Chapter 9 : Chapter 9
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I couldn´t believe that Saturday evening had already arrived, my final week of relative normalness was all but over and now he, the man I had managed to avoid for four years was going to become a regular visitor.
I checked my appearance in the mirror again and sighed, I had tried to go for sheek casual, unfortunately my wardrobe was not conducive to the look, it housed only two looks work or mummy and not even yummy mummy at that. I had therefore opted for my best pair of jeans, the ones that were only slightly ragged at the bottom a plain white t-shirt and a slightly to big, long purple cardie. I consoled myself with the fact that my hair was actually cooperating today and fell around my shoulders in loose waves.
The doorbell rang.
My heart rate increased tenfold. I quickly check that I haven´t got anything stuck between my teeth and taking a deep breath I head out into the hallway.
I open the door just as he´s about to ring the bell for a third time. His hand drops to his side, and then runs through his hair, “Hi.” He greets me awkwardly.
“Hi.” I respond, even as I briefly contemplate shutting the door and just pretending that he´d never found out about her. We stand there awkwardly, I´m blocking the doorway, and he looks uncharacteristically uncertain. His hand runs through his hair again and he shifts his weight from one foot to the other.
He breaks first, “So...ugh...can I...you know...come in?” He asks awkwardly.
A small two letter word beginning with ‘n’ briefly flashes through my mind, although from my mouth comes a slightly hostile sounding, “Yes, of course.”
I drop my arm and push the door open a little wider, allowing him access to the hallway. He enters and stops looking uncertainly down the dark little corridor.
I close the door, count to three take a deep breath and turn to him, “Can I take your jacket?”
He looks at me confusedly, perhaps wondering if this is some kind of trap before answering, “Yes.” And shrugging it off his shoulders he hands it to me. The heavy leather seems to grate against my skin, it’s probably the most singularly expensive item in this entire block of flats. I carefully hang it on one of the wooden pegs on the wall.
I turn to face him again.
A tense silence ensues. Neither one of us is sure how to proceed, how we go about doing this.
That is why children were invented I promptly discover, because right then my daughter comes ambling out of the kitchen, curls bouncing wildly, eyes shining and her cute little mouth framed by a rim of tomato sauce. She claps her hands together, they too are covered in sticky red sauce.
She looks innocently up at me, “Finished mummy.” she declares.
I can’t help but smile at her. Then I shake my head, “You do know you were meant to eat the sauce not bathe it, tomato-chops.” I tell her gently.
She frowns, at me confusedly a cute wrinkle creasing her nose, “But I did eat it.”
“Uhuh.”I agree knowingly, “Let’s get you cleaned up, there’s someone here to see you.”
Her eyes wander as if for the first time over to James, “Hello.” She greets not abashed in the slightest.
It’s hard to interpret the look on his face but to me it looks like a mixture of elation, and abject fear.
“This is James.”I tell her, “He’s... he’s a...” Friend? I think not, an old sexual partner? Yes, but you don’t tell five year olds these things, your Father? Let’s not even go there “...well, he’s James.” I finally finish lamely.
He crouches down to her level, “Hi.” He says.
She cocks her head as if analyzing him, and with her eyes squinting at him she asks,
“Are you James Bond?”
James looks slightly astounded and stammers a, “No.” Whilst I try to hide back a snort.
“Oh.” She replies looking a little crestfallen and flicking her hair behind her ears she continues conspiratorially, “He’s totally dreamy.”
I could avada Nicole the babysitter for that and but for the look on James’ face I probably would have. However the floundering look of bewilderment that the comment has created spares her from such a state.
“Let’s get you cleaned up, missy.” I sate, deciding to step in, I gently take hold of her arm and begin guiding her into the kitchen. Just as we’re crossing the threshold, she asks, “Mummy, what does dreamy mean?”
I can’t help but smile as I swing her up onto the counter next to the sink. I wet a cloth and swipe it across her mouth, taking some of the ketchup off.
“Mummy?” she asks again.
I set the cloth aside.
“You’ll find out when you’re older.” I reply.
“Much, much older.” I add, as I join the fray in the kitchen.
Abi turned suddenly, as if she’d forgotten another person was in the small flat. That other person being well, me.
