….. by TeeJay

Joan walks down the street, reading some math homework notes. The talk about hexagons and triangles makes no sense to her, but a skateboarder comes to her rescue, bumping into her, making her notes scatter all over the sidewalk. As she is picking up the loose pages, DogWalker-God comes along with his pack of dogs, making one of his “suggestions”: She is to take piano lessons. Her piano teacher is an old lady who looks kinda run down, Joan has to come to her house for the lessons. (And I may add that the teacher is played by Louise Fletcher, and I just keep seeing her as Kai Winn on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. -TeeJay / While to us old folks she’ll always be Nurse Ratched. -Deb)

In the Girardi household, Kevin asks Luke to poke his butt with a dart, to see if he’s maybe really regaining some sensation. Seems that he is, because he can feel what Luke’s doing. Kevin and Luke are both very thrilled.

In school, Joan walks into the classroom where Adam and Iris are already waiting for math class to start. Adam is wearing a shirt. A really weird shirt. A really un-Adamy shirt. It’s black with these huge square patterns all over. It’s loud. It’s hideous. And it’s just not Adam. Joan cannot keep her mouth shut about it. “What’s this, crazy shirt day?”

Adam looks at Joan with that reproachful look. “Uhm, Iris gave it to me?” Joan can’t believe it. “So, this is a choice?” Iris tells her, “It’s vintage. Still has the original tag.” Joan looks at Adam again. “You look like an escapee from a VH1 special.” Iris turn around again to face Joan. “You think the J.C. Penney hoodies were a good look for A?” Oh yes, Baby-Voice, there were. And Joan nails it. “They were Adam. This is not.”

The reproachful look of Adam’s is back. “I like it, Jane,” he tells her with conviction. Iris smiles. Joan can’t let it go. To Adam she says, “No, you don’t. You can’t. Unless you’re blind. Or—” She points at Iris and mouths, “Her.” Iris gives her a last look. “I can’t help it if you don’t get fashion.” Adam and Joan exchange another look before the bell rings. Joan tells Iris, “I just think you should let A be Adam, okay, I?” (Heh. I love that! -Deb) Just then the math teacher butts in and orders Joan to the board to tell the class about the Pythagorean theorem. Which Joan is just helplessly lost with.

At home Joan goes through her old stuff that her mother put away, hoping to find her old piano books. Grace helps her, pointedly asking if this is also about Adam and Iris. Joan goes off on a little rant about how he could let Iris pick out his clothes. Joan has a problem with Adam’s disco look. Understandably. Adam and disco don’t really belong in one sentence, do they? Joan tells Grace that Adam and her are over. Yeah…. right. Grace thinks so too. “Yeah. That’s why you don’t care what he wears or, uh…” Joan is annoyed. “Don’t you have a Hebrew class you should be at?” Grace looks at her. “Why do you think I’m here?”

Then Joan finds a letter from her grandfather to her father. It talks about a Richard. When Helen walks in and Joan asks her who Richard is, she tells Joan that she doesn’t know. Hm… Both Joan and Grace suspect that there’s more to this mysterious Richard, though. During family dinner Richard comes up again. Will tells the family he’s a distant relative, but evades the subject when Joan can’t stop pushing to know exactly who.

In school, Joan finds Adam sorting through some old records in the music room. When she asks him what he’s looking for, he explains that he wants to play Iris some Miles Davis because she’s never listened to him. The upside of schools not having any money is that they keep all the old vinyl records, Adam says. “Is that that trumpet guy you played me?” Joan asks. Then she tells him she has to practice the piano. Adam is about to leave with some records.

As he walks up the stairs, Joan tries to apologize for attacking his shirt. Of course she can’t really find the right words. “But the shirts look great. Makes you easy to find in a crowd.” Adam looks at her, a little put off. “What are we, Jane? I mean, we’re not together, but it seems like we are sometimes.” That, dear boy, is because you both want to be, but don’t want to admit it. Joan tells him that she doesn’t want to mess things up with him and Iris. It’s like she wants to add something more meaningful, but stops herself at the last second, lamely saying again that she has to practice the piano. Adam can’t seem to wipe that frown off his forehead. He just doesn’t know what to do with the situation, it seems.

In the meantime, Luke did some research and came up with the information that Richard Girardi is Will’s brother. Well, half-brother. He is ten years younger than Will and lives in Baltimore. And has a doctor’s degree. And then Joan picks up the phone and calls Richard. Kind of a stupid thing to do, right? She leaves a message that she called when she learns he’s not there.

Later, Joan is in Adam’s shed. Since he’s the only one she knows who has a record player, she had to rely on him to play the old records of her music teacher Eva Garrison. (Which is not true, BTW. The Girardis have one in their living room. Continuity error, or fib on Joan’s part? -Deb) It’s Bach, very heavy and sad. Adam is a little self-conscious about the colorful Iris shirt he’s wearing, so he tries to hide it by zipping it up in his red hoodie. It’s so cute.

Joan holds the record cover, sitting down, talking about how her teacher used to be so beautiful and now is so sour. From the inside. “Maybe it’s all the scotch,” Joan suggests. “Or, you know… bad ripples,” Adam adds in that quiet but somehow seductive voice of his. He sits down next to her and they listen for a few quiet moments to the piano music. It’s getting a little awkward, so Joan gets up. “I’ll let you go back to Miles Davis.”

