Claire rushed around getting ready, she was late for work. "Oh dammit where are my keys?!" she muttered, "On the table Miss Ursine" Candy replied. "Argghhh, wheres my purse!" "By the door Miss Ursine" Candy replied "and your jackets on the chair". Claire swooped Kaci up and kissed her goodbye, putting her down in front of Candy Ashdale, who was busy setting up toys for Kaci to play with before bed.
"Are you sure your okay to babysit Kaci? I don't want to stop you from having a life, you've spent nearly all summer babysitting her" Claire asked concernedly, "Miss Ursine, its fine, go to work, we'll be fine won't we Kaci? besides, I like watching her" Candy said to the little girl who was preoccupied with her toy set. "Ok, well, only if your sure?" Candy nodded and shooed Claire away, "And how many times, call me Claire, oh, don't forget to call if you need anything!" Claire said as she rushed out of the door.
"Look Candy!" Kaci shouted, "I did it!" Candy laughed, "I can see that! well done Kace! Soo, are you excited for your birthday tomorrow?" Kaci stood clambered on to sofa and began to jump up and down shouting, "Yea! I'll be a big girl then!" Candy caught her mid jump and swung her around, making her squeal in delight, "Yes, you'll be a big girl, but you wont make it if you go flying through the ceiling now" she laughed. "Bedtime for you anyway", "Okay!" Kaci said, "Can I have a bedtime story first?" she pleaded? Candy pretended to think about it, "Oh, ok then, race you up stairs!" she shouted. Kaci took off running as fast as her little legs would carry her, Candy not far behind. "I won!!!" she squealed when she got to the top. Candy pretended to die a dramatic death and then jumped up "Right! Enough excitement, pajamas story, bed, in that order!"
"One... two... three ...wahoooo, well done Kaci!" Claire shouted, "My little girls a big girl now!" Behind her, the people she invited were all applauding Kaci blowing out the candles. The little girl was a bundle of excitement. "Happy Birthday Kace!" her Uncle Connor shouted.
Claire cut the cake and gave Kaci the first slice. She ran over to the benches and began to gobble it up. "Slow down Kaci!" Claire called, half laughing, after all, Kaci had told her that morning that she only wanted a party for the cake. "So", Connor said sliding up next to her, "Did you invite him?". "No" Claire replied flatly. "No point." Connor let the subject drop and turned to walk away, but before he did he gently patted Claire's arm and smiled. His eyes said it all. Claire couldn't help but smile back. Connor was genuinely nice man. She used to think that maybe if she'd met Connor before, things would have been different, but now, there was no chance. She pushed the thought out of her mind and joined Kaci and her other guests at the picnic table. No time for what ifs now. Besides, she had a beautiful little girl, she wouldn't change that for the world.
"Mom, can you invite Dad to my recital tonight?" Kaci said over breakfast. Claire nearly choked. Regaining her composure she thought very carefully for a minute and then answered Kaci, "Erm, I can ask him honey but there's no guarantee he will come" Claire said warily, "Oh he'll come, Jacks mom and dad aren't married anymore but his dad still comes to everything, he says he wouldn't miss for it the world!" Kaci beamed. Claire tried to share Kaci's enthusiasm but the couldn't. She gave her a weak smile and promised she would ask.
The school bus beeped saving Claire from any more awkward questions. Kaci grabbed her school bag and ran out the door, "Bye mom!" she shouted over shoulder. "Bye sweetie!" Claire called back. She watched the bus turn the corner and then slumped down onto the sofa. "What the hell am I going to do" she thought. Sighing, she got up and grabbed the phone from the wall and decided to just get it over with. Dialing Jared's number, she heard it ring and then waited for the answering machine, he never answered the phone. eventually she heard the beep. "Uh, Hi Jared. Its Claire. Kaci is having a recital at school tonight and she um, well she wanted me to invite you. If your going to come.. well she would really like that. If your not, could you let me know so she's not sitting waiting for you to show all night, please? um, thanks." She hung up and squeezed her eyes shut tight. She had a terrible feeling this would not end well, someone would end up hurt. She just prayed it wasn't Kaci.