Where the Ducks Go
Summary: Jennifer Dylan goes on an extra special walk with her godfather while her mommy has her new baby brother. And she gets to wear her favorite dress.
English Family/Hurt/Comfort Rated: K+ Chapters:1 Words:
a/n: I'm in love with the idea of JD being an adoring godfather to Jennifer Dylan (even if he doesn't technically hold the honor, I imagine he eventually worked his way back into said position). Even if it's under sad circumstances. This is written mostly from the point-of-view of a smart five-year-old, so it's not the most verbose prose. Title derived from Holden Caulfield's obsession with the ducks in Central Park. Things to expect: potentially frightening images/suggestions, unsettling family issues, insinuation of death/miscarriage.
I wanted to wear my dress. Even when he showed me my favorite monster truck tee-shirt and daisy jeans, I shook my head and held onto the pink dress until Daddy finally sighed. He didn't fight with me a lot, not as much as he did with Mommy and Jack.
"I don't know who you're trying to impress," he said as he buttoned the buttons for me and tied the back ties into a pretty bow. "In fact, he'll probably show up wearing the exact same thing."
"Daddy, Big JD doesn't wear dresses unless he's playing or drinking his special apple juice." I thumped him gently on his curly head. Daddy could be silly sometimes, especially when his mind was somewhere else. He was nervous because Mommy was off at the hospital having a little baby boy, one who was special since he was going to be small and pink like a newborn puppy. I didn't like waiting so long to see him, but I was excited to see Big JD, who was my godfather, even though he didn't have a beard like the God in my Little Warrior Bible and he wasn't my daddy.
"I'm sure… There you go, Jenny."
I looked at myself in the mirror and was excited by how grown-up my dress was. My hair, which was the pretty penny color of Daddy's, was braided lopsidedly, but that was okay because Daddy was still learning about hair. Besides, Big JD could always redo them. He was good at braiding and bows and ponytails, which was weird because he had a little boy and not a little girl.
"I need to get my purse." I went into the closet, which was still messy from the camping trip me and Jack had gone on in there. We told each other ghost stories that were kind of scary because the air-conditioning was loud and whooshing at night, and ate candy from his Halloween stash and played with Pokemon cards. He was a good brother, even though he sometimes pulled my hair and stole my toy soldiers. Maybe the new brother would be nicer. I could teach him stuff, like braiding.
Daddy took my glittery purse from me and looked inside.
"Jenny, there's nothing in here but some pennies and a Barbie shoe." He was smiling, which was good. I loved when he smiled.
"I want to put pennies in the fountain," I explained. When you put pennies in the fountain, one of your wishes was granted. Big JD had taught me that. And I had an extra special wish today that was probably worth something bigger, like a dime, which was worth more than a penny even though it was smaller and not as shiny. Daddy had taught me that. Daddy taught me the brain stuff, like counting and coins and the parts of the body, and Big JD taught me the world stuff, like making wishes in fountains and feeding ducks and smiling at people. Mommy taught me the funny stuff and the girly stuff, except she wasn't here to tell me which shoes to put on or which hairclip looked the prettiest, so I had to that part on my own.
"Well, as long as you're putting them in the fountain and not in your mouth." I giggled. Jack used to eat pennies, which was bad because pennies were for fountains and not for eating, but Jack knew better now. But what if the new baby didn't know pennies weren't for eating?
"Daddy, will the baby know not to eat pennies?" I put the purse strap over my shoulder like Mommy and looked at myself again. Very grown-up.
Daddy didn't say anything. His smile was gone and his hands were behind his head, which meant he was upset about something. Had I said something wrong? I went over to him and hugged him tight. Big JD said hugs always made everything better. "I'm sorry, Daddy."
"It's not your fault, Jenny." He kissed my forehead, just like he did every time I had to get a shot or a scary test done. His kisses always made me feel better. "I just have… I'm thinking about a lot of things."
"Oh." Even though he had kissed me, I was afraid that something was wrong. I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on tight. "I don't wanna go anymore. I want to come and see Mommy."
