The Price We Pay For Love


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Scene Title The Price We Pay For Love
Synopsis Lynette takes the first steps in her life after Mateo.
Date 1/12-5/13

New York

The Ruiz apartment is currently a crime scene. Yellow tape keeps Lynette away from anything resembling home. Not that it much resembles home anymore. Yesterday, it was warm and welcoming. Today, it's a graveyard. So Lynette sits at a table in a hotel suite, music playing from the main room does what it can to mask the sounds of her flipping through paperwork. The business of death carries enough red tape to keep her mind occupied. There was a meditative quality to it. Decisions to make. Arrangements to make. Orders to make.

All ready for when his body was released.

Her phone rings, pulling her from the work and back into the world. She glances at the name across her screen, tilts her head back to let out a sigh, then answers.

"Hi Dad."


Most everyone else left long ago, after the service was over. Somewhere, a wake happens without her. She meant to go, but her feet haven't been able to leave the grass she's been standing in all afternoon. Rain falls, but she doesn't notice. Her father holds a black umbrella over her head, but she doesn't notice that, either. Instead, she watches as Mateo is lowered into the ground. Her gloved hands cling to a glass jar filled with sand. A label shows the name of a beach in Argentina. Once upon a time, she and Mateo walked hand in hand down that beach. Once upon a time, she had plans for a collection of glass jars marking all the places they would go, all the things they would see together. But today, she steps to the edge of the grave as his casket hits the ground, shaky hands open the jar and pour the sand down onto the casket. Leaving the memory with him. Leaving her plans for the future to be buried, too.

Something catches her eye and she looks up, glancing toward the trees where she thought she saw his frame leaning against the trunk. His hair clinging to his face in the rain.

But no one stands there at all.

Just his ghost. And a lingering hope that this is all a nightmare she's about to wake up from.

Her father's hand touches her back and she looks back to him, fresh tears smudging her vision. She doesn't argue when he guides her back to the car. And he doesn't try to get her to the reception. He only makes an appearance himself when she's in bed, deep asleep like she plans to spend the rest of her life that way.


Birthday dinner turns swiftly into a breakdown. Her first night out since the funeral. Her friends tried to give her an escape, a distraction. But before appetizers arrive, she catches a familiar silhouette against the street lights outside and has to leave the restaurant. She cries in the back of a taxi all the way home and doesn't answer the phone for the next few weeks.

When his birthday comes around shortly after, she only leaves the house to sit by his graveside. The grass hasn't grown up yet, but she sets a vase of flowers next to him and takes care in cleaning the dust and dirt off the headstone. For most of her visit she reads his favorite book out to him. Logically, she knows the only person getting comfort from it is her, but she can't help feeling like he can somehow hear her. Like he might also get some comfort from it, wherever he is.

And there is the matter of the baby. A reality she hasn't quite… settled into yet. But perhaps they will also grow up half in love with a strange garden and an endless library.

She stands up as if to leave, but lingers. Her fingers turn an envelope over, as if she's not decided if she should keep it or give it to him. Leave it behind, she has to remind herself. Because he's never going to see it. Because this isn't just a nightmare. When she makes the decision, her movements are quick, like she fears changing her mind before it's done. But the envelope ends up under a trio of rocks at the base of his headstone. Inside, a letter.

Where are you right now? Somewhere beautiful? Are you happy?
When I close my eyes, I see you smiling. And I never want to open them again.
But I do.
The world is so much dimmer without your smile.

Back home, tucked into a desk, there are a collection of letters written back and forth between them. Starting back when they first met and ending barely a few days before he died. They all begin the same— where are you right now?— whether they were apart from one another or not. She always assumed that the letters would dwindle one day, that they'd fall out of the practice, but she always hoped they wouldn't. That she'd always be writing him love letters, even from the next room over, and that she'd always wake up to find his tucked under her pillow. Waiting for her to read when she finally woke up that particular day.

