I tell him that I need time to think, and we end the call.
My mind is playing through various scenarios all day long, but I'm unable to escape that realization that Elan is right about one thing. I owe it to Max to at least talk to Elan. It is best for Max if I give him a fair, fighting chance at a relationship. It will not be easy for him to win my trust back, and I don’t even know if he deserves a shot after the way he walked out on me, but it's in Max's best interest. And there is nothing I would not do for my son.
I call him back several hours later.
"Okay," I say. No hello, no formal pleasantries, because I am not in the mood for all the fanfare. I feel like I'm conceding—like I'm giving up a piece of myself. I've had Max all to myself this entire time, so maybe I am. Even if it is the right thing to do for all involved.
"Okay?" he asks.
"You can meet him," I say.
"Today. Are you free?"
Knowing that Pace won't be home until late, I agree. "Okay. The park by my house. I'll text you when Max wakes up from his nap, and we'll head over there."
"I will be there," Elan says, excitement heavy in his voice.
I pull in a deep breath, trying to quiet all of the warring emotions inside of me. "See you then."
Elan arrives right on time, hitting the button on his key fob to lock his Mercedes before starting across the park toward us. His eyes immediately stray from mine over to Max. He swallows, nervously and licks his lips. "Wow." He's looking Max over from top to bottom, no doubt amazed at the uncanny resemblance.
Elan looks different. Older somehow. There are little lines around his eyes and more weight around his middle than I remember. He sits quietly on the bench beside me and watches Max plays with a set of trucks I've brought. Max seems pretty oblivious to his presence. Elan seems completely humbled.
He'd arrived empty handed, and I'm not sure what I expected, but I guess it was something more than nothing. Not that gifts would make up for his year-long absence, but maybe it'd be a small token in the right direction—and provide something so that Max could immediately relate to this new, strange man. Even Pace, bachelor extraordinaire, thought to bring a gift the first time he spent time with Max.
Elan sits with his hands folded in his lap watching Max play and babble. "He's beautiful. Does he say any words?"
"Yes, Mumma and ball are all he says right now, but he knows the signs for lots of things. Eat, milk, more, and all done." I could babble on and on. I want him to understand how amazing Max is and that it's entirely his fault that he chose not to be part of it. I'm still angry, and rightly so, but I'm trying to be open for what is best for my son.
It's a strange sensation knowing I share a child with this man. We made the little being playing between us. I feel uneasy, yet part of me knows that being here today, introducing Elan to his son is the right thing.
It makes me sad realizing how many things Elan has missed. Max's birth, his baptism, his first birthday, his first steps. I blink back tears. At least he's here now. It's going to take a while for him to build a relationship with Max. But then I realize how that's not entirely true. Max and Pace bonded almost instantly. But then again, Pace got right down on the ground and interacted with him. Spoke to him and showed him things. Elan is sitting quietly beside me like he's confused. Maybe he's still in shock.
I don't know why I keep thinking about Pace. As amazing as last night was, I've known from the start his world and mine don't mix. And now that Elan seems like he wants to be back in the picture, I'm more confused than ever.
"What's new with you, man?" I ask Collins, tipping the bottle of beer to my lips. We've already covered the topics of work and recent stock market trends. Some emerging fund in Brazil has him all excited, and I'm only too happy to listen while he prattles on. I'm still trying to figure out a way to tell him about Kylie, because of course she's the only thing on my mind. Last night was off the fucking charts. I could barely look at her this morning without getting hard. I'd left pretty quickly to avoid embarrassing myself.
"How's Tatianna?" I ask. I haven’t seen her around in a while, though I know as a top model, she travels often for work.
He's gazing over at the musician's warming up at the jazz club he wanted to meet at. It's soon going to be a little too loud for conversation, but maybe that's what he intended. "Everything's good," he says, taking a drink from his glass.
I get the sense there's more he wants to say, so I wait.
He shrugs. "Sometimes, I don’t know. I get the sense that all I am to her is a padded bank account, and all she is to me is a warm pussy to sink into."
"I didn’t know you were looking for anything serious," I say.
"Yeah, I guess I'm not."
He's not very convincing. He turned thirty this year, and I wonder if that has anything to do with his melancholy mood and rhetorical questions about the nature of his relationship.
When I glance over at Collins, he looks a bit lost. Fuck. I suddenly find myself wishing Colton were here. He would know the right thing to say at a time like this.
"Listen, if you're not happy, you can always break up with her, right?"
"It's not that I'm unhappy. I just wonder if there's something more out there."
"There is," I say with conviction.