“Christopher hasn’t had a drink in a long time.”
“Should I not drink around him?”
“If he asks you not to.”
Josh hadn’t known what to make of Kelly Beckett. Kelly Beckett-Davis, as it was. Five foot four, she was taller than his mother, but just as fearsome, just as protective of her own. Blonde and blue eyed, and much smarter than him, he always felt a lesser being around her.
He could tell his presence made her nervous; made her a bit standoffish, but she tried to stay polite. Her eyes flashed at times. But she was willing to go along with things for the sake of her husband. Josh said he understood. He didn’t really.
“I just want to know my kid.”
“Your kid hasn’t been a kid in a long time.”
The smoke danced through the air as Christopher finished his cigarette, blowing out the last drag. He wanted something more, itched for it. The craving wasn’t going away. It had been there all day, a slow burn building in intensity from the moment he woke up. The disgust in his father in law’s eyes that morning had him at the corner store. The comforting pack kept in his breast pocket got him through the funeral, got him through the glares and the questioning eyes, got him to drive past the store with it’s illicit bottles glittering in the pale light. But he was home now and his dad was there and they were doing their dance again. Stay, don’t stay. you don’t have to, I understand. Please stay. They went around and around so often Chris didn’t know where he stood with his father. They did get along well, liked each other even. But it was a stop and go relationship. They danced.
Pitching his butt into the lake, Christopher stretched and leaned back. Josh took note of the scars across the exposed patch of skin and filed it away.
“I didn’t know you smoked.”
Chris grimaced, then sighed, “I quit.” He pulled out another cigarette and lit it. “Before Reagan was born. I’d quit then.”
Josh sat down next him and stretched his own legs out. “Do you want to talk about – ”
“When are you going back to LA?,” Chris interrupted.
The question caught him off guard. As soon as possible. “I’m not sure.” What’s the standard for sticking around and trying to be comforting to a kid you really don’t know?
“You should go if you have to.”
“The world’s not gonna stop if I’m MIA for a few days. I produce music, Kit. Bad music. Pop trash will still be there next week.” Why are you offering to stay?
“Kit.” The name hung in the air.
Embarrassed by the slip, Josh continued on, “I’ve always called you Kit. Like, to myself? It’s a nickname for Christopher, did you know?”
Chris frowned, “My mother called me Kit.” He held the smoke out to his father, offering a drag, which Josh gratefully accepted.
Inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly gave Josh a chance to regroup. Embarrassed by his admission, and a little confused, he started, afraid to stop, afraid to keep going. “Christopher, it’s hard. And I know I’m like, preaching to the choir here. But I can stay and be here and try. Because that’s what we said we’d do, right? We said we’d try.”