Jaxton, let me tell you what happiness is, Lana’s father points at him, as his wife serves him a big plate of roast beef, mashed potatoes, gravy, and corn.  A man was created to work six days a week.  There is fulfillment in a job well done.  You know this already, given how accomplished you are as a musician.  But happiness is a man coming home at the end of the day, sitting down to a hand cooked meal by his wife, then playing with his children afterwards.  And raising them to be respectful and decent and God-fearing.  Jax nods in agreement.

My daughter is a good girl, Lana’s mother tells him.  There were no short skirts or low cut tops or makeup for her while she was living under my roof, her father continues.  Jax takes a big bite of his supper.  We would always get complimented on our swim dresses when we went to the county pool, Lana’s mother tells Jax with a smile.  He starts choking on his food.  Lana slaps his back a couple times, as he gets his breath back, and takes a sip of his glass of milk.  Please tell me there are pictures, Jax says, as he turns to Lana with a big grin.  Lana smiles down at her plate.

This meal is amazing, Mrs. R.  I’m glad you like it.  It’s Lana’s favorite.  Can you cook like this?  Jax asks her.  I can cook, she sighs, but not like my mother, or Bettina, for that matter.  When are you going to bring her by for supper?  Soon.  She and her dad do lunch every Sunday after church at the Olive Garden.  We’re invited.  Her parents look at each other, and don’t say anything to this.

So what did you think about Lana becoming a cop?  We are very proud of her; it was always her goal, her mother replies.  Why?  Jax asks her.  She looks over at her dad.  I haven’t told him yet.  Her brother was an addict, Lana’s father says in a tone that invites no further discussion.  Jax looks down at the table, and they finish the meal in silence.

Jax sits on the couch next to her and looks up at Lana’s framed degree on the wall.  She graduated from Xavier magna cum laude with a psychology degree in three years, her mother tells Jax.  He looks at Lana with raised eyebrows, impressed.  I’m not gifted like Rolf.  But I got a lot of my prerequisites out of the way during my high school summers at the community college; I wasn’t allowed to get a job.  And I lived at home when I went to Xavier and did summer school too.  So I didn’t have a lot of distractions from my studies.  She had to be twenty-one before she could attend the police academy, her mother tells Jax.  And then she worked at the courthouse as a Spanish translator afterwards until a slot opened up on the force.

What about you, Jaxton?  Lana’s mother asks.  Well, I love Lana, for starters, he says with a grin.  And I love what I do – which is play bass for the band.  We just finished recording, and it's the best thing that we’ve ever done.  I love the guys in my band, and I love touring.

I’ve got a house in town that I bought as a fixer upper, and it’s pretty much done.  Just needs a woman’s touch – he grins at Lana’s mother.  House is paid for.  Car is paid for.  You like muscle cars, sir?  I’m more into work trucks, Lana’s dad responds.  I respect that, Jax says, nodding.  What do you do for hobbies, Jaxton?  I dabble in the market, and have done pretty well.  Lana convinced me to start a rainy day fund, so I have.  How much have you set aside?  Her dad asks.  One hundred eighty thousand.  Lana and her mother start giggling.  Son, that’s not a rainy day fund.

So what are your plans, Jaxton?  While the album is being wrapped, we’re going to play a small set locally, then launch our worldwide tour.  When we get back, the band is going on a long hiatus, and I’m going to settle down and start a family with Lana.  Lana’s mother looks amusedly at her expression.

Are you Catholic?  Her dad asks.  No, but I’m fine with our kids being raised that way.  And your parents?  My dad is a senior partner at a bond fund, and mom is a neurosurgeon.  I meant their beliefs.  We’re not really into organized religion in my family.  Dad’s big on transcendental meditation, and mom’s got her yoga.  Lana’s parents look at each other.  Any brothers or sisters?  Just me.

I suppose you’ve had more wives and lovers than Henry the Eighth.  Lana’s mother declares.  Never been married, and I’ve never kept score.  But those days are in my rearview; I’ve been committed to Lana exclusively since we started dating.

