“Happy Birthday!” Everyone cheers and sings as Liam cuts his Paw Patrol birthday cake.
Slicing a small piece of cake, I feed him then hug him while tears welling up in my eyes.
His birthdays always make me emotional, as I feel so overwhelmed. However, his last two birthdays bring slight sadness too.
Pops is not here with us, anymore, to see my little boy growing up. However, Pops has made sure that Liam never feels his absence on his birthday. He had already brought twenty birthday gifts for him, and even one graduation present. Pops instructed me to give Liam his gift in the last as the best one is saved for the last.
Squeezing him tightly, I close my eyes to control my tears. After a moment, I release him forcing a smile on my face because I don’t want to worry Liam. He becomes upset when he watches me cry.
A hand slips between my hand, making me look at Alec. He interlocks our fingers, while his gaze seems to look past my facade. My emotional turmoil visible in his eyes, as his lips turn in a half-rueful smile.
Even he is experiencing what I am going through. Just like Pops, even his parents won’t be able to be a part of his son’s life.
Without thinking, I grip his hand tightly in mine surprising him and myself as well.
“He called me dad again.” Alec walks out of Liam’s room after putting him into bed, “He has called me dad eight times.” It seems like nothing can wipe off the smile from Alec’s face.
Even though I gave Liam permission to sleep in late but after playing non-stop for hours, all the birthday activities wore him out. And he fell asleep even before his bedtime.
“Yeah.” I nod my head, smiling, “I am really happy for you, I know you wanted him to call you dad for so long.” Throwing the paper plates in the trash, I wash my hands.
“Thank you.” He sighs, “It is because of you that I am happy... that I got a chance to know my son. You made sure he never hated me, you have no idea how much all these things mean to me.” His adam’s apple moves up and down as he swallows his emotions.
“Alec, you made a place in his heart, all by yourself, I didn’t do anything,” I admit, “If you were not a good father to him, then I would not have let you anywhere near him. But you proved that you are serious about being in his life and really want to build a relation with him.”
“When it comes to him, I can’t bring myself to trust anyone.” My eyes find his as I tell him something which I never even admitted to myself, “But strangely, I never doubted you. Because, somewhere, I know you can’t hurt him.”
“What about you? Do you think that I can hurt you?” He suddenly asks, his question throws me off guard.
“I don’t think anything,” I sternly reply, “What’s important to me is that you don’t hurt him, intentionally or unintentionally. He trusts you, and whatever you do just never break his trust.”
“You can still trust me, too,” he says quietly, “I never betrayed you, Avery. I may have broken your heart, but I have never betrayed you. I am still your Alec, just allow me to prove myself.”
Somewhere in the corner of my heart, I knew he was never disloyal to me.
My lips slightly part as a quiet sigh passes through them.
“Why can’t you just move on?” I rake my hand through my hair, saying these words crack something inside me, but at the same time, I want him to move on.
My heart can’t bear to love again. For the past six years, it just knows to love Liam, and I don’t think I am ready for any other feelings.
Or maybe I have loved him so much, that now there is nothing left anymore.
“I have.” He nods his head, making me stiffen slightly as his words still manage to pass my armor and pierce my heart.
“I have never thought, I could have loved someone again. But I was wrong.” He shrugs and slips his hands in his pockets, “Because now I have found someone whom I love even more than I could have ever loved anyone.”
“You have made me fall in love with yourself all over again, Avery.” He chuckles quietly, “You say you have changed, but it doesn’t matter, because I love this Avery who is standing in front of me. This Avery is strong, brave, selfless, and an amazing mother to our son. However, I want this Avery to be happy, I want to see the shine in her eyes, I want to hear her laugh.”
“Stop it, Alec.“I close my eyes, “Please, just stop.”
“What should I stop? Stop loving? If that’s what you want then I can’t do that, because the truth is I can never stop loving you. If there is one person whom I will always love then it is going to be you.” He looks at me with his penetrating gaze which scares me that he can see into my soul.
There is so much I want to tell him, so much that I want him to know, but nothing comes from my mouth as I blankly stare at the floor.
He needs me to kill his darkness, but how can I brighten his life when my own life is covered in darkness?
It is not easy to put your pieces together and pretend that you are okay. Because the truth is you can never be okay, the cracks never heal they always remain there. You can never be the same person again, you just have to learn to live with these broken pieces of you.
I am nothing, just the ruins of my old self.
He sighs and steps closer to me while my helpless gaze lifts to his.
“Avery, stop pushing me away.” He places his hands on my shoulders, “I am not going anywhere. Your fears are right, but don’t let your fears come between your happiness... don't let them control you.”
He says the words similar to something which he has said to me in the past.
“Remember, what I have told you that no matter what happens we will always remain friends first.” Placing his fingers under my chin he gently raises my head, “I am still your friend and it hurts me when you push me away. So please, give your friend a chance.”
“One chance, Avery, just one chance.” His arm goes around my waist and with the other hand, he holds my head against his chest.
“I am afraid to be happy because happiness always brings lots of pain with itself.” Closing my eyes, I quietly speak, “I am afraid to laugh because in the end I always shed tears. I am just afraid of myself, Alec.”
He presses a kiss on the head as his hold tightens while tears gather behind my closed eyes.
“I am here, Avery, we will overcome your fears together.” He whispers, “We will overcome our fears together.”