He didn't sleep well, but he'd expected that for a few reasons. She, however, slept just fine. It was after five o'clock in the morning going by what her alarm clock on the other side of her bed said.
He shouldn't be thinking so hard, he knew that. It was hard not to, though. He certainly hadn't expected to be here, laying in her bed with her sleeping beside him this weekend. Sure, he was trying for that end, but he'd assumed based on how she acted before coming down here that sleeping with him was far from being on her mind.
At some point during the night she'd turned onto her side, her hand settled against his chest. He'd done a number of mental exercises to keep from doing something completely stupid at that moment. He'd given into the temptation to at least touch her, though. Surely she couldn't get mad at him for doing that when she was touching him. He ran the pad of his index finger along one of her nails. They were painted a nice shade of red, but he felt a slight chip or blemish in the paint job so he imagined she did them herself versus going to a salon. He doubted she had time for things like that anymore. He kind of liked that she still kept them painted, though.
"Why aren't you sleeping?" she whispered, sounding sleepy.
"Just thinking," he murmured.
"What are you thinking about?" she asked.
"You," he admitted.
"What about me?"
He shrugged. "I don't know."
"You must know, you're thinking it."
"You can tell me."
He sighed softly, turning onto his side a little to face her.
"I don't want to wait. I'll give you space, can't get much more spacious than more than a hundred miles separating us, but I want the chance now."
"John," she said.
"No, don't John me. I love you, damn it. I knew over a year ago I did. I've tried to meet other women, but they're not you. I'm not mad at you about Jack. I'm still not overly pleased I missed out on the first six months of his life and seeing you pregnant."
"Yeah, that was a treat," she said softly.
"To you I'm sure not, but I think I would have liked it. I certainly would have taken care of you as you deserved not left you alone down here to fend for yourself while you went to school and everything."
"You talked before we went to bed about how you feel. What about how I feel? I know guys who've gotten their girlfriends' pregnant and they're out the door as soon as the word baby is mentioned. I'm here, I'm giving you money, and I'm trying. Isn't that worth something? I'm not saying we have to get married, but I want to try for that."
"Marriage? You want to get married?"
He shrugged. "One day, sure. Maybe try for that little sister you mentioned." He settled a hand against her cheek. "I love you. Do you get that? Do you get how hard that fact is for me to admit to myself let alone you? I want to get letters from you and know you wrote to me because you miss me not out of some motherly obligation that you think you have to for Jack's sake or because I'm giving you money. I want to come down here on the weekends I visit and have this spot right here every time."
He slid his thumb along her cheek, lower to her lips.
"I know how hard that is for you to admit."
"Then give me some credit and believe that I actually know what I'm talking about. I've had over a year to think about what my feelings for you are and to explore if they were real. They're real."
"I don't want to hear about it."
"Yeah, well, I don't like thinking about you down here meeting anyone either."
"I haven't met anyone."
"You will," he said. "There's probably some single dad in the neighborhood somewhere just itching to meet someone to be a mommy to his kids."
"You've thought way too hard on this"
He moved them so he was on top of her. Her breath caught and she slid her hands to his shoulders, pushing a bit but not forcefully pushing him off of her.
"I have all day to think on things when I'm working. Manual labor is great for clearing your head, but it's pretty solitary for the most part. You have your own duties, responsibilities so that gives you time to think."
"You think about me?"
"God, yes. Aren't I supposed to?"
"I don't know."
"If you can look me in the eye and tell me that you're not interested. I don't expect you to say you love me, I know I screwed up and I have to earn your trust. I want to do that, though. I want to prove to you that I'm not going anywhere this time."
"What is it you want from me exactly?"
"I want you in my life along with Jack. I want you to come home on weekends sometimes, too. So that we're both making an effort. I know it's not as easy for you with Jack, so I don't expect it all of the time but once in a while it'd be nice. Or even if you called me and said you wanted me to come down to see you instead of me asking."
"I did want to see you!"
"Could've fooled me."
"I've just been so busy and there's so much on my mind."
"I really wasn't sure how you'd react once we were gone and you had time to really think about all of this."
"This being our son? I'm not mad. I'm not happy, but certainly if I can lay here with you and forgive you for withholding that you can forgive me for freaking out about a situation that was totally foreign to me. And, yes, I can admit that's what I did, but can you blame me. Really? A chick like you giving me the time of day doesn't happen, certainly not at our school."
"I know," she whispered.
"I'm sorry. What?"
"I said I know. That's not really where I have my problem."
"Right. It's that I'd get home from being with you this summer, kissing you, and I'd be happy."
"That's good. Why is this a problem?"
"I'd close my eyes and I'd see your wallet that day at school. All those girls…"
"None of them were you. Had I met you first I never would have had those pictures."
She scoffed. "Right."
"You don't believe me?"
"I find it hard to believe, yes."
"Because you said you don't believe in it!"
"Because I hadn't met you, hadn't been presented with a person I wanted to believe in it with."
"So you can do that? Have a relationship with me? Not sleep with other women while I'm at school, knowing I won't find out?"
"I don't want to sleep with other women. I have tried everything I can think of to get over what I feel for you, including that, and it never works."
"It doesn't work?"
"No! The one or two times I've actually seen the act through the whole way I left feeling like shit so I stopped trying."
"Because of me?"
"Because of how I feel for you. I mean, at the time I never thought I'd see you again. Unlike Chris, I don't believe that part of me is going to solve all of my problems."
"You could've fooled me," she said.
"And again, you don't know what I've been doing the past year so stop saying things like that. And, really, if it weren't for that part of me we wouldn't be here right now so I guess at least once I knew what I was doing even if it was an accident."
"John," she whispered.
