READY TO GO
Elisabeth was patiently waiting for Benjamin’s call for days. He’s promised to call, but he probably forgot about it. After all, it has been two long years since that rainy evening when Elisabeth found his little daughter Chloe playing in a puddle.
Many things have changed since that day. It all started when Bailey’s father Chester saw Benjamin run after a girl he’s never seen before.
She wasn’t a Moonlight Falls townie and she was a teenager. Chester had questions, but Benjamin didn’t have answers… or at least not those that Chester wanted to hear.
Since that night, Chester became more observant than ever before. After all, he was working as an International Spy for a reason. However, even the best of the best make mistakes sometime. With all the extra attention he paid to Benjamin, his beloved daughter used this once in a lifetime situation to do things she’s been dreaming of all her life. Bailey was very curious already as a child. Her attraction and profound interest towards the occult has never been stronger.
She could finally do what her father never let her even think of – befriend the supernatural.
Even though she managed to escape the sight of her father’s overprotective eyes, she underestimated her boyfriend’s. Benjamin was trying to avoid Chester’s radar as much as Bailey. He was searching for something of a greater interest to fuel Chester’s controlling obsession. The moment he found out about Bailey’s secret meetings with strange people at the graveyard, he thought he discovered a golden mine. This was exactly what would keep Chester busy 24/7. Or at least he thought so.
The situation has dramatically changed after Benjamin told Chester about Bailey. Unfortunately, not in the direction that he hoped for. This family was nuts. A daughter that dates a vampire and a werewolf simultaneously, and a father that is a crossbreed between a prison guard and a psycho. But do you really know what is the worst? Neither of them seemed to ever take care of their little girl. If it wasn’t for Benjamin, Chloe would have been taken away by a social worker before her first birthday.
This was too much even for Benjamin. All he wanted was to live a happy simple life, but when he looked around he saw none of that. So it happened that one day, when nobody was at home, he packed his few things and left. It wasn’t hard to leave the place, it has never been a real home. However, there was one thing that made him really sad – neither Chester nor Bailey came searching for them. Ever.
Benjamin chose a little house on the other side of the town near the graveyard, far enough from the Swain household.
He has rarely seen Chester around, but his ex-girlfriend Bailey was a frequent visitor in the area. Little did she know that Benjamin knew everything about her midnight adventures.
“Dinner time!” Benjamin called from the kitchen, but Chloe was more interested in her green gummy dinosaur than a bowl of not so invitingly looking baby food.
“Here we go,” said Benjamin as he put his daughter in the high chair.
“Chloe play! Play! PLAY!” screamed Chloe.
“You played all the afternoon with the dinosaur, he needs to get some sleep so he can play with you tomorrow again, you know?” told her Benjamin. Chloe looked up at him and suddenly calmed down.
However, the peaceful moment didn’t last long. When Benjamin turned his back, Chloe put both her hands in the bowl and started throwing the food all around.
When the bowl fell on the floor, it was too late. Chloe’s dinner was everywhere but her tiny stomach.
“Chloe!” scolded her Benjamin, but Chloe only giggled.
“You’re going straight to bed,” he said, picked her up and put her in the crib without changing her into clean clothes. When Chloe understood she’ll have to sleep in the dirty pajama she looked at her father with puppy eyes.
“Don’t you even try. Next time think twice what to do with your dinner, Chloe. Sweet dreams,” said Benjamin, kissed his little daughter on the hair and turned off the light in her bedroom.
It was the evening before Elisabeth’s trip to China. She was checking her cellphone since the morning, but there was no sign of Benjamin.
“When you promise to Malika to give her a call, after how long do you usually call her?”
“Well, it depends. Sometimes the same day, other times the next… why are you asking? Oh, wait! I get it! A guy told you he’d give you a call, but he didn’t! Am I right?”
Oh, you are so terribly, annoyingly, unpleasantly right. “Yes.”
“Aha! I knew it! I always do!” said happily Finn, but when he looked at his sister, he realized he overdid it this time. “I’m sorry, Liz… I shouldn’t have… Um… Why don’t YOU call him, don’t you have his number?”
“I do, but… maybe he doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“Nonsense! Who is this guy? An idiot? Who wouldn’t want to talk to a hot mess like you!?”
Hot mess? My brother thinks I’m a hot mess? Elisabeth blushed.
