Arissa threw a pile of mail on the table putting Christian down on the floor to play with some of his soft alphabet blocks. She turned her chair around to face him picking up a pile of bills. She grabbed their bank statements just to glance over where they were spending money. Gas, groceries, plane tickets, reimbursements, shopping, baby stuff, baby stuff, groceries, shopping, shopping…Tiffany’s, shopping, gas, gas, plane tickets…wait..Tiffany’s? She wasn’t sure what that was for. She hadn’t taken anything there in a long time. She picked up her cell phone to call Bruno.
”Hey sexy…” he answered the phone flirting with her.
”Hey….I have a pregunta para ti…” she said switching into Spanish trying to keep herself from freaking out.
”Que?” he asked.
”Did you go to Tiffany’s while you were in New York?” she asked looking at the date which was near the time they were both there.
”I went with Ryan..I bought something for Hope with the card…” he said matter of factly.
”Oh….Okay….” she responded.
”Yeah..so that was it…” he told her.
”I was just wondering..everything else I knew about, B. It just caught me off guard. That’s all.”
”I’m sorry, Riss..I should of told you.” he apologized. ”Oh, and I miss you.”
”Bruno…I miss…oh shit. I have to go…” she said quickly hanging up the phone running to the baby who was struggling to stand up near the couch all the sudden falling and crying.
”Risss….?” he asked hearing the click.
”Was that Arissa?” Nicole asked sitting next to Bruno.
”Yeah..it was her.” Bruno said.
”Oh….” she said twirling her finger through a silver heart necklace.
”Ryan….” Arissa wanted to ask Bruno’s friend about the necklace. ”Did you go to Tiffany’s with Brunz before I got there?”
”Ummm….I don’t remember that trip…” Ryan answered confused.
”Fucking hell…” Arissa was so upset. She didn’t want to admit to what was happening.
”What, Riss?” he asked.
”Did he give anything to Hope?” she asked him.
”Naw…nothing…” he answered her.
”Okay. Thanks…I owe you my life…again…” she told him.
”Arissa…what’s wrong?” Ryan asked her.
”Nothing yet. But tomorrow there will be….” she answered.
”Arissa…he’s not doing anything with her. I promise you.”
”No, Ryan…he is. And…I don’t know…I can’t even put it into words…I need to go.” she answered hanging up the phone.
Ryan knocked on Bruno’s door waiting to hear his side of the story. Bruno hurried to the door. Ryan drug him out of the room.
”WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” Ryan yelled at him.
”Bro….I…..oh my god….” Bruno said.
”She knows. I just wanted to give you a heads up.” he told him turning around disgusted by his friend’s actions. Bruno opened the door to his room looking at Nicole.
*”You should probably go, sweetheart.” Bruno said quietly watching the girl walk out the door holding her shoes in the same way Arissa did the first night they met. He didn’t stop Nicole, though.
Arissa cried herself to sleep that night. She had no idea what she was going to do. She had no idea what was going on. She knew that there was something going on, but she didn’t want to say it out loud. She woke up in the morning to care for their son taking him to Jamie who was going to watch him while she went to work. She showed no emotion when dropping off the baby. She smiled and handed him to his aunt, who loved him oh so much. Arissa got into the car driving to work dazed and confused by everything that was going on. A year ago they were in Texas. That was when Bruno told her he would never hurt her. Never hurt her….
At the end of the day Arissa called Jamie asking her to keep the baby for a little bit while she went for a run. Instead of a run she called Bruno. She was going to yell and she was going to scream. She didn’t want to have her son anywhere near that anger.
She dialed the phone…Bruno was out with his friends in London that night. She didn’t care if he was drunk, high or even in bed with that skank, she was going to confront him that evening. The phone rang a few times. He picked up.
”Arissa…..” Bruno said quietly knowing what was going to happen.
”You told me you would never, never, never, ever…hurt me, Peter….you said you wouldn’t ever hurt me.”
”No, don’t even talk. Let me tell you what happened. And this is the truth, you stupid asshole. You decided that music was more important than your family. You appreciate convenience. You don’t want to work on the hard things. You want everything when you want them. And that’s why you fucked her and you even…you….” she paused catching her breath. ”you bought her a god damn Tiffany’s necklace…you….left us, Bruno. I’m leaving you. You’ll be hearing from Jenna. And don’t try to call me again. I’m done. You won’t be able to win my heart with stupid notes, songs, flowers, or even…nothing. You’ll be hearing from Jenna. And Jaime will tell you when you can see our son. I don’t ever want to hear your voice again. Ever.” she hung up the phone throwing it across the room.
