The children were up twice last night. Twice. And although Brandt helped me to try to get them back to sleep, I lived in a daze this morning. I had only been on the road with them for two days and already I hated it. Changing diapers, corralling two crawling kids, and the crying for no reason at all. Not to mention Cole ruined my new shirt by spitting up breast milk on it. Ruined! I wouldn’t be able to get the stain out of it and when I complained to Brandt, he just told me he would buy me a new one. This time I planned on it being more expensive than the first.
What I thought of as an adventure turned into a prison sentence unable to find much time for myself. Chelsea spent most of the day yesterday throwing up and napping while I took the kids out of the RV and walked them around it in their stroller for what felt like an eternity before they would calm down. It had to be far enough from the bus to prevent Chelsea from hearing their cries so she wouldn’t come out and take over for me. Not being around babies much I found I couldn’t do anything right. I couldn’t dress them right, feed them right, and every time they cried, it caused Chelsea to work harder.
Brandt was right too. Chelsea looked like shit. Dark circles formed a half-moon under her dark-rimmed eyes enhancing how pale her skin tone had become. At least ten pounds lighter since the last time I saw her, she appeared tired and listless. Brandt was right about the breastfeeding too. She pumped constantly and the kids were having a hard time weaning. Chelsea was in a difficult position, trapped between wanting to give her unborn child a chance to grow and growing the children outside of the womb too. Here I was in the middle seemingly making it worse. They would have been better off with a nanny.
Both Cole and Veronica were playing down at my feet on a blanket under a tree far enough away from the RV so hopefully Chelsea wouldn’t hear if they started crying. We were sequestered to one end of an RV park and kept away from the other patrons. All the closest campsites were empty. Paid for by an overprotective husband and even after two days, I longed for someone other than a nauseous pregnant lady and two crying children to talk to.
Cole stood up determined to figure out that walking thing and fell over yet again, his little face scrunched up in confusion. Veronica took this time to sneak a handful of grass up to her mouth and try to eat it. Of course, grass looked more appealing to her than the sweet potatoes for lunch she let dribble down her chin. As I went to remove the grass from her mouth, I heard a scream from Cole. He fell off the blanket and onto a rock I didn’t notice on the lawn. Quickly I bent down to remove the grass while simultaneously leaning down to pick up a pissed off Cole with the other hand before he woke his mother from her nap.
That was when I felt something wet trickle down my leg.
Ohshit! I got my period. Five days early but I should have figured it wouldn’t be as spot-on now I stopped taking my birth control pills. Mentally I take a count of what I had at my disposal in my luggage. One tampon and an old sanitary napkin as big as one of the twin’s diapers from years ago I kept in my large purse for ‘just in case’. I thought I would have some time for myself to go shopping before it would start and now I ruined a pair of pants in the meantime. Could this day get any worse?
When a black SUV pulled into the parking area, I knew exactly how this day could get worse. Shaking my head at my luck, Logan took this opportunity to stop by and see how things were going. Brandt must have put him up to this as Big John left this morning to go back to Nevada to be with his wife. His father-in-law passed away and he was gone for a week from the tour. Logan was his back up and didn’t necessarily think I knew what I was doing. I couldn’t disagree with him right now.
When he got out of the vehicle and saw the bawling kids, he shook his head while making the walk towards me, having every right to be disappointed in my skills at child-rearing. I was sure it looked bad with them both crying now. Cole from his catastrophic injury and Ronnie because I wouldn’t let her eat her weight in lawn clippings. Tears flooded my eyes as I fought to will them back. I didn’t want anyone to see me crying, much less Logan. He already didn’t like me for some reason.
“Ah... need some help?”
“No.” It was weak and came out a little less effective than I had hoped.
He ignored me, crouching down by Ronnie. “Come here, baby girl.” Picking her up. Ronnie puffed out her bottom lip but stopped crying. Traitor.
Cole stopped crying too after I picked him up and held him close, giving me a silent victory. I would take all I could get. Thank God he was cute otherwise I would devise ways of tying him to the tree and letting him on his own for five minutes of peace.
“I wouldn’t be so sure of that.” Logan points to Cole’s pants and I look down to see the telltale brown smudge and smell what it all represents.
He looked at me and laughed, “Yep. Got it right on the first try.” I hit my limit and sniffled as tears broke through my unwilling eyes.
