The Third Season
Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC
Break out those V-Chips, everyone!
Created, Produced, Directed and Written:
Fanatic and TNovan
Episode Seventeen: Clash of the Titans
Ive found that I wake up automatically now, generally about the same time as Collin. This gives me time to get awake and slip out of bed. Collin doesnt sleep in solid four hour blocks like his sister does most of the time. I think its because hes a little smaller still and had a rougher entrance.
Or it could be my son is simply gonna be a Mommys boy. Which suits me just fine.
I turn on the small lamp next to the bassinets and look at them both. Brennan is still sleeping, and my theory is if shes sleeping peacefully, to let her continue. But Collin is awake, looking for me. He doesnt cry out most nights. He knows Im coming.
"Good morning, Fuzzy." I chuckle when I lift him out of the bassinet. His hair is too much. Once again, I smooth it back as I cradle him in my arms and move to our lounger. After we are settled down, I begin his feeding. He seems to be better at this too. Hes not as rough on me as he was those first few days. Guess were both learning.
Looking at the bed, I see Harper shift and roll over. Shes learning to sleep through her sons middle of the night snacks. This is good because then shes better rested to get up and deal with a very cranky Brennan first thing in the morning. Yet another trait Brennan shares with Harper.
Brennan seems not to care one way or the other where her food comes from as long as she gets it. Collin on the other hand is reluctant to take a bottle. He will, but he requires more coaxing to do it. So Im happy and content to be up with him now.
I want the babies to accept both, breast and bottle, in case, for some reason, Im not available to feed them. Thus far its working. It certainly is a learning experience. Ive also discovered that, for me at least, baby books are a crock. Some of the stuff they put in those books is plain stupid.
"Come on now. No going back to sleep yet. I know youre not done." I stroke his cheek to get him to nurse a little longer. He tends to do this. Hed sleep here if Id let him. He reaches up and finds my finger and pulls it away from his cheek. Am I bothering you, Fuzzy? A smile tugs at the corner of my lips.
Im still amazed at how tiny they both are, but how perfect. And how far Ive come in a year. God, I can still remember Harper putting Clark in my arms for the first time. I was terrified Id hurt him somehow. But now, holding my own children comes so naturally and so easy.
I can tell by watching my son that hes not really into eating right now. He wants to sleep. I readjust gently and cradle him. He makes a few, small sucking noises and is content. Hes still holding my finger and I know I should tuck him back in and go back to bed myself, but I cant bring myself to do it. The realization of how close we came to losing him is still very fresh in my mind and Harpers. I know its silly now that hes here, happy and healthy, but I cant help it.
The fact that Dr. Maxton told me not to have any more children has also made me very protective of my babies. Id be lost without them. Watching this sweet, little boy who is so trusting, slumbering in my arms, is the greatest feeling in the world. It helps offset the feelings I had when the doctor said I couldnt take another pregnancy, even a single one. I wanted a big family. After becoming a part of Harpers, how could I not?
Harper has been great about the whole thing. She was worried about me and my health first and foremost. Once the doctor reassured us I was fine, it helped a lot. Still, I think she is a little disappointed. But, as I told her, and she readily agreed, when were ready to expand our family, there are lots of kids waiting to be adopted. Jake and Stevie are perfect examples.
My son sighs and I know its time to put him back down and go back to bed myself. I give him a kiss, then check Brennan and give her one as well. When I settle back down next to Harper, she rolls over and wraps her arm around my waist.
"Is he full?" she mumbles.
I turn and face her. "You are such a faker!" I give her a swat to the arm.
She opens one eye and peeks at me. "Its a beautiful sight, you know?"
"Seeing you with them like that. I must admit, Im a little jealous of how much they need you."
"Dont be, Stud. They love and need you just as much as they love and need me."
* * *
Brian and I stare at each other over the top of the Lexus. "Now, remember, no one holds the twins but us. Anyone sneezes or coughs, we retreat immediately. Check the diapers regularly, because its about that time for both of them. The bottles are in the warmer packs and should be good for the next hour. We can feed them in the food court."
Brian nods and yawns. "Gotcha, Stud. Do we need to synchronize watches?" He holds up his wrist and points to his watch.
"No. Because we arent going to be separated. Were just going to be here for an hour or so, then well go over to Mamas. This is all about giving Kels a little break. Nothing more." I give Brian a very intense gaze meant to convey my seriousness in this matter.
"All righty then!" He reaches to open the backdoor to retrieve Brennan. It doesnt open. "Uh, Stud?"
