“Danny,” Rachel says, her face screwed up in confusion as she opens the door. “It’s not your weekend, Grace isn’t--”
He walks past her into the house, looking past her into the den where he can see Stan’s head watching the television. “I know she’s not here, that’s why I came,” he says, slurring a little.
“Daniel,” Rachel says, putting a hand on his arm. “Are you drunk?”
“Stan! Your wife is touching me!” Danny glares at her and yanks his arm back, rubbing at the spot she’d been touching like he’s dusting off ashes. “I want the everything, all of it,” he spits out as Stan comes into the room. “Give it to me.”
“Danny, please leave,” Stan says, sounding tired, and yeah, Danny’s tired too.
Danny’s tired, and drunk, and pissed, and wrecked, and everything else. “Give it to me!”
“I don’t know what you’re asking for, Danny,” Rachel says, tears in her eyes.
“Don’t,” he growls, pointing at her. “Don’t cry, Rachel. You don’t get to cry. You stole three years from me, and I want them back!”
“Shit,” Stan says, and Danny looks at him, leaning against the wall and looking up at the ceiling.
“The fuck are you shitting about,” Danny spits out at him. “Do you have any idea what this woman did to me? Do you have any idea? How many times I’ve come to pick up Grace and barely paid more than a cursory glance at what I thought was your child? Just a hey and a smile, and off I go with Grace? Do you have any idea?”
“Danny, I do not wish to engage with you on this subject matter,” Stan says, stiff and direct, and it makes Danny’s fists clench so hard.
“Please come, he’s very angry, and he’s very drunk.”
Danny whirls around and sees Rachel on the phone. “Who are you talking to? Who is on the phone? What, did you call the cops? Fuck it, I am the cops, Rachel, I have every right to ask for this!”
“Ask for what, Danny,” Stan says, and Danny gets a bit of vertigo whipping his head back around to look at him. “You haven’t been clear on that.”
“Charlie,” Danny says, the word sticking in his throat as tears come to his eyes. “My fucking god damned son. I want his childhood. I deserve to see his childhood, Stan.”
“If I could turn back time, Daniel,” Rachel says.
“Shut up,” Danny says, waving her off. “I’m talking to Stanley, Stanley is reasonable human being. You are a vicious succubus.”
“Please do not call my wife names,” Stan asks softly. “Are you asking for something specific Danny? Stories?”
“No, fuck your stories, I don’t want your god damned stories,” Danny says waving a hand. “I want videos. Pictures. I want every fucking picture either of you have ever taken of him, from the time he was born until this very second. Every toe. Every eyelash. I want his first tooth on fucking film, Stanley, I want to watch my fucking son grow up!”
“Danny,” Rachel starts.
“Okay,” Stan says, nodding. “I’ll make you copies of everything, Danny. Give me a few days.”
“Fuck copies, I want them now, I want all of it now, in my fucking hands, Stan!” Danny holds out his hands, his shaking hands with a busted knuckle from punching the wall an hour ago when he realized he’d missed his son’s first step. “How about you give it to me right the hell now and I make the copy for you huh? How about that?”
“Fine,” Stan says, nodding. “Rachel, please go gather all of our videos of Charlie.”
Rachel steps forward, makes a move like she wants to put a hand on Danny’s back. His glare sends her back though and she sobs as she leaves the room to go into the den.
“Why haven’t you gotten out yet,” Danny asks, turning around and looking at lovely smiling faces in the pictures, family pictures, Sunday best, smiling, smiling, smiling. “Or do you not think she’ll do the same to you as she did to me, namely ripping out my heart and stomping on it every few years or so, soundly, until it’s in little fucking bits on the floor. Red sludge under her manolo blahnik’s.”
“I love her,” Stan says, leaning back against the wall. “She’s my wife.”
“Well I guess it doesn’t effect you,” Danny says, waving him off. “She didn’t do anything to you, it’s me she robbed.”
“Are you kidding me,” Stan says suddenly. “Are you really that self-absorbed? Are you just so in your own fucking head that you have no idea what I might be going through?”
Danny blinks. “Excuse me?”
“I had a son, Danny,” Stan says, blinking and Danny is shocked to see tears of his own. “I had a son, my first born child, my first born son, and suddenly now I don’t.”
Danny rocks back on his heels and looks at him. “You’re right,” he says finally, voice and tone softening. “You’re absolutely right, I wasn’t thinking about that, no.”
“So. You’re not the only one in pain right now, is all I’m saying,” Stan says. “So please, respect my house and respect me even if you can’t respect her. Please wait outside and I will bring you the video tapes we have of Charlie and load a USB of pictures. The pictures will take more time, but I’ll give you what I can now, just please.” He gestures. “Wait outside.”
“I’m sorry,” Danny says, looking him in the eye as he reaches for the door handle. “Whatever else has gone on, you didn’t deserve this.”
“Neither of us deserved it, Danny,” Stan says, and then he turns and walks out of the room.
Danny walks out into the driveway and squints up at the night sky. A blue truck pulls into the driveway and he laughs because who else does Rachel know that has the same truck as Steve, and what friends of hers are the same height as Steve, and look exactly like…
“Oh, she wasn’t calling the cops, she was calling you.”
Steve walks up to him and puts a hand on his arm. “You okay, partner?”
