Gary’s birthday came around much too fast. Between work and catching up with housework time had flown by, and before I knew it I was throwing him a birthday party.
Grandma and Grandpa Milan were thrilled to spend the day with us, and showered him with presents. I loved having them here, but nice as it was it drove home the truth that Emery should have celebrated with us. Mum and Momma should have been here, too, but I hurt the most for Emery. At least my parents had died of old age, after having lived a long, fulfilled life. Emery never got that chance.
Gary would have many questions, and I had no idea how to answer some of them. Would he be too young to understand what happened to his father? Would it scar him? How on earth was I supposed to explain why his great-grandparents looked younger than I did?
I had never been as aware of time as I was on his birthday. My memory of Emery was fading, and it didn’t seem real that he had been gone for five years already. That Mum had been gone for five years.
That, while I was still young, my own grandparents looked younger than me. That my baby was no longer a baby, but a little boy who would start school soon.
Time seemed to be slipping through my fingers, and it scared me.
Grandma and Grandpa stood around the crip with me, and the three of us sang together.
“Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Gary… Happy Birthday to you!”
Gary looked so much like his father I couldn’t believe the resemblance at first. Emery’s sun-kissed skin, his bright eyes, even his brown hair – Gary could have been his twin. He had my nose, but it was impossible not to see his father in him.
I smiled. Even though my memory of Emery was fading, Gary would always be a perfect reminder.
Grandma and Grandpa stayed for cake and dinner. Gary was busy trying out his new toys and everything else around the house, which gave us a chance to talk.
“Any news?” I asked Grandma while Grandpa Milan introduced my five-year old to chess in the garden.
She shook her head. “Not yet. He’s trying, Soph. He’ll be over as soon as he knows something, I promise. And didn’t I tell you not to worry?”
Suddenly I found it hard to swallow my chilli. It had gotten easier over the years, but the feeling that I had caused Emery’s death still haunted me at times. Especially at night, when I couldn’t sleep and my mind wandered without my permission. If I hadn’t fallen for Emery, he would still be alive. I knew that Grandma was right – he had known the risks when he had joined the force – but it was my fault that he had gotten mixed up in this mess. Maybe, if I hadn’t involved him and told him about the notes and that someone had been in my house, he wouldn’t have come to my rescue when Blaine tried to kill me.
My heart ached at all the things that could be different. Emery could be alive, but I wouldn’t have Gary. Would we still have slept together if I hadn’t involved him? Would we still have had that moment of weakness, or would it have been easier to ignore my feelings? Would it have been more difficult?
I felt guilty and ashamed that his death was my fault, but I didn’t want to live in a world without my son. He was everything to me, and with the only exception of Blaine’s death Gary was the one good thing that had come out of this.
I couldn’t imagine a life without him any more. I just wished it could have been a world with Emery in it. Gary deserved to know his father, every child did, but I had to accept that it wasn’t meant to be for my family.
The happily every after I had wanted since I was a child couldn’t be for us. I knew I had to come to terms with it, but it was hard.
Gary was clever, and took to chess easily. Once a week Grandpa Milan came over to play with him, but on all other days he wanted to play with me. It didn’t take long for him to beat me, and I wondered who he had gotten his smarts from. Both I and Emery had been clever, but neither of us had been a protegee at five. Or maybe he was simply good at chess?
I was a good cop, and Emery had been even better. He had loved to cook and everything about food. I couldn’t help but wonder if Gary had inherited his love for cooking.
He did well at school. I loved helping him with his homework, but most of the time he didn’t need my help.
To see if he did enjoy cooking I brought him into the kitchen more, and he loved to assist me.
He did everything he could to help with our meals, and soon he came into the kitchen without me needing to ask him. It warmed my heart to see him take after his father so much, and hoped that it was more than just a son wanting to help his Mum.
I had been sad that Emery’s memory had faded, but now it never would. He lived on through our son, and I was immensely grateful for that. I was a little sad that my son didn’t take more after me, but if that meant that Emery wouldn’t be forgotten so soon I could live with that. He had been a great man, and I was beyond happy that Gary was so much like him.
I promised myself to nurture his talent in every way I could. If he wanted to grow his own fruit and vegetables, I’d make room for a garden. Our plot was large enough to house a good-sized vegetable garden, or whatever else he wanted to grow. It wouldn’t be an issue. If he wanted to go to culinary school, I’d pay his fees. I had the beginnings of a respectable financial safety net, and by the time Gary was old enough to chose what he wanted to do with his life I’d be able to support him.
Besides my grandparents, he was my only immediate family. I had accepted that I’d never have the large family I had dreamed of, but I’d invest all my love into Gary.
I just hoped he’d never ask me for a sibling. Maybe a puppy would do if he did.
[rant on] I know I’ve said this before but I hate how quickly babies age up!! The gap between newborn and fully-grown child is much too big. It doesn’t bother me when I’m playing just for fun, but for these stories? Far too unrealistic!! -.- [rant off]