He's a magic baby daddy.
High school senior Gabe Delgado is trying to trade his bad-boy ways for clean living. He remembers nothing about the night a mysterious girl loved him and left him at a party, except... there was a kind of magic around her that had nothing to do with his hangover the next day.
Now he finds that "magic" in a basket on his doorstep, cooing at him like a happy little bird.
Gabe, you probably already know our baby is, well, different. If not, you'll find out soon enough. Let's just say she has certain qualities most babies don't have. The thing is, I'm scared. I'm on my own and can't keep her safe. But you can. You're strong. You have a family to watch out for her. Bad people want her. That's why I left her with you. I don't really understand what's going on, but it has something to do with The Abolesco. Don't try to find me. Please, take care of our baby girl and love her. Okay?
The Abolesco are not friends of the family. They're on baby Birdie's trail, but why? Suddenly party-boy Gabe has to man up to protect his daughter. Not so easy when her talents include vanishing into thin air. It's up to Gabe and his girl-pal Abby (who has some extraordinary secrets of her own) to find out what's up with something called the Scientific Academy of Merit, what the goons want with Birdie, and whether other kids like Birdie can be saved, too.
The night Gabriel Delgado found out he was a father, he was gazing into a mirror and scraping the stubble off his chin. In exactly thirty minutes, he would drive his shiny black Honda Civic--sedately--to the home of Stephi Jones, a semi-hot blonde. On second thought, semi-hot was not an accurate description of Stephi. A better word would be tepid. Not hot. Not cold. More like lukewarm.
Former bad boy, Gabe, had low expectations for the Friday night date. For sure, there would be no skin-to-skin contact, other than a chaste joining of lips in a goodnight kiss. Gabe's bad-boyness had come to a screeching halt a few months earlier, which, in the annals of Delgado family history, would be known as Gabe's Summer in Hell.
It was all because of Papi. Gabe's father, Ernesto, aka Papi, was a Boeing engineer and, as such, had prescribed methods for dealing with his sons. For example: There was Papi's way…and the wrong way. Gabe had crossed the line from right to wrong and, therefore, according to Papi, earned his summer in hell.
When the doorbell rang, Gabe yelled, "Henry! Get the door!"
Gabe knew twelve-year-old Henry was downstairs, because he'd heard his soccer ball bouncing off the wall for the last fifteen minutes. The sound continued, unabated.
"Simon! Grab the door, will ya?" Older brother, Simon, was in his room, probably with his nose in a book or jotting page after page of equations. Simon was an engineering student at UW and most definitely a Papi clone. No response.
"Jesus Christ," Gabe muttered. As he said the words he ducked, a conditioned response to the imagined whap of a rolled up newspaper, Papi's method of dealing with a person taking the Lord's name in vain.
"Henry!" he shouted again. "Simon! Papi! Someone, please get the door. I'm buck naked here."
The doorbell bonged again and again. Whoever was leaning against it wasn't about to give up. Gabe scrambled into his jeans and hit the stairs running. He skidded to a stop on the scatter rug in the foyer and threw the door open, just in time to see the taillights of a car speeding away.
"Great, just great," Gabe muttered, watching the car disappear around a corner. An icy wind blowing down from the mountains rustled through the pile of dead leaves in the front yard and raised goose bumps on Gabe's bare arms and chest. He stepped back into the house and started to close the door when he heard a faint sound.
Gabe froze. Beyond the open door, he saw nothing but a pool of darkness. He flipped on the porch light and stepped outside again.
Startled, Gabe rotated his head toward the sound and spotted what looked to be a jumble of blankets tucked under the wooden bench next to the door. Gabe watched, mesmerized, as two tiny bare feet appeared, kicking and waving as if to say, "Hey, dummy, here I am!"
Louder this time. More demanding. Gabe took another cautious step and then, another, as if the bundle of blankets contained a ticking time bomb. A ticking time bomb with little pink feet, one of which looked very familiar. Gabe leaned over and stared at the flailing feet for a long moment, unwilling to believe what he saw. His heart sank. No way! Not now. Not when he'd just started down the straight and narrow path to eternal goodness.
He snatched up the envelope tucked between the pink blanket and blue blanket and took a big step back. The name, GABRIEL DELGADO was typed on the front. His hands were trembling when he ripped it open and extracted a sheet of paper.
