“May I help you?” I asked the couple. The baby in the woman’s arms whimpered and cooed.
“Are you Jamie Rain?” The woman asked.
“That’s me,” I answered. The woman switched arms with the baby. He—or she for that matter—was getting restless. “How can I help you?”
“My name is Lynn and this is my husband Nate. The hospital gave us your address.”
“Hospital?” I asked.
“Riiight,” I glanced over to Carter and back. This wasn’t going to bode well.
“My sister, Pons, she said that you were a, um, unicorn?” She smiled, her husband grumbled something that I didn’t understand—but I was sure it was an insult toward Pons. “I figured it was time to meet you.”
“Come, sit. If it’s about Pons, I’m sure its going to take a long, long time.” I rolled back to where I had been sitting on the couch and moved back over. Carter helped, and I wanted to smack him for it. He never helps me, and I never ask for it. I can do pretty much anything myself, and damn him if he’s going to be a gentleman if front of guests. “So, how is Pons?”
“Crazy,” Nate answered which got him a smack in the ribs. “What? You say it all the time.”
“She’s my sister.”
“And? She’s Pons. Jamie here met her in a freaking institution. He knows how whacked out she is.”
I laughed, “She’s a character, I’ll give you that, Mr…” I paused. I didn’t catch their last names, and I couldn’t even remember if Pons ever gave me hers.
“Smoke, but call me Nate. Nice set of wheels, you okay?” he pointed to the chair.
“Paralyzed from the waist down.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize,” Lynn said as she sat next to me.
I shrugged, “It’s okay. I’m sure Pons probably didn’t either, even if I told her a few times.”
Lynn laughed, “That’s Pons for you.”
Nate snorted and mumbled again. I wasn’t sure about him. He seemed interesting, but I liked Pons—even if he was right, and that she was a little loony—still, she was my friend.
Lynn rolled her eyes at him, “Stop it, Nate. I have to apologize for my husband. You see, he and Pons don’t get along. Long story. Anyways, the reason I’m here is that Pons showed up on my doorstep about five months ago—I believe. Well, she gave me a shock when I saw her…” She glanced to Nate who squeezed her thigh. “She was pregnant.”
Every feeling I had from the waist up went cold, stilled, and a hard lump formed in the back of my throat. A bead of sweat fell down my back. I shook my head. Internally I screamed, No, no, no, no. This couldn’t be happening to me. I’ve barely got on my feet—figuratively speaking.
Carter shook my shoulder from behind, “You okay, bud?”
I wasn’t at all. “I think I’m going to be sick.” I said as I leaned over and put my head between my legs. Carter ran off and soon there was a bucket between my legs and Carter was massaging my back. I didn’t get sick, but I found the blood that had drained from my head returned back, and I could see clearly again.
“I take it, you now know why we’re here,” Lynn said.
I only nodded, words didn’t form or come to mind. The baby…My baby started to coo in her arms. How could I have been so fucking stupid? I knew what Pons was doing, even if she didn’t really understand what she was doing to me. I still allowed her to climb on me, mount me, and made love to me. I should have stopped her, and told her we couldn’t—but I didn’t. I was too much in awe that someone still wanted me. And now, I fathered a child!
“Are you the father?” Lynn asked when she saw that I was ready to talk and listen again.
Carter chuckled, “Yeah right. Jamie, a father?”
I sat up and nodded to him. She was right, I was a father.
Carter’s laughed died, “Seriously?”
I nodded again.
“Oh, thank the heavens,” Lynn said. “I was starting to worry.”
“No need to apologize. I’m just relieved.”
“Why?” Carter asked before I could.
“You see, Pons…well, Pons is a special person,” Nate snorted at Lynn and mumbled something. Lynn smacked him against his chest and continued, “My sister, she’s special in a way that I love, but let me be honest—the woman should never be a mother.”
I cracked a laugh, totally agreeing with her there.
“She wouldn’t tell me who she had sex with, saying she didn’t have sex. It was quite obvious she did, but getting her to admit it was more pain than what it was worth. She said that the only thing she performed was a mating ritual.”
Carter coughed he was laughing so hard, “Are you kidding me?”
“She’s like that,” I told him, remember the mating ritual as it were. Pons was Pons.
“So I asked who she performed this ritual with and she said a fellow unicorn, which is of course her crazy talk speaking. I had no idea what she was talking about. She never gave me names, and then when the baby was born she called him mankind’s secret weapon. Don’t ask.”
