Okay, Vali, show your mommy what we’ve learned!”
I hadn’t even got two feet in the door before Vali came up and hugged me. She’s so adorable.
“We’ve been doing this deck,” Dani explained, “with the simple words like cat and dog.”
I smiled as Dani knelt down to our daughter’s height. “Ok, Vali, what’s this one?”
She scrunched up her little face and looked up at me with her eyes wide. “Dog!”
I grinned, nodding. “Yes!”
Our little girl was about a year and a half now and amazed me every day with everything she could do. Just the other day I found her climbing up the stairs alone – slowly, but still. She’s always finding new things to do and her new favorite thing is playing with these blocks I used to play with when I was her age.
“We were watching you on the tv,” Dani said, smiling. I’d just gotten back from another day at work, which of course meant covering the biggest news. And right now, everyone was covering the San Myshuno council’s latest drama – which was possibly putting in a new, less corrupt, form of government.
“Yeah. Sound off, of course, Vali doesn’t need to hear about things like that yet.”
“Definitely,” I nodded, cuddling up with my wife while Vali played around with the blocks.
“What do you think she’ll think about her little sister or brother?” Dani asked.
“Well, she’s certainly excited right now…”
I giggled, laying my hand on my huge bump. “That she is.”
Soon the holidays approached, catching everyone off guard in how fast they’d crept up. So much had happened in this last year. Dani and I had decided to go all out for Christmas this year since it would be Vali’s first she might remember (her first ever, she’d been 7 months) and it would get harder to decorate as we had more kids to take care of, at least while they were young. If we were busy with one kid, it would get crazy when we had the four we planned on. Vali got so excited as we put up all the decorations. I think she liked how colorful the house was especially since she’d just learned the colors and would go down the line of lights saying what color they were.
It amazed me how much trouble she could get in with just a few seconds as I pulled her out of the cabinet once again. After the first time she’d gotten in there, I’d immediately taken anything sharp out of those bottom cabinets and firmly told her not to get in there again, but she managed to get in there time and time again.
All the decorations we’d put up had just left more things for Valentina to play around in. She didn’t realize that she was doing anything wrong, though… she was just having fun. And I have to admit it was adorable how thrilled she was when she played around in the garland.
She isn’t old enough yet to really understand what’s going on, but she knows it’s a special time of year with everyone having fun and all the lights everywhere.
I pulled my squirming little girl out from under the tree and sat her down on the sofa, thinking about how to explain to her the we don’t crawl under things when she started talking in her sweet, innocent voice.
“Mommy pwlay?” I looked down at my daughter’s eager face as she pointed over to the tree.
I giggled, picking her up once again. “Mommy can’t fit under the tree, Valentina. Want to play dolls instead?”
A big grin spread on Vali’s face as she babbled a happy yes. Our little play time became a family affair before long, with everyone joining in and talking happily about this last year.
Last Christmas, Vali was seven months old, and probably has no memory of the day, but it was one I’ll never forget – it was our first with our child. Even baby Valentina has seemed to realize how special the day was; I don’t think she got very fussy that day at all.
“Need ‘nother bed,” Vali pouted as she laid out all her dolls on their respective beds. Somehow, one of the beds had gotten lost since the last time she played.
I laid down my phone and slid one of her dolls’ blankets atop it. “Is that good?”
Vali picked it up, inspecting it closely. “Uh huh,” she giggled, laying her doll down.
“Are you excited for Santa to come?” Dani asked her.
“Yes!” Vali babbled happily. I grinned, lifting my daughter up. She was so excited.
Not long after, we put Vali to bed, reading her The Night Before Christmas for the very first time. She drifted off to sleep before the book was over, but I continued reading anyway.
We stepped back from the glowing tree, admiring the end result.
“It looks perfect,” Dani murmured into my ear.
I smiled, pulling a twig of extra mistletoe from decorating out of my pocket. Dani’s eyes flitted up to it, smiling as she looked back to me.
