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I FUCKING PROMISED MYSELF NOT TO MAKE THIS MORE THAN THREE PAGES AND I FAILED BECAUSE IT WAS ALMOST 3xs THAT AHAHAHAHA
The Lost Poet
The night was calm and the only sounds Alex could hear were the crickets outside and the gentle hum of the car engine. He didn’t want to get out of the car. He knew he should. He had Phillip waiting for him inside. God knows that boy doesn’t listen to the babysitter when he tells him to go to bed. And still, he couldn’t bring himself to open the door.
“I had fun,” John finally said. Alex looked at him and smiling, feeling his cheeks turn the color of his hair. His curly-haired date bit his lip and turned in his seat. “I know you said you’re not a first-date kind of guy. But this is our third. So… can I-”
Before he could finish, Alex leaned forward and cupped his face, pulling him into a kiss he’d been dying to give him. He never thought he’d date again. He didn’t think he’d have the time or the initiative. It hadn’t worked out once. He was married to his work as Eliza had put it.
And then John Laurens came along, finding his son when he’d run off into the aisles. With a single look at him, Alex was a goner. Both of their eyes were blue. But John’s eyes were deeper. Like an ocean. They were bright and changed colors in the light. They were so alive. They took Alex’s breath away completely. And the freckles that dusted his face. It looked like someone had taken a paintbrush and splattered his face with it. He was a complete work of art.
Kissing him felt like unlocking a completely new part of himself. It felt real and whole and perfect. His lips were soft. He didn’t open his mouth too wide, he didn’t try to shove his tongue into his mouth, he didn’t try to control the kiss. It was gentle, slow, and oh so wonderful.
He pulled away and bit his lip as he rested his forehead against John’s. “I’m looking forward to date four,” he whispered.
“Me too,” he answered, pecking his lips lightly. “You should go. Babysitter will be getting nervous.” Alex chuckled and nodded. “Call me,” he called after him.
Alex took a breath and walked to his door, unlocking it and walking in. The babysitter was sitting on the couch, scrolling through his phone. “Hey. Where’s Phillip?”
“I sent him to bed a while ago. I heard the television, but I figured since it’s a weekend, I didn’t have to pry him away.” Alex smiled and took out his wallet to pay him. “So… third date. Will there be a fourth?”
“Ah,” he chuckled. “Yes, hopefully,” he answered.
“What’s she look like? She’s this big mystery. You know Phillip tried drawing her. Wondering what she looked like.” Alex swallowed and furrowed his eyebrows, shaking his head slightly as he handed over the money. “Okay. Uh, thank you. Have a good night.”
“You too,” he called after him. He walked down the hall and opened the door to Phillip’s room where he was sitting up in bed, staring at the door expectantly. “You’re supposed to be asleep, young man.”
“You weren’t home,” he protested. “When do I see her? Is she going to be my new mom?”
Alex frowned and sat beside him, laying him down and tucking him in. “No one is going to be your new mom,” he said softly. “Mommy is your only one. And no matter who I go out with they won’t replace Mommy. And no matter who Mommy goes out with, they’re not replacing me. Right?” Phillip nodded, but Alex doubted he understood. “Go to sleep,” he murmured, leaning forward to kiss his forehead.
His son smiled up at him and Alex felt his heart swell and burst. God, he loved his kid. He loved him so much and even though he and Eliza weren’t together, he wanted him to have them both. He wanted to give him the world. He wanted everything to be perfect for him.
As he turned off the light and started to leave, Phillip’s voice cut through the darkness. “Papa, you didn’t say when I get to meet her.”
Alex hesitated and sighed. “Not yet,” he answered. “Sleep.” He shut the door before his seven-year old could ask more questions.
The next week, Alex and John settled on their fourth date. John would be off work, Alex would be able to have a little wiggle room in his own work and cases, and Phillip would be at a sleep over. The day couldn’t come quickly enough. Despite talking on the phone and messaging each other, Alex wasn’t satisfied. He wanted to see John Laurens. He wanted to be able to reach out, touch him, be sure he was there.
He wanted to kiss him again.
