Mallory entered the house; it was quiet, and the lights were off, so she guessed that everyone had turned in for the night. She took care to be quiet as she locked the front door; she removed her shoes and climbed the stairs, noticing all of the closed bedroom doors. She stopped outside of Henry’s door and gave consideration to opening it and checking on him but decided she would come back after she changed her clothes. She took a few steps into her room and was preparing to close the door when she heard a noise in the hallway, she peeked around the door and found Henry standing there looking at her and rubbing his eyes.
“Hey momma, weren’t you going to come in and say goodnight?”
She opened the door a little wider and motioned for him to come into her room, “Hey, I didn’t mean to wake you.”
“You didn’t wake me,” he said as he yawned, “I stayed up to make sure got home okay.” He walked in and crawled up on the big bed in the middle of the room and made himself comfortable. “I’ve never seen you go out on a date before so I wanted to make sure you came back home. I wanted to make sure that nothing happened to you.”
Mallory softly laughed and shook her head, “Oh, Henry, I really should not let you watch crime shows on TV.” She walked over and sat down on the bed next to him and gave him a hug. “Yes, I was going to come in and give you a kiss goodnight, but I was going to change my clothes first. I didn’t realize you were awake, or I would have come on in to see you. Since you are up, though, maybe you and I could talk about the guy I had dinner with tonight.”
“Ew! I don’t want to talk about your date!” He said making a face and acting as if the idea was disgusting.
She playfully pushed his shoulder, “Oh, you are such a silly goose I am not going to tell you about my date but I want to talk about the guy!”
“What was his name again?” He asked scratching his head as if he didn’t remember, “Oh, yeah his name is Chris,” saying it with a stern and grown up voice.
“Yes, his name is Chris, and I met him a few years before you were born, and we dated and liked each other a lot.”
Henry interrupted, “Did he know my daddy?”
She was not prepared to go down this road and hated that she was going to lie to him, but she knew that she wasn’t ready to tell him the truth. And she promised Chris that when the time came, they would tell Henry together. “Yes, he knew your daddy well. But, Chris and I broke up and then we didn’t speak to each other for a long time. I had not talked to him until he came to the funeral home the other day.”
“Wow, that is a long time to be mad at someone.”
“Well, yeah, but we weren’t really mad. It is hard to explain, but I just left him without actually saying anything to him.”
“So you broke his heart?”
“Yeah baby, that is probably the best way to put it. But it was a very long time ago, and we want to put it behind us because we both still have feelings for one another. I know that is all a bit grown up for you to understand but it involves you, so I needed to explain it. Because Chris and I want to start spending time together which means he will be spending time with you and he wants to get to know you.”
“He does? I’m nobody important.” Henry said shrugging his shoulders and looking bewildered.
“Sure you are – you are very important to me, and because of that, you will end up being really important to him. He knows we are getting ready to head back to Atlanta, so he wants to spend the day with us tomorrow – are you up for that? I think it might be fun, and I think you will like him.”
Henry was silent for a moment as if he was contemplating everything his mother was saying to him. “Mom, are you going to marry him?”
She could not help but laugh at the question; he was so sweet and innocent, “Oh, honey it is way too soon to talk about something like that. I mean that is always a possibility but right now we just want to spend time together and see if we still like each other the way we used to. Plus, he wants to make sure that you are going to like him and will be okay with him being around.” She knew that she was leaving out huge pieces of the story, and it was not sitting right with her but, in her head, she knew it was the right thing to do. “I know this is a big change for you because you haven’t had a man around before.”
“Josh has been around; doesn’t he count?”
“Um…well, yeah I guess I forgot about Josh. But the difference is that Josh is more like a brother to me, and there is nothing romantic about him. Chris would be my boyfriend, and that would be different.”
“Okay, well I am good if he wants to hang out. But don’t kiss him in front of me because that is gross.”
“I will make sure to tell him that tomorrow. Is it okay if we hold hands?” Henry nodded his head to show his approval. “I am going to talk to Chris in the morning, and we will make plans for the day, so you need to tell me if there is something you want to do.”
“So is he going to visit us in Atlanta?”
“Yeah, and we might visit him from time to time. He lives here in Boston, and he has a house in California so we could visit him there. But we won’t make those decisions until we are sure that you two get along, and we know you want to spend time with him.”
“Mom, do you think he will make you happy?”
“What makes you ask a question like that?”
“It is always just you and me. I know you spend time with John and Darby but it is always you and me, and you seem lonely. I just want you to be happy and to have someone that makes you smile.”
She was surprised by his comments and had to hold back the tears that were beginning to prick her eyes. Henry was not an overly sensitive child, but he was evidently more observant than she had previously given credit. “Oh, sweetie, you make me happy, and you make me smile every day. But yeah, I really do think that Chris will make me happy, and I am pretty sure he will make me smile.”
“Well, if he will make you happy he will make me happy so he can hang out with us.”
She once again pulled her son into a hug, and this time, she kissed the top of his head. “Thanks for giving your approval, Henry. Now, how about you go back to bed and get some sleep now that you know I am home safe? I want you to be rested and on your best behavior tomorrow when you meet Chris.”
Henry hung his head and pretended to be upset, “Fine mom, I’ll go to bed.” She began to tickle him and made him laugh and then once again gave him a hug and kiss and sent him off to his room.
Mallory changed her clothes and crawled under the covers, settling in and trying to get comfortable and warm. The night had been full of surprises, and there was little doubt that tomorrow would bring a whole new set. She was not sure she would be able to sleep, and she wondered if Chris was having a similar issue. She almost picked up her phone to text him but feared that she would wake him up if he had fallen asleep. Instead, she would count sheep or meditate in the hopes of finding slumber on her own.
It did not take long for sleep to overtake her.
~ * ~
Mallory woke the next morning feeling rested and ready for whatever the day might bring. She got ready and went downstairs, deciding to fix a big breakfast for everyone. She was finishing up with the bacon when Darby joined her in the kitchen.
“Wow, you are little Suzie-homemaker this morning. Apparently, the date went well?”
“Yeah, it went well. I mean we had our moments where things were a little rocky but, overall, it went very well,” Mallory offered without turning from the stove. “I think that Henry answering the door last night shook him, though.”
“So, don’t be so cryptic, give me all of the details.”
Mallory took the last piece of bacon from the frying pan, turned off the stove and turned to face her best friend. “The other night he was all fire and brimstone, he wanted what was his and demanded his rights to Henry. Last night his demeanor had changed, and he suddenly wanted to take it slow,” she took a drink from her coffee cup before continuing. “Darby, when Henry opened the door last night it freaked him out.”
“I knew it had to, he had the deer in headlights look. Then again, so did you.”
“Yeah, well his anxiety kicked in. He told me that he just really wasn’t prepared to see him and meet him, so he wants to take it slow. That means he wants to hang out with him and ease into the relationship and I can completely respect that. I don’t want to make Chris uncomfortable and, in turn, make Henry uncomfortable.”
“As a medical professional, I am in agreement that this approach will work well. But be careful to not drag it out too long because that could have an adverse effect as well.”
“Thanks, Doc,” Mallory said mockingly.
“If Chris is going to take it slow then he isn’t telling his family yet? How is that going to go over?”
“I’m not sure; I can’t anticipate that his mom will be very excited that he will be holding out on the introduction. But maybe she will surprise me, stranger things have happened you know.”