“Vali, can you get the door?” I asked. It was probably just Dani coming in. Nobody else was supposed to come, after all, and not many people would want to walk up all those stairs unless they were coming inside. My daughter walked over to the door and I picked my phone back up.
“Yes, what is it?” It was Jake. He was one of our teenage interns years ago, and had never left. Now he was one of the people managing Brindleton’s finances. I still had a lot to do for the New Years party Dani and I were planning, so I just wanted to finish this call and get back to it.
“I found some discrepancies in our financial statements,” he said, “but I’m sure someone just made a mistake down the line. I just wanted to tell you.”
“Oh, okay. But it’s not a big deal, right?”
“Yeah, it’s probably nothing.”
“Ok. Happy new year, Jake.”
“Happy new year, Mrs. Clemonte.”
“Please, it’s Adelaide.”
He chuckled on the other end. “Ok, Happy new year, Adelaide.
“Mommmmy, I don’t know this person,” Valentina announced, crossing her arms.
“Be right there,” I said, pressing my arm around my stomach, trying to quell this sudden burst of morning sickness. The hardest part about keeping a pregnancy a secret was…well, everything.
I rushed over, and peeked through the window to see who they were. It wasn’t a delivery person, or someone selling cookies, like I expected.
“Oh my Watcher, Lexie!” I screamed, hugging my sister tightly. I hadn’t seen her in person for three years. Yeah, she’d called, and sent countless letters through the years from Selvadorada, but it wasn’t the same as her being here, really being here.
“You’re really here!”
She nodded, smiling. “Yeah, Adelaide, I’m really here. Gosh, it’s been forever, hasn’t it? How are the girls?”
“They’re great. Valentina’s doing pretty well in school, and she’s been drawing a lot… oh, and Seraphina always loves playing with her big sister.”
“Mommy?” I turned around to my oldest daughter’s puzzled face.
“Who is that?”
“That’s your auntie Lexie,” I explained, “the one who’s always sending us letters.” I wasn’t exactly surprised she didn’t remember what her aunt looked like; she’d only been four years old when Lexie left to Selvadorada.
“Is she moving in?”
I turned to Lexie. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. She had been living in Selvadorada for the last three years, so even if she was coming back to Brindleton, I wasn’t sure if she would still live with us. She had originally gone on vacation just to take some time for herself, but those few months turned into a year and that year turned into three. She like the environment there – and I don’t mean the plants and animals. She liked the social environment. Lexie had always hated how society expected to act: always pretending there was nothing wrong, not being too emotional, etc. And Lexie was never good at things like that… but in Selvadorada, it was different. She really liked it there. She’d gush about the place in practically every letter. There was always something she had to talk about.
“Yes. I’m moving back in,” Lexie finally said, looking at me, waiting for my reaction.
She nodded excitedly, looking from me to my daughter.
“So you’ve been on vacation like forever? That’s so cool! What’s it like?” Vali looked up at her aunt eagerly, and I smiled.
It wasn’t long before it was like Lexie had never left. She got along great with both of the girls. Vali was just excited she had someone else to play with – and Lexie was more than happy to spend time with her.
“Valentina, you ready?” I called, walking over to her room. No answer. Gosh, why’d we have to get such good insulation? The closer I got, the more I could hear a sound that seemed like crying. If anyone hurt my baby girl…
“Are you okay?” I burst into her room and saw her standing there crying. The second I started talking, she stopped and looked up at me, confused.
“Then…why were you crying?”
“I’m practicing for drama club,” my daughter said proudly, “I’m trying to get the lead!”
“Oh, honey, that’s great! But are you ready for the New Year’s party?”
“Uh huh! Was I good?”
Well, she certainly made me think she was crying…so I’d say yes. Hopefully, she doesn’t get too good at acting. I don’t want my daughter to be able to lie to me. “Yeah, Vali, you were great.”
Drama club, huh? I’m glad my little girl has found something she enjoys. She’s always been great at getting the attention of a room. I know whenever I bring her to the park, it only takes a few minutes before she has everyone playing tag or hide and seek with her. She’s a natural people person.
“Everyone ready?” I called up.
“Yeah, just trying to get Seraphina dressed,” my wife called back. Seraphina was in that phase where she did not want any clothes on, and it was annoying as heck.
“It’s so cold here,” Lexie complained.
I laughed, rolling my eyes. “You’ve been in Selvadorada too long. It’s actually warm for winter.”
She scoffed. “Since when is 35° warm?”
“It’s winter in Brindleton. You’re lucky it’s not in the negatives. Anyway, speaking of Selvadorada…you bringing your Selvadoradaian boyfriend, or what?”
She rolled her eyes, blushing.
“Oh come on! Are you?”
“Yes,” she replied, still blushing. I hadn’t met the guy yet, so I was definitely looking forward to meeting him. She’d met him about a year ago, and all I know about him is that he makes my sister happy. But you know, that’s enough.
