4. My Father's Son Ch. 10-12byinspirixis1©
Grace was being such a little drama queen and it was really annoying the shit out of Nicholas. When he had woken to find her note and engagement ring on the bedside table his first reaction was to panic, but then he thought about it. Grace was an adult. She was an adult who had everything. She was just being melodramatic.
Despite the fact that she was so annoying, he couldn't help but worry about her safety and he became increasingly pissed off and on edge when she refused to answer her cell phone over the next hour. Finally he got a call from Adrian.
"Grace is at my place," he said. "She's going to stay here tonight."
Nicholas sighed. He was so tired. "Fine."
"Dude, what happened? She's like a fucking zombie."
"She's just being a drama queen Adrian, I didn't do anything to her."
There was silence over the line for a moment. "She doesn't look very dramatic to me. She looks like she's had a lobotomy. She's just sitting on my bed staring at the wall."
Nicholas couldn't deal with Grace's shit anymore, if she wanted to act like a two year old, so be it. "Whatever. Did she say when she's coming home?"
"Wait a minute." There was a scuffling noise and then he heard Adrian talking to Grace. "Gracie," he said gently. "Nicholas wants to know when you're going home."
There was no reply.
"Gracie?" Adrian prompted.
"I'll talk to him tomorrow at 2, in our apartment, alone." Grace's voice sounded hoarse and for a moment it pulled on Nicholas' heartstrings, but he pulled himself together.
There was more scuffling, then Adrian was back on the phone. "Did you get that?"
"Yeah, two o'clock, got it."
"Alright. Well... I guess I'll talk to you later."
Nicholas hardly slept that night. He couldn't believe that Grace was being such a shit. He'd always thought that she was a good, caring person, but she didn't seem to care for Jaidee or Mai, she only cared about herself and her own perfect little life.
Feeding Mai brought him some small relief. Getting up in the middle of the night to feed and change her was tiring but it was the best part of his day. The whole world was still while he sat in the armchair cradling her in his arms and feeding her from a bottle. The whole time Mai stared deep into his eyes, as if she were memorizing his soul. He never knew such an attachment to another person could exist, but it was there and it was real.
He couldn't help making promises to Mai. "I love you so much baby girl," he cooed to her. "I'm going to make sure nothing bad ever happens to you."
Jaidee looked after Mai during the day but it made Nicholas nervous to leave her for too long so he had gone to the dean of students and gotten special permission to drop all but one of his classes. It wasn't a big deal, he had taken plenty of extra credit over the first three years of his degree, and he only needed to take two classes next semester to graduate on time.
Hopefully next semester would be a bit easier. Hopefully by then Grace would have accepted Mai and be helping to look after her more. They say that the first three months with a baby are the hardest. Next semester should be easier.
He asked Jaidee to take Mai out to the park for a few hours so he could speak with Grace alone. He didn't see why it was such a big deal but she had specified that she wanted to talk alone and so he played by her stupid rules.
She looked so small when she walked in the door. She had a blank expression on her face and it made him wince. It was the way she used to look when she came out of her rape counseling sessions.
He was sitting on one of the couches and she chose to sit on the other one.
"How's Adrian?" He asked. He hadn't seen Adrian in weeks. He hadn't done anything in weeks apart from look after Mai and go to his one finance class. He didn't go to Aikido with Grace anymore or practice Taekwondo at the dojang.
"He's fine. Same as always." She wasn't looking into his eyes as she spoke, she was looking at his mouth. "Are you going to adopt Mai?"
He sighed. Of course she would bring that up right away. "I'd like to."
"Were you going to talk to me about it?"
"Well yeah, obviously. I was just trying to get everything in order first. I wanted to make sure it was possible."
"How long have you known that you wanted to adopt her?"
There was no point in lying. "Since the day she was born."
Grace blinked slowly and kept her eyes shut for a few seconds. When she opened them again she asked, "Why didn't you tell me?"
"I wanted to give you some time to get to know her, to bond with her. I thought if I gave you a little time you'd fall for her like I did."
"Fall for her? What does that mean?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "I love her."
"You love her?" She asked incredulously. Her eyes made contact with his for the first time and he saw the alarm there.
