As we walk up to the park I think I’m more nervous than Sookie. I have Hunter on my shoulders and Brie is pushing the stroller pretending she has her own baby doll in there. Sookie has her hand in mine and as soon as I see Rasul sitting on the bench my palms get sweaty. I’m sure it’s an irrational thought, but the idea of this man going anywhere near my baby makes me want to rip his arms off. He should’ve just stayed away. She hasn’t questioned us about her looks yet, but she knows she’s different than us. I just hope she gets that no matter whose DNA she has she’s always been my daughter.
When Brie notices him she stops dead in her tracks. She knows this is why we’re coming to the park, but seeing Rasul in the flesh makes this all so real. She looks up at me and takes my hand from Sookie’s.
“It’s okay, pretty girl,” I say just loud enough for her to hear. “Hunt, you wanna get down and play now?”
“Yes please,” he says politely.
I help him down and the second his toes hit the asphalt he takes off like a rocket.
“Are you ready to go talk to Rasul?” I ask Brie. This is her show and we’ll pull out the second she says so.
She shakes her head and hugs my waist.
“Peanut, how about if I go talk to him and you can stay here with Daddy? When you’re ready you can come over,” Sookie suggests, stroking Brie’s long curls.
“Okay,” she mumbles.
“You know I’m not letting him take you, right?” I ask. Just in case that’s what she’s worried about. “I’ll always protect you.”
I glance up to see Sookie waddling toward him.
“I know,” Brie nods.
I kneel down so I’m on her level.
“What are you scared of?” I ask.
“Will you be mad at me if I like him?” Brie asks quietly.
“Not at all. You’re allowed to like him,” I tell her honestly. I know I’m dad, not him.
Brie nods and then wraps her arms around my neck.
“I love you,” I whisper as I pick her up.
“I love you too,” she replies.
I see Rasul pick up Hunter for Sookie and put him on one of the toddler swings.
“You ready to go talk to him?” I ask and point at Rasul. “See, Mom and Hunter are talking to him.”
“Okay,” she says.
I walk over to the playground with Brie on my hip. Rasul smiles when he sees us approaching and I give him a little nod.
“Good to see you again,” I say. “This one is a little shy today.”
He looks at Brie and reaches out his hand to shake hers. She just looks at me.
“Go ahead, he’s not going to bite,” I tell her.
“My name is Rasul,” he offers.
“I know,” Brie answers. “I saw you yesterday.”
He chuckles and says, “Yes you did.” He drops his hand and takes a step back.
“Do you want me to put you down?” I ask her. If she wants me to hold her the whole time I’ll be glad to.
Rasul looks at Sookie and asks, “What do I say?”
“Just let her come to you when she’s ready,” Sookie tells him.
“Baby, do you have any questions for Rasul?” I ask. I know this could be opening a whole new can of worms, but she’s bound to have them.
Brie shakes her head.
“Can I go on the monkey bars now?” she asks.
“Of course you can,” Sookie tells her. “Just stay where we can see you.”
“Can I let you down now?” I smile and kiss her cheek.
She nods again and I set her down. She runs off to the monkey bars and I turn to rest my hand on the small of Sookie’s back.
“It’ll take her a little time, but she’ll come around.” I don’t know if she will, but I have to give him some hope. As much as I hate this, I know she will have questions that only he can answer.
“I hope so,” he sighs and turns to watch her play. “She’s beautiful,” he comments quietly.
“She is, and she’s smart. She’s funny…” I look down at Sookie. She got most of her looks from Sookie, save for her color at her curls. And those fucking dimples that melt my heart whenever she wants something I’m not willing to give. Dad is definitely wrapped around her finger.
“She’s a lot like me when it comes to decision making. That’s a good thing, though. I like to be sure about things and so does she,” Sookie explains.
He looks at me and says, “I thought I was doing the right thing giving her up like I did.”
“She has me,” I tell him.
“Thanks for… for stepping up like you did.”
“It wasn’t a choice. I had to, I knew the second I saw her she was meant to be mine,” I say.
“Eric adopted her after we got married six years ago but he’s been in her life since she was five months old,” Sookie tells him.
“Mommy higher,” Hunter says.
