What You Wish For Pt. 05byRehnquist©
So what do you think? Will Tyler get back with Kristin? Allie, maybe? Hell, is Susan going to show up?
And what about little Ben? Don't forget him.
This is it, the penultimate chapter. Only one more part to go.
Thanks to all of you who have taken the time to read it and comment.
The doctor was right: Mom's recovery at home was far faster and more dramatic than Dad or I could've imagined. After three weeks, she was walking unaided, though still with a limp, and most of the lisp was gone from her voice. Her speech was still halting to the point you wanted to finish every sentence for her, but it was easy to understand every word out of her mouth.
Most of that, I think, was due to Kristin bringing Ben by every afternoon. At first, I'm pretty sure Kristin intended to use that as an excuse to spend time with me. I was busy writing, though, and could only spare an hour or so during the afternoon to play around with Ben on the floor or feed him lunch or just watch him take a nap with Mom. Once he was down for his nap, I returned to my writing and tried to get the second book done. Then I'd go back down and spend another hour before dinner with my son, and back to writing. All told, my sleep was suffering.
Kristin hung around the room a couple days in a row, trying to engage me in conversation. I made it crystal clear that talk was not on the agenda, though, and she quit bothering me.
After the first week of this, Kristin only hung around the first hour or so–the time I was spending with Ben–and came back after dinner to pick him up. She seemed more than content to let Mom and Dad have their time with him, the time she'd robbed us of, and I was spending two or three hours a day with my son while Mom and Dad spent the rest of the afternoon with him.
You may have noticed I called Ben my son just now. Well, that's because the DNA test came back only five days after I submitted my saliva. He was mine, to the exclusion of all men on Planet Earth and even a few other planets thrown in.
That made the rest of my lawsuit against Kristin perfunctory.
And it was all taken care of around James McNally's conference table.
* * * * *
"All right," McNally started, "I've prepared a pretty simple agenda for this little settlement conference."
He passed out a piece of paper to each of us and I read it. He was right: It was simple. One - Custody. Two - Support. Three - Visitation. There was ample space on the nearly empty page to make notes on each subject.
"Jammer," Petrowski said, "we really aren't ready to discuss all of this and you know it. We don't even have Mr. Collins's full financial disclosures. And he's got a book coming out now."
"I know that, Sandy," he said. "But we can at least get the outlines started and then you can tell me what else you need."
"That won't be necessary," Kristin cut in, looking at me.
"Kristin," Petrowski said, her chubby little face reddening.
"No," Kristin said, leaning over the table and stretching her hand across, reaching for me to take it.
Not knowing where this was going, I reached across and took her hand, holding it loosely.
"I wasn't kidding on what I said that day," she said, her voice low, her hand squeezing mine nearly to death. "I'm sorry. I know I had no right to keep him from you. It didn't start out that way–I didn't really know he was your's, or even suspect it, until he was five or six months old–but I have no excuse for not telling you or at least doing something when I found out."
I stared at her, frozen. Her jaw was set, though, like she was trying to hold it all together and not lose it before saying what she needed to say.
"You have every right to seek custody of Ben," she continued. "And I know you have a really good shot at getting that. But I'm asking you not to do that, Tyler. Please. For Ben's sake, don't do it."
"Then what're you offering?" McNally said, his voice soft and encouraging.
"We're thinking– " Petrowski tried to interject before Kristin cut her off.
"If you want custody," Kristin said, "I won't challenge it. Just be generous with visitation. Don't keep my son from me. Our son."
She was fighting to hold back her emotions, but her steely determination told me the offer was genuine. And now I had something to think about, and about ten seconds to make my decision.
It took nearly a minute before I made up my mind, which had Kristin ready to explode.
"Joint custody," I said. "You can be the residential parent, Kristin. I'm not going to take Ben from you. But I want generous visitation."
She nodded, brushing the tears away that were now spilling down her cheeks.
"Okay," Petrowski said, her relief evident, "then what about child support?"
"I don't want any," Kristin said. "Tyler will do what's right."
I shook my head. "Two fifty a week. And I'll pay for health insurance and medical expenses and set up his college fund."