“Call him, sister! Unless he’s truly an idiot, he’ll answer,” told her Finn, winked the eye at Elisabeth and started smashing the metal on the workbench with a hammer.
Benjamin was very busy cleaning Chloe’s high chair. It took him more than half an hour to get the sugar off the dinosaurs.
“There,” sighed Benjamin when the chair was finally squeaky clean. He washed his hands and continued preparing the dinner.
The moment he’s put the pot with Mac’n’Cheese on the stove, his cellphone rang.
“He’s not answering, Finn.”
“Just give him a moment. A guy always needs a moment to answer the phone.”
“Heeey, Benjamin! It’s good to know you’re alive,” Elisabeth said spontaneously.
“Yeah, I am! Why shouldn’t I be… Oh, gosh… I’m so sorry, Elisabeth! I promised to you I’d call, but I’ve totally forgotten! I am sorry!”
“It’s okay. Luckily I’ve remembered,” she smiled.
“Listen, would you mind calling back in like 30 minutes?”
“Well, uh… I…”
“Because I’m cooking right now,” Benjamin added quickly.
“Oh, well… Actually, I wanted to ask you something very important.”
“Okay. I’m listening. Tell me.”
“What are you doing tomorrow?”
“You’re really funny, Elisabeth,” Benjamin laughed. “I think I’m free. Why?”
“And the following days?”
“I don’t know, Elisabeth, why?”
“Because I’m going on this trip and I thought that maybe you’d like to come?”
“Oh, That’s really nice of you, but you know, it’s not that easy. I would have to find someone to take care of Chloe…”
“Ah… I haven’t thought about her…”
“Yeah… Once you have kids, things get slightly complicated. You just can’t do anything without organizing yourself in advance.”
“Where is it that you’re going?”
“To China?!?! I thought you were going by a lake or something.”
“Well… I had to go to France, but I’m going to China.”
“Well, Elisabeth… It sounds really wonderful but in any case, I can’t afford the ticket to either of the places…”
“Don’t worry! I have two tickets!”
“It was a graduation gift from my parents. They didn’t want me to go alone.”
“I do, I do,” Benjamin laughed in the phone.
“What is it?”
“Do you know Bill Wilson?”
“Yes, he’s my neighbor.”
“Maybe you could try asking him! I’m sure he’d be happy to take care of Chloe.”
“I don’t know him that well…”
“My mother does… he’s a good person. Seriously, wouldn’t harm a fly.”
“Well then, that sounds like a good ideaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!”
“Benjamin? Hello? HELLO?”
Benjamin left the stove unattended for too long. His dinner caught on fire! He quickly ran to the basement to get the fire-extinguisher. When he saw that his Mac’n’Cheese turned into a Pile’of’Ash, he at least tried to do his best to protect Chloe’s dino-chair from catching on fire.
The following morning Benjamin woke up early. He walked to Bill’s house next door to ask if he could do him a big favor and take care of his daughter for a week or two. Even though Benjamin Thomas and Bill Wilson didn’t know each other well, the fact that Benjamin has never heard anything bad about this old man gave him an inner secure feeling.
“Good mornin’, Mr. Wilson.”
“Hello, Benjamin,” Bill smiled at him from the porch. “How come you’re up so early this morning?” As it seemed, Mr. Wilson knew more things about Benjamin than he thought.
“I came to ask you a big favor, Mr. Wilson.”
“Please, call me Bill.”
“Okay. Do you like children, Bill?”
“Great. As you probably know, I have one. Her name is Chloe.”
“I wanted to ask you, if you’d be so kind to take care of her while I’m on a trip.”
“Oh… For how long are you planning to stay on this trip?”
“A week, maybe two…”
“Hmm… How old is your daughter?”
“Well, I hope she’s not afraid of horses,” Bill smiled at Benjamin.
“I don’t know that… Well, now she has the dinosaur period. The least she can think is that your horses are real life dinosaurs, you know, they’re big… with four legs…”
“Very well, then. I think I can handle a little child for a week. When did you say you were leaving?”
“That’s a good question, Bill. I have no idea,” answered Benjamin as he realized he didn’t get to ask Elisabeth the hour and place of departure.
“What do you mean?”
“I…uh… I know it’s today, but I don’t exactly know when and where from.”
Bill looked at him with a clueless face (only the question mark above his head was missing.)
“I am not going on this trip alone,” Benjamin added quickly.
“Maybe you should call this person and ask then,” suggested Bill.
