I am not a light sleeper.
My mom said that out of everything motherhood had thrown her way, waking me up every morning was the most difficult thing she ever had to do. Not even my older brother was as bad as I was-mind you, he would sometimes go to sleep at 2 AM playing video games on a school night.
It takes a lot to wake me up. A lot of shaking, a lot of threatening, a lot of noise-I basically sleep like a rock. There is very little that can stir me from my sleep.
There is one exception to this, however.
A sob. One simple, little baby sob was all I needed to wake up. And it was all thanks to a man named Luke Berne and his daughter, Essie.
"I'm sorry," the exasperated man at my door sighed, wide-eyed and seemingly clinging on to whatever sanity he had left. In his arms was a small, pink bundle. The sound that had woken me up from blissful sleep was coming from that small, pink bundle.
I didn't even ask anything. I simply pulled the man into my apartment, hoping that none of my neighbors had woken up. It was two in the morning and I really didn't want to hear the passive-aggressive comments my seventy-eight-year-old neighbor had in store for me whenever it was that our paths would eventually cross.
Standing in my small foyer was Luke Berne, looking as if he were about to cry. A diaper bag was on his shoulder, haphazardly zipped closed. I carefully took the teeny tiny body in his arms and looked at the reddened face poking out.
"Hey, Poppy Flower," I grinned. It wasn't a cute nickname; the kid's face was as red as a poppy flower. But Luke will never know. "Daddy made you angry, didn't he?"
I snuck a look over to the man in question. He looked done. Just...done.
"Go take the sofa bed out. Blankets are in the linen closet down the hall," I instructed, stiffling a yawn. "Just gimme the diaper bag."
The tall blond silently followed my instructions and carefully placed the heavy bag on my shoulder before turning and making his way towards the living room. I heard him pulling the sofa bed out-I had never told him, but the sole reason I bought that sofa bed was because of him. Ever since Elle, the supposed love of his life and mother of his child, walked out on him and Esther, they would sleep over my apartment quite a bit.
But I'll get into that later. The collicky baby in my arms demanded my attention, and I had to figure out a way to calm the ten-month-old in my arms.
"What's the matter? Did your daddy forget to check your diaper?" I sighed as I walked her to my room. I gently placed her down on my bed, quickly pushing the messy duvet out of the way.
I carefully removed the blanket that enveloped the little body, wondering how in the world I was going to get her to stop crying. Luke believed it might be teething, which would make sense. Once upon a time, little Poppy Flower was a good baby, one who slept through most of the night and only cried when she was hungry or needed a diaper change.
I sniffed her diaper. Nope.
I picked Essie up, stroking the back of her sweaty head. She fidgeted and wiggled at first, wanting to put up a fight, but eventually she began to calm down. I rocked her from side to side, stroking her back, just hoping she would surrender to sleep before the clock hit three a.m.
Feeling a baby fall asleep in your arms is a pretty incredible feeling. You can feel the way they relax and just succumb to sleep. Their breathing evens out and all you have in your arms is a warm, pudgy body that brings an incurable amount of happiness to anyone's world.
Essie wasn't mine. Biologically, she wasn't. But she had become mine the moment Elle had walked out on her. Luke was a great father, don't get me wrong. He ran his own business and tried to be the best mother and father a little gir could have. Up until three months ago, he was also going to school part-time for his MBA.
And then Elle left. And everything changed.
Elle was my best friend. We had met in our freshman year of college and instantly clicked. She was outgoing, lively, and could befriend anyone in a heartbeat. She was beautiful and intelligent-she had so much going for her.
She and Luke met during senior year. It was by chance; they were both cramming for finals one breezy spring day at the Starbucks near our campus. The barista had mistakenly confused their orders, which Luke quickly realized. He used to joke about treating that barista to lunch as a thank you for breaking the ice with Elle. Needless to say, Luke and Elle immediately hit it off and they were soon in a serious relationship.
Everyone in our close-knit circle of friends believed they would one day get married and have their own beautiful set of mini-mes. Their relationship was the epitome of perfection.
At least...that's what we used to believe. We obviously didn't know what went on behind closed doors. We never knew just how rocky their relationship was until Elle disappeared. She eventually came clean and admitted that she was at her parent's house in Colorado, claiming that she just couldn't handle the pressures of parenthood and domestic life.
I called her. I emailed her. I begged to know what had happened. I would check my phone and email continuously throughout the day, worried that my friend had been a victim of domestic abuse. Eventually it became clear to me that Elle had simply grown tired and bored. She was the type to travel, to have a good time. She enjoyed freedom. Soon enough, her Facebook page was full of photos of her new life in Colorado. She was horseback riding, hiking, and even venturing on roadtrips to the sandy beaches of California.
That was when I decided to confront her in a Facebook message. She chose to unfriend and block me.
Needless to say, our friendship dissapated. I chose to help Luke in every which way that I could. He put grad school on pause and threw himself into raising his daughter and running his pub, which he had inherited from his father.
Luke is competely devoted to his daughter. He is broken, though. He had envisioned a happy life with Elle, a life full of love, warmth, and stability. Luke is a smart man. But he was too optimistic. Luke was the type of person who saw the world through rose-colored glasses. Elle's desertion hit him hard-the spark in those baby blues was not as strong as it once was.
So this is where I step in. I help him any way that I can. I take care of Essie while he goes to work. I feed her, bathe her, play and dance with her. The kid smiles when she sees me. If only she knew I need her more than she needs me.
I still, hoping to hear her even breathing. She was asleep. I took a moment to walk back outside, only to find Luke sprawled on the sofa bed. He was too tired to even look for the blankets.
He looked at ease. He looked like he needed a good, solid day of sleep.
This is what Elle had given up. But this is what I was more than happy to have.
If only she knew how lucky she had been.
A/N: Amazing what comes to your mind when you're taking a shower. This is basically a bit of an experiment. I'm really on the wall about continuing this one. Please let me know what you think! Your input may just help me decide what to do with this story!
This prologue has been minimally edited so please excuse any errors.