Danielle and Josh enter the big bad world...
"Today is not/ going to be fun." He said to himself. It was three weeks later and one of the times every parent dreaded was hours away from approaching. No, it wasn't when their kids finally started driving, or when their report card was due, today Danielle and Josh were due to enroll in pre-school. Although they were still both three years old, their birthday was just around the corner, and they had both made the age cut off for that year. Patrick wasn't looking forward to their crying fits, and the guilty feeling as if he were abandoning them filling his chest. He hated to admit it, but he wasn't exactly looking forward to spending the day alone in the house, either. It would be surprisingly quiet without Danielle's chatter, or Josh's incessant banging on anything he could find.
He quickly showered and threw on his shirt and jeans. He whistled as he walked down the hallway and opened Danielle's door further, he always kept Josh and Danielle's doors slightly open incase they needed him during the night.
"Wakey wakey." He whispered, shaking her gently. She awoke gradually, and grinned as soon as she saw him. Patrick wondered if she would grin at him as cheerfully when she was a teenager and he woke her up.
"Morning Daddy!" The girl's excited voice first thing in the morning was enough to make Patrick's day brighten up considerably.
"Morning, sunshine." He replied, ruffling her hair.
"Big day ahead, come on." He said, nodding towards the door, before leaving the room to wake Josh. He was slightly harder to wake, he was like a teenager trapped in a toddler's body. As soon as Patrick pushed the door open further and the light from the hallway spilled into his room, Josh groaned and wriggled down to the end of his bed under his covers.
"Get up, Yoshi!" Danielle said, jetting past Patrick and clambering onto Josh's bed, using the nickname he despised.
"No!" He yelled.
"Danni, come on. Get off." Patrick said, picking her off the bed and putting her under his arm. He poked the lump of duvet covers that was Josh, and opened his curtains.
"Up we get. Get your butt in the bathroom, mister." He said, firmly, pulling the duvet off Josh, while Danielle giggled from under his arm.
"Do you want me to tickle you?" He asked Josh.
"I'm up!" Josh said, jumping off the bed and shooting out of the room.
"Down!" Danielle said, wriggling in Patrick's grip, wanting to join Josh.
"Bathroom." He told her as he set her down. His words were lost as Danielle chased after Josh, god knows where in the house. Patrick sighed as he dropped Josh's duvet back on the bed and following them. He was always surprised at himself how in control he was in the morning. He wasn't a morning person, and when Danielle and Josh played up, it irritated him.
The joys of parenthood.
"If you two don't get into the bathroom this minute, I'll make you eat sprouts for the rest of the week." He threatened, and his warning was greeted with Danielle and Josh stumbling into the room and obediently taking their clothes off so he could get them ready.
"You two will be the death of me." Patrick said, running his hands through his hair. It was then he realized he'd forgotten to put a hat on. Maybe today just wasn't going to be his day.
"Do you two know what sit nicely means?" Patrick asked, exasperatedly as he turned around in his seat in the car to look at Danielle and Josh as they began to fight.
"Be quiet!" He snapped. He had told them so many times that morning to behave and stop fighting. Especially not in the car. He was always paranoid when he drove, since the circumstances of Amanda's death were known to him, he was always extremely irritated in the car. Any minor setback in the car, and he would flip. Unfortunately, a lot of the unnerving details of Amanda's death, and how it had come about were revealed to him slightly after the autopsy and police investigation determined what had caused the accident, since then it had haunted him and he vowed never to be irresponsible while even sitting in the car.
Danielle and Josh shut up, and quickly at the tone in their father's voice.
"Thank you." He said, turning back around and starting the car.
"I don't wanna go!" Danielle said.
"Danni, don't start. Not here." He warned, looking at her in the mirror as he pulled out onto the street.
"Why do we have to go?"
"Because you do." Patrick said. He didn't like to talk in the car much, incase a minor comment could distract him subconsciously. "And if you argue, I'll make you stay for the whole day instead of the morning."
