*Toby is an alternate universe story based on a segment within the reunion movie, Simon and Simon: In Trouble Again.† The about-to-be divorced A.J. and Janet are arguing over what will be best for Toby.† Soon itís revealed to the viewer that Toby isnít a little boy, as one would think based on their disagreement, but rather Toby is a dog.† That made this writer think, ďWell, what if Toby had been a little boy.† Thus the story: Toby.† The first eighteen paragraphs of this story are taken directly from the reunion movie, other than the narration from Janetís point of view.
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†††† "There is no way!"† I declared while cleaning up the dessert dishes that Monday evening.† "No way Toby is going on a boat with your brother!"
†††† "Rick has changed, Janet," A.J. beseeched.† "You should see this yacht of his."
†††† "Rick Simon will never change.†† And I can see now that you won't either."
†††† "Janet, be reasonable."††† My soon-to-be former husband followed me into the kitchen.†† "Come on now, we agreed to joint custody."
†††† Even after four and a half years of marriage to the man I was naive enough to believe my next declaration would put an end to the argument.
†††† "Toby has school tomorrow."
†††† A.J.'s voice rose an octave like it often does when he's angry.† "You put him back in that school?"
†††† I walked out to gather up the remainder of the dishes, A.J. at my heels.† Just that morning I'd reentered Toby in the school A.J. so vehemently disliked.†† "He's learning a lot."†
†††† "It's a waste of time and money, Janet, and we both know it."
†††† "It is not."† I said out loud what was difficult for either one of us to admit.† "Toby has some behavioral problems."
†††† I sighed heavily and turned to face him.† "What?"
†††† His voice was low and quiet as he tried to keep his fury in check over the fact I would dare to suggest Toby was having a difficult time of things.† "Toby is perfectly normal." †
†††† "You call biting Mrs. Kramer in the leg perfectly normal?"
†††† "Knowing Mrs. Kramer, yes I do."
†††† "Oooooh," I spat with frustration. "What's gotten into you?† Never mind, I know.† I know exactly what."
†††† A.J. held up his index fingers for emphasis.† "Don't," he commanded.† "Don't say it.† Rick has nothing to do with this.† You have always blamed him for everything."
†††† "Because he was always at fault!†† I waited eight years for him to get out of your life so we could have one of our own!"
†††† Upstairs, our little boy screeched with glee.††
†††† "Daddy!† Daddy!"
†††† As I heard Toby's running footsteps from overhead I moaned, "Oh, no.† Now you've gone and woken him up."
†††† The hour was late.† Much too late for a three and a half year old whose weekdays had to start at six a.m. so as to allow me time to drop him off at his private nursery school before heading to the office.† I knew how difficult it would be to get him settled back in bed.† Especially after the excitement seeing A.J. would bring.
†††† A.J. ignored the admonishment in my tone and met our pajama clad fireball at the bottom of the stairs.† He swept Toby up in his arms and spun him around in circles.† Our little boy shrieked and giggled with unabashed joy as his legs flailed out behind him.† When A.J. stopped their motion he held Toby close.† He pressed their faces together and closed his eyes.† His voice was quiet and tight as though he was holding back tears.
†††† I couldn't help but smile softly as I watched the two of them together.† Toby was in every way a miniature version of his father.† If there was any of me in him, physically speaking, I had yet to see it.† His eyes were clear and blue like the bright skies of summer and framed by long flaxen lashes.† His hair was thick, its pale hue not unlike the color of sun dried oats.† It hung heavy around his face like the little Dutch boy's on the paint can.† If you put a picture of Toby next to a childhood picture of A.J.'s you couldn't tell the two of them apart.†
†††† Our son might have inherited my height.† His legs and arms were long and spindly as my father says mine were at the same age.† But then again, he could have just as easily inherited his lankiness from his Uncle Rick.† Only time will tell, but I'm willing to bet money on the fact that while Toby will always look just like A.J., when he's fully grown he'll have several inches on his six foot tall father.
