Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of Liars and Other Strangers

by Sue Kaliski
edited by Elizabeth Angela

It is morning in the Manning kitchen as Lily, Grace, and Zoe finish up school lunch preparations. Grace claims that the turkey smells, but her mother reminds her that she likes turkey as she playfully presses a piece towards Grace. Her daughter threatens to retaliate with the squeezable mustard, and the chase begins around the kitchen and into the dining room. The phone rings and Lily hurries to answer. It's Rick, who is anxious to arrange a time to meet Lily that afternoon. The two are giddy as they think ahead to when they'll be together. Lily asks, "What's the earliest possible time?" Rick says he can sneak away about 4:00 P.M. -- "What d'you say to 4:03?" Meanwhile, Grace is right behind Lily, impatient to leave for school so her homeroom teacher won't yell should she be late. Lily likewise is impatient with Grace for breathing down her neck. As the Manning girls prepare to leave, Grace asks her mother if she plans to go out with him every night, and Zoe wonders if Rick's kids are her age.

That afternoon at the bookstore, Lily is on the phone with Rick and barely able to mask her disappointment that he won't be able to meet after all. Judy walks by and wonders why her sister is taking off her coat. Lily says that Rick's kids were supposed to go to the mall, but they have all this homework. Mali joins the conversation, wondering why they don't go to Lily's. Lily is too worried about possible further interruptions from Jake or the girls. Judy suggests a motel? Soon, this conversation continues in the privacy of the back office, with Lily telling Mali that Judy is thinking "seedy" motel. Mali and Judy both agree "he'll have to pay". Lily says, "That's not fair!" "Tough!" Mali and Judy respond in unison. Then Judy considers the fact that there's something depressing about a motel, there's "always a stain you wish you hadn't seen."

That afternoon, Grace and her friends, Carter and Annie, are having a snack outside in the school courtyard. Carter and Annie discuss a Mock Trial project while Grace, half listening, notices Eli and Jennifer sitting across the way. They are kissy and cuddly, and this fact truly annoys Grace. The girls notice the direction of her gaze when she tries to rejoin their conversation. They attempt reason, saying that there would be times when Grace would be around Eli. While agreeing with Grace that Jennifer is a "total exhibitionist," they also maintain that she is very sweet and a great dresser. Grace argues about the public display of affection, saying that people should just control themselves. The scene shifts over to Eli and Jen, where he notices a little pocket on her sleeve. "You can, like, hide stuff there." Jen tells him he is too adorable, and they kiss. Back across the courtyard, Carter and Annie explain to Grace about the after-school Mock Trial, that it'll be "totally easy, just watch 'The Practice'. Gonzales gives extra credit for it." When Grace asks if Jennifer is taking part, they laugh and say that she's the prosecuting attorney. Grace notes that "people prosecuting each other sounds totally harsh" and that she doesn't have time after school.

The scene reverts to the bookstore, where Judy casually suggests to Lily that she and Rick should go to her place. [In a black&white aside: Judy notes that she never thought Lily would say "yes".] Lily looks at Judy, grabs her to kiss her cheek, then hurries to call Rick. Judy thinks to herself that she honestly thought this wouldn't bother her. It clearly does.

As Lily and Rick enter Judy's loft, Rick concurs with Lily that there are no cats. A few moments later, as he strolls around, he finds a red feather boa and takes it Lily who is seated at Judy's make-up table, applying lipstick. The strains of "Takin' It Easy" define the moment. Rick drapes the boa around Lily's neck, she smiles up at him, he leans down to kiss her as she pulls off his scarf, and then he begins to unbutton her blouse. They kiss again.

Some short time later, Judy's loft phone rings. The answering machine speaks and Judy herself announces that she's coming home a little earlier than planned. This news is not heard by Lily and Rick, who are in a bubble-bath with the water running. They are completely oblivious to any "outside" developments.

Meanwhile at Rick's apartment, Jessie joins Eli, who is studying World Cultures on his dad's bed. The phone rings and Eli grabs it, thinking it's Jen. Instead it's his mom, who wants to speak with Rick. Eli says that his dad went out to get fried chicken, so Karen says she'll just see them in a half hour, and hangs up. Jessie is perplexed over the fabrication. Eli informs her that their dad is "with the mom."

