My wife had this “bright” idea, she thought that it would be “nice” if we had Leslie’s crib in our bedroom. Now, knowing from experience, this was not a bright idea. I insisted we have the crib in one of our spare rooms. Its why we moved, wasn’t it? No, she would not have it. She wanted to be close to her daughter. I pleaded for a week, and then gave up my feeble attempts at separating my wife from her child.
Luckily for me Leslie was a complete opposite of her brother.
Morning came, Leslie was almost three months old. Claire and I were still asleep, like we were every night. Leslie slept like a hibernating bear, once she was out there was no waking her. That was, unless we slept in late and Leslie became hungry, that’s when the screaming came. Leslie woke us up just before nine. “Ten more minutes.” I moaned.
I felt Claire’s laugh and then heard her, “You wish.” This brought a small smile. I did wish.
“Rock, paper, scissors?” I asked with my eyes still closed.
“It’s morning, you have to get up and go to work.” She started to climb out of bed, taking her warmth with her. “Get up Travis.”
Claire, who recently started to wear my shirts to bed, walked over to the crib and went to pick up Leslie while I slowly climbed out of bed. “Lazy Bones, you up yet?” She asked, turning to see me sitting there on the side of the bed, batting my eyes.
“Do I really have to go to work?” I moaned as I looked at my watch. I had a meeting at eleven with the CEO’s and then it was back to my office, back to my grandmother.
“Travis, you use to love your job.” She said as she whipped out her breast and started to feed the baby.
“That was before my wife hired my grandmother.” I said through clench teeth. “Which reminds me, when is this whole maternity thing suppose to end?”
“In a few weeks.” She answered with a small smile.
I went to work, worked a hard and long day, and came home. Just like every other day. I came home and found Claire in the living room sitting, the television off, Leslie in her crib, the place was just too silent. “What’s up?” I asked a bit afraid.
“We need to talk.” She patted the place next to her on the couch. That sentence did not sound good, nothing good ever comes out of that sentence. Already my mind was wondering on what she wanted to “talk” about. I already started to pray that she wasn’t going to leave me, she just couldn’t. Could she?’
I sat as far as I could away from Claire, fearing everything. “Okay?” I said with a longing to want to bolt out of the room.
She started to laugh, “Are you afraid of me Travis?” She was laughing and smiling.
“No. Should I be?” I asked still really worried.
“Then why are you sitting all the way over there? I just want to have a nice talk with my dear husband, now come on and sit next to me.” She said almost in a pout.
I scooted over to her, still very afraid of what she wanted to talk about. “Travis, I quit.”
“Huh?” I said with my mouth dropping. I did not expect this. She couldn’t do this to me. I needed her back, I wanted her back. Did I not mention how crazy my grandma was making me at work? “Y-y-you can’t quit!”
“Yea, I can.” She pointed out. “Travis, I want to stay here with Leslie. I want to be a stay-at-home mom and raise her. We don’t need the money, you and I both know that. I just. . . I just can’t tear myself away from her. Please, let me quit.”
I smiled. I really admired her dedication to our daughter. This was a mother, this was the type of woman I wished I had as my own mother. I just wished I could be as great of a father as she was a mother. I smiled again at her and finally spoke. “Okay, but you have to find me a replacement, and I don’t mean my grandmother.”
“You fire her, and I’ll get you the best damn male secretary there is.” We both laughed.
I snuggled up against her and kissed her forehead. “I do have one question.” I said after a long pause.
“Mmmm?” She hummed.
“Could I like, maybe, have you come and bring me a ‘special’ lunch now and then?” I raised a brow and grinned from ear to ear.
“What kind of lunch?” She asked very flirtatiously.
“The type you use to give me before I got you knocked up.”
“You mean this type of lunch?”
She kissed me. It was passionate and never ending. We tore each others clothes off and made love right there on the sofa. Afterwards we both laughed. She was lying on top of me with her head propped up on my chest. She was staring at me and I was staring at her and playing with her hair. “Yea, like that.” I finally answered her question after an hour had passed.
