- Narrator: Jon
- Characters: Jon, Livvy, Edie, Will, Damon
- Medium Spoiler Risk
“Jon, she’s been crying ever since you left,” Liv says the second I get home from Trey’s soccer game. It was the third week in a row I’d been able to go. Trey’s team won again, and they dominated even more this week, seemingly invigorated by the fact that school was over and summer vacation had officially begun.
“Did you try to rock her?” I ask, taking Edie in my arms and swaying her gently from side to side. I don’t get a verbal response; just a frustrated glare from two exhausted brown eyes. “Okay, okay, baby,” I say as softly as I can over our crying daughter. I lean over and kiss Livvy on the forehead, rubbing her tense shoulder briefly before she walks away. “Why don’t you go lie down, and I’ll take her for a drive? I’ve still got an adrenaline rush from the game, so I’ve got a few hours left in me. Let me work on Edie, and you get some sleep.”
“Really. Have you fed her recently?”
“On schedule,” she answers. “She should be good for awhile. Maybe you could take her to Mom and Dad’s,” she suggests.
“Nah,” I say, getting my keys. “I won’t bother them. They have the house to themselves for the first time in weeks. Trey’s ungrounded tonight, remember? I’ll let them have some peace and quiet for a few hours.”
“Maybe your mom wants to see her?”
“Liv, don’t worry about us. Take a bath. Put on some music. Light some candles. Get some rest. I’ll bring home a sleeping baby.” I gather up some blankets and a pacifier–not that she’s ever taken one.
“You may never come home,” she says sarcastically.
“We have to figure out what works eventually.”
“You keep saying that…”
“We’ll figure it out. Come here.” She slouches as she walks toward me. I put my fingers under her chin and bring her lips to mine. She puts more energy into her kiss. “That was nice,” I whisper into her ear.
“Make sure you cover her if you take her out of the car. No pictures,” she says.
“I know, Liv.”
“Okay. I love you.”
“I love you, too.” I call down to the doorman and ask him to have the car brought around for me.
By the time I get downstairs, two valets are standing next to the open back door of my car. Their only purpose is to block the sight of my daughter from onlookers. We haven’t avoided paparazzi altogether, but none of them had been able to get a photo of her beautiful face, and we have done everything possible to keep that from happening. It’s not going to happen on my watch.
I settle Edie into the carseat and lower the canopy over her before shutting the door. The tinted windows make it nearly impossible for anyone to look inside, anyway. Nothing can block out the sound, though. She’s wailing now, even louder than before, and I hope the car ride soothes her like it did the last time I tried this. It seems to have about a fifty-percent success rate.
“Good luck, Mr. Scott,” one of the valets says to me before shutting my door. I should have brought some aspirin with me.
“Bunny, what’s the matter?” I say to her in my calmest tone, reaching back and touching her tiny palm with my finger before pulling out of the drive. “I came home for you, Edie. And you have me for the whole weekend. I won’t have to leave you again until Monday morning. Are you sad Daddy left you for the soccer game tonight? I had to go see your uncle play. Someday you’ll get to see him play.”
She seems to calm down as I talk to her, so I keep doing it. I tell her about my work meetings today. I tell her about the intern who spilled her soda on my renderings today, and I explain that one of the partners was pushing to get her fired. I talked her into giving the young girl one more chance, but passed off some of my administrative work to the intern so I could focus on redoing the renderings at home this weekend. I also explain to Edie my confusion about the assumed love triangle that is Trey, Zaina and Max.
The noise she makes now sounds like a laugh. I laugh, because as far as I know, it’s the first time she’s done that. At the very least, it’s the first time I’ve heard her.
“Are you laughing, Edie? You think that’s funny?” I pause, hoping to hear her again, but she just starts to fuss again at my lingering silence, so I continue talking. “Oh, no. That’s not funny. Those are your uncles, and I’m afraid they’re about to be fighting over the same girl. That wouldn’t be good at all. That means one of them would get hurt. That means they’d probably mess up a lifelong friendship… over a girl. And she seems nice, but I can’t figure her out.
