"Hi. Come on inside--it's so hot out today--want some lemonade or ice water?" she smiled. It was a relief to Sofia that she could at least put words together; he took her breath away.
"Oh. No, I'm fine," he stepped inside and looked around the room with curiosity and appreciation, "Wow, hon--um, I mean Sofia! This is really nice."
"I was lucky to get it. It's really a rent-with-an-option-to-buy so maybe eventually I can be a home owner. Who knows?"
"You're doing that well? Where are you working now?" Pres asked although he knew perfectly well what the name of the salon was and where it was.
Telling him about her fellow hair stylists and her customers at "Golden Shears" she went on to talk about her burgeoning designing/clothing business. While listening Pres took inventory of her home and of Sofia herself. He'd never seen her looking better. It was evident that she had an inner self-confidence she'd never had before. Still the compassionate, sweet-natured girl he'd met almost 7 years ago, she was much more than that now. She'd only been 20 years old when he'd met her and had been hustling since she was 16 at that point. It was now 4 years since she'd stopped hooking and started beauty school with Pres' help. He was so proud of her.
Physically she was more beautiful than ever, but then her personality and her heart had always made her gorgeous in Pres' eyes. She was explaining to Pres what she hoped to accomplish with her designing. Even though she wanted it be a success she was not aiming at a career in New York. She just wanted to be able to design and sew clothing and make a modest profit at it. Her voice was the same soft and gentle voice he remembered and hearing it soothed his soul as it always had.
Pres had not yet worked up the confidence to ask her if she would consider taking him back. His plan was to convince her to see him again so he could show her how much he valued her and how sorry he was about hurting her and go from there.
Meanwhile Sofia was running out of steam on the narration of her future plans. She couldn't go into any more detail since her future revolved around the son he didn't know he had. Now she began to get nervous again as to how to approach the subject. Whether she should just drop the bomb or maybe work up to it. She couldn't decide.
If she'd thought that she was getting over Pres she was clearly very wrong. He looked so delicious as he listened carefully to her plans. As though her hopes and dreams were the most important thing in the world. That was how he'd always been with her, though. Suddenly she felt worse than ever about deceiving him all this time.
"And how are things going for you?" she asked, stalling.
"I've been on the swat team for a couple years now, it pays better than being a detective does. I've been building up my investments through my brother, Prince, and been thinking of building a house. My parents came down for Perry's wedding and now they're thinking of moving here and selling their house on St. Simon's island. They also have a vacation home at Twikkii. That's about all the news for now."
Just then Dion, having woke up early from his unnecessary nap, sang out in his childish treble voice,
"Mommy! I'm uh-up!"
He always said "up" like it was two syllables with the accent and high note on the first one.
"Who's that?" Pres was clearly startled, "Are you baby-sitting, too?"
"That's Dion and no, I'm not babysitting," she said,"He's mine, Pres."
Speechless for a moment, he then asked in an astonished voice,
"You...you have a baby?"
"Well, he's not a baby so much anymore,he's two. Come upstairs with me and meet him."
Sofia stood up and started toward the stairs, then paused and looked back to see if Pres was coming. He got up and followed her, feeling numb. He was still trying to wrap his brain around the fact that Sofia had given birth to a baby and he hadn't even known. Why hadn't Jerri told him? He tried to mentally prepare himself to see a child that would, undoubtedly, look just like Dana, who had black hair and strong features. The numbness faded as he felt his heart breaking a little. His mouth was dry and he really wished he could just give some excuse and take off. What a coward he was.
"I'm uh-up, Mommy!" Dion repeated.
"Mommy's coming, baby,"
"I guess Dana must be crazy about him," he offered.
"Yes, they're very close. Dana helped me a lot."
Sure he did, Pres thought grimly, he's got a son who, no doubt, is beautiful and who wouldn't want to help Sofia?
Sofia walked ahead and they entered a cheerful room where a towheaded youngster was enthusiastically bouncing up and down on his crib mattress. He stopped jumping when he saw his mother and reached toward her.
"Mommy, get me!"
"Well, did you have a nice nap, Little Man?" Sofia smiled as she lifted him into her arms.
As Pres moved into the room, the child looked toward him as he suddenly became interested in this new and unknown person. Pres could not believe how much the toddler looked like Sofia with his big beautiful brown eyes, thick blond hair and his skin was smooth and golden just like hers.
"He doesn't look very much like Dana, does he?" he remarked like an idiot; he was just so surprised that Dana's black hair and Italian features weren't in evidence that it just slipped out.
"No, but that's not surprising," Sofia answered, looking directly into Pres' green eyes.
"Hey, fella," Pres couldn't help but grin at Dion, he was so cute, then he said to Sofia,
"Look, I heard Dana moved out, but I'm sure you two can work things out for the sake of the boy."
It made him almost sick to say that, but he could never try to come between the parents of a small child. Even he was not that selfish.
"Pres, he doesn't look like Dana because Dana is not his father."
He was momentarily perplexed--he had found no indication of a man in her life other than Dana.
"Look closer. Look at his sweet little mouth. Those are not Giallelis lips. They're firm, but slim, clearly defined and quite aristocatic," she smiled and waited.
Pres did look closer and realized he was looking at his own mouth in miniature.
