“She knows I’m not Catholic, right?”
Olivia didn’t know exactly why she was so apprehensive. When Elliot had told her Kathy wanted to make her Eli’s godmother she had said yes without even thinking about it. Of course she wanted to be part of the little boy’s life. She saw him being born, and was the first one to hold his tiny body.
“She does,” he confirmed
“I don’t even know how long it has been since I’ve been to a church -”
“Don’t worry about it, Liv. It’s not what you’re making it out to be.”
“It just feels - I feel like I’m not really -”
“You’ll do great. Better than Kathy’s sister who’s Maureen's godmother and has never been to one of her birthdays.”
“So the bar is low.”
“Down to the basement,” he reassured her, putting his hand on her shoulders, “you’re good.”
They finished their coffee orders and went back to Kathy’s room.
“Look who’s here,” she said smiling. Little Eli had come to visit and was resting peacefully on Kathy’s arms.
“He’s doing good so they brought him so I can feed him,” she explained.
Elliot dropped the coffee on the side table and moved to be beside his wife and newborn son.
“I called the girls, they are coming over,” he said.
Feeling out of place with the family scene unfolding, Olivia started moving to leave.
“Liv, wanna hold your godson?” Kathy asked.
“I won’t ask how much those cost you,” Elliot said pointing to the many packages she was carrying.
It had been a year since the day she had helped Kathy out of a car crash while she delivered baby Eli. Now, standing on the porch of their Queen’s suburban house that traumatic afternoon seemed like a hazy dream.
“I wasn’t planning on telling,” she replied.
“You know we didn’t make you his godmother just so you had to buy him expensive gifts, right?”
“I’m well aware. Besides, I buy expensive gifts for all your kids, Elliot.”
"He 's one, Liv. He doesn’t know anything.”
“Leave me alone and show me the baby. I didn’t come to see you.”
After cake and presents Olivia found herself in the living room with Eli on her lap. Even if she vowed to be present in the boy’s life the job never got any easier. She didn’t get to visit Queens all that often, even if Kathy made sure to invite her rather frequently.
“He looks like a little angel with these blonde curls,” she commented as the baby had finally settled in a somewhat peaceful mood. It was safe to say he wasn’t having the greatest time at his own party.
“He sounds like a -
“Don’t finish that phrase, Dickie.” Elliot threatened.
“Hey, Liv! You don’t have any kids. How would you like to have Eli over for like a month?”
“What did we say about trying to get rid of your siblings, Liz?” Kathy asked the girl.
“I’m not trying to get rid of him. At least not permanently.”
“I swear they love him, Liv” Kathy laughed, “I guess we’re all just a bit tired, right?” she finished glaring at the twins.
“I wouldn’t mind having him in my house, Liz. ``Say the price, I’ll take him from you,” she joked.
“See, mom? You’d get him for free, Olivia. Done deal.”
“I swear I’ll take good care of him.”
Eli was almost two and a half when he spent the first night at his godmother’s house. As much as Olivia was excited to have the toddler all by herself for the weekend she still felt apprehensive.
“I’m not worried, Liv,” Kathy said as she dropped Eli’s things on the counter.
“You think he’ll be scared to sleep without you guys?”
“Maybe, but Eli is pretty chill now. If anything happens just call Maureen. She’ll come pick him up.”
“I’m just afraid he won’t feel comfortable.”
She didn’t want to sound whiny or like she didn’t want to babysit the boy but she remembered how much the boy used to cry when he was younger.
“It might happen, but I think he’ll be alright with his aunt Liv,” Kathy reassured her. Eli was already happy sitting on the couch playing with his toys.
“Are the twins happy?”
“They are over the moon.This trip is all they’ve been talking about for months.”
“It’s a cool birthday gift.”
“Yeah, thank you again for taking Eli.”
“Thanks for coming, Olivia. I know you have better things to do than driving all the way to Queens to eat cake.”
Four years had passed and Olivia came to Eli’s birthday parties religiously. She was still not the perfect godmother but she tried.
