THREE:

 

The noise of his beer bottle cracking open startled him and he almost dropped it. He threw the bottle cap onto the counter and gulped down half of it before looking over the counter at where Brianna was still coloring. She was leaned over the coffee table with a box of big crayons sitting on the table next to her as she carefully colored on the paper. He could see her face a little and smiled as she stuck her tongue out a little as she used the green crayon.

When she'd woken up that morning she'd been excited to see him and had insisted that they color so he'd spent the last hour coloring in her Sesame Street coloring book along side her as ESPN played in the background. His head was heavy from being sick, but he still knew he needed to hang out with her. If Kelly had been around he would have gone to sleep for a while, but leaving Brianna alone wasn't something he could do at the moment.

"DiDi!" Brianna called out to him in a surprised voice. She did that when she found something cool and wanted to show him something. He didn't remember when she'd started to call him Didi instead of Dad, but either way, hearing her voice calling to him gave him a reason to smile.

"What jelly bean?" He set his beer down, wiped his forehead then looked around for a minute. He glanced at the clock and saw that it was getting along towards lunch. Brianna had eaten a few slices of apple for breakfast and had shared some of his bagel, but he knew she needed to eat something soon.

Realizing that it was time to get lunch together he decided that he needed to make her something that she'd eat right away. He didn't want to hassle with having her fight him on eating. He wasn't feeling good enough to do that. The plane ride from New Orleans hadn't been that bad, but after their fight that morning he had started to not only feel that flu-achiness, but also had gotten a headache and he knew having Brianna cry over eating wasn't going to go over well.

He pulled out some bread then searched around and found the peanut butter and some strawberry jelly and started to make a sandwich, something that he knew he'd eat and something that he could force her to gag down. She was picky when it came to food, but she'd eat peanut butter and jelly any time of the day.

"Dis is Osser," she held up the book and pointed at Oscar the grouch. She was so tiny that she needed to hold the book open with two hands, but was struggling when her crayon fell on the floor. "Hea meany."

"Really jelly bean?" he asked trying to seem interested while he finished up the sandwich. "Why is Oscar mean?" There wasn't much that he wanted to be thinking about at the moment. He needed Kelly back and home so he could explain to her the situation. He supposedly was going to fly out the next day and he didn't want her to stay away the whole time.

"In a trass."

"What about the trash?" Joey asked.

Nikita had woken up and was now barking.

"No Kita." Brianna put the book down and walked over to where the dog was sitting on the floor and pointed her hand to scold him. "No Kita. No Bawk."

Joey watched the dog quiet down, putting his head down to go to sleep. "Nikita is ok jelly bean."

Brianna left him alone and went to get another crayon. "Osser house in a trass."

"He lives in the trash?" Joey asked with a laugh, "That's a strange place to live."

"Ya."

Joey put the peanut butter away and took a minute to check the score of the game before she spoke again. "Dis is a bird," she said pointing to another picture, this time of Big Bird. "Hessa yellow an a live ina ness."

"Wow," Joey said raising his eyebrows. He wondered where Kelly had gone. He had called her cell phone, but found that the phone only rang from it's spot on the charger in the bedroom instead of being with her so he was trying to waste time until she got home. "Does Big Bird fly?"

"I no no," she said.

"Jelly bean do you want some sandwich?" he asked grabbing a paper towel to use as a plate.

She came running over to him with a crayon still in her hand, "Issa jeey one?"

"Yes it's a jelly one," he said, "Peanut butter and jelly like you like."

"An no cruss?" she asked.

Joey picked her up and sat her down on the counter. "You don't want the crust?"

"Is a owwie," she said and touched her mouth then leaned towards his beer bottle. He grabbed it up and put it on the other counter keeping an eye on her when he turned partially away from her.

He tried to get her attention away from the bottle when she looked like she was staring at it. "Let's wash your hands then we'll eat lunch ok?" he said.

The crayon slipped to the floor and Nikita appeared and sniffed at it. Brianna held up her hands and showed them to him. "Is a clee."

"I don't think so baby," he said, "You've been coloring. You don't want your peanut butter and jelly to taste like crayons."

"Is not baa," she said.

He could shoot himself for sounding like his parents, but he needed to get her to wash her hands. If Kelly found out about him slacking she'd get even madder at him so he thought that he should be on his best behavior. "Well let's wash them anyway."

"K," she said.

