XLVII. I want Daddy
There is no time to lose.
I need to get a job.
My fingers furiously typed on the keyboards to fill in any application I can find. I don’t care where it is or what position, as long as they hire me.
After I completed the unemployment application, my supervisor approved it immediately, and I got accepted. Even though I have six months to get a new job, I won’t sit around and allow this weakness to be brought up in court.
I still cannot believe he had the right to fight me for my children.
The man never even met Crystal and Dustin.
I could feel a slight tug on my shirt, and when I look down, Crystal had her fist pin at me. “Partners in crime,” she hisses. She likes to remind me that I’m unemployed, just like how she was kicked out of school. They’re not the same thing, but I’m too tired to explain it to her.
I bump her fist.
She gave me a large grin.
“Don’t you have school to attend?”
Crystal’s smile drops, “The teacher gave me a five minutes break.” Jackson found a licensed teacher who used to be Abby’s tutor for Crystal, but she’s from the East Coast. So, they’re doing online classes.
“How’s it going?”
“She said I’m intelligent.” Crystal stuck her nose in the air.
I punch her nose, “Yes. The smartest. The sassiest.”
“The cutest.” She presents her face with her hands, “Right, Jackson?” She turns her head to the man across from me.
Jackson looks up from his laptop and smiles, “Definitely.” I’m not even sure if he heard what Crystal says. Usually, he agrees with whatever she asks.
Crystal snickers, “You look like a nerd.” She climbed up a chair and poked Jackson’s glasses, “Nerd.”
“Crystal. What did I say about teasing Jackson about his glasses?”
Crystal tightens her lips, “Sorry.” She got off the chair, “I got class! Lecture me later!” She made her escape.
I turn my attention back towards Jackson.
“What?” He asks.
“Nothing. Nothing.” I look at the screen in front of me, “Nerd.”
“I heard that.” We turn our sight to see Crystal’s head popping out from the door. She rushes towards the table and grabs the pencil. When she looks at Jackson, she snickers and whispers: “Four eyes.” Then, she made her quick escape.
Jackson takes off his glasses, “You ask me why I don’t wear my glasses, and this is why.”
A few days, I saw Jackson’s glasses and asked him why he doesn’t wear them when he’s far-sighted. He didn’t respond and only shrugged. Now that he wears them, all Crystal and I do is make fun of him. We should stop.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” I know there’s a smile on my face, “We’ll try our best to stop calling you nerd, four eyes, poindexter, Harry Potter, glass clown, window face-”
“You enjoy this a bit too much.”
Dustin walks towards Jackson and tugs against his pants, “Up!”
Jackson lifts him onto his lap, “What’s up, little dude?”
Dustin grabs Jackson’s glasses and puts them on. I held a hand over my mouth to hold back the laughter that desperately wants to erupt. He looks way too cute in glasses! We watch as he stands between Jackson’s legs and starts typing on the laptop. Immediately, Jackson lifts him, “Woah. Woah. Woah! I appreciate the help, but I don’t think the other company will like it very much.”
Dustin reaches for Jackson’s laptop, “I help! I help!” Most likely, he saw how everyone is on their laptops, so now he wants to copy.
Jackson places Dustin on the ground and shuffles through his bag. “Here.” He pulls out a tablet, “Help me rearrange my apps.” He hands the tablet to Dustin.
Dustin smiles widely before he jumps to the living room. He fell, and the tablet slide across the room, but then he got himself back up and grabbed the device.
“You’re giving a two years old a tablet?”
“It’s my spare. I don’t use it that much anymore.”
“Yes. That is a good reason to give a two years old a tablet.”
“He just wants to help Piper. I mean, look at him.” We turn our heads towards the little boy, who seems a bit too concentrated on the tablet.
I got off the chair and tiptoed my way towards him. I squat down and look over his shoulder to see a calculator. His small finger would constantly punch in numbers and symbols. Dustin’s light chuckles made it’s way around the room when he pressed the equal sign.
I stand up and walk back to the table.
“What is he doing?” Jackson asks.
“Playing with the calculator.”
Jackson’s face scrunches up, “What? Why- oh.”
“I don’t have games on my tablet.”
“Leave it.” I choose the calculator over mindless games.
While we continue our own business, we would hear Dustin’s small laughter on the way. After half an hour of self-entertainment, Dustin grabbed the tablet and ran towards Jackson. Jackson takes off his glasses and leans towards him, “What is it, little dude?”
I stop clicking on the mouse.
Dustin shows him the tablet.
“Oh.” Jackson nods, “You’re doing math. Nice.” Jackson messes up his hair.
Dustin laughs and rushes towards me. He shows me the screen. “Math. Yay!” I fake enthusiasm.
