"Mom is taking us shopping for new school clothes and school supplies today," Brooke replied happily.
Blaine winked at him, before saying, "That will be fun. I'm sorry I'll miss that while I'm at work."
"When you get home can we go play basketball?" Doug asked.
"And go to the pool, Daddy?" Brooke chimed in.
Overhearing the conversation in the next room as she stirred the pancake batter, Cassandra took pause. There wasn't anything unusual about the conversation, but something about overhearing Blaine and the children talking about their day while she was making pancakes in the kitchen struck her as distinctively familiar. She'd been getting this sense of deja vu more often lately and it was unsettling.
"Is everything okay?" Blaine asked a few minutes later when he walked into the kitchen and found her staring absently out the window.
She jumped and turned her attention back to the stove. "Yes," she answered automatically. "You know, just the usual thing," she played it off. "Just having these feelings again. I just wish I knew what they were about."
"Is it that house again?" he asked. She nodded vaguely. "I wish I knew what it is you're sensing too, but try not to worry about it too much. You'll figure it out when the time is right."
"I'm sure you're right," she replied. "I'll try not to worry."
"I'll set the table for you," he offered before giving her a kiss and leaving the room.
"Thanks," Cassandra replied. She let out a sigh once he had left. She really did have a moment there, but more than any feelings of deja vu or premonitions about the new house, she was feeling unsettled because of that phone call.
Reese had been out of Blaine's life for more than fifteen years now and Cassie had hoped that they had seen the last of her. For along time she was afraid that Reese would come back to town and Blaine would leave her to get back together with his ex-girlfriend. It had taken a long time for Cassie to feel assured in her relationship with Blaine and confident that he really wanted to be with her.
After thirteen happy years of marriage and two children, she was suddenly feeling as insecure as ever and guilty on top of that.
When Shayna walked into the kitchen, she did not like what she saw; Meghan preening in the mirror in an outfit much too skimpy and Julian trying much too hard to act like he didn't notice.
It was a tender situation, Meghan moving into the household and everyone adjusting to their roles in the family. Shayna had tried to stay quiet, keep back and let Andrew parent his own daughter, but this was one instance where she felt she needed to step in.
"Meghan, can I talk to you for a second?"
"Sure," Meghan replied, taking one more moment to play with her hair before turning away from the mirror.
Julian recognized his mother's tone of voice and rose from his chair to leave the room before his mother even had the chance to ask.
"Meghan, I want to talk to you about your outfit. Isn't that top a little too small for you?"
"Oh no, this is the style," she insisted.
"Well, I don't think that style is appropriate for this household."
"What? What's wrong with it?" she asked innocently. "I used to wear this all the time at my mom's and she never said it was inappropriate."
"That's a different situation. Your mom can set the guidelines in her own house, but we're a mixed group here and because of that you need to be a little more aware of how you're dressed. Do you understand?"
Meghan frowned as she thought over Shayna's words. Slowly the meaning behind them sunk in and a smile crept across her face. Her eyes darted to the window, outside to where Julian had retreated, then quickly looked back at Shayna.
Shayna frowned, seeing that Meghan understood too well the point she was trying to make. She hoped that what she had said wasn't going to encourage rather than discourage her. "I think you should go change into something that covers up a little more."
"But it's so hot out," Meghan whined. Seeing that Shayna was not going to flinch, Meghan changed tactics. "Ok, I was thinking about taking a swim anyway."
Shayna shook her head as Meghan hurried back to her room. She had expected a challenging adjustment period when it was decided that Meghan would live with them, but she could see now that nothing about this change was going to be easy.
A few minutes later, Shayna passed Meghan who was on her way to the pool, wearing even less than she had been earlier. This time she held her tongue and went to find Meghan's father.
"Andrew, do you have a few minutes?" she asked after finding him reading in the living room.
"Sure," he said, putting his book away and giving her his full attention. "What is it?"
"Now that Meghan's living here, I think we need to discuss what the household rules are going to be for the children and how we're going to enforce them. I think it's going to be very important to make sure that we're all on the same page and in agreement if we are going to be effective at parenting."
"Okay," Andrew agreed. "But I'm not sure what there is to discuss. Shouldn't we just stick to the way things have always been. I think everything has been going fine. Why change it now?"
"Because our household situation has changed now. We never really had this discussion when we moved in together, because Julian had always been with me, we already had our rules and expectations established, we just had to include you in the picture. Meghan has never lived with either of us before, she's used to her mother's rules and her way of doing things, so I think we need to make expectations very clear and be united as her parental figures."
"I'm for that," Andrew replied, "but I'm not sure exactly what kinds of things you're talking about."
"Well, just a few minutes ago I had to have a word with Meghan about the way she was dressed and she ended up going out in a two-piece bathing suit that isn't really appropriate for her age, especially when there's a teenage boy in the house."
"I think you're worrying too much about little things, Shayna. They're just kids. Meghan's just a girl."
