Chapter 2: Co-Parenting
Nearly five years of marriage and I had been sure that I would be spending the rest of my life tied to a woman that I fell out of love with quite some time ago. It’s strange how feelings can just disappear, but once they’re gone it’s hard to get them back. I really did try with Alexandra, mostly for Thomas’ sake, but the love and the happiness had completely vanished.
The past six months had felt like a different universe, I felt like a completely different person all together. I haven’t felt like this person in years. Allison made me feel relaxed during the most chaotic time in my life, while my family walked around judging me and attempting to criticize every move I made in my life, Allison was there next to me comforting me whenever I needed her. She was everything I ever needed and wanted. Everything I thought that I would never have again.
Tension was high in my family to say the least, my father was calling Allison a ′phase,′ insisting that my infatuation with her would wear off eventually but in time I knew that he would realize that I really did love her. She was different than Alexandra, she was here for different reasons and soon enough my family would see that she was good for me.
With my birthday being only a few days away, stress levels were higher than usual. It had been planned to have dinner at my parent’s house which I could only imagine would be uncomfortable for Allison, but besides that I wanted to have my son on the day and Alexandra made it seem like it was a damn sacrifice. One day. I was asking for one lousy day, and she couldn’t even give me that. She seemed to purposely make everything a million times more complicated than they had to be now, simply because she wanted to seem empowered but she needed to be reminded that Thomas is both of ours, not just hers.
The last time I had seen Thomas was over a month ago. Alexandra was at home full time now and for the most part I allowed her to decide when Thomas was ‘available.’ It wasn’t until now that she actually started denying me or making pathetic excuses.
“Matthew,” My father said as he knocked lightly on my opened office door.
I took a quick glance up before looking back at the computer screen in front of me, “Come on in, father.”
I heard the door close, followed my the sound if his footsteps and a moment later he took a seat in front of my desk, “Your mother wanted me to get some last details for your dinner on Saturday. The catering company has to know a few things.”
“Catering company?” I furrowed my eyebrows at how extreme they were going with this. I didn’t need my dinner catered, it seemed to be a little bizarre.
My father simply nodded his head, “Yes, no just answer a few things. Turkey or chicken?”
“Who chooses chicken over turkey?” He asked me, seeming baffled by my answer.
“I do,” I casually shrugged my shoulders before waving my hand at him to continue.
He rolled his eyes and looked at the paper in his hands, “Okay...Red wine, or white wine?”
A smile formed on my lips and I responded, leaning back on my chair with my arms folded over my chest, “Red wine.”
Allison loved red wine. I didn’t have a preference. I liked both equally so if I had to choose between the two I would choose red because she adored it. It was the kind of wine I had bought for her birthday back in January and when she tried it for the first time she was blown away. Three glasses in and she was giggling at her new found discovery like it was the most magical thing in the world. So, the obvious choice for my birthday dinner was red wine.
“Red wine it is then,” My father nodded before skimming through his paper, “And finally, the dessert... for your cake, chocolate or vanilla?”
“Vanilla,” I gave him a nod, “Is that all? I have work to do.”
“That’s all of the catering questions, yes.” He folded up the piece of paper and tucked in inside of his jacket pocket, “Will Thomas be attending?”
I sighed softly and shrugged my shoulders slightly. I wanted Thomas to be there but ultimately the choice was up to Alexandra and she was extremely difficult to deal with, “I’m not sure... Alexandra isn’t being exactly cooperative with letting me have him on Saturday.”
“You know, if you didn’t leave her you wouldn’t have this issue, Matthew.” My father scolded me and I wasn’t even surprised to hear the words come from his. It was a daily thing from him so I was becomming used to his lectures by now.
With a quick lift of my head, I looked up at him and narrowed my eyes, “I wasn’t going to stay in a loveless marriage, father. I still get to see Thomas. Of course it isn’t as frequently as I would like but I’m going to see Alexandra after work today and discuss this with her like adults, okay?”