She laughed again which only made me laugh. “I just might have to Mr. Rain.” This made me smile even more.
That night after another round of love making, we were passed out when a cry woke us. Leslie must have felt neglected, seeing as this was the first night since we brought her home that she woke in the middle of the night. We both climbed out of bed, and we both shared the same goofy grin. I looked down at Leslie as did Claire. She was crying. “She’s hungry.” Claire said lifting her up. She fed our daughter, while I watched in awe.
The next morning I woke to an empty bed and the smell of apple pancakes. I wish the smell was what brought me out of my slumber, but it wasn’t. Leslie was up and once again I was on daddy duty. I didn’t mind. I loved my daughter. Sometimes I felt guilty loving Leslie like I do, seeing as how my son got dealt the wrong hand by me. I love Parker, and I regret every minute I am not with him. I already know he’s jealous and I don’t blame him.
I rocked Leslie and sang her the words to my favorite country song, “Cowgirls Don’t Cry” by Brooks and Dunn. She quietly stopped crying as I sang the first chorus.
And that’s when it started. Singing was the only way to get my little girl to hush. However, it had to be a country song, any other type of genre and she would keep on crying, sometime screaming so loud your ear drums would start ringing. “I Pray For You,” by Big and Rich, “My Wish” by Rascal Flatts, and “Stealing Cinderella” by Chuck Wicks were just some of her favorites.
What I loved about Claire was that she loved, and I mean loved our daughter. The first time I saw her pick up Leslie and cradle her in her arms I cried. Parker had never received such love from his own mother. I remember coming home late from work and just wanting to go to bed. Just as I climbed into bed I sat there and stared and started to cry. Claire turned to look at me, “What’s wrong?”
“It’s you. Seeing you with Leslie just warms my heart and breaks it at the same time.”
She smiled but I saw concern in her eyes. “Travis, I’m not her. I love Leslie, and more importantly I plan on being in my daughter’s life for as long as I live.”
“I know.” I said as I laid my head on my pillow and cried myself to sleep. I had been feeling very guilty and depressed since Leslie was born. I loved Leslie, but I also felt all the guilt I had with Parker more than ever.
Months passed and Claire and I got into a groove again. She loved being a stay-at-home mother and I, well I missed her at work. My grandmother was there, I didn’t have the heart (or the guts) to fire her. Every day I dreamt of being home with Claire and Leslie.
Claire on the other hand wasn’t always the happiest person to come home to. We had a series of misfortunes around the house. The stove, all of our sinks, and even the heater went out at one point or another. Mark was worthless when it came to fixing things, which left us fixing it ourselves.
Finally Claire had enough. We were both in the kitchen and she got pissed off after the kitchen sink’s pipes burst for the second time in two weeks. “DAMMIT!” She screamed. The next thing, before I could say anything, she reached for her cell and dialed a number. “MARK! YOU GET YOUR ASS OVER HERE AND FIX OUR DAMN APPLIANCES!” She yelled. I didn’t hear what Mark said, and frankly didn’t really care. I was just grinning ear-to-ear seeing her yell at our landlord. “NO! I WILL NOT ACCEPT THAT MARK! THIS IS YOUR FUCKING PLACE, NOW START ACTING LIKE A LANDLORD OR FIND YOURSELF IN COURT!” My heart about stopped. I was definitely not going up against the Riley’s in court. “Thank you. That would be appreciated.” Claire finished the conversation and hung up the her cell. She looked at me with a smile, “He’s calling for a maintenance worker to come by within the hour or so.”
Mark, true to his word, did send some guy to fix all of our appliances. However, he was not the type of guy I would have hired. He had ex-con written all over him. He stayed quiet, but I did not like how he looked at Claire when she paid him a tip for his willingness to come at such a short notice. I didn’t trust this guy, and I hated that Mark would send such a creep over to our place.
