The crying woke him up again. With a groan, he turned two sleepy brown eyes
to look at the clock. The glowing green numbers proclaimed that it was
3:41am. Sighing, he climbed out of bed and walked down the hall to his
daughter's room. "April.." He yawned, opening the door. "What is it?"
April was on the floor at the foot of her toddler bed, hugging her favorite
teddy bear and crying. "Want Mama!"
Justin closed his eyes and sighed painfully. 'Mama' had run off on them a
year earlier, leaving only a note and a closet full of clothes. He wasn't
sure if he loved her, but he would've stayed with her because of April.
"Honey... mama's.... on vacation." He said quietly.
He was eighteen years old, but he felt fifty. Miranda, his girlfriend, had
been two years older than he was, and he'd agreed to work full-time to
support them and drop out of school. However, he hadn't foreseen the way it
would be now. Eighteen years old, working full-time with a two-year old to
take care of. He wished he'd listened to his parents..
"Go to sleep, honey, please.. I have to work in the morning.."
Thank god he had a neighbor who was home all day and would baby-sit April.
The woman felt sorry for him, and practically did it for free, and Justin
felt guilty about not being able to pay her much, and about not being able
to give April any extravagant gifts for her birthdays or Christmas.
April sniffled and held her arms up to be picked up. Even though it had
been a year, she was only two, and she still had dreams about her mother
occasionally. Those dreams usually resulted in tears, like it was now.
Stifling a yawn, Justin pulled the girl into his arms. The lucky kid had
Miranda's big blue eyes, and Justin's soft brown hair (which Justin
haphazardly tried to braid some mornings), and Justin usually ended up
giving into her. "You gonna go to sleep?"
She nodded, sticking a thumb into her mouth and mumbling a quiet 'Yes,
Daddy' around it.
"That's my girl." He mumbled, half-asleep. "C'mon.. I'll tuck you in." He
stood up to tuck her into bed.
"Can I sleep with you?"
"Alright.." Justin sighed and carried her to his tiny bed; lying down and
kissing the top of her head, letting her have most of the blanket. "Sweet
dreams, April." He mumbled into the pillow. She curled herself up into a
pint-sized ball next to him, and fell asleep with her thumb still in her
In the morning, Justin had a quick shower and dropped April off at Mrs.
Halloway's, next door. "Be good, sweetie." He kissed her cheek and hugged
April nodded and hugged her bear. She was a good girl most of the time, but
even as a two-year-old, she knew that acting up could gain attention from
adults--usually her father.
"I'll see you after work." Justin stood, walking down the hallway. He was
working as a bellboy at a nearby hotel. Luckily for him, most women would
tip him well enough if he agreed to take his shirt off for them. He used to
be on the high school sports teams (all of them), but now the exercise he
got was going up and down stairs and carrying heavy luggage. His boss had
actually approached him about doing bachelorette parties, but Justin had
reluctantly turned him down. He wasn't sure what would happen if people
found out he was stripping by night and raising a two-year old by day. He
couldn't bear to lose April. She was, plain and simple, his life. He didn't
have anything else.
After work, he dragged himself into McDonalds and ordered himself dinner.
He got paid the next day, and would go grocery shopping with April. "Big
Mac, please.. And fries, and a coke." His eyes barely flicked over the
cashier. Cute boy. Didn't matter. He didn't have time to date, and besides,
how many hot young things would date a single father?
The cashier smiled at him and handed him his change, making sure to brush
their hands together. Subtle, sure, but hopefully noticeable enough. 'Ugh,
get real Brad. What are the odds someone as hot as him is single? Hell,
what are the odds he even -likes- guys?' Still, Brad couldn't help but take
a chance. Besides, it's not as though he was humping the guy's leg, right?
If he looked weirded out or anything, Brad could chalk it up as an
accident. Even though it was anything but.
His name was Bradford Dobson. He was a junior in high school, and the star
player of the tennis team, as well as a member of the All-State Men's
Choir. He had a dazzling smile, and shaggy strawberry blonde hair which
hung just long enough to drive his mother nuts, but not so long that he
needed to wear a hair net to work. (Thank god. He hated his job enough as
it was.) His eye color was hazel--at least, that's what it said on his
birth certificate. To him, they were more green than anything else, and
they were framed by insanely long eyelashes, giving him a somewhat feminine
"...sir? Your change?"
Justin was practically falling asleep at the counter. There was one other
person in the restaurant - an old man reading the newspaper and having his
apple pie and coffee. He snapped out of it and smiled weakly. "Sorry.. Just
worked a twelve hour shift at the hotel.." He took his change and sipped on
his pop. Yawning, he opened his wallet, and like every father, had a
picture of April in the tiny little picture spot.
