Chris let Henry’s words sink in, ‘Mom’s a little drunk, she’s passed out in the family room. She has no idea that I’m awake and calling you.’ What in the hell was going on that Mallory was drinking and passing out? He was suddenly angry and could feel the hair standing up on the back of his neck. This was negligent on her part and how many times had she done something like this? His mind was distracted, working through the anger over the danger Henry could be in when he heard his son’s voice.
“Chris, are you still there?” Henry waited for a response, then he started talking again. “We went to John and Darby’s for dinner and mom and Darby started taking shots. Mom was really upset about something, she drank and she shouldn’t have. She was really sorry for it, kept apologizing on the walk home. It’s the first time I’ve seen her like this,” his voice was soft, and Chris wondered if Henry was going to cry.
“Are you alright, Henry? Are you scared for your mom?” Now Chris was concerned, if Mallory was drinking with Darby, he knew that he was most likely the reason for it. His demeanor was changing.
“She cried a lot on the walk home, but she stopped when I put her on the couch. She’ll be okay, I know that. But I think she was drinking because of the fight we had this week,” Henry choked back a sob, not wanting Chris to hear him break down. He sniffled and pulled himself together. “I have given her a really hard time since you left. She’s been pretty upset.”
“You wanna talk about it, tell me what’s going on?” Chris didn’t want to push too hard, but he figured if Henry called that the young man needed someone to talk to. “You said you’ve given her a hard time, why is that?”
Chris could hear the faint sobs coming from Henry’s end of the phone. He let him cry, knowing he needed to get it out. After a minute or so, Henry took a deep breath and pulled himself together. “You had said you wanted to marry mom, asked me if it was okay when we were in Boston. And when you were here, I thought things were going good, we were happy. So, when you left, I knew it was because you and mom were fighting, I got mad at her.”
“Oh, I see,” Chris replied, figuring he had an idea where this conversation was going. “So, you two fought about what was going on with your mom and me.”
“Yeah, you could say that,” Henry said sheepishly. He was almost afraid to say the next words, “I wanted to know what she had done to make you change your mind. Why did she have to go and ruin it and make you leave when things were good the way they were.”
Chris winced, “Ouch, that was harsh, Henry. I don’t think that was the best tactic to take.”
“No, I know. We fought all day Saturday and Sunday and then I had a meltdown on Monday. I ended up apologizing to her, but I didn’t make it easy on her. She’s been crying a lot since you left. She thinks I don’t know about it, but I hear her.”
“It’s complicated, Henry. I wish I could easily explain it to you, believe me, I do. But there are some things I just can’t tell you.”
“I know, she said that, too.” Henry yawned, and Chris couldn’t help but smile. His son was tired and could barely stay awake, but he was trying to get through this crisis and talk out his emotion. “Chris, do you still love my mom?”
Without hesitation, Chris answered with a resounding, “Yeah buddy, I do. But you have to understand that sometimes love just isn’t enough. Oh, I wish it was, believe me. But your mom and I have some issues we have to fix before we can have our happy ending. But I’m not giving up on any of us, okay?”
“You bet I do. Look, if you’re sure your mom is okay downstairs, then crawl into bed and get some sleep. Don’t cause her any problems in the morning, she won’t be feeling good, okay? Call me tomorrow night and let me know how she is and we can talk some more.”
“Thanks, Chris. I’d hug you if you were here.”
“I’d hug you back, buddy,” Chris hung up the phone and put his head in his hands. He had to talk to Mallory in the morning, they had thought their argument had been kept away from Henry, but he had seen more than they realized. And what exactly had thrown Mallory over the edge to get her drunk? He needed to know that because he would use that against her if he had to. She better know that he was going to play hardball.
~ * ~
Mallory rolled over and hit the floor with a loud thud. As she startled awake, she realized she had fallen off the couch and just barely missed hitting her head on the coffee table on the way to the floor. What she wasn’t so sure of was how she ended up on the couch in the first place. She reached for the couch in the dark, from her spot on the floor, it was pitch black in the room. As she slowly pulled herself up, she could see the faint glow from the desk lamp in the kitchen. Her head was pounding like she had a college drumline marching through her skull. It was starting to come back to her, she had tequila shots with Darby.
