"I don't like it."
I peer down at her huge green eyes, filled with defiance. She folds her arms to reinforce her point, jutting her chin up to me.
"Poppy-" I begin, as she shakes her head, refusing to let me finish.
"It hurts," she pouts, and I kneel to meet her gaze. She is the image of her father, and I still can't believe she is already five years old. With the attitude of a thirteen-year-old.
"Brushing your teeth does not hurt. All the Disney Princesses brush their teeth twice a day."
Her eyes widen as she looks up at me with interest.
"Even Princess Jasmine?"
I smile then, nodding as I hold the toothbrush up as she frowns.
"Can't I wait for Daddy to do it?"
"Pop, you know Daddy is busy," I sigh, wondering what I can say he is doing this time. Hanging out with his buddies didn't feel like a good enough reason to not see his daughter before bed.
"Can I wait up then?" she asks hopefully, as I roll my eyes.
"No, but you can have a story if you let me brush your teeth now."
She nods enthusiastically, finally opening her mouth as I begin to brush her teeth. My mind wanders to Roman again, and I purse my lips with annoyance. I should be understanding- he is playing for the NFL after all. But I'm not- any free time he did have he isn't here.
"What story would you like?" I smile, as Poppy claps her hands excitedly. I follow her from her bathroom- yes, her bathroom- to her room which is a blue of pink, white, and unicorns. She falls to her knees beside the bookcase, skimming her finger along the titles until she sighs happily.
"Mommy I love them all. I can't choose."
I laugh as I perch on the bed, watching as her dark curls fall over her shoulder as she tilts her head to see the titles more clearly. "Fine, I'll choose one. Hop into bed."
Poppy grins as I lean down, selecting The Little Mermaid. Settling into the chair beside her window, she crawls onto my lap.
"Mommy, when can I see Uncle Kieron?"
My heart lurches slightly as I stare into her eyes, the adoration for my best friend still there despite having not seen him for months. It cut me up that my daughter loves him so much that she asks about him every night before bed.
"I don't know, honey. I'll text him later and find out. He is busy with his writing now."
"Is he going to make me a book? He said he would."
I roll my eyes as I grin, reminding myself to drop Kieron an ego boost in order to get my little girl her wish.
"Can you text him now? Please?"
"If I do, then will you listen to the story?" I sigh, leaning forward to hook my phone out of my jean pocket.
"Yes, yes, I promise!"
I smile as I glance down, my facial muscles freezing when I see the missed calls from Roman.
Eleven missed calls.
I frown, sending him a text, which he replies to instantly.
I'm on my way home. Will explain when I get there. Don't answer the door or the phone to anyone until I'm there, okay?
I lift my eyes to see Poppy looking at me expectedly.
I have an awful feeling in my gut, the sort you can't ignore.
I text Kieron, asking him when we can next see him as Poppy misses him.
"I've texted him, Princess. Now into bed."
I slide my phone onto Poppy's windowsill as I begin to read, my mouth reading the words without reading the story, my mind plagued with the urgency in Roman's text.
What is so urgent that he is coming home straight away?
Why can't I answer the phone to anyone?
I keep reading despite the sinking feeling in my stomach, glancing up to see Poppy dozing off, her dreams no doubt filled with princesses and Prince charming.
I smile, remembering her calling me and her dad that-her favorite Prince and Princess.
But as my eyes find my phone I find it flashing repeatedly.
Something is wrong.
I kiss Poppys' head gently as I pull the covers up around her. I watched her for a second, before reaching for my phone.
Missed calls- unknown.
I bite my lip as I padded out of Poppy's room, my hand shaking as I closed the door quietly behind me. Beneath me, I hear the front floor open as I lean over the stair rail, to see the flash of dark hair and the broad shoulders that belong to my husband enter the foyer.
He's worried, his voice straining.
"Ro? I'm here," I shout whisper, as I make my way down the stairs quickly. His gaze drops instantly, and he swallows, his shoulders slouching as he does. "What's going on?"
He struggles to meet my eyes as he licks his lips, reaching out to grab my hands. "Is Poppy-"
"Asleep," I say icily, as I pull my hands from his, "again. She wanted you to brush her teeth."
"Ah man, I'm sorry. Uh, I need to talk to you, can we go to the Den?"
He's unable to meet my eyes, and anxiety grips me. I follow him to the Den, where a canvas of Poppy sleeping as a baby watches over us.
I flop down onto the white leather couch, memories of how many times we made love on this before we had Poppy.
Now we barely sit together.
"What's going on?" I repeat, pushing my hair back as he closes his eyes, his breath coming out in uneven shakes.
I'm trying to prepare myself mentally, but nothing prepares me for what he says next.
"I'm so fucking sorry, Ava," he whispers, his eyes filled with guilt as I shake my head.
"What for? What have you done?"
I feel like I know, but I'm positive I'm jumping to the wrong conclusions. We've been together eight years, married for six.
There's just no way-
"I've been having…," his voice catches in his throat as he cusses, gripping my hands as I stare at him silently.
I wait for what seems like an eternity for him to finish the sentence that will change our lives forever.
"I've been having an affair."