Gen 3 Ch 5: I Just Want to Have Some Fun

I needed to cool down. That was it. Rashida and I both just needed to cool down. Maybe some space would do us good?

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The library was usually empty at this time of day, since most of the school was still in class and those who, like me, had an empty period chose to spend it outside rather than surrounding themselves with more books. So, this seemed like a good place to get some quiet alone time and to think how my day turned out.

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On the one hand, everything that came up in our fight was a valid point. I did have an issue with Rashida requiring constant contact with me, to the point of wanting to permanently shut my phone off at times. I did have a problem with her clinginess. And I knew I had to bring these things up at some point.

Of course, I didn’t know she had jealousy issues too. That certainly put things in perspective. But who knew, maybe this fight would make her see things my way at least a little bit? I could only hope.

Because I didn’t really want to break up. Not like this, at least.

All of this was giving me a headache. I began to wonder if my parents would mind if I decided to just call it a day and go home to take a nap. It would be more productive that staying in school and sulking.

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Before I could make up my mind, the library door opened to let in the last person I wanted to see today: Morgan. And of course, I was sitting just where she could see me and I had no time to hide. Perfect.

“Phoenix?” she seemed surprised to see me. “Hey, what’s up? No offense, but you look like someone just forced you to drink unsweetened lemon juice. Are you ok?”

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“Peachy,” I mumbled. “Just peachy.”

“If you say so,” she shrugged. “Although, if you’re ill, the nurse’s office is just downstairs.”

“Thanks for the concern,” I sighed. “I’m not sick though. Just had a bad day, that’s all.”

“Oh,” she nodded understandingly and sat down next to me. “Well, that happens. Usually, I just eat something sweet to cheer myself up on days like these. I have some candy, would you like it?”

“No, thanks,” I refused. “I was just thinking of going home and taking a nap, actually.”

“That works too,” she laughed. “What happened though? If it’s not a secret, that is.”

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I wasn’t sure if telling her about my relationship problems was such a good idea. After all, I was pretty sure Rashida wouldn’t appreciate me discussing our private issues with another girl. But then again, she also threw a jealousy fit over someone who was practically family… and honestly, I needed to vent.

“My girlfriend and I got into a fight. She and I haven’t been seeing eye-to-eye on some things, and we both kind of exploded at one another. I’m not really sure what I’m supposed to do now. Any advice?” I spilled the beans.

“Well, if you haven’t been agreeing on something for a long time, and all this crap kind of bottled up, it’s no wonder you two had a fight,” she explained as a matter of fact. “Sorry if I sound blunt, but anyone would tell you this.”

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“No, you’re right. My sister told me something similar, actually. I just don’t know how to fix this situation without getting angry again and making everything worse,” I admitted.

“Well, I would suggest not doing anything just yet. If you’re angry, she probably is too. Give it a break, think everything over, and then talk to her. If a guy tried to make up with me immediately after a fight, I’d probably snap at him again,” she admitted.

“Thanks, for the advice,” I nodded. “I think I will go home after all, then. I don’t feel like staying at school at the moment.”

“Wait, don’t leave just yet,” she got a wicked grin on her face. “I know what can cheer you up right now. Come on!”

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She jumped up, leading be down the hall, all the way to one of the teacher lounges. Students were usually not supposed to be here and it felt like we were breaking the law.

“Don’t worry,” she noticed my reticence. “No one’s going to be here until the end of this class, at least. And there is ice cream.”

“But it’s the teachers’ ice cream!” I whispered, looking around for any teacher that might show up.

“Nah, it was supposed to be for the students before Mr. Elms got a stick up his ass and decided to cancel the pre-exam party. There’s plenty of it – they won’t notice a couple of missing cans. And you need the sugar rush.”

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There was no arguing with her on this. And the ice cream was delicious.

“So, do you do this often? Sneak around student lounges and go through their fridges?” I teased. She was right, the ice cream did do me a lot of good – my headache was already almost gone.

“Well, I’m usually assisting at the main office during this time, but everyone there is on some conference, so I basically have a free period too for today,” she laughed. “You wouldn’t believe how much gossip you end up hearing when you spend enough time around faculty.”

“Like what?” I was curious.

“Well, I know for a fact that there are at least two secret teacher couples,” she snorted. “Then, one teacher actually hired a PI to trail his girlfriend who he thinks is cheating on him, and another female teacher is trying to secretly get pregnant from her boyfriend. Also, it’s a good thing that none of these people are spies, since they are all really bad at hiding their secrets. I won’t name anyone though, but you’ll probably figure out  all of them now by yourself.”

“This is better than a soap opera,” I leaned back in my chair. It was nice not thinking about my own problems for a change.

“Sure is,” she agreed, glancing at the clock. “Well, I think class is almost over and if you want to get out of school for today, you should be going now.”

“Thanks for the reminder,” I got up to leave before the halls were full of people. “And thanks for the ice cream.”

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“No problem,” she waved away. “Oh, by the way – if you want to have some fun outside of school tonight – come to the Chill Out around 8 today.”

“The Chill Out? Isn’t that place 18+ only?” I asked stumped. The nightclub was where all the cool college kids went. Certainly they won’t let high-schoolers in.

“It’s supposed to be. But the bouncers are chill, as long as you don’t cause trouble on the dance floor. They’ve let me in plenty of times before,” she admitted.

“Oh,” I was about to say no. It wasn’t a good idea. Just me and her on the dance floor? A recipe for disaster.

“There are going to be others from school. Always are.” she informed me. “Like I said, the bouncer is totally chill.”

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“You know what? I’ll be there,” I agreed. It was a while since I’ve had any fun and school was tiring enough without all of my relationship issues. I needed a break. And I wanted to check out the nightclub – after all, what was the point of all those age restrictions anyways?

“Alright then, 8 pm it is!” she reminded me, already heading out.

My parents were still at work when I came home, so they couldn’t complain about me ditching school. And it wasn’t like I skipped classes often. This was only the second time in my entire school career – they had no reason to worry.

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After sending the babysitter on her way, I ended up spending hours with Felicity. She was always such a cheerful little girl – my baby sister never failed to put a smile on my face. These days, I really regretted being so negative about Mom’s late pregnancy. Who knew, maybe Felicity and I would be just as close as Millie and I always were?

When the time came, I got out my more stylish clothes. From what I’ve heard, the night club had some sort of a dress code and I had no intention of getting turned away at the door.

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My parents didn’t question where I was going – they didn’t need to. Usually, whenever I left the house, I was going either to one of my friends’ house or on a date with Rashida. And no one in my circle ever expressed the wish to go clubbing. This was definitely a new thing for me.

The music in the club was already pumping when I got there. And there was the bouncer at the door. I felt hesitant. Maybe Morgan was wrong and the bouncer wasn’t as chill as she thought? After all, plenty of times, places like these would let in attractive girls to make the male customers have more of an incentive to go in. For all I knew, this lady was going to call the cops on me?

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“There you are!” Morgan appeared behind me, clad in a tight revealing dress that showed off her legs. “Almost thought you’d change your mind!”

“Not a chance,” I shook my head.

“Let’s go, then, don’t worry, there are plenty of others inside already. We won’t even come close to standing out,” she pulled me towards the club door, where, just as she predicted, the bouncer didn’t even bat an eyelash at us.

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Inside, the music was deafeningly loud, with the boomboxes blasting high-energy songs with the beats that were just right and I felt myself wanting to dance, to release all the negativity of the last few months out of me.

And Morgan wasn’t kidding when she said we won’t be the only underage ones here – I was pretty sure I recognized some familiar faces from school. I understood them though — we were all just here to have a good time. So we kept on dancing.

