Chapter 17: Better Than Me
Today was the day. It was the day where a random stranger would decide if I would be able to see me son on a regular basis or at all just based on their opinion. Someone who didn’t even know me would be able to turn my entire life around just because of what Alexandra have said about me.
Would this random stranger look back at the photos of the past two and a half years? If they did, they would see a loving father who was always next to his son. The father who unlike the stereotypes - actually got up in the middle of the night when the baby cried in the middle of the night. The father who changed the diapers and didn’t complain about it. If the judge actually knew me at all, he would know that I was a good dad. An amazing dad.
But the judge didn’t know me and all he was basing his decision off of was hear say.
Lies and bullshit.
Thomas has a voice, he loves me and I know it. My child doesn’t want to be without me and he shouldn’t have to be all because his mom and dad had a falling out. I take responsibility, but my marriage shouldn’t have anything to do with my parenting.
I had a final meeting with Sasha in the morning before we had to go to court in the afternoon. Allison had left earlier to get breakfast with Amber so Sasha was coming by the house to go over some last minute discussions. It was all about pleading my case as a good father, we had nothing against Alexandra to use to our advantage so the only we could do was express our positives.
“Alexandra is quite possibly going to try and make you look unfit,” Sasha explained to me as I passed her a cup of coffee while we sat at the table in the dining room, “There’s no reason or proof of you being unfit that I should be made aware of, correct?”
“Absolutely not,” I scoffed as I took a seat. I’ve done nothing to be seen as unfit which made this entire thing all the more fucked up.
“That’s good, Matt. Now, listen... I need you to be positive and confident with this, okay?” Sasha smile comforting me and she took a sip of her coffee, “Defend yourself, of course, but do it in a classy and professional way.”
I rubbed my temples, beginning to feel more and more frustrated by this. I had handled it rather well until this point but now it was too close to be relaxed, “Is Tommy going to be there?”
“He will probably be in a back room with a social worker...”
“A social worker?” I snapped, “Why will he be with a social worker?”
“Matt, I need you to be patient with me. In the case that the trial doesn’t go as hoped... Thomas could be placed in temporary foster care,” Sasha explained slowly as she seemed to attempt to calm me. “If the decision isn’t made today, Thomas cannot go home with either of his parents and the judge may not allow him to go with either of the family members. He could be influenced to say things that he doesn’t feel.”
“Foster care!?” I raised me voice. Nobody had told be this was a possibility until now. The last thing I wanted was for my son to be placed in to a home with strangers, no matter how short amount time, he should you have to go through that. “No fucking way, Sasha. No. He isn’t even three yet, he shouldn’t be put through that!”
“Matt...” Sasha took my hand as I flailed my arms, causing me to stop, “It isn’t a guarantee. It’s just a precaution.”
“I don’t want it to be a possibility at all, Sasha.” I shook my head, standing from my chair and pulling my hand away from hers, this wasn’t mentioned until now. Did Alexandra know this was a possibility? I doubt she would be okay with this. “I need to talk to Alexandra about this.”
“Sasha, I’m just going to call her. I’ll be right back,” I managed a slight smile before stepping out of the kitchen and through the living room to get to the backyard. I took my cellphone out of my jacket pocket, going to my contacts and selecting Alexandra’s name.
I had to make sure she was aware of this. I hadn’t been made aware until now so it was only right that she knew about it also.
“Um... Hello?” I heard Alexandra’s voice on the other end of the line. Her voice was distant and quiet.
I took a deep breath and leaned against the deck as I spoke, “Alex? Hey... I need to talk to you.”
“Matthew, look... it’s uh, it’s not really a good time...” She said in a quiet voice, her tone was something I didn’t quite understand or make sense of. My best bet was that she was with her lawyer figuring out more schemes to pull in the court room.
“Alexandra, it’s about Thomas.” I said in a more stern tone.
Alexandra interrupted me, “I... need to go.”
The line went dead.
“Damn it!” I groaned, gripping tightly onto my phone and pushing it back into my pocket. She wouldn’t even listen to be. She never did so I shouldn’t be surprised.
I was just so focused on Thomas’ wellbeing that I wanted her to listen to me for one second.
