Summary: Fred and Lex haven’t seen Catalina since she dropped out of high school without telling anyone why. When they run into her by mere accident at an airport, a lot of unsolved mysteries emerge.
Dedication: Thanks to Emma. If you hadn’t forced me to buy Now 50 three years ago, I never would’ve listened to Stuck In The Middle With You yesterday. The ending is dedicated to Sam, because she inspired me to write it.
Disclaimer: Lex O’Leary and Jeff Delricci belong to NYgoldfish54. Fred and Catalina belong to me. I can be humble enough to share Jack with NYgoldfish54. I’ll be very surprised if you find anyone else but those five mentioned in this story.
Chapter 5. Assistance
While waiting for our flight, we began to doze off, but were ruthlessly awakened by the speakers, telling us that our flight was boarding.
“Finally,” Fred muttered.
We had both hurried back to Starbucks, for the third time. I had convinced Fred to go with me, although his enthusiasm was below zero. I just couldn’t leave the mystery unsolved. Catalina never told us who the father was, and I felt that it was Jeff’s right to know if it was his. And I, for sure, hadn’t heard him mention having any children, so if it was his, he probably didn’t know.
When we got there, she had already left. Her shift had ended just five minutes earlier. The new waitress refused to give us Catalina’s address or phone number, so there wasn’t much else to do but try and… Forget about it. That would be impossible, but we could always try calling her job the next day. That was the plan.
“Are we sure it’s his?” I asked.
“No. It could be anyone’s. He could be older. He could be younger. She could be lying. It could be just some kid she picked off the street and decided to kidnap.”
“Maybe… Should we tell him?”
“No,” Fred said, a lot more determined than I expected. “It’s not his, Lex. I don’t know why we’re even considering it. This is insane. We’re just trying to solve the puzzle, even though the pieces don’t fit.”
“Well, I study psychology, and from time to time I happen to pay attention to the class. But seriously…”
“Yeah, I know,” I sighed. “I just… I just wanted to know so badly.”
“I’m sure Jeff will enjoy this when we tell him. How we almost made him an unexpected father during our trip.”
“He’ll be sad,” I pointed out. “He wanted to find Catalina so horribly much. If he discovers that she’s found someone new she has a child with, he’ll be devastated.”
“So, you’re suggesting we’ll keep it from him until the day he stumbles into her on some random airport?” Fred replied.
I had no idea what to do. All we could do was to get on that plane and go home. We could figure it out later. Everything didn’t need to happen at once. Jeff is still the closest friend I have in this crazy world. I tell him everything, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to keep this from him for long. Fred knew that too.
We had just gathered our bags together and were about to leave when I heard Fred’s name being called. I turned around and found Jack standing on the couch just next to the gate. “Hi!” he shouted.
“That kid need to expand his vocabulary,” Fred grinned. “What’s up, Jack? Is your mother around?”
Jack climbed down on the floor and stomped over to us. He went through his jacket pocket and held out a sticky paper for Fred. “Oh, yum. Fudge,” Fred whined. “Who gives a two year-old fudge?”
“What is it?” I asked curiously.
“Bye!” Jack hollered, escaping again.
Fred quickly grabbed him and pulled him back. “No, no, no, wait! Did your Mom give this to you?”
Jack laughed, but shook his head no. “Nah. She doesn’t know.”
“Wow, he constructed a sentence,” Fred muttered.
“Don’t mock the child,” I said, slapping his arm. “It took you fifteen years to be able to construct your first sentence.”
Pushing our usual bickering aside, we decided to get more information out of the little rascal. “Did she write this?”
“Uh-huh. Long ago. Mom has it always.”
“In her bag.”
“Who’s it for?”
“My real Dad.”
“She talks about him?” Fred interrogated the poor child.
“Do you know who he is? What’s his name?”
“I dunno. Dad?”
Well, that was partly true, right? Jack explained how Catalina had showed him pictures and talked about his real Dad, but Jack himself had never met him. The envelope contained a letter that Catalina always carried with her, and it was addressed to the father of her son. Jack just knew of this because he’d seen it in her bag, she had never actually told him about it. According to him, she had written it long ago and just never sent it.
Fred had doubts about that last thing, but agreed that Jack seemed to know enough about his Dad to be able to tell some details correctly.
I couldn’t see Catalina anywhere; my guess was that Jack had runaway again, without her knowing. He seemed to be aware of that we knew his father, whoever it was.
Eventually he took off, probably to find his Mom or go on other adventures.
“He’s a smart boy,” I pointed out. “He must be older than two.”
“Probably. There’s no name on the envelope. What if the letter is to me?”
“Should we open it?”
“I don’t know if I can. It seems wrong. Maybe it’s someone we don’t know? What if we’re intruding on her personal life? She wrote it and never intended to send it, right? Who are we to read it?”
“Don’t worry, I’ll read it,” I promised and grabbed it from his hands.
We got on the plane, found our seats, and absorbed ourselves in the letter. I ripped it open and read the first sentence. I never actually expected it to be either one of them. I was doubtful all along, even if I told myself I wasn’t.
My heart almost stopped when I saw the name. It wasn’t Fred’s child. Thank God.