“No, that’s high enough. I don’t need you kicking your brother on accident,” she says.
“Another boy, I guess,” Rasul nods at Sookie’s belly. I have my little moment of pride when I think I’ve given her two sons.
“Yep. Ten weeks and the factory is closed,” she smirks.
“Congratulations,” Rasul smiles at her. I don’t like the way he’s smiling. I know he’s attracted enough to have sex with my wife and vice versa. I keep my cool and take a step forward to stand against her back, wrapping my arm around her shoulder.
“Thanks,” I smile and look for Brie. She’s exactly where she’s supposed to be. I see her glancing at Rasul every now and then.
“Do you have any other kids?” Sookie asks Rasul.
“No, she’s the only one. After I found out about her I got snipped. I really had no desire to have children. I don’t want anymore, but I do want to get to know the one I have.”
“Oh, I’m sorry to hear about father passing,” I comment.
“Do you mind me asking what happened?” Sookie asks.
“Boating accident. He was a fisherman. He spent a lot of time at sea and I didn’t get to know him the way I wanted to. After he passed I wanted to give Brie the chance I wasn’t really given. I took the little time I had with him for granted,” he shrugs.
“That’s a shame,” Sookie frowns. “Do you have a good relationship with your mom?”
“Decent. She was on drugs when I was growing up. She’s clean now, but we’re more like friends than mother/son,” he explains.
“That’s too bad.” My mom and I are friends, but she’s definitely my mother. Still.
“Do you have siblings?” Sookie asks.
“Two sisters and a twin brother,” he smiles. He pulls out his phone and shows us the pictures of his siblings. He also has a picture of his mother and his father so we can get a good idea of what Brie is coming from. She looks an awful lot like his mom. I smile when I see him scroll past the picture of Brie as a baby. I assume it’s the one Sookie sent him all those years ago. “They don’t know about her,” he admits.
Brie comes over to us and tells Sookie, “I need to go to the bathroom, Mommy.”
“Okay. I’ll take you.” Sookie takes her hand.
Brie looks up at Rasul and gives him a little smile as Sookie leads her away.
“She has your smile,” I point out. It kills me that every time she smiles at me it’s this man’s, but I live.
“I’m so sorry, man, you have no idea.”
“I don’t. And I’m going to give you one warning. If you ever even think about breaking my baby’s heart that will be your last thought. If you walk away this time, don’t ever come back. I know Sookie asked you make her that promise, but I guarantee you her wrath is nothing compared to mine. I’m very protective of Brie, probably more so than I am of my boys. She’s my angel, Rasul, my baby,” I remind him.
We go silent and I start pushing Hunter. I push him higher than Sookie. She claims she doesn’t want the baby kicked, but I know she’s terrified the chain will break and he’ll get hurt. It’s irrational, but whatever.
Sookie and Brie come back and Brie says, “Hunter come race me on the slides.”
“Okay! Daddy, stop please.”
I grab the chain to stop him and take him out of the swing to let him run. Brie goes slower to allow him to keep up as they run. She’s a good girl.
“She’s ridiculously excited about the new baby,” I mention.
“Oh yeah?” Rasul keeps his eyes on her the whole time.
“Yeah she calls him Peanut Butter because he’s smaller than her,” Sookie shakes her head.
“That’s cute,” he grins and looks back at Sookie. “You seem to be doing a great job. She looks good.”
“Thanks. She’s a handful sometimes, but she’s a keeper,” Sookie says. Her hand goes to her lower back to rub it.
Rasul looks back at the kids but stays quiet. I really don’t know what else to say until Brie is ready to talk to him.
After the park we all go to the pizza place close to the house. It’s a little awkward because they only have booths, so I offer to sit next to Rasul so Brie can see he’s not so bad. I don’t know it it’ll work though.
“What do you like on your pizza?” I ask Rasul. He’s not as bad as I want him to be.
He chuckles and says, “Hawaiian is my favorite.”
“What’s Hawaiian pizza?” Brie asks him. Her first question of the day.
He smiles at her. “It has ham and pineapple. I usually order mine with red onions too.”
“I like pineapple,” Brie’s face lights up. “Daddy says it’s gross.”
