Font Size:  

Forgetting his mother was there, she bristled. “How about you don’t boss me around?”

Gloria cackled and reached up to first pinch, then pat Tyler’s sheepish face. “I like her. She doesn’t put up with any of your shit.”

“No, she certainly does not,” Tyler murmured.

Dani blushed as he pulled her toward him. “Dani, can I please take over helping mom with the dishes?”

Knowing he was teasing her, she gave in. “Fine. Where’s the bathroom?”

“Go down the hall, and it’s the first door on the right.”

She left the room and headed for the bathroom, sticking her tongue out at him as she left.

Dani caught his mother’s smile just before the swinging door closed.

“Have I mentioned how much I like her?”

“Several times, Mom.”

“SO, ARE YOU going to tell me what’s on your mind?” his mother asked, tearing his gaze away from where Dani had disappeared.

“What makes you think I want to talk? Maybe I was just looking to do something nice.”

“Because I raised you. I couldn’t get you to do a dish unless you wanted something.”

“Gee, thanks, Mom.”

His mother wiped her hands on the towel hanging from the cabinet door and turned to face him. “Talk to me.”

Unsure exactly what he wanted to say, he set the plate in the dishwasher, stalling. Finally, he listened for the sound of footsteps or anyone lingering, and when he heard nothing, he said, “When you and Dad were dating, how long were you together before I met him?”

“Well, I think we’d gone out three or four times, but I knew he was what I wanted after date number one.”

“Did he ever make a mistake, or did you ever have doubts about him being a good father?”

A light came into his mother’s blue eyes, and she smiled gently. “Ah, baby, what did you do?”

“What makes you think I did something?”

“Because I remember that look. That worried I’m-not-sure-I-can-do-this look.”

“On Dad?” he asked.

“No, when I looked in the mirror.”

Tyler couldn’t have been more shocked if she’d told him she had walked on the moon. “What? When?”

“Pretty much from the moment I brought you home. I was only seventeen when I had you, and my parents had kicked me out. I was living with my grandmother, who was brisk and cold. I never did understand why she took me in, but I remember this one time, I had you in your Moses basket on the bed while I folded laundry. I left the room for just a second, and when I came back, the basket was on its side and you were on the floor, screaming. I ran you up to the emergency room, which I couldn’t afford, and after the doctor assured me you were fine, I called my mother crying. She came, and we left my car in the parking lot. She drove us to the nearest Denny’s, and as I cried into my short stack, blubbering about what had happened, she reached across and squeezed my hand.”

His mother drew in a shaky voice, and he saw tears in her eyes as she continued. “And she said, ‘Gloria, as a mother, you’re going to screw up and make bad decisions. Things you regret, and at some point, you’re going to think you can’t do anything right. But as long as you do your best and love your son, everything is gonna be okay.’ ”

She wiped at her eyes, and he pulled his mom in for a hug, always hating the sight of her crying. She patted his chest and pulled away with a chuckle. “Anyway, after that, she drove me back to my grandma’s, where she helped me pack up all my stuff and brought me home. When my dad started bellowing and telling her to take me back, she told him if he wanted to leave, he knew where the door was. Otherwise, he needed to get his fat ass up and drive over to pick the rest of my stuff up from Grandma’s. And eventually, he did. It took a while for us to forgive each other, but he loved you.”

She slapped his arm lightly. “So, I’m gonna ask you one more time, what did you do?”

He looked away and stared out the window at the adorable little boy he’d grown to care for way too much. “I gave Noah a bite of my ice cream without knowing he was allergic to it. I was just trying to keep him from having a meltdown because his ice cream fell and Dani went to get him another scoop. But she got upset with me, and I don’t blame her, but it got me thinking . . . What if I’m just not cut out for this? What if I’m not the guy?”

His mother pinched him in the side, and he jumped to the side as she laid into him. “Tyler Wyatt Best, that is just stupid. You made a mistake, and you’ll learn from it. Jesus, I nearly killed Gareth the first time he took you dirt biking in the foothills, and you broke your arm. I came into that ER madder than a hornet, hollering at him about how he’d better never do anything like that with my son again. We’d only been married a few months, and when he left the hospital and I walked into the room you were in, you were crying, so worried that Dad was going to leave us. And I realized that in my fear, I hadn’t just lashed out at him, but I’d hurt you. When he came back, I could tell he’d been crying, and I’ll never forget that relieved look on your face.

Articles you may like