Patina was right, of course. It shouldn't surprise me after all these years but it still did. Life went on as normal after I recorded the album and I had found the one thing I needed to keep the restlessness at bay.
True to her word Patina would take my music with her everywhere and sometimes while listening she would pull me close and remind me of all the good things music had brought into my life.
I felt a million times lighter, as if a weight had been taken from my shoulders. I felt like I had a new lease on life and could face it with a spring in my step. Suddenly things that used to require huge amounts of energy were easy. I felt like I had found a balance. I now started to understand what Patina meant when she said I needed more, I needed to look after me. It wasn't that I shouldn't look after them it was understanding that it was ok for me to take time for me and do things just for me. Music once again became my passion.
"Mummy please will you take us shopping?" Mint's eyes were pleading and I smiled as I recognised what Patina and I jokingly referred to as the 'puppy dog' eyes. I knew from experience that you could only resist them if they weren't aimed directly at you. If you got in their line of fire, that's it you we're done for, putty in her hands. "It would mean ever so much to us mummy." Moon chimed in adding to the ammunition in an attempt to end this battle quickly. I glanced at Patina when she hesitated wondering if she had found some protection from their all to lethal barrage. She was smiling but it seemed a little too forced and I could see that she was warring with something behind her eyes.
"I'm so sorry loves but mummy isn't feeling well just now. I'm sure that I will be feeling better tomorrow though how about I take you then." I now understood the look in Patina's eyes. Last week I would have been feeling the same way. The stomach bug the kids at school had generously shared with me was not pleasant and left you with an overwhelming desire not to be far from the comforts of home, or rather certain areas of the home. I had hoped I would be the only one to suffer it but days later Patina was in the same situation, hers just seemed to be taking a little while longer to let go.
"Ok mummy," they said in unison. Their words may have said it was ok but I could see the shoulders slumping and the undeniable disappointment on their faces. I stepped in once, happily, to save the day. "Tell you what how about I take you. I may not have as good a taste as your mummy but I bet you we can find something that will make you the envy of all the other girls in school." Their response was immediate. Faces that were turned down were now alive with excitement as they looked first at each other and then at me as if to evaluate the seriousness of my suggestion. Suddenly they burst out in chorus, "Yay!!" Something must have met with their approval and they hurried off to get ready. School, I could hardly believe they were old enough to be going to school but I couldn't deny it no matter how much I tried and Per would soon be joining them.
"You going to be ok? Do you want me to pick anything up for you?" She smiled up at me with more life than I had seen in days. "No love I'll be fine. I'm on the mend I just don't feel quite confident enough to venture out yet." I kissed her gentle on the head and left her to immersed in her latest scientific journal while I was pulled towards the door by two laughing and very enthusiastic girls.
The shopping trip was a great success and ended quicker than I would have though possible. Perhaps that was down to my inability to say no to anything they wanted. Soon they were overwhelmed, and not being greedy girls, they declared themselves done. It was still early in the day so I took them for a late lunch in order to give Patina a little more quiet time. The girls were ecstatic to be eat outdoors at one of the nicer café's in town and were feeling very grown up. They laughed and talked discusses the latest boy band, or something like that, I couldn't keep up which made me feel old. As they chatted away I realised they were grown up, not fully grown and ready to leave the nest but certainly grown enough to begin to be independent. To take my mind off what could only be a depressing father's journey mourning the loss of his little girls I began to think of the song I was writing. The words and music came easier to me now and I could almost hear the strains of an all to familiar tune all around me. "Daddy!!!!"
Moon's high pitched squeal jolted me back into the moment instantly and my blood was pumping and heart beating fast. I looked around fear growing as I tried to find the source of the problem. People all around me sat calmly taking or eating their food not paying the slightest attention. What was it that would make Moon so distressed?
The sound of laughter filtered in past the blood that was pounding in my ears. Turning to Moon and Mint it began to sink in that there was do disaster. The squeal in Moon's voice had been excitement not fear. It was then that my brain started to process what my ears had already realised. I hadn't been hearing an all to familiar song in my head, I was actually hearing it. I looked around in shock trying to understand where the song was coming from. "Is mummy here somewhere playing that?" I asked distractedly still trying to find the source of the song. "Silly daddy it's there!"
