He was mesmerized. He knew he should knock, back away, or do something other than just stare. But the barely open door revealed a vulnerable aspect of his son. His stomach flip-flopped with a familiar bitterness that he had been cheated out of twenty five years of his son’s life.
It had been a joyful moment when Murdoch held his newborn Johnny and counted every finger and toe to make sure each was in its place and perfectly shaped. Pudgy fingers fisted empty air; little legs jerked without reason. His little round bottom was smooth and unblemished. Of course, like all fathers, Murdoch made sure that all of his ‘boy parts’ were where they should be and properly formed. He was overwhelmed and placed a gentle kiss on the top of a head full of black hair. As he inhaled the smell of new baby he began to understand what Maria must have felt when the child first moved in her belly. He was a father, a creator of another human being and he loved this little boy more than his own life. That ecstatic feeling never left him, even when Maria did.
But those feelings for Scott were never experienced. And as he stood watching him now, toweling off after stepping out of his bath, a pain so deep caught in Murdoch’s throat that he almost groaned out loud. He touched the clean clothes that he held, knowing he should just walk through the door and deliver them, but he couldn’t move. He felt like an intruder, but still, he watched.
Not an ounce of fat. Lean arm muscles flexed when he brushed the towel across his belly and down his legs. Scott braced his long foot against the edge of the tub and patted his toes dry. Each perfect toe. Not a baby’s anymore, that was for sure. He straightened and scrubbed the towel through his hair, exposing his toned, slim form to his father.
‘Catherine, our son,’ he thought to himself. ‘My son.’ Moisture stung his eyes when he thought of not counting baby toes and fingers, or nuzzling a crown of soft blond hair. But, he had watched him grow within the womb of his mother. He had felt him kick, and grinned at the bump moving across Catherine’s belly. She had laughed and held Murdoch’s hand against her abdomen when Scott kicked her awake the night before Murdoch sent her to a safer place. The last contact he had with his son before he was stolen away.
Well, he was home now. That’s all that mattered.
Scott wrapped the towel around his waist and tucked it in place. Murdoch composed himself, knocked and stepped across the threshold.
“I’ve brought you clean clothes, as promised, Son,” he said as he set them on a chair. “Dinner will be soon.”
“Thanks, Murdoch. I don’t recall ever being so ready to eat,” Scott picked up the shirt and put it on. “After running those stupid animals all day, you’d think I couldn’t look a piece of meat in the face.” He laughed, his grin broad and infectious.
Murdoch cleared his throat, wondering that he had fathered this handsome young man – even if it was 25 years after the fact. “I believe we are having chicken tonight,” he said, his voice snagging.
Scott quirked an eye at him. “Everything all right, Sir?”
Murdoch smiled and slapped him on the shoulder. “Nothing could be better, my boy. Nothing better.”
He turned and walked to the door, thinking that Scott was more than likely wondering why his father had such a big smile on his face. But that was all right. He had been deprived of many grins, smiles and laughter over the years. Lots of missed times to make up for.
“See you at the table, Son,” he called over his shoulder and felt himself bounce out of the bath house. Yes, not a baby anymore but Murdoch still felt like a new father. Life was good.