“Oh jeez, it isn’t that bad.” A little exasperated he puts Ronnie back on the blanket and grabs the diaper bag. Taking his time opening the wipeable pad down on the blanket, he dug out a clean diaper, another pair of pants, wipes, and ointment as if he was a pro. Once everything was set out on the blanket he motioned for Cole, making sure not to let the brown on Cole’s pants touch anything that wasn’t able to be cleaned off or disposed of.
Logan had an ease with the kids I envied. I wasn’t cut out for children and the last two days strengthened my opinion of the matter. Without looking back at me he asked, “Aren’t you going to change?”
The idea of him seeing my red-stained pants brought me out of my own little pity party. Had it been noticeable? Embarrassment flamed my face as I looked down at my jeans. There was a brown smudge on the front of my pants, but I didn’t see anything red. A silent sigh of relief passed over me.
“Ah... can you watch the twins while I...” Still intent on his task at hand, he didn’t even look back up and nodded. “Thanks. I will be right back.” Before he could turn around and see me bolt to the RV, I made my way over to the entrance opening the door as quietly as possible.
Chelsea was normally a light sleeper, and I was already shocked she didn’t hear the tyrant of crying from just a minute ago. Quietly I made my way over to my suitcase and grabbed a new pair of pants, a change of underwear, and my one and only tampon. Slowly I tiptoed to the small bathroom and stepped inside. Quickly I changed and got myself cleaned up enough to make myself feel human again. While I was in the bathroom I searched in vain for more supplies for my period. Nothing, but I suspected as much. Didn’t Chelsea join the tour when she was already pregnant? Why would she need extra supplies on hand?
Dejected, I rolled up my soiled clothes and placed them in a bag not knowing what to do with them. I should just throw them out, but if I disposed of every soiled item I would have no clothes by the end of the summer. No, I needed to find some time to take them to a laundromat.
Leaving the RV, I walked the distance to where Logan had the kids. Each one looking as though they were angels and not the devil in sheep’s clothing. I sidled up to Logan and said, “Thanks. They have been fussy all day.”
Sweeping up Cole in his arms before another head dive off the blanket he remarked, “What, this? This isn’t fussy.” He picked him up and turned him on his back to blow kisses in his stomach. Cole giggled his cute little baby giggle. The one he wouldn’t give up for me and making me green with jealousy. When Ronnie heard her brother having fun and her kept out of it, she started to whine in that irritating baby way. Logan took it in stride as he lowered himself to the blanket first to give her kisses on her stomach and then return to Cole to do the same, making me feel so ineffectual.
After a long series of baby giggles from both of the twins, he looked back at me, “See. No fussy babies here.” Instead of being relieved, I felt worse about my hand in their immediate rearing. Noticing the disappointment on my face, he added, “You know they are probably just tired. They nap right about now.” Their nap. How could I forget?
Looking at the RV and thinking about their mother resting, I just shook my head, “I probably can’t lay them down right now, and they don’t look like they will fall asleep out here.”
Getting to his feet, he picked up Ronnie first. “Then why don’t you take them for a stroll?” Nodding his head towards the running stroller Brandt bought for the trip, he didn’t realize my hesitation.
“Brandt won’t let me take them out of the vicinity of the parked RV and going around in circles is so boring. He is too protective.” With a frump, I leaned down to pick up Cole.
“He won’t let you go without having security around. Just your luck, I am security.” My eyes lit up with the thought I could actually see another part of the park without getting scolded.
“Really? Do you have time? It doesn’t need to be that long of a walk.”
Carrying Ronnie over to the stroller, he strapped her in, “Sure. I mean Brandt did tell me to come and check on you and see if you needed anything.”
“Wow. Maybe I will get to see other people for once.”
“Hey, what do I look like?” It was my turn to buckle Cole in, but the strap was tangled and it must have been taking too long as Logan pushed my hands aside and took over for me.
Feeling a little embarrassed I realized my mistake in what I said, “Yeah, there is you and Big John of course. Funny how I never see any of the crew. Even when I do, they don’t even come over to talk to me.” He winced slightly as he took the handles of the stroller and started down the worn path.
“That might be more of Brandt’s fault. He kind of warned them about you.”
Confused, I countered, “Warned them? Why?”
He looked at me sheepishly, “He warned them to stay away from you.” When I still didn’t quite understand what he was saying he went on, “Told them if they put a hand on you, they were pretty much out of a job. I guess no one wants the wrath of Brandt upon them.” I slouched down disheartened. Not only was I starved for adult conversation, but anyone over the age of one would suffer job loss and decreased monetary income just to converse with me.
