Authors: Isla Jordan
“That was a long time ago.”
I agreed, but things didn’t have to be different, “I miss that, I miss you.”
I always loved how she called me Jonathan when everyone used my nickname. It made me feel real. I didn’t want to be Nate anymore. I wanted to be Jonathan. Her Jonathan. That thought pushed me to do something I had told myself I wouldn’t, which was rush things. I found myself on the other side of the table, placing my hands on her soft neck as I proceeded to kiss her. My tongue explored her sweet mouth as I deepened our kiss, every memory flooding my thoughts as I tried to create a new one.
“You never hid things from me before, Katie. Whatever it is, you know you can tell me.”
She sighed, “I just don’t want to see that look on your face too.”
“The one everyone in this town gives me. You wouldn’t understand; they worship you.”
She turned away from me, and I couldn’t stop myself from going to comfort her.
“What happened Katie?”
She was quiet for a while, and I waited patiently. For some reason, it pained me to think that she wasn’t happy in any way and that her life wasn’t how she thought it would be. I remembered how she had always wanted to be a singer ever since she was a kid, and how talented she was. If anyone deserved to make it, it was Katie, and I wasn’t saying that just because I was biased either. It was then I realized my crush wasn’t going away anytime soon, and I was okay with that.
“I work in a diner, Jonathan, and a bad one too. It’s the worst cliché ever!”
“No, you can’t say anything to make it better. We always talked about how our lives would be after we moved away from here and at least you've made something of yourself.”
I was about to say something when her phone rang, and she looked panicked as she answered it.
“Adam, is everything alright?”
Adam? I quickly moved away to give her space but also because I wasn’t sure how I felt about this Adam. Was he a boyfriend? If so then why had she kissed me like that? I knew she was too good for me, despite what she thought, and I couldn’t help but think that maybe this Adam guy was better suited for her than me.
“What?!” She suddenly exclaimed, making me worry, “Okay, I’ll be right there.”
She hung up and looked for her purse, not saying anything about the phone call.
“Katie, what’s wrong?”
“I have to go.”
“I get that, but why? Is everything okay?”
I didn’t expect her answer, not even a little, “My daughter is hurt.”
Daughter? She had a daughter? I felt frozen in my spot.
I was still thanking my lucky stars that the day Jonathan drove me over to Adam’s, Caitlin was sleeping already. I had her wrapped in a blanket, so he didn’t get a good look at her. I knew if he had seen her blue eyes so like his own, he would have known right away. Unfortunately, I had been stupid enough to give him my number, and he had been calling me every night for the past week. I wasn’t complaining; I looked forward to those calls. Then calls had birthed the visits to my workplace, much to my boss’ dismay.
“I won’t take no for an answer, Katherine. You have to have dinner with me, or I will keep showing up at your job until you agree.”
“I don’t have to do anything,” I pointed out. “And you can’t keep pretending the coffee here isn’t horrible.”
“No, but since I am begging you, can you really say no to this face?” He gave me his best wounded look.
“Well, when you put it that way, how can I say no?” I laughed.
“My point exactly!”
“You are impossible.”
“I’m adorable,” he grinned, “and I promise you won’t regret having dinner with me.”
I looked at my watch, “I have to go now, see you later okay?”
He surprised me with a quick kiss on the cheek which oddly made me look forward to dinner tonight.
I was on the phone with Helen when I heard a knock. I frowned as I went to open it, knowing Adam never knocked.
“Jonathan?” I almost dropped my phone, and Helen screamed into the phone which Jonathan I was talking about.
The culprit in question just winked and kissed my cheek as he walked past me into the small living room. I quickly told Helen I would call her back and turned to do some damage control. Caitlin was in the living room, playing with her dolls. And Jonathan was looking at her like he had seen a ghost. I realized he was holding some paper bags with some food inside. He meant to surprise me with dinner and instead got a surprise himself. Great!
“How old is she?” his voice was so quiet, but I heard him loud and clear, hesitating in giving him an honest answer.
“And where is her father?”
I don’t know what the hell pushed me to say Adam’s name. This night could not get any worse!
The little girl looked up at me, and I knew, she was mine. There was no way she couldn’t be, not with those purplish blue eyes and that dark hair. Not when the age fit and Katherine’s behavior when it came to her daughter explained everything. She never wanted me to come over and refused to tell me anything about her. It was because she had been hiding her from me! I felt tears well in my eyes. This beautiful little creation was mine. I blinked away the liquid evidence of my emotions and forced a smile.
“So Adam, huh?”
She nodded nervously and looked away so I couldn’t read her eyes. I didn’t need to. I knew she was lying.
“The two of you were together even back then?”
“No, and we are not together now, it was just one night. You were gone, and I was…upset.”
I nodded as if in understanding, at least the last part sounded real and genuine. It had hurt leaving her too, but we were both so young and hadn’t talked about a future beyond our night together. But I knew there was no way Adam could be the father of this child because I also knew the mother very well. She wasn’t the type of girl that would just be with someone she didn’t have feelings for, and she certainly didn’t look at Adam the way she looked at me.
“So why does he let you take care of Catlin all by yourself?”
I had her there because she stammered her way through a response and spun some story about how she didn’t want anything from him. But I had seen the way the man was with that little girl, and there was no way he would have accepted those terms if Caitlin was truly his child. I also knew that Katherine wouldn’t deny her daughter a better life if the means were available. She should have thought of a better story than using Adam!
