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    Mrsgnomie
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 

Dichotomy of Love - 2. Part One. Chapter Two.

Kyan drummed his fingers on his thighs as the laptop booted up. He really didn’t know what to expect once they logged into QuickBooks. If he was honest, it felt crude to be dissecting something Dayna spent so much time and energy preparing and executing. There were nights she sat at the laptop for hours, plugging in numbers and predicting outcomes for their measly little income.

But what they had was theirs and no one else's.

Even if they were experts, Kyan couldn’t handle some stranger pillaging through their personal records like scavengers, telling him what he could and couldn’t do. He couldn’t handle someone criticizing her work.

But Evan reiterated, many times, the importance of handling the finances in a timely manner. As the family lawyer and a good friend, Evan was trusted by Jed and Trudy, and that was good enough for Kyan. Somehow, he found a life insurance policy Dayna had through her job with the City of Molalla’s Human Resources Department.

He was about to find out just how long it would last.

Evan now gone, Kyan stared at the screen. He avoided Perry’s gaze at all costs.

Kyan opened the program and entered the password. If Perry thought Kyan could do more than log in, he was mistaken. Kyan turned the laptop toward his brother-in-law.

“Okay. Let’s have a look.” Perry scrolled. Once he finished his evaluation, he moved to the web browser and logged into their accounts. Dayna had the foresight to save all their account credentials in a GoogleDoc. While she added important things like bank accounts, utilities, and rent payments, Kyan made sure all of Jessica’s streaming logins were easy to find in the unfortunate event they got logged out. Each had their own value.

The way Perry studied the information and typed numbers into an Excel sheet reminded him of Dayna. Except he was never nervous when Dayna scrutinized their budget. What if Dayna had been terrible at it and their finances were a dumpster fire? Would Perry judge Kyan for keeping his head in the sand? He worried his lip as he waited.

When Perry was done, he turned in his chair. Kyan was on the edge of a breakdown and Perry was just staring at him, giving him no sign of what was to come. Was it good? Was it bad? Kyan want to reach out and strangle him. Didn’t he know wasn’t stable enough to play games.

Finally Perry smiled. “Looks like you guys have everything dialed in. There doesn’t appear to be any unnecessary debt. With the money from the insurance payout, you should be able to continue paying rent, utilities, and such for at least two years, maybe longer.”

“Did you know Dayna and I had an appointment to sign papers on life insurance policies?” he asked. “We were supposed to do it before Gracie was born, but it got pushed back for some reason. It would’ve been three times this amount.”

Perry cringed at the bad luck. “You’ll manage it.”

“Will I though? I mean, I know how to follow a budget but…” creating and managing this beast was Dayna’s thing.

Perry looked at Kyan thoughtfully. He chewed his bottom lip, then closed the laptop. “Tell me to fuck off, but I can help for a while. Just save your receipts and I’ll make sure the rest is taken care of. How often did you and Dee sit down and go over finances?”

“I don’t know. It was a new thing for us. We don’t have regular meetings or anything. I mean, there wasn’t much to discuss. I rarely left the house without her, so staying on budget was never an issue.”

Perry ran his fingers over the keyboard as he considered what the next steps were. “We’re going to sit down on the first Friday of every month and make sure it all looks good. We’ll go over the numbers and adjust what we need.”

“Are you sure?” he asked. “I don’t want to—” burden you.

Perry pinned him with a look. “Ky…”

“I know, I know.” Kyan put his hands up. “I just feel worthless. I don’t want your family thinking I can’t handle things on my own. I can. If I need to, I can.”

“We know, but guess what?” Perry paused, smirking like he had the best gossip. “You don’t have to.”

Kyan let out a breath, releasing the stress and anxiety he’d built up around this topic. He had to remind himself he was in good hands.

Perry reached over and squeezed Kyan’s arm. “I know your family sucks and you’re not used to being shown any kind of affection or support, but my family loves you. The last thing we want is to overstep. So if you ever feel overwhelmed or smothered, just say something. If you don’t want mom coming around every day, say something. And if you can’t tell her, tell me. I will.”

Kyan rolled his eyes. “Trudy doesn’t come over every day,” he snarked. “Besides, what if it’s you I don’t want coming around all the time?”

