The Custody Case of Caliente vs. Davenport

Dear Diary,

Today was mine and Trevor’s last day in court. Judge Logan would finally be ruling on custody of Orla. When I first began this ordeal, I was so scared this crackpot judge would take Orla away from me. But with Mr. Bernhardt helping me, I was confident I would rightfully be granted sole custody. Of course, Mr. Bernhardt cautioned me that Trevor might still get partial custody. I thought he was being ridiculous.

The sun poured through the window, bathing London it’s morning rays. She groaned and rolled over. She had barely slept a wink the night before. But before she could fall back to sleep, the door to the tiny room she’d shared most of her life – first with Karly, now with Orla – creaked open.

“Mama,” Orla whispered. The smells of bacon and black coffee filled London’s nose. She could hear Lyndsy banging spoonfuls of eggs on to plates.

London pretend to be asleep.

“Mama?” Orla drew closer.

London still didn’t stir.

“Maaama, wake up.” This time Orla whined right into London’s ear. When London didn’t reply, Orla climbed on to the bed.

“Mama, twime for bweakfast!” Orla reached down and tugged London’s eyelids apart. London’s eyes snapped open.

“RAAAAWR!”

London grabbed Orla before she could dart off the bed, hugging and tickling her, and pretending to bite her. Orla shrieked in laughter.

“London, c’mon, we’re gonna be late. Get you rear in gear,” Lyndsy shouted up he stairs.

London sighed and flopped back on her bed. Orla bounced up and down on her chest.

“’Gain, Mama, ‘gain!”

“Sorry Babycakes, you heard Abuela. We gotta get ready to go.”

“Where,” Orla demanded.

“Well, today we are going to go to court. Abuela will come and sit with you and Mama and Dada are going to find out who you’ll be living with from now on.”

“Together,” asked Orla.

“If only it were that simple, Babycakes.” London lightly brushed at the bruise on her neck, tears forming in her eyes.

“Aw, mama owie hurt? I mwake it betta.” Orla leaned over and kissed London’s bruise.

London grabbed Orla up and held her close. Her daughter was so precious – she had to protect her.

“Mama, yer hurtink meeeee,” Orla whined, trying to push away.

London rolled out of bed, Orla still in her arms.

“Sorry Babycakes. Let’s go have breakfast.”

Orla chatted away happily as she ate, oblivious to the fact her mama and abuela were on edge, while simultaneously trying to drink in every moment of what may be their last breakfast together.

Orla ran laps up and down the hall outside the courtroom. Ordinarily, London would have asked her to be quiet, but a million thoughts were clambering in her head, meaning she paid no attention to what was happening around her.

“Orla, come sit with Abuela and you can watch a video on her phone,” pleaded Lyndsy.

Orla had reached one end of the hall, turned, and raced toward Lyndsy. Lyndsy smiled in relief, even opening her arms to welcome Orla. But instead of stop, Orla whizzed by, on the way down to the other end of the hall. As she reached the end, someone came around the corner. The force of their collision sent Orla back on her bottom.

“Oopsie Orla! Did you take a bit of a tumble?” Angelique Jones’s buttery warm voice boomed down the corridor.

Orla screwed her face up in a pout, a variable caricature of a stroppy toddler. Lip quivering, she sniffed. Once. Twice. Then let out an almighty wail.

This was finally enough to get London’s attention. She shot to her feet and strode down the hall.

“Orla, you’re ok! Angelique, I am so sorry! Orla, apologize to Ms. -”

At that moment, Trevor rounded the corner with his lawyer. London stopped short, the words dying in her throat. The blood pounded in her ears. It was the first time she’d seen Trevor since… well, she didn’t like to think about the last time she saw him. Unconsciously, she readjusted the scarf around her neck.

“What all this boo-hooing about?” The moment Trevor scooped up Orla, she ceased crying.

“Daddeee,” she cooed, throwing her arms around him.

“Aw, I missed you, too, Pixie.” He wrapped his arms around her in return.

“So, what caused all those tears?”

Orla lifted her head and glanced shyly at Ms. Jones, but didn’t say anything.

“Orla was running in the hallway and we collided when I came around the corner,” Ms. Jones finally explained.

“Orla, we don’t run inside! You need to apologize to Ms. Jones,” Trevor admonished Orla.

“Sowwy,” Orla mumbled, staring at the ground.

“Orla, you need to look at someone when you apologize to them. And tell them what you are sorry for.”

London’s lip curled into a sneer. Showing off for everyone’s benefit. Like this somehow makes up for all the times I need his help and he just continued playing Density Effect.

“And where were during all this?” Trevor gave London a withering look.

But before London had a chance to respond, the clerk poked her head out the door.

“Caliente vs. Davenport?”

As everyone filed into the courtroom, London took one last glance around.

“Here Trevor, you’re going to busy, let me take her.” London turned back around in time to see her mother take Orla from Trevor. While her voice was sweetness and light, London knew ever since Trevor had attacked her, Lyndsy thought it would be best if Trevor was left in a doorless room with no food and there was nothing but venom in those words.

“London, do you not have anymore family coming,” London’s lawyer Oliver Bernhardt whispered to her.

“I guess not.”

Despite his usual professional manner, Oliver sighed slightly as he put his briefcase on the defense’s table.

“Did you not impress upon them the importance of their presence as a show of support for you?”

“I did, I swear I did. I guess they must have all been busy.”

That morning, Karly had informed her she had an important meeting with a client.

“I can’t reschedule – I’ve got a good feeling about this book Lo. And I’m not the only one. If we don’t snap this one up, someone else will. This book places high enough on the best seller’s list, I’d be promoted for sure! But I’ll be thinking of you!”

But it was hard to not feel let down. London had been depending on her sister. Her father had muttered vaguely about meetings, too. And Calvin and Antoine wouldn’t be able to make it either. London was now regretting not contacting some of her extended family – surely not everyone in Oasis Springs was taking a meeting today.

However, after a few minutes, it became apparent that no one was coming to support Trevor either.

Well that’s something, London mused. Obviously Cliff couldn’t make it due to work, but is Sarah-Jean that pigheaded?

After the divorce, Sarah-Jean vowed to never be in the same room as London ever again. “If I ever have to be in the same room as that stuck up, home-wrecking bitch, I…well I don’t know what I’d do!” She’d blustered to anyone who would listen. Which, fortunately for London, wasn’t many.

“All rise for the honorable Judge William J. Logan,” shouted the bailiff.

London’s face blanched as she stood up shakily.

“I thought you were going to ask judge Logan to recuse himself,” London hissed to her lawyer.

The stodgy, old judge plopped down into his chair.

“You may all be seated. Court is now in session.”

“You can only request a recusal, but in the end, it’s up to the judge. But if things don’t go the way we hoped, we can use that as part of our appeals process.”

“Ms. Caliente, Mr. Bernhardt, something you’d like to share with the rest of the court,” judge Logan asked pointedly.

London’s face flamed with embarrassment, but Oliver Bernhardt was as smooth as butter.

“No, your honor, my client was just asking about today’s proceedings. Sorry to have interrupted.”

“I see.”

London was positive he’d be able to hear them.

“Well, on that note, today’s proceedings are as follows: We will hear closing arguments, then after a brief recess, I will giving my ruling in the custody case of Caliente vs. Davenport, regarding Orla Eve Davenport.”

“Actually, your honor,” Akash Kapoor, Trevor’s lawyer, stood up. “We have more testimony that we would like to have entered into evidence.”

“It’s unusual, providing more testimony this late in the case,” judge Logan stroked his chin thoughtfully. “But I’ll allow it.”

“Thank you, your honor.”

Trevor slithered up to the witness stand.

“Mr. Davenport, please reiterate, for the benefit of the court, the incident that occurred on the night of Tuesday, the fifth of this month, as it speaks to the defendant’s character?”

“Well, like you said, it was last Tuesday. I’d originally been scheduled to work the day shift, but my boss asked me to stay late that night. Which was odd, since it was a Tuesday and we weren’t very busy. I later found out it was because of London – Ms. Caliente, asked him to.”

London fought to catch her breath.

This can’t be happening! Is he really going to tell them – that?

It was happening and Trevor did tell them. He told them every sordid detail. The way she’d licked her lips and touched herself, inviting him to do the same. How she’d followed him home and tried to seduce her way back into his life. The court stenographer’s key clicked judgmentally, the clerk seemed to avoid London’s gaze. And Judge Logan? Well, there was an unmistakable look of disgust on his face.

Lyndsy couldn’t take it anymore.

“And what about what you did her? When she was leaving? A man who dares to lay a hand on a woman is unfit to be a parent!”

“Order in the court,” Judge Logan roared, banging his gavel. “Mrs. Caliente, sit down or I will have you arrested for being in contempt of the court.”

“It’s Ms., also,” Lyndsy retorted, as she sat back down next to a frightened looking Orla.

“I should have guessed,” muttered judge Logan.

London couldn’t tear her eyes off Orla.

This isn’t fair to her. She shouldn’t have to hear this – even if she doesn’t understand most of it. She deserves two parents who each other as much as they love her. Trevor’s right, I am a failure as a mother.

“I’m going to throw up,” London moaned, tears stinging her eyes.

“London, get a hold of yourself,” Mr. Bernhardt said under his breath. “Your honor, my client and I would like to request a fifteen minute recess.”

“Granted. We will reconvene at 9:45.”

Judge Logan had barely finished before London was up and out the door, looking for a trash can. She wretched until she was dry heaving.

Her lawyer came up behind her.

“Is it all true London,” he murmured.

London straightened up and turned to face him. She began to wipe her mouth with the back of her sleeve, until she noticed he had a handkerchief proffered. She started to explain herself, but decided against it.

“It is,” she simply stated.

“And the part about him hurting you? Is that true, too?”

London nodded.

“That bastard,” Oliver growled, his body becoming tense, fists clenched. “But I think we can use this to our advantage. If Trevor has a history of having a temper, Judge Logan couldn’t possibly award him custody.”

“I don’t – I don’t want to talk about it.”

“London, you have to. Right now, things don’t look great for you.”

London burst into tears. “Oliver, that was the worst night of my life. I felt so ashamed after he used me and so helpless to protect my daughter. And then when he said those awful things…” London squeezed her eyes closed. “ And he choked me.” She let out a ragged breath. “If it hadn’t been for Orla, I think I would have died after that.”

“London, don’t even let him make you feel like that again. What he did – it was wrong. And we are going to prove that today by making sure you get full custody of your daughter. But you have to testify against him. You have to talk about this. May I?” Oliver queried, simultaneously reaching for London’s scarf.

Reflexively, London drew back. Oliver froze.

“I’m sorry, that was stupid,” he murmured.

London shook her head. “No, I’m sorry -”

Oliver cut her off. “You have nothing to be sorry for London.” His words seemed tender.

