Take My Dare

By: J. Kenner


Her lower lip protrudes in a full-on pout that, even despite my headache, is pretty darn cute. Naturally, it takes all my effort to remain stern.

I turn back to my email, then hear the scrape of the chair as she gets down, goes to the water dispenser and fills a cup. She’s behind me now, but I hear her step into the pantry, too, and assume we’re out of napkins and she’s gone in to get some.

When she returns to the table, I realize that I’m wrong. She has her water in one hand and a Chips Ahoy cookie in the other.

“Ronnie . . .”

“Hungry. I said I was.”

“And I said I’d get you something to eat in two minutes. You can wait two minutes.”

The lip pokes out again, and this time it’s not so cute.

“I bet you won’t make the baby wait.”

My shoulders sag. “Oh, sweetie, come here.”

She hesitates, then shuffles her feet forward. She’s not paying enough attention though, and she runs into the table, and her water glass goes flying. And, dammit, I’m too ungainly to do anything about it. I can only awkwardly shove back from the table as water spills right on my computer keyboard.

“Ronnie!” I shout, not meaning to raise my voice, but I’m surprised and irritated and—I realize with some dismay—covered in spilled water along with my computer.

I look over and see the tears welling in her eyes and feel like an absolute bitch from hell. A bitch who certainly doesn’t deserve to be a mom. “Oh, baby. I’m so sorry. You just startled me. I didn’t mean to yell.”

“I knew you liked the baby in your tummy better than me.”

Her words slash through me, and I hear myself saying no, no, as I reach for her. But she’s gone, even her short legs too swift for me these days. The back door slams, and I lean over my destroyed laptop just long enough to mentally award myself the Worst Mother of the Year award.

Then I head toward the backyard, too.

I half consider getting Jackson, but I know this call is important, and they must be making progress since he’s been on the phone for so long. Besides, this one is on me. I stroke my belly. “I can do this, can’t I, sport?”

As if in response, the baby gives a gentle kick, as I hurry outside after Ronnie.

She’s not hard to find. The yard is large, but only by Los Angeles standards. She’s on the swing set that Jackson intends to replace with the massive playscape he’s designing. One that can grow with the kids, even turning into a workout station when they’re older.

I settle into the swing beside her, feeling more than a little precarious. But with my feet on the ground, I figure I’m okay. For a minute or two we just sit there saying nothing. Finally, I speak, but I look straight ahead, not at the little girl on a swing beside me. “Do you know I love Daddy?”

“Uh-huh.”

“But I yell at him sometimes.” I think back to some of the knock-down drag out fights I’ve had with Jackson. And then I smile when I think about making up.

“You do?”

“Sure,” I say. “People lose their tempers, that doesn’t mean they don’t love you. But I shouldn’t have gotten mad. I know it was an accident. I’m just feeling tired.” I turn and look at her, and am thankful to see that she’s looking back at me, not wary anymore. “And I feel very, very big, too. Do you want to know a secret?”

She nods.

“This baby growing in my tummy is making me a little cranky.”

She licks her lips. “I think you look pretty.”

“And I think you’re sweet.”

Her smile widens.

“Can I tell you another secret?” I ask.

“Okay.”

“I’m kind of nervous. I’ve never had a baby before. I really wish I’d been your mommy when you were little, but I’m so glad I have you now. Especially since I don’t really know what I’m doing. And I’m going to need you to help me. After all, that’s what big sisters do, right?”

“You really want me to?”

“Are you kidding? You’re going to be just about the most important person in this baby’s life.”

“Me?”

“Absolutely, you. So will you help me?”

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