But the day they were supposed to go, the Eacker’s called and said their son had come down with a fever. When Alex called his usual babysitter, he was disappointed to hear he wasn’t available. Then again, how could he expect a teenager to sacrifice his Saturday night at the last minute?
With no one to watch after Phillip, Alex knew he couldn’t go on his date. No matter how badly he wanted to see John again, he wouldn’t leave his son with anyone else.
“Phillip,” he called. His son walked in wearing his Ninja Turtle pajamas. “George got sick, so you can’t sleep over tonight.”
Surprisingly, Phillip looked relieved. “Oh good, he’s mean and stupid.” He turned away and hopped onto the couch, fumbling with the remote to watch television before grabbing a journal he liked to doodle in.
Alex scoffed and shook his head with a smile. Phillip was something else.
Then the worst part: telling John. He took a breath and called him, pacing in the kitchen, keeping an eye on Phillip. Part of him hoped John wouldn’t answer. But of course, he did. “John, hi,” he breathed. “Um, some things came up with the people I usually have watching Phillip. I can’t go today. Can we maybe reschedule?”
“Is everything okay there?”
“Yes, of course. It’s just, the other kid got sick and the babysitter isn’t available, so… I can’t leave him.”
There was a slight pause on the other end. And then, “Well, what if I went over there? Would that be okay?”
Alex caught his breath and glanced at Phillip where he was bent over a journal, scribbling furiously with his tongue poking out. “And… meet Phillip?” he questioned.
“If that’s okay,” he answered gently. “It’s up to you, Alexander. But I’d be more than happy.”
He swallowed and cleared his throat. “Okay,” he said. “Uh… Phillip… he doesn’t… I haven’t… told… him….”
“That I’m a guy?” he finished lightly. Alex could almost hear the smile in his voice. “That’s okay. It’s understandable. So should we just reschedule?”
Alex looked over at Phillip who had suddenly been captivated by the screen, a chewed pencil between his teeth. “No,” he answered. “No, I… I want to see you. I just have to figure out how to explain this to him. I’ll send the address.”
“I’ll see you soon,” he promised. Alex bit his lip and took a shaky breath as he walked over to where Phillip was kneeling to write against the table.
“What are you watching?” he asked.
“Descendants,” he answered. Alex raised an eyebrow as colorfully dressed people danced and sang on the screen. “Wanna watch movies with me?”
“Yeah,” he answered. “Let’s get some popcorn.” Phillip stood up and followed after him, insisting on being the one to climb a chair and put the popcorn in the microwave. While it popped, Alex got a couple of sodas and saw Phillip’s eyes brighten. “Yes, you get soda, but only one.”
“Yes!” he screeched, pumping a fist in the air. Alex laughed and ruffled his hair. It was Eliza’s brown, wavy with the ends curled. As they sat down to watch the rest of the movie, there was a knock on the door. Phillip frowned and looked up at his father. “Who is it?” he whispered.
Alex gulped and went to answer the door. John was standing on the mat with a smile and nervous blush. “Hello, John Laurens,” Alex said with a fond smile.
“Alexander,” he greeted with that sparkle Alex so loved to see in his eyes. His eyes fell to the small child at his legs, peeking curiously around him. “Hello there,” he greeted. He knelt down and smiled. “You must be Phillip.”
“Phillip, this is John. He’s….”
“I’m a friend,” John offered, smiling reassuringly at Alex.
Phillip furrowed his eyebrows and his eyes brightened with recognition. “You’re the man who found me in the store! I didn’t know you were friends with Papa.”
John smiled and nodded. “Yep, that’s me. I’m glad you remember me.”
“Come on in,” Alex said ushering him in. “Do you want anything to drink?”
“A coke is fine,” he answered as he sat on the couch. Alex nodded and went into the kitchen. Meanwhile, John was glancing at Phillip who was poking at his teeth after a handful of popcorn, eyes flitting from the television to him. He noticed a paper on the table and pointed to it. “What’s that?”
“Just writing,” he answered.
“You like to write?” Phillip nodded. “Like stories?”
He shook his head. “Poems. Like Shel Silver-something. And Jack Frost.”
