My heart raced as I tossed and turned in bed.
The twins were fast asleep in their rooms, yet here I was tossing and turning like I was going mad.
Since Shayla dropped the kids off and brought up how they thought we worked too much, I decided to stop working on the album and just spend time with them. I was able to take them to a few museums and walk in central park, but I decided to save the World Trade Center for last, so we could go on our first family trip with Shayla.
And now? I’m nervous. I don’t want to make it about her and me. It’s about the kids, not us. But I can’t help but think about what’s going to happen when she comes.
I’m probably going to end up making everything awkward. That’s not even my intention. I’m just nervous…
So nervous that I can’t sleep.
I sat up and looked around my pitch-black room.
I can’t do this.
I’ve got to calm my nerves and go to sleep.
If I'm off zero sleep and nerves, I will look like a fool in front of Shayla and the kids. Knowing me, I’d probably end up ruining the entire trip. Everyone would be so confused.
The kids would be so excited, only for me to ruin everything. I can’t do that to them.
I reached over to my nightstand and picked up my cell phone. The kids are asleep. I’ll be fine.
“Hello?” My new doctor answered the phone, groggy yet alert.
“I can’t sleep. The kids and I have a big day tomorrow, and I can’t sleep,” I rubbed my bottom lip.
“I’ll be there as soon as I can.”
“Thank you. I owe you.”
“See you soon,” he hung up, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
I can’t keep doing this. I’m only doing it to get the rest I’ve needed and to calm my nerves. That’s it. Once this album is up, I’ll stop. Until then, I need this.
The kids will never see this side of me. I can’t, nor will I ever allow it. And if Shayla ever found out, I know she’d take my kids away from me…
“Daddy!” The twins jumped on my bed. “Daddy, wake up!”
I struggled to open my eyes and peered over at the clock.
“D-Daddy’s up,” I shielded my eyes from the bright sunlight shining into my room.
“I told Mikey we shouldn’t wake you up, but we got hungry,” Milan pouted as she finally sat down. They had dressed themselves in God knows what today, but I don't have the energy to tell them to change right now.
“Hungry, huh?” I rubbed my eyes. “What do you want?” Just as my daughter began to list off her order, my cellphone blared out its’ ringtone entirely too loud, causing an instantaneous migraine. “Hello?!” I answered quickly.
“Uhh… Hello, to you too. This is my third time calling,” Shayla responded.
“Oh, sorry,” I rubbed my head. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. The first time I called to tell you I was on my way to the hotel. The second was to let you know I got my room next to yours. Now, I need to know if you and my babies are okay.”
“…I just woke up.”
“Just woke up?! What did you wake up out of a coma or something?” Something like that…
“Do you mind if I send the kids over to you for a second while I get ready?”
“What’s ‘a second?’”
“Thirty minutes for what?”
I sighed. “I just have to get myself together. Can the kids come over to your suite until I’m ready?”
The phone went silent as she contemplated a simple “yes” or “no.”
“…sure. I’ll be over there in a sec.”
“They’ll be ready for you,” I hung up and told the kids to be ready at the door as their mother was coming to get them.
As I walked past a mirror, I swear I didn’t recognize myself…
That’s what the medicine I take does. Makes me unrecognizable to myself. I’ve got to get it together.
A soft knock came to the door, making my children eager to open it.
I looked through the peephole to see Shayla in all her splendor. She was…glowing.
“Can we open it now, please? Please, Daddy?” They each begged excitedly.
I opened the door and hid behind it so Shayla couldn’t see me.
“Hey, babies! Where’s your father?” I heard her ask.
I cleared my throat, “I’ll be over in a minute.”
“I’m fine. I’ll see you in thirty.” I closed the door, separating myself from my children and my glowing ex-wife.
They’re together. I know it.
“Seventy-two, seventy-three, seventy-four….” The kids counted in unison as they watched the elevator numbers go up on the screen.
After seeing how the kids dressed themselves, Shayla made it a point to change their clothes before we left. And although she didn't say it, she was upset with me for not changing them myself.
Reservations were already made yesterday for the Windows on the World in the South Tower, but we had to make our North Tower observatory reservation.
