“ALL I WANT IS YOU”
‘Cause they don’t smile,
…Or smell like you
And they don’t make me laugh,
Or even cook like you…
And they don’t photograph
… Nah, they don’t sex like you
Let’s face it.
I can’t replace it
That’s why all I want is you
“Please enter your password. Then press pound.”
Tara’s thumb danced across the keys of the cellphone in her hand as she turned the steering wheel, pulling the shiny blue Ford Edge SE to a stop at the edge of the driveway. Shutting the engine off, she pressed the clasps on her seat-belt loose, shifting in the warm, leather chair vibrating against her back.
“You have seven new voice messages. New message…Tara, this is Dr. Montgomery calling to confirm your appointment for tomorrow afternoon. This is the third time you’ve rescheduled, Tara. Based on your last physical and your recent blood work there’s no reason to be concerned but I would—“
“Message Deleted. New message…. Hey, it’s Alicia. I’m calling you from my new office. The landline in my apartment is on the fritz. I’m pretty sure the building owner is trying to force tenants with current lease agreements into buying or moving out early. I’m sorry for getting back to you so late. But if you’ve managed to keep up with the news out here in Chicago then you already know Peter’s campaign is in full swing and I’ve conceded to playing the role of the Good Wife…at least until the election is over and I can get back to my own career. Anyway…you said you needed legal advice about adoption? I’m all ears, Tee. Just phone me back and we’ll talk….it was nice hearing from you…I know I kept you at arms’ length after the whole call girl scandal but….I really miss you….phone me back at this number, okay? Alright…Bye…”
“Message saved. New message….Hey, Tara…It’s Alex… Listen….Okay, so I guess we can go ahead and mark what happened the other day as the second worst proposal you’ve ever turned me down for…shit….Okay, here’s the thing—”
Tara sighed, lips curving downward as nervous laughter vibrated through the speakers of the phone on her knee. Guilt prickled through her hand as her thumb hovered over key number seven.
“…I think you’re making a mistake….I know you are…You shouldn’t let how I…you shouldn’t let personal feelings get in the way of your profession… This is your career…. It’s not just me, Tee. Dr. Namid swears by you….I’ve heard nothing but good things from every surgical attending you’ve worked under…Margaret Murphy can’t stop raving about you, and now I’m hearing something about a hospital in Oregon? Chicago Presbyterian? It’s not just about what I think…I’m speaking on behalf of my partners as well….they want you, too. You’re an asset…. It’s a smart move, Tara. You shouldn’t let the fact that we—“
“Message deleted! New message…Hi, Tara…this is Ms. Harper from Daycare… I’m sorry I wasn’t there when you dropped Abel off last week. There was an emergency with one of the other children so I didn’t get a chance to sit down and talk with you. If you want to set a specific date and time to do that it’s no problem, but I really don’t think it’s necessary. His first day seems to have been the normal anxiety kids feel initially when they’re separated from their parents. The rest of the week was perfect. Abel’s a welcome addition to our little group…In fact, the reason I’m calling now is because I noticed that someone is going to be a one year old in a few weeks. Are you planning on throwing him a little class party? It’s great for the kids—they love it. And we haven’t had a birthday in a few months so it’ll be a nice surprise. Let me know, okay? I’ll see you Monday.”
“Message saved….New message….Tara, I just got your message. I am SO sorry I didn’t get back to you in time. My boyfriend surprised me with a weekend getaway at this really nice resort and spa and since you said that Gemma’s going to keep Abel overnight on Fridays now I just figured you didn’t need me anymore until the new baby comes. Plus I just got a new babysitting job…just something to keep my funds up until your mini-me is here. Oh! Did you find out the sex yet? I hope it’s a girl, too! They’re way more fun to shop for and….what? No, why would….Jesus Christ. Alright, hold on a second…I SAID HOLD ON A SECOND! I gotta go, Tara. My boyfriend acts like he’s dying of Cancer when he gets a head cold. Just call me when you need to me to watch the munchkin—“
“Message deleted. New message….Hi, Tara it’s Ally. Listen, I’m just giving you a heads up. I slipped up with Gemma the other day. I may have accidentally tipped her off to you—”
“Message saved. New message…”
Tara pressed the |END| button, flipping the phone shut and tossing it back into the open purse in the front passenger seat. Accident my ass, She thought, mashing the palm of her hand against the center of the steering wheel. The car’s horn blared loudly, likely annoying neighbors residing in the surrounding homes. At that moment she didn’t care though. As far as Tara was concerned anyone who felt disturbed should take it up with the SAMCRO matriarch peeking out at her through the blinds hanging over the front windows of her living room.
Gemma Teller was the literal meaning of the word ‘vindictive’.
This was especially true when it came to Tara Knowles—the one person who, in her eyes, always managed to come between her and her son. And after several days of incurring her latest rendition of—I’ll show you who runs shit—wrath, the vivid memory of a conversation she’d listened in on a couple nights before was the only thing keeping the young doctor’s temper at bay. Instead of jumping out of the car to pound her fists against the front door until the wood splintered, Tara put all her focus on picturing Gemma’s face when she heard her son’s angry voice on the other end the call for the first time in weeks. Tara sat back, playing it over and over in her mind’s eyes while she waited for Gemma to get around to bringing Abel to the door so they could stop by the store before closing time on their way home.
Tara would have been willing to spend it all—every last dollar she had in her bank account. It didn’t matter how priceless she knew Gemma’s expression was either. Tara would have gladly paid—killed even—just to get a glimpse of the dumbfounded look on the matriarch’s face.
“Your mother is going to make me kill her,” Tara had told him. It was the first words out of either of their mouths the second the operator cleared her acceptance of the collect call from Stockton Prison. Jax’s answering chuckle filtered through the phone. It wasn’t quite music to her ears, but rather a sound that elicited emotions all-too familiar, a feeling that briefly plagued her mind with memories of him laughing against the nape of her neck—gripping her tighter even after the elbow she’d aimed towards his stomach for making fun of how vocal she was during sex.
“I’ve got a feeling those would have been the first words I heard out of my mother’s mouth if I would have dialed her number first,” Jax joked.
She could hear the sardonic smile he was probably flashing through the phone. But Tara wasn’t in a playful mood, not by a longshot. “Does that mean I’m finally first in line for something? I always wondered what that would feel like. You putting me before Gemma and the club—”
“I’m not fuckin doing this with you, Tara,” Jax interrupted. What was left of her sandwich had toppled out of the plastic container when she’d knocked it off her desk with the palm she’d slammed down on the mahogany surface. “You want to curse me out some more? Tell me what an asshole I am—that I’m not worth shit? Come do it in person. I didn’t call you for that. I called because I want to know when you’re coming up here…when you’re bringing Abel to see me…”
“According to your mother I won’t have much rights to decide anything when it comes to Abel.”
Silence had followed her statement on the other end of the call, and for so long that she’d lifted the phone pressed to her to make certain the call hadn’t disconnected.
