II. Years Later
Small footsteps rattle down the stairs, “Food! Food! Food!” The door burst open, “Food!”
“Crystal!” I shouted. “What did I say about swinging the door open?” I can’t see it, but I know there’s a hole in the wall.
I pushed my palms into the cushion and fought my way out of the couch. “Emmy!” I screamed. “Emmy!” I inhaled another breath, ”Emerson!"
“Daddy! Mommy can’t get off of the couch again!” When no one replied to either of us, Crystal screamed from the top of her lungs: ”Daddy!"
“I’m coming. I’m coming.” The kitchen door opens, and soon, the man who made me into a ball with limbs made his appearance. He squat, “I told you to lay off the fo-”
I grabbed the pillow and thrashed it on his face. “Here. You’re going to need it to sleep on the couch.”
Emerson laughs, “I’m joking.” He positions his hands and helps me get up.
I smack his arm, “I told you to wear protection.”
Emerson runs his hand on my stomach, “Yes. Yes.”
When we got into the dining room, Crystal was already at the table. She held up her fork and spoon, “What are we eating? What are we eating!”
I looked at Emerson and snarled.
He nods, “Yes. Yes. It was my fault. I shouldn’t have spoiled her so much.” Emerson pulls out the chair and helps me sit down.
Today is meatloaf day. I groaned and pushed the plate away, and forced the vomit to stay inside. I cannot believe it. After my first pregnancy, I would expect it to be easier, but it isn’t. The little one inside my stomach is a bigger headache than the little girl across from me.
“What’s wrong?” Emerson asks.
I shook my head, “I can’t eat this.”
His left eye twitches, ”Honeybun. You asked for meatloaf.”
I groan, “I know but now that I smell it. I don’t want to eat it.”
He forced a smile, “Then, what do you want to eat, sugar cube?”
“I’m in the mood for ravioli.”
“Ravioli?” He questioned.
“You mean the ravioli I was going to make earlier, but you said no because you weren’t in the mood. That...ravioli?”
"Now, you want to eat it?”
“You want to eat it after I-”
“Fine!” I snapped. “Don’t make it.” I threw the utensils down the table. “I mean, I’m only pregnant with your child because you refused to use a condom.”
Crystal stops eating. Well, she’s not eating. It’s more like she’s feeding the ground her food.
Emerson inhaled a sharp breath, “That’s not what I mean, sweety honey pie. I-I-I just want to confirm you want to eat ravioli before I go make it.”
“No. Don’t make it. I don’t want you to have to get up and go all the way to the kitchen because of my selfish needs.”
“No. No. No.” He held my arm, but I tugged it away. “You know that’s not it, sugar plum. I would love to make the ravioli for you. It’ll only take two hours. I’ll be right back.” He puckers his lips for a kiss.
I turn towards him, “It’s not too much?”
“I’m not selfish?”
He shook his head.
I nod, “Okay.” I peck his lips.
He gave me a flat grin before standing up and making his way into the kitchen. “One condom. Stupid condom,” he mumbled.
“What’s a condom?” Crystal asks.
“It’s something your dad and I didn’t use, which is why you’re here.”
Her mouth widens, and she nods, “Cool. Thank you.”
I’m not sure if she understands it, but since she’s not bothering me anymore. It’s best not to discuss it any further.
The sound of pots and pans erupts inside the kitchen. “Emmy? Is everything okay? Do you want me to help you?”
“No. No. I’m good, sweet pea. You stay in that other room and wait for me.”
“Cook fast! Baby and I are hungry!”
“Of course! I’ll cook the ravioli at lightning speed!”
“Mommy,” Crystal calls.
“Can I go to HayHay’s house later and play?”
“Oh? You two are going for another adventure to fight lizards?”
“Dragons and no. Cousin Josh will be there, and I want to annoy him.”
I pick up a small carrot from the salad. “Oh? Your aunt is here?”
Crystal stopped eating and huffed a deep breath. Pieces of meatloaf hang on the edge of her lips, “Mommy. Do you not remember?”
“Auntie Nina told you two weeks ago.” She held up three fingers. Crystal had never been good with fine motors. It’s not math because she can solve those darn wicked problems inside her head. She probably tried to hold up two fingers, but somehow, a third always popped up. “She said she would be here to visit us.”
Crystal nods, “She landed yesterday.”
“Did she now? Why didn’t she come to visit us?”
“She asked yesterday, but you kept screaming at daddy to peel the grapes better.”
I took another bite, “Huh. I think I do remember her saying something about leaving New York for the week yesterday night.”
Crystal shook her head, “I got my smarts from daddy.”
I glared at her, “Yes, and daddy was the one who came up with the idea to go to Disneyland.”
Crystal pouts, “It was my birthday!” She folded her arms, “And you puked the whole time! You didn’t even ride on anything!”
“Yes, but who came up with the Disneyland idea?”
She points at herself.
“Oh? Are you perhaps lying, Crystal Lynn Lun?”
Her red cheeks puffed, and she shook her head.
“Good because you know what happens when you lie.” I got up from my chair and wiggled my fingers. Crystal’s eyes only widen, and she leans back. I grinned mischievously, “You know when you lie. The tickle monster attacks!” I tickled her.
Crystal laughed and screamed: “No! No! Mommy, no!” She fell off the chair.
I stump down on my aching knees and continue tickling her. I grab her small sock cover feet, “I’m going to eat you! Nom! Nom! Nom!”
Crystal accidentally kicked my stomach.
