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All I want for Christmas…is a single mom.
I have a daughter.
What kind of billionaire volunteers at a food bank?
Daddy Wanted is a standalone romance! Holly and Tara always give you a Happy Ever After, they hate cheating with a passion, and cliffhangers just as much as you do!
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Why does shopping have to come with so many bags? You start with a purse, every store adds a bag, and then, somehow, those bags breed more bags, little bag families that fill up both hands and bang against your legs as you walk. And the weight of them! My arms, my feet—if I was the complaining type —
“Put it back, Joey .”
“How’d you know I took something?” Uh-oh! There’s a certain note creeping into his voice: the danger note. We’re nearing meltdown territory. Better hurry…. “Mommy? How’d you know I took something ?”
“Eyes in the back of my head.” I squeeze his hand. Half an hour more; half an hour, and we’ll —
What was I even here for? I’m staring at a rack of insoles and corn pads, and there was something I needed, something essential, but ….
“Okay, Joey….” I go to ruffle his hair—red as mine, but ten times softer—and wind up with a finger up his nose. He giggles .
Insoles. Corn pads. Ace bandages. Not those, but…foot powder? Pumice bars? What …?
It’s so bright in here. There’s not an inch of my body that doesn’t boast some ache or pain, but my eyes are raw . It’s like they dial the lights up to eleven in these places, like…like the more you see, the more you’ll be tempted to —
“Mommy, just look ! ”
And now, I can’t —
It’s a little stuffed rabbit, pink satin, black button eyes. Cute as hell. Total choking hazard. I’d have loved one, at his age .
“Joey, I’m going to need you to put that back .”
Nail clippers! That was it: I need nail —
“Daddy would get it for me .”
I close my eyes. It’s blissful. Blessedly dark and restful. If I could just—if there was some cosmic pause button I could hit; if I could collect my thoughts, swallow the lump in my throat, before I turn around and soothe my cranky son ….
I count to three, slow as I can .
I don’t turn around. Can’t let him see the expression on my face. Besides, I don’t need to, to know his lip’s wobbling, to know he’s about five seconds from beaning me with that rabbit .
“Listen, if you put the rabbit back, we can go by the pet store on the way home. Maybe they’ll let you pet a real one !”
And…there it is: one tiny stuffed rabbit, bouncing off the back of my head. Kid never misses. Little League’s going to love him .
I grab the nail clippers and pick up the rabbit. Joey must’ve been carrying it a while: there’s no rack of rabbits, no bottom-shelf hutch, in sight. Probably knew I’d say no. Probably wanted to hold it as long as he could before ….
Maybe just this once…. I’ve been saving everything for Christmas: I need him to have that one day of feeling special, hell, of feeling like a normal kid. Having the childhood he deserves. But that shouldn’t mean every other day has to suck .
I glance at the price tag: $7.99. I can’t. I just…can’t. For a brief, mad moment, I consider stuffing the thing down my pants. It’s barely worth a dollar. Who’d even care ?
“Where’d you get him, sweetie ?”
Oh, great. The no phase. Next up: uncontrollable howling. Got to head that off at the pass .
“Okay, well, why don’t you pick out a toothbrush, any color you want, while I — “
“No! ” Joey goes splat, flat and boneless on the floor. We’re starting to attract an audience. I’m about to be that mom , begging my shrieking four-year-old to peel himself off the linoleum, while a pack of baby boomers reminisces about how their parents would’ve tanned their hides, if they’d dared. Yeah, I see you, Your Ladyship in the red stretch pants. Grab your Depends; move along .
I kneel down beside him. The floor smells like Windex. My eyes water. “Joey, listen—Mommy’s tired, and…and if you can wait a few weeks, it’s going to be Christmas, and you’ll have a whole stocking full of toys to play with. Maybe if you’re a good boy, and get up off the floor, Santa’ll even bring you one of those — “
“You bought stuff for you in every store, ” he wails, and it’s over, it’s over, it’s so over. I’m that mom , and I’m not getting those nail clippers; he’s not getting that toothbrush; and, oh God, contact lens solution! I’m totally out, and my tips suck when I wear glasses, and …
…and is it just me, or has the background hum turned unfriendly? I can’t make out what anyone’s saying, but I’d swear I hear spiky accents. Angry mutterings .
I abandon my basket, scoop up my limp, tear-streaked son, and start walking. The bus stop’s way at the other end of the mall. Joey’s bawling his grievances right in my ear. He’s hitting this high, piercing note, like a policeman’s whistle. It’s making my eardrum flutter. Making me dizzy .