And for the first time, as I look at them there, Abi carefully wiping her, our daughter’s face and hands I begin to wonder if I have indeed done the right thing, intruding like this on their lives. But then every little girl should have their daddy, shouldn’t they?
“How much older?” Alyssa suddenly demands, stirring me from my thoughts, “Old like you?”
I am stunned into silence. My daughter thinks I’m old.
Abi however, let’s out a muffled chuckle, and brushing away the hair from our daughter’s face, she kisses her on the cheek, “Nope.”She responds, “When you are even older and have grey hair and wrinkles only then can you find boys dreamy, ok.”
“But that’s ageeeeeeeees away.”
“Exactly.” She replies before helping Alyssa slide to the floor, “Now, go and show James your bedroom, he’s come especially to play dolls with you.”
“Dolls.” I repeat, gulping, “I ...I don...”
But it was too late to protest, Alyssa had the crossed the room and taken hold of my hand, tugging at me to follow her, the feeling of her hand, my daughter’s hand in mine, caused any further desire to protest to stop. It was the first time I had touched her and I felt... elation.
She led me out the kitchen and down past the tiny living room to her bedroom. The walls are a pale yellow and peeling in places, but it’s clean and tidy, the bed piled high with teddy’s and in one corner is a wooden dolls house. That’s where she leads me, to sit in front the house, in my hand she places a doll, a blonde Wanda Witch that winks at me, and waves her wand with a brilliant smile. And we begin.
And I have to say that I am in absolute awe of this little girl who half an hour later asks for a drink. I obligingly get up and head back to the kitchen, where I find Abi sat at the table, surrounded by a pile of papers, although I don’t pay much attention to them.
Sensing my presence she looks up, brushing her cascading her away from her face, there’s an oddly vulnerable glint in her eye, and I can’t help but realise or perhaps remember just how beautiful she is.
She’s still looking at me and eventually my brain kicks into gear, or at least in enough of a gear for me to be able to ask, “Ugh, she’d like a drink.”
She nods and pushes herself away from the table. She crosses the small room in two steps and reaches up into a cupboard to retrieve a plastic Wanda cup. The motion causes her jumper to ride up a little, revealing a sliver of pale skin. The sight of it sends a tingle down my spine.
New leaf I remind myself. I had turned a new leaf. I was not that guy anymore.
Abi deftly fills the cup with water, and hands it to me.
When I don’t move she asks, “Anything else?”
I shake my head and turn away, then turn back to her, “She’s amazing...just really...amazing. You did a great job with her.”
I don’t wait for a response, but instead make my way back to doll heaven and my little girl.
“Now, you wait over there, and ...here take this...” Alyssa commands, handing me a hat for my doll, Doug who I’m pretty sure at one point was a Wanda but obviously her or should I say his rather severe haircut has changed all that.
It would appear Doug and Wanda are about to get married, Alyssa is squeezing Wanda into a puffy white ball gown and I’m holding Doug upright under a plastic arch, that looks strangely like part of an old milk can.
Alyssa has started making the sounds to the Wedding March song, “Doo do du do, doo do du do...” and Wanda is advancing precariously down the aisle.
We solemnly make our vows but just as its time for Doug and Wanda to have their matrimonial kiss there’s a knock at the door.
Startled both Alyssa and I look up to see Abi leaning against the door frame.
“Sorry to interrupt your lovely wedding but its bed time for Wanda.” She says, gently.
“Ohhhh but mummyyyyy just...” Alyssa protests.
“Mummy nothing, it’s nearly nine o’clock.”Abi interrupts.
I look down at my watch, and see she’s right, I couldn’t quite believe it, time had flown.
“Say goodbye to James.” Abi tells her.
Alyssa lays Wanda down and I´m not quite sure what I was expecting but it wasn´t what followed, suddenly her small arms are around my neck, her soft curls pressed against my cheek and she´s hugging me. It takes me a second to register and then I respond with equal ferocity, wrapping my own arms around her, and breathing in the heavenly scent that is Alyssa. After a minute or so, although it feels like an hour, she pulls away slightly and then gently brushes her lips against my cheek, “Bye James.”
I wander into the hallway and then the kitchen to allow Abi to get Alyssa ready for bed, my head filled with thoughts of my little girl. I take a seat at the small table a giddy smile on my face. I finally look down at the table which is still littered with papers, I pick one up. I read over it, and then take another reading over the second one, my smile starts to fade, and a frown appears. The third one has scratched sums all leading to negative numbers.