London suddenly was awash with need. She had been forced to be strong, for the sake of her daughter, but now, she just wanted someone to hold her. She fell against him, wrapping her arms around him like she might sink if she didn’t have him to hold.

“London, stop. You’re in a vulnerable place and not thinking correctly.” Oliver freed himself from his grasp. Before London could say anything more, he walked away.

You idiot. What were you even trying to do?

London glanced around, relieved to see that she was alone in the corridor and they had not been seen.

When she returned to the courtroom, Oliver was already seated at the defendant’s table. London slid into the chair next to him.

“Oliver, I wanted to apologize -”

“London, let’s just forget about it.” Oliver cut her off again. “I know that you are in a difficult situation and you are in need of support right now. But that was a foolish thing to do and we should both be thankful we weren’t caught.

London spent the whole time her lawyer was cross-examining Trevor staring at the table, embarrassed and ashamed.

You are needy nitwit. That was completely unprofessional. If you’d been caught, Judge Logan probably would have granted full custody to Trevor right then and there. He would have been well within his rights and it would have been all your fault.

“…London?”

London’s head snapped up. The way Oliver said her name and was staring at her, she could tell this wasn’t the first time he’d called her name. He looked at her expectantly, clearly waiting for her to answer his question, but she had no clue what he had said. She tried to convey this with her eyes, which she suspected made her look insane. Finally, he repeated himself.

“Ms. Caliente, if you could please come forward to give your rebuttal?”

At that moment, London wished she hadn’t heard him after all. Her throat closed up and her chest ached from the pounding of her heart.

Giving her statement, reliving that horrible night was like an out of body experience. She watched as she laid herself bare in front of the court. She couldn’t help the tears streaming down her cheeks, and the judge had to ask her to compose herself. Oliver offered her his handkerchief for the second time that day. Finally, the awful moment when she had to lift her scarf and display the lingering bruise for everyone to see. By the time she was finished, she felt raw.

Except she wasn’t finished.

Mr. Kapoor slid up to the witness stand, his gaze cool. London thought of a circling shark.

“Ms. Caliente, you’ve spoken of how my client, Mr. Davenport allegedly attacked you. And you’ve admitted there were no witnesses to this crime.”

“Well, one of the neighbors heard us. He shouted at us.”

“But did he see anything? This alleged physical attack, for example?”

“I don’t know,” London said weakly.

“So you have no witness to corroborator this story.”

“It’s not a story. Trevor choked me. I thought I was going to die.”

“But you don’t have a witness to back that statement up. And why didn’t you go to the police with this story? Why isn’t my client on trial for assault and battery?”

“I- I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I couldn’t bring myself to relive it. I had to pretend, for my daughter’s sake, that everything was ok. I couldn’t let her father become a monster.”

“Mmhm. But there was nothing actually stopping you from going to the police, if it actually happened as you claimed? You didn’t need to go to the hospital?”

“I mean, I probably should have gone to the hospital, to have my throat looked at…”

“And why didn’t you do that, Ms. Caliente?”

“I thought they wouldn’t believe me. That they wouldn’t believe what had happened,” London whispered.

“And why is that, Ms. Calietne?”

“Because the sex,” the word tasted tinny in her mouth, “it was consensual.”

“Objection, your honor, this encounter could potentially be classified as rape by deception,” Oliver called out.

“Your honor, my client did not make any false claims in order to coerce Ms. Caliente into sleeping with him.”

“But his actions implied it.”

“Overruled,” barked Judge Logan. “This is just he-said, she-said. Please stick to the facts, Mr. Bernhardt.”

Mr. Kapoor refocused his attention back on London.

“Ms. Caliente, have you ever heard of BDSM?”

London was taken aback. “No! I mean, yes, there were those books that came out…” she stammered.

“So you know that some practitioner of BDSM, what’s know as the submissive in the relationship, get off on pain? That they want to be choked?”

“Not all of them do.” London, caught off guard, gave the wrong answer.

“Ms Caliente, you seem to know a lot about BDSM.”

“Wh-what?! No, I don’t I just mean…”

“Mean what, Ms. Caliente? Are you saying that you didn’t beg Trevor to choke you in the throes of you attempt to trick him into getting back together? That he didn’t want to participate in your deviant behavior, but you forced him to?”

Unable to take the accusations any longer, London burst into tears.

“Your honor, please! This is ridiculous! Mr. Kapoor is badgering my client.”

“Mr. Kapoor, please reign in you line of questioning.”

“Oh, I’m finished with my questioning, your honor. But I’d like you to think long and hard before you give custody of an innocent child to someone with such perverted tendencies.”

“Those are some very serious accusations, Mr. Kapoor. That being said,” Judge Logan turned to London. “If they are true, they will be taken into consideration in deciding Orla’s future.”

“They’re not,” London insisted feebly.

“That’s enough out of you, Ms. Caliente. We will recess now while I review the evidence. We will reconvene later this afternoon, where I will give my final ruling in the custody case for Orla Eve Davenport.”

Lyndsy went to purchase lunch from a food cart, while London watched Orla as she chased pigeons. Oliver Bernhardt slid up next to London. They watched Orla as she waddled on pudgy legs, her bouncing curls and toddler giggles drawing the attention of all around her. After a few moments, he broke the silence.

“London, realistically, I think we need to start planning out our appeal.”

London glared at him furiously.

“I thought you said my testify would help! Now I feel like a used up sack of trash and we may be worse off than we were before.”

Oliver flinched, taken aback by outburst by his usually calm and even sweet client.

“I know, I’m sorry London. I didn’t realize Trevor’s lawyer would stoop so low. Or that Judge Logan would act like it was fact with absolutely no evidence.”

“I trusted you, Oliver! I thought you were going to help me protect my daughter!”

“London, I -”

Lyndsy returned, balancing food and drinks. Noting her daughter’s distress, she interrupted him. “Mr. Bernhardt, I think you should go for now.”

“But I -”

“Mr. Benrhardt, please.”

Oliver glanced unsurely back at London, but left without another word.

Lyndsy watched him go with pursed lips. When she finally deemed him far enough away, she faced her daughter, a look of concern spreading across her face. She pressed a hot dog into London’s hands. London stared at it mutely, unmoving.

“London, you have to eat something.”

London unwrapped it and took a bite, chewing slowly. She felt like she was trying to eat a mouthful of cotton. She let her hand fall limply back down to her side. A million questions were popping into her head. She turned to Lyndsy and opened her mouth. But all that she managed to get out was “Oh mama!” before she broke down into tears again. Lyndsy wrapped her arms around London. There wasn’t much else she could do.

Some time had passed sunce lunch, though London had lost track of the minutes. She was grateful for each addition minute with her daughter, but Orla was becoming restless.

“Mama, wanna go howme,” she whined.

London briefly considered scooping up Orla and making a run for it. But under the watchful eyes of Ms. Jones and the bailiff, that wasn’t happening.

“Me, too, Babycakes. Me, too.”

An hour later, maybe forty-five minutes, they were finally called back into the courtroom.

“All right, I’m going to keep this short and sweet. In the custody dispute of Caliente vs. Davenport for Orla Eve Caliente, I find in favor of the plaintiff. I award full custody of Orla Eve Davenport to Trevor Davenport, effective immediately.”

London felt like a rug had been pulled from underneath her.

“London, we’ll start the appeals procress immediately…” Oliver put a hand on London’s arm.

“This is bull shit,” Lyndsy shouted, erupting from her seat.

London turned and watched as Ms. Jones gathered up Orla.

“C’mon sugar, let’s get you to your daddy.” Under other circumstances, London might have catagorized her tone as remorseful.


How can I live without her?

Love, London

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Entry 6 – The Way We Used to Be

Dear Diary,

As I mentioned before, I knew what needed to be done so Trevor wouldn’t take Orla from me. Mama and Karly both thought it was a bad idea, but I wouldn’t budge.

It was hot in The Rattlesnake. The A/C was on full blast, but in the summer, there was only so much that could be done. Trevor’s shirt clung to him. He was looking forward to getting home and stripping it off, taking a nice cool shower, then vegging out in front of the tv. It was weird that Reggie had asked him to stay late right at the beginning of his shift. Trevor had only switched exclusively to afternoon shifts recently, and Reggie rarely asked him to stay late. When he did, it was much later in the evening, when it was apparent that it was going to be busy and they needed an extra hand. But it hadn’t even been busy – not exactly shocking for a Tuesday night.

Musta been something to do with a girl,Trevor guessed, feeling slightly envious.

London leaned casually against the wall, the bricks cool against her back. The throbbing baseline pulsed through her whole body. It had been a while since she had been out like this – not since Orla was born. London pulled nervously at the hem of the dress she’d borrowed from Karly. She felt a bit silly in it. She had intended to feel sexy, but she just felt pathetic, like everyone was staring at her stretchmarks and cellulite.

Trevor stopped dead in his tracks when he noticed her, and looked her up and down conspicuously.

“Holy shit.”

Oh yes, whatever London was feeling, the dress was definitely having its intended effect.

Trevor regained his composure and sauntered up to London.

“London, hey.” He inclined his chin slightly.

“Hey yourself, Trevor,” London smiled coquettishly.

07-01-17_8-00-26 PM

“What are you doing here?”

“Oh, me? I just wanted,” London did a slow body roll, her hands traveling down her sides, “to dance.”

Trevor drank in her every move greedily, like someone had just handed him a tall glass of water after he’d been lost in the desert. Although to be honest, London would have considered herself a small glass of water. Like, a shot glass.

When London reached the hem of the dress, she gave it what she hoped was a discrete tug.

“What about you? Shouldn’t you be off work already? You said you were switching to afternoon shifts, so you would be able to care for our daughter full time.”

“Reggie asked me to stay late. Where is our daughter, by the way?”

“She’s sound asleep and safe at home with my mom. I didn’t leave until she’d got to bed. And I work so hard, aren’t I allowed a little,” London bit her lip slightly, “fun?”

“I’m just saying London, this is a strange way to try and prove that you want to keep your daughter.” Trevor was betrayed by the fact that he was staring at her mouth.

Was he always this easy?

“T-Trevor, I don’t want to fight,” London seemed to stutter. “To be honest,” London stepped closer to him, her breasts brushing against his arm and she reached up to whisper in his ear. “I was hoping to see you,” she purred.

Trevor cocked his head and grinned wolfishly. “Is that so?”

London swallowed and nodded.

“Well then, why don’t we get out of here and head back to my place?”

London smiled and looked up at Trevor through lowered lashes. “Now that sounds like fun.”

“Prick!” London slammed her palms against her steering wheel.

“Scumbag!” She slammed her steering wheel again.

“Arrogant bastard!” Out of habit, she was blaring the radio, drowning out her cursing, even though she was alone in the car.

This may be the craziest thing I’ve ever done – even crazier than giving up my chance to marry a prince, London thought to herself.