Perry’s jaw dropped and for a moment Kyan thought his best friend didn’t get the joke, but then he smirked and narrowed his piercing green eyes. “Take it back.”

Kyan laughed but kept going. “Do I tell Jessica? Will she tell you to get the fuck out of my house?”

“Oh, she’d love that. But then you wouldn’t be able to get rid of her.”

“Ehhh. She’s not so bad. She holds Gracie.”

Hey. I held Gracie.”

“You fumbled Gracie.”

“I did not.”

As if.

Perry laughed. “I didn’t!”

“Mm-hmm.”

Kyan looked at his phone. It was still early and the kids were already asleep. “You want to stay for a bit? Catch a few episodes of ‘Outlander’?”

Perry thought about it, then shook his head and got up. “I should get home. I start a big job tomorrow.”

As one of the most respected and sought after industrial electricians in the area, Perry was always starting big jobs. Oh well. It was probably for the best. Kyan hadn’t been sleeping all that great, and Gracie was about to wake up for her next feeding. He should at least try to sleep when she sleeps.

Perry hugged Kyan goodbye, then paused. “No pressure, but we should think about hitting the gym again. Just once or twice a week. I think it would be good for you. Physically and emotionally.”

“And the kids?”

He counted with his fingers. “Charlie, Jessica, Mom, Dad.”

Kyan pretended to take it under consideration. “We’ll see.”

Perry drilled him with a look, and Kyan knew he wasn’t buying it. He poked Kyan’s flagging bicep — not that he ever had much to show for his efforts. “You’re losing muscle, my friend. If you don’t do something soon, it will take you six months to get back to where you were.”

Kyan laughed and punched him. “Fuck you. I can still kick your ass any day.”

Perry crouched into a wrestler's pose, silently challenging Kyan to a duel. Kyan laughed off the challenge, but then snapped into action. He swung behind Perry and quickly put him in a hold.

But Perry was ready.

The two went at it, out-maneuvering each other at every turn. Despite the weight difference, Kyan held his own, and it wasn’t long before they were on the floor in a deadlock. Kyan was sweating, but unwilling to loosen his hold or admit defeat.

Until the baby monitor lit up.

“Are you going to get her?” Perry asked. His body had Kyan pinned to the kitchen floor, but Kyan had Perry in a headlock.

“Maybe you should.”

“You’re really not going to get your daughter?”

“You’re really not going to get your niece?”

“We’ll let go on the count of three. One…two…three—”

I knew you weren’t going to let go!” Kyan cried, though he was grinning from ear to ear. With no personal time, Kyan’s light-brown hair kept falling into his face. He tried to blow it out of his eyes, but it did no good.

Perry tightened his legs around Kyan’s hips. “You didn’t let go either!”

Gracie’s whine turned into a cry, and they didn’t need the monitor to hear her. The two pushed apart.

Breathless and sweaty, Kyan went to his room, hefted his daughter out of the bassinet and onto his shoulder so he could make her a bottle.

Perry was completely unaffected by the strenuous workout. He leaned against the counter and studied Gracie as she greedily drank down the formula. “She looks so much like Dee.”

Pain seared his chest. “Everyone around here looks like Dee.”

Perry smiled, though it didn’t reach his eyes. “Must be hard.”

“It is, but it’s comforting to see her everywhere I look.”

Perry was quiet. Kyan waited for him to say something. It seemed like he was thinking hard, but instead, he rapped his knuckles against the counter. “I should go.”

Perry leaned down and gave Gracie a kiss on the forehead, but before he could leave, Kyan grabbed his arm. “I just want to say… I appreciate you. You don’t have to do any of this.”

“I do. Not because I’m obligated, but because I care.”

“I know.” Kyan was still holding Perry’s arm. “I try not to stress, because I have to think of the kids, but thinking of the kids and everything I need to do stresses me out. And I… I’m really fucking scared.”

Perry’s expression softened, and the corner of his mouth curled into a sweet smile. He pulled his arm from Kyan’s death grip and wrapped both around Kyan and Gracie. “I get it,” he whispered. “It’s fucking terrifying.”

Kyan willed himself not to cry, but there were so few moments he felt safe enough to do it. The tears fell.

