One year later…
With the Italian sun shining overhead, I reclined in the heavily cushioned sunbed, taking full advantage of the peace and quiet. Birds chirped in the clear, blue sky, dancing in what appeared to be a show put on for my benefit. Their beautiful wings spread wide as they glided, following each other in endless loops.
Another sip of my virgin mojito brought bliss to my dry throat, pairing rather nicely with my earlier drink of rose lemonade. Being abroad always made me thirsty and it seemed sweet drinks were yet another craving to the pregnancy I had only just discovered, courtesy of Fiesole’s twenty-four hour chemist. I had yet to inform Spencer of my revelation and figured I would tell him soon enough.
“Jess, will you watch me cannon ball?” asked Leila, penetrating the silence.
“Of course. Give me your biggest splash!” I encouraged, sitting up to appropriately score her jumping technique.
This was an ongoing competition we had and as I witnessed her little face scowl in fierce determination, I didn’t regret our decision to bring her along on our honeymoon. People had said we were mad, highlighting the fact that alone time would be few and far between with both her and Ethan. But Spencer and I didn’t care. This was as much their holiday as it was ours and I wouldn’t want it any other way.
Her run and jump whizzed by in a blur, finishing nicely with an almighty splash in our private pool.
“TEN!” I yelled, clapping enthusiastically as I went.
“Really?” she asked, submerging from the water.
She no longer required armbands but I did like to be around when she went for a dip. Perhaps it was the mother in me but when danger was a potentiality, I was on my babies like a fucking rash.
“Yes, now come over here and get some more sun cream on.”
She rolled her eyes at my need to apply yet more sun cream, though knew better than to deny me. Leila was smart enough to go along with everything I said, though not always to the compliancy I required. Her sass was still strong and as much as I loved the little madam with all my might, boy did I dislike her cheek at times.
“You already did it like an hour ago,” she moaned, drying off with her beach towel.
“And I’ll do it again,” I responded, squirting a blob on my hand before rubbing it into her shoulders. “That was a fantastic cannon ball, by the way,” I admitted, kissing her head for good measure.
“Kimmy and Sarah say I’m the best,” she gloated, standing perfectly still as I worked my way down her body,
The three were still the best of friends, often playing havoc when it was our turn to host their monthly sleepovers. The amount of energy they had was unbelievable at times but I loved seeing it.
“What do I hear about you being the best at cannon balls?” questioned Spencer, emerging from the French doors looking every inch the Greek god in his navy blue trunks with our son sprawled across his chest.
Ethan was dead to the world in yet another one of his naps, content in the arms of his father/ best friend. The two were inseparable, often making myself and Leila laugh. We jokingly called them the two musketeers and resorted to creating our own members club, which Leila so appropriately named ‘boys are smelly!’ She was currently at the ‘I hate boys’ stage, much to Spencer’s delight. And Scott’s. My other boss almost had an aneurism last month when Leila casually dropped her boyfriend’s name into conversation.
Lord help him when Sophia reaches that age.
“Kimmy and Sarah swear it. Jess said it was fantastic too.”
“Is that so? Well, I demand a rematch,” he informed, carefully feeling his way over towards the sun loungers.
There, he inflicted a long kiss to my lips, smirking though every second of it. I knew what that smirk meant. Last night, we may or may not have christened the very sun bed we were now on. Indoor sex was rather difficult when sharing a bedroom with a six-month-old baby and we were on our honeymoon for crying out loud…
“Jessica and Ethan can be the judge!” declared Leila, opening up to the idea of this rematch.
Spencer nodded in delight and handed over a peacefully sleeping Ethan, careful in his transition. My boy was precious when he slept and not so angelic when awake. Not that it mattered. As far as I was concerned, he was perfect. Dark haired and bad tempered, he was the living embodiment of his dad. He’d even inherited the famous Michaels gene–emerald eyes. All three of my loves had them and I often found it was their biggest advantage over me. One look of those beauties and I was a slave to their demands. More so, Spencer’s.
“I think that’s fair,” he agreed, picking up his daughter and littering her face with kisses.
She giggled her response and kissed him back just as vigorously, thoroughly enjoying the moment. They messed around for a while before finally jumping in the pool, awakening Ethan in the process.
“Hey, bambino,” I cooed. “They’re noisy, aren’t they?”
Ethan looked at me though sleep-blurred eyes and offered me a dazzling smile upon finally breaking through the haze. I kissed his button nose and sat him on my lap, facing him towards his dad and sister.
