Dear J, the next several days were too busy with work to write about but I finally found the time today, as you can see.
I went to see Rachel as soon as I could. Jillybean, if I couldn’t have you physically here to talk to, at least I have her. Despite past differences, I know she has my back, just as I have hers.
“What are you going to do?” she asked after I told her about Chrissy’s unexpected visit.
“I’m seeing an attorney today that specializes in this sort of thing.”
Thea, who was a toddler now, cuddled into me as I held her. It was almost like holding Blue again at that age. Almost.
“Well, I really hope he’s able to stop whatever she may have planned. It’s not right for her to intrude on Blue’s life after all these years. And I don’t trust her at all when she says she’s not after money.”
“I know,” I sighed. “I haven’t told Blue about it. I’m not sure if I should yet until I find out what it’s all about. As it is, I’ve been walking her to and from school just in case Chrissy decides to show up there again.”
“That’s another thing. I hope you gave the principal of that school a piece of your mind!”
“Believe me, I did. They assured me that nothing like that will happen again.”
“Well, that’s a relief. I hope they’ve learned how tricky that woman can be.”
Chewing on my lower lip, I patted Thea’s back a little bit.
“What is it, Leo? What are you thinking?”
Measuring my words carefully, I finally said, “She really looked different. Like she’d changed.”
“Oh no you don’t,” Rachel said. “Don’t you fall for that. Whether she’s changed or not, you have to be on your guard. You have no idea what she’s capable of.”
I supposed she was right, but something was not sitting right with me about the whole thing. I’ve tried to be hard in the past, building up walls, but it’s never quite worked out for me. No matter how much I tried to push people away, they always seemed to find a way in. Just to hurt me.
No. Rachel was right. I needed to keep Chrissy at arm’s length and attack her before she could attack me.
Later that day, I met with a stern looking man named Oscar Knox. He was a divorce lawyer who specialized in family court.
When I got there, I was really pumped up and ready to do whatever was necessary to make sure Blue’s life wouldn’t be disrupted. All I wanted was for things to go smoothly for once.
“Mr. Capra, suppose you tell me from the beginning what happened,” Oscar said with a commanding voice.
I’d rehearsed what I would say all the way to his office. So, sticking to the facts, I told the story. I didn’t figure he’d want to hear how I felt about anything, so I tried to keep my rising emotions to myself. Speaking about past events in this manner helped my nerves quite a bit.
“And this is the first time you’ve heard from her since she abandoned your daughter?”
“Yes, it was really unexpected. She literally just showed up on my doorstep late one night.” I explained to him how different Chrissy looked and that she had gone to Blue’s school to get my address and phone number. I told him she claimed she didn’t want money but she wanted to be a part of Blue’s life.
Oscar scoffed at that. “I don’t believe that for a minute. Even if she says she doesn’t want money, she obviously can’t be trusted. So, we have to approach this as if she does want money and she does want Blue.”
Even though I came here wanting his advice and determined to trust him, when he said that, it left me feeling unsettled somehow. I nervously ran a hand through my hair.
“So, what should we do?”
“We will file a motion for full custody. In the meantime, we should file an ex parte motion. This would give you temporary custody pending the formal hearing for custody.”
“Ex parte?” I asked. “What does that mean exactly?”
“It means, Mr. Capra, that we will go in front of the judge without Ms. Valentine knowing about it. I will present evidence that your daughter has not seen her mother since she was a toddler and that Ms. Valentine poses a threat to Blue’s stability and safety as she has already illegally gained access to your home address and phone number. The judge will then most likely grant you temporary custody. Ms. Valentine will not have access to Blue at all; we will prevent that.”
“Is that fair… that she’s kept in the dark about that?”
“Is this woman a danger or not?”
Was she? I swallowed hard. “Yes, I think so.”
He rubbed his hands together, his expression nearly one of glee. “Then let me squash her like a bug.”
I could feel the color draining out of my face. Picturing Chrissy as she stood in my foyer, her head tilted downward in defeat when I told her to leave… this just didn’t seem right. Did I really want the courts involved? I hadn’t even really tried to work anything out with Chrissy on my own.
“But,” I uncertainly began, “I don’t really want to squash her like a bug.”
“Mr. Capra, I really feel we have to nip this in the bud. We need to act fast and file these motions. It could take months for the custody hearing. In the meantime, the ex parte order will cover you for now. Do you really want to leave this to chance where your daughter is concerned?”
“No,” I said quickly. “I don’t want to leave anything to chance. But I’m not sure about this.
“You came here for my advice,” he admonished.
