“Iiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit’s Quincy time!” Quincy sang out as he bounced up the hallway to Poppy and Tora’s apartment.
“Quincy!” Poppy opened the door quickly, the movement causing her yellow sundress to flutter. “What if Lily had been sleeping?”
“Not when she knows Uncle Quincy is coming! I bet she couldn’t sleep a wink!” Quincy kissed her on the cheek and swept inside, his sharply pressed shirt filled with various blue watercolor flowers.
“Oh, Quincy,” Poppy shook her head as she looked after Quincy striding in.
“Liiiiiiiily!” Quincy was in the living room, where baby Lily was sprawled on her stomach over the brightly colored carpet, chewing on a rubber T-rex (a gift from Gyu). He knelt down to put his face on eye level with Lily and was rewarded with Lily sticking the slobbery T-rex in his eye.
He laughed, and whipped out a scented turquoise handkerchief to wipe his face.
“You little monkey, you!” He pinched Lily’s cheek, and Poppy smiled from the doorway, remembering how Tora’s early cheek-pinching had been the first sign that he liked her, and how confused she’d been.
“Thank you so much for coming to babysit,” Poppy said, walking into the room and sitting on the plush orange couch. “Tora and I haven’t been out in forever, and it’s really… nice to be able to get out, just the two of us.”
“Anything for my munchkie-pie!” Quincy gurgled as he hoisted Lily up and dangled her towards the ceiling.
“Well, we really appreciate it, Quince. So - her diaper bag is here, her bottles are here, her snacks are in the bag. You know where her crib is. She’ll probably get tired soon, so you can put her to bed.”
“We won’t be needing that!” Quincy demurred, standing up.
Poppy raised her brow. “Because.... when Lily’s with you she magically absorbs some of your manic energy and doesn’t need to sleep?”
“No!” Quincy exclaimed. “Because Lily and I are going shopping!”
“The heck ya are,” growled a deep voice from the hallway.
“There you are, Tora!” Poppy turned around, glad to see that Tora had finished showering and was standing in a black tee and shorts with wet clean hair, combed back into a neat half bun (she’d been persuasive about the benefits of brushing).
“Where do ya think you’re taking our daughter?” Tora strode to the fridge, pulling out some strawberry juice bottles and shoving them in a cooler.
“The mall, of course,” Quincy retorted dryly.
Tora grabbed some sandwiches from the fridge and stuffed them in as well, then swung around to face Quincy.
“You. Are Not. Driving. Lily. Anywhere.”
Quincy raised a splayed hand to his chest in mock horror.
“I would *never*! We’re walking! You have a mall right here, not that you know because you don’t like shopping. Lily and I are going to have a girl’s day out!”
“Yer not a girl,” Tora pointed out, cramming some apples into the last bit of cooler space.
“Details,” Quincy muttered. “Where are you guys going, anyway?”
Poppy and Tora looked at each other, a small smile playing on Poppy’s lips.
“The beach,” Poppy stated proudly.
“Oooh, fabulous! It’s gorrrrgeous weather today and Char Beach is awesome! Kinda reminds me of the beach we used to go to growing up.” Quincy paused. “Come to think of it, I don’t think you ever came with us, actually.”
Poppy looked at him with raised eyebrows and mouth slightly open.
“Uh, Quincy. That’s why we’re going.”
A sudden realization swept over Quincy, and he raised his index finger up in the air.
“Ohhhhhhh, I get it now. You’re going to go rewrite the script and do all that emotional healing and-” Tora’s fist swung but Quincy’s duck was faster- “stuff.”
Quincy dashed to get the carriage, hurriedly pushed Lily in and closed the straps, shoved the bottles into the diaper bags and slung it over his shoulder.
“Well, I’d love to talk, but Lily and I are in a hurry to catch all the best deals! Toodle-oo!”
He pushed the carriage out rapidly, slamming the door to a bemused Poppy and scowling Tora.
“Well, Lily,” he uttered aloud. “We’re on our way.”
A gurgle greeted him. He smiled as he pushed the carriage down the hallway to the door, and then stopped and groaned.
“Omg why do you live on the 7th floor in a building with no elevators?” he moaned aloud.
I know why, he thought to himself as he lifted the carriage and started the long trek down. Ever since Tora had left the clan, he and Poppy didn’t have much money to go around. They made do with what they had.
Well, this baby is NOT just making do, Quincy thought. Today, she’s getting the best of everything!
15 minutes later, Quincy stood at the entrance to the Barnum Brown Mall, a happy Lily bouncing in her carriage. Now, what to get first?
Quincy had a whole list of essentials in mind, from ultra-soft blankets to designer clothes to educational toys.
He crouched down to look Lily in her round golden eyes.
“Now, I know your mama thinks that designer clothes are a waste of money,” he intoned. “But-” he put a finger to his lips- “She just doesn’t know any better.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted an eyeglasses store. Matching sunglasses! He thought suddenly.
He straightened, and pumped his fist.
“Let’s DO this thing!”
An hour later, Quincy was feeling far less confident.
The carriage loaded dangerously with bags, Quincy was perched on the edge of a marble wall. Several minutes ago, as he had leaned down to show Lily the 5th party dress he had bought her, he had caught a whiff of something- unpleasant.
Poop, he thought to himself. She poops.
Now he was sitting on a wide marble wall near the bathrooms, slightly panicked.
