Rose opened the door with her usual beaming smile spread across her face.
She was such a sight for sore eyes. She started rambling about what a doll my baby was and how she wished I was home with her. I was so glad she was around to take care of her. When I entered her home, she was awake and playing with a toy.
“Hi baby, mummy’s here,” I said sweetly and picked her up.
“I missed you; did you miss me?” She grinned. I gasped.
“OMG, is that teeth I see growing already? Oh, my baby is a granny already!” I kissed her cheek and she giggled. She smelled great. Thank you, Rose, I whispered gratefully. I decided to join Rose downstairs. I heard some voices in the study room which I chose to ignore.
“She is happy to see you.”
“I’m glad; I was afraid that she’d start to forget me.”
“Oh never!” I took a chopped carrot from the board and bit into it. Lil’ Karen began to fidget uncomfortably.
“What is it, baby?”
“Let me check,” Rose said, taking a look at her diaper.
“It seems Karen just soiled herself. Let me have her. I’ll be right back.”
“Oh no, you already have a lot to do. Let me do this.”
“Are you sure?”
“Come on, I used to do it too!” Rose laughed.
“We’ll be right back.” I walked out of the kitchen to meet Fitz and Adam who paused when their eyes fell on me. Awkward, I know.
“Emily, I didn’t know you’d be passing by,” Fitz said, sounding surprised.
“I didn’t think I had to check in with you to spend time with my baby, did I?”
“Of course not.”
“Sorry to interrupt your meeting. I’ll be upstairs,” I said and started to walk away.
“Nice to see you, Emily,” Adam said.
“You too, Adam. Said hi to your baby already?” I asked, turning to face him.
“No,” he replied, shaking his head.
“I haven’t had the chance.”
“Oh okay, hold her for a minute. You’d love it.” I handed her over to her daddy. I could see all the muscles in Fitz flinch…literally. He must be boiling inside, I thought mischievously. Adam kissed the baby’s face.
“How are you doing today?” Karen hit his face playfully in response.
“Whoa, this girl is strong!” I laughed.
“She takes after her father.” Oops, I shouldn’t have said that.
“Both fathers, I mean,” I added quickly, trying to salvage the tensed situation.
“I must find time to spend time with her,” Adam said.
“You should; let me know when you’re free. As you know, I’m virtually free till next academic year.”
“Sure.” He kissed the baby one last time and gave her back to me.
“Take care,” he said.
“You too, Adam.” I walked away without looking back.
I was done changing the diapers and tickling lil’ Karen to tears when I felt Fitz’s presence in the room. I turned my head to find him leaning on the door.
“I’m sorry if my comments made you a bit uncomfortable,” I apologized sincerely. He shrugged.
“It’s the unfortunate truth I have to deal with. And I want to apologize for what I said the other day at dinner.”
“You mean your threat to keep me away from my baby?”
“I’d never do that. Karen kept pushing and I pushed back. I’m sorry.”
“So you’re not going to tell the world that I’m crazy and suicidal and get me committed to a psych facility?”
“I’d never do that,” he swore. I nodded.
“Wish that made me feel better.”
“Emily,” he said pleadingly as he took hold of her arm and made me face him, “please come back home. I am ready to accept Adam’s role as biological father to Karen but I need you to return to us, return to me.”
“Okay; give me some time. I’ll move back in.”
“Really?!” He asked excitedly.
“I’m doing this for her.”
“And me? Am I a permanently closed door?”
“You hurt me, Fitz.”
“I know and words cannot begin to express how remorseful I am of that. If I have to spend the rest of my life making up to you for that, I gladly will. I just need you to give me a chance.”
“Okay.” He hugged me.
“Thank you. You won’t regret it.” I was done regretting. Nothing mattered anymore except my lil’ Karen of course.
“Adam has an interview scheduled for today. Would you like to stay and watch it with me?”
“In the evening?” He nodded.
“I can’t promise.” Karen tried the typical ‘I-need-attention’ cry.
“Someone’s feeling neglected,” I said, picking her up.
“Join us for lunch?”
“Won’t miss it for anything.” We walked out of the room. The baby reached out to Fitz. I gave her to him. He kissed her cheek.
“She’s so adorable.”
“Thanks for taking good care of her, Fitz.”
