Mum was working even harder than usual lately. I could hear the speedy tapping of her keyboard almost all the time, and I was sure that by now she knew everyone in Sunset Valley. She kept sending out even more articles, and her blog was full of insights about life and Sunset Valley. It had a nice following too, from what I could tell, and especially the locals seemed to like mum’s observations on their nice little town.
I figured mum was trying to make up for the upcoming maternity leave. I suppose that made sense, seeing how mum always wanted to do everything the best she could, but I just hoped she wouldn’t tire herself out. I wasn’t an expert on babies, but I assumed they required a lot of work too. It was a good thing Patrick would be helping, and we would be too, and after mum’s maternity leave Patrick would take his own leave to stay home with the baby. They’d told us that soon after breaking the big news on us.
I still wasn’t sure how to feel about it. About the baby, I mean. Even though mum and Patrick hadn’t planned for it, they seemed ecstatic, even though I heard them fretting over money when they thought Rem or I couldn’t hear them. I was happy too, I guess. Many times I found myself wondering what the new sibling would look like, or if it would be a boy or a girl. I imagined playing with the kid when they got older. Not as a baby that much. According to my limited experience, babies were boring. Rem had already been a toddler when I’d first met him, and even he had been gratingly dull during the times when he wasn’t being creepy and weird and lovely.
Sometimes I wondered if the baby would become like Rem. Would I soon be surrounded by kids with vaguely magical powers of premonition and of making me see things? Or maybe the baby would have some other powers, like blowing things up with their mind. As awesome as that would be, I figured it would be way more disastrous in real life than in the comics or movies.
Rem himself hadn’t taken the news of the baby very well. At first he’d been confused, but once it had dawned on him that it was really happening, he’d snapped into some kind of silent rebel mode. I saw him sitting in the trees with a very un-Rem-like scowl on his face. His paintings became more aggressive for a while, with splotches of paint even on the floor.
Once I heard a yell of anger from upstairs, when Patrick realised that someone had switched the herbal goo he used as shampoo with one of my bright pink dyes. At first I was worried that I would be blamed, because it had been my dye. But Rem had soon stepped up and confessed he’d done it. We were all baffled. Rem had never done anything like that. Patrick had stuttered with both anger and confusion when he had grounded his son and said they would have a serious talk about it after Patrick got the dye washed out of his hair.
I had no idea why Rem was reacting that way. Maybe he was scared. I mean, I think we all were a little scared. It was an odd concept, bringing someone new into our slowly untangling mess of a life. And it had become pretty clear that despite his normally cheery default setting, Rem reacted more strongly to unexpected happenings than I could have ever imagined of him. Even knowing this, I was surprised when the talk Patrick and Rem were having escalated into some serious shouting match. Their arguments had never gone to shouting before.
It was surprise more than curiosity that stopped me outside mum and Patrick’s bedroom door, where the yelling was coming from. Or so I kept telling myself.
“…you’re being silly,” said Patrick in a raised, but forcibly calm voice.
Rem wasn’t even pretending to be calm.
“SILLY? Dad, I’m not five! Or is that why you want someone else? Because I’m silly?”
“Rem, you know that’s not true. We’re not going to replace any of you kids! We love you, and-”
“THEN WHY DON’T YOU EVER TELL ME ABOUT MOTHER?”
There was a heavy silence, and then Patrick spoke in a quiet voice. I had to strain my ears to hear him:
“Is that what this is about again? Rem, we’ve talked about this so many times.”
“I just want to know…” Rem was also whispering, and his voice sounded almost broken, “Do you want this new baby to… to have a real kid of your own?”
Patrick sighed deeply.
“You’ve seen the birth certificate. I remember being in the hospital and seeing you being born. I don’t know why it isn’t enough. I don’t even know why it matters. I’d love you just as much even if you weren’t my son.”
“Yes. Really. Why do you even have to ask?”
“Lynn’s listening in on us.”
