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Thank you to my intrepid crew of beta readers and editors, AwkwardMD, Bramblethorn, and BrokenSpokes, who all provided some critical suggestions and hopefully made this a smoother read.
There is an important character under the age of eighteen in this story. It’s sort of hard to write a story about a young single mom and not have her munchkin in it. But don’t worry, when we get to the adult playtime parts, the little one will be safely tucked in her own bed and sleeping while the grownups play. These are responsible adults after all.
If you have not read the first two chapters, please do so now. Chapter Three is not going to vanish from the pages of Literotica anytime soon, so it will be here and waiting for you when you’re ready.
The pitter patter of little feet in the guest room woke me up. Realizing that we were soon to be invaded by an overly excited munchkin, I slipped on a tank top and a pair of shorts. Just in time, too, as a moment later Madison stormed in, as excited as, well, a kid on Christmas Day.
“He came, Mommy! Santa found us here and he came!”
A barely awake Jenn half sat up, covered by a sheet, and sleepily replied. “I told you he would. Now go and make sure Skipper doesn’t get into any of the packages. Whitney and I will be down in a few minutes, okay? Can you do that for Mommy? Please?”
Madison nodded her head and practically floated out of the room.
Those slate-blue eyes made contact with mine, then they were chased by a simple good morning kiss.
“She’s so cute. Almost as cute as her mommy.”
“It’s okay, you can say it, she’s cuter than me.” She gave me a peck on the cheek and headed for the bathroom.
The morning was filled with giggles and squeals of a little girl opening presents. What she got from Jenn was practical stuff, new (to her) clothes for a growing girl. There were a couple coloring books and some new crayons from Jenn’s mom, a few books and a stuffie from her other grandparents and, surprising to me, a box from Hawaii. The return address was from Petty Officer D. Olinski so I figured it was from Madi’s father. Inside was a plush doll in traditional Hawaiian dress.
“Mommy, there’s an envelope here with your name on it from Daddy.” Madi grasped the envelope, holding it with the hands of her new doll, and brought it to her mom. Inside was a simple Christmas card with a note and a copy of some official-looking paperwork.
“Oh my,” Jenn muttered as she read the card. “Looks like Dallas is getting transferred to Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles. He is wondering if it would be possible to get visitation privileges then. Just a few hours, one day a month to start with.”
“Is that a good thing?” I asked.
“Not sure. I think so, but I’ll need to think about that.”
I noticed a card sitting next to an empty box, picked it up, and scanned it. “Oh, Madi, there’s a note in here to you from your daddy. It says that your doll’s name is Nani, which means ‘beautiful or pretty’ and she was handmade near his station by a local artisan.”
Madison hugged Nani and repeated her name multiple times.
Madi opened her last present. “To Miss Madison from Miss Whitney,” she read, with a little assistance from Jenn. As soon as she glimpsed the colors within the wrapping, she got even more excited than she had been all morning.
“Mommy, an Elsa dress!”
I helped her open the package and put on her new costume over her pajamas, then she put on the matching tiara, picked up the wand, and began to prance around the house with Nani in her other hand.
“Well, that’s a hit.” Jenn mumbled. She had a mix of emotions on her face.
“What’s wrong?” I asked.
“Nothing… nothing. I’m happy to see her happy.” But she didn’t look at me, nor was she watching her daughter when she said it. I think I knew what it was, but kept my mouth shut.
Jenn began to pick up all the wrapping paper and boxes to put them in the recycling and garbage. I grabbed a few more and followed her. She held the lids open when I put the last few items in the cans.
“It’s not fair, Whitney.”
I put my arms around her as she buried her face in my embrace.
“I’m a terrible mother. I can’t afford to get anything fun for my daughter. All I could do was get her some clothes she needed, and that took me months to save up for.”
I thought about trying to tell her how awesome she was to provide for Madison, but I didn’t think she would have listened to me right then. Instead, I just held her.
We returned upstairs to the middle floor of the townhouse to watch Madison play with her new doll. I got out a few teacups, and we all had “tea.”
Eventually it was time for us to head over to my parents’ house for Christmas dinner. As we got ready, I could tell that Jenn was getting nervous. It was the little things, how she fidgeted putting on her ankle boots or picking at her finger.
As we climbed into my Jeep, I heard beylikd├╝z├╝ escort a big exhale. “Why did I wear this skirt? I hate skirts.”
