Dear J, as Leela started showing, it was imperative that we had a talk with the girls about their soon to be sibling. I suspected they had already guessed as Leela had begun wearing looser clothing, but we figured it wouldn’t hurt to have a family discussion.
You may be wondering what happened with Blue since I last picked up my pen. To make a long story short, I let her cool her heels in her room and didn’t have a talk with her until the next morning. Ruby had shown her mother the articles Blue had clipped from the papers, so I was armed with the information I needed when I talked to Blue.
I’ll admit, I was kind of hurt that my daughter would believe such nonsense about me. In all honesty, I don’t think I’m capable of cheating on Leela. Sure, we’re newlyweds, but for the past several years, Leela has occupied my every thought. It helps that she’s my best friend.
Anyway, Blue was really tearful and appeared to be full of remorse when I explained to her where the photos of me and Chrissy were from and that I’d barely seen her over the years. I hope now, after our discussion, it’s painfully obvious to her that writers like that will make up anything to sell their stories. As best as I could, I emphasized that rumors do not equal truth and that it was best to not even read the rags.
Blue seemed to come around. We hugged as she wept and told me she was sorry. I told her how much I love her and reassured her that nothing could ever change that. Furthermore, I love my family deeply and now that I have it, I’ve realized it’s all I ever wanted.
Ruby’s voice snapped me out of my thoughts.
” – this is so exciting! We’re going to spoil him or her rotten! Right, Blue?”
I sneaked a look at Blue, willing her to be as enthusiastic as her step-sister. But all she did was shrug.
As if she didn’t notice, Ruby continued with her unbridled fervor, “OMG! Do you have names picked out? Whether it’s a boy or a girl, I think you should continue the color theme! How about Hunter, Gray or Cerulean if it’s a boy?” Glancing at Blue, she asked, “What’s a good color name for a girl?”
This brought a small smile to Blue’s lips. “I like Olive.”
Olive? I repeated the name in my head and all I could think of was the gangly, awkward girlfriend of Popeye.
“Olive’s a nice name,” I lied, sure that Blue saw right through me. “What about Scarlett?”
“We already have a Ruby!” Blue argued. “What’s wrong with Olive? I love that name. Maybe I’ll name my first little girl Olive.”
Maybe I should have let her watch more TV growing up.
“Olive is beautiful,” Leela said. “I like that name a lot.”
“Me, too,” Ruby agreed.
Maybe the baby will be a boy. We wouldn’t know until he or she was delivered, however, because Leela decided she didn’t want to know and that was fine with me. This was a surprise I could live with.
After our family meeting broke up, I noticed Blue had her car keys and so I stopped her. “Where are you going?”
This again? Lately, Blue had kept me on a seesaw. We were up, then we were down. With her, though, I never knew what end I was on.
She made a melodramatic show of sighing and rolling her eyes, something which annoyed me to no end, I’m afraid.
“Just out. I want to go for a drive.”
“What about Ruby?”
“What about Ruby?” Blue sneered. “I just want to go for a drive! I don’t have to take Ruby with me everywhere I go!”
“What has gotten in to you?” I asked with a quiet but stern voice.
“Nothing! I just don’t need you asking me questions every time I turn around! It’s like you don’t trust me.”
Wordlessly, I held my hand out in front of me, palm up. I’d had enough and she knew exactly what I wanted.
With another loud sigh, she slapped the keys into my hand.
“This is so ridiculous!” she screeched, piercing my brain like a stabbing knife.
“You’re right about that!” I agreed.
Within minutes, I had Blue standing in the corner. She was still really angry but she begrudgingly obeyed me.
I really felt like this was getting out of hand. Was this normal teenaged behavior? It boggled my mind. We’d always been so close but it seemed now like she was another person entirely. The defiance and anger were at the forefront but once in a while, I saw glimpses of my little girl.
Puzzled and perplexed, I sat down, pretending to read the newspaper, but really making sure she stayed where she was supposed to.
