Red light of the rising sun caresses the cheeks of my two loves. Tina’s mouth lies open, cheek squished against her mother’s chest. Outside the window is a view that people remember forever. I’m watching the drooling beauties on my sofa.
Breath catches in my chest as happy tears smear dark lines on my sleeve. For all the darkness in the world, the sun sheds light upon happiness I never knew was possible.
Love fills an empty place inside me that knew nothing but dust and spiders for too long. Days are long, work is hard, but if I’m coming home to these two, I can manage anything.
Billie’s head turns away, squinting against the light of the sun. Her movement triggers Tina. Our baby lifts her head, turns, and slams herself back down the other way. Billie twitches and moves a hand to cradle our princess.
Saturday is the greatest day of the week. There are tasks to be done. I slept in the chair. I wince as I rub my neck. Clothes in the basket take refuge in the washer dryer. I set it to start in five minutes then close the kitchen door.
They’re still sleeping. I gather Tina’s scattered toys and cram them back into the plastic jar. I swallow curses when I step on something with my bare foot. The offender goes into the plastic prison with the rest.
Tina’s tiny hand swipes down her face. The growl of a territorial dog escapes my daughter. Billie turns. Our little girl turns back, cheek red from sweating on Billie’s cleavage. I kiss my wife’s forehead. Eyelids flutter. Her lips curl up. She gulps and yawns.
Cups and plates in the sink are crammed into the dishwasher. I pick up the garbage I bagged up last night and sneak to the door. Slipping on my shoes, I sneak out of the creaky door. Our trash bag lands with its friends outside, ready for their last journey.
Betraying me with a metallic screech, the door clicks back into the lock. Rugs save my feet from the freezing boards beneath.
Billie’s feeding Tina. I never know what to do. I check on the dishwasher.
“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask.
“What do we have?”
“Bread for toast. Yogurt. Cereal. Eggs.”
“All of the above?” She doesn’t look up from Tina, who has milk running down her cheek and the look of a happy drunk.
I shove bread into the toaster. Yogurt Billie likes and needs to keep our baby flowing plops into a bowl. I sprinkle cereal on top and pick out my lover’s favourite spoon. A match sparks against the sandpaper on the box. Our gas hisses gently until I smell the stuff they put in it so you know there’s a leak.
Orange flames bloom as the flame finds the gas. I flinch as always. I heard some people have a little button on their cookers that lights the gas for you. I’m no good at anything but scrambled eggs so I tap them against the counter and drop the goop into the pan. The shells are the first thing in the new trash bag. I know Billie will complain that they should have gone in the old one before I put it out. Too late. She didn’t make breakfast.
Yoke bubbles as I stir what could have been a chicken. I add a drop of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper. I was trained specifically to season lightly. She’s particular about her food, a perfectionist. Not me.
It might be good or bad. It’s good enough. The flame flickers out. The toast makes me jump when it pings up brown.
Tina screams from the main room. I lick fingers burnt removing the toast and carry the feast through on a tray from the thrift store like most of our stuff.
“What’s wrong kitten?” I ask about my precious beauty. Her face is twisted in panicked agony. Her lungs are tearing themselves apart to let the world know she’s not happy.
“She was sleeping, and the dishwasher gave her a nightmare,” says Billie, scowling. She doesn’t look at me with accusation, but I feel it in the air around her. She bounces with the panicked princess wailing in her arms.
“I can take her for a bit?” I hold out my hands.
Billie turns her back, still dancing and shushing.
What now? Everything is done.
I sit in the toilet. My balloon burst. I’m stung when her back is turned to me. It’s not her fault they’re the only people I have in my life. She knows it though. My family is dead. Vigilantes don’t have friends. The closest I have is a cop who was fired after covering for me.
I used to hold Billie at night, unless she had her arms wrapped around me. Home is our bodies pressed together. These four walls mean nothing without that connection. I waited my whole life for love. It’s the light I needed to grow. When she’s mad, I stand in shadow.
Tina is the most important person in my world, but I know she needs her mother more. That connection I can never have, never feeding her from myself, not knowing her so deeply until she was born. It hurts me.
I want to hold my little girl. I want to soothe her the way Billie does. Tina loves me. I can see that in her big brown eyes. I know she’ll never love me with the same primal connection she has with her mother.
I was Billie’s number one. Now I’ve been demoted to the man who accidently wakes our daughter when he’s trying to help. I’m the guy who struggles to listen when Tina is around because all of my mind focuses on if she’s breathing, the twitch of her tiny hands. I see bubbles on her lips. Billie is talking and I try to focus.
“Well? Are you going to take her or not?”
I’ve been distracted. Billie gives me a snort like a bull about to charge down a matador. I cradle my arms and receive the most precious creature on the planet. Tina rolls her head. A red rash on her chin is revealed and dabbed with cream from her mother’s finger. A sleepy hand swats at the unseen assailant. I sit on the sofa with a miracle in my arms. I’ll be still with her long after my back has started aching. I’ll hold her until my bladder is bursting.
“I love you, Tina. I never want to let you go.” There’s a flash that isn’t a smile but might be. The rest of the world melts away. Billie might be talking to me. I won’t hear a word. I have everything I need in my arms.
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Hi, I enjoyed your story. I thought your use of the prompt was very subtle. My favourite line was when you knew that Billie would be cranky about the eggshells going into the empty bin, however you dismiss it because you had made breakfast. I’m sure many people will relate to such an ordinary example of wedded bliss! I had a chuckle. It was a heartwarming story, congrats!
Thank you, April. Kind words.
A nice vignette of fatherhood that reminds me of when my daughter was that age. And so true about children and their mothers. You capture the little details of domestic life so well. I particularly liked this bit of expressiveness: "These four walls mean nothing without that connection. I waited my whole life for love. It’s the light I needed to grow. When she’s mad, I stand in shadow."
Thanks Scott. This series has U-turned a bit from being a gritty tale about vigilantism into a story of fatherhood and I guess turning your life around.
The way you're building this story, and given the love this father has for his family, you're setting readers up for something either very shocking or enraging to happen...or at least that's what my own fiction-loving mind is suggesting. Whatever direction the narrative road takes, I'm sure it'll be pure, unflinching Kinross.
I’ve been enjoying having it be something lighter than the very grim beginning of the series. I’ll have to bring him down somehow, at some point. I’ll give him a while to enjoy it though.
Hi Graham! Oh this one was so different from your other bodies of work. I loved how you painted the MC and how badly they wanted to be a supportive partner. I could feel myself yearning to tell them that they are doing a good job, that completing a care task can be so valuable in a home. It made me more conscious of all that my parents have done for me, of all the things my husband has done to care for our home. Thank you for writing this beautiful piece.
If it highlights little things people do to help us then that’s great. A little thank you here and there makes all the difference. Thank you for your comment.
The strong bond between a newborn and a nursing mother often leads the father to feel excluded and I think your story perfectly captures this. While the father may feel dismissed when he buries himself in domestic chores, it is because he graciously attends to them that the mother and child can begin their bonding. Whether any of the three recognizes the important role the father plays in making it all happen is not always clear, but many stories have silent heros and yours is certainly one of them.
Just had to bc add something else Graham. Add a little cold water to those eggs when you mix before scrambling. Got this tip from Dolly Parton. LOL. Seriously makes a world of difference
Dolly Parton gives you cooking tips? There’s a story in that alone!
For all the darkness in the world…..spoke to my heart Graham. Lovely piece Enjoyed the simplicity yet deeply touching poignant family life. I value your comments and humbly ask if you would read my latest Heaven’s Gate
Of course. I just commented on it.
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