Beth sat down on the bed beside Timmy and pulled the covers up to his chin. He grinned up at her. She tickled him until he squealed for her to stop. Then she pulled him in for a goodnight bear hug.
She laid him back down for another goodnight bear hug, playing in her usual gruffness, the role of mama bear tucking her cub into bed. “Goodnight little cub,” she said.
Timmy giggled. “Goodnight mama bear.”
Beth went to rise from the bed, but Timmy stopped her. “Mommy”
“What is it?”
“I’m excited about meeting my daddy tomorrow,” he said.
The judge had granted permission for supervised visits. Tomorrow would be their first, and she was just as excited as he was.
“I’m excited, too,” Beth said.
“Tell me the story again,” Timmy said.
Beth frowned down at him but seeing the pleading look on that cherubic face made her soften.
“Last time,” she said, “and I mean it.”
Timmy nodded eagerly and shifted over to make room for Beth. She kicked off her heels, lay down next to him, and began the story. “Once upon a time, two people met and fell in love.”
“You and Daddy,” Timmy said, grinning.
“That’s right,” Beth said. “These two people loved each other very much, but the man made some wrong choices and had to go to jail.”
“That’s Daddy,” Timmy said. “Only he felt bad about the choices.”
Beth gave him a sideways smile. “Do you want to tell the story?”
Timmy giggled and clamped a hand over his mouth.
“As I was saying, these two people were in love, but the man—your daddy—had a hard time dealing with his unhappy childhood.”
“On account of his Daddy was in jail, too.”
“Something like that,” Beth said. “The woman—”
“That’s you,” Timmy said beaming a smile and hugging her.
Beth nodded. “That’s me. So, after the man went to jail, the woman found out she was to have a baby.”
“That’s me,” Timmy said. He always loved the part where he entered the story.
Beth nodded. “The mother loved that baby so much, but she missed the daddy. She tried to forget him, but their love was strong. God brought them back together. That told the mommy God meant for them to be together.”
“And the daddy loved me, on account of he came to the park and watched me play, and gave me a cool car.”
“Yes, except the daddy made a mistake again and had to go back to jail, but not as long this time. The judge was very nice and said the mommy and baby—”
Timmy wrinkled his nose. “I’m not a baby.”
“Oh, excuse me, please. The mommy and the little boy,” Timmy smiled with satisfaction, nodding his head. “—the mommy and little boy were very excited about the visit, and the little boy needed to get to sleep, so he wasn’t too tired.”
“Hey!” Timmy exclaimed. “You changed it.”
“Ah, but you see, I can’t go any further with the story because it hasn’t happened yet.” She stood and slipped her heels back on. She bent and kissed him. “Night little cub.”
Timmy rolled onto his side, and Beth saw he was clutching the car Jack had given him. “Night Mama Bear.”
After Beth had turned out the light, Timmy asked. “How come he can’t come here?”
Beth sighed. “I thought I explained that. Daddy has some trouble right now, but he’s fixing it. Until he does, we can only see him at the courthouse.”
“Oh yeah,” Timmy said. She hoped he understood.
“Will he live with us in the new house?”
“Not at first, but when he comes home, it will be his home, too.”
“Now, good night, little bear.”
“Goodnight, mama bear.”
She turned off the light and closed the door halfway.
Her phone rang. She hurried to pick it up. “Hello,” she said.
A smile spread across her face. “I’m going to see you tomorrow, Jack.”
“Do you want me to hang up?”
“Not on your life.” Then a sudden thought struck her. “You won’t get in trouble for this, will you?” What would she tell Timmy if he got his visitation privileges taken away?
“I don’t think anyone will make an issue of it. The guards here are pretty nice.” The line grew silent. She could hear Jack breathing.
“My hearing is in three days.”
“I know that.”
He laughed at the absurdity. “Of course, you do. I wanted to tell you I’m going to plead guilty and skip the whole jury thing.” Katherine had mentioned that, but she let Jack talk. It seemed important to him to be the one to tell her. “I don’t want to drag you or Timmy through it.”
“That’s considerate of you,” she said, wondering at the sudden show of maturity.
“I plan on making the most of our visit tomorrow, and I don’t want to talk about this in front of Timmy. I want him to remember his dad as one of the good guys.”
They went silent again. Then, “Katherine thinks she might be able to get you a lighter sentence for turning yourself in.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want people thinking that’s the only reason I’m doing it.”
“I don’t want you to bring Timmy to see me at the prison.”
“Why all this tonight?”
“It’s on my mind.”
She sighed. “I thought you wanted an honest relationship with Timmy.”
“Then I’ll not shelter him from the truth. What happens when he’s fourteen and one of his friends finds out about your past. Is that how you want him to find out?” When he did not respond, she said, “Let me worry about Timmy and when and what to tell him.”
He thought for a moment. What right did he have to make those kinds of decisions? She knew what was best for their son. He hadn’t been around for him for the past four years. He didn’t even know what scared him and what made him laugh. “Okay,” he said.
She wiped the tears that filled her eyes and realized she had never stopped loving him. “I love you,” she said.
“I love you, too, Beth.”
“Call me Lizzie.”
He laughed. “I thought you hated it?”
“I hated the idea of it. That was before I realized I couldn’t run from my past—or my love for you.”
His voice broke as he said, “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
She swallowed hard. “Wouldn’t miss it.”
He hung up the phone. She sat with it cradled in her hand for several minutes before hanging it up.
She had already made up her mind to wait for Jack no matter how long it took. She loved him and could not deny the fact any longer.
She stood and turned off the light, catching the sight of moving boxes everywhere. This apartment had been her and Timmy’s home since his birth. She would miss it, but she was looking forward to the new home, a new life with Jack and Timmy. Granted, she knew she’d have to wait for that. She would use the time wisely, though, setting up their new home, making it ready for a new family.
She made her way to bed. She climbed in, felt the satiny softness of the sheets over her body, and wondered how many more lonely nights she would have to endure before her lover returned to her.