She came at the most unperfect timing, he was in no way ready to be a father. He was unstable, emotional and wasn't even sure if he could love his girlfriend. Now, twenty months later he is a more ...
Sitting up, he grabbed his cell phone and the number, he knew they were in Chicago and well it was nine am. She was bound to be up with a one year old.
Dialing the number, he laid back against the bed, silently praying over and over again for her not to hate him, for her to still love him enough to forgive him and for their to be no other man in her life.
"Hello?" That familiar voice picked up the phone, sounding so innocent and pure, it made Pete hate himself for what he'd done.
"Hi..." He whispered. He couldn't raise his voice too loud, for fear of waking the others asleep in their bunks above and around him. His voice was threatening to break, anyways, the only way he could keep it from wavering was to speak quietly.
"Who's this?" Marla asked, and Pete could sense she had an idea of who it was. On the other end of the line, Marla's heart started beating fast. Was that the voice she thought it was? Or maybe she'd spent too much time crying, wishing that voice would call. Maybe it had and she wasn't sure.
"It's Peter." He replied. He rarely used his full name, but he'd always noted when he was angry, or upset, Marla had used to talk to him calmly and call him Peter.
"Oh." Marla was shocked. She'd prayed for this moment, and now it was actually here, she was nervous.
"Listen, I know it's lame of me to call out of the blue, but I want to see you. I think we need to talk."
Marla hesitated. Did she really want to let Pete back into her life again? Maybe she was better off without him.
On the other end, Pete waited, his heart rate rising. He physically jumped as he heard a child's excited scream mixed with laughter in the background. His daughter. That was his daughter laughing on the other line. He still waited for Marla to reply.
Pete closed his phone and sat looking blank, staring at the foot of the bunk. He heard someone waking up on the bunk above him to his left, and looked up to see Patrick half sitting, the lower end of his body lying down.
"You called." Patrick said sleepily, sitting up, his hair tousled and his eyes half open.
"Yeah." Pete replied, as Patrick sighed tiredly, and rubbed his eyes.
"What did she say?"
Pete smiled as he looked up at Patrick, a bright smile on his face. "She said I can come over when we get into town!" He sat up as he looked at Patrick. "I get to meet my daughter today!" He was trying to keep it all in, but he was so excited.
"Dude, congrats man! You deserve it." Patrick smiled as he leaned back against his bunk. "Take pictures!" He told him.
Pete nodded. "I'm going to get ready and go now. I'll take lots of pictures!" He began to get ready so that he could run off and meet his daughter. The words just swimming in his head made him excited.
Patrick smiled as he watched Pete leave. He knew Pete had been waiting for this for a long time, he finally had the courage to do it, and he was going to.
Pete shuffled his feet as he walked down the empty Chicago street. Summer in Wilmete was pretty empty. He came to the address that they had given to him. Coming up to the door, he looked at the house, it was pretty nice one. Ringing the door bell he took a step back and waited for an answer.
It opened to reveal the woman who'd haunted his thoughts for the past year and half. She was more beautiful than he remembered her. Her hair was flowing down over her shoulders, and she had a simple white dress on that accented her figure. She looked nervous. Pete swallowed the lump in his throat and looked in her eyes.
"Hey." He stammered, trying his best to remain calm.
"Hi, Pete. You wanna come in?"
Pete nodded and entered the house as Marla held the door open for him. He stood in the hallway of her exquisite home feeling under dressed and awkward. Should he kiss her, hug her, what?
"It's nice to see you." She said, leaning forward and kissing him on the cheek. The spot where her lips touched burned his skin softly, and he raised a hand to touch the spot, wishing the feeling would never go away.
"You too. You look..." he searched for the right words. "You look beautiful."
"Thank you." Marla said, blushing slightly. He still had that effect on her, made her want to giggle and hide behind anything nearby. "You look great yourself. But you look tired."
Pete shuffled his feet again and shrugged, shoving his hand in his pockets.
"Well, I didn't get a lot of sleep last night."
"All night parties on tour, right?"
Pete was shocked she even knew they were on tour. He hadn't even mentioned it. Maybe his mother had.
"Uh, well, to be honest, I was sort of up all night thinking about that phone call. I was nervous about making it."
