The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Ten: Peace and Quiet
Harper, bless her heart, is doing everything she can to keep me occupied and happy despite my house arrest. Shes trying to keep me in touch and grounded with the show even though Im not allowed near the studio.
Today, its How To Be An On Air Personality 101.
I look over at Frank who is sitting very studiously at our dining room table, pen poised over his notebook.
I grin, setting a glass of juice down in front if him. "First off, relax."
"Huh?" He gives me a anxious glance.
"Frank, why do I make you so nervous?"
He shrugs. Its cute.
"Okay." I take a seat at the table with him. "Surely youve known Harper and I long enough to see that were just as human as you are." I pause. "Well, I am, sometimes I wonder about Harper."
He laughs and seems to ease up a bit. "She can be very intense."
"Harper is a very passionate woman. She believes that if a job is worth doing its worth doing well." I refrain from telling him I mean it in every aspect of our lives. Hed die if he had that much information. "And if you give her half a chance, shell make you the best at what you do, but you have to trust her." Even as the words leave my lips I cant help but smile. She did the same thing for me.
"How does she know I can do it?" He taps his pen against his notebook, just like Harper.
"Because Frank, shes a producer. Thats what she does. She takes the talent and makes them look good. Remember that fact, itll serve you well in years to come. If you make it big, youve made it big because of the people who do the hard work. And you can snipe and play office politics with your colleagues and in some cases itll be the only way to safeguard your job, but you should do your best by your producer. Itll make your life lots easier."
"Aunt Kendra said when you came to the show you brought Harper. Sounds to me like you have the power."
I nod. "I did at the time. I already had an established career with awards on my resume. I had the power to bring Harper with me. But it was her hard work that kept us here and established her as a rising star in the production field. Shes a hot property. Youre lucky to be working with her. Dont blow it."
"Oh, I wont. She threatened to toss me off the roof of the building if I make her look bad."
I laugh, rising to my feet and heading for my recliner. "Come on, Frank, Im a pregnant woman with a backache. Lets go to the living room so I can get comfortable."
He follows me and we settle in. "So tell me the story," I say to him even as I pull our wedding blanket over my lap and recline back into the chair.
* * *
This should be interesting.
We just finished setting up the board for a game of Monopoly. I am the race car, of course. Kels fought me for it, but I won. Shes the horse. Brian is the thimble and Doug chose the top hat. How stereotypical. The both of them.
Kels distributes the last of the money and adjusts this little green visor she insisted on wearing as the banker. I didnt know real people had them. But it helps with the ambiance, I suppose.
Brian rolls the dice and merrily hops his piece down the game board.
This is going to be a long night. The things I do to keep the wife happy.
* * *
I land on Ventnor Avenue and smirk at my wife. She has Atlantic Avenue and Marvin Gardens. I just busted up her monopoly. Ha, ha, ha! Take that, sweetie. I hand over the money for the property and smile.
Kels mutters something I should fine her for, but gives me the deed.
"Ill name my hotel after you, sweetheart," I promise.
"Its gotta get built first, Tabloid."
Ooh, someones unhappy. I smirk and kiss her nose.
Doug laughs and rolls. He lands on Pennsylvania Railroad. He claps excitedly. The lucky SOB already has B&O and the Short Line. "Ill buy it."
"I wish we could build on the railroads," Brian grouses. "I mean, Penn Station is soo ugly. Yuck. The color scheme. And its so dark there. I wont go there. I refuse."
"Theyre going to move it to the Post Office," Doug placates his lover.
"Great. Then theyll put the postal workers someplace that will really tick them off and theyll start rampaging again. Cant New York do anything right?"
Kels reluctantly hands over the deed to Doug.
Brian rolls. Income Tax. Its the fourth time hes landed on it tonight. Sometimes the IRS is just out to get your ass.
My darling spouse picks up the dice, blows on them, and rolls.
I fall off of my chair laughing.
Kels is going to the pokey.
She takes a very deep, calming breath. I recognize it from Lamaze classes. "Laugh it up there, Stud. I bought fitted sheets for the couch today."
Brian laughs and snaps his fingers three times. "Oh, Stud, I think youre in trouble." I give him a warning look. "I understand your position, Kels," Brian continues.
