Here it is, the long...I'm not going to say awaited...but the long promised sequel to Where You Least Expect It. I didn't expect it to take nearly six months to start putting this out, but I suppose pneumonia and real life will do that. And also, I'll admit, there was a little bit of self imposed pressure and A LOT of nerves involved. After all, how does one even begin to live up to a story that spans 130 chapters and is longer than War and Peace?
If there are any new readers coming across this story first and you're asking if you need to read Where You Least Expect It to even understand this? As much as I hate to say it...things will be extremely confusing without knowing that story ahead of time. I don't want to make this too long so if any reader, longtime or new, has any questions or needs a refresher on a plot point please feel free to send me a private message. I'm always more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
This is also where I put the little disclaimer that this has absolutely nothing to do with Girl Meets World. I began Where You Least Expect It long before the show's debut. It's funny, my story wasn't originally considered AU, just a what-if continuation. Now with GMW, I suppose it has become AU.
Now onto the actual story, lol. I've skipped ahead a little bit, but not too much. Timeline wise in relation to Boy Meets World we are now 9-10 years after the show ended and it is February 2010. I'm going to try to keep things moving at a good pace. I don't think this will be 130 chapters, but I hope you'll find it worth reading.
"I'm a terrible father." Eric buried his face in his mother's shoulder. "Seriously, who decided I should be in charge of another human life? That person should be fired!"
"Eric, no, you're not a terrible father." She wrapped her arm around him. "You are a very good father."
"I dented my kid's head. Which part of that makes me good?"
"Technically Georgia has a bump, not a dent."
"A bump is better?"
Amy bounced her fussy granddaughter in her other arm. It had been a very long morning and she assumed the baby was probably ready for a bottle and her nap. "A bump is a bump. Babies, kids- they all get bumps on their heads at some point. The real miracle is that it took this long."
"How many get hurt because their daddies whacked their soft, Nerf ball heads against the handle on the freezer door?"
"Probably more than you'd think." She certainly received quite a scare when she got the frantic call from her son before seven. He had been in hysterics- she could barely make out a word he was saying- and Georgia was screaming in the background. Instead of trying to make sense of things over the phone, she rushed over to their house- reaching it in record speed, probably breaking several traffic laws in the process.
Once there she managed to piece together what happened. She did her best to reassure Eric that the baby was fine, especially since she was alert and crying, but he wouldn't relax until Georgia was looked over by a doctor. They spent a few hours in the emergency room and, like Amy predicted, received a clean bill of health for the little patient. She'd have a lovely bump and bruise on her noggin for a bit, but otherwise she would be okay. "Here," she said, handing Georgia over.
Eric froze. "What are you doing?"
"I'm going to the kitchen to see if her bottle is warm. She's tired and hungry."
"Are you sure leaving her with me is a good idea? I'm the idiot that broke her."
"Eric, you didn't-"
"Why did this have to happen on my watch? Not that I'd want anything to happen while Angela had her because I'd know she'd never forgive herself...but why couldn't it have been while you and dad were baby-sitting?"
"Thank you very much."
"You know what I mean." He looked down when Georgia rubbed his face, patting the several days' worth of stubble. "You still love daddy?"
"Of course she does. What kind of question is that?"
"I don't know, mom, if you bashed my head in, I wouldn't be too crazy about you."
"It was an accident. You said yourself she was wiggling and flailing around when you were getting something out of the fridge. It could've happened to anybody."
"I know, I just...I can still hear the smack of her head hitting and then her cries. I never heard her wail like that before." He shook her head. "I'd pay anything to have those sounds erased from my mind."
"Unfortunately this is all part of being a parent. Don't you remember that talk we had before she was born? I told you about dad and I leaving you home when we thought you were in the car with us? Then about the time we locked Josh in the car? Oh and then when Morgan rolled off the couch on me and your dad tossed Cory up in the air and hit his head on the ceiling fan? Thank goodness that fan was off."
"Yeah, I remember the stories. It's a wonder any one of us survived."
"I know, mom, I know- normal part of the parenting package." He rubbed the baby's back when she put her head down on his shoulder.
"If her first injury didn't happen today it would've happened later. At least now you can talk Angela through it when it happens to her."
"It sort of did last week. Her fingers got squished a bit by the cabinet door on Angela's nightstand. She didn't cry much, I think she was more startled than anything else. We were both in the room, it just happened so fast. She's a speedy little crawler. We didn't panic because we didn't want to scare her."