Kathy didn’t let her answer before ushering her in and continuing rambling.
“Every birthday is a reminder of the most frightening day of my life. Eli is a miracle and - You know, we started going to church every Sunday after he was born. It just...it really makes you think there’s something bigger out there, you know?”
“You’d be a great mom.”
Olivia had been playing with Eli and his new toys when Kathy's voice surprised her.
“Yeah, tell that to the social workers.”
“There’s still time to… you know. Hey, look at me!”
“Kathy, you’re a miracle of nature,” she laughed, “I don’t think whatever is out there wants me to be a mother. Maybe it’s for the better.”
“Nonsense. Well, if it doesn’t happen then it doesn't but can I say something?”
“I still think you’ll be a mommy someday.”
“He won’t answer me, Kathy. Captain said… He told me today that -” She couldn’t even say it. Olivia had finally given up trying to call Elliot and tried Kathy instead.
“I know, Olivia. I’ve tried to… Everyone tried to -” Kathy sounded tired. Exhausted, like her.
“I’m just worried. I promise… if he thinks I’ll try to change his mind -”
“I don't think that's it, Liv.”
“I promise I won't. I just need. I need to know he’s ok, Kathy.”.
“He isn’t. He’s not. But he will. I promise. We’re… he’s working on it.”
“You swear?” She begged.
She was gone for 2 weeks. Captain’s orders: take a break, Liv. You need it. It wasn’t as bad as she thought it would've been. Her cellphone didn’t even work in the small cabin she had rented. Coming back to the city, she heard her answering machine beeping.
“Finally,” she thought, “he’s come to his senses.”
But it wasn’t Elliot’s voice that filled her empty apartment.
Liv, I’ve been trying your cell phone all day. I didn’t want to leave a message at the precinct. Elliot doesn’t want to contact you. He says you’re better off without him. I know he’s hurting, Liv. I don’t - I don’t agree with it but I think it’s his way of coping, you know? It’s not the best way but I don’t know, it’s not the worst. He feels like he’s doing you a favor. I know that’s not true. Everyone’s hurting, I guess. We’re… we’re leaving town. Starting anew. Escaping? I don’t know. I don’t really know. I almost stayed behind but in the end… We’ll give it a try. It feels weird but also… I think it’s not such a terrible idea.
I hope you’re not terribly mad at us. A little mad, that’s all right. You have the right to. We still don’t know where exactly we’re going. Forgot to say it last time, we’re good. As good as we can be. The kids are fine. Maureen is starting her career. Kath is doing well in college. The twins are almost graduating and Eli….Eli is losing his blonde hair. His hair is getting darker, so different from Dickie! Liz said he’s starting to look like you. I just wanted to say Liv, no matter what happens… you’ll forever be his godmother. His savior . He’ll never forget about you. I won’t let him.
I guess we’ll spend some time at my aunt’s upsate first and then we’ll figure it out. I told him I was leaving you a message. He wasn’t very happy about it. Told me he sent you a letter saying goodbye. I hope that’s true. He thinks a clean break it’s the right thing to do, that I shouldn’t keep - that it wouldn’t be fair to you to see him like this. I suppose I can see his point.The city is suffocating us. Have you ever felt this way, Liv? When you left that one time - Elliot told me you spent some time undercover somewhere. Did you do it because you just couldn’t breathe? We’re all without air here, Olivia. And Eli… The kids are older now, they can get by - but Eli? I worry about him so much. He 's my miracle. Our miracle, right? He needs to have a good life too. There’s no good life when you can’t breathe, Liv.
I guess this is it. Here I am one more time but maybe - maybe the last time? I just wanted to say… [silence]
No matter what happens between you and Elliot I’m still - you can always count on me, ok? I don’t care - whatever happened...
I don’t know when we’ll meet again but we will. Please, have patience? I know you’re good at it but everyone’s got a breaking point. Just please wait, at least until he changes his mind. Which he will Olivia. I just hope you can still forgive him - forgive us when this time comes. We love you. We all love you. We’ll see you soon.
