The Letter Part II - a fiction short story
A Sad Day
Michael Kingston watched as Lisa's coffin was lowered into the ground. He put his arm around his son, Matthew, as tears rolled down Matthew's face. He had only found out he had a son one month ago when he received Lisa's handwritten letter with the news. They had been college sweethearts, but at the time he broke up with Lisa, a huge mistake, she had been pregnant with Matthew. The breakup had been so acrimonious that Lisa hadn't told him about Matthew and had been raising him on her own for the past ten years. Michael regretted having missed those ten years of being a father to Matthew.
She had only contacted Michael when she was dying from liver cancer. From the day he had met them both in Central Park and they had rowed out in the lake getting to know one another, Michael had been smitten with Matthew and Lisa again.
All his old feelings of love for Lisa had risen to the surface again. Being one of the partners of Kingston, Kingston & Mitchell, his family's law firm in New York City, he had flown in the best cancer and oncologist doctors in the world to examine her, but there was nothing more anyone could do for her. The cancer had spread from her liver to her bones and throughout her entire body. Four weeks later, here he and Matthew were burying Lisa. They both loved her dearly and would miss her terribly.
Now came the really difficult part - making a new home for Matthew, Matt, as he preferred to be called, and helping him grieve for his mother.
Matt threw the red rose he was holding on top of the coffin as it was lowered. Michael followed next by throwing his in also. Matt turned into Michael and hugged him and sobbed. Michael was crying also.
"Can we go now?" asked Matt.
"Sure," said Michael.
When they got in the car Matt said, "Can we drive by the apartment mom and I lived in before we go home?"
"Sure, son," said Michael. He gave the driver the instructions. They made a circle around the Brooklyn apartment and then started back to Manhattan.
Matt didn't say much on the way back. Michael was apprehensive - he knew Matt hated leaving Brooklyn, his friends and his school. This was Matt's world. He knew nothing different, so Michael had decided to let Matt finish out this school year at his school in Brooklyn. He could enroll him in a good prep school next year. Phillips Academy was where Michael had gone to school and Matt would continue his schooling there. Nothing but the best for his new found son.
They arrived at Michael's apartment on Park Avenue and took the elevator up. Maria, the housekeeper was there to greet them. Matt went directly to his room to change his clothes.
"I 'ave food in the keechen for you both," she said in her broken English.
"Thanks, Maria," said Michael.
"And, Maar-eee-lin has called tree times already," she added.
"Okay," said Michael. Marilyn had been his girlfriend when he had received Lisa's letter. He hadn't seen Marilyn in a month as his focus had been on Lisa and Matt. But, she was aware of the whole situation and knew Lisa had passed on. He was tired, sad and had work to do - he'd call her back later.
Michael softly knocked on Matt's bedroom door. He cracked the door and saw Matt playing one of his video games.
"Hey, buddy, Maria has food in the kitchen - want to watch the Knick's game, this afternoon?"
"Naw, not hungry and I don't feel like watching the game today. I'm going to stay right here, Dad. if you don't mind," said Matt.
"Sure, son, I understand," said Michael. He closed the door quietly and went to his room to undress. He hoped Matt wouldn't stay in his room and despair, but he couldn't force Matt to watch the game. Actually, he didn't feel much like watching the game either. May be he'd get some work done in the library.
Maria carried a tray of food and took it into Matt.
"Matt, you 'ave to eeeet, sonthing," said Maria. "I know you sad, but you cannot starf yourself," she said.
Matt smiled at Maria. He and his mom had never had a maid. They always did everything for themselves. But, Maria was really great - she was always waiting on him first even before his Dad and would wink at him when his Dad said something really goofy to him. His Dad was really trying, but he didn't know the first thing about how to be a parent - but Maria did.
Maria set the tray down and hugged Matt and Matt cried into her shoulder as she held him tightly.
"Mateo, you Mamita eees in 'eaven and waching down on you, now. She eees your anhela, now, said Maria. She wans you to be 'appy wich your papita. We loove you Mateo."
"I know, Maria," said Matt. "I'll eat what you brought - thanks Maria," said Matt drying his eyes and giving Maria a big smile.
Maria kissed him on top of his head as he took a big bite of his sandwich. And, she had two huge homemade chocolate chip cookies with a glass of milk on a plate. His favorite, Maria already knew. She was great.
He was learning to love his Dad - he had been great also - but their relationship was so new and Matt missed his mom who knew him so well. Maria definitely knew how to be a mom.