†††† A.J. dropped to the floor with Toby where the two roughhoused and wrestled like playful puppies.† I allowed A.J. this time with his son while I finished clearing the coffee table and loading the dishwasher.†††
†††† Toby ran up to me as I reentered the living room.† His cheeks were flushed pink with excitement.† "Uncle Rick has a great big boat, Mommy."
†††† I glanced at A.J.†† "So I've heard."
†††† "And Daddy says I can go for a ride on it tomorrow!"
†††† More to A.J. than to our son I stated firmly, "No.† Absolutely not.† I already told you I won't allow it."
†††† "But, Mommy--"
†††† I looked down into the eyes that matched my husband's.†
"No, Toby," I said with considerably more gentleness to my tone.††† "Not tomorrow.† You've got school tomorrow.† You're class is going on a field trip to the fire station, remember?"
†††† Toby crossed his arms over his chest and put all the force he could into stamping one bare foot.†
"I don't wanna go on a stupid field trip.† I wanna go on Uncle Rick's boat!"
†††† I glared at A.J.† "Now see what you've done."† I hated it when he forced me to be the bad guy when it came to decisions concerning Toby's well-being.† It had happened frequently enough when we were living together as a married couple.† Since we'd been separated it had only gotten worse.†
†††† A.J. must have seen how furious I was with him.† Or maybe he was feeling guilty for putting me in the position he had.† Whichever it was he rose from the floor and came over to settle Toby on his hip.
†††† "Mommy's right, champ.† You've got school tomorrow.† And I'm sure you don't really want to miss out on the trip to the fire station.† I'll tell you what.† Uncle Rick, Grandma, and I will pick you up after school and take you to dinner.† How's that sound?"
†††† Toby gave a reluctant nod of his head.† "Okay.† And Mommy can come too?"
†††† A.J. hesitated a moment.† "Well...certainly.† If Mommy wants to come she's welcome to join--" †
†††† I knew my inclusion in the family dinner would only make things harder on Toby in the long run.†
"No, honey," I interrupted,† "Mommy won't be able to come.† As long as Daddy's going to have you I'll stay at the office for a while and catch up on some paper work."
†††† Toby laid his head on A.J.'s shoulder.† He pouted as tears turned his eyes to limpid blue pools. †
"But you never come with us anymore.† You always make me and Daddy go out to dinner alone."
†††† I couldn't stand to see my little boy cry each time the pain of his parents' estrangement grew to be too much for one three year old to handle.† Before I was able to speak again I had to hastily swipe at my own tears.† It was Toby's morose little face that caused me to offer what I did.
†††† "Daddy says Uncle Rick's going to be in town for a few days.† The day after tomorrow I'll tell Mrs. Kramer that Uncle Rick's going to pick you up from school at lunchtime.† Maybe he'd like to take you to McDonald's and then to see his boat.† You can spend the afternoon with him and Grandma.† Daddy can pick you up there after work."
†††† A part of me hated myself for bargaining my child's tears away.† Something both A.J. and I had been doing far more than we should have since we'd separated.†
†††† Toby's head flew from A.J.'s shoulder and he threw his arms up in the air as if he'd just scored the winning touchdown.† "Yay!† Uncle Rick!† I get to see Uncle Rick's big boat!"
†††† Over the gleeful cries of our son A.J. told me quietly, "Thank you, Janet.† That will mean a lot to Rick."
†††† "Just make sure Rick takes good care of him."
†††† A.J. didn't appreciate me insinuating his brother would do any less.† "You know he will," he stated sharply.† "He loves Toby as if he were his own."
†††† I couldn't deny that.† It was obvious to anyone who saw them together that Rick took great delight in his only nephew and that Toby was absolutely crazy over his uncle.
†††† "And if Mrs. Kramer doesn't let me go with Uncle Rick,"† Toby declared,† "I'll bite her in the leg again!"