He flashes me a huge smile and points down to the car door. "You locked the twins in."
Shit! I immediately try my door and discover its true. Shit! I pat down my jeans and am more than relieved to discover the keys in the pocket and not the ignition as I had feared. I immediately open the drivers door and hit the door lock button. As Brian and I retrieve the twins, I warn, "Not one word."
* * *
The mall is packed, reminding me why I hate holiday shopping. Brian and I are using the Roo snuggle packs. I did not want to have to navigate a double stroller through this crowd. Before we left the car, I double checked Brians pack. Hes carrying my little girl, after all. Once I was convinced of her safety, the four of us headed indoors.
Even with all the hustle and bustle, the twins are a magnet to harried shoppers. "Oh look! How cute!" one woman cries, seeing us. "Twins?"
I sigh. So it begins. "Yes. Fraternal." This should be obvious given Collins spiky black hair and Brennans near transparent blonde hair, but people arent very smart, Ive noticed.
"How sweet." The woman pulls back and looks at me for a moment. "You look really good. It took me months to lose the weight from my first child."
I realize she thinks Brian and I are the parents. I am about to protest when Brian throws his arm around my shoulders. "Doesnt she though? But thats my little sugarplum. Ever since her weight problem in the early nineties, shes been real self-conscious about her figure."
I dont know whether to hit him or laugh. Ah, what the hell? "Thats right, twinkle toes."
The woman looks at the two of us and decides that she has better things to be doing. "Well, happy holidays and congratulations!"
When she is out of earshot, Brian begins guffawing. "God, I love Louisianans. Or whatever you call yourselves. Louisippians? Louisters?"
Before I can retort, Brennan lets her displeasure be known at her sleep interruption.
I scowl at our nanny. "You. Behave."
He nods solemnly. "Yes, Stud." He begins rocking gently and cooing to my daughter. I lean over and peer down at her.
"Sweetheart, its all right. Aunt Brian is sorry for scaring you." She hiccups. God, shes beautiful.
Thats a winning idea.
"Come on, Brian. I have a plan."
* * *
We go into a craft store and quickly find what Im looking for. Little reindeer antler caps. With a little altering, they will fit on the twins. Next, I lead Brian to the center of the mall where Santa is entertaining the wish lists of multiple children.
As were standing in line, the woman behind us takes interest in the twins. "Ooo, their first Christmas, eh?"
No, their second. Theyre just small. I fight to keep from rolling my eyes. "They came in time for the presents," I reply. Be polite, Harper. Shes trying to be nice. "They were our Thanksgiving treats."
Brian warms to the discussion once more. "They seem to have a thing for turkey basters."
I will kill him later.
When we get to the front of the line, the little elf directs us over to Santa. "Actually, I dont to get their picture with him."
She looks at me quizzically. "You realize this is the line for Santa, right?"
"I just want a picture of them in his chair."
"His chair?" she repeats.
I nod. "Yup." Kels would kill me if I took them to Santa without her. But she cant object to reindeer caps in a big, red chair, can she?
* * *
I wipe the perspiration from my face and neck with a thick towel and head to the
kitchen to find a bottle of water. I worked out regularly before I got pregnant and
continued to exercise as much as I could while I was pregnant, but this was my first
real workout since the babies were born. Of course, by real
workout I mean a slow walk on the treadmill.
I chuckle at my lack of determination, knowing Ill be right back at it in a day or so. Not that I look too bad for a woman who gave birth to twins, but I had a body here somewhere and Id like to get it back. The house is very quiet today. With Harper, Brian and the twins out shopping I can have some quiet time.
Of course, I dont know what to do with myself. Funny how you can adjust to having little, tiny people gain control of your life and feel so lost when theyre not around to do it.
I miss Harper, too. I look down at my left hand. At least my wedding ring fits again.
I look at my watch and know they wont be back for hours. A visit to Mama and Papa will be required, just because. Mama will dote on her grandbabies, and Harper and Brian will eat. I grab the phone from the wall and crack the cap on my water.
I dial and wait for Harper to pick up. Takes a little longer these days. She has to juggle a baby first.
"Hello, chér," she says, recognizing the number from caller ID.
"Hiya, Stud. Listen, you planning on stopping by Mamas?"
"But, of course. Mama would be disappointed otherwise."
"I figured. So, youll be raiding the fridge?"
"But, of course. Mama would be disappointed otherwise. Why? What can I bring you, darlin?"
"Something good." I drop my head, realizing I had better clarify that right now. "A food product from my mother-in-law who loves me dearly. Preferably something chocolate if shes got it."
