When he said the words, they came out soft and made him seem vulnerable. She did not immediately respond to his question, and she was not sure how her moment of silence would be interpreted. Unfortunately, he misinterpreted her shock for lack of desire; he stood and walked toward the door, ready to push the button to call Gerard and order another whiskey when he hears her voice.
Her voice is soft, and her words are almost imperceptible, “You want to get back together? Do you want to try to be a family?”
“Well, don’t make it sound so ridiculous,” he stopped short of the wall and turned and looked at her, “We have both admitted that we still have feelings for one another, and it only seems natural for us to consider acting upon them, right?”
“What about Henry? I mean we can’t just start dating and acting like a family with him; I thought we were going to take it slow?” Her words were harsh.
“Don’t misunderstand me, I want it all to go slow, and I am not suggesting we just jump right in. Hell, I don’t even think you should introduce me to Henry as his father yet,” he moved back to the other side of the room and sat down next to her on the couch, taking her hands in his. “I will be honest with you, last night it was all about having what I thought was rightfully mine. But tonight, seeing him for the first time, it scared the shit out of me. If you had told me you were pregnant I would have had nine months to prepare to meet my son but opening the door and coming face-to-face with my twelve-year-old son; well, I wasn’t really prepared for that.”
Mallory could not help but smile as he said those words; she had a feeling that he was having a bit of anxiety over the entire situation, and that is why his position had changed. “I understand, I do. Since you met him tonight and he knows you are an old boyfriend of mine we can use that as a way for us to hang out and for you to get to know him without the pressure of being his dad. Will that work?” He nodded his head in agreement. “He has already done quite a bit of sightseeing but there are a few more places to go and see and maybe we can do that tomorrow, are you available?”
“I will make myself available,” he smiled broadly, showing off that grin that Mallory knew melted the panties off women around the world. “I don’t want to overwhelm him, so I am not going to introduce him to the rest of the family yet. I think maybe we just spend some time together before you go back to Atlanta and then we take it from there.”
She nodded her head in agreement, this could work, and she was cautiously optimistic that it could happen. “I don’t want to ruin the moment, but how is your mother going to react if you don’t introduce Henry to her before we leave for Atlanta?”
“You let me worry about my mom, okay? You are both very protective of your sons, so you have a lot in common in that respect. But she put her nose in and got several things wrong and made things worse in the last few days; so she doesn’t get a say in any of this.” Chris stood up from the couch and held out his hand for Mallory, “Are you ready for dinner?”
She took his hand, and he escorted her to the table nestled in front of the fireplace. After helping her to her seat, he moved to press the call button so that Gerard could come in to take their order. He then took his seat opposite her and waited as Gerard entered the room, presented menus, and poured glasses of wine. Chris politely handed the menus back to Gerard, “I realize my date hates when a man orders for her, but I am going to be ever so bold this evening,” he proceeded to place the order and thanked Gerard. He looked back at Mallory, “By ordering while he was here, he won’t come back, and we can be alone for a while longer to continue our conversation.”
“So you know I hate it, but you did it without regard? I should make you pay for that,” she said with a wink of her eye and a devilish grin.
“Oh, by all means, please do,” he responded while smiling and raising his eyebrows. “Seriously, I know I should be asking you questions and having you tell me all about Henry, but I want to talk about your life over these last twelve years. And please don’t give me the pat answer that you are just a mom; tell me about your life.”
“Um…well….I am a mom,” she said laughing and picking up her wine glass, “I don’t know, what exactly is it that you want to know?”
“Mallory, did you mean what you said? That you had followed my career, and you talked to Josh about me?”
She let out a hearty laugh this time, “Yeah, I was like a damn school girl. I wouldn’t see your movies in the theater, though; I would rent or buy them instead. Josh would always give me the heads up on when they were coming out, and I would get them. He would also give me the heads up on what you were working on – upcoming projects and stuff. I am reasonably sure he hated answering all of my dumb ass questions including my curiosity about who you were dating and whether it was serious or not. I am pretty sure that makes me sound like a stalker.”
