The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Fourteen: Home, Sweet Home
I stare at the chessboard. Who knew Brian played so well? Guess I should have expected it. I mean, any game with a queen, right?
I look up at my worthy opponent who is sipping from a bottle of water and enjoying watching me contemplate my next move. I move my knight and then look to Kels.
She has fallen asleep on the couch while reading a book. My, my, how things have changed as far as flying goes for my darling spouse. There are benefits to having your own jet. Im glad shes not stressed. Im not sure we would have been able to fly home if we had been forced to fly commercial.
I get up, gingerly remove her book from her chest, and pull the blanket up so she wont catch a chill. I notice the cabin temperature is a little cooler than she likes it. Leaning over, I give her a kiss on the forehead, then brush her bangs back. Were on our way home. Home so she can give birth. My God, its really going to happen, and soon too.
Suddenly, I feel a little lightheaded. I retake my seat, continuing to stare at Kels.
"Harper?" Brian reaches across the table and tugs my shirtsleeve. "Are you all right?
I look at him. "Im gonna be a Mama."
"I hope that was the plan, because if it wasnt, you need to tell Kels she made a huge mistake when she ordered all that baby stuff," he teases.
I turn to face him and lick my lips. "No, I mean Im going to be a Mama. Im going to have these two incredible little people who are going to expect me to be there and take care of them and make everything okay when they think it isnt and Oh man!" I run my hand through my hair.
Brian gets up and goes to the fridge, retrieving a bottle of water for me. "You okay, Stud?"
"Yeah, yeah." I crack the cap and take a long drink. "Im good."
* * *
Its so nice to be home.
I look at our beautiful home and consider that less than a year ago Danielle was ratting us out for sharing our first real kiss on the back porch of Mama and Papas. My how things can change in a year.
I rub my belly and tell them. "Were home, little ones. Not much longer now."
Harper opens the back door of our leased car and Kam bounds out, running immediately into our yard to inspect everything. Hes so much fun to watch. He seems to take everything almost as seriously as Harper does.
Brian motions to Harper that hell unload the luggage and that she should help me.
"So," Harper comes over and gives me a kiss, "how is everyone doing over here?"
"Im good. Brennan is good. Collin has the hiccups."
She laughs and bestows on me a slightly skeptical expression. "How do you know?"
I take her hand and put it where our son it having his little fits. "Feel that?"
"Give it a second." Very soon, its followed by another spasm.
"Do you think I should scare him?" She grins.
I give her a kiss on the chin. "Id rather you didnt. I can live with the hiccups. You scare him and hell kick me some place unpleasant."
"That would be bad. Poor little guy."
I have to laugh as she helps me to the house. "Poor little guy, indeed. Just hanging out. Not a care in the world. All safe and happy. While old Mom here does all the work. I feel for him, Tabloid."
She gives me a kiss on the top of the head as we navigate the steps up. "Youre doing a great job, chér. I look forward to helping out here in the near future, and letting you take a little break."
"Good, because Im going to the Bahamas," I tease as Harper unlocks the door. "Ill be back in, oh, say, August. The next nine months, theyre all yours."
She laughs at me, pushing the door open. "Ill bring two little dish towels and the twins, and the three of us will lay out on the beach with you. You can run, Kelsey Diane, but you cant hide."
We step inside. Our home is beautiful, even if we do need to do some serious rearranging of the furniture that has been delivered. It was nice of the family to take care of seeing that it all got here all right, though.
I wrap my arm around Harpers waist. "Weve got a lot of work to do here."
"Thats what brothers are for. I should know. I have four of them."
"And Im sure they can be bribed if we offer to cook for them."
Harper gives me a very smug grin. "I have Mama coming over to handle that."
I nod. "I see. And what exactly am I supposed to do while everyone else is cooking and cleaning in my house?"
"Talk with the damn Conspiracy. Im sure theyll be coming over too. Besides, you need to manage the work."
I smile. Ive learned. Manage the work is Kingsley-speak for sit on my butt and tell everyone else what to do.
* * *
Our home has really come together in the last few days. A steady parade of workers have come in, both hired and voluntary. Each of Harpers brothers has come by and helped out. The backyard has been mowed and raked. Kams outdoor condominium has been built. The twins playground has been established, complete with sandbox. I tried to explain that they might be a bit young for it while were here this time, but Harper wouldnt listen.