“Your phone has call waiting right?” Tara had nodded her answer to his random question. She’d verbalized it seconds after she’d remembered he couldn’t see her, nor the puzzled expression on her face. “Call Gemma,” He told her. And while it was number one on an increasingly long list of things she didn’t want to do Tara had found herself doing exactly as he asked. “…You can put the phone down, Babe…I would have called her by myself but I only get the one call and—”
“No, I get it…”
“Well would you look at who remembered how to use their cellphone for something other than sending text messages!”Gemma sneered, her voice abruptly blasting through the phone line. “You got a lot of fuckin nerve, calling me after all that slick shit you said. You get WHAT? Why I never liked your selfish, disloyal ass? Why things with you and my son were never going to work? I hope you’re not calling to apologize because I don’t want to fuckin hear it. You’re done here. And you better be happy I still got this bracelet around my ankle. If I wasn’t locked up in this house—”
“You’d do WHAT?” Jax barked, finally cutting his mother’s rant off.
And damn it if it wasn’t the best part of Tara’s day.
“What were you going to do without the bracelet around your ankle?” He’d growled, ignoring the shock in his mother’s voice. “What the fuck is wrong with you?”
There was only one other time Tara could remember Jackson ever truly losing his temper with his mother. It was when they were seventeen and Gemma had out of the blue invited Tara over for the club’s usual Sunday dinner at her house. This unexpected invitation had come after almost a year of pretending her son’s girlfriend didn’t exist. Hindsight wasn’t necessary to know she’d been up to something from the start, especially given the fact that she’d never bothered to utter a word that wasn’t “gash” under her breath in the young brunette’s direction. But Tara had steadfastly refused to be the one of the two most important women in Jax’s life that refused to play nice when the SAMCRO matriarch sweetly suggested she stop by earlier than the others to help her cook so they could get to know each other better.
Playing nice had earned Tara an earful—Pot roast, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and an extra-generous helping of Outlaw 101 served up just for her. Gemma wanted Tara to know one of the most important aspect of life as a SON’s Old Lady. And by the time she’d finished educating her on the philosophy of ‘What happens on a run’ Jax was swaggering, lazily, down the steps, directly into a firestorm of his meddling mother’s making. Tara wanted to know if that was “what the fuck,” Emily Baker meant three weeks ago when she’d brushed those cheap acrylic nails across his shoulder, telling him to let her know when his next “run” was and she’d be there.
It was a rare moment, seeing the devout momma’s boy tearing his own mother a new ass hole; But back then she couldn’t fully appreciate it because while he was in the next room cursing Gemma out for “fucking with his relationship” Tara had been too busy counting back in her head to all the “club runs” he and Opie had run off to, on past weekends and wondering if he’d gotten a ‘harmless’ blowjob from some skank every time or just the one she definitely knew of based on his facial expression when she’d screeched Emily’s name.
It was a Hell of a lot easier to forgive all of Jackson’s many fuck-ups back when they were teenagers.
Getting road head was no big deal.
It wasn’t his fault when he got an attitude about her not wanting to skip more classes than she attended when they first started dating—he was raised not to give a shit about school, because being an outlaw didn’t require a diploma.
She had no reason to be afraid when Jax damn near beat David Hale into a coma for making out with her at his own house party three days after her and Donna had learned all about his and Opie’s frequent ‘runs’—beating the shit out of any guy who stands to come between you and what’s yours was the outlaw way.
All Tara had to do was blame his manipulative mother, blame Jax’s absentee father for the misogynistic lifestyle the fallen man had raised him in—and blame John Teller’s successor Clarence ‘Clay’ Morrow for his influence thereafter.
But they weren’t sixteen or seventeen, or nineteen years old anymore. Tara was done holding other people accountable for the now grown ass man she fell in love with in High school. Jax had no other choice but to own his shit, and take care of his business. And despite the cynical part of her brain that wouldn’t let Tara believe that it wasn’t at least partially showmanship for her eavesdropping benefit, she’d been pleased to hear Jax set his mother straight about her role in her Abel’s life.
She’d been doubly pleased when the collect call operator had announced only two minutes remaining before the line disconnected. Gemma’s smarting response to being warned to cut her “bullshit” had left her son with less than a minute to try to capitalize on what he’d just done for her. Tara was grateful, no question. But she was already cringing before Gemma reluctantly clicked her phone’s connection off, leaving only the two of them and the silence humming between them.
“Babe…Tara, listen to me,” He’d started. The phone’s connection had broken just shy of his latest plea for her to hear him out—to talk to him, to come see him and talk to him. Tara had been a jigsaw of warring emotions. Disappointment that he hadn’t gotten the chance to try again at swaying her, relief that complimented her fear of losing her resolve and agreeing to what he wanted from her. And then of course there was the guilt, which quickly snowballed into anger, both with him and herself because she wasn’t the one who should feel bad for the disconnect he caused—and yet she felt awful ninety percent of the time.
Tara glanced up from the dashboard as the sound of Abel’s babbling broke through her thoughts. Just as she was when Tara had come to drop Abel off to his grandmother’s house two days earlier, and the three nights a week Tara agreed to bring Abel by for an hour or two, Gemma Teller-Morrow was standing in her doorway, shooting her the deadliest glare she could muster without setting fire to her own face.
It might have taken a week but eventually Gemma caught on that whatever her latest attempt to piss the busy neonatal surgeon off was it was destined to fail.
The first day of their new ‘Jackson Teller approved’ visitation plan, Gemma had purposefully refused to answer her phone or the door when Tara arrived at 6:30 that evening, as planned. After peeking out at her through the blinds of her living room, most certainly to let her know she was aware of Tara’s presence, Gemma finally opened her front door, with a drowsy Abel Teller in tow—only to see that Tara had made use of the extra forty-five minutes’ time she knew she’d spent waiting. Tara had been filling out the pre-op paperwork for the surgery she’d already called ahead to have Margaret Murphy push back an hour due to a ‘family emergency’ better known as her son’s caged-in granny being a spiteful bitch.
When trying to hold her up the week she’d been assigned the nightshift in the ER didn’t work, it was Tara’s estimation that Gemma had sacrificed the time she could have spent bonding with her grandson to get him to sleep for the two hours (plus extended pick-up waiting time) she had him. The joke was on her of course. Tara had felt guilty agreeing to the late shift to begin with, but if she was serious about not relying on her Old man for anything she needed some of her own money saved up. The fact that Abel was wide awake at eleven in the evening instead of falling asleep after his bedtime story just meant she could teach him how to stack the building blocks she’d bought him. It also meant that when Tara dropped him off after daycare the next day Abel emulated his father’s nasty temper to the fullest—if the look of relief on Gemma’s face when she handed him off at the door on time was anything to go on.
