JC woke up the next morning with a knot in his stomach and no idea how it got there. It wasn't until he was standing beneath the water in the shower that he remembered. "Shit." He uttered under his breath as his stomach tumbled. The words from the night before came back to haunt him, and along with the feeling of dread, JC felt the same anger and frustration. He knew that he had made the right decision.
Once Kyle woke up, they spent the day lounging around the house. They didn't even bother with clothes; they just stayed in their pajamas all day long. It was almost three in the afternoon before JC dragged Kyle upstairs for a bath and clean pajamas. "Daddy why we have jammies?"
"Because jammies rule."
"We go nigh nigh?"
"Nope. We're just hanging out."
Kyle sighed and looked down at his clean pajamas with black and blue trucks all over them. "Candy have no jammies?"
"Nope. Dogs don't have jammies. Just people."
"Right, and me."
"We can have cose morrow?"
JC laughed and tossed Kyle in the air before resting him on his hip to go downstairs, "Yeah, tomorrow we can have clothes."
"Kay." Kyle giggled and patted at JC's still damp hair.
They went back downstairs to make chocolate milk and watch "Toy Story" for the second time that day as they sprawled out on the deep cushioned couch.
On Saturday morning, JC was actually surprised when Lori made her call on time. He guessed that his threat had worked and was honestly just glad that she was finally taking him seriously. But when he answered the phone he was met with a cool attitude and biting remarks. "Hello?" JC waved Kyle in from the backyard.
"Let me talk to Kyle." Lori said brusquely.
"Hang on, he's outside."
She sighed audibly and said, "You knew I was calling. You're cutting into my call time."
JC's eyebrows shot up and a dozen snide comments died on his tongue. "You can talk as long as you want. You're not on a time limit you know."
Her response was silence as JC rolled his eyes and shouted for Kyle, "Come on buddy. Your mommy is on the phone."
"No daddy, I pay wiss Candy."
"You can play with Candy as soon as you're done here, but come take the phone. She's calling from far away and she wants to talk to you."
"No." Kyle whined, but abandoned the neon pink tennis ball and sulked toward the back door. "Two minis?"
"I don't know how long it will be." JC smiled and held the phone out to him. "Say hello."
Kyle rolled his eyes at JC's instructions and took the phone to the table set up at the other end of the patio. He didn't talk until he was comfortably positioned in one of the big chairs. "Hi mommy."
JC stood at the back door and half listened to Kyle's conversation. He couldn't tell what was being said by Kyle mumbled responses, but he could tell that she must have been asking him to repeat things because the little boy was getting annoyed.
Kyle talked to Lori for almost ten minutes before sliding off the chair to return the phone to JC. "Are you done?"
"Yeah." Kyle sighed and ran out to continue playing with Candy who was anxiously waiting with a pile of balls by the slide.
"So we'll talk to you " JC started to talk but was met instead with dial tone. He stared at the phone for a second, then set it on the table. "Hey buddy. What'd your mommy say?" JC had never asked Kyle what was said during their conversations, he'd always gathered that it really wasn't much; but this time he felt that he needed to.
"What?" Kyle stopped banging two tennis balls together and squinted up at JC.
"What did your mommy say?"
"She say bye." Kyle frowned.
"But before she said goodbye, what did she say?"
"I doe know she just say bye." Kyle shrugged.
"She didn't just keep saying goodbye buddy. Did she tell you about her work?" JC prompted him with a topic that she probably hadn't talked about, waiting for Kyle to correct him.
"No. She says a beach and seesa dotter and is sad." Kyle put on a sad face to make sure JC understood. "Anen she say bye."
"She went to the beach and she was sad?"
"Um." Kyle thought for a minute. "Yeah. Ana dotter."
"I doe know." Kyle shrugged and tossed one of the balls for Candy. "Daddy, we can see a beach morrow?"
JC frowned for a minute trying to decipher Kyle's words. "Not tomorrow, but yeah, we'll have to go soon. Before it gets too cold."
"Yeah. Is code daddy."
"Yep. It's cold." JC pursed his lips and watched Kyle play for a few minutes before going back inside to finish the dishes in the sink.
JC made sure they were home at her regularly scheduled call on Tuesday but since he didn't honestly expect her to call, he didn't make a big presentation out of it. At ten to eight he and Kyle lounged on JC's bed reading a Dr. Seuss book with the cordless phone standing on the nightstand beside them. JC tried not to be obvious about looking at the phone every few minutes, but Kyle was smart and caught on quick. "Daddy you can caw?"
JC's eyes snapped back to Kyle laying on his stomach in his Bob the Builder pajamas. "What?"
"You can caw?"
"I can call who?"
"I doe no." The little boy scrambled to sit up and shrug. "Ona phone." He pointed to the cordless sitting in its charger.
"You want me to call someone?" JC blushed slightly, realizing that Kyle must have seen his anxious glances at the phone.
"Yeah." He crawled over the pillow and took the phone off the table to hand to JC.
"Who should we call?"
"Um." Kyle looked to the ceiling, deep in thought. "I sink I caw Jussin."
JC checked his watch, "Yeah, he might be home." He dialed Justin's number then handed the phone back to Kyle who held it in both hands.
"What up, dog?" Justin answered the phone with a loud laugh.
"Hi!" Kyle giggled and bounced on the bed.
"H-hey." JC could hear the confusion in Justin's voice. "Is this Kyle?"
"Hey buddy, where's your daddy?"
"He's there? Does he know you're on the phone?"
"Yeah." Kyle stood up and bounced on the bed. "We say we cawin you Jussin."
"Yeah, you called me. Shouldn't you be in bed?"
"I ina bed."
"I ina bed. I in daddy's bed."
"You're in your daddy's bed?"
"Can you put your dad on the phone?"
"Um." Kyle looked at JC. "Daddy you can say hi?"
"Sure, I'll say hi." JC reached for the phone and laughed, "Hey man."
"Okay that was weird." Justin chuckled.
"Hearing his little voice when I was expecting you." Justin shook his head, "What's going on, man? Shouldnt he be in bed?"
"We were waiting for you-know-who to call but she didn't. He's on his way to bed right now though."