“Anyway. Where do you want to go, Bunny?” Jack and Emi’s place is out of the picture. My mother has probably already gone to bed for the evening. Rarely does she wait up for Max to get home anymore, which doesn’t make me happy. Fortunately, my youngest brother has always been pretty trustworthy and stays out of trouble most of the time. I can thank Trey and the Hollands for that, I’m sure. I could always go back to the loft and see if Matty and Nolan are around, but they help so much with us and Edie, and I don’t want to take advantage of them.
I do have my brother Will’s address. He’s never invited us over, but I’ve been wanting to see the apartment he shares with his friend over a recording studio in Brooklyn. I decide to at least drive by it to see the neighborhood. If it looks like someone’s home, I’ll stop in for a minute or two.
Instead of continuing to talk, I turn on the radio, first to a local news channel, but when Edie loudly voices her disapproval, I start testing different genres of music, trying to find something that calms her down. Nothing seems to work. I finally give up, turning off the radio and going back to talking to her, telling her the story about my first day at Nate’s Art Room, when I saw Livvy for the first time.
Now, even my voice doesn’t seem to have any affect on her crying.
Finally, I reach the recording studio. Seeing lights in the apartment above, I hurry out of the car, now just wanting to escape my little enclosed concert hall featuring a tiny creature with some of the most advanced vocal chords to ever grace the planet.
“Maybe we could record some of your racket here, Bunny,” I suggest softly in her ear, not convinced she’d even hear me over the volume of her cries.
I’m surprised I’m not greeted by my brother or his roommate, Damon, before I even reach the steps to the second floor with the amount of noise we’re making. Will and Damon met in high school, and have been playing music together ever since. Damon’s released his first album, and I’ve actually heard some songs on the radio. The last time I talked to Will, he told me Damon was preparing for a nationwide tour and trying to convince my brother to go with him. At this point, Will won’t commit to anything more than the local weekend gigs that he’s been playing for years. From what I understand, my brother’s a well-respected musician here in New York.
Carrying Edie in her covered car seat, she’s still crying when we finally reach the front door. One of the windows is open, and I can hear Damon singing inside. Almost instantly, Edie stops crying, and then starts cooing. Before I knock, I pull back the canopy and check on her to see what she’s doing. She’s smiling as she struggles to keep her eyes open. I’m tempted to simply stand on the porch and listen to the song, letting Edie sleep to Damon’s music, but I’m not sure how long that will last before someone calls the cops on us.
When I see that my daughter has fallen asleep, I knock on the door. That doesn’t wake her, but she’s roused when Damon stops singing. I watch her, hoping she’ll stay quiet.
Will’s roommate opens the door. I hold my finger to my lips, signaling for him to speak softly. It doesn’t work.
“Can I help you?” he asks. It’s been a year or so since I last saw him, and with my baseball cap, I’m not surprised he doesn’t recognize me.
“I’m Jon,” I whisper. “Will’s brother.”
“Yeah, man!” he says jovially, loudly.
Edie starts crying again.
“Listen,” I say quickly, urgently, over the crying. “I was driving around. My daughter wouldn’t stop crying. I thought I’d see where Will lives, and when Edie heard you singing, she fell asleep, so… I mean. Can you keep singing? Just for a few minutes?”
“Sure, yeah,” he answers
“Great,” I say, following him inside. I take a seat on a leather couch and set the baby carrier down on the coffee table in front of me next to a few empty beer bottles. I start to rock Edie, waiting for Damon to start singing.
“Who’s the baby?” a drunk woman in a short skirt and tight bustier asks as she comes out of an adjoining room. My brother follows her, adjusting himself, dressed only in his boxers.
“Oh, shit!” Will says, seeing me. “Kelly–”
“Keely, go put on the rest of your clothes. You have to leave.” He pushes her into what I assume is his bedroom. I stare at him, surprised.
“Is this why you haven’t invited us over?” I ask over Edie’s noise.
“Jon, you should have called.”
“You never answer,” I tell him.
