After years of loneliness, Susan finally finds love again, but her son, Nick, refuses to accept her boyfriend. Susan struggles to build a happy family but only realizes the full scope of Nick’s problems when his school psychologist appears on her doorstep.
Susan couldn’t wipe the smile off her face as she watched Matt, her boyfriend, carrying his boxes into her home. After so many years as a single mom, she’d finally escaped her loneliness and found a man to settle down with.
She felt a tug on her sleeve and looked down. Her son, Nick, looked up at her with a troubled expression.
“Mom, please don’t do this,” he said. “Uncle Matt isn’t a good person.”
Susan sighed. She crouched down and put her arm around her son. “I know having Matt live with us is a big change, and it’s going to take a while to get used to it, but we’re all going to be very happy together, Nick.”
Nick frowned at her. “But…”
“Ah!” Susan raised her finger. “No more negativity, big guy. Give yourself time to get used to everything and I’m sure you’ll see that I’m right. It will be good for both of us to have a man around the house again.”
As the weeks went by, Susan realized she might’ve underestimated the difficulty Nick would have adjusting to Matt’s presence. He regularly pulled her aside to tell her Matt kept secrets and hid things from her.
Susan was deeply upset by her son’s lies. She tried to be patient but lost her temper the day he told her he’d seen Matt kissing another woman.
“That’s enough! I know this is difficult for you, Nick, but you must stop lying about Matt.”
Susan shook her finger at her son. “He’s here to stay, and we’ve even discussed getting married next year so I don’t want to hear another word about him from you, got it?”
Nick had tears in his eyes as he ran from the room. Susan felt a pang of guilt, but Nick had to get over his jealousy of Matt.
“Hey babe, how was your day?”
Susan’s worries faded to nothing as she went to greet Matt. His smile made her feel all gooey inside. Her heart turned somersaults when she hugged him. She couldn’t understand why Nick struggled to accept this wonderful man but was sure it would all work out eventually. Susan was wrong.
A month later, Susan got a phone call that made her realize Nick had a severe problem. It was a Tuesday. Matt always came home for an extended lunch break on Tuesdays, and sometimes one thing led to another. The couple was in bed upstairs when Susan’s phone rang.
“Hello, Miss Parker. This is Nick’s teacher, Mr. Garcia. I’m calling to let you know we’ve decided to refer Nick to the school psychologist. His grades have deteriorated lately, and he’s been very withdrawn in class. We’re concerned about him.”
“You have to come inside, Mom. Then you’ll understand everything.”
“Really?” Susan sat up. “He’s been having difficulty adjusting to changes in his home life, but I never realized it was affecting him this much. Thanks for intervening, Mr. Garcia.”
When she got off the call, Susan burst into tears. “I’m a terrible mom!”
“No, you’re not.” Matt held her close and kissed her temple. “Nick is at a difficult age, babe. I’m sure things will soon start to improve.”
“I hope so.” Susan sighed.
That evening, Susan invited Nick to watch TV with her and Matt. Nick shook his head and said he had to study for a test. When she asked him how the test went the next day, he shrugged and mumbled something she didn’t make out.
Susan noticed that Nick spent most of his time visiting friends in the neighborhood and only returned home in the evenings. He never smiled anymore and never spoke unless it was a mumbled response to a direct question.
“Sweetheart, I’m worried about you,” Susan said as she gave Nick a snack.
“You aren’t yourself lately. Is there anything you want to tell me?”
Nick looked at her with hope for a moment, but his expression soon became guarded again. “Everything’s fine, Mom. I’m not hungry anymore. I’m going to do homework at Joe’s place.”
Susan watched Nick leave with a heavy heart. How could she fix this? She thought about when she first met Matt and how she’d helped his career in sales by introducing him to some of her friends. If only it were so simple for Nick.
“I’ll just keep trying,” Susan said. “One of these days, I’ll get through to Nick and we’ll be able to move past this.”
That Friday, Susan was working in her home office when the doorbell rang. It was followed by a series of loud knocks like someone was beating their fist against the door, and a man’s voice called her name. She ran down the stairs and opened the door.
“Miss Parker! I’m so glad you’re home.” A frazzled, wiry man holding a folder stood on her doorstep. “I’m Damon Johnson, the school psychologist. It’s urgent that we speak immediately.”
He pulled a paper from the folder and held it out. Susan’s mouth dropped open as she took in the child’s drawing of a man tied to a bed inside a house.
“What is this?”
That’s what your son drew today while he was waiting in my office.” Mr. Johnson studied her with a grave expression. “And I know exactly where that house is. This drawing could be the key to figuring out why Nick has been so troubled lately. Look here.”
Mr. Johnson pointed to the lower corner of the page. ‘Friday’ was written there, and a time. “This suggests we might be able to solve the mystery if we go to this house today, at the time Nick wrote here. Please, will you come with me, Miss Parker?”
Susan fetched her coat and drove with Mr. Johnson. He wanted to pick up Nick from school first so the boy could join them, but Nick was not at school.
“He must’ve gone to that house!” Susan cried as she and Mr. Johnson ran back to the car. “What if something terrible is going on there?”
“We’ll call the police.” Mr. Johnson had a determined look on his face.
“No matter what we find, I promise I’ll do everything I can to ensure Nick’s safety.”
Mr. Johnson drove like a race car driver to a house two streets away. Susan immediately recognized it from the drawing, but that wasn’t all she recognized. Matt’s red sedan was parked in the driveway.