"So that's why you had dad over to help you finish up all the baby-proofing," she concluded.
"Well, despite the pinched fingers and bumps on the head I'd say she is still one of the luckiest babies around."
"Why, because her dad has enough pull to get her seen immediately in the emergency room? I mean, obviously if there are no bloody wound, gaping hole, or broken bone emergencies ahead of us that is. And obviously head injuries have first dibs, too."
Amy grimaced at his descriptions. "No, I meant she is so loved. I'd be hard pressed to find a child as loved and adored as our Georgia."
"What about those royal babies everyone always makes a fuss over? My kid's way cuter, but no one's volunteered to throw her a parade."
"Stop arguing with everything I say." She smiled at her granddaughter. The baby's head was still on her father's shoulder, but she had the collar of Eric's button-down flannel clenched in a tight fist and was chewing on it, a sleepy expression on her face. "Your daddy is so silly, little girl. And grandma is going to get your bottle so you don't have to resort to eating clothes." She kissed the baby's forehead before placing a kiss on her son's cheek. "Do you want anything from the kitchen while I get the bottle?"
"Got any cookies?"
"Have there ever not been any cookies in this house?"
She had him there. "Can I have chocolate milk, too?"
"I'll even give it to you in your old Batman cup with a silly straw."
Once they were alone Eric focused all of his attention on his daughter. Georgia seemed perfectly happy bouncing in his lap and gnawing on his collar. She was teething. He could see her two bottom teeth beginning to poke through her gums. As a result, she was putting anything she could get her hands on in her mouth to relieve the pressure. He lifted her up away from him slightly. She whined in protest at first, but smiled when they were face to face and reached out to touch his cheeks with drool covered hands. "Most people would think this is gross. You're lucky I know you.
"I'm so sorry about this morning. Daddy would never purposely hurt you. You know that, right? You know I love you more than anything?" Georgia made some gurgling sounds. He pretended they were in response to him instead of her usual babbles. Eric caught a glimpse of the goose egg on the side of her head. It wasn't nearly as big as it was earlier, but definitely noticeable. The bruise was an ugly shade of purple and made him cringe. Angela was going to kill him. The main reason she felt comfortable enough to go to New York for work was because she believed Georgia would be safe with him. He let her down.
Before he could stress too much about all the ways Angela could react he found himself nose to nose with his daughter. She'd pressed her forehead against his and every time he blinked she giggled like mad. "What's so funny, you goofball?" Her laughter was contagious and soon he wasn't sure which of them was getting the most out of the moment. When he blew a raspberry on her chin Georgia let out those big, baby belly laughs. It was, by far, Eric's favorite sound. "Is that funny, huh? Yeah, daddy's good at being silly. Some days I think it might be all I'm- ow!" She bit down on his nose…hard. Her new teeth were like little razors. "Okay…I deserved that for this morning." He moved his head back when she went to do it again. "Mom," he called out, "where's that bottle?"
"Just a second," Angela called out. She knew it was Shawn. He'd been meeting her at the hotel every day before they walked to grab coffee and head over to the fashion shows. Normally she's in the lobby by the time he gets here. This morning, however, she was running a little behind. "Hi, come on in."
He closed the door and watched as she tried to walk and pull her heeled boot on at the same time. It was amusing, but they did have to leave. "Call me crazy, but wouldn't that be easier if you were sitting?"
"I just want to make sure I have everything together. I'm multi-tasking!"
Shawn noticed she was distracted and slightly uncoordinated, words he would not normally use to describe her. "Someone partied a little too hard with the models last night, didn't they?" They'd both been invited out after the shows for dinner, drinks, and dancing at some of the after parties. He declined. It seemed there were parties every night and he already had dinner plans with Naomi's parents- a move his fiancée yelled at him for later. It was humorous watching her pout and stomp around the apartment after they returned home, going on about how they could've had dinner with her parents any time. Angela, however, accepted. She'd been going out with them the last couple nights. Then again she did spend several years living overseas and was actually friends with some of these people. He wasn't.
"I'm not hung over."
He chuckled. "Famous last words."
"I'm not," she insisted. "I just drank more than I have in a long time...pre-finding out I was pregnant long." She finally gave into the slight spinning in the room and sat down to finish putting on her shoes. At least she wasn't nauseous. "I needed a little distraction last night. I forgot what it was like hanging out with that crowd. I can't keep up anymore, at least not like I used to. That's all."