Matt continued on adjusting to his new life on Park Avenue with Michael and vice versa. Matt was driven to Brooklyn each day for school. At least he had friends and teachers that he was used to. He was glad his Dad hadn't made him switch schools.
But, he sure missed his mom. She had been his best friend.
One Sunday, he and his Dad were returning from visiting the cemetery where his mom was buried. Matt liked to leave fresh flowers at her grave site each month. They had just returned to the apartment and Michael was fumbling for his keys when the front door flew open.
There stood Marilyn in her sexy, pink, short, nightie.
"Wow!" said Matt. "Who are you?"
"Marilyn! For heaven's sake, what are you doing here? Cover yourself up," said Michael angrily.
"Michael, love, aren't you happy to see me? It's been months. You said you'd call and then I never heard from you, so I thought a little surprise was in order," she said beguilingly, almost purring at Michael.
"Ya, well I'm surprised all right," said Michael distainfully.
"Dad, who's Marilyn? She sure is pretty!" exclaimed Matt.
"Matt, never mind - go to your room and finish or homework or play video games," said Michael. "Marilyn - library - right now," ordered Michael.
Marilyn pouted and turned toward the library saying, "Aren't you going to introduce me ...."
"No, Marilyn, just go to the library!" said Michael harshly.
Michael got Matt's coat off and escorted him to his bedroom. "Stay here, buddy - we'll go to the game later this afternoon, said Michael.
Then, Michael bee-lined it for the library. Marilyn met him at the door with a hug and a luscious kiss.
He removed Marilyn's arms from around his neck and disengaged from the kiss.
"Marilyn, how could you open the door dressed as you are? Matt is only ten years old - and he's a young ten year old. Where are your clothes?" asked Michael.
"These are my clothes, love - now let's get you out of some of your's," suggested Marilyn as she started unknotting his tie.
"Stop it, Marilyn," said Michael as he jerked back straightening his tie. "You came here dressed only in your nightie? Where's your coat?" Michael went out to the foyer closet and grabbed her trench coat. "Put this on now, Marilyn, and leave it on," said Michael his eyes flashing.
"Michael, love, how was I to know the boy was here today?" pouted Marilyn. "He seemed happy to see me here, anyway."
"Marilyn, you know Matt lives here now and that his mother passed away," said MIchael. "I don't appreciates this stunt you've pulled," continued Michael.
"Well, you were happy to see me at the club last week," pouted Marilyn. "As I remember, you couldn't keep your hands off me," she reminded him.
"Marilyn, I'm a father now. I have responsibilities - I have to help Matt grieve and get over his mother's passing and I'm trying to built a father/son relationship with him. I can't have you flouncing around here half-naked. You know that - you took advantage knowing this is Maria's day off. Give me your key," demanded Michael.
"Oh, Michael, love - don't be so serious! You never minded these surprises before," cooed Marilyn.
"Marilyn - your key - now!" said Michael.
Marilyn reached into her coat pocket and reluctantly gave the key back to Michael.
"Matt and I are going to the Knick's game this afternoon and we're leaving in a bit, so you're leaving now," said Michael and turned Marilyn around and escorted her to the door. "I'll send the car around for you."
"Call me, love," winked Marilyn, "when you've had enough of playing Daddy."
Michael slammed the door shut. Yes, he was frustrated. He would have loved to have taken Marilyn right into bed, but life was different now that Matt was living here. He couldn't have women like Marilyn around Matt, especially so soon after losing his mother. Would he and Matt ever fall into a comfortable routine? Right now his focus had to be on Matt.
Matt came out of his room. "Dad, who's Marilyn? Is she your girlfriend?"
"Not exactly, Matt. Forget Marilyn and let's go to the game," said Michael.
"Wow, Dad, she sure is beautiful! Don't you want her to go to the game with us?" asked Matt.
"No, I'd rather go just with you buddy," said Michael smiling. "Come on, let's go!"
Matt grabbed his coat. Knick's games with his dad were great and one of the best treats of living with his Dad, now. But, he sure missed his mom.
About a week later, Michael had just returned to the firm from one of his power lunches, exhausted, when he found a note in his in-box.