“Loveless or not, you took a vow and you stick with it, Matthew.” My father folded how arms over his chest and shook his head at me, disappointment was clear on his face as he scoffed, “Whether the love goes away or not, you stay in it. I don’t care that you cheated on Alexandra. Go sleep with a different prostitute every night, but at the end of the day you should go home with your wife. With your family.”
I couldn’t believe his perspective on things. It was nearly sickening to think that he agreed with cheating but not with divorce. It seemed that he has his priorities completely backwards and it confused the hell out of me.
I laughed softly, a sarcastic and deep laugh. As I tapped the back of my pen on the desk, I looked back at him amused, “That’s twisted, father. You know, there are things I regret about this situation... I shouldn’t have went behind Alexandra’s back. I should have asked for a divorce before seeing Allison, but regardless of what happened, I still would have ended up divorcing her. Do you know why? Because I was no longer happy with her. Allison makes me happy now.”
I noticed his jaw tighten and it was almost laughable how irritated he was that Allison made me happy. It was almost as though he even wanted to decide who I was with, which was taking things a step too far in my book.
“She’s a phase, Matthew. Just a piece of candy that caught your attention, you’ll get over it soon enough.” He insisted which caused me to roll my eyes. Getting over Allison was something that wouldn’t happen, it was something I knew just by the feelings that she gave me.
“Are you done?” I closed my laptop and raised my eyebrows at him, “I need to get going, so if you don’t mind I’d like for you to stop ranting about my girlfriend.”
My father had managed to fall silent which was miraculous and I took the opportunity to stand up from my desk, pulling on my suit jacket. I took a deep breath as I thought about the day I had ahead of me. Any time I had to see Alexandra it was stressful, she was bitter towards me which I understood completely but I wanted her to put her bitterness aside for our son’s sake. I had intentions on going to Alexandra and discussing the matter further with her, hoping that we could me mature about this. The divorce still wasn’t finalized because we had to go through all of the legal documents of what we were splitting. Within the next month or two it should be all over with.
The sickening part was that my family still wanted me with Alexandra even though they knew that I was unhappy. They didn’t care about my happiness, they only care about keeping face.
I knew the type of person Alexandra was, though. I believed that once I spoke with her that we could work something out and she would be more lenient with me. Face to face interactions are more personal than texts or phone calls, if I were going to do this I had to do it right.
I arrived at Alexandra’s a little while later after stopping by the coffee shop and purchasing her usual latte along with her favorite pastry - a scone. One perk to being married to the woman for nearly five years was that I knew quite a bit about her, hopefully enough to try and get on her good side a little more.
As I parked in the driveway, I walked to the front door with her latte in one hand and the pastry bag in the other, knocking to get her attention. I hadn’t been back to the house since I had all of my things moved, everything looked the same. Everything was well maintained as they always were, then again, Alexandra was the one who had done most of the designing.
A few minutes went by before the door opened and Alexandra stood in front of me, she held on to the side of the door and raised an eyebrow at me, “Matthew... I didn’t know you were coming by.”
I shrugged my shoulders slightly, “Well, if you knew, you wouldn’t have answered the door. Can I come in? I brought you a latte and a scone.”
She hesitated, pursing her lips tightly together before exhaling a long breath and stepping aside for me. As I walked in I noticed that far more renovations had been done to the inside of the house than the outside. The walls had been painted different colors, there were new furniture pieces, she was coping with the divorce by changing the house and I was pleased that she found something that helped her.
The sound of the door closing snapped me out of my thoughts and I turned towards Alexandra. She had her arms folded over her chest, “So, what is it that brought you here today?”
“Can’t I just drop by to say hello?” I attempted a charming smile but I lost that affect on her when I started sleeping with our nanny months ago. I walked to the kitchen and set the latte on the counter, along with the pastry bag.
