Paper Dreams

same as always

John didn't read the paper for the content. There was a part of him that always liked reading the paper in theory and the image associated with it. He loved the idea of being a free-thinking intellectual who read everything just to gain more knowledge. However, when it came to actually sitting down to read the words and process the content, he didn't care much for it. It was boring; even the more interesting parts were written in such a style that it would put John to sleep. He never cared about politics or global news, anything that he needed to know, he'd find out through word of mouth or the internet. Finding out someone else's opinion on all matters seemed pointless, and in the newspaper, there was no way around that. Even on the odd days where he'd buy a newspaper just to see if the tone of the world had changed, the text would bore him and the paper would join a pile for Ruby and Lexie’s future craft time.

Every Sunday morning, however, John read the paper. It was a tradition the girls started while John was touring: Sunday mornings were spent baking at his mom's shop. John could have his chance to take a morning off while Lex and his mother got to spend more time with Ruby. At first, John was completely on-board and it was blissful; he could nurse a cup of his mom's coffee and eat a scone without the squealing of a three year old or the voices of his roommates, he could sit in the dining area of the bakery in silence. The newspaper didn't become involved until his mother's boyfriend got a shift change on Sunday mornings so he could join them in this new tradition.

Curtis was the kind of guy he would never pick for his mom. John and his mom had a lot in common, but their opinions strongly differed when it came to her boyfriend of eight years. John thought he was slobbish and incompetent. It had nothing to do with John’s dad, like Molly always accused him of. When he was younger and the divorce was fresher, he did hope for his parents to get back together just like any confused child would. But now, he was older and knew the reasons behind the divorce far better; John never wanted his mother with his father or anyone who didn’t deserve her, including her boyfriend. Even when she had first introduced Curtis to John, he never was a fan. He was nothing like Molly; she was a dreamer, a baker, and the best mother a guy could ask for. Curtis was more realistic and reigned her in more than John like. He was a cop. He’d never been a father before he met John and Alex, and no matter how hard he tried over the years, John refused to see him as one.

He was across from John now, thumbing through the front pages of John’s newspaper. This was why John even bothered with buying a copy of the paper every Sunday morning. If nothing else, John could prop the sheets up between them to block any attempts at conversation. He couldn’t get around the small bits of conversation Curtis attempted to push through, but with John’s anything-but-helpful comments neither had much to talk about. Molly would come over periodically, taking a break from whatever she, Lex, and Ruby were doing in the to refill their cup and to check in. She’d try to spark something between them, hoping that through her efforts John and her boyfriend would start bonding.

“Anything interesting?”

"No," John muttered out from behind the paper.

He could hear Curtis adjust in his seat, the newspaper crinkling. Curtis chuckled for a moment, “That’s ‘cause you’re reading the Arts & Entertainments section.”

Ignoring the comment, John continued to browse through the articles, desperate for something to capture his interest enough to ignore Curtis. He never enjoyed reading album reviews now, understanding the stresses that came with receiving a poor review on albums you poured your soul into. There were concert reviews too, but he didn't care for those either because he hadn't been to the big New York City show to know what the reviewer was even discussing. He didn't bother with the cover story for the section either; it was some pop culture icon who was making a break in reality television. Finally, John settled on some article in the last half of the pages about some unknown, but somewhat important Jazz musician from Memphis who died. He tried to find interest in it, to relate to it in some way, or at least, to just care about the guy and his impact on John's field. Curtis started whistling before John was halfway through the article, irritating John to the point where he gave up on reading it all together.

As John folded up his half of the newspaper, sending Curtis a glare in the process, his mom came out from the kitchen with a fresh pot of coffee, humming the same tune Curtis was just whistling. She stepped to their table, leaning into Curtis as she poured him some more coffee. John hated how happy she was with him as he watched them in that moment together; his arm wound around her hips, pulling her closer as she leaned down to kiss him. They were worse than Kennedy and Lex, in love and happy. Except, in this case, she was settling for someone and could do so much better.

