Friday, February 19, 2021

Some Things Never Change Chapter XI

Part 3

I wake up on the floor of the new café I’ve been fixing up for Jules. How I got here is a haze. All I know is that I got really drunk last night. I know it because there are two empty scotch bottles lying on the ground and because I feel the worst hangover of my life. I turn my head slightly and it pounds. When I try to get up, all my muscles hurt, like I ran a marathon last night. I sit up. I think I’m gonna be sick. The light from the window blinds me. I close my eyes. 

Somehow, I manage to get on my feet and I stagger to the kitchen. I open the faucet and splash my face with water. Then I drink a glass spilling half of it. I refill it and drink again, managing not to pour it over me this time. 

I look to the left and find my guitar case lying on the ground. I shake my head to scare Erick’s image away from my mind, but I end up having to grab my temples with both hands. Damn it. At least I know I didn’t drink two whole bottles of scotch. Erick and I had almost emptied one of them two nights ago. Only two nights ago, I was here drinking and jamming with my best friend. My best friend!

I feel dizzy.

I pick up my guitar and head for the door. The moment I walk out into the street, the cold slaps me. I’m not wearing my coat, but it wasn’t in the café. Where are my car keys? Where is my car?

I find it without much trouble and it’s unlocked. The keys are still on the ignition. I look at my watch, seven AM. I get in the car. My coat is lying on the passenger seat. I don’t put it on. Jules gave me that wool coat, years ago. I drive home and park on my usual spot. I’m feeling like crap, I’m tempted to just lay my head back and fall asleep right here inside the car. But the minute I close my eyes, I see them again. I open my eyelids back up and use my last shred of will power to get out of the car and walk to my apartment. I bring the guitar with me.

When the elevator opens at my floor, I see Erick’s unmistakable figure slouching on his chair in front of my door. He runs his curled fingers over his light brown hair and leaves it standing up in every direction. His blue eyes look up at me and he lets out air relieved. 

“Thank god you’re alright,” he sighs.

I snort. I’m not. I’m everything but alright. I stay on the elevator and let the doors close again. Right before they do, I watch as he pushes his rims to catch me, but he’s not fast enough. 

I walk out into the street and the cold wind wakes me up. I feel it first on my face and then through my thin shirt reaching my chest and my arms. I hope Erick dressed warm enough, the thought crosses my mind, and I have to stop walking for a minute. God, I feel like throwing up. Uff. I continue walking and end up at the convenience store. I want to get drunk again, but I can’t drink any more. 

I buy a bottle of water and go on my way. I find a park and sit down on a bench. I settle the guitar next to me and watch it for a while. I take it out of the case and hold it. I strike the strings with my right hand. I start playing the song Erick and I wrote the other night. 

“Didn’t they splint his hands?” The doctor asks me. He’s holding Erick’s hand trying without success to uncurl his fingers.

“Uh?” I ask. 

“Hasn’t he worn hand splints to stretch his fingers?” The doctor repeats. “They didn’t do that in rehab?”

“Were they supposed to?” I ask.

He looks at me like I’m stupid. 

Erick squints at the doctor. I know what he’s thinking, but the damn doctor keeps talking to me as if Erick can’t hear him. 

“Where did he go for rehabilitation?”

I tell him, and he frowns. Like I don’t know that’s the worst possible hospital. I don’t need him to remind me. 

I get a flash of Jules and me looking at the computer dumbfounded. We did our research and found the best place for Erick to go when he’s released from hospital to start physical therapy. We’ve visited the place, talk to them on the phone on multiple occasions. All that’s left is to wire the money and his place will be booked. But when we’re about to do it, there’s no money on our account. What the hell?

“Did you take the money out?” I ask her.

“Of course not,” she says. “There must be some mistake.”

I take my phone out and call the bank. They say the money was wired to another account a couple of weeks ago. I have to launch a complaint, and about an hour later, they confirm that the money was wired out from my home computer on July 20. I look at Jules. 

“Well, I didn’t do it!” I raise my voice at the phone. 

“Does anyone else have access to your accounts?” The voice on the line asks.

