69,253
07.03.2019

I snatch it out of his hand. I grit my teeth together and answer with a hard, “Fine.”

There is no way in hell I’ll use that card.

Max turns to his beautiful daughter and whispers loudly enough for us all to hear, “You tell me if Tina doesn’t use that. Okay, honey?”

Uh, Max! You suck!

Ceecee looks up at Max like he’s the best dad in the whole world. And to tell you the truth, I’m starting to believe he is. She answers him softly, “Okay, daddy.”

I look to Nik then Max and point out, “We’ve got to go. We’re going to be late.”

Ceecee and I wave to them both and head to the elevator.

That went better than expected.

Ceecee and I are on the sidewalk and I ask her, “Do you want to wheel yourself or do you mind if I push you along?”

She shoots me a shy smile, “I dunno. Whatever you want. I’m okay with either.”

I jump up and click my heels together, Ceecee laughs at my silliness. I hoot, “Hot damn! I always wanted to drive your car!”

I push her along the sidewalk up the road to the salon. I’ve called ahead and let them know Ceecee is wheelchair bound. Luckily, they have suitable access.

A woman coming out of the salon holds the door open for us, we go in and thank her.

Tanya owns Bells and Whistles salon. I’ve been getting manicures from her and her girls for two years and I like her a lot. When I called I told her I needed a deluxe princess treatment and she worked out a schedule for us. Tanya is in her forties but looks about thirty. She is always made up and her long hair is dyed a vivid red.

As soon as Ceecee spots her making her way over to us she gasps, her voice awed, “Can I get my hair like that?” I actually laugh out loud at the thought of bringing her back to Max with bright red hair.

“Well, hey there Tina! Is this Princess Ceecee that’s scheduled in with us today?” Tanya is looking down at Ceecee with a huge smile on her pretty face.

I chuckle and state, “This is the one and only Princess Ceecee.” I decide to act out a bit. I put my nose in the air. “I demand the best of service for her. Her father is a king after all.”

Ceecee giggles and covers her mouth with one hand. Tanya widens her eyes and she plays along, “But, of course. Only the best of service for Princess Ceecee. Please, come this way.”

I push Ceecee over to the first station for a facial. As I walk past Tanya she scrunches up her face, puts a hand on her chest and mouths, “She’s beautiful.”

Don’t I know it.

Tanya takes a seat beside Ceecee’s chair and explains what will be done to her today. “Okay, princess Ceecee, today we’re going to start with a facial. That’s where I’ll put some cold goop on your face. We’ll leave it on for about ten minutes and then wipe it off. Then I’ll do your fingernails and toe nails. You can pick whatever color you want on them. After that, I’ll trim and style your hair. And we’ll finish up with a massage. How does that sound, honey bun?”

Ceecee’s eyes are wide. She whispers to Tanya, “Good. Thank you.”

Tanya smiles big at Ceecee, “Well you’re a princess and you deserve the best, sweetie.”

Ceecee smiles, lowers her eyes and whispers, “Okay.”

Sweet baby Jesus, I love this child.

Every time I see Ceecee my heart melts. She is so lovable and warm. She seems is disbelief whenever someone compliments her, though. That bothers me. By the end of today I want her to feel good. As good as she’s ever felt.

Tanya applies our face masks and while we’re waiting for them to set I hear Ceecee singing along with the radio. “You are now, now rockin’ with Will.I.Am and Britney, Bitch.”

I gasp and softly reprimand her, “Ceecee, we are ladies and princesses, and we do not say b i t c h.” I end on a whisper and have no idea why I felt the need to spell the word when she just said it.

Ceecee becomes thoughtful then looks back to me and says, “But Britney said bitch and she’s a lady.”

Damn it, Britney. Now look at what you’ve done!

My eye twitches as I try to think of an acceptable answer, “Ah, I guess…Well…That is…Britney is over the age of twenty one. She is an adult and she can do what she likes. And she isn’t a princess.” I pat her hand and feel I’ve won this round.

Her eyes widen and she says slowly, “So, when I’m twenty one I can do whatever I like?”

Without thinking I say, “Sure.”

She leans closer to me and drops a bomb. “Even get a tattoo?”

