“It can be me. I’ll still be in your life. Just not the way you’re thinking I should be,” I reminded him.
“Can I assume that he’s coming to pick you two up?” Tanner asked. “Unless you’ve magically learned how to drive recently.”
“You should have told me that earlier. I tried to drive my mother’s car and only got the engine turned on before I realized that’s about all I knew how to do.” I looked at him quizzically. “You’re taking this awfully well, Tanner.”
He pulled me in for a hug and rested his chin on the top of my head, pressing my face into his chest. “I love you, Ray,” he said. Tears welled in my eyes. Tanner had been a good friend and I really was going to miss him, but I was ready to stop missing King.
“Here,” I said. Pulling his ring off of my finger I pushed it into his hand and closed his fingers around it.
“Fuck,” Tanner said, his eyes glassy. “That kind of makes this all real then, huh? You really are leaving?”
“I guess it does,” I said.
Tanner opened his fingers and studied the ring before putting it in his pocket. “Can I ask you a favor? One last thing before you go?”
“Sure,” I said.
“Tanner, I can’t—” I started to argue.
“Just one more, Ray. One last good-bye. Something to give me some closure.” Tanner looked at me with the big chestnut brown eyes I’d remembered from my dream. I knew why they were the only thing that stayed with me. They were so expressive they were practically arguing Tanner’s case for him, pleading with me to cut the kid a break and just kiss him already.
“One quick kiss,” I agreed, just wanting to get it over with. I could see his heart was breaking and being a spectator in that sport was adding another layer of guilt on top of what I was already feeling. I had the chance to offer him some closure so I took it.
“I never thought we’d have a last kiss,” Tanner commented. He took a step forward and cupped my face in his hands.
“You’re very persistent. And very bossy.”
It’s only Tanner. He just wants to say good-bye.
“They don’t call me The Tyrant for nothing,” Tanner said, leaning in so close, I could feel his cool breath against my cheeks before his lips softly brushed over mine.
Don’t trust The Tyrant. It was the very last thing Nikki had said to me when she’d come to my window.
And then it happened.
At first it was like lightening bolts going off in my brain. Sparks of light zapping on and off like a fluorescent office light struggling to turn on. Then, it was like my brain was a carnival where someone had located the power cord and plugged it back in turning the entire carnival on, lights, music, merry-go-round, and all.
All of it.
Tanner pulled away as a very clear memory came bounding into my brain.
Of a very different Tanner.
Sammy refused to close his eyes until I read him at least three bedtime stories. He looks up at me with those puffy eyes, rimmed in red, and rubs them with the back of his hand. He is fighting a losing battle with the need for sleep, although he is putting in an admirable effort. After three stories and two songs, my boy has drifted off clutching his favorite blanket, the one with the pattern made entirely of the shadows of different types of motorcycles.
“Sweet dreams,” I say, kissing him on the forehead.
After closing his door as softly as I possibly can, I run into Nadine in the hallway. She is carrying a basket of already folded laundry. “Ray, why don’t you go see Tanner tonight? I’ll keep the baby monitor in my room. You two kids haven’t had any time together in a while. Might do you some good to remember that you are actually kids.”
“Are you sure?” I ask. She is right. I could use some time just being a kid. Between raising Samuel and worrying over Nikki there’s little time for much else. And I miss Tanner. We hadn’t just hung out in a while.
“Of course,” Nadine says. “Besides, once that boy’s asleep I could have Marti-Gras out in the hallway and he wouldn’t so much as roll over.” That is true. He often goes to sleep and wakes up in the same position.
I thank Nadine and change my clothes, taking extra time to make myself look more like a high school girl, and less like a mom who’d spend the afternoon trying to figure out how Samuel got melted crayons in his hair.
Tanner and I have plans this Saturday. He just moved into the pool house of his parents’ house. He is going to make me dinner. He promised me all the plans have been made. We haven’t had sex since we conceived Samuel. We are too young, and our lives have become so complicated, that we’d agreed to wait. But I am finally ready and Saturday has been chosen as the day.