Jason could hear their voices, but couldn’t make out what they were saying. Their words all sounded like muffled moans and groans he couldn’t escape as he moved through the crowded room. He tried to avoid eye contact with anyone for fear they would stop to tell him how sorry they were for his loss, and how much his mother would be missed, as if he didn’t already know that.
He tried to pretend this was just another scene in one of his movies, waiting for the director to yell cut, but knew that was not going to happen. Not even his character Michael Jenkins, the hard core, renegade cop, had experienced a loss of this magnitude. The only woman in his life who never expected more from Jason than for him to be himself had moved on, and had left him behind to deal with this awful pain all alone.
Jason felt as though he were suffocating, and need to get some air. He made a bee line for the door, and just as he opened it, he saw her, April, the woman he had left behind almost eleven years ago. When he’d come home to visit with his mother, he’d often thought about what it would be like to see her again, and look for her every time he went into town.
April spoke first, breaking the awkward silence. “Hi.” She seemed just as nervous as he was, as she stared at him from the bottom of the stairs, waiting to be invited inside.
“Hi yourself.” He stood there with the door open until he heard someone complain about the draft. He quickly closed it and stepped out onto the porch.
“How are you doing?” she asked taking another step towards him.
“I am doing as well as can be expected.” He thought his response sounded a bit cold, but it was the truth. “I thought I saw you at the church, but I wasn’t sure. Thank you for coming, I know you meant a lot to her,” he said as he made his way off the porch.
“She meant a lot to me too. And I am so sorry for your loss,” she said pushing back the strands of her hair that had fallen into her eyes.
“You look great.” The words tumbled out of his mouth before he realized his thoughts had been formed into a sentence.
“Thanks. So do you. It’s good to see you. I mean in person and not just on the big screen,” she said laughing a little and opening her arms to embrace him.
“She was so proud of you,” April whispered as she ran her hands up and down his back trying to comfort him. “She always knew you would be a star.”
“Thank you,” he replied, hesitant to release her from their embrace. Holding her again after all those years couldn’t have possibly felt better to him than it did at that moment.
“So, were you on your way out?” she asked turning her gaze to the house and then back to him.
“I just needed some air.” He was surrounded by people but had never felt more alone than he had over the past few days. But seeing April helped to ease his pain even if only for a moment.
“There you are darling,” a voice called to him from the porch.
He turned to see Vanessa, who was clearly surprised to find him outside, and with another woman at that.
“April, this is Vanessa Simms. Vanessa, this is April Jones. She was a good friend of my mother’s,” he said turning his attention to Vanessa. He didn’t have the nerve to look at April again after the way he’d just introduced her.
Vanessa smiled as she made her way towards them. “How nice to meet you,” she said, extending her hand to April.
“Vanessa is my agent,” Jason added, trying to diffuse the tension growing between the three of them.
April shook Vanessa’s manicured hand, maintaining her composure. “It’s nice to meet you as well. I was just telling Jason that I came by to pay my respects but I should really be getting home. I am sure my son is running circles around his grandfather,” she said, beginning to back away from them. “Jason, again I am sorry for your loss.”
His face went pale at the mention of her son. It felt as though the wind had been knocked out of him and it took him a moment to acknowledge the fact she was leaving. “Thanks again for coming by. And tell your father I said hello,” he called after her.
“I will,” she replied. And then she was gone just as quickly as she had arrived.
“She’s very pretty,” Vanessa said turning her attention back to Jason.
“Not now, Vanessa,” he replied shaking his head at her. “I just need a minute to myself, okay?” He tenderly caressed her cheek, trying to mend the bit of hurt he’d just caused her. But in that moment, they both knew it was over between them. And knowing there was nothing she could say to console him, she honored his request, and left him alone with his thoughts.
Jason paced back and forth in front of April’s house and contemplating whether or not he was making the right the decision showing up announced. He knew showing up uninvited was a bold move. But realizing it was the only move he had if he wanted to see her before leaving town, he took deep breath, walked up to the door, and rang the doorbell. When the door, he could tell by the look of confusion on April’s face that he was the last person she’d expected to see on her doorstep so early in the morning.
