At seven o'clock that evening, we all stood around the front window. We watch as Bandit comes skipping up the front path holding her Mother's hand. I sniffle a little remembering when times were like that in my life. Gerard gives my left hand a squeeze. I turn to look at him.
"Come on, Mister. Yo have anniversary to get to! And don't forget: You aren't coming back here after, you're going home."
"Yes, Mom." He laughs.
"Ugh, I hate how Americans say it." While Gerard and I are talking, the front door opens and a very excitable seven year old comes bounding in. She runs straight over to Mikey, jumping up as he grabs her and swings her around. Her giggles resonate through the front room and Gerard finally looks up.
"Hey! Where is my hug?" He cries, opening his arms. She giggles again and runs over, wrapping her arms around his neck when he grabs her. "Do you get bigger every time I see you?" He smiles, tickling her tummy.
"Daddy, you saw me this morning!" She laughs.
"And I am positive you have grown by two specs!" She giggles again and Gerard turns around, so he and Bandit are facing me. "Now do you remember the girl you came and saw with me this morning?" Bandit was there?
"The pretty, sleepy girl?" She asks. I feel my cheeks go red.
"Yes. Well, she woke up earlier and said she isn't very tired now and she wants to spend time with you. She wants to help Uncle Mikey look after you while Mommy and Daddy are out. Would that be okay?" Bandit points to me.
"That's the pretty girl. You're very pretty." She smiles at me. I can't help, but smile back at her cuteness. Lindsay comes over to me.
"The clothes are alright then!" She laughs.
"Oh, uh, yes! Thank you! They're the right size and everything!"
"Haha. Yeah. I tend to have a knack for things like that. Anyway, are you sure you don't mind watching her. She can be a handful sometimes." We turn to watch Gerard and Mikey throwing Bandit between them. "Actually, I might ask you to watch Mikey!" We both laugh at this.
"Yeah. It's fine. I am just grateful to Gerard and the rest of the guys for letting me stay here. Me looking after Bandit is nothing."
"Only if you're sure?" She raises an eye at me.
"Honestly. I love kids! Just go have fun!"
"Okay. Will do." We watch Gerard throw Bandit and turn to us.
"Ready?" He asks.
"Ready." Lindsay says.
They both walk to the door and I follow them leaving the boys to play with Bandit.
"I told Mikey the rules. He'll run you through them. She needs certain things, make sure Mikey won't forge-"
"Gee." I cut him off. "We got it. Calm down. Have fun. Be safe. See you tomorrow."
"Okay, well just-"
"Honey. We're gonna be late." Lindsay tugs on his arm. They both turn to me a little way down the path and mouth, Good luck! I chuckle and shut the door, letting them go.
"So," I turn to look at everyone, but only Pete is there. "What the-"
"Oh. Yeah, they're playing hide and seek. Told me to stay, so I could tell you that you're the seeker." He looks down at the Coke in his hand.
"Oh no. I ain't seeker alone. I'm going to get lost. You're coming with me."
"But I just sat down!"
"Well, get up!" I grab his arm, yanking on it to pull it up. He groans and I just laugh. "You're so lazy. How the hell do you have two kids?"
He just shrugs. He pulls himself up and starts walking. Fast.
"You want my help? You walk my speed. Otherwise, I am not helping."
"Ooh!" He stops, suddenly. "I like. Thanks Pete is a huge mistake. But I like Dammit Pete."
"Okay, well walk."
We search for what feels like eternity and decide to give up. As we walk back through the house we shout that we've given up. We receive no answer. As we walk to the kitchen to find dinner for Bandit, we see them sat around the dining room table. I walk straight past it and don't realise until I hear Pete laughing. I turn round to see him bent over laughing really hard.
"What?" I walk back to Pete. As I turn and look in the dining room, Bandit starts giggling, which causes everyone else to start laughing. "Were you here the whole time?"
"Yep!" Mikey is heaving from the effort of talking, laughing and staying sat on his chair.
Bandit has a bowl of pasta in front of her and she is cackling with laughter.
"Mikey! You are gonna teach her bad habits!" I cry and sit on her other side. "Eat sensibly please, sweetie. Daddy would be really angry if he got a phone call.
"Why would he get a phone call?" Everyone tenses, wondering what will come out of my mouth next.
"Because I'd have to ring him and tell him how naughty you've been. That's why." Everyone relaxes.
"Don't call Daddy."
"I won't just be good and eat sensibly."
"Am I sleeping over tonight?"
"Yeah! You are isn't that exciting!"
"Can I sleep in your room with you?"
"Uh.. Ban-" Mikey starts, but I cut him off.
"If you want to! That would be fun!"
"Yeah, it would!" She smiles and eats the last bites of pasta.
I walk her to my room and she changes into her PJs. She climbs into my bed and I tuck the covers up around her.
"Can you sing?" She asks, gazing up at me.
"Uh... I guess."
"Daddy usually sings to me."
"What would you like me to sing?"
"I don't know. Anything."
I decide on the first slow one that comes to my head. What A Catch, Donnie. Oh well. She won't understand the lyrics.
I've got troubled thoughts
And the self esteem to match,
What a catch
What a catch, whoa-oh You'll never catch us
So just let me be...
I said I'll be fine
Till the hospital
Or American embassy
Miss Flack said I still want you back
Miss flack said I still want you back
I've got troubled thoughts
And the self esteem to match
What a catch
What a catch
And all I can think of
Is the way I'm the one who charmed
The one who gave up on you
Who gave up on you..
I don't even get half way through the song, before she is asleep. I kiss her forehead and leave the room as quietly as possible. Shutting the door, I look up and see Mikey, Frank, Ray, Patrick, Pete, Joe and Andy.
"Jesus Christ!" I whisper, "Talk about jump scares!"
"Is she asleep?" Frank whispers.
"Yes! Now why don't we take this conversation downstairs."
"What did you sing?" Mikey asks.
"It doesn't matter what I sung. If she wakes up I ain't singing next time!" I look over at Pete who is looking very smug. Twat. What has gotten into him?
"How did you get her to sleep that quick though? It takes Gee like three songs!" Mikey asks as we walk down the stairs.
"Eh, it was a piece of cake."