Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of The Second Time Around

by Angela Stockton
edited by Larramie Kertis

Carrying a bouquet of white roses and orchids, and dressed in a bridal veil and a gown that looks like a slip, Lily enters a tent. She walks past empty chairs, toward an empty altar. She lifts a flap and sees Will and Judy kissing; they turn and stare at her coolly. She retreats, lifts another flap, and sees Eli, Jessie, Grace and Zoe, all dressed in black, drinking cocktails that Tiffany is pouring. All five of them give her the same cool stare. Barbara Brooks, swathed in mourning black, bears down on her, scolding her that if she's going to serve the children martinis, they should be on the rocks, and she shouldn't wear a nightgown at her wedding because it's bad luck.

Screaming for Rick, Lily backs away from the relentless Barbara --and awakens in her own bed, where Rick is lying beside her in the darkness. "Bad dream?" he asks.

"It was our wedding day," she explains. "Scary already," Rick mutters. She tells him that no one showed up except their children, her mother, and Will, nothing was ready, and she couldn't find him. When she mentions Tiffany's appearance in the dream, Rick comments, "Well, you have to have the pregnant former girlfriend of the ex-spouse. That's traditional."

Lily walks to the bathroom sink to get a drink of water. When she turns around, she is astonished to see behind her an apparition of her father. "Surprised?" Phil asks in amusement.

Lily asks why he's there, then answers her own question: she assumes it's because she has tried to explain to Rick that having Hebrew prayers at their wedding is important to her because there were none at her first wedding and Hebrew is part of her heritage, but that the glazed-over look on Rick's face discouraged her from pressing the issue. She begs her father to assure her that she isn't making a terrible mistake by marrying Rick.

Phil picks up a tube of toothpaste. "Does this kind really whiten?" he asks.

"Not really. I just like the taste," Lily admits.

"You have to take care of your teeth. That's one of the few things they tell you that's true," Phil advises her. When she asks if her dream means anything, he replies, "Ask Jake what has been lost." When Rick comes to see why she's taking so long in the bathroom, Phil vanishes.

Five days before the wedding, Jake arrives at Lily's house during breakfast, making sure that Lily has noticed that he knocked before entering. He is holding the mail, which includes a fuchsia envelope addressed to Grace. Rick leaves for his office, Zoe and Grace head for Jake's car. Once Lily is alone in the kitchen with Jake, Phil's apparition prompts her, "Ask him." Lily asks Jake where his check for half of that month's mortgage payment is. Jake smoothly replies that his accountant has told him not to write any checks for a while, "a cash flow thing." When Lily is not satisfied with that answer, he hurries out the door, reminding her that she doesn't want Grace and Zoe to be late.

Karen, chauffeuring Eli and Jessie to school, uses the time to talk about the wedding. She suggests that they prepare something for the ceremony, like a toast or a song. Jessie says she wishes her mom would quit pretending that she's OK with the wedding when she's obviously not. Karen protests that she's not pro or con anything, and embarrasses Jessie by reminding her that years ago, when the family was still together and they would go up to their vacation cabin, Rick loved it when Jessie always sang a song en route. When Karen can't remember the name of the song, Eli supplies it: "Red Red Robin." Hearing the name, Karen experiences a wave of nostalgia.

While delivering Grace and Zoe to their schools, Jake notices that Zoe is upset about something. Reluctantly, she explains that she's upset that she can't find her hand mirror, because she hates to go out in public without having checked that her hair looks OK in the back. Meanwhile, in the back seat, Grace has opened the fuchsia envelope and is reading a letter from Carla. [In black and white, Grace reads, "I'm still trying to get to Europe this summer. I wish you'd come with me because believe it or not, I miss you. I don't miss Eli like at all." She can't conceal her shock and dismay at Carla's insensitivity.] When Jake asks who sent the letter, Zoe answers, "Carla, because the return address says 'jail.'"

Outside school, Grace sees Eli moping. His spirits soar when she tells him that she has received a letter from Carla. She's caught off guard when he asks to read it, and quickly answers that she doesn't think Carla would want that. When he asks if the letter mentions him, she claims that Carla said she misses him. Feeling the strain of lying, she seems to shrivel and, when Eli notices, she lies that she's cold. He lends her his sweatshirt.

In a meeting with Arnold, his accountant, Rick hears the bad news that his firm's operating account is so depleted, he may have to consider borrowing from his pension fund to keep going. When Arnold worries about the effect of the wedding on his finances, Rick reminds him that Lily is paying half the expenses. Arnold urges Rick to economize, perhaps by getting married at City Hall. "She has stuck by me through this nightmare. She deserves better than City Hall," Rick argues. He surprises Arnold by asking if he speaks Hebrew, and if his wedding vows were in Hebrew. "My entire marriage has been in Hebrew," Arnold wisecracks, before again urging Rick to try for "a little less wedding."