“Jason, what are you doing here?” she asked as she ran her hands through her loosely curled hair, and pulled her robe tighter around her petite body. Even in a robe and wearing no makeup, she still took his breath away. She was the true definition of natural beauty.
“I was in the neighborhood and thought I would stop by. I come bearing gifts,” he said as he held up the box of doughnuts, hoping the crème filled kind were still her favorite. He knew that was the lamest line he had possibly ever used on a woman, but he smiled anyway.
“Mom, it’s time to make the pancakes,” announced a small voice from behind her. As the young boy peeped around April, Jason saw him for the very first time. He had hazel eyes like his mother, and the rest of features Jason assumed he’d inherited from his father.
“Hi there,” Jason said, as the young boy eyed him curiously.
“Christopher, don’t be rude,” instructed April. “What do you say when someone speaks to you?”
“Hello,” he replied, sticking his chest out a little, letting Jason wasn’t afraid of him.
“Well, the doughnuts were very thoughtful, but as you heard, we are having pancakes for breakfast.” April paused and thought for a moment. “But since you came all this way, would you like to stay for breakfast?” She took a step back and gestured for him to enter, and tried not to trip over the person who had entangled himself in her robe.
“Pancakes sound great.” When he stepped inside, it felt was as though he were a teenager again. He’d stood in that very hallway and kissed her good night more times than he could recall. When he looked over at the mantle in the family room he saw younger versions of them taking pictures before they left for their senior prom, and a feeling her nostalgia washed over him.
“So, where is your Dad?” April’s father had been the closest thing he’d had to a father of his own since his had left his mother shortly after Jason had been born.
“Fishing, that is one man who understands the true meaning of retirement,” she answered laughing a little. “He’ll probably be back sometime this afternoon, and he’ll be sorry that he missed you.”
“Then I guess I will have no choice but to make another trip over here just to see him.” Jason seated himself comfortably at the counter and watched her as she moved about the kitchen.
“And who did you come to see this time?”
The question caught him off guard. He wasn’t sure if she flirting with him, or was it his imagination. He saw a look in her eyes that he remembered all too well, and it made him tingle all over. He once believed that look was only for him. But as he watched Chris mix the pancake batter, he began to wonder if that twinkle in her eye had contributed to his existence. He felt a tug at my heart and knew it was the feeling of regret for not having been man enough to love her the way she’d deserved all those years ago.
“The mix is ready!” Chris’s proclamation shattered the awkward silence and for that, Jason was grateful.
“Thank you sweetie,” April said taking the bowl from his small hands. “Do you think we should let our guest help us with breakfast?” she asked, looking from Chris to Jason.
“What if he can’t cook?” he whispered back to her.
She laughed at his question, her son never ceased to amaze her. “I think we should give him a chance. How about he helps you with the eggs?”
Chris thought for a moment and then shrugged his small shoulders. “Ok. You can crack them and then I will stir them,” he said to Jason very matter-of-factly as he climbed into the empty seat next to Jason.
It wasn’t every day that Jason had to interact with a child, and he was nervous, but refused to show it. April placed a bowl and the cartoon of eggs in front of them, and winked at him, which made him feel a little more comfortable. He was relieved and amused when Chris started the conversation. He was truly concerned with Jason’s level of experience with cooking and questioned him about what types of food he liked to eat as well as cook. And before long, the conversation began to flow from one topic to another, and Jason was enjoying every second of it.
Laughter at the breakfast table was not something Jason was accustomed too. It was usually talk about scripts, the next location for a movie, or whose party he had to attend that weekend. But today there was no talk of business. He told stories about when he and April had been her son’s age, and Chris seemed to enjoy listening to them almost as much Jason enjoyed telling them.
“I can’t believe my mom was the team captain of her softball team. She screams every time she sees a spider.” Chris began to laugh even harder after April leaned over and started tickling him.
“Hey, just because I don’t like creepy crawly things, doesn’t mean I wasn’t any good at sports. I even beat Jason a time or two racing in the back yard,” she said defending her reputation.
“I should quit telling stories while I still have some dignity left,” Jason said, laughing at the amused look on April’s face.
