Robbie groaned as he and James were awoken by a constant screaming of,
“Dark dark dark dark...”
“I’ll go,” James mumbled.
“What time did you get home love?”
“Well, it’s just gone three. You go back to sleep. You didn’t switch off her night light, did you?”
“Er...? I may have, not sure. Possibly. Can’t remember. So tired when I got in. It was bad.”
“We’ll talk later love. You sleep.”
Robbie switched on the landing light and went into Molly’s room, reaching for the nightlight. James hadn’t switched it off. New bulb then.
“Dad? Where have you been? Where’s Daddy?”
“In bed pet. Let me just,” he switched on the main light, “go and get a new bulb. Back in a tick, princess.”
Robbie turned from reaching in the top cupboard in the kitchen to see Molly standing in the doorway clutching her very battered rag doll, Rosie. “Bored.”
“Night time is boring, pet. That’s why we sleep. Let’s get you back to bed and I’ll read to you. Shall we see if Rachel and Kirsty have found the next fairy?” If I have to read another bloody Daisy Meadows fairy story, Robbie thought, my brain will melt and pour out of my ears.
“Want TV. Want Dora. Want Peppa Pig. Want Holly and Ben. Now.”
“Come on, bed.”
“No. Not sleepy. Hungry.”
“If you are hungry you’ll eat fruit.”
“’Lergic to fruit. I will die. And I will tell Daddy you are stupid and killed me with fruit. Daddy lets me eat Mars bars and watch Dora.”
Robbie smiled, trying not to laugh. “Now, we both know that isn’t true pet.”
Robbie woke up to James kissing him. “Urgh!” he yelled as bright sunshine poured into his brain.
“I’ve got to go to work. She’s bathed and had breakfast and I’ve left her watching Milkshake. Is it ballet today?”
“Pre-ballet? Oh God, yeah.”
“Good, coz she insisted on her tutu and pink tights.”
“She’d wear that pink tutu everyday if you let her, but yeah, it’s ballet today, me and a bunch of thirty something mums. How are you doing?”
“Me? Fine. It’s Grainger. Look, I have to go. Innocent needs to see me and then I’ve got to go to the hospital. All I could think of was what if it had been you, a few years ago. What a bastard I am. My boss is shot and all I am is grateful it wasn’t you.”
“It’s probably natural enough. You think too much. Was it the killer, the guy who took a pot shot?”
“Interviewing him later today. Are you listening? Are you even awake Robbie?”
“Urgh? Yup. ’Course. Getting up now. See you.”
“Molly! You don’t come into the bathroom without knocking? How many times have Daddy and I told you?”
“Told me what? You aren’t weeing. Look.” She stood in the doorway holding up two very inappropriate items indeed.
“I was... never mind.” Robbie sighed and wiped the shaving foam of his face. What was one more day of not shaving? He’d brushed his teeth, and that was the important bit. “I’ll have that.” He took the sharp scissors and the tube of lube from her hands and placed them above the bathroom cabinet on the wall. “Molly!” he exclaimed as he noticed her face. Dark brown lines of mascara were above her eyes and smears of James’ favourite lip-gloss was streaked across her lips and face either side of her mouth. He picked her up and began the usual battle of washing her face, Molly screaming and fighting every step of the way.
A pot of tea and a cake and his first break of the morning. He put on a face that communicated that he wanted no one sitting with him but it didn’t stop two chatty mums trying to include him in their chatter, but they soon left him alone. The pre ballet was at the local community/arts centre and it had quite a decent cafe, too. Ever since James had had a week off work and taken Molly the girls were constantly asking after James. Apparently, Molly’s other father had had all the mums all of a twitter and ever since snide comments were made by one or two single mums, about how it was unfair, how come some old, male bastard could get a gorgeous man, all the best men were taken or gay, or both. Robbie turned his back to the gaggle of them twittering about their offspring and pulled out a paperback from his jacket pocket. He was spending his retirement trying to catch James up in his reading.
The first time he’d brought Molly could have been funny if he hadn’t been embarrassed. He’d only been out of the closet, as it were, barely three years and there he was, old and male, among all the young women. He wasn’t sure who was more embarrassed, the teacher or him.
“Hello. Molly, is it? Why don’t you come and join the other girls and your Granddad can go and have a coffee.”
Molly gave the teacher her stern, unblinking stare. “It’s Dad. I’m her Dad,” Robbie corrected gently.
