Leslie has lungs like no other. She could wake the dead with her screams. And in this particular morning, she pretty much did. She was just screaming for someone, anyone. For what reason, I still do not know.
Claire and I were in bed when we heard the screams. Claire started to stir to get up and I started to protest. “Travis, I have to get her.” She said grabbing my hand and prying them apart.
“Don’t go, let her scream.” I said as I brought Claire even closer to me.
“Travis.” Claire, this time, was more serious. I had no choice but to allow her out of my arms. As she stood I playfully grabbed for her to come back to bed. Claire laughed at me. “Travis, you need to get up to0, you have work.”
“Screw work, I want you. . . and sleep.” And just like that I rolled over and fell back to sleep for the next five minutes. (That’s how long it took Claire to come back in the room, drag me out of bed, and throw my suit at me.)
I found Leslie eating breakfast. I still can’t believe how much she has grown over the last two years. She’s now three and is a chatter box. She’s also the messiest eater, which Claire blames me and my own eating habits. She says I lead a bad example. I have no idea where she got that idea from.
In the last two years Leslie has hit some major milestones in her life. Like talking. I had just gotten home from work. I walked through the door and all I heard was, “daaaddddaaaa!” I looked down and found Leslie crawling towards me, repeating her cries for attention. I was stunned to hear my daughter say my name. After I picked her up, Claire walked in the entryway.
“When did she learn how to talk?” I asked, still in shock.
“She woke up from her nap said my name, then said yours. She only knows mama and dada, but I’m sure pretty soon she’ll know a few others.”
“She said mama?” I asked with a tear running down my eye. Parker never said mama or mommy, not until he learned that children were suppose to have two parents. It broke my heart to know that Leslie’s first word was mama. I was just too happy to contain my emotion.
“Yup.” Claire answered with a huge grin. I walked over and kissed her, happy that I had both my girls in my life.
I remember Leslie’s first steps as well. Both Claire and I were in the kitchen, talking about work. I had just gotten home from a busy day when I heard “dada, up!” I turned to tell Leslie to go play, and yet when I turned I saw Leslie up and walking.
“Oh my God, Leslie, you’re walking.” I said. I went down on one knee and Leslie walked towards me and flung her body into my arms. Claire had turned to witness this and the two of us were so happy that we cheered.
Leslie didn’t understand our excitement. “dada I up.” She said as a matter of fact. I was tossing her in the air.
“You walked Les.” She laughed and smiled, still not understanding what she actually accomplished.
After that Leslie not only was a huge chatterbox, she was also an athlete. She had us chasing her around the entire house.
The only thing we currently worked on was potty-training. This was the hardest thing for her to do. She wasn’t willing to accept the fact that the diapers were going “bye-bye” and that she had to be a “big girl” and use the toilet. We have had so many accidents, it’s not even funny. Claire was better and more patient with Leslie than me.
Parker’s potty-training took one day. I took him to the toilet, stood him over his little bowl, tore his pants off and told him to aim at a little plastic ring and shoot. Two days later he showed us that he truly was potty-trained. He was out with grandpa in the “garden” and had to go, so he dropped his shorts and pee’d on my dad’s apple tree. Dad wasn’t sure if he should laugh or be upset. So he laughed and then told Parker if he had to use the toilet to tell him and they would go and use the bathroom. After that Parker was completely and 100% potty-trained.
Leslie, she just didn’t like sitting on a toilet seat to pee or poo. She loved her diapers, it meant she could play and pee at the same time. If she was around Claire and I and we saw that scrunched up face, we’d quickly stop her and get her on the toilet before it was too late.
Claire loved being a stay at home mom. She loved to play with Leslie and I think Leslie loved to play with her. I’m not sure what either of them did while I was at work, but I knew that when I came home, both my girls would be happy and delighted to see me.
Of course it wasn’t always sunshine and rose petals with Leslie. We did have to punish her when she was bad. I hated putting her into time-out and since we were trying to think positive with the little toilet seat, we had to use her crib as a time-out spot. One evening I came home, I was stressed, pissed at work related stuff and just wanted to watch a bit of TV and head to bed. Leslie had other plans. She brought out a couple of blocks and came looking for me. She asked to “pway.” and I told her that I was too tired. (We don’t use no with her.) She then threw the block at me and screamed. After the second block came towards my head I picked her up and brought her to her crib. “Time-out. You don’t throw blocks at daddy.” I told her.
“NOOOOO!!” She started to scream. “I sowwy! I SOWWY!” She tried to grab my hand and I brushed it off. She cried more.