“Just me and my wife, and neither of us withdrew the money.”

“Do you keep your passwords loaded in?”

“Well, yes, but only in my home computer and no one has access to it,” I insist.

“Has anyone been inside your home? A repairman, or a cleaning person?”

“No!” I’m losing my patience here. I turn to Jules again and there’s something strange about her look. She averts her eyes. 

“Are you sure?” The voice in the speaker asks.

“Yes, I’m sure!”

Jules takes a step back. What the hell?

I put the guitar down. I don’t want to remember any of this. I don't want to think about Erick. I don’t want to think about Jules. But what else is there to think about? I have nothing else in my life. Sean. I have Sean. I see his face in my memory and I feel sick again. Perhaps I’m imagining it. I must be imagining my son’s happy face. I shake my head and look up. I have to close my eyes. How can the sun be so bright and still be so cold outside? I shiver. I’m not sure if it’s on account of the weather or my thoughts. 

I sneeze. Oh great! Am I gonna get sick now? I never get sick. 

I get my hands on the strings again and play the damn song. Why am I playing this stupid song? I sing it too, because why not? If I’m going to torture myself, I might as well do it right. A kid, can’t be older than my son, stops in front of me and throws a dollar inside the guitar case. What the fuck! I stand up and he hurries away from me. I turn around and find an old lady with her dog staring at me. 

I have to get out of here, take a shower. Apparently, I look like a beggar. 

I walk back to my apartment wishing with all my being that Erick’s not there. As I walk into the building, I see Laura. I’ve been avoiding her for the past few weeks. She smiles at me at first, but a second later, she wipes the smile away.

“Are you ok?” She asks. “What happened to you?”

What does that mean? I keep on walking but she catches up. 

“Tony, wait!” She grabs my arm. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” I look down at her. I’m a lot taller than her but she’s taller than Jules. Uff, what the hell am I comparing them for? 

“Tony?” She asks again. Then she lifts a hand to touch my face. I trap her wrist to stop her. And then I see my mother trying to touch me. I get nauseous. I loosen my grip and stare at her. She’s pretty. Not as pretty as Jules. Damn it! I force myself to look at her face. I want it to replace any other faces in my mind. She blinks at me. I slide my hand across her forearm and then up to her shoulder. I set my other hand on her thin waist. And she almost falls into my arms. 

“I’ve missed you,” she says. 

I stiffen. 

“Wanna come over to my place? I’ll make coffee,” she offers. 

I nod. She starts walking to the elevator and turns around to make sure I follow her. I do. She lives one floor down from me, so if Erick’s still at my apartment, I won’t run into him. She unlocks the door and steps away so I can enter. I signal with my hand for her to go in first and she does. I follow. I ask to use her bathroom and I wash my face again. I also rinse my mouth out. I lift my eyes and find my own image in the mirror. I look the way I feel, like crap. 

I step into her living room and find her sitting on the couch, two cups of coffee placed on the center table. I sit down on the loveseat across from her and grab one cup.

“Sugar?” She offers.

“No, thanks.”

“So?” She asks when I put the cup down. “Are you gonna tell me what happened?”

“Nothing happened.” My entire world crumbled to the ground, just that. 

She stands up and lowers herself to the space next to me. She puts a hand on my leg. 

“Happy new year,” she smiles. 

Really happy, I innerly roll my eyes. 

“Happy new year,” I mutter back.

She flashes me a flirty look and leans in towards me. I lean in too. I broke things off with her after I found out that Jules was losing the café, but I kiss her now. I need to kiss her, I need to forget about Jules and Erick, wipe their image away in whichever way I can. She kisses me back. She takes her hands to my chest and starts unbuttoning my shirt. I let her. I lift her blouse with my hand and encompass her breast. Jules breasts are small, they fit perfectly into my hands. I kiss Laura harder, trying to push the thought away. I nibble at her neck as I do so, and she moans. She takes my shirt off and I push her to lay down on the couch. She unbuckles my belt and pulls my zipper down. Her hand fumbles inside my pants. I take her shirt off and kiss a pathway to her chest. She moans again. My left hand travels south. I slip it under her pants while I kiss her breasts. I take it back out to release the clasp of her bra. 