”Fuck him….” she yelled. She went over to the side table in the front of the room where a picture of them in Las Vegas sat. She ripped the picture out of the frame tearing it into little pieces. She fell on the ground in tears. She sat there for 10 minutes until her alarm went off reminding her to go pick up Christian. She got in the car driving the 15 minutes to her sister in law’s house.
”He’s asleep, Riss…” Jamie told him. The boys were really good with him tonight.” Arissa smiled at her walking over to her son whose tasseled blonde curls laid in the same way Bruno’s hair did when he slept. She felt a tear come down her cheek. She wiped it away from her cheek as fast as she possibly could. She picked up Christian lightly rocking him as he started to wake up.
”Go to sleep, my love…go back to sleep…” she said softly. ”Jamie…I’m going to go home for a bit. Maybe like a week or something…but everything is okay. I just need a break from LA…”
”Oh, honey. I know it’s tough. Just call me if you need anything…” they hugged each other as Jamie led her out the door to the car. She helped Arissa snap the baby’s seat belt blowing them both kisses as she drove away.
Arissa sat in front of Jenna holding a fancy pen in her hand. ”So, you’re filing this paperwork in California…and we’ll do that tomorrow…because y’all didn’t have a pre-nuptial agreement or anything…you get half…and terms for Christian are outlined here…..” she pointed to the bottom of the last sheet. Jenna wrote that Bruno would be able to see his son when he had spaced out enough time to be with his son. That meant no popping in and out of his life like he was now. He would have to space out his schedule to see his son for at least a week at a time.
Arissa signed the papers near the blue tabs. She tried to hold herself together, but started to cry as she signed the last sheet. She dated it pushing it near her lawyer. ”The fucking end….”
Bruno looked down at his phone reading a text message from his sister.
She signed the papers.
”Shit…she wasn’t kidding…” he said to himself. Just as he finished the statement he heard a knock on the door of the house that just a few months ago he called home…home because Arissa and Christian were with him. Now it was just a house. He looked at the empty spaces- pictures, blankets, small little things that Arissa had taken with her to Texas. He touched the empty space where a small wedding picture once sat. He opened the door seeing Brad at the door with a handful of papers. Bruno led his lawyer through the maze of his house. They sat down at the big kitchen table. Brad pulled out a pen pointing to the red tabs.
”You sign the red ones. It’s exactly what we thought it would be…”
”When do I have to have these signed by?” Bruno asked.
”You have three days….” Brad answered. Bruno touched the papers lightly thinking to himself.
”I’ll get ‘em to you by then….” Bruno said standing up to lead his lawyer out of the house. He closed the door behind him going back to the table. He read through the papers noting every single thing she had demanded – way too much money for the baby, $15, 000 a month, a college fund for their son, a house in Texas and the promise that he would not write a single song about what happened. ”It’s over….” he said signing at the bottom of the page.
Five years later
Arissa turned down the long suburban street toward her house. She glanced in her rearview mirror watching Christian bounce his head to the beat of the music playing on the radio. Darn that kid is so cute. Too bad his dad is an ass…
”Mom!!!” Christian screamed. ”Dad’s here..look at the carrrr!” he screamed. ”I want to see him. Hurry, drive fast..drive racecar fast, mooommmmm…” he four year old demanded.
”Hold your horses, Christian. I don’t think he’s going anywhere…” she responded to him turning the car off, grabbing her purse and his small backpack running to the passenger seat to get him out of the car. By the time she unsnapped the seatbelt Bruno had come up behind her to get his son.
”Christian! Come here, buddy!” Bruno said holding out his arms. Christian jumped from his mother’s arms to Bruno’s arms quickly. Arissa held her keys not saying a word to Bruno walking down the long sidewalk to open the door to her 1900 square foot ranch style home. She opened the door watching Bruno walk into the house holding Christian. What the hell..he’s not supposed to be here until Friday..it’s Monday.
”Christian, go put your stuff up and change your clothes. I have to talk to your dad…” she asked him in a soft tone not expressing her frustration with Bruno.
”Go, go…Chris…I’ll be there in a second…” Bruno told him watching Christian run into his bedroom. They waited until they couldn’t hear his running anymore to stare at each other.
”What the hell are you doing?” Arissa started. ”You weren’t supposed to be here until Friday…I have so much going on and this..this…you didn’t even tell me.”
”Arissa…I wanted to see him. I had a little bit of time and I thought it would be nice. And I can take care of him while you go to work….” Bruno explained.
”I don’t need your help, Bruno. We are fine without you. Just perfect….” she said quietly trying to figure out what he was doing.