"Right. Ready?" He asked, after he'd taken Danielle and Josh out of the car and put them on the ground. They were both suddenly immensely shy, and didn't meet his eye nor reply to his question.
"Come on, then." He said, taking Danielle's hand in one of his, and Josh's in the other. He gingerly led them into the brick building, where they would spend the next few years learning. He led them into a room which had a notice taped to it, informing him he was at least in the right place.
"Welcome!" A middle aged woman greeted Patrick with a warm smile as she spotted the three of them entering the room, Danielle and Josh still clinging onto Patrick's hands.
"You must be...?" She asked, a clipboard in her hand.
"Oh. I'm Patrick. Patrick Stump."
"Ah. Nice to finally meet you. I'm Mrs Connelly." She said to him.
"You must be Danielle." The woman smiled as she bent down towards Danielle, who ducked her head. "And I guess you're Josh?" She turned to look at him, and Josh looked up at Patrick, clinging onto his hand tighter with every second that ticked by. Patrick nodded at him and Josh continued to look at him, as though he were betraying him.
"Yes, he is. He's just a little shy." Patrick said. Like father, like son, he thought.
"Well, don't look so scared." Mrs Connelly said kindly. "Everyone here is just as nervous. They're all new. I'm sure you'll make some great friends."
"Hear that? You'll be okay." Patrick reassured them as they both peered up at him, petrified. "You'll be fine."
He bent down towards them and saw both of them had begun to cry, their lips trembling as they realized Patrick was going to leave.
"Hey, you guys, don't cry. It's okay. You'll have loads of fun." He said, each in turn, wiping their tears away before cupping their faces in his hands.
"I'll be back in a few hours. Alright? And I'll take you out for lunch, how about that?"
He didn't receive a reply, but knew they wouldn't argue in front of a stranger, even though they were terrified. He was praying they wouldn't make him feel even worse by clinging onto his legs or bursting out screaming when he turned to go.
"How about I bring Pete, too?" He asked. Again, there was no reply except sniffing, and he leaned in closer.
"Alright? Me and Pete will come collect you?" He asked, quietly. They both shook their heads, however, Patrick knew they were shaking them in an attempt to try to get him to stay, rather than objecting to Pete tagging along.
"Don't worry, Mr Stump. They're in safe hands, here."
"Thank you." Patrick nodded in acknowledgment as he hugged them both tightly.
"I love you." He whispered to them, as he stood up. He watched as they both turned to each other and took each other's hand, clutching it tightly.
"I'll see you in a while." He said to them, before Mrs Connelly led them away slowly. Patrick stood at the back of the room by the door, watching to make sure they were okay before leaving. Out of nowhere, a smaller woman, Patrick guessed in her late twenties sidled up to him, an affectionate smile on her face.
"Mixed emotions today, huh?" She asked him. "Not knowing whether to leave, worrying they'll be okay?"
"Yeah." Patrick said, a churning feeling in his stomach as he looked at Danielle and Josh.
"I think I feel worse than they do." He added. "I hate leaving them."
"Your own kids? Or are you a babysitter?"
"No, no. I'm their dad." Patrick told her. He caught her eye and blushed for an unknown reason.
"You don't see many dads here. Mostly moms or nannies." The woman said, running a hand through her red hair. It pained Patrick to look at red hair without thinking of Amanda. He shook her out of his mind, passing the head shake off as a response to her comment.
"So, which one's yours?" Patrick asked, gingerly. He was lousy at making conversation.
"That one." The woman nodded her head towards a small girl, with blonde hair and green eyes, who, despite looking slightly nervous, was chattering away to anyone who would listen.
"She's confident." He said, with a slight laugh.
"No need to ask which two are yours." She laughed in reply.
She gestured towards Danielle and Josh who were sitting together, eyeing every other child up before whispering to each other.
"Correct." Patrick said.
"Little clones of you." The woman told him. "What are their names?"
"Danielle and Josh." Patrick said, nodding towards his own children. "Yours?"