Have you ever had those moments where something you dreaded came to pass? Well the moment that I knew would come, came. A week after “maintenance man” came, I walked into the apartment hearing sounds of two women laughing their heads off. When I walked in, to my horror, I found Sally and Claire gossiping. “What’s going on?” I asked, sweat already forming in my palms and my forehead. Both girls took one look at me and started to laugh even harder. They were definitely talking about me.
“Hey sweetie.” Claire said with almost a laugh. “You’ve met Sally right?” The two girls laughed even harder. Claire definitely knew. Crap.
“Look at him, he’s speechless.” Sally said, making them laugh once again. “I wonder what he’s thinking?” She and Claire looked intently at me.
“I’m thinking, what are two nice beautiful women doing here and not at some café or park or something on this lovely day?” I said with a smile.
“You believe that Claire?” Sally asked with a laugh.
“Not one bit.” She laughed. “I’m thinking, he’s wanting to know how long we’ve been talking and how much I have learned.”
Okay, now I’m screwed. I looked over at Sally, “How long?”
“Two hours, give or take. I just came by to give you guys a refund for this months rent. Seeing as how Mark’s been treating you guys and not wanting to ‘man’ up to his responsibility as landlord.” Sally said.
“’Man’ up.” I laughed, “Like that guy could ever really be a man.” This got a smile out of Sally.
“True.” She said and the two of us laughed. “Well, I guess I should be going. Let you guys talk. It was a pleasure to meet you Claire.” She hugged Claire.
“Same here. Maybe we could get together sometime and talk about this one some more.” Claire hugged back. The two looked at me and laughed just a bit more.
“Well, it was nice seeing you again Trav.” She hugged and kissed my cheek. She whispered, “I wasn’t here.” Before letting go.
“It was nice seeing you again, Sal. You take care.” I walked her to the door and after seeing her depart I headed back to the sofa.
“Sooo. . .” I said as I sat down, afraid to hear what she learned. “What did you two talk about?”
“What do you think?” Claire answered in a very sweet loving voice.
I pulled the neck collar of my shirt. I was sweating. “I’m thinking you learned a bit too much about my wild youth.”
“Yea, and I’m surprised you didn’t tell me. Were you ever going to tell me you had an affair with our landlord’s wife?”
“Uhhhhh.” Was all I answered.
I scooted closer to her and wrapped my arm around her. “Claire, I had an affair with Sally a long, long, long time ago. There, I said it.”
Claire laughed. “Was it worth it?”
“Was it worth giving me a small “incentive” to hire you?” I answered a bit too cheekily. I probably shouldn’t had cross that line. The next thing I knew she brushed my arm off her and walked away. “Oh come on! It was a joke. Claire!” I yelled as she walked down the hall.
After two hours, Claire walked out of the bedroom with red eyes and headed for the kitchen. She didn’t say a word to me. I heard Leslie cry and I headed in the bedroom to pick up my baby girl. “Daddy’s in trouble, Les.” I whispered. “I made a big uh-oh.” I turned and looked at my bed and wondered when the next time I would be sleeping in the room.
I walked into the kitchen and found Claire cooking dinner. “Claire, I’m sorry.” I said. My heart was beating a bit fast. I felt so guilty. “I didn’t mean to joke like that babe.”
“Sure you did.” She said, not even turning her gaze away from the pot. I could hear in her voice she was crying. “You just think I’m a big slut for doing what I did.”
“Claire, you know that’s not true. If it wasn’t for that I would have never fallen in love with the most beautiful woman that I have ever laid eyes on.”
She turned and looked at me and laughed, “Yea, sure. I’ve seen Sally, and I bet Parker’s mother is just as smoking as Sally. I don’t even compare to them.” She handed me a bowl of food and walked to the table with her own food. She was pissed.
