READY OR NOT • by Kelly Castillo

“It’s not that simple, Charli! I can’t just tell them that I don’t want the kid! That I’m too young to handle this responsibility and don’t want it anyway! It’s a child, Charli! It’s my niece.”

“I understand that, Maddox! Believe me, I understand. I’m not trying to be heartless here, and I want the best for that little girl. But what about Isobel’s parents? Shouldn’t they have a right to the kid?”

“But Charli, that’s not my decision! My brother appointed me legal guardian of his daughter. I don’t think this is one of those things I can just decide to pass on! She’s legally my child now. I’m not going to hand her off to people I’ve never met before, just because I don’t think I can handle it.”

“You’ve never met Isobel’s parents? I don’t believe that. Not even at the wedding?”

“Shep said that her parents were dead beats. She was embarrassed by them, and they knew it. So they cut themselves out of her life when she left for Boston U, and hadn’t made contact since. I don’t know the full story, but…”

“Shit.”

“Yeah, you can say that again.”

“So you really are all this kid has.”

“There is an option. Child Services comes in two days to do an assessment on me. If they decide I’m not fully equipped to raise a child, they could take her away.”

“Meaning…”

“Meaning, she gets put up for adoption, and then I guess they play parent roulette for a few months. It’ll be up to the adopting family whether or not I get to see her again.”

“That wouldn’t be your fault, though, you know that right?”

“It’s not about fault, Charli, it’s about—”

“Maddox, you wouldn’t be letting your brother down if that happened. It’s something that’s out of your hands—”

“But it’s my niece, Charli. I’d be letting her down. I don’t expect you to understand. But, in my mind at least, there’s no other option than to take her.”

“Okay, but think it through, Maddox! You just turned twenty-three. You know absolutely nothing about raising a child. You haven’t even had your real world job for a year yet. You’re taking night classes. You don’t have a house, and you never stay longer than two years in one place. You ride a motorcycle, Maddox.”

“So?”

“So, if you decide to go through with this, all that has to change. All of it. Let’s say everything goes well during the assessment. They decide that you are capable of raising Lindsay. Bam, instant parent. You take a steady job. School will have to wait a few years. You find a bigger apartment, or maybe even a house. You trade in your bike for a Hybrid Crossover SUV or some shit like that. You have to be home every night at a decent hour, because you’ve got a kid waiting for you. And forget about money, because every penny you make is going to feed, clothe, and provide a future for that kid.”

“Look, I get it. You don’t just wake up one day and decide to be a parent. But my brother and his wife didn’t just wake up that day and decide to die, either! There’s no countdown here, Charli. Its just ready or not, here she comes.”

“I know, Maddox. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

“I know you didn’t. I know. I’m just… I don’t know how anyone could make this decision in a couple of days. It’s insane. But, I guess… I guess I would understand if it changed us, too.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“I mean, clearly you’re uncomfortable with this. And its not what you signed up for, either. I don’t have any unrealistic expectations, Charli. Just because I choose this doesn’t mean you have to be stuck with it. I want you to know that I wouldn’t blame you for wanting out.”

“This is what you want then. Are you sure?”

“More sure than I’ve ever been.”

“Then I want it too.”

“Charli, no—”

“Yes.”

“—not asking you to take that on—”

“You’re not asking me, but I’m telling you.”

“—my family, and when you’re only twenty one—”

“Hey!”

“Don’t do this, Charli.”

“Maddox, I’ve been in love with you since I was twelve. Shepley taught me how to drive. I practically spent every other holiday at your place. Now, I know it’s just been you and him for most of your life, but you guys became my family, too. He was my brother too. I’m not going to bail on you now, so don’t bother trying to get rid of me.”

“But this is something else completely—”

“I was in that waiting room with you, Maddox. Don’t forget that. I was there with you the day she was born. I watched you fall in love with that little girl. And I can’t blame you for your decision. I’m not surprised. But I had to make sure it was what you wanted, and not just something you felt obligated to do. I want you to be happy. So if this is truly what you want, then I’m right here with you.”

“But someday, down the line—”

“Maddox, someday is a long way off. Today, all I care about is helping you pass that assessment.”

“You don’t have to—”

“I want to, Maddox. Just tell me what we need to do.”

“…okay… Well, first order of business…”

“Yeah?”

“Marry me, Charli.”


Kelly Castillo: Civil Engineering student looking for a creative outlet and a little extra cash.


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