The day of Millie’s moving came closer than David and I expected. And I say “David and I” because, apparently, Phoenix knew already but didn’t want to tell us in order not to upset us.
And we were upset. David was definitely not prepared to see his little girl go off on her own yet, and I, despite not being her biological mother, loved her with all my heart and already knew I’ll miss her company when she won’t be here. But that was life – children grew up and built their own families and lives.
Besides, the house she and Quiang found was, luckily, not too far from us and we knew we’ll be visiting each other a lot.
Despite all that, we were all feeling rather sad on the day the young couple and our grandson moved out. It also didn’t help that Sherlock was going with them, since he’s been attached to Millie’s hip for as long as they’ve known each other. The house was going to be much emptier from now on.
But maybe that was for the best.
“Hey, it’s going to be ok, Irene,” David hurried to cheer me up, knowing me all too well. “Phoenix is still here for the foreseeable future and we’re going to have more time to ourselves. Besides, they’re not too far.”
“I know, I’m just moody,” I tried to smile.
“What’s bothering you? Really?” he prodded.
“Did I ever tell you how much I appreciate having you in my life? I know I tell you I love you all the time, but this is different. I appreciate all the years we’ve spent together, David. Through the good and the bad.”
“I feel the same way about you, darling,” he smiled. “But you’re worrying me today. Is something wrong? Something other than Millie moving out?”
I shrugged, “Nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to tell you how I feel, that’s all.”
“Okeydokey,” he smiled. “I’m always happy to hear how much you love me, Irene. Just don’t scare me like that, ok? I thought there was some serious problem.”
“The only problem is how much I still want to jump your bones, even after all these years together,” I joked.
“That’s the opposite of a problem, I’d say,” he chuckled. “Do you have any plans for today? Phoenix is going to be at school for several more hours, so we have the whole house to ourselves.”
“That we do,” I nodded.
“Let me clean up the dishes and I’m all yours,” he winked, heading off into the kitchen.
As soon as he left the room, I breathed out a sigh of relief. I didn’t know how to bring it up, not without making everyone miserable.
The truth was I’ve been feeling sick for at least the last two months. And considering that my mother fell sick when she was younger than I was, it was obvious why I felt scared. My mother got lucky. The plant worked for her, maybe it will work for me? Or maybe I was sicker even than Mom was and I was hopeless?
I really hoped I’d have more time with my family, with David, Phoenix, and Millie, I hoped I’d see their grandkids grow up…
A new bout of nausea rocked me so hard that I barely made it to the bathroom before emptying the contents of my stomach into the toilet.
Yes, it was definitely good that Millie and her family won’t be around for this.
“Irene? Love, are you ok? You don’t sound like you’re feeling well,” David was already outside the door, concern clear as day in his voice.
“David… I don’t know,” I admitted. Finally, I found the energy to come out of the bathroom. “I’ve been feeling sick for the last few months and I’m just scared.”
“Irene… why didn’t you tell me? You know you don’t have to go through anything alone, right?” he frowned in concern.
“Yes, I just didn’t want to ruin anyone’s mood,” I admitted.
“Come here,” he pulled me into a hug. “Ok, first things first. We need to go to the doctor and figure out what is wrong with you. It’s better than going crazy with worry and letting your imagination run wild. We have plenty of time right now, are you feeling good enough for a trip to the hospital?”
“I guess,” I nodded.
“Let’s go, then. We’ll figure out what to do next after we know the nature of the problem.”
Three hours later, we left the hospital in a daze.
“Well… This is quite a surprise!” David managed to get out.
“How? Just how? I don’t understand…” I was even more shocked.
“Well, what I’m thinking is, perhaps, since you are older now, your immune system, which was responsible for the issue in the past, is weaker. And your reproductive system is normalized now? Have you missed your period lately?” he asked.
“Yes. I assumed it was just menopause,” I admitted, still baffled.
After all these years, after barely conceiving Phoenix after multiple failed IVF attempts, now, only a few years away from retirement, I was pregnant again. And I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Judging by the amazement on his face, neither could David.
