Freedom Lane – Date Night

Rose sat across from Paulie in an Italian restaurant called Canner’s just outside of Downtown New Haven. The two normally had plenty to talk about, but they weren’t currently on speaking terms. The waiter came over to the silent table, breaking the silence with his waiter-like questions.

“Can I get you two some drinks?” he asked, his pad and pen ready.

“I’ll have an unsweetened iced tea,” Rose said.

“Diet Coke,” Paulie said. “No ice.”

“OK,” the waiter said. “I’ll have those right up for you while you check out your menus.”

“Thank you,” Rose said. The waiter left, and she resumed her silence.

“What are we doing here?” Paulie asked. “We’ve been doing this every year since you’ve been with my sister. We could have put this off until we’re talking aain.”

“And when will that be?” Rose asked.

“Depends,” Paulie said. “When are you going to realize you’re overreacting?”

“Maybe when you decide to admit you crossed a line,” Rose replied.

Paulie sighed. “You only came here so you wouldn’t have to tell Helen we’re fighting, right?”

“Didn’t you come for the same reason?” Rose asked in return.

The waiter returned and set the drinks on the table. “Are you all set to order?” he asked.

“Not yet,” Rose said. “Can we have a few minutes?”

“Sure thing,” the waiter said. “I’ll come back in a bit.”

Rose perused the menu, and Paulie watched her for a moment before picking up his own.

****

Freedom Lane

Created, written, & directed by Budgerigar Orville Bigelow
Co-created by executive producer BluntSharpness

Season 13, Episode 5: Date Night

****

Two Weeks Earlier

Paulie walked into his sister’s house on Freedom Lane. “I got a text from the kid,” he said. “What’s going on here?”

“Dammit, Unca Paulie,” Da’Quarius said. “Why you blowin’ up my spot?!”

“You called my brother?!” Helen snapped.

“Don’t yell at him,” Paulie said. “Will you just tell me what the hell is going on?”

“It’s Rose,” Da’Quarius said. “Her sister is here.”

“Rose has a sister?” Paulie asked.

“Don’t you remember?” Da’Quarius asked. “Her father knocked up some Korean and then married his own daughter, making Rose her half-sister-slash-step-daughter. Then he died and left her here in New Haven.”

“Right,” Paulie said. “How could I forget?”

“Blah, blah, blah,” Helen said, opening and closing her hand like she was working an invisible puppet. “And then we sold her to that laundromat owner.”

“We didn’t sell her!” Da’Quarius said. “He just took her off our hands an’ put her to work for a place to live so she didn’t have to live here.”

“Sure,” Helen said with a shrug. “Because it doesn’t sound so bad if you say it that way, right?”

“Cut the exposition,” Paulie said. “Where’s Rose and this sister of hers now?”

“Kitchen,” Helen said. “I got tired of playing referee between my woman and her gook sister after five minutes, but I’m sure you can last ten.”

“Her name is Hyun-a!” Da’Quarius said. “She might night like ‘gook sister.’”

“Madon,” Paulie groaned, walking toward the kitchen. He was met by Rose, arguing with Hyun-a.

***

Present Day

“I’ll have the spaghetti and meatball dinner,” Rose said, “with the house salad.”

“I’ll have the chicken marsala,” Paulie said.

“Excellent,” the waiter said. “I’ll put those orders in for you.”

The waiter left, and Rose looked away, watching the people in the restaurant.

“So that’s it then?” Paulie said. “We’re going to sit here on this yearly date of ours, eating in silence, just so Helen doesn’t know we’re fighting?”

“And you want to talk?” Rose asked. “What’s there to talk about? You know what you did, and you know it was wrong when you did it.”

“I didn’t know it was going to be a huge deal,” Paulie said. “If I knew how you felt, I wouldn’t have done it.”

“You could have talked to me about it at least,” Rose said. “Even if you… You know what? I’m not talking about this.”

“First you say we should’ve talked about this,” Paulie said, “and now you’re saying we shouldn’t?”

“You should have told me when it started, Paulie,” Rose said, “not after the fact.”

“When was a good time to talk to you?” Paulie asked. “The day I met Hyun-a was that day when you were screaming at her in your kitchen.”