“Not really. You lost that right when you asked me for a divorce...” She threw back at me quickly and I nodded my head, accepting the hard hit. I deserved that, it was fair. “What do you want, Matthew?”
Finally, I let out a deep breath, “I wanted to talk to you. We really need to discuss this Co-Parenting thing, Alex. We’re doing a pretty crappy job at it...”
“My parenting is fine. Speak for yourself, okay?” Alexandra snorted, an actual fucking snort as though the situation was humorous and when I didn’t give the slightest hint of laughter, she shrugged, “I stayed with our marriage while you ran off with a younger woman. I’m a good mother, I’m still here for him. So all I’m saying is that if you claim that parenting is being done wrong here, that’s on you, not me.”
Unbelievable. She was really saying that I was a bad father just because our marriage didn’t work out. I tried. I put up with money hungry ass for years, and the moment I decide to let myself be happy, she accuses me of being a bad father.
“I’m not a bad father. I’m still here for Thomas but you barely give me the time of day, Alexandra.” I kept my voice even, when what I really wanted to do was raise my voice and flail my arms just to get my point across. This woman still managed of drive me insane and we weren’t even living together anymore. “All I’m asking is that we talk about this, okay? I’d like to spend more time with him. I used to see him every day, Alex.”
“Well, who’s fault is that?” She raised an eyebrow and I clenched my jaw tightly at her words.
She needed to accept that people broke up all the time. I understood why she was hurt and in pain but me not seeing Thomas every day had nothing to do with fault. This isn’t how co-parenting is supposed to work.
“Listen, Matthew. You can have him this weekend, okay?” Alexandra said suddenly and I was waiting for a catch but surprisingly it didn’t come, “I have trouble letting him go because... He keeps me company. When I’m in this big house all alone, it feels so empty and...”
As Alexandra fell silent, I looked away from her a took a deep breath. This house was full of memories but that’s all it was now. Memories. Guilting me wouldn’t make things better but I did feel horrible that she had to deal with those feelings all alone.
“Maybe you should get a small place, Alexandra. I could help you move, and--”
“This is the only familiar thing Thomas has. Consider that.” She spat, seeming to be getting slightly frustrated. I seemed to have hit a nerve so instead of saying anything else I just stopped talking completely and we fell into an awkward silence. Neither of us looked at the other, instead our glances fell on the floor.
I recognized the sound of Thomas’ toy car against the hard wood floor nearing the kitchen and looked towards the door. Just as I did, Thomas appeared in the doorway on his knees with his hand holding his car to the floor. He looked up at me, a big smile forming on his lips as he stood from the floor.
“Daddy!” He ran towards me just as I kept down and captured him in my arms.
“Hey, buddy.” I gave him a tight hug, feeling his arms wrap around my neck and I stood back up, setting Thomas on the counter to become eye level with me, “How’s my favorite boy?”
He laughed with excitement and shrugged his shoulders, “I went to the park with Uncle Brad today and flew a kite.”
I prevented myself from rolling my eyes and forced a smile, “That’s really cool, Tommy. You know, I’d like to take you somewhere. Anywhere you want.”
“Like...” Thomas tapped his his chin thoughtfully while his short legs swung off of the counter, “Disneyland?”
A low chuckle escaped my lips and I nodded, “Like Disneyland. If you want to go, we’ll go.”
His eyes widened in surprise as he looked towards Alexandra in shock, “Mommy! Disneyland!”
The smile that Alexandra managed was obviously fake, but at least she tried. “Maybe sometime, sweetie.”
Thomas smiled at his mom, pleased that she didn’t say no and then he turned his attention back to me. The look on his face was a look that peered right through my soul and literally tugged at every string on my heart, “Daddy?”
I raised my eyebrows at him, “Yeah, buddy?”
He tilted his head to the side, “Are you home forever now?”
