Chapter 2.1 – Discovering an unknown Rose

Have you ever woken up, already knowing the day would turn out disastrous? The moment I stepped out of bed and out on the chilly floor I knew that nothing good would come out of today. Apparently the weather decided to be just as foul as my mood, which didn’t help the matter. Even more depressed then when I found out I needed glasses a week ago, I slouched down the stairs answering my mother’s endless calls impatiently.

“Yes mom! I’m coming.”

The rest of the family were happily chatting and laughing, completely unaffected by the dull weather outside. I was stirring the soggy cereal absent mindedly when mom decided to interrupt my sulking.

“Are you ready for the school trip today, Bruce?” I shrugged without looking up from my bland breakfast.

“You’re going to that horse ranch in Appaloosa Plains, right?” dad asked, taking a sip from his coffee. “Should be fun.”

A couple of minutes past in silence, until Caleb broke it with a summary of his last tests and grades, all of which were straight A’s. I automatically sunk lower in the chair, trying not to think on the D I had just gotten in biology. But who needs biology anyway when you’re going to be a famous rock star?

When the bus came at eight Caleb ran to get a seat next to his girlfriend, while I casually followed, trying to ignore my mother’s persistent waving from the door. How could she have made it any clearer that she loved to embarrass us?

“Bye, honey! Have a nice day.”

“Mmm,” I mumbled.

The bus door closed behind me, as I scanned the seats for the pink dot I knew would be waiting for me.

Ah, there she was! The familiar pink hair in a new hair-due stuck out like a sore thumb in the packed bus. Sitting by the window she waved me over to her.

“I saw your mom, she’s such a sweet heart,” she teased, pinching my cheek playfully. “And she just loves her little Bruce sooo much!”

“Shut up, Mel,” I snapped, trying not to smile. Melody loved my mom almost as much as I did, having only had a father. Since we were little kids she and mom had become very close. I think mom liked to have some female company sometimes; you know, since she’s always surrounded by us boys.

“Oh, that’s nice. Remind me why we’re friends again?”

We spent the whole trip arguing about the first time we met, and how we ended up as best friends. None of us could agree how the story actually went, but it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

“What’s the deal with sending us to this place? It smells like horse sh…”

“Careful now, miss Wilson,” Mrs. Lowood warned, before making her way through the masses of students. She called us all to silence. “Okay, can everyone hear me? Good. Now, I want you all to keep quiet and listen to the owner of this ranch; John Green.”

John started talking about horses and “green activity-something or other”, before taking us on a tour around the stables.

The stables were dark and even smellier than outside. It was hard to breath in the stuffy air; the only thing keeping Mel from complaining was the fear of breathing in too much of the humid air, and choke. We were standing at the back of the crowd when I caught a glint of a familiar figure closing in on us.

I grabbed Mel around the wrist and dragged her through the crowd.

“Hey, what’s happening?” she whispered annoyed. The second she saw the blond girl, with the exasperated look on her face, Mel’s confusion faded. “Oh, man.”

We reached the other end of the stables when I managed to crash into a rather surprised girl.

“Watch where you’re going,” she snapped, and turned back towards John, who was still droning on about the importance of proper harness for horses.

“Sorry,” I mumbled, turning my focus to John as well.

Melody was whispering something beside me, but I was too busy trying to figure out the girl’s name. How had I been going to the same school as this super cute girl, without even knowing her name? I couldn’t for my dear life come up with any sort of recognition; maybe she was new at the school. But she seemed to…

“Ouch!” I cried out, making all faces turn in my direction. Mrs. Lowood sent us a quick reprimand across the stables, before giving the word back to John Green. The girl next to me; the one without a name, sent me an annoyed look. “What did you do that for?” I hissed.

“You’re not listening to me, and I had to get your attention somehow,” Mel said out of the corner of her mouth. “I was saying that you should talk to Julie, soon. You can’t keep dodging her whenever you’re in the same place.”

After our extremely awkward break-up a month ago, Julie had gone out of her way to seek me out in big crowds, only to yell at me and demand a reason for why I suddenly decided she wasn’t good enough for me (Her words, not mine!). I wasn’t sure if I felt sorrier for her, who was so insecure of herself I just couldn’t take it in the end, or me, who was being hunted down by a broken hearted, revengeful ex.

***

The rest of the day passed pretty uneventfully. I kept stealing small glances at the girl I still couldn’t figure out the name of. Melody probably knew, but she would never let it drop if I told her why I was wondering. Julie seemed to get tired of looking for me, so I managed to get home without having to face the awaiting disaster. Yes, I am aware of how cowardly that is.

Melody invited herself to stay at my house after school, as usual. Your parents cook way better than my dad, she would say. I announced my arrival to whoever was at home, which turned out to be dad, before making my way upstairs where Mel had already turned on the stereo.

”I love this song!” she laughed as she danced around in my room, her pink hair swinging along with her movements. “I said I’d never let you go, and I never did.”

I sat down, pretending to read homework for a while. Until my curiosity got the better of me. “Mel?” She didn’t stop dancing, yet I had to ask. “You know that girl I bumped into at the stables?”

“More like ran over, but yeah, I know who you mean. What about her?”

“Do you eh…know her name?” I regretted it the second I asked.

“You don’t know her name?! She’s been going in the same year as us at school since, like, fourth grade.”

“She has?” I asked, feeling like an idiot.

“Bruce, you’re my best friend, but I wanna slap you so bad right now,” she said exasperated. “Don’t take it personally; I’m doing it for the entire female race.”

