“Where are you going to stay?” George Reagan asked his foster son. The quiet anger hadn’t left his voice but years on the job and raising children of his own had him well versed in controlling his temper. That morning while looking for change, he realized all the spare cash they kept in the coffee can in the kitchen was gone. It didn’t take long for him to realize a few other things were missing and, living with only one son these days, who the culprit was. Finding the stash took even less time.
Putting an old backpack down onto the bed, Christopher started throwing things in haphazardly. “I don’t know. Not here.”
“You have nowhere to go.”
“I guess that’s not your problem anymore, right? Eighteen’s long since passed.”
“That doesn’t matter to me. What you’re doing now matters to me. When did you fall off?”
“It doesn’t matter to you or it didn’t matter to her?” Chris sneered. He hadn’t mentioned his foster mother since she died, and doing so he knew he had struck a nerve. It was never a secret in the Reagan house that his fostering was something Mrs. Reagan wanted and everyone else obliged. He threw his wallet into the bag and zipped it up. Mr. Reagan stared at the boy as he crossed the room.
“Let him go.” Davy said from the doorway.
Christopher, half inside his coat, looked back at him.
“He’s faded now anyway. You’re wasting your breath.”
Mr. Reagan stood looking out the kitchen windows, snow coating the backyard in a thick blanket of white. It lit up the night to the point where he hadn’t needed a light to come down the stairs, and was heavy enough to keep him upstate despite not planning to spend the night. He sighed contentedly, thinking of the day.
Christopher stamped his feet on the ground and looked up, his breath rising in the cold winter air. He looked at his foster father, his eyes full of worry and fear and faintly, hope. So different from the emptiness that was there last time they met.
“Dana calls every now and then, Davy texts sometimes. But we don’t talk about anything really. I wanted to see you. I just wanted you to know. Um. That I’m okay, I guess.”
“That you’re not dead in a ditch.”
“And you’re a father.”
“I am. And a husband.”
Mr. Reagan nodded at the boy. He smiled at him, “Good.”
“I’m sorry.” Shrugging, Chris clarified, “For everything.”
“I am incredibly proud of the man you have become,” Mr. Reagan whispered as he hugged his foster son to his chest. Pulling away but still gripping Christopher’s shoulders, he said more clearly, “Don’t forget that.”
“I won’t. Be safe. We’ll see you soon.” With one last look at the boy and his little family, he got into his car and backed out of the drive, careful of the ice.
Snapping the front door shut and locking it against the cold evening, Christopher allowed himself to smile as he moved to his daughters room to check on her. There was always a little tension between himself and his foster father, especially after Martha died and he started using again, but their first meeting since Chris got clean again went well.
He ran his fingers through Reagan’s curls as she slept, amazed at how much bigger she looked. She was more toddler than baby now, and it was happening much too fast.
“Shh. Go back to sleep.”
“I see you.”
“I see you too, Reagan. I love you.”
“How are you doing?” Kelly asked him later, as they moved around the kitchen putting things away.
Chris looked over his shoulder at her, “I’m alright,” he nodded. Knowing exactly what she was angling for, “I’m glad he’s not still mad.”
“George was never mad at you. He just wanted you to be better. And you are.”
“I know,” he said quietly. “I think a lot about the last time I saw him. I was awful.”
“You weren’t you. He understands.”
“I was a disaster, Kel.” Pausing to sink into a chair, Chris folded his arms across his chest and stretched his legs out. Tilting his head back, “I hate that I think about it so often but I’m glad I do too. You and Reagan, you two are why I stay clean, but remembering the lying and stealing I did – from such good people? That reminds me why I can’t go back to it, even a little.”
Kelly looked right into his eyes. “Christopher, if you ever touch anything even a little again, I will take our daughter and not come back.”
“I know.” Reaching his hand out, he pulled her to his lap and kissed her. “Kel?”
“My dad called me. Like, my real one.”