"Ahh. So I'm second to you-know-who huh?"
"Kyle wanted to call you."
"Uh huh, I see how it goes."
"Hey, he didn't ask to call her. You should be flattered."
"Daddy is mine." Kyle scowled and reached for the phone.
"We've gotta go." JC said into the phone. "Okay, say good bye then you have to go to bed." He said as Kyle pried the phone out of his hands and held it to his ear.
"Hey!" Justin matched Kyle's excitement. "It's time for you to go to bed kiddo."
"No, you silly."
"I'm not silly, dog. It's time for you to go to bed."
"No you dog."
"Me dog? Dog, don't even go there."
"I go dere wiss Candy."
"Candy isa doggie and is mine."
"Oh." Justin laughed. "Well yeah. Go there with Candy. But you've gotta go to bed."
"Me? Yeah I'll go to bed too."
"Kay." Kyle nodded and slid off the bed. He held the huge phone to his ear as he walked down the hall to his room. "And Joey?"
"Joey? Yeah he's probably asleep already. He's getting old you know."
"And my Jessi?"
"Your what?" Justin wasn't used to kid speak so it was hard for him to make out what Kyle meant.
"Jessi? Oh Jessica. Yeah, she might be asleep now too."
"Kay." Kyle seemed pleased with that as he crawled into his bed and put the phone down on the floor.
"Kyle? Are you still there?" Justin's voice sounded hollow, echoing from the handset into the room.
JC followed Kyle into his room and picked up the phone, "Say good bye." He held the phone out.
"Bye bye bye." Kyle sang as he shook his rump under the covers.
JC smiled and brought the phone to his ear, "I'll give you a call tomorrow or something."
"Your kid is weird." Justin laughed.
"I know." JC smiled proudly down at his son nestled under his bright blue blankets.
"Good night, you freaks."
"G'night." JC laughed and turned the phone off.
"Daddy I lie Jussin."
"I like him too. Good night, buddy. I'll see you in the morning."
"I think tomorrow we'll go Christmas shopping. Does that sound like fun?"
"And get a toy?"
"Maybe. We've got to get presents for the guys."
"All righty. We'll go shopping then tomorrow." He leaned down and kissed Kyle's forehead. "I love you."
"Love too, daddy." Kyle smiled and wrapped his arms around JC's neck, pulling his father down onto the bed with him.
JC kissed him again and laughed as Kyle finally let go of his neck. "G'night." He grabbed the phone, then quietly left the room and shut the light off.
"Bye bye bye." Kyle sang softly into the darkness. JC heard him giggle one more time before he shut the door halfway and headed back to his room. He really did need to think about Christmas shopping. He did better if he had a list so he stayed up into the wee hours of the night constructing a list of exactly what he wanted to get for everyone. It took pages and pages of corrections before it was just how he wanted it, then he slid it under his alarm clock and let himself fall asleep to dream about snow covered Christmas trees and bright colored stockings.
JC tried not to focus on the missed call on Tuesday but he knew that the next time she called, if she called, he'd have to lay down the law and he wasn't looking forward to it. He'd almost put it completely out of his mind on Saturday when she missed that call. It was almost expected and the anger he anticipated didn't come. They planned their day business as usual and were on their way out when the phone finally rang.
Without a second thought JC grabbed it from the holder and answered, "Hello?" He dropped the bag of chips he had in his hand. "Dang, hang on." With a frown, he bent to pick them up.
He dropped the bag again and stood up straight. "Lori?"
"Yeah, hey listen, I know I'm late for the call this -"
He cut her off as he leaned back on the counter; "You've lost your chance Lori."
"Listen, I know I said I'd -"
"No. You've lost your chance. I told you last week that if you missed another call you would lose your chance for visitation. You completely missed the call on Tuesday and you're three hours late for the call today. I am sick and tired of your little games Lori. I know you were mad at me last week but that's no reason to take it out on Kyle. If you want visitation or contact, you'll have to go through the courts."
"If you'll let me speak for a minute here." Lori sighed. "That's exactly why I'm calling. I need to get your lawyers contact number."
"You've got to be kidding me." JC laughed incredulously. "Here let me get that for you." He flipped open his little green phone book and read the number for her. "George Moreno, 321-229-4900. I'm sure he'll be glad to hear from you." JC slammed the phone down and closed his eyes tightly.
"Daddy we hava go." Kyle said as he kicked at JC's feet.
JC opened his eyes and looked down at Kyle, "When did you get here?"
"We go now." Kyle smiled and pulled on his hand.
"In just a minute, I have to call two people."
Kyle sighed and climbed up onto the barstool. "Daddy we cawin Laaaance?"
"Nope. I have to call George and Jessica."
"My Jessi?" Kyle's eyes lit up as he held Lello close to his chest.
"Yep." JC dialed his lawyer's number and waited as it rang.
"I can say hi?"
"I'll let you talk to Jessica, yeah." JC covered the mouth piece.
"Now?" Kyle reached for the phone.
"Nope, in just a minute." JC whispered as George answered. "Hey George, this is JC. I'm sorry to bug you on a Saturday and everything."
"That's okay, what's up?"
"Um, Lori just called." JC sighed. "Well, maybe I should give you some background." He paused, then went over the last few months with George. How Lori arranged to have the calls at certain times and only made it for half of them, along with her trip to Florida and all of that. "So finally I told her if she missed any more calls without an explanation that I would take away those privileges."
"Which you're entitled to do."
"Right." JC nodded and took a deep breath. "Right, so she missed her call on Tuesday and she called like, three hours late today. So I told her she lost her right to talk to Kyle on the phone and that if she wanted to see him she'd have to take me to court and then she asked for your number." He ran his hands through his hair and said, "I kind of over reacted, I'm sorry."
"It's okay." George nodded. "So you think she's going to take you back to court?"
"I she might. Yeah."
"Okay? Well that's bad, right?"
"You've already been awarded full legal and physical custody. To try to get that over turned will be no small feat. Being that she's shown over the last few months that she can't even commit to a simple calling schedule, I don't think you have to worry too much. Did you get the name of her lawyer?"
