The Stallworths flew to Bridgeport the following day after Sharlee got out of school. They had intended to leave Joy at home with Kay and Matthew, but she seemed to sense that they would be gone for a couple of days. She kept asking to be taken with them and so Dale said why not.
“Since she wants to go, let’s just take her with us.”
Alissa had agreed. They were staying with Miki, and she and Jamil would love to see Joy too.
Not knowing the whole story, Dale agreed. Alissa borrowed Miki’s car and she and Sharlee went to the house.
Noah was watching for them. He’d told his mother that the Stallworths were coming to town and that Alissa wanted to see her. She hadn’t asked him how he knew that, but she had agreed to Alissa’s visit.
Sharlee and Alissa entered the livingroom and Melina’s eyes widened when she saw that Alissa was pregnant again. She had wanted to have more children, but Will had not wanted any at all. Now Alissa would have five!
“When are you due?”
“In a couple of weeks.”
Melina looked at Sharlee. Noah was in the room too. She had the feeling that this visit had been planned. Which meant that Noah had somehow still remained in contact with Sharlee.
They sat on the sofa.
“Water will be fine, thank you.”
“Noah would you get that for her, and anything for you Sharlee?”
“No, but thank you.”
Noah went into the kitchen to get the drinks. He was dying to kiss Sharlee, but he knew he’d better not yet. He knew that she was feeling the same way.
Noah had called her and told her all about Will before she and her parents had left Santa Fe.
She asked her, “What is this about?”
“Melina, I don’t talk a lot about my background, and I don’t know if you’re familiar with it.”
“Well I know a little bit. You grew up in foster care and you didn’t know your father until after you were an adult. What difference does it make?”
“There are some things that I don’t think you know that we have in common. While it is true that I was in foster care for most of my childhood, I became an emancipated minor when I was sixteen. I moved here to Bridgeport at that time. I met Bronson Littler and got pregnant. When he found out that I was pregnant, he wanted nothing else to do with me and neither did his family. At seventeen, I was alone and pregnant, but then I met Dale. He’s been there for me ever since.”
“I didn’t know that. I mean I knew that Bronson was Sharlee’s father, but I didn’t know all of the details. At least I was an adult when I became pregnant with Noah. I can’t imagine how it must have been for you at such a young age.”
“I just wanted you to know that I understand how you felt when your family and Noah’s father rejected you after you became pregnant.”
Melina didn’t say anything.
Melina still didn’t speak, and she didn’t meet Alissa’s eyes.
Alissa continued. “I know those mothers probably hate themselves for feeling that way, but after a certain point they have to realize that they can’t blame their child for the choices they made that caused them to become pregnant. You see for me, it was different. I’d never had a loving family, and so even though the circumstances were not the best, I was overjoyed to have Sharlee. She was my family. She was a little piece of me that I could love, and who would love me.”
“For you Melina, Noah’s birth meant separation from the family that you had loved and that had always cared for you. Rejection from the man who you had loved and thought loved you. So I can understand how you felt, but by now Melina you should have realized that you have another family, and Noah should be the primary part of that family.”
Melina had tears in her eyes. “Yes, I understand what you are saying. I know that I haven’t always done the best for Noah or treated him the way in which I should have,the way he deserved to be treated. When he was small, it was easier, but after he grew up it was as though he represented the biggest mistake in my life! Then he wouldn’t obey me. I know that somehow he knew how I really felt about him. When he ran away I never even looked for him. Friends in town who saw him would tell me what he was up to, thinking that I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to know what he was doing. I know how awful it makes me seem, but I just can’t seem to love him. I actually told him how I feel about him. I told him that he was the biggest mistake of my life. I apologized afterwards, but he didn’t even seem to care.”
Alissa was horrified that Melina had said such a cruel thing to her son. She hadn’t realized how bad things really were. “Melina, even if you feel that way, you can’t keep punishing Noah for your mistake. He deserves better than that. You chose to bring him into this world. Didn’t you have boyfriends when you were growing up?”
“Yes, I had a couple of boyfriends, but I also had very strict, religious parents.”
“Oh. Even though they were strict, they still allowed you to date?”
