Elaine became a regular fixture at our house. She’d come over after she got off of work to eat dinner with us. On the weekends, she’d stay over and work on her stories and reviews while Adam and I worked in our work room.
Though it often felt like Elaine was living at our place, I didn’t mind. There were, after all, perks to her being around all the time. Let’s just say that I was making up for all of the years I’d missed out on regular sex because I was so focused on my work!
It was probably a good thing that Adam seemed to spend his free time in Elyssa’s apartment. Elaine was as enthusiastic about sex as she was about everything else. We sometimes got caught up in the heat of the moment and forgot that I didn’t exactly live on my own!
That didn’t stop embarrassing things from happening, however. For example, early one Saturday morning, Elaine and I were awoken by the loud noise of Adam drilling out back. He and I had both been searching for this strange metal we’d discovered on the property, palladium. Needless to say, I wasn’t exactly happy to be woken up in this manner. I was so mad that I stormed down the stairs and went into the back yard to tell Adam to knock it the hell off!
“Turn it off!” I shouted as I ran up to my brother, waving my hands to get his attention. He immediately turned the powered the machine down, gaping at me.
“Ferris! What the hell are you doing?”
“What am I doing? What am I doing?” I sputtered, indignantly. “I was trying to sleep in, but you woke me the fuck up! It’s too early to be drilling!”
“Dude, it’s almost 10! Most people are already up, but I can see that you and Elaine must have had a very…” Adam coughed, “late night. Forgot something Ferris?”
“What? No! It’ can’t be almost 10…What the hell are you laughing at?” It wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I wasn’t wearing a stich of clothing.
A few weeks later, I got up after another late Friday night. Adam had made hamburgers and offered me one. “I know it’s not breakfast food,” he said, “but then it’s not breakfast time, either.”
“Sorry. Elaine stayed over.”
“I figured as much. Thank goodness you sound-proofed the walls upstairs!”
I blushed. Then we both dug into our hamburgers.
“You know,” Adam finally said after he’d eaten nearly all of his, “I think I’m going to ask Elyssa to marry me. Maybe we’ll start looking for a place of our own, too.”
“What?” I choked on my burger. “What are you talking about? Married? Are you serious?”
“Yeah. I love her. And we’re not getting any younger, you know.”
He was right. We weren’t getting younger. When we threw a party for our birthday this year, I noticed that all of our cousins were getting old. I knew they were all a lot older than we were because our mom had been a late-in-life baby, but it was easy to forget about that until we were all together as a family.
The cousins weren’t the only ones showing visible signs of aging. I also noticed that I had more lines in my face, and even Carter had a few gray hairs and some wrinkles.
Adam and Elyssa got married in the park just before Snowflake Day. I have no idea why they chose an outdoor wedding at that time of year, but I do have to admit that it was picturesque.
One surprising part of the wedding was that Carter showed up with a date. He introduced us to the girl and actually referred to her as his girlfriend and not just as a friend!
“Guys, I’d like you to meet my girlfriend, Jade,” he said. “She is a concert bassist in the symphony.”
Well, like most of Conner’s girls, she was quite attractive. I was surprised that she also seemed intelligent and sweet. The two of them held hands the whole time we were in the park. Carter seemed really serious about her. I actually started to wonder if maybe my older brother was getting ready to settle down.
Seeing Adam and Elyssa exchange vows gave Elaine ideas about settling down, too.
“Wasn’t this a beautiful wedding?” she sighed after it was all over.
“Adam and Elyssa looked happy,” I said.
“I can’t wait until it’s our turn,” Elaine said wistfully. I must have coughed or something because she laughed and said, “Oh, I’m not telling you to ask me know, Ferris. Don’t worry. I just think…well…I hope that someday it will be us.”
“Um, Elaine, we’ve only been together for…” I tried to calculate how long it had been and I realized that technically, on Snowflake day it would have been a year. “Wow. I guess it’s been a year already.”
“I know,” Elaine smiled.
“Do you want to…?” I hesitantly asked, blushing.
“No,” she said. “Not yet. And not just because we saw your brother get married. We’ll know when the time is right.”
“Oh good,” I said and then realized how that must have sounded. “I mean, it’s good to wait. I mean, I love you and everything, but I’m not ready to get married just yet.”
“You love me?” Elaine gasped.
“You said you loved me.”
“Oh. Right. Yeah. I did. I mean, I do.” Boy, I needed to think of something to change the subject fast. I meant it that I loved her, but the way she was looking at me, I thought she might re-think the idea to wait to get married.
