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Chapter 12 : Chapter 12
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I glance at the ticking clock on my bedside table. Pete should be arriving in less than ten minutes as should the babysitter and I still have my hair to do.
I sigh loudly, inwardly hoping that all the effort I had put into the night would all be worth it. Rather than blowing over, our ‘little’ argument had continued to rage. However unwilling to let the relationship come to an end I had suggested a date night, of sorts.
Which was why I was sat in my best LBD, in full make-up now attempting to tame my mane of hair and tease it into something presentable.
That is until I hear an ominous sound coming from the room next door.
I lay the hairbrush down and call out “’Lyss? You ok?”
I get no response.
I call out again, “’Lyss?”
A couple of seconds later there’s a whimpering response, “Mum-my.”
Hurriedly I stand up and trying not to break my neck in the heels I rush into the room next door, where I am greeted by the scent of vomit.
I groan inwardly, this was not what I needed.
I quickly vanish the sick away, and kneel down beside her bed.
“Sorry mummy, I was sick.” She says weakly.
I smooth her hair away from her clammy forehead, registering that her temperature is slightly raised, “It’s okay, sweetheart. Are you feeling poorly?”
“Mmmm.” She responds, “My tummy hur-.”
Typically she vomits right into the lap of my dress. I try not to gag as she begins to cry.
“Sorr-rr-ry mu-humm-y.” She sobs.
Before I can do or say anything else the doorbell rings.
I take a deep breath, then wish I hadn’t.
The bell sounds again.
“Mummy’ll be right back, okay.” I tell Alyssa, stroking her forehead, before standing up and rushing down the hallway to the front door.
Opening the door I see Pete standing there.
He smiles and then grimaces obviously catching a whiff off my sicky dress.
“Alyssa’s been sick.” I say by way of explanation, “I’m sorry, can we take a rain check?”
“Oh come on.” Is his exasperated response, “Is it serious?”
I tuck a stray strand of hair behind, “Probably just some 24 hour thing.”
“So she’ll be all right with the sitter then, won’t she?” he tries, although his voice is harder now, as though he’s gearing up for another fight.
“I can’t leave her with Nicole when she’s like this.” I try to explain, keeping my voice level, “It’s not fair.”
“No what’s not fair is me getting all dressed up and giving up my night for you, when I could’ve met...” His angry words trail off.
My temper flares, “Could’ve met who? Had another offer did you?”
Any further dispute is interrupted by Nicole’s arrival. I apologize to her and explain the situation before slipping her a ten pound note from my purse, which she gleefully accepts before exiting the way she had entered just moments beforehand.
There’s a tense silence in the hallway, both of us angry, and neither one of us is willing to back down.
After what seems like an eternity, but what is really only a minute or two, Pete breaks eye contact and mutters, “This is pointless. I’m off.” And just like that he turns and walks away. I’m left feeling unsettled and confused. Was it just the argument that was pointless or was he ‘off’ for good? And for that matter who else would he be meeting?
However, I have no time to search for answers as the sound of retching comes from down the hallway. I grimace again and close the front doorway.
So much for date night.
I’ve been thinking of ways to convince the sitter to let me in all day. Maybe I should have just asked Abi if it was okay for me to come round seeing as how she and Pete would be out anyhow, but that had left room for rejection. No, instead I had opted for a surprise attack, and would rely on my devilishly handsome looks and charm to get me in to see my daughter. If that failed I could always stun the girl, and deal with the Ministry later.
However when the door is opened only a minute later, I am not greeted by the freckly faced teenager who I expected to see, but rather the mother of my child.
“James?” She questions a frown creasing her brow, “What are you doing here?”
Rather than answering her I counter, “Weren’t you meant to be going out?”
“I was, but that doesn’t explain why you’re here.” She responds.
I hold back a grin, I had forgotten how easy it was to get under skin, regardless I relent, “I thought I could come and see Alyssa seeing as how you and Pete weren’t going to be here.”
She sighs all the fight suddenly draining out of her, “’Lyssa’s not very well.”
It’s only then that I take in the weird stain on her dress, it seems as though Alyssa hasn’t been well at all.
“Is she okay?” I ask my tone concerned and my heart beginning to pound with worry.
“It’s probably just a twenty four hour thing.” She says calmly.
My mind is suddenly racing with all the possibilities, the what ifs. And I ask myself is this really what parenting is like. Will I live in constant fear that something bad will happen to her.
My fatherly instincts kick in all of a sudden and I feel a burning need to see her, to ensure that she is safe. Without realising what I am doing I push past Abi and into the flat.
