Crook Takes Pawn Part 95

    Rebecca sees eerie similarities in father and son. Raymond carries himself much like his pops: walking with short, measured steps, an eternally curious expression on the boys face. Same black hair. Same double-chin, although less pronounced on the younger lad. Raymond wears black shorts with a white and red gridded design across both legs. A white tee is accompanied by an open button-down green shirt on young Ray. Even Ray's eyes are the same verde hue that matches Greg's. Those eyes sweep the playground, finally resting upon Greg and Rebecca. Greg has never felt such helplessness since staring down the barrel of a loaded revolver. His son. His goddam SON.
    Raymond meekly shambles over to the picnic table and sits down. He does not raise his head.
    "Hey Raymond," Greg says, in a voice choked with emotion, "do you know who I am?"
    Raymond bites his lip, as if puzzling over the question. Again, the subtle nuances of these two are so close. After a short deliberation, Raymond speaks.
    "You're my da--I mean, you're my biological father." he says quietly.
    Greg feels the sting of this title. Greg is not his dad. A dad is someone who raises a kid from start-to-finish, all the way through. You don't cut and run. A biological father is just a sperm-donor, really.
    "That's right," Greg says shakily, "It's been so long, how have you been?"
    Raymond sighs and Greg detects the startling adultness of that sound. Ray was already an older soul than kids his age.
    "Fine, I guess," Raymond mutters, looking back down at his lap. He picks at his thumbnail incessantly.
    "That's good," Greg says, feeling a little encouragement, "so, what is it that--"
    "Why did you leave?" Raymond bursts out. Greg is caught off guard. What does one say to that? Was there really a logical, sane explanation that would assuage Raymond's worries? Most likely not.
    He should answer, but Greg is lost for words. His mouth is open, but nothing comes out. This direct question leaves him unprepared. Raymond's eyes are wide and intelligent. A terrible knowledge fills that young gaze, the understanding that love is not eternal. Love can leave, and never come back.
    The boy gets up from the picnic table suddenly and walks hurriedly away from Greg. Greg calls out to him, but Raymond ignores him. It is not the homecoming he expected, but it is what he deserved. Greg figures his own indifference towards Raymond seems even harsher. Take this feeling, Greg thinks to himself, and multiply it for about 6 years or so. Then you'll get the idea.
    His interaction with Rebecca is a different story altogether. Raymond steps away from Greg, but wanders in Rebecca's general vicinity. Greg might just have an in after all. Raymond was hitting that pre-pubescent stage, and his interest for girls was just peaking. This was right about the same time that girls stop their kissing and hugging boys on the playground. Pursuer became the persued. Rebecca kept her distance, but noticed that Raymond would glance up at her every now and then. Rebecca smiled that gracious grin, and Raymond quickly came around. But he was still as cold as an iceberg towards Greg. At least Rebecca was making leeway.
    Raymond was chubby, obviously a trait from Greg's side. But then again,  Diane had her fair share of weight to add to the gene pool, till it was overflowing. Raymond nimbly stepped into the sandbox, huffing only briefly with the effort. He plunked down in the middle of the sand, oblivious to all. Most of the other children were hunkered down on the swings, or basketball court on the opposite side of the playground. Raymond was by himself.
    Greg realized that he was far more responsible for Raymond's upbringing than he realized. The kids confidence, and outgoingness may have been damaged by Greg's abandonment. It hurt Greg much to confront these issues, but he still plowed ahead; or to the side, to be more apt. Greg watched from the wooden bleachers as Rebecca got closer. She settled on the edge of the box, her bronze legs darker than even the granular contents of the sandbox. Rebecca spies a small shovel, and offers it to Raymond.
    "Here you go," she said in her softest tone, which says a lot considering her usual warmth and compassion. Raymond sheepishly takes the shovel from her and continues on his "project."
    "Whatcha working' on Raymond?" She asks, leaning into the box with one hand sinking into the sands.
    "It's a lighthouse," Raymond responds, "I'm digging a moat around it,"
    "That sounds pretty cool," Rebecca says, swinging her long legs into the box to join him. As they get closer, their dialogue diminishes in volume. Greg nervously gets up from the bleacher and walks a bit closer, to one of the metal parkbenches. The top is entwined with an opaque metal mesh. Greg studies the design, letting his mind wander. Greg feels as though Raymond will sense him watching, so he looks away. It's like a frightened deer, don't look directly at it, or it will bolt loose.
    Greg stomach churns with worry and acid. He hasn't eaten today. A brief visit to the hotel bathroom produced a dark cloud of diarrhea. Food is the last thing on Greg's mind, for once.
    Rebecca's head turns every now and then, as she listens to Raymond speak. Rebecca puts an arm around him, rubbing the isolated boy's back and shoulders. When her touch leaves the child, he still leans perceptively towards Rebecca, attracted like a magnet to steel. Greg wonders how much physical contact Raymond gets. How many hugs? How many pats on the back? Greg has no room to criticize Diane's interaction with Raymond. Greg did not contribute any hugs or kisses, either. Not for years.
    Rebecca stands up and brushes the sand from her shapely butt. Her head jerks towards the cafeteria, and she extends her hand to Raymond. Raymond hauls himself to his feet, takes her hand, and they walk inside.
    Greg follows, feeling like a stalker of his only son. Rebecca is buying him a sports drink. It is sweltering hot outside, and the cool of the cafeteria feels amazing. Greg fiddles with his visitor tag as two teacher walk by, chatting amiably. Greg feels as though he doesn't belong here. And maybe he really shouldn't be anywhere near Raymond at all. A stranger (albeit, a beautiful women) was having an easier time relating to his son than he was, and Greg was the biological father!!
    Greg sees them progress round the corner, and follows, at a distance.
    "Thank you very much for the drink," Raymond mumbles, gulping deeply from the plastic container of electrolytes and chemicals.
    "You are very welcome, hon." Rebecca says, rubbing his shoulder again. Raymond stalls their walk when he hugs rebecca tightly. Greg stops as well. Raymond tilts his head against Rebecca's chest, a lazy smile on his lips. Thataboy, Greg thinks to himself, going after the ladies, just like his old man.
The feeling of the hug reinforces Rebecca's desire to have another kid. Julie was still too small to give an embrace like this. This boy is part of Greg, split from his very cells, the fruit of his loins. She knows it means everything to Greg to get back a relationship with his son. By befriending Raymond, she grows closer to the man that she loves.
    Rebecca feels no self-consciousness at the boy's obvious infatuation with her. If an innocent schoolboy crush has taken root, it may very well be the means for Greg to reconnect. The hug is broken up by Rebecca, and they finish their walk back to the outside. Rebecca holds Raymond's pudgy hand in hers.
    They both get a rude awakening when returning to the playground. Diane has arrived.
    It has been many moons, and many pounds ago, since Greg has seen her. She has not aged well. Single-parenthood makes for young geriatrics. Stress is stamped across her features, carved into the creases and wrinkles of her California-tanned face. The years have not been kind to Diane. The weight gain has morphed her face, stretching it down with her weight like wax on a melted candle. Her legs are large and solid, but jiggle with her walk. Varicose veins wrapping her lower calves. Her hair is black, snarled and unkempt. Frizzy strands zig-zag across the crown of her head like she was constantly in a static field. She has grown so large, only her eyes remain familiar. Those eyes are green, like his own, but they hold none of the glee Greg remembered from their past.
    She is fuming with rage. Immediately, Diane catches sight of Raymond, and she hurries her flabby buns over to him. Snatching his hand away, Diane leads Raymond towards the front office. She shoots a menacing look towards Rebecca over her shoulder. the stare bounces off Rebecca, who is quickly joined by Greg.
    "The cops are on their way," Diane says with a sneer, "you have no rights to see him, and I'm gonna press charges!!" Greg detects the terrible satisfaction in that voice. It's payback to a dead-beat dad.