†††† "Toby!"† I scolded over A.J.'s laughter.†† I made eye contact with my husband.† "And you're not helping matters any.† You should have disciplined him over that little stunt just like I had to.† Really, A.J., you're not making this easy for me.† I don't know why I always have to be the heavy with him while you, on the other hand, allow him to get away with anything and everything simply because you feel guilty over--"
†††† "I don't allow him to get away with everything!† If he needs to be disciplined then I discipline him.† I just don't happen to think biting Mrs. Kramer in the leg is a federal offense.† The woman is a nasty old witch.† How she ever came to be employed by a nursery school I'll never know.† And speaking of that, how come you put Toby back in that school without talking to me about it first?† You know how I feel about--"
†††† "I don't want to hear it, A.J.† It's a good school.† Toby's learning more there than he ever could anywhere--"
†††† Toby's sobs interrupted our argument.† "Don't fight," he begged.† "Please don't fight.† I hate it when you fight."
†††† He wrapped his arms around A.J.'s neck and cried into his shirt collar.†† A.J. swayed back and forth with him cooing soft words of reassurance as I just stood there crying myself.† I hated both of us right at that moment.† Hated what we were doing to each other and even more, hated what we were doing to our beloved son.
†††† A.J. spoke softly when Toby's cries finally diminished.† "I have to go now, Toby."
†††† Our son whined like the over-tired child he was.†††† "But I don't want you to.† I want you to stay here with me and Mommy."
†††† A.J.'s face was as sorrow-filled as his son's.† "I can't, champ.† But I'll pick you up for dinner tomorrow night and then on Wednesday night you'll come stay with me."
†††† Although our divorce wouldn't be final for another week yet, A.J. and I had already put into practice what we had both agreed to through our attorneys.† Toby stayed with me half of the week and with his father the other half.† A.J. picked him up on Wednesday evenings and returned him to me on Saturday afternoons.† It had sounded so easy and amiable, and probably would have been had Toby been a dog and not a child.
†††† But our child was only a little boy who often had trouble understanding why Mommy and Daddy now lived apart.
†††† A.J. disengaged the clinging hands from around his neck and passed our son over to me. †He kissed Toby's baby soft cheek.† "I'll see you tomorrow night, champ."
†††† "Kiss Mommy goodbye, too, Daddy."
†††† A.J. looked at me a moment before doing as our son bid.† He placed a chaste kiss on my cheek.† "Good night, Janet.† I'll call you tomorrow and let you know what time I'll have him home."
†††† "That will be fine," I agreed.†
†††† I walked A.J. to the door with Toby in my arms.† Without thinking about it I said what had come automatically throughout four years of marriage.†
"Be careful.† Drive safely."
†††† Toby looked at me and smiled hopefully.† "When you tell someone to be careful, Mommy, you're really saying I love you."
†††† That was something A.J. and I had told Toby long ago.† That reminding someone to be careful was another way of saying I love you.† It was a special thought shared only within our little family.†
†††† In the dim glow of the porch light I saw tears fill A.J.'s eyes.† His voice was husky when he said his final good nights.† He hurriedly spun away from us and disappeared into the darkness.†††
†††† I made no reply to Toby as I shut and locked the door.† I turned out the living room lights, allowing the glow from the hall light up above to guide me back to Toby's bedroom.
