On Frank’s birthday, after the children are asleep, Frank sits with April in the living room. She continues to apologize to him. She says that she has thought all day and has come up with a wonderful plan for their future. Frank feels guilty and wants to stop her from apologizing, so he begins to kiss her. April says that they should go into the bedroom, and he says he will shower first. In the hot water of the shower, he plans to tell her about Maureen, but then he turns off the hot water, as he used to in the army. The cold shower invigorates him, and he decides it would be stupid to tell April. He gets in bed and they make love. Frank wants to fall asleep, but April wakes him, saying she must tell him about her plan.
Frank slept with Maureen because he felt torn up by being rejected by April. He now feels guilty, then, because April is treating him with so much tenderness and respect, and he wonders how to handle his guilty conscience. At first he wants to confess, but then the cold shower reminds him of the army and the importance he places in feeling strong and superior as a man. He decides to enjoy having his confidence boosted by April’s fawning over him, instead of trying to be honest and open with her.
April pours herself and Frank some brandy and he listens to the beautiful sound of her voice, only with some reluctance beginning to pay attention to what she is saying. April’s plan is for them to move to Europe in the fall. She says that once they sell their car and house, they will enough money to live there until they become self-supporting again. She says that she will get a job as a secretary there, so that Frank can spend time figuring out what he really wants to do with his life. Frank laughs, but she says she is serious: in Europe, he can find himself the way he was supposed to seven years before, when she got pregnant unexpectedly and he got a job at Knox to support them. Frank hopes that by laughing he can get April to forget the idea, which frightens him.
April portrays her plan to move to Europe as necessary to allow Frank to do something with his talents. What she does not say, but likely feels, is that it is also a way for her to escape the tedium of life as a suburban housewife. April wants to be in a cosmopolitan, cultured environment, and she wants to have a life outside of their home. She suggests that she will take on working as a breadwinner, but reassures Frank that this is only meant to allow him to find his true calling, not for her to gain a professional identity of her own. Frank, meanwhile, feels instantly threatened by the idea of a drastic change to their lifestyle.
Frank says that her plan is not very realistic, but April counters that living in a place where they are miserable is what is truly unrealistic. She says it is all her fault that they are living this life because of her threat to abort Jennifer. She makes it sound like it was because he convinced her to keep the baby that he had to give up his dreams. She continues, saying that the idea that parents must give up their lives and live in the suburbs is a fallacy that she has forced Frank to live by. Frank can imagine that April has been rushing around all day, anxiously thinking about her plan and preparing for his birthday dinner. April says that ever since joining the Laurel Players she has been pretending that he dragged her away from an acting career, although she knows she never had any real talent. She says that she ruined Frank’s life, but she has been pretending that he ruined hers.
April refers to their shared unhappiness as a reason why they should make a change. She says many of the things that Frank was thinking while he built the stone path – about her lack of talent as an actress, about her reluctance to keep their first child – and provides a radical new solution. She also uses Frank’s own rhetoric, used in so many grand speeches about how exceptional he is, about the senseless pressure to conform to suburban values when raising children. Using Frank’s own arguments, she presses him to agree that they need to change their life in the way she wants them to.
Frank asks to talk, and April sits back to listen, sipping her brandy in bed. Frank says she is being too hard on herself. In the same way that she may have never been meant to be an actress, he suggests that perhaps he never had an exciting career in his future. She retorts that everyone could see he was exceptional, but Frank uncomfortably senses that it might be possible to convince her that he never really was. He changes tack, beginning to talk in the heroic, theatrical voice that she has adopted. April thrills him when she says he is the most valuable thing in the world—a man. He agrees that they will move to Paris. April says she will get right to work planning it the next day, and they fall asleep peacefully.
Frank senses that April can only feel close to him if he is also made unhappy by their humdrum life. The idea that he might be meant to do exactly what he is now doing would be a deal breaker for her. Fearful that he will disappoint her and lose the warm attention she is now showing him, he takes up her tone. She rewards him by saying exactly what he wants to hear: the reason they must move to Europe is to allow him to flourish. He is precious, talented and, most importantly, masculine.