Truth was, he didn’t want to parent, let alone know how to parent. But staring at her solemn face, eyes ready for seemingly common rejection, he didn’t feel as if he had a choice.
“Are you my dad?” she asked with very little enthusiasm, the ears of her bunny slippers flopping with the same cadence as the grandmother clock on the mantle.
Jared suddenly felt ill. He adjusted the collar of his button up shirt and cleared his throat, his blue eyes, the same as hers, glancing to the window as if that were a way out.
“No,” he croaked. He was stunned at his own tone but she, Lou, Loula Grace, seemed not to notice. He swallowed and tried his answer again. “No, I am not your dad. Dad…Dad, uh, he passed away a few months ago.”
He pressed his eyes closed and forced back the burn of tears. His father’s death was still so raw, the pain of it unexpected although him passing at seventy-four wasn’t. Jared senior took too many risks especially when it came to his health. He constantly indulged and did so with a smile, singing the cliche mantra, ‘you only live once.’
Still, the burn of his passing came when his final will and testament was read. Jared junior, thirty-four, successful in his own right, and heir to his father’s company was not an only child. More shockingly, his father had amended his will.
And so he sat, in the living room of a foster-mother who’d taken in Lou, his unclaimed little sister. He’d been told she was only six, her mother forty. She had been out of the picture since Lou was two.
That made things easier Jared supposed. There was no one to fight him for custody, no one to claim the child in hopes of getting their hands on her trust fund, preventing Jared from taking hold of his own.
If he wanted that, he had to take responsibility where his father had failed. It was a cruel way for his father to say goodbye. Dad played, he played hard, but he never played fair.
Jared choked again, coughed once more. Lou’s dark brow slowly rose. She clearly wasn’t impressed. She was definitely their father’s daughter. She hadn’t known Jared for more than fifteen minutes and already she had judged him as inept. At least he wasn’t after what was hers.
No, he only wanted what was his and in order to get that he had to do what their dad had failed to do and that was to raise her as the Carter she was.
“I’m your brother,” he managed to push out. Lou looked skeptical.
“You’re too old to be my brother.” She finally said after three long minutes that felt more like hours as she took stock of him once again.
“Yeah, well, maybe somebody should have told Dad that,” he thought he said it in a low whisper. Lou’s response proved otherwise.
“I thought you said he died.”
Jared only smiled before standing. If he sat any longer he was going to bolt. Staring down at her gave him more confidence…he prayed he looked confident. “We’ll be alright,” he said. “We’ll make things work without him though.”
Finally, a show of emotion played on Lou’s face. The expression wasn’t promising. She suddenly looked horrified.
“You’re adopting me,” her face was pale.
Jared glanced out the window and then back again. “That’s the plan. We’ll do alright. We-we’re family. We will make this work.” He offered her his hand.
Lou glanced at it and then scooted off the sofa, pulling her dog down from with her, avoiding Jared’s eyes altogether. “If you say so. You don’t look like you know very much about little girls, or dogs.” She walked into the back of the house.
Jared followed her, hating that she was right, but praying that they would somehow be proved wrong. Too much depended on it.
*These are my results for Monday’s Muse Writing Prompt July 24th, 2017.
~Dream. Imagine. Believe. Do. CONQUER