His Burden

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Chapter Thirty-Three

Before we knew it, Saturday had rolled around and everything was in place for this evening’s party, myself included. Covered in a red, floor-length dress, I felt much like Leila did whenever she put on one of her princess dresses. Its silk material pressed against my skin in cooling motions and pooled to the carpet where–sat on the end of each foot–were two silver heels, high enough to give me a few added inches. Spencer looked nothing short of magnificent in his navy blue suit and red tie (matching, of course). With his hair precisely waxed into light waves and a jaw full of stubble, I found keeping my hands off of him near enough impossible. The very definition of sexy, he both looked and smelled good.

“You’re so beautiful, baby,” he smiled, approaching from behind.

He whispered light kisses along my bare shoulder and up my neck, finishing promptly on my cheek. He was feeling my beauty.

“So are you,” I replied, turning in my stance to straighten his tie. “I’m wearing the earrings you bought me for Christmas,” I added, positioning his hands on said piece of jewellery so he could feel.

He shot me a smile. “I love that,” he shared, kissing me lightly on the nose. “I love you.”

Before I could reply, the doorbell chimed, signalling Leila’s prompt arrival.

“The princess is here.” I smiled, grabbing my clutch and applying enough perfume to trigger an asthma attack.

Having decided to spend the weekend at Spencer’s, I had moved a few of my essentials in. Not that I needed much. Whenever Leila was absent, Spencer and I would spend majority of our time together in bed where clothing was not needed, nor welcome.

Bloody sex-addicts!

“I’ll go let them in,” he ensured, parting ways to greet his daughter and Angela.

I evaluated my appearance in the mirror one last time and texted Sam, who was due to meet us at the venue with Dad, Bethany and Karen. Scott and Rosalie were making their own way there, as were Calvin, Lucy and Teddy. Catherine and James were carpooling with us, seeing as they lived nearby.

Leila was sleeping over and if her ever joyful shrieks from downstairs were anything to go by, I’d say she was ready to party the night away. I was desperate to see her smiling face and whatever wonderful concoction she was wearing, so made my way downstairs, stopping dead in my tracks when I came face-to-face with her entirety. Her hair had been professionally styled and looked similar to my own up-do, only hers was far better executed than my half-arsed attempt. Light make up had been applied to her grinning face and rocking the red look we were both seemingly going for this evening, she looked like a mini version of myself.

“My goodness, Leila. You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen!” I cried, truly meaning it.

“REALLY?” She gasped, giving me a small twirl.

Spencer laughed from my right and picked her up, careful as to not ruin her hair.

“You’re growing up too fast, bambina. I want you to be my little girl forever,” he expressed, kissing her cherry coloured lips.

“I can be you’re big girl,” she compromised, before turning her cheeky grin towards me. “Besides, you and Jess will have another baby soon and another and another and…”

“We get it.” Spencer’s amusement echoed all around us.

“Angela, before you go can you please take a picture of us?” questioned Leila, polite as ever.

Angela took my phone and obliged, no questions asked. No one dared deny Leila of a request, too scared to witness that hidden temper she had tucked away for special occasions. She was her father’s daughter and together, they had the potential to destroy planets with their arguing.

“Smile!” she instructed, capturing the image shortly after.

Leila was in between Spencer and me but rather than looking at the camera, she chose to stare up at her dad. He rested his arm around my waist and used the other to touch her shoulder, linking us all as one. We looked happy. Excited. We looked like a family.

“Enjoy the party!” grinned Angela, waving us off. “I’ll be back at one O’clock tomorrow to pick her up.”

“Brilliant. Thanks,” replied Spencer, carefully shutting the door.

Inside, Leila proceeded to talk none stop about the party and expressed extreme giddiness towards the apparent chocolate fountain that would be there. According to her, Scott had told her about it and although I knew nothing of the sort, I wasn’t prepared to burst her bubble.

“Have you read my card yet, Jess?” she asked, confusing me for a moment.

“Card?”

“The one I made you.”

Her face fell as it became clear I hadn’t.

“Oh, I haven’t sweetheart. I was hoping to open it in front of you. Shall I do it now?” I smiled, dodging a bullet.

Her enthusiastic nod was all the assurance I needed that all was forgiven. Truth be told, I had forgotten all about her thoughtful gesture and felt extremely guilty for having done so. I’d been too upset to open it back when she first gave it to me and even now, Mum’s death was still so fresh. But Leila had clearly put a lot of effort into this and I wanted her to know how much I appreciated her kindness.

“Here it is.” I smiled, retrieving it from Spencer’s bookshelf.

“I hope you like it,” expressed Leila. “ Mummy helped me make it. I used my favourite glitter pen.

“Oh wow! Aren’t I lucky?” I gushed, exaggerating my point.

Carefully, I prized open her makeshift enveloped and halted all motions when huge arms engulfed me from behind.

“I think our Leila’s look is almost perfect, don’t you?” asked Spencer, teasingly so.

“ALMOST?” she shrieked, outraged that her dad would think she was anything but perfect.

