If you gave me a multiple choice test and one of the questions on that test was "Who is the least likely to ever be standing in your living room? A. Osama Bin Laden. B. Arnold Schwarzenegger. C. Gene Roddenberry. Or D. Your dad." I'd pick D without any hesitation.
And yes I know Gene Roddeberry's dead.
That's just how much I never expected to see him again. I mean, we'd moved almost as far away from Alaska as we could and still be in the United States. He never calls. We never write. Up until now, I didn't think there was a desire on either side to ever see each other again. The first time I realized that it hurt. Like, a lot. I think the thing that made it worse was that it was just so out of nowhere and unexpected.
My dad was never a villain, at least not with me. He was actually a great dad. He always played with me after work, no matter how tired he was. He always took the time to help me with my homework whenever I needed it. He never got impatient when I'd do that little kid thing where I ask the same stupid question over and over again, he'd just patiently explain it to me while my mom looked in from the next room and smiled.
When I turned 7 the smile started getting strained and by the time I was 8 she stopped standing in the doorway altogether. In fact, neither one of them would spend more than a few seconds in the same room by that point, but I never really noticed. They both did their best to act like nothing was wrong towards me so I just blissfully lived out my ignorant little life assuming everything was ok. Even when my dad started missing dinner more than he showed up for it and even when he wouldn't help me with my homework anymore I still didn't think much of it. He still played with me when he could and bought me anything I wanted and if my parents yelled at each other sometimes, well, so what? Parents fight. Everyone knows that.
It wasn't until about two months after I turned 8 that I started to notice something was wrong. My dad started staying out really late, a lot of times not getting home until way after my bedtime, but I always knew the second he got home no matter what time it was because the yelling would start. My mom would always be the one that started it and afterward my dad would come into my room and tuck me back in and tell me not to worry, that everything was fine.
So, of course, I started to blame my mom for everything.
Now, you gotta understand, not only was my dad the one comforting me but my mom was......kinda going nuts. She barely slept and always had dark circles under her eyes, giving her a pretty scary look. At least to an 8 year old kid. She was wound up so tight that she'd fly off the handle at the smallest thing and, while she never yelled at me, she did yell around me, something dad rarely did, so I started to associate yelling with her.
I had no idea why my mom always yelled at my dad so I did the natural thing and asked her. She never answered. She usually just got this heartbroken look in her eyes and quickly left the room. Eventually, I figured that she was running away out of guilt for being so horrible to my dad and I got angry. I refused to take a bath unless dad was there, I wouldn't do anything she asked unless my dad told me to also, I even ran out during one of their fights and started crying and hitting my moms leg begging her to "please stop yelling at daddy."
No matter what I did though she never yelled at me. I never really realized that until after we moved but looking back on how upset she always was and how much of a little prick I was being I'm still to this day in awe of how she never threw me through a window. (Which is actually called defenestration by the way, awesome word)
Things kept up like that until just after my 9th birthday. I woke up at 4 in the morning to more yelling, something I was sadly getting used to at that point. I buried my head under the blankets and was waiting for my dad to come in and make everything better when I heard a loud crash. I jumped and ran to the door but when I got there I heard more crashing and the sound of glass breaking and I completely freaked out and dove under the bed. I stayed there shaking and crying for what seemed like hours but couldn't have been more than 10 minutes until the door to my room opened. I peaked out expecting my dad but my mom ran in, tears streaming down her cheeks, and gathered me up in her arms.
I fought her. I didn't want her. This was all her fault. For all I knew she'd just hurt dad and I needed to know that he was ok. I needed him to tell me everything was fine like he always did so I could go to sleep and pretend nothing ever happened.
He never came. I eventually ran out of energy and my mom just held me, rocking me back and forth in her arms until out of sheer exhaustion I fell asleep.
I didn't see dad again for three days and oh, how I cried. There wasn't any mess from whatever broke that night but there was a cabinet with glass doors that held little keepsakes like glasses from a winery my parents went to, a bowling trophy my dad won, several little gifts from relatives, stuff like that, and it was gone. I may have been little but I wasn't stupid. I knew it had been destroyed but to this day I have no idea what actually happened to it. My mom must have spent all night after I fell asleep and a good part of the morning cleaning it up. It wasn't a small cabinet either, so for her to move it at all was kind of a minor miracle in itself. And least that's how I feel now. Back then I was convinced that something bad had happened to my dad and that it was all her fault. Actually, now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that was the first time I ever did that overreacting panic thing where I think of a million horrible possibilities and somehow believe that all of them happened at the same time. I remember thinking that she must have pushed him into the cabinet, or threw it at him (hey, I was 9, for all I knew it was possible. Plus I'm not exactly known for keeping logic in my panicking) or broke the glass to throw THAT at him.
