Frank walked into the living room a few minutes later, his hair and teeth brushed. A vaguely familiar blonde sat on the couch next to a dark eyed teenager. She stood when he came in the room, looking ready to bolt. Marka took her hand and she sat again.
“Britt?” He smiled, walking over to her. He took her hand, shaking it. “It’s strangely good to see you.”
“I have someone you need to meet,” she said shyly. “This is Elijah. Your son.”
The boy stood, holding out his hand. He looked so solemn, Frank tried to match it. He took the proffered, shaking it firmly.
“Hello, Elijah. It’s good to meet you.”
“I’m sorry I never told you, Frank. After what happened. . . . I was too embarrassed. I was too ashamed to admit.”
“Britt, it’s okay. . . .”
“No, it isn’t! I’m sorry.” She turned to Marka. “Would you mind taking Eli outside? I need to talk to Frank.”
“I’d be happy to. Do you like horseshoes, Eli?”
“I never tried.”
“I’ll teach you.” She took him out.
Once the door closed, Britt relaxed a little, but she sat with her hands in her lap, wringing her hands.
“You need to know what happened that night. It wasn’t your fault—and it wasn’t mine. Some of the guys thought it would be funny to drug us. They gave you god knows what in your drink and they gave me something too. I don’t know what it was, but it made me wild. I did unspeakable things that night. I know I traumatized you, because it traumatized me too. I almost aborted Eli, but I just couldn’t do it. My parents wanted me to put him up for adoption and I almost did.”
She started to cry. Frank found tissues and gave her the box. Britt blew her nose and dabbed her eyes.
“See, he wouldn’t eat. The nurses and the adoptive parents all tried. He refused to eat and they were afraid he’d die. So they brought him to me. I gave him his bottle and I bonded with him. I had to keep him after that.”
“That had to be hard.”
“It was. My parents and aunt helped me a lot, but it was difficult to go to college and be a new mom. I finally dropped out. When he got into school, I went back and finished my degree. But I couldn’t get a job anywhere.”
“So you came home.”
She nodded, sobbing. “And I applied for a job at Sheltering Oaks. I didn’t know you were working there. When I found out I’d have to interview with you, I panicked.”
“I’m sorry you thought I wouldn’t help,” he said gently. “If you’d just told me, Britt.”
“I know. I see that now. But I didn’t know what you were like anymore. You were such a nice guy in school. But nice teenagers don’t always grow up to be nice men.”
Frank nodded, chuckling. “True.”
“But Eli has some weird health problems. The doctor finally told me he has hemochro. . . . hemo. . . .”
“Yes, how did you know?”
“I have it. It’s hereditary. Is it bad?”
“No. With medication and diet, we can control it. But it gets expensive, all the doctors.”
“I know. I want to help out, Britt.”
“I don’t want you to think I’m just after you for money. I don’t want child support, Frank. That’s not why I’m here. I heard about what happened. I thought Eli should meet his father. I kept you two apart too long. I’m sorry. That was my own fear and insecurity. A boy should know his father.”
“Do you think Marka will mind?”
“She won’t mind. I’ll be willing to bet they’re best buddies before they come in.”
Britt smiled. “I still need that job, Frank. I’ll work hard. . . .”
“It’s yours. Whatever you applied for. I’ll put Eli on my insurance and help with medical expenses.”
“You don’t have to, Frank.”
“I want to. After everything that’s happened, I’ve figured out how important family and friends are. I mean, I knew before, but when someone steps in and saves your life, it gives a different perspective. I want to help and I want to give my son the advantages I had. It doesn’t matter how we conceived him, he’s a part of us.”
“You’re a good man, Frank. Marka is a very lucky woman.”
“Thank you. I hope you’ll find the right man one day.”
© Dellani Oakes