Heath successfully finished his first day of junior year. He made it out the school doors without homework and survived practice under the sweltering sun. But to label this day as complete he had to execute one more task. This task was going to be far worst than waking up at six in the morning. It was going to be more horrendous than talking to Taylor without showing his more than platonic feelings while his best friend tried to win her back. It was more frightening than doing two-a-days without water breaks in protective gear.
He drove downtown facing rush hour traffic because this had to be done, today. There would be no keeping it in one more day; sleeping on it. He needed to get it out, out of his mind and off his chest. So, as he stood in an office in City Hall he had two more seconds to form the words around in his mind before his senator mother asked him the question again.
The corner office on the second floor was cozy with warm earthy browns and crisp simple whites. Andrea Caldwell sat behind her generically corporate mahogany desk in a no frill black pantsuit, with her brown hair in a classic ponytail and micro-mini silver hoops. Her deep-set brown eyes intently watched her eldest and only son fidgety standing in front of her.
“I said what is it Heath? I have work to do. I would like to get home. Your father’s making his famous lasagna.” Andrea spoke as her tolerance for nonsense was wearing thin.
“Okay, I’m just going to say it. I’m almost seventeen. I have to be a man.” Heath proclaimed flipping through the copious apps on his phone until he reached the camera app.
“Be a man about what?” Andrea asked pushing her chair back tensing up. “Did you get another ticket? That’ll be five now, Heath! Know what that means? Bye-bye Jeep.” She waved.
“I didn’t get a ticket,” Heath said shaking his head. “I wish it was a ticket. My life would be so much easier.”
“Then what is this about?”
“When we went to visit you in DC this summer I took Josh to the mall, to see the Lincoln Memorial and stuff.” His palms started to sweat as he flipped through the stream of pictures.
“Okay. I’m following.” Andrea assured. She remembered the trip. It was four weeks ago. Her husband John surprised her showing up with the kids on her doorsteps in the early morning before the sun rose.
Heath stopped swiping his finger on the screen. “We took some pics and I thought this one was great.” He dragged the picture out enlarging it to the size of the screen. “Josh wanted it to be his profile pic.”
“You lost me. Is this about Josh’s Facebook page?”
“Hear me out! I’m getting to the point.” Heath knew he was procrastinating but he didn’t want to do this. He didn’t want to show this because when he did it was going to be real; not something he could put away and forget. “We loved the pic until we saw the background.” He handed his mother the phone.
Andrea went breathless as she saw herself on the picture amidst a gaggle of tourist in baseball caps and matching red t-shirts that read Walcott Family Reunion. Heath wasn’t supposed to be out that early. It was 10:02 in the morning and he was always a late riser. In the summer, his eyes never opened until about noon. Now, her heart pounded to the rhythm of a drumroll. He wasn’t supposed to be there, she repeated in her head. He never was supposed to be apart of her other life. The two were to always be ships passing in the night.
“You have nothing to say?” Heath asked. His adrenaline was rushing. His stomach did somersaults like a gymnast doing a floor routine. “Deny that it isn’t you! Tell me that I’m confused, mistaken! Tell me anything! Tell me my mom wasn’t making out with her intern!”
She wanted to deny it. This conversation would be so much simpler if she could. If she could just tell him you didn’t see what you thought you saw. I wasn’t in the mall giving in to temptation; allowing a third-year law student to cling to my waist and kiss my longing lips. If she said that it would be a lie.
“It’s not what you think!” Andrea affirmed.
“You mean I didn’t see my mom kissing her intern!” His shoulder muscles tighten. His anger shot through the roof. He thought she was going to deny it, lie to him. He would’ve believed the lie. He wanted the lie; forget the truth. The lie was a Band-Aid for his bruised feelings holding together the façade of his perfect family. The truth left the wound open, bleeding out, festering for all to see.
“It’s over! I was ending it!” Andrea pleaded keeping a hushed tone. The door was closed so she couldn’t see who was lurking in the hall.
“So, It was a goodbye kiss?”
“Yes. I’m not seeing him anymore.”
“It was a goodbye kiss to a relationship. You were in a relationship when dad was at home with us!” His temper inched up into the triple digits. He was livid thinking over all the days his dad nearly killed himself to prepare breakfast for them, get them to school, go to work, rush back to prepare dinner, and staying relevant in their daily lives and dramas.
Andrea looked down at the phone that had gone black. “That’s not a conversation I’m having with you, Heath. That’s between me and your father.”
“You brought me in it when you became background fodder in my shot!” Heath shouted blowing up.
“Don’t talk to me that way! I’m your mother!” Andrea yelled back leaning over the desk. She no longer cared who was listening. He was overstepping his bounds and forgetting who she was.
“Now, you’re my mother.” Heath lightly smiled nodding his head. “Well tell me this mom….-how many months are you?”
“What?” Andrea asked stunned. This was a gut shot. She was hurt.
“How many months are you?” Heath asked pulling out a plastic bag from his back pocket with a pregnancy test in it. “It’s not Lauren’s. She had her cycle last week. So, how many months are you?”
“I don’t know.” Andrea answered shame cloaking her face. She took the test two days ago. She just made the doctor’s appointment this morning.
“Is it dad’s?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” She felt a little lower, lower than a worm slithering through the dirt. She had sex with both of them in the same day, her husband and her lover: one out of love, the other out of lust.
“So, you had sex with the twenty-four-year-old. You full on cheated on dad. After all, he did for you.” Heath said as the anger lifted from his body leaving betrayal in its wake. He remembered when his father stopped his dream of starting a private practice so she could use the money for her campaign.
“I’m not having this conversation! I’m not having this conversation with you Heath!” Andrea was done. She wanted this confrontation to be over.
“I don’t want to have this conversation either but if you don’t have this conversation with dad before tomorrow; I’ll have it with him.”
“Are you giving me an ultimatum?” Andrea asked narrowing her eyes.
Heath ran his hand through his hair lightly pulling on it at the ends. “It’s reality.” He flung the plastic bag in the trash before storming out the office.
It was off his mind and off his chest. Sadly, it was replaced by new questions. Was the baby his father’s? Was the relationship really over? Were his parents getting a divorce? If they did, which parent would he live with? And could he forgive his mom for what she did?