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 ...
"Up, jump, good girl." Pete said, helping Ariana up the stairs to the door. He opened it and he, Marla and Ariana entered.
"Is that you..." Patrick walked down the corridor, and stopped when he saw Marla, and Pete, holding the hand of a small girl.
"Hi Patrick!!" Marla smiled as she ran over to him and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him.
"Marla, hi!" He wrapped his arms around her and smiled widely. "It's so great to see you." He let go of her and then looked down at Ariana.
"Head bye bye!" She laughed looking up at Patrick. "Stumpy!" She repeated after her father.
"Oh god." Patrick shook his head as he smiled at Pete. "You teach her that?" He looked at him.
Pete laughed. "Never!" He shook his head as he made his way up the stairs the rest of the way as he grabbed the bags and brought them inside the bus.
"You're so for it." Patrick told him.
"Hey, you can't hit me, I have a child." Pete said. He hadn't been this happy for a long time, Patrick noted.
"Stumpy!" A voice down below said.
Patrick bent down to Ariana. "And you must be Ariana."
She nodded shyly after a nod from her mother, and smiled.
"You're even more beautiful than your daddy told me." Patrick said, shaking her hand. Pete was through at the bunk bends, stowing away all the bags. Patrick stood up and looked at Marla.
"You must be very proud. She's amazing."
"I am, extremely." Marla said, nodding in agreement as they watched Ariana toddle off to see Pete.
"Speaking of proud, where's this new girlfriend of yours?"
"She's around here somewhere." Patrick laughed. "We're having a little bit of a spat right now. Well a disagreement...." He threw his hands up in the air.
Marla laughed, shaking her head. "And what are you disagreeing over?"
"Having kids." He nodded. "I want to, she doesn't. I can't believe I just told you that." He laughed.
"Hey, it's me, c'mon, I've known you since you were seventeen." She laughed. "It's that serious already?" She asked, leaning against the counter. "By the way I must tell you two this is a BIG improvement over that smelly damn van where I think I could have gotten pregnant seven more times." She laughed remembering all of the hell in the white van.
"Well, if you do this time at least it will be in style." He said with a wink. He stopped suddenly.
"I was kidding... for the record."
Marla always loved the way he apologized profusely or threw apologetic glances your way when he thought he said something wrong.
"I know." She said.
"Anyway, you want some lunch? I was making myself some if you want..."
"I'm fine, thank you." She said gratefully. "Go have your lunch."
He grinned and held up two fingers to tell her he'd be right back. She noticed he blatantly skipped the question whether he and his girlfriend were serious. He never had been one to share his private life.
Marla watched as Pete prepared their bunks for them, and she watched Patrick as he made his lunch, Ariana at his feet already.
"Stumpy." She said, tugging at his pant leg.
"Alright, you know, that's a cool nickname. And as much as I love it, you can call me Patrick. Can you say that?" Patrick asked, bending down again.
"Stumpy!" She said, louder.
"Okay, that's great." He said, ruffling her hair and standing up again. He looked up as Marla walked towards him.
"So are you glad he called?" He asked, indicating Pete behind them.
Marla nodded. "I'm glad he's gotten himself together." She knew Pete was out of ear range and she kind of liked that. Now was a good time to get all of the info she could get from Patrick. "Baby, go help Daddy." She didn't really want Ariana around to absorb anything that she could get out of Patrick.
Patrick looked over at her as he nodded. He was glad Pete had gotten his act together as well.
"So, how is he really, Patrick? Tell me the truth..." She kept her voice hushed as she looked up at him with these wide blue eyes. She just wanted to know that Pete was okay and Patrick was always honest with her.
"To be honest... I haven't seen him this happy in... a hell of a long time. And I spend a long time with him." Patrick added. "But seriously, the past few weeks he'd been pretty close to miserable. He'd just be staring at that laptop looking at the pictures his mom sends him. But since he called you, he's been all smiles, actually cleaning up. He went back to his mom's last night happier than I'd ever seen him when he goes back home. I think he's really ready for this, Marla. He's spent a lot of time thinking it over."
"I just want to know he won't do anything stupid again." Marla said, looking at the ground.
"Mar... the only reason he left was because he was miserable. He didn't want to have his kid come into the world with a father who wasn't ready to be. You've gotta give him credit for that, right?"
"I know, it just still..."
"It still hurts. I get that, I do." Patrick agreed. "I agree with you, one hundred per cent. But he's gotten his act together now, Marla. Give him a chance. He deserves it."
"I will." Marla said. They stood in silence watching Ariana hand Pete various small items from the bag as he still prepared their sleeping area.
"So you did it all by yourself, huh? The labor and everything?" Patrick asked, close to astounded.
Marla nodded her head. "Yeah, I really didn't tell anyone until much later on. You know, except Pete. After his reaction I was scared to tell anyone at all. I just wanted it to be over." She shook her head. "I didn't even tell Pete's parents or my own until she was two days old." She watched her daughter.
"You wouldn't give it up though." He stated. It was a comment, not a question.
"Not for all of the money in the world. She's the best thing that ever happened to me." She smiled. "And, Pete coming back was not hard for her; I never kept him from her. She always knew who he was."
"That's sweet of you. You know, I really think this could turn out very well."
"I hope so."
"You're a very brave woman. There are not many people out there who would do what you've done. I'm proud of you. She's a gem." Patrick said, turning his head toward Ariana.
"Thank you." Marla said, with a nod of her head for acknowledgment.
"Sorry about the Stumpy thing." She said with a laugh. Patrick shrugged.
"I was Stumpy a good, ten years of my life."
"She has the action figure of you." Marla told him. He looked surprised.
"Yep. Except... about ninety minutes ago the head fell off."
"That's funny... I had an itch in my neck earlier." Patrick teased her as Ariana toddled over to them. She looked at Patrick and held her arms up. Patrick looked at Marla. "May I?"
"Sure. You're Uncle Patrick to her now." She said with a laugh as Patrick picked her up.
"I hear you broke my head off my doll." Patrick said with a smile to Ariana.
"Hat!" She said, pointing at Patrick's hat.
"Yep. You want to wear it?" Patrick asked, whipping it off his head and putting it on hers. It was much too big and fell down over her eyes. Marla knew Patrick was besotted. He didn't give his hat to just anyone. He put her down and watched as she went to show Pete.
"Well, I'm very jealous, I'll tell you that." Patrick said.
"One day, Patrick." Marla smiled. "And it will be the best thing that ever happens to you."
Patrick nodded as he watched Pete pick Ariana up and kiss her head as she laughed and kicked her feet in the air. "She's so good with him already. It's like she knows he has no idea what he's doing and she's being patient."
Marla smiled and laughed. "Well, she's always known who her Daddy is, she just never saw him, I guess at that age it doesn't make sense that he's not around. She's being on her best behavior because she doesn't want him to leave." She told Patrick. "Kinda how I spent the last bit of our relationship." She frowned.
Patrick bit his lip, he didn't know what to say. He went with staying quiet and looking out the bus window. Marla sighed and shook her head.
"I mean, I am glad he's turned over a new leaf, I really, really am."
"Sure." Patrick said with a nod, waiting for her to elaborate.
"You don't blame me for being a little skeptic, do you?"
"No." He said. "I can understand. You want the best for your little girl."
"And I want the best for Pete. We still have to talk about... you know, the suicide thing." She lowered her voice. "Hopefully it will get sorted."
Patrick watched her, silently hoping it would too. Marla moved and looked around.
"But enough about me. So show me around this amazing bus you have."
Patrick smiled and nodded. "Sure."
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