"Ouch!" I yank my hand back from the flame, sucking on the little burn.
"Come on, everyone is waiting for us." Monroe slides the cake off the counter and we make our way to the living room where all the party guests are, starting the song.
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you!" Our little girl kicks her feet excitedly in her high chair as everyone sings to her, clapping along when the song ends and we all applaud.
Monroe sets the cake in front of her and we both move to stand behind her, I lean forward.
"Are you ready to make a wish Marie?" I take her little hands in my own, "Make it a good one." I squeeze my own eyes shut, making a wish for my daughter's future, "Ready? One...two...three!" I blow out the candle for her and she laughs, "Yay!" I kiss her on the cheek and let her grab two big handfuls of the cake, our friends laughing.
Monroe leans down, kissing her on the opposite cheek, "Happy birthday baby girl."
We both stand, Monroe goes into the kitchen to get the full sized cake for the guests and I go around the room talking to every one.
"Hey man congratulations." Hank pats me on the back, "You made it through the first year alive."
I laugh, "And now it's your turn."
"Yeah, I don't know that I'll do as good as you guys though. Marie is great."
"You'll be an amazing dad. You're amazing with Marie, I can't imagine you'll do any less for your son."
"I guess I'm just nervous."
"You'll be great. I'll help you out. If you have any problems you can call me, I'll even let you tell her that you did it all on your own."
This time Hank laughs, "She won't believe it for a second but thanks Nick."
"No probably not." We chat for a few more minutes before I move on.
I find Rosalie knelt in front of Marie.
"Mmm, that looks yummy." Rosalie says as Marie misses her mouth and smears pink frosting all over her left cheek, "Can I have some?" Marie willingly holds out a fistful of cake for Rosalie who pretends to eat it, "Mmm, delicious!" Rosalie tickles Marie's tummy under her tray, causing a fit of giggles.
"What are you girls up to?" I smooth Marie's mess of ebony curls out of her face.
"Hey, Nick. We were just talking girl stuff, you know. Oh god, can I get a hand up?" Rosalie holds up her arm and I take it, helping to pull her up into a standing position, "Jesus, did you have this much trouble getting up and down at eight and a half months?" She presses a hand into her lower back, sighing as she takes a little pressure off of her spine from her protruding stomach.
"Yeah, most definitely. Don't worry, you're almost there."
"It feels like forever."
"I know," I laugh a little, "the last weeks are the hardest."
"I bit Hank's head off this morning because he didn't fold my pants right."
"Oh I know, I was ready to strangle Monroe for the slightest mis-step. Do you want to sit down?"
"God yes." We move over to the couch, "I feel so bad for him sometimes, I mean one second I'm screaming the next I'm laughing then I end up crying my eyes out and then it starts all over again. You know what I mean? He say's he understands but really, how could he right?"
"They do their best, that's all they can do." I smile at her.
"It's all worth it in the end." I look over to Marie who has nodded off in her chair, face and arms covered in frosting, "I should take her upstairs."
"Alright, I'll see you in a few."
I stand, going over to Marie and unbuckling her from her high chair, gently lifting her out and cradling her against my shoulder without waking her up. I take her upstairs, changing her out of her bib and onesie, wiping all of the frosting and cake off of her with a warm wipe before laying her down with a little blanket in her crib. Monroe comes up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist, kissing my shoulder.
"I think, inhaling that ridiculous orange dust was one of the best things we ever did." Monroe murmurs into my neck.
"I think so too. We've done good."
Monroe pulls me closer, whispering in my ear, "Wanna try again?"
I don't hesitate before answering, "Yes."
There we have it, the third and final part!