I followed her gaze to a set of speakers set into the wall of the restaurant designed to give the appropriate mood music to the diners. "You're on the radio!" She practically shouted it with her excitement. Sure enough the song was coming to an end and the announcer came on. "That was the debut song Waves from local lad Bondi Kei Parfait...." I didn't listen to the rest of what he said. My face flushed again as one more blood rushed to it but this time from embarrassment. Moon and Mint began to dance around half singing half shouting at the top of their lungs. "Daddy's on the radio! Daddy's on the radio!" Their chanting got more and more excited. People were looking now and I bundled them away head down to try to avoid their gaze.
Patina and Mr. Bumble it seemed, had been busy. Unbeknownst to me they had been hard at work promoting my record to every radio station within a hundred mile radius of Sunset Valley. That day was the first time it had been played on air but Patina had been so out of it with the flu she had lost all track of the days and so hadn't told me before I went out.
We had a good laugh at it when we realised what had happened. I couldn't blame her for doing this without my knowledge. Had I known I would have most surely tried to stop her. It was just silly to put my music out there. It was hardly going go be popular. Ever generous the people of Sunset Valley played along with the pretence of fame that Patina tried to tell me was coming. Being a small town most everyone knew me anyway and so it was wasn't unusual for them to greet me by name when I was out about town.
One of my students even stopped me for my autograph. I didn't find it embarrassing just amusing that they were all playing at me being a star. Some of them even seemed to get into it more than Patina, Moon and Mint did. Little did I know what was to come. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Bondi, bless him, was completely oblivious to what was happening around him. He still adamantly believed that this was all some game. He wouldn't hear it when I tried to tell him that people weren't just being nice. His music was soaring in popularity and beginning to be taken up by radio stations all over the country.
Mr. Bumble and I worked quietly to promote his music knowing that he would never understand or consent to having it spread outside our little valley. It was changing our little family and Bondi was starting to spend more time away from home. There were other changes in the works as well and today was the day I planned on making Bondi aware of them.
The ring of the doorbell brought me out of my reverie. Glancing swiftly at the clock, it was nearly time for Bondi to be home, I was surprised to see Mr. Bumble waiting there flowers in hand. "Patina my darling you are looking ravishing as always."
He greeted me with his customary double kiss and I giggled. He was so silly pretending to flirt with me. "Mr. Bumble!" "Wayne." He interrupted eyes on mine and his voice intense and focused as always. "Wayne," I amended and giggled again at the smile that lit his face. Silly man. He was such a good man and so determined to make Bondi a success that I would have liked him no matter what but he continued to keep up this playful flirting in an attempt to win my favour. "Please you don't need to try and flatter me you are always welcome here." "It is not flattery, my dearest Patina, but the simple truth." I shook my head still laughing as I went to put the flowers in water and make his customary cup of green tea latte.
"What brings you here today?" Not that it wasn't good to see him but it wasn't a day I really wanted company. I needed to speak with Bondi alone. "Ah, I'm so glad you asked!" His voice was gleeful and I turned almost expecting him to have his hands templed with a maniacal look in his eyes. "I have found the perfect assistant for Bondi!" "Really?!?" Not to long ago we had agreed that Bondi needed someone to promote him more actively and had started looking for someone who could double as an assistant and help get him more exposure. "She's a bit young but she is very keen and comes highly recommend." At that moment Bondi came home. "Patina, Mr. Bumble." he said in way of greeting a puzzled look on his face. He didn't know how much time I had been spending with Mr. B...Wayne lately.
Wayne lead Bondi aside to let him in on what we had been plotting. "Bondi it's time you faced facts. Your music is good. More than good it's great and people are screaming for it. Patina and I have been working on a plan to get you the recognition you deserve. And it all starts right here." He threw open the door and a very young and very pretty girl was standing there grinning with eager anticipation. "May I present Azalea"
"Oh Mr. Parfait!" she gushed. Yes gushed, there was no other way to describe the fervent admiration in her voice. "It is such an honour to meeting you! You have no idea what it means to me to be given the chance to work for you!" Bondi cleared his throat clearly nervous. This was the first time someone he had never met had been so enthusiastic about his music. "Um, yes, well," he cleared his throat again. "Call me Bondi." "Bondi," she breathed saying it as if it was the most exquisite word to ever leave her lips. I looked at Wayne eyebrows raised at the little display. He just shrugged and smiled as if to say your guess is as good as mine. I turned my gaze back to Bondi and the little pixie of a girl that was fawning all over him. What was Wayne thinking hiring her? I knew it was likely that who ever Bondi's assistant was it was likely to be a girl but did he have to get some so...so...perky? Well if she was half as good at her job as Wayne said she was then I could move beyond my husband spending all his free time with a very attractive younger woman. "Oh Bondi," this was going to get old quick though. "I have so many ideas for you and they start right now." She began to pull him to the door.
