Dear J, if I thought life couldn’t get any stranger, I was obviously wrong. There I was, staring dumbly with my mouth hanging open as Chrissy watched me with a slightly impatient expression.
My eyes kept wandering to her sensuous mouth. The kisses we once shared were surprisingly fresh in my mind… hard, feverish kisses that had left my lips feeling slightly bruised but wanting more.
“No, my hair isn’t blue anymore,” she sighed. “You have a keen grasp of the obvious as always, Leo.”
I opened my mouth to demand what she was doing in my foyer but the words escaped me. Instead, I felt my stomach turning and my blood boiling as all of the things I wanted to say to her if I ever saw her again flooded my mind.
“I can’t believe – you are just so – I’m so – ” I stammered, unable to grasp a single coherent thought. Taking a deep breath, I tried again. “What the hell are you doing here? What do you want?”
She jumped back a little bit as if she couldn’t believe I’d yelled at her or that I’d be angry when she finally graced me with her presence.
“Well, that isn’t exactly the welcome I envisioned,” she said.
I rubbed my tired eyes and shook my head. “You actually thought you’d be welcome here?”
Chrissy drew in a deep breath and then slowly exhaled. Maybe the drama queen thought that would buy her some time or something.
“Well?” I demanded.
“All right, all right. I guess I should have expected you to be mad at me even after all this time,” she conceded. “But can we at least be civil?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. How about you just get around to telling me what you want?”
A smirk curled the corners of her lips. “Oh I see, you think because you’re some rich rock star that I’m here to get a few bucks off of you.”
She shook her head, taking another deep breath. “Look… can we start over? I really didn’t come here to fight. I’m sorry for walking in unexpectedly like this.”
“Yeah, well, it’s pretty damn rude for you to come here at all.” Then it hit me. “Have you been calling me and then hanging up?”
Her face turned bright red and she jutted her chin out defiantly. “I wanted to talk to you but every time you answered and I heard your voice, I couldn’t say anything. I froze. That’s why I just came out here.” Her eyes softened a little and she looked down bashfully for a moment. “In fact, right before you answered the door, I had the urge to run and forget the whole thing.”
“How did you get my number?”
I didn’t think it was possible for her face to get anymore crimson, but her cheeks flushed again. “I heard you’d moved to Hidden Springs and I figured you might enroll Blue at the private school in town. My guess was right. They wouldn’t let me see her contact information even though I told them I was her mother. So, I waited until no one was in the office and sneaked back in to look for myself. The office manager keeps the computer password on a sticky note on the back side of her desk calendar. She’s such an amateur.”
Rage filled me until my jaw was tightly clenched and I was seeing nothing but red. Leave it to Chrissy. I’d have a talk with the Principal of the school later, you could count on that.
“You had no business going to Blue’s school!” I growled. “Is that it? You abandoned her years ago and suddenly you reappear to fight me in court for her or something? Well, I’ve got news for you! You may be her mother but you haven’t raised her! You can’t just swoop in and think you can be in her life!”
“No, you listen, Leo,” she said, her voice annoyingly calm, every syllable stressed. “I’m not here to try to get custody or anything like that. But I do want to be a part of her life. I know what I did was wrong and that it’s not fair you’ve had to do this all by yourself. But you need to think about what’s best for our daughter!”
I was incredulous that she had the audacity to try to tell me what was best for Blue! She left without a word to me all those years ago and now she thought she could step back in without a word of warning. My eyes stung as I thought of my baby girl being shoved off onto my parents when she was a mere toddler. Without thinking, I took a step forward so my face was closer to hers. Between gritted teeth, I said, “You don’t have a clue what’s best for her. You don’t know her at all.”
She wiped a stray tear from her cheek. “No, I don’t know her. That’s the point. What I did was wrong. It was a horrible mistake. I’ll likely never be able to make amends for doing what I did. But I want to try.”
Stubbornly, I shook my head, refusing to believe that the changes Chrissy had made to her life were deeper than her appearance. “No. This is not going to happen. There’s been too much change in her life recently and this isn’t a good time.”
“When will there be a good time?”
“You need to leave,” I said, spitting every word at her.
“- Now! Get out!”