Back at the love-nest, a red throw slithers off the bed to land on the glistening bodies of Lily and Rick. "What?" asks Lily, who is propped up on her elbows. "You know what," says Rick, flat on his back. "You were there." She smiles and lowers her head to kiss him. [In a black&white: Lily is happily amazed over this liberating experience. "Something about being there just did something to me." She adds that using her sister's bed would have been too strange, but "the floor worked" remarkably well.]

As Lily and Rick get dressed, he walks around the bed to embrace her again. They fall on the bed, laugh, and, rolling over, resume kissing. At that moment Judy walks in and sees them on her bed.

The camera cuts to a few minutes later with Judy calling to Lily and Rick (who are running around looking for clothes) from her bathroom, "How can you not hear the phone?" "We just didn't," says Lily. She calls to Judy that it's ok to come out. An obviously flustered Judy picks up a bowl of grapes and babbles about the horrible movie she walked out of. "I can't believe how much I hated it!" Rick tries to follow her thread, to understand which movie she's talking about. She thinks he may be defending the movie. [In a black&white: Judy admits she hates him at first sight.] Rick suggests maybe they can all walk out of a movie together sometime, and Judy smiles stiffly in agreement. Later, addressing the camera, Judy mutters that she is turned off by the thought of them in her bed, so she washes her sheets and sleeps on the floor.

Back at Rick's apartment, Eli writes his dad a note, leaving it on the bed. Jessie protests that she didn't get to interview her dad for an English assignment. Eli tells her to do it over the phone, which elicits a look of disgust from Jessie. He then suggests she ask him, Eli. There's a knock on the door, and they go downstairs to let their mom in. Karen asks how their weekend was and says she wants to speak to their dad. Eli hastens to cover up again, saying Dad's "in the shower. Do you want me to get him?" The thought horrifies Karen and she says she'd never hear the end of it. They take their bags and leave.

The next morning, back in the Manning kitchen, Zoe is anxious to show her mom the pictures of herself which she found at her dad's. A sullen Grace enters and scoffs at her younger sister. Lily then asks Grace about her weekend, if she got her homework done. Grace says yes, she got her homework done, and stalks out. Outside, in an attempt to brighten her daughter's mood, Lily suggests they go shopping after school. "What for?" asks Grace, then remarks that she has Mock Trial. Lily wonders what this is, it sounds so "harsh." In a verbal outburst, Grace tells her mother that it's where they learn about rules and legal laws, when people break laws or act like they can do anything they want, like children, with no morals, "they have to be stopped!" As Grace gets in the SUV, Lily takes a moment to consider her daughter's words.

The same day, across town, Karen Sammler walks out her front door with her friend Naomi. Karen is wearing her "volunteer mom" handle for school, and notices that she has fewer cupcakes than she'd hoped. Jessie must have eaten some. At Naomi's car, Karen pauses to ask one question -- is she (Lily) still seeing him (Rick)? Naomi answers yes, she thinks they're still seeing each other. Karen asks if Lily is stupid, saying it's ok, she knows stupid people. [In a black&white: Karen reveals that she still has some basic needs, those being to hear that Lily is a "miserable, shallow person who will make his life a living hell, or bore him to death, or both." She then says she's kidding, sort of.] Naomi tells her friend that Lily is not stupid, and asks what the kids think of her. Karen says they haven't even met her, which Naomi interprets as meaning that if there were a future, they would have met her by now.

At the bookstore, Lily has told Judy about Grace's Mock Trial. As Lily dusts, she notes that her sister hasn't said anything about Rick, apart from the fact that he left his scarf at her place. Judy is thinking to herself that Rick is this typical "wounded, like me, I'm needy, WASPY, try to figure out who I am while I suck you dry" type. But she only tells Lily that she hadn't been able to form an impression. Lily then asks the whereabouts of the scarf? Judy says she forgot it and comments "Who wears a scarf in October anyway. Hasn't he heard of global warming?" Lily is somewhat peeved by Judy's response.

At the office, David is clarifying the details on Rick's afternoon with Lily. "A Playboy, in her bathroom?" Rick says yes, "and a Playgirl." David notes that Rick said Lily was "significantly more relaxed" at the sister's? Rick agrees with a look of fond recollection. He adds that Judy is "hostile and self-absorbed" (claiming in jest that David likes this type), a "pain in the ass." So David draws the conclusion that this is not a place where Rick and Lily will soon be returning.