As she turned down off Speedway, she lowered the volume of her radio. With only one car between her and Trevor now, she wouldn’t be able to blame the noise on a group of marauding teenagers. Soon, the car between them left their convoy and she and Trevor were left alone to wind along the quiet backroads through Bedrock Strait. An occasional car slipped by, passing them with a whoosh, but most families were already snug in their homes for the night.

I wish I was snug at home with Mama and Orla.

Trevor’s muscle car slowed and the light of London’s high beams caught sight of a familiar green sign. With a sigh, London turned on her blinker and followed Trevor down Calle Vista. In a time span that seemed simultaneously dreadfully long and all too soon, their old Spanish Mission style home crept into view.

We were happy once – when we bought this house. Maybe we can be happy again.

Trevor actually opened her door for her and held out his hand.

“What’s this? You’re practically a whole new Trevor,” London teased as she slid out of her car.

“Yeah, I wasn’t joking before, I’ve changed – for you. I’m a whole new man, babe.” Trevor puffed out his chest proudly.

London cringed inwardly, trying to not let her façade slip.

Well, maybe not a whole new man. You’re still insisting on infantilizing me.

As they walked through the front door, London tried not to gasp. The house, which had once been meticulously decorated, was a now a bare-bones bachelor pad. London was furious to note the front room, which she had labors for hours to meld decorations with nods to both her Hispanic heritage and Trevor’s Irish roots, now stood empty – apart from an ugly bar. All that was in the living room was a huge flat screen tv hanging on the wall, a wore out pleather couch across from it. On the other side of the living room was a set of mismatched tables and chairs. The table was covered in piles of clutter and a couple stack of dishes next to the couch were tell-tale signs that since London was no longer there to insist Trevor eat at the table, he didn’t.

“Trevor, what happened to all the décor?”

“I got rid of it. You know all that frou-frou crap isn’t really my style Lon.” Trevor shrugged.

“You got rid of it,” London repeated incredulously. All that time and money down the drain. She had always imagine someday, when she could finally afford her own place, she would come back and reclaim her things.

“Well, I gave some of it to my mom. But she doesn’t have much time for that – uh, the Hispanic stuff.” Trevor cut himself off. London knew the rephrasing was because he was about to say something racist. She clenched her fists. He certainly wasn’t making this easy.

“You know, it doesn’t really fit in with her style, since she’s not Hispanic. She didn’t want to… be culturally appropriative,” Trevor finished lamely.

London pasted on a fake smile. “Of course.” She gestured toward the bar. “Hey Trevor, why don’t you show off those bar-tending skills and make us a couple drinks.”

I’m going to need it, she added silently.

“Sure thing, babe.” Trevor swaggered over to the bar, London following behind him. She took a seat as he began rummaging through the bottles.

“So, what’ll be, baby?”

“Um,” Just hand over the bottle of whiskey. “How about something… fun and flirty? You know, to put us in the mood.”

“What mood is that,” Trevor leered.

London just covered her face and giggled, trying to hide the fact that she’d just thrown up a little.

“I think I know just the thing,” Trevor said, grabbing a bottle of cherry liqueur. “It’s called Cupid’s Kiss.” As he mixed their drinks, he couldn’t help but show off, tossing bottles and launching cherries. Stuff that might have impressed London before she had Orla, but these days, she preferred skills like those that Allegro had.

“So, London, what does you boyfriend think about you being here?” Trevor had always had the uncanny ability to know what London was thinking – almost like he was reading her mind.

“He’s not my boyfriend anymore. We didn’t work out.” The words rushed out of her without thinking. It still hurt too much to think about Allegro.

“Aw, baby, I coulda told you that. Things never would have worked out with a… guy like him.” More thinly veiled racism. “You need a guy like me.”

“And what sort of guy is that.” London snapped, her emotions finally get the best of her.

Trevor studied her. The way he looked at her left her feeling raw. “The sort of guy who will fight for his family,” he said finally, handing London her drink.

07-01-17_8-21-02 PM

London down half it in one gulp.

“Whoa, slow down there, Caliente.” Trevor topped off her drink. “We don’t want to wreck the party.” The drink’s aphrodisiacal properties must have taken told right away, because London didn’t feel sick at Trevor’s connotations. In fact, she felt downright giddy.

“Trevor, that’s why I texted Reggie tonight. Oops!” London sloppily clapped her hand over her mouth, but it was too late. Trevor raised an eyebrow at her.

“So you’re the girl who made me work late?”

“Yes. Don’t be mad. I needed to see you. I’ve been thinking about what you said… before.” London cringed, remembering Trevor’s very public impassioned speech, then threats. “I think maybe you’re right. Maybe we should get our a little family back together. Not just for Orla’s sake, but because… well, because I miss you.”

And in that moment, London wasn’t lying. As he stared at her, lust in his eyes, she remembered the way her heart had pounded in her chest the first time she walked into the lecture hall. The way he had teased her when she couldn’t get her eggs to form stiff peaks. And how their next tutoring session had ended with the sounds of their love making echoing off the lecture hall’s walls. London became flushed.

“Hmm, you think so, huh?” Trevor took her hand and lead her over to him, barely listening. He looked ready to devour her. London glanced down at his crotch. The Cupid’s Kiss seemed to be working on him, too. He slid his hand up her thigh.

“London, you seem to not be wearing any panties.” Another suggestion of Karly’s.

“How about we move this to the bedroom?”

“Now that definitely sounds like fun.”

At the foot of their old bed, Trevor wrapped his arms around London and finally kissed her. They fell into bed and it was like nothing had changed.

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“So,” London lay with her head on Trevor’s chest and laced her fingers with his. “Do you think Orla and I can move back in? It’s only Karly needs to move in with my mom and there’s definitely not enough room for us all.”

“Nah, I don’t think so. In fact,” Trevor unwound his fingers and jumped out of the bed. “I’m gonna need you to put on your slutty dress and get your conniving ass out of her.”

“What?” London was unable to comprehend what he was saying.

“London, I know what you’re up to. Trying to seduce me to keep custody of Orla? Cute trick, but it’s not gonna work.”

London sat up, covering herself with the sheet. “Trevor, no.”

“Spare me London.” Trevor stalked out of the room.

London jumped out of bed, and hurried after him, pulling on her dress.

“Trevor, what the hell? I thought we had a real connection tonight.”

“The only connection we had tonight was me fitting my tab A into your slot B. So get your skanky ass out of my house, unless you never want to see your daughter again.”

At the mention of Orla, London’s blood began to boil.

“Isn’t this what you wanted? Our precious family back together?”

Trevor rolled his eyes. “You’re joking, right? Yeah, sure, once upon a time I wanted you back. But that was before you embarrassed me on national television. But you’ve been hoing it up with that foppish prince and that womanizing “artist”. You’re used goods, London.” He stared at her meaningfully. “Nobody would want you now. You’re unfit to be a mother.”

“How dare you speak to me in such a way! And when God only knows how many women you’ve slept with. Oh, and for you information, I never even slept with Stellan.”

“And the playboy?”

“That’s none of your business,” London blustered.

“Ugh, and you’ve probably picked up crabs or something from him. Now I’m going to have to be checked for crotch rot.”

“Why did you sleep with me then, anyway?”

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“Cuz you were throwing yourself at me, and despite your disgusting stretchmarks, you’re still a pretty hot piece of ass.”

“Stretchmarks I got giving birth to our daughter!”

“I’ve known tons of girls who didn’t get stretchmarks because they took care of themselves and didn’t pig out cupcakes. How did you manage to pass the decorating class, by the way? Did you sleep with your teacher, too?”

“I’m not even going to dignify that with a response. And that’s not the reason some women don’t get stretchmarks.”

“Whatever, you keep telling yourself that, fatty.” Trevor walked out the front door.

“Don’t you run away from me, Trevor!”

Trevor laughed derisive. “I’m not running away from you, I’m trying to get your harpy ass out of my house! Skree!” He mimed claws with his fingers.

“Fuck you Trevor, I’m not a harpy. I just wanted the best for our daughter.”

“Right, which is why you nagged me constantly. ‘Oh Trevor, get another job so I can go to this birthing class.’ ‘Oh Trevor, get another job so I can have my pretty pretty princess dream wedding.’ ‘Oh Trevor, buy me this house so we can start our lives together in insurmountable debt.’ How convenient for you that the best for our daughter meant the best for you while I slaved away paying for celebrity endorsed classes and designer diaper bags.”

“I didn’t have any of those things! You slaved away so we could make ends meet while you worked your crappy job as a bartender.”

“Which I had to take after I got expelled from the academy for fraternizing with an underclassman!”

“SHUT UP,” someone down the street shouted through an open window.

“YOU SHUT UP,” Trevor shouted back.

“Trevor, I told you before, I didn’t know they were going to expel you.”

“Why did you think they wanted to know? So they could throw us a joint baby shower? God, London, you are so unbelievably dumb sometimes.”

“N-no, that wasn’t why.” In truth, London hadn’t even considered what would happen to Trevor before she cheerfully admitted to Dean Price that she and Trevor were a couple and they were expecting a baby together.

“Whatever London, I don’t give a fuck. We’re through and I’m going to get full custody of our daughter and you’ll never see her again. I’ll see you in court.”

“Your out of your God damn mind if you think I’m going to just lay down and -”

Trevor took a menacing step toward her. “London, leave. Now,” Trevor said in a low growl.

“Tell your bitch mother I want my stuff -” London started feebly, unable to know when to stop. Trevor grabbed her by the throat, cutting her off. His face was bright red.

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“DON’T YOU EVER TALK ABOUT MY MOTHER THAT WAY, YOU WORTHLESS PIECE OF TRASH!” Trevor hand clenched around her neck, crushing her windpipe. Flecks of spittle hit her in the face.

“THAT’S IT, I’M CALLING THE POLICE,” the voice down the street shouted again.

Trevor looked up, then sneered down at London again and threw her down the stairs. London caught herself before she fell, then fled.

When I got home, Mama was sitting in the living room waiting for me. She gasped when she saw my neck and insisted we call the police. I ran upstairs and locked myself in the bathroom. What could I tell the police? That I was trying to seduce my ex-husband in order to keep custody of our daughter? They’d be on his side. Mama pound on the door, until Orla started crying, the commotion disturbing her. Hearing her cry made me cry, too. How did this happen? I used to think I loved Trevor so much. Had he always been like that or had he changed? I would have never dreamed he would lay a hand on me before. And now? Will he hurt Orla, too? I have to protect my daughter. I will do anything.