“That’s true,” I said. “I just need some time to think about what you’ve told me.”
“Don’t wait too long, Mr. Capra.”
I assured him I wouldn’t. As I walked out, I realized it was almost time to pick Blue up from school. Ruby was coming home with her to play for the rest of the day while Leela finished up at the bakery. Luckily, I wasn’t very far from the school and I could walk there quickly.
As the girls played in the backyard, my mind was full of churning thoughts. Was I doing the wrong thing by putting Oscar off? Should I have moved forward immediately with what he wanted to do? What would it mean for us if the courts were in charge of my child? What if I did this and things didn’t go my way?
My thoughts kept going back to the way Chrissy had looked, what she had said and how I’d kicked her out without really finding anything out about her life now. I could be such a jerk sometimes.
On top of it, I hadn’t even mentioned this to Blue. How could I, though, when I didn’t really know anything?
“You’re so good at this!” Ruby exclaimed, bringing me back to the present.
The girls were playing hopscotch. I smiled a little as I watched them. Blue should be good at this game, seeing as how in Bridgeport, she was already beating me at it.
“You won!” Ruby cheered as she ran down the hopscotch court to where Blue was excitedly giggling.
The girls embraced and Blue said, “I love you, Ruby! You’re my best friend!”
Ruby laughed and said, “You’re my best friend, too!”
I smiled wider at the girls now. Ruby really brought the best out in Blue. Anyone could see it. This was a friendship for life.
The girls decided to play another game and I continued to watch, but my mind wandered now to Leela, Ruby’s mother. We weren’t fast friends like our daughters. Talk about being kept at arm’s length. That’s where Leela had me, and then some.
We spoke normally to one another, but there just seemed to be some unspoken attitude she had toward me. As if I was some rock star party guy that could never understand the hard work she’d put into her bakery. She had no idea who I really was and I didn’t know if I’d ever get the chance to show her.
“Hi, Leo!” I heard her call from behind me.
I strode across the deck to meet her, smiling like a goofball. “Hey, Leela! How was your day?”
Why was I so glad to see her, knowing what she thought of me? I couldn’t explain it. I just liked her and I wanted a friend.
“It was long, but good,” she said. “I’m sorry I’m running so late, but I had a customer come in at the last minute. Then I had to clean everything up and close.”
“I guess that means business is going well,” I enthused. “That’s great.”
Her lips curled into a pleasant smile. The setting sun made her amber eyes shimmer in the most beautiful way. I couldn’t help but stare.
“Yes, it’s going just fine. Oh! Look at me! I was rushing to get here and I forgot to take my apron off!”
It seemed like her embarrassment had broken a little of the ice off. Laughing a little, I quickly jumped on it.
“Oh that’s nothing. My mother, who was always cooking, baking and canning, once wore her apron to the hospital when my aunt went into labor.”
“Oh, and one time, she was going to the store and when she got in the car, her sunglasses were on the floor. Someone had stepped on them and one of the arms was broken off. She was in a hurry and decided she could wear them anyway even though they were a little lopsided. So, she went to the store, did her shopping and when she pulled into the driveway at home, she glanced in the rear view mirror only to realize that not only was one of the arms missing, one of the lenses was, too! She drove all over town like that and never noticed!”
Her laugh was charmingly infectious. “Oh dear,” she gasped between giggles. “It sounds as if your mother and I would get along just fine.”
“Well, if you ever meet her, please don’t tell her I told you that story,” I grinned.
When her laughter had subsided and she was no longer holding her stomach, she said, “So, your mom liked to cook and she even did some canning?”
I nodded. “Yeah, I’m surprised I’m not six feet wide.”
She smiled differently at me this time. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but it seemed like knowing a little bit about my crazy family had put her at ease.
“I think that’s really nice, Leo,” she said.
Just then, the girls came bounding up to the deck. Ruby ran into Leela’s arms with a huge hug.
“Mommy! I missed you!” she exclaimed.
“I missed you, too,” Leela murmured.
Glancing down at Blue, I felt a pang of guilt. She was watching this embrace carefully and if I read her expression right, she seemed envious.
She had never known what it was like to be hugged or comforted by her mother. She’d never been told by Chrissy that she was missed. Was it possible that Chrissy could provide love and affection for her now?
I didn’t know for sure, but at that moment, I decided I would have to take a closer inventory of all of the facts regarding this situation. Whatever happened, this could not be about me. My personal feelings would have to be pushed aside because this was about Blue and what she needed.
The decisions I was going to make about this would have a lasting effect on her. She meant everything to me and she was not some kind of toy or play thing. I could only hope that I would do right by her.