After Casey’s wedding Aimee was intent on proving to Gene she wanted to change. She focused on getting to know the girls as individuals. Smiling she watched them playing nearby. They glanced up at her giggling “Aimee play?” Jasmine asked as Stephanie grabbed at Aimee’s hand. Sighing Aimee let the little girl guide her to the doll house they were obsessed with. She tried to enjoy the one on one time she had with them while Michael was at school and Gene was auditioning for shows or away on gigs. She wanted this happy domestic family. She never knew what it was supposed to be like to have her mom around when she was growing up. But at times she felt stifled and resented the time she spent with the two precious little girls when she’d rather be replying to her followers or playing games.
Gene tried to be fair. When he came home he would take the girls so that she would have a couple of uninterrupted hours to catch up with her followers or to play video games. It was the way it had to be. Gene had been right there was more to life than video games and her life was fuller for it. Her thoughts came back to the present as she tuned into the little girls beside her.
“No,” Stephanie screamed as she took the Barbie from her sister.
“Mine,” Jasmine cried reaching for the Barbie her sister held out of reach.
Screaming Stephanie through the doll across the room as Jasmine tackled her. “Enough” Aimee said raising her voice to be heard. The girls stopped and stared at her causing Aimee to realize her frustration had gotten the better of her and it had come out in her voice. “I’m sorry sweethearts” she pulled the girls to her as they began to whimper. Glancing at the clock Aimee sighed, she should have known it was time for the girls nap. They were tired and cranky. Times like this made Aimee think she’d never get the knack of being a mother.
Getting to her feet she turned to pick up Jazzy when she suddenly felt light-headed and dizzy. Her vision dimmed as her ears began to ring. Clamping a hand to her mouth she raced to the bathroom. Kneeling on the floor with her head in the toilet she felt like everything she had ever eaten for the past month was trying to come up. She couldn’t be sick, she hated being sick.
When the violent heaves passed she staggered to her feet. Running water she splashed some on her face. Staring at her reflection she looked pale and washed out. “Definitely the flu or something,” she mumbled to herself. Going out to the living room she found the girls piled together on the floor fast asleep in each others arms. Smiling Aimee decided to leave them be and laid down on the couch hoping she’d feel better when they woke up.
Glancing at the computer she knew she should take advantage of the quiet time and reply to her followers. If she did that it might disturb the sleeping angels and she just couldn’t generate the energy required. Closing her eyes she meant only to rest but the next thing she knew little hands were shaking her arm.
“Wake up,” Stephanie demanded.
“Aimee,” Jasmine whined “we hungee.”
“Wh…what?” Aimee opened her eyes fear shooting threw her as she looked at the tear streaked faces of the two little girls in front of her. “Oh no I’m sorry,” she sat up quickly causing her head to swim. She staggered to her feet in time to run to the bathroom.
Michael came home from school. Throwing his backpack on the kitchen table he scowled at the fleeing figure a Aimee ran past him. “I knew it,” he growled under his breath “I just knew it.”
The girls seeing cried louder “Uncie Mikey we hungee,” Jasmine complained loudly.
“Hasn’t Aimee fed you anything?” he asked the little girls. They shook their heads. Stomping over to the refrigerator he prepared a bottle for the girls hoping their favorite juice would tide them over until he could fix something for them.
He stared daggers at Aimee who stumbled into the kitchen wiping her mouth. “Thank you,” she said weakly to him.
Glaring at her “you’re a terrible mother,” he growled at her slamming the cupboard door in his search for baby food.
Blinking at the harsh words Aimee opened her mouth to explain, to defend herself when the door opened.
Sensing something was wrong the moment he entered the kitchen Gene lost his smile. He looked from Aimee to Michael “what’s wrong?”
“That,” Michael pointed towards Aimee “is what’s wrong. You don’t need her. She’s a terrible person, a terrible mother.”
“Michael what are you talking about?” Gene asked “Aimee’s doing her best coping with the girls. She’s doing a wonderful job.” He smiled over at Aimee to reassure her “what crawled up your butt anyway?” Gene asked turning back to Michael.
“Of course you’d defend her,” Michael shot back at him. “You’re so in love with her that you can’t see what’s in front of your nose.” Michael slammed the baby food down on the counter and ran past Gene slamming the door behind him as he went.
At a loss for words Gene looked down at the Jasmine who was tugging on his pants leg “daddy hungee,” she whined starting Stephanie to whimper again. Picking them up he put them in their high chairs and gave them the baby food that Michael had tossed on the counter. Glancing at Aimee “I take it today was a bad day.”
“You could say that,” Aimee smiled wanly at him.
Looking at her in concern “tell me about it.”
