CHAPTER 7“What! He just disappeared! What!” said Rodney.“Yes, I went into the back to get something. When I came back, he was gone. It was my fault I guess,” she said. She had a sheepish look about her.“Claire? Is there something else?” he said.“Maybe,” she squeaked. “We- I, suggested that we needed to be careful about confusing the baby. I suggested that the baby call him by his name for the time being. Just for the time being, Rodney. I swear, I didn’t mean to hurt the guy. Honest,” she sobbed.“What? I’m not clear here. What do you mean?” he said. “What exactly did you say that he objected to? He did object to something, right?”“I suggested, you know, that we have the baby call him Mister Jimmy. I thought it would be best for now, rather than have her call him Dad or Daddy so soon. You know, so as not to confuse her,” she said.“That doesn’t sound so bad to me?” he said. “Did he understand that it would not be that way forever, just until the baby was ready to learn the whole thing?”“I don’t know. I guess not. When I thought back to it, what I said, I guess it was my tone more than the words. I just don’t know,” she said.“Tone?” he said.“Well, I kinda made it sound like it had to be the way I wanted it to be, suggested it be,” she said. “He may have thought I was, well, pushing him into some kind of second class daddyhood or something. In fact I’m sure that’s what he thought, erroneously thought,” she said.“Fuck!” he said. “He may never come back now. We have to fix this and fix it now or it’s over for all of us. Claire, he’s just not ready to face up to any negativity.”“How did he get home? Surely he didn’t just walk back thirty-five miles to the row,” he said.“I don’t know. He just walked out. I don’t know how he could have walked. If he had some money maybe he took a cab, but I just don’t know, really,” she said.“If he did it was probably his last bucks. Look I’m going to try and track him down. Maybe give him back his cab fare, if he took one, if he’ll even accept it, which I doubt. Do something. Okay.“Look, I’ll be back as soon as I can. I’ll call if I’m going to be gone too long. Okay?” he said.“Yes, good that’s good,” she said. “And do call. I will be waiting for your call.”“I will,” he said. He grabbed his keys and coat and hurried out.******If he’d taken a cab, he would already be back on the street, he thought, and maybe at that truck park that Don had said he was shacked up at when not cruising the boulevard.It was a Wednesday, but it was late in the day; the gates to the truck park would likely be locked up tight, But if his quarry could get in so could he; well, he hoped he could.The drive had taken almost forty-five minutes; well, the traffic at six in the evening was always problematic. He saw the truck park off to the right and at the end of an industrial cul-de-sac. He also saw a man, not his man, moving about inside. He wasn’t sure, but he thought it might be one of his bud’s associates on the row. He parked and approached the fence. He could see how they got in. The fence was partly separated from the post it had been attached to. He called to the man.The man approached and looked him up and down. Recognition seemed to register with him.“You were with the woman, Jim’s old lady, ex-old lady,” he said.“Yes, I’m the asshole that took her from him. Name’s Rod. Any chance that James is around?” he said.“Yeah, he’s cold. He’s huddled up in the back. If you can crawl under there, I’ll take you to him,” said the man whose name, he now remembered, was Mack.“I’m Mack. I got Jim’s back. Bear it in mind,” he said.“Okay. But I’m not here to cause the man any problems, really,” said Rodney. The other man nodded.******I saw him coming before he saw me. I thought about just cutting country and leaving the park. But it was cozy at night and I didn’t have any place else to go that was worth a damn. Besides this was my house. No penthouse for sure, but it was mine not his. I wasn’t gonna be doing the leaving. He was.He finally saw me and came up to the niche I’d carved out for myself in the back of the overhang.“Whaddya here for, Rodney? Slumming?” I said.“Jim, you know that’s not so. Any chance you’d have a cup of coffee with me,” he said.“Yeah sure, just let me put on the coffee in the kitchen back there and we’ll adjourn to my study. How’s that?” I said. I was so humiliated him seeing me like I was that I couldn’t help but be snotty and snide.“Jim, please. The diner down the street in ten. Okay?” he said. Oddly he didn’t wait for me to respond. He just turned and headed back toward the fence.The Rooster was a seriously greasy, greasy spoon that only the most desperate of hungry losers like me would ever eat at. But well, the coffee was pretty much generic, so nothing was going to be lost by having a cup with my favorite asshole in the whole world. I followed him, but not too closely.He was already seated when I arrived. He even had the coffee poured and waiting.