(Excerpt from Ty)
“Ma, you didn’t tell Joey.” Sydney came in my room.
“Tell her what?”
I looked up at her. She looked so pretty in her tiara. It went perfectly with her dress. “Syd you look amazing.”
“Thank you.” She sat on the edge of the bed. “You got dressed.”
“Yes. I did that much.”
“The last time we talked she was so excited about the house. Plus I just know she is going to say something to piss me off.”
“She is your best friend.”
“I know that.” I got up and put my shoes on. “I will tell her after the party. She is going to notice this belly.”
“But you know she won’t say anything until later tonight.”
“I know.” I smiled. “What do you need me to do?”
“Make my little sisters disappear until time for the cake.” Sydney pouted.
“I think I can do that. I promised them our own little party in their room.”
“You are going to come down, right?”
“Yes I will. Only to peek in.”
While the teenagers partied in the basement, with Joey as chaperone, I was upstairs with my three youngest. Sophie was twelve and the most upset that she couldn’t be downstairs with the party. Sabrina and Stacey were excited about their own private party. Sabrina was seven and Stacey was six. They were happy to have all the food from the party but not have to worry with teenagers. They didn’t really like teenagers. To keep Sophie happy, I would let her take anything that needed to go downstairs down to the party as long as she came right back. We sat in the middle of the floor and played board games for most of the party. When it was time for the cake I stopped them and we headed downstairs.
I was walking into the kitchen when the doorbell rang. Seeing Jason, Sydney’s father made me smile. “You made it.”
“I changed my flights. My next flight is at midnight. I could not miss this.” He came in the house and I took a few of the bags from him.
“We are going down to do the cake.”
Jason glanced down at my belly and then back up to me. “Okay. How about we stash these bags for now and I carry the cake. If I know my child it is huge.”
“Too huge.” I smiled. I knew Jason was going to wait until later to talk to me about my pregnancy just like Joey would. They both knew me for the same amount of time. I met Jason on the first day of classes. He was the only one of my girl’s fathers that I had a good relationship with. Even though our romance ended, we still remained friends. He went to law school, got married, and had two other kids but still did his best to be there for Sydney.
We barely got through singing happy birthday before Sydney was ready to jump in her father’s arms. He had just put the cake down on the table. Sydney blew out the candles and gave him the biggest hug. He joined the party and I helped my other girls with handing out cake to all of Sydney’s friends. Then we headed back upstairs.
“Mommy, will I get to have a party just like this?” Sophie looked at me when we sat down up in dining room.
I sighed. “Of course baby.”
Sophie was actually having the hardest time. Being unable to find a new job and struggling meant that we needed to move. My current job had become my former job when Stacey’s asthma continued to act up. I was an assistant manager at a bank which afforded me ideal hours. However company policy was not very friendly to single moms. For a while Sydney would stay home with her sister when I couldn’t but that didn’t work for me. Stacey was not Sydney’s responsibility. When I couldn’t come in because I refused to ask Sydney to stay home, my boss fired me. That led to us needing to move.
It wasn’t the first time we had to move. I had just done my best to hide the true struggle from the girls. Joey would always offer to help out but I refused. Jason would step up what he took care of for Sydney and offer to help with the others but I refused too much extra help. Sophie’s dad disappeared right after I told him that I was pregnant. Sabrina and Stacey’s father sent only what the court asked him to. They used to spend a weekend a month with him but when he said what had to be very negative things about me in front of them to his friends they refused to go back. We had been together for a little over two years. However it ended badly and we only spoke when he would call to try and speak to the girls. Sophie never really took to him and Sydney felt betrayed because she actually liked him in the beginning. They were no help in getting Sabrina and Stacey to see or talk to him. Neither girl would tell me what he actually said but I knew they told Sydney and her lips were sealed to me.
My mother loved her grandkids but refused to do too much to help me because I got myself in the situation. There was a lot of tension between us that added to Sophie’s discomfort. We originally moved to Richmond to be closer to her. Now, as the school year was coming to an end, we were going to be moving to Northern Virginia to stay with my granddaddy. He came to spend the weekend with my mother and I never could keep anything from him. He suggested that we come and keep him company in the big house he refused to sell after my grandmother died years earlier. They had four kids and the house was way more than he needed on his own. I knew he wanted to help me out and I also knew that he needed a bit of help. My granddaddy was seventy-seven years old and terrified his kids would stage a coup (his exact words) and put him in a home. I was thankful that we decided to help each other.
Sophie was going into the eighth grade and was going through a rough time. On the surface she was happy to get out of her school because the girls there were terrible. They teased everyone for everything. Sophie had not bloomed early and also hadn’t discovered her own sense of style. I would get frustrated with her indecision when shopping and just pick things out for her. Sydney begged me not to do that again. Apparently I was not aware of what was currently fashionable. I reminded her that if she didn’t always consider her sister a tag-a-long then perhaps she could help me out in that department. Sophie never wanted to talk about the move and was basically packing her things in silence. I didn’t know what to say or do for her. I hoped that things would be better when we got settled.
“Are you sure?”
I put my arm around her. “No matter what is going on I will make sure that you always get your princess day every year on schedule.”
Sophie smiled a little. “Do you think granddaddy will let us get a dog?”
“I don’t know about that.” I watched her frown up a little. I sighed again. “You can feel free to ask him once we get settled in.”
The girls and I were finishing up a game of scrabble when Jason came in the room. They began to get excited. I looked around Stacey, who had stood up in front of me, and saw that he had bags in his hands.
