Steve has called his daughter 5 times now. Kassie, at 13, has finally become interested in clothing and make-up. Steve wouldn't mind so much but it has made the school run that much slower. They really can't afford any more delays, today of all days.
"Kassie! Move ya butt! That bus won't wait."
He doesn't need to see her face to know she's rolling her eyes,
"I know Dad. I'm not stupid."
"I know you're not stupid. That's why I can't figure out why ya think you're gonna need so many clothes. You're only goin' for two weeks."
There's that eyeroll again.
"Precisely. Two whole weeks. Besides, I don't know what we'll be doing, or what the weather's going to be like. I have to be ready for anything."
Steve knows this is a half truth at best. His little tomboy is turning into a lady. It was bound to happen eventually, but it still hurts to see his little shadow change so much. She gets more and more like her mother every day. Sharen would have been proud of her. Of all three of them. While the past three years have been hard, Steve can tell he hasn't screwed up too much. He can't have, or he wouldn't have such great kids, right?
"Kass, could ya keep an eye on Simon? I know it's a pain, but it's his first camp and Jace isn't going so-"
Her exasperated snort cuts him off.
"I know Dad. Of course I'll keep an eye on him, but you know he's not a little kid anymore."
"Yeah, I know. I just... worry."
"Maybe a little"
Mouthy Little Miss. This is when he used to ruffle her hair. Not anymore. Not unless he wants to spend another half an hour waiting while she redoes her hair. Instead he picks up her bags,
"Come on You. Simon's been waiting for the past ten minutes."
It takes less then ten minutes to get them to the school parking lot, and in only 20 minutes more he's standing with the rest of the parents, waving their children off for two weeks.
Two weeks. Two weeks child free. Steve can't quite wrap his head around it. It's been three years since he's had so much as a night to call his own. Three years since he became solely responsible for his children. Three years since the night Sharen went out and... and then he got that knock on the door.
The most surreal moment of his life. Two policemen standing on his porch, hats under their arms, and him in his boxers, with a tiny Essie held to his bare chest. She'd woken up cranky and kept calling for her Mum. He'd rocked and jiggled her, trying to get her to settle. He remembers telling her that her Mummy will be back soon. He couldn't have been more wrong. He remembers his frustration, and the tears in her eyes as she pulls on her ear and whimpers. Thank god Daisy had been able to help him figure out the whole teething thing. Thank god for Daisy full stop!
His sister had been his rock. Helping him with the kids, letting him buy into her landscaping business so he could work from home until Essie started Kindy, then watching the kids after school so he can do a few hours manual labour and keep his handyman business running as well. He's invested most of Sharen's life insurance into the company. He will make a success of it. He has to for his children's sake. He would do anything for them.
The hours pass slowly without them in the house. Steve walks aimlessly from room to room, unsure what to do with all his free time. His thoughts run in circles as he nukes a frozen dinner and opens a beer.
Is Essie okay? She's never stayed overnight without the others. Kassie forgot her charger. How will she call if she needs him? Is Simon alright? His best mate Jason couldn't go, is Simon lonely? Maybe he should call Daisy and check on Essie.
The TV is little more than background noise as his mind refuses to focus on anything other than the three most important things in his life. He sits there for another half an hour, and finishes a second beer before he gives up and heads to bed. If he's going to stare at nothing, he may as well do it from the comfort of his bed. Besides, the sooner he sleeps, the sooner he wakes up. Tomorrow he's bound to find something to fill his empty week.
He knows it's a futile thought, but it's comforting none the less. He rolls on his side and stares across the empty expanse of his bed, looking to the picture that sits on his wife's bedside table. A sense of peace washes over him as he stares at her soft smile. As always her image fills him with calm. As sleep creeps over him, and his eyes start to close, he smiles back at the love of his life,
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