Seeing Sookie emotional wasn’t something that happened often. Granted, we’d only been dating four months, but I figured out pretty quickly she wasn’t a crier. She cried when Audrey was born, but the tears were pretty sparse. When Hadley told her she’d be moving to Red Ditch before Christmas I found Sookie sitting on our bed with a pint of cookie dough ice cream and tears streaming down her pretty face.
Gracie and I moved in with Sookie just after Thanksgiving. We realized we spent more time at her house than we did at ours. Sookie was the one to bring it up to me on Thanksgiving morning. My house was still on the market to be sold, but Gracie, Thor and I had officially changed our address a week ago. It was one of those things, when it was right, we went for it. We were both too old to play games and waste time. We figured out pretty quickly we were both in it for the long haul.
When I walked into the bedroom I slid onto the bed next to Sookie. I wrapped my arm around her shoulder to pull her in close. I wasn’t even going to try to sneak a bite of ice cream.
“You okay?” I asked, even though I knew the truth. She wasn’t going to be okay for a while. Hadley was her person. She wasn’t that far away. It would be a nice weekend trip to go see her whenever we wanted to. The kids were old enough to take care of themselves. Hell, they were taking care of a six-week-old.
“No,” she sniffled. “She’s leaving me.”
“She’s not going to be too far, gorgeous,” I reminded her, giving her a little squeeze. “We can go see her this weekend if you want.”
“No, she needs to work it out with Remy,” Sookie admitted. “I know it’s the right thing, but I’m still going to miss her goofy butt.”
“I know you are. She’s going to miss you too. Hell, I’m going to miss her.” She was good comic relief. “You will have facetime and the baby to cuddle when you miss her.”
“It’s not the same, but thanks.” Sookie stuffed some more ice cream in her mouth.
I knew it wasn’t the same. There wasn’t going to be any cheering her up. I moved my hand to rub her back as she ate. I had never been good with emotional women. Sookie was going to find out really quick how awkward I could get. If I kept my mouth shut I had a chance.
Sookie polished off the pint of ice cream she was eating, all except for the last bite. That she offered to me.
“I know you want some,” she said.
“You can have it, I’ll be fine. You’re the one in emotional turmoil.” I kissed the side of her head.
“When an emotional woman offers you the last bite of her ice cream, you take it,” she told me.
I opened my mouth to accept the bite. Sookie fed it to me.
“Now I want to bake cookies,” she said as I chewed on a big piece of cookie dough.
“I can go get the baby and dance around the kitchen with her while you bake,” I offered. Seeing Audrey’s precious little face always made her feel better. When she came out she had Josh’s nose and his hair color. The rest was all Aude. It was a little eerie how much she looked like her maternal grandmother. The twins looked a lot like Aude so I shouldn’t have been that surprised.
“The kids might want a break,” Sookie agreed. She got off the bed and went to the bathroom to clean up her face. “Well, no, Madi might want a break. Josh left for work already.”
“I’ll go get her. Mama Bear can take a nap.” One of the bonuses of living in the guest house was we went to get her plenty so Madi could relax. She tried breastfeeding but Audrey never took to it.
“What kind of cookies do you want? Oh, I know! The sugarless vegan ones again,” she snorted.
“Only if you want me to use them for skeet shooting,” I snickered. “I really liked those oatmeal chocolate chips ones you made.”
“With or without nuts?” Sookie came out of the bathroom without the raccoon eyes she was sporting when she went in.
“Pecans?” I grinned.
“You got it,” she replied, pausing to give me a kiss on her way out of the room.
I was a fan. Dad was right, we were totally secretly in love with each other. It happened fast and hard for us. I followed Sookie out of the room. I passed Gracie in the living room with her earbuds in. She was watching YouTube videos. I rubbed over her head when I walked by, heading to the backyard so I could go over to the guest house. When I got there I knocked and waited. I didn’t walk in unless Madi invited me over.
“Come in, Daddy.”
I walked in and found Madi feeding Audrey. She had an almost empty bottle in her mouth. Her big blue eyes rolled over in my direction.
“Hey, Princess,” I said. “I came to see if you want me to steal her for a while.”
“I wouldn’t mind. I have some homework to do,” she said. “It’s easier with this little goober taking a nap.”
“Sookie is going to make cookies so I offered so come get this little booger. She’s having an emotional meltdown with Hadley leaving. Audrey always helps,” I chuckled.
“Of course she does. Peanut makes everything better.” Madi leaned down to kiss the baby’s little head.
“You doing okay?” I asked, reaching up to rub the baby’s head. “You’re not overwhelmed or anything, are you?”
“I’m okay. I’m tired, but I’m always tired.”
“I just have to check. You’re still my baby,” I smiled. Audrey finished her bottle. “Want me to burp her?”
“Sure.” Madi gave her one more kiss before letting me have her.
Sometimes holding Audrey made me miss being a new dad. They were so precious at that age. I lucked out having Madi living on site with her. I didn’t miss midnight feedings or the screeching when she was pissed. There were a lot of things I did miss. I was going to get to experience them all again with my granddaughter, but there was something different. I wasn’t responsible for making her decent human being.
