“James, honey, can I talk to you for a minute?”
He closed his book and stood up from the stool at the breakfast bar where he had been reading.
“Sure, what’s up?”
“Well…” I stopped, and started again. “I’ve been thinking lately, and I…” Taking a deep breath, I decided to just say it straight out. “I want another baby.”
I waited for his reaction, but he was silent, so I continued.
“I know you love our girls, but I know we’d both like a little brother for them, and they’re growing up so fast. Di will be going to school soon. I just feel like it’s the right time for one more baby. What do you think?”
As I watched, a smile slowly spread across his face, and he reached out and pulled me into his arms.
“I think one more would be perfect.”
I smiled, and kissed him.
It was almost a full year before I finally fell pregnant for the third time. This pregnancy was harder on me than the first two had been. Throughout the first few months, I was constantly throwing up, to the point where I had to go to the doctor to get an injection a couple of times to make it stop.
Besides caring for me, James had his hands full looking after the girls, since most of the time I was too sick to even stand.
On the rare occasions when I did feel well enough to get up, I tried to take some of the weight off James’ shoulders by playing with the girls for a few hours. I was especially conscious about spending time with Diana, since she was only a few months away from starting school, and I knew I wouldn’t be able see her so much any more when that happened.
While I spent time with my daughters, James put his love of reading to good use, poring over pregnancy and parenting books for hours at a time. Although we had done this before, as I continued to remind him, he still wanted to be the best dad possible to his third (and hopefully last) child. For that, I could only admire him.
As the months went by, my morning sickness passed, and I was able to eat and move around relatively normally again. My body substituted for this by hitting me with intense and bizarre cravings at least three times a day, and James was worn out trying to keep up with my demands. I did feel bad for him, but Key Lime Pie had always been my favourite dish and now that I was pregnant I just couldn’t seem to get enough!
After the cravings came the cramps. The further along my pregnancy progressed, the worse it strained my back, to the point where the pain was sometimes too much for my body to handle and I would collapse, exhausted. Sometimes I wondered if I could be having twins, and the ultrasounds had just somehow managed to miss the second baby. I certainly felt big enough for it to be a possibility.
James did his best by offering me back massages to ease the pain whenever they were needed, which I gratefully accepted. I knew I couldn’t have asked for a better, more patient husband.
When I was only a few months away from my due date, Diana’s birthday rolled around. In spite of my own struggles with the pregnancy, we tried to celebrate her birthday the best way we could manage. James baked the cake, as usual, and the whole family gathered around to watch as I helped Di blow out her candles.
Diana grew into a very pretty child, whose features were a true mix of both her parents’. James and I had bought her a new outfit to mark the occasion, although we had not really known how her tastes would change as she grew. Luckily for us, she loved it – so much so that she refused to take it off from the moment it went on.
We had also refurbished one of the upstairs bedrooms for her, knowing that she would almost certainly be wanting her own space away from her baby sister now that she was a child. The finished result was a small but cosy child’s bedroom, decorated with Di’s choice of wallpaper, paintings and carpet. Being the workaholic she was, and crazily excited to start school in a few months, she also insisted on having her own desk to do her homework at, although James maintained that the kitchen table would have been more than up to the task.
Meanwhile, Mum’s singing career was at an all-time high, and had been for quite some time. She was regularly selling out the big concert halls in town, and would occasionally leave for days or weeks at a time to go on tour in another city.
As thrilled as I was for her, at the same time I couldn’t help worrying that she was pushing herself too far in the name of achieving her dreams. She was, after all, getting very old, and wouldn’t have been expected to live much longer under the best of circumstances.
The day she got the call from her manager was the day it happened. It was like she was waiting to become the Vocal Legend she had always dreamed of before finally letting go. The doctors said that the cardiac arrest was quick and painless, and she was surely happy, because she was surrounded by adoring fans at the time, just after a performance in the park where her career had first started. Predictably, her death made news headlines everywhere. My only regret was that we weren’t able to be with her when it happened.