Later after lunch, I sent Blue to clean her bedroom and bathroom. It was the price she would pay until I thought of something better. Ruby sympathized with Blue and I caught her helping clean out Blue’s closet.
“This is Blue’s problem,” I gently told her. “Why don’t you write some more of your poetry or something?”
Once I was sure the girls were occupied, I joined Leela outside in the gazebo. We had invited Chrissy over to try to get some things worked out. Blue knew about this but didn’t want to see Chrissy, which was fine with me.
As I approached the table, I could see (and hear) that Leela was already working herself up.
“…. and we cannot have that again!”
“But I – ”
“I’m not finished,” Leela said, using her pointer finger like a certain aunt of mine likes to do. “Blue has been through a lot and now she’s adjusting to having me and Ruby here full time. She doesn’t need you popping in unannounced and upsetting things.” Before Chrissy could protest, Leela continued, “Before you misunderstand me, I want to say that I do think it’s important for you to be in her life. But the way you’re going about it is all wrong.”
“Well, what do you want me to do already? I’ve gone through rehab and I’m straightened out.”
“First of all, I want you to stop telling her things that aren’t true. You and I never had an affair. I don’t know why you would have told her that.”
Chrissy’s eyes grew huge as she listened to my accusation. “I didn’t tell her that!” After thinking for a minute, she said, “I only said something about how much we loved each other and how we were a family now because that’s what we always wanted.”
Now my eyes grew huge. “But that’s a lie, too!”
She glanced away from me and began nervously picking at her thumbnail. “I didn’t know you were engaged to Leela. I thought we had a shot.”
“You didn’t know because you just showed up out of nowhere without talking to me first. Not to mention that even thinking you and I had something romantic going on was just a figment of your imagination.”
“Well, ouch, Leo, that hurts!” Chrissy exclaimed. “I understand all of that now. I really do.”
Both Leela and I regarded her with skeptical expressions. I really wanted to believe Chrissy was coming around but she’d caused so much trouble recently and every time I believed her, I found out later how stupid I was.
“This isn’t the way to move forward. We need to forget the past and figure out what to do about the future,” Leela said. “Where do we go from here? What is it you actually want, Chrissy?”
Ah, the voice of reason. What did Chrissy want and why hadn’t I ever asked her that? Then I remembered it was probably because she always told me within minutes of seeing her what she wanted…. clothes, money, a hotel room…
Chrissy actually seemed to be giving it some serious thought because she didn’t answer right away.
“Well,” she began, “I want us to be a family.”
“But what does that mean to you? How do you see that working?” Leela prodded.
“I know we won’t always agree on everything, and I know I’ve made lots of mistakes, but I guess I thought I could move in and be Blue’s mom.”
This was unreal. “Ummm…. no!” I yelled, making the ladies jump. “We can’t live together. Have you lost your mind?”
“It seemed like a good idea…”
I opened my mouth and tried to speak but all that came out was a jumbled mess of sputtered words. Thankfully, Leela took over again. And she was calm.
“It’s not,” Leela assured her. “Here’s the thing, Chrissy, sometimes I think you’re beyond reason. This entire conversation just seems so surreal.”
“You said you wanted to work with me. You told me you supported me being in Blue’s life.”
“Yeah,” I said, finally finding my voice. “That’s true. But what Leela’s trying to say is that too much time has gone by in Blue’s life. She’s going to be a young adult soon and you’re just now coming in and wanting to be her mother. The hard fact is that for the past several years, Leela has been there for Blue. You haven’t been there for her even once. Leela’s not Blue’s biological mother, but she’s a mother figure in her life.”
“You can’t just replace me and cut me out!”
“No one’s cutting you out, Chrissy. You cut yourself out. Can’t you see that? How many years did you have to get cleaned up and come back to be a mother? You’ve had Blue’s whole life to do that! Why are you just doing this now?”
“I only just realized what I’ve missed, I guess,” she said. “I’m her mother.”
