Loyalty (Vignette #4)
By Emma Redmer
Set a few weeks after the series finale "Up, Up, and Away"
Rated G (no objectionable material)
Synopis: Jennifer recalls her relationships with Larry and Mary Anne and why, despite their failings, she stuck by them.
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Disclaimer: Perfect Strangers is the property of Lorimar Productions and Warner Bros. Television.
Notes: This is the last in a series of 4 vignettes describing the feelings of the main characters at different points throughout the show.
I sighed, happy to be able to take a few minutes to myself. My new son Tucker slept happily in his equally tired father Larryís lap upstairs. Mary Anne and Balki, my best friend and my husbandís cousins, took their newborn son Robspierre for a walk in the park.
I picked up a photograph on the table in the living room. It was a picture of the four of us, taken by my husband not long after we first met. Larry looked panicked and breathless. He set up the camera and just barely made it in the picture before the flash went off. Balkiís huge grin seemed to take up the rest of the shot. Mary Anne and I had our arms around each other, trying to ignore our boyfriendsí antics.
Thatís a good description of our whole relationship. Iíve known Mary Anne since we were eight years old. We sat behind each other in Miss Johnsonís class in elementary school and passed notes back and forth. We were both cheerleaders in high school and business majors in college. We used to spend so much time at each otherís houses that our mothers regarded us as almost sisters. We shared the same dorm room in college and continued as roommates after we graduated and moved to a little apartment above a junk shop.
Mary Anne is...well, she can be a little dim. Ok, she can be a complete ditz sometimes. Sheís so forgetful. She once left cookies in the oven for three days. She forgets addresses, faces, names, and would probably forget her own name if I wasnít there to remind her. For all that, though, sheís very intelligent. We both graduated fairly high in our classes in college.
We met the boys when we worked part-time at a gym in downtown Chicago. It was part of our jobs to try to get people to join the gym. One of the most enthusiastic people I talked to was a man named Balki Bartokomos. He was so thrilled and in such a hurry that he forgot to sign his application. I followed him to the junk store on the bottom floor of our apartment building, and thatís how I met my future husband.
Larry claims he fell in love with me at first sight, but I was less certain. Larry seemed nice enough, but he reminded me too much of some of the guys I knew in college. All they wanted to do was show off in front of me. He and Balki stayed for four hours so they could impress me. Oh, I was impressed, all right. I was impressed they got home without collapsing in pain. I didnít see them stretch once at the gym. The subsequent date turned into something of a fiasco, as they could barely move the entire night (and for three days afterwards).
Larry and Balki quit the gym, but we kept dating anyway. I have to admit, I began falling in love with Larry Appleton in spite of myself. It wasnít easy. We eased off on our relationship several times, notably after the time we all went skiing together and got snowed in. That was another attempt by Larry to show off. He wound up making a fool of himself and getting hurt, as he so often did.
The ski cabin incident wasnít the last time Larry and I almost broke up. I was pretty darn close to breaking up with him after he accused Balki of sneaking around with me. We were just buying him a new typewriter! Balkiís sweet, but heís not my type. I guess we should have been better about hiding it, but Balki and I lack Larryís lying skills. Larry told Mary Anne his suspicions and got her upset, too. It took me an hour to calm her down, and she knew we were buying the typewriter.
I understood Larry better after he explained his behavior to me the next day. Larry is outwardly confident, but on the inside, heís still a frightened little boy whoís convinced the world is out to take his lunch money. I know how he feels. I was never beaten physically, but I was plump and a little shy as a kid, and I was the target of a lot of practical jokes and teasing. Thatís another reason Mary Anne and I bonded. The kids made fun of her because she was skinny and trusting, and they made fun of me because I was plump and kept to myself.
Larry and I dated steadily for three years, but by 1990, I began to wonder how far I wanted this relationship to go. Mary Anne and Balki were pretty serious, but they never discussed marriage, though I knew Mary Anne was chomping at the bit to have a family. Being a mother was one of her life-long dreams. I was less interested in having a family and children. Larry wasnít sure, either, and we almost ended up breaking it off for good. That night in the restaurant resulted in our becoming engaged (with a little help from our dear, ever-meddling best friends Mary Anne and Balki).
Being engaged was no simpler than being lovers. It took us ages (and one of Balkiís Myposian tests) to set a date for the wedding. My mother always gave my boyfriends a hard time, and it didnít help that Larry inconveniently got amnesia the night she met him. Thank goodness that went well after I explained his accident, and sheís now quite fond of him. (Mother never did get used to Balki. Balki can be a little overwhelming to people who donít know him.) Dad thinks Larryís great. Heís proud of the lengths heíll go to keep me.
I was just glad to finally tie the knot. We moved across town to a Victorian townhouse that was in a rather nasty state of disrepair before we bought it. We were so desperate for money that we took Balki and Mary Anne in as borders, but we were happy. (Even when Larry continued with his infamous moneymaking schemes, we were happy. Though I wish he hadnít tried being a door-to-door salesman, or encouraged Balki to help him. Oh, well, at least they werenít attempting to fix the plumbing or bake exploding Myposian desserts. Larry says he can still find bibli bobka cream in his hair.)
We evened the romance score with Mary Anne and Balki when we helped bring them back together. Mary Anne hinted at marriage for months, but Balki never noticed. I donít think it even occurred to him. She got so crazy about it that she would cry at any woman who had a wedding ring, including me. I recruited Larry to talk to his cousin, but he only made things worse. Mary Anne finally ended up moving out. Though I missed her, I understood her decision. She really did love Balki, and I know leaving him and us wasnít easy.
I did see her at work, and she was miserable. She claimed that she wanted to get on with her life, but what she really wanted was to have Balki back in it. Though he dated other women for a few weeks, it wasnít hard to tell that Balki was completely lost without Mary Anne by his side. They were so desperate for each other they were dating look-alikes when they finally decided to tie the knot. (I still think the guy Mary Anne dated looked like he could have been Balkiís brother.)
I smiled at the picture. Most people wouldnít have stood by Larry, or Mary Anne, and certainly not Balki. I need them. Mary Anne, Balki, and Robbie (what his father calls him, since his given name is something of a mouthful) are welcome to stay with us for as long as they like. Theyíre family by now. It wouldnít be the same without them.
I shook my head as not one, but two voices began wailing. Tucker was crying, probably for a changing, and Larry was trying to calm him down. I could hear the hysteria rising in their voices. Like father, like son. I put down the photo and went back upstairs.