Excerpt From One More Turn!
This comes out this Wednesday, the 11th!
Sophia was shouting in my ear and I couldn’t believe that she still tended to wake me up, the same way that she’d been doing since she was five. I’d hoped that, seeing as she was older, she would stop acting like a human alarm clock that I could never turn off. I groaned and rolled away from the loud sound shouted directly into my ear. When I heard a whine in response to my actions, I groaned louder and pulled my pillow and covers over my head.
“Five more minutes, hon,” I grunted, muffled under all the covers.
She heard me, but her whining was only getting louder. A little body suddenly jumped on me, little hands trying to shake me and barely managing to move me.
“Dad! Can you please get up? I’m gonna be late for school!”
I sighed, knowing I wouldn’t get to go back to sleep. I pushed off my pillows and covers, letting out a hiss of breath when she moved to get off me and kneed me in the stomach. I sat up blearily and rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. I blinked them open and looked down at my daughter.
Hair as dark as mine fell around her face, over her shoulders, and down her back. It was getting a little long, but she’d stopped cutting it last year, saying she wanted it to grow out. She even had my slightly tanned skin, her bright green eyes one of the features she didn’t get from me.
She sat on her knees at the edge of the bed, arms folded over her chest.
Sophia was seven, soon to be eight, and considered herself in charge of me, even though I was the parent.
“Aren’t you up a little early, Sophia? I’m sure it can’t be that late.”
She just sighed and rolled her eyes. “Look at the clock and tell me that.”
I frowned, and my gaze turned to the alarm clock I kept on my nightstand. I’d bought one a while back after my phone woke me up one morning and I dropped it on the floor trying to shut off the alarm. I groaned when I caught the time.
“The alarm must be broken,” I murmured, turning to Sophia with a look of apology. “Give me five minutes, and I’ll come down to cook you breakfast, okay?”
She persisted with the sour look for a moment longer, before her expression burst into a wide smile.
“Sure, Dad! I’ll just shower and change. Don’t take too long!”
I just hummed. Not that she waited for an answer, because she scrambled off the bed and ran out. I pushed myself out of bed a moment later, picked some clothes from my closet, and went to have my shower. I was out ten minutes later, feeling refreshed, picked my phone from the nightstand and headed for the kitchen to get started on breakfast.
I was serving two plates of eggs, toast, and pancakes when I heard her running down the stairs.
“Come and have your breakfast already!” I called as I placed the plates on our tiny dining table. Then she came into the kitchen, and I winced. “Just what are you wearing?”
She frowned at me. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?”
She was dressed in all pink, her favorite color at the moment. The pink dress was fine, if a little too much for school. She had the pair of bright pink shoes with a strap my mother bought her as a present, with a short heel and a large flower on the buckles. She also had matching tights and hat, with more flowers on top of it.
“It’s fine, honey,” I said hesitantly. “It’s just a little…”
She pouted at me again. “Too much? Or not enough? I wanted to add a scarf; I have the fluffy one grandma bought for me—”
“No, Sophia.” I sighed and pinched the bridge of my nose. I was pretty sure everything she had on was bought by my mother.
“It’s all nice, but I think your grandmother would prefer it if you dressed like this for a party. Not for school.”
Sophia crossed her arms over her chest and looked away.
“Your birthday isn’t that far away,” I tried to bargain.
“You can dress up for your birthday, and I’m sure grandma will bring you more pretty clothes. You don’t want to get them dirty, do you?”
There was some hesitation, but then her arms dropped. She stuck her tongue out at me and ran back out of the kitchen. I chuckled tiredly as I took a seat at the table but held back on eating first.
I was grateful to my mom on the days she took care of Sophia when I couldn’t, and I was happy that she had such a wonderful relationship with her grandchild, but she spoiled her too much. Besides, this parenting thing was so fucking hard at times! Sophia needed a woman’s touch, but at times Mom’s touch could be a bit over the top, as she seemed to smother Sophia at the best of times. Mom told me that Sophia was going through her ‘princess phase’ and there was nothing wrong with spoiling her. I was just worried about all the clothes that would be tossed aside when she grew out of the phase.
She was back minutes later, and I gave her a once over. She’d kept the tights, but switched everything else for a pink top, jean jacket, and beige shorts, with black sports shoes. I nodded once in approval, and she skipped over to the table.
