Eli stared at his phone on his bed. He didn’t want to think about why he was getting a failure to deliver error message now. Why was she doing this to me? He called, he texted, he did everything he could to try and reach Sam.
It had been almost three months since Eli and Sam broke up. In that time Eli tried his damnedest to get in touch with her. All he wanted was a chance, one more chance with her and he’d show her he wasn’t that kid. He wanted a chance to be a father. Hell, he didn’t even know if he was going to be a father; if she was even going to keep or get rid of the baby. And what if she gave the baby up for adoption? He would never know his child, and wouldn’t ever be given that chance—especially if the adopted parents found out about his past.
The only thing he did know, was that he had never felt so miserable or heart broken than he did now. For weeks he barely coped. Eli had never felt so hurt. He mourned his heart, his child, his love. He didn’t even know if there was anything left for him.
Maybe prison is better.
But he couldn’t think like that, and he wasn’t going to think like that. He needed to find a way out of this darkness before it really made him do something so stupid.
Currently, work was also the only thing that kept Eli from doing something as stupid as break his parole. So, that was what he was going to do. He was going to climb out of bed, get dressed, and head to Marv’s Auto Repair…if only to keep himself busy.
Marv was in, like always, and was talking with a customer. Eli headed straight to the garage, without listening in to what the customer wanted done to his car.
Eventually Marv came through the doors. “Still no luck, huh?”
Eli shook his head. “I think she disconnected her phone.”
Marv sighed. “I’m sorry, Eli. I know it’s rough, and I know you don’t believe this, but it’ll get better. There’s a girl out there—”
“I don’t want another girl!” Eli shouted. “I want Sam. I love her, Marv. I love her more than anything in this life, and she left me. She took my chance at being a good father, and just fucking left. And for what? Because I knocked up a few liquor stores when I was eighteen?”
Eli had said this all to Marv before. He knew it, and Marv knew it. But Eli was not going to move on. He wasn’t. He just needed to give Sam more time. He’d give her everything. “I just want to talk to her.”
“Have you tried the hospital?”
Eli nodded. “They told me if I called again, they would call the cops. Hell, with her father being the son of a bitch that collared me, I’m already betting there’s a restraining order against me.”
“They would have told you, Eli. Trust me. As someone that’s been through that, you would know. Hell, she might not even told her Dad you knocked her up.”
Eli shrugged. It was highly probably, actually. “I’m still alive, so I guess.”
Eli worked the rest of the morning and took off at lunch, asking Marv if he could have the rest of the afternoon off. He couldn’t concentrate. That failure to send message was still on his mind, and he just wanted to go somewhere and curl up into a ball and cried. That’s why he headed to the one place he knew he could do that, and have some love and support there as well.
His mother worried about him. He knew she did. She was so proud of him for turning his life around, and she was thrilled when he introduced Sam to her. They had even gone shopping together, and talked often. Eli even told Mom that he wanted to marry Sam when the right time came. She even gave him his grandmother’s wedding ring to propose with.
Of course he never got that chance, and ruined his chances of ever having the family and the life he wanted with her. How could he have been so stupid? He regretted telling her the truth. He regretted that entire lunch. If she had just given him those last six months, he would have been out of that shit-hole half-way house, and he would have been ready to pop that question.
Eli was surprised to find Ryha sitting on the couch playing videos games when it was barely noon. She was barely ten years old. That was too young to start ditching school.
“What are you doing here?” she asked in the bratty tone that he hated.
“I came to talk to Mom. Why aren’t you in school?”
Her glare matched Mom’s, it was a little scary. Ryha was going to be a force when she got older, and he pitied the man she would end up with.
“I’m sick,” she said and went back to playing video games.
Eli called bullshit on that. “Right, and I bet video games are the most important part of your recovery? If Mom caught me playing hooky like this, she’d take me by the ear and march me down to school. Should I do that to you?”
She answered by flipping him off and ignoring him. Charming. The door finally opened and Eli went to her the second he noticed his mother wrestle with door and a ton of bags. “Here, let me help.”
“Oh, Eli. Thank you.” Her eyes moved to Ryha. “Miss Ryha, did I or did I not tell you if I saw you playing video games, you would be going back to school?”
Ryha paused her game and threw back her hands. “But it’s boring doing nothing.”
“Yes, well, you should be resting. You said your stomach hurt, so go rest. Now, Ryha, before I drag you back to school.”
Eli laughed across the apartment and shouted at his sister. “Told you!”
“Shut up, asshole!”
“Ryha!” his mother yelled. “Apologize to your brother.”
“He started it!”
“I don’t care. We do not talk like that in this house.”
Eli couldn’t feel more smug. Though he should feel bad for Ryha getting the wrath of his mother. He had been in her shoes more times than any of his brothers or sisters. He wasn’t even lying when he said Mom had dragged him by the ear after playing hooky. Now, that had been an embarrassing moment in his life.
“Sorry,” Ryha shouted and stormed off, slamming her bedroom door behind her.
After helping his mother unload the groceries, he leaned against the counter and watch her prepare for dinner. “Mom?”
He blinked away his unshed tears. “What if she got rid of the baby?”
“Oh son,” she turned and sighed. “Don’t think like that. She will come around someday, and when she does, you’ll be able to be the father you want to be to that kid.”
