Why didn’t toddlers come with their own parachutes?
“About her…running…” Mrs. Potter said.
She patted Rose’s back and crossed to the kitchen, pouring out the last bit of her tea. She sighed.
“Piper, I want to help you. I can’t imagine being a single mother.”
“She makes it easy.”
“She is a lovely spirit, just like you. I know this isn’t how you envisioned your life…”
I hugged my baby. She wasn’t a doctoral thesis. She was better than that. Yes, my life was different, and, yes, I spent ten-hour days at Dad’s agency working hard to support a baby I felt like I never got to see anymore. But those hours made sure she had food, clothing, and toys.
And I’d work double the hours if I had to, just to know she wouldn’t want for anything.
“I’m getting older,” Mrs. Potter said. “And Rose is more rambunctious and mobile now.”
I agreed. “Her crib is in my bedroom. It’s a slumber party every night at three in the morning.”
I knew what was coming. Mrs. Potter folded her hands. “I hate to say this, Piper, but since Rosie is more of a handful now…I’m going to need a higher salary.”
The piggy bank in my head had already shattered. “I understand. I’ll work with you. I’m already gone for so long during the day. I’d hate for Rosie to lose you too.”
“It isn’t my place…” Mrs. Potter shrugged. “But perhaps her father—”
Yeah, right. “I can handle it on my own.”
“He did offer to marry you.” Mrs. Potter frowned. “Boorish man he was.”
“Jasper wouldn’t have been a good husband, and he’s a worse father. I think we’re doing okay.” I squeezed Rose tighter. “We don’t need his help.”
“But sometimes…a girl needs her father, Piper.”
“Rose is better off without Jasper.”
“I wasn’t talking solely about Rosie.” She gave me a knowing look, one I used to avoid when I was a little. “I’ll give you a formal salary proposal in the morning. Maybe talk it over with Maddy—”
“No need.” My throat tightened. “Thank you.”
She understood. Mrs. Potter waved bye-bye to Rose, but my baby was already busy with her next source of mischief. She squirmed to escape from my arms.
“Not yet, you little meatball…” I aimed for the changing table in our shared bedroom. “You need to be changed.”
Rose didn’t like that.
The instant she’d learned to walk meant she was too busy for diapers. Rose fussed, spouting some very questionable babble that sounded suspiciously like a little sailor instead of my cute bundle of joy.
As far as I knew, buh-bye hadn’t morphed into bi-ach.
Rose plotted her escape. My head pounded, and I was so hungry my stomach eyed my kidney for a snack. I didn’t want to tussle with a furious toddler and decided to change her super quick. I grabbed the spare diaper bag and bargained with a child who had no idea how to appropriately negotiate.
“I’m offering to take your wet diaper for free.” I laid her on the floor and booped her nose with my finger. “You won’t find a better deal than that. Not like I’m trying to trade you to Ironfield.”
Rose agreed with a fist in her mouth. She gurgled and then offered the shiny hand to me.
“No thanks…” I shuffled her tush down. “I’d rather make some spaghetti for dinner. Sound good? Want some sketti?”
She blew a raspberry at me, kicked, and tried to bolt.
So it’d be that kind of night.
I flipped her over and distracted her with her favorite toy—Mr. Bunny Bumpybottom. The floppy bunny usually worked to appease her, but my ringing cellphone caught her attention. I grabbed the phone before Rose stuck it in her mouth.
I answered with a sigh, casting aside one wet diaper. “Hey, Dad.”
“I need you at the office.”
Nothing cordial today, but he hadn’t been especially friendly since Cole nearly put him through a wall. Unfortunately, he took it out on me.
I expected him to summon me to the office for his favorite father-daughter activity—unpaid overtime.
“What’s wrong, Dad?”
“Everything. We have a lot of work to do.”
I turned, propping the phone on my ear and rooting through the diaper bag. No wipes. Whoops.
“I can’t wait until you’re potty-trained.” I poked at Rose’s stomach.
Dad huffed. “What was that?”
“Nothing. I just got home. Mrs. Potter left for the night. I can’t come back.”