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“Hey Junior!” I shouted back.
I was not only shocked to hear his voice but also a bit confused. Per our divorce agreement his mother and I agreed that she would get to spend the first Christmas with him. So what was he doing here? And if he is here then I am sure his mother is here as well. I had barely time to turn around before he was already slamming his body into my legs. All of six years old, but he was a fast one. My perfect doppelganger. He was of normal height and weight for most kids his age, but this boy's level of activity was off the charts. Sitting still for too long was not a part of his makeup. We hugged and I rubbed his head roughly. You know the rough housing men typically do with their sons. It isn’t meant to hurt them, but to show affection and toughen them up a bit. Junior would always laugh when I did this and I would as well.
“How are ya?” I asked as I shook his head from side to side.
We had this special thing we would always do when we greeted each other. We would hold up our hand in the universal hand gesture for good and press our thumbs together with a twisting motion. I have no idea where we got it from, but we did it once and it stuck. It’s our thing now and it always puts a smile on my face.
“Are you ready to get your gifts or are you hungry?” I asked.
“Mmmm, I am hungry, but I am ready to get my gifts too.” He replied
“Okay, lets get you something to eat before the food is all gone.”
As I turned to face Jacqueline, I could only imagine what she must be thinking. If I was planning on getting to know her better, meeting my son this soon may give her pause. There was nothing I could do at this point, but go with the flow. I could fight the wave only to crash into the rocks. That would definitely not be a welcome feeling.
“Jacqueline, this is my son Anthony Junior. Say hi, Anthony.” I stated, trying not to let the uneasiness of the situation show.
“Hi!” He exclaimed.
“Hi, Anthony. I see you are excited to get your gifts.”
“Yeah! I want to see what Grandma and Daddy got me, but I am gonna get something to eat now.”
Now I know what you must be thinking. The boy is six and how does he already know there is no Santa. I could make up some story about how we wanted our son to be grounded in the truth, but I can assure you the truth is far more entertaining. Jacqueline seemed unfazed by the events unfolding or, if she was, it didn’t show in any way that I was able to discern. As Junior and I made our way towards the kitchen, I was like a Vietnam vet walking through the jungle. Every voice, every sound, and every movement had me jerking my head back and forth. I was hoping that my son’s arrival was the only excitement I word have to deal with other than Jacqueline. We made it to the kitchen and Junior and I sorted out what he wanted to eat. As I fixed his plate, I couldn’t help but get this feeling of uneasiness. Why? I mean why does life always seem to throw stuff at you to make things all the more challenging? As if life wasn’t difficult enough. I often wondered this. It seems to happen when things seem to be going smoothly and poof out of nowhere some unexplained happenstance comes in like a tornado and next thing you know you are in Oz. With Junior’s plate filled with all his favorites, I placed him at the dining room table. I look up and right on cue life says, “Lets see what you do with this.”
If you haven’t figured it out yet, it was my ex-wife, Cynthia. A woman both beautiful and intelligent, but things just didn’t work out as planned for us. We seemed to get off track, but never could get things back to a level where being together made any sense other than doing it for our son. We felt that us being apart would serve him better than having two parents at odds with one another. Even so, one could not deny her smooth dark skin and curvaceous figure were very tempting assets that made the decision to part ways all the more difficult.
“Hey mister.” Her voice finally cutting through the silence.
“Mommy!” Junior interrupted before I could reply.
“Hey baby. I see daddy got you some food to eat.”
“Yeah. I was hungry. We gonna open the gifts later.”
“I’m sure you can’t wait for that. Now finish eating so daddy and I can talk.” She said as she looked over in my direction.
As Junior returned to eating, we casually made our way over to the corner of the room away from prying ears. I hadn’t time to compose myself, because seeing her was a bit jarring for me. We hadn’t spoken much, other than to make arrangements for our son, since the divorce. So now to have a one on one conversation was awkward. What does one say when things are over? I hadn’t worked it all out, but with time things would get a bit more manageable. It's almost like you still feel married, but you know that you aren’t.
“So how have you been?” She said in a low whisper.
She was being her usual coy self. Cynthia was always one to use her feminine wiles to her advantage. I have found myself at her mercy on numerous occasions. Just the fact that she was speaking to me in a whispered tone immediately put me on guard.
“Good. How about yourself?” I replied.
“As well as can be expected, all things considered.”
“That’s good, but what brings you here? I thought we decided you would get the first Christmas.”
“I could say that I came by to let him see his Gran, but that wouldn’t be the truth. It’s fairly obvious I came here to see you.”
The words flowed from her like wine from a chalice. She was definitely up to her old tricks. Even so, this was without a doubt more of a direct approach than her usual.
“Anthony...you don’t think of me at all?” She asked as she took a step in my direction.
“I don’t see why that’s relevant. We aren’t together anymore.” I replied.
“Do you think she is woman enough?” She stated staring intently into my eyes.
“What are you talking about?”
“The woman you were lost in conversation with earlier. Do you think she is woman enough for you? I wasn’t.”
I was taken aback by her boldness. This was not the Cynthia I knew. Of the many years we spent together, she was never one to be so direct in the way she dealt with things.
“Yeah...I saw you two talking and it bothered me to see you that way. It reminded me of the times we talked like that.”
“Cynthia, this is not the time nor place to have this conversation.”
As I spoke the words, she moved in so close I could feel her breasts pressed against my chest.
“She can’t have you. You belong to me.” She stated, whispering into my ear.