"Oh come on Grace, don't be ridiculous, she's a baby, it's not the same as the love I have for you."
"What about Jaidee? Do you love her too?"
"I don't know. I feel responsible for her. I'm all she has."
Grace blinked rapidly a few times, as if she had something in her eye. "What about me?"
"What about you Grace? You have everything. They have nothing. I know it's not easy for you but think about someone else for a change."
She bit down on her lip and furrowed her brow as if she were holding back what she wanted to say. "Have you even been trying to get a new place for Jaidee to stay?"
He threw his hands up in the air, exasperated. "Yes, I'm keeping my eye out for something appropriate for her. If I find something next week, great, if it's not for a couple of months, what's the difference?"
Her eyebrows rose in surprise. "You would be fine with Jaidee staying here for months on end?"
"Yes. She lost her sister Grace. She's in mourning. Mai and I are all she has."
She looked away from him and across the room to Mai's cot which she stared at for a long time. Nicholas didn't know what else to say to her. She was acting like a child.
Finally she spoke, her voice flat and lifeless. "I'm going to move out. I'll stay with Adrian for a few days until I figure something else out."
He sighed. "Grace, don't be so dramatic. This isn't as bad as you're making it out to be."
She continued in the same monotone. "Obviously we'll have to cancel the wedding. I'll call my parents at seven o'clock tonight, please call yours at the same time so that nobody feels like they were the last to know."
"What? No! Grace, you are blowing this out of proportion."
She got up off the couch and Nicholas followed her into the bedroom where she started throwing clothes into a gym bag.
"Why are you being such a bitch Grace?"
She didn't answer; she just closed her eyes for a few seconds before she continued packing her bag.
"What is your problem?" He continued to try and get her to talk.
"I can't live like this Nicholas. I feel like I don't even know you anymore." Her voice cracked with emotion.
"What? You're the one who's changed. You never would have done this before Hamid."
She shook her head. "I never would have needed to."
She was acting irrationally. He had to get her to calm down, to give herself some time to think about it and realize how stupid she was being before turning this into a huge fiasco by telling their parents the wedding was off.
"Grace," he said gently as he caught her by the arms. "Please, just slow down. If you want to stay with Adrian, fine. Just give it a few days to settle and then we'll talk again before we say anything to our parents."
She looked into his eyes for long seconds, and then she nodded, finally showing some reason.
"I love you Grace."
"I love you too, but love isn't enough, I need more than that."
He bit his tongue. He'd gotten her to wait a few days before making a decision about their future and he didn't want to do anything to change that.
She agreed to take the weekend to think about it and talk to him again on Monday.
Despite the fact that she had been pissing him off for weeks, he still missed her. Grace had been funny that way since they got back from Illinois. She could be cold and distant all day and then in a moment of clarity she would sit in his lap and ask him what he was reading, kiss him on the cheek and tell him that she loved him. At night she would snuggle into him and whisper about their wedding and how good it was going to be once they opened the restaurant with Zach and Beth. It made no sense that she suddenly didn't want those things anymore.
On Saturday Mai just kept on crying and crying and crying. By the evening she was burning up with a fever. Nicholas called the pediatrician that he'd taken her to before but his clinic was closed, so he took her to the emergency room. It took hours and Mai cried almost the entire time. He was about ready to rip his hair out from worry and annoyance that none of the staff seemed to think that his crying infant was an emergency.
When he finally got in to see the doctor after midnight she said that it wasn't serious and gave him baby Tylenol to give her. Even after the medicine Mai hardly slept that night, which meant that Nicholas got next to no rest.
On Sunday his dad called in the afternoon, as usual. He caught on pretty quickly that Nicholas wasn't in the mood to talk and he asked to speak to Grace.
"She's not here, you'll have to call her cell phone if you want to talk to her," Nicholas said.
"Oh. How come? We always talk on Sunday afternoons."
Nicholas was too tired to make up an excuse. "She's not staying here right now."
Nicholas sighed, he didn't feel like doing this right now.
"Nicholas, what's going on? Why isn't Grace staying at home?"
"She flipped out and left. She's staying with Adrian for now."
