What You Wish For Pt. 04byRehnquist©
Sorry, I've done it again. No sex in this chapter. Wait for the next chapter. There's sex in that one. This one, though, is really going to get all of you apprehensive. Oh no, you'll scream, is Tyler getting spineless? Are you really going to try shoving reconciliation down our throat? Wait and see. More importantly, let me know whether I've done anything to begin redeeming, and more fully fleshing out, the Kristin character. Remember, this is a personal exercise in creating better female characters, which can be awfully tough when you're a typically shallow male like myself.
The first chapter was posted today, the day I'm submitting this, and I'd like to thank all of you who have taken time to read and comment. And yes, the whole thing is written and being posted on consecutive days, so don't worry.
"It's a simple question," I said to Allisyn.
Her eyes wouldn't meet mine, though, and that gave me the answer.
"How long have you known?"
"How long?" I said, my voice getting louder.
"It became pretty obvious about six months ago," she mumbled.
"When was he born?"
Allie shot me a what-does-that-matter look.
"His birthdate," I said. "When was it."
"August seventeenth last year," she said.
I did the math in my head. Yeah, it was only too possible. Kristin had been visiting her folks for much of December that year--the last month of our marriage--and she'd probably been fucking Randy the whole time. Still, it was entirely too possible that the boy was mine.
"Why didn't you tell me any of this?"
A tear formed in Allie's eyes. "I'm sorry," she whispered. "I should've said something. I know I should've. But I was . . . I don't know . . . she's really scared you'll do something is all. And she's my cousin."
"Which makes me what? Your piece of ass that you don't owe any loyalty to? Just the stupid fucker you can keep in the dark?"
"No," she cried. "I love you, Tyler. I've always loved you. But she's my cousin. We're close. You know that."
She was right: They were close. But that didn't make any difference to me. If her loyalties were torn, she should've told me.
"Please say you forgive me," Allie pleaded, tears now streaming down her face as she reached over and tried to pull me to her.
I held her off.
"What has Kristin told you?" I demanded.
"She doesn't know," Allie said. "She's afraid. Afraid you're the father and you'll find out and do something. Afraid Randy will find out and leave her."
"Why would he care? He knew the risk when he married her while she was pregnant with a kid that could've been mine."
"Because she can't have any more babies," Allie said, sniffling as her tears subsided and a sad look took over her features. "There were complications. When Ben was born. She had to have her tubes tied. And Randy wanted kids. Two or three. If he finds out this one isn't even his, he'll . . . well, it wouldn't be good."
I nodded. Kristin could be well and truly fucked. She could lose her newfound love over the mess she'd gotten all of us into.
I stood and walked to the door.
"Please don't go, Tyler. Please."
I stopped at the door, my hand on the doorknob.
"Please," she kept pleading, her sobbing getting louder and more urgent.
I opened the door and left without looking back.
* * * * *
I flew to Florida early the next morning.
Susan met me at the gate and gave me a big, crushing hug.
"I thought you'd look happier to see me," she whispered into my ear.
"Sorry," I said, forcing myself to smile. "Something's come up."
She nodded. "Marisa told me."
My eyes narrowed. "Told you how much?"
"Just that you may have a son you knew nothing about."
I nodded. "Let's go. We can talk in the car."
She smiled and took my hand, tugging me along behind her to the parking garage and her car.
"So what do I do?" I finally said as we breezed along the road.
"What do you want to do?"
I thought about that. Such a deceptively simple question, but really the crux of the matter and a whole lot harder to answer than you'd think.
"I suppose I'd like to know if he's even mine."
"So how do I do that?"
"Well," she said, watching the road but biting her lip in thought, "I suppose you file a paternity action up in Illinois. Or you register the Florida divorce case up there and re-open the case."
"Not really my kind of thing," Susan continued. "Never done a divorce or anything like that."
I sighed, knowing what I'd be doing.
"I'll call around to some people we have up in Chicago," Susan said, reading my mind. "See who they recommend for these things."
"Thanks," I said, staring at the scenery.
We drove in silence the rest of the way to Natalie's office.
"So this is the great Tyler Collins," a tiny, sixtyish woman with immaculate make-up, too much jewelry, flawless business suit, and a deep raspy voice boomed as I walked into the lobby with Susan.