My mom let me stay home from school that day but the day after I had to go back. I spent the entire time I waited for the bus staring up and down the road hoping to see my dads Accord driving down the street towards me but I never did. It was hard, but every day I somehow managed not to cry as I sat on the bus wondering where he was. I stayed depressed until about halfway through each school day and then started to perk up at the thought that he might be waiting for me when I got home. When he wasn't I locked myself in my room and cried all the tears I'd held in all day.
Those three days......sucked. Seriously.
And then, like some kind of day late Jesus, he came back on the 4th day. I hadn't quite given up on seeing his car in my driveway after school so when I saw it just sitting there like everything was normal the dam of anticipation I'd been building up for half a day burst and I shot off the bus the second the doors opened. I ran into the house shouting for my dad and stopped short when I saw him standing in the hallway with two suitcases, the blue ones we'd always taken on vacation, on the floor by his feet. My mom was standing as far away as she could while still being in the same room, glaring at him. Her eyes softened as she saw me but I barely noticed. I was staring at my dad.
Like I said I wasn't stupid. The second I saw the suitcases I knew he was leaving. But I wasn't quite as smart and rational as I am these days so I saw two suitcases and automatically assumed that he was taking me with him. I was surprised to feel more than a little bit of panic at the thought. I mean, if you asked me at the time I would have said that it would have been him rescuing me from the screaming, pissed off woman that drove him away so I should have been happy. I'd like to think a part of me knew I was wrong about that, even then, but I kinda think it had more to do with the normal panic any kid feels at seeing concrete proof that their family is gone for good. I dunno.
He didn't take me with him though. He just smiled this sad little smile, ruffled my hair a bit, then picked up his suitcases and left.
I learned a lot of new words after that.
Somewhere between going to sleep that Monday night and watching my dad leave that Friday things had gone from "marital difficulties" to the dreaded D word, divorce. The only difference that I could see was that when people were just having marital difficulties people didn't really talk about it. Once it got upgraded to divorce though, it was all anyone talked about.
The first word I learned was "cheating". Well, actually I already knew what it meant but I learned a brand new definition. It was the first hint I had that maybe my dad wasn't as innocent as I thought he was, especially seeing as the person who said it was my grandmother on my dad's side.
The day after he left I was laying in my room listening to the cars drive by and hoping that one of them would pull into the driveway and my dad would get out and everything would be back to normal. Well, for the first hour anyway. After that I started pretending that I'd laid a minefield in front of the house and started making little explosion sounds with my mouth every time a car went by.
Hey, considering the way a lot of kids handle divorce I'd say I was doing pretty damn good.
When one of the cars didn't pass by my house and instead pulled into the driveway my first thought was "damn, he escaped." followed quickly by "Dad!". I was out of my room and at the front door faster than the Road Runner on PCP. I threw open the door but instead of my dad there was my grandma walking up the stairs. I didn't even have time for the disappointment to really settle in before she'd gathered me up into one of the tightest hugs I'd ever had up until that point. After a few seconds of confusion I started to think that maybe she was here to take me to be with dad but then my mom came to the door and grandma pulled her into the hug too.
I stayed right outside the hall by the kitchen while they talked. I'm pretty sure they didn't know I was there, considering some of the words they used. Fun fact, I learned half my current vocabulary of swear words that day. It turned out that grandma was extremely pissed at my dad, which again surprised me because I thought it was all my moms fault. A few times I wanted to run in and defend him but I stopped myself. If I did that they'd know I was listening and probably stop talking. It was the first time I'd heard anything about the problems between my parents that wasn't yelled over someone else yelling and I wanted to understand more than I wanted to defend my dad's honor.
Another word I learned a few days later was "alcoholic". I had less trouble with that one. Dad was one of those guys that always seemed to have a beer in his hand or at least close by, I never really gave it any special attention. It was just one of those normal things that had been a constant in my life. It's weird, you'd think that with all the drinking he did it would have became a problem way before it did but I guess it's just something that sneaks up on you.
So, after hearing all that I kinda decided that maybe my mom wasn't totally to blame after all. I started warming up to her a bit but I still ached to see my dad again. I thought that he was being kept away from me, that he was sitting in some dark hotel room somewhere crying himself to sleep because he couldn't even see his only child anymore. I only wanted to see him, I was way past the point of fantasizing about having a happy, normal family again but I thought that if I could just see him and spend some time with him it would make both of us feel happy again.
Then came the custody hearing.
It was the last thing that had to be done before they'd be officially divorced and it was also the first time I'd be seeing my dad since he left about 8 months before. I thought my mom was keeping him away from me which caused me to go back to hating her again so as I sat in the courtroom I was practically bouncing with excitement. Dad was gonna walk through the doors and the judge was going to tell my mom that she couldn't keep me from him anymore. I had fantasies of my dad running into the courtroom out of breath and in tears and rushing over to me to gather me up in a great big hug and telling me that he loved me and would never be separated from me again.