He smiled to himself. Shel Silverstein and Robert Frost. “Well, you sure are your dad’s son,” he said softly. “Can I read it?” Phillip hesitated then handed the paper to him. He scurried back to his popcorn, eating nervously.
The poem talked about a city. The cars and the sounds, the people he saw every day. With the repeated verse, “In the city, in the city,” every four lines. It was good for a seven-year old. It was observant. IT was surprising. But of course, with someone like Alexander as his father, it made sense Phillip would have some of his brain and skill.
He was smiling and when he glanced up, he saw Phillip’s eyes dart away from him. “This is really, really good,” he said sincerely. “How many poems have you written?”
Immediately, the seven-year old clambered over to him. “I have a folder. I used to have a journal, but I always ripped the pages. They’re not good sometimes.”
“Buddy, this is better than anything I could write. I’m a horrible poet.”
Phillip’s eyes lit up. “You think I’m a poet?” He pulled himself to his knees, very nearly sitting on John. “Like a real, for real poet?”
John chuckled and nodded. “Of course,” he answered. “And when you grow up, I bet you’ll have a book of poems published.” Phillip smiled so widely, John may as well have told him he won a million dollars to spend at Chuck E. Cheese’s.
“You wanna see my toys?” he asked. He hopped off the couch and pulled on his arm until John was following him to a room. He turned and saw Alexander standing at the kitchen with a look of shock and a soda can in his hand.
He followed behind them, staying at the door while John was pulled to the floor. “Look, I have these cars,” Phillip said, tugging out a fire truck filled with small cars. “I like to line them up in a super long line. And with colors. This one is my favorite. I want one like this when I grow up.” He held up a shiny red convertible with door that swung open. “But this one is my most fastest,” he continued, holding up a blue impala. “Wanna race? Or do you wanna look at my books?”
Alex leaned against the doorframe, smiling to himself as John grabbed a car and leaned forward, preparing to race. The two of them began to race their cars along the floor. John followed suit as Phillip made his car jump onto the drawer and dresser.
“Whoa, hey wait a minute,” John protested. “You’re blocking me!” Phillip giggled mischievously and continued to race his car, positioning his arm so John’s would be able to pass. “That’s not fair!” John laughed, abandoning his car and lifting Phillip up as he laughed uncontrollably. John began to tickle him, causing him to shriek and kick as he laughed.
Alex’s smile was so wide, his cheeks hurt. “I wasn’t blocking! You’re just a bad driver,” he gasped between laughter. John finally relented and sat back with him in his lap.
“I am an awesome driver,” he said. He looked up and met Alex’s eyes, his cheeks flushed from the laughter. “Right?”
“I’m going to have to side with my kid here,” Alex said teasingly. John groaned and smiled at Phillip. “Your soda,” he said, handing it over. John took it as Alex sat down on the floor with them. “We still doing movie night, bud?” he asked his son.
“Yeah. Can we watch Avengers?” Alex nodded and Phillip scrambled to his cabinet to grab the movie. “I want to sit with him,” he said, pointing to John. Alex couldn’t fight his smile.
“Okay,” he answered. They left the room and Alex put on the movie while Phillip sat on John’s lap with a bowl of popcorn on his own. Alex turned off the light and sat beside John. The arm that wasn’t holding onto Phillip was laying at his side. And as the movie began, his hand began to press against Alex’s, making him bite his lip before interlocking their hands.
With Phillip distracted, Alex wasn’t worried about being close to John. When the movie was almost over, Phillip’s head lolled and rested against John’s chest. By the time the movie was over, Phillip had completely knocked out, complete with an open mouth and light snores. John leaned into Alex and smirked. “Is this how you look when you sleep?”
“What? No,” he scoffed. John hummed and shook his head teasingly. “Hold on, let me get him to bed.” He stood up and extended his arms, but John shook his head.
“I got him.” He stood, carrying Phillip like a sleeping monkey to his room. Alex pulled back his bedsheets and John laid him down.
Alex tucked him in and started to leave, when he woke up. “Papa?” Alex stopped and waited. “Will your friend come back? I like him. He’s fun and nice.”
