Mallory was unable to move as Chris read the letter that her father had written for her. He had, in essence, apologized for turning his back on her and praised her for being an excellent mother. While she was thankful that he realized the gravity of this decision all those years ago, she wished he would have put his pride to the side and said those words to her in person. The impact would have been greater.
But Chris read the words so thoughtfully, and she could tell that it was hard for him to get through the letter. His voice sounded as if he felt like he was intruding on a conversation he should not be a part of. When Chris pulled her into his arms, well the flood gates opened and the tears began to flow freely. He didn’t say anything, he just held her tight and rubbed her back. Letting her know that she was safe in his arms and that he would not let her go when it was obvious she needed this.
Chris had known that she would break down eventually; she had been too detached regarding her parents. He could tell that she was losing the fight to stand so he moved to the bed. This time, he sat on the bed, propped up on the headboard and pulled her onto the bed to snuggle up alongside him. He held her close but did not press her to talk. Within a few moments, she had fallen asleep.
Chris wasn’t sure how much time had gone by, there were no clocks in the room, and he couldn’t reach his phone in his pocket or see his watch. The sound of thundering footsteps meant that someone was coming to look for Mallory and the safe bet would be Henry.
Sure enough, he came running down the hall, “Mom!” When he got to the doorway and saw that she was snuggled up and asleep, he put his hands over his mouth as if he was trying to keep any other words from escaping. He gingerly stepped into the room, “Sorry, I didn’t know she was sleeping.”
Chris was amused at how terrified Henry had looked when he realized he could have woken his mom, “It’s okay, she didn’t wake up. Come in here and have a seat and talk to me for a minute,” Chris said as he patted the bed next to him.
Henry walked over but never took his eyes off of his mom, “She looks like she has been crying, Chris. Did you upset her?” The tone of his voice was distinctly defensive.
Chris was now beginning to understand why Mallory was so concerned with telling Henry the truth. The two of them are so close and telling him that she knew the whereabouts of his father all these years could break the trust and bond that they have. For a brief moment, he wondered if they should maintain the secret and never tell him; if Henry was happy and well-adjusted why did he need to know the truth?
“No buddy, I didn’t make her cry. You know that your mom didn’t talk to her parents, right?”
“Yeah, mom said they didn’t love her anymore, and they kicked her out.”
It broke his heart to hear him say those words, “Well, that is true, they had a fight, and they told her to leave, and she didn’t talk to them ever again. But the day before yesterday she was given a letter that her father wrote to her but never sent. She didn’t open it and read it until today, and she actually asked me to read it to her. The letter made her very sad, and she cried.”
“What did the letter say?”
“Her father told her that he was sorry and that he should not have told her to leave and he still loved her.”
“Do you know why they were fighting?”
“Yeah buddy, I do, but I don’t think it would be right for me to tell you about it. That is a conversation you should have with you mom when she is ready to talk about it. I do believe that it is important for you to know that your grandparents were good people who made a decision out of anger and because they were hurt. They were stubborn in not calling your mom to work it out, and your mom was really stubborn, too.” He laughed and ruffled Henry’s hair to lighten the moment. “I bet you can be stubborn when you want to be, right?”
Henry started to laugh softly, “Well, maybe a little, but that is because I know I am right.”
“Oh, you are just like your mom,” Chris said, shaking his head. “Can I tell you a secret?” Henry nodded his head vigorously, so excited at the idea of being told a secret. “I never stopped being in love with your mom. I have always missed having her in my life and want to do all I can to keep her in my life going forward.”
“Why did you two stop talking to one another? Did you fight?” He was inquisitive, and Chris knew this could lead down a path that could be dangerous.
“Well, we didn’t fight, but your mom was going through some rough stuff with her parents and decided it would be best if we didn’t talk to one another for a while. And then she moved away and didn’t tell me where she was going.”
“She said she broke your heart because she left without telling you,” Henry offered quietly. It was almost as if he was telling his mom’s secrets to Chris.
“Yeah, well I tried to get over her, but it didn’t work,” Chris grumbled, finally letting the emotion of the entire scenario show through. “Henry, I need you to be okay with me dating your mom. I want to be able to have a great relationship with you and for you to give your mom and me your blessing.”
Henry ran his fingers through his hair, and it gave Chris the chills as it reminded him of the same move he continually makes. “Are you going to marry her?”
