Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of Best of Enemies

by Angela Stockton
edited by Elizabeth Angela

With the Mannings' dinner hour approaching, Zoe enters the kitchen just as Lily removes a casserole from her oven. "Is that lasagna?" Zoe asks. "You never cook during the week!"

"That is so not true!" Lily protests. It's a special night, she explains, the first night that Judy has come to dinner since Rick started staying over.

Grace bounds into the kitchen, demanding that Lily help her find her missing skis, and notices the casserole. "You're cooking during the week?" she asks in surprise.

Rick arrives and, sniffing lasagna in the air, remarks, "During the week?" Exasperated, Lily decrees that the next person who says the same thing won't get any. As if on cue, Judy arrives and, hearing that lasagna is the entree, exclaims, "You cooked?" When told by Zoe that she won't get any lasagna, she shrugs: a nutritionist has told her she's allergic to dairy, and she'd resolved to eat only salad anyway.

Grace drags Lily off to hunt for the skis which she needs for an upcoming school outing, leaving Rick and Judy in the kitchen. Judy tosses the salad, but when Rick adds some yellow pear tomatoes to the bowl, she picks them out immediately. An uncomfortable silence descends. "So, no dairy, huh?" he finally remarks, which she takes as a cue to launch into a lecture on nutrition.

[In black and white, Rick rolls his eyes and says, "She is so out there." In turn, Judy comments disdainfully, "He's so contained."]

Lily returns, having located the skis, and says that she'd like Judy to come with her to look at chapels which she's considering as wedding sites. Judy replies that she'd love to, but that she's very busy right now, and suggests that they consider getting married "in a field somewhere." When Rick reminds her that she promised to give him the name of a photographer, Judy replies that she's not sure this photographer does weddings.

Rick is distracted by his ringing cell phone. "I don't think I've ever seen him without that phone," Judy mutters.

After dinner, Rick must leave for a meeting with Miles, and with Lily at his side, he says his goodnights to the family. They find Judy and Grace making plans for a book fair, a school fundraiser, and Rick suggests that Grace ask Jessie to help. Watching him leave, Lily sighs, "This project is so hard on him." Judy makes a comment that Lily interprets as criticism, but Judy insists that it's not. "When I criticize you, you'll know it," she says patronizingly.

At school the next day, Grace approaches Jessie in the dressing room after soccer practice. Though Jessie seems lightheaded, she promises to help with the book fair. Once Grace has left, Jessie rises from her bench and immediately falls to the floor.

Teammate Marni anxiously offers help, which Jessie declines. Shortly afterward, Grace learns about Jessie's collapse from two girls who witnessed it. "She's so anorexic," one says derisively.

At Booklovers, while Judy and Grace continue to organize the fundraiser, Grace suggests including books about eating disorders. The topic sets off alarms for Judy, who looks speculatively at her niece. To allay Judy's concern, Grace informs her about Jessie's fainting spell. Though Judy is shocked, Grace begs her not to tell Lily, predicting that Jessie will hate Grace for informing on her.

That night, Jessie does her homework at the kitchen table although Karen's hovering presence makes her uncomfortable. Karen notes that Jessie's hair is growing out and offers to make an appointment for a trim the next Saturday. Jessie points out that Saturday is the day she's leaving for the ski trip. Jessie is dismayed when Karen replies that she and Rick haven't yet decided whether they'll permit her to go. "You can't watch me every second!" Jessie whines.

[Speaking to the camera, Jessie reminisces about the exhilaration of skiing for the first time when she was six.]

Karen mentions the book fair and asks if Jessie has agreed to participate. Irritably, she replies that she has. Silence hangs in the kitchen until Karen offers to discuss the ski trip with Jessie's father again.

Rick and Lily are having dinner out that evening. When talk turns to the wedding plans, Lily can't believe her ears when he claims that Judy isn't thrilled about the wedding. He notes that it has to be hard on her, since this is Lily's second marriage. Left unsaid is the fact that Judy has yet to be married even once.

"She just wants me to be happy!" Lily insists, predicting that they'll have a perfect wedding. "Except for the sullen teen-agers, the withholding relatives, exes in the parking lot with their voodoo dolls, and threatened legal action over my entire--" Rick grumbles, until Lily silences him with a kiss.

From the bookstore, Judy telephones Karen, who's cleaning up her kitchen after dinner. After hanging up the phone, Karen frantically interrogates Jessie: "What happened after school today?" "Did you faint?" "Did you eat lunch today?" "What did you eat?" She doesn't believe Jessie's heated denials, nor her excuse that she merely felt dizzy after a strenuous soccer practice. Frustrated, Jessie screams, "I didn't faint, I just got dizzy! Why do you have to make such a big deal about everything?"

At their next appointment with Dr. Rosenfeld, Rick and Karen sit as far apart as possible while Karen complains that Jessie is getting worse. Rick disagrees, saying that he thinks Jessie is getting better and eats when she's with him. "Junk food," Karen scoffs. "Are you saying she's eating with you and not with me?"

"That's not what I'm saying!" he protests.