Love, London

Entry 5 – Dinner for Two

Dear Diary,

Last night was life changing. Allegro had asked me out on a date, but wouldn’t tell me anything about where we were going, what we were doing, nothing! I texted Lyric, trying to put the squeeze on her, but all she texted me was “Wear something pretty! ;)” I didn’t have her closet to raid again this time, so I had to do some deep diving in my own. Way, way in the back, I found the dress I wore for my graduation from the Sugar Loaf Academy. Sure, it’s technically maternity (and I was the only baker that day with a bun in the oven – haha), but it was a Bloomin’ Gorgeous by Urban Textiles that I scored for a fraction of the cost at Rags to Riches Consignment Shop, despite looking new. So with judicious use of a bottle of fabric glue I had mama pick up for me at the craft store on the way home from work, I made it look presentable on my significantly less bulgy frame. I think Allegro really liked it, because when he met me at the ferry terminal, all he said was “Wow.” And then he took my hand and walked me to the public dock. I was pretty confused at first – I’d just got off the ferry, why were we getting back in a boat?! Eventually, it became clear that Allegro was taking me to the smaller island to the North of Windenburg Island.

London silently cursed Lyric as stumbled up the hill for the umpteenth time.

Wear something pretty, London mimicked Lyric in her head. She could have at least suggested I wear ballet flats.

But she hadn’t and was subsequently wearing what her father would have condemned as “improper footwear”. Hiking in hot pink wedges was not a punishment she would wish on her worst enemy.

“Allegro! Slow down,” London gasped.

“We can’t slow down or we’ll miss it,” Allegro called over his shoulder.

“Miss what?! Allegro!”

Allegro vanished through a gap in the undergrowth. London was debating sitting down and calling it quits when he reappeared.

“Hurry up, slowpoke! You’re almost there.” Allegro was practically dancing with excitement. When London finally caught up to him, he grabbed her hand and pulled her through the bushes. On the other side was a large clearing over looking the channel. Allegro lead London all the way over to the edge of the cliff.

“Allegro, this is beautiful!”

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The sky turned the same orange as the wild cosmos on the cliff as the sun sank below the horizon. Allegro wrapped his arm around London’s waist; she leaned her head on his shoulder. Seagulls pinwheeled in the sky, circling above two sailboats that had dropped anchor for the evening. Soon, the sun had lowered completely and the dark blue of night began to blanket the sky.

“C’mon, I have something else to show you.”

Allegro lead her over to a candlelit dinner for two. Clearly, he’d had some help with the set up.

“Allegro,” London whispered, as tears slipped down her cheeks. Allegro noticed and smiled. He took her face in his hands and gently wiped away her tears with his thumbs.

“London, I’m glad you are so happy. You are worth it to me.”

London looked away and let out a shaky breath.

“So, what’s for dinner?”

“I’m glad you asked! Right this way, madame.” Allegro escorted her to her seat and pulled out her chair for her.

“Tonight we will be dining on Lobster Tortellini and Chardonnay.”

London, who drank little to counter her mother’s excess and could just tell a red from a white, was surprised by its earthy tones. She had only ever had sweet wines, and said as such.

“Ah, well lobster is best paired a white wine, with more mineral and vegetable notes, rather than a fruit-oriented wine,” Allegro replied knowledgeably.

London smiled at what she had begun to refer to in her head as “AllegroFacts”. Much of the dinner, he spent regaling her on his search for the perfect wine to pair with the lobster (as previously, he hadn’t known what to pair with it either), and tossing in all the little bits of trivia he’d learned and London had grown to love.

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As they finished dinner, London first noticed the large pond to her left, filled with lilies and cattails.

“Allegro, what is this place?”

“I’m glad you asked,” Allegro repeated, helping her from her chair.” As they strolled closer to the pond, London realized it wasn’t a pond at all, but an overgrown pool. As she peered into the darkness, London could make out crumbling walls.

“A long time ago, this was the location of the Knight’s summer palace. But eventually, a certain fickle queen decided she wanted a new summer palace built somewhere else.”

“It’s hard to believe someone like Queen Portia is related to Stellan,” London said, thinking of the young and extravagant ruler.

“True,” Allegro replied, reaching out an arm to steady London as she kicked off her shoes and sat down on the edge of the pool. “But she and Stefan were never meant to ascend to the throne and never learned how to properly rule. They had lived a lavish life, and Portia preferred that to being Queen and she paid he ultimate price for it.”

“It seems so unfair, though.” London shook her head.

“It was, in a way. But it was also unfair to all of her subjects how they starved and boarder towns were terrorized while she and her husband wasted money on parties and new palaces. Never the less, the palace was completely abandoned and crumbled over time. Now, this spot is know as The Bluffs to the locals. It’s a popular spot for dance parties. DJ Bear, in particular, is known to spin here.”

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“DJ Bear?”

“She is a legend in these parts. She keeps her identity a secret, so know actually knows who she is,” Allegro explained. “But people have been coming here for years, long before there were dance parties. It’s especially popular with couples looks for a spot to rendezvous in private. That bush over there is the very one I was conceived in.” Allegro gestured to a large bush with green and red heart shaped leaves.

“Oh my gosh, Allegro! Too much information!” London knew she’d never be able to look at Mr. and Mrs. Rhys the same way again.

“But before that, before I was even just a dream, my dad proposed to my mom here. Which is why…” Allegro pulled London up from where she was sitting.

“London, before I met you, I was lost. I was dating so many different girls, I could hardly keep their names straight. My job was just something that was keeping me from seeing one of my girls. They only thing I ever cared about was my family. But when I met you. London, you felt like family.”

London’s slightly confused smile faded as she began to comprehend what was happening.

“London, you are kind, and creative, and the best mom. You give me a sense of family that I’ve never felt with another girl. I want you to be my family. Orla, too. I want to grow our family with you. I want to be your family forever.”

“No, no, no,” London muttered, pleading with her eyes for him to stop. Allegro got down on one knee.

“Which is why, London Dawn Caliente, I’m asking you to be my wife. Will you marry me?” Allegro finally noticed London for the first time since he had started rambling his speech. She was not smiling, she was not crying from happiness; she just looked terrified.

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“London?” Allergro’s big goofy grin disappeared, worry creased his brow.

“No,” she whispered.

“What?”

“No,” she said a little more loudly. “Allegro, I’m sorry, but I can’t marry you. I was going to break up with you.”

It was Allegro’s turn to look stunned. He stood up, stumbling backward slightly. London reached to help him, but he fended her off.

“What do you mean you were going to break up with me? You were crying tears of joy just a little bit ago.”

“Those weren’t tears of joy Allegro,” London confessed. “I was crying because you were making this harder than it already was. Allegro, I love you, I truly do. But I am fighting for custody of my daughter right now . And the judge is already against me. He already thinks I spend to much time working; he just views you as taking away more time from Orla.”

“But that’s not true! The majority of our dates have included Orla and Capella.”

“You and I know that, but he is just looking for excuses to keep my daughter from me. As far as he’s concerned, you’re just some random guy keeping me from my duties.”

“So then marry me and I won’t be some random guy!”

“It’s not that simple. We haven’t been together long enough.”

“It’s been long enough for me. I know. I love you. And you just said you love me, too.”

“I do love you Allegro. But I loved Trevor, too. Once upon a time, believe it or not. But love isn’t enough. It’s not a guarantee things will work out.”

At the mention of Trevor’s name, Allegro grew angry.

“I am not Trevor! I will never treat you the way he did!”

“Look at the way your treat all of your girlfriends before me.” London hated to go for such a low blow, but he wasn’t listening to her.

“You’re different! You make me feel -”

“I know, I heard you the first time.” London held up her hand. “You think I’m your family. Allegro, did you ever stop and think maybe I feel like family because I know how to take care of people? Because I’m a mom? And being a mom needs to be my priority right now.”

“This is just temporary London. I want to be with you forever.”

“Allegro, I can’t jeopardize my future with my daughter in exchange with a future with you.”

“If you do this, if you break up with me, there will be no future with me! I won’t wait for you!”

“It wouldn’t be fair of me to ask that of you, Allegro,” London said sadly.

“Stop saying my name,” shouted Allegro. But before London could say anything more, Allegro stormed off.

At first, I was afraid he’d left me stranded on the island. But when I finally made it to where the boat had been, he was still there, angrily throwing rocks into the water. When I suggested as much, he simply looked disgusted at me. The trip back to Windenburg Island was a quiet one, with only the roar of the motor to break our frigid silence. I tried to speak with him when we landed, but he just stoically tied up his boat and walked away without another word. So now I’ve lost Allegro, as well as Stellan. I just hope I don’t lose Orla as well.

Love, London

Entry 4 – Li’l Cactuses

Dear Diary,

I can’t even believe this is happening. How is it possible the man who tried to get me to abort our daughter is now trying to take her from me. This is surreal. And full custody? How is that even fair, I haven’t shown in any way that I’m an unfit parent. Orla has always been clean, clothed, and fed. She is happy, well cared for, and meeting all her milestones. Just because sometimes I have some late evenings trying to keep up with all my orders doesn’t mean I love her any less. You’d think the judge would be happy my working my butt off to provide for my little girl. But somehow putting her to bed every night is more important than being able to put food in her belly. He’s such a sexist troglodyte. He would never expect a man to be home every night, making dinners and giving baths, if he was out providing for his child. Trevor never has, he’s always been working the night shift at The Rattlesnake. He’s come up with some crap about how he’s going to start doing the day shift while Orla is at daycare, but conveniently hasn’t mentioned how that will result in a drastic loss of income. Meanwhile, I’m trying to better my career by moving to a larger location in a nicer area, but the judge just hears it as taking more time away from my child. And don’t even get me started on the fact that I don’t have my own home right now, or that Dad is having to pay my lawyer’s fees. My lawyer, Oliver Bernhardt, has decided the best course of action at this point is to ask the judge to recuse himself from the trial. Apparently he has a history of going against single mothers. I just hope this works.

“C’mon Orla, we’ve gotta hurry hurry! Don’t you want to see all your friends at Li’l Cactuses?”

For the umpteenth time, London questioned the wisdom of taking Orla to a playgroup with dubious grammar right in the name. But since they were the only ones with spot at such short notice and London was desperate enough to do just about anything to prove she was a good mother, it would have to suffice. At the rate Orla was toddling to the class, however, they were never going to make it anyway. Orla stooped down to examine some ants as they marched across the sidewalk.

“Orla, we’re going to be late!”

London grabbed Orla’s hand to hurry her along, but Orla had other plans. She dropped to the ground, scraping her elbows and smashing some of the ants in the process. Orla began to wail.

“Give me strength,” muttered London. She picked up Orla and dusted the tiny ant corpses off her, then hustled over to the front door of Li’l Cactus.

“Look who’s here everybody! Hello to Orla! Hello! Hello,” Ms. Washington sung out. In response, Orla snuffled and buried her face into London’s shoulder.

“Uh-oh! Did Orla fall asleep on the way to class again?”

London tried to pry Orla off her, but Orla grabbed a pudgy little fistful of her mother’s hair.

“Ow! No, she took a tumble on the way to group today.”