“My hands are clean!” she told me, holding them out to me as evidence.
I smiled. “I see that. Eat up so I can take you to school.”
School started at eight a.m. and I usually tried to get her there around five minutes before the bell. She’d woken me up at fifteen past seven and I was cutting it fine, but I had to fucking make it. I ate my meal and was done before she was halfway done with her own.
“Did you do your homework last night?” I got up from the table with my dirty dishes and left them in the sink. I’d have to wash up when I got back; there wouldn’t be enough time now. “Tell me where your backpack is, and your stuff for school. I’ll bring them down while you get ready.”
She chewed and swallowed her food before answering. “I did all my homework, and my books are on my table. My bag is right under it.”
“I’ll be right back, then.”
I pecked her on the temple as I passed her and headed back upstairs. The door to her room was just a short distance from my own. It was a mirror of mine, only better suited for a young girl. She had a small bed, her little bookshelf shoved up against the wall, with a small table and chair right next to it. The little plastic table had books strewn all over it, and I sighed as I put everything to rights. Her backpack was where she said it was, under the table, and I packed it up, then went down the stairs with it in hand.
Sophia was just putting her dishes in the washer when I walked back into the kitchen, and I gave her another smile of approval. The smile she gifted me with was bigger and happier, and I couldn’t help chuckling.
“It’s time for school, now, baby. Let’s go.”
I held my hand out for her, and she skipped over to me and took my hand. I wanted to carry her. I’d gotten so used to it that it was hard when she suddenly refused to be carried around because she was ‘a Big Girl’. Remembering how she sat me down to explain it all to me still made me crack a smile, though it had been over a year now.
I picked up two sets of keys on our way out—one for the house, and the other for my car, with a spare key for work.
The drive wasn’t too long. The only reason we took the car was that I didn’t want to tire her out before she got to school. We lived in a relatively small town, so plenty of people were out walking. I let Sophia in the back, set her bag on her lap and did up her seat belt, then got in the driver’s seat.
“Put on the music, dad!” she shouted when I didn’t move to do so immediately. “Please, daddy?”
I arched my eyebrow at her in the back, not surprised to see her with her hands held out in front of her, palms pressed together, eyes wide, imploring, as she pouted.
“You don’t have to beg me, you know,” I said, amused by her drama.
The CD was in the player, so I just turned it on and played the music. It was a compilation of popular kids’ songs, another present from my mom. Immediately, she was singing along as loud as she could. I just laughed and sang along to the parts I knew, though I’d pretty much memorized all of them by this point.
On the streets to either side of us were other people waking up, some taking their little ones to school. I got shouts and waves from a few people, and I waved back. Less than ten minutes later, we arrived at the school parking lot.
“We’re here, baby,” I told Sophia.
She was pouting before I turned off her music, but she took hold of her bag. She waited for me to get out and help her out of her seat belt. I held her under her armpits and pulled her out of the car, letting her down on the pavement.
“Dad, look! She’s here; she’s here!”
I smiled as she jumped at me impatiently. She knew better than to run ahead without me, though, after I’d scolded her for it a couple of times. The parking lot was at the school, but, while cars knew better than to rush around this street, it was better to stay cautious.
I was in a hurry, as well, so I didn’t hold her back too much. I was excited myself, and couldn’t help grinning. Once we were across the road, she took off with a squeal, and I was a little jealous I couldn’t do the same.
“Hi, Sophia!” I watched as my daughter’s teacher crouched down to receive her bear hug, giving her a tight squeeze before pulling back to smile at Sophia. “You’re as beautiful as ever today. How was your morning?”
Sophia practically vibrated in place with pleasure. “I had to get Dad out of bed, and he made me take off my dress, but he made me breakfast!”
Jessica glanced up at me. “Did he now? And did you thank your dad?”
Sophia suddenly stilled under Jessica’s eyes. Then she turned around and looked up at me with a serious expression. It was so cute on her face, still chubby with baby fat. I bit the inside of my cheek to hold back a smile.
“Thanks, Dad,” she said solemnly.
I did smile because she was acting way too serious about the whole thing.
“It’s fine, baby. Don’t you need to head to class now?” I prompted.
