“Momma?” Micah’s voice called, and I moved then. I spun around and looked at him. Sienna wiped at her face with her arm and bent down to press a kiss to his head and whisper something to him.
He wrapped his little arms around her, and then he turned his head and glared at me. He actually glared at me. My chest exploded into a million pieces as I stood there and stared into the eyes of my brother’s son. How had I not seen it? His eyes were just like Dustin’s.
“Don’t come back here. You made my momma cry!” he yelled at me.
Sienna leaned back and grabbed his little arms gently and started talking to him again. He nodded and turned to go back inside. She stood up and glanced back at me.
The pain in her eyes confused me. Her words confused me. Why did she think we knew about this? Why was she blaming us for not being a part of his life? We didn’t know. She’d left and never come back.
“He’s Dustin’s,” I said as the reality of this finally sank in.
She frowned, and then she slowly nodded.
I dropped my head into my hands and took several deep breaths. Holy f**k, I had to get control of myself. One emotion after another slammed into my chest, taking my breath away. Pain, guilt, anger, disbelief—but more than anything, pure joy. It trumped all the other emotions. For six years I had mourned my brother. It had changed the way I lived my life. There had been only the memories and the mind-numbing guilt that I hadn’t been paying attention to his bad choices. . I had picked a f**king fight with him, and he’d run off behind the wheel drunk. If I had just paid attention to him, he could be alive right now. It was a solid weight on my chest keeping me from finding any joy in life. But now . . .
I dropped my hands and stared back up at Sienna.
Her little boy was a part of Dustin. My brother wasn’t completely gone anymore. He’d left behind something . . . someone.
This didn’t bring him back, but for the first time in six years my heart felt lighter. Not just for me, but for my family.
He hadn’t known about Micah.
He didn’t have to tell me that. It was all over his face. Only once in my life had I seen this intimidating man look on the verge of crumbling, and that had been at Dustin’s funeral. How had he not known? Had his mother not told him?
“Momma? You coming inside?” Micah asked, sounding worried. I had to get inside with him. This was not the place for this. Micah was my first concern, always.
“I can’t do this here,” I told Dewayne. “He doesn’t need to hear it.”
Dewayne’s eyes shifted to the door, but Micah was back inside. Dewayne couldn’t see him. I watched as he swallowed hard and the hint of his Adam’s apple moved. Then he nodded and looked back at me. “Okay, but I have questions. He’s . . . he’s . . . I want to know him, Sienna.”
That one statement meant more to me than Dewayne could ever possibly know. “Then you will,” I replied. “But not now. This isn’t the way to handle it.”
Dewayne tilted his head back, closed his eyes, and let out a heavy sigh. I couldn’t imagine what he was thinking. All along I’d thought he’d known about Micah. This had to be a major shock for him. When he looked back at me, I saw moisture in his eyes, and that alone won this man a place in my heart. For so long I had wanted someone to love Micah and want Micah as fiercely as I did.
“When can we talk?” he asked.
“I only work half days on Saturdays. I could leave Micah at day care a little longer, though I really hate the thought of that. Maybe it would be best to wait until he goes to bed tomorrow night.”
Dewayne frowned. “Day care?”
“Yes,” I replied defensively, not liking the tone of his voice. What did he expect me to do, take him to work with me?
“Can I watch him? I won’t say anything. I swear. I just . . . I want to keep him while you work. We can talk after you get home. Maybe send him outside to play, and we can sit on the porch.”
My instinct to protect wanted to refuse his request. I wasn’t sure how much I trusted Dewayne not to say something to Micah about Dustin. But Dewayne wanted to be a part of his life. And I knew Micah wanted more family. He didn’t ask anymore, but he wanted it. Lately he’d been talking about his dad a lot. He craved a male in his life.
“I need to leave at eight tomorrow,” I told him before I could change my mind.
A relieved smile touched his lips. “I’ll be here,” he replied. Then he turned and walked back across the street. I didn’t wait to see if he was going into his parents’ home. I stepped quickly inside and closed the door behind me.
“You’re gonna let him keep me tomorrow?” Micah asked, wide eyed.
Sighing, I took his hand. We walked over to the sofa and sat down. My legs were too tired from standing all day to squat. When I was at eye level with him, I held both his hands and looked him directly in the eyes. “I know I’ve acted weird around Dewayne. It’s frightened you, and I understand that. But the truth is, I’ve known Dewayne since I was a kid. He’s a good guy. There are things in our past that make me sad, but Dewayne never did anything wrong. I wouldn’t leave you with someone I didn’t trust. I think . . . I think you’re gonna like Dewayne. Spending time with him will be fun. Much better than being stuck in day care on a Saturday.”
Micah chewed on his bottom lip as his eyebrows drew together. This was his thinking face. I let him take in what I’d said. It always took him a minute to make a decision about things. Finally he shrugged and smiled. “Okay. If you trust him, then I think it might be fun to have another man to hang out with.”