Mallory watched Chris walk up the stairs and disappear around the corner towards Henry’s room. She had to admit that the sight of him holding his sleeping son stirred emotions within her; emotions that she wasn’t sure she was able to have still. She turned and walked into the living room and plopped down on the couch, trying to get comfortable. She sat in silence and watched the staircase for Chris to return.
As her mind wandered to the feelings, she was having, and what they meant, she finally saw him appear at the top of the stairway. It was evident by the smile on his face that he was happy and she thought she could even see his eyes dancing. He didn’t say a word as he entered the living room and took a seat beside her. He was sitting so close that their bodies were touching and she could feel her body temperature rise; she wondered if he could feel it too. The two of them sat in awkward silence for several moments.
Finally, Chris decided to break the silence, “You know he never woke up. I was able to change his clothes and get him into bed, and he never woke up. Is he always such a heavy sleeper? Because if he is,” Chris trailed off, leaving the innuendo dangling.
“No,” she answered a little too quickly, “No, I think he is just really exhausted. He usually wakes up at the slightest noise, but I think he is so worn out from everything that he is just passed out. I do have to tell you that I think it was sweet how you took such an interest in everything that he wanted to do today.”
“I was interested – he gets so excited about stuff that it was infectious,” Chris reached for her hand and laced their fingers together, “I had a wonderful time with him and loved almost every minute of it. My only regret for the entire day is that I didn’t have enough alone time with you.”
“Oh, aren’t you smooth?” She smiled as she moved a little closer and put her head on his shoulder, “It was really more important for you to bond with Henry today. It was okay for me to blend into the background and stay out of the way.”
“I don’t ever want you to feel like you have to blend into the background. You are too important to me, and it is time for you to believe that.”
“You know when you brought me home last night he was waiting up for me.”
“Seriously? Was he afraid you wouldn’t come back or something?”
“I guess so, he isn’t used to me going out on a date, so he didn’t know what to expect. He wanted to know that I was home safe but he said he didn’t want any of the details,” she said with a light chuckle.
“Well you weren’t willing to share details anyway, were you?”
“Uh, no. Although, to be honest, there was nothing that we did last night that would be inappropriate to tell him. We didn’t have sex or do anything dirty,” she said as if it was taboo.
“True, we could make up for that tonight, though,” he said with a raise of his eyebrows.
She raised her head and gave him a stern look. “We did talk about you, and he asked if you knew his dad. Had to admit that one caught me off guard.”
Chris froze, he knew this would be a problem they would have to face head on, but he wasn’t ready yet, “And what did you tell him?”
She lifted her head from his shoulder and looked up at him, “I just said that you knew his dad and left it at that. I really couldn’t say anything else. So, be prepared, he might ask you about him,” she said as she put her head back down on his should and settled back in.
“Great, so I get to lie to him right away if he asks about his dad?”
“You can just say you knew his dad well and he is a good guy. You aren’t lying, you know him very well, and you know that he is a good man. You are just leaving out the minor detail that you are one and the same.”
“You say that like it will be no big deal just to gloss over that piece of information.”
“I know it won’t be, but hopefully, he won’t ask about him, and we won’t have to worry about it. Besides, you’re an actor; you can make something up and make it seem believable.”
He scoffed at her remark; she was trying to downplay the situation, and he knew that but he was going to obsess over it and he knew that would only make it worse. “So did he ask any other questions about the two of us?”
“Well, he asked if I was going to marry you.”
“Whoa! He wastes no time in getting to the important stuff does he?”
“I told him that it was way too early to talk like that and that right now we just wanted to see if we still had feelings for one another and we wanted to date.”
“So, does that mean you would be open to the idea?”
She sat up and looked at him, “Chris, seriously?”
“I mean I’m not proposing right this minute, but are you open to the idea of getting married?”
“I don’t know, are you?”
He didn’t answer immediately but just stared into her eyes, feeling as if he was being hypnotized. “Yeah, I am open to the idea, and I can totally see myself proposing to you. I just don’t think I am ready to do it after one date, though.”
She smiled, her heart melting at the words he had said, “I am open to discussing it, but I am not ready to accept a proposal after one date.”
“You know, I would have to get Henry’s blessing first anyway. I need to make sure he would be okay with me marrying his mom.”
“Well, if it is any consolation, he told me last night he would not have a problem with you hanging around as long as you make me happy and you make me smile.”
“You have to hand it to that kid, he definitely looks after his mom, and I am proud of him for that.”
“Yeah, well I guess he gets that honestly,” she said with a smile, “Speaking of your mother.”
“Were we speaking of her?” He asked sarcastically.
“Well, I am taking the conversation in that direction. Why are you mad at her? You aren’t filling me in on everything.”
“She saw you and Josh with Henry at the cemetery. She was far away and didn’t get a good look at Henry, but she saw Josh’s interactions with him and your interactions with Josh. She made the flying leap that you and Josh had something going on and that Henry was Josh’s son.”
Mallory let out a loud belly laugh, she could not contain it, “Oh my, please tell me you are kidding!”
“No, so she got me all worked up, and that is when I stormed over to Josh’s house and then came over to your house.” He ran his fingers through his hair, “I am embarrassed over the entire situation, and I am mad at her for putting me in that spot.”
“I can understand why you would be upset. Have you smoothed things over with Josh yet?”
“No, not yet. I will have to do that, but I figure I will do it after you go back to Atlanta. I was more concerned with clearing the air with you first.”
“What was your mom’s reaction to finding out Henry is not Josh’s son?”
“She was shocked, for which I can totally relate. She was angry that I wasn’t told, again, I can totally relate. And I told her that while I was adamant about what I wanted, I did panic when I saw him for the first time and that I determined I wasn’t ready to jump feet first.”
