“Hey, Lexie,” I smiled to my younger sister, “it’s great to see you!”
She grinned, pulling me into a big hug. “Ditto.”
It was only as she started walking in that I noticed the bags behind her. “What’s all this?”
If she said it was presents for the kids, I don’t know if I’d even be able to accept them. She’s been getting so much stuff for Vali and baby Seraphina lately. Just the other day, she sent us a new toy for Valentina. I know she’s just being an excited aunt, but still… reserve the gifts for their birthdays or the holidays!
“Oh, that… well, I’m moving back in,” Lexie brushed off nonchalantly, already pulling the bags in.
Wait, what? Lexie has moved in with Luca just a few days after Christmas, and now she was moving back? But that must mean – they broke up. For her relationship of a few years now ending, Lexie seemed surprisingly fine. I suppose I don’t know when they broke up, it could’ve been a week ago, and she’s finally gotten all her stuff out of the place and all.
“Unless you’re renting out my place to someone else, it’s no biggie, right?” She laughed, evading the topic once more.
“Yeah, it’s just as you left it…”
“Great. Can I see Seraphina?”
I looked her straight in the eyes, wishing she would say something about her and Luca, but nothing.
She’s usually very upfront but this is probably fresh on her mind and if she’s not interested in talking, I won’t make her. “Sure, he/she’s right up here,” I replied. It’s only been a few months since she moved out, but it feels like a lifetime ago. So much has happened with the new baby and the ongoing drama of having a toddler since then.
“Oh my gosh, she’s so much bigger,” Lexie gushed as she wiggled her fingers above Seraphina’s head, much to her delight.
“Oh, I know, right?! It seems like she grows so much every day. And you know what the doctors said?”
Lexie grinned, looking up from my youngest child’s giggling face. “What?”
“Seraphina doesn’t seem like she’ll have any breathing or developmental disabilities as she grows up,” I replied, smiling.
It had been a big deal after her birth, wondering if she’d have any disabilities because of being a preemie. I know we’re relatively lucky compared to some parents. The week Seraphina spent in the NCIU is nothing like some months babies can spend there. Just like how being her being born 2 months early is nothing like being born 3 or 4 months early. Seraphina was our little Christmas miracle.
“That’s great, Adelaide! You can’t even tell she’s a preemie anymore, honestly.”
I grinned, picking up my little baby girl. “Yeah, she’s wearing newborn size clothes now, actually.”
She nodded, already giggling at what she had to say. “So…when’s the next one?”
I punched her playfully, rolling my eyes. “Watcher, Lexie. I’m waiting at least another 2 years to even try and get pregnant again.”
While this pregnancy had been a breeze compared to Vali’s – partly because I was more prepared, and partly because it just was – the labor had been horrible. There was just so much going on… I was still shocked I was in labor, it was Christmas, and it had ended up being a c-section, which I was not prepared for. It took longer to recover from than Vali’s birth, and it was different – I had pain in places that I hadn’t after Vali’s birth – namely, where my daughter was freaking cut out from me… ect. I wasn’t too excited to go through all that again, but I was sure I’d warm up to the idea in time.
She and I just stood there silently, the truth about why she was moving back in just hanging in the air unsaid.
“Anyway, I better unpack,” Lexie finally said, walking out quietly.
I sighed, looking down to my little girl. “Oh, Seraphina… I wish your auntie would talk to me.”
Just then, the sound pitter-patter of my older daughter’s feet reached my ears, and I picked her up, looking into her soft green eyes.
“Vali, what is it?”
She pointed over to her little sister. “Sister plway with Vali?”
“No, Vali. Seraphina’s not old enough to play.”
My oldest daughter pouted and started squirming around in my hands. “I wanna plway!”
“Mommy can play with you,” I told her, and she stopped wiggling around.
I put her down and she ran as fast as she could over to the playroom. Dani and I had gotten her a new castle playset for Christmas, and she’s been playing with it practically every day since.
The intricate worlds Vali was able to come up with amazed me time and time again. For such a little girl that still needed help with everything, her imagination seemed fully developed.
“Hey guys, I’m home,” Dani exclaimed, smiling.
I looked up at her, and then to the clock. “Dang, it’s already 4?”
“Yeah. How long have you and Vali been playing?”
“About an hour,” I replied. “How was the preschool?”
“It was really good. The teachers seemed to really care about the kids.”
Valentina was only 2 now, but we needed to sign her up for next year’s session now or it would fill up.
“Oh, really? Can I go today?”
“Um, yeah, they’re open until 5, if we hurry, we can get back in time.”
I don’t want to wait longer than needed to sign Vali up. Education’s really important – you need it for practically any job.
“Oh, and I noticed Lexie’s back. How long’s she staying?”
“Until she wants to leave,” I replied, waiting for Dani to figure it out.
“Moving back in,” I finished for her.
“So…her and Luca?”
I sighed. “I assume…but she hasn’t said anything about it.”
“I guess we’ll see,” Dani finally said, picking up Valentina.
I was so preoccupied trying to get Vali out the door so we could get to the preschool on time that I hardly even noticed the people standing there.
“Oh my gosh, sorry,” I sighed, getting up. It was our house architect, Evan, and a young lady. “What are you doing here?”
“He has to tell you something,” a young woman piped up from behind him.
“Heather…” he groaned at the woman whom I assumed to be his sister.
“What? You’re not going to chicken out, right?” She chided him, rolling her eyes.
“Is something wrong with the house?” I asked.
“No, no. It’s not that. Can we sit down?”
“Sure, why not.” I guess getting over to the preschool could wait…. If something was wrong, I’d definitely want to know. And this sounded really important.
“I’ve worked with you before,” he started, and I raised my eyebrows. I’m sure I’d remember if we worked together, right? “When you were working on the protests against San Myshuno’s tax laws years ago. My partner, Bay*, and I helped you put up posters.”
San Myshuno? That was so long ago. But now that I was thinking about it… I did remember that. He and I had just never met in person then, that’s why I never recognized him.
Heather rolled her eyes, giving him a look before turning to me. “But that’s not all what he wanted to say.”
“Heather!” He sighed, running his hands through his hair. “But… she’s right. I came here to say…we’re related.”
*Bay is non-binary, and that’s why Evan refers to them as his partner instead of wife or husband, even though the two are married.