"Chocolate? Is this Kelsey Stanton Im talking to?" I hear her tapping on the phone. The smart ass.
"Kingsley, thank you very much. And yes, something chocolate."
"Ooookay. And, Kelsey Kingsley, I am very proud of you. You waited almost an entire hour before calling to check on us."
"I am not checking on you."
Shes laughing at me. "All right. Well bring you back chocolate from Mamas house."
"Thank you. I swear Im not checking on you. Im checking on my babies. Youre big enough to take care of yourself. How are they doing?"
As she answers me, the doorbell rings and I head for the door. I roll my eyes as Harpers laughter increases. "They are doing great. We just fed them and now Brennan is sound asleep. Collin is burping. They miss you, but theyre fine."
I open the door to find my father and Amanda. "Hold on a second, Tabloid." I cover the phone and wave my father and his wife in. Once theyre inside, I speak to Harper again. "Ooo, youre in for it now, Stud. Grandpa and Grandma just got here from New York." I hand my father the phone.
"Harper?" he says, a bit confused but willing to play along. I help Amanda by relieving her of Claire right away. "Thank you," my father says, smiling at me as I press a kiss to my little sisters forehead. I lead them to the kitchen so we can put Harper on speakerphone. "So why are you in trouble?" he asks my better half.
"Theres absolutely no reason that I know of, sir. Ask your daughter."
"Kels, why is Harper in trouble?"
"She was laughing at me, for one. Two, she has your grandchildren with her."
He nods. "Gotcha. Harper, did you get all that?"
"Id like to see my grandson and granddaughter. Well deal with the fact you were laughing at my daughter when you get here."
"Yes, sir. Does your daughter still want chocolate?"
"Yes, I do, Harper Lee."
"You might want to make sure that is your daughter, Matthew. Okay, well stop by Mamas and be back in a little less than an hour."
"Great, well see you then."
* * *
I settle Dad and Amanda into the guest room. While Amanda unpacks their bags, Dad
and I take Claire to the nursery to put her down in one of the cribs. Its not
like Brennan or Collin will be using it anytime soon.
"You have a beautiful home here, Kelsey." He places a blanket over Claire, stroking her head for a moment to ease her back into her sleep.
"Thanks. I cant wait until Harper and I can come home permanently."
He looks up to me. "Are you planning on leaving New York?"
We take the intercom receiver with us as we leave Claire and head downstairs. "Not right away, but eventually, yes. I would think so. Itll be nice to be close to Harpers family as the twins grow up."
"Oh, I see." I catch the almost disappointed tone in my fathers voice.
I take him to the kitchen and motion for him to take a seat. I prepare us something to drink and join him at the table. "Dont get me wrong. Im glad that you and I have gotten past our problems and that youre back in my life. Im thrilled youre married and happy, and that I have a little sister. But Harper and her family," I pause, I dont want to hurt his feelings but he deserves the truth. "Well, they gave me a family. They accepted me. They made me understand what family can be."
"Yeah, I guess I really messed that up, didnt I?"
"Dad, you did what you had to do. I didnt understand and I held that against you for a long time. I thought you hated me as much as she does. I thought you both hated me. It was hard growing up that way. To feel unwanted and unloved."
I watch as a tear slides down his cheek. "Im sorry, Kelsey. I didnt know."
I reach out and wipe it away. "I know. You and I have come a long way. A lot of that is because of the love and support Ive found here. I want my children to have that and never have any doubts about it."
He nods again. "I understand that. Youll come visit, right?"
"You better believe it. The time I spent with Ma and Pa in the summer were some of the happiest in my life. Brennan and Collin will know all that with you and Amanda. Of course, youre welcome here anytime."
"Well take advantage of that, sweetheart. I promise."
"Glad to hear it."
* * *
We pull into Mamas driveway and are immediately met by Mama. Shes not here to meet me. Shes here to get hold of her grandbabies. I am merely the one who transports them. Shes clearly torn as she stands by the car. Which one should she pick up? Decisions, decisions.
I have the same problem most of the time myself.
She finally decides on Brennan, since shes the closest. Mama leans into the car and takes her out of her car seat, showering kisses on my eldest the entire time.
"Hi, Mama!" Brian chirps.
"Bon jour, Brian." She kisses him on the cheek. She looks over at me. "Bon jour, mon Coeur. Where is ma petit?"
I nestle Collin against my chest and try to smooth down his hair. Its so adorable. I love this little boy so much. My heart constricts when I picture his birth. I press my lips to his hair. "Youre my boy forever and ever, Collin," I whisper. I smile over at Mama. "Shes at home. Were giving her a little break."