†††† I tucked him into his bed then climbed in beside him.† As I had expected he was wound up from A.J.'s visit.† A good fifteen minutes passed in which he talked nonstop about the prospect of seeing his grandma, his Uncle Rick, and Uncle Rick's big boat.† I shared in his excitement, showing the right amount of enthusiasm and answering all his questions. Regardless of what was happening between A.J. and I, Cecilia was still and would forever remain Toby's loving grandmother just as Rick would remain his cherished Uncle and oversized playmate.††
†††† My son's eyelids finally grew heavy.† He made a valiant effort to keep them open, but after three laborious blinks they closed for good.† I smiled down at him as I lightly stroked his hair with my fingertips.† He's such a beautiful child, both inside and out.†† It seems to me as though God plucked the best characteristics from within A.J. and myself when forming our Toby.† He has A.J.'s sweet and gentle nature, his inquisitiveness, thoughtfulness, and deep feeling for others.† From me Toby inherited his single-mindedness, self-reliance, and perseverance.† Although not always an admirable trait, his stubbornness comes from both of us I suppose.† And as much as I hate to admit it, he possesses his Uncle Rick's sense of humor and a good dose of Rick's high spirits as well.†
†††† Until recently he'd been such an easy-going child.† But now there were reports of bad behavior in school on an almost daily basis.† If he wasn't biting Mrs. Kramer in the leg then he was snatching another child's toy, pulling little girls' pigtails, or picking fights on the playground.† I knew perfectly well Toby's misbehavior stemmed from his unhappiness, confusion, and anger over the impending divorce.† I was praying once the divorce was final and we were all settled into our new routines I would see a change in him.†† If I didn't I was going to seek counseling for him whether A.J. liked it or not.† And more than likely he wouldn't.
†††† As I gazed down on my child sleeping so contentedly with Barney the purple dinosaur wrapped in his arms, it was hard for me to imagine this was where A.J. and I had ended up.† For never had a child been more of a wanted addition to a marriage than our Toby had.†
†††† A.J. and I had been married only five months when I got pregnant.† I can't say we planned for that event to happen so early in our union, but I had just celebrated my thirty-ninth birthday and A.J. would be forty-two that summer so we both agreed it was probably time.† I'd had two miscarriages during my first marriage.† My mother suffered through four before she had me.† My maternal grandmother suffered three.† Given that history my doctor confined me to bed for the first trimester of the pregnancy.† The immobility was a horrible hardship for a woman as active as myself and I seriously began to wonder if having a baby was worth all that trouble.†††
†††† Because I had no problems my doctor allowed me to return to work during my fourth month.† It was supposed to be on a limited basis, but my love of my career caused me to soon be putting in more hours than I should have been.† I ignored A.J.'s pleadings and continued to work a full schedule right up until my seventh month when one afternoon while trying a case in a crowded courtroom I suddenly and unexpectedly started labor.† I finished the day without letting anyone know what was happening.† I realize that was foolish, but I had an obligation to the little girls and boys who had been made the unsuspecting victims of child pornography by their trusted baby-sitter.† Their trusted baby-sitter whom I was prosecuting.††††
†††† I called A.J. from the courthouse at five o'clock that evening and he rushed over to pick me up.† I never have told him I was in labor for over two hours before I summoned him.†
†††† The medical personnel tried everything in their power to stop my labor but Toby was anxious to make his appearance.† At three twenty-seven the next morning our two pound four ounce baby was born ten weeks ahead of schedule.†
†††† Things were touch and go that first week.† Several times A.J. and I were told to prepare for the worst.† I sobbed into A.J.'s chest then, not revealing to him the enormous guilt I carried deep inside for the senseless way I'd pushed myself.† Rick and Cecilia arrived on the first available flight after Toby's birth.† My father followed a few hours later.
†††† It was Rick who christened our tiny son Toby.† His official name recorded on the courthouse rolls was John Richard Tobias Simon.
†††† Early in the pregnancy an ultrasound revealed I was carrying a boy.† From that point on I'd been trying a variety of names out on my husband, asking him how he liked the sound of Caleb Simon, or Jacob Simon, or Austin Simon, or Gareth Simon, or maybe even Noah Simon.† A.J. nodded his head at some, and wrinkled his nose in distaste at others.† Finally he told me, "You choose the name you like best.† The only thing I ask is that my dad's name and Rick's name are a part of my son's name."
†††† "But we can't really do that without hurting Daddy's feelings," I pointed out.
†††† A.J. started laughing.† "I can't quite imagine naming our son Noah John Richard Myron Simon."
