One day Nikki was pointing her finger in Tanners face, calling him out when he’d obviously cheated in a game of monopoly by skipping spaces with his little racecar, advancing nine spots instead of the seven he rolled.
The next Nikki was looking at the board blankly. Shrugging her shoulders when Tanner had obviously cheated.
And although Tanner turned out to be a monster, I couldn’t help but grieve for the boy he used to be. One of my best friends. I still went to his funeral with King by my side. I decided that the Tanner who did all of the horrible things he did, wasn’t worth the effort of remembering. And when I thought of my childhood and my best friends, every time evil Tanner started to creep into my mind, I killed him all over again.
When King came back and told me that it was over, it was like a switch had been turned on in my mind, closing off that part of my life. I didn’t ask. I didn’t want to know. I just wanted to live.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of over apologies,” I said. My father nodded.
“But I don’t think I’ll ever be done apologizing,” he said, adjusting his glasses.
“Why don’t you come in the house? We were about to make some breakfast,” I offered. King stiffened by my side and I elbowed him. My father smiled.
“Which brings me to the real reason I’m here,” he said, reaching into the car and cutting the engine. He finally shut his door and walked around to the passenger side.
He opened the door. “It’s okay, you can come out. You’re home now,” he said into the car.
Who was he talking to?
And then I had to blink several times to make sure that what was in front of me was really happening. My eyes went wide the second blonde pigtails peeked out from behind the door. When her little Mary-Jane’s hit the pavement, my eyes darted to King, and watched as the weight of what was happening came crushing down on him. He dropped to his knees on the gravel, his hands coming up to cover his open mouth.
My father knelt down beside the little girl and pointed to King. “Remember him from the pictures I showed you?” he asked her. The little girl nodded. “And who is that?”
“Daddy.” She held the hem of her little white dress in her hands and swayed from side to side.
King let out an audible gasp, tears welled in his eyes.
“Do you want to go give your daddy a hug?” my father asked her. Tentatively the little girl shuffled over to King, looking down at her shoes. When she stopped right in front of King, she looked up.
And she smiled.
“Hi Daddy,” she said. King opened his arms and she ran into him, closing her arms around his neck. King’s shoulders rose and fell as she buried her head in his neck. He held her tightly, his hands on the back of her head.
Looking up at my father in complete disbelief, I found him smiling warmly at Max and King’s long awaited reunion.
“Hi, Max. Hi, baby,” King said, pulling back so he could get a good look at his little girl, tears on her little red face.
“Why are you crying, princess?” King asked.
“Cause I happy,” she said in between short intakes of breath.
“Me too, baby,” he said, pulling her in again for another hug, this time standing up with her in his arms. “Me too.”
I hadn’t realized I was crying as well until Sammy reached up and wiped a tear off my cheek. “No cry mommy.”
“They’re happy tears, sweetie. Very happy tears,” I told him.
“How?” King asked.
“I called in that favor to the judge. Turns out I could do more than just write a letter of recommendation after all,” my father said.
“She’s ours?” King asked. I could tell he was waiting for the other shoe to drop. For someone to come and take her or for my father to tell him that this was only a visit.
My father nodded. “You’ll have to meet with the counselor, take some parenting courses, and there will be some home visits. That stuff I couldn’t get you out of.” He laughed nervously. “But the judge has already singed off. She’s all yours.”
King stood up and came over to me.
And there we were.
King was holding his daughter in his arms.
I was holding my son in mine.
Our baby growing in my belly.
“Hi,” Sammy said to Max.
Max pressed the side of her face into King’s chest. “Hiiiii,” She sang, between the fingers in her mouth. She looked over to me and her eyes went wide with instant recognition and her eyes shot to my wrist.
“I still have it,” I said, holding it up so she could see. “What about you?” Max held up her wrist and giggled.
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