The sleepy mumbles made Alex’s heart swell and he smiled at him. “Yes, I think so,” he answered. “Go to sleep, son.”
“Goodnight, Phillip.” He kissed his forehead then started to leave the room, taking John’s hand on the way out. He smiled at him and took a relieved breath. “Well, he likes you,” he said proudly.
“That’s good to hear. He’s a great kid, Alexander. Smart. And absolutely adorable.” Alex smiled and led John back to the couch. “Can I ask you something?” He hummed and began to play with his fingers. “I know you haven’t told him about the dates. But… I guess I’m wondering if you haven’t told him because… you don’t know if we’ll work out or… if it’s because I’m a guy. I mean… have you ever dated a guy before?”
Alex frowned and shifted. “I think it’s both. I don’t know. Before, I didn’t really have time to think about dating. I just wanted to finish school, go to college. Make my life different than most foster kids and orphans that remain in the system. Then I met Eliza and… everyone sort of expected us to be together. And I did love her. But I also feel like I wasn’t completely in that relationship. Not because she’s a woman, but… because I didn’t try. I cheated on her. I hurt her. And although it hurt when she left, I also knew that it meant I could start over.” He sighed and looked at John in the eyes. “I didn’t think I’d bother falling for someone again. Then you come into my life and… now you’re meeting Phillip.” He leaned in closer and gulped nervously.
“John Laurens, I like you a lot. And it’s kind of scary if I’m honest. But I don’t doubt what I feel just because you’re a guy. Trust me. I want to try this out. I want to….” He broke off, not really knowing what to ask much less how to ask.
But then, John leaned in and kissed him, removing his hand from Alex’s so he could cup his face. “Me too,” he whispered.
The next morning, Alex was drinking a coffee at his table, waiting for Phillip to come asking for food. He was still giddy and excited over the previous night. Four dates weren’t a lot to go off, but then again, that’s what official dating was for, right? Now it was just a matter of talking to Phillip about the situation.
A few moments later, Phillip shuffled into the kitchen, yawning widely. “I’m gonna get Coco Puffs,” he announced. Alex nodded and watched him as he climbed onto the counter for a bowl and tugged the milk gallon to the table with two hands.
Once he’d gotten his bowl of cereal and sat down to eat, Alex cleared his throat and took a breath. “So,” he began. “What did you think of John?”
Phillip looked up and tilted his head. “I like him. He’s super nice. He liked my poem!”
“Yeah?” he asked with a smile. He nodded and kept eating. “I like him too,” he said hesitantly. “A lot. And… I was wondering if you would be okay with having him come over more.” Phillip opened his mouth to answer, but Alex stopped him. “Hold on, son,” he said. He took a breath and tried to put it in the simplest terms. “He wouldn’t just be my friend. He’d be my boyfriend. Are you okay with that?”
Phillip looked confused. “Boyfriend? You can do that?”
He nodded and bit his lip. “Some people do. There’s some people who don’t like it, and they can be mean about it. But yes, he can be my boyfriend. And I don’t care what anyone else thinks or says. Except for you, Phillip. If you don’t want me to, then-”
“Ohh!” he exclaimed suddenly. Alex’s eyes widened in surprise. “That’s why you said I wasn’t getting another mommy, right? Because I’m getting another daddy? When do you get married?”
His eyebrows went up and his mouth open as he stared at his son. Eventually, he began to laugh nervously. “Oh, no Phillip,” he explained. “It’s not… we’re not getting married. Right now, I just want to know if it’s okay with you for him to be my boyfriend.”
“Oh,” he said, deflating. “Well, okay. I like him. I want him to come over more and play with me. Oh, and he can go to open house! And the school carnival!” Alex smiled and thanked whatever holy deity had blessed him with such a perfect, wonderful son. If he failed at everything else, he didn’t care. So long as he was a good enough father.
“I still think you should get married,” he mumbled. Alex chuckled and shook his head.
*** 2 years later because I’m weak ***
“Papa, my bow tie is too tight,” Phillip whined.