"No. I didn't ask."
"Okay, well then we'll just wait and see what we hear. Do you have any kind of documentation as far as the calls she's made and missed?"
"Not really. I mean, it's supposed to be every Tuesday and Saturday. I didn't write down the ones she made, only when she missed them just so I'd be able to keep track."
"Okay, well if you don't mind, can you run off a copy for me? That way I'll have something to go on when they call."
"Sure, no problem. I can fax it over to you tomorrow. To your office?"
"Shit, this sucks George. I thought we were done with this."
"Yeah, I thought so too. But we'll get this all figured out. We've got the law and the judges ruling on our side, so don't worry about it too much." He smiled to set his client at ease then said, "I'll call you if I hear anything, okay? Until then, don't talk Lori. If she wants to bring the lawyers back into the game, you can do that too."
"That won't be hard." JC laughed bitterly. "Thanks George."
"No problem kid. Have a good weekend."
"I will. Thanks. You too." JC nodded slowly, then hung up and called Jessica to let her know what was going on. She was appropriately shocked, though she managed to keep her anger from showing too much. "But hey, Kyle wants to say hi." JC smiled and handed the phone to Kyle.
"Hi Jessi!" He squealed as he held the big phone with both hands.
"Hi sweetie! How are you?"
"Good. Me and daddy go bye-bye."
"You're going bye-bye huh? Where are you going?"
"You're going in the car?"
"Where are you going to go in the car?" Jessica asked with a smile.
"Umm." Kyle thought for a minute then looked at JC. "Daddy where we go?"
"We're going to pick up Joey and go get some pizza."
"We hava Joey and a peeeza."
"Wow, that sounds like fun."
"And you can come?"
"Nope. I can't come with you this time."
"Yeah daddy drives and get you." Kyle insisted.
"It's too far to drive sweetie. But I'll see you soon. I promise." Jessica spoke softly as she smiled and pulled on her hair.
"Can you put your daddy on the phone now?"
"Bye bye Kyle, I love you sweetie."
"Love too bye Jessi." He handed the phone to JC and sighed. "Kay we go now."
"Yeah, we can go in just a minute." He smiled and took the phone. "Thanks."
"Anytime." She smiled and felt her pulse quicken, "I'll be out in a week."
"I know." The relief came through in his voice. "I can't wait."
"It's righter when you're here."
"It's a word." JC laughed.
"If you say so." Jessica smiled to hide her concern and sighed. "But you need to go get pizza with Joey, so I'll talk to you later."
"And don't worry too much."
"I love you."
JC paused and smiled, wanting only to hold her while he responded. "I love you too."
He closed his eyes, "Bye." E clicked the phone off as Kyle pulled on his hand urgently.
"We have peeeeza now?" Kyle giggled and dragged JC toward the door. JC promised himself he wouldn't let the phone conversation with Lori put a damper on their afternoon. Jessica would be there in less than a week and that was enough to keep him going. Maybe this time she would stay.
He could hope
On Monday afternoon George called while JC and Kyle were out. The answering machine played back George's advice and JC shook his head slowly while listening. "Hey JC, this is George Moreno. I talked with Lori's attorney, a Ms. Fran Garrison in Los Angeles. I won't go into the details here, if you'd like to hear all about it you can give me a call back at the office. Anyway, she said that she has talked to Lori about the missed calls and they've come to an understanding. She'd like you to give Lori another try. I know that you gave her the ultimatum, and I know that you've given her several chances already. But here's my take on the situation. If you give her this one more chance and her attorney knows that this is her last chance, you'll have all the documentation you need if it comes to going to court again. As of right now, they aren't even talking about court so I don't know why she thought she needed to go through lawyers. Anyway, kid, I've told them to keep up the regular calling schedule with the previous provisions. That she's to call if she won't be able to make the call and all that stuff. If that's not okay with you, call me back when you get this and I'll relay the message. If it is okay, then expect her call tomorrow as scheduled." George paused and took a deep breath. "And if she flat out misses another call, let me know as soon as possible and I'll contact Ms. Garrison to let her know that her client no longer has scheduled calls and if she'd like to get visitation we'll need to pursue the matter in court. Any questions, you know where to reach me. Talk to you soon, bye."
JC sighed and shook his head; he understood where George was coming from but he hated being walked on all over the place. He'd give Lori another chance simply because he knew that she'd blow it again. And not only would she blow it in front of him, but in front of George and her own lawyer. Everyone would know that she couldn't commit to anything, never mind her own son.
"Daddy we can see Jafar and Ladin?" Kyle asked with a yawn as he tugged on JC's fingers.
JC snapped back to the present and forced a smile as he picked Kyle up. "You bet. You go get the movie and I'll make up popcorn."
"Yeah!" Kyle wiggled out of JC's arms and made a mad dash to where the children's movies were stacked near the toys. He picked out the "Aladdin" one and set it on the table while the popcorn popped in the microwave. JC put the movie in the DVD player and they got their things situated on the couch as the previews started.
"When the movie is over it's time for bed." JC looked over at Kyle, as if he'd ever had a problem getting Kyle to go to bed when he was told.
"Because it's already getting late."
"Kay." Kyle nodded and folded his feet under his behind. "Uh oh daddy. We hava popcorn?"
"Oh yeah, I forgot. I'll go get it." JC stood up and poured the popcorn into a big plastic bowl before returning to the family room. They sat together on the couch and watched the movie while making a mess with the popcorn. Candy ate the pieces that made it to the floor, which thanks to Kyle, were more than a few.
The popcorn was done before the movie ended, so JC got up to rinse the buttery bowl in the sink. "You want some juice, Kyle?" JC asked as he stood up. The little boy nodded without taking his eyes off the TV in front of him. "All righty." JC smiled and walked to the kitchen.
As he stood at the sink, the phone rang in the little nook by the pantry. He quickly dried his hands on the towel and reached for the cordless. Without looking at the caller ID in the darkness, JC answered. "Hello?" He kept his voice soft in case Kyle was dozing on the couch. It was past his bedtime and the little by was tired to start with.
"Hi JC, this is Lori."
