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Juliette, Harmony, and Me.
“Juliette, c’mon,” my oldest daughter lagged behind as we walked past the shops in the mall. I carried my other one, Harmony, in my arms.
“Mommy, slow down!” Juliette called. I stopped and turned around, switching Harmony to my other hip. I held out my hand to Juliette and she hurried to catch up and take it.
“Can I carry my bag?” Juliette pointed at the hot pink shopping bag hanging on my arm.
“In a little bit, honey.” I was ready to go, Harmony was too, she was falling asleep in my arms.
We finally reached my car, I buckled in the sleeping Harmony. Juliette climbed into her booster seat in the back seat next to Harmony.
“Mommy, can you play the radio?” Juliette leaned forward, gripping my seat with her hands.
“Softly, your sister’s asleep,” I turned on the radio, putting the volume on 4.
Juliette instantly recognized the song and started singing along softly. I smiled to myself, and concentrated on getting of the crowded mall parking lot.
“This is are street!” Juliette called out as I pulled onto our street. We passed the cottage-like houses and pulled into the drive way of a small two story one. The front garden was well kept, my mother loved gardening. Juliette unbuckled as soon as I put it in park and climbed out running up to the front door. I got little Harmony out, who started whining. I carried her up to the front door where Juliette was dancing around.
“Mommy, hurry! Unlock the door. I have to pee!” she jumped up and down impatiently.
I turned to key and pushed the door open for her. She bolted inside and down the narrow hallway into the bathroom. I chuckled to myself and carried Harmony upstairs to her room. The three bedroom cottage was very contemporary, a spiral stair case and big windows to let in lots of light.
“Mommy, can we made more brownies?” Juliette climbed up on the stool at the kitchen island, and rested her head on her elbows. Her long dark brown hair fell down to counter, her big eyes bright.
“After we finish the batch we just made,” I said nodding my head towards the plate on the counter.
“Gimme a brownie!” Juliette hopped off the stool and grabbed a brownie.
“Don’t make yourself sick. You can only have one.” I said, taking a brownie for myself. She scowled at me, then grinned and finished her brownie.
“C’mon Juliette, don’t want to be late to school do you?” I called up the stairs. Harmony was holding onto my leg as we waited for Juliette to get her Dora backpack. She had learned to walk just the week before, but still really wobbly. Juliette ran down the stairs, backpack on back, cute blue flip flops on feet, smile on face. Juliette loved kindergarten, she had lots of friends. She would be popular in middle and high school. She held out a CD case to me, and I took it from her.
“I want to listen to that on the way to kindergarten.” It was one of the CD’s I had burned some of her favorite songs to.
I picked up Harmony, and opened the front door. Juliette ran outside and ran to the car, where she waited at her door. I unlocked it and she climbed in a buckled herself in, which she was extremely proud of. I sat Harmony in her seat, but it was hard to buckle.
“Mommy! Hurry up!” Juliette impatiently wiggled in her seat.
I clicked the seat belt in and shut the car door.
I walked into the school building with her, walking with her to her classroom, Harmony wobbling along beside me, her little hand in mine.
“Harmony, walk faster! Come here Harmony, come here!” Juliette kneeled down a little and patted her legs, gesturing for Harmony to come to her like a puppy. Harmony let go of my hand and wobbled toward her, but she wasn’t ready for the slick floor and slipped and flew on her tummy. She started to cry.
“It’s ok, Harmony!” I picked her up cooing in her face, and following Juliette into her classroom.
“Hello, Juliette. Hello, Danielle.” Ms. Tasha, Juliette’s teacher greeted us. “Aww, why is little Harmony crying?”
“She fell down!” Juliette told her. Juliette ran and hung her backpack up on her hook in the back of the room. She hurried back and gave me a hug good bye. She only stayed half a day.
“I’ll see you at lunch, we can go get pizza today.” I said hugging her with one arm. Harmony grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled, making her squeal.
“Oww!” She glared at Harmony. I helped her fix her hair.
“Bye bye Juliette,” I waved and walked towards the door.
“Buh buh!” Harmony yelled, grinning wildly.
I drove over to Cody’s house, Juliette’s and Harmony’s dad, to drop off Harmony. We pulled in the driveway and he and some of his “buddies” stumbled out of the grass. I got spurious when one of them started puking in the bushes by the door. I got out of the car, but left Harmony in the car. Cody’s house was run down and not super clean. Cody wobbled over, like Harmony when she walks, he almost fell down.
