Nia is going to get me fired.
My little fireball, for the life of me, seems to never do what she is told and if I don't find her anytime soon, I am going to pay hell for it. Five minutes has passed and she isn't in any of the rooms I've checked, I would be totally impressed with her hiding skills, if not for the fact that I am at work and she isn't meant to be with me.
I work at Marilyn D. Jenkins Book Club. Yes, a book club, it's the best of all the book club organisations in the country, there are more than two hundred branches located all over the country and I happen to get a new job at the head organisation as a janitor.
Nia was born before I started my second year of college, on that day I lost everything but her. Niamera her mother, didn't survive her birth. Leaving me behind with our child and no support from either of our families. I had to leave school, get a job and steady income in order to provide for my daughter. I am a twenty-four-year-old, single dad of a four-year-old. Whose current source of income is working various jobs, including being a janitor for a book club, I know how pathetic I am.
I was lucky to have come across a fairly cheap day care centre in which Nia spends the day at after school, where she gets all her school work done, play with friends and do a lot of activities that kids seem to love doing, whenever I have to work during the day. Our neighbour, Ms Sherri takes care of Nia and picks her up, whenever I have to work late and that is a lot. But today being a rare occasion in which I have to work late and Ms Sherri has an emergency she needs to attend to, leaving me with no one to watch over Nia, on such a short notice.
The building is fairly empty as most people have departed for the day, I'm just praying my working supervisor isn't still in the building and witnesses me being tardy. As a father, I am very worried about the fact that my daughter is somewhere in this building all by herself and do not even want to think she has been taken by some stranger. Now that I have thought about it, my anxiety is building and I don't care if my supervisor is around or not. "Nia Baxter! Where are you, this very minute?" I shout out loud and get no reply. I fanatically start searching all the rooms I haven't, my shouting of Nia's name getting crazier by the second.
"Da! I'm over here!"
My racing heart gradually slows down, and I let out one big sigh of relief. I rush towards her and hug her, just to make sure she's really there and to wash away my panic driven thoughts of her being kidnapped. "Niamera Cassia Baxter! What have I told you about wandering off without informing anyone or asking me to follow you? I've grown older during the last few minutes." I softly scold her, not wanting to let her off the hook so easily and the little fireball is giggling.
"Da, I wusn't alone. Ha'ley is with me!" She says all smiles and glee, I don't know any Ha'ley and Nia's never showed signs of having an imaginary friend before.
"I'm sorry, I saw her all by herself and got worried, thought a client had forgotten a child and was trying to get information out of her to contact her parents."
I am so engrossed in Nia, I do not notice where we are, in front of Mr Jenkins door, the CEO of the book club and Mr Jenkins is the person who found my daughter, oh lord I am getting fired by the owner. "That's Ha'ley" I shoot my daughter a look, asking her to keep quiet and lessen the wrath that will be unleashed upon me by this man.
"I'm sorry sir, we didn't mean to be a bother. I won't bring her here with me next time, I am really sorry for the inconvenience, I've caused you."
Luckily enough, Nia is staying quiet by my side and Mr Jenkins is looking amusedly at me. This isn't the reaction I had envisioned of him in my head, there he is berating and firing me for breaking the employee policy.
"Your daughter isn't an inconvenience nor is she a bother, it was delightful having her company and I don't mind her visiting, we have become fast friends, right Nia?"
Nia nods her head enthusiastically and moves towards him. "Da can I pwease stay with Ha'ley. I'be a good girl" I look at Mr Jenkins who nods his head in approval, telling me without words that he did not mind having Nia with him in his office. Since they were previously together and Nia is alright and happy with his company, it wouldn't hurt to not have to worry about her while I clean the building.
"Thank you, sir. We'll be out of your hair in three hours," I say to Mr Jenkins who just nods at me, while he and Nia head back into his office.
Despite all I have to do, I can not help but check on Nia, the second time I check and I am relieved that she isn't being a bother I do not go back and focus on finishing my work. The last place I have to clean is Mr Jenkins office, upon reaching the office, Nia is fast asleep on one of the sleek couch in the office and Mr Jenkins suit jacket is covering her small body.
Mr Jenkins, on the other hand, is busy at his desk, but he stops what he is doing as soon as I enter the room. I'm about to thank him for looking after Nia when he speaks "You have a lovely daughter..." he doesn't finish and I realise he is asking for my name, I'm surprised Nia didn't tell him.
"Leo Baxter. Leo, Mr Jenkins thank you so much for taking her under your care and for understanding."
"Hadley. Please do call me Hadley, Mr Jenkins is too formal and coming from you, it makes me feel old."
I laugh and nod at him, while I get to cleaning and arranging his office. He must have been waiting for me to finish before he left because as soon as I am done, he also packs up and starts getting ready to leave. He insists I go take a shower and change into my normal clothes, while he watches over Nia for me.
Mr Jenkins follows me and Nia, who is still asleep in my arms, down to the garage. I am too embarrassed and don't want him to see my car, so I try to bid him farewell as soon as we get there.
"We should do lunch or dinner one of these days?" Mr Jenkins says and catches me off guard and I have to say "Excuse me?" He smirks at me and looks at my sleeping daughter before looking at me again.
"Lunch or dinner, the three of us. I mean it when I say Nia and I are friends, Leo. I'll call you prior to that time."
I look at him flabbergasted before I fully register all that he has said and tell him "You don't have my number."
"Simple, I can get it from the staff record. Drive carefully and I hope you two have a sound night."
Mr Jenkins then proceeds to brush my daughter's hair, looks at me one more time and moves along towards his own car.
I hurry to my own car, as I am quickly getting tired the more I carry Nia. I lay her carefully in the backseat and strap the seatbelts around her. I could not believe the turn of events the night had taken, never would I have thought Mr Jenkins would have a nice and easy-going persona, or even like the company of a four-year-old girl.
In totally I am just glad Nia didn't get me fired because despite me being a janitor, the pay is one of the best pay I've ever come close to earning.
Nia is wiped out, she doesn't wake up at all on the drive home and even when we get home and I carry her inside. I have to wake her to go pee and also change her into her pyjamas, she goes through all this motion while more than seventy percent asleep.
When I am done with her, I move my tired body to my room, I strip till I'm wearing my boxers and get into my bed, picking up my phone to check the time, when I'm distracted by a text from an unknown number. I open the message and read
Hope you're safely at home now.
I smile and type a quick reply, reassuring him, that we are safe and glad to know that he was also, before dropping my phone back and settling in for night sleep.