The Long Way Home – Laura Farr

Just go, Zara!” I yell. “I’m surprised you’ve stayed this long. We both know you don’t want to be here.” “Don’t put all this on me,” she screeches. My jaw clenches as the sound of her voice grates on my last nerve. “I never even wanted a fucking baby.” My hands ball into fists at my sides, and I bite down on the inside of my mouth, anger coursing through me. “Get out.” My voice is low, and I can’t look at her. My heart is breaking for the innocent little boy, asleep upstairs in his cot. He deserves so much more than the woman in front of me. I finally lift my eyes and watch as she picks up the bags she’s already packed. “I’m sorry it had to end like this.” She looks at me, and I can’t bring myself to answer her. She’s not sorry.

Jacob is only eighteen months old, but she checked out of our relationship and his life a long time ago. When I don’t respond, she turns on her heel and walks out, the door slamming behind her. Despite knowing this moment has been coming for a while, I can’t help but feel like a failure. Why weren’t Jacob and I enough for her? She didn’t even kiss him goodbye. Zara and I had met almost three years ago in a bar. I’d been with the guys from work, and she was with her girlfriends. She was the life and soul of the bar, and I was instantly attracted to her. She was beautiful, with long blonde hair, stunning emerald green eyes, and a body I couldn’t keep my hands off. She came home with me that night and we saw each other on and off for the next few weeks. It was nothing serious. I liked her, but she didn’t seem the settling-down type. A couple of weeks later, she turned up on my doorstep, scared and pregnant. She wanted a termination, but after talking for hours, we decided to make a proper go of our relationship. I was as terrified as she was, but I thought we could go the distance. She moved into my place, and for a while, things were good.

She stopped going out, and despite arguing occasionally, the nine months she was pregnant, our relationship was okay. It wasn’t perfect, but what relationship is? About six months after Jacob was born, everything changed. It was like a switch had been flipped, and she reverted to the Zara I knew when we first met. She was out every night drinking, sometimes not even bothering to come home. I tried to talk to her, tried to make her see what she had at home, but she wasn’t interested. She’d struggled to adapt to motherhood, and I knew she missed going out with her friends. I’d been the one who encouraged her to go out with them. Unfortunately, it turned into her being out with her friends more than she was home with us. I couldn’t trust her to look after Jacob, and she spent most of her time in bed. Instead, I’d arranged childcare, dropping him off on my way into work. More often than not, when I’d arrive home with him in the evening, she’d be out. We rarely saw her. Now she’s gone. I’d known it was coming, and if I’m honest, I thought it would have happened sooner. I’d considered leaving more than once, but I naively thought staying together was better for Jacob.

How wrong I was. I’m not in love with Zara. I think I was at the beginning, but any feelings I had for her had slowly ebbed away as I watched her ignore our son time and time again. I won’t mourn the loss of her, only the loss of what could have been. I’ve pretty much been a single dad to Jacob for the last nine months. I’m not afraid I can’t look after him, just afraid of not being enough. What I do know is he doesn’t need a mother like Zara in his life. He’s the most amazing little boy, and I will never understand why she couldn’t see that. Jacob is the most important person in my life, and he will always know how much I love him. We don’t need Zara. “M Jack Six months later um, I’m fine. I promise.” I cradle the phone between my ear and my shoulder as I pick Jacob’s toys up off the sitting room floor. Crossing the room, I toss them into his toy box. “You sound exhausted.

Why don’t you let me and your dad take Jacob this weekend? You can have a break.” “I’m good, Mum. I like him with me.” She sighs down the phone and I know she’s worried about me. “Why don’t you and Dad come over tomorrow? Maybe you could keep him occupied for an hour while I get on top of the laundry?” “That’s not exactly what I had in mind, Jack. Surely the laundry can wait?” “I’m a single dad with a two-year-old,” I tell her with a chuckle. “There’s always laundry to do.” “I guess so,” she replies. “We’ll see you Saturday, then. We can take him to the petting zoo. Give Jacob a kiss from his nanny.” “Will do. Say hi to Dad for me.” Ending the call, I throw my phone on the sofa and pick up the rest of the toys that are strewn across the floor. It’s Friday, and my day off.

