“O-Owen?” he says. “I, uh… I have something for you.”
en’s head shoots up, his eyes glittering at the prospect of getting a gift. Grant’s shoulders tense at the sudden attention, but he pulls the box out of the bag, revealing a large, plastic truck.
“A car!” Owen squeals, scooting forward eagerly. “A new car!”
“Yeah,” Grant says, trying a smile. It looks only slightly less nervous. “Do you like it?”
“Yeah!” Owen says. He looks at Grant with beseeching eyes. “Can you open it?”
“Sure,” Grant says with a more genuine smile.
Well, Owen is happy, and the first step in introducing Grant and Owen has been taken. I wonder why I don’t feel happier about this. I lean against the doorway and frown. It’s not as though I’m worried about Grant being here and being accepted into Owen’s life. For all that I worry about losing my son, it’s nice to know that Owen has a father, now.
Yet watching Owen and Grant interact leaves me with an odd ache, and I can’t figure out why.
“Wow, Grant’s pretty good with him,” Allison murmurs, leaning toward me, watching as Grant carefully helps Owen open the toy box. “It’s hard to believe he was so nervous.”
“Yeah,” I say with a wry twist of my lips. “I think he and Owen are going to be fine.”
Allison goes quiet, and I glance at her out of the corner of my eye. There’s a conflicted expression on her face.
“Is the reason you didn’t tell Grant about Owen because you didn’t think he’d make a good father?” she finally asks.
I tense. I’ve been waiting for her to ask. I knew she would eventually; how could she not? It’s the question on everyone’s minds, after all; why did I keep Owen from Grant for so long? Why did I leave him in the first place? It probably wouldn’t be nearly as mysterious if Grant wasn’t so obviously confused, too.
Funnily enough, Allison’s guess is the closest anyone has gotten to the truth yet.
“Not quite,” I say, refusing to look at her.
“But…” Allison tries.
“Allison,” I say, and the way I say her name comes out harsher than intended. I sigh. “Sorry. It’s just… I don’t want to talk about it. It was all very complicated at the time, and I did what I thought was right for both Owen and I. Even if that doesn’t really make sense to anyone else.”
I glance over at Grant, wondering if he heard me. But he’s focusing very hard on ripping the rest of the package away, and doesn’t appear to even realize that Allison and I are talking.
“Sorry,” Allison says quietly. “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“I didn’t mean to snap,” I say with a small smile. “I just… I’m not ready to talk about what happened, yet. And the first person I should talk to about…”
I glance into the room again. If I ever voice my reasons for what happened between us three years ago, Grant has to be the first one to hear it. I don’t know why or if I’ll ever be ready to talk to him about it, but he does have the right to get the reasons before anyone else.
I don’t believe he’ll understand. No one will. But that’s okay. Some days, I’m not sure I understand what was going through my head. It was through sheer force of will that I didn’t go running back to Grant not long after we broke up. It was only the realization of my pregnancy that had kept me away.
“I understand,” Allison says with a small smile. “But don’t stress about it too much. You guys have got your plate full with Owen, now. And you should look at this as something good. Now you’ve got Grant to help out.”
“Yeah,” I murmur.
I glance at Grant and Owen again. The truck is now free of its packaging, and the two of them are playing with it. Owen is giggling and there’s a wide smile on Grant’s face. It’s happy and free, and it strikes me that this is the first time I’ve seen that expression on his face.
The ache grows fiercer. It hurts to watch them be happy. It takes me a moment to understand why. When I do, I can’t believe how selfish I am.
Watching Owen with Grant doesn’t hurt because I’m worried about being usurped in Owen’s eyes. It hurts because I’ve missed three years of watching them play together. This quiet, pleasurable peace, standing in the doorway and watching my son play with his father, is something that I didn’t realize I wanted. Now it aches to know that I could have had it all along if only I hadn’t been so foolish.
Yet it’s my own fault. I don’t have the right to be upset about what I’ve been missing. Grant missed far more than I did, and now he’s here in the hopes of making up that lost time.
I close my eyes and nod. Here and now, I’ve decided. I’m going to make sure Grant gets as much time as he can with Owen. Owen deserves to know more about his father.