‘I know.’ She sits down and crosses her legs. ‘Will you trample her today, dad?’
‘Daddy,’ I retort, shoving the dress on the top shelf, out of sight. ‘I might do.’
‘It’s funny.’ she giggles.
‘I know.’ I pull out a cute little sailor dress. There are no sleeves, but I’ll find a cardigan. ‘How about this?’
‘Daddy. What about this?’ I present her with a lemon, shin length brocade thing, but she shakes her defiant little head. ‘Maddie,’ I sigh. ‘You are not wearing that.’ God give me fucking strength quick before I wring her stubborn little neck.
‘I’ll wear tights.’ She jumps up and pulls the draw of her pink chest open. ‘These ones.’ she says, holding up some candy striped things.
I tilt my head on an agreeable nod. I can work with that. ‘What about the t-shirt?’
She looks down and strokes her little belly. ‘I like this one.’
‘Then how about we buy it in a bigger size?’ I’m compromising. I pull down a long sleeved, mint green t-shirt covered in love hearts and hold it up, all keen and smiley. ‘I love this one. Make daddy happy.’ I’m fucking pouting like a sad, desperate twat, and I can tell her five year old mind thinks I’m a twat, too.
‘Okay,’ she sighs heavily. This is stupid. She’s the one humouring me.
‘Good girl,’ I pick her up and stand her on the bed. ‘Lift.’ She throws her arms in the air and lets me rid her torso of the half t-shirt before replacing it with the green one that I love so much, then I get her out of the shorts and cover her little legs with the delightful candy striped tights before replacing the little denim things. ‘Perfect.’ I stand back and nod my approval, then collect her silver converse hi-tops from the wardrobe. ‘These?’ I don’t know why I’m asking, she refuses to wear anything else.
‘Yep.’ She falls to her cute little butt and holds her foot up for me to slip them on. ‘Daddy?’
I tense from head to toe at the sound of the name I’m constantly demanding she call me. She wants something. ‘Maddie,’ I reply slowly, cautiously.
‘I’d like a little sister.’
I nearly fall on my arse with laughter. Another girl? Fuck me, you’d have to drug me and string me up to extract my seed. Not a fucking chance, no way in hell, never, no way.
‘What’s so funny?’ She looks at my laughing face, all puzzled.
‘Me and mummy are happy with just you two.’ I pacify her, quickly getting the other shoe on, eager to escape this room and the conversation.
‘Mummy wants another baby.’ she informs me, and my shocked eyes fly up to serious chocolate ones. Ava wants another baby? But she hated pregnancy. I loved it. She hated it. I loved everything about it, except the birth. She really got her revenge during that hellish twenty four hours. I was stabbed with nails, yelled at constantly and threatened with divorce on numerous occasions. And her mouth was like a fucking sewer. But what killed me the most was seeing her in so much pain and being unable to stop it. I could do fuck all about it, and I never plan on putting her through that again.
‘We just need you two.’ I affirm, lifting her from the bed and placing her on her tiny, silver coated feet.
‘I know.’ She runs off laughing. ‘Mum said your eyes would bug and they did!’
I actually laugh, but not because it’s funny. It’s not. It’s because I’m so fucking relieved. I could never refuse Ava if she did want another baby, not after my fucked up, creative way of getting us our adorable carbon copies of each other. I smile, a full on smile, the one I save only for my babies. I’m so glad I hid those pills.
* * *
It really is the longest afternoon of my fucking life. Dozens of kids run around screaming, and their mother’s pretend to be watching their off-spring, but I’m under constant surveillance by the desperate bunch of bored housewives. Maybe I should ditch the personal training and invest some time in advising the husbands of these women how to please them - lessons in various degrees of fucking, perhaps. I’m nodding thoughtfully to myself when my mum appears in my line of sight. She’s got that look, and I know I’m about to be lectured.
‘Son, take it easy.’ She eyes up the bottle of Bud in my hand, prompting me to take a swig.
I walk over to her and tuck her anxious body into my side. ‘Mother, stop your fussing.’ I start leading her over to the decking, where my father, Amalie and Doctor David are all sitting, chatting happily. My babies couldn’t keep my parents away, either.
‘I just…’ she stammers over her words, placing her wrinkled palm on my stomach and rubbing lightly. ‘I just worry, that’s all.’
I know she does, but she has no need to. I can enjoy a few beers, just like the rest of them, and I can do it in a relaxed atmosphere with my family. I still don’t touch the vodka, though. ‘Well, I said you shouldn’t, so you won’t. End of.’ I encourage her to take a seat next to my father. ‘Do you want a beer, Dad?’
He looks up at me on a smile. ‘No, son. I promised Jacob a few bounces on that inflatable thing.’ He points across the lawns and I turn, seeing dozens of kids, pumped up on E-numbers, jumping and screaming on the bouncy castle.
‘Good luck!’ David laughs, resting his hand on his pregnant wife’s bulging belly. I smile fondly and watch my dad slowly make his way over to Jacob, who’s frantically waving for his granddad. And then I spot Elizabeth knelt in front of Maddie, tying her locks in fucking bunches.
‘Leave her alone, Mum!’ I shout across the garden, earning myself a filthy look from Elizabeth and a giggle from my little lady.
‘Trample, Daddy!’ Maddie shrieks, batting her nana’s hand away from her hair and running off to reclaim her tree house.
