A.N. (10/19/20) - This is officially now on an indefinite hiatus. Most of this chapter is slice-of-life, and like usual, is also hosted on SpaceBattles.
Chapter 3 - Daycare
Living as a girl was so weird sometimes.
My current hair length was a lot longer than I was comfortable with, and my Mom did some crazy know-how magic to it so that it was neat and nice as she quickly left to go to work. I spent the next few minutes caressing my own hair in awe at how perfect it looked.
Unfortunately, I can't rely on my mother to take care of my hair for the rest of my life. Someday I'll have to learn how to do this myself. It's a lot different from doing simple pigtails or ponytails for my kids after all.
Dad pecked me on the cheek before he passed me on to a waiting Zoe Barnes, Emma waiting in the back for me to join them.
The summer heat of Brockton Bay barely registered in my mind as we drove to the daycare. Then again, it was still a bit early in the morning.
I opted out of dresses and instead wore children's overalls over a white shirt with a strange design on it. Emma went for the more girly choice and sported a cute pink dress that showed off her childish adorableness.
Zoe continued to hum to the radio while Emma and I looked at the building slowly approaching us. She had already dropped her eldest daughter off at school and was now in the process of sending us off as well.
I can't say I've remembered going to something similar before. In my first life, I can barely remember going to some kind of nursery school while in my second life I was home tutored by Roxy. Even my own kids were mostly taken care of by Sylphy when she got into that housewife period of her life. So I'm not quite sure what I'm expecting exactly this will be like.
"Alright, girls. Time for us to get out of the car."
"Yes, Mrs. Barnes."
The three of us got out of the car, and the adult grabbed the two children and started to lead us to the daycare.
"Remember, I'll pick the two of you up after school ends for Anne. Taylor will stay with us for about an hour before either I drop her off at her house, or Annette comes over to pick up Taylor herself. Lunch will be given by the staff, so make sure to say your 'please' and 'thank you' when the staff feeds you. And also—"
Wow, Zoe was really prattling.
"Mommy! We remember! Don't worry."
Emma's pouting face is just adorable! Zoe looked like she was trying hard not to laugh, and I quickly changed the conversation.
"Don't worry, Mrs. Barnes. I'll make sure to watch over Emma while we're here."
Smiling to herself, she let it go. Going inside, Zoe led us to an older lady who dropped us off into a little room with only a young woman to watch over us.
The room was bright and cheerful, with various colors and childish designs. The caretaker was a woman around her mid-twenties who had a nice smile on her face as she entertained a few children.
As a father and later a grandfather, I had experience dealing with lots of kids. Granted, I left most of the hard parts of taking care of kids to Sylphy, but I had my stories on how to handle talking to children.
Obviously, I should've taken into account my experience with dealing with other children while I was one.
Within the hour, Emma easily abandoned me as she found a couple of other girls to play with. Unable to join them in time, I was left with another group that the caretaker had me play with. Which left me dealing with a screaming boy, a girl crying after her father dropped her off, and a snot-dripping boy who kept trying to clean his nose using my clothes.
Someone, please save me!
No matter how things look, I was an oji-san stuck in the body of a little girl. Which, now that I'm phrasing it like that, sounds a lot creepier than it actually was.
I couldn't help it. I was emotionally and intellectually more experienced than everyone in this building, adults included. Arrogant as it sounds, I'm not cut from the same cloth as everyone around me.
I sat down on the ground, my ears ringing from the loud boy who kept shouting out random words as he played with his action fingers. The boy with snot dripping from his nose finally stopped bothering me, but now I was watching him with disgust as he started licking the area above his lips where the snot dripped down.
With dawning horror, I realized that I forgot to bring a book with me to keep myself occupied.
No, this will not do! I cannot handle this kind of environment without anything to prevent my brain from rotting. I need a mental stimulus! Something to keep me from dealing with everyone around me.
For Pete's sake, it feels like I'm getting dumber by osmosis sitting next to these brats as time passes.
Hearing a voice next to me, I turned to see a small girl holding something in her hand talking to me. Fidgeting for a bit, the girl gathered her courage and spoke again.
"U-Uh, do you wanna play with me? I have cards."
I saw a deck of playing cards in her hand right as she pointed it out to me. Huh, I guess that works.
"Sure! Do you know any games?"
"Mmn, Mama tawght me a few."
"Great! Hurry up, let's start."
The girl placed the deck on the ground and adjusted her skirt to sit on the ground opposite of me.
"By the way, I'm Taylor. What's your name?"
The girl was kinda quiet. Maybe she was shy?