"Youve been in jail?" Doug teases.
Our nanny slaps his boyfriend playfully. "Quiet! They dont know!"
I knew I should have run a background check on him. Kels wouldnt let me. "Baby," I say to my girl, "youd miss me too much to kick me out of bed."
Here comes the big, dramatic sigh. I love my girl. Shes so funny. "Im changing your nickname from Stud to Ego." The boys howl. "And, youre right, I probably would miss you. Wouldnt know what to do if I didnt have to fight for the covers every night."
"Oh, but you put up some fight, chér." I give her my best leer. And when she returns it, I nearly melt in my chair. Can we end the game now?
"Get on with it, Tabloid," Kels chides me, tapping the board with her fingernail. God, I love that fingernail. "I have money to make."
I roll. Seven! Yes! I make engine noises as I drive my car on over to Pennsylvania Avenue. This was another property Kels wanted. "Oh, so sorry, chér. But, I tell you what, Ill trade you Pennsylvania for Illinois Avenue."
"Guys, I really think shes cheating. Time to bring out the big guns." Fortunately, my girl is laughing so I know the accusation isnt real. She hands me Pennsylvania Avenue and my change. Guess my proposed swap wasnt accepted. "I will give you each a thousand bucks to form a partnership with me."
"Hey! Thats so not fair!"
"Yes, it is," Brian counters. He holds out his hand to Kels. "In hundreds, please."
"No, its not," I repeat.
"Im in, too." Doug accepts his bribe money as well.
"Fine," I say, "Ill beat you all."
Kels wags her finger at me. "You dont stand a chance, Tabloid. An ace with a pair of queens wins a great deal of the time."
The phone rings, saving me from their laughter. "Ill get it," I say needlessly. None of them are in any condition to answer a phone. I push away from the table and walk over to the counter. "Hello."
"Hey, baby sister."
"Younger," I reply automatically. "Comment ca va, Robie?"
"Worn out. Ren has had me working like a dog all day."
"Good. I shouldnt be the only overworked spouse in the family." Kels hears that and shakes her head at me. "But our nursery is all set up. Hows it going for you?"
"Almost done. I had hoped we could use Clarks crib but Rene informs me that hes not ready for a big boy bed yet."
"Hes only a little over a year old! Mon Dieu, Robie, even I know that. Why are you trying to be cheap? You make more than enough money in your fancy pants law firm."
"Did Rene call earlier?" he jokes. "Hold on a sec." I hear him put his hand over the phone and I listen to the muffled silence. "Harper?"
"Christian is asking if he can speak to his favorite aunt."
"Sure, put my buddy on." Then it hits me. "He means Kels, doesnt he?"
Robie laughs. "Im afraid so."
"Well, at least he has good taste. Hold on." I walk back over to the table and extend the phone to Kels. "Its for you."
"Well, hello, Christian. Hows my favorite Kingsley?" Kels sticks her tongue out at me. If the boys werent here, Id do something with that tongue. While she makes small talk with my small nephew, I notice that my money pile looks smaller, as well.
"Heres your Tante Harper," Kels hands me the phone.
"Am I really Aunt Kels favorite?"
This is his first question to me. Christian is going to be gay. I can just feel it. "Mais oui, chér, you are. She talks about you all the time."
"Would I tell you stories?"
"Thanks!" He drops the phone. I am no longer useful to him.
"Sorry about that, Harper," Robie says as he retrieves the handset from the floor. "If it makes you feel any better, Clark always grabs for the phone when he hears us talk about you."
"At least someone loves me. By the way, Robie, did you know that your sister-in-law cheats at Monopoly?"
"I do not cheat!" Kels has a completely indignant look on her angelic face. "Its creative financing."
Oh, I know some other things were going to be creative with later, darlin. "Uh huh, Im still going to win."
* * *
"Brian, come here."
My dutiful assistant joins me in the living room. I motion him to the couch where Ive been laying and reading a book. He drops down on the floor next to me and grins. "Yes?"
"I wanna try something."
"Why, Mrs. Kingsley, Im not that kinda girl and neither are you." He slaps my wrist playfully.
