Once and Again...Once Again

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Summary of Wake Up, Little Susie

Written by Angela Stockton
Edited by Elizabeth Angela

Lily is at work in her kitchen, a faraway look in her eyes, when Jessie and Zoe walk in. Both girls are beaming, and Jessie's arm is draped across Zoe's shoulders. "Mom, can we have a lemonade stand after school today?" Jessie asks brightly. "We're saving up for a CD player for our room."

Rick strolls in seconds later, offering affectionate, fatherly pats to Jessie and Zoe in equal measure and asking what's for lunch. Eli enters, yelling at Grace to hurry up. She enters behind him, smiling coquettishly, and they embrace and begin kissing. Lily suddenly snaps to and looks around in bewilderment: it was all a daydream. The reality is that she's wrapping sandwiches while Grace and Zoe are bickering about a game of Monopoly, which they started the night before on the table in the breakfast nook and haven't finished. Lily exhorts them not to be late for their first day of school.

Meanwhile, Rick is trying to get Eli and Jessie ready at his apartment, where a pile of backpacks and a thermos attest to their recent return from a camping vacation. Her nerves fraying, Jessie screams that she is ready and that she's not freaking out, but Eli points out that on the night before, she spent two hours deciding what to wear. [In black and white, Rick says he knows Eli will be all right no matter what. But as for Jessie, "the slightest shadow on that face slays me," he sighs.] When Karen arrives to see her off, her parents tactlessly remark that they're freaking out about Jessie's starting high school.

Jake arrives at Lily's house to pick up their daughters. When Grace asks him if they can choose not to go to school, he obligingly offers them an alternative: "You can go to work full-time at the restaurant -- bus tables, clean stoves, wash dishes, hose down the Dumpsters...."

Jake informs his family that he can't take the girls that evening because he's been tipped off that this is the night the Chicago Tribune's restaurant critic will visit his establishment. When Grace immediately offers to watch Zoe, Jake declares, "Problem solved!" and Lily agrees. But from her office at pagesAlive.com, she calls Rick to warn, "Houston, we have a problem."

Having spent a month apart from Lily during his vacation, Rick teases Lily, "I saved myself for you." Hearing Lily's mocking skepticism, he concedes, "I thought about you when I didn't. Did you save yourself for me?"

"It's not the same without you," she answers in kind, unaware that Christie is standing behind her, all ears. "What's not the same?" Christie asks innocently.

Lily and Rick try to continue their conversation in spite of Christie's kibitzing on Lily's end, and David's on Rick's. Both David and Christie ask if the other is cute. Lily offers Rick the definitive answer, "Everyone in their twenties is cute."

To solve their problem of finding time to be alone now that Jake won't take the girls, Lily proposes that she and Rick go out to dinner. After he brings her home, she'll put the girls to bed, and once they're asleep, he can slip back inside.

Meanwhile, at school, Jessie walks through a crowded hall, literally and figuratively buffeted about in this strange new environment. [To the interviewer, she plaintively describes the Catch-22 that is high school: "You're supposed to be older, you're supposed to have a body, you're supposed to know how to talk to boys, you're supposed to know what to wear. But you're supposed to know all that before you even get there! How is that supposed to work?"]

She makes eye contact with Grace, who's with her friends Julie and Annie, but Grace doesn't speak to her. To her curious friends, Grace dismisses Jessie as "Nobody. My mom's boyfriend's daughter."

At the vending machine area, Grace, Julie and Annie meet Carla, a tall, edgy girl wearing a camouflage-print skirt. Carla, moaning that she needs caffeine, beats her fists on a machine that has eaten her money. She recognizes Grace as the girl who "went out with that cute black guy," and charms her into handing over a dollar. When the vending machine eats Grace's dollar also, Carla explodes, "Son of a bitch!" and storms out. Annie volunteers, "She's really nice for someone who just got out of rehab."

That night, when Rick and Lily return to her house after dinner, they make an elaborate show of her "fatigue" and his departure. Zoe stuns Lily and embarrasses Grace by asking if her mother has ever slept over at Rick's. Lily admits that she has, although not while his kids were there. When Zoe asks if Rick has ever stayed over at their house while she and Grace were at Jake's, Lily replies that he hasn't yet, but might someday. When she asks her daughters how they'd feel about that, Zoe decides that she'll get used to it. Grace replies "Whatever," and hurries up the stairs.