Diapers, wipes, and a whole assortment of other products filled the diaper bag he had so carelessly grabbed. Why oh why hadn’t he asked Poppy and Tora for instructions? He had seen them change Lily’s diapers dozens of times, but had never paid attention.
He cursed his queasiness and cast about wildly for help.
He spotted a woman wearing a crumpled t-shirt and sweatpants coming out of the bathroom pushing a stroller.
“Excuse me!” Quincy shot up. “Can you help me? I- I- I’m babysitting here, and she needs a new diaper, but I- I’ve never changed her and- can you help me?”
The woman looked him up and down, her eyebrows raised in a look of disgust. He noticed that her face looked worn.
“So typical,” she muttered.
Typical? Now that was a new one.
“Um- this shirt is actually a one of a kind design- I know, ‘cuz I commissioned it myself- but- what does this have to do with changing her diaper?”
The woman rounded on him with flashing eyes.
“What does this have to do with changing her diaper? Everything! You men think you can leave the babies with us, and we’ll raise ‘em and feed ‘em and change ‘em and be with ‘em when they wake up in middle of the night, and you’ll just waltz in and take ‘em out to the mall and buy ‘em fancy trash we don’t even need-” her eyes hovered over the bulging bags as her voice rose in pitch “-instead of formula and diapers and REAL CRAP we can’t pay for, and you don’t even know how to CHANGE THEIR DIAPERS?!”
The woman’s face was red. Quincy felt a stab in his gut, his mouth open and eyes wide. He wanted to say something but didn’t know what.
“I- I’m- I’m sorry,” he stammered.
“Sorry doesn’t help.” The woman narrowed her eyes and scowled.
Quincy fumbled in his pocket and pulled out his wallet. “Do you- do you need money?”
The woman scoffed. “I don’t need your stupid money. Go to hell.” She turned to leave, grabbing her stroller.
Quincy felt panicked. “Wait! Her- her diaper?”
The woman turned to look at him, her face incredulous.
“Just Google it!” she spat out.
Quincy sat down heavily on the marble wall, his legs suddenly feeling weak. Lily stared at him with her huge golden eyes. He expelled a long breath and hung his head. “Well, Lily… looks like we’re on our own…”
Poppy let herself into the apartment. Tora was downstairs, vacuuming the sand out of their car. The beach had been wonderful. Watching Tora’s eyes go wide at the sight of the calm blue sea had clenched her heart and made her eyes moist.
She stepped into the living room and stopped, a smile growing on her face.
Quincy was sleeping on his back on the couch, with Lily laying on top of him, her face against his chest.
Poppy knelt down at eye level to Quincy, his blonde hair falling over his face.
“Quincy,” she whispered. “Quincy!”
Quincy’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around for a moment until his eyes found Poppy.
He began to sit up but Poppy quickly lay a hand on his shoulder.
“Lily’s still sleeping,” she hissed.
“Oh.” Quincy sighed and lay his head back. “How was the beach?”
“It was beautiful,” Poppy gushed. “The waves were amaz-”
She caught sight of a stack of formula cans and boxes of diapers.
“Quincy-” she turned and looked at him. “What are those?”
“Just some,” he waved his hand in the general direction of nowhere, “Just… the mall… stuff.”
Poppy narrowed her eyes.
“Quincy… Are you ok?”
Quincy didn’t move, but Poppy saw Lily go up and down on his chest. He didn’t answer for a while, and when he did, his voice was low.
“Poppy… do you think I’m- immature?”
Poppy looked at him. His eyes were still closed.
“Selfish? Obnoxious? Inconsiderate?” His voice trembled.
Poppy sat down on the floor next to him. She placed her hand on his shoulder.
“Quincy…. Why are you asking this now?”
Quincy opened his eyes and stared at the ceiling.
“So I am,” he said slowly.
Poppy bit her lip.
“Quincy, you’re- you’re a real nice guy. Everyone knows that. You’ve got a good heart. But sometimes you can be a bit- clueless.”
Quincy didn’t respond. Poppy felt his chest quivering through his shirt and saw Tora enter noiselessly, the vacuum cleaner in his hand. He met Poppy’s eyes with a question. Poppy mimed a sad face and tears falling out of her eye. Tora nodded, and tiptoed into their bedroom.
“I’ll babysit anytime you want, Poppy.” Quincy suddenly said, his eyes still fixed upward. “You and Tora wanna go out somewhere, want some time to yourselves- just call me.”
Poppy’s mouth twisted into a half smile.
“Ok, Uncle Quincy.”
She squeezed his shoulder.
“So where’s Lily’s designer clothes? I was expecting a full party wardrobe!” she teased, trying to lighten the mood.
Quincy grimaced, and shook his head.
“Didn’t get any.” He muttered. “I mean, I did, but I- returned them. Just kept some… some sunglasses.” He waved at Lily’s carriage.
Poppy peered at him closely. “Oh, Quincy… what happened?”
Lily stirred, and lifted her head, awake. Poppy picked her up and kissed her cheek. “Lily! Did you have a good time with Uncle Quincy?”
Lily gurgled. Quincy sat up, rubbing his eyes and looking down. Poppy placed Lily on the floor near her toys, and grabbed Quincy into a hug.
He stiffened, but soon relaxed and wrapped his arms around her.
“Tell me when I’m being an idiot, k?” he spoke near her ear.
Poppy smiled. “Okay.”
She held him, his floral shirt rumpled, as Lily played on the floor, the afternoon sun bathing the room in a yellow glow.