Claire took Kaci downstairs and put her in her play pen, while she made breakfast. After eating, she decided she should really call Jared and invite him to the party, even if she already knew what the answer would be, she pulled out her cell and dialed. "Uh, Hi, Jared, its Claire, Um, It's Kaci's birthday today and I'm throwing her a little party, nothing big. I, uh, just wondered if you want to..., well, you know where we are, if you want to..., um, yea, it starts at 5. Um, bye". Claire hung up the phone. Her heart sank, she knew he wouldn't come, but Bessie had reminded her to at least try, at least then he couldn't say he wasn't given the opportunity, and that way when Kaci was old enough, she could see for herself. She'd called him when Kaci had been born to let him know she was healthy and what Claire had named her. He'd answered the phone, heard her voice and hung up. She'd been shocked and upset but she composed herself and after a few minutes had just text him the bare minimum.
Kaci Monroe Ursine
6 pounds 9 oz
19 inches long
She didn't bother to say that she had his long fingers or tiny ears. He clearly didn't care. She kept Connor up to date but he saw Kaci regularly anyway. So far, he'd stuck to what he had said and been there. Coming over to watch Kaci for a few hours when Claire needed a nap, taking her to the park, the beach, the community pool, you name it, he'd done it and Claire was extremely grateful. She'd had no misconceptions about Jared but she'd still held on to a smidgen of hope for the first six months, that he might even be curious as to what Kaci looked like, but apparently, he wasn't and that's what hurt the most. The fact that he just didn't care. Five pm finally rolled around and Claire heard the doorbell ring, she opened it to find Connor and Dr. Landgraab standing on her doorstep, "Happy Birthday!" they shouted to Kaci who was resting on Claire's hip. She squirmed out of Claire's arm and launched herself at Connor who caught her laughing, "Well somebodies having a good birthday!" he teased tickling her tummy. Claire's phone rang as she ushered them in. "Hello?", "Hi Claire? Its Moll- Sandi put that down!- Sorry about that but I wont be able to make it to- No Sandi! Down!", Claire laughed and said, "Oh that's alright, whats up? Sandi being mischievous again?", "Mischievous? Mischievous! Oh no, that's too nice a word, I'm sure I've spawned the Devils off spring! She's locked herself in the bathroom and taken my perfume hostage because I told her she was too young to wear it, I'm spying on her through the key hole as we spea- ahhhhh! Claire I have to go, the little rugrat just sprayed me in the eye!" Claire almost cried with laughter as she heard Sandi in the background singing what must be her war chant before the phone went dead. Connor and Dr. Landgraab almost doubled over with laughter when she explained what she'd just heard, "She is a handful" the Doctor agreed, laughing. "Right, so shall we blow your candle out now?" she said to Kaci who was tugging on her leg, Claire picked her up and told her to close her eyes a make a wish.
Kaci squeezed her eyes tightly shut and blew as hard as she could, Claire took the opportunity to blow it out for her as the flame didn't even budge. When Kaci opened her eyes she couldn't believe it was gone, "Yayyyyyyy!" she screamed, and then squirmed to get out of Claire's arms and play with Honey, the cat Claire had adopted when she Kaci was six months old, "So" Claire said to Connor and Dr. Landgraab, "Who wants a slice of cake?",
"Nancy asked me to send her apologies, she couldn't make it, Malcolm has a cold and she didn't want to risk bringing him out, but she said she'll call you in the week, maybe you could go for coffee if he's better", "Oh That's okay Dr Landgraab-", "It's Geoffffrey" he scolded her good-naturedly. Claire smiled shyly, "Okay, Geoffrey" she repeated, "I hope he feels better" she continued. "To be honest, I'd have bought him with me, but you know Nancy, he's her little golden boy" he laughed, Claire noticed that his smile didn't quite reach his eyes. She turned to Connor and changing the subject, asked how the cake was, "Great!" he replied through a mouth full of crumbs, Claire laughed and shook her head, "Worse than Kaci" she mumbled, "Hey! I heard that!" he shouted. Eventually Geoffrey and Connor left, Kaci had fell asleep long before, mumbling about cake and cats, Claire had put her in her cot and left her night light on. After she'd cleaned up downstairs, she went upstairs and ran herself a bath, soaking in the tub she thought about how Jared hadn't come and remembered what Connor said about Jared's reaction when he'd broached the subject as well. It had been less than pleasant. Connor had almost lost his cool, told him to grow up and stop acting like a spoiled brat but he didn't. He just shook his head and left. Claire smiled, that was Connor alright, mild mannered, forever the diplomat. "I don't know what his problem is Claire, I mean, I know our parents weren't around much but we always knew we were loved and they always tried their hardest. I just don't know." Claire had stayed silent, nodding and reflecting on her own childhood.