"Very funny." I grab his hand and place it on my stomach. "Say her name."
He gives me a puzzled look.
"You know her name."
"Oh, you mean Harper?" He looks down at my stomach and then back up at me with wide eyes. "That did not just happen."
"Yeah, I think it did. Say it again."
Sure enough, there is a solid kick from Brennan. She knows her Mamas name. How sweet is that?
"I dont believe this." Brian grins. "This is very cool. Harper," I get kicked again, "must be very excited."
"She doesnt know and dont you tell her. One, her ego is big enough as it is, and two, Ill never get any rest."
Brian gives me a good hard look. "You had insomnia again last night, didnt you?"
"Hmm." I nod, my whole body feels tired from lack of sleep.
His hand comes to rest on my forehead. "You have a fever."
"Only a little one."
"Okay, weve got about an hour to lunch. You are taking a nap. Ill wake you when lunch is ready." He stands and proceeds to take my book away from me and hands me another pillow. "And dont even think about arguing with me, or the first call Ill make is to Dr. McGuire about the fever, and the second to Stud about the whole situation."
"Boy, you sure do know how to hurt a girl." I snuggle down into the couch and the blanket, more than ready to nap really. Im very tired. But I have to bitch. Its a matter of principle.
"Nah, I just know where all your weak spots are."
* * *
I get home late. Its been a helluva day at work. It was Murphys Law and the Peter Principle all wrapped in one. I am so looking forward to a nice, quiet evening at home.
"High on a hill was a lonely goatherd "
What in the hell?
I drop my briefcase by the door, hang up my jacket and wander down toward the living room. The surround sound stereo television is blasting and I am sure our neighbors love us right now.
Perhaps even more disturbing is what is going on in front of the television. Kels and Brian are acting out a scene from The Sound of Music and, God help me, the song is not my favorite one. Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hee hoo, indeed!
As I stand there, shaking my head in wonder, Kels approaches me, singing loudly. "One little girl in a pale pink coat heard -" She looks to Brian.
"Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hoo hoo." He sounds like a billy goat in abject pain.
"She yodeled back to the lonely goatherd: lay ee odl lay ee odl oo."
"Soon her mama with a gleaming gloat heard," Brian sings and holds out an imaginary microphone to me.
Ah, what the hell. "Lay ee odl lay ee odl lay hmm hmm." I growl out the last two words, causing Kels to blush.
"What a duet for a girl and goatherd, lay ee odl lay ee odl oo," Brian covers for her.
"Happy are they, lay dee olay dee lee o," and Kels rips out with a yodel that will haunt me until my dying day.
Forcing myself not to laugh, I remember the next lyric. "Soon the duet will become a trio plus one!"
"Lay ee odl lay ee odl oo."
Mercifully, Kels reaches for the remote and turns off the movie. "Hi ya, goatherd," she whispers and kisses me.
I suppose Ive been called worse things in my life. I return the kiss and then kneel down to talk to my kids. "Hi there, champs. Its Mama. Have you been good for Mommy today?"
Kels giggles and puts my hand on a high spot of her stomach. One of the kids is playing the drums in there. "Someones happy to have you home."
I scratch the surface in question. "I missed you three today. I hate not having you nearby all day."
"Well, its been an exciting day here, Tabloid. Brian and I decided to do Sing-along Sound of Music here since I am under lock and key."
"Yes, and Im sure everyone in the neighborhood enjoyed it as well."
"Free entertainment is not a bad thing."
"Sometimes," I smirk, "free is just cheap."
I get swatted for my cheekiness. Its nice to be home.
* * *
Its been a long day. So long.
I doesnt help that I miss my girl so badly I could die. This her being at home and me being here sucks big time.
Especially when everyone seems afflicted with rampant stupidity. Its passing around the office faster than the flu. I cant even count the number of crises Ive headed off this week. Even Langston felt a need to mention the death of brain cells at our production meeting. One look at Jac at the table was enough to know she was drowning more than few of hers.
Hell, if I was screwing Bruce, Id be doing the same. But Im not.
I won, I won, I won.