“No, let me see the baby!” the woman says, trying to get past Will. He pulls her back, this time going into the room with her. I look at Damon, wanting answers. To avoid my questions, he simply starts singing into his microphone.
“Maybe without the mic,” I suggest. “It’s kind of loud, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, man, anything you want,” Damon says, looking at me like I’m crazy. He clicks off the microphone and sets it down, continuing to sing while Edie is quickly transformed into a sweet, silent, sleeping baby again. I tuck the blanket around her, smiling at her tear-streaked face.
The door to the adjoining room opens once again. The woman now has on a buttoned-up blouse and stilettos, and is carrying a tiny purse that could probably only fit her phone and a tube of lipstick. And hopefully a condom. I shake the thought from my head.
“What a minute!” she yells.
“Shhh!” both Damon and I signal to her.
“I know you!” she continues in the same volume. “You’re Livvy Holland’s husband! Jon… Scott! Jon Scott! Aren’t you?”
I glare at Will. On the one hand, I’m glad he didn’t tell her who he was. On the other hand, I’m not thrilled to have my daughter here with this woman. Maybe I should have called.
“It’s time to go, Keely,” Will says, pushing her toward the door.
“No way. Isn’t that Jack Holland’s grand baby?” She walks toward Edie. I lean toward the carrier, watching the woman intently.
“Please don’t touch the baby,” I say quickly, not knowing her intentions.
“I don’t want to touch her,” Keely says, squatting down next to the coffee table and spinning quickly on her heels as she lifts her phone. “I just want a picture with her!” Before I know it, she’s snapped a picture of herself with my daughter.
“No, no, no,” I say, too late. “Livvy will murder me.”
“Keely, give me the phone,” Will says.
“Five hundred dollars,” she demands. “You owe me five hundred dollars.”
“Is she a hooker?!” I ask my brother, unable to hide my disgust.
“Make it eight,” she says, obviously annoyed with my question. Damon stops singing and walks toward Keely. Edie starts crying again, and I angle her carrier away from the woman, cover it with a blanket, and start rocking her again. I’d take her into the next room, but I don’t really want to think about what was going on in there.
Damon’s an imposing figure, but as he stands next to Keely, she grins flirtatiously, liking that she got the rock star’s attention.
“Keely, baby,” he says, taking the phone out of her hand easily.
“Give it back, Damon,” she says, smiling.
“Unlock it, delete the picture, and I’ll give you a better souvenir.”
“Promise?” she asks.
Unable to silence Edie, I pick her up and tuck her into my chest, keeping her covered with the blanket. I talk softly into her ear, trying to tell her that her uncle Will is really a good guy… that he has a good heart… that I have no idea who this woman is and why she’s here. There’s no way anyone could hear me over the wailing, anyway. I watch the interaction between Will, his roommate and their guest, hoping she’ll leave soon.
Damon watches as Keely deletes the picture. She shows Will for proof, then flashes her phone at me so I can see, although she doesn’t hold it long enough for me to see anything. I just have to trust Will at this point, and because he’s my brother, I do. Damon then holds the phone up to take a selfie of him and Keely just as he kisses her–tongue and all. And she is into it.
“Oh my god!” she squeals, sending Edie into an even louder fit, which I didn’t think was even possible.
“Good God, Will,” I mutter, glaring at him once more.
“Thank you, Damon! Maybe next week, Will?” she asks my brother, pointing at him. Will doesn’t respond until after Damon shows her to the door and shuts it after her.
“Not likely,” Will says.
“Calamity,” I say with little emotion, again not likely to be heard over the vocal stylings of Edie Sienna Scott.
“Dude, you owe me,” Damon says. “I don’t know where her mouth has been.” He promptly heads to the bathroom.
“Probably a good idea,” my brother says after him. I cringe.
“Seriously?” I can’t help but judge him.
“Where’d you get this address?” he asks.
“Livvy coerced it out of you to send you a thank you card… you know, for the baseball and metal bat you got for my newborn daughter?”
