“Daddy! And we’re going to Chuck E. Cheese,” Eric excitedly announced at breakfast. The stepson’s enthusiastic voice brought a smile to Helen’s face, and she looked lovingly at Eric, then turned her gaze to her husband. Adam’s entire attention was focused on the phone. He barely heard his son’s words as he continued to scroll through the feed.
“I’m sure you’ll have a great time. Remember, I bought you a wolf sweatshirt the other day? Why don’t you wear it today?”, Helen tried to divert Eric’s attention from his father’s indifferent reaction. The boy smiled at his mother and began to fantasize about what he would be doing at Chuck E. Cheese.
Situations like this had come up in their family many times, and each time Helen tried to smooth things over for the sake of her beloved son. You could say that she agreed to marry Adam precisely because of Eric, not because of her great feelings for him. Adam’s first wife passed away during childbirth. He soon met Helen, and a relationship developed between them. Helen immediately fell in love with the motherless baby.
As time passed, she began to notice more and more that as a father, Adam was awful. Every time Eric tried to get Adam’s attention, Adam ignored his son. He was much more interested in books, cigars, or the telephone. It was painful to watch. Helen, however, could not divorce her husband because she was not yet the official mother of the child. She had to wait a few more months, and then she would rightfully be considered Eric’s mother. All she could do now was to keep her son from noticing his father’s horrible behavior. But hiding such an attitude from a 10-year-old child was not so easy. Children are more intelligent than adults think.
The day promised to be wonderful. Adam was busy at work, and Helen and Eric went to his schoolmate’s birthday party. The pizzeria where the birthday boy had invited guests was a favorite spot for many families in San Jose, California. Helen was anticipating watching her stepson have fun with other children and socializing with their parents.
The festivities were already in full swing when Helen and Eric made their way to their destination. Eric found the birthday boy and went off to play with him. In the meantime, Helen went to the birthday boy’s mother to give her a present they brought for the kid. The woman sat nearby with the other parents. Helen greeted the company and joined them.
There were other customers in the pizzeria that day. At one point Helen’s gaze fell on Eric, who was standing lonely in the corner. The boy had a hood over his head, which puzzled Helen. To avoid screaming across the room, she decided to go up to him and ask him what was wrong. “Honey, is everything all right? Why are you here alone?”, Helen asked, and tried to turn her son toward her by putting a hand on his shoulder. But Eric looked at her with an incomprehensible look and asked: “Who are you?”
She took her hand away, looked closely, and realized that it wasn’t her son standing in front of her at all. Eric wore a green shirt under the wolf’s hood to the party, and this boy was wearing a blue shirt. “I’m sorry, boy. I mistook you for my son,” Helen said and hurried away. Her mind was jumbled, she couldn’t understand why this boy looked so much like Eric. She turned to look at the boy again and saw an older woman coming out of the powder room and smiling at the boy. Together they headed for the exit. Helen noticed that the boy was limping a little. After hesitating, Helen headed toward them.
“Excuse me! Excuse me!”, she tried to detain those who were leaving.
The older woman stopped and turned around at Helena’s voice. “Yes?”
“Sorry to bother you. My name is Helen. The thing is, your baby looks just like my son. I can’t believe how much they look alike. They even have the same sweatshirts. Funny!” said Helen, smiling shyly.
“Really funny. This is Eli, and my name is Veronica. And your son?” the older woman asked and began to look around. Helen found Eric with her eyes and called him over to her. The boy was engaged in the game and responded reluctantly to his mother’s call.
“What, Mother? We have a game,” Eric said complainingly.
“Honey, I’d like to introduce you to this lady and her…,” Helen did not finish the sentence, for at that moment she saw Veronica’s face change. There was no trace of the smile on the older woman’s face. She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand, pain froze in her eyes.
“Eric, honey, why don’t you and Eli go and play with the other guys?” asked Helen. Eric nodded, and he and Eli left the women alone.
Then Helen focused on Veronica. “Maybe you’d better sit down. What’s wrong?”, Helen asked cautiously, inviting the older woman with gesture to a nearby table. They sat down, and Veronica sighed heavily.
“How can I tell you…? You’re Adam’s wife, aren’t you? I could have realized it right away when you first mentioned the resemblance between Eli and your son, but it slipped my mind. I thought it was just a funny situation,” Veronica said with hesitation in her voice. She rubbed her chin with her hands now and then.
“I don’t understand anything. How do you know my husband?”
“The fact is that Adam was married to my daughter, Grace,” Veronica replied. “She died in childbirth because of complications. I think you see where I’m going with this? Eli and Eric are twin brothers. But Eli had a birth defect, one leg was longer.
“I’m sorry,” Helen uttered and put her hand over the clenched hand of the older woman. “I just can’t understand why Eli doesn’t live with Adam? And why didn’t he tell me anything about the boy?”
“Adam gave him up. At first I thought Adam was feeling the loss so badly. But then I realized that he just didn’t want to have a child with developmental disabilities. He dreamed of the perfect son. Eric became that son. Adam wouldn’t even look at his second son once the doctors told him about the defect. He also refused to sign the boy’s birth certificate. Could we leave our own grandson in the hospital? Of course not. My husband and I are raising him alone.
“This is a monstrous thing to do! I can’t believe it!”, indignantly exclaimed Helen. If it had been anyone else, she would have tried to argue, but it was Adam. This act was her husband’s style.
“I hope Adam became a good father to Eric at least? He stopped all communication with us after he found out we took Eli in. There was nothing we could do to influence his decision, so we just moved on. But Eric is just as much a grandson to me as Eli,” Veronica said in a shaky voice and turned to look at the playing children.
“Unfortunately, Adam hasn’t been a good father to Eric. Yes, he’s not rude and he doesn’t raise his hand to his son, but he’s inattentive. I only married Adam because I had my heart set on Eric. From the first moment we met, I was happy to be his mother,” Helen admitted.
“Yes, I knew he got married very soon after our daughter died. When my husband found out, he was furious, and I was happy that Eric would grow up next to his mother. Have you adopted him?”, Veronica asked.
“Not yet, but the case is nearing to completion. To tell you the truth, I intend to divorce Adam as soon as I become an official mother to Eric,” Helen blurted out and lowered her gaze. At that moment, Veronica took her hands and made a surprise offer to move into their house.
“We have a huge house. Stay in it as long as you want, we’ll help you with everything. I want Eli and Eric to grow up together. I could only dream about that, when Adam was around for Eric, but now…” the older woman fell silent thoughtfully.
A sad smile appeared on Helen’s face. She thanked Veronica for the offer, and then they talked some more until the older woman needed to leave. They exchanged phone numbers and agreed to keep in touch with each other.
The next few months were pre-planned by Helen, and she tried to communicate with Veronica as much as possible. As soon as the adoption papers were ready, Helen moved into a hotel with Eric. Adam was informed of the impending divorce in a note. To avoid a possible scandal on Adam’s part, Helen did not go to Veronica’s house right away.
However, Adam didn’t go looking for anyone to call. So a few days later, Helen went to Veronica and her husband’s house. Together they told the boys the truth, carefully avoiding unpleasant details about their father. Eric and Eli were sympathetic to what they heard and became friends fairly quickly.
Veronica insisted that Helen move into her and her husband’s home so they could spend time with their grandchildren. Helen was hesitant, but the seniors had become very close to her, so she accepted their offer. For a long time they lived together as a family until Helen met a new lover and moved in with him. Helen’s boyfriend fell in love with the twins with sincere fatherly love.
Everything went well in their family. Eventually Helen became the official mother for Eli as well. And no one ever heard of Adam again.