Ruth blinked before realizing what Homer had just asked her.
"Plans?" She managed to ask.
"Um, yeah," Homer replied, playing with his pasta, "I was just wondering if you wanted to um...hang out with me this week."
It took Ruth a few moments to sink this all in. Was Homer asking her on a date, or was it merely like hanging out at Moe's?
"Um, no," she said carefully, "I'm not busy."
"So yes?" Homer asked, keeping his hopes up.
"Uh, sure," she replied, "what are you planning?"
"Well..." Homer played with his hands as he tried to think, "watch the new Anne Hathaway movie and maybe get a bite to eat afterwards?"
"Oh, I love Anne Hathaway!" Ruth exclaimed. "That's great!"
"Who wants dessert?" Melinda called as she and her husband came into the dining room carrying a couple pans of chocolate cake.
"Mmm," Homer moaned, "chocolate."
Marge sat in her rocking chair as she fed Maggie her milk. The house had become a lot quieter since that terrible day. Bart and Lisa have changed a lot since Homer's disappearance.
Bart had become more behaved and had switched his troubled image and became more involved in his schoolwork, and therefore never raised a slingshot again, much to the school's surprise. Lisa was still the intelligent little girl she was, but with a tough image. If classmates, such as Nelson, were to insult her or harm her in any way, they would get a trip to the nurse's office. She, however, got her grade up in PE because of her newfound strength.
Laura was still Laura, however, she seemed to remain by herself most of the time. Marge couldn't blame her. First she lost her dad, now her mom. The girl was suffering.
Maggie was still Maggie; she had no idea of what had happened...she had no idea she had lost her father.
A small tear slid down Marge's cheek as she watched Maggie fall into a deep sleep.
"Oh, Homie..." she whispered to herself.
"Gray's death to me, okay?" Ruth said.
She and Melinda had headed upstairs into the bedroom after dinner while the guys went outside and enjoy some afterwards beer. Ruth told Melinda about her upcoming "date" with Homer and Melinda was more than happy to oblige in helping her out. Now if only they could agree on an outfit...
"Okay..." Melinda's voice trailed off, "how about this?" She took out what appeared to be a aqua sequin dress.
"I'm Ruth Powers from The Simpsons," Ruth protested, "not Whitney Houston!"
"Well, you need something that tells all," Melinda playfully fought back, "something that says three words:hot, sexy, and hard."
"Hard to get," she explained.
"Well, I've never really been on a date in years," Ruth confessed as she stroked her red bandana, "ever since my divorce, I've deprived myself of most men."
"But definitely not this man," Melinda remarked, wrinkling her nose.
She looked down at the bandana Ruth had in her hands. Something about it's color gave her an idea.
"Ruth," she began, "how do you feel about silk?"
"You're giving me a credit card?" Homer asked.
He and Norm sat around the pool, drinking Bud Light. They had discussed what Homer had planned. Norm had offered him a credit card for romantic reasons.
"I doubt Mr. Burns gave you one of these at all," Norm replied smoothly as he handed him the small, sleek rectangle.
"Yeah, now that I realize it, Burns was a total ass to begin with," Homer stated, "I don't know why I even worked for the old man."
"Because he offered you a job, no diploma neccesary," Norm answered.
"Okay, whatever you guys do, don't do the following that could easily piss her off," Norm instructed, "don't spoil anything in the theater, don't steal some of her dinner, don't leave her with the bill, and don't, I repeat, DON't ask her for some when the you guys are actually in the moment."
"Okay," Homer said as he took notes, "what if I just look at her chest, will she get the picture?"
"She'll so kick your ass," Norm muttered.
"Well done, Bart," Mrs. Krabbapel said as she handed him his graded test, "another A."
"Thank you, Mrs. K," Bart said politely as he stared at another job well done.
The bell rang and everyone had exited their classroom for lunch. Milhouse walked beside Bart.
"Hey, Bart," he said, "want to head to the teachers' lounge and fill their fridge with crickets?"
Bart shook his head. "That's not such a good idea, Mil."
Milhouse groaned. "Man, ever since your dad disappeared, you've become a whole new person."
Bart stopped in his tracks as soon as he mentioned his dad. Milhouse stopped too, realizing what he just said.
"Aw, buddy, I didn't mean to-"
"I got to go," Bart cut as he sped past him, not before bumping into Groundskeeper Willie, then continuing on.
Bart hated it when people mentioned his father's disappearance; it left a hole in his heart as well as a scar in his family. He continued walking down the hall. Suddenly, he heard voices in Principal Skinner's office.
"You can't just keep beating up your classmates just because they intolerate you," Skinner said.
Bart peeked in the doorway, and there, sitting across from Skinner, along with Ms. Hoover, was his sister.
"And you can't just keep increasing prices on school lunches just because this is a crappy school," Lisa shot back.
Skinner took a deep breath. "Look, Lisa, I understand that your family's going through a tough time since your father-"
"Don't give me any of that sympathy crap just because my dad disappeared!" She yelled, startling everyone. "You know what, screw this." And with that, she left the room, and passed Bart, not realizing he was there.
Bart went after her.
"What was that about?" He asked.
"Skin-rash's giving me crap just because I punched Kearney."
"Ouch," he cringed.
Lisa stopped in her tracks, her brother too. Suddenly, she placed she placed her hands on her face and broke down in tears.
"Oh, God, I miss him," she sobbed.
Bart embraced his sister, letting her tears fall on his shoulder as he held her close.
"I'm nervous as hell," Homer muttered as Melinda fixed his tie.
"Most women find that adorable," she said.
"Hey, Ruth," Norm called upstairs, "your guys' movie is going to start in 20 minutes."
