2 years later
I eyed the dining table which was filled with snacks, with happiness. I couldn’t wait for the others to arrive. My daughter was going to turn one today, and the elation that I felt was beyond human comprehension.
“Little bird, why are you standing here?” Gideon asked softly, coming up behind me, giving me a peck on the cheek.
“I am just making sure that everything is fine,” I replied, smiling up at my husband.
“Everything is perfect.” He wrapped his arms around me from behind.
“Is the cake here?” I enquired.
“Yes. I just gave it to the maid so she can put it in the refrigerator. Where is my daughter?” He enquired.
“With her aunt Jenny. She is getting her ready. When is your father coming?” I questioned.
“He’ll be here in about twenty minutes, at least that’s what Brenton told me,” Gideon answered.
“Your father should take it easy now. Let Brenton handle things,” I stated.
“Dad likes working, keeps him busy and distracted. By the way, where is Jack?” Gideon looked around for our son.
“Your son is playing with your other son.” I told him with a smile.
“Abioye is happy here, isn’t he?” A happy sparkle lit up Gideon’s eyes at the mention of our adopted son.
I nodded. “He calls you dad and me mum, I’ll say he’s pretty happy here. I just hope Jack doesn’t mess up his clothes.” When Abioye and Jack were playing together, their clothes were bound to get dirty.
“Don’t worry. Jack is a big boy,” Gideon stated.
“He is only two and half years old, just a few months younger than Abioye, and you’re telling me he’s a big boy,” I argued.
“Don’t worry, little fairy. The kids will be fine.” Gideon kissed my forehead.
“I hope so.” A sudden thought struck me, something I should’ve asked Gideon a long time ago. “Gideon?”
“Yes little peach?”
“Why did you name our son Abioye?” I asked.
“Because Abioye means son of royalty...and since we were going to adopt him, I thought the name fit.” He told me.
“Abioye means son of royalty?” I did not know that.
Gideon nodded. “Yes, it does. I was looking for names on Google when I found it,” he said.
“Oh.” Was all I could say.
“Alright. Here you go Alice, your daughter is ready for her birthday party,” Jenny said, holding Lily in her arms.
Gideon took a giggling Lily from Jenny before hugging her close. Jenny had dressed Lily in a baby blue poofy dress and added a matching headband on her head. Since Lily had just turned one, she only had a small amount of strawberry blonde hair on head.
“Here is my birthday girl.” Gideon kissed her chubby cheek. Lily, in response, wrapped her tiny arms around Gideon’s neck, burying her face in it. The love shining in Gideon’s eyes for our daughter had my heart swelling with joy. Maslow or no Maslow, he would give his life for his daughter.
“Thank you Jenny for dressing her up.” I told her.
“No problem, I love doing it. Have you seen my daughter anywhere?” Jenny asked, looking around for her one year old daughter.
I smiled when I saw Rose, Jenny’s daughter walking over to Jenny. “There she is.” I pointed at the little girl.
Relief shone through Jenny’s eyes as she bent down and picked up Rose. “Where have you been, Rosemarie? And where is daddy?” She asked the little girl.
“Mama, dada home,” Rose said.
“Is he?” Jenny turned to Gideon. “Is Kieran home?” She questioned.
“Yes he is.” It was Kieran who answered, as he joined us in the dining room, giving Jenny a hug from behind. “How are you, strawberry?” Kieran kissed Jenny’s temple.
“I’m all right. What took you so long?” She asked.
“I was trying to find the perfect present for my niece, it takes time,” Kieran answered.
“Where is Elizabeth?” I questioned.
“She is on her way. Why don’t you relax. Everything looks perfect,” Gideon said.
“I’ll relax when everybody will be here and my daughter’s birthday will pass without any incidents,” I stated, glaring at the clock, which seemed to be running at the speed of light.
“Everybody isn’t here yet?” Nico asked, stepping inside the dining room.
“No! They are late,” I answered my little brother.
“It’s alright, little sister, everything will go smoothly,” Brenton said, sauntering inside the dining room followed by Mr. Maslow himself. Even though Mr. Maslow had a heart attack two years ago, he looked healthy; there was no sign of the pale, old man who I visited in the ICU.
That day, Mr. Maslow had forgiven all his children, and had reunited his family once again. And I believed Mr. Maslow was happy with his decision. Every time Lizzy would come meet him, he would have the biggest smile on his face; and his love for his grandchildren was unconditional. He loved every single one of the kids, even Abioye, and made sure everybody was treated equally. No longer was he the man who valued status and wealth, but a man who now valued family and love.
