Things ended up being okay for a while after that. I laid down the law - if X wanted to see the girls, then he had to figure it out. He had to either meet the conditions of his visitation, or come up with an alternative that I could agree to that didn't involve me. Of course, he could do neither of those things. Instead, he moved back to Northern California.
In the meantime, I was reading up on middle schools, and decided Sylvia would need something better than our local neighborhood middle school had to offer. This led to me finding KIPP, and we moved to the condo.
Throughout the years, the girls went up to see their family in northern California a few other times. Once, my parents drove them up on their way to Napa Valley, and then picked them up. A couple of times, I flew up with them and then turned around and flew right back to L.A. The girls loved seeing their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins that live up there. Last summer, we went on a family vacation to San Francisco and Santa Cruz, and then I dropped them off at their aunt's, and flew back a few days later to pick them up. Most of the time, X would be up there, but X's sisters were in charge. Last summer, when I dropped them off, X was living down here, and was two days late in getting up there to see them.
The girls were starting to understand that X was not someone that could be counted on. They tended to believe his excuses, and I just tried not to point out that I managed to get them from school/after school care every day on time.
The girls would usually make their NorCal trips in either summer, Thanksgiving, or during their winter holiday vacation (while always being home with me for Xmas).
Last December, they were to go up north after Xmas, and spend New Year's with X's family. I was really looking forward to the break. And the girls were looking forward to the visit.
X's sister bought the plane tickets for X to do the flying this time. I was apprehensive about that, but went along with it. The flight was only 45 minutes, after all.
A couple of weeks before the trip was scheduled, I noticed that X hadn't called the girls in a while. Sure enough, I got a call from X's sister that he'd disappeared. He'd taken his mother's car, maxed out her ATM card, and was gone. Given the circumstances, we felt it best to cancel the trip.
I sat the girls down, and Sylvia just seemed mostly relieved that he wasn't in jail, was worried about him being "missing," but didn't really want to talk about it. The whole episode was done in about 10 minutes. I thought, hey, this is getting easier.
X's sister felt so bad about the whole thing, she decided to surprise her own children with an impromptu trip out here, and they spent a day with the girls. All of us had dinner, and they told me about the time X was 2 days late that Sylvia looked for her dad every time the door opened.
After Xmas, the girls went down to my sister's for a few days so I could still get a break. They spent the rest of their holidays with my parents while I worked, and with me.
The day that KIPP started up again, I got a call from the principal. Sylvia had taken one look at him and burst out in tears. She cried for about a half hour straight as she tried to tell him the story. (I'd emailed him and her teachers about what had happened over the break, at her request. She'd been so excited and telling everyone before the break. She didn't want anyone to ask her how it went when she returned.)
She'd been holding all these feelings in for a good month. She didn't feel comfortable talking to me about it (which hurt) or my family, but I was grateful that there was at least someone in her life that she felt she could talk to about it. He set it up for her to meet with the school therapist once a week, and he was also really great with me. He didn't place any blame on me, didn't try to make me feel bad. He just used the KIPP motto: there was a problem, let's find a solution.
It's the main reason I fought for him so hard at the end of the school year. He'd been there for Sylvia. He was the first school official that didn't make me feel like this was all my fault, or that we were just a problem family. He didn't seem phased by it at all, actually. He just did what he could to help and support us. (He remains a treasured family friend.)
The X Chronicles are nearly coming to a close. One more incident to speak of, and then I'll try to sum it all up to see if all even means anything.
PS, X ended up showing up again back at his mom's house. He remains living there to this day.