A father has to find ways to deal with jealousy when his ex-wife marries a richer man.
|Marc smiled as he watched Meggie skip down the hall. When his ex-wife Sarah had asked him to babysit their three year old, he hadn’t been able to say no. His trucking job kept him away for far too many weekends; so even if it did mean doing it here on her turf, Marc was here. Sarah had said they might be late and wanted Meggie in her own bed tonight. She and Dudley, or the new step-daddy as Meggie called him, were off to some big shindig, dressed up all fancy-like.
Marc really wasn’t too sure what it was ‘bout the man, but he sure grated on his nerves. Maybe it was the way he oozed charm and money. Maybe it was the fancy things he kept around -- like that stupid painting out in that other living room they called the formal one. What man… what real man, that is, wears a lily on his head for cryin’ out loud? Or maybe it was just the way he had weaseled his way into Meggie’s heart….
Marc sighed, pulling his tall, lanky form up off the couch. His bones creaked from the long hours spent behind the wheel of his truck. There was no way, he knew, that he could compete with money; he was just a workin’ man. Marc shook his head. How Sarah ended up snaggin’ herself a banker, he couldn’t figure. He guessed marryin’ up was what she had wanted. Guessed that’s why she hadn’t wanted to stay hitched to him as well. But all that didn’t mean he had to stop bein’ a daddy. No, Marc would take what he could get. Even if that meant making nice with Mr. Fancy Pants.
“Daddy, come look at my new princess bed! It’s pink and everything! My new step-daddy got it for me. He said every princess should have a royal bed. Can I have a princess bed at your house?”
Marc rounded the corner of the door and felt like he’d been sucker punched. Meggie sat up there in the fanciest bed he’d ever seen. Covered with a thick, shiny comforter, the bed was filled with pillows of all shapes and sizes and textures. It even had a silky, see-through thingy hanging from the ceiling. Kind of looked like a mosquito net to Marc.
“Ummm, well, Munchkin, I don’t know ‘bout a bed ‘xactly like this, but maybe we can find something at Walmart. Okay?” He was pretty sure that blankets with Disney princesses on them didn’t cost quite this much. At least, he hoped not.
“Daddy,” Meggie tilted her head, reminding Marc of that same snooty look his ex got when something was beneath her; she’d always looked at him like that. “I’m not a munchkin anymore ; I’m a princess, and princesses are suppose to have royal beds. Step-daddy said so!”
“Is that so?” Marc drawled. He felt his gut tighten, the acid turning. The man just didn’t play fair.
“Tell, you what, Princess. How ‘bout I tell you a story?” Marc parted the netting and hopped up onto the bed. Pulling Meggie into his arms, he nestled the two of them back among the pillows.
“About how Mommy met my step-daddy? That’s the one my step-daddy always tells me.” There was only so much a man could take.
“Hmmm. Ummmm.” Marc stalled desperate for an idea. And then, it hit him – the painting in the living room. “Well, that’s not ‘xactly what I was a thinkin’. How ‘bout the one where the princess meets a fairy named Dudley?”
“Daddy,” Meggie squealed sitting up and turning to frown at him. Her long honey-blond hair clung to her chubby cheeks. “Dudley’s not a fairy. He’s a banker.”
“Oh, of course, your step-daddy could never be anything cool like a fairy. And I’m talking about a real fairy – the king of fairies.” Marc felt just a tinge of conscience, but he just couldn’t quite stop himself. Picturing Dudley as a fairy was at least one way to keep himself from gettin’ too angry.
“Yep, you see once upon a time there was a princess named Sarah, and one night the princess took a walk in the gardens just outside of her palace.”
“What was she wearing?”
“Umm, A long white dress. It kinda fluttered about in the wind. Well, anyways, she was walkin’ when she spots this little light flittin’ about. Well, the princess knew right away it was a fairy, and she knew that all she had to do to capture it was say, ‘Fairy, you are mine to command.’
“Sure enough, that light stopped flittin’ about and grew to the same size as the princess. Yep, there Dudley stood with a rosy pair of tights and special fairy boots with feathers stickin’ out of the tops.” Marc’s shoulders began to shake; the image was almost more than he could bare.
“And he wore around his shoulders a rosy shawl, and on his head he had a lily crown that sparkled with stardust. Right then and there, the princess knew she had captured the King of the Fairies, and she would get to boss him around for the rest of her life!”
“My mommy is bossy sometimes,” Meggie murmured. Her eyelids fluttered closed, as her breathing slowed to a deep even rhythm.
Marc just grinned and laid Meggie back amongst the pillows. “Goodnight, Munchkin.” He bent over and feathered a kiss across her brow.
(Editor's Pick, Short Stories Newsletter 9/9/15)