"Hey, guess what?" the note began. "This is your kid. Don't believe me? Check left foot and right bun. Promise me you'll keep the kid until the diapers runs out. Then, do what you think is best. Don't try to find me. Good luck."
"I am so screwed," Gabe moaned.
When he pulled off the blankets, he saw the most comical looking baby he'd ever laid eyes on, and what with Papi's extended family, he'd seen quite a few. The kid was virtually bald except for a bit of fuzz on top. Two little sprigs of bright red hair sprouted wildly from double cowlicks on each side of its head. Unblinking brown eyes regarded him solemnly. "Oh, sweet Jesus," Gabe said, and not in a profane way. "Where did you come from?"
The sound of footsteps pounding down the stairs jolted Gabe out of his trance, and he yanked the door shut, postponing the inevitable. The door flew open and Simon stepped out, followed by Henry. Both their heads swiveled back and forth. When they spotted the baby, both heads stopped, as if their movements had been choreographed. Before they could utter a single syllable, Papi burst through the door, stopped, stared for a full minute and then exclaimed, "Dios mio! What is this, Gabriel?"
"Looks like a baby," Gabe mumbled, hanging his head.
Papi whipped off his glasses, polished them with his shirttail, then snatched the paper from Gabe's hand and scanned it quickly. Without saying a word, he squatted in front of the baby and picked up its left foot, examining it closely from all angles. The webbing between the second and third toe was clearly visible. Exactly like all the Delgados.
Papi stood and gave Gabe a significant look, but still said nothing. He didn't have to. Henry and Simon remained uncharacteristically silent. Gabe averted his eyes and shrugged, aware that his cheeks were growing hot with shame.
Papi leaned over and unlatched the strap holding the baby secure. Gently, he lifted the child from the car seat, held him against his body and pulled the diaper down, exposing one round, pink buttock. This time, Gabe couldn't hold back a groan of dismay. There it was, in living color. The birthmark roughly shaped like a blue rose. Exactly like the birthmark imprinted on the right bun of all Delgados.
Papi sighed and handed the baby to Gabe who held it at arm's length. Papi said, "He's yours, all right. No question about that." Then, he turned and stomped back into the house. He paused in the foyer and looked over his shoulder. "Gabriel, don't stand there like a dummy. Bring him into the house. You want him to freeze to death?"
Trance-like, Gabe followed his father into the living room, aware at some level that his brothers had gathered up the rest of the baby's belongings. Papi collapsed into his recliner and stared at the ceiling as if the answer to this dilemma was written there. Probably wishing it would appear as an algebraic equation, Gabe thought.
Still clutching the baby at arms' length, Gabe perched on the edge of the sofa. Rosie, the family's Labrador retriever, trotted into the room and sniffed the baby from head to toe, wagging her thick black tail in approval. Simon and Henry off-loaded baby paraphernalia and turned to leave.
Snap! Snap! Papi's chair returned to its upright position. "Hold it, you two! This isn't just Gabe's problem. It concerns the whole family."
The baby squealed in agreement, arms and legs churning the air.
With a heavy sigh, Henry plopped down on the couch next to Gabe. "Sure is funny looking kid. Maybe it's not yours. No red hair in this family."
"Check the birthmark," Simon said. He leaned against the wall, folded his arms and shook his head. "I don't believe this. Gabe sleeps with some chick-he probably doesn't even remember her name-she pops out a kid, decides it's not fun and dumps it here. How is that my problem?"
Papi leaped from his chair, gesticulating madly. "Because we're Delgados! When problems come up, like when your mother left us, we stick together. We don't walk away. Understand?"
"Yeah, yeah," Simon muttered.
Papi began pacing back and forth across the living room. Suddenly, he stopped and pointed his finger at Gabe. "Here's what you must do. Get paper and pencil. Write down the name of every girl you've been with when you were…er…not yourself. Include a physical description. Color of hair. Color of eyes. Physical attributes. Leave out nothing."
Gabe groaned. "But, Papi, there were a lot of girls. How do you expect me to remember them all? Besides, most of the time, I was kinda effed up, if you get my drift." Gabe knew better to use the F bomb, but even the alternative earned him one of Papi's disapproving looks.
Before Papi could answer, the hall clocked bonged seven times. Startled, Gabe leaped from the couch and placed the kid in his car seat. "Man, is it seven already? I've got a date. Can we put this on hold until tomorrow?"