Since Zara left, work has been amazing with letting me adjust my hours. I work out of the office Monday to Thursday, and I normally manage a couple of hours from home on a Friday when Jacob naps. So far, it works great. My parents live a little far away to help out with Jacob in the week. Instead, he’s in nursery. It’s hard work, but I love being Jacob’s daddy. We haven’t heard from Zara since she walked out six months ago, and that’s fine with me. I like it being the two of us. After tidying the sitting room, I creep upstairs and check in on Jacob. I put him down half an hour ago, but he was awake when I came downstairs and I want to check he’s fallen asleep. Peeking around his door, I smile as I see him fast asleep, cuddled up to his favorite blue rabbit teddy. He’s kicked his blankets off, so I cross the room and cover him up, kissing his head softly. He smells of baby powder and no-tears shampoo following his bath earlier, and I breathe in his smell, my heart swelling with love for him. How Zara can’t want him, I’ll never understand. Half an hour later, I’m sitting on the sofa, a bottle of Bud in my hand.

Liverpool and Arsenal are playing on the TV, but I’m too tired to concentrate on watching it. I drop my head back on the sofa and close my eyes. I’ve just nodded off when my phone rings. Groaning, I sit up and reach for it. Seeing Libby’s name flashing across the screen, I smile. “Hey, little sister. How are you?” I say, answering her call. “I’m great thanks, Jack. How are you? How’s that gorgeous nephew of mine?” “He’s good, Lib. Really good. How are you feeling? Not long left now?” Libby is almost eight months pregnant with her first child, and I couldn’t be happier for her and her husband, Mason. “Tired, but Mason’s taking good care of me. You haven’t sent me any pictures of Jacob in ages. I miss him.” “Lib, I sent you some last week,” I tell her, chuckling.

“That was ages ago. He’s changing so much. I don’t want to miss anything.” “I’ll take some and send you them in the morning. Okay?” “Okay. Thanks.” She pauses, and the line goes quiet. “So, I spoke to Mum.” I roll my eyes and groan inwardly. “She’s worried about you.” “I’m fine.” “Are you? Are you really?” I sigh heavily. “Jack? Talk to me.” “I’m just tired, Lib. Working and looking after Jacob is tough.

I’ve just hit a bad patch. We’ll be okay.” “God, I hate Zara. I can’t believe she left you guys. Have you heard from her?” “No, and I don’t want to. We’re good, just the two of us.” “Why don’t you come out to the ranch? It’s been ages since I saw you. I miss you.” “I miss you too, but I can’t just fly halfway across the world to come see you. I have a job, bills to pay.” “You can take a holiday. Surely you have some leave? I know everyone would love to see you.” I can hear the pleading in her voice, but there’s no way I can make it happen. I wish I could. A break is exactly what I need right now, and I know Jacob would love it.

“I’d love to see everyone too, but I can’t. I’m sorry, Lib. Maybe early next year.” “Okay.” She sounds disappointed, and I feel bad, but I know there’s no way I can make it happen. We chat for a while and she fills me in on life on the ranch, and what’s been happening with everyone. Libby went to visit family on their ranch in Texas four years ago. Her best friend had just died, and she was lost. She went there to escape and ended up falling in love. She’s been there ever since and married Mason just before I met Zara. I’ve never seen her happier, and while I miss her, she’s where she belongs. I’ve visited her a couple of times, and she came home just after Jacob was born, but I wish I could see her more often. We talk for a few more minutes, and I promise again to send her some pictures of Jacob. We FaceTime often, and he loves his aunt Libby. Ending the call, I decide to call it a night.

Jacob had a rough night the night before with some back teeth coming through, and neither of us got much sleep. Hopefully tonight will be better and I can catch up a little. I turn off the TV, lock up, and head upstairs. Checking on Jacob, I’m relieved to see he’s still fast asleep. I brush a kiss on his chubby cheek, then close his bedroom door behind me and head into the bathroom. After a quick shower, I crawl, exhausted, into bed. Despite being tired, I’m still awake ten minutes later. My mind is full of the person who always seems to invade my thoughts when I lie in bed alone. Mia, Libby’s best friend. Mia and Lib had been inseparable as kids, and Mia was always at our house. I’m two years older than Libby, and for a while, my sister and her friend were just annoying little girls. It wasn’t until I was about sixteen or seventeen that my feelings toward Mia changed. She’d come over one day looking for Libby, who’d gone out. I ended up inviting her in, and we’d watched a film. Nothing happened, but I’d loved spending time with her, and it made me realize I’d liked her for quite a while.

