A modern dining room setting. TERRY, a teenager, and LILY, a child, sit at the table, uncomfortably waiting. JOYCE, in her 40’s, enters with a pot of food, steel-faced.
TERRY: Uh, morning.
They eat in silence for a while.
TERRY: You know, I can make us breakfast for a while if you don’t-
JOYCE: Don’t be silly. I’m your mom. It’s just breakfast.
TERRY: I mean, okay…
LILY: Yeah, Terry. You can’t even cook.
TERRY: Just shut up.
LILY: You’re not even helping. Mommy, are you okay?
TERRY kicks LILY under the table.
JOYCE: Terry! Don’t do that. (to LILY) Mommy’s doing fine.
TERRY: So… is Dad still picking us up today?
JOYCE: Yep, you’re staying over at his for the weekend. He’ll be here in the afternoon.
LILY: But I need to go to the park today. Ms. Griffiths told us we all have to plant a tree for the ecology project.
JOYCE: What kind of a project- (shakes head) Sorry. Don’t answer that. Sure, Lily. I’ll drive you after breakfast.
TERRY: I can drive her.
JOYCE: Don’t be silly. You don’t have your license yet.
TERRY: But I can drive! The park’s, like, 10 minutes away.
JOYCE: (strained smile) We’re done talking about this.
The family takes a moment to finish their food. JOYCE stands up.
JOYCE: Is everyone done?
TERRY and LILY nod and hand JOYCE their plates. JOYCE exits with them stage left.
TERRY: (whisper) Don’t be dumb, Lily. Don’t talk about it, don’t ask her about it.
LILY: How do you know-
LILY: How do you know that’s what she wants?
TERRY: Well, I… (JOYCE re-enters.) I don’t. I’m just… I don’t know.
JOYCE: Guys, so I’ve been thinking. Well, how do you feel about going to church?
TERRY: We’ve never gone to church.
JOYCE: I know. So how do you feel about it?
TERRY: (Glancing at Lily) Uh… I don’t know…
The doorbell rings. JOYCE briefly exits stage right then re-enters with DAVID.
JOYCE: (as she enters) You’re early.
DAVID: I know. Hey! Terry! Haha, and princess, how’s it going?
LILY: Don’t call me that! I’m not a baby.
DAVID: Sure you’re not, you’re a princess. (to JOYCE) So how are you? Still staying home from the firm?
JOYCE: I’m doing okay, and yeah, they’ll be fine without me for a while. I’m guessing your lunch got canceled.
DAVID: I canceled it. Missed the kids too much, and I thought- well, you know what- (turns to kids) why don’t you guys go up to your rooms for a minute? Mom and I need to talk about something.
TERRY and LILY, who have been bickering at the back, go quiet, scan the mood in the room, then obey, exiting stage left.
JOYCE: Good. That’s good. I wanted to talk too.
DAVID: Oh- well-
JOYCE: You first.
DAVID: Okay. Well- you know- I just wanted you to know- the kids can stay with me on the weekdays too-
DAVID: -just temporarily.
JOYCE: You live an hour away from their school. Absolutely not. I’m doing fine.
DAVID: Well, uh, okay. If you say so.
JOYCE: Okay. Well, what I wanted to talk about was- I want to start going to church. With the kids, I mean. But I thought I should still talk to you about it.
DAVID: Church? Well- huh. That’s new. I mean, I guess so, but the kids aren’t gonna be into it.
JOYCE: They can start now.
DAVID: Well, you can’t exactly force spirituality, though, and honestly I’m a bit puzzled that you want to go to church all of a sudden. I mean, didn’t we always use to say/ if God’s the one in charge-
JOYCE: If God’s the one in charge, I don’t trust him. Yeah, I know. But I can’t help feeling this is something we’re missing from our lives, all of us, and… well, and I think as a mother I should be exposing them to some spiritual stuff.
DAVID: (sarcastic) Oh, it’s about you being a “good mother” again.
