8

Exes and Whys

With three toddlers at home, every day is a busy day. Today is especially busy because it’s their birthday, and I’m planning a small party for them. I get an early start by driving to the grocery store to pick up their birthday cakes.

As I’m walking towards the entrance, I see Charles. He looks as handsome as ever, dressed like a proper southern gentleman, even in this desert heat. From several feet away, I can smell his familiar scent, and it reminds me of being in Charles’s arms, with my face buried in his neck. I feel a sudden flush of desire wash over me, followed by guilt over having these feelings for my ex while I’m with Jasper and carrying his child.

Whoa. I’ll bet that’s what it is. Jasper told me I’d experience heightened senses while I’m pregnant with his child. Libido especially. Mm-hmm. Yep. Knock it off, little one. You’re going to get your mommy in trouble.

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“Good morning, Jill. I haven’t seen you in a while. How are you?”

“Hi, Charles. I’m doing well. It’s so good to see you.”

“How are Molly and Megan?”

“Our daughters are typical teenagers, Charles. You should come see them. In fact, I’m having a birthday party tonight for my triplets. I’d love it if you’d join us.”

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“Well, I don’t have any plans tonight. So, if you’re sure….”

“Charles, I wouldn’t have invited you if I didn’t want you to come.”

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“I suppose that’s true, darlin’. Yes, all right, then. I’ll come.”

“Fabulous! Come over anytime after 6:00. And bring your swimsuit. It’s a pool party.”

“See you then, darlin’.”

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Later that day, after getting ready for the party, I get a call from Lucas.

“Hey, Mom. About the party tonight…”

“You are coming, aren’t you?”

“Yeah, Mom. Logan and I will be there, but Al can’t make it. This is a little weird, but would it be OK if Al’s mom comes to the party? She overheard Al and me talking about it and seemed a little too interested. So, it was awkward to not invite her.”

I chuckled. “Sounds like you’re asking for forgiveness, not permission. It’s a done deal already, isn’t it?”

“Well, yeah. I suppose it is. You’re not mad, are you?”

“Of course not, son. You have a big heart. I’d expect nothing less from you.”

“You’re the best, Mom. See you soon.”

“Bye, Lucas.”

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I went up to the babies’ room to get them ready for the party. Molly and Megan brought the boys downstairs, and I was about to pick up Natalie when I got a call from Charles, saying he was running late. As I was saying goodbye, Christopher entered the room. I hadn’t seen him since the babies were born. Things had been awkward between us since I found out Kendra had kissed him while I was pregnant with his children. My own daughter kissing my boyfriend. Fine, we were just ‘friends with benefits.’ But that was still wrong on so many levels.

“Hey, Jill. I figured I’d find you up here.”

“Hey, Christopher. Yep. I’m about to bring Natalie downstairs so we can get the party started.”

“Sounds good. Let’s do it.”

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Christopher walked out the door ahead of me and nearly walked into Al’s mom. As they made eye contact, I could see they were attracted to one another. God, Christopher. You’re such a flirt.

Molly had just come up the stairs. “Mom, why are you still up here?” She saw Christopher and just said, “Oh.”

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Logan came into the hall from his old room and I heard him gasp. I suppose he was surprised to see Christopher blatantly flirting with Al’s mom, too.

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Natalie was the first of the triplets to blow out the candles on her cake. Lucas and Megan cheered her on.

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When Natalie aged up, she became a Bookworm, as well as being a Perceptive child who Loves the Outdoors.

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Next up was Nicholas. By then, Charles had arrived, and Logan and Christopher had come downstairs to join the party. I was happy to see Christopher finally participating in the festivities for his children.

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When Nicholas aged up, he became Absent-Minded, as well as being a Brave child and a Heavy Sleeper.

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Finally, it was Noah’s turn to blow out his candles. I don’t know what happened between Christopher, Logan and Molly, but they all seemed perturbed and waited out in the hallway while we celebrated Noah’s birthday.

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When Noah aged up, he became Easily Impressed. He is an Evil child who Loves the Outdoors. I’ll have to keep an eye on him to be sure he stays out of trouble. He is the only one out of the triplets to have Christopher’s dark hair, although all three have his intense alien eyes.

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After everyone had cake, I put away the leftovers. By now, most of our guests are gone, leaving just Logan and Charles.

“Looks like the party’s over. I guess it’s time for me to go.”

“Charles, stay. Please? Dance with me.”

“Darlin’, I don’t know if that would be wise.” Charles looks down at my swollen belly and then meets my eyes. “Clearly, you’re involved with someone else.”

“Jasper works nights, so he won’t be stopping by. I just want to dance with you, Charles. As friends. No funny business. Promise.”

Smiling sweetly, Charles responds, “OK, darlin’. Just dancing. I’d like that.”

A fast song is playing on the radio, and Charles and I dance. I’m watching Charles sway his hips to the beat. Realizing what I’m doing, I look away before Charles notices.

