Baby Maker(3)

By: Jenny Jax

“When I was in the car I saw her climbing out of the window on the other side of the house,” I replied, and I saw his face turn pale. I could see the pain etched on his face—just hearing this was enough to get him sick with worry.

“Did she have the cut when she came out of the window?” He clutched her tightly to him, daddy bear, all protective—but I shook my head.

“I didn’t see,” I admitted. “I chased her back here when I saw her fall out, but that was it.”

“I have no idea what she was doing.” He peered in at her face as we made our way inside the house. “She’s never usually like this.”

“Is there anything that could have set her off?” I pressed gently.

He shrugged, eyebrows raised. “Nothing that I’m aware of. She seemed fine when I went down to the basement.”

“Right, okay…” I nodded, and made a note on my clipboard. I could see him glance down, as if on instinct, to see what I had written, and I pressed it closer to my chest.

“I’m so sorry for all this drama,” he apologized as he opened the door for me and ushered me inside. “I promise we’re not normally like this.”

“Don’t worry, I have other reports from other social workers at my disposal,” I assured him. “I know this isn’t normal for you guys.”

“So you’re just here for a routine inspection?” He carefully placing Ella down on the couch. The way he handled her, with such care and gentleness, seemed at odds with the sheer size of him. He stroked her hair away from her face and planted a kiss on her head tenderly. I was having a hard time believing that he had anything to do with her injury or her escape attempt, but I would have to look around before I made my mind up either way.

“That’s right.” I nodded, peering at Ella. She hadn’t reacted to being brought inside, or plopped down on the cushions of the couch—she was staring at her feet, as though she was trying to keep her mind off of something. I would have to have a talk with her by myself if I could, try and figure out what it was that had her so unsettled.

“Please, feel free…” He gestured around the place, and I began my inspection of the house—all the while trying to piece together what the hell had happened in here over the last fifteen minutes.

Chapter Three

The house had an almost completely open-plan downstairs area, so as I made my way around, I was able to keep a close eye on Jazz and how he acted around his daughter. He vanished into the bathroom for a second and brought out a damp washcloth, and began carefully dabbing away at the cut on her head. He spoke to her softly the whole time—asking about the cartoons she’d been watching, apparently as a way of distracting her from his clean-up. The way he spoke to her, it was comforting, soft, and sweet—but when I went around the back of the couch to inspect her play area, I was stunned at the anger on his face.

He wasn’t letting her see it, but I wasn’t blind—I was almost taken aback by how angry he seemed, and wondered what had set this off within him. Maybe he was just feeling powerless, angry because he had been unable to protect his daughter, humiliated and worried that it had all gone down in front of a social worker. As I got closer, I could see that he was fighting back tears. Jesus. This had really affected him, that much was clear.

“Who sent you?” he asked, apparently suddenly remembering that I was in the room. I glanced down at my clipboard—I knew I wasn’t allowed to tell him, but I could see that it was a call from a neighbor. The same one who had rung up the other times when nothing had been found to go against him.

“Uh, I can’t say.”

A wry smile cracked over his face. “Was it that neighbor again?” He shook his head. “You don’t have to tell me, I know. I know what they think of me over there.”

He continued cleaning up his daughter, carefully placing a Band-Aid over her small cut and giving her a kiss when he was done. She smiled up at him, her misadventure seemingly forgotten, just like that.

“Can I go finish my cartoons?” she asked brightly, and he nodded. She scampered off to the TV and switched it on, plonking herself down in front of the screen and propping up her chin in her hands. Jazz watched the whole time, brow furrowed. It might have been forgotten that easily for her, but it was clearly a different story for him.

“Hey, this is going to sound like a weird question,” he began, and for a second, I thought he might proposition me then and there—I flushed slightly, and pushed the thought from my brain. I was there to check on his kid, not him.