We got a new cat. I am about to become a new father and my wife decides we need a new cat. Do you know how hard it is to say no to a pregnant woman?
Alright, alright. I admit it. I’m a cat person. I like cats. Moonie was a grumpy, irritable old man, but I loved him. And Felix is a really sweet, if somewhat noisy cat. You should hear the sounds he makes whenever I turn on the radio or TV to do my workouts!
Our new cat’s name is Hattie. She was a stray that kept coming to our house. Emilee befriended her and brought her into the house. She said that Felix might be lonely.
I guess she might have been right, but from what I have seen, the two cats spend more time tussling that getting to know each other. Hattie can be quite a nasty little thing. She likes to sneak up on Felix and catch him unaware. She’s a mean little fighter, but Felix manages to hold his own.
One of our fears was that Homer wouldn’t be happy that we were adding a new baby to the family. As always, I underestimated the goodness and generosity of my son. His response to the news that he was going to have a brother or sister to play with was:
“That’s awesome! I want a brother. Could he sleep in my room? He can have the bottom bunk ‘cause he’s going to be littler than me. He might fall off the top.”
“Well, Son,” I said, laughing a bit, “he’ll be too small for the bunk at first. He’ll need a crib. But when he’s big enough, he can share a room with you.”
Homer nodded. Then he seemed to be struck with a thought. “Wait. Babies cry a lot don’t they? Maybe he should sleep in your room!”
We told each of our families about the new baby and then threw a small party to celebrate.
“It’s too bad that the baby won’t have cousins closer in age,” Rhea told Emilee, “but there is just no way I’m having another baby. One is plenty for us!” Rhea and Omar’s son’s name was Thomas. The two of them had enrolled him in a military academy in Hidden Springs. I can’t say that I approved of that decision. The boy was hardly ever home and it seems to me that being a family means being together.
Juno and Phillip had only two children. Ami was soon to graduate from high school and Roger was just a bit older than Homer. Juno was the one who gave Emilee and I child-rearing tips. Neither of us had ever really had to take care of an infant. I got Homer as a toddler and there are a lot of differences!
Turns out we needed all of that parenting advice. Once Emilee went into labor, I was a bit of a wreck.
“What do you mean your water broke!?”
“It broke Ares! It broke. Look at the floor!”
“Oh god! The babies are coming! What do we do? We have to go to the hospital! Oh my god!”
“Call the cab. I’ll get my things.”
At the hospital, the whole birthing thing was a blur. It started out ok, but then the doctors and nurses got all panicky and they made me leave the room.
“We’re going to do a C-section, Mr. Fields. Your wife has a birthing plan that states that you are ‘not allowed to see anyone cut her open’ to be exact.”
“You’re going to cut…”I broke off as I felt the room start to spin.
“Help him out of here,” the doctor said to one of the nurses.
There is a bit of a fog in my head about the time that I spent waiting for the C-section to be done. I knew rationally that Emilee and the baby weren’t in real danger, but knowing that his wife was undergoing surgery makes a man weak in the knees and in the head.
What I didn’t know was that the reason for the C-section was the fact that Emilee was carrying twins. How had they not known there were two babies? I had no idea. But the doctor came out and informed me that I had a healthy son and daughter.
Twins. We named them William and Charlotte. Luckily for us, they both had good dispositions. They didn’t get colicky or have any major health issues. Still, taking care of multiples is exhausting.
“Is it always this tiring?” Emilee asked me one morning. We’d been up for hours. The twins woke at dawn, it seemed. They demanded food, a change, and all of our attention from the moment of waking.
“I really don’t know,” I said. We had collapsed in our rocking chairs. I leaned back and closed my eyes and listened to William making burbling noises.
“What was Homer like?”
“I don’t know what he was like as an infant. I told you that Martina never told me about him. I went away to college and then when I came back I was suddenly a father.”
“So babies are different when they are toddlers? Easier?”
“I don’t know about easier. There are different worries. But toddlers can be put in a playpen or set in a walker. They can entertain themselves somewhat.”
