“You are my SONShine”
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy when skies are grey,
You never know, dear,
How much I love you,
Please don’t take my (sON)shine away
“Just a little pinch,” Doctor Robbins squeaked. Her smile was electrifying, the most warm, comfort-inducing smile a pediatrician could ever flash a child when they were about to cause them pain. Her voice was still cotton-candy sweet, her eyes wide with assurance as she looked up at the green-eyed brunette holding down Abel Teller’s chubby little arms and legs. “Squeeze tight as you can okay, Mom? It’ll be over in a second…then we’ve got a biggg strawberry lollipop for the super-brave, super-strong….There! You see! Such a big boy….such a big boy…it’s all over now…you were so brave…such a strong little man…right, Mom?”
He wasn’t strong enough to get away, but his lungs were stronger than ever as he screamed.
Tara shook her head at the doctor discarding the syringe she’d just finished jamming into Abel’s thigh. She couldn’t push aside the twinge of guilt she felt for bringing him into get it, despite how vivid the memory of the night before was. Abel refused to take the antibiotics orally. She’d tried just about everything, she’d even pushed through the pain of asking Neeta to hold him down on his back so she could pinch his nose between her fingers and make him open his mouth.
Tara needed him to get better because a spot had finally opened up at the daycare center four doors down from her office, and she wanted to enroll him as soon as she possibly could. “You’re okay, Baby,” Tara cooed, kissing the crying soon-to-be toddler on the crown of his head. She bounced him up and down on one leg, gasping in delight with his doctor when the bright-eyed pediatrician made a show of pulling a lollipop from behind her back. “What’s that, Baby? Is that candy for the big boy? I think it is!”
Abel stopped crying the second the cherry-flavored lollipop hit his tongue, he pawed at the tiny, white plastic straw, taking it out of the doctor’s hands. He sucked contently, and Tara relished the quiet, even though she was already dreading the moment she’d have to take it away before it was dissolved enough to be a choking hazard for the 11 month old.
“How far along are you?” Dr. Robbins asked, clicking the pen in her hand open to scribble notes across the clipboard on her lap.
Tara’s hand flew to her stomach, surprised she could tell when almost no one knew until she told them. “About eighteen weeks,” Tara answered, smiling at the sharp-eyed doctor. “I keep putting off my appointment with my OB…I’ve just got so much going on.”
Robbins nodded, and then her super-friendly smile was back as she looked at a sticky-faced Abel. “You hear that, Champ? A few months from now you’re gonna be a big brother! Then I’ll be sneaking your little brother or sister treats I’m really not supposed to give them.”
Tara’s laughter was hollow, but the pediatrician having a blast speaking “Baby” with the blue-eyed boy in her arms was too busy cooing to notice the bitter inflection. Abel could have had two new siblings on the way. And he would have probably only got to see the one growing inside her every other month depending on how generous she wanted to be in family court.
June Stahl was dead. Jimmy O and every other man who had a hand in keeping Abel away from his family were, too. And Salazar, the man who held her captive while Jackson stormed the streets of Belfast had taken a knife to the gut—a pain Tara knew too well, even without an actual hole in her chest to prove it.
She’d been so relieved. Jackson showed up when she needed him. He always did. That part never changed.
It was always when he needed her that he pulled away.
She shouldn’t have been surprised, but the sting of his latest method for pushing her away from him still lingered long after his apology.
Tara had been so goddamn relieved.
Abel was in her arms again—and Jackson put him there.
Salazar got what he deserved—because Jackson saved her, spared her of the fatal end she’d nearly met even after he tried to scare her off. She’d ended up in danger anyway, and now she still had the vivid image of Luann Delaney’s most popular ‘actress’ wearing the Reaper T-shirt she used to put on after he’d shown her how much he loved her in every position she could bend.
It was burned into her brain, and it was still burning her all over.
They were having a baby—and Jackson was happy about it, his reaction had somehow managed to make her grateful to the fallen Calavarez President and Old Lady that kidnapped her because the two villains had helped her towards her happy ending.
A child of her own—a child with the man she’d been in love with since she was sixteen year’s old.
