I close the laptop and turn my head, looking out the window. The calm hills in stark contrast with how I feel after my conversation with Chris. Apparently Dad is back in town and he seems keen on staying. I’m not sure what I think of it, but I also don’t know if I want him to leave again with everything going on. I think it might be good for us if Dad is around. He might be able to actually get through to Vic, maybe some more man to man time with Dad might help him. Might, maybe, not very reassuring. Chris is really looking forward to spending time with him, just a few hours a year is by far not enough for her. I know she wants him to stay. She is the only one of us who has no memories of when Mum and Dad divorced, she doesn’t remember Mums pain. Kevin would love to finally get to really know his real granddad. He loves Vic, Adam, Tom and even Steve, but they are not his dad or his granddad. Even our grandparents are one more step up, they are not his real grandparents, they are his great grandparents. Dad could be the closest to a real a dad he might ever have. But until I’m sure he is staying for good I’m not going to tell Kevin, his life is messed up enough as it is. A knock on the door makes me look up. Steve is standing in the doorway, smiling, a cup of tea in his hand and a plate of cookies in the other. I move so he can sit down on the bed. “Good morning, did you have a nice chat with the home front?” Steve hands me the cup as he puts the plate between us. “Anything interesting?” “Not a lot. Dad is back in town.” “Dad? Your dad?” “Our dad. Chris, Vic and I have the same dad. They used to be married.” “Bad divorce?” “Why would you think that?” I look at Steve as I stir sugar into my tea. “Because you don’t seem happy about it. I could hear how excited Chris was in the living room, but you’ve been frowning ever since you heard it.” I sigh, rubbing my face, trying to smooth the frown but it doesn’t seem to work. “It’s complicated.” “Don’t you want him to come back?” “He was never there to begin with. It wasn’t like they divorced because they no longer loved each other or that he cheated or something. He was just never there.” “What do you mean? Like drugs or just not interested?” “I mean literally there. He’s a free spirit. He never seemed able to settle down, never used to anyway.” “So your mum got tired of moving?” “No, she was always home, she worked and took care of us.” “Where was your dad then?” “Somewhere in the world, somewhere. Doing odd jobs. Sometimes he would come home for a week or something, but never very long.” “Did your mum trust him?” “I guess she did. They got married a few years before I was born and got divorced about a year after Chris was born. So it must have been more than just a flick.” “Then why did they divorce? She had put up with it for a long time already.” “She just couldn’t do it any longer. She couldn’t deal with him showing up out of the blue and then he’d suddenly be off again. She loved him a lot but with us three growing up she wanted something stable. No dad was more stable than one that could suddenly show up without notice or anything. We’d only see him a few days a year, but now it no longer imposed on our own lives. And she’s still sometimes meet him on her own, on her terms, but that took years to grow.” I put the cup down, the tea cool but I no longer feel like drinking it. “Then why don’t you want him back?” “I don’t want him to hurt Mum again. She was in so much pain those first years.” “That is an excuse and you know it. I’m not asking about your mum. He is your dad, you only have one of those. Why don’t you, yourself, for your reason, want him back?” I’m quiet, not looking at Steve but staring into the garden instead. I know why, deep down I know why, but it is a selfish reason. I look up for a moment, searching Steve’s face for his intentions but he seems genuinely curious. I sigh and look at my hands. “Because it means Kevin might ask questions about his own dad.” I fall quiet for a moment, Steve stays silent. “I don’t really know who he is. I only have a first name and a phone number that is out of order. I’m such a bad mum.” Tears slowly start dripping down my cheeks. I wipe them away but new ones form immediately. Steve doesn’t say anything but reaches out and pulls me close. I crush the plate of cookies but I don’t move. I don’t know what Steve is thinking but he isn’t yelling or anything. I take that as a good sign. I feel relieved and the crying gets worse, no matter how bad I try, I just keep crying and Steve keeps holding me.
Steve sits next to me in the garden. After my whole breakdown he hasn’t said a word. I’m not sure what to think of it but he seems to be in deep thoughts, and not angry or upset, so it might not be that bad. Steve puts a flower in front of me, it is small and blue. I don’t know what it is called but it grows a lot around here, very delicate and pretty. “How did it happen?” Steve’s voice startles me. “I was seeing some guy. We hooked up almost every weekend for about six months before he suddenly disappeared. A few days later I found out I was pregnant. I was left with a first name and a phone number that suddenly was out of service. I knew his favourite booze and sex position. Not a lot to go on. After a few weeks I gave up looking for him and admitted to myself that he probably had a family somewhere and I was just a thing on the side, ready to be thrown away.” “How old was he?” “Early twenties. Old enough to have a boring job anyway, so probably old enough to have a wife and kids. I’m fine with him not being in the picture. I wasn’t at first but I am now.” I sigh and Steve puts his arm around my shoulders. “I’m fine with it. But Kevin is a whole different story. He might be okay with only having uncles and granddads right now, but one day he will want to get to know his real dad and I have no answers.” Steve shifts and positions himself behind me, pulling me close, hugging me. “I’m so sorry. It must be such a burden.” His mouth is close to my ear, the words whispered. “Does the guy know he has a kid?” “I left him messages, but he never contacted me back, so I don’t know.” I close my arms around Steve’s arms. “I’d never be able to do that to someone.” Steve tightens his grip on me for a few seconds. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.” His breath tickles my neck. Steve slides the hair out of my neck and softly kisses it and then leans his head on my shoulder. My heart races. Why did he just do that? What did he mean with it? What was going on here? Did I misread his signs? Did he see me as more than just a friend?