"You do know he belongs to a motorcycle gang," Aaron suddenly informed me, and my head jerked as frost formed all over my skin.
"I do," I said slowly. "However, it's a club, not a gang," I corrected. "Though, what I'd like to know is how you know."
"Were you meaning to keep that from me?" he asked.
"I wasn't. It's just that Joker really isn't your business," I shared.
"He spends time with my wife and son."
"Your ex-wife, Aaron," I corrected again. "And yes, he spends time with your son. So does Tory. Shall we go over Tory versus Joker, or did I make my point the last time?"
"That might factor if Tory was going to be in my life for very much longer."
I drew in a hissed breath.
There was the answer about Tory.
"This isn't you, Carissa, spending time with some guy in a biker gang," he told me.
"You don't know me," I whispered. "We spent a decade together, and in that time you didn't make the effort to know me."
"I certainly didn't, if you're the kind of woman who thinks it's okay to expose her child to a biker gang."
"Club," I snapped.
"Whatever," he snapped back.
I was done treading cautiously.
"It's not whatever. It's important," I educated him. "And further, in not taking the time to get to know me, you failed to learn that I'm not stupid. I may have done stupid things because I loved you, but I'm not stupid. And not being stupid, I know this is a threat."
I cut him off.
"You're looking into me. I don't like that, Aaron. It's invasive and insulting and ultimately will be destructive. I'll tell you now, I'd like very much if we can move beyond what's happened between us to build a relationship that's considerate of each other in order to provide a healthy upbringing for our son. That's what I'd like."
I took in a quick breath and before he could say anything-because I had a lot to say he needed to hear-I continued.
"Until I can get on my feet in order to take care of Travis financially, I'd also like your financial assistance. It won't be decades. It'll be until I can get an education to build a career where I can make more money. And further, while he's still so very young, I'd like for him to have a more stable home life rather than being passed back and forth every week. And as his mother, I believe that time should be spent with me. In order to give him time to do something crucial in his life, bond with his father, I'm willing to give you days, evenings, et cetera, with your son so you can continue to do that. That's what I want from you. All I want from you."
I drew in another swift breath and launched right back in.
"What I don't want is to fight with you. I don't want Travis to grow up with two parents who hate each other, who are always battling and bickering. That would not be good for our son. As he grows, as I get on my feet, I'll be less dependent on your financial assistance and he'll need more time with his father. If we can get to a place where we can make these decisions and instigate these changes when they're needed without tearing into each other, Travis will benefit. But I'll say, if you fight me, I'll fight back. And if you fight me, Aaron, it will tell me precisely how you feel, not only about me, but about your duties as father to our son
I pulled in more breath and finished, giving it to him completely in the hopes that for once in his life he'd care what I had to say and listen to me.
"The idea of us getting back together, Aaron, honestly, I don't want to hurt you. I know you might not believe that but it's true. However, we're over. You didn't hurt me. You destroyed me. I picked myself up, put myself back together, and came out of that stronger, seeing the mistakes I made in the past. I'm delighted that from the love we once had we made a son we both adore. But there is no longer anything there. I have a man in my life I'm coming to care about enormously. He treats me well, and he's falling in love with our boy. Truthfully, if you care about me at all, you not only will allow me to have that but want it for me. And with that, this conversation is over. I just ask that you please think on all I've said. And I ask you, when you bring Travis back to me on Monday, that you also bring my things. Now, have a good evening."
With that, not knowing if it was the right thing to do not to let him get a word in, and concerned it wasn't, I disconnected the call.
I put the phone down not only uneasy about essentially hanging up on Aaron and how he'd react to that, but downright worried about that entire conversation.
He might or might not be breaking up with Tory (but it seemed he was).
He might or might not after I'd said my piece wish to get back with me.
But he also might be saying these things to buy time to look into me in order to come to our meeting, or to court, with whatever ammunition he felt he needed, dragging in anyone he felt would aid his cause, and at his sole discretion dragging down everyone that he felt he could use to get what he wanted.
I looked around my lovely kitchen, which I'd yet to really take in.
It was at least three times the size of the kitchen at my old apartment, and in that moment I realized it wasn't a lot smaller than the kitchen I had in the house I'd lived in with Aaron.
A house his parents bought us for our wedding. A house I hadn't even viewed before it was given to me as a big surprise present with all the fanfare his father made of it as we stood on the dance floor at our reception with him and his wife making the grand announcement. And after we returned from Massachusetts, I was moved into it.
I wandered out of the kitchen, into the dining room/living room and gazed around.
My furniture fit here. The furniture I'd picked that was attractive and welcoming and comfortable, it fit in this house.
Like I'd bought it for right here.
This was my place.
This was me.
I moved to the big picture window by the dining room table and looked out.
Big lawn. Room for kids to play. Same in the back with a nice deck. A place to grill out. A place to relax.
I waited and watched and I did this for a while.
Only two cars drove down the street. They didn't race down it. They didn't have blaring music. They drove sedately through a safe, quiet, family neighborhood.