“Ethan’s awake!” squealed Leila, fuelled by excitement.
She was the most protective person I knew over her baby brother and often rivalled me in her insistence to see to his every need.
“I’ll get his hat!” she offered, once again climbing out of the pool, leaving Spencer inside, leisurely going about doing a few strokes.
She handed over the tiny blue hat gifted to us from James and Catherine for the purpose of this trip. It went perfectly with the blue shoes Dad and Karen bought him and even matched the adorable sunglasses Sam and Bethany had insisted on getting. Sam was great was great with Ethan, often teaching him cool tricks. The latest was his need to fist-pump and watching Ethan copy his uncle’s actions was certainly heart-warming.
I secured the cotton material tightly on his perfect little head and persisted when the little diva threw an absolute tantrum because of it.
“That’s right, son. Give her hell,” laughed Spencer, kicking back from the pool’s edge.
The little shit!
“Ethan, you have to wear your hat. It’s good for you,” explained Leila, kissing his cheek and grabbing his hand.
There, she distracted him with dramatic arm movements, gifting me the perfect opportunity to answer the incoming FaceTime call from our iPad.
“It’s your mum,” I informed, sliding to accept.
Isy’s face flashed across the screen, gorgeous and rejuvenated as usual
“Hey, how are the Michaels?” she asked, teasingly.
I still couldn’t get over the fact that I was no longer a Turner. We’d finally tied the knot last week in a small ceremony consisting of close friends and immediate family. My bridesmaids–Rosalie, Lucy and Bethany–had all looked magnificent in their dusty pink dresses but for the most part, their thunder was stolen by the two gorgeous flower girls–Leila and Sophia. Scott did brilliantly in his best man speech, as did Calvin and Sam. In the end, Spencer couldn’t decide between the three so ended up choosing them all.
“We’re great. How’s things with you?” I asked, shielding my eyes from the blinding sun.
“Fine. Jealous of all that sunshine though. It is raining here.”
“Oh no. Spencer, did you hear that? It’s raining in England.”
“My heart bleeds for you, Isy,” he mocked, causing her to laugh.
“Whatever! Is that Ethan I see? He’s grown so much.”
I put the camera on his chubby face, broadening Isy’s smile.
“Hi Mummy!” beamed Leila, coming into view. “Do you wanna watch my cannon ball?”
“Hi! Oh, absolutely, Tesoro.”
I flipped the camera around and focused in on Leila’s goofy thumbs up, flashing her a wink as I went.
“Ready, darling? One…two…THREE!”
In she ran, soaking Spencer, who had been enjoying a leisurely swim before his daughter so kindly ruined it.
“Wow! That was HUGE!” gushed Isy, letting Leila know just how impressed she was. “Although there appears to be a whale in your swimming pool.”
I instantly cracked up whilst Spencer simply smirked, no doubt oppressed in what he really wanted to say, due to there being children present.
“I heard that!” he moaned, flipping onto his stomach upon hearing Leila’s approach.
She swam all the way over to him and proceeded to climb on his back, pretending he was a dolphin whose mission it was to chauffeur her around. Ethan clapped his hands in delayed gratification, adorable in his need to applaud his big sister.
“Now that I’ve got you on your own…” I began, glancing quickly towards Leila who was far too occupied to overhear. “How did your date go the other night?”
Isy blushed, though proceeded to smile through her mild embarrassment. “Great! He was a real gentleman. I am seeing him again on Thursday.”
“Oh, really? He must be keen if you’ve already set up date two.”
Last month, Isy joined an online dating agency, feeling the need to move on with her love life–and thankfully met Harry. Her confidence had taken a hard hit after Alister but with his sentencing behind us, she was finally ready to date again. We’d all been relieved to hear that Alister was receiving punishment for his crimes and better yet, that he was getting help with regards to his mental health. He hadn’t handled the death of his parents and sister and because of that, became a toxic version of himself. People like him didn’t deserve to be locked up with the key thrown away. They needed support and thankfully, our system was able to offer him that.
“Yes. I really like him,” she shared, cracking yet another smile.
Seeing her so happy was a delight.
“I told him all about Leila. He has a nine-year-old niece so he knows all about sassy girls.”
“Just as well,” I laughed, thinking it took a certain type of person to handle our Leila and her outbursts.
God love her!
Ethan began shuffling around on my lap, seemingly uncomfortable or in dire need of some lunch.