As I turned back to the house, I opened the door and walked back inside where Sasha was no sitting on the couch. She looked up at me as I closed the door and smiled, “Hey... Is everything alright?”
“It could be better,” I admitted, honestly.
Sasha stood from the couch and walked over to me, a soft laugh escaping her lips as her hands set on my chest, “Your tie is not on right...”
I glanced down at her hands as she slowly, very slowly moved them up my chest and to my neck. She reached for my tie and I grabbed her wrist to stop her, “That’s okay... I’m not great with my ties, Allison helps me.”
“But Allison isn’t here, so I can do it quickly...” She said it so innocently, nodding her head but I didn’t let go of her wrist.
“Sasha...” I said in a low voice, I took a deep breath as I thought of how I could get my point across without being too harsh. “I think there’s been a professional line crossed here. I appreciate everything you’ve done to help me, I do. However, touching and being this close is just not an option.”
I had realized how resilient Sasha was until she spoke next, “After we get back from court... Our professional relationship will be history.”
My eyes grew wide, I was offended and I took a step back, shaking my head in disbelief, “I’m sorry. I don’t think I heard you correctly. Or maybe you forgot that I’m in a very serious relationship.”
Sasha’s eyes stayed on me as she cleared her throat while tucking a strand of hair behind her ear, “I’m aware, I just thought--”
“You thought what?” I asked, beginning to feel irritated by her assumptions, “That just because I cheated on my wife that I would cheat on Allison? That isn’t going to happen. As harsh as it sounds, there’s a big difference between my relationship with Alexandra and Allison. I’m in love with Allison. I didn’t love Alexandra for a long time and she knew that.”
She sucked in a deep breath, seeming taken off guard by my response. She had clearly been expecting me to fall at her feet easily, “Matt, I’m sorry. I was wrong.”
“You should go.” I said abruptly.
“What? But the case...”
I shook my head, “I’ll send you your cheque but I’m going to go to court alone.”
Sasha quickly shook her head, taking a step towards me but I stepped back again, “I can help you get your son back. Don’t throw that away just because I was stupid.”
“Let’s be honest, Sasha. I have just as much of a chance getting Tommy on my own - which is pretty damn low,” I chuckled sarcastically, “But spending more time with you is putting my relationship at risk and that, that I am sure of. So please, save me time and walk yourself out.”
Her mouth stayed closed but I could tell that she wanted to speak. Whatever he had to say though, I didn’t want to hear. I had mistaken her flirting for kindness and I wasn’t going to lose Allison because I was an idiot. I watched Sasha reach for her purse and make her way out of the house.
As she opened the front door she stepped past Will, leaving relatively quickly. I rolled my eyes at the sight of my older brother, “Oh great. You’re here.”
Will walked in and closed the door behind him, “Don’t seem so excited, Matty.”
“Trust me, I’m not. Why are you here?”
“I came by to see how you were preparing before court. If you needed anything?” He asked, tucking his hands into his jacket pockets. He glanced around the room before looking back at me, “Where’s Allison?”
I laughed. I couldn’t help but laugh in his face. He was obvious and didn’t even try to hide it, if he did, he did terrible. “So that’s why you’re here. Because of Allison... She isn’t here, Will.”
“Don’t be a kid, Matty. I just asked beca--”
“Because you’re into her. I’m not an idiot,” I glared at him and he didn’t deny it for a second, “I’ve known it since day one, since you met her at mine and Alexandra’s place. It’s convenient that you’re suddenly around more that Allison’s here. You don’t think I notice when your eyes wander over her body?”
Will looked away from me, a smirk playing on his lips and he shrugged nonchalantly, “Matt, you’re reading into it too much.”
“So you’re saying you haven’t checked Allison out while I’m in the same room? Better yet, why were you here when she passed out and went to the hospital? Did you plan on getting in her pants?” I raised an eyebrow at him.
He waved his hand carelessly and rolled his eyes, “You’re wasting my time.”
“You’re not denying anything.”
“Okay, what do you want me to say?” He asked, flailing his arms, “I’ve checked Allison out. She’s hot, but so what? Looks are looks, man. She has this amazing personality too, I’m sure you know that.”
“I do,” I agreed. “Because she’s my girlfriend, what did you plan on doing? Fucking with my relationship and getting Allison to jump to you?”