“Maybe we should by baby swings. Then we won’t feel obligated to hold them all the time.”
“You know that it is ok to put them down once in awhile, right?” I laughed. I opened my eyes to see Emilee making cute little faces at Charlotte who was laughing.
“I know. But they are both so precious.”
We eventually figured out routines with the twins so we weren’t always feeling so tired. Baby swings did help as did strollers. Time passed and William and Charlotte grew quickly. It was a surprise to me how fast they changed. One minute I was holding tiny swaddled bundles and then next I had a wriggling mass of energy who knew how to ask for a “baba” or say the word “down!” with the authority of a Master Sargent!
We made use of whatever we could to keep them occupied. I liked having them both down on the main floor with me, though, while I was working. I could hear them playing in the background as I worked out new plots in my head. I was doing well with my writing. My teen-sports series was gaining popularity. My agent was always demanding one more book.
To be honest, I was getting a little bored of the stories. To me, they seemed all the same. Teen fiction, while very profitable, is not that intense. I guess I could do more to make my stories more exciting or at least complicated, but my agent and editor always hated it when I tried to add more depth to the stories.
“Ares, Ares, Ares. Your books are light reading. Kids want a good romp with these books. They want sports, drama, a little romance or a minor injury or two. Nothing too deep.”
“But don’t you think they’re getting a bit…formulaic?”
“If it’s not broke, don’t fix it!”
I sighed. Maybe it was time for me to change careers again. I wasn’t sure I could write one more line of teenaged dialogue or describe one more scene where the main character has to make the goal to tie the game and send it into over-time.
“I think this will be my last book,” I told Emilee one night. She was holding William who was being fussy.
“What do you think you’ll do once you’re done?”
“I don’t know. I don’t want to do anything that requires that I wear a suit or go into an office.”
“I can’t picture you as a business man or working at the city hall like your sister Rhea does.”
“I don’t think I could teach like Juno does either. I like kids, but I don’t know that I have what it takes to have 20 or more of them all around me. And what would I teach them?”
“You could teach writing or how to fish or you could become a boating instructor.”
“Nah. I don’t think so.”
I finished my last book just before Homer turned 13. At the time of his birthday, I still hadn’t decided what I was going to do next.
We threw Homer a large party. Several of his friends were present and so was Martina.
Martina had not bothered us since being escorted home by Omar before the twins were born. Homer still spoke to her on the phone, but he had also started using Skype to speak to her more face-to-face on the computer.
She hadn’t been to one of his birthday parties since he was very young. It was at his request that we invited her.
“Dad, she really wants to come. Uncle Omar says that she’s stable. She’s been very normal lately. I swear. I think it will be fine having her in the house.”
Watching Homer and Martina talking over cake, I was glad that I had let him talk me into inviting her. When Martina dropped Homer on my doorstep, I’d been upset with her, but I never wanted him to hate her. I hated that she had kept Homer from me while he was a baby, but I had to be grateful, at least on some level, that she had given him to me at all.
I was very proud of him. He was such a good boy. Like me, he loved being out doors and he was pretty good at sports. He was better at school than me, though, and he was a bit more personable. I couldn’t wait to see what sort of man he would become.
Now that Homer was 13, Emilee and I decided he was old enough to babysit his siblings. He was good with them under supervision. I figured it would be fine if he watched the twins and Emilee and I went on a much needed date.
“Don’t forget that they need to be in bed by 8,” I said. “Make sure you change them and read to them a bit. That should settle them down.”
“Don’t worry Dad! I know how it goes. I’ll be fine.”
“Em put some soft foods in the fridge. She wants you to give them that before giving them a bottle. We’re trying to get them to eat more real foods.”
“I know, Dad. Sheesh!”
“I just want to cover all the bases. This is the first time you’ve babysat.”
“It will be fine. I promise. Go get changed. Emilee will be mad if you’re not ready on time.”
I nodded. Even though I trusted Homer, I was nervous. Emilee and I went to the Spring Festival fair. It was fun being out without any of the kids. We went a little crazy, even going so far as to participate in the annual hotdog eating contest—that I won!
