A weekend had past and Travis's unit was still on the other side of the state helping with the wild fires. He kept a picture of the girls inside his chest pocket, close to his heart. If anything he knew that nothing was going to happen to them.
Sophia sat in her chair playing with her food. Finally the silence was broke by Sophie.
Sophie: I miss daddy.
Brooklyn: I Know you do honey. I miss him too.
Sophie: When is he coming home?
Brookyln: Hopefully soon. But we must be patient
Her expression got worse. She hated when her mother told her to be patient. Aj: How about after this we go for some ice cream.
Sophie: Can we mommy?
Brooklyn: I don't see why not. It's time we get out and get some air sometimes.
Aj: Can't be cooked up in the house all the time. I was thinking that we could go fishing one day. Have you ever been?
Sophie: NO! OH BOY!
Aj: But first, you have to finish all your dinner. I can't take my new fishing partner to the lake. If you get too skinny, the fish will just eat you instead of the worms.
Sophia immediately began to gobble her food down.
Brooklyn looked over to Aj.
Brooklyn: Thank you (she moved her mouth with out saying a word)
Aj nodded back with a smile. The next day Aj and the girls arrived at a unfamiliar house.
Brooklyn: Where are we Aj?
Aj: Just wait.
He walked up to the door and knocked. Brooklyn and Sophia looked around the outside. It was nicely decorated. They could hear alot of movement coming from inside the house but could not figure out exactly what was going on. The door opened and a young lady greeted Aj. They could hear the sound of dogs in the background. Brooklyn tried to hold onto Sophia tighter only for the little girl to release her hold to stand closer to Aj.
Jill: Hello Mr. Ridgeland. Please come in come in. It's so nice to meet you and your family.
He introduced them to the girl as they walked inside. There were little dogs barking all through the room. They were scattered all over the house and bumping into things. Sophia giggled as she saw all the puppies running and playing with each other. She tried to touch them but they were all too scared to let her hold them. Just as she was giving up trying, one of the puppies came to her. She knelt down to touch him, this time being more cautious. And when she touched his head he licked her hand.
Brooklyn: I think you've found a friend.
Sophie: I like him mommy. Fred: So she's found the one that she likes.
Aj: More like it has found her.
Fred: So I guess the choice has been made. Nice doing business with you.
Sophie squealed with delight when she realized that they came to the house to buy her a puppy.
Sophie: OH BOY! Brooklyn: You don't know what you've done to her.
Aj: I had a dog when I was her age.
Brooklyn: I know. I remember Sammy. But, I don't want you to buy her gifts to replace Travis.
Aj: I can never replace Travis. I just wanted to make her happy. She deserves that right now. Sophie: I am going to call you Pal. How do you like that name?
Pal licked her face and the little girl began to laugh again.
They ran around the yard chasing each other. Aj was spending less time working on his music and more time with Brooklyn and Sophie. He took her out to the playground, just the two of them. He liked watching the delight in her face. He looked at her ebony hair that blew in the wind. The way she looked at him was the same way Brooklyn did when they were kids. It was getting late in the day but Sophia insisted they stay out longer.
Aj: I promised your mother I would bring you home in time for dinner.
Sophia: Just a few more minutes pleeeeeeaaase!
Aj couldn't say no. It was as if her angelic look was casting a spell on him. They ran over to the swing.
He pushed her higher and higher. She laughed every time.
Aj: You want me to stop?
Sophia: NO! HIGHER!
Aj never realized how much fun he would have being at the park with Sophia. And when he joined her on the swings, the two of them talked about school, her teachers, and her friends.
Sophia: And this one time Robin Holding spit gum in my hair. I know she did it on purpose. So when she was not looking I put glue on her chair.
The sun was going down and Sophia and Aj were still there.
Brooklyn: She suckered you into staying?
Aj: How did you guess?
Brooklyn: She does it to her father all the time. She gave you the look?
Aj: She gave me the look. One minute I was talking to her about going home and... well obviously we are not there.
Aj: I don't know how you do it. The both of you. I just spent an afternoon with her and I more tired than any night out before.
Aj: I have a whole new respect for you both. And you, you're an at home mom. You do it all the time. Aj: I thought I had it all......money, little bit of fame, admiration. I thought that was all I needed for-
He stopped his words.
Aj: But really, looking at you......it was nothing. You have the real thing. What you have is real. I just wished I could change things around. Do things a lot different. He just sat there for a minute, head in his hands. She couldn't remember seeing him like this. She reached her hand up to touch his shoulder. But before she could touch him, he raised up from the bench.
Aj: We should go.
Brooklyn: Yeah we should. The next weekend Aj took Sophie fishing as promised. It was calming for the both of them. Sophia made sure that followed Aj's instructions the entire time. She was still and quiet and for the first time very patient. She leaned over at Aj.
Sophie: Do you think we will catch anything today?
Aj: Anything is possible. Just ask the water fairies from your book to help you.
She closed her eyes tight and kept wishing to catch a fish.
And it paid off. It wasn't long before she caught her first fish. It was a tiny minnow but it was hers. She raised it up to him in delight.
Aj: You're a real fisherman now.
She smiled up at him and ran it to Brooklyn. Later on the three of them sat around on the blanket and enjoyed a picnic by the beach. Sophia talked about her week in school. They laughed at all the little antics she got into in school.
Aj: She reminded me of something I would do when I was her age. Sophie: Did you like my mommy when you were my age.
Aj: I didn't know your mommy until I was a little older than you. But I did like her when I was young.
He looked over at Brooklyn.
Aj: I always will.
He looked back at Sophia.
Aj: So tell me more about this Robin girl.
Brooklyn watched him for a while. She heard what he had said and it had taken her off guard. She watched as the two of them began to talk and laugh more. It took a minute before she could get back into the conversation. At night the trio sat around the pit and roasted marshmallows.
Sophia: This is the best day ever. I caught my first fish, and now I'm making summores. What are summores?
Aj: What are smores? Please tell me she is joking.
Aj went into an instructional of how to make smores. It didn't take long for Sophia to pick up how to do it. The night was lit by the stars as they continued their evening at the pit fire. Every now and then, they would look over at each other. Then looked away once the other noticed. When they arrived back home it was time for Sophia to get to bed. This time, she asked Aj to read her a bedtime story.
Aj: Why me?
Brooklyn: Because she asked you.
He joined the little girl in her room. She picked the book she wanted him to read. It was same book he read when he was little. He tried to read it the same way his mother did for him. He talked in different voices and made sound effects. The little girl held on to his every word. She fell asleep right before he was at the end of the story. He pulled the covers over her shoulders and knelt down to kiss her goodnight on the forehead. Sophia: I love you Aj.
The words brought a small tingle down her spine. He smiled at her. He never knew how much the words from a child could touch him so much.
Suddenly, the sound of his cellphone interrupted his thoughts. He walked to the living room to check his phone.
Manager: Aj, baby, it's Nate. We did it man. The record label wants to set up a meeting to negotiate a new contract.
Aj: I can't right now Nate.
Manager: But Aj. Aj: Look, I will explain it later, but whatever they are saying, tell them I can't right now. I have some other things I need to do. I'll talk to you later Nate. I will.
Best Friends V
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