I'm pretty sure you everyone around me could hear my little heart break when he stumbled in 30 minutes late and bombed out of his mind. It took about 5 minutes after he threw up on the bailiff that was helping him to his seat for the judge to award my mom full custody.
Do you have any idea what it feels like to realize that the one person you thought cared about you and loved you more than anyone else couldn't even be bothered to show up on time and sober enough to fight for you? It's not fun. And to make it even worse the judge said that now he couldn't show up around me without my moms permission. NOW. Which meant that he COULD have before and he just never did. You don't need to be "smart for your age" to figure out what he'd been doing rather than visiting his son.
At least I didn't hate mom anymore.
That was the last time I saw him until he showed up randomly at my house after the dance. So you can imagine how shocked and a little less than ecstatic I was to see him there.
"Dad?" I asked again. Ok, it was more of a squeak than a question but I just couldn't process that he was standing there, right in front of me, after all these years. If Barack Obama had stepped out of my kitchen bare assed and said "come on baby, let's get it on" I don't think I would have been more shocked.
Possibly a lot more disturbed, but not more shocked.
He looked a lot different than I remembered him. I got a lot of my looks from my dad. We have the same blond hair although his is a bit darker. His hair was cut short and neatly combed, with a part and everything, very different from the shaggy, slightly messy way it used to look. We have the same pale skin except for some reason my dad can tan, which he did, often, but instead of looking natural like he used to now he looked salon tanned. Just a bit too dark for it to be genuine. We had similar jawlines, and for once his was as hairless as mine. I think that threw me the most. He always had a little bit of blond stubble that he used to rub on my belly and tickle me with when I was a little kid. No, scratch that, the thing that threw me the most was what he was wearing. My dad was always a t-shirt and jeans kind of guy so seeing him standing there in dressy pants, a collard shirt and, I shit you not, a sweater vest was pretty fucking disconcerting. It looked good on his slim frame though and I had the incredibly disturbing thought that, for an adult, he looked pretty hot.
And no, we are not analyzing that one at all.
The similarities ended there though. His nose was straight where mine was slightly upturned. He was tall where I was.....not. Although, it did give me some hope for the future. His eyes were a dull green where mine were sort of sky blue. He had some faint lines around his mouth that I don't remember being there, laugh lines I thought and it kinda pissed me off that someone who cheated on my mom and liked to get hammered instead of showing up for my custody hearing would have that much to laugh and smile about. And speaking of smiling, he was. He had this big not-quite-grin on his face like him showing up like this was at the same time both perfectly normal and a big treat. Like he'd come back home early from a business trip or something.
And that pissed me off more than anything.
If he noticed the way my eyes narrowed or my lips pressed together he never gave any sign. He just kept smiling as his eyes looked down at the crown in my hands. His smile widened. "Hey, is that what I think it is? Homecoming king, eh?" His smile turned into a grin. "Who's the lucky queen?"
Narrowed eyes widened in sudden panic as several things came back to me all at once. One, my "lucky queen" wasn't the girl my dad was no doubt proudly imagining. Two, said "lucky queen" was standing right behind me and three he was still holding his goddamn tiara.
My dad's eyes slid past me and looked right at Vicky. "Oh," he said, sounding somewhat surprised. "I didn't know anyone was there." The surprised look passed and he stuck out his hand. "I'm Eric, Nate's dad. And you are?" He said all the right things and the smile was back but he sounded a little less than pleased. I shot a panicked glance back at Vicky but my panic melted away when I didn't see the tiara anywhere in sight. I looked around thinking maybe he dropped it or something but I couldn't see it anywhere. Vicky gave me a very quick, reassuring glance and I let out the smallest sigh of relief. He must have hidden before my dad noticed him.
God, I love him.
I had no idea where he could have hid it though. With as tight as his clothes were if he shoved in down his shirt or pants the outline would have been painfully visible. Oh well, questions for later.
"Hi," Vicky said as he shook my dad's hand. "I'm Victor, but everyone calls me Vicky."
I suppressed a shiver. Man, it had been so long since I heard him introduce himself I'd forgotten how hot and adorable it was. And he was playing up his whole innocent thing to the hilt too. Bright smile, effortless politeness, sparkling eyes, he could have given Scrooge a raging erection. As it was I had to surreptitiously pinch my arm hard to keep from filling out my pants. I was only partially successful but since my dad wasn't looking at my crotch I was probably ok.
"Ah," my dad said, then paused. "Nice to meet you."
