Expectations Ch. 05byLiquidFyre©
Galen picked Ryan up from school. It was the third time either he or Kate had been called to the principal's office in the past two weeks. This time it had been for fighting. The last time it was for acting up in class. They were at a loss over this new behavior and had been advised to have Ryan speak with a child psychiatrist.
Sitting over their dinner of spaghetti and meatballs Galen tried drawing Ryan out with no success. Ryan had turned from an idolizing, chubby faced kid, to a surly belligerent pre-teen almost overnight. He needed help and only knew one place to turn for it.
"Hi Ewan, it's Galen."
Raija looked at the message left by the receptionist and wondered if she should call. It had been six months since her trip to Las Vegas for Ewan and Aisha's wedding.
"MicroTek enterprises, Galen Dunne speaking."
Raija smiled as she listened to his deep voice accentuated by his Texas twang.
"Galen, this is Raija. Returning your call."
Galen had thought that he would be much more nervous than he was. He was glad to hear her voice, but more so because of the favor he needed.
"Ah, thanks for calling me back. Listen, I need your professional assistance. You work with troubled kids and well; we've got a troubled kid on our hands." He mentally kicked himself as he knew that he should have at least asked her how she was doing.
Raija put away lingering thoughts of Galen in her bed. As Galen told her about the recent problems with Ryan she picked up on his love for the child.
"Galen, I'm not a psychologist or a social worker. What I do with kids is different."
"I know, it's just that you spend time talking to them, finding out what they want and I thought."
"Okay, listen, I can meet with Ryan anytime this week or at some point this weekend."
"Great. When and where."
Raija gave Galen directions to her office and a time to meet in two days. When she hung up the phone she called Aisha.
"Hey girl. I just got a call from Galen."
"Ewan mentioned that he called looking for your number. What's going on?"
"He and Kate are having problems with Ryan, they've asked me to talk to him and see if I can help him."
"Are you going to?"
"Of course, when have I ever been able to turn down a child?"
"Yeah, I know, but."
What went unsaid was that once Raija met with Ryan, there couldn't be anything between Galen and Raija. She couldn't break Ryan's trust. Raija wasn't sure if Galen knew or cared, but she did.
Bright and early Saturday morning Raija headed for her office. On the way she stopped to pick up pastries, juice and coffee.
Raija had been in the office for ten minutes when she heard a knock at the door. She opened the door and found a petite redheaded woman and a red-haired young boy who strongly favored the woman. Standing directly behind them was Galen.
"Hi there. Come in."
The Dunne family entered the reception area warily. "I'm Raija Montemayor and you must be Ryan." She spoke directly to Ryan who giggled. She raised her eyebrows at him in question.
"What kind of name is Montemayor?"
"I'm Latina and my last name is Peruvian, just like your last name is Irish."
"But you look black."
At that last comment his parents looked mortified and started apologizing to her.
Raija stopped them. "It's okay." Again looking directly at Ryan she said, "I'm black and Latina. You didn't know that there were black people all over the world?"
Ryan looked at her in surprise. "No, all the Hispanic kids at school are brown."
She winked at him, "well hang out with me for a while kid and you'll learn a lot you didn't know."
She showed Ryan to her office and closed the door. She turned to his parents and asked, "So you've told Ryan why he's here?"
Kate spoke up first, "yes, we told him that you work with kids who may be struggling and that you just want to help him."
Galen was quiet and when she received no response from him, she turned back to Kate. "I plan on spending about thirty minutes with Ryan today, just talking. You do both understand that this isn't a quick fix. He probably won't want to do much talking today. Are you guys planning on staying around?"
Kate answered again, "If you don't mind, we thought that we'd just sit out here, unless you think differently."
"Tell you what, there's a new café on the corner, they serve a great breakfast. Why don't the two of you go on down and we'll walk down and meet you when we're done."
Leaving them in the reception area, she walked into her office.
Galen sat staring out the glass front of the café. Raija had been right, the café served great food.
"Galen, did you hear me?"
In honesty he hadn't. He was busy wondering what Ryan was telling Raija. "Sorry Kate, what were you saying?"
She frowned at him, "How do you know her?" Galen thought there was a hint of jealousy in her voice, which, considering their marriage, was ridiculous. He'd known over the years about various relationships that she'd had. They'd never amounted to much and he'd never cared as long as it didn't impact Ryan.