"Jenny…" I did my best not to sniffle. Crying was for babies like Izzy's little sister, not five-year-olds. "You're going on a walk with JD, remember? Even though it was nawt my choice, he's your godfather and he's excited to see you. Mommy's going to be just fine. She's just tired. You'll get to see her when she comes home, okay?"
I was excited to see Big JD all by myself. Most of the time, he brought Sammy with him and I would have to share Big JD, which wasn't fair because Sammy had Big JD and two Mommies. But he had promised that he would leave Sammy with the Mommies and it would just be the two of us. That made it the most special walk in the whole world. "Okay… nawt."
"Well, you're just a chip off the old block, aren't you?" Daddy picked me up and I screamed, a good scream. He ran into the living room and swung me onto the chair and put another kiss on my forehead. I screamed again and then giggled at myself for screaming.
Jack was sitting on the sofa and watching cartoons with the sound turned low. He didn't look very happy. I knew he was jealous of the new baby, because the new baby was a boy and Jack was used to being the only brother. But it was dumb to be jealous. The new baby was going to be like our own baby, someone we could teach the stuff that Daddy and Mommy and Big JD couldn't teach by themselves. It was very exciting, even if Jack pouted about it.
Before I could tell Jack to stop being so jealous, Daddy took my little hand in his big hand and started squeezing it. "Are you sure you don't have a headache?"
"And you're not too tired?"
"Daddy, I already took a nap, I'm not tired." Daddy worried too much because I had a disease with a long name I couldn't say that sometimes made me tired and itchy on my legs. I hoped the new baby didn't have the disease. I almost asked Daddy if the baby was okay, but then I remembered how upset the baby made him earlier, so I just opened and closed my purse to make sure the pennies were still in it.
Someone knocked on the door and I knew it was Big JD. I got up and ran over to the door and waited for Daddy to come over and undo the heavy lock for me. We always kept the door locked, just in case. I didn't know what "in case" meant, but it sounded bad.
Big JD was wearing jeans and one of those fancy shirts with the man riding the horse on the pocket, not his hospital scrubs. I ran up to him and squealed when he caught me and started spinning me around. Whenever he spun me, I was supposed to yell "EAGLE" because it made Daddy crazy, but I was so excited that I forgot.
When he stopped, he put me down and shook my hand like we were grown-ups at a meeting. "Well, hey there, Little JD."
I shook it back, making sure I held on tight because the tighter you held on, the more adult you were. "Hi, Big JD."
"I thought we agreed her name was Jennifer Dylan," Daddy told Big JD in his mean voice. He didn't like that my initials were the same as his. Daddy was always pretending he wasn't friends with Big JD, even though they were, and he was sometimes mean to him. I thought it was cool that we shared initials and besides, I could be both if I wanted to.
"Daddy, I like both names."
Big JD smiled at Daddy, but he looked kind of nervous too. Everyone was getting upset today over little things. Was it still the baby? He sure was making a lot of trouble and he wasn't even born all the way yet. I felt scared about leaving Daddy again, so I hugged his leg and waited for him to finish talking to Big JD. They kept spelling their words out. It was a trick they used when they didn't want me to understand something, because spelling was harder to hear. That made me mad. I wanted to know what they were saying.
I scrunched up my nose like Izzy did when she was thinking really hard about something and listened. H… o… s… That was hospital, wasn't it? Of course they were talking about the hospital. Mommy was there with the new baby. Daddy was going to see them and tell me if the baby looked more like me or Jack. Why couldn't I hear about that?
"I can spell hospital," I told them. Big JD laughed. He still looked nervous and Daddy wasn't smiling, which made my heart go faster. I didn't want to go anymore. "Daddy, I want to go with you and see Mommy."
Daddy started to talk, but then Big JD talked over him and held my hand. "But I thought you were gonna keep me company today, Little JD. I wanted to go to the fountain with you. Did you bring your pennies?"
