Russell sat in the back of the limo holding his son close to his chest as the small boy slept peacefully. He watched the scenery go by for a while and then looked down at his son. His poor little Tyrell had no idea how much their lives had just changed. The toddler stretched in his arms and a small smile touched Russ’s lips for the first time in two weeks. Tyrell’s little fist flayed around innocently for a moment as he adjusted in his father’s arms and then he settled back down to sleep.
Russ let a lazy finger slide down the light brown skin of his son’s chubby cheek and sighed. As his son grew older he would notice the obvious differences between them. Russ’s hair was light brown and straight while Tyrell’s was dark and curly. Tyrell may grow to six feet tall like Russ had, and he may even share Russ’s slender physique, but Tyrell would never have the same white skin. Russ was pleasantly surprised to see that his son did inherit the pale blue eyes that ran in the Drake family, but in the future when Tyrell looked into the mirror he would see that and the hint of bronze on his skin that was a gift from Monica, the mother that was now lost to him.
It was now up to Russ to keep Monica’s memory alive for Tyrell. He was the one that would have to teach him his history on his mother’s side and where he came from. Tyrell would never know the mother he got his beautiful features from, his lips, his nose, his smile. Somehow Russ had to find a way to keep Monica’s culture and beliefs alive long enough to teach them to their son. Suddenly Russ held the boy fiercely close, rocking him back and forth as the tears flowed freely down his cheeks, because he had no idea how he was going to do that.
The limo slowed to a stop and then the back door swung open. “Mr. Drake, we’re here, sir.”
“Yes, right.” He wiped his face quickly. Gathering Tyrell and his things, he slid out of the limo. “Thanks for everything, Dennis. I know you were only supposed to drop me at the church, but—”
Dennis held his hand up, shaking his head. “No thanks is necessary, Mr. Drake. I couldn’t leave you and your baby stranded at the church.”
“When we got dropped off this morning I…. Well, it didn’t occur to me how we would get home,” he explained softly.
“Yes, well, you had other things on your mind.” Dennis closed the door and tipped his hat. “Again, Mr. Drake, I’m sorry for your loss. I hope everything turns out well for you.”
Russ nodded and watched the limo drive away before he and Tyrell went into his home. He stood in the doorway of the little house that Monica decorated and took a deep breath. The whole house screamed of her. They had only lived in the house for a year and he basically lived in his room with just a small section of the living room for some of his things, but it was their home.
They were not a quintessential married couple. Monica knew Russ was gay when they married although she had no clue when they hooked up on that one fateful night when Tyrell was conceived. When Monica had returned to his life she had explained that at first she had no intentions of bothering him. When she found out she was pregnant she decided she was going to take care of the baby on her own and not tell Russ, but she found that extremely hard. Monica was a dancer, and being pregnant stopped money from coming in. Her part-time job wasn’t enough to pay her bills, for school and a new baby. Russ had agreed and they thought it best that they should raise their child together.
In public they were a young happy couple and when it came to Tyrell they did everything together, but in the privacy of their home they were merely friends. He had his bedroom and she had hers, but on occasion she had expected him to fulfill his “husbandly” duties toward her, for she had enjoyed the time they had spent together that night. When he protested she explained that she had to make sacrifices and so did he for their son. Russ would reluctantly agree each time, going through the physical motions with no real pleasure for himself.
Russ carried Tyrell to his room and put him in his crib and then went to his own room to change clothes. As he pulled his pants off, he sat on the bed and was suddenly overcome with emotion. Some time later, he had cried himself dry and was exhausted and had a pounding headache. He reached for his cell phone.
“Hi, Ma, it’s me.”
“Russ, sweetheart, are you okay?” his mother asked, her voice full of relief. “We haven’t heard from you in so long. I’ve been so worried.”
“I know, Ma. I’m sorry. I just got caught up in some stuff and then one thing led to another and then—”
“Russ, what’s wrong? Have you been crying? What’s happened?”
His mother’s concerned voice made the tears fall again. He could barely speak without choking on the words.
“Ma, I have so much to tell you,” he said, exhausted.
“Come home, Russell. Everything will be okay.”
He nodded as if she could see him. “Okay, Ma. I’ll be home tonight.” He hung up the phone with a sigh.
He was at his mother’s door in less than four hours. When he pulled into her driveway she was at the door instantly. She ran across the lawn, meeting Russ on the passenger side of the car, and hugged him.
“Russell, we’ve missed you so much. Why did you just disappear like that? It’s been almost three years since we’ve heard from you,” his mother inquired when she released him. “And don’t you dare say you’ve been texting because that doesn’t count,” she added, wagging her finger at him.
He stood, hanging his head, and holding her hands. “So much has happened, Ma. I don’t even know where to begin,” he said softly.
She looked him over and, giving him a knowing smile, she caressed his face. “Yes, I can see that. Come inside, sweetheart. Your sister is here. We will do whatever we can to make it all right.”