    "Now, just hold on a second here," Greg shouts after Diane, "There's no need to get the police involved!!"
    "How could the front desk let you in to see him?!?!" Diane asks rhetorically, "I'm gonna make sure that uppity little secretary gets shit-canned!!"
    "She didn't do anything," Greg grumbles, "don't drag her into this, I convinced her to let me in."
    Greg wanted to obscure Ed's involvement in this situation. Diane halts in her tracks, with Raymond momentarily yanked backwards by her reversed progress.
    Greg glances around at the many students and bystanders. Greg knows these people will automatically side with Diane. Diane knows it too. Greg is  on unfriendly turf. And maybe Diane is in the right here.   
    Greg's mind was reasonable. He knew that for every step forward he took here, it was two steps back. He must be willing to backtrack in matters of right and wrong now. His presense (or lack thereof) had already preceded him. Diane hated him. Her current angry snarl was beyond the intensity of their worst fight on record. She was livid.
    "Allright Diane," Greg says calmly, "I know your upset--"
    "Upset isn't the fucking word for it, cocksucker!!" Diane exclaims. Greg thinks about telling her to watch her language in front of the kid, but wisely does not. Besides, Greg had never partaken in homoerotic acts, anyway. What's untrue needs no defense counter-measures.
    "I will leave," Greg says even more softly, and slowly, "but I just want to know if I can--"
    "No!!" Diane says, not letting him finish.
    "You haven't even heard what I'm asking."
    "It doesn't matter, you pig!! I'm not doing shit for you!!"
    Diane escorts Raymond roughly to the front office again.
    "I'm gonna be in town for two more days," Greg shouts after her, "I'll try to call you later tonight!!"
    Diane flips him off without looking back. Her middle finger is all the reply Greg needs to hear. Greg and Rebecca retreat from the prying eyes of the youngsters, teachers, and various staff.
    Greg makes it almost to the car when he starts sobbing. Rebecca clamps his hand in hers, letting him know she's there. Greg blubbers like a fool.
    "I--I'm such a horrible fucking person," he chokes, "I abandoned my son, and now I'm here crawling back to him like a con man."
    A torrent of tears renders him unable to say anything else. His cries intensify, shaking his belly with painful motions. He falls to his knees, and tears one of his pant-legs on a shard of gravel. Rebecca cannot crouch, because of her shorts, but dips down, resting on her haunches. She hugs him, much like she hugged Raymond, only tighter. This is why she is here. It is why he needs her. She thinks back to the news reporter, when Rebecca said she could spend her whole life repaying Greg. This was just interest on a large debt Rebecca owes him.
    "It's okay, Greg," she soothes, "It's okay, baby. We'll try again tonight."
    "I can't blame her for hating me," Greg sobs, revealing his face from the cup of her shoulder. HIs face is beet-red, those corneas all bloodshot.
    "I just up and fucking left them, and she had to raise him, with no support," Greg says woefully, "and all I could think about is my life, how hard it would be for me. And i was 2,000 miles away, without a care in the world."
    "But you're here now," Rebecca whispers, "you're trying to make it right. That's all you can do. If she refuses to let you, then that's that."
    Could it really be that simple? Could Greg trade in guilt for hatred? WOuld his hands be washed clean? From the standpoint of the letter of the law, maybe. But not from his own mind. He had to make another solid effort, to convince himself that it really was over.    

Uploaded 07/25/2012
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