His mom smiled. “Is the team ready for the big game tomorrow, Hayden?”
“It’ll be a tough game without our best forward.” Hayden stabbed his spoon into his ice cream, imagining it was Trevor’s face instead of chocolate chunk.
His dad frowned. “I spoke with Stan today. Tim’s hearing is set for tomorrow.”
Hayden squinted at the mention of Trevor’s dad. That jerk probably paid off the judge to give Tim the worst possible sentence.
Molly frowned, stirring the ice cream in her bowl. “What will happen to him?”
“The judge overseeing his case is a decent man. He believes in second chances, so he should be lenient. Tim will, more than likely, get credit for the time he served and have to take anger management classes.” He smiled at her. “That’s maybe not a bad thing for him. He’s a hothead on the field.”
Hayden laughed. “Yes, but he’s also our leading goal scorer. It’s a trade-off.” He finished his ice cream and sat the bowl on the table.
His mom sighed. “Well, I hope you learn from his mistake, Hayden. Fighting is never the answer to a problem.”
Molly stiffened, and Hayden frowned. He narrowed his eyes at his mom. “Sometimes you can’t avoid it, Mom, when you have something worth fighting for.” He looked at Molly.
She met his eyes and shook her head. “Hayden, your mom is right. I don’t want you fighting either.”
He grinned at his mom’s glare and Molly’s worried gaze. “There’re no future bouts scheduled so you can both relax.”
His dad laughed and patted his mom’s knee. “Don’t worry, Hayden’s boxing days are over. He got what he wanted, right Hayden?”
Sometimes his parents could be such a pain. For crying out loud, his dad acted like Molly wasn’t sitting right there.
“Dad, you make it sound like I got a new bike or something.” He looked at Molly, his pulse spiked at the memory of their kiss. “She’s letting me be with her, but I don’t own her.” He smiled when she rolled her eyes.
Molly giggled. “Hayden’s rehearsing for the part of Romeo in the next play. He’s been working on the romantic lines.”
His mom’s laughter joined hers. “When he was little, his action figures used the lines on the damsel in distress. Superman had the best ones.”
Molly’s laugh tinkled through the room. Hayden groaned and covered his eyes with his fingers. “Mom, please.” He looked at his dad and raised his hands.
“I know better than to get in the middle of this.” His dad stood and grabbed the empty ice cream bowls. “I think I’ll escape upstairs. Good luck.” He smiled at Hayden’s helpless smirk.
“Thanks, Dad.” Hayden’s embarrassment eased when he looked at Molly’s smiling face. If it made her look at him that way, he’d take any abuse his mom could dish out.
“Do you have any other stories, Nancy?” Molly winked at Hayden.
His mom stood and walked to the bookshelf. She grabbed a thick book Hayden knew well. He groaned. “Oh, God, Mom, please no. She doesn’t want to see those.”
She rejoined an eager Molly on the couch and placed the opened book on her lap.
Molly’s eyes grew wide and she flushed. “Pictures?” She scooted closer to his mom.
When Molly turned her excited gaze on him, Hayden sighed. He squeezed himself next to her on the cushion. He put an arm around her shoulders and kissed her cheek. “All right, but you have to promise not to laugh.”
She giggled. “No promises.”
He used his free hand to hold hers.
His mom smiled, gazing at them cuddled together. Hayden met her eyes and she nodded. “Let’s get started, shall we?” She and Molly exchanged a smile.
While his mom flipped through the pages of his childhood, Molly awed and giggled. His mom laughed along with her, and Hayden relaxed. Molly had won her over. If there was one thing his mom respected, it was anyone who loved her son like she did.
Later that night, after he took Molly home, Hayden lay awake in his bed thinking about her. He pictured her smiling face while his mom told story after story of him as a kid.
How was it possible to fall harder for Molly? He already loved her and wanting her was a given. But seeing her interact with his mom today made him realize he didn’t just want to date Molly now. He wanted to be with her forever.
Hayden sighed and rubbed his face. He was only seventeen, too young to be thinking of forever. Right?
After a knock on his door, he sat and rubbed a hand through his hair. “Come in.”
His mom peeked around the door. “Got a minute?”
Great, she’d come with a lecture of all the reasons he should take it slow with Molly. “Sure.”