"Alright, Lia-tan*! Show me what you got."
To sum the day up, we had fun.
Emma mostly played with the other girls she met up with earlier while I found myself enjoying a few games with my new friend. We played a few simple games like Slapjack and Go Fish until it was time for lunch.
The day passed by quickly, and soon, it was time for the parents to pick us up.
While waiting for Zoe, Lia's mom came by to pick up her daughter.
A pretty woman who kinda resembled her daughter but shared a prominent similarity in their freckles. The woman seemed tired from the way she collapsed onto the nearest available chair. But a smile graced her face when she saw her daughter.
"Ah, did you have fun today, Honey? Make any friends?"
"Yup, we played cards."
She turned to look at me at her daughter's words, and I introduced myself.
"Good day to you Ma'am. My name is Taylor Hebert."
"Hebert... Are you related to Danny Hebert?"
Huh, that's surprising. Maybe she works with him.
"Yes. He's my father."
"Huh, funny coincidence. I just met him earlier today to ask him a couple of questions. He mentioned you a bit while we talked."
Lia and I sat next to her as she explained. From what Lia's Mom told me, apparently the two of them had just recently moved to Brockton Bay. She was meeting with my Dad because she was apparently looking for someone she knew and was hoping that my Dad could somehow help. Although who exactly she was looking for and why she thought my Dad could help wasn't mentioned.
"It was a very last-minute decision for us to move here, and we don't have a lot of friends here. So please get along with my daughter."
"Of course! Lia-tan and I had fun today, and she seems nice."
She quirked her head at the nickname but smiled anyway.
"Thank you. You don't know how much that means to me."
A voice called out to me, and I saw Emma with her mother waving towards us.
"I gotta go now. It was nice meeting you Lia's mom."
I said goodbye to her and gave her a little wave while doing so. Turning to Lia, I smiled brightly and waved at her too.
"Bye Lia-tan! See you tomorrow."
"Ah... bye Taylor. See yow tomorrow."
She smiled shyly as she gave a little wave, and I melted inside. Gawhd, kids are too adorable at her age.
Reaching Emma, she was pouting while tapping her foot.
"Mm, you took too long Taylor!"
"Sorry, sorry. I was just saying bye to my friend."
"That! Why didn't you play with us earlier? You left me alone."
Aww, is she jealous? And I'm pretty sure it was you who ditched me first. Zoe Barnes kept watching us from the side with a grin on her face.
"I'm sorry Emma. Don't worry, we can play together tomorrow."
A stubby finger shot forward, a stubborn expression on Emma's face. Zoe was trying hard not to coo as I sighed and took the offered finger around my own.
"Fine. I promise."
She nodded at that and turned to walk to the car, my finger still wrapped around her's as she dragged me along with her. I allowed her to pull me along while Zoe kept giggling in the background.
I spent the rest of the day playing with Emma and her sister Anne for a bit before my dad picked me up. The two of us were driving back when I suddenly felt like asking him something.
"I made a new friend today. Her name's Lia."
"Oh, good for you."
"Yeah. I also met her mom. Apparently, she met up with you today?"
"Do you mean Ms. Lavere?"
"I didn't catch her name, but maybe. She said she recently moved to the city because she was looking for someone. But why did she want to talk to you?"
Dad hummed for a bit and the silence lingered for a minute or so as they drove. Eventually, Dad spoke with a serious voice.
"Taylor, I can't say exactly what Ms. Lavere is thinking or what her plans are. But if what she told you is true, then she might be looking for trouble."
The unexpected reply threw me off.
His next words only confused me. The car stopped at a red light and Dad turned to look at me while he explained.
"Because when she came to talk to me, she wasn't asking about the location of a person. She was asking for the location of a group."
"Yes. Specifically, a gang."
The light changed from red to green, and as he began to move, he clarified further.
"A gang ruled by the villain known as Marquis."
"Mom, we're home!"
"Oh, you're back Little Owl?"
Seeing my mother, I ran forward and jumped right into her arms. The two of us laughed as my mom twirled me around in the air before setting me down.
That's one of the perks of being a kid again. Hugs are something that is encouraged at our age, not shied away from. Most of my fondest memories were that of my own children hugging me after coming home from one of my business trips.
I'm lucky to have such parents in this life raise me with plenty of love. Even if it is weird sometimes being treated like their princess, considering that I was male in both of my previous lives.
Still, it's nice to know that they care for me.
Which is why I'm remembering what Dad told me about Ms. Lavere.
Dad told me that she was asking around for the locations of the local gangs in the city, with a specific focus on the one ran by the villain Marquis.
