“Mama, Is daddy coming home tonight?” little Ophelia asked, running through the study to her Mom, her honey locks bouncing up and down her shoulders.
She clutched onto Wren’s night gown, snapping her eyes from the pages of the book she was reading to the little girl that looked so much like her. It always warmed her heart and tugged at it at how Ophelia, Philly, was a mini version of her. She shut the book and set it down on the windowsill, taking the barely four year old in her arms and settling her on her lap, taming her hair and tucking it behind her ears.
“How do you manage to become prettier everyday, my Philly?” Wren cooed; her baby girl started giggling, burying her head in the crook of her mama’s neck.
“Will I be beautiful like mommy some day?” she looked up at Wren with hope glimmering in her wide eyes.
“Oh you will be the prettiest girl in town, a heart breaker.” Wren tapped her nose lightly, feeling so much love for the bundle of sunshine in her arms.
“Mom,” Lennon’s irritated whine from down the hall as he stomped his way to the study.
“Oh no,” Ophelia gasped snuggling closer to her mother’s chest.
Helena sighed already knowing how this is going to pan out. The blonde haired sixteen year old with cornflower blue eyes was now staring at his little sister with arms crossed over his chest. He pointed to the little devil, the frown indicating his annoyance definitely a trait he inherited from his father. “Mom she ruined the homework I’ve been working on all day long!”
“Philly!” Wren reprimanded trying to pry the little one’s arms from around her. She soon gave up the fight and pulled away pouting at her mother. “Why did you do that?”
“Lenny was being mean. He didn’t wanna play with me, and he said I was annoying and shut me out of his room.” She said puffing up her cheeks defiantly, looking back to her big brother.
“You were annoying! I was doing homework and you were being loud and making a mess of my room.” He retorted.
“B-because you ignore me!” She screamed in a high pitch voice.
“Okay, enough both of you.” Wren put up her hand, stopping the shouting and tantrums about to ensue. She was already feeling a headache looming without all of this noise. She turned to the girl on her lap, “That was not a very nice thing to do Ophelia! You can’t just ruin your brother’s homework because he didn’t play with you.”
Philly stuck out her bottom lip giving her mom puppy eyes as she started protesting “But-
“No buts young lady,” Wren cut decidedly and looked up at Lennon who was sporting a triumphant smirk on his face that fell instantly when he caught his mom’s stern gaze, “And you mister, will not call your little sister annoying or kick her out of the room. Next time you settle your problems with compromise, am I clear?”
“Yes mom...” Lennon looked down obediently. Lennon always ended up listening to his mother anyway. Helena couldn’t help but think how much trouble Len saves her. For a sixteen year old, he never really was rebellious enough to give her unnecessary trouble, unlike her eldest twins who were more challenging than she thought teenagers could get.
“Good, now apologize to one another.” Wren concluded, both their heads shot up to protest again but she raised a challenging brow. They instantly blurted in unison, “I’m sorry!”
Ophelia climbed down from her mother’s lap and went to her brother clutching his pyjama pants hesitantly and whispered guiltily, “I’m sorry Lenny. I won’t do it again.”
He bent down and smiled at his little sister. He could never stay angry with her for long anyway. “I’m sorry too, Philly. I promise we’ll play in the garden together in the morning.”
“Mom, are Amber and Ales coming back tomorrow?” Lennon asked ruffling his little sister’s hair.
“Ales said they’ll be here by lunchtime,” Wren sighed looking out into the night. There were no stars to be glimpsed in the dark cloudy sky. Something about their absence was always unsettling to her. It could never be a good omen.
“Mama...” the little voice interrupted her thoughts again. The face of her daughter came into view. She was resigned and crestfallen. “So daddy won’t come home tonight?”
“Philly,” Lennon tried to hush her with a sharp but kind whisper, as if trying to spare his mother the pain of conjuring up an excuse that she had recycled over various days for countless years.