Have you bedded anyone at your fixer-up mansion?  Lana’s dad asks.  Jax closes his eyes, and takes a deep breath.  I moved to town after I broke up with my ex.  We’d been together since college, but we both decided to call it quits.  Why?  Lana’s mother asks.    She took an assignment in London, and I went on our second album tour with the band.  I got an invitation to her wedding.  The week of…it wasn’t cool.

Have you bedded anyone at your fixer-up mansion?  Lana’s dad repeats.  I’ll call the realtor tomorrow, and put it on the market.  I don’t have any baggage.  No crazy ex, no kids, no STDs.

No kids?  How many abortions have you paid for then?  Lana’s mother asks pointedly.  Jax looks down and is silent.  I don’t want you corrupting my daughter with your vile music and rock and roll lifestyle.  Her mother snaps, interpreting his silence as an admission of guilt.  The answer is none, Jax says, raising his head back up and looking at her.

Jax looks over at her father.  Lana is who I want to spend the rest of my life with, sir.

You want my blessing?  Of course I do.  Quit the band.  Sell the house.  And take the catechism of the Church.  No to the first.  Yes to the second.  And I don’t need to be Catholic to get married in a church.  I looked it up online.  The men stare at each other.  Get out of my house.  Jax gets up without a word and goes out the door.  Ten seconds later, his car races away.

***

Half an hour later Jax pulls up in Rolf’s drive and sees Bettina’s white Mustang parked there.  Well, I’m here, so I might as well go in, he mutters, as he walks up to the cathedral doors.  And goes to pound on the knocker, when Bettina opens it, and motions him in.  That bad?  She asks when she sees his face.  Lana said there was a fifty/fifty chance that you’d run screaming for the door.  The man threw me out of his house.

He follows her into the living room and sees Rolf sitting with her dad.  I’m so sorry, Jax says, slapping his head.  I’m intruding.  He does a U-turn, but Bettina grabs his arm, and guides him to the couch.  Rolf and I made a kale smoothie for my dad.  We kept adding ingredients until he liked it.  I’m stuffed, Bettina.  It’s all fiber; it’ll go right through you.  She goes and brings him a glass.  Try it.  Everyone watches him take a sip.  It’s good.  What’s in it?  Obviously kale.  Rolf used almond milk as the base.  I added strawberries.  Rejected.  Rolf added spinach.  Rejected.  I added blueberries.  Rejected.  Rolf added a banana.  It was pronounced close, but not quite there.  And I added a dash of cinnamon, which did the trick.  Did Rolf introduce you to my dad?  Jax nods.

What happened with Lana’s parents, Jax?  Bettina’s dad asks him.  They ganged up on me after we finished eating.  Her mother says “I suppose you’ve had more wives and girlfriends than Henry the Eighth?”  Then her dad asks me how many women I’ve bedded at my mansion?  And I told him that it’ll be on the market tomorrow.  And then I made the mistake of saying that I had no kids.  And this set her mother off.   How many abortions have you paid for?  It was awful.  I just stared at the floor and prayed that it would be over soon.  But her mother wouldn’t let it go.  I don’t want you corrupting my daughter with your vile music and rock and roll lifestyle.   None, I finally tell her.   And I looked her dad straight in the eye and told him that Lana is who I want to spend the rest of my life with.  And he asked if I wanted his blessing.  Of course.  Quit the band.  Sell the mansion.  Take the catechism of the Church.  No to the first.  Yes to the second.  And I’m only good with getting married in a Catholic church.  “Get out of my house” is what he told me.

You got off easy, Rolf tells him.  Tom here wants me to play golf with him.  Jax manages to chuckle along with the others.  What would you have done in my shoes?  He asks Rolf.  Rolf doesn’t answer and looks over at Bettina’s father.  The man is now my hero.  Jax, that’s what every father wants to say to his daughter’s boyfriend, but is afraid to.  How did Lana respond?  Bettina asks.  She just kept her head down and stayed out of it.

