Family Dynamics (Pam of Babylon Book Five)

BOOK: Family Dynamics (Pam of Babylon Book Five)
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Copyright © 2012 Suzanne Jenkins

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 147938268X

ISBN 13: 9781479382682

eBook ISBN: 978-1-62346-780-7

Contents

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 1

O
n Friday, Ashton Hageman-Dale sat in the coach section of a transatlantic flight from Paris to New York. His husband, Ted was packed into the seat next to the window, head smashed against the plastic shade pulled down against the blazing sun. Occasionally, Ted snorted and woke himself up, looking over to find Ashton smiling at him. Then he would settle down again after unsuccessfully shifting in his seat, trying to take some of the pressure off his ass. They were two fifty-something men who were too thrifty to fly first class. And although they loved traveling together, there was nothing better than arriving back in New York after a time away.

“We’re almost home,” Ashton said. “I can’t wait.”

“Me, either. But it was good trip. Just too long,” Ted replied. “Next time we go for a week. Ten days away is too much.”

“Go back to sleep,” Ashton said, patting his hand. He was unable to sleep and there was no reason both of them should be exhausted. Neither man had slept at all the night before because of the stress of having to get to the airport by six in the morning and the anticipation of flying. Ashton’s list of things to do once they got home raced through his mind as the jet approached New York. After they unpacked, he would order groceries—if not a week’s worth, at least something to get through the weekend. Ted didn’t like going out to eat, preferring Ashton’s simple but exquisite cooking. Since moving in together, Ted had conquered a lifetime battle with his weight and cholesterol, partly caused from eating in restaurants too often and succumbing to unhealthy choices. Ashton was a stickler about their diets, and although he didn’t preach, it was obvious he wasn’t fooling around when it came to healthy eating. Early in their relationship, they’d gone out to eat together, and Ash gave Ted the
look
when he said he’d have french fries.

“Why don’t you order for me?” Ted said, in response to the
look
. So Ashton ordered: Cobb salad, mineral water, no bread. Ashton was happy to take over control of Ted’s life. It covered issues of clothing, too; Ashton had gone through Ted’s underwear drawer and tossed most of it the second week they were together. Now, Ted never thought about what he was going to eat or wear. Even his hygiene was up for grabs. Ashton made sure Ted trimmed his nose hairs, and if they were in public together and Ted had a visible booger, Ashton would flare his nostrils at him while discreetly handing him a tissue.

Early retirement wasn’t an option for either man; they made too much money and had worked too long at achieving success to walk away from it quite yet. The real estate fiasco of 2008 didn’t affect them because Manhattan property didn’t fall apart like housing in the rest of the country. There were some deals to be had, but it was a hot, expensive market, available to the privileged who didn’t think anything about dropping a million bucks on a one-bedroom apartment.

As the plane floated toward New York City, the skyline was outlined against a bright blue sky. Ashton closed his eyes for a quick prayer:
Please protect us, God
. Those four little words he thought or whispered throughout most of his day brought peace and comfort. As he got older, Ashton needed the security of going to church and the rituals he found there. Ted went with him, more out of habit of a lifetime of church going than because of any great need it satisfied, although he would be the first to admit that in his youth he went due to guilt.

They got through customs in record time. Their driver, Leonard, in pristine black, was waiting with his neatly printed sign: “
Messrs. Hageman-Dale”
in bold, black lettering. They greeted one another and started the walk out to the waiting car.

“Stop by the post office, will you, Lenny? I don’t want to wait until Monday for the mail,” Ashton said. Ashton and Ted sat in the back of the car holding hands, thinking about the peace of the Parisian countryside, the noise and confusion of lunchtime traffic eluding them because of their joy to be home. The limo slid in front of the post office, and Ted went to get the mail. He was back in minutes with a white plastic box heaped with letters and magazines. Leonard opened the trunk and made room for the box.

They pulled out into traffic again and before long, the apartment was just ahead. Ashton’s heart beat faster in anticipation of getting the car unloaded and everything unpacked and organized. He wouldn’t be able to relax until life was back to normal. Ted worked silently beside Ashton, unpacking his own suitcases, while Ashton sorted out laundry and started a load of wash. They made quick work of the suitcases. Ashton went to the computer, logging on to the grocery store website. If he got the order in before noon, they’d have food for dinner. Thank heaven Paris time was ahead of New York. He ordered the basics and a few extra goodies; Ted was so disciplined on their trip, Ashton wanted to reward him with something special and not worry about diet one last time. They would have steak, baked potatoes with sour cream, and salad for dinner, plus dessert. He ordered chocolate éclairs, Ted’s favorite.

Ted was sitting in the den with the TV on, his feet up, when Ashton brought the white plastic post office box of mail in to sort. They’d have to make sure to set the box out for the mailman on Monday.

“Want to help me go through this?” Asthon asked. “We were only gone for ten days. This is ridiculous. I’d better get rid of some of these magazine subscriptions.” Ash said the same thing every time they got home after a trip: “Who needs all of these magazines?”