"Very good, Harper." Mama is proud of me.
"She sent us here for chocolate."
"Tch," Mama chides me. "Your girl doesnt eat chocolate. If you want some, you say so. Dont blame her."
I start to protest, but stop. It wont do me any good. No one will believe it. Hell, even I have a hard time. I wonder whats up? "Oui, Mama." Mama leads the way back inside telling my daughter about the importance of telling the truth. Brian follows, laughing at me. "You love me, dont you, Collin?"
Once inside, we settle around the kitchen table. "Theyre getting so big already." Mama places Brennan in the baby seat she keeps on hand for visiting grandchildren. After securing her in it, she relieves me of Collin. "This hair!" she exclaims, smoothing it out.
"Did any of us have hair like that as babies?"
She laughs. "All of the boys. Hes just one of the family."
Theres my cue. "Speaking of family, I cant stay here long, Mama. Kelseys father came down from New York a few minutes ago. I need to be getting these two precious bundles of joy back home so he can meet them."
I nod. "And Amanda and Claire."
"Jonathan!" Mama leaves the room. I listen as she wanders through the house until she finds Papa. I cant make out what theyre saying, but I hear their voices coming closer.
"There is my granddaughter!" he booms, entering the kitchen, his arms full with Collin. "Theres your sister, Collin. Shes so pretty, isnt she?"
Mama has gone over to the phone and is dialing. "Ma petit!" she exclaims.
Hmm I wonder what this is about?
"No, I did not dial the wrong number. I have your Harper here and my babies and we have a question for you." I wait for Mama to ask the question but instead she starts laughing. When she catches her breath, she says, "Wonderful! It is settled! Then we will see all of you over here soon for dinner."
I shake my head and sigh. What Mama wants, Mama gets.
"Mais oui, come now. We are all waiting for you!" She brings the phone over to me. "Here, Kels wants to talk to you."
"Yes, dear. Dont give the babies another bottle. I need to feed them."
I have learned not to question this directive. "No problem. Theyre pretty content right now. I hope your Dad doesnt mind. You know how things are over here." This earns me a glare from Mama.
"No, Im sure hell be pleased as punch to see Mama and Papa again."
"Well see you soon then." We say our goodbyes and I give my parents a look. "Theyre coming over. Looks like were having a big family reunion."
* * *
Papa pats Collin on the back. He took my boy from me midway through the meal so I could eat. Matthew has Brennan and Mama has Claire. Its been a fun meal, Papa and Matthew getting caught up with each other. It, of course, degraded into a who can embarrass their child the most time, with both Papa and Matt telling stories Kels and I will kill them for later. Gotta love family.
"I dont know how youre able to do it, Matt. I cant imagine having a little one like Claire at my age."
Matthew puts his arm around the back of Amandas chair. "I have good incentive. Besides, Jonathan, you have a posse of grandchildren to keep you young. How many is it now?"
Before Papa can reply, Mama does. "Fifteen, and one more due by Christmas."
Amanda smiles over at Mama. "Thats a houseful. I can barely keep up with one. I cant imagine raising five. If theyre all as active as Harper "
Great, now Amanda is in on the act. I flick a piece of bread at my mother-in-law. Who is younger than my wife. Boy, does fate have a sense of humor. "Hey, watch it now."
Kels pats my leg. "Down, Tabloid."
Brennan chooses that moment to make her needs known. Matthew kisses the top of her head and hands her over. "She wants you, I think, Kels."
"I know. Its that time. I can tell." She cuddles Brennan close and I lean closer to become a part of this moment. I nuzzle Brennan and then Kels, kissing behind her ear. "Let me take her into the living room."
"Are you tired?"
She nods. "A little."
I get up and pull out her chair for her and follow them into the other room, making sure they are both comfortable before I return to the table.
"Are you enjoying parenthood, Harper?" Matthew asks though I suspect he guesses my answer.
Brian starts laughing so hard Im afraid a piece of shrimp is going to get stuck in his lungs. No, Im not afraid. Im hopeful. "Are you kidding? Enjoying? I dont know why they have a nanny. Im rarely allowed to do anything for the twins."
"Why am I paying you then?"
"Because your wife adores me."
Well, I cant argue with that.
"Dessert anyone?" Mama pushes up from the table and looks around for orders. No one is so stupid as to reject Mamas offer.
"Ill help you, Mama," Brian offers. Such a suck up.
