Sum of Us

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Ch.7: Poppy

My nap is brought to an end by someone pounding on my door. I carefully shift Harper, who is laying on my chest, to the bed. The knocking grows more persistent.

I answer the door after a quick glance through the peephole.

“What are you –why are you here?” My breath is in my throat as Rhys stands before me.

“I need to see her.”

“What’s all this?” I gesture to the dozen or so Target bags at his feet.

“I’m going to give our little girl the world. This is what I could do on such short notice.”

“You want her?” My eyes shimmer with moisture.

“Of course I do. She’s ours.” He appears to overcome with emotion too.

Breaking eye contact is a necessity. “You left the table and were gone for over an hour.”

“I needed to clear my head. I called you a million times. Why didn’t you answer?” He has the nerve to sound irritated.

“How was I supposed to know you'd come back?”

“My coat was there. You still could’ve answered your phone. You said you would in your letter, that I always have access to Harper.”

“My phone’s in her diaper bag; it’s hard to hear when it’s lost in her sea of stuff. I put it on vibrate before our chat. Switching it back to normal slipped my mind. Getting Harp home in time for her nap took precedence. I decided to rest too. I didn’t block or ignore you.” I defend myself.

“Oh,” His tense body relaxes. “I’m here to see her. Is she still asleep?” He tries to peek around me.

“Yes, her naps usually last an hour. I’m not going to prevent you from seeing her, but I’d prefer to introduce you as a friend. It’ll give you an out if you change your mind.”

“I refuse to be anything but her dad.” Rhys rebuts with passion. His eyes -- her eyes -- convey nothing but sincerity.

I step aside, granting Rhys full access to Harper and my apartment.

He collects as many bags from the floor as he can. I take care of the rest.

All that he is carrying falls to the ground when the couch comes into view. In a trance-like state, he walks to the bed. With shaky hands, he pushes her hair out of her face. She wrinkles her nose but otherwise does not stir. Her cute expression brings a smile to his face. He trails the back of his index finger down her cheek with tender reverence.

“She’s perfect.” His voice cracks.

“Yeah,” I whisper past the lump in my throat.

“May I hold her?”

“Lay down. I’ll put her on your chest.”

Harper is a limp noodle in my arms when I collect her from my twin-sized bed. Rhys does as I say. I position her so that they are chest to chest. She nuzzles her face into his neck to get comfortable, just as she does when she is with me -- only me.

Rhys hugs her close and kisses the top of her head. “I love you.” He mummers in her hair before giving her another kiss.

He means it. It’s written all over his face.

I take the blanket that I had draped over Harper and I as we napped, and put it over her and Rhys.

Feeling like I am intruding on something sacred, I busy myself by unpacking what he bought for her.

I am floored by his selections. Without meeting her, he managed to pick out all of her favorite things.

She not only looks like Rhys, but she acts like him too --playful, outgoing, and creative. She’s her daddy’s daughter through and through.

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