She got up from where she sat and hoisted the girl in her arms, giving a reassuring smile to her boy and caressing his cheek. They headed together upstairs towards their bedrooms, as Wren tried to distract the little one. “Daddy is a busy man, baby. I’m sure when he comes back he’ll have a wonderful gift waiting for his beautiful princess.”
“I don’t want a gift mommy,” Ophelia said through teary eyes as Wren tucked her into her bed. “You said he would be here today...”
Wren looked at her daughter’s sad eyes, tears overflowing them started spilling down her chubby cheeks, and every drop felt like a tongue of flame licking at her withered heart. She shushed Ophelia, wipingher tears and kissing the top of her head. “Don’t be sad, baby. Mommy’s here,and so is Lenny. Amber and Alessandro are coming back to see their beautiful brave sister and spend time with you, and daddy may be planning to surprise his little princess, huh?”
“Y-you think so mummy?” she sniffled looking hopefully at her mama. Wren smiled at her wiping her little snotty button nose and dropping a warm kiss to her forehead.
“Do you want me to read you a bedtime story?” Lennon’s voice sounded through the room, and Wren watched him sit down beside Ophelia, who soon forgot her tears and became excited that she’s finally getting her big brother’s attention. She nodded eagerly and Len picked up her favourite story book.
“You can go to sleep mom, I can take care of this.” He said looking all toughened up for her.
Wren smiled, immensely grateful for the best and only reward in life, her children. That was the one thought that kept her going when the darkness crept in from every which way. She gave Lennon a hug and whispered to him, “Don’t stay up too late.”
He nodded with a smile of his own, and Wren left the room a moment after standing in the doorway watching her children snuggled up together.
Life was always promising and bright and full of countless opportunities for a younger Wren: Intelligent, sweet, caring, kind, a ray of happiness and sunshine to her family, a girl who had it all... until she didn’t. She had told herself countless times that there was no use in disputing what’s happened and was set in stone. No good ever came out of dwelling in the past, and picking at scabs only brings forth the blood and pain again. She was resigned to her faith, to where she ended up in life... resigned, grateful, and almost happy. Almost.
“Madam,” the polite maid touched Helena’s shoulder swiftly to break her out of her reverie. She had walked to the kitchen in the morning to find her mistress standing by the stove making porridge. Except that the smell of burning started to fill the kitchen, and the house’s lady seemed in a daze, oblivious completely to the burning contents in the saucepan she was standing over. Eventually Sharon, the only maid Wren had ever allowed to stay in the house with her for almost ten years now, had turned off the stove and discarded the charred concoction in the sink drowning it in water. She looked at the beautiful madam in concern trying to call out her name and attention.
Wren snapped out at the sight of Sharon and the feel of the kind elderly woman’s hand on her shoulder, suddenly aware of the burning smell and the pan discarded in the sink. She huffed and offered the housekeeper an apologetic look before taking a seat at the kitchen island.
“Are you okay, Madam?” Sharon asked kindly. Laying a motherly hand on Helena’s shoulder. That touch often warmed her heart, but right now, it made her wish the good woman would not offer such comfort. She was thoroughly exhausted for an early start to the day.
Wren nodded, “I’m sorry Sharon. I spaced out.”
“All is good my lady. Are you feeling unwell? Perhaps I should call the doctor ma’am?” the good woman fussed.
“There is no need,” Wren waved away her concern, tugging her nightgown tighter around herself. She sat quietly and observed the old woman making their breakfast and thought how her own mother would’ve been about Sharon’s age if she were still alive. She loved the woman dearly, and trusted only her with staying at this house and helping look after her family.
Ever since that unfaithful event, Wren never trusted anyone in her household aside from Sharon, Benson the driver, and the two security men that kept an eye out on the property and its owners’ safety.
Wren had no one in the world. She had lost her family when she was about Lennon’s age. All she had were memories of her life before... She chuckled to herself at the thought. It was true to some extent. It always felt like there were two versions of herself, two Wrens. Wren of before and Wren After: the former a distant memory, the latter an inescapable reality.