"I don't want your money," Kristin said. "I can– "
"That's not nearly enough," Ms. Petrowski interjected, turning to McNally. "You know that's a fraction of what the courts will give her."
"Not a dime," Kristin said.
"I'm going to have to insist," I said, ignoring the lawyers and smiling at Kristin. "I'm not going to have our son living like a pauper because you feel guilty for being such a shit."
"Okay," Kristin sniffled, half laughing, half crying as her tears subsided. "Thanks."
"Visitation?" McNally said.
"Generous," I said.
"I think what we have going now is working well," Kristin said. "And I want to expand it."
"But I already see him every day," I said. "You've got to see him some time, don't you?"
"I'm starting a job at the semester break," she said. "Teaching at the grade school. One of the teachers is going on maternity leave, and they've offered me a contract. So I'm hoping you and your folks can watch him for me."
"You're going to be working?" I said, more surprised at that than at the visitation proposal.
She nodded, smiling. "I know. Too little too late. But better late than ever, right?"
I was shocked. She was trying. She was walking the walk, not just talking the talk.
"Holidays and weekends?" McNally said.
"We'll work something out," I said. "Just write something up for us to look at, and we can get this done."
"Kristin," Petrowski cut in, terrified as she watched her ship sinking, "you've got to think about this. You're giving up a lot here."
Kristin looked at her, a sad and patient look on her face. "I've already thought about it, Sandy. A lot. I'm doing what's right for Tyler and Ben. I'll get by, and I'm not going to take Tyler to the cleaners to do it. I need to stand on my own two feet."
Kristin turned to look at me, and I was trying to hold back tears of both joy at getting to see Ben every day and sorrow at seeing how much Kristin had changed after the fall of both of her marriages.
"Tyler would never screw me," she said, speaking to Petrowski but looking me dead in the eye. Then her eyes twinkled and she spoke to me. "As much as I may hope otherwise."
I only smiled.
* * * * *
I phoned Marisa that night. It was late, nearly eleven thirty, but she answered awake and alert on the first ring.
"Yes," she said.
"Hello," I said in response.
"Fine. Hello. What're you calling for?"
"I want to take you to lunch," I said. "Tomorrow."
"Because of you, I now have a son that I'm getting to know."
She was silent.
"Well?" I prodded.
"You don't owe me anything," she said, her voice so low I barely heard the words.
"But I do. A lot more than just lunch, really."
She was silent again, and I was ready to speak when she finally said something.
"You want I should just come out there?"
"I've got a photo shoot in the morning," I said. "Somewhere in Lincoln Park. For the book cover. I'm gonna be there anyway. And, well, since I'm there and all, and since this is the least I can do."
"About one?" she said.
"Where do you want to meet?"
"I'll pick you up," I said.
"I already have your address in my GPS," I said. "Got it from Susan. So really, it's no bother."
"All right," she said. "See you then."
* * * * *
At ten to one, I pulled up, and she was waiting on the curb for me.
Marisa hadn't changed since we'd last met. Still had a huge, impossibly spiked head of black hair, black eyeliner and lipstick, black clothes. She had allowed for the autumn chill with a jean jacket, though.
"Where you in the mood for?" I asked, opening her door for her before scurrying around to my side and getting in before getting ticketed for double parking.
"Whatever," she said.
"You're gonna have to help me," I said, concentrating on the narrow street piled with cars on both sides. "Not my neck of the woods."
"Turn right up ahead," was all she said.
Five minutes later, we pulled up outside a place on Halsted Street. Café Ba Ba Reeba! it said on the big sign. And thank God they had valet parking.
It was a Spanish tapas restaurant, the kind I'd only been to a few times in the past. Being clueless, I let Marisa do the ordering, and she did well. Small plates of grilled octopus, garlicky potato salad, goat cheese in a light tomato sauce with grilled bread to spread it on. The piles of appetizers just kept coming and coming.
All told, it was great and there was enough to feed an army.
Marisa, of course, loved it all, demolishing every bite on every plate with gusto. I'd have a bite or two, she'd polish it off. And so it went for an hour.
We spent the time catching up. School was going well for her, and she was actually starting an outline for a novel.
"An idea that popped up while I was working with you," she said cryptically, then said no more.
Instead, she steered the conversation around to me and the book and the photo shoot for the book cover I'd endured that morning.