Shawn retrieved a bottle of water from the hotel room fridge. "Here."
"Why did you need a distraction?"
"I've been away from my baby for five days...wait, today's day six. I thought I was handling it okay, but..." Angela shook her head and sank back into the couch. "...I'm so not." She did her best not to cry. There wasn't time to do her makeup again. "The first couple nights were fine. I was able to keep busy and distracted with the articles until it was time for bed. And then the night before last...at what age does it become embarrassing to admit you cried yourself to sleep?"
"Seventy-one years, eight months, and four days. Until then you're fine."
She wasn't expecting him to actually answer and laughed. "What?"
"I have no idea. That's the first number that came to my head."
"It's so oddly specific." She sipped her water. "I'm sorry. I'm sure I sound like a nut."
"For what it's worth, you don't have anything to worry about. Don't get me wrong, if we were talking about ten or fifteen years ago Eric I'd think you were insane for leaving him alone with sea monkeys let alone a baby, but he's not that guy anymore. He's a good dad and-"
"This has nothing to do with Eric," she exclaimed. "There is no one I trust with Georgia more. How could you think I'd be worried about leaving her with her daddy?"
"I didn't mean it as a knock against him."
"It sure sounded like it. He is an excellent father."
"I know. I'm sorry. Why else would you be worried if not about Eric and Georgia?"
Angela touched the small letter G charm that hung from the chain around her neck. Eric had given it to her the day their daughter was born and she promptly attached it to the necklace he had given her for their first Valentine's day together. "I miss her, that's all. This is a million times more difficult than I thought it would be and I was already expecting it to suck. And I miss Eric, too. Sleeping alone is weird. Sorry, you're probably the wrong person for me to say that to."
He shrugged off her apology. "I have trouble sleeping whenever I go out of town on a job or when Nomi goes to White Plains to work on her wedding dress. I get it. Why don't you just Skype with her and Eric. This way she can see you."
"We tried that the first night. Georgia was happy until she realized I was just a face and voice on the screen and not really in the room. After that she was inconsolable."
"Eric sets it up when she's occupied and I watch very quietly."
"How often do you watch her sleep?"
She picked up her phone and showed Shawn her current wallpaper: Georgia dozing on one of her play mats. "How did you know?"
"I know you."
"Eric's driving up tomorrow."
"Good. You only need to get through one more night."
"Do you think Georgia will hate me? What if she thinks I abandoned her, that mama's gone and never coming back?"
"No offense, but Georgia's a baby. I think you're giving her too much credit."
"She knows I'm not there right now to get her when she cries."
"You will be tomorrow."
"It would kill me if I, for even a moment, made her feel how Joyce made me feel when I was a kid. I don't ever want Georgia to think her mother isn't there for her."
"Angela, you're not Joyce. You're never going to be Joyce. You-you're a great mom. Take it from a fellow member of the 'life stuck me with crap parents' club."
"There's an official club?"
"Well…no, but even if there was Georgia would never qualify for membership." He frowned. "Does that make sense or help at all?"
"Yes, thank you." She sighed. "You want to hear the craziest part?"
"I'm almost afraid to ask, but sure."
"I'm actually having fun here and have really enjoyed it."
"Yeah, when I'm out there in the middle of work and hanging out with friends it's great. It's just later when I have time to think…"
"There's your problem. Stop thinking. Be more like Eric."
"Tread very carefully before you say anything else, Hunter," she warned. For as much as she had embraced the mama bear protectiveness she felt towards her daughter, Angela also felt just as protective of Eric. She especially hated it when someone implied he wasn't as smart or didn't use his brain. It really bothered her in the moments Eric seemed to share their notions. He was simply a creative thinker, someone who thought outside the box. She appreciated his outlook on life. Life with Eric would never be dull.
"I'm joking." Shawn checked the time on his phone. "We should probably go before we're beyond fashionably late."
"Right." Angela stood to get her purse and coat. "I still feel like a crazy person who's too attached to her baby, but thanks for listening. I'll be sure to return the favor when you and Naomi have kids."
He stopped in his tracks. "I'll definitely hold you to that, but years in the future. You'll be sending Georgia to kindergarten before that happens, maybe even first or second grade."
"What does Naomi have to say about that?"