Explaining this to a two and a half year old child was the hardest part, he didn’t understand this so the best I could do was try to tell him how things were in the simplest way. But even so, it wasn’t an easy task. This was my little boy and although I had thought this entire thing through I still felt like I was letting him down somehow, he was too young to understand that if I stayed with his mom without loving her, that I’d really be doing more damage than I was doing right now.
“Tommy, you know daddy has a new house...” I began to explain, noticing Thomas’ eyes staying firmly on mine, “You’ve been there, remember? Daddy doesn’t live here anymore.”
His gaze moved from mine and he looked at his lap, nodding slowly. He stopped swinging his feet and mumbled quietly, “Are you still going to be my daddy?”
My brows furrowed instantly, instantly moving my hands to Thomas’ shoulders, “Hey, I’m always going to be your daddy. Always. Okay? Thomas, I’m always going to be here for you. Just because I don’t live here, that doesn’t mean that I’m not your daddy. You want to know a secret?”
Thomas stared up at me, seeming eager to hear what the secret was, “Okay.”
“You’re really special to me. You’re the most special person in my life, do you know why?” I asked him.
He seemed confused, “Why?”
I smiled at him, “Because you’re my son. My only son. And my only child. I have more than one car. I’ve had more than one house. I have more than one sibling, but I have only one kid... And that’s you, Thomas. That makes you really, really special. You’re irreplaceable.”
Within a second, the confusion left his face and was replaced with an expression of pure joy. Thomas’ eyes lit up and he smiled big, showing his teeth, “Wow, I’m really special. Aren’t I, daddy?”
I pressed a kiss on his forehead and nodded slowly, “You have no idea. And guess what buddy?” As I pulled away from him, I gave him an excited grin, “You’re coming with daddy to grandma and grandpa’s this weekend. It’s daddy’s birthday and we’re going to have a lot of fun.”
“All weekend?” Thomas beamed.
I glanced towards Alexandra, not knowing my boundaries in this situation. Alexandra cleared her throat before nodding her head, “Yes. You’re going with daddy all weekend. And then you’ll come back to mommy on Sunday, okay?”
A feeling of relief settled in my stomach knowing that I would have Thomas for the entire weekend. I would take advantage of every moment with him and make use of the time. It was insane how fast my little boy was growing up and I didn’t want to miss out on any part of that.
“Thank you, Alexandra.” I gave her a little nod and looked back at Thomas, “I have to go now, but I’ll see you on Friday, okay?” Thomas nodded his head and I pulled out my wallet from my back pocket, opening it up and taking out a twenty dollar bill for him. “Next time you go for ice cream you can buy for you and mommy, okay?”
Thomas quickly nodded his head and accepted the bill from my hand, “Okay, daddy. I will.”
“That’s my boy,” I winked at him proudly and picked him up from the counter to set him back on the floor before turning to face Alexandra, “I’ll call you before I come and pick him up on Friday. Thank you again, Alex. I appreciate this.”
Alexandra nodded slowly, taking Thomas’ hand, “Just don’t bring her anywhere near my house. Are we clear?”
Of course I wouldn’t be inconsiderate enough to bring Allison with me when I came to get Thomas, especially after their last encounter. The last thing I wanted was Alexandra and Allison to interact with one another. It was more for Allison’s sake than Alexandra’s. Alexandra hated Allison more than I even knew was possible.
“It’ll just be me.” I nodded as headed out of the kitchen, making my way towards the front door.
This co-parenting thing could be so much easier if Alexandra would just cooperate like this all of the time. Even if we could alternate weekends and I could have Thomas for a few hours during the week days, everything would work out fine. This could be the first step to a perfect system.
After saying goodbye to Thomas and Alexandra one final time, I headed back outside to my car and took out my cellphone. I scrolled through my contacts, selecting Allison’s name and waited for her to answer my call.
“My day just got a million times better because you called me,” Her voice rang through my ear as she answered and I chuckled in response.