When we got home, Emilee went straight up to check on the twins. I guess I wasn’t the only one who had been worried. I smiled at Homer who had stayed up playing video games waiting for us to come home.
“Here’s your babysitting money,” I said, slipping him some money. “Thanks for taking care of everything.”
“It was easy Dad. I told you I could handle it.”
“Good. Now, it’s past your bed-time, too. Turn off the game and put your money away. Go up to bed.”
I wish I could say that things with Martina remained good now that Homer was older, but that wasn’t the case.
We saw her at Juno and Phillip’s during a family party. Omar had brought her, not knowing that we were going to be there.
“I’m sure she’ll be fine,” Omar told me. “She enjoys these outings when we come over for dinner here. She says they make her feel normal.”
“Do you think she’ll react badly since we’re here?”
“I hope not.”
Unfortunately, Omar was wrong. Martina smiled when she saw Homer, but then she saw that he was holding William.
“Who is that?” Martina demanded.
“You better not have gotten some girl pregnant Homer! That’s what your dad did! He got me pregnant and then just left me.”
“Ahh…?” Homer looked over at me nervously. I was holding Charlotte, so I transferred her to Emilee.
“Hello Martina. You’ve met my other son, William, haven’t you? You know that I have twins now? William and Charlotte.”
Martina rounded on me. “You let your son get some poor girl pregnant! Did he leave her, too? Did you raise him to be just like you? I should never have let you keep him!”
This made Homer angry and he turned on his mother. “Mom! This is my brother, William. Stop saying such horrible things to Dad!”
I took William out of Homer’s arms. I could tell that he wasn’t understanding what was going on. It looked like he was about to have one of his rare screaming fits.
“Maybe we need to leave,” I said to Emilee.
Of course Omar apologized for Martina’s behavior, and Phillip and Juno apologized for not letting us know that she would be at their house.
“I thought she was getting better,” Phillip said.
“It’s ok,” I said. “We’ll just go.”
Emilee looked over at Homer, who was still very distressed at how his mother had acted when she saw William. “Do you want to go home with us Homer, or stay here for dinner? You can talk to your mother if we’re gone. Phillip or Juno can bring you home later?” Juno nodded.
Homer elected to go home. I felt bad because he was making some progress with Martina. Still, with her instability, we felt that we should do a quiet party at home for the twins’ birthdays later that week.
“Martina is staying with Omar and Rhea full time now,” I explained. “It will just be better if we’re the only ones here. They will always be able to see their aunts and uncles at another time.”
I don’t think the twins minded that no one came to their birthday party. They were happy with the new block table we’d bought for them. The two of them disappeared into Charlotte’s room to play with it once they’d opened their presents.
I listened to the two of them tromp up the stairs and pound down the hall to the newly decorated room we’d converted just for Charlotte. I sat down heavily against or living room couch. Emilee came up holding Felix. She sat down with him in her lap.
“Do you think they’ll be ok tonight?” I asked, hesitantly. Now that they were older, we were going to separate their rooms. Charlotte had the old nursery and William was moving in with Homer.
Emilee scratched Felix under the chin. “I think so. Charlotte’s been really excited for her new bed. She picked out the blankets and all of the new furniture.”
“I know, but what if she gets scared when the lights are out and her brother isn’t with her.”
“It will be fine. We picked out a night light. But you know Charlotte. She’s such a heavy sleeper. I doubt she’ll even notice that William is missing.”
“What about William?”
Emilee snorted. “He and Homer have been planning a big bunk-bed christening ceremony of some sort. I don’t know the details, but I think it involves farting or something equally boyish and disgusting.”
“Homer has always wanted a brother to sleep in the bottom bunk.”
“I know. I remember him saying that before the twins were born.”
“You don’t think he’s too old to share a room?”
“Stop worrying Ares. The kids will be fine!”
And of course Emilee was right. I peeked in on each of them. Judging from their soft snores, all was well.