"Uh, well…I…" When they spoke of children, it was still in general terms- in that far off place known as the future. Though Naomi had been dropping hints that she may want a kid sooner rather than later. He blamed their families and friends for this. Their fridge was littered with recent birth announcements. Surely it could be considered a form of peer pressure!
"That's what I thought. I'll save you some of Georgia's stuff in case you have a girl," she teased.
"Be nice to me. I was going to offer to buy you a breakfast sandwich to go with your coffee so you don't reach the puke stage of hangover-land."
"I'm sorry. You know, if you wait long enough Georgia would be able to babysit for free."
"That's the kind of talk that gets you two breakfast sandwiches."
"Georgia's finally out. I don't get how being overtired makes a baby fight sleep more. You'd think they would fall asleep faster."
"You're asking for a logical response for something a baby does? Babies aren't logical. They're the opposite. Babies are weird."
Eric came down the stairs and took a seat at the kitchen table. "What's weird is putting my kid to bed in my old room."
"I think it's nice."
"Definitely not something I ever pictured when that room was mine though."
"I thought you were going to try to take a little nap before heading back home, too."
"I tried, but no luck."
"Overtired and fighting sleep like your daughter," Amy asked with a smile.
"More like I'm wondering how pissed Angela is going to be when she sees Georgia's head."
"Honey, it was an accident. Angela will understand."
"I don't know, mom, she gets…I can't even explain it. When she thinks Georgia's in trouble or even if her cries hit a certain pitch something in Angela changes. It's primal, like watching one of those nature channel specials where the mother lions protect their cubs no matter what. You wouldn't get it."
"You're right. I don't know a thing about protective mothers," she deadpanned.
"Eric, it's going to be okay. Yes, maybe she'll be upset at first because no one likes to see their child hurt or injured in any way, but if you just explain to her what happened-."
"-so keeping Georgia in a hat and trying to hide it until the bruise fades won't work?"
"Do not do that."
"I wasn't going to." That doesn't mean he didn't think about it. "It wouldn't work anyway. Georgia has a low tolerance for wearing anything on her head. She'd rat me out in no time." He rubbed his eyes. "This whole week has been so long without Angela, but I felt like I was getting the hang of the dad thing. At the start of the week- when she'd cry- Georgia would look past me and I knew she was searching for her mom. The last day or two she stopped looking around and was happy to have me comfort her. I almost felt like I knew what I was doing."
"No." Eric put his arms on the table before laying his head down. "I don't know anything. People who know what they're doing don't bang their baby's head into the freezer."
"It was an accident," she reiterated. "Please remember that."
"I like to think I'll figure it all out one day but...I swear, when I grow up I-"
Her eyebrows shot up. "When? Honey, I don't know how to break this to you, but you are a grown up."
"You take that back!"
"You have a successful career, own a home, you're in a committed relationship with someone you love who loves you in return, and are a devoted father to Georgia. I'm not even going to mention the fact that you just turned thirty-two."
"Well, I..." He sat up. "…this adult stuff just sneaks up on you, doesn't it? I definitely don't feel like a grown up."
"You want to know a secret?"
"Most of the time I don't either. My body may be fifty-something, but in my mind I still feel nineteen. And there are days I'm just as clueless about life now as I was then."
Eric looked at his mother, eyes wide. "What are you talking about? You and dad have always known exactly what to do."
"Oh, honey, we've been making it up as we go all these years. Most of the time we've tried to make it up in five year plans because of you kids, but-"
"You've been winging it all this time?"
"Yes. Some days we're just better at hiding it than others."
"Does this mean there's not one day when a switch flips and everything makes sense and you know what to do? 'Cause I've kind of been counting on that."
"Sorry to burst your bubble."
"Is that what being an adult means? You don't suddenly know exactly what to do. You just get better at faking it?"
"That and paying bills."
"What a gyp."
The silence was only momentary. It wasn't long before Georgia began to cry, alerting her father and her grandmother that her nap would be more like a cat nap. "Whatever it is that keeps her going, give me a double of that, please," Eric said as he stood.
"I can get her."
"No, it's okay. I think we'll head home. Maybe Georgia wants to be in her own crib."