"I know I said I wouldn't push, but hearing that guy answer the phone earlier this week just made me feel things I never thought I'd feel."
"I didn't mean to make you jealous."
"I get that you didn't," he laughed softly. "If it doesn't work at least we can say we tried and this time we know for sure it doesn't work."
"You hurt me."
"I know I did, Princess, and I'm sorry probably more for that than I am Jack."
"Me, too," she whispered.
"He's the best thing that's ever happened to me."
"I haven't had as much time with him as you have, but I can understand that way of thinking."
She ran a fingertip along his jaw, lower along his neck and throat, and over to his ear. His eyes fell closed as she touched him.
"I do love you," she whispered.
His eyes flew open at that admission.
"Is that a yes?"
"It's a yes," she said.
"Don't sound so excited about it."
"Tell me about it," he said. "At least you don't have my dad breathing down your neck, waiting for you to screw up."
"My dad's not going to hurt you."
"No, but if I hurt you again, your dad will make my life hell."
She didn't respond.
"And you agree with me obviously."
He chuckled softly.
"And you still want to try?" she asked.
"No sisters for a while," she said.
"I think we'd need to do it the right way this time."
"The right way? I thought we did fine."
He moved his face a little to nip at her fingertip before kissing it.
"We did do that fine. I meant the order in which it happens."
"Oh, yeah, right," she shrugged. "I'm not sure my dad would blame me if I didn't want to get married."
"I don't know. One day maybe. I think having someone I can count on is more important than a piece of paper."
"I agree," he admitted. "Neither of us has the best examples."
"You really want me to go home more often?"
"I want you to come see me not go home."
"Oh," she said.
"I didn't say often, just once in a while. You know, so I know you actually want to be with me."
"But my inviting you down here would be as good?"
"As good? Maybe not as good, but pretty close. Why?"
"I like you being down here."
"Why?" he asked.
"It feels nice."
"Yeah, you know. We're here in a house with Jack. It's like we're a family."
"We are, Princess, that's why I changed my mind about giving you time. It may not be as significant to you because you grew up being a part of one. Laying here with you tonight, though. No way can I do it. I can't walk away from this chance, I can't look back and think I did something to let the two of you slip through my fingers when I had it in my grasp. Giving you time just seems a perfect way to let that happen. I want to be nice to you, but there's such a thing as being too nice. About this I can't be too nice."
"We're not going anywhere."
"Yeah, well, until tonight I wasn't so sure."
"You know what I mean," he said.
"Yeah," she said.
"What do you do for babysitting for him anyway?"
"I have a day care I use. It's close to campus and they're fairly reasonable. Why?"
He shrugged. "I was thinking maybe in November when work is done for the year I could come down here."
"Okay? You'd be okay with that? Just like that?"
"Maybe I didn't understand."
He chuckled softly. "Yeah, maybe not. I meant until spring. I could take care of Jack for you while you're in class, maybe find a part-time job somewhere doing something in the evenings or on weekends. I wouldn't be able to collect unemployment I don't think if I wasn't in the Chicago area."
"You'd keep your apartment, though?"
"Yeah, I'd have to because my lease isn't up until July, which is why I'd have to get a job."
"That seems silly to live here but pay rent there."
"It'd only be for like four months. I need a place to live up there, and well, it's the only credit I have to this point, paying my rent on time."
"I know, I get it, it just seems silly."
"So, you'd be all right with that idea otherwise?"
"Maybe? What's with the maybe?"
"I don't know. You'd leave after months of being here every day. I'd get used to it, Jack would, too."
"There is that," he admitted. "I was just thinking more along the lines of a few months of a break for you from day care and having to drive him around everywhere."
"It would be nice."
"Is that the only reason it'd be appealing?"
"Maybe," she said.
"You and your maybes, Princess."
She reached up and kissed him, deepening it as she slid her arms around his neck to draw him closer to her. He went willingly, didn't need to be encouraged by her too severely to kiss her back.
She broke the kiss, finding his ear with her mouth and kissing him there. "Does that answer your question?" she whispered.
"Maybe," he said softly.
"And I'd love to have you here every day."
"Yeah," she said. "Maybe there's a roofing job that you could find down here."
"I'd thought of that."
"I wasn't sure you'd think it was too soon."
She shrugged. "For some people I'd say yes. Not for us, though."
"All right, I'll look into it then."
"Are you going to fall asleep now?"
"Probably not," he admitted.
"I was afraid I'd do something stupid in my sleep to piss you off."
"Oh," she said. "And if I said I wouldn't get mad?"
"I could probably sleep. You're sure? It's been a while."
"For me, too," she whispered.
"Yeah, I suppose it has. What time does Jack wake up?"
"I have about an hour now, maybe less."
"And then he goes back to sleep?"
"Yes, until about nine."
"I'll get him and then come back in here."
"You're the one who didn't sleep all night, though."
"If I let you get out of bed you'll never come back. I'm not stupid. You'll see a box that needs to be unpacked or clothes that need to be picked up or a dish that needs to be washed."
"Are you accusing me of being a slob?"
"No, I just want you to stay here and keep my spot warm."
"I can do that."
"What do you normally sleep in?"
"In the summer?" he asked.
"Yes," she answered.
He chuckled. "As little as possible. I brought these clothes with me, assuming if nothing else I'd get up with Jack if he woke up during the night or something."
"I think I'd like to see that," she whispered.
He leaned down, kissing her before sliding beside her. "Go back to sleep, Princess. You're obviously delusional."
"Okay, tell me that again tonight and we'll talk about what I sleep in then."
He chuckled softly as she settled against him again. Only this time he felt a lot more comfortable with her being there than he had a little while ago.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com