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The past few months have been extremely overwhelming, to say the least. At some point our lives were hanging by a thread. That’s when I made the decision we needed a fresh start. After applying and several phone interviews for a few positions. I received multiple call backs, but for some distinctive reason something was telling me, Seaside was our destination.

 

Now here we are sitting on the front porch of our new empty house, waiting for the movers to arrive with all our belongings. Faith was absolutely exhausted, we both were, really. She hardly closed her eyes, throughout the whole trip.

 

I was slumped against the post, while Faith laid her head soundly asleep on my lap. I run my fingers tenderly through the pigtails of her wild brown curls. Her hair is one of the many things she inherited from me, she’s constantly fussing about it just like me.

 

Mother like daughter, I hum to myself in content.

 

Before I knew it, Faith winces her big golden brown orbs slowly open. It was like I was looking at a miniature reflection of myself.

 

“Mama?” Yawning, as attempting to wipe the sleep away from her eyes.

 

“Hello you, did you have a good nap?” I continue to soothe my fingers through the tangles of her mane.

 

“Mmhhhmm.” Slightly nodding her head in response.

 

“Good.”

 

“How much longer?” Faith, curiously asks.

 

“Maybe another hour or so. The moving truck got stuck in some terrible traffic, but they’ll be here in no time. I promise lovey.”

 

Scrunching her tiny nose. I could tell she was trying to keep her complaining to a minimum, knowing that I currently had the weight of the world on my shoulders. She didn’t want to add throwing a mild tantrum to my list of worries.

 

I may be bias but my daughter has to be the world's sweetest, smartest, and responsible four year old out there.

 

“How about we get some ice cream, and explore downtown until the movers get here?”

 

The mention of a sweet treat shifts the emotion within her eyes immediately. She breaks out into a cute toothy grin.

 

“Yes pwease!! And mama, can I get uhm uhm the rainbow dots on my ice cream?”

 

I’m not sure what I found more amusing. The fact that she still had trouble pronouncing most words properly, or her adorable terminology. Not wanting to ruin the moment, by correcting her that the rainbow dots were indeed called sprinkles. I nodded, smiling.

 

“Lovey, you can get all the rainbow dots you want.”

 

I brush back a stray ringlet that has escaped the confines of her pigtails, she's beaming with excitement.

 

Times like this always fill the cracks in my heart.

 

Changing the subject, I playfully gasp. “Oh my, Faithie! What is that?”

 

Confusion etching her face, she didn’t have time to respond to my question. Before my fingers found their way from the center of her stomach to her underarms. Tickling her to the very core of her soul. She shrieks, trying to break away from my sudden tickle attack.

 

“Mama!” Squealing loudly.

 

I’m sure the whole entire neighborhood could hear. But I don’t give a damn, because for once in what feels a lifetime. My baby is genuinely happy, and that’s all that matters.

 

“Sorry I thought I saw ants crawling on you!” Continuing on with my antics, I join her in laughter.

 

“Ants? You’re so silly Mama!” Faith giggles, breathlessly.

 

“Oh I guess, if I’m silly. That means you’re silly too.”

 

Ending my playful attack, I lift her onto my lap. Wrapping my arms around her, and kissing her temple. She eases her way down from her outbreak of laughter.

 

You will always be my silly baby.

 

Loosening my embrace around her, as she adjusts herself upright still on my lap. Placing both her petite palms on my cheeks. Leaning in, she kisses the tip of my nose.

 

I close my eyes, to relish the moment of this small act of love my precious angel was constantly blessing me with.

 

Opening my eyes, I find her staring at me with so much tenderness.

 

“Feel better, Mama?”

 

Searching my face for any hints of sadness. Which I always tried my best to hide tucked in a box away, but as of lately I haven’t been able to do a great job of that.

 

Trying my best not to break down into tears in front of her, I say. “You always, make me feel better.”

 

It’s the truth.

 

She’s my truth.

 

Relieved with my answer, she molds her body against mine. Hugging my waist, she lays her cheek listening to the rhythmic beat from my chest.

 

I’m here lovey.

 

I’m never, leaving you.

 

Never again. I promise.

 

Not wanting to break contact with her just yet. I peel her arms away from my waist, and place them around my neck instead. Knowing she’ll be much more comfortable there. Standing up, she naturally wraps her legs around me, and I decide maybe a walk will do us some good, it might even help us both wake up.

 

Luckily, downtown is only a five minute walk away and Faith is light as a feather.

 

We find ourselves both enjoying the walk. Faith is captured by the beautiful scenery of the small city. While I indulge her with the names of each flower we encounter along the way. She is constantly wanting to learn the names of each individual one.

 

By the time we reach the nearest ice cream parlor, she is literally bouncing. If my arms weren’t restraining her from escaping, she would've been racing towards the line ready to order her strawberry flavored ice cream cone drenched in sprinkles.

 

All the workers were all in awe of Faith, as she specifies her ice cream order all by herself. One of them was sweet enough to give us a small coloring book with crayons.

 

Over the years I’ve become foreign to accepting acts of kindness from strangers. I wasn’t always like this… in fact I used to be the complete opposite.

 

In my efforts I try to politely decline her offer. However, she reassures me its included with Faith’s ice cream cone. Eventually, I give in and accept her gift.

 

Glancing at her name tag, I thank her.

 

“Thank you, so much Glenna.”

 

“You're welcome, my dear. I hope to see you soon, little one.”

 

Waving at us goodbye with a warm smile, we reciprocate the same gestures in return.

 

Making our way outside of the ice cream parlor. We both engulf our frozen creamy treats as we walk the sidewalk hand in hand.

 

Once I finish my own cone, I repeatedly wipe the sticky melted mess around Faith’s mouth with the napkin from the ice cream parlor. Mentally cursing myself for leaving my purse containing all of Faith’s essentials back in my car, like her wipes would really come in handy right now.

 

Truly Beauchamp, you deserve the mother of the year award. Great fucking job.

 

The sun is setting, it's slowly getting dark. It’s time for us to turn back.

 

Just as I was about to lead us back to the house, Faith urgently tugs at my hand she’s already holding.

 

“Mama.” Looking at me with pleading eyes, still holding her half melted ice cream cone in the other hand.

 

“What is it lovey?”

 

“I need to pee.” Faith whimpers, crossing her legs, as if she was about to burst any moment now.

 

“Okay hold on lovey, I got you. Don’t worry.”

 

I quickly hoist her to my hip. Instantly, scanning if there were any random public restrooms nearby.

 

There is nothing in sight, it looks like all the shops on the street were closed. I start to panic.

 

Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!

 

Then I see a light from peeping through the blinds of a shop.

 

I run as fast I could towards the light. The closed sign was clearly visibly hanging on the door, but that wasn’t stopping me from knocking on the door hysterically.

 

I know someone has to still be in there.

 

At the moment, I didn’t care to look at what kind of shop it was, as long as it had a bloody toilet. Though if it was a porn shop, I would do my best to cover Faith’s eyes. That’s if whoever the hell is in there would just open the fucking door.