The truth washed over him like a wave of seawater.
"He's mine," he looked at her and then back at Dion, his eyes suddenly glittering with wonder and unshed tears and it was not a question but a statement, "Isn't he. I mean, yeah. He's my child."
Then he felt a surprising rage, hot and fierce, flaring in him for a moment. His jaw flexed, and he repeated but in a different tone,
"He's mine--he belongs to me. You should have told me. How could you not tell me?"
"Yes, he's your son," Sofia murmured watching his face closely, "His birth certificate reads Dion Prescott Everhart. I named him after my father and after you."
His resentment and indignation dissipated as suddenly as it had come. He had never been angry with Sofia in his life before and as for that mischievous little blond angel looking at him, all sweet smiles and brown saucer eyes...well...
"Why didn't you tell me, baby?" he asked in a gentler voice, "I should have been there for you; I should have been there for him."
"You were going with Arlene, Pres, I thought you would marry her. Anyway, it was my decision to get pregnant, I didn't want to screw up your plans for the future. I was going to tell you eventually, but I just didn't know how."
"Arlene and I broke up over three years ago and it was a mutual decision. I went to see you but you were gone by then and Thalia wouldn't give me any information."
"I didn't know you talked to Thalia, but it's true I asked her not to tell you anything, Pres. I know you're such a responsible man that you'd offer to take care of me and be with me and I didn't want you on those terms. Like I said, you were practically engaged to Arlene from what Thalia had heard."
Pres shook his head in regret and frustration,
"When I went to Thalia I told her I'd broken it off with Arlene and she knew it was because I realized I was in love with you. She still wouldn't tell me. The fact that she didn't tell you I was trying to find you--before you had Dion evidently--doesn't surprise me. She called me every name in the book that day; she hates my ass. I guess, looking at it from her perspective, I can't blame her."
Looking startled Sofia said,
"You broke up with Arlene because of me? I didn't know that you two weren't together anymore until Dana mentioned it to me before he left, a few months ago. I didn't realize you'd come looking for me, honest. Thalia should have told me. I'm truly sorry that she blocked any communication we might have had, Pres. It's my fault though really. She knew I almost..." she stopped abruptly.
She'd very nearly blurted out the truth: that Thalia had known Sofia almost died when she'd found out--for sure--that Pres was seeing someone else and it was serious. That he didn't want her anymore. For a couple days she'd mostly stayed curled in a fetal position on her bed. Finally Thalia had hustled over to the trailer and reminded Sofia that she had a baby on the way and that she needed to get her big butt outta the bed, suck it up and figure out what she was going to do with the rest of her life. It had worked. The truth was that Sofia already cared for her unborn child more than herself and she pulled it together and started to live for him.
"Knew you almost what?" Pres probed.
"Um, that is, I mean...well, she knew I was pregnant by that time and I guess she went into her super protective mode."
Pres was a cop and he knew when someone was being less than forthcoming, but he let it go for now.
"Mommy?" Dion turned to Sofia, squirming to get down; he was restless listening to the adults talk about who knew what.
"We're going downstairs in a minute, sweetheart."
He reached toward Pres--maybe if his mommy was too busy this nice man would take him downstairs and play with him,
Looking at Sofia Pres asked quietly,
"I don't suppose he'd come to me?"
"If you promise to play with him he'll pretty much be putty in your hands," she turned to Dion, "Little Man, this is your daddy--can you say Daddy?"
He contemplated Pres for a moment and then his eyes met his mother's as he shook his head no.
"Don't feel bad," she advised Pres, "he doesn't understand the word daddy; he's never heard it before. He just needs to get used to you."
Frankly Pres was relieved to hear that. It meant that Dana had never been referred to as a father figure.
They headed downstairs where Sofia put Dion on the floor. Pres crouched down in front of him and said,
"Hey, chief, I hope we're going to be friends," he ruffled Dion's hair and the child reached up to him.
"He wants you to pick him up, it's okay," Sofia nodded, "You know you can see him whenever you want, Pres."
Dion laughed delightedly when Pres held him in his arms and talked with him.
"This is Daddy, Dion. Can you give him a kiss?" she prompted.
Giving kisses was no problem for Dion; he'd only known happiness and love for his entire little life and trusted people automatically. Just like his mother, Pres thought. This worried him a bit but it made it much easier for him to get to know Dion.
"He's so beautiful," Pres couldn't help saying to Sofia, "I can't believe he's ours."
Sofia's heart soared to hear Pres refer to Dion as being "ours". She still didn't want him to be with her out of duty or just to be with Dion, but she wanted him.
"He'll get the hang of 'daddy' soon," Sofia assured him, "The more often you see him the better. Will you stay to supper tonight?"
He put Dion back down on the floor and he toddled over to the play station.
Pres had been hoping she'd ask him to stay longer and he looked over at her and winked,
"Still making burnt macaroni and cheese?"
"Oh! I'll have you know I've become a very skilled cook!" she pretended to be miffed, "Besides I know you like your steak medium rare and I've gotten quite adept at that and a baked potato and salad."
"Fair enough. Count me in...I need more time to play peek-a-boo with my kid here."
Next blog update: Lalique Flynn Ch. 14 Belle Isle