Shelby Corcoran, a young and upcoming Broadway star, was driving her car through the not so crowded streets of New Jersey, humming happily to herself. Her life was wonderful and even if she wanted to, she couldn't dream about having a better life.
Ever since she could remember, being on Broadway was one of her biggest dreams and it came true a few years ago when she made her debut on a Broadway stage. She had been cast to play Maureen Johnson in the musical Rent which became a huge success. The musical gained her her first Tony award nomination and even though she went home without the award, she didn’t despair. The role in Rent opened the door to her Broadway career and she was really grateful for that.
However, her blossoming career wasn’t the only reason of her happiness. She was joyful because she was on her way to meet the biggest pride of her life – her beloved son.
A spontaneous laugh reverberated around the car the moment the woman thought about her boy. His name was Raphael and he was the most perfect boy in the world. He was five-years-old and, according to everyone, he was a small ball of unlimited energy who enjoyed talking. He also, despite his young age, just like her, was interested in Broadway and music was his biggest passion.
He was her everything.
And speaking of Raphael...
Shelby stopped the car in front of the traffic lights near to the park as it turned red. She decided to use this moment to glance at the children playing in the park. As she could see, there were two mothers with their infants, a group of children who couldn’t be older than ten. On the other side of the park a five-year-old blonde-haired bespectacled girl was playing with a smaller brown-haired boy, her son, and a girl in pink...
The woman snapped her head towards the two children who were playing next to a big oak and squinted to make sure she was seeing correctly. Her eyes, however, were perfectly fine and she indeed noticed her baby boy. Shelby quickly looked around the park, again, trying to locate at least one of two familiar men, but she failed to do so. And this meant only one thing... That sneaky little monster, her son, didn’t inform his fathers about where he currently was.
The light turned green and the woman resumed her journey only to park her car in a nearby parking lot a few seconds later. Then she left the vehicle and walked towards the two children who were lying on the ground now, laughing at something.
“Care to explain to me what you’re doing here, young man?” she asked her son as soon as she reached her destination.
The laughter died. Both Raphael and his best friend, Lucy Fabray, froze when they heard her voice and slowly turned their heads toward her direction. However, when they realized who spoke those words, they relaxed immediately.
Raphael sprang up smiling widely when he saw that his mom was standing in front of him and the girl, on the other hand, stayed on the ground, nevertheless, she changed her position so now she was sitting on it.
“Momm...!” the boy cried happily and Shelby thought that he was about to jump in her arms as he usually did when she was visiting him, however, her arms remained empty of her young son. Raphael froze at the very last moment. Besides, Shelby also realized that he didn't call her "mommy" as he had first intended to.
The woman’s eyebrow rose as she looked expectantly at her flesh and blood. The young gentleman in front of her ignored her gaze, though, and cleared his throat before he looked at her seriously.
“Hello, mother,” the boy finally said, standing with his head held high.
Shelby’s eyebrow rose even higher. The woman was wondering when exactly she became a mother, she was his mommy two days ago when they were having a conversation on the phone. Nevertheless, if her little devil wanted to play it that way, she was going to play along.
“What are you doing here?” he questioned her confidently before she had a chance to react.
“I should be the one to ask this question, don’t you think, young man?” she began, intentionally accentuating the world ‘young’. “But if you must know, then I’m here because I missed my son and wished to see him. On my way to his house, however, I noticed you and Lucy. Which brings us to the important question of what are you doing here??”
Raphael tilted his head and looked at her in such a way that she could swear that his eyes were saying: ‘are you kidding me, mother?’
“Playing, obviously,” the child answered after a while and the tone of his voice was almost mocking.
Shelby sighed quietly at her son’s response and knelt to be at his eye level. She was aware what he was doing and, judging by Lucy’s facial expression, the little girl knew it as well.
“I can tell that, honey,” she started. “But do your fathers know that you’re here? Because as far as I remember, and I remember correctly, you cannot be here without their, or mine, supervision as it is a little too far from home for you to be here on your own.”
The boy looked at his friend who just shrugged casually and then at his mother.