“Time-out Les.” I said, very upset. “You have three minutes until I get back.”
I walked out and ignored her screams.
“Well, that was mean.” Claire said to me as I sat down.
“MEAN! She threw a block at my head!” At this moment I busted up laughing. I had a vision of Parker doing the exact same thing to me after a stressful day of school.
“What’s so funny.” Claire asked.
“Oh, I just had a flashback of Parker doing the same thing to me at her age. She is definitely her brother’s little sister.” I laughed more and Claire smiled.
“I’ve missed that smile of yours, Trav.” She placed her hand on my cheek and kept her smile.
“I smile.” Sometimes.
“Not lately. You’re under too much pressure at work.”
“That’s because I don’t have the right kind of secretary to keep me from going crazy at the office.” I hinted that I still wanted her back at the office. There were some perks that I truly missed from her working for me.
“Is that so?” She teased. I only nodded and allowed my smile to widen.
I leaned in and kissed her. “Come back, please.” I said as I continued to kiss her. “I need you.”
“And what about Leslie?” She asked while I started to undress her. “Who would take care of her while I was at the office, making you ‘happy.’”
“A nanny.” I said in deep passion.
Claire stopped my hands. “NO! Absolutely not, Travis.” She stood and walked away. She went into Leslie’s room to get her out of time-out.
Claire ignored me for the rest of the night. She was mad, again. I had begged her repeatedly for some time to come back to work. Work was stressful. The bank was losing money and Hogan’s was closing up two dozen places. The recession was really taking its toll on us. The news was on about Hogan’s as well. I didn’t really care and tried not to listen, but Claire made me turn it up as she cooked. “I’m not saying that they are a horrible company or franchise. Business wise, whoever is running this company is doing a good job. What’s hurting them is the food.”
“I know what you mean Carl, their food is like eating a rat on Survivor. It’s just plain wrong.” Click. I had heard enough.
“Turn that back on!” Claire yelled.
“Why, they’ll just keep insulting the company.” I stood to walk over to eat.
I sat there and watched her eat. She and I were both under a lot of stress with the other board members, me more than her. She took a few calls and signed a few papers. I was the head of the company now and I really hated it. I’ve always hated fast food. I grew up on a farm for the most part and had home cooked meals. The first time I ate at Hogan’s was here and it was just awful. “Claire, we need to rethink Hogan’s. Get someone in like that British prick Ramsey in and clean the place up. Make it more. . . edible.”
“I know.” She dropped her fork. “I’ve tried talking to the other owners, but they don’t want to fork up the money for a new menu or new cooks.”
I laughed, “So, they rather close a few shops? That doesn’t make a lot of sense. That’s going to hurt them in the end, especially with the creditors. Look, at the office I’ll go over the figures and see how we can rescue those jobs and find a way to fix that place up to make it a bit more like how your dad envisioned it.”
She only nodded.
Within a month I was reclaiming Hogan’s. Making changes and getting the board to accept that I wasn’t going to close anymore Hogan’s. I showed them my plan, submitted a few changes. I even went down to our Hogan’s in Bridgeport, and like Undercover Boss, I worked there for a day to see how the place was ran. At the end of the experiment I fired the manager and two incompetent workers that were just lazy and unclean. I hired new chefs and they were told to make me a new menu.
Now, I know I said that Claire loved being home with Leslie during the day, but no matter how much she was around Claire, Leslie was and will always be “daddy’s little girl.” She loved me and loved every moment we spent together. She also had me wrapped around her small little fingers. One time as I was trying to put her into time-out for coloring on the walls, she kissed me softly. “Dada, I sowwy.” She whispered. She then kissed me again on my cheek.
I took one look at her and she puffed up a small puppy face. “You aren’t going to win, Les.”
“Uh huh!” She then kissed me. “Cause you luwv kisses.”
“I do.” I placed her in bed. She didn’t fight. “Now, three minutes Les.”
“Dada, kiss.” She puckered her mouth up. I shook my head no, knowing that she had a plan. Her eyes started to water (by force might I add), she then added, “dada don’t luwv me.” She cried.
She won me over. “Oh alright.” I swept her up and kissed her. She smiled and held onto me and started to suck her thumb, acting like she was innocent. “You, my princess, are in fact a troublemaker. You know that?” She nodded her head.
“Dada, can you wead stowy?”
“Yea, we can.” I sighed. She had won yet another battle.
Leslie knew how much I loved reading her bedtime stories. Every night we read together. She often fell asleep with her head resting on my chest, her eyes closed, and her thumb lightly lying in her open mouth. I read her everything from, “Goodnight Moon” to “Where the Wild Things Are,” but her favorite was Dr. Seuss.