“I see.” Ms. Washington seemed to notice the scrapes on Orla’s elbows for the first time. “Well, Orla, why don’t you and your mommy come up front and stand next to me for circle and we’ll see about turning that frown upside down!”

Orla slowly peeked her head up as London walked over to the coveted by-toddlers-only place next to Ms. Washington. As she let Orla slide down, London checked her shoulder for snot. The bells on the front door jangled. At least London and Orla weren’t the only ones late to class.

“Hello! I’m so glad you could make it! I was starting to wonder,” Ms. Washington cheerfully called.

“Yeah, well, as you can see, I’m not moving very fast these days, which makes it doubly hard to wrangle the kid.” The sarcastic tone tickled London’s brain, but she was still engrossed in inspecting her shirt.

Ms. Washington was undeterred by the cold response. “Everyone, say hello to our new friend Salem,”

Huh, that’s not a name you hear every day, thought London.

“And his mommy, Kara!”

London’s head snapped up. There, by the front door, was Salem, Kara, and Kara’s massively pregnant belly.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” groaned Kara, as she noticed London for the first time.

Several minutes later, after introductions and Salem and Kara had been installed on Ms. Washington’s other side, Ms. Washington announced the lesson of the day.

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“Ok everybody! Today, we are going to learn the importance of saying please and thank you. First, we are going to read a story about saying please and thank you. Then, you and your child are going to practice saying please and thank you. Then, during free time, be sure to encourage your child to use please and thank you while speaking with their peers.”

Ms. Washington was only a few pages into the story when Salem climbed out of what was left of his mother’s lap.

“Salem,” Kara hissed, making a grab for him. He skillfully dodged her grasp, and headed for the bookcase.

“This book boring! I pick ‘nother,” he announced loudly.

“Salem! Get back here!” Kara struggled to get up and go after him. Salem began pulling books off the shelves, tossing them behind him. One hit Ms. Washington, who had, up until that point, been ignoring Salem’s outburst.

“Salem, can you join us back in circle? You are making it hard for everyone else to be able to hear the story,” she said calmly.

“No! Wanna read ’bout Boris Bat!” Salem stomped his foot for emphasis.

“Salem, we don’t have that book here. But maybe you can bring it next time and share it with us?”

“…Ok”

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“Good, I look forward to hearing it. But for now, can you please come join the rest of us in circle, so we can finish this week’s story?”

Salem rejoined the circle, but Kara didn’t move.

“Salem, please come back here. You need to pick up these books.”

“It’s fine,” Ms. Washington waved her hand.

“No, it’s not fine, and I’d prefer it if you didn’t tell me how to raise my son. We are trying to teach Salem that if he makes a mess, he has to clean it up.”

“Is it fair to make the other children wait while he cleans up his mess? He will have to lose some of his free time and do it then.”

Kara glared at Ms. Washington, but Ms. Washington simply smiled serenely at her. Finally, Kara had to choice but to back down. She waddled over to the circle. As she slowly sat down, Salem pushed her bulging stomach.

“Lap! Lap!”

Salem plopped himself down on Kara’s legs. She winced and groaned, rubbing her belly.

“Everything ok,” Ms. Washington queried.

“I’m heavily pregnant and sitting on the floor. But that’s fine,” she replied through gritted teeth.

Ms. Washington continued the story, but Salem quickly lost interest again. He fidgeted through the rest of the story, stomping his feet, playing with Kara’s fingers, and sliding off her lap until he looked like he was melting.

“The end,” read Ms. Washington.

Before she could continue, Salem rocketed out of Kara’s lap, making a beeline for the TumTum Teddy Doctor Playset.

“Salem!” Kara didn’t even bother to get up this time.

“Salem, it’s not free time just yet. Can you come back to circle, so you can practice saying please and thank you, please?”

Salem’s face lit up as he realized Ms. Washington was using the very word she was teaching everyone about. Momentarily placated, he drifted back towards Kara.

“Thank you,” Ms. Washington smiled. This caused Salem to giggle.

Miraculously, the practice time went on without anymore interruptions. When Ms. Washington finally announced free time, even London felt the urge to get up and run around after being glued to one spot for so long.

“Come on Salem, you need to pick up the books you pulled off the shelf earlier,” Kara grunted, heaving herself off he ground.

“No! Wanna play wif teddy!” Salem strained against the firm hand Kara was using to steer him toward the bookcase.

Orla watched wide eyed.

“C’mon Orla, let’s go play with Yvette,” London coaxed, hoping Salem’s bad behavior wouldn’t trigger another meltdown in her daughter.

“No,” she whispered then marched over to the pile of books and began to to put them back on the shelf.

“I help you, Sawem.” Salem watched Orla, at first unsure, but then joined in. Kara glowered.

“Very good Orla! When we work together with our friends, we can get our hard work done faster. That way, we can have more time to play together,” Ms. Washington crowed.

The books were re-shelved in no time.

“Tank you,” Salem said shyly.

“Very good, Salem; using the lesson of the day!”

“Wanna pway bwocks wif me,” Orla asked Salem.

“Salem, come play with TumTum Teddy with me,” Kara interrupted.

Salem looked conflicted, but eventually toddled over to the other side of the room where his mother was. London sighed and guided Orla over to the blocks. Zoe Kalani was already there, with her son Leighton.

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“Geeeeez, what’s up with her,” Zoe stage whispered.

“Probably has something to do with our beef on the Royal Bachelor.”

“Whaaaat? She was on the Royal Bachelor with you?”

“Yeah, you didn’t know that?”

“Girl, you know I don’t watch reality tv. I got enough of that myself to last a life time, before I had Leighton,” Zoe rolled her eyes and shook her head as she gestured to her son. London nodded, remembering their previous conversation where Zoe had described her life living with three guy roommates.

“So what’s it like having your ex-lover who now has a daughter with famous comedian Johnny Zest in the same playgroup as you?”

“Nuh-uh, first you gotta dish on all that happened between you and Mommy Medusa over there.”

London made a mental note to hang out with the only person to who seemed to have not seen her humiliation on the Royal Bachelor more often, before launching into the whole sordid story.

“…And last I’d heard, Luke had been swearing up and down Salem wasn’t his, so Stellan had told Kara she and Salem could stay as long as she wanted.”

“Well, if Luke said Salem wasn’t his, whose baby is she having now? Could it be this guy Stellan’s…?”

“No, no,” London quickly cut Zoe off. “Stellan’s not that kind of guy.”

“Ok, everybody! Playgroup is over! You know what that means,” Ms. Washington’s voice boomed across the room.

“Clean up time, clean up time, everybody knows it’s clean up time.” As the whole room half shouted, half sang, London wondered if she’d ever be able to clean again without hearing that song.

“Orla is a helper, a helper, a helper. Orla is a helper, she’s picking up blocks,” Ms. Washington sang, naming Orla in her song.

“Mama, mama, I cwean! It me!” Orla was incredibly proud to be named in a song designed to make her want to clean up.

“I heard, I heard,” London grinned, scooping Orla up. “Good job, babycakes.”

“Good bye now, good bye now, the clock says we’re done! We’ll see you next Wednesday for more playtime fun!”

Orla flapped her hand joyfully to the song. London heard the door open; apparently someone wasn’t sticking around for the syrupy sweet toddler singing. London glanced over to the door and was unsurprised to note Kara was making her getaway.

After a few more good byes, and a promise to text Zoe, London and Orla walked out of Li’l Cactuses into the sunshine. As they headed toward their ancient SUV, London noticed Kara further down the sidewalk, struggling to carry Salem. London rushed over to her.

“Kara, let me help you!”

Kara whirled on London, her face immediately stormy.

“Get lost, Caliente! I don’t need your help,” she spat. Salem’s face twisted in distress.

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“Yes, you do. You know you shouldn’t be carrying Salem, especially this late in your pregnancy. Let me help you,” London insisted.

“I don’t need your help Caliente. We’re not friends.”

“Kara, what happened,” London blurted out, gesturing to her belly. Kara smiled wanly, in spite of herself.

“I would expect you of all people to know how this happened, Caliente.” Kara stared at the ground, as if she were replaying the last few months in her head. London waited quietly for her to continue.

“At the advice of his privy council, Luke took a paternity test. When it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that Luke was Salem’s father, it was decided that Salem would officially become Luke’s heir.”

“Kara, that’s great news! Salem will grow up with his father, and you will get to be Queen, like you wanted.” But Kara shook her head.

“That’s what I thought at first, too. What mother could ask for more for her son? But Luke is a terrible father, he can’t stand Salem. And I know a lot of people have said a lot of terrible things about me; some go as far as to call me evil. But I love my son and he deserves better. And so Luke and I fight about it, constantly. Enough that he has refused to make me Queen.”

“Kara, that’s awful. I’m so sorry.” London glanced down furtively at Kara’s belly. “I-is the baby Luke’s, then?”

Kara laughed bitterly. “That’s the thing. Luke and I still get along great. When we’re not fighting, we’re fucking.”

London cringed at Kara’s crassness, but was relieved when she noticed Orla and Salem were deeply immersed in their own nonsensical toddler conversation.

“I swore I would never put another child in the same situation as Salem. But Luke is insatiable, not to mention incredibly…talented.” Kara leered. “And careful as I tried to be, I guess it wasn’t careful enough. Now, because of my stupidity, there’s going to be another prince or princess with an absent father.”

“Wow, Kara, I don’t know what to say. Is there anything I can do?”

Kara rolled her eyes. “Caliente, you’re so good, sometimes it makes you dumb. No, there is nothing that a pleeb such as yourself can do for a prince. We won’t be back next week, so you can go back to being Queen of the Playgroup. We’re just in the area for a visit and I needed to entertain this guy, who’d had enough of royal decorum. But there is something you can do for me.”

“Anything, Kara.”

“Anything, wow, I’ll have to keep that in mind.” Kara grinned wickedly. “But what you can do is promise me, before you jump into bed with someone else, get an IUD.” And with that, she spun around and was gone.

I can’t believe Kara is in such an awful position. She loves her son and Luke so much, but she can’t get them to love each other. Still, she has such incredible strength for the sake of her children, and she will do anything for them. In fact, she’s kind of given me an idea on how to handle Trevor.

Love, London

Entry 3 – My Dad, His Husband, His Boyfriend, and Their Daughter

Dear Diary,

I gave what Karly said some serious thought. I know she hadn’t been serious when she suggested it, but I began to seriously think maybe I should move in with Dad, for Orla’s benefit. There simply wouldn’t be enough room for us all, there’s barely enough room for Mom, Orla, and me as it is. And I do understand that Karly can’t afford to live on her own. She really needs help looking after the twins, too, particularly at such a crucial time in her career. I know I definitely wouldn’t have been able to care for Orla and keep the Cupcake Cafe going without her and Mom’s support. And I love Dad, and living with Calvin and Antoine would give me a chance to get to know them better – Adalaide, too! (It feels so weird to say I have a baby sister at my age). Plus his home is on the opposite side of town – closer to Magnolia Promenade, which would shave time off my commute. So once I’d convinced myself that this was the best plan, I gave dad a call.

