394,619
07.03.2019

"Because I like you. And Mommy says it’s nice to do things that make people happy. I want you to be happy."

All I could do was sit there and stare at him. I got it now. I got why Claire hadn't crumbled when she found out she was pregnant, why she dropped out of college and gave up everything for this little boy. I suddenly realized that my heart was sitting there on my lap and even though I wasn't here for the first four years of his life, I loved him unconditionally simply because he was mine. He was a part of me. I knew without a doubt, I would give my life to make sure he was safe. I wrapped my arms around his little body, hoping he didn't still think of me as a stranger and would let me hug him.

He leaned into me without hesitation and I rested my forehead against his.

"Buddy, I am already the happiest guy in the world," I told him softly.

Gavin stared at me for a few minutes and then pulled his other arm out from behind his back. “Good, then after you read that one, you can read this one.

I pulled away from him and glanced down in his hand at a book titled “The Vagina Monologues”.

After we left the library, I took Gavin to get ice cream and then we headed back to Claire’s house. True to form, Gavin talked the whole way home and I started to wonder if he was like a record player that was skipping and maybe I needed to smack the side of him to get him to stop.

I resisted the urge. Barely.

When we got back to the house, I sat down on the couch and Gavin grabbed a photo album from one of the end table drawers and curled up on my lap with it. He flipped through all of the pages, explaining each picture to me. I saw every single birthday, Christmas, Halloween and everything in between that I missed, and with Gavin's commentary about each event, it almost felt like I had been there.

I also learned quite a few things about Claire. Like the fact she has cousin she can't stand.

"That's Heather. She's mommy's cousin. Mommy says she's a whore," Gavin said, pointing at the group photo that looked like it was taken at some sort of family reunion.

I also learned that Gavin seemed to have a penchant for squirting things all over the house, showcased by at least five pages in the photo album. I guess I should have taken a picture of the toothpaste incident a few weeks ago.

"Gavin, how come there are so many pictures of you making messes?" I asked as I flipped to the next page that showed a picture of him sitting on the kitchen floor in a pile of coffee grounds, cereal, oatmeal and what looked like syrup. "I hope you cleaned up all this stuff for mommy."

"Cleaning is ridiculous," he replied.

Considering the current state of my own home, I couldn't really argue that fact.

We continued to look at the rest of the pictures in that album and four others before I noticed that Gavin was unusually quiet on my lap. I glanced down and saw that he had fallen asleep sitting up. I awkwardly scooped my hands under his legs and carried him to his room exactly how he fell asleep – with his back against my chest and his legs dangling down off of my hands. I knew there was some sort of rule about "never wake a sleeping baby" and I figured that had to apply to toddlers as well since they could get into much more trouble than a baby.

After getting him tucked into bed, I came back out into the living room and relaxed on the couch. I turned on the TV, flipping through the channels until I found something to watch. An hour later, right when I started to doze off, my phone buzzed for probably the tenth time since I left the house earlier with Gavin. I smiled as I pulled my phone out of my pocket, knowing it would be Claire again.

How's it going? Is everything ok? ~ Claire

I couldn't even be offended that she was so worried. It was understandable. Surprisingly, being alone with Gavin wasn't bad at all. He was really well behaved, better than any child I had ever been around.

Perfect. Gavin just got his first lap dance. He’s hopped up on Red Bull and

crack right now and I found out he doesn't like whiskey. ~Carter

I laughed to myself and hit send. My phone buzzed immediately with her reply, like I knew it would.

I hope you at least sprang for the hot chick and not some butter face with VD.

And your son prefers vodka, like his mother. ~Claire

My laugh at her reply was so loud I glanced down the hall to make sure it didn't wake Gavin. I quickly typed a reply back. Even though she made a joke, I knew without a doubt she was masking a tiny bit of fear.

Everything is fine, Mom. Same as it was five minutes ago when you asked 😉 ~Carter

My phone buzzed not five seconds later.

Oh shut up! It's not him I'm worried about. I was afraid you were duct taped to

a chair or had your head shaved by now. ~Claire

The doorbell rang and as I got up to find out who it was, I quickly sent off another text letting her know that our son was not able to overpower me.

Yet.

I opened the door to find Drew standing there with a box in his hands.

"What are you doing here?" I asked.

Drew pushed past me into the house.

"Nice to see you too, pig f**ker. I've got all of Claire’s flyers, brochures and whatever other shit Jenny was doing for her. She asked me to drop them off here for her. What are you doing here? And why are you still wearing the same clothes from last night? Did you finally bump uglies with your MILF?"

I took the box out of his hand and rolled my eyes at him.

"Will you shut up already, dick? Gavin is sleeping."

Drew looked past me towards Gavin's room.

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