Pranking the Bad Boy

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Twelve Years Later…

“Mommy, mommy, mommy, mommy,” a voice chanted incessantly from the backseat. 

I turned around to look at Noah. “Yes, honey?”

“Are we there yet?”

“No, Noah. Be patient. We’re almost there, OK?”

He grinned at me, and it was impossible not to smile back. With his light blond hair and two front teeth missing, he was so adorable.

A few minutes of silence passed before a voice said, 

“Yes, Noah?” I asked with the feigned patience you can only master after the horrible back pains and pregnancy hormones for nine months, the twenty hours of labor pains, giving birth to a little baby and raising him for six years.

“If money doesn’t grow on trees, why do banks have branches?”

My husband, who was currently driving the car, cracked up laughing. That’s right. My six-year-old son had just asked the all-important question. He was very prone to do that. At random moments when there were lapses in the conversations, he would fill them up with incessant chatter and ask life’s mysterious questions. Not that I minded, though. I found it very cute.

I looked over at Matt for help, but he just shook his head. “I don’t know, Noah. I got no idea.”

Once again the car went silent, and I stared out the windows at the passing trees.

“Mom?” Noah asked. “Dad?”

I swallowed and said, “Two more minutes, Noah. Two more minutes.”

We lapsed into a silence before we pulled into the familiar driveway for our monthly get-together barbecue.

Everyone piled out of the car, and I grabbed onto Matt’s wrist, righting myself as the six-month baby-bump I was now sporting threatened to throw me off balance. 
The door opened before we even made it there, and a familiar woman greeted us, who was also sporting a six-month baby bump. 
Immediately Noah began jumping up and down in excitement. “Auntie Annie!”

She grinned down at him, the smile lines around her eyes deepening, and she subconsciously laid a hand on her stomach, though this wasn’t her first child. ” Hey, Noah.”

She hugged me quickly, waved hello at my bump as if the bub could see her and then kissed Matt on the cheek. “Come on inside.”
As we stepped in through the door, a man appeared, clutching the hand of a girl. 
“UNCLE COLE!” Noah shouted at the same time and flung his arms around Cole’s waist.

Noah pulled back and smiled shyly at Annie and Cole’s four-year-old. “Hi, Marley,” he said shyly.

She waved back and hugged closer to her dad. Her twin brother, Jake, waved at his playmate.

Annie and I exchanged a knowing look. We both secretly hoped Noah and Marley ended up together when they grew up. In fact, Matt and I had a running bet that they would get married when they were older.

We all adjourned to the lounge-room after greetings and hugs and friendly talk were exchanged. The kids sat on the carpet and the adults sat on the lounges. 

“Where are Alyra and Justin?” I asked, referring to one of our best friends and her husband.

“Aly and Justin are looking after Josh,” Annie replied. “He got the flu, so they had to stay home.” Josh was Aly and Justin’s little two-year-old boy. 

“What about Emilie?”

“Em and Hayden will be here soon. They were running late.”
Emilie and Hayden had gotten married two years ago, and had recently begun trying for a child. 
 Everything had turned out perfectly for all of us. 
Matt and I had married at twenty-two, fresh out of college. I became a music teacher and Matt an environmental scientist. Noah came along two years later. Annie and Cole had followed in marriage the exact same year as Noah was born, and had Marley after eighteen months. Cole was a lawyer and Annie had become a doctor. All their dreams had come true. 

Aly married three years ago and fell pregnant two months later. She was now manager of Gypsy Rose, while Maggie still held the position of boss. Maggie now had three kids. Amber and Colin got married, and adopted a beautiful Samoan baby, Chaska, since they were unable to have children. Amber’s now a head chef at a French restaurant that we still go to. 

Surprisingly, Tristan and Abby broke up. I’m not sure what happened to Abby, but Tristan is now a happy bachelor and working his way up to be the CEO of his company. He has no desire to marry at all.

Unfortunately my father passed away two years ago from a heart attack, but mom is still fighting fit. And Angel now has a fiancée, Derek. I couldn’t have wished for a better guy for my sister. He was sweet and treated her like a princess, and he looked at her the exact same way Matt still looked at me, even after being together for thirteen years.

Annie and I chatted on, but after a couple minutes, Noah said, “Hey, mom?”

“Yes, Noah?” I asked. 

“Would you tell the story again?”
I laughed as I watched his eyes sparkle. I knew exactly what one he was talking about. 

“I suppose,” I said, grinning. 

Everyone leant forward a little—this story never got old—and I took a deep breath. In hindsight, it was so hard to believe any of it had happened. But without it, we wouldn’t be here today. My finger reached up as if of its own accord and fingered the envelope pendant Matt had given me almost thirteen years ago. 
I still smiled at the memory.

“Well,” I said, looking around at the group. My best friend Annie, who exuded the pregnancy glow and was still the most beautiful and amazing best friend in the world. She clutched Cole’s hand, my ex-tormentor but now confidant and close friend. My wonderful husband Matt, the one man I loved more than anything on this earth. 
He was smiling at me with an unveiled expression of love and adoration. 
Marley, with her brown hair and warm brown eyes, grinning at me with her angelic face. The little girl who I was positive was destined to be with my little boy. Her brother Jake, who sat next to her and smiled up at me. 
And of course my beautiful son, Noah, who sometimes put me through Hell but who, combined with Matt, I loved more than anything. 
One big, happy family. And Annie and I were both about to make small additions to our families in about three months.

“Well,” I said again, bracing myself for the rest of the story. “It all started with a joke…”


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