BY AMY AISLIN
Copyright is held by the author.
“ARE WE there yet?”
“Not yet, kiddo.”
I quickly glanced at my four-year-old daughter, Kylie, through the rearview mirror. Strapped in to her booster seat, she was smiling and clutching her well-loved stuffed bunny. Mr. Mutsy had been drooled on, vomited on, spat up on, and, when Kylie was two, drew on with a purple Sharpie. It was tattered and faintly smelly, yet she still refused to go anywhere without it.
“Daddy, now are we there yet?”
It was quite possibly the 10th time Kylie had asked that question since leaving the house 20 minutes ago, but she was excited: It was parents’ day at her ballet class.
“Five more minutes,” I said, as I exited the highway.
Parents’ day was actually moms’ day at the ballet studio, but since my ex-wife, Kylie’s mom, had had to take a last-minute business trip, I was filling in. Kylie had been so excited that I couldn’t say no, even though just the thought of being seen by someone I knew made me break out in a cold sweat. And, as if the gods were smiling down at me in full let’s-embarrass-the-pro-hockey-player agreement, my team’s practice had been rescheduled to tomorrow.
We were just a few blocks away from the studio, stopped at a red light, when Kylie asked, “Daddy, did you bring the video camera?”
“I have it, honey.”
Said video camera sat ominously on the passenger seat next to me. Maybe the batteries were dead. Or the room would be too dark and the recording wouldn’t come out clearly. I could always drop it in a puddle. Accidentally, of course.
“Good, ‘cause I want mommy to see our dance when she gets home. You’re going to be the only boy. Are you nervous, daddy?”
Nervous? I was a pro hockey player. I didn’t get nervous. What I was was oh-my-God-if-word-of-this-gets-out-to-my-teammates-I’ll-never-live-it-down anxious. As the rookie on the team, I got teased mercilessly. I was already dreading my new nickname. I’d go from “Rookie” to “Pirouetting Patrick” or “Ballerina Barnes.”
“No, I’m not nervous,” I replied, pulling in to the studio’s parking lot. Kylie had unhooked herself from her booster seat and was out the door almost before I turned off the engine. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I said as I opened my door. “Where do you think you’re going in such a hurry?”
Kylie was already a row over, Mr. Mutsy tucked into the purple backpack on her back. “What are the rules when we’re out in public?”
Kylie huffed impatiently and dragged her feet as she made her way back to me. “If I can’t reach out and touch you, I’m too far away,” she recited, clearly long-suffering. She looked adorable in her pink tutu, brown curls piled atop her head in a sloppy, lopsided bun she’d insisted on doing herself. Well, adorable and annoyed. Her eye-rolling could rival a teenager’s.
“Uh huh. Wait for me, please.”
Kylie groaned. “Come on, daddy.” Exasperated with me, she grabbed my hand and pulled.
“We’re gonna be late.” We weren’t, actually. We were, in fact, almost 15 minutes early. “We still have to put the sparkly glitter makeup on.” We? That puddle was looking more and more likely.
“I’m coming, I’m coming.” As I straightened, the fluffy, bright pink tutu around my waist snagged against the seatbelt.
“Daddy!” Kylie chastised, fixing my tutu so that the giant bow was again centred in front.
“Am I presentable now?”
“Yup.” Kylie nodded in satisfaction, grabbed my hand and started for the studio’s front doors. “Let’s go.”
I followed meekly behind. As I thumbed the key fob to lock the car, Kylie gasped and stopped short, almost causing me to run her over.
“Daddy, the camera! You forgot it. We have to show mommy and all your hockey friends our dance.”
Forget the puddle. It was going into the lake.