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Hadley Jenkins is unsatisfied with his life. He is close to having everything a man could ever wish for, only if he could fill the empty void in him. Leo Baxter is a struggling single dad, working himself into a stupor, trying to make ends meet for his little girl, Nia. Hadley would have never crossed paths with Leo if not for the joy that is Nia and now he knows one thing, he wants what he might never have. The only thing stopping him from having everything is Leo Baxter himself.

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6. Emergency

Leo Baxter

We spent the night in our room, talking about minor things such as our childhood, stupid things we had done and surprisingly enough Hadley has done a lot of stupid things. I share stories about Nia and her mother, it felt good talking about Niamera again, but I knew what Hadley wanted to talk about the most was what was happening between us, but I kept away from it and once he got the hint he didn’t bring it up again. He pecked my forehead before we went to sleep, in our separate bedrooms. If I said I wasn’t disappointed I would be lying, this whole thing is messing with me more than I would like to admit to myself or anyone else.

Since I have work in the evening, we decide to leave for Crooked, yes the name of our bustling city is Crooked, by 9 a.m. in order to get back before 12 p.m. and settle back into our normal routines. We haven’t spoken on how we will be once we are back in our real lives. But there is enough time for us to air our thoughts out on the ride back, I had thought a lot about what is happening between us, last night, before I slept and sleeping on it, had made it better somewhat.

When we had been signing out, we saw Malory and his boyfriend and Malory did not even bat an eyelash in our direction, nor did he act like he had seen Hadley or me. Which amused me immensely, Hadley had put his hand on my shoulder and I looked at him, he had a smile on his face… trying to reassure me? I didn’t need it, I was not entirely jealous of Malory, I had been more upset that Hadley just considered me a challenge, someone that can be easily discarded.

We haven’t spoken since our journey started and it is killing me, this isn’t meant to be awkward and it is starting to seem that way and like the whole weekend was a mistake.

“Leo, spit whatever is on your mind out, you’re working my nerves.”

I am startled from my thoughts, by hearing Hadley’s voice and what he just said. So he has been watching me? “What’s going to happen now?” I finally say to him, he doesn’t look at me and replies “Whatever you choose to happen.” Why did he put the ball in my court? He is the gay one, not me. This is his territory.

“Really Hadley. I am in unknown territory, all I know is I am attracted to you, I don’t know why I am interested in you. But it doesn’t change the fact that I am, I want to explore what it is we have, just we have to go slow and I don’t know if you can go slow for me?”

He looks at me and his smirk is on his face, great he understands my rambling and seems to like it. “I can go slow for you, baby.” I never knew hearing those words being said from a man to me would make me blush and feel butterflies but it sure did, God when did I become gay?

Hadley reaches for a button and music fills the car and I am surprised by the song, I don’t peg him for the kind that listens to hip-hop and I can bet this is a Chris Brown song that is playing, he starts humming to the song and I can’t help but smile “What? I like good music, who doesn’t?” he asks me and I chose to not reply him.

One hour into the journey my phone rings, I had not used my phone much this weekend, I had spoken to Nia last night before bed time. The call is from an unknown number; Hadley reduces the volume of the music playing before I answer it.

“Hello?”

“Good morning, I am Principal Foy Vance, of Crooked Elementary is this Mr. Baxter?”

I have never received a call from the school before and I do not know if I should be calm or panicked.

“Yes, I am. What is the problem?”

“Your daughter and two other pupils have been taken to Crooked General Hospital–

“What? Please what happened to my daughter? Is she alright? I am on my way now!”

“Please be calm sir, she and her friends fell from a tree, her shoulder got dislocated –

“Oh goodness gracious! When did it happen?”

“Ten minutes ago. I am with the children at the hospital, no parent is here yet.”

I need to get to my baby, a dislocated shoulder is going to hurt like hell and I can’t stand the thought of pain she is still going to feel, as the doctor puts the shoulder bones, back in place for her.

“Leo! What happened to Nia, where are we going?”

“Crooked General Hospital, she fell from a tree and dislocated her shoulder.”

I watch Hadley’s face scrunch up in worry, and then he gets serious, he drives a bit faster, determined to get us to the hospital as quickly as possible. My phone starts ringing again and I see it’s Lucy that is calling me, she is a Nurse, so maybe she is calling me because she has seen Nia. I answer immediately.

“Leo, I have bad news but it is not unfixable.”

“I know Lucy, Nia fell from a tree and dislocated her shoulder, I am on my way to the hospital as we speak.”

“Stefan also fell from the tree, what are we going to do with this kids?”

“I hope he isn’t hurt badly, of course I should have known when the Principal said two other students, I should have included Stefan to the mix.”

“He fractured his ankle, he is going to need a cast. I have to go, both Stefan and Nia haven’t stopped crying and I am trying to cheer them up.”

“Thanks Lucy, see you soon.”