“Danielle!” Cody’s slurred speech confirmed he was drunk. I was going to have to take Harmony to work with me, again. He tried hugging me, but I back away. He leaned against my car, and I could see the dried slobber around his mouth. His puking friend finished and stood with the others.
“Where’s Harmony?” he asked looking around, shielding his eyes from the sun.
“In the car, but she’s going to work with me, again, because your obviously drunk.” I got back in the car and he watched me pull out. He glared at me and gave me the finger, but I drove on. I worked mostly at home, but went into the office between 9:00 and 11:00. I was an architect. I went to mostly meetings during this time, and the secretary of my floor, Debra, was an angel and watched Harmony, and sometimes Juliette, while I was in them. She was an older woman who loved kids.
“Good morning, Debra,” I greeted her. She looked up and a smile spread across her face.
“Well, look who’s joining us today.” She wiggled her fingers at Harmony.
“I’m sorry, Debra. I have a meeting at 10: to 10:45. Do you think you could watch her for me?” I asked nervously moving her to my other hip. I hated taking advantage of Debra’s kindness.
“Oh, I would be happy to,” she looked at me with complete acceptance. Debra was so motherly.
“Thank you, Debra. I mean it.” I walked around the desk and gave her a one-armed hug.
“No problem, darling,” she patted my back.
I headed down the hall to where all the cubicles were and made my way through the maze to my own cubicle. It had colored papers from Juliette, and pictures of my girls, and even one of Cody in the corner. There was a big one of Cody, me Juliette, and Harmony as a teeny tiny baby. I smile every time I see it, because that was what my family was suppose to be, but it wasn’t. I had an ex-husband with a severe drinking problem. I sat down in my chair with Harmony, who was starting to get impatient, and wanted to get down and run around. I sat her down on the floor of my cubicle and watched her try to look onto the deck, which was a little high for her. I booted my computer up. She made a run for the door, but I grabbed her shirt before she got to far away. She giggled loudly and I scooped her and said “Shhh.” I opened my email, and noticed a odd one in my inbox. I sat wiggling Harmony down and opened the email.
I read through it once, then twice, then a I skimmed and skimmed it again. Cody was filing for half custody of the girls. I took a deep breath and remembered Harmony. I turned around, but she was gone.
“Oh, no,” I whispered to myself. I bolted out of cubicle, and started looking around.
“Jeremy! Have you seen Harmony, she snuck out of my cubicle,” I asked one of my cubicle neighbors. He just shook his head and continued to type on his computer. Big help he was.
I searched the whole floor, and by now I was calling out “Harmony!” A few people had joined the search.
I was checking behind the vending machines when someone tapped me on the shoulder. I spun around and came face to face with a handsome man. His dark hair swept over his face and his mysterious eyes met mine instantly. He held a whining and wiggling Harmony. I had never seen him before.
“Is she your’s?” he asked.
I was lost for words for a moment, so I nodded. He handed her to me and she started trying to get down, but I held onto her tight.
“You scared mommy, Harmony,” I said to her.
“She’s cute,” he said smiling crookedly at me and my heart jumped.
“Are you new?” I asked.
“Started yesterday,” he said and stuck his hand out. “Thorton,” he shook my free hand.
“That’s an unusual name.” I said. I looked up at the clock in the corner of the snack room. It was 5 minutes past 10:00.
“I’m sorry, but I am late to a meeting. I’ll see you around.” He nodded, and I turned and hurried to Debra’s desk.
“Mommy! We did finger painting today.” Juliette showed me her two wrinkled and dried art pictures. “
“They’re beautiful,” I said hugging her. Ms. Tasha was holding the sleepy Harmony.
“Can I have a brownie when we get home?” she asked putting her backpack on.
“Sure, sweetie.” I said. I said bye to Ms. Tasha and took Harmony from her. On the drive home, I looked in the rearview mirror and saw Harmony sleeping and Juliette singing along pleasantly to the song on her CD. I remembered my distracting email earlier that day. Cody wanted half custody. I couldn’t allow that, he was a drunk. The worst drunk in Moonvale, the little town we lived in, him and his “buddies”.