I smiled, only Pons. Carter was trying hard not to laugh.
“So, I’ve been trying to find this little boy’s father since he’s been born. She finally said she only knew of one unicorn at Seaside—her friend, Jamie. I made some inquiries and they gave me your name.”
“And you found me. So, what do you want?” I asked.
“I can’t let Pons raise him, it would be just cruel to put any child’s future in her hands. Trust me, I know. Nate and I’ve raised a few children up around her, and it’s a total train wreck when she’s involved. So, I want to give you the chance before we decide to put him up for adoption.”
Holy Fuck! My mouth dropped, just dropped. They were asking me to raise the kid? Me? How the hell was I suppose to raise a kid? What did I know about raising kids? Nothing. I was barely surviving as it was without suicidal thoughts, and this couple wanted me to take a child in? Fuck! This time I did heave my lunch right into the bucket. My body shook in dry heaves as I lost everything that was in my stomach.
Everything was crashing on me.
I needed to say something, but I didn’t know how. I wasn’t sure I could do what she was asking, and how was I supposed to say no? I sat up and took a long look toward the baby in Lynn’s arms. His—I believed it was a boy—eyes were closed and his lips were pouting. Adorable was the only word I could describe him.
“I…I…” was all that could come out of my mouth. I couldn’t, no way. I couldn’t raise a child. “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“What the hell do you mean you can’t?” Carter yelled. “Sure you can.”
“It’s bullshit, Jamie.”
“Don’t make a rash decision now,” Lynn said. “Try holding him first. Even if you don’t want to raise him, at least hold him. After all he is your son.”
“I don—“ too late, Lynn placed him into my arms.
He woke as I shifted him in my arms. It took my breath away when I saw his eyes. I knew those were my eyes, the emerald green told me that this was my son. My mom believed the emerald eyes I shared with my sister, Cait was because of our Elinthas heritage. “What’s his name?” I asked without taking my eyes off of his.
“Nate and I have been calling him Kyle,” Lynn answered softly.
“What do you mean by calling him?” Carter asked.
“Well, until his father or his adoptive parents change his birth certificate, his name is one that Pons told the nurse at the hospital.”
“Oh god!” I groaned. I didn’t even want to know. Seriously, who let Pons name this poor boy? “Do I want to know?”
“Probably not, but you’ll eventually find out. She named him Fluffyuffagus.”
My mouth dropped. Carter bent over he was laughing so hard. He couldn’t even stop if he wanted to. “Dude,” he said between a laugh. “Your baby is named after a Sesame Street character!”
“IS NOT!” I gasped out, “Besides that’s Snuffleupagus.”
Carter continued to laugh hard and it was pissing me off. Kyle wailed as he was woken by my friend—which helped mute the laughter. I cuddled Kyle close to my arms and held tight as I hummed the only song that was in my head—the Sesame Street song.
Kyle calmed down and so did Carter. I turned my attention to Lynn and Nate who were both smiling. I tried to give a smile back, but I wasn’t sure if I could. I knew it would be a mistake to raise this little guy, but how big of a mistake would it be to let him go? As I held Kyle, I wasn’t sure what my decision was going to be.
“When do you need a decision,” I asked.
“We wouldn’t want you to make a rash decision,” Nate said. “I know where your coming from, Jamie.”
“Do you mind if maybe I take this week and have him here. I have to make sure I can take care of him in my condition.”
Lynn nodded, “That would be smart. Nate and I packed some stuff, just incase we ever did find you. We have a small portable crib and a swing in the car that Nate can bring in and set up.”
“I’ll help,” Carter said. I didn’t even think about asking him if this was okay. He chuckled and tousled my hair, “Don’t worry, you need to do this.”
I spent the rest of the evening holding Kyle and Lynn taught me how to change his diapers and feed him. Carter said he’d help with making bottles since I couldn’t get around the kitchen well. I promised Carter he wouldn’t have to change Kyle’s diapers, but he didn’t mind if he did. I learned how to use my legs as a table to hold him up. It was easier than trying to sit on the floor and change him. Lynn worried for a bit, but Carter reassured her that he’d make sure nothing happened to Kyle.
Lynn and Nate left that night and Cater and I were alone with Kyle. Nate and Carter had put up a crib in my room, and Carter told me if I needed him in the middle of the night to yell for him. I thanked him and we both went to our separate rooms. I used a pillow that Lynn gave me to carry Kyle on my legs while I rolled myself to my room.