“Wow, that much of an affect, huh?” I opened the car door and sat inside, closing it again as I made myself comfortable. I pulled on my seat belt, holding my cellphone between my ear and my shoulder, “How’s your day going, baby?”
I heard her sigh before she responded, “It’s okay, I have plenty to tell you.”
“That’s good, we’ll have a lot to talk about over dinner then,” I smiled to myself and put my key in the ignition, starting my car, “I’m taking you out tonight. Il Fiore. That amazing Italian restaurant, remember?”
We both loved Italian so it was a restaurant we both would enjoy, it was also the same restaurant I had bought food from and brought to Allison’s old apartment on our first unofficial date. It had some sort of significance in my mind.
“Ouu,” I heard her coo over the phone, imagining her smile in my mind, “What’s the occasion?”
“Does there have to be an occasion for me to take you to dinner, Allison?” I chuckled lightly, shaking my head to myself. “I’ll pick you up at 7:00, be ready to spend the night at my place, okay?”
Our evenings together usually did result in staying at one another’s place, but a little reminder didn’t hurt and with what I had in mine I was sure that we would celebrate. I had something to give Allison and waiting six months seemed like a reasonable time, all I needed was for her to accept it.
I heard her harmonious laughter before she agreed to dinner tonight, “Okay, I’ll see you at seven. If you’re even a minute late, I’m changing into my pajamas and staying in to watch Netflix.”
Her joked amused me, so I chuckled along with it, “Babe, I’ll be early. Tonight’s a good night.”
It was a good night, too. We managed to get a table outside which at the end of April in the Spring weather was stunning. Since we had shown up at the restaurant before sunset we would be dining while the sunset happened which would be gorgeous. A gorgeous view, a gorgeous restaurant, and an even more gorgeous woman. It was a perfect evening, though every evening spent with Allison was perfect.
She still managed to amaze me in every way, she wasn’t used to being gifted things or admired. To an extent it bothered me that she had been so deprived of the affection she deserved and on the other hand I was happy to be the first one to show her love. Because God damn, I love this woman with every breath in my body.
I watched her from across the table, she looked absolutely stunning tonight. Her long blonde hair was curled and falling down her shoulders, while she wore a pale blue dress that hugged her curves beautifully.
Stunning wasn’t even a strong enough word to express just how vibrant she was in my eyes.
I watched as she twirled the restaurant’s famous spaghetti around her fork and examined it before sliding the fork into her mouth, “Mmm...”
She closed her eyes, groaning in response to the taste of the spaghetti. A habit I had quickly noticed about her was that if she liked something she would basically moan in appreciation. I shouldn’t be so turned on at dinner but with her making noises like that, it made things extremely difficult.
“I assume you like it?” I asked her in a teasing tone. My eyes staying on her lips as she swallowed the remaining food in her mouth.
Allison nodded in response and smiled at me, “It’s delicious. The best spaghetti I’ve ever tasted in my life.”
“I kind of got the idea when you started moaning,” I shot her a wink, reaching for my wine glass and taking a sip.
Before I could react she reached across the table and smacked my arm, “I was not moaning!”
I laughed as a red blush began to cover her cheeks and I couldn’t hide the smirk that fell on my lips. “I for one know the sound of your moans very well, sweetheart.”
“Matt...” She covered her face with her hands, laughing softly. As she peeked through her fingers at me I could see her cheeks pushing upwards from smiling.
I couldn’t stop staring at her. There was no way any woman in the world could compare to Allison. I had once thought the same thing about Alexandra, that was one thing I was clear about but this time was different. I was mature and taking things slowly rather than rushing into serious situations. At this point in to mine and Alexandra’s relationship we were already engaged. Then married one year into our relationship, we happened to be two young lovers so infatuated that we jumped instead of thinking.
Allison and I were enjoying our relationship without rushing into the serious stages. I was certain that it would come eventually, but when the time was right and properly thought through.