Amy followed him up the stairs and to the room that used to be occupied by him and Cory, and then later by Morgan. She stood in the doorway and watched as Eric lifted the baby from the portable crib and, after doing a seemingly automatic diaper check sniff test, held her close and paced back and forth until she was quiet. She thought she heard him saying something, but it was muffled. Amy wasn't sure if he was talking or singing a song. "You may not think you know what you're doing, but I believe Georgia would argue with you."
"Maybe. So, you know a thing or two about parents and protective moms, right?"
"A little. I have been a member of the parent club for thirty-two years."
"Is that anything like Fight Club?"
"It smells worse and there's a lot more blood."
"Would Angela be upset if I drove up early? The plan was for me and Georgia to go up there tomorrow night and spend the last few days in New York with her. She wanted to save showing off the baby to her friends for when the days were less hectic."
She smiled. "No, I don't think she'd be upset. I think she'd be wonderfully surprised."
"Once she can get over the bruise on Georgia's head?"
He nodded. "Maybe I'll practice my explanation and apology on the baby during the drive."
"All you need is the truth."
"How about it, Georgia, do you want to go surprise mama?" He'd swear her head popped up off his shoulder in reaction to the question.
"Sure," Eric began, laughing at both the babbles and the look on his daughter's face. It could only be described as determined. It was the same look she had whenever she was in the middle of learning something new. He saw a lot of that face while she was determined to crawl. "We'll pretend that has something to do with mama. Let's go get mama!"
"Evan, do you know where daddy put the box of Valentines for my class?"
The eight year old rolled his eyes. Nina had yet again burst into his room without knocking. She knew by now that she was supposed to knock. "I don't know."
"Will you please help me look?"
"But I said please!" She climbed up on his bed and bounced up and down. "Help me."
"Go ask dad."
"He is giving Milo a bath because he dumped his bowl of pasghetti-o's on his head. Please?"
"Help me first and then I will stop."
"Stop and I will help you."
"Okay," she said with a cheery grin as she ceased bouncing.
Evan tossed his game controller on the floor before standing. How did she always get him to do stuff? "I think I saw him put the bag on his desk."
She followed him to the little nook in the living room that their dad had claimed for his workspace. Normally they weren't allowed to touch his desk. He didn't want them messing up any business stuff, but Nina only wanted what belonged to her. "There's no bag."
"Maybe it's in a drawer." He opened a drawer and began to dig through. "Not this one. Look on the other side."
"Are you sure? We're not supposed to go in his desk."
"Do you want your dumb Valentines or not?"
"Yes." The top two drawers revealed nothing interesting, but when Nina came to the bottom drawer she found a file labeled with a big word she knew very well. "Evan, this word is adoption, right?"
He glanced at the object in her hand "Yeah."
"And mommy and daddy haven't adoptioned us yet, right?"
"No, they haven't adopted us yet. We have to wait for court and they said sometimes getting court dates take a long time. Why?"
She opened it up to see what was inside. "What's a birth cer- certif...what is this?"
"We're supposed to be looking for your cards, nothing else."
Evan looked at the paper and, sure enough, it was their baby brother's birth certificate. There was one thing that jumped out at him. It said Calum's last name was already Hunter. He thought they had to wait until court to officially change their names. Not being able to resist, he looked at the next piece of paper. "Certificate of adoption," he began, reading the bold lettering at the top of the page. "This is to certify that Calum Wesley Hunter has been formally adopted into the Hunter family by John Hunter and Rachel Maguire Hunter on the 4th day of December..."
"Mommy and daddy already adoptioned Calum?"
"This says they did a week after he was born."
"But why not us? They had us and Milo first."
"I don't know."
"Don't mommy and daddy want us anymore?"
He didn't have an answer for her.
"Evan, Nina, get your book bags off the table and in your rooms," Jack called out from another room. "Mom's picking up dinner on her way home from work."
"I'm going to ask daddy," she said.
Evan grabbed onto her arm. "No, you can't."
"Because then he will know we went into his desk and you'll get us into trouble." He put the papers back into the file and shoved it into the drawer. "If they're already starting to change their minds we have to be on good behavior so maybe they change them back."
"Should we buy them presents for Valentine's day? I got some money left from my birthday and Christmas, lots of it."
"Eleven dollars and sixty-three cents," she stated proudly.
"I don't think that would be enough."
"Do you have any money?"
She looked down. "Oh."
"There you guys are," Jack said. "Come on, book bags off the kitchen table."
"What were you doing by my desk?"
