Chris was emotional, Mallory had that sort of effect on him. Josh knew that it was risky to even attempt to discuss some of the reasons for keeping things so quiet, but it was time for no more secrets. Since Chris already knew about Henry, what was there to keep quiet any longer?
He began shaking his head before he spoke, “No, it was not what I was trying to do. I do not have any romantic feelings for Mallory. Do I care for her and love her? Absolutely, but more like a sister, I have no desire to have a romantic relationship with her. But I wasn’t ready to just throw her at you and frankly, I am not sure she was really ready for you.”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Chris, she’ss not stupid and she knows you’ve got a reputation and you haven’t been sitting around pining for her. Just because she can’t get you out of her head doesn’t mean you were doing the same thing. Although, I did almost share with her how you screamed her name that one night with that busty brunette in LA.”
“Oh shit! I forgot about that,” Chris said, grabbing his chest and laughing hysterically. “That chick did not find it funny at all. You know she never wanted to hook up again, weird, right?”
“I just want her to be happy, Chris. I’m protective of her, and I wasn’t sure that putting her back in touch with you was healthy. And honestly, I am still worried about you two being together.”
“You know I’m not with anyone right now, so why are you concerned? Cheating hasn’t been my problem, Josh. I realize I might have a playboy image and haven’t settled down, but I haven’t screwed around.”
“You have an ex who doesn’t want to let you go, and you keep falling back into a pattern with her. You two can’t seem to stay away from one another, and that is dangerous and deep down you know it. Chris, are you really ready to be a dad?”
Chris began to pace again; Josh had several good points, and while he wanted to be angry, he couldn’t defend his arguments. He walked around the back of the couch and leaned against the back for support.
“Josh, you know I want kids, and I want to be a dad. My anger the other night…I was furious at the idea that I had a son and that I had been kept in the dark. I yelled and screamed and made it known that I wanted to be in his life and Mallory, and I were worlds apart.” He ran his fingers through his hair and took the time to collect his thoughts, “I went to pick her up for dinner, and Henry opened the door. Man, I got my first real look at my son and my heart stopped, and I couldn’t breathe. I began to think that maybe I didn’t want this and maybe I was wrong about being a dad.”
Josh nodded and tried to keep the smug look off of his face. He knew that Chris wasn’t ready for this and his words were only validating his point. How in the world could Chris be mad at him for keeping them apart when he is now admitting that being a dad wasn’t what he wanted.
“But Josh, I am telling you, I spent an entire day with Mallory and Henry. We went to the museums and the aquarium, and I realized what an amazing kid he is. I was in awe of how he looks at things and gets excited over the smallest things. I couldn’t get enough of him. I realized what a gift he was and how stupid I would be to turn my back on him and not appreciate what I had in front of me.”
Ok, that is not what Josh had anticipated, and the look of shock was evident on his face. There was no way to hide it. “So, let me get this straight. You want to be a dad to Henry? You are ready to take responsibility for something and someone and grow up?”
“Wow, don’t make me sound so horrible, Josh. I’m prepared to be a dad to Henry; of course, we have to tell him first. Mallory and I are holding off on telling him. We want to have him get used to me being around and then tell him. We are not sure how he will take it.”
“And Mallory? Do you want to be with her?”
“I do, Josh, I really do. I think that I have spent the last twelve years trying to find another Mallory and there isn’t anyone who can replace her. I just needed her back.”
Josh had to admit that his heart did break a little to hear that. While he was honest with Chris, he did not have any romantic intentions with her; he could not help be feel like he would be losing her entirely if they reconciled. But he would ultimately be happy if they were happy because that is what friends do.
“Josh, let’s go get something to eat and hang out. Have a night like old times, no talk of Henry or Mallory. I called Zach and Brent on the drive over here, and they are in town and in the mood to party. So, maybe we can tear up the town, and it can be like old times. What do you say?”
“Wait, you told me you are ready to grow up and settle down, and you want to go out and party? Dude, you make no sense, it is like you’re contradicting yourself.”
“I have had one hell of a week, probably the toughest week of my life and I need to let off a little steam. Plus, if I just go home I’ll pout because Mallory is not here. Come on man, don’t make me feel bad for wanting to have one more night out with my friends. I might not get this opportunity again.”
“You are pathetic, you know that? Fine, give me five minutes. You think Mallory will keep you locked up at home?”
“I sure as hell hope so,” Chris responded as Josh walked out of the room.