"Well, I'm glad you called." Marla replied. "I think it's a good idea we talk."
"But first, before we talk... there's someone I want you to meet." Marla said, with a slight smile.
Pete nodded as he crossed his arms around himself as he could feel his nerves taking over. He was going to meet his daughter for the first time and it was nerve wracking. He was sure it was worse than if he were waiting in a delivery room all night.
"Ariana..." Marla called as she walked through the house.
Pete took a deep breath as he followed behind her. Stopping at the living room doorway he almost lost his breath. She was more beautiful than in the pictures. She looked a lot like her mother and that was probably the reason she was so beautiful.
"C'mere baby, I have someone I want you to meet." Marla reached for her daughter as she toddled over, holding onto the coffee table for support. She had just been learning to walk and she hardly talked. She said a few things like 'Dada' 'Mama' and 'Cookie'. Despite what everyone believes 'Dada' isn't really her talking about her father, but a sound she made. Even kids without father learn to make those sounds the easiest.
Picking her up, she turned to Pete and gave him a smile as she looked at her daughter. "Pete, this Ariana Lynne...our daughter." She told him.
So many words crept up Pete's throat, so many things he wanted to say, but he couldn't bring himself to say them. His breath caught in his throat as he whispered.
Ariana smiled before burying her head in her mother's shoulder. She sure didn't have her father's confidence. She had her mother's caricature of being shy around new people. She would take a while to come around.
"She's just a bit nervous." Marla told Pete. "Here."
She handed Ariana to Pete, and he held her in his arms, holding her as if he never wanted to let go. A lump formed in his throat as he leant his head against her as she hid her face. He swayed her from side to side gently, a smile creeping across his face. It was a smile Marla had never seen on Pete's face before. It suited him.
"She knows who you are." Marla told him as she leaned back against the wall, crossing her arms as she watched the two of them.
"She...she does?" He was a bit taken back by that. How exactly would Marla explain that?
"Just because you didn't want to be in her life doesn't mean that she wouldn't know who her father was. Especially when she has your last name and she spends every weekend with your parents and Uncle Andrew comes over to play every Wednesday." She was still bitter about the fact that he was the only one not stepping up to the plate. Not to mention what had happened after he find out she was pregnant. There was just a lot of stuff that went wrong in their relationship. "Everyone else stepped up." She pushed the hair away from her face.
Pete's insides burned with guilt, and hatred at himself for being so selfish.
"Marla, I'm so sorry. I really am. I was just..." He sighed as he moved towards her. "I was just in a really bad place."
"Bad enough to abandon your girlfriend and unborn child?"
Every word stabbed at Pete, reminding him of what he had done. "Yeah. I realize now... how stupid I was." He said, looking at Marla.
"We'll talk about that later." Marla said, moving away from the wall and sitting down. "You want something to drink?"
"Uh... coffee, please."
"Black, right?" Marla said, her smile returning to her face. Pete smiled back. She remembered how he took his coffee, at least.
"Right, as always." He said. Marla nodded and walked out to the kitchen. Pete put Ariana down on the floor and watched her try to hold onto his leg as she tried to walk.
"You're the spit of your mother, you know that?" Pete asked, taking hold of her tiny arm as she nearly lost her balance. She sat down on the carpet and looked at him.
"You're my Princess, right? You always will be. I hope you know that."
Marla smiled as she came back into the room and put his coffee on the table. "Ariana, hot, don't touch." She told her as she sat down on the couch, pulling her legs underneath her.
Ariana looked up at her mother with bright eyes as she crawled over to her little toy box and pulled things out. She was looking for her blocks. Taking the baby doll she threw it over her shoulder as it hit the side of the couch which caused Ariana to laugh.
"You know Grandma gave you that, she'd be very sad to see that you're hurting the baby." Marla play scolded as Ariana shrugged her shoulders and pulled out the blocks.
"So, how did your mother react to...Ariana?" He asked as he took a sip of his coffee.
"She wasn't too happy. My Dad loves her to pieces, but my Mom is...well she's a b-i-t-c-h, you know that." She shrugged her shoulders. "Dad comes over every sunday, he just moved back here." She told him as she played with the hem of her dress.