It’s clear that Adam doesn’t want her to leave. Joan turns around with a worried frown on her forehead. Adam can read that she wants to talk about something but isn’t sure where to start. But when he asks her flat-out what’s up, she tells him. “I just found out that my dad has a brother he never told us about. I found this letter and I asked my mom and she totally denied it. Then I asked my dad, and he said he was, like, some distant cousin.” She sits back down next to Adam, finally being able to vent. “My parents, lying to face. What’s so hard about telling the truth?” she asks. Adam doesn’t have any answers. “I don’t think we’ll ever understand it.”

With the lulling music still in the background, this is a very intimate moment. Even more so, when Adam’s fingers slowly seek out Joan’s hand on her thigh. He threads his fingers through hers, slowly, gently. The gaze into each other’s eyes, they share this soulful look and he says just above a whisper, “Let’s never be like that.” Joan studies his face and asks, “What if it just happens? Like, skin getting all wrinkly…” He answers, “We won’t let it.” They lean in, little by little, and there’s just that longing for a sweet kiss that they both want, which is about to happen—until we hear a familiar but not so pleasant voice from the door. “Coocoo, Cherie.”

When Iris enters the shed, Joan and Adam both jump up, clearly having been interrupted at… something. She realizes that and says, “Sorry,” taken aback a little. Adam tries to hide it by smiling at her, greeting her with a cheerful, “Hey!” Joan bails, explaining that she was just listening to A’s turntable. The look on Iris’s face says that she’s not happy or consoled. The situation is more than awkward and Adam will have some explaining to do.

The next day in school, Iris catches Joan as they’re leaving Math class. Iris wants to talk to Joan, trying to explain that she’s okay with her and Adam being friends, but then she asks Joan to be straight with her. “Is something going on?” Joan tries to explain. “Look, Adam’s my friend. I needed someone to talk to. You have friends like that, right?” Iris gives her a look. “Yeah. One. And I’m going out with him.” Oh. That’s sad, Iris.

Just then, Joan’s cell phone rings. It’s her uncle Richard calling back. We don’t get to hear what they’re talking about. But during family dinner, Joan suddenly blurts, “Richard called me today.” Will is appalled. But Joan confronts him and Helen about lying to her. Finally, Will explains that his father left Will and his mother to live his new life with his new family, leaving his old family behind. “A kids doesn’t like to feel replaced,” he finally shouts before throwing down his napkin and running upstairs. Helen goes after him; Joan, Luke and Kevin are left sitting at the table, stunned.

Next morning in school, Joan seeks out Adam in the hallway. “Hey, do you have a minute?” He reluctantly agrees. She starts going on about what went wrong the night before and how her father now hates her, and then she takes another look at him. “Hey, how come you’re wearing your old shirt?” He just shakes his head, mumbling, “I don’t know.” “I’m sure he doesn’t hate you,” he offers half-heartedly. Joan says that he should, she’s to blame—and mentions how she was just supposed to pass Geometry. “You’re losing me,” Adam says. “It’s okay, there’s nothing to say, it’s just… I… needed you.”

He stops, looking at her. She realizes that maybe she shouldn’t have said that. They keep walking, she keeps bubbling up words. “It’s one more thing that’s wildly out of control now. Us. Or at least me, the human wrecking ball.” He has a frown on his forehead. “It’s not just you.”

She makes him stop, look at her. “Adam, I know I’ve been such a flake with you.” He looks up. “Unchallenged.” (Adam, you’re not supposed to say that!) “It’s just… our first kiss. The one that was just supposed to go away.” He’s a little thwarted by that, but then he collects himself. “Iris and me are together, Jane,” he tells her. She’s close to tears now. “I know. But last night…” He doesn’t know what to say. He felt it too.

They share another long, silent look when Iris comes up, kissing Adam on the cheek. “I always seem to be interrupting you two,” she comments. Adam tells her it’s just “stuff”. Joan adds that it’s kinda personal, family stuff. “Yeah, nothing weird,” Adam says oddly. What did he mean by that? Iris drags him away when Joan says she has to leave. But why do I get the feeling he’d rather go after Joan, who still seems upset?

At the Girardi house, Richard suddenly turns up. Will’s ready to throw him out, even though Joan protests, but then Richard gives Will his father’s old police badge. Joan tells him she’s sorry, and she and her father hug.

A while later, Joan sits on the front porch with a blanket around her shoulders. DogWalker-God comes up. She thinks she messed up, but God tells her that she made her father find the missing note in a long song. Seems like the good ripples were there after all. Just how good, she is going to see in the next few moments, because Adam almost trips over one of the dogs in God’s pack, walking up to Joan on the porch. “Can I sit?”

He does and he looks at Joan. “Hey, you’ve been crying.” She smiles. “Don’t worry, not because of you. But I’m sure you were in there someplace.” You can see that he’s troubled somehow, wants to say something. (In the background, one of the most beautiful Adam/Joan songs starts playing: Howie Day’s “Collide”.) Adam draws in a breath. “I talked to Iris. I told her how I felt.” She gives him a long look, “How is that?” He looks back into her eyes. “Same way you feel. I was just scared, Jane. Got kinda hurt before and I thought… about you. And… being scared didn’t matter that much.” Her eyes fill up with tears again and he softly strokes her arm. “Hey, you’re crying again.” She smiles at him through her tears. “Yeah.” They lean closer, and closer, and closer, and finally kiss while Howie Day sings, “Even the best fall down sometimes. Even the wrong words seem to rhyme. Out of the doubt that fills my mind, I somehow find you and I collide.” And this time, they mean it.

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