Sum of Us

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Ch.8: Rhys

There’s nothing more incredible than holding the person I helped create. She wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for me.

This is crazy. Amazing, but crazy.

A melody begins to take shape in my mind. I hum it softly to see if I like it in reality as much as I do in my head. I rub Harper’s back and watch her sleep. She sighs and snuggles closer.

My phone’s vibration interrupts my absolute bliss. I manage to remove it from pocket it without waking her. It is a text. I reply one-handed.

TAYLOR: Where are you?

ME: Out.

TAYLOR: Location?

ME: Poppy’s

TAYLOR: Breakfast went well?

I peer down at Harper.

ME: It’s complicated.

TAYLOR: Figured. Do you plan to keep in touch?

ME: Def. Want her on tour.

TAYLOR: No.

ME: It’s not up to you

TAYLOR: I get a say. I can’t go through your heartbreak again. I’ll die.

ME: I can’t leave her.

TAYLOR: It’s really simple. Zip up your pants and put one foot in front of the other.

I send him the picture I took of Harper’s photograph. I made it my phone’s background on the way to Target.

He calls moments later. I send it to voicemail, knowing the voicemail to text transcript will be a real treat littered with profanity.

Why the fuck does that kid look like us? It sure as fuck isn’t mine and it better not be yours. You better not fucking tell me you got Poppy pregnant and are choosing this moment to be a fucking father. Answer your phone, asshole, or I’m hunting you down and punching you in the fucking face. You have five fucking minutes.

ME: Good luck

TAYLOR: I’m not fucking kidding. Try me

ME: Am I supposed to be afraid of you?

He replies with Poppy’s address.

ME: Apartment building. 10 floors. Happy hunting

I ran into someone who knew her. They pointed me in the right direction.

I put my phone on silent to give my girl my full attention.

I watch her sleep with fascination. When she’s rested, Harper lifts her hand to her eye and rubs it with the back of her hand. I’m unprepared for the tidal wave that hits me when our eyes meet. She tilts her head to the side, confused, but not afraid.

Maybe she feels the pull too.

“Hello, baby girl, I’m your daddy.”

I’ll be a friend over my dead body.

“Dad-de.” She over-stresses the syllables, seemingly testing the words out for the first time.

Good. She hasn’t been calling anyone else by my name.

“That’s right. I’m all yours.” A tear slips free.

“Daddy sad?” She appears genuinely hurt by the thought.

“No, the opposite. I’m too happy.” I offer her a smile as I wipe my cheek.

“Fuzzy.” Harper puts her tiny hands on my face and rubs my facial hair like a genie’s lamp.

I can’t help but laugh at her short attention span. “Yeah, I’m pretty fuzzy. You have a lot of hair too.” I ruffle her hair. “Like a lion.”

“ROAR!”

“ROAR!” I make a claw with my hand.

Harper squeals and squirms when I use it to tickle her tummy. I stop tickling to allow her to breathe. I tuck her hair behind her ear, not wanting it to shield even a centimeter of her beautiful face.

“Good afternoon, Lovebug. Did you have a good nap?” Poppy sits on the edge of the bed.

“Mama, Daddy.” She introduces us, putting her hand on my chest to make sure Poppy knows who she is referring to.

“He is your daddy. I heard you two having fun.”

“He fuzzy.” Harper giggles.

“He is fuzzy.”

“ROAR!” Harper says next.

“Oh, and the two of you are lions. I heard that too.” Poppy smiles at her.

“Amnimal cawkers.” Harper shimmies out of my arms to get on the floor.

“And milk?”

Harper nods. “Yes, pweeze. I help.”

“I would love your help. Let’s go to the kitchen.”

“Go, Daddy.” Harper tugs on my hand.

She wants me. She actually wants me.

“It’s snack time.” I pick her up to carry her to the kitchen.

She entertains herself during the walk by petting my face.

I guess shaving is out of the question.

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