“I did tell them that I’m going to meet Lucy at the park,” he responded as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
“Are they aware that you meant this particular park, dear?” she asked gently, even though asking wasn’t necessary. She knew more than well that the men didn’t know that their son didn’t tell them the whole truth.
“Maybe, I don’t know,” Raphael said, shrugging. “I told them that I’m going to play in the park. I didn’t lie, so what’s the problem?”
The woman mentally rolled her eyes. Her kid already was very sneaky and she could only imagine how bad it’s going to be in the future, in his teenage years.
“Of course you didn’t lie, honey, you just decided not to share the whole truth with them,” said Shelby and she got up. “I still think you should tell them where you’re going because something bad could have happened to you but I know you won’t listen to me. Anyway, come now, Raphael. We’re going home.”
The boy smiled brightly for a few seconds as he really wanted to spend some time with his mother, but his expression changed into scowl soon after. He looked at his digital watch and noticing that it wasn’t showing five yet, he shook his head.
Shelby said nothing she just rose her left eyebrow and looked at her offspring who was trying to act cool. She had her suspicions as to why he acted the way he did and decided that if he wanted to play it that way then she would have some fun of her own.
“Fine, just be home at the time your fathers told you to be back,” she said after a while and looked at the girl who still sat on the ground and was watching her friend curiously. “Lucy?”
When the blonde heard her name, she slowly turned her head and looked at the woman.
“Yes, Ms. Shelby?”
“Would, at least, you like to come with this old lady?” asked Shelby, saying the last words with a dose of theatricality, before smiling warmly at her son’s best friend. “I baked my famous chocolate cake and since Raphael made it clear that he doesn’t love me anymore and doesn’t want to spend time with his old mother, then I will need another little someone to help me eat it. What do you say, Lucy, are you in?”
A huge smile appeared on the girl’s lips, as she nodded vigorously, and got up from the grass, accepting the woman’s waiting hand. She really liked Raphael’s mother as she thought that the Corcoran woman was pretty hilarious, and, of course, she already had a chance, or few, to eat her chocolate cake and it was indeed very delicious.
“I will need to call mommy and daddy, though, Ms. Shelby,” the child informed her softly. “I don’t want them to be scared that I’m not in park anymore.”
“Of course, dear, I will call your parents as soon as we’re home. Is that okay?” Shelby asked her gently and pressed a soft kiss on her forehead when the child agreed. Then she turned towards her scowling son who had his arms crossed. “Goodbye, Raphael. I suppose I will see you later.”
“Yeah, bye! I will see you tomorrow!” exclaimed Lucy as she waved happily at her best friend.
The woman, trying hard to fight off a smirk that wanted to appear on her lips, said nothing else just turned on her heel, still holding the girl’s hand, and together they started walking towards the exit of the park. She had a feeling that soon their duo would become a trio, and she was right as a few moments later they were approached by her son.
“Something happened, honey?” she asked as soon as the boy appeared on her side, still having his arms crossed. “I thought that you said that you don’t want to go home with me.”
“I don’t want to!” he whined and looked at her accusingly. “But because of you, I have no choice. You stole Lucy from me! I thought you loved me but you stole my friend from me and intended to leave me here, alone!”
Shelby tried hard to stop herself from laughing. Her friends used to tell her at many occasions that she is a true Drama Queen but the truth was that her flesh and blood was even worse.
“You can steal something but not someone, Raphael,” she started calmly, once she was sure that her amusement was defeated. “People can be kidnapped, however, I didn’t kidnap Lucy. She went with me willingly. I could bribe her a little, though.”
“Whatever,” the boy muttered under his breath and looked judgingly at his friend. “You’re siding with the enemy. Traitor.”
Lucy only rolled her eyes at that, which made Shelby smile inwardly. These two always knew how to make her smile.
“I don’t understand why you’re blaming me for the fact that your mom makes the best chocolate cake in the world,” she said as soon as they found themselves in from of the car. Neither of the children, however, realized it.
“You chose a cake over me!” Raphael sighed dramatically.
“Duh, obviously. I see you daily and your mom rarely has time to bake anything. Her cakes are the best!”
