So much happened in such a short amount of time, or at least it felt like that. After Elle Saile went to jail, San Myshuno’s council was put under plenty of scrutiny. It was horrible – for them. But for everyone else, I think it was satisfying to finally watch that corrupt system crumble. And crumble it did. I’ll admit, as relieving as it was to watch San Myshuno’s council fall… it was also hard to hear about all the bad things they were doing.
I just wish everyone could do the right thing. They’re in the process of setting up something new and clean for San Myshuno, and hopefully it’s the start of better times for them. Elle didn’t end up being the only one on the council going to jail. She ended up being one of many, in fact. After she was caught, we put all our work into working with nocarbon to get Brindleton to meet their standards.
Working with them for the last couple years has really been one of the most incredible things I’ve ever been a part of. It truly is the beginning of something amazing. We – humans – are not going to make the same mistakes we did in the 20th and 21st centuries. We’re not going to leave this incredible world to waste. We’re revitalizing it. And I’m so glad I was born in the right time to see it happen.
My kids will see even more than I will, whether they care or not. And speaking of kids…
Apparently life wanted to make up for Seraphina’s early birth since I went almost three weeks after my due date before Ethan finally decided it was time.
They were going to have to induce me, but I just wanted to see if labor would happen naturally – and it did. Dani and I had decided to leave the surprise of a boy or girl to the delivery day, and I almost didn’t believe them when they yelled ‘it’s a boy!’ I’d started to think we’d have a family of girls – two moms and four daughters. But instead, my baby boy was born, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.
Seraphina, at least, was thrilled about her little brother’s birth. She was always happy to ‘care for’ her baby brother and was so excited to finally be a big sister.
Valentina, on the other hand, absolutely despised both her siblings after his birth. It was a bit of a shock to see her sudden change in attitude.
While she hadn’t exactly been happy about the new baby, she had been a great big sister to Seraphina. But I suppose it was a big change for her, especially since Dani and I could no longer spend so much time with her. Newborn babies are fully dependent on their parents, and toddlers like her sister are almost fully dependent. I guess it is hard for an eight year old to completely understand how much work it is to care for younger kids. I didn’t understand until she was born, after all. Valentina’s always the one who’s wanted other people to be doing something with her. She always wanted us to be around her, ever since she was born. When she played with her dolls, Valentina always wanted someone playing with her. Seraphina’s perfectly content to play alone, on the other hand.
Whenever we had some extra time, though, we would make sure to play with our oldest daughter. I’d forgotten how much a baby can tire you out and it was just hard to find the energy to spare sometimes, but whenever Ethan ended up sleeping through the night or I somehow found some energy, I’d always try and play with my daughter.
Thankfully, after those first few months, life with three kids became normal to us, and we got in a routine. Vali, too, seemed to have gotten more used to everything and played with her siblings on occasion, but mainly just her sister, not so much with her brother. Ethan couldn’t do much of anything, and it made sense that she’d rather play with her friends. She was always over at Jaden’s, or Emily’s, or one of her other friends’ places, and they were over here pretty often, too.
She was always doing something, and Dani and I were always amazed at everything she was doing. She practically self-taught herself how to play the piano with help from YouTube, and she was always bringing us home fliers about the next play. It made me wish we had more time to watch her grow up. Time seemed to go by so quickly. One day I’d found her suddenly playing the piano that had always sat in our sitting room, untouched; and the next, she was doing mini concerts for us.
And she was good at it, nothing like you’d expect an young girl to be able to do. When she put her mind to something, she’d do it – easily. Just as quickly as it was seeming Valentina was growing up, her sister sprouted up out of nowhere.
And gosh, they have such a different relationship than Lexie and I. Me and my sister almost never fought as kids. We were each others’ best friends – and my daughters’ relationship depends on what kind of day it is. Some days they’re playing outside, or playing dolls, like they’re best friends, while other days they can’t stand each other, especially Vali.
