5 years later
I looked up from the kitchen table and saw Serena coming through the kitchen doorway. I stood up and held my arms out, and she happily slipped off her backpack and threw herself into them. I hugged her tightly and kissed her hair. When we broke apart, I sat back down in my chair and pulled Serena into my lap. I brushed some of her blonde, wavy hair out her bright blue eyes and kissed her nose.
"Did you thank Katie's mother for the ride home?"
"Yesss," Serena sighed, feigning exasperation. A sly grin came onto her face.
"Catch any bad guys today?"
I laughed and shook my head. "Nope. How was school? You conquer your spelling test?"
"That stuff is sooo easy, mom! I don't understand why we have to read these short chapter books, daddy and I already read the first two Harry Potter books!," Serena complained. "And if he wasn't so busy all the time, we could start the third!" She stared at the floor. She always avoided eye contact when she didn't want you to get in her head. If she couldn't see you, you couldn't read her or what she was feeling. I recognized it because it was what I used to do.
"Baby, you know he has a lot on his hands right now," I said, cupping her chin and pulling it up so she could look me in the eyes. "Hey, look at me. He's got bad guys to catch too, and he promised to be home early tonight. He even said he'd bring a pizza."
Her eyes brightened and she grinned. "Ok, I forgive him."
I laughed and kissed her cheek. "Wow, you forgive easy."
She shrugged. "He knows my weak spots. Hey, can we visit Kyle and Piper today?"
"Honey, Kyle and Piper are barely a year old. All they do is sleep and cry. Besides, we need to give Aunt Annie and Uncle Auggie some time to rest."
"Aww," Serena pouted. "But I wanna read to them!"
"Maybe over the weekend, okay baby?"
"Ok." Serena slid off my lap and smoothed her lavender sweater. "Hey mommy, will you come up to the tree house with me?"
"Sure, sweetie," I said, standing up, "Let me change first?"
"Ok, I'll meet you," Serena said. She took off for the backyard. I watched her go with a smile. My baby was growing up. She waved from the base of the tree, and I waved back, then headed up the stairs to change my clothes.
I had spent the morning at the DPD, reading applications from Camp Perry with Arthur. Since Auggie, Annie, and I had all started to severely cut down our hours, Arthur and I had decided to bring in an agent to do the same job as Auggie so he had some help, and two more field agents. No one could have Annie's intuition or language skills, but we had read some pretty impressive stuff.
When I reached the bedroom, I pulled my wine-colored blouse off over my head and unzipped my tight gray pencil skirt. A pair of jeans and a caramel-colored sweater looked pretty comfy, so I changed into them and headed back down the stairs.
I stopped and looked at the family pictures hanging on the walls next to the staircase. 10 years ago, the only photographs hanging in the house were one or two pictures from mine and Arthur's wedding, and a few pictures of us, separately, on our various travels. Now, the wall was almost cluttered, in a nice way, with pictures. Arthur, Serena, and I at her kindergarten graduation, Serena as a flower girl in Annie and Auggie's wedding, Serena helping Auggie open Christmas presents, Arthur and I smiling and laughing, our arms around each other…. That was my favorite, because Serena took it. She had just learned how to use a camera, and she and Annie were running around the house, practicing taking pictures. Arthur and I were sitting on the back patio, his arm around my shoulders. Serena had jumped in front of us and yelled, "SAY CHEESE!" and I had wrapped my arms around Arthur's neck and we grinned as cheesily as we could.
I got downstairs and was about to head out into the backyard when I heard the front door open. Arthur came through it, carrying two pizza boxes. He smiled when he saw me, and I was about to say something to him when someone else ran past him and practically collided with my shins.
"Hey momma! Guess what! We got pepperoni!"
I bent down and hugged my almost five-year-old son. I ruffled James's chocolate brown hair and smiled.
"Your favorite? Wow, lucky kid."
"Yeah! I asked daddy 'please' for it!"
I looked over James's head and smiled at Arthur. He smiled back and put the pizza boxes on the kitchen table, moving my laptop. Arthur and I had found out I was pregnant with James shortly after Henry's trial, and we had been very worried. However, just as with Serena, we came around quickly and became very excited to be parents again. Arthur had been pleased when we had a son, and Serena was ecstatic to have a sibling. Now that she was older, she sometimes got annoyed, but she was a pretty awesome big sister, and we were proud of her. And I was proud of me and Arthur. All those years ago, we thought we would make disastrous parents. Now, having two kids turned out to be the best thing that have ever happened to us.