I myself don't exactly know all the gangs in the city, but the big names I know are the Empire, the Teeth, and another one that I can't really remember what it's called exactly, but is the one run by Marquis.
These are the gangs that my parents warn me to watch out for. In a city where gangsters walk the streets, a child's education on 'stranger danger' becomes a bit more comprehensive. Identifying which parts of the city were safe to walk through, what physical indicates marked a person as part of what gang, etc.
I remember being taught the kid-friendly version of gangster profiling by my Dad. It was mostly about making sure I didn't stray too far away from either mom or dad whenever we went outside.
So it would make sense for a non-local to ask for how to identify these kinds of things. Maybe that's what my dad thought at first when he talked to Ms. Lavere.
And then I told him what she told me today.
I wonder what my dad's currently thinking? He did seem a bit quiet while driving home, only warning me that if Ms. Lavere ever asks to go home with her, that I should either refuse or call an adult.
Seriously, what does he think she is? An organ trader?
But it's not like I could tell him not to worry since his daughter's actually over a century years old mentally. Besides, I quite like playing with Lia-tan and if I keep being friends with her, I'm bound to continue running into my friend's mother.
"Did you have fun today?"
"Yeah! I made a new friend, and Emma played with me when Mrs. Barnes picked me up."
My mom made an exaggerated sound as she continued talking to me.
"Wow! That sounds amazing."
Dad walked into the room and came to give my mom a peck on the cheek.
"Hey, yourself. I have dinner cooking in the kitchen right now. You two have been working hard today, and I'm expecting the two of you have worked up quite an appetite."
Making an exaggerated reaction, I started to run into the kitchen. Hearing the chuckle from my parents at my actions had me grinning.
For now, Dad's not gonna be thinking about what I've told him. He might remember eventually, and maybe he'll act like an overprotective parent and try to do something later.
Oh, well. As a caped baldy used to say, I'll leave tomorrow's problems to tomorrow's me.*
A few weeks have passed since then.
Pulling out the thermos from my bag, I uncapped it and poured the drink inside into the cup-like lid. Taking a nice long sip, I let out a content sigh.
Mm, drinking green tea while staring into the distance is always great. Look's like it's gonna be another peaceful day today.
"No! It's my turn today!"
"Nuh-uh! It's my turn."
Another peaceful day...
Okay, looks like I'm deluding myself. Better solve this quickly before it escalates into a fight.
"Emma? What's wrong?"
"Stacy's keeps playing with the doll. She said it was my turn today to play with it."
"You kept playing with it all day yesterday! Besides, it's my doll."
"Nuh-uh! It's the daycare's doll. That mean's it's everyone's doll."
"And since I'm part of everyone, that means it's my doll."
Wow, what impeccable logic Stacy. Truly, only someone our age could reach that conclusion.
"Girls, please. Let's not fight. Why not join Lia-tan and me and play some cards instead?"
The two ignored me anyway and continued to glare at each other. Sighing to myself, I looked over to see Lia-tan shrug her shoulders and continue shuffling the deck.
Welp, looks like I'm not getting help from her.
"It's fine, Stacy. You can keep the doll."
"Really? Yahoo, no takebacks."
The other girl immediately ran away while clutching the doll in her hands, and Emma turned to me with a look of hurt in her eyes.
"Taylor, why did you say that?!"
"Did you not see that doll? Just from a casual look, you can already tell that the materials used to make it were cheap. The plastic has tons of scratches and parts of the doll looked like they were gonna fall off soon. If I'm guessing right, then she'll come back later today complaining about how it broke while she was playing with it."
Besides, Zanoba* would kill me if I allowed one of my friends to play with a doll as ugly as that one.
"Bwuh, fine. But since I can't play with the doll, you have to play with me instead Taylor."
Grabbing onto my hand, she started to run while pulling me along.
Dragging my feet behind her, I saw that Lia-tan looked a little lonely. Glancing over to see me looking at her, she flushed and turned away shyly.
"Hey, Emma? Can Lia-tan play with us today?"
"Huh? Sure, why not. Let's call her over now."
The two of us giggled as we both each pulled one of Lia-tan's arms. Soon, the sound of all three of us laughing while playing tag ran through the air.
The door shut behind me as I heard my parents argue in the kitchen.
"Ack! Ow! Hey, watch it."
"Then stop moving so I can finish up already."
Dad winced as Mom pressed the alcohol-soaked cotton swab against the cut on his cheek. She glared at him when he continued to whine.
"Stop complaining already. If you didn't jump into fights so often, you wouldn't have had to deal with this."
