You might be wondering why I'm posting something additional to this story. I wasn't planning on doing so but I was on vacation with no Internet access and ended up rather bored at times. To cure my boredom I wrote a frighteningly large amount of chapter outlines for the continuation/sequel to this thing, ending up with tiny bits and pieces covering a large part of Grace's childhood. Why is that of any interest to you?
Well one thing I ended up writing, which takes place w-a-y into the characters' futures, felt like it could work as an epilogue to post here. It will give you little glimpses of Grace's childhood and perhaps give the story a more satisfying conclusion for some of you. Either that or it will just feel like even more of a "meh", but I'll take my chances =)
Hope you'll find it at least somewhat enjoyable!
"When do you think she's going to consider herself too old for this tradition?" Chuck asked Blair as they walked up to Grace's bedroom, followed by Dorota who carried a breakfast tray.
"I'm kind of bitter that I don't get similar traditions for my birthday" Blair replied.
"I bring you breakfast in bed" Chuck pointed out with a smirk. "And presents. Of the more private variety."
Blair smiled back at him and leaned in to kiss him. Dorota rolled her eyes and harked. Chuck laughed a little and changed his hold on Amanda, the latest addition to the family.
"Everyone ready?" he asked.
Blair nodded, and since she was the only one with a hand free she opened the door to Grace's bedroom. They walked in singing 'Happy Birthday' and Grace acted surprised, the same way things had been every other birthday she had had. Blair smiled widely at her daughter's excitement. Grace was so much like her in that aspect, loving every minute of the attention she was getting.
"Happy birthday, my big girl" Blair said and gave Grace a kiss before putting a bag of gifts on the bed and going for a chair to sit down on.
"Happy fifteenth, dearie" Chuck added, sitting down on the small table at the foot of the bed and placing the baby on the bed in front of him. "Amanda, can you say: 'Happy Birthday'?"
"Habby buh… ay" Amanda offered.
"Thank you sweetie" Grace grinned.
Dorota settled for just smiling widely, placing the breakfast trey next to Grace on the bed. Grace grabbed a piece of toast and began chewing on it, drawing out the moment for a little while longer. A strain of her dark hair fell in front of her face and she brushed it aside, wishing for the millionth time that she had her mother's hair and not her father's. She envied the soft curls her mother had no trouble arranging her hair in. Grace had by now given up on that hairstyle for herself, realizing her hair was way too stubborn to stay softly curled the way she wanted it to.
She glanced over at her mother who was almost thirty-three and seemed to be in her prime. She was far younger than the moms of any of Grace's friends and Grace was often proud to have a mom who looked both young and stunning. Her eyes drifted over to her father who in spite of being six months younger than her mother looked more grown-up, mature and dignified. Then again the fact that he always wore suits probably added to that impression. He had grown his bangs back out a few years ago at Blair's request and Grace thought it suited him. When she was little she had loved to play with his bangs and she suspected that part of the reason why he had gotten rid of them was that he was tired of constantly having his daughter's hands in his face, almost poking him in the eye. Right now he was ducking the eager hands of Amanda, who also enjoyed pulling on his bangs.
At the moment Grace was in a splendid mood and generously offered her baby sister a warm smile. Most of the time she wasn't thrilled with having a sibling, having been an only child for so long. She had often wondered why her parents had decided to have another child so long after the birth of their first one but from what she gathered her father hadn't felt ready for more children until he neared his thirties. It was a thread she'd rather not pull on, hoping it was due to him wanting time to focus on work and not because he found being a parent exhausting.
She had to admit that Amanda was a cute baby. She lacked the doe-eyes Grace and their mother shared but she had Blair's much softer features while Grace had Chuck's sharper angles. When Amanda was in a good mood Grace could enjoy playing with her or reading her a story. Most of the time though she found the baby to be a nuisance. She could not be reasoned with and she was so damn needy. Most of all Grace wasn't accustomed to sharing her parents' love and affection and was having a bit of a hard time adjusting.
Right now Amanda was on her father's lap, holding the lapels of his suit in a tight grip. She dropped the turtle plushie she had been holding and Blair hurried over to pick it up and hand it to her. She ran a hand through the toddler's hair and gave her a kiss on the forehead before sitting back down. Chuck smiled and told Amanda not to let go of her toys that way. Grace finished her slice of toast and again moved a strain of hair from her face.