"Oh hi. I talked to "
"I know. My lawyer called me."
"Oh." JC was always taken aback when she interrupted him, though he should have been used to it by then.
"Actually, I was just calling to let you know that I won't be able to make the call on Tuesday."
"That's tomorrow." JC sighed and rolled his eyes.
"I know. I just I'm not going to be home so I won't be able to call. I have a uh an appointment."
JC exhaled sharply into the phone and pinched the bridge of his nose. "You missed the call on Saturday and almost blew it. Do you really want to miss two in a row?"
"Well I was hoping I could talk to him tonight?"
"He's in bed." JC lied as he got a sippy cup out of the cupboard for Kyle who was lying on the couch a few feet away.
"He's two. He goes to bed at eight." JC poured white grape juice into the cup and screwed the top on securely.
Lori sighed and decided, wisely, not to argue. "Can I call another day during the week?"
"You can call any time you want." JC sent the cup on the counter and walked down the hall to his little office so that Kyle wouldn't be tempted to speak up.
"Well when will you be home?"
"I don't know. We don't have much planned this week really." He shrugged.
She sighed again and said, "I'd really like to talk to him before Saturday."
"Then call." JC didn't even try to hide his annoyance from her.
"What if you're not home?"
"I haven an answering machine."
"Can you tell me when you're going to be home?"
"No." JC shook his head. "But if you tell me when you're going to call, I'll do what I can to be here."
"I don't know when I'll be able to call."
"Well then I can't really help you." He ran his hands through his hair and continued. "I'm not going to set up calls with you Lori, not when you miss half of them. I'm not going to get Kyle's hopes up for a call before Saturday and have you flake out again. If you call, you call. If you don't well then he won't miss anything."
Lori paused before responding. "Okay. I'll talk to you later then."
"Great." JC nodded. "Bye." He hung up the phone and went back into the family room. "Okay kiddo, as soon as this is done, you have to go to bed." He swung his head toward the TV, noticing that the movie was only minutes away from ending.
"Okay." He sat on the couch and pulled the little boy onto his lap. If there was a way to protect him from ever getting his heart broken, JC would do it. But he knew there wasn't. He could only do what he was doing, and hope for the best. "I love you, Kyle." JC planted a warm kiss on the top of Kyle's head.
Kyle sighed softly and smiled at the TV. "Love too." He turned his head to kiss JC's cheek. "And love Candy."
JC laughed and hugged Kyle tight, "Yep, and we love Candy and Candy loves us."
"Yeah." Kyle grinned and shimmied higher up on JC's chest to snuggle against JC's neck.
They watched the end of the movie together, then JC carried Kyle upstairs and read him three books before bed, a special treat for both of them. Once he shut the lights off, JC went down the hall to his room and got himself ready for bed. He found that under his covers was the one place he could forget all about Lori and think only of Jessica. A smile found its way to his lips as he turned his alarm off and slid under the covers. It would only be a few more days until Jessica was there with him, and he wouldn't have to rely on his dreams to make him happy.
"So um... hey." Jessica pursed her lips as she seated herself on the counter in her kitchen. Her room mate Katie sat at the little breakfast table eating a bowl of cereal as a late night snack. "Remember when I said I'd tell you when you needed to start looking for a room mate?"
"Yeah." Katie smiled as she took a bite of her Raisin Bran. She looked up at Jessica and knew the answer before she even asked the question. "Do I?"
"Yeah." Jessica said softly, unable to contain her childlike grin. "I am going to move in with him."
Katie took another bite of her cereal and shook her head, "You are seriously the luckiest girl on the face of the planet. I hate you."
"I know." Jessica laughed and tapped her heels on the cupboards.
"What did he say when you told him?"
"I haven't exactly told him yet." Jessica bit her bottom lip. "But I'm going down there on Friday. I'll be there for well I don't know how long. I'll tell him then."
"Are you taking your stuff? Because I think he might figure it out if you come off the plane with like, your bike and stuff." Katie laughed.
"No no I won't be moving all my stuff till after Christmas at the earliest. In fact, I still have to make sure it's okay. I mean, I know he says it is all the time, but still."
"It'll be fine."
"I know." Jessica nodded. "But I want to tell him before I just unload all my stuff."
Katie licked the milk from her lips and sighed, "I can't believe you're going to be moving all the way to Florida to live with the sexiest man alive. And I can't even get Justin Timberlake to give me a second look. Or a first look for that matter."
"Don't even go there, I've tried."
"And you've met him."
"I know. The best two seconds of my life." Katie sighed, "But it wasn't like " She waved her empty spoon around. "I was all " She made a crazy face and waggled her fingers by her hair. "All teenie like."
"You were not."
"I was too." Katie carried her bowl to the sink and rinsed it. "But anyway, maybe next time."
"When I come down to Florida for those wild and crazy pool parties that I know you're going to throw."
"Oh, of course." Jessica rolled her eyes and laughed.
Katie turned sad but proud eyes to Jessica, "I can't believe you're moving in with him. Do you know what that means?" She paused and when Jessica didn't answer, she continued. "That means that you're going to be living with JC Chasez, Jess. That means that you're like, one step away from being engaged to him from being married to him. In another couple years you'll be doing the whole two point five kids, dog and white picket fence thing."
Jessica laughed and shook her head, already envisioning a very similar situation. "He's not exactly the white picket fence type." She said softly.
"Okay fine, no white picket fence. You know what I mean." Katie laughed and rolled her eyes. "Do I get to be in the wedding?"
"You're jumping a little too far ahead here. He doesn't even know I'm moving in."
"So wait, what made you decide to move in?"
Jessica smiled dreamily, "Kyle."
"I love that kid so much Katie. I can't even explain it."
"And his daddy?"
"Of course." Jessica nodded quickly. "I just I feel whole when I'm there, I feel like that's home and that's where I belong and while I'm here I feel like like I'm visiting or whatever. All I think about is being there."
"That's a good sign then."