JOYCE: Don’t say it like it’s a bad thing!
DAVID: I’m not. I’m just saying, sometimes you start obsessing over that, and honestly-
JOYCE: What, honestly just “chill out”? Like you always used to say? God, David, you can’t just be supportive this one time-
DAVID: Oh, no. Let’s stop this right here. I’m sorry. We’re not going down this road again.
DAVID: Okay. (pause) But I still don’t know about church. I think it’s a waste of time. And, well, I guess your life is just your life now, but the kids are a different story.
JOYCE: David, you don’t understand.
JOYCE: How important it is to rely on something. And I just want to know- that maybe when Terry and Lily grow up and they need something like that- like maybe when one of us dies- (voice cracks)
DAVID: Listen. Joyce, I know this is tough. But I’ve lost my dad too. And I did have things to rely on. I had Terry, who was like- like an angel, I think he was just three- and I had you.
JOYCE: (Beginning to break down) But I just keep losing, I lost this (gesturing to the two of them), I lost him, and, wow, I was even losing all my cases- I need to believe in something, so all this would be coming from somewhere. Or something, I don’t know. And you still don’t want us to go to church?!
DAVID: Joyce, you’re not doing okay. You keep saying you are, but you’re not. And I understand, because this takes a long time, but if you keep trying to put up an act, it’s just gonna get worse-
JOYCE: It’s not an act, it’s called an effort! Okay? I’m not just a lone woman. I have a family and a job and I have responsibilities that I can’t just abandon.
DAVID: And a tough act does nothing!
JOYCE: (Overwrought- almost at breaking point) Stop calling it an act! I’ve been taking care of them just fine.
DAVID: I know you have. Of course you have. But I do think you need to- I just worry, Joyce-
JOYCE: Like you worry! (Begins to sob, escalates throughout line) Alright. You got me. I’m not okay. So what? Fuck you. I’m a mom. I’m a lawyer. I have a life. And I think church would help. This would be a great time for God to show up. And maybe you’re above this all, but I’m not, so who knows if Terry will be, or if Lily will be, so I’m gonna take them to church. Don’t you fucking say a thing. (Collapses into a chair) Just let me live. I’ve always done fine. Dad would have wanted me to be fine. (Cries silently)
DAVID: (Pause.) I know. I know you’ll do fine. Okay, I apologize. (Long pause.) Okay. Well, I’ll let you be alone. I’ll just, uh… I’ll get the kids and tell them you’re working. I’ll, uh… drop them off tomorrow night. Okay. I’m thinking steakhouse, and maybe the botanical garden that opened up last Friday. Just in case you wanted to know. Okay. I’ll go.
DAVID lingers for a good eight seconds, then starts to leave.
JOYCE: (WIthout looking up) No. I have to… I have to take Lily to the park.
JOYCE takes a deep breath and begins to collect herself, wiping her face.
JOYCE: She has to plant a tree at the park for school. I promised I’d take her.
DAVID: No, no, just take a break. I can do that.
JOYCE: (Clears her throat, shouts) Terry! Lily! Come back down!
DAVID: Joyce, you don’t have to do everything.
JOYCE: (Shouting) I’m driving us to the park!
DAVID sighs in resignation. TERRY and LILY soon enter cautiously. The parents seem fine, even cheerful- especially JOYCE, who has recovered at a startling speed.
DAVID: So, what kind of a project is that?
LILY: The ecology unit. Ms. Griffiths says we’re running out of trees, so we have to help out and plant some.
TERRY: One tree’s not gonna do anything.
LILY: It will, ‘cause my tree’s gonna live forever.
TERRY: No, it won’t, Lily.
DAVID: Well, it’s not really one tree, it’s part of a forest. So maybe it really doesn’t die, princess.
JOYCE echoes “part of a forest”, barely audible. They lock into what seems like a familiar family routine, grabbing jackets, car keys, snacks, and finally the parents ushering the kids out to all exit stage right. Blackout.