That night, as Rick and Lily unwind by reading in bed, they discuss wedding plans. Rick's suggestion that maybe they shouldn't have hot hors d'oeuvres at the reception annoys Lily. When she asks Rick what he's reading, he replies that it's The Woodchipper Murders, a true-crime account of a man who murdered his wife and disposed of her body in a woodchipper. "She must have ordered hot hors d'oeuvres," Lily mutters. She's upset that, according to the timetable for wedding plans in her book, Weddings for Complicated Families, they're far behind. [In black and white, she reads, "One week before the wedding, doublecheck with the photographer, have final alterations completed on dress, win over future stepchildren." Looking into the camera, she confesses, "I made that last one up."]

Phil's apparition takes the chair next to Lily's side of the bed. "You have to ask him," he tells her. She assumes he's referring to their earlier discussion and tells him that she's tried to talk to Rick about the Hebrew prayers; but he corrects her, "You have to ask Jake." She turns to Rick and asks if he can write her a check for the mortgage. Although Rick says "Sure," he's clearly worried. Lily sees him brushing his hair off his forehead in his familiar nervous habit and suddenly agrees that the hot hors d'oeuvres are a bad idea. "Are you all right?" she asks him.

"Sure. I'm just feeling kind of ["panicked? pressured? poor?" he blurts to the camera] exhausted," he sighs.

The following day, Lily goes to the restaurant, where Jake is idly building a house of matchboxes on the bar. As soon as she mentions the mortgage check, Jake becomes evasive. Behind him, Phil's apparition prompts her, "Ask him."

"What has been lost?" Lily asks Jake.

"All of it. The bank is starting to foreclose," Jake blurts out, slumping over the bar. "I didn't mean for you to find out like this, before the wedding. I guess I should be grateful that your father's not here to witness all of this." Stunned, Lily turns to Phil, who's at the hostess stand, calmly studying a menu.

Judy arrives at Lily's house with the girls' wedding outfits and finds Tiffany, now visibly pregnant, in the kitchen, taking inventory since she'll be working for the caterer during the reception. Tiffany mentions that Lily is with Will in the back yard, where he is fashioning the bridal tent out of parachutes. They talk about Will, Judy saying that he's hard to get to know, but Tiffany informs her that moments before, he told her "practically his entire life story": that he lived out of his car for a year, that he's an ordained minister, that he has a daughter who was conceived when he was sixteen and was placed for adoption after her birth, but with whom he has had a relationship since he searched for her a few years before. Judy is astounded that Tiffany learned so much about Will in one afternoon that she herself never knew. Modestly, Tiffany admits that people just seem to tell her things since she became pregnant.

Tiffany leaves, and Will enters the kitchen to pour himself a drink. Judy's stilted attempts to make conversation are interrupted when Lily walks in and Will goes back outside. Lily asks Judy to call the wedding guests who haven't sent in their response cards, so that she can give the caterer a final head count. While fuming about the discourtesy of wedding guests who can't RSVP, she breaks down and admits to Judy that Jake might lose the restaurant and that she can't afford to pay her share of the wedding expenses.

Judy offers to give Lily three thousand dollars of her savings as a wedding present, but she's relieved when Lily turns it down, confessing that it wouldn't even make a dent in her bills. "So call it off," Judy advises.

For Lily, this isn't an option. She discloses to Judy that she didn't give Rick an immediate answer when he proposed, and insists that now, after he's gone through a very public humiliation, he needs a big wedding: "It may be all for show, but he needs the show. And if I suddenly say that I don't want it, I'm afraid that--"

Judy kisses her lovingly and leaves to take the girls' dresses upstairs. Entering Grace's room, she finds Grace sitting with Eli, who's strumming his guitar, playing a song that he composed. Through the window, Judy sees Will at work, hanging the parachutes, and becomes so lost in thought that Grace has to remind her to leave. Moments later Eli leaves as well, saying he has to go to band practice, although his bandmates have probably given up on his ever rejoining them.

"I thought you liked your band!" Grace exclaims.

"I used to. I used to like a lot of things," he replies wearily. He points out that Grace is still wearing his sweatshirt, but invites her to keep it a little longer. Once he's left, Grace allows herself a thrilled smile.

At his nearly deserted office, Rick admits to Amanda, his assistant, that he no longer expects to land a project for which he has bid. "Do you really want to design a parking garage?" she asks.

"Designing a parking garage could lead to actually getting paid, and we wouldn't want that, would we?" Rick replies sardonically, wedding expenses weighing on his mind.