“Look, baby... I want to talk to you about something.” I scratched my chin, clearing my throat slightly, “Well, it’s a question, really. So, I guess what I really need is to ask you something.”
As she removed her hands from her face, she raised an eyebrow curiously, “If it’s about the job hunt, I know I’ve been failing miserably and I’m really sorry I’ve been depending on you so much... Amber offered that I move back in with her again, just so you’re not having to pick up my slack. At least until I have my own job and can pay for my apartment on my own.”
“Allison, come on. You don’t think I care about paying for you apartment, do you?” I asked, feeling slightly disappointed that she would assume that. I wanted to do that for her, I wanted her to be able to depend on me.
Allison shook her head instantly, “No, but I...”
“The apartment is becoming a bit of an issue, however.” I smirked at her, reaching into my jacket pocket but keeping my eyes on her confused ones, “I mean, paying for an apartment that I’m not living in? It seems like we could be more conservative. Don’t you think?”
“I guess so, I mean... There was this ad in the paper for a--” Allison began to speak but I chuckled, realizing that she wasn’t getting my hint at all, so I would just have to come right out and ask her.
“Allison, move in with me.” I said blatantly. Moving my hand out of my pocket, I set a spare key on the table right in the center where she could see in.
Her lips parted slightly in surprise and her green eyes stared at the key in the middle of the table. As she tucked a curl behind her ear, she looked over at me and spoke softly, “You want to live together? Like... full time?”
Was she hesitant or just really surprised?
I nodded my head and motioned towards the key, “That’s what the key is for... I mean, we spend most nights together anyway. If you want your own room, we can arrange that but I’m pretty confident that you would end up in my bed by the end of the night anyway.”
A smirk played on my lips and I could see a grin working it’s way to hers, “Wow, someone seems pretty cocky.”
“It’s confidence, Allison... I’m confident about us. Are you?” I raised an eyebrow at her, attempting to maintain my confidence but for the first time in years I had been starting fresh.
This was all brand new. I would have to do everything over again. The dating, the moving in, engagement and marriage. I was okay with all of that because I know exactly how I feel about Allison, but regardless of what I feel it didn’t make me any less nervous about the possibility of her changing her mind about me.
Maybe she would change her mind about be and realize that I had too much baggage that she couldn’t handle. Or maybe my family and Alexandra’s constant personal digs would become too much. Alexandra had even gone to the point of making it difficult for Allison to get a job, god knows what else Alexandra would do to seek revenge on Allison.
I wasn’t sure how much Allison would be able to take and I was afraid that this was only the beginning.
My eyes followed Allison’s hand as it reached for the key in the center of the table. Her eyes were glistening over the candle light and she was smiling from ear to ear, “I’m very confident in us, Matt. You shouldn’t have to ask me that...”
“I just like being sure,” I let out a soft, uneasy laugh. I didn’t want her to see my vulnerable side because she had no idea how vulnerable she made me.
Allison held up the key, waving it slightly, “You better make room for all of my things because... the answer is yes.”
“Yes?” I raised an eyebrow, reaching for Allison’s free hand across the table and as she accepted my hand I intertwined our fingers, “So I suppose we can call it our house now.”
“It’s still your house, Matt. You own it. I’ll just be a guest,” She answered while playing with my fingers but I was quick to pull my hand from hers.
As my hand reached her face I tilted her chin so she was looking at me, “We’re in a relationship, Allison. When two people in a relationship move in together, the house becomes both of theirs. I want you to feel like it’s your home too, okay?”
She nodded her head and smiled at me, “Our home.”
Surely my family wouldn’t agree with this change in living arrangements, but I could care less what they thought. Mine and Allison’s relationship was none of their concern. This was our life and I wasn’t going to live it worrying about what they thought. I had full intentions on having a very steady, public, and happy relationship with Allison. Soon enough they would have to accept that she was my girlfriend and that wouldn’t change.