“About fifteen more minutes, dude, then you can go wild.” We are on our way to Jumping Bean, a giant warehouse full of trampolines. Hopefully by the time we leave, he will be worn out, and I can get some rest. I love my son, but damn if he doesn’t wear me out.
“Are you gonna jump wiff me?”
“Yay!” he yells, his little arms shooting straight up in the air. I turn up the volume to the show he’s watching on the back of the passenger seat’s headrest, hoping it will keep him occupied until we get to the warehouse. When I found out Jules was pregnant, I was pissed off at the world. I was in love with Lilly. I hated saying goodbye to her. I knew that in order to have a relationship with my child, to have him in my life, I had to cut her out and focus on Jules. After a year, I realized it would never happen. I was killing myself. I was miserable. Almost three years ago, we divorced, and she moved into an apartment in town. My son stays with me unless I’m at work, then my mother, November, or Liz has him. His mother sees him if the mood strikes, which is rare and perfectly fine with me, but difficult for him.
“Are we there yet?” I chuckle, shifting lanes as I exit the highway.
“This is taking forebbbeerrr,” he whines and sighs. I look at him through the rearview mirror. His head is resting on his fist, looking completely disgruntled.
“Look.” I point out the front window to the building ahead of us.
“We should moob here.”
“Wouldn’t you miss grandma?” I pull into the parking lot and find a space to park.
“Well, she could come, too.”
“I don’t think grandpa would like that, little guy.”
“Eberyone could moob here.” I shake my head, getting out of the truck. By the time I have his door open, he’s unbuckled himself and launches his little body at me.
“You ready to go have some fun?” I hold him upside-down, his giggling making me laugh.
“Yes-s-s-s-s,” he screeches as I bounce him. I turn him upright, putting his baseball cap on his head —like me, he always wears one. I grab his hand as we walk into the building. This place is insane! There are kids everywhere, running and screaming, chasing each other as we stop at the front counter to pay. “I wanna go in there, Daddy.” I look to see he’s pointing at a giant pit full of foam blocks. I am sure it looks like a good time to a kid, but to me, as a parent, it looks like a petri dish. I am going to have to wash him down with Purell by the time this day is over.
“We will.” He nods in agreement. I pull off his hat, and we both take off our shoes before putting them in one of the cubbies that take up a long wall. When his shoes are off, my little dare devil takes a running start, jumping in full-speed head-first into the pit. I laugh, watching as he tries to right himself.
“Come in, Daddy.” He tries to wave, but he looks like a fish out of water flopping all over the place. I step into the pit and once I reach him, I lift him above my head and I toss him, making him laugh harder. He somehow manages to get his feet underneath himself and wades towards me, looking like he is fighting a hard current. “Let’s go ober there.” He points to a large trampoline that is built into the floor before taking my hand, leading the way out of the pit. I don’t know who is going to be more exhausted by the time this day is over. Actually I do, and I know it won’t be him.
As soon as we’re out of the pit, he takes off on a run before bouncing onto the trampoline. I stand off to the side, watching him with my arms crossed over my chest. I look to the left when I see a flash of red hair in my peripheral vision. It wouldn’t be the first time my mind has played a trick on me, making me think I see Lilly when I don’t. The woman has fuller hips then Lilly did, and her ass is round, making me want to slap it. Shit, I need to get laid. The thought leaves just as quickly as it comes. My focus is my son. My bachelor days are a long forgotten memory. Now, if I need to get off, I use Miss Right or Miss Left. I’m just about to look away when the woman turns towards me, and I stop breathing. I swear to God, time stops. All I can do is stare at her. Her skin is still the color of cream; her red hair is long and hangs over her br**sts that seem to be larger than when I last had them in my hands. She looks even more beautiful, if that’s possible. When her eyes meet mine, she blinks then pales, her hand covering her mouth. What the f**k?
“Mommy! Mommy!” She looks down, and my stomach drops, seeing a little girl with dark hair pulled into two pigtails and skin the same color as her mom’s. Lilly gets down to the little girl’s level, pulling her close as she whispers something to her. “I don’t wanna weeb,” she cries, her face turning towards me. For the second time in as many minutes, my world comes to a halt. She looks so much like Jax that they could be twins. I look up, my eyes meeting Lilly’s again.
“Daddy, come play with me.” Jax grabs onto my pants leg. I look down at him, then back at Lilly as tears pool in her eyes. She picks up her daughter—our daughter—and starts to take a step away. Automatically, my hand reaches out to grab onto her elbow. I look down at Jax and give him a smile. “You go play, dude. I will be there in a second.”
“Fine,” he grumbles before running off again. I look at the little girl in Lilly’s arms; her eyes are on me as she leans in to whisper something into her mother’s ear. Lilly closes her eyes, hugging her tighter before saying something back to her and setting her on the ground.
“Go play for a minute, love bug,” Lilly tells her. The little girl doesn’t take her eyes off me. I want to pick her up and hold her so badly that my fists clench, fighting it. Lilly kisses her forehead before turning her towards the trampoline. I watch her walk away then start to bounce. It takes a second for my brain to start functioning.
“That’s my daughter.” My blood starts to boil. She kept her from me.
“No, that’s my daughter.” She takes a step to the side, away from the other adults around us. I follow, standing at an angle so I can watch my kids.
“I can’t believe that you would keep my kid from me.” I look her over, the feeling of hate consuming me.
“You’re a piece of work, you know that? Your words were “get rid of it”, that you were getting married and having a baby with someone else.”
“I read those words over and over a hundred f**king times, so don’t tell me that she’s yours.” She pokes my chest, getting in my space. “She is mine! I suffered from morning sickness alone. I went to my doctor’s appointments alone. I was in labor for forty-seven hours. Alone. And I have raised her alone.” She growls the last words. I have no idea what the f**k she is talking about.