“I could not come empty handed. Sydney is not the only princess in this house.” Jason gave out hugs and bags.
I took that time to get up off the floor and head downstairs to begin the cleanup process. The party was still going on in the basement but there were already a ton of dishes to do. I nibbled on the extra bits of food while putting things away. The kicking baby inside me tried to get all of my attention but Jason soon joined me in the kitchen.
“They love their gifts and then sent me down here to help you.”
I smiled. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. Apparently it is not cool to have your dad hanging around your sweet sixteen party.”
“She is so glad you are here.”
He chuckled. “I know.”
I turned back to the sink when Jason looked down at my belly with a slightly puzzled look. “Why do you look like that? You are one of the few people I told.”
“I honestly thought you were joking.”
“I see that now.” Jason began to help me by putting clean dishes away. “So, what is the story?”
“He disappeared. I am guessing that when I first told him about the girls not all having the same father it was okay. Then reality set in and he figured he would cut his losses.”
“So he doesn’t know about the baby?”
“I can’t find him. He apparently left his job and his apartment. I really didn’t know any of his friends. We had only been on six dates.”
Jason nodded. “Want me to chase him down?”
“For what?” I ran a fresh sink of dish water.
“How about I wash?”
“Kelly must love your insane desire to wash dishes.”
“Yup. Although she does wish I would cook every once and a while.”
I handed Jason the dish rag. “You should try it.”
“So Joey asked me if I knew. I told her that I didn’t.”
“You lied.” I giggled.
“Hey, I know that discussion isn’t going to be easy. I know how she gets sometimes.”
“I also know you aren’t going to discuss too much with her because of that.”
I sighed. “You know she still doesn’t understand why I didn’t marry you.”
“Does she not remember you don’t want to be married?”
“I remind her of that but she doesn’t care.”
“Good for her.” Jason rolled his eyes. “Stop changing the subject. Talk to me.”
“This is just how my life works. I let my guard down thinking that I met some really amazing guy and turns out that I am totally wrong.”
“I remember the one time you mentioned him you thought he had potential.”
“We both know that my taste sucks.”
“I’m going to try not to resent that remark.”
I hit Jason with the dish cloth. “You don’t count. We are weird.”
“So you really tried to find this guy?”
“The one friend I did meet isn’t around anymore either. I am not hiring a private detective to find someone who obviously isn’t worried about me.”
“Okay.” Jason continued to wash dishes while I put things away. We didn’t talk for a few minutes. Then he turned back to me. “So tell me about this move up north.”
“We are going to stay with granddaddy.”
“For how long.”
“I don’t know. Granddaddy wants me to help him out with the house.”
“Mr. Leroy is brave having all you women in the house with him.”
I smiled. “You know my aunt and uncles side with my mother on wanting to put him in a retirement home.”
“I know. She thinks that we are only staying with him until I find a place. He doesn’t want to hear her mouth.”
Jason laughed. “Well you are going to be that much closer to Philadelphia so that works out for me.”
“Sophie is not happy.”
“She is going through puberty. I don’t think she will be happy for another year or five.”
“I worry though.”
“What did you get her?”
“Some books Sydney told me that she liked.”
“Sydney suggested something for Sophie.”
“She asked me if I could send something for the girls when I sent her present. She wasn’t sure if you would be able to get them anything for a little while.”
“My child is thoughtful when she wants to be.”
“Um… you mean my child.”
I smacked him with the dish towel again.
Joey and I actually didn’t get even a chance to talk until the next morning. When the guests finally left Sydney got to spend time with her dad. Then Stacey and Sabrina decided to talk Joey’s ear off about everything under the sun. I ended up cleaning up as much as I had the energy for and then going to bed. In the morning I woke up to a bustling house. Sydney was still asleep but Stacey and Sabrina were downstairs making waffles in the waffle iron and watching a movie. Sophie was listening to music in her room. Joey came out of the bathroom and raised her eyebrow.
“How do you and Syd sleep through this?”
“Practice.” I went in the bathroom.
When I came out Joey was sitting on my bed. She sighed when I sat on the bed. “The guy you met when we went out for your birthday?”
“I thought you said it didn’t work out.”
“You know I thought for half a second that I could have this discussion with you.”
“Ty, I don’t know what to say.”
“You already mentioned before you didn’t like him.”
“I didn’t say that.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Joey, when I told you we were going on our third date you went through this whole big thing about him not being good enough for me and I need to raise my standards.”
“Why do you listen to me?”
I smiled. “I really don’t. We got to date six.”
“I’m sorry sweetie. Yes I think you deserve and amazing man with a great career. But that doesn’t really matter now.”
“Syd said you guys are really moving. No luck with finding a job?”
“Not like this.” I rubbed my belly.
“When is this one due?”
“Possibly looking at my first Virgo.”
“Oh God.” Joey laughed.
“Where are you going to stay?”
“With my granddaddy.”
“Mr. Leroy is awesome.” Joey nudged me. “I will only be no more than an hour away then.”
“How did your parents react?”
Joey rolled her eyes. “My dad is not speaking to me.”
“Oh. You know you should have taken him with you.”
“Nothing is good enough for him.”
“Well we will be closer soon. We are leaving right after school lets out.”
Joey rested her head on my belly. “I remember doing this when you were pregnant with Syd.”
“They grow up so fast.”
“Yeah. They are getting old.”