We ate in complete silence. I wanted to apologize, but I just didn’t know how. She headed straight to bed as soon as she finished her pasta, leaving her bowl behind. After I finished, I took her bowl (and mine) and washed them before heading to the bedroom. I knocked on the door, not knowing if I was even wanted. “Claire, can I come in?”
“It’s your room.” She answered.
I walked in. She was drying her eyes off with a tissue. I undressed to my boxers and slipped into bed. I leaned over to her and wrapped my arms around her, “Claire, YOU are the most beautiful woman in the entire universe. And I am truly sorry I made you even think otherwise. Those two you seem to compare to yourself aren’t even worth a second glance compared to you. You’re the most wonderful woman ever. You’re a loyal friend, lover, and wife. And most importantly you are an amazing mother. Those two can’t even say that. Hell, my mother can’t even say that. They have nothing on you. I love you and will only ever love you.” I ended my apology that I had been working in my head since dinner with a kiss.
She started to weep, but this time it was with a smile. “I don’t deserve you.” She said, kissing me back.
“No, I don’t deserve you. You deserve more, but I am thankful that you see past my fatal flaws and that you chose me over everybody.”
“You aren’t that bad, Travis.” She said with a very serious tone. “Don’t sell yourself short. You’ve made mistakes, but that doesn’t make you a terrible person. We’ve all made some mistakes.” She placed her hand on my cheek, “Parker loves you, and I know it has weighed a lot on your heart, but you need to forgive yourself. You need to let it go.” She kissed me before rolling over and heading to bed.
I sat there and watched her sleep. She was right, I needed to forgive myself, I just didn’t know how.
I climbed out of bed and picked up Leslie out of her crib. She was still asleep, but she didn’t mind. She smiled and got herself comfortable on my chest. I looked down at her and calculated how old she was. She was not quite a year, ten months or so. I looked over at my sleeping wife and cried. Leslie had a family, she had a mother that loves her dearly and me, a father who has learned from his past. “I love you and I promise I will never leave you.” I whispered. I held Leslie half the night. I stared at her the entire time and when I finally went to bed, I had finally learned how to forgive myself.
In the morning I made a phone call, one that needed to be made. I just hoped that he would be up. It was only seven in the morning on a Saturday. “Hello.” I heard a tired young boy answer.
“Hey, did I wake you?” I asked.
“Yea.” Parker answered. “What’s up dad?”
“I just called to say, Parker I’m sorry. I don’t think I ever said that to you, but I’m saying it now. I am truly sorry for what I did, I was a coward.”
“Apology accepted. Now can I go back to bed?” Parker asked.
I chuckled, “Yea, you can go back to sleep. I love you son.”
“Love you too,” he said just before he hung up.
Leslie’s birthday finally came, even if I told Claire it would never happened. I didn’t want my little princess to grow up. She was perfect the way she was. But as life goes, it was her turn to grow up, but only a little. Claire and I decided that we were going to invite my family over for cake and ice cream. We didn’t need a party. Claire left that morning, with Leslie in tow, and went to shop for a birthday cake.
While she was looking for a the perfect cake for Leslie, I was told I had to clean the house. Claire threatened that if the house wasn’t clean by the time she got home I was to sleep on the couch for the next month. I cleaned the house, I scrubbed the sinks and toilet, mopped the hardwood floors and vacuumed our bedroom. I even took out the trash!
Claire returned home, satisfied. We just had to wait for the guests to arrive.
The first of them did, and with a grand entrance at that. “DADDY!” I heard from the bedroom. Parker had ran from the car, into the elevator (leaving dad behind) and he blasted his way through the door and ran, screaming my name.
“I think someone’s brother is here.” I said to Leslie. I heard Parker call my name again. “I’m in here.” I called. I handed off my daughter to her mother just as Parker opened our bedroom door. . .
And tackled me. He wrapped his entire body around me, not wanting to let go. “Daddy, I missed you so much.” He cried. “So, so, so, so much.” I laughed at him. I hadn’t seen my son for over six months. Work and Leslie occupied most of my weekends, and I felt horrible not being able to go to Riverview to visit.