"She's the cousin of Ewan's wife Aisha. I met her at their wedding and called Ewan to get her information."
Kate considered Galen for a second. She knew that he'd never stepped outside the bounds of their marriage and she wasn't sure why. As far as she was concerned, sex was sex and didn't need to lead to anything more.
Twenty minutes later Galen spied Ryan and Raija walking down the sidewalk. Ryan was staring down at the ground as he walked while Raija talked non-stop.
Stepping into the café Raija looked around. Finding his parents she waved goodbye to Ryan and walked out.
Galen ran out of the café after her.
"What's going on? What did he say?"
She smiled at Galen. "We talked in general, about what he likes to do, school, the usual getting to know you stuff." She sighed deeply, "I told you this wasn't an instant solution or process. If anything serious or threatening to Ryan is going on, I'll let you and Kate know, otherwise, I'm here to help Ryan, not you and your wife. Ryan has the appointment card for next week."
With that, she walked away.
Every Saturday for a month, she met with Ryan. Sometimes Kate dropped him off, sometimes his father but never since the first time did they both come with him.
During their fifth meeting they made some headway.
"So Ryan, have you talked to your parents yet."
"I don't know what to say to them."
"That's understandable but how long do you think you can go on without having some answers? All you can do is tell them how you feel and see what happens.?"
"Can't you talk to them for me?"
"Nope, kiddo, we've talked about his before. I'll go with you if you need me to, but I can't do this for you."
"You know how it hurts less when you just rip the band-aid off than if you peel it real slow? That's what I should do huh?"
"Ryan, sometimes ripping it off causes more damage, even if it's not immediately felt."
"So, why are you all dressed up Ms. Montemayor?"
Raija could swear that Ryan just liked saying her name. He'd never called her Raija although he'd been invited to do just that on more than one occasion.
"I've got a date."
"In the middle of the day?"
"Yep, we're going to brunch. Brunch is an odd combination of breakfast and lunch."
"What do you think will happen when I talk to them?"
"I don't know, but your parents are adults. They can handle anything you throw at them and will love you all the more."
"Okay, next weekend then, we can talk to them."
"If that's what you'd like."
"Okay kiddo, I think someone's here to get you."
Ryan and Raija walked into the reception area to find Galen standing staring out the window. Galen turned to Ryan and asked him to wait in the car for a moment.
"So how's it going?"
"Good. Both you and Kate need to be here next weekend; Ryan is ready to talk to you."
Galen sat down in one of the plush chairs in the waiting area with his head in his hands. "Do you know what he wants to talk to us about?"
"I don't think I can do this. I thought I could, but I can't."
Raija sat down next to him. "You've done a lot in the past nine years that I bet you never thought you would or could. Don't worry about this. He loves the two of you more than you can imagine."
Raija looked at her watch and stood up.
"Am I keeping you?"
"I do have plans and I'm sure Ryan is wondering what's keeping you. See you next weekend."
The following weekend arrived well before Raija would have liked. Despite the fact that it needed to be done, Raija didn't want to see any of the Dunne family in the pain that would surely surface today.
At 10 a.m. she ushered them into her office. Ryan had a look of trepidation on his face and Raija gave him a conspiratorial smile.
"We're here because Ryan wanted to get some things off his chest and I'd ask that you listen, without jumping in or trying to your side of things. Just listen."
Galen and Kate looked at Ryan expectantly.
Taking a noticeable breath, Galen started. "First I want to say I'm sorry for the way I've been acting lately. I know it hasn't been much fun putting up with me." He looked at his parents and his lower lip trembled. "I overheard Aunt Valerie talking to grandma a couple of months ago. She was saying that she thought it was interesting that all the men born into the family had the same birthmark, in the same place on their bodies."
Galen looked crestfallen. "Ryan."
Ryan ignored him and continued. "I looked for a long time to see if I had the birthmark at all, maybe on some other part of my body. But I don't." Tears began spilling down his cheeks. "Am I adopted?"
Kate rushed forward, "Of course you're not adopted Ryan. Honey your father and I love you very much."
He interrupted her, "Then why don't I have the birthmark."
At that simple question, Raija could see them struggle with the choice of continuing to lie, perhaps spinning some fantastic yarn about there being one Dunne male born every 100 years without the birthmark, or telling him the truth.