“I think you know her.”
“The girl with which I’m going to China.”
“Yes. I didn’t mention that?”
“Oh,” Benjamin felt confused. “So, do you know Elisabeth?”
“Elisabeth? Which Elisabeth?”
“Elisabeth…(???),” Benjamin suddenly realized he didn’t know her surname.
“Wait a moment. You don’t know her surname? Do you… do you actually know this girl?”
“Dear boy, are you sure it’s a good decision to go someplace this far with a person you barely know?”
“Yeah, as much as I trust a neighbor I barely know to take care of my only child.”
“I think you’ve got a point here,” admitted Bill.
“Wait! She told me her mother knows you!”
“Just a moment, are we speaking about Elisabeth Loewe?”
“If it’s the only Elisabeth with a mother who knows you, well… then I think we are.”
Incredible, Bill thought to himself. “I have no idea where you’ve met this girl, but I tell you one thing. You’re a lucky man, Benjamin,” told him Bill and walked towards his horse Charlie. Benjamin remained standing at the porch trying to understand what Bill meant.
The first thing that came on his mind was to actually call Elisabeth and ask where and when he should meet her.
Unfortunately for him, Elisabeth was taking a nap outside and didn’t hear the cellphone.
Damn, Benjamin thought to himself after the voice mail prompt. He quickly ran down from the porch. “I’ll be back in a sec, Bill!”
Benjamin rushed home as fast as he could. The moment he opened the door of the house, his mission impossible started.
He quickly opened the wardrobe, threw some clothes on the bed, picked his backpack from under the bed and stuffed all the things together with his camera in the backpack. Then he rushed to Chloe’s bedroom, woke her up, undressed her from the dirty pajama while she was still half asleep, picked the first thing he found in her dresser and dressed her up.
Then he ran in the basement to get the stroller, picked his backpack and his daughter and locked the door of the house. He was ready to go in less than 10 minutes. When Chloe realized she wasn’t in her warm crib anymore she was terrified… in a sleepy way.
“Cooold… Daddy…. Chloe cold… Go hooome… Chloe sleeep…”
Luckily for her, the babysitter lived next door.
“Aww, what a cute little girl!”
“Don’t let yourself be fooled by the cuteness, Bill,” warned him Benjamin.
“Ah! Don’t worry. We’ll be the best friends by the time you get to China!” smiled Bill.
“This is uncle Bill, Chloe. He will take care of you for a while, OK?” Benjamin told Chloe as he picked her up from the stroller.
“Daddy leave Chloe?” Chloe asked with a frightened voice.
“No, daddy goes to see Elisabeth. He’ll be back soon,” he calmed her down.
“Elisabeb? Chloe go too!”
“No, sweetie. Not this time,” said Benjamin and kissed her in the hair.
“Come Chloe, uncle Billy will show you his dinosaurs,” Bill smiled at her.
“Dinosaurs?” asked Chloe and her eyes widened.
“Yes, two of them. Charlie and Misty.”
Out of a sudden, Chloe forgot about the world and all she wanted was to go in Bill’s arms.
“See, I told you we’d become best friends,” Bill said to Benjamin, winked his eye and tickled Chloe on her belly.
“It looks like she likes you,” smiled happily Benjamin. “Just so you know, she can be very naughty sometimes. Yesterday, she threw her dinner all around the kitchen,” Benjamin whispered to Bill. “Be prepared for anything,” he added.
“A little bit of adventure won’t kill me. Don’t worry, everything’s gonna be just fine.”
“Very well then. Here are the keys from my house, there’s everything you need. Make yourself at home.”
“Thank you, Benjamin. Have a safe trip.”
“Thank you, Bill,” said Benjamin and put his backpack on.
“And say hello to Elisabeth,” Bill added.
“Of course. Bye Chloe, be a good girl.”
Benjamin watched Bill carry Chloe inside the house. He thought for a moment about staying, but when he imagined himself taking pictures of the Great Wall and other Chinese landmarks, he realized he’d be a fool not to go.
“Have fun with the dinosaurs you two!” he called from the path.
“Dinosaaaurs! Dinosaaaurs! DINOSAAAURS!” called Chloe when she saw Bill’s horses.
“Yes, Chloe, we’ll go to see the dinosaurs.”
Benjamin waited until they disappeared inside and then rushed to the train station to catch a train to Monte Vista.