Even though we have several extra bedrooms in this house, we have the nursery set up for the two of them in one room. After nine months together, theres no need to separate them immediately. Plenty of time for them to grow up together.
I sigh. My babies are going to grow up on me. I suppose I have to accept that fact. Even before theyre here.
Weve leased a car while were in town, a Lexus LS 430. I must admit, I like it. Given my girth, its a lot easier to get into it than our Range Rover. The reason why Harper wanted this particular car is because it has a voice activated navigational control feature. This woman grew up in New Orleans, knows every single side street, and shes worried she might get lost taking me to the hospital. Of course, my hospital suitcase is nestled in the trunk. As well as the twins blankets, a change of clothes for Harper, and several toys. We all know how interested newborns are in toys.
I think my spouse is stressing.
Its pretty adorable.
I am now just waiting. Im not allowed to lift a finger or carry anything heavier than a loaf of bread.
The doorbell rings. Thank you! Something to do. I push myself up from my spot on the couch and waddle theres no other word for it, Im afraid to the front door, beating Harper.
"Chér," she says, leaning forward to grab the doorknob.
"I have to be allowed to move occasionally, Harper." We both pull on the door and discover Robie, Rene, Clark and Christian on the other side. "Im so glad to see you!" I exclaim. Rene is under almost the same amount of restrictions as I am. Apparently over-protectiveness runs in the Kingsley family. Now, at last, I have someone to sit with.
"Aunt Kels!" Christian attaches himself to my leg.
I tousle his hair. "Hi, Christian."
Harper reaches and takes Clark from her brothers arms. "Theres my fella!" We step out of the way and let them come in. "Since when did you ring the doorbell to my home, Robie?"
"Since you got married, and got a house instead of mooching off Mama and Papa when you come home," he replies, kissing my cheek instead of his sister.
We all wander into the living room, Harper plopping herself on the floor with the two boys. We have a corner already dedicated to toys, including an assortment especially picked out for our two young visitors. Soon, they are content.
"How did you doctors appointment go, Ren?" I ask, knowing that she saw our obstetrician yesterday.
Robie and Rene exchange glances. He gestures for her to reply. "It went great, actually."
"What happened?" Something is up.
"We found out what were having."
Harper glances up from her playing with Christian. "An alien?"
Robie leans down and flicks her head. "Brat!"
When my spouse looks over to me for support, I simply wag my finger at her, smiling. "Be good. Go on, Rene. Tell us, is it a boy or a girl?" I, of course, have my own guess.
"Congratulations!" I am secretly relieved. I really wanted Brennan to have a female cousin her age. Collin will fit right in with Christian and Clark, and Geoffrey, Jeans youngest. Everything is working out perfectly.
"Youre going to have a younger sister, eh?" Harper asks Christian.
He looks up and fixes his blue eyes on hers. "Baby sister."
God, it starts young in the Kingsley family.
"We have a question to ask you, though."
Robie sounds very serious, immediately capturing my attention. "Whats up?"
"Weve," Rene picks up the request, "been going through names for little girls and we found one we like. We want to know if you approve."
"Sure." We had the best time, and easiest, coming up with names for Brennan and Collin.
"Were thinking Kelsey."
I think my breath just escaped me.
Harper looks over, her face beaming. "I think its a beautiful name."
"What about you, Kels?" Rene asks gently.
If I could think, I would. I certainly cant speak. But I can cry. Tears are slipping down my cheeks and I am absolutely helpless to stop them.
Christian looks over and is immediately distressed by my crying. "Aunt Kels!" He rushes over and places both hands on my cheeks, grasping my face. "No cry!"
I am caught between crying and laughing at his response. "Im all right, Christian. Thank you." He kisses my nose and then wanders back to his toys, apparently my assurance is good enough for him. Harper pats him on the head and then joins me on the couch, taking my hand in hers. "Im honored, but "
"But what?" Robie replies.
"I I wont it get confusing? Having two Kelseys in the family?"
Rene smiles at me smugly. "We figured wed call her Kelly, around family."
"Although I find it hard to believe wed have a hard time telling the two of you apart for awhile." Robie reaches over and grabs my hand. "So you dont mind sharing your name?"
"No. Not at all. Im honored." I brush away still more tears. "I love you all, even if you are nuts."