A child that no one with the last name Hayes or Teller could ever snatch away from her.
The honeymoon phase was over quick as it came. The first two nights together, wrapped up in each other’s arm, Jackson’s hand rubbing against her stomach, telling the son he just knew for sure they were having how much he loved him and his mother.
Ima the pornstar sucked all the happy out of those two blissful nights they had before Jackson joined half of his SAMCRO family inside the truck transporting them to Stockton prison.
Tara had to constantly remind herself of the child growing inside her, of the joys of motherhood and her successful, renowned career as a neonatal-Perinatal surgeon. She rubbed her stomach and reminded herself over and over, thinking about all that she’d stand to lose if he she grabbed the .38 hidden behind the counter when Ima sashayed her way into the clubhouse to announce that she was pregnant.
Tara couldn’t talk about the joy of watching Abel babble along to all the songs Elmo was singing when she put on a movie for him in the living room. She couldn’t talk to him about how well she’d been getting along with Gemma. She couldn’t even bring herself to remember to tell him she’d gotten Abel into daycare.
Tara spent her very first and last visit to Stockton screaming, crying, and attacking.
Jackson’s grace period was over—and Tara Knowles had no more than her middle name to give him.
“Congratulations, Daddy,” Tara hissed at him, slamming the sonogram photo down on the greasy visitation table between them. “Maybe this one’s a girl…and maybe she’ll suck cock for a living just like her mother.”
Jackson swore the baby couldn’t have possibly been his. “I wore a condom,” He told her, as if him wearing a rubber made a big fuckin difference.
It neither hurt nor helped that they would never get to find out if it really was Dondo’s like Lyla assured her it was.
It didn’t matter if the baby wasn’t his, and it wasn’t because Ima did society a favor by exercising her right to choose. It was because the fact that they were having the conversation they’d both been avoiding since he got back from Belfast just in time to play the role of selfless hero…it was a blood-curdling rude awakening.
It was because being graceful, and looking at the bigger picture, giving him a pass on the deal breaker he’d deliberately broken wasn’t going to work for her anymore. Ima had forced her hand.
And that hand was stinging just like the angry red handprint on Jackson’s face when he had to nerve to tell her he thought they were, “getting past it.”
Tara only had two choices.
Stand up and leave the jail right then, or end up rocking an ugly, orange jumpsuit of her own for killing his pigheaded ass.
“You okay, Mom?”
Tara’s eyes snapped up, half-expecting to see Gemma standing there in front of her, asking a question that sounded half-hearted, almost mocking as of late when she asked. These past few weeks she’d just been going through the motions, not even bothering to let the mistrustful way Gemma looked at her get under her skin.
She wasn’t sixteen anymore.
So fuck her and her approval.
“Yeah,” Tara answered, hugging Abel against her hip when she stood up. “I don’t need the prescription. If he spikes a fever, I have some Tylenol at home for him.”
“Alright, take it easy Mom.” Dr. Arizona Robbins widened her eyes, and her smile was purely for Abel as she waved at him. “Bye Abel! Feel better, little man.”
Tara dropped Abel back off at Gemma’s house.
She wasn’t in the mood to sit around and talk either, so she handed him off at the front door, kissed him goodbye and half-waved at the scowling grandmother watching her leave as she made her way to her car.
Gemma had no idea that Tara was doing them both a favor. Because if she had to hear another motivational speech for women whose boyfriend’s couldn’t keep their dicks out of other females, the carving fork in the middle drawer, three spaces away from the serving spoons might have been used for more than slicing smoked ham at Gemma’s next pancake breakfast.
Tara only had two minutes to settle into the solitude of her private office before her cell phone was ringing. She pulled it from her purse, green eyes scanning the caller I.D.
Jackson had been calling her every day and night, back to back no matter how many times she hit the ignore button. Most nights she didn’t even press ignore. Sometimes she pressed the send button just to listen to the operator ask if she wanted to accept the collect call from, “Jackson Teller,” just so she growl, “No!” and snap the phone shut.
