“Shhh,” I say against his hair, carrying him over to the bed. He crawls under the covers and I lie on my side next to him, tucking him in. “Mommy said you were supposed to go to bed a while ago.”
He tugs at the buttons on my uniform. “I’m not tiewerd,” his voice breaks into a yawn and I try to hide my laugh. “Can you wead me a storwy?” He looks completely exhausted and I know I’ll never get more than a few pages into it before he passes out. He continues playing with the buttons on my shirt, his sleepy eyes falling closed every couple seconds.
“Not tonight.” I lean off the bed and grab his stuffed dragon, handing it to him. He pulls it tightly against him, popping one ear of the dragon into his mouth like he always does. He falls asleep that way every night and always wakes up if the dragon falls off the bed in the middle of the night and he no longer has it in his grasp. I run my finger down his nose and he focuses on my face, repeating the gesture.
“Guess who’s going to hang out with us on Saturday night?”
His mouth unlatches from the ear. “Who?”
I smile. “Princess Mia.”
His dimpled grin lights his whole face up and he immediately gets to his knees. “Pwincess Mia! Yayyayayayayay!” He bounces on the bed and I hush him again, tucking him back in. “I wike Pwincess Mia, Daddy,” he says in a softer voice before tucking the dragon’s ear back into his mouth.
I bend down and kiss him on his forehead. “Me too, buddy.” He closes his eyes and begins humming against his dragon. I settle down on my side, watching his body relax completely and hearing the low sound he is making get softer and softer. When I know he is asleep, I sneak out of his room, leaving the door cracked open. Angie is still on the couch looking at her magazine but throws it onto the coffee table when I enter the room.
“You know, stopping over here during the week and putting him to bed only confuses him.”
I’m walking toward the front door but stop and turn after her statement. “What the hell are you talking about?”
She stands, hitting me with her most irritated expression. I brace myself for whatever bullshit argument she is about to start. It would be nice to go one time seeing Angie and not have it out with her, but she seems determined to bitch me out about something every chance she gets.
“He’s going to start expecting it. He already wants us to be a family and when you come over here and put him to bed it’s just going to make him think that we are one.” She steps closer to me, dropping her gaze to her feet. I know this tactic. She does it when she wants me to feel bad about something. It never works and I’m surprised she keeps using it. She looks up at me with only her eyes, keeping her head down. “He’ll probably wake up and wonder if you’re still here and then when you’re not, it’ll just upset him.”
“You’re wasting your time trying to make me feel guilty. If I wanna come over here and say goodnight to my son on nights that technically aren’t mine, I’ll do it. He knows that the three of us aren’t a family. He has me and he has you but he’ll never have us together.”
Her head snaps up, the wounded façade disappearing. “God, you’re such an asshole. What the fuck was I thinking hooking up with you in the first place?”
I continue my walk toward the door. “Neither one of us was thinking,” I counter. Because I wasn’t thinking that night. If I had been sober, I wouldn’t have slept with Angie. After talking with her for a minute I would’ve seen what type of person she was. A self-centered, conniving brat. She seemed to get joy out of my misery and I wouldn’t have lasted more than a minute in her presence if I wasn’t drunk. I grab the door handle and look behind me where she has fallen back onto the couch, pouting like a kid who has just been reprimanded. “I’d never take it back.” Her eyes meet mine briefly before she drops them to the floor, nodding to convey her understanding of what I mean. I hate Angie but I love the gift she gave me. Nolan makes me a better man. It pains me to imagine not having him, and I’ll always feel indebted to her for not going through with the abortion.
“I’ll pick him up after work on Friday,” I say. She acknowledges me with another nod but her gaze never leaves the spot on the floor she is boring a hole into. I close her apartment door behind me and make my way out to my truck.
It’ll always be like this with Angie. Even giving her what she wants, us, won’t change the person she truly is. She’s a bitch by nature and I’m tied to her for the rest of my life. But I don’t care how she treats me. She can spew all her poison at me and I’ll fucking take it. She gave me my son. And he’s the only thing that matters.
* * *
“What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” I direct toward my best friend who is currently rummaging through my clothes. For my date, no, friendly hang out with Ben and Nolan, I pick a pair of skinny jeans and a white tank top. I think this is very appropriate for going to a medieval dinner show as friends, but Tessa has other ideas. Articles of clothing are getting hurled into the air as she stays hidden in the closet I’m occupying for the summer. I step behind her and start grabbing clothes out of the air. “Do you mind? You’re going to be ironing all these after you pick them up.” I chuck the handful of clothes I’ve managed to catch onto my bed.
Tessa emerges from the closet with my teeny tiny jean skirt and a tube top. “Strip. You package yourself up in this hot little number, and I guarantee my brother will be unwrapping you with his teeth later on tonight.”
My best friend has a one track mind. A very dirty one track mind.
I snatch the hot little number that I am definitely not wearing out of her hands. “This is not a date so there won’t be any unwrapping going on.” I toss the outfit onto the bed and continue brushing my hair in front of the mirror. “I told you, we’re hanging out as friends. There’s no need for me to be wearing anything revealing.”
She plops down on the bed, sighing dramatically because this is Tessa we’re talking about. “Who the hell goes from a night of unbelievable nine inch pussy humming sex to hanging out as friends? Did you both hit a large rock when you jumped off those cliffs last weekend? Is your brain currently swelling and causing you to act like a complete idiot?”
I pin half of my hair up before I turn and look at her. “I’m just now getting used to the idea of not hating Ben for the rest of my life. Do you have any idea how dead set I was on that game plan? I was close to having a voo-doo doll made of him.”
“And now you two have bumped uglies, and you’re just going to pretend that you didn’t.”
I grunt my frustration and shoot her a stern nook. “No one’s pretending anything. He asked me to give him a chance and I’m giving it to him. As friends. It would be really shitty of me not to.” I turn back around and continue messing with my hair. There’s no way I could ever pretend that Ben and I didn’t share that one night together. If it was possible to forget, I would’ve forgotten about it already. Lord knows I didn’t want to be reliving it every night alone in my bed. That memory was sticking around permanently. And what a memory.