The new school year rolled around, and the twins became teens in their first year of high school. Each of them opted for a significant style change as they aged: Bridie went for bolder make-up and winged eyeliner to accompany her new striped minidress, and kept her hair in the same long braid she had worn as a child.
Bianca, on the other hand, was more subdued in her hair and make-up choices, and remained simpler and more practical in her wardrobe than her sister. Both girls had gradually been growing less and less alike as they aged and developed their own individual personalities and interests.
Bridie was more socially involved than Bianca, and spent more time out on the town than at home with the family. Bianca by contrast got on particularly well with her brothers, and often hung out with Cody or helped him with his homework.
For a while now, I had been growing increasingly worried about Aidan’s lack of interaction with the rest of the family as he continued to stay out later at night. One evening I overheard a conversation between Aidan and Bianca, who was the only member of the family he seemed to really talk to anymore.
“… tell Mum and Dad?” Bianca was saying.
“Shhh!” Aidan hissed. “They’ll hear you!” I stopped where I was on the stairs, listening curiously.
“You should just bring her home and introduce them,” Bianca continued in a lower voice. “I bet they’ll be fine with it.”
“I know,” Aidan said. “I just wanted to wait until I was sure we were serious before I brought her to meet my parents, you know?”
I couldn’t help but smile. My baby boy had a girlfriend – nothing like the illegal terrors I had been imagining. Of course, I was still a bit cautious about the relationship. I hoped I would be able to meet her soon to see if she was really good enough for my Aidan – I didn’t want any of my kids to experience the kind of uncertain relationship I had with Aidan’s father.
So when Ian and I came home early from a party two weeks later to find Aidan making out with a strange girl in the kitchen, I was notably less alarmed than my husband.
The girls and Cody were all seated at the table working on their homework. All three had slight expressions of disgust and seemed to be doing their best to ignore their brother.
Once he had gotten over the initial shock of the situation, Ian cleared his throat loudly to get the couple’s attention.
“Dad!” Aidan gasped, turning red with embarrassment as he jumped away from his girlfriend. “I thought you weren’t getting back till late…”
“Clearly.” Ian’s voice was emotionless, his face unreadable. “I think your mother and I need to have a talk with you, Aidan. Would you excuse us for a moment, miss?” The girl nodded, her face redder than Aidan’s, and stepped aside to let us pass into the living room. Once inside, Ian turned to our son and began his lecture.
“Who is that girl?” he demanded.
“That’s my girlfriend,” Aidan responded coolly.
“What’s her name?”
“How long have you been together?”
“Almost a year.”
“And why didn’t we know about this until now?”
I watched as my husband continued to interrogate my son, knowing that it would be best to let them talk it out now so they could come to an agreement about Aidan’s dating habits. For my own part, I was just pleased that it hadn’t been something worse, and that I had found out in advance so I wasn’t too shocked when it happened. Of course, I should have told Ian, but we had both been so busy lately it had completely slipped my mind.
Ian and Aidan had always got along really well, so it didn’t take long for Ian to calm down once he was sure that Aidan was safe and happy, and that his relationship had gone no further than kissing. “Just one more thing,” he said sternly. “I want to properly meet this girl. Make sure you invite her over for dinner sometime soon, okay?”
“I will,” Aidan promised. “Thanks Dad, you’re the best!”
From then on, Violet became a common visitor to the house. Often after school, she would come home with Aidan and they would hang out together on the couch in the living room. One of Ian’s rules had been that the two were to stay where we could see them at all times.
Unfortunately, this didn’t have the intended secondary effect of limiting their displays of physical affection. After the first embarrassing incident was over, I would often walk into a room to find Aidan and Violet wrapped in each other’s arms, even while the rest of the family were in the room or nearby.
Both Ian and I had talked to Violet properly by now, and she seemed to be a gentle, levelheaded girl. I was proud of my son for making such a good choice in his first girlfriend, but I still couldn’t shake my motherly instincts and made sure to keep one eye on him whenever Violet was around.
Outside of his school and love lives, Aidan was further developing the passion for painting which he had found as a child. He was really getting very skilled, and that isn’t just my bias talking. In preparation for our upcoming birthdays, he had been working on portraits of both Ian and me. Most of the time he refused to let us see his work, but from the few glimpses I managed to sneak, I could see that the paintings were stunningly lifelike.
When he wasn’t painting, he was working out in front of the television. Despite the fact that we were still unable to afford the space for any proper gym equipment, Aidan was managing to keep in shape by following the daily strength workouts displayed on the health channel.
His dedication extended even to the early mornings, when he would get out of bed every day to work out before school. The natural athleticism he had inherited from his father only boosted his enthusiasm further.
While Aidan was exercising, Bianca was exploring a passion for both fishing and cooking. Having been a natural angler practically from birth, she felt the lure of the sport more strongly than any of her siblings, claiming that she found it to be both relaxing and rewarding. Every morning before school she was off to the lake for a few hours of fishing, and when she came home she would cook her catches into delicious meals for the rest of the family, often with Ian’s help. I had never been that great at cooking, so Bianca had learned most of what she knew of the art from her father.
Sometimes, especially with simpler meals, she would insist on making everything by herself. On those occasions, she would recruit Aidan to be her food critic, since of all her siblings she was closest to her older brother. Bianca was not a natural cook, so she was determined that all her dishes be tested and critiqued before she attempted them a second time.
As I grew older, Bianca became a huge blessing in the ways she was consistently volunteering to help around the house. Unlike her siblings, she was always willing to help out with the laundry, or wash up everyone else’s plates after a meal.
In her spare time, and when Aidan wasn’t monopolising the television, she was frequently found glued to the fishing channel, on the lookout for new tips and techniques, or nearby fishing spots she hadn’t tried.
Bridie now spent less time at home than Aidan ever had. She was almost always out with her friends at clubs and cafes in the city, and rarely came home for dinner. It was only occasionally on the weekends that she would spend an afternoon at home, playing games with Bianca or her brothers. Ian and I were concerned about her behaviour, and tried to keep close tabs on her whenever she went out, making sure we knew where she was going and that she had her cellphone with her at all times.
Cody was still more focused on school than anything else, but like Aidan he too was very close to his father. When Ian wasn’t helping Cody with his homework, the two were often playing games, reading or just joking around together.
When Ian wasn’t available, Cody was perfectly content to quietly play on his own for hours at a time. Now that the girls were teenagers, they were much happier to allow him into their room to play with the toys they never touched anymore.
Aidan’s 18th birthday was now approaching fast, and soon my eldest child would be graduating from high school. All four of my kids, despite their small problems and insecurities, seemed as happy and successful in their own stages of life as I could have hoped. I couldn’t help feeling a little proud of what I had created.