“It is,” I wink. I like it fresh, but not cooked into things.
“We have pineapple on everything where I live,” Rasul tells her.
“Lucky,” Brie says. She loves pineapple.
“Baby, we have pineapple here too,” I remind her.
“I know,” she says. “But in Hawaii it’s not weird to put it on pizza.” Brie looks Rasul dead in the eye and asks, “Can you hula dance?”
Sookie almost chokes on her water.
He laughs, loudly, and says, “No, but my sisters can.”
“You laugh like my dad,” Brie smiles.
“Is that so?” He looks at me and I nod.
“The loudness,” I explain.
“Ah, well, maybe it’s a man thing,” he tells her.
Brie just shrugs.
“Bwee, color with me,” Hunter says, thrusting crayons at his big sister.
“Hunter, Brie is talking right now,” I tell him.
“She can do both,” he says. Stubborn little shit.
The waitress comes and Sookie puts in the order for our pizzas, including a Hawaiian one for Rasul and Brie.
“Is there anything else you like that your dad doesn’t?” Rasul asks her.
“Pickles,” Brie answers.
“Ah, well I don’t like pickles either,” he chuckles.
“Oh and when Grandma Nina tells stories that make Daddy gag,” she giggles.
“Grandma Nina is a little evil, pretty girl,” I joke.
“No, she’s a terrorist… like her son,” Sookie mutters and winks at me.
I smile back and tell Brie, “Did you tell Mommy about the baby snake we found?”
“Yes! You’re mean!” Brie glares at me. “I’ll get you for that.”
“We’ll see,” I wink. I look over at Rasul and explain, “Brie is terrified of anything with scales or more than two eyes.”
“Ah… I’m not a fan of snakes either,” he smiles at her.
“See?” Brie gives me another pointed look.
“It’s okay, Brie. We have a plan,” Sookie says.
“Uh oh,” Hunter giggles.
“It’s fine. Frog season is coming up, huh, Hunter.” We can be just as sneaky.
“So is husband sleeping on the couch season,” Sookie says.
“I like fwogs,” Hunter volunteers.
“Frogs are slimy and gross,” Brie tells him.
“I like them too,” Rasul adds.
“Ick,” Brie shakes her head. “I want to get a bunny but Mommy won’t let me.”
“Can we get fwogs?” Hunter asks.
“No, the girls won’t allow it,” I tell him. Maybe we’ll build a treehouse we can keep frogs in. I’ll talk to Sookie before bringing it up to Hunter.
“We’re gonna be outnumbered soon, Peanut,” Sookie sighs. “Too many boys in the house.”
“I’m sure you guys will still rule the roost.”
“What does that mean?” Brie asks.
“It means you guys will still be in charge. You know how I get in trouble if I don’t listen to Mom? That’s never changing no matter how many boys I have on my side.”
Brie giggles and says, “Your face is funny when Mommy gives you a timeout.”
“Oh yeah? What’s funny about it?” I ask.
“You make the same face as Hunter,” she tells me.
“I think it’s a very handsome face,” I smile.
“It’s a silly face,” she corrects.
“Tomato, tomahto,” I say and look over at Rasul. I feel kind of bad that Brie and I are monopolizing the conversation.
Aside from Hunter getting impatient and burning his mouth with cheese, I think dinner goes about as well as can be expected. Brie does a pretty good job of reminding everyone at the table who her dad is in her eyes. I’m sure it’s not all that easy for Rasul, but he made a choice and he has to live with it.
Somewhere down the line Brie might come to see him as her dad as well, and that’s something Eric is going to have to deal with. We both know biology doesn’t determine a person’s family, but it is a factor. I don’t think Brie will ever choose Rasul over Eric, though.
Since Brie has homework to do and Hunter’s bedtime is rapidly approaching, we have to get going shortly after we finish eating.
“I’m sorry to cut this short,” I say to Rasul after I ask for the check. “The kids run things these days.”
“I understand. Do you think I can… see her again before I go home?”
“Why don’t we ask her?” I suggest. “Brie, do you want to see Rasul again before he has to go back to Hawaii?”
Brie looks up from the paper placemat she’s been coloring on and says, “Sure.”
“Alright. What time does she get out of school?”