“Why? You don’t know the name of every guy that goes to our school, do you?”

“I can name all the boys in our year at least.”

“Good for you. Now, are you going to tell me her name, or what?”

“It depends, are you going to tell my about this sudden interest?” Mel teased. “Come on, you know you can tell me. You like her don’t you?”

“She’s kinda…eh…you know…I don’t know.”

“Oh my god! You’re totally crushing on her, aren’t you?!” she exclaimed excited, before turning serious again. “But seriously, Bruce. Another crazy girlfriend is the last thing you need right now.”

“The only thing I need right now is her name, so you either give it to me or I’ll … I’ll”

“Don’t hurt yourself now, Loverboy. Her name is Rose, Rose Fields.”

 “Her name is Rose Fields?” I asked in disbelief.

“Yes, it is,” she said, opening the door out to the hallway.” And I know that look, so I’m just going to leave, since I’ve probably lost you already. See you tomorrow at the auditions. Don’t be late, please.”

But she was right; I was already lost. Rose, her name was Rose. And Rose Fields at that. Without really admitting why, I was almost looking forward to school tomorrow, for the first time in forever .

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Heir vote! Generation 1.

*Make sure you read chapter 1.13 first!*

So here we are, after five months, I finally managed to wrap up the first generation of the Velvet legacy! And new edventures awaits for the next generation 😀

Before we continue; let’s meet the guys!

Bruce Velvet. The eldest of the two brothers.

Traits: Frendly, Virtouso, Star Quality and Ambitious.

Lifetime wish: Rockstar

Caleb Velvet.

Traits: Genius, Virtouso, Good Sence of Humour and Workaholic.

Lifetime wish: Unknown…

***

I’ll just post the next chapter, and let you know who will take on the legacy after Aria. 🙂

XAwesomeschrimp ❤

Chapter 1.13 – Ending it as brothers

Silence had finally settled upon the Velvet household. After years of babies and toddlers, I could finally take the time to relax in my own home.

“Why don’t you read a book; get some Aria-time?” Dr. Thorne had said. “Sometimes the mind needs a break from its hectic, scheduled everyday life.”

Maybe I would actually be able to read through a whole book, without interruptions? Or at least one chapter.

“It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune…”

Caleb!”

Must be in want  …”

Where’s my phone, Caleb? I know you have it!”

“No, I don’t!”

of a wife (?)”  This was ridiculous, how was I ever going to concentrate with those two? “What in God’s name is happening up there?!”

“Mom!”

“Mom!” One sentence, I had read one sentence.

It sounded like a horde of angry elephants were tumbling down the stairs. Not a frightened child and a teenager on the war path.I threw the book away with a heavy sigh, got up from the sofa and halted the boys in their steps. But asking them what was happening was a mistake, as they both started explaining at the same time, throwing each other a death stare.

“He took my phone, I know he did!” Bruce yelled. “Just look at that smug face.”

“I do not have a smug face,” Caleb said, trying terribly hard to lose the smirk playing on his face.

“Just give him his phone back, Caleb,” I said, trying just as hard to hide a smile myself. Caleb might look like a little goody-two-shoes (and his grades might support him on that), but when it came to his hormonal brother, Caleb was constantly finding new ways to get a good laugh.

“Here,” Caleb said sweetly, taking up the phone from his back pocket. “It’s just so cool I had to look at it.”

“Then why don’t you ask me first next time, and maybe I’ll say yes.” Bruce took the phone hesitantly. He must have been just as surprised as I was, seeing Caleb give up that easily. It just didn’t seem like his normal behaviour; what was he up to?

***

Things seemed to calm down for a while, yet I didn’t care to take up the book. Everyone was occupied with their own thing when face two of Caleb’s plan was set in motion. “Damn it, Caleb!” Bruce was sprinting down the stairs for a second time in a couple of hours.

“Bruce, language please!” I called, feeling ancient.

My dear, handsome son was standing in the doorway, with a death glare set on his little brother. “I know what you did,” he said in a dangerously calm tone.

“And what exactly is that?” Caleb asked innocently.

“I can’t belive you would stoop that low! To send her a message, from my phone? It didn’t even sound like me.”

“I think it sounded just like you,” Caleb said, jumping down from his chair. With a dramatic hand gesture he started reciting what I assumed was the message. “Hi, Julie. Their showing the newest John Sim movie in town. Wanna go? Bruce V.”

The two boys started chasing each other around the kitchen. “I did you a favour! I heard you tell Melody that you wanted to ask Julie out.”

“Is that true?” Brad inquired, getting only a shrug as answer. “Sounds like your brother did you a favour, maybe you should thank him?”

“Why? She’ll say no, and I’ll be laughed out of school.”

“Now, wait just a second,” I said. “You don’t know if she’ll say no. For all you know she might just like you, just as much as you like her.”

“I don’t like her,” Brad said unconvincingly, and left the room. I still think he was mentally thanking his brother for sending that message.

After the storm had calmed down, Brad and I tried to pry more details out of Caleb. But as the example of brotherly thrust he said nothing but the fact that what he had already revealed was enough.

“Well, if that’s how it’s going to be,” I said. Caleb said it was. “Then why don’t you call your brother down to dinner, so your father and I can get the information straight from the source.”

“Good luck with that.”

 “Yeah, I told you Melody. It’s sent, no getting back now…You really think I’ve got a chance?…What?! Who’s side are you on, anyway…right…well, I”

*Knock knock*

“Got to go, Mel. Bye. Yes, come in!”

