He raises an eyebrow over his bloodshot eye. “Having the same middle name doesn’t necessarily make it fate, Owen. But I’m happy you’re happy.”
My father rubs his head, still confused as to why I’m here. I’m sure it’s not every night a son wakes his father up after midnight from a drug-induced sleep to rave about the girl he met.
“You want to know what the best part about her is?”
My father shrugs. I know he wants to tell me to fuck off, but even he knows it’s in bad taste to tell someone to fuck off after they just spent a month in jail for you.
“She has a son.”
This wakes him up a little more. He looks up at me. “Is it yours?”
I don’t answer that. If he were listening, he would have heard me say I only recently met her. Officially met her, anyway.
I take a seat in front of him. I stare him directly in the eye. “No. He’s not mine. But if he were, I guarantee you I’d never put him in the positions you’ve put me in the last few years.”
My father’s eyes fall to the floor. “Owen . . .,” he says. “I never asked you to—”
“You never asked me not to!” I yell. I’m standing again, staring down at him. I’ve never felt rage toward him like this. I don’t like it.
I grab the bottle of pills and walk to the kitchen. I pour them down the sink and turn the water on. When all the pills are gone, I head toward his office. I hear him coming after me when he realizes what I’m doing. “Owen!” he yells.
I know he also receives a legal prescription, aside from what I’m able to get him, so I walk behind the desk and pull open the drawer. I find another half-empty bottle of pills. He knows not to try to stop me physically, so he steps aside, all the while begging me not to do this.
“Owen, you know I need those. You know what happens when I don’t take them.”
I don’t listen to it this time. I begin pouring them down the drain, fighting him off while I do it.
“I need those!” He’s yelling, over and over, trying to grab them as they disappear down the drain. He actually catches one between his fingers and shoves it in his mouth. It makes my stomach hurt. He seems so much less human when he’s this desperate and weak.
When the last pill is gone, I turn and face him. He’s so ashamed; he won’t even look at me. He drops his elbows to the counter and cradles his head in his hands. I take a step closer to him and lean against the counter as I speak to him calmly.
“I watched her with her son. I’ve seen what she sacrifices for him,” I say. “I’ve seen what lengths a parent should go to in order to ensure their child has the best possible life they can give them. And when I see her with him, I think of you and me, and how we’re so fucked up, Dad. We’ve been fucked up since that night. And every moment since then, the only thing I’ve wanted is to see you try to get better. But you haven’t. It’s just gotten worse, and I can’t sit here and be a part of it. You’re killing yourself, and I won’t let the guilt of seeing you suffer excuse the things I do for you anymore.”
I turn around and head for the front door, but not before walking by the mantel and taking the picture frame. I pass by him and walk out the front door.
I pause before descending the stairs and face him. He stands in the doorway, waiting for me to yell again. I don’t. The second I see his lifeless eyes, the guilt seeps back into my soul.
“Wait,” he says again.
I’m not even sure he knows what he’s asking me. He just knows that he’s never seen this side of me before. The resolved side.
“I can’t wait, Dad. I’ve been waiting for years. I don’t have anything else left in me to give.”
I turn around, and I walk away from him.
AJ, do you want chocolate chip or blueberry?”
We’re grocery shopping. AJ, Trey, and I. The last time I was at this Target was with Owen, and that’s been a while. Almost three months to be exact. Not that I’m counting. I’m totally counting. I do everything I can to make it stop. I’ve been trying to focus on this thing developing between Trey and me, but I’m constantly comparing him to Owen.
I barely knew the guy, but somehow he reached a part of me that no one has reached since I was with Adam. And despite the things Owen has done, I know he’s a good person. As much as I try to get over the way my chest feels when I think about him, the feelings are still there and I’m at a loss as to how to make them go away.
“Mommy,” AJ says, pulling on the hem of my shirt. “Can I?”
I snap out of my trance. “Can you what?”
“Get a toy.”
I begin to shake my head, but Trey answers before I have the chance to. “Yeah, let’s go look at the toys.” He grabs AJ’s hand and begins walking backward. “Meet us in toys when you’re finished,” he says, turning away.
I watch them. They’re both laughing, and AJ’s little hand is engulfed by Trey’s and it makes me hate myself for not trying harder. Trey loves AJ and AJ obviously loves Trey and here I am being completely selfish, simply because I don’t feel the same connection to Trey as I did with Owen. I spent two days with Owen. That’s it. I probably would have found something I didn’t like about him had I spent more time with him, so I could very well be caught up in the idea of Owen rather than actual feelings toward him.
Looking at it this way makes me feel somewhat better. I may not have had an instant connection to Trey but it’s definitely growing. Especially with the way he treats AJ. Anyone who can make AJ happy makes me happy.
For the first time in a long time, I actually catch myself smiling over the thought of Trey rather than the thought of Owen. I grab most of the items on the list before heading toward the toy section. I take a shortcut through sporting goods and come to an immediate stop as soon as I round a corner.
If fate plays jokes, this is the absolute worst one.
Owen is staring back at me with as much disbelief registered on his face as I’m sure is on mine. In an instant, everything I’ve been trying to feel for Trey is reduced tenfold, and it’s all directed toward Owen. I grip the cart with my hands and debate whether or not to turn in the opposite direction without speaking to him. He would understand, I’m sure.