Waiting in his SUV, Rick squirms uncomfortably while Lily puts Zoe to bed and tries to hurry Grace into lights-out. She even tells Grace that her homework can wait until morning, which is so out of character that Grace comments on it. By the time Lily can call him, Rick has dozed off, but the ringing cell phone jerks him awake so abruptly that he accidentally honks the horn. "Get your ass in here," Lily orders gleefully.

Lily leads him to the living room, where they tear off their clothes and, as Rick lowers Lily to the sofa, they feverishly begin to make up for lost time. They tumble from the sofa to the floor, still kissing. Afterward, as they drift off to sleep on the sofa, Lily murmurs "I love you" to Rick who answers, "I know. I love you."

Suddenly it's 6:30 the next morning, they're still on the sofa in their underwear, and her daughters are astir. Rick tries frantically to dress and leave before the girls see him. Lily tries to conceal him while fielding Grace and Zoe's questions about what's for breakfast, why she's awake so early, and why she's wearing the same dress that she wore the night before.

Once Lily has steered the girls to the kitchen, Rick makes a break for the front door, only to come face to face with Jake waiting on the stoop. Oblivious to Rick's uncombed hair, bare feet and jumpiness, Jake stands in the doorway, chatting affably and blocking Rick's exit. Hearing Jake's voice, Lily and the girls enter the foyer to find Rick there as well. The lovers exchange "Busted!" glances while Grace, drawing the obvious conclusion, frowns behind Lily.

At breakfast, Zoe badgers her mother with questions about Rick's sleepover. Grace refuses to be drawn into the conversation, saying, "Mom, you're gonna do what you do anyway, and it's really OK with me, but please don't act like you're giving me some big say in any of it."

From her office, Lily calls Rick for a postmortem. She vehemently disagrees with his suggestion that they be open about their sleeping together. While they're still talking, Karen calls. As he puts Lily on hold, Rick explains, "Karen has to tell me something I did wrong."

It turns out, however, that Karen merely needs to ask if he can pick up Jessie after school. He tells her he can't and puts her on hold to tell Lily that he's in "divorced-parent logistics hell." When she hears the problem, Lily promptly offers to pick up Jessie herself. Relieved, Rick reports to Karen, "I'm taking care of it."

At lunch, Carla takes a seat beside Grace and repays her dollar by presenting her with a CD, which she blandly explains that she stole. Grace is both shocked and intrigued by Carla's street smarts and cynical attitude. In black and white, Grace declares that no one talked to her for the first three months she was in high school. She was so lonely that she cried after school every day.] Carla mentions that she has not decided whether to stay in school, because it would mean having to live with her father.

[In black and white, Jessie says that Grace is OK, but she doesn't know her that well. She knows that Grace is a good soccer player, and says hopefully that if she goes out for soccer," she could teach me stuff."]

Meanwhile, Jessie vainly searches for an empty table until Grace invites her to sit with her, Carla, Julie and Annie. Jessie gratefully accepts, but Grace pointedly does not make introductions. The older girls return to discussing their fathers, a conversation to which Jessie seems eager to contribute, but no one asks her opinion. Moments later, the others all get up to go, leaving Jessie alone again.

[Jessie tells the interviewer, "I always wondered what it would be like to have a sister, sharing clothes or whatever, some way to keep you from being a total geek."]

After school, Grace crosses the lawn to the pick-up point where her mother waits. Jessie follows several yards behind her, and is surprised when Lily hails her. Grace is dismayed when she hears Lily explain the transportation emergency to Jessie and realizes she'll be stuck with Jessie's company for a few hours. Delighted to see Jessie again, Zoe skips across the lawn and leads her by the hand to Lily's SUV.

Lily takes all three girls back to pagesAlive.com and seats them at computer terminals. Grace sulks while Zoe and Jessie chat with growing ease. But when Zoe asks for Jessie's e-mail address, Grace interrupts, warning Jessie, "Don't tell her. She'll put you on her buddy list and bug you every single time you log on."

That night at their home, Grace is irked when Zoe scolds her for not being nicer to Jessie. At Rick's home, Jessie complains to Eli that Grace is not nice to her and won't even talk to her. Preoccupied with his guitar, Eli offers her neither sympathy nor advice. "It's not like you have to spend all your time with her once Dad and her mom move in together," he says with a shrug, deepening Jessie's concern.

