I felt someone nudge my shoulder, “Your turn.” The voice of the man next to me filled my half-sleep ears.
I was too tired to even come up with a smart remark as I dragged my body out of bed. I followed the crying over to a white bassinet positioned close to a corner of the room. As soon as he saw me, he stopped crying.
“Hi, honey,” I cooed as I picked up the baby boy, “it’s okay, Jackson, mama’s here.”
He let out a few whimpers as I heard someone whisper, “Daddy, I’m hungry.”
I turned to see Gina whispering to Tyler. Sleepily, he sat up on his elbows, “Okay, Gigi, if you and your brother go to the kitchen... I’ll come make breakfast.”
She ran out of the room as Ty blinked all the sleep out of his eyes and looked over at me, “Morning, Beautiful.”
I smiled, “Oh, wipe the sleep out of your eyes, Ty, I look terrible right now.”
“You always look beautiful to me,” he got out of bed and walked to me, kissing my temple, “especially when you’re holding our kids.”
“Oh, you cheeseball. Do you know the last time I took a shower?”
“Yes, because I remember the disappointment of not being able to get in there with you.”
“You’re impossible,” I gave him a peck on the lips before jetting my head towards the door, “now, c’mon, it’s time for breakfast.”
We walked to the kitchen, hand in hand , where Gina and T.J sat at the table while watching the TV that sat on the counter.
“Happy birthday, you two!” They gave me wide toothy grins as I kissed both of their heads.
“Hey,” Tyler exclaimed, “you guys hungry?”
“Alright, cereal?” They shook their heads. I opened the fridge and pulled out a pre-pumped bottle of breast milk. “Wait, did mom say it’s your birthday? ” This time they nodded excitedly, “Well then, what do you want?”
“Pancakes!” they cheered in unison.
“Okay, I’ll make pancakes, but you two have to help me.”
The twins jumped up and followed Tyler to the sink to wash their hands. While they did that, I sat in the rocking chair that was in the corner of the dinner room.
“Are you hungry, little man?” He cooed, which earned a smile from me. “I know you are, baby.”
He liked to pretend that he couldn’t hold the bottle, but I knew he could; I didn’t mind feeding him though, these were the moments I treasured with my kids. It wouldn’t be long before he would be able walk and be too heavy to pick up. I was pretty selfish with all of my babies, even the twins, I even slightly loathed when they got old enough to run around and outgrow being stuck to Mommy’s side. After feeding Jackson and cleaning out his bottle, he and I found the twins outside together.
Tyler was out of sight while T.J. and Gina played on the playground setup. “Tyler!”
I was calling for his dad, but T. J. looked up, “Yes?”
He pointed behind me as the Tyler I was looking for said, “I’m right here, Angel.”
I whirled around and found my husband standing there with a small smile. He gave me a peck on the lips and gestured for me to hand over the baby.
“Eh, I don’t really want to,” he gave me a crazy look. “What; can you really blame me? You held the twins all the time and now they like you more than me.”
“Ugh, they do not. C’mon, just let me hold him, I’m sure that you’re tired... Just for five minutes then I’ll give him back.”
I groaned and handed him the large nine-month-old. I hadn’t actually realized how much my arms hurt until he took Jackson away. Jack could sit up, but I hated putting him down outside; everyone in the family had such sensitive skin.
I followed Ty to the picnic table that sat off to the side of the playground. The playground itself sat in the middle of our backyard, the twins taking turns sliding down the slide.
I squinted against the light of the sun as we sat down next to each other, just watching them play together. I remembered something that I had to tell Tyler. Nonchalantly, and without taking my eyes off the twins, I said, “Pretty sure I’m pregnant again.”
“Really?” he kept the same tone as me and I nodded, “How long?”
“Um, I’m guessing date night, about a month ago.”
“Any morning sickness yet?”
I nodded again, finally pulling my gaze from the twins to Tyler. “I would punch you if you weren’t holding that baby.”
“You always want to punch me, what did I do this time?”
“You got me pregnant... again, and only after nine months. It’s like you’re racing to catch up to Bryan Hughes.”
He didn’t say anything until I gave him my best glare. His shoulders slumped in an instant, “It’s just... they have way more kids than us and they stopped at five - would you possibly be open to having six?”
