Time in Willow Creek: 1 year, 11 months, 1 week
Jase’s eyes rolled as he hoisted himself up from the desk chair. It had been a long night already. He swore Abigail knew when Hillary got home and did everything in her power to keep herself awake until then including holding her bladder until the perfect time. Hillary didn’t care, but Jase wanted Abigail to be asleep when she got home so she wouldn’t have to spend the rest of her short night getting her to sleep. But, no, Abigail wouldn’t hear of it. She fought the naps and pooped at times he didn’t think she should have been pooping. So much for keeping her on a schedule.
“Abbie…we talked about this…”
If she weren’t screaming like her life depended on it, he would have sworn she was mocking him. “I’m going to change you, and then you’re going right back to sleep, ok?”
She continued screaming.
“Heh, yeah. I bet you agree.” He got the baby girl all cleaned up and scooped her into his arms to lull back to sleep. “Heeey! You’re all good now? Ok…let’s try sleeping now…you cute little thing.”
He rocked and bounced, and rocked and bounced some more. The girl was not having it. She was calm but would not close her eyes. Jase even resorted to bribery despite knowing she had no idea what he was saying.
“Come on, Abbie. All the pretty girls go to sleep before their mothers get home. You’re the prettiest of all the girls, so why don’t you show them how it’s done, huh?” He thought he may have seen her eyes closing. “Thaaat’s right…you can do it. Allll the pretty girls go to sleep for their daddies…”
Hillary had come in a few seconds before and laughed at the show he put on. “What are you saying to her?”
Heat rose up his cheeks. She would walk in at that moment. “Oh, nothing. I’m just trying and failing at charming her.”
She laughed. “Awww, I’m sure that’s not true.”
“Hmph. If it wasn’t, she’d be asleep by now.”
She shook her head at him with the most radiant smile. “You know you don’t have to put her down for me. It’s not like I have to get up early or something.”
“Yeah, true, but…you have her all day, and you work all night. You shouldn’t have to come home and spend the rest of your night trying to get to her to sleep.” His attempts to lull the child were futile. He snuggled and kissed her a few more times before placing her back into the crib. “I love you, Abbie. Please be good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
He made it look easy, but leaving her every night was hard. He wanted to be with her all the time, but that was the nature of co-parenting. One parent always got the shorter end of the stick. When he turned away from the crib, Hillary stood in front of him with that same radiant smile. Gosh, she was beautiful. Why did she have to stand so close? Didn’t she know it was still hard for him? Perhaps it always would be. How long could they keep doing this? When could he free himself from the prison he locked himself in? How would he know when his sentence was up?
“Are you ok?” he asked hesitantly.
She threw her arms around him. He wasn’t sure what to do and went with it. What did it mean? Was she back to playing games again? Did she have a bad day? Was she lonely?
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Uhhh…you’re welcome?” He chuckled nervously. “What did I do?”
“I know! That’s why I’m thanking you.”
He was so nervous he barely knew what to do with himself. It had been a while since they’d been that close. All the alarms blared throughout the prison. He violated the rules, but it wasn’t his fault. What was he supposed to do? Pull away? “Why are you thanking me?”
“Because you don’t have to be here. Things have turned out really nice, and they didn’t have to. You could’ve stayed mad at me. You could have just given me child support and walked away. But you decided to stick around and make things work. I’m really grateful for that.”
It didn’t feel like she would let go anytime soon, so he held her and let the alarms continue to blare. He remembered those thoughts he had the night she came over and dumped the news of fatherhood on him, but he never seriously considered walking away. He couldn’t do that. Not when his own father did it to him. There was no way he’d abandon his own baby no matter what condition the relationship with her mother was in. Everything he wanted to reply with was a no-no. Either it could be construed as suggestive or something he wasn’t allowed to say yet like “I love you.”
“I know.” That was probably the lamest answer he could come up with, but it was the safest.
He enjoyed having her in his arms like that and didn’t want to let her go. What if he escaped from prison? Was life on the outside really that dangerous? They had already been through the worst of the worst in their friendship. What more could happen? Was playing it safe even helping? This hug had gone on much longer than it should have. What was the point of abiding by rules if he continued breaking them?
She pulled away, finally, and smiled at him but not the same way she smiled earlier. It was…oh no. The guards pleaded with her not to kiss him although he wouldn’t have minded. The situation was a great reminder of what prison was for. There was nothing inherently wrong with kissing and being close, but it made it hard for him to think about the important things he was supposed to be evaluating. Clearly, Hillary had grown up quite a bit. No one could deny that. But, did that make her trustworthy? He wasn’t sure yet. How did he know she wouldn’t break his heart again the minute some tall, skinny, model with perfect hair came along? She said she was all in and would be patient. Was her word enough? Could he trust it? That was still a question.
To his surprise, however, she didn’t kiss him and went to attend to her child. “Hey, sweet pea! What’s this about you not listening to daddy?”
He breathed a sigh of relief and turned toward the door. “Ok…goodnight.” I’m going back to prison…