They were never just pictures in a magazine. Not to Bud Hammond.
ANNE LOVED T.J. ONCE
It was a long time ago, before the suicide and the spiral down, before the disappointments. Back when he was still young enough that it was cute; when they were all still young enough. "Stress is a killer," he said, and beckoned her on. To surprise Dougie, a surprise party. Because we love him. Because he works so hard.
Doug was the only one his mother could trust and she'd asked him to wrangle Bud after what only the best journalists would have to have called his "Vagina Monologue," so he did his best. You could hear Bud tell him what he's about to do and why, if you listened carefully and if you knew what to listen for. Listen:
"I don't need no babysitter! Now I know you were sent down here by your Momma just because of my female anatomy incident... her numbers ain't soft, they're liquid. They're like diarrhea running down this campaign's leg. Tell you what. You give me a lift to the studio in the morning, we can talk lady-voters to your heart's delight. Good night, son."
Do you think he knew? I think he knew. T.J. wasn't the good twin even then, but he was useful. And God knows he loved his Daddy.
Doug came home to a raucous party, T.J. grinning his especially beautiful grin. The one he learned from Bud, the one that says, "You and I both know you're going to forgive me in a minute." He chuckled and leaned in, intimate, pulling off his brother's necktie -- "It's midnight!" -- and then produced, like a magician's final trick, Anne. They cavorted in front of him, giggly as children at midnight to see the shock and the pleasure in him.
Anne: "I told my boss I was driving up to Santa Barbara, picking up some tile for a client. I can't tell if you are happy, or...?"
He was still young enough that it was cute; still charming enough before the disappointments that when he pulled out the E, Dougie actually thought about it. And then thought about the Woman Problem and Bud Hammond on Rachel Silverton in about eight hours and how Bud needed a babysitter, because...
Doug: "No! No, I'm not doing ecstasy with you, T.J. and neither is Anne. Okay?"
She blushed, and grinned. "Too late," she shrugged, with T.J. wiggling around behind her. Anne loved T.J., once. Doug sighed and nearly laughed.
Doug: "How long's it last?"
Four? Maybe five hours? Plenty of time. They began to blur. The future stopped coming. T.J. kissed a boy and then a girl: Made them kiss each other. Pictures in a magazine. Anne and Doug made love, made everything into love and he nearly wept with the beauty of it. You could feel like this all the time; you could feel like T.J. any time you wanted. The sheer joy -- that unrelenting gratitude -- at seeing things work properly. Everything moving, like an engine working perfectly; loneliness replaced with something infinitely better. When everything was intimate and safe, wrapped in her skin -- it was like water; she wasn't just soft, she was liquid -- Doug asked Anne to marry him and she said yes.