Oh, Poop! How did this happen??!

I sputter, “Uh, yes, I suppose…”

Ceecee becomes so excited she almost yells, “That’s so cool! I want one just like daddy and uncle Nik’s. That way everyone will know we’re family.”

“…with your father’s permission, of course.”

But Ceecee doesn’t hear me, she’s too far gone in her mind getting all sorts of crazy ideas that people frown upon.

After our facials, manicures, and pedicures Tanya brings us a lunch of sandwiches and fruit salad. Ceecee eats half a sandwich and some fruit. When I coax her to eat more she gives me some information I never knew. She tells me, “Daddy said people in wheelchairs don’t eat much. They don’t have to eat as much as regular people.”

Sorrow painfully shoots through my chest. I don’t like what she just said.

I respond, “Honey, you are regular people. You’ve just got a sweet ride, that’s all.”

She smiles a sad smile, “It’s okay, Tina. I know I’m different. It’s why I don’t make any friends and change schools a lot.”

My face drops. I cautiously ask, “How many times have you changed schools, angel?”

She toys with a piece of cantaloupe on her plate, avoiding my gaze and replies, “Four times in three years.”

That. Is. Huge. No child should be changing schools that much.

“Can I ask why, honey?” I ask carefully.

Still avoiding my eyes, she explains in a small voice, “People make fun of me. They call me weird. They say I’m a freak.” My heart is actually breaking. I can feel it split in two. Her blank eyes focus on my legs and she continues quietly, “I never make any friends. I don’t know why.” She finishes with a small shrug and is so quiet I can barely hear her.

This is so upsetting to me.

I can’t even imagine how this little angel feels. Bullying is a huge issue nationwide. The unfortunate truth is kids can be cruel. They don’t realize what they’re actually doing to a person when they poke fun at them.

I clear my throat to clear any thickness and steady my voice. “Well, that’s going to change. You’re a princess. Princesses don’t let people make fun of them. They stick up for themselves. And I’ll tell you how. Whenever someone says something ugly to you, lift your hand, smile and wave at them. That way, it’s them who look silly. Not you.”

Her face is still lowered but I see a small smile twitch her lips. I take it as good sign and continue “And making friends isn’t that hard, honey. A stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet. All it takes is for someone to make the first move. So here’s what I want you to do. Next time you see someone who looks nice, just go on up to them and say Hi. The rest will come easy after that. You don’t have anything to lose.”

I mentally cross my fingers and wait.

After a long silence, Ceecee looks up at me and smiles, “Okay, Tina.”

Really? That easy?! No freakin’ way!

I make a mental note to do cartwheels outside of the salon.

I smile back at her.

Yay! Today was a good idea.

We’re all in the ‘chill out’ room brainstorming when the elevator dings followed by the familiar sounds of two ladies talking and laughing.

They’re back.

I smile to myself. What Tina pulled this morning was so unexpected. I know Max was grateful for it, though. Ceecee gets so bored here on Saturdays. It’s the one day a week that mom or our sisters can’t take her. As soon as we got back into the conference room, Max looks right at me and says, “If you don’t wife that girl, one of us will.”

I was surprised to see even Ghost nodding in agreement.

Tina sure is a force. Just storms in and storms back out. Normally, leaving you confused.

Tina enters the ‘chill out’ room and clears her throat dramatically. She lifts her arm, sways it to the side and announces, “May I present, the ever lovely, Princess Ceecee.”

And in comes Cricket looking, not only pretty, but happy. All of us guys whistle and cheer while Ceecee giggles.

I take a sip of my coffee as Ceecee speaks, “Tina said I could get a tattoo!”

I choke, sputter, and coffee ends up all over my shirt.

The silence is deafening. That doesn’t sound like something my Tina would say.

Tina laughs nervously and corrects her, “Um, actually I said when you were twenty one you could do what you please. I also said you had to ask your dad’s permission first.” Tina looks at Max and nods vigorously.

That sounds more like it. My little Cricket is already becoming a cheeky one.

Max narrows his eyes at Tina and asks Ceecee, “Baby, did Tina pay with daddy’s card?”

As soon as the question is out Tina stiffens and I want to burst out laughing. She didn’t use the card.