That afternoon the Mock Trial participants are assembled in Ms. Gonzalez's classroom. She is going over the ground-rules, which include reminding Jennifer, prosecuting attorney, to remove her gum. Grace sits behind Jen, and notices Eli standing at the doorway waving to Jennifer. Jen waves back and, when she looks around the room, notices Grace giving her a sour look.

That evening, Grace is watching "Judge Judy" on the Mannings' kitchen TV. Aunt Judy quietly comes in and places a Legal Dictionary in front of her niece. Lily enters, carrying a lingerie catalogue, and when Judy points out the dictionary, Grace informs them both that she's not doing the Mock Trial. Then Judy places Rick's scarf around Lily's neck. Grace asks what that is, and Lily replies that it's a scarf she left at Judy's. When Grace says she's never seen it, Lily says it's because she left it at Judy's! Lily exits, and Judy joins Grace at the breakfast nook, asking why she changed her mind about "Fake Court." Grace responds that the "prosecuting attorney is a total slut." Judy asks what that means? Her niece reminds her that she knows what that means. "I rest my case," says Grace.

Upstairs on her bed, Lily is wrapped in foreplay with Rick's scarf. Judy enters, not immediately noticing, and says, "I completely don't want to get in the middle here, but..." When she sees Lily, her eyes almost pop out. "Middle of what?" asks Lily. She breathlessly sits up on her knees and proclaims, "I want to go over there right now -- I want to return his scarf!" To herself, Judy wonders "who are you and what have you done with my repressed, boring sister?" To Lily, she says if she wants to go, she should go. Lily falls back on the pillows, almost overcome, and Grace walks in, followed by Zoe. Lily tells the girls that she has to go out for a very short time, since Judy's there. They hop up on her bed, Zoe picks up the lingerie catalogue, and Lily says she has to go help Naomi. Grace says, "Mom, I so don't care." "Just go," says Judy. Lily wraps the scarf around her neck and goes.

[In a black&white interview: Lily speaks about Jake's biggest complaint--that she never wanted to have sex.] Rick opens the door to his apartment to a smiling, waiting Lily. In the darkened foyer, her bag and jacket fall in a heap. [In another black&white: Lily says she would defend herself to Jake, saying she did want sex. "Which was a lie."] Rick removes the scarf and lets it fall. [Yet another black&white follows: Lily wonders if it's something about being married that makes you want to stop having sex. Or maybe "it was me." But this person she's with, who she hardly knows..."It's all...I think about."] Lily and Rick are now kissing. [In black&white: She wonders where the desire was for the person she supposedly loved. "And I can't justify it."]

"Do you know that word besotted?" asks Lily, because that's what she is. "If you want me to," says Rick. "God, your mouth!" They continue to kiss hungrily. When Rick stops to say that they're "terrible, horrible people," Lily maintains that they're OK people, "we're just terrible parents." Their mouths lock again.

The scene switches to Karen's house, where Jessie is interviewing her surrogate "father", Eli. He is stretched out on the sofa with a magazine. Jessie's interview is not overly successful, because she has to fill in important information about which Eli knows nothing. She tells him that their dad had done a comic strip at school, but it had been rejected. Eli uses this moment to instruct -- this was a chance for Dad to share a lesson learned. "How to be rejected?" asks Jessie. Eli moves to reach for his World Cultures textbook while Jessie claims that none of her interview sounds true. Eli begins to panic when he can't find his book, because he has a chapter test the next day. Jessie says it's probably at Dad's. Karen, from the kitchen, says: "What's at Dad's?" Eli tells her and, as he grabs the keys, she says he should call first. He doesn't stop to call.

Over at the Mannings', Judy is preparing to show Grace and Zoe how to make crepes, a skill she learned from an old boyfriend. Grace remembers her mom saying that Judy was once addicted to this man. "I guess the shoe's on the other foot now," mutters Judy. Grace hears this and agrees that her mom's acting like "an idiot." Judy admonishes her, but Grace says the whole thing's ridiculous. "No it's not!" says Zoe. Her sister turns on her, and Zoe storms out "with my own opinion." Judy tries to mediate, but Grace claims that her mom's making a total fool of herself. She knows her mom "is having sex with him." Grace leaves the room and Judy, feeling the futility, hurries to turn off the burning crepes.

Eli arrives at his dad's apartment and immediately sees the jacket, bag, and scarf on the floor. As he moves to go up the stairs to look for his book, he hears the sounds of lovemaking float down. He turns around and leaves the apartment.