“You look great in a skirt, babe,” I said, trying to boost her self-confidence. It was obvious to me anyway: she looked good. Black skirt and tights, and a dark gray sweater. Then she did her killer move, tucking her hair behind her ear. If there was something sexier on the planet, you’d be hard pressed to prove it to me. The sight of her little hoop earrings at the bottom of her lobe and the couple of studs above always made me swoon. Looking for more support, I turned to Madison, still in her Elsa dress, over her little jeans now. “Isn’t your Mommy pretty?”
“Yeah, Mommy, you look pretty!”
“Thanks, sweetie.” Jenn reached her hand behind her and gave Madison a pat on the leg. But I could tell by her voice she wasn’t swayed by my attempt to give her a vote of confidence.
We drove across the city, barely making it across the Ballard Bridge before it went up to allow a sailboat to pass through its opening span. As we drove through the residential neighborhood, Jenn was rather silent. As we approached the gate, I clicked the opener and the wrought-iron gates opened to allow us in.
“You didn’t tell me your parents live in a mansion. This yard alone is almost as big as the park Madison plays in.” Jenn’s eyes were wide, and the look on her face… It hadn’t crossed my mind how intimidating the place might be. To me, it was simply home.
Whitney parked her Jeep in the large circular drive by the front door. I could see a large Christmas tree in a two-story bay window from the driveway. Madison already had her seatbelt off and climbed into my arms, clutching her new doll.
Whitney unlocked the front door and ushered us in.
“Merry Christmas, Sweet Pea!”
I could see Whit blush a little at the term of endearment directed her way. A pleasant looking older gentleman, Mr. Mitchell I assumed, came around the corner, his arms outstretched to greet his daughter. White hair, slightly thinning on top, dark trousers and blue dress shirt. The accountant look was completed with a pair of round wire-rimmed glasses.
“You must be Jennifer, it’s a pleasure to meet you. Whitney can barely stop talking about you. And this must be Miss Madison.” He reached out and patted Madi’s back, who had suddenly gone very shy in my arms.
“That is a pretty dress you have on, Madison.” I heard an older woman’s voice coming down the hall.
“Merry Christmas, Mother.” Whit gave her a hug. Mrs. Mitchell turned to Madison and me. “It’s nice to meet you, Jennifer. Please come in, make yourself at home.”
“Nice to meet you, Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell.” Mr. Mitchell led us to the living room where the Christmas tree I’d seen from outside filled the alcove in front of the bay window.
“That’s a big tree, mommy!” Madi exclaimed, her head moving up and down to take it all in.
“It’s a little smaller this year than in years past, a tad over fourteen feet tall. In some years past we had a tree that went up the whole twenty feet to the ceiling,” Mr. Mitchell proudly told us.
I looked at the tree and wondered how much it cost. He reached out a hand to Madison. “You know, Miss Madison, Santa came to our house last night and left something for you here. Would you like to check it out?” He gave me a wink.
“Go on, honey. See what Santa left you.” I set her down. She looked at me a little scared and clutched her doll tightly.
Mr. Mitchell got down on his knee and looked at Madison. A gentle smile was on his face. “I see you have a friend with you. What’s her name?”
“That is a pretty name. Did Santa bring her to you?”
“No, she’s from my Daddy. He sent it from…” She wrinkled her nose trying to remember. She looked at me, “Where is Daddy, Mommy?”
“Hawaii,” I said, distractedly.
Madison turned and looked back at the white-haired gentleman. “He is in Ha-wai-e,” she answered, carefully saying each syllable. “He jumps out of helicopters to save people who can’t swim.”
“Wow, your daddy must be very brave. It takes a special person to do a job like that.” It was clear to me from the gravity in his voice and the expression on his face that he understood the risky nature of Dallas’ job, yet at the same time was not trying to scare Madison with all the what if’s which might be going through his mind. Over the years I’d driven myself crazy thinking about all the things that might happen to my daughter’s father and what that would mean to her. But like all the other times, I pushed those thoughts into the recess of my mind and focused on the present and what I could control.
Mr. Mitchell smiled at Madison and offered his hand to her. She took it, and they walked over to the tree. There was a lone present, carefully wrapped in green paper with snowmen on it.
