When I got home that night, I was quite depressed. I played with each of the kids, making sure to spend an equal amount of time with each of them. They were getting so old, so soon. Looking into their faces I knew I made the right decision. There were more important things than money, but children were expensive. And my kids were three of the most important things in my life.
I began keeping a diary of sorts, writing down little things I noticed around Acinert and Ancora. I didn’t go looking for anything. I did my job, and I did it well; but I also kept my eyes out. As the days turned to weeks, and the weeks into months, I started compiling quite a list of questions and theories. I didn’t dare ask Kellen anything since I didn’t want him to get worried about me.
The triplets were getting older and I was desperate to spend more time with them. Kellen was able to spend a little more time with them than I was, but I did my best. I knew deep down I wasn’t exactly being the best mother but I was being the best I could be.
I stopped seeing Jay much at work which was a relief. I still spent some time with Kay when he was around but it seemed that a lot of times he was out of his office. I wondered where they went, what else they were doing. No, I told myself. I can’t think about that.
Before I knew it, the triplets were turning five. Five! It was hard to believe they were this old already. Life was zipping by. I didn’t like it. As we bought cakes and set up decorations, I wished that they were staying little just a little while longer.
“Lune?” Kellen whispered, noticing the look on my face.
“Oh Kellen!” I spun around. “I’m a bad mother.”
“Oh! No, no, sweetie, you’re not!” His arms were around me, comforting me. We could hear the triplets in the other room, playing with their toys and babbling about their birthdays. “Why would you say that?” he asked, rubbing my arms, trying to make me feel better.
“I’ve missed so much of their lives…” I whimpered.
“You’re busy at work, and you’re at home whenever you can be,” he said, looking me in the eyes. “You haven’t worked over the weekend for ages. You’re a wonderful mother.”
I pressed my lips tightly together, squeezing my eyes shut. “Maybe your mom is right,” I whispered in a very low voice. “Maybe both parents working is a bad thing.”
Kellen didn’t say anything for several seconds and then I felt his lips against my forehead. “If you feel that strongly about it, can I ask you why you continue your job? I’m not saying you should quit, but I’m just curious to know why you stay on if you feel this way.”
I shrugged, pulling away from him to get the candles out of the drawer. Fifteen candles, five for each of them. “I like working,” I admitted. “And… I want the best for our kids. Good schools, good colleges. And with them getting older–Kell, we’re going to have to add on to the house again. Two boys, one girl–in that tiny room?”
He was nodding, leaning back against the counter and looking rather sexy. “You’re right. We do need to add on. I think we should get Viola her own room, and soon. It’s not fair to ask her to share with her brothers.”
I wrinkled my brow as I looked up at him. “You think I should just keep going at Acinert, then?”
“I think that you, my dear, should do what you want to do,” he said, slipping over to me so he could put his hands on my waist. “We have some money tucked away at the bank and I’ll still be working.”
“Things would be tight over time, though,” I mumbled, more to myself than to him. “They’ll need school supplies, clothes, doctor visits, medicine, food, entertainment…” I adjusted my glasses, as if trying to see the future. “Plus insurance, and oh my gosh–that’s going to go up when they learn to drive. All three, at the same time. And–“
He cut me off with a kiss. “Are you happy with status quo?”
“No,” I said bluntly.
“What’s wrong with status quo?” he asked, carefully pulling the truth from me.
“I–I feel like I should be doing more!” I sighed. “I want to be like my mother but…”
“Oh hun, nobody can be like your mother,” he chuckled, giving me a little squeeze. “Just like nobody can be you! Besides, both your parents were there with you growing up, right? Since your father lived on selling his paintings and your mom never worked. Is that why you feel like we should be here all the time? Because your parents were?”
I stared into his eyes for a while, thinking hard. Was that the reason? “I love my kids,” I said slowly and he put a finger to my lips.
“So do I, but just because you work when your parents worked from home does not make you any less a parent. I know my mom says that one of us needs to be staying home, but that’s how she feels about things.” He replaced his finger with his lips, giving me a gentle, reassuring kiss. “All families are different. And having three kids, at the same age… that is going to be expensive, you are very right in that. We have so much we need to do. And soon they’ll be starting school! So they’ll be out of the home almost as long as you are.”
I pulled away from him to grab the candles. “You’re right,” I said. “And I do want to give them each a little bit of money when they become adults, so they can have a bit of a head start on their lives…” I dug through the drawer to find matches or a lighter. “You are completely right. And I do love working.”
“And you see them more than some parents see their kids,” he pointed out.
I spun around, smiling brightly now. “Thanks Kellen. Now come on. We have birthdays to celebrate.”
Viola, as the eldest, went first. Kellen helped her to blow out the candles but she made her own wish. Then he set her down and we waited for the sparkles to take our baby and turn her into a full-fledged kid.