* * *
Were ready to go.
Robie and I have our bikes out on the driveway, washed, and ready to eat asphalt. We have each packed a small duffle bag with the bare necessities my spouse insisted that clean underwear and a toothbrush counted as such and they are strapped down on the backs of our seats.
Were both decked out in our riding gear. Robie has on his favorite pair of jeans, a black T-shirt, riding boots and leather jacket. I went for all leather. Cows are frightened of me right now. Well, except for my white V-necked T-shirt. God, it feels good to be wearing this stuff again.
I look over at my girl. If she werent pregnant right now, Robie and I would be getting a late start on this little jaunt. I leer at her and wait until the blush steals over her features.
Robie notices what Im doing and he slaps me in the arm. "Knock it off!"
I resist giving him the finger. I dont know what Kels would charge me for that infraction. "Say goodbye to your girl, and lets get going." Instruction given, I swagger over to Kels. "You sure about this?"
Kels smiles, and runs her hands down my arms. Her touch burns my skin, despite the leather between us. "Its only one night. You and Robie will be back in time for dinner tomorrow."
"Hardly have time to even miss me, eh?" I must admit to being a bit disappointed.
Kels cocks her head. "I didnt say that. I miss you already. But, you and your brother need a little bonding time. Rene and I will look after each other until you come back."
"Ill have my cell phone and beeper."
"I know. But I talked to Brennan and Collin and they agreed that this wasnt the weekend theyre coming. So, go and dont worry."
This sounded like such a good idea at first, but I already miss my family. Im also terrified that, despite my wifes chat with our children, they might decide otherwise. "I always worry. Its my job."
"I know. Now, go. Youll come back sooner that way."
I lean down and give Kels a kiss intended to keep me on her mind until I return. Her hand slips under my jacket and tugs up my T-shirt until she encounters my skin. I feel my knees go weak.
Why the hell am I going away?
So much for me leaving her breathless.
* * *
We stop for lunch in Pierre Part at this wonderful, old Cajun restaurant called Barry Ds kitchen . Were deep in Bayou La Fourche traveling on LA1. I miss the bayou when Im in New York. The primal, pulsing energy of it. The absolute certainty that only the strong will survive. The beauty and danger coexisting as gators, egrets, and Spanish moss all vie for space. And theres the tranquility that overlays the battle for survival. Quiet in the bayou isnt akin to silence. Rather it is the absence of extraneous noise.
I think even our motorcycles engines are running softer here in deference to our surroundings. My Fat Boy and Robies BMW R 1200 C are parked in front, looking out of place alongside the three half-broken-down pickups belong to the other patrons.
Crawfish are finally back in season. Were enjoying one of the first batches served up. Between us are two plates - one has about five pounds of crawfish waiting to be eaten, the other has the shells of their previously eaten brothers. We have a bowl of dipping sauce, and a bottle of beer each.
Life is good.
Robie twists the head of a crawfish and sucks the meat and juice out of it. "How are you holding up, Harper? Ready to become a parent?"
"Sure enough. I look at you for inspiration." I pause a beat as he smiles and is about to say something sweet. "I mean, hell, if you can do it " I get a crawfish head thrown at me for my trouble.
We both take a sip of beer. Robie tries again to make pleasant conversation. "Thats pretty cool about your award."
I shrug and try to play it off. We received word a few weeks ago that Tulane wanted to acknowledge me for the work Im doing in my field. Apparently, theyre having a fancy dinner honoring their young alums who are making significant contributions in their specialties. I am one of five people receiving recognition. Life is coming together. "Yeah, Im pretty happy about it."
He elbows me in the ribs. "Happy? Youre ecstatic. I know you."
I pull the meat out of the tail of a crawfish and dip it into the sauce, struggling to still act nonchalant. "You think you know everything." I chew on the bite for a long moment. "Of course, I am. I can hardly stand it."
"Who gets to sit there and clap like seals when you and your big head get this latest laurel?"
"Kelsey. Mama and Papa, of course. And, if you and Ren can stand it, I have tickets for you."
He clinks his beer bottle against mine. "Well be there."
I run my hand through my hair. I look around the room at the various other patrons. "I swear Im living a dream, Robie. I keep wondering when Im going to wake up. I mean a year ago today I was completely fucked up. Today? In love. Married. About to become a parent. With a thriving career. Homes. Cars. A dog." My thumb rubs against my wedding band. "Everything I never thought Id have. I keep wondering when the devil will show up and demand my soul."
