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Anthony stared in horror at his mother. “Mom. If you love me even just a little, please don’t.”
Terri openly ignored her son. “And then, wearing a pair of my heels and a dress, he proceeded to sing all of Belle’s songs. He loved that movie so much that I thought he’d try to move to France and find a beast to marry.”
“Oh, Tony, honey,” Lauren, Anthony’s fiance, said with sad amusement as she wrapped an arm around his shoulders. She laughed openly when he pouted and pushed her away. “I bet you made a beautiful Belle. Did you like being a pretty, pretty princess?”
“Terri,” Domenic said with a warning tone. “Don’t embarrass our son. You’re the kid’s mother, you’re supposed to be protecting him.”
“You’re right,” Terri said. To Anthony she said, “I’m sorry.”
Anthony glared at her. “No, you’re not.”
“I’m not,” Terri admitted with a laugh.
Domenic smiled. “If you want to tell more embarrassing stories, at least wait until I take him away to tell her about the time he went running through the store without his diaper.”
“Dad!” As Lauren laughed louder, Anthony let himself be led away by his father. “Why?”
“Because it’s fun. And we like her.”
Anthony reluctantly let a smile pull at his lips. “I like her, too.”
They made their way through the assembled friends and family at the engagement party being thrown in the honor of Lauren and Anthony. Once outside, Domenic guided his oldest son to a secluded table. As they sat, he said, “I wanted to talk to you for a little bit just to make sure you’re ready for marriage. It’s a big thing.”
“I know. But I really love her.”
“I don’t doubt that at all. I can tell. And it’s obvious she loves you, too. But marriage is about more than love. It’s about hate, because there are day’s you’ll wake up and hate each other. You’ll be tired of seeing each other and having the same arguments and want to run away but you can’t because marriage is about more than that moment. It’s about trust. Trusting that no matter what, she loves you as much as you love her and that nothing she’s doing is meant to hurt you.”
Anthony felt slightly offended that his father might be thinking Lauren was deceiving him. “Of course I trust her. She would never lie to me and I wouldn’t lie to her.”
Domenic narrowed his eyes and met his son’s with an intensity Anthony had not seen directed his way since the last time he was grounded by the man.
“Never say never,” Domenic said tightly then took a sip of his drink. “And I’m not talking only about outright lies, it’s about secrets. Not just the secrets that you’ll have between each other as a couple against the world. There are also the secrets that you’ll keep from each other. Sometimes you’ll find out one of her secrets or she’ll learn one of yours. In that moment you have to decide whether it’s worth confronting or keeping. You have to love and trust her enough to keep secret the fact that you’ve learned one of her secrets, knowing that it’s not meant to hurt you.”
Anthony gave his father a strange tuzla escort look, not quite following. “That doesn’t really make sense. How can I keep a secret from her that she already knows?”
“Let me illustrate with a story. Purely hypothetical. So, you get married and start having children. After having a boy and then a set of twins, you decide that you should wait to have more kids even though your wife really wants more. You realize that you can’t afford it and things are tight and more children, while great, would not be prudent. So, without your wife’s knowledge, you go have a vasectomy. She starts to wonder why she can’t conceive any more when it’d been so easy in the past, but doesn’t make too big of a deal about it because if it were meant to be, it would happen. It bothers you seeing your wife unhappy, but you know for you family’s well-being it’s for the best.
“Years go by and finances turn around and you think about having the procedure reversed but never get around to it because you travel so much for work. Next thing you know, your kids are all teenagers and having a baby approaching forty seems crazy. Then, suddenly, your wife tells you she’s pregnant. You’re excited, happy to hear it but again the age thing rears its head and you go to have your vasectomy redone. The doctors run tests first to make sure that the prior one had, indeed, reversed itself and you find out that you’re still shooting blanks.”
Upon hearing that, Anthony’s eyes went wide with the knowledge that his father knew that Andrea was not his.
Intentionally misinterpreting Anthony’s reaction, Domenic continued, “I know. It’s hard to believe that a guy would keep all of that from his wife, but it happens. Anyway, you start to wonder who it was and why it happened, what you had done to drive your wife into another man’s arms but then you notice little things around you. Lingering glances, silent jokes. And when the baby comes, the father tries to hide his paternity but does a bad job of it. You’re oddly happy he wants to be a part of the new kid’s life but it’s obvious he knows he has to keep his distance. And it all doesn’t anger you—you do have moments of rage from the deception but move passed it—because you realize your wife is happy. Both with her new child and her lover. So, though you know she’s cheated on you and obviously is having a long-term relationship that you don’t quite understand, you accept it because you realize it might not have happened if you hadn’t had that vasectomy and weren’t spending so much time travelling. So you keep her secret and even go far as to find ways and reasons for her to have time alone with the other guy when he’s around. You even suggest that your wife start taking birth control due to the ‘sudden’ realization that the two of you could possibly still have a child at such a late stage in your lives.”
Anthony felt the growing pit of discomfort in his stomach turn to lead.
