While Chris and Mallory were getting comfortable, the side door to the dining room opened, and their waiter appeared. He introduced himself as Gerard and apologized for interrupting; Chris ordered a bottle of wine along with a glass of whiskey, neat. Gerard leaves the room, and Mallory is confident he was able to feel the tension in the room. A moment later, Gerard reappears and makes them aware of the buzzer on the wall; when they need anything they can just press that, and he will return. Until then, he would not interrupt them. Now, Mallory was sure he was able to feel the tension.
She was relieved, however, to know that they could have a conversation and not have an awkward moment by having Gerard walk in. She took a sip of her wine and began fidgeting with her glass. Chris took her cue and sipped from his glass as well; the whiskey gave him the courage to speak.
“Thanks for agreeing to have dinner with me tonight,” he cleared his throat, “I think there is probably some apprehension on both of our sides, and that is entirely understandable. However, I don’t want us to argue tonight; I just want to talk.”
She sighed heavily and slowly nodded; she was having trouble finding the right words. “I know that I threw a lot of information at you last night, and it only seems fair that you would want to talk about it. And, I don’t want to argue either, but it might be inevitable since we are both emotionally invested.”
“That is right, and last night I said some things I shouldn’t have said, and I thought maybe we could start over,” He sat forward and his knees touched hers, “I’m sorry that you didn’t feel you could tell me everything all those years ago.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry, too. I should have told you the truth back then, and I certainly should not have kept it quiet for so long.”
Chris finished off his whiskey; he knew his next statement could start the fight he wanted to avoid. “Be honest, Mallory, what is the real reason you never reached out to me? You talked to Josh all the time; he could have set it up.”
“I did tell you the truth last night. Your career was taking off, and it would look suspect for me to reach out,” she took a big drink out of her wine glass, “Your mom would question my motives and your fans would freak out. I would be labeled a pariah.”
“You believe that?”
“Yeah, don’t you? I know the reaction would not be positive in any sense of the imagination. C’mon do you really think you would have welcomed the news? Wouldn’t you have been suspicious?”
He hung his head and smiled slightly, “I am going to guess that I would have responded in a similar fashion to the way I did last night.”
“Oh, I think that is a safe bet; and I honestly would not have blamed you. Josh and I talked about me telling you, but then he would tell me about who you were dating and what movie you were working on, and there was never an ideal time to drop that kind of bomb on you.”
“I would have looked at it as a bomb, too. I never gave any consideration to the idea that I would have gotten you pregnant. I swear it never entered my mind.”
“We were young and stupid and thought we were immune to the realities of having unprotected sex,” she took another drink and drained her glass, “Look, now that you do know, I think you and Henry need to meet, but I am not for relocating to Boston right now. He has his school and friends in Atlanta, and I can’t just pick him up and move him on a whim.”
He stared at her for a minute, watching the reflection of the fire dancing in her eyes. He was lost in the moment but tried to quickly regain his composure, “You are right, I think it will be a big enough shock to learn about me, and I agree, it would be unfair to make him move right away. He will need time to adjust – I think we all will.
This was not the conversation he had initially planned for the night, but coming face-to-face with Henry had thrown a monkey wrench into his plans. The idea of having a son was one thing, but looking him in the eye, well that made it real and scary. Something he wasn’t quite prepared for.
Mallory was watching his expression carefully. He had made an abrupt change from his position last night when he was demanding to see Henry and for them to move to Boston. You were curious about what had happened between when you saw him last night and right now? “Um, I’m sorry it is just that you are catching me a little off guard. I am not complaining, but just want to understand why you changed your mind?”
“I thought about it all last night, and my brain would not shut off. Hell, I could barely sleep, and it has consumed me all day. Last night I was being selfish and only thinking of myself and how I wanted this to go. I was not taking you or Henry into consideration. So, I am doing that now and suggesting we take it slow for all of us.”
“Did your mom tell you all of that?” She said with a smile; a gentle dig at how his mom has a powerful influence on his decisions.
