“What happened? Who died? Is Apollo okay?”
Zak laughed and almost shook the foundation of the apartment building. “You always were as nervous as a mouse! Everything’s fine. Thalassa went into labor, and asked me to bring Polly Boy home.”
Jove relaxed a little bit. “Oh, well… congratulations.”
“Thanks!” He handed over Apollo, and turned to leave.
“Um… what did you name her?”
“Trucy. She’s the sweetest little thing. Healthy too.”
Healthy. Was he trying to imply something?
Jove nodded and exchanged goodbyes with Zak. After he closed the door, Jove looked down at Apollo, who had awakened at some point.
“I know. We’re gonna get you to bed.”
Apollo buried his face in his father’s neck. “Okay.”
Jove glanced at the oven clock. It read 11:37. It was way past his son’s bed time. In fact, Jove wasn’t supposed to be up this late either, but before he could make his way back to bed, Apollo had beckoned to his father.
“Can you play me something?”
“Apollo, it’s way too late.” Jove yawned, hoping the act would rub off on Apollo. It did, but the little boy would not be swayed.
Jove sighed and got out his guitar; the guitar he had almost destroyed over a year ago. “What do you want me to play?” He asked, despite knowing the answer.
“What you always play!”
Jove started to pluck at the strings, humming along softly. When Apollo was a baby, Jove had created the song with the intention of calming him down. Jove had liked the chords, and wanted to turn it into a full-blown song, but had never been able to come up with any lyrics. And so it remained a simple lullaby he hummed to his son when persuaded. Luckily, Apollo always fell asleep by the end of the first verse so Jove didn’t have to figure out what to write next.
Tonight was no different, and Jove kissed Apollo’s head and retired to his room to hopefully get some sleep.
Of course, his brain couldn’t even grant him that simple wish. Jove’s mind flooded with the insecurities and doubts. Some recent, and some as old as Apollo.
Why did Thalassa leave me?
Jove shook his head. He needed to stop thinking like this.
It’s not fair. We were perfectly happy…
He curled into a ball, sorrow wrapping around his heart and squeezing it. The deafening silence suffocated him. He needed something to drink. This pain was too much. Tears forced their way down Jove’s face.
What does Zak have that I don’t?
He grabbed his phone and called Johann before everything could get out of hand. He couldn’t get drunk while Apollo was home.
“What?” Johann was groggy.
“I need you to get over here.” Jove managed to choke out through his sobs.
“I’ll be right there.”
Once Johann arrived, Jove had calmed down a little bit.
“Alright, where are your blankets?”
Jove pointed a shaking finger to the linen closet. Johann grabbed a comforter and wrapped it around his friend’s shoulders. Once the blanket was secured, Johann poured Jove a glass of water.
“Thanks…” Jove took a sip.
“Alright, now tell me what’s going on.” Johann added in, “you haven’t been drinking, have you?”
“No. I have that much self control. I just… I dunno. Thalassa had her baby, and I guess I just wasn’t prepared to have Zak barge in at eleven o’clock and start talking about his kid. ‘Oh she’s the sweetest thing, and healthy too…’ I think I’m just overreacting.”
“I mean, I’ve never had a divorce before, but I can imagine it would be hard to see your ex’s life and how they’re doing, but comparing yourself to her isn’t going to make you feel better.”
“I know…” Jove said miserably. “It’s just so hard. Here I am, working my ass off to make ends meet, and there’s Thalassa living comfortably back with her father, and his weird assistants, and her ‘healthy’ baby. I want her to be out of my life completely, but that can never happen.” He took another sip of his water.
“Sometimes I regret ever marrying Thalassa, but then I think of Apollo, and the life I’ve had, and then I’m filled with shame. How could I be so blind?” Jove looked at Johann. “I never wanted to be a parent, y’know? I hated kids… But that all changed when I held Apollo. He was so… so small, and I couldn’t help but think, ‘this is a person. I made him, and I’m going to protect him until my very dying breath’.
“It was almost instinctual. I had never felt that immediate need to protect someone. Not for my closest friends, not even for Thalassa, but here I was, eighteen years old, pledging my life to this tiny human.” Jove shook his head. “And I had the gall to wish it had never happened.”
Johann rubbed circles into Jove’s back. “You were married to Thalassa for six years; it’s natural to feel like that time was wasted.”
“But it wasn’t… Thalassa and I were raising Apollo. We were teaching him how to walk, how to speak…” Jove clutched his head in his hands. “God, I’m such a fucking idiot.”
Johann whispered consoling words as he continued to rub circles into his friend’s back. “No your not… you’re just going through a rough phase. You’re gonna be alright once you get through it.”
“I’m not worried about later. I’m worried about what’s happening right now.”
“What’s happening now?”
“I’m battling an inferiority complex while trying to take care of my son! I’m trying to get my music career off the ground, and sometimes I want to get so shitfaced I can’t count to five.”
“Do you think you need to go to rehab?”
“No, I haven’t gotten to that point yet, but sometimes I feel that urge to just buy a couple six packs and forget about life for a little while. Once that feeling subsides, all I’m left with this sad failure of a person.”
“You’re not a failure…”
“I know that!” Jove snapped. “I know that I have so much going for me, but I have this one, terrible addiction that I just can’t seem to shake. No matter what I do, I always come back to it some way or another.”
“You don’t have any alcohol in the house, do you?”
“No, of course I don’t. I got rid of everything months ago.”
“Then I don’t see what the problem is…” Johann said, making sure he chose his words as carefully as possible.
“The problem is me.” Jove snapped back. “Look at me! I’m wrapped in a blanket, demanding that my best friend interrupt his night just to fix me a cup of water.”
“Jove, maybe you should quiet down a little bit…”
“Now I know why Thalassa dumped me. I’m such a weak little piece of shit that I can’t even-”
Johann smacked Jove. The other man raised a hand to his face and touched his stinging cheek. “Why did you-”
“Stop playing the victim.”
Jove looked at his friend, bewildered. “What?”
“You can’t better yourself if you’re constantly beating yourself up. You’re making my blood boil just listening to you.”
Jove went silent.
“Thalassa dumping you wasn’t your fault, and you need to get that in your head, okay?”
“She’s always gonna be there. You need to accept that, and stop freaking out every time something happens to her that’s slightly better than what’s happening to you. Just do that for your kid. None of this is about you anymore.” Johann went back into the kitchen and threw Jove an ice pack. “Now are we done here, or do I have to smack some more sense into you?”
Jove winced as he put the ice pack against his cheek. “I heard you loud and clear.”
“Good, now if we’re done here, I’m gonna go back to bed. Are you gonna be okay?”
Jove hesitated for a moment, then nodded.
“Good, ’cause I’m tired.” Johann made his way out the door. “Goodnight, Jove.”
. . .
It was barely seven in the morning when Jove awoke to the TV playing in the living room. He tried to block out the sound, but it was no use; it was time for him to wake up.
Stumbling bleary-eyed into the living room, Jove found Apollo watching a rerun of an old cartoon, and sitting upside down.
“Hey, Polly wog. How’s the view down there?” Jove said as he stifled a yawn.
. . .
Today was finally the day. We were finally gonna get married. I was nervous as Thalassa swished through the halls, pulling me behind her.
“Only an hour until the wedding.” She said. “I’m a little nervous…”