She flinched as I reached around her to fling the front door open. I had an awful feeling that if she didn’t leave that instant, I would no longer be able to control this hideous anger that threatened to explode like a bomb.
Slowly, she left, walking dejectedly toward the street where a car was waiting. I squinted as I tried to make out the figure of a man sitting in the driver’s seat. Who was that?
It was time to kick my brain back into gear. Quickly, I reminded myself that I didn’t care who she was with.
As she neared the road, I half expected her to turn around and plead her case again. But she didn’t. Instead, she got in the passenger side of the car and closed the door with a slam.
I stood outside for several minutes after the car pulled away. My anger had been replaced with dread. Would she be back? Would she try to get to Blue at school? Was my daughter safe? Was seeing Blue all that Chrissy had in mind or was she lying about trying to get custody?
What I needed was an attorney experienced in family court that could present me with all of the possible outcomes and guide me through this mess.
Wait. Why was the sun up? Had we really been arguing all night? How long had I been standing there?
Looking at my watch, I realized it was time to get Blue up for school. Apprehension filled the pit of my stomach again when I thought that she could have possibly overheard the entire thing with Chrissy. I rushed to the second floor, taking two steps at a time and hurried into her room.
She was sound asleep. Leaning against the wall, I took a minute to calm myself down. Hopefully, nothing else would happen today because I didn’t think I could take it.
During breakfast, Blue was really quiet. I couldn’t tell if it was a reflection of my own mood or if she was worried about starting school.
When I asked her what was wrong, she just shrugged her shoulders without looking at me.
I bit my lip, suddenly wondering if she had overheard Chrissy and me after all. But no, she couldn’t have, I reasoned. She’d been sound asleep when I’d gone to check on her.
After cleaning up the breakfast dishes, I joined Blue in the foyer. She looked so cute in her school uniform, so I took a few pictures.
“Are you excited, Curly-fry?”
“No,” she answered with pursed lips. “Daddy, I was really, really wrong when I told you I wanted to go to a regular school. I think I should stay home today while you think of another plan.”
Honestly, I could understand where she was coming from. How many times had I thought I’d wanted something but when it was time to actually venture out and do it, the doubts crowded in?
“Blue, you’re a very smart girl,” I said, trying to keep my voice as sympathetic as possible. “When you told me you wanted to go to school and have friends your own age, I slapped myself in the forehead because it was so obvious you would want that.” She smiled a little, probably because it was funny to her to imagine her dad slapping himself in the face.
“But my stomach feels super funny and I don’t like it.”
“Does it feel the same way it did when you went on stage with me during that concert?”
“Yeah, pretty much like that.”
“And what happened? You went on stage and you ended up having fun. Even though you don’t want to do it again, you had the experience and liked it.”
After a pause, she said, “Do I have to go back to school if I try it today and don’t like it?”
“I’m afraid so. But what I want you to do is give it a chance. Going to school isn’t as scary as dancing in front of thousands of screaming people is it?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well,” I said, putting my hand on her shoulder to reassure her, “I’ve done both things and I think being on stage is much scarier. You’re not only smart, you’re brave.”
She thought about this for a minute, then said, “I am brave. If I can go on stage, then I can go to school.”
“That’s my girl.”
Because of Blue’s nerves and the fact that I wasn’t sure what to expect from Chrissy, I walked Blue to school. At the top of the steps, she hesitated, one hand clinging to the stone railing.
“You can do this,” I encouraged.
“I’ll be standing right here when you get out and I’ll walk you home.”
It wasn’t until a little boy caught her eye that she stepped forward a little. The boy smiled when he realized she’d seen him and he gave her a small wave.
“My name’s Dustin,” he said. “I’m new.”
Blue let out a sigh of relief, not even looking back at me as she said, “I’m Blue. I’m new, too.”
I watched as they went inside together.
When I came back after school, Blue was not with Dustin. Instead, she was standing out front with another little girl. They were very animated as they conversed. A few steps away, a woman, possibly the little girl’s mother, was patiently waiting.
Quickly, I scanned the nearby cars and everyone nearby for signs of Chrissy. She didn’t appear to be here. My smile immediately left me, though, when I realized a paparazzi was snapping pictures of my daughter. I’d never seen this one before, but I wasted no time in letting her know that Blue was off limits.
