Mallory quietly watched the reflection of John and Darby ascend the stairs. She had anticipated that they would feel uncomfortable if the conversation moved towards feelings versus the facts of her disappearance. She knew she should not ask this but had to know; she didn’t look at him. Instead, she still stared out the window, “Were you honestly that upset when I left? Have you even thought about me over the years?”
He was surprised she asked, and now it was his turn to be honest, “I guess Josh never told you?”
She slowly shook her head, “I suppose he held things back from both of us.”
“I was so angry and hurt when you left. I couldn’t understand what happened and I was desperate to find you. I came to talk to your parents; they told me that you were angry with them and you left. They didn’t give me details, and they had no idea where you were, or so they said. I called every day for weeks to see if they had heard from you and every time the answer was the same. After a month, your father told me to never call back and to just move on.”
“I had no idea, there was no way for me to know.”
“I realize that now, but back then I was sure they knew more than they were saying. I went to LA and made my movie and started dating. I had a long relationship with someone; she cheated on me and told me that she felt as if I had been cheating on her all along because I couldn’t quit thinking about you.”
“So it is my fault that you broke up with Jessica?”
He had a wry chuckle, “Yeah, I guess so. She just knew I had a bad breakup and that I wasn’t able to let go,” at that Chris smiled for the first time that evening. “Josh knew I wanted to know where you were. I had asked him several times if he had heard from you and he always told me that he hadn’t. I had no reason to suspect that he was lying to me. When I would come home during breaks in filming or when I had time off, I looked for you. Figuring you were still here somewhere.”
She finally turned from the window to look at him; she was stunned to hear him say that he missed her and wanted to know where she had gone. She was also a little angry that Josh had kept that quiet all these years. She hurried to look back out the window, not entirely sure she could handle looking at him.
“Are you worried about your image if this gets out? I mean, are you concerned about how the press will handle it and what your fans will think?” There was a slight twinge of bitterness in her voice; even if she didn’t mean for it to happen.
“Quit worrying about my image. But don’t worry I am not planning on a press release and a magazine spread to tell the world I have a son. I don’t want him in the press at all. I won’t deny him, but I won’t admit to him either; not because I am ashamed but because I want him and you protected. I don’t talk about my private life to the press, and you know that if you have been following me like you said.”
Chris was blunt in regards to his concerns or lack thereof for his image. She was not surprised when he said he wanted to protect Henry but she was not expecting him to say he would protect her. She wasn’t going to get her hopes up; she figured he needed her to be protected ultimately because of Henry and not because he was concerned for her. His admission took a moment to set in, and it delayed her response back to him. “I told you I have followed your career and I know you are very tight-lipped about your relationships. I wouldn’t expect for you to put Henry in the spotlight.”
“Yeah, well I hate it when the paparazzi follow me, and I am not thrilled when fans stalk me when I am out. I don’t like it when pictures are taken of my family; especially my nephews and niece – they didn’t sign up for their photos to be plastered all over the internet. I don’t want Henry to be a victim of that – he can’t help what I do for a living.”
“So from the way you are talking you want to be an active part of his life going forward?”
“Are you kidding? Would I be arguing with you about this entire situation if I was going to turn my back and walk away?”
He had a point; why would he argue, fuss, and fight about this entire scenario if he didn’t want to be involved. “I guess I didn’t think you were ready for the responsibilities of becoming a father to a twelve-year-old. Yeah, before you say it, I know you wish you had the chance from birth.”
He sat quietly, he knew he should respond to her comment, but all it would do is work him up even more. He had something else he wanted to know, “Mallory, if you were talking to Josh all that time and you knew I wasn’t involved with anyone, why didn’t you reach out to me?”
“If I had reached out to you early in your career I felt like I would be a burden. But as you did more movies and became a bigger star, I was afraid I would be seen as a gold digger trying to get in on the action. I was in a damned if you, damned if you don’t position.” She turned and looked at him and their eyes locked, the old spark was still there, and she ached to be able to reach out and touch him.
“I want to meet him, and I realize what that will mean for both of us. But I want him to know me, and I want him to meet the rest of his family.”
“I am taking him back to Atlanta; we aren’t staying here.”
“Why? With your parents gone you can remain in this house and have your life here.”
“My life is in Atlanta – my job is there, Henry’s school is there and his friends. I can’t just pick up and move because you want me to. I have the reading of the will tomorrow for them to officially tell me they left me nothing; this house will go up for sale, and I will no longer have a tie to Boston.”
“I would be your link to Boston, and you would have support here to help with Henry.”
She turned and glared at him, “So you want me to leave my life and everything I have worked for over the last twelve years to move back here, so it is convenient for you to see Henry. Look, I get you think I am a bitch for not telling you but why do I need to give up my world for your convenience? Henry isn’t the only one in this equation, and I have done a damn fine job raising that boy on my own, and I am not asking for support and not planning on pawning him off.”
He didn’t anticipate this reaction from her; the tables had turned, and he had gone from the wildly angry one to the one being attacked. He had not intended to upset her like this. He took a moment to select his words carefully, “I am not, in any way, indicating that you are a bad mother. But baby you have been doing this on your own for years and now that the truth is out, you will have an opportunity to not be alone in this. Let me and my family get to know him and give you a break; it doesn’t mean you are pawning him off. Yes, it would be more convenient if you were here. For me to see him and for the rest of the family to help you.”
She just stared at him, blinking and trying to digest what he said. “Did you call me baby?”
He chuckled and gave her that beautiful smile that could melt her heart, “Yeah, I guess I did. I don’t want to fight with you, not anymore. It has been a long day for you and emotional for both of us I don’t wish to have a contentious relationship with you. I want to find a peaceful and happy medium, but I am serious about wanting to meet Henry.”
“Fine, I don’t want to fight with you either. You’re right it has been an emotional and long day and tomorrow I have to go to the reading of the will so that this mess is officially over. I really want to take a hot shower, drink a bottle of wine and go to bed,” she said laughing and then “Wait, I don’t want to give you the impression I am a heavy drinker, and then you think I am an unfit mother.”
He laughed heartily this time, “I did not believe you were a heavy drinker, but honestly, after today I could use a drink or two myself. Will you give me a call tomorrow so we can make plans to meet up?”
“Yeah, I’ll call you when I get home from the lawyer’s office.”
He stood up and moved towards her and pulled her into an embrace. He held on to her tightly and said nothing for a long moment. He then stepped back and kissed her forehead, “Look, it is fair to say that it will take some time for me to forgive or truly get past this but I am willing to try. And I do mean it when I say that I am happy to see you and you are just as beautiful as I remember.” He then turned and left the house; she heard the click of the front door and finally released her breath.