“Let’s make a baby,” I whisper in Jules’s ear. 

“What?” She chuckles under me. 

“I want to be the father of your child,” I nibble at her earlobe. I’m holding her waist with both my hands and I push them up slowly, making her shiver, all the way to her breasts. I encompass them inside my palms and then kiss them, bite them, suck at them. She scratches my back. I use my tongue to draw a path across her belly, and kiss her stomach softly. “I want to see you pregnant,” I breathe into her womb and continue the road down. 

“Then, make me a baby,” she says, and I smile, my lips pressed to her. I reeve across her thighs with both hands. Her skin is smooth, warm. She runs her fingers through my hair.

“Oh Jules,” I moan out loud.

“What?” Laura pushes me away. 


I get up from the couch.

“Who’s Jules?” She hisses, covering her breast with both arms. 

“My wife,” I say and pick up my shirt from the floor. 

“You’re married?!” She squeaks.

“No,” I pull my zipper up and buckle my belt. She stares at me like I’ve lost my mind. Perhaps I have. I pick up my guitar and hang it over my shoulder. “I’m sorry,” I say and walk out. 

I use the stairs to get to my apartment, fearing I will find Erick at the door. But he’s not there. At first, I’m grateful, but then I realize that if he’s not here, he must be with Jules. I unlock the door and step inside. My father stares at me from the photograph I keep over the piano. 

“Don’t say it,” I talk to him. “I know. You’ve been telling me for years,” I drop the guitar on the floor. “I’m going to lose her.”

I leave my father in the living room and step into the bathroom. I take my clothes off to take a shower. I don’t wait for the water to be hot, I just want to wash this feeling off of me. I step in and the cold makes me gasp. I welcome it, I want to feel something else, something other than this sunken feeling at the pit of my stomach, something other than this pain. 

I collapse into the bed still wet. I throw a pillow over my face and thankfully, I fall asleep. 

I wake up in the afternoon. I’m hungry, but the food sickens me. I don’t want to eat anything. I think about Jules cooking for me. I see her setting a plate down for me. I can feel her hand grazing my arm and I get goosebumps. Then I watch her tending on Erick, and it all takes a new meaning in my mind. Are they having dinner together right now? Did she cook for him? 

Ahh! I put on some sneakers and go out for a run. I find myself at the café again. I unlock the door and step inside. It’s pretty much done. All I’ve left to do is paint the walls. I stare at the place and I want to tear it all down, see it crumbled on the ground like my marriage, like my life. But I don’t. I just stay there and watch my hopes shatter. 

On the way home, I stop at the convenience store and get another bottle of scotch. I still feel hungover, but I don’t think I can spend the night sober. I walk in my apartment and pour myself a glass. I bring the bottle with me and sit at the piano. 

“Yeah, dad, I’m going to drink again,” I say to his photograph. 

And then I play. I play for hours. When my fingers start aching, I strike the keys harder. I play Chopin’s nocturnes which take me back to another time. I let the memories sweep me away like a big wave. I only stop to refill my glass, once, twice, again. I drink and play. 

At some point, I’m interrupted by the door bell. I try ignoring it and drown the sound with my music, but it keeps buzzing. 

“Go away, Erick!” I yell at the door. 

“It’s Katherine,” a familiar voice comes in through the closed door. It’s my next door neighbor, an older lady who’s always really kind to me. I get up and open the door. 

“Tony,” she looks up at me. She’s wrapped up in a robe over her pink flannel pajamas.

“Good evening,” I say, not understanding why she’s here. 

“Are you ok, dear?” She asks sweetly.

I squint at her and don’t answer. Why is she asking me this? 

“Uh…,” I hesitate. “Do you want a come in?”

She shakes her head at me. 

“I usually enjoy hearing you play,” she grins. “But it’s three in the morning, dear.”

“Oh,” I say embarrassed. “I’m so sorry.  I hadn’t realized.”

