WILD CHILD • by Shera Hill

My daughter’s red hair lights up the room, this wild child, this toddler Pippi Longstocking.  

Her father had red hair.

I met him in a mad, bad, crazy time in my life when I broke up with Tim, my eight-year-long boyfriend, because damn it, I finally got that he’d never commit and just wanted us to go on the way we were: together once or twice a week after work, and on the weekend, his place or mine — movies, restaurants,  concerts, a play, a sporting event — making love on a schedule Sunday morning, and then the New York Times with cinnamon rolls and espresso. Yes, it was all very sweet, very companionable, like an old married couple though we were only in our early thirties.  We kept our money separate, a slight overlap in friends; Tim was adamant about Monday afternoon basketball practice with his buddies, beer and Buffalo wings afterward. We knew each other’s families and alternated Thanksgiving or Christmas together. On the non-selected holidays he flew to Boston, I stayed in LA.

Mom told me to dump him. “He’s a control freak, Honey. Plans to keep his life nice and tidy and in separate compartments. Never wants kids? That’s the tip-off. He’s got what he needs from this relationship already — do you? I don’t think so! Dump him — open up space to find someone who’s willing to commit to the messy reality of living with another person.  Dump him!”

So I did, surprised at how much it hurt — like sawing off an arm. A week after the breakup, with Tim texting and calling and still trying to be rational and talk it out, because we had such a good thing, and how come I’d suddenly changed? I took a trip to Jamaica with my two craziest girlfriends and met Thaddeus, a red-headed Australian. We had three days of wild, drunken partying and fucking, because I couldn’t call it making love.

I came home hung-over, sunburned, and shell-shocked, to find Tim on my door step where he put on such a display of non-rational behavior — tears even, eight years and I’d never once seen him cry, even at the saddest movies — that I decided to give him another chance.

We moved in together.

Then I skipped one period and then the next, took the drug-store test (four of them), and finally went my gynecologist.

I decided to keep the baby.

I tracked down Thaddeus through Facebook — he denied responsibility. Fine. I let him go.

Mom and Dad were ecstatic, surprising me.

“I thought I’d never be a Grandma!”  Mom said.

 I told Tim I’d move out, go back to live with my folks. We both knew it wasn’t his.

Instead we got married.

And our wild red-haired baby girl?

We named her Eloise and Tim is playdough in her hands — he tells everyone about his brilliant, precocious daughter.

Now, in the final behemoth stage of our second pregnancy, I get weepy thinking about Tim’s goodness after I was such an idiot in Jamaica. When I tell him I’ll never go wild again, he looks up from pulling Eloise away from the wall socket cover, blinks and says “But your wild streak is one of the things I most love about you!”

Shera Hill has always been an avid reader, with most of her working life in the book world. She recently retired as a library manager, and has written poetry, short stories, and novels, since she was a child. Her works have been published in both literary and popular outlets.

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