I know I should be better about writing more often, but I lose time when I’m running around like a chicken with its head cut off. I thought farm life was laborious. Well, let me tell you, kids keep you busier than anything ever could! Plus, I’ve been so tired. I feel like I haven’t gained my usual energy back yet from having the twins. There’s just no excuse for the way I’ve been dragging. I’m so glad Liev is home now to help with everything because I think I’d be insane right now without him.
Leo and Jilly had their birthdays and… do you remember Patricia Snowden? She’s the wife of Liev’s friend Roger and they stood up for us in our wedding? Well, I was visiting with Patty, having tea, when her daughter Sammy brought me my coat. Apparently their unruly dog emptied my pockets and chewed on a few things, including my camera. It was completely destroyed. The pictures couldn’t be recovered, so all of their birthday photos are lost. These are the photos right after they became toddlers. I’m a little heartbroken over that because I’ll never have that precious moment back.
This is Leo, of course. In this lighting you can’t really see it well, but he is a redhead.
And this is little Jilly. I haven’t any idea where that shock of black hair came from but I think she is so beautiful. She’s like my very own Snow White with her rosy cheeks, blue eyes and black hair.
As time has gone on, I’ve been thinking more and more about who I should pass my journal on to. Well, so far, and I know it’s really too early to tell, I think Jilly might be the one. We’ll see.
Liev and I had some rough patches for a while. I think it’s mostly my fault, although Liev is much too diplomatic to say that. I know I can be stubborn and infuriating and immature. But to be honest, I just haven’t felt like myself since I had the babies. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I feel the same as I did last time I wrote; that I have a rage inside of me sometimes that I can only just barely control. The more I try, the more it bubbles and threatens to erupt.
I keep thinking that if I’d been more like myself, this thing with Keniesha wouldn’t have gone on as long as it has. Or it wouldn’t have been so bad.
The twins love the park and we love taking them there. No matter what’s going on, when we spend time with our children, everything seems better.
And these kids love each other like nobody’s business. I hope it’s always like that between them. Leo just dotes on his sister who he calls “Jillybean” (he thinks jellybeans are named after her). And, of course, Jilly eats it up.
Their antics turn my heart into putty, let me tell you.
Jilly is silly. Yes, that rhymes. And it’s completely appropriate. Nothing makes her laugh more than her brother.
She’s very easygoing and just rolls with everything, only showing her temper once in a while.
Leonardo, on the other hand, is going to be the class clown, I’m certain of it. Liev and I have had our disagreements about how best to manage this active little one. He’s so mischievous and, at times, so defiant, I’m worried he’s headed for trouble someday. But Liev is more laid back about the shenanigans.
When it comes right down to it, I’m finding that it’s hard to know where that line is between breaking his spirit and keeping him in line. Am I being too hard on him? Too soft? I don’t know. As a mother, I want him to be himself but I also don’t want him to be that obnoxious kid everyone groans about whenever he’s around. If he’s difficult now, I’m sure it will only get worse as he gets older. I have so much to learn! I’m fearful that I’ll ruin him.
We let the kids play while we talked. For the most part (in the beginning anyway), we kept it light as we’ve begun to realize the children pick up on everything we say and do. (I found this out the hard way when I casually told Liev that I thought the plot was crap on a show we were watching. Leo immediately began saying, “Twap!” all the time. It only took a moment to realize he’d heard this from my own mouth.)
“Would you like to eat at the Bistro later before heading home?” Liev asked.
But I knew this wasn’t what he really wanted to discuss. We stepped a little further away from the children, hoping they weren’t in earshot.
“Sure.” I chewed on my lower lip before continuing. “You overheard me on the phone, didn’t you?”
He nodded and kept his voice low. “You were on the phone with your sister, right?”
I glanced at the kids before responding. Leo and Jilly were playing side by side, occasionally interacting when Leo would attempt to get her attention.
“Yes. She called me this time. I think things are improving a little.”
“Great!” Liev enthused. “When are they coming over? I’ll fire up the grill!”
“We’re not at that point yet. We’ve both said we’re sorry, but there’s still something between us…. I don’t know.”
“You need to talk to each other face to face. Not on the phone.”
I’d pretty much had the same thought, so I nodded slightly. “There’s something going on with her that isn’t right. When I flat out asked her, she wouldn’t tell me.”
