When I get there, I can't help feeling a little bit lost. This is the part where, as a teenager, I'd scuttle off to the bushes for a sneaky fag and a few shots of whatever someone had managed to steal from home and avoid people who would quite like to see me rolling down a hill in a trash can. Not be dragged off to the swings by a small child.
I pick her up and sit her on the swing, sort of hesitantly pushing her gently. She insists on playing on everything. At least three times.
She also insists on me joining her. It doesn't help the hangover one bit. It also wears me out quite a lot. By the time she's done, I'm knackered. She, on the other hand, looks about ready to go off and do it all again.
"C'mon," I mutter, "candy time." Anything to stop the climbing frame torture. Those things are designed for mini people, not 5' 11" adults.
"Yay," she grins and I take her hand, walking her over to a shop. I think she's trying to con me into making me buy her more than she's allowed. And not knowing how much she's allowed, I just go with it.
"Don't eat that all, Beau."
"Nom nom nom," she giggles. Fuck.
"Daddy will kill me if you eat it all, so save some for tomorrow." She pouts.
"I'm trusting you, kid. My life is in your hands," I say in a fake serious tone of voice. She gives me a dismayed look and I keep up the serious face, nodding, "So you need to save as much of that for tomorrow as you can."
"I will, Unca Maxxie!" she sort of half yells. I hide the wince and smile, ruffling her hair a little.
"Good girl." She grins and holds my hand all the way back to John's place. When we get back and go inside, I tell Beau to take off her shoes and put the sweets away. I walk into the front room to find John sitting on the sofa, frowning.
"You okay?" I ask. He sighs a little.
"Mari called. She's coming to get Beau in a couple hours."
"Oh," I mutter, not sure what to say. He smiles weakly.
"I'll take you home after if you want."
"I doubt Hadley will want me there yet. If he's there at all," I mumble. Maybe I should call him. John sighs a little again and Beau runs in. Suddenly I feel kinda bad for taking her to the park. I mean, I know he suggested it, but I did pretty much steal his time with her. I sit down on the sofa with him, watching as Beau climbs up on John's lap.
"Love you, Daddy," she says, smiling up at him.
"Want me to leave you to it?"
He kisses her forehead before replying, "There's a couple beers in the fridge if you want one."
"No, I'm fine, thanks. You want me to get you one?"
"Maybe after Mari's gone." I nod.
"Mind if I use your shower?"
"Go for it," he says. So I do.
When I come back out of the shower, I can hear that Mari has arrived. I can hear that, because I can also hear them trying not to yell at each other. Beau, on the other hand, is sat in the front room watching cartoons. I figure it'd be best to sit with her.
"Why are Mommy and Daddy fighting?" she asks, looking up at me. I sigh and pull her onto my lap to give her a hug.
"I dunno, sweetie. Probably about grown up's stuff." She huggles me and I sit there, stroking her hair and attempting to not listen in on the fight in the other room.
"Why don't me and Mommy live here no more?"
"Because your mum and dad had an argument. About grown up's stuff, I s'pose." Well what else did you expect me to say? I can't tell her what really happened, can I? Oh, your dad? He's not your dad. And he cheated on your mum. Yeah. I can see that gaining me a lot of brownie points.
"But I like it here."
"You'll have to talk to your mummy about that, sweetie. See if you can persuade her to let you come over on weekends or something." At that point, Mari storms in, and announces to Beau that it's time to go. The kid pulls this cute little sad face and I plant a kiss on her forehead. "Chin up, sweetie," I smile slightly.
"But I don't wanna go," Beau says, almost on the verge of tears.
"Beau, we're leaving," Mari says, kinda sternly.
"Can she not at least say good bye to John?" I mutter, hugging her. Mari sighs.
"Make it quick." I lift her up and carry her into the kitchen where John's sat on the floor, tugging at his hair slightly. I hold back a sigh and nudge him gently with my toe, lowering Beau into his arms. He huggles her like there's no tomorrow. It's actually kinda heart breaking in a way. I mean, the kid isn't even his.
"I'll see you later, sweetie."
"Bye, Daddy," she says, hugging him back. I walk back into the front room. Well, why should I stay? Mari's stood there with her arms crossed and I sigh, sitting on the arm of the sofa.
She waits for a while, before getting all impatient. "Hurry up, Beau." I do my best not to shoot her a glare, but I kinda fail a bit. What? I might not be keen on the guy, but it's not hard to see that he loves Beau to bits. She sort of glares back. I can't believe I'm mentally defending the guy who raped me. But still, I can't help feeling a teeny bit irritated that Mari is getting fed up of waiting. She gives them a couple more minutes before stalking off into the kitchen to go and get Beau.
I don't even think before going "hey, give them a break, Mari," in this annoyed tone of voice.
"He can see her again next month," she says, carrying Beau out. One look at Beau says a month is gonna be way too long. And that she'll be spending the car ride to wherever it is they are now in tears.
"You're really gonna do that to your own kid?"
"She's too young to understand it all right now."
"That's hardly an excuse to cut off her contact with him for so long!"
She sort of glares at me again. "And when exactly did you become his best friend? Or is he sleeping with you as well?" I laugh slightly at that.
"Trust me, I'm saying it for Beau's sake, not his."
"I'll explain it when she's older."
"Mari, most parents want their kids to be, y'know, happy. That is not a happy face there. You gonna make her suffer just ‘cause you can't forgive John for what he did?" bye, bye, nice Maxxie. Hello bitchface Maxxie. This is why you don't annoy me when I'm hung over. I will just bitch out at you.
"Look, it's nice that you're looking out for her but I really don't need parenting tips from you."
"Looks like you do," I say, nodding at Beau, who's still all teary eyed.
"I don't have time for this."
"'Kay. Have fun ruining your child's life." She just rolls her eyes and leaves. I sit there feeling bitchy and irritable for a while, but when it becomes apparent that John isn't about to leave the kitchen floor any time soon, I get up, figuring I should probably apologise for most likely making things worse. I sit with him and mumble my apology.