”I know you don’t, Riss…” he told her looking into her tired eyes resisting the urge to comfort her. ”But your mom said you needed a break...you need someone….”
”Bruno…I have Wes….” she mentioned her new boyfriend, well more like guy she was trying to date because she was still trying to shake their past.
”But, Arissa…he’s not here right now.”
”B…what are you trying to do?” she asked him.
”Mom…lookkk at the hat!” they heard Christian in the back walking towards them holding one of Bruno’s hats.
”It’s gorgeous, Christian. Just gorgeous.” she told him.
”Gawjus.” Bruno laughed walking towards him. ”I think we should match, come on. Let’s get hats for all of us…” Bruno said pointing toward his suitcase. ”Give this one to your mom…” Bruno said handing him the white hat she had worn to the Grammy’s years ago.
”It’ll mess up my hair, Christian.” Arissa said handing the hat back to him. Bruno took it from his son’s hands placing it gently on Arissa’s head. She rolled her eyes accepting the hat.
”You have to keep the hat on to play the drums, Christian…” Bruno told him pointing to the small drum set by the bay window.
”Mom doesn’t let me play with those…because she doesn’t know how…” he explained to his father.
”AHH, well it’s too sad that she’s forgotten how. I guess I’ll have to teach you…” he said walking over to the drums. ”Go, goo…hurry…” he told his son watching him run to the drums pulling the small chair from behind the table to sit in. Bruno slid behind his song wrapping his arms around him holding the drum sticks. He started talking to Christian directing his hands to where they needed to go. Arissa pointed to her bedroom indicating she was going to go change.”Tell mom you love her, Christian…” Bruno said looking up at her smiling.
”Mom…I wuv you…” Christian laughed.
”I love you too, Christian. I’ll be right back okay?” she asked him.
”Mommy, I’ll be okay.” he answered turning around looking at his father.
She went into her bedroom throwing her purse and cardigan on the bed. ”Oh my god, oh my god, oh my god. Why is he doing this, why, why why, why…” she said to herself changing into jeans and t-shirt. She threw her hair into a quick ponytail. She ran into the bathroom taking out her contacts opting for her glasses. She finished changing walking back into the room where Bruno was still playing the drums with Christian. Bruno stopped his hands as she walked in the room letting Christian beat the drums uncontrollably.
”What?” she asked him stopping to sit down on the couch.
”You’re beautiful, Arissa. That’s all.” Bruno said over the noise of the drums.
”Shut up.” she said to him wandering into the open kitchen to start cooking dinner.
”Shhh..that type of language isn’t appropriate.” Bruno smiled at her.
”It is when I’m talking to you, Bruno.” she snapped at him.
”Mom you’ll hurt dad’s feelings…” Christian defended his father. She had plenty to say back to her son, but stopped herself because it really wasn’t nice. She went into the refrigerator to pull out the thawed chicken and vegetables she was going to cook that night. She felt Bruno behind her.
”Riss..let me help…” he said taking the broccoli from her hands.
”I can do it, Bruno. I’ve got it….I just have to hurry…I have a board meeting at 7:30, it’s 5:30 right now….”
”Stop, Arissa…just stop. Take a break…go sit down on the couch with Christian. Color with him…I’ll cook tonight. Just go…” he pushed her out into the other room.
”Mommy…come look at what I’m drawing. Dad showed me how to do it last time I saw him….” he said proudly holding up a piece of paper with a house on it.
”That’s perfect Christian.” she said kissing his head walking to the couch to turn on the tv. She stretched out realizing that it was actually nice having Bruno make dinner for them, even if it was going to be burnt and inedible that the time it came out. A few minutes later Bruno came into the living room to sit down next to her.
”Riss, go to sleep if you’re tired.” he told her. ”I’ll wake you up when dinner is ready.” he told her sweetly.
”I’m fine..” she yawned laying down on the pillow between the two of them closing her eyes. Bruno took the remote from the other side of the couch flipping through the channels landing on the Food Network.
”Christian…should we make that cake for mom?” he asked him.
”Mom loves cake.” Christian told his father.
”Then that’s what we’ll do when she’s gone. Let’s make her a cake.” Bruno smiled. I’m going to get her back. If this kills me. Bruno thought to himself as Arissa moved closer to his chest throwing her arms on him.
Arissa felt Bruno move from underneath her waking her up.”Oh, sorry…” she said stretching from where she was sitting. He just rolled his eyes at her. She followed him into the kitchen where she saw Christian sitting at the table in front of a plate hitting the spoon on the wooden table gently.
”Mom, I’m writing a song for you.” he said humming something only a four year old could think of.
