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 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.
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, 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.
“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.
“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?”
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…”
“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.
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.
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!