A musical toy turned out to be the best thing I bought for Kyle. He took to it right away, plinking away on the little keys. Best of all, he loved it when I joined him for some father/son jamming.
“Badadada,” he sang, looking up at me then back down at the xylophone. “LA LA LA LA!”
Penny came into the room and smiled. I bent down and looked at Kyle. “Remember what I taught you? Ready?”
He stuck his tongue out, nodding. I straightened up and began strumming some more. Kyle banged the xylophone and shrieked out, “BOO EYEV!! BOOO EYEV!”
Penny started giggling and I grinned at her. “Are you singing about my eyes?” she asked and Kyle nodded, sticking the xylophone hammer in his mouth. She came over and scooped him up, tickling his belly. “You two should go to the park, I am sure everyone would love the duo.”
I winked at her and set my guitar down. “How did your checkup go?”
“Oh!” She looked a bit startled. “It went well. I am a regular woman, like I told you.” She hesitated and then hiked Kyle a little higher on her hip. “Why don’t you go ahead and go sell that painting and when you get back, I do want to tell you something.”
I kissed her then Kyle and went to get dressed. The local coffee shop had offered quite a bit of money for a custom painting and I was a bit nervous. But my nerves were moot since they loved it and gave me six HUNDRED simoleons for it. I was so excited and couldn’t wait to tell Penny.
When I got home, she nearly pounced on me. “How did it go?” she asked.
“Great,” I said, showing her the money.
“Good!” she said, eyes widening at the money. “We will need that very soon.”
“How come?” I asked, tucking the money back into my pocket. “Are you okay?” I looked at her, suddenly worried the checkup had shown something bad.
“I have very important news to you. I think you should brace yourself–I’M PREGNANT!”
I just stared at her, trying to process this news. “You… you’re…” I looked into her beaming face and then down at her stomach. “R-really? Penny? Pregnant?”
“Yes!” she squealed, hopping up and down. “I am actually pregnant, Calcifer! I told you it would happen! Are you happy?”
“Oh Penny, I am more than happy! This is amazing! Oh sweetie!” I pulled her against me, wrapping my arms around her. She hugged tightly back, still making squealing noises. “This is so wonderful! We’re going to have another baby!”
I held her tightly, my chest close to bursting point. “Calcifer, I am so happy,” she breathed out into my ear. “I am going to have a baby! I am going to have your baby! A baby! You and me! It will be you and me.”
I pulled back, grinning broadly. “This is so exciting! Oh my gosh, we have so much to do. We should move the nursery into our studio. We’ll need to buy another crib. We need to–“
“Cal!” she laughed. “Calm down. We have seven months to fix everything up!”
I laughed as well and hugged her again. “I love you so much!”
“I love you too!” she replied. “What should we tell Kyle? And when should we tell him?”
I looked over at his bedroom door and frowned slightly in thought. “We might as well tell him soon. Just let him know he’s going to be a big brother.” I stroked her hair gently and pulled her against me even more.
Penny was overjoyed about what was going on. She kept rubbing her stomach and trying to get me to listen in, though she was certainly not far enough in. But I indulged her and spent quite a bit of time with her fingers gently rubbing the little bump that was growing. She spent even more time doing that.
“Hi baby,” I heard her whispering one night when I was mostly asleep. “Mommy can’t wait to meet you. Daddy can’t wait. And you will have a big brother. His name is Kyle. You two will be wonderful friends.”
When we told Kyle, he got really excited. He would often want to be in Penny’s arms so he could pat her tummy. “Behbee,” he said. “Imma brubber!”
I hoped he kept up that excitement after the baby was born. I would be sure to spend as much time with him as I did with the new baby. I didn’t want either of them to lack in attention or love.
I made sure to give plenty of attention and love to Penny. I started massaging her almost daily, giving her shoulder massages, back massages, foot massages. I also bought her some coupons for the spa so she could go get pampered when I was unable to rub away the ache in her body.
I also started thinking, more and more, about my promises to my father. I had made Penny real. I had a beautiful wife, a wonderful son, and another baby on the way. I needed to fulfill my final promise. I needed to find the twins and get revenge…
Revenge is a dish best served cold, I thought one evening as I waited for Penny to finish giving Kyle a bath. It had been so many years but I still burned at wanting revenge. Getting Peanuts–as Kyle started calling the doll–made me realize how much they were still around. Sometimes in town I would get dark looks and I’d wonder if it was because of what THEY did to my father. Sometimes late at night I would remember the other kids in school testing me. And sometimes in the darkest hours, I would have those old being-mobbed-by-townspeople nightmares.
I decided to wait, though. I wanted to wait until my children were a bit older. When Kyle and the new baby were in school… then I would start my attempts again. In the meantime, I would just be the best husband and father I could be.
One day, about six months into the pregnancy, I found Penny crying after one of her appointments. I immediately went to her side, worried. “What is it?” I whispere, rubbing her back gently.
