Sum of Us

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Ch. 40: Rhys

“Do you want a drink?” My arm is still around Poppy’s waist as we wait at the venue’s entrance as names and IDs are checked.

Her inability to walk in heels without practicing has tipped the scales in my favor.

I HAVE to be touchy-feely with her in public. Another one of my wishes has been granted. If Victim weren’t such an attention-seeking, sociopathic zombie, everything would’ve come up aces for me tonight.

Damn zombies.

“Water. I’ve had a glass of chardonnay and a vodka gimlet.”

“Have you had anything to eat?” I examine her eyes for dilation.

The red carpet lighting makes it possible to see them after dark.

“Plenty. Most of it carbs. Did you get a chance to try the macaroni and cheese bites at the show? They were scrumptious. I had a bowl’s worth.”

I drop my jaw. “They had mac and cheese bites, and you didn’t think to save any for me?”

“I left my plastic bags at the hotel, and Kyle was preoccupied.”

“Excuses. Excuses.” I tsk.

“What would you have done if you were me?”

“Kindly asked Bellina and Beatrice to make space. The generous ladies that they are, they would’ve done it and kept the bites warm.”

“That’s some out of the box, in the bra, thinking, there, Wilde.” Poppy grins.

“You have to when the stakes are high.”

“Little problem, I’d have gotten grease stains on a dress I need to return at the stroke of midnight.”

“Does this one have a deadline?” My eyes fall to the hottest thing I have ever seen. “I will cry if it does -- loudly, inconsolable, and in public -- if they try to rip this away from me.” My eyes flicker back to hers to convey my honesty.

“The top is mine. The jacket is yours. The skirt and shoes are Chelsea’s. The whole thing is ours until Chels leaves.” The amusement on her face grows.

“She’d give them to you.”

“I’m not going to ask. There’s no telling how much how she spent on them.”


She gracefully swivels in her heels to face us. “Yes?”

“I would like to purchase the loaners you gave Pop this evening. Name your price. I’m willing to go as high as all that I own and a kidney.” I shamelessly plead.

“A tin of Mama Wilde’s salted caramel and chocolate chunk shortbread cookies, a family photoshoot on Harp’s birthday, and to takeover Wilde Knights’ Instagram account for one day.” She rattles her demands without contemplation.

“Easy. Done.”

We shake on it.

“I planned to give them to her anyway, but I can’t resist a good bargain,” she says with a smirk.

“If so, why didn’t you top off the deal with my kidney? Is mine not good enough for you?” I kid.

“You probably have a perfectly fine kidney, but I’m not in the market for one. What what I do with it? Put it in a tank like a lizard?”

“Yes, I would if I were given this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

“I’ll think about it and get back to you.” She pats my arm.

“That still means ‘never going to happen’,” Taylor can’t resist commenting.

“Hope, Tay, hope -- I’ve got it. You should invest in it too.” I reply.

“My portfolio is just how I like it. And for that, I’m out.”

“You’ve been watching too much Shark Tank again,” I remark.

“There’s no such thing as too much Shark Tank.” Taylor retorts.

“Agreed.” Ian throws over his shoulder, proving that he’s listening.

“With all the things that you quote, you have no room to talk, babe.” Pop smiles at me.

“United front, Pop. Even when I’m wrong, you have to support me.”

“I don’t recall signing a document that said such a thing.”

“Verbal contract. You spoke on the bottom line the days you told me you love me for the first and second-first time.”

“Darn, I really have got to start listening to the fine print.” She snaps her fingers.

“You’ve got to. Next thing you know, we’ll be married and living happily ever after.”

“You signed a verbal contract not to gaslight me. If I have to uphold mine, you do too. Signed marriage documents only.”

“Ughhh, fine.” I roll my eyes.

“You’ll survive. I’ve got hope.” She rubs my side.

My ID is not scanned. It hasn’t been in years. I share a face with one person, and he gets through the velvet ropes with no more than a nod every single time. I stay with Poppy as hers gets verified. Taking even a step without her is out of the question.

The open bar gets hit up first. Making my rounds sober is out of the question.

Poppy holds my hand and bicep as a means of walking without tripping or falling as we wait in line. It’s a natural position for us, one we’ve walked in countless times throughout our relationships.