She’s the most vocal about it, at least. Even though Valentina’s the oldest child, Seraphina often seems the more mature out of the two of them. She’s definitely more calm than Vali was when she was seven. Ethan’s a bundle of energy, always running around and exploring. It’s intriguing how different Seraphina and Valentina handle the ‘big sister’ role. It might have something to do with their ages, too. Vali was almost two when her sister was born, and Seraphina was five. She loves spending her time playing with her little brother and teaching him different words. He’s extremely eager to learn and I can already tell they’re going to be good friends as they grow up.
I’d decided quickly after Ethan’s birth that…well…that had been my last pregnancy. I loved being pregnant, I really did, and I’ll never forget carrying my babies, but it was taxing. While I was pregnant, it was harder for me to do everything else I loved. And I don’t regret my three pregnancies – not even close – but I don’t want to go through it again. By the time we’d want to have our fourth kid, anyway, I’d be what, almost 40? It’s just not exactly something I’d want to go through anymore. The topic of the next kid was just thrown around after his first birthday, since it’s definitely something you have to plan. Dani fully understood why I didn’t want to get pregnant – after all, she had never wanted to put her body through that.
After I’d decided that a fourth pregnancy wasn’t something I wanted, I started thinking about adoption, since I still wanted a big family. Dani loved the idea, too, and we signed up for an adoption agency a few weeks after I told her, since it can take a while for everything to fit together. We just wanted our information there to make the whole process easier for when it was time.
“Dang, I can’t believe how big our girls are now,” Dani said, shaking her head as we watched them play together.
Gosh, I couldn’t either. It felt like just yesterday that I found out I was pregnant with Valentina. A lot has happened since then. It feels like forever and yesterday at the same time. Is that possible? Well, it must be, right? My thoughts were interrupted from a surprised scream from my oldest daughter as Seraphina finally found her. They were playing hide and seek now, I’m guessing.
“I know, right? And Ethan, too. He’s gotten so big!”
“All our kids are growing up,” she smiled softly. They certainly were. It’s hard to believe I’m the mother of a ten year old now.
“The adoption agency called back today while you were at work,” I told her, “and they were wondering if we have a preference for age.”
“Well… I don’t. Unless you wanted a baby, which I’d be happy with too, I don’t have ‘baby fever’ anymore. Honestly, I’m kind of over the whole diaper stage after doing it three times, and I’d be just as happy to adopt a 6 or 7 year old child.”
I had been thinking about that recently. With all the kids growing up, I hadn’t been sure if I wanted to add a baby to the mix again. Another elementary-school age kid would still be a change, but it might be easier for…well… everyone. And…I know the older kids aren’t adopted as often, either. “I agree. I’d be just as happy to adopt a young child, too.”
“So, does that settle it? Ethan’s going to be the youngest?”
I chuckled. I hadn’t even though of that. Our little boy would be the baby of the family forever. Ooh, he’s gonna hate us for that when he’s older. “Yeah. The more I think about it…the more I think it’s the best choice for our family.”
Dani grinned as she wrapped her arm around me. “Our soon-to-be family of six.”
“Mama, it’s getting dark! Can we go now?” Seraphina pulled on my wife’s arm with big, wide eyes. She was terrified of the dark. Absolutely terrified. Some nights, her nightlight wasn’t bright enough to calm her down and she went to bed with the lights on. Vali endlessly teased her about it – since she’s not scared of anything.
“You big baby,” Vali groaned, “it’s not even that dark! If you can see your hand, it’s not dark!”
“Vali, it was time to go home anyway.”
She sighed. “Fine.”
I went over to the toddlers’ playset where my little boy had been playing and picked him up only to be met with a scream.
“Ethan, we’ve gotta go.”
“But I explorer!”
I smiled, rustling his hair. “You can explore tomorrow, okay bud?”
He seemed to be contemplating the idea before finally nodding. Ethan was my little explorer, always running around and digging in the backyard. He started walking extremely early, and ever since then, he’s always loved to explore anything. Last summer, all he wanted to do was play around in our yard. We set up a little sandbox for him and hid things in it. He had a blast. Today had been such a nice day that we’d decided to walk over instead of drive. The girls were talking about something the whole walk back, so I figure they’ve forgotten about the argument they’d just had yesterday.
