I Pick You, page 1
This book is a work of fiction. References to real people, events, establishments, organizations, or locations are intended only to provide a sense of authenticity, and are used fictitiously. All other characters, dead or alive are a figment of my imagination and all incidents and dialogue, are drawn from the author’s mind's eye and are not to be interpreted as real.
All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2016 Jettie Woodruff
No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission of the author.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Jaqued Up Sneak Peek
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Editors- Tiffany Landers and Jenna Dixon
Proofreaders- Jillian Toth and Stacy Leir
And in time, This too shall pass.
Starburst, Co-Star, Stardust, Falling Stars
Underestimated, Underestimated Too, An Underestimated Christmas
All for Maddie
Black Rain, Midnight Rain
Suit, Slut, Solid
I Pick You
Coming Soon- Jaqued Up
This one’s for you
A heavy raindrop slid down the windowpane, pulling my attention from the submit button. As much as I tried to justify it in my mind as an omen, or a sign not to do it, I couldn’t. It slid down the window because that’s what happened when it rained outside, not because I wasn’t supposed to upload my resume.
My finger hovered over the enter key as I thought about how much my life would change. Even though I knew it was only one year, I also knew I would never get this chance again. It was about to be over with the tap of my finger.
Another wet drop kept me from doing it, this one sliding down a cold can of beer from the dew of the sultry air. I chugged half of it, squeezed the can in my hand and stood from my chair. This wasn’t what I had in mind when I set my sights on Nashville. I only did that teaching degree thing for the scholarship, my ticket out of Hellville, Michigan. I was never supposed to use it.
I ran my hands through my long hair and groaned about that, too. No school district would hire a guy that looked like me. Not only would I have to keep my tats covered, but my hair would be gone, too. All of it. Fuck this. I didn’t want to teach elementary kids. I didn’t even like kids.
The Skype call taking over my computer screen helped me procrastinate a little longer. It was all her fault anyway and my tone was meant to portray that when I answered.
“Hey, to you, too. I see you got it set up.”
I adjusted my screen, flipping my hair back when I saw myself. “Yeah, and it slowed my computer down. I could barely even burn a CD.”
Kit rolled her eyes, uncaring of my problems. She only wanted to be a selfish cunt. “I want to be able to talk to her every day.”
“Perfect. Here’s a thought. Why don’t you keep being her mommy, stay home with her where you belong, and I’ll keep being the daddy who pays for her?”
“You want child support from me while I’m in Kenya, Brantley? Is that what it will take to get you to grow up and be a Goddamn father?”
I crushed my empty beer can even more and tossed it into the trashcan, missing by a foot, but only because it banked off the wall. “She doesn’t even know who I am. I don’t want your fucking money. I want you to quit thinking you need to go to the other side of the world to live a ridiculous dream. This isn’t a good idea. I don’t know how to take care of a two-year-old. I’m a country music singer, for Christ’s sake.”
“You’re an Uber driver and she’s not two. Why don’t you stop being selfish long enough to give my dreams a chance? I’m never going to get this chance again. You of all people should understand that. It’s only one year, Brantley. You’ve had since high school to do what you want. All I’m asking for is a few months. One year to do something as near and dear to my heart as playing on sidewalks is to you.”
I knew the sidewalk remark was a punch below the belt, but I didn’t comment on it. I was too busy thinking about what venom I could fire back at her. “This is so unfair. I fucked you a few times over a drunken weekend. That’s it. And now you get to come in and just change it all in the blink of an eye? I didn’t tell you to have that kid.”
“You know what, Brantley? Go fuck yourself. You just stay in Nashville and keep living your dream. I don’t want any part of you rubbing off on my daughter.”
I’m not sure which one of us slammed our laptops first and I didn’t care. This was so fucked up. I mean, where did she get off even asking such a thing? I was around the kid one time. One time. That’s it. Once. She was cute, and I loved her. I loved her just fine from Nashville, Tennessee where I made enough money to send her a check every month, not put her to bed every night. I didn’t even know how to do that. Some guys just weren’t cut out to be dads. Without a doubt, I was one of those guys.
I opened my mini fridge to leftover Chinese and no beer, wondering how the hell I got into this mess. Had that dumb cunt asked me to do this even a year before I never would have considered it. The fact that I couldn’t not consider it now stayed with me every single second of the day. Guilt came with age and I hated it. Adulting sucked.
The scent of greasy Chinese filled my nose when I took a deep breath, audibly blowing it from my lungs. I could feel the dread hovering above me, all around me, saturating my mind with ridiculousness that I didn’t get. As much as I wanted to blame it all on Kit, I knew I couldn’t. She was right in so many ways, and it was time to face the facts.
