An ear splitting cry wakes me from the coma I was in, every muscle and nerve I have jerking violently, my heart racing.
Sookie whines beside me, flinging the covers back to get up.
I reach out and grab her before she goes too far. “I got him. Go back to sleep, babe.” She’s already been up twice tonight that I was conscious enough to notice.
She burrows back under the covers and from somewhere beneath her pillow, I hear her muffled, “Thank you, now hurry, before he wakes up, Bella.”
I force myself to my feet, rubbing my face in hopes it will clear some of the exhaustion away. I don’t know why I bother, we’ve been walking around like zombies for months now. Between him and his big sister, sleep isn’t something we get much of. One of the many joys of parenthood.
When I make it to his crib and see the fat tears rolling down his chubby cheeks, his little chin quivering, the exhaustion doesn’t much matter anymore.
“Hey, buddy boy. Shhhh, daddy’s gotcha,” I coo at him, scooping him up.
He rubs his little face in my neck, his pitiful cries calming a fraction. I make the usual three laps around the room, rubbing his back and bouncing as I go, before I risk changing him. We learned quick he’ll kick his screams into the blood curdling range if you don’t calm him down first.
As soon as I deem it safe I lay him on the changing table. Thank God, Sook just put a t-shirt on him. My giant fingers do not do well with tiny snaps and buttons.
“Which is it this time, bud?” I ask him, while pulling his diaper off, keeping my voice soft, but happy. I’m sure my face looks ridiculous, eyes wide, smile just past over exaggerated. But who cares, he’s not screaming anymore.
I take a quick peek to assess the damage. Thank you, Lord. No shits for daddy to clean up.
Holding him with one hand I grab a cloth diaper with the other, then make the switcheroo–wet diaper in the trash, cloth one covering up his water pistol. It only took one squirt in the face for me to learn that trick. The boy’s got range, and excellent aim.
He’s a happy squirming bundle of arms and legs now that he’s free of his sopping diaper. “This would go much faster if you’d be still, you know? How many times do we gotta do this before you figure that out?”
Raspberries and gurgles is the only response I get.
“It’s a good thing you’re cute.” I pick him up, giving his neck rolls a good kiss, then grab a blanket and his passie and head to the kitchen for a fresh bottle. I’m almost there when something grabs my pants, giving them a tug. “Shit!” I half whisper, half yell, turning to see what’s got ahold of me.
Of course it’s my daughter. Looking too adorable by far to be mad at in her tiny Wonder Woman night gown, blonde curls a messy halo, her big eyes swollen and sleepy, clutching her blankie. “Bella, babe, what are you doing up? It’s still night-nite time.”
Naturally she ignores that detail completely. “You says an uggie word, daddy.”
“Yes, I know. You scared me. I’m sorry.” I adjust Jon Nik so I’m holding him with one arm, then take her outstretched little hand in my other and walk us to the living room. His little engine revs up the second we turn right instead of left towards the kitchen and his bottle. No amount of bouncing or back rubbing will make up for the delay either.
“I wanna seep wif mama,” Bella pouts, but climbs on anyway, as I help her up on the sofa. She snuggles with her blanket, looking up at me with her Mama’s face. She’s an exact copy of Sookie, personality and all. My perfect little angel.
I put my son on mute for hopefully the next five minutes, popping his passie in his mouth. Still bouncing and now patting his back. “Mama’s been up all night with Jon Nik. Let me get him a bottle and we’ll lay down with you, okay?” I try to appease my first born.
“Otay.” She yawns so big I’m surprised her little jaw doesn’t crack “Can I has some juice too, daddy?”
“Yeah, wait right there, punk.”
“I not a punk, daddy. I’m a punkin.”
“Begging your pardon, princess punkin.”
I can’t help but smile hearing her giggles as I walk to the kitchen. Jon continues his impersonation of an engine with a dead battery until I get his bottle heated. Poor kiddo was the best baby till his teeth started coming in. It’s been hell for weeks now. He attacks his bottle as soon as I stick it in his mouth, his little gums biting down so hard on the nipple it’s a wonder he doesn’t bite it off. I hate not being able to make him feel better.