My heartbeat increased as I saw how scared Katherine looked, it was indeed true. I was her daughter’s father, our daughter. The thought both thrilled me and angered me at the same time. Four years and Katherine had kept this from me, as if I had no right to our child and didn’t even deserve to know. There was only one thing I could do, leave. I needed some air and some time to soak it all in. It was all too much, and I felt like my head was about to implode. So leave I did.
The next three days were spent ignoring Katherine’s calls, and when she finally came over to the house, Helen had found out. She had taken it surprising well, telling me I was wasting time hiding away when I should have been over at Katherine’s romancing her and getting to know my daughter. She was more excited about being an aunt, and I had to stop her from going over to Katherine’s to see Caitlin. The entire family needed to wait until I had made peace with all of this.
On the fourth day, I waited until I knew Katherine had returned from her second job, something I was so not okay with. I didn’t want to push her because I knew how stubborn and independent she was, but I didn’t want her working at all. Not when I had enough money to take care of both of them so that they would never want for anything. So when I got to her house, she had called Adam over to babysit while we took a walk.
“Why?” I finally asked as I couldn’t think of anything else to say, that one word was enough.
Tears had welled in her big, brown eyes and she was shaking her head vigorously, “Don’t.”
I raised a brow at that and watched as she furiously wiped her now wet face. Her tears wouldn’t stop me from demanding answers. Nothing would. It was taking all I had not to rush to her home right now to get that little girl. Funny how I had never thought of having children before and now suddenly I was feeling like a desperate parent and just wanted to be with my daughter.
“It’s not like I had any other choice!” she shouted angrily.
I laughed bitterly, “You really don’t believe that, do you?”
“You want to know what I believe?!”
“I’m asking, aren’t I?” I shot back.
“I believe a girl should have her father in her life. He should tell her there are no monsters under the bed and read her bedtime stories. But not when it would cost him his dreams!”
I opened my mouth then closed it again, wait, what? What was Katherine going on about? Cost me my dreams?
She sighed and wiped her eyes again, “You were twenty-one, Jonathan, and you had your whole career ahead of you. I knew if I told you about the pregnancy you would want to be there every step of the way.”
“Yeah, so? How does any of that affect my career?” I frowned.
She shook her head, “You don’t understand. I was on bed rest half the time when I was pregnant with Caitlin. Would you have traveled and left me behind? When she was born, you would have wanted to be there for every second and not concentrated on your training. I didn’t want for you ever to have to choose between us and your career, not when you would end up resenting me for it. You know what my parents said when I told them? That I had just gone and ruined both our lives!”
I understood it now, her decision not to tell me. I didn’t understand it actually, but I understood her and her fears. I didn’t agree, nor did I like it, but I understood. My poor Katie, she must have been so scared.
“Why didn’t you ever try to reach out to me after, even after I had a stable career? We could have worked something out.”
She smiled sadly, “Fear, I guess. I saw how you lived your life, the women you dated, and I was afraid of rejection. A big part of me was terrified that I didn’t know you anymore, and you might not want to be a father. Not knowing was better than that possibility.”
“Katie, I would never!”
I took her hands in mine, and she nodded, her eyes filling with tears again, “I know that now, I’m so sorry.”
I leaned in and gave a small kiss, which turned heated fast as I felt her desperation mirror mine. Hers to know that I forgave her and mine to show her that all that mattered now was her and our daughter. I couldn’t undo the past nor could I get any of the last three years back, but I could get the rest of Caitlin’s life.
“You are stupid,” I whispered against her lips as we drew apart.
She laughed and nodded.
“It wasn’t your decision to make. Playing football would never have kept me from being a good father, or from being there for you. You didn’t have to do it alone, not when you had to give up your dreams too to do it.”
“What your parents said, they were wrong. You wouldn’t have ruined our lives. I’m the one who should have been responsible. I was older and should have known better than to put you at risk like that.”
She laughed, “Well, I’m glad you did.”
“Yeah, but we could have had Caitlin much later when we were both ready, and you didn’t have to put your entire life on hold to provide for our daughter.”
“It’s alright Jonathan-”
“No, it’s not. I’m mad at you for not asking for some support, what good is my career if you have to work two crappy jobs to put a roof over our daughter’s head?”
She tried to argue again, but I had a much better use for her mouth. I was still mad at her, but I was so happy at the same time and just needed to kiss her. We kissed for what seemed like ages until she finally pushed me away, laughing.
“I still need to breathe, Jonathan!”
“I believe you owe me big, and you need to make it up to me for the next four years.”
I was dead serious. We had a lot of time to make up.
“Do I now?” she raised a brow.
“Yes, and I have a few ideas on how you will do that. But right now, let’s tell our daughter she’s getting a dad this year for Christmas.”
“She will be so excited to hear that. I’m sure I can find a six foot three box somewhere, but you won’t fit under the tree, though,” the look on Katherine’s face was adorable as she pretended to think about the idea.
I laughed, “No need for a box.”
“Really, why’s that?”
“Because I will be in mom’s bed, and you are getting a boyfriend for Christmas.”
She laughed and shook her head as she took my hand in hers and we went back to our baby.
He drew back and locked his eyes on mine, making me weak all over again.
“Tell me yes.”