Unable to cope with the loss of his husband, a man wonders if he can raise his child.
|[About nine months after Rocco dies. Garret is lying on the couch, waiting for Melody to get home from school. He is clearly not entirely sober. The floor is littered with empty beer bottles. There’s a knock at the door.]
Garret: (making no effort to move) It’s open!
[Olivia walks in slowly, pushing the door closed to lean against it.]
Olivia: Garret? Jesus Christ, it smells like drugstore-quality liquor in here.
Garret: High end alcohol requires money, something I'm rather... Lacking, as of recent events.
Olivia: I know. Melody told me. She also told me you haven’t been to work in two weeks.
Garret: The kids seem to get taught better when I'm not there then when I am there, figured I'd allow them their education. S'only fair.
Olivia: She also told me she’s been cooking a lot around here lately. And cleaning. And making sure you’re still breathing.
[Garret sighs heavily. Though intoxicated, he isn’t stupid.]
Garret: Where are you going with this, Livvy?
Olivia: Garret, she is fifteen years old. One of the smartest and most competent fifteen year olds I know, but still fifteen years old. She’s a kid - you’re the adult. Fucking act like it.
Garret: Oh, and aren't you the noble sister, telling me how I should and shouldn't act? I know what I should be doing, I know how I should be acting. Don't storm in here and act like you're some goddamn angel for telling me.
[At this, Olivia strides over to the couch and pushes Garret so he tumbles onto the floor. She then stands over him.]
Olivia: Garret, I love you, but you’re acting like a child.
Garret: I don't know how else to act! Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, and it's never happened to you, so quit telling me what to do!
Olivia: Oh, grow up. Nothing like this has ever happened to Reed and Mel, either. You may have lost a husband in that car crash, but they lost a father - hell, they’ve lost both of them.
Garret: You think that I don't know that? You think that thought hasn't crossed my mind? I wish I knew how to handle this, but I don't. I don't, is that what you want to hear?
Olivia: What I want is for you to grow up and act like a parent for once!
Garret: That is -
[At this, the two siblings begin arguing and yelling over one another (actors ad lib here) both trying to drown the other one out, until finally Olivia forces herself to be heard.]
Olivia: --which is why I think it’s best if maybe Melody comes to live with me!
[Garret's face falls. There are a few beats of stunned silence as he tries to gather his thoughts.]
Garret: You... You want to take my daughter away from me?
Olivia: God, I don’t want to, Garret, but... I think it’s for the best.
Garret: (slowly rising to sit on the couch again) You can't... You can't do that! It isn't... You can't...
Olivia: Garret, it’s been nine months now and Melody hasn’t had a moment of peace since! Ever since Reed moved out, she’s had to handle everything around here. She should be the one being taken care of, not the other way around.
Garret: Of course, while the rest of us experience moments of peace in abundance, right? Look, I'll get better at this, I'll find a way, some way...
Olivia: Garret, you’ve had nearly a year to recover and you haven’t even started! I mean, look around you! Is this the kind of place your daughter deserves to live in?
Garret: You talk about what people deserve as if it's a luxury we're all inclined towards! No one deserves half the shit they settle for, just... Just let her... Let me stay with my daughter. Please.
Olivia: She’s barely even your daughter anymore! She’s the one parenting you!
Garret: That doesn't mean that you can just take her away whenever you feel like it! She's not a toy to get passed around, she's my daughter! Whether you think she is or not!
Olivia: Jesus Christ, do you think that’s how I view her? She’s my niece, Garret. I love her. I’ve been trying to avoid this, really, I have been - but seeing her take care of you, her nightmares, getting teased at school -
Olivia: Oh, I don’t suppose she told you about that. She said she didn’t want to dump any more onto your plate. People at school have been picking on her. Because of the scars.
Garret: Who the fuck is mean enough to - why didn't she tell me? She could've told me, I could've helped her...
Olivia: You can’t even look at the scars. What help could’ve you been?
Garret: I don't know, Olivia, but I could have done something! God, everything has to be so patronising with you, doesn't it? Every little flaw - you've been begging to find some flaws, haven't you? Since we were young you've begged to find some weakness. Well, here's your chance. Pick at every single one you can find, but don't think it gives you a right to my daughter!
Olivia: I’m trying to do what’s best for her!