I slipped back into my own room before Patrick could give me a stern talk as well. The argument kept bothering me even days afterwards, though.
“Rem? Why do you keep doing it?” I asked him almost a week later, after Rem had calmed down somewhat. He’d been on our swing, and I’d joined him just to talk about it. The movement of the swing made the cool evening air rush through my hair in a way that I started to wonder why I didn’t use the swingset more often.
“Doing what?” Rem asked.
“Torturing yourself even with undeniable proof that you really are a part of this family?”
Rem swung his legs nervously and bit his lip. For a moment I thought he wouldn’t answer.
“It’s because of the Tree Lady,” he said finally, “She… she said I don’t belong here.”
I stared at him.
“And you believed that? Why?”
“I… don’t know. It just… I don’t know.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
We swung up, and for a moment I imagined we’d keep going until we were up in space. At least then we’d have some more pressing problems besides this family drama I quite frankly didn’t want in a family that was still a bit too fragile.
“How about this?” I said, “You show me that stupid birth certificate and we can make sure it’s real.”
Rem looked at me oddly.
“You can tell if it’s real?”
“You’ve studied it from your books?”
“No, you dummy! I just happen to have a functioning pair of eyes!”
“But mum and dad and I have working eyes too,” Rem said suspiciously.
“Exactly. I’ll show you it’s stupid of you to worry.”
Rem thought about it for a moment.
“Fine. Tomorrow,” he said then, and I could detect a spark of excitement in his eyes again.
I was only mildly surprised at how easily Rem could find the boring but important documents from Patrick’s files. The birth certificate was just a piece of paper, but like so many other pieces of papers, it was proof of something. In this case, something very important. It occurred to me that I’d never seen a birth certificate before, not even my own. Not that it mattered that much. It was just a bunch of words and lines that had to be filled in with basic information. Some dates and times, and signatures. I stopped at the line for the baby’s name and did a double-take.
“Nathaniel Remus Monsoon?” I read aloud, “That’s your full name? I thought you were just Rem Nathaniel.”
“I am,” Rem said with a shrug, “The first one was an emergency naming. Because I almost died. Dad explained it to me.”
I vaguely remembered Patrick mentioning in some weak moment how Rem had been very sick soon after being born. Maybe it had been back when Rem had been sick as a kid.
“So why did he change it?” I asked.
Rem shrugged his shoulders again.
“Dad said he liked it better as something simpler and snappier and changed it soon after I got better. You know, because then they had more time to think about it. I like it better this way too.”
“Actually, there’s a bit more to it than that,” said a familiar, but a bit unexpected voice.
We jumped up, and Rem almost freaked out at being caught. We turned to look at the door, and Rem slunk behind me as if I was the perfect human shield.
“Dad?” he squeaked, “I wasn’t looking at your papers!”
“Those papers are fine. As long as you stay away from the papers I’m grading. I… I’ve thought about it and you’re right, son. You do deserve to know more about your mother. I suppose now’s a good time, seeing how you’ve started to dig up proof again.”
I stayed as quiet as I could so that Patrick would maybe forget I was there and I could hear the story too. My curiosity made my heart leap when Patrick didn’t send me away, even though he obviously glanced at me before we all sat down and he started talking.
“Margaret already knows about this, and she’s been telling me to open up, but… it’s difficult, and after what happened with Laketon, I didn’t want to start any more family drama.”
“Dad,” Rem said, “You’re going to cause more drama if you don’t tell me.”
“Maybe you’re right. Alright, the reason I haven’t talked about Donna… your mother, I mean, is because our splitting up was… very stormy. She had a very rough time after you were born and sometimes she… she even blamed us about it. I honestly don’t know what happened. She used to be so sweet.”
He took a deep breath. I heard his voice waver and I knew whatever had happened between him and his ex-wife had really shaken him.
“I tried to help Donna the best I could, but in the end she wanted nothing to do with us. I just… I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want you to think it was in any way your fault that she isn’t here.”
Rem didn’t seem to understand it at all.