Shelby stopped listening to the children who were bickering back and forth and took the box with the cake out of her car before closing it. Then, without warning, she handed it to her son.
“Here, take this. Just be careful as we don’t want you to drop it.”
Raphael frowned, not really understanding what was going on.
“Why do I have to carry this?” he asked, confused. “And why aren’t we driving?”
“I have only one child seat in the car and two children who need it. Besides, you don’t live too far from here and the reason you are forbidden to come here without supervision is because you need to cross two dangerous crossroads,” she answered. “As for you carrying the cake... maybe you didn’t say it but you made it clear that you’re a grown-up now and I am old. Be a gentleman then and do as your old mother says.”
Lucy chuckled while the boy made a face as if he was deadly offended.
“But mom!” he whined. It wasn’t fair.
“Keep going,” said Shelby, gently patting his bottom in order to make him walk and then again took the girl’s hand into her own. She would never say it aloud but she loved teasing her son almost as much as he loved to tease her.
As soon as the trio reached the Berry household, Shelby knocked rhythmically on the door and they were promptly greeted by two men. The shorter of the two men, Leroy, had a warm skin tone and short, curly black hair. The taller man, Hiram, had a paler complexion with dark hair littered with flecks of gray and wore fashionable glasses that appeared to be rather expensive. They both smiled broadly at their guests.
“Ah, you have no idea how good it is to see my two favorite men,” said Shelby as soon as the trio entered the house. “You haven't changed a bit.”
“It’s good to see you, too,” responded Hiram and pulled the woman into a friendly hug after kissing her cheek. In the meantime, his husband closed the door behind them. “You look beautiful. Don't you agree that she looks beautiful, dear?”
“Of course she does,” agreed the other man as the question was directed to him. He also pulled her into a hug. The children chuckled while Shelby just rolled her eyes. The men could be even worse than their son. “Ah, Lucy! There is my favorite little girl!” added LeRoy as soon as he heard their chuckling and turned towards them. “Care to give this old man a hug?”
“Sure, Mr. Berry!” called the girl and launched herself into his open arms.
Shelby smiled when the man picked her up and turned towards Hiram who had his hands on Raphael’s shoulders. Their son still held the cake.
“Do you mind if I use the phone?” she asked her friend. “I promised Lucy that I would call her parents and let them know that she's with us.”
“Yeah, dad, we’re going to have mom’s famous cake!” announced the boy with a smile, lifting the box with the baked good. Shelby wanted to tell him that since he refused to go with her at the first place then he wasn’t allowed to eat it, but she decided otherwise. She would have more opportunities to tease him later.
“I see,” responded Hiram, amused, and then looked at her. “But no need to bother. I will call the Fabrays and you can take kids to the kitchen and serve them the cake before Raphael throws it on the floor,” he added as he took the box from their son’s hands and handed it to Shelby because the boy started jumping on the spot.
“Got it,” she agreed and nodded towards the kitchen, giving her son a silent command. The child immediately began to run in the said direction. “No running in the house, young man!”
“Yeah, yeah!” Came up the answer, however, Raphael did as he was told.
“I will join you in a minute,” said Hiram as the adults – his husband still had their little guest in his arms – started walking towards the kitchen, too, and kissed Lucy’s cheek before he went to the living room in order to make a call.
Two hours and a whole chocolate cake later, Raphael and Lucy were sitting in the living room, willingly watching Beauty and the Beast. Shelby was aware that this particular animation was her son’s favorite, although she suspected that he would deny it if someone asked him about it. Lately, the boy was full of surprises and she had a feeling that he would say that he was watching it only because his friend loved it, and he, as a good friend, wanted her to be happy. She almost laughed at this thought. Yes. Her little monster most definitely was able to do it.
“Hey! Leave my cake alone, Hiram!” exclaimed the woman because she snapped herself out of her daydream just in time to see the man taking a piece of cake from her plate with his fork.
While the children were in the living room, the adults (or rather Hiram and her since LeRoy offered to pick up her car – Hiram didn’t drive – once she mentioned them where she met their son) were in the kitchen, talking and drinking coffee. Everyone, but her, already ate their portion of the cake and the older Berry man decided to steal a piece of hers as the cake was indeed really delicious.