I rolled myself over to the window when I entered my room. I tried to ignore the crib. A kid. I couldn’t believe I had a son. He cooed at me and I watched as he tried to eat his hand. “Well, you’re happy. Do you think you can live with a father like me?” He just gargled and cooed. “Yeah, I bet you really don’t care as long as your happy.”
I started to sing to him, just a soft melody. A song of hope and of dreams.
I cried as images of our future flashed in my head. A future that could and would never happened, because I was in a wheelchair. What was I thinking? I couldn’t possibly give Kyle the type of future I wanted him to have. There was no way I could teach him how to play sports or to ride a bike. I wouldn’t be able to chase him around the house. No way could I stop him in time if he crawled somewhere that I couldn’t get to.
“I don’t think I can do this,” I whispered to Kyle. “You need someone better.”
I kissed him on the cheek. Damn, it hadn’t even been four hours, and I was already attached. Yet, I had to make sure he got the future that I wanted for him.
In the morning, I made the decision. All night I dreamt of a future with Kyle and I together, but it was always the same—I was standing and teaching him. We were laughing and playing basketball together, swimming together, and fishing together. When I woke and spotted my legs below my waist, I tried to move a toe and there was nothing there. No feeling—just useless limbs. The future in my head was brighter than the one I was living, and I couldn’t allow Kyle to live with my reality.
When Carter woke, I asked him if he could drive me up to my parents house. “Can’t,” he said as he grabbed a cup of coffee. He sipped it and turned to me, “Why?”
I kept quiet, but it clearly showed on my face because Carter swore under his breath. I lashed out, “It’s my decision, Carter!”
Carter tossed half his cup of coffee into the sink. He rested his hands on the counter and shook his head. “Are you sure you want to do that? Jamie, he’s your son.” Carter faced me, “Your son!”
“I can’t do it,” I said as a tear ran down my cheek.
“So, what? You’re going to ask your parents to raise him? Put it on Uncle Kaliq’s shoulders?”
I shrugged. That was my plan. It was a good plan—I could still be in his life, but he’d have a future that I could never give him here. Mom and Dad would take care of him, and he’d grow up normal.
“Let me ask you something,” Carter said with a steady voice, even though his hand was shaking as he pointed at me. “What if I want to help raise him?”
“And why the hell not?”
“Because,” I mumbled.
“Because?” I didn’t answer. He asked again, “Because why, Jamie? Dammit, answer me? Why can’t I help you!”
“I don’t trust you,” I yelled back. He took a step back, his eyes widen. “Not with him. I would never trust you with him, Carter. We’ve barely become friends, but don’t you think I can forget the kind of pain you’ve caused me.”
Carter stood silent. Eventually he nodded, “Okay, Jamie. You win.”
The hour car ride was uncomfortable. Both Carter and I sat in silent as he drove. His body was stiff. The only noise was the ones made by Kyle in the back. Nate had given Carter a car seat for Kyle the day before. I watched as trees, traffic, and houses pass my window. Carter hadn’t spoke all a handful of words to me since I yelled at him.
He pulled up to the house and we both spotted Uncle Casey’s red jeep. “Crap.”
“Ignore him.” I whispered.
Carter ignored me and hopped out of the truck. He helped me into my chair before grabbing Kyle in the back seat. The front door to the house opened and Casey was storming up toward us, “What the f—“ he stopped when he spotted Kyle in Carter’s arms. “Fuck. Couldn’t keep it in your pants, could you?”
Carter turned a little red. “For your information, he’s not my son—he’s Jamie’s.”
“This true?” Casey asked me.
“Afraid it is,” I mumbled. “Are my folks home?”
“Just Penny, but everyone else should be home soon. They all went to Skyfall with Parker. Penny stayed home, sick.”
I thanked him and headed inside. Both Uncle Casey and Carter followed me. Neither spoke a word to each other. Casey headed back inside the garage when we entered the house, and Carter followed him. The shouting came soon enough, but I couldn’t make out exactly what they were arguing about. I didn’t care. I wanted Mom and Dad here so I could ask, leave Kyle, and be on my way home. My son would understand eventually. It wasn’t like I was leaving him forever, or giving him to strangers. He’d be with family, and I would be able to see him.