Leslie also loved to play games with me when I came home. Currently she loved to run and hide. I would come home and scream, “Where’s Leslie?”
Claire played along, “I don’t know. I haven’t seen her all day.” She said enthusiastically. We would here Leslie’s chuckles from her bedroom.
“She can’t possibly be in her bedroom?” I’d ask to Claire before opening the door. We, of course, would see her peeping out of her toy chest. “Nope, guess not.”
She’d giggle and laugh and then just as we would close the door, Leslie would fling open the top of the toy chest. “Dadda!”
“Well there you are.” I would say with enthusiasm.
Leslie didn’t monopolize my time though. I was always calling and visiting Parker. We made family trips to see him and dad. They came a few times, but not as nearly as we went out to see them. Dad hated driving his old car and we had a limo at our disposal.
Almost a week ago I called Parker, it was his fourteenth birthday. “Happy Birthday bud!” I cried out.
“Thanks dad.” He said with his squeaky but deep voice.
“So, what did you get from grandpa?”
“A hat and a leather jacket.” He answered with as little of enthusiasm as possible. He clearly was a teenager.
“Hey, do me a favor.”
“What?” Still, no enthusiasm.
“Where you at in the house?”
“Sitting at the table. Grandpa said I had to while he made dinner.”
“You see that white envelope on the table.”
“Yea right, it has grandpa’s name on it. Yesterday I got lectured that I wasn’t allowed to open his mail, like it was a felony or something.”
“Just open it!” I almost laughed. My dad has been eyeing the mail for two weeks waiting for this letter. I told him not to let Parker open it until his birthday.
“Fine.” I heard the opening of the envelope. “Hold on dad.” He placed the phone on the counter, presumably to pull out the paper and to read it. Even so, I still heard him clearly when he screamed. He was on the phone the next moment. “NO WAY! EGYPT DAD!” He cried out.
“Happy birthday son.” I laughed.
“Oh my God, thank you so much.”
“Now you and grandpa have fun, okay.”
“Oh we will. Thanks. This is awesome dad . . Oh my God, I love you.”
“I love you too. Now I’ll see you in a few weeks when you get home.”
“Alright, bye pops.” I said goodbye and hung up. I was laughing. I looked at my son’s picture on the wall and could just imagine the smile on my kid’s face right now. I had decided to send him to Egypt since he couldn’t keep his grades up. He tried his hardest. He never missed a day. I talked to dad and he said that I could do this one thing for Parker. My son and dad would be there for two weeks.
I also had my very special moments with my wife. We hadn’t had a lot of nice moments together since I begged her to get a nanny and come back to work. After hanging up the phone with Parker I went to use the ‘head’ and walked in on my wife taking a bubble bath. “Whoah!” I said abruptly.
“Yes?” She asked me curiously, but with a small smile.
“I just had too. . .” I pointed to the toilet, but my eyes stayed glued to Claire’s naked body. I stood, frozen with my mouth wide open. It took a splash from Claire to get me back away from my very dirty and private thoughts to the present. “Sorry.”
“You are such a guy, Travis.”
That night we made love together in bed. Leslie was fast asleep in her own and we were trying to be very quiet. Claire’s and my love for each other grew with each passing day. As I stared in her eyes, making them go back in her head, I smiled.
I slept soundly that night and the next. For a week my life was just normal as it could ever be. I tried to smile more. I laughed every time I came home and played the hiding game with Leslie. My wife was just the perfect mother and wife. Parker texted me photos from Egypt and it looked as if dad and him were having the trip of their lives. Nothing prepared me for what happened next.
I woke this morning to Leslie’s relentless screams. She screamed my name, and my name only. “Travis, someone’s calling you.”
“I hear.” I moaned. I hate waking up at the butt crack of dawn. “You go get her.”
“She doesn’t want me, she wants her daddy.” Claire whispered into my ear. She kissed me, and like always pushed me out of bed.
“Claire!’ I cried as I fell onto the floor. I stood and looked at her, “Why do you always have to push me?”
“Because you won’t get up if I don’t.” She said smartly and then she rolled over and went back to sleep.
“One of these days, Claire.” I said pointing at her. She smiled.
I walked in Leslie’s room, “Alright monster, what do you want?”
I picked her up and walked her to her feeding chair. I placed her in it and told her, “no throwing.” (She had a tendency to throw food across the room if she didn’t like it.)
I cleaned the dishes from the night before as I watched Leslie eat. She was playing with her food. “Leslie, eat.” I constantly said.