“I’ve missed you too.” I said as I gave him a small kiss on his cheek. “I’ve missed you more than you can ever imagine.”
Parker finally let me go. He had the hugest grin on his face. “Where’s grandpa?” I asked. He shrugged his shoulders. “What do you mean you don’t know?”
“He was still in the car when I got on the elevator. He had told me what apartment number it was just as we pulled up. I was out the car door as soon as grandpa stopped the car.” He explained. I only laughed.
“ANYONE HERE!?!” I heard dad scream.
I walked out into the entryway and found dad at the front door. “Hey dad.”
“Travis.” He said with a smile. We shook hands and laughed. “Did Parker find the place alright?”
“Yea, he blasted through this apartment like a tornado looking for me.” I joked. Parker came out and held onto me just as I said that. I wrapped my arm around his head.
“Yea, I know. I don’t think a single thing could have stood in this boy’s way to see you this weekend. He’s been talking about it nonstop since you called me. He even boasted to the entire school he was going to visit his dad, so much so that his school called telling me he got detention for talking in class.”
“Uh oh.” I laughed. “Guess he blew the Egypt trip?” I looked down at my son and smiled a soft apologetic smile.
“He blew that way before that.” Dad answered looking at him sternly. I looked down and Parker hung his head down low.
“Okay, what did you do?” I asked looking down at him. I gave him that all too familiar fatherly voice that always surprised me.
Parker backed away and started to rub his head. “Well, um. . . I had. . . um. . . one of my adventures.”
“Parker, I thought we discussed this, no more ditching school.”
“I know. I just really wanted to see Uncle Jake’s new movie, but grandpa wouldn’t take me so I went without him.” He admitted, not even eyeing dad.
“There’s a reason grandpa and I didn’t want you to see Jake’s new movie, it’s not for a young boy’s eyes.” Jake’s newest movie contained a lot of nudity and sex, as well as a rape scene. It was filled with violence and language as well, but Parker had been watching action movies since before he could talk so I didn’t mind that, I minded the sex scenes.
“I know.” He said looking at the floor.
“And tell your father what happened next,” Dad ordered.
“I got caught by Grandpa Mike leaving the theater. He was on duty and since the town has a truancy policy, he put me in the squad car and took me to school where I was given four Saturday detentions. Then Grandpa Mike called grandpa and told him where he found me. I’ve been grounded for two months.”
I looked over at dad. “And the only reason he’s here is because I want to see that precious granddaughter of mine.” He said with a grin. “Now, where is she?” I pointed to the door and watched as dad walked into the room to visit his only granddaughter. (Alice adopted a small boy)
After dad had some bonding time with his granddaughter and I had my bonding time with Parker, I asked him to come into one of the spare rooms. “Look, I have these boxes and I was hoping you could help me set this room up for Les. Claire doesn’t know what I’m planning.”
“I see.” He looked at all the boxes around the room that had been delivered that morning while Claire and Leslie were out getting cake and ice cream. “Well, lets get started.” He opened one box and together we wallpapered the walls, hung the décor and dad even stole Leslie’s crib from our room before Claire noticed.
The room, in my opinion was perfect for my little princess. My dad and I spoiled the hell out of her. He brought up two more boxes from his car. Inside, I found a stuffed bunny-bear and a really awesome play-house castle only fitting for a princess. I had bought a ton of toys and stuff for Leslie as well. Leslie was spoiled. She was, after all, daddy’s little girl.
While dad and I worked in the room, Parker spent the time with his great-uncle Jake. Jake finally arrived. When dad and I were done we found the two boys watching one of Jake’s more child-friendly movies. Jake was passed out of sheer boredom, while Parker sat there and said each line word for word. He nudged Jake awake, and went “watch this, watch this.”