That, and the fact that she never got to meet her youngest grandchild. Flynn Hunter came into the world just a few short weeks after Mum had gone. In the midst of all the post-birth joy and celebration, it pained me to think that my son would never have the chance to know his grandmother.
We held Mum’s funeral at our house on the Friday following her death. Her gravestone was set up in the garden for symbolic purposes, but she wasn’t buried there – we were going to take her body to the family cemetery after the funeral, and lay her to rest beside her husband.
The whole family came to the funeral, to say goodbye to Mum. Aidan, now officially ‘middle-aged’, was there with his wife Violet, and their two youngest children Terrance and Jamie, who were both already in their teens. Their eldest daughter, Iris, was apparently unable to make it.
The service was short, and I was thankful when our guests started to leave after only a few hours. I needed the time alone.
After the funeral, we took Mum to the cemetery and buried her next to Dad, under the same tree. I had never really been one for spirituality, but in this case I allowed myself the secret hope that wherever she was now, they were together, and they were happy.
After all the excitement of funerals and new babies had died down, life in the family pretty much went back to normal. Since ageing up, Di had gotten herself an imaginary friend, who she called Pat, and who appeared to be with her just about all of the time when she was at home.
It became no longer safe to sit down in a chair without first making sure that Pat was not already sitting in it. Of course, to us, it just looked like she was talking to thin air whenever she claimed to be talking to her imaginary friend. But as long as she was still making ‘real’ friends at school, James and I didn’t have a problem with it. It was likely that she would grow out of it eventually, anyway.
And she had managed to make some ‘real’ friends already. After only one week at school, Diana had become best friends with a girl in her class. Her name was Denise Wells, and she was a vampire. Although a phrase like that might inspire ridicule or alarm in most parents, vampires were a pretty common fixture in Bridgeport. When you had lived your whole life in the same city, you learned not to think very much of things like that. Ultimately, I was just happy that Di was happy.
While her sister was busy building a social life at school, Emily was sleeping, eating, playing, and generally doing the sorts of things that toddlers normally get up to.
Now that she was walking, and able to get around faster, she had really become quite mischievous. It was as if she were trying to test how far she could push the boundaries by quite deliberately doing things we had told her a thousand times not to do. Like playing in the toy box, for example. Both James and I agreed that a fairly airtight wooden box with a heavy lid was not a safe place for an unsupervised toddler to be. Emily, apparently, disagreed.
She was also much harder to teach than her sister had been. We knew that Di was a genius, but not only that, Emily’s attention span was frustratingly short. It was difficult to get her to concentrate on learning to talk or use the potty long enough to get anything productive out of the experience.
Of course, none of that meant that we loved her any less. Emily had her faults, but she also had her charms. She was our beautiful, special baby, just like her siblings, and we loved all three of them to bits.
On the other hand, it certainly helped that Flynn, especially when compared to his sister, was a very quiet, well-behaved baby. He rarely cried, slept easily, and was, generally speaking, a dream child. Although I loved all my children dearly, the fact that Flynn was such an unusually well-behaved newborn undoubtedly helped me reserve the energy to keep up with the rumble-tumble ball of mischief that Emily had lately become.
One evening, when James was at work and the girls were asleep, I took the opportunity to spend some quiet time bonding with my son. It was several months since Flynn had been born, and already I could see the faint wisps of black on his tiny head.
I smiled, remembering my father, his kindness, and the wonderful way he had stood by Mum, my siblings and me no matter what happened. Now, it was like a part of his was right here with me. A tear dripped onto my baby’s face as I held him, and I wiped it away with a tender finger.
I certainly hoped so.
In case you’re wondering, the timing of Nicole’s death was not just for story purposes. She actually did die in the game literally five seconds after she fulfilled her lifetime wish. At the time, I really did wonder if the game was waiting until she had made it before letting her die. She was 150 days old at the time (which is really old by the way, even though the lifespans in my game are well above average).