“She isn’t like that,” Will said simply.
He was acting like he knew her. He was right though, Allison wasn’t like that at all but I hated that he was acting like he knew her at all.
“Damn right she isn’t. So back the hell off,” I warned him.
The room fell silent but on the inside I was raging. Knowing that Will had eyes for Allison was one thing but having him admit it just infuriated me more. I heard the sound of the front door close and a moment later Allison walked into the living room with a coffee in one hand and a smoothie in the other hand, she was smiling until she noticed the tension in the room.
“Hey, Will... I didn’t know you were going to be here, I would have gotten a coffee for you,” She walked over at me and raised her eyebrows, “What’s up with you? You seem so cranky.”
“Nothing, babe.” I answered instantly, wrapping my arm around her waist and looking towards Will, “Thanks for coming by.”
“I’m not done,” Will said.
“I am,” I responded.
Will took a step forward and I took a sharp intake of breath. He glanced towards Allison before looking back at me again, “I came here to help you, little brother. And don’t say that you don’t need my help because you do. Your attorney just left and she seemed upset, so you need someone to defend you.”
I heard Allison’s soft voice suddenly, “She? Your attorney is a woman?”
“Yes, Allison. It isn’t like I specified a gender...” I pointed out, even though deep down I knew that Allison probably wouldn’t have been so okay with me spending so much time and late hours with a female. Attorney or not I couldn’t blame her, today I realized that Sasha had taken it to a level past perfessionalism.
Will sighed softly, “Can you two please worry about that later? Matt, you have to go to court soon and you have no idea what’s waiting for you. Alexandra? Did you ever think about what she’s going to use against you?”
“She doesn’t have anything to use against me,” I answered.
“Maybe that you beat up her brother,” Will said and I sighed heavily. He was right. Alexandra could easily said that I had anger issues even though I didn’t, but I did beat up Brad and he had the x-rays of his once broken nose to prove it.
I looked down at the ground and felt Allison’s hands rub my back soothingly, “You need to listen to Will. He’s just trying to help you, Matt. Whatever bad blood you have, you need to push it aside and take his help. Thomas’ case is more important than this, okay?”
She was right. I had to stop being stubborn and start thinking about what was important here. My boy.
“All right, help me out.”
I had finally given in and asked my older brother for help, the one thing I hadn’t done in years. The one thing I never thought I would do again, but I did and I was depending on him.
We walked into the court house, just Will and I. It had previously been discussed between Allison and I that it wouldn’t be the smartest idea if the woman I cheated on Alexandra with came to court while I fought for custody of my son. I’m sure that Allison would be one of Alexandra’s arguments so it was best to keep her away.
I had spent the last bit of time I had before coming here with Will and he went over some extremely good points with me that Sasha hadn’t even mentioned which caused me to wonder what her notices were to begin with. I trusted a woman with my case that was more focused on flirting with me and I had been to naive to notice it.
While waiting outside of the court room Alexandra walked in with her big shot lawyer, they were still talking and Alexandra was nodding. She seemed nervous but she was the one who brought a custody battle into play. We could have settled for shared custody.
Alexandra glanced my way and her gaze locked on mine for a moment. Tired eyes on tired eyes. I patted Will’s shoulder gently, “I’ll be right back.”
He nodded and as I walked towards Alexandra her lawyer stepped in front of her, “Mr. Reid.”
“I would just like to speak with her,” I said softly. I looked past the man in front of me to Alexandra, “Alex, five minutes?”
She paused and didn’t respond right away, but when she did it was only a small nod.
Her lawyer stepped away, allowing Alexandra and I to walk you a private spot to speak. We stood in the corner and I didn’t hesitate to speak up, I needed to use these five minutes. I had a lot to say to Alexandra that I had been holding back.
“I can’t say that I’m sorry enough, Alexandra.” I said to her, “You didn’t deserve what I did to you and I handled the situation to carelessly because I had become a reckless idiot after getting my heart broken.”
“Matthew...” She said, attempting to interrupt me but I stopped her.
“Just listen,” I ran my fingers through my hair, “I was hurt, but damn it. That didn’t give me a right to do what I did. I shouldn’t have been unfaithful to you because you’re my wife... No matter how bad things were, I should have waited until we legally separated. You didn’t deserve the way I treated you.”