When he came back, the two guys left to meet their friends at a local bar for burgers and drinks. While it was relatively early, the plan was to stay in one place all night long. To keep them focused on their bro-time, they all turned off their cell phones and dumped them in a pile in the center of the table. No one was going to be called away tonight.
~ * ~
Chris woke the next morning, head pounding and he had no clue where he was. He slowly sat up and realized he was among a pile of bodies on the floor. They were laying on a blanket with sparce covers, and most of the bodies were scantily clad. Thankfully he had on his jeans, but he noticed the button was undone and the zipper was partially undone. He was not wearing a shirt, and he had been tangled up with an attractive blonde wearing only her bra and panties.
He pulled his knees up and put his arms on his legs, he had no memory of getting to this apartment and certainly no memory of how he ended up on the floor with a blonde. He did a quick survey of the room and found Josh and a raven-haired woman in the far corner and Zach with a brunette just a few feet over from where he was sitting. He didn’t see Brent, but that didn’t mean anything, he could be there somewhere.
It was as if a lightning bolt struck him, Mallory, shit, she was supposed to call him last night. He stood up and began looking for his cell phone. Success, it was on the coffee table with his pack of cigarettes and his wallet. He did a quick check and found that his credit cards and money were still there, so he was glad that they hadn’t been pick-pocketed. He turned on his phone, and there was her text message.
I’m home, and we made it safe. Henry is in bed and so am I. Exhausted from the trip, can’t keep my eyes open any longer. Talk to you soon.
He felt a tremendous wave of guilt crash over him. He couldn’t remember what he had done last night, and he didn’t text Mallory back. Maybe Josh was right to have concerns? Damn, now he was going to second guess everything. He sprinted for the bathroom, the guilt had turned to nausea, and it led to him losing the contents of his stomach.
He vomited so much it lead to dry heaving, and he was only making himself feel worse. He tried to freshen himself up and then went back to the living room to look for his shirt. He found it and his shoes and quickly dressed. He quietly opened the door and stepped out into the hallway. His keys were in his pocket, but he had no idea where his car was. He was reasonably sure he didn’t drive; with the hangover, he was nursing and the lack of memory, he sure in the hell hoped he had not driven. As he exited the apartment complex, he realized where he was; Brent’s apartment, which explained why he was not on the floor. Chris saw his car parked in the back row of the parking lot and as he got closer, realized the seat was pulled up. This meant a shorter person drove his car, most likely one of the ladies up on the apartment floor.
He kept saying over and over again, ‘please tell me I didn’t do anything stupid.’ He opened the car door, pushed the seat back and checked the time. It was early, but he knew that Mallory would be getting Henry ready for school. He might as well bite the bullet and give her a call.
The phone had ringed several times before she picked it up, “Hey, sorry, I was getting Henry on the bus. How are you this morning?”
She sounded so chipper and happy; the cheerful tone echoed in his head making him feel worse, “I’m good, look I’m sorry I didn’t respond to your text last night. I was out with several of my buddies, and we had a no cell phone rule, I feel awful about it since I was so insistent on you calling me.”
“Are you kidding? I fell asleep almost immediately after sending that text so I wouldn’t have gotten it until this morning anyway. So you went out and partied last night, eh?”
“Yeah, I did, and I think I am paying for it this morning. I honestly woke up and had no idea where I was.”
Just then the car door swung open, and the blonde he had been tangled with was standing there, and she was holding his watch. She leaned into the car and said, “Hey, baby, you left this behind, and I’m sure you don’t want to lose it.” She then planted a kiss on his lips and purred a good-bye. She shut the door and strutted back towards the apartment; he was left speechless.
He was also left on a one-sided call because Mallory had hung up. He immediately dialed her back, but she would not answer the phone; he tried several times with the same result. Finally, she sent him a text message.
I don’t want to talk to you right now, please quit calling me. I think I get the idea of what kind of partying you did last night. I’ll call you when I feel like talking.
Chris slammed his hands on the steering wheel, “Fuck! He debated leaving her a voicemail but figured she would just delete it. He decided to go ahead and text her back, he had nothing more to lose at this point.
Mallory, I didn’t do anything with anyone, or at least, I don’t think I did. I slept at Brent’s apartment, and when I woke up there were girls there, but honestly, I don’t even remember getting to his place because I was too drunk. I swear I would not have done anything to mess us up…I really do love you!!