By Hayai Akurei
Chapter Two: STORYTIME
Having kids was both a blessing and a bother. It was just like everyone said.
Fakir sighed, for once having a quiet moment to himself. How long had it been since he had actually slept through the night? But now, he couldn't bring himself to fall asleep. He sighed, getting up from the comfort of his bed and shuffled into the kitchen to make a cup of chamomile tea.
It was rather late, and somehow he and Ahiru had managed to get all three chicks into bed and somewhat settled down. Getting them to sleep, however, was an entirely different matter. The cygnets were little fluffballs of boundless energy, and Fakir had hoped that it would begin to wind down after a few hours, but still they somehow were able to remain completely awake, oblivious to the fact that their parents were about to drop dead from exhaustion.
Walking quietly as he could down the hallway, careful not to disturb Ahiru and the chicks who now slept in the spacious washroom. As the small fire heated the kettle of water, the weary young man slumped at the kitchen table.
"How do people survive having kids?" he wondered aloud softly.
However, the chicks had quickly grown dear to him, and he wouldn't have traded them for anything else. And although he didn't speak duck, he knew in his heart that Ahiru felt the same. What others might have assumed to be an exhausted glaze of her eyes, Fakir saw a shine of glimmering happiness, characteristic of every young mother.
He was thankful to have her. He didn't want to imagine what it would have been like without her, leaving him as a single father to raise three chicks on his own.
The kettle began to rattle slightly and he plucked it up, pouring the tea into a cup and letting the warm porcelain soothe his hands.
Slowly, the calming scent eased his nerves, the steaming liquid spreading warmth throughout his body as he drank it.
Getting up, Fakir padded over to the washroom to check up on the rest of his little family.
He was surprised to find the door slightly ajar and a light on. Faintly, he could hear Ahiru's gentle quacking. Carefully, he poked his head in to see what was going on.
With her three children nestled together in their basket, Ahiru sat next to them, chatting animatedly and waving her wings periodically. The chicks were so silent and so enraptured with what she was doing, that none of them noticed their father's presence at the door.
'What is she up to?' he asked himself.
Ahiru kept talking, and made a little twirling motion of her wingtips, then extending one out in front of her.
Fakir froze in recognition at the movement.
"Will you dance with me?"
She was telling them a story.
From the varying emphasis and diction in her speech, the small duck was relaying one of her many adventures as Princess Tutu on a mission to recover the many pieces of the Prince's heart.
Fakir continued to watch, absorbed in the little familial moment in front of him. From what he could understand, Ahiru was a marvelous storyteller. The chicks huddled together in fright, their dark eyes wide as she loomed above them in a very good imitation of one certain sullen schoolboy when he was younger.
He really should have been angry with her for that, but was far too amused to care.
Finally, she finished her tale, and the cygnets were immediately clamoring for more. She shook her head, blue eyes weary and Fakir smiled, opening the door and walking in.
"Now, now, leave your poor mother alone. She should be in bed, as should all of you."
Soon, his feet were crowded by a huddle of excited chicks, and he chuckled.
"I'll tell you a story tomorrow, but only if you all in get in bed and get to sleep, all right? Is that a deal? If you think Ahiru is a good storyteller, wait until you hear the story I have for you tomorrow night."
They seemed to agree to that, albeit somewhat grudgingly.
Reaching down, he picked each one up and set them back in their basket, tucking them in as Ahiru bid them good night. One of them yawned and he grinned, gently patting it on the head.
Ahiru was about to settle down in her basket, but the young man picked it up off the floor and carried it out. She squawked indignantly at him, waddling after him as he made off with her bed down the hall and into his own quarters.
"You can sleep in here," he said, setting it on the low nightstand next to his bed. "The chicks will never get to sleep if you keep sleeping with them."
Ahiru seemed to understand, but if she objected to it, she was too tired to show it. With a flutter of golden wings, she settled down, nestling herself into the warm blanket.
"Good night, Ahiru," Fakir said with a warm smile. Blowing out the candle, he sidled under his own covers and joined his companion in sleep.
Can birds yawn?