He stopped her from pulling his him away. “Wait, Ma. I have something to show you. Well, someone.” He saw the confused look on her face change quickly to shock when he lifted the sleeping baby from the car seat in the back of his car.
“This is Tyrell.”
His mother looked at the sleeping toddler as a gamut of emotions played across her face. She sent a questioning look at her son, who nodded, confirming her unasked question. A smile lit her face as she took the baby from him.
“Hello, Tyrell, I’m your grandma,” she whispered to the child as she walked back to the house.
Inside the house his sister had the same reaction as his mother walked toward her with the child. After finding a place to lay Tyrell down, Russ’s mother rustled up something for her son to eat then as the three of them sat at the table. Russ explained what had transpired during the past three years of his life while he had limited communication with his family. When his story was done, his family still had questions for him.
“So, let me get this straight,” his sister began. “You and Monica got married just so that Tyrell would have a chance at a normal family?” she asked, making quotation marks in the air.
“You didn’t love her?”
“Rachel, I’m gay. I think it’s safe to say that I don’t like women like that.”
“So you felt nothing for this woman at all?”
“No, it wasn’t like that. I did love her as the mother of my son and we were friends.”
His sister rubbed her temples. “Russ, did it ever occur to you that you could have been a good father and her friend without marrying her?”
“Yes, Rachel, it did, but I didn’t want to be a baby daddy,” he said, doing his own quotations in the air. “They don’t really have any rights to their kids. I wanted to be a part of Tyrell’s life.”
“Yes, Russell, I can understand that completely, but didn’t you think your actions were a little reckless from the start?” his mother questioned.
“Yes, Ma, I realize that being drunk and sleeping with some strange woman was probably not the best idea that I’ve ever had,” he answered with an irritated edge.
“I’m sorry, Russell. I’m sure you have gone over that scenario several times since then. I don’t mean to bring up what can’t be changed.”
“No, Ma, I’m the one who is sorry. I didn’t mean to snap at you.” He picked up her hand and kissed it. “I just… I don’t know what to do. I mean, everything happened so fast and seems so overwhelming. Monica and I did it all together. We were his parents, equal in everything that we did for Tyrell and now….”
His mother squeezed his hand and completed his sentence. “And now you’re a single father with your family here to help you.”
“What about Monica’s family, Russ? Were they at the funeral? Will they help you with Tyrell?” Rachel asked.
He scoffed. “Oh yeah, they were there, all right. They made it very clear that Tyrell was my son. He was my responsibility and that I would be taking care of him alone. They’ve washed their hands of me and him.”
“Well, that was nice of them,” Rachel said, rolling her eyes.
“It’s all right, Russell; you have us. You’ll just have to come back home. You’ll stay here until you find a house in town and get your affairs straight in Kentucky.”
“Thanks, Ma. I—I know I should have called when all of this started. I just—”
“Yes, you should have,” she said in that chastising mother tone that all mothers had. “I missed out on the first year of my first grandchild’s life.” Russ nodded sadly and she smiled, adding, “But what’s done is done. You’re here now and so is he and that’s all that matters.”
“When is Tyrell’s birthday, Russ?” Rachel asked.
“September tenth. He will be two.”
“That’s great! His birthday is only a few days away from mine.”
“Wonderful! We will have one big birthday party for the both of you. We will invite everyone and introduce Tyrell to the family.”
“Come on, Russ; let’s get your stuff from the car. You might as well get settled into your old room,” his sister said, pulling him from the chair.
He looked over his shoulder to his mother and she smiled. “Relax, Russell,” she said and stood. “I will check in on our little prince.”
He nodded and followed his sister out the door. They were quiet as they walked, but as he pulled the folded playpen from his trunk his sister broke the silence.
“You know, Russ, James asks about you all the time.”
James. At the sound of his name he froze instantly, but quickly regained his composure.
“You know, he still cares for you,” she mentioned, getting a bag from the backseat.
“I can’t think about that right now, Rachel. I have Tyrell to worry about now.”
“You can’t make Tyrell happy if you’re not happy, Russ. Kids have a knack of picking up on those things. If you could just talk to James and tell him what happened, maybe—”
“Maybe what, Rachel?” he asked, slamming the trunk. “Maybe he’ll take me back… after I dropped off the planet without saying a word for almost three years? After I basically left him for a woman? Yeah, I just don’t see him forgiving me for all that, Rachel. James and I are done. I gave up a life with him—my life! The life I desperately wanted and miss like hell—for my son!” he screamed in borderline hysteria.
He shoved Tyrell’s things under his arm, dropped them and pick them up again before she grabbed his hand.
“Russ, you don’t have to be unhappy in order for your son to be happy. You could have someone in your life and your son.” Her tone was calm and soothing. “Maybe you and James—”
“No, Rachel!” She jumped at the sharpness of his voice and dropped his hand. He sighed, taking her hand in his again and spoke softly. “Sacrifices had to be made, Rachel, for me to be with my son. Only Tyrell matters.”
She nodded. “Okay, Russ. Let’s just get you guys settled in.”