†††† I couldn't help but laugh too.† Admittedly, Myron was not the most appealing name to work with.† I thought on it several days then proposed, "What do you think of us naming the baby John Richard Tobias?"
†††† Tobias is Daddy's middle name and was my grandfather's first name.
†††† A.J. slowly nodded his agreement.† "And we can call
him Jack," he suggested.† "That way neither Rick nor your father will be hurt."
†††† I liked the sound of that.† Jack was strong, masculine, and not so unusual as to be considered odd.† Yet it wasn't so common as to have our son end up in a grade school classroom with seven other boys who shared the same first name.
†††† And Jack our new baby was until Rick got his first peek at his minute nephew.
†††† "He's so tiny," Rick whispered in awe.† "Too tiny to be carryin' around a name like John Richard Tobias.† Hell, the little guy's name weighs more than he does. †He looks more like a Toby."
†††† For once Rick and I were in agreement about something.† He was right, the red little boy with downy soft wisps of white hair and legs no rounder than a sparrow's did look like a Toby.† When I was released to go home the next day I looked up the name's meaning in my 2,000 Names For Baby book.† I shed a tear when I read the meaning of Tobias - the Lord is good.† The diminutive Toby literally meant, 'little one'.†
†††† How appropriate, I recall thinking.† I prayed then, that the Lord would be good to our little one.
†††† †And he was.† Toby came home four weeks later in the arms of his beaming father.†
†††† Things started to fall apart between A.J. and myself right around Toby's second birthday.†† I was resisting getting pregnant again as strongly as A.J. was pushing the idea.† Toby more than fulfilled my maternal needs.† I had no desire to have another child as I recalled my earlier miscarriages, my three month confinement to bed with Toby, and then the nightmare surrounding his birth.† We'd been so lucky to bring home a healthy baby.† I wasn't ready to relive that uncertainty and fear only two short years
later.† I knew I never would be.
†††† Aside from the fact that A.J. was planning on a second child just as steadfastly as I was avoiding one, he also kept urging me to quit my job or go part-time.† Something he'd been doing since I'd returned to work six weeks after we brought Toby home.† When I made it clear I had no intention of forfeiting my career A.J. suggested he return to private investigation work.† He proposed building an office onto our garage so he could be a stay-at-home dad to Toby and our future children.
†††† Of course I wouldn't hear of it and he knew perfectly well as to why.† He had agreed before we got married to give up P.I. work in favor of becoming a lawyer.† I reminded him of all the things I'd told him prior to our becoming engaged again.† I was not going to put up with the unstable hours and salary private investigation work brings.† Not to mention the dangers, of which there are many.† My father had been a private investigator for forty years.† I had seen what the profession had done to my mother, and to Daddy as well.† I was in no way going to allow my husband to return to work such as that.
†††† It was then that the state of our marriage rapidly deteriorated.†† By Toby's third birthday in September of 1994, A.J. and I were living together in name only.† Despite Toby's pleas A.J. moved out right after the new year of 1995 began.† All three of us cried that day, but neither A.J. nor I knew how to put back together the shattered pieces of a marriage that probably should have never been.
†††† And it broke my heart to know how much our child was suffering for his parents' mistakes.† Just as I knew it broke A.J.'s.