I lifted Audrey up to my shoulder so I could gently pat her back. With my size and strength I had to remember to be careful.
“You want to come over for cookies when you’re done with homework?”
“Of course,” she answered. Because she was so young, her body had pretty much snapped back to the way it was before she got pregnant. “I think I’ll take a quick shower before I get started on the essay I have to write. If she gets fussy just bring her back. She’ll probably need a new diaper in a half hour or so.”
“I can handle fussy,” I told her. “I had to deal with two fussy little turds, remember?”
“I don’t know who you’re calling a turd,” she said with sass.
“You and your sister,” I said, matching her sass. “You two were good at pissing me off and then morphing into giggle fits.”
“We still are.”
“Yes you are,” I chuckled. Audrey let out a big, healthy burp. “Oooh, that’s grandpa’s girl,” I cooed.
“She does have your impressive gastrointestinal eruptions,” she snorted. “Last night Josh got up with her and she shit up the back of her sleeper.”
I laughed loud enough to startle Audrey. Her little body jerked, making me chuckle.
“You’ll get a few more of those. Wait until she starts eating green beans and her shit is that nasty green color.”
“The color it was last night was bad enough, thanks. You be good, Peanut.” Madi pushed up on her toes to give her baby another kiss.
“You know where to find us when you’re ready to kiss her little face again.” I kissed Audrey’s forehead. Madi handed me her blankie so she didn’t get too cold going through the backyard. She was in full feetie pajamas, but better safe than sorry.
“I’ll try not to pass out with all this quiet,” she chuckled, and opened the door for me.
I walked out through the backyard to the big house. As soon as I was inside the dogs were on my ass. They were both very protective of the baby. If she was ever set down and left alone for any amount of time Thor was good at going over to curl up next to her. They both kept a good eye on her.
When I got into the kitchen Sookie was pulling out all of the ingredients for her cookies.
“I brought you some company,” I said, turning Audrey around so she could see Grandma.
“Hello, my angel,” Sookie said in a soft voice, almost cooing at the baby. It got her a little gurgle in response. “I know, I’m happy to see you too.”
“She just ate so she has a full belly. Maybe dancing around isn’t the best idea,” I chuckled.
“I’m sure you’ll find a way to keep her entertained.”
I usually did. She was a grandpa fan. I’d always been good with kids. I was usually like a big jungle gym for them. Audrey wasn’t exactly at the jungle gym stage yet, but we had fun. Well, I had fun. She really just looked at me and gurgled. I turned her so I was cradling her in the crook of my arm. I reached up to lightly tickle her little chub roll on her neck. She gave me one of the little half smiles she’d been working on.
“You think the kids’ll be pissed if we get the first real smile and laugh?” I chuckled. The baby got a grip on my finger as she studied my face.
“Not if we don’t tell them,” Sookie reasoned. She went into the pantry to get her baking stuff out. “Milk chocolate, semi-sweet chocolate or cinnamon chips?”
“Cinnamon,” I answered. Audrey tried pulling my finger to her mouth so she could suck on it. Little chubbo just ate.
Sookie came out of the pantry with her arms full of ingredients for the cookies. She had sticks of butter sitting on the counter already.
“I might make extras. The boys at the shop’ll eat ‘em, won’t they?”
“The boys will eat anything that’s set in front of them.”
“Sounds like the guys I work with,” she snickered, and got to work making her measurements.
Tray and I didn’t really get along too well. There was too much bad blood from all the years we were rivals. Instead of arguing like jackasses we just avoided each other. I only went to Classy Chassis if I had to. On the rare occasion we were stuck in the room together we stuck to conversation about cars or the baby. He didn’t take his hatred of me out on my kids, which I respected. He even bought Audrey her first tiny pair of motorcycle boots. They were cute little crocheted boots that were going to keep her tiny toes warm all winter.
Sookie was creaming the eggs and sugar when I decided to take Audrey into the living room. I walked over to my girlfriend and dipped my head to kiss her cheek.
“I love you,” I whispered. She was having a bad day so it was a good time to say it. We didn’t say it often, but we knew how each other felt.
“I love you too,” she whispered back.
I kissed her cheek one more time before I walked into the living room where the tree was. I knew Audrey would be enthralled by the lights. She was. Her pretty blue eyes went a little wider as she took in all of the bulbs and lights. Audrey had an old soul. Those little eyes already seemed like they’d seen so much. She had this stare that seemed like she was lost in thought or reliving something. It was pretty cool to watch. She was a nice, sweet, quiet baby. I hadn’t been around a lot of babies but I hadn’t hung out with any that were as cool as Audrey.
I took a seat on the floor next to the presents that were already there. I turned Audrey so she could get a good look at everything. As expected Thor came up and got comfy next to us, resting his head on my leg right next to the baby. I could hear Sookie moving around the kitchen and Gracie giggling quietly at whatever she was watching. It was a feeling I didn’t think I’d ever get to feel again. Sookie wasn’t my wife or the woman I’d initially intended to spend my life with. I wasn’t at all disappointed in the fact that she was my woman. I knew one day I was going to put a nice fat rock on her finger and give her the happily ever after she deserved – we both deserved. Things were truly good for the first time in a long time.