Gurgles, little bits of sickness, little bits of sentimentality and bigger bits and all that is to come.
Sean and I spent the morning working on the kitchen and playing with the girls. We took them to Nana's at 2pm. Avery still punctuated each sentence with a sniffle, tilting her head down and building up with such force that she would end up on tip-toes. Briar, neck looking impossibly long and her dress hanging loosely on her angular frame, has been eating sporadically, each bite tentative and gentle as if she might wake up the 'hiccuping' muscle.
We ran errands, picked up lunch and headed for home. "I love having time with you," Sean said, one hand on the wheel, the other holding my hand. "I love our girls, love playing with them, but I love having time with you, too. I love you."
I watched his profile, little flutters in my tummy, not from the baby, but from the 25 year old I was when I met Sean. "Oh, babe, I love you too...am in love with you." We held hands the rest of the way home. I carried our salads in the house and began setting them up on the table. Sean set out the three stools we bought for the island.
He had said to me in the store, "So, you like them?" pointing at the stools.
"Yes," I chirped and pointed to my favorite.
"We'll get three?" He asked to which I said, "Three?"
He smiled at me, "We're going to have three girls to sit at that island with you."
It wasn't that I hadn't considered this, but I guess I hadn't imagined three girls, three teenagers, three fully realized people with us as we broke the stools in, I was buying seats, Sean was peeking at memories on the horizon. The environs of the store seemed to fade away as I drifted off imagining pony tails, knees and tennis shoes filling the house. Laughter and questions lapped at my ears and then there was a hand on the small of my back. Sean. His eyes and smile so much like Briar's, I nodded, "Yes, three."
We tidied things up around the house until it was time to pick the girls up. The phone rang. Nana. Listening to Sean's end of the line I was sure something had gone wrong, the stomach bug? I waited and held my breath as he hung up. "She asked if they were ok to stay until 8:30."
We looked at the clock, 2.5 more hours. It was like being sixteen and out on the night the clocks turned back. Extra time. Unexpected, slightly forbidden seeming time. Being pregnant, exhausted and sick, we didn't exactly go wild. Honestly? We added felt protectors to the bottoms of the stools, took pictures of the kitchen progress and had a mini-picnic on the kitchen island.
"Oooh, ooooh, please change the station before I start crying," I squealed as I heard the first strains of the song Stealing Cinderella. He turned and smiled at me. "No, seriously, please turn it. You have to turn it," I squeaked as I crammed a chip in my mouth and began crunching it as loud as I could.
She was Playing Cinderella
"I really cannot listen to it."
Riding her first bike
"I am just going to keep talking until you change it or the song ends. Please believe me." He walked over to the radio and turned it up.
Bouncing on the bed and looking for a pillow fight
"No, it's like I have no armor. It will break me. Please."
Running through the sprinkler with a big popsicle grin
"Honey," I said half laughing and half whimpering.
He walked over to me with tears welling in his eyes. I looked up at him.
Dancing with her dad, looking up at him
He wrapped me in his arms and we stood together as the song played on, images of our girls, all three of them, danced in our heads. The tears came and I felt a familiar pain, the searing pierce from taunting glimpses we are allowed from time to time of this journey. How quickly dimples turn to holllows, the shorter the time the faster it passes, the skips in time when you miss the changes, waking to a new face or feeling, as I did this morning. She was nestled in the crook of my arm, tangled ringlets tickling my skin, when I felt little fingers slip, not into my hand, but between my fingers. The lump in my throat seemed so large as to be choking the light from the room, she pulled my hand to her chest and squeezed. For a moment it wasn't clear who was mother and who was child, so desperately did I burrow my face to escape my fear. It was only as she turned to me and I saw that despite the gesture, she was still my baby, that I was able to draw a breath.
I'm the one who's stealing Cinderella
Three empty stools sat behind the island as the song faded away and we stood swaying and sniffling.