Truth won out.
Raija left the family in her office as Kate and Galen started telling Ryan the truth.
Two hours later Raija returned to the office to find Kate and Ryan wrapped in Galen's arms.
At 9 pm that night, Raija's phone rang.
Silence on the other end. "Raija." She heard the pain and weariness in his voice.
"Galen. Is Ryan okay?"
"Yeah?" Galen wanted to lash out and strike someone with his anger and despair. He wanted to ask if Ryan was all she cared about, but knew it wasn't fair. He'd spoken with Ewan and Aisha before he ever called Raija and knew that once she decided to talk with Ryan that anything else was out of the question.
"So what do we do now? How do we make it better for him?"
"I can give you the names of family counselors in your area who can help you work through this. You all need to get some help Galen. The only difference between now and then, is that everyone in your house knows the truth now. That's only the first obstacle."
6 months later on a Sunday afternoon....
Aisha held an exquisite denim jumper up over the crib and cooed to her daughter, "And this is from your cousin Raija."
"Galen, you came. And you brought Ryan with you."
Raija turned to watch Galen and Ryan walk through the door. Ryan hung back shyly until he saw Raija.
"Oh! What happened to Ms. Montemayor?"
"How are things going kiddo? You're a long way from home right now."
Ryan looked around and deciding that they were out of earshot of most whispered, "It's okay. Mom and Dad are getting divorced. I'll stay with dad one weekend and mom the next weekend. We're on vacation, Dad brought me down to see SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo."
With grace that only the young could muster, Ryan bounced from one topic to the next with ease.
"I'll bet your father is happy that you'll be staying with him part of the time." She smiled down at him.
"Yeah. I was mad for a long time that they didn't tell me."
Later Galen followed Raija into the kitchen room. "So I guess Ryan told you the big news."
"Yeah. I'm sorry it didn't work out Galen, but Ryan seems to have accepted it pretty well."
"Yeah, well, we've been spending a lot of time talking about things."
"So how have you been?"
She nodded her head as she drank a glass of water. "Pretty good."
"I never did thank you."
"It's okay, as you might expect, there's nothing that I wouldn't do for a hurting child."
He chuckled, "Yeah, I did see that in you. How long are you in town?"
"I leave in three days, what about you guys?"
"We leave in six days. A whole week in paradise. Have dinner with us tomorrow as a thank you."
"Listen, I don't want to intrude. Ryan seems pretty excited to have this time with you."
"Intrude on what?" Aisha walked into the kitchen carrying her month-old daughter.
"Nothing nosy." Raija held out her arms for the baby, only to have Michaela placed in Ryan's arms. "Hey! I've been waiting all day to hold her."
"Well, when you learn to stop being so sassy with me, you can hold her." Aisha turned away from Raija and towards Galen. "Galen, Ewan wants to know if Ryan would like to stay overnight at SeaWorld Tuesday night. A couple of times a year they offer behind the scenes tours and an overnight stay in the auditorium for kids around his age."
From behind them they heard Ryan shout "YES!"
"I guess it's decided then."
Aisha walked out of the room without gathering her offspring. Galen looked over at Raija. "Have dinner with me on Tuesday then?"
Raija could see something in his eyes and had an idea of what he had been like 10 years ago.
At noon on Tuesday Galen called Raija's hotel room. "Hey, I'm bored. Come have lunch with me."
Raija frowned at the phone. "Okay, lunch instead of dinner."
"No, Lunch and dinner. We can explore town together or maybe head down to Mexico."
Apparently the Galen from ten years ago was also impetuous and used to getting his own way. Throwing good sense to the wind, Raija accepted his invitation.
At 12:30 Raija met Galen in the lobby of her hotel. Galen wore a red polo shirt, khaki shorts and a pair of European style brown sneakers. Galen grabbed her hand and started pulling her out of the hotel lobby.
"Whoa big fella, what are you so happy about?"
"New city, free time, beautiful woman, happy kid, beautiful woman. What's not to be happy about."
Raija stared at Galen, this was the most he'd ever said without being prompted. He pulled her over to a late model Mercedes convertible. She whistled. "Great car. The two of you are going all out huh?"
"Yeah, decided to treat myself on this trip and make it a trip to remember for Ryan. What are you in the mood to eat?"
