By Sara Rayfield
Seven is an odd number. It’s also prime.
“Hi, baby!” I greet my son warmly, as if doing custody exchanges at the police station is totally normal. Just like prime, odd numbers – this is our normal. It’s where shit like this happens when you have a restraining order against your ex. When things are bad enough, he’s not even allowed in the police station, so I get the pure sarcastic joy of my former in-laws every other weekend. That’s also what happens.
“How was your birthday party?” I ask, while getting a weekend’s worth of dirty clothes shoved into my arms. And cotton candy. And McDonald’s bags. And the packages of cupcakes that I had packed with care on Friday afternoon. Seven cupcakes: one for my son. One for his grandmother, one for his grandfather. Two for his aunt and uncle. Two final ones: one for my son’s dad, one for his stepmom.
“Why are there two cupcakes left?” I question my former mother-in-law. The woman who opened her heart to me when I married her only son, when I gave birth to her only grandchild. The woman who now only looks at me and shrugs. It’s what happens when you have her son arrested for domestic abuse.
“Say bye, baby.”
I buckle my little baby, not so little anymore – nearly four-years-old – into his car seat and leave the police station. We don’t have to come back here for another two weeks, and even then seems too soon. Courts are reluctant to stop visitation between a parent and his child, even when it’s court-mandated to be supervised. I guess it’s what happens when courts are accused of being too favorable to mothers.
“Baby, how was your party? Did you have fun celebrating with Daddy?” A quick glance in the rearview mirror answers the questions I don’t want to ask. Did you even see your dad? Did he bother leaving his damn house at all to see you? I brush the hot tears from my eyes.
“I’m so excited to have a birthday cupcake with you tonight, baby! Can Mommy help you blow out your candles?”
My big boy, my saving grace – the reason I left – smiles at me from the backseat. It’s what happens when all we have is each other.
Sara Reyfield is a vivacious over-sharer with an MFA in Creative Writing. She recently learned the lyrics to Toto’s ‘Africa’ and isn’t afraid to use them.