Working til the wee hours. Won’t be able to post. So have an Ashton one shot.
“For me?” Michael’s arms unfolded from the end of the stage he was leaning on, as if his body weight was keeping it up, staring down at the stack of aquatic animal themed books slapped right in front him, nearly clipping his elbow with the sharp corner of ‘The Pout-Pout Fish’. “You shouldn’t have.” He flashed a saucy grin up at Ashton’s wife, showing off all his teeth and chuckling to himself before spreading out the pile of books, looking for their silly titles and cartoon cover pictures.
“I’ve read The Pout Pout fish actually.” Calum chimed in from behind a mic stand, his bass strapped around him, hanging like a Christmas ornament over a wimpy tree. “It’s quite exhilarating. I could have lent you my copy.” Scratching at the back of his head, he couldn’t resist teasing.
She wasn’t having any of their stupid jokes today though. Ashton could tell from behind the safety of his beloved drum kit, she was in a mood. They came so rarely, her shining positivity one of his favorite things about her, but when it struck, it was roared like thunder.
He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for what landmine he was about to be faced with, and rushed around from behind the instrument to where she was waiting next to Michael, her eyes piercing on Ashton until he was knelt down right in front of her, nodding at Michael to give them a moment of space.
“How was the library?” After leaning in for a kiss, he asked, glancing down at the five different books that Michael had laid out of their pile and left flat on the stage.
“It was fine. Can you keep these here? She’s not allowed to read them until she’s apologized and understands what she did.” Poking at a cover of one the books, her finger pushed deeply into the front page, she informed him. Only Ashton Irwin’s daughter would be punished by having her library books withheld. He looked over the top of his wife’s head, her flat ironed hair making it easier to spot a very cheesed off Molly Irwin sitting by herself on a plastic blue fold out chair, her hands crossed over her chest in frustrated defeat while she was wearing a pout that could take on Angelina Jolie.
“Okay…What did she do?” Bringing his stare back down to his wife’s exhausted eyes, Ashton asked. He sat down completely and folded his legs over the stage, watching both of his girl’s at the same time as best he could.
Sometimes, they had to pull Molly aside and give her a miniature lecture on being a know it all, reminding her to be polite if she was correcting someone or to, sometimes, keep her thoughts to herself no matter how right she was. There had been the typical days where they had to prompt her, with every request, to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but in general, Molly Irwin didn’t kick up much of a fuss. She wasn’t devious or full of unused energy. Since she could move on her own, she played nicely, finding more pleasure in puzzles and activity books than she did running into walls and shouting at the top of her lungs. For lack of a better term, she was a little lady. Ashton was more than surprised to discover that today she was proving to be difficult for his wife. His mind reeled, but he couldn’t think of a source to the problem. Molly had gone to bed perfectly for him at seven thirty the night before, beginning to crash before he was even finished his ukulele lullaby. She had had a nutritious oatmeal and banana breakfast and he took her for a long walk through the park with their two dogs before heading off to his sound check for that evening’s hometown gig. He couldn’t think of any single reason why she would be being difficult.
“She snapped her glasses in two after the library.” Eyes as wide as if they were behind magnifying lens, his wife pushed her look of shock into his face, holding her hip as her pregnant stomach pushed out. She was only just starting to show, ever so slightly. No one outside of their family and close circle of friends even knew that they were expecting their second child. “And she’s been being very bratty about it.”
His head moved back while he looked over at Molly, nose wrinkled up between her eyes in the chair, and then back to his wife, his confused expression clear as the stress zit growing by his left ear.
“I have to go to the optometrist now before they close, your mother is going to pick her up here. I don’t have time to drive her there and make it.” Sighing, she adjusted the generous red leather strap of her purse over her shoulder and rubbed at her constantly growing belly, kissing his lips.
“Alright, I’ll see you for dinner.” Ashton said as once as she had pulled away from his mouth, his hand reaching down to brush against her stomach and then kissed her again. He had missed that most about his wife being pregnant, constant excuses to touch her body at any time.
