No one knows real panic and real fear until they can’t find their child. In that moment, a parent thinks of nothing but the worst and nothing else matters until they have their baby back in their arms. That suffocating panic was currently running through Jonathan’s body as he ran around their new house, calling out for his six-year-old daughter. They had just moved into the neighborhood two weeks ago, and already so many different scenarios were running though his head. What if someone kidnapped her? What if she wondered off? He didn’t know the town that well yet, so how would he be able to find her?!
Jonathan was about to call the police when he happened to run past a window on their second floor and saw his daughter. Relief like nothing he had ever felt before flooded through his veins as he raced back down the stairs and out the door. She was currently playing in a small kiddy pool in the backyard of their next-door neighbor.
Jonathan ran over to his little girl and practically knocked her into the pool as he dropped to his knees and pulled her into his arms. The hot tears of fear that he had been holding in were flowing down his cheeks as he kissed all over her face and head, keeping her as close to his body as he could in a hug that he wasn’t going to release any time soon.
“Don’t you ever run off like that again,” he whispered as he kept drowning her in kisses. “You understand Katie? You have to ask me before you go anywhere, and especially in this new neighborhood.” He finally pulled back a little and wiped his eyes before looking into his daughter’s. “You almost gave me a heart attack, baby girl,” he said, stroking her bangs out of her eyes. “I didn’t know where you were, and that scared me.”
“I’m sorry Daddy,” the little girl said, frowning herself and hugging her father once again. She knew what it was like to be scared, and she didn’t think grown-ups could get that way; and she definitely didn’t like seeing her daddy this way. “I thought the pool was with our house, so I wanted to play,” she said. Jonathan looked at the pool before looking back at their own house. There was no fence between their yard and the neighbor’s, and he had always told Katie that she could play within their yard at their old house. He could see where her six-year-old logic made her think it was okay to play with the pool. Jonathan closed his eyes and just melted into the feeling of having his little girl in his arms again, and he picked her up, kissing her cheeks.
“It’s okay sweetie, just always ask me before you go anywhere, never run off. Understand?” He kissed her forehead. “And sadly, the pool didn’t come with the house. It belongs to this house because it’s in their yard.” He could see his daughter scrunching up her face in confusion as she looked from the neighbor’s yard to theirs, and Jonathan figured it was too complicated to explain to her the meaning of invisible boundaries today. He was about to turn around and walk back to their house when the patio door of the neighbor’s house opened, and a blonde-haired man stepped out.
“What are you doing in my backyard?” he asked, His tone wasn’t harsh or threatening, but he definitely wasn’t playing around.
“Sorry, we were just leaving,” Jonathan said, trying his best to wrestle up some sort of apologetic tone to his voice; he really didn’t want to deal with an angry neighbor, not today. But he also didn’t want to make any enemies only two weeks into their new environment. “There was a misunderstanding and it won’t happen again.”
“I was playing in your pool because I thought it came with our house cause you don’t have a fence,” Katie said from her father’s arms. Jonathan tried to gently shh her, not wanting to cause any more trouble.
“Like I said, misunderstanding,” Jonathan said, trying to give an amused smile to the blonde man when all he wanted to do was disappear. “Won’t happen again.”
“You just moved in next-door, right?” the man asked, hands in his pockets as he took a step closer to the pair. Jonathan froze and turned back around from where he was starting to walk back towards their house. He really didn’t want to make small-talk.
“Yes, we did. Two weeks ago.” He looked to his daughter and bounced her in his arms, making her giggle softly. “Sorry I haven’t been over to introduce ourselves, but you know, it’s a lot of work when you have to make a house into a home by yourself,” he said with a slight shrug as he kissed Katie’s temple.
“Oh, I see,” the blonde man mumbled, nibbling on the corner of his lip. This had to be the most awkward first meeting of neighbors ever. “And your wife doesn’t help you? That kind of sucks.”
“Uh no, no… My husband turned out not to be so nice, hence the move,” Jonathan answered, eyes finally looking at the blonde man.
The man had to admit, he had not been expecting that as an answer, and his surprise must have shown on his face because the brunette before him let out a small, unamused huff and rolled his eyes before turning back around to walk away.
“Wait, wait, wait!” the blonde said, taking a few steps forward. “Sorry, I didn’t mean anything bad by my reaction, I just, I was not expecting you to say ‘husband’.”
“Clearly,” Jonathan said, rounding on him, his jaw locked as he stared at him. “So to answer your question, no, I don’t have a wife to help me unpack, or arrange furniture, or help take care of my little one, all I have is me.” All the stress of the move and the divorce were finally catching up with him, and the last thing he needed was some asshole passing judgement on him for his choice of partner.
The blonde looked at Jonathan with sympathetic eyes before looking to the adorable little girl in his arms. His mood immediately lightened from the annoyance he originally had when he first came outside. “That’s really rough man, I’m sorry,” he started. “I don’t know if I could handle all of that on my own.”