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Some were better at it than others. I like to think I have pretty good moves, but honestly, I had nothing on Morgan. I had no idea if she took dance lessons outside of school or if she just frequented clubs like these often, but she never missed a beat and her moves were always on point. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught several other guys at the club give her wistful glances. I didn’t blame them, I felt the same way.

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Some part of me felt guilty. This was the exact opposite of resolving my relationship issues. Yeah, there were others here, but it was clear Morgan and I were here “together”. Even if it was just a friendly outing, I was still breaking my promise to myself to avoid her company.

“Hey, come on, dance!” she pulled me back to the dance floor, noticing my momentary spacing out. “Aren’t you having fun at all?”

“I am,” I shouted over the music. It was true. Despite the guilty feelings, this was the most fun I’ve had in a long while. “Thanks for inviting me here!”

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“No problem!” she smiled, continuing to dance. I tried to keep up. I wasn’t planning to make going to nightclubs a regular activity, so I decided to take maximum advantage of this outing.

My thoughts drifted to Rashida again. I imagined taking her to a place like these. Instantly, I could picture her getting irked at the other girls looking at me, even if they did so by complete accident. I could see her either trying to compete with everyone else on the dance floor or trying to drag us out of here.

She wasn’t here tonight though, which made me feel a strange sense of… relief? Yes, that was it. Her absence was making me feel lighter than I’ve felt in months…

And right there on that dance floor, with the music still blaring loud, I knew it. My relationship was over. I just didn’t have it in me to fix it, because most of all, that required wanting to stay with the person I was in a relationship with. And the idea of staying with Rashida any longer, of dealing with her possessiveness made me want to scream. It would hurt, yes, but I would have to talk to her and end things for real.

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And really, this was a long time coming.

As the music changed from the fast paced dance tune to a slower number, I also knew I didn’t just want to be friends with Morgan. I was having a good time with her, I was attracted to her, and I knew she didn’t just invite me out here tonight for me to relax – she’s was interested in me. Instinctively, we moved closer to one another until we were slow-dancing with one another.

“Phoenix?” she whispered. “Do you want to sit this one out? Your girlfriend-“

“No, I think I want to dance with you,” I looked her in the eyes.

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“Alright,” she whispered back, grinning.

 

 

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– Clara! What the hell are you doing here? Mom and Dad think you’re studying at your friend’s house!

– You should be glad I’m here tonight. Go in. Take a look at what’s going on in there. 

– What?

– Just go see for yourself. And don’t shoot the messenger afterwards.

 

 

And so we danced together, with my hands on her hips and her arms pulling me closer and closer, to the point of our lips nearly touching, until this bliss was interrupted by the last person I wanted to be here.

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“Phoenix?! Well, asshole, I see you’re making great use of our break,” Rashida screamed at me. It seemed like she came out of nowhere and she looked furious.

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“Rashida? What are you doing here?” I pulled away from Morgan, who was looking on all of this with an uncomfortable expression.

“Me?! I’m not the one making out with someone else! Here I was, thinking you actually wanted to fix our relationship, but it looks like you’ve already moved on with her, you bastard!” she spit out bitterly. “Consider our break permanent.”

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“Ok,” was the only thing I managed to get out before she stormed out of the club. This was not how I wanted to end things, but the chances of her being in this club by pure coincidence tonight were so minimal that she must’ve been trailing me. And that would’ve been the final nail in the coffin of whatever was between us, even if I didn’t decide to break up already.

She could think I was the worst person in the world, but if that meant our relationship was over, then so be it.

“Um, I’m really sorry about this,” Morgan mumbled, looking down at her feet. “I didn’t know your girlfriend would be here. Damn, I didn’t mean for you to get broken up with…”

“Don’t be,” I shrugged. “I was planning to break up with her tomorrow anyways. She just beat me to it.”

“Still,” she bit her lip, “This did not go well.”

“It happened,” I stated. “It’s probably for the best, though. Because there’s something I’ve wanted to do for a really long time.”

“What?” Morgan cocked her head to one side.

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“This,” I admitted before pulling her into a passionate kiss. To my delight, she responded just as eagerly.

As we pulled away, she had a huge smile on her face. “I’m so glad I’m not the only one who felt that way,” she purred. “Is this why you’ve been avoiding me lately?”

“Pretty much, yeah. Are you angry?” I asked.

“I’ll forgive you after another kiss,” she smiled.

Before I could deliver, I felt someone’s strong hands grab me from behind and pull me away from Morgan.

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“That’s it, young man, you are grounded for at least a month!” Dad growled as he dragged me out of the club.

All I could do was mouth “I’ll see you in school,” at Morgan before we left the building.

And despite being grounded, I couldn’t help but grin the entire ride home, to the increased discontent of my parents.

Gen 3 Ch 4: How to Deal?

As Mom started showing, my strange feelings about her pregnancy didn’t go away. I knew I should’ve been happy for her and Dad, but something just wasn’t letting me.

This was why I found myself at Millie’s house one day. My sister always got me. If anyone could help me figure things out, it was her.

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“Hey, brother! What brings you here?” Millie asked, letting me in.

“Stuff,” I shrugged.

“Well, come in, come in,” she urged me into her kitchen, where she took stock of everything in the fridge. “Quiang and I are usually busy at work, and between our crazy shifts and taking care of Terrence, we keep forgetting to go grocery shopping.”

“So this is what being married is like, eh?” I tried joking.

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“Pretty much,” Millie laughed. “Well, except you get to come home to see the people you love every day, which is really priceless. Sometimes, I still can’t believe Quiang and I are really married. And then I look at Terrence and wonder how I deserved to be this perfect little boy’s mother. I can’t wait until we are in a good enough place to have another little one. It would have to wait until Terrence is older though. I can’t imagine taking care of two kids under 3 at once.”

“That’s what I wanted to talk about, actually,” I admitted. “I mean, Mom being pregnant? This is so crazy, isn’t it?”

“If you mean her age, then yes, it is quite crazy,” Millie agreed. “But I bet she is so happy right now, isn’t she? That’s how she always sounds when we talk.”

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“So, you’re completely on board with this?” I was incredulous.

“Of course I’m on board, Phoenix. She had my back completely when I was pregnant. Besides, what do you suggest she do? Get rid of the baby? You know there is no way in hell she’d ever do that, right? Even if her health was at stake, which it isn’t,” Millie looked at me sternly.

“The doctors said she’ll have to be on bed rest for the last part of this trimester and the next,” I informed her and she nodded. She knew.

“I still can’t believe she got pregnant again, and so late too,” she mused as we sat down in her living room. “You know, we never thought she’d have you either.”

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“Seriously? Why?” This was the first I was hearing of this.

“Mom had a lot of trouble conceiving. I remember at one point I even thought she and Dad couldn’t have a baby of their own because I was with them,” Millie laughed. “She and Dad had five failed IVF attempts when they were younger. Then there was this big fire – our house was nearly burned down because of this crazy woman who had a vendetta against the family.”

“Mom and Dad mentioned it once or twice. When I asked why there were still those old char marks in the living room,” I remembered being confused when I was younger. “They never mentioned their fertility problems, though.”

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“They don’t really like to talk about that time,” Millie nodded. “Well, anyways, our house had to be completely repaired after the fire, so instead of staying at a hotel, we all went to China because Mom and Dad had to find out something for work.”

“And you met Quiang there…” I realized.