She was only fifteen, so I never said anything, figuring I’d have plenty of time to tell her how I felt when she got a little older. I remember my dad calling me to say Libby and Mia had been involved in an accident. When he’d told me Mia hadn’t made it, it felt like someone had ripped my heart out. It was only then I’d realized I’d been in love with her. It was too late though, and I never got the chance to tell her. I thought meeting Zara might have been a second chance at happiness, especially when I’d found out she was pregnant. Turns out I’d been wrong about that too. I’m woken the next morning by Jacob’s chattering filling the room through the baby monitor. Although it’s early, there is no better way to be woken. “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy,” he shouts, and I chuckle as I sit up and swing my legs to the side of the bed. “On the way, buddy,” I shout as I make my way to his bedroom. Pushing the door open, I see him standing up in the cot, his face lit up in a smile as he sees me. “Daddy!” he cries, holding his hands up in the air for me to pick him up. “Up, up, up!” Laughing, I cross the room and scoop him up, pressing a kiss to his cheek. “Morning, little man.

Did you sleep well?” He nods, his small fingers finding my ears. Even when he was tiny, his little fingers would reach up and hold on to my ears. It’s something he’s always done, and something I know I’ll miss when he’s too big for me to pick him up. “Let’s get you cleaned up and fed.” Placing him on the changing table, I make quick work of changing his nappy. I decide to leave him in his sleepsuit and get him dressed after breakfast. Feeding time is always messy and I’ve enough laundry to do. I carry him downstairs and place him in his high chair while I flick on the coffee machine. “Do you want juice, Jacob?” I ask as I open the fridge. “Yes!” he shouts, banging his hands on the tray of the high chair. Laughing, I fill his juice cup and pass it to him. “Tank you, Daddy,” he says as he takes the cup from me and begins to gulp down the juice. I smile at his mispronunciation of thank you. His speech is really coming on, and I try to talk to him as much as I can. “Nanny and Pops are coming over today,” I tell him as I make his porridge.

“You can play trucks with Pops.” “Pops, play trucks,” he cries as he puts his juice down and claps his hands. To say he loves cars and trucks is an understatement. Nearly every one of his toys has wheels, and he plays for hours, lining them up and racing them along the wooden floor of the sitting room. I love watching him play. Even at two, his imagination is amazing. After finishing up with breakfast, I take Jacob back upstairs and get him dressed. Leaving him to play in his bedroom, I wash up before getting dressed myself. We’ve got an hour before my parents arrive and the weather’s good, so we head to the park on his three-wheel bike. He can’t pedal just yet, so I use the parent handle to push him along. He squeals with excitement when he sees the swings. “Swings, Daddy. Push me.” “Come on, then,” I tell him, lifting him off his bike and onto the swing. “Hold on tight.

” I push him gently, watching his little legs dangling from the seat. “Higher, Daddy,” he cries. Smiling, I push him a little higher before coming around to the front of the swing so I can see his face. Grabbing my phone from my pocket, I take a few pictures and send them to Libby. After a few more minutes on the swing, he wants to go on the slide. I lift him from the seat and follow him to the small climbing frame. Standing behind him, I watch as he climbs the ladder, crossing the walkway to the slide. “Catch, Daddy.” I stand at the end of the slide and crouch down, my arms open wide. “One, two, three, go!” I shout. His face is flushed with excitement, and he belly laughs as he shoots down the slide into my waiting arms. “Again,” he cries, running back around to the steps. We do this another handful of times before going on the roundabout and back on the swings again. “Time to head back now, Jacob. Nanny and Pops will be coming soon.