"Riley." The woman replied, gesturing toward her daughter again.
"She's cute." Patrick said, with a small smile, watching her.
"Yeah." The woman laughed. "It's not easy, is it? Leaving them?"
"Not really." Patrick said, shaking his head slightly. He fiddled with his car keys with one hand, and tugged at the hem of his shirt with the other, nervously.
"I don't like to leave Riley. Her father's not in the picture anymore, doesn't exactly want to be, really. So I feel bad for leaving her."
Patrick nodded along with this information, and in turn, kept quiet. He wasn't about to bear his personal struggles with a woman he'd only known for a few minutes.
"Well, I better..." He trailed off as she looked at him.
"Off to run errands? I know, I'm the same. I have a million things to do."
Patrick's lips turned upwards into another smile. He liked how he didn't have to start stupid conversations. He could just reply to her conversations.
"Same." He replied. "Hell of a lot to do in three hours, though."
"You're telling me!" The woman laughed. "So I guess we'll both be back here at 12, then?" The woman smiled. Patrick wavered.
"I guess so."
"Alright then. I'll see you later, uh...?"
"Patrick." He informed her with a quick nod of his head.
"Nice to meet you, Patrick. I'm Addison."
"Nice to meet you too." Patrick said, before waving to Danielle and Josh, and leaving.
"Pete? I need a favor." Patrick said into the phone when he got home.
"Another one? Jesus. You're forever calling me up asking me for them."
"Uh, wrong way around." Patrick said. "Look, will you come to collect Danielle and Josh from preschool with me today?"
"Why? Because I'm suddenly Supernanny?"
"Well, one, because I told them you would, and two, because you owe me a hell of a lot."
Pete sighed on the other line.
"I guess so. I'm doing fuck all today, anyway, so. yeah."
"She's out with her friend and Petey. They're going to the mall. Women stuff. And you know women and babies."
"Yeah. So will you come?"
"I just told you, yeah."
"Alright, thank you. Look, I'd love to chat but I gotta go do some stuff before we have to collect them, again. I'll pick you up before 12."
Patrick spent the next few hours attempting to do all the housework he could in the time he didn't have Danielle and Josh to check on every two minutes, or Pete for that matter. He managed to cram a day's work into two and a half hours, and by the time midday came, he was glad.
"Oooh, this will be fun. I loved kindergarten." Pete said, excitedly as Patrick parked the car.
"It's not so fun when you see your kids crying because they think you're abandoning them." Patrick informed him as they stepped out of the car.
"Wow! A park! Can we go there before we pick them up?" Pete asked, nudging Patrick and pointing to a child's play area outside the building.
"No, thanks. I'm twenty six. And you're thirty one." Patrick said, pulling him inside.
"Hey, don't make me sound so old." Pete muttered in reply, stumbling through the door after him.
"Daddy!" Danielle and Josh ran towards him and Pete as they entered the room, instantly hugging his knees and then Pete's.
"Hey, fella. How was your first day of school?" Pete asked, picking Josh up.
"We made loads of friends, and I got to play with the fire truck!" Josh chattered on, while Patrick found himself looking around for a head of red hair, oblivious to his pant leg being tugged at.
"Uh? What?" He asked, spinning round to face Pete and his kids.
"Danielle was asking if you missed her." Pete said, looking over his shoulder at what Patrick was trying to see.
"Oh! Yes, honey, I did. Very much."
"Well, hello stranger." A voice behind him said.
"Hey." Patrick said, shyly, turning around to face Addison.
"You're bang on time. Punctual, that's rare in men." She laughed.
"Yeah, well..." Patrick trailed off, having no clue of what else to say. Pete coughed from behind him, and Patrick looked from him to his kids, to Addison.
"Oh, sorry. This is, uh, my friend. Pete."
"Nice to meet you, Pete."
"Hey." Pete said, shaking her hand and smiling at her.
"And this, obviously is Danielle, and Josh." Patrick said.
"We've already met." Addison informed him with a smile.