“I did. Who knew how things would turn out?” she smiled happily. “Well, to our surprise, when we came back, Mom was pregnant with you. She still maintains there was something supernatural about that, although I’m not sure I believe that. I mean, there has to be a logical explanation for why her fertility problems went away in China. Although, who knows? There are lots of unexplained things in the world…” she drifted off.

“So, how is she pregnant now?” I asked.

“That is the billion dollar question, isn’t it?” Millie shrugged. “I say, it doesn’t matter. What matters is, the pregnancy is going well, Mom and Dad are happy, and we’ll have a new sibling soon. Let’s be happy about it.”

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“I’ll try, Mills. I guess I’m kind of excited to have another sibling. It’s been kind of empty without you in the house,” I admitted.

“Sorry, little brother. We just really wanted to have our own place. You’ll understand someday. But I miss having you around too,” she smiled. “So, what else is bothering you?”

“Nothing,” I replied, to which she snorted.

“I’m your big sister, I know something’s up.”

“Ok, well, it’s Rashida,” I admitted. I took a deep breath and let it out “I really like her, I think she’s gorgeous, we have so many things in common, and we’ve been great friends since we were little. But sometimes, I feel like dating her is a little too much.”

“Let me guess,” Millie pursed her lips. “She is overly affectionate. I mean, I’ve noticed it when I saw you two together, but I didn’t want to say anything and you weren’t bothered by it. Or maybe it just seemed that way?”

“I don’t know. It didn’t bother me at first. But it kind of does now. I mean, she texts me cute messages at 2 am at night, she constantly tries to be near me… I like her, but this kind of thing is making me want more distance. I don’t want to break up with her, I just…”

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“…need more space? I understand, Phoenix,” Millie nodded. “Perhaps you two need to talk this over with one another? Have you tried bringing it up to her?”

“No! The other day, I didn’t kiss her before class and it looked like she was about to cry,” I explained the problem. “I can’t even imagine how she’ll react if I tell her this.”

“Well, you’re in a tough spot, then. But you do need to address this issue before it wreaks your relationship,” she concluded.

“I know. Well thanks for helping me figure some things out. You’re the best,” I hugged my sister before heading towards the exit, where I ran into my brother-in-kaw.

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“Hey, Phoenix! How’s life?” Quiang waved at me. “Congratulations on your soon-to-arrive new sibling.”

“Thanks. It’s been nice seeing you two. Take care of yourself and of my sister,” I told him, to which he replied, “I always do.”

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I didn’t want to go home just yet. Because of the pregnancy, Mom was constantly feeling too hot, and therefore our thermostat was set to nearly freezing temperatures, making me consider putting on a parka just to be at home.

However, it might have been preferable to the weather we’ve been having lately.

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It was scorching hot. I had no idea why – Hidden Springs was usually supposed to be cooler than this, but this summer was taking its toll on all of us.

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Luckily, there was an ice cream truck in town center when I got there. A refreshing strawberry cone was most welcome.

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After buying my ice cream, I found a spot in the shade of a nearby building. I wondered how to spend my time. It was summer vacation, and having no part-time job, I mostly had nothing to do. Frankly, I was bored, to the point of actually missing school. At least there, I had my friends.

Lost in my thoughts, I didn’t notice a familiar face approach me.

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“Phoenix? Hey, long time, no see,” Morgan rounded the corner, smiling when she saw me. “How’s life been treating you?

“It’s good. I have a delicious ice cream, I’m in the shade, and I’m going to be a big brother soon. Life’s good,” I finished the ice cream and, scrunching it up, threw away the paper cone holder into the nearest trash can, scoring a perfect hit.

“Nice shot,” Morgan complimented, joining me on the bench. “You should try the chocolate one next time though, it’s even better.”

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“Would you like one? My treat,” I offered.

“Thanks, but I don’t like to eat before swimming. What about you? Want to go for a swim? The pool’s open right now and we’re here already,” she pointed out the fact that we were sitting right next to the public pool building.

“Seriously? Actually, that sounds great, sure,” I agreed.

Inside, I quickly stripped down to my trunks, regretting not taking Quiang’s offer to help me start working out, and jumped into the pool. The water was refreshing and nice and I quickly felt better. Feeling refreshed, I got out of the pool and took up one of the loungers.

By this time, Morgan finished getting ready for her own swim, and approached the pool, where she did a nearly perfect somersault into the water.

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“Oh goodness, yes!” she exclaimed. “What would we do without the pool? We’ll just prune up.”

“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, unable to keep my eyes off of her. She had a good body and I was glad that my shorts were loose. Otherwise, this situation would’ve been somewhat awkward.

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Finally, she climbed out of the water, the water still dripping from her smooth skin, and made her way to the lounger right next to mine.

“This is fun, we should hang out more often,” she smiled at me, only a meter or so away from me. “You seem like a fun person to spend time with.”

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“Thanks, so are you,” I responded, feeling guilty, so very guilty about being here right now. Perhaps I was an idiot, perhaps it was only hindsight, but I was realizing how awfully stupid and wrong it was for me to be here with Morgan, to be checking her out in that swimsuit, when only a couple of hours ago, I was having a discussion on how to fix the shortcomings of my existing relationship.

Morgan and I chatted about a few more trivial things, with me doing my best not to notice any of her attempts to flirt with me until it began to get dark, at which time I made the excuse that I still needed to buy something at the store, before I took my leave, heading out of the pool center as fast as my legs could carry me.

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I didn’t walk far when my phone beeped with another message from Rashida. This time, it was a cute picture of two fluffy kittens hugging each other, with a caption that said “You+Me=Purrfection.” Alright, even I had to admit, this was pretty adorable.

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Before I could reply back, I nearly walked into someone – my uncle Gerald.

“Oh, hello there, Phoenix, I seriously didn’t realize it was you. Did you grow more?” he greeted.

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“Hi, Uncle Gerald. I think I may have had another growth spurt, yes. How are you?”

“I’m good, I’m good. How’s your mom? How’s her pregnancy going?” he asked with concern.

“Pretty decent, I think, all things considered. Lots of back pain, but the food aversions are over, though,” I let him know.

“At least, it’s more than halfway done,” he nodded in sympathy. “The back pain is always too much, I know. I remember Katie could barely sleep at night when she was expecting the girls. I know Irene is happy though. So, what about you? You’re going to be a junior now, aren’t you? Thinking of schools to apply to? Or perhaps, something more hand-on?” he asked, bringing up something that kind of bothered me lately.

Seriously, everyone kept talking about what they were going to do when they were older. It was interesting at first, but as time went on, it got kind of stressful. I still had no idea about what I was going to do after high school was done and I felt like the black sheep out of my group of friends because of that. After all, I was supposed to have at least an inkling about my future career choice, right?

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“Still haven’t decided, huh?” Uncle Gerald noticed my confusion. “It’s alright, kid. Not many people know right of the bat.”

“You did though, didn’t you?” I referred to his choice to go into investigative journalism from an early age.

“Well, in my case, the circumstances helped me along. But before that, I changed my mind plenty. I even thought of becoming a pro soccer player at one point,” he laughed.

“Seriously? I had no idea!” the idea of my sophisticated uncle running after a ball was quite something.

“Most people are surprised to hear that,” he smiled. “You’ll figure things out, don’t worry. And if you ever need a friendly ear outside of the family, I’m only a phone call away.”

After we parted ways, I felt much lighter. My uncle’s advice was solid, as usual. Not to say that my parents didn’t give good advice, but they were parents and there were some things I wasn’t going to ask them about.

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Coming home, I found Mom in the kitchen, having dinner. I didn’t realize I’ve been out of the house for that long but it was already almost 9 in the evening.