“Cake? What cake?” he asked innocently once he swallowed it. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. Your unsubstantiated accusations broke my poor heart.”
Shelby just rolled her eyes at his words and was about to answer, but before she had a chance, LeRoy entered the room putting the car keys on the table. Then he sat down next to Hiram and looked at their guest.
“So, did I miss much?” he asked them.
“Only your husband stealing my ca... keep your hands to yourself, LeRoy Berry!” she rebuked him as he followed his husband’s steps and stole a bit of her cake. “Oh, well, never mind. Enjoy.”
“I always knew you liked me best, Shelby,” he said cheekily. Both adults only rolled their eyes at him. “Okay, time to be serious now – how are you? Last time we talked, you said something about a new Broadway production. Do you have any new information?”
The woman moved awkwardly in her chair, sighing heavily when she looked at her friends. As she could see, they both looked at her curiously. She cleared her throat.
“Actually, yes, I do,” she confessed, taking a deep breath. “It’s actually one of the reasons why I wanted to come here, and of course to see Raphael. You see, I was offered to play a main role – ”
“Congratulations, Shelby!” the men congratulated her at the same time.
“Well, thank you,” she smiled brightly at them. “However, since this is a story about a single mother who struggles with providing a good life for her young son, we are looking for a young boy to play the part. I was asked if I had any young boys in my family who would be suitable for the role. You know, to make our... relationship more real.”
“You thought about our kid, didn’t you?” Hiram asked her once she was done talking.
Shelby nodded slowly, her usual self-confidence was gone by now.
“Yeah... I, um, I could mention something about my friends’ son...” she admitted, her voice unsure. “Don’t worry, I informed the producers that the child’s fathers have to decide first, if they want their son to be in the play. I suggested Raphael only because he is already fascinated with Broadway and sometimes he doesn’t talk about anything else... I know, this is crazy. I shouldn’t have said anything. Gosh, you hate me now, don’t you?”
“No matter how much I would like to, I am unable to read Hiram’s mind. However, I can say for myself that I don’t hate you, Shelby,” began LeRoy, a hint of amusement evident in his voice. The woman was a true Drama Queen.
“I have to say, I would be rather offended if you didn’t think about our boy,” added the other Berry man. “He’s basically your little copy. Well, naturally, he got my amazing eyes – he will break hearts in the future, I’m sure about it – but besides it, he’s little you.”
“So... you’re not mad about it?” she asked, as she wanted to make sure she understood them correctly.
“Of course not, dear,” answered LeRoy. “We all know that Raphael is obsessed with Broadway. I swear that if he could, he would watch Funny Girl every day without any break.”
The woman chuckled at that.
“True. I think we made a mistake by introducing him to this movie.”
“Yes, maybe you’re right...” agreed the man. “Anyway, you are as much of his parent as we are. Well, maybe even more than I am as you both are his biological parents and I am this crazy third wheel,” he added jokingly.
“Yeah, but the best third wheel ever,” Shelby said, grinning, while Hiram chuckled at that and grabbed his husband’s hand. “However, Raphael lives with you and we agreed that for that reason you should be the one making important decisions. As you can say, this is a very important decision.”
The married couple looked at each other, as if debating nonverbally what to do about it. The Corcoran actress was aware that they couldn’t read each other’s minds since it was impossible, however, they seemed to be pretty good at nonverbal communication. Finally, a few minutes later, they made their choice.
“Well, we think it can be a good idea,” started Hiram when LeRoy signaled him to start talking. “We are sure that we would be his enemies number one if he ever found out that we denied him such a possibility. Nevertheless, the final decision should belong to him. If he wants to be on Broadway, we won’t stop him, but if he is against this idea, we won’t force him to do it.”
“Sounds fair,” she agreed. “I will talk to him later.”
The three of them smiled at each other and LeRoy was about to say something, but before he had a chance, they heard two muffled voices that came up from the living room. If they heard them correctly, the kids yelled: “we have to prepare, it’s going to start soon!”