Miss Hadley from Bloomfield Elementary School had called and wanted to set up a parent-teacher conference with Michael about Matt. Now, what? thought Michael. He phoned the school and set up the appointment with Miss Hadley for the next day and had his assistant clear his appointments and court appearances for tomorrow afternoon. Being a father sure cut into everything. He never realized how much time being a parent took. He now was always on call where Matt was concerned, but he really did love the boy - he was a great kid.
But, life sure was different when you had a child. Lisa was an amazing mother and an amazing person he was beginning to understand. She had raised Matt to be a wonderful child and son.
When Michael arrived home that evening, Matt was in the kitchen with Maria just finishing his dinner.
"Hi Dad," said Matt as he stuffed Maria's chocolate-chip cookies into his mouth and gulped down some milk.
"One coooookee at a time, mi Mateo," said Maria, shaking her head.
"Hey, buddy," said Michael. "I got a call from your teacher today, Miss Hadley. Everything okay at school? I have a conference with her tomorrow," said Michael.
"Yea, Dad, sure," said Matt, but his eyes widened. "I got homework to do tonight, Dad, so I'll be in my room," said Matt.
After Michael had finished his dinner that Maria had saved for him, Michael stopped in Matt's room.
"Need any help with the homework?" asked Michael.
"No, Dad, I'm fine," said Matt.
"Anything I should know about for tomorrow's conference with your teacher?" asked Michael again.
"Uh, no Dad," said Matt.
"Sure,?" asked Michael again.
"No, Dad - may be she just wants to meet you - you know, she knew mom, but she doesn't know you yet," said Matt.
"Oh, that's probably it," said Michael.
At four pm, Michael was still in the car on the way to the school. He was always running late - there was always that last minute phone call that had to be taken care of. He arrived at Miss Hadley's classroom fifteen minutes late.
"Miss Hadley, I'm Matt's father, Michael Kingston, and I do apologize for my tardiness," he said smiling broadly and shaking Miss Hadley's hand.
"I'm Jessica Hadley, Matt's teacher this year."
Hmm, Michael thought, his fourth grade teacher never looked as great as Jessica Hadley. They both sat down and Michael said, "As you no doubt know, Matt's mother died recently and Matt had been living with her. He's now living with me and we are both learning new relationship building skills with one another," said Michael. "How's he doing in school? Are his grades okay?" asked Michael.
Mr. Kingston, I am so sorry for your and Matt's recent loss. We all loved Lisa and we love Matt. Matt is progressing fine - his grades are fine, in fact he is one of the brighter students in the class," said Miss Hadley, "and I enjoy having him in my class and I am thrilled you are allowing him to remain here for the rest of the school year," she said smiling. "And, he seems to be doing well dealing with his mother's death," she continued. "My concern is in another area," she said. She opened her desk drawer and pulled out a magazine and placed it in front of Michael.
Michael's eyes nearly popped out of his head. Laying before him on the desk was a Playboy magazine. Dear God, thought Michael, Matt had found his stash of Playboy magazines in his closet. Then, Miss Hadley opened to the centerfold and there was Marilyn completely naked and in an inappropriate pose, smiling wickedly and sinfully from the poster.
Michael went to speak, but nothing came out as he felt a warm blush starting at the bottom of his neck and rising up his face. He felt like Matt, the bad boy in the principal's office caught with the dirty magazine.
"Matt was passing this around in the lunchroom yesterday and bragging that this woman pictured is your girlfriend. In fact, he continued to explain she had visited you recently in a see-through nightie, and went on to describe exactly what he saw through the nightie," said Miss Hadley. "As educators we ......"
Michael cleared his throat and interrupted her, "I apologize for this," said Michael in a dry, wooden voice. He closed the centerfold and the magazine. He could barely look at Miss Hadley. "I apologize for Matt's behavior and I will definitely have a talk with him about this," said Michael sheepishly. "I realize this is inappropriate to have in school and at home when I have a ten year old son, now. He apparently found some back issues in my closet and they will all be removed and destroyed," he cleared his throat, "along with this one. This will never happen again," said Michael, "I can assure you of that," said Michael.
"We did have a surprise visit from Marilyn," said Michael, "but that too will never happen again. That, too, definitely has been taken care of," he said in a strained voice.
"Mr. Kingston, I just wanted to be sure you were aware of this and I know you will talk with Matt and straighten this all out with him." said Miss Hadley. "It's best to nip this in the bud with Matt as I realize how concerned you are about his well-being. Matt has been adjusting so well to his recent loss and I want you to know we all know it is due to you, Mr. Kingston, and all your efforts on his behalf. Hopefully, this is just a blip in his maturation process," she said. "Here's my card if you should have any concerns," said Miss Hadley smiling.