[Karen complains to the camera, "Rick's parenting has always been so casual. When the kids were small, they'd be teetering at the top of a jungle gym, ready to fall flat on their faces, and he'd hold me back and say, 'Go ahead, let them fall. So they break a bone -- once.'" Rick responds, "Karen approaches parenthood like it's a trial. You have the evidence, the arguments, the verdict, and if it's not all just right, you're in contempt."]

Dr. Rosenfeld interrupts, saying that he believes Karen if she is convinced that Jessie is not eating. Addressing Karen's fear that Jessie is turning into "a food Nazi," he reminds her that psychiatry is not yet an exact science, and that if Jessie's therapy is not working, there are other treatments. He proposes that they try behavior modification: Jessie must agree to eat a certain amount every week or certain privileges -- telephone, martial arts, trips to the mall - will be withheld. "Sounds like training a dog," Rick remarks.

"Better than a rolled-up newspaper," Dr. Rosenfeld quips.

That evening, Judy drops in on Lily. When Lily brings up the subject of wedding chapels, Judy is again noncommittal. Having learned from Rick that it was Judy who alerted Karen to Jessie's fainting spell, Lily peevishly notes that Judy has never mentioned that she and Karen are close friends.

"I don't know how close we are," Judy replies evasively.

"Close enough to discuss her daughter with her, instead of calling Rick, with whom you have a relationship!" Lily retorts. Judy downplays the idea that she and Rick have a relationship, and insists that it never occurred to her to call him. To pacify Lily, she agrees to review her schedule and see if she can come along when Lily inspects a chapel at Northwestern.

Next day at the book fair, Jessie is assisting Judy. When a cheerleader named Kimberly passes their worktable, Judy notices Jessie watching her enviously and remarks that the popular girls made her own high school years a disaster. The trouble with high school, she confides to Jessie, is that while you're in it, you can't tell who really is happy and who is only putting up a false front -- but that when you turn eighteen, everything changes. While Kimberly talks to her boyfriend, Judy regales Jessie with droll commentary on Kimberly's flirtatious body language.

After dinner, while Karen works on her laptop in the kitchen, Jessie enters and picks up the telephone. Karen immediately reminds her that she didn't eat enough at dinner to earn telephone privileges. She then catches her daughter in a lie: though Jessie had earlier said that her homework was already finished, she now claims that the call she wants to make is homework-related. Hanging up the phone, Jessie explodes, "Rosenfeld is such a jerk!" and declares that she won't talk to him again. Karen counters that even if she doesn't want to talk to him, she still has to see him; if she doesn't, she won't be allowed to take the ski trip. "This is so unfair!" Jessie sulks. When Karen agrees that it must feel that way, Jessie, seething, tells her, "You don't know anything about how I feel," before storming out of the kitchen. Karen buries her face in her hands.

Next day, Judy and Lily are eating lunch at the bookstore. When Lily admits to feeling overwhelmed with wedding plans, Judy suggests that she and Rick elope. Lily refuses to even consider eloping, and reminds Judy about the appointment on Thursday to inspect the chapel. Judy still doesn't promise to go with her, saying instead that she is expecting a shipment on Thursday, but that she might be able to get someone to cover for her.

While Jessie and Rick shop for shoes, Jessie sees Marni, who's buying ski clothes. Jessie is forced to admit that she doesn't know yet whether she's going on the ski trip. Once Marni leaves, Jessie pleads with Rick that she'll take care of herself if he lets her make the trip, and complains about the way her mother treats her. Unmoved, Rick replies that he and Karen are in agreement on Jessie's treatment plan and that she must earn her privileges. In a snit, Jessie leaves without the shoes she has just picked out.

Later, at Dr. Rosenfeld's, Jessie sits across from him, arms folded. When she suggests that he do something -- anything -- else, he calmly reminds her that this is her time. "OK," she replies, and clamps her mouth shut.

After her session with Dr. Rosenfeld, Jessie returns to school, where she again helps Judy at the book fair. Judy finds a copy of The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers, and for Jessie's benefit, reminisces about how "this book saved me" in high school when, she confesses, she was bulimic. Fascinated, Jessie listens to Judy explain that everyone in high school, even the rare student who seems to have it all together, has problems; the only difference is whether their coping mechanisms are drinking, drugs, eating disorders, obnoxious behavior, or something else. She gives the book to Jessie.

That evening, Judy hurries to the chapel where Lily is impatiently waiting. As soon as she bursts through the door, apologizing for having been delayed by a late shipment, Lily berates her for being too late to see sunlight through the stained-glass windows. "Maybe you shouldn't have come at all," she says coldly. "You had plenty of time to go to the book fair and hang out with your new friend Karen."

When Judy takes offense, Lily assures her that she understands how her getting married for the second time may be difficult for never-married Judy. Denying that she's jealous, Judy retorts, "Do you know what my problem with this wedding is? The groom!"

Lily asks what Judy has against Rick. In response, Judy accuses Lily of giving her no time to develop her own relationship with him, and calls Lily blind. She reels off Rick's "faults" -- he's distant and preoccupied and repressed - and she doesn't trust him: "I don't think he's at all clear who he is or who he's going to end up being."