Oh, she was so cute and I could see that she was going to be so pretty when she grew up. My heart skipped a little beat at the thought of raising a teenaged daughter. She looked wonderingly at her hands then beamed up at us.
Next was Sebastian, who seemed rather anxious as he grew up. But he gave us a faint smile and I noticed his eyes were squinting a bit. Perhaps a trip to the optometrist was in order.
Finally Cesario, who was obviously pleased at getting older. “Look at me, mommy!” he exclaimed as soon as he was done, puffing out his chest and looking proud. I had the feeling he was going to be as much a troublemaker as always.
After we finished dinner, each of the kids took a turn talking to my parents. Mom and Dad had wanted to come but I told them we just wanted a small party, nothing big. Mostly because I didn’t went them traveling. When I had last talked to Orion, he voiced his concerns about how much older both of them seemed. I wanted to shut this out, but I knew I couldn’t. So I promised them a visit as soon as we could make it which turned out to be just a month later. I was really sad when I saw that Orion was right. Mom and Dad were getting much older, and that terrified me.
“How do you like school?” I looked up at the kids, already knowing their answers from the looks on their faces. Cesario was excited, Sebastian miserable, and Viola sort of in between. They had started kindergarten, and I was anxious to know how it went.
Cesario piped up first. “I loved it!” he squealed, poking his food with his fork in a way that made me worry it’d go everywhere. “I met lossa odder kids and we had lossa fun! Teacher likes me cuz she said she, ummm…” He tapped his chin, trying to think. “Dat she will have to gonna keep a special eye on me!” He beamed at that and it was all I could do not to giggle.
Kellen was grinning. “I bet she did,” he said, rolling his eyes at me. “How about you, Vi?”
Viola was staring quietly at her food, swinging her legs. “It was okay ‘cept the other kids laugh when Seb cried.”
“I did not cry!” Sebastian said, his face blossoming with red. “I had somethin’ in my eye. I didn’t cry! I didn’t!”
“Uh-huh!” Cesario said, poking his brother. “You cwied. Like a baby.”
Sebastian’s face crumpled and I quickly put my hand on his shoulder. “Zari! Don’t make fun of your brother, and even if he did cry, there is nothing wrong with crying.”
“I didn’t cry,” Sebastian pouted, burying his face in my chest. “An’ I don’t like it, the other kids are mean! An’ all we do is baby stuff, like Zari likes!” He shot a dirty look at his brother. “Like toys an’ nap. I wanted to look at the books, but–but–but the other kids laugh at me.” He wiped his nose against my shirt and I smoothed down his hair. Sebastian was very smart and he needed a challenge, a little more than Viola or Cesario. I suspected the first day had been a lot of play, and not much of a challenge.
“It will get better,” I promised him, carefully wiping his face off with my napkin. “Some kids take to a new environment quickly, and others… well, it takes a little of time. I always had trouble, too.”
“Don’t worry,” Viola said with a smile. “I ‘ill look out for ya, Sebby. Zari ‘ill too.”
Cesario made a face but nodded. “I guess… If they laugh at you ‘gain den I’ll push ’em over.”
“No you will not!” Kellen said firmly. “I don’t want any of you pushing anyone around. Fighting is not good. If the other kids are laughing then just go to another part of the room.”
Viola nodded, Cesario rolled his eyes, and Sebastian looked ready to cry again.
As autumn advanced, the kids got used to school and eventually Sebastian stopped coming home in tears every day. Viola spent her time with her new friends, playing house and with dolls and telling jokes. Judging from what I heard from her brothers, she seemed to be very popular which made me both happy and nervous. Popularity was something I was a bit uneasy with and I hoped I wouldn’t have to get too much advice from Temp.
Cesario spent his days rough-housing and getting into trouble, surprise, surprise. I would get a note from his teacher about how he and his friend released the frogs, or stuck play-dough down someone’s pants, or this, or that. When I or Kellen talked to him about it, he just seemed proud of himself and said that the other kids were just ‘dumb’.
Sebastian didn’t talk about the other kids much, but the teacher had noticed his problem and was giving him some stuff to do. He preferred trying to read or write over playing with the other kids and he did get teased for it, but the teasing slowed down. After a while he made another friend who liked to play quietly and I was mighty glad to hear about that.
Kellen and I started talking about the idea of another kid but we both agreed it wasn’t time yet, and weren’t even sure if there ever would be a right time for it. I wasn’t too keen on the idea of going through pregnancy and labor again, as much as I adored my kids. Plus it was hard enough giving enough attention evenly to the three of them; a fourth would just make things more difficult. And who knew? The triplets came out of no where and if we tried again, I was worried we’d wind up with two or three more. And just the thought of more kids made me feel exhausted, so it looked like for now it would just be our three little sweethearts.
But that wasn’t to say Kellen and I didn’t, ah, practice. Just in case.