I didn't have time to wonder what the hell that little hesitation was about because just then Vicky's dad came in.
"Hey, what-" he stopped as he took in the scene. Me and Vicky standing in the hall, me looking probably two thirds terrified, one third hot and bothered. Vicky right in the middle of his sweet, innocent little boy thing. My mom alternatively glaring at my dad and giving me sympathetic little looks. Even without all that he'd had to be pretty dense not to feel the thick tension in the house the second he walked in. "Julia? Is everything ok?" he asked with a very familiar edge of concern in his voice. I frowned slightly. He sounded just like I do when I'm concerned about Vic....ky....
Ah hell. You've gotta be kidding me.
He looked from my mom, to my dad, then back to my mom again. I was about to happily write off what I heard in his voice as friendly concern when I looked back to my mom and saw her eyes soften the same exact way Vicky's do when I show (non psychotic) worry.
Well. Isn't this just a great day for fucking surprises.
I wasn't the only one that noticed the looks. I don't think anyone else saw it, but I looked back at my dad just quickly enough to see a slight narrowing of his eyes before he put on a carefully neutral face.
"Everything's fine, Jack." my mom said with a quick, tight, everything-isn't-fine-but-it's-nothing-you-need-to-worry-about smile.
Which is exactly the wrong smile to give to someone who cares about you when they're worried. With the way my head was going back and forth and back again between everyone in this little drama I'm amazed I didn't accidentally snap my own neck 80's action movie style but I managed to catch a slight narrowing of Vicky's dad's eyes as he looked at my dad but unlike my dad's controlled neutrality the understanding look I saw flash across Vicky's dads (I should probably start thinking of him as Jack if I'm right about him and my mom....oh God images I DO NOT NEED) face seemed totally genuine. Like he not only understood what my mom wanted but actually agreed with it.
It's just too bad I didn't know what my mom wanted. I know what I wanted. I wanted my dad gone and Vicky to hold me until my body decided if it wanted to shake in anger or anguish at seeing him again and then keep holding me until it stopped. For some reason though, I couldn't just tell my dad to get lost. I couldn't really say much of anything. Tonight was just a bit too eventful for me to process properly. And it wasn't over yet.
My dad walked over to where Vicky's....Jack was standing and held out his hand. I couldn't see his face from where I was but his voice was upbeat enough that I figured that smile was back on his face. "Hi, I'm Eric. Nate's father." Hm, was there a reason he introduced himself as 'Nate's father' instead of 'Julia's ex' or, if he wanted to be a dick, 'Julia's husband?'
Jack's eyebrows shot up, probably more from surprise than not being able to do the Spock thing. I guess being able to read my mom's emotions doesn't equal being able to read her mind. That made me perversely happy. Vicky and I are so in tune sometimes that we can have an entire conversation with a look and a head nod or two and it would kinda suck if that kind of closeness was something that anyone could have. "Oh, hi." He shook my dads hand and, to his credit, recovered pretty quickly. "I'm Jack Clarke, Vicky's dad."
After they were done shaking hands my dad took a step back from Jack - and ended up closer to me.
Now, as you may have noticed, I'm pretty good at reading looks, tones of voice and body language. My mom had about 50 different subtle variations on any look or expression that people normally have. Things like "I'm pissed about something you did but I'm not mad at you", "I'm happy that you're spending time with me but can we please change the radio station" and the ever popular "I know you wanna get home and get busy with Vicky no matter what lame ass excuse you're giving me". I know them all and a side effect of learning all that is that when people aren't being particularly subtle in their body language or facial expressions I can pretty much read them like an open book with old people large print. The way my dad was standing, close to me but a bit in front and sort of blocking Jack's view of me pretty much screamed "MINE" in big, neon letters.
"It's nice to meet you." my dad said not even trying to sound like he meant it.
Vicky tensed up next to me. Since Jack had walked in he'd been standing close to me with his shoulder pressed comfortingly against mine. That little bit of contact was like a lifeline, the only thing keeping me from completely flipping my shit and either throwing the nearest heavy object that I could actually lift at my dads head or running up to my room and barricading the door. Honestly, even without my powers of perception the fact that we were 'close' would be pretty obvious to my dad if he'd bothered to look at us for even a second. I'm ashamed to say there was a small part of me that wanted desperately to pull away from Vicky before he turned back. Actually, it was more than a small part. And it had been winning until I felt Vicky's tension. It can't be easy just standing there while some guy you've never met disrespects someone as close to you as Jack is to Vicky. I'm pretty sure the only reason he wasn't flipping his own shit was because he knew how rattled this whole thing was making me and he wanted to be there for me more than he wanted to defend his dad.
I don't think I'll ever be able to put into words how much that meant to me.