“You enjoy reading them, so stop complaining. It just looks like a lot because they came at the same time,” Ted answered. He sat back, passive, waiting for Ash to sort through the mountain of mail. He made one pile for himself and one for Ted. “For all the ‘paperless billing’ we signed up for, that is an awful big pile of bills.”

“I like getting the paper, too,” Ashton said. He was almost to the bottom of the box. There was a nine-by-twelve manila envelope for Ted. “Oh, oh. Law firm. What’d you do now?” They were used to getting legal documents for work, although rarely at the apartment. Ted closed his eyes for a second thinking.

“I have a closing on Tuesday; it’s probably the title documents. I don’t feel like dealing with it now.” He stared at the TV. “Oh hell, give it to me.” He sat up and took the envelope from Ashton. It was still early enough on Friday that if it was something that needed his attention, he could manage it now, rather than stewing about it all weekend. Ashton handed him a letter opener and turned to his own huge pile of junk mail and bills. Preoccupied with the cable bill, he didn’t notice when Ted stood up and started to scratch his head and pace, a sure sign of impending disaster. “Fuck.”

“What?” Ashton asked, putting the bill down. Ted stopped pacing and looked at Ashton, not sure how to word it.

“I don’t think you want to know,” Ted stated.

Exasperated, Ashton made a beckoning motion with his hand. “Come on, come on, what’s up?” he asked.

“Evidently, I’m a dad,” Ted said, shocked. Ashton came over to him and held his hand out for the letter, picturing a newborn laying in a hospital bassinette, the product of an affair Ted must have had nine months ago right after their wedding.

“Then you’re a dead man,” Ashton said. But speed-reading through the legal jargon, it was clear this was an adult child, who at the age of eighteen made the decision to seek out her birth parents with the adoptive family’s blessing.

“Jesus, I’m glad we had a vacation when we did,” Ted snickered. “What the hell should I do now?” Ashton sat down on an ottoman and reread the letter.

“Whose kid is it?” he asked finally, looking up at Ted.

“I don’t remember,” Ted answered. Ashton gave him the
look
. “Come on! Think back twenty years ago. Do you remember who
you
were sleeping with?”

“Jesus Christ, Ted! I’d remember if there was a woman in the mix,” Ashton yelled.
Keep it together, guy. This is not about you
, he thought.
It’s not a big deal. We both can handle it together
. “Look, I’m sorry,” he said, getting up and going to Ted. He put his arms around him. “We’ll get through this. The letter says to contact this attorney. I sure as hell don’t want to wait until Monday.”

Ted wasn’t so sure, though. He’d racked his brain trying to remember who he was with twenty years ago. Although he wasn’t ready to confess everything to Ashton just yet, he was living a straight man’s life back then, doing the club scene and sleeping with women he’d pick up. It was lucky that he didn’t get AIDS. It wasn’t until his parents moved to Florida that he came out.

He took the letter from Ashton. “OK, I’ll call now. I don’t want to wreck the weekend, either. Why didn’t we stay in Europe?” He walked to the phone in the hallway and took it out of its charger, punching the numbers in. While the number rang, he reread the letter. Finally, a voice.

“Penny Able’s office,” the receptionist said. “How may I help you?”

“Yeah, um, this is Ted Dale. I got a letter telling me to get in touch about a matter.”

“Ted Dale? Hold on, please, Mr. Dale,” she said. Ted looked at the montage of photos above the phone table. Ashton had a talent for arrangement; there was no doubt about it. The photos were mostly of local architecture, but there were a few of Ashton with his friends across the years, including one with Jack Smith. Ted knew about Jack and didn’t feel any animosity about his picture being center stage in this photo wall.

“Mr. Dale! Thank you for calling back,” a high-pitched, mouse-like voice squeaked over the phone.

“We just got in from a trip,” he said, searching for a date on the letter. It could have been mailed yesterday, for all he knew.

“That’s fine,” Penny Able said. “We can chat over the phone, or you can come here to talk. I’m downtown.”

“Let’s just get it over with now, if you don’t mind,” Ted replied.
Jesus
.

“OK! My client is Deborah Phillips. Ms. Phillips is eighteen, a student at Rutgers. Her parents adopted her at birth. You were named as the father on the birth certificate by the birth mother, Natalie Borg. She lives here in the city. Ms. Borg has not come forward yet, however. Are you in touch with her?” Ted looked at the phone, incredulous.

“No! I’m a gay man, Miss Able. Married, as a matter of fact.”
Too much information
, Ted was thinking, but better to get all the facts out. He thought he heard a snicker on the other end of the line.

“That’s fine, Mr. Dale. No malice intended. Sometimes couples give up their first child born out of wedlock and then go on to have a family together.”

“Well that’s not the case here,” Ted said. “The name doesn’t even ring a bell, I’m ashamed to admit.”
Who the hell is she?

“Truly, that’s not important, Mr. Dale. No one is going to judge you. My client simply wants to meet her birth parents if they are agreeable. You are under no obligation at all. My client’s adoption stipulated that it was only if the birth parents were in agreement would their names be shared with the adoptee. Now, knowing this information, what do you think?” Ted wasn’t going to give her an answer right then.

BOOK: Family Dynamics (Pam of Babylon Book Five)
8.55Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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