The doorbell rings. Two can play at this game. "Ill get it." I bound over to the front door, stealing a glance at my girls. They both seem to be all right. I know whenever Ive been in Brennans position that all was pretty damn right in my world.
Snap out of it, Harper.
I open the door. And have to refrain from slamming it shut immediately.
How the hell did she find us?
"Katherine," I say, forcing myself to be polite. "This is unexpected."
She takes off her gloves and tucks them into her jacket pocket. Stepping forward, past me and into the foyer, she says, "Im sure it is. Ive come to see my grandchildren."
I have to bite my tongue to keep from replying as I would like. "I didnt know you cared."
"May I see my daughter, please?" Her eyes roam around the entry to the family home. Its clear that shes impressed.
Were being civilized. Im rather proud of us. Although, Im not so stupid as to suspect that it will last. "One moment, please. Let me see if she is available."
I leave her in the foyer and enter the living room. I hate to ruin this beautiful moment. Forgive me, Kels. "Chér, your mother is at the door." Theres no way to sugarcoat this so I dont even try.
Kels looks up at me with a blank expression. Brennan, on the other hand, suckles away, happy and content. "My mother? My mother? Why is my mother here?"
I dont know the answer to that question. When the devil shows up, its generally a bad sign. "She says she wants to see her grandchildren." I brace myself for the reaction I expect from my wife.
"Like he umm." She stops herself before she owes money to the jar. Now that the babies are here, Kels raised the penalty to two dollars a swear word. Harvard, here they come. She gently disengages Brennan from her breast, closing her shirt and preparing for battle. Our daughter is not pleased with this change of events. She smacks milky lips together and gazes at her mother in outrage. "You take her and Ill take the witch. Ill get rid of her." She starts to hand off our daughter who begins crying.
"Are you sure, darlin? Im happy to show her the door myself."
"Oh, Im sure. Can you give her a bottle?"
I nod mutely. That means I will take Brennan back in the rest of the family. Time to rally the troops. "Sure enough. Holler if you need me." I take Brennan and walk with Kels to the hallway.
We are met by Mother Stanton.
"Kelsey," Katherine intones, her attention captured by the infant I hold in my arms. I snuggle Brennan closer to me and begin rubbing her back gently. "Is that one of the children?"
I keep walking. Hurrying into the dining room, I hand Brennan over to Mama. "Can you give her a bottle?"
"Whats wrong, Harper Lee? Who was at the door?" Papa asks.
"Katherine Stanton. I need to get back to Kelsey."
Matthew pushes back his chair, tossing his napkin onto the table. "Ill take care of her."
I put a hand on his arm. Nothing would give me more pleasure than to let him rip her apart. But, my girl deserves her opportunity. With me there for back up. "Give us a moment, Matt. If we need the cavalry, well call. I promise."
I hurry back to the hallway. I stay back, out of Kels eyesight, but clearly in Katherines. I fold my arms across my chest and watch. One wrong move, lady, and I dont care if you are her mother. Your ass will be mine.
"Kelsey," Mother Stanton is saying, "I came here to see my grandchildren. You didnt bother to tell me they had arrived. The least you can do is let me see them."
"The least I can do?" Kels gives a bitter laugh. "They arent your grandchildren, Mother. Remember? You disowned me. They arent yours any more than I am."
"You dont want to open that issue back up. Just let me see them and Ill be on my way."
I am interested in that answer as well. I can hear the blood pumping in my ears and my entire body is ready for a fight.
"I am perfectly aware of the things you so-called wife and your father tried to do to make my life miserable. Some of them were amusing. Trust me, my dear, I can make your life far more miserable than you can make mine. I dont have any secrets to hide from an adoring public, now do I?"
If I kill her here in New Orleans, no one would know. I have a judge as a brother and three more who are lawyers. Hell, they might put up a monument to me at the end of it.
Kelsey leans forward. I can see her shoulders trembling. My girl is hot. "Dont ever threaten me or mine. You havent begun to see what I might do. Im sure Father and Harper took it far too easy on you. Now, get out."
"So being caught up in all of this and this lifestyle has apparently changed you. All I asked was to see my grandchildren. If you cant see your way fit to allow me that one little concession, then Ill take other measures to see it happen."
Fucking bitch! I am incensed by this clear threat to our new family. No longer concerned about Kelsey seeing me in the room, I walk up directly behind my girl. I put my hands on her shoulders. Were in this together, sweetheart. I am about to suggest a time out, when I hear Matthew behind me.
"Katherine, this is unexpected."