When London called her father, it hadn’t been particularly early in the morning. Of course, London hadn’t slept past 6 o’clock since Orla had been born. So London was a bit surprised when at 8 in the morning, her father answered the phone with a yawn.

London on the phone

“Hello,” he asked sleepily.

“Dad! Hi! I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you! Errr, I thought you’d be up with Adalaide.”

“She’ll be up about now, actually.” London felt a twinge of jealousy at the thought of having a baby that slept in until 8 in the morning. “But the morning get up routine falls to Calvin while he’s getting ready for work.” Well, maybe that was the trade-off for having a baby that sleeps in. London couldn’t imagine getting a baby ready for daycare and herself ready for work, all while her husband and boyfriend slept in.

London’s father yawned again. “I’m sorry Lulu. I was up late with Antoine.”

“Oh!” London felt her face turn bright red. “I – uh…”

“No! No! Not like that!” London could hear her father sitting up and scrambling out of bed. Despite his reassurances, London heard muffled complaining in the background. This was not helping abate any of her concerns about moving in.

“I know, I’m sorry darling boy. Go back to sleep.” London heard a door close. She knew her father and his partners each had their own room, but apparently there had been a sleepover the night before. Oh boy.

“Dad, I can call back if this is a bad time.”

“No, it’s fine. I’m up now. Antoine had a project due today and he needed some advice for the creative aspect of his project. And since I’m the arty one in the family, that left it up to me.” Since coming out of the closet, London’s father had found modest success as a gay romance writer.

“So,” he continued. “What was so urgent that you need to call at… 8 in the morning?” London heard him move the phone away to check the time.

“I’m sorry Dad! Orla never sleeps this late and I just assumed you’d be up with Adalaide.”

“She’s still not sleeping through the night?”

London sighed, exasperated. It would never not be weird comparing parenting techniques for her baby sister and own daughter.

“She is, Dad. She just doesn’t need as much sleep as Adalaide.”

“It just doesn’t seem healthy is all I’m saying. We take Adalaide to a fantastic pediatrician – Dr. Crane? You’ve probably heard of her. She technically not taking on any new patients, but she is looking for a publisher for her book, so maybe if I had a word with my publisher, she might be able to sneak you in and figure out what’s wrong.”

London decided to ignore the faulty logic of an LGBT publishing group printing a pediatrics book.

“Dad, there’s nothing wrong with Orla.”

“Oh no, Lulu! I’m not implying anything’s wrong -”

London cut him off. “Orla is older than Adalaide, so she needs less sleep. So back to why I called you in the first place.” The very limited window in which London could get anything done before she had to be at the Cupcake Cafe was closing quickly and London didn’t want to waste another minute of it. “Can I come over? I need to talk to you.”

“What! Why? Are you up the duff again? Did that no-good prince do this to you?!” London’s father was still holding a grudge against Stellan for breaking his daughter’s heart.

“Dad, no. I’m not pregnant.” London’s voice wobbled slightly as she thought of the genetics composite that showed what her and Stellan’s children would have looked like. She took a deep breath before she continued. “Think about it, I’d be pretty far along at this point. And you’ve seen me, did I have a bump?”

“Well, no. I guess not.” Only slightly mollified, he pressed her. “But then what is it? Is something the matter?”

“Kind of. But it would be easier to talk to you in person. Can I swing by before work?”

“Well, sure Lulu.”

“Ok. Orla and I will see you in a little bit.”

 

“Hey Mama.” London found her mother on the front porch, sipping a Ridgeport.

“Good morning! Are my girls headed off for the day already?” Lyndsy looked at wrist and simultaneously realized she wasn’t wearing at watch and she had spilled some of her Ridgeport in her lap.

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“Shit! I mean, shoot!” She frantically brushed the liquid off her pants.

“No, it’s not time to go yet.”

And hopefully by the time it is, you’ll have sobered up a little, London silently hoped. Mom doesn’t usually drink too much before work, I wonder what’s going on.

“I’m going to go talk to Dad and then swing back to get you,” she said out loud. “Unless you want to come with me?”

“No, London, I do not.”

London sighed and set Orla down, then sat down next to her mother.

“Mom, don’t you think it’s time you buried the hatchet?”

“I just don’t want to visit his little love nest, is that so much to ask?”

“I don’t understand how you can be angry at Dad, though. You really never realized he’s gay?”

“Twenty-five years, London. For twenty-five years, you father looked me straight in the eye and lied to me. Even though I was knocked up with your sister on our wedding day, I asked him ‘Are you sure you want to get married? I don’t really seem like your type.’ And he called me crazy for ever doubting him. And I guess in a way, I was crazy. Crazy for ever believing I was anything more than his beard.”

“You were more than that Mom. Dad loved you. Loves you still, even.”

“And I love him, too, London. Of course I do. But I am still bitter, still resentful. Do you know how silly I feel? And pathetic. I’m alone and he’s off building a new family. With two gorgeous partners, I might add. And I’m just another divorced 40 something who is going to die alone because she can’t get a date.”

“That’s not true Mom. You’ll always have me and Karly.”

London’s mother stared at her. “London, I get that you’re trying to comfort me, but that’s probably the last thing I want to hear right now. I want you and your sister to lead your own lives.”

“I’m sorry mom. But don’t give up on dating just yet. Look at me, I’m a divorcee, too, and I’ve dated two incredible guys.”

“London, I think the dating landscape at your age is a bit different than mine. Who wants some balding divorced guy with a paunch?”

“So date someone my age! You could be a cougar.”

“Aw, thanks London,” Lyndsy chuckled. “But I just don’t have the pert little ass for it, like you do.”

“Mom!”

“Hey, it’s true. These things matter.”

“I don’t know about that. But just don’t give up yet. And maybe work on forgiving Dad. It’s not just his fault, you know.”

Lyndsy shrugged as London knelt to pick up Orla. “I’ll see you later, London. Bye-bye Orla!”

As London helped Orla out of her car seat, she couldn’t help feeling self-conscious of the giant house sprawled out in front of her. As, she shut the door of the rattletrap she and her mother shared, the creak boomed through the neighborhood, signaling a warning to the residents of Skyward Palms that a Bedrock Straits girl was there and they best stay inside. London could have sworn she saw someone shut their drapes, though maybe she was just being paranoid.

Orla, too young to be embarrassed, gave a joyful whoop and toddled up the stairs.

“Papa! Papa,” she chanted, bouncing up and down trying to reach the doorbell. London lifted her up to reach it, its chime tolling somewhere deep within the house.

The wait for her father to answer the door felt like the longest of her life. And maybe it was, considering how large the house was. When one of the giant double doors finally opened, Orla launched herself at her grandpa.

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“Papa! Papa!”

“Lala!” He covered with kisses and tickled her under chin. Orla squealed in delight.

Great, now she’s going to be all riled up, thought London. But before she could say anything, Orla pushed her grandpa’s hand away.

“No moar, Papa. Where Addie?”

Calvin grinned at her. Right from the start, Orla had loved babies, even though she was still pretty much one herself.

“Adalaide and Grandpa Calvin are in the kitchen. Why don’t you go see what they’re up to. Maybe Grandpa will give you a doughnut.”

Orla’s face lit up and she scooted off, a toddler on a mission.

“Grandpa! Grandpa,” Orla called. London laughed out loud; she knew if there was one thing the 30 something hated, it was being called Grandpa.

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“All right Lulu, what is it you wanted to talk about?” London caught him glancing at her belly, doubly confirming that she was, in fact, not pregnant again.

“Where can we talk that’s private?”

“Well, we could go outside and sit in the courtyard.”

“Ok, but I think we’ll have to sit on the veranda. It’s already too hot out to sit in the sun.”

“Great, so it’s going to be one of those days,” muttered her father.

After they’d settled on the veranda, London couldn’t quite bring herself to ask her father what needed to be asked. London stared off into the distance. As a child, she had heard countless stories of the Lost Mine of Ortega in the Sierra Abuelo mountain range. She imagined running off and living in the mountains, eating cactus and bathing in rivers until she found the mine. Then she would move her whole family into a big house, not unlike the one her father lived in now, and would buy a herd of beautiful Andalusian horses and become a famous bareback rider. The dream had changed slightly, but London found herself again wishing she could find that mine and fix her life’s problems.

“Lulu, what’s going on?”

“Everything’s gone wrong Dad. I thought things were finally looking up, between meeting Allegro, and then you and I found that perfect place for me to relocate the bakery. Part of the deal was I can’t live there, because it’s not zoned for residency. But I can’t afford to rent the bakery and an apartment and buy a car, so I was going to move in with Mom. Except now Karly’s divorcing Ket and saying she’s moving in with Mom. And we can’t all six of us live in that tiny little townhouse. So Karly is saying since I lived with Mom after Trevor and I got a divorce, it’s her turn to live with her. But I don’t think that place is big enough for the four of them – it really isn’t even big enough for Mom, me, an’ Orla. And Mom won’t say who she wants to live with her, even though everybody knows I’m a better cook – even if I do have to come home late sometimes cuza the bakery. But Mom’s good with Orla and Orla loves her. Karly has no problem leaving the twins alone – did I tell you she yelled at me about it the other day? Anyway, I think if she’s ok leaving the twins home alone then she shouldn’t say she needs to move in with Mom. She could find a cheap place, one bedroom if she has to. But then if it’s cheap, it’s probably because it’s in a bad area, although I can hardly believe you could find a worse off area than where Mom lives now – don’t tell her I said that – And so obviously that makes me worried for the twins, they can’t be left alone in a place down the road from a meth house. So maybe Karly should move in with Mom, except now that leaves me with no where to go. So I was thinking…maybe you could talk to Antoine and Calvin, and with Antoine’s permission, maybe Orla and I can move in with you guys?”

The words tumbled out of London, completely scattered. When she finally looked at him, he was rubbing his nose, brow furrowed. She knew what was coming next.

“I could cook for you and help with Adalaide,” she added lamely.

“London, look. I love you and Orla more than I could ever possibly say. You know that. But I just don’t think that’s a good idea. The house isn’t mine and I don’t want to have to put Antoine in the position of having to be the bad guy. That wouldn’t be fair. And I know you still aren’t entirely comfortable with our arrangement.”

“No, Dad, I can…” London interrupted. Her father held up his hand for silence, then continued.

“I can understand that, it’s a big change for everyone, and not something everyone accepts. But I don’t want to feel like I have to hide who I love in my own home. And Adalaide is nearly a year now, so she’ll be moving into her own room, and there’s only one other little room and it wouldn’t be fair to cram you and Orla in it. Plus, Calvin has been talking about having another baby, with Antoine this time.”

