Keeping Micah meant being disowned by my strict religious parents. My aunt wasn’t the most affectionate person in the world, but she’d disagreed with my parents’ decision. I had been expected to work and pay my own way, but at least she’d given us a roof over our heads.
Giving up on high school and getting my GED was my only option. My aunt Cathy was the principal at the local high school and helped me get a trade school grant, so when Micah was eighteen months old, I enrolled in beauty school. Before his third birthday I had a degree in cosmetology.
I owed my aunt more than I could ever repay her.
Micah and I moved out just last year and finally got an apartment of our own. I didn’t date because I didn’t trust anyone around my son. I also felt guilty paying for a sitter when we needed that money for more important things, like rent, day care, and food. It didn’t keep men from flirting, though, and trying to get me to go out with them. Janell, the owner of the salon where I worked, said that the men all thought I was playing hard to get. It just made them more persistent.
The truth was, I was lonely sometimes, but then Micah would smile and I’d see his father in him and I’d remember that for ten years of my life I’d had someone. A very special someone. And now I had Micah. I didn’t need anything more.
When the call had come two months ago from my mother to tell me about my father’s heart attack, I hadn’t known what to feel. He had never met Micah, and now he never would. My mother had used Dad’s life insurance money to move to a retirement community in central Florida. She’d given her house to Micah and me.
Not one time did she apologize for deserting me when I’d needed her most, or for turning her back on her only grandchild. But the fact that she had given the house to us meant something. I only hoped one day she would realize what she was missing by not knowing him.
Janell had helped me by giving me a glowing reference, and I had managed to get a job in Sea Breeze working at one of the most elite salons in town. I would be making more money, and I wouldn’t be paying rent any longer. Our life would be better in Sea Breeze. Micah would get to grow up in the small coastal town that I loved.
My only fear, and the one reason I almost didn’t come back home, was the idea of the Falcos seeing Micah. Once I’d realized that my parents hadn’t been planning on me keeping my son, I sent a letter to Tabby Falco, Dustin’s mother.
She never replied.
The first year of Micah’s life I wrote them countless letters and included pictures of him. He looked so much like his father. I wanted them to see that Dustin wasn’t completely lost to us. He had left a part of himself behind.
Not once did she respond.
A few times I’d almost worked up the nerve to call them, but if they weren’t replying to my letters, then they didn’t want to talk to me. They didn’t want Micah. It had hurt even worse than my parents not wanting him. I had hated the Falcos for their desertion. But then I’d learned to let go. Move on. Be happy with my life. With my beautiful little boy.
“Momma? Where are we?” a sleepy little voice asked from the backseat of my twelve-year-old Honda Civic.
“We’re home. Our new home,” I replied, pulling into the driveway of the house that had once been my home and would soon be again.
“Our new house?” he asked with excitement in his voice as he wiggled in his seat to see better.
“Yep, baby. Our new house. Ready to go inside and see it?” I asked him, opening my car door and getting out. It was a two-door, so I had to lean my seat forward to reach him in the backseat. He unbuckled himself, then scrambled out of his seat and jumped out of the car.
“Do other people live in there too?” he asked, staring up at the two-bedroom wood-frame house with wide eyes.
“Just us, kiddo. You’ll have your own bedroom here. Mine is right across the hall from yours.”
“Whoa,” he said, his eyes shining with amazement. Even when we had lived with my aunt Cathy, Micah and I had shared a room. Once we’d moved into an apartment, a studio was all I could afford with day care costs. This house was only twelve hundred square feet, but it was the biggest living space he and I had ever had all to ourselves. The studio apartment had been a third of this size.
“Let’s go see your new room. We might need to paint it. Not sure what color the walls are,” I told him. The last time I’d been in my old bedroom, it had been pink. Micah was determined that pink was for girls and wanted nothing to do with it.
From my purse I pulled out the key that my mother had mailed me along with the letter and the deed to the house. I took a deep breath before unlocking the door. Stepping back, I motioned for Micah to go inside. “Check it out.”
His grin spread across his face as he took off running into the house, whooping as he saw the size of the living room. Then he turned and headed down the short hallway. I paused at the door, unable to ignore the house across the street any longer, and turned around to look at it. I didn’t recognize the truck in the driveway, but then again, it had been six years. I was sure the Falcos were still there. Mother hadn’t mentioned that they’d moved.
I wondered if they would speak to Micah when he played in the yard. Or would they ignore him like they had since his birth? I wouldn’t tell him who they were. I hadn’t told him about my parents. He didn’t know this had once been my home. He didn’t know he had grandparents. In preschool he had been asked to tell the class about his grandparents, and when he’d told them about Aunt Cathy, he had called her Aunt Cathy. The kids in his class had teased him, telling him that his aunt wasn’t his grandparent. He’d come home confused and upset that he didn’t know who his grandparents were.