 

Suddenly, I hear someone hollering from the other side of the door.

 

“We’re closed!” For a second I thought I heard an accent. But I quickly push that idea to the back of my mind.

 

“Please I jus--” Before I could even finish my sentence, the same voice rudely cuts me off.

 

“READ THE SIGN! WE'RE CLOSED!”

 

In most cases, I would try to continue to plead politely, but my blood was boiling. Maybe it was the way he rudely interrupted me, or the tone of voice that ignited something within me. I was practically fuming.

 

Turning my attention to Faith, she’s squirming in my grasp. Trying her best not to relieve herself in my arms.

 

“Cover your ears, lovey.”

 

With wide eyes she looks at me with concern, but she did as she was told.

 

I wait until Faith covers her ears while still holding onto her cone. Then I turn back facing the door. Without hesitation I give into my frustration.

 

“I CAN FUCKING BLOODY WELL SEE YOUR SHITTY SIGN! DON’T BE A FUCKING PRICK!”

 

Determined not to give up just yet, I continue to knock furiously. Until finally, the door whips open.

 

I meet a pair of piercing icy cold blue eyes, they were slightly covered with a mess of copper auburn curls. Presuming the aggravating voice belongs to him, because his jaw is clenched so hard I think his teeth might shatter.

 

Apparently, now I wasn’t the only pissed off one here.

Chapter Text

Most people would see this kind of behavior as completely inappropriate for a mother to act in such a way.

 

It’s a good thing, I don’t give a shit about what most people think about my behavior.

 

I’ll do whatever I have to do for my daughter.

 

Even if that means, banging on some rando’s shop just so she can pee, and that’s exactly what I did. Oh, also I might have said some impolite words while at it.

 

No regrets there, the prick was asking for it.

 

Initially when he first opened the door, he looked as if he was ready to curse up a storm. But now, he’s standing there. Not uttering a single word, just staring.

 

What a weirdo.

 

The cold icy eyes I first met, somehow were replaced with something unfamiliar. Warmth, maybe?

 

Whatever it is, it doesn’t phase me. Due to the fact that, I’m still annoyed as hell.

 

I tighten my grip around Faith, eyeing him suspiciously. He’s tall and muscular. Suddenly I feel very cautious being around this stranger.

 

I stand up straight, not allowing the size of him to intimidate me.

 

Faith uncontrollably swings her legs a bit harder this time, kicking my thighs. Reminding me of our purpose here.

 

I break the silence between us.

 

“Look, I’m sorry alright. Everywhere else is closed for the day, and my daughter really needs to use the restroom. Could we please use yours? We’ll be quick.” I spoke with a hint of an attitude and urgency mixed together.

 

“MAMAAA! I gotta gooooooo!” Faith whines, wiggling mad like a worm.

 

His eyes widens at that, instantly opening the door wider for us.

 

“Aye, follow me.” He spoke with a Scottish brogue.

 

Ahh I was right, I did hear an accent.

 

He quickly walks away, leaving us at the doorstep. Immediately, I step into the shop and close the door behind us. Striding to catch up with him. The shop was certainly bigger than it looked from the outside.

 

Walking through the room, we pass by double doors. Which were left slightly open. Something sparkles from the small opening, and it catches my eye for a second. I turn away, to refocus my attention on the current situation at hand.

 

“This is it.” He says.

 

I rush past him, opening the restroom and switch on the light. Then I remember Faith’s ice cream cone. I hastily grab it from her hand.

 

Without meeting his gaze I say, “Hold this, please? Thanks.”

 

I push the cone into his hands, not waiting for a response I kick the door close with the bottom of my boot. Accidentally, slamming it louder than I anticipated.

 

Oops.

 

Quickly, I set Faith down to the ground. She scrambles her way towards the toilet, struggling to unbutton her jeans. I assist her, and lift her onto the toilet.

 

The look of satisfaction washes over her face, as she finally relieves herself.

 

I crouch down before her as she continues to sit there; thanking the man above that we made it. It would have been a nightmare carrying her all the way back to the house in wet clothes. She certainly would have been uncomfortable the whole way, and most likely would’ve caught a cold.

 

Wrapping my cardigan tightly around my torso, I smile at her knowing what’s soon to come.

 

Faith starts swaying right to left on the seat humming the musical melody, and so it begins.

 

“You’re my honey bunch.
Sugar plum.
Pumpy umpy ummpkin.
You’re my sweetie pieeeee.
You’re my cubby cake…”

 

Gasping, she abruptly stops her performance. Scratching her head, frowning at me.

 

“Mama what’s after that? I forgot.”

 

“It’s gumdrop. Will it help, if I sing it with you?”

 

“Oh yes, pwease mama?”

 

I nod my head in agreement, and we resume where she left off.

 

“Gumdrop.
Snookum snookums.
You’re the apple of my eyeeee!
And I love you sooooo.
And I want you to know.
That I will always be right here.
And I love to sing sweet songs to you.
Because you are sooooooo dearrr.”

 

My heart swells with pride.

 

That’s my baby, right there.

 

Routinely, I stand up applauding her, while she takes a bow sitting on the toilet.

 

“Good job lovey. Mama is so proud of you!” I bend down to her, and instead of presenting a bouquet of flowers. I deliver a rain of kisses to every inch of her adorable plump face.

 

A flush of red invades her chubby cheeks as she smiles, and I know she is also proud of herself. As she should be.

 

“Thank you mama.”

 

“You’re very welcome. Now, are you all done?” Asking with an arched brow, quizzing her.

 

She pauses to look around. Finding what she's looking for, she grabs the toilet paper to finish the job. I move slightly out of her way, and stay in my spot for moral support. If she requests for help, just like the line from the song.

 

I will always be right here.

 

Still not able to touch the ground from the toilet, she raises her hands up towards me. I lift her off, placing her back to the ground in order to pull up her bottoms. After fastening the button on her jeans back up, she presses the lever down to flush the toilet.

 

Returning her gaze back to me, she confidently states, “Done, now.”

 

Shaking my head, my lip curls into a tiny smirk.

 

“Not yet, you forgot something else.”

 

Her brows furrow, and I can see her little mind at work trying to remember each step of the routine.

 

Then it clicks.

 

Her mouth forms a small o, looking down at her hands. She makes her way to the sink. I was just about to help lift her, but she sees a pink child step stool in the corner of the room.

 

Independently she pushes it on her own in front of the sink. Stepping her way up, I walk my way to stand behind her, as a precaution. Deciding I might as well get rid of the stickiness of the ice cream too. I pump some soap into my hands and we both clean ourselves up.

 

Taking a look around my surroundings for the first time, I realize the restroom doesn’t look like it’s meant for customers. It looks too personal. A shower stood beside us with a glass door, and I can see men shower products lined up against the tile wall. Now, I definitely feel awkward.

 

Once we finish up, I return the stool to where it belongs. Then I decide it might be best if I carry Faith. I don’t know anything about the man who let us in. Especially after our nice little encounter. Who knows what he could be capable of. I prepare myself for the worse case scenario, and pick up Faith to walk out.

