The past week with Aunt Rae hadn’t been terrible. Tyler had fun hanging with the twins. Even Grayson took some time to play games with them, in between making out with his girlfriend.
This morning, however, Tyler’s stomach was tied up in knots. Eating breakfast was a no go. He was both anxious and nervous for his father and Dr. Fields’ return. He wished his life could be like it was for his cousins. He knew it was impossible because his parents were divorced and his dad remarried.
It hadn’t been that bad with just him and his dad, but now, things would be different. And he didn’t know if they would be good different or bad different. He feared it would be bad different.
Alex and Grayson were finished eating, leaving just him and Cassie at the table. She was so busy talking, as always, so it took her twice as long to eat. “Ty, aren’t you hungry?” asked his Aunt Rea when she saw him pushing the food around his plate. “Or would you like something different?”
“He’s just worried ‘cause his dad and new stepmom come back this morning,” explained Cassie.
Thanks a lot Cassie, he thought and shot her a look. She just shrugged.
“I see. Ty, when your done, can we talk, privately?” Reagan looked meaningfully at Cassie.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. He was gonna let Cassie have it. “I’m sorry I didn’t eat. It’s good. I’m just not hungry. Anyway, I’m done now.” Tyler picked up his plate and put it in the sink.
He followed his Aunt into the living room while Cassie escaped upstairs. He thought about things as they walked. It wasn’t that he didn’t like his new stepmother, he did. But having her live with them was awkward. And of course she’d be sleeping with his father in his room now. And he didn’t want to think about what they’d be doing in there. That was just too gross.
Reagan felt bad for Tyler and wanted to know what was really bothering him. Having Taysia in his life had seemed like it would be a good thing. Plus she’d never seen her brother so happy and relaxed. He freaking smiled all the time now instead of always being so growly and grumpy. So why was Tyler upset? Was it because he felt like Taysia was replacing his mother?
Tyler walked in like he’d done something wrong and Reagan felt her heart squeeze in her chest for him. “Ty, please, sit down. You want to tell me what’s really going on in that handsome head of yours?”
“Nothing … I’m sorry about breakfast,” he mumbled.
“I know you’re nervous about your stepmother,” she offered, “It’s a big change. I understand a little of what you are going through. Your Grandpa Cole and my mother divorced when Ryan and I were only seven. I was too young to really understand why she would leave us. When your Grandma Dannie moved in with us, I was resentful.”
“I thought Grandma Dannie was your mother.”
Reagan smiled. “She is – in all ways that count. But actually, she is your father’s and my stepmother. She loved us as if we were hers though. Having a stepmother doesn’t have to be bad.”
Tyler scrunched up his face. “What name did you call her – wasn’t it weird?”
Reagan figured his worry went deeper than that, but it was safe subject for him. “At first I just called her Dannie. It took me a long time to realize she was fulfilling the role of a mother, because, well, I had a mother. But she wasn’t around. Years later,” too many years, she thought but didn’t say, “I realized when I thought of my mother, I thought of Dannie, not the woman that gave birth to me. Anyway, now I usually just call her Grandma Dannie.”
“Where’s your real mother? She’s my grandmother too right? Why doesn’t she ever come see us?”
Reagan groaned inside. She wasn’t going to tell him that awful story. He needed lifting up, not dragged down. “Honey, she died about 18 years ago.”
“Wow, I didn’t know that.”
“Tyler, your situation is different. You still have your mother and I’m pretty sure she loves you very much even though she’s not an active participant in your daily care. Sort of like your father loves Samantha, but doesn’t see her every day.”
“I hate her.” Tyler stated it as if it were no big deal.
“Ty, does your dad know how you feel?”
He just nodded.
“I see,” said Reagan, but what she couldn’t see was why Ryan seemed to think Ty was okay. His son was clearly hurting and confused. “Why do you dislike her Tyler? I’m sure she cares about you. She takes good care of Samantha. It’s hard to believe she doesn’t love you too.”
“I don’t want to talk about her, okay? And I’ll just call Dr. Fields ‘Dr. Fields’ like I always have.“
Tyler was trying to end the conversation, but she wan’t finished. “Hmm, perhaps you might think about Ms. T or even Ms. Taysia instead. That would be less formal. Regardless, you should discuss it with her and maybe try out a few different names. Just remember, she is a very nice lady and loves your father very much. That much is crystal clear, and it’s also clear that she cares a great deal about you too. It’s all going to be fine sweetheart. You’ll see.”
“Mom!” yelled Cassie interrupting them. “They’re here! Uncle Ryan and Aunt Taysia!”
“Okay,” replied Reagan then addressed her nephew. “Ty, run upstairs and get your bags – and try to remember what I said.”
“Yes ma’am,” he replied, looking just as dejected as before. Poor guy, she’d done nothing to help. She needed to talk to Ryan before they left.
“We’re baaaack!” called out Ryan as they came through the door. He was decked out with an Hawaiian print shirt complete with a lei. Taysia was dressed similarly, in a bold flowered dress and lei.
“Wow, you guys look rested!” said Reagan as she hugged them both. “You must’ve had a wonderful time.”
Ryan wrapped his arm around his wife and tugged up against him. “We did! We got in all the ”S’s …. sun, sand, sleep, surf, swimming and lots and lots of se ….
“Ryan Murdock!” said Reagan, interrupting him and cutting her eyes towards the twins.
