Mortal Bonds

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Authors: Michael Sears
for us remained to be seen. She was due to leave in two weeks.
    “Maybe it could be your house wine, and I’d come over and drink it.” She gave a brave smile. We were having the same thoughts.
    “Fair enough. Can I go back to talking about your legs now? I can be eloquent—or try, at least.”
    She smiled, mollified for the moment. “You may continue.”
    I froze. There was no other word for it. Handed the opening with which to salvage a beautiful night and a most agreeable ending, I stood at the helm and drove our ship directly onto the rocks. All hands lost.
    I took a bite of duck. I couldn’t taste it.
    “Well,” I began, and with no clear plan in mind, forged ahead. “You have a mercurial emotional spirit. Ever-changing. Unpredictable. Laughter, tears, passion—all at once. It can be terrifying, mesmerizing, and majestic.” It sounded nothing like Skeli.
    She stared at me, head cocked to one side. “That sounds nothing like me,” she finally said.
    It sounded just like my ex-wife.
    “From everything you’ve ever told me,” she continued, “it sounds exactly like Angie.”
    My tongue seemed to have grown to three times its normal size. Maybe I could choke on it and die. Anything was better than trying to explain a faux pas I did not understand myself.
    “That is a very weird thing to say, Jason.” She placed her knife and fork down on her plate.
    “Let me take another shot at it. I can do better.”
    Not even another guy would have bought into that line.
    “What’s wrong?” she said. “I mean, I know what’s wrong, but what else is wrong? Is there something else we should be talking about?” She sounded reasonable and straightforward, and I was dumb enough to fall for it.
    “It’s not really that big a deal.”
    She nodded as though she understood. It should have been a warning alarm.
    “Angie called. She’s coming to New York. She wants to visit with the Kid. Try to reconnect.” Having the bad news out there where we could both look at it felt a lot better than holding it back.
    But as my father had once said, “If you feel good giving somebody bad news, you fucked up.”
    “And you’re going to let her?” Skeli said.
    This was not an unreasonable question. Angie’s care of our boy had been one step short of child abuse. But there was, in my opinion, one overriding opposing argument.
    “She’s his mother.”
    “Mother crocodiles just eat their young.”
    “Actually, they don’t. It just looks that way.” Now I was defending crocodile mothers. Skeli gave me the look that said “You’re an idiot.” She had a point. “I can’t keep her away. She has visitation rights. If I tried, she’d have me in court in a heartbeat. I’m not going down that road again.”
    After kidnapping my son, Angie and her abusive co-dependent drinking buddy—aka her second husband—had been stopped by the police and the FBI in Virginia, where, the next day, Angie had convinced a draconian Family Court judge to turn over the Kid and grant her full custody. It had been the worst day of my life.
    Skeli was nodding as I talked, but whether in sympathy, understanding, or impatience, I could not be sure. “When?”
    “When did she call? Last night.”
    “No. When is she coming?”
    “Tuesday. She’s bringing her mother and brother. They’re going to stay for two weeks and go back. She sublet a furnished apartment on Central Park West.”
    “Wait. You said
going to stay. How long is
staying in town?”
    That was the bigger news. I might have gotten away with calling a quick visit “no big deal,” but Angie had rented the place for a month.
    “A month.”
    “A month!”
    “Or less.”
    “She wants you back.”
    Too terrifying to bear thinking about. “No.”
    “You’re an idiot. Sorry, let me rephrase that. This kind of thing is not what you are good at. Better? Trust me, she wants you back.”
    “When she signed over sole custody to me, she was at one of her many low points.

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