Pushing aside the part of me that was worried about my dad finding out I pushed my shoulder lightly against Vicky's and brushed the back of my hand against his. Just like that the tension drained out of him and he gave me a thankful smile. I smiled back.
"Eric." My mom's voice was colder than I'd ever heard it. "Kitchen. NOW."
My dads head snapped around as if he'd been slapped. He opened his mouth to say something but must have seen the ax murder in my moms eyes because he closed his mouth and walked into the kitchen without another word or a glance at anyone else. Vicky and I watched him leave then looked at each other.
She wasn't even looking at me and I still felt the need to follow my dad into the kitchen just in case I might have done something wrong accidentally.
She took a deep breath and walked over to Jack. They didn't hug or anything but now that I was looking for it it was actually pretty obvious that something was going on there. They stood closer then they needed to and that light touch my mom gave his arm was way too "I'm sorry about that, honey" for me to have any hope of being wrong. They talked together in hushed voices and I couldn't hear what they were saying so I looked over at Vicky to see if he noticed the same thing I did but he wasn't paying any attention to our parents. He was looking at me.
"Are you ok?" he asked in his own hushed tone. He lightly entwined his fingers with mine and I gave him a smile.
"No." I answered honestly. "I'm not. But as long as you're here I don't need to be."
He smiled and I rested my head on his shoulder. I closed my eyes and sighed. This felt nice, just touching him, resting on him. I thought if I had about 40 more years of staying exactly like this and I might be ready to deal with everything that's going on.
So, of course, this happened.
"Come on, Vic, we're going home." Jack said sympathetically.
"What?!" I yelled.
"No!" Vicky yelled at the same time.
"Nathan." my mom said calmly. "Vicky can come back tomorrow. We have things" her voice got cold and she glanced at the kitchen "to deal with tonight."
"But-" I started.
"Nate, please." Mom looked weary. "I don't want to fight with you."
I sighed helplessly. Damn her. I turned to Vicky and saw the frustration and resignation on his face. Our eyes met and he gave me a weak smile. "I don't wanna leave you here to deal with this." he said. Of course. He was thinking about me needing him and him not being here, not his own disappointment at not being able to spend time with me.
How the hell did I ever find someone this perfect?
I pulled him into a hug. "It's ok." I whispered in his ear. I almost said something incredibly sappy like "as long as I know you're thinking about me I'll be fine" or "the thought of you waiting for me is enough to give me the strength to deal with anything" but I managed to keep the corn locked away for once. I just pulled back, kissed him lightly on the lips and said "I'll be fine."
He didn't look totally convinced which was pretty smart considering I was half full of shit. I was fine now but I had a horrible suspicion that the second he left I'd collapse in a coma-ey heap on the floor. He knew he didn't have a choice though. "Alright. But call me the second you can. The phone'll be free." He glared at his dad as he said that last sentence then turned back to me with a soft, loving look. "I won't be able to sleep unless I know you're ok."
"I won't be able to sleep without you next to me." I grumbled. I was trying for a joke but it was way too true to be funny. I'd gotten used to spending every weekend with Vicky in my bed and it was going to seriously suck not having him there tonight. Thanks for that, dad.
"Come on Vicky." Jack said and took his sons hand. "Call me if you need anything Julia." Vicky growled. "After they've talked, of course." he said placatingly.
"Thanks, Jack." my mom smiled at him. I barely noticed, I was too busy saying goodbye to Vicky.
"I love you." I said.
"You too." Vicky smiled. "Call me."
"The second he's gone." I promised.
Then they left. As Vicky turned to leave I saw a very strange tiara shaped outline pressing up against the back of his shirt right where the waist of his jeans would be. A small smile tugged at my lips. So that's where he put it.
My mom took a deep breath then turned to me. "I'm sorry. For sending Vicky home. I know you spend weekends together but this...." She sighed. "He doesn't need to be here for this." Somehow I got the feeling she wasn't just talking about Vicky. "Are....you mad at me?"
I saw a flicker of something that pass over her eyes and as used to reading her looks as I was I couldn't remember ever seeing it before. No, that's not true actually. I just hadn't seen it in a long time.
She was scared. And I suddenly knew why.
"I'm not mad at you, mom." I said. "It's his fault, not yours. I'm not gonna blame you for his mistakes again."
Mom's eyes started to glisten with wetness. "Thank you." She pulled me in for a tight hug.
Score one for maturity.
After a minute my mom let me go and looked at me, there were no tears in her eyes, just determination. "Ok," she said. "Let's deal with this."
Dad was sitting at the kitchen table as me and mom came in, he was looking at his phone but when he saw us he put it away and tried out a smile. We weren't having any of it. Mom sat down directly across from him and I sat as close to her as I could. The table was small and round I wasn't all that far away but the message was still clear.