The door was opened and Caleb came in slowly. He wasn’t allowed in there as much as he would’ve wanted, but he immediately recognized the familiar scent of teenage boy, lingering in the air. “Mom sent me to tell you dinner is ready, …and to apologize.”

“Right, thanks.”

Caleb turned to leave when Bruce stopped him hesitantly. “Listen, Chubs, I shouldn’t have gotten mad,”he started, not sure how to finish. “Actually, I meant to thank you, you know, for sending it. I do like her, so.. . thank you, I guess.”

Caleb probably wished he had a phone right then, so he could get that speech as a ringtone. But he didn’t say anything, he just gave his brother a warm smile and went down to dinner. After all, this was what he had wanted; to do his brother a favour. And have fun, but mostly the favour.

***

After dinner the two brothers went to do their own thing. Bruce was submerged in  his music as usual. The guitar he had gotten for his birthday was never left alone for long. He was actually taking classes on how to play, and had finally gotten good enough to stop the neighbours from complaining. And if he was in a good mood, he would let the family come with their wishes for the next song.

Caleb usually distanced himself from such behaviour. Even though every note flew through his head and lingered in his mind, creating patterns. But he was always to busy with homework, reading, experimenting in the garage or looking through the telescope his father had helped him set up on the roof.

“Whatcha’ doing, little brother?” Bruce said in a sing-song voice, climbing the stairs up to the roof.

“Just looking through the telescope. Wanna see?” Bruce knelt down, leveling with the telescope, and looked in amazement.

“There aren’t as many as I thought there were, though,” Bruce said, nodding as Caleb told him how the lights from the city made it hard to see any stars at all. “Well, it’s still pretty cool. I can see now why you spend so much time up here. But I have an idea for something else we could do.” This time it was Caleb’s turn to nod as Bruce explained the plan.

Bruce said he should bring a thing that ment something to him, not a thing he spent a lot of money on, but something that reminded him of a person or a place. Caleb rummaged through his desk drawers and bookcases for anything that could fit the description.

Meanwhile, in the other end of the hallway, Bruce had already decided what to bring. He had been thinking of getting rid of it for ages now, but every time he tried to toss it away he realised how much it still meant to him. “Stupid doll.”

Together they snuck out to the back of the house. They could already see the little cluster of trees down by the lake: perfect for their plan. They tried to not make too much noise as they started digging near the trunk of a tree. Without a word Bruce took up an empty box from his bedroom, the only box who wasn’t filled with half-bad song lyrics and band logos.

“So, you brought Puzzle?” Caleb asked. He knew how much the thing had ment to Bruce when he was younger. In fact Caleb had one of his own as well, but he never got quite as attached as his brother with Puzzle.

“Yeah, it’s time to let him go,” he smiled and looked at Caleb. “What did you bring?”

Caleb opened his hand, showing a disfigured lump of wood. “Remember when you tried to make a rabbit out of it? You said it would remind me of my big brother and his brilliant nick name for me.”

“Not my greatest work, I’ll admit. And I mean that lump of wood, not the nickname; cause’ the nickname is perfect,” he said with a laugh.

“It meant a lot to me anyway.” After putting the items in the box and sealing it carefully, they left the garden.

“So, what was the point of that?” Caleb asked as they sat in Bruce’s room.

“If we ever argue, and it looks like we might never talk to each other again, one of us should go back here, dig up the box and take it to the other as a peace-offering,” Bruce explained quickly.

“Sounds like a good idea,” Caleb smiled. “It might actually work!”

“I guess you didn’t get all the brains in this family after all, Chubs.”

“It appears not.”

***

“Okay, they finally went in.”

“Good, I don’t like them being out this late at night. What were they doing anyway?”

“I don’t know, but it didn’t look they were fighting.”

 “Well, that has to be a first,” I sighed. “Honey, I need to tell you something.”

“What is it?”

“You know how I’ve been so stressed the last couple of… eh, years?”

He sat himself on the bed, nodding. “But that’s normal, we have two kids, and you’ve been dealing with the whole sister-dilema. Not to mention how you lost your parents as a child. Anyone would get a little anxious after all that.”

“Apparently not this anxious. In fact, it turns out I might have some light case of OCD.”

“What?! Aria, you can’t belive everything those psychologists say.It’s probably just a trick to make you come in twice a week, instead of one.”

“No, it’s not. It makes sense, and I think it’s a bit easier to cope with these anxiety attacks, that’s what they called them, now that I finally have a name for it. It might be the first step to recovery.”

“You really think so?” he asked, calming down again. He took hold of my hand, before continuing. “Then I think it’s time to take a step back, and let the boys take it from here.”

Chapter 1.12 – Blast from the past

“I’m taking Caleb out for a walk. Don’t burn the house down!” I called out.

“Of course not, honey.”

“And make sure Bruce does his homework,” I said before closing the door behind me. “There’s no way he’s doing his homework without me there to pester him about it. Promise me you’ll do your homework without trouble, Caleb.”

These daily walks had become a sort of break for me. For a while there would only be me and Caleb, walking in silence. As a mother I loved my whole family to bits, but as a person I was starting to get pretty tired of the constant noise at home. I needed these small moments of peace to keep my sanity.

Caleb enjoyed them immensely as well. There was always something new to be seen or pointed at. He especially enjoyed it if we passed by the auditorium in town.

We had established a route. It took us past the bookstore, where I would look longingly at the books I knew I wouldn’t have time to read. But it also went by the town’s auditorium. Sometimes there would be concerts, the music would carry out through the hall and out on the street. Caleb loved to just sit and listen to the tunes from whatever musical or artist they were performing.