I wanted her to go so I could have some time to talk to Jessica. I didn’t have to check my watch to know it was almost time for school to begin, and I would have to leave then. Sophia seemed to realize what I wanted, and she narrowed her eyes at me for a moment. But then she abruptly gave Jessica another hug, then wrapped her arms tightly around my legs, before turning away and running into the school.
We both watched her go; then I held my hand out to help Jessica up from her crouch. She watched my hand for a moment, wary, and I breathed a sigh of relief when she didn’t just rebuff me. Her soft hand slid into mine and I pulled her up. She didn’t immediately pull her hand out of mine, and I counted that as a victory.
“Good morning, Ross,” she said politely.
“How’ve you been, Jessica?” I asked, trying to be informal but really wanting to have her in my arms.
She pursed her lips. “Fine,” she answered curtly. Then she paused and hesitated, before sighing. “My Aunt Hayley was in town over the weekend; she helped my mom over at the diner.”
There were a few diners in town, but the biggest, not to mention the most famous, was owned by Jessica’s fifty-five-year-old mom, Rita. Our moms had known each other forever, even with my mom being five years older. Much like them, Jessica and I had been born and raised together.
“Hayley was in town, huh. I kinda wish I’d passed by the diner, now.”
She gave me a curious look. “Sophia was there with your mom. I was going to ask them why you didn’t come along, but then our moms got talking, and I couldn’t get a word in the whole time. So, I just ordered and ate. I didn’t understand why they even bothered to ask me to come along. It was clear that they didn’t want my company.”
I shrugged, then grinned. “I had my mom take care of her because I was working on your car all weekend.”
Her eyes widened, her jaw dropping. “Y-you don’t need to spend so much time and work on it.” She started to frown as if I’d said something wrong. Maybe she felt guilty about me missing out because I was working on her car.
“But you brought it to me so I could fix it!”
“Yes, because it’s a cheap car. If I could have afforded it, I would have gotten something that didn’t break down every other day. If you keep working on it, I’m pretty sure I won’t be able to afford it.”
I smiled a little, because it was fun to see her flustered. I took a step closer, and my hand rose on its own to touch my fingertips to her cheek. That made her freeze, and her eyes turned up to me. She didn’t move away from me, though. After a moment, I pulled my hand away and shoved it in my pocket. I had to tread carefully.
Jessica had left town and only recently gotten back. We had some history, the kind that made her want to avoid me when she got back. Sophia, and being my daughter’s teacher, was the only reason she couldn’t—though the thought of her becoming a quiet school teacher never occurred to me back in high school, it suits her so well.
If I was ever going to get her to go on a date with me—my obvious flirting wasn’t getting to her—I wanted her to be at ease around me.
It had taken too long to get this far for me to ruin it now because I couldn’t control myself.
“I already told you not to worry about the price; you’ll be able to afford it. You already gave me your budget, remember? I won’t go above it. And you did bring your car to me because my prices are more reasonable.”
She was still for a moment, then she pouted. I wasn’t sure she knew she was doing it, but it reminded me so much of Sophia at that moment that I had to bite my cheek to hold back a smile.
“Well, yes, but hasn’t it been too long? I’m sure you have other work to be doing…”
I shrugged. “Well, I do get a few drive-bys come to the garage, but they’re usually for small jobs. You told me I could take my time, so don’t worry, I’m not going to go broke because it’s taking so long.” Then I grinned. “You could always come by the garage later, and you can see. You could bring Sophia with you.”
She narrowed her eyes at that, even as her lips twitched slightly up at the corners. She opened her mouth to say something, only to pause for a moment. We were interrupted by the sound of the school bell, and we both looked toward the building, where the remaining children outside rushed indoors.
“Maybe some other time,” she said instead of whatever she’d had in mind.
I watched her turn and walk away, wishing we’d had enough time so I knew what she would have said. Before she walked through the entrance, she turned around and waved at me. She wasn’t so far that I didn’t notice the smile. I smiled back as I waved, then she was gone.
I turned away from the school and walked back to the parking lot so I could head to work, the smile still on my face, thinking that she was getting sexier the older she got. That was for sure. I knew that this was stage one and she’d be mine by the end of it. It was just a matter of time. I could wait because I knew that, this time, she was in town for good and I wasn’t going to take no for an answer. No matter how many times she tried to keep me at bay.