“Well…um.” Fuck, why couldn’t I think of what to say?
“What’s your name, honey?” Lilly asks. I look up to see Ashlyn in her arms looking down at us.
“Jax.” Lilly smiles so brightly her whole face lights up. I forgot that smile. How the f**k did I forget that smile?
“Very cool name.” Jax’s chest puffs out under her praise.
“I’m going to be big like my daddy,” he informs her randomly.
“I’m sure you are, honey.” Lilly smiles again. “How would you feel about having a playdate with Ashlyn sometime?” Jax shrugs. I look at Ashlyn who smiles. “Sure, she could come to my house. I have a ferret and a tree house!”
“I’m sure she would like that. Though, I'm not sure what a ferret is.” Jax laughs and so does Ashlyn. I can’t believe how much they look alike. “I’m going to get your dad’s number, and we can set up a time.”
“Yay!” Jax yells, jumping up and down.
“Will you do me a favor, Jax?” He nods. “Take Ashlyn over to get her shoes while I get your dad’s number, okay?”
“Okay,” he agrees right away. Lilly sets Ashlyn down. She hasn’t taken her eyes off me. Jax takes her hand, pulling her along. I watch as she shows him where her shoes are. They are too high for her to reach, so he gets them for her, and then runs and grabs his before sitting next to her on the ground.
“I think it’s best if we talk to them separately about what’s going on. Jax is going to be very confused about this, and Ashlyn isn’t going to be much better. She knows of you, but doesn’t know you. I think we should set up a time for you to come alone and spend some time with her. Then bring Jax along later so they can get to know each other.”
“Why are you acting so cool about all of this?”
“I don’t know. I guess I will save my breakdown for tonight when Ashlyn is in bed, and I can have a glass of wine.” She pulls out her cell phone from her back pocket, sliding a finger across the screen. “So what’s your number?” I rattle it off, watching as she types in the numbers. My phone starts ringing from my pocket. I pull it out and save her number quickly. She turns her back on me, walking to where the kids are sitting. She runs her hand over Jax’s hair before grabbing her shoes. She bends over, putting them on with her round ass in the air. I look around when I feel a sting against my skin, my eyes landing on a guy who is looking at her ass with his wife or girlfriend standing right next to him. I walk up to where Lilly is bent over, not taking my eyes off the guy who is watching her. When I get there, the guy’s eyes come to me, and I give him a chin lift. He looks away quickly, making me feel somewhat better. I still have the urge to shove a foam block down his throat. When Lilly finally stands, I grab my hat after pulling on my sneakers. I put my hat on, shoving my hand in my pocket so I can grab my keys. I turn around to see Lilly looking at me funny, Jax holding one of her hands and Ashlyn holding the other. My heart squeezes at the sight of them together. She blinks, shaking her head. “You ready?” I ask.
“Yeah.” Lilly nods. Jax lets go of her hand and runs to me, grabbing mine. We wait and hold open the door for the girls.
“Your hair is really red,” Jax says, looking at Lilly. She laughs, shaking her head. The sun is out, beaming down on her, making her red hair shine more brightly and giving her a glow.
“She just colored it. It was brown before,” Ashlyn informs us, making me laugh as I think about the last time I saw her; her hair was the same color it is now, only a lot shorter. We walk out to the parking lot, and Lilly stops at a small, piece-of-shit car. It was probably silver at one time, but is now grey and dull, with rust spots and dents. She opens the back door, and Ashlyn crawls inside. I don’t like this. My body is fighting itself, not wanting them out of my sight.
“So I will call and set up a time with you,” she says, watching Ashlyn buckle her seatbelt.
“Call me when you get home,” I tell her, my voice rough with anger, not at her, but myself.
She shakes her head. “No, I’ll call you in a couple days after you have had some time to think about this.” I take a step towards her, getting in her space.
“I am not going to change my mind,” I growl the words, making her eyes widen slightly.
Then she takes a breath. “Well, then call when you’re ready,” she says quietly before squatting down to Jax’s level.
“It was very nice to meet you, Jax.” She holds out her hand for a shake.
“You’re pretty, like my mom.” Jax is wrong. Jules is pretty, but so rotten on the inside that it started seeping out, making a once pretty girl ugly. Now, Lilly—Lilly is more than beautiful, and if the situation between us hadn’t made her bitter, then nothing ever would. And I could see her light shine through every time she looked at our daughter.
“Well, thank you, honey.” She gives a small smile before standing back up and opening her door. I lean in the back door so I can talk to Ashlyn.
“I will see you soon, okay?” She nods. Her eyes are big and the same color as mine.
“So are you my daddy?” she asks more quietly this time.
“Yes,” I whisper, running my hand over her hair.
“Why didn’t you come see me?” Oh God, this is killing me. I have no idea how to explain this to her. I don’t even know how to explain this to myself.
“I am so sorry, baby.” The words choke out. “I promise you that I will come see you now, every chance I get.”
“Grandpa says that you hab to keep your promises.”
“He is right.” I smile at the way she pronounces her v’s the same way as Jax. “You do have to keep your promises.” She nods in agreement. “I’ll call your mommy later and say goodnight to you.”
“Okay.” She reaches over, grabbing a small doll and holds it in her lap. I lean in a little, kissing the top of her head. I get out of the car and see that Lilly and Jax are talking.
“You ready, little dude?” I look down at Jax, who is watching Ashlyn curiously.
“You’re always hungry.” I laugh, watching Lilly get in the car. She shuts the door, turning her car on before rolling down the window.
“Grandma says I’m growing.”
“You are. Soon you’re going to be taller than me.”
“Wow!” His face lights up.