I Pick You, page 18
“I love it. Come here.”
“No, I’m I’ve got a cab coming. You have company. I’ll just see you later.”
“Rydell, you’re not an idiot.”
Rydell looked around the empty room with opened hands in search of something. “Yeah? Then tell me there’s a condom under that Disney blanket.”
My eyes dropped to the freaky blue haired girl with big eyes, staring right at me and back to Rydell’s. “Are you on something?”
Rydell snorted and moved her hand away from me when I reached for it. “Yeah, crack.”
I laughed, but not too overbearing. She was really freaked out. “I meant like the pill.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t keep me from getting something you’ve picked up along the way.”
“I’m fine. I just had a full physical for this job. You didn’t catch anything.”
“Yes, but that was over two weeks ago. Who else has that thing been in?”
I had to think about it for a second, and then I lied. There was absolutely no reason to tell her about Kit. That was the same thing it was the first time, sex. “I haven’t been with anyone since I came here.”
Rydell shot me a quick, yet surprised look. “Of course. It’s cool, Brantley. Don’t worry about it. I’m going to get out of here.”
I stood, letting Joy protect me from flashing her. “Come over later. We’ll grill out and maybe go for a walk along the beach.”
“Yeah, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“What’s wrong with you? We’re two consenting adults. Why are you freaking out?”
“I’m not freaking out. I’m just, I, it’s nothing. I’ll see you later.”
There was no way I was about to let her out of there like that. “You’re not a time waster.”
Rydell pushed away from me with her hands on my chest, but she never looked at me, not my eyes like I wanted her to. “And I’m not going to be the one getting hurt either, right, Brantley? I’ll talk to you later.”
A deep breath echoed throughout the vacant room and the door clicked behind her. I stared at the six squares on the white door, contemplating her words. The only thing Rydell was afraid of was me hurting her. On a normal day, I would have solidified that notion, but not now. I honestly didn’t want to hurt her. As crazy as the thought sounded, I wanted her. All of it, the future, the house, the job, I wanted it all. I wanted it with her, Rydell Brinkley. Criminy. I wanted the American dream.
I could hear Bay and Bridgett in the kitchen, but I went to my shower before I went to join them. At least I didn’t wake up swearing off alcohol. No headache at all, and I couldn’t blame the pain in my neck or the stiffness in my back on that either, but I could blame my sister.
Hot water stung the skin on my back while my mind drifted to the night before, a smile taking over my face several times. I smiled when I thought about her and I singing together, dancing, talking, laughing, and then sex. Needless to say, my entire shower was experienced with a smile. A smile that grew even bigger when I stood in front of the mirror, shaving in my boxer briefs.
“Sicker on ere,” Bay said from the door, her little body bent in half and her finger touched spots on her legs.
I picked her up and lifted her to the sink, understanding every word she said. “Oh, yeah, well guess what, Bay Berry Jandt? Those aren’t stickers. They’re stamps that daddy just picked up yesterday. Now, what? I could mail you somewhere. Where do you want to go? Do you want Daddy to mail you to see the elephants with Mommy?”
“Yup, Mommy’s where the elephants are.”
“Hey, there you are,” Bridgett said from the door.
“You suck at babysitting. She wasted a whole book of stamps.”
“Sickers,” Bay said, with a finger pointing at the forty-nine, forever USA stamps, covering her legs.
“She’s fast. I swear she was sitting at the bar eating raisins a second ago.”
“She is fast. Faster than the speed of light,” I yelled while scooping her up, flying her through the air, and landing her on her back to the middle of my bed.
“You’re really good with her, Brantley. Mom is going to love her.”
I shook my head, moving her from the front of my dresser and shoving her with the second drawer down.
“What? She wants to see her, too. She is her granddaughter.”
I slid into a pair of camo covered cargo shorts and stopped that conversation right there. “And we talked about this. If this is what you’re going to do, don’t come here. Bottom line. Come on, Bay, let’s go see if we can salvage any of your sickers.”
