Once and Again...Once Again
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Summary of Moving On
by Angela Stockton
edited by Elizabeth Eccher
The Sammlers are packing up their belongings in Rick's apartment, Rick urging Eli and Jessie to hurry because they have to take everything to Lily's that day. Jessie asks her father if he's feeling better, and he answers that he is. "Because they can't do anything else to you?" she asks solicitously. While they pack, Rick mentions to Eli that another parent has told him that her son has been accepted to college downstate. To this hint, Eli replies that he hasn't heard anything about his own application.
While Rick is talking to Lily on the telephone about his moving in and their wedding, her call-waiting beeps. The caller is from her attorney's office, notifying Lily that they are sending over some papers for her to sign so that her divorce can be finalized. In answer to her question, Lily is informed that Jake has signed everything. She wryly agrees that since she's already planning to get married again, she'd better sign them too. She returns to Rick on the other line, and they agree that they'll see each other later.
At school, Eli finds Carla vainly trying to push an overstuffed carpetbag into her locker. Taking him aside, she impulsively proposes that they go to Europe for the summer. When he wonders about the large bag, she explains that she's not going home that day because her "evil stepmother" has accused her of stealing Vicodin, a prescription medicine, out of the medicine cabinet. Though Carla heatedly claims that the accusation is "a complete and utter lie," she fears that her stepmother will convince her father that it's true, and that they will send her back to the rehab clinic.
Shrugging off Eli's concern for what will become of her if she doesn't go home, Carla declares she can take care of herself. Still worried, Eli finds Grace at a play practice and pleads with her to take Carla in for the time being. For his sake as well as Carla's, Grace finally agrees, even though she anticipates trouble obtaining Lily's permission.
After school, while movers are emptying the apartment and Rick is on the phone, Eli walks in, carrying the mail. He opens an envelope from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and starts to read the letter: "Unfortunately, we are rejecting..." Not bothering to read the rest, he hides the letter in his jacket, hands the remaining mail to his father, and goes upstairs.
At Lily's house, Zoe and Jessie are having a fitting of their wedding outfits when Carla and Grace walk in. Carla hangs the heavy carpetbag on the post at the end of the banister and introduces herself to Judy, forgetting (until Judy reminds her) that they've met before. Grace takes Lily aside and asks her if Carla can stay. Lily is hesitant, but Grace pleads that "there's some kind of weirdness" going on at Carla's house, that her stepmother hates Carla, and she'll sleep on the street if no one takes her in. Lily wants to call her parents but Grace insists that this will only make things worse. Though still reluctant, Lily agrees.
Rick and Eli arrive with boxes from the apartment, and Rick proposes ordering pizza for six. Carla comes downstairs, prompting Lily to tell Rick that there will be seven for dinner. To the distaste of the others, Eli and Carla exchange a passionate kiss.
Over dinner, Carla tells Eli that she has learned that they need only to be bonded before they can travel to Europe as couriers. Their proposed European adventure comes as news to everyone else. Rick suggests to Eli that he should wait to hear from Champaign in case he has to take a summer program before enrolling. Reluctantly, Eli replies that he's already heard and that he was not accepted.
"Well, it's a hard school to get in," Rick comments resignedly, adding that Eli still has a chance to be accepted at State. To his father's dismay, Eli confesses that he never mailed his application because he didn't want to go to State anyway. He explains that he had already decided that if he didn't get into Champaign, he'd just take a year off. "And do what?" Rick asks testily. "I don't know, travel," Eli replies. Carla speaks up in support of his proposed sabbatical, and Zoe recalls that Judy did the same thing.
Fuming, Rick leaves the table to get a beer from the refrigerator, Eli following him. "So what's the plan, E?" Rick demands. The more he tries to point out practical considerations such as how Eli will pay for a trip to Europe, what he'll do once he comes back, the more hostile and defensive Eli becomes. Finally he snarls, "This is why I don't say anything to you, because this is how you act," and stalks out of the kitchen. From the doorway, Lily offers Rick a sympathetic glance.