What Ceecee says next proves Tina somehow got through to her, “Um, I’m not sure daddy. I didn’t see. She must have. I’m pretty sure she did. Yes, she did. I’m sure she did.” Cricket is lying her ass off to protect Tina.

Max’s eyes remain narrowed and at Tina, whose eyes are wide and her neck is bright red, then he answers Ceecee, “Well, if you’re sure, angel.”

Tina finally caves and blurts out, “Princess’ daddies don’t pay for princess things, their fairy godmothers do!”

Ceecee turns to face Tina and asks quietly, “Are you my fairy godmother?”

Tina’s eyes crinkle as she touches Ceecee’s cheek and confidently states, “Today I am.”

Yeah. Tina’s the shit.

Chapter Eleven

Cherry Bombs

Tina left shortly after returning Ceecee to The White Rabbit. And the rest of the day consisted of Ceecee going on and on and on about Tina and what she said and did and that she eats a lot and how Tina said ladies and princesses don’t say the word bitch. Tina is Cricket’s new idol.

Before she left, she took me and Max aside and spoke to us about Ceecee. What she told us wasn’t anything we didn’t know but at least she was trying to help.

She told us, “Ceecee is really insecure. I spoke to her about a few things today and got a few answers if you want them. I normally wouldn’t tell you but it’s not like she swore me to secrecy.”

Max looks dejected and quietly replied, “That would be good, T.”

She puffed out a breath and remarked “Where to start? Um, Ceecee has no idea how to make friends. I told her the basics but because she’s been bullied she’s extra shy. So I gave her a little advice about the bullying, even though when she told me I wanted to ask her what school she went to and give those bullies something to talk about!” She nods enthusiastically as she says this, eyes wide. I try my hardest not to laugh. “She also told me everyone in the family treats her like a baby.” She puts her hand on Max’s. “This isn’t helping her, honey. She’s nine going on eighteen. And she’s smart. She knows when she’s being babied.”

Max runs his free hand through his hair and explains, “I don’t know how to be any other way. I try not to, T.”

She takes both of his hands, pulls them up to her chest and looks his right in the eye.

She answers fiercely, “Try harder, honey. She needs you. And it’s great to be protective of her but she doesn’t need a bodyguard, Max. She needs a daddy who she can come to with her problems, not a father that tries to stop all the problems before they’ve even happened.”

Max drops her hands and pulls her into a bear hug. They rock from side to side.

Max says, “I’ll try, T.”

“That’s great, honey.” She smiles, loosens her hold on him and looks up. “I have to go. I’ll see you guys tonight, right?”

Max kisses her forehead and replies, “Bet your life on it.” He releases her and she walks over to me.

“I need a hug from Niki.”

I smile and pull her into my arms. I saw Max leave my office. Tina toys with my collar and speaks softly, “He’ll be okay, right?”

I smile into her forehead, “Of course sweetheart. He’s tough. I know he’d do anything for her. He’ll try harder, you’ll see.”

She smiles up at me and reaches on her tiptoes to kiss my cheek. Her lips brush the very corner of mine but she doesn’t seem bothered by it. She says, “See you tonight, Niki.” And then she’s gone.

Freakin’ A.

The girls all come to my apartment to get ready to go to The White Rabbit.

I tell them how my day went with Ceecee and although they’re sad for the little chicken being bullied and friendless, they’re happy she had a great time.

I feed Bear and give him a cuddle then we all commence Project Get-Ready-For-The-Club.

Primping. Curling. Straightening. Making Up. Dressing Up. And an hour later we’re ready to go.

Mimi looks stunning in a Safira bought little black dress with black and white checkered heels; black makes her blue eyes pop. She wears her honey blonde hair straight.

Lola looks beautiful in a dark green kaftan style dress that’s tighter around the top and flows around her feet with sandals. Her long brown hair is wildly curled. She goes with little makeup but with bright red lips. She looks like a sexy gypsy.

Nat is just gorgeous in a gold halter dress that goes to her feet with a wicked split up the thigh; she wears gold sandals that strap up the calf. Her violet hair is straight tonight; she makes herself up so her green eyes are surrounded by a smoky black shadow.

❮❯