"I cannot fathom I have a fifteen year-old" Blair said.
"Old" Amanda said.
Grace made a face at her sister and continued eating her breakfast. While she ate she chatted with her parents about her upcoming birthday party and Blair couldn't keep in another comment on how grown up Grace had become.
"Good thing you have Amanda then" Grace said. "So you at least have one baby still."
"Are you done with breakfast?" Chuck asked. "Come on, open your gifts. I always long for the part of your birthday where I realize just how behind the times I am because the stuff I got you was cool last week but so outdated now."
Grace opened the bag and fished out a present. It appeared to be clothes, which meant it was from Mom. She grinned and wondered what label.
Amanda reached out her hand for the present.
"I want!" she said.
"Dorota" Blair said.
Grace began to open the gift while Dorota walked out for a second and then returned with another present. She gave it to Amanda who immediately started tearing at the wrapping paper. Grace stopped opening her own gift and frowned.
"She gets one?"
"She's far too little to understand the concept of birthdays and why only the person having the birthday gets gifts" Chuck shrugged.
Grace faked a smile and turned her attention back to her own gift. Inside she was fuming. She didn't get to have her birthdays to herself anymore? That little brat should learn that when it was her sister's birthday Amanda would not get any gifts. Getting to open presents didn't feel special anymore when her baby sister got to do the same just because.
She continued opening her gifts but her heart wasn't in it. For the first time in as far back as she could remember she wasn't feeling excited at all about her birthday. She sincerely hoped that when they did the big gift opening session that evening Amanda would have been put to bed already.
"Last gift is from me" Dorota said with an excited smile.
Grace picked up the last present in the bag and studied it with feigned interest. A book, it seemed, but it was unusually large. She opened it and it was indeed a book of some sort, black and with her name written on it with silver letters. Blair leaned to get a better look, obviously in the dark about Dorota's gift.
"What is it?" Grace asked.
"Is photo album" Dorota said. "From when you were little."
Grace opened the album and on the first page saw a photograph she knew well. Dad had it on his desk, it was a picture of her at only a few weeks of age, lying on her stomach on a rug smiling widely at the camera.
"Let me see that…" Blair said and moved the other gifts to the nightstand and sat down next to her daughter.
Grace turned the page and felt the bed dip on her other side. She looked up and saw that Chuck had come up as well to get a better look. She wondered where Amanda had gone to and spotted her on the floor, playing with the toy she had just gotten.
"Dorota you made this?" Blair asked.
"Benefit of having backups of all your photos" Dorota said.
"Chuck look at this" Blair said, studying the pictures on the second page with awe. "Aw, look, here's our very first picture of you."
Grace chuckled. It was far from flattering. The picture showed Blair mere minutes after having given birth, looking like she had really been through the ringer. She was lying in the hospital bed with a wrinkly little thing resting on her chest.
"Look at that cone-head…" Chuck marveled.
"Chuck" Blair said. She kissed Grace on the top of her head. "You were so adorable. Just look at you!"
"I like this one better" Grace noted and pointed to the second picture.
Blair smiled. This one had been taken fifteen minutes later and now Blair was sitting up holding the newborn. Her hair seemed to have been brushed somewhat and she no longer looked sweaty and flushed. Grace had been wrapped in a blanket and Blair was looking at her with amazement and happiness.
"Mom you look so young!" Grace commented.
"I was nearly three years older than you are today" Blair said. "Scary to think about, really. We were just kids when we had you."
Grace shrugged. Her parents had always seemed adult to her, but then again by the time she had gotten aware of what was adult and what wasn't her parents had been in their twenties. She studied the pictures on the page, all of which had been taken exactly fifteen years ago.
"This makes even me sentimental" Chuck commented.
Grace studied a picture of her father holding her, sporting a rather uncomfortable look. She glanced up at him.
"Wow Dad, looks like you were a natural" she said sarcastically, giving him a smile.
"That first time Mister Chuck hold you" Dorota revealed with a happy grin.
"Dorota" Blair frowned, nodding towards the baby on the floor.
Dorota looked over and saw Amanda heading for the door. She hurried over to stop the baby and Blair returned her eyes to the photo album.
"When that picture was taken…" Chuck said and pointed to the first picture of him and Grace. "That was early in the morning the day after you were born. I was terrified of holding you. What did I know about holding babies?"
"To think we managed to go fifteen years without causing any irreparable damage" Blair mused.