"What did she flip out about?"
"She found out that I'm going to adopt Mai and she freaked out and left. She's just acting like a drama queen..."
There was silence over the line for an uncomfortably long time.
"You're kidding right?"
"Huh? No. She's just being selfish, she doesn't think about how hard this has been for Jaidee and Mai."
"Jaidee is still around?"
"Yeah, Grace is all pissed because I haven't found anywhere else for her to live, but if you saw her you'd agree that she's not ready to go out in the world on her own yet."
Again there was silence and then his dad said, "Nicholas, please tell me you're joking."
Nicholas was confused, why was his dad acting all weird? "No dad, Grace left. She got all pissed at me and she left. She's just being a selfish little bitch."
"Wait, let me get this straight," his dad said. "You have another woman living in the house with you?"
"Are you fucking crazy Nicholas?"
"Try reversing the situation, how would you feel if Grace invited another man to live with you?"
"It's not the same dad, Jaidee doesn't have anywhere else to go, Mai and I are all she has."
"Oh my god."
"What?" Why was he being so dramatic?
"I don't care if she's on death's door son, if you care about Grace you'll get that fucking woman out of your house now!"
Nicholas was stunned. His dad didn't usually shout at him like that. Why was everyone going crazy all of a sudden?
"And don't even get me started on how much of a bad idea it is to adopt a child without Grace being onboard," he continued.
"Why? Mai's my sister dad, the same as Maddy. Wouldn't you want me to take care of Maddy if something happened to you and mom?"
"No. Your mother and I already discussed that. Sam and Emma are Maddy's designated guardians. It would be unfair for us to expect you and Grace to raise her."
"But she's my flesh and blood."
"Yeah but she's not Grace's. You can't build a life around your sister Nicholas, you can only build a life around your mate, around Grace."
"But dad, you accepted mom even though she had me, this is no different."
"It is different. I knew about you when we first started dating. You were always part of the deal. When I asked her to marry me I already knew I'd be your father."
Nicholas didn't know what to say. He had a point, but he just couldn't conceive of giving Mai up to some faceless strangers.
His dad continued. "Say you do adopt Mai. Grace will leave you; there is no doubt of that. In twenty years time what do you think will happen? Mai will be grown up and she'll go and get her own life and you will be left all alone, a grumpy, lonely old man.
"Say you give Mai up for adoption, she goes to a couple that will love her and care for her and give her a good life. Grace might come back to you. In twenty years time you might be kissing your own daughter goodbye as she leaves for college but you wouldn't be lonely. You'd have Grace. Think about the difference."
Nicholas was silent.
His dad sighed heavily. "Listen, Nicholas, think carefully about the adoption thing but do yourself a favor and don't think about Jaidee. Get her out of your house now. I don't care if you have to pay to put her in a hotel, do it now. Tonight. Don't even think about it, just do it."
"Okay, fine." Nicholas said. His head was starting to pound. All he wanted to do was get off the phone.
Adrian finally convinced her to tell him what had happened on Sunday afternoon as they were taking a walk beside the river. The leaves were all turning. It was such a beautiful time of year. The sky was powder blue and the bright fiery yellows, oranges and reds of the trees were dramatic and powerful, but she felt removed from it all in her little cocoon of sorrow.
She didn't want to talk about what had happened with Nicholas. She felt like maybe if she just kept it all inside her head she might wake up and realize that it was just a nightmare. But Adrian was insistent and so she told him.
"He lied to me Adrian. For two months he pretended that he was looking for an adoptive home for Mai and organizing a different place for Jaidee to live and it was all lies. He has no intention of letting either of them go."
Adrian put his arm around her shoulders and squeezed her to his side. "Gracie, you know Nicholas is human, right?"
"Huh?" She looked up at him, her vision blurred from the tears. "Of course I know that."
"I only mention it because sometimes I forget. I'm so used to him being spookily calm, as if he is some sort of super-being who can filter his emotions."
"Well you wouldn't say that now. The other day he was yelling at me, telling me that I'm a selfish bitch."
"Hm... it's not like him is it?"