Her mother had never really been a mother, a chronic smoker and full time t.v addict, she never had much interest in her children, especially Claire. Her older brother, Chris had been her favourite, something she relished telling Claire. She'd been broken-hearted when he left and neglected Claire even more, forcing her to fend for herself. Chris, had left home as soon as he could. Their home hadn't really been a home. The last time she'd seen Chris, he'd been sixteen years old and she was five. He'd picked her up and spun her around, then sat down with her under their favourite cherry tree, she'd asked him why he was crying, he asked her why she wasn't. He said he had to leave, but that he would come back for her. That was the last time she saw him. The last she'd heard, he was a part time time drug dealer, full time drug addict, laying low in Lucky Palms, with as many kids as wanted posters, but that had been over two years ago and his trail had gone cold since. She was too afraid to find out why. Funny that, their dad had never been around much, yet Chris had turned out just like him, only her dads poison of choice was the bottle. Never could turn Jack Daniels down. Claire often wondered if addictive personalities could be inherited. Her mother said her Dad left when she'd sent him to run an errand, apparently "He went to the store to buy cigarettes and left with the cashier and six pack of beer". Claire had had a string of replacement "Daddies" ever since, most of them lasting about six months, all of them damaged in some way. Maybe that's the only thing she got from her mother, the urge to date people who needed fixing. She didn't know, but she did know she wouldn't be doing it anymore. She had Kaci to think about and Kaci came first, no matter what.
Claire woke her daughter early the next morning, "Rise and shine Kaci, Look what mommy found? ... The CLAWWWW" Kaci squealed with delight as the claw came to attack her little tummy. "Guess what we're doing today?" Claire asked Kaci grinning, Kaci looked at her inquisitively, eyes as round as saucers, "We're going to the paaarrrkk!" Claire shouted, holding Kaci in the air and running around the room. "But first, we have to get you fed and dressed", "Parrrrrg!" Kaci repeated, running as fast as her little legs would take her into the bathroom so Claire could give her a bath. Claire grabbed her clothes from the bedside table and was about to follow when she heard the cat squeal, she dashed into the bathroom to find Kaci holding the soaking cat over the toilet bowl looking very pleased with herself, "Kaci baf honey", all Claire could do was laugh, the poor cat looked like it knew it had lost the war and given up. "Oh you poor thing" she said to Honey, "Kaci honey, we don't bathe the cat in the toilet, she doesn't like it, mommy bathes her in the bath ok?" "Okay!" said Kaci and promptly dropped her back into the toilet. Claire rushed to get her out, "Oh sweetheart, I am so sorry" she said, "Lets get you cleaned up shall we?" Honey just turned her head the other way and squeezed her eyes shut with an air of injustice. Claire bit back a laugh.
After feeding Kaci, and seeing to the traumatized cat, Claire eventually got out of the house and to the park. they fed the fish and the birds until it was beginning get dark and Claire decided to head home. "Bed time munchkin" she said, strapping her into her car seat. Kaci began to sing rather loudly, "Happeee buffffday to meee!" Kaci said, "No sweetie that was yesterday", Kaci paused, and then carried on anyway. Claire was sure she didn't really know what she singing. By the time they pulled into the driveway, Kaci was fast asleep. Claire carried the sleeping child upstairs and put her little pajamas's on. Kaci stirred but didn't open her eyes, mumbling "baf honey", Claire stiffled a laugh and remembered how Honey had given Kaci a wide birth when they'd finally gotten downstairs that morning, shooting out the front door as soon as Claire opened it, Kaci not far behind. She lowered Kaci into her cot and stared at her daughter for a few moments, wondering how she'd managed to create such a beautiful creature. She couldn't believe she was back at work tomorrow, she'd hired a local baby-sitter, Candy Ashdale to take care of Kaci while she worked, school was out for the summer and Kaci would be in daycare by the time Candy started back at school. She sighed, kissed her daughter on the head, and turned out the light. Back to the grind tomorrow kiddo, she thought, wishing she could get just avoid it all together. And then another thought stopped her dead in her tracks. Someone she worked with, someone she couldn't avoid. Jared Frio.