Joey set the sandwich aside and moved her over closer to the sink. In the past he would have used a wetnap thingy or something, but Brianna had gotten into the habit of being like the grown ups around her and now insisted doing everything like a big girl even though she was still in diapers. "Hold out your hands." Brianna did as she was told and held out her hands as he found the liquid soap and put a drop of it on her palm. "Now put them together."

Her tiny hands rubbed together. "Is a you."

"It's me?"

"You is a soap."

"I'm soap?" he asked smiling.

She grabbed at his hands and put some soap on his hands. "Deer."

"Oh," he said, "I need to wash my hands?"

"K," she said then let out a sigh as if it had been a challenge for her to get him to do as she asked.

Moments later Joey was done washing his hands so he helped Brianna wash the soap off then dried her hands off and set her on the floor again. "Go and get your glass jelly bean and we'll get some juice."

"Appo?" she asked moving across the kitchen to open up a lower cabinet. Inside was a box of cereal and her glasses. He knew the rest were childproof, but Kelly had given her that one so that she could get her own things sometimes.

"I think we have grape," he said.

Brianna brought him her glass and he set it on the counter. She tried to hold onto the counter and pull herself up, but it didn't work. "No Gape."

"I think that's all we have," he said.

Brianna smiled. "Issa ice."

"It's ice?"

Brianna moved across to the refrigerator and started to try to pull on the fridge door.

"In there?" he asked.

"Ugh. ugh. Didi." Brianna pointed. "Issa ice."

He walked over and tugged on the door handle. "Move out of the way jelly bean," he said. He opened up the freezer and watched as Brianna tried to climb into the freezer. "Whoa there jelly bean." He picked her up and balanced her on one hip to look around. There were a bunch of frozen vegetables, some frozen French fries, and even some popsicles, but underneath he found the frozen apple juice container. He sighed.

"Issa ice!" Brianna screeched.

Joey laughed at his daughter and grabbed the can and brought her back over to the counter. "Jelly bean you need to sit still while I get the container."

"K." She reached for the can and touched it a little. "Issa ice."

"Brianna don't touch the can. It's cold. You'll freeze your fingers off."

She held up her hands and looked at him with a confused look. "Is no off."

Quickly Joey moved across the kitchen and turned his back to her as he took a swig of beer then grabbed out the container. He grabbed the beer and the container and moved back over to the counter she was sitting on.

Brianna grabbed up the corner of the sandwich on the counter and watched him as he mixed up the concentrated apple juice with water. "Isa mommy sanwish?"

"No," he said, "That's your sandwich. Mommy is having lunch somewhere else."

Brianna took a bite then picked the crust from her mouth and set it on the counter. "In a poppas hows?"

Joey sighed and wanted to cry. He hated this. He didn't know where Kelly was and he was beginning to get a little sense of sympathy for the way she must have to deal with Brianna on a daily basis to explain where he was all the time. "I don't know, maybe."

Brianna took another drink then reached for her glass again. "Appo DiDi?"

Joey pulled out a spoon from the drawer and stirred the juice then poured her a glass and put the top on her cup again.

Brianna picked up her glass and started to drink then put the cup down and picked up the sandwich.

Joey picked up his beer again to take a sip and looked as Brianna started to pull the sandwich apart. "Jelly bean," he said, "Don't do that. Just eat it honey." He put his beer to his lips again.

"Is appo?"

"This?" he asked holding the beer.

"Ya."

"No," he said, "This is daddy's."

"Is appo?"

"No." He laughed. "This is not apple."

She held out her arms and reached for the bottle. "Ugh."

"No jelly bean."


ESPN played in the background as she moved into the house from the garage. When she got into the kitchen she saw Joey with a Corona in his hands and Brianna with her clear sippy juice cup in her hands.

Brianna's voice filled the room and Kelly had to hold back tears. She'd missed her daughter that morning and had wanted to spend that time with her, but she knew that she needed to spend some time away from Joey for a while to try and figure things out. "Is appo."

"Joe?" Kelly said. Her eyes flew from the bottle in his hand to the cup of juice that was in Brianna's. The liquids looked to be the same color and even though the sensible part of her brain told her that there was no chance that he would feed their daughter beer, the other more irrational, emotional part wondered if anything that she thought about Joey was true anymore. "What the hell is going on?"

Brianna dropped her glass onto the counter and some of it spilled as she reached for her. "Mommy!"