“You don’t need to tell me twice,” Dani giggled, pulling me into a deep kiss.
I twirled her around, smiling like I’d never been kissed before.
“I love you so much, Adelaide.”
I giggled softly, pulling her right against me. “I love you too.”
Vali’s eyes lit up as she looked from the tree and back to us. She looked absolutely awestruck at everything. Vali walked over to the pile of presents almost as big as her, reaching her hand out cautiously.
“Santa came, Santa came!” Vali exclaimed, gasping.
I turned to Dani, giggling. “He did.”
“All for me?” Vali asked, already shaking the presents.
It was Dani’s turn to chuckle as she picked up our little girl. “No, they’re not all yours. Some are for your mommies.”
“But most are yours,” I added.
“Open em?” Vali giggled.
“Yes, honey. You can open them.”
Vali loved opening each and every present. Every time she ripped the paper off, she’d burst out in laughter, holding up the new item. She’s so adorable.
She didn’t even care who was opening the presents, she got just as excited when one of us was opening something.
“I think Lexie’s coming back soon,” I said, watching Vali play around in all the wrapping paper.
“Oh, really? She’s not staying over longer at Luca’s?”
I shook my head. “She said that she wanted to be here with her niece and us for part of the day.”
“What time is it?”
I tilted my head, looking for the clock. “It’s already one! Geez, opening these with Vali took longer than I thought!”
Dani giggled, pulling me closer. “That’s because she wanted to play with everything once she opened them.”
“Yeah, that’s it,” I smiled, leaning in for a quick, sweet kiss. Vali had gotten to that point where she always made a fuss when we kissed. I thought we had until her childhood years before she got grossed out by that, but apparently not.
“Ok, how long do you think it’ll be before your sister and Luca get hitched?”
“What?” I asked, genuinely surprised by the question, though I don’t know why. She and Luca have been going strong for….well, a little before Vali’s conception. So around 2 years now, and they always seem so in love.
“Come on. They’re doing all the steps, albeit slowly. She’s even spending Christmas morning with his family.”
“I guess you’re right,” I nodded, “it’s just weird to think of my sister as a married woman.”
And weird it was. For years of her young adult life, Lexie hadn’t even been interested in seriously dating. I suppose we’re both very different from who we were then, or I’d like to think so, anyway. Our lives are very different. We’ve grown a lot. I’m married to an amazing woman, and we have a daughter together with another kid on the way. Why shouldn’t she get married? Luca’s a great guy, and I know he makes her happy – and she makes him happy.
The door rang, and I grinned, squeezing my wife’s hand. “That must be her.”
“I bet Valentina will be very excited to show her auntie all her new presents.”
I nodded, leaving Vali playing around with her new dolls and tying to explain her world to Dani. All I could get was ‘princess’ and ‘palace’. Our daughter is such a girly girl, at least for now.
“Hey, Lexie, how was it?” I asked before even getting to the door. “Lexie?”
The second I saw her, I realized something was wrong. She was just standing there, looking shocked, treading and unthreading her fingers. She didn’t even notice I was there. Oh my Watcher, did Luca and her break up?
“Lexie,” I prodded softly, “are you okay?”
She looked up slowly, and just pulled me into a hug as she broke down crying. “Laila’s dead,” she sobbed, and I gasped.
“Breathe. Lexie, breathe,” I told her, leading her over to the sofa.
Laila Steen had been Lexie’s mentor in all things cooking. She was the first one that truly believed in my sister’s talents besides me, and she was the one who gave Lexie the job working at the restaurant. She was practically Lexie’s second mom, and I knew she meant a lot to her.
My sister’s sobs filled the whole house as I tried to calm her down and get her to talk to me. Gosh, I hope she wasn’t driving in this state – if she was, it’s a miracle she’s alive.
“They – they just called,” Lexie whispered shakily, as willing it to not be true. “She passed peacefully in her sleep -” she trailed off, taking in a sharp breath.
