Second Chances

The doorbell rang and Jennifer called out to her son “Answer the door please, I’m up to my elbows in dish soap.” She heard him groan, as he had to abandon his video game, and say something under his breath, some expletives if she had to guess. But he was a teenaged boy and even though she had taught him as best she could, she knew she couldn’t control everything. Being a single mother of a boy wasn’t an easy job. Sometimes she hated her ex-boyfriend for abandoning them. But mostly she tried to ignore him and just live her life.

“Mom, there’s someone at the door for you.” She rolled her eyes. She had deduced that much since Ian wasn’t expecting friends. Sighing she rinsed her hands and dried them with a dish cloth while walking to the front door. A short walk in their small home. When she saw her ex-boyfriend standing in the doorway she nearly fainted. “Mark. What are you doing here?”

Hearing his father’s name, Ian looked up from the television screen. “Is he my father?” The words dripped with contempt and the look on Ian’s face burned with a hatred Jennifer had rarely seen. After fifteen years she never believed this day would come. And now, with no warning, Mark had shown up on her doorstep, unannounced and unwelcomed. And she had no plan. Still, there was unfinished business, if not with her and Mark at least with Ian and Mark.

“Mark, come inside.” She closed the door as her mind raced trying to think of what to say. She had told Ian about his father. In the beginning there were photographs, but as Ian grew old enough to understand the situation, he insisted she take them down. He wanted nothing to do with Mark. A few years earlier Mark began to send birthday cards and Ian responded by burning them without opening them.

Jennifer suddenly wanted a glass of wine. A very large glass of wine. Instead she led Mark to the sofa where Ian continued his game, ignoring the two adults. “Ian honey, you need to quit your game so we can talk.”

“I have nothing to say to him.” Ian’s lips were drawn tight and his eyes never left the screen.

Jennifer took the controller from him, playing a tug-of-war before he finally relented. “Ian, this is your father, Mark. We’ve talked about him before. Why don’t we let Mark tell us why he’s here?” Jennifer was proud that she put the accountability on Mark.

Mark looked down at the floor, avoiding eye contact. “Ian, I left your mom when she needed me the most. And I left you. I let you both down. For years I’ve been avoiding this, avoiding you both, because I couldn’t handle the responsibility.” Mark finally looked up and directly at Ian. “Because I couldn’t handle being a father. I thought you would be better off without me. Then I started sending you birthday cards but you never called. So I decided I would come see you in person to tell you I’m sorry I let you down. Both of you.”

Ian’s eyes were moist with tears, which he tried valiantly to fight back. Mark continued. “I don’t expect you to let me into your life. I just wanted you to know that not a day has gone by that I didn’t think of you, son.” There was a pregnant pause and Mark nodded his head in defeat. He rose to leave. “Thank you both for listening to me. Jennifer, it looks like you’ve done a wonderful job raising Ian. I’m sorry I made you do that alone.” He walked to the door with his shoulders slumped when Ian’s voice came out in a squeak, “Wait.” Mark stopped and turned. “I mean, mom made a whole apple pie for dessert and there’s no way we can eat it all. Do you like apple pie?”