“You’re just not used to it, son,” he said with a smile. “Where’s the pillow? Remember you have to take care of that.” Phillip groaned and turned away, heading to another room.
As he walked by, he saw his mommy standing with aunt Angie and Peggy. “Sweetheart, where’s your father?” she asked when she saw him.
“Getting ready over there,” he answered. “I have to find the pillow.”
“Come here, let me fix your hair,” she said reaching out.
Phillip threw his hands up to cover his hair as he ducked. “No! Momma stop!” he whined. “I have to go.” She put a hand on her hip, but he continued to the other room. “Daddy?” he called. He found him sitting on a chair looking through his phone. “Daddy, my bowtie is too tight, and Papa won’t let me fix it, and Momma says my hair needs to be fixed, and I can’t find the pillow.”
John smiled stood from the chair, kneeling in front of him. “I got you, little man,” he said with a smile. He loosened the bowtie and fixed the shirt so it wasn’t to noticeable. Then he fixed his hair so it wouldn’t look like a cowlick or a tangled mess. “And the pillow is with Theo’s flower basket. It’s okay.” Phillip nodded and bit on the inside of his cheek. “What’s Papa look like?”
“Fancy,” he said. “So, after today, you’ll be my daddy for real, right? I mean, you are already because you go to my soccer games and my spelling bees and my open house and you take me to school and buy me books and food, but like for real, for real?”
John smiled and fixed his collar. “For real, for real,” he answered. Phillip smiled and wrapped his arms around him.
“I love you,” he said. “I have to find the pillow now. I’ll stay with Theo.” He turned away and rushed to find the flower girl.
Half an hour later, Alex was standing behind a door, waiting to walk out and see his fiancé. He was anxious. It was strange to have his ex-wife there, despite being on good terms. She got along well with John. And Phillip loved him. John often teased Alex saying he was sure Phillip loved him more than he did.
Finally, he was given the okay to open the door. His eyes immediately found John across the room and the blue in them seemed to intensify the second he saw him. Barely able to keep from running, they met in the center and smiled at each other. John was dressed in blue and Alex in gray. There was no doubt in his mind that this was what he wanted.
John was the only one who could calm him down when he was overwhelmed with work. He was always there for him, talking sense into him when his temper made him reckless. He cared for Phillip like he was his own. He was perfect. He was everything Alex never knew he needed.
And Alex couldn’t help but think about how lucky he was as they both walked down the aisle, hand in hand, all through the ceremony until the last “I do.”
Later, at the ceremony, there were a few slow love songs playing softly while food was served and people congratulated the newlyweds. Then, Eliza’s voice echoed through the room. “Ah, there we go,” she breathed. “Okay. Alex, John… congratulations. As your friends and as your family, we couldn’t be happier for you. However, this wasn’t meant to be my speech. There’s a little surprise that was supposed to come after dinner, but we can’t wait. Your son has something he’d like to say. And just so you know, he’s been practicing for this just about every day since you got engaged.” She smiled and looked at Phillip who was standing and fidgeting nervously beside her with a paper in his hands. “Phillip? Take it away.”
She handed him the microphone and Phillip shuffled, glancing around as people looked at him. “Um, okay,” he said. “I wrote this for my papa and my new dad.” He cleared his throat and looked at his paper. “My name is Phillip, and I am a poet. I wrote this poem just to show it. And I just turned nine, now I have a mom and two dads to call all mine.” Alex chuckled and smiled widely at him. “I remember Papa being sad one day after another, then Daddy found me in the store and everything got better. Now Papa smiles every day, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Applause erupted, and John and Alex stood clapping and smiling proudly. “Bravo!” Alex called. He hurried to walk around the table and Phillip hopped off the stage to run towards him. Alex caught him in his arms and wrapped his arms around him tightly. “I love you so much,” he said, his voice thick with emotion.
“I love you too, Papa,” he said.
“That was amazing,” he said with a smile. He picked him up and John came up beside them, pulling Phillip into his own hug.
“You really will be a famous poet one day, Phillip,” he told him. “Thank you so much.”
Phillip smiled cheekily and hugged them simultaneously. “I told you you’d get married.”