THE BAYBERRY INN

By Shannon

Téa is hanging garland on the staircase as Todd walks in.

"What's the matter, Ebenezer," Téa laughs as Todd attempts to leave. 

"It's disgusting out there," he replies. "You can't go a mile without people smiling at you."

Téa laughs, and heads to the fireplace to hang more decorations.

"Why are you making my whole house green?," Todd asks, as Téa motions for him to help.

"I want to make this a fabulous Christmas for Starr, and you do too, Manning," Téa replies to a scowling Todd. "So, have you made the arrangements for our trip?"

A pained look crosses his face. "Yeah, we're going to the Bayberry Inn."

Téa's face lights up with a smile. "Oh, that's what I thought! I've heard that's a beautiful little place tucked away in the woods."

The fax machine rings.

"I'll get that," Todd says, leaping to his feet.

"No," Téa replies, "I will get that and make sure it doesn't come between us and our getaway." She holds it up. "The Bayberry Inn... Festive Holiday getaway"

Todd grabs the flier and stares at it in disbelief. "Continuous showings of 'It's a Wonderful Life' in the Donner lounge." Téa smiles. "I can't do this. I don't do festive."

"Oh, really," Téa replies. She looks over Todd's shoulder at the flier. "Midnight sleigh rides! Candlelit champagne dinners!" She smiles at Todd. "Carolling"

Todd rolls his eyes. "I'm going to call them now. There's no way I'm doing any of this. There's no way I'm getting on a sleigh and I would cut my throat--" The phone rings interrupting Todd's tirade. "--before I sang a Christmas carol."

Todd grabs the phone. "What? What do you want Judith?" A smile teases across Todd's mouth. "Oh, oh I'm so sorry and I hope you feel better and take the rest of the week off." He starts to hang up the phone. "And merry... christmas."

Téa stares at Todd. He turns to her smiling. "Judith has bronchitis."

"Don't sound so pleased."

"Nobody here to take care of Shorty, guess we can't go anywhere."

"Yeah, think again," Téa retorts. "That's no reason to cancel our plans. Your family can help us out. I'm sure Viki would love to have Starr for a couple of days. Oh, I could just call Abuela!"

"No!" Todd replies. "I mean no like she's probably busy this time of year. Besides, who's going to take care of the bird?"

Téa shakes her head. "Jessica's crazy about the bird and Moose seems pretty fond of her too. I'm sure Viki won't turn us down."

"I'm sure you're right," Todd replies. "I think we should stay here. We can do that 3-D puzzle..."

"Hey, hey, we had a deal. I said I wouldn't walk out on you if you'd make an effort.  The only way we can go forward from here is if we go out of town.  Alone. Together."

"Alright so which is it? Alone or together?" Todd smartly replies.

"I'm going upstairs to pack. I assume you're going to Viki's to make arrangements for Starr and Moose."

"I assume I am too," Todd mutters.

"Then I'll see you back here and we'll go to the Bayberry Inn."

****

(Flash forward to the Bayberry Inn)

Camera pans a festively decorated room, complete with fireplace.

"Here we are the Blitzen Suite," the innkeeper says, setting Todd and Téa's bags down. "We give all the rooms names for the holidays."

"You should have named it 'hell'," Todd mutters. Téa nudges him.

"It's very, uh, festive," Téa smiles, eyeing the room.

"Here's a schedule of all our holiday activities, and every one of those is on your plan," he says, handing the itinerary to Todd.

"Oh, goody," Todd replies dryly. "Whatever will we start with."

The innkeeper starts to leave. "Hey, it is Todd and Téa Manning, isn't it?"

Todd and Téa look puzzled. "Yes, why?" Téa replies.

He hands them each a Santa hat with their names embroidered on them. "Happy holidays compliments of the Bayberry," he says, placing the hat on Todd's head. The white ball dangles in front of his face. He is not amused.  Téa fights to keep from laughing.

"I'm going home," Todd says, heading for the door.

"Hey, don't you pull a grinch on me," Téa replies. "I agree with you. The Bayberry's Christmas cheer is laid on a bit thick."

Todd attempts to blow the ball out of his face. "A bit," he replies, brushing the snowball out of his face. "This is a holiday kick in the teeth." He walks over and stares at a mechanical Frosty.

"Can we just try to enjoy it?" Téa asks, walking over to Todd.

"Fine, but if I hear 'Deck the Halls' I'm going to break out in hives."

"What do you have against Christmas carols?"

"That's like asking me what would be so wrong about a fork in my eye"

"Todd," Téa admonishes as Todd shrugs. "Okay, we can skip the carolling part and we don't have to wear these hats either."

"So what are we going to do instead," Todd asks. Téa glances at the bed before returning her gaze to Todd. Todd catches her glance.

"Uh, let's settle in," Téa says. Todd heads into his bedroom. She removes her negligee from her bed, sliding it under a pillow.