"Nina was looking for her Valentines for her class. I thought I saw them on your desk."
"No, I put them on mine and mom's dresser. I'll get them for you in a little bit. Wait for mom to open them. She wants to help you fill them out."
"I know, daddy."
"Don't forget the book bags," he called out one more reminder before leaving the room.
"He's not acting like he's mad or changed his mind about keeping us," she said.
"We should still be good and not fight. And do everything they tell us to do just in case."
"That's gonna be hard."
"We have to try."
Angela took a deep breath and swiped the key card to gain access to her hotel room. The day had gone by like the others. It was a fun flurry of activity and the only time she had time to think about Eric or Georgia was when someone asked about them. Then, of course, she was more than happy to brag and show off pictures of her little family, cat included. It was now, when she returned to the hotel alone with nothing to do but think that she really missed them. Maybe she'd ditch the last couple of shows and go home a few days early. Then again, how smart would it be to bail out on her first job since having a baby? It could affect her professional life in a negative way. She didn't want to be pegged as someone who was unreliable. "I hate this."
"That's definitely not the reaction I was hoping for," Eric said from his spot on the couch.
She jumped. "Aah! Eric?"
"What...how did you..."
"Call me pathetic, but I didn't want to wait one more day to see you. We missed you at home."
She went to the couch and moved to sit beside him, but found herself being pulled into his lap instead. "If you're pathetic then so am I. I was just thinking about going home early."
"I'm glad I got here when I did. It would've been lame if we pulled that sad sitcom trope where the couple travels to surprise each other at the same time and end up alone."
"Completely." She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close for a kiss. When Eric attempted to turn it into more and moved to lay her back on the couch, she pulled away just a little bit. "Wait a minute."
"What, what's wrong?"
"She's sleeping in the bedroom. She fell asleep about half way here." Angela tried to leave his lap, but he held her tight. "Where are you going?"
"I need to see her."
"But she's sleeping."
"I just need to take a peek." She smiled at him before giving him a quick kiss. "I'll be right back."
"What if you wake her up? We should be taking advantage of this."
Why did it seem like he was trying to stop her? "I haven't seen my baby in six days. If you don't let me up to go in there right now you'll be taking advantage of all future naps by yourself for the foreseeable future."
Eric loosened his grip, but still kept his arms wrapped loosely around her waist. "I'd never keep you from Georgia."
"Then why are you acting so weird?"
"Promise you won't hate me or think I'm a bad father?"
"Eric, you're scaring me."
"Well...you see..." He didn't know whether or not to be relieved when Georgia began to cry. "Let me get her," he said to Angela, who was ready to jump up.
"I'll bring her right out. I promise."
"And you'll explain why you're being weird?"
"Okay." True to his word, Eric was quick to bring the baby out. It was a little odd that she was wearing a hat, but that was the last thing on her mind. "There's my girl!" She wanted to cry at the way Georgia's face lit up and she let out those excited baby shrieks. Angela barely had time to prepare herself when she tried to wiggle out of Eric's grasp and over to her. "Hello. Hi, my baby girl. Did you miss me? Mama missed you." She kissed her daughter's cheek and winced when she felt two tiny fists tangled in her hair. "Ouch, okay, no, that's not nice, Georgia. Eric, help me out here."
"Um, Angela," he began as he assisted her. "There's something I need to tell you."
"Why do you have this hat on, huh? It's nice and warm in here. You don't need your bunny hat." She made silly faces and relished in the laughter. "No, you don't. You are a cute little bunny though."
"Angela, remember how you wanted an explanation for my weirdness?"
"Oh, yeah. What was going on with that?"
"You'll see when you take her hat off."
"What does that mean?"
He removed Georgia's hat and awaited the reaction. "Okay...let me have it."
"Have what? What's the secret? You unveiled our daughter's bald head. What's the big..." She trailed off when the baby turned to try and reach for one of the fancy tasseled pillows on the couch. There was a big bruise that definitely hadn't been there when she left. "Explain."
"It was an accident!"
"We didn't sleep very much last night and this morning Georgia was whining and wiggling all over the place. I figured she was hungry and I was getting the milk out of the fridge and then- you know how she will lean back sometimes and put all her body weight into it? And she's not heavy, but when you're not expecting it-"
"She decided to lean back when I was getting stuff out of the fridge. When she did it she banged her head on the handle for the freezer door."