So how would you have handled it, Tom, if you were in Jax’s shoes.  I’d tell her father “let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.  Bettina’s father replies.  What about you Bettina, if you were Jax?  Rolf asks.  I’d walk away, just like you did.  Anything else would have been disrespectful.  Although I like your rebuke, dad.  But I don’t think her father would be able to hear it coming from Jax.

What would you have done, Rolf?  Can you see Lana as her mother in thirty years?  She has her mother’s smile.  And can you see yourself as her father in thirty years, talking to your daughter’s boyfriend?  Jax is silent.  I’m not capable of thinking like that, bro.  What I’m trying to say, Jax, is that he didn’t tell you to never come back, Rolf says with a grin.  That’s right, Jax says, brightening up.  I’m glad I stopped.  Just chill, Bettina tells him, and finish your smoothie.  Lana will be along any minute.  She told me that you guys would come here after and help me.  First I’ve heard of it, Jax mutters.

So what did you learn about Lana, Jax?  Bettina asks.  She and her mother wore swim dresses when they went to the county pool, and always got complimented on them.  Bettina closes her eyes, and starts shaking with surpressed laughter.   And can her mother ever cook.  It was delicious.  Lana can cook too, Bettina says with a knowing grin.  Not like you, is what she told us.  Bettina shrugs.  I’ve got more practice.

What else?  No makeup, no low cut tops, no mini skirts during high school.  And reading between the lines no social life either.  She got her Psychology degree in three years magna cum laude at Xavier, commuting from home, then worked as a Spanish translator at the courthouse after police academy until a slot opened up.  What did her parents think about that? Bettina’s father asks.  They were very proud of her.  It’s always been her goal, her mother told me.  She was raised a decent, respectful, God-fearing daughter.

Your mother raised you, Bettina’s dad tells her.  I was always off somewhere.  Providing for us.  She replies.  How did you get through college unengaged?  Jax asks her.  I had so many boyfriends.  I’ve kissed a lot of guys, Jax.  I regret that now.  And I was selfish; I wanted to be a reporter more than anything else.  But I’m ready for marriage now, and she bats her eyes at Rolf.

Simon’s girl.  Rolf says amusedly.  Has she told you about him?  Jax asks her father.  You mean the missing link between ape and man who proves Darwin’s theory of evolution true?  Rolf and Jax burst out laughing.  Bettina stares over at Rolf without blinking.  I like you.  Why am I having to chase you?  Lana told me that’s not the way it should be.  She thinks.  She’s right.  Stick close to her.  She hears him say as he looks back at her.   I’m not an airhead.  You’re extraordinary, Bettina.  Why won’t you go out with me?   You’re mortal.  Newsflash, so are you.  And statistically, I’m destined to outlive you, even with you sleeping in an oxygen chamber and avoiding UV radiation and drinking your greens.  Rolf doesn’t respond.  Oh, Lana told you about my mother.  You think I have bad genes.  She glances away.

He thinks I’m going to get cancer like mother, so he’s walling himself off from me.  She tells her dad.  Her father gets up and heads to the bathroom.

You are so stubborn, she tells him aloud.  Me stubborn?  You’re like a petulant child.  She narrows her eyes.  I dare you to come over here and hold my hand.  He raises his eyebrows in amusement.  I heard what you did to the little boy at the restaurant and to Mike.  Chicken? She grins widely.  Jax, switch seats with me, Rolf tells him.  No, stay where you are, Jax.  He called my bluff.  Bettina’s dad comes back into the room, and sits back down.  I’m sorry, dad.   I shouldn’t have said that.  He’s just so frustrating.

She goes back to staring at Rolf, who ignores her.  Your daughter is extraordinary, sir.   So I can only imagine that her mother was more even more so.  The man nods, and says nothing and looks down at the floor.  Jax gives Rolf a quick nod.  Everyone hears the alarm beep.  That’ll be Lana, Bettina says, as she goes to get the door.

***

How are you doing, Lana?  Bettina’s father asks her. Food coma, she replies.  I’m really drowsy.  He puts his arm around her and she leans against him, and looks over at Jax.  Staring contest?  I think that they’re trying to read each other’s minds without speaking, he tells her.  We can hear each other talk, but I cannot read his mind, Bettina says.