Next up on her list of ways to irritate the Hell out of her son’s scorned ex-girlfriend was clearly sending Abel on his merry way with at least half his weight’s worth of sugar in his system. Abel didn’t need the arm Gemma wrapped around him to serve as a bungee. The little tot was bouncing and babbling and flailing all on his own. Tara could practically smell the sugar exuding from him before she even noticed the juice stains spread out across the brand new ‘Mommy’s little monster’ jumpsuit she’d put on him that morning. His squealing mouth was red, his blue eyes wide and bright as he flung his chubby little arms in her direction, leaning towards her to reach out as she climbed the front steps.
“Hel-looo, my love!” Tara crooned, extending her own arms. As usual, Gemma hesitated, purposefully prolonging the kiss she always pressed to the top of Abel’s head before reluctantly handing him over to enemy No. 1. Tara laughed at the elbow that narrowly missed Gemma’s shocked face when Abel pushed against her neck and shoulder, trying to maneuver his way out of her grasp, towards the pretty, green-eyed brunette in the mint-green scrubs. “Thank you,” Tara said to the scowling grandmother. Her emerald gaze only touched on the confined matriarch long enough to make sure their hands were coordinated during the exchange of eleven-month old joy between them. “Hi, Baby!” Tara chanted, showering dozens of kisses on both of his sticky, trembling cheeks as he giggled.
Is that Hi-C? Tara thought. The soon-to-be mother of two briefly glanced up at the woman leaning in her doorway, watching them as they headed for her truck. She took the sardonic smirk on Gemma’s face as she slammed and shut her front door as confirmation that it was. Bitch. “Mommy has to go to the store,” Tara announced, looking back at the animated little boy strapped in, in the backseat of her truck through her rear-view mirror. “You ready to toss everything you can reach into mommy’s cart?”
As it turned out, getting Abel hopped up on sugar before handing him over wasn’t the only Sunday evening trick Gemma had up her sleeve. Tara might have thought herself paranoid but for the fact that Gemma knew how difficult her grandson was when it came to being told he couldn’t have something he wanted. Abel had a thing for keys—his mother’s car and house keys in particular. It had taken some time but eventually Tara had gotten him used to the idea of playing with the plastic, multicolored keys she’d purchased just for him. He’d come accustom to being handed the kid-friendly version. Even in spite of the less impressive sound when he banged them against the nearest surface or the fact that they weren’t anything like the ones he loved to snatch from Tara’s purse whenever her handbag was in sight.
When Tara twisted her keys out of the ignition, sliding out of the truck to pull Abel’s bright-red Elmo cover over her shopping cart, it hadn’t occurred to her that she needed to stash away the car keys still looped around her fingers when she opened the back passenger door to get him. He swatted the hand pulling at the clasps of his car seat away, and those same grubby little hands were reaching for the car keys as Tara leaned over to grab the diaper bag she’d placed in the front passenger seat.
His keys weren’t in the bag.
Tara was willing to bet dollars to doughnuts Gemma had kept her prize possession—her go-to distraction purely to make her evening difficult.
And for once, Gemma had nearly succeeded.
“No…these are mommy’s keys,” Tara explained, sighing when the first signs of Abel’s tantrum manifested in the form of his trembling bottom lip. “Mommy can’t lose these, Abel. If you drop them, mommy can’t drive you home…or to daycare so you can play with your friends? Oh, come on Abel….Abel!”
Abel’s cry of protest sounded in the backseat of the truck like a fire engine—and all passing eyes were on her as she scrambled to find her last resort in the purse she’d accidentally knocked onto the floor-mat on the driver’s side in her haste to get the fun-sized banshee in her backseat to stop wailing like he was being murdered. “Here,” Tara exclaimed, fishing out the ring of keys to Jax’s house, her father’s and the storage unit she’d recently rented. Reluctantly, she threw the loop to the St. Thomas designed Keychain necklace around his shrieking head. Abel settled down at once, fingering the keys jingling against his round stomach as Tara lifted him out of the car seat, placing him into the cart. “You’re just like your father,” Tara mumbled to herself, pushing the cart towards the front entrance of Monroe Market.
It was almost smooth sailing from there—all the way up until Abel found the prospect of knocking as many boxes of instant oatmeal off the shelf as he could more amusing then the keys laced around his neck. Tara’s effort to pick them up—in the middle of the narrow, cluttered aisle proved futile as Abel managed to reach far enough to knock two or three more down for every one she picked up. Without looking, Tara did exactly what she’d been trying to avoid, zig-zagging the shopping cart through the middle of the aisle in effort to put the shelf out of reach, only to glance up when the cart’s metal clanged against something solid, and moving—something that grunted in pain.
“Shit,” Tara muttered under her breath, standing upright to shoot a look of empathy towards the handsome, bald-headed man subtly pressing a palm to his stomach. “I am so sorry,” She said, turning to narrow her eyes at the blue-eyed boy watching their interaction intently. Of course Abel would want to give his undivided attention to the chaos he caused. It was the effect that was usually most entertaining to a child.
“It’s alright,” The man said, chuckling lightly. He raised a hand, playfully wriggling his fingers at the little boy in her cart as he told her, “I’ve had worse, trust me. I’m actually looking forward to my own grocery shopping nightmares.”
“He says that like he’ll be the one doing any of the shopping….or dealing with the little nightmare.” Tara turned her head towards the woman walking up behind them, tying a loose knot at the end of the plastic bag full of green and red peppers in her hand. “Hi, I’m Rita,” said the brown-skinned woman with the sparkling smile as she held her hand out. “We’re new here in Charming…just moved into our place yesterday…I’ve gotta say…we’ve only been here two days and I can already see…the name really doesn’t say it all…not by a longshot.”
Tara’s smile matched hers as she shook the woman’s hand. “Tara,” she replied. As she turned her head, her smile was twice as warm and inviting when she extended her hand towards the man she’d just finished assaulting with her shopping cart. “Sorry,” she repeated, nodding her head towards the eleven-month old sitting in the front compartment of the shopping cart. Abel was back to grunting with concentration as he struggled to reach the boxes he’d managed to knock into the back of the cart.
“Eli Roosevelt,” The man proclaimed, waving off her apology with the hand that wasn’t shaking hers. “And don’t worry. Even if I was willing to charge you for assault, I can’t make any official arrests until I’m sworn in tomorrow morning.”
Tara’s eyes widened. “You’re the new Sheriff?”
“San Joaquin County’s Charming-Morada substation Lieutenant at your service,” Eli stated, making a show of tipping an imaginary hat in her direction. “I start this week.”
“Wow. Congratulations,” Tara replied, smiling. Her eyes were darting back and forth, between the couple standing in front of her and Abel, who seemed to be losing patience with getting what he wanted from the back of the cart. A temper tantrum wasn’t far off, she could tell. The best she could do to keep Abel from getting restless while she shopped was keep the cart in motion, so she intended to do just that.
And it must have shown on her face because the next words out of Rita Roosevelt’s mouth were, “Come on, Honey. You can brag about your credentials some other time. Let the woman finish her shopping….it was nice meeting you, Tara.”
Eli Roosevelt nodded, casting a wink and another wriggling of his fingers in Abel’s disinterested direction. “Right,” He agreed. “I guess I’ll see you around Ms. Knowles.”