 

Walking the same way we came from. He was now standing behind the shop counter, rummaging through papers with one hand. Still holding Faith’s cone in the other. He wasn’t aware of our presence, because he was still flicking through the stack of papers.

 

I clear my throat, and his head snaps towards our direction. He carefully sets the papers back down on the counter.

 

“Thank you for allowing us to use your restroom, I really appreciate it.”

 

I feel the slight pressure of guilt build within my chest.

 

Oh for fuck sake. Be the bigger person here, Beauchamp. After all he did just save your daughter from a wet accident.

 

“Again, I’m sorry about earlier. I could have handled that very differently.”

 

He moves away from the counter, and reveals a faint smile.

 

“Dinna fash, I get it. I also have to apologize to ye as well.”

 

He gets it? Oh maybe he has a little one as well, which would explain him having a child step stool in the restroom.

 

He continues, “I was the eejit who raised my voice at ye first.”

 

I laugh nervously.

 

“Oh well, I won’t argue with you there.”

 

“On which part?”

 

His question catches me off guard. “Huh?”

 

“Me being the eejit or me being the one to yell first?”

 

“Both.” I snicker.

 

He snorts and reveals a real dazzling honest smile.

 

Faith then taps my shoulder, tilting my head down to her. She shyly looks over to him, and back at me. Leaning into my ear she cups her hands around her mouth.

 

She quietly whispers, “Mama. He has my ice cream.”

 

I can’t help but grin at her, trying to hide my amusement. I was the one who shoved it in his hands after all. I copy her actions, and whisper back to her.

 

“It’s okay, remember I had to give it to him to hold while we were in the restroom?”

 

Leaning away from each other, she nods her head understandingly.

 

I look back at him, he was still smiling at us. Normally, when people, especially strangers smile this much. It creeps me out. But seeing him smile, it feels different. I feel comfortable.

 

“Also sorry about shoving that in your hands, I hope it didn’t make a mess.” I grimace, eyeing the cone in his grasp.

 

“Tis fine, and it truly didn’t. If we continue to apologize like this to each other, we might be here all evening.” Saying in a joking manner.

 

He approaches us, stretching his hand out to Faith.

 

“I think this belongs to ye.” Returning her cone back to her, with a friendly smile.

 

Faith returns a smile, taking her cone back into her possession. She peers into the cone, and sticks her bottom lip out in a pout.

 

“Mama, it’s juice.” She shows me what exactly she’s looking at. It’s completely melted.

 

“Aw it's alright lovey, we're going to have dinner anyway.” Soothing her back in circular motions for reassurance.

 

She frowns and murmurs. “Mmmkkayyy.”

 

He bends his knees, in order to get eye level with Faith.

 

“Do ye ken that I’m verra good friends with the people who make the ice cream, at the ice cream parlor?”

 

Faith shakes her head.

 

“Well mebbe I can tell them what happened with this one, and they can give ye another one. Next time when ye and yer mam are around.”

 

“Reellly?” Her eyes instantly light up.

 

“Mmmhmmmm it can be the same flavor with sprinkles.”

 

Wrinkling her nose, with a look of disapproval.

 

“Can I pwease get rainbow dots instead?”

 

He laughs with a giant smile plastered across his face, “Oh aye I’ll make sure ye get all the rainbow dots they have.”

 

Faith extends her empty hand out, lifting her small pinky finger to him.

 

“Pwomise?”

 

Shaking my head at her with a warning look. “No lovey.”

 

She drops her hand, and the frown returns.

 

Turning my gaze to him, “I truly appreciate the gesture, I really do. But we’ve already been such an inconvenience to you already. There’s no need to do that. ”

 

“The heat from my hand did cause her ice cream to melt. Ye ken? Tis the least I can do.” He said with a bit of hope in the tone of his voice.

 

He knows darn well the ice cream would’ve still melted even if he wasn’t holding it. But it wasn’t like he was taking us to get the ice cream. All he was planning to do was just put in a word with his friends. What's the worst that could happen?

 

Sighing in defeat. “Oh, alright then.” It’s the second time today I caved in to a stranger.

 

What’s going on with me?

 

The tension in his shoulders relaxes, and he looks pleased with my answer. He sees Faith raise her pinky finger to him again.

 

Repeating, “Pwomise?”

 

He extends his own pinky finger to her, ready to commit the ultimate promise.

 

Linking their pinkies together he says, “Aye, I promise.”

 

Bouncing with so much excitement, she always loves making pinky promises. I don’t know which one she was more excited about. The pinky promise or the ice cream.

 

“Okay well, it’s time for us to get going now. Before it gets any darker. Thank you again, for letting us in, and for that.” Motioning towards Faith.

 

“Anytime.” He says with complete sincerity.

 

Patting Faith’s back I ask her, “Lovey, do you want to say something?”

 

Profusely nodding her head yes. She says. “Thank you.”

 

“Och, yer welcome lass.”

 

I open the same door I almost kicked down ten minutes ago, and make our way to exit. Just as we pass the threshold I feel Faith gently shaking, she must be waving goodbye.

 

Then I hear her say happily. “Bye-bye Mr. Prick.”

 

I stop dead in my tracks, and my jaw drops to the floor. Quickly covering Faith’s mouth with my hand, she looks at me with complete confusion. Not knowing the meaning of what she had just said.

 

Jesus H. Roosevelt Christ, I hope he didn’t hear her.

 

But hope in this moment is fatal, because I hear him roaring with laughter behind us.

Chapter Text

Faith flat out said it, PRICK.

 

No hesitation. No mispronunciation. No stutter. No misunderstanding between parties (well except for Faith). And it was plain as day, where she learned the foul word from.

 

Me.

 

Is it possible someone could die from embarrassment? Because that’s what it feels like can happen any moment now. As the kids say these days, this is such a facepalm moment.

 

God, why do children absorb information, they shouldn’t be absorbing so easily? And when we do need them to absorb certain things, it takes thirty times more the effort to get it engraved into their brains. Out of all the bloody times to actually listen to me she chooses that time, and that word. I’m not at all frustrated with Faith. I’m beyond frustrated and embarrassed with myself.

 

I spun the wheel of fortune, and hit the bankrupt card. I can hear Pat Sajak loud and clear.

 

“Aw sorry Beauchamp, better luck next time! Faith deserves a more responsible mother than you, HA!” The crowd howls with laughter at me.

 

Fuck you Pat, and an enormous fuck you to the crowd.

 

I shrink at the very thought, not being able to be the mother Faith deserves and needs. I try to push aside my insecurities, not wanting to reveal this part of myself to anyone.

 

Heat rushes to the apples of my cheeks, as I slowly turn around, removing my hand from Faith’s mouth. He’s standing at the threshold, leaning against the doorframe still chuckling, like he’s never heard a joke before.

 

Well here goes, what feels like my hundredth apology to this ginger Scotsman, I scarcely know.

