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Blue Plastic Slide

Apparently not sleeping well was becoming a routine. Though, this time, it was probably my fault. Maybe if I’d just spoken up sooner, had called out his name before he disappeared into his room, then maybe I wouldn’t be in this situation. Maybe instead of lying awake in bed the entire night, staring at the ceiling and mentally acting out everything I could have done, I’d be sleeping contently and soundly, knowing that Jaxon and I were finally on the same page.

But then again, maybe this was fate too. Maybe our story wasn’t meant to be that simple. Maybe that whole saying about how nothing worth having ever came easy was actually true.

Deciding that letting fate decide what happened next was the best way to keep my sanity, I drifted off into a fitful rest, waking before the sun began to peek through my curtains. It wasn’t as though I was actually going to be able to rest anymore, so I pushed back the covers and found other ways to keep myself busy.

I started with unpacking and repacking my suitcase, folding the clothes carefully and pristinely positioning them so that they wouldn’t get crushed. Then I did five hundred crunches and stood under the stream in the shower until the water ran cold and changed my outfit six times before I was finally standing outside Jaxon’s hotel room door.

But I couldn’t bring myself to knock just yet. So instead I stared at the convex lens of the peephole and imagined every possible way my first interaction with Jaxon after he’d declared having feelings for me would go. If the last time we’d been in a similar-ish situation was any indication, he would pretend everything was completely normal.

Which meant the ball was in my court. He had put all of his feelings out in the open and I’d stood there gaping after him, so it was time for me to grow some guts and return the favor. I just had to pick the right moment.

Shaking out my limbs, I inhaled and exhaled deeply before knocking on the door. It swung open about thirty seconds later to reveal Jaxon, who smiled easily.

“Hey! You’re early!” he grinned, gesturing for me to enter. I was only fifteen minutes early, which was actually impressive, considering I’d spent the last hour switching between every single one of my social media platforms, only to find that nothing had changed since I’d last checked it five minutes before. “I’m kind of glad, though. I should probably leave a little earlier and figure out what it is I’m actually doing today.”

He was meeting Natalia for a daytime date. Considering that last night they’d been papped leaving New York’s hottest restaurant, my guess is they were due for a stroll through Central Park, complete with handholding and heart eyes. I really needed to work on keeping my internal monologue from sounding so bitter.

“I’ve been up for a while,” I replied, ignoring what he’d said about his plans for the day as I followed him towards the kitchen and slipped into the chair beside Audra, pressing a kiss to the top of her head before continuing. “I didn’t sleep well last night.”

It wasn’t exactly a grand proclamation, but I needed to gain some momentum before I got to the grand finale. Still, he seemed to be reading between the lines, because his expression softened as he moved his empty plate from the table towards the sink, and he whispered, “Well, hopefully tonight will be better.”

That was vague and cryptic, but this definitely wasn’t the right moment to elaborate, so I changed the subject. “Hopefully. So, I was wondering, since we’re in New York, would it be okay if I took the twins out to see Shreya? There’s a park in her neighborhood they would love and I bet the paparazzi don’t even know about it.”

I knew his first concern about me taking the twins somewhere new was that they’d be vulnerable to mobs of people with cameras, so I made sure to quell those fears right away. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn’t even ask, but I was in desperate need of some sisterly advice and I knew Shreya would love the kids.

“Sounds great,” Jaxon shrugged, reaching over to pick up Finn and Audra’s now empty plates. He was extremely nonchalant about a situation which would normally freak him out. Maybe he felt guilty for unloading so suddenly on me last night. “Text me the address so I know where you guys are in case anything happens.”

“For sure,” I nodded, finding his casual attitude strange, but deciding not to question it.

Placing the plates in the sink and running some water over them, he turned his head over his shoulder to talk to me. “I should probably get going.”

“Where are you taking Natalia?” I asked, not wanting to be nosy, but actually very curious if he’d come up with a plan in the last five minutes.

“I haven’t figured that out yet,” he admitted, shutting off the faucet and turning to face me, his expression hopefully. “Suggestions?”

For a moment, I debated suggesting a place which would surely lead to the demise of their relationship, but decided that I needed to be mature, so I said, “Somewhere quiet and not too crowded.”