******“I’m paying,” he said. “So no false pride bullshit, okay?” I shrugged. He’d be paying Ümraniye Escort for damn sure. I sure as hell couldn’t afford it, not even a cup of coffee. I did have three dollars left in my pocket, but that was strictly for emergencies, not for luxuries like coffee at the Rooster.“If you can afford it,” I said.“No problem Big Guy. I’m fucking rich. I could help make you rich too if you’d let me. But you’d have to have half a brain to allow me to do something that big for you, oh, and a helluva lot less false pride,” he said.Trading barbs like we were kind of reminded me of earlier times before all of the betrayals and lies and hurt.“Yeah, well, all of the hurt and betrayal kind of gets in the way of all that,” I said. “I will admit to thinking about your offers when the nights really get cold. But, my buds would also have to be getting rich before I would abandon them. They’re honest and true to me. You know, unlike you and the woman,” I said.“Boy, oh boy, she really stung you today, didn’t she? She didn’t mean to, Jim. Really she didn’t,” he said.“Forget it. I will,” I said. I wouldn’t forget it of course, but it seemed like the smart thing to say at the moment. He nodded.“You gonna keep coming around to see the baby, your baby?” he said. Now, he was getting serious.“You mean is ‘Mister Jimmy’ going to be coming around to see the baby who isn’t supposed to let on that she’s his baby?” I said.“Jimmy, she screwed up. She didn’t mean to. It’s all uncharted territory, this. She was just trying, I don’t know, to get things organized in a useful way.”“Hmm,” I said, which was the same as saying nothing.“Look, if I have my way this little confab might last a while. Can I get you something? I mean, even a donut?” he said. I laughed.“Look around you. Do you think that even a loser like me would be eating anything they serve in here?” I said.“Actually, yes,” he said, smiling.“Touché,” I said. “Fact is I’ve eaten here lots. But it was always against my better judgment.”“Going back to something you said a few minutes ago,” he said.“What?” I said.“That you’d consider taking a handup from me if I included your buds. That a true thing?” he said. I looked at him hard.“Let’s talk about something else, okay. I’m not into making decisions for other people today. And, in any event I just can’t be around the woman on any level not required by law or basic humanity, not anymore, not after today,” I said.“Man, so you are actually thinking of shining your daughter on! I mean because of my wife’s dumb remarks. That right?” he said. I didn’t answer him immediately, I just stared at him.“Not sure,” I said, finally.“Fuck!” he said, loud enough to garner some stares from the few diners in attendance around us.“I don’t know, Rodney. It was pretty clear to me that she really doesn’t want me to have any influence or any say when it comes to my daughter. Oh yeah, very clear to me. And, like she said, and I agree with her on this one, she didn’t want me to be confusing the baby, my baby girl. I would never do that not on purpose,” I said. “Her assuming I would, or even might, hurt a lot.” My tone was earnest– not bitter– but earnest. I wanted him to take the message home to his woman; that was important to me.“Jim, I can see where you’re coming from. It must be a little bit scary you coming so late into the baby’s life and all. It has to leave you feeling vulnerable. By the same token she—no, I’m going to say it—we are a little bit scared too. We’ve become used to a certain way of acting, believing, and doing, all of it, and really would have a tough time adjusting to any major changes in our situation. And it’s not you so much as us. I’m gonna ask you, no beg you, to do some stuff you shouldn’t have to do, Jim,” he said.“Like what?” I said.“Jim, one: I need you to be there in the baby’s life, be around. How much, will be your choice totally. Claire and I will support whatever it is and how, so much ever it is that you decide. We owe you that; yes, we do. Two, you gotta cut my wife some slack. She’s consumed with guilt over what she did to you, what we did to you; and she is mortally afraid that in your anger that you might try to use the baby as a weapon to get even with us. Truth is, I worry a little about that too. Can you understand where I’m coming from, Jimmy? I really need you to,” he said.I had to admit he was being very persuasive. Everything he said was right on. Of course I wasn’t sure about his opinion of how my ex was thinking. But, it made sense at least on some level that he knew what he was talking about, so maybe. Still, that said, if he hadn’t stolen my wife from me, I wouldn’t be coming so late into my baby’s life; I’d have been there from the git-go, and he wouldn’t. But, even having only been with my kid for a very short time; I found myself attached to her, go figure. I made a decision.“Rodney, okay. I’ll try to cooperate. You make a good case. But, on my side of the deal I need you to talk to her and make sure she really Ümraniye Escort Bayan is willing to allow me access to my baby. If I’m going to be running into roadblocks every which where; then, I will just opt out. I do not need any more of what I’ve so far had to deal with. I mean, any more of it,” I said.