I felt like a donkey's butt. Otherwise known as a jackass. Here I was, with a kid (that okay, looked so much like me the Q-tip thing was just a formality), and Brian had been working like a little hamster in a wheel to get another one. And yet all I had to do to get one was to drink frappes until more than my bladder exploded.
It really was a Weird World.
Dr. Bailey was a woman in her fifties that looked like she could double in the winter-time as Mrs. Clause. She greeted Brian first before turning to me. Her gaze drifted down to the kangaroo pouch.
"Nice to meet you, Nick. This is Bentley?"
She held out her hand; I shook it. I nodded towards the pouch. "That's what the note said." I paused. Since she was a doctor, I figured I could ask her a couple questions and get a professional opinion.
"What kind of nicknames are there for a name like Bentley? Something that sounds less...car-like?"
Brian made a noise in the back of his throat. Dr. Bailey tapped a pen on my chart.
"Ben? Benny? Lee?"
"I like Ben. It sounds smart. Wasn't there a Ben dude that invented money?"
"You mean Benjamin Franklin?"
I smiled. Bri always knew what I was talking about. "Yeah!"
"He didn't invent money. He's on money because he was a famous inventor and--"
"Shall we take the samples?"
Little Ben took that moment to spit out his pacifier. Spit soaked through my t-shirt. Brian reached over and wrangled him out of the pouch.
"That was easy."
"The doc's really nice. Easy to remember name, too. Bailey. Just like Baylee but spelled n--different." I had almost said 'normally.' I figured Bri wouldn't appreciate me calling his kid abnormal. Not when--
"She said Ben's big for his age. Do you think she specifically meant his--" I gestured underneath the kangaroo pouch to my own crotch.
He didn't answer. We got to the car and I scooped Ben out of the pouch without thinking. I paused.
"Hey, you know how to use one of those things."
"No I don't," I lied. "It was a fluke."
"Bri, I can't do it myself," I burst out, adding back in my whine. Ben's legs kicked in the air as I held him away from me. Brian came around and took him from me. He drew him close.
"You're cutting teeth aren't you?" he cooed as he put the lanky boy into the car seat. "Maybe LeighLeigh will give you a cracker when we get back. Would you like that? You can chew on it while you watch soundcheck."
Soundcheck. I glanced at my watch. "We're going to be late."
"No, we're not. We always have a cushion."
"For the pushin'?"
"You should refrain from pushin' any cushions for awhile. Unless you haven't learned your lesson."
I glanced in the back window before I climbed in the car. Ben's attention focused on the dangling keys and rings attached to the carseat. He swatted them happily.
"Oh I've learned my lesson," I vowed.
"I'm not looking at another woman for a very long time."
I spoke too soon, of course. Bri and I spent the entire ride back doing some wicked duets to 80's tunes while Ben babbled along. Bri had just glided the car past the gates and was slowing down to park in the middle of the circle of busses when I spotted a flash of long dark hair and long legs.
"No!" I cried.
I rubbed my eyes with the back of my hands. I took another look. My heart plummeted. I had been calling her every day for three weeks without getting any response. She had chosen possibly the worst time to come back to give me a second chance. I whipped my head around so fast I almost got whiplash.
"Bri, you've got to pretend Ben's yours," I said quickly.
"Lauren's back. You've got to pretend Ben's yours until I have a chance to talk to her."
"You want me to pretend he's mine? How is that going to work?"
"Tell her you and Leighanne went to one of those baby buildings and picked him!"
"Nick, you don't pick up babies like you pick up dogs from a pet store! Besides, you've got a crib in your bus, remember?"
I knew Bri and I must have been an odd sight. He was waving his hands around, I was taking turns grabbing my hair and neck. I gave up and pressed my forehead against the dash.
"You promised me you'd help," I reminded him.
"Fuck," Bri said.
"Fuuuuuu," Ben spat from the back.
My door opened.
With my head still on the dash, all I could focus on was Lauren's bare, short-short clad legs. Her voice hovered somewhere over my head.
I did the only thing I could think of.
I pretended to faint.
When Nick pretends to faint, he makes a real show of it. He's used this tactic since he was - well I'm gonna assume Bentley's size because he's done it as long as I've known him. I remember when we were first getting started and Kevin would announce that it was time to clean the bus and Nick would make this big dramatic act of passing out. He'd swoon, slap the back of his hand against his forehead, and drop like a rucksack to the floor, where he would lie limply until someone kicked him in the balls or until the matter of cleaning was dropped.
What the hell was he gonna do now? Lie limp until Bentley turned twenty-four?
"Ohmigod, Nick!" Lauren's mouth dropped open and she sprang forward and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Nick's head rolled limply against Lauren's breasts and he lolled there.
Such a freaking pervert.
"Oh my God, what's wrong with him?" Lauren looked frantically at me.
I opened my mouth to answer her, but Bentley chose that moment to let out a screech.
Lauren's eyes darted to the backseat. To Bentley. To Bentley's wide, blue eyes and the wild, electricuted-looking blonde hair that so ridiculously matched Nick's own of each... Her eyes widened. "Who- whose is that?" she hissed.
Nick groaned into Lauren's chest and reached up his hand, feigning weakness, and grabbed onto her other breast. He rolled his eyes up at her. "Lauren?" he whispered, "Lauren? Is this - Are you --" he paused dramatically. "Am I died?"
I rolled my eyes, but Lauren didn't notice.
"Dead? Why would you be dead?" she asked.
"Because you... you're a... an angel... right?" he whispered.
Lauren's eyes melted.
Bentley continued screaming.
"Oh for the love of Carter," I grumbled to myself and climbed out of the car, pulling open the backseat and crawling across to get Bentley.
Lauren continued to dote over Nick, ignoring me and the loudest baby known to mankind. I glowered at the back of Nick's head. I felt like hitting him in the skull, calling him a pansy or worse. Using the actual word.
"Come on, Nick," she whispered quietly, helping him out of the car. He wobbled dramatically.
"Yeah, no don't worry about your kid," I muttered as Nick staggered across the parking lot toward his bus. "I'll get him out of the back of the car, no worries..." I unbuckled Ben from his seat. I sighed. "It's okay, buddy," I whispered, "Your dad... he's got a lot to learn yet, you know?" I ran my hand over Ben's head. He'd silenced and was now staring across the parking lot at Nick's back as he walked away, big crocodile tears in his eyes. "You love your dad, huh?" I whispered, scooping Bentley up into my arms.
As I backed out of the car, Leighanne came up behind me. "Where's Nick?" she asked, seeing Ben and glancing into the car.
"Did you know Lauren's here?" I asked.
Leighanne's eyes widened. "Oh no," she whispered. "Now what?" she asked quietly.
I rocked Benny back and forth gently, bouncing him on my arm as he started to cry now that Nick was out of sight. "I think we just adopted Ben for the day."
Leighanne sucked in a deep breath, her eyes widening with excitement. "Really?" she whispered, and without waiting for a response, she stole Ben from my arms and tucked him against her chest, silencing him once again, and cooing into his face with a look of euphoria on her own.