Perry swayed them back and forth in the universal dance of comfort. After a few minutes he started to pull away, but Kyan held on. The weary dad felt stupid and needy, but he couldn’t bear to be alone.

“I could probably stay for a little while,” Perry offered. “I am dying to know what happens with Sam.”

Kyan bit back a smile. He’d looked desperate enough for one night. But then he noticed Perry’s own bloodshot eyes and damp cheeks.

He swallowed. “Sam was in a bit of a pickle.”

Perry nodded, and the two, plus a sleeping Gracie, walked to the living room.

****

Gracie woke them around midnight, from where they’d passed out on the sofa. While Kyan made her a bottle, Perry went home.

Kyan worried he’d have a hard time falling back to sleep, but as soon as his head hit the pillow, he was out again. It was the hardest he’d slept since Gracie was born. The wrestling match helped, he was sure of it. He hadn’t exerted that kind of energy in a while.

Perry was right about needing to add the gym back into his life, but he wasn’t ready to leave the kids.

.

So he settled on walking. Every day after work, Perry came over and they took the kids around the block. Jessica and Charlie joined more often than not. Even Jed and Trudy showed up. When the entire family lives within a five-mile radius, everyone is welcome.

Noah rode his bike, outfitted with the custom training wheels Jed welded in his shop. The twins rode in the stroller, and Gracie slept in the front pack. When Ava and Henry grew restless, Uncle Perry and Grandpa Jed carried them on their shoulders.

It felt good to get out of the house and even better to watch the kids have fun, because every day was a battle for Kyan. The scariest part of grief was how easy it was to let the crippling sorrow drag him into the abyss. Some days, Kyan had to push himself to keep going. If it wasn’t for Dayna’s family, he wasn’t sure he’d survive. They were supportive without being overbearing. Thoughtful without being intrusive.

Kyan smiled as Noah pedaled his little heart out, trying to beat some arbitrary personal record. When he passed the stop sign, he made a wide turn and pedaled back to Kyan, flashing the cutest gap-toothed grin.

Before summer ended and Noah started pre-school, Kyan wanted to do something special with his eldest. He’d done his best to not expect much from his almost five-year-old, but as a painfully new single parent, sometimes it was hard not to ask him to help more. Kyan never wanted to put that kind of burden on his son, but if he had done it inadvertently, the least he could do was make up for it.

****

You’d think he was bathing Saint Bernards, not two-year-old twins. He opened a bath towel and wrapped it around Ava, giving her a rough-and-dirty dry-off before moving to Henry. He cleaned their ears, combed their hair, and lotioned them up while Noah scrubbed his little body the best he could because he was a” big kid” and “didn’t need” Kyan’s help. Once all three kids were out of the bathroom, Kyan stripped his socks off and used a bath towel to mop the floor behind him as he left.

Ten minutes later, Kyan had the twins tucked into bed. He closed their door and opened Noah’s door to find him lying cockeyed on his bed with his feet swaying in the air, playing with Legos.

“Psstt,” Kyan whispered. “Wanna stay up with me for a bit?”

Noah’s eyes widened with unbridled excitement. “Until nine o'clock?” he asked, knowing he was reaching. When Kyan nodded, Noah’s face lit up and he jumped up and down and pumped his little fists in the air.

Staying up late wasn’t the only thing Kyan had planned. He took his son’s hand, led him to the kitchen, and slowly opened the freezer door.

Noah’s jaw dropped. “Ice-cream sammies!” he whisper-shouted, except it was light on the whispering and loud on the shouting.

Oh boy, the kid was so excited. He took his treat and hurried to the table and devoured it. So much for the bath. By the time Noah took his last bite, vanilla ice cream and chocolate cake crumble were smeared across his rosy cheeks like an expensive abstract painting.

It was the happiest Kyan had seen Noah in months.

They snuggled on the couch and turned on a movie. Noah was obsessed with all things Toy Story, so that’s what they watched. Again.

Halfway through the movie, when Woody was feeling completely defeated and alone, Noah asked, “Do you miss Mommy?”

Kyan looked down at his eldest, cradled in his arms with his favorite Toy Story blanket wrapped around him. “Of course, I miss her. Every day.”