Brad couldn't help himself. Besides, he'd read his horoscope that morning,
and it had predicted a lucky day for love. Who cared if it was true? There
was always a chance. "Cute kid... "
"Hm? Oh.. thanks.. That's my daughter."
"You have a daughter?"
He nodded, stifling another yawn. "Two years old."
"You don't look much older than me..." Bah, he had a kid. Must be straight.
Justin smiled sadly. "I'm eighteen."
"...oh." Well, good job Brad. You're really going to impress people with a
foot in your mouth.
As his food arrived, Justin nodded. "Yeah.. Thanks." He mumbled, walking to
the corner booth and sitting there alone, leaning his head against the
wall. God, he wanted to go to sleep, but he had to pick April up in half an
hour. And that cashier was hot.
Brad sighed and went back to work. Not that there was anything to do. The
place was dead at this hour. His gaze kept drifting back over to the guy in
the corner. Too bad he was straight.
It was the weirdest thing.. Just couldn't help but feel as if the cashier
was staring at him.
"Hey, Brad, why don't you go home?" The supervisor asked. "There's no
reason for you to be here. It's dead."
"..are you sure, sir?"
"I'm sure. Go home and study."
Justin finished the last of his food and leaned back, closing his eyes.
He'd just rest his eyes for a little bit, and relax. He wouldn't fall
He fell asleep.
"Thank you, sir." Brad finished his daily chores and started to leave, when
he realized that the guy in the corner was....sleeping? He frowned and went
over to him. "...excuse me... sir?"
Justin was curled up in the corner booth with his head resting on his
shoulder. April kicked in her sleep, and he rarely got six hours or more
good, long rests. "Nn. April, let daddy sleep for a minute. I'll be right
there." He mumbled.
Brad couldn't help but smile. But... it couldn't be safe for the guy to be
sleeping there. He tapped him lightly on the shoulder. "Sir?"
Justin jerked slightly and his eyes snapped open. "Huh?" He realized where
he was, and looked sheepish. "Oh.. god.. I'm sorry.." He sighed, shaking
the sleepy feeling from his mind and forcing a smile. "Should've gotten a
coffee, I guess."
Brad wasn't sure what made him say what he said next. Maybe it was fate.
Maybe it was stupidity. Maybe he'd just grown a set of big steel ones. But
something made him blurt it out before he could stop himself. "Hey, no
problem. You can sleep here whenever you like." He punctuated this with a
wink, then realized what he'd just said, and quickly retreated.
His stomach grumbled, and he ignored it. He'd find something to eat at
home. Something that hadn't gone bad. Justin blinked a few times. Did the
cashier just hit on him? .. To be honest, he wasn't sure. Sighing, he took
his tray over and dumped it in the garbage, following the boy out of the
restaurant and heading for home.
Brad's cheeks were burning. He couldn't believe he'd just hit on a
customer. A straight customer. With a toddler. What the hell was wrong with
Justin picked up the sleeping April from his neighbor's and put her into
bed, kissing her good-night. Two years ago, he was sure he would've gotten
a sports scholarship.. and now.. Nothing was the way he wanted it.
Burying his face into his pillow so that his daughter couldn't hear, he
sobbed quietly. Usually, it happened every week or so that he cried himself
to sleep. Sometimes more than that. What had happened to his life?
A moment later, there was a small voice in his ear. "...Daddy? Why are you
He looked up and hastily wiped the tears from his cheeks. ".. I wasn't,
April. Go back to bed, okay?"
She frowned. "You miss Mama too?"
"Want Brownie?" She offered him her teddy bear.
He smiled weakly and kissed her. "You keep him. Go on back to sleep. We'll
go to McDonalds for dinner tomorrow since I'm not working, okay?"
"Do I make you sad?"
"...people cry when they're sad. Are you sad?"
"Not about you."
"Oh." She quieted down at that and sucked her thumb.
"You can sleep here tonight if you want."
"I can?" He nodded and moved over so she could get in. She hopped up into
the bed and snuggled against him. "I love you, Daddy."
"I love you too." He kissed the top of her head and held her close. She was
all he had.
"Don't be sad, Daddy." Those were the last words she said that night,
because almost immediately after, she fell asleep.
Tears snaked down Justin's cheeks as held his daughter tightly. He hated
feeling like this... So helpless and alone... He'd just have to try harder,
and be a better father for April.. because he was all she had, too.