“Love is looking at the same mountains from different angles.”Paulo Coelho
Newcrest Theresa Hayes Residence
Walking up to Stryker’s mom’s home, Sophie was genuinely surprised, it was not at all what she had expected. A sweet little suburban home with a prim and proper yard. She really regretted not being able to fit into any nicer dresses with her being almost to 8 months now, but she had insisted Stryker wore a button-down shirt and a tie, which she tied for him when he couldn’t get it and started to become very frustrated.
2 brothers and taking care of her ailing grandfather in his last years of life taught her that skill in her sleep.
A woman, slender, well dressed, her hair in a perfect updo, opened before they reached the door.
“Marco, darling. Oh, and all dressed up, wow. And this must be Sophie. So nice to meet you, every bit as pretty and sweet as I imagined you when I heard your name the first time and after all the praises Marco sung of you. Come on in, kids.”
Sophie was surprised, both received hugs and kisses on the cheek. She had expected some rough looking woman, with a deep, raspy cigarette and whiskey voice, barking at them rudely. Instead, Stryker’s mom was a well-dressed, attractive woman, elegant, eloquent and composed, and she extended them a very warm welcome.
“Still Stryker, mom. Marco went the way of the Dodo a long time ago, both actually, my name and its namesake.” he said as they followed her to a table to sit down. On it, fresh herbal tea, which Sophie found very considerate. Try as she might, she couldn’t dislike his mom.
“I named you Marco, not Stryker. Marco is a beautiful name, and it suits you. You will always be Marco to me. Stryker is NOT a name. Maybe a last name. One does not name oneself after a video game! That was silly of you!”
“Username, not a video game, thanks for remembering, mom. Anyway, looks like it is what it is and has been since I turned 18, legally in the eye of the law I am Stryker Hayes, and I got drawers full of court documents reflecting that as my full and only name. Speaking of, this is my son. We’re gonna meet him soon now. Just a few more weeks.” Stryker apparently tried to deflect by directing attention at Sophie’s baby bump.
“Yeah, how about that. A baby. Are you two even living together or how is that supposed to work out? Babies are pretty intense.” Mrs. Hayes wondered.
“No …” Sophie choked out, when Mrs. Hayes looked at her. Ugh, the complicated situation again. Nothing about any of this was easy to explain. Stryker tried anyway.
“Mom, we are still in a sort of dating phase, we kinda did everything a little backwards here. It’s all a bit complicated to explain, but we finally sorted it out and we’re getting there. For now, we’ll keep the living situation as it is, I’ll be travelling a lot for the foreseeable future with the band, technically we are on tour now, but taking a break because of some scheduling conflicts with various venues, and I need to rake in the big dough first, before I can buy my girl and my son a big mansion and her the big rock for the hand.”
Sophie’s head snapped around to Stryker and her heart pounded hard. Did he mean what she just heard him say?! Did he just hint about an engagement and living together?! That had never come up between them. Sophie wasn’t going to leave the Lake House. And they just officially became official. Whaaaat?!
His mother shook her head and shrugged.
“Always the dreamer. I hope you manage to make decent money from that music thing. And I hope you stick to your word better than your father has. You see where believing in words landed us. Words can be very pretty and talk is cheap. You see, Sophie, Marco’s father was my dream-man, oh I loved that man more than life itself, and I was his Juliet. But mean people were in his ear, poisoned him against me, leaving me destitute. Not a fun place to be for a young mother, and I am sure Stryker has filled your head with horror stories about him and his terrible mother, but I did the best I could, often picking up some extra temp jobs alongside my office job to feed and shelter us. I bought Stryker his first guitar, so he could direct his energy onto music, rather than me having to leave work to pick him up at the principal’s office nearly daily!” Stryker’s mother spoke.
Sophie shook her head.
“He hasn’t said anything bad about you, Mrs. Hayes. He hasn’t told me too much about all that to be honest. But I have a great family, very supportive. Spencer will grow up loved and well cared for. Plus, I believe in Stryker.”
“Spencer?! What is it with you and picking last names for first names, Marco?”
“Well, we’re not gonna name our son Marco, after a man who used to and then dropped you. Thanks, by the way, for thinking I would do the same, mother. I feel loved.”
“Well, Marco, you don’t have the best track record with girls. Either you treated them badly, cheated on them or dated girls I wouldn’t even speak to at the grocery store. The type that clearly only used you when they heard you were trying to become rich and famous. A blind man could see it, everyone could, except you. Especially that last one. What a horrible creature!” Mrs. Hayes shook her head, while grimacing.
“Oh, Sophie would agree with you there. Alycia wasn’t nice to her. That actually got me to finally give her the boot.” Stryker said.
“Poor girl, you look too nice and innocent to have been exposed that that fire breathing dragon! She is the type of woman that took your father away from me. Otherwise, your childhood would have looked a LOT better! And to think you dated someone like that witch. Disgusting!”
“Lucky for all of us, Alycia is history, but goddamn mom. Get a clue already! Even if that tale you spin in your head were true, all that would do is make my sperm donor even more spineless, if you were his Juliet and he dropped you because of some idle banter! Don’t you see it?! The only thing he ever was is a user and absent. He was a married man and father, who used you as his office cum dump while the screwing was good, when you got knocked up, he dumped and fired you. Not exactly what I would consider a great love story. I never met the man you felt like naming me after, nor do I have any desire to change that, and then you wonder why I got rid of that bullshit name!” Stryker said.