"Sweetheart, you know it's almost noon?" His mother reminded Curtis, "your shift starts at one, right?"

John watched as Curtis nodded, sending her a smile. "I should go, shouldn't I?

"Not that I want you to," She teased, her voice light and smile wide. Molly took a step back after Curtis let go of her so he could stand up then too. "You're shirt's in the laundry room. It should be dry by now.”

“You washed it for me last night?” Curtis smiled, wrapping his arm around Molly’s shoulder, and John had to swallow the scoff that was rising up his throat in response to them. His mom nodded, her own lips turning upwards. “You’re the best, honey.”

They were all silent for a moment, his mom and Curtis having some unspoken moment while John waited, trying to look anywhere but the other two in the room. He was growing to hate these Sundays because of this, Curtis’ presence being enough to ruin the entire thing. John would prefer to deal with Rudy’s entire preschool class in the mornings than sit with Curtis for the hour or so they were together on Sundays.

Molly mumbled a final goodbye before turning around, taking steps towards the kitchen. She put the coffee pot back on the hot plate behind the counter and pushing open the door to the kitchen. “Ruby, come say goodbye to Grandpa Curtis.”

The little girl was through the door and in his arms a moment later. She giggled when Curtis picked her up, pressing a kiss to her cheek, his mustache tickling her face. John watched, fighting the scowl as she talked to him and he smiled at her, laughing at each question she would ask. Ruby had two grandfathers already, and John was no fan of Curtis stepping in as a third. It didn’t matter to him how much his daughter adored the man, Curtis wasn’t her grandparent in John’s eyes. When he put her back down on the ground, she ran back to the kitchen without a passing thought for John.

“See ya, John,” He waved and John didn’t bother replying, waving his hand as the man stepped from the building. Molly watched him through the glass door until he was out of sight before sighing, stepping over to occupy the seat Curtis just left.

She sent him a stern look, folding her hands across the table. “You could at least try to be nice to him for once.”

John ignored her, sipping at the coffee in his mug. “I still don’t like Ruby calling him that.”

“Well I didn’t like it when you knocked up some girl in college, but I’ve learned to deal with that, haven’t I?”

His jaw tightened at the small jab from his mother. He knew she was kidding, but he’d gotten tired of the joke all together, and from her especially. It was a consequence of having a baby with someone like he had, but still, it’d been almost four years since she was born and approaching five since he’d told his family about the pregnancy. The joke was old.

“She’s already got two grandpa’s, Mom,” He continued, choosing to ignore his mother and continue with what he was saying.

“Well, he can be her third then.”

He sighed, giving her soft look. “Ma—“

“What else is she supposed to call him, John?’ Molly’s posture stiffened some, stopping what he was about to say. She shifted carefully in to seat, and he watched as she decided how to proceed with the conversation. John waited for her as she licked her lips, breaking their eye contact and looking down at the table. “He was there the day she was born, held her for the first time only a few minutes after you did. She sees him more than your father does. Are you gonna sit there and try to explain to her that he’s not biologically her grandfather and she’s not to call him that because you don’t like him for the silliest reasons.”

“You know that’s not what this is about.” He interjected, almost too quickly.

Molly sent him a pointed look, strong in comparison to the one he’d try to use on her. “Then what is this about?”

“I dunno,” He sighed, toying with his fingers now. “I just don’t like it.”

“You have no problem that she calls Nicole her nana or Alexis her aunt. What’s wrong with her calling Curtis her grandpa?” She reminded, toying with the opened newspaper in front of her.

“Because he’s not her grandpa.” He said too easily, the words slipping from his tongue before he even thought about it.

Her glare worsened then, teeth gritting like his were. “You’re absolutely infuriating, you know that?”

“It’s because I don’t see him as my dad, Mom,” He said finally, releasing the breath that was trapped in his lungs, “So I don’t understand why you insist she see him as her grandfather.”

