III. You're Beautiful
I fix Emerson’s shirt.
“What about the ravioli?” He asks.
“Don’t worry about it. The girls and I will grab some other food.”
“The carpet stain?”
“I’ll clean it tomorrow.”
“You can’t. You’re pregnant.”
"I can clean Emmy. Don’t worry.”
“What about Crystal?”
“Nina said our mom could watch her and all the other kids. She’ll be fine. She’ll play with her cousins and friends. Mom will throw them some food and water. They’ll survive.”
He nods before tugging at his collar.
“Emmy. You need to relax.” I placed a hand on his cheeks and ran my thumbs down it. “I’m sorry. This is my fault. I’ve been so moody, and this is the aftermath.”
Emerson shook his head, “No. No. No. I should’ve been a better husband. We had already done this once and-”
I cover his mouth with my hand, “For once, can you just accept my apologies?” I exhale softly, “Geez. What happened to the man that I married? The man before you know, the little devil in the other room appeared.” Yes. I’m blaming our daughter.
Emerson cleared his throat and puffed up his chest, “I’m still the same man.”
I pat his belly. It used to be a six-pack. I’m pretty sure it’s still under there somewhere, crying probably. “Physically? Not really. Mentally? For sure, a big no.”
His brows furrow, “Are you calling me fat?” He rubs his squishy belly. “My six-pack is down there somewhere. I’m just getting ready for winter.”
I laugh, “Yeah? For the last four years?” I pinched his squishy belly.
“You said you love my squish. It’s like hugging a teddy bear.” He covers his tummy. “Now, I’m going to have to work out again.”
I couldn’t do it. The laughter erupts again. “I’m kidding, Emmy.” I kissed his cheek, “I love your squish and your pokey beard.”
He pouts, “Then, why do you keep telling me to shave it?”
I shrug, “I’m Piper Lun. Half of the stuff coming out of my mouth doesn’t match how I feel. You’re my husband. You should know that.”
Emerson gave me a side glance, “Yes. I’m supposed to know that ‘Shave that damn ugly beard of yours. It’s giving my face a rash’ is translated to ‘I love how it pokes against my soft skin.’ Yup. Totally obvious.”
I smiled and felt my face, “You think my skin is soft?”
“Like a baby butt.” He pats my cheek before he squishes them and kisses my pucker lips.
“Yuck!” Crystal sticks out her tongue and pretends to vomit.
“Are you ready, baby?” Emerson asks.
Crystal embraced her unicorn stuffed animal against her unicorn pajamas before she turned around to show off her unicorn backpack. “Yes, daddy!” When she walks, her unicorn slippers light up. She’s going through a phase.
“Where are your shoes?” I ask.
She unzips her backpack to show her unicorn shoes and extra unicorn clothes.
I hit Emerson’s chest, “I told you not to buy her so much unicorn stuff for her birthday.”
“Look at her,” Emerson said. “She looks so happy.”
Crystal pulls out her unicorn horn headband and puts it on before she straps her backpack on her back. “I’m ready.”
“Yes. Ready to get teased. Take off that horn,” I said.
Crystal pours out her lower lips, “Daddy got it for me.”
Emerson smiles, “Why does she have to take it off? Look how cute my crystal heart is.”
Crystal grinned, “And don’t worry. If they teased me, I’d just beat them up.” She got into her karate pose. “Hyah!” She karate chops the air.
“Yes! Hyah!” Emerson chops the air.
“Crystal. You can’t go around beating up other kids...again,” I said. I pinched Emerson’s waist, “And you. Stop embracing the fact that our daughter beat up other kids. This is why we have bi-weekly meetings with the school.”
Emerson chuckled, “Of course they want to meet the parents of a genius. Our daughter is only five, and she’s tested at a fourth-grade level.” Emerson held out a hand for a high five.
Crystal jumped and slammed her palm on his with her tongue sticking out.
“Yes, and they also said she couldn’t move out of first grade because of her temper.” I poke Emerson’s head, ”Your temper.”
“Mommy. Why are you blaming daddy? Uncle Tyler told me you used to beat up a lot of kids when you were my age.”
Emerson crossed his arms and tugged a brow.
“Yes, baby, but I was young at that time. I realized my mistakes.” I’m going to kill Tyler.
“And I’m young too. I’m not old like you, mommy. Let me make my mistakes.”
I gasped, and a hand fell flat on my chest, “You called me old?”
“Okay.” Emerson claps twice, “I can see this isn’t going to turn out well, and I can’t stand seeing you two holding your breath until I take a side. So, Crystal, why don’t you go into the garage and wait for mommy and daddy.”
She puckers her lips and turns towards the garbage. “You always take mommy’s sides.”
“She got that attitude from you.” With each syllable, I poked Emerson’s chest.
He rubs it, “Yes. Yes. My attitude.”
I huffed a breath and went upstairs to grab my purse.
“I love you!” Emerson shouted.
“You’re a beautiful mom too!”
“I hate you!”
Emerson burst out laughing from downstairs. When I got back, he was still laughing. He embraced me from behind, and I allowed the warmth to consume every inch of my body. “How about-” he whispered into my ear, “I’ll show you how much of a beautiful young woman you are tomorrow.”
I fought the smile that desperately wants to erupt, “Whatever.” I wiggle out of his arms and walk towards the garage.