I shouldn’t have worried. Elaine just laughed and grabbed me in a huge hug. “I love you, too, Ferris Fields!”
Adam and Elyssa postponed finding a place of their own after they got married when Elyssa found out that she was pregnant.
When Adam told me, he was over the moon about it. We were working out and I could tell he was distracted. Finally he stopped his jumping jacks and just blurted out the good news.
“Wow! Congratulations!” I said, giving him a thumbs-up. “Way to go, bro!”
“Yeah I know! We wanted kids, but it happened a lot faster than I thought it would!”
“So, what are you going to do about finding a new house?” I asked.
“Well,” Adam hesitated. “I was thinking of building one. Just down the street is an empty lot. You know the one that I mean?”
“Yeah. The one that’s overgrown and looks like it has seen better days?”
“Um-hmm. I was thinking of buying it and then building on it. What do you think?”
“I think that’s great!”
Then Adam dropped a bomb-shell on me. “I was hoping that you’d buy me out of the business, Ferris. I’m thinking of retiring.”
“Yeah. I mean, I’ll still work on things, but I don’t want to be forced to continue making gadgets for the store. I just want to create.”
Adam had never been that interested in the shop. Not like me. So, I told him that I would have Elyssa work on the figures and I’d see if I could afford to pay for his interest in the business.
“We’ll still work together on building things, won’t we?” I asked. We’d been on the verge of a huge discovery. I didn’t want all that work and time to be wasted.
“Sure. You know we still have to find more palladium and then I was thinking that what we’ll really need is a pink diamond…the real ones are just too hard.”
“I know,” I agreed. “You think the pink ones will work?”
“I do. And Elyssa has been testing that new fruit that we planted. Mom’s alchemy notes said it had unusual properties.”
“It’s called life-fruit by some people,” I said. Adam and I continued talking about our newest invention. I knew that it would be a revolution in machinery if we could pull it off!
By the time the baby was born, we’d done it! Adam and I worked tirelessly because he knew that once his daughter, Rilee, was born, his time would be limited.
“And besides, maybe we can program it to actually take care of the baby!?” He enthused as we actually got closer to our goal.
Eventually we had a break through. Our PAL, or palladium-based anthropomorphic life-simulator, was actually finished. And more importantly, it actually worked!
Adam was the one who completed the first prototype. He called her Nan, short for Nanny, as he actually believed that the robot would help look after the baby.
The thing about the PALs was that adding life-fruit to the circuitry fluids actually seemed to animate the robot. It had a computer processor for a brain, but something about the life-fruit gave it the ability to learn and grow and think on its own! It was the perfect robotic simulation of life. We programed it to respond to children, to love and nurture them. Our initial field test of Nan proved our invention to be a success!
We quickly built a second unit. We gave it the same characteristics, hoping that these PALs would revolutionize the baby-sitting industry. I envisioned selling them to over-worked parents, to day care organizations, and to anyone who had multiples like our parents had.
“This is going to be great for business!” I told Adam.
“Well, that’s all for you, buddy,” he said. “I’m out, remember? Elyssa has the paperwork for you to sign.”
“Are you sure, Adam?” I asked. “This is going to be huge!” I said.
“I’m sure Ferris. I wasn’t into the business side of things. You can keep it up.”
“But how will I meet the demand for new things?” I asked, voicing one of the many worries I had about doing the job of two people…actually three…all by myself.
“Why don’t you program your PAL to help you? Zap would probably excel at making gizmos and gadgets for our customers while you concentrate on making more PALs.”
As with any building project, it took longer for Adam’s house to be finished than he anticipated. When we celebrated Rilee’s birthday, he and Elyssa were still living in my house.
Spooky Day led to Snowflake Day, and they were still not moved in. I knew Adam was getting frustrated. When Elyssa announce she was pregnant again and they still weren’t moved into their new home, even I was getting a bit anxious.
The other thing that had me anxious was Elaine. Ever since we passed our second Snowflake Day anniversary, she’d been dropping hints about either getting married or moving in with me…or doing both.
At the gym, she’d say, “When your brother moves out, we can convert Elyssa’s apartment into a private gym. We’d have all the space we want to work out.”
Since she was wearing spandex and stretching in a very distracting way, all I could say was, “Uh huh.”
When we went to the park, she urged me to take a romantic ‘selfie’ of the two of us.
“Isn’t this nice, Ferris! We should do this every year. Too bad we didn’t do this that first time we came here and had hotdogs. Then it could be a tradition…but we can make new traditions, I suppose.”
