Gavin shrugged. "Soap tastes like Fruity Pebbles.”
My dad came around the counter and picked up Gavin before I could punt him like a football.
"Sorry, Claire, “Vampires Suck” was on cable the other night and there was nothing else on. You'll be happy to know that he covered his eyes during the s-e-x stuff," he explained.
"Super," I muttered.
"I saw boobs!" Gavin yelled happily.
"Okay, he may have peeked a few times," my dad admitted after Gavin's announcement.
Of all the times for Gavin to act completely like…well, Gavin, of course it had to be when Carter showed up. No wonder he hadn't said a peep in the last few minutes. He was probably stunned stupid.
I glanced behind me and saw Carter standing completely still, staring over my shoulder at my dad. I turned back around in time to catch my dad doing the whole two-finger eye-point to Carter that Gavin and Liz did the other day.
Oh for f**k's sake. It’s like we suddenly have a family salute.
"Dad, quit it. Carter, you haven't been formally introduced. This is my dad, George."
Carter stuck his hand out towards him, "It's a pleasure to…"
"Cut the s-h-i-t," my dad cut him off."
Somehow he didn't sound as threatening when he had to spell everything. This could work as long as Gavin was here as a buffer.
"I've got my eye on you. I was in Nam and still have shrapnel in my skin from the b-o-m-b-s. You like the smell of napalm in the morning son?"
"DAD! Enough!" I scolded.
I leaned over and gave Gavin a kiss on the cheek.
"I'll see you later, baby. You be good for Papa okay?"
He slyly reached over and tried to pull the front of my shirt down.
"Lemme see your boobs."
I grabbed his hand before he could give everyone a peep show and shot a dirty look to my dad who was just standing there laughing.
"Hey, I did not teach him that. He must be a boob man."
Carter laughed but quickly stopped when my dad looked over at him.
"Are you a boob man Carter?" he asked menacingly.
I rolled my eyes at my dad and rescued Carter from him.
"Say goodbye to Carter," I told Gavin.
"Bye, Carter!" Gavin said with a smile and a wave as my dad turned and headed out of the kitchen.
"Papa, what's Nam? Is it a park? Can we go there?" I heard Gavin ask as they walked out the front door. With a big sigh I turned to face Carter.
"Sorry about that," I said sheepishly. "I will completely understand if you turn around right now and run far, far away. Really, I won't hold it against you."
I stopped fidgeting with my apron and finally looked up at him.
"Shut up," he said with a smile.
After my dad and Gavin left, Carter helped me clean up the kitchen and put everything away. We talked more in depth than we had on the phone now that I wasn’t so worried about slipping up. I finally found out that Carter was crashing the frat party that night and didn't even go to The University of Ohio. He felt awful about all the time I spent with Liz and Jim trying to find him, and I felt guilty all over again about leaving him that morning. Especially right now, when he was being so nice and amazingly understanding about everything.
For the time being, Carter was sticking around. I wasn't going to hold my breath though. He said he wanted to spend time with us and do this the right way, but he also hasn't spent time alone with Gavin yet.
As Gavin so nicely put it, I had to give beer to people tonight, so after we finished cleaning Carter walked me down the street to the bar so we could continue talking. I remembered how easy it was to talk to him five years ago and how he seemed to get me and my humor when no one else did. He made me feel comfortable and he made me laugh. All of those things happened when we talked on the phone but sometimes it was harder to duplicate that level of comfort when you were face to face. In all honesty, it almost seemed easier to be with him like this, to be able to gauge his face for reactions to things I said and to see his expressions when I told him something about Gavin. It made me wish I'd done so many things differently. I was sad that he had missed out on the beginning of Gavin's life. He saw him now as a walking, talking, mouthy little boy, but he didn't get to experience the best parts, the parts that made his attitude and temper tantrums and bad habits all worth while-the first smile, the first words, the first steps, the first bear hug, and the first, "I love you."
Those were all the things that kept me from selling my child at a garage sale on a daily basis, and Carter didn't have those things. It worried me that his expectations might be too high. What if he just couldn't form a connection with Gavin? I felt connected to Carter in a way I never had with anyone else. He made me feel things I'd only dreamed about. But I didn't have just myself to consider anymore. I had to think about my son and how all of this was going to affect him.
For now, I suppose I needed to just let Carter into our lives and see where it took us.
When we got to the bar, I changed quickly into my black shorts and Fosters Bar and Grill t-shirt and was surprised to see Carter making himself comfortable at the bar when I came out of the bathroom.
I got behind the counter and walked over to stand in front of him.
"I thought you were going home," I said as I leaned onto my elbows.