She opened her mouth to speak only to be overwhelmed with a wave of dizziness. She blinked trying to focus on Gene’s face. She saw his lips move but no sound came through the static in her ears. She didn’t know she was falling until she felt the impact of the counter as her head collided with it.
“Aimee,” Gene cried out as he watched her topple over. He tried to reach her before she smacked her head into the counter but he wasn’t fast enough. He caught her before she hit the floor. “Aimee,” he cried again cradling her in his arms. The door behind him opened as Michael came in his sulky attitude replaced with concern as he knelt beside his brother. “What happened?” he asked staring wide-eyed at Aimee’s pale face.
“I don’t know,” Gene gulped in air “one minute we were talking and the next she’s passing out.” He gathered her into his arms she started to come around.
“Gene?” she groggily said blinking her eyes “what happened?”
“You passed out. Hit your head on the counter” Gene explained. “Has this happened before?”
“Uh huh,” Aimee murmured “I was getting light-headed and dizzy all day. Throwing up all afternoon.” She clung to Gene crying “I’m sorry I meant only to rest while the girls had their nap … I fell asleep. Woke up to them crying.” Burying her head in his shoulder “I tried to get up to get them something to eat but the nausea and dizziness came back.” She swallowed a couple of times fighting the growing nausea “then Michael came home.”
“I figured that,” Gene grumbled giving Michael a cold hard stare.
Squeezing his hand Aimee pleaded “don’t be mad. He didn’t know. He loves the girls…you.” Trying to smile she continued “my track record’s not the best.” She moaned squirming in his arms “I’m going to be sick again.”
Gene helped her to the bathroom. Standing by helplessly as she attempted to heave her insides out. Stroking her hair he announced “I’m taking you to the hospital. This isn’t normal.”
Nodding Aimee let him pick her up too weak to resist. Coming into the kitchen Gene found Michael sitting at the table staring into space. “We’re going to the hospital. Take care of the girls.” Michael nodded opening his mouth. Gene smiled at him “I know. We’ll talk about it later ok?”
Rushing out of the house Gene ignored the ever-present paparazzi as they snapped pictures as he carried Aimee to the car. As long as they stayed out of his way Gene could care less what they did. Their presence had ceased to be an irritant to him, it was more a fact of life. He had become numb and blind to their existence and presence in his life and he lived as normally as possible.
The emergency room was a jumble of chaotic questions and misdirection. Eventually they found themselves in a room with an over tired doctor. “Have you eaten anything you shouldn’t have?”
Thinking back Aimee couldn’t remember eating or drinking anything since the night before. “The salad we had last night but Gene would be sick too if it was that.”
Gene stared at her “that’s what we had last night for super. We didn’t have any left overs. Didn’t you eat anything today?”
Shaking her head “no I wasn’t hungry.”
“Have you had any liquids?” the doctor asked.
“I…I…no I couldn’t hold anything down.” Aimee felt like an idiot. She was probably dehydrated from not drinking and throwing up all day.
As if reading her mind the doctor said “we’ll start an IV. You’re probably dehydrated. I doubt you have the flu or food poisoning.” Looking at the young couple sitting in front of him he asked “could you be pregnant?”
“What? No … could I?” Aimee asked eyes widening in surprise.
“I’ll order a test to confirm it,” the doctor stood up smiling at them “if I was a betting man I’d say your one of the unlucky few who will be afflicted with severe morning sickness. I want to keep you overnight to be on the safe side.”
Staring at each other as the doctors words sank in “pregnant, Gene uttered with a smile.
Aimee reached up and stroked his face “is that a good thing? The house is so small and the girls … Michael.”
“Don’t worry so much,” Gene told her gently holding her hand. Putting a hand on her stomach “this is a gift. We’ll manage everything else together. The girls will adjust. Michael will get over his resentment eventually. We will be ok.”
“Do you really want to do this again?” Aimee asked “you already have the girls.”
Smiling at her “I’m looking forward to it. I didn’t know the girls existed until they were born. I never got to experience this from the beginning. The joy of finding out ….”
“I could have done without the dramatics,” Aimee laughed. Leaning into him she sighed “is it wrong of me to be scared?”
“No,” Gene kissed her forehead. “Sweetheart I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared too. It’s a huge responsibility to raise a child. We’ll always worry if we’re doing it right or if we’re messing up our kids lives. All we can do is our best and hope it’s enough. If we love each other and however many kids we’re blessed with we’ll be ok.”
“How can you be so confident?” Aimee wondered hoping he could fill her with some of it. “After everything our mothers put us through growing up. You can still feel that way … it’s amazing.”
Smiling “well I had a pretty amazing dad. If I’m half the man he is I’ll be satisfied.”