 

“I’m so sorry, she clearly didn’t mean that. She doesn’t even know what that means.” As each word left my mouth, I felt my face turn scarlet red by the second, at the idea of a certain anatomy.

 

His chuckles come to an ease, “Honestly, there’s no need to apologize. She’s just a bairn, and I thought it was funny.” Approaching us with his hands stuffed in the front pockets of his jeans.

 

I offer a warm and subtle smile, for understanding.

 

It went silent for a moment as we stood there, and I felt a sudden urge to flee from the awkward silence. Just as I made the motion to do so he spoke again.

 

“James Fraser.”

 

“Sorry, what?”

 

He wears a lopsided grin with a twinkle in his ocean blue eyes, I know many women would swoon over, but not me. I don’t need any of that in my life right now, maybe not ever.

 

“I’m James Fraser, but ye can call me Jamie.” Stretching his hand out to me politely awaiting my response.

 

“Oh right, I’m Claire Beauchamp.” I extend my own free hand to respectfully shake his.

 

“Tis nice to meet ye Mrs. Beauchamp.”

 

I clear my throat uncomfortably, “It’s actually just Miss Beauchamp, but you can call me Claire. It’s nice to meet you as well.” Releasing my hand from his large callous grip.

 

Nodding his head in acceptance, reading the atmosphere, he focuses the attention on Faith.

 

“I didn't get the chance to get yer name, who might ye be?” Smiling at the cub wrapped in my embrace.

 

“I’m Faith, and you can call me Faith.” Bouncing gleefully.

 

“Well, tis a pleasure to meet ye wee Faith.”

 

Stopping her joyful movements, she counters, “I’m not wee, mama says I’m a big girl. Right mama?” Her golden brown orbs bore into me, seeking my approval.

 

“Lovey, I’m sure Jamie didn’t mean it that way, and yes you're such a big girl.” Her small body relaxes at my response.

 

A sudden rush runs through my bones, I realize this was actually my first time I refer to the kind but unusual stranger by name.

 

“Och I’m sorry lass. Yer mam is right, I dinna mean it like that. I’m just a big ol’ daftie and sometimes I dinna ken what I’m sayin’.”

 

Faith giggles at his comment about being a daftie, and he grins satisfied to see that he’s made up for his wee comment.

 

“Mkay.” Faith smiles brightly.

 

He puts the spotlight on the both of us now, “I dinna mean to be so forward, but I’ve never seen neither of ye around the area. Are ye visiting?”

 

He doesn’t mean to be so forward? Well this is pretty damn forward.

 

Don’t be snide, Beauchamp. Just try to be polite.

 

“We’ve actually just moved here, and only arrived today.”

 

There was something in the way this piece of news changed his demeanor, and I couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was.

 

“That’s braw to hear! Ermmm… tis not really that much of an exciting city, but there are a lot of fun things to do here.” He was nervously fumbling over his words, I don’t know why. It wasn’t like we were some big time celebrities.

 

“Thank you, I’ll have to keep that in mind.”

 

Faith chimes in, “Mama?”

 

“Yes, lovey?”

 

“Where’s the-the man with the big truck?”

 

Big truck? What in the world is this child talking about? Holy LOADS OF BULLOCKS, THE MOVERS!

 

Alarmingly my eyes widen, immediately retrieving my phone out from my back pocket of my jeans. Discovering seven missed calls. Three missed calls from the movers, and four other missed calls from my best friend, Geillis. I don’t even recall putting my phone on silent.

 

 Crap she's going to pissed.

 

“I don’t mean to be rude, but we really got to go.” Wincing apologetically at him.

 

“Dinna be worrit, on my account. Ye two get home safely.”

 

I nod appreciatively, and begin walking away. I press the call back button to the movers’ phone number. Before I knew it, someone answers right away, speaking on the other side of the line.

 

“Boston movers, ready to move when you’re ready. This is David, how can I help you?”

 

“Claire!” I hear Jamie’s voice again, from a good distance away from us. I feel the sudden rush once again, hitting the very marrow of my bones, but this time it was from him using my name.

 

“Sorry, can you give me one moment please?” I speak into the speaker, and place my phone on my shoulder, trying to conceal whatever Jamie has to tell me from the movers. I pivot my body halfway, to put him into view again.

 

Christ, this guy must really have a thing for interrupting people.

 

“I almost forgot... Welcome to Seaside!” He smiles and attempts to wave nonchalantly goodbye.

 

I wave back, “Thank you!” Faith mimics me, doing her own little farewell. Thankfully this time she got the memo, and didn’t utter the same foul word twice.

 


 

Returning to our journey back to the house, I had notified the movers of our estimated time of arrival. They were irritable, but there wasn’t really anything I could do, except get there as soon as possible.

 

By the time we arrive back to the house, the movers had already started maneuvering the larger furniture onto the porch. Getting a head start on things, so everybody could put an end to this over-exhausting day we’ve all had. I unlock the door, allowing them to start bringing in our belongings, and instruct them where to place each piece of furniture in which room.

 

While the movers were doing their thing, I enter the empty kitchen with Faith still attached to my hip. My body sorely is begging for a bit of a break, the amount of traveling and caring for Faith at the same time is starting to catch up with me. I place my little cub on the kitchen countertop, while I dig into my pockets in search of my cell phone. Finding both my cell phone and the coloring book with the crayons Faith received from Glenna, at the ice cream parlor earlier today.

 

“Lovey, do you want to color while we wait?”

 

Bobbing her head up and down eagerly. The idea of her just sitting down not doing anything, I knew that wouldn’t sound too appealing to her. I hand the blue, red, and yellow crayons along with the coloring book over to her. She begins flipping through the pages, until she finally lands on a page she decides she wants to start her masterpiece on.

 

Two movers enter the the room, each carrying boxes labeled in big black letters, KITCHEN.

 

“Where would you like these ma’am?” One of them says a bit too friendly for my liking, and I catch his eyes traveling places they shouldn’t be. The feeling of disgust churns my stomach.

 

“By the sink is fine.” I say coldly, keeping a sharp eye on the creep.

 

They do as they were instructed, and return to the rest of the group outside, resuming their duties. Since they haven’t brought the kitchen table or any of the chairs in yet, I move Faith towards the center of the counter, to prevent any mishap. I bring the two boxes from the sink over next to her, making sure she still has enough room to be the best artist she can be.

 

I open one of the boxes, to begin the process of sorting the kitchen essentials. Before I continue any further, I remember to give Geillis a ring back. Instead of a regular phone call, I facetime her. Moving the unopened box a little further away to use as a stand, making sure it captures both myself and Faith. My phone rings three times, before we’re greeted by a pair of familiar emerald eyes, and long beautiful strawberry hair wrapped in a low ponytail draped over her shoulder.

 

“Claire Elizabeth Beauchamp!” Yelling my full name as if I was Faith’s age. I pause what I’m doing, to find out what has made her so upset.

 

“Ye had me worrying sick about ye and Faith! Just because yer now a Californian does not give ye the right to ghost me like that. I’ve been calling ye, and ten years later I’m finally hearin’ back from ye. Who do ye think ye are? Angelina Jolie?” Her hands were flying in the air with exasperation.