At first, her focus remains in our inner sanctum. She’s whispering back and forth with Chelsea, giggling every once in a while at whatever she is saying. She’s cracking jokes with all of us, and then all of a sudden – she’s folding herself into me.

“What’s going on, baby?” I speak through a smile, shifting my free hand to her waist.

“They’re taking pictures of us. Mom said to turn to you if I feel uncomfortable. They will think the best while I decompress.”

Distraction time.

“Are you sure water is all you want? They have juice. It’s not in boxes or pouches, but it gets the job done.” I offer her a smile.

She lifts her eyes to meet mine. “What kind of juice?”

“The ones that go into drinks. You know them better than I do.”

“Grapefruit juice, please.”

“Which drinks have grapefruit juice in them?”

“The standard ones are Palomas, sea breezes, and pink martinis. They’re guaranteed to be here. This feels like a pink martini sort of place.”

“You know your stuff.” Our eyes remain on each other.

“A lot can be learned between June to October.”

“Your birthday isn’t until June 23rd. You joined the tour the third week of October.”

“July through September.” She amends. “ Mixology is an easy skill to pick up.”

“For a smartypants, maybe. It’s all fractions.”

“Fractions are fun.”

“I love you, babe, I really do, but fractions are not fun. Math is not fun. It’s just something we have to do to survive, like charging our phones.”

“I can actually follow that train of thought. I don’t agree with it, but I get it.”

“Are you going to put those fractions to good use on my birthday and make customized drinks?” Pop’s still in my arms as we take a small step forward in line.

“You have a birthday? When?” She adorably furrows her brow, doing her best to look surprised.

“Hint: it’s a holiday in March.”

“How did you manage to get your own holiday?” She plays along.

“It’s not all mine. I have to share it with Taylor and St. Patrick.”

“Whose idea was the strict dress code?”

“That’s a Taylor question. I blindly enforce it.”

“Because you like green.”

“I love green as much as Harper loves purple.”

“Doubtful. I asked what she likes to do today. Purple was one of her answers. Do you like to green in your spare time?”

“How does a person green?”

“You would know if you truly loved it as much as she loves purple. You need to get on her level, Wilde.”

“I’m trying, but she keeps getting better. I’ve settled for making sure she likes me.”

“We made too cool of a kid.”

“Can we really be surprised?”

Pop’s body has gone from rigid to relaxed by the time we reach the bar. We are standing side by side, the arm I have around her waist is purely for my benefit.

The bartender stops in front of me. I ignore how her eyes light up in the instant it takes for her to recognize me.

“A glass of grapefruit juice for her.” I tug Poppy so close that we are practically back to front. “And an old fashioned for me.”

Jenna, as it reads on her name tag, chooses to disregard the hint I drop.

“Your performance tonight – mindblowing.” She “innocently” adjusts her black dress to expose more cleavage and leans forward further than necessary to shovel ice into the glasses she set on the counter.

I fix my gaze on the bottles just behind her head. “Thank you. My girlfriend said the same, but I have to take her compliments with a grain of salt. She loves me too much to not be supportive.”

“Real subtle.” Tay is angled towards me, his forearm making it possible to lean on the counter.

Chels cranes her neck forward to make eye contact with him. “It’s not the time for subtly when areolas are put on display for you in front of your girlfriend. You should know that, Sailor.”

Jenna gives her a dirty look. Chelsea must feel it because she stands upright to face her.

“From one bartender to another, propping up the girls for a bigger tip is one thing. Risking a nip slip to try to take home a customer is a slippery slope. When does it become solicitation?” Chelsea unabashedly says to her.

Taylor chokes on an ill-timed sip of his scotch. He laughs between wheezes. I pat his back to help him get the liquid out of his lungs.

Jenna slams our finished drinks on the counter and storms to the opposite end of the bar.

“A girl tries to pass along valuable information, and then all of a sudden, she’s the bad guy.” Chels brushes off the snub without batting an eyelash.

She waves over the closest bartender.

“You’re still my hero if that helps.” Poppy giggles.

“It does. An amaretto sour will too.”

“Have I ever told you how much I love that watch on you?” Poppy watches as I set its alarm for an hour as we wait for Chelsea’s drink to arrive.

Chelsea is on support duty.

The stainless steel Misfit Command is the one I liked most of the ones our stylist presented me with. Taylor added it to his personal collection AFTER he saw mine.

I want that on record.

“It comes in handy. Taylor was starting to complain about being my alarm clock.”