“Hey Mom! How are you feeling?” I felt bad for being so negative over her pregnancy. Millie was right – it was a happy thing.

“I’m pretty good, mostly. Your sister’s been kicking a lot, though. I can already tell she’ll be a feisty one,” Mom smiled.

“How do you know it’s a girl?” I asked. They haven’t been told so by the doctor, yet.

“I just have a feeling. I had a feeling you were going to be a boy and this one feels like a girl,” she smiled. “Would you like some pasta?”

“Thanks, I’m good though,” the ice cream from earlier was pretty filling.

As soon as I thought about the ice cream, I thought about the pool, about Morgan, about Rashida! And I totally forgot to text her back.

“Hey,” I wrote, “What’s up? Cute kittens.”

“Hey!!!” she texted back. “Glad you liked them!”

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“What are you doing?” I hesitated before adding, “Want to come over?”

The fact of the matter was, while she and I certainly kissed and made out plenty of times, we haven’t gone any further. I was somewhat afraid of getting hit with the same luck as Millie in terms of contraception failure. But I knew she wanted to take the next step and tonight, I felt just about ready to do the deed. I knew Mom was going to go to sleep soon, and Dad was always near her these days, so he won’t stray out of the bedroom at night…

“Sorry, can’t 😦 😦 😦 , my folks are on a date and I’m supposed to help Clara with her homework :(” her response came back. Of course she had to help her younger sister first, that was understandable.

“No problem, see you soon <3” I hit send, still frustrated and annoyed at the situation. I guess, there won’t be any sex happening in this household tonight.

At least, cold showers were a very real and effective method for killing the mood.

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Time passed, Mom was in her last trimester. She was officially on bed rest now, and when she wasn’t, she could barely deal with the exhaustion and the back pain.

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Luckily, her due date wasn’t too far away now. I knew she wanted the baby to be born sooner rather than later.

In other news, school started again, which meant I got to see all of my friends all the time again. Well, all except one – I made the conscious decision to avoid Morgan around the school. I couldn’t deny the fact that I was attracted to her and if I wanted my relationship to survive, it was for the best for me not to be around her too much.

Also, I decided that Rashida and I were going to take our relationship a step further, after all. We were going to be responsible about it though, that much was for sure. Of course, finding a good time and place was going to be an issue, but I was sure it won’t be a problem for long.

An opportunity seemingly presented itself one day, when on a weekend, our schedules were empty enough for her to come over to my place, so I invited her over.

“Hey,” she smiled, coming into the house. “It smells good. Is your mom cooking something?”

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“Not Mom,” I smiled. “Me. It’s just a salad though, and I might have gone overboard with the spices.”

“Can I try it?” she asked, excited.

“Eh, it really doesn’t taste that great,” I admitted. My cooking was definitely not worthy of any praise.

“I won’t judge, promise,” she winked.

Before I could respond anything, Mom and Dad came down in a hurry.

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“Rashida, hi sweetie, how are you? Make yourself at home, don’t mind us,” Mom breathed out shakily.

“Mom, are you ok?” she looked really stressed out, which worried me.

“I’m as good as can be, considering that I’m in labor. Looks like your sister wants out and she wants out now!” she explained, on her way to the car, as Dad followed with all the essentials necessary for the hospital.

“Watcher, your Mom is in labor!” Rashida exclaimed.

“Yes, finally!” According to Mom, the baby was overdue, so this was good.

All thoughts of food pretty much went out the window.

“Are you ok?” Rashida asked, hugging me from behind. “You look worried.”

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“I am, sort of. I mean, Mom’s doctor is very good, but I can’t help but wonder if everything will go well,” I admitted. I regretted not coming to the hospital with them, but we all knew I’d be pretty useless there.

“It’s ok,” she reassured me, “She’ll be fine. I mean, look at Jeanine’s family – they have, what, five kids? And their younger brother was born pretty late too, but Mrs. Blakely is doing alright. I’m sure your mom will be fine.”

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“Thanks for being so positive,” I pulled her in for a kiss. I was glad I invested myself into this relationship harder. Really, my attitude was what caused all of my discontent. Rashida, despite being too affectionate, always meant well. “Let’s just chill while we wait for the news, cool?”

So, we ended up in my room, listening to the radio without really paying attention to any of the songs, and chatting.

“So, what’s up with the foreign pictures? You have a bunch in your locker too. They look cool,” she pointed to one of the posters in the room.

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I shrugged, “Foreign things fascinate me. To be honest, I kind of want to travel someday. Imagine going to another country, eating the local food, meeting the locals, leaning their customs and traditions… it’s all so new and real. But it would have to wait until I’m older, I guess.”

“Where would you want to go?” she asked.

“I think I’d like to see China,” I admitted, “According to Millie, I was conceived there…and Mom always says she felt the most tranquility in her life in China. I wonder if I can experience that too.”

“That’s cool,” Rashida sighed wistfully. “I’ve always liked their architecture – it looks so different from everything here.”

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“I suppose it does. Hey, did you know pagoda roofs were often built with the purpose of making ghosts and spirits unable to come in?” I smiled.

“No way!” she laughed. “I suppose it was their built in equivalent of spilling rice or sand on the floor.”

“True. Although, I really have no idea why people think becoming a ghost makes someone terrible at math,” I chuckled. “But who knows, maybe only those who are averse to arithmetic can become ghosts?”

“Ha!” she laughed again, sobering up quickly. “Hey, what about me? Can I come along when you go exploring the world? Or am I going to stay home and wait for you?”

“You should come along,” I offered, pulling her close to me. “Imagine, seeing the world together, making new foreign friends, maybe even staying abroad for a while…”

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“I’d like that,” she nodded. “It can be a great experience. And imagine all the foreign music I can learn. Maybe I can learn to play the lute while we’re there? It isn’t that different from a guitar, after all.”

“I think you’d be good at it,” I agreed. She already played the guitar as well or better than many famous musicians. Of course, she’d do well with a new instrument.

“You think so?” she looked at me softly, her amber eyes bright with excitement.

“Absolutely.”

She leaned in, kissing me, to which I responded with the same fervor. We were home alone, in my room, and I knew Rashida was not averse to taking the next step…

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Our kisses became deeper, and soon she was on top of me, with me making more space for us to both be comfortable as we got closer to the goal. Also, my mind reminded me to use the condoms I had stored in the drawer of my bed.

“Wait,” I gently stopped her. The thought about contraception reminded me of the fact that my mother was currently in the hospital, giving birth to a baby. And there is no way I could actually be having sex with someone at that time, not with a clear conscience. “This is a bad time.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she whispered, also remembering about my Mom. We both got a little too carried away with our foreign fantasies.

“No, I am. We should do it another time though, if you want to,” I offered.

“That… sounds pretty good, yes,” she blushed slightly.

After that, we decided it would be best to spend our time downstairs, in the company of the TV. We didn’t have to wait long – to our surprise my folks opted to come home after the baby’s arrival, foregoing the longer hospital stay.

They were both exhausted when they came home, with Dad looking relieved that this crazy day was over. Mom was really pale, but she had a small smile on her face.

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“Well, kids. Say hi to Felicity. She took her time getting here, but the doctors say she is healthy and weighs a good 7.5 pounds,” Mom announced. “Welcome home, baby girl.”

 

After Felicity’s birth, things moved into a more or less familiar routine. Mom was still not feeling as energetic as before the pregnancy, but the doctors said it was normal – the older you were, the more time it took to completely recover from pregnancy and childbirth.

