He’s not there for Mike’s first steps, or his first word, but he is there for the first day at day care.
Not there there, of course, but he lurks. Hidden behind bushes, covered in shadows, moving like a ghost. It’s the only way for him to see them, both of them. It’s not the ideal situation -- so far from it Michael wants to laugh sometimes, if only because it’ll stop him from crying -- but it’s enough, because it’s all he has and that has to be enough.
They loiter next to the car, Mike clinging to Sara’s legs. From where he stands, Michael can see chubby fingers intertwined in denim, the little digits clenching and unclenching as he looks up at his mother. It makes him smile, makes a warm, giddy feeling blossom throughout his chest, up his throat.
They look happy -- safe -- and that’s call Michael cares about. All he’s ever cared about. It doesn’t matter how much it hurts him, doesn’t matter how hard it is to watch them alive and happy and free, knowing that he can never be a part of it-- these moments, bittersweet as they are, it makes all of it worthwhile.
He stays where he is, watching, until they both disappear. Until Sara walks Mike into the building, his smaller hand held in hers. Until she walks back out, wiping at her eyes -- the emotion of leaving her baby boy for the first time causing unexpected tears. Until her car is long gone, and all Michael has left is the front of an old building and the memory of her standing there.
He has nothing else to do, doesn’t leave for the next job until the following morning, so he stays. Keeps himself hidden in shadows but waits around, hopes that he’ll get another glimpse of the both of them.
It doesn’t matter if it’ll only be a few more seconds. It could be hours and it still wouldn’t be enough, won’t ever be, not until Michael can join them and be a part of it. Until they can be a proper family.
But he knows that isn’t an option, and still he stays anyway.
For him, another fleeting memory is better than no memory at all.