“I’m a 24-year-old single man. How the hell am I supposed to know what to get a baby?”
“I don’t know. Look at our registry?”
“Said like a married pussy.”
“Language, please. At least in front of her.”
“Like she can HEAR ANYTHING OVER HER OWN SCREAMING.”
“At least try to help me calm her down, Will. Please. Do you have any of Damon’s music we can play for her? She seemed to like his voice.”
“Sure, I can get you a CD to go. He may even have a censored one for her delicate ears.”
“What, you’re gonna kick me out? I’ve seen how you live now. It can’t get any worse, can it?”
My brother goes over to a laptop on a shelf hooked up to some speakers and turns on some music. He comes to sit next to me on the couch. His loose-fitting boxers reveal more than I want to see of him.
“C’mon, man, I don’t want that thing peeking out at me. I saw enough of it when we were kids. Go put some clothes on.” He rolls his eyes at me and leaves the room, and I realize I’m probably wearing out my welcome very quickly. I come over with a crying baby. He makes his girlfriend–or whatever she was–leave. And he has to put on clothes in his own place. I kind of feel bad for inviting myself now.
Edie starts to settle down again hearing Damon’s music, so I put her back in her carrier, cover her with her blanket and begin to rock her again. A conversation between Damon and Will escalates quickly.
“What have I told you? The one thing I’ve asked of you?” Will is shouting. “Do not let my family in when I have girls over!”
“Man, it’s your brother, and he was holding a screaming baby and he looked desperate. Plus, he didn’t even ask to see you. He just asked me to sing.”
That is exactly how it happened, even though I would have asked to see Will eventually.
“I didn’t mess this up for you. Groupie number five screwed you over by coming to see what was causing the noise.” I cringe again. The more I hear, the less I like.
Groupie number five.
Screwed him over.
Is this why he never answers the phone at night?
I kind of feel sick to my stomach.
When Will comes back into the room in jeans and a t-shirt, I can’t keep my curiosity in check.
“Please tell me she’s not the fifth girl you brought back to your place tonight,” I plead with him.
“Yeah, the other four are still hiding in my room,” he says.
For a second, my heart stops, and then I pick up on the sarcasm. He sees the uneasiness in my reaction, though.
“Shit, calm down. We just had a lot of options tonight at the bar. She was the fifth.”
“You number them?”
“We don’t know their names when we’re on stage… so yeah, we number them. It’s easier to hand-signal who we, uh… you know what? Never mind.”
“So this is a regular occurrence?”
“No, a regular occurrence is when Damon has multiple girls in his room. Or in the living room. I don’t partake in that shit.”
“Then what happened tonight?” I ask, not sure if I really want to know.
“Groupies number two and seven were both underage.”
“It’s good to know you have standards.”
My brother doesn’t respond, so I take a minute to digest the information. Seeing the beer bottles again, I ask another question I’d had on my mind since I came in. Will has never been one to drink, even a little.
“You started drinking?”
“Not mine,” he says. “Still don’t mess with the stuff. Gotta be sharp for work.”
I laugh, shaking my head.
“You actually lead a double life, don’t you?”
My brother laughs a little, too, nodding. “She finally asleep?” he adds, looking at Edie.
“Finally. You’re witnessing a miracle,” I tell him. He smiles the sweet Will smile I remember from our youth. I’ve missed that smile, and get suddenly sentimental. “So is this what happened when I left New York?” I ask, feeling guilty.
“Jon, I made the decision to be the way I am. It has nothing to do with you not being around for me. You’ve always been here for me, no matter where you lived or what you were busy doing. You always had time for me.”
“Then what happened?”
“Nothing happened. I just like taking advantage of the perks of being a musician.”
“You like having sex with strangers.”
“I like the way I said it better,” my brother says.
“That’s broken, Will.”
“It’s human instinct, Jon. Being in a monogamous relationship is what’s fucked up. It’s unnatural.”
“Oh, Mom messed you up so badly. And Laila and any other girl I don’t know about that may have broken your heart–”
“No one else had the chance.”