It didn’t matter that Jackson likely got the same message no matter what method she chose. The rejection was all the same on his end of the phone, but the yelling made her feel a lot better. Especially on nights when her cellphone ringtone woke her up during the few peaceful moments of sleep she was able to grasp.
Tara hadn’t been up to visit him since she rushed the iron gates just so she could scream at him for fucking up their second chance to be happy together. And she hadn’t accepted a single one of his phone calls after the first when she’d nearly given him a heart attack by lying about Ima keeping the baby, telling him that was the only newborn he’d have to look forward too. A late term abortion was out of the question, and not just because Tara had already decided to keep it—for herself.
But it was the highlight of her week hearing him choke on his own words, listening to him struggle to find any to say before her name on his tongue lost the power it usually held when he pleaded with it. Tara hung up on him, and she hadn’t seen or spoken to him since then.
Today would be the first time in weeks.
“This is a collect from—”
“Asshole,” Tara muttered over the voicemail, right before pressing the key to accept it, instead of willing herself to do so verbally.
Tara smirked, noting the shock in his voice, completely ignoring the relief. “Were you expecting someone else?”
“Babe, I’ve been trying to reach you for—”
“I know,” Tara interrupted. She busied herself with the stack of paperwork on her desk, pulling a form she had no intention on giving a second look until then. “What do you want? I’m at work.”
“I want to talk to you,” Jackson said into her ear. When she offered him no angle in he continued with, “I want you to talk to me.”
“You sure about that?” Tara challenged, scraping the pen in her hand against the papere so hard it pierced through to the other side when she signed the final letter of her last name across the dotted line. “Because I have a lot to say, but I don’t think you want to hear it.”
Jackson sighed, his labored breath crackling through the phone’s connection. “How’s Abel doing?”
“He’s fine,” Tara answered. The pen froze in her hand, and the anger twisting up her face was momentarily replaced with intrigue. “If he doesn’t spike a fever tonight, I should be able to enroll him into daycare…your mother’s going to hate it but…”
“That’s good,” Jackson replied immediately, cutting her off. “It’s good that both my sons are going to be with their mommy all day….”
Damn it, she tried.
She’d tried really fuckin hard not to smile.
But it didn’t really count because he couldn’t see it, right?
“Isn’t it about time for them to do that ultrasound shit?” Jackson pressed on. “Do they give you a picture every time or….I missed all of this first time and I….I fuckin hate that I’m missing it now, Babe.”
“You’ll be out before either one of them remembers any of it,” Tara assured him. She slapped a hand to forehead, remembering that she was supposed to be in bitch mode, blind rage mode—instead of comforting the man who was the last person on Earth deserving of any comfort from her.
“I’ll remember it,” Jax muttered, and Tara could just see him shaking his head, raking a hand through his hair as he said it. “You’ll remember it…this isn’t how this was supposed to happen.”
“No,” Tara replied, frowning again. “It isn’t.”
“How’s everything at work?” Jackson asked her. “Fix anymore tiny hearts recently?”
Her heart was the one that needed fixing these days, and the tone of his voice made it clear he was thinking along the same lines. It was both a gift and a curse being so attuned with a person who could make your whole world complete and shatter it in a split second. “I’m at work right now, Jackson. And I have a mountain of paperwork I need to get through…”
“Well I don’t want to disrupt your day, Babe.…but I was just wondering….Ope came up here to see me the other day.” Jackson paused, and Tara shut her eyes. She could barely hear his voice through the storm going on her brain as she chased after the anger that should have been there, the contempt and hurt that would have alleviated the inevitable guilt she’d feel when he told her about Lyla coming with Opie, and bringing the kids, too.
Gemma couldn’t do the one thing, no one else but Tara had permission to do. House arrest didn’t allow for carting Abel back and forth to visit Daddy and Tara wanted to wait until she felt she could handle being in a room with him without screaming or crying to take the hyper tot up to see his father. Even if she didn’t want to see him, she knew Abel did.
And so Tara was prepared to concede when Jackson brought up visitation. She was ready to make it clear that she would only be there to escort Abel—not to be trapped into sorting through their problems because they were going to do things on her timetable this time around.
If at all.
