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.

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“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.

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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.


“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?”


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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