”It’s going to be a hit.” Bruno said picking up Christian’s plate to cut the breaded chicken into small pieces then spooning some broccoli onto the plate. He placed it in front of his son who made a gross face.
”There’s no cheese…” Christian said.
”Here baby…” Arissa said drizzling some Velveeta cheese she had warmed up on top of it.
”Oh…sorry. I didn’t know…” Bruno responded.
”You couldn’t have.” Arissa said taking a bite of the food he had cooked.
”I better not die, Bruno…”
”I put a little bit of poison in one…but I forgot which one…” he said making a face at her pretending to die.
”Ahh, so it was yours.” Arissa answered.
”Yeah..it probably was…” he answered.
After they finished eating Arissa picked up the plates from the table putting them in the dishwasher.
”Riss…go to your meeting..I’ll take care of it.” Bruno said handing her a towel to wipe her hands off.
”I’m going to spend more time fixing what you clean up then actually cleaning…” she told him.
”Just go, Riss. Please…” he said squeezing her side.
”Fine…but I’m not happy.”
”Arissa, where’s my little man?” Cara, a fellow board member asked. ”You didn’t take him to your parents house did you?”
”Oh, no. He’s at home. His dad randomly decided to show up. So they’re at the house. Or what I hope to be a house when I get back if he doesn’t burn it down…”
”Oh, haha. Okay.” she answered Arissa.
Arissa opened the door to the house smelling something baking.
”B?” she asked.
”In the kitchen, Mom….” he answered her holding a spoon. ”Taste this…” he said holding the spoon out to her. She leaned in taking the spoon from him.
”Mmmm. That’s good.” she said. “Where is Christian?” she asked him.
”He fell asleep….” he answered her pointing to the floor by the drums.
”Oh, wow. How did you do that?” she asked him.
”I’m magic…” Bruno said proudly. “But really..he crapped out like an hour after you left.” he admitted. “Oh, here…” Bruno said walking to the fridge pulling out a pre-cut piece of white cake with pink frosting and sprinkles on it.
”How did you finish this that quckly?” she asked him.
”I’m magic…” Bruno answered watching her take a bite of the cake.
”Mmmm. It’s really good, Brunz.” she answered him. ”But wait…what the hell are you doing?” she asked him.
”Arissa…” he said taking the fork out of her hand. ”I let you go because it was what you needed. You needed the space. I was wrong. I did everything wrong. Every single thing wrong. And you were right to leave. I needed to figure it out on my own. And now I’ve realized that I need you and Christian with me every single day. I can’t breathe without your name escaping my lips. I can’t stop thinking about your green eyes and your blonde hair and your voice. Your voice…Arissa….” he stopped pulling out his phone. ”I keep your angry voicemails because I miss every single waking moment of my life without you in it. I love you so much. ”
”Bruno…” she paused trying to find exactly the right words without yelling. ”I need a husband and a father, not someone who comes in and out of my life every few weeks. I need someone..I need someone to be everything you never were.”
”I know you do, baby doll. I know. And I want to change. I want to see Christian grow up every single day. I don’t want to see him today and then in four months not even recognize him because he’s grown 4 inches and he’s playing soccer and basketball and learning all these amazing things. I want to be there for every inch and every single thing he does. And I want to be there for you. I want to cook dinner, I want to do laundry, I want to carry you to bed when you fall asleep after working the 60 hours a week that you don’t need to be working because I’m taking care of you..because that’s what I’m supposed to do. It’s what I wasn’t doing to for you. And I want to do it forever and ever…until we’re old and grey…” he told her.
”Bruno, you’re not going to win me over with that. You’re just not. It’s taken me a really long time to get over all of this. And I finally think I have…and then you come back here saying all this? Why couldn’t you have said this 4 years ago? Why now? Why not then?”
”I didn’t know then. But I know now.” he repeated. Arissa harrumphed standing up from the table taking the plate he had gotten for her placing it in the sink. He followed her to the sink watching her wash the plates that he had left in the sink. ”I’ll wash them before I leave, Riss…” he told her.
”You’re going to Ryan’s?” she asked him turning around looking at him. She spotted his eyes watering. ”Bruno….don’t go…please…” she pleaded with him leaning toward him. ”Please don’t go. I need you. ” she repeated herself several times as he wrapped his arms around her kissing her head.
”I need you too, Rissy. I need you so badly. I don’t think I can go on without you….” he told her with tears coming down his cheek.
”Bruno?” she asked him looking up at him. ”There’s no sunlight if I lose you?” she laughed at him.
”No, baby. There’s been no sunlight since you’ve been gone. None…” he said leaning in to kiss her.