” “No, stay!” he shouts, stamping his little feet on the ground. “Jacob,” I warn, kneeling down in front of him. “We’ve had fun at the park, but now it’s time to go home. Okay?” Since he turned two a couple of months ago, he’s been testing the boundaries and voicing his opinion more. This is normally followed by a tantrum when he doesn’t get his own way. I’m hopeful I’ve avoided one today as he nods, his bottom lip wobbling. Pulling him into my arms, I give him a cuddle, not wanting to see him cry. “We’ll come back another day,” I promise. I tickle his side, and he giggles. I think I’ve averted a meltdown. It’s about a ten-minute walk back home, and when we get there, my parents are waiting on the driveway. After a round of hellos, we go inside, Jacob pulling my dad into the sitting room to play with his trucks. My mum follows me into the kitchen and leans against the counter as I turn on the coffee machine. The gurgling of the machine fills the silence, and I busy myself, tidying up the breakfast dishes. I know she’s worried about me, and after last night’s phone call, she likely has more to say.

“Did Libby call last night?” she asks flippantly. Turning from loading the dishwasher, I raise my eyebrows. “Yes. But I’m guessing you already know that?” Her face flushes pink and she shrugs. “I’m concerned about you. I’m your mum. You might be twenty-five, but I still worry about you.” I put the last dish into the dishwasher, then turn and pull her into a hug. “I’m okay, Mum. Sure, I’m tired and fall asleep most nights before nine, but I love every minute of being Jacob’s dad.” She pulls out of the hug and her hand cups my face. “And you are the most amazing dad to that little boy. I am so proud of you.” She smiles at me and I smile back. “He’s lucky to have you.

I just think you need a break.” “You’re giving me a break this morning,” I tell her with a wink. “I mean a proper break, Jack. One that’s longer than an hour, and where you aren’t doing laundry.” “Lib asked me to go to the ranch.” I’ve no idea why I’ve shared that with her, it’s not like I can go. I’m guessing if she knows Lib called me though, she probably knows she asked me to go. “What did you tell her?” I turn away from her and pour three cups of coffee. Turning to hand one to her, I shrug. “I told her no. Don’t get me wrong, I want to go. Jacob would love it. I just can’t take time off right now.” “If it’s about the money—” “It’s not about the money,” I tell her, cutting her off. “I’m an accountant, Mum.

I make good money and good money choices. I just need more time to plan with work for time off. I told Lib maybe early next year, once the baby’s born.” “If you’re sure, honey. Your dad and I will help out whenever you want. If you want a night out with the guys, we’ll have Jacob overnight anytime.” “I know, Mum, and thanks. I appreciate it.” I haven’t seen the guys in a while. Maybe a night out will do me good. “I’ll message them, see when’s good.” She smiles, and I think my agreeing to let them have Jacob while I go out has somewhat pacified her for now. “I’ll go and see what your dad and Jacob are up to.” She goes up on her tiptoes and kisses me on the cheek. “Take your time with the laundry.

” Two hours later and the last of the laundry is in the machine, I’ve also had time to clean the bathroom and vacuum upstairs, which is an added bonus. I can still hear my parents in the sitting room with Jacob, laughter and squeals of delight filling the air. “How about some lunch, my treat?” I ask as I walk into the sitting room. I can’t help but smile as I look around. Almost every one of Jacob’s toys is out, and he’s currently driving a digger over my dad, who’s lying in the middle of the floor. Clearly playing with the trucks won out over the petting zoo. “Daddy!” Jacob cries as he sees me come in. “Look, digger!” He holds it in the air. My dad takes that as his cue to get up, moving to sit next to my mum on the sofa. “Hey, buddy. It looks like you’re having great fun with Pops.” He nods and walks over to me, holding his hands up. Scooping him up I kiss his cheek. “You hungry?” He nods again and snuggles into my neck. “Let’s go eat.

” After lunch at the local pub, my parents say their goodbyes, my mum promising to call in the week. When we get home, I put Jacob down for a nap and tidy up the sitting room before finishing off the laundry. The chores seem never-ending, but I do manage thirty minutes or so to myself before Jacob wakes, which is a novelty. The rest of the weekend flies by, and as I climb into bed on Sunday night, I groan as I think of my week ahead. Despite Jacob waking early every morning, it always seems to be a mad rush to get him dressed, fed, and off to nursery. I have to be at work for 8:30 a.m., and I need to drop Jacob off by 7:45 a.m., or else I’ll be late. Mornings are chaotic, but I have somewhat of a routine to follow. I can only hope everything goes to plan and Jacob doesn’t decide to fill his nappy just as we’re about to leave the house.


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Updated: 10 June 2021 — 18:32

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