“Don’t you feel the least bit uneasy about how serious Noah and Sharlee are about each other? You think that’s normal?”
“It’s unusual, but I also think it’s special. It’s wonderful and unique when you find that other person who you connect with, the person who completes you, your soulmate. It rarely happens and it’s especially unusual at their age.”
“So you think that is what they are to each other?
Alissa stopped speaking for a few moments. Then she said, “Melina deep down, you know that Will is being unfaithful.”
Alissa told her, “I’m sure that there are other people who know it too. These things have a way of being revealed. They don’t remain hidden forever.”
“I’ve known, but I haven’t cared enough to do anything about it. I guess I have to now. The sad thing is that I really do love Will and I know that he loved me too. Maybe he still does, but I’ve pushed him away, just like I did Noah.”
Melina was crying.
Melina answered. “Whether I give it or not, they will still do it.”
“That’s because of how much they care about each other.”
Alissa felt sorry for her up to a certain point, but she felt that Melina’s cold treatment of Noah was inexcusable. They heard Will’s car drive up. “Would you like me to take Noah with me?”
“He can’t leave now. His curfew time is too close. I’ll send Noah out to the garage. It’s his favorite spot in the house. Then I can talk with Will.”
Alissa called Sharlee and they went back to Miki’s place. Melina had Noah go out to the garage.
“You answer something for me first. Do you care because of the embarrassment or because you care about me?”
Melina thought about his question. She realized that she still cared about him. “Will, I know that I haven’t been easy to live with. I guess that I’m more like my parents than I realized, but I have never stopped loving you. So I care for both reasons.”
“Do you love her, Will?”
Will felt a little relief. She only knew about one woman. “Of course I don’t love her. I still love you Melina.”
“I think that would be best.”
After that, Melina and Will worked on their marriage. They stayed together, but Will still strayed from time to time. Melina never knew.
Melina and Noah didn’t become any closer. Noah hadn’t expected it anyway. He had no illusions about his mother’s feelings toward him. She did however, give him more freedom. He was able to talk with Sharlee whenever he wanted, and when she was able to visit Bridgeport they were allowed to spend time together.
Sharlee asked, “Do you have a date for the prom yet, Isabel?”
“Yes, I decided to go with Nicholas. What about you?”
“I’m not going.”
Isabel and David were shocked. “Not going?”
“Yes, but I told them no, and I don’t want to go stag either.”
Sharlee left the table, and David and Isabel continued to sit there and talk.
Later that afternoon, Alissa received a telephone call from Isabel. She was shocked to hear that Sharlee wasn’t going to the prom. She guessed why and then went to talk with Dale about an idea that came to her while she was talking with Isabel.
“Sharlee, this is your senior Prom. It’s an event that will never happen again. It’s something that you will always remember. I was pregnant with you, and I still went to mine. I went with a friend. You need to go!”
“Alright Mom. I’ll go.”
She called David and told him that if he still wanted to take her she would like to go with him. He had become a good friend and had finally accepted the fact that a friend was all he could be for Sharlee. Besides, he would be going to college soon and there would be plenty of girls to meet there.
Then after a while she went out to the patio, hoping that no one would bother her. She was missing Noah worse than ever. Because it was senior year, she was really busy with school, and so was he. She hadn’t been able to visit as much as she had before. It had been months since she had seen him. Talking on the phone was just not enough anymore.
“I’m sorry, but I really don’t feel like dancing.”
“What, not even one dance?”
“Mr. Thorne was able to arrange a weekend furlough for me because of my good behavior. Your Grandfather accepted responsibility for me, and so I’m staying with him. It was your mother’s idea. Wow, you look amazing!”
“Have you decided what you’re going to do after that?”
“I have some plans.”
Isabel won homecoming queen, and even though they were not really a couple, Sharlee and David won for cutest couple. Noah didn’t like that very much, but Sharlee assured him that it was only because she and David had come to the prom together.
Sharlee asked the yearbook photographer to take a couple of pictures of her and Noah together. She planned to have a copy made for Noah too. When the prom was over, Noah had to go straight back to Matthew’s house and Sharlee went with him.