"And you're Natalie," I said, extending my hand.
"Oh no, sugar," she said, pulling my hand toward her and enclosing me in a hug. "I don't get to hug too many good looking men these days. Not letting this one go to waste."
She hugged me to her, and I could smell the smoke from a million cigarettes in her pores and clothing.
I hugged back.
"You're just as handsome as Susan said you were," Natalie said, breaking the hug. "Maybe even better."
I smiled. It wasn't often I had a sixty-year old chick hitting on me in front of a former lover and a leggy, twenty-something receptionist with a rack from Playboy. The receptionist just ignored Natalie, though, apparently used to such displays of affection. Susan only laughed.
"Well," Natalie said after eyeing me up and down.
"The contracts?" I prompted.
"Okay," she said, mock disappointment in her tone but nervous excitement throughout her body. Hell, she was practically rubbing her hands in glee at the thought of what we were about to sign.
The three of us went into a conference room. Natalie motioned me and Susan to adjacent chairs, and she sat across from us.
"Here we go," she said, opening a folder and pulling out thick documents with Sign Here tags stuck throughout. She slid them across the table to me.
"You've seen these?" I said to Susan.
She nodded. "They're fine."
"Okay," I said, and spent the next ten minutes flipping through the various documents while Susan explained the terms of the documents I was signing.
"Did you even listen to me?" Susan said when I finished.
She frowned, and I turned to Natalie.
"These the terms you told me on the phone?"
"Of course," Natalie said.
"And they're good terms for a first-time author?"
"Then what's to worry about?" I said to Natalie. "I've got the two of you covering my back, and I'm free to figure out how to give them another book."
"Within six months," Susan said.
My eyes opened wide. "That's in there somewhere?"
She threw up her arms in exasperation at my nonchalance.
"How far along are you?" Natalie asked.
"Almost done with the outline."
She nodded. "Shouldn't be a problem then, right?"
I smiled. "No. I'll get it done."
We spent the next hour discussing other technical details I didn't really give a shit about. There was a book tour to discuss, the talk show circuit if it took off as expected, what authors to read the book up front and make nice comments for the dust jacket, the cover illustration, and all manner of arcane things associated with the book. I spent most of the time nodding and agreeing with Natalie's suggestions.
Then, before I knew it, the meeting was over, and Susan and I were back in her car and heading somewhere for lunch.
"Okay," she finally said as the waitress took our drink orders and left us alone.
"Okay what?" I said, my eyes staying on the endless ocean outside the windows.
"The way I see it, you can play this thing three ways."
"Play what thing three ways?"
"You can do nothing," she said. "Just always wonder if he's your son."
I shot a look at her, not wanting to discuss what had been screaming through my mind since Marisa first suggested the possibility and Allie all but confirmed it.
"Or," Susan plodded on, ignoring my glare, "you can file a lawsuit, get a paternity test, and, if he's your's, you can get visitation and pay child support. Child support, by the way, is gonna be a lot given all the papers you just signed."
I started to protest that money didn't matter that much, but she got her last point out before I could squeak more than the first syllable.
"Or you can do the paternity test and, if he's your's, you can then do nothing. Maybe she'll just agree to it."
I shook my head. "That one's out for sure."
"Because I can't know that I have a son out there and then just leave it at that. You know, just abandon him to her and that bastard."
She nodded. "So what's it gonna be?"
"It's not that simple," I said, my voice getting louder than I expected.
"Yes, it is," Susan said. "It is that simple, Tyler. You either leave things as they are and always wonder or you find out and deal with it once you know. A or B. Which one do you choose?"
I thought about it, staring at the ocean and knowing she was right.
"Well?" she said as the waitress brought the drinks.
"B," I said. "It's B. I've got to know."
She nodded, smiling as she did so. "Good boy."
Then she flipped open her cell phone and called her office.
"Yeah, it's me," she said when the other side answered. "Get on the phone to our Chicago office and get me some referrals in family law for . . . just a sec."
She covered the speaker and looked at me. "What county you in?"
"Lincoln County, Illinois," she said back into the phone. "Try to hurry, and call me with names and phone numbers the second you've got them. Okay. Sure. Thanks."
