On one hand, Emmeline was excited from the top of her head to the bottoms of her feet that last night her mother dropped her and Iden off to have a sleepover at Penny’s house. She didn’t care much for all the baby boys around, but she was lucky enough to stay up an hour pat her bedtime to watch All Dogs Go To Heaven with Penny and they ordered pizza with garlic cheese crust. However, Emmeline knew that it wasn’t supposed to be a fun sleepover. The whole reason her mom dropped her and her little brother off was because she and daddy had been fighting all week. They tried to keep it to hush tones and hissing when Emmeline was supposed to be fast asleep and dreaming, but she heard them. The sound of cupboards slamming just to be opened and slammed again, the way her Dad’s large feet stomped across the floor, the sound of tires screeching quickly outside. How was a five year old to stay asleep through all the ruckus? She knew that that was why she and Iden slept at Penny’s. Her parents needed serious grown up time.
“Thank you for doing those.” Fresh from putting the twins down for a nap, Emme’s Aunt laid her hand across Uncle Luke’s back and kissed his shoulder while he finished the dishes. Even though all the children were little, five kids could make quite a mess for a pancake breakfast.
“Don’t mention it.” Luke smiled back, watching his wife as she raced around the large kitchen.
“I’m going to drop Penny off at gymnastics, but after can we tackle the basement?” She earned a nod from Luke before dashing out of the room to go and find her daughter.
Emmeline knew she shouldn’t stare. Her dad was always telling her that, but she couldn’t help herself. Everything was interesting to her.
“Can I go to Penny’s class?” Capping one of the washable markers at the kitchen island, Emmeline asked Luke.
“‘Fraid not, Emmy. Your grandpa is going to pick you and Iden up. I think you’re going to have dinner with them and then your Dad is going to come get you.”
“I don’t want that.” Right away, Emmeline shook her head furiously. “I want to stay here.”
“You and Penny can have another sleepover soon. We’ll book it with your parents.” With a somewhat damp hand, Luke leaned forward and rubbed his niece’s messy curls. He had not even attempted to brush through them, leaving that to his hairstylist wife whole he broader Penelope’s hair instead. It was much easier being pin straight.
“No, I want to stay here. You guys are nice to each other. My parents are meanies!”
“Emmy…” Luke didn’t want to be stern with Michael’s daughter, but he couldn’t have her sqwaking like a colorful bird at him. Mostly, Luke just didn’t want her to wake Iden and the twins. “Your mom and dad are not mean to you.” Luke curled his hand around the dish towel and assured her firmly. He pressed his chest to the island and narrows his blue eyes into her pupils.
“They are mean to each other. They say bad names. I want to stay here.” With a genuine pout, Emmeline finished Luke. She took an invisible knife and twisted it in a circle right through his heart. Her bottom lip began to quiver and he felt his whole body deflate.
“Okay, okay, okay…” He threw he fish towel into the sink and hurried around the island, bending slightly to wrap little Emmeline Clifford into his chest, letting her cry into his worn out Aerosmith tee. “Emmy, you can’t stay here, but you can always come over.” He promised her while rubbing the back of her head with one hand that could take up her whole skull with great ease. “Oh, Emmy, you’re breaking my heart.” She was a drama queen, but Luke could tell that this wasn’t a temper tantrum. She was genuinely a very sad little Clifford at the moment.
“I want to stay here and be Emmy Hemmy…” She couldn’t quite say his last name especially while burying her blubbering face into his torso.
“Maybe one more sleepover…” Luke tried not to be a pushover, but he could feel his heart aching with every small sniffle and giant inhale Michael’s daughter made. He wondered how his guitarist friend could ever stand it.
“I love you.” Emmeline whispered into his flimsy shirt, her arms trying to tighten around his neck.
“You too, Emmy.” Smiling, he nestled his cheek against the top of her head and waited for her to feel calm enough to let go of him.
*** wrote this on my phone. apologies for any typos.