“3:10 but she’s got Brownies tomorrow after school so we won’t be home until 4:30,” I tell him.
“Okay, call me?” he asks.
“Of course,” I smile. “Kids, can you say goodnight to Rasul?”
“Bye Wasul,” Hunter grins and waves.
“Bye,” Brie smiles too. I’m not sure what her thoughts are about all of this but she seems to be okay.
“Bye, guys,” he smiles and exchanges a nod with Eric before he takes off.
“That went as well as can be expected,” Eric says.
“I think so,” I nod.
The waitress brings the check and I put a credit card in the bill holder and hand it back to her. We start getting the kids ready to go so I can just sign the receipt and go.
“I don’t hate him,” Eric tells me once we’re in the car.
“He’s not a bad guy. He got a little choked up earlier when he thought I was going to tell him he couldn’t see Brie.”
“I may have threatened him,” Eric tells me and reaches over to take my hand.
“Of course you did.” I’m not surprised by that at all.
“I just wanted him to know where I stand on the issue of hurting my daughter.”
“I think he learned his lesson,” I say.
“I know it isn’t really my business, but I’m glad he doesn’t have a bunch of kids out there he’s abandoned.” That he knows of anyway.
“Me too. I’ll have to give it more time, but I think he’s going to do the right thing this time. He flew all the way out here without knowing if we’d even let him see her,” Eric says.
“It was a pretty big gamble. An expensive one too,” I agree. “He’s only here six more days.”
“As cool as I say I am with this, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief once he’s gone.”
“I know.” I squeeze his hand and rest my head against the seat.
“How’s Peanut Butter treating you today?” he asks and let’s go of my hand to rub my belly.
“He’s been good. He’s moving around right now.” I move his hand to where the baby is kicking. “You know we really should start talking about names.”
“You think?” he smirks. “Do you want to ask the kids what they suggest?”
I laugh and say, “Oh I’m sure Brie has ideas.”
“Hey, pretty girl, what do you think we should name your new brother?” Eric calls to the backseat.
“Mmm… I like Mowgli like in the Jungle Book,” she replies.
“You don’t think that’s a little too wild?” he asks.
“But what if he’s big like me?”
“Little John was big too,” Brie tells him.
“Pongo!” Hunter chimes in.
“I’ll take Mowgli,” I laugh more.
“Hmm, I like Pongo,” Eric chuckles. “Baloo?”
I shake my head and put my hand on his where the baby is kicking. “How about Bradley?”
Eric glances at me with a soft smile.
“I love Bradley,” he says quietly.
Bradley was his dad’s name. I never met him but I’ve heard a lot of stories from Eric, Nina and Nora over the years. Plus I like the name.
“I’d be okay with Bradley if you are,” I tell him.
He pulls my hand up to his lips and kisses my palm. “I’m very okay with Bradley.”
“Then I think we have a winner. Of course you realize poor Hunter is going to call him Bwadley, right?” My poor baby with his little speech impediment.
“It’ll be cute,” he smiles. “We can let Brie pick his middle name if you’re feeling adventurous.”
“He’ll have a Disney character’s name, you know? Or she’ll pick one of those One Direction boys,” I point out.
“I’ll veto a One Direction name, Mowgli has a better chance,” he smiles.
“Amen to that,” I laugh.
“Hunter, what name do you think will go with Bradley?” Eric asks.
“Thow,” he answers.
“Thor?” I look back at him and he nods. Oh good God.
“Brie, what’s your favorite middle name? We can put them in a hat and pick one when we get home,” Eric suggests.
“Simba,” she giggles.
“There you go, babe. Simba or Thow,” Eric snorts.
“I’ll get the hat,” I say as Eric pulls into the driveway.
When he turns the car off Eric gets out to come around and open my door before he steps to the backseat to get Hunter out.
“Sook, if you can get my coffee set up for the morning, while I give Hunter his bath that would be great,” Eric asks as we walk in.
“You got it. Brie, go get your homework out,” I tell my daughter. I know she has vocabulary words to work on, if nothing else.
“Okay.” Brie takes her backpack to the kitchen.
