Even the Score(2)

By: Beth Ehemann


She blinked innocently and nodded as she sat back down at the table, shoveling a bite of pancake into her mouth. As she chewed, her eyes fixated on her plate, eventually drifting off. I knew she was sitting there, wishing more than anything that I could spend the day at the zoo with them.

I wished that, too.

To say that my job was demanding was the understatement of the century. Especially lately.

Hockey trades were just about to open and baseball trading was in full swing . . . literally. When you’re a sports agent negotiating multimillion-dollar contracts for some of the nation’s top athletes, you don’t get to call in sick to take your kids to the zoo, unfortunately. A missed phone call or an unanswered e-mail could mean a lost opportunity, and if my clients didn’t make money, I didn’t make money. And I definitely needed to keep the money flowing. Paying to keep two households running wasn’t easy.

A couple of years ago, I had a normal life . . . a wife, a home, and two happy little kids. Once I pulled my head out of my ass and realized my wife was a money-hungry vulture who was nasty to every single person on the planet, including her own children, I ended it as fast as I could. Now I’m a mostly single dad to those same two great kids, and I have an ex-wife who I pay an obscene amount of money to every month just so she’ll keep her distance and not screw up our kids any more than she already has. Even when we were married, she was more interested in shopping and getting her hair done than spending time with our kids. Per our agreement, she only gets them one weekend a month, and to be honest, I’d be willing to give her even more money if she would give up that weekend, too. There’s still a very tiny cell in my body, buried way down deep in my core somewhere, clinging to the hope that one day she’ll realize how bad she’s messed up and be a better mom for Logan and Becca’s sake, but that cell is shrinking every day.

There’s no doubt in my mind that one day my kids are going to come to me and ask why their mom only wanted to see them forty-eight hours a month. I’ll have to take a deep breath, swallow my anger, and explain all the ugly things in a way that their pure brains can process them. How could I do that when I didn’t even understand it myself?

“Dad?”

Logan’s voice pulled me from the dark corner in my head where I stored all things Blaire related. I stared at him blankly for just a second before squeezing my eyes tight and shaking my head back to reality. “I’m sorry, buddy.”

“I asked if you were going to come to my baseball game tonight. You worked late last night and missed practice. Can you come to my game?” he asked softly, sounding disappointed as if he anticipated my answer being no. “We play the Mavericks and I’m pitching.”

He was right, I had worked really late the night before. It was their last day of school and instead of being home, kicking off the summer with them, I’d been sitting in my office chugging Red Bull while I hammered through the specifics of a new baseball contract.

“You’re pitching?”

Shit.

He nodded as he chewed on his bottom lip, nervously waiting for my answer.

“Yeah. I’ll be there.” Before I even finished my sentence, a huge grin broke out across his face. “Gloria is going to take you there for warm-ups, but I promise I’ll be there by game time, okay?”

“Mm-hmm,” he chirped happily. The excitement radiated off of his rosy cheeks as he shoveled a bite into his mouth. Even though he was chewing, he couldn’t wipe the smile off his face.

“While you guys finish eating, I’m gonna make some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the zoo,” Gloria announced.

“Strawberry jam for me!” Logan hollered.

Becca’s head snapped up from her pancakes. “I want raspberry!”

Gloria froze and turned slowly from the fridge to face them, putting her hand on her hip as she spun. She narrowed her eyes at Logan and Becca but didn’t say a word.

“Please,” they murmured in unison, sinking down into their chairs.

“That’s what I thought.” She winked and turned back to the fridge.

Gloria had been with us since Logan was a baby. She was more of a mother to the kids than Blaire had ever been, and they loved her just as much, if not more, than Blaire.

“Ah, Gloria . . .” I walked over and wrapped one arm around her shoulders, squeezing gently. “I have no idea what the hell we would do without you, and I never want to find out.”

She glanced up at me with her dark brown eyes and smiled as she shook her head.

I turned back to the kids. “Okay, guys. I’m off to work. I love you both. Don’t drive Gloria too crazy today, please.” They waved as I turned toward the door. “Logan”—I whipped back around with an excited smile on my face and pointed to my son—“I’ll see you at six o’clock!”

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