Chapter 3: Two Brothers, One Day

I carefully followed Lily up the ladder to the slide. Once on top, I lifted her carefully onto my lap.

“No!” She shouted.

I sighed. “Sorry Lily. This will have to do until Mommy can afford to buy you your own play set.” I held onto her tightly and pushed us both down the slide. She shrieked loudly, and took off running through the sand to the swing set.

I followed close behind and lifted her into the baby swing, pulling her forward and pushing her backward. She laughed, kicking her tiny feet.

I smiled, hoping that soon I would be able to buy Lily her own swing set, something that she enjoyed so much.

I glanced at my watch between pushes and realized how late it was. Lily needed some lunch and hopefully I could get her to nap after a busy morning at the park.

“Lily, honey. We have to go. Are you getting hungry?”

“No!” She shouted, pumping her fists in the air.

I laughed. “Sorry, honey. It’s lunch time. You can watch some cartoons…”

“O-tay…” She agreed.

I stopped the swing and lifted her from the child seat. I carried her across the sand pit and placed her in the stroller.

I carefully buckled her in and placed her favorite teddy bear next to her. “Do you want your juice, sweetie?”

“Juice!”

I smiled and removed her sippy cup from the cup holder on the top of the stroller and placed it in her hands.

“Okay, let’s go home.” I smiled to her and stood. I carefully pushed the stroller along the concrete path to the parking lot, where I turned onto the sidewalk and began pushing her toward my mother’s house.

“So it’s true, then.” A voice suddenly interrupted my thoughts. I recognized the voice immediately, though I wished I hadn’t.

I turned to see Taylor standing in the parking lot, leaning against a white SUV. His arms were crossed over his chest, and with a pair of thick sunglasses on, he looked rather menacing.

“What the hell? Are you stalking me?” I demanded.

He removed his sunglasses and for the first time I realized he looked as tired as I felt. There were lines in his face that I had never seen before, and the crows feet stamped in the corners of his eyes made me almost feel sorry for him. He looked as though he hadn’t showered or shaved in at least a week.

“God, your brother has a big mouth.” I muttered, and reminded myself to kill him when I had the chance.

“I thought we could maybe hang out or something… as friends…”

“What do you want from me, Taylor?” I demanded, crossing my arms over my chest.

“I needed to see for myself that you were back.” He admitted. “Are you babysitting or working as a nanny now?” I felt his eyes on the stroller.

I glared at him, “That’s none of your business.”

“It is my business.” He replied. “I think I have a right to know.”

“What right? You don’t own me! We haven’t spoken in two years! A lot has changed since then.”

A sudden thought occurred to me at that moment, and I realized that for the second time I was about to tell him to go home to his pregnant wife, which seemed dreadfully familiar.

He sighed. “Not much has changed since then.” He admitted, dropping his arms to his sides. “There’s a huge part of me that regrets giving you up, Andy. I think I still love-“

“Stop it!” I shouted. “Just get the hell out of my life and stay there!”

Lily detected the change in my voice, and undoubtedly picked up on my rising anger and began to wail.

“No, no. Honey!” I urged, quickly circling the stroller. I released Lily from her stroller and picked her up to cuddle her. “It’s okay, sweetie.”

“You,” I narrowed my eyes at Taylor. “You stay away from me; I’ll call the police if I have to. I don’t want anything to do with you.”

“Mommy!” Lily cried on my shoulder.

I caught Taylor’s surprised expression, though I wished I hadn’t.

“She’s… she’s yours?” He asked, taking several cautious steps closer. “Who-Who’s the father?”

I sighed, and said the first thing that came to mind. “A guy I went to school with.”

“So you’re married, then.” He looked heart broken again.

I avoided the crystal blue eyes that I knew I couldn’t lie to. “No. He was a dirt bag, who wants nothing to do with me or Lily.” I convinced myself that this was the truth. I had to believe it.

I bounced Lily gently on my hip, hoping to soothe her. She was already calming with the change in my voice.

“Can… Can I hold her?” Taylor asked, walking closer slowly.

“No.” I replied, holding onto her protectively.

“I… I thought we could be friends.” He shook his head. “I mean, I thought-“

“No, Taylor. There’s too much history. You broke my heart, and I’m not going to let you any where near my baby because of it. Goodbye, Taylor.” Holding onto Lily and shielding her protectively, I walked away from Taylor again.

