Dear Diary, my parents left right after the twins’ birthday, much to my disappointment. I was convinced something wasn’t right, but there wasn’t time to dwell on it at the moment because these kids are crazy.
“Mother, I want to go swimming. I saw the pool,” Rosetta said, adding the bit about seeing the pool, I’m sure, in case I tried to divert her.
“Can’t you call me mom? You make me sound so old. Anyway, it’s getting late and we have a busy day tomorrow. You and Holden need to go to bed. We have a really nice room for you.”
“When Father talks about you, he calls you mother.” She wrinkled her nose as she imitated what she thought Xalen sounded like. “He says, ‘And what did mother say?’”
“Well, he’s very formal, isn’t he?” I sighed.
“I am standing right here and can hear the both of you,” Xalen said with a small smirk.
Chuckling a little, I turned back to Rosetta. “You need to get your pajamas on.”
“I refuse to sleep in the same room as a boy!”
Holden immediately looked worried. “I can’t sleep by myself!”
“And why can’t you?” Xalen asked him with a gentle tone.
“You won’t believe me – no one does.”
“You can tell me, son.”
“Yes, tell us what the matter is,” I said in an attempt to encourage him.
“He’s a crybaby is why,” Rosetta chimed in.
“That’s enough,” I firmly said. “Go on, Holden. You can tell us.”
Tears rimmed his eyes and his face turned bright red. “There’s a monster that follows me everywhere. Ever since I can remember.”
“He wakes me up all night,” Rosetta complained. “I’ve never seen anything.”
“Shh…” I said to her.
Xalen bent down and took our son in his arms, whispering something in his ear. When he finished, Holden nodded, clinging onto Xalen as if his life depended on it.
“Okay, Daddy,” I heard the child say.
“Okay, then,” Xalen said with a reassuring smile.
“All right, you two, get into your pj’s and then we’ll be along to tuck you in,” I instructed.
“Come on, I’ll stay with you,” Rosetta said with a large, resigned sigh.
Holden tried to smile at her as he followed her into their bedroom.
“I’ve never seen Holden so worried. He seemed fine as a toddler. Well, he did cry a lot at night but I thought he had tummy aches or something. What did you say to him?”
Xalen took my hand and kissed it before saying, “I told him our room is right next to theirs and that he can wake us up anytime he needs us.”
“That’s all good, but maybe you should have told him there are no monsters to be concerned about.”
Xalen regarded me with a somber expression. “But you know that is not true.”
“You don’t think there really is a monster following our son!” I exclaimed.
“No, of course not. It is difficult to tell him there are no monsters or ghosts when I have dealt with so many.”
Was this our first disagreement? How bad would it get?
“I think it’s wrong not to reassure him that his monster isn’t real.”
He shrugged easily and said, “Perhaps you are right. I am still learning how to deal with children.”
I squeezed his hand as we walked down the hallway toward the children’s room. “I reckon we both are.”
It was such a relief to know this wasn’t going to be a huge fight. We were both dealing with a situation we weren’t accustomed to, so it was good we could talk about it.
Upon entering the bedroom, we noticed Holden crouched on the floor, his eyes scanning the area under his bed.
“Are you looking for monsters?” I asked.
He responded without moving away from what he was doing. “No, just the one.”
“Come on, Holden,” Rosetta loudly complained. “I want to get this sleeping over with so we can go swimming in the pool.”
“Okay, okay,” he sighed.
As Holden climbed up onto the bed, Xalen and I hugged and kissed each of them.
“Father, maybe if you looked around the room, I’d feel better.”
“Of course,” Xalen agreed.
I stepped aside as he moved around me to look in the bathroom, in the closet, and under the beds.
“I think you are free and clear, son, but remember what I told you. We are only in the next room.”
“Can we watch TV?” Rosetta asked as she sank down into the bed and I pulled the covers up to her chin.
“Not tonight,” I whispered, brushing her bangs out of her eyes.