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Felicity was, surprisingly, ok. I didn’t think I’d be as fond of the little girl as I was, but she was very cute and always smiled when anyone interacted with her. It was early to tell, but I thought she already looked a lot like Mom, which was really sweet. On the downside, she was a very fussy baby and always wanted someone to be near. But no one really minded.

Back at school, things were going smoothly. I took my uncle’s advice in regards to my future – I’d figure out what I wanted eventually. I knew I wanted to travel, yes, but how many jobs would be ok with that? That was the big question.

Things with Rashida were alright. After that evening in my room, we didn’t really get another chance to do the deed, but I was starting to think that, maybe it was for the best. For some reason, when it was just the two of us, things were going great between me and her, but whenever we ended up in a social environment, like the school or an outing with friends, that was when she became super clingy. I wasn’t sure what the deal was. Perhaps I should’ve brought up this conversation when Millie advised me to.

And… as it turned out, I didn’t even need to, in the long run. Life can be funny that way.

Rashida and I were walking to the cafeteria for our free period. She’s been kind of quiet all day, but I assumed she was just tired as her music practice was very intense again at this time of year. Apparently, I was wrong.

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“So,” she finally broke the silence, “you were hanging out with Dianna over the weekend.”

“Oh yeah. She needed to write an essay for this scholarship she wants to apply to and she asked me to make sure it looked ok,” I explained. Dianna was one of Quiang’s younger sisters and she was currently a freshman at our school. “I’m pretty good at literature and creative writing, so it wasn’t a big deal.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” she asked frowning.

“I didn’t think it was very interesting,” I shrugged. “I mean, the essay requirements were kind of asinine, so we had to spend some three hours making sure it didn’t look like crap and we were bored out of our heads by the end of the day – I didn’t think you’d enjoy hearing about it.”

“It sounds more like you didn’t want to tell me you were hanging out with another girl,” her frown deepened.

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I stood still in my tracks. Was she serious? Was she really jealous of me and the little sister of my brother-in-law?!

“Are you kidding?” I snorted. “You do realize she is practically family, right?”

“That’s nothing. You aren’t related by blood, you’re good looking, and she is an impressionable freshman, who knows what’s going through her head?” Rashida justified her thinking.

“This is ridiculous,” I felt my blood boiling, “Well, you know, my older sister and I are only related through one parent and we’re pretty close, maybe you’re jealous of me and her as well?”

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“Now you sound like an idiot,” she flinched. “You make it sound like I’m being completely irrational.”

“Because you are being completely irrational,” I pointed out, my voice rising. “And really, I didn’t realize I was required to give you an hour-by-hour report of my daily activities. You already check in with me 24/7!”

“Is that how you feel?!” she raised her voice right back. “Well, maybe I wish you would ‘check in’ with me at least half as often as I do with you! Honestly, sometimes I feel like you’re only dating me out of some obligation because we were friends as kids!”

“I date you because I like you, Rashida! I wouldn’t have asked you out if I didn’t. You know me, I don’t care if stuff sounds wrong or inappropriate – I still say it. If I didn’t think we had any chemistry, I would’ve told you so right of the bat when I found out you liked me! But for fuck’s sake, when you want us to be together every minute possible, I feel like it’s too much. And now, you’re jealous of me too?”

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“Let it all out, Phoenix, let it all out,” she was yelling now. “You know, I’m glad this is all coming out of you now. I didn’t realize you were so tired of me. But perhaps I should’ve seen it earlier.”

“Why do you make it sound like I’m the only one in the wrong here?” I exploded. “You’re the one who started this conversation by implying I was cheating on you with Dianna. And when I pointed out how ridiculous that was, you’re the one who got offended. Well, you know what, you’re right. I am tired. Tired of constantly having to make sure you’re getting enough attention, of the text messages at night, when I’m trying to sleep… I’m tired of feeling like I’m your property! This is not how healthy relationships work!”

“Well, why didn’t you tell me any of this before today? Why didn’t you tell me those things annoy you?” she blew up right back. “I was just trying to be a good girlfriend!”

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“I wanted to tell you!” I wanted to rip my hair out, by this point. “But I didn’t know how to bring any of it up without you getting upset, the way you are now!”

“I’m a little past upset now,” she whispered, still seething. “I thought we really had something, Phoenix.”

“Rashida, wait,” I turned away, knowing that at least one of us had to deescalate this conversation. “I’m not trying to break up with you. I don’t know how we even ended up fighting like this, fuck it.”

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“Yeah, well, however it happened, it happened,” her voice sounded chocked, like she was about to cry. This really was the opposite of what I wanted. So much for trying to make the relationship work…

“What now?” I whispered.

“I don’t know… but perhaps we should take a break? Neither of us is thinking straight right now,” she proposed.

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“I don’t want to break up,” I admitted. “I do care about you, Rashi.”

“Don’t ‘Rashi’ me right now, please Phoenix,” she whispered. “And I care about you, but clearly we need to think everything through before making any decision regarding ‘us’. Because clearly, the current state of our relationship isn’t working out.”

“Ok,” I nodded, “I understand. So, I guess I’ll see you later? Sort of?”

When there was no response, I turned around to see that she was already gone from the hallway.

What started out as a completely normal day has turned into a total nightmare. And I couldn’t help but feel like it was all my fault.

Gen 3 Ch 3: Time is a Wicked Master

Irene’s PoV

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.

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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.

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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.”

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“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.”

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“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.

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“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…

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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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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?”

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“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.

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“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.”

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“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.”

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“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.

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“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!”

 

Phoenix POV

“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?”

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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?”

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My friends glanced in the direction of my sight.

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“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.”

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“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.

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“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.

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“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?”

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“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.”

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“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!”

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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.

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“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.

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“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.”

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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?”

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“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.

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“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.

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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.

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“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.”

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

Gen 3 Ch 2: Holy Matrimony!

So, school could’ve been better. Sometimes it seemed like homework was going to be the bane of my existence as it always kept coming and coming.

But on the bright side, school meant friends and the need to do homework meant that we could all get together to study. And being with other people was great!

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Since Hidden Springs was pretty safe, our folks didn’t mind us hanging out in the park by ourselves, even when it got darker. So, we could all still chill together after schoolwork was out of the way. Like we did today.

“So, what’s the deal with Mr. Barnes’s new car? He’s been so excited about it all day. I mean, it’s nice but it’s still just a car,” Jeanine asked. She was already done with her assignment and stretching after sitting down for too long.

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“It’s his favorite model,” explained my younger cousin Jeanne, as she continued writing her assignment. “Wouldn’t you be super excited if you could get a state of the art weight machine like you’ve been talking about?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Jeanine admitted. The Jeannies were best buds since birth. With their families extremely close, everyone joked that when Aunt Kate and Aunt Tia got pregnant around the same time, they planned for the kids to be friends. Whether they wanted their names to be similar is still up for question.

“Cars are ok,” Sergio Preston, Aunt Lana’s son, admitted. “But robots are way cooler.”

“Of course you think so! Do you still want to be a robot maker when you’re old enough?” I asked. My friend was into computers and technologies for as long as I knew him. Now that we were nearing the end of grade school, I thought he should really look into his options for that area of expertise.

“I don’t know, Phoenix. That kind of thing requires a lot of work… and college… I’m not sure I can do all that,” he made excuses.

“Why? It’s worth it if you want it. Besides, I know your folks would want you to go for it,” I was curious about Sergio’s reasons, but I already suspected what the deal was.

“He’s just scared,” Jeanine shrugged. “I don’t know why, though. Seriously, Sergio, go for the things you want. Otherwise you’ll regret it later on. At least that’s what my Dad says.”