“Your wrist is working it – looking mighty fine.”

I whip my head in her direction. “You’re a wrist girl now? I thought you were a hair one. If you are, I don’t know if I’ll be able to overcome the betrayal.”

“I’m a hair and arms girl. Your wrist does the heavy lifting, but your right forearm is what reaps the benefits. Sad, but true.”

“I think we have it in us to survive this. It’ll take some getting used to, but I think my hair will be able to share its spotlight eventually.”

“It doesn’t have to share it. Arms are the understudy. They are essential, not the star.”

“Phew, that’s a relief. Loves of your life are hard to come by.”

“I feel your pain, bud. I really do.” She rubs my back.

I go in for a kiss. She turns her head when I’m halfway to her lips.

“Why do you keep swerving my kisses?”

“At the show, Mom told me not to because of our tendency to get carried away when we’re supporting each other is well documented. Our daughter is exhibit A. A passionate display during an international broadcast would not be ideal. And right now, I’m wearing red lipstick.”

“The color you are wearing just so happens to be my shade. Lay it on me, gorgeous. I’ll make it work better than my watch.”

She steadies herself by putting her hands on my shoulders. She delivers a soft peck on my lips and pushes off of me before I can draw more out of her.

“Happy?” She cleans pigment off of my lips with her thumb.

“No, but beggars can’t be choosers.”

Her perfect lips fight a little smile – a real one.

Good, they haven’t gotten to her yet.

“I love you.” I breathe into her ear.

The gang sticks together during mandatory mingling time. Pop selectively speaks, only contributing to conversations if she has a firm grasp on the subject. Ironically, she talks to the executives most; they speak in numbers and percentages. Her superior knowledge defies their expectations of her. It is too soon to tell how her clear understanding of the half-truths they spin will affect us.

You would think socializing amongst our peers would be more comfortable. It’s not. Whereas the big wigs make it clear who is in the position of power, our co-workers humble-brag to assert their dominance over as many people as possible.

“Who made your jacket? It is to die for.” Jordana Wallace surveys Poppy, sipping champagne.

“It’s not designer. Rhys played varsity baseball during our freshman year of high school. He was gracious enough to let me borrow the jacket he earned by lettering tonight.” Pop answers.

“What’s that?” Jordana tilts her head to the side.

“It’s a school name monogram patch earned by becoming a member of the varsity team of a sport and performing well on it. He had one of the highest batting averages in the state.” Poppy dotes, smiling over at me.

She came to every single game, even the away ones. Leo drove her and Taylor to them. Poppy used iron-on letters to put my last name and number on the back of a few of her school spirit shirts.

I did the same at her mathlete meets and science competitions. Christopher drove me to those until I got my driver’s license. She did those all four years. She took home a medal, certificate, or trophy almost every time. The signs I made and held during her events may have been a little much, seeing as I was usually one of the only spectators. But, when your girl is a nationally-ranked, all-star smartypants, containing your excitement is impossible to do.

“Vintage. Cute.” Jordana loses interest.

“Eight years isn’t exactly --”

Taylor shakes his head, silently telling Poppy that correcting her is a losing battle.

Our self-imposed time-crunch gives Poppy and me an out when Kay Daniels starts recounting her “volunteer mission” in a remote village in Africa.

Taking selfies and having pictures taken are all that she did while there. That’s not an assumption. She says building schools should be left to the professionals. Nevermind that there were construction workers on-site to help volunteers build the school properly. After lending her emotional support to people who were expecting physical labor from her, Kay retired to a yacht in the Medditateranian Sea to decompress.

There is one downside to walking away early –Taylor’s habit of asking questions that point out the flaws with her (and others like her’s) version of philanthropy. It goes over his targets’ heads.

“I think I shed some brain cells listening to them. The Vegas DJ guy was a walking, talking stereotype. Everything about him was slimy. If there were such thing as a used car salesman with a trust fund, it’d be him.” Poppy walks in step with me.

“Are you saying we can’t fly on Dax’s private jet to his poolside villa? He said we could pet his Bengal tiger and test drive his Lamborghinis. There’s one painted like a rocketship. Harper loves rockets.”

“I don’t think the invitation extended to her. He spent a good chunk of time hyping up his drug dealer.”

“Did you know he gets him the purest powder?”

“I think I heard that somewhere.” She quips with a little giggle.

