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THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY (chapter 20)

2006-07-09 16:42

  EXT. WINTERSET - MAIN STREET - DAY

  Richard and Francesca drive up to the general store to buy groceries. Francesca heads for the store as Richard crosses the street.

  FRANCESCA Want anything special for dinner?

  RICHARD Hmm. How about that brown sugar meat loaf you make?

  FRANCESCA(smiles)

  Okay.

  She enters the store.

  INT. GENERAL STORE - DAY

  Francesca makes small talk with the grocery lady as she buys what she needs.

  EXT. MAIN STREET - DAY

  Francesca places a bag of groceries on the front seat of the truck, then gets in herself to wait for Richard. She takes a deep breath and removes a handkerchief from her bag to wipe the sweat from her face. She freezes -

  Through the windshield, she sees ROBERT standing beside his truck across the street, staring at her. Her heart stops. For a moment, she isn't even sure he's real.

  The town moves about its business around them. But neither notice or care. Whatever safety or forgetfulness she felt is gone. Her feelings burst through. She sits there helpless before him —— willing to go or stay depending on what he did.

  He begins walking towards her. She prepares herself. Her life will change —— it has to. There's not turning back.

  But the closer Robert gets, the clearer he can see that she is crying. And he stops.

  Without any words, he realizes what taking her with him would mean. With just a glance, he sacrifices her. With their eyes locked in the middle of Main Street —— in front of the whole town —— they smile and say goodbye.

  Robert returns to his truck. He drives off down Main Street,taking the first left.

  Moments later, Richard throws the feed bag into the back of his truck and gets in. Francesca is wiping her eyes.

  He doesn't notice. He drives off in the same direction as Robert.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  For a moment, I didn't know where I was. And for a split second, the thought crossed my mind that he really didn't want me —— that it was easy to walk away.

  As they pass the corner where Robert made his left turn,Francesca turns to look and sees:

  ROBERT'S TRUCK IS PARKED just off the corner. As if he had to drive away to get out of sight, but couldn't bring himself to drive any further.

  The sight of him hiding there breaks Francesca's heart, she turns away from her husband to hide the tears.

  EXT. JOHNSON HOUSE - DAY

  WE REPLAY THE OPENING SCENE FROM THE MOVIE:

  Carolyn is in the yard picking vegetables. Her parents drive up in their truck. She steps out with her bag of groceries and walks briskly into the house. Richard follows more slowly with his bag of feed, stopping at the gate to pick up the button from Francesca's red dress.

  INT. KITCHEN

  Francesca enters and places her groceries on the counter. She tries to compose herself. She sees the radio before her. She turns it on. The Dinah Washington song “I'LL CLOSE MY EYES”evokes every feeling of love and loss within her. She begins to cry.

  She hears Richard enter the house. She stands out of sight,holding her hand to her mouth to muffle her crying. She hears:

  MICHAEL (O.S.)

  Dad! You bought the wrong feed!

  RICHARD What!?

  She hears Richard exit the house.

  EXT. LUCY REDFIELD'S HOUSE - NIGHT

  A hand knocks on a door. Lucy Redfield opens it to find Francesca standing there with a cake.

  FRANCESCA Hi. I'm Francesca Johnson. I just feel awful I haven't come to visit sooner. I hope I'm not interrupting anything. Is it too late?

  Lucy is shocked and moved at the same time.

  LUCY No. Not at all.

  FRANCESCA I was wondering if…… maybe you'd like some company.(almost manic)

  I baked a cake!

  Lucy looks at the cake. She's a little dazed by all this.

  LUCY Uh…… sure. Please. Come in. I'll make coffee.

  Francesca enters. Lucy closes the door.

  CUT TO:

  EXT. IOWA LAKEFRONT - DAWN

  Michael continues reading beside Carolyn as the sun rises.

  MICHAEL“We became inseparable, Lucy and I. The funny thing is, I didn't tell her about Robert until years later. But,for some reason, being with her somehow made me feel it was safe to think about him. To continue loving him. The town loved talking about the two of us but we didn't care. And neither did your father. Which I thought was a lovely thing. I received Robert's letter and my photograph soon after. I always wondered if your father found them. I was never quite sure……”

  INT. KITCHEN - EVENING

  At dinner, Richard remembers the button he found.

  RICHARD Oh, Franny, is this yours?

  Francesca sees the button. She speaks her original lines MOS as HER NARRATION is hard:

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  I almost told him. In that moment I felt as if I couldn't hold it back. If he really loved me maybe he'd understand.

  She returns to her meal. The family eats in silence.

  FRANCESCA (cont'd; V.O.)

  But love won't obey our expectations. Its mystery is pure and absolute. What Robert and I had, could not continue if we were together. What Richard and I shared would vanish if we were apart. But how I wanted to share this. How would our lives have changed if I had? Could anyone else have seen the beauty of it?

  INT. JOHNSON KITCHEN - NIGHT

  Francesca moves about the kitchen with a frantic pace as she puts the finishing touches on a cake. Placing the frosting bowl in the sink, she hears someone upstairs exiting their bedroom. She quickly gathers the cake and her bag and exits through the screen door.