Garret: You're trying to do what you think will clear your own conscience! If you tried to help, then if it all fucks up, it's not on your conscience, at least you tried, right? I know living with me is hardly ideal for her, but there is nothing you can do that can make this better on her.
Olivia: I can give her a home where she doesn’t have to deal with a parent who’s drunk half the time and won’t even look at her the other half!
Garret: Oh, because you're so much better than me! Because of course, I just get in everyone's way, I'm like a ticking time bomb, and you're trying to minimise the damage! I'm trying to deal with this the only way I can - and it sucks! I know it sucks! I know I'm a horrible father and I know it's not fair on her, but I don't know how to stop it! Maybe if you spent your time helping to make the situation better instead of removing the situation, we'd all be a little bit more goddamn grateful.
Olivia: What do you think Melody’s been doing this entire time? She hides your liquor, you get more! She tries to talk to you, you shut her out! She’s been trying to fix this - and it’s not even her job, it shouldn’t be her job - and it’s only fallen apart!
Garret: So you're saving the only person you think can be saved, right? Fuck me - I'm beyond repair! But you can take my daughter and fix her all up, can't you?
[Stunned silence for a couple beats - Olivia didn’t really mean to admit it, nor did Garret expect her to.]
Olivia: I... I can give her a healthier home. And it’s not like you’d never see her. I only live across town, I’d let her see you whenever she’d like.
[Garret rises to level with Olivia, moving almost too close to her, as if invading her personal space.]
Garret: Just because you couldn't find someone who'd put up with your shit enough to give you your own child, does not give you the right to steal mine.
[Olivia, deeply hurt, slaps him across the face. They stare at each other in silence before Olivia carries on.]
Olivia: Let me put it this way. You let me take her now, and you can see her whenever she wants - she’s only a bus ride away. But if you don’t, if you make her live one more day taking care of you, I will call social services. And they will take her from you. We both know it. And then what? She’d go into the foster system. At least let her stay within her own family.
Garret: I don't think you have the guts. You can threaten me all you want, I know you won't do that to her. I know you won't.
Olivia: I will do whatever is best for Melody.
Garret: You should have stayed out of my life.
[Olivia's reply is cut off by the door opening again. Melody enters, having just come home from school. She sets her bag down on the couch, looking at Garret. He avoids looking at her face.]
Melody: (genuinely surprised) Dad, you’re up!
[Neither Olivia or Garret say anything in response. Melody is completely unaware that she’s just proven Olivia’s point. Melody looks from her father to her aunt and back again.]
Melody: Is... is something wrong?
Garret: In so many words...
Melody: Dad, what’s going on? (pause as she waits for an answer) Tell me! Please.
Olivia: Your father and I were discussing -
Garret: Disagreeing on...
Olivia: - the idea of you perhaps... Perhaps coming to live with me.
[There’s a pause as Melody tries to process this.]
Melody: (in denial) You... you mean for just a couple weeks or something, right? While Dad goes to therapy or something.
[Olivia shakes her head.]
Olivia: Uh, not... Not exactly, honey. I meant... Permanently.
Melody: But - but... I...
[She looks between Olivia and Garret, searching for some sign that they’re joking. She finds none.]
Melody: Can I... can I talk to Dad alone, please?
[Olivia nods, before leaving the room slowly, walking towards the bedroom. Melody strides over to Garret and takes his arm. She tries to look him in the eye; he continually refuses to look at her face - or rather, her scars.]
Melody: Dad, you’re... you’re gonna be okay in a couple weeks, right? Then I’ll be able to come back here with you, right?
Garret: I don't know, Mel. Your aunt doesn't seem to be too set on that idea. Hell, I don't know if I can grasp that idea. I don't... I don't want you to leave... But I don't think I'm getting any better.
Melody: Dad, we can work this out! Maybe if... maybe if you went to see a doctor and went to... to AA or something - maybe we could stay together.
Garret: You know those things don't help me. Nothing helps me.
Melody: Trying might!
Garret: I don't know how to try! I can't do it!
Melody: Dad, look at me and tell me you’ll try. Look at me.
[He doesn’t. She shakes his arm.]
Melody: Look at me. Look at me. (suddenly shouting) Look at me!
Garret: (shouting) I can't!
Melody: Why not? Because of the scars? Because you look at me and you see a car accident? It’s okay, you can admit it!
