Caught In a Jam
Nixon Montgomery Black
Three years later
She only wore pink on Sundays.
I swear, if it weren’t for coffee and Aunt Sylvia’s food, I wouldn’t survive. I actually had two coffee pots. One for home with the largest capacity carafe I could find. And another at work which I bought myself since they didn’t provide coffee. Seriously, what kind of construction site doesn’t have coffee? I woke up to it, I used it as a crutch during the day, and as soon as we got home every night I’d push the flashing red button and listen for the drip.
Tonight was especially exhausting. I worked a ten hour shift and then went to derby practice for an hour. Yes, even zebras go to practices sometimes just to keep their skills in check. But after lifting and walking all day it wasn’t my first pick of activities. We ate dinner, thanks to Sylvia I didn’t have to cook, and went through our nightly routine.
Now here I sat on living room couch alone while she slept. I was supposed to finish a slide show for my Econ class but the longer I sat here, the more it didn’t get done. I sat back into the cushions and closed my eyes as the last sip of coffee ran down my throat. And like they did every night, my thoughts drifted to Journey.
I’d heard things through the proverbial vine, some I treasured and some I despised. I despised hearing that she’d married Justin after finishing school. But she’d given up on her dream of being a nurse in favor of the title of Mrs. Conrad; never even stepping foot in a hospital. But then again, I’d also heard she had quit school to become a stripper and Justin had moved on. Who knew what the real truth was? I’d only heard one that I really believed. That she’d decided to start some rebellion against an administrator at Duke University—now that sounded like her.
I got up and made another cup, stirring in way too much creamer, so much that my coffee was now cold. I peeked into the bedroom and she was sound asleep. When I closed the bedroom door it squeaked and she rolled over but remained dormant. It was a shame to feel this way. I felt guilty every night when I sat here alone and completely reveled in just the state of being alone with my thoughts of Journey. But I needed it and felt the withdrawals if I shied away.
I sat back on the couch and let the heels of my palms dig into my eye sockets, shutting out the light so I could focus on her. It was getting more and more difficult to remember what she looked like or how she smelled. But I remembered the little things. I remembered she called all Coke products Coke and didn’t get how some people called it Soda or Pop. She always took out one strand of hair and wrapped it around her hairband proclaiming it made her ponytail look good. She constantly stole my boxers to sleep in, even though she had a slew of boyfriends to steal from. She had a triangle of freckles on her right earlobe. I could tell the difference between her ‘pissed off’ whine and her ‘feelings hurt’ sob from oceans away.
I heard footsteps from the girl in my life as she entered the room but I wasn’t ready to let go of Journey just yet and rejoin reality. Her hands, soft and warm pulled mine from my face. I could smell the shampoo that Reed insisted I buy for her. At the time I had no clue what girls liked. I’d had to learn quickly.
She huffed out a tired but annoyed sigh at me and I opened my eyes to see red curls and freckles everywhere. She literally was covered scalp to feet in clusters of light brown freckles and I’d seen every inch of her. She wiped away tears I didn’t know were there and then wiped her fingers on my pajama pants. Before me was the most beautiful creature I’d ever laid eyes on.
She finally knew she had my attention and I knew by the smirk on her face it would be good, whatever came out of her sweet mouth.
“What is it button? It’s late.” I asked her, rewiping my face.
She batted her big eyelashes at me and put her tiny hands on her hips. “Daddy, I think I need a bunny wabbit. Parker said he has a bunny wabbit. I need one too.”
I sucked my lips in between my lips and bit down desperate not to smile at how damn cute she was—especially when she was as drop dead serious as she was right now.
“Scout, we can’t have a rabbit in an apartment. They don’t allow pets.” This probably wouldn’t have flown with a regular three year old. But did I have a regular three year old—No.
I blame Falcon. Let me reiterate—I blame Falcon.
He came in one day when she was about eight months old and gave me this huge pack of DVDs, flash cards and books. I didn’t even look at it for months. I was too busy being a zombie and trying not to completely suck at the ‘Dad’ thing. But what I didn’t know was that Storey and Aunt Sylvia were using it when they kept her. It was some kind of “I Taught My Baby To Read” kit. Well, it turned out my baby could freakin’ read. By the time she was two, she could read an entire first grade book front to back and write her name, which was difficult since I named her Scout Alessandra Black. But she could.
A few months ago her four year old preschool teacher told Storey, who usually picked her up from school, that she was too advanced and needed to be moved to the five year old Kindergarten class. Storey and Aunt Sylvia were excited. But my Daddy worry force field kicked in immediately. She was only three years old. I wasn’t ready for her to enter into anything that remotely resembled real school. Preschool is one thing, playing kitchen and nap time, but the word Kindergarten threw me off. I relented and allowed her to enroll—but I didn’t like it one bit.
“When we move to a big house we can get one,” she told herself more than me.
“If you say so, now is that what got you out of bed, dreams of big houses and rabbits?”
That cracked her up. I touched the cluster of freckles on the tip of her nose, “Back to bed. Do you need a ride?”
She giggled and climbed up on the arm of the sofa. I backed up to it and she climbed on. This was our thing. I don’t think the kid had ever walked herself to bed. I was incredibly lucky. She was so precious to everyone. And Aunt Sylvia never treated her like she was anything but another one of her own grandchildren.
I dropped her off on her bed and she snuggled in. I noticed her toes touched the footboard of her pink toddler bed now. I’d have to remedy that soon.
“Daddy, turn my music on. I know I can go to sleep if my music is on.”
Any other kid probably wanted Laurie Berkner or that Raffi cat. That’s what she complained was played when she went to preschool. But then when she started Kindergarten, she complained they didn’t play music at all. She had me buy a cello CD, apparently influence of Aunt Sylvia, and give it to the teacher.
“Name it,” she put a finger to her chin and feigned deep thought but she and I both knew she was going to pick The National. I showed her the band on the iPod and she agreed—The National it was. I bent down and kissed her forehead.
“Get to sleep, Scout. You’ve got a spelling test tomorrow.”
She nodded, “Sleep, S—L—E—E—P.”
The P was masked by a yawn and I knew she would soon be back to sleep and I would be alone again.
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