Maybe it was time to move on, dream about something else for a change. An eighteen-month-old and a job; a real job where I could actually use my degree. Even though my gigs paid well, five years was a long time to dream big without ever seeing the pot of gold. Maybe I could be happy with another dream; besides, it was only one year. How bad could it be?
I glanced around the small space that I paid too much money for, wondering how much more I could get for nine-hundred a month elsewhere. Surely more than this. The smell of egg rolls was one thing I wouldn’t miss, and a bigger bathroom would be nice. She would need her own room and a yard to play in.
Without another thought I opened my laptop to the opened resume and hit submit, sending my credentials to fifty states. It didn’t much matter where home was for a teacher. There was no Teacher Hall of Fame of the world. Any place would do
Once I had gotten some food, a few more cold ones, and a possible date for drinks later on, I swallowed my pride and called Kit back. Using the stupid video Skype thing I hated, I dialed her back.
An instant smile formed across my face when I watched her push buttons and say hi. That’s it. That’s all she said, over and over.
“Hi, hi, hi.”
“Hi, how are you? I hear we’re going to be roommates for a minute. You up for that?”
Bright green eyes moved closer to the camera and then she was gone. I could still hear buttons being pushed and her one and only word, hi, but her cute little face was replaced with a black screen.
Moments later I heard Kit enter the room and then the little girl began screaming out in laughter. Tickling, I presumed. “Hey, what are you doing?” Kit said, unaware of my presence. “Do you want some raisins?”
“Hello, I’m still here,” I called while I waited.
“Oh, hey. Did she call you?” Kit asked, as her and a naked baby came into view. A white diaper. That was it.
“Um, no. She’s a baby. I called you.”
Kit lifted the little girl, my daughter, to her lap. I was never going to get used to that. I wasn’t supposed to have daughters. I was supposed to be on a stage with hot chicks worshiping at my feet while I sang pretty love songs in their ears.
“I wouldn’t underestimate her eighteen months. She’s extremely smart.”
“Yeah, I’m sure she is. How long?”
“Hang on. Let me get her a box of raisins and put in Up.”
“Put in Up?”
“Yeah, you know. The movie. She loves it, but that could change tomorrow.”
“Yeah, I don’t know,” I mumbled under my breath as I watched her scoop up the child and carry her off, saying something about me being her daddy.
Daddy, Daddy, Daddy. Nope, didn’t work for me. Brantley Jandt wasn’t that type of name. Brantley Jandt was a superstar’s name.
I watched Kit carry a pajama covered baby to the bed and plop her onto the middle with a little red box. She covered her legs with a baby blanket, tossed some ratty looking animal to her lap, and started the movie.
“Sorry, that’s the only thing that will keep her busy long enough to talk,” Kit explained as she sat in a chair in front of me, hair flipping to the back of her shoulder and a knee pulled to her chest. The same way it had the night we made a kid together. Only this time I didn’t find it sexy. I found it to be a trap. She did that same thing on the rooftop almost three years before.
I shook the déjà vu from my mind, wondering what that meant. “Busy? She’s busy? She’s a baby. What is she busy doing?”
Kit wore a sneaky grin and I didn’t like it. “You’ll see. So you’re in? You’re going to do this for me, Brantley?”
I tapped all my fingers on the table, debating my answer before I said it out loud and set it in stone. “Yes, but not because I want to. I still think it’s a bad idea. I have never even been around babies, ever. Where’s your folks? Don’t you think she would be better off with your mom?”
“Oh, definitely, but they don’t like it either. My mom and step-dad are too busy anyway. He’s a college basketball coach, so they travel a lot. My dad’s girlfriend is a cunt,” she said, both hands cupping her mouth in a whisper, eyes darting back to the child. “I don’t want her around my daughter, besides, my dad doesn’t want me to go either. You’re my only shot at this.”
I ran my fingers through my hair again, shaking my head in frustration. “Why is this such a big deal to you? I mean, if you wanted to film a documentary you could do it here in the states. There are plenty of things you could film. Hey, I know. Oliver Wellington. Do you know who that is? He used to be the mayor of Cincinnati. He lives below an underpass here in Nashville now. Homeless. I could totally set that up for you.”
Kit completely ignored my mayor idea, didn’t even give it a thought. “I don’t do the filming, and it’s not just a documentary, Brantley. It’s an opportunity. I have the chance to be a part of something big. So big, Brantley. These kids have nothing, they live in shacks made out of junk, and they didn’t get a say in it. Not one of them asked to be born into that situation. I want to help. Can you understand that?”
I could understand it and it made me feel proud, but that didn’t change the fact that I wouldn’t be good at this daddy stuff. “When? How long do I have?”
“Jesus, she’s not a disease. You make it sound like I’m handing you over stage-five lung cancer or something.”
“That’s because I don’t know what the hell to do with a baby. No clue. None whatsoever and I can’t get you to see that.”