Unlike last time, I was not on his side.
"What are you doing here, Eric?" my mom asked simply.
Dad ignored her and looked at me. "Hey, buddy. I missed-"
"Fuck that!" I screamed. Oh, oh he does NOT get to play the "I missed you" card. My dad sat back in his chair, wide eyed. "You miss me? Really? You MISS me?" I was standing up and leaning across the table now. "Did you miss me when you were fucking around on mom? Did you miss me when you were spending time with a bottle instead of with me? Did you miss me when you were staying out all night doing whatever it is assholes do at 3 in the morning?" I glared at him and lowered my voice. "Did you miss me when you were showing up drunk and puking to my custody hearing?"
At least the bastard had the common sense to look a little ashamed at that last part. I didn't care though. I was pissed. More than pissed. I was fucking raging. The only thing keeping me from flying across the table and, well, let's be honest here, getting easily restrained as I tried to attack him was my complete surprise at just how angry I was. I really thought I was over this. I barely thought about him anymore and when I did it wasn't with seething anger or heartbreaking anguish it was mostly with a sense of finality and acceptance. I knew he was a part of my life that was never coming back and I was perfectly fine with that. I may have lost a father but I got closer to my mom then I'd ever been. Maybe closer than I'd like considering some of the things she's done, but after those first few months living here I never once thought I needed another parent. And now he just shows up again after one of the funnest nights of my life, get's Vicky sent home, upsets my mom to the point where she's screaming and all he has to say is he misses me?
I barely felt my mom's hand on my shoulder but some part of me must have registered it because I suddenly found myself sitting down in my chair breathing somewhat normally. I was still glaring at my dad though. "Nate." she whispered soothingly. "Calm down."
I took a deep breath. Ok, calm, I can do calm. I closed my eyes and thought of Vicky. More specifically his smile. Not the wicked one or the sarcastic one or the sexy one or even the innocent one, but the one he only gives me when we're alone. The one that has nothing but love and happiness and a desire to be close to me in it.
I felt my heart slow down and a sense of...not calm really but something more in the direction of calm that blinding anger. I opened my eyes and looked at my dad. He was looking at me, a slight frown in place of the "I'm a winner" smile. I liked that a lot better. It showed that maybe he might be starting to get it.
When my mom saw that I was calmed down enough she turned back to my dad, her mouth in a thin line. "Ok Eric, enough with the bullshit and the stalling. What are you doing here?"
My dad sighed. "I want to be a part of your lives again."
My mom rolled her eyes. "Oh for the-"
"I mean it." he said forcefully. He took a deep breath. "Look, maybe I'm doing this wrong but I'm serious about this. I wasn't the best father OR husband, I know that, and I know it's too late to do anything about the husband part but I'd really like a chance to fix the father part."
"So, let me get this straight." my mom said with more than a healthy dose of sarcasm. "You suddenly decide you want to be a good father after almost 4 years of no contact with your son at all so you drive three thousand miles and just show up at our house in the middle of the night?"
"Well, it's not that simple-" he started.
"I think it is." my mom cut him off. "Did you ever once think about Nate when you were out drinking? Did you ever ONCE think about him when you were out fucking little bar sluts until 4 in the morning?" God I hoped not. That would be way too wrong. "Did you ever try to call? Send a letter? An email? A birthday card?"
"Why now?" she demanded, getting worked up. "Why tonight? Why-" She stopped when I put my hand on her arm. My calm wasn't as damaged as it had been and I was slightly interested in the answer. An answer I wouldn't get if she didn't let him give it. She sighed and slumped down a little bit. She was starting to look as drained as I was starting to feel.
"I want Nate back in my life." my dad said again, taking the opening. "I've been sober for two years-" he stopped as my mom got up. She went to the fridge, opened it up and pulled out a beer. She came back, twisted it open and put it down in front of him just as the last of the mist was trailing away from the opening. He barely looked at it as he pushed it away. -"I've got that part of my life under control." he said calmly. "I didn't call because I knew you'd tell me to stay away and I'd have come anyway and this would be an even bigger fight-"
"Oh don't you dare do that!" My mom was yelling again. "You have no fucking idea what I would have or wouldn't have done so don't put words into my mouth or assume you know everything. You haven't known me for a long time Eric. Almost as long as I haven't known you."
My dad clenched his jaw for a second but quickly relaxed himself. "Ok. Fine. I may have been out of line." Ouch, that sounded like it hurt. "But whatever my reasoning was I'm here, and I'm not leaving, so can we please just focus on that?"
There was one part of that sentence that stood out to me. "Not leaving?" I asked.
Apparently my mom caught it too. "Eric...." she groaned. "What did you do?"
"I bought a house." he answered.
