Summary: Ryan deals with his two moms.
Notes: Remix of Onward by avocadomoon
Ryan ignored Kirsten’s smile as he met her at the entrance to the kitchen. He wasn’t here for a social visit, as he had been many times since he graduated from Berkeley. He’d gotten a place of his own, but Sandy and Kirsten both told him often that he could drop by whenever he liked.
He was dropping by, but not in the way they thought when they’d made the offer.
“You gave my mom my number.”
Kirsten didn’t even blink at his lack of greeting. “She said she’d gotten a new phone and lost her contacts.” Shrugging, Kirsten headed over to the table. “She’s your mom, I thought you’d be happy she called.”
He would never understand why Kirsten always thought the best of Dawn no matter what she did. “And you didn’t think it odd that she had your number?”
“Perhaps she looked it up.” She didn’t sound at all concerned as she sat. In front of her was a pile of paper and a laptop, which she pushed closed. “Sit down, Ryan.”
Despite her tone being conversational he was pulling out a chair before he fully realized what he was doing. After a moment’s hesitation he gave in and sat. He knew he was going to end up forgiving her by the end of the conversation, but he was too mad to do it yet.
She waited until he was seated before she spoke. “She’s your mom. She loves you.”
He made a face. She couldn’t be sure of that, not when he wasn’t sure himself. “She has a funny way of showing it. She came for high school graduation and college graduation-” he waved a hand “-but not a word in between. Every time she gets her life back together she throws it away again. The only reason for her to call is because she wants something.”
Despite Kirsten’s frown she looked worried. “Does she need money?”
In his experience his mom always needed money. But the Cohens weren’t here to be her bank – he wouldn’t let them. “Don’t know, didn’t ask.” He could tell what Kirsten was thinking from the expression on her face and he held up a hand. “You can’t keep bailing her out.”
He knew Sandy felt obliged to, but he couldn’t keep doing it her whole life – at some point she was going to have to do it herself. Ryan was not going to be the only adult in the family.
Kirsten bit her lip, but she was still smiling. “The same way you can’t keep helping people?”
He opened his mouth to refute it, realized he couldn’t, then slumped back in his seat.
She reached out and put a hand on his arm. “Leaving you with us was an act of love,” she said quietly. “She knew you’d have a better life with us.”
Of course she did. Who wouldn’t want to live in a pool house? He moved his arm closer to his body, out of Kirsten’s reach. “Do you think her moving house and leaving me a note was an act of love too?”
“I don’t know.” She folded her hands on her laptop. “I guess it’s hard for me to understand your mom and her choices. But perhaps you could. You understand what her life has been like better than I do.”
He wasn’t at all convinced by that and it must have shown because she went on. “Talk to her. Maybe she’s never called you just to catch up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t. There’s still time to have the relationship you want to have with her one day. You just need to give her a chance.”
By now he’d lost count of the number of chances he’d given her. He said, “I guess,” more because he felt that he should say something, rather than because he agreed.
At least Kirsten changed the subject. “Why don’t you stay for lunch? Sandy and Sophie will be back from swimming soon.”
He shook his head. “I have plans, but thanks.”
“You know you’re welcome any time,” she said as she stood.
“Yeah, I know.” After all, she said it every time he visited. Although Seth got, “You should visit more often,” when he was here.
Before he left she hugged him, saying, “If you need anything you know where we are.”
“I know.” He ducked his head
She patted his shoulder, smiling as they let go of each other. “See what your mom has to say. Maybe she’ll surprise you.”
Things would be easier if he didn’t love his mom. Then he could pretend the Cohens were his family. His coworkers already thought they were and he never bothered to correct them.
When he returned home he bowed to the inevitable and pulled his phone from his pocket. Although he stayed in the car to do it, knowing it wouldn’t be a long conversation. Conversations with his mom were never long.
“Hey, Mom,” he said when she answered.
“Oh, hi, Ryan.” She sounded as excited as always to speak to him. “What are you doing?”
He shrugged. “I just called to catch up. We haven’t really spoken for a while.”
“I would love to, but I’m on my way to work. I can’t be late, I only just got this job.”
So her phone call the other day had been because she lost her job. Again. This was a mistake, he shouldn’t have called her.
“I’m off tomorrow morning, why don’t you call me then?”
“Okay.” It felt more like a duty, though. He tried feeling her out. “You can tell me about your job and I’ll tell you about mine.”
“Yeah, sure. I don’t know anything about how you design a house.” She laughed.
That lack of enthusiasm was why he never called. After his first week Kirsten had been on the phone wanting to hear about everything. Even though she’d done the same job and he wasn’t telling her anything she didn’t already know.
“I keep telling everyone how my son’s so clever, he graduated from college. I guess I should know a little about your job to brag about.”
That gave him pause. “You brag about me?”
“I don’t know anyone who even went to college, of course I do. Look, I’ve got to go. Call me tomorrow, okay?”
“Okay,” he agreed, before ending the call.
He stayed in his car until it was too hot to sit there any longer without the A/C on. He still wasn’t sure if his mom deserved another chance, but he knew he’d keep giving her them for as long as he loved her.