Eric takes Hunter upstairs and I go to the kitchen to set up the coffee maker for the next morning. Brie gets to work on her math homework and I make a quick pit stop in the bathroom before going to the laundry room to put the wet stuff in the dryer.
After that I return to the kitchen to clean up some things while Brie does her homework. I hear the water running overhead, along with the sound of running feet.
I want to ask Brie how she feels about meeting her bio dad, but she needs to do her homework first. We’ll get to Rasul soon enough.
A couple of hours later, Hunter is sound asleep and Brie is just getting into bed for the night. I tuck her in and sit down on the bed next to her.
“So how do you feel about seeing Rasul again?” I ask and tuck her hair back.
“Okay,” she shrugs.
I’m not sure what else to say. I don’t want to sway her one way or another. Brie will never learn to think for herself if I’m always feeding her my opinions.
“Do you want to ask me anything?” I ask her.
She hesitates for a minute before she asks, “Was he your husband too?”
“No,” I shake my head. “Your dad is the only husband I’ve ever had.”
“If Rasul lives in Hawaii, how did you meet him?”
“I went to Costa Rica with Thalia for a friend’s wedding and Rasul was on vacation there,” I tell her.
“Do you love him?”
“No,” I answer again. “But I would like to be his friend for your sake, and it’s okay if you love him someday, Brie. It won’t mean you love Daddy less.”
She nods but I can tell she’s struggling with this a little bit.
“Do you want me to stay until you fall asleep?” I offer.
Brie nods again and scoots over so I can lie down next to her. She snuggles close to me and I start playing with her hair because I know it soothes her. I close my eyes too and I stay until I hear her breathing even out. I kiss her head and tell her I love her before getting up slowly.
When I leave the room I go down the hall to the master bedroom and find Eric on his laptop. I close the door and say, “She asleep.”
“Is she talking about it yet?”
“She asked me a few questions, but otherwise, not really,” I reply and peel off my dress.
“She told me she was scared I’d be upset if she likes him when you left us alone at the park,” Eric tells me and closes his laptop.
“She’s a loyal girl,” I smile at him even though hearing that makes my heart hurt a little.
“She is, I assured her I would never be upset for liking him,” Eric tells me as he stretches out on the bed.
I grab a nightgown from the dresser and slip it on. “I think she’s afraid of disappointing you,” I tell him.
“I’m trying to make sure she knows she could never disappoint me. Come here, I want to kiss my baby,” he smiles.
“Let me wash up first,” I wink and go to the bathroom to wash my face and brush my teeth.
The baby is settled in for the time being, which is good. I like that he seems to go to sleep when the other kids do. Although we woke him up last night with all the sex.
I climb up onto the bed beside Eric and fix my pillows. My lower back is in knots right now.
Eric scoots down on the bed so his head is by my belly. He slides my nightie up and kisses my belly. His hand moves around to rub my back as he whispers to Bradley. He kisses just under my belly button before he shimmies up the bed so we’re face to face. He’s still rubbing my back.
“You know I never even thought of naming him after my dad?”
“I figured,” I smile at him. “But I think it’s a good choice.”
“I think so too,” he smiles back and kisses me softly. “Nora’s gonna be pissed she didn’t think of it when she had Drew.”
“Oh well. She’ll get over it. Think Nina will be okay with it?”
“She will be. Dad was her best friend. She’s might actually cry,” he snickers. Nina is not a crier.
“I’ll believe it when I see it,” I chuckle.
“Seriously, I don’t even think she cried at his funeral.”
“Wow. Not that I would expect theatrics or her to throw herself on the coffin, but still…”
“As outspoken as Mom is, she’s very reserved in the feelings department. She cried alone, but never in front of people,” he explains. “She always said she got to say goodbye, and that’s all she needed.”
“I hope I’m never in that position,” I sigh. I hate thinking about the inevitability of Eric’s death.
“Me too,” he agrees and gives me another kiss. “That being said, should we make wills?”
“Yeah, probably. Better to be safe than sorry.” To lighten the mood I joke, “That way I know how much money I have to land a new husband.”
“Right,” he chuckles. “Never mind college funds, you’re ready to be a sugar mama.”
“Oh I’m totally going to cougar it up.”
“Mmm, you are sexy,” he purrs.
