The following school year was a blur for Matt, beleaguered with his studies and with the constant care of his boys. It hadn't been much easier for Mike, who made sure that the few spare hours he had were filled so that he wouldn't have to dwell on the fact that he was very much alone.
Matt called Mike at least once a week to talk, and although their relationship had healed to some extent and their conversations were easier, Mike still resisted Matt's requests to come to Chicago for a visit. Mike just didn't feel he was ready at this juncture for Matt in person, one-on-one.
That May, one week to the day after Matt and Mike had last talked on the phone, Mike was leaving his condo at 8 a.m. on a Saturday to take Breakers for a walk. Just as he emerged from the building's front door, a black airport limo pulled into the circular driveway, and a back door popped open.
Matt stepped out with a two-year old twin boy attached to each hand and a diaper bag around his neck. He started up the walk, the boys toddling along and looking around curiously at new surroundings. They were little blond Matts, dressed in matching playsuits.
Mike halted in his tracks. Without warning, tears began pouring from his eyes, almost blinding him.
The three of them stood in front of Mike, and Matt said to the boys, "Matt and Mike, this is your Uncle Michael."
Mike slowly knelt to look at his nephews, and seeing them, felt the protective covering he had so carefully molded around his heart tear open a bit. It hurt. He hurt, and he was fearful of his own emotions.
Mike stood and looked Matt in the eye.
"You really are a prick, coming here with the boys like this."
"'Manipulative prick' may be more accurate, but I can't help it," Matt said.
"What do you want from me?"
"Long story short? I want you to help me raise these boys. I want to be with you. And if you make me pay every day of my life for the rest of my life for the decisions I've made, I still want those days to be with you, because I love you."
Everything seemed frozen in time. Thought and movement only slowly resumed their course.
Contemplating the little boys' beautiful faces, and taking a painful first step to fully re-engaging with life as he knew it could be, Mike remembered again Matt's laughing comment years ago as they had wrestled with each other in their parents' laundry room: "Mike, it's supposed to hurt."
Finally, Mike sighed deeply in acquiescence as the last vestiges of his anger and resistance melted, and handing Breakers' leash to Matt, he bent down and scooped the two boys up into his arms.
"Let's go inside," he said quietly. "We have a lot to work out."
I want to thank those of you who have followed Working It Out from the
beginning, and particularly for the several thousand commendatory emails
I have received since first starting to post this effort on Nifty.
I have thoroughly enjoyed writing this story, and have grown very fond
of the characters. I apologize to those who asked to be notified
by email as new parts were posted, and heard nothing. I'm writing
from a new computer due to having incurred a nasty virus on the old machine,
and unfortunately, your addresses were lost. Thanks as well to the
Nifty Archivist for his patience in posting revisions to each part as I've
made them. After a suitable vacation from the keyboard, I hope to
do some additional writing in the future.
© 2000 Don Hanratty. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.