“Ethan…when is daddy going to get home?” Bailey looked up from her homework. It had been a few hours since the incident and Ethan couldn’t get a hold of either Apollo or Lynette.
“I’m not sure sweetheart,” Ethan answered honestly. “Hopefully soon.”
“Are you going to take me back there? Do I have to live with him?” Bailey asked.
“No, of course not.” Ethan shook his head. “I’m going to try to get your brother and sister back as well.”
“You don’t have to worry about them,” Bailey sniffled. “He doesn’t treat them like he does me. He always gives them whatever they ask for and he always tells him that he loves them.”
Ethan was disgusted. It wasn’t right that Bailey was being mistreated because she didn’t look like Lynette. No matter how hard Jordan tried to hide that fact, Scarlett and Ken, no matter how they looked, would always be Grays. Jordan would catch on to that eventually and toss them to the curb as well. Stroking Bailey’s hair lovingly, Ethan spoke calmly to to the young girl. “You’re a beautiful girl. It doesn’t matter that you don’t have pink hair or tan skin. You look like your father, and your father is pretty great.”
“You really don’t mind, that I’m not perfect?” Bailey placed her pen on the table. “Jordan is right, I don’t do my homework and I’m doing bad in school. I’m not smart like Scarlett or Ken and mommy is too busy with work to help me. I’m not trying to fail!”
Sitting down next to Bailey, Ethan picked up her pen. “Let’s see what you’re working on. I never went to school, but I think I’m pretty smart. You’re smart too, you just need some help once and awhile. Everyone needs help sometimes. Come on, I’ll help you.”
Bailey wiped her eyes. “This is my math homework. I’m doing fractions. I don’t understand how to subtract them, I know that you have to find a common denominator.” She smiled up at her step father.
“Well let’s see,” Ethan leaned over the work seemingly perplexed.
“Bailey?” Apollo asked as he came into the room. Both Ethan and Bailey looked up from the math work.
“Daddy! Finally, you’re home!” Bailey exclaimed, running up to him. “Ethan saved my life!”
Apollo looked from his daughter to his husband. “What’s going on?”
“Why didn’t you answer your phone?” Ethan demanded. “This is so important and you had your phone off!”
“I told you that I had a meeting, please calm down. What happened?” Apollo asked.
“Show him,” Ethan told Bailey. She nodded, lifting her shirt up slightly to show her father the bruise.
“Where did you get that?” Apollo asked, mouth agape.
“Jordan hit me..” Tears began to form around her eyes once again.
Apollo hit the table forcefully. “That son of a-”
“Apollo!” Ethan grabbed his arm. “There’s a child here, so please cool it. I handled it. He won’t be coming near her anymore.”
“Ethan zapped him with some magic!”‘ Bailey jumped from her seat, imitating the scene. “Jordan was running like a scaredy cat!”
“Magic?” Apollo raised his brow. “You didn’t.”
“I let my emotions get the better of me, I didn’t mean to but, he hit our daughter and he didn’t have a very good reason.”
“He doesn’t like me!” Bailey cut in, suddenly getting her confidence back in front of her dad. “Because I look like you and he said mean things because you and Ethan are both boys and he only likes Scarlett and Ken because they look like mommy!”
Apollo was fuming. He looked at Ethan and back at Bailey. He couldn’t begin to describe how angry he was. “What spell did you use on him?”
“I hit him with a fireball, but it didn’t actually burn him or anything,” Ethan said.
“You should have turned him into a frog like you did to David,” Apollo seethed.
“What are you doing?” Ethan asked as Apollo pulled out his phone.
“I’m calling Lynette. I want my children out of that house, NOW,” he practically growled.
“Bailes, why don’t you finish your homework upstairs? I’ll be right there to help you,” Ethan said. Bailey nodded and quickly scurried up the stairs.
“Where is Apollo and my daughter?” Lynette demanded as Ethan answered the door.
“Geez, I’m sorry your highness, I didn’t realize I was under your jurisdiction.” Ethan rolled his eyes.
“Don’t play any games with me, Ethan. I’m really not in the mood. Where is Bailey?” Ethan stood back and allowed Lynette to enter her old home. “It’s irresponsible to take her out of school.”
“I didn’t take her out of school,” Ethan said. “She came to me this morning. Apollo was out with his agent. I was sleeping until I heard her pounding the doorbell. When I opened the door, she was crying hysterically.”
“What?” She paused for a minute as if in thought. “It doesn’t add up, Jordan drove the kids to school this morning, there’s no way you’re telling the truth.”
“Is it me who’s not telling the truth or is it Jordan?” Ethan proposed. “Really think about it.”
“I know that you and Apollo are skeptical of him, but he’s a good guy. He’s been so loving to the children.”
“Cut the crap Lynette!” Apollo said angrily, joining the conversation. “That guy hit my daughter. Good guy my ass!”