"You may have" Chuck said. "You weren't the one with her when she broke her leg."
"Dad that was ages ago" Grace scoffed.
"And in a few years time I might actually forgive myself for it."
"Oh look, there's Bart holding you" Blair said as Grace turned the page.
Chuck felt a strange feeling in his chest when he looked at the picture. Any picture with his father and daughter had that affect on him. This one had been taken when Bart and Lily came to visit at the hospital and Bart looked both proud and completely smittened.
"I wish I could have gotten to know him" Grace said thoughtfully.
"You see that look on his face?" Chuck asked. "That was maybe a few minutes after you first met him and already you had him wrapped around your tiny little finger."
"Here's your first day home" Blair fawned, pointing to another photo. "Gosh you were so cute. Just look at you. Even when you were newborn you could tell whose daughter you were. You have your father's jaw line."
"Yeah thanks for that" Grace said and gave her father a playful nudge. "Makes me look masculine."
"Hey" Chuck objected. "I inherited that jaw from my mother and she was a striking woman. Just like you're becoming."
"Please Dad, can we please not talk about me becoming a woman? It's awkward."
Chuck raised an eyebrow at Blair and she chuckled, running a hand through Grace's hair. She studied the pictures on the next page and realized she had forgotten many of these pictures. Then again they had probably taken a hundred pictures a day when Grace was a baby and there were only so many a person could remember.
Then they came across a picture she knew for sure she had never seen. A shared look with Chuck told her he had never seen it either.
"This was kind of cute" Grace said in a soft tone.
Blair nodded and leaned in closer to see better. It was a picture of herself and Chuck, laying face-to-face on her bed sleeping with Grace napping in-between them. Dorota must have taken this picture but why had she never showed it to Blair before?
"Is my favorite photo" Dorota smiled.
"This must be the first picture of us looking like a proper family" Blair mused, wishing she could have had that photo up on the wall years ago.
"Two children with a child…" Chuck mumbled in a tone that suggested he was thinking less of how they looked like a family and more of how young he and Blair had been.
"Don't sound so horrified Dad" Grace said. "I turned out alright… sort of."
Chuck didn't reply and remained surprisingly silent for a few more pages. These pictures were all from the time when he hadn't been able to bond with his baby and he didn't like thinking back on it. He almost breathed a sigh of relief when they reached pictures taken after his return from Thailand.
"Hey, prom pictures" Grace said. "I remember seeing these when I was younger. Wow Mom your dress is gorgeous. Did you guys have a great prom?"
"A perfect prom" Blair said.
"Why did you bother dressing me up in a gown though?" Grace asked, studying a picture of herself drooling on her father's jacket. "Seems like a lot of trouble to go through just to get a pair of cute pictures before you left."
"You attended our prom" Chuck said. "We did a stay-in variety."
"Oh awesome" Grace said. "I essentially killed your social life, didn't I?"
"Trust me honey the evening we had was far better than anything I would have had at the actual prom" Blair said.
"Yeah right" Grace snorted. "Is your motherly advice to me that I should also have a baby in high school and not go to prom?"
"Good God!" Blair exclaimed. "I am not going to be a grandmother before I'm forty!"
"Is almost eight o'clock" Dorota said, lifting up Amanda from the floor. "Mister Chuck you will be late for big meeting and Miss Blair you need to be at work in one hour. Also Miss Grace needs time to get ready for school."
"It's so strange to me that you go to school on your birthday" Blair said. "When I gave birth to you we still had another few days left of summer vacation and you're on your second week of the semester."
"We can muse about that later" Chuck said, glancing at his wristwatch. "I need to go get ready. Grace why don't you save the rest of that album for tonight? I would like to look through the rest of those pictures with you."
"I'm not sure these pictures should be seen by anybody" Grace frowned, eyeing a picture of herself wearing Chuck's sunglasses and a big grin. "How come half the time you've got me styled up properly and half the time I look like an insane goofball?"
"Depends on who dressed you that day" Blair said in a sweet tone and kissed her on the cheek. "Alright Chuck, we need to go get ready. And you, birthday girl, put that album away and make haste to the shower. You don't want to be late on your birthday."
She got up and grabbed Amanda from Dorota. With the baby in her arms she followed Chuck to their bedroom down the hall. She put Amanda down in her playpen and hurried over to her vanity to find accessories that matched her outfit. Chuck walked inside their large closet to find a bowtie to go with his shirt and suit. He walked back out and over to his wife who was looking through one of her jewelry boxes with a smile on her face. He wrapped his arms around her from behind and kissed her neck.