 

I couldn’t resist myself, I respond in a teasing manner, “Gee, I don’t believe you can become an official Californian in less than three hours, and no I don’t think I’m Angelina Jolie. But a run with my flat iron through this bush, and get me some green eye contacts. I swear, I can give all the Angelina Jolie impersonators a run for their money.” My lip twitches, trying to contain a snort from escaping.

 

“Tis not funny Claire.”

 

Rolling my eyes so far back, it felt as if they might get stuck in the back of my head. I know she was worried, but this is in fact our tenth time talking today. She was definitely overreacting.

 

“Dinna roll yer eyes at me. I told ye to call me as soon as ye got there.” She snaps.

 

Faith stops coloring, glancing between myself and her aunt. “Ohhhh mama in twouble, Aunty Gee mad at you.” Shaking her head disapprovingly, she picks up the red crayon continuing on her project.

 

Thanks Faith, way to show your aunt whose side you’re on. Traitor.

 

“See even yer own daughter is takin’ this serious.”

 

She has a point, I was the one at fault here. She was only worried about our well-being, yet here I was fooling around.

 

Raising my hands, surrendering, “Okay I hear you Gee, and I’m sorry I didn’t call you as soon as we arrived. I just needed a moment to gather my bearings, I’m still trying to accept the fact that you’re not next door anymore. I miss you Gee.” Attempting to recreate Faith’s cute puppy dog face. I didn’t need to put much effort, because I really did miss her.

 

“Ugh I hate when ye do that, ye ken damn well that always get me.” Huffing out all her frustration.

 

Her eyes pools with tears as she continues, “I miss ye too, and yer stupid remarks. But I mostly miss my best friend, Faithie.”

 

I start to feel my own tears forming, desperately wanting to break free, but I won’t allow them to. “Excuse me? I thought I was your best friend.” I place a hand over my chest, acting as if my heart had just been punctured.

 

“Nope, ye lost that position when ye ignored my calls.” Shrugging her shoulders, trying to act as if it didn’t affect her. But I knew her all too well.

 

“Gee truly I’m really sorry, by the time we got here I let Faith take a nap, and then we went downtown for some ice cream.” Not wanting to reveal the rest of the story, because I know she’ll have more questions that I’m unable, and unwilling to answer.

 

“Tis fine, I’m just givin’ ye a hard time. As long as both of ye are safe that’s all I really care about.” She spoke sincerely, and I knew she wasn’t upset anymore.

 

We continue discussing my future plans for the upcoming week, and Geillis had her own input of course. Advising me to take things slow, give myself and Faith some time to adjust to our new surroundings, she's right.

 

There are multiple times when I’m so focused on moving forward, but I don’t take the time to pace myself. Eventually this backfires, leading to bigger consequences that I can’t handle on my own.

 

All I want is to forget the past, and start a new beginning, for the both of us.

 

“Aunty Gee! Aunty Gee!” Faith chirps.

 

“Aye, best friend.”

 

“Do you want to see my drawing?”

 

“Ye ken, I would verra much like to see it.” A broad smile stretches amongst Geillis' face.

 

“Mkay you gotta close your eyes first, and don’t peek.” Faith wiggles her index finger at Geillis.

 

“Alright. Jesus, I forgot how bossy ye can be.” A small laugh of disbelief escapes her lips, as she closes her eyes.

 

Faith held the coloring book against her stomach, so my eyes couldn’t take a peek either. She lifts the coloring book from her plump tummy, and places it directly in front of the camera’s view.

 

“You can open your eyes now, Aunty Gee.”

 

Following Faith’s instructions, Geillis instantly opens her eyes. The look of astonishment overwhelms Geillis’ face.

 

“Faithie! That is so beautiful, yer so talented!” Geillis gushes.

 

“You like it?”

 

“No. I LOVE IT!” Geillis responds.

 

Faith bounces up and down on her knees with pure happiness, it radiates right off of her, and straight to me. I can’t help but adore her.

 

Her happiness is truly contagious.

 

Faith and Geillis continue talking amongst themselves, as I space out, taking out the last few glassware pieces from the box I had opened. I faintly hear their conversation through my loud thoughts, but not entirely in tune with what they’re saying.

 

“The blue ones are mama and me.” Faith points to her coloring book.

 

“Och does that mean the red one is me?”

 

“No Aunty Gee, you don’t have blue eyes.” Faith states.

 

She continues, “That’s the nice man me and mama met today.”

 

Geillis asks suspiciously, but calm enough not to alarm Faith, “Aw that’s verra sweet of ye to draw him Faith, and who is this nice man?”

 

Faith stops to think, trying to dig into her memories, but fails to put a name to the red figure she had drawn.

 

“I don’t remember his name… but he said he’s going to get me ice cream.” Faith adds enthusiastically.

 

“Hen?” Geillis’ troubled voice pulls me away from my thoughts.

 

“Hmmm.” I meet her gaze.

 

“Who is Faith talkin’ about?” Raising her eyebrows, with the intention of getting the tea out of me.

 

“I didn’t catch what she said, what are we talking about?” I join back into the conversation, leaving behind the dishware.

 

“The lad Faith drew in her coloring book.” Geillis eyes the coloring book in Faith’s grasp.

 

I still had no idea who Geillis was referring to, or who Faith had drawn, because I still haven’t gotten the chance to see the masterpiece myself.

 

“Him mama.” Faith puts the coloring book in front of me, pointing to a red stick figure with squiggles popping out of it's head, blue eyes, and a big yellow smile.

 

It was him, indeed.

 

It was Jamie.

Chapter Text

It’s been four days since we arrived at Seaside.

 

My goal the past few days has been to get settled in, as soon as possible, so I spent hours upon hours unpacking. When I would take a break, I would take Faith out, for some fresh air out in our backyard or to the shops for groceries. I won’t lie, despite the ridiculously high prices of everything, I’m finding it quite pleasant here. But it's certainly something I still have to adjust myself to.

 

Living more than half of my life as a nomad, I typically didn’t have any issues in the area of adapting. It's Faith who I'm concerned about. I’ll have to take Geillis’ advice with the utmost importance, and try my best to slowly ease her way into this new change.

 

Despite being young, Faith was accustomed to Boston, but we’ve left everything she knew and loved behind. Her favorite park around the corner from our former townhouse, her best playmate Mitsy, cuddling in front of the fireplace sipping a hot cup of cocoa on a cold snowy night, and most of all building her winter time friend, Olaf.

 

Well the best version of Olaf we could have produced, I’m sure Anna and Elsa would surely disapprove. His head was twice as big as the lower portion of his body, but perfection didn’t matter, because this was our time.

 

Our time to forget.

 

Forget the reality of what it was like in the four walls of that townhouse.

