One day, they have plenty of years left of their childhood. There’s plenty of years until their awkward middle school phase, for you to help them through it, and for you to watch them grow into their own. And then bam. All those years pass by in a flash, almost like they never happened, and you’re left wondering where the time went. You see, the thing about routine is that it’s easy for days to blend together, and before you know it, a week’s gone by. And then – a month. And a year. And so on and so forth. It happens to all of us. It makes me wish I had spent just a bit more time truly thinking about life instead of just letting those years pass me by. And it’s not like all those years just went by like –that– even if it can feel like exactly like that sometimes. It didn’t. I have clear memories of Valentina’s middle school years, Seraphina and the twins’ elementary school days, and Ethan’s first day of kindergarten. Everything happened. It just happened so fast.
My little girl is almost a grown woman now. Her 16th birthday was a few weeks ago, and it’s still hard to believe.
But then she’ll ask for the keys to go out and I’ll suddenly remember – oh yeah, she’s 16. Damn. She wasted no time in getting a driver’s license; we were waiting in line the day of her birthday, in fact. The first words she said to Dani and I that day were asking us to bring her down to get her license.
“Are you sure about this?” I asked Dani. She looked over to me and we both started laughing. We were about to go on a weekend vacation to San Myshuno to celebrate our 17th anniversary. We had though about taking some time for ourselves plenty of times over the last years but we could never find the time where it would’ve made sense. It’s hard to find any time to just be us while raising five kids, and I’ll admit, we’ve taken a vacation day here or there so we could have a few hours to ourselves while the kids were at school. It’s a little nerve-racking leaving the kids alone, but I just keep reminding myself that they aren’t little anymore and can mostly care for themselves… and this vacation is a long time coming. Having time to still be romantic is really important in a relationship, after all. The four older kids really liked the idea – I bet the idea of having no parents around makes them feel grown up. It took a bit more convincing to get Ethan on board… but once we promised him a new stuffed animal, he was all good. It was just too good of an opportunity to pass up with a bunch of festivals available to enjoy each day because of San Myshuno’s spring celebration. Yeah, our actual anniversary is in the dead of winter, but that’s a horrible time to go walking around a city, and once we saw this, we almost instantly knew we wanted to go.
The second I saw the room we were staying at, all my doubts were gone. It was absolutely gorgeous – and perfect for a romantic day with my wife.
“Damn,” Dani murmured, perfectly voicing my thoughts.
“I know,” I said, still taking in this huge room. When I booked a suite, I had no idea it would this luxurious. And while I wouldn’t want my house to look like this, it was just what you would want for a nice weekend stay. It’s nice to indulge once in a while.
“My gosh, I can’t believe the kids are 3 hours away,” Dani breathed as she flopped down on the bed.
“Good thing, right?”
“Definitely,” she grinned, sitting up suddenly and pulling my head towards hers until there was only a millimeter of space between us, and she whispered seductively, “because now, I can do this.” That space between our lips was closed before long, and all I could think was – fuck – in the best way possible. I had almost forgotten what it felt like to feel this. We try to keep our sex life alive, but sometimes it was just hard to have good sex when you’re trying to be as quiet as possible and you’re already tired from work and caring for the kids. My Watcher, we have to take some time away more often… or put our room somewhere much, much farther away from the kids’. I’d say we put that extremely ornate bed to good use…
“Oh…” I exhaled softly as we both lay next to each other, staring into each others’ eyes.
“I have absolutely no regrets about taking this vacation now,” Dani murmured, “and it’s only been a few hours.”
“Mmm,” I whispered, twirling a piece of her red hair that all our biological children had inherited, “You know I love you, right?”
She smiled widely, resting her hand against my cheek. “You just showed me. But seriously, of course I do. I love you so much.”
“You’re the best thing that has ever happened to me,” Dani whispered.
“You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me, too,” I replied softly, looking into her eyes.
“No, really. I was so lost when I first came here. And then you came along, and I started to find myself again. I really did.”
Tears started forming in my eyes, and I squeezed her tighter. “You showed me what it’s really like to truly, fully love someone.”
We sat up and just laid in each others’ arms for a while, simply taking in this moment. And for now, it was just us. Simply us, together.
We turned on a cute rom-com to relax with since we both knew we were not getting back here until much later, with tonight being the Romance Festival and all.
All the flyers said it lasted until eleven, but all the reviews said people stayed until at least two and one couple said they didn’t make it out until five, and that’s because the clean-up crew kicked them out. Festivals are what everyone thinks of once you say San Myshuno now. They did an unbelievably good job of getting San Myshuno back on track after the council fiasco. Much of their advertising focused on rediscovering their cultural diversity and modernity. Those things had always been a big part of San Myshuno, but it had gotten overshadowed by their messed-up politics – and with that out of the way, I think everyone was happy that San Myshuno had gotten back to its roots. They most certainly had done a great job with the festivals.