“Want to sit down? You look like you’re going to faint soon,” David offered, guiding me to one of the nearby benches. “So, this is going to be an adjustment for all of us.”
“Quite a big one,” I agreed. “You know, after all these years, I kind of assumed we’ll never have any more kids.”
“I thought so too. Which isn’t to say I’m not happy about this new development,” he smiled. He quickly sobered up again. “But we do need to think through all the logistics now.”
“We do. We aren’t as young as we used to be, and I know late pregnancies can be problematic,” I sighed. “I wish Constance was still practicing.”
“Me too,” David chuckled. Our friendly doctor, after having more miracle children herself, ended up retiring and marrying our old policeman friend, Spencer Rosswell, who has moved to Hidden Springs following the whole fire ordeal. We could probably ask her what to do though…
“Can I take time off from the company for as long as needed at the moment? In case the doctors tell me to go on bed rest?” I asked.
“It can be done, yes. Do you feel up to going through another pregnancy?” he asked.
I nodded. “I’ve always wanted more children. Even if the timing isn’t great, I’m happy.”
“I know. I just wanted to make sure you are completely on board with the whole situation since most of the strain of the pregnancy will be on you,” he explained.
“I realize that. It won’t be easy. But can you really believe it? We’re having another baby!” I smiled, snuggling up to him.
“And I can’t wait to meet the little one,” David wrapped his arms around me. “Now we’ll just have to tell the kids. Boy, are they going to be surprised!”
“So, like I was saying, we need to figure out a way to keep the robotics team off of my back for this,” Sergio complained. “It wasn’t my fault that someone left the thing on overnight and it overheated. I mean, I wasn’t even at school that day, so obviously I had no control over what happened, right?”
He was currently on the robotics team of our school and there wasn’t much that escaped his attention. Unfortunately, despite finding the guts to take part in the things he loved, my friend was still very non-confrontational, and because of that, many of our classmates took advantage of him. Like this time – he was somehow getting blamed for someone else’s mistake, which was total bullshit.
“You just have to tell your mentor, man,” Trevor shook his head. He was kind of new in our group – we only started hanging out with the guy because my cousin Jeanne was dating him, but he was very chill. Which was good – he had a calm approach to things. “And you shouldn’t worry about what they’ll think of you – standing up for yourself is completely normal. If anything, blaming you for someone else’s mistake isn’t.”
Yeah, it seemed like my cousin picked well.
“I guess. So, I guess, what I’m saying is, will you guys have my back if the mentor doesn’t believe me?” Sergio asked.
“Dude, of course! That’s what friends are for!” I exclaimed. “And if anything, we can verify any information for your instructor. You were home with a fever, we all remember. I don’t know why this situation is even up.”
“And maybe we can remind your instructor to double check his information the next time something goes haywire. After all, isn’t he supposed to be responsible for equipment?” Trevor reminded us.
“Thanks, guys. I guess I’m just stressing out over this for no reason,” Sergio sighed.
“It’s ok, man. We get it,” I calmed him down. Looking behind my friend, something, or rather someone caught my sight. “Hey, who’s that?”
My friends glanced in the direction of my sight.
“That?!” Sergio gasped. “Don’t tell me you forgot all about Morgan. She went to our elementary school, but she was in the other class, I believe. Still, you must’ve seen her around playground.”
“Morgan? Morgan Forrester? That’s her?” I was confused. Yeah, I remembered her, vaguely. She was always the quiet unimposing kid. She definitely wasn’t someone who could catch a guy’s attention.
“Yeah, the very same,” my friend verified. “I guess she grew into her looks, or whatever you call it.”
“I’d call it becoming a premium bitch,” Trevor snorted. Noticing our confusion, he explained, “A friend of mine went out with her for a bit, until she ditched him for the next guy. Apparently, as soon as she realized guys like her, she’s turned into a player. Seriously Phoenix, you’re lucky your girlfriend is a cool person and not like that.”
“Yeah, Rashida could’ve turned out much different,” Sergio agreed. “You’re lucky she is as chill as she is and so into you.”