"You do realize that the devil doesnt really look like Elizabeth Hurley, right?"
Leave it to Robie to keep me from getting all maudlin. "Damn. Well, then, Im hoping he doesnt show up."
"Its great to see you so happy, Harper. I cant tell you how much I like Kelsey. She fits you."
"Yeah, she does. I cant imagine life without her now. In fact, sometimes I have a hard time remembering what it was like before her. Isnt that weird?"
My brother gives me a gentle smile. "Nah, I felt the same way after my first date with Rene. I felt like I had just started my life and, at the same time, I couldnt remember a moment without her in it. Wait until you hold your kids for the first time."
"When Christian was born and I held him there in the delivery room, it was as close to a religious experience as Ive ever had. I finally knew what Mama talks about all the time."
"You sure it wasnt lack of sleep?" My turn to keep us from crying in our beer.
He laughs. "Could have been. But, let me give you a little free advice, Harper Lee, dont try to take a nap while the wife is in labor. She wont take that well."
No, I dont see Kels lying still for that.
* * *
I check my beeper again. Nothing. A quick flip of my Motorola StarTAC cell phone confirms no calls.
That means Kels and the twins are fine.
Theyre at home. Resting. Waiting. For me.
And, well, to be born.
I laugh at my own hubris. Yes, Harper, everything revolves around you. Brennan and Collin are just waiting for you to say the word before they show up.
I need to admit it to myself.
I want to go home.
This has been fun. Riding my Fat Boy. Breathing fresh air. Viewing pretty scenery. Enjoying good time with Robie. But every fiber of my body wants to be in our house, with my wife, and waiting with her. I dont want to sleep in some motor lodge and listen to Robies snoring. I want to curl up next to Kels and put my ear on her stomach and listen to my children.
This is too close to their birth for me to feel great about sleeping away from my family. Ill never give up the open road.
Its just Ive learned one thing all roads lead to home.
* * *
Robie only gives me minor shit for insisting we head back. He understands though. However, I will be made to pay at our next poker game. Ill bring a lot of beer. Itll make it better.
We pull into our respective driveways a little after two in the morning. Robie and I exchange good nights and wander sleepily inside.
I am met by almost a hundred pounds of fur and muscle. Kam growls for a moment, but then recognizes me. "Hi there, Kam." I bend down to one knee and ruffle his fur. "Its only me. Everythings okay. But youre a very good guard dog. Yes, you are." He licks my face. "Everything all right here?" Another swipe of his rough tongue. "Ill take that as a yes."
I shrug off my jacket and hang it near the door. I also take off my boots and set them at the bottom of the stairs. Quietly, I head up to our bedroom, but deliberately decide to make a little more noise once I reach our bedroom suite. I certainly dont want to frighten her.
Stepping into our bathroom, I turn on the light and begin shedding the rest of my clothes. A quick sniff convinces me that a shower would be in order, as well. Years of being on the road have taught me the art of cleaning up in less than two minutes. Freshly showered and towel dried, I pull on a T-shirt and pair of boxers.
Lifting up the comforter, I slip into bed behind Kels. "Hi, honey, Im home," I whisper.
Kels takes my hand and places it where Brennan is thumping around. "And were very glad you are." She yawns. "Now maybe they will let me sleep."
I rub my hand over her stomach, amazed at the amount of activity in there. "Come on, little ones, time to rest. Mama is home. And Mommy is tired." I kiss behind Kels ear. "Everything else okay?"
Kels sighs deeply and snuggles back further in my arms. "Is now."
Thats what I wanted to hear. "Anything happen?"
"Hmm no, I dont think much happened in the whole sixteen hours you were gone. We managed to keep the house and New Orleans intact."
I bite her earlobe. Gently. "Smart ass."
"So," Kels rolls over in my arms to face me, "why are you home?"
My hand unconsciously begins tracing a path from the swell of her breast to the swell of her belly. "It was too embarrassing being out there with Robie on his foreign motorcycle."
She laughs at me, reading my lie easily. "Oh, well, as long as it was something important that brought you back. Its not like you missed us or anything."