Furious, Lily tells Judy, "You're right. You should not come with me to find a chapel, and you should not come to this wedding." Hurt and contrite, Judy babbles, "This didn't come out right, I didn't want to say any of this, I really didn't!"

"Too late!" Lily answers witheringly.

After dinner, Rick brings Jessie home to Karen's. When Jessie goes to her room, Rick reports that she ate a salad with tofu. "She did fine," he insists, adding that he thinks they should let her go on the ski trip. Karen is vehemently opposed, believing that she's not old enough and a five-day trip away from home is too long. "How do we decide this?" he asks.

"I've already decided," she replies crisply.

Feeling insulted, Rick reminds her that they had long ago agreed that they would make decisions about their children mutually. "We are talking about her health, not your prerogatives," Karen snaps. With a final furious glare at Karen, Rick leaves.

[In black and white, Jessie reads from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter: "With her it was like there were two places, the inside room and the outside room. School and the family and the things that happened every day were the outside room. Foreign countries and plans and music were in the inside room."]

Karen enters Jessie's bedroom and finds her seated on the floor amid piles of clothing. Jessie explains that she's cleaning out her closet. From the discard pile, Karen picks up a sweater. "You love this sweater!" she protests. "I hate it," Jessie retorts, and asks her mother to leave. Karen says that the sweater is almost new and she won't allow Jessie to give it away. When she starts to put it back into a drawer, Jessie screams, "I said I didn't want it!" in a voice tinged with hysteria. ["She could be in a house full of people and still feel like she was locked up by herself," Jessie continues reading.] In her normal voice, she again asks her mother to leave.

Karen tries to be understanding, assuming that Jessie's erratic behavior is related to her disappointment over the ski trip. But Jessie wails, "You're not gonna change your mind no matter what I do, you get to decide everything! You act like you trust me, but only when I'm doing what you want!" Once again she asks Karen to leave. Defeated, Karen drops the sweater and walks out.

Next day, Judy is taken by surprise when Rick walks into the bookstore and without preamble announces, "I hear you don't want me to marry your sister. I'm curious about the specifics." Judy claims that she's worried about Lily. "I can't assure you that everything's gonna work out, because how can I know that?" Rick replies. "We're gonna do this, and I want your goodwill, but if we have to live without it, we can."

"Does this mean you're gonna hate me now?" Judy asks.

"It's not as if I've been your biggest supporter." Rick reminds her. "Does this mean you're gonna hate me more?"

"Not possible," Judy responds, smiling enigmatically. "I only want her to be happy, and to the extent that you can help that, you and I should do fine."

Having achieved a truce, Rick thanks her for helping Jessie and starts to leave. Judy calls him back to give him a business card, her photographer friend's.

Alone, Karen visits Dr. Rosenfeld's office. She explains that she doesn't think Jessie is ready to be away from home for the five-day ski trip, but that Rick and Jessie both think she's wrong. Pressed to explain, Karen concedes that Jessie is eating "a microscopically larger amount," but she can't be certain that she'll keep it up on her own; nor, she asserts, can the school people care about Jessie the way she does. "This is a life or death issue, and I'm responsible for her," she argues.

"If her bus crashes, if she skis into a tree, if a lift cable breaks, if an asteroid crashes into the earth, are you responsible for that?" Dr. Rosenfeld challenges her.

Incredulous, Karen responds that she can't control such things. "What can you control?" Dr. Rosenfeld asks.

"Whether she eats," Karen replies, exasperated.

"Can you?" Dr. Rosenfeld challenges her again. When she accuses him of calling her a control freak, he asks, "Have you heard it before, from Rick?" Karen can't look him in the eye. "From before Rick," he guesses.

"Who else is going to take responsibility?" Karen asks miserably.

Gently, he replies, "I have a feeling you've been asking yourself that question long before Jessie was born."

Karen nods. "I can't just see my little girl sick and do nothing," she insists, close to tears. Silently, Dr. Rosenfeld sits across from her, for once offering no response.

Lily surprises Judy by dropping by the bookstore. "I was hoping I might find Karen. I wanted to ask her some things about Rick's problems," Lily explains sarcastically, before admitting that Judy is correct: Lily has never asked her what she thinks of Rick. She asks Judy what she's afraid of.

When Judy admits that she's afraid Rick will sit in her chair and drink out of her coffee mug, and that she won't be able to call her at two o'clock in the morning after a bad date, Lily realizes that she's afraid Rick will take her place in Lily's affections. Lily gives her a consoling hug and kiss. "I do want you at the wedding," she adds on her way out, "as long as you don't have a very good time."

On the day of the ski trip, Lily and Jake see Grace off together, Jake thoroughly embarrassing Grace by hoisting her off her feet in a hug and generally treating her like his little girl. Karen and Jessie meet Rick in the parking lot. Though Karen is haggard with worry, she confines her advice to Jessie to "have a good time and wear your hat."

Rick sees Lily at the parking lot and once Jessie is on the bus, he walks over to greet her. Karen is alone as she sees Jessie off.

The end.

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