"Can I ask a stupid question--how soon do you have to fire me?" Amanda asks him.

"Soon," he answers regretfully. Amanda nods understandingly and walks away.

That night, Rick and Lily again work on their wedding plans, each afraid to admit to the other that the wedding has become too expensive. ["It's too much," Lily says worriedly; "Twenty-one thousand dollars?" Rick yelps in horror.] "Not that it's not worth it. Isn't it what you want?" Rick asks hastily. "Yeah, if it's what you want," Lily replies. "It is. I do," he says. "I do too," she says. Phil's apparition watches them through an outside window, and while this time Lily seems oblivious to his presence, Rick looks over his shoulder as if sensing something.

The next day when Lily delivers Judy's wedding shoes to the bookstore, Judy breaks the news that their mother isn't coming, ostensibly because she's afraid to fly. Judy thinks the real reason is that she's afraid people will pity her because she's alone now.

"Sometimes I really miss Dad. Don't you just wish you could talk to him sometimes?" Judy asks.

"I talk to him. Sometimes," Lily tells her, seeing Phil's apparition behind Judy, who doesn't sense his presence. "I could never do that, I would feel too stupid," Judy says, not feeling the kiss that her father bestows on her.

Judy says she admires Lily's willingness to marry Rick, faults and all, since she uses people's faults as an excuse to move on. In turn, Lily praises Judy's ability to be alone, something she herself has always been afraid of.

That night, Rick and Lily gather their children in the living room for a wedding rehearsal, which is delayed by an argument about accommodations for Rick's mother. Rick assumed she would stay in Lily's house, while Lily planned to book her into the tony Wyndham Hotel at their expense. Meanwhile, Grace is in her room, trying on her wedding outfit and caressing Eli's sweatshirt. When Rick and Lily notice that she's not downstairs, Eli goes to her room, but he doesn't find her there. Instead, he finds Carla's letter.

Lily and Rick continue their discussion in the kitchen and finally admit that they can't afford a wedding as expensive as theirs has become. Rick acknowledges that he was going along with Lily's grand plans because he thought they were what she wanted, and Lily was planning an extravaganza to prove, as Rick puts it, that "maybe I'm not worthless." Rick pours himself a vodka and, opening the freezer to get ice cubes, finds Zoe's missing hand mirror in the freezer. Unnoticed, Phil's apparition picks it up and, seeming to float above the kitchen floor, places the mirror on top of the overhead cabinets. Lily and Rick reluctantly agree that if they couldn't be honest with each other about the kind of wedding they can afford, they shouldn't be getting married at all.

Grace returns to her room to find Eli devastated after reading Carla's letter. He says he can't understand why Carla doesn't miss him because he'll never stop missing her. "I know," Grace says.

"You're the only person who does know," he answers, seeing Grace as if for the first time. He tells her that her dress is pretty and they lean toward each other to kiss. When Jessie suddenly opens the door, she notices that Grace and her brother are sitting close together, but she says only, "They called off the wedding."

Karen is at work with one of her assistants when Jessie calls her with the stunning news that the wedding is off. She asks that her mother come over to pick her up, and Eli as well. "Did they get into a fight?" Karen asks incredulously.

"I don't know. Dad's watching the History Channel," Jessie answers. Karen agrees that this is an ominous sign, and promises that she'll come as soon as she can. Seeing Karen's face light up, her assistant wonders aloud, "Good news?"

As soon as Jessie hangs up, Lily takes the phone, saying that she has to make some calls. Meanwhile, Rick drinks vodka and morosely watches old newsreel film of Winston Churchill announcing the surrender of Nazi Germany on V-E Day. Judy approaches him and offers a sympathetic ear, but he doesn't feel like talking.

Tiffany goes to the restaurant, where Jake is again alone. Tearfully, she tells him that Rick and Lily called off the wedding. To her surprise, Jake scoffs at the official reason for the cancellation, i.e., that the reception got out of hand. He believes they chickened out: "If you want to get married, you just get married," he insists.

Tiffany is appalled by his cynicism and declares, "The fact that they were brave enough to even attempt marriage was giving me hope."

"You can still hope," Jake tells her.

"I can?" Tiffany asks, her face brightening.

"Yeah, it doesn't cost anything," Jake sneers. Tiffany is crushed.

Having finally notified all her guests of the cancellation, Lily wanders into her back yard. She finds Rick examining the parachute tent and praising Will's ingenuity. He baffles her by mentioning Winston Churchill's famous saying that democracy is the worst form of government except for all the alternatives. Lily tells him that hearing him quote Churchill at a time like this makes her want to marry him all over again. He continues, "How Churchill felt about democracy is how I feel about marriage: it's a horrible system, but it is the best one we have. Know what I mean?"