She nods at me and sighs. 

“Are you ok?” She asks yet again.

“Yeah, yeah,” I run a hand through my hair. “I’ll stop.”

She stares at me for a minute, like she’s not sure if she should leave me alone. I sigh. 

“Is there something I can do for you?” She offers. “I could make you some tea to help you sleep.”

I’ve known Katherine for a long time, ever since I moved here close to six years ago. We say hello to each other, she brings cookies sometimes. A while back, she insisted I call her Katherine instead of Mrs. Hammond, so I do, and she’s nice to me, but she’s never offered to make tea for me before. 

“Uh, thanks, but I’m fine,” I refuse.

“Are you sure?” She insists.

I nod, and after staring at me for another moment, she finally leaves. 

I close the piano lid. 

“Night, dad.”

I go into my room and sit on the bed. I open my night table’s drawer and take out a photograph of Jules that I keep there. It’s a picture of our wedding day. She’s dressed in white, staring at the camera, looking as beautiful as ever.  I lie down and set the picture in front of me. I take my phone out and set it to play Chopin’s prelude in e minor. I select repeat and set the phone down next to me. I stare at Jules, imagining she’s playing it for me. It calms me down for a while. I listen to the same song for about twenty minutes, but then I think about what she’s doing right now. Sleeping, most likely.

I wake up before dawn and rub my neck. This is not a good couch for sleeping. I get up and get some water from the kitchen. Afterwards, I stand in the hallway. Our bedroom is on one side. Sean’s room is across from it. We adapted it for Erick so he could come and live with us. This is the first night  he sleeps in there. I decide to go check on him. I push the door quietly. And I see Jules sleeping on the bed next to him. 

I stand at the doorway staring at them. We bought a new bed for him, so he didn’t have to sleep on Sean’s twin mattress. He’s lying there immobile, like he will be from now on, his hands are curled up into fists over his belly. His mouth is slightly open, he takes shallow breaths at an even rhythm. Jules is on the right, laying on her side, her head rested on her arm, she always sleeps on that position, no pillow. My wife is sleeping next to my best friend. The image doesn’t fit into my brain. But I know she’s just there to look after him like I asked her to. She’s doing it for me. 

Not every woman would agree to look after her husband’s quadriplegic best friend. I know that and value it deeply. I do. I really do. I step closer to her and reach out with my hand. She looks so beautiful, I almost wake her up and ask her to come to bed with me. But something stops me. 

“She’s your mother,” she says to me. “What’s the harm in hearing her out?”

My mother? That woman is not my mother! Before this morning, I last saw her almost ten years ago. I heard her out that time, and she just asked for money and bailed again. Like she always does. I don’t want anything to do with her.

“I have to go to the hospital,” I say to Jules. I can’t think about this right now. “Don’t speak with her if she comes back. You hear me, Jules? Don’t talk to her, don’t let her inside this house.” I grab her by the arm and look straight into her eyes. I want to make sure she listens. “I don’t want her in our lives. She hasn’t earned that right.”

She nods looking up at me.

“I’m sorry, Jules,” I apologize letting go of her arm. I know I’m exalted. “I can’t deal with her right now. I need to focus on Erick’s recovery, ok? Promise me you won’t listen to her,” I encompass her face with both hands. “Please,” I add.

She nods again and I lean in. I have to hunch down to kiss her. She stands on her toes to reach my height. I kiss her briefly and then press her to my heart. She belongs there, close to my chest, inside my arms.

So I don’t touch her.  I don’t wake her up. I even look away from her, because I can’t stand to see her right now. I step away and leave her there, sleeping on Erick’s bed. 

I jump up abruptly from the bed. I grab the cellphone and quiet the song down. I can’t stand this, I can’t!

I step into the living room and pour myself another scotch. My hand is shaking. I look at my father and flatten the frame down in an impulse. I drink the glass empty in one big gulp and step outside. 