Wrapping her arms around him “you certainly are and more.” She snuggled into him “I love you.”
Over the next several months Aimee adjusted to caring for the girls and her morning sickness abated in intensity. Michael still stared resentfully at her causing her to doubt whether she’d ever do anything right in his opinion. Gene asked her to be patient so she kept her mouth shut. They had an uneasy truce between them. She and Michael held their tongues to maintain the facade of peace for the sake of Gene who was caught in the middle.
The months leading up to the arrival of the baby were filled with noise as Gene decided to build an addition onto the house instead of going through the hassle of buying a larger house. Even Michael was excited about the change as it meant he would finally have his own room and he would no longer have to sleep in the living room on the couch.
Waddling up the spiral staircase Gene proudly showed her the new addition when it was finally done. Looking around the room “how did you do all this without me noticing?” Aimee demanded.
Grinning like the Cheshire cat “I can’t tell you all my secrets,” Gene took her hands do you like it?”
“Do I like it?” she repeated “I love it.” She stretched up to give him a kiss.
“I’m glad,” he sighed “we can change anything you don’t like,” he offered.
Looking around her she shook her head “I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Going back downstairs they went out on the porch where the girls were playing together in their playpen. Aimee gasped as she watched Gene drop to one knee. “Aimee darling we’ve had our share of ups and downs. Our share of heartbreak but through it all I know you’re the only one I want by my side. The only one I want to live with for the rest of my life. “Fumbling with a box he smiled up at her as he presented her with the ring ” will you marry me?”
Covering her face in shock and fear Aimee burst into tears. She couldn’t believe he had asked her to marry him. She had dreamed of this day and how she would feel and none of her daydreams included her bawling unable to answer his question. Heart hammering in her ears she jumped when Jasmine spoke up behind her “mama say yes.” Aimee whirled around to see Stephanie echoing her sister “mama say yes.” Turning back to Gene she whispered “they called me mama.”
Gene beamed up at her “what’s my answer?” Shaking like a leaf in the wind Aimee smiled brightly down at him “yes a thousand times yes.” She held her hand out for him to slip the ring on her finger. Squealing in delight she launched herself into his arms.
Gene chuckled in her ear “I never thought I’d see the day when you’d actually squeal and act like a typical girl.”
Slapping his shoulder lightly Aimee giggled “its was always in me. No one ever took the time to bring it out until you.”
“Well I look forward to discovering all of your secrets,” Gene said holding her tight.
As the weeks neared to the baby’s arrival Gene quit taking job offers and going out on auditions. He wanted to be home just in case Aimee went into labor early a possibility that concerned Gene but always brought a smile to Aimee’s lips. “My big strong husband to be is scared.”
“Not scared … cautious,” Gene smiled “I don’t want anything to happen to my girl.”
Snuggling into him “I love you too.”
Aimee woke early to severe cramps and pain she soon recognized as contractions coming hard and fast. Reaching out she shook Gene trying to wake him.
Moaning he blinked “what? What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong …” she screamed as a contraction hit her hard.
“Shit the baby’s coming,” Gene shouted as a gush of water spread over the sheets. Jumping out of bed Gene looked disgusted “what was that?”
“My water just broke,” Aimee said between gasps “we’ve got to get to the hospital.”
Grabbing her bag and his keys he went to help her down the stairs. Looking at him she asked “aren’t you going to change?”
Shaking his head “if my girl can have a baby in her nighties so can I.” Gene continued to help her to the car yelling at the paparazzi “the baby’s coming get out-of-the-way.” The flashes went off as they took their pictures and Gene was to preoccupied with assisting Aimee to care. Aimee bent over screaming as she was hit with another contraction. Gene looked to find one of the paparazzi assisting him to get Aimee to the car. Gene smiled at him in gratitude. Racing around to the driver’s side Gene sped from the driveway.
Ten minutes after arriving at the hospital their son was born. Staring into his light violet eyes and his downy blond hair more golden then white Gene smiled “he’s perfect,” he sighed. He leaned over and kissed Aimee lightly on the cheek. “What are we going to name him?”
Smiling down at her son lying contentedly in her arms “Ian Robert Bennett,” she replied.
Taken aback Gene eyed her a moment “but that’s the name I wanted. I thought you didn’t like it. I agreed you could name him anything you wanted.”
“I did,” Aimee gave him an impish grin “I don’t like it I love that name.”
“Really? You’re not just saying that?” Gene questioned holding eye contact with her.
“Really truly” she insisted.
Smiling he looked at his tiny son, heart swelling with love, pride and joy. Tears swimming in his eyes “have I told you how much I love you?”
“You have but I love hearing you say it,” Aimee beamed at him “I love you too sweetheart.”