“Dad!” Gideon and Kieran said at the same time, quickly giving their father a hug. Gideon handed Lily over to me before going over to him.
“You know. I am so glad that bitch Helga is out of their lives,” Jenny said to me, eyeing Mr. Maslow conversing with his sons.
“Tell me about it. You have no idea how happy I am that she isn’t here anymore,” I agreed. After the police had taken Helga away, Kieran made sure that she wouldn’t get employment anywhere else, and had her driven off to God knows where.
Once Helga was out of the picture, the ban on the floors seven and above was finally lifted. Since Elizabeth was no longer a sore subject for the family, the whole castle was now open to everyone in the family. The good that thing that came out of Helga’s departure was the fact that the Maslows no longer trusted the staff as blindly as they had been for the past years.
“Why are you ladies standing there? Come and give this old man a hug,” Mr. Maslow ordered softly.
Shaking my head, I gave Lily back to Gideon, before I went over to him and when Mr. Maslow wrapped his arms around me, I felt like it was my own father hugging me. I remembered my father’s hugs to be warm and comforting, and that was exactly how I felt in Mr. Maslow’s arms.
“Where are my grandchildren?” He asked me.
“Well, one is with her father, and the other two are playing with each other. They should be here soon,” I replied.
“Good, my car’s trunk is full with gifts,” he said before releasing me and engulfing Jenny in a bear hug.
“Grandpa!” Abioye and Jackson ran towards Mr. Maslow, who barely had time to release Jenny before both of my sons captured his legs.
Mr. Maslow chuckled, bending down until he was eye levelled with Abioye and Jack. Both the boys were able to hug their grandfather properly once he was down on his knees.
“Here are my princes. Where have you two been?” Mr. Maslow asked the boys.
“Grandpa, Abi and I were playing,” Jack answered excitedly.
“Cops!” Abioye announced.
“Yeah!” Jackson agreed. “Grandpa, what did you bring me?” He asked.
“I got a lot of presents for the both of you.” Mr. Maslow smiled at the boys.
I was surprised that Mr. Maslow had accepted Abioye so easily. When Gideon had announced that we would be adopting a baby, I thought Mr. Maslow would protest or would threaten to kick Gideon out, but he didn’t do any of those things. He accepted Gideon’s and my decision and even treated Abioye as if he was really part of the family. I doubted Abioye would ever wonder about his real family, he was getting so much love over here, I didn’t think it would be possible that he would ever consider the fact that he was adopted.
A smile spread across my lips as Elizabeth entered with Henry and her three kids. Finally, everybody was here, now we could get the so-called party started. Elizabeth’s daughter was looking adorable in a yellow dress, while her sons were wearing matching outfits.
“Where is the birthday girl?” Lizzy asked, before taking Lily from me and giving her cheek a kiss.
“Hello Elizabeth,” I said, watching everyone gathered around, laughing and conversing with each other.
Elizabeth rolled her eyes. “Can you please call me Lizzy. It’s been two years and you still call me by my full name.” She grinned at my daughter.
“Elizabeth is your name,” I explained with a shrug.
“Your mummy will never learn, isn’t that right?” She gave Lily another kiss.
“Hey! No need to tell my daughter that.” I frowned.
“You can forget her for the rest of the evening, she’s mine now.” Elizabeth told me.
“And what about your kids?” I raised my eyebrows in question.
“You can watch them.” Elizabeth faced Jenny. “Give me your daughter. These two girls are mine for the evening,” she stated, eyeing Rose with affection.
“Why are you after the daughters, why not the boys?” Jenny asked.
Elizabeth scoffed. “Are you kidding?! Girls are fun. Plus, it’s nice to see girls in the Maslow family, I swear, this family is filled with boys.”
“Yeah. The family curse,” Jenny acknowledged.
“Yes. But lucky for you, you managed to break the family curse.” Elizabeth looked at me. “Sorry Alice. But you could not break the curse. You got a boy first.”
“So did you.” I pouted.
“Yeah well I have Maslow blood in me, I was bound to get a boy,” Elizabeth replied.
“That—That—” I had no retort for that, so I settled for a disapproving look.
“Hey. Why don’t you go and tell the maids to bring the cake? Everybody is here, so why not cut the cake?” Gideon suggested.