"A little fancy for a day at the office, don't you think?" he murmured.
She laughed a little. The jewelry box she had opened contained only jewelry Chuck had given her. She could spend endless time looking through the exquisite pieces, smiling both at how beautiful they were and at the memories of when Chuck had given each one to her. Right now her fingers were playing with the golden pendant with a small diamond, his gift to her after Amanda was born.
"This isn't for today, silly" she said. "It's for Grace's party tonight."
"It's not her real party tonight" Chuck pointed out. "It's the family gathering. She's well past the age when we were invited to her actual parties."
"Nevertheless I plan on looking spectacular."
"You always do."
"No I'm not. I thought you were gorgeous long before I fell in love with you."
"Oh is that so?" Blair smiled, turning around and wrapping her arms around his neck.
"Mm-hm. I can't wait to see what Amanda will look like when she's older. She's got much more of you in her than Grace does."
"I like that Grace looks like you."
"Now who's being biased?"
Blair giggled and pulled him closer for a kiss. He kissed her back eagerly and for a moment they almost forgot that they had things to do and places to be. Then Amanda dropped a toy with a bang and began to cry, bringing them back to the present.
"I'll dress the baby, you pick out your jewelry" Chuck said, walking over to the playpen. "Alright, cranky young lady. Geez, you really throw a fit whenever things don't go your way. You certainly don't get your temper from me."
"Oh so I'm prone to fits?" Blair asked with a teasing smile.
"You? No, never."
He began to sing Donald Duck's theme song while he sat Amanda down to take her pajamas off and Blair rolled her eyes and smirked at him in the mirror.
"Watch it Bass, or you will be sleeping in the guest room for a week" she teased.
"Nah, you'd never kick me out of our bedroom."
"What makes you so sure?"
"Because you love me."
"That I do" Blair admitted.
"And you're kind of clingy. It's no wonder Grace slept with her crocodile plushie until she was twelve when her mother treats me like I'm a life-sized teddybear each night."
"I never molested my teddybears the way I do with you" Blair pointed out, deciding on a brass bracelet.
He chuckled and reached for the blouse Blair had laid out for Amanda to wear. He struggled a bit with dressing the uncooperative baby and Blair finished putting on her jewelry. She turned around and watched her husband and baby daughter with a loving smile, fondly remembering when he used to watch him with another baby who was now quite grown up. She had often wished they could have had more children earlier, when Grace was younger, but now she found herself appreciating that they had waited. They were much more prepared for parenthood now than they had been when Grace was little and this way they would still have young children at home when Grace went off to college in a few years.
"I just… can't believe that Gracie has gotten so old" she said. "Do you remember when she was Amanda's age?"
"Vividly" Chuck said with a laugh. "I still mourn my scarf, to this day."
"Good riddance to that old thing."
Chuck gasped with mock horror. It made her giggle and she walked over to him and took Amanda, who was now fully dressed.
"I should get going" she said. "I have to drop Amanda off before I go to the office. I will be home sometime after four and the festivities begin at seven o'clock sharp."
"I know, I know" Chuck said. He tousled Amanda's hair, which was straight unlike her sister's had been. "Have a good day, little girl." He leaned in and gave Blair a soft kiss. "Have a great day, Mrs. Bass."
"I intend to" Blair smirked. "Bye. We love you."
"I love you too."
Blair held up Amanda's hand and waved with it as they walked out of the room. Once they were gone Chuck went to look for his briefcase to make sure he had everything he needed for his meeting.
After showering and getting ready Grace glanced at the clock and noticed she still had another ten minutes to spare. She glanced over at the photo album on her nightstand and then looked over at her computer. Seeing pictures of herself as a baby had made her want to look at more pictures from her childhood and she knew there was a whole bunch on her father's computer. Hacking into it from her own machine was a simple task and within a few minutes she had gotten a hold of what she was searching for. She started going through the pictures one by one. She wasn't usually interested in looking back on her childhood through looking at old pictures but she had to admit it was really nostalgic when she recognized a picture or a moment and really interesting when she came across something she didn't remember.