“Well, maybe a little,” he mocked. “I guess I just can’t believe Josh never told me he was talking to you; he was magnificent at keeping you secret even when I would tell him how much I missed you and wished I could see you again, he never gave you up.” Mallory felt her cheeks begin to flush, and she knew it wasn’t from the fireplace. “Well, you have followed my career and know everything about me so it only fair that I get to have the same sort of information about you. Fill me in on what you’ve been up to, who you’ve dated…come on give me all the dirt.”
She laughed heartily at this, “Well, I don’t think I know everything about you, but I do see your point.” She cleared her throat and started with her story, “I moved in with Aunt Mary, she was my dad’s sister. She wasn’t nearly as judgmental as my parents, so she agreed to take me in. She was a widow, and she didn’t have any children but always wanted them, so she welcomed the idea of having me there. She said it kept her from being so lonely in that big house.”
“Did your parents ever try to reach out?”
“No, they never called or anything. Mary called them a few times during my pregnancy to tell them how I was doing, but she did all of the talking. She said one time that it seemed like my mom wanted me to come home and it was my dad who always said no.” She stared into the flames of the fire and tried to pull her thoughts together; it was important to have this conversation, but that didn’t mean it was easy. “My pregnancy wasn’t easy, the stress from the situation with my parents and of us being apart, well my blood pressure was high, and it wasn’t healthy. She called my parents to tell them, and they were unfazed. See my parents were prominent in the community, and it would have reflected poorly on them to have an unmarried and pregnant daughter. So, they never would allow shame to fall on them, and that meant they couldn’t be a part of our lives.”
“And you transferred schools, right?”
“Yeah, we were right outside of the city, and there was a small college that I was able to transfer to so that I could continue my studies. It worked out well for the first semester since it was still early enough in the pregnancy. My aunt kept telling me I should get out of the house and make friends and have fun – I think she forgot that my condition prevented me from being able to do that.”
“What, you weren’t going out and partying and picking up men?” Chris was trying told hold back his laugh as he lifted his glass for a drink.
“You know, amazingly enough, I had a hard time finding guys who were interested in dating a pregnant girl,” she said laughing. “I didn’t have very many friends, and I think most everyone took for granted that I was married, and I really didn’t want to argue the point and volunteer that I was single and knocked up.”
“Yeah, sorry, I guess I should have known better than to bring that up,” He said somewhat embarrassed.
“Well I didn’t have time for a social life, I knew I would not be able to take many classes the next semester, so I had a crazy schedule to get as many classes in as I could before Henry was born. Unfortunately, I put too much pressure on myself and because of my high blood pressure I had to be placed on bed rest.” She noticed how he was watching her; eyes fixated and showing concern. He wasn’t saying anything, though, she was waiting for him to interject but he was quiet. She decided to move forward, “So they figured if I withdrew from the semester and stayed on bed rest that my stress level would decrease. Unfortunately, it didn’t work – it made it worse because I had nothing to do but to lay in bed and worry and Henry ended up coming five weeks early.”
Chris let out a heavy sigh, “But the two of you were okay, right? I mean, of course, you are sitting in front of me, and I saw him last night but were there lasting effects from his being born early?”
“No, he was fine and was actually at a healthy weight, so he didn’t have to spend very much time in the NICU. He is healthy, and you would have never known he was premature if I didn’t tell you.”
“I’m sorry, I guess it was my fault that all of that happened to you.”
“No, not all your fault, just some of it,” she said with a smile and a faint laugh, “Remember Romeo, it takes two to tango so this wasn’t all your doing. Look, I don’t want to make it sound all gloom and doom. I ended up making the best of it, and Mary was awesome. She didn’t work so she agreed to watch Henry while I finished school and got a job. She spoiled us, and I came to think of her as my mom and Henry thought of her as his grandmother.”
Chris smiled at her; she was amazing, and he was impressed with how she appeared to be holding her life together. He knew he was supposed to be angry but looking at her, seeing how she carries herself; the anger dissipates. “Is she still alive?”
“No, sadly she passed two years ago. It was hard for Henry, and I had to explain how she was an angel watching over him now and that she would forever be in his heart. He misses her so much,” she stopped to gather herself before continuing, “As hard as that conversation was; I have a feeling it will be nothing compared to the one we will have regarding you.”
“Well, hopefully, we can have that conversation together, and it won’t be something you have to deal with alone.”