“Oh, I remember,” Rose said. “That’s the day you decided to come stick your nose into other people’s business.”

***

Two Weeks Earlier

“There’s no money!” Rose shouted, standing by the sink. “I don’t even know why you’d think there was!”

“Daniel said he was going to leave you something,” Hyun-a retorted. She was standing near the table, less than five feet from Rose.

“He did,” Rose said. “He left you!”

“Whoa!” Paulie exclaimed. “Let’s take this down a notch, OK?”

“With all due respect, Paulie,” Rose said, turning toward him, “this doesn’t concern you.”

“Like fun it doesn’t,” Paulie said. “I’m just here to keep the peace. It’s what I do. Why don’t you both sit down and take turns talking. Think of me as your mediator.”

Hyun-a sat down at the table, her hands folded in her lap. She looked at Rose who took her time agreeing. She sighed, sat down, and crossed her arms across her chest. She looked at Paulie.

“Good,” Paulie said. “Let’s let Hyun-a go first. Without shouting, tell me why you’re upset, doll.”

“My Daniel told me he left money for Rose,” Hyun-a said. “I was his wife, and I should be entitled to it.”

“OK,” Paulie said, noticing Rose was about to explain. “Now, Rose, calmly tell Hyuna-a what you’re trying to tell her.”

Rose took a breath. “My father didn’t leave a dime to me,” she said. “If he did, I’d be more than happy to share any inheritance.”

“Liar!” Hyun-a spat.

“OH!” Paulie said. “What did I say? Wait your turn to speak.”

“Sorry,” Hyuna-a said, looking down at the table.

“I’ve known Rose a very long time,” Paulie said. “She’s not a liar. There’s not a dishonest bone in her body. If she says there’s no money, then there’s no money. You understand?”

Hyun-a nodded.

“Good,” Paulie said. “Now can we end this discussion and go about our lives?”

Hyun-a nodded again, and Paulie looked toward Rose.

“Fine,” Rose said. “Thanks, Paulie. I’m glad someone in this family has some kind of sense.” She got up and went back toward the den.

Hyun-a stayed where she was, wiping a tear from her face.

“Hey,” Paulie said. “Don’t cry. Do you have any idea how many families squabble over inheritance? It’s an everyday thing.”

“I haven’t bothered Rose for anything,” Hyun-a said, looking up. “I only needed some money for some things for my apartment. Mister Kwok doesn’t pay a lot, and he considers the room and meals a big part of my pay.”

“Are you illegally here?” Paulie asked.

“No,” Hyun-a said. “I was married to Daniel.”

“Right,” Paulie said. “I just don’t understand why you put up with those conditions when you could get a real job somewhere.”

“What do you mean?” Hyun-a asked.

“How about I give you a ride home and we can chat,” Paulie said, getting up.

***

Present Day

“Hyun-a quit her job because of you,” Rose said. “Did you have any idea who she was going to turn to when that happened?!”

“I did not tell her to quit her job,” Paulie said. “I only suggested that Kwok was using her. She’s a legal American. There’s no reason to treat her like she’s not!”

“My father had her living not much different than how she lived with Kwok,” Rose said. “I’m not saying what my father did was right. Hell, nothing he did was ever right. But this is what she’s used to.”

“You don’t know that,” Paulie said. “How do you know she can’t make it on her own?”

“Because she can’t!” Rose said. “She has no idea how much anything is supposed to cost, and she has no idea how to deal with people. My father did everything for her and left her with nothing when he died. He should have never taken her out of Korea.”

“So you want her living like a slave over a laundromat?” Paulie asked.

“I don’t know what I want for her, Paulie,” Rose said. “All I know is that she’s like a stray cat. If you feed her, she’ll keep coming back. You gave her money, and she kept coming back to my house for more. You shouldn’t have done that, and you definitely shouldn’t have slept with her.”

“Is that what this is all about?” Paulie asked.

“I don’t know,” Rose said. “We’ve always been friends, but that crossed the line. You really shouldn’t have slept with her.”

The waiter came and put a basket of bread on the table. “Your dinners will be ready shortly,” he said.