“Aw done.” She replied when she was done. She left more than half of her bowl.
“No, I aw done. Out.” And then she started to bang on the plastic table top repeating “out.” Her food ended up on the floor.
I sighed. “Leslie.”
“Sowwy.” I only laughed and let her out. She then made her scrunched up face.
“Oh no you don’t. Stop it. DON’T PUSH LESLIE!”
I ran with her in my arms to her bedroom where I placed her onto the toilet. “Now go.” I hated this part of parenting Leslie. She hated the toilet and I had no patience with her.
“Leslie you have to go.” I held her down. “Go, or no Dr. Seuss this morning.” She finally went and emptied out her stomach.
“Aw done.” She smiled.
“Yea I would hope so. Wow, Les, what’s mommy feeding you?” It was bad, really bad. my eyes watered up it smelt so bad. I ended up cracking her windows open a bit and spraying my Axe body spray in her room.
I dressed Leslie for the day and put on my own clothes. Afterwards, we headed to the living room together and read Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham for the hundredth time. She loved this book over any other book.
Claire walked in and turned on the morning news. She saw us, but didn’t interrupt our reading time. Leslie hated any interruption.
We had just gotten to the “train” part when Claire finally interrupted me. “Uh, Travis, you may want to take a look at this.”
“Mama!” Leslie complained. I turned my head to look over at the news. They had a picture of Landgraab’s First National on the little picture. Leslie tried to pull me back to the book, but it was a lost cause after I heard that one of the CEO’s was arrested.
“What the?” I said as I stood.
I sat next to Claire and watched as the video clip showed Mr. Carlson being dragged out of the bank and into a squad car. He was arrested, as the news stated, on sexual harassment and embezzlement charges. “Did you know about any of this?” Claire asked. I was intent on the news.
“Fuck.” I said as the news question Clarkson’s secretary, who was now reporting that she was going to file sexual harassment charges as well. “I have to go in.”
“You think?” Claire said looking right at me.
“This is not good Claire. There’s going to be an investigation and this could be bad for me. If they find out I married my own secretary. . .” I shook my head. “FUCK!”
“Puck!” Leslie said, although it sounded like puck I knew what she was saying.
Claire smacked me, “TRAVIS! Watch your language!”
“Sorry.” I took hold of Leslie, “Les, we don’t say that word, okay?” She nodded. I kissed her then kissed Claire, “I’ll be back tonight.”
I took off. I didn’t even close the front door I was so distraught and upset. I heard Leslie crying for me. “Dada, no, don’t leave!” I turned to see her running towards me. “Dada!”
I stood in the elevator and watched as Claire grabbed Leslie. I felt bad that I had to leave on my day off. Leslie knew that this was my day off. She always knew because it was pancake day. “I’m sorry.” I called out, feeling really bad.
As the doors closed I saw Leslie holding her hand out and screaming. She didn’t want me to leave. Claire was trying to smooth her cries, but it was going to take more than that.
I found grandma at her desk. She worked on my day off to do scheduling and to guard my door from unwanted visitors. “What are you doing here?” She asked.
“I just saw the news.” She nodded a disapproving nod. “Can you hold all of my calls. I need to look into this on my computer.”
“And if any of the other CEO’s call, direct them to me. Only them Lon.” I ordered. I had started to call grandma by her name about a week after she started to work for me. She said it was more professional looking for me and for her.
I couldn’t do anything on the harassment charges. I had to look into the embezzlement charges though. I needed to see how deep I was in, and the bank. Mr. Landgraab and Mr. Smith came in once to talk to me. They knew who I married and didn’t mind. They told me they had my back, and that they wouldn’t let that bit of news tarnish my reputation.
The three of us were all looking into the embezzlement charges in each of our offices. Calling each other constantly, getting the story straight. We didn’t see any problem, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do anything wrong, he just covered his tracks.
I was in the middle of a call when grandma walked in, “Travis, Parker’s on line two.”
“Tell him to call me tomorrow or when he gets home.” I said back, not even looking away from the computer.
“He says he needs to talk to you. It’s urgent.”
“Get him to leave his ‘urgent’ message and I’ll call him back.”
Two minutes later grandma came in again, this time crying, “T-t-trav-is, y-y-you n-need to t-talk to him.”
What the hell? Why was she crying.
“Alright.” I turned to my phone, “Geoffrey, I have to call you back. My son’s on the other line and Lon says I have to take his call.”
I heard the click. I touched the number two button and I put my phone on speaker. “Parker this isn’t a good time.”
“I know.” He said with a small voice. “Dad, it’s grandpa. . . . . . “