He gave her a hard stare, “Actually, no she didn’t. We had a terse discussion this morning, and I told her I am not ready to talk about any of this with her right now.” He sat back, settled deep in the oversized leather chair, “I don’t’ want to spend our time this evening discussing my mom, maybe we can table that for another night.”
She sat back, crossing her legs, and looking intently at him; he didn’t break her gaze. “Ok, I will not ask you about your mom and I will not going to argue with you about your change in your position. I am just going to say that I am thankful that we have come to an agreement. I have to tell you I am not sure how Henry is going to react to all of this,” she pauses, and he notices the change in her breathing and when she looks up the tears are beginning to well in her eyes, “Chris, please don’t take him away from me.”
He immediately pulled himself out of the chair and took the spot next to her on the couch. Reaching out he put his arm around her and pulled her close to him and placed a kiss on her head, “Oh, baby, I never considered doing that, I swear.” He kissed her again and held her a little tighter.
Her face began to flush with embarrassment, she quickly sat up and wiped the tears from her face, “Sorry, I guess the wine has made me a tad emotional.”
“There is no need to apologize, it is very clear that you love our son,” his eyes went wide at the realization of what he had said.
Mallory smiled in amusement, “You should get used to saying it; well, at least in private settings anyway. You know, your fandom will explode if they find out about you having a son – they already freak out when they see pictures of you with kids. What is the expression they use? Oh, yeah, they say their ovaries explode.” Mallory began laughing hysterically at this.
Chris just stared at her for a minute and then finally asked, “Ok, confession time – so tell me exactly how you are following my career?”
She turned bright red, “Um…well….when I want to know the truth I call Josh. But for fun, I cruise Tumblr and look at all the pictures that are posted and read what people say about you.”
“Shit! Are you kidding? Social media is dangerous – rumors get started, and things can turn ugly.”
“Oh, I know, which is why I worry about this situation getting out. I know what has been said about the girls you have dated or have been rumored to have dated and I am terrified of what would be said about me.”
“Well, I have no intention of putting out a press release or having you walk the red carpet,” as he said the words he began to wonder if it sounded too harsh. He looked at her and noticed that she wasn’t looking at him, her head was down, and her eyes fixed on her lap, “Mallory, I merely meant that I wouldn’t parade you out in public and subject you to any unwanted exposure. I would love to have you on my arm for an event and show you off if that is what you want, but I don’t want to put you out there just for the sake of it.”
She slowly looked up and made direct eye contact with him, “Chris, what do you really want from me?”
He let her question sink in for a minute, he wasn’t really expecting her to get to the point so quickly. He had gathered his thoughts before he began to speak, “All of these years I have always wondered where you were and what you were doing. I made up stories in my mind as to why you left and whether I would ever see you again. You said you have thought about me over the years and I wasn’t lying when I told you I have thought about you.”
“But what do you want, Chris? I don’t know where I stand with you or where you want me to stand. I wouldn’t be this assertive, but I figure this is my only real opportunity,” she uncrossed her legs and leaned forward, elbows on her knees, “What do you want? You talk like you want me in your life, but I don’t know if that is from a strictly platonic standpoint or if you want something more. Give me an idea, so I know what I am walking into, please.”
He smiled, she was direct, and while he should think she is full of herself and overly confident, he realizes she is actually terrified and unsure of herself. “I honestly don’t have an answer for you, Mallory. When I saw you at the funeral home the other night, I was full of jealousy when I saw you with Josh, but my heart swelled when you looked at me and every fiber within me wanted to pull you into my arms and not let you go.”
Her eyes went wide when she heard this admission, and she quickly looked away from him. He took a deep breath and then continued, “Then when I found out that you had kept Henry from me all these years, well, it is safe to say that my feelings changed. But as angry as I was, as you told me what had happened, the anger began to subside, and the feelings I had for you were still there.”
“You still have feelings?”
“Yeah, I do, and I know it makes no sense and I know we can’t just pick up where we left off twelve years ago. My mind tells me that, but my heart tells me I want to try.”
She didn’t know what to say; while she had secretly hoped for him to say these words over the years, the reality of him actually doing it was a different story. She could feel her body temperature rise and her skin begin to flush.
“Mallory, would you be willing to give us another try?