“You’re talking about this morning, aren’t you?” Lynette frowned. “It wasn’t that serious. She had back talked him when he told her to stop and she didn’t listen.”
“So he hit her?” Apollo lowered his eyes. “That’s no excuse.”
“It was a light tap,” Lynette defended.
“No it wasn’t,” Apollo said. “There’s a bruise on her hip. That’s not a light tap. How could you sit back and let him lay his hands on her?”
“Listen,” Lynette started. “Bailey really gets on Jordan’s nerves. She’s a rebellious troublemaker and she doesn’t listen. Someone needs to put her in her place.” Apollo couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“He’s not a good guy,” Ethan tried to reason. “Do you know what he said to me? That guys shouldn’t be allowed to marry and that seeing Bailey disgusts him because she looks like Apollo and not you.”
“Seriously?” Apollo asked. “Do you hear this?”
“Yeah, I hear the lies that your husband is spewing. Jordan is a good guy, and I wouldn’t put the kids in harms way. Why can’t you just let me be happy? You’re the one who left me, for a guy no less, just leave me be and stop taking your insecurities out on Jordan, just because the kids chose to live with him and not you.”
Ethan stood in front of Apollo protectively. “Don’t worry babe,” Apollo spoke. “As far as I’m concerned, this conversation is over. I’ve heard enough. I want custody of the kids.”
“No,” Lynette said simply. “You’re never getting that. They need a stable household and you guys can’t provide that.”
“You weren’t saying that when I let you stay here rent free,” Ethan nearly growled.
“I thought that you guys were good people until you practically kidnapped my daughter this morning. Where is she? She’s coming home with me.”
“No she isn’t!” Ethan stood his ground. He had felt a particular closeness with Bailey since the trip to Egypt. She had somehow nuzzled her way into his heart, and he wasn’t letting her go. “You’re not her mother. A mother is someone who takes care of their child, and you want her to go back to a hostile environment. You should be protecting her.”
“Bailey! Come on, we’re going home!” Lynette yelled, ignoring Ethan’s claims.
Bailey trudged down the first few steps and held tightly onto the banister. “I’m not going with you.”
“Don’t use that tone with me, I’m your mother!” Lynette scolded.
“Why do you let him hit me?” Bailey asked. “What did I ever do to you to make you hate me so much? It isn’t fair, why don’t you love me as much as Scarlet and Ken?” A small tear fell down her cheeks.
“Don’t be ridiculous baby, I love you.”
“Only when Jordan isn’t around,” She sniffled.
Lynette took a step closer only to be blocked by Apollo. “Get out of my house. I don’t care if you work with the police. She’s my daughter just s much as she is yours. I can’t believe that you’ve ignored a cry for help as loud as that one. If you want custody of her, you’re going to have to take me to court. I will come for Scarlett and Ken.”
“Fine, whatever, but Bailey, if you stay here, I don’t want to hear from you ever again, okay?”
“Goodbye,” Bailey said and walked up the stairs.
“Get the fuck out of here,” Apollo snarled. “Come near my daughter again and you’ll be sorry.”
“Mommy,” Scarlett asked. “Where is Bailey?”
“She’s going to be staying with Daddy for awhile,” Lynette said.
“Is it because Jordan hit her?” Scarlett asked quietly. “She was only talking about Alistair.”
“She’s much safer with them,” Lynette resolved. She wasn’t an idiot, she noticed the abuse, in fact she had endured some of it for Bailey. She couldn’t have been happier to have Bailey run for help. Having her daughter and ex-husband hate her was a small price to pay. Jordan wasn’t all there. It had increasingly become aware when she moved in with him, but if she told Apollo and Ethan, they’d freak out and it would just put them and the children in even more danger. Jordan was lethal, one wrong look and he’d snap. She couldn’t let that Ethan or Apollo suffer for her mistakes. They had been too kind to her. Jordan’s obsession with Lynette had grown and it was a matter of time until it spread to her children. She feared what he might do to Scarlett because she looked so much liker her mother. Lynette wouldn’t let him hurt her children. She was going to marry him and convince him to move away without the kids. She’d sever all ties with them, let them think that she abandoned them so they wouldn’t come find her. From there, she’d try to make her escape from his grasp. She didn’t know if she’d be able to see her children again, but it didn’t matter as long as she could protect them and Apollo. Wiping a tear from her eye, she wondered how she had gotten herself into this mess. Was she that desperate for love that she had ignored the signs?
“Mommy, don’t cry.” Scarlett leaned over and kissed her cheek.
“Don’t talk to Jordan about Bailey anymore, okay? Everything will be okay, I promise.” Lynette kissed her daughter’s forehead and tucked her in. “Tell Ken that I said that too, okay?”
Scarlett nodded. “Goodnight, mommy.”