"Only with every breath." It occurs to me that I havent kissed my wife yet and I do so, taking my time of it. "That was certainly what you intended with your sweet, little, chaste goodbye kiss to me this morning."
The look of complete innocence that meets my accusation is priceless. God, I hope our children dont inherit this particular trait of their mommys. "Me? Are you trying to say I set you up? Im just laying here, being all innocent. Youre the one sneaking in at two in the morning. I did nothing." She even has the audacity to bat her lashes at me.
"Yeah, right. You did nothing. Has anyone ever bought your little innocent act before?"
Kels hand sneaks under my T-shirt. Why did I even put the damn thing on? "Once or twice. You mean, you dont?"
"Not by a long shot, Little Roo."
"Hmm, okay." Oh, no. Im in for it now, I can tell by that tone of voice. "Ill just have to prove how good I can be." With that, she removes her hand, rolls over and snuggles down under the blanket. "Im sure youre tired."
I pounce. Im sure I shouldnt really pounce on a hugely pregnant woman, but I cant help myself. I straddle her thighs and lean down over her. "You are a tease!" I accuse, laughing, knowing shes not.
She joins in the laughter. "Not me. Im simply being good."
"Wanna be bad together?" Come on, baby, say yes.
"Well, now," Kels pushes me gently back into my place and she rolls back over, "are you willing to risk inducing labor?"
"Oh yeah. See, Im on such a winning streak lately, theres no way those two would interrupt us."
"It has been awhile," Kels sighs. "I think I could be led down the path of temptation tonight."
Hot damn and hallelujah. Or something like that. I feel my libido kick into overdrive at her mere consent. "Well, then, chér, prepare to be ravished."
* * *
Settled comfortably in my place at the table, I am forced to watch as lunch is prepared for Papa, Harper and Robie. Theyve been digging out the holiday decorations all day, sorting, cleaning and preparing to put them up over the next few weeks.
The rest of the family will arrive in the evening for a dinner to welcome the two newest additions to the Kingsley family. Luc and Rachel are going to adopt the two boys they told us about. Today is the first day theyve had them on a permanent basis. I havent met them yet, but I hear Luc is every bit as bad as Harper with the pictures of his boys.
Brian is picking up both mine and Renes slack in the kitchen. Mama has even made him an honorary member of the Kitchen Conspiracy. Hes got his own spot in the kitchen by the counter. I have to smile and shake my head. Its pretty clear only official members get a seat at the table, but regardless hes having a ball. He and Mama are a riot together. I think he wants to be her when he grows up.
The twins are thumping around, apparently roused by the wonderful aroma of lunch. Im glad theyre not asking for some awful combination of foods today. Ive come to miss Mamas cooking almost as much as Harper does when we dont get home regularly. Mamas given me most of her recipes but I dont do them justice.
Mama brings soup to Rene and I, leaning over and placing kisses to both our foreheads. "Not much longer now. By the New Year I will have three new grandbabies. And with Lucien and Rachel taking in those two wonderful, little boys, I am truly blessed."
"How many grandchildren will that make, Mama?" Brian asks as he rinses some vegetables.
"Sixteen." Mama smiles happily, returning to the stove.
"Sixteen! Lord Almighty! Christmas is going to cost you a fortune this year."
Brian is such a suck up.
Rene looks to me and shakes her head. "Youd probably disown me if Robie and I tried to hire him away, wouldnt you?"
"There are some things that can never be forgiven, and that would be one of them." I blow on my soup. "Besides, I wouldnt give him up without a fight."
Brian pipes up. "Ill open the bidding at five hundred " He laughs even as he approaches the table and pours us each a fresh glass of juice. "Please, ladies, let me know if you want to examine the merchandise. Ill even wear one of those little Chippendale numbers, if you like."
"Figures," Rene reaches for a basket of rolls, "I finally find a man whos willing to get naked and clean my house, and hes more turned on by my husband."
"Well, they say all the good ones are either gay or married," Mama offers from her spot by the stove.
"Or," I reach for the rolls, adding with a chuckle, "in my case, both."
* * *
With our early dinner cleaned up, the Kitchen Conspiracy is in full swing. Harper and the boys are off roughhousing with the older kids outside. The younger ones are all settled in the playroom off the kitchen.
