Mallory was preparing to respond when the side door opened, and Gerard appeared with their dinners. She watched as the plates were placed in front of them and said nothing as Gerard asked if they needed anything else. Before turning to leave, he mentioned he would be back in five minutes to check on them; he then retreated through the side door. She guessed he gave a specific timeframe so that they could tailor their conversation for his interruption; they do think of everything in these fancy restaurants.
Chris said nothing as he placed his napkin on his lap and picked up his silverware to begin eating. It didn’t take him long to notice that she was watching him eat, and she had not touched her plate. He put his fork and knife down, gracefully wiped his mouth, and leaned forward on the table, “Is something wrong? Please don’t tell me you became a vegetarian within the last twelve years?”
She let out a hearty laugh, “Heavens no! I mean to stare, really, I think I am still in shock that we are having dinner and are making plans. This entire situation is improbable, you realize that, right?”
He gazed at her for a moment, watching the fire dance in her eyes, which were glistening, “Well, yeah, I can admit that it is a little…um…hard to believe.”
“Oh man, I hope we are not going to end up like some horribly sappy Hallmark movie.”
“We might,” he jabbed playfully, “Look, I think there are reservations on both sides, and it is saying something when I am the voice of reason on this right now. It will be an adjustment for both of us, but we will find a way to work it out. Now, that is one of the finest steaks in Boston, and you are letting it get cold.”
She took his cue and began to eat her dinner; the two ate in relative silence with Gerard checking in on them from time to time. As they finished dinner, Chris began to worry about ending the night. He knew he could not take her back to his mother’s house and he didn’t want to risk going back to her house since it would mean seeing Henry. Going to a bar would be risky as they would be seen in public and their conversation could be overheard. His brain was beginning to hurt as he tried to work through the scenarios and evidently, the scowl was evident on this face.
“Quit thinking so hard, I can smell your brain smoking,” she said with a giggle.
It broke him out of his trance, “What? Did you say something?”
“What are you thinking about? You have such a stern look on your face.”
“Oh, I am just thinking about what we are going to do now that dinner is over.”
“Well, I know this is not what you will want to hear, but maybe you can just take me home. Before you get upset, I just think that if we are going to spend all day together tomorrow, we don’t want to use up all of our conversation topics tonight.” She offered with a grin that made him realize she was not trying to be mean but that she was indeed giving thought and consideration to their situation.
“Maybe you’re right; I don’t really want to let you go, but I don’t want to use up all of our conversation in one night either.”
She stood and walked towards him and stood to greet her; she gently touched his face in a gesture that was so romantic and intimate, “We have twelve years of our own to catch up on and the lifetime of our son to discuss – I don’t think we will run out of conversations.” She then wrapped her arms around him and placed her head on his chest. She just wanted to feel his body against hers and have him close.
He had to admit her actions took him by surprise but he was not about to let her go. Her warm body pressed against his is what he had been dreaming about for some time. But just as he was melting into the moment she pulled back.
“Sorry, I shouldn’t have done that,” she offered quietly as she moved back towards her chair.
“No need to apologize, I was rather enjoying it,” he responded, and he knew his voice captured his disappointment. He couldn’t help it, he had waited all these years to see her again, and he finally had her in his arms, and she didn’t seem like she wanted to stay there.
Chris walked over and hit the buzzer and when Gerard appeared he spoke to him quietly and directly; it was evident he was settling the bill for dinner. A moment later the main door to the room opens, and the hostess appears with an envelope for Chris and their coats. Mallory anticipated that the envelope held his credit card and the receipt for dinner. Chris helped her with her coat and then escorted her out to the car; he didn’t say much, and it was a little awkward.
As they pulled into the driveway at the house, Mallory turned to look at Chris, “You haven’t said much since we left dinner, have I done something to make you angry?”
He waited a moment before answering, “No, you haven’t done anything to make me angry.”
“Well, what have I done wrong?”
“Nothing, I think I just didn’t really want the night to end. I wanted more time alone with you and realize that any time with you from this point forward will be with Henry and I am not sure I am ready for that.”
“We will have alone time, I will make sure we do,” she unhooked her seatbelt and leaned across the car and gave him a kiss on the cheek. She immediately felt the spark when her lips touched his skin. “I will see myself to the door. Give me a call in the morning, and we will make our plans for the day. Thank you for dinner, Chris, I had an incredible time.”
He watched as she got out of the car and made her way up the pathway and through the front door. If he didn’t know any better, he could have sworn her feet were not touching the ground. He sat in the driveway for a moment before backing out and driving home.
On his drive home he could not help but hope that everyone would be in bed when he got home; that way he could sneak into the house and avoid any questions. He had successfully avoided his mom and her questions, but he knew that his luck would run out. As he pulled into the driveway, he realized that today was that day. The lights were on downstairs, so his mom was up, or Carly, or if he was really lucky, both of them.
