And Grant deserves to have some time with his son.
Abruptly, I turn away.
“Coffee?” I ask Allison.
“Yes, please,” she says gratefully.
I take one last look at the scene. Neither Owen or Grant are paying any attention to us. Then I head to the kitchen with Allison. I don’t know how my life is going to change now, but I can only hope that it’s for the better.
Watching Owen play with the toy truck that I bought him makes my chest tighten with a feeling that I’m not familiar with. It’s warm and deep, and utterly terrifying. The sound of his giggles as the wheels of the truck run back and forth over the carpeted room makes me feel happier than I could have thought possible. But, at the same time, it brings the fact that this boy is mine, that I am half responsible for a small child, into sharp clarity.
What am I supposed to do with this kid? At the moment, he seems happy to play with his toys while I’m sitting there, none the wiser to the fact that I’m his absent father. He hasn’t asked me any questions or made any accusations, and I’m kicking myself for even expecting that to happen; the boy is three, after all.
At the same time, though, I know that I’m still just a stranger in his eyes. He isn’t worried about my presence, if only because his mother, the one person he’s familiar with and trusts more than anything else in the world, has allowed it. On one hand, I’m grateful that Jessica hasn’t caused a fuss about allowing me to get to know Owen, and isn’t petty enough to try and turn the boy against me.
On the other hand, though, it hurts.
If I had known Owen since he was born, this wouldn’t be an issue. He would look at me with the same loving admiration that he looks at Jessica with. Instead, I’m just another visitor, and that’s all it will be until his young mind eventually connects the dots and tells him that I’m something more.
It’s going to mean visiting a lot. Owen can’t get used to me if I’m not around, and I’m determined to become just as big a part of his life as Jessica. I toyed briefly with the idea of fighting for custody, but I quickly dropped that idea. Not because I don’t want to take Owen, but because the thought of taking him away from Jessica, who raised him for three years on her own, makes me uneasy. For now, I’ll settle for visitation rights, and we can work out a way to parent him as a team, even if we live apart. Lots of parents do it, after all; if they can do it, we can, too.
I glance toward the kitchen. I noticed when Allison and Jessica left the room, and it makes me feel warmer than I want to admit to that Jessica is comfortable leaving me alone with Owen, even if only for a few minutes. Does that mean she trusts me? Of course, that makes me wonder, even more, what possible reason she could have had for not telling me about Owen in the first place.
At the sound of Owen’s childish voice, I blink and look up. Owen is beaming at me, his smile spread wide over his chubby cheeks, and holding out a small, blue car. Not sure what else to do, I hold out my hand, and he dumps the car in my palm.
“That’s your car,” he informs me, dropping back to the ground. “Look!”
He’s got another car, a green one that has obviously been well loved from the dents on it and the chips on the paintwork. He’s gripping it tightly as he scoots over to where he’s put a few blocks together.
At first, I’m not sure what he’s doing. Then, excitedly making “vroom” noises, Owen puts the car on the blocks and pushes it alone.
“Oh, it’s a road!” I say in sudden comprehension.
It’s a small road. I eye it and then grin.
“Want to make it bigger?” I offer.
Owen looks up at me, his eyes sparkling.
“Yeah!” he exclaims.
I lose track of time before I know it. Between Owen and I, we clear a huge space on the floor, and I help him make a long, winding road out of blocks. At one point, I see Jessica poke her head in the room to see what we’re doing, but I don’t pay her any attention, and then she’s gone. I don’t see her again, but I don’t doubt that she’s hanging around.
Once the road is finished, we spend more time than I realize racing the cars around the track. Owen is laughing the entire time, and I don’t want to stop. He’s so happy, smiling at me with such brilliance, and part of me is terrified that I’ll never have a chance to see this again if I stop playing with him now.
Before I realize it, though, the sky outside the window is darkening, and Jessica steps fully into the room for the first time.
“Are you hungry, Owen?” she asks.
The spell broken suddenly, Owen and I blink at Jessica in unison, surprised at the interruption. As her words filter through my brain, I look out the window. It’s already evening. Have I really been playing with Owen for so long?
“Yeah!” Owen cheers, scrambling to his feet.