“You need to get back into therapy. I’m not kidding.”
“There’s nothing wrong with me!”
“Shhh! Aside from the fact that you risk contracting God knows how many STDs–”
“I’m picky about who I’ll sleep with, and I get tested all the time. I’m clean. I’m careful–”
Will glances away momentarily, but I don’t miss it.
“Any kids?” I ask him, wondering what he’s hiding.
He folds his hands in his lap and looks down, shaking his head.
He releases two fingers quickly, holding them between his knees just long enough for me to see.
“Will,” I whisper, swallowing hard.
“I can’t even be certain they were mine. I’ve worn a rubber every time. Every Fucking Time.”
I stare over at my brother until he finally looks back at me. I don’t really know what to say to him. “I’m sorry.”
He nods, and I decide I’ve said the right thing. I don’t figure an abortion’s an easy thing for anyone to go through.
“But…” I start cautiously. “You still bring home drunk women?”
“No,” he corrects me quickly. “They’re never drunk. They may be tipsy, but they’re not drunk.”
“You’re telling me that woman wasn’t drunk?”
“She wasn’t. She was a little vacuous. Maybe you’re confusing that with being buzzed.”
“Possibly,” I concede. “But you know these women for, what, five minutes before you bring them here? How do you determine their level of drunkenness?
“I have a… uh…” Damon joins us in the room. “A personal test I give them. It’s an ice-breaker, really.”
“You’re gonna love this,” his roommate says, opening a beer and sitting in a recliner on the other side of Will.
“Show me,” I say, peeking under the blanket at Edie. She’s sound asleep. Damon’s music seems to be doing the trick. Livvy will be so happy when I bring this home.
“Stand up,” Will commands, his voice tempered, considerate of the sleeping baby. I do as he asks. “We’re starting the test… now. Take off your shoes.”
I look at him, confused. “You make them take off their shoes?” He nods at me, so I do it. “What do you look for?”
“I’m not looking at their feet. Just listen.”
“My name is Will Rosser. What’s yours?”
“Jon Scott, but don’t they know who you ar–”
“Jon?” he interrupts. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. Again, I’m Will. To answer your question, Damon’s the famous one. Some know me, some don’t. Now, back to it.” He reaches out to shake my hand.
“Wait, did you miss this step tonight? The introduction? Because you didn’t seem to have her name down.”
“Sometimes it takes awhile for my hearing to kick in fully after a show. I was close. Anyway, I’m continuing. Do you know why you were asked to come backstage?”
“Because I find you attractive and I’d like to take you back to my place.” Will watches me after he says this. “This is where you react.”
“How the hell do they react?! This sounds like a business transaction!”
“Normally, they laugh and blush and say okay. In that order.”
“Okay,” I say simply.
“Are you over the age of eighteen?”
“Have you ever accepted money in exchange for sex?”
“Do you have any weapons on you?” His questions are quick, and would catch most people off guard, forcing them to answer honestly.
“Do you have any known STDs?”
“No, but Will–” He lifts his hand to silence me.
“Have you been drinking?”
“Say yes. They always say yes.”
“Have you maybe had a little too much to drink?” he asks in a way that would encourage a woman to admit that she had, if she truly had.
“Yes?” I guess the expected response.
“It was nice to meet you, Jon. Have a great night. Then you’re escorted out and our manager brings in the next one, if there is one.”
“What if she lies? Or she hasn’t and says no?” I ask.
Will nods, ready to continue the roll-playing. “Great. That’s what I like to hear. What’s another word for drunk?”
“You ask them this?”
“Yes,” he says, urging me to answer. “Another?”
“Good. Now, the next one… and this is very important. Don’t answer this out loud. Just keep the answer in your head. As soon as you know it, I want you to take that many steps in a straight line with your heel touching your toe, just like this.” He demonstrates the walk.
“So this actually is a sobriety test,” I comment.
He continues without acknowledging me. “What’s the square root of sixty-four, multiplied by two, minus seven?”
“And a math test. What if she’s just bad at math?!”