I spend the rest of the night wandering around. I go to the café but I don’t step inside, I keep walking instead, go to the park. At dawn, I find myself at the apartment Jules and Erick share now. “Roommates!” I puff. I wait for as long as I can master and then ring the doorbell. The sun is coming out now. No one answers but I don’t give up. I have a set of keys, but I just use it for the building door, not the apartment’s. I want to wake them up. I don’t want to walk into that home that is not mine. I don’t want to walk in there and find them sleeping together. I don’t think I could take that. I ring again and then pound on the door.

After what seems like an eternity, Erick opens up. He’s wearing pajamas and his night bag is sitting on his lap. He looks up at me, his blue eyes shine even in the dim lights. His face is kind. Somehow, he looks younger than me, although we are the same age. I find his face comforting for a fraction of a second, then I want to punch him. I wish so badly that he were standing, so I could shove him. 

“I’m here to talk to her, not you,” I speak before he can. 

“Ok,” he moves to let me pass. I walk in. Jules and Sean are standing in the living room. I turn back around and stare at Erick. I frown at him, compelling him to leave and give me some privacy to talk to my wife.

He looks down at his lap, where that big bag filled with yellow liquid sits, then up at me again. Yes, I want him to walk out, roll out, just like that. I don’t have it in me to show any consideration for him right now. He grabs his keys from a tray near the door and wheels outside. He closes the door behind him. I turn back to Jules and walk to her. 

“What are you doing?” Sean asks.

I pull a bill from my wallet and the keys to my house, I hand them both to him. “I need to talk to your mom, take a cab to my apartment,” I say. 

“No,” he doesn’t take them.

“Sean! I need to talk to your mother,” I repeat.


“What do you mean no?”

“Leave,” he points a finger towards the door. “Come back when you’re calmed.”

I turn to him. Sean’s tall for his age. He takes after me. But he still hasn’t reached my height. He looks up at me with daunting eyes. 

“Son,” I shoot him a warning look. “Stay out of this.”

“No,” he says yet again. “I’m not eight anymore. I’m not gonna let you mistreat her.”

“Sean,” Jules says.

“What?” I don’t raise my voice although I’m outraged by his words. “When have I ever mistreated your mom?”

“Really dad?” He snorts. “Are you really asking me that?”

I squint at him. 

“You never mistreated her, huh?” He takes a step towards me. “I may have been a kid but I wasn’t blind, or deaf,” he hisses. “I remember how you treated her back then. I watched you kick her out the house.”

“That’s not what happened,” I manage to say somehow. 

“That’s exactly what happened!”

“Sean!” Jules says again.

“I might have been a kid back then, but I’m not a kid anymore. You don’t get to treat her like that ever again, not while I’m around!”

“I’m not… I didn’t.”

“The hell you did! Get out!” He yells.

I stare at him. He’s looking at me with hatred in his eyes. Yes, it’s hatred I see in my son’s eyes.

“Sean, stop it!” Jules says.

“No mom. He treated you like crap and you let him. You let him blame you for everything that happened. You don’t think I remember, Tony?” He stresses my first name. I’m not his father anymore, I’m Tony. “I remember. I remember how you didn’t speak to her for months. I remember the way you looked at her. I saw you cringe away from her touch. I saw the look you gave her everytime she tried to apologize. So many times! She apologized to you a hundred times! You watched her cry and didn’t even blink.”

I stagger back. The wind's been knocked out of me.

“No more!” He stands between me and his mother. 

“Sean, stop it!” Jules cries. “Just stop it.”

But Sean’s staring at me with bolting eyes. 

“You don’t get to come here now and be mad. You have no right!” My son shoves me. 

I take a step back with the blow. 

“Please, son!” Jules grabs his arms. “Tony, are you ok?” She asks. 

I part my eyes from Sean and look at her.

“Get him a glass of water,” she says to Sean. “Now!” She yells. 

The room is moving. There’s no firm ground beneath my feet. I watch as Sean steps back away from me, but it’s like the walls are closing in on me. I try to follow him with my sight but he disappears.

“Sit down,” Jules whispers. 



I bow my head to meet her eyes. She looks scared. 

