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Saturday, June 09, 2012

Goodbye Phillip

I really don't come around here much. I'm not sure why that is--I don't pay attention to the traffic. Okay, enough of that, let's go to why I'm here today.

Here's a story. I'm not sure I can get the whole thing on this blog. It's about 16,000 words long. I wrote this for the m/m group over at Goodreads. I think there are 149 other stories over there, or will be eventually. We get a photo and a prompt (written by someone else in the group) and write a story based on both.
Here's the thing--you have to join the group to read the stories.  I'm allowed to post my story elsewhere (duh, it's my story) but in the meantime, here's part of it.

The prompt and photo I picked:

free story, yup.
STORY PROMPT: (written by Urbanista, a goodreads member)

I must have been on a new papa high! Whatever made me think I could prepare a gourmet christening dinner for our new baby girl? I hope he comes back with the christening cake soon--why is he calling me now? it's getting late…hey babe! what do you mean my baby craziness is freaking you out? what do you mean you need some 'me' time?? what do you mean you're at the airport??





MY STORY: Goodbye Phillip





STEFAN
Phillip hung up. The goddamn coward.

Stefan was a fabulous multitasker, which meant he could stand and listen to the dial tone, panic, jiggle the baby on his shoulder, stare into the steam rising from the reduction he was making for the pasta’s sauce—and he could scream, very, very quietly. His life might have come crashing down, but there was no point in startling Emily.

Airport. Airport. Planes. Some of Phillip’s words came to Stefan through the fog of shock, and he realized his lover was off on a damned plane, bound for the Caribbean Islands. Probably the very resort where they’d met during that hot, glorious vacation four years ago.

Shit.

Emily twisted and rooted at Stefan’s shoulder, making small grunts. Double shit. She’d soon want a bottle.


The world was ending. His life had flipped upside-down. And the baby needed to be fed. No, wait, this was good. Taking care of Emily’s needs brought him back to what mattered.

He turned off every single burner until he remembered he’d need one for the formula. As he warmed the bottle, he made idiotic hushing sounds that seemed to help him a little, but the baby not at all.

Emily’s wriggles and grunts turned into full rage. She and Stefan wept together as they stood waiting for the formula to warm.

He was sort of surprised to discover he cried right along with her. Because what wasn’t particularly surprising: Phillip taking off. He’d been drifting away for a while, starting about the time he and Stefan moved in together. Stefan supposed he wasn’t the first fool to think a baby could save a relationship.

“It’s not your fault,” he told Emily. “He blames you, but don’t listen to him.”

He tested the bottle and carried it and her over to the big rocking chair in the corner of the kitchen. She whimpered and her misery seemed like a kick in his guts.

They settled, and he felt her relief in her loosening muscles as she hungrily sucked.  Maybe Phillip had taken off for a good reason, he thought as Emily’s little fingers curled around his thumb. Yeah, and maybe Phillip was an asshole.

“Can you believe it? He’s immature. That’s it. All that ‘You don’t pay attention to me. You want her more than you want us.’ Us was supposed to be all three of us. Dickhead,” Stefan said.

Emily stared up as if she found him fascinating. Her round green eyes seemed so bright they shone and the way the cowlick of fine hair at the top of her head pointed straight up just about killed him. He sighed with the pleasure of looking at her.

"Don’t take his abandonment personally, doll-face. He hated it when I paid too much attention to other people, not just you. Although I have to admit, it’s true, baby girl, you do require more care than many people. Hey, now, now, that’s absolutely fine, and exactly what you baby-types are supposed to do. Don’t feel bad. Yes, you do need lots and lots and lots of attention, you little sweet sweetie-pie.” Stefan usually made an effort to speak to her as if she was a person, but damned if he didn’t lapse into baby talk.

She blinked and stopped sucking for a second. Her mouth went slack as she studied his face, and her lips curled up. Not gas. Not a passing grimace. A real honest-to-god smile, complete with milk dribbling from between toothless gums.

“Look at you! You are the smartest baby in the whole world! Hey, look at that smile!” Stefan called and then remembered there was no one who’d hear.