Ryan just smirked at her.
Reagan put her hands on her hips in horror. “I’m sorry Taysia. I hope you realize you’ve just married a 13 year-old boy.”
Taysia laughed and patted Ryan’s chest. “Then it’s a good thing I know how to handle teenage boys.”
“Hey! I’m standing right here!” replied Ryan. “Speaking of 13 year-old boys, where’s Tyler?”
“I sent him up to get his bags. I would like to talk to you two before he comes back down.” Reagan turned her attention to the twins. “Girls, go upstairs and give us some privacy please.”
“Crap, What did he do?” asked Ryan as the three walked over to the living room.
“Nothing Ryan … he was good.” When the twins were out of earshot, Reagan told him about Tyler’s fears, including what he should call his stepmother.
“Wow,” said Ryan, “I didn’t realize he was so upset. He never said anything. Hell, he likes Taysia.”
“Well, just be aware that he has lots of fears. It’s a big change and change is hard for kids like him. Also, he said he hated his mother and that you know. Is that true?”
“Rea, you know how Bel was, she never bonded with him and left all of his care to me. Everything with her was always about Sam. I’m not surprised he feels that way,”
“Have you discussed this with Bel?”
“No … I talk to her the least amount possible. She doesn’t deserve his love anyway.”
“Regardless Ryan, I suggest you let her know that her son feels unloved and she should make more of an effort to see him. Don’t forget how things were with you and I and our mother.”
“Reagan, dammit. She didn’t see him when she lived here. She sure as hell won’t make an effort now.”
“Hi Dad,” said Tyler as he entered the living room.
Ryan jumped up quickly. “Hey Ty! I missed you. Give me a hug.” Ryan held his arms out for his son. Reagan was pleased to see that Tyler not only let his father engulf him in his arms, but hugged him back just as fiercely.
Tyler went straight to his room once they got home. He wasn’t sure what else he was supposed to do, so he put on his headset and got on the computer. He hadn’t been able to play at his Aunt’s house because the only computer he could use was Grayson’s and he was always on it.
Everything seemed normal again once he got in his game and he momentarily forgot about his worries. He was ready to blow up the next target while plotting and talking excitedly to his online buddies when he heard a loud knock on his door. By the intensity of it, he figured it wasn’t the first one.
He quickly jerked off his headset. “What?!?” he called out.
His dad opened the door. He was relieved it wasn’t Dr. Fields. “Can we come in?” asked his dad.
Tyler’s stomach clenched. He said ‘we’ so that meant she was standing behind him. “I guess.”
Sure enough, they both came in and sat down together on his little couch. He was surprised when it was Dr. Fields that spoke and not his dad. “Ty, we wanted to talk to you and let you know that if you are worried or uncomfortable about anything, you can come to either one of us.”
“I’m fine.” He didn’t want to talk, but Aunt Rea probably told them everything. “I told Aunt Rea I was sorry I didn’t eat breakfast. My stomach was upset is all. It’s better now.” At least it was better.
“Tyler, I know it’s kinda weird that I’m your stepmother now. But you and I have a good relationship. That doesn’t need to change. I’m not trying to replace your mother in your life.”
“I don’t have a mother in my life and I don’t need one.” The words were out before he could stop them.
“Tyler!” said his dad. “That’s uncalled for.”
“Well, it’s true. And just because Grandpa Ben and you had stepparents doesn’t mean I need one.” He was so in trouble for talking back. But he didn’t care.
Dr. Fields put her hand on his dad’s arm so he wouldn’t say anything else. “Tyler,” she said, her voice soft and non-threatening, “I’m not coming in here trying to be a mother for you. I have to earn that. But, we can be still be friends, right? I can still help you with your homework. And I can do it every night instead of just sometimes, that’s if you need it. We’ve discussed this before.”
Tyler was confused, unsure of what exactly he wanted. Maybe he did want a mother. Or maybe not. But a friend might be okay. “We can be friends? What about at school?”
“Well, that’s a little tricky. I’ll tell you what, I’ll go by Dr. Fields at school. And at home, maybe you can call me Tay? That will be my friend name, okay? Tay ‘n Ty. Friends.”
Tyler began to smile. He liked that idea. “Ty ‘n Tay,” he said, putting his name first.
Taysia laughed. “Sure, either way works.”
“Dr. Fiel .. I mean Tay, do I have to tell everyone at school you’re my stepmother?”
“Well, you don’t have to. If they ask, you shouldn’t lie, but you don’t have to tell them unless they ask about it.”
“Are you going to tell my teachers?” he asked.
She sighed softly before answering. “Honey, they already know. I got married and that’s a pretty big deal. I was super happy and excited. I wanted to share my happiness, so yes, I told them I was getting married, and to whom. What I can do is ask them not to call it out in class, okay?”
“Okay.” Tyler was relieved. The last thing he wanted was a big announcement in class.
“Ty, if anyone teases you about it, that’s not okay and you need to let me know.”
Like I’m gonna tell on anyone, thought Tyler and tried not to roll his eyes. “Whatever, can I go back to my game now?”
“Sure,” said his dad, evidently now allowed to speak, “Lunch will be ready in about an hour.” His dad clapped him on the back as they left his room.
As Tyler went back to his game, he had a thought, maybe, it just might wind up being good different after all. He certainly hoped so.