"Well, well, Matthew." His appearance seems to have thrown her off her stride. With multiple targets, her poison is less potent. "I see youve been welcomed into this little fold. You approve of this?"
"Of what?" Matthew comes up beside us. His bulk is welcome. I can feel Mama and Papa nearby. Mamas Cajun anger is boiling over. I assume Brian and Amanda are taking care of the kids.
I rub Kels shoulders, trying to drain the tension out of her. "Its all right, chér. Lets have Katherine sit down in the living room and we can discuss this privately."
Before my girl can reply to my suggestion, her mother speaks. "Of this relationship that your daughter has forged. The fact that she has brought innocent children into something so distasteful and unnatural "
"Enough!" Mama says, stepping into the fray. "You do not come into my house and say such things. You do not come into my house and make demands. In this house, in our house, Kelsey is afforded respect and love. And in this house my daughters marriage to Kelsey is something sacred and worthy of respect." Mama pauses and pats her chest, apparently trying to tamp down her anger before she says something she might regret. "If you have a request, make it. But do not threaten here."
We all wait her reply.
"All I asked was to see my grandchildren."
Mama looks at the two of us and I feel like a guilty schoolchild. "Jonathan, please show Kelseys mother into the living room, as Harper suggested. Give us a few moments to discuss this as a family, Mrs. Stanton."
Score one for Mama. Even when shes being diplomatic she gets a little dig in.
Papa does as requested, and I turn Kels around in my arms, pulling her toward me.
"Harper, I dont want her near our babies."
I tighten my hold on her and kiss her hair. Shes trembling in my arms. "Shh, its going to be fine. I swear it, darlin." Please make it so, God. Dont make me a liar to my girl.
Mama touches us both. "Lets go into the dining room and discuss this."
Slowly, we all move in that direction. Once there, Kels breaks away from me and goes to our babies, kissing them both repeatedly.
"What do you think, Matt?"
"I think I should hire a -" he takes a deep breath "-for right now, until I can call my attorneys, it might be best to let her see them."
"No!" Kels replies sharply, scaring Brennan who is continuing to feed on her bottle.
There are too many people in here, too much going on. I bend down beside Kels and take her hand. "Come with me for a moment, chér. Lets talk, you and I, and decide what we want to do."
* * *
This is what I get for not packing my wooden stakes and holy water. I feel sick
at my stomach. I cant believe she followed us here. Harper settles me at
the kitchen table and gets me a glass of water before joining me. She takes one hand
while leaving the other free so I can sip my water. "I dont want her near
"I know, chér. I understand; believe me, I do."
"Okay, then its settled. We show her to the door."
She laughs softly, shaking her head. "No, chér. We dont."
All right, now, Im mad. "Dont you laugh at me, Harper Lee. And if you agree with me, then why arent you going out there and throwing that miserable bitch out of this house?"
"Im not laughing at you, Kels. And theres nothing Id like better to do exactly what you suggest. But -" she reaches out and caresses my cheek, turning those blue eyes on me, "we need to think long term and not short term. We give her a few minutes with them, with Mama and I in the room, then we show her the door. Next we talk to our lawyers. Im afraid of what she might try to pull. The more pissed off we make her, the more likely it is to happen."
"I dont want her to think she has any claim or right to our children. To let her see them will only encourage her."
"Maybe. Or it might appease her. Do you want to risk it? Lets let cooler heads prevail here, darlin. Then well nail her worthless hide to the wall. I promise."
I lean back and cross my arms. "Youre trying to tell me Im being less that reasonable, arent you?"
She smiles at me. "No. Im telling you that you are a wonderful mom. I am so happy that Brennan and Collin have you in their lives."
"Un-huh." I dont believe her for a minute. "All right. Fine. Looks like Im out-numbered here. You and Mama can let her see them. Ill stay here and call Beth."
"I love you, Kels. Heart and soul. I swear, Ill never let anything happen to our children."
"Neither will I, Tabloid. Even if I have to kill the bitch myself before this is over." I feel the anger rising up in my chest just like one other time. "I did it once, I can do it again. And to protect my children, I will. I swear I will."
She reaches her hand out to me and I lean forward and take it. "I know. Thats another reason why I love you. Let me get this over with, and you get Beth on the phone. Okay?"
* * *
Seeing my wife in this state makes me furious. I kiss her head and leave the kitchen. Anxious faces look up at me from the dining room table. "Mama, you and I will sit with Katherine for fifteen minutes, with Brennan and Collin. After that, she needs to leave."
