Life isn't about the big accomplishments, it's the baby steps you take to get there.
| Chapter Three
When the siren rings for the end of class, I grab my things and dawdle back to my locker. With each passing step, I grew anxious at the thought of telling Kyle about Blake.
I opened my locker and roughly shove my books in before slamming the door closed. I’m still apprehensive about helping.
Tori will come back to reclaim her family and I’ll end up heartbroken. Crushing on the sidelines is something I can handle, but being in the thick of his problems helping to care for his child is another.
“This is too much.” I sigh.
I sling my back over my shoulder and turn around. Fright consumes me when I see Blake standing behind me.
“If this is too much, you don’t have to help. I understand.”
The little strings on my heart are yanked pretty hard. It's too late, I already promised.
“No, it’s fine. I just need to tell my friend I don’t need a lift home,” I explain.
“Okay, I’ll come with you.” He grins.
Blake follows me to the car park which is only a short walk. As we wander down the bricked pavement, I spot Kyle leaning against the side of his car. Beside him is his other good friends, Liam revives his engine.
“Hey, Kyle!” I yell.
“Ava baby, are you ready to go?” he asks, turning away from his mate’s car.
When his eyes catch the sight of Blake, he quickly frowns.
“I don’t need a lift anymore, I’m going with Blake,” I explained.
Blake walks off the pathway and over to Kyle. I quickly follow despite wanting to drag Blake away from a glaring Kyle.
“Are you sure you want to hang out with him?” Kyle stares at him.
“Thank you for the concern, but it isn’t needed here.” I take a step backwards, hoping Blake will follow.
Kyle raises his hands in defence. “Fine, have fun.”
“Shoot me a text if you want to leave and I’ll be there like a bullet.”
“Thanks.” I awkwardly grin. “But I think I’ll be okay.”
Before I can be thrown into the backseat of Kyle’s car, I follow Blake to his car. It’s a large four-wheel drive with Holden printed into the side of the faded white model.
“So Kyle is your best friend?” Blake questions.
“More like an adoptive brother but his intense behaviour has increased since well…” I trailed off. “Don’t mind him, his bark is worse than his bite.”
“Okay, good to know.” He casually nods.
Blake unlocks the car and I climb into the front seat. As I shuffle in, I notice the backseat is fitted with a baby seat along with a collection of other baby essentials. From a shaded square stuck to the window to the supply bag zipped open on the seat.
“I’m sorry about the mess! It’s just easier to keep a set of everything you could possibly need for a baby in the car.”
“Understandable! I wouldn’t want to lug everything in and out all the time,” I reply.
On the drive to Blake’s house, I gaze out the window. With each passing house, my stomach continues to anxiously churn. The fact the car ride is also silent makes me even more nervous.
A lot seems to be riding on this visit which means I can’t screw it up.
Blake swings into the driveway and I have to stop myself from ogling.
“This is my parent’s house,” he explained, “I live in the granny flat with London out the back.”
“Did they kick you out?” The words just slip out.
“My father wasn’t getting enough sleep with London crying during the night. I moved into the granny flat about a week ago. It's been rough but I know it could be worse.” He shrugs.
“I’m so sorry,” I whisper.
Blake taps his fingers against the steering wheel, then sighs.
“I thought things would be different, but they aren’t and I deal with it. I’m not the greatest father, heck, I have no idea how to be a father but I’m trying and that should count for something, right?”
“It counts.” I nod. “Greatness is only achieved when you keep trying.”
“Fair point, Ava.”
“I’ve always thought that the most unusual circumstances can be an opportunity in disguise.” I smile.
“When then, I’m curious about what the opportunity is.” He chuckles.
“Just don’t doubt yourself; it’s a poisonous thought.”
“I’ll try not to doubt myself then but I can’t make any promises.” He laughs is forced and a little concerning.
“There’s more to parenting than how well you can change a nappy or kiss a bruised knee, it’s about being there for them and that’s what you’re doing,” I say. “Give yourself more credit.”
Blake turns his head to look at me, his green eyes piercing attentively into mine.
“I think you’re onto something there. People act like my life has ended, but in fact, sometimes London makes me feel like my life has just begun.”
“I guess you don’t need any more of my lame pep-talks then.” I blush.
“No, I like them,” Blake replies.
“Then it wasn’t a complete waste.” I chuckle.
Blake takes the keys from the engine and we get out of the car. I follow Blake to the side of his house. As we get closer, I notice the hidden gate which opens to a curved stone pathway.
The stones crunch under our shoes as we arrive at a smaller building resembling the house. He opens the front door and I hear crying.
“Blake?” A female voice calls. “Are you home?”
“Yes, and I’ve got company,” he says.
There’s no reply but the baby’s cries are reduced to a slight whimper as the woman walks down the short hallway. Nestled in her arms is a tiny bundle of a pink blanket.
“Hello, I’m Angela, Blake’s mother,” she introduces herself. “And this here is little London.”
“This is Ava from school. We’ve got a class project together,” he explains.
“It’s nice to meet you.” She smiles.
Angela offers a free hand to shake and as I clasp her hand, I see two blue eyes peeking up from the bundle of blankets along with small strands of brown hair framing her face.
“London’s adorable!” I cooed.
“Thanks for looking after her today,” he says.
“No worries! She’s due for a bottle soon.”
When Angela passes her over, Blake snuggles London to his body. Just by observing this, I wonder what his problem actually is, he looks like a natural father to me.
“I’ll be back tomorrow around eleven-thirty.” Angela frowns.