Hey, get your mind out of the gutter before you give Charles the wrong idea. Geez, this baby is making my hormones run amok. Thank God it’s nearly my due date. It’ll be a relief to feel normal again. Is this what Jasper feels like all the time, I wonder? That would help explain his insatiable sex drive.

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The song ends, and Charles says with a smile, “Thank you for the dance, darlin’.”

“You’re welcome, kind sir.”

A slow, sultry tune begins next, and Charles opens his arms and says, “What do you say, darlin’?”

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Stepping into Charles’s arms, I say, “I’d love to dance with you, Charles.” Charles leads me in a dance, my pregnant belly resting against his toned abs. I breathe in his masculine scent while enjoying the feel of his hand gently stroking the bare skin on my lower back. Trying to keep my libido in check, I concentrate on breathing deeply, but that just brings more of Charles’s scent into my nostrils.

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This is a vicious cycle, I think to myself, and all of a sudden, my water breaks and I’m hit with a wave of contractions. Charles is startled and isn’t quite sure what to do.

“Charles, I’m OK. Can you please grab my overnight bag from my bedroom?”

“Yes, of course, and then I’ll drive you to the hospital.”

“Thank you. That’d be great.”

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Charles brings me to the hospital and offers to stay with me. “Thank you, Charles. You’re very sweet, but that’s not a good idea. Jasper, my boyfriend, is very jealous — and he’s a vampire. I’m sure he’ll come as soon as I call him.”

“I understand completely, darlin’. I don’t want to cause you any trouble. Just making certain you’re OK.” Charles kisses me on the cheek and wishes me the best with the delivery.

The nurse puts me in a wheelchair, and I call Jasper to let him know what’s happening. Jasper says, “I’ll be there in a flash.” And he is. Jasper is by my side throughout labor and delivery.

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After several hours of labor, I give birth to twin boys. Our firstborn, Owen, is a blonde-haired, brown-eyed human. He’s a Good baby and a Virtuoso.

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Arriving mere moments later, Oliver is a mini-Jasper, a vampire with jet black hair and vibrant, gray-blue eyes. Oliver is Brave but also Insane.

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After getting the babies home, it takes a few days to settle into a routine. Today the boys are upstairs napping, so the rest of us take advantage of the beautiful weather and spend a few hours outside.

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My garden’s been growing, and that leaves me with a lot of weeding to do.

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From here, I can hear the kids talking because voices carry by the pool. I doubt they know that. Mom’s little secret.

From the tone of Molly’s voice and the half conversation I hear, she must be on the phone with a boy. Her voice drifts away as she must be walking towards the other side of the house.

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A few minutes later, I hear Megan on the phone. She sounds a little less sure of herself than Molly did, but that doesn’t surprise me. She must be talking to a boy, too. She’s giggling and seems to be hanging on his every word. She’s much more talkative with her girlfriends, so it’s a dead giveaway.

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My weeding complete, I’m just about to come around the corner to the backyard when I hear Molly say, “Trying to get yourself a date to the prom, Meg? The best looking guy in school is already taken. Ethan’s going with me.”

“You’re asking Ethan? Doesn’t he have a girlfriend?”

“Maybe. I don’t care. And I didn’t have to ask him. He asked me.”

“Seriously? You don’t even care that he has a girlfriend?”

“Listen. I’m the prettiest girl at school. Of course, the best looking guy is going to ask me to prom. And I’ll be crowned Prom Queen. Just wait and see.”

“God, Molly. You’re so full of yourself.”

I’m not getting in the middle of this, but I’m disappointed in Molly. She’s become such a snob. I don’t know where her sense of entitlement comes from, but I certainly didn’t raise her to think she’s better than anyone else.

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I head in the house and look for something I can prepare quickly for lunch. Hot dogs, it is. I pop them in the microwave, and I hope for just enough time to eat and grab a quick shower before the boys wake up and want my attention.

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I manage to finish eating before they wake up, but the shower will have to wait. Nicholas yells from upstairs, “Mommy, the babies are awake.”

“OK, sweetie. Thanks. I’ll be right up.”

I get both boys fed, and then it’s bath time. Oliver looks so different when his hair’s wet and not styled in his usual faux-hawk. The twins love their bubble baths. It’s probably best that I waited for my shower since I’m now soaked from all their splashing anyway. Little boys are so much more rambunctious than little girls.

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When I leave them, they’re happily playing with their toys, and I ask their older siblings to check in on them periodically.

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After I shower and get dressed, I call Jasper to see if he wants to come over. Just hearing his voice makes me smile. But when he says he can’t make it, I’m disappointed. Even though the raging lust I felt during my pregnancy has abated, I haven’t seen Jasper in a while, and I miss him. I know we won’t have much longer together, and I want to make the most of it. I guess it’ll be an early night after all.

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The next morning, the kids head off to school, and it’s just the boys and me. I love how their little faces light up when they see I’m coming to get them out of their cribs. Oliver is closest to the door, so I start with him. After a quick diaper change, I put him on the floor so he can use the potty. I’ve trained both Owen and Oliver, so we have less stinky diapers now.

