Here’s another excerpt from my novel, A Thousand Years.
On Friday evening, after we’d stuffed ourselves with pizza and we’re comfy in our favorite spots in the family room, watching a movie, Gray came through the front door. Total chaos ensued, as he was a whole week early. I always love seeing him like this – such a contradiction. He is dirty and smells. He’s mostly cleaned up before his drive home, but even still he’s looking and smelling rough. It’s a total contradiction from this quiet, studious man I’ve known most of my adult life. Amelia is in his arms in an instant and Jake is talking a mile a minute. We’ve paused the movie for the mini-reunion. When they finally relax a little, Gray lifts up a backpack. “Can I shower and change?” he asks.
“Of course. I set out some fresh towels. They’re on the counter in the upstairs bathroom. There’s pizza when you’re finished.”
“You are literally the best. The best everything.”
“True. I am. Now go shower – you stink.”
“True story,” he says.
A few minutes later, when I hear the water turn off, I walk into the kitchen to heat him a plate of pizza. I choose his favorites from what’s left of our four different types and put them in the microwave. As the microwave finishes, he walks into the kitchen. He didn’t shave – which I love. And he smells amazing as always. “You are a saint. Thank you for being there for us – as always,” he says, hugging me.
“You’re welcome. I’d do anything for you and the kids,” I say. He’s not letting go. I don’t want him to. And I want him to at the same time. Isn’t that just like us? I pull away from him. “Eat,” I say pointing at his plate. He pulls out a bar stool at my kitchen island and sits down.
“Listen, I hate to bring this up now but, you need to talk to Jake. He’s having a hard time with the stuff Adria is doing and he’s frustrated that you don’t just cut her off. He asked if he could move in with me.”
Gray put the piece of pizza in his hand, back on his plate. “Yeah? What did you say?” He doesn’t look mad. But I can tell that he’s not thrilled with me.
“I told him that wasn’t possible, but that I would always be there for him. For all of you. I told him that he needed to talk to you about how he’s feeling and to ask you the questions he asked me.”
“Oh,” he says flatly. “What kinds of questions did he ask?”
“Rather than specific questions I would just sum it up by saying that he’s tired of Adria’s behavior and doesn’t understand why she never has to deal with consequences for her bad choices. He said that when he does bad things, you hold him accountable.”
“Ah. These are big thoughts for a little boy. I can’t blame him,” he says, the defeat of recent years etched in the new lines in his forehead. He runs his hands through his hair. He needs a haircut. I don’t know how it’s possible, but the older he gets, the more handsome he gets. “I don’t know why I let her stay in our lives, Bird. Why do I allow this?”
“I don’t know, Love. I ask myself this all of the time.”
“Thank you for being there when he had these big worries and questions. You’re a good mom to Jacky. And you’re a good mom to my kids, Bird. You love us well. And you deserve -” His statement trails off. I already know where he’s going with this.
“I deserve to be with the love of my life,” I say, as I put the pizza boxes back in the refrigerator and walk back out to the family room. I sit back down on the couch and Amelia crawls into my lap.
“Will you braid my hair now, Aunt Birdie?”
“Yep. Run to the bathroom and grab the comb and some hair bands, okay?”
“K,” she says, running down the hall to the downstairs bathroom. As a boy mom, Amelia is my only chance to enjoy girl stuff, so I keep a basket for her here with makeup and hair barrettes, and nail polish. She races around the corner with her basket and climbs back into my lap. “Got ‘em!” she says.
She leans back as I start brushing her hair. Like every other time, since I’ve moved back to Newton, we’ve done this very thing, I’m overwhelmed – with love, hope, fear, and a dread that surrounds every moment with Gray and his children – worrying its end could come any moment. I make myself a promise, as I braid Amelia’s hair – Gray will not ever devastate me again. So one way or another, this foggy haze that hangs between us, is gonna clear, one way or another.