The next morning is bright and sunny, but in Karen's kitchen there's an air of gloom clinging to Eli as he sits down for breakfast. His mom asks if he stayed up late and got the chapter read? "Yes," replies Eli as he holds out his glass for some juice.

Grace stands with her friends in the school hallway. She spots Eli propped by his locker, looking unhappy. Jennifer is talking to him, reassuring him about the test. After Eli leaves, Jen notices Grace's look of distaste.

Later, at the bookstore, Rick enters and surprises Judy, who says "She'll be right back, she just went to get sandwiches." Judy apologizes for barging in the other day, and Rick says you can't barge in if it's your own place. "Yeah you can," says Judy. She notices that he has his scarf back, and he mentions that there's this book.... Judy tells him he can relax; he doesn't have to buy a book. Mercifully, the awkwardness is soon broken when Lily returns.

In Eli's World Cultures class, the teacher is handing out the tests. Eli glances at his and his frown deepens.

Back at the bookstore, Lily walks Rick to the door. He says "bye" to Judy and leaves. Lily prods her sister to find out what possible reason she has for not liking Rick. "I don't trust him," says Judy. She then adds that she's done lying for Lily, who, shocked, follows Judy into the back office. "I don't have a clue what your problem is," says Lily. Judy challenges, saying all the sneaking around of the relationship is part of what's making it so hot for Lily. Lily maintains that no one is lying, and Judy disagrees, saying she doesn't want to lie to Grace anymore. Lily says it's not lying when her daughter doesn't need to know "every single..." "She's 14!" interrupts Judy. "She figures stuff out." The "stuff" being "that liking sex is shameful, that wanting it makes you a slut... I wonder where she got that idea?" Judy exits the office, leaving a shaken Lily.

The scene switches to Karen's office, where she answers the phone thinking its Eli. Instead, it's Rick. She tells him that Eli's teacher called -- E had failed his test. Rick is crushed and Karen shocked, noting he really studied for this one. Rick then tells her he had called about Jessie's interview....

Grace is by her locker at school when Jennifer approaches. "Why are you always giving me dirty looks?" asks Jen. [In a black&white to herself: Grace -- in judge's attire -- replies "Because you're out of order and a slut!" slamming the gavel down.] Jen goes on to explain that the only reason she eliminated Grace from the jury pool was "totally a legal matter." Grace apologizes, saying the looks weren't directed at her. "That may sound like a lie, but it's true," says Grace. After a pause, Jen asks if Grace would like to hear her opening.... "Argument?" finishes Grace. She smiles and says, "Sure."

That evening at Rick's, Jessie is finally interviewing her father. She adores his answers, especially his comment that no one wore bike helmets when he was growing up, nobody knew they needed them. Karen arrives to pick up Jess, who has uncovered Eli's World Cultures book on the bedroom floor.

At Karen's, a few minutes later, the mom and daughter walk in to find Eli in the kitchen. He helpfully reports that he has moved the dresser to the garage, as his mother had wanted. When he notices his mom's serious expression, he asks, "Did you meet her?", meaning Lily. Karen tells him that Jessie found his book, and he reacts in anger towards his sister. Karen is saying "You lied, what were you thinking?" She desperately tries to understand, while a pained Eli maintains his silence. To say something, he agrees that he is only hurting himself by his "behavior." Karen leaves the kitchen and Eli, approaching the den, asks Jessie where the book is. She lashes out at him, wondering why it's his job to act like the dad, tell her what to say, and lie to Mom? She then adds, "It's at Dad's."

Rick holds his apartment door open for Eli, who ignores his father as he brushes past. He's looking for the book in the bedroom when Rick enters, holding it up. "You looking for this?" Eli moves to reclaim it, and Rick pulls it away. He wants to know what's going on, why his son told his mother he had the book when he didn't. "Why do you think?" says Eli, now near tears. His father is obviously in the dark. Struggling to get the words out, Eli tells him he was there, in the apartment the night before, and heard them. "God!" says Eli. Rick finally understands. He is devastated, and tells his son he is so sorry. He wants Eli to know he doesn't have to cover up for him any more, it's not his job. Tortured, Eli yells that it is his job, it would upset his mom too much if she knew how much time his dad was spending with the mom. "You don't live there. You don't know how much..." Eli departs, very upset.