I slapped his arm, “You little idiot, I’m telling Lauren and we are kicking your butts. ” Tyler and I had started the whole buffering ourselves parent fade once the twins got around talking age.
“... Yeah, okay, but you didn’t answer the question,” he started to chuckled towards the end of the sentence.
His chuckle was contagious and we both laughed as I smacked his arm again, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, Ty.”
I stood up walked towards the house to get ready for the twins’ party. “That wasn’t a no! Holy crap, are you open to six kids?!”
Planning a party for fraternal twins was hard. You try to incorporate dinosaurs and pink without making someone cry or crying yourself.
In the end, both children got what they wanted and by one all of the decorations were put up and Tyler was pulling food out of the oven. Jack sat in the kitchen in his walker playing with (a. k. a trying to eat) his toys as I signed for the cakes - one dinosaur themed, one princess themed - we had delivered from the bakery.
“Alrighty,” I said, going down a mental checklist, “cakes are here, food ready?”
“Ma’am, yes, ma’am.”
Perfect. The twins are getting ready, the entertainment is on it’s way, games are set up. “Oh, my gosh; we did it. We did it!”
“No, Anastasia, this was all you.”
“I can’t cook, but there’s food so technically you helped. It was us.”
He smiled and we heard a knock at the front door. Let the crazy begin. On our way to the door, I picked up Jackson and Tyler called upstairs.
“Tyler, Gina, get down here!”
He opened the door and we were met by a storm of noise. All of the Hughes kids rushed in just as the twins ran down the stairs.
“What did I say about running inside?!” their dad yelled. He looked like he was about to yell again when Lauren touched his shoulder.
“I know, I know...” he whispered to her, “they’re just so bad.” To us, he said, “Anyway, uh, hey guys. I’m sorry if your house is ruined by the time we leave.”
Tyler laughed, “It’s no problem, man. It’s always a mess anyway.” They exchanged a friendly hug while Laur and I did the same.
We went into the kitchen while the kids played in the den. It wasn’t long until Ryan and Mac showed up with Veronica in tow.
They weren’t together, Ryan decided to stay with Amanda and Mac finally found her Prince Charming, but they always made sure to do things like this together. Just the three of them.
“Guys!” I hugged them both tightly before giving Roni a kiss on the forehead.
“Hi, Aunt Staci!”
“Hey, sweetie, everyone’s in the den. Go ahead.”
She ran in the direction of the playroom. Us three adults walked into the kitchen. Eventually Mariana Lovett, who had become a family friend, showed up with her clan and even Eli showed up with his new fiancée.
The kids usually played together so it felt like a normal day, until the other kids got there and the party really got started. An hour and a half later, everyone was there - all the games played, all the food eaten - and the magician had shown up.
He started his show (with his assistant dressed in a pink sparkly leotard - as per Gina’s request) and us adults crowed around, watching with the kids.
I smiled at the kids’ faces twist in complete awe as he pulled a rabbit out of his hat. “You know,” I said to Tyler, who stood next to me. He turned his body in my direction slightly.
“I think I’d be open to doing this four more times instead of three.”
“Celebrating my kid’s fifth birthday. You know Jackson isn’t even one yet so that’s one time and then...” I trailed off and looked up into his eyes. They sparkled with a blinding glow and I knew that he’d freak out if we were alone.
I nodded, “Maybe even more. Let’s just fill up all the seats in the truck first and then see where alcohol takes us.”
He seemingly permanent smile grew as he leaned in now to me. Our lips met, but it didn’t last long.
“Ew! Tyler and Gina’s mommy and daddy are kissing.”
This earned looks from everyone that wasn’t looking along with a chorus, “Ew!” and giggles from the sea of children sitting on the floor.
“Alright, you lovebirds, take your bunny mating somewhere else,” I heard Ryan shout across the room. “It’s contagious.”
I smiled shyly and embarrassedly placed my fingers on my lips, then moved my hand to Tyler’s chest before finally setting them at my sides. It stayed silent for the most part until I clapped.
“... Who wants cake?”
