Baby Maker(5)

By: Jenny Jax

I had tried asking Ella what had happened that day, but she had stayed almost completely silent on the topic. Whenever I pressed her on what she recalled, she would shrug her shoulders and tell me that she didn’t remember anything. No matter how much I tried to get it out of her, she kept her mouth shut—as though she was protecting someone. As though she was protecting him.

I knew it was a man because I had spotted three man-sized muddy footprints leading across the kitchen the day of the attack. I had tried to follow them outside, to figure out where he’d come in, but I couldn’t find anything—it was a damp day, and any footprints he’d left behind outside had been wiped out by the rain. I couldn’t even see my footprints out there after an hour or so, and his would be long gone by the time I noticed what was in the kitchen.

Shit, there was no way around it—I had let her down. I had let my guard drop for a second, and my daughter had been hurt because of it. I could take some comfort in the fact that I wasn’t away long enough for anything to egregious to have happened—but whatever had gone down, it had been enough to scare her out the window and into the arms of a stranger. Ella usually took a while to warm up to new people, but as soon as I saw her standing next to Mona, I knew she was fine. The way she twisted her body in to face her, I could tell that Mona made her feel safe.

She had left me her number after the inspection, and I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d be better off calling her up and asking her on a date instead of to babysit. I mean, she was cute—really cute, actually, if I was being honest. I’d had a few other social workers in here over the years, but none of them had had Mona’s sparkle. That was the only way I could think to describe her. Her blue-grey eyes gleamed in the light, and her dark brown hair seemed to shine even in the dull weather. Whenever she shot a little smile to Ella, her entire face lit up in the most addictive way—I could have stared at her all day, learning every contour of her face back to front. But I knew I needed a babysitter more than I needed a girlfriend, and she seemed like someone I could trust with Ella. Even though the concept of trusting anyone with my baby girl after what had happened seemed foreign and uncomfortable.

There was no getting out it, though—I knew this time I would actually have to go. The Marauders needed me, and I’d been away long enough. Nothing—not family matters, not romantic shit, not being on the brink of death—would be a good enough excuse to keep me away from them for as long as I had been. I knew I was pushing my luck, but fuck it, I needed to be with my daughter as much as I could. I think they understood that, and I was the head of the gang, so there wasn’t much they could say even if I didn’t, but I still felt guilty, doubly so when I got those calls wondering where I was and why I hadn’t come to that week’s meeting. We were hanging in this space between doing shit and doing nothing, and I knew they were getting frustrated. I knew, because I would be, too.

And that’s how I found myself pacing the hall, half-praying that Mona would turn up and half-praying she wouldn’t. I wanted to get out, but I also wanted an excuse to stay at home and keep an eye on things. I glanced over at Ella, who was coloring quietly on the kitchen table—she knew I was going tonight, and I think she was looking forward to being rid of my overbearing presence for an evening. That was the thing with kids though; they never seemed to realize how serious serious situations were, and how silly silly situations were. It was one of the best things about having them in the first place: their warped and wonderful sense of perspective on things.

My attention was drawn by the sound of a car out on the street—it was a relatively quiet part of town, and I didn’t recognize the sound of the engine as any of my neighbor’s. I peered out the window, and watched as Mona got out of the car. Damn. She looked even better than I remembered, in a casual blue sweater and tight jeans. She looked a little dressed-up to be babysitting; did that have something to do with me?

Before I had a chance to go down that narcissistic line of thought any further, she was at the door. I hurried to open it, and smiled as we were face-to-face once again.

“Hey,” she greeted me, clutching at the bag that was draped over her shoulder. “Good to see you again.”

“You, too.” I stepped aside to let her in. “Less drama this time, I promise.”

“Did you figure out how she got hurt?” she asked, glancing around the place until her eyes fell on Ella.

“Nope.” I shook my head. “I’m still working on it.”