Jysella's Birthday Rating: G
Diana deRiggs and ThePlazaQueen

"So you understand the plan, Husband?" Mirax only called me "Husband" when she wanted to make a point, with a tinge of admonishment in advance. It was as if she knew I'd screw up something, and this was her shortcut to the long lecture about taking my responsibilities seriously.

But honestly, what was to misunderstand? Today is my daughter's birthday. She'd had a party with her school friends during the week, but tonight was the party for friends and family. Her two grandfathers were on-planet and looking forward to seeing her; the love they have for her could only be rivaled by her delight in them. What is it about old people and grandchildren? Mirax says they get along especially well because they have a common enemy ...

My job is to take Jysella out so that the family room could be decorated and the guests could hide and surprise her when I brought her back. I was pretty happy with the job, since it meant I didn't have to do any of the set-up — with so many people with so many strong opinions, I always ended up just doing as I'm told. I'd be a lot happier being with Jysella today.

"Remember, you are NOT to feed her, you are NOT to tire her out, you are NOT to buy her any presents. Just go out with her until I call you to come back, then come back promptly. It shouldn't be more than a couple of hours." Mirax didn't tell me what I COULD do ... I wish she had, actually. What does one do with a young girl besides buy her food, run around, or shop with her??

"Yes, dear," I mumbled. Best to keep most thoughts of my own potential incompetence to myself. At the very worst, I figured I could ask Jysella what she wanted to do; we could simply catch a holomovie. It would only be a couple of hours.

I left with my daughter, hand-in-hand. As happy as I was when Mirax and I had Valin, I think I was happier when I found out she was pregnant with a girl. Maybe it's because girls love their fathers so much, or that they are fun to buy presents for; I don't know. I've talked to my male friends and they've all told me that they were eternally grateful for any and all children then had, but they were especially grateful for their daughters. Mirax says it's because once a man has a daughter, he realizes what a jerk he's been to other women, and for the first time, he truly cares about the welfare of a female being.

My wife is a blunt person with very strong opinions, and she's usually right. I suspect she's right about this, too. When I think of my son with women in the future, I feel hopeful that he'll find a good one. When I think of my daughter with men ... I have to stop thinking. It hurts too much.

So best to enjoy the time I have with her when I'm the main man in her life. Of course, I have to share her attentions with her grandfathers, the "official adopted uncles" of Rogue Squadron and CorSec, even with Valin, who is already very protective of his kid sister. But I'm number one for now, and I mean to keep it that way for a while.

I figured it would be good to start with a trip to a tapcaf so she could order a sweet, non-stimulant drink. It makes her feel grownup to sit at the bar; I know her mother was hauled around the galaxy with Booster when she was growing up. It helped Mirax be comfortable in any environment, rough or fine, exclusive club or smuggler's tapcaf. I wanted Jysella to be my princess forever, but I wanted her to be able to hold her own, too. So the old military base tapcaf was our first stop.

The bartender loved to see her and would dote on her, passing her colorful drinks he'd let her design. She'd tell him what flavors or colors she fancied, and he'd carefully pour the liquids according to density so that each layer of beverage floated over the next for a banded effect. Jysella loved this; even Mirax approved, because our daughter often refused to drink enough liquids. She would dehydrate and grow grumpy, but if I brought her here, she'd drink everything she was given.

Today, she declared it was her "real" birthday, and the alien behind the bar really pulled out all stops to make her a special bunch of drinks. He had received several batches of flavored sugar crystals that had been formed in lacey patterns, and he had her help with the calculations to see which crystals should be floated in which drink so that they sat in the center of the column of beverage, rather than sitting on the bottom or floating on top. It was actually very enjoyable to watch, and I was happy to see that Jysella was getting the hang of long division. It had caused her trouble at school; I was responsible for giving her an educational experience!