Later that night, while he and Lily are preparing for bed, Rick groans, "I give up." Carla, he says, is "like this malevolent pied piper." Lily, however, calls her "an interesting and passionate person," adding, "I can see why Eli likes her."
"Would you let Grace leave the country with her?" Rick asks.
"Never in a million years!" Lily replies emphatically.
Changing the subject, Rick asks if Lily's divorce papers came, and she answers that they did; however, she admits that she hasn't yet signed them. "It's so strange, just seeing your divorce in writing. Up until now, it's just been this concept," she remarks.
"Yeah, like marriage," Rick quips. Lily asks Rick if he felt weird when he signed his own divorce papers. "Even though I wanted it, it felt so final, so done," he recalls. Concerned that Lily didn't immediately sign her papers, he adds, "Do I have to stand over you and guide your hand while you sign those papers?"
"No, I have promised myself to another man," Lily assures Rick, who asks teasingly, "Who's that?"
In the kitchen, Carla and Eli study a map of Europe and discuss the places they'd like to see. Grace tries her best to take part in the conversation, but the tourist attractions that interest her -- Brussels, Salzburg, the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam -- don't appeal to Carla and Eli at all. When Carla mentions Greece and leers at the prospect of swimming naked in the Aegean and sleeping on the beach, Eli volunteers that there's a book about Greece in the attic. "Let's check it out," Carla suggests. Leaving Grace alone in the kitchen, they immediately go to the attic, which is serving as Eli's temporary bedroom.
Eli finds the book and leafs through it, his enthusiasm rising as he contemplates traveling with Carla. But her mood abruptly changes when she speculates that her father will probably hold her passport to keep her from going. "Sometimes I make up things and then they never happen because I'm such a-- I can never get it together," she says in despair. Undeterred, Eli insists that they'll go, "even if we have to wear disguises and pretend we're Canadians," and demands that she promise to go with him.
"I don't think I would exist without you," Carla sobs, throwing herself into Eli's arms.
One floor below, Lily looks in on Zoe, who reports that Jessie's side of the room is ready. When Zoe confides that she can tell that Jessie is upset about moving in but is trying to hide it, Lily replies that they'll just have to make her feel welcome. Annoyed by the loud rock music blaring from the attic, Lily starts up the stairs, her footsteps unheard over the music, and sees Carla and Eli naked in his bed, having sex, oblivious to her presence. Aghast, she quickly goes back downstairs and shuts Zoe's door.
While they're preparing for bed that night, Rick promises to speak to Eli as Lily fumes that Zoe could have walked in on him and Carla. "But she wouldn't have been as traumatized as you," Rick comments, to which Lily ruefully concurs.
When Rick casually asks if Lily has signed her papers yet, she hesitates before admitting that she "forgot," but quickly adds that it doesn't mean anything. She asks him when he's going to move in, and he replies that he will do so the next day.
Carla comes into their bedroom to thank Lily for letting her stay. Lily again offers to talk to her parents, but Carla shakes her head, certain that it won't help. After Carla leaves, Lily returns to the bathroom. As soon as she opens her medicine cabinet, she notices that the lid on one of her pill bottles is askew, and the bottle now contains only two pills. She immediately goes downstairs and finds Carla's carpetbag still hanging from the banister. Furiously, she rummages through the bag and finds a cigar box. Opening it, she sees two prescription pill bottles, as well as a sandwich bag containing her missing pills.
In the morning, while Grace and Zoe are preparing for school, Lily and Rick decide that they will talk to Carla that night. When the girls are ready to leave, Lily notices that Carla is not downstairs yet, to which Grace explains that Carla overslept and will catch the bus. Lily and Rick exchange a knowing glance before she leaves with her daughters. Alone in the kitchen, Rick sees Lily's divorce petition on the counter, under a newspaper. Flipping through it, he notices with concern that she still has not signed it.