“I’s not sad anymore. Is dat bad?”

“You should only ever feel as sad as you feel. There is no right or wrong way to miss your mom. Do you think Mommy would want you to feel sad?”

“No.”

“I don’t think she would, either, but I do think she would understand if that’s how you feel. It’s okay to feel lots of different things. I know I do. Sometimes I’m very sad. Sometimes I’m happy, and sometimes I’m sad that I feel happy. It’s very confusing.”

“I don’t fink Ava and Henry are very sad.”

“Well, Ava and Henry are two. They were very, very sad when Mommy passed away, but their little brains aren’t as powerful as yours. You are twice as big as they are, and you have twice as many memories.”

“Me is twice as sad?”

“You can’t compare your sadness to anyone else’s. It’s possible that as Ava and Henry grow up, they won’t remember much of Mommy, and that might be very sad for them. It will be a different sadness than you feel, because you will remember her.”

“What if I forget her?”

Kyan grabbed his phone and together they went through photos of Dayna. He told Noah story after story of his mom, cementing as much into his little memory as possible.

When Gracie woke up, Noah asked if he could feed her.

“Only if you make the bottle.”

Noah did, with Kyan’s help. They sat back on the sofa and Kyan held Noah as Noah held Gracie. They fed her and talked about Dayna.

“Will Gracie ’member her?”

Kyan laughed. “Unfortunately, no. She was only three days old. There is just no way for her to remember anything.”

Noah sighed, rested his head against Kyan’s chest, and went back to the movie with Gracie in his arms. Kyan wondered what was going through that little four-year-old brain. Noah amazed him in that way. He was mature beyond his little years.

The next day, Perry showed up with doughnuts and breakfast sandwiches. Kyan was loading the dishwasher after all the chaos when Noah appeared out of nowhere. He stood with his hands behind his back and chewed his lip. “Um, me have you phone?”

Normally, the answer was no, but Kyan was curious. Sneaky wasn’t Noah’s normal behavior. So, he unlocked his phone and handed it over. He finished loading the dishes and tiptoed to the living room.

Kyan stopped in his tracks.

Perry was on the sofa with Gracie, one hand shielding his face awkwardly, while Noah held the phone a little too close to her face. “Dis is mommy and me, and dis is mommy and Ava and Henry. Dis is mommy in her garden. Dis is mommy telling dad not to take her pitture.” Noah swiped through a bunch of photos, then smiled. “Oh, and dis is mommy and you and now you will ‘member her when yous big.”

He realized Perry was shielding his face so Noah wouldn’t see him crying.

Kyan ducked back into the kitchen and, with his back against the wall, slid to the floor. What had he done to deserve such goodness? He had the best kids in the entire world.

He felt a little hand on his shoulder. “Whys you crying Daddy?” Noah asked. “Is you sad?”

Kyan pulled him onto his lap and hugged him. “I’m not sad at all. I’m overwhelmed with happiness because you’re my kid.”

“Dat mean I stay up late and eat ice cream sammies?” he asked hopefully, with big green eyes that were terribly hard to say no to.

Kyan tossed his head back and laughed. “No, because tomorrow is your first day of school. But I’ll tell you what, tomorrow night we’ll celebrate!”

Noah’s eyes brightened, and he hopped off Kyan’s lap and did a little victory shimmy dance before darting for the living room. “Uncle Perry!” he shouted. “Tomorrow we’s having ice cream sammies!”

Kyan sat on the kitchen floor and listened as Ava and Henry joined in on the excitement, cheering excitedly for tomorrow's celebration. Knowing his kids, they were all now dancing around the living room. Unlucky for them, they inherited Kyan’s terrible, horrible, no good dance moves.

He peeked around the door. Gracie was now passed out Perry’s arms while he watched the hoedown. Perry swayed and danced from the sofa for the kids’ benefit. He must have felt Kyan’s gaze because he looked over and smiled, then jokingly fisted the air with one hand and mouthed, ice cream sammies!

Kyan smiled and pulled himself off the floor.

He grabbed a handful of ice cream sammies from the freezer and walked to the living room.

Life was too short to not experience joy every chance you could. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Copyright © 2023 Mrsgnomie; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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