“You would think having a child would have made you less selfish,” She snapped at him, “Maybe this isn’t about you, John.”

“What?” His brow furrowed, “What do you mean?”

She took a deep breath, “I mean it doesn’t matter what you think of him…” Her tone softened, “He’s a grandfather figure to her and he wants to be one for her. What’s one more person to love her and care for her, John? Any other grandfather loves their grandchild in the same way Curtis loves Ruby.”

“So I’m just supposed to accept that?” John scoffed.

“Yes.” She took his hand from where it rested at his mug, forcing him to look at her. “You make personal sacrifices for the sake of your child. You deal with Sara for the sake of your child. You set you dreams aside for the sake of your child. You grow up for Ruby. You stop hating your mom’s boyfriend for your daughter, John.”

He knew it would never happen. All the sacrifices she thought he’d made weren’t necessarily a sacrifice as just pure coincidences or a batch of good timing. There were moments when dealing with Sara was a difficulty, but mostly, he was the nuisance. Sara bathed Ruby and brought enough clothes for her to spend the weekend. John made little personal effort to keep up with that area of parenting. The band was taking a break on Jared’s account more than anyone else and John had no problem picking it back up right now. Everyone assumed he was the one who pushed for a break, that he missed his daughter and was ready to see her more, but really, he was perfectly content with touring more. He wouldn’t know sacrifice if it slapped him in the face.

“I don’t hate him.” He mumbled out finally, trying to release some of the growing tension between them. Molly smiled then, finally, relieving John some about the situation. But his mother had that hopeful smile stretched across her lips, as if her argument convinced him that she was right, that Curtis deserved acceptance into John’s life. He gave up the fight to not disappoint his mother, but he’d never let Curtis in the way his mother wanted him to.

“Ruby’s a better liar than you.” She teased, her tone so much lighter and simpler now.

John forced a smile to match her, leaning forward in his chair. “She got that from her mother, obviously.”

“How is Sara?” Molly asked as if their previous conversation hadn’t happened.

He shrugged. “Same as always.”

“Lex told me about yesterday.”

The blush was already crawling up his neck at the words, the sympathetic smile she was giving him now only making it worse. “I’m not having this conversation with my mother,” He mumbled, hiding his face in his palms.


“What?” The word muffled.

She reached across the table again, pulling his arms down so she could see his face. “Those sorts of incidents can really confuse her.”

“I’m aware, Ma.” John pulled his arms out of her grasp, sinking lower in the chair. “Drop it.”

Molly shifted too, her voice lower then: “I’m not kidding, John.”

“I know,” His jaw tightened, “Sara, Lex, and Ken all already made that clear.”

“Has Ruby mentioned it?” She continued gently, using a calmer tone.

“No.” John sighed, running his hand through hair, trying to control his obvious frustration about the situation.

There was a sense of relief that came to him when he remembered that. Ruby may have seen the girl, spoken to her even, but she had yet to ever bring it up to him or anyone. She was particularly gifted at mentioning tricky topics to anyone who would listen, but maybe she was suddenly overgrowing that. Maybe she suddenly learned what shame and embarrassment was and could understand that talking about the girl would make her father uncomfortable. John wasn’t sure, but so far, he was thankful Ruby had not brought up Celeste or the morning.

“What are you gonna say?” His mother’s voice was gentle again, and John swallowed his embarrassment and guilt, trying his hardest to avoid any frustrations towards her. “Y’know if she asks?”

John sighed, “I don’t know, Ma. I’ll figure it out.”

“Because that method’s always worked so well for you, John.” She teased again, and John rolled his eyes.

“Can you please stop?”

“She’s a smart girl, John.” Molly tried.

“She is my daughter.”

Leaning forward, Molly tried to take his hand again. John didn’t offer it to her, keeping them laced together at his torso instead; he wouldn’t let her try that move again. “I’m just worried, sweetie.” She offered, a heavy sigh followed.

“You’re always worried.”

