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That I wanted me to be.

“Yesssssssssss,” Sammy agreed from his car seat. “Storrrrryyyy.”

“I guess I’m giving a bath and reading a bedtime story then.” It’s not like I could argue with that level of enthusiasm even if I wanted to.

I didn’t want to.

“It’s nice to see you smile.” Tanner said, coming around and opening the passenger side.

Inside the pool house was more like a large hotel room; the bed and living room were one in the same. A small portion of the main room had been walled off to make a makeshift room for Sammy.

Tanner ran the bath water and at first I stood there in the center of the bathroom feeling useless and uncomfortable, not knowing what to do with my hands. But when Sammy threw a washcloth and it smacked against my face, I pulled it off and went over to the tub. The second I kneeled down beside him it all fell into place. I washed his hair and soaped him up as if I’d done it a thousand times before.

Because I have done it a thousand times before.

When bath time was over, I dressed Sammy in the PJ’s Tanner had laid out and he clamored up onto my lap as I read to him from Larry the Leopard Learns His Spots by Dr. Nellenbach. When he drifted off to sleep, his head on my shoulder, I walked him over to the other side of the room and set him in his bed, which was low to the ground and had a guardrail along the side so he wouldn’t fall to the floor during the night. I was just about to leave when Sammy’s little voice pulled me back into the room. “Mommy?” He asked.

“I’m here,” I said, kneeling beside his bed.

“Mommy, sunshine song?” Sammy asked, talking with his thumb in his mouth. He yawned. “Sunshine song when I go na-night.”

I opened my mouth to tell him that I didn’t know what song he was talking about, but the words of the song came out instead. As I softly sang to him, Sammy closed his eyes and hummed along.

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine

you make me happy when skies are gray

you’ll never know dear, how much I love you,

please don’t take my sunshine away.

When the song was over Sammy opened his eyes. “Mommy, snuggles with me?” Sammy lifted his little blanket.

It was an offer I couldn’t refuse. I sat on his mattress and lifted him into my arms. I sat back against the headboard and cradled him under my chin, setting his blanket down over both of us.

And for a long time I just sat there, breathing in his hair. Absorbing the feel of his soft chubby fingers absently playing with mine. A peacefulness I hadn’t known since I left King’s washed over me. The way I felt about Sammy was the most overwhelming sensation I’d ever experienced. Like every single part of me belonged to him. Like the very reason I was ever put on the Earth was to be his mother.

“Mommy,” Sammy said, snuggling into my chest, “I wuv you much.”

I covered my mouth with my hand to muffle the sound of the sob that came out of nowhere. I brushed his curls from his eyes and leaned over to kiss him on his head. “I love you too, baby. So much,” I told him.

And I did.

My brain may have forgotten him, but my heart hadn’t.

I stayed there for a long time with my son wrapped in my arms. Long after his breathing became even and I knew he’d long been asleep.

I was careful not to wake him when I wiggled out from underneath him. When my feet hit the floor, Sammy stirred and I stilled until he rolled over onto his stomach with his hands above his head.

Deep in sleep.

I kept my eyes on Sammy as I tip-toed out of the room, running right into Tanner who was standing in the doorway. “Have you been here the whole time?” I whispered.

“Yeah,” Tanner admitted, stepping aside to let me pass. He shut the door. “I couldn’t take my eyes off you guys. Reading stories, bath time, it’s something I never thought I’d see again.”

“It was…amazing,” I admitted.

Tanner grinned and plopped down on the couch. “His room in your house is bigger, but after I built this for when he stays with me. Although, I admit that sometimes my mom is the bath giver.” He patted the couch cushion next to him. “My mom and dad have been spoiling him rotten these past few months.”

“Two rooms in two houses,” I said, still standing.

“He was usually only here with me a couple of nights a week.” Tanner said, again patting on the cushion, motioning for me to take a seat. I sat, but on the opposite end of the couch, flush up against the armrest.

“I don’t bite, Ray,” Tanner said with a laugh.

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