[Garret breathes heavily, before nodding slightly, not being able to bear the idea of speaking.]
Melody: How do you think I feel when I look in the mirror every morning?! Or whenever I try to sleep? I have to relive that crash every night!
[There’s a pause.]
Melody: You know, the doctors told me - they told me I was lucky I didn’t go blind. The glass nearly cut my eyes. Sometimes I wish I had gone blind. At least then I wouldn’t know you weren’t looking at me.
Garret: Mel... Mel, please... I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I never wanted this to happen, you know I never wanted any of this. I'd change it all if I could, I wish you didn't have to go through the hell you go through every day, and I wish I wasn't so fucking useless. I do, but I can't... I can't change this, I can't change any of this.
Melody: So you’re just giving up? You’re just... you’re just passing me off to someone else so you don’t have to think about what happened?
Garret: No! No, Mel, I don't want this. Believe me, I don't want this. Tell me how to make this better and I'll do it! Give me something, some other way to make this better. Please...
Melody: Look at me and tell me I’m not just - not just a reminder of the accident. Tell me I’m not just the scars! Because lately, it’s all anybody sees when they look at me!
[Garret closes his eyes tightly, pinching the bridge of his nose, before looking up at Melody with about as much strength as he can muster - which isn't very much.]
Garret: You know you're not just the scars, I know you know it. You... You're probably - no, you're certainly the only reason I haven't drank myself to death already. You're my daughter. You're my little girl.
Melody: Then... then don’t let Aunt Olivia take me. Tell her you’ll get your act together.
Garret: It’d... it’d be a lie, Mel, you and I both know it.
Melody: So that’s it, then? You’ll just - just let me be taken away and not even try to get me back?
Garret: You know that isn't what this is, Mel, I don't want this! But... I don't have much of a choice.
[Garret puts his head between his hands, there's a beat of silence before he speaks, not moving from this position.]
Garret: (quietly) I know.
Melody: (barely restraining herself from crying) I hate you.
[Garret removes his hands from over his head, slowly looking up at Melody. He's obviously hurt, and obviously on the brink of tears.]
Garret: You... You hate me?
Melody: Yes. Ever since Papa died it’s been - it’s been me taking care of you, me trying to get you and Reed to talk to each other, me cooking, cleaning, making up excuses for you when your boss asks where you’ve been! Every time there’s a crisis in this house, I’m the one that has to deal with it! I’m the kid! I shouldn’t have to be the adult yet! And now you won’t even fight to keep me! So, yes, Dad, I hate you for that.
Garret: ...So do I.
Melody: We may as well have buried you with Papa.
Garret: Just... just go get a suitcase together, Melody.
[Melody exits, going up the stairs to her room, visibly about to cry. Olivia re-enters.]
Olivia: She’ll... she just needs some time to calm down. She’ll understand once she can think clearly.
Garret: Well, maybe you can rest assured in the knowledge she might understand, but I won't.
Olivia: What do you mean?
Garret: I'm never going to understand why any of this had to happen. Any of it. Why Rocco was the one to die and not me, why I can't bear to look at my own daughter, why she hates me, why I can't goddamn function the way I'm supposed to function. None of it, none of it will ever make sense to me. Least of all how I fucked up so much that now... Now I don't even have the right to raise my daughter.
Olivia: I’ll talk to her. Once she’s calmed down. She’ll probably want to see you. She’s just upset right now - Lord knows it’s been a long day for us all.
Garret: I'll keep my fingers crossed.
Olivia: Do you want to tell Reed or should I?
Garret: And give him another chance to hit me? I think you can take that one.
[Melody comes back downstairs, now carrying her suitcase.]
Melody: I... I couldn’t fit all my stuff. My books and some clothes are still...
Olivia: We can come back and get them later.
Garret: I could... I could drop them off?
Melody: No, you couldn't leave the house for a second, don't lie to us any more than you already have. (she walks over to Olivia, not looking at Garret) Do I have to switch schools?
Olivia: You worry about that later.
[Olivia holds open the door for her, looking at her and Garret, as if hoping Melody will say goodbye. She doesn’t, and begins walking out the door without a word.]
Garret: (calling after her) I love you.
[Melody casts one last glance at him, having begun to cry. She doesn’t say anything, and looks away before walking out the door.]
Olivia: I’m sorry.
[She then follows Melody, closing the door behind her. Garret is alone.]