Molly sent him a glare. “It’s not like you do much to reassure me.”

He smiled for the first time that morning, a chuckle falling from his lips once. “Mom, I could be a sober celibate who lived in your house and you’d still worry.”

She smiled too then; one of those genuine, mom smiles that John treasured so much. He loved them woman and valued everything she said. It didn’t matter that Curtis was still around or he had a kid now, the love he had for his mother continued to grow daily. She was the one who told him to pursue his dreams, even after Ruby was born. He saw himself in her; both had been in the same situation and they pushed through to have the careers they dreamed of. John gave up marriage and the happily ever after family to sing around the world. His mom divorced her husband after ten years of marriage because she wanted to own a bakery. She was the only person John ever considered worthy enough to be considered a role model.

“That’s true, I guess.” Her words were laced with content, and John couldn’t stop himself from smiling back, allowing his mother’s happiness to influence him.

“Plus,” John added, “You’ve got your own personal spy living with me.”

“Lexie’s just looking out for you.”

“And tattling on me to my mother is definitely looking out for me.” He quipped, sipping at his now cold coffee.

“John.” She said again.


“We just all love you, and we all love her.”

“I know,” He sighed, leaning down to rest his forehead against the table. This conversation was exhausting, regardless of the fact that he’d consumed three cups of coffee and gotten ten hours of sleep. His mother had that talent; she wasn’t good at letting things go, no matter how many times he said he understood.

“We want her to be okay.”

“She’s fine.”

There was a brief silence that settled between them and John knew she was waiting for him to look at her. This conversation was exhausted him and he wished she would end it. His mother however, waited and when John finally pushed himself up from where his arms and head rested at the table, his mother continued: “Right now, she’s fine.”

“She’ll always be fine, Mom.” He spoke over her, and she gave him a pointed look. “No, really. You keep insisting she’s got these people who you continuously insist love her.”

“And love you,” She added.

John scoffed, “Except Curtis.”

“Curtis does too, John.” Molly scoffed, “You think he would have gotten rid of those three tickets for you if he didn’t?”

“He told you about that?” He asked, and his mother nodded. “He wasn’t supposed to tell you about that.”

“You really think he wouldn’t?”

He faked a gasp, in the same way he’d do with Ruby, his mother chuckling in response. “You have everyone spying on me, don’t you? The cops, my room mates, my kid…”

Molly shrugged. “Well, how else am I supposed to keep up with what you’re doing?”

“You could just ask,” he retorted with a smile, “or just accept the fact that I’m 25 years old and you don’t get to know everything about me anything.”

“Like you ever answer your phone when I call?” She reminded, and a pang of guilt rushed through John.

There was a fear in him that the conversation would turn too serious again, that the light-hearted tones and smiles were about to disappear again for a more serious subject matter. He did screen her calls, but he screened everyone. John didn’t even like owning a phone at all anymore; it made him too available to everyone. If Ruby didn’t exist and he never signed to a band he probably would have given up the contract months ago so that the people in his life would be forced to conduct their business more face-to-face. John sighed, shifting as his mother still looked at him.

“Don’t you have a cake to bake or something?” He tried, ignoring the obvious tension that was looming in the potential conversation.

“No,” She mumbled out, pushing herself up from the seat. “But I should check on Lex. We’re trying to master the croissant.”

His cup of coffee was cold now as he brought it to his lips again. Molly chuckled at the grimace that spread over his face as he set the cup back down. Before John could get up from the table though, she had already taken his cup for him, preventing him from having another cup. It was another thing she was worried about: too much caffeine and not enough sleep. Anytime he was in her bakery, drinking her coffee she was always monitoring his intake, as if too many cups of coffee had the same effect as too many bottles of beer. John groaned when she leaned down to press a kiss on the top of his head in the same manner he’d do to Ruby too often. She slipped past him before he could protest the gesture, setting the mug in the opening to the kitchen. His gaze flickered to his phone then as the alarm set in it went off, reminding him of the looming deadline that was approaching.

