Amy Aislin © 2017
All Rights Reserved
“Are we there yet?”
“Not yet, baby girl.”
Patrick glanced at his four-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Jordan, in the rearview mirror. Strapped into her booster seat, she clutched her well-loved stuffed bunny. Mr. Mutsy had been drooled on, vomited on, spat up on, and when Jordan was two, drawn on with a purple Sharpie. It was tattered and faintly smelly, yet she still refused to go anywhere without it.
She sang a song under her breath that sounded vaguely like “bee-boop-bee-bee-bah-boop-bo!” Her lyrics needed work, but he had to give the kid credit: she could lay down a sick beat.
“Daddy, now are we there yet?”
We’re about thirty seconds away from the last time you asked. In Jordan’s defense, she was excited because it was Parents’ Day at her ballet class.
“Five more minutes,” he said, exiting the highway. The wipers worked against the windshield, swishing away the wet snow falling from the slate-grey sky. Nine days until Christmas and it still wasn’t cold enough to snow properly in this bustling suburb of Toronto.
Parents’ Day was actually Moms’ Day at the ballet studio, but his ex-wife, Jordan’s mom, had been called away on a last-minute business trip, leaving Patrick as the sole parent to Jordan for the weekend. Jordan had been so excited to have him come to her ballet studio for the first time that he couldn’t say no, even though he was dead sure that he was about to have his non-ballet-dancing ass handed to him by a bunch of tiny four- and five-year-old girls in shiny pink tutus.
It was just his bad luck that his team skate today was optional.
They were a few blocks away from the studio when Jordan said, “Daddy, Ash said we can record and take pictures. Did you remember to bring the video camera?”
Ash was Ashley, Jordan’s ballet instructor. “I have it, honey.”
Said video camera sat ominously on the passenger seat next to him. Maybe the batteries were dead. Or the room would be too dark and the recording wouldn’t come out clearly. He could always “accidentally” drop it in a puddle.
“Good, ’cause I want Mommy to see our dance when she gets home. You’re gonna be one of the only boys, Daddy. Are you nervous?”
Nervous? He was a pro hockey player. A veteran pro hockey player. He didn’t get nervous. What he was was oh-my-God-if-word-of-this-gets-out-to-my-teammates-I’ll-never-live-it-down anxious. His nickname would go from Pattycakes to Pirouetting Patrick or Ballerina Barnes.
“No, I’m not nervous,” he replied, pulling into the studio’s parking lot. Jordan had unhooked herself from her booster seat and was out the door almost before he turned off the engine. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Patrick opened his door and stuck his head out to find Jordan already a row over, Mr. Mutsy tucked into her purple backpack, and a small gift bag clutched in her right hand—Ashley’s Christmas present. “Where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?”
Jordan huffed impatiently and dragged her booted feet as she made her way back to him. She was adorable in her white tights and purple winter jacket. The hem of her pink tutu peeked out from beneath her jacket. Her brown curls were piled atop her head in a sloppy, lopsided bun she’d insisted on doing herself. The mix of rain and snow had slowed, yet occasional drops still landed on her head and shoulders.
“Wait for me, please.” Getting out of this car may have been the last thing he wanted to do, but his kid was the most important thing in the world to him. She was the only one he’d brave this day for.
“Come on, Daddy.” Exasperated, Jordan grabbed his hand and pulled. “We’re gonna be late.” Actually, they were about ten minutes early. “We still have to put the sparkly glitter makeup on.” We? That puddle was looking more and more likely.
“I’m coming. I’m coming.” Patrick exited the car and pocketed his keys. As he straightened, the fluffy, bright-pink and purple tutu around his waist snagged against the seat belt.
“Daddy!” Jordan fixed the tutu so that the giant fuchsia bow was once again centred in front.
“Am I presentable now?”
“Yup.” Jordan nodded in satisfaction, grabbed his hand again, and started for the studio’s front doors. “Let’s go.”
They were halfway across the parking lot when Jordan gasped and stopped short, almost causing him to run her over.
“Daddy, the camera! You forgot it. We have to show Mommy and all your hockey friends our dance.”
Forget the puddle. It was going into the lake.