$35 and a six pack to my name

Family Portrait (Chapter Two)

CHAPTER ONE

The boys’ babysitter was a very nice woman. She was around 45 years old with short, greying brown hair. She had been babysitting my children since Jack was about three months old. I owe it to her that my boys are potty trained. The woman had been babysitting children as a career for 15 years and had four children of her own. One was even Jack’s age.

 

The only unsettling thing about Ms. Kim was that she was very nosey. She knew all of the drama going on in all of the families’ lives and on numerous occasions, she had tried to tell me a lot of their drama. I didn’t need my drama out in the open and spread all around the town, so I tended to keep my conversations with Ms. Kim as short as possible. I’m pretty sure she thought of me as a stuck up brat, but as long as she’s taking good care of my children, I couldn’t care less.

 

And she did take good care of my kids. She absolutely adored the boys. Every morning when I dropped Lucas off, she opened the door with a wide smile, and she was always sad to see both Jack and Lucas go when either me or Jack picked them up.

 

This morning, Lucas was complaining about how he wanted to go to work with me as we walked up the front steps to her house.

 

“Maybe some other day, Luke.” I muttered as I knocked on her door lightly. “Mommy has to work late tonight and you’d get bored.”

 

“No I won’t.” Lucas grumbled, furrowing his eyebrows and pushing his bottom lip out in a pout. He crossed his arms over his chest, and huffed loudly, waiting for Ms. Kim to answer the door.

 

When she did, her eyes lit up as she laid them on Lucas. Though, she imitated his expression and put on her baby voice as she spoke to him, “aww, is someone grumpy today?”

 

I smiled in greeting at the woman and handed her the child’s backpack, which was slung over my shoulder. It was fairly light, and only had two notebooks and a pack of crayons in it, but Lucas loved it. He loved carrying it around like he was a big boy like his brother. Except on mornings like this when he was throwing a fit about not being able to go to work with me.

 

Ms. Kim was still trying to get something other than a whine out of Lucas when I finally sighed and dropped down to my knees in front of the four year old. I gripped him by the shoulders and made him look at me in the eye.

“I want you to be a good boy for Ms. Kim, okay? And then you need to be a good boy at school. Can you do that for Mommy?” I asked. I only received a whine of annoyance. “If you’re a good boy today, I’ll get Daddy to take you and your brother out for ice-cream.”

 

This made the boy perk up considerably. He nodded quickly and wrapped his arms around my neck for a hug. I kissed his cheek, told him I loved him and left a few parting words with Ms. Kim.

 

As I made my way to my beat up Malibu, I checked the time and swore to myself. I was going to be late to work, I already knew it. Good thing my boss wasn’t a total bitch, though. I’d only have to get her a coffee and she’d get off my back about being late. She had three kids of her own, so she sort of  understands what mornings are like.

 

Shelby Torres, my boss, liked to play as if she knew what being a busy mother was like, but she really didn’t. Her kids were awful, but she just handed them off to her nanny, who probably drank more vodka than water when she was watching Shelby’s kids. Shelby’s husband was the owner of a huge corporation that made a ton of money. She didn’t even have to work, but she wanted to seem like an even better housewife and start her own catering business. Her whole persona reminds people of Bree from Desperate Housewives, but only a little bit more tolerable.

 

The catering company, Cakes, Shakes & More, was doing really well. When I first started working there at the age of 20, when I was pregnant with Lucas, it had just started. All of the workers had their doubts about it when they first started, because since Shelby was well covered with her husband’s money, we thought she’d be into it for a year or so and if it wasn’t doing good by the end of the year just end the whole thing. It surprised us, though, when the first year passed and Shelby was still confident of it all, and then the second year passed and then the third and here we are in our fourth year. We’re still going strong, and we’ve served food at plenty of events from church events to wedding receptions.

 

I got to work 35 minutes later, after stopping at a gas station to pick up some coffee for both me and Shelby as well as a pack of Skittles for a teenage boy that works with us.

 

The boy’s name was Tanner, and he was super quiet, but he had a super funny sense of humor. He was fairly new to the company, about six months in, and it took a while for him to open up to me. It wasn’t until he was told to get something from me in my office one day about three months ago and he saw the pictures of JJ and Luke on my desk that he started to open up. We got talking that day, because he had thought that I was only 20 instead of 24 and it surprised him that I had two children. I learned that day that he was only 17 and he had dropped out of school because he had gotten a girl pregnant and he wanted to try his best to support her and the child. His story sounded a lot like mine and Jack’s, though the two of us finished high school.

 

Tanner didn’t do a lot around the office, but sit around and run errands for us. But when we did get a job to do, he helped load the trucks and serve at the events. Though, when we were at the office, he sits in my office with me and asks about my kids. He always, without a doubt, has a pack of Skittles and always throws them up, one by one, to try to catch them in his mouth.

 

All in all, Tanner was a good kid, and every day I wished him luck with his life.

 

-

 

The catering building was quiet. We didn’t have an event to get ready for, so the kitchen was empty and all of Shelby’s workers were in their own offices doing their own things. Every once in a while a phone would ring, and someone would book an event that we wouldn’t have to get ready for in weeks. It was a very boring day.