“But I’ve never thought of it that way.”
“And I don’t want you to start now,” Patrick smiled, “Anyway, it was Donna who thought up the name Nathaniel. After we split up, I changed it.”
“Wow,” I couldn’t help saying, “You used your kid’s identity to spite your ex-wife?”
“I know, it was childish.”
“It’s alright,” Rem said quickly, “I mean, you still kept the name. Just not as the first one. She must have been real mad at us if she just… left.”
“I’m sorry. It’s hard to talk about it. But Rem, what I know for sure is that Donna adored you the moment she first saw you. No matter what she said after that, I don’t think that will ever change even now.”
Rem was quiet.
“I… but if she loved me, then why did she leave?”
Patrick’s smile faltered, but to his credit, he didn’t back down.
“She didn’t love me, I suppose. I don’t even know where she is now. I do think she has a new husband, but that’s all I know.”
Patrick tried to sound reassuring, but I could tell there was something he wasn’t telling us. Rem was thoughtful again, but then he smiled.
“Well, I’m here right now. And Margaret is great. I love her. And I love Lynn. And you. And… maybe the baby too. I don’t really know yet.”
“I’m sure you will,” Patrick smiled, “Babies are way too adorable.”
“Actually, they’re kind of ugly at first,” I pointed out, “And loud.”
“They look kind of like balloons,” Rem mused.
Patrick burst into laughter. We both joined in. After that, Rem’s paintings became brighter again. Most of them were for the baby, he said. He didn’t ask about his name, or his biological mother again, but I could guess he hadn’t stopped thinking about it.
Summer break came by surprisingly quickly after that. Once we were all free from school and work, we took a road trip to Twinbrook to see Grandma Brandi and Grandpa Lórccan. They were expecting us and would probably have made some space for us to sleep in their small house even though it would mean their floor would be covered with mattresses. But mum and Patrick reserved a room in a small hotel and we stayed there for a couple of nights.
The room was nice in a basic hotel room kind of way, with generic posters of vehicles on the walls, and with almost enough beds for the four of us. Grandma and Grandpa insisted on us at least eating all our meals at their place. I didn’t mind at all. They made awesome food, and their teas were always delicious.
And they were so happy to see us. They hugged and laughed and congratulated us on the nice new home and especially the baby, even though the baby wasn’t even a bump in mum’s stomach yet. They sat us down and made us tell them everything about Sunset Valley and school and work and, well, everything. I let the others do the talking most of the time, and they more than made up for my quietness. Even Rem had snapped back to his usual talkativeness for the visit, and he was telling about bugs in trees and fairies in the sky, and it was actually refreshing to hear his nonsense so carefree again.
“We have to visit your new house as soon as we can,” mused Grandpa Lórccan, “At least when the baby is born.”
Patrick and mum exchanged a happy look.
“Of course,” said mum, “We’ll naturally invite you for the naming ceremony.”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Grandma Brandi said, “Even though Lórccan gets so easily tired nowadays, it will be interesting to travel again. I wonder how much Sunset Valley has changed from when we were there. It was such a long time ago.”
“She used to play guitar in the park,” said Grandpa Lórccan, “There was this one day when almost all the people there gathered around her to listen.”
“That must have been amazing,” Rem said, “Grandma Brandi is so… magical. She was a siren.”
“The kind that lures men in with her songs and then sinks their ships?” I asked, “No way.”
“Oh, she lured men in, alright,” Grandpa Lórccan smiled and Grandma Brandi chuckled, “But in the end, it was I she kept.”
“Which I’m happy about,” replied Grandma Brandi. They both looked at each other in a way old, super happy couples sometimes do. I hoped mum and Patrick would one day be like that. So far, they were on the right track.
The visit left everyone smiling, and that wasn’t even the end to the joy. Because while we were in Twinbrook I could see Bree and Jace again.
We had called and messaged and planned a week before the visit already, and we met in front of the cinema where we could watch a film together. It was a pretty good fantasy adventure that we probably ruined to some other filmgoers with our hushed commentary and stifled giggling, but we couldn’t help it. It was way too much fun.
