for Bailey. Though they were under the same roof, he was downstairs in his bed and she was upstairs in the bedroom she shared with her sister. She and April had been roommates since ... well, their conception ... and had on occasion shared a bed, especially during particularly nasty thunderstorms.

As much as she loved her sister, April was no substitute for Gabe. Bailey craved the feel of his arms around her. Not for the sexual feelings he stirred within her, but for the comfort and safety she felt when they were together. She missed cuddling up with him and listening to his rhythmic breathing and the gentle beating of his heart.

"I want you to do something for me while I'm gone," Gabe said.

"Like what?"

He tapped her on the shoulder and she sat up. He went into his bedroom and came out a minute later carrying an envelope. She took his hand as he led her to the master bedroom.

It was neatly made up. It was more than clean; it was sterile. As if no one had been in it for a long time. In the center of the room was a hospital bed with a plush chair and ottoman beside it. Bailey could imagine Gabriel sleeping in the chair next to his mother's bed as he cared for her.

Unconsciously, he stopped at the doorway. Taking a deep breath, Gabriel stepped in. She dutifully followed.

Gabe handed her the envelope.

"There's a thousand dollars in there," he said quietly. "I want you and the girls to remodel this room."

"Why?" Bailey asked.

"Because I can't do it," Gabe replied. "I can't stand to change anything about this room. But I know I have to. This was Mom's house ... and now she's gone. I can't ... I need to move on. I've changed a lot of things around the house, but this room ... her room ... I just don't have it in me."

"What do you want us to do?"

"I want you all to make it into a bedroom I won't be afraid to move in to." Bailey wrapped her fingers around his as he spoke. "Put the pictures and other sentimental stuff in the spare room upstairs but everything else can go. Give it to Goodwill, send it to your folks ... I don't care. When I come in here, all I can see is Mom lying in the bed with the paramedics trying to revive her ... I have lots of good memories of this house. Like the party last month. Mom would have loved to be there. She'd have liked you. I want to keep those, but forget all the bad ones."

"Okay," she whispered. Bailey pulled him close. They stood there sharing the maudlin moment.

Then she tugged at his hand and led him back through the living room to his bedroom. In the back of her mind, Bailey had already decided that she was going to spend the next three nights in Gabriel's arms. She would have plenty of opportunities to be by herself over the next few months and she wasn't about to waste what precious little time they had left together.

The only question was how far she was willing to go before Gabe went back to New York.

They left the lights on in the foyer for when the other girls came home. She threw her arms around him and they held each other. His touch was comforting, even though she felt she should be comforting him.

He leaned in to kiss her, but she pulled back.

"Can I spend the night with you?" she whispered.

"Of course," he said.

"I'm going to go change," Bailey said as she slipped out of his arms. "I'll be right back."

She bounded up the steps and went to her room. Sifting through the dresser, she put on a pair of short silk pajama bottoms and threw on a matching button-down top. She left her bra and panties on and pulled her hair back into a pony tail. She brushed her teeth then went back downstairs.

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