All her fear vanished when it came to ripping wrapping paper off. “E-e-e-e-e-e-!” avc─▒lar escort Little arms waved back and forth with glee. “Mommy, it’s Anna.” She hugged the doll of Elsa’s sister and immediately introduced Anna to Nani, then promptly began to ignore the adults in the room as she played with her new dolls.
“Thank you, Mr. Mitchell. It was very kind of you to think of her.”
“Well, thanks for coming. And please call me Ben. When Whitney said you two were coming over, I stopped by the store on my way home from work. Been many years since I was lucky enough to buy a doll for someone.” He put his arms around Whit.
His affection for his daughter was the total opposite of every interaction I’d had with my own father. I barely remember him being around. He left when I was about Madison’s age. In fact, I’d only seen him twice since, and both of those times were awkward visits that were mercifully short. Mrs. Mitchell pulled Whitney towards the kitchen to help with dinner, leaving me alone with her husband.
“Nice place you have here.” The living room was massive, I could only imagine what the rest of the mansion was like.
“Thanks. It was built by Whitney’s great-grandfather. Someday, it will be hers. This place needs children running around in it. Not a couple of old people.”
I replied with a weak laugh.
“Try not to be overwhelmed by the place. I know I was when I first came calling on Edith years ago,” Ben said as he gestured over to the sofa for me to sit. He sat across from me in a stately wingback chair. “So, Jennifer, Whitney says she met you at our company holiday party. I don’t recall seeing you there.”
I sheepishly grinned. “Well, um, I was part of the catering staff. I was picking up some extra work that night. Hopefully, I won’t need to do that much anymore. I started a new job right after that. I think you might have heard of the company I now work for.”
“Indeed, Whitney told us. So how do you like working there?”
I was about to answer when Whitney called us to the table. There was quite a spread laid out. There were two large platters, one with a stuffed lamb crown roast and the other with a large fillet of Chinook Salmon. Additionally, there were three types of salad and four other side dishes. More food than Madison and I could eat in a couple of weeks.
My little girl leaned over to me as I sat down. “Do I have to eat the broccoli salad, Mommy?” She was trying to be polite and whisper, but like most four-year-old little girls she hadn’t really mastered the skill yet.
“Yes, we talked about this the other day, you need to try a bite of everything. It’s the polite thing to do.”
“But Mommy, it’s broccoli. All green and icky.” The little pout on her face was so cute.
“You need to have just a little.”
“No!” she squinted her eyes, crossed her arms, and scowled at me.
“Madison Grace!” As I gave her the look, I was cringing inside. This is not how I wanted to appear before Whit’s parents. But being a mom was job number one, and I will not be sassed like this.
Little arms fell to her lap and her head bowed. “Okay Mommy,” she mumbled.
I used my finger to lift her head back up. Making eye contact and smiling, I softly said, “Thank you sweet girl. I love you.” And gave her a peck on the forehead.
Ben leaned over to Madi, smiling, “You don’t like broccoli either?”
“Broccoli is yucky.” Her little frown was so cute.
“I agree,” he said, and he gave me another wink and sat next to Madison.
The food was fabulous. I had never had lamb before, and if I ever get a chance to have it again, I will. Unfortunately, I was the topic of conversation over dinner. Mrs. Mitchell asked me a lot of questions about how I liked working at Maritime so far. I think she already knew how I was doing, and she was well versed in how I had gotten the job. I wouldn’t be surprised if she had pulled a copy of my resume and the interview notes from my employee file. She was always polite, but there was a formality to her that I never quite grasped. Almost a sternness to her speaking.
Near the end of the meal, she asked, “Whitney said you were in a homeless shelter for a while when you came here from Montana?”
“MOTHER!” Whit slammed her glass on the table.
I reached over and put my hand on hers. “Yes, Mrs. Mitchell, we were in a shelter for a while. I’m from Idaho, not Montana, though there’s not much difference once you cross the state line. Just a small town in the middle of nowhere.”
“How did you end up in the shelter, if I might ask?”
Maybe it was my nerves, but I felt rather put on the spot. It took me a moment to think of how I wanted to phrase my response.
“I came out for a job that turned out to be a scam. And shortly after that the friend Madison and I were staying with decided to move to greener pastures in California. So we were out on the street with little money and no job. Not at all what I had thought I was getting myself into when esenyurt escort we came. Shortly after that my old car broke. No way did I have $2,500 for a new transmission. That made getting a job even harder. Plus trying to find one that I could also balance with having Madison in daycare. It’s not easy.”