Over my shoulder I call back to her, “Are you sure that’s all it is?” But I don’t wait for a response.
The only light in the flat is coming from the small living room. As I poke my head round the door I catch sight of the little bundle wrapped in a duvet on the sofa. My little bundle.
I walk over there and crouch down to her eye level.
“Hey Alyssa.” I say gently, she opens her sleepy eyes at me, as I gently stroke her curls, “Mummy says you’re not feeling well.”
“My tummy hurts.” She mumbles drearily.
“You know what’s good for poorly tummies?” I ask.
“Special kisses,” I say, “and lots of cuddles.”
With that I pull back the duvet and lift her top a little to expose her pale little belly which I kiss four times. Then I cover her back up, “And now you need special cuddles.”
I stand and pick her and the duvet up, before settling back on the couch with Alyssa curled up in my lap and pressed against my chest. After only a few minutes her breathing slows and deepens as I softly rub her back.
I look up from my daughter and catch sight of Abi with her arms folded across her chest standing in the doorway, watching us.
“Sorry, for barging in.” I say, to break the silence.
She shrugs and replies in a soft tone, “Your getting good at this.”
I frown, “At barging in?”
She smiles, and with a slight inclination of her head towards Alyssa, she clarifies,
“The whole dad thing, you’re good at it.”
I smile back at her, relishing the praise and pleased that finally I am doing something right by my little girl and the woman in the doorway.
I watch them for a few moments, marvelling at the man sat on the sofa, comforting my – our daughter. I feel a sudden wave of guilt wash over me, I had kept them apart for so long and yet here he was doing an amazing job of being a father.
I suddenly feel tears begin to well up in my eyes and quickly excuse myself saying that I need to get out of my stained party frock. I head towards the bathroom, and locking the door behind me I turn on the shower. But I don’t step in; instead I stare at my reflection in the bathroom mirror as self doubt sets in. Had I really made the best choice in cutting him out of her life? Of my life?
I take a deep breath, I couldn’t change the past, but perhaps letting James into Alyssa’s life and consequently back into mine wasn’t such a bad thing.
After a further minute or so of contemplating my reflection I strip off my clothing and step into the steaming shower.
Maybe half an hour later I stick my head back around the living room door. James doesn’t appear to have moved from his position on the sofa, with Alyssa cradled in his strong arms.
“Fancy some pizza?” I ask, trying to keep my tone light.
He looks up registering my reappearance, “Umm, yeah, that sounds good.” Then nodding towards the TV tucked in the corner he asks, “Couldn’t switch the square on could you?”
I fight a smile, “You mean the box.” I correct, stepping into the room and over to the old scratched coffee table and pick up the remote.
James’ brow ceases, “I’m sure it’s the square.”
I laugh, “You always were crap at Muggle Studies.” I say handing him the buttons.
“Yeah well at least I can ride a broom, the best you could ever do was topple off.” He teases, reminding me of a very embarrassing incident in first year, when I had indeed toppled off the broomstick in our first flying lesson and displayed my rather unflattering pink knickers to the combined group of Gryffindors and Slytherins. It had obviously left a lingering impression in James’ mind.
“So broom-riding automatically makes you the bigger wizard does it.” I shoot back, still smiling.
“Hey, you said it, not me.” He responds, grinning back at me.
I hand him the remote and as he takes hold of it our fingers brush and our eyes lock.
Suddenly it’s as if I’m sixteen again, the relatively anonymous Gryffindor good girl who caught the eye of the son of possibly the most famous wizard to ever live. Just like that I’m hyper aware of the fact that I’m standing in my shabby living room, in a pair of ancient, unflattering pyjamas, hidden underneath a dowdy dressing gown, my damp hair scraped back into a messy bun and not an ounce of make up on. I silently kick myself for allowing him to do this to me, to reduce me to my insecure sixteen year-old self.
I hurriedly let go off the remote and drop my gaze to the floor and with a quick, “I should put the pizza on.” I disappear into the kitchen, where I will hopefully find not only the pizza but also my confident, calm and definitely not in love with James Potter twenty-four year old self.
The following morning I wake with a shiver and crick in my neck. The telly is still on now showing some breakfast morning show instead of last night’s classic thriller. The remains of the pizza are on the coffee table along with James’ feet. I find that I can’t help but let my gaze linger on his chiselled jaw now covered in a smattering of dark stubble.
Just as I rise from the sofa he stirs, letting out a deep sigh he stretches his arms and his eyes flutter open.
“Coffee?” I ask.
“Please.” He responds yawning.
As I’m buttering some toast he enters the small kitchen and sits down at the breakfast table.