I let it a squeal and bit my tongue to hold back the pain.
Instantly, she stops laughing, “Mommy! I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”
I know there’s a bad look on my face, “It’s okay, baby.”
“Daddy! Daddy! Mommy is hurt!”
The door burst open, showcasing Emerson in an apron that says - Daddy chef - and a pan. “What happened?”
Crystal and I look at him, then the pan and back at him. “Daddy! Why do you have that? How is that going to help mommy owie tummy?”
The kid got a point.
Emerson puts down the pan and helps me get up. They lead me towards the living room couch. “Are you okay?” His eyes scanned every inch of my body. “Is the baby okay?”
I nod, “Yeah. I’m fine.”
Emerson exhales sharply, “I told you to stop playing tickle monster.”
I gave him a sharp glare, “Yes. Yelling at me after our baby got kicked is the best idea in the world!” My voice was louder than it meant to be.
“I-I wasn’t yelling. I was worried,” Emerson whispered. He rubbed my stomach, “So, let’s all calm dow-”
“I am calm!” I barked out. When no one responded, I knew I went too far...again.
My lower lip trembled unconditionally, “I’m sorry, Emmy. You were only trying to help, and here I am, yelling and-” I covered Crystal’s ears, “bitching unnecessarily.”
Crystal held up a finger, “I heard that.”
“No, you didn’t, baby,” I said.
“But, I di-” she stopped talking when I glared at her. “No. No, I didn’t. I will leave the room and finish my meatloaf.” She hurried her legs into the dining room.
Emerson exhales softly, “Piper. Honey. Look at me.” I turn my head towards him. He held my hands, “It’s okay.”
“No. It’s not. I’m giving you so much unnecessary hate. You cook. You clean. You rub my feet. You drove two towns over to get me Chinese food at 4 am, and I didn’t even get a chance to eat it because I fell asleep. Then, that princess of yours in the other room ate all my food!”
“Sorry, mommy! I thought it was for everyone!” Crystal shouted.
“There were three containers of food! How can you - a little girl - eat three containers of food?”
“I’m a growing girl!”
“And five is an import-”
“Okay! Okay! Crystal finishes your meatloaf,” Emerson said.
“Fine! But, the age of five is still important! I need food!”
I ground my molars, “You need a good whoop-”
“Piper. Piper. Darling. Please, I’m begging you. Stop arguing with our daughter.”
“We’re not arguing!”
“Yeah, daddy!” Crystal shouted from the other room. “It’s like you never went to our family gathering! This is how we talk! Who are you?”
I look at him, “See? The money eating machine agrees with me.”
“Okay. Okay. I was wrong. I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay!” Crystal shouted. “Mom says you are a bit slow when it comes to girls.”
Emerson ran his hands through his hair. “Do you mind if we have this talk later? I...I need to go take a shower.”
“What about my ravioli?” I ask.
Emerson stood midway in the air, “Right. Ravioli. The dish I should be making for you...right now.”
I nod, “Yeah.”
Crystal pops her head into the living room, “Daddy, we have a problem.”
“What is it, baby?”
“The floor is eating my meatloaf. I need you to fight it-” she threw her small fists around, “and get my meatloaf back.”
Translation: I spilled, and you need to clean it up because last time I did it, the house flooded.
I was angry at her for flooding the house when she tried to clean off the stain, but then Nina had to be there and reminded me that I did the same damn thing.
Emerson stared at her, then his eyes traveled towards me then back towards the little girl.
“Mommy, can I eat yours while daddy fights the carpet?”
“Sure,” I respond.
“Yes!” Crystal’s head disappears.
Emerson shook his head, “Yes, sugar?”
He nods, “R-Right. Ravioli.”
“Daddy! Help! Help! The carpet monster is eating all the meatloaf again!” Crystal pretends she is scared.
“Right. Right. I need to go fight the carpet monster.” He sounds dead.
He looks dead.
“Emmy, are you okay?” I ask. I notice the dark bags underneath his eyes. I haven’t seen him sleep for the past few weeks. Maybe he does, and I never noticed.
He nods, “Ravioli. Carpet monster. Doctor appointment. Another child.” He robotically walks into the dining room.
The phone rang beside me and I stared at it. It’s across the couch on the small table. Emerson came back, grabbed the phone, and handed it to me. He took off with the rag, “Monster. Monster. Dab not rub. Dab. Dab.”
I pick up the call, “Sup sis.”
“Hey, Piper. Where are you?” Nina asks.
“What do you mean, where am I?”
“We’re supposed to meet tonight.”
“When was that a thing?”
“Last night. I told Emerson to tell you.”
I huffed a breath and stood up, then stomped my way towards the dining room. The door burst open, “Em-” I stopped talking when I saw how furious Emerson looked while he was dabbing. I look at Crystal, who shrugs before she stares at Emerson again.
I held the phone to my ear, “Sorry. I’m going to have to take a rain check.”
“I think my husband is near a meltdown.”
“Daughter. Daughter. No more girls,” Emerson mumbled under his breath. “Please, son. Son. Son!”
I sneak towards him and place a hand on his shoulder.
He jolted back, “I didn’t say, son! I’m happy with either! They’re my joy! You’re all my happiness!”
“Oh yeah. He’s having a major breakdown,” Nina said. “Well, the guys will be hanging out together. Why don’t Emerson go with them? You know, grab a few beers. It’ll probably help him sleep.”
I smiled - not really - when Emerson stared at me with wild tired eyes.
“We’ll be there.”