***

Two Weeks Earlier

Paulie drove toward Kwok’s Dry Cleaning & Laundromat with Hyun-a quietly sitting in the passenger seat of his car. “Let me ask you something,” Paulie said, breaking the silence. “If you could choose what you could do, what would it be?”

“I don’t understand,” Hyuna-a said.

“Let me ask it another way,” Paulie continued. “If you didn’t have to work, what would you do with your life?”

Hyun-a thought for a moment. “I’d probably die,” she replied.

Paulie groaned. “Madon,” he said. “I mean a hobby or something. Your whole life can’t be working in laundry for crying out loud. I’m trying to help you decide what you would do with your life if you didn’t work in laundry and live ten feet above it!”

“Oh,” Hyun-a said, thinking. “I guess I would take care of my husband and cook for him, but he’s dead.”

“That’s a start,” he said. “You can translate that into being a nurse or working in food service.”

“What do you do?” Hyun-a asked.

“I own my own pizzeria,” Paulie said.

“Are you hiring?” Hyun-a asked.

Paulie stopped outside Kwok’s Dry Cleaning & Laundromat and turned the car off. “I’m fully staffed at the moment,” he said, “but I’m sure you’ll find something that suits you, sweetheart.”

“You remind me of him,” Hyun-a said, “my Daniel. You are strong-willed like he was, and compassionate.”

“Thanks,” Paulie said. “I didn’t know much about the guy, just what Rose has said, and that’s not much.”

“I wish you could have met him,” Hyun-a said. “The two of you could have been great friends.”

“Here we are,” Paulie said, feeling the need to remind Hyun-a that she was sitting in front of her house. “I guess this is good night.”

“Does it have to be?” Hyun-a said. “I don’t get out much.”

“What did you have in mind?” Paulie asked.

“I don’t know,” Hyun-a said. “It’s been a while since a nice, strong man took care of me, even if only for an evening.”

Paulie looked over Hyun-a. “What the hell,” he said, turning the car back on. “I know a little place not too far from here where we can get a bite and some wine.”

***

Present Day

“The whole thing was her idea,” Paulie said. “It’s not like she didn’t consent. We’re all adults here, Rose.”

“She doesn’t have the mind of an adult,” Rose said. There was a roll on her plate, but she had mostly just torn it apart. “You took advantage of her. It wasn’t right, and you know it.”

“Whoa,” Paulie said. “Where are you getting that idea from?”

“I know her better than you,” Rose said. “My father married her when she was just out of her childhood, and she never really made any progress because he treated her like a child bride.”

“Have you ever gotten to know her?” Paulie asked. “She may have been that way when she was married to your father, but I got no impression that she had the mental faculties of a child. She seemed pretty adult to me.”

“Oh, I’m sure she did,” Rose said. “Did it ever occur to you that she was just sleeping with you for the money?”

“I didn’t pay her for sex,” Paulie said.

“No,” Rose said. “You just loaned her a thousand dollars after you had sex with her. You know she thinks you’re in love with her now? She’s waiting for you to call.”

“Hell,” Paulie groaned. “I thought she knew what it was.”

“She doesn’t understand, Paulie,” Rose said. “That’s what I’m trying to tell you. She doesn’t have one-night stands. You’re the second man she’s ever slept with, and she slept with my father until he died at ninety-seven years old. She’s used to acting like an adult to get what she needed from my father; and she did the same thing to you too, and you were more than happy to take advantage.”

“Rose,” Paulie said, the look on his face softening. “I really had no idea. You never talk about her or your father. I need to make things right here.”

Rose sighed. “Yeah, Paulie,” she said. “You do.”

***

Two Weeks Earlier

“Well,” Paulie said, lying in his bed next to Hyun-a. “That was fun.”

“Oh, Paulie,” Hyun-a said. “You’re so manly.”

“Thanks,” Paulie said. “And about that money you need… Consider it taken care of.”

“Really?” Hyun-a said. “I wasn’t doing this for money.”

“I know,” Paulie said. “And I’m not paying you for what we did. I know you need it, and I know you’re good for it.”

“This is a new start for me,” Hyun-a said. “I can leave Kwok’s and find my own place, my own job.”

“One thing at a time, sweetheart,” Paulie said. “I’m not loaning you a million bucks here.”