Pete nodded. Boy, did he know about Ariana's mom being a bitch. She had never approved of Pete, because, he was 'one of those musicians. You can't trust him. He'll never give you the home life you desire. He'll just break you heart'. Pete closed his eyes and took another sip of his coffee. "So does she come see her?"
"Sometimes, if forced." Marla gave out a small laugh as she ran a hand through her hair. "You know, Christmas, my birthday."
"What about Ariana's birthday?" Pete asked, indicating her as she attempted to build a tower. Marla shrugged.
"She said she couldn't make it. Then again, a lot of people couldn't make it." She said, a look in his direction that made him want to fade into the shadows.
"You know, talking about making it... I almost didn't. I was so nervous you'd tell me to pi..." He stopped. "To get lost."
Marla smiled. At least he had the courtesy to stop swearing. He usually had a mouth like a sailor. "So what made you?"
Pete shifted, putting his coffee on the table again and shrugging as he played with his hoodie.
"Patrick." He finally admitted. "He just gave me the right push."
"He's a good guy, Patrick." Marla said with a smile. "How is he, anyway?"
"He's very good." Pete nodded. "You know that last girl broke his heart, but now he's with this really awesome chick." He smiled. "They're so cute together. I think she's the one." He nodded as his eyes went back to his daughter who was now pulling apart her blocks and throwing them around.
"Ariana Lynne clean up your mess." Marla said, she didn't even have to raise her voice to get Ariana do what she wanted.
"She's a good girl..." Pete commented as he watched her throw each block into her toy box. "She's gotten so big. My mom...she...sends me her pictures." He rubbed his face nervously. "So, are you....are you seeing anyone?" He asked.
Marla shrugged her shoulders. "Here and there. I really don't want to be dragging men in and out of her life. I don't want her growing up with a warped sense of how men are supposed to treat women." She told him.
"Why do you want to know, anyway?"
Pete shrugged, regretting he'd asked. He knew the jab about men treating women was aimed at him. "Just wondering."
"No one 'just wonders' anymore, Pete. You either want to know who they're seeing, or why they're seeing someone."
"I was just..."
"Needing to satisfy your libido? Not getting enough on tour?" She snapped.
"No, it's not like that..." Pete tried to cut in.
"You can't just walk in and out of my life, Pete. You've left before, who's to say you wouldn't leave again?"
"I've changed." He said, desperately.
"How so? You'd wait until Ariana started talking until you get bored and walk away?"
"No! I want to..."
"I don't want to hear it Pete. You're too damn selfish to look after someone else. No, to care about someone else. Face it, at the beginning it would be all fun, playing Daddy. Reading stories every night, playing the airplane game at dinner, watching Disney movies every night. It's a lot harder than that. And there's no running away after you sign up for it. But you're not exactly a follower of the rules, are you, 'Daddy'?"
Pete looked down, as he rubbed his hands together uncomfortably. He knew he was deserving what he got, but he was still just so upset. "I...I don't want to just play Daddy. She's my daughter Marla." He told her.
"Maybe biologically, but you've never done anything for her." Marla shook her head. "I think it's time for you to go." She told him.
Pete took a deep breath as he nodded. He had to respect how she was feeling, it was probably a lot to have him come back. "I guess...can I call you?" He asked.
Marla shrugged her shoulders. "We'll see." She told him as she got up walking over to the door. "Say goodbye, Ariana."
"Bye, sweetie." Pete said, bending down to give her a hug and a kiss. "I'll see you again." He whispered in her ear as he stood up.
Marla walked with him to the door, and Pete turned around.
"I messed up. I'm sorry. You have to believe me, I am."
"I know you are, Pete." She nodded. He turned away to open the door, but stopped when she spoke. "But you and I have different understandings of what sorry means. Maybe you're feeling sorry for yourself, guilt ridden and lonely, as opposed to my understanding of sorry being guilty and wanting to make amends."
Pete turned away, unable to look at her. He really had hurt her, bad.
Marla didn't want him to leave on a bad note, as much as she wanted to hurt him as much as he'd hurt her, she couldn't let it end like this. "But maybe you're genuinely sorry." She said. She leaned forward and kissed him when he turned around again.
"Call us, Pete."