“Yes, bambina. I think it’s missing something.”

He threw me a subtle smirk and reached into his suit pocket, pulling out a small velvet box afterwards.

“This might help?”

“Is that for me?” asked Leila, sweet like honey.

“It is. You’ve been amazing these last few months. So grown up and understanding.”

Her lip trembled ever so slightly but she managed to hold onto her emotions, no doubt too afraid to ruin her make up with the sudden appearance of tears. Instead, she sucked in a big breath and took the small box for Spencer’s hand, inspecting it thoroughly. There, he crouched down in front of her, trying to gauge her reaction.

“Can you see me, Daddy?”

So sweet!

“Yes. Open it up. I can see you,” he ensured, kissing her lightly on the head.

Leila tore into the box, opening the lid like the dignified person she wasn’t.

“Oh wow! Oh wow!” she cried, completely overwhelmed. “Daddy, I love it!”

She held up a beautiful necklace; the pendent a shape of a crown.

“It’s gorgeous,” I smiled, joining Spencer on the ground with the card still situated in my hand.

“It’s perfect for my princess,” he smiled, reaching over to claps it around her neck.

The action was a little clumsy and took longer than usual but I didn’t dare interfere. Watching them was always a favourite of mine. Their ability to problem-solve was always a delight to see and never ceased to amaze me.

“I have one for Jessica too,” he prompted, pulling a slightly bigger box from his other pocket.

I momentarily placed the card on the floor in front of me and took the box from his outstretched hand. Inside was a similar necklace to Leila’s, only mine was a little bigger with different colour stones.

“For my queen.”

I offered him a kiss, conveying my gratification through the use of movement.

“Daddy, if I’m your princess and Jess is your queen, does that make you our king?” giggled Leila, instructing me to turn around as she helped the piece of jewellery onto my neck.

It matched the earrings perfectly.

“I think it does,” replied Spencer, pulling us both in for a quick hug. “With you two around, I feel like royalty.”

At this, Leila laughed and gifted her dad a huge kiss. She then turned and repeated the action of me, completely melting my heart.

“Can you open the card now?” she asked, hopeful in her enquiry.

“Of course,” I smiled, retrieving the half opened envelope.

Spencer moved from his position to straighten out the creases on his dress trousers and did so rather successfully. Leila copied his actions and took to running her hands along the smooth of her skirt, though hers failed to disappear. Not that it mattered. The frill of her dress hid it well.

Instead of worrying about it, I slid the homemade card from its sleeve and smiled at the picture of what looked to be myself and Leila holding hands. Underneath our stick-men figures were the words, ’SORRY FOR YOUR LOSS!’ in the prettiest glitter I had ever seen. Everything was spelled correctly and I could only assume Isy’s involvement was to thank for that. Her handwriting was neat for a six-year-old’s and I was extremely impressed by her ability to colour within the lines. At the bottom, I noticed a ginger cat curled up on the sofa with a stick man stood beside him. Spencer, I assumed. I opened the card to read the message inside and triggered a yellow post-it-note to flutter to the floor. I suspected it was some sort of Leila inspired trick and took it from where it landed, face-down on the carpet. I regarded it carefully and flipped it around, astonished by what I was met with in return. For a moment, I couldn’t register its meaning but it didn’t take long for the words to finally sink in.

Help me,

Isabelle.

I felt suddenly sick with fear and could no longer process the rest of Leila’s sweet card. She kept talking about how her mother had helped and at the time, it had seemed so irrelevant. This was an obvious cry for help. Isy clearly had no other choice with regards to reaching out and no doubt took this as her only opportunity. What made things worse was that I had been holding this card captive for well over two weeks now. That was a long time for someone in her position. Too long. Did she think I had seen her note and decided against immediate action? The poor thing likely felt more alone than ever and had I just read the card when I was supposed to…

“Do you like it?”

Leila’s enquiry shocked me into hiding the piece of paper behind my back. I didn’t want her innocent eyes seeing this type of note. She was smart for her age and would no doubt suspect something was up. I couldn’t even tell Spencer. I needed him alone and tonight, that simply wasn’t an option.

“I love it!” I replied, attempting to look calm.

Internally, I was screaming.

“That’s good. I’ll tell Mummy when I next see her. She kept asking if you’d read it.”

Fuck!

“It’s very thoughtful of you both,” I smiled, looking over to Spencer to find him distracted with Gatto.

I attempted to straighten myself back to a standing position and upon doing so, felt the aggressive vibration of my phone through my clutch. I pulled it from my bag and unlocked the screen, stuffing the post-it note into my purse as I went. I felt shaky on both legs and found I needed the sofa’s back for support. Adrenaline pumped through my veins as I tried to think of a solution but drew a blank as my eyes zeroed in on the text message I had just received from Roger. The world around me started to spin with no regard for my mental wellbeing whatsoever. My heart stopped. My breathing stopped. My rationality, non-existent.

ROGER: I’ve found him. We need to talk ASAP.

TO BE CONTINUED…

IN BOOK THREE!!


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