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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.
“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.”
“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.”
London blinked furiously as her eyes welled up and let out a shaky breath.
“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?”
“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.
“Shit,” muttered Lyndsy.
London leaned over and puked into the gutter.
I HATE HIM!