“Say Buh-Bye,” Tara cooed, making a show of waving Abel’s hand for him as he pushed the shopping cart, easing it towards the other end of the aisle. It hadn’t occurred to her until she was ringing up her groceries that she’d never given Eli Roosevelt her last name.
Thanks to Gemma’s duplicity, it had taken Tara an extra fifteen minutes to settle a cranky, sugar-high crashing Abel down when they finally made it home. Abel steadfastly refused to give up the keys around his neck, nor the ones he’d fished out of mommy’s purse when she walked around to pull a few groceries bags from the open truck to carry inside when she brought him into the house on the first trip. “Mommy’s sorry she forgot your keys,” Tara crooned, holding a twisting, flailing Abel tightly to her side as she sought out the keys to the front door with one hand. “You can have mine back when I get you inside okay?”
Abel wasn’t willing to listen to anything that wasn’t the sound of jingling keys in his palm when she forked them over the second she sat him inside the playpen set up in the middle of the living room. But the keys weren’t enough when she walked out of the house to finish bringing in the groceries. Maybe it was what any normal baby would do when they were accustomed to their parents always being in clear view when they were around. Or maybe the effects of being snatched away from Jax and Tara and everyone else he’d grown familiar with those three weeks he’d been in Belfast still had a lingering effect on him. Whatever the reason, Abel wasn’t keen on being left alone—not when he didn’t have free reign to waddle behind her.
Leaving him alone, confined inside of the all-in-one pack-and-play she’d ordered after tossing Opie and Donna’s hand-me-down was unacceptable.
“Okay, okay, oooh-Kay. Mommy’s all done,” Tara explained, scooping him up just as soon as she’d clicked the locks on her truck and snapped the front door shut. Abel was sniffling, still shaking the ring of keys in his hand as she carried him into the kitchen, putting the groceries away with one hand while she balanced him on her hip.
Tara was done tucking away all of the food that needed refrigerating, save for the pack of chicken breast she’d left out on the counter. She was moving to restock the pantry and kitchen cabinets with the assortment of cereal, coffee, bread and more when the house phone rang. Tara gasped, turning her head to widen her eyes at the little boy in her arms. “You hear that?” She mock-whispered. “I wonder who that is…. should we answer the phone? Huh? Want to find out who’s calling?”
Tara grabbed the cordless phone off the receiver, making a beeline for the living room. Quickly as she could manage with herself—plus two—the smiling doctor eased her way down to the floor, sitting Abel across from her before pressing the green button, and then the bottom key, answering the call and putting it on speakerphone simultaneously.
“This is a collect call from….Jackson….”
The squeal of glee that shot out of Abel’s formerly pouting mouth was enough for Tara to skip the extra second or two it would take to verbally accept, pressing the appropriate key instead. A smile that was nearly grudge-free spread across her face when Abel clapped his hands to the sound of his father’s voice once again filtering through the room.
“Hey, little man,” Jax said. “You give your grandma a hard time today?”
Tara snorted, unable to help the snarky interjection that matched the rolling of her eyes when she mumbled, “More like grandma giving me a hard time because she wants me to be serving time for stabbing her with a scalpel.”
The chuckle crackling through the phone line made it clear he’d heard every word. “Hey, Babe…. How was the weekend shift?”
“We’re on Abel’s time,” Tara reminded him. She was pleased that he couldn’t see that she was smiling at the fact that he knew her change in schedule despite her never telling him. She couldn’t have him thinking she was okay with the fact that Opie and his prospect minions were still keeping tabs on her. The fact that she’d found it humorous instead of annoying when she caught their new prospect flirting with the Chief Resident in charge of organizing everyone’s schedule was for her and only her to know about.
“Right…” Tara clamped a hand over her mouth to stifle the laughter threatening to bubble up from her chest as she noted the pout Jax’s mouth was most certainly framed in without being able to see him. Like father, like son to the utmost extent. Luckily the elder Teller had realized losing his temper when she refused to bend to his will would earn him nothing but the dial tone. “Hey, Buddy. You ready for your story? Mommy didn’t read it to you already did she?”
“Gemma held us up,” Tara interjected once again. “He’s not even ready for bed yet. You can read it to him now if you want though. It’s all the same to him.”
“Ready, Champ?” Tara tilted her head back, raising her arms to stretch her body as the two Teller’s bonded over the phone. Abel didn’t even notice her getting up to double-check the deadbolt lock on the front door before heading back towards his bedroom to gather his things to get him ready for his bath and bedtime.
Jax was nearing the final verse of Annie Kubler’s “Wheels on the bus go round and round” when she returned to the living room, with Abel’s rubber ducky in hand, and his tiny, blue terry-cloth robe thrown over her shoulder.
“I love you son,” Tara heard Jax say as he finished the story. “Be good for mommy, okay?”
“Say goodnight to Daddy,” Tara instructed, holding the phone up towards Abel’s mouth. His answering babbling could have been his own version of the goodbye his parents were looking for, but it was quickly drown out by Abel’s hands when he gleefully swatted at the phone when she refused to hand it over. He’d pressed several keys before Tara finally pulled the cordless device to safety—wedging it between her ear and shoulder as she picked the squealing tot up off the floor. “You still there?”
“Yeah….I still have a few minutes left, I think.”
“Okay….well I’m just reminding you that Opie’s bringing Abel up to see you on Tuesday…”
Jax’s sigh tickled her eardrums, resembling the static of poor phone reception. “I don’t need you to remind me that he’s bringing him, Tara. The fact that I get to see my son for the first time in almost—“
“Got it,” Tara interrupted, bringing the latest rendition of his when are you coming to see me? Rant to a halt. That’s what she was trying to do anyway. But much like his son where anything key-related was concerned, Jackson Teller wasn’t having it.
Tara had a clear mental picture of the fingers he was most certainly raking exasperatingly through his dirty blonde hair, imagery that momentarily blocked out her present view of the little boy splashing in the center of the warm, bubbly bath she’d drawn for him. “We’ve done it your way,” Jax lamented. “And I already know—“
“Then why do you keep asking?” Tara blurted, snapping the cap off of the lavender & chamomile Aveeno bath wash in her hand a little harder than necessary.
“You didn’t let me finish my—”
“Yeah,” Tara hissed, snorting nastily. “I bet the porn star did though. The only question is, did you let her finish? I know from experience you can be a little selfish.”
To her surprise, Jax laughed instead of getting angry. “You had me exactly until you said that. You’re full of shit and you know it, Babe. The last thing you could ever call me is selfish. Not when it comes to that.”
“No, you’re right,” Tara retorted, bouncing back like a cat landing on all fours from a three story window. “You’re not selfish at all. And here I thought you were trying to convince me to forget the fact that you’re community dick that anyone can take for a ride.”
“Keep talking like that in front of Abel and he’s going to have some colorful words for his teachers when you drop him off at daycare.”
