Seven Days Earlier
I was on my third circular pace around the living room. Every few steps, I stopped and took a look at my watch. The moment I had been dreading for the last few weeks was rapidly approaching, and with every passing minute, the sinking feeling in my stomach worsened.
Snap out of it, Nicole, you’ve had two weeks to prepare for this. I tried my best to pull it together as I walked over to the steps leading to the second floor of my house.
“Jax, are you ready?” I yelled, shooting a nervous glance to the wall clock. I could hear movements and fumbling coming from my ten-year-old son’s bedroom, before he finally responded in a strained little voice, “Yes, Mom, I’m fully dressed and waiting. All I have to do is put on my shoes.”
My eyebrow raised and I let out a doubtful, “Ha!” I heard the words from my son, but I didn’t believe them. Jax being fully dressed without my constant nagging and threats of video game privileges being taken away seemed virtually impossible. He was too easily distracted. I was willing to bet a pretty penny that when I entered his room, he would still be in his underclothes staring off into space, entranced by something silly.
On a normal day I would let him be, but today wasn’t a normal day. It was the first day of a court-ordered visitation schedule that allowed my estranged husband, Jaxson, to take our son every other weekend, alternating holidays, and half of the summer. As I considered the circumstances, I shook my head in complete and utter disgust. My life had become a shit show.
I had been confident in the bond I’d shared with my husband and the depth of our love. I’d believed in the vows that we took before God, our family and close friends. And, above all else, I’d been positive that Jaxson felt as strongly as I did about bringing our son up in a stable, two-parent home. Jaxson Senior and I were high school sweethearts; we met in English class, I had been sitting in the corner minding my own business when he approached me.
“Hey, Nicole, did you finish the reading assignment?” he asked randomly.
I was shocked; we sat next to each other for two months and never uttered a word to each other. I didn’t even think he knew my name. “I did, and I also saw the movie version a long time ago, so I’m ready for the test.”
Jaxson let out a long sigh. “I didn’t get to finish it. Do you think you could give me a quick rundown? Enough information so I can wing it on the essay questions?”
I saw the desperation in his eyes. “Yeah, sure,” I replied kindly.
“Oh my God, thank you so much. I really want to get an A in this class. I’m trying to keep my GPA high,” he exclaimed.
“Don’t worry, I got you,” I said with a smile. This was how it began; this was my first encounter with the man that would eventually change my life forever. We connected over the last two chapters of “Of Mice and Men.” We became good friends after that day, and weeks later, he asked me to be his girlfriend.
Our parents weren’t thrilled about us being serious at such a young age. They believed that fifteen-year-old children should be focused on school and not relationships. We convinced our parents that dating wouldn’t interfere with our schoolwork and asked for a chance to prove that we could handle both. With every passing semester, Jaxson and I stayed true to our word, and continuously made the honor roll. Soon our parents became more accepting of our connection, and granted us opportunities to go on unsupervised dates. With a few rules of course; no closed doors allowed, no getting home after dark, and absolutely no sleepovers.
Although Jaxson was a very attractive guy with many girls vying for his attention, he was surprisingly inexperienced when it came to girls. We were each other’s first everything. First love, first kiss, and on Valentine’s Day, right after my sixteenth birthday, Jaxson booked us a hotel room for the day and we had sex for the very first time. It had been perfect. And like most horny teenagers, we couldn’t keep our hands off each other…in private that was.
By senior year, we had a stack of College acceptance letters along with many scholarship opportunities. It seemed as if our biggest hurdle would be finding a way to stay together while attending separate universities. Boy, were we wrong. Our plans came to a screeching halt when I found out that I was pregnant.
Our parents were devastated, because their two children, who had so much promise, were becoming parents at a time when they should be in College. This time was distressing to say the least. Our parents sat down and talked. They decided that they didn’t want us to become statistics.
When the baby was born, his grandparents stepped up to the plate and offered help with Jaxson Junior, or “Jax” as we called him. With the outpouring of financial aid and childcare support from both of our families, Jaxson and I were able to attend College fulltime and obtain Bachelor Degrees. After I crossed the stage to collect my degree, Jaxson greeted me in the aisle down on one knee, with Jax perched on his side, asking for my hand in marriage.
