"Mom?" came the fretful voice from the next room. Footsteps approached.
Elly looked into the depths of her mug, swirling the remaining sludge of coffee and coffee grounds. It had gone cold a half-hour ago, but Elly couldn't muster up the energy to pour herself a fresh cup.
At least John had come upstairs earlier in the morning than usual, in one of his rare helpful moods, and made the coffee for her. It was bitter and muddy but at least he tried. But then he told Elly that he had gotten up early to start work on a 1:4000 scale model of the Swiss Alps and something called the Simplon tunnel—"longest railway tunnel in the world for eighty years!" he'd said—and would probably be downstairs until late in the evening.
Odds were that he wouldn't even come back up for the night. One day Elly had heard a louder than usual racket from below and she descended to find John pushing aside the clutter to free up a rollaway bed she hadn't seen in fifteen years. She had said nothing, and John never looked toward her as she climbed back up the stairs.
"Mom?" said the voice, interrupting her reverie. Liz was there, smiling and fidgeting in her pockets.
"Liz," Elly said, making it a statement not a question. "How's the alteration coming."
"Just great! Deanna's done taking the sleeves off and she's working on the lining now. I don't know what I'd do without her. I don't think I could learn to sew myself, it's too hard."
"You'll learn some day," said Elly, mostly to herself. "You'll need to find something to do during the day, after you've been married for a bit."
"Nothing. You had something to ask me?"
"Yeah." She fidgeted some more. "Well, Deanna and I were talking about how great you are with Merrie and Robin..."
God, Robin. Elly closed her eyes, remembering an incident from two weeks before. In the end she'd despaired of getting the stains out of Robin's clothes.
"...and Anthony and I are going to be really busy for a while with shopping and setting up bank accounts and that sort of thing. We'll be out of the house a lot. I got to thinking, couldn't you look after Françoise for a bit."
"Why don't you just take her with you?"
"Well," said Liz. The jangling of keys and coins in her pocket grew louder. "She doesn't really like to come with us. She says she's busy a lot. In her bedroom with all her books and stuff. I asked her what she was working on one day, when she didn't come to dinner on time, and she told me something about 'quadratic equations'. Do you know what that is?"
"No. My mother wasn't keen with me learning math. So you want me to stay with Francie when you're out."
"Yeah. She'll be really quiet, I promise you."
She's probably right. Besides, if she said no to Liz, Anthony would be over to try to guilt her into it and she'd have to endure the sound of his voice. But Elly thought she saw a way out. "I could lend you April, you know. She's out of school now for the summer."
"No...no, I don't think that'd be so good an idea. She'd want to bring her guitar, and then Francie would get the wrong idea. Anthony wouldn't like her to grow up liking the kind of music that the Martian likes."
"Yeah, that'd be horrible. OK, just tell me when you want me and I'll come over."
"Thanks, Mom!" She ran to throw her arms around Elly, then ran back to Deanna and the sewing. Elly returned to staring into her coffee-mug.
EDIT: I want to ask you all a couple questions about this.
First, do you think it be better to put these fragments, especially longer ones, behind a LiveJournal cut? I don't want to fill up the community with enormous posts on the "front page" as it were. I didn't think of it until after I posted.
Second: since a lot of you have more familiarity with the comic than I do, have you got any particular insights into the characters you'd like to see? They don't have to be realistic. This is alternate-reality FBofW, not an attempt to fill in hypothetical background to the real strip, the way the letters from April et al. are.