After the film it was still light outside so we went to the park and ate ice cream we bought from a smiling vendor, even though the weather wasn’t the warmest for the early summer. We sat down at the pretty fountain in the park and just stopped to be there for a while, and to enjoy it.
“It’s been nice,” said Bree, “Could we see each other tomorrow too? Before you guys leave?”
“Sure,” I said without even considering it, “We don’t have much planned with family. And even if we did, I don’t care.”
“Awesome!” said Jace, “We could go swimming. The water’s warm enough.”
“That’s a great idea!” Bree said, “My mum could take us to one of the less popular beaches.”
She glanced at me when she said that, and then quickly averted her eyes apologetically. I knew what she was thinking: that I wouldn’t want to go to a public place in a swimsuit that would let everyone see all of my burns. After the fire I’d only worn short sleeves at home where no one besides my family or friends could see my burned arm. My face was bad enough, but thankfully I didn’t have to be visiting doctors regularly anymore, which meant I could grow my hair back so it could hide my face. I appreciated that Bree had thought about it. She didn’t have to be embarrassed about it, though. I would have suggested the secluded beaches myself if she hadn’t beat me to it.
“I don’t think I’ve been swimming for at least a year,” I said with a smile, “Let’s do that. And it would be great to see your mum again.”
“She’ll be happy to see you too. No one draws blue panthers like you do.”
I splashed a bit of water from the fountain at Bree, who dodged it with a laugh.
The next day we did go swimming, and Mrs. Vasquez drove us to a small beach a bit farther away, where we could swim and laugh and have the most gigantic splash war three people could cook up. Jace had brought an inflatable air mattress we could surf or lounge on, and laugh when we kept falling back into the water. I’d never been a fanatic swimmer, but splashing water on friends was always fun. And the water was pleasantly cool and swimming made me feel oddly graceful and carefree. Like a wannabe dolphin.
Dolphins were happy, right? I would be, at least, if I were badass enough to punch sharks.
The sun started to set when we got back to the hotel where we were staying. My arms were exhausted from all the swimming, but it was the good kind of exhaustion. We were all smiling when we said our goodbyes, even though we knew that it would probably be a while before we saw each other again.
Oh, well. It was a long summer ahead. There would be plenty of opportunities.
It turned out that there wasn’t, after all. As the weeks went by, mum and Patrick started to worry about money and turn our house upside down to accommodate for the baby. I knew that a new member to the family would mean more expenses, but I hadn’t expected the baby to cause so much stress already when it was still months before they was born. With the stress and worries and renovating, mum and Patrick didn’t have time to drive me to Twinbrook more than a couple of times during the summer, and there was no way they would let me take the bus on my own at this age after what had happened to us in that town. It sucked, but it couldn’t be helped either. I focused instead on enjoying the few visits I got.
The rest of the summer passed in a whirlwind of wallpaper and toys. Most of the toys were our old ones, but I had a feeling more would show up eventually. Rem’s room was transformed into a room for the baby, and Rem and I had to move together to the room that used to be just mine.
Mum bought us a bunk bed to save some space, and I commandeered the top bunk with the divine rights bestowed upon me on the grounds of being the elder sibling.
“It’s weird,” Rem said one evening, when it was too rainy to properly go outside and we were stranded into our room and bored out of our minds, “Now we have a room with nobody in it.”
“It will be filled soon,” I replied, “Then you get to experience the joys of having a little brother or sister to order around.”
“You don’t order me around much,” Rem said.
“I know. I’m nice like that.”
“Do you think I’ll be a good brother?” Rem asked, a hint of uncertainty in his otherwise airy voice.
“Sure,” I said, “Why wouldn’t you be? You like to play with toys even in that age when other kids think it’s not cool anymore. And you painted those pictures for the baby’s room, so you obviously care about him or her already.”