It seems like we have a big family, but we don’t really. The only people that are related to us here are Kiara and her kids as well as Evan and Heather. Besides that, everyone else is our friends. I know some people have like 20 cousins. But Valentina and Seraphina will grow up in a big family. Dani and I still plan to have four kids and if Lexie has kids…there’s going to be a lot of kids in that generation. It’s been just Lexie and I for a really long time. Yes, Kiara’s in our generation, but she was born so much earlier than us it feels like she’s in a separate generation. Her daughter was born when I was ten!
“Here,” Lexie said, putting a drink of I-don’t-know-what in my hand. It looked good, but there was just one problem… I can’t drink right now.
“Lexie, I’m about to tell you something that you can’t share with anyone for the rest of the night.”
She raised her eyebrows. Okay, maybe that did sound kind of suspicious, but I hadn’t been waiting for today just for her to tell everyone.
“Go on,” she said, looking at me intently.
I looked around, and then leaned in, whispering, “I’m pregnant.”
Her eyes grew to the size of saucers in an instant. “What?”
“Yeah. 8 weeks. I’m making an announcement tonight.”
Lexie smiled, glancing at my stomach. “Do you and Dani know if they’re a boy or a girl?”
I rested my hand on my stomach slightly, as to not be too obvious. “It’s too early for that…and she doesn’t know.”
If Lexie’s eyes weren’t already bugging out, they sure were now. I hadn’t been sure whether to try and get pregnant as a surprise to her, but I just wanted to have that moment. I wanted to surprise my wife with the news of our third child. It’s easy for, you know, heterosexual couples. Even if they’re trying to get pregnant, the woman is the one who can take the pregnancy test and surprise her husband with it – especially if the baby was unplanned. I just wanted to do that for Dani. It’s not like we weren’t talking about baby #3. It’s been 5 years since Seraphina was born. Our daughters will have a pretty big age gap with this new baby, especially Valentina. She’s already going to first grade. She’s seven, for Watcher’s sake. I always wanted my kids to be close, like Lexie and I are, but it’s kinda hard to be that kind of close with someone seven years younger.
“She. Doesn’t. KNOW?”
“Lexie, quiet down.”
“I went through all the treatments and stuff in secret. Learning that you’re having another kid is probably the biggest surprise of your life. I wanted to give that to her.”
“That’s actually pretty sweet…so I guess I’ll be having this,” she smirked, taking the drink out of my hand.
There’s no better way to celebrate the new year than catching up with everyone you care about. It’s crazy that me and my high school friends are still so close, but we are.
Valentina and Jaden are still like peas in a pod. Even as Vali’s found a ton of girl friends, she’s always stayed close with Jaden. Lyric and I joke they’ll get married someday. Now wouldn’t that be something, huh?
“Hey, where are the kids?”
“Seraphina’s right there,” I said, pointing the the couch, where my littlest daughter was fast asleep. I scanned the room for Vali, but she was nowhere to be found. I saw her a few minutes ago, where could she be?
Lyric and I exchanged a look and we went to the front desk, asking where two seven-year-olds could’ve run off to.
“They got bored of the adults’ party, now did they?” The receptionist chuckled, pointing upstairs. “I’d bet they went exploring and ended up in our bowling area.”
I told Vali specifically to not go wandering, but of course she did it anyway. She’s always liked bending rules. Even when she was a toddler, she managed to get into so much trouble. I thought it was just because she was young, but Seraphina doesn’t do half the things her older sister did.
I picked out my red-headed daughter from the crowd the second I got up there, and Jaden was right behind her.
Vali instantly noticed me and bit her lip.
“I told you not to -”
“We were bored,” my daughter interrupted, “there’s nothing fun down there.”
“That doesn’t change the fact I told you not to leave the room.”
“Can we just finish this game? Please?”
I sighed, looking to Lyric, who nodded. “Yeah, fine.”
“I can’t believe her,” I muttered, “I would’ve never disobeyed my mom.”
“Yeah, but she isn’t you, Adelaide. And who can blame her? There really isn’t much for the kids to do downstairs.” They had all just been sitting around downstairs, but still.
I had to admit, this place did look fun, but that doesn’t mean Vali should’ve come up here without my permission. And how did she pay, anyway? They finished the game just in time for us to bring them down for the New Year’s Eve countdown.
“Where were you? I was afraid you were going to miss it,” Dani whispered.
“Finding our daughter,” I replied, and Dani furrowed her eyebrows. “She went upstairs with Jaden without telling us.”
“We’ll talk to her later,” Dani murmured as the countdown went on in the background.
“3 – 2 – 1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!” Everyone screamed, and Dani pulled me into a kiss. When we pulled apart, I saw my sister kissing her boyfriend, and I smiled.
“Okay, everyone,” I exclaimed, trying to get everyone’s attention, “I have an announcement.”
I saw Dani look over to me, confused. I sure hope when she said it was time to have another baby, she wasn’t kidding.
“Everyone…. I’m pregnant!”
I saw Dani’s eyes widen, and I walked over to her, smiling.
“I wanted to surprise you… so I went to Dr. Mireles a few months ago asking about doing another round.”
She grinned, and tears actually started to run down her cheeks.
“Okay, those are happy tears, right? You weren’t joking when you said it was time for baby #3?”
“Happy tears,” she nodded, pulling me into a hug. “This is the best way I could’ve imagined starting the new year.”