“I’m very sure watching TV would get Holden’s mind off of monsters,” Rosetta pushed.
“All right, time to tuck in,” Xalen announced.
With another resigned sigh, Rosetta sank down further into the cozy bed and closed her eyes.
Holden was still resistantly sitting on top of his covers. This was really bothering him more than I realized, so I made a mental note to speak to Susan and Momma about this. Maybe they noticed something, too, and could give me some words of advice.
“Look, your sister is already asleep,” Xalen told the small boy.
Finally, Holden snuggled down, yawning and we were able to coax him to sleep, too.
“Our children sound like grownups,” I whispered to Xalen as we closed their bedroom door.
“I suppose that was the way with me as a child and my sister as well. We were expected to behave a certain way.”
“I’m not sure I like how formal they are. They need to be kids. To play and be goofy.”
“They will. I promise,” Xalen said.
“What should we do now?” I asked with a grin when we were alone in the living room.
“Give me a moment to think of something,” Xalen said, his eyes twinkling at me.
Every kiss felt magical and I couldn’t believe I’d waited my entire life to feel like this. In my heart, I knew, he was the only man I would ever need.
That night, my mind swirled with strange and restless dreams. Every time I woke up with a start, I couldn’t remember what it was all about. Instead, it left a sense of dread wadded up like a tight ball in the pit of my stomach.
But I could remember the feeling of the dreams… it was as if I was flying haphazardly and without direction… much like I’ve seen honeybees do… watching my own family. Only somehow, I knew it wasn’t me actually experiencing this. It felt more like I was in someone else… no, something else.
As I woke again with a pounding heart and beads of sweat on my forehead, that ball in my stomach settled even further there like a heavy brick now, increasing my frightful perceptions. My shoulders trembled as an anxiety I couldn’t rid myself of overtook me.
For a while, I forced my eyes closed, gradually attempting to release the tension in my body. I had just started to drift off again when Holden bolted into the room, screaming bloody murder.
“Daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy – ”
I blinked against the light as it came on and Xalen popped up automatically, startled.
” – What? Oh, Holden,” he said.
I started to get up, too, as Xalen spoke calmly to our son.
“Did you have a bad dream about the monster?”
“I thought I was but no, I was wide awake just like I am right now!” he screeched. “Itisrealitisrealitisreal!”
He glanced at me, holding back frightened tears.
“Oh, honey, it’s okay,” I murmured.
As Holden began to describe the monster and what happened to Xalen, I mumbled, “I’ll check on Rosetta.”
It stood to reason, in my book, that if we’d been scared awake by Holden, she may have as well. Besides, I still felt unsettled myself, so being able to put eyes on my other child, I figured, would make me feel better.
She came out of their room as I reached for the doorknob.
“Oh, you’re up,” I said.
“Yes, mother. Holden woke me up.”
“But you’re not having bad dreams like your brother?”
“I have bad dreams sometimes but they don’t make me scream like that.”
“What are your bad dreams about?”
“The monster,” she said matter of factly. “I’ve never seen him, though.”
The monster? Quickly, I searched the children’s room, Rosetta only steps behind me the entire time. Of course, there was nothing to be found, but something was picking at the back of my mind, something that felt forgotten yet I should know or understand.
The next few days were spent playing in the pool and attending the Summer Festival. It was a hot day, still, Xalen was dressed in normal Xalen “dressed down” fashion. The kids were cranky even though we let them get their faces painted and bought them ice cream cones.
“Can we go back to the house?” Holden asked.
“But a show is about to begin. You might like it,” Xalen said.
“I doubt it,” Rosetta answered. “We want to go swimming.”
“You’ve been swimming every day,” I said. “Today, we’re doing this and you’re going to have fun!”
Xalen gave me a side-eyed glance before saying, “Listen, children, let us try to enjoy this day at the festival. What is left to do?”
