The rest of the week passed quickly. I was extremely busy with meetings every day as I caught up on my work as CFO. Taylor scheduled another meeting with my grandparents for Saturday at noon. The private investigator had double checked their background for me and found nothing suspicious. He also confirmed that our DNA was a match. Everything checked out so far; I just had to make sure that they answered my questions this time.
I stayed over at Brett’s twice more and by Friday afternoon, I was looking forward to spending the afternoon with him and Malachi before our double date with Marcus and Honey the following day.
Marcus teased me relentlessly about Brett throughout the week. I was ecstatic when Taylor completed her training on Friday morning and he could no longer bother me at work.
My driver dropped me off at Gabi and Ryan’s apartment after work so I could meet Alicia to babysit Bella. Ryan answered the door looking exhausted and tense.
“Oh, hey Lupe.”
“Hi, Ryan,” I replied stepping inside and closing the door behind me. “Are you okay?”
“What? Yeah, I’m fine. Just a little tired. Where’s my sister?”
“She should be here soon. She told me to meet her here.”
He nodded. “Okay. Make yourself at home.”
I followed him as he wandered into the kitchen aimlessly and opened the refrigerator. He stood there, staring inside for almost an entire minute when I decided to intervene. “Uhh, Ry?”
“Are you going to take something out or just stand there?”
“What?” He looked over at me and then back at the fridge. “Oh. I forgot. Gabi asked me to count the bottles to make sure y’all are set for the evening.”
My eyebrows furrowed in worry. “I can do that. Why don’t you sit down?” I guided my cousin to the kitchen table before completing the task for him. “There are ten bottles in here. Is that enough?”
When he didn’t answer, I glanced over to see him asleep at the table. “Ryan? Ryan?!”
He jumped and looked around, his eyes wide with panic. “What happened? Is Bella okay?”
“Hello? It’s me, Lupe. Bella is fine as far as I know. You were just talking to me.”
“I was?” he asked, relaxing a bit.
“Are you sure you need to go to this event?”
“We have to,” he answered with a sigh.
“Why? Can’t someone else go in your place?”
“Gabi insists that we go. It’s the banquet for the New York scholarship recipients. She spearheaded the program and she wants to present the awards.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea. If you’re like this, I can only imagine what Gabi is like.”
As soon as I spoke her name, Gabi came bustling into the kitchen, wearing a bright smile on her face. “Hi Lupe!” she greeted me, leaning in for a quick hug. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. How are you?” I asked warily.
“I can’t complain! Listen. Thank you so much for doing this for us. I know it’s a lot to ask.”
“It’s not a problem. Alicia will be here so there’s nothing to worry about.”
She smiled and patted my shoulder. “We’ve got to get going so let me show you where everything is. All of her bottles are in the refrigerator. The warmer is on the counter. Just pop it in there until the red light goes off and it’s ready.”
I followed her out of the kitchen and upstairs to the nursery where little Bella was asleep in her bassinet. “All of the diapers and wipes are in the top drawer along with extra onesies and burp clothes. She’s a pretty quiet baby, so you shouldn’t have any problems; Just call me if you do.
“Oh! And Aiden is napping in the guest room; his nanny brought him over earlier. You should probably wake him up soon or he’ll be up all night. Any questions?”
I stared at her in disbelief. “Uh, yeah. Just one. How are you not worn down like Ryan?”
Gabi laughed. “He doesn’t sleep! He just sits and stares at her all day, worried something will happen if he takes his eyes off of her for a second. I can’t wait for him to go back to work next week so we can restore some sense of normalcy.”
“That sounds like Ryan. He’s always been a worrywart.”
She glanced at her watch. “Oh shoot! The car will be downstairs any second.” She picked up Bella and carefully placed her in my arms. “You’ll be okay on your own until Alicia gets here?”
“Of course!” I assured her, settling into the rocking chair in the corner of the room. “Don’t worry about a thing.”
“Okay,” Gabi said nervously playing with her curls. “We’ll be back first thing in the morning.” She leaned down and kissed her baby girl before leaving.
I heard Gabi downstairs yelling at Ryan in Spanish and chuckled to myself. A few minutes later, I heard the front door close and it was quiet again. I looked down at the precious little girl, sleeping in my arms and smiled.
The peaceful silence was disturbed by my cell phone ringing loudly in my pocket. I swore internally and tried to silence it before Bella woke up but wasn’t fast enough. She stirred in my arms and began to whimper.
I rocked her gently, hoping to calm her, while I answered my phone. “Hello?” I whisper-shouted.
“Lupe? Hey, it’s Alicia.”
“Where are you?”
“You’re going to hate me but I can’t make it.”
“WHAT?!” I shrieked, momentarily forgetting about Bella.
“Joseph’s father was arrested in New Jersey and I have to go bail him out.”
“Why can’t Joseph?!” Bella was full on crying at this point.
“He’s in Los Angeles and won’t be back until Monday. Look, everything will be fine. I’ll go bail him out and get back as soon as I can. Bella is a chill baby and Aiden can pretty much take care of himself. Call my dad if you have any trouble. Love you, bye!”
“Auntie Lupe? That’s a bad word.”
