He held my hand as gently as a mother bird would sit on her eggs. Delicate and kind, his soft touch warmed my heart and made me smile. I looked down at him and he up at me. He grinned, the random gaps in his teeth mocking me with their imperfections.
I squeezed his hand lightly and he pulled my hand to his cheek and held it there in a sweet kind of hug.
"Come on, now, let go," I said, shaking my hand lightly.
"Nooo," he moaned, smacking both his hands onto mine and gripping with a sudden desperation.
"I'll be back in an hour," I reminded him, growing embarressed as the woman at the desk continued to stare with a slack-jawed inconsideration.
"Please don't leave me here!" He whimpered, tugging my arm, pressing his body into the side of my leg. I began to feel his anguish melting into my shirt.
I squatted down to him and stretched out the corner of my shirt. "Stop crying," I told him easily, wiping the tears and slime from his face.
His hand snagged onto my collar and knotted against my neck. "Don't go, Daddy," he pleaded.
"I'm not going anywhere!" I retorted, my patience growing thin. "I just need to have a quick work-out, okay?"
"Nooo!" He wrapped his arms around my neck and pulled himself onto my knees.
I stood up and he cling to me still, his legs flinging around my waist.
"Stop this! You're not a baby anymore, so quit acting like one!" I jerked him off of me and set him down.
He began to cry, loudly, reaching for me like a helpless infant. I backed away to the door. Another woman came out of nowhere and snatched him so he could not follow me. He kicked and swatted but she held him tight, nodding at me with a plastic smile.
"He'll be alright!" She reassurred me. "Just get out while you can!" The woman at the desk bobbed her head agreeably, as if it happened all the time.
I looked into his eyes, moments ago so bright and cheerful, now swollen and red with tears, betrayal lacing his words with hate.
"Don't leave me!" He shouted, elbowing and throwing his head back with complete disregard of the woman restraining him.
I shook my head with a sigh, then, upon seeing the women staring at me with butterfly eyelashes and clownish smiles, I decided I should just go.
"Thanks," I called, giving the women a half-hearted wave.
As the door shut behind me, I could hear my son's final cry:
I went down the hall to the exercise room, pulling my ipod out of my pocket and plugging my ears with my buds. I scoped out the gym before heading over to a treadmill and stepping on.
I pressed a few buttons and began to walk, upping the pace as I warmed up. My music drowned out all other sounds, isolating me in a room full of people. I ran, feeling the rough, vibrating thud of my feet against the conveyor belt, and like so many others, I lost track of the time.
Panting and dripping with sweat, I stepped down from the treadmill and headed over to the weights section, glancing at my ipod to select another song. But then I noticed what time it was.
"Shit," I swore. It had been almost two and a half hours.
I went to the locker rooms and took a quick shower, then went to the day care.
He was sitting in the floor in front of the ball-pit, his face as white as a sheet of copy paper. His thin arms crossed over his chest, and even from a distance I could see he was shaking.
"What happened?" I demanded of the woman at the desk.
"Huh?" She shut her mouth and glanced over her shoulder. "Oh. Yeah, we finally calmed him down. Didn't want to play, though." She shrugged nonchalantly.
"Why didn't you get me?" I asked, pushing past her.
"He wasn't crying," she called, raising her voice unnessecarily.
I went to him and knelt down, searching his eyes. I said his name, and he looked at me.
We stared into each other's eyes, his angry and loathing, mine apologetic and confused.
"You done?" He asked darkly.
"What?" I blinked. "Yeah, yeah." I stood up, offering my hand to him.
He stood up without accepting my help and went to the door.
"Wait, wait, wait," the woman at the desk held him back with her arm. "Can't leave without your daddy," she sang cheerfully.
He turned back to look at me, his eyes dark. "He's not my dad." My heart quickened at his expression and my heart froze at his words.
Did he just say...?
He shoved the woman out of his way and went out the door.
"Sir, your... son?" The woman shook her head in the direction of the door, her bovine words flushing me back to reality.
"I'll be reporting you," I hissed in her face as I stomped out the door.
I could feel four eyes rolling behind by back, but I ignored them.
Out in the hall, I saw my son through the glass doors of the gym. He was already in the parking-lot, waiting like a statue by my car.
This is going to be a long ride home, I thought.