For the first few months after Maxxie died, me and the kids did our best to carry on as normal. We thought we were coping but apparently to the outside world it was obvious that we weren’t okay. Lily’s grades started slipping and pretty much every day Danny would come home late with a note informing me he had detention the next day for getting in a fight. As for me, I’d started closing myself off from the world. I went to work, did the grocery shopping and got the kids from school, but other than that I’d become a total recluse. And as much as I hated myself for it and for not being there for the kids, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. I knew I was being a shit dad and it killed me, but I’d lost one of the few things that made my life worthwhile, I needed time to feel shit without having someone else to worry about. But the stuff with Danny... Well that came to its worst after maybe three or four months.
I’d woken the kids up for school and left them to their own devices while I made their breakfast. Before you start judging me for that, they’re eight, they’re perfectly capable of dressing themselves, and had been for the last year or so. I put my best efforts into making them something nice for breakfast, and ended up with pancakes with strawberries on top with this weird fruit dressing thing I’d picked up at the grocery store a few weeks ago. It tasted okay and it was supposedly healthy so it was good enough to use instead of syrup. I called the kids down, confused when I only saw Lily’s head of golden hair skip into the kitchen.
“Where’s Danny?” I asked, watching as she sat up at the breakfast bar in front of one of the plates of pancakes.
“He said he’s not going to school” she said, digging in.
I sighed, heading upstairs and finding Danny still in his pyjamas under the covers. He was pretending to be asleep, and thanks to Maxxie’s acting lessons he was pretty convincing, but he was forgetting that I used to spend nights just watching him and Lily sleep.
“How come you’re not going to school?” I asked, standing in the doorway.
“M’just not” he said sulkily.
“Yes you are, young man” I said sternly and Danny threw back the covers angrily.
“No I’m not”
“C’mon, kiddo, you’re not s’posed to be like this til you’re in your teens” I said, moving towards him to play with his hair like I usually did when he got himself all worked up over nothing.
So you can imagine my surprise when instead of feeling his arms cling to me, I felt him punch me instead. I felt my eyes widen as he punched me again, harder this time, and he didn’t seem to care in the slightest.
“Please don’t hit me, Danny” I said quietly but he ignored me, hitting me again. “Get dressed and come down for breakfast, please”
He ignored me again and I dodged his fist, stalking back downstairs. I sat down opposite Lily and nibbled at my own pancakes absently. I still tried to make sure each meal when the three of us were together was a big family affair, and I know Lily appreciated it. She looked up at me, biting into a strawberry.
“Is Danny coming to school today?” she asked innocently.
“Yeah, he is. Whether he wants to or not”
There wasn’t sight nor sound of Danny until it was time to go. He tiptoed down the stairs with his school bag and grabbed my hand, looking every little bit like the shy little boy I met three years ago. I squeezed his hand gently, smiling down at him. He looked up at me, not smiling back and my own smile faltered a little.
“Smile, kiddo” I said softly.
“Can’t” he mumbled.
I knelt down, looking him in the eye. “I’m here if you want to talk about anything, baby. I kow you miss Daddy, I miss him too, but we have to be brave for him”
Danny hid his face in my chest and I pulled him into a cuddle, kissing the top of his head. We stayed like that for a few minutes, eventually pulling Lily into our cuddle, and before I knew it there were two wet patches on my shirt from where the kids had started crying. I calmed them down and got them into the car, grabbing some breakfast for Danny on the way out.