“Anything going on in school, girls?”
I always ask them the same question over dinner, and now, at least, they always answer. Even Seraphina, who’s always pretty quiet. I know someday, they’ll answer with some variation of ‘nothing’ so I’m always happy to hear about their life.
“I got an A in my science project,” Seraphina said with a grin.
“Great job, honey!” I remember that project clearly. She came home and instantly started working on it all by herself. Dani and I helped her work on it, too, but everything had been her idea. She reminds me of myself when I was her age. I loved learning. I still do. Even Vali helped out when she’d came back from drama club.
“What about you, Vali?”
“I got a B+ on my math test and I won the art show!”
I grinned. School didn’t come as naturally to Valentina as it did to her sister, so that B+ was definitely something to be proud of. And while Vali might not be as naturally gifted in school, she was extremely gifted in things that took more creativity than logic.
“That’s great!” I was practically glowing with pride. My daughters were each amazing in their own way, and I couldn’t wait to see what the future would bring for them.
“I hope everyone likes mac & cheese, because I made plenty to go around,” Dani grinned, laying a plate in front of each of us.
“Thank you, Mama,” Seraphina said to Dani. She’s always so well-mannered.
Vali’s eyes lit up after taking her first bite, and she nodded. “This is amazing!”
“Thank you, girls,” Dani smiled, looking to me as she whispered, “it’s just from a box, I’m not Lexie.”
I chucked softly. Our daughters were right, though. This was great mac & cheese, especially since it came from a box.
“Speaking of Lexie, where is she?”
“I don’t know. Maybe she’s working late again?”
“Probably.” Just as she finished talking, we heard the door open and Lexie rushed in the room, looking a bit flustered.
“We were just wondering where you were,” Dani smiled, “do you want dinner?”
“Uh, yeah.” She sat down next to me, still looking like her mind was in a completely different place. “Oh wait, no. I already had dinner with my boyfriend,” she explained quickly as a smile spread across her face, “or should I say fiancé?”
My jaw dropped and I was completely, utterly speechless. Fiancé? I didn’t even know they’d been talking about engagement or marriage yet, but Watcher, I was so happy for her. My little sister is getting married! Seraphina was still confused at everyone’s shocked reactions, but I could tell that Vali had caught on.
“Oh my WATCHER,” I squealed, squeezing her hand tightly.
“Auntie, are you gonna wear a princess dress?” Vali asked her, grinning.
“We’ll see,” Lexie replied, turning back to me with a big smile.
“I’m so happy for you,” I gushed. My sister has gone through so much and she deserves this happily ever after.
“Mommy, what’s going on?” Seraphina tilted her head, looking from Lexie and back to me.
I grinned. Seraphina had probably never heard the work fiancé before. Valentina’s teacher last year was getting married, so that’s why Vali knew. “Your Aunt Lexie is getting married!”
Her eyes widened as she gasped. “Married? Like my mommies?”
Lexie smiled, nodding. “Exactly like that. Except I’m getting married to a boy.”
“I wanna get married in space,” Seraphina exclaimed. I wasn’t surprised. Seraphina loved all things science and space related. We’d even decorated her room to look sort of like the night sky.
“Why’d you wanna do that?” Vali asked. “I’m getting married in a palace in a big, fancy dress!”
Seraphina stuck out her tongue at her big sister. “You’re not a princess!”
“Who cares? I can still wear a fancy dress!”
“Ok, girls, you’re not getting married anytime soon, and this is about Aunt Lexie.” I wanted to stop them from getting into some big argument about this, like I know they easily could. I was thrilled for my sister. I always knew she’d find the perfect guy for her, even if she didn’t always believe that. And now she’s engaged to a guy who’s great for her. I’m so proud of her.
A/N: 2500 words, this chapter was a long one, but a lot happened! 😛