“Already?”

“I know it seems soon, but the process of creating an egg out of Calvin’s DNA, then find a surrogate to carry it, and getting all of the legal stuff in order takes a while. But it just isn’t a good time for you to move in London.”

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London blinked furiously as her eyes welled up and let out a shaky breath.

“Sure, ok!”

“London, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean -” As her father reached over to comfort her, London pushed his hand away.

“No, I get it Dad. Um, I have to go.” London jumped up from her chair. “I have a couple coming in for a cake tasting and I wouldn’t want them to have to deal with Karly and her current views on the institution of marriage.” She laughed at her own joke, but the words came out ragged.

On the drive back to her mom’s, London blared Orla’s Tots’ Tunes CD, so Orla wouldn’t hear her cursing the whole way. What was she going to do? Where would she live? Was it too soon to move in with Allegro? He didn’t live on his own anyway. How wrong would it be to pretend to get back with Trevor so she and Orla had somewhere to live? She was his daughter, too, after all.

As she pulled up to the curb next to the townhouse with a screech, Lyndsy was nowhere to be seen. However, there was a young woman in their front yard. She squinted at a piece of paper, then looked up at her mother’s home, seeming to compare addresses. London hopped out of the car.

“Can I help you?”

The young woman turned and a grin spread across her face. She was across the yard and through the gate in a couple of wide strides.

“Oh my gosh, are you London Caliente? From the Royal Bachelor?”

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“Oh,” London chuckled. “ Yes, that’s me.” She scrubbed the tears from her eyes as the young woman reached her.

“You’ve been served.” She thrust a manila envelope at London.

“What? What is this,” London called after her, but she was already across the street and halfway down the block.

Confused, London tore open the envelope. Lyndsy finally emerged from the townhouse and started down the stairs.

“London, who was that? What did she want?”

London ignored her as she skimmed the letter. Suddenly, she tilted forward and came crashing to her knees.

“NOOOOOO!” London’s wail echoed through the neighborhood. At the sound of her mother’s scream, Orla began crying. Mrs. Parker, from the townhouse next to theirs looked out the window, concerned. Lyndsy sprinted over to her daughter.

“London! What’s wrong?!” London made no move to tell her, but simply sat hugging herself, as her body shuttered with each sob. Lyndsy crouched down and collected the sheaf of papers that lay scattered on the ground.

From the Law Office of Chase, Harper, and Weiss, read the letterhead.

Lyndsy felt her heart pounding in her chest. As she scanned the letter, the words jumped out at her.

“SUMMONS”

“FULL CUSTODY”

“TREVOR DAVENPORT”

“Shit,” muttered Lyndsy.

London leaned over and puked into the gutter.

 

I HATE HIM!

Love, London

Entry 2 – Hurricane Karly

Dear Diary,

I was so excited to look for a new place to rent for the Cupcake Cafe yesterday with Dad. The realtor had sent over a few potential listings and I immediately fell in love with one, even before we saw it. Dad tried to talk me out of even going to look at it; it’s a bit of commute. But I just had to see it. Maybe I should have listened to him, because when I saw it in person, I just had to to have. Of course, the other problem was this rental is not zoned to be lived in as well. No matter, I thought. Orla and I will just move back in with mom. I hated to move Orla back out of apartment in the current Cupcake Cafe so soon after moving in, but I hadn’t envisioned things taking off the way they did and needing to change locations so soon. But the new location was so perfect, I could just imagine the soft pastels, the rainbow curtains. So with a little bit of begging, I got dad to agree to co-sign with me for it. He’s always spoiled me – since I’m the baby I guess. So, I have a legally binding contract I can’t back out off and no where to live. So I have to move back in with mom, right? Seemed pretty cut and dry. But things kicked off when Karly came over this morning.

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When Karly stormed into her mother’s townhouse, slamming the door behind her, her mother could practically see the thunder clouds swarming above her head.

“That’s IT! Ket and I are officially getting a divorce!”

Lyndsy calmly stirred her first mimosa of the day.

“What seems to be the problem this time, darling?” It was a common refrain Lyndsy and London had heard over the months since the fateful family visit during the Royal Bachelor and were more or less immune to Karly’s rantings at this point.

“Karly, where are the twins,” London trooped down the stairs with Orla in her arms. Karly huffed and rolled her eyes.

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“I left them at the rental.”

“By themselves?”

“Yes London – by themselves.” Karly’s voice was drenched in malice, so London could tell she was spoiling for a fight. Unsurprising, considering her announcement. Still, London hated to argue with her sister and if there was one thing that made the Caliente sisters different from each other, it was their tempers.

“Karly, their my nieces, I’m just worried about them. I don’t think it’s safe.”

“It’s just while they finish breakfast! They’ll be getting on the bus any minute now. Besides, I had to leave them so we can open your bakery on time. Why did you stay at mom’s last night anyway?”

“Because Orla was sick and fell asleep early while dad and I were finishing up at the realtor’s office. I didn’t want to risk waking her and I couldn’t ask mom to take her while she was sick when she’s got work today, too.”

“Ooo, did you find a place?” Karly’s bad mood momentarily abated.

“I did! It’s the one that I wanted!” London’s stomach felt like it was full of butterflies just thinking about it.

“Show me,” Karly demanded.

London placed Orla in her high chair, then pulled out her phone, happy to oblige. Karly swiped through the listing pointedly. She pursed her lips and cocked her head, and as each minute passed, London could feel the tension mounting in the room again. Hurricane Karly was ready to blow again.

“So where are you going to live? Is there an apartment that’s not pictured,” she asked finally as she passed the phone back to London.

“Actually, it’s not zoned for residency.”

“So what, you’re going to rent an apartment, too,” Karly was shaking her head as said this, so London knew Karly knew what she was going to say next.

“No, I’m going to have to move back with mom…”

“Bull shit! That’s BULL SHIT,” Karly shrieked.

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“Hey, language,” cautioned Lyndsy, gesturing to Orla. Orla screwed up her face pre-wail, so London swooped over to her daughter to comfort her.

“It’s ok, babycakes. Auntie’s just in a bad mood.”

“Cuza Unca Ket?”

London sighed. It couldn’t possibly be good for Orla to be exposed to so much drama in regards to her Aunt’s crumbling marriage that she knew that was what was making her Aunt angry.

“Yes. The big doo-doo head.” Karly blew a raspberry for good measure. Orla giggled and began blowing raspberries herself.

“Unca Doo-Doo Head! Unca Doo-Doo Head,” Orla chanted. London glared daggers at her sister.

“Babycakes, finish your applesauce. We need to hustle home so mommy and Auntie can open the bakery on time. It’s going to be a busy day today, we have lots of people coming to pick up their cupcakes for parties this weekend.”

“Huskle! Huskle,” Orla had punctuated the first “huskle” by slapping her hand in some spilled applesauce, but London grabbed her hand and wiped it clean before she could do it again. Orla whined and wrenched her hand from her mother’s.

“You’re going to be able to handle the cupcakes for the Parker baby shower and the Klein wedding this afternoon, right?”

“What? No! I have a meeting this afternoon! I told you this!” Since going back to work after the twins had been born, Karly had only been able to work part time at Desert Bloom Publishing Group. But a full time position was opening up since Mandy Conners had found herself pregnant and Karly was working overtime in the hope that she would be promoted. Of course, this meant she was neglecting her work at the bakery, at a time when London needed her most.

“Karly, no! You have to ask them to reschedule! We have to have these cupcakes ready for pick up this evening! Your promised you could do them!”

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“What?! No way, you’re on drugs! There is no way I can ask them to reschedule a company wide meeting for my benefit!”

“Karly, the agreement was you could live in the apartment above the Cupcake Cafe in exchange for helping me in the bakery.”

“Yeah, and in case you forgot, I’m not living the apartment anymore. It was too cramped for the four of us, tempers were running high and I thought having more space would alleviate some of the stress on my marriage.”

“Has it?”

“Obviously not,” Karly replied snottily. “Which is why I’m moving in with mom. You’ve mooched off her long enough!”

“Karly, I can’t afford to rent an apartment on top of making the payments for the Cupcake Cafe’s new location! Plus, with the new location being in Magnolia Promenade, I’m going to have to get my own car, too!”

“About damn time,” Karly muttered. More loudly, she said, “Tough tuchus! Ket and I are getting a divorce and I can’t afford to continue paying for the rental on my own.”

London rolled her eyes. “Karly, how many times have you stomped in here, saying the exact same thing, only to text mom and me later saying you’ve decided to try and work things out.”

“Yeah, well I mean in this time. I’m done with his crap. So find a different place to move the bakery. Or! You could move in with dad.”

“You move in with dad,” shot back London. The girls loved their father dearly, and had known for a long time that he was gay – even before he had come out. They had even made peace with the fact that he was now in a polyamorous relationship. But what still made them slightly uncomfortable was Antoine, who was young enough to be their brother. A professional gamer and tech prodigy, the house in Skyward Palms he and his boyfriends lived in was technically his. This made the prospect of asking to move in with their father all the more uncomfortable.

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“Girls! Enough! Please,” Lyndsy was sick of their bickering. Her girls were her world, but in all honesty, if she had things her way, neither of them would need to live with her. But a mother’s job was never done and unfortunately, both of her girls needed her now. They would have to come up with a plan. But not right now. Not in front of the baby.

“London, I’ll take Orla to daycare today.” There was a definite edge to Lyndsy’s voice.

“Oh, gosh! No, it’s ok mom, I’ll take her.” London suddenly came to her senses and scooped up her daughter. But Orla was still upset over the fighting and pushed away from London, reaching for Lyndsy instead.

“No, London. I’ll take her.”

London felt her heart breaking as she handed her daughter to her mother.

“Come on London, we’re late, thanks to your scene.” Karly was already half out the door as she called over her should to London.

“My what?! Excuse me, but -” London choked down her words as she saw her mother glaring at her. And she knew arguing with fruitless; once Karly was in a mood, she would never back down.

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So on what should have be such a happy day for me, Karly managed to rain on my parade – yet again. It’s funny how no matter how old you get, sibling dynamics seem to never change. We are both grown women with children of our own, but if we disagree or something, suddenly it’s like we’re kids again, fighting over our Void Critter cards. I do love Karly, but I love Orla more. And I think maybe being around Karly and her bad temper wouldn’t be good for Orla. Maybe I should ask Dad (or rather, Antoine) about moving in? I guess it’s something to at least think about.

Love, London

Entry 1 – Mama Bear

Dear Diary,

When I signed up to be on the Bachelor, I never expected to get as far as I did. Sure, I had my heart broken.

London paused, then vigorously scratched out the sentence, until the paper ripped. She sighed, but continued on.

I may have not won the competition in the conventional sense, but I won in other ways. I made several new friends, and so did Orla. Business at the Cupcake Cafe has never been better. And best of all, I have an amazing new boyfriend.

