Now I totally get it, I have no right to be jealous or angry about the fact that Nick is going because let’s face it; he’s the father. I've only known Gracie for a short few months. Nick has been dating her for a couple years or something like that. But the honest to God truth is, since I met her I've felt like I could breathe again. It's like there was a breath I was holding for so long and now I've been able to let it out. I don’t know if that makes any sense and quite honestly, I've been trying to figure it all out myself. Once I came home from that place my mother sent me, which actually turned out for the better, I think I was just going through the motions of everyday life. After my father’s death, I kind of went through a down spiral and didn't care what I was doing or who I hurt. I was a real asshole and my mother had to witness her son become a destructive fuck up. I can’t imagine the pain and embarrassment she must have felt having her son bailed out of jail for fights and drunk driving when her husband had just died. She should have kept my ass locked up. But she was never that type of woman; she was passionate and forgiving. I think she was just out of options and didn't know how to get me help. Her sister, my aunt doesn't talk to her which is a shame because life is too short to hold grudges, especially when the thing you think happened didn't happen at all. But that’s another story in itself. I did however put Nick’s life in danger so I guess she has a right to be pissed. Just at me, not my mother. But whatever, that woman is dead to me anyway.
So when I came back, I got a job and started college-trying to slowly piece together a life I almost threw away. And when I first saw Gracie on that hallway floor; crying I knew I had a purpose, a reason to exist. There was just something about her, I can’t exactly place it. But that’s when I really decided I wanted to strive to be a better person, someone my father would be proud of. Not the person I was becoming, which I’m sure he’s halfway turned in his grave by now after seeing the shit I've done.
“Carter, what are your plans for Christmas?” I turn to the sound of Kristy’s voice. She’s the café owner. She very rarely comes in but she seems to be here more often than not these days.
“Oh you know the usual.” I’m not sure she knows what the usual is but I don’t elaborate. My mind is on other things at the moment. I look at my watch and see the end of my shift is here. I need to get out of here.
“Are you and Gracie still an item?” One look at my stupid grin on my stupid face and she needs no further information. I look away. “I’m happy for you. She’s a sweet girl.” Kristy doesn't know about Gracie being a pregnant girl, or the fact that she’s my cousin’s pregnant ex-girlfriend. I make it a habit not to tell my business to everyone. She does know about my dad and the things that transpired after his death. So I guess she’s just happy that I’m smiling again. I’m happy I am too. I hated being angry all the time.
“Thanks.” Is all I say, before leaving for the day. I grab my jacket from the break room and head to my car. I take my phone out of my pocket and check it for the hundredth time like an obsessed psycho. Nothing. I groan inwardly, kicking the gravel in the parking lot. I kick and kick and kick some more and watch the rocks fly about. I can’t get pissed but for some reason I’ve held my frustration in for too long and I can’t stop kicking the ground or the tire. I look to the sky as if some answer is going to magically appear and tell me that I’m being ridiculous. Maybe my dad is watching, waiting to see what I do. Send me a sign dad, I need guidance. I wish I had gone too. I wish I never said I’d stay home.
What if she realizes she wants him back? What if they become the happy family they should have been in the beginning? No, I can’t think that way. I can’t. I mean I couldn't really fight it, he is the father. But what about me? After all this crap I've found someone I truly care about, I’m not willing to just hand her over. He left her. I consider texting her but I would appear jealous or distrusting. I have to wait. I can wait.
When I get in my car, I let out a scream and pound on the steering wheel a few times. Tears are stubbornly appearing out of nowhere. I look at my reflection in the mirror; I look like hell. I wipe my eyes and gather my bearings, and then pull out of the parking lot. I actually feel better. I guess I needed to let out that scream for a while.
I hate Nick.
I don’t hate Nick.
I hate myself for the fact that I don’t hate Nick. I don’t hate him at all. But he has a right to hate me. I shouldn't have lost control that night. I was older and should have known better.
I don’t hate Nick. I just wish he’d give me a chance to apologize but his mother has him convinced I’m a bad person. I’m not anymore, at least I'm not trying to be. The thing is, he and I are alike in a lot of ways. I might have run the other way too if I was in his shoes. I was a coward back then. I would have been too scared to face responsibilities, which is why after my dad died, I’m glad I hadn't met her.
I miss my dad.
I get within a mile from my house when I decide to turn around and head to my mother’s. I don’t feel like being alone right now. I’ll drive myself crazy. I pull up to the driveway, throw my car in park and wait. Again, I check my phone. Again, nothing.
“Oh hey sweetie. I wasn't expecting you.” My mother greets me in the foyer. I take my shoes off my door and remove my jacket.
“Well, it was a last minute detour.” I walk into the kitchen and grab a banana to snack on. We sit at the table in silence. I can feel my mother staring at me but I continue to stare at my uninteresting hands for distraction. I shift in my seat and turn away from her.