"No, she's not. She's 14 and thinks she's 14 going on 22. And it's not just that, there's also the new things that you got her for her room. I think you went a little over the top."
"Come on, you can't be annoyed with me over that. You sent me to buy her some new things to help her feel welcomed and to make the room her own."
"I meant things like bedsheets, and pillows and curtains, little decorative touches. Not a television and stereo system. You know I've never allowed Julian to have a TV in his room. It's just not good for kids to have access to technology unsupervised, plus it isn't conductive to sleeping or studying, the things they should be using their rooms for. It's not fair if we have separate rules for our separate children. It's just going to cause unnecessary resentment."
Andrew sighed. "You're going to have to forgive me if I'm not following you. Do you hear what you're saying? They're not kids, they are kids, they're going to get along too well, they're not going to get along well enough. I think you're over thinking this way too much." Shayna frowned, but he continued. "Maybe I went a little overboard in buying her things for her room, but I just want her to be happy here. I feel bad that I haven't been there for her more in the past. This is my chance to make things up to her."
Shayna smiled weakly, appreciating that his heart was in the right place. "I know you want to do what's right by her and that's something we want to do in every way possible." She paused a second. She needed some time to organize her thoughts, come up with a plan of more specific things they needed to decide and then regroup. "Let's just leave it at that for now, but I think we should think this over and talk more about it later."
"Hey, Dad. Come try some of this desert Mrs. McCarthy left for us. It's awesome."
Lawrence smiled at his oldest son and joined him at the kitchen table.
"Mrs. McCarthy is the best cook. I'm really going to miss her."
"I know. I think we all will."
"How is the search for a replacement going?"
Lawrence smiled at his son. Sometimes he reminded him so much of Eileen's father, Arthur, his namesake. He wished his father-in-law had lived longer so that he could have known his first grandson better. He had a feeling they would have gotten along famously.
"I'm going to start interviewing candidates tomorrow."
"Are you sure we really need to replace her? I'm a little old to have a nanny."
"Maybe you are, but your brother and sister aren't."
"I could help watch them after school."
"And do the cooking and the housework on top of your homework?"
"Okay, maybe not," Artie agreed. "But can we at least help you pick out who the new one is going to be? If she's going to be working with us, she ought to be someone we like."
Lawrence thought a second, then nodded his head in agreement. "Okay, I think that's fair. You and your brother and sister, if they'd like, can sit in on the interviews tomorrow."
"Thanks, Dad," Artie said as he got up from the table. "Are you up for a game of chess later?"
"Sure," Lawrence smiled. As Artie walked away, Lawrence's mind went back to another evening in the past.
He had come home one evening after working late at the office to find his wife Eileen waiting for him in the dining room with dinner ready. She was dressed up in a new blue dress and she was smiling that bright smile of hers that even then, still made him feel weak at the knees.
"I'm sorry I'm late. I just couldn't get away any earlier."
"That's okay. Sit down. I made something special tonight."
As they caught up on each other's days, Eileen seemed preoccupied, like her mind was somewhere else, but she was definitely happy. That smile didn't leave her face.
"I was thinking about redecorating one of the upstairs bedrooms, getting it set up as a nursery," she commented casually, as she stirred her soup. "I did a little window shopping today and saw some really cute things in one of the shops downtown."
"It's a little premature to be thinking about a nursery, isn't it?" he asked. "I don't think we need to start thinking about babies yet."
The smile faded from Eileen's face. "Why not?"
"For one thing, we've barely been married a full year. There's no need to rush into having children right away. There's plenty of time for that. Right now we should just focus on getting established and enjoying it being just the two of us."
"You - you don't want to have a baby."
Lawrence was confused. He could tell she was obviously upset, but he didn't understand why and he wasn't sure what to say to make it better. "I do, someday. I just don't think we should rush into having one now," he said as gently as possible.
Eileen excused herself from the table and retreated to the kitchen.
Lawrence followed her. When he found her sobbing, he felt terrible. He wasn't sure what he had said to make her so upset, but he knew he wanted to make things right.
"Eileen, I'm sorry. What did I say?"
"I thought you would be happy," she managed to choke out between sobs.
"Happy about what?"
"I was trying to tell you, that I found out today, that I'm pregnant. I wanted to surprise you. I thought you would be happy about this baby, but you don't want-"
When she said the words "this baby," something changed for him and suddenly his whole mindset from two minutes before went out the window. "'This baby.' We're going to have a baby?"
"Forget about what I just said. I didn't know-"
When she looked into his face, he didn't have to say more, she knew he was just as happy and excited about this news as she was.
"I know," she laughed through her tears and threw her arms around him. "Next time I'll just have to be more direct about what I mean."
"You're already thinking about next time? Let's take this one baby at a time."
Eileen laughed, her smile returned. "You're not too upset that this didn't happen later?"
He shook his head. "We still have some time before the baby is born and one day when he or she is grown it will be just you and me again. We have our whole lives to spend together."
"Now who's getting ahead of themselves?"
It was one of his happiest memories, and now one of his most bittersweet.