So Im working here late trying to salvage a story out of a mess handed to me by Bruce. How the hell hes survived here this long is beyond me. This piece is so biased, I can hardly believe it. Were not doing op-ed here. I am trying to go through it and see what can be salvaged. Ill make Bruce go back and reshoot part of it until its something we can use.
I sigh. Almost eight oclock. I should be home.
Theres a knock on my door and I get excited for a moment, until I realize that it cant be Kels because shes at home, and shed never knock anyhow. I wonder who else is still here. "Come in."
The other blonde on the show leans her head in my office. Brenda flashes me a winning smile. "Youre here late too." She runs her hand through her hair, rearranging the already perfect coif. "Do you have a few minutes you can spare?"
No, all I want to do is go home. But thats not the right reply, especially since Im producing her first segment. I motion to the chair opposite my desk. "Sure. Whats up?"
Brenda takes me up on my offer, sitting down in the leather chair gracefully. Shes wearing jeans and a V-necked T-shirt. Both are one size too small. She leans forward, elbows on knees, and smiles. "How do you think my first piece is?"
Yup, those are big breasts. "Its looking pretty good, so far. I think you need to develop your narrative voice in it, though."
She purrs. "Hmm and as my producer youd be willing to help me find it, right?" She smiles and I dont know whether to cross myself or not.
Okay, Harper, youve been in situations like this before. Relax. Its okay. "As your producer," I emphasize those three words, "I will. Why dont we schedule some time tomorrow and we can go over the piece so far?"
"Or," she counters, moving to sit on the corner of my desk, "we could discuss it now. My career is important to me. Ill do anything to help it along."
I feel a bead of sweat trickle down my spine. I can smell her perfume from where I sit and I shake my head to clear the scent. "Its getting late. Theres nothing we can do tonight to help your career."
"Now I wouldnt say that. Were two very creative people. Ill bet there are all kinds of things we could come up with."
I push my chair back and stand behind it. I feel the need for another piece of furniture between us. "Brenda, we need to get something clear here. Im married and I dont fuck around. So if your subtle offer is one of that kind, I need to pass. If you want to talk work, Im very happy to do so. But tomorrow. Its late."
She laughs at me. "Aww, now, come on, Harper. Youre here late. Im here late. The wife is home. What she doesnt know wont hurt her." She shrugs. "I know your rep in the business. Dont be so shy. Besides, its only a little after eight. You could still be home to the little woman by nine-thirty or ten."
"It doesnt matter if Kels would know, Brenda. I would know. And thats more than enough."
"Are you saying Im not attractive?" She slides off the desk and approaches me. I spin to keep the chair between us.
I roll my eyes. "Brenda, you know youre attractive. You wouldnt be on television otherwise. But let me repeat, I dont fuck around. Consider yourself turned down."
"Harper!" She sounds exasperated with me. "I promise you a ride that will leave you totally breathless and wanting more." She tries to advance again, grabbing hold of the chair so I cant move it again. "Your lips are saying no, but your eyes are saying something entirely different. And that little trickle of sweat running down the side of your face speaks for itself."
Its hot in here. Thats what its saying. Its also saying get the hell out of my office. I walk briskly over to my door and open it wide. "Time to go, Brenda."
I am pleased with my escape from her, the nearly eight feet of open space between us, and all would be well except for my phone ringing. I am all set to ignore it, when Brenda offers to answer it for me. Hell, no! I rush back over to my desk and pick it up. "Kingsley."
"Hi ya, gorgeous. Your daughter was just kicking me in the side because youre not home yet. I thought Id call to see when we can expect you."
Of course its my wife. Any other moment in my life I would be thrilled to be talking to Kels. Not right now. Not with Brenda giving me a look that says she wants to screw up my happy home. "Hi, chér. Im packing up my stuff as we speak. Ill be home in less than a half hour. Do you need me to pick up anything on the way?"
"No, just bring your wonderful self home. We miss our pillow."
Brenda pokes her finger in her mouth, pretending to gag herself. Of course, she does this loud enough that people three blocks away can hear.
Shit, damn. "I miss you three too." Okay, the best defense is a strong offense. "Brenda just stopped in my office with a couple questions, but were done here."
