Patrick cradled Luliana, the phone tucked between ear and shoulder, the voicemail kicking in. He stroked Daciana, unable to comfort both his nieces. They were hungry, nappies in urgent need of changing, and Charlotte? – he no idea. His sister had not answered her phone; there were clothes missing and two infants alone. Patrick realised he did not know her friends aside from Caleb, she had not brought anyone to the house. The last group he saw her with was the social butterflies. The phone fell, cracking the screen. The universe suggested he gave up listening to the standard answer message. Wherever she was, Charlotte was ignoring his calls. Patrick would need to play the parental role.
Patrick moved the cribs into the main house; after leaving seven messages, a few dozen texts, he gave up on her. There had been no warning; Charlotte never suggested she needed space. He would have helped, cared for the babies for a few hours, given her space for study, job hunting, or seeing friends. To walk away from her children, leave them alone. What if he had decided to stay out? If he met up with a beautiful woman and stayed over at her place. Why would Charlotte be so selfish and leave them. Caleb sounded groggy as he called back that evening. Patrick kept his cool, not wanting to arouse suspicion. The lover admitted he had not seen her since the babies were born. Patrick held his tongue despite wanting to lay into him about responsibility. The priority was to find Charlotte which Caleb agreed to help.
Patrick apologised for his recent behaviour as he begged Juliana for her advice. Aside from Vicky, who he did not want to worry, Juliana, as a mother, understood children. The eldest twin fussed, Patrick fed, changed, and comforted, but it wasn’t enough. Daciana seemed aware of her mother’s absence. She needed something Patrick was not equipped to offer. As Juliana cradled the bundle; Daciana screamed. She reassured him it was too early for her to be teething, and sometimes a baby needs to cry. Patrick’s ears needed a break. Whether Daciana wanted to expand her lungs or not, his head might explode.
Juliana came back to visit over the next few months, sharing her wisdom with the unwitting father. Charlotte remained absent, and Caleb reported nothing. He had not called or checked on the twins. Patrick despaired, taking comfort in Juliana. His actions were honourable, keen to ensure his nieces were happy. When Juliana referred to him as “daddy”, Patrick realised his life had changed. From the day Charlotte left, Patrick considered no other option. He stepped in and be a surrogate parent to the girls. He loved them from the moment they were born. The anticipation, to see them grow and be a part of their lives. Daciana remained restless, although her tears eased. He decided to stop mentioning Charlotte and accept his position as a father.
Juliana embraced him; this gentle, loving man put the girls before himself. His prior self-serving energies that once repulsed her were dissipating. A warmed inviting smile crept across her face as she asked him when he was going to kiss her. Patrick leaned in, stealing a quick first. In a rush of excitement, Juliana grabbed his top. He walked her backwards until her back pressed against the closet door. Her hand fumbled behind as Patrick kissed her. The door slid open, and unto the pile of coats, they fell.