Jake barely lifted his eyes. “Parker, kid, I’ve seen this movie. I’m in this movie.” Parker, not listening copied the next powerful and most famous quote of the movie, which was given by Jake, and continued to watch. Jake, without opening his eyes, said, “Parker, you’ve seen this one too many times.”
“Nuh uh! I haven’t memorized the entire film yet.” He pointed out. Dad and I laughed. The kid had a point.
Dad took a seat next to Jake and nudged him awake. “Hey bro.”
Jake looked and smiled at David, “Hey Dave.” He clapped dad’s hand before shaking it. “How’s i t going?”
“Not bad, not bad. How’s you and Gloria?”
“Good.” Jake nodded, not bringing anymore light on the subject.
Dad looked over at Parker, “Are you suppose to be watching this?” He asked sternly to my son.
“Uhhh. . .” was the sound that came out of Parker’s mouth.
“Parker, I told you, no TV for a month.”
“But grandpa” He whined, “It’s International Thief! My favorite, please!”
“Parker, you’ve seen this a half a million times, you have it on DVD. Now turn it off and go grab a book.” Parker pouted and just sat there. I took out my cell phone (which I had downloaded an app to make it into a remote control. I hated having to search for the remote most days!) and with the app used it to turn off the television.
“HEY!” Parker cried out. “That’s not fair.” Dad, Jake, and I all laughed.
“Grandpa said no TV, now go get a book.” I said very strictly. I even pointed out the bookcase behind him.
Claire walked in with Leslie and handed me her. “Do you want to do cake and ice cream now?” She asked.
“Sure.” I said taking hold of my little girl. I looked at the boys just sitting there, “Cake and ice cream?” I asked. They all nodded and gave me their answer. I walked Leslie over to the cake and blew out her candle with her in my arms. Claire, cheered and sang happy birthday, but the boys just sat there and dad and Jake stared at Parker, waiting to see if he would get a book or sulk on the sofa, he choose to sulk.
As we ate cake, Claire paused looked over at Parker and spoke. “You know, Parker, you haven’t said a word to me all day.”
He paused, looked up, and with food in his mouth said, “Hi Claire.” I chuckled.
Dad looked a bit annoyed at my son, “Parker! Chew your food. Stop acting like your father.” He choose this moment to say that as I was inhaling my food. Claire started to laugh, and I looked at everyone and stopped stuffing my mouth.
I swallowed all my food in one gulp before I said, “HEY! I’m not a slob.” This got a laugh from all four. “I’m not!”
Clair patted my head, “Sure you aren’t dear.” We all went back to eating our cake and Claire and Parker had a long conversation about school. He was actually doing really good, had mostly A’s and except for his little “adventure” (which we made him repeat to Jake) he was doing really well. He could have earned that little Egypt trip if he hadn’t ditched.
When Jake heard that he had gone to see Crossing the Line he got really angry. “Parker, that movie isn’t for young eyes.”
“Why? It’s just sex.” He said and every single person dropped their fork, including dad. When did he learn about sex? “What?” He asked looking around.
I looked at dad and dad looked at me. Neither of us had even thought about giving him the talk. Dad gave it to me when I was fourteen. (Although it never really took, if you didn’t notice).
“Parker, who told you about sex?” My dad asked with a very dried mouth.
“Grandpa, I’ve been watching James Bond movies since I can remember. James is always with a women, and half of their time they are naked and doing it. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what they’re doing.” This got a chuckle from everyone. It was true, he watched an awful lot of James Bond movies, and none of us thought about that aspect when it came to those films. “Plus, I am twelve and I know. I am a growing boy. And what should it matter, it’s not like I’m going to go out and screw the first person I meet in high school like dad did.”
I choked on my food. Dad and everyone else looked in stunned silence. And if that wasn’t the kicker he pointed out that he knew math, “It doesn’t take a genius to subtract twelve from twenty-eight. Dad was only four years older than I am now when he had sex.” I suddenly felt very old.