The next afternoon, Lily arrives at the bookstore and tells Judy she's sorry she's late. "I wasn't with him," Lily says pointedly, "I met Naomi for lunch." "I believe you," replies Judy. Lily sits with her sibling at the children's table. Speaking in soft tones, she admits that Judy was right, she should have been talking to Grace all along about the new relationship. But "I'm bad at being bad," Lily attests, causing Judy to smile. Lily continues to say that so many times in the past she has observed Judy so consumed by some guy, so totally... "Besotted?" Judy fills in. Lily, remembering the symptoms, says "Yeah, yeah." She tries to express how seeing Judy in those states had made her, Lily, feel. Again her sister helps out. "You thought less of me," says Judy. Lily admits that this was the case. [In black&white: Judy notes that it's cool Lily admitted that. Though it still hurt.] She reminds Lily that she can still talk to Grace about this. "I can't, I don't know how," says Lily. Judy disagrees. "The only thing I've ever done better than you is lose control. It turns out you can do that, too. You can do anything." Lily smiles. Judy then asks if Lily is sticking with that lunch story? "Yeah," says Lily. They exchange another smile.

At Karen's office, Rick sits across the desk from her. Karen is wounded. "I can't believe that he felt like he had to lie to me!" She assumes that Rick figures this to be her doing. "I didn't say that," he says quietly. Karen feels that this is obvious, as if he thinks she's sending some sort of distress signal that "I'm asking him (Eli) to protect me." She claims that Rick is implying that it's her fault. [In black&white: Karen owns up that it is her fault, she's allowed her son to "see how hurt I am. It's exactly what I swore I'd never do."] Rick maintains that "this is him, he's convinced himself..." He doesn't finish, as Karen's assistant, Sa, knocks and opens the door. She asks for two more minutes. Attempting to wrap things up, Karen says that she is relieved, really. "It was awful to think he could study and do so badly." Rick gently addresses the point -- that his relationship with...Lily...is not something that has to be.... "Kept from me?" says Karen. "Yes," says Rick. He rises to leave and Karen reminds him, "Don't forget your scarf." As Rick reaches for it, he remembers a Christmas morning past when he received the scarf, a gift from Karen. "Thanks," he says.

In Karen Sammler's kitchen, Jessie walks to the sink and lets out a scream when she sees a spider. Her mom comes running and also screams. She pulls Jessie away as Eli enters. "Spider!" Karen points.

At the Mannings', Lily descends the stairs, calling Grace to follow. They are going for a fitness walk. "I'd really would rather not do this," says Grace, adorned in sweats and wearing a hat. "Same here," says Lily. "Get your shoes."

Back at Karen's, Eli gently brushes the spider into a cup, "The way the dad does it," directs Jessie. "Dad never kills'em." Eli shushes her and brings the cupped spider out to the deck for release. Jessie praises her brother, "You did that really well." Back inside, Eli returns to the sink. Karen, now sitting at the table, observes that her son has "been taking care of a lot around here... you're really good at it." Turning to face her, he asks, "So, what's your point?" "That you don't have to take care of me," Karen says delicately. Eli says okay, and moves to leave. Karen stops him and makes her appeal. She knows that his dad his seeing someone. "I know that you know," Eli responds. Karen concludes that she doesn't want her son, her daughter, "or anyone, to shield me from it. OK?" She smiles. Eli understands this and, as Karen turns away, he captures her attention again. He tells his mother that it's not like there's anything "amazing" about her, referring to Lily. "And that's not shielding you, Mom. That's just my opinion." He leaves the kitchen but Karen remains, touched by his words.

Lily is walking briskly along a neighborhood sidewalk. She looks back to hustle Grace along, too. Grace states that she would rather not be seen with her mother. Lily finds this amusing, but when she sees that her daughter is serious she asks if it's because of her bright shoes? "Partly," says Grace. "And partly because I'm seeing someone?" adds Lily. Grace doesn't answer; rather, she mentions that she met a girl she liked today. Or actually, she knew her -- knew who she was -- but "we never really talked." When Lily asks the girl's name, Grace says, "Mom, do I pry into your personal life?" This clicks with Lily. Grace goes on to say that there are certain subjects she'd rather not discuss. When her mother says that she can understand that, Grace says, "You can?" "Of course I can, absolutely," replies Lily. "Oh, good," says Grace, relieved. She takes off down the sidewalk and Lily hurries to catch up, leaning over to kiss her daughter. They continue on their walk, as the camera fades up and back.

The end.

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