“What’s Ruby doing?” He asked suddenly.

“Helping Lex,” Molly spoke from behind him, “she’s got that baking gene, y’know?”

John ignored the comment as he stood from the table then, turning around to see his mother. “Well, we should leave in twenty minutes so you might start encouraging her to wash up and get ready to go.”

Disappointment flooded his mother’s face suddenly as her features dropped. “But you guys just got here.”

“I gotta get her back on time this week or Sara’s gonna wring my neck, Ma.”

She sighed, defeated now as she tapped against the glass window that divided the dining room with the kitchen, gesturing to the two in there. “Can you come by earlier next week?” She asked then, “You’ll have her all Sunday right?”—he nodded once before she continued—“I can see her longer then.”

When John was on tour and Lex was taking care of his daughter, his friend would bring Ruby to spend the day at the bakery with her and his mother. John could see she’d gotten too used to that pattern now as she practically pouted at him about the time crunch. “We’ll see,” He tried, the response not enough for her to look any happier. “With the wedding there’s a lot going on, Mom.”

“Maybe she could stay a night with me then.” Molly suggested with a sudden smile, the idea exciting her. “We can have a little tea party and she can stay in the guest room and we’ll make pancakes together in the morning—”

“Mom!” He interrupted her then, and she looked at him, upset again. “I gotta see what’s going on next weekend before I make any promises, but I promise, we will come by at some point for Grandma time.”

The smile spread across her face, “You’re a good father, John.” The subject changed suddenly, “regardless of your weekday affairs.”

He only rolled his eyes, watching as she stepped through the door and disappearing into the kitchen. If he listened close enough, he could her his mother talking with the girl, her giggles spilling from the room. A moment later the girl was running through the door and to John.

“Daddy, guess what I made?”

She jutted her arms up at him and he leaned over in response to hold her. “What’d you make?”

“Cinnamon buns.”

“Did you make me some?” John smirked, pressing a kiss to temple.

Ruby shook her head. “They have to raise.”

“Rise,” His mother corrected her as she stepped through the door then too, sending John a smile. “They rise, sweetheart.”

His daughter only shrugged at her, resituating herself in John’s arms. “Are you ready to go to Mommy’s?”

She nodded her head, her fingers running through his messy hair. He wasn’t ready to take her back yet. They’d only been together for a day and a half, most of which were spent with his friends and family.

“Maybe Grandma will give you a donut for the ride?” He prompted, looking at his mom, “What do ya say, Grandma?”

Molly sighed, giving him a look, “Go ask Lexie to help you,” She said to Ruby as she pushed away from John’s chest. He lowered her down and she jumped from his arms. They both watched as she ran back into the kitchen, squealing his friend’s name.

“She’s had three cupcakes already.”

He shrugged, “So?”

“She’s going to be crazy in an hour.”

Smiling, he shrugging again. “And she’ll be at Sara’s.”

“John.” She sighed, taking a step closer to him.

“It’s fine, Mom.” He argued, “She rarely gets to eat this at Sara’s. Plus doesn’t a grandma have the right to spoil her granddaughter?”

His mother cracked a smile then, “Well, when you put it like that.”

Ruby let out another high pitch noise as she came out of the kitchen, marching towards John then. The familiar maroon box was in her hands now and she stopped in front of his legs as John lifted her up again. “Lexie said I could take mommy one too.”

The door swung open again and Lex stepped through, the flour staining her apron and her hair falling from the ponytail. She had that same, tired smile stretched across her lips he’d gotten so used to seeing. It was the same smile he’d seem after everyday of high when he drove her home. He only gave her a small, but sympathetic smile back. She was working extra hours for the wedding, because she and Kennedy had so much to pay off already and had just put a down payment on a house. Even with her parents help, their money was thin.

“Well, isn’t Alexis just the nicest the nicest girl ever?” He asked his daughter, watching as she nodded, putting the box in his hands so she could hug herself closer to him.