Todd walks into the room. They stare at the itinerary, trying to find something to do. Todd walks to the door, finding carollers there. He slams the door in their faces, and turns to Téa. "On second thought, a sleigh ride doesn't sound so bad."

They grab their coats and head out.

***

Todd and Téa stand shivering in the snow with another couple.  The sleigh is broken.

"I've never been so cold in my life," Todd says.

"That's not true. I've seen you in court," Téa replies.

"Oh, you slay me," Todd retorts.  He pulls his Santa hat from his pocket, and reluctantly places it on his freezing head.

Mr. Barkus, the innkeeper arrives and announces a broken runner will keep the sleigh out of commission for 30 minutes.

"I'll freeze to death in 20," Todd replies. "I'm going back."

"It's too far!," Téa cries, but follows as they begin to sing.

***

"You didn't tell me you signed us up for the 'lost in the woods' package," Téa states, as she and Todd walk on.

"We're not lost," Todd replies.

"Oh, no,  then where are we?"

"Right here," Todd says.

"Let me rephrase. Where's the inn?"

"I don't know. It's over there somewhere."

Téa stops walking. "Ugh, why did I have to stop and drink that glugg in the lobby?"

Todd looks at her. "I told you that stuff will make you sick everytime."

A pained expression crosses Téa's face as she bounces up and down. "It's, uh, a different sensation I'm concerned about."

Todd gives her a disgusted look. "Oh, thanks for sharing."

"What," Téa moans. "I'm in serious need here."

"Fine, go use the woods," Todd replies.

Téa glares at him. "No way! Use the woods? That's disgusting and cold. Forget it."

"I don't think you're going to be able to forget it," Todd says. Téa glares at him. "Hey, Delgado. What is that," he asks, pointing off into the distance. 

Téa follows his finger with her gaze. "What?"

"That. Check it out."

"What?"

"That," he says, hitting a branch. Snow falls all over her as Todd laughs.

She turns to him laughing. "Oh yeah? Check this out." She goes at him, pushing him backwards. "Check this out." He pulls her onto to him. They fall into the snow, laughing. Todd shovels snow at her. Téa smiles at him.

"We'd better get out of here before we freeze to death... with these smiles on our faces," Todd says, rising to his feet. Téa slowly rises to her feet, disappointed, and follows Todd back towards the inn.

***

Téa barrels through the door, making a beeline for the bathroom. "Finally!" she cries, slamming the door behind her.

Todd calls for room service.  He notices the mechanical Frosty staring at him. "I think that's enough out of you, Fatboy," he says as he stuffs the toy into a garbage can. Frosty begins to play his song.  "Oh, my god, it gets worse," he says, and dumps the toy in the hallway.

Téa emerges from the bathroom looking relieved. "Much better," she says, crossing towards Todd. "Now if only my hands weren't completely numb, I'd consider the evening a complete success." She begins rubbing her hands together.

Todd grabs for them, and starts rubbing them with his. "Here." Téa stares at him as he rubs their hands together quickly and then slowly. Todd notices her watching him.  "How's this?"

"Uh, I'm starting to feel something," she says slowly, her eyes never leaving his. Todd stares back at her, unsure of what to say or do.

"I, um, I know somebody who once lost a few fingers from frostbite," Todd says, as Téa keeps her gaze trained on him.

"Do we have a problem?," she says softly.

Todd releases her hands. "I don't know. Do you feel anything?"

Téa smiles. "They're sort of tingling."

"Well if it hurts, it'll be ok."

"It hurts," she replies, her eyes settling on his face again.

"Then that's good. You're going to be alright."

Téa nods, still staring at him. "How about you?"

Todd nervously smiles. "I'll survive."

"I didn't mean your fingers," she replies.

Todd's voice grows cold. "I'll survive."

She nods. "Maybe the rest of you is, uh, thawing out too." She raises her hand and lightly strokes his jawline. Todd backs away from her touch, but Téa catches his hand. "Don't," she whispers. Todd slowly faces her.

"You're afraid," she says.

"Let go," Todd replies.   They stare at each other until room service knocks at the door. Todd slams the door.

Téa glares at Todd. "Are you going to pretend that nothing happened," she asks.

"Nothing happened," he states, glaring back at her.  "Nothing can happen, nothing will happen."

"Why not," Téa asks, shaking her head.

Todd sets his drink down. "I think all of this holiday stuff is going to your brain cells, Delgado."

"Please," Téa pleads. "just answer me."

"This is a non-issue."

"What is?"

"What you're talking about. You keep making demands on me and when I fill them, you come up with more stuff. You said you wanted us to do more as a family. Then you want me to make nice at home, do jigsaw puzzles--"

"I never said anything about jigsaw puzzles!," Téa exclaims.

"My mistake. You said you wanted to go away somewhere. Now what do you want from me."

"The same thing you want, you just won't admit it."

"You're bananas. No."

"I will not have you say what just happened didn't  just happen so you just shut up, Todd!" she cries.

"You shut up. You know, you're not very refined!"