There actually was a concert that day, but it didn’t start until later in the evening. I was just about to tell Caleb the bad news, when a familiar voice spoke. “Aria, It’s nice to see you again.”

“Christian?!”

He ignored my outburst and leaned down towards Caleb. “He looks just like you.” I didn’t say a word. It felt like I had just seen a ghost. Protectively I took Caleb out of his baby carriage, settling him on my hip.

“I hear an old friend of mine say that Brad Jones, or rather Brad Velvet, is the father. Is that so?” he asked in his old, self-important tone. I nodded with a slight smile. Christian reached out a hand to ruffle Caleb’s hair lightly. “Ah, children. The very reason we exist. Parenthood is quite the experience don’t you think?”

“So, you’re a parent?” I managed to ask.

“Father of a darling girl, actually,” he smiled, pulling back his hand.

“And the mother…she’s,”

“Lydia, yes,” he said, carefully avoiding my eye. “She’s playing here tonight, which is why I find myself back in Hidden Springs.”

After that the conversation flew easily. We talked loosely about what we had been up to these last years, and so on. Turns out he and Lydia had been living in Bridgeport since they both left Hidden Springs. Their daughter had been born around the time I had Bruce. Lydia had finally gotten back to playing again, and a tour was just what her career needed apparently. She had asked for a special consert here in her husband’s hometown. “Well, it was nice meeting you.”

“You too!”

***

 Back at home Brad was buried in today’s newspaper and Bruce was,  surprisingly, nowhere to be seen.

“Guess who I saw today?” I said, entering the kitchen.

“Who?” he asked, folding the newspaper neatly together before leaving it on the table. When I told him he looked at me with a quizzical expression. “Christian? Christian Schnell?”

“Yes. Apparently his wife is playing in town tonight.” I slid Caleb in to his high chair.

“Well, I’m glad he has found someone who can stand him,” Brad chuckled. “I’m also a little surprised.”

“Maybe you should pay him a visit?”

“You know what? I just might do that,” he said, getting up from his chair. “But right now I have to get back to work.” He gave me a light kiss, before heading out the door with a cheery wave.

The door slammed shut, and I was left with the task of getting Bruce to do his homework. “Bruce Velvet! Get your butt down here, young man, and do some homework,” I yelled up the stairs, but didn’t get an answer. “Bruce?”

I found him out on the swing set we had put up in the yard. He would swing himself as high up as possible, and then jump off in the middle of a swing, flying meters across the grass.

Bruce and homework had a rather turbulent relationship. Sometimes he would do them in no time at all without being asked for it, other times more drastic methods had to be used. It wasn’t that he couldn’t sit still in long periods of time, but rather the fact that he couldn’t concentrate. I had seen him sitting by himself with a sheet of paper, writing songs, or sitting in his room listening to music for hours. I think what was keeping him from doing his homework was the fact that he always had a lot on his mind. He would sit with math in front of him, but in reality he was thinking about a suiting name for the band him and his friends were starting. Or what guitar he wanted for his birthday. As you might have guessed, his biggest dream was to become a rock star.

My phone started ringing in my pocket.  I picket it up, looking at the caller ID, but the number was unfamiliar to both me and the phone. Taking a few steps away from the boys, I answered. “Hello?”

“Hello, my name is officer Oakheart. Is this Aria Velvet speaking?”

“Yes.”

“I’m a police officer in Twinbrooks , and I am calling to tell you that your aunt has passed away.”

“Could you excuse me for a second, officer?” I said lying a hand in front of the phone. “Bruce, could you watch your brother? I need to take this.”

“Sure thing, mom,” he said a little to brightly. I ran out to the back of the house. Before taking the phone again I breathed a steadying breath.

“Hello, officer Oakheart?” I said into the phone.

” Yes, I’m still here,” he answered. “Now, what was I saying? Oh yes, your aunt has passed away and has left no will. This automatically means that you are to inherit her small fortune.”

“I don’t want it,” I said without hesitation. I want nothing to do with that woman, not even after death.” An idea formed in my head as I spoke. “Why don’t you give it to Alice? I haven’t heard from her since I was fifteen, maybe she needs it?”

“I’m afraid I don’t understand Mrs. Velvet.”

“My sister, Alice Velvet. Send her the money instead, because I don’t want it.” I heard him ruffle through some papers on the other end. He asked me to repeat the name, which annoyed me more than I should have let it. “Alice Velvet. Daughter of Annie and Richard Velvet. Born in Twinbrooks, she is my twin sister.”

It got very silent on the other end, and I started pacing around on the grass, waiting for him to say something. After minutes without a word I was afraid he might have hung up. That’s when he spoke. His words seemed to make no sense as they reached my end of the line.

“There is no Alice Velvet in our system, ma’am. And we have records of all the births in Twinbrooks. There are no school evidence, no job, no nothing. It’s like she never existed,” he said gravely. Just before hanging up he added, ” I’m sorry.”

The line went dead, the phone fell to the ground. I slumped down on the bench. My brain wouldn’t prosses the information, and it soon got to tiresome to stay up. Lying, and seeing the world sideways it started to dawn on me.

 

Together…alone. All these years I’d thought we had stood together, when the truth was that there was no one to stand with; I had always been on my own.

Could you trick yourself like that? There had to be something wrong with my mind to create an imaginary sister and then not realise how screwed up I was.