Miss Fiona, the ballet teacher, flushed pink. “Oh. I’m sorry. I just assumed. I can’t apologize enough...”
“It’s okay. Natural assumption. Go with the lady Molly. You wanted to learn to dance pet, didn’t you?”
Molly hung on to his legs and buried her face.
“Maybe if you both stay and watch a bit she’ll want to join in. And Daddy can stay in and watch the whole time, okay darling?”
“He is Dad not Daddy. My Daddy is at work. And my name is Molly not darling.”
Robbie blushed furiously but Fiona was only momentarily flustered before saying, crouching down to Molly’s level, “I’m sorry. I didn’t know Molly. Most little girls only have one Daddy or Dad. I’m going to start the class now. We are all going to be fairies and skip in a big circle. Do you want to join in?”
Molly would not meet Fiona’s eye, but after five minutes she did join in, prancing gracefully in her own little circle separate from the others.
“She’s a natural,” Fiona had said at the end while Molly was staring at two girls while they showed her their toys, a dog and a baby doll. “And I’m sorry again, calling you Granddad.”
“Well, biologically she is, but my partner and I adopted her after her mum... died. We don’t want her to know all the details until she’s older.”
Now she came running out, face flushed and animated, even if she wasn’t smiling like the rest. She always looked so serious and full of concentration when she danced.
“We were fairies again today. Not really. It is pretend. We don’t really turn into fairies,” Molly explained as she climbed on to his lap. She always had to explain if it was pretend or not, otherwise she became confused and distressed. “I have danced really hardy and now my tummy is extra empty so I need cake and Mars bar.”
“We’re going home for lunch Molly.”
“And we will have Mars bars for lunch. Daddy always did give me Mars bars for lunch. Sometimes Kit Kats and sometimes other things like crisps and more crisps.”
“No he didn’t. There’s soup or pasta.”
“Pasta and cheese. Pasta and cheese. Pasta and cheese.” This continued in the car on the way home and in the kitchen. Robbie bit his lip to stop himself reacting, but when she tugged at his legs and shouted, “Pasta and cheese,” as he was about to drain it he couldn’t help but yell,
“It’s just coming!”
Molly curled up in a ball on the floor there and then on the floor, hands over her ears. “You shouted,” she whimpered. “Daddy doesn’t shout. I’m going to tell Daddy.”
“Sorry princess, but Dad could have hurt you. Pasta cooking water is very hot and would have burned you.”
Molly looked up, “Burned up enough to be cut up by Auntie Laura?”
Robbie thought about Molly climbing up and trying to touch the kettle the day before and grabbing the pan of rice when James was making tea on Saturday, so he said. “Probably, Molly. You have to be very careful with boiling hot water. Very poorly and need a nurse like Lyn to make you better if not dead. Promise Dad you won’t try to touch hot water or grab me or Daddy when we have hot water?”
Molly nodded solemnly. “Pasta and cheese?” she asked hopefully.
Of course, Dr. Sayer didn’t like Molly to have too much dairy or gluten, so the pasta was made of rice and the cheese a soya cheese James had ordered on the internet. James had researched it all and was responsible for all that shopping. He put sticky notes on tins of soups and jar of pasta sauces if Molly wasn’t allowed them. Lunch tended to be soup or pasta and tea if James wasn’t home for Molly was baked beans on a jacket potato or more soup or pasta and Robbie ordered a takeaway when (if) she had gone to sleep.
After an afternoon of puzzles, the park, cut short because of the rain, and Robbie building a HappyLand town, which seemed to be him doing all the work – Molly was happy to watch the people but she didn’t contribute to where they went or what they said – Robbie looked up to see James in the doorway trying not to laugh as Robbie voiced the little policeman have an argument with another small person. However, it was evens if it was the performance or the fact he was still wearing the towel around his waist that Molly had insisted he wear since they didn’t have a tutu big enough and Dad must help her practice ballet after class.
“Daddy!” Molly grinned and got up and ran to him. James scooped her up and kissed her. Robbie stood up more slowly, his back killing him, and ripped of the towel, before kissing James over Molly’s head.
“You’re home early love?”
“Got leave, I’m home until Monday. I have news.”
“I’ll put the kettle on.”
“Kettles can kill you and Auntie Laura will cut you up,” Molly said at the same time as James said,
“No. It can’t wait.” He came in and sat down on the sofa. He picked up the remote and switched on Cbeebies. Molly wriggled down off his lap and sat in front of the TV. Robbie sat down next to him and waited.