"Yeah." She nodded. "Then there's this stuff with Kyle's mom that's just a mess. And I feel like I should be there for that. I don't want to be in the middle or put any unnecessary stress on JC, but, "Jessica sighed. "She's kind of been doing better and now there's this whole other issue so ugh, I don't know. I just want to be there. Maybe if she sees that I'm committed to stay she'll straighten up or something. I don't know."
Katie shrugged, she was not kept up to date with the situation, so she couldn't really comment, "Whatever it is, I'm sure he'll be glad to have you there."
"Yeah." Jessica giggled, "I can't wait to tell him."
"He's gonna freak. In a good way." Katie smiled and pulled Jessica in for a quick hug, "You're seriously the luckiest girl on the face of the planet."
Jessica's eyes crinkled as she smiled, "Thank you."
"You're welcome." Katie whispered back before she tackled Jessica, landing them both on the floor. "Arrrgh! I still just can't believe you get to live with him."
Jessica laughed and rolled out from under Katie then stood to go back to her room with Katie hot on her heels. She had some packing to do and Katie wanted to be there to oversee it all.
On Friday afternoon Jessica nervously stepped off the plane, wondering just how nice it would be to get to that airport and think that she was home. Her heart skipped a beat and her smile grew even wider as she imagined that.
She spotted Kyle first, perched high on JC's shoulders in the small crowd by the baggage claim area. "Hey you." Jessica bounced up on her toes to kiss JC quickly under the brim of his baseball cap. "Nice disguise." She waggled her eyebrows at him.
"Thanks." JC slid his arm around her waist. "Did you bring luggage?"
Jessica blushed, thinking about all the luggage she'd have to bring when she moved. If she didn't stop thinking about it, she'd never get up the nerve to actually tell him. "Yeah, of course."
"Lots?" He raised his eyebrow, leaving the question dangling there between them.
She could have answered him right then and there. She could have told him that she was moving in and she was going to have lots and lots of luggage. Instead she just licked her lips and said, "I have one big bag. That's enough for now." The time had to be perfect, and she didn't think it was going to be perfect in the airport.
"Hi Jessi! I up here!" Kyle giggled and waggled her toes at her nose level.
"Oh! There you are Kyle! I didn't even see you up there." Jessica laughed and tickled his claves. "How do you like it up there?"
"Good." He giggled as the luggage began to come around on the rack.
"Okay buddy, time to get down so I can get Jessica's suitcases." JC lifted Kyle off his shoulders and waited until Jessica had a firm grasp on his hand before he turned to the carousel. "The blue one?"
"With the big pink stickers?" JC laughed and looked over his shoulder.
Jessica sighed and smiled, "It's only one sticker, but yes it's pink."
"Perfect." JC rolled his eyes as he laughed again and waited for it to come around. After a few minutes he grabbed her bag and they headed for the exit.
"Okay, how is it fair that Florida gets such pretty weather in December?"
"We get the humidity all summer; I think this is a fair trade." JC looked up at the crisp, but bright blue sky.
"Ha." Jessica shook her head and stepped off the curb.
"But I'm glad you're dressed appropriately." JC smiled down at Jessica's jeans and t-shirt as he lifted her suitcase into the back of the car.
"For what?" She scooped Kyle up and waited as JC opened the back door.
"We're going shopping." JC smiled devilishly as he slid it between the seats to help Kyle into his car seat.
"Shopping for what?"
"Kyle, what are we going shopping for?" JC asked as he clicked the safety belt into place.
"Kissimas tree!" He cheered and threw his hands over his head.
"A Christmas tree?" Jessica's smile broadened as she leaned into the car to look at JC. "Really?"
"Well, we need one." JC shrugged, then shut the back door and climbed in the front. Jessica followed his lead and fastened her seatbelt. "I figured you might want to help pick it out."
"I'd love to."
"Good." He leaned over to give her a quick kiss that ended up being not so quick. "I'm glad you're here. I've missed you."
"Me too." She smiled and kissed him again.
It took them less than an hour to sort through the fake forest of Christmas trees in the shopping center parking lot. "I can't believe I'm buying a tree at Home Depot." JC sighed and lifted his hat to run his fingers through his hair.
"What do you mean?" Jessica laughed. "Where did you get your tree when you were a kid?"
"We'd go cut one down." JC shrugged.
"What? How un-American! You have to buy an overpriced tree from the grocery store parking lot at least once."
"This just feels wrong." JC laughed and looked around at the side of the yard with the white flocked trees. "Is that supposed to look like snow?"
"Don't be a spoil sport." Jessica gave him a look and swung Kyle's hand as he danced around. "Jace, just pick out a tree already. You can't hate them all."
"I don't hate them all."
"Then what about this one? It's full; there are no big holes or flat spots."
"It's kinda tall don't you think?"
"It's seven feet high. That's not too big, you've got high ceilings."
"Yeah but we have to fit it in the car."
"On the car, we have to fit it on the car. It'll fit." Jessica pulled the tree upright and looked at Kyle. "What do you think buddy?"
"Yep, it's huge. Let's get it."
"It's like, sixty dollars."
"This coming from the man who owns a drawer full of underwear that cost forty dollars each? Give me a break. I'm your wardrobe mistress; don't think for a second I don't know how much those shoes cost." She looked down at his well loved Bacco Bucci leather loafers.
JC sighed and rolled his eyes, he couldn't win. "Okay. Let's go." He stuck his arm between the branches and lifted it off the ground. "Kyle, hold Jessica's hand." JC lead the way to the check out center where he was talked into adding two real pine wreaths and a new Christmas tree stand because he wasn't sure he'd be able to find the one he owned. By the time they left with the tree strapped to the top of the car, he'd spent over a hundred dollars and made both Jessica and Kyle sublimely happy.
When they got home Jessica gave Kyle a much needed bath to get the tree sap off of him while JC dug around in his garage to find the huge Rubbermaid containers of Christmas decorations. Dressed in clean pajamas with his hair brushed out of his eyes, Kyle dragged Jessica down the hall to the living room where he had decided they were going to set up the tree.
JC returned with the second container and set it on the floor. "I think that's all."
"That's a lot." Jessica laughed and wondered how they'd fit them all.
