"Momma? Where’d Dad and Alex go?" Charlie asks from behind me, and I turn to face him, plastering a smile on my face. Why couldn’t all this have happened before Charlie would understand any of it? If Ben would’ve came around two years ago, then this situation wouldn’t be nearly as awkward.
Shrugging as I put on my shoes, I answer, "Well, they had to go to work, but we’ll see if Alex can come over tonight, and your Dad is going to pick you up from school and take you to soccer practice." I smile at Charlie, and his face literally lights up at the thought.
"That’s so cool! Can we go get milkshakes on the way home too, like we do?" Charlie asks, barely containing his excitement by just jumping up and down. Laughing at his comment I ruffle his hair and reply, "You’ll have to ask him tonight. Now, let’s go." I smile down at him and lead the way out of the apartment.
We make our way to the car, and Charlie seems to have fallen oddly silent so I can tell there must be something stuck in his mind. "What’s wrong buddy?" I ask him, and glance at him in the rear-view mirror. I see him looking down at his shoes like he doesn’t know what to say, so I add, "Say whatever it is sweetie, I won’t be mad." I ensure him, and I see him shrug back.
"Well, it’s just..." He starts and trails off so I wait for him to continue. "Other kids at school, their parents live together, and they have little brothers and sisters. Why don’t you and Dad live together with me?" He asks, and my heart literally skips a beat when I see the hurt look on his face.
Taking a deep breath, I try to think of what to say but I can’t think of anything that would not only make sense to Charlie, but not make him think Ben didn’t want him.
"Your Dad, when I found out I was having you, your Dad and I were both supposed to be going to college, but with you on the way, I knew that we couldn’t go where we wanted because we wouldn’t have enough money and time. So, your dad and I decided that he could go to school, and I could raise you. Over the years, we kind of lost touch, your dad was busy with his job and stuff, so he didn’t really have time for me and you." I try, and I look up to see Charlie nodding slightly.
"He said that he really wanted to be here, but you didn’t want him to be." Charlie whispers, and it takes me all I have not to let out the string of cuss words running through my mind.
Taking a deep breath and gripping the steering wheel harder, I reply, "Charlie, of course I wanted your dad here. It would’ve made everything better. He was too busy and I wanted him to be able to go to school still. I gave him a chance to see you when you were just a baby, but he had important stuff to do."
"I wish you guys did live together." Charlie whispers, and my heart breaks for him. I grew up with my parents, who were married, but there wasn’t any love there. I could tell they were struggling to hold it all together as I grew up, and eventually my dad started going on business trips every other week.
"I know honey," I whisper, and we both fall silent for the rest of the car ride. When we finally get to the school, Charlie climbs out with a small wave and smile before heading into the building and that’s when I finally let a tear fall, that I’d been trying so desperately to stop.
Ben’s stupid decision to stay at law school not only broke my heart at the time, but now it’s hurting my son and there’s nothing I can do about it.
When I finally get to my office, there’s a ton of work to be done, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t leave my desk for the next three hours. That’s when Ben came in. "Finally, showing your face?" I question him, and he must know I’m pissed off.
Before he can respond, I add, "What the hell is your problem? Telling Charlie that it’s my fault that you weren’t around; that I didn’t want you there? I had to explain to him why you haven’t been here for the last five years, and I didn’t say one thing about you rejecting him and me." I yell at him, as he shuts the door behind him.
"Isn’t it true though? You never even told me you had him! Maybe getting to see him would’ve changed my mind! I was in town when you had him!" He yells back, and I just shake my head in response. "Ben, I called your parents house, and your mom told me to stay the hell away from you. You knew I was pregnant when you left, and you still made the choice to go. Don’t go blaming all of this on me." I mutter, and focus on my computer screen. "You know what Charlie told me this morning? He said that he wishes we were together. He said that all the other kids at school have little brothers and sisters. It broke my heart to hear him say that! You know how my parents were, and you know that I never wanted to do anything like that to my kids, but I ended up doing way worse. Don’t try to guilt trip me into feeling bad about all of this Ben, because I do. But I was 21, and I was scared. Your parents didn’t kick you out. You weren’t forced to handle all of this on your own. I was." I finish, with tears openly streaming down my face.
"But you don’t have to be alone now! I want it, our son wants it, why can’t we try to be a real family. I know you still love me Chrissy, what we had doesn’t just go away because of one stupid mistake! Please, let's just try!" He begs, and I shake my head at him.
Letting out a slightly hysterical sounding laugh, I answer, "Ben, I don’t still love you like that. I can’t forgive you for abandoning me and our son. We both already had degrees, so you didn’t really need law school. I gave it up, you could have too. Do you know how many times in those nine months I would cry myself to sleep because I had to make the choice that you didn’t. I had to give up my dreams to raise our son, while I knew you were out doing whatever you wanted. How was law school Ben? Because I’ll never know. Having Charlie didn’t just crush our relationship, it crushed my respect for you because you didn’t man up and take responsibility." I pause, and Ben just stares back at me, "Anyway," I mutter, trying to lighten the mood, "Could you come over and watch Charlie on Friday night? I’m having dinner with Alex. I usually have the neighbor babysit, but since you’re here, I thought I’d ask." I shrug, and he drops his head.
"I can’t, sorry. My friend is coming in from Boston with my parents, and I want to have dinner with them." He shrugs, "I guess you have the right to know, when I went to law school, I met a girl, and we stayed together for the last five years. We just recently split up, when I moved out here, but since you don’t want to try then I’m going to try, and fix things with her. She’s willing to move out here, so I want to introduce her to Charlie eventually. I haven’t told my parents yet, but they’re going to want to see him too. Maybe we could all get together somewhere?"
"I don’t know Ben, your parents hate me." I mumble, and watch as he shrugs back at me. "I guess, why don’t we plan like a picnic or something on Saturday? Then we can meet on neutral ground, without a crowd?" I ask him and he nods back.
"I’ll take care of it. Feel free to ask Alan too." He smiles and I roll my eyes at him. "It’s Alex." I reply and he shrugs his shoulders again as he says, "I know." With a smirk, and I can’t help but laugh slightly. This will be an interesting conversation with Alex tonight.