“Yeah, I do… It’s just, isn’t a baby supposed to be a good thing? But it’s just making mum and dad all stressed out. If having a baby is this difficult even when it’s not here, then it’s bound to be much worse once it is. The stories always make it sound easier.”
“You haven’t read the right stories, then. I’m sure all the dramas make it look way harder. Or not. I’m not that into dramas with babies in them.”
“But even those aren’t real.”
“Well, duh. Not even close. Real life babies are helpless and loud and disrupt everyone’s sleep schedule for at least a year.”
“Wow… That sounds like an adventure.”
“If you say so.”
We were quiet for a moment. The change was going to be a big one, and neither of us really understood what all it would mean for us.
“Lynn?” Rem said finally.
“What do you think the baby will be like? Do you think mum and dad will let us pick names for him?”
“The baby could be a she as well,” I replied, “And like I said, it’s going to be all screaming and annoying at first, but after that… who knows?”
“We could name them Rain. Or River. Or Hale! That would be nice.”
“I don’t think mum and Patrick want to name their kids after things.”
“Everyone’s named after things.”
“True, but I meant like… regular non-name words.”
“They’re pretty, though.”
I thought about it.
“Yeah, you’re right. I wouldn’t mind naming kids like that.”
“It has to sound happy, though. Otherwise, it wouldn’t be right.”
“No,” I said with a fond smile in my voice, “I suppose not.”
Mum worked even when her belly started to grow and she started to look like she carried a volleyball around under her shirts. Even when she wasn’t writing, she was reading something that I was sure would just help her write better. Sometimes she got snappy, and Patrick said it was because of hormones. I understood it, kind of, but I didn’t like it. Mum was always so excited and smiling that it was really out of place to hear her snap at us in an annoyed voice. I guessed it was also because a volleyball under the skin couldn’t be comfortable at all.
When she was being especially irritable, we would go outside, or Patrick would take us for a walk or a swim. Sometimes Rem wanted to stop and play at the nearby playground. He was already eleven, an age when I had already decided I was too old for playgrounds most of the time. But he still loved it. I usually got bored there, but at least it was pleasant to sit on the bench when the weather was warm. It wasn’t so pleasant, however, if unpleasant people happened to show up.
It was the beginning of autumn, and we had already gone back to school. So far it had started as well as it could have. I avoided most of the kids, hung out with Min a lot, and occasionally talked with someone who was nice enough to smile. We got some new teachers that I liked, and some that I didn’t like that much, but I could get by in most subjects. Mum had again been irritable, and had shut herself in her and Patrick’s bedroom to work on her newest article. Patrick had suggested we go to the playground again, and Rem had been excited. I had gone along, because it was probably going to be some of the last days before it got colder again and trees would start to turn orange, and also because I didn’t feel like being alone with a grumpy mum and my unborn sibling. I sat on the bench, with Patrick, still in his work clothes, flopping down next to me. Rem immediately sprang to the sandbox, his bare feet sinking into the sand and his giggles getting caught in the breeze.
“How was school today?” asked Patrick.
“It was… pretty nice, actually,” I replied, “We have that new maths teacher, and I think he’s making me like numbers more.”
“You mean Dan Nyqvist? Yeah, I’ve talked with him. He teaches plenty of Sim Fu classes in the sports hall too. He’s a bit fanatical about it, but he’s also very nice.”
“Really?” I asked, “We have Sim Fu here in Sunset Valley?”
“Yep. Why? You’ve never shown interest in a sports class before.”
“Because it’s been football and dance and… things I don’t care about.”
“Martial arts could be very good for you,” Patrick noted, “It requires discipline and patience, and teaches self-confidence.”
“Are you saying I’m not confident?” I said, “Because… well, I guess you’d be right.”
“I was thinking more that you have discipline and patience when you put your mind into something. Like writing, or books. I remember you reading that difficult novel when you were ten. You didn’t understand half of it without reading some of the parts three times.”
“Oh, yeah. On the Margins. I remember. I was almost cursing at it the entire time.”
