"I am a princess," Zoe told Quinn. "Daddy says mama was a queen who married a pumpkin, and that makes me his little princess."
Seeing Quinn playing princess with Zoe made him realize how much he wished Becca was still around. Sure, Stacey came over and played with her whenever she could, and she had her other aunts, but that just wasn’t the same. That wasn’t an everyday thing like having a mother would have been. He hated to think about all of the things that Zoe was going to miss out on because she didn’t have a mom. And there were so many things that he knew that he was never going to fully understand or talk to his daughter about. There were things that he wouldn’t know how to teach her. There was just so much wrong with this whole situation, and he knew he would never be able to fix it. But for now, he could watch her play with Quinn, and he could be happy knowing that today was a good day.
"I would love some," Zoe said holding out her cup for Quinn to pour the juice into.
There was an amused look on her face. That meant that Sam was the pumpkin. She shared a look with Sam and then returned her attention to Zoe. Quinn poured some “tea” into her cup. Ah, apple juice. Excellent choice. She poured herself a cup too. The more she hung out with Zoe, the more she wanted a child of her own. Maybe she could start warming Neal up to the idea. There was no reason they couldn’t have successful careers and a beautiful family. Of course, that wasn’t Neal’s concern. He was scared that he wouldn’t be a good father. Had Sam known that he was going to be a good father or had he doubted himself too?
She snapped herself out of her thoughts as Zoe put an Oreo onto her plate. “Thank you,” she said before she took a bite. “Hmmm, delicious!” She took a sip of her apple juice afterwards, looking at the young girl over the rim of her cup. “Are you expecting anyone else, Princess Zoe?” she questioned. “I think I hear someone at the castle door.”
Zoe climbed off of Sam’s lap and grabbed his hand trying to pull him with her. “C’mon daddy, we’re gonna play tea party,” she told him.
Sam stood up from his seat and let Zoe lead him into the living room. “Why don’t you let Quinn help you pick your dress up clothes while I go get your tea and cookies ready for the party?” he suggested. Zoe nodded her head and went over to Quinn taking her hand and bringing her over to the clothes.
"Are you sure you’re not a princess?" Zoe asked her as Sam went to take care of the snacks. He grabbed the Mrs. Potts teapot from Zoe’s new tea set and filled it up with apple juice. He also grabbed a package of Oreos and arranged them on a plate. He brought them out and set them on Zoe’s play table and went to sit on the couch and watch his little girl play princess for awhile.
Quinn was glad that she’d captured Zoe’s attention as evident from the wide smile on her face. She let her take her hand and followed her to the living room, where her assistant had set everything up. She could see that Zoe had quite a collection of dress-up clothes of her own. Still, a little variety never hurt anyone. She showed the young girl the dress-up clothes she’d brought, assuring her that she could wear whatever she wanted. She didn’t need to wear a single thing she’d brought if she didn’t want to.
Are you sure you’re not a princess? Quinn laughed when she heard her question. “I’m pretty sure, yes,” she told her, echoing her question afterwards, “Are you sure you’re not a princess?” There was an amused look on her face as she continued. “It doesn’t matter anyway. We’re princesses today,” she told her. She helped Zoe get dressed and did her make-up. She let her help her afterwards. She looked silly, she was sure, but as long as Zoe was happy, she was happy.
When Zoe sat down at the play table, she did too. “Would you like some tea, Princess Zoe?” she asked her, reaching for the teapot. She didn’t expect there to be tea inside of course. Water maybe or juice, but not tea.
When Quinn’s assistant left, Sam stood up from his seat. “I’ll go wake up Zoe, and then you guys can have your tea party,” he told Quinn before heading out of the office. Heading back to his bedroom, he found Zoe still curled up on his bed silently sleeping with her thumb in her mouth. He sat down next to her on the edge of the bed and started lightly stroking her hair. “C’mon kiddo,” he said softly. “It’s time to get up.” Zoe slowly started waking up, rubbing the sleep out of her eyes and sitting up in bed. She lifted her arms indicating that she wanted Sam to pick her up and carry her. She was always lazy like that when she first woke up, and he didn’t mind spoiling her by carrying her a little bit. So he picked her up and headed back to his office where Quinn was waiting. “Look who’s here to see you,” Sam told Zoe as he sat back down at his desk and faced Quinn. “Quinn came all the way over here just to play with you.” Zoe smiled and offered up a smile wave still not entirely awake yet.
"Okay," she responded in acknowledgement, watching him walk out of the office. While Sam retrieved Zoe, she explored his office a little more. She made it through a fifth children’s book by the time he returned with her in his arms. She returned Zoe’s sleepy smile and wave. "Hi there, Sleepy Head," she greeted her affectionately. "Should we get all dressed up for our tea party?" Quinn walked closer to her when she was a little more awake. "I brought a lot of pretty clothes for you to choose from," she told her, her smile widening. "Would you like to see them?" She hoped that Zoe would have fun with her today. She was making every effort to make sure that she would.