Lauren is our destination. She is standing at an hors d’oeuvres tower, putting a select few onto a small plate.

“Do they have fried macaroni bites? They had them at the ceremony.” I check out her finger-food spread to start the conversation.

“I hope not. I’m on a seafood-based, no-carb diet. Those bites would get me into trouble with my trainer.” She dips a grilled prawn into a dollop of dipping sauce. “Are you here to give food recommendations?” She inquires after swallowing her first bite.

Poppy is fiddling around behind me, using the guise of getting snacks to give Lauren and I privacy.

“I should’ve warned you.” I cut to the chase.

Lauren lifts one of her sculpted brows. “You didn’t let her walk out of that room with a vendetta against me, and you texted me an apology on the day of the leak. What else could you do?”

“More? I don’t know. I feel bad about what was said about you.” I roll the ice in my glass by shaking the tumbler.

“You said sorry. Hearing it sooner wouldn’t have changed much. No hard feelings.”


“I’m still up for doing a song if you are. Our timing dance continues. We’ll figure it. You’re in on this too now.” Lauren looks over my shoulder as she says the last bit. “What’s his daddy duty schedule look like?”

Pop hobbles to her place at my side. “If you’re okay with having a two-year-old music producer, you can have them whenever you want. They have daily daddy-daughter music time. You’re more than welcome to join.”

Lauren smiles. “Harper knows what she’s doing. I’ve seen the videos. I want to work with her more than Rhys. No offense.” She tosses at me half-heartedly.

“None taken. Our baby girl’s got it going on. I’m too proud to be jealous of her.”

“Is she here?” Lauren selects another appetizer from her plate.

“It’s a little past her bedtime, but she’s in Calfornia. We’re going to Disneyland for her birthday.”

“I expect pictures of her with Rapunzel.”

“There will be plenty. Rhys bought her a personal Rapunzel.”

“I didn’t buy one. You can’t buy a person. I hired a musical actress to better suit our needs.” I correct.

“She’s from Broadway. That should tell you how pumped he is for Valentine’s Day.” Poppy continues.

“I would be too if she were my kid. Why didn’t you shut the whole park down?” Lauren innocently inquires.

“I tried, but somebody wouldn’t let me.” I side-eye Poppy.

“She’s a small person who doesn’t meet the height requirements to ride most of the rides. She doesn’t need acres upon acres to herself.”

“She has an entourage. The four-legged members of it would appreciate the extra space.”

“Did you buy her ‘pups’ for her birthday?” Lauren laughs.

“No. Mama Wilde’s dogs, Gizmo and Widget, are here to spend her big day with her. We’re not home enough to add to the family.” Pop answers.

“She has names picked out for her future dogs, though: Buddy – because they’ll be buddies, and Holly Olly Istmas – Holly for short.” I elaborate.

Lauren shakes her head. “That kid kills me.”

“She’s a good one. We lucked out.” I put my arm around Poppy’s waist.

“You did, in more ways than one. A glass of champagne and my manager are calling my name.” She hugs Poppy first. “Buzz me the next time you are in California. All of us can hang, Harper too.” She gives me a hug.

“For sure.” I mean it.

“Give Harper a birthday hug for me.” Lauren leaves with a smile and a finger-wiggle wave.

“Is she what she seems?” Pop raises a toothpick skewer with a blueberry and a ball of cheese up to my lips.

I chew and swallow my food. “From what I’ve seen.” I kiss her cheek to say thank you for being fed.

“How are we on time?” She takes one of the berry-brie treats for herself.

I check my watch. “Eight minutes.”

“Any ideas on how it should be spent?”

“There’s a photo booth. I saw it earlier. We can drag Chelsea and the guys in.”

“We have to finish our food first.”

We eat our hors d’oeuvres. I finish my second drink as we round-up our crew.

Cramming six adults in a confined space built for two is far from comfortable, but it’s fun when done with the right people. There are breakout shots with different arrangements. During mine with Poppy, we do a flipped version of the classic prom pose (we’re at an angle, Pop’s holding me from behind with her arms around my body and my hands are rested on hers) while seated on the booth’s bench. Silly faces are made for the second one. I kiss her cheek during the third. We do back to back Charlie’s Angels’ poses for our final picture.

Poppy hoists up the front of her top to conceal as much of cleavage as possible. She did the same thing between pictures.