"Be right there," Ruth called.
"Tell me," Homer said to Melinda, "is it a top-dress that Patty and Selma wear when they try to look a little less hideous?"
"Wait and see," Melinda told him knowingly, "and P.S., Marge's sisters are bitches."
"Amen," Homer smiled.
Suddenly, Homer's eyes looked up; Melinda and Norm followed. Coming down the stairs was Ruth...and she looked beautiful. A long, silky red dress showed off her curves. And fine gold jewerly was displayed on her. She didn't wear her bandana; instead, she wore a jeweled clip to keep the top of her hair in place.
"Wow..." Homer's voice trailed off, "Ruth, you look so...so...good."
"Is that all you can say?" Ruth asked playfully as she hooked her new leather purse around her shoulder.
"Well," Norm interrupted, "it's about time you two left." He handed Homer his car keys. He leaned into his ear. "I put Luther Vandross CDs in the glove compartment for you just in case." He gave him a wink.
"You're a good friend, Flanders," Homer whispered back.
Before Ruth could follow Homer out the door, Melinda pulled her aside for a few moments.
"Here," she handed her a case of pills, "just in case." She gave her a wink.
"Um, thanks..." Ruth said uneasily as she placed the pills in her purse.
"Have fun, you two," Norm called as he and his wife waved.
As soon as the car disappeared, they went back inside.
"Lindsey Neagle or Edna Crabapple could never hit off like that," Melinda stated as she and her husband went into the living room.
"Especially when one's a whore and one's a sex predator," Norm added.
At the movies, Homer used the credit card Norm gave him to pay for his and Ruth's tickets, as well as their snacks.
"You treating?" Ruth asked in disbelief. "You usually run off and leave others to pay for themselves."
"Well, things change, Ruth," Homer told her softly as they entered the dark theater.
The movie was alright. Ruth and Homer laughed, cried, and almost fell asleep toward the end on account of it being a boring, happy ending. They had exited the theater and Homer drove them to a fancy restaurant known as 'Romero's Kitchen'. They sat between each other on a fancy, white table where they were served complimentary champagne.
"Wow," Ruth said as she took a sip of her champagne, "Luigi's got nothing on this."
"And the Italian guys actually speak Italian!" Homer added.
After placing their orders, they sat in silence, imbibed in their champagne. Ruth decided to break the awkward silence once and for all.
"Homer," Ruth began.
"Yes?" Homer asked.
"Do you still think about Marge?"
Homer bit his lip as he slowly thought back to his discussion with Norm.
"Um, yeah," he replied, "sometimes."
"Do you miss her badly?" Ruth knew she was pushing him, but she just had to know if Homer was moving on or remaining where he once was.
Homer thought it thoroughly. Marge was the world to him, and he shared most of his life with her. But it was possibly that he could now have room in his world for someone new, and share the rest of his life with.
"Yes, I miss," he told her sincerely, "but that doesn't stop me from moving on with me life." He stared at her, trying to search through her eyes. "Why do you ask?"
Ruth blushed. "Well, I mean, since I miss my daughter, I knew it was accurate you'd miss your family."
"True," Homer said, nodding. He leaned forward. "Why are you really asking?"
Ruth felt her blush deepen as she felt his gaze.
"Well..." she said nervously, "I know this sounds crazy, but these past few weeks...ever since that night at the fair...I seemed to have..." She couldn't say it.
"Ruth," Homer said soflty as he reached out and rested his hands over hers, "I too have found myself falling in love with you."
Ruth could hardly believe it!
Homer had just told her he was in love with her! But just one thing...
"What about Marge?"
Homer sighed as he stroked her hand. "Marge is gone, dear." The way he called her dear just made her heart flutter. "But there's always a place in my heart for her, as I've left space in my heart for you."
Ruth felt like flying at those words. "Oh, Homer..."
The band in the background began to play soft music. Homer smiled at Ruth as he stood from his seat, bringing her up with her.
"Dance with me?" He asked her romantically.
Ruth could harldy contain herself. "Yes."
And they danced in front of the band, despite being the only ones actually dancing. They were in love, and that's all that mattered.
"Homer," said as she raised her head from his chest.
Homer smiled as he looked down at her, his arms around his waist tightening. "Yes?"
"I love you," she said softly.
Homer smiled warmly as he leaned down...
...and kissed her.
It was like kissing Marge again, only kissing Ruth made it more wonderful. Ruth kissed him back, knowing this kiss was better than what he ex had given her. Breaking the kiss, Homer leaned his head down on Ruth's forehead.
"I love you too, Ruth Powers," he said sincerely.
And the music died down and they returned to their seats.
"Yes!" Melinda cried as she danced around the living room. "Yes! Yes! Yes!"
An hour ago, Ruth and Homer came home, hand-in-hand and told Norm and Melinda the big news. Boy, were they happy for them! Long after Ruth and Homer went to bed, Melinda could harldy hold her excitement. She was practically jumping on the walls because of what had now happened.
"Finally," Norm laughed, "Ruth finally found someone to replace her devil husband."
"And Homer's finally found someone new to love!" Melinda exclaimed.
"What a happy night," Norm sighed as he and his wife sat on the couch and rested their hearts down.
Homer lay beside Ruth on her bed as he trailed kisses down her neck, churring as she let out a soft moan. Long after they got home, they decided to sleep together tonight, and maybe for now on. Homer soon found himself on top of her.
"I really don't want you to end up like Marge," he told her nervously, "at least, not yet."
Ruth smiled as she placed what appeared to be a pill in her mouth.
"This time," she assured him, "no accidents."
Homer smiled at her as he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her once more.