But the Conspiracy has two guests tonight, Jake and Stevie, Luc and Rachels two boys. Theyre brothers, and have been in the foster system for two years. The Childrens Services Agency hoped not to split them up and, of course, that what was scared everyone else off. Further with Jake five years old and Stevie four, the chances of them getting adopted was becoming slimmer and slimmer.
They are both little balls of energy too. Theyll fit right in with the rest of the Kingsley clan. Right now, theyre bonding with Luc and Rachel and dont want to be separated from them. Stevie is hanging on to Rachel with everything hes got. Brian has finally coxed Jake into playing with him a few feet away. Watching him sooth Jakes fears and get him to relax has reassured me. He is going to be a great nanny.
Brennan, however, is having a fit, kicking and carrying on. I know what her problem is. "Brian, could you call Harper in here, please?" All my sisters look at me as if Ive grown a second head. "What?" I protest.
"Youre inviting in the enemy?" Rachel teases.
"Yes, since the enemy got me pregnant, Im inviting her in here to do her motherly duties."
"Ooo, you wont feel that way when you go into labor," Katherine snickers as she gets up for more coffee. "Youre going to want to kill her."
"Oh, Ive had moments just being pregnant when I wanted to kill her."
Harper sticks her head in the door. "Did I hear my masters voice?"
"See how nice and obedient she is?" I tease as I wave Harper in. She comes over and gives me a sweet, very chaste kiss. I know its only because Mama is in the room. "Please talk to your daughter. Shes having fits here."
She kneels immediately and the Conspiracy breaks into hysterical laughter. I give them as evil a glare as I can manage with this bunch. Harper pushes up my blouse, then put her hand on my tummy, gently rubbing where Brennan is rumbling about. "Hey there, little one, Mamas here. Are you driving your mommy nuts?"
Brennan calms down almost right away. Not that I can blame her. I run my hands through Harpers hair and have to restrain myself from touching her more. "Thank you, sweetheart."
"You really expect us to believe that the baby calmed down when she hear Harpers voice?" Elaine crosses her arms as she looks over from the counter.
"Absolutely." Harper gives Brennan a kiss, then stands and gives me one too. "My girls love me. Even if my sisters dont." I laugh as Harper and her great indignation leave the kitchen. Everyone bursts out laughing the second shes out the door.
Such a martyr. I can hear the violins playing all the way.
* * *
"Hey, Harper!" Jean calls from across the porch. Hes seated on the swing where Kels and I had our first kiss. Sitting next to him is Charles, his eldest son at eight years of age. They are both putting peanuts in their Coke bottles.
I wander over and grab a handful of nuts as well, dropping them into the neck of the bottle Im holding. Do this in New York, people think youre insane. Down home, its normal. Well, at least to Papas people, Mamas think were insane. I take a swig. Lovely. "Yeah?"
"We were just wondering " Oh God. Its never good when any of my brothers start thinking. I take another swallow and wait for the other shoe to drop. "How come your male nanny gets to be in the Kitchen Conspiracy and youre out here with us?"
I shrug and hitch my thumb in my jeans. "Hes the nanny. Its his job to be with the kids."
Charles begins laughing, nearly choking on one of the peanuts. Jean thumps him on the back and says, "Do you really expect us to believe that? Face facts, Harper Lee, youll never be admitted into the Conspiracy."
"What makes you think I want to?" I know, that was lame, but I had to protest. "You ever stop to think that maybe Im their spy out here? That late at night I tell Kels all the horrible things you boys do - the belching, the farting, the swearing - knowing that she will report all of it the next time they gather around the table?"
Charles looks scared. Yeah, I bet Elaine would like to know a couple things, like how exactly his tooth was chipped last year. Maybe I will have to divulge a secret or two to Kels. If I get lucky, itll be a quid pro quo transaction.
Ooo, things that sound dirty, but arent.
Well, actually, that one could be dirty.
I am lost in these happy thoughts when Anthony, Jeans second child, comes over and tugs on my jeans. "Tante Harper?"
I bend down onto one knee and meet his gaze. "Oui, petit fille, whats up?"
"Can you help me?"
"Mais oui, what do you need?"
He points over to his larger cousins, Joseph and Laurent who are kicking a soccer ball back and forth, and asks, "Will you be on my team?"
"Id be happy to. Do we want to ask your Papa, see if he wants to join us?"
Anthony looks over at his father for a long moment, cocking his head to one side. "Hes too old."