“It is not your fault. I think it was more spurred on from something JJ said about getting to know you better now that he is into older chicks.”
My eyes shot up, “Older chicks? I am 22 years old.”
He shrugged, “He is more into the barely legal type. I think he just said he was interested in you to get a rise out of Brandt anyway.” It sounded harsh even though I knew he didn’t mean it to be.
“Ah... that came out wrong. I didn’t mean he wouldn’t be interested in you. I mean... man. Whatever I say makes me seem like a chump.” I couldn’t help but laugh a little at the comment.
“Don’t worry. JJ would never be an interest to me. Personally, I’m surprised his dick hasn’t fallen off already with the amount of screwing around he does.” Logan’s eyes widened at the statement. I might not have hung around Brandt that much on tour but what I did see was enough to know that JJ played rough. Drinking, drugs, and women.
“Well, JJ says a lot of shit just to get at Brandt and Brandt has a tender spot for his little sister. He even warned off Ryder.”
“Ryder? Eww. He is like a brother to me.”
Logan was finally laughing. “Well it seems he can at least take a joke from Ryder, but JJ likes to stir the pot.” JJ and Brandt got along most of the time, but if there was a fight in the ranks, it would be between the two of them.
We rounded the corner of the road to where a path took us deeper into the woods. The track was flat enough for the stroller, so we took it hoping to see some animals. When I leaned down to look into the mesh covering that kept the bugs out, I found both children fast asleep. Instead of making me feel better, I felt worse that I didn’t think to take them for a walk. Instead, I dealt with their cranky little personalities forgetting they needed a nap, and making it much worse for me later.
“They are asleep.” I acknowledged in a tiny voice, downtrodden with my experience as the world’s worst nanny.
He noticed my dismay, “You know they are just kids. You can’t really break them.”
“Easy for you to say. They are happy to see you.” He acted as if taking care of babies was the easiest thing in the world.
Logan shrugged, “They’ve been around me longer. All you need to do is listen to what they say.”
“What they say? They can barely form words.”
“I mean when they are fussy. Keep track of the time. Babies like to be on a schedule and don’t take it personally when they are tired or hungry. Just try to think of what they would normally do that time a day.”
“A schedule huh?”
He laughed, “Yeah and just when you think you have them on a schedule they will get out of whack with teething, or an ear infection, or some shit like that. Not to mention the running around being on tour. I know Brandt and Chelsea try to keep it to a minimum, but you can’t think of everything.”
“How come you know so much about kids?” He looked a little forlorn when I mention it, making me wish I didn’t.
“I had a lot of experience growing up. My parents were never around a lot, having to work screwed up shifts to make ends meet. I was responsible for helping to raise my sister. She was almost ten years younger than me.”
It must have been hard being responsible for taking care of a sister when he was only ten years old. I thought he was around my age, but I didn’t know exactly, “How old is she now?” Finding out her age would give me an idea without coming out and asking.
He looked away from me first before answering, “She passed away two years ago. She would have been thirteen this year.” Feeling like the biggest loser for me pushing the issue, an awkward silence settled over us. I wished I knew about it ahead of time before I inserted my foot in my mouth.
Hating the preceding silence I scrambled to break the quiet, “Oh, I am sorry. How did she die?” I didn’t know if I had the right to ask but curiosity won out.
“She died of complications of pneumonia. She was always so fragile and sick for a lot of her life. As a diabetic, she had the hardest time keeping her blood sugars in check.”
“She was diabetic? I didn’t know that.”
He nodded, “Brandt helped out some with her hospital bill when she fell ill. My parents couldn’t keep up and when he found out he stepped in. She was just too sick for too long, but it helped that my parents weren’t burdened with large medical bills after.”
Brandt helping out didn’t surprise me. Especially with him being a diabetic too. He kept close track of his diabetes, both Chelsea and him, and he had a soft spot for people affected by the disorder. He even started his own diabetes foundation to fund research.
“So that’s why you are so much better than I am with the kids. I’m pretty much useless and don’t know why I even came to help.” I hated having the pity party but if I didn’t talk to someone, another adult soon, I would explode.
“Haven’t you ever been around kids?”
“No, I was the youngest of the Stennets, of course.”
Scrunching up his face he shakes his head, “Never babysat for money?”
“No. I didn’t need to. Anything I wanted, my parents would just get for me.”