Before we join Bella on the sofa I make sure to close all the curtains across the porch doors and windows. There’s nothing that wakes a kid up faster than daylight.
“Bella, sit up babe so daddy can sit down, then you can lay in my lap, okay?”
She grumbles a little, but soon we’re all three settled down for what I hope is a few more hours sleep. Thank goodness for Saturdays.
Bella’s little hand grabs a fist full of my shirt, giving it three good tugs. “Pay wif my hair, daddy.”
I smile, because how can I not. Her tiny voice is adorable just like everything else about her, including her quirk of needing her hair played with to fall asleep. Reaching down I run my fingers through her curls, careful not to catch too many tangles.
Jon’s chowing down, already halfway through his bottle and that close to sleep too. His little eyelids keep drooping closed, staying that way a bit longer each time while he does that precious sighing and panting thing all babies do when they eat. I can’t help but kiss his downy, almost white hair and breathe in his baby smell.
As exhausted as I am, snuggling with my babies is pretty close to perfection. Having Sook here with us is the only thing that would make it better.
Needing to stay awake till Jon’s done-if I don’t burp him he’ll puke all over us then nobody will get any sleep–my eyes scan the room looking for distractions. Sookie’s picture wall works well. The room’s mostly dark, but the light over the stove is giving off a warm glow so I can still make out most of our faces smiling out of the frames across the room. I can see each picture in my mind anyway, I’ve looked at most of them everyday for the last five years now.
The first one to grace the wall was our wedding portrait. It’s still there, front and center. She was so beautiful that day. Next to having our mini me’s it was the best day of our lives. My eyes trail to the two pictures on the right, then the two on the left, all from our honeymoon. The first is me and her with the Italian Alps behind us, then one of us in our bathing suits lounging on a beach in the Mediterranean. The third, a selfie we took in the beautiful streets of Stockholm, and the last, a family picture with Pam in front of her extravagant Christmas tree.
Sookie insisted we end our honeymoon in London to spend the holidays with her. She wanted the whole shebang–big dinner, tree and presents on Christmas morning. It had been so long since she had a family to have Christmas with we couldn’t tell her no. She was right, of course, it was wonderful to sit around a table filled with enough food for an army, watching Christmas movies till we all dozed off, then waking up to open presents just like we did when we were kids.
As soon as Jon Nik is big enough to handle the flight I’m taking all of us back. Sookie was in heaven the whole time, like a little kid getting a new toy everywhere we went. And even though we stayed for a whole month, we still didn’t see everything we wanted to.
We can skip Christmas in London though. Pam’s home now. She moved back just before Bella was born. She lives in the townhouse and works at SCAD too. I hardly see her there since she’s in the fashion department, but she seems happy, and loves being close to spoil her niece and nephew.
Which she plans on doing tonight and part of tomorrow.
It’s our six year anniversary and I’ve had tonight planned for awhile now. Sookie’s nervous. It’ll be Jon’s first night away from her, but she survived Bella’s, I’m sure she will his. He is her weakness though, Bella is too, and me, but Jon still has a slight lead on us. He’s her baby, and though she’s never said it out loud, I know he reminds her of Lucas. Hell, he reminds me of him from just the pictures I’ve seen.
Sookie marks her children well.
Sometimes he’ll smile a certain way, or make a noise and her eyes will turn glassy, a crease forming between them. Then she’ll shake herself and smile at him before hugging him to her chest.
I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to pry either one of them from her arms tonight. Pam, Alcide, and I have tried to encourage her to let us have a date night at least once a month, but she doesn’t cave very often. Most wives and mothers would love a night off, but not Sookie. Being with me and the kids is her happy place. She still gets tired like every mom does, but never so much she wants to be away from them.
I know why, of course I do, so I never push too hard for us to have alone time. They go to bed early and take naps, so it’s not like we never have any. It’s just always at home, mostly frantic and rushed, but sometimes not. Either way we still haven’t lost our passion for each other. It’s different now, softer, but even sweeter.