Lex smiled. “Daddy, you should marry Lexie like Kenny is.”

The three of them laughed at the comment, has daughter sitting up more and laughing along even though she didn’t understand why. “I don’t think Kennedy would like that, sweetie.”

“Why not?” She pouted and their was more laughter from the two other girls in the room. “You’re a good daddy.”

“Kenny loves Lexie. He doesn’t want to share her with me.”

Ruby pouted more, curling into his shoulder. “Lexie,” She mumbled, turning out to see him. His friend sent the girl a sympathetic smile, “will you marry Daddy?”

“Nope.” She said quickly, “I’m marrying Kenny.”

“Alright,” John interrupting the conversation, preventing his daughter from continuing. “Say goodbye to Grandma and Aunt Lexie, Ruby.”

Everyone was smiling as Ruby waved her hand, saying goodbye to the two girls. He hated seeing them part. His mom always gave him the look, hoping that he would just shrug his shoulders and stay longer. Lex understood better though; Sara was looking for any excuse to lessen his time with Ruby so he had to make sure he followed every rule to the letter. Molly gave the girl a kiss on her cheek, promising her that they'd see each other again the following weekend. He couldn't let himself feel guilty about this. It wasn't his fault their time was so limited and he did all he could to make sure his mother and child got to spend time together. John had to push himself out the door or he'd be stuck their all day while his mother and child said goodbye to one another.

Ruby was balanced in his arms as he made his way back to him car. He tried to listen attentively as his daughter squealed excitedly about going back home, to Sara's house, where all her toys and clothing were. It always bothered John that she called there home, although he did understand why. Ruby didn't even have her own room at John's and he only kept a few t-shirts and shorts of hers there in case of emergencies, but otherwise, it was his space. Kennedy was already occupying the other room and that was all the space. She slept beside him in his bed and enjoyed whatever toys Sara packed for her. It would all go back every Sunday. He wanted it to be different but there was nothing he could about it. It was the same way when he was little; being with his mom meant he was home. Even after the divorce settled and they'd gotten the bi-weekly arrangement worked out, John still felt like a guest at his dad's house. He shared a room with his brother there and they had their own stuff in the closets and clothes in the drawers. At Molly's house though, his stuff was everywhere. They were a family and he was incorporated into the entire building, rather than stuffed into a tiny room to be some hidden secret. The home for Ruby was already established, and John could build her a house of her own and it wouldn't matter.

She continued as he stepped off the curb, pulling his keys from his pocket and unlocking the back door. John just nodded along, trying to be patient with the stories she was telling about Sara. The girl was only three and had yet to learn how much John hated hearing about how great of a parent Sara was. She didn't learn how to filter her comments or know where some words were appropriate and others weren't. As much as he wanted to tell her to stop, that he didn't like to her about all the fun things she would be doing with her mother that week that he couldn't participate in, she wouldn't understand and would be more hurt than he was. John placed her in her car seat, watching as she finally stopped speaking to reach for the straps and buckle herself in. He'd taught her only a month earlier about how to do it, and Sara wasn't very happy that he did it. John was always watching though to make sure she pulled the shoulders straps far enough and to check it was clicked all the way into the buckle. She loved those beginning bits of independence, and John could see no faults in helping her along that path.

John closed the door, stepping away to move around the back of the car to the drivers seat. The keys dangled from his fingers as he rested for a moment against the trunk, taking a deep breath. He knew he had to be patient, at least for a little longer until his daughter was with her mom's and he could enjoy the silence that filled his week. The apartment would be empty tonight and he could smile at the idea of drinking a beer in the empty space. It was Sunday and Kennedy and Alexis had made a habit out of being out for date night each week at the same time on this day. John loved that. Every other week he was guaranteed a quiet place to take a nap. The other weeks, he'd get an evening alone with Ruby, to enjoy her company without the nags of his friends.