“Well, we already got our faces painted,” Holden said. “We ate ice cream, got funny pictures taken…”
As if on cue, Rosetta picked up the rest of the sentence. “… Got a family picture taken, had a water balloon fight and saw a magician.”
“Well, then, I know what’s left,” I said. The heat was oppressive but I tried to inject some excitement into my voice, regardless.
“What?” Holden asked.
“You haven’t roller skated yet! It’s so much fun!”
And so, Holden and Rosetta decided roller skating was worth a try since we weren’t going back to the pool yet. Xalen and I didn’t join them but moved into a position where we could see the next show as well as the kids.
“I need to talk to you,” I told him. “I’ve been thinking about it and I’m a little bothered about what you said the other night about the kids and how they’re expected to behave a certain way.”
“Technically, I mentioned my sister and I were raised that way.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that. It’s just that I don’t want our kids to grow up like that. They should just have fun and do kid things. They need to be themselves.”
“Even children must have some discipline and learn responsibility.”
“Okay, but I feel like they’re too formal… too rigid. Do you see it, too?”
His expression changed to one of concern and I could tell he was thinking about what I said. “I think they should have structure but also have fun. Perhaps when they begin with their tutor, we should mention this.”
I gasped. “Tutor! But they’ll be starting school!”
Xalen seemed completely confused. “No, they will have tutors as my sister and I did. As every Sprague child has had.”
I could feel my cheeks getting hot and my pulse racing. “Don’t I have a say in this? I don’t give a crap about what the Sprague tradition is – these are our children.”
He tried to take my hand but I pulled away.
“Marty, we talked before about how they might travel with us at times. How can they join us if they are in school? I suppose they could be enrolled in boarding schools but I think I would miss them too much.”
“Boarding – no!” My face was burning now and I knew it must be purple like a beet. With shaking hands, I pushed my hair behind my ears and took a deep breath. “We’re not farming them out to some cold, impersonal schools! They need us. You’ve seen how terrified Holden gets at night – he needs us. Rosetta needs us, too, she can’t take care of her brother at a boarding school! They need to be with us so we can take care of both of them.”
Throughout it all, Xalen remained cool as a cucumber. If his temper was flaring, he covered it very well. “Apparently, we have much to discuss.”
“Darling, I do not want to argue. But I also want to do what is best for Rosetta and Holden. I believe if we do what is best for them, the two of us will be happy, too.”
His words melted my heart like they always did, yet I was afraid. Having these two little lives in our care was a big deal and I didn’t want to make a mistake that might hurt them.
When I didn’t respond, he said, “We can work this out. Love conquers all, Marty.”
Love conquers all. It was so cliché but I could tell he believed in what he was saying. Love conquers all. So they say, whoever they are. Either way, it wasn’t as if I was going to let my marriage fail over this, so I had to agree that we could work this out.
The only problem was, who was going to compromise?
That night, we decided to let the kids stay up late so we could swim and, when it got dark, watch the fireworks that were scheduled to go off from the festival grounds. We were pretty sure we’d be able to see them from here.
Xalen and I were doing okay, I guess, but there was a certain tension you often sense when there are issues underneath the surface that need to be hammered out.
As the fireworks shot into the sky in colors of white, gold, green, red and blue, I glanced at my little family in the pool.
I never wanted anything to change. As far as I was concerned, Rosetta and Holden could stay this age forever. My husband could look at me with adoring eyes from now until the end of time.
Love conquers all.
Author’s Note: Shout out to Louise of Not Just a Book Sims who made the poses where Marty and Xalen are in each other’s arms in the living room. You can find that pose pack here: Stellar Romance. Thank you, Louise!
Also, just an FYI to the people who have requested interviews: The questions have been emailed to you. If you didn’t get the email, please let me know so I can resend it. Thank you!
Aaaannnnd one last thing! lol This Wednesday, another chapter of “It’s the 20s!” will be published. It’s entitled, “A Growing Suspicion.”