Angel’s Coffee

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Her Jack

Julie hadn’t cried much in the past sixteen years. She hadn’t felt enough to cry. Her life was as emotionless as could be. She rarely got excited, rarely got sad, and rarely got upset. Now she was feeling all three. And her eyes, which had remained dry for years, were betraying her.

The last time Julie had cried was a week after returning to the classroom. A little boy had wet his pants, and Julie had tried to call the parents to come get their child. Nobody answered. Julie went to the nurse’s office, where they sent children who had soiled themselves, so as not to distract the other students, and she found young Christopher sitting on a bench in the school’s loner sweatpants. She sat with him quietly until the boy spoke.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Moore.” His words were accompanied by tears and soon a tight hug around Julie’s midsection.

Julie soon joined young Christopher in watering. And before long she too was crying. She kissed the child on the head and sobbed out her own apologies, not for anything to do with the young boy who had wet himself, but for the boy she would never get to meet. For minutes they sat there embracing each other. The boy felt right in her arms, and at the same time, she didn’t feel right holding him.

Christopher Deering was not her child. She didn’t have one. For the longest time she had wanted one. She had told her husband on their very first date that she was supposed to be a mother. She was surprised when Andrew wasn’t scared off, and even more surprised when Andrew said he was supposed to be a father. But six years later and the child she was supposed to give birth to did not make it. A failed pregnancy they called it. A failed mother is what Julie heard.

Julie stood from the bench and gave Christopher a comforting smile before returning to her classroom. Later that day she told the principal, Mrs. Echols, that she could no longer teach. Her heart hurt too much. Mrs. Echols understood. She hugged Julie, and wished her luck. Julie walked out of the office dry eyed, and would stay that way for years.

She didn’t cry when her marriage failed. She didn’t cry when her friends faded and left. She didn’t cry when Andrew remarried a few short years later. She didn’t cry until this very moment, staring at the young man in front of her.

The boy just sat there across the table, waiting for her response. His dark hair was parted and long enough on top that a few strands fell in front of his glasses. His look was distinct and familiar, but Julie was sure she had never seen him before.

“Take your time, Mom.” His words were calm and smile was subtle but warm.

Julie’s expression was anything but. Her eyes were puffy, and the tears had finally slowed to a light roll down her cheeks. “H-h-how…wh-who-” she sputtered out.

“It’s ok, Mom.” His slight smile widened into a soft chuckle as he spoke. “I can’t imagine this is what you thought your Saturday morning would be like.”

Julie had to smile at his words. But the one she kept coming back to was ‘Mom’. She tried to open her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. The teenage boy across from her took her muffled breaths and stuttering as a sign that he needed to start.

“My name is Jack.”

Her face lit up at the name, and the air left her body. But he continued.

“I was born March 9th, 2006…to you.” Julie’s breathing, still unsteady and heavy, grew quieter, so he continued. “I know this sounds weird, and it’s hard to believe, but where I came from you are my mom. You gave birth to me at Scripps Memorial Hospital just down the street. You told me it was the happiest day of your life.”

Julie’s tears returned.

“I know that isn’t what happened in this life. But in mine…in mine,” he chose his next words carefully, “I am your son.”

Julie’s eyes had hardly stopped pouring. Her breath was still uneasy and her mind shot in every direction. But her voice finally cooperated enough for her to squeak out a short word. “How?”

The young man smiled again. “I don’t know. I don’t know how it all works. I just know that I’m here because you’re here.”

“Jack? My Jack?” He had answered that already. But when the son you didn’t give birth to shows up to have coffee with you, answers need to be repeated.

The boy just nodded his head, sending his hair again in front of his glasses. He wiped it away and it fell back down.

Through the dark hair she saw bits and pieces of herself. The boy’s eyes weren’t hers. They were too blue. There were no freckles and the skin was a little too light. But when he smiled she felt a warmth she hadn’t felt for sixteen years. A warmth she felt for nine months, and never again.

It was hard to hold back her tears. She turned away and wiped her eyes, facing the wall where the picture hung. Her stare caught the little name in the corner, scribbled in red crayon. ‘Jack’.

“I don’t know how that got here. Never thought my art would be hanging in a coffee shop. Especially not that one.”

Julie turned slowly back to him. He was staring up at the drawing now. In his eyes Julie could see him reliving the memory. “That’s yours?”

He didn’t break his stare, but his smile grew. “That’s our house on Somerset Lane. I drew it in second grade. I can’t believe it’s here. I thought it would still be on our fridge.”

Julie’s eyebrows raised, so the boy answered. “You wanted to be my teacher,” he said with a playful smile, “but that wasn’t allowed. Didn’t stop you from coming to my class every day to check up on me. The day I drew that you stopped by Mrs. Boyd’s class after school. You looked at it for five seconds before crying. Kind of like you are now,” he said with a little snicker. Julie couldn’t help but let out a little laugh between the tears. “You grabbed it right off the wall, and it has been on our fridge ever since.”

That sounded like Julie, or at least the Julie from sixteen years ago. The Julie who had wanted a child more than anything in the world. The Julie who had carried a child for nine months. The Julie who would be a mother. Not her.

“But that’s not me. This isn’t real.”

The young man’s face stayed soft, but his smile faded. For the first time he looked sad.

“I know. What I also know is that I drew that, in second grade. And my mother, the loveliest woman in whatever world I am in, loved that drawing. She loved me, her son. And I want her to be as happy as I am, as happy as she’s made me.”

Julie’s eyes again started to water. Her lips trembled. She was out of words. Jack filled the silence.

Tender is the night
Lying by your side
Tender is the touch
Of someone that you love too much
Tender is the day
The demons go away
Lord I need to find
Someone who can heal my mind
Come on come on come on
Get through it
Come on come on come on
Love's the greatest thing
Come on come on come on
Love's the greatest thing
We have

“Tender” by Blur had once been Julie’s favorite song. She sang it to her unborn baby every day, usually rubbing her pregnant belly and moving her feet while doing so. Oftentimes she would even stretch her oversized headphones around her baby bump and pretend that his kicks were dance moves.

Julie deleted the song from her ipod a week after losing Jack. She would turn the dial whenever it came on the radio. The song, like her scars, were a reminder of what life could have been.

This was the first time she had heard the song in a long time. And it didn’t sound the way it did on her old mp3 player. His voice was soft. It was comforting. His smile was comforting. She joined in for the chorus. And she knew, as crazy as it was, that he was Jack. Her Jack.
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