Annie walks into the living room after putting Ethan in bed. She plops onto the chair opposite Ben, who seems to be lost in his own thoughts.
"Thanks for coming tonight. The thought of being here alone...it just kinda...creeped me out. Hope your dad didn't mind."
Ben raises his eyebrow, and gives a small huff.
"He was passed out before I even got home. He doesn't care what I do."
Annie looks away from Ben, uncomfortable. She stares at her feet.
"I think he cares more about you than you realize. He just is really awful at showing it."
"I admire your willingness to find good in him, but he doesn't. He looks at me, and he sees 'the kid who killed her,' nothing more. In his eyes, I'm a killer."
Annie stands up and quickly crosses the room to Ben's side.
"Your mother's death was awful. Horrible. There was nothing he, and certainly not you could have done to prevent it. What happened, happened. You should not have to be punished by it for the rest of your life." Annie holds Ben's face in her hands,"You're a good guy...a great guy. It's his fault he doesn't see that," Annie explains, searching Ben's face for her words to click, then realeasing his face.
"Annie...thanks," wiping his arm across his eyes, streaking tears across his shirt sleeve,"Apparently I needed to hear that."
"It's the truth. Your dad is a sad man, and he is choosing to stay that way. He has no right to take it out on you," Annie reaches for Ben's hand, and squeezes it.
Ben squeezes back gently, and Annie stands up.
"Now, we better clean this place up before Horace and Amy get home. And let's agree to not tell them we let Ethan stay up until 6 o'clock watching monster movies, deal?" she starts gathering bowls and cups out of the living room.
Ben laughs,"Not really something to brag about, huh?" He picks up the pillows and blankets.
"Not really," Annie remarks sarcastically from the kitchen,"That kid loves monster movies. He would have kept going, you know."
Ben folds the last blanket, and joins Annie in the kitchen. She is drying the last bowl, and placing it in the cupboard.
"Nothing wrong with a good monster movie," he says, doing zombie arms.
Annie laughs, and rests her arm on the counter. Her eyes catch a glimpse of the clock.
"Oh Ben, you have to be at work in an hour! And on no sleep!"
"I don't really need to be on 'high alert' to empty garbage cans," he replies, sarcastically.
"Stop. I still feel bad," she grabs his arm, and leads him to the door,"Hurry home and get a catnap. Thanks again for staying tonight...last night," she says, looking back to the clock, and laughing,"I really appreciate it."
"Yeah, it's fine. Thank you...for the talk, all those...nice things. Thanks." Ben awkwardly replies.
"It was just the truth. Anytime," Annie kisses Ben's cheek,"Don't let him get to you. Not EVERYTHING is your fault."
She smiles, and opens the door. They both smile, and stare at each other, only to laugh and look away.
"Well, good night," Ben says, with a wave.
"It's good morning," Annie corrects him, pointing to the sunrise,"Have a good day at work. Stay awake."
"I'll be fine," Ben smiles, and walks away.
He looks over his shoulder to see Annie still standing at the door. He turns around, and walks back.
"I forgot something," he says, walking up to a puzzled Annie.
"What?" she asks looking into the house confused.
"This," he gives her a quick kiss on the lips, and walks away.
"Bye," he says, walking away more confident.
"Bye," Annie answers, smiling, touching her lips.