Five Months Later
"Why do all the sprinkles taste the same?" Alexander asks, licking one off his finger.
"They're all different colours...Shouldn't they be different flavours?"
James laughs. "You ask such weird questions, kid," he says, getting out his phone. "Just eat your cupcake."
Alexander grins and wiggles his tongue through the gap in his teeth. He lost his first tooth three days ago, and he could not have been prouder. He'd insisted on using his money from the tooth fairy to buy him and James cupcakes.
"Why are you taking a picture of your cake?" he asks, picking up his cupcake and licking off the frosting. James laughs again.
"I'm sending a picture of it to my friends," he says, using his finger to draw on the photo.
Because I'm happy, James thinks, writing 'mmm cake' across the screen. Because I'm happy and I want them to know.
"To make them jealous," he says out loud, putting it on Instagram. "To make them jealous that I get to eat cake and they don't." He didn’t expect to gain fame from his movie. Fame tends to follow actors, not the writers. But as Michael liked to point out lately, many of his social media followers weren’t there for his writing. He knows it. He just tries not to dwell on it.
Alexander stares at him, nibbling around the edge of his cupcake.
"But grown-ups can have cake whenever they want," he says. "Grown-ups can do anything."
James smiles. "Yeah, buddy," he says, taking a bite. "Grown-ups can do anything."
His phone starts to vibrate and he turns off his notifications, not really interested in what people have to say about his cake choice. There was once a time where he thrived on the comments of strangers. He lived to know that his words were reaching people; that what he said was connecting with people. But now…He pulls a face at Alexander, who laughs so hard that cupcake crumbs spray out of his nose. Now he has other ways to feel fulfilled.
After they finish, James slips the waitress a fifty to pretend that Alexander's two dollars can pay for their meal.
"Thanks, little guy!" she says enthusiastically. She winks at James and slips him a piece of paper. On the way out he tosses it in the trash without even looking at it.
"So," he says to Alexander as they leave the bakery, "what should we do now, buddy? We have..." He checks his watch, "...About an hour until your Aunt Jenna comes to pick you up. What do you want to do?"
Alexander slips his hand into James’. It's sticky, but James can't seem to bring himself to care.
"Is that a rocket on your watch?" Alexander asks, twisting James’ wrist around to see better. James smiles.
"Kinda. It’s a boy with rocket packs on his feet. His name is Astro Boy. Do you want to see?" He takes it off and hands it to him, who grabs and it brings it close to his face, examining it.
“Can he fly?” Alexander asks.
James nods. “He sure can! Astro Boy was my favourite cartoon was I was your age. My mom gave me that watch for my thirteenth birthday.”
Alexander looks up at him in surprise. “When were you thirteen?”
James laughs. “A lonnnnng time ago, smarty pants.”
“Is it on TV?”
James chuckles. “No, not anymore. It’s old. Like me.” He sticks out his tongue. Alexander giggles.
"I'm going to ask Santa for one," he says after a few minutes, handing it back. "I love rockets."
Warmth swells inside James’ chest. He crouches down, taking the watch and strapping it to Alexander's wrist.
"Yeah? I love rockets, too. Why don't you keep this one? Christmas is still a couple of months away."
Alexander stares at the watch. It looks ridiculous on his tiny wrist.
"But your mommy gave it to you!”
James smiles. “Yeah. She did. But I’ve had it for a really long time. I think Astro Boy would like a new home now. I think he’d like to stay with you.”
Alexander looks up at him. “Really? I can keep this? Forever?"
James nods and stands up, ruffling Alexander's hair.
"Forever and ever. It's yours. Now where do you want to go?"
Alexander slips his hand back into James’ and grins. His new tooth is just peeking through his pink baby gums.
"The Ferris wheel," he says, tugging on James’ hand. "The big Ferris wheel at the beach."
James grins back. "Again??" he asks in mock surprise. "You want to go there again?"
Alexander nods and starts walking, pulling James along with him. He allows himself to be led. Truth be told, he'd happily follow this kid anywhere.
James unlocks his front door and tosses his keys onto the table along the wall. He'd spent a little over an hour at Santa Monica pier with Alexander before Jenna came to pick him up. Even though he knows he has no right to, he resents Jenna a little. He resents the fact that she gets to take Alexander home and tuck him in and read him bed time stories, while he comes home to a big, empty house every night.
Even when it is full of people, it is empty. There's nothing worse than feeling lonely when you aren't alone.
"James," Kira says, coming into the hallway. "Good. You're here. Your bag is packed, Michael and Bradley have already left...We just need you approve a few final things before you leave."
He sighs. An hour ago he was drawing Astro Boy characters in the sand with Alexander. As much as he loves his work…Right now, he’d really rather be there.
“Okay,” he says, running his hand through his hair. “Just let me take a quick shower.”
Kira nods. “Better hurry. Wheels up in 2 hours.”