Donna’s returned three days later after Tracy brought the bills current and filled the refrigerator. To her credit Tracy also had the phone and cable turned back on, and as a bonus got herself some Internet. Donna silently moved all of her things out of the single bedroom and piled it all in the corner of the living room, and then made room for Tracy’s things on the bathroom counter. For a few days things were very quiet between the two of them, Tracy enjoyed the quiet, because she expected things to get noisy real quick once one of them actually said anything.
“I have to go back to work in a week,” Tracy said cautiously. “What are your plans?” Donna shrugged her shoulders like a teenager, who knew more than she was telling. She had been sleeping on the couch for the past few days, and doing the bare minimum to keep Simon happy, spending most of her time on the balcony chain smoking and a talking on her cell phone. Tracy wasn’t all that excited to get back to work, when she anticipated how the Simon’s days would go. Tracy had showed her all the papers she had managed to collect from WIC and social services, but Donna didn’t take any interest in them. “Well, I have some errands to run, is there anything you need?” She was just being polite, she really hadn’t expected a serious answer, but Donna replied cigarettes and a bottle of coke. “No.”
“Well, then why did you ask?” Donna asked, looking up from her text messages.
“Because, I wanted to give you the opportunity to say, thank you, I have enough,” Tracy replied. “Because you showed up two weeks before I left on a cruise, on your “way to Florida”. Tracy looked at Donna in the eye while making quote fingers, but Donna turned away. “Convinced me to let you stay here, while you were pregnant, which you didn’t think to tell me, and now what?” Tracy passed her arm around the apartment. “I come home to my apartment, trashed! I will never get my deposit back because of the nicotine coating the walls. It cost me a hundred bucks to have the filters cleaned, because I could not sleep!” Tracy began packing up Simon, she really had no intention of taking him out with her, but the deeper she dug, the better she thought it would be. “Your baby has seizures, and you still haven’t managed to quit smoking, what is it gonna take?”
“I smoked through my whole pregnancy with you,” Donna shouted. “and your brothers, and you turned out fine?”
“Really, really, mom?” Tracy shouted back. “If that is what let’s you sleep at night, you just go on believing that.” Tracy grabbed her keys from the counter. “I’m going out for a while, get you and your crap out of my house.”
“Tracy, you’re not taking my baby?” Donna asked, she stood starting to protest.
“I am,” Tracy said. “I can only babysit one of you at a time, and I refuse to babysit you any longer.” Tracy slammed the door, and Simon jumped in his seat startled. “I’m sorry, Buddy, but enough is enough.”
Tracy drove to Barnes and Nobles, and phoned John in the parking lot. She left a voicemail, maybe he had duty, she wasn’t sure of his schedule, she didn’t even know why she had called. He had kept his word and had helped her get to some appointments, and even kept her latte tank full. He still didn’t understand why all this was Tracy’s responsibility, and every time she tried to explain she had stopped herself, he didn’t need to know all the gruesome details about her childhood.
She then dialed her father, it was about time she talked to him about all this, he would know what to do.
“I really don’t know how I can help, Trace,” her dad explained. “This is a legal issue, you need to talk to a lawyer.”
“Where am I gonna get money to talk to a lawyer?” She asked. She looked out the window at the bookstore, and figured she at least had a few bucks for some books on stealing your mom’s kid. “Maybe someone over at Legal can point me in the right direction.”
“You’re not going after custody of this kid, are you?” he asked.
“Dad, I just don’t know what to do,” she replied. “I was set up from the beginning. I get the message and get home, there are ashtrays and dirty diapers everywhere, and she just takes off. I’ve taken him to his pediatrician, and he’s got some serious issues, he is not going to have the ability to raise himself like your kids did. He doesn’t appear to have anyone like you in his life, other than me that is.”
“Tracy, calm down,” her dad said. “Your mom is a lot of things, irresponsible maybe, but she’s only doing the best she can with what she has.”
“What she has, Dad, is all that I give her,” Tracy whined. “But it never seems enough.” Tracy groaned aloud. “I just don’t know what to, Dad, tell me what to do.”
“Tracy, I can’t tell you what to do,” he replied. “You have come so far, I’m so proud of you, but I don’t know about this. This may be a lost cause, but seriously, Honey, I can’t tell you what to do. This is between you and your mother.”
Tracy said goodbye, and hung up her phone. She checked her watch, she had only been gone an hour, she needed to find something to do, she didn’t want to go home too soon.
