Chapter 11: Extended Misery

I was sitting across the kitchen table from my mother as she bounced Lily contentedly on her knee. Lily snacked happily on a handful of dry cheerios.

“What’s going on, Andy?” My mother asked, eyeing my carefully. “This morning, you were practically catatonic.”

I exhaled irritably through my nose. A broken heart as severe as mine was grounds for a little extended misery.

Taylor came over right after you called.”

“I take it he knows then.” My mother said casually, moving the plastic bowl into Lily’s reach.

My eyes grew wide in shock. I had never told my mother that Taylor was actually Lily’s father. I was genuinely alarmed that she knew.

“What?” I demanded. “How did you know?”

My mother sighed. “Come on, Andy. I’m not an idiot. I knew something was going on with you and Taylor. I did the math. And besides, I was there when Taylor was born… Lily is his spitting image.”

I remembered at last to breathe.

“I could see the pain in your expression any time someone mentioned his name. I could see the way your eyes dart to Lily as soon as Taylor’s name was mentioned.”

I suddenly felt like an open book; like my life and my secrets were suddenly out in the open for everyone to see.

Quietly, I slid the folded slip of paper across the table.

In confusion, my mother picked it up and examined the check that was now in her hands.

Her mouth dropped open and her eyes grew wide. It was her turn to be shocked.

“Andy, this…” She began, but reconsidered and stopped herself.

“It’s a lot of money.” I finished.

“Exactly.”

“I shouldn’t take it. I should tear it up, and forget it. I don’t need his money. We’ve made it this far without him…”

“Andy, be realistic, here. Will you be able to afford things like doctors bills, dentist bills… what if she needs braces in ten years? What if she eventually gets into college or university? How will you afford all of the little necessities for her on your own?”

I pursed my lips tightly.

“This way you’ll be able to hold off going to work for a couple of years, at least until she starts kindergarten or pre-school. You’ll be financially secure… your money troubles would be over.”

I looked away toward the small window over the kitchen sink.

“I think you need a break,” My mother spoke evenly.

“What?” I asked in confusion, slowly drawing my attention back to the conversation.

“Go for a walk.” She urged. “Take a few hours this afternoon and think things over.”

I sighed. “I don’t need to think things over… I…”

“Yes, Andy you do.” My mother argued. “I want you to take a walk.”

I rolled my eyes. As if she was ordering me around now.

“I mean it, you may feel better.”

I sighed, and nodded slowly. I walked into my bedroom and threw on the closest outfit I could find. I walked out of the house wearing a pair of denim shorts and a hoodie with a zipper down the front.

I shoved my hands deep into the front pockets and trudged slowly along the sidewalk.

The sun was shining brightly, but the wind gusting all around me was cool against my skin. In the bright light I looked much paler than usual, almost like a ghost walking in unfamiliar territory.

Although my mother had talked me into leaving the house, she hadn’t quite sold me on the idea of thinking things over. I tried to do the opposite. I tried to completely clear my mind to a complete blank slate, solely for the purpose of not thinking.

I walked slowly, trudging along the sidewalk, until the concrete came to an end. I found myself squeezing between two metal posts and into the park I often took Lily to.

I found an empty bench and sunk onto it slowly. I wanted to watch the children playing happily with their parents. In the distance, a young girl about Lily’s age with flaming red hair and freckles went running as fast as she could toward the jungle gym. A man chased her laughing, and in one solid swoop, lifted her onto his shoulders. He walked slowly beneath the monkey bars, allowing the little girl to pretend like she was swinging. A woman I guessed to be the girl’s mother was laughing nearby and calling them both her little monkeys.

I sighed heavily and lifted my feet up onto the bench. I hugged my bare knees tightly, very suddenly missing my little girl.

I wondered if in a few years, Lily would need a father figure. I wondered if she would desire that kind of a relationship that was held by this small family on the playground.

Even with Taylor’s money, I couldn’t give her that. I couldn’t give her a whole happy family, even if I tried.

That thought made me even more miserable.

I closed my eyes tightly, resisting the urge to cry.

When I closed my eyes at one point, the only father figure had been Taylor. But once I finally got over him, I realized that there was really only one man I could imagine a future with.

And I had ruined that already.

“Is this seat taken?” A soft and tired sounding voice asked from somewhere nearby.

“Knock yourself out.” I muttered, keeping my eyes closed tightly. I didn’t care who this person beside me was, I didn’t care that there was now a warm body next to mine. I was starting to shiver.

“Andy, open your eyes and look at me.” The disembodied voice next to me spoke.

I slowly opened my eyes, wondering how this person knew my name. I turned and suddenly matched the voice to a person.

“Isaac…” I choked out, feeling suddenly even closer to tears than before.

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