Domenic took a breath. “And while most guys would probably, understandably, resent the infant, you don’t. You realize she didn’t do tuzla escort bayan anything to deserve anyone’s anger. Hell, more than anyone else in the scenario, she’s completely innocent. So you claim her as your own and wonder how a guy could relinquish his child so easily. Granted, you recognize that it’s probably harder for the other guy than it looks, but as someone who already has three kids, you can’t imagine ever giving up on one of them. No matter what they do,” Domenic added tightly.
Anthony let his eyes fall to the table feeling acute embarrassment and remorse from his father’s pointed words.
“You vow to raise that little girl and protect her so that she never knows the truth. You know that having that secret come out would only do more harm than good. And to yourself, you promise to rain down holy hell on anyone that tries to take that little girl from you. You might not have been the one to provide the DNA—though in a warped way you did—but you are her dad, the one she calls to for protection, the one she snuggles up with at night. And if anyone, be it your wife or the father of that child, tries to change that, you know you’ll bring to bear every item at your disposal to ruin them. Not out of malice or anger, but in order to keep that little girl safe. She deserves a quiet life surrounded by family that loves her every bit as much as the other children and there would be nothing to be gained by having the truth come out.
“So that’s my long-winded, completely fabricated story about how you might have to keep a secret for and from your wife that she already knows,” Domenic said finishing with a relaxed sigh.
“Dad,” Anthony said softly still not meeting his father’s eyes. “I’m—”
“Hey,” Domenic cut his son off. “Look at me.” He waited until Anthony reluctantly raised his eyes before continuing. “It’s a work of fiction, okay? And a story that stays between the two of us. No one else needs to hear about your father’s tall tales. But, sometimes that’s the nature of secrets, they just beget more secrets. That’s life. And marriage. And you need to make sure you love Lauren enough to handle something like that if it comes up. Admittedly, it’s difficult to imagine something like that ever happening, but life throws you curve balls occasionally and you have to know how to bat them away and make it look effortless. Okay?”
Domenic downed his drink then stood. “Let’s head back inside. I need a refill.”
Anthony stood and tensed reflexively when his father placed an arm around his shoulder.
“Relax,” Domenic said softly. “I love you, son. I always will. There might be times when I don’t like you but I will always be your father and you my son.”
Both men turned to the sound of seven-year-old Andrea’s voice and saw the girl approaching with a pout. “Mom won’t let me have another piece of cake.”
Domenic awkwardly scooped up the girl. “How many have you had?”
“Only three,” Andrea said quietly, knowing she was already well passed her limit.
“Well, I guess escort tuzla we should make it an even four. But only if you promise not to tell your mother. Our secret.”
“Okay.” Andrea said excitedly. To Anthony she said, “You’re still coming over tomorrow to play, right?”
“Of course I am,” Anthony replied. He leaned in and gave her a kiss on the forehead. “You’re my favorite little girl.”
“You’re lucky to have a great big brother like Anthony,” Domenic said to her. “He’s a good guy.”
With a twinkle in his eyes, Anthony added, “And if you ever need to complain about Mom or Dad, you can come to me.”
Domenic gave her a teasing glare. “But you won’t complain about me because I’m giving you cake, right?”
Andrea nodded emphatically. “Right. You’re the best dad in the whole world. I would never complain about you.”
Anthony felt a brief twinge of sadness hearing Andrea call his father the best dad in the world. It was not because she was in effect insulting him, she had no knowledge that she was. It was because Domenic was, indeed, the best father in the world.
Slowly pinballing his way through the crowd, Anthony made his way back to his fiance. While he felt some guilt after his conversation with his father, he knew that he loved Lauren enough to handle whatever it was that she tossed his way. And though there was no chance of her finding out his secrets, he hoped she loved him enough to do the same.
Sometime later as the party was winding down, Domenic walked up to the couple.
“Your mother is ready to leave but I want to hang out for a bit and talk to Lauren and her parents,” Domenic said to Anthony. “If Lauren doesn’t mind, would you give her a ride home? I’ll follow with Andrea later, probably stop at a drive-thru to get her something else to eat. Tell her the twins are going out with your cousins so they won’t be home until we’re probably all in bed.”
“That’s fine,” Lauren said quickly. “My parents have been trying to get me alone all night as well. They can give me a ride and annoy the hell out of me in the car.”
Anthony met his father’s eyes. For the first time he could see in them the knowledge that the man was giving him and his mother the time and space to have sex and he felt guilt about it unlike anything he had felt since he first started having sex with his mother. “Dad, um—”
“Anthony, please don’t keep your mother waiting. She needs the time alone with you. It’s not every day your firstborn gets engaged. I’ll see you later.” Domenic pulled his son into a hug and whispered into his ear, “It’s okay. Really.”
After giving Lauren a kiss, Anthony went to find his mother. “Dad said you were ready to leave. If you want, I’ll take you home because he wants to talk to the Walkers.”
“Are you sure?” Terri looked surprised. She didn’t mind the lift but expected Anthony to want to spend time with his fiance, friends and soon to be in-laws.
“Of course,” Anthony replied without hesitating. He might have been hesitant in the face of his father’s knowledge but seeing his mother in front of him, he couldn’t deny his desire to be alone with her. And later on his parents’ bed, all of the guilt melted away as he demonstrated to his mother that she would always be his first love.
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