We overcame the odds and became very successful professionally, both obtaining a master’s degree. I opened the At Risk Teen Center for girls at risk of becoming teenage mothers, and Jaxsonbecame Vice President of a Foreign Currency Exchange Firm.
We were legally separated now, after five years of marriage. It had seemed that in a few short weeks, our marriage went from happy and strong, to miserable and completely unhealthy. Jaxson constantly picked fights with me and stormed out of the house at all hours of the night. To this day, I still don’t understand why. Then one day, he stood in the middle of dinner and announced that he was moving out.
As I ascended the steps, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. My outward appearance was still the same; mocha-colored skin, curvy, tightly curled hair, and uniquely colored eyes. However, inside I felt hollow and broken. I was a twenty-eight-year-old, soon-to-be-divorced single mother. I let out a derisive chuckle and shook my head.
When I made it up to Jax’s room, I saw my baby boy sitting on the edge of his bed looking out the window. My heart melted. The sight of my son could bring me back from the depths of despair and make me feel complete. I rounded the bed and said, “Hey, baby boy, is everything okay?”
His worrisome look made me frown. I pulled him up into a big hug and he laid his head on my stomach, squeezing me tight. When I felt the brush of Jax’s hand in my hair, I knew for sure something was bothering him. Ever since he was a few months old, Jax found comfort in running his fingers through the silky curled strands of my hair whenever he was distressed.
“What’s the matter, baby boy? Are you not happy to see your dad today?” I asked. Jax shrugged one shoulder and gave me a pained look. “I don’t know.” His little voice was so soft I could barely hear it.
I furrowed my brow. “What’s wrong? Tell me,” I insisted. Then I pulled him over to his bed and made him sit on my lap. Jax took a deep breath and continued running his small fingers through my hair. “I’m excited to see Daddy, but I don’t want you to be sad and lonely, Mommy. I know you will miss me.”
His words sliced right through my heart, and I squeezed him tighter. Jax was absolutely right. For the next three days, I would miss my son with every fiber of my being. Jax had kept me company every day since Jaxson left. We talked about our days, did grocery shopping together, watched movies, and grabbed bites to eat. Most nights, Jax even slept in my bed. Although his assumption was correct, I didn’t want him worrying about me. As much as I hated to admit it, Jax needed to spend time with his father. I put on a brave face as I spoke to my son.
“I will miss you, my love, but you’re coming home on Monday. That’s only three sleeps away. I’m okay with it, and I’m happy you’re spending time with your daddy,” I said as I gently kissed his cheek.Jax gazed up at me, trying to figure out if I meant what I said. I offered him a reassuring smile. “Now come on, let’s get your bag. The sooner you leave, the sooner you come back. I just need you to make me one promise,” I said, as we both stood and made our way toward the door.
“What’s that, Mommy?” Jax asked curiously.
“Don’t grow too much this weekend; I won’t be able to handle it if you came home on Monday with a mustache and a deep voice.” Giggles filled the room and I leaned down and planted a kiss on his forehead, before we continued down to the front door.
I became overwhelmed with dread as we waited on the steps for Jaxson to show up. Occasionally, my mind would conjure thoughts of this all ending happily. Maybe Jaxson would approach me, begging for forgiveness and ask to come back home. I shook my head, silently reprimanding myself for thinking such nonsense. The man I married disappeared a long time ago and there was no way in hell I would let the stranger who replaced him back into my life, or bed for that matter.
Five minutes later, Jaxson pulled up in a brand new BMW x5. I shook my head in utter disbelief and mumbled under my breath, “Flashy idiot.”
I gave Jax another huge hug, a few more kisses, and sent him off to his father. Jax moved toward the vehicle. Then I noticed a falter in his stride. Concerned, I went over to see what was wrong. When I glanced into the car, I instantly knew what the problem was. There was a girl who looked no older than twenty-one sitting in the passenger seat. Unbelievable! Is this guy for real?
Frustrated, I turned towards my son. “Jax, wait in the house while Mommy has a quick talk with your dad.”
Jax seemed disappointed. Unfortunately, he had experienced many fights between us, and could sense when one was about to happen. He hated it when we argued, but knew there was nothing he could do to prevent it. Usually when we fought, he would leave the room and head to the nearest television.