“Fuck you, Prince,” Tara bit back, lowering her voice as she said it. “I’m sure he hears worse around your crazy ass mother.”
“She been giving you a hard time when you bring Abel by and pick him back up?”
“No,” Tara replied, ignoring the sponge trickling soapy water down her pants leg when she brought a hand to her hip. She cocked an eyebrow, twisted her mouth to one side and waited for it.
“I told you I’d take care of it,” Jax boasted. “You wanted him in daycare? I agreed with you. You w—”
“For Abel’s sake, asshole.” Tara rolled her eyes, reaching to dip the sponge into the water, gently squeezing its fill over Abel’s head. “You want brownie points for that? Really, Jax?”
“I WANT YOU TO STOP BEING A FUCKIN…..”
“….Stop being a what?” Tara prompted when his sentence trailed off. The splashing of water from Abel kicking feet was the only sound for the brief moment between his outburst and the operator’s voice interjecting through the phone line to announce the sixty seconds left on the call. “What would you like me to do for you? What the Hell do you want from me, Jax? What can I do that I haven’t done already—and more times than I can count on both hands? How much shit do I have to shovel before I’ve paid my dues? When am I done bending over backwards, trying to earn the same level of respect you give that patch on your chest? How many sad timeouts do you need to realize that the happy home you’re begging me for isn’t a game—that you can’t take a break from whatever this is when it suits you? You’ve always been there when I needed you. Always…Why am I never allowed to be there for you, too? What the Hell kind of comfort does some random whore have to offer you that I can’t? You want my forgiveness? Get a pen and some paper….and try to come up with some answers I’ll be dumb enough to believe.”
“…I love you,” Jax told her gently.
Tara’s answering laughter nearly choked her as it merged with the sob she’d been fighting to keep at down. “That’s the one thing I’ve never doubted… but it’s not enough this time, Jackson.”
The line went dead then, and for that, Tara was grateful. The open air was cool against her neck and shoulder, quickly drying out the sweat that had permeated her pores from holding the phone to her ear. The lullaby vibrating from her chest, up to her throat was almost on autopilot as she hummed it, fastening the diaper around Abel’s chubby middle while he smacked his hands against his chest, relishing the puff of white-smoke from the baby powder she’d sprinkled on him.
Even when he was sleepy, simply tucking Abel into his bed and turning the carousel of glowing Angels hovering above his head wasn’t enough—not for the past few weeks at least. So Tara flicked the lights off, pulled him up into her arms, and held him snug against her chest as she swayed forward and backward in the rocking chair she’d gifted Jax with after she’d witnessed his first time holding Abel in his arms.
May your dreams bring you peace in the darkness…
May you always rise over the rain….
May the light…from above…. always lead you to love,
May you stay in the arms of the Annngels….
It was the same chair her mother used to rock her to sleep in, the one she’d found buried underneath a mountain of junk in the guest bedroom of the house she’d grown up in—the one that had stopped being a home when her mother passed, leaving a bitter, angry, alcoholic father to raise her only child.
May you always be brave in the shadows,
‘Til the sun shines upon you again…
Hear this prayer in my heart…and we’ll ne’er be apart,
May you stay in the arms of the angels…
Tara had been thinking a lot about her mother lately. How tragic Cancer could have been for her future had she not found someone who loved her enough to remind her that she was worth loving—most especially by herself. Tara learned to love herself, and then she came to realize that she both wanted and deserved better than Charming, California had to offer her. And unbeknownst to the heartbroken nineteen-year-old she’d left behind at the time, it was the unwavering fierceness of his love for her that made all the difference.
….. May you grow up to stand as a man,
With the pride of your family and name…
When you lay down your head,
Or to rest in your bed…
May you stay…in the arms….of the ann-gels.
Abel’s eyes fluttered open as the hauntingly beautiful lullaby’s final line faded into the sounds of chirping outside the window behind the chair. He squinted up at the smiling woman leaning down to kiss his forehead as she slowly stood up, cradled him to her chest, making her way towards his crib.
“Sweet dreams, Prince,” Tara whispered, stealing one last kiss, pressing it to his nose as his eyelids slid shut once more. Tucking the downy blanket around him, the smiling doctor brushed his hair away from his forehead, peering down at the slow rise and fall of his chest as he slept. He was fast asleep when she’d finally had her fill of the peace she could only dream of finding within herself as of late. The glowing Angels came to life, spinning in circles above him when she clicked it on.
Tara uttered the words she couldn’t bring herself to speak aloud for anyone but them as she reluctantly dropped her hands from the bars of the crib. “I love you,” She whispered. A palm was pressed to her stomach as she said it.
“Oh God…. Oh my God….Fuck! Jesus…Fuck…Oh Shit, Baby…don’t stop…please don’t stop…Jesus, fuck…. I’m gonna cum…I’m gonna—aw fuck, I’m cumming…”
Ally Lowen bit down hard on her bottom lip, nearly drawing blood in her haste to quiet her scream of ecstasy. Her thighs were still trembling when she moved to slide off the desk in her corner office. Hurriedly, she slid the panties dangling from her right ankle back in place, leaning over to retrieve the thigh-high stockings discarded along the shiny, hardwood floor. “Jesus Christ,” Ally groaned, slipping her feet back into her designer pumps. “You sure I’m the first woman you’ve ever been with?”
Wendy Case smiled as she brushed the back of her hand across her mouth. “You say that like I haven’t had lots of practice. Keep singing me praises, Baby. I might have to stop by during your lunch break more often.”
“I have an off the books meeting for a client that I have to get to in about an hour,” Ally told her, picking up the mountain’s worth of legal briefs that had unceremoniously been knocked on the floor during their office-romp. “And thanks to you I have to reorganize these contracts for Rowan before I go. He’s due in court tomorrow morning for the high-speed chase Tig Trager got charged with. And while he’s arguing for crazy-eyes to be released the same time as the rest of them, I’ll be headed to Stockton to consort with King SAMCRO himself.”
“Is that your long-winded way of saying I’m dismissed?” Wendy crossed her arms, grinning over at the defense attorney shuffling through the paperwork on her desk. “It’s cool if it is. By now I’m used to being used. And I kinda like it when you do it.”
Ally Lowen glanced up just long enough to roll her eyes before turning her attention back towards the files she was sorting through. “You’re trying to distract me again,” She hedged. “And this time my knees are staying closed. It’s a bad idea, Wendy. It was a bad idea when I agreed to help you with this whole convoluted plan. I know you want your son back, Baby. And you gotta know by now that I’ll do anything I can to help you.”
“I know,” Wendy agreed, sighing.
“Legally,” Ally stressed, dropping the manila brief in her hand to stare pointedly at the brown-eyed blonde. “I haven’t heard from Tara since you had me let slip to Gemma about me working on Abel’s adoption. I’ve watched that woman. I was a Junior associate, fresh out of law school when Rowan made me first chair to argue against Jax’s first real charge when he was nineteen. That crazy bitch tried to tackle me outside the courtroom for almost getting him off on a technicality. Apparently the boss considered it an open-shut case and didn’t bet on me finding a way to get the charges thrown out.”