Mallory began feeling in her pockets for her phone, but couldn’t find it. She frantically searched the couch cushions, all while her head was screaming at her to move slow. But she couldn’t find it in the couch either. Just as she was about to freak out completely, she glanced over and noticed it was sitting on the coffee table and it seemed as if Henry had even plugged it in to charge. He really was a sweet boy. Then she had a sickening feeling, he had to walk her home.
Mallory realized that she was in a bad state and her son had seen her like this. Had she said anything about Chris in front of him? Had she mistakenly said anything about her fight with Chris and who he was to Henry? Suddenly she could feel her dinner and every one of those tequila shots making their way back up. She quickly moved from the couch and made it just in time to the bathroom. The regret was setting in, and the fear was overtaking her.
Mallory rinsed her mouth out and made her way back to the couch. She looked at her phone, it was 2 am. She pulled the blanket back around her and curled up on the couch, attempting to go back to sleep. She didn’t trust herself to go upstairs, she knew that staying asleep on the couch would be restless and she deserved a restless sleep for what she had done. She prayed that when Henry got up in a few hours, that she would not be faced with the stark reality of what she might have said or done last night.
~ * ~
It had been exactly one week since Chris had dropped off the DNA samples at the lab. It had also been a few days since Henry had called him to talk about how things had been with his mom and had let it slip she had been drunk. Chris had spoken with Henry several times and each time he had expressed remorse over telling Chris about what had happened to his mom. Henry was afraid Chris would have the wrong idea about her and wanted him to know that this wasn’t something she normally did. He kept telling Chris that he thought his mom was really sorry about the fight she had with him and she missed him but was too stubborn to call and talk it out.
Chris asked Henry if Mallory had said anything when she had been drinking about why they were fighting or what had happened. Henry told him she was tight-lipped about it and just kept saying she was sorry over and over again. All of these thoughts and the conversations with Henry raced through his mind as Chris pounded through his workout. He wanted to call Mallory, but he figured, like most conversations, it would end in a disagreement. He also did not want to cause a problem between Henry and Mallory by tipping her off that Henry had turned to him.
With sweat dripping off of him, he headed to the locker room to gather his things and head home. He had made the decision to keep his cell phone in his locker today. He immediately noticed that he had a missed call from Rebecca’s office. She must have his test results back. The DNA lab was going to send them directly to her so she could begin preparing all of the court documents. Chris elected to shower at home, grabbing his stuff and heading to his car so he could call his attorney right away.
He dialed the number once he was settled in the car. Rebecca’s assistant, Lucy, answered the call, “Rebecca Chandler’s office, how may I assist you?”
“Hi, Lucy, it’s Chris Evans, I saw that Rebecca called. I was at the gym, is she available?”
“Oh, hi Chris. Actually, I’m the one who called. Rebecca wanted me to see if you were available to come into the office today at two for a meeting? She has a few things to discuss with you, said it should take an hour or so.”
Chris was silent, he anticipated this meant she had paperwork ready to go and it was time to strategize on how to proceed. It meant things were ready to move forward. “Yeah, I can be there, Lucy. Thanks.”
Chris hung up the call and drove home, eager to get his shower and prepare for his meeting.
~ * ~
Several hours later, Chris stepped out of the elevator and found himself in the lobby of Albright, Taylor and Vandermeer, Attorneys at Law. This was the firm where Rebecca’s office was located, and he was suddenly nervous to see her. Now his fight was real and official, and suddenly scary. He approached the reception desk, if the woman seated there recognized him she hid it very well.
“Hello,” Chris offered with a polite smile, “I have a meeting with Rebecca Chandler.”
The young woman returned his smile and clicked a few buttons on her keyboard before looking back up at him. “Mr. Evans, Lucy will be up for you in just a moment. May I offer you some coffee or a bottle of water?”
“No, but thank you,” Chris replied as he moved toward the leather sofa to take a seat.
Before he could sit down, he heard a click and a door opened on the opposite side of the room. An attractive, petite woman stepped forward and extended her hand, “Hello, I’m Lucy, and you must be Chris.” Her smile was brilliant and Chris couldn’t help but feel at ease with her.
“Yes, Hi Lucy, nice to meet you.”
“If you’ll come with me, I’ll take you back to Rebecca’s office.” The door Lucy had exited from had closed, but Chris noticed there was a keypad next to where the door had been, but no door handle. Lucy entered a code and the door opened automatically, allowing them to walk through and into a back corridor. Lucy ushered him down a long hallway and into a small, but nicely appointed conference room. It was intimate and most likely intended to keep these types of meetings from feeling cold and impersonal like they would in a large conference room setting.