I’m grinning as I watch Ava’s long suffering mother pull herself to her feet. I can’t help it. She turns a frighteningly dirty look on me, making me grin further. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than rubbing her up the wrong way, but she doesn’t do a bad job of returning the favour, so I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’ll just keep enjoying it.
‘Why did your daughter have to be like you?’ she yells across to me.
I nearly spit my beer out. ‘Me?’
‘Yes, you! Challenging!’
I scoff. She has to be joking. ‘I think you’ll find that my little lady is the prodigy of your daughter. Defiant!’
She huffs and puffs, straightening out her blouse before heading towards the kitchen to help Ava. Challenging? The stupid woman doesn’t know what she’s fucking talking about.
Leaving my mum with Amalie and David, I stroll over to our friends, who have all, unsurprisingly, taken up residence by the bar.
‘My man!’ Sam slaps my back and John nods as I dip so Kate can kiss my cheek.
‘Everyone good?’ I ask, collapsing into one of the chairs. ‘Where’s Drew?’
Kate laughs, pointing to the bouncy castle where Drew is scrambling through the masses of kids to find his daughter. ‘He’s making sure that Georgia returns to her mother with no cuts or bruises.’
‘Talking of kids,’ I point my bottle between Kate and Sam, and fail to maintain my seriousness when John’s body starts shaking, making the whole fucking house vibrate behind me with that deep, rolling laugh.
‘Jesse,’ she breathes, exhausted by the constant question. ‘I’ve told you. There is not a maternal bone in this body.’
‘You manage my babies all right.’ I point out. She’s great with them.
‘Yes, that is because I get to hand the adorable creatures back to you when I’m fed up of them.’ She grins, and I match it, raising my bottle for her to chink.
‘I’m going to find my wife.’ I stand back up, keen to locate her and advise her on what exactly I plan on doing to her later.
Where is she?
I find her in the kitchen with Cathy, who has taken over food preparations. ‘There’s my boy!’ My old housekeeper sings, reaching up to kiss my cheek before exiting the kitchen with a tray full of tiny sandwiches, crusts cut off. ‘I’ll tell Clive to gather the children. Wonderful day!’
Watching her leave, I turn slowly until my eyes find what they’re looking for. She’s watching me closely, and those eyes are smoking out. She’ll never get enough of me.
‘I’ve missed you.’ I stalk forward, placing my bottle on the worktop as I pass. The tea towel is dropped from her hands, and she’s leaning back on the counter, willing me on, the little temptress.
I’m not gentle. I grab her and pin her to the wall, my mouth falling to the sweet flesh of her neck. ‘Jesse, don’t.’ she exhales, arching herself into my chest.
‘Later, I’m ripping this dress off and I’m going to fuck you into next year.’
She moans, raising her bare knee and rubbing it lightly over my solid cock.
Control, control, control. Fucking control.
‘Deal.’ She wisely agrees, not that she has a choice. Wherever, whenever, she knows that. But not fucking now.
I growl my frustration and rip my body from hers. ‘I fucking love you.’
‘I know.’ She smiles, but it doesn’t make her eyes sparkle like usual.
‘What’s up, baby?’ I hunker down to get my face level with hers. ‘Tell me.’
She sighs and flicks me almost nervous eyes. ‘I wish Dan was here.’
It takes every ounce of my love for this woman, not to roll my eyes or growl in frustration. The bloke rubs me up the wrong way, I can’t help it. ‘Hey, you know he’s fine.’ I remind her. Fuck me, the prick’s cost me near on half a fucking million since I’ve known him, not that I will ever share that with Ava. She knows about the first bailout, but not the subsequent two. She’ll only get her knickers in a twist. He just can’t keep himself out of trouble. ‘It’s too hard for him,’ I say what I know will ease her. ‘With Kate and Sam, you know.’
‘I know.’ she agrees. ‘I’m being stupid.’
‘No, you’re not. Kiss me, wife.’ I need to distract her. She doesn’t waste any time. She’s on me immediately, moaning into my mouth and yanking at my hair. It always works. ‘You taste delicious.’ I’m growling. Fucking hell, I’m going to lose my fucking mind. I bite her lip and push my hips into the curves of her perfect body. ‘I’m getting rid of them.’ I declare. ‘Fucking imposters.’
She grins that fucking grin, hardening me further. ‘Stop being unreasonable.’ She laughs. ‘It’s your babies day.’
‘There is nothing unreasonable about me wanting you and my babies all to myself.’ I try to focus on cooling down my raging hard on, but with my body pushed up to hers, those eyes begging for me to claim her, it’s fucking impossible. ‘I can’t look at you.’ I mutter, stepping away and exiting the kitchen sharply before I bend her over the counter top.
I’m about to trample the party.
* * *
I virtually kick the last people out, which happen to be Ava’s parents and they’re taking my babies for the night, so I’m delicate-ish. I lean into the back of Joseph’s car, my heart pounding happily at the sound of my babies giggling when I take turns to smother them. ‘Be bad for nana.’ I wink, get another collective giggle and a scold from Elizabeth before shutting the door and sprinting back into the house on the prowl.
‘Ava?’ I shout, poking my head around the kitchen door. ‘Ava?’
‘You have to find me!’ She laughs, but I can’t figure out from which direction that silky voice came from.