“I guess there’s about to be Something There scene,” said Shelby as she tried to catch the words the characters were saying, even though it was difficult because the television wasn’t turned on loudly. Then she got up from the chair and left the kitchen. The men followed her.
“You were right,” announced Hiram because as soon as their found themselves in the living room, they could indeed see them fooling around to this particular song.
Shelby smiled warmly and leaned against the threshold. Raphael, who was shorter than Lucy, was standing on a footstool in order to make him look taller than her. The girl, on the other hand, stood on the floor, smiling at him as she was singing Belle’s part.
“She glanced this way, I thought I saw,” Raphael began to sing alongside with Beast while Lucy pretended to act as the female animated character. The boy touched his friend’s shoulder when he sang ‘and when we touched she didn’t shudder at my paw’.
The woman had to admit that it was quite a lovely performance and their voices sounded nice, even though they missed some notes during the song. It was to be expected, obviously, as they were still children and didn’t have a lot of experience.
“That was enjoyable,” stated Hiram, smiling kindly at the two kids as he and his husband approached them. “I think I liked it even more than the original version.”
“I think the same,” said the other Berry man and picked their son up before he sat down on the sofa. Soon, he was joined by Hiram and Lucy who found her seat on his husband’s knees.
“What about you, mom?” asked Raphael, a hint of curiosity was evident in his voice. “Did you like it?”
Shelby, who occupied a seat in the armchair that stood next to the sofa, nodded gently.
“I did. If only Lucy had a brown hair, she would look just like Belle,” started the woman, a small smirk forming on her lips. “You weren’t bad, either, however, I think you’re too cute to be Beast.”
“I am not cute...” began the boy, nevertheless, he soon realized what his mother just did. He shouted indignantly at that. “Hey! I’m very cute and I was a good Beast!”
The men and the girl snickered at that while Shelby only smirked triumphantly. She loved to tease her baby boy.
“You’re mean, mom!” he said, crossing his arms. Since he still sat on LeRoy’s knees, the whole scene looked incredibly amusing.
“Yes, I am. Sue me,” responded the woman and the boy stuck his tongue out at her.
She raised her eyebrow. Her son was a little devil and she wondered whom she should blame for that. She decided that it was Hiram’s fault because, obviously, she wasn’t going to blame herself for that. When she was a child herself, she was a walking angel, after all (even though her parents would argue with that one. She used to be quite a handful). Hiram, on the other hand, was, well, Hiram. Yes. He was to be blamed for that. Their son inherited his bad genes.
“Don't stick out your tongue, Raphael, you’re being rude,” said Lucy with a fake seriousness which made the men exchange amused glances while Shelby smiled victoriously. Raphael, on the other hand, looked as if someone just slapped him in the face.
“You’re fraternizing with the enemy, Lucy!” he yelled and got up from his father’s knees. “Why do you hate me so much?” he added, sighing theatrically.
“I like you,” she answered honestly. “I just like your mom’s cake more.”
When the boy heard the answer, he dramatically threw himself on the sofa, making his mother roll her eyes. What a Drama Queen, her son. As the woman could tell, her friend thought exactly the same thing.
“You chose a cake over me!” he announced, burying his face in the pillows. “My life is over. I lost with a cake!”
“Don’t blame Lucy for that, dear,” said Hiram who kissed the girl’s head and reached out his hand towards him and gently patted his bottom. “The cake is delicious, you have to admit it.”
“Traitor.” Came up a quiet answer. “I'm not talking to you now. To any of you.”
“Oh, good. What a relief,” Shelby responded cheekily. “We’ll be able to watch the movie in peace.”
The child said nothing just rolled his eyes, even though no one could see it as he still had his face hidden, while the adults and Lucy turned their faces towards the television. However, as the girl could see before she continued to watch the animation, her friend also did it, even though he still had two pillows on his head. She smiled friendly at him but he only snorted and turned his head. She didn’t mind it, though, as they all knew it was just for fun. The Berry-Corcoran family had a very specific sense of humor and she, Lucy Fabray, loved to be with them.
The girl smiled because the older Mr. Berry (even though he always used to say that he wasn’t old but timeless) put his chin on her head, and as she saw, the other man started to rub her friend’s back. She widened her smile. Yes, she loved to be in their company.