I smile. I love kids. I glance over at Jean who is struggling to not react. "Youre right. And see how big hes getting lately? Do you think your Mama feeds him too much?"
He giggles, understand were teasing his daddy. "Yeah, too much." Anthony studies me very seriously for a moment. "Are you feeding Aunt Kelsey too much?"
I laugh and clasp my hand over his mouth, glancing over at the kitchen door. "Shh dont let Aunt Kelsey hear you say that." I remove my hand when he licks the palm. I, of course, taught him that trick. "Shes just pregnant. Shell be back to normal real soon, and youll have two more cousins to play with."
He pats my flat stomach. "Doesnt she feed you, Tante Harper?"
I pick him up and carry him out onto the yard. "Let me tell you how things are with wives, Anthony "
* * *
The one drawback to having our own house is I cant sneak down late at night and eat Mamas leftovers. I have to go in and fix a plate to take with me prior to our leaving.
I leave Kels sleeping on the couch. She passed out an hour or so ago, despite the fact the Conspiracy was sitting around her, gabbing like there was no tomorrow. I dont know what they talk about all the time. Half the time Im with my brothers, were just hanging out, not really talking about stuff. Well, thats not quite true. Typically were playing games or entertaining the kids. We certainly dont have four hour heart to heart conversations. Were lucky if ours last five minutes.
Mama follows me into the kitchen and begins putting things out on the counter for me. "How are you doing, mon Coeur?"
"Im good, Mama. Nervous, excited, anxious, but good."
She rubs my arm. "Itll be soon. I can tell."
"Not too soon. I told Kels to keep them until the last minute. I cant wait to get my hands on them, but I want them healthy."
"I remember the night before you were born." Mama cuts a piece of chocolate pecan pie for both of us and then goes over to the table. "Lets see, Gerrard was ten, so that would make Jean eight, Lucien five, and Robie two. It was this time of year -"
I take a bite of the pie and swoon. "The day before Thanksgiving. Papa always says I caused you to burn the pies that year."
Mama laughs, remembering. "Yes, you did. I knew, of course, what was happening. I had had four babies before, so I knew what labor felt like. I knew I wouldnt be eating Thanksgiving dinner at home, but I wanted the boys to have something to eat while I was in the hospital for a few days."
I shake my head. "So you started preparing everything a day early?"
"I figured they could reheat it. And Jonathan could fry up the turkey without any help from me. As labor progressed, I kept working until finally my water broke." Mama points over to the floor in front of the sink. "Right there. I felt it and looked down and then Luc walked in."
Now that I would have liked to have seen. "What did he do?"
"He asked me if I had spilled my apple juice." Mama smiles at the memory. "I told him that I had and asked him to get Jonathan to help me clean up."
"Let me guess, you mopped it up before Papa came in."
"He has a squeamish stomach about things like this. I was lucky he came into the delivery room at all with me."
"Really?" That surprises me. My father is the most devoted husband and dad Ive ever encountered.
"It wasnt that he didnt want to be there, he merely found the entire process too messy."
"Yes!" I exclaim, waving my fork. "Exactly! Thats what I think! I wondered where I got that from. At first, before we knew we were having twins, Kels wanted to have the baby at home." I shudder. "I would have had to burn the mattress."
Mama simply laughs at me. "At least you dont have to worry about it this time around."
"This time around?" I glance over my shoulder, in the direction of the living room. "Whatever you do, dont let Kelsey hear you say that."
"Dont you two want more?"
"Mama! Enough! Let us have these two first before you go expanding our family." I finish up my pie and barely restrain myself from licking my plate. "Besides, you dont know that Ill be a good Mama to these two."
Hmm. Im surprised that slipped out.
Mama seems surprised as well. "What are you talking about, Harper Lee?"
I shrug. "I mean, how can you know Im going to be any good at this?"
Mama reaches across the table and takes my hand in hers. "Because I know you, mon Coeur. Do you love Kelsey?"
"You know I do."
"And these children do you love them?"
I nod. "Certainly."
"Then youll be fine. Harper, you will make a thousand mistakes. Lord knows, your Papa and I werent perfect parents. Oftentimes we would sit in bed at night and try to figure out what we needed to do. And pray we came up with the right answer."
"You always seemed so sure of yourself."