  EXT. JOHNSON HOUSE - NIGHT

  Fighting tears, she walks to the truck from around the house. She gets in and starts it. She vaguely hears her daughter from the front door.

  CAROLYN Mom?

  But she doesn't acknowledge it and drives away.

  EXT. MOTOR INN - NIGHT

  Her truck approaches and then speeds past the Inn where Robert is staying. We can see his truck in the parking lot.

  1979

  INT. JOHNSON BEDROOM - NIGHT

  And older Francesca cares for a sickly Richard. He lies in bed beside an array of medicines and tonics. She wipes his forehead with a cool cloth as he takes his pills.

  FRANCESCA Better?

  He nods. She smiles. She shuts off the light and lays beside him.

  RICHARD Franny?

  FRANCESCA Hmm?

  RICHARD I just want to say…… I know you had your own dreams. I'm sorry I couldn't give them to you. I love you so much.

  Francesca turns to him. She is so touched, tears fill her eyes. She nestles close to him, wrapping her arms around him.

  1982

  EXT. DES MOINES

  Francesca eats at the same restaurant she shared with Robert.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  After your father died, I tried to get in touch with Robert but found out he had left the National Geographic soon after the Madison County. No one seemed to know where he was. My only connections to him were the places we'd been to that one day. And so each week, I'd re-visit them.

  EXT. JOHNSON HOUSE - DAY

  Francesca greets a UPS man with an envelope and a package.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  And then one day, I received the letter from his attorney, with a package.

  INT. JOHNSON LIVING ROOM

  Francesca reads the letter informing her of Robert's death. She then unwraps the package to reveal a MEDALLION with her name inscribed and A PHOTOGRAPHY BOOK; a published collection of black and white photos by Robert Kincaid entitled “Four Days.” Beautiful, dramatic black and white representations of love and passion, loneliness and pain, and union. On the front page there reads an inscription “FOR F.”

  ROBERT (V.O.)

  “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods…… There is a rapture on the lonely shore…… There is society where none intrudes…… By the deep sea and music in its roar…… I love not man the less, but Nature more……

  From these our interviews, in which I steal…… From all I may be, or have been before…… To mingle with the Universe and feel…… What I can ne'er express, yet cannot all conceal.“

  The quote is Byron's. She smiles with pride as she cries.

  CUT TO:

  EXT. IOWA LAKEFRONT - EARLY MORNING

  Michael sits with his arm around Carolyn as they look out over the lake. The notebooks are closed, but Francesca's narrations continue over the next few scenes.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  There has not been a day since that I have not thought of him. When he said we were no longer two people, he was right.

  INT. JOHNSON BEDROOM

  Carolyn, looking through her mom's closet, finds the summer dress she bought in Des Moines to wear for Robert.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  We were bound together as tightly as two people can be. If it hadn't been for him, I don't think I would have lasted on the farm all these years. Remember that dress of mine you wanted, Carolyn —— the one you said I never wore. Well, I know I was silly. But to me, it was as if you were asking to wear my wedding dress to go to the movies.

  Carolyn smiles as she holds the dress before her.

  INT. MOTEL - DAY

  A tired Michael finds his way through the motel to his room.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  After reading all this, I hope you can now understand my burial request. It was not the ravings of some mad old lady. I gave my life to my family. I wish to give Robert what is left of me.

  INT. MOTEL ROOM

  Michael enters to find his two children watching TV and an angry Betty folding clothes.

  CHILDREN Hey, Dad!

  He looks at them lovingly, then at Betty who angrily motions for him to follow her into the bedroom.

  She slams the door behind him and talks in a irate whisper.

  BETTY You have been out all night long! Do I have a right to ask where you've been or is this a family secret?

  Michael just looks at her. He gently takes her hand.

  MICHAEL No. No more secrets.

  He kisses her hand. Betty is floored.

  MICHAEL (cont'd)

  Do I make you happy, Betty?

  (she is stunned)

  Because I want to. I want to more than anything.

  He gently kisses her cheek then embraces her. Betty —— for the first time in her life —— is utterly speechless.

  INT. JOHNSON BEDROOM

  Wearing her mother's dress, Carolyn sits on the bed holding the phone, waiting for Steve to pick up. In her other hand,she holds the divorce lawyers card.

  CAROLYN(on the phone)

  Hi, Steve? It's me. Good. You?……

  Listen, we have to talk…… Well,how about you?…… Uh, no —— I've decided I'm going to stay for a while…… I don't know how long……

  No, I won't be coming back……

  I'm not angry, Steve. I'm not angry at all.(smiles)

  CUT TO:

  EXT. ROSEMAN BRIDGE - DAY

  Michael and his family stand beside Carolyn and a Priest.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  “I gave Lucy his photography book. If you're interested, take a look. If my words still leave something unclear,perhaps his pictures can illuminate. After all, that's what an artist does best…… ”

  Michael receives the urn from the priest. He and Carolyn walk away from the group towards the bridge. They stop. Carolyn removes the lip. Michael sets his mother's ashes free.

  FRANCESCA (V.O.)

  “I love you both with all my heart. Do what you have to, to be happy in this life. There is so much beauty.”

  THE END

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