This earned cheers from the kids, “To the kitchen for singing Happy Birthday and eating cake!” Ty yelled and they did as they were told.
Once everyone was gathered around the island in the kitchen we put T.J. and Gina on stools in front of their cakes.
“Okay, everybody!” Tyler called over the loud voices that buzzed with excitement over cake. Once his voice resonated through the room, it fell silent. He lighted the candles on both cakes. “On the count of three, we sing. One, two, three-”
Everyone in the room joined in as he started the song, some kids singing their own personal versions of the popular song.
Throughout the whole... spectacle, every now and then, I’d make eye contact with Tyler and smile. I looked over at my twins and felt a twinge of sadness.
I couldn’t help but think about the other person that should be celebrating their birthday today and who else should be here celebrating.
I pushed those feelings aside most of the time, but at this moment I took some time to dwell on them. I missed the both of my babies, all the time, but the pain felt more like a dull blade stuck in my heart.
I must’ve zoned out, because when I focused back on my surroundings Tyler was snapping his fingers in my face. I saw that he’d already passed off his cake cutting duty to another parent. I felt the back of my eyes sting with tears.
“Earth to Anastasia!”
I snapped out of my haze, “Yeah?”
I knew he saw the emotion behind my eyes, but still smiled slightly. “Hey, where’d you go?”
“Just, uh - just thinking... about some,” I felt my lip tremble, “... You know what? Ignore me, it doesn’t matter what I was thinking about.”
Seeing through my terrible wannabe facade, he immediately pulled me into a hug that I had no trouble accepting.
“Aww, baby, you know you shouldn’t be thinking about that.”
“How could you not?”
“I didn’t say I’m not, I said you shouldn’t; it’s too hard, you know that.”
I nodded with my face still so deeply pressed into his chest, I thought I’d leave an indent of my face along with a small wet spot made by the rebellious tears that dared to escape my eyes.
After what felt like a while - though was probably just a few seconds - of standing like that, I let him, something I really didn’t want to do, because if I didn’t we’d stay that way all day. I inhale one last time as a way of telling my body to calm down look up at Tyler. He wipes the remaining tears from my cheeks and offers a weak smile. I tried returning the same gesture, but I’m sure it seemed forced.
We would’ve been parents of five - almost six. Jackson, three five-year old’s, and a nine year old; I can’t even begin to imagine that, Tyler and I having been parents for almost a decade at this age.
It seemed as if no one (and I was glad) had noticed my little breakdown because the birthday party was still in full swing; the little ones walking around with cake all over... everything in their body, from mouths to hair. Making sure nobody was paying attention, I stole a quick kiss from my husband.
I gave him an expression that said, I’m fine, I promise. I could tell he understood because he gave me one last peck on the cheek before walking off.
I did the same, walking off only to see Ryan and go stand next to him. He was leaned up against a wall, watching Mackenzie wipe cake off of Veronica’s mouth, while Roni - completely unfazed - rattled off what I’m sure were random questions and stories.
He had this look on his face, one he always got it was just the three of them. Like he wished they could be a family like that, every single
day. At first I didn’t really understand it, but after a while I realized that I knew that look. That same look, I always got from Tyler after having the twins home, after the first few months.
Ryan was in love with Mac.
After a moment of silence, I asked, “How’s Amanda?”
He snapped out of his haze, “Huh? Oh, uh, great - I guess.”
“You guess?” I pushed.
“Yes,” he said, slightly annoyed, “I mean, Mandy is Mandy. She’s fine.” With that, he looked back over to the girls, more tense than before now that I was next to him.
“You ever gonna tell her?”
I’d asked this question once before, and honestly, I expected him to respond the way he did last time. Like he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about.
To my surprise, he answered truthfully, “Probably not.”
“What, why not?”
“Because,” he looked at me, “I love her, you know - I have love for her, as the mother of my child. And I know that I’m not good enough for her, never have been.”
“That’s not true.”
“Ana, we’ve known each other for twelve years, I’m no good.”
“Alright, Mr. Melodramatic, you’re not the best, I’ll admit that. But, I know you’re some good. Because, Amanda stayed with you and I know she’s not stupid, and because you’re taking care of that little girl without being with her mom. That’s not something a lot of guys do.”