“Rashi’s great,” I agreed. She actually hasn’t texted me all day, which meant that she must have been swamped with music practice. Otherwise, my phone was always ringing with texts from her, even at night, sometimes.
“Hey, guys, are you talking about Rashida? Have you seen her today yet?” Jeanne ran over to us, excited about something.
“Not yet, why?” I turned to my cousin.
“She was looking for you earlier,” Jeanne puffed out, out of breath. She had a habit of running in the hallways, something that got her in trouble with the teachers and hall monitors plenty of times, but habits die hard.
“What happened? Is something wrong?” my mind went into overdrive – I hoped she was alright.
“Oh, I think it’s something about her schedule and your plans,” she shrugged. “She got qualified to play with the regional aorchestra and she worried about the recital being on the same night as the Spring Fling Dance.”
“Oh! That!” I breathed a sigh of relief. “I thought someone was hurt.”
“Not physically, no. But she was really upset about not being able to go with you,” Jeanne explained.
The bell rang and the guys started shuffling off to class.
“Aren’t you coming to class, babe?” Trevor asked my cousin, before leaving.
“In a bit. I need to get something from my locker first. I’ll see you there, ok?” Jeanne waved him along, turning to me as soon as he was gone. “You totally forgot all about the dance, didn’t you, Phoenix?”
“Guilty as charged!” I admitted. “I didn’t even realize it was this month. Maybe Rashida should’ve reminded me?”
“Phoenix! She’s your girlfriend. She isn’t supposed to remind you about these things. You’re lucky I’m warning you about the situation, so that you won’t make a total idiot of yourself when she talks to you about it.”
“I know, cuz, you’re my savior today. In all fairness, things have been hectic at home with Millie moving out and all. It’s a big change – it’ll take a lot of getting used to my big sister not being there every day.”
“I understand. Just, keep your head in the game, cool? Boys have been broken up with for less,” she laughed, before running off to class.
Before I could leave for my own class, the subject of our discussion herself rounded the corner.
“There you are!” she lit up upon seeing me. “I’ve missed you!”
In all the two days of the weekend that we haven’t seen each other, I thought.
“Missed you too. Jeanne said you wanted to talk to me about something?” I feigned ignorance of the subject.
“Yes. It’s about the Spring Fling Dance. My recital is on the same night, so I can’t go. Sorry?” she frowned.
“It’s ok. Seriously, how many other teenagers get the chance to play with one of the best orchestras in the region? It’s seriously a better deal than being stuck in our gym all night. Besides, there will be plenty of other dances,” I hurried to reassure her.
“Really? So, you aren’t upset?” she lit up.
“Nope. And hey, after the recital, we can hang out and stuff our faces with all the pizza!”
In all honesty, I was somewhat happy we couldn’t go to this dance. The previous year, shortly after Millie’s wedding, there was a similar event at our school. Naturally, Rashida and I went together, since we were already an item at that point. And it was crazy. First, she thought her dress wasn’t up to par, even though it looked great on her, then she got upset because she thought one of the other girls in our class was glaring at her, even though that was certainly not so, then the music played wasn’t romantic enough. It felt like, during that time, she was a completely different person, completely different from the one I knew as a child. It wasn’t something I wanted to go through again.
“Deal! And hey, you aren’t upset that I couldn’t message or call for the past few days, are you? Seriously, sometimes I feel like my extracurricular rule my life,” she complained.
“It’s cool, Rashi. We still see each other every day,” I reassured her.
“Ok… well, I think you’re going to be late? I’ll see you tomorrow?”
“Definitely. And you should run too, before you get detention for tardiness,” I was about to leave when I noticed the barely perceptible frown on her face. So, I pulled her into a kiss. “Seriously, everything’s cool.”
“If you say so!” she lit up, before running off to class herself.
I couldn’t help but feel relieved when she was gone. Ever since we started dating, Rashida has become really affectionate with me. So affectionate, in fact, that sometimes it bordered on clinginess. And honestly, I wasn’t sure how to bring it up without upsetting her.