“That doesn’t mean that you are going to.” I said pointing my fork at him. “You even think about touching a girl at your school and I will come and kick your ass. I am not, and I mean not going to be a fucking grandfather before I am forty!” I paused, “or fifty.” I ended, thinking I was smart.
Dad laughed at the “fifty.” “Fifty! HA!.” He looked at me, “Wish I had a choice as to how old I wanted to be before I was ever called a grandpa.” I gulped and did some math, dad was in his mid-forties when Parker was born.
“So, wait, you mean to tell me that in ten years if I were to marry and start a family that you would be totally against it?” Parker asked.
“Yes.” And that was the how we started the sex talk with Parker. All four of us talked to him. I had to point out that I am not a very good example when it came to abstinence. We discussed the risks, (meaning fatherhood) if he didn’t stay away. (He had already known about that risk, though.) I tried to keep me out of the conversation, but dad kept pointing out how flawed a sixteen year old could be as a parent. (Like, Parker even needed to be reminded of how crappy a father I was.)
While the sex talk with Parker was going on, my mind kept drifting to my little girl. There was no way any boy was going to be able to get near her when she grew up.
Leslie found the doll house after I had sat her down on the floor. She was such an adorable little toddler. Her shirt, which her mother picked out, read “This is what spoiled looks like.” My wife saw the room and thought that the shirt was definitely appropriate.
I was saying goodbye to Jake at the door when Leslie crawled out of her bedroom. I looked down at my little angel and smiled. “Man they grow up so fast.” I said.
Jake turned to see Leslie disappear into the living room. “I wouldn’t know.”
I laughed. “Yea, guess not. Speaking of which, has she said ‘yes’ yet?” I asked. Jake had been trying to propose to Gloria for over a year. His first attempt ended horribly when the paparazzi got in the way. He ended up punching the paparazzi and getting sentenced to community service. He was Bridgeport’s Charlie Sheen, the bad boy celebrity.
“Nah. She said she will only marry me if I go to rehab and get sober and stay sober for a year. She wants me to be committed to sobriety before I commit to anything else.”
“So, I take it that relationship is over then?”
“Nope, I head to Sunset Wellness in SV tomorrow.” He said rather suddenly. “That’s why I’m heading early T, I have to get to last call over at Waylon’s before I lose out on my last night of drinking.”
I laughed, “Well alright. Have fun. Oh and take my limo, I’ll call the guy to take you and pick you up from Waylon’s.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need it.” He said with a grin, “You are forgetting I am a movie and television star. I have my own limo.”
Jake and I parted ways and I wished him well in rehab. I reminded him to call me when he got the chance.
I found Leslie playing with her feet while Claire and dad talked and Parker read a book. She held her hands up and cooed. She wanted her daddy.
I tossed her in the air. “Well aren’t you the best daughter on the face of the planet. Yes you are.” She started to laugh and giggle as I tossed her. My thought and focus were only on her when I said the next sentence. I didn’t even think. I didn’t even consider the twelve year old in the room, reading, if he was even paying attention when I said it. I tossed Leslie again in the air and said, ‘Who’s daddy’s favorite?” She laughed, “That’s right, you are.”
The room went silent and Parker’s eyes drifted over to me. “I knew it!” He cried and then ran out of the apartment.
I turned my attention to him and realized what I had said. I felt sick. I wasn’t even thinking. “Parker! Wait!”
Dad went after him calling behind him as he ran, “I’ll get him.” He said. He was shaking his head disapprovingly. Uhg, I felt really sick.
“Daddy messed up again Les.” She puckered her lips for a kiss. I kissed her and then she laughed. I looked over to Claire. “I can’t believe I said that.”
“You were having a moment. He’ll understand.” She said. She was cleaning up the dining table.
“Yea, but Claire. He’s never. . . I was never there for him. What else is he suppose to think? Hell, he’s probably already jealous that you’re her mom. By the time he was Les’ age his mother already ran out on him and I was contemplating doing the same. It only took me an extra year to do it.”