“I don’t just want to be a father.” He cried. “I want her so much. I shouldn’t have told her. I should have pretended I didn’t know him.”
“And what good would that have done? You would have eventually met him, and he would have remembered you.”
He shrugged. “I could have feigned innocence. I could have said I didn’t remember him. I could have pulled it off.”
This time his mother chuckled. “And try to pull one over Detective Williams? Aren’t we forgetting how you tried to lie yourself out of that time you graffiti the Mayor’s house? He saw right through you. And I bet he still could.” She squeezed his arm. “It wouldn’t have worked, hun. It would have all come out, and she would have been even more upset if you lied. You did the right thing.”
“I just want to see her.”
“I know, son.”
“She disconnected her phone…or…or blocked me.”
His mother gave him a hug and he cried on her shoulder.
“I miss her so much. I want to see her. I want to be given a second chance.” He sobbed more. “Why won’t she give me a second chance?”
“I don’t know, sweetie. I really don’t.”
For weeks Eli’s only friend, Marv, and his mother both tried to give him support. Marv was more persistent that he go out with another girl, and to move on. His mother even offered to set him up with someone from her church. Eli didn’t want another woman though. He wanted Sam. She had stolen his heart as quickly as he robbed those gas stations. He didn’t want to move on, yet… here he was, meeting some girl from his mother’s church.
She wasn’t all that pretty when he sat across from her. “You must be Phyllisa?” he asked, hoping she wasn’t and that he got stood up.
“Yup. And you’re Eli. Your mom showed me your picture.”
His heart sank. Thanks Mom. Eli tried for some small talk and learned she was a teacher, just like his older brother. Why didn’t Mom set her up with Aaron? She went on and on about her bratty students. Eli didn’t really give a fuck. He just wanted to be done with this date.
Then he spotted someone he knew, or at least he thought he knew. At least the guy looked like the bastard that ruined his fucking life. His heart pounded in his chest. Did he dare go up to him? They were in a public place, so Eli was sure he wouldn’t be shot dead here.
“Eli, you listening?”
“Uh, sorry.” He wasn’t sorry. “I just spotted an old friend. Do you mind if I go say hi?”
She shrugged, and he really didn’t care if she minded anyway, he got up and left the table. His heart pounded with each step. What the fuck was he doing? There were other guys sitting around the table laughing. Eli wondered if they were also cops? Probably. His feet were like lead, and Eli was pretty sure this was the dumbest thing he had ever done in his adult life.
“Excuse me, are you…are you Detective Williams?” Eli couldn’t even believe he actually spoke those words.
“Well, if it isn’t San Myshuno’s infamous Elijah Ryder. I heard you got paroled.”
“Paroled?” one of the other men around the table asked.
William’s nodded and pointed to Eli. “Locked his ass up myself, what ten-fifteen years ago?”
“A little over twelve years, sir.”
William’s face turned cold. “So, what do you want, Ryder? I’m busy.”
“It’s about…” Eli swallowed hard, looked at the entire table of men, and back to Detective Williams. Eli was hoping he wasn’t about to make the biggest mistake of his life, and end up dead because of it. “It’s about, Sam.”
The guy sitting next to Detective Williams had to physically hold him down, and Eli jumped back. Okay, definitely a stupid idea. the guy across the detective shook his head, “Kid, you have some balls coming over here. I suggest you get as far away as you can.”
But he couldn’t. This was Sam’s father, and somehow Eli knew if he could get Detective Williams on board, then maybe he would have a shot with Sam again. “Look, Detective—”
“It’s Captain, now,” he growled.
Right. Sam had said something like that. “Captain, sorry. I just…” Eli rubbed the back of his neck. “I love her. I want to marry her. I want to be in my child’s life. I just want a second chance with her. Sir, please if you could—”
Williams stood and grabbed Eli by his neck and got right into Eli’s face. ’“If you ever go near my Sammy again, not even the cadaver dogs will find your body. Nor will these officers care if a little shit-stain like you goes missing. Do you understand me, boy?”
Eli swallowed. He did understand, but still… “My child,” he choked out. It probably wasn’t the best thing to say, since he found himself up against the window of the restaurant. Most eyes were on them, and the other officers were trying to pull Williams off of him. He shrugged them off and held Eli tighter in a choke hold.
“I swear to hell and almighty, I will fucking hunt you down if you go near my family, Ryder. Stay the fuck away from my daughter and stay the fuck away from my grandchild. I will fucking end you. Are we clear?”
Eli just wanted to get the fuck out of this choke hold. Fuck. He forgot how tough this asshole was.
“Are we clear?”
“Crystal,” Eli somehow managed to get out. Williams backed away, and Eli fell to the floor like a rag doll.
“Get out of my fucking sight.” Williams spat on Eli, and headed back to his dinner and drinks. A waiter helped him up, and Eli headed out of the restaurant, not even checking if his date was still around. Chances were she bailed the moment she saw the confrontation.
With a heavy broken heart Eli headed back home. With one look at the photos that littered his wall above the bed, he grabbed a box and packed them away. Maybe, someday, he’ll pull them out and laugh and tell his future wife and kids how he dodged a bullet. Or not. Sam was the only future he wanted, and even with Captain Williams’ warning, he still wanted it.