Without waiting for an answer, Gabe headed for the stairs.
"Gabriel." The steel in Papi's voice stopped Gabe in his track.
"Look at me."
Slowly, Gabe turned to face his father. He heard Simon whisper, "Dumb shit." Henry giggled nervously.
"Gabriel," Papi repeated. "Do you remember when Rosie was a puppy?"
Gabe shifted his weight from one foot to the other, wondering if he was about to step into something stinky. "Yeah," he said carefully.
Papi's dark eyes snapped with intensity. "And how did you take care of her?"
Gabe rolled his eyes heavenward, trying to remember Papi's three cardinal rules for puppy care. "After she eats, put her outside to poop. Play with her. Put her back in her crate."
Papi clapped. "Excellent!"
Gabe grinned. This was going well. He'd soon be on his way.
"Now, Gabriel, tell me this: How do you take care of a baby?"
Uh oh. Gabe felt beads of perspiration pop out on his forehead. "Well, um, I guess you're saying it's the same concept. Right?"
Papi strolled up nice and close and gave Gabe his shark's grin. "So, after you feed him, you will take him outside to poop, play with him and then put him back in his car seat?"
Right then, Gabe knew he was screwed. He glanced at his brothers. No help there. He'd already stepped in it. Might as well go all the way. He looked his father square in the eyes. "Naturally, I won't take him outside to poop, but I'll feed him and play with him."
"And, you will start this...when?"
"First thing tomorrow morning."
Papi said, "And tonight?"
Gabe squirmed. "Remember what you said earlier? We're Delgados. We stick together when there's a problem."
"Ah, now I understand." Papi stroked his chin. "You assumed one of your brothers or your father would take care of your child while you went on a date. Is that correct?"
Gabe flushed. "I would appreciate it."
"Gabriel," Papi said again. He pointed at the baby. "That is not a puppy. It is a tiny human being who needs round the clock care. Care that will be given to him by you, his father. Do you understand?"
Before Gabe could formulate an answer, he heard the amazingly loud rumble of baby flatulence. All eyes turned to the child, whose face was bright red as he clenched his fists and strained.
Simon snickered. "Looks like you forgot to take him outside to poop."
Papi handed Gabe a container of baby wipes and a diaper. "Better get used to it. He'll be doing that a lot."
That's when the Delgado family found out he was a she.
I enjoyed this fast-paced and imaginative YA novel so much I had to read it twice! The balance between "real life" (challenges of a teenage father) and "magic" (baby with mysterious powers) is handled with empathy, humor, and finesse, and kept me turning the pages. The well-drawn cast of characters--teens, adults, heroes, villains, and even the minor players--will stay with me for a long time. I think this is a great book not only for its entertainment value, but also for its potential to open some important teen conversation on responsibility, growing up, and doing the right thing. Highly recommended on many levels.
Valerie Storey, on Amazon.com
Such a great read! Loved the flow and mystery of the book. The characters were very well developed. Definitely looking forward to a part 2.
Deanna Jenkimson, on Amazon.com
Baby Gone Bye is an awesome combination of fantasy, mystery, and light family drama. Protagonist, Gabriel "Gabe" Delgado is a senior in high school who is your typical jock infamous for hooking up with random girls. Life abruptly changes when baby Birdie arrives on his front doorstep with a brief note - this is your child, you need to protect her from bad people, and don't come looking for me - signed by the unknown mother.
Author Marilee Brothers does an excellent job in showing the growth in Gabe's character. Readers will witness him go from a self-absorbed teenager into a loving father who will stop at nothing to protect his daughter. I enjoyed the diverse cast of characters, especially Papi and Abby. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on the edge of your seat, and a splash of magic to tie everything together. I would classify this book as more of a New Adult story due to some of the language and mild sexual content.
Sage Adderley, on Amazon.com
Pulled me right in!
Gabe, Papi and 'Birdie' are folks (forget they are characters) I would love follow thru the journeys of their lives. I am so not a wizard/witch/other-world fan, but Ms. Brothers brought me along with her story writing and I never gave putting the book down a thought. It just amazes me the twists and turns authors can weave into their stories with such ease and grace. I hope these characters continue in her books. Thanks for a fun read... and, you even made me cry at the ending.
CJS, on Amazon.com