“You are what?!” The voice was bewildered.
“I’m pregnant, John.” She repeated matter-of-factly.
“But…we were careful,…I don’t understand.” His voice was wavering. How could this happen to them, they weren’t even in love. Their relationship had only be supposed to be a few nights without consequences, or so they thought!
“I don’t want it, I’m too young. So there’s two solutions, either I’m getting rid of it, or I’m putting it up for adoption. Probably adoption since my parents already know about it. I’m not asking you anything, John. I just thought you had the right to know.” And she left, leaving him in a daze, with thoughts flying in and out of his head.
He was laying in his bed, thinking. He had been doing this for hours now. Like he had often done during the last several days. And, amidst all of it, he had slowly come to realize he wanted that child. His child. Even though he was only 17 and that he knew it would be difficult to raise a kid. Was left to tell his father about all of it, and convince him that he could do it, but he would. Standing up, he gathered all the courage he had and started down the stairs, heading for the living room, where he knew his dad would be.
“…The child will be raised by the father, under the conditions of an anonymous adoption. The mother does not wish the child to know anything about her, not even her name. By signing this the father is agreeing to never reveal those information to the child. Do you both agree to these terms?”
“Yes” came the voices at the same time.
“Very well, I will need you both to sign as well as your parents, since you are still underage.” The lawyer’s voice was professional.
John was eager, once they all signed, nobody could deny him the right to raise his son. He smiled, scribbling his signature next to hers.
“Ahhh!! It hurts!” The voice, echoing through the room, was full of pain, breathless.
“Just a few more, miss. I can see the head already.” The doctor’s voice was reassuring.
“That’s it! One more!”
A cry filled the room. A smile appeared on John’s lips. The last hours had been hard on him, seeing her go through so much pain to give birth to his son. His son. The smile broadened.
“You want to hold him, ma’am?” He was pulled out of his thoughts by the question.
“No.” Came the sharp answer. “I want nothing more to do with it. It’s its father’s problem now.”
“Can I ?” He was unsure, the little form in the nurse’s arms seemed so fragile.
“Of Course, don’t worry, he will not break, just be sure to support his head.” The nurse’s voice was reassuring and warm. He wasn’t the first new dad with those kind of concerns. As he took the little boy in his arms, his happy grin made way for a more tender smile. The small face of his son was peaceful, completely in trust. A mop of dark hair was already visible on his head. And when the baby opened his blue eyes to look up at him, John felt his heart give in completely and he knew he’d made the right decision. Whatever would happen next, seeing his son’s smile would make it worth it. He whispered, “My son.”
“We are going to need a name for the birth certificate, sir.” Asked the nurse.
“Christopher Daniel Sheppard.” A giggle came from the baby, as if to approve of the name that was given to him, and John smiled tenderly once more.
“So…” Came his dad’s voice. “What do you plan next ?” John raised a questioning look to him. “You’ll be done with high school in a couple weeks. And you still haven’t decided which college you want to go to and what you want to do.”
“College ?…I’m not sure dad, I was thinking about joining the military.”
“The military, hum…which one exactly ?” Asked his dad.
“Well…Err…the Air Force, dad.”
“Can I ask why ?” There was something in the voice that he couldn’t well define.
“Because I want to fly.” The answer came immediately, with certainty. He had never said it to his father before, but he had though about it a lot, and knew that it was what he wanted to do. And if he wanted his dad to see that he had to keep his ground.
“Well, if you want to fly, you need to be an officer. And to be an officer, you need a college degree.” John smiled as his dad wad leaving the room. He had win the college round but given in on the flying part. And he suddenly realized that the way he was able to take care of Chris and not let his grades drop had earned him respect in his dad’s eyes. A noise coming from the crib made him smile and he got up, ready to give his whole attention to his son for the time being.
He had brought a few friends home for the first time, but his now two-years-old son had decided he didn’t like all the noise, and had shut himself up in his room. By the time he finally came downstairs with Chris in his arms, they were laughing about something. Seeing him, one of them asked, on a mocking tone, if he wasn’t a little too old for his father to make him a little brother as a Christmas present. And another one added that it was probably the reason the kid was a shrimp. Seeing red John said in a subzero voice that “the shrimp” was his son and that his size was perfectly normal for a two-years-old. Taking the cue, they all left. He saw his dad (who had been the one picking up Chris from daycare that day) leaning in the kitchen doorway, smiling at him and he smiled back. He would have only superficial friendship like he always had. But the small warm body leaning against him in total trust was more than enough to make up for it.
The rest is a patch of happy and sad memories. The rest is life. Chris’s first day at school. A visit at the zoo. An argument with Chris, who wanted a puppy. Chris discovery of math and that he was really good at it. A birthday party at the skating ring. John’s father’s death of a heart attack when Chris was nine. And Christmases and Halloweens and birthdays. And missions and time away. And tons of those father-son moments that make life worth it.
The accident came as a shock. One minute they were laughing at the antics of the movie they just saw. Chris, who had turned twelve a little more than a month before, was running slightly ahead. He heard the shrieking tires and saw the car, which, barely missing him, hit his son full speed, projecting him on the side, before crashing in a wall. What came after was a blur. He heard the police say that the driver was drunk and had died instantly upon hitting the wall. He heard the doctors say that Chris was breathing on his own but that he was in a coma. That the chances that he would wake up were too slim for them to give him any hope. He remembers staring at the white, seemingly lifeless form of his son, even more pale against the with hospital sheets with machines beeping around him. He remembers being unable to believe that Chris wouldn’t wake up. He remembers doing everything he can to make sure the doctors won't give up either. He has the money his dad left him and he'll spend every last cent of it and more for his son.
The mission in Afghanistan almost comes as a relief.
The endless field of snow made it hard to believe that it was the middle of summer. He absent mindedly though that Chris was now 16 and that he would have liked the landscape. The radio, sputtering something about a free missile, jerked him out of his thoughts. He had to concentrate on flying.