Bridgett followed me, trying to pry the lid off a can I’d closed a long time ago. “Brantley, why can’t you forgive her? She messed up.”
I turned on my heals, Bay in my arms, and reminded her why I couldn’t forgive her. “She left us. You were eleven years old, Bridgett. Those were the years you needed her most. Girls aren’t supposed to tell their older brothers they got their period. Big brother’s aren’t supposed to plan sweet sixteen parties.”
“I needed her the first eleven years, too. She messed up. It’s human nature.”
I nonchalantly replied while I sat Bay back to her raisins and poured coffee. “Yeah, because a nanny didn’t take care of us then with someone else’s money.”
“What do you think you did?”
“What I did? I was thirteen. I had no say in it, either. This was all her. She chose this, not me, not you.”
“That’s not what I meant. You left Bay. How is that any different?”
Wow. That took the wind out of me. My mind stumbled backwards, trying to recover and come up with something to say. “I’m calling a cab to go get my car. Do you still want to go shopping?”
Bridgett didn’t say another word. She let it go after she ripped off the Band-Aid. “You’re not coming, are you?”
I hated shopping more than anything, but I wasn’t sure what I would be doing all day. The plan I had concocted in my mind left me. “Hell, no. I’ll go get my car and you can go. I’m looking forward to a day with no Bay. Sorry, Bay, no offense.”
“Phil wide, Bay dwive.”
“Yeah, that’s exactly what I think, too. I’ll be back,” I swiped my phone with my thumb, walking away from her and the deep subject I wasn’t about to have. I needed a minute to let that sink in. Bridgett was right. I did do that. I intentionally stayed out of her life for my own selfish needs. I did to her what my mom did to Bridge and me, I purposely left her. That was extremely hard for me to swallow.
I spent the day doing things around the house, cleaning empty rooms, and wondering if I should fill them. Maybe I should try to buy this house. Maybe I did want what everyone else wanted with Bay and Rydell. I didn’t even think about her leaving me. I knew that I would never be without her in my life again. Ever. Even if that meant moving wherever Kit took her. Maybe she’d stay in Florida, too. I didn’t get a good feeling about her relationship with her family. Maybe she’d just keep going, advancing her career and I’d be the responsible one, for once.
By two in the afternoon, I was finished spending a day without Bay. I missed her and didn’t know what to do with myself anymore. I was bored out of my mind. Deciding to try my luck with Rydell answering, I floated around the pool and dialed her number.
“Hey, what’s up?”
I pondered the nonchalant attitude before replying. “Not much. You should come over and jump in the pool with me.”
“Yeah, I saw that this morning. Impressive, but no. I can’t. I’ve got to help my dad do some things today.”
“Of course, maybe a little sore,” she said, through a short puff of air.
That made me smile and a little hopeful. “Yeah, my back hurts, too. I promise to make sure it’s not on the floor next time.”
“I wasn’t talking about my back being sore.”
“Oh, Ohhhh,” I exclaimed when it h
Rydell laughed and hung up, “I’ve got to go. I’ll talk to you later.”
“Yeah, okay, and sorry about that.”
Another laugh. “Yeah, sure you are. Don’t worry, I can handle it.”
“Jesus, you’re giving me a boner, thinking about it.”
“Talk to you later,” I said, as I caught the flash of pink run to the door.
“Women. I women,” Bay called, with her nose squished on the glass and her shirt going over her head.
Bridgette opened the door for her and Bay stepped out, shorts and shirt coming off. She loved the water so much, even if she didn’t do much but go up and down the two steps. That’s what made her happy.
My sister walked out with a huge white bag, filled with ships. A big blue boat and many baby ones poured out into the pool.
“Jesus, Bridge. Did you buy her one of each?”
“Yes, but you might kill me. There’s a lot more inside. I couldn’t help it.”
