Word County (Veracity: 552) (utkari02: 608)
Humming, she went around the room, straightening up pillows and crooked pictures. A quick dust with Pledge made the furniture smell lemony and fresh while the lasagna in the oven slowly baked. Domestic. She hadn’t been domestic in quite a few years. It felt…nice to be a part of something, of belonging. He loved the clean house, said his “little woman nested very well” with a big, 100-watt grin.
Hank had never been that way. More like she served a purpose and that was all. Married? Check. Lovely family portrait to trot out during the holidays and promotions? Check. Young side-piece that shimmied and shaked while bleeding him dry? Double - triple check. It didn’t inspire a wife to dress to kill; just to kill. She remembered the day she and Buffy watched him shoving his tongue down some lethal brunette businesswoman’s throat. That had not been a fun day, at all. At twelve, their daughter had lost a lot of innocence that never really came back.
Ted, though, Ted already loved Buffy, wanted to get to know her and gain her trust, without even meeting her. She thought he would be a good father figure since Hank was never around. Watching him at the store, beaming at the little kids and their parents, made her want more. To fill a house with kids and noise, and love. She had always wanted more. One had never been enough. A second daughter named Dawn Marie would be perfect and a son named Theodore Jeremy.
Ted said that a woman should give the world more children, but not at the expense of the marriage. She supposed that was true. It wasn’t something she admitted aloud, but sometimes, in the darkest parts of her heart – she blamed Buffy’s misguided and deviant behavior as the final straw for the breakup. A marriage shouldn’t end just because of family squabbles.
On her way to the bedroom to pick out a wholesome but attractive outfit for the date, Joyce thought Ted was right: no one should interfere. He was the first guy since the separation that had been nice, wanted to be active in her life, and respected her mind; it was a nice change. He always held out his hand for “his little lady,” walked her around rain puddles, said please and thank you, and allowed her to pace the relationship.
Buffy would have trouble adjusting though; she knew that stubborn mind. Part of her little girl wanted her parents back together, living under one roof, fake picture to the world. As a child, there was no understanding in the reasons and flaws of divorce, but Ted allowed that to go away. Buffy loved Hank, and she should, but as the ex, love wasn’t important any longer. Willow would like Ted. The nerdy computer hackers united. Xander would love Ted’s home cooked food, if the consistently empty pantry was any indication. But that was good. Because if they accepted her new boyfriend, so would Buffy…eventually.
Down the stairs she went, wearing the navy blue A-line dress Ted had picked out last weekend and her mother’s pearl earrings; a good outfit for a man coming home after a long, hard day of work. Smoothing out any wrinkles, she sat beside at the kitchen table, ready for his arrival.
A few years later, once she learned the truth about her daughter, she would realize that Buffy’s dislike of Ted had to do with her daughter’s gifts. She would acknowledge that Buffy was simply able to sense when things weren’t right. But at the time she didn’t know of her daughter’s calling and just thought she was acting out.
Joyce couldn’t understand why Buffy couldn’t get along with Ted, why she’d make up stories about him and try to encourage her to stop seeing him. Ted seemed like the perfect man, he was loving and nice and intelligent, and Joyce wouldn’t let Buffy ruin this for her. She wouldn’t let her daughter’s little tantrums keep her from the first man that made her feel young, loved & alive in years.
She loved his cooking and his good looks and she loved how he made her feel. If Buffy couldn’t understand that, if she couldn’t jump on board then that was just too bad.
She had hoped Buffy’s issues were over with. She didn’t know any other parent that had dealt with the same kinds of problems that she’d had to deal with. Burning down gyms, weird dreams, sneaking out, staying out to all hours of the night were just the beginning. She’d seen weird bruises, and torn clothes, and she hated how conversations just stopped when she entered the room. Unexplainable happenings had started to be the norm lately, and Ted gave her a small dose of normalcy that she was desperately clinging to.
Joyce was brought back to the present by the sound of the front door.
“Joyce-y” Ted called.
“I’m in the kitchen Ted.” She replied, getting up from the table. “Can I get you something to drink?”
“Thank you, dear, that would be just lovely.” He said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“How was work?” she asked pouring a glass of milk.
“Another good day, I’m happy to report. I’ve been the top seller for four hundred and twenty nine days in a row!” Ted beamed.
“Oh, honey, I’m so proud of you!” Joyce gushed.
“Hey, Joyce-y, I wanted to speak to you about Buffy.”
“Buffy? What about her?” she asked putting the milk away.
“I noticed her report card yesterday and I took a look at it, I hope you’re not mad.”
“Mad? Why would I be mad? You’re just taking an interest in her welfare, that’s all.” She smiled. “I don’t know if Buffy would feel the same way though.”
“What if she doesn’t come around to liking me?” Ted asked, “I couldn’t bear the thought of losing you.”
Losing me? That’s not an option.”
“Then what will we do?”
“We’ll give her another month to come around. If she hasn’t straightened up by then, I don’t know what we’ll do.”
“Well, what about boarding school?” Ted asked.
“Boarding school? I don’t know, I’d have to think about that.” Joyce mumbled.
“Of course you would. I was just throwing it out there as an option.” Ted said, rubbing her arm. “Come on, let’s go or we’ll miss our reservations.”
Later that night, Joyce was having difficulty getting to sleep. She couldn’t get the thought of sending Buffy to boarding school out of her head. She couldn’t help but think that maybe this could solve all of her problems. It’d make her free to be with Ted and maybe it’d even force Buffy to straighten her act up. Hmmm. Boarding School. Yes. She’d give Buffy another month to turn around, but if not, boarding school it was going to be. She’d better starting looking for places in the morning, just in case…