I reach for my phone on the nightstand. Aiden nudges me and turns on the bedside light on his side. I see it’s five-thirty in the morning, and It’s Oliver. “Oh my God, is everything okay? What’s wrong?” I answer the phone.
“Mom, I’m here, open the door please.”
I whip the covers off and jump out of bed naked. I yell, “You’re here? What’s going on?” I grab my robe and run out of the room to the front door with my heart in my throat.
I disarm the alarm and open the door to see my oldest, Oliver. Standing puffy-eyed and with a small scratch on the side of his face. “Get in here, what happened?”
I take his hand and lead him to the couch, and my big, strong, man son, lets me. I sit him down, “Sweetheart, why are you here in the middle of the night? Who put this scratch on your face?” I ask, but I have a sinking feeling it was his wife, Caroline. If he had gotten into a brawl with anyone else, he would have gone to one of his brothers or his dad. “Did Caroline, scratch your face?”
“Yeah, the bitch scratched my face—”
“Why, honey, what happened?”
“She’s crazy, Mom. I’ve been working my ass off at the stores. I’ve been working late over in Shelton County because Mitch is off for hip replacement. She’s done nothing but bitch at me and accuses me of sticking my dick in some fucking woman over there who I don’t even fucking know. She lost it tonight, Mom, she threw a lamp at me and attacked me, so I left. I’m not dealing with this shit. She’s been acting off the last few months, differently. To be honest, I don’t want to put up with it anymore. I’m not sure I made the right decision in marrying her.”
I jerk back on the couch, “You don’t mean that, Ollie.” I hug him, then I pull back quickly, “Oliver Allen Nelson, do I smell beer on your breath? Did you drive two hours in the middle of the night, not only upset but after consuming alcohol?” I can’t hide how upset and disappointed I am. His breath reeks of beer, I’m so pissed.
“Who the fuck are you?” Oliver asks and stands to stare over my shoulder.
I stand and point my finger at Aiden, “Please excuse me, Aiden, while I wring my oldest son Oliver’s neck!”
I turn and snap my finger in Ollie’s face. “Eyes on me, what the hell is going on with you, you know better than to drink and drive, especially that kind of distance late at night, you reek like beer.”
“Fuck this shit. I’m going back to Roseway. I don’t need to be lectured and scolded for shit—”
“Give me your keys. You will not take one fucking step out of this house, or I will call the police on you, do you hear me? Don’t think I’m joking. Hand me your keys, go upstairs to bed, and think about how you’re a grown-ass man. You know better than to speak to me or anyone else like this for that matter.”
My son blows out a breath, and I shake my head when I smell the beer. “Oliver, please go to bed and cool down, we’ll talk over breakfast. Does anyone know you are here?”
“I texted Max when I pulled up out front. I didn’t drink and drive, Mom. I bought a six-pack when I got to town and been out front in my car drinking a couple before I called and woke you up. Caroline knows I’m here too. We were arguing on the phone right before I called.”
I blow out a deep breath, thank God he wasn’t so upset he made the horrible choice to drink and drive. I pray to God; I raised him to know NOTHING is ever worth that risk.
He stares over my head, “Who are you, and what are you doing in my mother’s house?” He looks at me, “Really, Mom?”
I sigh, I haven’t even thought about telling my boys about Aiden. Shit, I’m flushing. Our relationship is pretty new and recent, and I need to think this through.
Aiden walks into the room from where he’s been standing in the foyer, “Aiden Markley.”
Oliver sneers at Aiden’s outreached hand and shakes his head no, “I’m going to bed. I can’t handle any more of fucked-up shit tonight.”
“Oliver,” I scold. He marches up the stairs, acting more like a twelve-year-old than the wonderful twenty-six-year-old man he is.
Aiden clears his throat. My eyes swing to him. Thank God he is fully dressed. I raise my eyebrows, “Are you sure you want my opinions on handling kids?”
He laughs and hugs me. I sigh and rest my head on his chest. “You did good, much better than I ever could have.” He kisses the top of my head, and I snuggle further into his muscular, warm chest. “I don’t think we are ever going to make it out of the house so I can take you on a proper date, lunch is off, isn’t it?”
He asks into my hair. “Yeah, I think I’m going to have a full agenda this morning trying to figure out what the hell is going on in Roseway.”
I crack open the door to the bedroom and hear Oliver snoring. I walk in and look down at my baby. I run my hand over his close-cut dark brown hair. Max must have given him a haircut recently; it was longer the last time I saw him. He opens his eyes, and I smile at him. “Go back to sleep, honey.”
He rolls onto his back, “Who was that man, Mom?”
I lay down beside him, and we face each other. “I met him at lunch with Lexi right after I moved here, and we’re dating. What happened—?”
He interrupts me, “He was here, he obviously spent the night. So, this is serious?”
Please, dear Lord, don’t let me blush. I have never, ever, given any thought about discussing a new relationship. Let alone a sexual relationship with my children. Jesus, sex, I raised them to respect themselves and their partner and that sex was shared between two people who love each other. I was never embarrassed talking about sex with the boys. They knew their father, and I had sex and a lot of it. I don’t know how many times Jake and my locked bedroom door would rattle, followed by footsteps then silence. I thought it was good for them to know sex was a healthy, beautiful part of being in a committed life. I have no idea what Aiden and I are at his point, but I decide to lie, “It’s getting serious.”
“Christ,” Oliver rakes a hand through his hair.
“Ollie, talk to me about what happened tonight?” I touch the scratch on his face.
My stomach drops, and I feel like vomiting when he says, “I don’t think I want to be married to Caroline any longer. I wasn’t joking downstairs. Yes I said that in anger, Mom, but I need some time to think if I want to stay married and in this life.”
“Are you having an affair?” I barely get the words out of my mouth. They have dated their whole young lives, and I never saw this coming at all.
Caroline and I talk or text each day just like I do with the boys, “Not yet, Mom.”
He watches me closely, and I know I’m pale, and my face shows my feelings. “Then leave her, don’t you dare disrespect her and cheat on her.”
“I know, that’s why I’m here, Mom. I don’t want to hurt her, I love her. I just don’t know if that’s enough for me. I can’t stop myself from thinking about what if I would have done things differently. Maybe have gone to a different college, traveled a little bit, I don’t know. We, Caroline, and I, we made all of our decisions together and for one another, and I don’t fucking know, maybe that was all wrong. What if—”
I stop him, “What ifs are life, Oliver. That’s what being old enough to have a past and to be an adult is about, sweetie. We always think the grass is greener, and the wine is sweeter on the other side of the hill, but it never is, honey. The grass gets greener when you work to make it greener no matter what side of the hill it’s on. If you want to travel, you’re only twenty-six years old for Pete’s sake, you can. Honey, take it from me, you can’t waste your time and energy looking back. You can never ever change it no matter how badly you want to or think you need to. It’s the past, and it’s over. Look forward and work hard for all the dreams you have for yourself.”
He stares at me, and he looks so vulnerable. “I would never cheat on Caroline. I would never do that her. It took me a long time to forgive Dad for hurting you and doing that to all of us. But I think that’s why I’m going through something now. I don’t want to be a dad and wake up suddenly and decide I missed out on something and wreck my family’s life.”
I try not to flinch, “First, our family is not wrecked, Ollie, it just functions differently now. All I ask of you is that you respect Caroline through this time. Whatever the outcome, I love you always. You’re a grown man, your father and I raised you to be a good, strong, honest man. You need to tell Caroline all of your thoughts and feelings, honey. Go to therapy to help decide what the right way forward is. It’ll be hard no matter what you chose, sweetheart, but I promise you’ll get through this.”