I rolled over to the couch and turned on the television while I waited. Carter stormed out of the garage within minutes. I turned to see him opening the front door, “I’ll be outside until you’re ready to leave.” He took a step outside of the house and stopped. “I really hope you change your mind. Even if I haven’t still gained your trust, I’m still here to help.”
“I’m not changing my mind.”
Carter closed the door and sat on the sofa. “Fine. Then, I’ll wait with you, and support you.”
Ten minutes later, my parents, grandparents, and Pear returned home. They were chatting on about the movie. Grandpa and Pear were animated about something when everyone froze at the sight of me. No one said a word, all eyes were not on me—but Kyle. I gulped.
“Pear, go upstairs,” Grandpa whispered.
“Do it,” Dad said. Pear went through the garage and we heard the pounding of the stairs.
Dad was the first to speak, “Jamie.”
“Want to tell us who that baby is?”
I gulped a little. Grandpa was staring at me, and Dad was crossing his arms. Mom and Grandma were waiting for me to answer, and I froze. Carter stood and went behind me. His hand patted my shoulder. “He’s Jamie’s son,” he answered my Dad’s question.
“Can you all sit so I can talk to you?” I asked. My back was soaking with sweat. My forehead dripped. My heart raced. I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to ask, but I needed to. I wasn’t even sure how I was going to explain to them how I became a father. I haven’t seen any of my family in over a year.
Mom, Dad, and Grandma sat on the sofa. Grandpa stayed standing toward the back of the room. He didn’t look happy. “Okay, explain.” Dad said.
I took a deep breath and told them the story, from Pons to now. I made them understand that Pons was certifiably insane, and shouldn’t be around him. I ended up telling them Kyle’s birth name just to make sure they understood.
“Uh-huh. So, why are you here, besides showing off this angel?” Dad’s smile was warm and kind.
I gulped and noticed Grandpa tense up. I could just see the wheels turning in his head. What the hell was I thinking? I knew how he left Dad. Maybe he would understand, though? That it was for the best. Grandpa shook his head as if he was warning me not to say it, not to do it. But I did it anyway.
“Well…“ I bit my lip. “I’m in a wheelchair, and I’m afraid that if I try to raise him, I’ll do more harm than good. I don’t want to give him up for adoption, because just in the little time I’ve had with him, I’ve fallen in love with him. So, I was wondering if—”
And before I could say more grandpa stormed toward me, “NO! NO WAY IN HELL, JAMIE DUNCAN RAIN!”
I gulped. Oh shit.
“Over my dead body! Too many Rains have been abandoned already. Own up to your fucking responsibility, and don’t even bring up your disability, because I fucking know its bullshit.”
“Dad,” my own father said.
“No, Kaliq. I’m telling you all, it ain’t happening!” Grandpa was shouting at the top of his lungs.
“But how am I supposed to raise him without legs? What if he swallows something and I can’t get to him fast enough? What if—”
“That’s every parent’s worry, Jamie,” Mom said in a warm voice. “Every parent worries that they aren’t able to raise their kid. I know it’s probably freaking you out, and with your disability you will have issues. And I have to agree with your grandpa, you need to own up to this responsibility.”
“Don’t know, Son,” Dad said. “But we’ll help you. And if Dad hadn’t come in blazing his guns, I would have told you the same thing. Too many of us have had to live without a father in their life. I’ll be the first to admit, I was scared out of my mind when I became one, but in the end it’s been all worth it.”
Grandpa knelt at my level, and took a deep breath before he spoke. “Jamie, let me tell you something. Let me tell you how you’ll feel if you leave him, and what it’ll be like for him growing up here. First, he’ll feel unwanted, like he didn’t matter. He’ll grow to resent you, like I did my father. When you visit, he’ll beg you to take him home with you, and when you say no he’ll crawl into bed at night crying his eyes out because he’ll think his father doesn’t love him.
“As for you, you’ll hate yourself every minute you miss out on his life. You’ll always wonder about if you were wrong about the what ifs . . . You’ll constantly debate with yourself if you made the right decision, when in your heart, you will know it was the wrong one. Just give this little boy a chance.” Grandpa looked at him and smiled, “God he looks like you.”
“Jamie, he’s right. You can’t even imagine what its like not to have a father in your life,” Dad started. “And I’m glad of that, because it sucks. You may have issues, not gonna lie, it will be tough, but I know you can do this. I know you can, and your mom and I will help you as much as we can.”