†††† I bent and kissed Toby's warm cheek before carefully climbing over him.† I tucked the covers more firmly around his shoulders then shut off the bedside lamp that was in the shape of a cowboy boot.† I hoped I wasn't making another mistake by not allowing my son to go fishing with his dad and his Uncle Rick the next day.† Although I didn't always care for the influence Rick had over Toby, I did have to be honest with myself when admitting Rick loved the boy very much and would never let any harm befall him.† Nonetheless, for some reason, I had a bad feeling about the upcoming day.† Call it a premonition, or call it mother's intuition.† Whichever it was I feared something was going to occur that I didn't want Toby to be a part of.† I just hoped A.J. didn't get hurt in the process.†
†††† I chided myself for my silliness as I padded across the hall to my bedroom.† Still, I was happy Toby was going to be safely encased in nursery school the following morning and not on the Precious Cargo.† I debated calling A.J. and warning him.† But warning him about what?† He'd simply tell me I was letting my negative feelings regarding Rick interfere with my common sense.† Yet, Rick Simon showing up in Seattle on a yacht he claimed was his was an oddity to begin with.† Something more was bound to happen.† With Rick that was a given.† He could never just come quietly and leave in the same manner.†
†††† But what?† I kept asking myself.† What's going to happen?†
†††† I went to bed that night without any answers.† My dreams were filled with pictures of A.J., Rick and myself as we had been twenty years earlier on Pirate's Key.† When I awoke the next morning I wished, for just a moment, I could turn back the clock.
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†††† Whether or not I have previously undiscovered psychic abilities I don't know.† What I do know is my feeling of fear surrounding the Precious Cargo proved to be justified.† And my thought regarding Rick showing up in Seattle on a yacht he said was his being slightly off-kilter was correct as well.† That boat was no more Rick's than I am owner of the Mariners.† Rick had simply been hired to pilot her to British Columbia and hadn't known how to tell A.J. any differently when A.J. came under the mistaken notion that she was actually Rick's.† To top it all off, unbeknownst to Rick, the yacht had been stolen from her rightful owner to begin with.
†††† Before things were made right once again Cecilia was kidnapped and thought dead for several heartbreaking days, I had to bail A.J. and Rick out of jail, and Rick broke A.J. out of a paddy wagon before the two went on to rescue their mother.† The D.A. had more charges than I could count filed against my estranged husband and his brother.† To say I was humiliated, mortified, and more embarrassed than I've ever been in my lifetime is an understatement of the facts.† Even after the D.A.'s office had dropped the charges it took me several days to cool down.† From a distance the Simon brothers' antics are amusing and endearing.† When you're related to them through marriage their antics are another story altogether.† If A.J. and I hadn't already filed for divorce this latest adventure would have no doubt been the icing on the cake.
†††† Four days after Cecilia had been found safe and the Precious Cargo had been returned to her rightful owner A.J. showed up on my doorstep.† We talked quietly in the living room in deference to the sleeping Toby who was long in bed.
†††† A.J. fiddled with his coffee cup before setting it down on the end table.† "Janet...I've decided to return to San Diego with Mom and Rick."
†††† For some reason that news didn't surprise me.†† Days earlier I'd seen A.J. and Rick fall back into the comfortable rhythm that was second nature to both of them.† The comfortable rhythm of brothers, partners, and best friends that I'd first noticed twenty years earlier in Florida.†
†††† "I see," I nodded.† "And the two of you are going to reopen the business, aren't you?"
†††† My perceptiveness surprised A.J.†
"Did Mom tell you?"
†††† I shook my head.† Though Cecilia had spent the afternoon and part of the evening with Toby and me she hadn't mentioned anything about A.J.'s plans.† I'm sure she felt it was his place to do so.†
†††† "No, your mother didn't tell me," I said.† "I just...guessed."
†††† A.J. smiled softly.† "Well you guessed right.† We're going to give it a try.† Reopening the business I mean.† We'll see where we're at by the end of the summer and go from there."
†††† I had a feeling that once the summer ended Simon and Simon would go forth in business together for many years to come.
†††† "This has been a difficult decision for me to make," A.J. confessed softly.† "Because of Toby...and because of you as well.† It wasn't my intention to live so far from either one of you."
†††† "I know it wasn't, A.J.† But you have to do what makes you happy."†
†††† And I meant it.† I was slowly coming to realize it had been a mistake for me to encourage A.J. to give up the P. I. business.† I had only been fooling myself all these years I was convinced he was happy being a lawyer.