“Going for the things you want is reasonable, provided you aren’t taking them from someone else,” Jeanne chimed in. “Like you did with that book you liked at the library, right Jeanine?”

“Oh, come on! It’s a library book. I’ll give it back,” my friend shrugged.

“Like you gave back that pencil to the kid from Bio?” Sergio chuckled.

“Ok, I have some… memory problems where it comes to giving stuff back,” Jeanine admitted. “At least, I’m not scared of everything.”

“Come on, folks, we all have our faults,” I tried to reason with my friends. Looking around the park, I noticed my older cousin Tiffani talking to a girl I’ve seen around but didn’t really know. “Hey, who is Tiff talking to?”

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“Oh, that’s Rashida Sheppard,” explained Sergio.

“She went to that artsy school before, but her parents wanted her to focus on academics more, so they transferred her here,” Jeanne explained.

“But she hasn’t had time to make many friends here yet. She’s nice though, I’ve talked to her,” Jeanine informed us. The Jeannies were the people to go to for information it seemed, as even I couldn’t compete with their knowledge of the rumor mill.

“Her dad is a rocker, I hear,” Sergio chimed in. “Micah or something?”

“Oh!” the light bulb came on. “I think my Mom dated him! Before she met Dad! Obviously, things didn’t work out for them, which is probably for the best, since I wouldn’t have even been born if they stayed together. I wonder what Rashida is like.”

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“Why not talk to her?” Jeanne looked up from her homework.

“I don’t know, man. Talking to girls is scary,” Sergio complained.

“You talk to us though,” Jeanine frowned.

“Yeah, but I’ve known you since we were that little! That’s different,” Sergio reasoned.

“Meh, I’ll just talk to her,” I announced and left my friends.

My cousin was discussing something about the sports tryouts at the local high school with the dark haired girl when I approached them.

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“Hi, girls. How are you doing?” I never had any problems talking to new people.

“Hey, Phoenix. What’s up?” Tiff turned to me.

“Not much. Just wanted to introduce myself to someone I don’t know yet. You know me, I’m always looking to meet new people! I’m Phoenix, what’s your name?”

“Hi, I’m Rashida. I’m always happy to meet new people too. Hey, wait aren’t you Phoenix Collier? I think our parents used to date, didn’t they?” she smiled.

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“Yeah, although officially, I’m not supposed to know about that. I just overheard my Mom talking about it to her friends one day,” I chuckled.

“Me too! I heard it by accident!” she laughed. “Parents are weird that way, aren’t they? But hey, we still love them.”

“Totally. So, you’ve just transferred to our school? How do you like it here?”

“Well, I’d like it more if the teachers weren’t trying to murder us with all the homework, but hey, I shouldn’t complain. At least, the people are nice,” she laughed.

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“What were the people like at your old school?” I ventured.

“Eh. They were very artistic. But you guys are friendlier, so I like it here more,” she admitted.

“I’m sorry about your old school,” I frowned. “I hope they weren’t mean to you. You’re too nice.”

“Thanks, you’re cool too. And no worries, my old classmates were ok. So, what do you do for fun?”

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“Video games, mostly. And watching reruns of old cartoons. Especially the funny ones,” I admitted.

“Like Tom and Jerry and the Looney Tunes? I love those! They knew how to make good comedy back then,” Rashida agreed.

“Yeah, those are some of my favorites actually,” I admitted. It seemed like she and I had a lot in common. “We should hang out together more!”

“Agreed. Although, we should probably not ignore the others, next time. I think Tiffani left ages ago,” she frowned.

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“Yeah, Serge and Jean must have gone home some time ago too,” I noticed how she and I were the last ones at the park.

“We should head home, I think. See you in school?” she asked.

“See you!”

Back at home, I ran into Dad in the kitchen, out for a snack.

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“Hello, Phoenix. How was your day?”

“It was good. There is a new girl at our school and we’re friends now,” I announced.

“That’s great,” he smiled. “You know, it always makes your Mom and I happy to hear you’re so outgoing. We were worried you’d take after us and be a total loner.”

“Were you scared to talk to people?” I was curious.

“Not scared. More like, not very good at it,” Dad explained.

“Why do you think someone might be scared of socializing with others, though?

“Well, I’m not sure. I think it mostly has to do with different personalities. Some people find the company of strangers intimidating and are afraid they’ll say the wrong thing,” he ventured. “Why? Is someone you know scared to talk to others?”

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“Yeah, Sergio. But then, he’s afraid of many other things too,” I shrugged. “He sells himself short, really. He needs more confidence.”

“That he does. I remember Lana saying she worried about him sometimes. I think, in the long run, each person needs to build themselves up in order to have the kind of life they want. He’ll get there, eventually,” Dad smiled. “I’m glad you care, sonny. Now, you should get some sleep. School starts early tomorrow.”


Years passed. People got older. My sister Millie was about to be a legal adult. She has finally graduated from school and her grades were impressive – she was the school Valedictorian! And all that with a small kid, no less. My sister was a bad-ass, that much was for sure.

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For a few months now, her boyfriend Quiang has been living with us too. Ever since he graduated a year ago, he has gone into the local police force. His parents wanted him to follow in their scientific footsteps, but he was adamant about wanting to make sure the town was a safe place to live, now that he was a father. If you were to ask me, though, he was too much of thrill-chaser to last in a lab. Not like my sister, who immediately after graduation got hired by the local research lab. So, in a way, the Wens were getting a child in the sciences after all!

Since Mom told me I could invite some people over, I invited my friends, but only two of them could make it to Millie’s birthday: Sergio and Rashida. This was going to be interesting: Mom didn’t know one of my best friends was her ex’s kid and I was kind of curious as to how she would react… I mean, she couldn’t possibly tell me not to be friends with Rashida, could she? It wouldn’t matter anyways – judging someone by their parents was completely unreasonable.

“Hey, Mom, my friends will be here soon! You’ll finally meet Rashida, like you wanted to,” I announced.

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“That’s great! I’m always happy to see your friends, you know,” she smiled.

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She certainly knew my friend’s parentage when she saw Rashida! I guess, my friend looked a lot like her mother, whose appearance my Mom knew very well… But no one could resist Rashi’s charms, not even Mom!

“Hello, Mrs. Collier, thank you for having me here,” my friend introduced herself with an open smile.

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“Oh, you are very welcome, dear,” Mom quickly found her composure. “I hope you like cake, because we are having lots of it today!”

The rest of the birthday went off without a hitch. Everyone got along. Mom had no problem with me being friends with her former beau’s kid. Sergio didn’t complain  The only trouble was, Dad and I had to try hard to keep watch on what we were saying: a few days ago, Quiang asked Dad for official permission to marry Millie and Dad happily gave it to him. Now we just had to try hard not to ruin the surprise!

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Thankfully, we only had to wait until the day of my birthday, when the whole family went to the local pizza place for lunch. Throughout the meal, Quiang was shooting glances at Millie and the rest of us knew today was the day. I think, even Millie guessed at some point that something was up.

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Afterwards, Mom and Dad took me and Terrence home, while Quiang and Millie went to the old lodge in the mountains.

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As she later told me, once they were at the destination, he dropped down on one knee and pulled out a ring, telling her he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her and asking her to marry him. She knew he was hiding something, but she didn’t even know he went ring-shopping already. If anything, she thought he’ll want to wait until they were more ahead in their careers to tie the knot, but in all fairness, they did already want to be married.

I was happy for my sister. Like I knew since I was a kid, she and that guy were pretty much meant to be and it would’ve been weird if they ended up with anyone else.

