Loungin with Louie!
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A New Beginning - Seqel to Salvation

A New Beginning

by Dulcinea (Luckymama)

Chapter 1

Rita sat at her kitchen table, swamped under a mountain of paperwork for school. She had put in a particularly rough day at work and now faced hours of grading and averaging so that she could get her final report cards done for the year. Freddie had told her that he had a late meeting that day, so she figured she might get more work done if he weren't under foot trying to seduce her. Rita loved her husband of three months, but sometimes he just wouldn't take "later" for an answer.

"Besides," she thought with an amused look on her face, "I could never refuse him anyway." Pausing a moment, Rita rubbed her eyes and looked out at the ocean. This was one of the most beautiful views the beach cottage afforded them. From the bay windows breakfast nook, Rita could see for miles across the calm, blue Pacific Ocean. She never got tired of its quiet beauty. It stood in stark contrast to the churning of the Atlantic she was used to seeing at home on Long Island. Averting her eyes away from the majestic view, she looked in the opposite direction. The nook was half an octagonal cut out on the far end of an expansive kitchen, laid out in a Mexican style, with dark wood cabinets and an island counter in the middle. Rita's friend, Rosa, who gave the cottage to Freddie and Rita as a wedding present, had decorated the whole cottage in Mexican themes and Rita loved it so well she had decided to leave it the way it was. Next to the beautiful master bedroom, this was her favorite room in the house.

After allowing herself a few moments to give her eyes and brain a rest, Rita looked at the clock on the kitchen wall and realized Freddie might be home in a while and she wanted to be finished her work before then. Forcing herself to focus on the urgency of her work, she went back to grading the papers before her. Two hours later, Rita was still punching numbers into her calculator, when Freddie arrived home.

" 'Allo, 'Allo. Where is my favorite pretty school marm?" he asked as he entered the front door.

"I'm in the kitchen, Freddie," Rita called to him. Freddie strolled into the kitchen and gently coming up behind Rita, put his arms around her and kissed the top of her head.

"You look like your working too hard. How about a break to kiss your loving husband hello." Rita turned and stood up to give Freddie the kiss. As usual, Freddie wanted more than a kiss and started stroking his wife's back, making long sweeps with his hands to include her buttocks as well. Rita broke away from the kiss, not too abruptly, so as not to alarm her husband, and said,

"Now, Freddie, I have to finish what I'm doing!"

Freddie smiled lecherously, "Oh, mami, so do I!" He reached for her lips once again as she more forcefully pulled away from him.

"Please, Freddie, a few more minutes at this and I'll be done and then we can have all the time in the world to finish what you have in mind."

Freddie looked sad. "You never want to play with me anymore," he said just like a little child talking to a playmate. Rita felt sorry for him. She found that when he pouted like that, with his head down a little and looking up through those long eyelashes, she could refuse him nothing. But tonight was a little different. She was very tired from yelling at squirrelly kids all day and her head was beginning to pound from the headache the paperwork had given her. She had a deadline to meet with the report cards and she knew she couldn't let Freddie's romantic ways distract her from this work.

"I know it seems that way, bebe, but I promise I will come out and play as soon as I'm finished my homework! OK?"

Freddie still pouted but let his wife get back to her work. As she sat down she asked, "Did you get anything to eat yet?"

"Not yet. Have you?" Freddie bent down and peered into the refrigerator as he answered her question.

Rita answered him, "No, I've been so absorbed in this work, I haven't had time to fix myself anything." Freddie looked up and saw his wife busy at work. Rita looked like she was having no fun, but he knew she would not rest till she got the work in front of her accomplished. He admired her determination, but wished she would not have to work so hard. They had talked after the wedding about Rita quitting, but she argued that she really enjoyed what she was doing and her hours allowed her to be home when he got there. He reluctantly agreed to her continuing, even though he always swore to himself that no wife of his would be made to work, like his mom had to when he was growing up. They had compromised and Rita agreed that she would quit if they were ever to start a family. Freddie was happy with that, but secretly wished she wasn't working, all the same, especially when he saw her poring over the papers in front of her. Freddie was just glad that school would be out in a few more weeks and then they would have the summer together.

He sighed and then had a wonderful idea. "Hey, why don't I fix us a couple of omelets while you finish up and then we can eat and go for a swim."

Rita smiled. "That sounds great, bebe." She knew that cooking was becoming a new hobby with Freddie these days. He never did much of it before, he admitted to Rita one day. But Rita and Rosa had been teaching him favorite recipes and he had even asked his mom for a few of his favorites that she made for him growing up. Rita realized that cooking gave Freddie an outlet to distract him from the pressures of his work, and anything that would do that job, instead of taking more drugs, was fine by Rita. As Freddie rattled around the kitchen, fixing their supper, Rita made a concerted effort to be finished before the omelets were.

She was putting the final grade in her book as Freddie brought the plates over to the table. "Done!," she exclaimed aloud. She cleared her schoolwork off the table into her bag and took the plates from Freddie's hands. "You cooked. I'll set the table."

"Gracias, mi amor," Freddie answered as he went back to get the pan with the omelets in it. Rita finished setting the table and the couple sat down to eat. Rita took her first bite of the omelet and Freddie asked, "Any good?"

"Mmmm, delicious. You are getting to be quite the chef!"

"Merci beaucoup, mon cher," Freddie answered in a French accent. Rita giggled. Freddie's imitations of other nationalities were always a source of amusement.

"De rien, mon cher!" For once, Rita was glad she remembered a little of her high school French.

"Hey, that's enough," Freddie laughed. "I really don't 'Parle' that well. I know I said 'thank you, my dear' but what did you answer?"

"Well it appears the shoe is on the other foot now," Rita teased. "I just said, 'You're welcome, my dear'." When they had finish, Rita got up and took the dishes to the sink. "I'll clean up," she said as Freddie came over with the rest of the dishes. "I think I remember something about a swim after dinner. Why don't you get ready while I do up these dishes."

"OK." Freddie gave Rita a quick kiss on the cheek as he sauntered back to the bedroom to change.

As Rita was scrubbing the omelet pan, the phone rang. "Freddie, would you get that, I've got my hands full of soap," she called back to him.

"I got it back here," Freddie called back from the bedroom.

Rita put the last dish in the drainer and was drying her hands on a dish towel when Freddie strolled into the kitchen in his black bathing suit and a towel around his neck. Rita made loving eyes at him as she admired her husband's bronzed skin and smooth muscular body. Freddie twirled around like a model and said, "Well, what do you think?"

"I think I'd better get my suit on quickly and we'd better get this swim in or we might not make it down to the beach!" Rita winked at him as she passed him on her way to the bedroom. Freddie couldn't resist playfully snapping his towel at her behind on her way through. Rita retrieved her bathing suit from the drawer and went into the bathroom to change. "Oh, by the way," she said as she pulled her suit on, "Who was that on the phone a minute ago?"

"Just my agent," answered Freddie as he came to the door to watch Rita change.

Rita saw Freddie ogling her and said, "Fresh!"

"You got it, mami!"

Trying to divert his attention from her preparations for their swim, she asked, "What did he want at this hour?"

"Oh, just business," answered Freddie with a mysterious gleam in his eye.

"Business, huh. What business?"

"Well, it's a surprise. I'll tell you after our swim."

Rita playfully glared at Freddie, "Ooo, you are such a tease!"

"Takes one to know one, bebe," Freddie laughed back. Seeing that Rita was ready, he added, "Race you to the water!"

The pair then ran out of the house and on to the beach, throwing their towels down on the sand as they ran into the cold ocean water. In the water, Freddie and Rita splashed one another and then swam laps. They had both decided that swimming was just the workout they both needed to stay in shape. They tried to swim at least 3 or 4 days a week. Rita found the ocean invigorating, but Freddie complained it was too cold the first time they went swimming. Rita teased him, saying that it was because he was so hot blooded. Always the competitive one, Freddie never complained after that. If Rita could stand it, then so could he. After a while, he also looked forward to their swim time together.

Coming out of the water, Rita grabbed her towel and dried off. Spreading it out to sit on, she watched as Freddie completed one more lap before coming out himself. She knew it was his way of staying one up on her, and she didn't mind this little streak of male chauvinistic ego in Freddie. It was what made him who he was and Rita found that it did have its rewards sometimes!

Freddie came up to Rita and shook the water out of his long, thick hair all over her, just like a dog would after a swim. Rita howled and Freddie laughed and he spread his towel down next to hers. Sitting down, he gently grabbed Rita and kissed her anger away before she had time to protest. Moments later, the two came up for air. Rita may have been distracted enough by Freddie's loving kiss to forget about the shaking dog routine, but she was still burning with curiosity about Freddie's mysterious phone call.

"Are you ready to tell me what that phone call was all about yet? You said after our swim you would tell me!"

Freddie took a deep breath. He had been excited about the call, but wondered how Rita would take the news. They had looked forward to spending the summer together alone at home, but this could change all of that. "Well, you know that late meeting I had today," Freddie began. Rita nodded. "It wasn't exactly a meeting but a final call back on an audition I had a few weeks ago." Seeing the 'you kept something from me' look in Rita's eyes, he quickly elaborated. "You know I have always wanted to do movies, especially after that disaster of a TV movie I did. Well this role came up and I wanted to do it very badly. I didn't tell you because I wanted to wait till I actually got the part. If I didn't get it I knew I'd be disappointed, but I didn't know if I could have dealt with you being disappointed in me too."

"Oh, Freddie, how many times do I have to tell you we are a team now. I want to share in your successes and disappointments. I'm here to help you, not to have you worry about how I will take the setbacks in your life." Rita hoped one day that Freddie wouldn't worry about her so much, but she realized that he probably never would. She knew it was because he loved her too much, so she thought it wasn't so bad.

"Well," continued Freddie, "That's a moot point now, because the phone call was to tell me that I got the part!" Freddie's excitement was infectious and Rita threw her arms around him and kissed him hard.

"Ooh, bebe, that's wonderful," she said as she released him from her embrace. "What part is it?"

Freddie got up and picked up his towel. Giving a little shudder he said, "Ooh, it's getting chilly out here. Let's go in the house and take a hot shower and I'll tell you all about it." Giving Rita his hand to assist her up, she rose from her towel and gathered it up, shaking the sand from it first.

"OK. I'm starting to feel chilled myself." Rita thought about the after swim showers they were in the habit of taking and remarked, "But you'd better tell me all about it before we hit the showers, because you might forget to once we are in there."

Freddie grinned, "Ooh, bebe, you are so right," he answered with a sensuous gleam in his eye. Taking her by the hand he continued his story as they slowly made there way up the beach to the house. "The movie is a remake of the old Tyrone Power movie, 'The Mark of Zorro', and your mi amor has landed the lead!"

"Ooh, I loved that movie. Tyrone Power was such a hunk!"

"More of a hunk than me," asked Freddie as he released her hand from his and flexed his muscles like the body builders on Muscle Beach did to impress the ladies.

"Oh, most definitely!" Rita teased. Freddie took his towel and started to wind it up for another playful pop on her behind when Rita giggled and added, "I'm only teasing you, Freddie. You know you are 1000 times more hermoso than he ever was! I bet you will make a very dashing Zorro! All the women will be drooling over mi amor and you will forget all about your little dulcinea mia!" Rita tried to pout but couldn't quite get her mouth to do it through the smile that seemed plastered there. Freddie didn't answer her in words but with a passionate kiss. When he felt that he had won that argument and convinced her of his love, he ended the kiss.

"Are you quite ready to hear the rest of my story, now?" he inquired of her. Still light headed from Freddie's kiss, all Rita could do was nod. "OK, then. Like I was saying, before I was so rudely interrupted," he teased, "The movie will be starting this summer. The production is starting with the location filming in Mexico over the summer, to work around my TV show schedule, and will finish up with the studio work in the fall right here in LA. I know we were looking forward to being alone together this summer, but you can come on location with me and a vacation in Mexico, even if it is a working one for me, could be very romantic! What do you say?"

Climbing the steps up to the house and opening the back door, Rita thought about Freddie's proposal. She really needed a vacation from school and was disappointed that she would have to share Freddie with the movie company and not have him all to herself. But she knew how important this movie would be for Freddie's career and saw his excitement about getting the part. She stuffed her disappointment down deep inside her and answered, "Oh, Freddie, it sounds very romantic. Let's do it!"

"All Riiiiight," Freddie exclaimed, with his 'Chico' accent. "Now I'm ready for that shower!"

"Me too, mi amor." And the lovers retired to the bathroom.

Rita slowly woke the next morning as the light from the small window on the east side of the bedroom came streaming in. She looked over at her handsome, sleeping husband and slid out of the bed, trying not to wake him. As she stood up, a wave of nausea hit her stomach. Rita had been having these almost every morning now for about a week. The flu was going around the school and Rita kept taking her vitamins and herbal defenses to try to keep from getting it. The nausea always seem to pass in a few minutes and did not return for the rest of the day, but this wave was much stronger than any Rita had previously experienced. As she headed for the bathroom, she knew that she could not hold back getting sick this morning. She closed the bathroom door and barely made it to the commode before the nausea manifested itself in vomiting. As she cleaned herself up and tried to regain her composure, Freddie gently rapped on the bathroom door.

"Rita, are you alright?", he asked in a worried tone. Rita opened the door and let him in. "Yea, I think so."

"You coming down with something?"

"I don't know," was all Rita could answer. She pulled herself together and continued. "Several of the kids at school have been home sick. Maybe I have picked up a bug of some kind. Hazards of the job, I suppose."

Freddie looked concerned as he turned and went to the phone by the bedside. He picked up the receiver. "I'm calling the doctor and then the school. You need to have this checked out. I don't want my mi amor getting sick."

Rita ran over to him and took the receiver from his large, strong hands. "Please don't, Freddie. I'm sure this is nothing. I have felt a little sick on my stomach every morning for the past few days and it always passes as I get ready for school. We only have a few more days and I don't want to miss any of them."

"You've been getting sick every morning?"

"Not getting sick, just feeling sick, and it has only been the past 5 or 6 days. This is the first morning I have actually gotten sick, but I feel better now. I don't have a fever and I know I'll be OK." Seeing that Freddie was not convinced Rita was making the right decision concerning her health, she added, "Look, if I'm still feeling sick when school is finished up next Friday, I promise I'll see the doctor. I still think it's end of the year nerves anyway."

Rita kissed Freddie and went about getting ready for school. Freddie looked at the clock and realized it was time for him to dress for the studio as well. Manuel, his personal assistant and bodyguard, a nephew of Rosas, would be here to pick him up in an hour and Freddie did not want to be late for work. As he was getting dressed, he thought back on his life before Rita and his sobriety. It wasn't unusual for Freddie to show up for work late and buzzed, but now being punctual was becoming important to him.

Rita called out to him from the bathroom. "When are you picking up your parents for the airport?"