“Jules, I…”

“Here,” she says and hands me a glass. I turn slightly to my right and see Sean is back, there’s a weird expression on his eyes. “Drink some water,” she says. She guides my hands with the glass to my mouth. I oblige and drink. The water is fresh, I hadn’t realized my mouth was so dry. “Sit down for a minute.” She takes the glass away from me and grabs my arm. 

I release myself from her grasp and leave.

“Tony,” I hear her call me but I don’t stop. Instead, I close the door behind me. I totter across the hallway and set a hand on the wall to keep steady. I take a deep breath trying uselessly to calm myself down. Sean’s eyes stab me. I cross the hallway god knows how, and open the door to the street. I lean down and rest my hands on my knees. I force my body to straighten. I need to get out of here. Then I remember Erick. I made him leave the house in his pajamas, with the night bag in full sight. What am I doing? Sean’s right. I did all that! And hadn’t I promised myself I would never let rage drive me to behave that way again? Now I have to find Erick. I can’t leave him in the street like that. I take my phone out and dial his number. There’s no answer, but maybe he doesn’t have it with him. 

I feel the cold strike me even through the thick sweater I’m wearing. I let Erick walk out into this cold! I look around. Where could he have gone? I look into both sides of the street but I can’t find him. The parking lot! I get back into the building and walk into the parking lot. His wheelchair is parked in a dark corner. I walk to him. 

“Are you alright, Tony?” He asks and I roll my eyes at him. 

I take one more step towards him. I feel the sudden urge to touch his hands to check how cold he is, but a second later the urge passes. 

I use my arm to signal he should go back inside. I can’t find my voice to say it though. He pushes his rims and I turn around.

“Don’t leave,” I hear him say behind me. 

I stop only for a second and then continue walking. I go back into the building and head for the main door. I hear him rolling behind me. I step outside and he follows. 

“For christ sake, go back inside,” I turn around now. “You’ll freeze.”

“Oh Tony,” my best friend stares at me with pity in his blue eyes. Did I ever look at him like that? “I’m so sorry, man. I know you don’t want to see me right now, but I can’t let you leave like this.”

I huff.  “Go back inside, Erick,” I turn around and continue walking. He chases after me. “Go back inside!” I raise my voice now. He stays put. “Don’t do this to me, Erick. Don’t! Don’t make me worry about you right now. Go back to the damn house!” I yell at him. 

“I can’t, Tony,” he says in a low voice.

“What are you gonna do, huh?” I say. “Are you gonna follow me in your pajamas? With that bag lying on your lap?” He looks down for a minute and then back up to meet my eyes. “What for? Huh? Do you seriously think you can make me feel better now? Well you can’t! Spare me the worried look! Leave me the fuck alone!”

I turn back around and cross the street. 

I get back to my apartment and bend down exhausted. I don’t want to feel this way anymore, I can’t take it. I go to the piano and pick up my father’s photograph which is still laying face down. 

“Oh, dad,” I say. “I wish you were here. I need you. I need you to tell me what to do. I’m a mess without you, I’ve been a mess ever since you left.”

How could I do that? I think back about Sean’s words. His eyes, oh god! Everything he said is true. How could I ever have behaved that way? No wonder my kid hates me. I set the picture down and pour myself a scotch, damn the hour. 

I’m still sitting on the piano stool an hour later when the doorbell rings. I bet it’s Erick, I’m not bothering any neighbors right now. I don’t open.

“Tony, please, I know you’re in there,” Erick’s voice comes in through the closed door. “Please talk to me, man.”

I don’t go to work the next day. I lay in bed awake too tired to think anymore. I spent the whole night going through every mistake I’ve made in my life.  What did I think, that jules would wait for me forever? I had it coming, I can’t blame her. But then I see Erick's image in my mind, and I can’t understand why he would do this to me. When did I ever wrong him? 

At eight o’clock, I get up and get dressed. I head out to the apartment again. Erick will be at the company, hopefully, and Sean and Jules will be alone. I need to talk to them. I ring the doorbell and wait. Jules opens the door and she sighs at the sight of me.