“Thank you. What would you do if I die first?” I ask.
“Sit in a corner and rock until one of the kids made me move. Then I rock somewhere else,” he chuckles.
“Oh you’d eventually find a cute little piece of ass to play with,” I assure him.
“Baby, do you really think any other woman wants me? I’m lucky I scored you.”
“Eric, if Thal is free and I go first she is totally going to try to get on your dick,” I laugh. “Plus Nina will probably start setting you up on dates again.”
“No. To both of those,” he says, leaving no room for argument.
“Maybe Brie will get the bug from your mom and–”
“Are you kidding me? I’d end up with the same ridiculous looking women except they’d have Disney Princess names. Plus if you die, I’m done. I don’t want anyone else, ever.”
“I don’t want you to be lonely,” I frown.
“I won’t be. I’ll have my kids to keep me occupied,” he tells me and brushes my hair back.
“Yeah, but this is different than the relationship with the kids,” I say.
“I know. I honestly can’t think about being with anyone else. You’ve been my world for eight years, and in the grand scheme that doesn’t seem that long, but it feels like you’re all I’ve ever wanted,” he explains.
“Stop it before I cry,” I say as my eyes water.
“No crying,” he whispers and kisses the tip of my nose.
“Let’s talk about something less depressing,” I suggest.
“Mmm, like when you’re able to bend again and we can do all the super crazy sex positions?” he grins.
“What super crazy sex positions?” I laugh.
“I don’t know. We haven’t flipped you upside down yet,” he shrugs the best he can.
“Uh yeah, and we’ll keep it that way,” I tell him. “Unless you want me to end up in traction.”
He laughs and says, “Fine, how about sex in the treehouse I decided I want to build for the boys?”
“Treehouse, huh?” I arch an eyebrow. Eric could barely put the crib together for Hunter.
“Yeah, when Hunt asked for fwogs, I thought about making a place he can keep them. I would supervise the build of course,” he smiles.
“You’re going to let our toddler, who isn’t using a toilet yet, build a treehouse?”
“No, I’ll wait until he uses a toilet and hire a contractor to build it. Duh.”
“Good, because we would definitely need those wills the other way,” I laugh.
“I’m not all dumb, babe,” Eric smiles.
“No, you’re not. But there may be one problem with the treehouse…”
“I don’t think your fwogs will do well out there in the winter.”
“What if I make a deluxe treehouse with central heat and air? Controlled climate in case we need a break from this kids and want to sneak up there?”
I snort and say, “I think you overestimate how sexy I think frogs are.”
“I’m not overestimating how sexy you think my ass is, though. I would let you touch it in the treehouse,” he says with a silly grin.
“You’ll let me touch it anywhere,” I counter.
“Well, damn. Maybe I just want something cool for the boys. Sometimes I think I favor Brie a little too much,” he sighs.
“You are a sucker for her.”
“I am. She’s my little girl, though.”
“And she knows it.”
“You know I never wanted her to feel unwanted, or like the odd man out because she’s not blond and pale like me. I think that’s why I spoil her so much.”
“I don’t think she feels like the odd man out. She had you all to herself for years before Hunter came along.”
“True… now I just hope she’s not too confused with the Rasul thing.”
“I think it’ll be fine. We all just need time to adjust,” I tell him.
“Maybe if they get along we can finally go to Hawaii one day so she can visit him if she wants to.”
“That would be nice. I can take hula lessons,” I chuckle.
“I would love to watch that happen,” he says with heat in his eyes.
“I better make it a private dance so we don’t get arrested.”
“Probably right,” he laughs.
“I know I am,” I yawn.
“You ready to go to sleep?” he asks and continues to rub my back.
“Yeah. Hauling this baby around is starting to tire me out faster,” I admit.
“Okay. I should probably sleep too. I have a ridiculously long meeting first thing in the morning,” he sighs and rolls over to turn off the light.
“If you wake me up in the morning I’ll make sure you go to your meeting with a smile on your face,” I tell him.
“I can do that,” he grins.
“Good. Love you,” I smile and give him a kiss.
“I love you too, baby. Goodnight.”
I turn over and get situated. Eric spoons up behind me and we fall asleep with our hands on my belly.