"Manuel will pick them up before he gets me from work and we will meet you there. Don't forget our flight leaves at 7, so we have to be there at 6." With this question, Freddie was reminded he still needed to pack a few last minute things.

The couple had planned this trip a month ago, when Rita's parents had invited Rita, Freddie, Maria and Karl to their home for the Memorial Day holiday. For Freddie and his family, it would be a visit home to the old neighborhood as well. Rita was always glad that their parents had hit it off so well when they met for the wedding. Maria had been so gracious, opening her home to Rita's family and Rita's mom wanted to return the favor. Rita and Freddie had accomplished most of the packing the night before, after their wonderful shower, but Freddie, as always, had a few last minute things to do. As Rita emerged from her shower, dressed and ready for school, she saw Freddie rushing around trying to find his swimming trunks from the previous night.

"I washed them, silly. They are hanging on the line on the deck with mine. Would you be a dear and get both of them." Rita kissed Freddie and he forgot about the bathing suits and work as he began kissing, caressing and fondling his wife. Realizing that continuing in the present activity would make both of them late for work, Rita was the first to terminate their lovemaking. "Oh, bebe, as much as I would like to chuck work and stay here with you to finish this, we need to leave shortly. The bathroom is all yours, by the way. I'll get the suits off the line."

Rita left Freddie to shower and finish getting ready as she went to retrieve the bathing suits and pack them carefully in the suitcases. She then went to the kitchen to make coffee and cereal for the two of them. As the coffee was ready, Freddie emerged from the bedroom into the kitchen dressed and ready to go. "Coffee is ready," stated Rita. The couple sat down and ate their breakfast and several minutes later Manuel knocked on the door. Freddie opened it and gave the large, Hispanic man a big bear hug and a slap on the back.

"Manuel, hermano, how are you this fine morning?" bellowed Freddie.

"I am fine, Freddie," answered Manuel in a thick Mexican accent. Rita was always fascinated by the difference in Freddie's and Manuel's accents. Freddie's Puerto Rican inflections were rapid and a bit breathless, not unlike a New Yorker's quick speech patterns. Manuel's Mexican accent was more easy going and deliberate, sort of like a southern drawl. Rita took a cup of coffee to Manuel.

"Freddie, would you bring our bags out here for Manuel to put in the car."

"Yes, mi amor, my slave driver." He quickly kissed Rita and winked at Manuel. "Women are very demanding creatures, in more ways than one!"

Rita glared at Freddie as he retreated into the bedroom to get their luggage for the trip. Turning to Manuel she said, "Don't listen to him. Marriage to the right girl is a wonderful thing."

"Oh, si, señora. I agree. I just hope I will find the right señorita someday and settle down. Freddie is el hombre afortunado to have found you."

Rita blushed. "Gracias, Señor. I hope he feels that way!" Rita winked at him. "I'm sure you will find a very señorita afortunada some day. You are el muy hermoso caballero and any girl would be afortunada indeed to have you for her esposo."

Manuel just smiled. Freddie returned with the luggage and kissed Rita goodbye. "I'll see you at the airport, ducinea mia."

"Tenga un día magnífico, mi amor," answered Rita.

"You have a good day too and I hope you are feeling better," said Freddie.

"It has passed, as I knew it would. Don't be such a worry wart."

"Eeezzz my job, man!" Freddie answered her with this trademark Chico line. Rita shook her head and Manuel shifted impatiently from foot to foot. Freddie spotted Manuel's impatience and said, "Gotta run, hasta luega, mi amor." He blew Rita one last kiss as the two men headed out the door to work.

Rita gathered her things and locked the house up as she headed to work herself. In the car on the way to the studio Manuel and Freddie talked about Freddie's schedule for the day. After Manuel was up to date, he said, "I hope you will not take offense at this, but have you been teaching your wife more Spanish?"

"Yes, why?" Freddie looked puzzled at Manuel's question.

"Well you have your work cut out for you, mi amigo." Manuel answered and smiled. Freddie laughed and Manuel joined him.

"I know she does not speak it very well yet, but she is trying," said Freddie. "She wants to learn very badly and I have been trying my best. Your tia has been teaching her as well and maybe she has too many teachers!"

"You may be right, mi amigo." The two men talked about sports the rest of the way to work.

Rita entered Rosa's room at school. Rosa took one look at Rita and said, "Are you feeling ok, amiga? You don't look very well."

"I did get sick this morning, but I thought I was better. Now I'm feeling a little queasy again." Rita saw the motherly look of concern on Rosa's face and it mirrored the look Freddie had given her earlier that morning. Rita tried to reassure her. "I'm sure I'll be fine in a minute. This always seems to pass quickly."

"You have been feeling sick?"

"Just in the morning for the past 5 or 6 days. I'm sure it's end of the year nerves that's all."

Rosa's face suddenly got a knowing look across it. "Rita, do you mind if I ask you something personal?" Rita had to smile at that question. Ever since she knew Rosa, she knew Rosa was never shy about asking personal questions or giving Rita personal advice.

"No, amiga, shoot."

Rosa hesitated. "Well, I know that you had been taking the Pill before you got married. Are you still taking it?"

"No, I stopped the week before we were married. They never made me sick, though."

Rosa knew Rita was missing the point so she ventured another question. "Amiga, when was the last time you had your...." Rosa hesitated and Rita looked at her with anticipation. Rosa continued in a whisper, "....your period?"

Rita looked puzzled and after a moment it finally dawned on her what Rosa was hinting at. "Oh, my, you think.......? No, it can't be...... can it?"

Rosa suddenly became excited, "So it has been over a month. Oh, amiga, it sounds like a baby to me. You need to go to the doctor and find out for sure." Rita pondered this possibility as an explanation of her nausea. It seemed to fit everything she had been told about the early stages of pregnancy. She wondered why she had not come to this conclusion on her own. Maybe with the pressures of the end of the school year and her excitement about the trip and then Freddie's movie deal, she wasn't thinking very clearly.

"The movie deal!" she yelled to herself, realizing too late that it had been aloud.

"What movie deal, Rita?" asked Rosa.

"Oh, Rosa, Freddie found out last night that he is going to star in a movie! Isnt it exciting. It's a remake of an old Zorro movie and it's being shot in Mexico. Freddie and I will be going down there right after school lets out and his show goes on summer hiatus." Ritas face suddenly fell. "Oh, but if I am pregnant, what will that do to our plans?"

"It shouldn't change them," Rosa reassured her. "You will have a long time before that baby is born." Rosa counted on her fingers. "By my count, I would say the baby should be due in February. Ooo, wouldn't that be something if it was born on your anniversary?!"

"Well, we may be putting the cart before the horse here. I dont know that I AM pregnant, yet."

"Go see a doctor soon, amiga."

Rita realized school would be starting very soon and headed back for her classroom. "I will have to wait till I get back from New York. We are leaving this evening. But I promise I will take care of it as soon as I get back."

Rosa thought a moment. "I have an idea. Why don't you call Dr. Ramerez's office and ask if you can at least drop off a urine sample for them to run a pregnancy test on. Tell them you are going out of town for a few days and would at least like to know if you are pregnant or not before you go. I'll cover your classes for you while you take it down there."

Rita looked skeptical, but Rosa said it couldn't hurt to call and ask. Rita went to the phone in the faculty lounge and called the doctor's office. The nurse said that they would be happy to test the sample if she brought one in. Rita went back to tell Rosa as the children were entering the classroom. Rosa told Rita to bring her class over to Rosa's room after she took roll and she would show them all a movie. Rita did this and left for Dr. Ramerez's office.

In the waiting room of the office, Rita fidgeted nervously. She had tried to read a magazine that was sitting on the table in front of her, but the words held no meaning for her. She had been there 45 minutes so far waiting for the results of the urine test. Finally the receptionist called Rita and directed her to Dr. Ramerez's private office. The only other time she had been in there was when the doctor was seeing Freddie for his follow up visits after the intervention. Dr. Ramerez was sitting behind his desk with a folder laying out on it as Rita knocked and entered. He got up and shook her hand and pointed to a seat in front of his desk for her to sit down in. He resumed his seat behind the desk.

"Well, doctor, what did the test tell you?" Rita asked impatiently.

Dr. Ramerez smiled at her. "It is the same Miss Morelli I have grown to love, impatient as always. But I must remember to call you Mrs. Prinze now, shouldn't I. I see your marriage has not curbed that impatient spirit!" He could see she was on the edge of her seat so he did not prolong her obvious agony any longer. "The test is positive, Mrs. Prinze. You and Mr. Prinze will be having a baby."

Rita's heart leapt inside her. "So it is true. Rosa was right. I should have known that, though," Rita thought to herself and smiled. Rosa was seldom wrong. Aloud she said, "When?"

The doctor consulted her chart. "If all the information you provided to the nurse is correct, I would say around the second week in February sometime. I am not an obstetrician. I will refer you to a colleague of mine if you need one."

Rita rose from her seat and shook the doctor's hand. "Oh, thank you Doctor. I don't have a doctor myself out here yet. Thank you for the reference."

"How is Mr. Prinze doing?"

"He is fine. A few flashbacks, but nothing serious. Thank you, Doctor for helping him and for this good news. I would like you to come over for dinner some night, you and your wife. I'll call you when I get back from New York."

"I would enjoy that. Buenas dias, Mrs. Prinze."

"Buenas dias and gracias, doctor." Rita left the office and headed back to school. When Rita arrived to pick up her students from Rosa's room, the movie was almost over. Rosa silently beckoned Rita to come over to her desk.

"Well, hermana, what did he say?"

"You were right, like you always are!" Rita smiled and hugged her friend. "Rosa, I am going to have to find just the right way to break this news to Freddie and the families. You will keep this a secret till I get back from New York, won't you?"

"My lips are sealed!" Rosa returned Rita's hug as shuttered with excitement. "I am so happy for you, mi amiga. With two hermoso parents, this child can not help but to be the most el bebé hermoso."

The movie ended and Rita took her class back and tried to teach the rest of the day. She knew this would be hard. All she kept thinking about was how she was going to break this news to the family and especially to Freddie. Would he be pleased? In the emotional state she was in she wasn't sure.

Chapter 2

The flight from L.A. to New York was long and Rita was fidgety the whole way. Her nausea was not being helped by the frequent air pockets the plane kept hitting. Freddie kept asking her what was wrong. Lying to her caring husband was not helping her condition either. She kept pondering how she would break the news to him and to the rest of the family. Even Maria sensed all was not well with Rita and kept echoing Freddies concerns. Karl kept telling his wife not to meddle, that if Rita said she was fine, then she was. Rita was very grateful to be landing.

The plane touched down hard and Rita could not wait to hear the pilot tell the passengers they could disembark. The entire Morelli family was waiting at the end of the passageway from the plane. Anna ran up to Rita and put her arms around her. "Mia bimba, you look pale and thin!", she exclaimed loudly. Rita frowned and started to scold her mother, but Anna turned to Freddie and scolded him first. "Arent you taking care of mi bimba?"

Rita started her protest again, but Freddie put his large arms around his mother-in-laws ample waist and lifted her with ease. Twirling her around in a huge bear hug, he planted a kiss on her cheek and said, "Mama, you know I have taken the best care of your bimba! Do not worry your pretty Italian head about that!" Rita decided that his response to her mother was probably better than any she could have come up with. Tired and hormonal, Rita knew anything she would say right now would only have started a fight. She looked at Freddie lovingly and said a quiet prayer of thanks for him. Rita shook her head, still fighting some nausea from the trip. She thought to herself, "If only you knew that your baby is having a baby!"

Antonio and Karl shook hands and greeted one another. "Women!", exclaimed Antonio, shaking his head. "Lets leave them and go fetch your luggage." Karl agreed and Antonio, Karl , Freddie, Nick and Tony, Ritas brothers, went to the luggage area to get the bags. Anna hugged her daughter and asked Maria how she was doing. The women walked and talked as they followed the men to the car.

When they arrived at the Morellis home it was the wee hours of the morning. Since it was late, Anna showed everyone to their rooms and said good night. Rita and Freddie occupied Ritas old bedroom. Freddie plopped on her bed and said, "So this is where mi amor grew up."

Rita started to get ready for bed. "Yup, this is it. I never thought growing up that I would ever have a man in my bed though!"

"Well come over here and lets see what that experience is like, mami linda!"

Rita could not believe her ears when she responded to his obvious invitation for intimacy, "Freddie, its late and Im very tired. Maybe tomorrow, mi amor." She laid down next to him and kissed him with as much passion as her tired lips could muster, which wasnt very much. Freddie was obviously displeased, but not wanting to make a scene, he just said, "Are you finally tiring of your mi amor?"

Exasperated at herself for being tired, Rita answered, "No, I could never tire of you. You are mi vida. I guess the trip and feeling sick has taken its toll for tonight. Im sure Ill be better in the morning. I love you with all my heart." She kissed him again and turned out the light. In the dark, Freddie whispered, "Its ok, dulcinea mia. Rest in my arms and regain your strength tonight. We can break in your bed tomorrow night." Rita had her back to him and as his arms entwined themselves around her, she could almost imagine his smile and his wink at the last remark he made. Smiling to herself she said good night to him and fell asleep in the warmth of his embrace.

Morning came late in the Morelli house. Anna was the only one to rise early. She let the rest of the family sleep in, since they had gotten to bed so late. As she was fixing the coffee, Maria wandered into the kitchen.

"Good morning, Maria. I hope you slept well," Anna greeted her house guest.

"I slept just fine, amiga," answered Maria. "May I help you with the breakfast?"

"No, thats OK. I will not start it for a while till everyone is up. How is California?"

"Sunny and warm as it always is. It reminds me of Puerto Rico. I do miss the seasons here in New York, though."

"I enjoyed my stay in California this winter." Anna smiled. "Coming from southern Italia, I miss all the warm weather. Winter in New York, bah, you can have it!"

The ladies continued their small talk as the rest of the family made its way to the kitchen. By the time Freddie made his appearance, everyone was around the table waiting for Anna to put the finishing touches on the breakfast and talking of the days plans. Freddie had left Rita still sleeping in their bed.

"Good morning, son," Maria greeted Freddie. "Where is your esposa hermosa?"

Yawning, Freddie answered, "Still asleep." Smelling the food being prepared, Freddie added, "MMmmm, that smells good."

Anna chided Freddie. "You should get her up. She needs to be up and around. If you let her, she would sleep all day!"

Freddie laughed. "Well it is her vacation and if she wanted to sleep all day and be up all night, that would suit me just fine!" He winked a knowing wink at the men at the table and Maria gave him a stern but loving look.

"Vergosa! The way you talk around the family!"

"Mama, you really dont mean that, and I know it."

"I guess I shouldnt wait on her then," remarked Anna. "Breakfast is on, then. Antonio, say the blessing."

Everyone bowed their heads and Antonio prayed for the family and the food. Then breakfast started and the family resumed their conversations.