Our whole lives are sweeter. Both of us know what’s most important and have made a silent pact to never lose sight of that. The last six years haven’t been all sunshine and roses, but we faced whatever came our way together and have always came out the other side stronger for it.
The trial wasn’t easy. There was more suppressed anger and anxiety than either of us realized. But, we had a great support system in each other, our friends, and Claudine was always just a phone call away.
We don’t drink Starbucks anymore though.
The bastards got hit with several counts each of attempted murder in the second degree. Both had previous offenses on their records and with the added robbery charges wound up getting twenty-five years each. Still not enough in my book, but it’s better than less.
We were dealing with other things as well during that time too. Sometimes the choice to start a family isn’t as easy as it sounds.
I thought all we needed to do was have Sookie’s IUD removed and then just keep having lots of sex. We were great at that already so my idiot brain expected her to get pregnant within the first month.
It didn’t work out that way. One, two, three, then six months went by and nothing was happening. We were both trying to stay upbeat, but we were breaking a little bit inside with each month that went by. Considering our ages we made a trip to see the doctor. Turns out my swimmers were kind of puny. I had a hard time with it, which I hate myself for when I think back on it, but I got over it. We tried a few tricks and when those still didn’t work we did IVF. My swimmers just needed help getting to the bullseye.
We were ecstatic when those two blue lines showed up on the pregnancy test several weeks later, then devastated when Sookie woke up laying in bloody sheets a few weeks after that.
The next try was the same.
I don’t know which of us felt worse. We both blamed ourselves, but never each other. We cried together, and even more when the other wasn’t looking, and basically did pitiful jobs of pretending we weren’t completely defeated on the inside.
Then the third, and what we had decided would be the final attempt came. When the lines showed up again we met them with tentative smiles and anxious heartbeats. The next three months were lived on egg shells and tightropes. With everyday that passed our hope grew, though we tried not to let it. We knew the pain of having that hope crushed all too well. But, six months later our baby girl came into the world with the most beautiful cries I’d ever heard.
Isabella Grace was eight pounds, two ounces, and twenty-three inches of perfection with blue eyes and blonde hair. We’d never been happier and every bit of the heartache we endured to bring her into the world was worth it.
Jon’s beginning was much less painful. For awhile we said we couldn’t go through it again, we even used contraception so we wouldn’t risk another miscarriage. But as Bella’s second birthday crept closer and closer so did the baby fever, for both of us. We chose to let go and let God as they say. If it was meant to be we’d have another child, if it wasn’t we had our Bella.
It only took three months. I knew she was pregnant before she did. She was too tired, didn’t want me anywhere near her boobs, and she quit drinking sweet tea. It had made her sick when she was pregnant with Bella. She took what felt like the hundredth pregnancy test and I was proven correct. Then the wait began, those nerve-wracking months of fear and worry, trying your damnedest not to hope too much.
None of that was necessary though, our little man arrived four months ago just as healthy and beautiful as his big sister. All nine pounds of him.
The miscarriages affected Sookie deeply, but she proved over and over that she’s the strongest woman I’ve ever known. She consoles herself, saying Lucas had a brother and sister to play with now. She calls all three of them her rainbow babies. Every time we see one in the sky we stop and whisper a prayer. She’s always quietest on those three certain days, and I am too. We stay close, hugging each other and our babies longer and tighter every time those days roll around.
Jon takes a shuddering breath, sleep finally pulling him under. I grab his bottle as it rolls down my chest and toss it to the other end of the sofa, then pat his back till he burps. Bella hasn’t made a peep in the last ten minutes so I shift enough to ease the stiffness in my joints, then let sleep take me again too.
The morning sun wakes me, trying to burn holes through my eyelids. Seconds later my foggy brain registers how quiet the house is and that the bed is empty beside me.
Eric is more than capable of taking care of them so I roll over and snuggle in for a few more minutes. Until my bladder demands attention anyway. Once I’m up, I shuffle down the hall, checking the kid’s rooms. They’re empty. So are the bathrooms. I find the living room quiet too. No TV playing cartoons, the curtains drawn. The kitchen is the same, silent and still.