I place a mug of coffee in front of him, “Thanks.” He says, taking a long swig of it. I turn back to the toast, but not for long.
“You’re owling in sick?” His clear voice breaks our comfortable silence.
I turn to see him with the scrap of parchment that I had used to write my apologies on.
I shrug, “I can’t exactly leave Alyssa here by herself.”
“Can you afford to drop the shift though?” he asks again clearly concerned.
I sigh and respond honestly, “Not really, but I don’t have much choice.”
There is a moment’s silence and just as I think that’s the end of that, James pipes up self-consciously, “I could... you know... stay and look after her. If that’s okay with you.”
“Don’t you have plans?” I ask, touched that he would offer to do such a thing.
“Not unless you count a lie-in.”
So that would be a no then, I think.
Upon agreeing to let James look after Alyssa for the day I spend the next hour
intermittently getting ready for work and apologising for the state of the house, the lack of food in the cupboards or some such thing.
Finally James pushes me out the front door giving me one of his patented grins and reassuring me that everything would be just fine.
I smile back, silently wondering if I would even have a house left by the time I got back from work. What was I thinking leaving everything in the hands of James Potter who had seriously dropped the quaffle on several occasions.
At six o’clock my shift finished. Saturdays were notoriously busy and business had been brisk which had left little time for me to contemplate what was occurring back at my flat. Slightly apprehensively I approach my front door although the fact that it’s still standing must definitely be a good sign.
I unlock the door and push it open.
There’s a cry of ,”Mummy!” from the kitchen and then Alyssa comes bounding out, surprisingly full of life given that it was only last night that she was puking her guts out.
I scoop her up and hold her tight against me. Her hair is a little damp and she smells of soap, it appears James not only managed to not blow up my home but also give our daughter a bath.
“Did you have a nice a day?” I ask, giving her kiss on her the cheek.
“Mmmmhm.” She responds with an exaggerated nod of her head.
I place her back down on the floor and she excitedly takes hold of my hand.
“Look what we did mummy.” She says pulling me towards the kitchen.
As I enter the kitchen half expecting to see a bomb site, I have to blink in disbelief.
For a start the debris of plates, cutlery and crumbs that had littered the worktops this morning has disappeared and the place practically gleams. The small table has also been cleared of odds and ends and covered by a clean checked table cloth and is laid for two whilst the glorious smell of roasting meat comes from the oven.
James stands as casually as he can in the far corner a nervous smile on his face.
“You did this?” I ask my voice barely more than a whisper, “You did all this?”
“Me and the cleaning fairy over there.” He replies nodding to Alyssa, who giggles.
One more in a long line that have fallen under his spell, I think and then chastise myself for being so cruel after all he’s done for me today.
Alyssa lets go of my hand and pulls open the fridge, “And look mummy.”
The fridge that had held half a pint of milk and some mouldy cheese is crammed full of food and the value kind that I usually buy but the expensive stuff.
Inwardly I cringe thinking of how much he has spent.
I shut the fridge and look up at him, “I’ll pay you back, you didn’t need to do that.”
He rolls his eyes, closes the space between us and takes both my arms in his hand, “Just say thank you and enjoy it.” He commands sincerely.
I bite the inside of my lip determined to say no but as I gaze up into those alluring hazel eyes of his I feel my resolve waning and then disappear altogether, “Thank you.” I hear myself say.
James grins in triumph, “You welcome.” He says lightly and then over my shoulder he playfully cries, “And now it’s time for your bed.”
He lets go of my arms and playfully chases Alyssa who squeals in delight and runs from the room.
After they have disappeared no doubt to read a bedtime story I take a peak in the oven, mmm roast beef and then have a seat at the table.
I begin to wonder if I have got James all wrong.
The eighteen year old James I knew definitely wouldn’t have washed up a mug let alone cleaned a whole kitchen, neither would he have slept on a dodgy sofa or cuddled a sickly child all night long.
He’s not eighteen anymore and I remind myself that neither am I.
We’ve both grown up, changed, and can’t help but admit that I rather like the new James.
My thoughts however go no further as the stillness of the kitchen is interrupted by James poking his head round the door.
“I’ll see you next weekend then.”
“Wait, what? You’re not staying? What about dinner?” I ask confusedly, indicating the two plates.
Not catching my drift James replies, “I right yeah, it should be done in fifteen, there’s wine in the fridge. I thought maybe you and Pete could re-think date night.”
“Oh. Right. Thanks then for everything.”
“Bye Abs. Have a nice evening.”
“Bye.” I say as he disappears again and as I hear the front door shut and the lock click a worrying thought creeps up on me.
But I’d much rather have date night with you.
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