"Yeah. Well the house is big. I'm sure you can find a way." JC winked and opened the top of the first one. "Kyle, why don't you go through here and find some tree decorations while Jessica and I put this tree up?"
"Kay." Kyle dove into the open container with a huge smile.
JC and Jessica struggled to get the tree straight in the stand, finally deciding that a little off center wouldn't kill anyone. JC tightened the screws and stood back. "It's perfect." Jessica wrapped her arms around JC's waist.
He shrugged and kissed her cheek, "It sure is." Kyle wiggled his way between them and looked up at JC. "Are you ready to decorate it now?"
"Yeah." Kyle giggled and held up his arms covered in tinsel.
"All righty. You guys et started, I'll get the music." JC kissed Jessica once more, then bounced off to the other room to pull his Christmas music out of storage in the office.
When he returned Christmas music filled the room and set the mood for the rest of the evening. They decorated the tree with every ornament they could find as well as plain white lights that twinkled when they flipped the switch.
Jessica took some of the other decorations and set them around the house, leaving one of the wreaths on the front door and the other on the pillar at the end of the driveway. By the time everything was put in its place, Kyle was asleep under the coffee table with Candy. JC slid him out and carried him upstairs to his bedroom before returning to the living room to sit with Jessica.
"I love the smell of Christmas."
"Me too." Jessica inhaled deeply and nestled herself in JC's lap. He wrapped his arms around her and raised his knees for her to rest his arms on.
"And you're right. The tree looks good."
"Of course it does."
"Lopsided and everything."
"Oh stop, it's not lopsided." Jessica slapped his knee and smiled.
"It's perfect." JC kissed her ear and closed his eyes.
They sat there on the couch watching the lights on the tree twinkle until after midnight. It wasn't often that they had quiet time all to themselves, so they took advantage of every minute. When they finally made it upstairs they fell asleep almost immediately, comfortable in each others arms.
When Jessica woke up the next morning she was alone in the bed and the shower was running in the bathroom a few feet away. As the water stopped a few minutes later, her stomach did a cartwheel. It was time for her to tell him she wanted to move in. The setting was perfect and she was ready. Or so she thought until JC stepped out of the shower in a dark blue towel. "Hey." Jessica stretched her arms over her head.
"Hey." JC looked over at her from the bathroom and smiled. "You're awake?"
"I've been up for a little while." She said, though her voice was still thick with sleep.
"You've been quiet." He smiled at her again then turned back to the mirror to towel dry his hair.
"I've been thinking."
"Oh yeah? What about?"
Just as she was about to say what it was, she halfway changed her mind, "About uhh " She stopped one syllable into 'us' then thought quickly, "About what I'm doing for Christmas."
"Oh yeah?" JC gave her a mostly confused look partnered with a half smile. "And what's that?"
"I well I was going to see if I could tag along with you." She said quickly. That was part of what she wanted to tell JC, but not the whole thing. Not the important thing.
"Really? Of course you can. We'd love that. I'd love for you to spend Christmas with me." He dropped his towel over the towel bar on the shower door then walked over to the bed to sit beside her. "That would be awesome if you could do that."
"Good. I want to."
"Good." JC smiled, then leaned down and kissed her quickly. "I'm going to go make pancakes. I can hear Kyle thumping around in his room, so come on down when you're ready."
"Ooo, pancakes." She closed her eyes and smiled. "I could get used to this."
"You go right ahead." He kissed her again while her eyes were closed then laughed and headed to Kyle's room to grab the little boy to have him help make breakfast.
She gave them a couple minutes to get to the kitchen, then crawled out of bed and into the shower. With any luck, her timing would be right on and she'd make it to the kitchen just as the pancakes were coming off the griddle.
When she stepped out of the shower fifteen minutes later, her stomach tumbled and she got goose bumps all over her body. Her happy mood slipped a notch, she hadn't told JC what she wanted to and that still loomed ahead of her. She was only halfway there.
Jessica dressed quickly as she heard giggles coming up the staircase. She stepped back into the damp bathroom to brush out her hair and pull it out of her face, and in the process she caught a glimpse of her reflection in the mirrored closet doors. She stared for a moment then sighed, "Just go down there and say it." She said softly to herself. "The answer is yes. It's not that hard. He wants you to. Just go tell him." She smiled and rubbed her lips together to evenly distribute her lip gloss. "I'd like to move in with you." She sighed and covered her eyes with her hands then laughed softly. "Okay, I shouldn't be this nervous. He wants me to move in here and he keeps saying it. Just go."
She felt like a fool talking to herself, but that was the only way to psych herself up for it. With one last deep breath she ran her fingers through her hair and turned to go downstairs. Halfway down she heard the phone ring and hoped that the call would be a quick one so she wouldn't lose her nerve.
JC crossed the hall with Kyle on his hip as Jessica walked into the kitchen. He reached for the phone and glanced at the caller ID. A frown flashed across his brow as recognized the LA area code. He clicked the phone on and set his jaw tightly. "Hello?" JC answered the phone softly, knowing full well who it was. For the first time that JC could remember, Lori made her call early.
"Hey JC, this is Lori. I was wondering if we - " Her voice sounded slightly off but JC tried to ignore it, and her.
"Hang on, let me get Kyle."
"No, I was hoping you and I could talk."
"Hey buddy, it's your mommy." JC held the phone out to Kyle, ignoring Lori.
"JC, I really need to -"
"Hi mommy." Kyle smiled and held the phone with both hands. JC sat at the dining room table beside his son and half listened to the conversation through the hollow sounding phone.
"Hi baby." Lori said as she sniffed lightly. "How how are you?"
"Are you getting ready for Christmas?"
"I hava tree." Kyle swung his feet off the chair and slid down till his feet met the floor. He held the phone carefully as he walked over to the back door to finish the phone call.
From across the kitchen, Jessica could tell from JC's body language that it was Lori on the other end of the phone line. She quickly moved to the stove and flipped the already well done pancakes.
JC's frown consumed his whole face as he listened to Kyle's side of the conversation. Kyle nodded enthusiastically and kept repeating the same phrase, "Kay mommy." He licked his little red lips then held the phone out to JC. "She say bye."