“Only if you tell me I can. I want to, Henry, I want to very much. But if you say that you don’t approve, then I can’t do it. You have the most influence on her life and she will not go against your wishes.”
“I had a good time yesterday, and you seem like an okay guy,” Henry announced, “But if you hurt her or make her cry, then I change my mind.”
“So, that is a yes?” Chris asked.
“Yeah, if you promise to take me to a Patriots game next season! Just don’t tell mom, she hates the Patriots, but I really like Gronk!”
Chris began to laugh, and he was afraid he would wake Mallory. “Oh, you have a deal, Henry!” Chris put his hand out to shake on the deal and then pulled Henry in for a hug. This entire exchange had made his heart swell, and he had to admit it was one of the happiest days of his life.
Henry pulled back and sat back on the bed and tilted his head as if curious about something. “I bet my mom has always been in love with you and never got over you,” he announced, as if he had an epiphany.
“Why do you say that?”
“My name is Christopher, that is my first name. I always thought I was named after my dad, but I bet she named me after you because she was still in love with you.”
A lump formed in Chris’s throat and, for a moment, he was unsure if he would be able to swallow or breathe. It had not gone unnoticed when he read the letter from her father that Henry’s first name was Christopher. He just had not been provided an opportunity to ask Mallory about it yet. She had said before that this kid was smart and he had already picked up on this. How long would it take to pick up on the fact that they had the same blue eyes and the same long eyelashes? If they weren’t careful, Henry would know the truth about Chris before they left for Atlanta in little more than 8 hours.
He was finally able to breathe, and he was quick to think on his feet, “Oh, I don’t know about that. Christopher was a very common name and your dad was named Chris, too. So, I think it it is a safe bet to say that you are named after your father.”
“Oh! Yeah, you are probably right. I’m gonna go back downstairs and see if John wants to watch the next Ironman movie. Are you going to stay for dinner?”
“Yeah, I told your mom I would go and pick up food and bring it back. Tell you what, go and see what John and Darby might want and I will be down in a minute and then we can go get everything. How does that sound?”
“Sounds excellent!” Henry jumped off the bed and went running for the door.
Chris watched with amusement and could not stop smiling. He was just about to try to ease out from underneath Mallory when he heard her voice.
“Well played, dad, well played,” she snickered.
He looked down at her and smiled, “So how much did you hear?”
“I heard enough, I will leave it at that. I will admit that I was afraid you were going to lose it when he confronted you about who he might be named after.”
“You thought I was going to lose it? Mallory, I damn near had an aneurysm over it. You were not kidding when you told me he was observant and smart. I’m afraid he will ask for my DNA before I leave tonight.”
She could not contain her laughter and had to sit up to catch her breath and to keep from hyperventilating. “Oh, that is too good. Oh, Chris, he is curious, and you are an opportunity for him to ask questions, and he knows you want him to like you so you will answer his questions.”
“So you are telling me my son is manipulating me?”
“Absolutely! He is playing off he is so sweet, innocent, and adorable and will probably sucker punch you later.”
“How do I know you aren’t manipulating me into thinking he is manipulating me?”
She feigned horror and shock and asked, “Now would I do that?”
He reached over and began to tickle her and wrestle her down on the bed. Once he had her pinned underneath him, gazed down with hunger in his eyes, “Yes, I think so, and you would enjoy every minute of it.” He leaned down and captured her lips, his tongue brushing across her lips and then pushing inside.
She moaned into his mouth. The kiss was so intoxicating, and she could not help but allow him to deepen it. She knew she was playing with fire. Henry could very easily run back upstairs to announce he had taken the dinner orders, but she didn’t care. The hands began to roam, and when she felt his hands reach under her shirt and touch her bare skin, it made her put on the brakes.
She broke the kiss and pushed his back and struggled to sit up, “We have to stop, we cant’ do this you know we can’t.”
He sat back, head down and dejected, “Damn, and it was just getting good.”
“I know Chris, soon, I promise but we can’t not right now.”
Chris got off the bed and tucked his shirt back in and straightened himself up. “I am going to get Henry and go pick up dinner, is there anything special you would like?”
She shook her head, she knew that she couldn’t play with him at the moment because the nerve was too raw. The desire that was building between the two of them was almost too much to take. They either needed to act on it quickly or she needed to hurry up and get in the car and drive back to Atlanta.
Chris didn’t say anything else, instead he just slowly exited the room and descended the stairs.