That’s when I see them, through the pass through over the stove–Eric’s big feet, and Bella’s tiny ones in between them at the end of the sofa.
Heading back to the living room I tiptoe around the sofa. All three of them are sawing logs. Bella’s wedged between her daddy’s legs, her head on his thigh. Jon Nik is laying over his chest, rising and falling with each breath Eric takes. It’s still fairly dark in here with the curtains closed, but I’m pretty certain there’s a puddle of milky drool mixing with Eric’s chest hair. And bless him, his poor neck. How he’s sleeping so hard with it bent like that I have no idea.
I sit down on the coffee table and just watch them, my heart laying there sleeping in three separate bodies, each one the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. It will never not amaze me the capacity our hearts have to love. How with each new person it just grows bigger and bigger to allow room for them. I can’t imagine loving any of them more than I do, yet I know every day I love them more.
Eric and I could have lived happily ever until we were old and grey, just the two of us. But then our precious baby girl was born and suddenly I loved two people with my whole heart. I couldn’t have asked for Eric to be any better than he was, but as soon as he became a daddy he reached a whole new level of amazing. Him and Bella have wrapped each other so tight around their fingers there’s no hope of prying them loose. My heart melts a hundred times a day watching them together.
He’s her hero, and her best friend. She looks at him just like I dreamed our kids would one day, like he hung the moon and the stars. There’s nothing he won’t do if she asks. He still has glittery purple nail polish on his toes from last week’s “makeover” and they had a tea party before bed last night. But flip the coin and Bella wants to do everything daddy does. Ride fast in the Vette, build “funiter”, and go fishing. She’s a very well rounded three year old, tomboy one minute and princess the next.
Eric swears she’s me made over, but he’s marked her every bit as much as I have. Her eyes are the same shade of amazing blue. She has his nose too, and I knew when they measured her after she was born she would be tall and slim like him. Twenty-three inches long! I’ve had to keep her in shorts and skirts all her life because her little legs are too long for anything else to fit her right. Her precious little heart is the most like her daddy though. She’s so loving and gentle, and kind. She’s cries when she watches baby Dory lose her parents, or when Jon’s upset and she can’t make him feel better. Anytime we go shopping she wants to buy presents for people instead of getting anything for herself. I’m definitely biased, but my baby girl is an angel.
And if she’s my angel, Jon Nik is my cherub.
My fat little butterball who’s always smiling until he isn’t. His crying is sharper than any arrow and he’ll hit you with it when you least expect it.
Bella stirs, rubbing her nose, then her eyes. I watch as she sits up, her pale golden curls sticking up every which way. Sleepy eyes find me, and a small smile tugs at the corners of her mouth, but she’s still too asleep for it to reach her eyes.
I let her be until she starts to get too wiggly, then pick her up so she doesn’t wake the other two. She wraps her arms around my neck and lays her head on my shoulder. There’s not much sweeter than a hug from your baby. “I hungy, mama,” she whispers, her fingers playing with my hair.
I get us to the kitchen before I answer her. “Whatcha want this morning? Cereal, pancakes, or bacon and eggs?”
“Can I has pancakes and bacon?” she asks, once I set her down.
“Sure, we can do that.”
“Tank you, mama. I go potty.”
I whisper yell at her not to run, but it’s too late, she’s half way down the hall, her footfalls echoing through the house. Hoping she didn’t wake the boys, I get started on breakfast as quietly as I can. I’m flipping the first pancake when all three of them join me.
Bella climbs into her chair, chattering about how she flushed and washed her hands. Eric shuffles over to me with bed head and a sleepy grin, Jon Nik bouncing in his arms to get to me. I stretch up and kiss Eric’s pooched lips. “Sorry, I tried to keep her quiet,” I tell him, then smile at our happy boy. “Good morning, sunshine.”
“It’s okay. I think we caught a few more hours on the sofa. They both conked out pretty quick,” Eric says, handing me Jon and grabbing the spatula to save the pancake. Once he has it on a plate and another one in the pan he leans over and kisses my cheek. “By the way, happy anniversary, babe.”