I turn to Hadley who is concentrating on driving, but I can tell he is waiting for me to speak to him “Lucy is one of my closest friends, her son Stefan and Nia are best friends and he also was on the tree. I am so thankful that Nia has a loving face with her.”

“She will get better Leo and we are almost there now.”

Once we get to the hospital, I don’t wait for Hadley to park his car and rush to the reception and ask for my daughter, I was directed to the fourth floor, which is the children’s section of the hospital.

Upon reaching the floor, Principal Vance approaches me and shares her condolences, I nod at her. Not really listening, because I am so close to Nia and I need to see her for myself to know that she is alright.

Lucy and Nina are both in the room, with Nia and Stefan, whose faces are red and swollen from crying, Nia’s left hand is tightly bandaged and in a sling, a lollipop in her mouth, while Stefan’s right leg from his foot to his thigh is in a cast. I immediately rush to Nia’s side and carefully lift her up and hug her, she puts her head on my shoulder and I hear her start sobbing.

I greet Nina and Lucy, and ruffle Stefan’s head before focusing on my daughter, who has started talking while still crying.

“The trwee fwell Da. I, Stefan and Lisa fwell. My hand huwts and Doc made it huwt.”

I kept repeating sorry baby to her and saying sweet words, till I notice Nina and Lucy smiling at the door and Hadley is standing there, looking at I and Nia.

“Ha’ley!”

Nia screams and motions for me to put her down, but Hadley doesn’t let me instead he carries her, listening to her speak about her ordeal. I move towards Stefan and ask him how he is holding up, he said it hurt, but he won’t cry anymore because he is a boy.

Lucy and Nina are happy to meet Hadley and I can see the side looks they are giving me, but I ignore them, because I am not ready to discuss anything with them. I know how it looks, Hadley and I fanning over Nia, and coming together to the hospital.

“We are going to get ice-cream! Do you all want to come?”

Hadley announces and Nia giggles, I roll my eyes at them. Obviously Nia came up with that idea.

“Sounds like a plan, Nina and Stefan are free to go, but I have to take a rain check, I am on duty. Before you all go though, you have to check out and–

She was cut short by Nina, who kissed her lips and said “We know, we know… kiss Stefan goodbye and stop fussing, love.” Lucy laughed and put her hands up in surrender and did as she was told, pecking both Nia and I before leaving and shaking Hadley’s hand.

We proceed to check out and I take note of the instructions and medication Nia is to use and also all her check-up dates, as does Nina. Hadley doesn’t drop Nia and carries her all through and even to his car, Stefan had to use a wheel chair, Lucy would bring crutches that would be his size when she came home from work, so he had to manage the wheel chair to his glee.

Hadley’s car is spacious, Nina offers to seat with the kids behind, so and Hadley take the front. Nia and Stefan tells us why they had climbed the tree in first place. Their friend Lisa told them that she could climb a tree and they hadn’t believed her, so they told her to prove it and if she did, they would climb the tree also. Lisa really could climb the tree and she taught her friends how to climb trees. Lisa climbed the tree and sat down on a branch, Nia and Stefan knowing they could climb trees now decided to go up and join their friend, but they weren’t to know that the branch couldn’t handle the three’s combined weight and it broke, sending the kids airborne and victims of gravity.

Lisa, I learnt from Nina, is suffering from a minor concussion and a fractured elbow, she had been in coma for a short while and was suffering from mild amnesia. She got the worse from the fall, but she would be fine and whole once again.

Getting to the ice-cream shop, we all made different choices before settling down to eat the sweet treats happily, while talking about anything that comes to mind.

I have to take a week off from work now and Nia from school, I have to watch her every move now and be able to cater to her in case she becomes uncomfortable and when she is remotely fine, we surely would discuss the consequences off her reckless action. I am a bit angry at the school, how come three little kids were left alone and unsupervised or no one saw that three kids were missing. Because I believe it would have taken a bit of time for Lisa to teach both Nia and Stefan how to climb a tree right? I had to make enquiries into this, when I visit the school tomorrow.

I voice my thoughts with Nina and Hadley and they both agreed with my reasoning, because when our kids are at in school, it is without a doubt that we are entrusting our children to them and they without question have to look after them since the school is meant to have the best of intents for the children that attends it.

When we are all done with our ice-creams, Hadley tells Nina he will drop both her and Stefan back at their home, of course he would, as if we thought any less. In the car journey back, the atmosphere is more light and friendly as Nina and Hadley have gotten to know each other a bit and aren’t as much as strangers as they had been earlier.

Stefan tells Hadley he is cool and Nia grins and says to him “I told you so.” Nina thanks Hadley for the treats and ride, which he just brushes off, saying it didn’t take much from him to do. She hugs Nia and tells her to not hurt herself or get into any more trouble and tells me, we seriously need to talk. Gossip monger.

Now it is just Nia, Hadley and I.

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