Sliding into the car's leather interior Raija watched him walk around the front of the car. He slid into the driver's seat and winked at her as they took off out of the parking lot.
"How about fish tacos?"
Galen made a face at her suggestion, finally giving in when she promised that he would love them. They drove around until they came across a fast food restaurant that specialized in them.
Sitting across the table from him she watched as he devoured his third Fish Taco Especiale: battered whitefish, coleslaw, a white sauce with onion and cilantro, a squeeze of lime and salsa, wrapped in corn tortillas.
"So, can we say that I was right about the tacos?"
Galen reached across the table snagged one of her tortilla chips, digging into his bowl of pinto beans. "We will say no such thing. In fact, this lunch never took place. I will disavow all knowledge if asked."
Raija shook her head at Galen and chuckled. "Where to next?"
"A walk on the beach might be good. I need to walk off those mythical fish tacos."
They took a drive across the Coronado Bay Bridge and pulled into the public beach access. Raija pulled off her shoes as they began strolling along the edge of the water, digging her toes into the soft sand. Just off the shore was a naval aircraft carrier, heading out into deeper water.
They made small talk as they walked until they reached a large boulder sitting in the sand. Raija perched on a flat spot on top of the boulder with her legs hanging over the edge. She patted the space next to her and Galen joined her. They sat staring out at the ocean and the families frolicking in the water.
"So really, how are you doing Galen?"
Galen exhaled. "Honestly, I'm, I don't know, relieved and sad and tired and worried and horny and happy."
"That's a lot of feelings you've got going."
"Now that it's over between Kate and me, I'm pissed. I wasted so many years but I pissed at myself, not her. I let it start and continue. I could have told my parents that I wasn't Ryan's father and still been her friend; I didn't have to marry her to help her out. I know that. I'm sad for what could have been because we haven't been best friends for a long time and I'm worried about who she might find now and how he'll react to Ryan. There's just a lot to worry about."
He looked over at Raija. "I don't know how to get back in the game and start dating. I don't know if want to date. I don't know if I want to bring women around Ryan. Hell, I don't know anything at this point other than that I have my life back and I have you to thank for that.
Kate and I were undecided on what to do, but we saw one of the therapists on the list you gave us and she asked us what we were hanging on for. We thought it was for Ryan's sake but she asked what we thought we were teaching him about marriage, relationships and love and whether the model we were giving him was how we wanted him to live his life. That gave us the nudge we needed."
Raija jumped down from the rock, "Come on, let's go celebrate having your life back."
They toured the city, walking in Olde Town, driving through La Jolla and Mission Hills. They stopped to stroll in Hillcrest and walked by a tattoo and piercing parlor. They looked at tattoo artwork displayed in the window and Galen grabbed her hand and pulled her in.
He thumbed through books looking for something specific and finally settled on a script type that he liked.
Without saying a word Raija took a seat as he talked to the tattoo artist. He came back to sit next to her while he waited for the artist to prep.
"Aren't you going to try to talk me out of this?"
When the artist finally called him back to the area, Galen asked if she wasn't coming with him. She smiled and followed him back to the tattoo area.
A short time later, Galen had a flowing script of Ryan's name tattooed on the back of his right shoulder. The artist gave him instructions on how to care for the tattoo and then looked at Raija. "How about you?"
Raija shook her head, "No tattoos for me. But I do want a piercing."
Galen had been standing in front of the full length mirror, looking at his tattoo but at that news he raised his eyes to meet hers.
Galen hoped it wouldn't be some odd facial piercing, like a ring through her nose. Raija finished talking to the tattooist/piercer who began setting up for her procedure. She excused herself and went to the restroom.
When she came out the piercer had her sit on the cold table. Galen watched her reflection in the mirror and couldn't believe it when she pulled up to skirt and spread her legs. She wasn't wearing panties, which was a bigger shock than the fact that she was about to be pierced.
Leaning back, she placed one leg on either side of the chair the piercer was standing in front of. Galen stood transfixed, staring into the mirror as Raija had the hood of clitoris pierced. She elected to have a curved barbell inserted into the piercing. During the procedure she hadn't made a sound and after a cursory cleanup and instructions similar to those for his new tattoo, she hopped off the table and pulled her skirt down.