"Ah, Miss Lawson, yes " Oh, my girl is pissed. "Harper, put me on speakerphone." I obey. It seems best. "Brenda?"
"Yes, Kelsey?" Brenda is undressing me in her mind. I can almost feel a draft from my lack of clothing in her mind.
"I hope Harper has given you everything you needed this evening."
"Because if she hasnt Id be happy to come down there and help you out."
Now that would be a sight. Id prefer to not have to bail my wife out of jail again, however. "No need for that, sweetheart. Im coming home. Now."
"You do that, Tabloid. Well see you in a few minutes." Click.
So much for a joyful homecoming as I had hoped. Thank you, Brenda. I glare at my young reporter. "Youve accomplished what you came here for. Now get out."
She scratches the corner of her mouth. "No," she sighs. "Had I accomplished what I came here for, you wouldnt be in trouble at home." She reaches out and straightens my collar, a gesture far too intimate for my tastes.
I reach over, pick up my Palm Vx, my cell phone, and my briefcase. If she wont leave, I will. "Time to go," I repeat, holding the door open. Id just leave but for the fact I dont want her alone in my office. God knows what she would do.
Reluctantly, she leaves.
And now I go home to face a hormonal, pregnant woman.
* * *
Im standing in the hallway with a T-shirt draped over my crossed arms. I watch as the door unlocks slowly, very slowly. This is a woman trying to sneak in. Too funny. She practically backs into the foyer and closes the door very quietly.
She nearly jumps out of her skin. "Don't sneak up on me like that. Trying to give me a heart attack?"
I cant help but laugh as I step forward and begin unbuttoning her shirt. "Youre the one who was sneaking in. Any particular reason?"
She slides her arms around me. "Prisoners don't run to the firing squad, my dear. How much trouble am I in?"
I finish unbuttoning her shirt and slide it off her shoulders leisurely. I give her collarbone a kiss, and a couple points south quick nips, before I disengage and hand her the T-shirt and head for the kitchen. "Why would you be in trouble?"
She follows me, slipping the T-shirt on over her head. "Because I'm home late."
"If you got in trouble every time you came home late, this marriage never would have happened. Youre not in trouble, Tabloid." I take cleanser and a small brush and scrub away the lipstick. "Amateur," I grumble at a very futile attempt to get Harper in trouble.
"That bitch!" Harper must notice what I am scrubbing off. "I'm gonna fucking kill her tomorrow! Kels, honey ..." Ooo, I think my darling spouse has bought a clue.
"Harper, come over her and say good night to your children so theyll settle down, then well talk about it. Did she scratch her lip with her nail or rub it with her finger?"
She gives it a moments thought. "Scratched it. I didn't think anything of it at the time. Dammit!" She puts a couple of bucks in the jar and flashes me a charming smile. "Think Brennan and Collin will still talk to me?
"Dont see why not. I didnt tell them about the sluts feeble attempt to set you up. Lord, you can tell she hasnt been in the business very long." I finish cleaning the shirt. "Well, thatll do until we send it to the cleaners." Laying the shirt down, I turn and give her access. "Come on, say good night. Im tired and I want to go sit down."
"Why don't we go to the couch and I'll talk to them there?" Harper suggests.
"Ah, theres a woman with a well thought out plan." I give her my hand and we head for the living room.
* * *
I am very glad we put Kels on house arrest. I can tell shes tired and her ankles are slightly swollen. I will have a little talk with Brian tonight. Make sure we both agree on what Kels is not to be doing.
I lean over and nuzzle Kels stomach. "Hi, my sweet, little ones. Its time to sleep and let your mommy rest. Can you two do that for me?" I get a kick in my nose as a reply, but Kels makes up for it by scratching my scalp. If I were a cat, Id be purring. "I love you both so much. Were looking forward to seeing you both soon."
Kels sighs. "Amen."
I crawl up her body, laying beside her on the couch. "I miss you at work, you know." I trace her jaw with my fingers, noting how soft her skin is. I kiss the corner of her mouth, because its there. "How did you know to have a T-shirt for me at the door?" It suddenly hits me what Kels did.
"Because it was pretty apparent you were being set up. I wasnt sure if it would be lipstick or perfume, but I knew it would be one or the other."