“But you got it done,” said Patrick as if reading my thoughts.
I thought about it. Maybe. Maybe then I wouldn’t have to be so afraid either whenever I happened to think of Laketon. And if Mr. Nyqvist was teaching the class, then it might actually be fun.
I looked up at Rem, who was making an epic sandcastle. I saw him staring at it, lost in his own little world. He was still not quite there, but he was coming back. Maybe not exactly the same, but maybe… maybe. That was a lot of maybes.
Rem finished his castle and then bounced off elsewhere. Soon he was on a tiny pirate ship that rocked with springs and imaginary waves. He was probably a pirate, off to do some of the less morally awful pirate things. Like digging up treasure. Or… scrubbing the deck. I couldn’t think of many nice pirate things to do. That was why Rem was the one on the ship, and I was on a bench. And hey, maybe there was also killing and looting involved in Rem’s pirate games. It felt like any other time at the playground so far, but then I turned my head, and my mood plummeted in a second.
The reason for my sudden mood change was Carla Faroffington. She was walking by with her shoulders tense and her legs stiff, like she was really angry but tried to hide it. I sat quiet and still on the bench that was half obscured by the flower bushes around it and tried to make myself invisible. After the notebook incident Carla hadn’t been as bad as before, but I still didn’t feel like meeting her outside of school. Who knew what she would think up then?
She actually seemed to be thinking a lot of things. At least she didn’t notice any of us when she stopped at the playground and let out a sigh that was probably meant to calm her down. It came out clipped and ineffective, though, and I saw her hands clench into fists.
She noticed the sandcastle. That was probably the only thing she did notice. Or then she didn’t notice even that. All she probably saw was something she could take her frustration out on without breaking anything that was valuable to her.
I jumped up when she kicked the sandcastle down. I heard her mumbling something about “stupid dad”, but I was too busy yelling at her to really care about what she had to say. My big sister instincts had kicked in, probably empowered with the knowledge that I would soon be a big sister for two people instead of just one.
“Hey! What do you think you’re doing?”
Carla stopped kicking. She spun around in a move that was probably meant to be elegant. But the frown on her face kind of ruined the effect.
“Who-? Oh, it’s you,” she said, “What? Was this your castle?”
“No!” I snapped, “But it was my little brother’s.”
She glanced at Rem, who had left his pirate ship stranded because there was an argument brewing among the landlubbers.
“Isn’t he a little too old to be playing with sandcastles?” she said.
“Aren’t you a bit too old to throw public temper tantrums?” I fired back.
“Look, I didn’t even notice you were here,” Carla raised her hands, “Unlike what you may think, I don’t actually go around on walks and think ‘hey, how could I make people’s lives worse while I get some fresh air?’!”
I could feel Patrick observing the scene with his calm stare. I knew he was ready to cut in if some adult intervention was needed, but I also had a feeling he knew I didn’t want his help. Not yet at least. I opened my mouth for another retort, but Rem beat me to it:
“I’m sorry you’re sad. And in the tower.”
…and it wasn’t even a good retort. Darn. Carla eyed Rem suspiciously.
“What the heck are you talking about?”
“I heard you were mean to Lynn,” Rem went on and was totally unfazed by Carla’s death glare, “And some other people too. But you’re sad too, and that’s why I said I’m sorry.”
He closed his eyes and opened them again, possibly seeing through the universe as he did.
“Would you want to make another castle? I could help. This one could be without towers, if you don’t like them. It could be nice, with a lot of open space where people could dance.”
Uh-oh. Rem was going to fairyland again. This was not the time. Not in this company. Carla would eat him alive.
Her glare softened slightly.
“Ugh, whatever!” she huffed, “Sorry for breaking your stupid castle, you big baby! Weirdo!”
“Miss Faroffington,” said Patrick in a serene voice, and I almost jumped. I’d forgotten he was there, “That’s not a nice way to talk to others.”