"Yep. Seems our children have shared an interest in the sand pit."
"Ah." Patrick nodded, aware again that he was tugging at his shirt.
"Hey, I'll race you outside to the play park." Pete said to Danielle and Josh, before darting out of the door calling 'nice to meet you, Addison!', Danielle and Josh hot on his heels.
"Wow. He seems like fun. He's cute."
Patrick shrugged. Everyone fancied Pete, why was he a little bit more bothered this time?
"Did you guys adopt?"
"You and Pete, did you adopt?"
"Oh, God, no. I'm not gay! Pete's my best friend, and unfortunately my son's, too. He was a bribe, it was the only way Josh would stay was if I promised him he would come. But I'm not gay." He said, straying off the conversation and then reinforming her.
"My mistake. I'm really sorry." She apologized.
"Don't sweat it." Patrick said.
"Hey, sweetie." A smile spread across Addison's face as her daughter ran towards her. She hugged her and set her down.
"Did you have fun?
Riley nodded and Addison looked towards Patrick,
"I want you to meet someone. This is Patrick. Patrick, this is Riley."
Patrick cleared his throat, and held out his hand, aware that it was clammier than usual, and Riley took it in her own and shook it, smiling politely at him.
"Nice to meet you, Riley."
"And you." She said quietly.
Patrick sensed that the time alone wouldn't be rekindled, and he smiled at them both before pulling out his car keys again.
"I better go get those three." He said, nervously.
"Yeah. I better get this girl some lunch." Addison said. "It was nice meeting you, Patrick."
"And you." Patrick said, before nodding at both of them. He pushed the door open but stopped and turned back.
"So, uh, maybe... the kids could play together, sometime. That is, if you're okay with that." Patrick stuttered, adding an explanation for his upfront suggestion. He was extremely nervous. He could feel himself sweating and he realized he was mentally kicking himself for stuttering and stammering in front of this woman. He'd only know her for a few hours and he was being this upfront?
Down, boy. He thought to himself.
"That sounds good." Addison replied, hitching Riley further up her hip. "I think they'd like that. I know I would, too."
"Yeah." Patrick said, hastily wondering whether what he'd just done was acceptable. She didn't seem to recognize him, at least. Either that or she was pretending not to. And either way, he respected it.
"So, uh, here's my number. You know, for when they want to.... play." He mumbled, pulling out an old card from his wallet. It was someone else's card, but he ripped a piece of the card off, where it was blank, and grabbed a crayon from the desk he stood next to. Scribbling his number on it, he handed it to her.
"And here's mine." She replied, handing him her own card from her purse. It was as if she was prepared for giving her number out. Patrick was impressed.
"Alright. I guess I'll see you tomorrow, anyways."
"Definitely." She said.
"Bye." Patrick waved slightly at her and her daughter before pushing the door open and leaving the building, a warm feeling spreading throughout his stomach.
He followed the sound of Pete's screaming, and found him on the roundabout, while Danielle and Josh tried their hardest to spin it with him on it, although it was plainly obvious from Pete's foot sticking out that he was pushing himself around quickly.
"Nauseous yet?" He called, shielding his eyes from the sun as he watched them.
"Not yet!" Pete called back. "But I think I will be soon!"
"So is that a bad time to mention going out for lunch?" Patrick asked, leaning on the wooden fence nearest to the roundabout, so he could talk in a normal tone.
"Yay!" Danielle and Josh sang as they let go of the roundabout, leaving Pete spinning. He rolled off, dust rising around him as he did so, and he held onto the climbing frame to steady himself as his head swam and his body lurched from side to side.
"Oh my God! There's a slide!"
Josh ran off to join him as he tried to climb up the slide the wrong way, sliding back down as he tried again and again. Danielle stayed with Patrick as he stepped over the fence and sat down on the bench.
"Can we go for lunch, now?" She asked him, climbing onto his lap. Patrick chuckled and pulled her close.
"In a minute, honey. Let Uncle Pete play for a while."