So many people had taken a night off from their busy lives to come here – the area was packed, and it had just started.
“What do we do first?” Dani asked, looking around the busy scene. Everyone was doing something, and there was so much going on.
I looked over to my wife, then looked back to the whole scene. “Are you hungry? We should probably get in line if you are?”
She shrugged. “Nah, I can wait until the line dies down. Let’s check out the fountains.”
The drink fountains were spilling over with a glowing pink drink simply labeled ‘Sakura Tea’. It was a staple of the Romance Festival, and many people said the effervescent drink had a tendency to make anyone extremely flirty. All my instincts told me not to drink anything that was even glowing a little, but you only live once, right?
“Whoa, I can tell why people remember this,” I exclaimed after taking the first sip. It was very fizzy, but once that faded away, you were left with a pleasant fruity taste in your mouth. Dani looked at me with wide eyes, nodding.
Maybe it was the flirty vibe of this place, or just the fact that it was pretty far into the night, but mostly everything after that was a blur. My clearest memory from that night the next morning was Dani and I renewing our vows to each other – for the second time. The first time had been our second wedding.
Needless to say, the Romance Festival was exactly what the name implies. We left before most everyone else – even though it was three am. It felt a bit silly to be out so late, and I’ve never been one for parties anyway. But, it was definitely a fun experience. We were going to call the kids, but seeing as it was so late, we chose to call them in the morning instead.
“Hi, Mommy,” Seraphina’s voice replied.
I couldn’t help but smile at the sound of my daughter’s voice. Even though it had only been a day, I already missed my kids, no matter how nice all this time alone with my wife was. “How’s everything going?”
“It’s great. I beat Grayson at chess, and he’s playing blickbloc now. I’m trying to make a speed potion for Benji because Jackson’s trying to make her really fast.” We originally though the dog we were adopting would be a boy dog, but even though we the one we eventually picked ended up being female, Jackson decided to keep the name Benji.
She and Grayson were still pretty close, even as their interests slightly started to differ. Seraphina was more hands-on, and she loved making new concoctions, while Grayson had started to be more into the computer stuff, coding and all. They would still team up to try and do things together, and I think they’re the closest of all my kids. The two recently even signed up for Scouts together. “What about your other siblings?”
“Uhm, Jackson’s trying to train Benji through a bunch of hoops he set up outside, and Ethan’s trying to find buried treasure.”
Nieva had passed a few years ago and it seemed like a good time to finally get the dog Jackson had been begging us for. Ethan has never lost his interest in digging around, so I wasn’t surprised he was searching for some mythical buried treasure. I bet one of his siblings said it existed, honestly. There was just one thing Seraphina had missed… “What about your sister?”
“Oh, she’s in her room painting. I assume, because I don’t hear her violin anymore and she hasn’t left the room yet.”
“Okay, honey. Thank you. I love you.”
“Love you, mom.”
“Tell the other kids your mama and I love them too, okay?”
I turned to Dani, smiling. “They’re all good.”
“Of course they are, they’re big kids now,” she replied, kissing me softly on my cheek.
We spent the rest of that day exploring the city and its various attractions. We aren’t really big art fans, so the Casbah Gallery wasn’t really on our list, but when we ended up over in that area we decided to give it a shot.
I don’t know how people call some splashes of paint art, but there were many insanely detailed paintings there that we made sure to take pictures of to show Vali. She’s pretty into art as well as music and I know she’d hate that I called some paintings splashes of paint, but it’s true! It was really interesting even just walking around; the bustling city is so different from quiet Brindleton.
The day went by fast, and the Humor and Hijinks festival crept up on us. We managed to get there right on time to see them light off the starting fireworks. It brought back so many memories. The last time I’d been at this festival, Dani and I weren’t even dating – although I wished we were. Watcher, that seems like ages ago. I suppose it was, though…more than twenty years ago. Damn, that makes us sound so old! I know we aren’t young by any means – we have a sixteen year old daughter, for goodness sake – but I don’t feel that old. It’s a good thing, I guess.
“Do you think we should join the yellow team again?” Dani asked, gesturing towards the glowing golden fountain. Obviously, she remembered that night, too.
“Yes,” I grinned, “let’s just hope we have better luck with this glowing drink than yesterday’s.”
She laughed – I’ve always loved her laugh – and picked us both out a cup that was filled with the golden liquid soon enough. We watched a group of young adult friends go straight to the bubble blowers as they talked loudly about one of their group members. Young adulthood seems so long ago. Gosh, maybe I am old.
“Remember when we tried those?” Dani laughed, pointing over to the group.
“How could I forget?” I giggled as one of the boys in the group reluctantly grabbed the tube.