"You did what?" I would have expected her to yell but all she did was kinda sigh and groan at the same time, like he'd just spent 100 bucks on lottery tickets all playing the same numbers.
"Eric..." my mom squeezed the bridge of her nose.
"Here? You bought a house here? Like, here?" I was having trouble wrapping my head around the concept.
"Yes. Well, not in town, it's actually in Sommersville but it's only about a 20 minute drive."
Sommersville was the next town over, in the opposite direction from the AMC theater that me and Vicky had our first date at those 800 years ago. And that....really was way too much for me. I could actually feel my mind shutting down. In retrospect there were about a million and five questions I should have asked, maybe even a protest or two, but that coupled with everything else that had happened since I got home kinda melted my brain. All I said was "Oh."
"Eric," my mom said. Even through the haze that was slowly seeping into my head I noticed her tone. She'd made up her mind. At least one of us was still on the ball. "Look. I'm glad you seem to have gotten your life back together, I am, but you can't do this. You can't just show up back in our lives out of nowhere like this. You can't follow us here and expect everything to be like it was. You really hurt us. Especially Nathan." She paused, anyone else might have thought it was a pause to collect her thoughts or a pause to rethink what she wanted to say but I knew my mom, the only reason she paused was so my dad payed extra special attention to what she said next. "You're not a part of our lives anymore and you have no right to be here."
For the first time since I walked in the door the entire posture of my dad changed. I saw hints of it before when he was getting territorial with Jack and maybe when he first noticed Vicky but it was out in full force now: he was steeling himself for a fight. "I'm his father." he said, trying for cold finality but coming up just a bit short. No one does cold finality like my mom.
"Not. Legally." See? Absolute zero to his 10 degrees and she made each word into it's own sentence to give it that extra bite.
My dad was dug in though. "For now."
My mom's eyes narrowed. "What does that mean?"
"I've hired a lawyer, Julia." he said. "He says I can get a new custody hearing." My mom just glared. "I didn't want to do it like this but you're being unreasonable. All I want is my son back in my life. I don't want to take him this way but-"
"Get out." I don't think I've ever came close to matching my moms coldness before but right then I surpassed it. I glared at him with such hate that he actually leaned back in his chair. He thinks he can just throw out threats, threats to my mom, the woman who raised me, no, the woman who did everything she could so I wouldn't feel the void left by my worthless, drunk of a father and who is the sole reason I'm as normal as I am despite all his shit and that I'll let him do it?
There may have been some small, tiny, barely there chance that maybe at some point I might have been open to the possibility of thinking about considering letting him peak in on my life at some point in the distant future, but if there was, it was gone the second he threatened my mom. "Get the fuck out of our house, Eric." I wanted to growl the words but I was well aware of how not-intimidating that would be so I just said them evenly and shot him a frozen glare.
I don't know if I expected him to be so shocked and rattled by my hostility that he'd get up and leave but if I was then I was disappointed. I saw a brief look of what might have been hurt flash across his face before his eyes hardened. "Is this how you taught our son to speak to adults? With swearing and disrespect?" The question was directed at my mom.
"My son knows that respect is earned, not given." she looked over at me and gave me a soft smile. "The swearing I gave up on a long time ago."
I don't think I'd ever felt closer to my mom then I did right then.
My dad let out an exasperated sigh, the "my son" definitely not going unnoticed. "I can't believe you're being this unreasonable-"
"Because stalking your estranged family across the entire country is completely reasonable." I muttered. Or, I thought I muttered it, but judging from the barely suppressed chuckle from my mom and the way my dad kinda stopped speaking and stared at me I had a sneaking suspicion I was a bit louder than I meant to be.
"I can see I'm not going to get anywhere tonight." my dad said annoyed. "I'll call in a few days, unless you'd rather I just sent a lawyer over?"
The term "hackles rising" came to mind with the way I bristled at the implied threat but before I could say anything my mom spoke up. "My son," (If I really was as gay as Michelle thinks I am I wouldn't have been able to resist snapping my fingers at my moms cattyness.......although the fact that I even thought about it is a bit disturbing.) "is right. It's time for you to leave. If you really want to go through another trial then go right ahead, just remember that there was more in my favor than you throwing up and making an idiot out of yourself. Sober or not you were never the most stable person."
My dad gave a tight lipped smile, but it struck me as more knowing than annoyed. "Let me worry about that." He got up. "Well, I'll be going." He turned to me. "You may not believe me but I am sorry and I'm only doing this for you. You deserve to have a father in your life."
I could have said a lot of things to that. But I kept my mouth shut. He was leaving and that was what I wanted. When he saw that I wasn't going to say anything he gave me a small, quick smile then walked around the table and left. I heard his footsteps go down the hall and then shortly after that the door closed and I heard a car starting. It wasn't until the sound of the engine faded in the distance that a wave of tension flooded out of me and I slumped down in the chair.