"I was able to get the tickets to the Mayors game, papa," said Nick. "It wasnt easy. I had to call in a few favors!"

"Nicky, I dont want to hear about your "connections"," answered Antonio. "I am glad you were able to get them, though." Turning to Karl he asked, "Have you ever been to the Mayors game?"

"Once, at Yankee Stadium," said Karl.

"Oh, wow, are we going to Yankee stadium?", asked Freddie with a swallow full of eggs still in his mouth.

"Freddie, I brought you up better than to be talking with food in your mouth!", Maria scolded her son.

"Sorry Ma, Im just excited. I havent been to a baseball game in ages!"

"Sorry, bro," said Nicky. "The game is a Shea this year. I bet you five dollars the Mets beat the Yankees on their home turf!"

"Your on. The Yankees are gonna cream the Mets," answered Freddie, swallowing his eggs and wiping his mouth with his napkin

"Boys, no gambling in my house!", Anna scolded.

"Yes, mama," said Nicky and Freddie in unison, heads hung in shame. Sneaking a smile and a wink at each other, they knew the bet was on.

Rita picked this moment to make her entrance. Still sleepy, she shuffled in dressed in her bathrobe and fuzzy slippers and slipped into the chair next to Freddie.

"Buenas dias, mi amor, or should I say, buenas tardes!" Freddie reached over and planted a small kiss on her lips.

"Freddie, it is not afternoon yet. Do not pick on poor Rita," scolded Maria. Turning to Rita she added, "How are you feeling today, hija?"

"Fine, just tired."

Anna looked concerned. "Rita, are you sick?"

Rita knew that she was not in the mood for twenty questions, but she also wanted her news to be delivered in a better setting. She tried to come up with a plausible answer. "Im fine, mama. I think this is the rigor of school and the effects of jet lag, thats all. You know I dont like flying and last nights flight was particularly turbulent."

Freddie came to Ritas defense. "It was a rough flight." Turning to Rita, he said, "Maybe I should stay home from the ball game and take care of you."

"Not on your life!" Rita said and smiled. "You go with the guys and have a great time. Catch a game ball for me! I have plenty of doting mamas here to take care of me."

"Dont count me in that doting mamas remark," said Mary, Ritas younger sister. "I have plans today myself, so you are on your own with mama!"

"Mary, where are you off to young lady?", boomed Antonio.

"Papa, I have a shopping date with Andi and Sam." Andrea and Samantha were Marys best friends. The three of them were inseparable.

"Maybe they would like to join us on a shopping trip, Mary?" asked Anna.

"No offense, mama, but we have other plans too." Mary kissed her mother as a horn sounded. "Thats them now, gotta run!" Mary ran out the door.

"Just remember supper is at 7!", shouted Anna after her.

"I know," answered Mary from the stoop. She got in her friends car and sped off.

"Well, wed better get a move on ourselves, gentlemen, if we are going to make that game!", remarked Nicky.

The men got up, kissed their wives and mothers goodbye, piled into Antonios station wagon, and headed for Shea Stadium.

The kitchen got very quiet with Rita, Anna and Maria left siting around the large table. Anna got up and started clearing the table. Maria and Rita helped her. As Rita handed her mother a pile of plates, another wave of nausea hit her stomach. She doubled over and staggered to a chair. Anna, alarmed, put the pile of dishes on the counter and went over to Rita.

"Mia bimba, something IS wrong. Do not lie to your mama! What is it?"

Maria joined Anna by Ritas side. "She was like this the whole trip here. She kept saying that she was OK, but I knew something was wrong."

Rita knew that she could not keep this from her mother or Freddies mom any longer. "Im alright, really I am. I went to the doctor before I left and he said I was fine."

"A doctor! What is it Rita!", Anna asked frantically.

Maria got a knowing look on her face and Rita smiled at her, knowing that her secret was finally revealed to Maria. "I think I know what is the matter. Anna, Rita is encinta... with child." Turning to Rita, she asked, "Am I correct?"

Annas eyes became wide as Rita nodded her head in assent. "Yes, Mama Pruetzel. You and Mama are going to be abuelas." Rita, with tears of joy in her eyes hugged her mother. "Mama, your bimba is going to have a bimba of her own!"

Anna hugged her daughter hard, taking Ritas breath away. "Mama, please. Give me some air!"

"Im sorry, Rita. Im just so happy!"

"I know, mama, Im happy too!"

Maria chimed in. "Freddie doesnt know yet, does he?"

Rita hung her head. "No, Mama Pruetzel, he doesnt know. I wanted to surprise him and the rest of you, breaking the news in just the right way. I only found out yesterday myself." Rita brightened up. "Now that the two of you know, maybe you can help me figure out a way to break the news."

Anna thought hard. "Well, when I became pregnant with your brother, Nicky, I..." Annas voice trailed off as Anna, Maria and Rita discussed ways to have Rita tell Freddie he was going to be a dad again.

Meanwhile, the guys were enjoying the baseball game. The teams seemed evenly matched that day and by the seventh inning stretch, the Yankees were up by only one run. The stakes between Nicky and Freddie had grow considerable by this time, to the point where it started to concern Antonio and Karl. Both the young men agreed not to raise the stakes anymore, in deference to their dads. Freddie apologized for his impetuous betting. Nicky told him not to worry about it, that he too, was getting a bit carried away. As the guys stood and stretched at the break, Freddie speculated what the wives were up to.

"If I know your mother in law, she is filling your wifes head full of advice about marriage," Antonio laughed.

"Probably, but I wish she and Ma would talk some sense to her and get her to see a doctor. Im really worried about her being so sick. Its been every morning for over a week now."

"Morning sickness?" Antonio and Karl asked, almost in unison. The way the put the question made Freddie realize something he had not considered before.

"Nooo, you dont think...." replied Freddie.

Antonio and Karl just gave each other a knowing glance and Antonio said, "Sounds like it!" He slapped his son in law on the back and said, "So you are going to make me a nonno!"

Nicky choked on his beer. "No way! Im going to be Uncle Nicky! Alright!"

"Now wait a minute," Freddie interrupted. "Rita would have told me if she was pregnant. She never said a word."

Karl put his arm around Freddie. "Son, the woman does not know how to just come out and tell you these things. They always think they have to add drama to these little announcements. They expect us to get all emotional with them. Its just their way."

"Karl is right. If I know Anna, she is home right now scheming ways to tell you so you will be all emotional about this."

"But I am emotional! Man, Ritas going to have a baby!" Freddie pondered the good news. "I cant wait to see her and give her a big hug!"

Antonio became serious. "Freddie, my boy, that is the last thing you want to go and do. If Rita is pregnant, she has to tell you in her own way. You cant let on you know or even suspect. She will be so disappointed if you dont act surprised by the news."

"I wonder how she will surprise me?" Freddie pondered aloud.

"Well," Antonio speculated. "If she has been with her mother all this time, Im sure your mother in law will be relating the way she told me about Nicky coming."

"How was that, Papa. I dont remember this story?" asked Nicky.

"Well, your mother wanted to tell me that she was going to have a bambino, but could not come out and tell me. So she cooked me all these "baby" foods for dinner that night. Baby carrots, baby peas, lamb, new potatoes and even had little cupcakes with diaper pins decorated on them in icing!" Antonio shook his head and laughed. "She is one for the dramatics, my Anna! I bet you that is going to be the menu tonight! And if it is, we men cannot let on that we know. It would spoil the womenfolks fun." The guys nodded in agreement. "So, we have to make a pact right now not to let on until Rita makes the announcement. Agreed?" The men joined their right hands in the center of a circle and made the pact between them binding. The game started back up with the Yankees taking the field and the Mets short stop coming up to bat. As the guys sat down to watch the rest of the game, Nicky reached over to Freddie and said, "I think maybe wed better call off the bets, seeing as how you have a little one on the way to have to pay for."

"Not on your life, bro," exclaimed Freddie. "Youre just saying that cause youre losing!"

"Geez, try to help some people!" Nicky laughed. "OK, bro, youre still on!" He was about to double the bet, when he got a knowing glance form Antonio. Nick decided to let that drop. It was a good thing he did, too because the Mets lost 5-4.

The car was pulling up into the driveway as Rita and Maria were putting the finishing touches on the table. The men came in all boisterous from the game. Rita ran up to Freddie and put her arms around him and kissed him. "Mmm, mi amor, I missed you. How was the game? Who won?"

"The Yankees prevailed," Freddie exclaimed triumphantly. Rita pouted. "What is the matter, dulcinea mia?"

"You mean Rita never told you she is a HUGE Mets fan?" laughed Nicky. "Ooo, someone is going to be in the dog house tonight!" Nick held his sides and laughed harder. Rita shot him glaring looks. "It is almost worth losing $50 bucks to you, bro, to see her so mad!"

"Freddie, you bet my brother $50 the Mets would lose?!?!" Rita exclaimed, breaking from his embrace. She was really mad now at both Freddie and Nicky.

Nick put his arms around his sister and kissed her on the forehead. "Calm down, sorella. It was my idea. And we had fun. Dont be mad at your fratello and your marito." He got down on his knees and signaled for Freddie to do the same. "We ask the forgiveness of our loving sister and wife." Nick took Ritas right hand and kissed it as Freddie, taking his cue from Nick, took her left hand and did the same. Rita pulled both of her hands from their lips and crossed her arms, looking sternly at both of them. Freddie and Nick began to pout and Rita broke into a smile and shook her head at both of them. The rest of the family was laughing hysterically at the little scene being played out in from to them. Antonio laughed the hardest and said, "You boys will never win, pulling stunts like that! Dont you know you cant be the man of the house if you grovel to your women?"

Anna cut in. "Thats alright, boys. You continue to grovel when you act so shamefully as to gamble! Rita, I think they have showed their remorse at their behavior." She turned to the boys, "Get up off the floor get washed up for dinner. It will be on the table in a few minutes." Anna turned and headed back into the kitchen with Rita following.

Maria went up to Karl and asked him if he had a good time. The family slowly made their way into the dining room. Antonio noticed Mary was not among them. "Where is Mary?" he bellowed. Just at that moment, Mary came in the front door and slammed it shut.

"Sorry Im late, papa." She ran to the kitchen to wash her hands and then quickly took her place at the table.

Antonio gave the blessing. "Gracious God, we thank you for all of your blessings upon our family. We thank you for the friends we have gathered here as well. Bless the food we are about to eat, as we say..." And the family joined in, "Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty. Through Christ, Our Lord, Amen."

As they sat down, Rita and Anna began to serve the food. As each dish was passed, Antonio, Karl, Freddie, Nick and Tony tried hard not to smile or let on. Just as Antonio had predicted, the women were serving all the same foods Anna had when she was pregnant with Nick. When all the food had been passed around, the conversation turned to small talk. Freddie was trying hard to contain himself, knowing now that Rita was going to have a baby, his baby! He didnt say much so as not to let it slip that he knew. His silence did not go unnoticed.

"Freddie, are you alright, sweetie," Rita asked him. I hope you dont think Im mad at you for the game, do you?"

"No, mi amor, I know you were only having fun at our expense earlier." Taking a mouthful of peas, he thought of what he could say to encourage her to spill the beans and announce her good news to everyone before he busted with anticipation. "Mmm, these are good, Mama Morelli. I like baby peas. You are a muy buena cook."

"Freddie", answered Rita, "I didnt know you liked them?" Rita blushed and decided this was the moment she was waiting for. "Oh, mi amor, I helped mama cook them especially for you. I wanted you to be strong and healthy for our bebé." She looked at Freddie waiting for his reaction.

"¿Nuestro Bebé? Rita! Mi amor! Mi vida! You mean....." Freddie leapt up in joy and grabbed his wife and kissed her passionately in front of the whole family. "All that sick feeling was because you are embarazada?" Rita nodded her head, too lightheaded to say anything. Freddie saw how pale Rita was getting and gently helped he back into her seat. "Oh, dulcinea mia, forgive my excitement. I am the happiest man alive right now. WHOOPEEEEEE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Frederick Karl.......... stop yelling at the table!" Maria scolded her son. She could not help but smile while she said it, though.

"Sorry, ma. Sorry, everyone," Freddie said in a quiet tone. I am just so happy right now. Im going to be a daddy again and I just landed a movie deal! Im sitting on top of the world right now!"

"MOVIE DEAL????" everyone but Rita asked in unison.

"Oh, my, I forgot all about Freddies good news with all this talk of the baby!" Rita exclaimed. "Freddie, you have to tell them all about the movie!"

"Sure, mi amor, but I dont want to steal your thunder about the baby."

"But, mi vida, your movie is more exciting."

"More exciting than our baby?"

"Silenzio!" Antonio boomed. "I will not have debates at my table. Let Rita tell us all about the baby and then Freddie can tell us about the movie."

Freddie and Rita hung their heads in mock shame. They both knew Antonio was only good-naturedly throwing his weight around. Coming over to Rita, Antonio put his arms around his daughter. "Let me be the first to congratulate the new parents." He turned to Freddie and shook his hand. "You have made this Italian papa very proud." Reaching over to his place for his glass of wine, Antonio raised it to make a toast. "Here is to the new parents and their little bambino. Saluto!"

"Saluto!" everyone joined in. When they had finished drinking, Freddie turned to Rita and asked. "When did you find out?"

"I went to Dr. Ramerazs office with a sample for a pregnancy test. Rosa insisted that I find out for sure before I went on this trip. She had figured it out when I told her I was getting sick every morning."

"When does the doctor think you are due?" asked Maria.

"He is not a gynecologist and has referred me to one, but the nearest he could tell, I should have the baby sometime the second week in February."

"Right around your anniversary, cool!" said Mary. "You know what it will be?
"Healthy is all I hope for," said Rita. "And I hope I will start to feel better soon too!"

Freddie smiled. "It will get better, I promise. And I will take good care of you, ducinea mia." Freddie kissed Rita gently on the lips.

"Enough about me and the baby. I want you to tell everyone about your movie deal!"

"Yes," everyone answered at once.

"Well it looks like I will finally get to play Zorro, ma!" Freddie started. "Remember when I used to do that as a kid."

"Yes, I do, Freddie." Maria turned to Rita. "He used to drive me nuts, knocking over things, running around in a cape he made from a bed sheet."

"Zorro, thats great," Tony chimed in. "I always loved the way he ran around cutting "Zs" in everything with that sword!" He made some slashing motions with his hand in the air.

"Knock it off, Tony," said Mary. Looking into Freddies eyes she added, "My brother can be so juvenile sometimes."

Rita could see by the look in Marys eyes, she was mooning at her brother in law. Mary never quite got over the fact that her sister married her big crush. Rita knew it was only puppy love, but she learned not to tease Mary about it.

Mary continued, "What I want to know is who is going to play your lady love in the movie?"