“It’s okay. I know how much she meant to you.”
“She taught me almost everything I know,” Lexie sobbed, “How can she be gone?”
I really didn’t know what to say, and it brought back deep memories of when our mom died. I had been a young 18-year-old girl then, and I hadn’t known how to help either of my younger siblings with the loss – I’d barely known how to help myself. And it was no different now.
“Ooh, damn,” I muttered to myself. My back had been flaring up all day and this time had been extremely painful. I guess working on decorating all last night was really taking a toll today.
“And,” Lexie continued, sucking in her breath, “She left me the restaurant.”
I forgot about the pain instantly, gasping. “Oh my gosh, Lexie! That’s amazing.”
Lexie just nodded, breaking down again into sobs, even louder than the last.
“Adelaide – ” Dani stopped short, looking at the scene in front of her.
I got up, slowly making my way over to my wife. This whole pregnancy, my bump ended up being bigger than when I was pregnant with Vali, which the doctor said is normal for the second pregnancy – something about how your uterus had already been expanded and whatnot. I felt huge, and I’m only 33 weeks – my due date isn’t until February 12.
“Her mentor, Laila, passed away,” I explained.
“Oh my gosh, is she okay?” Dani asked, even though she had her answer right in front of her. Lexie was still sobbing loudly, creating a tense atmosphere.
“She needs some time,” I said, rubbing my back again.
Dani raised her eyebrows. “Your back?”
I nodded. “Yeah, it’s really acting up right now – oh damn it!” I groaned suddenly, gasping for breath.
Dani instantly went into ‘protective wife’ mode, bringing me over to the sofa and rubbing my back, trying to ease the pain. It was something I loved about her – how protective she was of her family.
“Where’s Vali?” I asked, gritting my teeth through the pain.
“Playing with dolls still,” Dani replied, looking over me worriedly.
“Dani,” I started, suddenly thinking of something I really, really did not want to be true. “What if something’s wrong with the baby?”
After being ready for this new little bundle of joy for all these months – after getting our daughter ready for a younger sibling…. if I lost the baby, I don’t know what we’d do.
Dani’s eyes quickly welled with tears at the thought. “Are you bleeding?”
A quick trip to the bathroom revealed that I wasn’t bleeding, much to our shared relief. I racked my brain for other reasons why I was in so much pain, but I couldn’t come up with anything. Granted, it was hard to think through the pain. All I could think of was that I was having a miscarriage and I just wasn’t bleeding yet.
Dani took my hand softly, and I could tell by the look on her face that she’d thought of something else entirely. “Adelaide…could you be in labor?”
“But I’m only 33 weeks,” I protested, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. This did feel as painful as I remember Valentina’s birth being. And I’d read of something called back labor before…
“We’re going to the hospital,” Dani decided, “I don’t want to take any chances.
“But who’s going to watch Vali? I don’t think Lexie’s really in a position to…”
And just like that, my water broke, and everything seemed to go by in a blur. The pain was multiplied times 10, at which point all I could think of was hoping the baby would be okay. He or she would be born almost 2 months early – I knew there were many babies born earlier than 33 weeks, but it was still scary. I never imagined having a preemie.
I barely even realized we got to the hospital, but by the time we were finally seen to, I was wavering in and out of consciousness.
“Yes, she’s in labor. How many weeks?”
“Thirty-three,” Dani replied without missing a beat.
There was plenty of commotion after that, with the doctors trying to figure out if they could stop labor – they couldn’t, and then finding a room for me to have the baby in. The baby. Oh, gosh, I’m meeting this little one today.
“The baby isn’t coming out!”
“She needs an emergency c-section!”
Screaming. More screaming. Switching rooms. And then Dani’s voice, through all the madness. “Is she going to be okay?”
“She’s going to be fine, ma’am.”
A/N: It took longer than I expected to make this chapter, but 2400 words and 34 pictures later, here we are! 😄