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Better With Two

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June 15, 2003
Francine’s age: 9

Francine’s first Father’s Day with them had been a bit rough. She’d still be going through some occasional bouts of anger and frustration, mostly directed at Bob. And so when her second Father’s Day came around, Bob wasn’t really expecting much. However that day in June he found himself being woken earlier than usual.

Bob blinked into wakefulness. He wasn’t a particularly heavy sleeper, so it was Francine’s slight nudge to his shoulder that woke him up.

“What is it?” he hummed.

“Wake daddy up,” the girl told him, “I have a surprise.”

With that pronouncement, Francine padded back out of the room and Bob could hear her making her way downstairs. Bob slowly sat up, slightly confused. “Wake up,” he said, poking Frankie in the shoulder.

Frankie grumbled and twisted around, turning his back to Bob. Bob poked him again in between his shoulder blades.

“Wake up.”

A third poke, to Frankie’s side where he was slightly ticklish, did the trick.

“What?” he grumbled, “Stop it.”

“Your daughter has a surprise for us,” Bob said, “and I’m slightly frightened about it.”

“What’s there to be frightened about?” Frankie ran his hand through his hair.

“I don’t know,” replied Bob, “but I’m sure there’s something.”

Frankie let out a sigh, “You’re worrying for nothing.”

Just then, Francine shouted for them from downstairs. Frankie kissed Bob quickly on the cheek before standing to wrap his bathrobe around himself and heading downstairs. Bob followed close behind.


“I still say there is nothing to worry about,” Frankie muttered.

Bob wasn’t worried, not really anyway, but he’d seen the kind of messes Frankie could make around the house without noticing so he could only hope that Francine hadn’t inherited that. A peculiar scent hit his nose as they went to the kitchen, there was coffee and something else.


The something else was sweet and chocolatey, a very familiar scent that turned out to be a combination of frosted mini wheats swimming in milk and uncooked s’mores Pop Tarts. Francine was beaming proudly at them.

“Happy Father’s Day!” she exclaimed, “I made breakfast! I’m not allowed to use the toaster, so the Pop Tarts are cold.”

Bob smiled and he could hear Frankie laughing behind him. And so they sat at the table and tried to enjoy their overly sweet breakfast. Even the coffee couldn’t help, seeing as it was cold water with a pile of grounds inside.

Francine munched at her Pop Tarts as well, “You like breakfast?” she asked.

“It’s wonderful, sweetheart,” Frankie said, “thank you so much for making it for us.”

Francine smiled brightly, “I also got you presents!” She then got up from her chair and went to her room.

Bob looked to Frankie, “Presents?”

Frankie shrugged, “I’m as clueless as you are.”

Because of the previous year, when Francine had very pointedly given gifts only to Frankie, Bob wasn’t expecting much. Francine returned carrying a couple of messily wrapped packages.

“This one’s for daddy,” Francine said, handing Frankie one of the packages, “and this one’s for papa!”

Bob blinked, shocked when a package was pressed into his hands. After last year, even with Francine christening him “papa,” he hadn’t expected this.

“Thank you,” Bob replied quietly.


Bob carefully unwrapped the shiny paper to reveal a flat, rectangular box. Inside the box was a tie, pure black patterned with musical notes and symbols in a rainbow of neon.


He began to smile, "I love it."

Francine beamed and when Bob opened his arms for a hug she ran into them and snuggled up against his chest. A grin unfurled on Bob’s face and his eyes prickled as they welled up. It was just a stupid tie, but it meant so much to be getting a Father’s Day gift from Francine. After a moment she released him and went to give Frankie his gift.

The box was larger and almost a perfect cube and opening it revealed a mug. Frankie laughed when he saw it then turned the mug so that Bob could read that it said “Caution: Spontaneously Bursts Into Song.”

“That seems very accurate,” Bob laughed.

After receiving a hug from Frankie, Francine was looking extremely pleased with herself.

“There’s one more present,” she informed them, “Uncle Nicky and Uncle Tommy helped me with it.”

Francine set a box between them, “For both of you.”


“Will you do the honors?” Bob gestures to Frankie.

Frankie pulled at the ribbon which came apart easily.

The more professional wrapping job on this box made it obvious that someone in the store had wrapped it, which was curious. Francine’s allowance would definitely allow her to buy a tie and a mug if she saved it long enough, but a nicer shop? Nicky and Tommy must have helped with the cost, which was actually quite touching.

Frankie then unwrapped the paper that covered it as well, even more curious as to what could be inside. Inside there was a small, rectangular ceramic box with a winding key sticking out of the back. The box was decorated quite simply in random splotches of jewel tones. After winding the key, opening the music box allowed the tinkling sound of “I Don’t Need Anything But You” from the musical Annie to float out.

“It’s to hold your rings,” Francine explained.

Although they couldn’t get legally married—not yet, as Bob liked to say—the two of them wore plain wedding bands.


"Thank you sweetie," Frankie smiled.