"Do you really think that's appropriate?" a voice screeched from behind us as our meal neared the end.
I turned to see two seventy somethings with blue hair and doddering, glaring husbands standing near our table on their way out. They were staring with hoity toity distaste at Marisa in her outfit.
"Have we done something to offend you?" I said.
The look they gave me was like they'd just stepped in a pile of dog shit.
"This is a nice restaurant," one of the men said, looking at Marisa with his nose twitching.
"And I would've expected the patrons here to have better manners," I shot back. "Apparently that's not something they check at the door, though."
The ladies gasped, the men glared, and Marisa snorted.
"If it would help," I continued, "we can try to do something a little more inappropriate to offend you some more. Like interrupt your private luncheon with our snotty ass attitudes, for example?"
Marisa was covering her mouth with her napkin now, trying to keep her food in her mouth. The crew of oldsters harrumphed and put on expensive coats and silk scarves and stomped their way to the door. They managed to stop at the receptionist's station and say some hot words, I noticed.
"I'm sorry," Marisa said when I turned back to resume our conversation.
She resumed the meal, now quiet and sullen.
"Will there be anything else?" the waitress said, appearing as if by magic. Her looks told me she hoped there wouldn't be, which only got my dander up.
"Is there a problem?"
She shot a look at the manager now standing next to the receptionist, then back to me, pleading with every ounce of her energy.
"I'd like a cup of espresso," I said. "And my guest will have something for dessert."
Marisa started to protest, her face telling me she just wanted to leave.
"You pick the dessert," I said to the waitress. "And a glass of wine that will go with it, if you don't mind."
"Why are you doing this?" Marisa said as the waitress left.
"Because," I said. "Because I'm happy to be with you and I'm enjoying myself and I'm not going to let a bunch of old bastards ruin our lunch."
She nodded, her face softening.
And she destroyed the dessert they brought her, too.
* * * * *
And so the next two months went. Work in the shop in the morning, see Ben for an hour or two a day between writing until eleven or midnight, get up, repeat cycle.
Kristin was still trying to spend time with me, showing interest in my every movement. I appreciated her efforts, but just wasn't sure I could ever love her again.
The newest novel, which I had yet to come up with a title for, was coming along great and I was nearly finished with the first draft. With all the shit that had happened to me since the first one was written, this one was, if anything, even darker than the original.
"Tyler?" Kristin said, looking up from the screen after reading the outline.
"You still hate me, don't you?"
"Where's that coming from?"
"This book. There's a lot of anger in it."
I looked at her, not quite sure how to respond.
The silence grew, then she came over to the chair I was sitting in, leaned over, and kissed me on the lips. Not a romantic kiss with deep probing tongues and all that, but not a chaste kiss, either.
"I'm more sorry than you'll ever know," she said.
I tried to smile, and she took this opportunity to sit in my lap and put her arms around me. If my folks hadn't been downstairs with Ben–and if it hadn't been so long since I'd had any female contact of any kind–I'd have jumped or pushed her off or something. But I didn't.
"I know I ruined it," she said, looking into my eyes. "I know that. And I hate myself for it. I've been hating myself for quite some time, tell you the truth."
"Because I was a spoiled rotten little bitch and you wouldn't toe the line," she said.
"I tried. You know that, right? I thought that was what you wanted. You just wouldn't meet me halfway."
She nodded. "I know, Tyler. It wasn't you. It was never you. You've got to believe that."
"Still," I said, absentmindedly stroking the soft skin of her arms as she held me.
"Yeah," she murmured. "But it wasn't because he was better than you. He represented something better. Something I thought at the time was better. But I never wanted anyone else but you."
I was so focused on her words I didn't even notice the increasing pressure on my hard on as she started swaying her hips against me.
"You can hate me," she said, her voice softening. "I understand that. I would hate you, too. I did hate you, actually. When you were with Allie."
"That had nothing to do with– "
"I know. Still, she told me how good you were. In more graphic detail than I cared to hear. And all it did was make me cry that I used to have you."
"Try being on my end of it," I said, feeling my hips now grinding back against her pelvis. "I was the one that got dumped. Then I find out you were with him before we were . . . while you were still with me. Living with me. Not even separated, let alone divorced."