“And it’s time for you to get ready for practice young man,” April told Chris before releasing him from their affectionate embrace. He obediently obeyed and began to remove his dishes from the table.
“Well, I should probably be leaving too.” The last thing Jason wanted to do was overstay his welcome.
“Hey Jason, if you want too, I mean, if you aren’t doing anything tomorrow, you should come to my game.”
Completely caught off guard by Chris’s invitation and unsure how April felt about him accompanying them, it took him a moment to respond. “Well, if it’s okay with your mother, I would love to come to the game.”
April smiled nervously. “We know you are busy and probably have a lot of things to take care of before you leave.”
“Nothing that I can’t put off for a few days,” Jason answered nonchalantly as he rose from his seat.
“Well then, we will meet you at Gibson Field tomorrow afternoon around two,” she said, standing to walk him to the door.
“See ya tomorrow, Jason!” Chris called as he raced up the stairs to get ready for his practice.
“Looking forward to it,” Jason said excitedly. But his smile quickly turned into a frown as April pushed him out onto the porch.
“Look,” she said placing her hands out in front of her. “You can’t just show up at our door with doughnuts, flash your perfect smile, and act like nothing has changed. Because if you haven’t noticed, a lot has changed since you left. I know Chris put you on the spot, but he has experienced enough disappointment and heartbreak to last him a lifetime, so don’t make him promises you can’t keep.” She sat down on the swing as she waited for a response.
“Okay, I deserved that,” Jason said as he sat down beside her and prepared to have a long overdue talk. “And I know I shouldn’t have shown up unannounced, but I didn’t know what else to do. You ran off so quickly yesterday, I just wanted to see you again.”
“Well, you could have called first,” she said finally looking at him again. “It’s not like my Dad’s number has changed.”
“And have given you the chance to say that you didn’t want to see me?” Jason knew the element of surprise was the only thing that had gotten him as far as it had with her that morning.
“Don’t I have that right?” she asked. It was an honest question, and one he didn’t want to answer, so he didn’t.
“This isn’t even about us. This is about Chris. Since his father died…” Her voice trailed off and her frustration had been replaced by an unspoken sadness.
When he heard she’d gotten married, it was a though his heart had broken all over again. And when his mother told him her husband had died, he really did want to call her, but it just didn’t seem appropriate. “My Mom spoke very highly of him. I am sorry I never met him.”
“Me too, and the funny thing is, I think you would have liked him. He was a big fan of yours.” She took in a deep breath and then exhaled, trying to compose herself. “We moved back here a few months ago. I wanted Chris to have some type of male influence in his life, and I figured who better to take on that role than my Dad. We really are just starting to get back into the swing of things, if that even makes sense. I just can’t have you making promises to him you can’t keep.” She searched his face for understanding, and he knew what she was trying to say.
“He’s a very lucky boy to have you for a mother. You seem to be doing a terrific job with him.” He wasn’t trying to complicate her life, but he did want a chance to be a part of it again.
“Well, I should get dressed. Chris will be ready to go soon.” A small smile appeared at the mention of her son. “So, we’ll see you tomorrow?”
Jason nodded his head yes, reaffirming he would be there for there no matter what. And after saying goodbye, he reluctantly returned to his hotel feeling a little less heavy hearted than when his day had begun.
Even though it was a beautiful day outside, his room was dark and quiet. Vanessa’s perfume still lingered and greeted him when he walked through the door. Even though their relationship had come to an end, she was still his agent. And before leaving, she’d reminded him he need to be back in California by the end of the week to meet with the producer of the new movie he’d agreed to do. Jason sat down at the table and flipped through the script she’d left for him to read, but that didn’t hold his attention for very long. He couldn’t think about anything or anyone other than April and Chris.
Upon habit, he picked up his cell phone to call his mother for guidance. But when he remembered where he was and why he was there, Jason tossed his phone down onto the bed beside him. Too emotionally exhausted to do anything else, he began to drift off to sleep. And he hoped that when he awoke, this would all have been a terrible nightmare, and that everything would be back to normal, but deep down inside, he knew that was not the case.