Nonchalantly, Carla walks into the kitchen, carrying her bag. But as soon as Rick says, "There's something maybe we need to discuss," Carla breaks down. She opens her bag and thrusts the pills at him, wailing, "Take 'em! I don't know why I do this, I don't even take 'em. I just like having 'em around in case I need 'em. I'm really screwed up!" She cries that her parents aren't like Rick: they don't want her and they'll ship her back to the rehab clinic not for her own good, but just to get rid of her: "I'm like this overwhelming burden!" She insists Eli had nothing to do with her pilfering and doesn't know about it.
Judy walks in and to Rick's discomfort, she sees Carla literally crying on his shoulder. Abruptly, Carla leaves.
While Carla and Grace are in school, Lily goes to Carla's large, elegant house. She meets Carla's stepmother, Mrs. Aldridge, and is somewhat surprised that the woman does not recognize her until she identifies herself as the mother of Carla's friend, Grace. However, once Mrs. Aldridge has turned over her infant to the care of a nanny, she invites Lily in and is cordial, though reserved. When Lily asks if Carla might have a problem, Mrs. Aldridge is not surprised. She explains that Carla stole pills from her and "took off" as a result.
Mrs. Aldrige urges Lily to send Carla home if she's causing a problem, and apologizes for any trouble the girl may have caused. "Oh, no, she's very charming and smart, and Grace thinks the world of her," Lily replies.
"She's an angry girl," Mrs. Aldridge says flatly. For Lily, she describes Carla's difficult domestic situation: not only is she Carla's third stepmother, but her father works very hard and is rarely home, and no one knows where Carla's real mother is. When her infant cries, Mrs. Aldridge glances in the baby's direction, clearly wishing to end the interview. "Carla's going to be fine, don't worry about her. She's been through a lot worse," she coolly advises Lily.
During Carla and Grace's math class, a runner brings Carla a summons from the principal's office. "It's been nice knowing you," she mutters to Grace, picking up her carpetbag on her way out. Moments later Carla, carrying the bag, runs to Eli's computer lab and beckons to him from the door. When he joins her, she says she came to tell him she's leaving town. In the principal's office she learned that her father is on the way to pick her up and, assuming that he's going to send her back to the rehab clinic, she's decided to run off to Oregon because she thinks that her mother might be there. Although graduation is only three weeks off, Eli declares that he's going with her and he won't allow her to talk him out of it. Carla finally tells him to meet her at the bus station that night for the 7:45 to Portland, and leaves.
That night, Rick and Lily talk to Grace and Eli. As soon as they say that Lily found some of her pills missing, the two teens are furious that they're accusing Carla. "She admitted it!" Rick explains, to no avail. When Lily adds that she has talked to Carla's stepmother, Grace concludes that this is why her father went to the principal's office, and Eli says, "You turned your back on her!" Zoe and Jessie interrupt to report that they need another dresser for their room. Grace and Eli leave in a huff, and Rick assures the doubtful Lily that the way she handled the Carla problem was right.
Grace follows Eli to the attic, where she finds him packing. He tells her that he's meeting Carla at the bus station to run away with her, although he claims that he doesn't know where they're going. "What about graduation?" Grace asks. "What about it?" he shrugs, saying he cares more about Carla than about graduation. He gives her a good-bye hug and asks her to say nothing about his leaving.
On his way to the bus station, Eli stops by Karen's house to pick up his money. Karen finds him in his basement room when she brings him his graduation suit. When she asks if he wants to try it on, he lies that he's leaving for band practice and uncharacteristically kisses her good-bye. He arrives at the bus station at 7:10 p. m. and, not seeing Carla, sits down to wait for her.
Over dinner, Rick asks Grace what time the library closes, explaining that Eli said he was going to the library to study before they finish packing up the apartment. Grace lies that "he said something about band practice." Seeing her father's confusion, Jessie volunteers that Eli's band usually practices at Karen's; but as she reaches for the phone to call and verify this, Grace blurts out that he's not there. Under Rick and Lily's questioning, she admits that he was planning to meet Carla at the bus station. Rick immediately leaves the table, refusing to allow the distraught Jessie to come with him.