Wendy scrunched her eyebrows together. “Huh?”
“They wanted him to go to jail,” Ally explained, wide-eyed and shaking her head. “Apparently Clay needed Jax to toughen up…serve some time to prove his loyalty to the patch after his high school sweetheart damn near killed him on the same highway that semi-truck dragged his father across.”
“Okay.” Wendy’s arms were folded across her chest once more. “Now I’m more lost than I was before.”
Ally’s eyebrows quirked, a mischievous grin twisted up the corners of her mouth, and she turned around in the rolling chair, giving Wendy’s curious expression her undivided attention. “You mean to tell me you were married to him and you didn’t get all the juicy details?”
Wendy shrugged. “I was a hang-around for a year or so before we hooked up,” She admitted. “I heard a few rumors but…I mean, it’s not like Tara was ever open for discussion…The one time I brought her up I didn’t see him for over a month. And I already knew better to ask him about anything club-related.”
“Tara left him while he was on a run with the club,” Ally relayed, all but twiddling her fingers like a leprechaun feasting its eyes on a four-leaf clover. “Jax came back to a four-page letter and no return address. I swear I never clocked so many billable hours in one month. Clay had to pay Frank Knowles off to get him to change his tune about who put him in the hospital. Shit…he probably threatened him, too. Jax beat the shit out of him when he wouldn’t tell him where Tara went. He wasn’t out of the handcuffs more than a day or two before I was in court to argue for an ROR when he broke that Deputy guy—what’s his name? The one that got run over by a van?”
“David Hale,” Wendy answered, urging her story on with the trance-like nod of his hand.
“Yeah, he broke his nose. Jackson was off the rails,” Ally told her. “I saw it with my own eyes. Him trying to smash his own best friend’s face in when he found out Opie knew where Tara ran off to. His girlfriend Donna had to tell Jax to get them to stop trying to kill each other, and then he almost killed himself and the nurse that almost hit his bike head on. His B.A.C was twice the legal limit when he decided to go riding off to San Diego to find her. Crashed his bike and ended up laid up in the hospital for a couple weeks.”
“Yeah.” Ally snorted. “Wow was the exact word that came to mind when Rowan slapped his case file on my desk and told me I was first chair for the people VS Jackson Teller. If getting charged for reckless endangerment wasn’t bad enough, the idiot had the nerve to be carrying. DUI, illegal firearm, and two pending, prior arrests from not even six months earlier for aggravated assault against Judge Hale’s darling son and his ex-girlfriend’s father. I couldn’t believe the boss actually trusted me to get a win for the son of one of his most lucrative clients. Then I found out that was the whole point. He didn’t think I could swing the jury my way. After all my hard work Jax took a plea he didn’t have to just to make Momma and Poppa proud.”
Wendy let out a low whistle, pushing off from the edge of the large, mahogany desk she’d be leaning against. “No wonder Gemma hates her so much.”
“Okay….Let’s get back to the point I was trying to make earlier.” Ally shook her head at the stubborn expression already settling in on Wendy’s face. “Gemma Teller? Or better yet, Gemma Teller-Morrow? That bitch is crazy as Hell. Her whole family is. And as much as Tara likes to believe she’s different she’s just as ruthless as the rest of them. That shit’s been dormant in her since her first arrest for yanking some cheerleader hair out from the root for giving her boyfriend a hummer at some clubhouse rager when they were seventeen. Let’s leave the scheming to the masters, Baby.” Lowen made a show of pointing towards the gold-plated plaque covering her degree from Stanford on the wall. “We’ve got the law on our side. And the fact that Jackson never bothered to file the papers you signed relinquishing your parental rights with the courts—”
“That was because of Tara,” Wendy interjected. Ally stood up, stepping close enough to rub her shoulders. “You were the only lawyer I knew of when I had you draw up the papers for me. Jax hesitated…at first. But once he had Tara on board he didn’t put up a fight about me walking away. Me leaving meant he got to have the happy family he’d wanted with her from the start. But Tara wouldn’t let up. I could blame it on her drunk daddy issues or her dead mommy issues but…I really don’t think it had anything to do with that. That’s just the kind of person she is. She couldn’t understand how I could willingly give him up…she wanted me to have some time to change my mind.”
“No good deed goes unpunished, Babe.” Ally pursed her lips, cheeks denting with something that nearly resembled empathy when she shrugged. “I know it’s cutthroat of me to say it but that act of kindness is going to screw her in court. The papers were never filed so the fact that you signed them, not even a full year ago—after struggling with an addiction brought on by the violent, dangerous life your ex-husband led…you moving away to get yourself together so you can guarantee a better life for your child….the script writes itself, Wendy. Legally Tara has no rights to Abel. And if it’s a choice between a recovered addict and a convicted felon serving out his second strike, you’ll win no contest. We don’t need to scheme.”
“Gemma’s crazy,” Wendy stated, shaking her head. “You just said it yourself. She’s ruthless. And I’ve seen the way Jax is with Tara with my own eyes. The nineteen-year-old you just described? He’s the same way. He’ll do whatever Tara wants him to do and I’m going to need that if I even have a chance. And based on everything you’ve told me about what happened when Abel was kidnapped I’m thinking Tara’s back to being the same girl who left Charming when she was nineteen.”
“So, what?” Ally squinted her eyes, raising her eyebrows. “Abel grows up with two mommies?”
Wendy glanced down at the floor, mouth twisting left to right as she contemplated her response. “We might be on different sides of the spectrum, but I know one thing me and Tara have in common. We both want what’s best for Abel. Jax and Gemma aren’t what’s best. I can appeal to that. Just let me talk to her before we go nuclear.”
“This is nuclear, Wendy.” The weary look in Ally Lowen’s reflected the fear Wendy chose to force down. “Pitting them against each other is a bad idea. Like it or not, Tara’s got way more ties to them than she does to you. Way more reasons to go against you than with. Just give me a chance to—“
“Trust me,” Wendy murmured, framing the anxious lawyers face between her palms, lightly brushing her thumbs along the ends of the frown line her mouth formed when she leaned in to kiss her. “I know Tara. Just let me talk to her.”
It’s not about what I want from you, Babe. It’s not about what I want you to do for me. This about what I need from you, Tara. I need you to forgive me. I need you to come up here to see me, and look me in the eye when I tell you that I’m sorry for everything. I need you to bring Abel up here to see me because you’re his mother and I’m his father, and he’s the only person in my life that I could ever love more than I love you. Damn it, Tara. I need YOU, Babe. I— .
Jax glanced up from his lap, away from the spiral notebook splayed across the knees hugged against his chest—up and away from the letter he’d been furiously scribbling along the wide-ruled paper to meet the harmless, goofy smile on Juan “Juice” Carlos’ face. The good-natured curiosity on the young SAMCRO patches face was at a stark contrast with the brooding expression of the taller, much larger man standing next to him.