As Chris took a seat and tried to settle in, Lucy asked if he wanted anything. When he declined, she stepped out and told him that Rebecca would join him in a few moments, she was wrapping up a call with another client. He couldn’t explain why, but he was getting nervous. It reminded him of the night when he took Mallory to dinner, and he met Henry for the first time. It was when reality hit him in the face for the first time that he had a son. Now it was the reality that he was moving forward with taking Mallory to court for his parental rights. He knew he was doing the right thing, he had every right to do this. But it felt so wrong that he had to take these steps and that he couldn’t work it out with her.
Suddenly the door opened and Rebecca walked in. It had been a year or so since Chris had seen her and he almost didn’t recognize her. He stood and extended his hand, “Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve seen you and you look fantastic,” Chris winced as he said the words. “Sorry, you always looked great, but I mean,” his voice trailed off, he could hear Rebecca start to laugh.
“So, I see you’ve lost some of your smoothness, Evans. Mallory really does have you all tangled up. Please sit down,” she gestured to the chair where had been seated moments before and then clicked the door shut behind her before taking a seat across from him. “Don’t worry, I knew what you meant, and thank you. And you don’t look so bad yourself, although, I can tell this is taking its toll on you. When was the last time you talked to Mallory?”
“The day I left Atlanta, I haven’t spoken to her since. I’ve spoken with Henry, though.”
Rebecca’s ears perked at this bit of information, “Oh, and what can you tell me about that conversation?”
“Nothing that I want to use against her,” Chris snapped back. He wiped his hand across his forehead and grimaced, realizing his quick reaction gave away more than he should have. Looking at Rebecca, he could see she was waiting for him to continue and give him the details. “Damn it, fine, I’ll tell you, but I’m serious that I don’t want to use this against her.”
“Why don’t you let me be the judge of that, Chris? It could be what you have to tell me would have no bearing on the proceedings at all, and it is a moot point.”
Chris let out a loud sigh and sat back in his seat, “Evidently the fight we had that made me leave Atlanta early, it caused a great deal of friction between Mallory and Henry. Henry’s been lashing out at his mom, they went to their family friend’s house for dinner the other night. Darby, Mallory’s best friend, got her talking and they started drinking. From what Henry told me, Mallory had too much to drink.”
Rebecca had been listening intently to everything Chris had been saying. She leaned forward when he indicated Mallory had been drinking, “Just how much was too much? And what was she drinking?” Rebecca’s pen was poised above her notebook, ready to write down the damaging information.
Chris leaned forward, taking the pen out of Rebecca’s hand and moving the journal just out of reach. “Mallory didn’t drive, they walked to Darby’s house. Henry wasn’t sure what they had been drinking because he wasn’t in the room when it had been going on, he only saw the aftermath of it. But he thought he heard them say tequila. Henry had to help his mom walk home, but she was not falling down drunk, he put her on the couch in the family room to sleep it off.”
Rebecca sat back, crossing her arms and stared at Chris. “So, Henry had to take care of his overly inebriated mother and was in the home the remainder of the evening with no adult supervision? Am I to understand that correctly?”
When she said it that way, Chris had to cringe. “Henry called me, told me that he was home with her and that they had been fighting. He said what he had said to her in the days earlier and that she had been talking with Darby all night. Henry had called her out and wanted to know what she had done to make me leave and ruin the relationship we had.”
Rebecca said nothing, but her eyes had shifted from being harsh and cold to soft and caring. She understood where Chris was coming from and why he didn’t want to use this information. It could hurt Henry, and that was the last thing he wanted to do. “Ok, I’ll drop it if you don’t think drinking is an issue for Mallory or that Henry is in any imminent danger.”
Chris had waited a minute before he responded, “She’s not an alcoholic, Rebecca. I was there with her for a few days and drinking isn’t her issue,” Chris wiped his hands down his thighs and stood up. He began to pace in the small room, it suddenly felt like the walls were closing in on them. “I’m her issue. This entire custody debate, that’s her issue. But drinking, that’s not her issue.” Chris was now staring out of the conference room windows out across the city of Boston, watching the traffic below and the normalcy of everyone out on the street in comparison to what he was going through at the moment.