Phillip had left them, and once he took off he didn’t look back. Stefan’s heart hurt even while he grinned down at their baby. His baby now. Wow, she had a gorgeous smile.

There was no one to tell. Except, uh oh—that wasn’t true. The guests were going to show up in an hour. The ceremony would take place soon after that. Too late to put this off, and so the party would go on despite the fact that Phillip had flown away from them.

Why hadn’t the bastard waited until tomorrow? Phillip knew how much work Stefan had put into the christening and how important it was to him…and, okay, that had to be exactly why he hadn’t waited.

Stefan hauled in a deep breath and stared around the kitchen. He’d done a pretty good job of preparing, so the only things left were the sauce and the cake.

Yeah, but the cake wasn’t going to happen.

Shit-shit-shit. He should have made it himself. He should never have moved in with Phillip. He should never have pushed to make a family. If Stefan hadn’t found Mellady at the food co-op, Phillip would still be here, but that was a worthless thought. Meeting Mellady meant they got Emily, and getting that baby was the best deal Stefan had ever struck.

“You’re worth it, but what the fu—I mean what are we going to do, Emily?” She sucked at the bottle and absently squeezed his finger. “Okay, yes, honey, you’re right. No panicking. No regrets. We’ll do this minute by minute here. That’s how we’ll live life. You’re good at that. Any advice?”

Her eyes began to close as she headed toward milk stupor. No helpful advice from Emily. So he gave the answer for her. “Live in the now, Dad. And at this moment we need that cake.” He considered calling Cat, his ex-roomie, but she would demand to hear all the details about Phillip and then explain again that Stefan should have listened to her. He hated it when she was right. And he didn’t have time to talk.

He made a list of everything left to do. He’d shove Emily into a front pack and get it all done. No time to get the cake, so he would have to pick up the order tomorrow. He’d put it in the freezer where it would be a reverse wedding cake, a constant reminder of Phillip and his assholiness.

Stefan wrestled with a lump of baby and the snuggly, got her in place, and went back to work. And of course, multitasker Stefan could obsess over Phillip as he chopped.
Maybe it was his fault Phillip left. Maybe Stefan could have toned down some of the baby craziness. He could have stopped trying to force Phillip to take an interest in baby clothes. Or he could have made this celebration a little less of an event.

They could have gotten a few pizzas, invited a couple of friends. But why not go fancy now and then?

Stefan loved a good party. He loved having a baby. And damn, he didn’t mind adjusting his life to fit a partner. He’d let Phillip move the damned billiards table into the family room along with the massive media center.

Stefan had made compromises. He did nearly all the cooking and cleaning after the baby arrived. Sometimes he’d felt as if he’d been negotiating with a parent: I promise to clean up after the puppy if we get one. That should have been a hint. Emily had been his baby, not truly theirs. Except that Phillip had said more than once that he wanted a baby and a family.

So maybe it wasn’t the party or Stefan’s enthusiasm for their new little one that made Phillip pack his bags and go. He simply didn’t love Stefan.

What a bastard.

The fact that pure rage poured through Stefan had to be a good sign, right? Wasn’t he supposed to feel brokenhearted? Instead, he wanted to kick Phillip in the balls and tell him he was a coward and an idiot. “You and I are a great package,” Stefan told the sleeping baby. “Especially since you’ll learn to sleep through the night any time now, right? We made a deal on that one.”

He took several long breaths and focused on the here-and-now. The house was gorgeous. The afternoon sunlight filled the kitchen as he finished the sauce, assembled the salad dressing and the topping for the last finger food. The plates and cutlery were already arranged on the well-ironed linen cloth in the dining room.

He hadn’t gotten wine or beer for Phillip’s sake. If Phillip was heading back to that island, chances were he’d be soused within twenty-four hours. Three years of sobriety down the tubes. Poor guy. For the first time, Stefan felt a moment’s pity for his partner—ex-partner. No, he liked being angry better and reverted to growling about Phillip.

The doorbell rang.