“Gosh, I was so nervous.” Nervous? She’d done it so well! I was the nervous one; I practically choked on the stuff!
“You were nervous?”
“Yeah. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of a pretty girl…”
“You liked me then?” I asked, the gears in my mind turning faster and faster. If she did –
“Of course. I was wondering if it would’ve been a horrible time to ask you out that whole time,” she chuckled.
Oh my Watcher. The whole time, I had been wishing we could’ve been together, too. If I’d known she felt the same way, we could’ve been dating then. Gosh. No way.
“No way,” I whispered, in awe of this newfound information. She liked me then, too.
“If I remember correctly, I threw out a few subtle flirts that night.”
“I thought I was overanalyzing it,” I laughed. Her eyes widened and I realized that she was just now figuring out that I liked her back then.
“Yeah, we both liked each other but were too chicken,” I smirked, laying an arm around her.
“It worked out anyway,” she grinned, kissing me softly, “it definitely worked out.”
We had to make our way back to the hotel to get our stuff not too long after that, because we were going back home tonight. As much fun as this has been, I’m definitely ready to see my kids again. I’ve gotten used to our busy life. The three hours it took to get back to Brindleton seemed to go by in a flash, since we spent the whole time talking. We’ve always been able to talk about anything, and five kids and seventeen years later, it still holds as true as ever – even if we talk about different things now than we did when we were twenty.
“Mommy, mama!” Ethan exclaimed the second we opened the door, wrapping me, and then Dani, into a hug.
He’s our little boy, and probably always will be. He’s eight now, which is absolutely crazy. The last thing I expected coming home at five in the morning was all our kids there to see us. I looked around, subconsciously counting heads. When you have five kids, it’s just something you end up doing all the time. Four. Wait… “Guys, where’s your sister?”
Ethan pointed towards Seraphina, and I sighed. “No, your oldest sister. Where is she?”
Sera and Grayson both exchanged a look as the other two shrugged. But, before I had a chance to question them, Valentina walked in the back door, looking extremely surprised to see us there. If not for her green eyes, I might not have recognized her at all.
“Valentina! Where have you been?”
“And what did you do?” Dani added.
“Dang, stop the interrogation already! I was just out, and I dyed my hair, it’s pretty obvious,” she rolled her eyes and started to walk upstairs.
“Uh, no, you’re not going anywhere, young lady.”
“Okay, fine. Am I supposed to sleep on the sofa, then?”
“Valentina, you better stop that right now.”
She sighed, crossing her arms. “Okay. What do you want?”
“You’re supposed to be watching over your younger siblings, not doing whatever it was you were doing! How long were you out?”
“Dunno, a few hours or something. And they aren’t like babies, they can care for themselves! Gosh, you’re so overprotective!”
At this point, the rest of the kids had all left the room, and I don’t blame them. I doubt they want to hear an argument between their moms and their sister. Valentina had been a bit of a spitfire; always willing to stand up for herself. It was a good trait to have – sometimes. She was very bold, and she often did things without thinking, and it easily got her into trouble.
“Go to your room. You’re grounded.”
“Whatever,” she scoffed, narrowing her eyes to slits as she walked by. Watcher. She was such a drama queen, and it got on my nerves like nothing else.
“Hey, she’s sixteen. It’s when people do crazy things,” Dani said, trying to calm me down, but I could tell she wasn’t happy about the situation either.
“I’m going to talk to Seraphina,” I sighed, “she and Grayson seemed to know something.”
As I walked upstairs, I heard the slam of Valentina’s bedroom door. Watcher. Seraphina and Grayson were just playing chess together, and they both looked up to me at the same time before looking to each other.
“You guys know something, don’t you?”
Seraphina sighed, nodding. Grayson leaned back in his chair before nodding, too. “We were getting some flowers outside for our latest experiment when we saw her about to leave. She told us not to say anything,” Grayson explained.
“Are we in trouble?” Seraphina asked.
I shook my head. “No. You were just protecting your sister. Tell us next time, okay?”
“Okay,” they nodded. I started to walk away before I thought of something else.
“Has she left you all alone other times this weekend?”
Grayson shrugged. “We’re all kinda doing our own things. It’s possible.”
Sera bit her lip, sighing. “She has. Saturday, I heard her talking to her friends about some talent show. I’m pretty sure she went. Don’t tell her we snitched, please. We’re all fine, it’s not a big deal.”
“I won’t tell.” But it is a big deal. I was pissed – at my own daughter. Why would she think it was a good idea to leave her siblings alone? She wasn’t thinking, of course. She never is.
A/N: Just wanted to put in this picture of Valentina once she aged up – the outfit she aged up in is so her! And I just love how the light coming through the windows in the hotel pictures look, lol. 🙂