Parker walked in with red eyes and tears running down his cheek. He walked to the bookcase and put away his book. “Goodbye Travis.” He said.
“Parker, wait.” I stopped him from walking out. Dad came and stood at the doorway and waited for him. Claire pulled him out of the room though. She knew I needed this talk alone with my son. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was just having one of those moments. You’ll see someday when you’re a father. Everything around you disappears and the only thing that matters when you hold your child is that child.”
“Don’t try to explain dad. I see how you look at her. I see how both you and Claire act around her. It’s the perfect fucking family. The stay-at-home mom, the working but fucking loving father. Its like being with the Cleavers for a day.” I didn’t say anything as he swore. I wanted to, but he needed to get his anger out and I deserved everything he said. “Dad, you may have not wanted to be a father at sixteen, but you were. And thanks to you and some fucking bimbo, I didn’t get the perfect family. I didn’t even get half. She is your favorite, and me, I’m just your fucking mistake!” He yelled and tried to leave.
I grabbed him by the shoulder and placed Leslie on the floor next to him. She didn’t want me to let her go. I was on my knees at eye level with Parker. “Parker, I am so sorry that I have ever made you feel as you weren’t love. I was a terrible father – I am a terrible father – and I am just trying not to be for Leslie. Look at her, she’s your sister and you get to have the most important job anyone could ever have, and that’s to be a brother. Your job is to protect her, and teach her things only a brother can teach. Now, I am sorry for not being there like I am for Les. And I am sorry that your mother wasn’t even around like Claire is for Les. We both love you though, and even though Claire isn’t your mother, she will always love you as her own.”
Claire walked in. “He’s right Park. You have parents now and I hope that you will come to think of me as a mother.” She walked over and sat next to me. “Do you know how guilty your father has been feeling this past year with Leslie? Every time he held her, or kissed her, or even sang to her, he cried, because he thought he didn’t deserve being happy with Leslie because of you.”
He had tears in his eyes. “But why doesn’t he feel guilty now? He’s happy Claire, without me in his life.” He said to her, ignoring me.
“I feel guilty everyday Park. I have regretted leaving you everyday and will for the rest of my life, son. I just learned how to forgive myself and I’ve found some happiness, but to say you aren’t in my thoughts everyday, well that’s just not true. Look around Park, every picture, every frame is of you. And the only real piece of art in this house is the one you painted. Just because you don’t live here doesn’t mean you aren’t in my life, and if you weren’t I would not be who I am today. Your my life, the three of you are my entire life Parker.” I looked at my wife and my daughter next to Park, who was now holding onto his leg.
Parker looked down at his sister and smiled. “She is kinda cute, dad.” He then looked up at me, “I’m sorry. I guess I got a bit jealous watching you play with her. I know you were just playing with her and didn’t really mean what you said. And Claire, I’m sorry I haven’t paid any attention to you. I guess I hate that Leslie gets to have a mother. I’ll try to be nicer to you.”
“Parker, you don’t have to be sorry.” Claire said. “I know its hard for you to see Leslie and me together and I get that, but I am also here for you. When you need a mother to talk to, you just call me, okay.” Parker nodded okay and cried.
“And Parker,” I added, “Your still more than welcome here anytime you want to move in. You know that, right? If you want the perfect F-ing family, it right here. All you have to do is ask.”
“Thanks.” He hugged me. “But I still want to go to Egypt. Maybe next year.” He smiled.
After saying goodbye to my son and father, I went and put my little daughter to bed. I kissed her goodnight and as she grabbed my finger I saw it, the flashback that has haunted me since I left Riverview.
Tonight was harder than I imagined, but I only hoped that Parker will someday truly forgive me for all the heart ache Rose and I had ever caused. That was my dream, and if he never did, I would understand. Rose and I did the worst thing a parent could ever do. We abandoned him, which in turn has left him damaged.