I sit across from Jeremy and Selena in the large, tastefully appointed living room of their home. Gertrude lays babbling in a yellow playpen a few feet away.
“Thank you for having me.”
Selena leans back into the crook of Jeremy’s arm. “It’s only fair you see our story through to its completion.”
“I still don’t like this.” Jeremy rolls his eyes.
“I see you’re all in good health. When we last saw you, Jeremy, you had just fired a shot. Can you tell me where that bullet landed?”
He crosses his right leg over his left, squeezing his ankle with his free hand. “It grazed Carter’s shoulder.”
“Jeremy wasn’t trying to harm him—”
“He had to be stopped. He was messed up.”
“Is he truly Gertrude’s father?”
“Yes,” Selena says. She exchanges a glance with her husband, his jaw clenched, before her gaze wanders to the toddler playing under the windowsill.
“But he won’t be seeking custody.”
“Did you know about him before all of this happened, Jeremy?”
“Yes, and no. Gertrude’s mom had dated him on and off for years, but I wasn’t aware they were together when she told me she was pregnant. It wasn’t until another reporter came to my office to question me after Selena’s kidnapping that I found out about him.”
“I didn’t know anything.”
He winces and I notice the elbow digging into his side.
“When Caleb was first mentioned in your story, Jeremy, you seemed almost scared. Why was that?”
“I’ve known him in a roundabout way for years, and I’d never heard of him missing a chance to cause trouble. I don’t trust him.”
“Why didn’t you tell your wife about him?”
“We’re adopting Gertrude, which is enough stress without a complication straight out of a soap opera happening. I didn’t ever expect for him to get as close as he did.”
“Do you want Gertrude to have a relationship with any of her biological family?”
“No!” Jeremy practically jumps off the couch.
Selena places a placating hand on his knee. “What he means, I think, is that unless they get their lives together, it would be best for her to be kept at a distance.”
“What place do a drug addict or a kidnapper have in the life of our daughter?”
“Are there any other biological family members that might be better suited to taking her?”
Selena shakes her head. “Caleb, after he’d sobered up—”
“He was high as a kite the night he attacked my wife. Did you know that? And he’s known for being violent when he’s on drugs. It’s a miracle he—”
“Jeremy, he made a mistake. But he didn’t hurt me and I don’t believe he wanted to. He loves his daughter, which she is whether we like it or not. If he gets his life together, we have to give him a chance to be in hers.” She takes a breath, redirecting her attention to me. “To answer your question, no. Caleb’s parents died years ago and he was an only child with no extended family.”
“Where is he now?”
“He’s in jail, but we’re hoping he’ll accept the opportunity to go into a recovery program soon.” She says.
“After everything that happened, what made you want to adopt Gertrude, to begin with? Beyond, sympathy, I mean.”
Jeremy looks at his wife quirking one brow.
She purses her lips, thinking for a moment. “I can’t have children.”
His face blanches.
“It’s okay.” She touches his cheek. “I’ve always wanted to be a mother and when all this happened, I couldn’t see that sweet little girl go into the foster system when we have so much to give.”
“Final question, if you could go into the past and somehow change things so that Gertrude could live happily with her biological family, would you?”
Jeremy looks away, his nostrils flaring.
“No.” Selena frowns. “I believe everything happens for a reason, and, if they can pull themselves out of the holes they’ve dug, her aunt and Caleb will be the best teachers she could ever hope for. Until then, it’s our privilege to love her as best we can.”
Thank you all so much for reading! If there’s another story you’d like to see more of, please let me know in the comments below.