Rita almost choked on the water she was drinking. Freddie looked at Rita with alarm and rubbed her back. "Are you OK?"

Red faced, Rita croaked, "Yes" as she tried to catch her breath. Once she composed herself, she said, "You know in all of the excitement of finding out about this movie, I never thought to ask you that. Who is your co-star?"

It was now Freddies turn to blush. All eyes were on him as he finally found his voice. "Well, it turns out that old friend has been chosen to play the part. They cast Raquel Welsh as Lolita Quintero." Freddie looked down as he let the reaction to that bombshell sink in.

"I remember her," remarked his mother. "You and she dated once, didnt you?"

"MA!!" Freddie was hoping to avoid such a scene, but as he glanced at Ritas face, he knew he was in for some major damage control. "I did take her out a few times, but we really didnt date. Shes a nice lady and a great actress. Besides that was a long time ago, before I married Kathy even."

Rita decided to let that one go by. She knew Freddie had a life before her and his fame had him traveling in circles with the beautiful people of Hollywood. She also knew that he loved her now, so that was all that mattered to Rita. She wanted to let him off the hook, so she came behind him and put her arms around him and kissed the top of his head and said, "That is wonderful, honey. She is a wonderful actress and I know will make the movie that much better, having the two of you in it. It should be a big hit."

Freddie turned around and gave his wife a big kiss. "That is why I married you, amor mia. You understand me and trust me. You accept me for who I am."

Dinner continued with much discussion about he movie and the baby. When it was over and the dishes were done, the families spent time talking and making plans for the next time they would get together. Freddie invited all of the Morellis out to California when the location work on the movie was concluded in August. Tony and Mary knew this would work in their school schedule, since both would be starting their junior year in high school in September. Nick said he would put in for his vacation time in August. With excitement of the next gathering in the air, one by one, the family drifted off to bed.

Alone in her bedroom, Freddie turned to Rita and kissed her passionately. "How could you keep such a surprise from tu Freddie?" He stuck out his lower lip in his famous pout, looking through his lowered eyelashes.

"Freddie, I dont believe for a minute you are upset, and I suspect you knew before I told you."

Freddie looked at Rita with mock shock written on his face. "How could you say that, I...I..."

Rita smiled and hugged her husband. "I could see how you and my dad and your dad were looking at each other. And when Tony giggled as you faked your surprise, that really tipped me off. He never could keep a secret."

Freddie lifted Ritas face so he looked deep into her brown eyes. "Are you really disappointed that I figured out your secret before you told me."

Rita knew her love for Freddie could not allow her to be angry with him. "No, actually I should have figured you would figure it out, maybe before I did. After all, this is your second child, and only my first time around."

Freddie gathered Rita into his arms and held her tight. "Mi amor, you know I love Pie and I have see how you are with him when he visits. He is like your own son as well. I would never trade him for anything in this world. But this child is just as special, because I love its mother with all my heart." He reached down and kissed her again, letting her know how he felt.

"I know," Rita answered. "I know both of these children will be special to you. I hope little Freddie will love his new brother or sister. I think he will. We will have to do some special things with him while Im pregnant to let him know he will still be very special to both of us, even with a new baby in the house."

"Amante mia, I am the happiest man alive right now. Enough of this talk, though. I promised you that I would break in your bed tonight, and now we have much to celebrate!" Freddie quickly stripped his shirt and pants off and plopped on the bed. Posing in his most seductive pose, he said, "How bout it, mami? How bout a roll in the hay with your ever lovin husband?" He flashed a big smile at her and winked his eye.

"Alllllriiight," answered Rita, imitating Freddies Puerto Rican accent. But instead of shedding her clothing as rapidly as Freddie had, she slowly removed them, one piece at a time, in an almost playful striptease act. Freddie let out a slow wolf whistle and made noises like he would have done on the streets of New York growing up, calling to all the pretty girls. After putting on the show, Rita donned her lace nightie and climbed under the covers next to Freddie. "I hope you find me that sexy and desirous when I am eight months pregnant and out to here." She brought her hand about eight inches from her belly. Freddie didnt answer, but decided to show her over and over that night he would always find her very desirable. After a couple of hours of passionate love making, they fell asleep in each others arms, tired, but very happy.

Chapter 3

The Prinzes and Pruetzels flew back to California after the fun weekend spent with the Morellis. Rita continued to suffer from nausea and Freddie was very concerned every time she would get sick. His mother tried to reassure him that Rita was fine, but Freddie loved Rita too much not to be concerned for her. They were both glad to be home after the long weekend away. Freddie made Rita call the doctor to whom Dr. Ramerez had referred her right away, and she set the first appointment for a week later, when she was finally finished with school for the summer. Freddie insisted on taking time off to be with her for this first visit.

The couple entered a brightly decorated waiting room. Pictures of babies and families lined the walls. Rita looked around and smiled. "This is very nice. Rosa told me that Dr. Garcia comes highly recommended. She has been in practice for many years and was one of the first Chicano female doctors in the LA area. I am fortunate that she was still taking new patients referred to her by other doctors."

"Well, nothing but the best for my Rita and our new little one," smiled Freddie lovingly at his wife. "Some of the people at the studio have also heard of her and said we have the best!"

They walked up to the receptionist and she handed them a ream of forms. Freddie and Rita took the clipboard over to a comfortable couch in the waiting area and filled them all out. When they had both signed the last of them, Freddie took the board back up to the desk. After about 15 minutes that seemed like an hour to both Freddie and Rita, the nurse showed them back to the examining room.

"I see that Dr. Ramerez performed the initial pregnancy test," said the nurse in a clinical tone.

"Yes, Dr. Ramerez was the only physician I was familiar with, so I went to him. He referred me here when the tests came back positive."

"Well, I will need to run a second test to confirm the first," answered the nurse. Rita gave her a puzzled look and the nurse smiled. "Nothing to worry about, my dear. It is just standard procedure." She handed Rita a cup and directed her to the bathroom to collect a urine sample. Freddie waited in the examination room until Rita came back. While Rita was gone, he had a chance to ask the nurse a few questions.

"This is my wifes first child. We were planning to go to Mexico for the summer. Will she still be able to travel?"

"Im sure she will be, but you had better ask the doctor first."

"OK. How long has Dr. Garcia been in practice?

"Over 25 years. She is one of the best in the Los Angeles area." The nurse put her hand on Freddies shoulder. "Everything will be alright, Mr. Prinze. Your wife seems to me to be a normal, healthy woman. And this baby should be a fine looking baby, considering the parents!"

Freddie blushed a little and thanked the nurse for her compliment as Rita entered and handed the sample to the nurse. Then nurse took it and instructed Rita to remove her clothes and hop up on the examination table. The doctor would be in shortly to see her. The nurse then took the urine sample and Ritas chart and exited the room leaving Freddie and Rita alone once again.

As Rita began to disrobe, Freddie made kissing noises. Rita smirked at her handsome husband. "Down, wolf! Youll just have to wait till we get home for any of that!"

Freddie pouted at her. "Spoil sport!"

"How would it look if the doctor came in here and saw us doing.... doing.... damn I cant figure out how this examination gown closes."

"Allow me," Freddie said in his proper English accent. He reached around Ritas back and tied the ribbons.

"Thank you, bebe." She kissed him and then stepped back. "Not very flattering, is it?"

"Nope, but those things were never meant to be the height of fashion! Hop up here like a good girl." Rita scowled at Freddie for his condescending remark, but quickly forgot it as he helped her up and stole another passionate kiss while he lifted her. "Mmmm, thats more like it," exclaimed Freddie. The door opened and a distinguished woman in her late 50s entered the room.

"Hello, Im Dr. Garcia. You are Mr. and Mrs. Prinze? I am happy to meet you." Dr. Garcia extended her hand and Freddie shook it vigorously.

"Glad to meet you, Doc. You take good care of my lady love here, OK?"

"That is what I am here for," smiled Dr. Garcia. "Relax, Mr. Prinze. Why dont you have a seat over there," she pointed to a comfortable looking chair in the corner of the room, "and I can examine your wife."

Freddie went and sat down. Rita looked at the kind face of the doctor and let out an audible sigh.

"Nervous, are we?" asked the doctor.

"Yes," answered Rita. "This is my first pregnancy. I want everything to be OK."

The doctor helped Rita into a reclining position and put her stethoscope to Ritas stomach. "I am sure it will be. You look very healthy. Any history of health problems in you or your family?

"Nothing I am aware of." Rita smiled. "We all tend to be a bit overweight, but other than that, I dont think there is anything."

"Well you look like you have your weight under control."

"Yes, but it is a lot of hard work to keep it that way, believe me. Will I be able to continue to exercise regularly while I am pregnant?"

"Oh, that would be the best thing for both you and the baby," answered Dr. Garcia as she continued to examine Rita. "So long as you dont over do it, any exercise you were doing before the pregnancy can be continued while you are pregnant. At least till the last month to 6 weeks, then you might want to modify it a bit. I can give you good exercises to do in the last trimester of pregnancy."

The nurse knocked on the door, entered, and handed Dr. Garcia Ritas chart. After a few minutes of silent reading, the doctor addressed Rita. "The urinalysis confirms the pregnancy. The information you provided says that your last menstrual period was April 29th."

"Yes," answered Rita.

"Well, if all is normal, you probably got pregnant around the second week in May, which would put your due date around the 14th of February. A Valentines baby, maybe!"

"Oh, that would be wonderful, Dr. Garcia. That will also be our first anniversary."

Dr. Garcia smiled at Rita. "That would be a nice anniversary present, wouldnt it? I also see from the chart that you had been taking birth control pills 4 months prior to your marriage to Mr. Prinze. We do have to watch things a little more closely then--they have been know to have some side effects with pregnancies, but those are very rare. I suspect you had not been taking them long enough to worry about that, though. The highest incidences of problem pregnancies due to the pill are in women who have been taking them for years. I will need to do a pelvic exam to see how far along you are and I should do a pap smear as a precaution. Relax and I promise this should not hurt too much." The doctor looked over at Freddie sitting in the corner with a look of concern on his face. "Mr. Prinze, why dont you hold your wifes hand and reassure her. I promise I will be quick and careful."

Freddie nodded and walked over to Ritas side. Taking her right hand, Rita squeezed Freddies in hers and the doctors deft hands completed the examination.

"All done. It looks like your uterus is about the right size for a month of pregnancy. You are fortunate, most women dont know they are pregnant for another month yet."

"Well I have had terrible morning sickness and I was sick on the plane the whole trip to New York and back."

"That is normal for the first three months. Most women find that it goes away after the first trimester."

"Can she travel then? We have a trip planned to Cancun, Mexico, for the summer."

"Ooo, a very romantic spot. She should be fine to travel. So you are spending the whole summer there?"

"Yes, I am shooting a movie and it is on location in Cancun."

"Nice. Just take plenty of bottled water with you, is all I advise. Some of the water in my native country is not very healthy and I would not want Mrs. Prinze to pick up a nasty parasite."

"OK, Doc, Ill make sure the movie company has plenty of bottled water on hand. I will insist on it!"

"The only thing that might concern me about the trip would be checkups. Mrs. Prinze should see me once a month."

"We can fly back whenever you need us to schedule her appointments," said Freddie. "Rita will be here! Ill see to that as well."

Dr. Garcia grinned and shook her head. "Mrs. Prinze, I see you are in good hands. Enjoy your pregnancy and your vacation. Ill see you in one month. Call the office if you have any questions or anything unusual develops. Dont wait to see if it is nothing. Call me, even if it seems like the silliest question. I am here to answer all of them and I want to be on top of what ever might happen."

"Thanks. Doc. Ill take good care of my Rita." Freddie shook the doctors hand and then helped Rita dress when the doctor and the nurse left the room. When Rita was finally finished dressing, Freddie took her into his arms and kissed her. It was not a kiss like any other Rita had experienced. It almost reminded her of a kiss someone would give if they never expected to see you again. It gave Rita a little shiver, remembering what she and Freddie had been through to get to this place today. She returned the ferocity of the kiss. This time Freddie was the one to be a bit taken aback. He broke the kiss and whispered, "I love you so much, Rita. I cannot imagine my life without you. Promise me you wont abandon me?"

"Freddie, how could I.... " but then a light bulb went on in Ritas head. "Hes worried that I will do to him what his ex did after she had her baby," she thought to herself. She took Freddie into her arms and said, "I promise, mi amor," hugging him very hard. He returned her hug and said, "Lets blow this joint. What do you want to do? Anything at all. You name it and its yours."

Rita giggled as they left the doctors office. "I know what we both want and could use," winked Rita, "but would you mind taking me for something to eat first? Im starving all of a sudden."

Freddie laughed. "You got it, mami, or should I say Mommy!" They drove to their favorite restaurant along the Malibu coast and after a wonderful meal, went home to enjoy their love.

Freddie wasnt expected to report to the movie set till the 27th of June, so he and Rita enjoyed some leisure time at their home in Malibu. The second weekend in June was a regular visit with Freddies son. Freddie Jr., or Pie, as his father was so fond of calling him, was a little over a year old and the apple of his dads eye. Rita and Freddie got to have him for visits about every other weekend when Freddie wasnt away performing standup. Freddie had decided, when he landed the movie deal and found out that Rita was pregnant, that he would take a break from the standup gigs to be with his wife more. Ever since coming off the drugs, Freddie realized how much he screwed up his first shot at happiness, and he didnt want to mess up this second chance he had been given.

This particular Saturday morning, Rita was in the kitchen fixing her "men" some breakfast, cold cereal for both and coffee for dad. She put it on a coffee tray and brought it into the living room for them to enjoy in front of the TV. Freddie always liked watching Saturday morning cartoons with his son when he was over for a visit. Rita smiled as she watched father and son giggling over the antics of the Road Runner and the Coyote. She mused about how passionate and manly Freddie could be when making love to her, but that in many ways, he was still a little boy who never grew up, especially when he was around his son. She smiled and put the tray on the coffee table and said in an imitation of Freddies English accent, "Your breakfast is served, mlords."

Freddie got up and chased Rita around the room. "Come here, wench, and give your lord the breakfast he really wants."

Out of breath, Rita stopped and faced Freddie. With hands on her hips she said, "Oh, and what might that be?"

Freddie took the opportunity to grab her and draw her close. "Why, a shepherds breakfast, of course."

"Huh?" asked Rita, with a puzzled look on her face.

"A shepherds breakfast. A cup of coffee and a piece of ewe (you)." Freddie threw back his head and laughed at his joke. Rita playful smacked him in the arm, kissed him, and told him that Pie and the Road Runner were waiting for him. He kissed her back and said, "Well talk more about it later then!" And he winked at her as he went back to the cartoons and his son.

Rita returned to the kitchen and started to clean up. She shook her head and smiled when she thought how playful her husband could be. "Just like a little boy in a mans body," she thought to herself. She had been thinking for weeks what she would do for his birthday and it was fast approaching. Remembering how much he was enjoying being a kid with his son gave her an idea. She picked up the phone and dialed Kathys number. It rang several times and then Rita heard a "hello" on the other end. She took a deep breath and said, "Is this Kathy?"

