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See You In Another Life

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The problem with Tony is not really a problem with Tony at all--the problem with Tony is the problem with turning Tony down, and the trouble with that is that Fiona can see where he’s coming from. Really, she can. He mentioned, that one time, their play wedding at pre-school, and after that, she has been unable to un-think it.

When Fiona was in pre-school, the girl she was supposed to be then, the woman she would have become, that woman would have loved Tony, she thinks. The girl whose mother was still in the house, even if she wasn’t the most engaged parent, whose father was still mostly a jovial alcoholic, the girl with only one baby brother and another on the way, she would have probably grown up with only about the same amount of dysfunction as the rest of the neighborhood.

It isn’t that she blames the children--there isn’t anyone she loves more in the world--but it’s pretty clear that her parents never should have reproduced. Probably not even once, and certainly not time after time after that. When Fiona was four-going-on-five, though, she can clearly remember her mother, huge and a few short weeks away from giving birth to Ian, saying, “This is the last one, Frank. We can stop pretending to be good Catholics after this, do some population control instead.” At that point, Fiona had still been young enough to believe the things her mother said.

The girl who got to live out that reality, though, would maybe have had to take Lip and Ian upstairs and cover their ears once dishes started getting thrown, would have turned on the radio when the police came to ask about the domestic disturbance call, but she wouldn’t have had to drop out of high school when Monica left.

(Monica was always going to leave. It was only ever a matter of when.)

She might have even made it to college, though, or community college, maybe. She would have made it out of Frank’s house, had her own life, anyway. She would still have worried about her brothers, though--she knows this about herself. This person, this person her parents made her into, they wouldn’t have been able to do it if it had not always been in her to be so. She would have worried about them, then, would have asked her old friend Tony to keep an eye on them.

That Fiona, she would have seen just enough of a fractured reflection of what she wanted in a relationship in the train-wreck of her parents’ marriage. She would have asked Tony to keep an eye on her brothers, and when he did she would have loved him for it, would have loved him for the way he had managed to make a better life for himself than the one he’d been born into, and he’d done so without ever leaving the neighborhood.

She would have seen that he was steady and loyal and not bad looking at all, and she would have loved him for all of it. She would have loved him for the fact that grabbing a drink with him and catching up would have turned into a safe haven in the whirlwind that blew up every time she came home for a holiday. Before too long, she would have dated him. Eventually, she would have married him.

Tony is stuck in the wrong universe, though, and this Fiona, the real Fiona, she’s a little bit messed up and she knows it. She’s spent so long taking care of other people that when Steve says something about “spoiling” her, even as she contemplates kneeing him in the balls, a part of her wants what he’s offering. She’s taken in enough of her parents’ bullshit, too, that the fact that she knows, can tell, that he’s lying to her about something important feels almost comfortable. Familiar.

Most of all, this Fiona is tired. She is so tired here, in this universe, in this body. She is so tired and Steve came into her life and made her love him, and she didn’t even have the energy to resist for too long, just surrendered to the current of excitement, danger, warmth, adoration. Surrendered to a warm body to wake up to in the morning, to a man who brought her coffee, who knew the kids and loved them, too, or seemed to. Tony has always stood outside the gates of her affection, waiting politely for an invitation. Steve jumped the fence during the night, though, and made himself at home.