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So, a lot of happy tears were shed on the day of their wedding. Mostly by Mom and Dad, I’ll admit – they still couldn’t come to terms with the fact that little Millie was all grown up and getting married, even though she already had a kid of her own. I think, they were secretly happy that the new couple was still going to live with us for a bit longer, because they weren’t ready to see her go just yet. So, I wasn’t going to spoil their day by telling them that Millie and Quiang were already looking at houses.

Next to me, Rashida was also having trouble holding back tears at the matrimonial ceremony. “It’s beautiful, isn’t it? Weddings always inspire me. Two people officially united together as a family. That’s really something to aspire to.”

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Behind her, Aunt Kate nodded and agreed, “So true. I still fondly remember the day of our wedding. We actually got married here too. Gerald was being fussy about the cake spoiling, but everything went great, remember, Ger?”

My uncle smiled fondly behind her, agreeing “One of the best days of my life. Just wait till it’s yours, kids.”

At this, Rashida smiled and looked at me, which made me feel really strange.

 

A few days ago, Rashi and I were hanging out at the local coffee shop and all our friends have already gone home, leaving the two of us alone. This was a good time to figure out things between us – for a while now, I’ve noticed that she’s been acting funny around me and I couldn’t explain what was up. When I asked the Jeannies, they looked at me like I’ve sprouted a second head.

“Wow, you’re a dork,” Jeanne laughed.

“Why?” I couldn’t understand.

“Because she likes you, you doofus!” Jeanine explained in exasperation. “How can you be so dense about it? She has a crush on you!”

“She’s had it since we were kids,” my cousin informed me. “We were starting to wonder if you’ll ever notice.”

So, after I recovered from the initial surprise of finding out one of my closest friends had a crush on me, I realized I was pretty happy about it. I mean, Rashida was gorgeous and we got along great – if she were to ask me out, I’d say yes in a heartbeat!

And that day, at the coffee shop, it was obvious that something was up between us. She kept shooting me furtive glances all morning, and I understood that my cousin and her friend were right.

She was about to leave, when I caught up with her outside the shop.

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“Rashi, wait!”

“Yes, Phoenix?” she turned around.

“Look, can I ask you something?” I wasn’t sure how to say this.

“What is it?”

“Do you like me? As in “like me” like me?” I blurted out.

“Uhh,” she sounded startled, blushing furiously. Yeah, she did.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I asked.

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“Because I didn’t think you felt the same way,” she admitted quietly.

“I’m sorry. I’m such an idiot. I should’ve realized this ages ago,” I admitted ruefully.

“So, what now?” she ventured carefully. “I really hope things don’t get weird between us.”

“Why? Why not give dating a try?” I asked.

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“Are you serious?” she was dumbstruck.

“Of course! We’re already great friends, you like me, I like you… It can’t go wrong, can it?” I explained it.

“Phoenix… I should’ve told you before, I guess. But yeah, I really do like you,” she looked at me softly.

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“So, will you be my girlfriend,” I pulled her close. She smelled like peppermint and cloves, and her skin was always so soft. I found myself lost in her eyes. She really was something. How did I not realize this before?

“I’d love to,” she whispered before our lips met in a kiss.

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Yes. We definitely had that chemistry.

 

So today, at Millie’s wedding, Rashida was here in the status of my girlfriend. Which was why I felt really strange at her excitement about weddings. I liked her a lot, but we were a bit too young to think about that. Sure, Millie and Quiang were getting married before they were even twenty two, but they already had a kid together, so their situation was different.

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Over cake, the matrimonial discussion continued. At some point, Quiang joined Rashida, Sergio, and I at our table.

“So, how are you enjoying the wedding, kids?” he winked.

“You aren’t that much older than us,” I chuckled. “Why are you calling us kids?”

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“True. Just wait until it’s your wedding, then you’ll be talking down to the small fish, bro,” he laughed.

“That’s still far in the future,” I laughed.

Rashida smiled over her cake. I almost chocked on mine.

The truth was, I didn’t really understand the whole obsession with getting married. I mean, sure it was probably nice if you were with the love of your life, but the idea of being officially married to someone seemed overrated. After all, our families were lucky to not have been touched by the staggering divorce rates that plagued most of the world. So, what was even the point of saying “I do” at the altar?

Besides, people who loved one another could be perfectly happy together without getting married, right?

Right?

Gen 3 Ch 1: Early Maturity

I came home from school and immediately heard raised voices in the house. Or rather, one raised voice – Dad’s. And I knew without even seeing the other people near him what this was all about.

Two Weeks Ago

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I was feeling sleepy and the bathroom shared by me and my sister Millie has been occupied for over an hour. I could use the downstairs bathroom, or the one in our parents’ room, but my toothbrush was in this one, so…

“Millie? You in there? Is everything ok?” I tentatively knocked on the door. No response.

“Millie, come on! I won’t look, I just need to get my toothbrush and leave!” Still no response.

I knew girls usually took longer in the bathroom for makeup and stuff, but come on, this was ridiculous! It wasn’t even school time, it was bedtime, and Millie used minimal makeup and was usually fast…

“I’m serious, is everything ok?” worry began to prickle at me. I was only in fourth grade, but my sister and I were very close. It wasn’t normal for her to just shut me out like this, with no response.

I thought I could head a muffled sob mixed with a sigh. I tried the door and to my relief found it unlocked.

“Heads up, I’m coming in,” I announced, stepping in.

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My sister was fully dressed (well, in her pjs, that is) and she was slumped on the floor, staring at the wall, with a panicky expression on her face.

“Millie? What’s wrong? You can tell me,” I was always willing to help my sister out.

“What’s wrong? Mom and Dad are going to kill me, that’s what’s wrong,” she sighed.

Next to her was one of those little sticks they always showed on TV, the ones people used to find out they were-

“Are you pregnant?!” I blurted out. Even from where I was standing, I could see the test showed two strips.

“Shush!” she bit her lip in panic. “Our parents will hear!”

“They’re out! Or have you forgotten?” I smiled.

“I’m sorry, my brain is all scrambled right now,” she shook her head.

“So, what are you going to do now?” I asked, joining her on the floor. “I mean, you’ll have to decide soon, right?”

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“I’ve decided already. I’m keeping the baby. It’s not even a question,” she announced.

“Then, you should probably tell Mom and Dad before you start showing. Unless, you want them to figure it out once your belly starts growing.”

“I will,” she nodded. “I just need to figure out how to do it without them freaking out too much. Hey, how do you even know all this grown-up stuff? You’re in fourth grade.”

“That doesn’t mean my eyes and ears are closed off to the world. Besides, it was bound to happen once you and Quiang started, what do you guys call it, hooking up?”

“Phoenix!!!” My sister shrieked. It was hilarious, really. Wen Quiang was her close childhood friend, and I guess, as they grew up, they became closer still. I don’t know if our parents realized it, but they’ve started dating some time ago and Millie was definitely head over heels for the guy. And I was quite sure our folks didn’t realize how far they’ve gone in their relationship.

“What? I’m just stating the facts. Hey, when did you guys begin sleeping together anyways? I thought you were both super busy.” My sister was in the advanced biology program at the local high school and on top of her already impressive school, she was doing a zoological internship at a local lab. Plus, she was still taking art classes. She has little time on her time, in general, and as far as I knew, Quiang, being a senior in high school, was almost as stressed out and overworked as she was. The fact that they found time to make a baby was really surprising.