“Is Sean awake?” I ask her. “I need to talk to him.”

“He’s still in bed,” she says but lets me pass. 

“I’m up,” he says behind her. I look at my son. He’s tall, strong, handsome. He’s got anger in his eyes though. 

“Can we talk, son?” I walk to him. 

“What are you going to say?” He rolls his eyes at me.

“That you’re right and I’m sorry,” I start.

He squints at me.

“Everything you said was true,” I continue. “I’m sorry I treated your mom the way you say. I’m sorry you saw it. I’m sorry I never talked to you about it before.”

He nods. I watch as Jules walks away and disappears into the hallway. 

“I’ve no excuse. I was… I was so angry and I blamed her for things that weren’t her fault. I… I’m glad you know I was wrong, because it means, despite everything, we’ve raised you right.” He stares at me quietly so I carry on. “I will never be able to make up for what I did back then, but know that I have spent every single day since regretting it. I’m sorry that you had to suffer for it, that I wasn’t able to give you a whole family, you had to pay for my mistakes and I know it isn’t fair. You’ve every right to be angry at me, but I hope that you can find it in you to forgive me, because I love you. I love you so much, Sean. I want nothing more than to be the kind of father for you that your grandfather was for me. Will you give me a chance?”

He doesn’t answer me. He sits down on the couch and I follow him. 

“You can’t just say you’re sorry and expect everything to be fine,” he finally speaks. 

“I know that,” I sit down next to him. 

“How many times did mom say she was sorry? Did you forgive her?”

“I know, god I know!”

“Yet you expect me to forgive you now, just like that.”

“I don’t, all I want is for you to give me a chance to prove to you that I’m not that man anymore.”

“You’re not doing a very good job at it so far,” he says. 

I stare at him. “Ok,” I grant him. “What am I doing wrong?” I ask sincerely. My father can’t guide me anymore, no matter how much I hear him talk back to me in my mind, I’ll never hear another advice from him again. So maybe my son will point out my mistakes now. 

“You’re being selfish,” he says. 

“How’s so?”

“You hurt mom, you just admitted it yourself. But you won’t let her be happy,” he frowns at me. I see my own dark eyes in his. “So you don’t want her, but you can’t let anyone else have her?”

That stings. I get back up from the couch and turn around. My own son is rooting for Erick to be with his mother. 

“He’s my best friend,” I hiss, my back still turned to him.

“Exactly! Don’t you love him?”

“Of course I love him,” I turn back to face Sean. “How can you ask me that?” Do I love Erick? For fuck sake! Of course I love him, that’s why it hurts so damn much that he did this to me. “And I do want your mother,” I can’t keep myself from speaking up. I want her so badly. 

“Could’ve fooled me,” he spits.

I stare at him in silence. 

“How many women have you been with in the last years?” I can’t believe my son is asking me this. I can’t believe I’m having this conversation with him. “But you expect her to be alone, just wait for you?” He continues. 

“This is Erick we’re talking about!” 

“Yes,” Sean gets up too. “And he’s always been there for us, unlike you!” Damn, he’s cruel. I guess he gets that from me. I gasp for air, it’s hard to breathe. “You say you love uncle Erick, but you won’t let him be happy either.” He gives me the last blow.

“I…” Am I being selfish? Will Jules be happy with Erick? I swallow hard. 

I look at my sixteen year old son. I stare at him, merging the image of the little boy I used to lift up in my arms with the one of the young man he is now. I’m at a loss for words. I’ve absolutely no idea what to say to him. So I nod. I nod and walk away from him. I head to the door because I can’t take speaking to Jules right now. 

“Why?” He asks in a low voice before I reach the door.

I turn around again.

“Why what?”

“Why did you divorce mom?”


“Why dad? I don't get it.” He looks like that little boy again all of a sudden. “Why couldn’t you forgive her for letting grandma in the house? That’s all she did, right?”

And I want to cry. That’s it, isn’t it? It sounds so simple. That’s all she did, and I… I gasp. 