"I do," Lily replies. "I do too," he tells her. They share a kiss, and Rick wonders, "Do you suppose it's too late to get that rabbi over here?"

"It's Friday night. I think the rabbi might have other plans," Lily reminds him in amusement, before a thought strikes her: "Did you know Will Gluck is an ordained minister?"

As Karen finally prepares to leave her office, Jessie calls again. Karen assures her that she's leaving right away, but Jessie tells her mother not to come, that Lily and her father are getting married after all, "any minute," she says gleefully. While she's on the phone, Judy hurries in with bags of ice and an armful of daisies, saying they were the only flowers the florist had left, and Eli urges Jessie to hurry and get ready. Jessie says good-bye to her mother and hangs up. Alone in her darkened office, facing the reality that she has lost Rick forever, Karen can't hold back her tears.

Rick walks into the kitchen, where Zoe, wearing her flower girl dress, is still searching futilely through drawers. "Please don't tell me nothing's gonna change just because you're getting married," she warns him. "I'm upset that I can't find my little mirror and I really need it."

Guided by an impulse he can't explain, Rick reaches above the cabinets, picks up Zoe's mirror, and hands it to her. Awestruck, she says, "I guess it's good that you're tall and you can reach stuff."

"I would never tell you that nothing's going to change. Everything's going to change," he tells her. They hug and he tells her affectionately, "Let's go get married." Zoe points to his plaid shirt and reminds him to change his clothes first. He agrees, and says that he also has to call his accountant.

Lily looks in on Grace and finds her huddled on the bed, crying. She assumes that Grace is upset about the changes that her mother's remarriage will bring, but Grace explains that she is crying because she's alone. "Do you even know what that feels like?" she demands. Lily admits, "No, I've always been too afraid to find out what that feels like. I'm so glad that you're not."

Though her mother lifts her spirits, Grace is disappointed that Grandma Brooks won't be at the wedding, and neither will Uncle Aaron. "Who's going to walk you down the aisle?" she wonders.

Lily wonders too, until she sees Phil's apparition at the door and runs after him as he descends the stairs. "Wait, I need you to walk me down the aisle!" she pleads.

"Sweetheart, I can't, I'm on vacation," he replies. "Anyway, you know who wants to do it, don't you?" He looks past her, toward the second floor. Lily looks back over her shoulder and answers, "Of course." She thanks him, and he promises that they'll see each other soon.

Barbara Brooks enters through the front door, carrying a garment bag and calling, "Where is everybody?" Phil's apparition smiles fondly at her, but Barbara is not aware of him and walks right through his ethereal presence. Rick welcomes her with the news that the wedding will take place in a few minutes. As Zoe hands him a just-arrived fax and hugs her grandmother, Rick urges Barbara to get dressed downstairs so that she can hide from Lily and surprise her.

[Lily, wearing her bridal gown, reads from Weddings for Complicated Families about last-minute preparations.] The family gets ready in the parachute tent, where Will and Judy stare at each other admiringly and Judy gives him a daisy boutonniere. ["Immediately before the ceremony, the bride's mother is seated," Lily reads, and brushes away a tear.]

To the strains of "Here Comes the Bride" played by Eli on his guitar, the processional begins, led by Zoe, scattering daisy petals, followed by Jessie, then Lily, who enters with Grace at her side. Barbara steps into the "aisle," and forgetting her processional pace, Lily joyously runs to embrace her.

As Lily and Rick stand facing each other, clasping hands, Will unfolds the sheet of fax paper. As Will delivers, in English, a reading from the Song of Solomon,

"Set me as a seal upon your heart,

as a seal upon your arm.

Deep waters cannot extinguish love,

nor floods sweep it away,"

Lily turns misty-eyed when Rick surprises her by phonetically reciting the verse in Hebrew with the help of Arnold's faxed pronunciation guide. When Will pronounces them husband and wife, they exhale with relief before kissing.

Champagne corks pop as the newly-blended family celebrates. To her father's utter delight, Jessie, without prologue, begins singing "When the red red robin comes bob-bob-bobbin' along..." Hugs are shared all around until Eli and Grace realize that they're the only two who haven't hugged each other. Shyly, stepbrother and stepsister embrace. Departing from tradition, Will and Zoe dance the first dance, and Rick tosses Lily's bouquet, which bounces off Will. Surprised, he picks it up and looks at Judy, who looks back with unconcealed interest.

As his loved ones dance the night away, Phil's apparition looks on from outside the tent with a smile on his face that says all is right with the world.

The End

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