“Helpful,” he laughed.

“It’s the best I got,” I shrugged, not wanting to put in the effort of actually being useful. Plus, I was pretty sure that being helpful would cause me to get the heart version of a migraine. “Have fun.”

Shaking his head, he pushed himself off the kitchen counter and stepped forward to kiss his kids goodbye. “You too. Bye sweeties.”

The twins sang out a chorus of goodbyes as Jaxon gathered his wallet and headed for the door and it wasn’t until he had stepped into the hallway and closed the door behind him that I started breathing normally again. I really needed my big sister.

Which was why I felt infinitely more relaxed a few hours later, sitting on a park bench beside Shreya and watching the twins play in the sandbox after feeding them lunch at our favorite diner. It was like all of my problems had melted away as I stretched my legs out to my front and soaked in the sun. Who knew all it would take was a cheeseburger, a chocolate shake, and my sister’s tightest hug?

“So, really, how’s it going?” she asked, twisting her torso to face me on the bench.

I wasn’t entirely sure how to answer that. This was Shreya, which meant she would see right through me if I told her everything was fine. So I told her the really vague truth. “Let’s just say you were right when you told me that it wasn’t going to be what I thought it would be.”

“I’m often right,” she reminded me with a soft laugh, “you just never listen.”

She had a point. “In this case, though, I don’t think me being wrong was a bad thing.”

“No?” she tilted her head to the side.

“No,” I shrugged. “I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever understand the world of celebrities, but I do have a newfound appreciation for them. The twins are three and they face so much stress on a daily basis at it doesn’t faze them at all.”

It was all pretty incredible. Their lives were as far from normal as they could possibly be, yet they were constantly bright and peppy. Of course, they had their bad days, because they were children, but they could easily have been the brattiest three year olds at the planet. Instead, they were extremely down to earth.

“So they’re not driving you crazy yet?” Shreya mused.

“They have their moments,” I admitted, “But for the most part, they’re angels.”

“So despite being raised in such unconventional circumstances, they’re great kids,” she came to the same conclusion as me, “That means they’re the product of good parenting.”

“Definitely,” I replied immediately, “Jaxon doubts himself so much because he’s doing it on his own, but he’s such an amazing father.”

I was overcome with glimpses of memories, of bowls full of ice cream and loosened ties and Jaxon confiding in me all of his insecurities about parenthood before leaning in and forever changing the dynamic of our entire relationship. He still doubted himself, I could tell, and it was such a shame. I just wished he could see how amazing he was from my point of view.

“He’s not doing it on his own anymore.”

Shreya’s soft words caught me off guard and it took me a moment to realize the implication. I shook my head and reminded her, “I’m not their mother. I’m their nanny.”

“That doesn’t mean that you don’t care about them the way a mother would,” she pointed out, looking at me knowingly. Because of course she could tell that I already felt like I was a part of their family.

“I guess,” I sighed, turning my gaze back to twins, “It’s gonna be hard when this is over.”

She sounded surprised when she spoke. “Over?”

“I can’t be their nanny forever, Shrey,” I replied, glancing at her quickly, but unable to hold her gaze for too long. “That wasn’t the plan.”

To be honest, I didn’t even know what the plan was anymore. After the derailing of my post grad school dreams, I’d told myself that I’d take a break and use the job as a nanny to figure out what the hell I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Instead, I’d become completely wrapped up in the job and the people and forgotten about everything else.

“Plans change,” Shreya said simply.

I furrowed my brow in confusion as I turned my head to face her. “Since when are you so on board with this? You weren’t exactly jumping for joy when I took this job.”

She was the one who had the rational questions about my qualifications for being a nanny.

“I know,” she shrugged. “But it’s been a long time since you’ve been this happy. Now I’m just trying to figure out if the source of that happiness is the twins or their father.”

A smile had started to stretch my lips, until she completed her statement and my expression went blank and I felt my heartbeat pick up a little within my chest. And here I thought I was hiding it so well. “What?”

“You like him” Shreya grinned, “A lot. I can tell.”

