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Standing on his mother’s front deck, Nick looked out across the yard and wondered about the life he could have had. Hannah and Jack sat together on the lawn, Jack pushing his yellow truck back and forth in front of his mother who sat staring off into the distance. Nick knew the chances of Jack being his son far outweighed the chances he was not. Cassie would be devastated, there was no way around it. He wondered fleetingly if it would have been better to cause her a lesser pain years ago if it meant she could have avoided the agony this was going to cause. Resigning himself to the fact that there was nothing he could do to change it now, Nick took a deep breath and stepped off the deck.
“I couldn’t find any chairs,” he said as he crossed the lawn. “Sorry, but the grass should be dry.”
“It’s fine.”
Nick stood for a moment before he sat beside her on the grass. In silence, they watched Jack transport his load of twigs and stones along imaginary roads and highways before dumping it at Nick’s feet.
“Tuck!” he proclaimed proudly, placing the toy on Nick’s ankle and steering it towards his knee.
“He likes you,” Hannah said dryly and Nick looked sideways at her.
“You think?” he asked hesitantly.
Again, conversation escaped them and Jack, oblivious to the tension, busied himself investigating the tunneling opportunities beneath Nick’s bent knees.
“You don’t believe he’s yours?” Hannah asked eventually. “You think I’m lying?”
“Of course I don’t think you’re lying…”
“But you want a DNA test.”
“Hannah, come on. Can’t you see where I’m coming from? I mean, you turn up out of the blue with a baby you say is mine…”
Hannah silenced him with a scowl.
“I hardly think it was ‘out of the blue’, Nick. The only part of this that was out of the blue was the ‘business trip’ you never came back from.”
Nick looked down at Jack playing at his feet, unable to argue. He’d walked out of Hannah’s Brooklyn apartment one night in November and had never returned. The guilt had plagued him day and night in the weeks and months following but slowly his life had returned to something like normal and his thoughts of the pretty waitress in New York had become less frequent.
“I’m sorry about the way things ended, Hannah, really,” he said carefully. “But I didn’t know what else to do. I was married. I had responsibilities. I had a whole other life I’d all but turned my back on since I met you and then…”
“And then, what?”
Nick took a deep breath and exhaled slowly.
“And then Cassie found out. She was going to leave me if I didn’t stop seeing you. I couldn’t let that happen.”
“But you could leave me pregnant and alone in New York?”
“I didn’t know you were pregnant, Hannah,” Nick replied, reaching for the stick Jack was about to bite down on. “I had no idea.”
“I called you. I called you every single day for a month after I found out. Not to mention the weeks I spent trying to get hold of you when your ‘business trip’ never ended. But I guess that was your European tour,” she said bitterly, pulling Jack and his truck into her lap. “And I called you the day he was born. Are you going to tell me you never got the message?”
“I got the message.”
“But you didn’t think having a son was something you should look into?”
“I didn’t believe you,” Nick replied. “Things were just starting to sort themselves out with Cassie and I thought you were just… I don’t know… I thought you must’ve found out what I did for a living. I thought you were just having another go at getting my attention.”
“You thought I was after your money, is that what you’re saying?” Hannah asked carefully, stroking her son’s head as she spoke. Jack had curled up on his mother’s lap and was sucking his thumb contentedly, his eyelids drooping as sleep closed in on him.
“I don’t know what I thought, Hannah,” Nick replied quietly. “But isn’t it about money now?”
“No, it’s not about money now,” Hannah retorted sharply. “It’s about you acknowledging your son and taking some responsibility for him. I don’t want your money, we’re doing fine without it. But Jack needs a father. He needs his father.”
Nick plucked a blade of grass from the ground in front of him and sat rolling it between his fingers.
"If he's mine, Hannah - and I'm not saying he's not - what do we do then?" he asked. "What can I do for you if it's not money you want? How can I be a father to a child on the other side of the country?"
"I think we cross that bridge when we come to it," Hannah replied, looking down at her sleeping son. "If you're so adamant we need DNA testing, let's get that over with. But right now Jack needs somewhere more comfortable to sleep."
Nick nodded, watching as Hannah scooped Jack into her arms and got to her feet awkwardly.
"Mom has a portable crib in the garage," he began carefully. "She can't bring herself to part with it. If you don't want to go back to the hotel yet, I can put it in the living room. We still have a lot to talk about."
"If it's not too much trouble," Hannah replied as Jack nuzzled in under her chin. "Sorry, I didn't expect him to need another nap - be must still be on New York time."
"It's no trouble at all. Go on in and I'll be right there."
"Thank you," Hannah said, turning away and walking towards the house.
Nick stood on the lawn and watched her leave. Stooping to pick up Jack's truck, he once again found himself wondering.