Emerson held out the door for me and helped me get inside. Once I’m in, he helps Crystal and buckles her up. Crystal starts off her tangents about what she will do to make her cousins mad. Emerson could only nod and smile since he doesn’t understand her. When Crystal goes off on a tangent, her words would somehow crumble together.
He jumped into the minivan, and off we went to our mom’s house. His hand reaches for mine, and steadily, it tangles together.
With my left hand occupied, I rub my stomach with my right. The light music enters my ears, and I tried my best not to zone out the chattering in the back. It’s difficult. She could go on for hours. When we passed by an ice cream store, Crystal slammed her face against the window.
“Ice cream!” Her breath fogs up the glass.
Without a request for neither his wife nor daughter, he rolls the van into the parking lot.
I look at Emerson.
He smiles, “Don’t you want ice cream?”
“Well-” he turns towards the back seat, “What about you, unicorn?”
“Yes!” Crystal bounces in her baby seat. She wiggles the wand around. I took a double-take. Where did she get that wand?
“See? The unicorn wants ice cream.”
“The unicorn always wants ice cream. Breakfast. Lunch. Dinner.”
“Brunch. Linner. Dessert!” Crystal included.
I look back, “I’m cutting the time you can call your cousin.”
“Why are you punishing me and rewarding Josh? What did I do?” Crystal talking to Josh less would be a reward for him. They have a love and hate relationship. They said they hate each other, but they talk to each other the most out of all cousins.
I ignored Crystal. “So, the unicorn is the one who wants ice cream?”
Emerson’s eyes went around, “Okay. Okay! It’s me! I want the ice cream!” He huffed a breath, “And we all know I darn well deserve a chocolate ice cream with whip cream on top and those rainbow sprinkles!”
“Me too!” Crystal raises her hand, “I deserve that too!”
“What did you do?” I ask.
“I put on my shoes all by myself.”
“And I slip it on myself.” She slaps the back of my car seat with the wand. “Get it, mommy?” Her laughter soon became snorted, “I said, slip on for the slippers. Do you get it? Do you?” The unicorn became a snorting pig.
Emerson looks at me, ”That definitely came from your side.”
The cursed Lun’s jokes. I was hoping since it skips me, it would skip my children too. It seems too good to be true.
“You took my family last name. It’s your side too.”
After we got married, Emerson changed his last name - Hanson to Lun. So, now he’s Emerson Lun. From what I noticed, Emerson isn’t particularly fond of his family. Then again, when I met him over five years ago, he was a wandering hobo.
I met him sleeping on a park bench.
Emerson held up a finger, “Touche.” He clicks off his belt, “And I’ll make it up by giving us all ice cream.” He clicks off my belt, “Come on. Let’s go.”
I groaned, “This is why we’re always the last one to arrive at the family meetings.”
Inside the ice cream store, Emerson and Crystal stared excitedly at the row of sweets. Some would think I don’t feed my husband and child at home. Granted. Emerson is the one doing all the cooking.
After they got their fulfilling orders, we went back into the car. Emerson scoops a portion of his ice cream with the tiny spoon. My eyes flicker towards the large spoon then at him. Yes. This is my husband. He would give me a portion of his ice cream with a small spoon instead of the big one. I opened my mouth, and he flew it inside. He kissed my cheek before grabbing the large one and devouring everything inside the container.
I shook my head and looked at the rearview mirror, “Be careful, baby.”
“If she spills-”
“Yes. Yes.” Emerson starts the car with the spoon inside his mouth. “My fault for suggesting ice cream. My fault, so I’ll clean up the mess.”
When we reach our destination, Emerson helps Crystal out of the car. In the front were a group of kids - all different ages. Crystal’s eyes roamed around until it pinned towards a particular child. “HayHay!”
She rushes towards Hailey.
Hailey isn’t Crystal’s cousin.
She’s Nina’s ex-boyfriend’s daughter, who also happens to be her son, Josh, crush.
Hailey grinned, “Crystal!” She got off of the grass and tumbled towards Crystal.
“HayBug!” And that would be Josh.
Emerson helps me get out of the car. “Every family meeting seems to have more people than the last,” he said.
“Emmy,” I said. “This isn’t even a family gathering.” I look towards the front to see mom walking out.
She smiled and held me. “Look at how big you got.” She rubs my stomach, “You could match your sister last pregnancy.”
I nod, “Yup, mom. That’s how pregnant I am.”
“Everyone is waiting for you inside.”
I exhale, “Crys-”
“Don’t worry. I’ll watch all the kids,” mom intervened. She smiles, “Who wants brownies?” The kids, even teenagers, screamed and scrambled towards her like monsters.
Emerson supported me inside the house. “I still have a hard time imagining that mom used to be strict when you were younger.”
Mom used to be what others would label as a tiger mom. She would physiologically whip all seven of her kids into shape.
“Emmy. There’s a reason why four out of seven kids move out of state.”
Mom mellowed throughout the years, and she isn’t strict as she used to be, notably, after the divorce with dad. We don’t see dad as much anymore. We tried to string together the relationship in the past, but there was too much bad blood between dad and everyone else.
After all, who could ever easily forgive the man who had an affair behind his family back.
Yes - an affair.
Dad got another woman pregnant while he was still married to mom.
“What’s wrong?” Emerson asks. We stood in the small hallway with the washer and dryer. The machines are still running. “Thinking about your dad?”
I nod, “Yeah.”
“Piper. All because your siblings decided not to talk to him anymore doesn’t mean you can’t.”
“I know, but I choose not to talk to him.”