Freddie had always been the one to deal with his ex-wife when it came to their son. Rita had only met her once, when they had gone to pick up Freddie Jr. for his first visit. She had seen her in court, but had never been introduced. The divorce court was no place for that, but Rita felt that Kathy should at least get to know who would be watching her son on the weekends Freddie had him. The meeting had been cool but cordial, as could be expected. She knew that Kathy still loved Freddie, but also that he had a hard time forgiving her for walking out and taking Freddie Jr. with him. On the other hand, Rita remembered the very scary time of the intervention and in her heart could not blame Kathy for wanting to protect her child. Now she needed to ask Kathy a favor and silently prayed that she would be civil and grant her request.

"Kathy? This is Rita."

"Rita? Is anything wrong with the baby?" Kathy sounded genuinely worried.

"No, he is fine. I called to ask you a favor."


Rita took another deep breath. "As you know, Freddies birthday is coming up and I had an idea that I would need you to agree to."

"Ok, what is it?"

Rita knew Kathy was uncomfortable talking to her so she decided to make this brief. "I would like to have Freddie take his son to Disneyland on the 22nd. Could we have Pie for the day?"

There was a long silence on the other end of phone and Rita stepped up her prayers. After this awkward moment, Kathy said, "I suppose so, I cant really see why not. What time would you be by to pick him up?"

Rita thought a minute, not really believing her good luck. "I guess around 7 AM. Is that too early?"

"No, that would be fine."

Rita softened her voice. "Thank you, Kathy. I know this is not easy for you and I wanted to let you know I really appreciate it." Freddie had told Kathy that he and Rita were expecting when they picked up Freddie Jr. yesterday afternoon. Kathy had not taken the news well--Rita could tell that much even from a distance, because she usually showed no emotion. She was grateful that Kathy was willing to do this for her. "I promise I will make this up to you, somehow."

"Look, its ok." Kathy paused and then said, her voice betraying that she was upset, "I want to let you know I dont blame you for any of this. I wish I had had the guts to do what you did is all."

"Thanks and I think you are a pretty gutsy lady yourself. I hope we can at least be friendly with each other."

"Yes...well, it might be hard for me to be friendly at times, but I know you are taking good care of my son, and that I am grateful for. I gotta go. Ill see you both tomorrow when you bring him home."

"OK, and another thing, please keep this a secret. I want to surprise Freddie with this."

Rita could almost see Kathy smile on the other end of the phone. "Yes I will, I imagine he will love this. You are a very thoughtful person."

"And you are very generous. Thanks again. Bye."


Rita heard the click of the other receiver and slowly replaced the one on her end. She went back to her dishes, crying a little for the pain she knew Kathy must be feeling. She was surprised by Freddie coming up behind her.

"Allo, mami, whacha up to," he said in his thickest Puerto Rican accent. When he turned her around, she barely had time to wipe her eyes. Freddies face fell when he saw she had been crying. "Oh, bebe, whats the matter?! I heard you talking to someone in here. The doctor didnt call, did she?" Panic replaced the sad concern in his voice and face. "There isnt anything wrong with the baby, is there?"

Rita smiled and hugged Freddie, "No it wasnt the doctor, everything is fine with the baby. No I was just talking with a friend and she was sharing her pain with me is all. You know how sensitive I can be sometimes."

Freddie kissed Ritas tear streaked cheeks. "It is one of the things I love about you, vida mia."

"Thanks." She turned back to the sink. "Whats Pie doing?"

"Sleeping. He was getting tired, so I changed his diaper and put him down for a nap. I was coming in to see if I could get that shepherds breakfast now. But maybe you dont feel like it."

"Freddie, that sounds just like what I would feel like right now!"

"ALLLRIIIGHT," Freddie exclaimed and he picked up Rita in his arms and carried her back to their bedroom. Carefully placing her on the bed, Rita observed, "I dont know how much longer you will be able to do that. I suspect when I am as big as a watermelon, it will be impossible."

Freddie took off his shirt and flexed his muscles. "Nothing is impossible for the strongest Hungarican in the world!"

Rita laughed and Freddie joined her on the bed for a morning of some sweet loving.

A few days later, Freddie was called into an all day meeting about the movie, so Rita took this opportunity to call Maria and make the arrangements for Freddies twenty- third birthday celebration. She had spent some time right after Freddie left fondly recalling the wonderful birthday trip Freddie had taken her on back in March. The two of them had agreed that they wanted to go back to NYC for Ritas birthday, but instead of staying with her parents, Freddie booked a beautiful suite on the top floor of the Park Plaza Hotel. Their rooms overlooked Central Park and the weather even cooperated and gave them a snowfall, just enough to whiten everything. Freddie took her for a carriage ride all around Central Park and took her ice-skating in Rockefeller Plaza. They went to Mass at St. Patricks Cathedral and went to some of Freddies old haunts, the comedy clubs where he got his start and even his old high school. The time they didnt spend sight-seeing, they spent in the huge king-sized bed making love. It was the most romantic, perfect weekend Rita had ever spent with her Latin lover. She knew she had to make Freddies birthday, the first one they would spend together, just as special.

Maria was excited to plan Freddies birthday celebration with Rita. She suggested the ladies go out for lunch and discuss it then. Rita thought this was a great idea. Rita loved her mother in law and knew she needed to spend more time with her. This was a great opportunity to do that.

At the Brown Derby, the restaurant both had agreed upon, Rita and Maria both ordered a big salad. Maria joked with Rita that she would need to be strong in order to do her duty as an abuela, taking care of the new little one. Rita smiled and promised her there would be plenty of opportunities for her to do that.

"So, mija, what do you have in mind for my Freddies birthday?" Maria said as the salads were brought out to the table.

"Well, I thought a lot about how Freddie really enjoys being around Pie and I asked Kathy if he could be with us for Freddies birthday. She agreed and so Pie will be part of the surprise."

Maria smiled. Rita could see where Freddie got his beautiful smile from, seeing it mirrored in the face of his mother. "He will absolutely love that. I know he wishes he could see his son more." She let the rest of that thought drop. It was an uncomfortable topic and both of them knew it.

"Well, I was thinking that Freddie might get a kick out of taking Pie to Disneyland. What do you think about that?"

"Ooo, that is perfect. Freddie always loved places like that and I think he never has enough time to enjoy them anymore."

"That is what I thought, too." said Rita, taking a bite of her salad. "I was hoping that you and Poppa Karl would go with us. It would be the 5 of us."

"I would love to and I know Freddies dad would too. I always enjoy spending time with my son and grandson. And you know, if we are along, I am sure we could watch Pie and you and Freddie could have a little time to ride some rides by yourself too." Maria gave Rita a knowing wink. Rita lowered her head and blushed. Maria said, "I know how it is with you two. You are so much in love and I am so happy you have made my son happy. He has not been this happy in a long time. You have been the best thing for him. Just remember to keep him from working too hard. He always pushes himself too hard. I guess that is why I worry about him so much."

"I know, Mama Pruetzel, I worry about him too, and he worries about me. I guess worrying is what we do best, verdad?"

Maria smiled again. "Verdad! It is the job of the mamas to worry and I guess it is the job of the husbands to think they have to worry about us!"

Rita finished her lunch. "You feel like any dessert? We were so good about eating a healthy lunch, you feel like blowing it and getting something decadent?"

Maria looked over the dessert menu. "I guess we can afford to splurge a little. Humm....what looks good..."

"I think I want a piece of cheesecake with raspberries on top," said Rita.

"That sounds very good, I think Ill have the same," Maria replied.

The ladies ordered their dessert and talked some more about the birthday trip. It was agreed that Rita would pick up Pie while Freddie slept in and bring him to Marias house. Then she would go home and get Freddie and meet the Pruetzels at Disneyland. Rita would have to figure out some subterfuge to keep Freddie in the dark until just the right moment.


Chapter 4

Rita woke up around 5:30 a.m. on the morning of the twenty-second of June. She was too excited about Freddies birthday surprise to really go back to sleep. She gazed at her loving husband asleep next to her and decided to get up and start getting ready for the day. She hoped Freddie would sleep in while she went to get Pie and bring him to her mother-in-laws house. She left a note for him that she needed to run to the store to pick up a few things, then blew a kiss in the direction of his sleeping form so as not to risk waking him up and left the house.

The drive to Kathys was a bit nerve-wracking. Rita had not spoken with Kathy again to confirm the outing, so she hoped Kathy would still be in an agreeable mood about letting her have Pie for the day. But she and the baby were waiting for Rita when she arrived. Freddie had given Kathy the house they shared in the divorce settlement. It was a pretty house and she knew Kathy and Pie were happy living there. Yet, Rita could sense Kathy wished Freddie was there too.

Thanking Kathy again, she buckled Pie in the car seat Freddie and Rita bought for the times Pie would visit them. Making doubly sure he was strapped in tight, she drove to the Pruetzels house. Leaving the boy, the car seat and all of his belongings with his abuela, Rita next stopped at the store for some groceries and a paper. When she arrived back at the beach house, Freddie was just coming from the bathroom. He looked at Rita through bleary eyes and said, "Boy, youre up early today!"

"Happy Birthday, lover!" Rita answered back. She kissed Freddie deeply.

"MMmm, mami! How about giving me my present now, huh?" He eyed her lecherously. "You dont even have to put it in fancy paper, Ill just unwrap the paper it is in now!" Rita scowled. She had opted for jeans and a T-shirt to run her errands in, and knew she didnt look her best.

Freddie started to lift her T-shirt. Rita planted another kiss on his lips and said, "Oh, Freddie, I would love to give you your present now, but I have some other things waiting and they are almost as important." She felt herself almost give into the loving ministrations of her husband. She never really could resist him. But she thought of Maria, Karl and Pie heading for Disneyland and said, "I promise these other things will be worth it too. Please, lets get you dressed and we can go out for a while. Then tonight you can have your main present."

Freddie pouted his sweet pout but secretly wondered what Rita had in store for his birthday. Acting like a little boy, he raced into the bathroom and started his shower. "Ooo, bebe, I cant wait till I see what you and Ma have cooked up for my birthday," he shouted out to her from the bathroom as she laid his clothes out for the day. Normally Freddie picked out his own clothes, but Rita bought him some new things to wear for his birthday outing. Laying a lime green chambray shirt and nice pair of black jeans across the bed, she next opened a package of silk bikini briefs, in different sexy colors. She figured he could pick out which color he wanted to wear. Finishing the ensemble with grey socks and his favorite brown loafers, Rita put a bow in her hair and waited for Freddie to exit the bathroom.

Freddie entered the room with a towel around his waist. Seeing the clothing so neatly laid out on the bed, he exclaimed, "Para mi?" Rita nodded her head. "And I suppose that bow on your head means youre part of my presents too?" Rita smiled broadly. "Well, mami, dont tempt me anymore to want to open that package now. I think you need me to be dressed and ready for what ever surprises you have in store for me, am I right?"

Taking the bow from her head and lovingly laying it on her dresser she said, "Oh Freddie you are so right. Hurry up and get dressed so I can take you to meet your folks. We need to kick this birthday in high gear."

"YOU GOT IT, bebe!" Freddie said, and Rita left him to get dressed. She went into the bathroom and changed into her special outfit. It was a similar one to Freddies, except the pants were stretch knit and the shirt generously cut, owing to her "condition". Looking in the mirror, she could not believe how big she was getting in only 6 weeks time. She was looking down at her blossoming belly when Freddie came up behind her and put his arms around her. Looking at the two of them in the mirror, he said, "Looooking Goood, Dulcinea mia."

Rita turned around and said, "you dont think I am getting too fat too soon, do you?"

Freddie leaned into Rita and gave her a long, passionate kiss. He lingered with his tongue in her mouth for a long time. Breaking this kiss very slowly, he whispered in her ear. "No matter what this baby does to your body, I will always think you are sexy. Te amo, amante mia."

"Te amo tambien, mi amor," Rita replied, and they kissed again.

After this kiss, Freddie looked at the two of them again in the mirror. "No one will think we are together, now, will they?" He let out a huge laugh.

"Nah!" Rita laughed along with him.

"I really do love these shirts. They are so soft." To prove his point, Freddie put his head on Ritas chest and rubbed his cheek on her shirt.

"Mmmm...as wonderful as that feels, bebe, wed better get going. Your Ma is waiting for us."

Freddie looked up at Rita, and instead of being disappointed that Rita wasnt going to continue what he started, he said excitedly, "Where?"

"Thats for me to know and you to find out!" Rita grabbed Freddie by the hand and led him out to her car. She took from her purse a silk scarf that Freddie had given her for her birthday and started to roll it into a blindfold. Freddie looked suspiciously at her. "I cant drive blindfolded!"

"Youre not driving, I am, and this is a surprise, so just go along with it, OK?"
Freddie realized Rita was going to get her own way anyway, so he didnt argue. He allowed Rita to tie the scarf tightly around his eyes. "I sure hope no one sees me in this thing. I look ridiculous!"

"How do you know how you look, you cant see, can you?"

Freddie decided to tease Rita a bit. "Nope, blind as a bat. Hummm...I always wanted to experience what it is like to be blind, and have to find everything out by touch. Come her, mami, I want to practice my Braille!" He reached out to Rita to feel how she "looked" with his hands. Rita took his hands from the front of her shirt and lifted them to her face. "This is all the practice you are going to get for now, lover." Helping him into the car, she went around to the drivers side and got in. Starting the engine, she looked at Freddie. "Promise me you wont peek, OK?"

Freddies lip went into a pout. "I promise. I just hope we arent going too far. This blindfold is not very comfortable."

"It wont be, I promise." Putting the car in gear, she backed out onto the highway and sped off in the direction of Anaheim.

Rita drove to the entrance of Disneyland. Freddie complained about being led blindfolded to wherever they were going, but Rita insisted and reassured him it was only for a moment longer. When they got to the ticket booth, where the Pruetzels and Pie were waiting for them, Rita removed the blindfold. Freddie blinked his eyes a few times before he regained his full vision. The rest of them yelled "Surprise!" as Freddies eyesight became normal again. As he looked at the Disneyland sign and at his son standing next to his mother and father, tears welled up in Freddies eyes, blurring them once again. Rita saw Freddie starting to cry and put her arm around him. "Whats the matter, bebe? I thought you would be happy. I thought you would love this."

"Oh, dulcinea mia, it is wonderful! I am so happy! Dont mind me." He wiped the tears from his eyes. "Ask ma, shell tell you. I just get all emotional when I am happy." Picking up his son he kissed him and said, "Hi, Pie mijo! I am so glad you are here for your daddys birthday."