The rest of the day passed without more emotional rollercoasters and I was on my way out of the school building when I heard someone having a “heated argument” with one of our notoriously dysfunctional vending machines. Making a detour to see who lost their money, I spotted familiar-looking long hair and blue dress. Morgan.
“A little bit higher and with less force does the trick,” I advised the girl. She was neither the first not the last person to lose their money to this crazy apparatus and most of us have already figured out a way to get the candy bars to drop down when the machine failed to push them out.
After putting my advice into action, she was rewarded with not one, but two candy bars.
“Wow, thanks! Seriously, you’d think they won’t fix these things on purpose, just to steal our money!” she turned to me giving one of the bars to me. “Here, I think you deserve this for helping me get my money’s worth.”
“Thanks, keep it, though. You’ve gone through enough trouble with that iron thief” I refused.
“Alright. Hey, you look familiar. We went to elementary school together haven’t we?” she asked.
“That’s right. Feels like it’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”
“Sure does. Last I remembered, you weren’t the big defeater of vending machines,” she chuckled.
“What can I say? I’m quick to pick up useful skills,” I smiled.
“I’m sure. Well, we should hang out sometime,” she smiled in a way that made my insides feel tingly. I wondered if the rumors about her being a player were true. It wouldn’t surprise me, really – she was very attractive. And she certainly knew how to play up her assets; that much was clear with how she wore the colors that brought out the deep blue of her eyes.
“Yeah, sometime, sure. Well, it’s been nice seeing you, but my ride is waiting. See you,” I hurried to take my leave.
There was no ride waiting for me, of course. I preferred to take a walk on evenings like these. And I certainly needed to clear my head tonight.
This wasn’t right! I had Rashida, a gorgeous, amazing girl who was head over heels for me. So, why was I so flattered by Morgan’s attention? Why did I want more of it?
I knew one thing for sure – this was not a healthy way of thinking.
At home, my parents were waiting for me with an apprehensive expression on their faces.
“There you are! Can you sit down, Phoenix? Your father and I need to tell you something,” Mom announced as soon as she saw me.
“Umm, sure? Did I do something wrong?” I couldn’t understand their expressions.
“No! Not at all. We just have an announcement to make,” Dad explained, sitting down next to us. “So, your Mom has had a health scare earlier today and we went to the hospital to make sure everything was alright with her wellbeing.”
“Mom? You aren’t sick are you?” I turned to her.
“No, Phoenix. I’m healthy. However you are going to be a big brother very soon,” she announced. “The doctor told me I am at the start of second trimester and the pregnancy is going well. Which is why I’ve been feeling sick lately.”
“Pregnant! But how? Aren’t you a little too old to be expecting?” I exclaimed.
“Yes, Phoenix,” Mom frowned. “This is why your father and I were very surprised but happy to hear this news.”
“This is insane, you know that, right?” I couldn’t help it. My mother was almost 50, an age where women usually already had grandbabies. Hell, she already had a grandchild from Millie. The new baby’s nephew was going to be older than them!
“Phoenix, we know our situation is not conventional, alright?” Dad looked at me sternly. “But we were hoping you’d feel happy for us.”
“I’m not saying I’m unhappy. I just worry for you guys, ok? Late pregnancies can be very problematic.” Besides, as the owners of a huge local company, my parents were definitely at the center of attention in town. Mom’s late pregnancy would be the talk of the town. And not in a good way. Not that it mattered to me that much, but the whole situation was making me feel weird.
“Yes, Phoenix, we are aware of all the problems that can arise from this. I am well aware that I will likely be on bed rest for the majority of second and third trimester and that it will put a big strain on me. But I am willing to go through it, still. And as there are several more months left until the baby is due, you have enough time to get used to the idea of a new child in the house,” Mom shot off, making it clear that she already made her decision on the topic.
“Alright, then. Best of luck to you two,” I sighed, heading upstairs to my room. Today was weird enough and I just wanted to sleep it all off.
Might as well enjoy the peace and quiet in the house until my little sibling arrived.