"She's done?" JC took the phone and pressed it to his ear. "Lori? Hello?" He waited for her to respond but was met only with dead air; dead air that sent a chill up his spine. "I uh "
"Jace?" Jessica asked from the opposite end of the kitchen. He looked up quickly as if he'd forgotten that she was there. "Is everything okay?"
JC ignored her for the moment and picked Kyle up, "What did your mommy say?" He asked quickly.
Kyle frowned and looked at JC like he was crazy. "Is my mommy?"
"What did she say?" JC asked again. He hated prying into their private phone calls, but in that moment he realized that Kyle was really too young and he should have listened in himself.
"She say eyes good and love you."
"She say I good and love you."
"I don't know what that means." JC frowned and looked up at Jessica who looked just as lost.
"Just a second." JC kept his eyes on Kyle.
"Daddy she sad and she go bye bye?"
"How do you know she's sad?"
"I doe know." Kyle shrugged and tried to wiggle out of JC's arms. "Daddy I good boy?"
"Of course you're good." JC dropped a kiss on Kyle's forehead.
"Mommy, she cyin. She loves and say bye bye." Kyle sighed and shook his head.
JC's heart skipped a beat as Kyle's meaning unfolded in his mind. "I can you take breakfast upstairs?" JC asked as his eyes focused on the plate of pancakes beside Jessica's hand on the counter. "Hey buddy, why don't you and Jessica go eat pancakes in your tent in your room."
"Isa picnic?" Kyle sounded delighted as JC set him on the floor.
"JC, is everything okay?" Jessica asked as Kyle ran for the stairs.
"Yeah, I just I need to make a phone call. Can you keep an eye on him for a minute?"
"Sure. Absolutely." She nodded, but the look on his face caused her more than a little concern as she tucked the syrup under her arm and followed Kyle with the pancakes.
JC waited until he heard two pairs of feet walking overhead before he picked up the phone and dialed Lori's home number. As it rang in his ear he thought about what he'd say if or when she answered, but after nine rings it was clear his monologue would go unheard.
He would have let it go but something in her voice scared him enough to pick up the phone again and stare at the handset, the dial tone echoing down the line. Without really thinking he dialed his lawyer's number and nervously tugged at his lower lip until George answered.
"George Moreno here." The old familiar voice answered and immediately brought JC's nerves down to a working level.
"George. This is JC." He said quickly. "I just got off the phone with Lori and she I need some help. This this is JC." He identified himself again because in the few seconds he had the lawyer on the line he couldn't remember saying his name.
"She just she was talking to Kyle and he told me she was saying she loved him and goodbye and for him to be good. I mean, I didn't hear it myself but George it gave me chills, I think she might hurt herself or something." JC's voice showed clear concern. "I'm serious."
"Did you try to call her back?"
"Yeah, I called her house and there was no answer, that's why I'm calling you. Is there something we can do? Can her lawyer go check on her or something?"
"Yeah, hang on a second; I'll conference her lawyer on the line." George clicked over and dialed the number in LA.
Fran picked up on the second ring, "Fran Garrison."
"Hello Ms. Garrison, this is George Moreno calling from
"Yes Mr. Moreno, how are you?" She asked casually.
"I'm doing well, thank you. I have Joshua, um, JC on the line here with us, JC?"
"Hi." JC mumbled as he looked toward the stairs, half wishing Jessica would come back down.
"He just got off the phone with your client, Lori Sczlansky, and he has some concerns." George explained.
"Yeah, I just or well she just called to talk to Kyle, our uh our son, and it sounded like she was crying or um, upset. She just didn't sound right and Kyle said that she was telling him to be good and that she loved him and she kept saying goodbye. I think well I think she might hurt herself." JC said as he nervously tugged on a string hanging from the hem of his shirt. "Or something."
"He's tried calling her home but there was no response." George added. "We were wondering if it might be possible for you to go by her house and check on her."
"Lori is fine; she's in my office right now." Fran said softly. "She made her call from here so that she could say goodbye before she signed."
"Signed? What'd she sign? What's she signing?" JC asked quickly.
"She didn't discuss it with you?" Fran asked after a moment's pause.
"No, I didn't talk to her at all. She just talked to Kyle. What's going on?"
"Lori has she is relinquishing her parental rights to Kyle."
JC's heart stopped beating and his breath caught in his throat, "She what? No no don't let her do that." Instead of feeling any kind of relief, all he felt was panic.
"It's what she wants to do. She does not feel that she can be a parent to Kyle and she does not like the effect she is having on his life. Lori knows that he will be happy with you, and well taken care of. That's all she wants for him."
"No." JC said as soon as she stopped talking. "No. She can't do that. She can't just leave him like that."
"There are other circumstances at hand here as well Mr. Chasez." Fran shuffled papers on her desk. "She has made her decision and she will not be changing her mind. She has been through the necessary counseling and has voluntarily had the papers drawn up. We will be filing the petition with the courts on Monday. Mr. Moreno will receive the notice of hearing tomorrow."
"I won't sign them." JC shook his head defiantly as he leaned on the counter for support.
"You don't have to sign them." George explained softly.
"We will be sitting before the Family Court judge on Thursday and will have the final paperwork to you no later than Saturday morning." Fran said, remaining professional as JC felt his life changing all around him.
"Thursday? You mean this Thursday? How how long has she been planning this?" JC ran his fingers through his hair.
"She's been seeking counseling for the last month or so."
"And she let me know of her official decision last week."
"Last week?" JC felt like he'd been socked in the stomach. She'd known for a month and hadn't said anything. He had no warning and could do nothing to stop it. "Wait. No. Wait a second. She just fought to get visitation back. To get her phone call privileges back. Why would she do that if she was just going to give up? That doesn't make sense."
"She wanted to be sure she'd have the time to say goodbye. Those regular phone calls were her way to say what she needed to say to Kyle."
"She should have told me."
"Perhaps." Ms. Garrison paused. "She did what she thought was right."
"Come on you can't let her do this. You can't. You're her lawyer; tell her she can't do this." Tears hovered at the corner of JC's eyes.