Shit. She needs help.
I don´t hear her approach, I´m too consumed in the pieces of parchment.
“What are you doing?” she asks.
Startled, I look behind me. She sees the papers in my hands, and taking a couple of steps, she snatches them from my hands.
“It´s none of your business.” She interrupts her cheeks flushing.
“Let me help.” I say gently, taking a step towards her.
She responds through gritted teeth, “I do not need your help.”
I run a hand through my hair, “Look I could just lend you the money, really it´d be no problem.”
“If I need a loan, James, I´ll go to Gringotts, but it´s really none of your concern.” She states defiantly.
She shakes her head, “No James. It´s my problem, not yours so please just leave it.”
My hazel eyes meet her big chocolate ones, she doesn´t back down, “Fine.” I agree, “But... look I´m here now...so, so just if you need anything... anything.” I finish lamely.
“Ok.” She agrees purely to placate me, although her eyes betray her, telling me that she never will give in not about this anyway.
We stop and look at each other once more, I break the silence, “She really is amazing, you know.”
Abi smiles, “I know.”
I smile back, then catch sight of the clock, “Well I should probably be off then.”
Abi nods, “I´ll see you to the door.”
I take my jacket of the hook, as Abi opens the door. Having shrugged the jacket onto my shoulders I exit into the dank corridor, Abi stands in the doorway.
Both of us are unsure how to end this, eventually we settle on a handshake.
“Can I see her next week?” I ask.
She bites the inside of her lip but nods.
“Alright then, bye.” And I stupidly give her awkward wave, something I shall chastise myself for once I am out of her earshot.
She bites back a smile, “Bye.” And then she closes the door.
I wander around the streets for a time, my brain whirring. And then finding a dark spot I apparate home. The lights are off and since it´s past ten I assume that Jen is asleep. I quietly let myself in, and make my way upstairs to the bedroom.
I strip down to my boxers and slide under the covers, Jen turns over and snuggles up next to me, “Where were you ?” she asks groggily.
I pause, I could or perhaps I should tell her but I don´t. I kiss the top of her forehead instead and mumble, “Just out.”
Then I lay down, relaxing into the thick pillows and fall into a heavy sleep.
When I awake the following morning, Jen is already up.
I wander down to the kitchen where I find her, eating a banana and caressing a glass of water. I raise an eyebrow but say nothing.
“Morning.” She says.
“Morning.” I reply, taking the carton of orange juice from the fridge. I pour myself a glass.
“I’ve got the Belinda Brears shoot today.” She informs me, “It might go late.”
“Okay.” I acknowledge, taking a swig of orange juice.
“That´s gross James,” She rebukes me.
I merely grin.
She stands up, banishing the banana skin to the bin and bringing, the glass to the sink.
I decide to broach one of the topic´s that I was pondering the night before, “Do you think we´ll have kids?” I ask her.
She looks at me in surprise, “Kids.” She states, spitting out the word as if she just sucked on a sour lemon, “You mean messy, whiny little needy things,” she chuckles, “Uhnnn no James.”
My heart sinks although I guess I already knew that that was going to be her answer.
“...I mean imagine what that would do to my body...ugh all that fat, and stretch marks, like no offence James but look what childbirth has done to your mother.”
My eyes open in shock, yet still she continues, “... and then who would hire me. So no James, no babies.”
She pauses for a moment and then asks, “Why do you ask? Do I look pregnant?”
Sudden panic registers on her face, and she rushes to the mirror.
I roll my eyes, “No you don´t look pregnant, you look fine.”
She turns to me eyebrows raised, “Fine.” She repeats, “That´s worse than pregnant.”
I cross over to her, “I meant you look fabulous, and so much skinnier than that... what´s her name?”
“Trina Le´Févere.” She adds.
“That´s the one.”
“I know.” She agrees instantly perking up, and then catching sight of the clock, she pecks me on the lips and says, “I need to go, see you tonight.”
She´s halfway out the door before I respond sullenly, “Yeah, see you tonight.”
I run my hand through my hair, staring at the closed door, and all I can think is ´No Kids´.
That´s not what I want.
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