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After making our purchases, Tuan and I exit the store, a bag slung in each of our hands.
As we cross the parking lot, I spot Peter. He spotted me as well, for I am looking into the saddest pair of eyes I've ever seen. Involuntarily I stiffen. Tuan, being still so young, doesn't yet understand why his father is so unwelcome in our home.
“Mom, look,” he chirps, lifting a bagged-down hand and pointing a finger in Peter's direction. “It's Dad.”
“Come on,” I say, putting a hand on his back and steering him toward out car, in the opposite direction. Already the back of my throat tightens and my eyes blur and sting. “Come on.”
“But it's Dad!” he protests as I continue to usher him along.
“Dad did something very bad,” I explain, “and-” I swallow hard “-and he can't live with us anymore.”
“Why? What'd he do?” He opens the unlocked car door, though he watches me for a response.
“He broke a very special promise he made to your mom.” Even though Tuan can buckle himself in, I do it for him to focus my fidgeting hands. I glance behind me, and through my blurred vision I see Peter still standing by his car, watching me with apologetic eyes. I turn away, tears dripping onto the pavement.
“Mom?” Tuan pats my hand to get my attention, and I look up at him, tears running down my cheeks. I feel awful to make him feel this way, to put him in this situation.
Shaking my head, I close Tuan's door and walk around the car to my own. I don't open it though; I just lay my head against the glass and close my eyes. I don't want to be crying while I'm driving. I never drive “impaired.”
After a minute or so I open the door and buckle my seat belt, turning on the music and putting the car into gear. It's one of those typical slap-in-the-face moments that Neil Young's “Here for You” comes on, but I only turn it up and cry while singing along to it. Tuan is puzzled, motionless in the backseat.
“Yes I miss you, but I never want to hold you down. You might say I'm here for you...” My voice catches on the title line because this is one of many of “our” songs. One that would always, always, ALWAYS remind us of each other when we heard it.
“You and Dad used to sing this song to me,” Tuan says softly from the back seat.
“I know,” I reply. “I remember.” With the most sinking feeling in my heart I pull out of the lot and drive home.