"Exactly," Sam agreed. "She’s the most important thing in my life, and everything I do is for her, you know? The preschool issue was one that he’d been thinking about a lot lately. Everyone is his family seemed to have their on opinions, and he wasn’t sure who to side with just yet. "Well, my mother-in-law thinks that I should send her to the private school that my niece goes to, but I’m not sure if want to send her to a religious school. And Stacey thinks that I should send her to the public preschool downtown because it’s by her school, and if I send her to afternoon preschool, she and Stevie could pick her up for me and walk her home. And I just want my mom’s opinion because I trust her more than anyone else, but she says she wants me to choose whichever school I think is best, so I have no idea what I’m doing yet."
Quinn listened to Sam as he explained his preschool dilemma to her. Choosing a preschool shouldn’t be so difficult in her opinion. Unfortunately, it was, and she understood that, even though she had no children of her own. “You’ll end up doing what’s best for her,” she assured him, and she really believed that he would, being the devoted father that he was. Her assistant came into Sam’s office then (she’d announced her presence first), drawing her attention away from him. “I’m sorry to interrupt,” she said. “Everything’s set up.” Quinn smiled at her. “Thank you,” she responded. “That will be all. I’ll call you when I’m done here.” Amelia nodded her head in acknowledgement and then left, leaving them alone once more.
Sam didn’t know how to accept Quinn’s compliment so he just nodded his head in thanks. To him, these were extremely rough sketches. He’d probably change the character design at lest three or four more times before finally getting it just right. “It all depends on the length of the book,” he told her in response to her question. “I mean, it takes me about a month to get the story finished, and then one I’ve got that mapped out, I get a few pages illustrated every week. But there’s no set amount of time that it takes me because I’ve got to factor in Zoe and what she needs from me into my work time. My most productive times are when she’s napping and right after she’s gone to bed. Those are the only two times that I know she doesn’t need me. It’ll be easier to find time to work when she’s at school next year.”
His response to her compliment made her raise an eyebrow at him. Was she wrong? Maybe he was overly critical of his work much like she was overly critical of hers. To her, her performances were never good enough. She nodded her head at him periodically in acknowledgement as he answered her question. “Zoe comes first,” she said, letting him know that she understood. She was all Sam had left of her mother after all. Thinking about his terrible loss made her sad, for him and for Zoe. She set the children’s book she’d been flipping through back onto the bookshelf. “Have you decided on a school yet?” she questioned, looking at him now. She knew how important choosing the right school was, even a pre-school. Some would argue, especially a pre-school.
"It’s fine," Sam told her. "Don’t worry about it. Just give me a heads up next time, okay?" While Quinn looked around his office, Sam rummaged through the piles of papers and notebooks on his desk to find the sketchbook that he was looking for. "So, these are just some really rough doodles of what I think the characters might look like," he said as he flipped around looking for the right page. "But I asked Zoe what she wanted me to write about, and she wanted a book about a princess that’s also a superhero who fights crime with her puppy as a sidekick. So I kind of had this idea for a children’s book about this little girl who imagines that she’s a superhero in her bedroom, and all of the crimes and everything are figments of her imagination. So some of the sketches are of her imagined persona, and some are of what she actually looks like playing in her bedroom." When he found the right page, he passed the book over to Quinn.
She looked at him with interest when he picked up a sketchbook from his desk. Quinn nodded her head at him every once in awhile as he spoke, letting him know that she was listening to him. What a great idea for a children’s book! She told Sam so as he handed his sketchbook over to her. “There ‘rough doodles’ are amazing,” she complimented him, using air quotes because these were so not “rough doodles” in her eyes. Eventually, she handed his sketchbook back to him. “On average, how long does it take to write and illustrate a children’s book?” she wondered, genuinely interested in his response. She went to retrieve one of his published works from the bookshelf, flipping through the pages.
"You can set up anywhere in here," Sam said as he let them into the house. "I don’t really have a lot of extra space right now with all of the boxes and the remodeling and everything. If I’d have known that you were planning on bringing something, I would have moved the boxes to another room. It’s going to be a little crowded in here."
Sam lead Quinn into his office. His desk was pushed up against the back wall, and one of the other walls was covered with bookshelves holding his works, the works that inspired him, a few of his favorite fan gifts, and little creations of Zoe’s. There was a small sofa pushed up against one of the other walls that Sam often let Zoe nap on when she didn’t want to leave him while he was working, and her craft table and rolling cart of art supplies was pushed into the corner. It wasn’t anything special, but it was his.
"So, you still interested in seeing some sketches for a new children’s book?" he asked as he sat down on his desk chair.
Quinn was quick to apologize to Sam for the inconvenience. “I should have given you a heads up,” she agreed with him, giving him an apologetic smile. “I apologize.” Amelia nodded her head at him to echo her sentiment and then moved past her to set everything up. She was assembling one of the clothes racks when Quinn followed Sam into his office. She put her index finger to her lips to remind her to be quiet. Thankfully, Zoe was still sleeping. That girl had to be a deep sleeper. As she strode into Sam’s office, she was a little overwhelmed by the chaos, albeit organized. She took note of his desk, but was drawn to the bookshelves in his office. She recognized a lot of his works among other things. His voice broke her concentration then. “Oh, absolutely,” she assured him, giving him her attention once more. Her eyes continued to roam the room while he retrieved his sketches for her to see.