"Aw, Mom! Why do I have to have a babysitter?"
"We are not going out and leaving you here alone, Mike."
"Can't you just stay home?
Not tonight...it's our anniversary." Sara was finishing getting dressed to go to dinner with Michael, who was hesitant to leave Mike with a babysitter, and she didn't want to encourage an insurrection on dual fronts. They heard the doorbell ring. "We'll be home soon," she promised Mike. "You'll be fine with Amber for a few hours, baby."
Downstairs, Michael let the babysitter in and gave her the run-down. "We're kind of rushed tonight, Amber...we've got a seven-thirty dinner reservation at Chez Jacques. I left our cell phone numbers on the kitchen counter, just in case. Do not hesitate to call us, for any reason."
"Wow, Chez Jacques... what's the occasion, Mr. Scofield?
"We're celebrating our seventh wedding anniversary."
Mike came bounding down the stairs, followed closely by Sara in heels and a low-cut black cocktail dress. Michael wolf-whistled when he saw her.
"Can you teach me to whistle like that?" Mike asked him.
"Let's not encourage him, okay?" Sara interjected, quietly admonishing Michael with a look.
"You do look beautiful, Dr. Scofield!" Amber exclaimed.
"Yes, she sure does," agreed Michael, eyeing her admiringly.
Sara smiled, a little embarrassed. Michael helped her into her coat with one hand and ruffled Mike's hair with the other. "Bedtime is eight o'clock, firm. Don't let him wheedle you into staying up later, Amber. We should be home before eleven."
As they turned to walk out the door, Mike grabbed Sara's arm and pulled her down to whisper something in her ear. "I love you too, baby," she told him, kissing the top of his head. "Oh, and Amber, please help yourself to whatever you want to eat or drink."
As soon as the door closed behind them, Amber headed straight for the kitchen. She made herself a sandwich and brought it to the sofa, where she plopped down and turned on the TV. "Hey, Mike, how old are you now?" she asked him.
"Seven!" he exclaimed proudly.
"That's what I thought. Your birthday was in April, right?"
Amber counted on her fingers, saying "November, December, January, February, March, April. That's six months."
"Yeah," agreed Mike with a quizzical expression.
Amber pulled her ringing cellphone out of her backpack. "Hey, Paige. I can't talk now...I'm babysitting at the Scofield's. Yeah...I'll call you back after Mike goes to bed." Then she whispered, "Get this: they had to get married!" She giggled, "I mean, can you believe? Yeah, they got married in November, and he was born in April. Do the math! Duh!"
After a few minutes, Mike, sitting next to Amber on the sofa, turned and asked her, "What did you mean, my mom and dad had to get married?"
"Uh, nothing," Amber lied. "Just forget I said that, okay?"
The following morning as Michael was padding around, making coffee, reading the paper and letting the dog out, Mike came shuffling into the kitchen in his pajamas, tousle-haired and sleepy-eyed. "Where's Mom?" he asked plaintively.
"Good morning to you too, Mike! She's still sleeping. Is something wrong, son?"
"No...I just wanted to talk to her." He sounded troubled.
"How did it go with Amber last night?"
"All right," Mike replied in a dejected voice.
Just then, Sara came into the kitchen and patted Mike's head. "Good morning, baby." She moved over to the table where Michael sat reading the paper and cupped his face to give him a soft, lingering kiss.
"Good morning, sweetheart...last night was amazing," he whispered to her, wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling her neck.
"Mm hmm... you were amazing," she whispered back at him, smiling.
"What did you eat at dinner?" asked Mike.
Sara reluctantly pulled away from Michael, cognizant of Mike's presence. "I had the filet mignon, and your dad had lobster. It was a lovely dinner, the first anniversary we've ever celebrated, actually..."
"What does it mean when you have to get married?" Mike asked.
"Where did you hear that expression?" Michael inquired.
"Amber told her friend that you had to get married," replied Mike. "Why did you have to?"
Michael scoffed. "We didn't have to get married!"