“Did I ever tell you what she went through?” Chris’s voice came out as a hoarse whisper. He turned to look over his shoulder to look at Rebecca; she was shaking her head. “Her parents disowned her, kicked her out because I got her pregnant. She has trust, abandonment, and rejection issues and I’m right in the middle of all of them. I’m fighting for the ability to call Henry my son and to spend time with him; I’ll fight her tooth and nail to get that but I won’t drag her through the mud, and I won’t rip Henry away from her. She’s a good mother to that boy, but he is her only family, I don’t want to take him away from her,” Chris turned to look at Rebecca, his eyes narrowing, “Do you understand that?”
Rebecca had to admit that she admired Chris for what he was doing. Most men who came in could be placed firmly in two buckets. The one bucket is for the men who would do anything to discredit the woman and gain full custody of the child. They had no trouble tearing her down and could not care less if the child saw what it did to their mother. In many of these cases, the men didn’t even really want the child, it was all revenge against the woman. Rebecca hated those cases and hated representing those men.
The second bucket was for those men who didn’t care about the child and would do what they could to get out of having any responsibility at all. Discredit the woman regarding who the father could be, cast doubt and draw out the process. The men didn’t care if they were showing themselves as a poor excuse for a father to the child, mainly because they didn’t want the child anyway. Honestly, Rebecca hated those cases as well.
But Chris was different. He fell into a bucket that didn’t see much action and didn’t even have a label. He wanted his son, wanted to fight for him and didn’t want to disgrace the child’s mother in the process. He was a stand-up guy and wanted to make his position known and be firm, but not be underhanded in any way. She appreciated that and would fight extra hard for someone like him.
“Chris, please come sit back down and let me tell you what I’ve got and what we need to do.” Rebecca motioned to his chair and then opened the file folder that was on the table in front of her. Chris gently lowered himself into the chair and watched her carefully. When Rebecca thought he was ready, she began to speak. “The DNA test results came in this morning. As we anticipated, it confirmed that you are Henry’s father, so congratulations Chris.”
Rebecca flipped through some documents in the folder and found the one she was looking for. She turned it and pushed it towards Chris and then placed a pen on top so he would be able to use it. “This document is the first one we will file with the court, I will need you to sign it, but I will explain it first. We need to petition the court to update the birth certificate to add your name as Henry’s father. I’ve had someone pull the record in Georgia and confirm that Mallory did not name Henry’s father on the birth certificate.” She sat back in her chair and exhaled, “Chris, this is going to be a fight because we are filing these motions in Georgia. I’ve hired a firm down there, a buddy of mine from law school actually practices in Atlanta, so he’s helping me out. You need to know what we’re up against.”
“Does she have to know I’m doing this? I mean, do I need to go to court for this and will she have to be there?”
“No, we can make the request for the update to be made, and she will be notified of the application and has time to appeal the request. But there is no court appearance and you don’t have to go to Atlanta. We sign this document that says we want the birth certificate changed based on the evidence that you are Henry’s father. The motion will indicate you intend to fight for custody and you are aware this means you are responsible for child support. We need to outline that you just became aware of Henry’s existence,” Rebecca took a deep breath and held it for a minute while she waited for Chris’s reaction. Amazingly enough, he didn’t explode like she thought he might. “We paint the picture as nice as we can toward Mallory, but we do need to indicate that she withheld Henry from you for years. This is so the court does not immediately look unfavorably against you for not paying child support for all these years.”
Chris nodded, he understood the strategy there. He figured it could look like he was a “deadbeat” dad for never being in his son’s life before now. It would be best to head that off at the pass in the court motion.
Over the remainder of the meeting, Rebecca went over the remaining documents and how this would play out. Most of the documents could be signed by Chris in advance and could be filed when they were ready. This would allow the process to keep moving even when Chris had other things going on. Primarily, his trip to Disney with his family. He was leaving on Saturday, and he didn’t want to postpone the trip.
~ * ~
Chris left Rebecca’s office and drove over to his mom’s house. He had talked to her on the phone but had avoided seeing her in person since his return from Atlanta. Now that he had the DNA results back and a game plan for the court filings, he was ready to see her and take whatever came his way. Besides, with the Disney trip coming up this weekend, there would be no way he could avoid her.
He pulled into the driveway, noticing his sister’s van was home. That meant he would have to deal with Carly and his mom, just what he needed! He took a deep breath and flung open the car door and started up the sidewalk. His sister met him at the door, “Well if it ain’t the anointed one blessing us with his presence,” Carly bowed as he walked in the door.