“Go play hide and seek with Tig or something,” Clay said, stiffly nodding his head towards the hallway leading out of Jax and Juice block of the Stockton prison. Juice scampered off immediately, leaving both the President and his V.P alone to glare at each other. “You didn’t show up for Church.” Jax shrugged, blue eyes flitting back down to the notepad in his lap. “This whole sleeping with one eye open every night ain’t gonna cut for another year in here. I’m working on getting us some permanent protection while we’re inside, weighing our options against which crews we should align with. I could have used our V.P at the head of table with me…helping us figure out what’s best…then put it to the guys on the outside to vote for or against when ‘Ope brings your boy up to see you tomorrow.”
“Do whatever you want, Chief,” Jax replied, tapping his pen against the half-blank page. “You’re the President, aren’t you?”
Clay sighed heavily, the tan lines where the rings missing from his fingers should have been brushing across his mouth as he scrubbed a beefy hand down his face. “Don’t do this shit again,” the elder man grunted out, after a moment of strained silence. “If you would have listened to your mother when that girl came back here she wouldn’t have her hooks in you all over again. That doctor pussy is gonna—“
Clay blinked once, and when he opened his eyes again his stepson’s fist was flying towards his face. He blinked a few more times to clear the stars blurring his vision, raising a hand to the blood leaking from his nose as he stared down the angry thirty-two-year-old brazenly standing close enough to him for the tips of their shoes to touch.
Jax was breathing heavily, his nostrils flared and the fist he’d struck out with was clenched at his side not unlike its twin. “You ever…talk that way about Tara again—”
“You’ll what?” Clay growled, shoving him backwards. Juice and Jax’s collection of personal belongings cascaded to the floor, scattering across the linoleum from the hooks mounted on the concrete wall and the dated cubby digging into Jax’s back as he broke his fall on the cold, metal furniture. “Gemma’s the only reason I haven’t kicked your ass already. Crying over some…..”
“Go ahead and say it motherfucker,” Jax hissed through his teeth, cocking his head sideways. “Go ahead and give Tara what she wants. She won’t have to worry about ever seeing me outside the four walls of this shithole if you finish that sentence.”
Clay shook his head, for the next minutes that passed shaking his head was all he did as he watched SAMCRO’s Vice President slowly, gradually settle back into the mattress of the bottom bunk, curling his legs back up towards his chest to resume writing whatever he had been when they’d interrupted him. Yet another sigh blew past his lips, and Clay’s anger went the way of the labored exhale as he studied to torment the younger man was trying his best to keep hidden—etched all over his face. “Jesus Christ….You gotta do better than this, Son.” Jax raised the hand holding the notepad in place to flash his middle finger in Clay’s direction. Clay smirked at that. “Right back at you, shithead….just make sure you don’t go anywhere without Juice or Tig with you. Got it? Otto’s down for the count now that they’ve got him in super-max. And Lenny the pimp’s loyalty went with him…No more moving alone.”
Clay’s back was turned in his direction, and he was already walking off, towards his own cubicle several blocks away when Jax’s bitter laughter broke through the gloomy silence of the otherwise empty hall.
“I am alone.”
Five months from now Tara would be giving birth to another Teller Prince.
The amusement twitching the corners of the resigned doctor’s mouth held firm the entire ride up to the daycare center several feet away from her private office. She’d finally made her appointment with her OBGYN so that her doctor could check her vitals and confirm the suspicion she’d had for weeks—that the child growing inside her was indeed a baby boy. It seemed fitting that Jax and Gemma both would get their way where the gender of the latest addition to their family was concerned.
It wasn’t like they’d been getting their way in any other department lately.
Tara was in her office, relishing one of the final moments she’d have to bounce the eleven-month-old in her lap up and down on her knee before her stomach grew too round to hold him while sitting down. The sheer joy and laughter rippling from her throat chorused with the squeal of delight bubbling from Abel’s mouth as he slammed his eager palms across the backs of Tara’s hands when she didn’t move to hit replay fast enough. “Okay, Okay!” Tara chuckled. “One more, Baby,” She cooed, kissing the blue-eyed boy she’d signed out of daycare for the afternoon on the top of his head. “We can play it one more time and then mommy has to take you back to play with your friends…I get to fix a heart today. I’m gonna help fix little Isabella’s heart just like I fixed yours. Isn’t that great?”
Abel clapped and danced in the chair with his mother when she finally hit enter, replaying one of the dozens of music videos she’d bookmarked from Nick Jr.’s website when she’d discovered how much he loved music.
The big glass doors open wide,
Super, super, super market!
You get a blast of cold as you step inside,
Super, super, super market!
Gonna get a cart with a list, Hey, hey!
Super, super, super market,
And when it’s full, check out and pay!
They were almost up to real head-bopping, chair swaying part of the song when the office door being pushed open in her peripheral vision broke Tara’s focus, leaving Abel to jam out—rock star-style, on his own.
For the length of the song, Tara sat there, frozen like the ice cream, peas and oven-ready pizza described in the Bubble Guppies’ song. And for that long, Wendy Case stood there, her doe-brown eyes just as unmoving as she stared at the giggling child dancing across Tara’s lap. “Jesus,” Wendy muttered, breaking the strained silence several long seconds after the video reached its end. “He’s gotten so big…and he looks just like Jax.”
It might have been sheer luck, or intuition beyond his less than year of existing—maybe even a combination of both. Abel didn’t put up a fuss the way Tara expected him to when she rose to stand, holding him snug against her chest instead of playing the video again like he’d been waiting for as he glanced between her and the strange woman still standing by the office door.
“Wait here,” was all Tara said to Wendy as she brushed past her—pressing her lips to both cheeks of the little boy in her arms as they made their way back towards St. Thomas’ daycare.
“What do you want?”
Tara fired off the question before the office door she’d forcefully shoved snapped completely shut. Wendy rubbed at her naked arms, mouth twisting left to right like the thin material of the off-shoulder blouse’s sleeves split down to her elbow. “You’ve done a good job with him…taking him on when you didn’t have to…sticking around to care for him even though you and Jax aren’t—”
“What the Hell do you know about any of the above?” Tara snapped. “How would you know how good of a job I’ve done raising my son? And what the—”
“—Woah.” Wendy raised both arms, extending her palms towards the angry brunette, taking a stance not unlike the one she’d taken with another fire-breathing mother she’d approached several days earlier. “You can relax, Tara. I’m not here to make any demands. I just want to talk about Abel. I want to talk about how we’re going to get him away from Gemma…and Jax. I want to talk about how we keep what happened with those Irishmen who took him from ever happening again. I’m not here to try and take anything away from you. I’m here to ask you to help. Help me, help our—”
“He’s not ours and he’s not yours,” Tara interrupted, head snapping left to right. “He’s mine. There’s nothing for us to talk about.”
“Really?” Wendy challenged, eyebrows rising as the doctor turned her back to her, rummaging through the file cabinet on the other side of the room.
