I spent the day tidying up the house, it hadn’t felt this clean since before I had kids, but then again it had only been one room at that point. I hummed softly to myself as I adjusted a few paintings on the wall, though a firm slam of the front door sent them back to their original off-kilter position. I sighed softly and watched Catori throw her school bag on the ground.
“Ughhhh! I HATE school!” Catori’s voice, while blusterous, had an undeniable quiver of sadness to it.
“Hmmm, what’s going on Cat?” Jeremy asked, I placed a silent kiss atop her head and let Jeremy play the father role.
“What’s a bastard?” She asked, a small frown forming on her mouth, both Jeremy and I blinked.
“Where in the world did you learn a word like that?” I could feel my blood pressure rising.
“Well… At school we had to write down who we live with… And I didn’t write down a name for my dad…” Her voice shook a little bit before she continued, “This dumb girl at school said that I’m a bastard because I didn’t have a daddy!” Jeremy’s face turned at least three different shades of red, but not from embarrassment. He was livid to the point that his hands shook.
“Listen to me very, very closely Catori.” Jeremy’s voice was almost eerie with the forced control it held. “You may come from an unconventional family, but that is never, something to be ashamed of. If anyone messes with you again, let me know and I will march right down there to deal with it.
“Well… I don’t think you’ll have to…” Catori muttered softly.
“What? Cat, it is no problem, you just call me and I’ll break down the door to your Principle’s office and–” Catori quickly cut Jeremy off mid tirade.
“Ah no, I um… I beat her up and told her that you’re my dad and that you loved me more than her dad loved her. Oh, and I have Saturday School and need you both to sign a paper saying you know.” She chuckled and blushed a little and Jeremy quickly picked her up and gave her a huge hug.
“That’s my girl!” He exclaimed. “Give her the ole one two!” He got a bit animated and did a few punches in the air along with some other things that made absolutely no sense to me.
“Ah, Jere, do we really want to encourage Catori to be fighting in school?” I asked worriedly.
“Screw school, anything worth learning my daughter can pick up herself.” I barely managed to hold back an eye roll, those two, I figured I’d let them off for the day.
“Alright, Catori, regardless of how you feel about school you need to do your homework. You want to grow up to be smart like your dad right?” I asked wheedlingly, though I slipped her a piece of candy and she hopped right to work. Or at least she would have had the door not been knocked on. My hands were full breastfeeding Una and Jeremy was busy taking care of the dishes.
“Hello, little girl. By any chance is your mother home?” A strange and deep male voice resounded through the now open door as Catori looked out it. She quickly glanced over her shoulder at me and I shrugged so she moved to the side and let him in.
“No funny stuff, mister.” She said stiffly before flopping onto the couch to begin her homework. I promptly adjusted my shirt and placed Una back in her sleeper.
“And how may I help you mister…?” I allowed my voice to rise slightly as I waited for him to fill in the blank.
“You can call me Theo, ma’am. I hear you are getting married to my client Jeremy Boyd?” I frowned at his words and shook my head. “Really? Well that’s a bit awkward… You see, he owes us some money.”
“Us? And how much money are we talking about?” My forehead wrinkled slightly and Jeremy walked into the room and wiping his hands off on his shirt. Catori motioned to him.
“Can you help me with my extra credit? I don’t think we learned this yet?” Catori looked at the man worriedly but Jeremy seemed to be acting as though he didn’t exist.
“Jeremy here owes us about a hundred thousand dollars.” Theo’s mouth curled into a rather rancid seeming grin and I had to sit down.
“The hell?!” Jeremy shouted before he spun around and glared at Theo. “You said we were square and that I could walk! Why are you going back on your word?”
Theo shrugged a bit but a rough shake of his collar from Jeremy loosened his lips a bit. “Okay, okay! No need to get physical! Franco bailed on his cut to pay for the last album you two produced and as per the contract you have to cover it.”
Jeremy punched Theo just once but the noise it made sounded like it hurt. “Come here. We are going to have a talk.”
“Jere… what about Una’s birthday?” I quickly spoke up, I had moved Catori so she was as far as she could be from the two males.
“Let’s do it.” Jeremy said with a forced smile and threw Theo into the bathroom. “Walk out of there while my family is celebrating and I’m going to bury you in the middle of no where up to your chin.” The door was firmly shut and I blinked a few times before mechanically going through the motions.
We all softly sang happy birthday as Una aged up, and low and behold she looked JUST like her elder sister, to the point where they could be twins.
The two girls quickly hugged and I motioned for them to follow me to the kitchen. I gave Jeremy a worried smile before hurrying out to let him handle whatever it is that was going on with Theo.
The yelling was rather loud between the men and Catori muttered softly under her breath, “I hope dad kicks his ass.” I quickly flicked her forehead and shook my head.
“Okay, his goat curd.” She grumbled as she amended herself. I simply chuckled though it was cut short by a slam of the front door and Theo storming to his car.
“You two head to your room, alright? I’m going to talk to your father.” I promptly put the leftovers away and headed over to where Jeremy was sitting on the couch staring angrily at the television even though it was off. “We need to talk.”
A few hours later I had to break the news to the girls that Jeremy would be going away for a while, but that he’d do his best to make it back before Catori entered High School.
“Are you getting a divorce?” Una asked, I just stared at her until she giggled and whispered a soft, “Justttt kiddingggg”
“Why does he have to leave?” Catori asked, it seems as though she’d gotten rather attached to her father.
“He has to sign a lot of papers to sign over the rights to all the work he’s done at this point to pay off the contract so he doesn’t have to deal with that shady record company again.
“Is he really going to kill people?” Una asked. I managed to not facepalm and just shook my head at her.
“No, Your father is passionate but not a killer. He has a lot of dreams and wants to make sure he is completely free of the past so he can do his best to be with us always in the future.” A small lump welled up in my throat, I had promised him I wasn’t going to cry in front of the girls and he had left straight to the airport after packing a bag. He said no daughters of his were ever going to see him cry before their wedding day.
I left the girls together to adjust with the situation and play around with the furniture as they saw fit. I was so glad that Una was self-assured just like her father, or this would be much harder to handle.
I found myself lost within my mind as I scrubbed the tiles in the family room, a bit of blood had ended up on the floor. It was only when I heard the girls’ laughter did I truly believe that everything was going to be alright.
We’ll always be okay as long as we have our land and each other.