"I can't help it! It's bad enough that the guys are losing their jobs, but they shouldn't be fighting with each other. Besides, I'm just breaking up arguments and calming them down."
"Yeah. You must've really calmed down that guy when you presented that face of yours to his fist."
"Hey, Larry apologized to me afterward. He meant to hit the guy next to me."
Running into the room, I glomp my dad's leg, causing him to wince a bit. Heh, serves him right for making Mom annoyed.
"Did you get into another fight again?"
"Like I told your mother, I don't get into fights. I break them up."
"Ah, sorry. Ahem - did you break up another fight while getting your face beat up again?"
He flicked my ear while my mom laughed in the background.
"Cheeky brat. You're starting to sound like your mother."
"That's because she knows how to listen to the smart parent."
The three of us began to laugh, and soon, Mom started to pack away the first aid kit she brought out to treat Dad.
"So, how was your day at school today kid?"
"Awesome! A few boys started to pick on Lia-tan, but I managed to protect her. The boys didn't like me telling them off, but after a few games where I won against them, they listen to me now."
What I didn't tell him was that the games I was talking about were things like wrestling or playground fighting. Ignoring the immaturity of fighting with a bunch of brats, for some reason, the kids are starting to go around and calling me 'Boss'.
Is this some weird unspoken rule of the playground or something? Beat the bullies, and they'll become your lackeys? It is weird having a rep for being the unspoken leader of the kids at the daycare. In my previous life, most kids just avoided me after I drove them off a couple of times. Guess things aren't gonna be the same this time.
"Good job! Make sure to keep them in line and knock some sense into them if they're being naughty."
My dad received a smack to the back of his head from Mom for that remark.
"Don't teach her strange things."
"Weren't you a pro-feminist activist? Shouldn't you be encouraging your daughter's actions?"
The two of them continued to playfully bicker, and I watched them do so in peace.
"It's so hot today!"
"Can't we turn up the air conditioner?"
"No. The caretaker is blowing up a kiddie pool for us to use, but it looks like it'll take a while."
The three of us - meaning Emma, Lia, and I - were slumped against the ground sweating in the summer heat. We weren't the only ones either, as almost the rest of the class were lying around us in a haphazard manner.
"Wait, isn't the kiddie pool only big enough for around five of us?"
"...shoot! You're right!"
"What! You mean we might not even get a turn to use it?!"
Emma sat up with an angry expression on her face as she said that. A few kids around us who heard what Lia said also groaned at her words.
Still, Lia does make a good point. So that means that we should find another way to cool off.
"Hey, Emma. Do you know where they keep the buckets we use to play in the sandbox?"
"Um, I think Jessie had them last."
...who was Jessie again?
"Can you ask her if we can borrow them?"
"Jessie's a guy." Oh, oops. "But sure, I'll ask him."
Emma ran off to somewhere else in the room, which I couldn't see since I was still lying down on the ground. She came back a moment later with the buckets in hand.
"Here you go, Taylor. What d'ya need them for?"
Getting up from the ground, I jogged over to where the sink was. A few kids followed me to watch, and I started to explain as I placed a bucket into the sink and turned on the faucet.
"If we just want to cool off, we don't need a big pool for that. Instead, we can just cool off our feet."
Seeing that the bucket was filled high enough, I turned off the faucet and carefully lifted the bucket onto the ground. Explaining to Emma how to use it, she sat down on a nearby stool and placed her bare feet into the bucket.
"Eek! Oh wow, this feels great."
"Hey, let us try."
"Ew, no! Get your own bucket, don't share with me."
Soon, the whole class started to fill their own buckets full of cold water. The caretaker found himself confused when he came back to a whole classroom of kids with buckets of water everywhere.
"Erm... I finished blowing up the pool. Does anyone want to use it?"
Seeing as everyone was enjoying themselves with blissful expressions on their face, I took it upon myself to answer for them.
"No thanks. None of us have any swimming clothes, and we can cool off now."
"...I spent twenty minutes blowing into that thing, and now I'm told no one wants to use it?"
Oh, oops? Now I kinda feel bad for him.
"Maybe you can use it? None of us will mind if you do."
He stared at me incredulously for a moment, before sighing and leaving the room. I shrugged and continued to lie down next to Emma.
*-tan* - a baby-talk version of 'chan'
*I'll leave tomorrow's problems to tomorrow's me.* - Quote from Saitama from One Punch Man.
*Zanoba* - Zanoba Shirone is a doll loving prince who highly respects Rudeus and is great friends with him.