The Escape

By: Alice Ward


She nodded firmly. “Moot. Now, do you need anything else?” She checked her watch. “I’ll need to get it shipped out in the next twenty minutes if you want it to arrive tomorrow.”

I went through my mental calendar. With the three-hour difference, Kenzie should be home from preschool by now. I picked up my iPad and started tapping. Joyce gave me a little salute and closed the door on her way out.

“Daddy!”

My smiling girl’s entire face filled the screen, her baby teeth gleaming. “Hey, baby girl. I was hoping to find you home.”

Her eyes grew wide, looking impossibly blue behind her dark lashes. “I am. I had school, then I had lunch, then I went outside and swam in the pool. Then I heard my iPad sing toodle doo, toodle doo, toodle toodle toodle doo and here I am!”

God, she was so precious.

She pushed her wet hair back from her face and gave me smacking lip kisses against the screen. I put my lips near the camera and gave her smacking lip kisses back, knowing I looked more like a hairy fish out of water than anything else.

She giggled. A high-pitched joyous sound that caused my heart to squeeze again.

“So, what are you doing?” she asked, pushing her wet hair back again. Behind her, I could see the bright LA day. Much different than the rainy one I was experiencing on the other side of my window.

“Well…” I pulled back from the camera and held her present up in front of me. “I was getting ready to mail somebody a birthday present.”

Her eyes went wide. “Me?!”

I laughed. “Yes, you. And I wanted to see my girl when she was still three years old, because she’s going to be how old tomorrow?”

She held up four fingers. “Four!”

“That’s exactly right. And you’ll get to open presents tomorrow.”

She giggled, eyeing the package in front of me again. “What is it?”

I laughed. “A surprise.”

“Is it a puppy?”

My smile faltered. Yes, it was a puppy, but not the kind she wanted.

Since she had been able to say her first words, she’d wanted a puppy, and even as a little baby, she’d get excited when she saw a dog of any kind.

But her mother was “allergic.” Not the sniffling, sneezing kind of allergic, but the “I don’t want to deal with an animal” kind of reaction.

As much as I traveled, I hadn’t been able to deal with one either. So… I diverted.

“Do you want to go to the zoo this weekend when I get there?”

For Kenz, anything that involved animals was a treat.

“Can we see the giraffes?”

I lengthened my neck and smacked my lips together, pretending to chew grass. “Of course.”

She giggled again and stuck her neck out, mimicking me.

It had been hard, deciding between the stuffed puppy and the stuffed giraffe, but with our trip to the zoo, I could get her one from the gift shop to join her stuffed animal entourage.

Another guilt gift.

I pushed the thought from my mind.

“Yay! Then yes, let’s go to the zoo.” She wiggled her eyebrows, and with the action, reminded me so much of her mother.

“Then, it’s a date. Can you let Kylian know for me when he gets out of school?”

This was the last full week of school for Kylian before summer break began the following Friday, which was a relief since he’d been having so much trouble lately.

Kenzie rolled her eyes, an overly dramatic arching that made me smile. “I’ll tell him, but he’ll probably be a butt.”

“Kenz…” I said in a warning tone, “you know you’re not supposed to say that.”

Her lips twisted together in a smirky little smile. “It means donkey. Don’t you know that?”

Huh?

“Um, Kenz… butt doesn’t mean donkey. It’s something you sit on.”

She threw up her hands, totally exasperated with me now. “Well, don’t you sit on a donkey?”

I covered my mouth with my hand. “Well, yes. You do sit on a donkey, but…” I shook my head. “Never mind.”

My stubborn daughter wouldn’t let it go. “Don’t never mind me, young man.” She waggled a tiny finger at me. “For your formation, Kylian told me it meant donkey.”

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