Jonathan also felt the tension in his body start to dissipate. He let out a small breath and looked from the blonde to his daughter. “When you have someone else depending on you to be strong, you find a way through it all,” he said with a kiss to Katie’s head. “She’s been the light that gets me through the darkness,” he smiled small as he tickled her side lightly, making her laugh.
The blonde man smiled as he watched the little girl, nodding his head at Jonathan’s words. “I bet she is. She’s really cute, and she looks just like you.” Jonathan smiled at the compliment and put Katie down, stroking his hand through her brown curls.
“And if it’s any consolation to you, I know how you feel. Well, kind of,” the blonde chuckled softly. “My own boyfriend just broke up with me about a week ago.”
Jonathan looked up from his daughter to the man, narrowing his eyes slightly, unsure if he was being truthful, or if he was just saying that. The blonde saw the questioning gaze and laughed lightly. “I’m being serious. His name was Artemi, and he went back to his hometown in Russia to chase an old boyfriend,” he said with a shrug and snort. “I know, sounds like a soap opera, right? Kinda felt that way too.”
Jonathan couldn’t help but laugh and nod his head. “Well, thank you for your consolation,” he said. “At least I know I’m not the only one going through a rough time.” He looked from the blonde man down to his daughter, who was back to playing in the pool. “Oh Katie, no sweetie, don’t do that. That’s not yours to play with, remember?” he said as he knelt down next to her, taking her hands out of the pool.
“Oh that’s okay,” the blonde man said, smiling small as he watched the little girl splashing and babbling to herself. “Really, it’s okay. If you ever want to come over and play with it, you can,” he said to the delight of the little girl. “As long as your father says it’s okay,” he smiled at Jonathan. Katie immediately turned to her dad and gave him those big, brown puppy-dog eyes. Jonny couldn’t help but smile at his little girl, giving his blessing that she could play in the water for a little while longer. He then stood up and looked at his neighbor.
“Thanks for that. You know you really didn’t have to, right?”
“I know, but hey, I’m being a good neighbor,” he smiled. The blonde man then went inside and grabbed a beer for himself and Jonathan to drink while they sat in his patio chairs and watched the little girl play. “If we’re going to continue this neighborly relationship, I think we should at least know each other’s names, don’t you?” the blonde smirked. “I’ll go first since we’re on my property,” he chuckled before holding his hand out. “Hi, my name is Patrick.”
“Nice to meet you Patrick, my name’s Jonathan,” he responded, shaking Patrick’s hand. “And that’s my daughter, Katie, that you’ve so graciously let play with your pool,” he smirked back before taking a swig of his beer. “Hey, while we’re on the subject, if you don’t mind me asking, why do you have a kiddy pool?” It wasn’t like he had always looked out the window into the neighboring yard, but Jonathan couldn’t seem to recall seeing any kids running around.
Patrick’s cheeks blushed a small shade of pink when asked the question, and he nervously chuckled as he looked at the little girl playing. “Uh, well… you know… I bought it for me to relax in…” he mumbled quickly followed by a drink from his bottle.
Jonathan cocked one eyebrow before bursting out laughing. “So you mean to tell me that your grown-self bought a kiddy pool just so your butt could sit in it?!”
“It gets hot in the summer!” Patrick said, defending himself. “Plus it was either that or a sprinkler, and can you imagine how stupid I would look running through a sprinkler?”
“Probably just the same as you do sitting in a pool designed for children,” Jonathan laughed, clutching his stomach. Patrick couldn’t help but join in the laughter.
“Just you wait until it starts getting really hot, you’re going to be begging me to let you sit in it with me!”
“We’ll see about that,” Jonathan said, calming down and looking at the blonde-haired man. He could just picture him sitting in the pool, beer in one hand, fan in the other, baseball cap on, his nose white with sunscreen – it was a pretty cute... He was pretty cute… Jonathan looked down at the small puddle of condensation that had dripped off his bottle onto the patio table, wondering where that last thought had come from. Well, it wasn’t that hard to wonder, Patrick was pretty cute, if you liked that boy-next-door charm… which he did… His thoughts were cleared at the sound of Patrick asking if he wanted another beer.
“No thanks, I think we’re going to head back home,” he said as he looked over at his daughter. “But thank you for your hospitality. And again, I’m really sorry for originally wandering onto your property.”
“It’s no trouble. And like I said, you’re welcome back any time.”
Jonathan knelt next to Katie and dried her hands and arms before picking her up and kissing her head. “Can you say thank you to Patrick for letting you play with his pool?”
“Thank you, Patrick,” the little girl said with the biggest smile ever.
“You are more than welcome, Katie,” he said before waving goodbye to them. Jonathan said goodbye as well before walking back over to their own backyard. He put Katie down and let her go inside before pausing to steal one last glance at the blonde man a few yards away. Something told him that this summer would be the start of a great relationship—err, friendship! Yeah, friendship…
Well, maybe a relationship too…