Why is this just hitting me now?
My fingers are dialing a number before I even realize I’m doing it. It picks up quickly.
“Grant?” Ethan asks, confused; I rarely call. “Everything okay?”
“I’m a dad!” I blurt.
There’s a shocked silence. I feel a little better to know, suddenly, that I wasn’t the only one who didn’t make the leap that Owen, Jessica’s son, is mine. It makes me feel less foolish after Kyle figured it out.
“You’re what?” Ethan blurts.
“Jessica had a kid, he’s three years old, his name is Owen, and I’m meeting him on Tuesday,” I say, the words rambling out of my mouth.
Is this panic normal? Yesterday, I was so angry at Jessica that there was no room to think about the ramifications of Owen actually being my son. Now that I’ve calmed down somewhat about that, there’s nothing standing between me and a full blown panic attack.
I’m a father.
I don’t know how to be a father!
“Fuck,” Ethan says bluntly, and I laugh with a tinge of hysteria. Fuck, indeed. “Tuesday?”
“Yeah,” I say.
“Alright,” Ethan says, a decisive note in his voice. “This is what we’re going to do. We’re going to go down to the bar to get a drink, yeah? Then we’ll talk about this.”
“I’m not working tonight,” I point out.
“Which is why you can get a drink to settle those nerves,” Ethan says. “See you there in twenty minutes.”
He hangs up, not giving me the chance to protest. I stare dumbly at the blank screen. It’s probably not the wisest idea to go drinking when I’m feeling like this, but…
I grab my coat. I need Ethan’s advice and it seems like this is the only way to get it.
Ethan is already there when I arrive, heading into the bar after parking my bike around the back. Several people do a double-take when they see me; I’m not often here when I’m not working, so it’s likely a surprise to see me in the club jacket instead of the uniform. Fiona waves to me from where she’s serving customers.
“Here,” Ethan says, sliding a beer toward me as I sit at the table across from him in the corner of the room. “How are you feeling?”
“Riding over here made some of the panic disappear,” I admit. “I found out yesterday, but I just got off the phone after organizing a play date with Jessica, and I think it just hit me all at once.”
“Well, you came to the right guy,” Ethan grins. “Shit, I remember when I found out about Lily. I panicked so hard. I almost ran off, even.”
I can barely believe it. Solid, dependable Ethan, who loves his daughter more than anything else in the world, almost abandoned her?
“The whole idea was terrifying,” Ethan continues. “I didn’t know how to be a dad. I didn’t have any good memories of my own dad, so how could I raise a kid?” He raises an eyebrow. “Guess it’s the same for you?”
“I was an orphan,” I say, studying the table. “I was in the foster system, which didn’t do me much good.”
“Then it’s not much different,” Ethan says with a nod. “But, listen, just because you had crap parental figures, it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good dad. What was the first thing you thought when you found out?”
“I was upset at how much time I’d missed,” I say.
“Which is really different to my first thought,” Ethan laughs. “You’re going to be okay, Grant. Just remember, Owen is a kid, not a monster out to get you. Get him a toy or something, and he’ll adore you for life. And make sure you stick around and visit him a lot.”
“I’m not sure Jessica will like that,” I say in a low voice.
“Fuck her,” Ethan says. I look up in surprise; his face is twisted in a dark look. “She doesn’t have the right to say anything anymore. She should have told you about Owen when she first knew she was pregnant, even if the two of you weren’t together anymore. The one good thing Polly did before she left was tell me she was pregnant and then letting me take custody.”