She tried calling Kathy back as soon as she finished all her messages - but only a machine answered her:
The number you called has been disconnected
“Mom used to talk about you. When Dad wasn’t around.”
He was a whole teenager now. Tall, long limbs. So, so different from his siblings.
“Good things, don’t worry.”
He sounded like a good boy. Olivia never doubted for a minute that Elliot and Kathy would raise him just right but it was still reassuring to see the boy she saw being born healthy and capable. Alive.
“Why do I get the feeling you know about some bad things too?” She joked.
“I might have heard things from my siblings.”
“Yeah, I figured.”
They hadn't spoken much at the funeral, which was only fair. But time had passed and Kathleen had hinted that it was a good time for godson and godmother to spend some time together.
“Mom would never get tired of telling me my birth story though.”
“I understand that. That was a miracle. You are a miracle, Eli.” She tried to keep the conversations lighthearted but she couldn’t help the tears from falling.
“She used to say that too.”
“I don’t really know what to do,” Elliot pleaded on the phone.
She didn’t answer his first three calls that evening. She was busy with Noah and it wasn’t fair to the boy to cut his limited time with his mother. She was actively working with Dr. Lindstrom to come up with a plan on boundaries. Everything was just so messed up.
“I don’t think there’s a right answer, Elliot. He’s grieving, it’s going to hurt.”
“I don’t want him to think I’m abandoning him.”
“He wants to spend time with his siblings. If he knows he can come back whenever he wants, I doubt he’ll feel like you’re abandoning him.”
“He doesn’t talk about her anymore.”
She didn’t have the courage to tell him that Eli talked to her about his mother all the time. Nor that his oldest children were planning an intervention soon.
“This is the hardest shit I’ve ever had to do,” he cried.
The intervention had gone just like she expected: badly. What she didn’t expect was his sudden confession of love. It was something she was trying very hard not to think about to be honest.
She had picked up Eli from soccer practice that afternoon. Even though she was treading cautiously with Elliot she still had a duty with her godson. And Kathy, for that matter. To her surprise, Elliot’s apartment wasn’t empty as usual. They had entered the small place just in time to listen to Richard screaming at Ellio
“Is it worth dad? Putting your son at risk?”
“It’s my job, Richard”
Olivia could see that Elliot was trying to keep his cool even though Richard seemed to be going all out. Maureen and Kathleen looked over at them for help but she didn’t know what to do either. She didn't even know what the hell was going on.
“You don’t know what you’re talking about,” Elliot continued.
“Hey guys, what’s going on?” She began, but Richard continued as if he didn’t listen to her.
“Letting your wife die”
“Richard!” Maureen exclaimed. Eli looked around the adults with a sorrowful face. Olivia just wanted to scoop the child out of there.
“Is it? No, I’m tired!” Looking over to his sisters he exclaimed, “this is fucking dangerous and he keeps on -”
“Shut up, Richard,” Kathleen cut in.
Richard didn’t seem in the mood to stop anytime soon.
“You can’t do anything else, really?” Glancing back to his father he continued, “It must be a fucking important job cause you can’t think about anything else.”
“I’m doing the best I can -”
“And Eli almost got shot in the middle of a fucking sidewalk. How did we not know about this, huh? Did you tell him to keep it a secret? You know how fucked up this is?”
“Just answer. Is it worth it?”
“My family is the most important thing in my life, Richard. I needed to know who -”
“Must be worth it, right? I mean, now you get to fuck Olivia,” Richard howled.
“Not this again,” Elliot scoffed.
Not the right move. This just seemed to make Richard even angrier.
“You wanted to fuck her, Dad? Fine! Nobody is fucking stopping you. The one you should be worried about is seven feet under anyways,” Richard screamed. He didn’t give time for Elliot to answer as he continued.
“Just don’t forget you still have a 14 year old that needs you. That’s waking up in the middle of the night scared out of his mind cause he almost died in an ambush like his mother did. Can you do that? Can you stop thinking with your dick for one second and appreciate that?”
“Hey, I’m gonna go,” Olivia started. She was going to offer Eli to go back with her but she didn’t have time to finish her thought.
