Sum of Us

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Ch.15: Poppy

We manage to follow the schedule we devised this morning. Aside from her earlier refusal to allow Rhys out of her sight, Harper has been a real trooper. Telling her that he is in the bathroom whenever he needs to step away to work has kept her from following him. Sometimes her fear of toilets comes in handy.

Potty training her is going to be a blast.

Using the laminate George gave me this morning, Harper and I are allowed through the stage door. Backstage is far more crowded than it was earlier. The swarms of people do not mesh well with my social anxiety. Harper is particularly clingy, having just woken up from her second nap.

She is clutching my Wilde Knights t-shirt; her head is rested on my shoulder. Harper will surely be waving at everyone in sight as soon as she’s fully awake.

I knock on the guys’ closed dressing room door when we reach it.

“You look ready for the show.”

I turn to find George’s assistant standing behind me. “Hey, Josie.” I smile, happy to see the only member of their management team that seems to like me. “Rhys not so subtly put this shirt on the bed for me to wear.”

“There’s plenty more where that came from. You’ll be getting shirts and sweatshirts from their current and past tours in the coming weeks. Your little cutie will have them too.” She rubs Harper’s back. “Is she not feeling well?”

“I just woke her up from her nap. She’s always like this when she isn’t able to wake up on her own. She’ll perk up soon.” I adjust my hold on her. “Was the merch your idea?”

“I’m not allowed to call shots around here. I’m responsible for sizing, though. Guys tend to be pretty clueless when it comes to those things.” Josie relays.

“Then who--?”

“Who do you think?”

“I’ll um, be sure to thank him.” I swallow hard. “You were spot on with the size. I appreciate all the trouble you went through.”

“Not a problem. You and Harper have infused some much-needed estrogen into this sausage fest.”

“Happy to be of service.” I giggle.

“Harper needs to rise and shine. I need her bubbly energy to get through the night. The first one back from vacation is always the toughest.”

“That’s what I told Rhys. Instead of listening to me and resting, he spent two hours chasing her around at the park. He might fall asleep on stage.”

“At least the story we put out would have a sweet spin.”

“No. Don’t encourage him. None of them.”

“I knew I liked you.” Her smile grows. “Duty calls, but I’m sure I’ll run into you two again. Bye-bye, Harper.” She waves at her.

“Bye-bye, Osie,” Harper repeats, mimicking the appropriate hand gesture.

“Oh! Do you know where the guys are?” I call after Josie.

“The meet and greet is running over. I’m on my way to wrap it up.”

“Is it alright if we go into the dressing room?”

“Sure, no problem.” She uses the key attached to her lanyard to unlock the door for me.

“Thanks.”

“Anytime. The door opened or closed?”

“Closed, please.”

“See ya.” She shuts the door behind her.

“Where Daddy?” Harper searches the room from within her playpen.

“In the potty.”

“No potty.”

“He’ll be done soon. How about we watch Moana and eat Uncle Kyle’s snacks?”

“No Ana. Ong Daddy.”

“No Moana, you want to listen to Daddy’s songs instead?” I speak fluent toddler, but sometimes clarification is needed.

“Ing. Daddy me.”

Translation: she wants to sing with him.

“I’ll play his music videos. Those will have to do until he shows up, Lovebug. He has lots of people to sing for today.”

“Want Daddy.”

“I know, baby. He’ll be here as soon as he can.” I give her a comforting hug.

Just as I hoped, hearing his voice and seeing him on her tablet suffices in the interim. Her fruit snacks are untouched. She is too busy bouncing around and singing along. I’m recording it, of course. I love that she loves the pieces of himself that he shares with the world.

I end my recording when there is a knock at the door.

“Daddy!?” Harper whips her head towards it.

“I don’t think so, but it might be one of his work buddies here to say ‘hi’.” I step over the fence enclosing her play area.

“Open up! Time for the ritual!” a female voice calls through the door.

The opening band, XO, are the visitors.

I have never met them. They opted to go home to Brooklyn during the hiatus. I have seen pictures and checked out their music before joining the tour. Research helps me adjust to new environments. What I discovered is that the lead singer has a stellar voice, she’s beyond stunning, and their whole band is known for partying hard.

The fact that Gia has a bottle of tequila in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other confirms my findings.

“Um, hi, I’m Poppy, a long-time friend of the guys and Harper’s mom.” I wave to the group.

“Who’s Harper?” Who I recognize to be the drummer asks.

“Rhys’s daughter, apparently.” Gia scans me from head to toe.

Judging by her breath of a laugh, she is clearly unimpressed by his choice in baby mama.

Well, alrighty then.

“They’re not back from their meet and greet yet. You can try coming back in --” I try to explain.

“We’ll wait.” Gia shoulder checks me as she crosses the threshold.

I guess we are back in middle school. Darn, I left my Lisa Frank trapper keeper at home.

“Daddy fwiend?” Harper innocently inquires.

“You brought a baby to a concert?” Gia turns over her shoulder to raise a scrutinizing eyebrow at me.

“Yes.” I don’t owe her anything.

“What were you, like sixteen when you had her?” Their bassist asks.

“Eighteen. If I were sixteen, she would be proof Rhys committed a felony and none of us would be here.” I feel all of their eyes on me as I collect Harper from her pen.

“As I was saying, they’ll be back soon.” With Harper on my hip and her diaper bag on my shoulder, I leave the room as quickly as possible.

I find a chair in the hallway. Harper’s on my lap and I shuffle through her deck of animal flashcards.

“Duck!” She answers before I can ask.

“Yes. What sound does it make?”

Harper spends the next minute quacking. Giggles are being sprinkled intermittently.

I flip to the next card. “And this one?”

“Lion!”

“Uh-huh, and what do lions say?”

The roaring ensues.

“Is my cub practicing our sound without me?”

“DADDY!” Harper reaches for Rhys, almost falling off my lap in the process.

Luckily, he’s armed and ready to catch her. He swings her high in the air, making her laugh even harder.

“How’s it going, Lovebug? Good nap?” He has her lowered to eye level, still within his strong arms.

“Done potty!” She puts her hands on his cheeks, smiling from ear to ear.

“I’ll change her.” He holds his hand out for the diaper bag.

“She is talking about you. She knows you’ve been in the potty for the past three hours.” I stifle laughter.

Taylor barks a laugh at Rhys’s expense.

“Figure out something else to tell her. She’s going to grow up thinking I have a problem.”

“That’s the only place she doesn’t follow people like a puppy. She is willing to let you have all the time you need. Isn’t that nice?”

“Mean is what it is.”

“Eh. I beg to differ.” I shrug.

“I don’t like it.” He scrunched his face, pouting.

“Oh, no!” Harper tends to his bruised ego by petting his facial hair.

“Why are you in the hallway? Our room is open.” Taylor gestures to it with this thumb.

I fiddle with my hands, my anxiety returning as I recall the young mom criticism I endured. “XO is in there with booze. Nothing gets child protective services called quicker than a toddler begging for tequila because she thinks it is apple juice.” I lightly joke in hopes of removing Rhys’s scowl.

“You should have told them to go away,” Taylor responds.

“I tried telling them to come back later, but--”

Rhys storms off with Harper on his hip.

“What is he--” I scramble to collect my things.

“Harp’s about to learn some no-no words.”

“He better not!”

“Oh, he is. I feel the rage. All we can do is sit back and enjoy the show at this point.” He takes the diaper bag from me.

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