The Single Dad Arrangement

By: Penny Wylder



“What did you do, Killian, sign up for baking classes after the divorce?”

I tense at my friend Vince’s familiar voice, coming from the doorway of the kitchen in which I’m currently sweltering. “Are you gonna just stand there, or you gonna help?” I ask, keeping my tone even-keeled as I squint at the cake before me.

The thing is ridiculous. Hot pink, covered in flowers around the sides—flowers I had to buy and hand-stick into that damn icing, I’ll have you know. It’s the last thing you’d expect to find a guy like me holding—a guy so swamped with office work that right now I’m using the industrial kitchen the office chefs normally patrol in order to bake the damn thing. I had to pay off Marco to let me use the place, and he’s still hovering, all protective and worried I’m gonna mess up his kitchen.

Which I guess is fair. It’s not like I’m an expert baker or anything.

“Help with what?” Vince barks out a laugh. “Piping those crooked-ass letters you’re squiggling all over the place.”

“They’re not crooked!” I straighten and squint at the cake.

Damn. He’s right. The letters I’ve done so far—HAPPY BIRT—are all out of proportion to the rest of the cake, and slanting across the surface. I groan and drop the hot pink icing bag onto the counter-top. “Fuck. Think I can start over?”

“By doing what, smearing pink all over that white base layer I primed for you?” Marco shouts from his office nearby.

“Why don’t you just hire someone to do all this, dude?” Vince stares at me, one eyebrow raised like I’m nuts. Maybe I am.

“I just want to make this perfect, ok? It’s for Lina.” My baby girl. My whole world. She’s turning five, and I want to make this party her best birthday ever. Especially since I’ve had so little time with her lately. I’ve been working overtime, and even though I make sure to see her on weekends—at least, the weekends I get with her—I still haven’t had nearly enough father-daughter time for my liking.

If I had my way, she’d spend every minute with me. But of course, that’s not how that works. Especially not since the divorce. Since I have to share custody—albeit part-time, since she only gets every-other-weekend visitations—with She Who Shall Not Be Named.

My baby is growing up so fast, I have to make the most of the time I get to spend with her. Especially for her birthday. Even if that means staying late at the office and keeping the kitchen open late so I can bake a little girl’s birthday cake.

“You could hire someone do it perfectly,” Vince points out, still squinting at me from the doorway. “C’mon, you’re gonna miss happy hour over this?”

I shake my head and wave him away. “You guys go on without me. I’m gonna be having an early night anyway; I have to pick up Lina from her place in the morning.”

“You’d think the thought of running into that bitch would be enough to make you need a drink,” Vince mutters, and I press my lips into a thin line, tempted by many years of experience to defend my ex-wife, even now.

“Don’t call her a bitch,” I reply. “She’s still the mother of my child.”

“Maybe, man, but she after the shit she fucking pulled on you—”

“Just.” I stifle a groan. I try to remind myself she doesn’t deserve to be defended. Not after she tried to take my baby from me entirely. So I just shake my head. “Just go enjoy happy hour. Tell everyone else I’ll see them at the one next month.”

Vince salutes me. “Good luck with the fucking unicorns, boss.”

I glance over at the table, just now remembering the other cake toppers I bought. As Vince heads out, I groan and lean my elbows on the table, staring at the unopened package of unicorns and the big glitter number five suspended between them. Vince can be a complete fucking asshole, but maybe he’s right. Maybe I do need help here. And there’s one very obvious way to get help. One solution I hadn’t thought of. I could get some outside help. Hire someone, at least to help with the big aspects of the party itself.

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