The Whittemores seem like genuinely nice people. Chris never cared for any of the lacrosse games, but he still remembers sitting beside Mr. and Mrs. Whittemore, remembers the small talk being pleasant, if too formal. He remembers the way Mr. Whittemore pointed, declared, “That’s my son,” with such pride. And, as if on cue, number thirty-seven scores in the final seconds; the crowd roars, the team swarms, and he flashes perfect teeth at everyone.
“That’s my son,” Mr. Whittemore says again, thick with pride and awe and love, and offers a grin of his own to Chris. Chris returns it half-heartedly, his clapping off-beat, because all he can think about how perfect this kid must be—he has looks, talent, probably good grades, and, most importantly, his fa—his parents’ love. He remembers years ago when it was him on a field—soccer, then—when he had it all, too.
All but one.
He isn’t—It’s not like he’s—He isn’t angry at his father, at Gerard, for—for never being there. He doesn’t hate him for the missed games or the A+ exams never posted onto the fridge or the pep talks never given. He doesn’t—has never—hated him for always being there for Kate, because their sons are soldiers and their daughters leaders and that’s just how it works. It doesn’t stop him from thinking, though, that if he had had a son, that he would have treated him a little differently, would have bent the Code just a bit for him.
That’s why the jealousy that wells in his throat isn’t just for the boy who pulls his helmet off and easily accepts the nudges and hair ruffles of his teammates. Just as a tiny, weak, child part of him wants to be the Whittemore kid, the tiny, weak, adult part of him wants to have him as well, wants to be the clapping and cheering man beside him. He just wants and wants and wants—
He doesn’t realize that Allison’s gone until the teams leave the field, until the bleachers clear out, until he finds himself in a too-cold car, his hands tight around the driving wheel. She shows up in his rearview eventually, flushed and smiley and bouncy, and though the father in him is suspicious, concerned, he just can’t unclench his teeth to say anything.
He opts to avoid lacrosse games after that.