Giving the others a glance, I nodded. “Yes alright, I’ll go and tell them to bring the cake.” With one last look at the kids, to make sure they were all right, I headed to the kitchen.
When I spotted a couple of maids fussing around with a bunch of glasses, I called out their names to get their attention.
“Abbie? Anne?” They both looked at me, forgetting the glasses. “Can you please bring the cake out now,” I requested.
“Yes of course, Mrs. Maslow. We’ll bring the cake immediately,” Abbie replied with a small smile.
“Thank you.” With a smile, I strode out of the kitchen and back to the dining room.
“When will the cake come?” Jenny enquired.
“Why? Hungry already?” I chuckled.
“Yes. I’m pregnant,” she defended.
“Of course. Forgive my ignorance,” I teased.
“Why are you teasing my wife, little mushroom?” Kieran came over, kissing Jenny on the lips.
“I’m hungry.” Jenny told Kieran.
“It’s alright, strawberry. Why don’t you go and help yourself to some snacks?” he suggested.
“But it would be rude in front of so many people,” she responded.
“Those rules don’t apply to you. Come, I’ll eat with you.”
“Wait for two minutes, the cake is almost here,” I stated.
“Listen to Alice. We’ll wait for two minutes,” Jenny said to her husband.
As soon as Jenny finished speaking, the maids brought out the cake, and the sight of it had my mouth watering. The cake was four tiered, white chocolate cake; it looked fit for a princess, but then again, Lily was no less than a princess; she ruled our hearts. Abbie and Anne placed the cake on the dining table before taking their leave. Almost immediately, the Maslows took their respective seats. Since the addition of the children, Gideon had ordered a bigger dining table, which seated everyone comfortably and no one was left out.
“Alright, where is my daughter. It’s time to cut the cake.” Gideon stood up and spotted Lily sitting on Elizabeth’s lap. “Lizzy, give me my daughter back.” He went over to her and picked our daughter up. “Come Alice. It’s time to cut the cake.”
I stood up and went over to where Gideon was standing with Lily in his arm in front of the cake, holding a knife with his free hand. Placing my hand over Gideon’s, we slid the knife through the cake, while the Maslows sang the traditional Happy Birthday song. When the cake was cut, Gideon gave Lily a kiss on the cheek, before he transferred her over to Mr. Maslow, while I cut the cake for everyone.
“First slice is for you, Jenny.” I slid the plate over to her, and she dug in like she had been starving for days.
“Daddy, I want a hot air balloon for my birthday,” Jackson stated, causing Brenton to burst out laughing.
“Brent? Did you put him up to this?” Gideon asked.
“Oh no. I’m innocent,” Brenton replied.
“Yes. He is so innocent he hasn’t even asked a girl out in two years. I’m starting to think he’s gay,” Kieran stated, causing Elizabeth and Henry to laugh.
“Can you guys use decent language in front of the kids,” Mr. Maslow chided.
“Sorry dad,” Brenton and Kieran chorused.
“Sometimes I wonder if you’ll ever grow up,” Mr. Maslow muttered.
“Alright, if everybody is done talking, I would like to make a small announcement,” Gideon said, effectively getting everyone’s attention.
“Thank you. Now as you all know, my daughter, Lily, the second female who has managed to capture my heart, has turned one today. And all I want to say is that she gets all the happiness she deserves, and I vow to protect her from all the evils and dangers of this world.”
“Aye!” The Maslows chorused, surprising me with their unity.
“I’ll make sure no guy is able to come within fifty feet of her,” Brenton announced.
“No! Don’t go over protective on my daughter,” I objected.
“Sorry little sister, I am the uncle here,” he replied.
“We can debate how over protective we’ll be once Lily grows up. But for now, let’s eat!” Kieran stated. And all at once, everybody helped themselves to the snacks.
While everybody was busy eating, I took a moment to reflect on the love and happiness this family had given me. I thought I would be Gideon’s temporary wife, one he would leave once the yearlong contract was over; but fate had a funny way of playing with us, and turned one year into a forever.
I did not come from money, I was poor. And I valued family and love, but being with the Maslows truly made me realize the importance of family, and I was sure of one thing. Money was not what made you rich, it was family and the number of people who loved and supported you unconditionally that made you rich. Money would come and go depending on time, but family and friends stayed forever.
And that was the true wealth.