She flipped the cell phone shut.
"Now," she said, spreading her napkin in her lap, "can we relax and enjoy lunch?"
We did, my mind settling now that something was being done.
By the time I was boarding my plane home three hours later, I had the names of three attorneys in my pocket and an appointment scheduled for the next afternoon with the only Grant City attorney on the list.
"You take care of yourself, Mr. Bestselling Author," Susan said, leaning in and giving me a chaste peck on the cheek.
"You, too, hotshot Florida legal eagle," I replied, hugging her tight and knowing our relationship would forever now be that of attorney and client.
* * * * *
"So," James McNally said, looking up from my Florida Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage and fixing me with his gaze, "you think this boy she now has with Walters may be yours?"
"Based on what?"
"He was definitely conceived while we were still married," I said.
"Were you separated?"
I shook my head. "That came about two or three weeks later."
He nodded. "And you had . . . er . . . relations with her during this time?"
"Once," I said.
I shrugged. "Not a clue."
"Was there a chance they were together?"
"I'd bet the farm on it. She was up here for a few weeks around that time."
"And they were married by the time the boy was born?"
"Was she showing when you saw her at the divorce hearing?"
"I thought she had just put on some weight."
He nodded, staring at me while the gears in his mind whirred through whatever legal things needed to be considered.
"There more?" he said.
"He looks like me," I said. "Light skinned, blonde hair, blue eyes."
"And Randy's . . . ."
"Yeah," I said. "None of those. And neither is Kristin, except for the blue eyes. Her hair's from a bottle, and she's darker toned."
"Okay," he said, leaning forward. "You thought this through?"
"You understand that you could be paying a ton in child support? Especially now with this book thing coming up?"
"I don't care," I said, getting angry that everyone seemed to think this was all about money.
"Settle down," he said. "My job is to point out all aspects of the situation to you. You make the decision, but it's damned well going to be an informed one, okay?"
"Okay. Just do it."
He smiled. It was a bright smile displaying perfect teeth and accentuating the dimpled chin. A movie star smile by a lawyer in his mid-forties still with movie star looks.
"You a shark?" I said, not trusting just the good looks to get this done.
"When I need to be," he said.
"Meaning you don't always need a shark. Sometimes you need a negotiator."
I shook my head. "Not with her. With Kristin, I need a shark."
"We'll see how it plays out and deal with it as it comes, okay?"
I wasn't sure, but he seemed confident.
"Let's find out if he's your son before we do anything else, okay?"
That made sense, and I relaxed.
"Good," he said. We spent the next twenty minutes going over the terms of representation, anticipated costs, and getting together the information that he needed to file the lawsuit. When we were done, he looked up at me.
"Let's not sit on this," he said. "I can have this ready tomorrow morning for you to sign. You swing by around eight and I'll get it filed when I go to court."
My look did little to hide my surprise, and he laughed at the reaction.
"It's really just a few simple documents to get it started," he said. "The more intense stuff doesn't really come into play until we get them served with Summons and get them into court."
"Them?" I said.
"Randy and Kristin," he said. "They're both gonna have to be named as defendants because they're married, because the boy was born during the marriage, and because Randy's name is undoubtedly on the birth certificate."
I hadn't realized that, but it certainly made sense. Still, it wasn't going to be any fun suing a local cop for paternity of the kid the cop thought was his own flesh and blood. No more going even a fraction over the speed limit until all of this was done.
"And you don't mind?" I said. "Suing a local cop and all?"
He shrugged. "Why should I mind? He's not gonna do anything to me. Or you, really. If he does, you let me know and I'll deal with it, okay?"
* * * * *
The next morning at five to eight, I swung by McNally's law office. It took all of three minutes to review the complaint and sign it.
On Sunday morning, two days later, the shit hit the fan when Kristin and Randy were served with the lawsuit.
* * * * *
It was ten thirty, and I was in my room revising the completed outline to make it darker and more turbulent. After working for eleven days with Marisa, it was all coming faster than the first time around. Take my newfound learning in ratcheting up tension and combine it with the newest fucking crisis in my life--caused, once again, by Kristin, the goddamned love of my fucking life--and the outline was getting darker by the moment.