Blind to the true state of their children's relationship, Lily and Rick talk on the phone and congratulate themselves on how smoothly their families are blending. To the dismay of eavesdropping Grace and Jessie, they plan still another get-together for the following Thursday.

The next morning, running an errand which takes him to Karen's house, Rick is blindsided when she accuses him of lying to her about picking up Jessie. Rick disagrees, pointing out that he merely said that he was "taking care of" the transportation. Unsatisfied, Karen insists that where the children are concerned, they communicate with clarity and complete honesty. Chastened, Rick promises to do so.

During lunch on Thursday, Carla invites Grace to join a group of her friends that night in vandalizing a house which is already marked for demolition. "Have you ever used a sledgehammer? It's awesome!" Carla exults. Assuming that her mother's permission is pro forma, Grace is stunned and turns whiny when Lily informs her that she can't go because Rick and his children are coming over for dinner. In any case, Lily does not approve of Grace attending a demolition party at all, much less with Carla, whom Lily had never heard of before today.

When Rick and Jessie arrive for dinner, everyone notices that Eli is not with them. "Band practice," Rick explains. "I couldn't budge him." Grace digs an elbow into her mother's back and mopes throughout dinner. Jessie is diffident at first, but she warms to Zoe when they discover that they've had the same fifth-grade teacher.

After dinner, Zoe proposes that she and Jessie play Monopoly. Grace tries to slip upstairs, but Lily urges her to join the game also, brushing off Grace's insistence that she must do her homework.

In the living room, Lily and Rick cuddle and smugly assume that the girls are playing happily together. But during the game, Grace makes a move that leaves her owing rent to Zoe, and tries to conceal it rather than pay up. When Zoe catches on, she accuses Grace of cheating. Grace denies it, and when Rick and Lily come to investigate the commotion, each sister demands that Jessie corroborate her version of events. Jessie is torn between Zoe, who genuinely likes her, and Grace, whom she wishes would like her, and says only, "I want to go home now." Her eyes are brimming with tears.

On the ride home, Jessie refuses to discuss the Monopoly fight with Rick, claiming that she wanted to leave because she had a stomachache. At the same time, Lily reprimands Grace for not giving Jessie the respect due a guest. "If you marry Rick, is she going to be a guest for the rest of our lives?" Grace retorts. The question stumps Lily.

Next day, Rick visits the office of pagesAlive.com for the first time. As he and Lily analyze what went wrong the night before, Rick confides that Jessie believes that Grace hates her. When Lily becomes defensive, Rick backs down rather than risk a major argument. The discussion comes to an end, but not a resolution, as they lamely agree that everyone is under pressure but they're doing the best they can.

That afternoon, Jessie struggles with her math homework and pleads for help from Eli, who has his own problems and doesn't take her complaints seriously. Rick brings home Chinese food for dinner and warns Eli not to start eating until his sister comes downstairs. Eli, his fork in hand, replies that Jessie has already said she's not hungry. Worried, Rick goes to her bedroom to check on her and finds her curled up on her bed.

Under his questioning, Jessie tearfully reminds Rick that she was already torn between two homes, his and Karen's, before they started going to a third home (Lily's); she's in a new school; and she's spending time with people who don't like her and don't want her around, all because it's what her dad has decided he wants. "When do I get to choose?" she cries.

As she defiantly turns her back on him, Rick pours out his heart. For four years, he tells her, he's been trying to take care of her, but for all those years he's been lonely. "Now this person is in my life, and I love her, and I need to be with her, and you're gonna pay some of the price for that. I'm sorry, I wish there was some way I could change my life without changing yours." Stretching out on her bed, he assures her that being her dad is important to him also, and she needs to trust him. He predicts that she'll get something out of the relationship someday, even if she can't see it yet. Deeply affected, Jessie lies beside him and says simply, "I don't want you to be lonely."

[In black and white, Jessie says that when she grows up, she wants to live on a ranch in Wyoming, with her favorite animals and so much open space that she can ride for an hour and not see anyone, and live the way she wants to live.]

Next day at school, Jessie is again walking down the hall, alone and despondent. Although she and Grace make eye contact, Jessie is not surprised when Grace looks away. But Grace suddenly smiles at her and says, "Hi, Jessie." Jessie replies, "Hi, Grace." A smile brightens her face, she squares her shoulders, and she walks on with a bounce in her step.

The End.

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