Dustin laughs again and looks around the room. He rushes towards the baby gate, “Crystal! Crystal!”
I placed a hand over my heart and held back the urge to cry.
He wants to show his big sister how he did math.
“I’m in class!” Crystal shouts from upstairs.
I can see the future already.
Dustin, with his head hung low, turned around. He squeezed the tablet firmly in his arms and pouted.
“Come here,” Jackson said. “You can show me how you did it.”
Dustin smiled wildly and rushed towards Jackson. Jackson scoops him up onto his lap. Dustin pressed his finger against the screen.
“One plus one equals two,” Jackson said.
After a few seconds, Dustin burst out laughing.
I have no idea what he finds so funny, but I wouldn’t want to rain on his parade.
My focus shifts back onto the screen, but whenever I hear Jackson number whispering or Dustin’s laughter, I know there is a smile on my face.
One day passes.
I couldn’t help but continue to count down on the days until court day again.
Apparently, the first day was merely an introduction to the case day.
“How’s job hunting?” Jackson asks. He’s on the couch with his laptop on his lap. Dustin nibbles at his feet, and Crystal was playing with his hair. I think he’s immune to them.
“Pretty. Pretty. Pretty,” Crystal sing to herself.
“Exhausting.” I forgot the joy of job hunting. I grab Dustin from Jackson’s feet.
“Was he there the whole time?” Jackson asks. With the dark bags underneath his eyes, I can tell he hasn’t slept well at night.
“Stop nibbling Jackson’s feet. You have your chewie.” I grab the first chewie I saw and gave it to him. Dustin investigated the chewie before he shoves it in his mouth - he’s teething.
“Jackson,” I heard Crystal sang. When I look up, Jackson was fast asleep on the couch. She looks at me, “I think he’s taking a nap.”
Crystal grins, “May I put make-”
Crystal pout, “Mean.” She climbs onto the couch.
“What are you doing?” I laid my head against the palm of my hand. A little nap sounds good right now.
“Nap time.” She grabs the blanket at the end of the couch and lays it on Jackson. Then, she crawled underneath the blanket and cuddled close to him.
In less than five minutes, Crystal’s soul left her body and went to dreamland.
Dustin’s chewie drop on my body. “Do you want to nap?”
“I didn’t think so.” I lift him, “Let’s go take a walk in the park.” Maybe a walk would tire him out, and I could take a nap with everyone else.
When I finish prepping Dustin with sunscreen and a hat, I made my way back into the living room. I grab the fallen blanket and put it over their bodies.
After I set the blanket down, I stared at them. My sight went from Jackson to Crystal, then back to him. Both of them had their mouths wide open, and anyone can tell they’re in a deep sleep.
I chuckled slightly when I heard a sudden snorting sound from both of them.
My eyes pin a tiny mole on the back of Jackson’s right ear. I never knew he had a mole back there. Then again, who would look at someone’s back ear?
When Dustin tugs my pants, it was a signal for me to leave.
I roll the stroller down the park to see it filled with people. Some were in the field with their pets, while others are chatting on the bench with their children on the playground.
When we reach a brown bench, I sat down. There’s something comforting about sitting in a familiar place on a warm sunny day. When I pushed the hood up, Dustin’s face appeared. He nibbled on his chewie as his enlarged eyes went around the park.
“Do you want to go play?” I ask.
Dustin smiled widely and nodded, “Yes! Yes!” His body pushes towards the playground.
I unbuckle him, and together, we walk towards the playground. My phone was tucked in my back pocket, and my eyes were focused only on him. I allow him to have his independence, but I would always be there to catch him if he falls.
I held him over my shoulders when he went on the monkey bars.
I push him on the swings.
I support him down the slide.
“Who-hoo!” A person shouts. We turn our heads towards the sound to see a father-son duo in the field.
The son threw the football down and danced, “Yeah!”
The father lifted him and threw him, “That’s my boy!” He hugs him firmly.
My sight went back towards Dustin, who stared at them. I scoop him up, “Come on. Let’s go again on the slide.”
“Daddy.” Dustin pout, “Daddy.” He fought his way out of my arms.
I watch as he rushed towards the stroller and attempted to climb in.
“Hey.” I went on my knees, “Where are you going?”
“Home. Home. I want daddy.”
Dustin’s eyes watered, “Daddy. I want...daddy.”
I wiped the tears from his plump cheeks. “Baby. Daddy-”
When I look at Dustin, the words won’t come out. I should tell him. Tell him the truth before this fantasy goes any further.
I should tell him, Jackson isn’t his dad.
His dad isn’t here.
And if somehow he understands and asked where his dad is.
I’ll say his dad is...
His dad is...
“My.” That voice. “What’s going on here?”