Firmly, I said, “No, you’re not. You’re the woman that gave birth to her. You didn’t raise her and she barely even knows you. Since you’ve been back, all you’ve done is upset things in her life. If you want to get to know her now, we can work on that, but you can’t be a mother to her after all these years. It’s too late.”
Raising her hands in the air as if she had just come up with a solution to all our problems, she said, “I have the answer!”
“Let’s hear it.” Even as I spoke those words, I had a feeling in my gut that I didn’t really want to hear it.
“I’ll go away for good if you buy me a house in Champ Les Sims. I’ve always wanted to live in France. Of course, I’ll require a monthly stipend, too. After all, you can’t have the mother of your child sleeping on a park bench.”
“How did she do that?” I asked later, shaking my head. “How did she turn everything around like that? It’s as if that’s what she was after all along.”
Surprisingly, Leela wasn’t sharing my sour mood. “I believe she was. I had to laugh, though, when you told her to get a job.”
Smirking, I said, “Well, every time I pay her way, she just wants more. Now that Blue is older, it’s time all of that stopped. It’s not like she could fight me for custody or anything. The worst she could do is make a pest of herself.”
“She’s good at that,” Leela agreed.
“So, why are you all smiles?”
She grinned even wider. “The baby is kicking like crazy today. I think he or she wants to be a rock star like daddy.”
“Oh no,” I said, “this kid is going to be smart like you and own a business empire.”
She laughed as I put my hand over her baby bump. Sure enough, I felt movement and some kicking. It surprised me at first but then it delighted me. Leela was right, this was enough to put Chrissy in the back of my mind instead of in the forefront.
We were discussing dinner when my phone rang. “Hello?”
“Mr. Capra? This is Shelly from Dr. Winter’s office.”
“Hi,” Shelly said with a pleasant voice. “I was calling to let you know that Dr. Winter can’t perform your procedure for some months as his mother is ill and he’s going to be with her.”
Trying to hide my disappointment, I said, “Tell him I wish the best for him and his family.”
“Who was that?” Leela asked as I shoved my phone back into my pocket.
“Shelly from Dr. Winter’s office.”
Leela frowned as I told her about the conversation. “Hopefully by then you’ll have your head on straight and decide not to do it after all.”
Not wanting to ruin her happy mood and the moment we’d just shared, I said, “Yeah, maybe.”
As dusk began to fall, I saw Blue by the pool outside. I hurried into my swim trunks and sat next to her.
“Your room looks great,” I told her, giving her a sideways glance.
“Thanks,” she murmured.
“Honey, what’s going on with you? I thought we had things hammered out and then you had that outburst today.”
Her green eyes filled with tears but she wasn’t really crying. “Oh, Daddy, I know I’m a mess right now. You just can’t understand.”
“I want to, though. I really do.”
She let out a soft sigh, not the dramatic type of sigh she’d been prone to in the past few weeks. “I don’t know how to explain it all. But I feel kind of scared. Scared to grow up. And sad, too.”
“What are you sad about?”
She shrugged then scratched her nose.
“If you don’t talk to me, I can’t help fix what’s wrong,” I reasoned.
“I don’t want to hurt your feelings.”
“You won’t hurt my feelings, honey,” I said softly. “I just want us to be like we used to.”
She hesitated for so long, I didn’t think she was going to say anything. Finally, in a very quiet voice, she said, “I didn’t know you and Leela would have your own kids.”
I watched a bird hopping around on the nearby grass for a few minutes as I thought about what she was telling me. Was it jealousy? Or the fear of being replaced?
“This baby is very important to me. Ruby is very important to me.”
“But Blue, you are everything to me. No other child could ever stand in for you. Don’t you know that I have enough love in me for all of you?”
Instead of responding, with tears in her eyes, she nudged me out of my chair and gave me a tight hug.
I patted her back and kissed her cheek and when she finally smiled, I pushed her into the pool….
… where we swam and played the rest of the evening.