“The murderer is charged and in custody.”
“Grainger is fine but taking early retirement.”
“Innocent has given me leave.”
“I guessed. You telling me, that was a big clue. I used to be a Detective Inspector. I don’t think my brain has turned to mush, but sometimes I wonder...”
“They wouldn’t want you teaching at Hendon or at that charity if it had,” James said, deadpan. Then he smiled, “Innocent has decided I’m filling Grainger’s vacancy.”
Robbie hugged James, “At bloody last!” he said. “This calls for a celebration! Let’s go out.”
“Pizza!” yelled Molly, picking up on the word celebration.
“Um, no. I don’t think so. Not after last time,” said James. The last time the gluten and cassein had made Molly so hyperactive she hadn’t slept for almost 40 hours!
In the end James make gluten free pizza ‘assisted’ by Molly while Robbie leaned on the kitchen wall drinking beer and watching them, laughing as Molly covered James in rice flour. After her celebration tea, her bath and a bedtime story read by both fathers she fell asleep between them on the sofa quite early for her.
“Now we can celebrate,” James said after they had carried the sleeping Molly to bed, pulling Robbie close to kiss him. They made it to the bedroom, and it wasn’t until quite some time later, with James pleading quite desperately underneath him that Robbie remembered the lube hidden out of Molly’s way.
“What?” James moaned, as Robbie got out of bed and headed for the bathroom, explaining as he did so. James also got out of bed and looked at his wash bag, or rather, his make up bag. Every lip-gloss had its lid undone, so did both black and brown mascara, and his foundation and hair mousse was squeezed out all over the inside of the bag. “Robbie!” he roared. “Can’t you keep a frigging eye on her?”
“I have to have a bloody piss!” Robbie retorted. He came back in the bedroom and looked at the damage. “At least you don’t keep your shaving kit in there anymore or it could have been nasty. She had scissors too.”
“Not from here.” He opened the drawer the bag had come from. Neatly cut pieces of emery board covered his pants and socks. “How long did you leave her?”
“Not long! Enough to have a piss and brush me teeth.”
“Long enough,” James snarled.
“I guess the mood is killed a bit, then, love? Tell you want, I’ll go tomorrow to a DIY store and buy us a bolt and put it on our bedroom door high up. I think she’s punishing you love.”
“Going back to work full time.”
“That was months ago.”
“She bides her time and plots...” Robbie said darkly. “And while we’re on the subject, did you feed her nothing but Mars bars and crisps for lunch and through the night?”
“What? Of course not! How could you think I...” James caught the twinkle in Robbie’s eye and smiled. “Oh! That girl!”
Robbie twirled the tube of lube in his fingers, “Coming back to bed then?”
Inspector Hathaway-Lewis fell asleep in his husband’s arms, and his husband was soon asleep too, gently snoring, lying on his back with James’ head heavy on his chest, as was one long arm and likewise one long Hathaway leg was wrapped around his thighs. Neither man remembered to put on pyjamas before they fell asleep.
Soon, however, much too soon, “Wake up! Wake up! Dad! Daddy! I’m bored! Wake up! I’m awake!”
Molly was jumping on their bed.
“Oh yuck! How rude! You have no clothes on. Is it a game?” Molly started to pull off her Peppa Pig pyjama top.
“NO!” yelled Robbie and James.
“”What’s this?” Molly waved the lube in the air.
“I’ll have that, thank you,” James said, taking it firmly from her hands.
“Wha’ time izzit?” Robbie asked, stumbling up to grab his pyjama bottoms.
“Um,” James squinted, his 24-hour soluble contacts had dissolved. “4 am, maybe?”
“Get on that Blackberry or your laptop onto Last minute dot com. Let’s celebrate in style. See if you can get a caravan or chalet or whatnot. You said you had Monday off? It’s not as if I’ve got me young offenders on Monday, I’m only going in to catch up with their paperwork. I can do that anytime. All we have to do is let the nursery know she won’t be in ’til Tuesday. If we leave soon we can be by the sea by sun rise.”
“What?” asked Molly, wriggling in between her now dressed Dads.
“Dad wants us to go to the seaside,” James explained, incredulous.
“Yup. Sort of thing I’d loved to have done with Val and the kids, but with her job and Morse and...” he shrugged.
Family holidays were not a feature of James’ childhood. He grinned and picked up his phone.
“Seaside! Seaside! SEASIDE!!!” Molly bounced on the bed happily.