When he stepped in the car, he was immediately met with the small girl's chatter, the topic now changing. She knew the difference between the Beatles and Bob Dylan, and could already recite the words to most of the popular Queen songs. His daughter was growing up to become a musical dictionary, and John couldn't fight the smile that spread across his lips as she requested they listen to the Stones.

This was his duty. To him, it didn't matter who taught his daughter to ride a bike or throw a baseball. He was certain that Sara's father would take those responsibilities before John could. But, no one could teach his daughter about music better than he could. He spent his life being surrounded by music and the lifestyle it brought, and he hoped the same future for Ruby. It didn't matter to him if she never wanted to play an instrument or write a song, but his dream was that she could understand its importance in the way he did. He wanted her to find the same positivity in it, allowing it to help her through her struggles and give her life balance. Sara and his mom wanted her to have some religious background in her life, but he knew that music could provide her with the same moral guidance that any other belief system could. She was already so expressive and smart, and with the words of Bob Dylan and Tom Petty to support her, she could grow up to be an amazing person.

It was quiet most of the ride, other than Ruby singing along to the words of each song. Driving to Sara's always took awhile, between Sunday afternoon traffic and the distance of her house, it was easily a forty-five minute commute. Ruby would usually fall asleep in her car seat, as traveling anywhere would put her to sleep. Sara moved the the northern part of Scottsdale, because she hated Tempe and the ASU community. John knew she wanted desperately to leave Phoenix all together; it'd always been her dream to move out to the midwest, where she could grow a small garden and live twenty minutes from any civilization. But having a daughter with him tied her to the city so she couldn't leave without his, and the state's permission. John knew it would mean his dad forcing her to give up her child for most of the year, so Ruby could stay in Arizona with her family and school. So she moved to Scottsdale after she graduated, in an attempt to get away from the city itself and ASU entirely. He'd offered early on to compromise--she could move down to Tucson or up to Flagstaff and they could meet halfway every weekend, but she refused. The commute would have sucked and those places were no better than Phoenix.

John parked his car on the street in front of her house. It was small and quaint, exactly what she always wanted. There was a small porch on the front and she had a few potted plants sitting beside the railing. It lacked any signs of being a "desert-style" house that she hated so much. It had white siding, and the developer she bought it from even attached shutters as to make it like it belonged along the east coast and not situated where it sat. She'd snagged it off the market for a great price, and was slowly turning it into her own. There was always a part of John that wished he'd be there with her, so that they could have the perfect life. Ruby could have two parents together, and they could live comfortably in her dream home. Seeing it every week always sent that familiar tug to his gut as a reminder of the life he and Ruby could have lived, had he not pursued his career and chosen Sara over his dream.

She stepped outside when John climbed from his car, sending him a quick smile as he made his way to Ruby's door. His daughter was already smiling, waving at Sara through the window. John ducked down into the car, unlocking her from her car seat and then stepped out of the way so she could run up the front yard to Sara. He didn't bothering watching as the two reunited, instead making his way to the trunk to pull out his daughter's small suitcase and bookbag from the trunk. Tossing the small strap of the backpack over his shoulder, he made his way up the yard, watching his feet step through the grass.

"We got you donuts!" Ruby exclaimed as John took the two steps up to the porch at once. "And Grandma helped me make cinnamon buns."

Sara smiled at the girl, her voice equally as excited. She took the box of desserts from the three year old then, peaking inside. "What kind did ya get me?"

"Chocolate." Ruby giggled. "Your favorite."

John watched the two as they continued to speak to one another, the smile spreading across his lips too. He could overlook all the rough patches the two had when he saw the way Sara and Ruby got along. She was such a great mother to the girl, always making her the first priority. Watching this made John feel guilty too. Every bit of jealousy and frustration he had with Sara felt unjustifiable when he watched the way she was with his daughter. Of course, the custody arrangement felt unfair and the relationship they had was uneven, but he could understand why. John would never be as good of a father as Sara was as a mother.