"You fucking bastard," I heard Kristin scream from somewhere outside. That was followed by pounding on the door and more obscenities.
I saved my outline and backed it up, then went downstairs to answer the door.
Dad beat me to it.
"Will you settle down," he was saying to her.
She'd have none of it.
"He's trying to ruin me," she screamed. "My marriage. Just because I left him for Randy. He's never gotten over it, and now he's trying to ruin me."
"Bullshit," Dad thundered, and she froze in fear. No one, especially her own father, had ever spoken to her like that, and she didn't know how to handle it. I paused at the top of the stairs to watch for a moment.
"He's trying to find out if you've stolen his son from him," Dad continued, trying to get his anger in check. "My grandson. That's what he's trying to find out, and you goddamned well know it."
"But he's no right to-- "
"The hell he doesn't," Dad thundered again, as mad as I've ever seen him. "If that's his boy--if that's my grandson--he has every goddamned right in the world to know it. And to be a daddy to him."
The shock was now permanently plastered on Kristin's face. Her mouth was moving, but no words were coming out.
"And you, Kristin," Dad said, pointing his finger only inches from her face. "You had no fucking right to keep this from him. You know that. So don't you come here bitching and screaming that Tyler's done anything wrong because we both know that's a load of shit. You're just pissed off that this perfect little world you've set up for yourself--a world based on lies and your own goddamned selfish little needs--you're just pissed off that that perfect world's about to explode on you."
Her eyes found me at the top of the stairway, and her face was pleading with me to save her from Dad. I only raised my eyebrow in response.
"Is he wrong?" I said, walking down the stairs. "Are you sure that boy is Randy's?"
When she said nothing, I tore into her.
"You know goddamned well that Ben may be my son. You've already shared that with Allie."
Her face turned to horror at the realization Allie had spilled the beans.
"Oh, don't worry," I said, sarcasm dripping with every word, "your precious family didn't tattle on you until I forced Allie to fess up."
"But . . . but . . . Tyler . . . ." she stammered, her head swiveling from Dad to me and back again, at a loss on how to deal with two men--not one, but two--talking to her in this manner.
"And you've suspected for more than six months," I continued. "Six months, and you didn't say a goddamned word."
"But the doctor," she protested. "He said that babies don't darken--their pigment doesn't really show up--for a year or more."
"And he's a year old now," I shot back. "It hasn't darkened even one iota, has it?"
Her face told me the answer. It also told me she'd long ago realized the same thing. I wondered how many nights over the past year she'd laid in bed praying the next morning Ben would be just a shade darker, his hair turning from blonde to brown.
"So were you ever going to tell me?"
"No," she whispered, her face dropping to the floor.
"Just hope and pray he'd never find out?" Dad shot in, his disgust at the notion dripping from every word.
"Yes," she said, unable to look either of us in the eye.
"And now you're all pissed off he found out," Dad said, waving his hand in disgust, turning, and walking away. "Haven't you done enough to him for one lifetime? You try to steal his son, too?"
I said nothing, just watched Dad go into the other room before turning back and looking at the fidgeting Kristin.
"Have a seat," I said, waving my arm at the sofa and love seat.
She shuffled over and sank into the sofa, staring into her lap and saying nothing.
"Can you tell me what I ever did that was so wrong?" I said, sitting across from her and leaning over. "I mean, I loved you more than life itself. And you. You repay that by leaving me without a word. Without even the courtesy of an explanation. Jesus, you blow me off, leave me, move back here, and you can't even tell me what the fuck I did that was so wrong? What did I ever do to deserve this shit?"
"Nothing," she mumbled. "It wasn't you."
"Then," I continued, on a roll now, "then I find out from Mom and Dad that you're getting married before the ink on the divorce papers are even dry. And that you're pregnant. And that you've been fucking him all along. While we were still married. I deserved that? Your . . . what . . . your complete fucking contempt? Was I really that bad?"
She started to speak, but I wouldn't let her.
"Then," I hissed, "my editor has dinner with me to celebrate the completion of my first novel, and she's the one who has to point out to me that your son is probably mine and not Randy's? And then Allie confirms you've had the same thoughts for months, but you were afraid I'd find out?"