“They don’t eat human food, stupid.” Skylar ran up the stairs and I stood there for a moment wondering what I should do. I wanted to laugh at her comment, but I knew that I couldn’t let her think that her behavior was acceptable or funny.
“Skylar,” I called up the stairs. “Skylar, I need you to come back down the stairs right now.” Silence greeted me and I walked up the stairs slowly, scared that we were about to have our first argument. I took a deep breath and tried to hype myself up. I was scared that she was going to tell me that she hated me and that she didn’t want to live with me anymore.
“Skylar, please come downstairs.” I stopped at the top of the stairs and called out to her again, praying that she would come out of her room. I stood there for what seemed like ten minutes before Skylar walked out of her room, with two teddy bears.
“I’m just bring two then, Noah. So they have company.” She looked at me with wide eyes and showed me the two bears: one was the one I had given her in Palm Bonita at a fair and the other one was given to her by Zane when she had first come to live with us.
“That’s fine, two teddy bears should be able to get along well enough.”
“Okay.” She nodded and gave me a wide beautiful smile. My heart melted and I reached down and picked her up and swung her around. How I loved this little girl.
“Can we go downstairs and finish packing for the picnic?”
“Okay. Can I have some teddy bear cookies?”
“Teddy bear cookies? Oh do you mean teddy grahams?”
“Not right now.” I shook my head. “But I’ll bring some on the picnic.”
“Okay.” She ran down the stairs and into the living room. “I’m going to watch cartoons now.”
“Okay, sweet pea.” I nodded and walked back into the kitchen. Part of me still felt that while I had won the battle, I was losing the war. I was starting to feel uncomfortable with the amount of TV Skylar was watching. It seemed to be her go-to activity and I knew that I shouldn’t be allowing her to watch so many shows. I wasn’t even monitoring what she watched. I was pretty sure that Sesame Street didn’t come on 24 hours a day. I went back to packing the picnic basket feeling guilty. Maybe this wasn’t the best time to be worrying about getting into a relationship. Maybe I was doing a disservice to Skylar. While I knew I wasn’t as bad a parent as Monica, I certainly wasn’t feeling like I was going to win any parent of the year awards. I didn’t really have a clue and I didn’t think that love was going to be a great help in developing my parenting skills. I definitely needed to take the parenting class with Zane and Lucky. And now I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a good idea to see if Robin wanted to take the class with me.
I walked over to the fridge and pulled out the sandwiches Skylar and I had made earlier and the Rotisserie chicken that I had picked up at Ralphs.
“Shall we bring strawberries or grapes?” I called out to Skylar.
“Okay.” I laughed and added a few apples to the basket as well. Then I grabbed the Strawberry Kiwi Capri Sun packs and some Oreo cookies. “Okay, you ready, Skylar?”
“Let’s go then.”
“Shall I tell Uncle Zane and Aunty Lucky that we’re leaving?” Skylar turned off the TV and looked at me expectedly.
“Nah, I got it. Zane, we’re leaving now.” I shouted up the stairs and grinned at Skylar.
“What?” I heard Zane’s bedroom door open and his loud footsteps thumping to the top of the stairs.
“I said we’re leaving now.” I gave him a small wave and grabbed Skylar’s hand. “We’ll see you later.”
“Have fun.” He rolled his eyes and walked back to the bedroom. I noticed that his shirt was off and I realized that I had likely interrupted something between him and Lucky. Oops. I laughed to myself and buckled Skylar into the backseat and we drove off to go and pick Robin up.
“I spy with my little eye something beginning with b.” Skylar squealed as she ran around on the grass.
“Hmm, what can that be?” Robin bit her lower lip and looked around in an exaggerated fashion. “Butterfly?”
“No.” Skylar laughed.
“There’s no bacon here, silly.” Skylar fell down next to Robin and giggled.
“Hmm, blue sky?”
“No.” Skylar shook her head and leaned against Robin. I stared at my two girls playing and my heart expanded with emotion for both of them. So far the picnic had been wonderful; it had gone better than I had even hoped for. They both got on so well, it was as if Robin was made to be a mother, she had a natural way with Skylar and Skylar was enamored with her.
“I give up.” Robin grinned at me.
“Are you sure?” Skylar jumped up and down. “I win if you give up.”
“I want to guess.” I winked at Robin. “I have an idea.”
“No, no, you can’t play. It’s not your turn.” Skylar shook her head. “It’s a bird. A bird.”
“No fair, I was going to guess that.”
“But I already said it so you lose.”
“But I didn’t even get to play.”
“Oh well.” Skylar plopped down and reached for an Oreo. “I’m the Eye spy winner.”
“Congratulations, Skylar.” Robin picked a bunch of daisies and started tying them together. “I’m making a crown.” Robin smiled as she answered my unspoken question. “A daisy crown for the eye spy Queen.”
“I’m a Queen. I’m a Queen.” Skylar danced around singing.
“Does that make me a King then?” I moved closer to Robin and grabbed her hand.
“Depends on what you want, Sire.” She winked at me and my blood boiled over as I stared at the curl of her red lips. She looked sexy as hell and all I could think about was how much I wanted to take her, right here on the blanket. I groaned inwardly as I realized that I couldn’t even touch her really, not if I didn’t want to scar Skylar even more than she had already been scarred.
“You know what I want.” I whispered in her ear, as I kissed her cheek. I was unable to stop myself from touching her.
“I think so, Sire. But I’m just a poor beggar woman. I have nothing else to offer you.”
“Your body is enough, m’ lady.”
“Then take me.” She flicked her hair back and kissed me softly.