“I’ll help you, too,” Carter said and also knelt beside me. “You don’t have to do any of it alone.”
I still didn’t like the idea. Carter and I were friends, and I did trust him—but with my kid? I couldn’t. We were still working on our relationship. Besides, how could I ask him to help me raise a kid, when he could go out and have his own family? And what if he did want to start his own family, where would that leave me?
“Please, Jamie, give me a chance. I know you don’t trust me, I don’t trust me either. But we can make a good team, raise a kid who’ll learn from both our mistakes. He’ll be someone we can both be proud of.”
I glanced over to Dad, who was smiling, “Listen to Carter.”
Tears flooded my vision. I couldn’t do this. I wanted my dream future to be Kyle’s future, and not the one that he was going to get. I shook my head and cried. “I can’t,” I sobbed. “I can’t do this.”
“Then, let me adopt him,” Carter said.
My head snapped up to him. The room stilled. All eyes were on Carter. Did he just ask what I think he asked?
“If you want to be in his life, but not have any real responsibility for him, then let me bare all the responsibility. Let me adopt him, raise him. If you don’t want to help me raise him, that’s okay. But I can’t see you give him up, and he does need you in your life.”
“Carter, that’s a big commitment,” Grandpa said.
“I understand, Sir.” Carter picked Kyle up from my arms. I was still in shock. He stood with Kyle and faced Grandpa and the rest of my family, “Kyle’s mom can’t raise him, Jamie doesn’t want to raise him, and the first moment I saw him I knew I could. If he’s so unwanted, then why not let me raise him? Two unwanted souls.”
“You’re not unwanted,” Dad said, and stood up. “My friend may be an asshole to you, but don’t think you’re not unwanted. And my grandson will never be unwanted.”
My Dad carefully hugged Carter before scooping up Kyle from his arms. “Jamie, the decision is yours. If you really don’t want to raise Kyle, then let Carter.”
I looked between Kyle and Carter. I didn’t trust Carter with my son, and now he wanted to take him from me? I couldn’t give Kyle the life I wanted for him, and I knew Carter would—but what would that mean for me? What if Carter got stationed across the country, or to another country? What if he was deployed? What would happened to Kyle if he was deployed?
“You’re in the military,” I said. “What would happened if you had to go across the world or something? How would that work?”
“You’d get custody of him.” Carter shrugged. “I won’t take him from you, Jamie. I’m just trying to help you out.”
“You know, gay parents adopt all the time,” Grandma said.
“I’m not gay,” Carter defended.
“I know.” Grandma shook her head, “But you can probably work it out where you both are Kyle’s parents. You don’t have to be gay, you just need to sign your name. That way, if something were to happen to either of you, you both have legal rights to Kyle. Raise him together.”
“Could that work?” I asked.
Carter shrugged, “Don’t see why not. If queer-uh-gays can do it, so can we.”
I rolled my eyes at Carter.
“Sorry,” he said with a sheepish look. “What do you say, Dad?”
“I guess, we can do this.”
“Now, can we all go celebrate that Jamie just made Parker and I great-grandparents?” Grandma said, breaking the awkwardness. Grandpa seriously turned white, and Mom, Dad, and I all laughed.
“Shit, I never even thought of that,” Grandpa grumbled. “Thanks, Jamie. Now I really am old!”
Grandma left only to return with champagne and glasses for everyone. Mom after sipping his glass put it on his desk and turned to Dad, “Alright Kaliq, stop hoggin’ him. My turn.” Dad handed her Kyle, and she stared into my boy’s eyes. “Hey, you, I’m your grandma.”
“You know, the last time four generations of Rain men were in one room was when I was eight years old and meeting my dad for the first time on Christmas.” Grandpa told me. “I was the youngest generation then, now look at me, I’m the oldest.”
Grandma walked out of the room and came back minutes later with a camera. “Okay, why don’t we get all the Rain men together?”
“Pear’s not here,” I stated.
“Hold that thought,” Dad said and left. Within minutes Dad, Pear, and Penny were exiting the elevator. “Penny, I want you to stay back, look, but don’t touch.”
“I know, Dad,” she whined. “I’m sick, not stupid.”
Mom handed Kyle over to Pear. “Wicked,” he whispered.
Grandpa prepared her camera and shuffled all of us guys together, “Come on all of you, get together. Pear hand Kyle over to Jamie. Now say cheese.”