“Understood and done. Do you have any notion of when you might be coming over again?” he said.“No, I’ll let you know. I have your numbers. I will call. Okay if I call you at work?” I said. What I didn’t say was that I didn’t want to be talking to her on the phone, making arrangements with her on the phone. I was still afraid at least to some degree that he did not have it right about her attitude. But, that said, we’d be seeing.“Okay, I think maybe we’re at a place where we can start normalizing things. Is there anything else you have in mind you’d like me to consider or relate to her or what all?” he said.“No, not really. Well, maybe one little thing. I still have her shirt. I’ll wash it and have it back to her soon,” I said. My ex-bud snickered.“Jimmy, I’m rich. I can afford a fucking T-shirt. Forget it. I can assure you she has,” he said.“Whatever,” I said.******And, there was morning and evening of the next day.I did wash the shirt and stored it in a plastic bag from the grocery store to return to her as soon as I next saw my daughter. I had tentatively made plans to see her as soon as I could get some clothes and figure out about a ride to get over to their house without having to walk thirty some miles. I really didn’t want to do that, and I sure didn’t want them to give me a ride.It was about a month later that I made the call, and I did make it to Rod at his business, not to her. But, I made it from the 7-11 near their house. I had made $257 for the month and I was flush. The cab ride was $30 plus a three dollar tip. I’d cabbed it to the 7-11 and made the call.“Yes, yes… No, like I said, I have transportation. Don’t want anyone putting themselves out for me. I mean it… Okay, you’re sure she won’t mind… I mean it is kind of short notice… Okay then, good,” I said, hanging up.During the month, I had had no less than two visits from my ex-bud offering me and my cohorts jobs. But, I was taking nothing from him that wasn’t mine. I was sending the message that he should never have taken from me what was mine if he was so worried about how I would react to his deeds. Whether my message was getting through to him or not was a question, but I had no control over that; I just did what I could and that was it.I was sure she’d be welcoming me with open arms. I mean Rod had assured me that that would be the case, but I was still a little skittish. My hope was that she would leave me and my little girl alone; but, I figured that the chances of that being the case would be long odds for sure. I wondered what he’d told her of our conversation. It figured that he’d told her all about it, but who knew.She’d buzzed me up as soon as I’d hit the intercom. And she actually answered the door before I even knocked.“Hi, Jimmy. It is so good to see you again,” she said. “Rod told me you were in the neighborhood and would be by soon. I’ve kind of been lying in wait for you.”“Oh, okay,” I said.“The baby is asleep, but she should be waking very shortly. She’s been down for over an hour already; she never naps for more than two hours,” said Claire.“Oh, okay. I didn’t know. Rodney didn’t clue me,” I said.“No, and I didn’t want him to. The plan is that whenever you want to be here, you can be here Period,” she said.“Whatever works,” I said. “It’s kind of hard to get here too often I don’t have much money and the cabs, well, you know, they’re kind of expensive.”“I know you don’t want to hear it, but we’d pick you up, Jim, and that’s an open offer. Just say the word. I also know that Rod has offered you, and I hear some of your friends, jobs; he has influence in a lot of places. You should accept his offer, Jim, you deserve it and we owe it to you at the least,” she said.“No, no I do for myself. I don’t need no handouts,” I said. “I’m doing fine. I’m looking for a good job and when I find it I will be over more, I mean if you will allow. But, for now, this is about the best I can do.”“Well, okay, I am under orders from the man to not pressure you, so I’ve said what I’m going to say. Please consider the offer regardless, okay,” she said. “Oh, and of course we will allow any visitation you want.”I didn’t even respond to her last. It sounded like she was making the statement that it was within her power, or theirs, to allow or deny my visitation. Which, of course, was sure as hell the fact of the matter, but it still stung hearing it.“Sure, whatever you say,” I said. “I know I have to let you make the rules and all. I know it’s a matter of the practicality of things. No problem for me.” She gave me a frustrated look.“Jim, I know I upset you the last time you were here. I didn’t mean to. But, after I thought about it, after you left, Escort Ümraniye I realized that I had. I am very sorry for that and I apologize,” she said.“No, no, no apology necessary. You’ve done a great job raising our baby. I’m not going to be making any waves,” I said.