 

I sat in my rolly chair, twisting lightly from side to side as I focussed on a game that Tanner and another co-worker of mine had been working on in their respective offices, but couldn’t get past. It was now up to me to get past it. It was hard, though.

 

Tanner sat in a chair on the other side of my desk, throwing Skittles up in the air and catching them in his mouth.

 

“Brinley is seven months along now.” He stated, chewing on a yellow candy. “What should she expect in her seventh month of pregnancy?”

 

I paused the game and looked up at him, only to see that he was looking down at his shoes. His hair, which he hadn’t styled today, dangled down over his forehead.

 

“Well..” I started, sliding my hand across the desk to wipe some dust off of it. I made a mental note to clean it when I had the chance. “She’s in her third trimester, which means she’s almost there. Her boobs are probably a lot heavier, since, you know, they’re filling with milk for the baby. They’ll also probably leak a yellow-ish liquid,” the boy now looked up at me with wide eyes and a slightly disgusted look. “Hey, it’s totally normal and not something you should freak out about. Is she planning on breast feeding or bottle feeding the baby?”

 

In reply, the boy shrugged, “I dunno. We don’t really talk about it. What’s the difference other than, you know, the kid drinking from a real nipple or a fake nipple? Which one is better?”

 

I smiled at him and clasped my hands in front of me. “Well, it depends on the person. There are plenty of people that would argue which one was better. On one hand, breastfeeding is better because the breast milk perfectly provides the baby’s nutritional needs, it offers health benefits for the baby. A woman can get into shape more quickly by breastfeeding, breast milk is always available as long as the mother is around and it’s also cheaper. Whereas bottle-feeding is better because both parents can participate in feeding the child, the mother can have more freedom in terms of scheduling and what not and you can avoid any uncomfortable feelings you may have with the breastfeeding, especially in public.”

 

It took Tanner a little bit to process all of this, and when he did, he whistled low and long. “That’s a lot to consider. What did you do? If you don’t mind me asking, of course.”

 

“It’s totally fine. With JJ I bottle-fed because at such a young age I was already afraid that I would be judged for being a teen mom, so I didn’t want to be judged for being a teen mom that breastfed her child in public. With Lucas, though, I was basically like “fuck it all,” and breastfed him. He’s a lot more of a mommy’s boy than JJ is, that’s for sure.”

 

Tanner nodded and let out a huff, pulling up his phone and typing quickly on it. “Anything else that she has to look out for this month?”

 

As I listed the symptoms that occur during the seventh month of pregnancy, the boy continued typing on his phone. I had come to the conclusion that he was either texting Brinley, his girlfriend, or he was typing it into his notes section so that he could relay the message back to her later.

 

“Have you found out the sex of your baby yet?” I questioned, going back to the game, slamming on the spacebar to make my character jump over obstacles.

 

“I forgot to tell you, didn’t I?” Tanner asked excitedly, standing up from his seat. I had learned that when he got excited about something, he couldn’t be standing or sitting still. “She’s a girl. A little princess.”

 

“Congratulations!” I exclaimed, pressing the spacebar more so that I could finally beat the game. I had restarted the game way too many times to lose again.

 

I was so close to beating it, the finish line was in view, and the pace sped up, making things a lot more intense. I was so close to winning when my phone started buzzing and distracted me, making my character run into an obstacle and die. I cursed angrily and picked up my phone to answer it.

 

“Hello.”

 

“Hailee, what time are you getting off tonight?”

 

It was Jack. He sounded a little bit hopeful.

 

“I’m closing tonight, Jack. Just like I always do.”

 

Jack cursed under his breath and muttered something else to himself that I couldn’t catch and then directed his speech back to me. “Can I pick the boys up and bring them to you at work and go out with the guys tonight?”

 

I took the phone away from my ear and scowled at it. Who did he think he was?

 

“Absolutely not. The boys can’t be here with me today. We’re busy.” Of course that was a lie. I just didn’t want him to go out with his friends. Whenever he went out with them, he came back thinking that he was single and that he could do whatever he wanted, when really he had two children he needed to help take care of.

 

“Come on, Hailee. Just this once.” Jack sounded irritated and angry now. Like I didn’t let him do anything.

 

“No, Jack! The kids can’t be here!” I raised my voice.

 

“Fine.” Jack scoffed.

 

“Thank you.” I muttered.

 

“Whatever.” I could just see him rolling his eyes in annoyance.

 

He was about to hang up, I could tell, so I quickly started talking. “Oh, and I promised Luke that you’d take him and JJ out for ice-cream. I hope you can do that.”

 

“‘Kay.”

 

He hung up before I could yell at him for giving me such a vague reply. It left me angry, not only at the fact that he even thought he could drop the kids off with me and go out and flit around at a random filth covered bar that his friend Dillon found, but also at the fact that he made me lose my game to ask a stupid question.

 

I set my phone down and rubbed my hands across my forehead, eyes closed tight.

 

“You lied to him.” Tanner pointed out.

 

I opened my eyes to see him raising an eyebrow at me. His bag of Skittles was in his hands, making a little noise in the quiet office.

 

“You don’t understand.” I muttered, sitting up straight and running a hand through my dark hair with a huff.


“Apparently not.” Tanner stated, taking a Skittle out of the bag and tossing it up in the air. He caught it effortlessly and nodded at me once before standing up and walking out of the room.