She seemed stunned, taking a moment to comprehend what I had said to her. I was horrible and I knew that, no matter how badly things became I should have never disrespected her in such a way.
“I understand why you’re angry, I betrayed you in the worst possible way...” I began before Alexandra’s voice interrupted me.
“You stopped caring about me a long time ago, I should have known.”
I stared at her, furrowing my eyebrows. That’s how I made her feel? I shook my head and rested my hands on her shoulders, “Alexandra, listen to me... You were the first woman I ever fell in love with. Ever. You gave me Thomas and so many memories, one detail had destroyed us and for me it was just too much to get past. But I will always care about you and I really did love you. You need to know that... When I fell in love with you I meant every second of it while it was there. But, Alex. You deserve so much better than a man who left you for someone else. You shouldn’t want me back because you are worth so more than wanting someone who treated you so terribly.”
Alexandra’s eyes glistened as tears made their way to the surface. She was hurting and I wanted to be there to comfort her in a compassionate, unromantic way.
“You’re all I’ve ever known,” She whispered softly.
I nodded slowly, understanding exactly what she meant. For so long Alexandra had been the only person for me, the only love I had ever known and it was different now. It was a big adjustment but the longer she held on to that the longer it would take for her to move on.
“I know, Alex. I do... It was us for so long and it was something we thought would be forever,” I told her and she nodded as I spoke, “But some things aren’t forever. Some things end and I know it hurts, I’m sorry I did this to you. But, sweetheart, you’re going to find someone some day who can love you just as much as you love them. That is the kind of love that you deserve.”
Alexandra’s mouth slightly gaped but she closed it. She looked away from me as a tear slid down her cheek and Alexandra quickly placed her hand over her mouth, beginning to sob. Maybe I said to much and broke her down by reminding her of how terribly I treated her.
Without even hesitating I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her close to me so she could cry without everyone staring at her, “Shhh... It’s okay. It’s okay to cry, Alexandra.”
Alexandra had her head buried against my chest and she surprisingly didn’t pull away, she accepted my comfort, allowing me to hold her until she was ready to face the conversation again. When Alexandra finally did pull away her eyes met mine and she spoke almost instantly, “I really did love you, Matthew. I know that after you found out how everything began that you didn’t believe it, but I did.”
“I know you did... I know that now, but I was stubborn and hurt. It’s too late to go back, but Alexandra, please know that I truly am sorry for what I out you and our son through...” I wiped the tears from her cheeks, “You will always be so special to me. No matter what.”
She looked at me almost as though she were about to smile until the court room doors opened and Will looked at me with a nod, “It’s time to start.”
Alexandra’s lawyer informed her of the same and we both looked at each other with the same look in our eyes. Mostly shock, but at the same time disbelief that our once so happy relationship had come to this. From getting married and having a child together, here we were - standing in court, fighting over who would get to have out son while the other would never get any rights to him.
This wasn’t normally something I would do, but it was what Alexandra wanted and I would do anything for her so here I was at a baby shower. Isn’t that only for women? It was the same question I asked Alexandra and she has said that it was becoming more common for the men to attend the baby showers now, too.
Either way, it felt weird. So many women giggling about baby names and clothes. It wasn’t like their husbands had come, the only men attending was our father’s, brother’s, and my friend Tristan had agreed to come by. I’m sure he wasn’t just being kinds, surely he had a motive behind it.
I watched Alexandra as her friends began measuring her baby bump, apparently it was some kind of baby shower game. I could win easily, my hands have been over her body so frequently that I could easily guess how big her baby bump is.
Tristan stood beside me, drinking his punch, “When does she throw something for the single ladies? I need to know who’s available...”
My eyes narrowed towards him and I chuckled, “That’s only at weddings, I believe. And Tristan, please don’t be hitting on girls at Alexandra’s baby shower. This is her special day and I don’t need you tarnishing it.”
“Hey, I won’t be tarnishing anything. I’ll be making one or two ladies very happy,” He smirked.
“Yeah, yeah. Whatever...” I chuckled lightly before walking over to Alexandra who was taking a photo with one of her friends.