“Yeah, I’m her father, remember? It’s my job.” I smiled. Karen was his baby as much as Adam’s and I wouldn’t debate that.
I must confess that it felt nice to be back home; it felt natural; just right. Maybe coming back wasn’t just a bad idea. Fitz was sorry, I was homeless, Karen was safe=perfect conditions. My mother’s words, ‘let bygones be bygones’ rang in my mind.
After lunch, we sat in the living room watching TV and chatting casually when Fitz’s phone rang. When he ended the call, he began, “It seems…”
“You have to go; I know. I know how this goes. I can’t say I miss it but it’s the reality of your life,” I said, cutting him off.
“I’m sorry; if it wasn’t urgent, I’d have called it off.”
“I know. You go.”
“Why do I have the feeling I wouldn’t come and meet you when I return?”
I chuckled. “You would not.” When he began to pout, I added, “But I’ll be back. So you better prep up for that.”
“I definitely will. A change in wardrobe, perhaps?” Oh, this guy was good. He knew just what would make me tick.
“Just surprise me,” I said vaguely; opening the door for all options. He nodded. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.
“Glad you came. He touched Karen’s face; she was dozing off.
“Take care of yourself and if you need anything…”
“Don’t worry; still have you on speed dial.” He smiled at that and left the house. I sighed. Karen would fight me on this; I expected her to but I couldn’t live alone. I wasn’t wired that way. I hope she’d get used to it sooner than later.
Later in the evening, Karen and I sat on her bed, devouring a large-sized pizza with lots of cheese toppings, waiting for Adam’s interview.
“He’s looking sharp,” Karen complimented and bit into another slice. I nodded, my mouth full to talk.
Fitz was finishing up at the office when the interview started. He paused to pay attention.
“You’ve become the latest sensation in town. What inspires you?”
“Oh, me, me, me! I know the answer to that!” Karen said jokingly. I laughed and nudged her rib. She laughed back.
“Life inspires me…”
“No special lady?” the hostess pressed.
“Oh yeah, she’s here with me!” Karen shouted. What was wrong with her?
“Oh there is a special lady. She has inspired most of my songs.” “Care to share with the world who the enviable lady is? I’m sure you’ve broken a lot of hearts tonight.” He chuckled.
“No, I can’t. The nature of our relationship is complicated at best and indescribable, at worst. She knows herself and she’s one of the best things that happened to me.”
“It’s public knowledge that popular businessman Fitz Daniels is the one of biggest sponsors. How’s your relationship like?”
“Why do I feel like that is a trap?” I asked, suddenly worried.
“Fitz Daniels was bound to pop up sooner or later,” Karen said dismissively.
“Oh, we do have a very good working relationship. He’s a good mentor and friend. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to work with him.”
“And his wife? Are you close to Mrs. Daniels?” I choked on my pizza. Karen tapped my back, her eyes still fixed on the TV screen.
“Where is this going?” Karen asked. I could hear the tone of worry in her voice too.
“Emily…I mean, Mrs. Daniels and I are cool. Mr. Daniels has been generous enough to invite me over for dinner a couple of times so I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with her and I must admit that she’s delightful.”
“Awww….” Karen said. I glanced at her with my teary eyes. She smiled and winked.
“It must feel great to have men fall head over heels for you, huh?” Karen said. I gave no reply.
“There is this speculation going round that you and Mrs. Daniels are pretty close; some would even say you’re too close for comfort.” Adam sat up and cleared his throat. This wasn’t good.
“Mr. Daniels encouraged us to be friends so if you’re asking if I’m sneaking behind my boss’ back to hang out with his wife, the answer is no.”
“You went off-radar when his wife apparently passed.”
“As I said, we have been friends so when she apparently passed, I grieved.”
“Did you and Mr. Daniels have a falling out when his wife was away?”
“Every relationship has its ups and downs but I’m proud to say Mr. Daniels and I are in a good place right now.”
“I wished I could talk about his wife’s coming back to life but I know you wouldn’t be the right person to address it but how did you feel when she returned?”
“Glad. I am glad that she is back.”
“And how are things between you?” “Good as it can be.”
“I know this might come as a shock to you but a source revealed to us that Mr. and Mrs. Daniel’s baby might actually be yours?”
Please kill me now, I prayed as I closed my eyes.
“What the….” Fitz was too shocked to continue.
“That’s outrageous!” Adam seethed out.