Susan jogged towards the car, but movement in her peripheral vision made her jump.
“Nick! Are you okay? What are you doing here?” Susan ran to embrace her son, but he dodged and headed for the house.
“Come inside,” Nick called. “You have to come inside, Mom. Then you’ll understand everything.”
As Susan and Mr. Johnson raced into the house, a woman in her early twenties stood and walked toward the door.
“That’s my cue to leave,” she said. “Good luck, Nick, and Miss Parker? Nothing happened. He’s way too old for me.”
Susan didn’t have time to wonder about the lady’s cryptic statement. She followed Nick down the hallway. He opened a door and pointed into the room beyond.
“Relax, Mom. Everything is going to be okay.”
“In there, Mom,” Nick whispered.
Susan entered the room, and her jaw dropped at what she saw there. Matt was lying on the bed in his underwear. His wrists were tied to the bed frame, and a blindfold covered his eyes. He grinned widely.
“You’re finally back, Alice, you little temptress,” Matt said in a sultry voice. “I’ve been going crazy waiting for you.”
“You cheating jerk!” Susan grabbed the first thing that came to her hand, a full pencil holder, and threw it at Matt’s head.
“I knew you’d never believe me if I told you I saw Matt with another woman, so I got Joe and his sister, Alice, to help me come up with a plan to prove it to you,” Nick said.
Susan sighed. They were all sitting in the living room of the house, except Matt. After Susan had hurled half the contents of Alice’s desk at her prone boyfriend, Mr. Johnson had convinced her to let the man go.
“Alice found him on a dating app and invited him over,” Nick continued. “The original plan was to take photos, but I knew that Mr. Johnson would investigate if I left that drawing for him, and that he’d call you.”
“I’ve been such a fool.” Susan put her head in her hands and sobbed.
“I can’t believe Matt would do this to me after I helped him become so successful!”
“We all make mistakes, especially in love.” Mr. Johnson patted Susan’s shoulder.
“Sorry for eavesdropping. I thought the drama would be over by now.” Alice entered the room. “Mrs. Parker? I think I have the perfect idea for you to get revenge on that slimeball.”
It took one day for Susan to clear all of Matt’s possessions out of her home and put Alice’s plan into action. By late afternoon, posters depicting Matt tied to Alice’s bed with the words ‘cheating scumbag’ were plastered all over town. Alice also called her friends and got them to promise to blackball Matt.
“I’m so sorry I didn’t listen to you.” Susan looked at Nick sitting beside her on the couch.
“It’s okay, Mom.” Nick smiled at her. “Mr. Johnson explained to me that adults sometimes have difficulty listening to kids, even when they’re telling the truth. He also said it can be hard to hear bad things about people you care about when you’re trying to live a happy life.”
“Mr. Johnson is right. I loved Matt very much and thought we could be a happy family. I badly wanted us to be a happy family.”
“The Bible says there’s a time for everything, Mom. I know you’ve been sad since Dad left, but I know that you’ll be happy again one day.” Nick leaned over to hug Susan. “You just need to believe.”
Susan kissed the top of Nick’s head. At that moment, she honestly didn’t believe she’d ever find a partner to share her life with. She thought it best if she resigned herself to loneliness and solitude.
Over the next two months, Nick slowly returned to his old self. Her home was once more filled with jokes and laughter. Susan still felt heartsore about Matt’s betrayal, but she took some satisfaction in knowing that everyone she’d connected him with had cut him off.
She also had new friends to help her heal. Despite their age difference, Susan had grown very fond of Alice’s acerbic wit and straightforwardness. They regularly watched bad horror movies together and laughed at the cheesy plots.
Susan had also struck up an unlikely friendship with Damon Johnson, the school psychologist. She’d taken him a gift soon after the incident to thank him for his help and attentiveness toward Nick’s issues.
“That’s okay. Nick is a great kid and I’m happy to see him improving. How have you been doing?” he asked.
“Apart from feeling incredibly embarrassed, I’m doing okay. I would’ve stopped by sooner actually, but it took this long to gather the courage to look you in the eye.”
Damon smiled warmly. “I get it, but I hope you know that I don’t think badly of you at all. In fact, I believe you did remarkably well in an extraordinary situation.”
“That’s very kind of you to say.” Susan smiled for the first time in days. That was when she chose to put Matt behind her and move on.
“And you’re completely sure he’s a good guy?” Susan asked Nick. She was pacing in the hallway while waiting for her date.
Nick nodded enthusiastically. “He’s a great guy, Mom. I’m sure he won’t do anything to hurt you.”
Susan released a shaky breath. This was the first time she’d dated since the Matt debacle. Although she liked her date very much, the thought of getting hurt again had her stomach in knots.
Nick took her hand. “Relax, Mom. Everything is going to be okay.”
The doorbell rang then. Susan hurried to answer it. She couldn’t help but smile as she looked at Damon and the flowers he held. Never could she have imagined she’d be dating this man when he first appeared on her doorstep with Nick’s drawings.
“Hi, you look amazing.” Damon grinned at her. “Are you ready to go?”
Susan smiled. “Absolutely.”
What can we learn from this story?
Don’t lose your head when you follow your heart. Susan wanted a good romantic partner so badly that she refused to believe her son knew something about Matt that she didn’t. She was so invested in her feelings that she didn’t use her head and realize Nick was trying to help her.
There is a time for everything we desire. Although it’s difficult to be patient, the things we want will eventually become a part of our lives if we continue working hard to reach those goals.
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