"Wait!" I called after them. "You're leaving now?" "Yes ma'm I've lined up a gig that starts in an hour and we have to get Bondi read for it." Ma'm, humph, I didn't really like being called ma'm. I was one but it was different being called one by someone like Azalea. He couldn't leave now, I still haven't told him. As Azalea began to pull him to the door again I called out once more. "Wait! Bondi I have something I wanted to tell you. In private," I added seeing the room of expectant faces turned towards me. Without hesitation Bondi pulled himself away from Azalea and came over to me. "What is it love?" Concern edged his voice as I pulled him further from the door.
"Nothings wrong dear. Something unexpected has happened. Unexpected and wonderful." I leaned close whispering in his ear. "I'm pregnant."
"But how? I mean I know HOW it just that this is...this is..." "Unexpected?" I finished for him. "And wonderful!" He said smiling and pulling me towards him. "Bondi," Wayne call from the door. "Now is not the time to woo that gorgeous creature if yours. You have an adoring public that awaits you." Bondi slowly disengaged himself from my arms and looked between the door and me clearly torn and not knowing who he should be with right now. With a shove I pushed him towards Wayne and the door. "Go silly. We have months left to talk about the baby." Eye alight he gave me a quick but passionate kiss before he turned and dashed to the door.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Patina's pregnancy was indeed unexpected. When we got married we had decided on two children but not long after the twins were born Patina declared it didn't count because she was only pregnant once. With Per though we decided that was enough. While this wasn't planned I can't say I wasn't thrilled. With Per growing a quickly as the Moon and Mint had I was beginning to miss the idea if having a baby around the house. This pregnancy was no less difficult than the last, in fact it was in may ways harder.
With her morning sickness lasting well past the third month she spent most of her time at home with Mr. Bumble. I hated to leave her at home with me gone so many nights playing the small clubs of Sunset Valley and the area but at least she wasn't alone.
Azalea was a breath of fresh air. Her youthful enthusiasm for everything reminded me that I was not as young as I liked to think myself. She was always there with me. Helping with the smallest of things and always encouraging me to do more.
Although sometimes it was a bit more than I had the courage to do. I couldn't deny that I was having fun. I wanted to be home with Patina but every time I tired she pushed me out the door saying I had the rest of my life with her when she wasn't grumpy and uncomfortable. And so I would go out and began to spend more time away from home.
We went to publicity events.
And there were many smaller gigs around town.
She reminded me what it was to have a good time without kids around all the time.
As the months past I found I had less and less time to miss my family. I still saw them every night even if only in their sleep and would still spend the days of the weekend chasing them around.
Summer turned to winter and spring quickly came to chase the cold grey clouds away in a wash of colour. I found myself on the beach enjoy the warmth of the new season as the gear form yet another gig was packed up around me.
The sound of the waves crashing against the shore was drowned out by the sound of weeping behind me. I turned to see Azalea crying and attempting to conceal herself behind a tree. "Azalea?" I asked quietly coming up behind her.
"Is everything ok?" It was a stupid question to ask and I kicked myself the moment it left my mouth. Of course she wasn't ok, she was crying wasn't she? Sniffling and wiping the tears from her eyes she turned. "I'll be fine," she said trying to mimic her normal cheerful demeanour. I knew she was lying but how could I comfort her? Before I could puzzle out what best to do she left me wandering away to sit on the beach staring out despondently at the waves.
Awkwardly I sat down beside her. Not really sure how to start I said the first thing that popped into my head. "Boy trouble?" Well that did it. No sooner than the words were out of my mouth than she burst into tears and buried her face in my chest.
