1. an inopportune occurrence; an embarrassing mischance: He caused a minor contretemps by knocking over his drink.
Charlie stared at the bright red door to his house and then glanced in the rearview mirror. His son was still dozing, the remnants of dried chocolate ice cream staining his face.
Mistaken identity happens all the time, he reasoned. He sighed heavily, shaking his head in disbelief.
They really shouldn’t sell so many jackets with animal ears on them, he thought to himself. We’re never going to the park again.
It had been nearly five hours since they left home. They were only supposed to be gone for an hour, but it had turned into a scuffle with another parent, a fight with someone else’s dad, the police being called, a trip to the ER… The day had been a mess.
Charlie wasn’t sure how it all happened, but he really thought he had the right kid as he was leaving the park. When one of the mother’s started screaming hysterically he turned around to see what was happening. That was when he heard his own 4 year old calling to him from the top of the slide.
“Daddy, don’t leave me,”Hayden had yelled, fear permeating his little voice over the thought of being abandoned at the park, replaced by someone else.
That’s when Charlie had realized the hysterical mother was screaming about someone walking off with her kid and that someone was him. Charlie felt the most stunned, looking down at the child he hadn’t contributed any DNA to and back up to see his son rushing down the steps of the slide only to lose his footing and smack his forehead hard enough to create a bleeding gash. That was the moment he lost it, abandoned the screaming lady’s kid and went running for his own. By that time the police had been called and other parents were stepping in to prevent him from getting away or reaching Hayden.
By the time he had gotten his son back in the car, he had 13 missed calls from his wife, five voicemails, and a bevy of texts from friends and family, all unanswered.
Charlie looked at the front door again, trying to put together a quick, clear explanation for the day’s events. He was hoping she would see this as a mild contretemps that they would all laugh about 10 to 15 years from now when the gash on Hayden’s forehead had turned into a light scar he’d one day brag about to women.
As he exited the car and retrieved his son from his carseat, he tried to encourage himself. His wife was understanding, kind, patient…and extremely overprotective of their son. It had taken them longer than expected to have Hayden and Emmy rarely let him out of her sight.
Maybe he’d have a chance to get Hayden into bed before sitting his wife down to explain Hayden’s stitches and the blood covering his shirt.
“Daddy…” Hayden stirred, still groggy from anesthesia. “I’m so tired…”
“It’s okay, little man, I’m going to get you to bed just as soon as we get inside,” Charlie whispered back, tightly gripping his son while being careful not to put pressure on his bandaged forehead.
“And while you rest, daddy’ll talk to mommy and we’ll be okay.”
His wife would probably be downstairs making dinner by now. He wondered how quickly he could get Hayden upstairs.
As he opened the door the home monitoring system alerted Emmy to their arrival. Charlie winced. He’d overlooked that one detail.
“Charlie, is that you,” Emmy called from the kitchen. He could hear her quick footsteps on the wooden floor as she came toward the foyer.
“I’ve been calling you all day, what in the world–”
The look of sheer panic registered on Emmy’s face. She covered her mouth as anger began burning in her eyes.
“What happened to my son,” she demanded looking as if she were poised to end someone’s life.
“Daddy left me,” Hayden said, sleepily.
“WHAT?!!!” Emmy locked her gaze on her husband.
Charlie hoped he would get a chance to explain, but judging from his wife’s advance toward him, he was somewhat doubtful.
It was going to be an even longer night and the neighbors were going to hear it all.