Pic: Royce Porter Bronn Larsen
Dawn picked at her mashed potatoes with a heavy pout on her face. Royce was sitting on my lap, letting me feed him. Of course, he was old enough to do so himself, but interestingly enough for a boy his age, he loved being held and coddled. David and I were still working on helping him gain as much independence as a four year old needed, considering he was awfully shy.
"You okay, baby?" David tenderly stroked his hand through our daughter's messy curls but she just continued to pout.
"Use your words, love," I softly told her, giving Royce his custom-made, two hundred dollar sippy cup which he often lost.
"I wanted to be Dorothy," she mumbled.
"I don't understand why you didn't get it. You studied those lines like a test," Dani said.
"I know why I didn't get it. They told me."
"What did they tell you?"
"They said it's because my hair is different than Dorothy's since it's not straight enough. And I'm not the same color as her either."
I squinted, trying to make sure I heard that correctly. I noticed David and his sister exchange surprised glances, which was all the confirmation I needed.
"Dawn, who said that to you?" my husband inquired, taking her hand to bring her closer. "Come here. Do you remember who told you that?"
Her eyes widened before she bowed her head. "N... I-It was... um, one of my teachers."
"What's the teacher's name, sweetheart?" Dani asked, a frown settling on her face. We watched her fidget with her fingers as her lips trembled, a clear sign she was about to cry.
"Darling, you're not in trouble." David picked her up and sat her in his lap.
"Not at all," Dani echoed, reaching over to hold our little girl's hand. "But what she said to you was hurtful and insensitive. We need to know who it is; do you know their name or are you able to point the person out?"
"Okay. Good. You're very brave for telling us the truth."
I scowled, meeting David's gaze. He easily picked up on my indignation at the circumstance. Ms. Kurry... I scanned the list of my daughter's teachers in my head, desperately trying to put a face to the name. And despite my vocational oath of doing no harm, I never wanted to hurt someone so bad for having the inclination to tell an innocent child that her skin color was a handicap.
I was foolish to think a shower might calm me down. I scrubbed my scalp and skin raw with anger propelling each of my movements. Consequently, I gave myself a migraine.
The glass door opened behind me, and I looked over my shoulder to see David joining me. We still weren't on the best terms, of course, so I stopped myself from traveling right into his arms or proudly admiring his bare body like I usually would. Now was not the time. I turned away and immediately started scouring my arm again with my exfoliating brush.
"Casper," he quietly called, but I didn't stop. If anything, I scrubbed harder. Anything to prevent me from losing all of my shits. "You're taking it out on yourself. Angel?" David took the brush out of my hand, and I just froze. In a voice so tender, he said "Talk to me."
"Why? You're mad at me; you think I cheated on you."
"I don't think..." he sighed. "I just want the full story. I can't understand it until I know everything that happened."
"What do you need to understand? You've always trusted me. Always." I folded my arms over my chest, staring at the marble wall patterns. Something must've happened that I didn't know about. Who knows, maybe he had a secret too.
Because how could he go from trusting me wholeheartedly to accusing me of cheating? Yeah. Something definitely happened, and it probably had nothing to with Avery.
"Please, let's set that aside and talk about our daughter. Please? I wanna decide how to handle this with you."
I shut the water off then faced him. "That teacher pretty much told our child to her face that she's too ethnic to portray a caucasian character in a play. An innocent 7-year-old girl. A girl, who is impressionable and statistically much more susceptible to low self-esteem, low self-worth, poor body image, eating disorders. This definitely won't be the last time she's treated like this and who knows if this is even the first time? How do we protect her from that?" I shook my head, finally catching my breath. "I want to hurt that woman. I-I want to expose her or ruin her career or something. Does that make me horrible? If only she could feel half the pain I feel right now, she'd be crippled in her bed. That's what I want."
"We'll go to Dawn's school together, and we'll report her."
"That's not enough."
"Casper." He stepped close to me. "We will go to every length to make sure that woman doesn't poison another child's mind. Dawn couldn't have made up those words on her own. She's a biracial, bilingual sweet little girl who we're raising to be proud of who she is. I'll never let some ignorant, uncultured teacher take that away from her."
I nodded. "We're on the same page."
He shrugged a shoulder. "Of course we are. We balance each other out, remember?"
I bit my lip and softly smiled. "Okay, so... I'm going to speak to Rowan. He's an attorney. As far as I'm concerned, this is a legal issue. That teacher harassed our child; it was a verbal offense and chances are, it's not the first time."
I felt him hold onto my hands. "I'll make the call. I'm here to stand by you and any decision we come to."
"Thank you," I quietly appreciated. His eyes fell to my arm as he touched it gently. I hissed a bit.
"Look at you. Your arm is red from all that scrubbing." He reached over to turn the water back on, then switched my brush for a soft body towel. "Come here." I let him soap me up, and feeling his warm hands all over me made me crack another tiny smile.
For only a moment, it seemed like everything between us was okay again, and I needed that. Like I thought earlier, I was a fool to assume a shower would do the trick. David was the only one who could put me at ease. It gave me hope that nothing could truly tear us apart. He had the impulse to take care of me and vice versa.
"You seriously took this out on yourself," he whispered, carefully and soothingly rubbing the towel down my back.
"Shouldn't I? Since I was little, I always knew I wanted to be a neurosurgeon. I always knew I wanted a family. Now, I don't think I'm balancing those two very well."
I heard his quiet sigh. "Maybe they're not meant to be balanced."
"What do you mean, oh Insightful One?"
He chuckled, turning me back around before proceeding to lather my front torso. "Balanced means a state of equilibrium..."
"Okay," I followed along.
"Equilibrium is equality, and personally, my job isn't equal to my family. I'd be absolutely nothing without you and our babies..." He'd been concentrating on washing my body, but with those last words, he looked right into my eyes. "Family first."
"Family first," I agreed with a much quieter voice, stepping closer. My face flushed as I placed my palms delicately on his chest and leaned up to kiss him. I could see in his eyes that he was looking forward to that intimate kiss, but he reluctantly turned his head and moved back a pace. I dropped my hands back to my sides in disappointment, shaking my head subtly and staring at the marble walls encasing us.
"I want to," he admitted. "I really do. I'd make love to you till sun-up if I could—"
"You could. David, I'm right here." I lifted my eyebrows in emphasis.
"I can't. When I look at you, I see..." He stopped short and I crossed my arms, a very unfamiliar frustration building within me. I was sad; I was furious at myself and the world all at once.
"Ten seconds ago, we were laughing. Ten seconds ago, you were—you literally held my hands! Are you mad at me or not? Pick one!" I blurted without thinking. I shut my eyes, regretting it immediately as I let my pounding heart settle. After a long moment of silence, I felt my bath towel being placed into my hand and a light kiss on my forehead. I opened my eyes to see David walking out the glass door.
"I'll shower in the morning," he calmly said as he exited, seemingly forgiving my outburst.