He walked up the pathway and slowly opened the front door; he noticed everyone was in the family room watching movies and huddled together on the couch under blankets. He stood at the back of the room for a minute and watched, thinking of how it would be to have Henry in that mix. Just then he felt his mom’s hand on his shoulder as she walked up behind him; he didn’t even realize she wasn’t in the family room.
“Hey, where have you been all night? You are all dressed up and look nice by the way.”
“I had dinner with Mallory; I just got home,” he said coolly.
“Come here,” she said as she pulled his arm toward the other room. She walked him into the living room where they had some privacy from the rest of the family. “Are you going to talk to me about this situation? I know you are upset Chris, but we have never gone this long without speaking, and I think we need to work it out.”
“Fine, but let’s go over to the office because I am not going to get into this where Carly, Ryan, or the kids can overhear this conversation.”
After settling into the chair in the office, Chris decided to start, “I am not going to yell, and I am not going to raise my voice. I will tell you what is going on, but none of this is up for debate, do you understand?” He waited until his mother nodded her head in agreement before he continued. “I told you the other day; Mallory’s parents disowned her because I got her pregnant and they kicked her out. She was afraid of what my reaction would be and terrified of what your reaction would be so she never said anything.”
Lisa let out a huff, “She was afraid of my reaction? Why? I was never anything but nice to her.”
“She was afraid you would think it was bad for my career, and she knew that if you were not happy that I would not be happy. She doesn’t have ill feelings for you mom – she just didn’t think you would be thrilled with an unplanned pregnancy for your unmarried son.”
“Oh, well she might have had a point,” she relented.
“She thought about telling me over the years but was afraid to because my career was taking off and she would be viewed as a gold digger or a pariah. And I have to admit that she is right, it would not have gone well for her in the press; even if we tried to keep it quiet.”
“Was she planning on telling you?”
“I don’t know, she says she was, but I am not sure when. I think the fact that you saw Henry at the cemetery and me attacking Josh sort of escalated any time frame she had. I was angry at first but when I heard the entire story about what she went through; mom, I feel sorry for her, and I hate that she didn’t feel like she could come to me.”
“So tell me about him; what is he like?”
“I haven’t talked to him yet, at least not in that way. He doesn’t know about me,” he hung his head because he knew to admit this part to his mom was going to be hard. “When Mallory and I had our confrontation the other night I was all about meeting him and having my rights as his father. Mom, he opened the door tonight, and I looked at him, and my heart stopped. It was like looking into a mirror, and suddenly the idea that I am someone’s father became one hundred percent real; I thought I was going to pass out because I could hear my blood rushing in my ears.”
Tears began to prick the corner of Lisa’s eyes as her son talked about this child and her new grandson. Chris had always talked about wanting kids, and she knew that there was a part of him that was thrilled to be able to say he had a son, but she also knew that he struggled with anxiety, and this is what he was waging the biggest battle with right now. She knew that the best thing she could do right now was to let him get it out and for her to listen.
“I couldn’t breathe, and I know that Mallory couldn’t either; I was afraid she was going to have a stroke. I got the impression he came running to answer the door, and she couldn’t stop him. But he was sweet and very protective of his mother; wanted to know if he should worry about her going out and if I would bring her home safe.”
“It sounds like the two of them are very close.”
“They are, and she even begged me tonight to not take him away from her. Mom, it is not my intention to take him away from her, but I want to be a part of their lives,” he was almost pleading as he said the words.
“I will let you handle it, Chris. I won’t interject unless you ask me to. But I would like to know what you are going to do. You seem very anxious about this but also very firm that you want to be in his life; is she meeting you half way on this or is she shutting you out?”
“Mom, she is just as nervous about this as I am. We agreed to take this slow, very slow, allowing me to get to know Henry without the pressures of fatherhood. And gets Henry used to me being around without disliking me immediately because he thinks I am coming to rip him away from his mom.”
“And what about your relationship with Mallory?”
“Well, we are willing to see where it goes.”
“You never stopped loving her, did you?”
He didn’t answer, “You know, I don’t want to tell everyone about Henry yet. I don’t want to introduce him to anyone, including you and I know that will upset you, and I am sorry. But I promised Mallory we would take this slow, and it is as much for me as it is for her and Henry, so I hope you can respect that decision.”
“I can respect it – I don’t like it, but I can certainly respect it. And I have not told your brother or your sisters about him. And I can keep it quiet from them, but I do think you should call your father and talk to him about it.”
“Thanks, yeah I will call him and discuss it with him,” he stood up and began walking toward the door and then turned to look at his mom, “To answer your question from earlier, no, I never stopped.”