Like an overflowing river long hindered by a dam the tears came running down with the frustration and self-loathing. I needed a break, a break from everything. Maybe talking to a professional would help me understand?

***

“Where’s Bruce? Can you see him?”

“He’s here! You can see him now, here am I Chubby Bunny!”

“What did you just call your brother?”

“Chubby Bunny, ’cause he looks like a chubby bunny.”

“You’re really something, son. You know that? Where is your mother by the way?”

 “She got a phone call and said she’d be back. It’s probably her new, secret boyfriend.” *Giggles*

“What did you say?”

“Chubby bunny?”

***

“Aria!” Brad called out with a smile. “Aria?”

“I can’t do it, Alice!” “Yes, you can. Just a little higher, I promise it’ll be worth it!”

She seemed so real…

Chapter 1.11 – Boys will be boys

Ah, we all know what this means, right? No, I didn’t eat too much cake again. I’m pregnant! The news came early on the morning of Bruce’s birthday. I couldn’t wait to tell Brad, he would be ecstatic. Oh God, another baby. More diapers, more crying, but more cuddly babies. I admit I was crossing my fingers for a girl this time, because baby Bruce was quite a handful. And he hadn’t even started walking and talking yet.

So that morning, before Brad had to work, we gathered around a white birthday cake with blue frosting and one candle.

I was looking forward to seeing who he took the most from. He already had his father’s ivory skin, but would he have my dark, mahogany coloured hair or his father’s light caramel hair?

Of course there was some moral support in the background as I led Bruce closer to the cake.

Maybe it was a little silly to expect him to actually blow out the candles, poor thing. So, without Brad noticing (I think) I leaned in and gave a little puff. The flame immediately extinguished. We lay him down on the floor, and let him age up.

I’m not sure what the guy wished for, but what happened next certainly gave me a scare.

It couldn’t be…not possible…he was… BLOND.

A tight knot formed in my throat, and tears were starting to press in the corners of my eyes. It was getting harder to breathe as my mind tried to comprehend what had just happened. It wasn’t possible, but there he was, just as blond as…my mother.

I turned away, as the pain of seeing an image of her cut through me. Small sobbing sounds were starting to escape me. The whole world had finally been making sense, and now this comes and throws it all in a curveball towards me. It hurt to watch him, where he sat with his brush of sandy blond hair, reminding me just how much I missed my mother.

That’s when Brad turned away from the dishes and saw what I had seen, confirming that I wasn’t just imagining things.

“He’s blond?” he asked looking perplexed. “How is that possible?”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed. “Eh… my mother was blond, could her genes have passed to him?”

“Well, I’m no gene specialist or anything, but I think it would be highly unlikely. That’s not to say it’s impossible, though.”

Without the slightest notice to the sudden shift of air in the kitchen, Bruce sat playing happily with his birthday gift. A creepy doll he later called Puzzle, which I thought was a rather strange name for a doll, but then again it was a rather strange doll as well.

Brad crossed the kitchen with ease and wrapped his arms around me. “How do you feel? I know this must be quite a startle for you, but look at him Aria. He’s our son through and through, and personally I don’t think there has ever been a toddler that handsome.”

I laughed, brushing away the one tear that slid down my cheek. “You have to say that; you’re his father.”

“I’m serious, he’ll be a real heartbreaker one day.”

With his arms around me I started pulling myself together. Of course he was handsome – kind and talented as well – with a father like Brad. It was just my awful nerves that tended to get the better of me, and seeing Bruce had shot me into a tunnel filled with memories I would rather forget. But a mother loves her children no matter what, and my love for Bruce should only intensify now that I know that he has a part of my mother inside him as well.

Brad loved the little guy. They were never far from each other, and I would hear them laugh all the time. Bruce adored his dad; whenever he had to leave for work and Bruce stayed behind with me, he would follow him to the door, cry a bit and wave as Brad left. The rest of the day he would be happily playing with his toys or watch me do some things around the house, but when a car pulled up in front of the house he was already sitting and waiting for his dad to came through the door.

“Hi, buddy!” Brad said, tickling him. “How was your day? Did you help mommy do the laundry?”

I don’t think Bruce understood a word, as he just kept giggling, but Brad had an unspoken connection with him. “That’s a good boy.”

We were quick to start teaching him the basic skills. There were three things he should know before aging up to a child: walking, talking and using the potty. Brad had taken charge of the walking part.

“Now, Bruce. I’ll let go, and you will stand without my help okay?”

“M?”

“Yes, try to stand straight. You’ll just fall backwards if you stick your butt out like that.”

“M?” Maybe we should have tried talking first.

“Baby,” I said slowly, making overdone motions with my lips to make it easier. “Baby.”

“Bub,” he giggled. He was a very giggly child.

This was actually the last time I was able to wear that sweater; my stomach had started to swell. And this was my attempt to tell Bruce about his new brother or sister.

“Baby,” I tried again. “A new BABY.”

“…bub.” Arrrgh.

Then there was the issue with the potty training. None of us were particularly exited about this part, but if he learned this we would be able to change diapers a lot less frequently.

 “Then the young calf finally managed to buy the bananas from the Berry people, and lived happily ever after.”

We had tried to read him every book we could find, but he didn’t seem remotely interested in any of them.

It usually ended a little like this. And let me tell, this boy did not whimper or sob, he had full-blown, howling tantrums. The bet with Brad seemed to be going in his favour, for now.

Something he actually liked to do, was playing on his miniature xylophone. He would sit there for hours a day, slamming on the colourful keys. I would have stopped the awful noise, if it hadn’t been for the overjoyed expression spread across his adorable face.

