I ignore that last dig. “Where’s the mom in all this? I’m assuming considering what’s transpired over the past several days she isn’t in the picture?” I take another sip of my coffee, contemplating the idea of Ben being married to someone. My stomach rolls at the thought.
“Ugh, don’t get me started on that bitch.” She gathers her hair off her neck while I wait for her to elaborate. “She’s so bitter about not being with Ben that she uses that against him. They were never together. It was just a drunken hook up that she’s tried to make into something more, but because Ben isn’t interested, she gives him as little time as possible with Nolan. Shit is fucked up.”
“That’s horrible. She shouldn’t be able to keep his own son from him.”
“Yeah, well, tell that to the freaking judge that gave her primary custody. Ben still gets to see him but not nearly as much as she does. And he should definitely get him more. He’s the better parent.” She pushes to her feet and pulls her phone out of her pocket. “I’m gonna run out for a little while. Wanna come?”
I stand and glance once more out the sliding glass door. “Nah, I’d better give my mom a call. See how she’s doing.” Tessa looks at me knowingly, silently communicating that she is here for me if I needed her. I never kept any details about my mom’s illness from her, and she and I spent several nights on the phone together, her just listening to my cries.
I walk back into my room and set my coffee mug on my dresser, swapping it for my phone. After three rings, my aunt’s voice comes through the other end.
“Hi, Aunt Mae. How’s everything going? How is she?”
“She’s fantastic, Mia. Here, I’ll hand her the phone.”
I wait anxiously for my mother’s voice, and after only a few short seconds, I’m rewarded with it.
“Hi, sweetheart. How are you?” Her voice is strong and I can hear the smile behind it.
I can’t help the tears that fall down my cheeks but I keep my voice steady. “I’m so good, Mom. I miss you though.”
“I miss you too. How is everyone there? Are you and Tessa staying out of trouble?”
“Yes, of course. We haven’t done anything illegal yet.”
My mom’s laughter fills the phone, a sound I went several months without hearing when she was at her worst. “And her brother? Is he behaving himself around you?”
I hesitate, not really knowing how to answer that question. “He’s… different. I don’t know. It’s strange getting used to this Ben when I was anticipating the old one.”
“Well time changes people,” she states obviously. “It’s certainly changed you over the years. My little girl became this beautiful young lady.”
I smile and lie back on the bed, playing with the hem of my dress. “You sound really good. How is your strength? Are you eating? Are you having any more of those dizzy spells?”
“Oh, honey, I’m perfect.” More tears fill my eyes and I sniffle quietly away from the phone. “Your aunt and I went for a walk yesterday at the park. It was too nice of a day to stay indoors. I fed some ducks for you.”
“Oh, the duck pond. I love that place.” I sit up when I hear crying coming from down the hallway. Little dimpled look alike crying. “Hey, Mom. Can I call you back?”
“Sweetheart, enjoy yourself. Don’t worry about me. I’m feeling great, okay?”
I swing my legs out of bed and stand up. “Okay. I love you.”
“I love you too.”
I smile and toss my phone on the bed, walking toward the cries that seem to get more hysterical the closer I get. Nolan is sitting on the kitchen counter, wrapped up in a towel and trying to pull his knee away from Ben.
“Ahhhh stop! No, Daddy!”
“Buddy, let me look at it. I need to clean it out.”
I walk over to them and Nolan’s eyes turn toward me. “Oh, no. What happened, Sir Nolan?” I place my hand on his shin, wrapping my fingers around his calf. He tenses a bit but doesn’t pull away from me. “Brave knights don’t cry when they get boo boos, do they?” He dries up his tears and shakes his head at me, his tiny lip trembling. His knee is scraped up and a bit of blood is pooling on the wound.
“I fewl.” He sniffs. “Daddy’s gonna huwrt it.”
I look up at Ben, meeting his gaze that I didn’t realize was already fixated on me. “Daddy’s not gonna hurt it. Are you, Daddy?” I don’t mean for my tone to sound seductive, but given the intensified stare that shifts in Ben’s eyes, I’m guessing it comes off as that. He blinks rapidly, dropping his gaze to Nolan’s. I do the same. “You know, some princesses carry magical powers. And guess what?”
“What?” His eyes go wide and his voice becomes a fascinated whisper.
“I’m one of those princesses.” I disappear down the hallway and retrieve a small medicine bag that I carry with me out of habit. And this medicine bag just so happens to be covered in glitter. Very magical.
“What is that?” Nolan asks, the fear completely wiped from his voice and replaced with wild curiosity.
“This,” I open the zipper and begin rummaging through it, “is my magic bag. It’s filled with stuff to make knights feel better.” I pull out some disinfectant spray, a few pieces of gauze, and a band aid. I place the bag on the counter next to Nolan, seeing his eyes broaden as he tries to see down into it. “Look in the bag and tell me what you see.” He becomes distracted, rattling off the list of items and allowing me to spray the gauze and apply it gently to his knee. Ben watches me from the side intently, my eyes meeting his every few seconds. I want to focus solely on my task, but my eyes betray me and I allow them to wander. I blow softly on the scrape but Nolan doesn’t notice.
“What’s this?” Nolan pulls out an ace bandage, unraveling it to the floor. “Whoa!”
I giggle and apply the band aid to his knee. “That is for brave knights that endure dragon injuries.” I raise an eyebrow at him and he grins. “Do you have any dragon injuries?”
He nods anxiously. “I got hit by a tail wight hewre.” He points to the invisible injury on his head and Ben and I chuckle.
“Well, if it’s okay with your daddy, I can wrap you up with my magic band.”
Ben picks up the ace bandage and holds it out to me. “Well I can’t have you bleeding all over my truck with that massive head wound.” He winks at me, placing the bandage into my hand.
I wrap up Nolan’s head as he adorably giggles. “Sir Nolan, you look ready to take on a land of dragons.” Ben picks him up, kissing his cheek before placing him on the ground. I am about to turn when two tiny arms wrap around my legs. He smiles up at me before running toward the couch, picking up his sword and commencing the battle he seems to be constantly fighting in.
“That was amazing,” Ben states, causing me to turn and look up into his eyes. We are standing inches apart, close enough to touch each other if we want to. “I couldn’t go anywhere near his scrape, and you cleaned it out and stuck a band aid on it without him even flinching.”