She nodded, biting her lower lip and grinding her pelvis down against me more urgently. She was close to cumming. I'd seen this look a million times, and I knew she was close.
"What're you doing?" I said, my voice little more than a hoarse whisper.
"You hate me," she said. "I want you to take it out on me. To . . . I . . . ."
She shuddered, fighting to keep her eyes open as she orgasmed, her gaze blazing into mine as her chin lifted and her body tightened.
"Then what was that?"
"It's been so long," she said. "Please?"
I was hard as a rock, my cock straining for release.
"You want me to take it out on you, to punish you, and you just got off on me? And I'm still sitting here listening to you?"
Guilt swept her features, her eyes dropping.
"And we're supposed to do this when?" I demanded. "After you've had two or three more orgasms for punishment?"
"I'm sorry," she said.
"You're gonna be sorry," I said, standing, spinning, and dumping her in the chair. I strode to the door, locked it, and returned to the chair.
"Suck it," I said, standing in front of her.
She looked up at me, her face now unsure.
"You said you wanted me to take it out on you? Well you've got me all fucking worked up now, so do something about it."
Her fingers trembled as she reached toward my zipper, slowly unbuttoning my pants before pulling down the zipper.
"Just a minute ago you were all hot and bothered to get me going," I whispered. "Why the hesitation."
She looked up and there were tears welling up in her eyes.
"I . . . you . . . I didn't mean– "
"I thought so," I said, stepping back and getting my pants zipped and buttoned again.
After a few minutes of silence, Kristin spoke.
"You've changed so much."
"You ripped out my heart and stomped that sucker flat, Kristin. What did you expect? Gratitude?"
"Not all this anger," she said.
"I'm not angry," I said. "I just think you're playing games with me. Games I don't have the time or the heart to play."
She started to speak a couple of times, but stopped herself. I was content to wait her out. Until about the sixth time, that is. Then my patience snapped.
"Just say it, will you?"
"I'm sorry," she said. "About a few minutes ago and all. It's just that . . . well . . . I've been thinking about it."
"You know. Kind of a friends with benefits kind of thing? I want to be with you, spend time with you. And if that's the only way I can, then so be it."
I shook my head. "I did enough of that when we divorced. Enough to last me a lifetime."
"Then a date?" she suggested.
"Let me think about it."
"But you've been thinking about it," she said. "You've been thinking about it for a couple of months. And every time I bring it up, you just say you'll think about it."
"Do you want my immediate answer?" I said.
Her lips tightened at the look on my face and the tone in my voice.
"Do you ever think you'll say yes? Not to taking me back. Just to giving me a chance? A chance to prove how much I love you and how much I'm willing to do to make it up to you?"
"I don't know, Kristin," I sighed. "I honestly don't know."
In early November, I got a phone call from Natalie.
"Two weeks tomorrow," she rasped.
"What's two weeks from tomorrow?" I said.
"The party to celebrate the release of your first Great American Novel."
"It's a mystery thriller," I corrected her.
"Oh don't be modest," she cooed, coughing at the end. "It's brilliant, and we've got four famous authors to agree with us on that."
"Really," I said, surprised that the ploy of sending out advances for comments had worked. "Who read it?"
"James Patterson, Tammi Hoag, Dennis Lehane, and, get ready for this, Stephen King."
"Yeah," she said, as surprised and awed as I was. "He usually doesn't comment on much, but he really liked this one. To the point where he's maybe gonna be at the party."
"Then what do you need from me?"
"New suit," she said. "And be at the party on the sixteenth looking like an author. And being really nice to the publishers and everyone else."
"Okay," I said, then thought of something. "Who else is gonna be there? From our group?"
"Well, I'll be there of course. And Susan. I figured you'd want her there."
"Of course," I said. "And Marisa?"
"Marisa?" she said, her voice getting wary. "You sure?"
"She's really the one who deserves the credit," I said. "You know that. She's the one who got you to look at it–at me–and her editing was . . . well, it's a way better book."
"Okay," she said slowly. "I'll see what we can do."
"You don't sound so sure," I said.
"Don't get me wrong," she said. "I mean, a few people know of her. It's just that . . . you know."