***

One day we decided that we should take a family trip down to a park where there was a play ground. My stomach was getting big as a mountain, it couldn’t be much time left before we were joined by a little boy. Brad and I had made the decision of finding out the sex. Another boy; hallelujah *face palm*.

The park wasn’t a long way away from our house, so we walked the whole way. And now my back was paying the price.

Brad and Bruce were still trying the whole walking scenario, and yes, Bruce had managed to lose his pants on the way.

And right beside the two of them there was a little pond, and I watched them carefully as Bruce came closer and closer. Brad seemed to be having it all under control, so I let myself close my eyes for a second. But when I opened them Bruce was on his way towards the pond in a hurry. And the joy of seeing him walk was nothing compared to the fear of seeing him and the water together.

My heart pounded in my chest as I hurried to help him. There was still no sign of Brad as I called out for him. Bruce was getting closer to the water; I wouldn’t make it.

But then in a flash Bruce was lifted up in the air from behind.

“Oh no, don’t even think about it, son,” Brad said. He then turned me with an apologetic smile, and a “Don’t worry. I’ve got him.”

I tried calming myself down, as the adrenalin and fear faded away, I allowed myself to breath. Damn these nerves.

The park accident is not the only incident we have had.  Not so long ago Brad brought Bruce to the shop, and asked him specifically to stay close. And wouldn’t you belive it, when Brad came back five minutes later Bruce was gone. He asked everyone if they had seen a blond boy running around here, all the customer and the staff, but no one had seen him. Brad was just about to have a panic attack – which is normally my job – when he heard a familiar giggling from behind a rack of old men’s clothes.

“Oh thank God, there you are!”

 ***

So when my water broke for the second time in my life, I was hoping like crazy that maybe this guy would be a tad bit less trouble than his older brother. Don’t get me wrong, I love my son, but he can be quite the trouble maker.

Brad didn’t handle stress too good lately and had a minor fit before he managed to pull himself together and take me to the hospital. Were we never going to have a normal reaction to a this?

 Bruce was the complete opposite of his father in this occasion. He didn’t even seem to notice the disturbance in the room. For the moment it was only him and his beloved dinner.

He wasn’t the biggest fan of pants at this point, as you can see.

Later that night a little boy was born healthy and strong in to the Velvet family; Caleb Velvet.

Chapter 1.10 – Expecting

“Are you sure? 100% sure?” he asked looking stunned.

“Well, I can’t be completely positive without taking a pregnancy test or, better yet, go see a doctor,” I sighed. “But I would be surprised if I’m wrong.”

“Okay, we’ll go and get an appointment at the hospital, right now. Come on, I’ll drive you.”

“What about your work?” I asked letting him move past me. “I can go by myself.”

“I’ll get someone to cover for me, don’t worry. This is top priority right now!” He was walking around the livingroom, gathering his keys, phone and wallet.

I watched him for a second before deciding what to do. Things were going too fast. What if I actually was pregnant? We hadn’t discussed it, not really. And this hurried matter of his was making me nervous, I couldn’t see if he was happy or not about this. Things needed to slow down; now.

“Wait, Brad. Please stop!” I said exasperated.

“What? Does it hurt?” he stopped what he was doing immediately, hurrying over to me.”Are you feeling nauseous again?”

“No,” I laughed, before turning serious again. “I need to know – before we go anywhere – if we find out that I’m in fact pregnant; how would you feel then? I mean, would you be happy, because I would …and if…”

 “Aria, listen to me. If we find out that you’re right, I will be ecstatic! I love you, and I’ll stand by you no matter what happens.”

“That’s all I needed to hear. Now, let’s go.”

It was a regular monday morning when we got there and the receptionist easily fitted us in with a doctor. It quickly turned out  we were indeed expecting a little bundle of joy.

“How do you feel?” Brad asked, holding my hand securely. We had found ourselves a bench outside the hospital.

“It feels strange, almost unreal. It hasn’t completely sunken in yet,” I said, leaning in to him trying to imagine little feet running around the house, leaving trails of mud after them and echoes of children’s laughter.

“Maybe it will feel more real when we start shopping for baby clothing and furniture,” he smiled. “But then we’ll have to know the sex, don’t we?”

“That’s months in the future, Brad!” I laughed, getting pretty exited myself just by hearing him talk about the whole thing.

“Months?! I can already feel him kicking.”

“It seems you’ve already decided that it is a boy,” I pointed out.

“Yeah, girls can’t  kick like that.”

“There is no kicking, Brad! It’s just been three weeks.”

Five months later

“Oh my God! I just love babies,” Claire squealed. “They’re just SO cute.” Claire hadn’t stopped talking about babies since the day I told her about the pregnancy; baby-this and baby-that, non stop. You would’ve thought she was the one expecting.

I, myself, felt more calm under this pregnancy than ever. Suddenly there was no rush, no fear or concern. I made sure to enjoy this before the baby came, and my life would be quite a different story.

“And what’s a baby shower without a shower of gifts?” Claire exclaimed, rummaging through her oversized bag. “Here you go, little baby.Just remember that you like your auntie Claire best, okay?”

The gift was a cute bear with yellow pants that fitted nicely to the yellow colour scheme we had selected for the room.

 “It’s not fair to turn him or her against me before being born,” Laila complained. She rolled out a piece of paper and explained that it was a height measurement poster.

“They had one in the children’s wing in the hospital, and I figured it would be handy when the baby get’s a little older.”