“Marco …” his mother started to talk, but he cut her off, while pushing his chair back and storming off.
“I gotta go take a leak! Try not to turn my girl against me, if you can manage!” he snarled.
Mrs. Hayes sighed, closing her eyes briefly, then looked at Sophie.
“That boy. Sorry you had to witness that. Look Sophie, you seem like a very nice girl, and that’s exactly what worries me greatly. I am sure you already know Marco has a serious problem with substance abuse. I never had a lot of money, but I threw what I could, including the generous child support his father was paying for him, at so many different rehabs for him, at therapists, all in vain. He defied me and them every step of the way. He is such a nice young man, you know, but you can’t make him do ANYTHING he doesn’t want to do. He always hated his father and projects a lot of his anger about his childhood onto me, it wasn’t perfect, even though I have done nothing but love him and tried to better us. Marco has a very self-destructive side to him, he can’t handle stress well, which is why he can’t get away from those darn drugs. It hurts me to watch him do that to himself, so much that at some point I became mortified each time the phone rang, thinking it’s the city morgue, so I had to start distancing myself, in order not to lose my mind. No nice girl he ever brought home could deal with that for long. Only the type of heartless creatures like that Alycia stuck around. I worry it will be the same for you as it was … well, is, for me, Sophie.”
“Are you saying I shouldn’t date your son?”
“No. I want nothing more for him than happiness, I can see you make him happy; I want him to have a nice girl like you, a stable home, that may well be his only chance to get away from those damn addictions. But I know he will end up hurting you, with his reckless behavior, and now my grandson is gonna be in the middle of all that. I’ll admit, I have a really hard time imagining him as a father, he never had a real father figure in his life, sure, I eventually dated, hoping to give him the father he so desperately needed, but Marco ran them all off with his asinine behavior. I know my son can be charming and sweet, he genuinely has a good heart and good intentions, but he has demons he can’t control. Stress is toxic for him, and you know as well as I do, the career he has chosen is filled with stress and temptation. I want you to go into this with eyes wide open.”
“Oh, my eyes are open, Mrs. Hayes. I know that he has problems. But I also know they can be fixed. I know people personally who made it through.” Sophie said.
Stryker returned, evidently having caught the last few things that were spoken.
“Sophie knows I am an addict, mom. The day she met me I was tripping out on coke, drunk as fuck and had laid down my bike, bleeding from every inch of my body from the accident but also because Nate and I beat the shit out of each other after he nailed Alycia. Sophie heard me, she listened to me, honored my request not to call the cops or an ambulance, even though it is ‘the right thing’, but would have landed me in prison, instead she patiently nursed me back to health herself. That already went a long way with me. She listened. New concept, huh, mom? She knows a lot more about my dark sides than you may think and yet, she’s still here. Better yet, her dad likes me, her entire family met me, and they still like me. I am likable! How about that?” Stryker nearly spat the words at his mother.
“I am happy about that, Marco. I am not your enemy, never have been. I want you to be happy. But, honey, we’ve been so close to having you get better too many times, all it took was one little mishap and everything was undone, so pardon me for erring on the side of caution. Seeing you like that, falling into that big black hole again and again every time we thought we made it was and is harrowing for me as your mother, I don’t want to imagine what that will do to your child, growing up, watching his father slowly destroy himself.”
“I said I am trying! Just need time, mother! I am not gonna be that type of dad who fucks up their kid! I know better! I had great examples of what NOT to do!” Stryker snapped, making Sophie very uncomfortable, but his mother remained unfazed. She seemed used to it.
“Marco, honey, let’s be realistic here. 27 years have done nothing, why would I think you can fix yourself in the few weeks she has left in this pregnancy?! Or when do you think fatherhood begins?!”
“27 years? I wasn’t a fucked-up addict when I was born, mother! Your life choices made me that way. We’re done here! Come on Sophie, let’s go out to eat. I was gonna invite you too, mother, but honestly, and with all due respect, you can go fuck yourself! I need to NOT see your face for a while!” Stryker yelled at his mother, then ran out the door, visibly fuming. Awkward. If Stryker ever tried that with her mom, her dad would knock him into next year for it.
Sophie tried to get up, but was struggling, Stryker’s mom helped her.
“I am sorry, Mrs. Hayes. He’s a bit … on edge. He didn’t mean any of it.” Sophie told her.
“See, Sophie, it’s starting already. You’re already making the excuses for him. He’s a grown man, responsible for his own choices and actions. If he treats his mother this way, just imagine you trying to have a talk with him when he forgot to pick up your son from school or something. He will forget things like that. I am not trying to down talk my son, but I know him. Everything is great with him, until it suddenly isn’t. Just you watch. Do not make the same mistakes I made, I learned my lessons way too late, now I have a broken son who despises me on a good day and hates me most of the time. I was blind, hoping to find Mr. Right and a good father for my son in all the wrong places and lost sight of what was really important, my little boy. Don’t make that mistake, busying yourself trying to fix the man you love, while not giving your son all the attention he deserves. I would give my life if it could fix him now. Let me give you my number, sweetheart, in case you ever find yourself overwhelmed with him. I haven’t been able to help him get out of the quicksand he’s been stuck in for over a decade now, but I have more experience how to handle him when things really go awry.”
Looking into the same bright blue eyes as Stryker had, Sophie couldn’t help herself, but spontaneously hug Stryker’s mom, who held her so close, barely holding on to composure.
No way was this a bitter and cold woman. No way.