Blue barely noticed as I came back over to her. I was so happy she’d made a friend that I let her chat away without interruption.
“Do you have Dew Betterwing?” Blue excitedly asked. “I always wanted her.”
“Are you kidding? I have her and Nebula Flickerbees! If you want, you can come over and play with them with me sometimes.”
“That would be great! My grandma got me Star Waternoodles for Christmas last year and I play with her every day almost.”
“That is so cool!” the little girl said.
It wasn’t until Blue mentioned Star Waternoodles that I realized they were talking about their fairy doll collections.
“What one do you want next?”
Blue didn’t have to think about that answer because she’d been pestering me incessantly for it. What she didn’t know was that the doll was sitting in its package in my closet, waiting for the next holiday.
“I want Arianna Elmweb so much!”
The other girl’s eyes grew huge with enthusiasm. “Oh, me, too! She has the most beautiful wings! Wouldn’t that be great if we both got Arianna?”
Blue nodded her agreement. “We could pretend they’re twins!”
As the girls continued with their animated discussion, I realized that the woman who’d been standing nearby was looking at me. Her eyes instantly caught my attention. They were amber brown, reminding me of the way a bottle of cognac looks in the glow of candlelight. Not knowing how long she’d been staring, I smiled bashfully and nodded at her.
“Hello,” she said with a refined voice. “You’re Blue’s father.”
It wasn’t a question and it seemed like her smile was kind of thin. “Uh, yeah. Leo Capra.”
“Nice to meet you. I’m Leela Plummer. That’s my daughter Ruby.”
“Nice to meet you, too, Leela,” I said, trying to hide a small smirk. What were the chances that my Blue would become fast friends with a girl named Ruby?
“It would appear that our girls are already good friends.”
“I’m really glad about that,” I said. “I was worried about Blue… this being her first day and all. She was a little nervous this morning.”
“Well, I never would have guessed it. I had the day off today, so I volunteered in the classroom. She was very quiet at first, but once she met Ruby, she relaxed. Ruby took to her almost instantly.”
The relief I felt that Blue’s day had gone well, washed over me. With the combination of Chrissy showing up, not getting any sleep and Blue being nervous about school, I felt like this day had put a real toll on me.
“Where do you work?” I asked.
“I own a bakery just a few blocks from here.”
“Oh, um, I’ve seen it, what’s it called?” I snapped my fingers as if that would help me remember the name. “It’s a quaint looking place.”
“It’s called For Goodness Cakes.”
“Oh, yeah, I remember now,” I said with a chuckle. “My sister bought some cupcakes there a while back. They were about the best I’ve ever tasted.”
“I’m glad you liked them.”
It was easy to get lost in Leela’s eyes. My gaze trailed down to her generous lips, then the curve of her delicate neck. She was truly a beautiful woman.
“Hey… umm… would you like to get a cup of coffee sometime?” I felt my face flushing as soon as the awkward words escaped my lips. Could that have sounded anymore unpolished?
It was clear Leela was not impressed. “You seem really nice, Leo. But I should tell you up front that I’m not interested.”
I could feel my cheeks getting hotter by the second. “Did I do something that offended you?”
She let out a small, almost imperceptible sigh. “No. It may be uncomfortable to hear, but if you must know, I’m a very hard working business woman. You’re a rock star. There is no way you and I could ever get along, so it’s best not to try.”
The expression she had when she said ‘rock star’ almost made it seem as if the words were dirty and had soiled her tongue in some way.
“It was just a cup of coffee,” I said quietly, feeling more alone than ever. “I’m new in town, too. Are you sure about that coffee?”
Her icy demeanor seemed to thaw a little and her slight smile returned. “I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to seem so rude. I just didn’t want there to be a misunderstanding.”
It was nice to hear her say this, but it still wasn’t the friendly answer I’d hoped for.
Studying my face, she smiled a little more and shrugged. “Listen, as long as we’re getting coffee strictly as friends, I think it would be okay sometime.” She quickly wrote her number on a piece of paper she had in her purse and gave it to me. “I’d better get Ruby home now. Again, Leo, it was nice to meet you.”
“Yeah, you, too,” I mumbled as I watched her collect her daughter and walk away.