“By the way, have you thought of any names yet?” Claire chimed in.

“Well, we thought about Belle if it’s a girl. And then maybe Bruce if it’s a boy.”

“Is it Belle as in Isabelle?” Laila asked. “Isabelle is such a wonderful name.”

“No, just Belle,” I said, seeing how sceptical she was about the untraditional name. Both Claire and her were convinced that it would be a girl, unlike Brad who was still adamant about it being a boy. The name, Bruce, was his idea; apparently it’s the real name of Batman or something. I liked it though and personally I was hoping for a boy myself, I think. Don’t get me wrong, I would of course be thrilled if it was a girl, but girls have a way of being rather difficult to handle.

Brad’s car pulled up in front of the house as we finished our coffee; tea, in my case. I was starting to feel pretty exhausted after all the talking and fussing. Maybe I would get some sleep now that he came rescuing me.

When the girls had said their goodbyes and left, Brad took my hands in his – something he had done a lot lately – and gave then a gentle press.

“How tired are you?” he asked with a warm, concerned smile. “Ready to pass out?”

“Pretty much, yeah,” I sighed, feeling my knees buckling under the weight of both me and the baby.

“Do you think you can handle a last breath of fresh air before turning in?”

He led me out to the old bench standing in the huge yard. I leaned my head against his shoulder and silently told him about the girls excitement. And that I thought they might be more excited about the baby than either of us.

“That’s impossible,” he stated softly, before gently kissing me.

We fell silent again, listening to the sound of the lake in front of us and the air rustling in the trees.

Then I realised how large and empty our garden was. I should probably plant some trees and bushes around here. Hopefully I would fit in some children’s toys as well. Maybe a swing here and a tree house over there. I closed my eyes, imagining generations of Velvets running around without their shoes on and playing in the dirt, falling in love in the shadows of great trees and marrying on the green, spring grass. It had to be my hormones making me so sentimental.

Three months later

 The day started out as normal, almost at least. I was making pancakes even though I wasn’t sure if I should eat. My back was hurting more than usual, and I had felt a bit queasy the whole morning. I brushed it off as some light morning sickness and an active baby, but something was stirring in the back of my mind; a warning maybe.

Later I lay on the bed reading, just like I had done the last couple of months. Brad had left for work and the house was as silent as it would ever be. But not for long. I was starting to get more and more convinced that thing might happen sooner than we’d expected.

But nothing happened, and when Brad came home he took me to a gallery not far from the house. One of the locals was having a big exposition. Her family had been living here for decades so their skin had a tinge of green to it.

Art was not my strong suit, and I didn’t really have too much interest in it, but I went with him anyway. When the sun had gone down I was starting to feel some movement in me. More than just kicks, more like full-blown stomps. I clamped a hand around my stomach and hurried to the bathroom.

That’s when the contractions started. Somehow I managed to call for Brad while at the same time not having the baby right there and then.

“It’s coming! Get me to the hospital, NOW!”

He uttered a weird sound, which can only be described as partly screaming with panic and partly cheering. I didn’t have time to deal with his mental breakdown right now, the baby was definitely on its way.

But why did it have to hurt so bad?!

I think Brad so excited he actually managed to jump out of the car and run towards the hospital without me.

 ***

It was in the middle of the night when I heard the screaming. A couple of days ago the house had been as silent as the grave, and now there was always noise. Because this baby did not whimper, he screamed at the top of his lungs.

“Hey, baby.” I whispered, lifting him carefully up from the crib. “Shh…it’s okay, mommy’s here.” I heard the floorboards creek behind me as he walked up towards us.

“My God, that kid sure knows how to make some noise,” he chuckled, while pulling his hand trough his messy hair. “He’ll probably end up as a rock star one day.”

“Bruce Velvet, rock star,” I said kissing his little face. “Nah, he looks more like a future professor or a scientist.”

“Wanna bet on that?”

“Game on!”

Chapter 1.9 – Too much cake

After Brad’s proposal everything seemed to be going faster than before. The second I told the girls, Claire had already volunteered to make the wedding dress. I agreed, reluctantly, afraid she might go crazy with laces and glitter.

“Hey, be careful were you pin the needles!” I exclaimed, rubbing a sore spot on my hip.

“Hold still then, Aria.”

“I am holding still!”

She stung me with one needle after the other, always blaming me for moving; even though I was barely breathing and my whole body had frozen. I didn’t think I could’ve moved even if I wanted to anymore.

The dress was done after a short week, and since the wedding wasn’t going to be big the other arrangements were already done. So, tomorrow I would be a married woman. Oh God…

“We’ll come by early, and help you with your dress and hair,” Laila smiled. “I’m so glad you’re happy again, darling. You deserve it.”

“Thank you.”

“Now go get some beauty sleep. With big bags under your eyes there is nothing we can do to help you,” Claire laughed. They both got up from the couch, gave me a hug and left.

 

Brad had gone to his best man’s house to crash there. So the place was all mine. It felt weird not being afraid of loneliness anymore, but definitely in a good way. Finally, I had the freedom and independence that I had wished for, for so long. And having laid that behind I could start a new chapter of my life; with Brad.

There really wasn’t much to do for me, so I went to bed even though it was barely nine pm. I was afraid the butterflies in me would keep me up until dawn, but as soon as my head met the pillow my eyes to grow heavy, and I fell asleep. At least Claire didn’t have to worry about bags under my eyes.

“Damn it, Aria! I told you to get some sleep,” Claire complained.