“Bye, guys!” Waving as she turned to leave, his wife bid adieu to Calum and Luke on stage, talking amongst themselves while retuning their instruments for the umpteenth time, Michael elsewhere restringing a Gibson.
“Uh, take five, alright?” His wife wasn’t even out of the arena, still being assembled, but Ashton had his hands in the shape of a ‘T’ as he hopped off of the stage and made a mad beeline for his uncharacteristically unhappy child. “Hello munchkin.” He ruffled her hair with his fingers sprayed out, expecting her to smile up at him and joyously call out the name she knew him as, ‘Dad’. Molly didn’t react much at all though. She pulled up her knees, jelly sandals pressed into the plastic seat, and hugged her legs tightly to her chest, whining as she buried her face into her bare knees, her denim shorts disappearing beneath her polka dot t-shirt. “I heard you did something naughty.” He took a seat beside her in the vacant chair, his fingers continuing to roam through her soft hair. She might not have liked it, but he always found the motion combined with the feeling of her locks to be of great comfort to him. “Are you going to tell me why you broke your glasses?” For the first time since he came over, Ashton sounded stern. He was kind, gentle with her until he had all the information, but he still took his role as her father seriously. “You know they’re expensive and you need them…” Since she wasn’t offering up much in way of an excuse, he just continued with his own thoughts. The Irwin’s might have been well off due to Ashton’s intense work ethic and success as a musician and producer, soon to be entrepreneur, but it was very important to him that his children know the value of a dollar. Glasses were far out of budget for many people who needed them and his daughter was fortunate enough that they could just pop by the optometrists as if it was a fast food joint and pick her up a new pair. “Molly, come on…” Tired, he pushed a little bit harder. She was never not chatty. She was practically all lungs since her 2 AM birth on June 2nd.
“They’re stupid!” She shouted, spitting onto her kneecaps, as she tried to kick out her legs while hugging them closer at the exact same time. The word ‘stupid’ had been mostly banned from the Irwin home, though sometimes Ashton let it slip while trying to figure out the instructions to building different furniture pieces in the garage. It wasn’t something he heard out of his daughter’s tiny lips very often though. “I look like a loser.” She was so little, but the idea of not fitting in with the other kids in her neighborhood was one that ate away at her like a buzzard feasting on the corpse of road kill. It was very important to Molly that she be well liked. She was so confident within herself, too young to know better, but when other people didn’t accept her right away, she felt as small as the baby growing in her stomach’s stomach.
“You don’t look like a loser.” Astounded, Ashton instantly remarked. He never wanted to hear her say that about herself again. “You actually look very cute in your glasses, Molly.” He had gushed in the kitchen last year when he came home and had her model them for him for the first time. She wasn’t at all shy about them either, she had been excited and was telling him about all the different colored frames there was to choose from. “Where is this coming from?”
“Kids mad fun of me at the library.” It would be like someone mocking Ashton for how he played the drums. The library was Molly’s favorite place, second only to Taronga Zoo.
“What did they say?” Softly, faint as low September winds, he spoke over the sound of his heart aching. Ashton took his fingers from her hair and moved his hand to her back, giving her a tiny rub between the shoulders as if to say it would all be okay.
“They said I look a loser and that I’m blind and stuff…” Her teeth barely moved as her lips sputtered to spit the words out like a salty aftertaste. “So I took them and I broke them….” It hadn’t been an easy task as the frames and lens were far more durable than she suspected. It required a lot of manipulation from her fists and then she jumped on them over the plastic floor of the children’s part of the library before going into the reference section, putting them back on the ground, and climbing up on a wooden chair to knock down the largest dictionary she could reach, the glasses snapping under the weight and sudden force almost instantly, people around her startled by the boom and her mother running over, concerned it was her daughter being snapped in two and not her bifocals. “Can I have my books, please?” Completely turning her head to face her father, she asked. She didn’t care if she didn’t have her glasses, she wanted to read. How was she supposed to sit there and wait for her grandma if she couldn’t read?