Rolf, are you in love with Lana?  Is that why you won’t go out with me?  Bettina, stop it.  Move on.  Not as long as you are single.  Push this and I’m gone.  It’s time for you to grow up, Peter Pan.

How are you doing, Jax?  Lana asks him.  Well, he didn’t say never come back.  Lana nods.  I was hoping you’d catch that.

What did you tell them after he left?  Bettina’s father asks.  That I love them.  Lana says.  And…Bettina entones as she turns her attention to Lana.  I asked them to please give Jax a chance.  That I wouldn’t be dating him if he wasn’t a quality guy.  What did they say? Bettina’s dad asks.   Mom wanted to know if I was sleeping with him.  Of course not.  Then I told them that you weren’t ashamed to be seen with me, that you’d stepped up to protect me.

So what do we do now?  Jax asks her.  My dad drove me back to my place, and we talked.  I told him that you need time to process all of this, and I didn’t want to pressure you.  I am my father’s daughter, Jax.  I’m not going to go against his wishes.  You need to make your peace with that…or not.

Oh, I can go to church with you, she tells Bettina, if your invitation is still open.  Always, Lana, her father says.  What happened?  I told my dad how good the message was when you and I went that Wednesday night.  We ended up promising each other that we still won’t take communion until we can do it together as a family at our parish.  But he and mom are going back, just so mom can - Jax, I know my mom was hard on you, but just be glad you’re not Father Cory.  Everyone chuckles.  So you did end up going out with Ramon, Bettina’s father tells her.  Lana wanted to meet him.  And they really hit it off, Bettina says, grinning at Jax.  And her parents would love him.

What’s the story about your brother?  Jax asks.  He was junkie scum; we disowned him.   Anything else you want to know?  Did you use the shield to avenge him?  She puts her head in her hand and closes her eyes.  Read the transcripts of the trial if you want to know more.   I think they will answer your questions.

Why did your former fiance break up with you?  Jax, no.  Bettina tells him. If I had to answer the hard questions, she can too.  You lead me into an ambush, he tells Lana.

Only he knows, Lana responds after awhile.  Ask him.  I’m asking you, Jax replies.  I think it was because I didn’t follow the movie script.  I was supposed to be all weepy and full of remorse afterwards.  I wasn’t.  I think what did it for him was when they played the radio call at the trial.  And then compared it to other officer down, shots fired calls.  They said that I was too calm and in control.  After that, he didn’t believe my story anymore, and I don’t use tears to win an argument.  I gave him back his ring.

Explain the radio call to me, Lana.  Bettina’s dad says.  Everyone thought it was hilarious when the rookie girl got partnered with “The Dinosaur” when I started out on patrol.  He sure wasn’t happy about it.  And he was really tough on me.  But he taught me how to be a good cop, and eventually became like a second father to me.  Here’s how he taught me to make a radio call.  One piece of information at a time.  Take a breath.  Officer down.  She takes a deep breath, and pretends to cue her shoulder mike again.  Shots fired.  She takes a deep breath.  You get the idea.  Bettina’s dad nods.

Jax looks at Rolf.  I need to know before I go further.  Can you do what you did to Sam on her?

No, he won’t.  I will never open my mind to outside control, Lana declares emphatically.

What are you talking about?  Bettina’s dad asks Jax.  Rolf can read minds.  He’s gifted.

Bettina raises her hand in front of her face and snaps her fingers, and then points at her eyes.  Fine, Rolf says, and leans forward.  Just tell them what I tell you.  They stare at each other.  He hypnotized one of the gang bangers who was there.  Deluca has the missing gun.  Lana sits up abruptly, and looks around Bettina’s dad at Rolf.

I think we should go now, Bettina, her father says getting up.  That’s what he wants.  He just told me, I won.  Bettina, we’re leaving, now.  This isn’t over, she tells Rolf as she gets up.  Yes it is, her father tells her as he hustles her out the door.