Going It Alone

This is part of another, longer almost-chapter, but this party scene is what I’m most proud of. The rest of the scene is still pretty rough, but let me know in the comments what you think the rest of the chapter is about!

Cupcake on a table
Photo by Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

During the last birthday party Bailey had been dragged to, she stood by the food and chatted to Connor’s sisters and a few other parents. He had barely gotten himself some burger sliders before his oldest nephew ran up to his leg and collided with Connor’s knee. The little boy immediately started crying and rubbing his nose. His face got redder and redder as he cried, but Bailey couldn’t bring herself to coo words of comfort at him like the other adults who witnessed the crash.

“Hey, it’s okay,” Connor said, shoving the last bite of food into his mouth. “Look, man, that hurt me a lot more than it hurt you and if I can walk away, you can too.” He started walking away into the backyard, but a step into it and he did a dramatic pretend-limp before rolling onto the grass and grabbing at his knee. He kept rolling and complaining about the pain, and his nephew started giggling.

“I think Uncle Connor may feel better if you play the Mamma Possum game,” Connor’s sister Melanie said to her giggling son. No sooner had she said that and he was off, hopping on Connor’s back before he could get up. Connor’s act of being stuck and not being able to stand from the toddler wrestling him down should have been adorable to anyone else, but Bailey got bored just as other kids started lining up waiting for their turn to be baby possums. 

“Yeah, he won’t thank me for that one later,” Melanie said. “But my back and my knees cannot take that damn game anymore.”

“At least it’ll tire them out. And I really appreciate that the kids’ cupcakes are more carrot than cake, by the way,” another mom said. “I have a show to catch up on when we put them to bed tonight.”

“I hope you weren’t expecting Connor to be up to much tonight,” Melanie’s husband said. “He’ll be wiped after that and the game of tag one of them was yelling about.”

Bailey chuckled politely as she nibbled at an almost-carrot-cake cupcake.

“Are you guys going to start a family?” Melanie asked.

Bailey wiped icing off her mouth and realized the question was for her. She glanced from face to face, contemplating the seriousness of the intrusive question.

“He wants to,” she answered, “but we haven’t had the conversation in earnest. I don’t really know how I feel about kids.”

“Oh, everyone says that,” the same mom with the carrot cake remark said. “Before we had Kendra, every kid’s whiny voice grated in my ear, and I even switched tables at a restaurant once because this kid was screeching bloody murder.”

“But you’ll like your own,” Connor’s other sister Nina said. “At least on most days.”

“Oh for sure,” carrot-cake mom said. “They’re disgusting little monsters on the best day, but I would kill anyone for them.”

Not knowing where to look or what to contribute to the conversation, Bailey looked around for an exit. A drink that could be refilled, a plate needed clearing… until she caught Connor’s eye as he finally extracted himself from the toddlers.

Just when she thought he was coming to save her, he only handed her his phone. “Can you hold onto that? One of the kids almost stepped on it.”

“Aunt Bailey, wanna play tag?” The red-faced boy asked, tears well and fully dried. He had caught up to Connor with small but persistent steps.

“No, thank you,” Bailey said, wincing at the address. The little boy lost his smile, and he looked at her the way all kids seemed to look at her, with a mix of fear and confusion. The look on dogs when they encountered a cat.

“She doesn’t like to be called Aunt Bailey, bud,” Connor said. “Just Bailey, ‘member?”

The boy put his hand in his mouth and looked around. Would it be acceptable for her to do the same?

“Yes,” he said through his fist.

“Get your hand out of your mouth and go round up the other kids for tag,” Connor said. The little boy ran off giggling. Connor turned to look at Bailey, but the smile he had for her wasn’t the same as the one he’d had for the kids. Everyone was still giggling at the Aunt Bailey remark, and he kissed her cheek before jogging to meet the kids assembling for tag. She hoped no one had seen how she turned her face as he approached her.

“Probably wise to wait to have that conversation, it looks like,” the carrot cake mom spoke again. She looked around at the other adults as she laughed at her own joke. “Looks like he’ll want more than one by the looks of it.”

“Yeah, and having siblings is so pivotal. I mean, the times I wanted to kill Connor and Nina sometimes, but – ” Melanie said. She quickly turned to look at Bailey and her face lost the smile as quick as her son had. “Oh shit, Bailey, I’m so sorry.”

“It’s okay,” Bailey said. “You’re right. Having siblings is pretty important. Will you excuse me?”

She walked away and waved Connor’s phone with a smile, hoping no one saw she had pockets she could store it in instead of her handbag.

Melanie would appreciate the space to explain her faux pas, although remarks like that hardly bothered Bailey anymore. She was more bothered about the Aunt Bailey comment.

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