When she sees him standing behind a group of nearby mourners, she makes the decision that she can't keep on this way. His ghost lingers all over the city, keeping things raw, leaving her haunted. Something would need to change if she wanted to be there for their child.

But she would always be anchored here, because he was always her anchor.

She leans over to press a kiss to the headstone, then makes herself walk away.


The house in Rochester stands at the end of a winding road through thick pine trees. The smell of cedar is thick in the air, as piles of wood sit, waiting to replace rotted or broken pieces around the building. Just one of the signs that there is still work to be done. A lot of work. But it's livable. And while memories taint the walls there, they're soon to be painted over. Spackled and patched up, replaced entirely where it's needed. Good as new. Someone else will live in the apartment he died in. As soon as the floors are replaced and the news forgets about him. She suspects they're about to, the way the police seem to have. The way the world seems to have.

It kept on going. Like that day didn't matter. Like it didn't need him.

Which is strange to her, because she feels stuck in that moment. She sits on the bench of their piano, watching the world spin outside her windows, feeling the life inside her growing while she still holds Mateo's hand and listens to his last breath over and over again.

Her fingers slide over the keys. She doesn't mean to play anything, but a familiar song echoes through the room anyway. A song she will never be able to love again. A song she can hear skipping in her head every day. Stuck in the moment, just like she is.

Whenever she slips, her father is there. And as Fly Me To The Moon starts, he comes into the room and puts a hand on her shoulder.

"I need you to come look at the garden. I don't like the look of these plants we got delivered," Jeremy says to her, as if he can't arrange for them to be replaced himself. As if she needs to be the final say on every decision. It's a ploy, but one that she's grateful for. She leaves behind the piano and comes out to critique the quality of every flower, every branch, every leaf, until she feels steady again.


Lynette has taken to sitting outside on the porch, where an oversized chair lets her sit without feeling cramped. An increasingly difficult challenge for her furniture, given the size of her. People told her that she glowed, that pregnancy was a beautiful miracle, but she mostly felt like a house. And mostly, she tried to avoid people who said things like pregnancy is a beautiful miracle. It was easier for all of them if her presence wasn't there to force them to wonder if they should be congratulating her or not.

The outside of the house was looking together. Cedar and pine gave the place a rustic look that had grown on her over the last few months. Inside, things were still in tatters. But she was gearing up to get it in order, too. Before her son showed up, ideally. Although the way exhaustion was starting to hit her out of nowhere, that was becoming a distant ideal.

But she could think about the house, about the list of what had to be done. The baby was another story. She felt herself panic whenever she thought too much about him.

"How did you do this, Dad?"

"I don't recall ever being pregnant—"

"Stop it," she says with a playful swat in his direction, "you know what I mean."

Jeremy pauses there, looking out toward the trees around her property. "I wish I could tell you it was going to be easy."

"I don't need you to lie to me."

He looks back to her, letting out a heavy sigh. "I want to, though, Jelly Bean. I want to tell you that you'll always know what to do and once he's with you everything will just fall into place. But. I think the best piece of advice I can give you is to be grateful for the advantages you have and to be ready to sacrifice whatever you have to for his sake."

Lynette falls silent as she looks over at him, her smile small, but heartfelt. "I already knew that part," she says, as if to tease him. But really, it is a quiet thank you. An acknowledgement that she didn't miss what he had always done for her. Was still doing for her. "Will I always be… sad?"

"Yes," he says, plainly, "but it won't always be in the front of your mind. And don't… You'll feel guilty when that starts to happen. But it's a good thing. It'll let you heal."

Part of her did find comfort in the idea that she might be able to let it drift from her mind. But another part wanted to cling to the grief. Her last link to him.

The baby kicks and reminds her that the grief isn't her only link to him.


Although the hospital room was the best one they had, Lynette was too uncomfortable to sleep. She was supposed to be resting, but she couldn't do that either. So she wandered to the nursery to sit next to her new baby. He was small, even for a newborn, a fact that made her smile.

