“Mommy?” Ellis echoes with furrowed eyebrows, his lips quirking into something of a frown as he watches the little girl return her dirty thumb to her mouth. “Why th’heck am Ah mommy?”
The thumb pops free with a slurp and she says in obvious exasperation, “Cus you don’t have a beard.”
“Ah got stubble!” Ellis objects, giving his face a scratch in illustration, his troubled gaze going to Keith trying to refrain from sniggering. “Jesus,” grumbles the brunette moodily, swinging his AK-47 back behind his shoulder on its strap so he can lift the toddler from her perch on a battered couch, “Even lil’ kids think Ah’m th’lady.”
Keith reloads his rifle in preparation to leave the saferoom, head tilted slightly to listen to the garbled snarls outside in the semi-darkness of evening. “His name’s Ellis,” he tells the little girl, hoping to console his boyfriend, “An’ he’s m’BOYfriend.”
“Wife,” the girl corrects stubbornly, her nose crinkling under the frazzled drape of her over-long bangs, the greasy blonde strands immediately tucked behind her ears by Ellis.
“Let’er think wut she wants,” says Ellis with a shrug and a sigh, “Folks usually do. An’ she’s jus’ uh baby anyhow.”
“M’four,” huffs the toddler in his arms, and Ellis grins a little wider, his earlier irritation bottoming out with affection.