“I don’t want to go to the hospital to have this baby!” she cried, pressing her face into my chest. “I can’t!”
“Why not?” I asked, pushing her back and holding her shoulders so I could look in her eyes.
“Th-the doctor and n-nurses!” she wailed. “I hate my appointments. I don’t want them anymore. I don’t want to go to the hospital anymore. It is so gross!”
“Why is it gross?” I asked, wondering if someone had said something to her.
“Because they will see me!” she sniffle,d angrily wiping a tear away. “The doctors and nurses will see my body and I don’t want them to! It is ugly!”
I stared at her for a moment then pulled her close against me once more. Ever since we started being intimate, I had discovered Penny’s disgust of her body. It wasn’t anything normal like she felt too fat or too thin, or whatever. She just hated her bare body, plain and simple. She insisted it was ‘icky looking’ and even admitted it was silly, but after spending twenty-some years in an androgynous cloth body… having a human body was just weird to her. She despised being nude, she never let me see her. She even took her baths in a bathing suit. Being intimate was fine since we were in a dark room under the covers but whenever I tried anything with lights on, she would give me the cold shoulder. It no longer bothered me, I didn’t mind. I just liked her being comfortable.
“Darling,” I said, trying to calm her down. “Your body doesn’t look weird to them. They’re used to seeing… females like that.”
“I don’t want them!” She pushed me away and glared. “I want a home birth. It is perfectly safe. Women do it all the time. I am reading about it. I want to do this. Please! I cannot let the people at the hospital see me, it is too shameful.”
“If we have a home birth then someone will be here with you,” I pointed out.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Women have babies by themselves. I am reading about it. I can do it. Please, I do not want anyone seeing me!”
I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples, feeling rather exhausted by this. I knew that home births were common and simple. I just preferred being at the hospital in case of… anything. “Okay,” I reluctantly agreed. “But at the tiniest sign of complications, I am calling a doctor!”
Penny smiled and hugged me tightly. “Thank you.”
We got things ready for the home birth. I talked to doctors and they all assured me it was safe. I wasn’t convinced and started panicking every time Penny said something. Her craving key lime pie made me flip out, needing an extra pillow caused a lot of stress, and when the baby kicked–I was ready to drag her to the hospital.
We finally reached the final month and I was on edge. I kept making sure Penny wanted a home birth but she promised she did.
When the labor pains came late one night, I completely lost it. As Penny clutched her swollen belly and yelled in pain, I danced in the corner, screaming as well.
“Hospital!” I wailed, my arms flapping everywhere. “Please! Let me take you to the hospital!”
“Nooo!” she cried. “I don’t want the doctors to see me! AHHH!” She doubled over, clutching at her stomach. “Cal, I can handle this I know what to do! Just go to the other room, you are making things harder!”
I backed out of the bedroom and stood in the front room, feeling sick as she shrieked in pain. I wanted to call a doctor. This much pain wasn’t right, was it? Penny… I went over to the door and pressed my face against it. Please be okay.
“MAMA!” I heard Kyle screaming. “DADA!”
I went to his room and scooped him up, bringing him back into the main room. He whimpered and clung to me, looking at the door in fear. Holding Kyle close helped keep me calm. Especially since the screams were getting softer. Was she okay?
“Dada,” Kyle said and I hugged him tightly. There was a second of silence and then I heard a new noise. I turned towards the door, staring. Was that…? “Behbee?” Kyle asked, wriggling in my arms. “Behbee cwy,” he told me, patting my cheek.
A smile crept across my face. I had another child!
The next couple of hours stretched on forever. I helped clean up the mess and get Penny and the baby clean. Kyle went crazy, demanding to see ‘behbee’. Once Penny was able to walk, she and I went into the main room so we could get out of the heaviness of the bedroom.
“He’s beautiful,” I said, cradling my son in my arms. I kissed Penny gently and then went back to looking down at Orion, as Penny had chosen for the heavenly stars above us the night I proposed.
“I’ll get Kyle,” Penny said and went to his room.
“Hey there,” I said, touching Orion’s hand gently. “Hey sweetie. I’m your Daddy. This is Mommy,” I said as Penny returned. “And this is your big brother Kyle.”
“Behbee,” Kyle said, staring down at the baby. “Behbee brudder?”
“Yes,” I said. “This is your baby brother. His name is Orion.”
Kyle pursed his lips and peered a little closer. “Hi Wion,” he said, waving his hand. Penny let out a small giggle and her gaze met mine. I grinned at her and reached over, taking her hand and pulling my wife and other son against me. The three of us looked back at Orion who was squinting up towards us. Penny put her head on my shoulder and I slid my arm over her shoulder and squeezed.
It was hard to imagine that I had ever felt anything but pure joy. The dark days of my teenage years were swirling away. And the hatred I once felt was starting to slowly melt away too, leaving me with the shining pride of my family.