I hug him with one arm, then pat his butt. “You too, baby.”
Our son lets out a squeal, not happy with the delay of his breakfast. Eric nods towards the doorway. “I got this, go take care of Mr. Impatient.”
“Okay. We’ll be back.”
On the way out, I hear Bella telling him not to forget her bacon.
“I’m in my room, baby.”
She runs in, two curly pigtails bouncing. “Has you got your poop in a pile yet, mama? Me, daddy, and Jon Nik are ready to go.”
I bite my lip to keep from laughing. Pam is forever asking people to get their shit together and Bella twilights as a mockingbird, hence us teaching her “poop in a pile” instead, even though it’s not much better. The more we laugh, the more she says it.
“I’m almost ready to go, sweetpea, but I need to feed Jon Nik first. Run go tell Daddy to bring him to me, please ma’am.”
Her little hand rubs up and down my skirt. “You look so pretty, mama. I likes your dress.” She doesn’t see me dressed up often. Yoga pants and t-shirts are my norm.
I smile down at her, playing with one of her pigtails. “Thank you, baby. You look pretty too. You and daddy did a good job.”
“Tank you. I go get daddy.” She runs out the door, her little feet stamping against the wood floor.
I’m just putting on my earrings when my boys come in.
After almost seven years, Eric Northman still makes my heart race. Besides the fact he couldn’t look sexier holding our son, he’s wearing a white cotton button up just like he was the day we met. Except for a few more crinkles around his smiling eyes, he looks the same. Absolutely gorgeous.
He lets out a low whistle, his eyes traveling over my body from head to toe and back again. “Jon Nik, your daddy is a lucky, lucky man,” he tells him, his gaze never leaving mine.
I walk over to them and tickle Jon’s tight tummy, cooing at him, “And your mama is a lucky lady.”
Eric leans down and kisses my temple, his cologne filling my senses. That delicious tingle only he can stir in me grows low in my belly. “You look beautiful,” he whispers, his voice deep and rough enough to cause me to shiver. “You always do, but—”
I turn my face up towards his and catch his lips, giving him a soft kiss, before whispering against them, “Thank you. You look good enough to eat.”
“I’m gonna cancel our reservation if you’re not careful.”
I take our son from his arms and wink at him. “Fine by me.”
I catch a glimpse of his pupils dilating before I turn and head towards our bed. He doesn’t move from his spot just inside our door, watching me get comfortable, then get Jon Nik latched on. The next time I glance up, his eyes have softened, love overriding lust. We smile at each other, both knowing life doesn’t get much better than this.
Bella comes running into the room, her newest obsession in her hands. She holds it up to Eric. “Daddy, you promised to draw me somthin, while mama fed Jon Nik.”
“Yes, ma’am, I did,” he says, smiling down at her, taking the Etch a Sketch she’s beating his legs with. “Hop up on the bed.”
They get situated and are soon lost in their own artistic world, talking excitedly, their faces alight. Jon Nik pats my chest. The stinker doesn’t like it when Mama doesn’t pay attention to him.
I take his little hand in mine and kiss his chubby fingers. He smiles, everything right in his world again, then goes back to eating.
I smile too. My own world is pretty perfect right now.
The grief is still with me, but I’ve learned to treat it like a letter. One from a long-lost love that I keep in a box in the top of the closet. Once a day, either in the early morning hours, or late at night when they’re all asleep, I take the letter out and read it. I allow myself to feel each word and the memories they bring, to shed the tears that inevitably come with no guilt, then I say goodbye again, folding the paper with gentle care and slipping it back within its envelope and putting it away.
This is the way I survive, the way I can be there for Eric and our precious babies and give them all of myself. I let the grief wash over me, then it goes back in the box till the next time.
The things and people we love will always come, and some will go. Love can bring unimaginable pain, but, oh how sweet it can be. We can’t let the fear of losing them, and the pain that brings hold us back. We shouldn’t deny them our hearts, or the chance to know theirs, because there’s nothing more precious in this world than loving and being loved in return. It’s what we’re made to do. We must let it save us, break us, heal us, then remake us again.