"Nothing," he said stopping just as he was about to take a drink, "We're eating lunch. I don't know what you planned to feed Brianna today, but peanut butter and jelly, minus the crust seemed pretty reasonable."

When Nikita started to bark Joey picked him up and went to the door and put him outside.

"You gave her beer?" she asked looking at the liquid that was still in Brianna's cup again and again her mother's words echoed in her ears. Her critiques of him had started early on, even before they really started to date seriously she was nagging her about him.

"What the hell? NO." He set the bottled down and reached to let Brianna down to the floor. "I may be a partier, but Brianna is having apple jui--" He stopped and stared at her. "You seriously thought I was giving her beer didn't you."

"I don't know what to think any more Joe." She picked up Brianna and hugged her. She held her close for a moment to kiss her forehead then moved to stand next to Joey, picking up the crusts of the bread that they'd been eating and went around to put them in the trash.

The whole time she moved around the kitchen she kept her eyes off him, but she could tell that his eyes were on her. She didn't like the paranoid feeling that it gave her. Normally him watching her meant that he was taking her body in, usually she'd catch him looking at her breasts or her ass when she wasn't looking, but this stare gave her chills up and down her back. He was glaring at her, not admiring her and she hated that feeling. It was bad enough when his fans would give her dirty looks, but having him do it too wasn't something she thought she'd ever get used to.

"Kelly, do you really think that I would feed our child beer?"

"I don't know Joe. I don't know that I can trust you anymore."

"Even about what I feed her?" Joey asked, "You know that I love her with all my heart and soul. I wouldn't do anything to hurt her ever."

"So you'd do it to me, but not her?"

"Baby," he said and moved towards her. She moved back and pointed at him with her free hand. "Stay right there Joe. I'm not falling for your little pouts or kisses. This isn't you leaving things out in the kitchen or forgetting to park the car inside the garage or leaving dishes around in the living room. This is our lives...our family that we're talking about and you've changed that and no amount of kisses or hugs or love making is going to make it better."

"I wasn't trying to manipulate the situation," he said.

When silence met his comment he could literally see him trying to dig around for the words to make things better. His eyebrows moved and several times he tried to say something then stopped. "So this is it?" he asked, "After almost eight years of being with you on and off you're going to write me off for one mistake that was made before we even started to date?"

"You lied to me Joe. You told me you wouldn't lie to me," she said, "Now I guess I know why you always have resisted marrying me. I thought it was just because you weren't ready to be a husband, but I didn't think it was because you were sleeping around. I guess since I don't have that ring and you don't have that ring that it's ok for you to be unfaithful to me."

"I wasn't unfaithful," he said, "I mean I was, but it was so long ago and so far before I promised you those things that I didn't think it was going to ruin what we have. I love you Kelly. I love you with all my--" He looked her in the eyes then leaned against the counter and put his hand to his forehead.

"Don't pull this on me," she said with an annoyed tone. He was doing it again, even though she had asked him moments before not to pull the whole pouting thing on her. "I just told you not to pout."

"I'm not pouting," he said angrily. "I'm freaking sick."

"Sure Joe," she said, "Drink too much this morning?"

"I had one freaking beer," he said, "I--" He held up a hand and left the room moving towards the downstairs bathroom.

"Joe?" she said and followed him.

She found him leaning over the toilet. He flushed it as she walked in the room and he stood up then stumbled and half fell into the enclosed shower stall.

"Joey." Kelly immediately set Brianna down and reached for him. "Joe what is wrong with you?"

"I have the flu Kelly," he said pushing her hands away. "I told you that this morning and I told you a minute ago."

Brianna held her arms up to Joey. "Didi!"

"Jelly Bean I can't pick you up right now." He reached for the wall and leaned against it. "Kelly just take her out of here."

"No," Kelly said and instantly felt like a bitch for yelling at him. "You're about to fall over. I want you to go to bed."

"I'll be fine," he protested.

"No," she said and reached for his arms. "Come on. Brianna and I will help you get to bed then when you feel better we can talk about--" She could shoot herself forgetting the little boy's name. "We'll talk about your son and what is going to happen with that later."

"Colton," he said, "His name is Colton."

"Fine," she said, "We'll talk about Colton later."

This definitely wasn't the last of their conversation, but if Joey fainted on her she knew she'd have a hard time helping him out with Brianna being around so she thought she'd better get him healthy before she yelled at him again for his mistakes.

 

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