1. serving as a substitute; synthetic; artificial: an ersatz coffee made from grain.
  2. an artificial substance or article used to replace something natural or genuine; a substitute.

“This is your dad,”Principal Paulsen asked, looking skeptically at Benjamin. He surveyed the young man’s blue locks, gauged ears, and tattoos. Only the beard added years to his appearance.

Kiki shook her head, feeling ashamed.

“He’s not,” she said quietly, toward her shoes.

Ben felt exposed for the ersatz parent he was.

“Young man, can I see some ID or proof of relationship?”

Principal Paulsen used his 6’4 frame and 300 pound girth to try and intimidate Ben who was almost as tall, but much leaner.

Instead of seeming intimidated, Ben smiled and nodded. He should’ve expected this. Too many children were abducted every year. He wouldn’t want the same happening to Kiki–they were both in agreement on that fact.

“That’s fine, I’ll just text her mom and wait with her so she’s not alone,” he said pulling out his phone and taking the seat beside Kiki.

“We’ll just wait until your mom’s done with her meeting,” he said to her cheerfully as he reached into his leather messenger bag.

“Here, I brought you a snack from the cafe,” he said handing her a sandwich. “And some of your coloring books. I thought maybe we could color some in the park, but we could color here as well.”

Kiki seemed skeptical at first, even as Ben began coloring to keep himself busy, leaving the other page open for her.

She looked on as he colored within the lines, something she was still incapable of doing. The plastic beads on her shoelaces created a clicking rhythm as she began to nibble on the sandwich and swing her legs, enjoying her unexpected snack and her view of his artwork.

Ben couldn’t help but smile at Kiki’s ability to focus on the simple things. He’d only started dating her mother a month ago, causing his parenting duties to drastically increase. But he was beginning to enjoy it strangely enough, even though  it was too early to say whether or not he was any good at it. Having children was something he hadn’t planned, but neither was the thought of seriously dating someone who was hitting puberty just as he was entering the earth.

He looked up to see Kiki smiling at him.

“Thank you for my snack and for coming for me,” she said quietly. “I hate waiting alone.”

“Anytime,” Ben said, knowing that he meant it today and for as long as she needed him to be around.


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