“Tell her you’re sorry, Richard,” Elliot hissed. He had dropped the calm attitude and he sounded like the Elliot Olivia knew from twelve year ago.
“It’s ok, El- I’m just going to -”
“I didn’t want to say anything - I didn’t want you guys to know,” Eli croaked out weakly. The other adults all looked at him like it was the first time they had realized Eli was in the room.
“You’re a kid, Eli. You don’t get to make the decisions,” Richard said.
“You’re upset right now, let’s go,” Olivia tried coaxing the boy out the apartment.
“I’m just saying what everyone here has been thinking all along,” Richard continued, “I’m tired. Maybe that’s why Eli doesn’t want to stay here anymore, huh Dad? Have you thought about that?”
“You can talk to dad when you come down, Richard,” Maureen tried, “this is not helping anyone.”
“You’re a fucking coward. That’s what you are.”
Richard ended up being the one leaving after all. Nobody said anything after that. She offered Eli to stay with her that evening but he had preferred to go with his sisters. Elliot couldn’t even look at her as he apologized for the whole thing.
Nobody talked about the fight after that afternoon and she was happy to forget the whole thing.
“You don’t live with Noah’s father?”
Olivia had taken Eli to lunch and the topic of her son’s paternity came up out of nowhere. Olivia guessed it had something to do with the accusations that were thrown in that afternoon.
“No, no. Noah 's adopted.”
“It’s ok, you didn’t know. Besides, it’s nice that you think I could have given birth to him. Makes me feel young.”
“Mom had me late.”
“I know, I remember. Everyone was...surprised.”
“Kath says I was a surprise baby.”
“A good surprise,” she added.
“Dad’s gonna be a granddad,” he blurted out.
“Maureen is pregnant. She told me. It’s a secret though, she’s telling him later this week.”
“Wow - your father is going to be a grandpa,” she exclaimed, “and you’ll be an uncle!”
“She was crying.”
“Maureen,” he explained.
“What do you mean?”
“That’s how I found out. She was bawling her eyes out one day.”
“Cause she was pregnant? What’s wrong - is there something wrong?”
“No, not really. Her and John were kinda trying, I guess. That 's gross,” he added as an afterthought.
“It is,” she agreed, “so, why was she crying?
“She’s like 2 months pregnant. She only told John and Kath.”
“She said she didn’t know how hard it would be.”
It was clear Eli wanted to talk about it but was uncomfortable telling her his sister’s secrets.
“She’s having a hard time with the pregnancy?” She pressed.
“Not having mom around. Telling Dad he’s going to be a grandad and not telling mom she’ll be a grandmother. She said she had tried to tell him a bunch of times but she couldn’t.”
Olivia had to take a deep breath not to fall apart in front of the boy.
“Your mom would’ve loved to be a grandmother.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You didn’t let her talk to me?”
It was a conversation she wanted to have. They needed to have. But the timing was always wrong, emotions all over the place. It is happening now though. Not going back.
“You know I’d never do that, Liv.”
“I don’t know anything anymore, Elliot.”
“I strongly suggested she stop contacting you. I thought it’d just make it worse.”
She had pictured this conversation like a big blow out. Probably her throwing actual objects in his direction. Reality was much more boring. Disappointment gave place to anger.
“You were wrong.”
“I know. I know that now.”
“I wish she wouldn’t have listened to you.”
“Me too, Liv.”
After the trial she had started inviting not only Eli but Elliot to her and Noah’s apartment. Dr. Lindstrom boundaries plan discarded after a couple of months. She had tried, at least.
“You know your Italian sucks, right?”
Elliot and Olivia had been trying to communicate in broken Italian in the living room while Noah showed Eli all his games in his room. The older boy appeared in the living room after a while.
“Sorry we’re not as fluent as you, son.”
“Just making sure,” he said. Grabbing some snacks from the coffee table he went back to Noah’s room.
“I hate teenage years,”Elliot commented
“I’m dreading it.”
“Does Noah speak another language?”