“I did. I’ve been sleeping since nine o’clock.”

“Relax, Claire. It could’ve been from other nights as well,” Laila said backing me up, while laying the dress out on the bed.

“I mean, I know Brad’s hot and all, but you need to get some sleep, sweetie,” Claire giggled. Okay, it was official; I would get married looking like a tomato.

At last, the guests were starting to arrive. Some were old friends of Brad’s, others I knew from work. I had recently been back to at the office, after they fired Mr. Alto; apparently he had some bosses higher up as well.

Claire looked stunning in her powder purple dress, and somehow she had managed to tame her wild hair at the front. If I didn’t get my butt out there soon, she could easily steal the show.

Brad stood by the “altar” (wich was just a flower curve in our yard) and talked to his best man. He constantly kept smoothing his tuxedo with nervous movements.

Everyone had come and were seated, when the music started to play.

“That’s my cue.”

My stomach was containing what felt like a seven million butterflies as I walked silently, and on my own. High heels and grass did not go well together, and I was practically stumbling up to where Brad stood waiting.

“Are you nervous?” he asked, taking my hand carefully.

“Not at all.”

“Wow, that almost sounded convincing.”

The caked looked delicious. Just like we were supposed to, we went over to cut a slice, And I know that I was supposed to give him mine, but it just looked to heavenly, so I ate it myself. At least Brad thought it was hilarious.

It started out as two reasonable sized slices. But after everyone had got some, I went back and managed to eat three more; I just couldn’t help it. You know how when you’re bleeding, and you know you need a band aid? Well, I was hungry, and I needed cake.

While I was stuffing my face with cake, Brad’s best man, Robert, had managed to persuade him into playing for our guests. First he declined, saying he was a little rusty, but when I sent him a pleading look from behind my cake he took the guitar and started playing. I had no idea how good he was, I don’t think I had ever heard him play until that moment. When he put away the guitar the whole party erupted into cheers and applause; but none was as loud as I. Poor Brad didn’t look like he cared much for the attention at all.

Most of the guests left not long after that. Claire and Robert stayed behind to clean up with Brad and me. Laila would probably have stayed as well if it hadn’t been for the fact that she was not as young as she used to be, so we sent her home. The guests had been few, and the chairs were easily stacked in minutes. The boys had started taking down the tables when Claire came up to me, glowing.

“He offered to drive me home!” she giggled in a soft voice so the others couldn’t hear us. “Robert, I mean.”

“And that’s a good thing, I assume?” I laughed.

” Of course. i mean he’s handsome, kind, smart, talented, funny polite … I could go on all day, Aria.”

“Then you’re officially excused from cleaning duty. Get Robert, Brad and I will take the rest tomorrow,” I smiled. “Thank you for coming. And thank you so much for the beautiful dress!”

“You’re welcome. It was so much fun, I just hope I get the chance to make one to myself one day as well. Oh, here they come.”

We waved as they drove away.

“I think they like each other,” Brad stated. “I’ve heard that a lot of people meet their future husband or wife in weddings.”

I smiled, still looking after them.

“So, she likes him?” he asked. Had William put him up to this? How old were we, ten?

“Well, what’s not to like? He’s handsome…”

“What did you say?”

“I said he isn’t handsome,” I smiled innocently.

“That’s what I thought.”

“I have a small surprise for you,” Brad said, smiling secretly.

“Really? Where is it?” I exclaimed exited.

Brad laughed as he guided me into the house. He scooped me up like I weighted nothing more than the chairs we’d just stacked.

 Ignoring my desperate attempts to break free he carried me over the threshold and in to the bedroom.

 The room was decorated with candles and flowers. He let me go, and I walked carefully over to the bed.

“I thought, since we couldn’t afford a real honey moon, we would have to make the best of it,” he smiled.

“When did you do this?” I still couldn’t belive it.

“While you were stuffing cake like there was no tomorrow.”

“Oh please, it was not that bad.”

“Eh, you could at least have left some for me, you know.”

The next day I woke up, finding the space beside me empty. I didn’t have time to wonder where he had gone, before a loud crash from the kitchen brought me out from whatever fogginess still hung in my mind. The floor was ice-cold as I swung my feet of the bed.

 The smell of pancakes wafted through the house, and I found Brad standing concentrated on the task at hand.

“You’re up early,” I yawned.

“It’s twelve o’clock, honey,” he replied merrily, putting the pancakes on the oven. I looked at the clock; how had I managed to sleep this long? I was always up before Brad.

“I hope you’re hungry.”

“I’m starving, Mr. Velvet.”

“Yeah, how did you convince me to take your name by the way?” he asked, clearly unaccustomed to his new name.

“It has to be my irresistible charm,” I said. “And because there are about a gazillion people in the world named Jones.”

“This is how it’s going to be from here; you’re calling the shots?”

“I hope you weren’t under the impression that the situation would be anything else. You can’t even watch the pancakes, let alone this marriage.”

“Oh, man! The pancakes!” They looked a little burned, and the kitchen was filled with the distinct smell of smoke. I drew in a deep breath, taking in the smell.

“Don’t worry, they still smell…”

 My entire stomach turned around as the sweet, yet intolerable, smell hit me. I clamped a hand in front of my mouth and sprinted for the bathroom.

I heard Brad run after me, but I slammed the door in his face. He stood outside in silence until I was standing upright again.

“Are you okay in there?” he asked concerned. “Maybe you shouldn’t have eaten all that cake.”

“Probably not.”

But I was afraid it might be something entirely else causing all this trouble.