I smiled and shook my head. I made Bay boats out of stuff from around the house, gave her empty cups, and used shampoo bottles to play with. Bay was happy with them, and I didn’t spend one dollar. My sister probably spent a thousand of them. Whatever made her happy. That was my initial thought. It wasn’t until I walked inside with Bay that I saw the impact my daughter had on my sister.
“Making up for lost time,” she smiled, and then hunched her shoulders, hiding her neck while she told me the rest. “There might be a battery powered Bentley in the back of your SUV, and a tricycle.”
“Pee,” Bay said, as she slid her wet body down my leg and took off in a run, wet undies left behind.
I picked Phil up from the door, forgotten for the pool, and went for dry clothes, and then the cool as hell car my sister bought. Those things had come a long way since my childhood. I could even use a handheld controller to keep her from slamming into the walls. Needless to say, I spent my day being a big kid with Bay and my sister, playing with toys like I was five.
Bridgett loved Bay like I loved Bay, and I hated the thought of saying goodbye to her the following morning. She did bring up my mother again though. That pissed me off, and I refused to talk about it. I didn’t understand why she kept bringing it up. I was fine with the way things were, and I hated that she continuously tried to shove it down my throat.
Bay and I sat on my bed that night with my laptop, singing her favorite song while we waited for her mommy to call.
“Hush little Bay Berry let’s curl your hair, I’ll get the rollers and you sit in the chair. We’ll add some glitter, and some lipstick, too, I like red, but you might want blue.”
“Mommy,” she said, as soon as she heard the ring coming from my laptop, surprised expression like she wasn’t expecting her to call. Bay shoved the neck of my guitar and plopped her little butt right in my lap.
“This button,” I instructed, when she moved her finger over the mousepad like I did. Using her finger, I lifted it and tapped it for her to answer.
“Bay! Hi baby, what are you doing?”
“Phil wide, Bay dwive.”
I realized at that moment that was the exact same thing she had said earlier, before Bridgett took her shopping. She knew my sister planned to buy her that car. Phil ride, Bay drive. Smart little shit. I explained it to Kit, filling her in on Bay’s day, my sister and all the toys she bought for her.
She told me about a boy named Beno once all of my Bay stories were exhausted. Once Bay snuggled into my lap and hugged Phil close to her cheek, Kit told me about her day. I listened to a story about a little boy with no parents, and how he had latched onto her and waited for her to get to the village every morning. She talked about a grant they had gotten to help with a well for not only the school, but the little village as well. It wasn’t that I wasn’t interested. I thought what Kit was a part of over there was a wonderful thing for her karma, but she didn’t shut up. Even after Bay was sound asleep on my lap, Kit talked to me about her life over there, about the beautiful landscaping, exotic animals, and the suffering. I didn’t stop her because I felt like she talked just to keep from saying goodbye, and I let her. She was the one who finally said she would let me get to bed. That was almost an hour later.
I didn’t talk to Rydell until just after nine that night, thanks to Kit. I debated on calling her again, and then chose the chicken shit way.
Brantley—Hope your day was as nice as your ass.
Rydell—You’re a dick.
Brantley—I know. How was your day? What did you do?
Rydell—Not much. Shoveled horse shit, mostly.
Rydell—My unreasonable father.
Rydell—LOL, I have to help my dad because he decided to start taking in rescue horses. He’s up to nineteen. That’s a lot of shit for a man with a metal rod in his back. Dumb man.
Brantley—Your dad has a horse farm? In Florida?
Rydell—Yes, Florida has horses, genius. Glad you’re not teaching my kid.
Brantley—Do you have a kid?
Rydell—Just my dad.
Brantley—LOL! So you don’t really workout?
Brantley—I would have lied. You look like you spend hours in the gym.
Rydell—I shovel shit…Same thing.
Brantley—Taking your word for it.
I laughed, loving the banter between us, and feeling better about where her mind was, a little hope restored.
Brantley—Night, see you bright and early in the morning.
Rydell—DON’T BE LATE!
Brantley—If I do, it’s Bay’s fault.
Brantley—I will be early. I have to have my sister at the airport at six-thirty.