I’d begun to realize while saying this that there was probably a lot Keniesha hadn’t told me. She had always been there for me even if her advice was unwanted. But what had she ever really confided in me about? I hadn’t known anything about our dire finances until she told me we had to move. She hadn’t filled me in on Mango until she was sure he was the one she wanted to marry. I hadn’t even noticed she was dating anyone until that night I came home from my first date with Garret and she was surprisingly not there.
And what would have happened if she had been there? We would have talked about my date and my life and my problems. She very rarely ever bothered me with her headaches in life. I was certain something was wrong with her now but she wouldn’t tell me.
Well, I didn’t want to be “poor Memphis” anymore…. the girl who managed to lose both sets of parents. I wanted to be someone my own sister could confide in. I wanted to know what her worries were, too. Had I always been this self-centered and obtuse?
Did Liev feel like he could tell me things? I know in the recent past he’d tried but I’d shut him out because all I could think about was myself.
I’m such an idiot.
I expressed this all to Liev and it must have sounded like a jumbled mess but he listened as he always did, and let me finish.
“I’m so sorry, Liev.”
“First of all, Memphis Kay, sometimes you’re too hard on yourself. I know, I know, you think I’m too easy going. But, honestly, you’re not a mind reader. If there were other factors making Keniesha act that way, she should have told you straight up. Secondly, if you want my opinion on the entire mess, I think you’re both really stubborn. I think sometimes you’re more interested in being right than in fixing things. On the other hand, Keniesha, while her initial reaction was probably understandable, she let this go way too far. She likes to be right, too. There’s no reason the information you learned should have torn the two of you apart like that. Your relationship should have been stronger than that. Your adoptive parents’ death was obviously no fault of yours, anyone could see that. But you were willing and ready to take the blame right away, too, like some kind of martyr. Did it ever occur to either of you that maybe Arthur Benedict and my own dad shouldn’t have kept so much information to themselves when Marvin and Tia Noble were considering adopting you? Would they have died like that if they’d been told the truth beforehand? Maybe Marvin and Tia would have taken more precautions. Or maybe they wouldn’t have adopted you at all. If Arthur and my dad had told them what they needed to know, at least their decision would have been informed. But they were completely in the dark. My dad investigated the Covingtons and assisted Arthur with your secret adoption. And what about Victoria Covington? She’s the one who got the ball rolling and caused their deaths in the first place! And Garret, don’t even get me started on that guy. He probably knew all about his mother’s plans to get rid of Marvin and Tia. Maybe for once in his miserable life, he should have stood up to her.” Liev came up for air, rubbed his chin, then went on again before I could say anything, “I don’t know, but it sure seems like blaming anyone at this point is just a waste of time. Victoria is as good as dead and Garret is behind bars.” His expression softened and he looked at me then with nothing but tenderness in his eyes. “When this happened with you and Keniesha, I didn’t think it was my place to interfere, but maybe I should have. I don’t know. But this needs to stop and you and Keniesha need to figure this out. Life is just too short.”
My first reaction was to stop listening to him after he said that whole business about me wanting to be right instead of wanting to fix things. Oh, and that whole thing about being a martyr, too. But I forced myself to stay with him because he usually seemed to have his head on straight.
And as much as I hated to admit it, I think he had some good points.
He looked over at the kids just as Leo dumped a handful of sand over Jilly’s head. “Let’s continue this later, okay? Right now, duty calls.”
I put our conversation aside and tried not to think about it as we played with the twins. One thing I was learning from Liev was how to compartmentalize different aspects of life. There was a time and place for everything and if all you did was think about everything all at once, well, you’d go crazy.
Liev was one of those people who lived in the moment. As a P.I., he managed stress by focusing on the task at hand and not thinking about the past or worrying about the future. Sometimes, this infuriated me because he wasn’t very interested in talking about things that were over and done with like I was. He saw no value in rehashing anything. Also, he was rather noncommittal about plans. But mostly, it made him a really pleasant person to be around and I fiercely admired him.
As for our day in the park… Leo and Jilly really seemed to be enjoying themselves and after a few minutes, it wasn’t hard to be like Liev and lose myself in the moment, too.
Honestly, have you ever seen cuter kids in your life?
We spent the entire afternoon chasing the twins, laughing and giggling at their antics.
The twins especially loved bouncing on the spring riders. I was hoping it would wear them out some as their energy knew no bounds!
“Hey, you guys will be on horses before you know it!” Liev enthused.
At home, we bathed the children and put them to bed then retired to our room. We had moved into the master bedroom that used to belong to Keniesha and Mango because it has a private bath which is handy when you need to keep potentially dangerous things out of the hands of inquisitive toddlers.