 

As routine, I always let Faith finish the last bit of his facial features. She attempted to align each olive into a smile with her small mittened fingers. When she wasn’t looking, I helped myself to a few olives. Unfortunately I had been caught red handed and earned myself an adorable scowl, “Mama no no you no eat.” She grabbed the olive from between my fingers, and placed it in its rightful spot, completing Olaf’s crooked smile.

 

I gave her all the credit where it belonged, by praising her, “Yay Faithie! You did it!”

 

The tip of her button nose and cheeks were fluorescent pink, she smiled revealing four incoming teeth.

 

“He Snowiiiiiieeeee mama!” She squealed as she pointed at Olaf. That’s when we promoted Olaf to Snowie.

 

Those were one of the few rare good moments, I wanted Faith to remember about Boston, not the bad ones.

 

However, life has proven to me that you can’t always get what you want.

 

The bad ones involved endless nights of arguing. If I was lucky enough, Faith would be already tucked in her crib listening to the sounds of the ocean to drown out the screams beyond the other side of her bedroom door. Screams that would lead to tears. Tears of unwanted feelings that were far beyond my control.

 

When there wasn’t screaming, the townhouse was dreadfully quiet.

 

Sometimes it felt as if a family didn’t live there. It felt empty.

 

I tried everyday, every waking moment, every second to fill that emptiness.

 

But it wasn’t enough.

 

I wasn’t enough.

 

No matter how many abstract Snowies we built, it wasn’t enough to make things right.

 

That one single night changed everything.

 

The memories of that night haunt me every sleeping moment now in the same constant nightmare.

 

Her subtle cries turn into wails. She was calling me, as much as I wanted to wrap her into my embrace and soothe her with words of love, I couldn’t.

 

The nightmare ends the same exact way it does every night, me leaving her.

 

Since that night, I have started to pray everyday, or at least attempt to. I had never been a religious person, nor cared for the establishments that practiced them. My prayers aren’t perfect, but I say them anyway.

 

I pray hard, to beg for forgiveness. Not from God himself, but from Faith.

 

She didn’t deserve any of this.

 

It was my fault we were here.

 

It was my fault there would be no more trips to her favorite park, no more playdates with Mitsy, no more cuddles in front of the fireplace on a snowy night with a hot cup of cocoa, and no more making crooked smiles on Snowie.

 

Seaside didn’t have any of those things.

 

I didn’t try hard enough to keep these things that she loved so much in her life.

 

I failed her.

 

One day she will learn of the things that I have done, and resent me for all of it.

 

My mistakes.

 

My flaws.

 

My weaknesses.

 

My inability to be the one person she deserved to call mama.

 

I didn’t realize it but trails of tears were streaming down my cheeks, soaking the neckline of my t-shirt, lips quivering as I stifle a sob from escaping, knots forming in the place where I once held my Faith.

 

When that day comes, please lovey.

 

Go easy on me.

Chapter Text

A harsh buzzing sound from my displeasing alarm clock awakens me; I blindly search for the off button with my limp hand. Successfully finding the button, I put an end to the maddening buzzer. Slowly I peel one eye open, finding the time, 6:30 AM. As much as I want to sleep in, today was my last day off before officially starting my new job tomorrow at the hospital. I won't deny it; I'm nervous as hell. It's been several years since I've worked in a hospital.

 

But returning to work isn't what was agitating my nerves; it was the fact that my new demanding schedule required me to be apart from Faith for eight hours, sometimes even longer than that.

 

In actuality, I was thrilled about getting back out there, rediscovering my purpose; but I would be paying the price of losing time with my cub. I know in my heart neither of us is prepared for this. But as a parent, I have to make endless sacrifices because a tiny curly-haired four-year-old depends on me every day.

 

While I would be at work, she would be with her new sitter, Mrs. Crook. Whom I thoroughly interviewed, and Faith seem to get on quite well with her. Instantly, I knew Mrs. Crook was suitable for the position. It was indeed a more acceptable option than the daycare we had visited earlier this week. My motherly instincts were tingling, and I knew I couldn't leave her there.

 

Currently, I lay in bed a little longer, not wanting to get up quite yet, contemplating today's schedule. We've been cooped up in the house since we arrived at Seaside, but today would be different. Today I mapped out activities I knew Faith would enjoy.

 

Finally deciding to get the day started, I roll out of bed, stretching my worn-out muscles, and lazily make it over to my bathroom. I begin my morning routine by brushing my teeth, applying deodorant to my underarms, and following my extensive skincare routine. Normally after rubbing on sunscreen, I would call it a day. But since today is special, it wouldn't hurt to put a little effort into my appearance. Rummaging through my makeup bag, I retrieve my holy grail products that always come in handy: concealer, mascara, and a lip stain in the shade meow—quickly doing a less than ten-minute natural makeup look. Not wanting to deal with the tangles of my curls, I throw them into a ponytail.

 

I return to my bedroom, searching for a proper outfit to accommodate the sunny weather we expected today. I chose a pair of blue denim jeans with a loose-fitted grey t-shirt and white Adidas to complete the look. Once I got dressed, I pick up my trainers and walk out of my bedroom straight into the kitchen. Chucking my sneakers on the floor beside the counter, I reach for the coffee maker and get a fresh pot of dark liquid heaven going, checking the time once more, 7:00 AM. Right on time.

 

While the coffee is brewing, I continue with my preparations for the day. Locating my mom bag, I empty its contents and repack it with items I know we will need throughout the day: Faith's jumper, wipes, three peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, snacks, several juice boxes, and water. Most importantly, in case of an emergency, a first aid kit.

 

Completing the first tasks for the morning, I stroll over to Faith's bedroom. Slowly cracking the door open, I see her small frame entirely covered by her Peppa Pig comforter. Quietly entering further into the room, I sit beside her, which doesn’t seem to stir her awake because her soft breaths are not disturbed by my presence. Tucked behind Peppa's head, her face is hidden as her wild untamed curls splay across her pillow. I softly place my hand on what I presume to be her shoulder and try gently patting her awake, but I still don’t receive a response.

 

Leaning in closer towards her, I croon. "Faithie, it's time to get up."

 

Shortly after, I receive a murmur with her legs twitching in protest of my wishes. "No."

 

I'm not at all surprised; she's not always a ray of sunshine in the morning. I try again, this time lifting the comforter, revealing an irritable Faith refusing to open her eyes.

 

"Lovey, don't you want to give mama a morning kiss?"

 

Without opening her eyes, she reaches for the comforter pulling it back over her head; and I can hear her through the muffles. "No… early."

 

"Oh, alright then, I guess I'm going to have to find another little cub." I stand up, making a move to leave the bedroom, and still did not receive a response, but that doesn't discourage me; because I have another trick up my sleeve. "Another cub who wants to paint their piggies, go to the park, and maybe even have a movie night with me. Because Faithie doesn't want to have a Sunday Funday with mama."

 

Suddenly, I see Peppa's face slide off the bed, hitting the floor. Instantly Faith sits up, staring dumbfoundingly at me.

 

"Wait. Mama, wait." She scrambles her way off her bed, approaching me in her purple Tinkerbell onesie with her hands raised above her head.