“….Opie told me you’ve been spending a lot of time with some new doc that just rolled into town,” Jackson said, instead of vying for visitation with Abel—or her for that matter. “He’s too chicken shit to ask you himself…but he says you two seem like old friends….like you’ve known each other a lot longer than a few weeks….” Tara sat there, the temperature in her body rising the more he talked, the longer she let him tie the noose around his own throat. “I guess I can’t blame him…he doesn’t know what usually happens to men who follow you back to your hometown, does he Babe?”
Tara hoped to heaven that Jackson could picture this version of her smile clearly in his head. Her smile was sharp—predatory in every way that would have made him stop speaking a long time ago had he seen it. “I fucked up, Tara,” Jackson continued. “And I know you want to hurt me back. I fuckin deserve it after what I did but….”
“But what, Jackson?” Tara snapped, clicking the pen in her hand again open again. There was a cup full of them on her desk. And a pair of scissors. So many sharp objects, and not a single fuckin target. “But what?”
He was glaring at her right then, she was sure of it. And his smile had that threatening gleam to it that used to always turn her on when they were teenagers. “Does he know you’re pregnant? Does he know you’re carrying my child?”
“I told him I volunteered to be surrogate,” Tara lied, grinning as she anticipated his reaction. “A happy married couple have been trying for years with no luck, so I figured I’d help them out. He thinks I’m amazing for doing something so selfless. Turns out his parents had him through a surrogate because his mom got breast cancer like mine. We just have so much in common…so much to talk about. The dinner he cooks me is usually cold by the time we’re finish telling each other about our day…how we saved lives instead of ending them…but I won’t lie to you, Baby…these pregnancy hormones…I’m always looking forward to dessert when he cooks for me. He cooks for me, Jackson. He cooks for himself…He doesn’t need his mother.”
Jackson slammed his fist against something. And then there was a guard in the background yelling, “Watch it inmate!”
“You must want another fifty years added to my sentence,” Jackson growled into her ear.
“At this point I don’t really give a shit.” Tara shrugged even though he couldn’t see her. “I’m used to being a single mother by now. All those runs you’re always making…..you won’t be running any time soon, that’s for damn sure. Good thing my job has health insurance. Go ahead and be an idiot. Won’t surprise me at all,” Tara taunted, laughing when she heard the guard warn him he’d get a “Shot” when he slammed the receiver against the payphone for the third time.
“You think this shit is funny, Tara?” Jackson fumed. “Is this making you feel better?”
Tara smirked. “No, it’s not actually,” She replied. “But it sure sounds like it’s making you feel bad. What’s the matter, Baby? Am I hurting your feelings? Don’t worry, Jackson. All you have to do is drop the soap. I’m sure there’s a line of men waiting for a chance to tap your pretty ass. And we both know how much sticking your dick into random holes makes you feel better.”
“Maybe you can find yourself a prison bitch,” Tara joked. “Someone to help you scratch the itch until you can come home to Mrs. I’m-tight”
“Cut it the fuck out!” Jackson screamed. “This isn’t going to help shit! This isn’t how we get through this.”
“Let me tell you how this is going to work,” Tara hissed, dropping every ounce of amusement from her tone. “You can call once a day and ask me about your son—the one I’m taking care of while you squat in a prison cell. Or you can ask me on a scale of one to ten how badly I wanted to punch your mother in her mouth when I saw her last. You can even ask me to make use of three-way call option and connect you to the porn hotline so you can ask Ima how long and hard her day was. What you can’t do is call to question me about the life I live outside of the one that almost got me killed. Which is your life—it’s the life and the glue’s not sticking anymore because FUCK you!”
“Tara…Babe…..I’m sorry for—”
“YOU CAN’T SAY I’M SORRY EITHER!” Tara screamed. “I’m sick of hearing it, Jax. It doesn’t help, and it doesn’t change how I feel.”
“You have to tell me what’s going to help,” Jackson begged, breaking the strained silence when the operator announced the three minutes left on the line. “You have to tell me how to fix this, Tara. I don’t want to lose you. You and my boys…that’s the only thing keeping me together in here, Babe. I love you….and I swear to God—”
Tara cringed as the line went dead.
