I contemplate going into Deacon’s room. Just to see what it looks like. My guess is it’s the one closest to the office so he can be near Bailey. It’s the same room he had when this was his house.

Bailey stirs. I glance over at her and she’s watching me with a sleepy look on her face. She’s the cutest baby I’ve ever seen and looks so much like Deacon. From what I remember of Deacon’s ex, she had dark, nearly black hair and equally dark eyes. Bailey’s hair is blonde like her dad’s and she even has those same light green eyes too.

“Hi,” I say to her, smiling.

Her chin wrinkles and starts to bob. I’m a stranger. She’s used to having her dad with her. She must be so scared.

“Oh, sweetie, come here,” I say, and pick her up when she starts to cry.

She continues to whimper as I change her. When I’m done, we go downstairs and I make her something to eat. The crying stops and she watches me like a nervous dog would. No yet sure if I’m friend or foe.

We play with toys and when she gets bored of those, I read to her. It doesn’t seem to matter what the words are. She’s more interested in the sound of my voice. So when we’ve read through all the books in her small library of children’s books, I read to her from the one I brought. It’s a cozy mystery. Nothing with potential of scaring her. Just a good who-done-it. She tugs at a set of plastic keys on a ring, playing contently as I read to her.

After a few hours she starts to doze off. By far the easiest baby I’ve ever taken care of out of all the children I’ve ever babysat. I carry her to her room. Afraid of waking her, I sit on the floor and hold her on my lap instead of putting her back in the playpen.

I’m still reading to her, wanting her to feel comforted by my voice even if she’s asleep. She’s in a new home, surrounded by new things, so I don’t want her to feel alone or scared. Especially with her dad gone.

Suddenly I have this strange feeling like I’m being watched. When I look up, Deacon is standing there, leaning against the door jam. I have no idea how long he’s been watching me.

I smile at him. “She’s a big fan of literature. She needs more books. I have a ton of them leftover from my childhood. I’d like to give them to her if that’s okay with you,” I say.

He has the strangest look on his face. So serious. He looks overwhelmed. Intense. I wonder if he had a bad day at work.

“Yeah, that’s fine,” he says.

2

Deacon

Seeing Remy sitting there, holding my child so lovingly, wakes something up inside of me. I want her—no, I need her. I never once felt this way about my ex, Karen. It took weeks of dating before I was even attracted to her, if I was being honest. At the time I lived alone in a big house and I just wanted someone to share it with. Somehow I convinced myself it was her, even though I suspected she wasn’t the one. I mean, who offers to suck a guy’s dick an hour after they meet? That’s what she did on our first date. It never occurred to me until it was too late that she was like that with every man she was with.

With Remy there was an instant connection when I saw her standing at the door. She has this inner light that radiates. The kind of smile that makes everyone else around her want to smile too. There’s something so innocent about her, and yet there’s no mistaking that she is all women. She brings out urges in me that I’ve never had before. I want her. I want her more than I’ve ever wanted anyone before. I need to claim her. She has to be mine.

I hadn’t noticed before, but after Sam said something, I’m starting to notice how she’s looking at me. I thought maybe there was a mutual spark there between us, but at first I thought it was just wishful thinking. Now I see that it’s more than just a friendly look between neighbors. When she was younger, I suspected she might’ve had a crush on me by the way she was always peeking over the hedges to watch me wash my car. But she was just a kid. I was younger then. I felt younger. After the divorce, things changed. Women look at me still, but when I look at them, I see Karen’s face. My ex-wife really did a number on me. She cheated. Slept with men I thought were friends. She went out every night and came home drunk in the early hours of the morning. Even when Bailey was colicky. I was at home with a sick baby, sometimes even winding up in the emergency room with our child while she was out having a good old time, not even bothering to answer my texts. Every time she came home she had a new excuse. Often saying her phone was dead, or she’d forgotten her phone in her car. This coming from a woman who never let it out of her sight. She forgot I knew her better than that. I knew she just couldn’t handle the pressure of motherhood, or the monogamy of marriage. I knew that before we got married, but somehow I’d convinced myself she could change.

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