I remembered my wishes and felt less scared. Plus, Daddy didn't get mad when Big JD called me Little JD, so maybe he was not so upset anymore. "Yep. I put them in my purse." I showed him my purse. He told me it was very pretty and very grown-up, which were two words I liked a lot. They were my favorite words, besides amen and Dream house. A Dream house was like a regular house, only it was pink and where Barbie lived.
"Bye, Jenny. Don't let Nancy here carry your purse around just 'cause it matches his eyes." Daddy sometimes called Big JD girl names, but not as much because I said it wasn't nice to call someone names. I didn't want to tell him today. He kissed my forehead again and told me to go wait at the end of the hall for Big JD.
I went down the big, long hallway. I wanted to run down it, but Mommy told me running wasn't polite, because people downstairs might hear me and think I was a monster. So I just walked to the elevator. It was dark and kind of gross, like a really messy closet.
Daddy and Big JD were still talking at my door. They looked serious. Maybe they were talking about medicine. Both of them worked at hospitals, which meant they took care of sick people all day. Big JD used to work at Daddy's hospital for a long time, but then he moved to a different one so he could live with Sammy. Me and Sammy went to kindergarten together. He was nice, like his daddy, but kind of shy, so I had to make him talk.
They were talking forever. I sat down on the floor, even though sitting in a dress made it all wrinkly, and waited for them to finish. I counted my pennies carefully like Daddy showed me. Nine pennies. Nine was a good number. It was three threes, which made it special. Jack was nine. I couldn't wait to be nine so I could be three threes.
I looked at Big JD and Daddy again. Daddy didn't look mad. He looked sad, like he did when we went to Uncle Ben's place. I didn't know Uncle Ben. He went to a special place before I was born, a place where no one could see you. When I tried to ask Mommy about it, she got sad too and said not to talk about it to Daddy or Big JD. Maybe they were talking about Uncle Ben.
Then something weird happened. Daddy and Big JD hugged.
Daddy didn't really like hugging people, except for me and Jack and Mommy. I knew Big JD liked hugs, but I had never seen them hug before. It was weird.
Daddy went back into the apartment and Big JD came over to me. He was smiling again, but I only thought about his serious face when he was talking to Daddy. After he did the elevator buttons for me, I said, "What were you and Daddy talking about?"
"Just hospital stuff."
I knew he was lying. He wasn't a good liar.
We went down the elevator really fast and then out the door. It was a pretty day. We were making flowers in kindergarten, which meant it was spring. Spring was my favorite because the sky was always blue and the flowers started coming back and I didn't have to wear sweaters anymore. I ran down the sidewalk and then I spun so that my dress got all poofy.
"Wait for me!" Big JD came after me and held my hand again so I wouldn't run away. He always got kind of nervous when he watched me alone because he thought something bad might happen to me. I liked holding hands with Big JD. It made me feel safe.
We went to the corner, where all the cars were. Everyone was going really fast, because it was Saturday and people always went places on Saturday. The park was across the street. It was my favorite place because it had swings and a slide and a pond where you could go see the ducks and a fountain. The kindergarten playground didn't have a fountain, just water fountains and you couldn't put pennies in a water fountain.
Big JD pushed the magic button that made all the cars stop. "Freeze!" he told me. I stood very still and held my breath.
The cars stopped and the little red hand turned into a little stick man, but I waited until Big JD said "go!" to start walking again. He held my hand while we crossed the street. I looked up at the sky, but not at the sun because it hurt my eyes, and at the big trees around the fence part of the park. Everything was bright and colorful today, and it made me happy because today was special.
We walked through the gate and I saw the swings first. Before I could ask if I could go on them, Big JD let go of my hand and said: "Race you!" I knew all about "race you", because Jack and Izzy played it all the time. Izzy was the fastest, so she always won and it made Jack mad. When we played it, he won because he was bigger than me. Even though Big JD was bigger than me and Jack, I ran faster than him and got to the swings first.
"I beat you!" I told him. I got on the swing and pulled my dress over my legs.
"Wow, I've never seen anyone run that fast in my whole life." He kept breathing heavy, but it sounded fake, like he was just pretending. Then he got on the swing next to me.