“Do you know how badly I want to take you right now?” I groaned and traced the lines of her lips with my fingers while watching Skylar surreptitiously from the corner of my eyes. “Next time we have a picnic, it will just be you and me.”
“I like the family style picnic though.” Her eyes looked nostalgic. “This is the sort of picnic I always imagined going on when I was a kid.”
“Really?” I was surprised. “Seems a bit boring. Soggy cheese sandwiches and ant covered chicken don’t seem to be worthy of a dream.”
“It wasn’t the food I was dreaming of.” She lay back at looked at the sky. “It was the moment, the picture perfect moment of the sun shining on the green grass from a bright blue sky. With two parents laughing and loving each other and doting on their children and playing games without a care in the world.”
“That does sound like a perfect moment.” I lay down next to her, allowing our shoulders to touch, even though it only sensitized my nerves and made me want to touch more of her.
“There were some many times that I could taste my happy ending, but it never happened.” She sighed. “I know I sound ungrateful and I shouldn’t. My foster family was great, they loved me in their own way, but I never really felt special you know. The special feeling that every child should feel.”
“You’re special to me.” I whispered.
“I know.” Her voice was soft. “You’ve made me feel that. I’m just trying to accept it you know.” She turned onto her side and stared at me. “I don’t want to waste this moment. I don’t want to feel sorry for my failed childhood, when I have you right here making better memories for me. Memories greater than I can even have imagined.”
“Let me have your hand.” I took her hand in mine and placed it against my heart. “Close your eyes.” I commanded her and waited for her eyes to close before I closed mine. “Can you feel my heart beating?”
“Yes.” She said softly.
“Each beat of my heart beats for you.” I spoke slowly. “I don’t want to waste a moment of my time with you. Neither of us knows what life will bring us. But right here, right now, my heart beats for you and only you. I’m not going to lie, I’m worried, Robin. Skylar is on my mind all the time now. I’m scared I’m not going to be a good father. I’m scared that I’m being selfish in wanting a relationship with you, while I’m still trying to adapt to being a new father. I’m also scared that Skylar is going to become attached to you and you’re going to leave us. And that’s not only going to break my heart, it would break hers as well. But I’m letting all those worries go. Because right now, in the here and the now, my heart beats for you. My lips smile for you. My eyes shine for you. And these are the memories I want to make.”
“These are the memories I want to make as well.” She whispered and I felt her lips on mine. I slowly opened my eyes and saw tears glistening in her beautiful brown-green eyes as she stared at me.
“My childhood wasn’t great either.” I sighed and tried to erase the image that popped in my mind of my mother. “But we can’t change our past, we can only create a present and a better future.”
“Our pasts don’t have to shape us, I guess.”
“No, our pasts can shape us. We just can’t let them keep us down and stop us from dreaming and going after what we want. Nothing should stop us from trying to live our dreams.”
“Not even failed dreams huh?”
“Failed dreams should make us try even harder to achieve the next one.” I grabbed her face and kissed her hard. “Because failure isn’t what shapes us, it’s what we do after we fail.”
“You’re so wise.” She stared at me in wonder.
“Not really.” I laughed. “I think I get it from my brother.”
“Zane?” She looked surprised.
‘Yeah,” I played with her hair as we spoke. “Everything that I am is thanks to my brother.”
“I thought you were the brave one, the do-gooder?”
“Not really.” I shook my head. “I mean I try, but I wouldn’t be half the man I was if it wasn’t for him.”
“Is Uncle Zane coming, daddy?” Skylar ran over and plopped down next to me and my heart stopped beating at her words.
“I don’t think so.”
“Oh, I wish he and Aunty Lucky could have come as well.” She reached for another Oreo and I sat up and grabbed the bag.
“No more Oreo’s after this one. You can have some grapes if you’re still hungry.”
“But I want another Oreo, daddy.” She pouted as crumbs fell onto her shorts.
“No more.” I shook my head, but I couldn’t stop myself from grinning. I looked over at Robin, who had sat up as well and she was smiling back at me tenderly.
“Do you want to put your daisy crown on now?” Robin picked up the ring of daisies and placed it on Skylar’s head. “You’re a real Queen now.”
“No, I’m a Princess.” Skylar shook her head as she danced around. “Daddy’s the King and you are the Queen. Uncle Zane is the Duke and Aunty Lucky is the Duchess. And Uncle Leo is the Court Jester.”
“I’m sure he’d love to hear that.” I laughed and grabbed my phone as it rang. “Hello, King Noah here.”
“Noah?” The voice was sharp and my blood ran still.
“This is Noah.”
“What do you want, Monica?” I was short and I noticed both Skylar and Robin pausing and staring at me with worried expressions.
“I’m calling to see how my sweet pea is doing of course.” Her voice was acrid and I felt my heart hardening.
“What do you really want?”
“I’m two months pregnant.” Her voice was blunt and to the point. “And I think it could be yours. I want a million dollars.”
“There is no way it’s mine.” My voice was hard. “The timeline wouldn’t work out.”
“Well, when did you get so smart?”
“Don’t call me again, Monica. You’ve gotten as much money from me as you’re going to get.”
“Well, I got the money from your brother. You haven’t given me anything.”
“Goodbye, Monica.” I hung up the phone, not wanting to give her anymore time to spread her vile down the phone.
“Everything okay?” Robin’s voice was soft, but the tension in her shoulders belied her calm tone.
“Yeah, it’s fine.” I nodded and turned to Skylar. “That was Monica.”
“What did she want?” She looked at me nonchalantly.
“Just to see how you were.”
“Oh, okay. Did you tell her how happy I am?” She ran up to me and hugged me. “Did she want to talk to me?”
“I’m not sure if she wanted to talk to you. Would you have wanted to talk to her?”