While the kids were excited and chatty, Shayla and I were mostly quiet. Aside from the kids, what did we really have to talk about?
Once the elevators opened to the deck, Michael and Milan immediately ran out.
“Um, excuse me?” I said loud enough for them to hear without yelling. I don’t yell at my children. I never liked when it was done to me. Why do it to them? They stopped just as quickly as they had started and turned to look at us. “You have to be patient and listen. No one said to run. And up here, you must be extra careful. Understand?” They nodded and waited for further instruction.
Shayla bent down to Milan’s level to zip up her jacket, “it’s chilly up here, so make sure you keep this zipped up, okay?” Milan nodded as she peered over her mother’s shoulder to view the city.
“Can we look through those?” Michael pointed at the large rectangular binoculars, seemingly pointing down at New York.
“Yeah,” I dug in my pocket to pull out some change. “Milan, do you want to look through it too?”
“Yes, please!” She ran over to the closest one she could find.
Shayla and I each held them up so they could look through the binoculars. We were able to point out Central Park, Ellis Island, and the Statue of Liberty.
After looking through the binoculars, we took pictures of the twins with a beautiful backdrop of New York.
“Twins at the twin towers,” I joked. Shayla laughed a little. “How often does that happen?”
“Very rarely, I’m sure,” she nodded.
“Are you having fun?”
“I think the question should be if the kids are having fun,” she looked at me. “And it looks like they are.”
The number of times I’d been here before, one thing I always enjoyed was watching the pre-show, which gave the history of New York. But I don’t think the twins will be able to sit through that. They’re having much more fun playing up here than anything.
Shayla and I took a seat and watched the kids in silence as they explored. Pretty soon, we’re gonna have to discuss their schooling. And with the album dropping this year, promotion, and a tour, they’re going to have to be with Shayla ninety percent of the time…
“How’s the album coming?” Shayla broke the awkward moment of silence between us.
“It’s going well. I took a break from working on it after you brought to my attention that the kids think we work too much,” I shrugged.
She switched her gaze from the kids to me, “really?” She asked, almost in shock. “How’d that go?”
I turned to look at her, “what do you mean?”
“I mean, did they notice a difference?”
“Yeah. We had a gang of fun. Although this is my first time working in a while, I could see they appreciated me taking time off for them.”
“What did you guys do?”
“I took them to a few museums and Central Park.”
“I’m sure they had fun.”
“Not as much fun as they’re having now,” I nodded toward our children. “They were really excited about this.”
“Yeah?” She turned to look at them.
I nodded, “they’ve been talking about this family trip since you left.” I let out a little laugh. “We have to do this more often.”
She slowly nodded in agreement, “we do.”
Back to that silence. That awkward silence between us. That silence held memories both good and bad. Back to feeling like somewhat strangers.
Memories… of me kissing her at the top of this very observatory in ’89. Of me booking a reservation at the South Tower in ’92 for us to have dinner alone in the same restaurant we’re taking our kids to today.
Memories… of when I betrayed her in ’87 with Tatiana Thumbtzen. Playing my wife for a fool. And for that same woman to oust us when I was completely over her, but she wanted to spite my wife…
Yes. Memories both bad and good…
I pushed my sunglasses up the bridge of my nose and cleared my throat, “you’re glowing.”
She turned to look at me, but I continued to watch our children, “I am?”
I nodded. Silence fell between us again. I smiled out of nervousness. “You must have spent the entire week with him.” Silence again. I don’t think she wants me to bring up her love life.
She nodded slowly, “he’s making me happy.”
“I can tell. Is it, uh- Is it official yet?”
“No,” she shook her head.
I nodded, “okay.”
“Has anyone piqued your interest?” She wondered.
I shook my head no, “I have too much going on. I can’t bring anyone into that. They’d end up feeling like they weren’t a priority. I can’t do that to someone else…” I can’t do to them what I did to her for years…
“Understandable,” she looked back at the kids. “Come on, guys. Let’s go get lunch,” she stood up to take the kids' hands.
Shayla makes a beautiful mother. I took her for granted. And I genuinely hope Andrew treats her better than I ever did.