She took off my jacket shortly after photo booth time started. All the rush arrangements made her overheat. Valerie graciously agreed to hold it for her. Emily and Xavier would have our heads if one of my wardrobe pieces wound up damaged or missing.

“Bye, Beatrice and Bellina.” I wave to her chest. “It was nice hanging with you.”


“Sacred and beautiful – that’s our love.”

She rolls her eyes with an amused smirk.

“You’re such dorks,” Chels laughs at us as soon as we pull open the booth’s curtain.

“That’s long been established.” Poppy climbs out of the booth with Chelsea’s help.

“I wish I could pretend to be surprised by these.” Taylor hands me two copies of our photo strips, fresh off the presses.

They are as silly as they are well done. I’m extraordinarily biased, but we look amazing together. Best of all, how much enjoyment we get out of being in each other’s company is evident. We’re happy, and it shows.

“Is there a way to get these separated and blown up without being fuzzy?” I ask our resident IT guy.

“It’s a digital machine. High resolution, non-resized individual photos are stored on its hard drive. Contact whoever runs it. They can get them to you.” Ian answers.

“Is that information Josie would know?” I sing her name.

“I don’t know. Why don’t you ask her?” He replies indifferently.

“Mark my words -- I’m going to get the truth out of you one day.” I poke his chest.

“There’s nothing to uncover. You’ll be wasting time you could be spending finding a Flynn Rider. Harper will ask why her Rapunzel doesn’t have a ‘special buddy’”.

“Joke’s on you. I already have one. His signed contract was emailed to me this morning.”

“When do you find time for this?” Ian says, bemused.

“You make it when it’s your baby girl’s dream to sing with them, and you have the means to make it happen.”

“There’s a song about dreams. Flynn’s is the best one. Lights? Boring.” Kyle chides.

“Lanterns. And Flynn’s is name is Eugene Fitzherbert. Rapunzel accepts him as he is – unfortunate name, great hair, and all. That’s why she becomes his new dream.” I passionately correct.

“You’ve seen that movie too many times. You’re digging way deeper than you should.” Taylor takes a sip of scotch.

“You’re really one to talk, Twilight.-bashing, Santa-hater.” I retort.

“I stand by my previous statements and reject your comparison.”

“Accepting the truth will set you free.” I rest a hand on his shoulder.

“You made sure Harper’s Eugene doesn’t have better hair than you.” He fires at me.

“Pop, time to go.” I promptly walk away from his accurate assumption.

Don’t Judge me.

Poppy said Harp’s birthday is my day too. I’m not going to have some guy stealing my thunder. Harper helps me maintain my hair by brushing it once a day. She has asked to brush my hair every morning since I let her play with it during our break as an incentive for sitting still while I did her Christmas Eve hairstyle. It’s become a part of our routine. My cub must continue to love my mane most.

Poppy and I pass out hugs and goodbyes before leaving. The others are going to do the entire after-party circuit.

My eyes catch Zara’s as Pop and I are making our way to the exit. She maintains her pleasant smile for the people she’s with, but her eyes are blazing with rage. If she could murder me without consequences, there’s no doubt that a coroner would be on their way by now.

I do what any rational person would do on response – nod hello with a smile. And I kid you not, she snarls like a wild animal. Everyone in her group follows her fiery gaze. I wave to them with the same carefree expression.

“What are you doing?” Poppy asks, genuinely confused.

“Proving I have nothing to be ashamed about.”

Poppy turns her head in their direction and swiftly returns her eyes to me. “What are you doing?” She’s accusatory this time.

“Guilty people don’t make eye contact or wave. I did both. It’s the only doubling down I’ll ever do.” Pop has all my attention.

“You’re ridiculous.” She snorts.

Camera flashes are exploding in our faces as soon as we step out of the building. Questions are shouted. Abused is barked in hopes of triggering aggression. Poppy clings to and trusts me to guide her to the town car George scheduled for us.

The paparazzi obliterate our high.

It’s what the garbage peddlers do best.

“Do you want a bottle of water?” I offer once the driver shuts our door.

“No.” She snips as she pulls bobby pins from her hair.

“Are you mad at me?” I click on my seatbelt.

Hers is already on. The car’s privacy partition between has also been raised.

“Why would I be mad at you?”

“You were short with me. That’s something a person does when they’re mad at someone.”

