Arriving home makes Jake sigh in content as he shuts his car door and securely locks the vehicle. He clutches his backpack over his right shoulder while still balancing his father's warm cup of coffee in his left hand.
For a moment, the striking red color of an unfamiliar car parked in his home's circular driveway, captures Jake's attention. The vintage looking Camaro, was sleek, modest, which tells Jake that his father either found some odd love of red, classic rides or was entertaining a guest of the female sorts. Granted it excites Jake just a little, because the man had sworn off trying to find anyone new after his mother, despite Jake's countless interferences. It however made him wonder why a woman would visit his father and stay long enough to meet the children. Micah, his younger brother, was sure to already be home from school. The evidence was the boy's skateboard thrown upside down on the lush, watered lawn surrounding the spacious driveway.
He could understand why his father was wary about going back on the market, even at his age where the era of dad-bods reigned. After Jake and Micah's mother fled, George Melbourne threw himself into his work and avoided dating. For years, he hadn't even entertained the thought of pursuing another romance, even if it pursued him first. He remained focused on raising his two sons while coping with a tiresome but beneficial career path.
Wasting no time in pondering unanswerable questions, Jake grows anxious to go inside and investigate. He then climbs the stairs of the modern porch that leads house built with grey stones and white pinewood illustrations that grace its design. Tall, large windows add to the retro visage and asymmetrical pattern, making it stand out amongst the fairly modern houses of the surrounding suburbia. One small chimney pokes out the center of the roof and a few large windows let in just enough light to the rooms below the protruded second-floor decks.
"Dad, I'm home, and I got your coffee." Jake announces as he pushes open the front door, walking into a sparse, but lavishly decorated living room. He then shuts the door behind him, still balancing the coffee expertly in his left hand. "The party didn't do much to keep my curfew-less nights but it did bear some fruit. Xander Jameson agreed to do the interview and spread so I have tons of work to do, which means I can't cook tonight." Jake speaks loudly, anxious to pridefully gloat to the man.
As he makes it across the luxurious, leather seated, chandelier-lit living room, he hears his father's voice calling. He smiles, remembering that eight months before involved walking into the house in silence. A strained relationship between father and son, that mended its fences after Jake's first heartbreak. George Melbourne stuck around, comforting Jake in a way that coaxed peace and civility between them. Eight months later, the truce still held its bonds even with rocky roads, thorny ravines, and paved riverbeds beneath pillars of endurance.
"I'll be out in a second, bud."
He ducks into the kitchen with just enough time to place the coffee atop the granite island countertop before his father walks into the kitchen. Jake then turns to face a fairly handsome man with brunette hair once he emerges from the hallway that leads to the back rooms. He wears comfy clothes, sky blue denim, a plain white t-shirt, and socks no doubt an accident hazard at his age.
"Xander Jameson. That's Julius James' kid, right?" George asks, distracted by an unsaid thought.
"Yes, dad, the son of the man who owns your favorite chain of coffeehouses across the LA shores. What's wrong, you look a little paler than usual and you aren't doing that embarrassing dad shimmy you do when I do something amazing." Jake points out, leaning against the counter to reward his father's anxiousness with a look of concern.
"I'm actually fine, Jake, and t-that's... great news," fidgeting, George forces a smile that was easily noticed if not for Jake's hurry to get a handle on things.
"Ok," he drags his voice and pushes away from the counter. "I'm sure you'll deal with it once you've had your coffee... so, go nuts." Jake gestures to his father, making a quick turn to leave as soon as the man takes up the cup. "I need to go finish the edits for the new Chelsea Eye website update." He flashes behind him, making a beeline for the entrance of the dining room adjacent to the lavish kitchen.
"Jake, slow down, buddy, we need to talk." George's voice is gravelly, thick with anxiety and although Jake would rather avoid a talk, he stops short and turns to face his father.
"What's up, dad?"
"Son." The man pleads with Jake, who keeps his back turned to him for just a moment longer. "Sit down for a second?" George pleads, and Jake's eyes narrow at his father intensely.
"I hope to god you don't plan on talking about Claudia." Jake brandishes a heavy, pain-filled voice, loathing his mind for dredging up their previous talk about the woman in question.
"A week ago, you were drunk and sleeping naked in somebody's bed, Jake, it is time." The man says as he beckons Jake to face him, his frown stern and the reminder of his authority formidable.
"Maybe I needed to let go, be free for a moment in my life." Jake speaks with a huskiness that borders on impatient and bitter. "I admit I got a little too messed up, dad, but it doesn't mean I'm becoming her. Ok? You have to trust me."
"I agree, so calm down, Jake, this is not about you becoming your mother," George assures him, still uncertain of the outcome of the forthcoming chain of events. Jake would no doubt be appalled, and what could come from that was either favorable or could jeopardize their truce.
Jake notices that his father's gaze is not focused on him, but at the looming presence he feels abaft him. He spins around but the look of confusion he held falls and his bottom lip hits the floor. For the one person, he didn't want to or expect to see, was standing there with the most pathetic smile on her face. A beautiful, vicious face framed by fiery red hair, coiffed in messy curls, plucked eyebrows, and emerald eyes that glisten with a hint of tears. Her dress was gaudy, but admittedly stunning in a less than modest way, just like it had years prior.
"My baby." The red-haired woman gushes, tears spilling from her eyes as she walks up to him, her expensive pumps clicking on the wooden floor of the living room. "Hmm. Eighteen with a five-o-clock shadow at three in the afternoon. You're really your father's son." Her voice funnels through the haunting echoes that suddenly become Jake's mental soundtrack.
"But-," Jake begins, quickly running out of air as she hugs him tightly, both arms softly constricting his chest as it pushes against her bosom.
She radiated so much warmth, but all Jake could do was flinch under her touch and the smell of her familiar cologne. The one she wore everyday before she left them under cover of night as if they didn't exist. As if she hadn't told him and Micah time and time again that they were her world.
"You've gotten so big." Claudia sniffles, pulling away to rest her hands atop his shaky shoulders. "So handsome," Her right hand reaches up and touches his sharp cheek, but instead of welcoming it, Jake rears back.
"Mom?" Jake whispers—heart twisting in his chest as emotions he thought he banished, came rushing back with the full force of a tsunami. His head rattles from side to side as the word nobody expected, forms from his lips. "No," Jake murmurs quaking the very floor with its abrupt arrival. Claudia Melbourne, the woman scorned gasps—shocked at the rejection, hurt that she wasn't welcomed.
Even his father was taken aback by it, because it hadn't occurred to him, that thrusting something so painful, so suddenly on Jake could have serious consequences. The boy was old enough when she had left to know that she didn't want anything to do with him or his brother. He was the one thing that kept their family afloat and prevented his father from giving up on life altogether after she left. That was the bane of Jake Melbourne's existence that he tried to forget everyday. He'd accepted it quicker than anyone else and moved on with his life, though shallow times had left dark memories in his path.