"Thank you," said Michael. "I appreciate your concern and bringing this to my attention. And, I appreciated all you and the school has done to ease Matt through this sad time in his life. Here's my card. Please don't hesitate to call with any concerns you have in the future," said Michael.
He abruptly stood and shook Miss Hadley's hand and then bolted out of the school as fast as he could. He threw the magazine in a nearby dumpster, got in the car and headed home.
Good Lord, what Miss Hadley must think of him and the home he was providing for Matt. He realized Matt was a curious ten year old, and he regretted having the Playboy magazines in the closet. He couldn't believe Matt had found the magazine with Marilyn's centerfold picture in it - that was months and months ago. He also couldn't believe Marilyn and her 'surprise visit.' Matt probably was very confused and was thinking this was all okay - thinking this was Dad's life. Well, it was before he knew he had a son. Talk about a maturation process.
Michael arrived home to find Maria getting dinner ready. When she saw Michael hauling the Playboy magazines downstairs to the incinerator she said, "Meeester Kingston, I tol you many times - get reeeed of thos mahazines," said Maria shaking her head.
"I know, Maria, I know, and I should have listened to you," said Michael. "Where's Matt?" asked Michael.
"He's eeeen his bedroooom," she sighed.
Michael knocked softly on Matt's bedroom door.
"Come in," said Matt.
"Hey, buddy, we need to have a talk," said Michael
"Yea, is it about your conference with Miss Hadley?" asked Matt
"Yes, son," said Michael
"Is it about the magazine, Dad? The one she took away from me yesterday?" asked Matt.
"Yes, Matt, it is," said Michael.
"I'm sorry, Dad. I took it out of your closet when I returned your shoes to your closet that you left out in the living room," said Matt.
"Matt, I'm not proud to have those magazines in my closet," said Matt. "They are for adult men only. That's why they were in the closet," said Michael. But, it's not really good to look at them even as an adult, Matt, and just because I had them doesn't mean it's right. It's not right or good to be viewing naked women in magazines and you will never find them here again, " said Michael seriously.
"But, Dad, your girlfriend, Marilyn was in the magazine so ....."
"Matt, Marilyn is not my girlfriend and isn't going to be my girlfriend in the future. Yes, she is someone I knew before I met you and you came into my life. Marilyn is not a good role model of a woman for you to have seen," said Michael.
"Your mom and Miss Hadley are the good women role models for you to look up to, son," said Michael. "Matt, I should have married your mother when I was in law school. I made a mistake when I didn't - I let her go when I shouldn't have. We should have always been a family together, Matt, right from the beginning when you were born. It was never your mom's fault. The fault was all mine. It was wrong of me to be with Marilyn. Do you understand what I'm trying to say, son?"
"Yea, I do, Dad. I know Mom or Miss Hadley would never have that kind of magazine in the house and they sure wouldn't be in a picture in that magazine, bare naked with no clothes on. And they're not like Marilyn at all. Mom was cute in her bathing suit, but she never went around wearing pajamas like Marilyn, especially in the middle of the day," he said shaking his head.
"Right, son," said Michael. And, Matt, what happens at home, stays at home," said Michael. "We don't tell everyone at school everything that happens here at home - especially a surprise visit like Marilyn's."
"Okay, Dad. I'm sorry, Dad," said Matt.
"What are we going to do about Miss Hadley and your interruption at the lunch table?" asked Michael.
"Well, when I made a mistake at school, mom always had me write a note of apology."
"Yes, I think that would be a good idea," said Michael. "Write Miss Hadley a note of apology and I'll read it over and I want to add a note, also," said Michael.
"Okay, Dad," said Matt and he hugged his father. And Michael hugged him back.
Both Matt and Michael survived the Playboy incident. In fact, Michael gave Miss Hadley a call and took her out for coffee and at his request she gave him some great parenting advice. Michael hoped he got the hang of parenthood sooner rather than later and he also realized what a gem of a mother Lisa had been.
Michael and Miss Hadley hit it off and they enjoyed each other's company as well as Matt. In fact, the three of them were heading to the Knicks game that afternoon together. But, Matt still had to call her Miss Hadley even though his Dad called her Jessica. Matt was learning his Dad was turning out to be pretty cool after all!
© 2013 Suzette Walker