His father was short and adorable, she confided to the nurses on duty. They were aware of her situation, but instead of sorrowful condolences, they cooed over the boy and told her how cute he was and how healthy he was. When she asked if they could move him to her room, they were happy to oblige.

Jeremy had passed the time through this whole ordeal by charming the nurses and other patients and generally assigning himself the task of keeping everyone's spirits up.

He was asleep in a chair when she and the baby were resettled back in her room. Lynette suspected he was faking it, at least for a while, since he coincidentally woke up just after the nurses left. He stretched as he made his way over to the bed, to watch her while she held her son.

"Have you decided what you're going to name him?"

"I think so."

"After Mateo?"

Lynette runs her fingers over the soft skin of the baby's cheeks.

"I'm not naming him after loss," she says eventually, "I'm naming him after hope." She kisses his forehead, then looks up at her father. "Manuel, that's his name."

"Manuel means hope?"

"It did to Mateo. It does to me."

It was all the explanation she was giving anyone on her choice. She considered it a deeply private homage to someone who helped pull Mateo out of the dark. And she knew, looking at his little face, that she was prepared to climb out of the dark herself, for his sake. When she finally fell asleep, it was with Manuel against her shoulder, his steady breathing acting as a gentle lullaby.


No tree, no presents. Partly because Jeremy had never made Christmas a thing in the Rowan household, partly because her mother, Karin, was Jewish, and partly because Lynette herself wasn't particularly religious in any fashion. Normally Lynette might indulge at least in the community festivities, but not this year. This year she spent the holidays locked inside. Her father took on the job of making sure they were fed and warm as autumn turned to winter.

Lynette sits with Manuel on her lap, reading him El Gato Ensombrerado. She does her best to sound cheerful for him. She does her best not to think about how his hair reminds her of his father's already. His eyes. His nose. Instead, she gives the fish a funny voice to get Manuel to laugh.

He would be happy, she would make sure of it.


shhhhh— krr— shhhh


Lights in the house flicker and Lynette wakes up to the feeling of electricity siphoning away from the wires and batteries in the house. First, she rolls over to reach for a man who is no longer there. Her hand rests heavily on the empty pillow for a long moment while she reminds herself that he's dead. Buried. Gone. Pushing back the urge to cry, she sits up and runs a hand through her hair. The electricity gathers together, feeling familiar in a bittersweet way. It isn't Mateo. It cannot be Mateo.

And yet. It also is not her imagination.

She follows the feeling to her son's room, pushing the door open to find him trying to scale the side of his crib— not very well, as it turns out. As he falls back to the mattress, the electricity pulls toward him again. She watches as a barrier forms under him, edged by blue arcs and pops but otherwise invisible. It catches him before he hits, then disappears and he drops a must shorter distance to the bed.

Lynette covers her mouth with a hand, using the other to brush tears away from her eyes.

He is so much like his father.

"Bit early for this," her father says from the door behind her. He spent a good amount of time on watch for electricity gone awry. This woke him, as well.

"By a decade and some change," Lynette notes before she comes over to scoop up Manuel. "What are you trying to do, my little darling?" she asks as she picks up one of his stuffed toys to pass to him. His little arms wrap around it, just as his mother's arms wrap around him.

"Go figure, your child would be extra troublesome," Jeremy says, teasing tiredly as he puts a hand on her shoulder.

"You always told me that Rowans are worth the extra trouble," she says giving him a sidelong look, her smile gently curving her lips. If briefly. Her fingers slide through Manuel's hair, then she hikes him up on her hip. "Let's have a midnight snack. That sounds good, right? And then we figure out how to teach a little baby how to keep his ability steady. Right, Dad?"

"Might take more than just a snack," he says, giving her a squeeze as they head toward the kitchen, "but I have some ideas."

She quietly hoped that the challenge would be an effective distraction. And that it would teach her not to reach for Mateo first.

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