My mom had the opposite reaction. She shot up out of her chair and started pacing around the room muttering under her breath. Every few seconds I'd catch a bit of "the fucking nerve" or "hell does he think he is" or "stupid gay sweater vest", that one was followed by a quick "Sorry" directed at me before she went back to muttering.
"Mom?" I asked tentatively.
"Not now dear, mommy's ranting."
I took the time to try and sort out my thoughts. Not the easiest thing at the best of times and this sure as hell wasn't that. I couldn't figure out why the hell my dad was so determined to have me in is life again after all these years. It made no sense. He was perfectly fine with not being a father for almost 4 years, and probably longer than that really, so what changed? And what's with the conflicting signals? One minute he's all boisterous good cheer and the next drops into threats and all that. Then there's whatever's going on with my mom and Jack and now that my dad's back what'll happen if he finds out about me and Vicky? Do I care? And if I do, why? I shook my head.
Way too much to think about.
"Mom." I tried again.
She stopped pacing. "Shit." she swore, then let out a humorless laugh. "I can't believe after all this time he can still get to me like that." She started to sit down then realized she was about to sit in the chair my dad had been in. She hesitated, then rolled her eyes and sat down. She looked at me and gave me a small smile. I took that as an ok to ask questions.
I started with the most important, non-Vicky related one. "Is he really gonna try and take me away?"
"No. Maybe. I don't know." my mom sighed. "It doesn't matter. There's no way any judge would take you away from me and give you to him. The best he can hope for is joint custody and unless he has a stable job even that's kind of doubtful."
"Then why is he threatening it?"
"I don't know. I never really understood why that man does some of the things he does."
I ran my fingers through my hair, brushing it back from my face. "So, he can't take me away?" I needed to be clear.
"No." my mom said. "Even if I was a terrible parent and he was a shining paragon of fatherhood I still have more money and better lawyers than he could ever have. There's no way he's taking you away."
"Good." I said, relieved.
My mom smiled and I could see tears well up in her eyes. She blinked them away and I tried to ignore them and instead focused on getting rid of the lump I suddenly felt in my throat. This mother-son emotional love fest stuff is always so awkward. "You know I love you right?" my mom said after a minute.
Damn her, I was just getting myself under control too. "I know." I choked. "I love you too."
"Do you....want to get to know your father again?" she asked hesitantly.
"Hell no!" That one I didn't even need to think about. "I've had a better life here without him than we ever did in Alaska. Even when things were good they weren't as good as my life here. As far as I'm concerned all he'll do is bring that down. You're all I need...." I thought of Vicky "Parent wise anyway."
She started to tear up again. Dammit, not again. I wiped at my own eyes. "Hair's in my eye." I mumbled, ignoring the fact that I'd brushed my hair out of my face barely a few minutes ago.
My mom just smiled. "I did a good job with you."
I snorted. "Except for the swearing."
And then, just because I'd probably never get an opportunity like this again, I said. "So, are you fucking Jack?"
She choked on her laughter and stared at me wide eyed. Wow, now I know why she does this so often. It's pretty fun. "What?" she croaked. "No!"
I'm going to choose to believe that. "But you are dating him right?"
I shit you not, she blushed. Actually blushed. And then turned her head away from me trying to hide it. I laughed. Oh, wow, this was a LOT of fun. "I..." she tried, then shook her head. "I don't see how that's any of your business." she said and I could hear the wry smile in her voice.
"That's a yes!" I cackled.
She looked back and narrowed her eyes playfully. "You had to bring this up now?"
"I only figured it out tonight."
She sighed, then a smirk spread across her lips. "Well, I guess since you know I don't need to keep it a secret anymore." My smile started to fade. "I can touch him in front of you." she said sweetly. "I can KISS him in front of you."
I groaned. "Do you WANT me to go with dad?"
She let out a short laugh, then the smile faded as the memory of the night intruded again.
"Sorry." I said.
She waved her hand. "It's ok."
I sighed, suddenly exhausted. "I'm gonna go to bed."
"Alright honey." she held her arms out. "Hug?"
Any other night I would have shot her a scathing look and walked away as quickly as possibly before she could chase me down ad force-hug me but I just got up, walked over to her and squeezed her tight. "Night mom."
Even though I really was tired I knew I wasn't going to get any sleep. Not only was my body used to having Vicky next to it on Friday nights but I had way too much to think about. Plus I had a promise to keep. Not that it was in any way an obligation. Even if I hadn't promised I'd still do it. I knew the tension wouldn't fully leave until I could hear his sweet voice.
My pace quickened as I made my up to my room to call Vicky.