“If that’s all you came here for, you can see yourself out, Wendy.”
Wendy stepped further into the room, stopping behind the woman crouching towards the bottom cabinet drawer, sifting through files, eyeing no folder in particular. “Seriously, Tara…What the Hell else would I show up here for?”
Tara slammed the drawer shut, shooting up from the floor, eyebrows more crooked than her knees had been, whipping herself in the face with the ponytail that wasn’t nearly as wild as the look in her eyes. “Are you here to write me a check?” the angry brunette growled, eyeing her from head to toe. “You here to chip in on all the medical bills I’m still helping pay off for Abel’s surgeries? That’s plural, Wendy. And what about eleven months’ worth of child support? Your half for his medical insurance because his father’s proud of stealing and selling guns but he doesn’t believe in public assistance? You here to pay me your half for the meds Abel has to take for the rest of his life? Show me the money, Wendy. Where is it? And where the Hell do you get off calling him your son?”
“Fuck you,” Tara hissed, raising the volume of her voice, drowning out the wide-eyed blonde’s feeble attempt to get a word in. “I don’t need Gemma’s approval and she’s his grandmother. I damn sure don’t need a pat on my back from some ex-junkie biker whore. Get out of my office before I call security.”
“You’ve changed.” Wendy’s chin veered left to right, slowly. Back and forth her wide, brown eyes darted from one ear to the other, drinking in the scorn marring Tara’s otherwise pretty features, swallowing the bitter taste in her mouth from the plan B she’d have to resort to—striking out against the one person on a short of list of people who’d ever shown her any compassion since her mother kicked out at fifteen years old. “You’re angry…and you have every right to be….but all of that rage you’re feeling? It’s not for me. It’s for the people you’re willing to side with just because you feel threatened by me…because you think I’m just another person who stands to come between you and the little boy I brought into this world—”
“You didn’t do shit,” Tara screeched. Her voice shook, the fists clenching and unclenching at her sides trembled with the barely contained fury that was, for the moment at least, limited to the sudden bass in her tone. “You jammed a needle in your arm and almost killed him! And I guess you didn’t have enough fun the first time around because you decided to do it again, with Gemma’s full love and support of you ending your own life because you’re clearly way too goddamn stupid to live…. just like every other whore that’s bounced on Jackson’s cock. I brought Abel into this world! I pulled him out of your half-dead womb and I brought him back when the poison you pumped him up with stopped his heart! You’re not his mother—and God willing you will never be a mother. You’re nothing but a crank-whore looking for a new fix. And I suggest you find it elsewhere because my son is not a drug. He’s not a fuckin timeshare either. And he’s not a toy you pick back up just because you’re suddenly in the mood to play mommy.”
“According to the State of California I’m his mother,” Wendy boasted, barely raising her voice above its normal volume. “You did a good thing convincing Jax not to file those papers. That’s not to say I couldn’t have fought to have them thrown out but your insistence on giving me a chance to change my mind definitely makes this easier. Jax is a jailbird. He’ll be back inside before his parole is up and Gemma…it won’t even matter once I get custody. I’m asking you to help me. If you did I wouldn’t keep him Abel from you. You could see him whenever you want. Maybe we could even—“
“You want to go to war with me?” Tara barked, crunching down on the points of Wendy’s leather booties with the soles of the mint-green crocs on her feet. Tara’s breath was hot and heavy, threatening to melt the foundation caked on the abruptly quiet blondes face. “Bring it on, Darlin’. I’m not afraid of you or your bullshit custody threat. And when Jax finds out what you’re trying to do?” Tara smirked. “You do know the Sons of Anarchy is a global organization, don’t you? Over fifty charters and counting. Good luck running, Bitch.”
Slowly, Wendy stepped backwards, towards the door. She’d turned her back, fingers curling around the handle, twisting it and pulling at it—but then she paused. She turned back to glance at the fuming brunette watching her leave. There was something about the pity exuding from Wendy’s expression that set off a hitch in her breathing as Tara waited for Abel’s biological mother’s final summation.
“I don’t have a problem…I’m just having fun… this is just a little something to help get me through the day… I can stop any time I want to…” Wendy’s smile was small, not quite reaching her eyes but it radiated with sympathy one would reserve for a kindred spirit—someone in the same boat, floating along the same river with no signs of rescue. Denial wasn’t the kind of misery that welcomed company but it was an emotion that Wendy Case was all too familiar with. “Rock bottom is the first hard lesson you learn when you’re an addict,” Wendy said, shaking her head. “The next one is realizing you have no control over the situation you’re in. Every day you try to convince yourself that this isn’t happening…..You call him son…..And you call yourself his mother….every other sentence you remind yourself, you remind Abel that you’re his Mommy…. when you know you’ll only be a part of his life for as long as they allow you to be. You have no rights, you have no say and you don’t want to face the truth so you call me a junkie when Abel’s your drug, not mine. He’s what gets you through the day, right? Well what happens when Gemma gets her hooks into Jax like she did when you were teenagers? She’ll always win, Tara…the club will always win. So what can you do? Are you willing to do the same thing Jax did to me throughout our entire relationship? Our marriage? Are you willing to sleep in the same bed, with a man you don’t love just to keep getting your fix? Won’t that make you the whore?”
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF MY OFFICE!” Tara screamed, lunging at her.
The office door flew open, and two familiar faces peered inside, darting back and forth between the two women—the brunette circling and the blonde purposefully avoiding physical confrontation as her brown eyes zeroed in on the palm Tara abruptly pressed to her stomach.
“What is going on in here?” Margaret Murphy demanded, fixing her eyes on the blonde quietly heading for the crowded exit.
Doctor Chambers brushed past her, placing his hands on Tara’s shoulder, pushing her towards the sofa lining the wall next to her private bathroom.
“Take it easy,” Alex said, trying and failing to get her to sit down.
“I’m fine,” Tara snapped, knocking his hands away. “It’s the baby…He’s playing field hockey with my insides,” she explained, still rubbing her belly as the kick-a-thon taking place in her womb gradually slowed the assault on her organs. “Okay, Baby,” Tara whispered, looking down at her stomach. “…it’s okay… Mommy’s sorry she scared you…”
“Congratulations.” Wendy spoke from the door, meeting Tara’s gaze head-on when she glanced up from her stomach to glare. Her brown eyes were sad, her mouth a line turned downward as she shook her head slowly. “I never wanted this to happen. And I know what rock bottom feels like. I wouldn’t wish it on my enemy. But you’re not my enemy, Tara….at least you don’t have to be.”
It had taken several minutes of pestering and a million disregarded questions to get both the surgical attending and their supervisor to leave her alone—not in peace, but quiet at least. And Tara wasted no time scrolling through the call log on her phone for the number she should have been dialing the second she’d received it. “Lockhart, Gardner and associates,” said the saccharine voice three rings later.
“Put me through to Alicia Florrick, please.”
I wonder sometimes
I wonder if I…
… was wrong
Tryna do right by you got me here
… Now all I am is alone