†††† "But I can't be happy if it means sacrificing my son," A.J. stated.† "So I've come to you tonight with a proposal."
†††† My heart began to thump heavily in my chest.† I was afraid A.J. was going to try to get permanent custody of Toby.†† I would never allow that and hated the thought of what a long legal battle would do to us...and to our son.
†††† My tone was guarded.† "What kind of a proposal?"
†††† "I'd like Toby to spend his summers with me in San Diego.† From Memorial Day weekend until the end of August.† I realize that time frame will have to be modified when he starts kindergarten.† And I'd like him to spend several days with me at Christmas.† You're welcome to come along, too, if you'd like.† Then you and he could fly on to Florida to finish out the holiday with Myron like we always used to do.† When Toby's older...if our situations have changed and you no longer want to come along, he can fly down by himself.†† You can meet him in Miami when his time with me ends."
†††† By our situations changing I knew A.J. meant if one or both of us remarried.†
†††† "And that's it?"†
†††† A.J. nodded.† "That's it.† I won't deem it the perfect solution, but it's the best I can come up with in order to allow me time with my son."
†††† "What do you plan to do with him this summer while you're at work?"
†††† "I'll enroll him in a recreational day camp.† The woman who owns the Terrible Twos Day-Care Center runs five such camps throughout the city.†† I've already been in contact with her.†† She has a place for Toby at a camp near our old office. The kids are split up by age groups, and do art projects, play sports, go on field trips, and learn to swim to name just a few things.† I suppose it's not that much different from his nursery school, though most of the activities take place outside and the environment is less rigid.
†††† "I've already told Rick that while Toby's with me I want to avoid night hours and weekends.† In the rare instance I have no choice but to pull such a shift Mom said she'll be happy to take care of him."
†††† It was obvious he'd carefully thought through every detail before presenting his case to me.† I could feel him internally holding his breath as he awaited my answer.
†††† It was hard to give my consent.† I couldn't imagine Toby being away from me for three full months.† Yet, I knew how difficult it would be for A.J. to be away from Toby for the remaining nine months of the year with only a four day visit at Christmas to tide him over until summer.† And despite my quarrels with A.J., I still loved him.† Loved him as a friend and as the father of my son.† Loved him as someone whom I shared a long history with of both good times and bad.† More importantly I loved him for the wonderful daddy he was to Toby.† While I had been an uptight, nervous new mother A.J. had been totally at ease with our colicky, fussy infant.† He spent hours rocking Toby or walking the floor with him, the small smile of love never leaving his face no matter how loud our baby wailed.† When the terrible two's arrived A.J.'s patience with our mischievous toddler far outweighed mine.† And now that the inquisitive three's were upon us A.J. never seemed to mind answering the never-ending W questions like, "Why do doggies bark when they talk, but cows say moo, Daddy?"† or "Where did I come from, Daddy?"† or† "What would happen if we put peanut butter in the toaster, Daddy?" or† "When I'm four can have I a pair of cowboy boots like Uncle Rick's, Daddy?"†
†††† No, I had no worries that my son would be given anything less than the best of care while with his father.† In all actuality he'd probably be given considerably more parental attention than he'd receive from me simply because my career demands long hours and often causes me to bring work home.
†††† Slowly I nodded my head.† "I don't have a problem with anything you've proposed, A.J.†† Have your lawyer draw it up before the final papers go to court."
†††† His relief and gratefulness shone from his face.
†††† "Thank you, Janet."
held up one stern index finger.†
"However; and this is a very large however, I don't want to find
out that Toby's been spending time at the office with you and Rick.† I don't want him anywhere near your
office.† Do I make myself clear?"
†††† The smile A.J. gave me was full of mischief.† So was the twinkle in his eyes.† "Yes, Janet.† You've made yourself very clear."
