Surprise Me Maybe

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Kid Before Daddy

The convo I had with Diandra still hangs heavy in my head. No matter how hard I try to justify my wrongdoing in kissing Ashton that night, the guilt keeps biting me in the ass. I thought she knew and hated me because of it. I would have deserved that and it would have made me feel better in a way.

I can’t lie that I felt relieved when Ashton said he ended things with her. Probably because of my stupid infatuation with him, but mostly, it’s because of the drama Diandra pulled about Chloe’s existence in Ashton’s life. If I think back carefully about what happened that night, Ashton never confirmed the idea that he would come clean to Diandra. And I never asked afterward because it just never surfaced in my mind. Maybe I was just too delighted that Diandra was eventually out of the picture. Yep, ignorance is bliss.

Last night, I had a chance to make it right, but I chose to dismiss it because I didn’t have the guts to hurt her. Now I feel like I’m the cheater in this situation, especially every time the friendly glint and admiration in Diandra’s eyes flashes in my mind. If she only knew what I did a couple of months ago. My impulsiveness is now like a boomerang that is making its way back to me at full speed and hitting me flat in the face.

The sound of laughter pulls me abruptly from my thoughts. My father’s face has gone red from laughing hard, Mom is giggling behind the napkin that covers her mouth, while Sophie and her husband are cackling, throwing their heads backward. I glance at the kids who are smiling along with their eyes on the blueberry cheesecake in front of them.

“That was a good one!” Dad says between his laughs. “That girl deserved that smack.”

“I wouldn’t say she deserved it. She didn’t know,” Chris, Sophie’s husband, replies.

“That’s what she gets for being impulsive and ignorant.”

Wait, are they talking about me? I peer at every face at the table but none of them seems to pay attention to my existence in the room at the moment. And there is no way that they know what’s going on inside my head.

“Okay, we should stop talking about the poor girl. This isn’t the dinner-table topic, especially with kids sitting with us,” my mom interjects while glancing at Diana and Chloe who are sitting on either side of me.

“Oh come on, this is a PG-thirteen scene,” my dad argues.

“And they are not thirteen yet, darling.”

“Oh.”

Something I’ve learned from the very beginning. I’m my father′s child when it comes to spontaneity and stupidity. How does my mom put up with him for a good thirty-five years of marriage? Only heaven knows.

Sophie and I are on cleaning duty tonight. After everyone finishes their dessert, Mom and the girls help bring the dirty dishes to the kitchen before heading straight to the living room, joining Dad and Chris. If my mom wasn’t against the idea of having a dishwasher —because of the go-green reasons or whatever, cleaning up would have been ten times faster. But alas, here we are, stuck behind the sink, battling with plates, bowls, the cutlery, and the soap.

“You’ve been awfully quiet tonight. Is there something wrong?” asks Sophie. She stands next to me, drying up the dishes while I’m doing the washing.

I bite my inner cheek, weighing my answer. “Not entirely wrong. I’m not sure how to put it.”

“Is it about the lunch appointment tomorrow? You don’t have to come if you’re not ready yet. You know that, right?”

Ashton and I agreed to take Chloe to see his family once I pass the probation period, and it’s going to be tomorrow. I’m tempted to bail because the idea of meeting the whole Knight family always gives me a sudden unwanted bowel movement. But I can’t let Chloe face this alone. Even though I trust Chloe in Ashton’s hand, still, it doesn’t sit right with me to let her go to the appointment without me

“It’s not about me. It’s for Chloe,” I reply.

“Well, you and Chloe are a packaged deal. Ashton needs to understand that, too.”

“It’s fine. I’m set for tomorrow, Soph,” I assure her before grunting as I tip the heavy iron pan. The sink is just too small for this big-ass pot. “Anyway, I’m not bothered with it at the moment.”

“Okay. What is it then?” Sophie asks.

“I bumped into Diandra last night, at the bar.”

It takes Sophie a few seconds to take in what I just told her. “Oh. Do you mean the ex?”

“The one and only,” I reply. “So, she approached me and we talked.”

Sophie raises her eyebrow, looking intrigued. “Don’t tell me you two have a catfight,” she gasps while scanning me from head to toe. “No bruises. Your hair is still there. And you’re not wearing makeup to hide a black eye. So, no fight.”

I roll my eyes. “Come on, Soph. I’m turning thirty this Christmas. I’m not going to act like Char in her early twenties.” I pass the pot to my big sister, earning me a grunt from her. “We just talked like two civil adults.”

“Huh, doesn’t she hate you because Chloe and you are the reason they broke up?”