We were having such a good time that I forgot the time and we were late getting to the holomovie. I told her to go to the refresher quickly, which she did. I remember thinking she'd she come out too quickly, but I was in a hurry and didn't think anything of it. I paid the barkeep and thanked him for a pair of sunglasses he wanted to give her; the manufacturers of the sugar crystals had sent him a case of them to give away as a promotional gift. She was delighted with the present, which had glittery images of the crystals on the lenses.

I had planned to walk to the holotheater, but we were late enough that I had to run. I tried to hurry Jysella along, but she suddenly crossed her legs and stopped walking. She was still moving, but the movement was more of a hopping motion and I groaned — she hadn't used the refresher, after all. She probably just washed her hands, and I tried to remember how much liquid she had drunk ... Jysella probably consumed close to a deciliter total, which is a lot for a young child's bladder.

"Jysella, don't think about it. I'll take you to a refresher, can you walk?" I was trying to be practical, all thoughts of getting to the holomovie gone, and was trying to think of which shop along this street I could duck into to use their 'fresher.

It was too late; my daughter was crying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry ..." She had started to wet herself and she crossed her legs harder. I half-dragged, half-carried her into a teashop I knew had one small refresher for customer use. I cut through the restaurant, apologizing to customers and staff as I went. The man in the refresher was surprised when I broke the lock to get into the one-room facility; he was angry, but then embarrassed when he realized Jysella was wetting the floor.

I told her to finish her business and closed the door. I ran to the server and asked for a mop so I could clean up the mess my daughter had made. I have to admit that I was upset because she really was old enough to know to use a refresher when she needed it, but for some reason she'd refused to use the one at the tapcaf.

I finished cleaning up and thanked the owner, again apologizing to her for breaking her lock. I promised to fix it after Jysella came out. I spotted the specials for the day written out on a board, and I bought a take-out serving of broiled eels in a special sauce. I liked them, and I had been hoping to introduce Jysella to more diverse foods anyway. Besides, if you use a small restaurant's refresher, you should buy something to compensate for the favor.

The eels were packed up and bagged; the mop was cleaned up and put away. I took a seat by the take-out order window by the door. I'd been there for quite a few minutes and I realized that Jysella was still not out of the refresher. Surely she should be done by now? I decided to go find her.

There was an old Twi'lek woman with a cane outside the door, obviously waiting for the facility. I excused myself so I could get in front of her to tap on the door and tell Jysella to come out, but the Twi'lek started yelling at me loudly in her native language. I assume she was telling me she was next in line. "Yes, ma'am, I understand. I just need to tell my daughter to come out." But I think the old woman was deaf, because she kept pulling on my arm and yelling the same thing over and over. So I just pushed ahead of her and banged on the door, "Jysella, what's taking so long, come out! People are waiting for the 'fresher!"

Without opening the door, she told me, "Daddy, my skirt, I can't put it on again ..." and I heard my daughter sobbing again.

I took off my jacket and told her to open the door. I handed her the jacket and told her to tie it around her waist, "Don't worry — just walk like normal and no one will notice. We'll buy you another skirt, okay? I'll fix the lock and then we'll go, it'll only take a minute." She did as she was told and I got to put up with the old woman poking me with her cane as I fixed the door lock.

We finally got outside and I herded a very embarrassed Jysella into a tiny ethnic clothing shop. I looked at the things piled on the floor and hung up against the walls. I saw some unusual dresses and jackets, but no skirts or leggings. Jysella was wearing a shirt with my jacket around her bottom half, which she was holding tightly shut, such was her mortification. I'd put her wet things into the bag they'd given me for the eels I'd bought; the eels were in my rucksack, and I'd discovered the sauce had leaked out onto my things. Why was everything going so wrong today??

