His Virgin Babysitter(5)

By: Lila Younger

“Carter,” Stacie says, picking up on the first ring. “Can we meet today?”

“Today? You know that I work right?”

“Well you’re the one who’s been blowing up my phone trying to meet Luna. And now I’m letting you. So can you do it?”

I detect a definite edge in Stacie’s voice. Something is going on, but I can’t figure out what it could be. If it meant I could see Luna though, I wasn’t going to pass up the chance. I turn on my computer monitor and check through the meetings I have today. Some things can be moved around or put off in the afternoon luckily. Having worked here for so long, I do have a little leeway with my schedule, and I’m ready to make up the hours tonight so I can see my daughter.

“I can do noon,” I say. “Would that work?”

“Fine,” she says tersely. “Don’t be late.”

“When have I ever been late? Stacie, is something going on?”

“There’s nothing. I’ll see you at IHOP then.”

Luna had an obsession for pancakes almost as big as the one she has for Beauty and the Beast. I don’t think I ever saw a kid as happy as the day I gave her a Belle dress as a gift. It was the first time she ever gave me a hug, and since then, she’s even referred to me as ‘daddy’ a few times.

Once Stacie’s hung up, I call Gina on the phone.

“I need you to clear my schedule for the afternoon,” I say. “Do you think you can do that?”

“You’re going to see Luna?”

Gina is the only one I’ve told so far about Luna. She’s got over ten grandchildren herself, and she loves each and every one of them.

“That’s right. Do whatever you have to do. I’ll bring work home with me for a few nights if I have to make up for it. I know that Sherman’s been wanting some of the bigger cases. See if he’ll take the new client for me.”

“Are you... are you sure?” she asks, knowing what that could mean.

“It’s fine. I can make up the hours later.”

“I’ll make it happen Mr. Sedgwick,” she says.

“Thank you Gina. I’ll get you coffee tomorrow,” I promise.

The morning crawls by, until finally it’s 11:40 and I can leave to go see Luna. The restaurant isn’t far, a fifteen minute trip, but as I said before, I am never late to see my kid. Not only is it a pet peeve, but I don’t ever want to be that kind of a parent. The place is packed when I arrive, but I manage to snag the last booth. I text Stacie to let her know where I am since it’s in the far back of the restaurant. To pass the time, I pull out my phone to see what we can do. The only movies out we’ve already seen, and Beauty and the Beast isn’t for a few more months. Damn.

It’s almost a full hour later before Stacie shows up with Luna in tow. She’s wearing the princess Belle dress I gave her, with a bright pink backpack on her back.

“Hey Luna,” I say, stepping out of the booth so I can give her a hug. “I missed you.”

“I missed you too daddy,” she says, breaking out into a heart melting smile.

Stacie hustles her into the other side of the booth before getting in. She’s gotten thinner, I can tell, and there’s a nervousness to her that jangles my nerves. The years haven’t been kind to Stacie. I don’t know if it was her agent that convinced her to, or some kind of misguided belief she has, but Stacie has had almost every plastic surgery procedure done to herself. If I am to hold up a photo of what she looked like almost five years ago, you would swear they were two different people. Not that she was natural when I met her. But the changes had been subtle, enhancing her features instead of taking away from them. It’s not a look I’m attracted to at all, no matter how often Stacie tries to push herself onto me after these meetings.

A pimply waiter swoops in with coffee and menus. Luna opens hers up, big enough to hide her completely. She’s made it a mission to go through every item at IHOP.

“What’s going on with you?” I ask in a low voice across our menus. “You seem agitated.”

“I’m not,” Stacie hisses. “Stop bugging me.”

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