“School will have to wait then, I’ll just study at home,” he attempts to reassure her.
“Good luck to both of you, hopefully, you’ll get your project done.” Angela smiles.
Before she leaves, Angela softly kisses London’s forehead, then she walks out of the house. I hear the sliding door open and I notice her stopping to look back at us before going inside.
I bet she’s worried about Blake; I think everyone secretly worries about him.
“So, what happens next?” I ask.
“I need help making the formula. I’ve watched my mother do it, and I followed the instructions but she doesn’t like it. I can’t seem to get it right and I don’t want to keep asking. I just…” He roughly exhales.
“It could be the temperature or the way you’re holding her,” I suggest.
“Okay, where’s your kitchen?” I smile.
“This way.” Blake cocks his head to the side.
He leads me down the hall which opens to a large room which is divided into a kitchen and living room. It’s a stunning design with exquisite pieces of furniture fitting the room.
Among the carefully selected items, you can see Blake’s presence. From the dirty clothing on the floor, baby toys and sporting gear in the corner, he’d made the space their home.
“Is everything out?” I eyed the messy bench.
“I never put the tins in the cupboard, I’ve learned there’s no point when you’re constantly making bottles.” He chuckles.
“Fair point,” I agree.
“There’s sterilised water in the jug near the sink. I freaked out when my mother told me about other harmful chemicals in the water, who knew water could be bad for you.” He nervously chuckles.
“I know right.”
I walk into the kitchen while Blake takes a seat on the kitchen stool. London squirms a little and makes a cute noise which makes me smile.
Picking up the formula tin, I glance over the instructions printed on the back.
“How old is London?” I ask.
“She’s three weeks,” he softly replies.
“Three weeks?” I mutter. “Feels like forever since Tori had the baby.”
“It does indeed,” he agrees.
I’m still in shock over the fact that Tori left. The whole way through the pregnancy, she seemed like she was going to be a perfect mother, but hey, who’s really ready for a baby? They don’t come with instructions and they scream.
Whatever her reasons are, I’m not going to judge.
While I prepare the bottle, I look at Blake and smile.
“Thanks again for the help,” he says.
“Indulge my curiosity for a moment, but why did you ask me? There are three other girls in my practice class.”
“I...I don’t know.” He shrugs. “You just seemed like a nice person.”
“Is that what they told you?” I chuckle.
“Yes.” Blake chuckles. “One person specifically said, Ava, that nice girl from the baby class. And well, how can you go wrong with that?”
“Not the best identifier but it’s better than what I thought it would be.” I shrug.
“Who cares what people think.” He shrugs. “Some people aren’t worth it.”
“You don’t care what others think?”
“Not anymore,” he replies.
“You seem so confident, it’s hard to imagine you as anything but that,” I commented.
Blake shrugs his shoulders. “Sometimes it’s just an act. It hasn’t been long since Tori left. You’re kind of my last hope.”
“That’s a lot of pressure to put on someone,” I speak.
“I have complete faith in you.” He grins.
I take a deep breath and focus on the task. I can’t screw this up!
After heating the milk, I test the temperature by shaking droplets onto my wrist. When I feel it’s warm enough, I pass the bottle to Blake.
“The first attempt, let’s see what happens!” I try to sound enthusiastic, but I’m like a shaking leaf.
“Come on, London,” he cheers, hope swirls within his green eyes.
He holds the bottle in his left hand and props her up in his right arm. Blake hesitantly tries to slip it between her parted lips. As it touches her bottom lip, her mouth opens and she lets out a piercingly loud cry.
With a sigh defeat, he places the bottle on the bench and briefly glances at me. Blake whispers sweet coo’s until she settles down.
“Do you want me to try?” I ask.
“Sure.” He walks around the kitchen bench and hands her over. I hold London in my left arm and cuddle her close to my chest.
While some part of me wants to impress Blake with my smooth child-rearing skills, another part of me wants to succeed for the sake of London.
“You look very cute wrapped in your pink blanket.” London just blinks at me. “It's time to have some milk, it's going to fill that little tummy.” I slip my hand under the blanket and gently rub her tummy.
Blake hands me the bottle and I take a deep breath before slipping the bottle between her lips. Funny enough, she latches onto it.
“I can’t believe she’s drinking!” He gasps. “What did you do?”
“I honestly have no idea.” I shrug.
A happy smile filters across his face. “I’m going to keep you forever, Ava. I think you’re awesome.”
For the millionth time, my heart flutters.
“I can’t believe she’s drinking her bottle,” his voice is mixed with relief and excitement. “You cheeky little bugger!”
When London finishes her bottle, I place it on the counter and burp her. She wiggles in my arms, so I handed her back to Blake.
We stand in the kitchen watching London for what feels like a short time but ends up being rather lengthy. When she yawns and her eyes begin to drop, I follow Blake up the narrow staircase tucked towards the side.
On the second floor is a bedroom with an attached bathroom. Space is large and rectangular shaped. The bed is pressed against the far wall with night tables on each side. On the left wall is a cot and on the opposite said, a set of drawers.
Blake wraps her in a blanket and places her in the cot with her feet touch the end. He also presses his hand against her chest which has me frowning.
“She goes to sleep quicker,” he whispers.
“Ah, that’s handy,” I reply.
“Thank you for helping, I really appreciate it.”
“You’re welcome, anytime.”
“Don’t say stuff like that, I might just keep you forever.” He quietly chuckles.
Funny thing, I don't think I’d hate that idea at all.