The pictures weren't in any kind of chronological order and it became like a potpourri of her childhood. There she was on her very first bike. There she was underneath the Christmas tree holding the crocodile plushie which had been her favorite through most her life. There were pictures of her with her leg in a bright red cast after she had broken it and pictures of her in the ski slopes with her father when she was five or six years old. She found several pictures of herself with her first pony and an endless amount of pictures her mother or Dorota had taken when she dressed up in fancy clothes and tried on her mother's jewelry. She almost burst out laughing when she found pictures of herself dressed as a ladybug for Halloween and grinned widely when she came across pictures taken at Disney World. She completely forgot about the time as she went through the pictures.
She had just gotten to a photo of herself and her parents on Grandma' Eleanor's couch in Paris, taken the first Christmas she clearly remembered, when her door opened and her father's voice interrupted her.
"Gracie? What are you doing? You should have left fifteen minutes ago."
Grace looked at the time and jumped up from her seat with a shriek.
"Damn it, I'm going to be late!"
"I'll say. Come on, I'll give you a ride. Perhaps we should have gotten you a watch for your birthday."
Grace rolled her eyes and grabbed her bag from the floor. Chuck was already halfway down the stairs when she caught up with him.
"I cannot be late today!" she wailed.
"I would preach to you about how you should never be late but I was a notorious class-cutter" Chuck said.
"Yeah, and you never went to college either."
They made it down to the limo and Grace groaned as it seemed to take an eternity just to get to the next street. At this rate she would be more than fashionably late. She looked over at her father who was going through some notes for his meeting. He looked so much more adult now than he did in some of the pictures she had looked at. In some of the pictures from when she was a baby he had looked a lot like Grace did now, at least close enough that one could easily tell they were father and daughter. He had only been two years older than she was now when he became a parent. The thought was difficult to comprehend. Grace definitely didn't want to have children anytime soon and she couldn't imagine how her parents had managed.
"Hey Dad?" she said.
"Mmm?" Chuck mumbled without looking up from his notes.
"What… What is your favorite memory from my childhood?"
He looked up at her.
"You're fifteen. Your childhood is not over yet."
"Dad. Come on. I'm grown up now."
"Uh-huh. So should I drop you off at work?"
Grace rolled her eyes.
"Come on Dad, I'm serious. What's your favorite moment from my childhood?"
Chuck laughed a little.
"Dearie how the hell am I supposed to answer that? I don't have a one favorite moment."
"Oh come on, it's my birthday."
"I'm serious Grace, I don't have a favorite moment. I mean, there are some memories that stand out from the rest, like the first time you called me Dada, or the time you woke me up at three in the morning to show me you'd lost your first tooth, or the time you puked on me in the back of the limo when I was on my way to an important business meeting."
"That is a candidate for your favorite moment?"
"It was memorable, though not exactly the best experience I've ever had as a parent. It's just… not really possible to single out a moment I like better than the rest. Can you name your favorite childhood memory?"
"Disney World" Grace said. "You, me and Mom and all the rides I could go on."
"Really? You'd pick that trip as your favorite childhood memory?"
"You've practically had a phobia for the wicked queen from 'Snow White' ever since that trip. You even had to sleep with a night light for a while."
"Is that why we never went back to Disney World?"
"Yes, and it's why we're not taking Amanda until she's at least eight or nine."
"You guys were much more fun parents when you were twenty-something" Grace teased and scooted over to the door. "Thank God, I'm like two minutes early."
"Have a good day" Chuck said. "Behave yourself."
"Bye Dad" Grace said, kissing him on the cheek before getting out of the car.
Chuck watched her run inside the building and smiled slightly. It was absolutely insane that his daughter was fifteen years old now. It seemed like just yesterday she had been trotting around with a bit of his scarf in her mouth. It was almost miraculous how she had grown to be a fairly normal teenager when she had been raised by two very young people who had had more issues at eighteen than most people did in a lifetime. He was proud of her and even though she was currently going through a rebellious and cranky teenager phase she had a lot of sweetness in her.
He grabbed his phone from his pocket and sent Blair a message.
"These kids of ours, they're pretty great. Do you remember G's first birthday party, all those years ago?"
After a minute he got a reply back.
"Not only do I remember it, I expect a reenactment of certain parts of it tonight. And our girls are not great, they're fabulous. See you tonight! XO XO."
He chuckled and sent her a response.
"I love you. XO XO."
Don't know if that was worth a read or not but hopefully it didn't suck =) Thanks for reading!