“Are you okay?” I take out my phone and stare at the blank screen. My legs feel stiff so I stretch them out in front of me and lean back against the chair. “Carter does this mood of yours have anything to do with today?”
“What’s today?” I play dumb, curious if she really knows or is just trying to get me to spill.
“You know what today is. And I know you’re probably feeling a little left out.” I shrug but say nothing. “Look Carter, I know what today is. I know that Gracie is at the doctor’s finding out the sex of her baby. And I know that Nick is with her instead of you.” I look up at her and play it off like it’s no big deal.
“Yeah, well I’m not the father so it makes sense for him to go.”
“But I see you’re jealous, or hurt.” I look away.
“It doesn't matter, I’m not the father. I have no business feeling this way. I don’t know why I’m feeling this way. I don’t want to feel this way.” I clench my jaw and finish eating my banana.
"That’s what happens when you’re in love. There are some things you can’t control. But honestly, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. I can see she loves you too. But you did the right thing, stepping back and letting Nick go.” I feel like shit though.
“What if she decides to give him another chance, ya know to be a family? I don’t think I could handle that. I’m in a little too deep now.” She pats my hand affectionately, and gives me a smile. I try to return it but it’s strained. I throw away my banana peel and head to my room or my old room actually, and lay on my bed with my phone on my pillow. Staring at the ceiling has made me tired and my eye lids become heavy. But I’m startled when I hear my phone go off. I bolt upright and read the text.
Gracie: Hey, I miss you. I’m in the room, about to see the sex. Wish you were here. I smile and my heart does a flip in my chest. She misses me. I immediately text her back with sweaty hands, my heart racing.
Me: Hey beautiful, I wish I were there too. Is he behaving himself? I’ll kick his ass if he’s being a dick. I really will kick his ass if he’s making this hard on her. She doesn't need any more stress.
Gracie: No, it’s okay. He’s been fine. I just want to tell you I love you. I’ll show you the pic soon. Call me later? I relax a little when I hear that he’s behaving himself. I really don’t want to get into fights if it’s not necessary.
Me: Of course babe. Good luck. I hope the baby is what you hoped for. I love you. And I really do.
I put my phone down and decide to take a nap when my mother walks in. “Hey, are you staying the night? Or for dinner?”
I sit up and move to make room for her. “Oh, sorry mom. I wasn't planning on staying too long. I just needed to-“
“It’s fine. You can stay as long as you need. Have you heard from her yet?” I nod and lean my head against the headboard, crossing my arms over my chest. “And?”
“You were right, she loves me. I was worried for nothing.” She smiles and scoots closer to me. “She’s still at the doctor’s but she’ll let me know soon what the sex is.”
“That is great. I’m happy to hear that.” When she leaves the room, I turn the television on and search for something to occupy my mind. I wish I had my old friends. I really messed up and lost friends because of it. When I find nothing on TV, I give up and go to sleep.
It’s still daylight when I’m awoken by the sound of my phone and rub my sleepy eyes before I look at the screen. A text. I smile big.
Gracie: It’s a girl! I’m having a girl. I sit up and stifle a yawn. I text back.
Me: Congrats babe! So happy for you. What’s her name? I wipe my mouth in case there’s a trace of drool from sleep. I wait for a reply. I can just imagine the smile on her face when she saw the ultrasound. She wanted a girl; even if she said it didn't matter. I could tell how she interacted with Maddie that her heart was set on a girl. I’m glad she got her wish.
Gracie: Kylie Renee. And thank you. I’m on cloud nine. I want to be with her right now. I want to see her smile and kiss her and tell her I love her.
Me: Aww, that’s adorable. Do you want to go out tonight and celebrate?
Gracie: I do, but I’m tired. I’m lying in bed about to crash for a few hours. I’ll call you when I wake up. Love you baby. Part of me wishes she would come over and take a nap with me.
Me: Okay, have a good nap. I love you more. I’m just glad she’s happy and got what she wanted. She’ll make a great mom. I can’t wait to see her happy face and wrap my arms around her. I get out of bed, go downstairs and get ready to leave when my mother walks into the living room and notices me putting my shoes on.
“Hey, are you leaving?” She asks sweetly. I feel bad for leaving now.
“Yeah, I’m going to head home. I’ll come back soon. Oh I heard from Gracie, and she’s having a girl.” My mother hugs me when I stand up. I can smell her strong perfume.
“Oh, that is so wonderful. Tell her congrats.” I hug her back and kiss her cheek.
“I will. I love you.” I open the door and turn to face her, thankful for her words and making me realize how childish I was acting. “Thanks mom, for always listening. You always know the right words to say. Always.” She smiles as I walk out the door, feeling the breeze on my face. There’s a slight chill in the air. It’s not quite cold yet but it’s getting there. The cold weather in Texas starts usually in January.