"Big JD, you're too big to swing," I said. I laughed because his feet touched the ground and his shoulders were all bunched up.
"Hey, I'm never too big to swing."
I swung for a while. It used to be hard for me to swing by myself, because of my itchy legs. Mommy would push me until the swing got really high and then she'd stop me when I wanted to get down. But I was better now and I knew how to move my legs so the swing moved all by itself. Swinging was my favorite because it felt like flying.
While I was swinging, I thought about the baby. He didn't really have a name yet. I wanted him to have a "J" name, like me and Jack. Maybe Joey, like the Joey in my class, or Josh or just Jay. Or maybe Ben. It didn't start with "J", but that was Uncle Ben's name and I knew that sometimes you named people after other people that went to the special place, because it made them feel special.
I dug my shoes into the ground, even though they were my nice black ones, and waited for the swing to stop moving. "Is Daddy going to name the baby after Uncle Ben?"
Big JD looked surprised, like I had just yelled at him or something, and then kind of sad like Mommy and Daddy do when they talk about him. "Probably not. Thinking about your Uncle Ben makes him sad."
"Oh." Then it wasn't a good idea to name the baby after him. They might cry every time they see him. "Then what're they going to name him?"
Even though we weren't talking about Uncle Ben, Big JD looked sad again and I felt that not-so-good feeling again. I wanted to be with Mommy. "I, uh… I don't know. Um, why don't we go to the fountain? You have to make that wish, right?"
"Oh, yeah." My purse was still on my arm. When I shook it, I could hear the pennies shaking inside. I got off the swing, brushed off my dress like Mommy does with her skirts, and held Big JD's hand again so he wouldn't think I was going to run away. He wasn't smiling. "I'm sorry."
He looked down at me. His eyes were really blue, just like Sammy's. "What're you sorry for, Little JD?"
I breathed a big breath. "Well, every time I talk about the baby, people get upset. Everyone's getting so upset about 'em and he's not even here yet. I don't get it. And it made Daddy upset and now you're sad and I wanna go see Mommy. I wanna go see her!" My eyes got all watery, but I didn't want to cry. This was supposed to be a special day. I didn't want to ruin it by crying like a baby.
"Little JD…" Then he picked me up. I started to tell him that I was too big to be carried, but I liked the way his arms felt and how warm he was, so I let him carry me all the way to the fountain. I held onto his hair, which was really soft and nice like Sammy's. When we got to the fountain, he put me down on the edge and got down on his knees so he was as tall as me. "You don't have to be sorry about anything. None of this is your fault. Okay?"
I nodded my head. "Okay."
He started to say something, but he must have changed his mind because he closed his mouth. I took out my purse and got my pennies. There were still nine. Three threes. Three threes were special. I looked at the water, which was sparkly with other pennies. It was deep, almost as deep as the shallow part of the pool.
I put the pennies in my hand and brought them really close to my mouth so they could hear the wish. "I wish the baby is nice and happy and looks like me." I dropped all the pennies in the water. They splashed and then floated down to the bottom, which was blue like Big JD's eyes and the sky. Nine pennies. Three threes. A lot of pennies for a big wish.
When I looked back up at Big JD, there were tears in his eyes and his cheeks were all wet. He was crying. I had never seen Big JD cry, except for the time we watched Bambi and the time Miss Elliot told him she was going to have a new baby. The baby was still inside her and it would be there until school was over. It scared me, because I thought something bad happened. "Big JD? What's wrong?"
He reached out and hugged me hard. I hugged him back, because hugging made everything better, but I was still really scared. I wished I had kept one of my pennies so I could wish for everyone to stop being so sad.
I waited for him to say something, but he didn't say anything. He just picked me up again and started walking. I put my head on his shoulder and listened to him breathe and watched the people walk back and forth across the big green field. They all looked happy. No one was sad except for Big JD and me a little bit, because it made me sad when other people were sad.