She cursed him for saying the words that still hadn’t lost their meaning no matter how badly she want them to.
And she cursed herself for feeling empty inside, disappointed when the line disconnected because even when she was screaming and saying things to hurt him, even when he saying everything her heart knew better than to believe—she still loved hearing his voice.
She could still hear his heart beating with hers, in perfect sync from miles away—even now. Not even her cellphone crashing to the floor after it hit the wall across from her desk when she launched it across the room, not even that could drown it out.
That and the cellphone crashing, and the strangled sob making her ears ring blocked out the sound of her office door opening, and the tears blurring her vision had hindered her from realizing just how close she’d come to blinding Jackson’s best friend in one of his eyes.
Opie Winston was gently shutting the office behind him, walking further into the room, slowly—every bit the nervous giant Jackson told her he was.
“So I guess you finally answered when he called,” Opie muttered. If Tara hadn’t been so distraught she might have laughed when he purposefully avoided to two perfectly fine seating options in front of her desk to sit down on the couch further away—out of range.
Or so he thought.
“What do you want, Opie?” Tara croaked, scowling at the man studying her tearstained face intently. “I don’t have time to sit around and talk. Some of us have real jobs.”
“I went through this same shit with Donna,” Opie mused, braving a smile in her direction. “Pregnancy….I told Jax he was fooling himself if he thought y’all were past it. It’s only been a few months. When Donna was pregnant with Ellie she was flashing back to when I fucked up when were seventeen. Delayed rage….that’s what she told me it was while I was holding a icepack over my eye and sitting on the remote she threw at my face so she wouldn’t try it again the next time I decided to look through a Harley manual instead of cleaning out the shed and taking out Junior’s old crib like she asked me to.”
Tara rolled her eyes. “I don’t need a story,” She told him. “And Jax doesn’t need you speaking up for him. You did enough of that shit in High school. I’m older now, I know better than to think you’re on my side, too.”
Opie leaned forward on the couch. “I am on your side, Tara,” He promised. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. You’re the closest thing I’ve ever had to a sister. And Jax….he is my brother, Kutte or no Kutte. I love you both, and I know you’re both better when you’re together. Especially Jax.”
“You should have told him that when you saw that porn slut getting off the back of his bike,” Tara bit back.
Opie sighed, tugging at the beanie on his head. “What he did with her…he was giving you an out, knowing you would take it. He couldn’t see any other way of getting you to do what he thinks is best for you.”
“Bullshit,” Tara snapped. “If that’s all you got I might as well pack my shit and leave tonight!”
“It’s the truth,” Opie insisted. “He was willing—”
“Then why am I a bitter bitch for giving him exactly what he wants?” Tara challenged. “He wanted me gone, so I’m gone. Oh, but wait, No—he changed his mind! He did the same shit Gemma’s been accusing me of doing—more often than I change my panties according to her! Why is the Prince of Charming the only one allowed to change his mind? Why do I have to sacrifice? Why am I always the one who has to sacrifice? He made me look like a fuckin idiot. In front of all of you and I’m just supposed to grin and bear it. Why the Hell should I? Because I’m the glue?”
“You’re supposed to stay,” Opie replied. “For better or for—”
“You see a ring on my finger?” Tara held her left hand up, flashing the naked back of it in his face. “It’s not like it would mean much to him anyway. The only symbol of commitment he knows how to honor is the one tattooed on his back.”
“And what about the one on your back?” Opie challenged. “He didn’t even ask you to get it. Donna broke up with me that same weekend and I wanted to punch him in the throat because he couldn’t stop smiling about how you surprised him.”
“I left it there to remind me all of this shit was behind me,” Tara quipped. “Apparently I forgot. But don’t worry….I won’t be forgetting again.”
Opie narrowed his eyes at her—and the shock of it being the first time since they were sixteen momentarily stilled the spring in her step as Tara braced herself against her desk, waiting for him to say something that would give her good reason to jump over it and make the late Donna Winston proud.
“He was going to let Abel go, too,” Opie said. Tara sat back in her chair as the words hung in the air for a moment before he continued—telling her something Jax hadn’t, something they both knew he’d be pissed at Opie for revealing.
