Page 35 of She’s All Mine

“He’ll be home in an hour or so. You can play after dinner.”

The cloud clears and she’s happy again. “I think Ms. B likes you. What do you think?”

“I don’t,” I answer honestly, as I unlock the door to my Benz and lift Aurora into the booster seat in the back.

“Paris’s teacher started liking Mr. Hunnicut and then Mr. Hunnicut left his family to be with Paris’s teacher.”

“Sounds like Mr. Hunnicut is an asshole,” I mutter under my breath, but angel ears catches it.

“What’s an asshole?”

I scratch my chin and debate what to tell her. I’ve been a dad to angel for five years and fostered kids for more than that, but I still trip up. It’s because I’m in the gym all day. I opt for truthfulness because knowing a few bad words isn’t going to kill my angel.

“Basically means his head is so far up his ass that he can’t see anything anymore, but it’s a bad word so don’t say it.” I bop her on the head.

“Like ‘bullshit’?”

I cover my mouth and cough to muffle my laugh. The word “bullshit” coming out of this tiny human’s mouth while her long tresses are done up in two ponytails decorated with pink polka-dot bows is funny as shit.

“Yeah. Like ‘bullshit,’” I say when I’ve got myself under control. I give her a quick kiss on her silk-soft cheek before closing her door.

Once behind the driver’s seat, I check to see how she’s doing before I pull out. “You ready for your recital?”

“Yeah!” She kicks out her feet. “Mommy said I did real good at practice last night.”

“I bet you did. Mommy’s a good teacher, isn’t she?”

“Yup. The best.” A bright smile lights up my angel’s face as we pull into the stream of traffic. She hums her recital song at least twenty times by the time we arrive at the gym. I’m never going to get that tune out of my head.

The parking lot at the gym is full despite the recital not starting for a couple of hours. Aurora lets me carry her in the side door. Morry is there to steal my angel away.

“Ohh, look at you,” Morry coos into Aurora’s neck. “I’ve missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” sings my girl. She wriggles, wanting to get down. Morry squeezes her again before reluctantly lowering Aurora to the floor. My daughter speeds off immediately, likely to go climb into the makeshift stands that surround the practice ring. She loves watching people box.

“Don’t feel bad, Morry, she doesn’t let me hug her at the school. She says that everyone will think she’s a baby.”

“She is a baby,” Morry insists. “We should be allowed to baby her forever.”

I peek out the door of the backroom into the gym. Aurora is surrounded by a group of trainees who are offering her everything from candy to comic books. “I don’t think we need to be concerned on that account,” I drawl. I push away from the door and give Morry a peck on the side of the head. “Aurora has everyone eating out of her hand, even if she doesn’t mean to.”

“I hope we don’t ruin the girl,” Morry says and rushes out to shoo the boys away, but it’s only a temporary fix. Aurora has that aura about her that makes you want to coddle and protect her. It’s a good thing she has a strong will so that she can tell people to stop. I’m not worried about Aurora being ruined. She’s full of love and that’s why everyone wants to be around her.

I take one last look at my daughter and then go in search of my wife. I find her in the studio office, brushing out her hair. Her muscular dancer legs are encased in nude tights and she’s wearing a tight leotard that shows off her still slender figure and her delicious rack. I bend down and place a kiss on the bare patch of skin showing above the scooped neckline.

“Hey, babe.”

She curls an arm around my neck and pulls me in for a deep, welcoming kiss. “Mmm. I needed that,” she says as she releases me.

I drag a chair behind her and start to massage her shoulders. “Tough day?”

“I love the kids we have here. I hate the parents. One mother wanted to know why her six-year-old wasn’t in pointe shoes yet. Apparently, some other studio is allowing them.”

I stop. “Isn’t that, like, abuse?”

“I called the studio and they deny it. And they added that they kicked the mom out two months ago for being problematic.”

“We always inherit the difficult ones, don’t we?”

“Because I can’t say no,” Erika admits.

I lean over and grab her brush. “Want it in braids and a bun or just a bun?”

“Braids and then the bun since you’re asking.”

I get to work, dividing the hair and then sectioning it off. Not too long after saying so long to Erika’s parents, I did good on my promise to watch videos on how to braid Erika’s heavy mane. Her mom had done it for her when she was a girl and since we basically kicked her mom out of Erika’s life, I took over the duty.