“Raphael, honey, are you ready?” asked Shelby as she poked her head into his bedroom. She wanted to talk to her son about the Broadway play and she decided that now it was a good time. Lucy was back home, her friends were out, and Raphael just finished his evening bath, so they could talk in peace.
“Yup, ready!” he said with a grin and he put his pajama shirt on. The woman smiled warmly at him and entered the room, closing the door behind her. As soon as she did this, her son found himself in her arms, grinning at her. “I love you, mommy. I’m glad you came to visit me.”
“Oh, so I am your mommy now, hm?” she responded cheekily before she picked him up and led them towards his bed. “I thought I became your mother today.”
“Duh, mommy,” he answered. “You’re going to be my mommy forever.”
Shelby chuckled and kissed his forehead. She consider it sweet that he believed so, however, she knew that in the future it was going to change. Somehow, she couldn’t imagine him being so lovely in his teenager years. She was aware that he would rebel at some point, just like she did when she was a teenager herself.
“Honey?” she whispered into his ear and kissed his head because he was sitting on her laps now, having his head put on her chest.
“Yeah?” he asked and looked at her curiously.
“There’s something I want to talk about. You see, I’ve got a new role, the main one to be more specific, in a new Broadway production,” she began quietly and smiled brightly when the boy yelled ‘congratulations, mommy!’ and hugged her tightly. “Well, thank you, love. I am more than happy that you approve.”
“Of course I do, mommy!” he exclaimed as he got up from her knees and began to dance happily around the room. “Broadway is amazing, the best place in the world! You look pretty on stage and I’m gonna join you one day! BROADWAY! I know for sure that one day we’re going to be in the same play. Together!”
Shelby laughed inwardly at that. Raphael was right but he had no idea that, most likely, they were going to perform together very soon.
“Come here, dear, there is something more I have to tell you,” she started and the boy stopped his dance. Then he looked at her suspiciously, as she was looking at him seriously.
“If you tell me that you rejected the role, then I don’t have a mother,” he said, his tone sincere.
Shelby, despite herself, rolled her eyes. She really had no idea why people were calling her a Drama Queen since her son was worse than her. She was the serious one here... most of the time.
“Get your butt here, you little monster,” she ordered him and he reluctantly did as he was told. “To answer your question: no, I did not reject the part.”
“Good,” he answered, trying to sound casual, however, he failed miserably when a huge grin appeared on his lips. His mommy got a main role in a Broadway play!
“When Lucy and you were watching Beauty and the Beast, your fathers and I had a little... conversation,” she started. “You see, my character is going to be a young, single mother who tries to provide a good life for her little boy.”
“I like it so far,” he interjected, smiling. The woman returned the gesture.
“Glad to hear that,” she stated. “Anyway, I was asked if I know any boys who would be interested to play my son and, if you want to, the role may belong to you.”
There was a silence. Raphael was staring at her, mouth wide open, as he tried to understand what his mother just said. Did she just offer him a role? A real role? Of her son? Or maybe it was just his imagination?
“You’re kidding, right?” he started. “Is this my punishment for being with Lucy in the park? If yes, then you’re cruel...”
“I'm being serious, Raphael,” she informed him gently. “You should know by now that I’m never joking about Broadway. Your fathers already agreed and said that if you want to play with me, they will allow you.”
The boy blinked, still trying to comprehend everything.
“So, want me to perform with you? For real?” he asked slowly. Shelby nodded. “My dads said I could?”
“Yes, honey, they said that the choice is yours but they won’t stop you since we all know that you love Broadway,” the Corcoran woman informed him.
“Will I be able to visit Lucy?” he asked and looked her in the eyes. “I don’t want to lose her.”
“You won’t lose her, Raphael,” she informed him, feeling proud that he thought about his best friend. “I visit you quite often even though we don’t life in the same city, don’t I?”
The boy giggled.
“You do,” he agreed and turned his head, wanting to think about it. It was mostly for dramatism as he already made his choice and wanted to create some suspense. “So... when do we start?” he asked as a moment later he faced her again, having a huge grin on his face.