She came in and sat at the foot of his bed. “I wanted to talk to you… about Molly.” She twisted her hands together.
“What about?” Hayden tried to keep a defensive tone out of his words.
His mom looked at her hands and sighed. “I’m sorry I upset her today. I didn’t mean to.”
Hayden frowned. “She’s the one you need to apologize to for that.”
“Yes, but I also needed to apologize to you. I can tell she means a lot to you. When I upset her, it affects you, too.” She put her hand on his ankle. “She’s a very nice girl, I like her.”
Hayden grinned. “I know, so do I.”
His mom laughed. “It’s obvious there’s more to your feelings than just liking her.” She squeezed his ankle and let go.
Hayden was glad his room was dark, so his mom couldn’t see his face turn red. “You’re right. I love her, Mom.”
His mom covered her lips with her fingers and nodded. She blinked so fast she looked like a cartoon.
Hayden whispered, “Mom, when did you know you wanted to be with dad forever?”
She wiped her eye and sighed. “It took a while. Your father was a bit of a loose cannon in the early days. He liked to joke and goof around. He flirted with me, but he flirted with everyone. I didn’t know he was serious about me until he asked me out. We dated for a year and he started talking about getting married. I thought he was still joking, but then he knelt down and gave me a ring.” She smiled.
Hayden frowned. “How old were you?”
“We were twenty-one. We’d just graduated college.” She gave Hayden a curious look. “Why are you asking me about this?”
Hayden shrugged and avoided her gaze. “I can’t imagine being with anyone else but her. But I don’t know if I should feel that way. I’m only seventeen.” He leaned his head on the headboard and closed his eyes. “She’s all I can think about though.”
His mom’s soft laugh floated around the quiet room. Hayden opened his eyes and looked at her. He didn’t feel like laughing.
“What you feel, is how every teenager feels the first time they fall in love.”
He shook his head. “But how do you know when it’s forever?”
“You’ll know. But I agree, seventeen is too young to think that way. You need to give your relationship time to bloom. If Molly is the one, she’ll still be there. That’s when you’ll know.”
Hayden nodded, but he didn’t completely believe his mom. She might be underestimating his feelings.
“Can I ask you something now?”
She cleared her throat, glancing at her hands.
Hayden had second thoughts about his easy yes.
“I noticed you’re very comfortable… uhm touching her. I know times are different, but I want to know for sure you and she are being… careful.”
“Careful with?” Hayden’s eyes grew wide. Oh, God, she was talking about sex. He and his mom talked about a lot of things, but he couldn’t believe she brought up this subject. Shouldn’t his dad be in here instead? “Mom, please. I don’t want to talk about this with you.”
She stared at the ceiling and took a deep breath. “Well, it’s my responsibility and I need to know.”
Hayden covered his head with a pillow. He remembered his dad’s advice, better just to answer the question and end the torture. “Molly and I haven’t… you know.”
“Maybe you haven’t yet, but you might want to, and I want to know you understand the possible consequences.”
Hayden fought the urge to run from the room. If Molly found out about this she would die laughing.
“I know what sex is, Mom, and what it causes. Don’t worry, we aren’t doing it, but if we were, I know what to do.” He pressed the pillow down on his burning face. “I mean I know what to do to prevent…” He groaned. “I mean I know about condoms, okay?” He lifted the pillow and glared at his mom.
His mom laughed. “I’m sorry I embarrassed you. Your father said he wouldn’t talk about this with you because he was sure you already knew. But I thought one of us should.”
“Dad was right, Mom. You probably could have avoided this torture.”
She pushed herself off the bed. “Well, I feel better knowing we talked about it.” She walked to the door and turned back around. “By the way, I think you made a good choice. Molly is a sweet girl. She seems like she has a good head on her shoulders.”
“She does, Mom, and thanks.” He grinned. “But I won’t tell her about this conversation. She’d never let me live it down. Thanks to you, she already thinks I’m a mama’s boy.”
His mom chuckled. “Well, there’s nothing wrong with that. Good night, Hayden.”
When she closed the door, Hayden sighed with relief. He scooted down under the covers and lay back on the pillow. He replayed their conversation in his head.
His mom was right. He’d know when it was forever. Molly’s face again filled his mind and he smiled. Forever had already begun.
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