“I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”
He pushes a frustrated hand through his light brown hair. “Are you ever going to forgive me?”
“Forgive you? For what? For depriving me of growing up with female companionship? For leaving me wallowing in a forest of penises? Is that what I should forgive you for, Mr. Fisher?”
Having babies is contagious—like mono. Once a friend or a relative has one, everyone wants one just like it. At Thanksgiving dinner, the year after James was born, Matthew and Dee-Dee announced that they were having a baby. That they were adopting a baby.
Brangelina? Get it now?
After they proclaimed their intentions, everyone was happy for them.
Well . . . almost everyone:
“What do you mean, you’re adopting a baby?” asks Frank Fisher, as he sits at the dining-room table of my parents’ country house on Thanksgiving Day.
Still holding his wife’s hand, Matthew faces his father. “What do you mean, what do I mean? We’re adopting a little boy! The paperwork is filed, and we’re waiting on the final approval, but the agency says that’s just a formality. Dee and I have passed all the big hurdles. He’s almost two months old—he’s healthy and gorgeous.” Matthew turns to Estelle. “I can’t wait for you to see him, Mom.”
Estelle beams back at her son with budding tears of joy. But Frank asks, “Is something wrong with your wife? Is she barren?”
Matthew’s smile falters. Before he can answer, Delores retorts, “No, Frank, I’m not barren. This is something Matthew and I have talked about doing since we were married.”
Frank wipes his mouth with his cloth napkin, tosses it down on his plate, and pushes back from the table. The air shifts—like a summer afternoon when the sun is shining, but the wind picks up and you can feel the storm that’s about to burst over your head.
“Why the hell would you want to raise a child that isn’t yours, Matthew?”
My best friend frowns. “Because he will be ours.”
“No,” Frank argues, “that’s my point—he won’t be. You have no idea where this kid comes from, what kind of garbage his real parents are. He could grow up to have mental problems, health issues—and you’ll be stuck dealing with that for the rest of your life.”
Although part of me suspects my father agrees with him, he still tries to get Frank to lighten up. “That’s a defeatist view, Frank. Cases like that are rare when you look at the millions of children who are adopted each year.”
By this time I’m on my feet, positioning myself closer to Matthew. Because I suspect this pot is about to boil the f**k over. In looks, Matthew resembles his father, but in personality he takes more after Estelle. Not much bothers him—he has a long fuse. But when he blows? It’s like the finale at the Macy’s fireworks extravaganza.
Then Frank does the one thing that’s sure to light Matthew’s fuse: he lays into Dee-Dee. “This is your doing, isn’t it? You and your liberal, new age bullshit!”
“Frank, please,” Estelle pleads softly.
“You’re too self-centered to take time from your career to fulfill your duties as a wife.”
“My duties?” Delores shouts from behind Matthew. “What year are you living in, Frank?”
“Doesn’t matter the year—a woman is a woman, and a mother is a mother. Unless she physically can’t, a good woman gives her husband children. If you’re not up to the task, young lady, then my son would be smart to replace you with a woman who is.”
Hello, shit. Meet fan.
Matthew steps forward, the urge to put his father right through my mother’s professionally painted mural wall written all over his face. “Don’t ever f**king talk to her like that again!”
I grab Matthew’s shoulder, holding him back. “C’mon, buddy, let’s take a walk outside.”
He shrugs me off.
In a lifeless voice Delores says, “I’d like to go home now. Matthew, can we please go?”
He looks over his shoulder at her crestfallen face, and even though none of this is his fault, remorse is in his eyes. “Yeah, yeah, we’re leaving.”
He turns to me—because Matthew and Delores drove up with me, Kate, and James in our new Escalade.
I nod. “Kate—get the baby’s stuff. I’ll get our coats.”
Looking as if she wants to plunge her stiletto into Dee’s father-in-law’s forehead, Kate agrees. She brings Delores with her to gather our son and his gear. Estelle wrings her hands and weeps silently.
Frank just won’t let it frigging go. “When this blows up in your face, Matthew, don’t come crying to me.”
Matthew replies with a mixture of anger and hurt, “Don’t worry—I would never f**king consider it.” He glances at his mother. “Sorry, Mom.” Then he walks out of the room and I’m right behind him.
The ride home is quiet. James falls asleep before we hit the highway. My friend and his wife hold hands in the backseat, whispering apologies and reassurances to each other.
I don’t like it. It makes her seem so . . . human.
I offer my take on the situation. “I think we can all agree that sucked sweaty balls. But Frank’s not going to be a dick about it forever. He was blindsided—and he’s worried about you.” I make eye contact with my best friend in the review mirror. “Remember when you bought the Ducati?”
Even though Matthew was twenty-two at the time, the way Frank blew a gasket when he saw his son’s motorcycle, you would’ve thought he was sixteen and taking out a Lamborghini for a joyride. The first time Matthew rode it to the office, Frank bribed the maintenance guys to remove one of the f**king tires.
Even though Frank went about it the wrong way, it stemmed from his concern for his son. Trying to protect him—desperately not wanting to see him become roadkill. This situation isn’t any different.
“I remember,” Matthew begrudgingly admits.
“It’s the same thing. He’ll get over it.”
Matthew’s jaw clenches. “Well, maybe I f**king won’t. He insulted my wife. And this isn’t a motorcycle, Drew. This is my kid.”
I sigh, ’cause I knew he was going to say that. “I know. But I bet once my parents and Lexi get through guilt-tripping him, he’ll be kissing your ass come Monday. Frank’s going to see the error of his ways and apologize. To you too, Dee. Just watch.”