When Jaxson saw his son walk back into the house, he got out of the car and walked onto the sidewalk. “Is there a problem, Nicole?” he asked intimidatingly. “I don’t have time for your games.”
I shook my head in disbelief. Wow. No hello, no good morning, nothing? It was hard to believe that this was the man I was once in love with. I pulled myself together and answered Jaxson with equal aggression.
“Yes, Jaxson there is a problem! Today is your first visit with our son, and you brought a woman with you,” I yelled.
He smirked and slowly shook his head. “Let’s not make this about our son, Nicole. Let’s call a spade, a spade. You’re jealous because I’ve moved on so quickly.” He let out a smug chuckle and shrugged his shoulders. “I knew this would happen.”
The look on his face pissed me off and I flew into a rage. “Jealous? What is there for me to be jealous of? I could care less about what you do with your life, Jaxson. Unlike you, I’m only concerned with our son and who or what he is exposed to.”
His chuckle turned into a jeering laughter. Deep, from the pit of his stomach. “Yeah, whatever.” He rolled his eyes. “You probably thought I would come here suggesting we get back together. Sorry, cakes, I’ve got a new younger girl now, and the three of us are going to spend the day at the Country Club. As a family.”
His words hit me right in the pit of my stomach. Somehow I was able to hold onto my dignity and not burst into tears. I decided to ignore the rest of the crap spewing out of his mouth. “I just thought you would use your head. It’s too soon to introduce our son to your new toy. Most people don’t introduce their kids to someone unless they’re serious about the person, Jaxson.”
Jaxson’s stance shifted to one of pure dominance and manipulation. “Look, Nicole, this isn’t up for discussion. It’s my time with Jax and I get to spend it with him however I see fit. If you have a problem with this then you need to take it up with the judge the next time we go to court,” he snarled.
His words left me feeling crushed. Because the visitation was court mandated, I had to abide by the law, and not my gut. At least for now. Without any further argument, I went inside to get Jax. When I walked through the front door, I saw Jax sitting on the couch watching The Cartoon Network. My first instinct was to lock the front door and tell Jaxson to and leave my son and me the hell alone. But that would only amplify this already horrible situation.
“Baby, you’re still going with daddy and his friend,” I said reluctantly.
Jax seemed confused and his voice shook as he spoke. “Mommy?” he whispered.
“Yes, baby,” I replied.
“Is that lady Daddy’s new girlfriend?” he asked unhappily.
His question made my blood boil. I was enraged that Jaxson wasn’t answering these questions. As usual, the burden was on me. “Yes, baby, the lady in the car is Daddy’s new girlfriend.”
Jax’s shoulders slumped when he heard my words, further breaking my heart. “So does that mean he has a new family now? What about us?”
I took in a sharp breath, fighting back the tears that threatened. “Don’t worry about us, sweetie, we will be fine. Everything will be fine, but if you need me at any time this weekend…don’t hesitate to call me, okay?”
He nodded but I could tell he wasn’t very happy. I didn’t feel comfortable sending Jax away in such a sad mood; I knew I had to perk him up a little bit before he left. I kneeled down to Jax’s eye level.“You know what? I know exactly how to fix this,” I said thoughtfully. His eyes brightened with curiosity in what plan I had up my sleeve. “I’m going to get you your own cell phone today,” I said excitedly. “So we can call and text each other any time we want when we are not together.”
Jax jumped up and down with delight. “Oh! Mommy! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!” he exclaimed. “I know exactly which phone I want.”
“Oh yeah? And what phone might that be?” I asked fascinated.
“Can you get me a Samsung Galaxy Note?” he asked with a huge grin.
“Oh Jesus, I’ll see Jax, but I honestly don’t think you need something so extravagant,” I said, running my hand through his curly hair.
Jax started to convince me of all the pros of getting him a fancy phone, but I cut him off.
“I’ll think about it, baby boy. I don’t want you to keep your dad waiting. Remember what I said. Call me if you need me, and I will see you Monday. I love you.”
“I love you too, Mommy,” Jax said and smiled.
I gave him one more kiss on the forehead, and got a quick whiff of his hair as he headed out of the door. Before he was out of my eyesight, Jax said one more thing, “Mom? Can you at least get me a phone that I can play Candy Crush on?”
I smiled, nodded, and with that he was gone.