Chapter 1 - Group
I stand from my chair feeling uncomfortable even though I shouldn’t. I know these people, they are my friends, we have been having brunch once a week after group for a year. I take a deep breath and look around at their sad but friendly faces.
“Hi, my name is Aaron and I’m twenty-four years old. When I was twenty my brother Scott and his wife Mary had a beautiful baby girl named Avalyn. Two years ago they got in an accident with a drunk driver, they died instantly. It was their first date night out of the house since Ava had been born so thankfully Avalyn wasn’t in the car with them, she was with me”.
I run my hand through my hair a couple times and try to stop the flood of tears trying to break free...
“It’s ok Aaron.” Truce whispers.
“I’ve had Avalyn since that day and I have to admit it’s really fucking hard being a single parent.” many of them nodding in agreement, I carry on, “I never thought this would happen to me. I mean, I came out to my family when I was sixteen and I thought that I’d meet a wonderful man and adopt one day I just... I never imagined this.” I can’t hold the tears back any longer.
I feel very inadequate raising Avalyn. My feelings that she’ll have a hard life have never left me, they have only gotten worse and I’ve proved it everyday since I got her. Her rough life, it’s all my fault. I am the one that convinced her parents they needed a night out. I take a deep breath and remind myself it’s not my fault and that’s just my insecurities pushing through. Once again building myself up I continue to the best part of my day.
“This morning before I took Avalyn to preschool she turned to me and asked ‘Uncle Aaron, can I call you daddy?’ I hugged her tight and told her she could call me daddy if that’s what she wanted but that I didn’t want her to forget her real daddy.” the group let out a collective awe, “then she said ’you are my real daddy.” and that’s when I lost it.
I sit down quickly and cover my face. The group leader Betty thanks me for sharing and gives my hand a squeeze while Truce gives me a hug.
Truce tells me it’s ok and when she pulls out of the hug she rubs my back for a few minutes while Betty asks if anyone else would like to speak. It took a few moments but eventually one of our newest members stood.
Carter. He had my attention the first time he walked into a meeting a few months ago. His piercing dark eyes, short dark hair and his perfectly sculpted body drew me in. I know his body was perfect because his suits were perfectly tailored and they showed off his sculpted muscles.
Unfortunately he’s never spoken to anyone, he just listens and that is perfectly ok if he’s not ready. I listened for a year before I spoke up today. I was worse for wear back then. I was struggling to make ends meet and I was afraid of losing Ava.
He licks his lips, which immediately has my mind in overdrive, then he begins.
“Hello my name is Carter and I’m twenty-six”. He stops and closes his eyes, “my Mother... My Mother was hit by a drunk driver after a shift at a local animal shelter. We had only recently started speaking again. We didn’t talk because of my father.” He opens his eyes and he looks angry.
I’m guessing his father wasn’t a nice man. I desperately want to comfort him but it would be way too weird, right?
He checks his anger and continues, “my father died a couple of years ago during a kidney transplant. There were some complications and he didn’t survive it. Arthur was a cruel man, he stole years of life events from my mother and I and now that she’s gone I will never get to learn everything I missed or create new memories with her”.
He has tears in his eyes too, he’s so heartbreakingly devastated. Carter pinches the bridge of his nose, sighs and then takes his seat again. Sharing our pain is so hard and is very, very intimate. I’m glad I shared, I hope he is too.
After group is over we clean up the chairs and anything else we may have brought and head to brunch at a little cafe a couple of blocks away.
This is really the only personal time I get. I work really hard to provide for Avalyn. I work Sunday-Friday with Saturday being the one and only day I spend the whole day with Ava. We try to do something fun but I can’t always afford to do anything spectacular so sometimes we just go to the park.
I work two jobs to support my sweet girl. Monday to Thursday I work nine to four-thirty at a call center then I work six to twelve at a local gym. Not one of those fancy ones but one that’s got a boxing ring, it’s not in the middle but it’s there. My boss Jerry loves Avalyn so he doesn’t mind that I bring her with me for a few hours. Speaking of the gym I work two to six today and I have to go pick up Ava from preschool.
After Avalyn and I arrived at the gym Ava ran up to me screaming excitedly “daddy, daddy Uncle Mac said I can beat him up, can I Pleeeeease beat him up?” she bats her little lashes at me. I can’t help but laugh and say yes. Mac tells her to go see Rob to get her gloves on and comes over to me.
“When did she start calling you daddy?“.
I smile and reply “this morning”.
We chat until she’s calling him to the ring. It’s honestly the most adorable thing in the world watching a six foot four boxer pretend to get taken down by a three foot tall four year old.
Mac’s girlfriend Lena comes in and watches him for a few moments before she starts her workout. She is Avalyn’s second favourite person at the gym and she actually lives next door to us. After her workouts Lena takes Ava home and does her nighttime routine and stays with her until I’m done.
Lena and Mac are the best so Avalyn asked them if she could call them Auntie and Uncle, they were both beaming when she asked and now I know how they felt.
When I am done working I stop at the twenty-four hour confectionery by our house and pick up a couple bananas for Avalyn. When I get in the house Lena is ready to go home but asks me if we can watch her cat Pumpkin this weekend. Ava loves Pumpkin so it won’t be an issue. Lena says he’s to be fed twice a day, he gets half a can of food in the morning and then the other half in the evening. She also reminds me that he gets half a cup of dry food to snack on between his wet food.
After Avalyn is bathed and in bed I sit down and put on the news. I started thinking about how a month or so ago while I was working and chatting with Lena she told me that Avalyn had been trying to set us up. It made me laugh but also it made me feel bad. Avalyn should have two parents and if Lena was my type and not with Mac she would be the perfect partner but sadly she is not my type and she is with Mac.
How do you explain that to a four year old? How do you tell her that it’s her or dating and you’d rather spend your time with her?
I completely understand how all those single moms and dads feel. It’s lonely but I need to do what’s best for Avalyn and that’s not having random men in and out of her life.
Maybe in a few years when she’s older I can try dating again. I never did date a lot so I’m not even sure how or where to begin. My only real relationship ended badly, actually the whole relationship was bad. I wonder how Cece and Chance are. Last we talked they were engaged but we lost touch not long after that.
Chance lived with Cece for two months before I found a job and apartment in a different city. The last time we talked was the day we left. After that happened between us I just couldn’t bring myself to keep in touch