I just smiled stupidly and pointed my phone at us. Looking in the view screen, I had to admit that we did look like a cute couple and it would be kind of nice to have a picture like this for every year we were together.
At night, before we went to bed, Elaine often said something like, “I stay here so often! I don’t even know why I bother going home except that all of my clothes are there!”
At those intimate moments, I wasn’t sure why Elaine didn’t just move in with me. I’d look into her sparkling brown eyes, I’d brush my hand through her soft wavy hair, I’d pull her close and feel her curves pressed up against me in the way that I liked. In those moments, I thought we shouldn’t be living apart. Everything was so perfect when we were together.
But something held me back from asking her to just stay with me. And what’s more, I knew that I wanted to marry her. I even had a ring all picked out, but I couldn’t figure out how to ask her!
All the hints she gave, all the subtle ways she spoke as if it was a done deal, I just couldn’t find the words to actually ask the stupid question. I was beginning to feel like an idiot again. I knew that Adam would probably smack me if he knew that I had a ring and hadn’t gotten down on one knee already!
I ran out of excuses when Adam and Elyssa’s house was finally finished and they were able to move out. Adam had already retired from our work, but I had hoped that Elyssa would continue as my assistant.
I suppose I should have known she’d want to quit after my nephew, Rico, was born.
“I’m sorry Ferris,” she said. “Adam and I are going to concentrate on our family. I’m planting a new garden with some of the seeds I’ve been saving from yours. You know I’ve always wanted to sell my produce.”
“Don’t worry. Adam said he did some adjustments on your PAL, Zap. She should be able to do the books now that I’m gone. He says she’s pretty good at making your hygenators and air benders, too.”
“She is, but I’m going to miss both of you, you know.”
“I know, Ferris. But hopefully you won’t be lonely for too long.”
The way my sister-in-law looked at me, I knew she and Elaine had been talking.
The two of them were close friends since Elaine spent so much time with us. I was glad they got along but it was hard when they ganged up on Adam and I when we were working too hard or mining too much. They both hated the mining machine. It was so loud that they said they couldn’t concentrate when we were drilling.
Another reason I ran out of excuses was because Elaine got sick. She seemed to get nauseous every time she sat down in my front room. She said she felt fine after throwing up, but then it would return.
We suspected she might be pregnant.
“It’s possible,” Elaine told me. “I mean, I know we use protection, but nothing is 100% effective.”
“Should we get one of those tests?” I asked.
“I guess so.”
Just when we’d made the decision to go into town to buy a pregnancy test kit, I started getting nauseous as well. It started in my front room, but as I was working in the garden it got worse and worse until I just felt myself erupt.
We knew then that whatever the sickness was, it was probably not morning sickness. “Did we eat bad food?” I asked Elaine. Since Elyssa had moved out, I was doing most of the cooking. I wasn’t terrible at it, but it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that I had messed something up.
“I thought of that first, Ferris,” she said. “But I checked everything. Nothing seems spoiled.”
“The nausea starts here in the front room,” I said, indicating my living area. “Do you think I have a mold problem?”
“You do have a small stream running under and around your house, but don’t you think this would have started long ago if that was the case?”
“Yeah. The only other thing it could be…” I said and then moved the couch a little, “is this hygenator I have here.”
“Do you think it’s gone bad?” Elaine asked.
“I don’t know. This was our prototype. I can check it.”
Turns out that the hygenator had a problem with its scent filter. I had to do a few tweaks, but eventually I managed to fix the thing. Once that was done our nausea went away.
“I guess that was our problem all along,” I said to Elaine that evening when she came to my house from work.
“I guess so,” she said.
“It’s kind of too bad,” I muttered. “For a bit there, I was excited when you were feeling nauseous all the time.”
“Me too,” Elaine whispered. “A baby would have been nice.”
“Yeah. Hey,” I pulled Elaine to me. She looked sad. “It’s ok. We’ll have lots of babies if you want them. But let’s get married first.”
“Are you proposing to me, Ferris?”
“Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Then I guess I’m saying yes.”
“I’ve got a ring,” I said, realizing that this was not how a proposal was supposed to go.
“Don’t worry about it. Just kiss me.”
“Ok.” So I did.
Later I took Elaine to the Bistro for a nice dinner to celebrate our engagement. I still hadn’t given her the ring, so I had a waiter put it in her Champaign glass when we were toasting ourselves. I know that’s sort of cliché, but Elaine loved it. She leaped out of her seat and threw herself at me.
“I’m so happy, Ferris!” she exclaimed.
I hugged her back and then set her on her feet.
“I’m happy, too. I can’t wait to marry you.”