Hot Single Dad(5)

By: Mia Madison



“Hey,” he says. “What’s up? I hope I didn’t upset you, making you talk about the jerks at college.”

“No, I’m okay.”

“You don’t seem okay. You know you can talk to me about anything. I’ve known you for a long time.”

“Yes.” That’s as much as I can manage to say with him right beside me, looking at me so closely. He must be wondering what the hell is going through my mind. No doubt, he feels like he has a crazy person on his hands, or three kids instead of two.

I can’t look up, his hand on mine over the remote. I’ve stopped flicking. And then he takes the remote and puts it down on the coffee table, turning the TV off completely and sits down beside me on the couch.

My heart thuds. It’s like I’m being followed by a stranger on a dark night. But it’s just Reid causing my panic, a guy I’ve known all my life, and all he’s doing is showing concern.

“Is it looking for a job, then? It’s tough out there, eh?” he says. “I know babysitting is not what you want to do, but something will come up. I’ll ask around.”

“Thanks.” I don’t expect he means it. People always say that. I should never have said yes to working for him, not because it’s just babysitting, but because there’s no way I can last the whole summer and not do something stupid. In fact, I want to do something stupid right now and throw myself in his arms.

“Daddy, I can’t sleep.” Katie is standing in the doorway rubbing her eyes and clutching her teddy bear.

Reid shrugs and gets up to attend to her, and I take two gulps of my wine. What the heck? I finish the glass. I am so out of my depth with him. When he was a fantasy and I hardly saw him, I could cope. Imagining myself being part of his life was lovely. But now I’m actually living with him, reality is something else entirely.

I should just go to my room. I’ll do that once he comes back. I take my empty glass to the kitchen and rinse it. I could sneak off now while Reid is occupied with Katie, but he’s there when I come out. I almost bump into him.

“Are you running away?”

“No.”

“I thought you might be making a run for it. Do you remember when you were fourteen and you showed up at my house?” he asks.

“Oh god, did you have to remind me of that?” One of my worst days as a teenager. Probably the very worst, if I think about it.

“Sorry. I just remember being honored you ran to my place and that I took you home.”

He doesn’t know the half of how mortified and upset I was. It started with the torments of mean girls laughing at my underdeveloped figure in last period gym class, and my so-called best friend, Judy, joining in.

And then after I got home, I had Dad yelling at me for leaving my dishes lying around. Looking back, I realize he didn’t know what happened at school and the state I was in, but I didn’t see it then.

“I shouldn’t have run to you. I got in your way. Mercia was there.” I don’t know why I went to Reid. He lived just a few blocks away before he moved to Manhattan and was always nice to me when he and Dad got together at our house. They always hit it off.

“Pah! Mercia. You should have disturbed me with her more often and I might have come to my senses a bit sooner.”

I couldn’t tell Reid what was troubling me, but I didn’t know where else to go and I thought he was my friend. I didn’t reckon on him having Mercia Blane, who’d just appeared in her first movie, over at his place. I didn’t even know he’d been doing work for her.

He was kind to me, but she treated me with such contempt. I’ll never forget her words: “There’s a girl to see you, Reid,” she said when she answered the door to me, and then she whispered, “Reid likes his women all grown-up with tits and ass so don’t get any ideas.”

And she swept out of the room, leaving me with him, more upset than ever. He never did get out of me why I was crying. He took me home and this is the first time he’s mentioned it since. Dad didn’t even know I was missing.

“So, are you running away?” he asks.

“I just thought I’d get out of your way.”

“You’re not in my way. Never that,” he says. “But you’re welcome to go to bed.” He looks at his watch. “It’s… er… nine o’clock.”

Is that all? It feels like I’ve been on edge for hours. I’ve only been here since six. If three hours is this hard, what is two months going to be like?

“Late night last night,” I say, though it totally wasn’t. I went to bed and dreamed of Reid and how good it was going to be. Nothing like this nightmare of a situation. Dreams are different. In my dreams nothing is awkward, and the guy acts exactly as you want him to. He sweeps you off your feet. He says all the right things at the right time. And you’re ready with the witty wisecracks that make him smile.

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