Apollo squinted at the light that had come into the room. His back was killing him, had he really slept in this position all night? It was then that the night’s events had flooded back into his memory.
“Daddy.” There was a soft knock on the door followed by a small voice.
“Yes baby?” Apollo asked as he opened the door.
“I can’t sleep…I’m afraid,” She said quietly.
“What’s up?” Ethan mumbled from his side of the bed. “Is everything alright?”
“Sorry to wake you,” Bailey said. Apollo moved over to let Bailey into the room. He flipped the light switch causing Ethan to shield his eyes.
“Is it morning already?”
“No, go back to sleep,” Apollo said. He took a seat on the floor and motioned for Bailey to sit with him. She cuddled under his arm as he began to tell her a story about a beautiful princess who just so happened to share her name.
“Tell another one,” Ethan said. Apollo was startled. Ethan had been sitting and listening the entire time? He hadn’t even noticed.
“I have a great one!” Bailey said excitedly. The rest of the night consisted of a bunch of stories from the three until eventually they had all fallen asleep, apparently Ethan on top of Apollo and Bailey on top of Ethan.
Smiling, Apollo stroked Ethan’s hair lovingly. He had really proved himself. Ethan was able to pull Apollo together and extinguish the situation. Apollo was really happy to have him by his side through all of this. Apollo now rested his eyes on Bailey’s small frame. To think only a few weeks ago, she had hated Ethan’s guts. All it took was some magic to woo her? Ethan was truly incredible and he surprised Apollo everyday. He was the luckiest man alive.
“Last night was fun,” Bailey yawned.
“I’m exhausted,” Ethan complained. “What day is it?”
“Saturday!”” Bailey said excitedly. “Cartoons! Watch them with me Ethan!”
“Huh..what?” Ethan’s eyes snapped to the little girl.
“I want to watch cartoons with you,” She repeated. “Please.”
“Oh sure. Amelia doesn’t mind?” Ethan asked.
“No, not anymore. She likes you now because you’re a hero,” Bailey said.
Ethan stared at Amelia. He could see imaginary friends when they were in their toy form. It wasn’t something that all wizards could do. No, Ethan was special and he had the eyes to prove it. If you looked closely, you could see actual stars in his eyes. He was a rare breed. More than anyone, Ethan understood the risks of having one of these companions. They were artificial substitutes meant to keep lonely children company. They were created in a factory somewhere, it’s exact location hidden. Legend has it, that the creator had been orphaned and in an attempt to recreate some sort of mother figure, he implanted magic into stuffed dolls. The dolls had come to life only to children and few were still able to be seen once their children grew up. With more research, a potion had been created to make them humans and it worked, the only problem being the clingy tendencies. Some dolls when brought to life became unstable, aggressive and overbearing. Their jealousy when others interacted with their chosen child was too much, and so the production was put to a halt. Apparently, someone started making them again and had been sending them out to kids again. Locking eyes with Amelia, Ethan felt uneasy. It took everything in him to push back his memories of his childhood friend. He knew from personal experience that these things were harmful.
Amelia seemed to smirk, fully knowing Ethan’s abilities. “I’m only going to thank you once for saving her. There it is, it’s all you’re going to get.”
Ethan turned away. It had been slowly driving him insane, seeing the dolls roam around freely in his house and not having Ambrose or Apollo seeing them as well. For years he had left them alone, in fear of bringing up memories he didn’t want to face, memories he’d rather Apollo never know about. No matter how hard he pushed it on the kids or his husband to get rid of the dolls, it was too late, the damage had already been done. He could only hope that when they got older they’d forget about their companions and move on with their lives.
“Ethan!” Bailey waved her arm in front of his face. “Ponies start in five minutes, we’re going to miss it!”
“Aww man, we can’t miss ponies!” Ethan gasped. “Come on!” He followed her out of the room, keeping an eye on Amelia who had been following closely behind.
“See, told you Ethan was cool. He watched two hours of Ponies with us,” Bailey said as she painted. “Jordan and mommy would never do that with me.”
“Don’t call her Mommy,” Amelia said. “She isn’t your mom anymore. You don’t even live with her anymore.”
“You’re right,” Bailey frowned. “Who needs her anyway.”
“You have me, that’s all you need,” Amelia said proudly.
“I have my dads too, and Scarlett and Ken. I hope they still speak to me.”
“Speaking of your dads, what do you know about Ethan?” Amelia questioned. “Doesn’t he seem strange?”
“I never told you about his magic?” Bailey suddenly covered her mouth. “Oh no, he told me not to tell anyone. But, no one can see you so I guess it doesn’t matter.”
“Mhmm.” Amelia agreed, but she knew the truth. “Magic is wonderful, isn’t it?”
“I can’t believe it’s real!”
“There are a lot of unbelievable things in the world,” Amelia said casually. “Soon, I’ll show you them all.”