"Thanks for that, sweetie." I kiss under her jaw. "How should I handle her? I wanted to kick her scrawny ass, but I need to have a good working relationship with her. Suggestions?"
"Ignore her. When she figures out she cant get between us, shell lose interest in you."
I push up and give her a mock outraged look. "Lose interest in me? As if that were possible!"
Kels begins laughing and pushes at my shoulders. "You better hope for the sake of your wife, children and marriage that she does. Otherwise, Im headed to prison right after the babies are born because Ill come over there and kill the wench. With time off for good behavior, I should be out by the time the twins are five."
I join her laughter. "You get out on good behavior? Tell me another."
"Okay. How about the one where the pregnant wife sends the long suffering spouse out for ice cream at three in the morning? Im kinda fond of that one, really."
"Yes, I know that. I am thinking of buying a little freezer and stocking up here. But Kam really enjoys the late night walks, Id hate to deprive him." I kiss her nose and then her chin. "Wanna fool around?"
"Do I want to? Yes. Do I have the energy? No. Sorry, Tabloid, youre stuck with cuddling tonight."
"Stuck? Hardly. Youre the best cuddler I know." I catch myself. "You are, of course, the only cuddler I know." I climb off the couch and extend my hand to her. "Lets get you tucked in. Ill be there in a minute."
"What are you going to do?"
"Check on our ice cream supply."
* * *
I troop upstairs and find myself drawn to the nursery. It is so perfect, so ready for our children. I dont know how Ill be able to stand having them up here and Ill be so very far away. Its been hard enough having them skin depth away.
How can I be so in love with two little people Ive never even laid eyes on?
"You two have done a great job with the room," Brian says behind me.
"I cant wait for them to get here."
"Yeah, Im looking forward to it too." He folds his arms across his chest and leans against the doorjamb. "Being with you and Kels is kinda like being with family. Im excited." He leans over toward me. "Besides, these are two little people who can be trained to shop."
I groan. Our poor credit cards. "Youre " I have to force myself to say the correct designation "theyre Uncle Brian. Youll have a lot to teach them. Especially since I dont think they sell Garanimals anymore."
Brian laughs. "Yeah. Since Kels has her hands full keeping you coordinated, I guess Ill train them early."
I scowl, trying to intimidate him a little. "I coordinate. Black goes with black."
He plucks at my black T-shirt. "You are soo unaware of the different shades of black, arent you? You should be a straight man; you are so sad some days, Stud."
"I may be sad, but I caught the best girl around." Beat that, buddy.
"You sure did. If she were straight, Id have to give some serious thought about switching teams."
My girl does inspire life altering acts. "Why was she so tired today, Brian? Anything happen I should know about?"
"No. She just seems to be getting tired much easier these days. Shes not sleeping well at night. She had insomnia again. I think its good shes staying home now."
"Yeah, me too. Let me know if something happens, Brian. I am trusting you with my life, you know?"
"I know. I promise Im taking good care of them. I even made her lay down and take a short nap today." He puts a friendly hand on my shoulder. "Dont worry. Ill make sure everything is okay until you guys go to New Orleans."
"Oh, youre coming with us, Brian. Mama specifically invited you."
"Ooo, I love your Mama. How come you didnt inherit her good taste in fashion? Shes divine! If you and Kels want me there, Ill be there. But its time for family when the babies come. So I can hang out here have a couple wild parties "
I know hes joking but my blood pressure does rise. "Look, Brian, I know I can tease you a little bit." He gives me a look. "Okay, a lot. But the thing is, Kels and I, we consider you family. We want you with us. Kels would be very disappointed if you werent in New Orleans. Plus, God forbid, I bring the kids home in non-matching outfits."
"Cant have that, can we?" He takes on a more serious tone. "Thanks, Harper. It means a lot to me. I love you guys. Besides, Mama said something about a Conspiracy Im dying to check out. What is that by the way?"
"Something Im not allowed in. Well, my girl is waiting for me. Ill see you tomorrow. Pleasant dreams." I head back downstairs.
I cant believe Mama told him about the Kitchen Conspiracy.