"It's my boyfriend," she said between sobs. "He broke up with me. He said I cared more for you than I did for him." Her body wracked with her tears and I pulled her closer to my chest. "Shhhhh," I said hoping that I was being somewhat of a comfort. "Any man who doesn't see you for the loving soul you are doesn't deserve you." I held her for a time more until here crying subsided. Eventually she dried her eyes and we both got awkwardly to our feet. "Thank you Bondi. You are a rare man among boys."
And with that she kissed me. Swiftly and softly on the cheek. It was innocent enough but still I blushed. She was undeniably a very pretty girl and married or not it was nice to have such a small kiss from someone like her. "Yes, well," I cleared my throat in an attempt to find my words. "Don't...don't mention it." I was saved any further embarrassment by the ringing of my phone. "Hello?" I said hastily turning away from Azalea.
"Where are you??" Patina's voice hissed from the ear piece. "Hi love," I said immediately brightening. I turned to Azalea mouthing 'Patina' before wandering further down the beach. "We're just finishing up at the beach after the set." "Well get home now!! It's time." "Time?" My mind drew a blank. "Yes you muppet, TIME! The baby is coming."
With that the phone clicked dead. I let out a small exclamation of surprise and sprinted off the beach.
By the time we got Patina to the hospital the baby was nearly born already. I record time we were out again and were able to being home the newest Parfait.
Lola Elm our newest joy and a darling daughter. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It was a mere month after the birth of Lola that I found myself packing for a tour of China. Apparently my music had been doing exceptionally well over there and Mr. Bumble had arranged for me to go over to promote my upcoming second album.
"How long will you be gone daddy?" Per was so big now and would be starting school in the fall. I could believe how fast the time was going. "Not long my boy. And mummy will be here with you. In fact with me gone it will be up to you to look after you mum and your sisters as you will be the man of the house." "But what about second daddy?" "Second daddy?" I asked absently, assuming he meant dad, and trying to figure out what I had forgotten. "Mr. Wayne. He's second daddy. He told me so. He always brings me sweeties and he says he will take good care of me and mummy." That caused me to pause. He was absently picking the threads on my suitcase and so didn't notice the pained and thoughtful look I gave him. "He did, did he? Well I will be back before you know it so don't you forget your real daddy." I said bending down to tickle him and relieve the tension I felt.
"It's time love." I looked up to see Patina in the doorway smiling with Lola in her arms. I walked the door hand in hand with Per excited and nervous about the tour and now worried about what was going on at home. Hugging Moon, Mint and Per goodbye I left with Azalea.
I didn't know what was going on there but when I got back I was going to figure it out. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ The tour was going well but I found it hard to focus. My kind kept drifting back to Sunset Valley, to Patina and Mr. Bumble. It was halfway through and at the end of a set that Azalea called me up on it. "What's with you dozy?" She asked playfully punching my arm. "You look like you're a million miles away."
I smiled at her but could not make it meet my eyes. "Well maybe a couple thousand." She gave me an odd look. "I don't get it." I sighed. "Never mind. It's nothing." I turned to walk away but something stopped me. She knew Mr. Bumble and maybe she had some insight as to what was happening. "Listen you haven't heard anything? About Mr. Bumble and....and Patina have you?"
She half turned and bit her lip. Her hesitation broke my heart. Right then and there my worst fears were confirmed. I couldn't hold back and broke down sobbing.
"Oh Bondi!! I am so sorry! I haven't heard anything, not exactly. But the way Mr. Bumble talks, well it doesn't leave much to the imagination." She held me as I sobbed against her this time the roles reverse from what they were a month ago. I could feel her hands stroking my back and running through my hair as she made soothing noises. She was so close and I could smell he perfume in her hair. It was intoxicating. The sent of it roused something inside me and I pulled away just far enough to look into her eyes.
Her eyes were deep pools of sadness and they drew me closer to her.
Suddenly she pulled away. "I'm so sorry." She mumbled again as she ran off. I watched her go heart still braking. Then I started to walk. I must have walked for hours. My head full of Patina, Mr. Bumble and Azalea. After a time I found my feet walking up a familiar set of stairs.
Poor Azalea she was trying to comfort her and in my pain and hurt I nearly took advantage of that. I had to apologise, tell her she had nothing wrong, that it was I who was to blame. Quietly, so as not to wake her if she slept I knocked at her door. "Come in." she trilled from the other side. She seemed happy enough, maybe this would be an easier apology than I thought. I eased the door open and stopped dead in my tracks.