Boys Vs. Girls
I wish I could say Tessa made a full recovery back into the person we knew her to be, but that would be a lie. She got better but she was never the same; her smile was never as bright, her jokes and hassling was never as sharp, and her knowing smile was never the same. She was once the sun full of life and demanding for attention but had faded into the moon; still magnificent but not as bright.
Meanwhile, life moved on; Taylor and Nathan had a daughter named Alyssa. She was the spitting image of her mother but acted just like her father. Greg had more grandchildren; three boys and one girls. We joked that he would be like Abraham from the Bible; that his descendants would be as numerous as grains of sand. He liked that idea. Yours truly married Clarissa and within a month, we were expecting our first child.
“What’s better,” I asked during break one lazy day, “a boy or a girl?”
“Boy!” Craig and Derek said. Derek was also now a father of a boy named Sam.
“Girl!” Greg, Nathan, and Mark cried as Tessa sat back wearing that smile of hers.
“Why a boy?” I turned to Craig and Derek.
“They are so much easier to take care of,” Derek answered with a shrug. “My sister has two girls and one boy and all their daughters want to do is cause drama, play with Mommy and Daddy, and are always trying to outdo each other. With a boy, you just hand them a football and he’s fine.”
“Yeah,” Craig added, “you don’t need to worry about hormones or PMSing, just make sure they don’t get some chick pregnant and you’re good!” I nodded; that did sound a lot easier but I also learned to listen to both sides as the truth was somewhere in between.
“Look, I have both and I love my son,” Nathan began with a small smile, “it’s true I don’t need to keep such a close eye on Shane but there is something about my little Alyssa.”
“My daughters and granddaughters are princesses,” Greg muttered. “You guys know exactly what men will try on them so we have to protect them and guard them.”
“They’re mischievous and manipulative though,” Mark muttered wearing a smile. “But that makes it fun; everything is a mind game.”
I nodded and turned to Tess, “What about you? You’ve been really quiet.”
She shrugged, “I don’t have kids.”
“But you babysit enough,” Nathan interjected. “What do you like better?”
“Both have their advantages and disadvantages; boys are easier but, as Craig said, you need to worry about your baby creating babies and then there’s making sure he doesn't become a total asshole. Girls are tricky and there’s hormones, PMSing, and drama clique shit but they are little princesses. Daughters always have special bonds with their fathers and rely on them to protect them from the world, to guide them, and pick them up when they are knocked down. Fathers give them the courage to try new things and to be strong. Fathers will also be the first man they love and will always be able to depend on them.” She shrugged again wearing a sly smile. “Boys are blessings but so are girls.”
I watched her while she spoke. Her eyes brightened as if recalling a precious memory. She appeared smaller yet larger than life; I didn’t expect this from someone who watched her stepfather abuse her mother. I thought that would have tarnished all her memories of any adult male figure in her life, but her memories of her real father must have overcome that.
“I want a girl,” I decided suddenly excited to be a daddy. “What about you, Tess?” She flashed me a look.
“I don’t have kids and I don’t want any,” she repeated.
“Why not?” Mark asked interlocking his fingers behind his head. “You’d make a great mom.”
“Yeah, Tess, you’re really protective of us; I can’t imagine how you’d be like with your own child. You make enough to support them, B platoon would babysit because you babysit their kids, and you’re awesome,” Derek added.
She sat there for a moment as her face twisted in confusion, uncertainty, and a twinge of fear. We could see her breathing heavily as she stared at her untouched, leftover sandwich from the last two days.
“You guys see what the world has to offer: theft, murder, abuse- why would you want to introduce an innocent child to this shit show?”
We all paused and glanced at each other; we never realized she felt this way. This job was stressful; we had each seen things we would never forget no matter how hard we tried, we had nightmares of times we failed, or something that failed us.
“But what about all the good?” Greg asked. At the beginning of his career, Greg couldn’t handle the stress and quickly became an alcoholic. A superior officer noticed and introduced him to various support groups regarding his alcoholism and stress. He made a full recovery and shared his experiences with other officers going through the same problems.
“There’s a lot of bad out there but there’s a whole lot of good too,” he continued watching with wise eyes. “And a child adds to the good.”
“But you can’t protect them,” she argued in a soft but firm voice while her eyes raged in a way I hadn’t seen in years.
“Not out there,” Mark agreed, “you can only prepare them, and who’s better to do that than our Stark?” He waited for a laugh, a nod, a “Hell yeah!” but she remained silent.
“Don’t worry, kid,” Greg said, “if all else fails they will always be safe at home, right?” Tess appeared to pale even more as she stared at that sandwich, as emotions conflicted in her eyes.
“What if that’s where it’s most dangerous?” She asked in a husky voice. We all glanced at her before Craig started laughing.
“Then hire a camera crew and film the next Paranormal Activity! Cause that’s the only thing that would scare you!” It wasn’t that funny but we laughed, even Tessa; but, looking back, the laughter never entered her eyes.
“C’mon, Tess, why wouldn’t home be safe?” Nathan asked with imploring eyes.
“No, you’re right,” she relented with a small smile, “I was just thinking.” We nodded and moved on but she never did go on to have kids, or even express wanting them although we all knew she had a soft spot for them.