“Oh, the beast is getting touchy. He must want feeding,” I shared, bouncing him lightly on my knee as a way of distracting him.
“Is it your lunch time, Ethan?” asked Isy, smiling at his dribbling mouth and laughing at the fact that he’d taken to the idea of eating my arm.
“I better go before my baby eats me,” I stressed, letting the others know she was going. “Say bye, you lot!”
“BYE, MUMMY!” yelled Leila, waving from her position on Spencer’s back.
“Bye, Isy! We’ll give you a call in a few days,” he added, flipping her over with an almighty splash.
I reassured Ethan and offered Isy a quick wave, promising to call her back in a few days’ time with updates from Leila. It was nice that we all got on. We were by no means best pals but I was confident enough in our relationship to call Isy a friend. It made things much easier with Leila, as well as promoting a positive message. Kids picked up all sorts of crap and how we were with each other would determine what kind of person Leila would grow up to be.
“Let’s get you fed, handsome man,” I suggested, grabbing some pre-made, pureed vegetables from the fridge in our villa.
“Hmm, what’s on the menue this lunch time, Son? Mushed broccoli or mashed carrots?” asked Spencer, unbothered by the water droplets he was getting all over the tiled floor.
“Where’s Leila? You’ve not left her in the pool, have you?” I questioned, growing panicked.
“Relax. She’s reading on the sunbed. I told her not to go in unless one of us is with her.”
I glanced out the window and found her nose deep in Spencer’s kindle, reading out loud to herself.
“Good. And it’s mashed turnip,” I informed, cracking the lid open.
I slowly fed Ethan, allowing him small breaks in between each bite and turned my focus towards my charging phone on the kitchen counter. The group chat I had between everyone overflowed with notifications.
LUCY: HELP!! Calvin is doing my head in. Apparently being eight months pregnant means I no longer have the capability to tie my own shoelaces. I’m close to strangling him with the fuckers!
CALVIN: Babe, you know I’m part of this chat too, right?
LUCY: YES! Take the hint.
ROSALIE: I remember Scott being like that.
SCOTT: What? No I wasn’t!
SAM: Mate, don’t fight it. Just agree…
ROSALIE: You were SO over protective.
SCOTT: I prefer the term obsessive, thank you very much! (;
LUCY: Did Scott just use an emoji? HAHAHHAHAHAHA
CALVIN: Welcome to the 21st century, mate.
SCOTT: Piss off!
BETHANY: LOL. Just you wait until the little one is finally here. It only gets worse.
LUCY: Oh, I know…
CALVIN: I’ve already told Luce if it’s a girl, she’s gonna be a nun.
SAM: Is there room for one more? I’d love to sign Georgie up for that.
BETHANY: OUR DAUGHTER WILL NOT BE A NUN FOR YOUR BENEFIT!
SCOTT: I like this idea. Rosie, shall we get Sophia in on it too?
LUCY: Oh, FFS!
SCOTT: Spence, you want in on this? Leila isn’t too old to rebel just yet!
SPENCER: I’m game.
ROSALIE: Lucy is gonna murder Calvin for starting this. CALVIN–HIDE ALL THE SHOELACES!!!!
SAM: Too right. I guess we all know who’ll be cracking the whip tonight.
LUCY: Scott, seriously…what’s with the emojis?
I giggled at their antics and tore my gaze away from the screen just in time to catch a blob of chewed up turnip falling from Ethan’s mouth.
“What’s so funny, bellissima?” asked Spencer, coming over to kiss me on the head.
“I’m laughing at Calvin being overbearing. I see you’ve signed Leila up to nunnery school?.”
Spencer laughed, choking a little on his bottled water.
“Too bloody right, I have! Although, I do understand where Lucy is coming from. Calvin is being a bit obsessive.”
“You’re one to talk!” I scoffed, gifting Ethan the spoon to play with. “I seem to recall you going full blown cave man on me in the final few weeks. In fact, come to think of it, you were like that the entire nine months.”
“What can I say…I’m protective of those I love,” he sassed, squeezing my waist and nibbling on my lower lip.
“About that…” I began, checking on Leila again, happy in the knowledge that she was still engrossed in her book.
“I’ve been feeling sick and craving fizzy pop again,” I admitted, seeing his curiosity turn into amusement.
“What are you saying?”
“Well, when we took the kids out for ice cream yesterday, I stopped by the local chemist and got a pregnancy test. It’s positive.”
His teasing smile transformed into a full blown grin and he hugged me, cradling me to his broad chest.
