The Brightest Sunset(10)

By: Aly Martinez

Welcome to your new life, Porter Reese.

“Goddamn it, Catherine. I hate you so fucking much!” I roared at the heavens.

Or, in this case, hell.

* * *

“Breathe,” my mom whispered, holding my hand tight as I stared at the tall, wooden door.

Brady on my left.

Tom at my back.

My little boy just a few feet away.

We were waiting for the social worker to give us the go-ahead to enter.

“I’m fine,” I lied.

“You’re crying,” she said softly, giving my hand a squeeze.

I swiped my fingers under my eyes, nervously flashing my gaze to Brady to make sure he hadn’t seen. Luckily, he was staring down, enthralled with his shoes.

“Are you going to be okay in there alone with Brady?” she whispered.

I looked at my mom. She was crying too. The only difference being that hers were tears of joy. She hadn’t stopped smiling since Tom had shown her a picture of Lucas he’d snapped on his phone.

I grinned tightly. “Lucas is in there, Mom. Brady won’t even know I’m there.”

She brushed the hair off my neck. “Okay. Well, if he gives you any shit, you let me know.” She lowered her voice and leaned in close. “I have no problem kicking his ass.”

My lips tipped up into something that I thought resembled a smile. “Thanks, Mom.”

She winked. “Any time, baby.”

We all jumped when the door suddenly cracked open. A young woman with thick, red curls piled on the top of her head appeared, wearing a navy blazer and a warm smile. “Ms. Mills? Mr. Boyd? You can come in now.”

My whole body tensed as if I’d been invited to take a stroll down death row, but Brady moved fast, all but plowing me over as he raced inside.

“Lucas?” he called.

I had no choice but to follow him. That’s what good parents did. They ran to their children, relief flooding their systems, tears overwhelming them.

They didn’t stand frozen with fear in the middle of the hallway, nerves rolling in their stomachs while contemplating the merits of throwing up.

No. That’s not at all what good parents did.

Which probably explained why that was exactly what I did.

“Go,” my mom urged, giving my shoulder a gentle shove.

Stiffly, I shuffled into the room with my heart in my throat, prepared to face the little boy I’d failed so many years ago.

“Stop!” Lucas yelled before I’d fully cleared the door.

Brady was squatting low, his shoulders shaking with quiet sobs. Lucas was tight in his arms, his face the picture of horror, as he frantically tried to shimmy his way out of Brady’s embrace.

“Mr. Boyd,” the social worker scolded.

We’d been briefed for twenty minutes on how to handle this reunion  . During this time, we’d learned that our son had specifically asked that we not touch him. I assumed that this request had been given after my showdown with Porter back at the house. He’d also asked that we called him Travis. The social worker had urged us to stay calm and keep our emotions in check. And further that, if we found ourselves unable to keep it together, given the emotional altitude of that day, we were simply to excuse ourselves so as not to upset him.

And there Brady was, not ten seconds after he’d entered the room, breaking every last rule.

“Brady!” I hissed.

“I’m sorry,” he said, reluctantly letting him go and rising to his feet. “I…” He trailed off and used the back of his arm to wipe his face. “Shit. I’m so sorry. I thought I could do it.” He looked over his shoulder, his red, tear-filled eyes slicing through me as he said, “It’s Lucas.”

“My name’s Travis,” he said, scrambling away, not stopping until his back was against the wall. His lungs wheezed as he added, “Travis Reese. And I want my dad.”

I slapped a hand over my mouth. After the last ten years, I didn’t have much of a heart left, but what was left shattered into a million pieces.

“I am your—”

“Brady, don’t!” I snapped, cutting him off.

He wanted his dad.

And, suddenly, so did I.

Squaring my shoulders, I took a step toward my son. “Hey, Travis. I’m Charlotte.”

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