Chapter Twenty-One

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Jack put a handful of popcorn into his mouth. "Yeah, I haven't seen Muppets for an age."

"Did I ever tell you... that I used to have a crush on Gonzo when I was little?"

Jack snorted into his popcorn. "I guess that's why you fell for me."

"You are not like Gonzo."

His eyes twinkled. "Aren't I? A bit?"

"No. Do you have a romantic interest in chickens?"

"Do chicks count?"

I hit his arm, and he pretended it hurt, rubbing the spot. "I had a crush on Ariel... from the Little Mermaid."

"Shocker."

"What?"

"I think we all had a crush on Ariel from the Little Mermaid."

He reached for the radio volume and spun the dial down to its quietest setting. "Please. Tell me more about your crush on Ariel. The girl mermaid."

"That must be why you fell for me," I said, sarcastically. "I'm as much like Ariel as you're like Gonzo."

The scattered and disarranged light from the big screen flickered over Jack's smile. "Muppets and Mermaids... maybe that'll be the title to my next album."

"Mm, I don't think so." I munched a handful of popcorn. "Unless it's like a kids-bop type of thing."

"Definitely not."

Jack matched my frank gaze. I wondered if my smile matched his seemingly easy one.

"How do you pick the titles for your albums?"

He shifted gingerly, taking care not to disturb Quinn. "It's not as romantic or interesting as you might expect."

"That makes me more curious."

"So... I don't know how it is for all artists but my label requested I submit several options. They have specialists that pick the one they think will sell the album best. Exciting, huh?"

"That's not at all what I expected."

Jack turned back to the windshield. "Yeah, they picked my least favorites, too. The douchey, fuck-around garbage I included to make the others seem more apt."

"Really? That... that sucks. What should they be called?"

His grin grew, light from the big screen flickered over his teeth. "Well. I'd have called them My Wife Fucked Another Guy, The Lies - Part 1 & 2. But they told me that sounded too much like a Country-Western record."

I just blinked at him. Several times. Like windshield wipers – I was trying to clear the way for vision to put my thoughts back on track.

Jack chuckled. "I'm kidding, Kit. Fuck. Your face."

"I just... I think that's the first time you've... joked. About what I did."

Jack set the popcorn tub on the seat next to me and pinched the Mexican blanket with his fingers to get the salt off.

"Times like this. Like here, and I can sort of hold on to this idea that things were supposed to go this way. I mean... I hate to rely on a cliché of things happen for a reason. I don't think that, normally. But I don't know."

He caressed Quinn's soft hair, his hand large against Quinn's small face.

"You hear about stages of grief, you know. I went through all that. Rage and denial and depression. All that. And you finally get to Acceptance... right? But within Acceptance there are still more stages. Humor, maybe. And maybe something like– Revitalization. Like, relief that you can still laugh. Don't mistake me. It's not like I never laughed without you."

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