His Virgin Babysitter(5)

By: Lila Younger

Luna had an obsession for pancakes almost as big as the one she has for Beauty and the Beast. I don’t think I ever saw a kid as happy as the day I gave her a Belle dress as a gift. It was the first time she ever gave me a hug, and since then, she’s even referred to me as ‘daddy’ a few times.

Once Stacie’s hung up, I call Gina on the phone.

“I need you to clear my schedule for the afternoon,” I say. “Do you think you can do that?”

“You’re going to see Luna?”

Gina is the only one I’ve told so far about Luna. She’s got over ten grandchildren herself, and she loves each and every one of them.

“That’s right. Do whatever you have to do. I’ll bring work home with me for a few nights if I have to make up for it. I know that Sherman’s been wanting some of the bigger cases. See if he’ll take the new client for me.”

“Are you... are you sure?” she asks, knowing what that could mean.

“It’s fine. I can make up the hours later.”

“I’ll make it happen Mr. Sedgwick,” she says.

“Thank you Gina. I’ll get you coffee tomorrow,” I promise.

The morning crawls by, until finally it’s 11:40 and I can leave to go see Luna. The restaurant isn’t far, a fifteen minute trip, but as I said before, I am never late to see my kid. Not only is it a pet peeve, but I don’t ever want to be that kind of a parent. The place is packed when I arrive, but I manage to snag the last booth. I text Stacie to let her know where I am since it’s in the far back of the restaurant. To pass the time, I pull out my phone to see what we can do. The only movies out we’ve already seen, and Beauty and the Beast isn’t for a few more months. Damn.

It’s almost a full hour later before Stacie shows up with Luna in tow. She’s wearing the princess Belle dress I gave her, with a bright pink backpack on her back.

“Hey Luna,” I say, stepping out of the booth so I can give her a hug. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too daddy,” she says, breaking out into a heart melting smile.

Stacie hustles her into the other side of the booth before getting in. She’s gotten thinner, I can tell, and there’s a nervousness to her that jangles my nerves. The years haven’t been kind to Stacie. I don’t know if it was her agent that convinced her to, or some kind of misguided belief she has, but Stacie has had almost every plastic surgery procedure done to herself. If I am to hold up a photo of what she looked like almost five years ago, you would swear they were two different people. Not that she was natural when I met her. But the changes had been subtle, enhancing her features instead of taking away from them. It’s not a look I’m attracted to at all, no matter how often Stacie tries to push herself onto me after these meetings.

A pimply waiter swoops in with coffee and menus. Luna opens hers up, big enough to hide her completely. She’s made it a mission to go through every item at IHOP.

“What’s going on with you?” I ask in a low voice across our menus. “You seem agitated.”

“I’m not,” Stacie hisses. “Stop bugging me.”

I frown at her twitchy face.

“Oh my God, are you high right now? You are, aren’t you?”

She tries to deny it, but I’m not fucking blind. I feel red hot rage bubbling up like lava inside of me. What the fuck? It’s noon on a Tuesday. Why the fuck is Stacie doing drugs? And with Luna around too? She could have gotten the two of them killed in the car on the way over.

“You have no idea what’s going on with me,” she whispers harshly. “None.”

She turns to Luna and kisses her on the head.

“Lou, mommy’s going to go to the bathroom okay?” she says.

“Kay,” Luna says.

Stacie turns back to me and glares at me, then grabs her purse and slides out of the booth. I shake my head, my hands balling up into fists. Ever since Stacie’s blocked me out over the holidays, I’ve been thinking that maybe I should petition for custody. After all, this is my kid, and even if we weren’t married, I still had rights. My life right now is consumed by work, but I could secure regular visitation at the very least. Now I wish I had secured some form of custody as soon as I was told about Luna, because nobody just starts taking drugs in the middle of the day while caring for their kid.

“I’m ready,” Luna says, folding her menu.

I stuff the rage I feel towards Stacie and turn to Luna. No matter what, I don’t want our visit spoiled, and Luna was a sensitive kid who picked up on these sort of things. Fuck, what if she was sensitive because things at home were unstable?

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