“Hey,” John hollered over his radio, as he pulled up beside her. “Whatcha up to?”
Tracy could not help herself from smiling, she actually felt herself light up from the inside out.
“Nothing much,” she answered. “I had to get out of the house, so I figured get some books to help me with all this.”
“Cool,” he said, getting out of his car. He leaned casually against the driver’s door and tucked his thumbs in his jean pockets. “Do you have Simon?”
“Yeah, of course” Tracy answered, as A smile crossed John’s face. “but when I got here, I realized, I didn’t have the stroller, Donna took him for a walk last night, and didn’t put it back in the hatchback. So I have just been sitting here.” Tracy opened her door and got out.
“No worries, “John said. “I’ll carry him while you browse.” Tracy was sure her jaw visibly hit the cement. He walked around the car, and pulled Simon out of his car seat. “You might want to get a shade for the back window.”
“Ugh, you don’t want to carry him in his seat?” She asked, as she processed his suggestion..
“No, all that extra weight, no,” John replied, shaking his head and grabbing the diaper bag from the front seat and slung it across his torso. “We’ll just go find a chair and chill out.”
“Sure, okay,” she agreed. Tracy took a long look at John, standing there smiling with Simon in his arms, and a diaper bag over one shoulder. Six months ago, she never thought this picture would have been possible.
But as puzzled as she was with her own recently odd behavior, she was becoming more and more amused with how John was reacting to the whole mess. Tracy was never the maternal type, all this trouble with Simon had brought some weird mama bear instinct out in her. She never used to fawn over men wearing wedding rings, or carrying babies around before, but now John had an extra helping of sexiness whenever he handled Simon. His gentle giant side shone right through. The sight of his tight hard muscles draped with a soft baby blanket made her feel flustered.
She browsed for an hour or so, looking at books that would help her with Simon, and books that would help her with her mom. She even let herself look at some new fiction. Tracy would pause every once in a while in her browsing and look over at the two boys, sitting contently in the chair. Occasionally, John would look up and wave his hand as to say, we’re good, go back to what you were doing. She left with an armful of books, very happy she had not let her Barnes and Nobles rewards card expire, she was always happy to save a lot of money.
John got Simon all situated, and leaned his forearms on the roof of the Mustang, he absent-mindly fiddled his thumbs
“Look,” he said, seriously, focusing on his hands. “I’m glad I found you, I tried your place first, after I got your message.”
“Was my mom there?” Tracy asked, placing her hands on the roof.
“I don’t know, I didn’t see your car, so I didn’t stop.” He looked up, shrugging. “Listen, we need to talk.” He met Tracy’s gaze, but then looked back at his own hands. “Trace, I understand you are going through a lot, probably more than we both realize.” He shifted his weight from one side to the other. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said the other day, about me having gotten over you, and you not expecting me to come around.” John looked up at her, and opened his palms. “I know what you meant, we did have a good time together. I didn’t realize that was all it was to you.” Tracy opened her mouth to say something, but there were no words waiting. “Tracy, it was more than just a good time to me.” John reached across the roof of the car and held the tips of her fingers in his hands.
“John, I-” she said. John’s eyes looking into her, making her heart beat a little bit faster. She tried to smile.
“Listen, I’m not asking you to marry me or anything,” he said, lightly. “And, I know right now is not the best time to have a “define the relationship” talk. I just want you to know I am here for you, and for Simon.” He clapped his hands together to break the tension, then slapped the top of the car. “Shoot, I hope I didn’t wake him.” He looked through the hatchback window, but Simon was still asleep.
“Thank you, John,” Tracy said, wondering if thank you would ever be enough.
John walked around to his car, and stood in front of her. He looked down into her eyes.
“”Simon is not too much,” he said. “You, and all your baggage about being independent and successful is not too much.” He tipped her chin up and kissed her gently for a moment. “I think you are just right.” He kissed her again, and wrapped his arms around her and pulled her tightly to him. Tracy felt herself melting, and accepted all his kisses, and found herself kissing him back with a passion she had not known before.
“Come over,” she whispered, as she pushed away. “later, if my mom is gone.” She turned from him and got into her car.
“How will I know?” he asked.
“You’ll know, “ she replied. “When you get there you won’t hear things getting thrown against the wall.”
He laughed to himself as he got into his car.
“Later, then,” he called through the open passenger window.