* * *
I wake up in the middle of the night, cold. I reach out for my bed warmer and find only empty space where she should be. My heart does a flip flop while I chase away lingering memories of my prior nightmare. The door to the family room is open slightly and I see light spilling through it. She must not be able to sleep again. I roll out of bed, grab a pillow and trudge out.
Kels looks up from her book. "What are you doing up, Stud?"
I keep my eyes partially closed so as not to be blinded. "I thought I told you to read in bed from now on."
"Honey," she holds out her hand to me, "I dont want to bother you. You work too hard as it is."
"If I cant be with you during the day, I want you all night. I dont care if you turn the lights on, play disco music or eat crackers in bed. I want you with me." I walk over to the couch and motion for her to make room for me. She does so, and I slide behind her, pulling her and our wedding blanket snugly against her.
Now I can sleep.
* * *
Lets see if I can do this without waking her up. Shes so cute. She pouts in her sleep, her bottom lips sticking out. She looks exactly like Christian. Wonder if either of our babies will inherit that trait.
I take the stethoscope out of the box and try it on myself first, listening to make sure I know where to place it. Okay, got it. Now lets see here. I take the ear pieces and slip them on her and then place the disc on my belly.
She jostles her head trying to rid her head of the annoyance, but not hard enough to do so. Come on, Tabloid, you know what that noise is.
Yeah, thats it, wake up and listen to them. I smile as her eyelids flutter and she gives a little jolt until the recognition of what shes hearing settles in. Then she just smiles.
I love that smile.
She lies there with her eyes closed and continues to listen. This is the look of pure peace. This is a happy, happy woman.
This is not the woman who only a little more than a year ago was practically having sex on the street with a mostly total stranger right in front of her place of work.
No, this is a woman who enjoys coming home at night, lighting a fire in the fireplace and snuggling with me and playing tag with our babies.
This is a woman who is so in love with these babies she mumbles their names in her sleep more than she mumbles mine.
This is not the woman who thinks to be sexy you have to be a total cad with a lady killer attitude.
This woman gets heart arrhythmia if I sneeze too hard. Shes afraid theyre coming earlier than we thought.
This is a woman who had her brother fax her a map from our house in New Orleans to the hospital where Im going to deliver these babies so she could memorize it. She knows every way on the planet to get me to the hospital when I go into labor. I think a few of them bend most of the traffic laws in the city of New Orleans, but Ill get there.
That has to be the biggest, goofiest grin I have ever seen on anyone's face.
"Having fun, Tabloid?" I whisper. She nods without opening her eyes.
Okay, now that was rude. I take the disc and give it a good, hard flick with my fingernail. The thump in her ears gets her attention.
"Hey!" She pulls out the ear pieces and scowls at me.
"Is for horses, Tabloid. Do you even remember me? Or am I merely a shell for your favorite people now?"
"Sweetheart, I could never forget you. You just happen to be the one holding on to them for the time being."
"Good answer." I put the ear pieces back on her and replace the disc against my stomach.
Thats a great smile.
* * *
Its Saturday morning and the five of us are having breakfast. My little sister is a complete mess, covered in what she should be eating. She looks remarkably happy, though, and Amanda seems nonplussed. My father, on the other hand, still seems a bit disconcerted about how messy childhood can be. Claire reaches for his neatly pressed Polo shirt.
He laughs and catches her hand in a napkin. "Ah, ah, ah I saw you, young lady!"
"Kids," Harper says with a smirk. She rubs my belly. She cant wait to get her hands on ours.
"That reminds me, Harper," my father says in far too friendly a tone to be good, "I set out a couple photos I figure you should add the twins baby album."
"Dad," I warn.
Amanda shakes her head. "Theres no stopping this, Kels. He was in his study all yesterday trying to find these pictures."
My father goes over to the counter and picks up an envelope and hands it to my spouse. She dodges my rather lame attempt to grab it. Inside the envelope is what I feared most: buck naked photos of me on a bearskin rug.
I will not do this to Brennan and Collin.
Harper is laughing so hard her face is turning red. I kick her under the table. Serves her right.
She turns the picture around and points to my butt. "The more things change the more they remain the same."
