She flushed. I can just run back to the office and grab it. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.
Caleb. She comes after me, grabbing my arm. I yank myself free, taking the stairs two at a time.She calls my name, but I barely hear her. I reach the top of the stairs and turn left down the hallway. She’s behind me, begging me to stop.
Caleb, she’s sleeping. You’re going to terrify her. Don’t…I fling open the door and take in the soft pink light. Her bed is in the corner, a white four-poster. I walk in slowly, my steps muffled by the carpet. I can see her hair fanned out on the pillow, shockingly red and curly. I take another step in and I can see her face — pouty lips, chubby cheeks and my nose. I kneel next to the bed so I can see her, and I cry for the second time in my life. I cry quietly, my body shaking from my sobs.Leah’s pleas have stopped. I don’t know whether she’s behind me or not — I don’t care. Stella’s eyes flutter open. For being woken up in the middle of the night by a stranger, she is surprisingly alert and calm. She lies still, her blue eyes watching my face with the gaze of a much older child.
The sound of her voice, raspy like her mother’s, startles me. I cry harder.Daddy, why are you cwying?
I feel like someone has just poured ice water over my head. I lean back; suddenly sober. I take in her disheveled curls, her full chubby cheeks, and I melt for my daughter.
How do you know I’m your daddy? I ask gently.He spits out a couple options and I shrug. Whatever.
We pull past the news vans and I smile at them. I don’t know why except that it’s kind of funny. I used to be famous for my books, now I’m famous for something else. It kind of constipates your mind; being famous for something that someone else did to you.I make my cabbie wait while I run into the home fix-it store he chose. The building is expansive. I walk quickly past the lighting and the doorknobs until I find what I am looking for. I am there for thirty-five minutes while two employees see to my order. I have no purse or credit cards, just the wad of hundred dollar bills I shoved into my back pocket before I left the house. I kept them in an old cookie tin in my pantry for one day; a rainy day, a needy day, a day I just felt like blowing a wad of cash. Now there were only a few days left, so I figured it was time to spend. I toss three of the bills at the cashier and wheel my purchases out to the cab. I won’t let him help me. I stack everything in the trunk, and climb back into the front seat.
My legs bounce all the way back. Flashes, doors, questions hurled up my driveway. Once again, I have him pull into the garage. He helps me this time, stacking everything just inside the door that leads into the foyer. I hand him the rest of the wad from my cookie tin.For one day, I say. His eyes bulge. He thinks I’m crazy, but hey, I’m handing him lots of money. He leaves before I can change my mind. I watch him pull out and quickly close the garage door. I grab an armload of my purchases and nudge the stereo with my toe as I walk past it. The first song Isaac ever gave me kicks on. It’s loud. I make it louder until it’s pounding through the house. I’m sure they can hear it outside: a one-man party.