My sister sighed. “It’s all because of homecoming. Sort of,” she explained. “You know how a lot of girls think Quiang is cute? Well, that translates into them not liking me very much, because he’s with me. And at homecoming, stuff kind of escalated. As soon as he and I showed up together, they started acting like a bunch of vultures, glaring at us, snickering. Another person wouldn’t have cared, but I can’t help it, this stuff gets to me. Anyways, Quiang noticed and he suggested we leave for someplace friendlier. So we headed off to that lodge in the mountains, since it’s always really nice and fresh there, and they were supposed to have one of those outdoor movie nights, but apparently we got the day wrong. Anyways, I was still upset and neither of us wanted to go home, so we ended up getting a room so we could just chill out and watch a movie together, but… well, once we had a room, we kind of realized that we probably wouldn’t have a chance like this in the near future, with the comfort and the privacy, and one thing led to another… And then, after the first time, there wasn’t really a reason to stop sleeping together.”

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“I see,” I nodded. “Well, that’s done. Does he know yet?”

“No, I didn’t want to tell him until I knew for sure,” she admitted. “I don’t even know how he’ll react. Neither of us planned for this.”

“Well, if he is as good as he seems to be, he’ll man up and take responsibility, right?” At least, that’s what I always heard a guy was supposed to do in this situation.

“I guess, we’ll see, dear brother, I guess we’ll see. Well, thanks for lending me a friendly ear. I could sure use it,” she admitted.

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“That’s what brothers are for,” I pulled her into a hug. “Do you want me to sit with you when you tell Mom and Dad?”

“Thanks. I think I should do it myself, though,” she shook her head. “I’ll do it soon.”

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“Alright, sis. See you in the morning,” I headed off to sleep, still thinking about my sister’s problematic situation.

I didn’t know much about babies, but from what I knew, they took a lot of work. This meant, Millie was in deep.

 

So, today, when I walked in and heard raised voices in the house, I knew she finally told out folks about her situation.

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“I can’t believe you of all people are in this situation!” Dad was pacing around the living room while Mom and Millie were slumped in the couch and the armchair, watching him. “You’re an A+ student in Biology; surely you know how these things happen!”

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“I know Dad,” Millie spoke quietly. “And we were responsible. We used protection. But these things happen.”

“So what are you doing now?” Dad asked with exhaustion in his voice. He and Mom were the owners of the local pharmaceutical company and from what I understood about the business, it was very stressful and tiring. But while Mom and Dad usually seemed to have a lot of energy, Millie’s news must have taken a lot out of them.

Frankly, I didn’t understand why. Mom always said children were a miracle. So, if anyone, she should’ve been happy, right?

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Just as I predicted, she glared at Dad as soon as he asked the question and he noticed, glancing down apologetically.

“I’m keeping the baby, of course!” Millie announced.

Mom breathed a sigh of relief. Dad shook his head in acceptance.

“I didn’t plan for this child, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want them,” my sister admitted. “I’ve always wanted children. Not that early, true, but now that it’s happening, I already love them with all my heart and can’t wait to meet them.”

“And look on the bright side, David,” Mom added. “At least we know for sure Millie doesn’t have my kind of problem. That’s already good.”

“True,” he sighed, “I guess congratulations are in order?” He sank into the seat next to the rest of the family. “You’re going to be a mom!”

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“I know, Dad. You know, I bet it’s a boy,” Millie smiled.

“How do you know that?” Mom laughed. “It’s not even late enough to tell.”

“Call it a gut feeling.”

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It was looking like the situation in our living room was getting diffused and the family has peacefully accepted the situation. That was good. That meant Millie wouldn’t have to worry more than necessary (that’s right, I knew it was bad for pregnant ladies to worry) and that we could have dinner relatively soon.

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And also, that I could finally stop hiding.

“Ay! Is everyone finally on the same page? Millie’s pregnant, you’re going to be grandparents, and I’m going to be an uncle. Awesome-sauce! Now can we all go eat? I’m sure Millie must be hungry now, and frankly, so am I,” I went over to my family reminding them that the world didn’t stop.

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“Phoenix? You were here all along? How much did you hear? Wait, you knew all along, didn’t you?” Mom asked, realizing that this was only news to them.

“Duh! Millie was scared to tell you for weeks now. Thanks for not being too angry at her,” I smiled at my parents.

“No point being angry now, is there?” Dad shrugged. “Well, not at Millie, at least.”

“Dad! Quiang isn’t to blame for this. We’re both responsible,” my sister defended her boyfriend.

“You are. And just so you know, you aren’t leaving school, young lady. We still expect you to stay on top of your grades,” Dad warned.

“Wasn’t planning to leave. And I’m not quitting the internship either. I’ve worked hard enough for it, I’ve earned it. Maybe that way, the baby can have important skills later, right out of the womb? Studies show that what a mother does during her pregnancy has a huge impact on the child’s development,” Millie reasoned.

That was my sister. She always had the right priorities in life. I had no idea what my future nephew would be like, but I knew he would have the best mother ever.

Of course, there was still one thing to do. In a few days, she called over her boyfriend and simply put a pregnancy book in front of him, when he sat down next to her, while reading one herself.

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“Here, this one’s for you,” she told him.

Quiang was stunned for a few moments, but luckily quickly came to his senses.

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“You don’t mean it, do you?” he asked carefully.

“I do. I’m at the end of first trimester, it seems. The doctor confirmed I’m even further along than I thought,” my sister explained calmly. “But that doesn’t matter in the least. I want this baby. I’m keeping the baby.”

“Millie!” he exclaimed. And to everyone’s surprise, he hugged her very tight, kissing her. “Thank you!”

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“You’re happy?” Millie looked confused. “You aren’t freaked out?”

“Oh, I am. I’m scared silly. But I’m also kind of happy. You know how my parents wanted to go back to China permanently once school was done? Well, now that won’t happen. There’s no way they are going to ditch their grandkid and go to a different country now! And we are having a baby together! Have you begun thinking of baby names yet?”

“Not yet, I wanted to tell you first…” my sister was clearly surprised by his fervor.

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“That’s cool. We’ve got months to decide. And just so you know, whatever you need, I’m here. I’m going to be a hundred percent here for both you and the baby,” he promised.

And that sealed it. My sister’s boyfriend was a good guy, after all.

Quiang stayed with us quite late, that night. Even after our parents went to bed, he and Millie were still chatting together and making plans for their relationship and for the baby.

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He even asked her to slow dance with him, when the radio began to play a popular slow ballad. And from Millie’s shining eyes, anyone could tell that, despite her unexpected pregnancy, she was really happy. They both were.

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It was late and I had to go to sleep, since school was early in the morning and my teacher always yelled at me if I began to drift off in class.

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On the way to my room, I once again, looked at the happy couple. They didn’t even notice me observing them. I couldn’t help but wonder how they knew that the other person was “the one” for them, have known for years now. It seemed like a really foreign idea. After all, there were so many different people in the world. But then again, I still had time to figure it all out. I was only in fourth grade.

 

Despite morning sickness, backaches and other symptoms of pregnancy, Millie really glowed during hers. She actually had a countdown on her wall, where she eagerly marked off the days until my new nephew was here. Even our dog Sherlock seemed to be in on the excitement, but then again, animals often reflected their favorite owners’ emotions.

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After several more months of this, she finally went into labor and gave birth to a little boy named Terrence. And despite how tired she was from taking care of him, she was absolutely in love with him.

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I liked my new nephew. He was cute and he seemed like a bright kid, although he was still kind of young to tell. But the amount of care he required? It was immense. I had no idea how my sister stayed on top of it all. Sure my parents, Quiang, and his family helped out, but still.

Babies sure took a lot of work.

I knew one thing for sure: if I were ever to have kids of my own, it would be once I was much, much older.