“Uh, you know what,” Danny says, sitting down so fast it’s almost a fall. “Not really at all in the slightest, Steve.”
Steve walks over to the door and peers in the house, and then shuts the door and comes back over to him, sitting down next to him and looping his arms around his impossibly long bent legs. “Whatcha doing here, buddy?”
“I want to see my son grow up,” Danny says, blinking blearily at Steve’s truck.
“Okay, fair enough,” Steve says. “How drunk are you?”
“Bout a pint of whiskey’s worth,” Danny says, and then he laughs. “I’m not really sure how I got here without wrapping my car around a telephone pole.”
“Yeah, that’s a barrel of laughs,” Steve says, but he bumps his shoulder into Danny’s. “So why didn’t you call me? At the very least I could’ve driven you over here.”
“You wouldn’t have,” Danny says quietly. “But I just. I didn’t know I was coming here until I was here. I want them, Steve. I deserve to have them.”
“Have what buddy?”
“Those stupid little nothing videos and pictures you take on your cell phone of them babbling incoherently,” Danny says, pulling out his phone and staring down at it, a folder’s worth of Grace pictures and not one single solitary picture of Charlie. “Like the videos Mary sent you today of Joanie, where Joanie’s babbling and saying ‘I don’t wike it’ because she can’t say her l’s.” He shrugs. “The pictures you take of them midblink because babies don’t pose. The sleepy eyes in the morning, where they’re crying and whining for no fucking reason except they inherited your not-a-morning-person genes and they don’t understand why they’re awake.”
“Danny, Christ, I’m sorry,” Steve says, reaching over and slinging an arm around him. “I shouldn’t have showed you the video.”
“Yes you should have,” Danny says, glaring at him. “Are you kidding me, yes you should have, you’re showing off your niece, you deserve to show off your niece, just like I deserved to show off my son.”
“Yes you did, buddy,” Steve says, squeezing the back of Danny’s neck. “You’re right. But coming over here at nine at night? Fighting with Rachel and Stan at nine on a Saturday? That’s not okay, Danny.”
“Stop it,” Danny says, squeezing his eyes shut. “Steve, please, just stop. Stop telling me… stop being my moral police and can you please just, for once, just be here with me?”
Steve frowns at him. “I am here with you. I’m here.”
“No,” Danny says, hands folded into fists in front of him. “I need you to be angry with me. I need you to tell me it’s okay for me to be angry, Steve. Because I’m fucking angry, and I have a right to be angry. I am not wrong to be angry, Steve, I’m not.”
“No, you’re not,” Steve says. “Hey, I never said you were.”
“You keep telling me to suck it up, you keep saying it doesn’t help, it’s not right, I’m not doing anyone any favors by being angry, but I am, Steve, I’m so fucking angry,” Danny says, blinking through tears. “And I know you’re just trying to help, and you’re right, me being angry doesn’t accomplish anything, and I have to get past my anger for Charlie, and for Grace, but Steve?”
“I’m so fucking angry.”
“I know,” Steve says, leaning his shoulder into Danny’s. “And you are completely 100% right to be.”
“Thank you,” Danny says, nodding.
“Yeah,” Danny asks, a wry smile on his face because he knows the lecture is still coming.
“Be angry at my place at nine on a Saturday, okay? Just come over and howl at the moon and yell at the surf at my place, okay? Not here. Not here, and drunk. Come get drunk with me and we’ll do it together, okay?”
“Okay,” Danny says, nodding. “Yeah, I can do that.”
Stan comes out carrying a duffel bag and a usb flashdrive. He hands it to Steve and turns to speak to Danny. “There’s more, there’s not enough time to transfer it all from our phones to my computer and then to the stick, so I’ll get that to you later, but there’s plenty there. And there’s dvd’s in the bag.” He gestures. “It’s all labeled by date. Sonograms and videos. Birthdays. His first day at the beach. His first step.”
Danny covers his mouth. “Are you serious? His first step? You got his first step?”
Stan grins sadly. “Yeah, it was my birthday, they were singing and in the middle he just… stood up and walked to me. From nothing to five steps, bam.”
“Oh god, I’m gonna throw up,” Danny groans, covering his face. “Stan, seriously. It seriously never dawned on me what you were losing in all this.”
“I know,” Stan says, and drops the bag at Danny’s side. “Wouldn’t expect it to. Please come get your car after 8am so that we’re gone for the day.”
“Sure,” Danny says, shaking his head and blowing out a huff of air. “I’m sorry I’ve been a dick to you.”
Stan doesn’t answer and shuts the door behind him. They can hear the locks turning.
“Come on, partner,” Steve says, holding out a hand to Danny. “We’ve got drinking to do and videos to watch.”
Danny takes his hand and stands up, swaying slightly. “Maybe not more drinking.”
Steve laughs. “Maybe not.”
“Wanna see my son grow up, Steve,” Danny asks, and he’s happy and hopeful and sad and gutted at the same time and he’s not sure if he’s crying or laughing.
“Want nothing more,” Steve says, and slings an arm around him and puts him in the impossibly tall seat of his stupid manly truck and walks around to the driver’s side.
Danny sees Rachel in the window of the bay door and turns his head so he doesn’t flip her off.