My eyes jerked over to the door of the nursery where Aiden was standing rubbing his eyes.
“I’m sorry sweetie. I won’t say it again.” I stood up and tried bouncing Bella in an effort to stop her crying.
“I had an accident.”
Sure enough, the front of his pajamas were damp. I sighed. This was going to be a fun night.
An hour later, I had two shrieking children on my hands. Aiden was upset because I couldn’t play with him and I couldn’t figure out how to work Gabi and Ryan’s space television. Bella had quieted for a few minutes while she was eating, but as soon as the bottle was finished, she got started again. I tried calling Uncle Jack but he didn’t answer.
I was on the verge of pulling my hair out when my phone pinged with a message from Brett. “Oh my God! I’m such an idiot! Why didn’t I think of it before?!”
Setting Bella down in the bouncer, I dialed Brett as fast as humanly possible.
“Lupita? Are you okay? What’s all that noise?”
“Alicia and I were supposed to babysit for Gabi and Ryan but Alicia had an emergency and now I’m here alone with a crying newborn and a screaming five-year-old and I need help!” I exclaimed.
“Calm down baby, it’ll be okay.”
“Will it? I’ve never taken care of a newborn before. I don’t know how to make her stop crying! I’m starting to cry myself,” I said, wiping away a tear.
“Do you want me to come over?”
“Would you please?”
“Text me the address. Malachi and I will be right there, okay? Don’t cry.”
I sniffed. “Okay.”
I hung up the phone and sent him the address. Bella was crying harder now and her little cheeks were turning red. I gave her a pacifier and that seemed to calm her down some. Aiden was staring at me. “What?”
“I don’t think that baby Bella likes you.”
“Tell me something I don’t know,” I said dryly.
Brett arrived a mere fifteen minutes later with Malachi in tow. “Thank heavens you’re here. I don’t know what else to do!”
He set his bags down and took Bella from me cooing at her as he gently rocked her back and forth. “You fed her?”
“Yes! Burped her and everything.”
“Did you change her diaper?”
“Ye--no. No, I didn’t do that.”
“That’s probably why you’re so fussy, huh little angel?”
I would have laughed at his baby voice had I not been so worried about Bella.
“Lupita, bring me a diaper and some wipes.”
“I know how to change a diaper,” I said indignantly, as I marched upstairs to retrieve the necessary supplies.
When I came back down the living room was empty. I heard laughter in the kitchen and was surprised to see Aiden and Malachi seated at the table watching VeggieTales on Brett’s iPad. Brett was busy putting pizza onto plates while he sang to Bella who had calmed down significantly.
“Where’d you get pizza?”
“I brought it from our place,” he answered, handing Bella to me. “We had ordered in and I figured you guys hadn’t eaten yet. Is Aiden allergic to anything?”
I shook my head, still trying to comprehend what was happening.
“Babe? Are you going to change her?”
“What? Oh, yeah. My bad.”
Bella fell asleep immediately after I changed her. I laid her down in the nursery and made sure to turn on the monitor before joining the boys in the kitchen.
We finished eating and then headed into the living room, where Malachi and Aiden fell asleep watching something called Paw Patrol.
Brett pulled me into his arms on the couch and kissed my forehead. “Better now?”
“Yes, thank you. I’m clearly not meant to have children,” I replied with a short laugh, relaxing into his embrace.
“Not necessarily. No parent knows what to do when they bring their first kid home from the hospital. I sure as hell didn’t.”
“I’m sure you remembered to change his diaper.”
“Okay, maybe I did,” he conceded with a grin. “But still, just because you had a hard time babysitting doesn’t mean you won’t be a good parent someday.”
“I guess. Do you want more kids?” I regretted asking as soon as the question was out of my mouth.
He didn’t answer right away. “Yeah. I think one or two more kids wouldn’t be bad. I’d love for Malachi to have a sibling.” He looked down at me. “What about you? Do you want kids?”
“Someday, I suppose. I’ve never been in a serious relationship so I’ve never really put much thought into it.”
Luckily, my phone rang so I didn’t have to continue the awkward conversation that I had started.
“Hi Gabi...No, everything’s fine. Brett came over to help me, I hope that’s okay...Oh, he text Ryan?... Yeah, she’s sleeping...Gabi! Get your mind out of the gutter!... Okay. We’ll see you in the morning.”
I shook my head as I hung up the phone. “What?” Brett asked.
“Gabi was making suggestive remarks about you being over here.”
He leaned down and kissed my neck, causing me to gasp in surprise. “Should we confirm her suspicions?”
“Brett! There are children present!” I said, trying not to focus on his tongue swirling circles on my skin as he made his way up my neck toward my ear.
“I not sleep daddy.”
Brett and I sprang apart as Malachi climbed off of the opposite couch and toddled over to me. “Want my Pita.”
I picked him up and cuddled him close to me with a laugh.
Brett sighed and muttered something under his breath that I’m sure was not suitable for children’s ears.
“We’ve always got tomorrow night,” I said with a wink, settling back into the couch with Malachi.
Brett seemed to perk up at this and turned on another cartoon and soon enough we all drifted off to dreamland.