I knelt down on the ground and patted my back.
"Hop on," I said to James. Piggyback rides were his favorite thing, he was obsessed. If he had to go downstairs to eat a meal, he would beg Arthur to give him a piggyback ride. If he was in a bad mood, I just had to take him around the downstairs once and he was happy. It was really cute.
James grinned from ear to ear and jumped on my back. I slowly stood up, groaning a tiny bit as I stood.
"Oof. Been hitting the cookie jar a little hard, huh Jamie?," I teased, bringing us into the kitchen. He laughed.
"No, silly! Its 'cause I got Hulk arms!" He slid off my back and proceeded to show me his "guns" before sitting down at his favorite chair. "Where's Rena?"
Rena was his nickname for Serena. She had loved when he had first used it when he was two, and never let anyone else call her it. It was only for her baby brother.
"Right here," Serena said. I looked up. Arthur had gone to the tree house to get Serena. I smiled.
"Hey baby, long time no see, " I joked. "Want some pizza? We got one regular cheese and one pepperoni."
She sat down next to James and nodded. "Cheese, please."
Arthur started to serve the pizza while James sang, "Cheeeeese, pleeeeease," over and over. Serena rolled her eyes, but then started to sing along. Then, to top it all off, Arthur joined in with his deep, smooth jazz voice.
I just shook my head at my silly little family.
"You guys are all nuts," I declared, taking a bite of my pizza. They all smiled back at me, as if to say, 'Yeah, but you're stuck with us.'
"Mommy?," Serena asked, swallowing a mouthful of cheese. "Can we watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 2 after dinner?"
I glanced at Arthur and he gave me a nod. I smiled.
"Of course, honey."
"Yay!," Serena and James cheered. They loved Harry Potter.
After dinner, Serena and James put their pajamas on and prepared for the movie while Arthur and I did the dishes. He hummed Frank Sinatra and washed the dishes, then handed them to me to dry. When we finished, I pulled him towards me for a passionate, fiery kiss. As we broke apart, he whispered, "I love you."
"I love you too," I said, biting my lip. "But I'm also insanely in love with two other people. Is that okay with you?"
He lifted and eyebrow and held me a little tighter. "Oh? And may I ask who these people are?" His eyes sparkled with amusement.
"Mommy! Daddy! Harry Potter time!"
I nodded my head towards the living room, where Serena and James sat excitedly on the couch, bouncing up and down in their pjs. Arthur laughed and took my hand, leading me to the couch.
And for the next two hours, the four of us sat there and watched Harry defeat all the forces of evil in his world, all for love and his friends. I was seeing a few parallels to my own life, in a silly way. And then Arthur leaned over and whispered in my ear, "Are you picturing Henry as Voldemort? Cause I am."
I just threw my head back and laughed. "No," I whispered back. "I'm thinking about how brave Harry is, how much he loves his friends and that he would do anything to protect them."
"Hmmm…. Sounds like someone I know."
I smiled. Everything was actually perfect. Two beautiful kids, a loving husband, and still being able to do my job? 10 years ago, I refused to believe anything could be this good. That one person, especially me, could have it all.
But I wasn't the same person I used to be. Sure, I was softer, but I was also braver. Stronger. And it was all thanks to that little pregnancy test. I glanced over at my daughter, her eyes wide as Harry hurtled Voldemort and himself off a cliff. She had done all of this. Brought me closer to Annie and Auggie, kept me from letting my career control my life. Mended all of the cracks in mine and Arthur's relationship before it fell apart. She had come just in time, a little miracle.
And I was thankful every day.
Thank you to everyone who has read these two stories :) Thanks for all the reviews, name ideas, and helpful suggestions. Thanks to Jacque and Nicole for beta-ing, you guys rock.
In regards to the story, I was hesitant to add James, but I just thought, 'Hey, what the hell." He is pretty cute, after all ;) I probably won't add a third story, so please review and let me know what you loved about this story and Breathe!
I love you guys all for loving Arthur and Joan. Thanks again! xoxo