"Seth, you promised. Please cooperate." Kirsten tried to suppress the whine out of her voice.
"I am cooperating."
"The deal was," Sandy reminded his first-born, "that you do this how your mother wants and then over the holidays we let you out on parole."
"What do I get?" Ryan held up the matching sweater that Kirsten expected them to wear.
"I was holding out for a car."
"Oh, you'll have to do a lot more for that," said Kirsten. "Okay, boys, put on the sweaters. The photographer won't wait forever."
"Mom, they match. This is dorky."
"No it's not. It's cute. I even had someone knit Christina Hope a matching sweater. It'll be adorable."
"Dad," Seth turned to his father. "Help me out here. It took me sixteen years to emerge from outcast status. This picture, which may I remind you will end up on your holiday cards, can set back all that hard work. In just a snap." He snapped his fingers to drive the point home.
"One word Seth. Parole. Make your mother happy and you get paroled."
"That's…" Seth quietly counted on his fingers. "Nine words."
"Parole is not sounding like such a good idea right now," warned Sandy.
"Again," Ryan interjected, "What do I get for humiliating myself like this?"
"Our undying gratitude?" Kirsten said with a sigh.
"I was hoping for something more substantial."
"Mrs. Cohen, the baby is ready." Mrs. Rothman walked into the living room and handed Kirsten the baby.
"Mrs. Cohen," the photographer cleared his throat. It seemed like they had forgotten she was even there. "I have an appointment in less than an hour. If you want these pictures in time for the holidays…"
"Okay." She turned to Seth and Ryan. "Boys. Sweaters. Now." She pointed her finger at them. "Sit. Fireplace."
Ryan and Seth hastily donned the matching sweaters and sat by the fireplace, not willing to tangle with Kirsten when her sentences were reduced to one word. Sandy joined them and Kirsten followed with the baby in hand.
While the photographer was busy arranging the family, Seth leaned over and whispered to his brother, "The Kirsten was no longer amused."
"No she was not."
"Do you think we can get her not to give this to Grandpa and Julie."
"I say we offer to hand deliver it. And do something with it on the way. Marissa will not see this picture."
"Ryan," snapped Kirsten. "Pay attention. The photographer asked you to scoot closer to Sandy."
"Sorry." He slid over until his leg was touching Sandy's.
"Mom," whined Seth. "Can we do a few without the sweaters? Please."
"Okay. Fine," she sighed. "Just a few shots. But I'm not promising we'll use any."
"Just give it a chance. That's all I ask."
But Seth and Ryan only needed to communicate with their eyes. They knew the plan. Sabotage. Without warning as soon as the photographer said three Seth crossed his eyes. Ryan stuck his tongue out in the second picture. Seth blew out his cheeks in the other. The photographer glared at them and Kirsten kept looking at them and asking, "Are you boys behaving?"
But they innocently said of course.
Sandy bit his lip, hiding his smile.
"Maybe it's time we try and take off those sweaters," suggested the photographer.
Seth and Ryan didn't wait for Kirsten to agree. They cast the offending sweaters aside, combed their hair back in place with their fingers and sat primly for the photographer.
"Cheese," the boys called out simultaneously, looking as innocent as angels.
Five minutes later they were done, the photographer promising he would have the pictures back to them in two days. Kirsten tried to glare at her sons, but instead she broke out in a grin. She passed a squirming baby to Seth so that she could prepare a bottle.
"I'm not blind. You better pray we find a picture for the card," she called from the kitchen.
Sandy followed her and nuzzled her neck from behind.
"They're incorrigible, Sandy."
"They are." He nibbled at her earlobe.
"We can't let them get away with it."
"Boys will be boys. You didn't really expect them to wear those sissy sweaters. Did you? And let you hang the photo in the house? Send it around as a Holiday card?"
"Say that again?"
"The boys will be boys." She leaned back, falling into Sandy's arms. "Did you think last month that we'd be arguing about holiday pictures and their wardrobes?"
Sandy smiled. "No. I didn't." And he took his wife in his arms and kissed her deep and full on the lips. They're family was finally on the mend.
FIN. Thanks again!