 

Trying to mask my smirk, I pick her up, positioning her in front of me. "Yes?"

 

She doesn't respond right away but instead surprises me with her sloppy wet kisses, giggling. "Morning, mama."

 

"Oh, now I get more than one morning kiss from you?" I laugh incredulously, shaking my head; she hums, wearing a sheepish smile on her round face.

 

Not willing to end the game, I continue. "Well, I guess I should let you go back to sleep so that I can return to my search for another cub." Shrugging my shoulders, attempting to put her back on her bed.

 

Faith stops me by grabbing my face with her tiny hands; she sternly states. "No. No, mama. I'm your only cub." I can hear the jealousy entwined in her voice.

 

"Are you sure? I don't want you to make Peppa feel lonely now."

 

She excessively nods her head as the mess of her mane envelopes her face. "I'm sure. Peppa fine. Look, she happy." She points to her comforter; Peppa certainly does look happy, despite being left on the floor.

 

"Okay, I suppose we should get going then, right?"

 

"Yes."

 

Before I set her back to the ground again, she presses one final sloppy kiss to my cheek; I dramatically wince at her affection towards me, earning myself another sweet chuckle.

 

I observe her tottling her way to her restroom to begin her morning routine. I know she has already mastered it by now, but I call out anyway for my peace of mind. "Leave the door open, and let me know if you need help." I hear the rustling of her zipper from her onesie unzipping; as she responds. "Ya." She then begins singing another one of her memorable tunes, and I know she's made it safely onto the toilet.

 

Returning my attention to my current task, I gather the comforter and neatly make her bed. I begin collecting a few clothing options from her dresser and display them across her bed. Wanting to check in on her progress, I pop my head into her bathroom.

 

She's already approaching her purple stool in front of the sink with her onesie zipped up intact, applying toothpaste to her rainbow colored Peppa Pig toothbrush.

 

"Are you doing okay?"

 

Without a verbal confirmation, she nods as she starts brushing her teeth.

 

"Do you need my help?"

 

In the reflection of the mirror, I see her deny my offer. One ringlet gets stuck to her mouth full of foam from the toothpaste. She removes the hairpiece away and continues to brush.

"Okay, when you're done, come out to the kitchen for some breakfast before we get you dressed."

 

She manages an "uh-huh." At the same time, spitting out the remnants of the toothpaste from her mouth. I retreat into the kitchen to prepare our breakfast; when Faith finally arrives, we move through breakfast in a breeze. With my cup of coffee and her sippy cup of orange juice, we devour the food off of our plates. Once we wrap up our meal, I gather the dishes and place them into the dishwasher. I quickly clean up before retrieving a wet washcloth to cleanse Faith's face and hands from the crumbs. We make our return to her bedroom to tackle the process of getting this overly excited cub dressed.

 

"Okay, because today is special. You get to choose whatever you want to wear from what I laid out here." I motion towards the colorful options presented on her bed.

 

"Eeepppppp! Reellly mama?" She jumps enthusiastically.

 

"Yes, but you have to choose quickly so we can get going. We have a long day ahead of us."

 

She nods in acceptance and begins scanning the different options. I see her automatically stop at the sight of her favorite tutu she loves to wear, and I had thought that she'd made her decision. But her gaze returns back and forth between myself and the options, and there's a sparkle in her brown eyes as she grins. She climbs onto the bed and confidently chooses her outfit. Finally, she pivots her body to reveal what she has chosen. It doesn't take me long to realize her intentions, and it instantly melts my heart into a puddle.

 

"Don't you want to wear your tutu?" I want to reassure her that she doesn't need to choose this specific outfit to make me happy.

 

"Nope. I wanna look like you." She declares proudly, holding onto an identical grey t-shirt and blue jeans to my own.

 

God, what did I do to get blessed with this fantastic tiny human being? She doesn't even know how incredible she is. That's why I made it my life's mission to remind her of that every day.

 

I lift her into the air as her chortles fill the room. Once I bring her back into my arms, she nuzzles her face into my chest. "Do you know that you're the most miraculous child I've ever met?"

 

Immediately lifting her head, her brows knit together in curiosity. "What's merakuulusss?"

 

I free a half-suppressed laugh. "It's another word for amazing or surprising."

 

"I surprise you?" She asks.

 

"Every single day." Pleased with my answer, she maneuvers out of my hold to change out of her jammies; I assist her into her outfit of the day and fetch her matching Adidas from her closet, leaving her least favorite part of getting dressed for last, taming her unruly mane. Once I manage to get a brush through her curls, I start from the bottom, working my way up to prevent any cries from the pain of inheriting my thick curls, and successfully I put them into a ponytail just as mine.

 

I escort her into the living room, and straightaway, she finds one single bottle of red nail polish awaiting our arrival; she shrieks joyfully as she swiftly sits on the ground planting her hands on top of the coffee table. "I'm redddy mama."

 

Across the table, I joined her, holding a paper towel in my grip. "Alright, hold your horses. Lift your hands first." As she does so, I place the paper towel under her hands to prevent any accidental spills.

 

"Lovey, you got to stay put, so mama doesn't mess up." I instruct her.

 

"I stay put, mama."

 

"Good girl." Carefully I paint one coat onto her nails, and I blow on them to dry quickly. Checking if the polish had dried, I ran my index finger over her nails, and fortunately, they did.

 

"Okey dokey, all ten piggies are painted." In an attempt, I try to stand up; Faith abruptly stops me.

 

"Wait, it's your turn now." She eagerly states.

 

"Oh lovey, it's okay; mine don't need to be painted." Trying to stand up once more, but she interrupts my movements once again.

 

"Pwease mama, I want to paint your piggies too. Pwweeeasseeee?" She pleads with that puppy dog face I can never resist, and I know she won't be satisfied until I give in. After all, I did want her to enjoy herself today.

 

"Alright, alright then. But you have to be very careful not to get nail polish on the table."

 

She's buzzing with exhilaration. "I be careful. I pwomise." The corners of her mouth lift into a bright smile.

 

Positioning my hands where Faith's were just moments ago, I know this will not precisely be a regular visit to the nail salon, but I brace myself anyways. With each stroke of the brush, she manages to paint more on the outer skin of my cuticles than my actual nails. Finally, she gets into the rhythm and successfully covers each fingernail with a blob of nail polish. Satisfied with her work, she breathes in all the air her tiny lungs can hold and starts blowing on my wet nails with all her might. Worried she might grow faint, I join her in action to dry my nails. After fifteen minutes of our attempts to dry my nails, we give up.

 

Fuck it. We got to get going.

 

Not caring to clean the excessive nail polish around my nails, I hastily put our trainers on and collect our belongings to head out the door. As I pack the car and buckle Faith in her car seat, she begins singing baby shark, and thankful she has only memorized the first two verses as she continues to repeat them repeatedly.

 

We drive to the nearest park from our house; luckily, it’s a short drive away. Arriving at our destination, I pull into the busy parking lot, and immediately Faith can see the playground from her window; she squeals, kicking the passenger seat in front of her in anticipation with full force. Despite being very small, she is incredibly strong.