“I was wondering when you were going to tell me.”
“WHAT?” I asked, holding him at arm’s length. “You knew?”
“Of course I knew.”
He laughed. “Let’s just say I recognised the signs.”
I looked over to Ethan and momentarily smiled at his gorgeous face.
“What kind of signs?” I questioned, more than a little curious to know.
Our son watched us as though he knew exactly what we were talking about. He gargled a few times, always so vocal whenever Spencer was around. I had a theory that he somehow sensed his dad was limited in sight and because of that, he made the extra effort to be noisy. As parents, Spencer and I never frowned upon being loud. In fact, if anything, we encouraged it. Perhaps that was why both Leila and Ethan were such whirlwinds?
“Well, aside from the obvious nausea and fizzing pop addiction…”
“Yeah?” I pushed, waiting for him to continue.
“You’re always horny.”
I grabbed the nearest tea towel and wafted his bottom, enjoying his boyish squeals.
“Don’t say words like that around Ethan!”
“Oh, come on He doesn’t understand,” he insisted, feeling for his chubby hands and lifting him from his highchair.
“It doesn’t matter. At this rate, his first words will be flogger or doggy style.”
“Jess, baby, you make it sound like we’re sex freaks.”
“WE ARE!” I protested, coming over to kiss them both on the cheek.
Leila came bounding in, seemingly after a snack.
“You hungry, sweetheart?”
She nodded and stuck her arms out, in need to some attention. I picked her up in an instant and slid over the box of strawberries we had. I watched as she picked a few and stuffed them in her mouth, mumbling words of incoherent gratification.
“What do you think, bambina? You wanna go out for ice cream again later?” asked Spencer, stealing a kiss from her strawberry smeared lips.
“YES, please!” she replied, resting her head on my shoulder.
“You tired, baby?” I asked, kissing her hairline tenderly.
She nodded, practically asleep in my arms. “How about a team nap before ice cream?” suggested Spencer, offering to take her.
“It’s gelato, Daddy,” she sassed, certainly not about to let exhaustion get in the way of her attitude.
Sometimes, I see a lot of myself in her.
“Of course, my mistake,” he replied, encouraging me to follow.
He positioned Leila in the centre of our bed and climbed in next to her, gesturing for me to do the same on the other side. I did as instructed and put Ethan in his baby ring, simply watching as they drifted off into a peaceful snooze. Spencer had his arm wrapped firmly around Leila’s waist with his free hand outstretched towards Ethan. Leila faced her baby brother and held his hand, as if the very thought of leaving go was non-negotiable. All three of them were picture perfect with matching expressions and tanned skin. Leila’s long lashes casted magnificent shadows over her cheeks, much like Ethan’s and fluttered every so often. Both their lips settled into natural pouts and let slip the odd soft snore, indicating deep slumber.
“Are you not tired, baby?” whispered Spencer, opening his eyes and propping himself up on one elbow.
“Just enjoying the view,” I shared, running my fingers along his arm.
Both of us remained silent, feeling the gentle caress of the outside breeze against our skin as it seeped in through the open window. This right here was my very own window into heaven. I had my brilliant husband, two perfect kids and another one currently cooking.
What more could I possibly want?
“We should get another cat,” stated Spencer, rather randomly.
“Why?” I asked, letting slip a tiny giggle.
He simply shrugged and turned to face me, flashing me that cheeky grin of his.
“For Gatto. He needs a friend.”
I shook my head, highly amused by his logic. I glanced around the room and lingered on the white walls, noticing the framed picture of various landmarks around Fiesole.
“Can you see?” I asked, turning my head towards him.
He smiled and shook his head, no longer bothered by such a thing. At one time, this news would constrict my heart but not anymore. I’d come to learn that Spencer didn’t require his sight to be happy. He just needed his friends and family.
“No, but I can feel,” he insisted, using his freehand to caress my cheeks. “And right now, I feel fucking fantastic.”
I smiled and kissed his callous finger tips, marvelling in this feeling of complete utopia. I never thought I was capable of such love until Spencer came along and gave me hope. A purpose. And most importantly, a family. The three occupants of this bed were my entire world, bringing out a maternal instinct in me that I had only ever felt once before with Charlotte. Every day, I thought about her but rather than allowing it to swallow me whole, I did what I thought would make her proud. Mum too. From the moment I fell in love with Spencer, I never once stopped fighting for him. For us. I’d do anything to ensure his happiness, as it was the key to my own. My best friend. My dom. My husband.
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