“I felt… betrayed,” I say breathing heavily. “I’ve known your mother since we were kids. I loved her always, ever since I can remember,” I blink back to restrain my tears. “She knew me better than anyone. She knew how that woman… my mother,” I get stuck on the word, “had hurt me. And still, she let her hurt me again.” I take my hand to my eyes and cover them. “Perhaps you know now, I’m not sure, how hard it is to turn a parent away, no matter what they’ve done to you. Whatever way I’ve wronged you, it doesn’t compare with what that woman did to me. Your mom was always my shelter, always, I felt comforted in her arms, I trusted her completely… and when she went behind my back with the person who harmed me the most, I lost that shelter…” I uncover my eyes and look at my son again. “And then, when your grandfather died, I was lost…”

I've never explained it outloud before. I feel a wave of pain slash me down like when it all first happened. 

“I hope you never have to live through such pain,” I add and turn around.

I open the door to my father. He’s carrying some pieces of wood. My dad may be old, but he’s strong. I take the wood from him and he goes back to his car to get more. 

We set the planks down by the door where we will be building the ramp, and go inside to get the tools. 

“Grandpa,” Sean Jr. comes out to meet him.

“Hey, kiddo,” my dad caresses his hair. It’s a sweet gesture, one that tells me that he loves my son more than anything in the world. My dad is a serious man, usually quiet, sullen. He may not be very affectionate, but he’s as devoted a father as can be. 

“Julia?” He asks me.

“At the hospital,” I avert my eyes. 

We get to work. Sean passes the tools to us and we let him get a couple of nails down. He’s so eager to help. We finish building the ramp by lunchtime, but we still have to paint it. We sit down at the table and I serve some food that Jules left for us. 

“How’s Erick?” He asks me between bites.

I look up at him. “Depressed,” I say.

“Only time can make it better,” he looks down at his plate for a minute and then continues eating. 

“How are you?” He asks me a minute later.

I don’t meet his eyes. “Fine,” I mutter.

“Take your plate to the sink, kiddo,” he says to Sean. “And take a break, it’s back to work in half an hour.” My son nods and leaves the table. “How are things with Julia?” My father says when Sean’s out of sight.

I set my fork down. I haven’t told him anything, but of course he knows something’s wrong. 

“What’s the problem?” He says although I didn’t answer his previous question. “Are you fighting over Erick coming to live here?”

“God, no,” I speak now. 

He nods. “She’s a good woman,” he says. 

I nod, my eyes fixed on my plate. “I know.”

“Talk things out, son. And when you do,” he forces me to meet his eyes by sheer will power, “speak up and listen.” 

I hold his gaze. My dad is a man of few words. Perhaps it is because he speaks so little, that everything he says counts. 

We finish painting the ramp and go back into the house. 

“Are you going to the hospital?” He sits down on the couch. “I can stay with Sean.”

I shake my head. “I’ll leave when she comes back.” I look at my watch. 

He looks at the piano he bought for me years ago. It’s a used piano, old, that I know cost him every last dime he had at the time. I sit on the stool and lift the lid up. My dad likes hearing me play. Sean settles next to him on the couch. I play “Beautiful boy,” the song John Lennon wrote for his son, who happened to be named Sean too. I usually play it on the guitar, but I know my dad prefers the piano. As I sing, he stares at me with love and pride. He always looks at me that way when I play or sing. When I was a kid, there was amazement in his eyes every time I played. I think there still is. 

Sean knows this song by heart, I sing it for him all the time. He hums it.

“I can hardly wait to see you come of age,” I wonder what Sean will be like as an adult. Tall, I bet, like me and my father. Will he be taller than me? Will I ever have to look up at him? I look at him while I play. He smiles as I finish the song “Darling Sean.”

I turn around in the stool.

“Again?” My kid stands up and comes to me, a lively grin on his mouth. I hug him with one arm. 

I stop by the door and take one last look back at my son. He’s all grown up now. Soon, I will have to look up to meet his eyes. I wish my father could see him. And I wish even more that Sean could see and talk to his grandfather. Perhaps Sean would look at me differently if my dad were still around.

I sigh and walk away.

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