Surprising both Rita and Freddie, Freddie Jr. answered his dad in a slow, rehearsed speech. "Happy birfday daddy." Freddie hugged him tighter and kissed him on the cheek. "Who taught you that?"

Freddie Jr. pointed to his grandmother. "Nona."

Shifting Freddie Jr. to his hip, he put his arm around Maria and kissed her cheek. "Thanks, Ma."

"Well, are we going to just stand here, or are we going in and having ourselves a fun birthday celebration?" Karl asked with a chuckle in his voice.

"Im with Pa," Freddie said. "Who wants to go ride some rides?" They all raised their hands and got in line for the tickets to enter the park.

Once they were through he gate, Freddie couldnt decide what to do first. Rita suggested that they sit down a second and check the park map to get their bearings and chart a plan of action. Freddie seemed too inpatient for a planning session. He stood hopping up and down as Rita sat and read the map.

"Look, I know you dont like it when I get all logical with you, but this is a big place. Why dont we start with some rides Pie would enjoy. Lets go over to Fantasyland and try out some of the kiddy rids."

"Sounds good to me," Freddie said impatiently. While they were conferring over the map, Maria and Karl went to rent a stroller for Freddie Jr. Freddie insisted they didnt need one since he could carry his son around, but his mother knew that after a while that would get old and they would appreciate having the stroller. She told him it was for all the stuff they would be getting, so as not to insult her son.

Freddie and his son took off in the direction of Fantasyland full throttle. Rita and the Pruetzels walked at a more leisurely pace. Rita was a little worried about Freddies exuberance, but Mama Pruetzel reassured her.

"Let him go on ahead, mija. They will probably have to wait in lines anyway. Dont worry, he can take care of himself and his son."

"I know, Mama, its just that I wish I could keep up with him. He wears me out sometimes."

"It is because of the baby. I remember when I was pregnant with Freddie. He was wearing me out even before he was born, and he hasnt stopped since!" Maria gave Rita a big smile and a wink. "You just take good care of yourself and mi nieto, verdad?

"Si, Mama, I will. Im glad you and Papa Karl came with us. At least I have someone to walk and talk with!" Rita smiled back at her. They finally spotted Freddie and Jr. in the line to get on the flying Dumbos. Rita and Maria waved to them.

"Bumbo, Bumbo...." Freddie Jr. kept repeating as he pointed up at the ride.

"Yes, sweetie, its Dumbo," said Rita to her stepson. "Daddy is going to take you on Dumbo, Pie."

The guys finally made it to the front of the line. The person helping load passengers in the cars strapped Freddie in tight, with his son on his lap since Jr. was still a bit small for this ride. Soon they were high in the air, flying with Dumbo. Rita, Maria, and Karl waved every time their car passed by. Rita smiled at Maria when she saw how much fun Freddie and Pie were having. She gave her mother-in-law a little hug. "Thank you for helping me with this today. Freddie really seems to be enjoying this."

"My son never has grown up! Look at how much fun he is having with mi nieto! De nada about the help, it was our pleasure, mija."

After the ride, Freddie insisted that Rita join them on the next several kiddy rides in Fantasyland. Then they went to the Small World and all five of them rode the boat ride through it. They ended up singing the song a few hundred times throughout the day, especially Pie, who had picked it up even at his young age. Freddie bragged on the intelligence of his son!

It was getting close to lunch time and the group decided on a restaurant in Adventureland that had a floor show as a part of the experience. Everyone enjoyed the show and their lunch. Rita had packed food more suitable for Pie to eat, but Freddie insisted on feeding Pie some of his french fries anyway. Rita scolded him about making the baby sick, but Freddie said he was raised on them and Pie would be fine. Rita let it go.

After lunch they took a stroll through the Swiss Family Robinson Tree house.

"Mmmm, Dulcinea mia, wouldnt you love to live in a house like this?" Freddie said as he hugged his wife.

"Maybe, for a little while, but I would miss our beach house."

"You are right, I would too." Freddie kissed Rita, not caring that there was a crowd of people around. Someone spotted Freddie as the TV star and started to take their picture. Freddie saw the flash go off and decided he needed to wait for later to continue his affections with Rita. He didnt want his birthday outing or his new marriage on the front page of every tabloid paper. "Lets go on the Pirates of the Caribbean next. It is dark in there and we can avoid some of these crowds."

"Sounds good," said Rita. She knew how Freddie hated for his private life to be made public and she didnt care for it either, but she also knew this was part of the territory when she married a big star. She had been surprised there hadnt been more fans around today, but she guessed when people saw that he was with his family, they decided to leave him alone. She had spotted some people stopping and pointing at different times during the day, but no one had approached them until now--the picture-taking was the first intrusion. Rita could sense Freddie wasnt very happy about it, but he would not say anything to the person. He also knew the price of fame.

The Pruetzels took Freddie Jr. with them in their boat and Freddie and Rita had a boat to themselves. Freddie snuggled up to Rita and started to kiss her neck as soon as they were in the dark.

"Mmmm, Freddie, that feels good." Rita whispered in Freddies ear.

"I know something else that feels good." Freddie put his hand between her legs.

"Ooo, stop, we are in a public place!" Rita chided him good-humoredly.

"No one can see me, just a little rub, por favor?" Freddie whispered back.

"OK, if you really think no one can see."

Rita let Freddie continue to caress her over her clothes. She couldnt help but reach down and feel that he, too was getting excited by all of this petting.

"Mmmm, mami, that feels good," he said as he reacted to her rubbing him. Then he kissed her passionately. Finally he reached for her hands and took them him his large ones. "Enough for now. I will need to get out of this boat at the end of the ride and I dont want it being advertised what we were doing!" Freddie laughed in a whisper and winked.

Rita giggled. "Yes, I bet that would be a bit embarrassing, especially in front of your folks!" They behaved themselves on the rest of the ride.

Rita blinked her eyes when they were out in the open again. "Ooo you forget how bright the sun is when you are in the dark for a while!" The look on Freddies face as he nodded told her he wasnt thinking just about exiting the ride, but he put a big smile on as they caught up with the Pruetzels.

"How did you enjoy that, Pie," asked Freddie. He picked up his son and noticed he was rubbing his eyes. "Looks like someone is ready for his nap."

"Look, mijo, your papa and I will take him and let him sleep. We want to catch a few shows and that just might be the thing to put him to sleep, sitting in the dark some more. Why dont you and Rita strike out on your own for a while until dinner. We will meet you at the castle at 5 for your birthday dinner, OK?"

"Thanks, Ma," Freddie kissed his mother on the cheek. "Are you sure you dont mind?"

"No, it will be a pleasure to baby-sit mi nieto for a while. Vamanos, and have a good time, you two."

Freddie didnt wait to grab Ritas hand and head out for Frontierland. Rita looked back at Maria and Karl and yelled, "Gracias!" to them as Freddie practically dragged her away.

The first place Freddie wanted to go was the Matterhorn. Rita was a bit concerned, because she was pregnant, but decided to risk it because she saw how much Freddie wanted to go on it with her. He would never have gone alone and no one else in their group would have gone on with him. She did enjoy clinging to him as they screamed together on the downhills.

When they got off, Freddie suggested walking around a bit to get their heads back on straight after such a dizzying experience. They looked through some souvenir shops and decided to wait till near the end of the day to buy things, so they wouldnt have to carry anything with them just yet.

As they passed the Haunted Mansion, Rita looked at Freddie and asked him if they could go in this ride. Rita loved haunted house rides and thought about the possibility of a little more petting, remembering the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. As they waited in line, they held hands and sneaked small kisses. Freddie was grateful that the line wasnt too long. His birthday fell on a weekday that year and the park wasnt too crowded.

It was finally their turn and they entered the house with a small crowd of people. After going down in a rapidly descending elevator that had them somewhat disoriented, they boarded two-person cars to go through the mansion. It was a fun ride, full of surprises, and not only from the ghosts. Freddie made sure Rita got a few thrills from him as well, kissing her and reaching under her shirt at one point to caress her breasts. She again reached down to caress him and knew tonight would be a great culmination of todays festivities.

As on the other ride, they straightened themselves up before it was over so people wouldnt have a clue what they had been doing. After enjoying several more rides--slow ones because Rita was beginning to tire--they headed hand in hand over to the castle for dinner.

Maria and Karl were waiting at the entrance with Freddie Jr. in the stroller. Freddie and Rita went up to them and Freddie gave his mother a big hug.

"How was your afternoon?"

"Wonderful, thanks Ma. How was Pie?"

"As good as gold. He slept through several shows," Maria said, then turned to Karl. "You think maybe about 2 hours?"

"Yes it was about that," answered Karl. He went up to the maitred and asked for a table for 5 with a high chair. When the matred asked what name, Karl said "Pruetzel." He turned to Freddie and said, "I dont want any trouble with fans. I thought it was better to put the reservation in my name."

"Smart thinking, Pop."

"They said it would be about 20 minutes. Lets wait outside--it is getting stuffy in here," said Karl.

They all went outside to sit on the benches on the castle grounds. Rita started to yawn as she leaned on Freddie.

"Is mi amor all worn out already?"

Rita smiled. "No sweetie, but I was just thinking how I wish I had been Pie and gotten to take a nap today." Freddie kissed her lightly on the lips.

"You just rest your pretty head on tu Freddies shoulder and close your eyes and take that nap while we wait. Ill wake you when we are called in."

Rita didnt argue with him. She really doubted she could sleep, but the rest was appealing to her. Before she knew it she was being awakened by Freddie.

"Dulcinea mia, time to wake up and eat now."

Rita rubbed the sleep from her eyes and stretched. "Did I fall asleep?"

Freddie laughed out loud. "You were snoring and everything!"

Rita playfully hit him on the arm as she stood up. "I wasnt snoring!"

"Oooo, yes you were. Just like a chainsaw!"

Freddie cringed, preparing for another hit from Rita, but she let it go as she picked up Pie and took him into the restaurant with the rest of the family. They were seated at a table overlooking the castle grounds. Rita got Pie settled in the high chair and then took the waiter aside. Whispering to him, she told him that it was Freddies birthday and she wanted a cake for him at the end of the meal. Freddie saw what was going on and waved to the waiter.

"What are you doing over there with my wife?"

Rita made a face at Freddie and sat down next to him. Putting her hand on his leg she said, "Never you mind." She kissed him and reassured him it was OK.

They ordered dinner and Rita was even able to get Jr. some finger foods that she knew he could eat. Karl raised his glass of wine and made a toast.

"Son, I hope you are having a great birthday and may you be blessed with many more. Success to you and to Rita and her new baby! As your papa is so fond of saying, Rita, Salute!"

"Salute!" repeated everyone and they took a sip of wine. Rita smiled at Freddie and kissed him. "Are you having a good birthday, mi amor?"

"The best! Gracias, amante mia," and he returned her kiss.

"If the newlyweds are finished making a public scene, Id like to say something," said Maria.

Freddie hung his head and looked up at his mother through his thick lashes with sad-puppy eyes. "Sorry, Ma. Go ahead."

Maria looked lovingly at her son and daughter-in-law. "I just wanted to say this is the most fun I have had in a while. I hope we can do more things together as a family soon. Freddie, I know you work too hard--you have a family that needs your love as well as your money. Dont ever forget that."

"I know Ma. I had to learn that lesson the hard way, but I assure you I will never forget it!"

"Good. And I also wanted to say that I am very happy that Rita is a part of our family and I also want to wish her success with our new little nieto! Saludo!" She raised her glass and the rest did the same. After drinking another sip, Freddie put his glass down and put his hand on Ritas stomach. "I hope today wasnt too much excitement for mi nino?"

"I am sure NUESTRO nino is just fine!" Rita smirked at Freddie and wrinkled her nose at him.

"You are so cute when you do that!"

"Do what?"

"Wrinkle your nose at me when you correct me."

Rita did it again. "You mean that?"

"Absolutely!" said Freddie in his thickest Puerto Rican accent. Then he kissed her again.

The dinner came and was enjoyed by all. The family talked of plans for other get-together they could have until Freddie and Rita would have to leave for Cancun at the end of the month. Freddie invited his parents to come stay at the beach house with them that weekend and enjoy the ocean. They agreed and Rita thought she would be happy to be spending more time with Maria before her trip to Mexico.

After the dinner plates were cleared by the waiters, Freddie stretched and looked at Rita as if he was ready to leave.

"Oh, mi amor, we arent leaving yet!"


At this point one of the waiters came in with a small birthday cake with 23 candles on it. Everyone in the place sang "Happy Birthday" to Freddie. He made a wish and blew out the candles. When the cake was cut and served, Freddie reached over to Ritas ear and whispered, "You want to know what I wished for?"

Rita responded, "That will spoil the wish, but I think I know already. You wished this day would never end, verdad?"

Freddie looked longingly at Rita. "No, not really. I still want to enjoy my last present later. No, I wished for a great life and a beautiful baby who looks just like you, dulcinea mia."

Rita blushed. She leaned over and gave Freddie a big hug. She whispered in his ear, "Feliz cumpleanos, amante mio."

"Muchas gracias, dulcinea mia. This has been the best birthday ever!"

After dinner, the family strolled around and shopped for gifts for one another. The park was getting ready to close when they decided to call it a day. Freddie and Rita kissed Maria and Karl goodbye and took Pie to Ritas car.

On the way to Kathys house, Freddie fiddled with the radio. Rita sensed he was a bit uptight.

"Whats the matter?

"Nothing, its just...seeing her makes me nervous. I always feel bad about the way I treated her. I know it was the drugs and she didnt help things by splitting, but it was ultimately my fault."

Rita slowed for a red light. She took the opportunity to put her hand on his leg and said, "I know, sweetheart, but what is in the past is past. She is learning to adjust and you have to, too."

"I know," Freddie sighed. "But it still isnt easy."

"It probably will never be easy. Unfortunately that is life. But I am here for you, bebe."

Freddie smiled and took her hand and squeezed it. "I know you are, mami, and I appreciate that, really I do."

The light turned green and Freddie let go of Ritas hand. At Freddies former home, they got out and took Pie and his belongings up to the door. Kathy answered it and asked Rita how he was. Rita told her that Pie seemed to have a good time. He was asleep in Freddies arms so Freddie asked to put him down in his crib so he wouldnt wake up. Kathy waved them into her home and as Freddie went upstairs to put Pie down for the night, Rita took the opportunity to thank Kathy again for letting them have him for the day.

"Did Freddie have a good birthday?" Kathy asked Rita.

"Yes and having his son with him made the day even more special to him."

"He sure loves that little guy," remarked Kathy.

Rita sighed. "Yes he does. Kathy, I..."

Kathy raised her hand and said. "Dont! I know what you are going to say and I wish things were different too, but they arent so we just have to learn to live with things the way they are. I dont want to hold anything against the two of you. I could resent the fact that you seemed to bust up our marriage, but who am I kidding? That was busted before you came along." She hung her head.