 

I glare at her through my rearview mirror. "Faith, you know the rules. No kicking the front seat." Instantly she stops her actions and apologizes. "I'm sowee mama."

 

"It's okay lovey; I know you're very excited but remember sometimes you have to be careful and think before you act." She nods her head understandably, but I know I'll be needing to repeat this more than a hundred times before it sticks. Finally, when a car reverses out of a parking spot, I rapidly speed into the parking space before another one of these vultures steals it.

 

It took me about two or maybe three times… Alright, if I'm being frank, it took me about five times to finally get the vehicle within the lines, but it wasn't my fault the damn lines were placed crookedly, making it fucking difficult for us competent and decent drivers to park. I blame the city for not having the ability to paint straight parking lines, fools, the lot of them.

 

Exiting the vehicle hand in hand, we approach the overcrowded playground with wailing and laughing children. Faith's practically skipping at this point, tugging my hand, rushing my efforts to catch up with her; she's an eager little bugger. I can't put her at fault though, it's been a while since she's had any contact with other children. Crouching down to eye level with her, I try to calm her down a bit by placing both hands on her shoulders.

 

"Lovey, remember what I said in the car?"

 

"Mhm. Think before I act."

 

"That's right, I want you to have fun too, but you have to be careful as well. Now, if I'm not playing with you, you have to stay where I can see you. Do you understand?"

 

"I stan mama."

 

"And one more thing, remember I don't want you going on the monkey bars."

 

Her face droops, saddened by my last statement. "Bu-- but…"

 

"No buts, young lady, remember what happened last time." The memories of her suffering from a minor cut on her lip, I know accidents happen, but thankfully the injury wasn't any more severe than that. However, there was still a possibility that something horrible could have happened. I will never forget that day; she screamed bloody murder for hours until she finally exhausted herself to sleep. God, that had to be one of the most painful experiences. Like any parent, after that incident, I wanted to protect her from anything and everything harmful.

 

"Yes." She replies with complete sorrow remembering the event I was referring to.

 

"One day, you will be so tall, and you can swing on those bars as much as you want, but for right now, you have to stay off of them."

 

"Hmmmm." She observes the other toddlers around her age swinging on the monkey bars. The difference between those toddlers and Faith is that they are twice the size as her. I know she very much wants to join them, but I can’t let her. Even if I supervise or assist her on the bars, it would only encourage her further and tempt her into adventuring the bars on her own.

 

Wanting to cheer her up, I make a suggestion. "How about we climb our way up the ladder like spiders? And then go down the slide like snakes?" Hoping this was enough to make her forget about the bars. By good fortune, her current frown cracks into a grin. I leave my bag on a vacant spot on the park bench and lead Faith to the play structure.

 

After constantly chasing her around, I decide to take a break before I wear myself out entirely. I retreat to where I left my bag, discovering a young petite blonde woman sitting on the bench beside my bag. She was holding a small red-headed infant. I approached with a warm smile, removing my bag and replacing it with myself, but ensuring an appropriate distance remained between us.

 

"She's so cute." I compliment the child wrapped comfortably in a cocoon, sound asleep.

"Thank ye, she is but only when she's not screamin' at the top of her lungs." The woman looks at me with her lips twitching into an almost smile; I can see the familiar strain and tiresome look. It's the look of endless nights staying up with a newborn.

 

"How old is she?"

 

"Just about five months." She grabs her stroller and gently lays the child down away from the screaming toddlers.

 

"Sometimes I miss when my daughter was that age." The memories of my cheery, toothless, and very chubby cub makes me smile.

 

"Och, which one is yers?"

 

I point towards Faith, who is playing what looks like hide-and-go-seek around the playground with another young blonde girl; she is about the same height as Faith. They try to hide together under the slide, but I'm sure whoever is seeking them would find them instantly. It isn’t exactly the best hiding spot.

 

"The one with the brown curly ponytail."

 

"Ah, it looks like she's made friends with my daughter, Marsali."

 

"She's your daughter as well? She's very adorable."

 

"Aye, thank ye. I would have stopped after Marsali, but ye ken how men can be." She explains wanting to go deeper into the topic, but that means sharing my own stories. That is a territory I never want to cross with strangers.

 

Trying not to make it obvious, I shift the conversation. "I'm Claire, by the way. Claire Beauchamp."

 

"Laoghaire MacKenzie."

 

We're interrupted by a very familiar deep Scottish voice coming from the other side of the play structure. "I'm lookin' for two lasses. One is named Marsali, and the other one is Faith. I wonder where they could be."

 

Faith squeals, and now both girls are giggling uncontrollably, giving away their hiding spot.

 

"Ha! I found both of ye rascals!" The duo are booming with laughter at the top of their lungs, and the person entertaining them appears into view. He crouches beside the slide laughing with the girls. The same fiery red locks I met just a few days ago now look a bit golden as the sun reflects off each ringlet, which frames his face quite handsomely. Immediately he meets my eye, grinning ear to ear, waving hello, and I in return do the same.

 

"Ye ken Jamie?" She asks curiously, and I know something had shifted in the air, but I was unaware of what caused it.

 

"Oh well, I don't really know him; I just met him Monday evening. He kindly allowed my daughter to use the restroom in the shop."

 

"Interesting." Is all she says, turning a bit flush with irritation. And I don't know how to respond to that, so I just shut my trap.

 

"He's a verra good father to them." She blurts out, informing me of their relationship, even though I didn't ask for it.

 

Piecing it together in my mind, it all makes sense now. The child step stool in the restroom, his comment about 'getting it,' and his newborn child obtaining the same shade of beautiful red hair as her father.

 

Trying to break whatever tension caused her to get all riled up, I become the bigger person for once. "You play a huge part in their lives as well; I bet you're just as an amazing mother to them." Unphased by my compliment, she remains stone-cold silent and avoids eye contact.

 

Alright sheesh. I think someone poured salt in her coffee this morning, because this bitch salty as fuck.

 

The tension continues to get heavy, and I felt the sudden urge to leave my spot on the bench. “It was nice to meet you, Laoghaire, have a great day.” When in reality, I wanted to say fuck you, Leghair. Without waiting for a response I pick up my bag and walk towards an open picnic table.

 

Abruptly I realize I don’t see Faith anywhere, my heart drops, and I don’t know how to breathe. Suddenly I hear that same familiar voice, but he sounds as if he is in discomfort. "Iffrriiiinnn." He was with Faith last. Panicking, I search for the tall ginger, and quickly I spot him walking through a crowd of children. Thankfully he’s not alone; Faith is with him. My worries of the possibility of losing her come to an end, and I can breathe once again.

 

Once they make it out of the swarming crowd, I notice Faith is not only with him per se; but with the look of determination etched on her face, she's practically dragging the 6’3 ft man by his index finger towards my direction. Not wanting to wait any longer, I rush over to them.

 

When I approach both of them, I hear Faith say to Jamie. "Mama can fix you.”