"I will be including Lori's letter to Kyle with the final paperwork. Both her counselor and I have informed Lori of her legal obligations and what this termination will mean and she has voluntarily consented to it."
"Has she signed it yet?" JC asked.
"She has signed the petition, yes."
"Tear it up. She can't do this to Kyle. She can't give up on him like this please "
"JC." George said with a voice of authority.
JC snapped his mouth shut as his lower lip quivered. He could feel himself slipping into panic mode as his hands began to shake and he broke out in a cold sweat. All he had wanted was for Lori to take responsibility; he didn't want her completely out of Kyle's life. JC tuned out the rest of Fran and George's conversation and didn't snap back until he heard George calling his name. "JC? Jace?"
"Y-yeah." JC looked up as Jessica walked back into the kitchen and leaned on the counter in front of him.
"You okay?" George asked.
"I no. No I'm not okay. What in the hell just happened?" He held the phone with both hands to keep it steady.
"Lori has voluntarily petitioned to terminate her parental rights."
"What does that mean?" JC asked, though he knew.
George paused, "It means that on Thursday she and Ms. Garrison will stand before a family court judge and Lori will explain in her own words what her understanding is concerning further contact, visitation, and support for the child. Her explanation of how and why this decision is in the child's best interest will be a big deciding factor for the judge."
"In English, what exactly does this mean?"
"A parent whose rights have been terminated has the same rights and responsibilities toward that child as a complete stranger. The parent is not responsible for any support, nor is that parent allowed to have any say as to the education, teaching and upbringing of that child. In fact, the parent does not even have the right to see or contact the child or custodial parent to inquire as to the well being of the child." George paused. "That's the textbook definition anyway."
JC's whole body shook again, "That means she won't?"
"That means you don't have to let her. That's all that it means. Her volunteering to terminate her parental rights means that she has no intention of trying to, but even if she does you legally don't have to let her do anything. This is non-negotiable and I have never seen a case like this reversed unless she can prove she was coerced or that she signed under pressure. But in this case she has been through considerable counseling over the last month and Ms. Garrison has tried to actually talk her out of it. Also, Lori initiated the petition so that kind of says a lot right there. If when this goes through this week, it will be final."
"And I can't stop it?" JC felt sick to his stomach.
George sighed softly and chose his words wisely, "I know you want to do what's best for Kyle but JC I truly believe this is it. If in the future you want her to have contact with him, you can try to initiate it. However, in doing this she is saying she no longer wants that responsibility. You could try to have your say by appearing in court, but Jace I wouldn't advise that. I won't tell you that you can't go but as your lawyer my advice would be to let this go."
"George, I can't." JC set his jaw and shook his head in rebellion.
George paused for a second, and then took a deep breath. "If you want to appear in court on Thursday, I'll arrange for us to fly out."
JC took a deep breath and licked his lips as he pinched his forehead. "I can't make her do anything." He said it more as a statement than a question.
"No I'm sorry you can't. If you go to court on Thursday and give your side of it, let's say for arguments sake the judge says he won't terminate her rights. You can't make her be a mother to him. You've tried that for the past couple months and it doesn't work. In all honesty Jace, this will be so much better for you guys in the long run. If you get married your wife will be able to adopt Kyle without a problem. You won't have to worry about any of the stuff that you've had to since she showed up six months ago or whatever."
"I know. I just this isn't what I wanted. How come it has to go this way? Why can't she just tell me she can't see him for a while so she can get her shit together instead of this? This just doesn't make sense. It's like she's just saying 'screw it' and throwing it all away. I mean " JC exhaled loudly, "I mean this just sucks. I dont know what to do and I feel like she's making all these decisions without even thinking about anyone else."
"She's thinking of what's best for Kyle."
"This isn't what's best for him."
"It's not what's ideal, no but I believe it is what's best. Think about it, would you rather have that threat of her coming back to take you to court while she drags Kyle along flaking out on meetings, missing phone calls, wasting your time and money and making Kyle think that his mom doesn't like him. Or would you rather move on get on with your life and devote your time to making Kyle happy and safe instead of dealing with Lori?"
"I know what you're saying." JC grumbled. "I still just wish this could end some other way."
"I know you do." George said. He waited in silence listening to JC breathe for a minute, "Are you going to be okay?"
"Me? Yeah I'll be fine." JC nodded and closed his eyes tightly. "I'll be fine. It's not me I'm worried about though." He added softly.
"Do you want to go to LA to appear?"
JC bit his lip and shook his head, though George couldn't see. "No."
"Okay." George said softly. "When I get the paperwork I'll call you, okay?"
"Yeah, thanks." JC felt emotionally drained after only fifteen minutes on the phone. "Thanks George, for everything."
"You're welcome kid. I'm sorry it had to be like this, but like I said, this will be better in the long run."
"I know." JC nodded with an exhausted sigh. "Call me as soon as you hear anything."
"I will. Take care of yourself, okay?"
"Yeah thanks." JC said goodbye and clicked the phone off, then leaned his head back and took a deep breath. "Dammit." He whispered to the ceiling.
"What happened?" Jessica's voice shook slightly. Hearing only JC's side of the conversation left large holes in whatever had just taken place.
"I just I don't know." JC left his hand on the phone on the counter. "She Lori is voluntarily petitioning to terminate her parental rights. She signed away her rights to Kyle."
Jessica's jaw dropped open slightly; suddenly nothing she was planning on saying to JC seemed important. "Are you is why?"
"I don't know." JC wiped at his eyes and took a deep breath. "She told her lawyer she wasn't a good parent and she didn't like what she was doing to Kyle. The papers will be here by Saturday."
"Oh my God." Jessica said under her breath. "Can't you is there a way you can say no? Can you I don't know, just talk to her or something?"
"The papers are signed already. Once the judge signs them on Thursday, they're official." JC shrugged and forced himself to breathe.
"What what are you going to do?"
"I don't know." JC sniffed and pulled her close. "God Jess, what am I going to tell Kyle?"
Jessica's mind reeled as she felt JC's heart pounding against her cheek, "I don't know, Jace. I don't know."
Copyright © 2002, 2003 Amy Lynn