Mommy says things are better if you have to wait for them. She said that a lot because I H-A-T-E hated waiting. It made me feel like ants were crawling all over my shoes and I needed to stomp on them. And I had to wait a whole eight years, nine months and eleven days to meet my daddy.
But she was right.
He was worth it because even snotty, put-her-nose-in-the-air Emery Straud’s dad wasn’t as good. And he was like the president of a bank! That’s how great my daddy was!
First of all, he was like this secret agent who killed bad guys and stuff. Okay, fine, he didn’t KILL those bad guys, but he shot them a lot! And there was blood everywhere just like in my favorite video game, The R.E.F.U.G.E. But he only did that in emergencies. And I was lucky he did or I might never have met him.
He moved here with Uncle Beau about a year ago. And he’s my bestest friend in the whole world. Tonight, it was his weekend. I liked living at his house. He made a special room just for me with all my favorite things in it. My mommy didn’t have a lot of money so we stayed with Mrs. Catlady (that’s not her real name, but I called her that since I was little and she liked it so it stuck.) Me and Mommy shared a room. I liked it, too, but being at Daddy’s made me feel like a princess.
Daddy was really good at playing music. He taught me how to play, too.
And sometimes we’d just lay around and talk. He was good at listening to my stories. He said I was funny! No one had ever said that to me before. I just liked telling him stuff because at school, I was really shy. But not with my dad!
On most weekends, we’d all hang out as a family: Me, Mommy, Daddy, and Uncle Beau. I thought it was way cool that we were all so close now that we found each other.
And we’d read stories together, too. My daddy loved my Uncle Beau very much. They were going to get married. I thought this was weird. I mean, why didn’t Daddy want to marry Mommy? He loved her a lot, too. I could tell.
Sometimes, in my most secret dreams, I’d replace Uncle Beau with Mommy. This was how we should be. Mommy getting married to Daddy and Uncle Beau being left out on the side.
I didn’t tell anyone that I wished this because it might make Daddy mad, but I really did. I prayed every night this would happen.
And sometimes, it felt like they really were married. Especially when Uncle Beau had to work and Mommy and Daddy spent time with just us. Daddy surprised me on my nine year old birthday with a new bicycle.
It was the best because Uncle Beau wasn’t there. I knew that sounded mean to think like that. I loved Uncle Beau, too, but I couldn’t help it.
Mommy and Daddy were supposed to be together. Even my best friend, Naomi Escobar, agreed with me.
“What do you want to do tonight, Lady Bug?” Daddy asked as he put me on his back. It was Friday night and I had no school tomorrow.
“I want to play Hillock II! We almost destroyed Team Beyond Mayhem last time.”
He laughed. “Okay…but if Uncle Beau wants to watch a movie, will that be okay?”
Uncle Beau was home? Drat. “Sure, Daddy. We can always play another time.”
It had almost been a year since Beau and I had relocated to Brindleton Bay. We’d decided to delay our marriage so Lexie could get used to the idea. She was more than obvious about her dislike of my relationship with her uncle, and we knew it would be confusing to her at first. But now she was almost ten–more than mature enough to handle our marriage. We’d been putting off setting a date, but I thought it was time. I wasn’t looking forward to her disappointed face when we announced that it was actually going to happen. She had been the center of my world and it would kill me to hurt her. But this was important.
I walked up to the mismatched, dilapidated house Briar lived in. An elderly woman, Ms. Norma Perkins, took Briar in when she was pregnant.
This lady loved cats, dogs, hamsters. The house was a literal zoo. And filthy, even though Briar tried to clean it as best she could. I tried to talk Briar into moving out but she insisted that she was indebted to the old woman and wouldn’t hear of leaving her. This woman was lonely and took care of Lexie while Briar worked odd jobs here and there just to help out. She still didn’t have anything steady. Right now, she worked as a secretary for a chain of pawn shops. I didn’t like it. Her boss was creepy, too.
“Hi, Ms. Norma,” I said as a waft of wet dog blasted my nose. I’d never get used to this lady’s home’s smells. “Is Lady Bug ready?”
“She is. She’s been ready ever since she came home from school. She thinks you’re going to play video games with her all night. Now remember her mother’s rule. Only one hour a day. We don’t want the child’s mind to shrivel.”
I tried to ignore her condescending tone whenever I had to speak with her. I felt as if she resented my relationship with Beau. She was from a different world where there was no such thing as gay relationships. Throwing on a smile, I said, “Of course, I always follow Briar’s rules, Ms. Perkins.”
“Well, see that you do.”
Keep smiling, I chanted to myself as I prayed my daughter would hurry up. I wanted out of there.
“Hey, Daddy!” she called, scampering over to me. “I’m ready!”
“You are?” I moved to hug her.
Holding up her arms, she said, “Piggy back! Please?”
I could never say no to her. She was so cute. Bouncing on my back, she said, “I want to play Hillock II! We almost destroyed Team Beyond Mayhem last time.”
I laughed, thinking how upset Ms. Perkins would be if she knew Lexie was the master at obliterating other peoples’ cities. “Okay…but if Uncle Beau wants to watch a movie, will that be okay?”
She sighed loudly. I could tell she wasn’t happy. Usually, Beau worked late on Fridays. “Sure, Daddy. We can always play another time.”
The following day, I took Lexie out to the zoo and when we came back, I found Beau crunching numbers on the laptop in my office. I could tell he was in a bad mood, muttering to himself. Massaging his shoulders, I said, “What’s up, babe? You normally don’t cuss at my computer in the afternoon.”
“Aw…why do we have to live in this godforsaken hell hole, August? I just had a meeting with my marketing strategist and he says I have to rethink my entire image if I want to do a Mane Event here in Brindleton Bay. Can you believe that?”
I nodded but didn’t say anything. I had no idea Brindleton Bay was such a backwards place. When I was a senior in high school, I didn’t notice the demographics. Didn’t need to. But now, as a private detective, the most thrilling investigation I’d done was with insurance fraud. People claiming they’re disabled but can walk fine. That’s been a lucrative business around here for some reason. I’d also done a handful of infidelity cases, and one where I helped a guy who was accused of theft, wrongfully. But I knew taking a step backward into private investigations here would be a hit in excitement. It was worth it to me to be in my daughter’s life. I was worried about Beau, though.
Kissing his ear, I said, “I think anything you do will be a success, baby.”
“But people hate gays. Jack told me this point blank. So, my artistic style will turn people off. I’m just…ugh…so fricking frustrated. I basically have to give them a cookie cutter everyday salon for old ladies and Stepford wives. And men won’t even go near my place.”
I peppered his face in kisses, trying to calm him down. Stroking his cheek, I said, “You want to move back to San Myshuno then? I don’t want you to be unhappy.”
He let out a breath then kissed me back. “No…of course not. I’m just bitching. I’d never ask you to leave Lexie.”
Nuzzling him, I said, “We’ll get by, baby. And maybe when she gets older we can move. Okay?”
“Yeah,” he said, nodding. “Okay.”