“I can only imagine. What are your goals now?”
I gulped, looking over at Whitney for support. I got a smile and felt her comforting hand on my thigh under the table, an unspoken signal trying to tell me I was doing fine. I think.
“I’m not sure at the moment. I guess you could say I’ve met the ones I had. Get out of the shelter, get a job in something other than food service, and complete my associate’s degree.” I ticked each of my goals off on my fingers. “Now… give my daughter a better shot at life than I got.” The look I got back from Mrs. Mitchell told me she wasn’t impressed.
“Well, I think you’re doing that fine, Jennifer.” Mr. Mitchell’s voice was the opposite of his wife’s. So gentle and caring. It made me smile.
“Thanks. I think my other goal is to continue my education. Get my bachelor’s.” There, maybe that would satisfy her.
“Good for you. What field of study?” Mrs. Mitchell actually perked up at this.
“That I’m not sure about yet. Marketing, maybe, or maybe HR. But,” I looked at Whit, “definitely not accounting. I took one course, and that was enough for me.” Both Whit and Mr. Mitchell laughed at that one.
“Well, I guess that is better than no plan.” She dabbed the corners of her mouth with her napkin. Ugh, I don’t think anything I could say would impress this lady. “Whitney, dear, can you please help me clear the table?”
“Yes, mother.” She looked at me and gave me a small eye roll.
“Here, let me help.” I started to pick up several of the dishes. One thing I know how to do from working in restaurants and in catering is how to carry many plates and serving items in my arms and not drop them. I followed Whit into the kitchen and set them all on the counter with nary a clink, and couldn’t help but notice I brought in more items than Whit and her mom combined.
“Thank you, Jennifer. Whitney, you should take Madison and Jennifer upstairs and show Madison your doll house. I am sure she would like that.”
Whit led the way upstairs to what she called the playroom. Like so much of this place, the room was huge. My whole apartment could fit in here. There were signs this had been where Whit played as a little girl, bookshelves with children’s books on them, a bench with many well-loved stuffies and, in the corner, a large dollhouse. It was clearly made to look like their home, complete with a large bay window, like the one the Christmas tree was in. Next to it was a bin full of Barbies and accessories. Whitney showed Madi, and it didn’t take long for her to be totally immersed in a world of make believe.
While Whit and Madi played with dolls, I looked around the room. There was a glass cabinet filled with mementos of Whitney’s childhood. A second-place figure skating trophy, a trophy with a skier on top, a picture of people rowing with their arms raised in victory, and a number of other trophies and ribbons. There were also a few playbills from school plays. One even had her name on the cover, she must have been a lead in that one.
“Looks like you were a busy girl growing up.”
“Yeah, Mom would have put me in even more activities if she could have. She always wanted me to be involved in a lot of things.”
“Hmmpf, not surprised. I don’t think she likes me. Not ambitious enough for her tastes, or something. And here I was proud to make sure my baby was housed, clothed, and fed.”
“Don’t let her get to you. You’re an amazing woman. She just doesn’t see it yet, but she will. It often takes her time to warm up to someone. You should be proud of what you’ve done. I am, my dad is, and she will be, eventually. I think he’s talking to her right now about it.”
Whit wrapped her arm around me, and her embrace began to put me at ease. She held me while we watched Madison play. We were probably there for ten minutes when Mr. Mitchell came into the room, waved at us, then proceeded to ignore us and sit down next to Madison. Next thing I knew he was right there with her, playing with the dolls.
After a bit, he looked up and winked at us. “Been a long time since we did this, huh Sweet Pea. Kinda miss it.”
We both came over to join in. “I can’t remember the last time I’ve played with a dollhouse,” I mused. For sure, it was at a friend’s house, since I never had one of my own. The four of us played for probably an hour before calling it quits.
When we reconvened in the living room, Mrs. Mitchell must have taken a happy pill or something. She even smiled at me. Whit put her arm around me as we sat down on a sofa. I couldn’t tell if the conversation was more pleasant, or maybe that I just felt less under attack.
Madison told Mrs. Mitchell how she sang Gloria in the Christmas pageant and that yes, Miss Whitney was there to see it. Now it was Whit’s turn to get a little from her Mom about not being a stranger in church. I don’t think it had much effect, though.
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