His look of astonishment made me retrace what came out of my mouth. My blatant arrogance was apparent, “They gave me money for chores around the house and by the time I got to the end of my high school, Brandt started to give us all... gifts. My parents never wanted to take his money but really, he could afford it.” I secretly cringed at how I went about explaining my callous words.
“Well some of us weren’t born lucky.” I guess I did come across as a spoiled rich girl. No wonder he doesn’t like me.
We walked along the rest of the campground in silence. It suddenly felt awkward to be wandering around with him pushing the stroller and people waving at us like we were a family out to take our kids for a walk. The mirage didn’t seem right even though I would never see these people again.
As we circled back to the RV, I started to get nervous. If he left, I would be all alone with the kids. Sometimes they woke up as soon as you stopped moving the stroller. Was I doomed to walk the rest of the afternoon? Just spend hours upon hours of walking around the RV so I could get some peace and quiet?
We pulled up to the tree with our blanket still laying on the soft grass, and he parked it by the curb. “Wait! Where are you going?”
He studied me curiously, “They’re asleep. You should be fine and I need to get back to the venue.”
Out of a sense of preservation, I put out my hand and grabbed his, “Please don’t go. What if they wake up?”
“Then you let them fuss a little, and they will go back to sleep. They haven’t been sleeping for very long. They should at least be out for a while longer.” Dropping his hand, I tried to fight back my fear. He probably did need to get back, but I didn’t want to lose the only person who would talk to me regardless if the reason was that Brandt asked him too.
“Seriously, they are just kids. You are doing fine. This isn’t life or death.” When I still didn’t seem convinced he added, “Kids manage to grow up in crack houses. You have to be better than an addict.” He said it to be funny but now I was wondering if I was any better.
“Hey, you can laugh at that. That is unless you’ve got some pricey drug habit you managed to keep from Brandt. There is no way he would let you near his kids otherwise.” I forced a smile but still had my doubts.
“It wasn’t very funny. I already feel like I am bombing this totally. So much is riding on it.”
A question hung in the air between us. “Why would you say that?”
“If I don’t do a good job with the kids and Chelsea has to come to help, it could wear her out. She already lost weight unable to keep much food down. If she loses this baby...” Tears started at the back of my eyes as I tried to will them away. Logan already thought I was a spoiled brat and I hated for him to see me so weak.
“If she loses the baby it won’t be because of you. She could be totally bedridden and still lose the pregnancy. Don’t put so much on yourself. If you keep putting undue pressure on yourself, you will miss out on having any fun.”
“Fun? This isn’t any fun. I’ve only been a disappointment since I got here and I can’t do that to Brandt. Not to my big brother. And Chelsea? She has been nothing but great to me. I feel like I’m letting them both down.”
Instead of discounting my feelings, he took me by the hand forcing me to look at him, “Look, I’ll be back every day for as long as I can while Big John is away. We’ll get you into a schedule with the kids and you will gain more confidence. By the time the week is over, you will think this is...” His clean-shaven cheeks lift into a huge smile, “child’s play.” This time I couldn’t hold back a laugh. His smile only grew bigger and his blue eyes sparkled. “See, I am funny.” This time I laughed harder. As he dropped my hand, I used it to swat at him gingerly.
Looking into his eyes, I couldn’t believe I didn’t notice him before, but he was just always Logan. He was the one who got things done, no matter the request, which was pretty spectacular considering he was catering to a bunch of overindulged rich rock stars. Logan was handsome in his own right, in a shy boy next door sort of way.
Logan was just as tall as Brandt, but he had a broader chest that seemed more of a natural build versus my brother who worked at it sweating in a gym. He had dark rich chestnut hair that curled a little at the ends which would prove unruly had he not keep it cut short. The blue of his eyes was not just a basic blue either but mimicked the sky on a stormy day. And his smile. His smile lit up his whole face, and I was grateful he showed me it so freely.
“You promise? Just until I get more comfortable? You won’t be needed at the concert hall?”
He nodded, “Yeah, but I’ll just tell Brandt you needed me to run errands for you. He’ll believe that.” I winced when Logan said he would run errands sensing it bothered him. He should see he was more than just an errand boy if Brandt trusted him to do security for us and drive his family while Big John was gone.
“Wow, thanks. I owe you.”
Flashing me his fabulous boyish smile, he said again, “Don’t worry about it.” I felt my heart start to flutter in my chest for the first time in a long while and couldn’t help thinking the summer was about to look up.