“That’s what I thought, too. But she came to me to apologize for what she did that night at the party. And you know what? It makes me feel like a shitty person because she’s not that bad. Not bad at all. And I think she doesn’t know that–” I turn my head to check the kitchen door “–Ashton and I kissed.”

Sophie stops wiping the iron pot, frowning at it for two seconds before turning her head to me slowly. “No.”

I nod in defeat.

“So, Ashton never told her?” she asks disapprovingly. Sophie’s moral compass is sharper than mine. She often gets bothered with something that I don’t see as an issue. If something bothers me, it will bother her a hundred times more.

“Seems like it.”

“Did you tell her last night?”

“No."

“Why not?”

“Because I’m a chicken. And I need to check with Ashton first what he said to her exactly that night when they broke up.”

“Then what is stopping you? Ask him now!” Sophie urges.

“He’s been on a business trip now. I’m not sure what he’s doing right now and with whom. Maybe he is at a dinner meeting or something. But I will see him tomorrow at the family lunch,” I reason.

“Hmm, okay.”

I release a deep sigh. “Funny though, we aren’t friends but I feel like I betrayed her.”

“Well, kissing him when he was still with her was stupid, but I can’t see you betrayed her. Hmm. Let’s not make any assumptions until you hear from him. Yeah?”

“Yeah.” I sigh again before continuing with the washing.

Sophie doesn’t reply, seemingly busy with her thoughts while I’m religiously distracting myself with the chore. The kitchen air is now filled with the sound of running water muffling the clanking of the cutlery and cooking utensils against the sink.

From the living room, I hear the girls shriek, making me freeze for a second. Then Chris’ laughter booms, contrasting the girls’ high-pitch complaints. I chuckle at the commotion. Chris loves to tease the kiddos even when they find it not funny anymore, yet he’s still their favorite in the family. Hell, he’s also my favorite.

“You like him, don’t you?” Sophie’s question pulls my mind back to my parent’s kitchen.

“I don’t see what I feel about him is relevant to this whole situation.”

“Well, if you choose to do something about it, it is relevant to everything,” she replies, stressing the word ‘choose’.

I put the last cooking utensil on the countertops and turn off the faucet. Turning around, I lean back with my hands clutching the edge of the sink. “To do something like what?”

“Something like… act on your feelings maybe? Be honest to yourself and him?”

“And then what? Ruin everything after I screw up?” I ask. “You know things are progressing well between the three of us as a family. If I try to mix it with pleasure, and then I do a stupid thing, we will go back to square one. Hell, we even probably go further back.”

Sophie puts the dishcloth on the hanging rack, before turning herself to face me fully. “Why do you always think that you will screw up?”

“Because I always do,” I reply, half whining, half frustrated with where the talk is heading. “You know, I don’t know anymore how to be in a relationship. My longest one after Ethan only lasted three months. I can’t even call it a relationship; it was a fling.”

Sophie frowns. “What stopped you then? What stopped you from having a real relationship in these past eight years?”

I know she will keep poking me with this question and my answer stays the same. “I don’t know. I haven’t met the right guy, maybe?”

“Ethan did this to you, didn’t he? Please tell me you’re over him.”

Sophie mentioning Ethan throws me back to the painful memory of eight years ago. My two years of an intense relationship with him hit a shitty point just because of a dumb misunderstanding. But then my impulsiveness drew the last straw. It was the night I met Chloe’s dad at a frat party and got knocked up by him.

“I am over him, Soph. You know what happened,” I reply softly. “Chloe and I just have been having heavy years. That’s all. And especially for now, I need to focus on my daughter until everything falls into place.”

“I understand that, but the right guy is in front of your nose right now. You gotta do something about it before someone else will.”

“Soph–” I put my palm on my forehead “–you’re not making it easy for me, are you?”

Sophie shrugs. “I’m just stating the fact.”

“I like him, okay? I do, but it’s just not the right time for this. Chloe’s starting to get to know her father. I just don’t want to bring more complications if his father and I try to date but then we screw things up.” I sigh. “I don’t even know if he feels the same way about me. It’s just hard to read him.”

“You both are clearly attracted to each other.”

“And is being attracted to each other enough to put Chloe on the line?” I ask, turning my head to my sister. “You know it’s not. So, why don’t we just rest the case and focus on what is important for now?”

Sophie fixes her gaze on me, between looking pity and understanding. “I don’t know if it’s the right thing to do, to be honest, but I get you. Totally. You just want to put Chloe first.”

“Thank you,” I reply as I smile weakly. “Chicks before dicks. Kids before daddy’s dicks. Right?”


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