“I’m afraid not, munchkin.” Wrapping his hand over her shoulder, covering it fully, he shook her closer to him. He wanted to give her one book, even just to play with the pages, but Ashton and his wife had made a pact long ago, when Molly threw her first ever temper tantrum in the small appliance section of Target, that they would be a united front with her. If one set a rule in place, the other had to follow suit. There was no good cop or bad cop in their family, just two in sync parents. “Molly, I wear glasses though. Do you think I’m a loser?”
Stubborn, she shook her head against her knees as an answer.
“So, why would you listen to them?”
“It’s different, Dad. You’re cooler than me.” She laid her head flat down on the space between her knees and looked off past her father’s chest, watching the other plastic chairs be up in preparation for the evening’s show, a small handicap section in a sea that would fit the screaming bodies she had come to know, but not quite understand.
“I’d like my books.” Her eyes, sweet and inclined, like his worked their way up and connected with him.
Ashton merely sighed, close to giving in, but not quite, “I’ll give them to you when Grandmum comes, but you can dance to the practice….” She was old enough that she could sit through an actual sound check without a pair of Baby Banz on or have to sit in the back where the loud noise wasn’t a threat to her growing ear drums. “Or Kelsey could take you for a snack.” He was sure his assistant would be happy to drop whatever she was currently working on and take his daughter across the street to the Booster Juice store, as long as he had his wallet on him. Out of habit, Ashton pat his pocket, one and then the other, checking for the shape of his leather piece that contained all his vital information.
“I will just wait.” Sounding every bit her age and not at all like the usual Baby Einstein she was, Molly grumbled while reaching behind her caramel colored locks and tightening up the elastic band at the bottom of her French braid that was allowing loose pieces to fall around her clean complexion.
Ashton gave his daughter a kiss right in the center part of her head, tickling her stomach for a second and leaning down to dab a wet smooch right on the tip of her nose before heading back to stage. He knew that his five minute break was up a few minutes ago.
“Hey Kels?” As he pulled himself up, biceps rippling as he leaned all his weight onto his arms, Ashton called for his assistant from the wings. “I have an impossible idea for you…” The way he started all of his random strokes of genius (or nuttiness) he began once she was close enough to hear him without him having to shout, he began.
The show went on without a hitch, the four men behind the instruments having learned the ins and outs of the technical side of their chosen profession long ago. Backstage was a different story. Emmeline Clifford had gone home after throwing up from being fed sugary candy cola bottles by her father and then chased around the hallways before he went on stage. Newborn Penelope Hemmings was struggling to latch onto her mother’s breast and crying loud enough to call on wild babies under the moon. Molly Irwin was sitting by her father’s smelly shoes, working on a small National Geographic puzzle, refusing to put on her brand new glasses.
Rapping came from the door, Ashton’s assistant’s knuckles lightweight against the heavy open. She popped her head in, clutching a binder to her chest, and nodded at both Mrs. Irwin and Luke’s exhausted half-crying wife.
“They’re ready for Molly.” The cue was to come in before ‘She Looks So Perfect’ a song they now played closer to the end of their set, sometimes not even until the encore.
While she was perpetually nosey, Molly didn’t even look up from the pieces in her hand at the sound of her name out of another person’s mouth. It wasn’t until her mother, still grossly frustrated with her, wandered over to ask her to come with her that Molly helped herself up off the floor, abandoning the puzzle and following the long legs out the room. In her mother’s grip, she saw the maroon case that her old glasses used to sit in, now a home for her new pair that looked identical. She glared at them as she walked, wondering if her parents would send her to an orphanage like Annie if she broke another pair.