"Look, I know you still care for Freddie very much. I cant fault you for that. I just wish I could do something to make it easier."

Kathy shrugged. "There isnt anything to do. Freddie has made his decision, and we just have to live with that and move on. I am glad he has found happiness with you. All I ever wanted was for Freddie to be happy. I just wished I was strong enough to get him through what you did. I really think after that ordeal, you deserve his love more than I do, anyway."

Rita couldnt think of anything to say to that, so she put her arms out tentatively to give Kathy a hug. Kathy responded and the two women embraced. They were still in this posture when Freddie entered the living room.

"Well this is interesting."

The two women quickly broke from the hug and straightened themselves up.

Sensing the awkwardness of the moment, Freddie said, "Well Pie is asleep. We wore him out pretty good today, so I guess he should sleep tonight. Muchas gracias for letting him come with us today."

"De nada, Freddie. Lets just say it was my little present to you for your birthday."

Freddie looked down at his feet awkwardly. Kathy took his hand and squeezed it. "Happy Birthday, Freddie."

"Thanks." Then Freddie looked at Rita and Rita gave him a slight nod, as if they could read each others mind at that moment. Freddie took Kathy gently in his arms and gave her a small kiss on the lips. "I want you to know I am sorry about us."

With tears glistening in her eyes, Kathy whispered, "I know, and I am sorry too. But you have another family now. Shes a good woman, so youd better not mess with her, OK!" Kathy smiled at Freddie.

"Yes, maam. Ill call you about when we can get Pie again."

"OK," Kathy said and escorted them to the door. "Night, now."

"Good night, and thanks again," Rita said.

The Prinzes drove home in silence. Rita didnt know what to say, really, about Freddie seeing her hugging Kathy or letting him kiss her like that. She only thought that somehow a reconciliation was taking place and Rita was glad for it. For Pies sake, she wished Freddie and Kathy would at least be friends. Now it looked like it might just happen.

Back at the beach house, Rita shut off the engine and Freddie went around to her door and helped her out of the car. Walking hand in hand, they went straight to the bedroom. Rita sat down on the edge of the bed and sighed.

"Are you too tired, mi amor, to give me my last present?" Freddie asked, concerned.

"No, not really, but I guess today was a bit ambitious. I havent had that much activity in a long time."

"Well if you just want to cuddle and rest for tonight, I am sure I can get a rain check on that present in the morning." Freddie had removed his shirt and shoes and sat down next to Rita on the bed. "Honestly I am a bit tired myself."

Rita put her arms around her husband. "I love you so much." And she hugged him hard. Freddie hugged her back but sensed something was wrong. Letting her go from the embrace, he looked her in the eyes and saw she was crying. "Oh, mi amor, what is it?"

"Nothing, just some female foolishness. I guess that little scene with Kathy made me realize how special you are to me, is all."

"And you are vida mia, dulcinea mia!" Freddie kissed her deeply. Rita responded by running her hands through his hair. He continued the kiss as he started to caress her like he had on the rides today. Before either of them realized what was happening, Rita had given Freddie his last present of the day. In the afterglow of their lovemaking, Rita kissed Freddie one last time and said, "Feliz cumpleanos, mi amor. Te amo."

"Te amo muchisimo, dulcinea mia. Muchas gracias, por todo." And they fell asleep in each others arms.

Chapter 5

Rita laid against Freddie and tried to fight the nausea that would come over her every time the plane hit an area of turbulence. It was new and had every convenience, except the one she wanted most at that moment--to be on the ground. Thankful that the seating was just like being on a couch at home, she rested on Freddies shoulder while she thought about the excitement of the trip to get her mind off of the queasy feeling in her stomach. Her in-laws had visited them the weekend before, and Maria had taken Rita out shopping for new clothes for the trip. Mama Pruetzel commented often about how fashionable maternity clothes had gotten since she had been pregnant with Freddie. Rita bought many pretty outfits, several of which would be appropriate for the heat of Mexico in the summer. Freddie had told her that the trailer they would be calling home would be air conditioned, but Rita knew she would want to be outside watching the filming. As she thought about getting bigger with the pregnancy, she still wondered if Freddie would think she was sexy. She tried to pick out clothes that would accentuate her best features--such as her blooming cleavage and still-slim legs--but still she worried. When she expressed this concern to Maria, her mother-in-law just said it was her hormones talking.

Shifting slightly to relieve the pressure on her leg caused by leaning to one side, Rita looked up at her husband. Freddie was sleeping soundly. She felt a twinge of jealousy about the fact that he seemed to be able to sleep anywhere and through anything. She planted a small kiss on his chin as she settled herself back down. Freddie moved his arm around her tighter and kissed her forehead.

"Im sorry, I thought you were asleep," Rita said.

"I was, but what a pleasant way to wake up," Freddie replied with a yawn. He looked at her pale complexion and added, "Are you OK, dulcinea mia?"

Rita tried to hide her discomfort. "Yes, just fine. You know how much I hate flying, is all. Ill be 100% when we land."

"At least this is not a commercial flight. You can stretch out here. I am glad the studio agreed to fly us down on one of their private jets. The big airlines are OK, but I knew going from Mexico City to Cancun we would have to take one of those small prop planes, and you would not be able to handle that."

"Gracias, amante mio. You know me too well. It was nice of the studio to do this for us, and provide the trailer. I suppose they prefer putting everyone up at the local hotels."

"Maybe, but I wanted my privacy with you." Freddie reached down and rubbed her belly. "You know, we wont have too much more time alone, just the two of us, before the baby gets here. So I wanted to take advantage of this time together. And we never did get to have a proper honeymoon, so this will be our honeymoon cottage away from home too."

"Ooooh, I cant wait. I just hope the filming wont have you worn out every night." Rita gave Freddie a sensual, come-hither smile.

"Ooooh mami, you know I will always have plenty of energy for you!" As if to make his point more clear, he reached down and kissed Rita deeply.

"Mmmm," said Rita when they both came up for air. "I know this will be a great vacation. I love you so much, Freddie Prinze."

"And I love you, Rita Prinze. You are vida mia." Freddie held her tightly and they kissed each other over and over. Rita was beginning to think he might start something, but just then the flight attendant entered the cabin and cleared her throat to get their attention.

"Im sorry to interrupt, Mr. Prinze, but the pilot wanted me to let you know we are getting ready to land. You will have to fasten your seat belts now."

"No problen," Freddie told her. To Rita he whispered. "Hold onto that thought. We will get back to that later," and he winked at her. Rita smiled and blushed a little as the attendant smiled and turned to leave.

When they landed at the small airport in Cancun, a limo was waiting for them. Luckily it was air conditioned. The short walk from the airport to the limo was enough to make Rita pass out with the heat. When the car stopped at one of the local hotels, Freddie asked the driver, "¿Por qué nosotros estamos aquí? Somos supuestos tener un remolque en los exteriores de película." ["Why we are here? We are supposed to have a trailer at the movie location."]The driver answered, "Señor, su remolque no está listo. La compañía de película ha abastido una habitación aqui para usted y su esposa." ["Sir, the trailer is not ready. The movie company has provided a room here for you and your wife."]Rita pulled on Freddies sleeve and asked, "What is going on? Mi español is not that good!"

Freddie tried not to look as angry as he was feeling over this revelation. "Its ok, sweetheart. It seems the trailer is not ready and we will have to stay at this hotel until it is. I am sure it is the best in Cancun, if the movie company is paying for it. They know how disappointed we will be. I just wish they would have told us before we got here. I hate these kinds of surprises."

Rita tried to appease her husband. She knew Freddie well enough to know he hated to be inconvenienced. "Oooh, this place looks lovely. I am sure we will have a great time together here. There is plenty of time for me to set up housekeeping later. Lets enjoy this as a vacation until our home away from home is ready."

Freddie looked hard at Rita. "I hope you are not planning to do housework in the trailer. This whole trip is our vacation. You are not to lift one finger. I didnt have the movie company provide a trailer so you could work." His voice started to rise in anger.

Rita made a shhhh noise and said in a subdued voice, "I know that. Dont get upset about this, is all I meant. And keep your voice down. We dont need to provide entertainment for the driver."

Freddie glowered at Rita. "He doesnt understand us. And I will get mad if I need to, Rita Prinze. I dont want you working. I want a healthy baby and a healthy mother, ¿entiende?"

"Yes, I understand, Freddie." Rita continued more firmly, "Look, lets settle this when we are inside. I dont know what the driver does and doesnt understand, but it is obvious that we are having an argument anyway."

Freddies eyes lowered. He continued in a more penitent tone, "Look Rita, I am not angry with you and we are not having a fight. I guess I just love you too much to have you wait on me in your condition."

Rita gently kissed Freddie on the lips. "I know, bebe. And I appreciate your concern for me. I promise I will not do anything strenuous. Ill be OK. Just as long as I dont have to go up in any more airplanes, I will be just fine." She smiled at Freddie and a big grin broke out on his face.

"Mami linda, I could never be or stay mad at you, especially when you smile at me like that. Lets go inside and kick our honeymoon into gear. This does look like a nice hotel. I am sure it will be just fine for a few days, till the filming starts. Then I want you close by in case anything happens to you."

"I will be--and nothing will happen."

They got out of the car and registered at the desk. When they arrived at their suite, Freddie picked up Rita and carried her over the threshold. Placing her gently on the bed, he tipped the bellhop who had carried their bags into the room. When they were alone, Rita remarked, "Freddie, that was sweet, but you shouldnt have risked hurting yourself. I am as big as a house and I could have thrown your back out."

"Tu eres ligera como una pluma, vida mia." ["You are light as a feather."] He joined her on the bed.

"I doubt that... unless it is the plumage of the ostrich. I must weigh a ton by now."

"Shhh, no more talk about your weight. It is all mi bebé anyway. And that makes you the most beautiful woman in the world to me! So stop talking and lets get to more serious matters!" Freddie winked lecherously at Rita.

"YOU GOT IT," Rita said, mimicking Chico. All the earlier tensions evaporated as hey spent the afternoon making love.

That evening, Freddie and Rita dressed for dinner. Rita spent a long time trying to decide which of her new outfits to wear for their first night in Cancun. As she pondered, she got her first good look around the suite. It was obviously the best the hotel had to offer. She loved the Mexican decor and felt like she was at home in the beach house. She finally settled on a rose colored broomstick skirt and white sleeveless knit top that had lace around the scooped neckline. The skirt was full enough to give her expanding belly the room it needed and her blossoming bust line filled out the top nicely.

As Rita looked at herself in the mirror, Freddie came up from behind her and put his arms around her waist. Breathing into her ear, he said, "Mmmm mami, I think I want my dessert now! You look good enough to eat!"

Rita turned to face him and smiled, "Down wolf! Didnt you get enough of that before?"

"You can never get enough of THAT!" He laughed a long sonorous laugh.

"Maybe, but I have another appetite that needs satisfying at the present moment. In fact, two to be precise. WE are starving, dad, so how about something to eat?"

Freddie kissed Rita. "Two dinners, coming right up! Lets check out the restaurant across the street. It looked very quaint as we passed it coming into this hotel."

"Sounds great. I could eat a horse."

"Shh, dont say that too loud around here, maybe they would serve you one."

Rita looked horrified, "You dont mean that, do you?"

Freddie shook his head vigorously, wishing he hadnt made that last remark. "Oh, no, I was kidding. They dont eat horses here, I am sure. Sorry my humor got out of hand."

"You would think after living with you for the past 9 months I would have gotten used to your humor by now. I didnt mean to imply....."

Freddie kissed her again and took her hand to leave. "Forget it. Lets go out and enjoy ourselves. When the filming starts, we might not have too many nights out for a while."

"Truth," replied Rita, and the topic was dropped and forgotten.

At the restaurant, Freddie asked for a booth near the back, away from the gathering crowd of tourists. The last thing he wanted was to be mobbed by fans. The waiter showed them to a nice booth in a dark corner and took their drink orders as Freddie and Rita perused the menu. When he left, Rita whispered to Freddie, "This is nice and romantic, but I have one problem."


"Exactly.... this menu is all in español. I can understand some of it, but I will need help."

Freddie smiled. "Rita, you have made great progress with your Spanish. Dont worry. I bet this trip will be just the thing to help you improve. You learn a language much faster if you are immersed in it. I will explain to the waiter that you need the practice and then I want you to try to converse with him en español, ¿comprende?"

"Wont he think its odd?"

"I doubt it. This place looks like it caters to American tourists, so I am sure he hears bad Spanish all the time." Freddie realized too late what he just implied and quickly added, "Not that your Spanish is bad, mi amor. I think he is used to beginners, is what I meant."

Rita started to look angry and then smiled as she watched Freddie squirm over his faux pas. "Ok, so long as the two of you dont laugh at me when I mess up. Maybe I need to tell you what I want first so you can correct me. I dont want to wind up with something for dinner that I didnt want, like horse or something," she said, referring back to his joke from earlier.

Freddie laughed, glad that Rita wasnt mad about his earlier joke. "I promise I wont let your order something weird. Actually this menu has pretty standard Mexican fare."

Rita studied the menu. She recognized most of the food selections, but a few stumped her. She asked Freddie to explain these. Even after knowing what was being offered, she had a hard time making up her mind. "I think there are too many choices, Freddie. I dont know what I want."

"Feel adventurous?"


"Well I was just thinking that we should try a local dish, one we havent had before."

"That sounds good. I am always up for trying new things, so long as it isnt too weird."

"Well I dont know what you think is weird. You eat calamari all the time. Nothing is weirder than squid in my book." Freddie grimaced.

Rita gave him a playful kick under the table. "You like it too, now that you tried it."


"Well then, O gourmet of the barrio, what do you suggest?"

"Hummm, why dont we try las tortillas fritas con mariscos y especias de Cancun?"

"What is that?"

"The seafood in fried tortillas with the special Cancun spices."

"That sounds good. Im game. Now were you serious about having me order in Spanish?"

"Absolutely," said Freddie in his thickest accent. "Let me help you practice...."

"No I want to try it without you. Just show me where it is on the menu. One thing I have learned is that Spanish is mostly pronounced phonetically. I guess I should admire your people for learning English. It is a much harder language to learn."

"Verdad," answered Freddie. "OK, go ahead. Here is the item on the menu," and he pointed it out to her. She took several minutes practicing the pronunciation, whispering it to herself so Freddie would not hear her. He shook his head and smiled as he watched her with love in his eyes. It was wonderful, he thought, how she wanted to be so much a part of his life as to want to learn his native language. Even though he was American, he still considered Spanish his native tongue.

When the waiter came back to the table, Freddie pointed to Rita and said to the waiter, "Mi esposa ordenará para nosotros esta noche. Ella quiere practicar su español. La muestre paciencia, por favor." ["My wife will order for us tonight. She wants to practice her Spanish. Show her patience, please "] Then he nodded to Rita and the waiter smiled at her.