“Look, let’s have some lunch, okay,” she said. “I know you must be hungry.” I shrugged. I was a little hungry, hadn’t eaten since breakfast at seven this morning.We were seated at the dinette table munching on boiled eggs and tuna sandwiches. They tasted real good too. She ate but mostly she watched me eat. I think she wanted to ask me if I was hungry all of the time on the row, and while a truthful answer would have been yes, I would have lied in Technicolor had she asked.The baby awoke just as we finished up eating. I offered to do the dishes, but she pooh-pooed that idea. And, went to get the baby and deliver her to me.“Hello, Mister Jimmy,” she said, when they appeared in the receiving room where I had stationed myself. I noted that Claire took on a sheepish look when she called me Mister Jimmy. I tried not to telegraph my discomfort at the name, title, whatever it was.“Well, and hello to you too,” I said, in my best Mister Jimmy voice.And the meeting was on! Claire did give us some time alone. I counted that as a benefit. But, the fact was, after thinking about it, that I really wanted her to be with me so we could share our baby together. But no, that privilege would be reserved for my rival, my victorious rival. I’d get to be with my baby all right, on a limited basis, but I would be with her alone, never with my ex-wife. That fact bothered me. It bothered me a lot! I was going to ask Claire about it. I knew I’d have to ask kind of obliquely, but I was going to ask.It was maybe an hour later when the inevitable happened.“Mister Jimmy, I need to go to the bathroom,” said Rebecca.“Well, then, we need you to go,” I said. “Do you go by yourself?”“Yes, Sir,” she said.Claire had to have been waiting in earshot. Because she was in there with us as soon as the baby asked to go potty.“I’ll take care of this duty,” said Claire. I nodded my surrender. “Uh—James, will you be staying for dinner?” The baby was already running down the hallway to the bathroom.I could tell by her tone that she didn’t want me to. I think my facial expression showed it.“We’d like you to,” she said.“No, no, I won’t be a bother to you Claire. I’ll be going. Thank you for your hospitality and for letting me be with our child,” I said.“Jimmy, don’t be like that, really. I know Rod would love you to stay. Please, do stay,” she said.“No, but Claire, I do have a request,” I said.“Okay?” she said. Her tone verily oozed suspicion.“Yes, is there some reason that you don’t stay in the room with us when I’m here? I mean you are her mom and I am her dad. It would be nice if you did. You know so we could maybe one day get to the point where it wouldn’t be out of line for her to learn that she had two daddies,” I saidI could see I hit a nerve.“Jim, I don’t think–” she started.“Oh, okay,” I said interrupting her. “I’ll be leaving then. Have a good evening.” I turned and walked out. She didn’t say anything more, nor try to stop me. It would be the last time I would see any of them for a long time, and when I did it would be a whole different kettle of fish.******“Say that again,” said Rodney Pollard.“He wanted me to be in the room with them when he visits. He wants to work up to having her call him Daddy, too,” she said. “I’m not at a place where I can do that. You’re her real daddy, not Jimmy, good guy that he is. That is your place not his. He can be a close friend a well-loved uncle, but a daddy? No.”He nodded, but he was not at all sure of that he agreed with her. He loved and appreciated the truth that she saw him not his ex-BFF as the baby’s real daddy, but inside he knew it wasn’t right Him hogging all the important stuff wasn’t right.******“Oh, hi Jenna,” said Claire.“Yeah, hi, thought I’d stop by. So the bio-dad made an appearance,” she said.“Yes, second one in a month. But, I don’t know; it didn’t go all that well. He wants her to think of him as daddy. He wants to be ‘the’ daddy, the main daddy. I’m not letting that happen. Rod’s got that job and that’s the end of it,” said Claire.“What’s the difference, Claire? She’s going to find out anyway sooner or later. You can just make it so you control the ‘when later’. This way, things you don’t like could happen down the line,” said Jenna.“No, no daddyhood for Jimmy. And I’ll tell you why. One day she’s gonna go to high school and then to college, and it’s Rod who will dance with her at all of those father-daughter dos. Also, one day she’s going to get married; it’ll be Rod that walks her down the aisle. It’ll be Rod who gets the honor of having her name her baby after him if it’s a boy. I mean, you get the idea? I do not want to be running into a ton of emotional controversy. I need my baby to be happy and safe and unconfused. Yes, she’ll sooner or later likely discover that he was her sperm donor, but when that happens it will only be in a clinical sense not an emotional one. Okay?” she said.“Okay, if you think that’s best,” said Jenna.“I do,” said Claire.“One question,” said Jenna.“And that would be?” said Claire.“Is Rod of the same mind as you in all of this?” she said.“Yes.