“I’m not mad. I’m tired and frustrated -- not with you -- with all that I have to put up with.” She vents.

“Paparazzi don’t exist in Seattle, and they’re not usually on tour. They’ll go away as soon as something more interesting happens.”

“If they crash Harper’s birthday, I swear to God, Rhys--”

“Professional camera equipment prohibited from the park that day, and there will be extra security on us. Nothing is going to ruin our baby girl’s big day. I even made a deal with the weather.”

“Watching her mama and daddy being cursed at and berated will hurt her a billion times more than rain.” She doesn’t respond the way I hoped to my joke.

“Neither is going to happen. We’re all good. Check out the forecast.”

“Can you not? This is serious.” She snaps.

“You don’t think I’m taking our first birthday seriously, think getting it exactly right isn’t a priority to me?” I jerk away from her.

“That’s not what I meant.” She stammers.

“What did you mean? Because what I heard was pretty damn hurtful.”

Poppy deflates and reaches for my hand. I allow her to take it. She’s caressing the top of it as she speaks.

“How much you love her is plain to see. I’ve seen how far you’ll go to make her smile. And I calculated the weight of your binder by standing on a scale with it and subtracting my weigh. It’s 10 lbs 3 ozs, Rhys; that’s 3 lbs 6 ozs more than Harper weighed when she was born. I know how much spending her birthday together means to you. I’m for giving the impression that I believed otherwise. I’m seriously worried -- too worried to process the silly jokes that you make to cheer me up.”

“But if I make you laugh it off, you’ll forget you should get out while you can.” I admit my logic.

“I’m not going anywhere without you. Boy, we got a good thing.”

I crack a smirk against my will. “Weezer.”

“I know how to pick an artist within your designated era.”

“The song isn’t. Their White Album dropped in 2016.”

“Their self-titled album debuted in ’94. Their 2016 album’s full title is Weezer (White Album). It’s under the 90’s umbrella, and you can’t tell me otherwise.” She stands her ground.

“You can joke, but I can’t? That doesn’t seem fair.”

“We’re different. You can always take a joke, even ones at your expense. I wish I could. It’d make all this so much easier.” She lets out a ragged breath.

“No, it’d be a trainwreck.” I move to the middle seat and wrap her in my arms.

“Put your seatbelt on.” She mummers into my chest.

“Can’t. Busy.” I kiss the top of her head.

She takes it upon herself to fasten the car’s lap belt across my hips.

“You proved me wrong, smartypants. It’d be car wreck if you weren’t the way you are.” I draw her to me once again.

“You tried to pull a Jack. Your Rose made room on the door. Remember that.” Her head is on my shoulder.

“If you want to get technical, you pushed me onto my own door.”

“Who cares? You’ll survive. I did my part.”

“What stresses you out most?”

I do my part by letting her vent without trying to put a light-hearted spin on it.

There’s no media ambush at the hotel. We are dropped off at the back entrance and use the service elevator to get to the top floor. Pop and I take separate showers; I rush through mine and go retrieve our little weirdo as soon as possible.

When Grams opens her door, Harper’s in Mom’s arms, barely holding onto consciousness

“Daddy,” Harp whimpers, her arms extended toward me.

“Why is she awake?” I ask Mom, holding Harp to my chest and swaying to rock her to sleep.

She clings to me, clutching my t-shirt with her face buried in my neck.

“Gizmo licked her. I played her songs and tried all the tricks I’ve learned over the years, but I couldn’t get her back down.” Mom whispers.

“They made her stop crying, thank goodness. That little missy has a set of lungs on her.” Grams shuffles past us to get to her bed.

“She was crying?” I struggle to keep my voice down.

“She wasn’t sick, hurt, dirty, or hungry. Wanting your daddy isn’t an emergency.”

“Did she ask for Poppy?”

“She did a couple of times, but she kept going back to you. She hasn’t seen you all day. Your daughter isn’t used to her daddy not being around.” Though quiet, Mom’s pride can be heard.

I kiss the top of Harper’s head; she snuggles closer.

Ma and Grams get goodnight kisses and thank yous.

Harp’s asleep by the time we reach our bedroom. Without me needing to ask, Poppy folds down the covers on my side. I kick off my slip-on shoes and get into bed without letting go of Harper. Once I’ve got her situated comfortably on my chest. Poppy tucks the blankets around us and gives our foreheads kisses.

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