"If you ask me, you should dump her. A kid'll just cramp your style, bro."
I stared morosely at Mel over the plates of greasy nachos. I hadn't asked, but it was standard 'Mel advice' - always thinking of number one. He knows if I give up the bar scene he'll have no one to slip him drinks. Trouble is, I like hanging at the Grind just as much as he does, but is it worth giving up Maureen and.. our baby?
After a sleepless night, I wandered out onto the patio the next morning. I always seem to think better outside, for some reason. As I gazed off into the garden, I absentmindedly fingered my pendant. My mind was whirling with random thoughts, which slowing coalesced into one amazing truth filling my head. I knew what I had to do. I glanced down at the pendant in my hand, and it was glowing softly.
I made my way to Four Bridges Park. Maureen is an amazing musician, and I know she likes to play here on sunny afternoons. She had garnered quite an audience, and I stood just out of her view, waiting for an opportune moment. When I saw her small baby bump, my heart skipped a beat.
It was almost dark, and her fans had mostly dispersed, before I dared to approach.
"Maureen, I know I haven't treated you as you deserve, but I truly want to change my ways. I love you with all my heart, and I want to be part of your and our baby's life. Will you marry me?"
I held my breath as she glanced back and forth between the shining ring and my hopeful face.
"Do you promise to give up the bar scene?"
She gazed searchingly at my face, as if to ferret out the truth of my statement. She must have been satisfied with what she saw there.
"Then yes. I love you, Ren. I just want my old Ren back, the one I knew back when we were still in school."
"You have him back, love," I whispered as I pulled her into my arms. But inside, I knew that Mel's influence had changed me. I could try, but I could never go back to who I was in high school.
But I set all that philosophical stuff aside for now, as I concentrated on making my sweet Maureen happy.
"I can feel him kick! He's a strong little guy!"
Mom and Dad are delighted. We all can hardly wait for the arrival of the newest addition to the Greenbow family.
The months flew by so fast, I hardly missed my nights out with Mel. And before I knew it, it was Mel's eighteenth birthday.
He claimed to want only a small family party, but that was just a cover. The real party would begin afterward, at a new club that had just opened.
It was perilously close to Maureen's due date, but I really wanted to celebrate with Mel, and check out the new club. And I had kept my promise so far - hadn't been to a bar since Maureen had moved in.
"So.....ah.. sweetheart..." I began as I caressed her swollen belly. "Mel wants me to check out this new ... ah... restaurant ... with him tonight... for his birthday." I know, I'm a terrible liar.
But Maureen was shaking her head in an emphatic 'No'.
"It's too close, Ren. The baby could come at any time. I want you here with me."
Out of the corner of my eye I could see Mel rolling his eyes at me.
Suddenly something inside me snapped."Don't be ridiculous! The baby isn't going to come in the next hour. I'm just gonna go have one drink with my brother on his birthday. What's wrong with that? Nothing!"
I answered my own question as I angrily stalked away.
I rubbed my hands together in glee as we arrived. It had been way to long since I'd been out on the town. The place didn't look like much from the outside, being located in an abandoned warehouse, but Mel assured me the inside would blow me away.
He was so right. Flame jets everywhere, and that bartender.. just wow. It was empty when we got there, but it filled up fast. I guess I've been gone from the party scene a long time to have missed this place.
I had my one drink with Mel. Then another one while Mel hit on one of the girls. Then a few more, just so I could stare at the bartender a little longer.
Then we fired up the bubble bar while we watched a gang of girls out on the dance floor. Before I knew it, it was 2 am and the bartender was doing last call. I was pretty far gone, not having this much to drink for months now, and the ride home is pretty fuzzy.
The next thing I remember clearly is standing in the kitchen, staring dumbly at my phone, and the half dozen missed calls from Maureen staring back at me.
I stumbled up the stairs as fast as I could, and truly panicked when I saw she was in labor.
"Wha' shoul' I do?" I asked frantically.
Maureen shot daggers at me out of her eyes. "Just get my bag, and drive me to the hospital."
I turned too quickly to retrieve the bag from the other room, and suddenly the room began to spin and I lurched against the bed.
"Never... mind!" Her words were punctuated by sharp intakes of breath. I'll ...get it.
She insisted on driving. I argued with her about it at the time, but in retrospect, it was probably a good idea.
She ignored me as she walked into the hospital, but I was determined to be there when my son was born. The cool night air was sobering me up, and I was starting to panic for an entirely different reason. Maureen had every right to be furious with me. Would she let me make it up to her?
She still wasn't speaking to me when we brought little Colt home.
As I held my newborn son, I was in awe at depth of love I felt for this tiny being. I promised myself that I would find a way to make it up to Maureen. I just have to.