But then I spotted a shiny pale pink dress woven with darker pink flowers. It looked like it would fit Jysella, so I took it off the hanger and told her to put it on over her shirt to see if she could wear it. She protested there wasn't a fitting room, but really, it wasn't that kind of store and I whispered to her to try and make the best of the situation. I stood with my back to her to shield her from anyone who might walk into the shop, and told her to put it on quickly. I heard her whisper to me that it fit fine, and she was going to take off her shirt now. Still facing away from her, I passed her the plastic bag to put the rest of her clothes into, and then I walked to the front of the shop to pay for the dress. To my relief, it cost only 15 credits — less than the cost of the two holomovie tickets I would have bought.

Just then, my comlink chirruped. It was Mirax's signal to head home. I told Jysella that we wouldn't be seeing the holo after all, and that we should go. She quietly agreed, and apologized again for the accident.

"Well, I hope you understand why you should use a refresher when it's available, young lady. More than the accident, it could cause health problems, and I don't want you to get sick." It was her birthday, I didn't want to lecture her too much.

"Yes, Daddy." My daughter was uncharacteristically humbled. "And thank you for the pretty dress, Daddy."

I looked closely at what she was wearing for the first time, and was surprised that she did indeed look very pretty in the dress I'd just bought. I hadn't needed to endure the trying on of many things or the selection of myriad colors like I usually did when shopping with women, yet this was likely the prettiest dress I'd ever seen Jysella wearing. Not a bad result to the day, and she seemed very happy as we walked home. I'm a good father, I thought to myself, very relieved that the day had turned out okay, after all.

About half-way home, Jysella remembered she'd left her sunglasses on the sink of the refresher. We talked over whether we should go back, but I knew that her mother would be irritated if we delayed. Besides, that old Twi'lek woman likely saw them and took them for herself. We laughed at the image of this old woman with a cane wearing very sparkly, trendy sunglasses, hollering at people in her deafness as she strutted happily down the street.

We got to the apartment and I activated the door. She was surprised that the place was dark, but then the lights came on and our friends and relatives yelled loudly, "Surprise! Happy Birthday!" I was really glad she'd already been to the refresher, she was so shocked that she jumped nearly a meter into the air!

But she recovered quickly and ran around hugging everyone. She was delighted by the people and the presents, but I did notice that Booster, Mirax's father, didn't have anything for her. Jysella didn't seem to notice; Booster is one of her favorite men in the galaxy (after yours truly, of course) and she was simply happy to hug his girth. I just thought it odd since Booster was in the information and "merchandising" trade, and took great pride in bringing unusual gifts to his grandchildren.

The mystery was solved when Mirax told me to go into the kitchen with her. She immediately glared at me and asked me why I had bought her a new dress when she explicitly had instructed me to buy her nothing? I was confused at her anger, then realized I hadn't told her about Jysella's accident. I explained, and Mirax let out a gasp of frustration. "So you had to buy her another one?? Why didn't you bring extra clothes for her?"

"Because it didn't occur to me that this would happen! I think she is old enough to not wet herself. I was wrong, I'm sorry, but I dealt with it." I was actually rather hurt that she was not congratulating me for handling the humiliating situation in a sensitive and intelligent manner. Considering some of the boneheaded things I'd done in the past, a little positive feedback would have been nice. "It's not a big deal, I'd budgeted 20 credits for the holomovie, but I only spent 15 for the dress. We actually came out ahead 5 credits!"

"Husband, it's not about the money! I told you not to buy anything because everyone was bringing presents," her voice lowered to a whisper. "Did you notice my Dad didn't have a gift for her when he said hello?"

I nodded. Mirax continued, "He hid the box when he saw her at the door. He bought her a pink dress ... it was a dress she told him she wanted, and he went though a lot of trouble to find it and he paid more for it than you had. It was exactly the dress she is wearing right now!"

I tried to feel bad, but I didn't succeed. Except for the eel sauce dripping into my bag, everything had gone right for me today. I got Jysella the exact dress she had wanted without knowing it, I had gazumped my father-in-law without meaning to, and I paid less than Booster did, too! I did have the courtesy to clutch my arm and cry out in pain when Mirax socked me there in response to the grin on my face!


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