“Haiden, your mother wanted to make sure I was the right fit for your family. It had nothing to do with her not wanting you there. She wanted to make sure I was still going to stick around after she told me about the two of you.”
“Yeah … because of what Memphis did to her. He didn’t want us, and I thought you didn’t either.”
“That was never the case.”
“I didn’t understand that until today. Until I heard what you did to Memphis.”
My eyebrows lowered. “What do you—”
“Your friend Leo came by. It’s why I’m here. My mom doesn’t know. She thinks I’m at soccer practice with Uncle Brady. The doorbell rang, and I went to go answer it while Uncle Brady was on the phone with someone from his job. Aspyn opened the door first, and I hid in the hallway, wanting to know why he was there. I thought … he was going to rat me out like you did at the fair.”
“Haiden, you’d left me no choice. What was I supposed to do? I’ve been trying so hard to get you to like me for the last three months. I never intended on telling your mom about your antics. I knew if I did, she would only make you like me, and it would only make you hate me more. That’s if she actually believed me. You can do no wrong in her eyes. You’re her baby boy. Trust me, I get it. I’m my mom’s baby boy too.” I paused for a few seconds to allow my words to sink in.
“We have that in common. We actually have a lot in common. If you’d given me half the chance, you would have been able to see it.”
“Can I still see it, Ashton?”
“Well, your mom thinks I’m a liar, Haiden. I’m not sure—”
“She said we had to talk when I got home, so I think she knows the truth. Haven must have told her. She was really upset that I made her pretend you lost us at the fair.”
“What do you mean? She wasn’t in on your evil plan?”
“No. I made her do it.”
“I see.” Now that made sense. “What about the pranks?”
“She knew about those, but I made her do them too. She really does like you a lot. She always tried to get me not to prank you, but I didn’t listen. I’m sorry.”
Now the apology, I wasn’t expecting.
“You’re not playing me, right?”
He shook his head. “No. Not after what you did for my mom, for us. You know, with Memphis.”
“How did you—”
“Your friend recorded it on his phone. Did you…” His eyes went to the floor, shuffling his feet. “What you said to him … did you mean it? About me being strong and a real man?”
“Haiden, look at me.”
“If I hadn’t been the one you were torturing, I would have patted you on the back for a job well done. You’re brave and strong, and I can’t tell you how much I respect how you protect and love your mom. You’re the man of the house, I get it. If my mom started dating some random guy, I probably would have done the same thing. I told you, we’re more alike than you think.”
“Did you mean what you said? You know, about loving my mom?”
“I’ve never meant anything more in my life.”
His eyes rimmed with tears. “And what about us? Do you love Haven and me too?”
Talk about a kick in the balls. I was a man, we didn’t cry, but holy fuck did I want to.
“Your mom is a package deal, Haiden. If I love her, that means I love you too.”
His bottom lip trembled as fresh tears slid down the sides of his face.
“Do you want to … be with her … like … forever?”
“I think I’ve loved your mom since I was sixteen years old. I’ve never stopped thinking about her. I made this pact with my boys when I was that age. Cain’s parents were getting a divorce, and Leo had the bright idea to make a pact to stay single and never fall in love. Later that night, we went to a party, and it was the first time I’d met your mom.”
His eyes perked up, surprised by what I was sharing.
“She was beautiful and awkward and adorable. It was her sweet sixteen, but your dad got in the way of that, and I never saw her again until seven months ago. I’m going to be honest with you, man to man. I didn’t want your mom to fall for me. I didn’t want to fall for her either. But I quickly realized I didn’t have a choice. She was everything I wanted and didn’t know I could have.”
“Like your soul mate? Grammy says Grampy is her soulmate.”
“Yeah, bud. I think your mom was made for me. And you want to know what else?”