Dave relaxed with a beer and took in the view. He’d decided to rent an apartment for his time back in America. He couldn’t stay with Alicia, that would be too strange after all this time, and he didn’t want to stay in a hotel as there’d be no room for Junior to crash over.
The apartment was over the road from the Pentagon. Sitting in the lounge area he had a great view of the Capitol building, lit against the night sky, and could look down at a highway snaking its way across a bridge towards the main centre. It was a short stop on the metro into town but close to open space in case he wanted to take his son out to play.
Ah, Jnr. Having a son made things so much better but so much worse in his current situation. He still couldn’t believe how being a father made him feel. He’d fallen in love with this crying bundle when it had arrived seven years ago. Jnr was a lot different now, still fun but had an answer for things and didn’t always want to do what his Dad wanted. He missed the days when the two of them had been able to go out and throw a ball around and Jnr enjoyed every moment with his Dad. Now he had to fight to prise him away from his iPad. He’d also been surprised how the boy had changed. He had grown into a strapping young lad already, tall and muscled with blonde hair and blue eyes. He wouldn’t change it for the world though and wondered, with his separation from Alicia becoming permanent, how they would make the distance work. He didn’t want to become the absent father, resented by his son, though he knew it couldn’t be perfect unless one or the other of them decided to stay in the same country.
Taking another slug of his beer he thought about his other quandary. Kate, beautiful, confusing Kate. He’d fallen for her as soon as she’d arrived, late, to his second-year lecture. She’d slammed through the door of the theatre, stomped down the stairs and fallen in to an end pew. Even the lecturer had paused, about to give her a mouth full, but her stunning smile had put him right off. The flash of leg had probably helped too.
All he had seen was dark hair, a slash of red lipstick, tight skirt and heels. But she had captured his attention, particularly when she then started firing questions at the lecturer. By the end of the lesson, he was hooked and wanted to know more.
She marched out the same way she came in, like she owned the room. He was impressed by her ability to get up the many steps in heels, when most students wore doc martins. Turning to his friend he whispered, “Who’s the stunner?” “Dunno, mate.” Came the response.
After doing some fishing he found out she’d changed her major after the first year, moving from English to Politics so hadn’t been in any of his first-year classes.
Three weeks later and she rushed into another class, late again. This time there was only one seat left in the room, next to him. ‘Bingo’ thought Dave, ‘time to turn on the charm.’ All his bluff and bluster didn’t work though as she cut him down at every point, poo-pooing his ideas. He liked her even more for that.
Their friendship blossomed as they argued more, debating alternative ideas. Dave could tell that Kate loved the cut and thrust of a good discussion. As the end of term ball came around he set his sights on taking their relationship to the next level. Turning up in his best tux he scanned the room for her, finding her striking in a short red dress, glass in hand as she held court with some guys. Wandering over to see what the discussion was, he was surprised to hear introduce someone as ‘my boyfriend, Felix’. She’d never mentioned a boyfriend before so he was convinced that it was only a matter of time before he could win her round. Joining the group, he met his competition, a bearded art student who seemed to be mainly off his head, but doting on her every word. Later on, he queried their relationship with another member of the group to be informed they’d been together since the first term, with Felix following her like a puppy.
Dave was a bit put out and proceed to snog the face off one of the random sloan girls that always seemed to be around at University, just to make himself feel better. Returning in January he and Kate were set the challenge of debating against each other, but each arguing for something they would not normally support. This led to many hours in the library together, helping to research each other’s arguments. Dave probed more about her relationship, finding out they had met in the first week and Felix was a fine art student. She seemed more dismissive than besotted, but as the months wore on Felix was still around.
Dave finally realised that this was a dead duck. His casual friendship with Kate had grown into something more concrete but it had also made him realise she was a fragile soul. Felix was her comfort blanket, someone to keep her safe in the strange surroundings of university. Through all bluff and bluster on top, she was shy underneath and needed his constant reassurance to help her. Dave couldn’t break that bond without ruining their friendship. He resigned himself to them being great friends.
Looking back he wished he hadn’t backed down so easily. If he had told her how he felt then, perhaps it would have come to nothing, but perhaps he wouldn’t be sitting on his own in an apartment in DC trying to sort out a broken marriage while she was in the UK wondering what was going on.
He knew what the real barrier had been then, and it was still there now. Kate didn’t want children. She’d commented over and over again while they were at university how children just got in the way and she didn’t want to put her body through all that. Every time they saw a baby she would go ‘yuck’. But Dave had always wanted kids. Dave Jnr was the hope that his and Alicia’s relationship, already rocky then, would calm down and he could grow up being a Dad to a little brood. Now it would seem that wouldn’t be the case as his son would be 1000s of miles away and the woman he thought he loved didn’t want to add to the family. In fact, he wasn’t sure she would want a stepson. It was a real sticking point, Dave wasn’t sure he was ready to give up on being a dad just yet.
Finishing his beer he walked back to the kitchen and put the empty bottle in the bin. He contemplated getting another but instead stood leaning against the breakfast bar separating the kitchen from the lounge. He was tired and all this thinking was just making him feel worse. Taking one last look at the view he walked into the bedroom and tried to switch off for the night.