Millie or Lily?

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The lens of the camera could be a magical thing. It shone the spotlight of life on someone else allowing me to hide in the shadows to heal. She was never far from my thoughts. My little girl. My Clarity. Tossing a basketball up in the air I caught it with ease.

All I had of her were the infrequent photographs that his mother dropped off every time they came by to squeeze me for more money. I had been squeezed out of her life before I even knew what was happening. She called my brother ‘Daddy’ and according to the lawyer I had spoken to I didn’t have a legal leg to stand on. My name wasn’t on Clarity’s birth certificate. Looking at the last one I had been sent on my phone. I couldn’t help but smile. She might be the only good thing that happened out of those years. Graduating High School had been hard enough.

Clicking heels across the basket ball court from behind me caught my attention. Bloody Norah always catching me in my rare good moments. ‘What do you want Norah?’ I was tired of her constant games. ‘How did you know it was me?’ She asked quietly. ‘Campus is quiet when school’s out.’ I repeated my question without turning around, ‘What do you want?’ We had never had great communication. She was a bottle blond who had started hanging around every time Jed and I worked on the old Charger together.

‘Money.’ Her voice was hard and flat. ‘You have Jed for money.’ I tossed the ball at the hoop before facing her, ‘Does my forehead have a sign reading ATM?’ Her eyes flicked over my outfit before she shrugged one shoulder, ‘What do you want me to do? We’re both working rotation shifts at the club. Making ends meet and making sure Clarity has her needs covered is hard.’ Internally flinching at the slight whine in her voice I shook my head before digging for my last fifty, ‘Got nothing left to give. If you want me to keep contributing you have to give us visitation. I want one weekend a month. I’ll spend it at Dad’s place so she wont be in the dorms.’

Her green eyes were locked on the crumpled note in my fingers. ‘Deal.’ She agreed. Smirking I withdrew the paperwork I carried in my backpack at all times. ‘Sign everywhere there’s an x. Make sure you get them all Norah. All of them or I’ll put the fifty away.’ The price of time with my baby girl. Fifty dollars and a well placed ambush. She used my back as a flat surface. Checking the paperwork I separated the copies and handed her one. ‘There’ll be a copy filed on Monday. Legal. Watertight. Classes don’t start until next month. Plenty of time to squeeze a visit in beforehand.’ Her hands shook as she plucked the money from my fist, ‘Next Friday.’ She agreed, ‘Jed will bring her. Your mother wants to talk to you.’ ‘Not interested.’ Was all I tossed into the silence. Norah nodded before clicking her heels across the court back to wherever the hell she came from.

My mother. The woman who had torn our family apart. Not content to be a professor’s wife and mother she had invested the family savings into a club downtown. A club that had become the place to pick up your choice of party drugs. Yeah I didn’t need to talk to her again. Thunder sounded off in the distance followed by a flash of lightning. A storm was coming.

Making it home before the storm hit, Dad met me in the kitchen. He was stirring his coffee absentmindedly. ‘I got her to sign the papers.’ Grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge I asked, ‘We’ve still got all the baby stuff in the attic don’t we?’ ‘Clarity’s coming here.’ A smile stretched across his face. ‘Next weekend. Friday through to Sunday.’ Gulping down the water I caught the goofy look that crossed his face, ‘Hold that thought Grandpa. We got some work to do setting up the spare room first.’ ‘And baby proofing the house.’ He agreed.

’Toddler proofing.’I corrected him.

A few weeks later…

‘I have a job for you this year.’ Direct as always Dad stood in my doorway watching me shove my clean washing into my duffel bag. I had no problem coming home to do laundry when home was a mere stroll across campus.

‘Will I be paid?’ I asked jokingly. ‘I need you to be serious about this Josh.’ Dad shoved a hand through his already messy silver streaked hair, ‘Please hear me out before responding. I need you to keep an eye on a student teacher. She will be teaching class three nights a week between 10 and 11 in the Creative Arts annex. She’s the youngest student teacher we’ve ever had. She’s a big name.’

My ears perked up, ‘How big of a name?’ Like all photographers dreaming of signing onto a magazine I wanted that one golden money shot. ‘No photos.’ Dad stipulated before chucking my Dr Who shirt across the room at me. ‘Who?’ catching the shirt one handed I waited. ‘Lily la Croix.’

‘Lily la Croix.’ A slow grin spread across my face. The ice princess of the press. Darling of the public. ‘No photos.’ Dad reiterated before adding, ‘She’ll be here in disguise. Millie has exclusive access to the tunnels from Black House.’

She had the biggest single on campus. The last student who had lived in that suite had been royalty from one of the Arabic countries. ‘She’s here to finish her book. Can you please make sure no one bothers her?’ Dad looked exhausted, ‘Her agent has been quite verbal about her security.’

I slung my bag over my shoulder, ‘When should I expect her?’ There was no use arguing with him over something as trivial as making sure the princess got to and from class alright. ‘Tonight.’ Dad grabbed me in a hug before stepping back, ‘See you next weekend for Sunday Dinner?’ I smirked at him, ‘Free food. I’ll let you know who else is coming.’

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