Mama crooks her finger at me and I lean in. "Sweetheart, thats one of the secrets. Just act like you know what youre doing. Your kids wont know the difference, thats for sure. As long as you love Kelsey first and foremost, and then Brennan and Collin youll be set. But, Harper, I have every confidence in you."
"Ive watched you grow up into a tremendous woman. Im so proud of you because youve finally found your way."
"Speaking of that, I better take my light at the end of the tunnel home and get her in bed where shes comfy."
* * *
Dr. Maxton hands Harper the pictures of Brennan and Collin. She looks at them and then gets this huge smile on her face. "Look, sweetheart, Brennan is sucking her thumb." She thrusts the picture at me and points, this from the woman who couldnt even see them in early ultrasounds and called the pictures inkblot tests.
Dr. Maxton helps me sit up and looks at my chart. "Well, Miss Kelsey," he gives me a very fatherly smile, "were nearly there. It wont be much longer now."
I hear a gulp. "When?!" Harper pipes up.
"Easy, Harper," he tries to soothe her. Its not gonna work. "It could be any time, but I think weve got a week or two to go yet."
"Any time? But theyre not ready. Theyre not done yet. They need to cook "
Oh, yeah, shes stressed. "Harper, honey," I take her hand. "Relax. Take a deep breath. And try to remember Im not an easy bake oven." When she relaxes a bit, I look to my doctor. "If they were to come right now, what could we expect?"
"Well, I think wed see a little extra time spent with them to encourage active response such as muscle reflex and lung development, but I think theyd be all right. Kelsey, youve taken very good care of yourself. Youve done exactly what you were told to do. You didnt smoke, drink or do drugs while you were pregnant and you maintained a healthy diet -"
"Most of the time," Harper teases.
"You have already been an excellent mother and I believe that very soon were going to have two healthy babies to show for it." He makes a couple marks in my chart. "Now you know they are going to be smaller than a single baby, so dont let their smaller birth weight scare you. That doesnt mean they arent healthy."
"But technically we still have a couple of weeks?" I ask, taking my own deep breath.
"We do, but I see signs of good strong braxton hicks too. You can feel them, cant you?"
"Un-huh. Ive been having those for weeks now."
"Good. That means your body is responding well. Trust me, all that will make true labor easier."
"Im not even going to deluded myself into believing its going to be easy." I shake my head.
He gives me a little laugh. "You are a smart woman. You are aware that C-sections are not uncommon, right?"
"Right. One or both," I state, hoping I wont have to go that route.
"So youre prepared for that. If I see a problem "
I jump in. "If you see a problem, you do whatever you have to do to save the lives of my babies. Harper knows how I feel about this subject. There is no question."
I feel her grip tighten on my hand. I return the gesture, but its to comfort her. I give her a smile. I can tell shes not happy with me. Shes hates that I made her make that promise. But what else was I supposed to do? Our babies come first.
"Everyone is going to come through this just fine." Dr. Maxton rubs our joined hands. "Although I would imagine, Harper, youre going to carry bruises around on your hands and arms for a week."
"Fine by me, as long as my family goes home together."
"It will." He scratches his neck and considers my folder again. "Okay, Kelsey, if labor starts, I want you to come to the hospital once the contraction are about eight minutes apart."
"Hey, how about as soon as they start?" Harper jumps in.
"Harper," the doctor sighs, showing infinite patience for yet another anxious partner, "Kelsey could spend hours in first stage labor. My orders are for her to be put directly to bed when she arrives at the hospital. Trust me, you do not want to spend that much time with a woman who is in labor and not allowed to move. Kelseys natural instinct will kick in and shell know when its time to come."
He holds up his hand to stop further argument on this. "Im sorry, Harper, you are going to have to trust the pregnant woman and the doctor on this one."
I bite back the grin. Dr. Maxton knows how to stop a famous Harper Kingsley rant dead in its tracks. My spouse doesnt like it, but she lives with it.
He finish making our plans with Dr. Maxton calling the hospital to double check Im on his active patient list. He nods to us, thanks whoever hes speaking to, and hangs up. "Well, we are all set. Were only waiting for you and the babies now, Kelsey. Im going to schedule you another appointment for next week, in case they decide to hang on a bit longer."
Harper mutters something in French, that I cant quite make out and crosses herself. Shes so cute when shes scared senseless.
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