If Tara ever told him about it.
Opie found comfort in the unlikelihood of her doing so.
After all, it had been a good twelve years and Jax still didn’t know that Opie told Tara that he cried the first time she broke up with him for giving Stacy Reeves a ride home because Tara bailed for the third time to study for her a test. He was just trying to make her jealous. He wanted word to get back to her so she’d start acting like it meant something to be Jackson Teller’s girl—the first and only one he’d been willing to claim.
Tara sure showed his ass.
And not even a whole three years later, Tara eventually got to see him break down in person, right before she sobbed the whole ride to San Diego to move in with her aunt. So really what harm had Opie’s well-meaning slip of the tongue done anyway?
And what good would it do now?
“There was this priest,” Opie told her. “Kellan Ashby….Jax’s father had another Old Lady in Belfast…his younger sister…” Opie winced when he saw Tara’s face. It had occurred to him too late that he could have left the elder Teller’s history of sleeping around out of the story meant to help his friend get his girl back.
“….Hayes brought Abel to her, and then her brother handed Abel over to some catholic orphanage…it was a godddamn baby factory, is what it was….and by the time we figured out where Abel was, the nuns had already given him to this married couple…”
Tara swallowed hard. “But you found him….you found Abel and—”
“Jax found Abel,” Opie amended. “He went on his own…went after them….and then he came back empty handed. He was willing to let him go, too….”
“He didn’t,” Tara replied. “But I had to….that irish man I patched up,” Tara lips trembled with the tears pouring down her face. “He’s not the one who took Abel from me….he’s not the one who took my son away from me….Jackson did. He took him from me when he told me he wasn’t mine. You want to know what I’m thinking about when I put him to bed every night? I’m thinking about how many times Jax uses our instead of my in front of the word son when he talks about him….I’m thinking about when Gemma told me that if Abel was my kid if I would have saved him. And every time, I think about forgiving him…giving him a second chance, or a third chance, and the fourth and fifth chance he’ll be begging for down the line….I think about why I’m doing it….why I’m even thinking about it…and it always comes back to Abel…Opie, if Abel wasn’t here I wouldn’t be. I still love him, I never stopped loving him and I know that I won’t no matter how hard I try. But I left him before….and I could do it again…if it wasn’t for Abel….the son who isn’t my family,”Tara seethed, glaring. “…I could do it again.”
“And you’d be right back here in—”
“No I wouldn’t,” Tara growled, slamming her hand down on the desk. “This isn’t high school. He wasn’t offering some pom-pom skank a ride home to get my attention. I told him exactly where he shouldn’t aim the knife and he cut straight through without even blinking. I’m done….that’s what he said to me right before he fucked her. Well guess what? Now I’m the one that’s done. Abel is the only one keeping me here and as soon as Gemma gets that bracelet off her ankle—as soon as she snatches him out of my arms again, I’m out of here. I promise you, and Opie? I keep my promises.”
Opie smirked, shook his head at her. “No…you, don’t,” He accused. “You already broke the promise he never asked you for to begin with. The one inked in above your bony ass, Sis. And now you’re breaking it again. He thought you were better off without him…that you would be safe…he’s a fuckin idiot because even now he still believes you’re better—”
“I AM BETTER OFF!” Tara screamed, jumping up. “I’m better off without him!”
Opie was still smirking at her—and the mirth in his eyes was condescension at its purest. “You sure about that, Tara?” He challenged, walking past her desk to open her office door and walk out. “Because the way I see it, you had a good ten years of better…and you ended up right back here with Jax.”
“Get the fuck out of my office.” Tara’s words were pointless. He was already twisting the handle. “Go sell all your outlaw love bullshit to someone dumb enough to buy into it.”
Opie chuckled. His laugh was hearty and full—and it contrasted with the anger darkening his eyes. “You do what you have to do, Tara,” Opie said, stepping out into the hallway. “I guess I’ll see you back here in another ten years. Maybe you’ll find another psycho-boyfriend and bring him here for your Old man to take care of…since that’s the only thing he’s good for.”