“And she is accepting of your decision to take it slow and not introduce him to the entire family yet?”
“She said she respects it but does not agree with it. I think it is because she wants to meet him and she knows this means it delays her ability to spoil another grandchild.”
“How angry is she with me?”
“I honestly don’t know. I think she was mad in the beginning, just like I was. But I explained to her the situation and while, I admit, I still have the disappointment that you didn’t trust to come to me in the beginning. I do realize you were in a terribly difficult situation.”
Chris noticed that Mallory’s head was down and he was afraid that all of the positive strides they had made in their relationship were starting to crumble. Chris raised his hands and placed the on the sides of Mallory’s face and gently pulled her towards him. He gently brushed his lips across hers in the softest kiss. All of the air escaped her lungs, and Mallory found herself struggling to maintain control.
“I’m not angry with you, babe. I said I was disappointed and that is true. But I am committed to moving past it and making a relationship work between us. I love you. Do you hear me? I love you, and I am not holding anger and animosity toward you.”
She smiled back at him, “I love you, too. You both have a right to be angry.”
Chris dropped his hands and his head at the same time, “Oh you are stubborn! If she is mad, she will get over it. She is, at least, going along with my wishes and not telling my brother and sisters.”
“What about your dad?”
“I haven’t told him yet. I need to call him, I know, I just haven’t. Maybe I will see if wants to go get coffee after you leave and I can tell him then.”
He leaned forward and kissed her again as if he could read her mind and know that is what she wanted. This time, the kiss was more intense. The passion was building between the two of them when he suddenly broke free and sat back.
“Why did you stop? What’s wrong?” She asked, a bit dejected.
“I have to stop now, or I’m afraid I won’t and since there are other people in the house – well, I don’t want us to be caught in an awkward situation, if you know what I mean.”
Mallory looked up at him, and he could see the desire swirling in her eyes, “I know exactly what you mean, but I have to admit, I didn’t want you to stop.”
He leaned forward and kissed her again, “Thank God I’m not the only one that felt that way!” He put his forehead against hers and held her hand in his, “I really don’t want you to go back to Atlanta. Maybe we need to go ahead and revisit that marriage proposal after one date.”
“I don’t want to go back, but we have to. I have to go back to work, and Henry has to go back to school. This was one date – never mind that it was incredible, but it was just one, so we can’t skip ahead.”
“You know, there are schools in Boston, and I could take care of you, and you wouldn’t have to work. I’m just saying,” he smiled, but he knew she was right. “Hey, honestly, this was our second date. We should count dinner the other night as our first date. Tonight was just our first family date.”
“You don’t give up, do you?”
“No, I don’t. When do you leave?”
“Day after tomorrow. We leave first thing in the morning, I am driving back with John and Darby instead of flying.”
“So when am I going to see you and Henry again?”
“Maybe you can come over here for dinner tomorrow night so you can spend more time with him before he leaves. Then we can make arrangements for the holidays to get together, that could work if you have time off.”
“I do have time off, and you just gave me a great idea! Why don’t you two come with us on the family trip to Disney? We have to drive right through Atlanta so we could pick you up. I would be amazing.”
She looked at him and shook her head; her expression gave off that she felt sorry for him being so stupid. “Honey, I think when you get excited about something your damn brain takes a vacation,” she said as she started to laugh quite loudly, “Henry looks just like you so how long do you think it will take your brother and sisters to figure out who he is? Um, less than a second, I am sure. And can we talk about your fans for a minute? The ones who plan their Disney vacations around your vacation? The ones who stalk you around the park and take pictures and video of you; they will see Henry with you and figure it out, too. Which means he will be outed and you will have a PR nightmare on your hands.”
“Wow, babe, you sure do have a knack for looking at the bright side don’t you?” Sarcasm was dripping from every word.
“I know, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to rain on your parade because I love the idea, but I can’t help but think that it will not turn out as you have it pictured in your mind. I promise we will find a way to make this work between us. We both want it, and I think that Henry likes you so he will be okay with you hanging around.”
Chris stood up and began walking towards the door, “I better go, how about you give me a call tomorrow, and we can coordinate getting together?”
“Why are you in such a hurry to leave?”
He began to pace as he watched her get up from the couch and walk towards him, “Um, because if I don’t leave right now, I might cross a line that I shouldn’t cross.” He slammed his hands in his pants pockets and tried not to look down at her or make eye contact.
She knew what this meant, and she could not help but want to play with him and torture him just a little. She turned her head to the side and gave him a sweet and innocent look, “What is wrong, Chris? Are you starting to feel just a little uncomfortable?” As she asked the question, she trailed her index finger down his chest along the buttons of his oxford shirt. She thought she saw him visibly shudder.
“That is not exactly the word I would use,” he said in response.
“I understood that reference,” she said laughing back at him. “In all seriousness, why are you running away?”
“Because, right now I want nothing more than to take you upstairs to bed. But that would be dangerous to do with Henry in the next room and with John and Darby here. And, this is our first date in twelve years, and I know you aren’t that kind of girl,” he said walking over to her and kissing her on the top of her head. “I need to go before I mess this up, we have plenty of time, albeit we won’t be in the same city. I am committed to making this work, which means I need to go home.”
She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him, “You are a gentleman, and I appreciate you and um, I can obviously tell you are not happy to go home.”
“Fuck, do you have to point it out?”
“Go home and take a cold shower, but make sure you don’t say my name too loud. Wouldn’t want you to wake up your mom.”
Chris glared at her for a minute before putting on his coat and walking out to the car. He tried to act like he was mad but they both knew he wasn’t; he was amused at how she was openly toying with him. And both of them realized they were in over their heads – they were crazy for one another, and there would be no going back.