“I just don’t want to ruin this; we’ve got something good going, she and I, we don’t fight. Not over Roni, not over visitation; everything is just perfect the way it is. Plus, she’s got that boyfriend-”
“I was intentionally not saying his name. You know that asshole came to my place and asked for permission?”
My eyes widened, “Like marriage proposal permission?” he nodded, “Ooh, baby mama drama.”
He chuckled, “Majorly. I said yes though.”
“’Cos... as much as I hate to admit it, he’s the best thing that ever happened to her, Anastasia, she’s so happy. Every day. And as cheesy as the shit sounds, I’d rather her be happy even if it’s not with me.”
“... You’re right that is really cheesy,” he nodded with a small smile. “Just promise me one thing. Before Drew proposes, you tell her how you feel.”
“No. Talk to Mackenzie. Promise?”
Before he had a chance to respond, the subject of our conversation actually walked up. “I heard my name, are you guys talking about me?”
“Yep,” I said, bringing her into a hug, ” because somebody’s birthday’s coming up.”
“Sure is. Gosh, I missed you.” She gave one last squeeze before letting go.
“We see each other at work and hang out all the time.”
“Untrue, people with kids do not hang out, they supervise play dates together.”
“Oxymoron. Things with differences cannot be the same.”
“I hate to break this up,” Ryan interrupted, I’d almost forgotten he was here, “but it’s getting annoying.”
I rolled my eyes and slapped his arm, “Alright, I need to go find my kids.” To him, I pointed a finger and said, “Promise?”
Reluctantly, he sighed and said, “...Promise.”
I turned to walk off and heard her say, “Promise what, Ry?”
“Hey, Mackenzie, could I talk to you... in private?”
“Yeah, Ryan, of course.”
To me I heard him call, “You’re a pain in my neck, Scott, you better be glad I’m a man of my word.”
“It’s Scott-Meyers, Mr. Harris, you know that, you were at the wedding.”
“I like Scott.”
“Yeah, well,” I turned to him, ” that’s too bad. My name is Anastasia Scott-Meyers.”
I felt Tyler’s presence behind me before felt his arms wrap around me, he pressed a kiss to my temple. “... Sure is.”
“Oh, shut up,” I smiled, “where are my kids?”
“Your kids? Pretty sure I helped with at least fifty percent of that.”
“Yeah, yeah, babe,” I picked Jackson up from his bouncer, “you just keep telling yourself that.”
We looked for the twins as he said, “So, I was thinking...”
“Yeah?” I looked up at him casually, stopping my search, the kids couldn’t have gone too far.
“We’ve been married and long time,” I nodded slowly, “and I was thinking that we should renew our vows next year.” He shrugged.
“Yeah, okay... why?”
“I don’t know, just because after the twins were born we did it and that was kinda nice.” I smiled internally, my husband was always such a softie. “And that was like right after the accident so it was kind of like a... I don’t know, like a fresh slare or a rebirth or something.”
“A born-again marriage?” I chuckle. “Like a virgin?”
He rolled his eyes, “No, you goof, be serious for a second.” I straightened up, but couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. After a second, the serious look on his face transformed into an easy smile. “Look, I know that people usually do it every like ten years or whatever... but this could be like... I don’t know, our thing.”
“Our thing." I said it dramatically, just feeling it out. After a few more times, I nodded, “Alright. It’ll be our thing.”
“That and making babies.”
“Oh, be quiet. You don’t like making babies, you like baby making.”
“Even if that was true,” he started, “- which I’m not saying it is -”
“Even though it is,” I said. “Isn’t that right Jackson?” I bounced the baby in my arms a little and his ever-present smile grew and he giggled. “Yeah, Mommy’s right, I know.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tyler staring at me the same way I noticed Ryan do Mac. “What?”
“... Nothing. I just, I really love you.”
He said all the time and when he did... it still made my heart melt.
“Yeah, I know.” I smiled before walking back towards the birthday party, hearing the twins’ voices coming from the other room. I looked back at Ty, who was still standing where I’d left him.
“You know, don’t you?” I asked.
He smirked, “Know what?”
“Well, duh...” I rolled my eyes playfully. “I really love you, too.”
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