He kept walking until I saw that we were at the pond. It was big and round and flat, like a big dime. There were ducks swimming around and some were even eating things that people were giving them. Sometimes, Big JD bought pieces of bread and we would rip them up into little pieces and give them to the ducks, except not in the winter, because the ducks always left during the winter. Even though I was kind of sad and scared, I felt better when I saw the ducks swimming around.
We got to a bench. He sat down and then he put me right next to him and put his arm around me, like a sideways hug. We watched the ducks swim around and quack at each other. They sounded like they were talking, but they weren't because ducks couldn't talk.
Then Big JD did the grown-up thing where he pinched his nose with his thumb and pointing finger. Daddy did that a lot when he was mad. "Little JD, do you know where your Uncle Ben went?"
I was confused. I thought we weren't supposed to talk about Uncle Ben, because it made everyone sad. "No. There's a rock with his name on it, but Mommy said that's not where he is. He's in a special place no one can see."
"Right. A special place where no one can see you." He sounded really nervous, like he was scared to talk to me. That was weird, because he was bigger than me and older too, and there wasn't anything scary about me, except when I ran down the hall and sounded like a monster. "People go to this place when they're sick or hurt or really old. Your Uncle Ben… he got sick, so he had to go there."
Now I was really confused. "Like the hospital?"
He shook his head and started rubbing his hand down my arm. It felt nice and warm. "No. Not like the hospital. People can go to the hospital when they're sick or hurt, but it's our job to make them better. When people go to this place… it means they can't get better. They won't ever get better."
I remembered something from my Little Warrior Bible. One of the pictures, with all the fluffy clouds and pretty angels with wings. "You mean like Heaven?"
"Yes! Like Heaven. Well, that's the special place some people think those sick people go. It's a place where those people are, but we can't see them or hear them. Do you understand?"
I nodded my head "yes". Daddy didn't think people went to Heaven, but Izzy and her Mommy and Daddy did, and sometimes they took me and Mommy and Jack to this big, fancy place with long rows of chairs and a huge pretty window where a loud man talked about God and Heaven and all these other people. Sometimes it was boring, but most of the time I liked hearing all the stories about the things God and Jesus did. "Uncle Ben's there. Does everyone go there?"
"I mean, yes. At some point, we all have to go there. But when we're there, we get to all be together again." Big JD gave me a little smile, but then his eyes got all watery again and he squeezed my arm. "Little JD… there's someone else who went to that special place."
I thought really hard about who it would be. Miss Elliot, Sammy, Miss Carla, Mommy. I didn't like to think about not seeing them for a long time. "Who?"
He took a big, deep breath and looked at the pond so he wasn't looking at me anymore. "Your little brother. He had to go there."
"Oh." That was why everyone was so upset! They had been waiting for the baby and now they had to wait even longer because he had to go to Heaven first. "Why'd he go there? Did he get sick?"
"Very sick. He was very sick."
I didn't like being sick, except for when I got watch TV on the couch and eat soup and ginger ale with Daddy. But I didn't know anyone who went to Heaven for being sick, except for Uncle Ben. The sick people always went to Daddy's hospital. "Well, when's he coming back?"
Big JD's shoulders moved like he was hiccupping. He looked very sad, so sad that I got scared again. I didn't want to talk about this anymore. I wanted to go to Daddy's hospital and be with him and Mommy and Jack. "He's not coming back, Little JD. He's in Heaven with Uncle Ben."
I was confused! If people went to Heaven when they were sick or hurt, didn't they come back after some time? I thought Mommy and Daddy and Big JD were upset about Uncle Ben because he had been in Heaven so long and it would be a long time before he came back. But if he didn't come back… and the baby didn't come back… "So, the baby's not coming back?"
"No, Little JD. The baby's not here anymore."
I felt not-so-good, like when I had to go the doctor's and get the needle poked in my arm. "He's not in Mommy anymore?"
"No. He's not in her anymore."
"I don't get to meet him?"
"No. I'm sorry, Little JD, I really am. I wish I could fix it and bring him back."