I give her a look. "Youll never be able to compare it again."
"Oh, darlin, theres no need to get that way."
"What way?" I counter.
She is about to answer and thinks better of it. "You know I love you."
"Not going to help you this time, Tabloid."
Dad refills his mug and comes back over to table. Traitor. Ill have to deal with him later. "Well, since youre already sleeping in the guest room," he teases Harper, "I have a story to tell you."
Oh, God, not a story. "Dad."
He winks at me. "Kelsey was always a bit precocious."
Harper chuckles and takes my hand in hers. "Tell me about it."
"This happened when she was five and attending The Little Red Schoolhouse, a private school in Manhattan. They had a program where the second graders would come into the kindergarten class once a week to do an assignment together. The youngsters would draw a picture and describe it to the older student. The second grader would write down the story that went with the picture."
"Dad," I try again to get this to stop.
"Hush," he replies. "So Kels drew quite the picture."
Harper kisses the back of my hand. "Do tell."
"This drawing had me hitting her mother with a broom, with Kels cowering at her legs, and our cook and nanny hiding behind a door, watching."
Amanda gives me a shocked glance, and then one for her husband. "What was that about?"
"Im telling the story," he replies. "So, naturally, when the teacher looks at the picture and reads the accompanying story which says something about me coming home mad and hitting them all, she takes it to the principal. I get a phone call at work telling me to come to the school immediately."
"I bet," Harper agrees, loving every moment of this story, I can tell.
"Were sitting on the couch in the principals office, chatting briefly, when the teacher brings Kels in. She smiles and bounds over to us, sitting between her mother and I, and resting her hand on my knee. The principal is watching us very carefully, trying to pick up if anything is happening at home.
"The principal asks Kelsey a couple questions about school, to get her to be relaxed and talking. Then she asks Kels why she drew the picture she did."
"This ought to be good," Harper mutters.
Dad smiles at me fondly. "Kels let out a huge sigh and shrugged her tiny little shoulders. Because, she said, I am so tired of drawing rainbows."
I close my eyes and try to ignore the burst of laughter coming from Harper and Amanda. My beloved is once again laughing so hard tears are streaming down her face.
I look over at Claire who is staring at us adults in bewilderment. "One day, this will be you, sis."
* * *
Im almost asleep on the couch. Almost. Between being able to relax completely here at Dads place, and the fact I only had about three hours of sleep last night, Im good and ready for my nap.
But then it starts up again and Im compelled to roll on my side so I can watch them.
"Look at you!" Harper grins at Claire from her spot on the floor. My little sister is sitting up in the middle of the carpet, playing with her new toy: my wife. I dont think theyve been apart for five minutes since we got here.
Claires nanny isnt sure what to do with herself this weekend and my Dad is even a little miffed that he hasnt been able to get his hands on his daughter for any length of time. Amanda is merely amused by it all.
I watch as Claire gives Harper one of those adorable baby grins, clapping her hands and reaching out for her. She ends up rocking forward and lurching for Harper, laughing.
My spouse, of course, is more than happy to stretch out on the floor to allow the baby to crawl all over her, which Claire thinks is simply wonderful. Now she can touch and chew on her new toy.
Yup, we Stanton women know a good thing when we see it.
Harper is simply in heaven. She beat my father at golf again this morning and now she has Claire all to herself on the floor.
This woman is going to be a fantastic mom.
I feel Brennan and Collin shifting around. I already know these babies are attached to Harper, I wonder if theyre jealous. Between the laughing and squealing coming from across the coffee table here, I think they can hear her and theyre envious. Ooo, watch out, Tabloid looks like they may have inherited something from me.
Brennan gives me a good solid kick which doesn't feel good and I groan.
"Kels?" Harper wraps Claire up in her arms and they move over to the edge of the couch.
"Your daughter is jealous," I whisper, taking Claires little hand and giving it a kiss.
Harper leans over and lifts my blouse, then presses her lips to my belly. "Im practicing, little one. Your Aunt Claire is only helping me out."
Claire reaches out and Harper places her hand on my stomach where the babies are most active. She squeals and throws her head into Harpers shoulder to chew on it.
Shes gonna be a great mom.
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