"Well the truth isn't always pretty! Look my business it to read people. You are being defensive because you are feeling the same thing I just felt right now."

"Yeah, frostbite from a stupid sleigh ride!"

"You're backpedalling like crazy. Ask yourself why."

"I don't have to ask myself why. You're asking me why."

"And I'll keep doing that if necessary to get you to see what's in front of you."

"You. With foam coming out of your mouth," Todd retorts.

Téa starts to laugh, wearily. "Go ahead! Joke! I know that I am not wrong about this. Right now, over there, we had... we had a moment."

"Well, we can only play this game if we play by the rules. Trust me."

"You know what I trust," Téa asks, leaning towards Todd. "The few seconds when you couldn't quite hide what was going on. When you touched me. I trust that. Just go with the flow!"

"No!" Todd says, getting off the bed. "One of us has got to have sense."

"I'm making great sense," Téa cries.

"We have a contract"

"Contracts can be rearranged."

Todd turns to her and walks out the door. Téa grabs her coat and follows him.

***

"Todd... Stop! Do not walk away from me, Todd!" Téa cries, as she slips on the snow.

Todd turns to her. "It's your own fault," he spits.

"Oh, it's all my fault!" she screams.

"The best thing I can do for you now is put as much distance as I can between you and me."

Téa climbs to her feet. "You don't have to go anywhere to do that. You put your past up like a 50 foot wall between us."

"Go. Go back to that in!"

"You think I'm trying to get you to lose control so that I'll will win somehow," Téa says.

"Yeah, it's all about power."

"No, it's not!" Téa cries.

"I know different."

"If you think that way, you wouldn't be running away. But you're not running away from me."

"Go ahead. You finish your thought. Go ahead," Todd goads.

"You're running away from the person you think you are. You have been for a long, long time. But you can't run fast enough to get away from-- from your basic humanity. From your need for love. For human contact. It's all still there. So what do you do? I want to know. I want to know!   How do you channel it? How do you live your life this way?"

Todd glares at her. "No. No you--you don't want to get inside my head. I don't think that's someplace you want to be."

"How about your heart," Téa says slowly.

"No."

"You're human."

"I don't think so."

"You loved Blair. That love made Starr."

"Then I found the mother of my kid making the beast with two backs with some--some hairy poet!"

"You had a very normal reaction. You were jealous!"

"No. "

"That's a human emotion, Todd!"

"Exactly. That's a mistake. That's what gets people hurt. That's what gets people killed."

"Well I am not afraid!," Téa cries.

"That would be a mistake. That would be your second mistake--three if you want to count this stupid marriage!"

"Starr wasn't a mistake."

"No,  Starr's the only good thing that's ever come out of this."

"When you look at her, what do you feel? Love! It comes shining out of you, so don't try to tell me you're an unfeeling beast."

"Fine, but you go away. Go away, go away just go away!" Todd turns to Téa, screaming. "I hate Christmas! Do you know that? You know why I hate Christmas? because it makes people sentimental. You think Christmas is about Santa Claus and gifts and being around a fire. It's about a runty little kid that got born into a stable full of dung and died on a cross screaming with agony."

"Yes, and it's also about love, too."

"No! no, who needs it!"

"We all do!," Téa cries.

"No! You've been hanging out with that reverand too long."

"Why do you feel the need to turn everything into bitterness?"

"Because that's the only way I can get through the day without hurting somebody... without hurting somebody," he replies, anguished.

"No, but not Starr."

"Not Starr. But don't you see there's nothing left after that, Delgado. There's nothing left for you, Delgado."

Téa shakes her head. "There was for Blair."

"And look where that got me. You want me to do that again? You want me to feel things. I've a human nerve ending. Life irritates me. All the time. Everything. It's like I... I'm missing all of this skin and I'm rolling around on...on sandpaper.  Did you ever wonder why I never sleep? It's worse at night."

"I know," Téa replies softly.

"No! You don't know. You don't know and you should be glad you don't know."

"We're both freezing. Let's--"

"Go away," Todd interrupts.

"Todd''

He turns away from her. "Go away," he says more insistently.

"Todd! I don't want to leave you out--"

"GO AWAY!," he bellows.

Téa watches him through her tears for a moment before walking off. She pauses and turns back to Todd.

"Go away," he says softly.

And she does, leaving him alone in the snow.

***

Téa sits forlornly staring at the fire. Her head snaps up when Todd storms into the room. He retrieves his bag from the other room and faces Téa.

"We had an arrangement. We would stay married until I got custody of my kid. Well, it happened, so I'll take it from here."

"Todd--"

"You don't have to stay to the end of the year to get your extra million. Alright? Your job is done. Just name your price for an early retirement. Take it and get away from me."

Téa shakes her head. "I don't want the money."

"You don't want to be around this situation anymore. I'll leave the car for you."

Todd exits, slamming the door behind him. Téa stands in the center of the room hugging herself as the tears fall from her eyes.