I briefly thought about completely denying it before realizing that I wouldn’t be able to bullshit Shreya and let out a soft, frustrated sigh. “I more than like him. I’m falling for him.”

She blinked a couple times in surprise. “Oh, shit.”

“Tell me about it,” I groaned, leaning back against the bench. I’d been screwed since day one, I just hadn’t been willing to admit it.

“Does he know?”

I shook my head. I could have answered that question so differently if I hadn’t lost my ability to speak last night. “I don’t think so.”

“And you have no idea how he feels about you?” she prodded.

“Well…,” I crinkled my nose, glad we were getting to the part of my life I needed help with, “last night, he said something…he said he feels a spark between us.”

“A spark?” she repeated, unsure what to make of the word, “What does that mean?”

“I don’t know,” I replied bluntly. “We didn’t talk about it. He walked away before I could respond.”

She winced apologetically. “Well, you guys should probably talk about it at some point.”

“I know,” I said. “I’m just waiting for the right moment to bring it up.”

“Don’t wait too long,” she warned, “or the moment will have passed.”

That’s exactly what I was afraid of. I’d only known Jaxon a few months, but I felt like we’d been playing this game forever, that one of us – usually him – would do something to progress our relationship in a new direction and then the other one of us – usually me – wouldn’t respond quick enough and by the time I finally got up the nerve to say something, he’d already rationalized his way out of it. I didn’t want that to happen this time too. I didn’t want to tell him that I felt the sparks as well, only to have him tell me that he regretted saying anything in the first place.

But the pessimist in me overshadowed the romantic.

“Well, considering he’s currently on a date with a supermodel, I’d say the moment has already passed,” I muttered, that damn bitterness returning.

“Oh,” Shreya said quietly, and I could tell she was trying to find the situation’s silver lining. She succeeded. “Well, I guess you never know. It might still be worth bringing up. Especially if you don’t think your feelings are going to change anytime soon.”

“I don’t.”

I said that with so much confidence, but the truth was that I had no idea how I’d feel a year from now. I just knew that I felt something for Jaxon and that it grew stronger every day and that I couldn’t see it going away any time soon.

“Then go for it,” Shreya smiled softly, reaching out to squeeze my hand encouragingly.

I smiled back, feeling renewed and refreshed, just as I’d hoped, but was kept from thanking her for her existence by the buzzing of my phone. Digging it out of my purse, I narrowed my gaze in concentration as I read the text message from Jaxon on the screen.

Flight changed to nonstop to Seattle. Now leaving at 6. Meet at airport at 4:30. I’ll bring the bags, you bring the kids.

“Everything alright?” Shreya asked, sounding concerned.

“It’s from Jaxon,” I explained breezily, not wanting her to worry, “Change of plans, we’re flying straight to Seattle.”

It wasn’t really that much of a shakeup. Our flights changed all the time, depending on new interview bookings or shows ending later than expected. But Shreya could tell that wasn’t why I was suddenly more on edge.

“Seattle, huh?” she said, “Are you going to…”

She didn’t have to finish her question for me to know what she was going to ask. She was wondering if I was going to visit my father while I was there. I told her the truth. “I don’t know.”

“Maybe you should,” she suggested.

“Why?” I asked, genuinely curious, because it wasn’t as though she and our father had a close relationship. “You haven’t.”

“Yeah, but I haven’t been to the west coast in years,” she pointed out. “You’ll be there, in the same city.” I wasn’t sure that was a good enough reason to pay him a visit and she could sense my hesitation, so she squeezed my hand again. “Look, Divs, maybe this rift has been dragged out for too long. Maybe someone needs to make the first move. And you know it won’t be him.”

I did know that. The fact that our father had yet to call either of us, wondering why we hadn’t been home in years was enough of an indication that he actually didn’t care. And if he didn’t care, why should I?

But I didn’t want to leave Shreya with any tension between us, so I sighed and said, “I’ll think about it.”

“Good girl,” she grinned, leaning in to wrap her arms around my shoulders and pull me sideways into her chest for a hug.

I lay my head against her shoulder and enjoyed the safeness of her embrace, not at all looking forward to the many life shifting conversations coming up in my not so distant future.

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