Sara joined in. "I'm not sure why Amber would say such a thing, Mike."
"I heard her talking on her phone. She said 'do the math'," Mike answered. "What math did she mean?"
"Mike, your mother and I got married because we loved each other and we wanted us to be a family, the three of us. End of story," Michael replied, changing the subject. "It sounds like Sandy wants in. Would you please go open the door for him?"
Sara looked at Michael, her eyes wide and questioning. "I might have mentioned to Amber that it was our seventh anniversary," he admitted, shrugging.
On Monday, Mike came home from school and went straight to Sara. "How long was I in your tummy, Mom?"
"Uh, well... for around nine months, the usual time it takes for a baby to be born. Why, Mike?"
"Because I asked Liam and he said so too, that it takes nine months to have a baby." Liam was a boy in middle school who lived three doors down. "So, if you do the math like Amber said, I must have been in there already when you and Dad got married, right?" he challenged her.
Sara looked back at him, open-mouthed and speechless.
"Isn't that what Amber was talking about, Mom? You and Dad got married in November, and I was born in April, so that's less than nine months. That's what Liam says it means: you have to get married if you're going to have a baby!" Mike looked hurt and angry.
"Oh, honey..." she pulled him onto her lap. She'd supposed that at some point it would occur to Mike that he had been conceived a few months before his parents were married... but at age seven? Mike was undeniably precocious. What should she say to him? "Remember what your dad told you? We got married because we loved one another and we wanted us to be a family."
"I need to ask Dad!" Mike exclaimed. He climbed off Sara's lap and ran to the office, where Michael was finishing up with a phone call.
"Hey, Mike! How was school?"
"Fine. But Dad, Liam said it, too...he said you and Mom had to get married. Because of me!"
Sara walked into the office right behind Mike. She and Michael just looked at each other, both at a loss for words.
"Mike..." Michael began. "Come here, son." He put his hands on Mike's shoulders and looked intently into his eyes. "Some people wait to start a family. Your mom and I... well, I guess we just couldn't wait!" He smiled. "We wanted to have you right away. Your mom and I did not have to get married. Nobody made us decide to do that. We got married because we wanted to."
"Then... you didn't break the law?" Mike wanted to know. "The police didn't make you get married?"
"No... no they did not."
Sara hid her grin behind her hand, trying hard not to laugh.
Michael continued, "When I met your mom, I knew she was the person I wanted to marry and be with forever. You love her, so you understand why I love her too, don't you?"
Mike nodded. "Yeah, I love her 'cause she's my mom."
"And I love her because she's the smartest, prettiest, nicest woman I've ever met," Michael replied. "I'm lucky she agreed to marry me." He winked at Sara. "She's a great kisser too," he teased.
"Ewww! Dad!" Mike groaned.
Michael ignored Sara's chiding tone. "It's so amazing for us to have a boy like you, a kid who looks a lot like your mom must have looked when she was a kid. If you're really lucky," Michael added, "you'll marry someone truly great too, like your mom."
"I'm gonna marry her when I grow up!" Mike declared.
"Boys don't marry their mothers," Sara told Mike gently. "I'm already married to your dad! You will marry someone your own age when you grow up."
Mike seemed adequately mollified by his parents' explanations. "Okay. I'm going out back and play fetch with Sandy." He ran out of the room as fast as he had run in.
Michael exhaled audibly. "That was scary."
"You handled it brilliantly!" Sara exclaimed. "...except for the kissing part."
"He said he was going to marry you. We don't want him thinking that, do we?"
"All kids say that about their parents, cupcake." Sara smiled reassuringly.
Michael wasn't convinced. "Isn't it important for me, as his father, to nip that Oedipal thing in the bud? I have to establish my marital prerogatives, don't I?"
Sara bent to his eye level and held her face close to his. "What are these 'marital prerogatives' you're referring to, Mr. Scofield?"
Michael pulled her down onto his lap and kissed her possessively. "I'll get back to you on that tonight... and that's a promise."