Lex and Lu(10)

By: J. Santiago



Pete looked at his brother. “You’ll come with me?”

“Fuck!” Lex said. And, closing his door with too much force, he looked over as his brother started the car. “Get me a Scotch and I’ll go with you to see Dad.”





4





They returned from the morgue to their empty house. Depositing his bag in the room over the garage, Lex quickly changed into his training gear, pulled on his running shoes, and grabbed his iPod. Heading back downstairs, he found his brother and told him he’d be out for a while. Although he was exhausted as hell, he needed to get a workout in. A hard game, a sleepless night, a transatlantic flight, and a viewing of his father’s body—oh, and a Scotch in between—had his body craving a good, hard run. He wished like hell he had a game so he could forget for a while.

Turning out of the driveway, he set a hard pace through his childhood neighborhood. He ran by all the old haunts, memories assailing him from every direction. When they were young, the kids counted the ratios. There were sixteen of them and only twelve adults. Lex felt confident that if they’d ever had to mutiny, the kids would win because they had the majority. They’d joked about that all the time, even though, deep down, none of them wanted to take on their mothers. He wondered how many of them would show up for his father’s memorial service. He didn’t relish being the first family to lose someone. And while he figured most of them would be there, he had to admit that the loss of one of their parents wouldn’t have brought him traipsing across the Atlantic. Made him feel like the prick his brother had dubbed him as at the airport.

It wasn’t that he didn’t respect and love the group of parents who had molded him as a youth; it was just that his path had taken him away long before the rest of them. At fourteen, he had started in the Olympic Development Program. By sixteen, he was missing school to travel to training camps for youth world cups. And by eighteen, he’d left for good—not returning until this visit. Maybe if things had been different, if Lu had followed through with their plan, he would have visited more. He would probably be playing here in the States. He wouldn’t have stayed away.

At eighteen, everything had seemed possible to him. He knew their plan would work. He had no doubts that an eighteen-year-old, hell-bent on playing soccer at the highest level and his sixteen-year-old girlfriend could have handled raising a child while they were an ocean apart. Wasn’t there some saying about the foolishness of the youth? Looking back now, with the perspective of an adult, he knew that what they envisioned would have never worked. He wouldn’t be Lex Pellitteri, world-class soccer player. And truth be told, he probably would have resented Lu for that. So maybe she did the right thing. Maybe having an abortion and telling him to move on was exactly the way it was supposed to be.

At some point, in the middle of his eight-mile run, he forgave Louisa May Knight and silently thanked her for her foresight. He wished the peace he was feeling had come sooner and wondered if he had allowed himself to come home at any point over the last eight years, if he would have reached this conclusion earlier. The dread that had settled over him since his brother’s phone call earlier in the day lifted. Picking up his pace for the last half mile, Lex made his way into the garage to grab his soccer ball.



Leaving dinner early to get the house prepared, Amber walked the familiar path between their two houses. She had stocked the bar earlier, but she wanted to make sure they had everything. She desperately wanted Chris to get back from his trip, but he’d been delayed in Miami and wouldn’t be back until the next morning. Even after a couple of glasses of wine at dinner, Amber was strung tight. As much as she loved Jo, she wanted to beat her when Jo had revealed her conversation with Lu. She wasn’t supporting Jo on this one. Whatever Lu wanted to do, however, she would support. She was fighting for her daughter this time.

It had almost broken Lu. That fateful decision had almost broken Lu’s spirit—until they put Nina in her arms. Then she rose up like the phoenix in all its glory. And when it came to raising Nina, no one was allowed to interfere. Amber didn’t think Lu did it to be spiteful; she wanted to be true to herself as a parent. So for Jo to order her to bring her daughter to meet Lex—her unsuspecting father—Lu wouldn’t have it. Amber was fairly certain that however this all went down, her daughter was directing this tragedy.

Amber tried to shake off the feeling of impending doom when she spotted Lex. Watching him for a moment, the past played out in front of her like a movie. Lex never went anywhere without his soccer ball. When they met him at eight, he already had that fire in his veins. You just knew he would defy the odds and reach his goal. Every night, right before they got called in to eat, Lex would stand in that exact spot and practice. Just him and his ball. Amber had no idea what the moves were called or what he was doing—she was the mother of girls. But over the years, it became a thing of beauty to watch. Like a ballerina executing a series of spins, Lex maneuvered and manipulated the ball. As an eight-year-old, it looked nothing like what he could do now as a twenty-seven-year old. But even a non–sports fan couldn’t help but be impressed. She smiled as she realized she knew his routine—what he would do next. It hadn’t changed in nineteen years.

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