"Oh, my, god...is she-"
"She's fine. Mom drove us to the emergency room and the doctor said she'd be okay. We were in observation for a few hours and the tests came back clear."
"You called your mom?"
"Yeah. I was panicking and I knew she'd know what to do."
"But it didn't occur to you to call me and tell me that something might be seriously wrong with our daughter?"
"I wasn't thinking straight and everyone kept telling me she was okay. They weren't even going to scan her head because they said observation was enough but I insisted."
"You should've called me." She looked down when Georgia grabbed at her shirt and nuzzled her shoulder. "Are you hungry, baby?" She got up from the couch and moved to a chair near the window. "There we go. We can watch the snow."
Eric sat there quietly for a few minutes, not knowing what to do. After a while he figured Angela was probably getting thirsty and got a couple of bottles from the cooler he'd brought with. "Here, I brought your favorite juice." She didn't say anything, didn't even look at him. Her gaze remained fixed on Georgia as she fed her. "Angela, I'm sorry. I know I screwed up. It's all my fault Georgia got hurt. I thought I could handle things by myself for the week but who are we kidding? I'm just a big kid, certainly no one's father. She couldn't even last a week without getting hurt." He knelt down in front of the chair. "I failed you...both of you."
Angela wasn't sure what hurt worse: the anguish in his voice or the broken look on his face. "What do you mean," she asked softly.
"When you decided to take the job you said you could because Georgia would be safe with me. We can see how safe I kept her. I'm sorry I let you down. I will totally understand if you don't want to leave her alone with me again."
She reached out and touched his cheek with her free hand. "Eric, I trust you with Georgia. There is no one I will ever trust more with our daughter than you."
"I'm not upset about the bump. Well, I am, but only because she's my baby and I don't want to see her hurt. But I don't blame you. You're right. She can really throw you off balance when you're not expecting her to fling herself around like she does."
"Then what's the problem?"
"The problem is you never called me. I don't care how fine the doctors or your mother claimed she was. I should've been there. I'm her mom. I needed to be there."
"I'm sorry. I was so panicked at first all I could think about what getting Georgia to the hospital. Then once we knew she was okay I starting freaking out over how you'd react and blame me. I guess I was worrying about the wrong thing."
"I don't want us to start lying and keeping secrets from each other. I had enough of that with my dad. I really don't want to go through it with you."
"So we're agreed? No more secrets?"
He nodded. "I promise."
"And if something is wrong with Georgia we both need to be there, not just for her but for each other, too. We're supposed to be partners in this."
"I know." Eric rested his chin on Angela's knee. "This just proves I'm useless without you. I thought I was doing okay and getting the hang of it, but who am I fooling? I'm just a big, dumb kid. And big, dumb kids make big, dumb fathers."
She hated to see him beat himself up like this. "Why is the sky blue?"
"The sky- why is it blue?"
He sat back on his heels. "Angela, I don't-"
"Georgia's going to ask one day."
"Light is made from different wavelengths of all sizes. The blue light is made of short wavelengths. The sun sends light down through all the dust and gases but we can't see color until something bends the wavelengths makes it scatter. The dust particles are the same size as blue light wavelengths and this makes blue light go everywhere, even on the dust. The blue sky is really blue light wavelengths scattering. At sunrise and sunset it's different color wavelengths bending through."
"Wow, all they taught us in science class was something about reflection from the sun. Now tell me about thunder."
"What about it?"
"What causes it?
"Is this your way of saying you failed earth science in high school?"
"Just answer the question."
Eric wasn't sure what the point of the pop quiz was, but didn't want to push things by arguing. "Thunder comes from lightning. Lightning is really fast and super crazy hot. The air doesn't have time to adjust to the temperature and gets compressed. Then the compressed air explodes and, ta-da...thunder." He wasn't expecting her to lean forward for a kiss. "What was that for?"
"You just answered the most asked kid questions with real, scientific answers."
"I have to know that stuff for my job. It's work stuff."
"Doesn't matter. You are so not a big, dumb dad. You're a smart, funny, creative, hot dad."
He pouted. "Why is hot last?"
"Fine, reverse what I said. Do you want to know how my dad explained thunder? He said the angels were bowling. Thunder meant one of them got a strike."
"Hey, my parents said the same thing. Did he also tell you that lightning meant they got a gutter ball?"
"No, he said that meant they forgot to turn the flash off when they were taking pictures."