Rydell—She’s going to miss her flight.
Rydell—Truth. Night, Brantley.
Brantley—Night, pretty girl.
Rydell—Oh, geesh. Lame.
Brantley—Shut up and take the compliment.
The next message was a gif, of Donald Trump, the caption saying, Um…Okay.
It was a good thing Bridgett was there to make sure I wasn’t late getting her to the airport. There was no way I would have gotten up on my own. Rydell’s comment wasn’t exactly a false accusation, but in my defense, I wasn’t used to a clock, let alone a baby that wouldn’t wake up to get dressed.
My sister stood over Bay’s bed, watching me try to get her into her clothes, floppy limbs that wouldn’t cooperate. “Is she always like this?”
I shouldn’t have looked up to add the frown with the comment. “Always. She’s like worse than dressing a Barbie dooooolllll.”
That’s when Bay decided to kick the foot I had just lifted to the opening in her shorts. Right between my legs.
“Oh, my God. Are you okay?”
I glanced up to Bridgett with a groan as I hit the floor, my body automatically folding into a fetal position, sure I was about to defecate all over the carpet. Once the nausea hit me, the migraine in my balls followed, and I wanted to die.
Bridgett took over the job of dressing my comatose daughter while I crawled out, unsure of where the pain even was, my vision a blur and my nuts on fire.
It wasn’t until we were on our way to the airport that I started to feel some relief, thinking about seeing Rydell helped a lot. I shook my head at myself, and how ridiculous I was while looking at Bay, sound asleep in her comfortable seat.
“You need to talk to Mom.”
I glanced at my sister’s silhouette through the dark cab, frown already intact with a matching tone to follow. “Why, Bridgett? Why do you have to go and ruin a good weekend? Just stop. God.”
“I don’t get it, Brantley. She’s your mom. She loves you.”
“Yeah, and so did Dad when he left at four and two,” I reminded her lik
“That’s not fair. I don’t even remember him.”
“I do, I remember it like it was yesterday,” I replied, barely stopping myself from continuing, telling her the story that had played out over and over in my mind. But not in a while. Bay and Rydell had a way of keeping me from thinking about a lot of things. I hadn’t thought about that day since my mind had taken on a new focus, a dream I didn’t know I wanted.
“Things were hard after he left, Brantley. She did what she had to do for us.”
“That’s such bullshit and you know it. We had a fucking nanny. Don’t you remember that part? Your tenth birthday. The day she can never get back. Where was she then, Bridgett? Huh? She was in the Bahama’s with her boss, hiding money that didn’t belong to her.”
“Oh, but you can get Bay’s first birthday back. You’re such a hypocrite.”
This was just great. Not only was she going to leave pissed off, but she had to go and make me feel like shit for missing Bay’s birthday. Damn it. She was right. I would never, ever get that back. I would never hear her first cry, feed her a bottle, watch her first steps or any of that. “That’s different, Bridge.”
“It’s not, Brantley. She’s sorry. You know she would take it all back if she could.”
“I doubt it, but whatever.”
Bridgett turned her attention to the passenger window with an audible breath. “I talked to Kit on Skype after you talked to her last night. I like her.”
My eyebrows took a sharp dive toward my nose while my eyes sought her out. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I just said because I like her. She’s my friend.”
“Kit is not your friend. She’s Bay’s mom. How did that even happen?”
“Bay did it. It was after you went out. Bay was in the middle of the island pushing buttons on your computer while I peeled her a banana. She dialed Kit, and Kit answered. We talked for a while and played with Bay and then we exchanged numbers.”
I pondered on how I felt about that before I answered. Did I care? For some reason, I did, but I couldn’t figure out why. Bridgett was there the weekend Kit got pregnant with Bay, but they never stayed in touch. Bridgett didn’t even know about Bay until a few months ago, back when Kit begged me to keep her for this year. “So what? You and Kit are like besties now?”
JETTIE WOODRUFF SERIES:
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