She had her brown hair in a messy ponytail and was wearing a blue sun dress. Being seven months pregnant, she looked stunning. She had the amazing pregnancy glow and was happier than I’ve ever seen her in my life.
As she and her friend finished the photo, she stepped back and smiled, “Thank you so much for coming.”
Alexandra stood and looked around as her friend walked away, I took the opportunity to wrap my arms around her from behind, nuzzling my face into her hair, “You look absolutely radiant...”
I heard her giggle, placing her hands over mine that we’re rested on her baby bump, “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“You know, I think our boy will be pretty damn adorable. Between you and I, the kid has good genes...” I whispered in her ear before kissing her cheek gently.
Alexandra turned to face me, a playful grin on her face, “You mean he or she will be adorable. We’re finding out the gender today and that is why we’ve been going with neutral colors... I think we’re having a girl.”
I shook my head, “No way, he’s definitely a boy. Do you feel those kicks? He’s strong.”
“Of course I feel the kicks, Matthew. The baby is in my stomach,” Alexandra laughed softly and raised an eyebrow, “Girls are strong too. Maybe we have a little gymnast on our hands.”
Alexandra and I have been having this discussion since she had found out that she was pregnant. I was sure that we were having a boy while Alexandra believed we were having a girl. She wanted to do a big ‘gender reveal’ at ten baby shower so until now the only colors we had bought for clothes or any other baby items were neutral. Our doctor called the shop that specializes in unique gender reveals and told the gender so we could have it here today.
The plan was that Alexandra and I were going to open a box and either pink or blue balloons would come out. We waited until today’s so we could find out with out family and celebrate together. During every ultrasound until now we wanted it to be a surprise.
“Alexandra, babe. I love you, but trust me... I’m a boy maker.” I smirked as I rubbed her belly slowly, “We have a son in there, I can already hear him asking me to play football with him.”
“Maybe what you’re really hearing he her asking you to have a tea party...” Alexandra teased me.
I laughed softly and leaned in to kiss her softly, her lips reacted instantly, moving gently against mine. My hands rested on her waist, attempting to pull her against me but instead feeling her bump press against my stomach. It didn’t stop me, it never did. I continued to kiss Alexandra like I hadn’t kissed her in months, running my tongue across her lips slowly and causing her to giggle in response.
“Come on, Matt. This is a baby shower, hands off the Mama.” I heard Amelia’s voice interrupt and I stepped back, rolling my eyes.
“Amelia, could you not see that Alexandra and I were busy enjoying each others company?” I rested my hand on Alexandra’s back, slowly moving it down to her butt.
Amelia grinned carelessly at me, “I could care less, we’re ready to find out if I’m getting a little niece or nephew. Come on, come on!”
That seemed to get Alexandra’s attention. She stepped away from me and grabbed my hand eagerly, “Come on, Matthew. Let’s find out out baby’s gender.”
“Boy.” I stated casually as she pulled me towards the front table where there was a box that was white with blue and pink polka dots all over it. It was a relatively big box and knowing that inside of that hallow box held such a huge answer for us.
I glanced over at Alexandra who was biting her lip eagerly. Wouldn’t any expecting mother at this point? I’m surprised she even waited to do a gender reveal.
“Everyone!” Amelia shouted to get everyone’s attention, ”It’s time for the big reveal!”
The room erupted with applause and everyone began to shout out their guesses. I heard quite a few people guess that the baby was a girl but a number of people also guessed boy.
“Well...” Amelia urged us towards the box, “Go on!”
I rested my hands on Alexandra’s back and smiled softly, “Go on, sweetheart. You get one side, I’ll get the other.”
Alexandra held onto one side of the box opening and I held the other while Amelia began a countdown from 3. When she hit 1, Alexandra and I pulled open the box and five blue helium balloons came out of the box.
"It’s a boy!” I heard someone cheer before everyone started clapping again.
Alexandra turned to me, a huge smile on her face and her eyes lighting up with joy, “A boy... We’re having a boy.”
“Our son,” I told her as my hands rested on her belly, leaning my forehead against hers and whispering, “You have given me the best gift in the world, Alexandra. Boy or girl, having a child with you is a dream come true. I love.”
“I love you, Matthew.”