Mama nods. She takes Brennan into her arms, straightening out her sleeper. Brennan lets out a huge burp and we all laugh, glad for the distraction. I take Collin from Amanda and we head toward the living room.
To her credit, Katherine is sitting quietly and not searching the room, as I expected. She looks up and smiles when she sees we have the babies.
"This is Collin Kingsley, and that is Brennan Kingsley." Mama and I sit down on the couch and turn the twins so that she can see them.
"They are beautiful. Brennan looks exactly like Kelsey did when she was born."
I smile at my little girl. She is precious. No wonder I love her. "She is gorgeous. She has a healthy appetite and gives us time to sleep."
"Kelsey was a quiet baby. She slept through the night in just a few weeks." She takes a deep breath, as if debating what to do. "May I?"
Oh God. I wished she hadnt asked. Mama looks to me for permission. I nod, reluctantly.
"Hello there, little girl. You look just like your mother. She was a beautiful baby too." She looks up at me. "Did Kelsey have any problems?"
I dont know how much Kels would want me to tell her. "Nothing too bad. Collin had to come by C-section, but otherwise, things went well." I kiss my boys fuzzy head.
"Was she in labor long?"
"No, she had it pretty easy, only about thirteen hours." I chuckle at my statement. "Of course, thats easy for me to say. Kels was doing all the hard work, I was just the cheering section."
Katherine seems to realize that her time here is at an end. She gently transfers Brennan back to Mama and stands over me, getting a better look at Collin. "I should be going."
Mama hands me Brennan and my arms are full of babies suddenly. "Ill see you out."
* * *
I feel a little better after talking with Beth. Theres nothing better than a pissed off lawyer whos on your side. Beth takes this affront personally, shes known my mother for a long time. They have a mutual hatred society going. There is no sneaky, low-down lawyer trick that she wont use on Mother. God, I love Beth.
I take a long drink of cold water, pleased to see that my hands arent shaking anymore. I hate that when I get angry I shake and want to cry. Im only crying because I know I cant kill the person whos pissing me off. Unfortunately, the other person doesnt know that.
I go out into the hallway and head toward the living room. I want to make sure the bitch isnt torturing them or sprinkling goats blood on them, or something like that. I am more than surprised when I see Harper all alone in the living room cooing at our children. Wandering over to the front door, I see Mama and Mother Stanton talking out front. Dont look in her eyes, Mama. Youll turn to stone.
Intrigued, I eavesdrop. You say one wrong thing to Mama and Ill go to jail tonight. Straight to jail. Do not pass go. Do not collect two hundred dollars.
"Thank you for convincing Kelsey to let me see them."
"I had nothing to do with it. It was Harper and Kelseys decision to make. Can I ask you a question, Katherine?"
And I was simply out numbered, you old bat, or it never would have happened.
"You seemed very gentle with Brennan, and had fond recollections of Kelsey as an infant, what went wrong? Ever since Harper brought her home, Kelsey has captured the hearts of my entire family. We have all fallen in love with her. It amazes me that her own mother doesnt feel that way about her."
She was what? She had what? I shake my head. I certainly didnt hear that right. This woman and I havent been able to have a civil conversation since I was eighteen. That was when I realized I didnt have to take it anymore.
"Things have happened between Kelsey and I since she reached adulthood. Things that make it impossible for us to be civil to each other apparently. She has decided I am evil incarnate." Your face is on wanted posters in churches lady, they depict you with horns and a tail. Mother shakes in anger. Thats where I get it. "I wont be treated badly by anyone. Including my own child."
You treated badly? What about me? What about the way I was treated? You get as good as you give, Mother.
Mama nods, taking it in. "Things happen in families. Thats why extra love is always needed. Lord knows, my five children didnt all turn out exactly as I expected them to, nor do I agree with everything they do. But blood is thicker than circumstance. And if you have so many problems with Kelsey, why were you asking about her labor and delivery? Why did you travel down here to see her children? Why did you take the time and effort it must have taken to discover she had given birth and was here in New Orleans?"
Yeah, come up with a good answer for why you chose to climb out of your coffin and come down here. Ill bet you travel with it. Must cost a fortune.
"To be honest, Im not sure. I remember a time in my life when I was happy. It was right after Kelsey was born. I guess I wanted to see if she was happy as well."
She wanted to see if I was happy? Why? Why does my happiness matter now? It never did before.
"She is. Id hate to see anything change that."
"So would I. Good evening, Mrs. Kingsley."
I draw back when she makes that last comment. She seemed so sincere, but my head is telling me not to trust her. She never means what she says and she always has an agenda.
"Good evening, Mrs. Stanton."