†††† I wanted to be mad at him but I couldn't be.† Right then he reminded me of the care-free young man I'd met twenty years earlier in Florida who always made empty promises to me when it came to vowing he wouldn't work with his brother again.†† Without fail he used the endless charm he possesses and that big dimpled smile to cajole me out of my fury.†
†††† I tried to sound firm when I said,† "I mean it, A.J.," but we both ended up laughing.†† When I could speak again all I asked was, "Please limit his time there if nothing else.† I would prefer not to have a budding pint-sized private investigator returned to me at the end of the summer."
†††† Since it was already the middle of May A.J. and I agreed Toby would leave with him two days later when the Precious Cargo set sail for San Diego.† As I walked A.J. to the door that night I promised him I'd spend the next day packing a fair share of Toby's belongings and preparing him for what lay ahead.† I doubted that last would be too difficult.† The prospect of spending an entire summer with his Uncle Rick was bound to make Toby the happiest three and a half year old in Seattle.
†††† And it did.† Though my ever-thoughtful boy cried as well, when he realized he was going to have to leave me behind.† He was worried I'd be lonely and sad without him and his daddy.†† I assured him I'd be a little bit of both, but also told him how much I wanted him to have a good summer in San Diego.† Promises of lots of phone calls between us ultimately pacified him.†
†††† I saw Toby off the following day.† His excitement over sailing south on Uncle Rick's big boat prevented any tears from falling.† Toby's tears, not mine.† I shed plenty of those on the drive home.† I kept them at bay, however, while I kissed him goodbye, told him to have a good time, and reminded him to behave for his daddy.† A.J. gave me a kiss on the cheek as he took Toby from me.
†††† "Thank you, Janet," he stated sincerely.† "I appreciate the sacrifice you're making."
†††† "We'll both be making those for many years to come," I sadly reminded him.† "Every time you say goodbye to Toby in August and every time I say goodbye to him in May.† And every other time in-between when we each miss out on a portion of his life."
†††† "Yes," he replied softly.† "I suppose you're right."
†††† I waved goodbye to Toby, A.J., and Cecilia as Rick slowly maneuvered the yacht out of port.† I didn't stop waving until they disappeared beyond the horizon.†
†††† I was foolish enough to think that once I got used to Toby's absence I'd enjoy my summer alone.† How wrong I was.† Even the house seemed to miss his laughter and boyish spirits.† It was now so quiet and solemn.† I found myself longing for our hectic mornings when I raced frantically about urging him through his breakfast, dressing, and brushing his teeth so I could get to work on time.† Or our tranquil evenings as I watched him play in the bathtub, helped him build a Lego castle, or read him a story at bedtime.† And then there were the weekends at the zoo and park and beach.†
†††† I made it through exactly three weeks without him before I picked up the phone and called the district attorney's office in San Diego.† I was lucky.† My former boss said they would have an opening in September, and yes, she'd love to have me back.† The next call went to a San Diego Realtor friend of mine.†† She told me of a new condominium complex with three swimming pools and its own private playground only a few miles from the house on the Grand Canal A.J. had repurchased from Rick.† She also mentioned three other homes in that area for sale that fell within my price range.† She mailed me information on everything that very same day.†
†††† The following morning I let the owners of the house I'd been renting know I'd be moving out at the end of August.† When I arrived at the office that day I turned my typewritten letter of resignation in to my boss.† He wasn't too surprised to hear my plans.† He'd always thought a lot of me, and a lot of A.J. as well.†† He knew how much we loved our son and said he thought it was for the best if we lived near each other until Toby was grown.† A.J. said as much when I told him of my plans over the phone a few days later.† He seemed genuinely pleased over the fact I would be living within a few miles of him and that we could return to sharing the day-to-day responsibilities of raising our child.†
†††† So now I will spend the summer wrapping up the cases on my docket and packing up my home. †For the first time in a long time I've done something I'm proud of.† Something that wasn't motivated by selfishness, anger, or the opportunity for career advancement.† I've done something good for myself.† And something good for A.J. as well.†
†††† And most importantly, I've done something good for Toby.†
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