Later, Grace is reading in her second-floor room when Carla taps on her window from the tree she has just climbed. When Grace opens the window, Carla crawls into the room, saying that she came to say good-bye. "Weren't you supposed to meet Eli?" Grace asks. "Yeah. Do you have any money?' Carla replies.
Grace says that Eli is waiting for her at the bus station. "I didn't think he'd really do it," Carla answers in surprise. Though Grace hands over what money she has, she is shocked by Carla's indifference to Eli's feelings, which Carla explains as "trying to spare him." Grace insists that Eli loves her and was ready to give up everything for her, to which Carla merely replies, "That's not necessarily a good characteristic."
Carla insists that Grace should be happy she's leaving because Eli will be living in her house and that now "he's all yours." Angry and flustered, Grace denies that she wants Eli and accuses Carla of going after him only because she thought Grace did want him. She advises Carla to leave before Lily comes in. She scoffs at Carla's claim that Grace is the only friend she's had, noting that when she left their math class, she took all her things with her and would have been OK with leaving at that point without a good-bye. When Carla heatedly reminds her that she came to say good-bye, Grace replies, "And to get money!" But when Carla repeats that she'll miss her, Grace unbends enough to share a good-bye hug. Carla leaves by the window.
Rick finds Eli at the bus station, but Eli doesn't want to talk and stalks away. Rick goes after him, insisting, "I have something to say to you and before you do anything, I want you to hear me out."
"What makes you think I don't know everything you're going to say?" Eli retorts.
"Because I don't know what I'm gonna say!" Rick replies helplessly. "I don't know how to talk to you any more, E, and you have no idea how that horrifies me. I know you don't agree with most of what I've said in the last two weeks, maybe not in the last two years. And sometimes I find myself saying things I don't agree with. But E, if I was to see you on a motorcycle headed for a cliff, am I not supposed to scream, or to try to stop you?"
Rick concedes that Eli is now eighteen and is supposed to make his own decisions. "Then why don't you let me make them?" Eli demands.
"Because you're sitting in a bus station, it's three weeks until you're supposed to graduate from high school, and you only applied to one college. That's not making decisions, that avoidance," he answers. When Eli disputes Rick's right to tell him anything, Rick points out, "I'm your father and I have lived longer than you have."
"Look at how that turned out," Eli sneers. "You want me to do what you did, Dad? Which part, huh? The divorce, the messed-up business, the grand jury--"
Though Eli's taunts hit him like a punch in the stomach, Rick refuses to back down. "Which is going to make it easier for you, E? To see me as the monster bending you to my will or as the screw-up who's trying to cover his mistakes? Because I am neither. I am just a man attempting his best, though that is usually not enough, who loves his son and daughter and would cut off an arm to see that they have what they need in life." As Eli fights back tears, Rick continues, "We're never going to have the same relationship again. I'll always be your father, but you have your own life now. If you want to run off with Carla, I can't stop you and I won't try." He looks around. "Where is Carla, by the way?"
"She didn't make it. She blew me off!" Eli bursts out, no longer able to hold back his tears. Rick can only pat him on the back and sigh, "Oh, E."
Gradually the two families begin to settle down for the night. Lily looks in on Jessie, urges her to get some sleep, and kisses both Jessie and Zoe good-night. Rick and Eli pack up the last of their things from the apartment. Grace looks up from the copy of Travels with Lizbeth that she's reading and thoughtfully gazes out the window. Carla boards a bus bound for Seattle. While Zoe sleeps peacefully, Jessie stares unhappily out her own window. Carrying his guitar and bags, Eli trudges up to Lily's attic, Rick watching him.
Lily is in her bathroom when Rick enters and notices her divorce petition lying on the bed. Picking it up, he apprehensively leafs through it and exhales in relief when he sees her signature. Sensing his presence, she turns and faces him. He smiles at her, and she smiles back at him lovingly.
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