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Now, Owen wants my attention. I change his diaper, too, and put him down on the floor so he can use the potty like a big boy.

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Afterwards, I feed them both breakfast and get them dressed. I watch Oliver play with the peg box while Owen plays nearby at the block table.

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Once the kids are home from school, I can take a peaceful shower. I come back to the babies’ room, and the boys are nowhere in sight. I can hear Megan talking, so I assume they’re with her. When I enter her room, I see both my boys playing with the dollhouse, or should I say chewing on the dolls. They’re typical toddlers — everything goes in their mouths.

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Megan is inviting someone over to hang out. I wonder if it’s that boy she was talking to the other day? I’m curious who he is.

As Megan turns around and sees me, she blushes. “Mom, were you eavesdropping?”

“No, honey. I was looking for your brothers. Why? Do you have something to be embarrassed about?”

“No. Frazier’s coming over, and I don’t want you to make a big deal about it. OK?”

“Okaaaaay, but who’s Frazier?

“He’s just a boy at school. He’ll be here in a little while, and I have to change. Can I have some privacy?”

“Sure, honey. Just help me wrangle these two back into their rooms, and then we’ll leave you alone.”

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Megan changes clothes and goes downstairs to wait for Frazier. I head down shortly after her to start preparing dinner. They’re in the backyard, and the windows are open. So, I can hear enough of their conversation to get the gist of it. After talking for a while, Megan gets up the nerve to ask Frazier to prom. I hold my breath until he says, “Sure, Meg. I’ll take you to prom.”

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The radio is on outside, and it’s on a Top 40 station. A slow song begins to play, and Frazier says, “I don’t dance very often; so, let’s see if I remember how. Dance with me, Meg?”

“Sure. I could use the practice, too.”

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When the song ends, Frazier is looking at my Meg as though he likes her. He seems like a good kid, and my daughter looks happy. Prom is just a couple nights from now. I can’t wait to see my girls all dolled up.

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On Thursday morning, while the older kids are at school, I teach Owen how to walk. Then both he and Oliver spend the rest of the morning playing. Oliver isn’t as much of a fan of building things with blocks as he is of chewing them. I’m sensing a trend.

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Later that day, after the kids have come home from school, I decide I’m going to register as a professional painter. My painting skills have improved quite a bit to the point where I can make a decent income. Once I’m registered, I may have an opportunity for commissioned paintings. It seems like a good move. Because I have to go to City Hall to sign the papers, I change into a dress to look a bit more professional. I don’t own any business suits, so this will have to do.

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I did it. I’m officially a painter. I’m proud of myself. And yet, my mind wanders to Jasper. He hasn’t called me in a while, and the last few times I called him, he was too busy to see me. I’m going to have to end it with him soon anyway. I might as well try and do it tonight. This is as good a place as any — nice and public, just in case. Jasper loves me, but he has a hell of a temper. I don’t want to have this conversation around the kids; that’s for sure.

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I dial Jasper’s cell phone, and he picks up on the second ring.

“Hello, sweetness.”

“Hi, Jasper. I’m at City Hall. Can you please come and meet me?”

“Why? What are you doing at City Hall?”

“Please, Jasper. It’s important that we talk tonight. In person.” Before I lose my nerve.

“I’ll be right there,” he says, hanging up. With preternatural speed, Jasper appears at City Hall.

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He walks over to me and takes my hands. “Sweetness, what’s wrong? Tell me.”

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“Jasper, you know I love you, but we can’t be together anymore. As much as it pains me, now that the babies have been born, I have to let you go.”

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“WHAAAAT? You’re breaking up with me? You can’t do that! You’re MINE!”

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“Eeek! Jasper, you’re scaring me. Stop it!”

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Jasper stares at me with disdain, a low growl emanating from his throat.

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“I”m sorry, Jasper. Please don’t look at me like that.”

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“Come on. We talked about this. I agreed to be yours FOR NOW, Jasper, NOT forever. You knew this time was coming. Is that why you’ve been avoiding me?”

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“No. I was not avoiding you. A friend needed my help on a job. Had I known you were going to break up with me, I would’ve spent every minute I could with you.”

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“Can we still be friends, Jasper?”

Jasper scoffs. “Maybe in time, sweetness, but not now. I have a gaping hole in my chest where my heart used to be. I can’t be around you right now.”

Looking into Jasper’s sad eyes, I’m having a hard time holding back the tears. I choke out the words, “Goodbye, Jasper,” as I slowly turn and walk towards the parking lot. When I get into my car, I let the tears flow. I know Jasper can hear me, but I have to let it out before I go home to the kids. At least he’ll know this wasn’t any easier on me than it was on him. I whisper, “I’ll miss you, Jasper.” I turn to see him still standing in the same place, staring at me with those sad, hauntingly beautiful eyes and wish my life wasn’t so damn complicated.

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Author’s Note:  I’m having surgery on Wednesday and will be unable to respond to comments for 2-3 weeks because I need to limit my keyboard use. I can “like” a comment on my iPhone, but typing on it is a pain. Thanks for understanding.