As my brush glided over my hair, I turned toward Liev and said, “You know how you asked when Keniesha and Mango were coming over and that you’d fire up the grill?”
He nodded as he unlaced his shoes and kicked them off. “Yeah.”
“Well, I’ve been thinking about my phone call with Keniesha because I did ask her to come over with Mango and the girls.”
“And looking back on the conversation, I kind of think that maybe she and Mango are having problems.”
“What makes you say that?” He neatly lined his shoes up alongside the others in the armoire then closed the door.
“I didn’t notice at the time, but now that I’m replaying it in my head, it seems like every time I mentioned Mango, she got really quiet or changed the subject. What if they were having issues way back when they lived here but she didn’t want to talk about it?”
He shrugged and took my hands in his. “I think it’s speculation.” After a moment, though, he frowned and seemed briefly lost in thought. “I didn’t want to say anything at the time because it was none of my business. But sometimes the P.I. in me gathers information without trying.”
I raised an eyebrow. “What sort of information?”
“Nothing huge… just a little thing I remember now.”
“Like what?” I pushed.
He sighed and ran his fingers through his messy hair.. “Like overhearing Mango on a phone call once that sounded…. too familiar and I knew it couldn’t be Keniesha because she was in the kitchen with you.”
My eyes grew two times their size. “When was this? What did he say?”
He put his hands up like stop signs. “This is why I didn’t say anything about it. You know I don’t like to jump to conclusions. It could’ve been his sister Ann for all I knew at the time. I’m not sure what I overheard, only that it didn’t sound… right.”
“And you didn’t say anything to him about it?”
He raised an eyebrow at me. “I don’t like playing ‘spy on the family’ and I figured at the time he deserved the benefit of the doubt.”
Of course he hadn’t said anything to Mango and that was no surprise. Liev would never be so intrusive. Just like on the job, he’d quietly gather information and only say something when he had the proper evidence to back it up. Look how long it took him to say anything to me about Garret. Before then, he’d only vaguely hinted that I should watch myself around him.
I bit a fingernail. “Hmph,” I grumbled as I thought about this new knowledge. Was Mango cheating on my sister? I’d … I’d drive over there and kick him really hard where it counts!
“Now I know that look, Memphis,” Liev said.
“Well, I can’t very well stay out of it, can I? That’s asking way too much of me!”
“If they’re having problems like you seem to think they are, or have been… then Keniesha probably already knows all about this. She’s far from stupid. The best thing you can do is to just be there when she’s finally ready to talk about it.”
So, with terrible thoughts of what I could do to Mango pummeling my mind, I tried really hard to sleep. But, of course, I couldn’t.
As time passed, Liev’s breathing became shallow and steady. How could he sleep? I turned onto my right side and closed my eyes.
Was the clock in the hallway always that loud? Each tick sounded like a bomb going off in my head.
Sighing, I finally pushed the covers away and got up to pace the floor.
So, there I was again, clacking away at the keys to tell you everything I know. I’m so glad I’ve kept this record of events as they unfold. Keeping a journal was turning out to be one of the best ideas my sister ever had.
Someday, I would turn this journal over to one of my children, thereby passing the tradition on to them.
As I was typing, an unexpected surge of nausea washed over me in unforgiving waves. I panted somewhat as little drops of sweat broke out on my forehead and I began to notice that hot icky feeling you get right before you get sick.
Yes, that old familiar feeling had come over me and I barely made it to the bathroom before vomiting. Oh no. No, no, no. This sensation was all too recognizable. I cringed inwardly as I prayed I was wrong.
But I knew I wasn’t mistaken about this at all and it greatly annoyed me. My body would go through those indescribable changes yet again and I would have another child to add to the chaos I was already dealing with.
When I’d finished, I slumped against the wall, sitting on the floor. Everything was so out of control.
I’m not ready! I wanted to scream.
I shook my head bitterly and clenched my fists as the realization of my pregnancy settled in further. Liev, I knew, would be thrilled. He wanted a large family. But he wasn’t the one giving birth, was he? Oh how I wished men could go through this at least once in their lives.
And then, my initial anger began to melt away. Realistically, I knew it was as much my fault as Liev’s but it made me feel a tiny bit better to imagine him being pregnant instead of me for a change. Maybe knowing he’d have to put up with me helped a little, too. Because, if last time was any indication, I’d be no picnic to be around.
Finally, I glanced down at my nonexistent bust line. You’d think being pregnant, I could at least have boobs as a kind of consolation. But nope. Still flat as a pancake.
I guess bust size isn’t everything.