“I have standards!” he says, his eyes wide. He’s smiling, but I can tell he’s dead serious. “I’m a physicist for fuck’s sake. She should be able to do sixth grade math!”
“By the way, if she answers aloud here, or if her answer is wrong, she fails the test, and Will asks for another,” Damon adds.
I shake my head as I take nine steps, heel-to-toe. I look up at him when I’m finished.
“What is my full name, Jon?”
“And what was the first thing I asked you to do after we started this test?”
“Take off my shoes.”
Will claps softly.
“At this point,” Damon begins, “Will leans in for a kiss. If she welcomes him, that’s when she actually passes.”
“And then I tell her… Last thing–I don’t have girlfriends. I’m not going to fall in love with you tonight. You’re beautiful and worth loving, I’m sure, but I’m not capable of it. That being said, would you still like to come back to my place with me for a bit?”
“How often do they actually say yes to that?”
“Once they’ve made it that far? One-hundred percent of the time.”
I shake my head again, thinking back to Keely. “I still can’t believe that woman wasn’t drunk.”
“She wasn’t. She just wasn’t the brightest woman I’ve brought home.”
“But she passed the test…” I say, but it’s more of a question.
“I let her take it twice.” I give my brother a disapproving glance. “What? Did you see how hot she was?”
“Wow. I worry about you, Will.”
“Man, I’ve got this down to a science,” he says, and he does. “Max is the one you need to worry about.”
“Why do I need to worry about him? The kid doesn’t even have a girlfriend.”
“No? Then why’d he have me go pick up condoms for him earlier this week?”
My heart sinks. “He didn’t.”
“Yeah, he did.”
“Did he tell you why?”
“Well, he wasn’t going to have a water balloon fight with them, Jon. They pretty much have one use, so I didn’t think I needed to ask why he wanted them.”
“Have you talked to him about sex?”
“You had that talk with him,” he reminds me.
“I meant recently… maybe he mentioned a name or something.”
“No,” he says.
“Have you ever heard him talk about a girl named Zaina? Or Zany?”
“Yeah, she’s a friend of his. He talks about her a lot… probably more than any other girl. So it’s probably her,” he says, not thinking anything of it.
“Zaina’s my brother-in-law’s girlfriend, Will. So it sure as hell better not be her.”
“Oh,” he says, unaware. “I’ve seen him texting someone named Allie. Maybe it’s her.”
“I haven’t heard of her. I can only hope.” I check on Edie, and decide it’s probably time to head back home. “Sorry I just dropped by like this, Will. I promise to call from now on.”
He nods and grins. “It’s good to see ya. Next time, we can watch a game or something. Or maybe take the little one for a walk if you come in daylight. There’s a park down the street with a lot of hot single moms.”
“Like you need any help picking up women,” I tell him with a laugh. “Do you think I could get a CD of yours, Damon?” I ask Will’s roommate.
“Sure, yeah. I may have just found my youngest fan.”
“You’ve found one in me. Livvy’s going to love you even more. We were beginning to think she’d never sleep.”
“Bring your wife to a show,” he says. “I’d love to see her again. It’s been years.”
“I will. We’d love to come. Thanks.”
After I get the music, Will walks me to my car.
“So, am I on Liv’s shit list for the bat and ball?” he asks.
“Well… actually, she stopped the whole shower, started a video chat with her dad, and showed him the gift.” I shut the back door quietly after placing Edie inside, surprised that she’s still sleeping. “And he was so excited. I think it was her favorite thing. But… why the metal bat?”
“It’s a girl’s bat!” he exclaims, as if trying to convince me it was a good idea. “It had a pink handle! Plus, it’ll be easier for her to hold. Lighter, you know?”
“She’s my daughter, Will. She won’t be a delicate flower. She’ll be tough as nails.”
He stops me before I get into the car. “Jon, she shouldn’t have a life as hard as we had it. It should be much easier.” He smiles that wonderful Will smile. “You can give her that.”
©2015 Lori L. Otto • Distribution or duplication is strictly prohibited without written permission from the author.