I didn't know what to say. So I got up and started running down the sidewalk, down closer to the pond and the ducks. Even though I could hear Big JD yelling for me to stop, I kept running and running until I tripped and fell down. My dress ripped and my knee started hurting really bad and when I looked at it, there was blood coming out of it. I didn't want to cry, but it really hurt and I was confused, so I kept crying.
Big JD got down on his knees again and put his hand on my face to wipe away my tears. He started going "shh" in a soft voice, which made me feel a little better. I stopped crying, but my eyes still felt itchy and my knee hurt. He took a Band-Aid out of his pocket, one of the dinosaur ones that Sammy got whenever he tripped, and put it on my knee over the bleeding part. He was a good doctor. My knee didn't hurt so much and I wasn't so sad.
"I'm sorry," he said again.
I looked at the colorful dinosaurs. There was a tall green one and one with horns on its head. "I wanted to meet him. Me and Jack were gonna teach him stuff, like riding a bike and to not eat pennies."
"I know. We were all excited to meet him. We're sad that he's gone."
One of the ducks came over. It had a funny walk and big orange feet, just like Daisy Duck, only it was brown and not white. I thought it might try to bite me or something, but it just quacked and then did its funny walk back to the pond. Then I remembered the winter. "Is that where the ducks go?"
He looked kind of confused. "What do you mean?"
"When it gets cold. Do the ducks go to Heaven with Uncle Ben?"
"Oh." He did a little laugh, which made me feel better. "I don't think that's where they go. They just… I don't know where they go, Little JD. But I think they're safe, because they come back in the spring."
"But the baby won't come back in the spring?"
"No. He's in Heaven and you can't come back from Heaven. But he's very happy there, I promise you. He and Uncle Ben are having fun, and even though you can't see them, they can see you and they're always making sure you're okay."
I liked that. Even though I had never met Uncle Ben, he sounded very nice and I knew he would take good care of the baby.
Big JD picked up my purse and then my pink hairclip, which fell out when I tripped. He was smiling again, but his eyes were still a little shiny. "Are you okay now?"
"It's okay to be sad about it."
"I am sad. But I'm happy because the baby's safe and not sick anymore." I poked the Band-Aid. "Ow."
"Your mom and dad are gonna be sad about it too. Probably for a long time. Grown-ups get more sad about these things."
I didn't want Mommy and Daddy to be sad. I hated when they were sad, because Daddy would sit on the couch and drink his special juice that me and Jack weren't supposed to touch and Mommy would go out with her friends and then cry in her bedroom. They had been happy about the baby coming, really happy. "I don't want them to be."
"I know. But I'll be there for you. And so will Elliot and Carla and Turk. And you can come over any time to play with Sammy or talk to me if you want."
That sounded good. "I can talk to you all by myself?"
"Okay. I like that. Will you talk to Daddy?"
"If he wants me too."
"Okay." I knew that Big JD was good at helping people when they were sad. It was like being a doctor, except he made people better on the inside too. To make him feel better, I hugged him extra hard and put a kiss on his forehead like Daddy did. That made him laugh again.
He looked at the pond and all the ducks. "Do you want to go to my house and see Elliot and Sam?"
"Yeah!" I got up and took my purse from him. Sammy was really good at making me feel better, too. And his mommy was really nice and happy and loud, and she was good at doing braids. Maybe she could redo my braids.
He stood up and held onto my hand. I waved goodbye to the ducks. Then we started walking away from the pond and past the swings and we got to the fountain where I made my wish. It was weird, because when I made the wish, I thought the baby was still here, but he really wasn't. "I made a weird wish."
"Did you want to make another one?"
I thought about that and scrunched up my nose. "No. I meant it. I hope the baby's happy in Heaven and that he looks like me."
We got the street corner, but Big JD didn't have to push the magic button. He just laughed a little and rubbed at his face with his hand. "Me too, Little JD. Me too."
a/n: this was one of my first "scrubs" projects. I abandoned it for a little while, then came back and wrote the rest. By the way, there is literally nothing I love more than Perry's affection for his children. Like, nothing else on Earth. Anyway, it was a pretty refreshing change of pace from my typical writing and I hope you guys enjoyed it.