The next day, Jason arrived at the baseball field a quarter till two anxiously awaiting for April and Chris. Chris’s eyes lit up when he saw him sitting in the stands, and the dark cloud that had been following Jason around since his mother’s death, felt as though it had suddenly lifted, and he was grateful for that, even it was only for a short period of time.
As they waited for the game to start Jason and April made small talk with people around them, and he caught another glimpse of the woman he’d used to know. She was happy and playful, and fun to be around. And as Jason watched Chris out on the field, thoughts of the child that he and April had decided not to have when they only teenagers, began to resurface. They both had dreams of their own, and had decided neither of them was ready to be parents at such a young age. He’d never told her he often felt an ache in his heart for the child he’d never known, and wondered if she ever felt that same pain.
April’s loud cheers brought him out his daze and back to the present. Not wanting to let the mistakes from their past ruin their day, he joined in on the fun, cheering louder than anyone else. They cheered Chris on even harder when he became frustrated when the game didn’t go the way he wanted, and Jason couldn’t wait to take him out for ice cream win or lose.
Jason spent every waking moment with them for the rest of the week, trying to soak in as much of them as possible. And although his deadline to be back in California quickly approached, he was no closer to being ready to leave than when he had arrived for his mother’s funeral. And he knew something had to give. He’d just finished packing his last bag and was about to leave when there was a light knock on his hotel door. And to his surprise, there stood April, grinning from ear to ear.
“Hey you, did you forget you promised Chris you’d come watch him practice today?” She kissed him on the cheek as she made her way further into the room. Her smile quickly faded and was replaced with a look of confusion. “What’s going on?” she asked pointing to his bags.
“It’s not what you think.” He reached out to her, but she pushed him away.
“I told you the day you showed up on my doorstep that you couldn’t do this to him! And now, you’re leaving again, and without a word?” She shook her head in disbelief and tried to make her way back to the door.
“Wait, let me explain,” he pleaded, but she didn’t seem to care. “I know you didn’t have to give me a second chance, but you did. I never stopped loving you. These past few days have given me a lot to think about. And I am so grateful that you allowed me to get to know Chris. He’s an amazing kid.”
Her face softened as she took in a deep breath. “There’s something I need to tell you.” April took another deep breath. She’d been playing this scene over and over in her head for years, and this was not how she thought it would happen, but nevertheless she was there, and it was time she told Jason the truth.
“Chris is your son. I told you that I had the abortion because I didn’t want you to put your dreams on hold and then end up resenting me or the baby for making you stay.” The silence between them was almost deafening. And she began to wonder if she’d made a mistake for telling him the truth after all these years.
“I don’t expect anything from you. I just thought you should know.” She picked her purse up from the floor, and headed towards the door. “I’ll tell him that they needed you back right away and that you said goodbye.”
“Wait,” he said going after her. “I know, I know he’s my son,” he said as tears began to come to his eyes.
April placed her hand to her mouth and shook her head in disbelief. “How could you know?” Feeling lightheaded and even more confused, she went and sat down on the bed.
“I’ve been wondering about it since I met him. It was like looking in a mirror,” he said smiling and shaking his head. He sat down beside her and draped his arm around her. “But my suspicions were confirmed last night when I found this.” He pulled an envelope from his back pocket. “It’s the letter you wrote to my mother when he was born.”
“I made her promise not to tell you. She was always there for me whenever I needed anything though. I am really going to miss her.” As she cried on his shoulder, he held her as they both shed tears for his mother.
“I packed my bags because I am moving my things to my mother’s house,” he said wiping his face with his free hand.
“So, you aren’t you mad at me?” April asked lifting her head from his shoulder.
“How could I be mad at you for sacrificing so much for me? I just wish you had told me sooner. I would have wanted to be there for him, and for you.” He began to shower her wet face with kisses. He’d missed her more than words could express.
“I called Vanessa and told her that I am going to pass on the new movie, and that I would call her when I am ready to come back. I am never going to leave either of you again.”
“I knew you would always be a part of me, and for that reason, I never stopped loving you either.” As her lips found their way to his, he knew he’d made the right decision, and that Hollywood would definitely have to wait.