Rita took a deep breath. She started slowly, "Quiero el..." ["I want the ..."]Freddie pointed to himself and her and said, "Remember the plural."

"Oh, yeah, sorry." Turning to the waiter she corrected herself. "Queremos los tortillas fritas con mariscos y especias de Cancun." She pointed to the menu to make sure the waiter understood her selection. He smiled and said, "¿Para ustedes dos?" ["For both of you?"]Rita thought a moment and then smiled, "Si, dos." She pointed at Freddie and then herself. Then she added, "Quiero más para beber también, por favor." ["I want more to drink also, please."] She looked at Freddie for confirmation of her last request.

"You want more to drink?"

"Si," Rita smiled at Freddie trying to continuing her practice.

"You said it correctly." Turning to the waiter he added, " Para mí también, por favor." ["For me too, please"]"Sí, señor y señora, inmediatamente." ["yes, sir and madam, immediately."] He finished writing down their order and left. He came back with two pitchers--one of iced tea for Rita and one of the beer Freddie had ordered, leaving them on the table after he had filled their glasses. When he left, Freddie said, "You did an outstanding job, dulcinea mia. Soy orgulloso de ti." ["I am proud of you."]"I am proud of me too. I have been practicing at home. Rosa taught me some common phrases before we left, like "I would like" and "drink" and "eat" , things like that. She knew I might need to speak some Spanish, even though you would be with me most of the time."

Freddie and Rita were served their dinner a few minutes later. They ate and chatted about plans for their time together in Mexico. Freddie promised Rita that he would make sure they did enough sight seeing on his days off to make the trip feel like a real vacation. The whole dinner was spent in this sweet anticipation, until the dessert was served and they were accosted by a female fan who appeared from behind the waiter.

"Youre Freddie Prinze, arent you?" the young woman asked boldly.

"Yes I am," he answered, matter-of-factly.

"Oooh, Mr. Prinze, I am such a big fan of yours. Would you mind signing my autograph book?"

"Sure," Freddie sighed, trying hard not to be upset by the intrusion.

Rita just smiled and took it all in, trying not to be upset herself. This was just like hundreds of times before when they had been out. It was a part of the fame she now shared with her husband.

As Freddie took the pen from the fans hand, she said, "My name is Elizabeth, but you can just make it out to Lizzy--L-I-Z-Z-Y. That is what all my friends call me."

"All right, Lizzy," answered Freddie. He wrote something in her book as she started to gush.

"Oooh, my friends back home will never believe this. Imagine traveling all the way to Mexico and seeing a star. And Freddie Prinze to boot. I cant believe it myself!" Freddie handed her the book and she went on even more fawningly, "Oooh, thank you so much! By the way, what are you doing in Mexico?"

Rita thought the question was rather impertinent on Elizabeths part. She looked to be about their age and should have had better manners than that. "Some people," she thought to herself. Freddie seemed to take it all in stride, though, forgetting his initial irritation and settling into the star mode.

"I am here to make a movie actually," Freddie answered her.

"I bet it will be a wonderful movie. I cant wait to see it. What is it called?"

Freddie flashed a sexy smile at Elizabeth. "It is called The Mark of Zorro."

"Mmmm, sounds dreamy. I saw the one with Tyrone Power. Is it a remake?"

"Yes it is, and I loved that old movie too. That is why I was so happy to get this part."

"And I bet you will make a fantastic Zorro, Mr. Prinze."

Freddie turned on all his charm now. "Please, call me Freddie...and I hope I will do the part justice."

"I know you will! Thank you for your autograph and your time. Maybe I will run into you again sometime. I am visiting for a whole month."

"Maybe. Where are you staying? Ill send a pass for the movie location to your hotel and maybe you can come out and watch the filming one day."

Rita started to get a bit uncomfortable. Freddie seemed to be going above and beyond his duty as a star, inviting this girl out to the set. She resisted kicking him under the table and creating a scene, but she knew she would be giving him an earful later.

"Oooh, Mr. Prinze... I mean Freddie...thank you so much. That is very kind. I am staying at the Continental Hotel, just across the street."

"What a coincidence, we are too, for a few days. I will make sure to send it to your room. What is your last name, Elizabeth?"

"Lizzy, please. Lizzy Morgan."

Freddie continued to pour on the charm. "Well Lizzy, enjoy your stay in Mexico." He took her right hand in his and raised it to his lips. "Hasta luego, señorita bonita."

Elizabeth reached down and planted a wet kiss on Freddies cheek. She whispered in his ear, "Hasta luego, Freddie. I love you."

This expression of affection was overheard by Rita, and Freddies blushing was not lost on her. She felt the anger rise up in her throat. The girl looked at Rita, smiled weakly, and fled. Rita looked hard at Freddie, then went back to eating her fried ice cream in an icy silence. Freddie knew she wasnt happy about what had just transpired.

"Are you OK, dulcinea mia?"

"Lets finish our dessert and we will talk about it later, OK?"

"Look, I know it is hard when fans interrupt us...."

Rita gave him another hard look. "That is not it and you know it. I dont want to create a scene here. Lets just finish and go back to the hotel. I am exhausted from all this activity anyway." After downing the last few bites of her dessert very quickly, she practically slammed her spoon down on the plate and rose abruptly out of her seat.

Freddie looked up at her with a sheepish grin. "Whatever you want, sweetheart. If you are feeling bad, it is better we go back. I dont want anything happening to mi futura madre."

Rita knew what that meant--"mother-to-be"--and almost burst out into tears. She felt like such a cow compared to the fan who had just left the table. Deciding that it would be better not to say anything, she headed for the door. Freddie quickly paid the waiter and hurried to Ritas side. Crossing the street in silence and entering the hotel, Freddie had a hard time keeping up with Ritas determined steps, in spite of his legs being so much longer than hers. He began to dread the anger he could tell she was feeling.

In the elevator, there were several other hotel patrons, so Freddie knew he had better remain silent. Once they got into their room, the tears Rita had been holding back washed over her like a flood. She threw herself on the bed and sobbed. Freddie stood over her, shocked at what he was witnessing. He had known she was upset, but this tidal wave of tears took him completely off guard. Not knowing what to do or say, he simply sat on the bed and extended a tentative hand in the direction of Ritas head.

"Shhh, mi amor. I am sorry. What is it and tu Freddie will make it all better."

Rita kept her face hidden in the bed clothes. "Freddie, I know you cant help it, but I wish you wouldnt be so charming to the fans," she said through the sobbing.

Freddie took his hand away. "You know it is all a part of being famous. We have talked about this before."

Rita turned around and looked Freddie in the eye. "I know, but you didnt have to invite her out to the set, did you?"

"Is that what this is about?" asked Freddie in amazement. "I was just being nice to the girl!"

"Oooh, I could see that. You were dripping your Latin charm all over her. Dont you see what you do to women? Youd better be careful--one of these days, one of them might take you up on your charm! But I suppose you would eat that up, wouldnt you?"

Freddie looked at Rita with a puzzled expression on his face. "What are you implying?"

"Only that maybe someday you wont like being married to a fat cow and someone like Elizabeth might be more appealing."

Freddie tried not to get mad at Rita. He had been through one pregancy before, and his mother once told him that pregnant women have some pretty funny hormonal mood swings. "Look, Rita, you are the ONLY woman for me! I love you, more than my own life--which, by the way, you helped to save. So dont ever think that I would want another, comprende?" He took her into his arms and hugged her. "I was probably foolish to let that girl think what she did about me. Lo siento, dulcinea mia. I can never love anyone but you. And you will always be beautiful to me. Now dry your eyes and let me get you ready for bed. It has been a long day and you need your rest."

Rita started to protest and apologize for her outburst. Freddie just said, "Shhhh, bastente!" I will let you get some rest now. Go to sleep. I need to go and talk to the studio manager for a while and find out the arrangements for this week. Ill be back in a little while. Dulce sueña, amante mia." Freddie kissed Rita sweetly on the lips and Rita closed her eyes and went to sleep.

Freddie went into the bathroom and changed from the suit he had worn to dinner into khakis and a polo shirt, then left to find the studio manager. He headed straight for the bar and asked the bartender to have Jim Dalton paged. All of the tension from Ritas reaction to his flirting with a fan had left him feeling like he needed to numb the memory of it. Freddie knew he would never go back to the drugs, but he felt a little alcohol--for medicinal purposes, to calm his nerves--couldnt hurt. He had been sampling the Mexican beer at dinner and now decided to try his hand at some shots of Tequila. This was Mexico, after all! Freddie knew Rita didnt drink and shouldnt in her condition, so he was left to explore this side of Mexican culture by himself--which at the moment was just fine with him. After he had ordered, Jim--a middle-aged man with an engaging smile and a receding hairline--came up and sat down on the bar stool next to Freddies.

"Que pasa, amigo?" Jim asked, with a hearty handshake.

"Jim, glad to see you again," answered Freddie, avoiding the question of what was happening. "Come, join me in a drink. I wanted to talk to you about the filming schedule."

Jim watched the bartender put the bowl of lemons, the shaker of salt and the bottle of Tequila on the bar in front of them. Freddie asked for two shot glasses. Jim saw this and said, "Just one drink for me. Youd better watch that stuff, mi amigo, itll kill you," he laughed, but with a concerned look on his face.

"This?" Freddie asked, holding the bottle of Tequila, ready to pour his first shot. "Nah, this is Mexican holy water," he explained in his Chico accent.

"Well, just watch that you dont get too blessed tonight, OK?" Jim laughed again.

"OK, I was just celebrating. Ill be fine," Freddie laughed with him and poured his first shot. Licking the side of his hand between his thumb and forefinger, he placed some salt on the space. Quickly he downed the shot of Tequila, licked the salt from his hand and sucked on a lemon wedge. After this operation, he shuddered.

"Whoa, that stuff packs a kick."

Jim said, "You aint kiddin. Like I said, go easy. By the way, where is your lovely wife? I was hoping to meet her tonight."

"Rita is upstairs sleeping," answered Freddie shortly, "I think she was still worn out from the flight. She doesnt travel by plane too well. Between that and her being pregnant, I thought she should rest. I promise you will meet her tomorrow."

Jim took a shot of Tequila and Freddie smiled, eagerly changing the subject. "Good stuff, huh, man?"

Jim gave a little choke and sputtered, "Yeah, real good." Gaining his composure he said, "I have the filming schedule with me--I wanted to give you a copy." He handed a manila envelope to Freddie.

"Thanks, man. By the way, when will our trailer be ready?"

Jim started to apologize while Freddie took another shot. "Hey, I am sorry about that. It should be ready the day before shooting starts. That should give you time to move in. I hope you are enjoying the hotel in the meantime."

"We are. It is real nice. I guess I am just getting anxious to get Rita away from the crowds. She doesnt handle the fans very well." Once again wanting to avoid that topic, Freddie took the schedule out of the envelope and perused it.

Jim spoke up. "As you can see, you will only be here two nights. Filming starts on Monday and you can move into the trailer on Sunday. Do you both like the beach?"

"Yes, we live in Malibu and try to swim several times a week." Freddie put some more salt on his hand.

"Well, why dont you take her to this beach." Jim took out the map included in the envelope and pointed to an area of the coast about 20 miles from Cancun. "It is a private beach we hired for the summer, so I doubt you will encounter any tourists on it. I guess it must be rough for your wife to get used to your stardom. Im afraid it wont get any better once this movie comes out. I see HIT written all over this one, amigo."

"Mmmm, I hope so," said Freddie, glad Jim had dropped the subject of Rita and his fame. He downed his third shot, licked his hand and took a long pull on the lemon. Shaking his head, he breathed, "Oooh...that one hit hard."

"Well, one is my limit," Jim replied, standing. Besides, I have other business to attend to. Adios, Freddie...and watch that Tequila. I dont want my star laid up by a fight with his wife for getting drunk on his first night in Mexico."

Freddie laughed, but inside he groaned. "Sure thing, mi amigo. See you on Monday! And thanks for the directions to the beach--and the advice."

Jim Dalton left the bar and Freddie sat there staring at the bottle of Tequila, thinking about Rita lying upstairs, alone on their bed. Freddie wasnt sure if it was the thought of the reasons for that, or the booze, but he started talking to himself.

"Rita, bebe, youd better get used to your ever-lovin esposo being famous. This movie is really going to send me to the top, I can feel it. So youd better get used to it, muy pronto." He downed another shot, skipping the salt and the lemon this time. All of a sudden a wave of nausea hit him. "Oooh, that aint good...Id better quit. I wonder if that seafood was bad." Freddie got up and staggered to the elevator. The motion of the lift brought on another wave of nausea, and he wondered if he would make it to his room. As he fought it down, the elevator stopped at his floor. Fumbling with his key, he left the light off when he opened the door and headed straight for the bathroom. He closed the door and turned on the light and the fan, hoping the sound would drown out what he was about to do. He didnt want to wake up Rita and alarm her, and he sure as shootin didnt want to have to explain. As he bowed to the porcelain god, he decided to excuse himself--if he had to--with his theory that the seafood was bad. He didnt want to entertain the thought that it was the alcohol. "I didnt have that much--not enough to get sick. Ill tell Rita, if she asks, that it was what I ate. Im sure she will understand. No sense worrying her about this. Besides, a man needs a drink now and again to cope with the pressure. I cant have the Ludes anymore, so I need something. Just so long as I dont make a habit of it," he reasoned to himself.

Finally, Freddie stood to clean himself up, continuing the conversation in his head. "Besides, if she would just be more understanding about the fan issue, I wouldnt need to drink. I hope she doesnt turn into a nag about it. Geez, women can be so jealous of a guy! I dont mean anything by it when I am charming with my fans. They are why I am famous, and they expect me to be charming. First Kathy, now Rita--you would think they would understand that this is the price of fame!" He exited the bathroom after turning off the light and the fan. In the dark, Freddie fumbled around and found his pajamas, tried to put them on the best he could with his head still swimming, and carefully laid down next to his sleeping wife. Rita stirred and Freddie said, "Shhh" a little too loudly.

"Freddie, honey, are you OK?"

"Sure, bebe, Im fine. Go back to sleep."

Rita opened her eyes and tried to adjust them to the darkness of the room. "What time is it?"

"2:30 am."

"Oh." Rita looked closely at Freddie and smelled the alcohol on his breath. "Are you sure you are OK? I thought I heard someone throwing up."

"It was just that seafood I ate at dinner. Musta been a bad batch. Im fine now."

Rita was too tired to answer this--to even realize that they had both eaten the same dinner but she was, for once, not a bit nauseous. Instead, she snuggled against Freddie, hoping for a kiss goodnight. But Freddie was still feeling too sick on his stomach, and his head was still too woozy, for him to do much of anything. Soon he was snoring, and Rita rolled back over on her side, disappointed and wondering if she was finally unable to turn her husband on anymore.

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