Carla looked at Patrick, and at the widening of her eyes I realised she had never even noticed a teacher from her school was sitting right next to her. She recovered quickly, though, and stormed off with a last, hasty apology.
“She’s lonely,” said Rem.
“She’s got tons of friends,” I replied flatly, “So I find that hard to believe.”
“I didn’t say she was alone. Just lonely. There’s a difference.”
“I know there’s a difference.”
“Good. Maybe you could talk to her,” said Patrick, once I had sat back down next to him.
“Why?” asked Rem.
Patrick took us home after that, and Rem assured us both that he wasn’t hurt by what had happened. He didn’t skip as happily as usual, though, but something told me it was more because he was sad for Carla than anything else. Or maybe he was just reminded of our own sadness, when the home he had built out of sand had crumbled, kind of like our own home had figuratively done.
But he was happier again in the next day, and was thinking up baby names with the kind of enthusiasm that made it hard for me to not join him. He kept thinking them up as months passed by and weather got colder and my hair finally started to grow.
“It could be just Alf,” Rem said one evening when he was getting his butt kicked in a video game, “Or Ward. Or… Windy. How about Winter? Because it’s going to be born in winter!”
“Winter isn’t very happy,” I pointed out, “Didn’t you say it should be happy?”
“Winter can be happy! With skating and snowballs and everything! Hey, how about just Happy?”
I thought about it.
“Or Joy, if it’s a girl,” I finally said, “And Merry, if it’s a boy.”
“I like Merry,” Rem admitted, “It has double consonants, just like happy.”
“I know,” I said, “You know what would be even more awesome? Double double consonants!”
Mum, who was sitting next to us in an armchair in her rare relaxed moments, smiled.
“I think I like the sound of that. I love double consonants too.”
“When will he be born?” asked Rem, “I mean, I know it’s in winter, but exactly when?”
Mum patted her belly. The volleyball had been replaced with a basketball. It looked almost scary. Like an alien trying to nest in mum’s stomach. I wondered again if it would be a boy or a girl. Mum and Patrick had told us that the doctors could have already told it, but that mum and Patrick wanted to keep it a surprise. And as mum had said, there was no need to start labelling the baby before it was even born.
“We can’t know exactly when this one decides to come out,” mum said lovingly, “One never can.”
It was the beginning of next year when we heard shouting upstairs. Patrick realised immediately that it was time.
I barely remember anything about it. It was all such rushing and then a whole lot of waiting. Rem and I ended up sleeping at home when the waiting stretched on and on. In the end I think it took like ten hours at the most, but it had felt like days.
Then we could go back to the hospital, and there it was. A baby boy, who looked like a crying, pink… thing with chubby limbs. Like baby animals when they’re still blind and hairless. He was weak and not very pretty, and wrapped up in a blanket that also made him look like a caterpillar on top of all the other things he looked like. But mum and Patrick obviously loved him. When it was time to take him home, mum and Patrick took him to our house that felt smaller already, showed him the places even though he didn’t care about much of it yet. They were mesmerised, and I could freely admit that I was maybe a little bit in love as well.
“What’s going to be his name?” I asked for the fifth time after the baby had been born, “Have you decided yet?”
“Yes, we did,” said Patrick, “We decided it weeks ago.”
“What?” I exclaimed, “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“We wanted to wait until we were home. It’s more… you know, magical this way,” Patrick said defensively, “Rem, you understand, don’t you?”
Rem nodded eagerly. His eyes were fixed on the baby, and I could see he adored him too.
“So, what is it?” he asked.
Mum smiled at the baby, and then at us.
We all agreed that it was definitely happy enough. Merrill let out a small burbling sound. Maybe it meant that he agreed too.
Auhtor’s Note: Whoooaah what’s this? An update?!? Yeah, I had some extra time and enough inspiration for this to do some photoshooting and polish up the chapter I’d more or less already written before November. And oh, look, a lot of pictures with not much point but that were super fun to shoot! As much as I love doing NaNo, I’m already excited to focus on this more again once November is over.