“Fuck off,” Chris replied as he gave her a hug and laughed. “Where’s Ma?”
“In here,” Lisa’s voice echoed. Chris could tell she was in her office and he pulled away from Carly and made his way toward the entry way to her home office, sliding the doors open and walking in. Carly was right behind him, just as he suspected she would be.
“Hey, Ma,” Chris greeted her as he walked in, taking a seat in the chair situated in the corner of her office, across from her desk. He noticed that Carly sat in the opposite corner from him, watching every move he made. “Is there something you want to say, Carly?”
“I just want to hear the details of your trip to Atlanta. Find out how things are working out with Mallory and Henry,” she said with a devilish smile. She could tell from the look on Chris’s face that not all of what he had to say was good. She had no intention of giving him a hard time but figured she could at least be a supportive big sister.
Chris leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, “I’ve received the official news today that Henry is mine. The DNA test results are back,” his voice was even, no emotion to speak of which was surprising to his mother and sister.
“Was there any real doubt about that, Chris?” Lisa asked hesitantly, she couldn’t help but be a bit confused at this point.
“No, there was no doubt. But I had to have the test run so I can start the court proceedings,” this caught the attention of Carly. She leaned forward so that she would not miss a word of what Chris was about to say. “Things didn’t go well with Mallory, and that’s all I’m going to say.”
Lisa could tell that it was hard for Chris to talk about it and decided not to push. She was glad to see that Carly recognized it as well. Chris needed their support and not a million questions. There were several that Lisa needed to ask and she was going to try to be as delicate as possible. “Chris, I’m sorry to ask this, but I take it that Henry won’t be joining us on the trip then?”
Chris shook his head, not able to vocalize his response. Lisa nodded and then looked at Carly, “Okay, we won’t ask anything else about him and we’ll make sure no one brings him up. I’m sorry that she didn’t change her mind.”
Chris glanced back and forth between his mother and sister, “Mallory isn’t a monster. I’m pissed and hurt but she’s got her reasons, and while I don’t agree with them, I know she has issues she needs to overcome. I’m not sitting on my hands and letting it go, though. I’m taking her to court.”
“Chris!” Carly gasped and sat up straight in her chair, “My God, you realize you’ll be in every tabloid and on every gossip site for this, right? Think about what you’re doing,” Carly was pleading with him.
“I know and I see no other way. She doesn’t think I’ll go this far, but I want my son, and I’m willing to go public to get what I want.”
~ * ~
Mallory paced around her home office. She had been back at work for only a few hours but her mind was racing, she couldn’t get certain things out of her head. Lately, her sleep had been restless and once again it was attributed to Chris but for an entirely different reason. This last round of arguments between the two of them had her thinking, and she couldn’t turn off her brain. It also meant she couldn’t concentrate on the work in front of her. Her desk was piled high with deadlines and ledgers that needed to be worked, but she couldn’t quit thinking about Chris and Henry.
Mallory reached for her cell and dialed Darby’s number. The phone rang several times before her best friend finally answered. “You aren’t with a patient are you?” Mallory asked frantically.
“I was, but they just left. So, what’s on your mind?”
“I need to know if I make a decision, will you stand by me?”
“Can you be specific, Mallory? I mean, what kind of decision are you talking about?”
“Will you go with me if I make an appointment to see my attorney?”
This was not what Darby expected to hear. “Sure, call and make an appointment and let me know when it is. I’ll clear my schedule and go with you.”
“Ok, thanks,” and without a further word, Mallory hung up the phone and dialed the number for her attorney before she lost her nerve. The card had been on her desk for weeks since John had given it to her. She had talked to Mark Fitzgerald on the phone one time but had never met him face-to-face.
John had given him the details of the case, so he was already familiar with everything He knew that Mallory would reach out when she was ready. His secretary answered the phone, “Mark Fitzgerald’s office, this is Mary, how can I help you?”
“Hello, Mary, my name is Mallory Turner, and I need to make an appointment to see Mark. I’d like to get in as soon as possible, please.”
Mallory could hear the clicking of the keyboard, and suddenly Mary’s voice was back on the line, “Ms. Turner, would you be available to come in tomorrow afternoon? We have an opening at 1 pm.”
“That would be wonderful, Mary, I’ll be there. Thank you so much.” As Mallory disconnected the call, she quickly fired off a text to Darby letting her know about the appointment. She just hoped she could get some sleep knowing what she was preparing to do.