Kit jumped up from her chair and ran out of the room, pointing a straight finger at the little girl, ready to follow her. “Stay, I’m coming right back,” she announced as she bounced out and then right back. This time, carrying a notebook with colored tabs sticking out from the sides.
“What is that?”
Kit held up the blue book with white stickers that spelled out, The Bay Bible. “This book will tell you anything and everything you would need to know right down to a mosquito bite.”
I blew out a puff of air, cocky air. “I’m pretty sure I can handle a mosquito bite. I didn’t need a tab for that one. I’m not stupid, just not made for this daddy stuff.”
“What you put on your mosquito bite isn’t the same as hers. You have to be careful with all those chemicals. A little bit of baking soda and water does the same thing.”
“Oh, okay, yeah, that makes sense,” I admitted while I stepped off my pedestal, accepting defeat, the thought of my grandma using that same home remedy crossing my mind. Nope, didn’t know how to do this, and I didn’t want to. I was doomed, she was doomed, and this was a horrible idea.
“You’re going to be fine.”
That wasn’t what I was worried about. Not fully. “And what about the girl? You’re trusting someone who has never been around little kids. Ever.”
“I’m trusting her with her dad, and stop calling her the girl. Her name is Bay.”
“Yeah, I know. Why you would name a child Bay is beyond me, especially when your last name is Berry.”
“Hey, I gave her your name. I could have given her mine.”
“Whatever, it’s still a stupid name. How much time do I have, Kit? I have to pack up this place, get a job and get out of the city.”
Kit frowned while her head did this little jerking thing, like I had just slapped her across her face. “You’re leaving Nashville?”
“I know you’ve only seen the ceiling of my apartment, but I’m sure you noticed the size. Where’s she going to play? Where is she going to sleep? And, what? Am I just going to make her a bed in my guitar case while I perform on the streets until two in the morning? Of course I’m leaving Nashville.”
“I remember your apartment, idiot, but where would you go?”
“Idit,” the tiny little voice said from the bed.
Kit laughed and scolded her with a lighthearted tone. “You can’t say that.”
“I don’t know yet. I just sent out a resume right before I called. I’ll let you know when I know.”
“But what kind of job? I mean what can you do besides sing?”
I shook my head a little with that one, deciding not to tell the dumb twit. Not because I wasn’t proud of the degree I had gotten as a backup plan. It was more because she didn’t think I was capable of such an accomplishment. She didn’t know shit about me, and it pissed me off that she was so quick to judge. “Oh, I don’t know, Kit. I bet I could mow lawns, or maybe change some oil or something.”
Kit’s frown never changed and she continued to start each sentence with, but. “But where would you go? I thought you would stay close to your family. You know, so they can help with Bay.”
I did the frowning that time. “See, this is why this is wrong on so many levels. You don’t know me any more than I
“But I met your sister.”
“Bridgett, yes. She just so happened to be visiting that weekend. She doesn’t live here. She’s a social worker back home. Not here.”
I could almost see the air being exhaled as Kit’s eyebrows sank with both her shoulders. She looked back at Bay dumping raisins onto the bed and back to me. “This changes things.”
“It does?” I questioned, wheels spinning like crazy in my head while I tried to contain the excitement.
“Yeah, I mean I was already having an issue with how immature you are, but moving her from place to place with no family. Yeah, I don’t know.”
Normally the immature remark would have pissed me off, but honestly it was sort of true. Although in my defense, I had nothing to be mature about. It sounds selfish now, but at the time, I didn’t really think about Bay being my responsibility. My duty to my daughter consisted of six hundred dollars set up to automatically deposit into Kit’s bank account on the first day of every month. At least I wouldn’t have to send that anymore. Surely a baby didn’t cost that much.
“I’m sure we’ll be fine. I’m not going to move her from place to place. Why do you think I need to know how much time I have until you fly halfway across the world?”
“You have no idea how much I want this, Brantley. It took me months to ask you. I wouldn’t even consider it if it wasn’t you.”
I didn’t understand that at all. “Why? I’ve never even been in her life.”
“Because nobody but you will love her like I do.”
I didn’t touch that one either. How could she say that, knowing we didn’t even know each other? “When do you leave?”
“Six weeks,” Kit replied, in a faraway tone. Her head turned back to Bay and a smile took over her entire face.
That didn’t give me much time, but it wasn’t like she hadn’t asked six months before. That’s just how long it took for her to talk me into it, begging and pleading until I finally caved. And I still wasn’t one hundred percent convinced. My eyes moved past Kit to Bay, throwing both hands into the air, calling out some incoherent chant, raisins scattered all around her. “I’ve never changed a diaper.”
JETTIE WOODRUFF SERIES:
Other author's books:
- Once Upon Another TimeSolidDomesticatedSlutJaq With a QThis Too Shall PassUnderestimated TooBlack Rain
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