Mellady waited on the mat--early again. Three months ago she’d had Emily a week early. Spiky haired and skinny now, she jigged up and down on the balls of her feet as she waited.

A tall guy stood behind her. She hadn’t had a boyfriend when she had given birth.

She hadn’t kept in touch, but she’d wanted to know what was going on with the baby so Stefan had sent an invite. This would be the first time she’d see the baby since the birth.

Stefan hesitated before opening the door. Maybe inviting her had been a really bad idea—even before Phillip had fled the scene.

She smiled at the man behind her and Stefan thought she looked happy. Nice to know she’d gotten on with her life. She looked good, tanned and together, even with her patched jeans and purposefully ripped poet shirt. And wow, she lucked out on the man department.

Stefan let them. She bounced across the threshold, kissed him on the cheek and gave Emily a tiny pat on the back. After a long pause, the boyfriend followed. He was well-dressed and at least ten years older than Mellady, about Stefan’s age. He scowled at Stefan, then stared pointedly at his chest where Emily slept. Uh-oh. A potentially homophobic boyfriend.

Worse, he looked vaguely familiar with the dark hair, slight indentation in the chin and the green eyes. Stefan’s gut clenched as he figured out who he resembled. Was this Emily’s father? Mellady said the father wasn’t in the picture.

Stefan tamped down the panic and gave Mellady a sideways hug while sending up a prayer: please, no. Don’t let this be the father here to make a stink. Stefan considered excusing himself to run off and call the lawyer before saying hello to this new guest.

GREG

Having a mother like China, Greg knew from crazy, but Mellady had recently proved she could break the standard of ridiculous previously set by their mother.

He’d been in the US for a week and flew west the day after he’d gotten the email from their oldest sister Jeenie. He’d gone to Mellady’s dorm immediately.

She led him into the tiny room and made him sit down before she confirmed the story he’d heard. “Yeah. While you were gone over a whole year, I had a baby. I didn’t want to tell you or you’d just get on a plane and give me shit.”

He jumped to his feet. “You’re damned right I would. But I’d have helped, and--”

“You always moaned about Mom having too many babies too young. I got pregnant by accident, but I’m telling you, I get what she meant. I liked having a tiny life inside me too. I love it.”

He groaned and covered his face with both hands, and she slapped his hand. “I’m not dumb enough to keep a baby. It was kinda hard for a few weeks but I’m just fine now. The family I gave her to is just wonderful. You’ll love them.”

He should have known the way she’d emphasized love that she had something in mind. “You’ll come with me and meet her,” she said.

“Who?”

“The baby, of course. She’s so precious.”

Then how could you give her away, he wanted to ask again but didn’t, because giving that child away was the one sane thing Mellady had done in the last year or so. He chewed on his lip and examined his happy, eighteen-year-old sister. She seemed fine. But the weight of worry for her lay inside him, as it always had.

“What did Jeff say?”

“Why would he have anything to say?”

“Wasn’t he the father?”

Of course he wasn’t. Mellady hadn’t told him about that breakup either during Skype sessions or emails. The father was a guy she’d picked up in a goddamn bar.

“I didn’t mean to get pregnant, but it was wonderful. I felt one with the earth.” He tuned out the rest of her babbling and tried to remove the rock in his chest, the one composed of guilt and sorrow. He had a niece he’d never meet, hadn’t even known about.  He tuned back in when she mentioned again how it had been hard to say goodbye to the squalling baby. “But I’m fine. I promise.”

His sister had gone through the whole thing without him. He pulled her into a hug and she let him for a few heartbeats.

Mellady pushed him away and said, “But seriously, now that you’re back in the US, you can come to her celebration party.”

“Her what?” Hippies, he thought. She’d given the baby to New Age hippies.

“They’re dedicating her, and I’m invited.”

“You are?”

“Sure. I’m telling you, you’ll love the family. Come with me. You know you want to.”

He did.

 ***
Here is the rest (I think. If you click on this, you'll be taken to a PDF in dropbox. Let me know if this doesn't work!)

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