“But?” I say, and she continues.
“I told the kids,” she says, “I’m not keeping anything from them when it has to do with them. Daisy cried because she thought that they would keep her room. Lizzie, well, she was pissed and told me to tell them to take the house because she wants to move anyway.”
“Sounds like her mother,” I say, smiling now.
“Yeah, so we sat down and talked about moving,” she says, and I dread she’s going to say she’s moving farther away, but I don’t give a shit because it’s not keeping me away from her. “Yeah, and I also took your name off my list for court.”
“I heard,” I tell her, almost snapping.
“There is no fucking way I’m going to let them paint you as a bad guy. There is no fucking way they get to touch the only pure thing I’ve ever had in my life,” she says. “No fucking way. I’m a good mom. Actually, I’m a great mom, and I have faith the court will see it.”
“You’re beautiful,” I tell her, looking at her. “So fucking beautiful.” She looks down and then up again as I stare into her brown eyes, eyes that were dead, eyes that were broken, eyes that somehow have mended, the cracks gone, shining back to life. “I wanted to come to you tonight, but my father said maybe you’re being watched.”
“I know. He told me that too,” she says. “I almost don’t care, but it’s only one week.”
“I’m still coming over tomorrow,” I tell her, and she smiles.
“Okay,” she says, yawning. “I miss you.” We spend the rest of the night talking about her next painting spree.
I set my alarm for four and make my way to her house. I want to see the kids before they leave for school. So I pull up to the house at seven o’clock sharp, carrying a box of doughnuts in one hand and coffee in the other. I ring the doorbell and hear footsteps coming to the door. Samantha opens it just a little bit and then sees me. Her face lights up. “Oh my goodness,” she says, reaching out and dragging me inside. Closing the door and grabbing the box of doughnuts and coffee, she places them on the floor and then jumps into my arms. I grab her around her waist. “I missed you,” she says softly and then kisses my lips. “The girls are just getting up.”
“I brought doughnuts,” I tell her, “and coffee.”
“Girls,” she yells, getting out of my arms, “look who brought doughnuts.” The girls walk to the staircase, rubbing sleep out of their eyes.
Daisy waves with one hand. “Hi, Blake, it’s early,” she informs me.
“It is, sweet girl, but it’s time to get up for school anyway,” I tell her, and she comes down the stairs holding on to the railing. I pick her up, kissing her cheek, then put her down. Lizzie is next. “Hey, you,” I say, bending down kissing her cheek, when she side hugs me and walks to the kitchen. I sit at the table while Samantha gets the girls ready. They both yell goodbye when they walk out. I get up and start putting the dishes in the dishwasher while I wait for Samantha to come back. When I hear the door close, I know she’s back.
“I so can get used to this,” she says, walking into the kitchen and wrapping her arms around my waist.
“The doughnuts or the coffee?” I joke with her.
“Definitely the doughnuts.” She laughs into my back. I turn the water off, grabbing a towel and drying my hands. “I haven’t seen you in four days,” she says when I turn in her hands, and her arms go around my neck this time. “You know what that means, right?” she asks me with a twinkle in her eye.
“No,” I tell her, reaching around her waist to hug her. “What does that mean?” One hand comes up to move the hair off her shoulder to her back.
“You owe me four days of kisses,” she says, getting on her tippy toes. “That’s a lot of kissing,” she says.
“I think I’m up for the job.” I bend to kiss her, my tongue sliding against hers while I pick her up. Her legs wrap around my waist, and I carry her upstairs where we spend the day making up for the four days I was without her.
All week, my stomach was in knots; from the minute the social worker spoke to the girls, my head has been all over the place.
Lizzie told me she asked simple questions like who she did her homework with? Did I yell at them? Did I ever hit them? Who dressed her? I’m sure she asked Daisy the same questions, but she didn’t remember.
I hug the girls extra hard the morning of the trial. I tried to keep their routine and tried not to let my nerves show, but I didn’t take them for granted—every hug lasted longer, every kiss lasted longer.