“Hi guys…” Panting, hair slicked back wet from sweat, but held in place by bandana, Ashton breathed into the small mic in front of him. “You’re all probably very confused as to why there were plastic glasses at all your seats or, if you’re on the floor, why you were given them walking in….” Trying to catch his breath, he explained as Michael pushed his guitar to his back and bent down to pick up his own pair of toy glasses by the push pedals. “Yeah, some of you have them on already. Essentially…” He began only to be cut off by Calum, the forever funny Uncle to all three band daughters.
“We’ve got a really tiny cute little friend who thinks she doesn’t look cool in hers, so…” He pushed up a pair from the bottom of his nose while Ashton took his actual prescription out, mentally vowing to wear them as often as possible in order to have Molly feel more comfortable in her own.
“If everyone could help us out, put them on…” Blinking rapidly behind his, a funny pair that came with an attached mustache and large plastic nose, Luke spoke to the crowd and heard the response of a few thousand hands all raising to their face at once, unfolding plastic arms over their ears. He held up a thumb’s up and waited to see many returned before Calum stepped off to the side, taking Molly’s hand in his as soon as it left her mouth. In his other hand, he accepted the glasses case from her mother and then walked her out, the confident girl instantly feeling a bit shy at the sea of people hollering for her. When she was first born, Ashton wanted to show her off to everyone, almost acting as if no other baby had ever been born in the history of the world, but as Molly grew up, he became more protective and generally tried to keep her away from his band life. However, whenever a new baby was born, the mothers tended to come along and help one another out some and, in this case, Penelope was still screaming for food in her blanket backstage. Luke had almost felt a weird pang in his chest the entire show, strangely connected to his firstborn somehow.
Ashton jumped up off his stool, jogging around the kit to join Molly by kneeling down beside her.
“Look at everybody.” He pointed out into the crowd, everyone wearing black toy glasses and smiling at Molly, many taking pictures and videos for themselves. She popped her hand back into her mouth once Calum released it, wiping it on his jeans. Molly curled her fingers over her bottom row of baby teeth and smiled sheepishly while leaning into her father’s open chest. “They’ve all got glasses on … and they’re all pretty cool, right?” All she could do was nod. “And I’ve got my glasses on.”
“And he looks hot!!!” From somewhere on an upper deck, a loud female scream rushed down through the rare quiet moment at the concert, laughter erupting while Molly seemed apparently unaffected.
“You do, Ash.” Michael spoke into his microphone, watching the two Irwin’s gently interact.
“You said you can’t drum with glasses….” Molly reminded him, her voice hadly audible to everyone.
“I can’t, but I should be wearing them before and after, so you going to stay on me about it?” Leaning his head back to examine her, he asked.
Quickly, Molly nodded. She loved pointing things out to people especially when it involved correcting them in some form or another.
“But then you got to wear yours…” His brows raised, the father voice stern as it lowered his dialect, and he reached around Molly’s side for the case from Calum. She was staring at home, feeling unconvinced and looking like she might begin to stomp in protest. “It’s not fair that everybody wear theirs and I have mine on, but you don’t wear yours…”
Molly couldn’t argue with logic and it seemed to her like her father was laying it down. She took her hands out of her mouth and played around with the bottom of her denim shorts, thinking about it before very timidly nodding. As soon as her head moved, Calum dramatically pumped his fist in the air, the arena cheering on the tiny toddler.
Ashton was laughing happily as he opened up the case, handling the small child sized glasses with utmost care and holding them for Molly’s face. She adjusted them a few times once over nose, pushing them up and running her arms over the wire arms. Ashton accepted a kiss from her lips on his and picked her up to wave to the crowd before carrying her back to her mother, kissing his beloved wife quickly before rushing back behind his drums.
“Thanks guys, much appreciated.” He mumbled, slipping his glasses off so he wouldn’t rock them out into the crowd and break them into pieces or have to buy them back on Ebay. He was knocking his sticks together, counting the band in, before Molly was even back with her puzzle, glasses still stuck to her face.
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