~*~*~*~*~*~

I was sitting on the floor of my mother’s house after feeding Lily her lunch. She was playing with some oversized people in a little play center that I had brought all the way from California. She loved the toy, especially when fitting the people in the bus and wheeling them down the little slide. It always made her shriek with giggles, which in tern made me laugh.

I still hadn’t recovered from the encounter with Taylor that morning. I was still feeling slightly weak, and exhaustion was starting to set in.

The doorbell rang, signaling someone at the door. Lily looked up to figure out where the noise was coming from.

“Lily, honey? Can you watch cartoons for a minute?”

She didn’t reply, but I got to my feet anyway. I jogged to the front door and slowly opened it.

Standing before me was Isaac.

“You!” I was suddenly angry with him.

“Yeah, listen.” He rubbed the back of his neck with his hand. “I came to apologize. I asked too many questions yesterday, I should have known my place a little better. I’m sorry.”

“I asked you not to tell your brother, and you did!” I cried. “I think we’re finished talking…” I tried to close the door, but his hand stopped me.

“I’m sorry. He knew as soon as I walked into his place that something was different. He weaseled it out of me… I’m really sorry. Can I make it up to you?”

“Yeah, you can keep him away from me.”

“Done!” He said immediately and a little too eagerly.

I smiled. “That’s okay, really. You don’t have to-“ I was interrupted by a sudden shriek from inside. I knew immediately it was Lily, and sprang to life. “Come in, come in!” I urged him quickly, and ran back to the living room.

I scooped up Lily who was now crying and wailing loudly, with tears streaming down her cheeks. “Sweetie, sweetie, its okay!” I hushed, bouncing her gently in my arms. Isaac appeared in the living room, having closed the door and removed his shoes.

Lily was still wailing, with her index finger in her mouth. “I’m sorry,” I apologized frantically to Isaac, “She’s been cranky all day, she didn’t sleep well last night…. Let me get her some juice that will-“ I walked toward Isaac with Lily in my arms, on my way to the kitchen.

Isaac held out his arms. “Here, let me hold her for a minute.” He tried.

“Are you sure?” I asked in disbelief. Most people wanted to be as far away from a screaming and crying baby.

“Yeah, of course. Let me try.”

“Okay…” I slowly passed her over, as she wailed in response. I strode quickly into the kitchen and was pouring some apple juice into a sippy cup when I heard the crying stop suddenly and abruptly.

Fearing the worst, I abandoned the juice and ran into the living room. Isaac was walking in slow circles, while holding Lily against his chest. She had fallen asleep on his shoulder with her thumb in her mouth; something completely unlike her when strangers were involved.

I placed my hand flat on my chest and watched silently, listening to him sing to her softly.

“Rain falling down out of my eyes/ And I’m wondering why you had to say goodbye/ And leave me baby, all alone in my life…”

He noticed me at last and smiled, stroking Lily’s back gently.

“You did it!” I whispered. I had been trying to get her to sleep for the past hour with no luck.

“Where can I lay her down?” He whispered, approaching me slowly.

“In here.” I led him down the hall and pushed open my bedroom door, leaning against the door frame.

Isaac walked past me and gently bent over the bed, laying Lily’s tiny sleeping body down with a smile. He pulled her favorite blanket around her and straightened. I found myself very suddenly attracted to him.

He followed me from the room.

“God, I can’t believe you did that! I’ve been trying so hard to get her to sleep…” I muttered. I was overwhelmed with the sudden urge to kiss him in appreciation for his efforts.

He smiled. “Practice makes perfect, right?”

“I guess so.” I sighed, “Listen, can I get you a cup of coffee? Umm… apple juice?”

He chuckled at that, “No, no. I’m fine. Sit down, you look exhausted.”

“Thanks,” I smiled.

He laughed. “I didn’t mean it like that. I just meant that it must be tough on you to be raising a little one on your own.”

I pursed my lips and avoided eye contact. “Right.”

“Sorry.” He quickly apologized, “It’s a sensitive subject.”

I nodded slowly. He had no idea.

“Listen, I meant what I said earlier. I am sorry about before… I’d like to make it up to you… Can I take you to dinner or something?” He offered. His hand reached out and dropped onto my knee. His hand was warm and felt reassuring to the touch.

“I uh… I don’t know…” I quickly pushed my hair out of my eyes. “I’ve got Lily… though my mother would take care of her…”

“How about tomorrow night? Eight o’clock?” He offered.

I smiled, “Sure. By then Lily will be asleep.”

>>