My mother leaves, walking over to her rental car parked street side. Mama turns around and sees me standing in the doorway. "Comment ca va, ma petit?"
How am I? How am I? I wish I knew. Confused. That word echoes through my mind as I run my hands through my hair. "You know, just when Im really sure I hate her more than anything, she does something almost decent. Is she trying to drive me insane?"
Mama shrugs. "Its hard to read the heart of someone who has hidden hers for many years. I think youre right not to give your trust. But you shouldnt hate her. In the end, that only diminishes you. And you, ma petit, are far too precious to lose even a tiny bit of."
This is the type of mom I want to be. I throw my arms around Mama and hug her tightly. "Thank you."
* * *
I cant sleep now. I know the witch is up to something. I can feel it.
Im in the living room, curled up on the couch with a cup of hot tea, a book and our wedding blanket. The twins are sleeping peacefully a few feet away and Kam is lying right between their bassinets.
He was so funny when we came home tonight. He sensed that something was wrong and I was upset about the babies. So he needed to see the babies first, sitting quite still beside the bassinets, watching us put them down before he was satisfied. Only once he was sure Brennan and Collin were safe and sound, then he demanded his walk.
Harper said he went out, made a quick trip into the yard and then wanted to come right back in. When he did, he lay down between our children and hes been there ever since. Hes trying to protect them for me. Youre a good doggie Kam, but if anyone is gonna bite her, I am.
I look down to the other end of the couch where Harper is sound asleep. I smile and shake my head. She absolutely refused to go to bed without us and now shes laying here on her stomach, one arm falling off the couch, the other wrapped under her pillow, her feet pressed up against my leg. Shes really out too, snoring softly. I reach out and run my finger over the bottom of her sock covered foot, the same way she does to Collin, and she jerks it away from me, grumbling.
My wife and my children share a lot of the same traits. No doubt about it, the babies are all Kingsley. Thank God.
A few feet away I catch the flutter of a little foot out of the corner of my eye. Its Collin. Now that had to be a coincidence. I look between his Mama and my sons bed. Still its weird no matter how you cut it.
Collins thrashing quickly becomes verbal and he begins crying. Loudly. Oh, my son is in need of a diaper change. The only time he really seems to throw a full blown fit is when he needs changing. Before I can get to my feet, the entire room is awake. Collins tantrum has awakened his sister, his Mama and his dog. Hes almost as good as I am.
Harper is running a hand across her face rubbing the sleep away. I discovered last week that this is a Kingsley trait. I was over at Robie and Renes helping Rene with a few things and he came down to the kitchen. He scratched his face all the way across the room and headed straight for the coffeepot. Must be in the genes. The only two things that keep people from confusing them entirely are Harper has long hair and Robie doesnt have breasts.
Harper is standing over the bassinets trying to decide who to help first. Shes blinking rapidly and shaking her head, trying to get rid of the cobwebs. I pick Brennan up and hand our daughter to her. "I think shes only miffed at her brother. Take her and lay down. I bet youll both go back to sleep."
She takes our daughter, cuddling her tight and goes back to the couch. She lays down, holding Brennan close to her chest and rubbing her back. I take Collin from his bed. Hes kicking and yelling and throwing a fit very worthy of me. A future celebrity here if I ever saw one.
"Its okay, Fuzzy, Im on it. I swear I am. Well get you all cleaned up and dry. Youre going to bust something if you keep this up."
He finally starts to calm down when he realizes hes in my arms. It doesnt take me long to make what was wrong in his world right. When hes dry and in a fresh sleeper, we spend a few minutes playing. Hes holding the index finger of each of my hands and Im giving his cheeks little kisses. His tiny body jerks and he makes soft mewing sounds, smacking his lips together. Now hes going to want his midnight snack.
I pick him up and head for the kitchen. "Guess what, mighty mouth. Mommy needs a little time off here. Youre getting a bottle." He kicks, his entire body stretching out in the crook of my arm. "Yeah, well, tough. Trust me, Fuzzy, its not the end of the world."
"Yes, it is," Harper intones when she enters the kitchen right behind us. "Make that for two, will you, please?" She drops a kiss to Brennans head. "I knew something was up when I got bit."
I chuckle and take out another bottle.
Settled back down on the couch, the twins are taking the bottles without hesitation. Kam is satisfied that weve done our job as parents and hes sleeping again. Harper is yawning, but Im still wondering what my mother has up her sleeve.
But, for right now, everyone is happy, warm and safe.
And Ill do anything I have to in order to keep it that way.
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