A moment later, Ruby was inside the house, following Sara's instructions to put the dessert in the fridge and wash her hands. It was just them then, and he couldn't help but dread whatever words could come up in the situation.

"How was she?"

John licked his lips, leaning back against the railing. "Good, as always."

"Look, John," She started, as he watched as she ran her fingers through her nervously, toying with the split ends for a moment, "I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. I was already in a bad mood and I took it out on you."

They'd fought for years over so many pointless, stupid things and those arguments never ended with an apology. John stood there, perplexed by the situation unfolding in front of him. He wasn't totally sure still that this wasn't some trick to get him to admit he screwed up or worse. She'd never tried the tactic before, but he wouldn't put it past her.  The words fell heavy between them, and for the first time that afternoon, John looked his ex in the eyes, to see if the words were sincere.

"It's okay," He replied cautiously.

She sighed, sitting down in the small bench on their porch. "You didn't deserve that. I'm still getting use to you being here every weekend and not Lex. I know every time you left for tour I told you how awful you were being for leaving her without a dad, but now that you're back, I don't really know how to act with you."

"Me either," He smiled, trying to make it a reassuring gesture and not one based on the victory he'd gained. John lowered himself on the bench beside her. "Things are going to be different now, for both of us and for her."

"It's a lot easier hating you, you know," She tried to joke, looking at him. "I've gotten pretty good at it."

Forcing a laugh, he tried to not take the comment personally as to keep the conversation positive. "I know the feeling." He smiled at her, "You had every right to be mad at me yesterday though. That was pretty stupid."

"It was," She nodded. "But still, I'm going to try to stop being a bitch to you. You're here now and you're doing a great job, according to Lex."

"You've got her spying on me too?"

Sara shrugged. "She emails me now and then; sends me pictures for Ruby's picture books."

"You and my mom, apparently." John groaned out.

He watched as she pushed herself up from the bench, knowing his ex was never much for idle time. There was a sense of relief that hit him then, because of what she said. She was just as determined as he was to make this work for his daughter's sake. It didn't matter about the past anymore, they were in the present. His child was with them for the rest of their lives, so even if they'd had enough of each other for the rest of their lives, they had to push through that feeling for her. She was smiling, stepping backwards and pulling the screen door open.

"Ruby, come say goodbye to Daddy." She yelled inside, and John let out a chuckle as he heard the girl's scream out from where he was sitting.

It wasn't more than second later that Ruby came running out the door, her arms wrapping around John's neck. "Goodbye, Daddy." She mumbled into his shoulder. John took the opportunity to tighten his arms around her too, squeezing her body against his chest. She giggled as he picked her like that, setting her onto his knee.

"Be good, okay?" He whispered into her temple, pressing a kiss to the hair that had fallen out of his sloppy attempt at a ponytail. "And don't be too crazy or I'll tell Grandma no more cupcakes."

She let out a little whine at that, and John smiled, hugging her again. Her head fell into his shoulder as she held him closer. "I love you, Daddy."

"I love you too, Ruby." He smiled as she let go. "I'll see Saturday, Friday."

It felt wrong to leave then. He knew he had to and he did. Pushing himself off that bench and down the front lawn was harder this week than most. Between Sara's kind words and Ruby's heartfelt goodbye, leaving felt wrong. But he did. John got in his car and drove away, saying goodbye to his daughter and her mother until the following week. Usually, this drive was exciting; he'd be driving home to an empty apartment where he could enjoy silence. This time, he was too busy dwelling on the opportunities he was leaving behind to focus on the rest of the night. He didn't regret joining the band or signing a contract to a record label, but he always felt so guilty when he thought about what he gave up to have his life. He could have called that place home.
♠ ♠ ♠
Sorry about the wait. School is crazy and I came up with a new story last week so that's gotten 99% of my attention. Let's just all be proud I have four chapters done!! (and the next one is planned).

Things are getting fun in this. It's be pretty cool to get some feedback!

PS. also, I realize John's mom isn't named Molly.