She shook her head. "No." It wasn't like Nicholas at all. "He's changed. He never would have done something like this before. He used to value me. Once he told me that I was his number one priority, now I'd be surprised if I even made the top ten."
Adrian wasn't disagreeing with her and she found it depressing. Maybe it really was over.
"Thing is Grace, Nicholas was a prisoner for six weeks. He was forced to murder someone, he was told you were dead and that his mom and brother had guns pointed at them. Then he found out that his biological father, the guy who he shares half of his genes with, was a psychotic asshole and he witnessed him murder the woman who was carrying his child. Any normal person would be forgiven for dissolving into a puddle of shit and tears. I think it is remarkable that he's functioning at all, I don't think I would be."
Grace looked at her feet. He was right. Nicholas had been through a terrible ordeal, but did that give him the right to lie to her? Did that give him the right to bring another woman and a child into their lives without being honest about his intentions for them?
"Remember what Ben told us about Ralph?" Adrian asked.
"Urgh... yeah I remember, he's the guy who had a family on the outside who he thought were dead and then he started a new family in the house."
"Right. It was part of Hamid's method. He got the guys to bond with a woman in the house. I know Nicholas never slept with Jaidee, but that doesn't mean he didn't bond with her. They shared their lives. She lived in his room. It doesn't surprise me that he feels responsible for her now."
Grace felt the stab of jealousy twisting in her heart. She would never know the part of Nicholas that Jaidee knew, she would never be able to understand him in that way.
"So what can I do Adrian? I don't want to leave him, but I can't go on living with Jaidee there and him lying to me all the time."
Adrian's arm was still around her shoulder and he rubbed up and down her arm, as if he was trying to warm her up. "I know Gracie, it's a hard situation but you can't give up on him. You have to try and find a way forward that you can both deal with, take baby steps. Ask him to wait on the adoption thing. Maybe see if you can find a place for Jaidee to move out to that is not too far away so he can still feel like he's keeping an eye on her but so she's not actually living with you. See if you can get him to see a psychologist and talk about what happened to him."
She sniffed and nodded her head.
"You have to be the bigger person here Grace," he said seriously. "What Nicholas did was wrong, but there are some pretty weird psychological circumstances he's dealing with. You might be the only one who can help him find his way back to who he is."
"When did you get so wise Adrian?" She asked.
He laughed. "When? I've always been wise Gracie. Just because I'm not smart like you doesn't mean I'm not wise."
Grace thought carefully about how to approach the conversation with Nicholas the next day. She didn't want to fight with him, that would get them nowhere. She made the goal of getting him to agree to one baby step, as Adrian put it. The most important one seemed to be Mai's adoption. She needed to prevent him from making anything final.
He seemed tired and irritable when she saw him. He had a crease in his forehead and big dark circles under his eyes. He was sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, which looked as if it had gone cold.
"Do you want more tea?" She asked. "I'm going to make myself a cup."
She boiled the water and steeped the tealeaves and then turned the pot the way Nicholas did it. He was watching her. He wasn't saying anything but she could feel his eyes on her.
She poured two cups and brought them to the table where she sat opposite him.
"I'd like to talk about Mai," she said.
"What about her?"
"Well you said that you wanted to adopt her, I want to talk about that. I think it's important that we both know how the other feels."
He shrugged his shoulders. "I love her. I've loved her since the moment I saw her, same as I love Madeline. She is my baby sister. What more is there to say?"
She nodded. "Okay. I can accept that, but I'm not sure adoption is the best way to show that you love her."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my birth mother loved me, I know she did and I know she still does, but I was better off with mom and dad than I would have been with her."
A flicker of anger passed across his eyes. "You don't think I'd be a good father?"
She reached for his hand across the table to reassure him. "No, it's not that. I think you'll be an amazing father; I wouldn't be marrying you if I didn't believe that.
"It's just that I don't think I'm ready to be a mother yet. If you force me into it I might end up feeling resentful towards you and resentful towards Mai. Imagine growing up with a mother who resented you. It would be awful."
He nodded slowly and eyed her carefully. "You still want to get married?"
She nodded. "I hope so. I think maybe it would be best if we postponed though, to give us some time to work through some of these... issues."