London Diary

London thought back to all those months ago, at Lyric and Stellan’s wedding. Lyric’s brother Allegro had been instantly smitten with her. But London was unsure if she was ready to start dating again so soon and she had heard stories of his womanizing ways from Lyric during their late night gossip sessions, when Simcess had thought they were all in bed. But as Allegro was smitten with her, so were Orla and Capella smitten with each other. They pleaded to see each other constantly, and when business at the Cupcake Cafe began to pick up and it became too difficult for London to accept Royal Invitations for play dates with Capella, Allegro seized the opportunity to visit Oasis Springs with his baby sister. It became harder and harder to resist his charms – but London knew she needed stability in a relationship, for Orla’s sake. So she went to see her best friend, the Queen.

“Honestly London, I’ve never seen him act the way he does around you.”

London gnawed on her thumbnail, unsure.

“And London, if anyone could tame his wild heart, it’s you.”

London couldn’t help but smile at this.

“Ok, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to go on one date with him.”

“Perfect!” Lyric clapped her hands together. “You can go tonight, Stellan and I watch Orla with Capella!”

“To-tonight,” London stammered.

“No time like the present,” Lyric winked.

“But I’m not dressed for it! And it’s so late already, maybe we should go on a lunch date first. I don’t want Orla acting up from being overly tired.”

“Nonsense! You’ll borrow something out of my closet and Orla and Capella will have their first little sleep over together! We’ll tell them fairy tales and play dress up. Tomorrow morning, they can take turns riding the chubby little pony that the boys rode as children and I heard the chef can make these adorable pancakes in the shape of animals…”

As Lyric grabbed her hand and began pulling her to her chambers, London’s heart squeezed, thinking about Stellan as a little boy. She imagined him with hair shaggy and straw colored, glinting in the sun, long gangly legs, and a wide gap toothed grin.

And here is his beautiful wife and you friend, who has generously given her blessing for you to go out with her brother, and you’re dreaming about her husband, London chided herself.

London Lyric

She shook her head, trying to clear it of the shameful thoughts.

“What’s the matter London,” Lyric paused, peering at her. “You’re awfully quiet.”

“Hm? Oh, nothing. I was just thinking…” London was suddenly stymied, realizing she could NOT tell Lyric what she was thinking.

“Um, that… this is… just what I needed,” she finished lamely.

Lyric scrunched up her face in thought. London couldn’t help but think how adorable she looked.

Finally, Lyric smiled. “London, I couldn’t agree more. You seem to be suffering from a bad case of mommy brain, and time speaking with an adult about something other than nap schedules and chicken nuggets is just what the doctor ordered.”

London’s date couldn’t have gone more perfectly. Allegro already knew her big secret, and when she described the rest of her family, he just smiled and nodded.

“I didn’t watch the show myself, but people were talking about your family visit for days afterward. At least your family’s never boring?”

He made her laugh, asked just the right amount of questions about Orla, and as he was giving her a history lesson music, London found herself thinking about letting him kiss her.

“…And that’s why some people attribute the birth of modern Hip Hop to the 1977 NYC blackout…Oh.”

London’s phone began ringing with a sense of urgency that she wouldn’t have thought possible with a canned ringtone. She answered, her heart racing. Before she could even get out a “Hello”, she heard howling in the background.

London Allegro dinner

“London, you better get back here. Quick.” The line went dead.

She got up shakily, knocking over her chair. Lyric’s words were pounding in her head.

“I, uh… Oh, I’m sorry.”

“London, it’s fine. Go to your daughter. I’ve got the bill, I’ll be right behind you.”

As she rushed out of the restaurant, London felt her head clear in the cool night air. She began frantically waving for a taxi.

“Come on! COME ON!”

Like a cruel joke, the usually busy street was suddenly devoid of taxis. Unable to wait a minute longer, London yanked off her high heels and stepped into the road.

“London,” shouted Allegro, grabbing her hand and pulling her back on to the sidewalk, narrowly missing a car she had somehow failed to notice coming around the corner. He wrapped an arm around her protectively.

“London, I’m pretty sure taking my car would be faster than running.”

She looked down, staring dumbly at her shoes and nodded mutely. What had she been thinking?

As they slid into his car, he turned to her.

“London, Stellan and Lyric know how to handle an emergency. I’m sure your mind is racing with thoughts of the worst, but I’m sure it isn’t that bad.”

On a deeper level, London knew he was right. But she was a mama bear who needed to protect her cub.

“You heard my daughter screaming, right? It is that bad. I don’t care why she is, I need to make it better. But – you’re – not – a – parent – so – you -wouldn’t – under – stand.” She bit out the words between gritted teeth. “So just go.”

London heard Orla’s cries before she was actually in the palace. As she rushed through the doors, she was greeted by the sight of Lyric pacing in the foyer, trying to hold a trashing, red faced Orla, and Stellan sitting with Capella, rubbing her back and plying her with cookies.

“Mama!” Orla lunged toward her, half falling from Lyric’s arms. London caught her, wrapping her tightly in her arms.

“It’s ok Orla. Mama’s here. Mama’s here,” London crooned, rocking her. Before London had completed a circuit around the foyer, Orla’s shuddering sobs had subsided and turned into the whispery sighs of a toddler dreaming.

Lyric looked relieved. “She must have tired herself out. That doesn’t surprise me, she’d be like that for longer than I would have thought humanly possible.”

London made her way over to one of the many ottomans that lined the foyer. As she sat down, she kicked off her heels.

“What happened?”

“Well, we were getting them ready for bed. We’d given them a bath, helped them brush their teeth, put on their pajamas, and even put them in bed and had told them a story. But when it was time to actually say good night and you weren’t here, she lost it.”

“Of course. I’m an idiot.” London stroked her daughter’s wild curls.

“It’s my fault.” Lyric looked apologetic. “I pressured you into going on a date and having her stay with us. Capella is so flexible, whether she’s at home or staying with me and Stellan, she always falls straight to sleep, as long as she has her security blanket.” Lyric gestured to the slightly tattered square of fabric patterned with music notes that lay discarded between Capella and Stellan, as she washed down her cookies with a sippy cup of milk.

At that moment, Allegro finally strolled in.

“Legro,” squealed Capella, as she pushed off the ottoman and toddled over to him.

“Hello, princess!”

“I nawt a pwincess! Sissy is,” giggled Capella.

“Actually little cricket,” Allergro waggled his finger in mock seriousness. “Sissy is a Queen!”

“Shuuuush,” intoned Lyric, looking exasperated. “Orla just calmed down. Don’t wake her up!”

“Actually, it’s ok. I’m pretty sure she’s conked out for the night.”

At the mention of her friend, Capella glanced over at her nervously, eyes welling up with tears.

“Legro, what wong wif Lala?”

“Aw, Capell-a, Capell-a,” Allegro crooned as he scooped up his sister. “Nothing’s wrong little cricket. She just wanted to say good night to her mama. But everything’s ok now. Isn’t it? Isn’t it?”

Allegro Capella

At the second “Isn’t it” Allegro began tickling Capella. She squirmed in his arms, her peels of laughter ringing through the foyer. Orla sighed and rolled over, under disturbed by the ruckus.

Lyric lifted Capella out of Allegro’s arms and twirled her around. “Cookies and tickling? How on Earth am I going to get you to go to sleep now?” As Lyric started up the stairs, Capella squirmed around so she could see everyone left in the foyer.

“Nigh-night,” she called loudly, waving her hand and blowing kisses. Allegro pretended to catch one and applied it to his cheek.

“Well, I should get this one to bed, too.” London hoisted herself of the ottoman, her legs slightly stiff.

“Of course,” Stellan smiled. “You’re old room has been made up for you.” He picked up the empty sippy cup and headed to the kitchen.

After London had put Orla to bed, she found Allegro sitting outside. Shadows played across his face as moths danced around a porch light. She pulled up a chair to sit next to him.

“Careful, it’s wet.”

“Oh, I didn’t realized it had rained.” She inhaled deeply, finally noticing the familiar smell of damped Earth. “I love that smell…”

“Petrichor.”

“Huh?”

“The smell of damped Earth after a dry smell; it’s called petrichor.”

“Oh.” London smiled. She liked the way Allegro was full of little facts, something she never would have guessed about him before. And the way he had been with Capella. London found herself wanting to kiss him again.

“Allegro, why did it take you so long to come into the palace when we got back?”

“Well, Orla was upset. I wanted to give you uninterrupted time to help her calm down. And I didn’t want to confuse her and potentially upset her more with both of us coming in at the same time.”

She stared down at the ground, shocked by his revelation. Maybe he was better with kids than she gave him credit for. Maybe a lot better.

“Allegro, I have to apologize.”

“What? Because you had to end our date so abruptly? Orla didn’t give you much of a choice, I can’t exactly blame you.”

“No, it’s not that. I kind of bit your head off earlier, when you were just trying to help me. I know you’re not a parent, but you were amazing with Capella. I can tell you love her very much.”

“I do, of course I do. But it’s nothing compared to a mother’s love.”

“That’s true,” London conceded. “But, I don’t know if Lyric told you this or not, but part of the reason I’ve hesitated in agreeing to go out with you was because I wanted to protect Orla.”

He nodded. “I completely understand.”

“But seeing you with Capella, you totally different than I expected. I guess what I’m trying to say is – well, if you wanted a do-over, I wouldn’t say no.”

He smiled and nodded again.

“Ok.”

London Allegro chat

His face was a smooth mask, hiding his emotions. Meanwhile, London was afraid her heart might beat out of her chest. When he made no move to kiss her, she couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

“Well, I should probably be getting back. I wouldn’t want a repeat of what happened earlier if Orla woke up and I wasn’t next to her.”

“Sure, absolutely.” Still, he made no move to kiss her.

London got up slowly and deliberately. Nothing still. She turned sadly to head into the palace. Then she whirled back.

“Allegro?”

Before he could reply, she leaned down and kissed him. She caressed her hands across his cheeks as he melted into her. Not wanting to go too far, London broke off the kiss.

“Good night Allegro.”

“Good night London.” She could practically hear the grin in his voice.

The next day, the drama of the night before was completely forgotten and the animal shaped pancakes and pony rides were a hit. Allegro held her hand all day. And a few weeks and several dates later, when he asked her to be his girlfriend, she said yes.

Allegro is smart and kind and he makes me laugh. He is terrific with Orla, better than I ever could have imagined. He’s not the playboy that he used to be – something Lyric credits entirely to me. I don’t know. Maybe he just had to find the right girl to help him grow up. In this case, I think that was Orla. But that’s all from me tonight. I have to get up early tomorrow because Dad and I are going to meet with a realtor. As I mentioned before, business is booming at the Cupcake Cafe. In fact, it’s doing so well, I’m going to be moving to a larger location. Wish me luck!

Love, London