“Right,” Hyun-a said. “Thank you.” She leaned over to Paulie and kissed him, rubbing his chest hair.

“You’re very welcome,” Paulie said, leaning over and taking Hyun-a in his arms.

***

Present Day

The food was placed in front of Rose and Paulie, but they hadn’t started eating. “I’m being serious, Rose,” Paulie said. “I didn’t know what I was getting into.”

“That’s abundantly clear,” Rose said. “You know you’re never seeing that thousand dollars again, right?”

Paulie sighed. “This is what I get for doing the right thing.”

“No,” Rose said. “This is what you get when you try to be mister moneybags.”

“Is that the guy from the monopoly game?” Paulie asked.

“That’s the guy form the pizzeria who throws around money to sleep with women he shouldn’t be sleeping with,” Rose retorted.

“Oh!” Paulie exclaimed. “I thought we established I made a mistake and I was sorry about it.”

“OK,” Rose said, waving a hand. “What are you going to do about it then?”

“I don’t know,” Paulie said. “I guess I’ll have to talk some sense into Hyun-a about the job and let her down gently about her and me.”

“It’s not going to be easy,” Rose said. “She can get pretty intense when she’s upset.”

“Oh yeah?” Paulie asked. “How intense?”

***

Two Weeks Earlier

“Where’s Paulie?!” Hyun-a shouted. She was standing in the living room of Rose’s house on Freedom Lane. “I need to see Paulie!”

“Pipe your ass down!” Helen snapped. “Rose, will you tell your sister to go shout on the street corner. At least then a police officer might be nice enough to bring her to the friggin’ nut house for us.”

“Paulie doesn’t live here,” Rose said. “Why do you need him?”

“I need him!” Hyun-a shouted. “He gave me a thousand dollars, and now I have nowhere to live!”

“He did what?!” Helen shouted. “I’m going to backhand some sense into that stunad the second I see him!”

“Why would Paulie give you a thousand dollars?” Rose asked. “And how does that make you have nowhere to live?”

“He told me I should quit my job,” Hyun-a said, “so I told Mister Kwok I quit, and he kicked me out of my room. Now a family of ducks live in it!”

“What?” Rose asked. “Paulie made you do all that?”

“Yes” Hyun-a said. “And now I need him!”

***

Present Day

“OK,” Paulie said. “I’ll let her down very gently.”

“And explain to her slowly that she needs to ask Kwok for her job and room back,” Rose said. “Otherwise she’ll be hanging outside your house looking for somewhere to stay.”

“At least my clothes will be cleaner than ever,” Paulie said.

Rose laughed.

“Oh!” Paulie said. “I made you smile! Does that mean I’m off your shit list?”

“That depends,” Rose said. “Am I off yours?”

“I don’t see why not,” Paulie said. “I was the one being a grade-A asshole over here. You’re just looking out for your stepmom… I mean half-sister… I mean…”

“Don’t worry about it,” Rose said. “She’s family, and that’s what matters, right?”

“Yeah,” Paulie said. “And if she’s your family, then she’s mine too.”

“But we’re agreed on one thing,” Rose said. “She’s going back to live over the dry cleaners again.”

“She’s going back if I have to talk to Kwok myself,” Paulie said.

“Good,” Rose said. “We should eat before our food gets too cold.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Paulie said.

Rose and Paulie finished their meal, talking and joking about everything except the recent skirmish between them. They talked about Helen and Da’Quarius and the pizzeria and everything in between. When the meal was over they paid, and Paulie took Rose home, stopping in to have a cup of decaf with his sister.

***

Hyun-a watched from the bushes while Paulie had coffee with her sister and Helen. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she could see they were smiling and laughing. “What are you talking about, Paulie?” she asked, her breath fogging up the window.

She watched as the little black boy, she forgot his name, went into the kitchen with his dog. “Are you talking about me?” she asked. “I need you, Paulie.”

There was a barking to her right, and she turned to face the charging dog. It jumped on her and pined her to the ground. It dragged her by her leg from the bushes. “HELP!” she shouted.

“Let her go, Dutchie!” the little black boy shouted. “Sorry Auntie-Grandma. Why you lookin’ through da’ window anyway?”

“Get Paulie!” Hyun-a shouted.

The End

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