A/N- Here it is guys. I really hope you like it. This isn't really leading to anything, it just shows you how strong E&B are as a couple and what life now involves.
He's gonna get in trouble, oh, he's gonna get in fights,
I'm gonna lose my temper and some sleep,
It's safe to say that I'm gonna get my payback,
If he's anything like me
Anything Like Me – Brad Paisley.
"I'M NOT A BABY!"
Aah, the blissful sounds of sibling quarrels to greet you after a day at work.
"You still have to wear diapers!"
"Only for bed time!"
"Jesus, Hartley, hurry up."
I put a stop to Draco's bullying sharpish, making them all jump when entering the dining room unannounced. "You," I pointed a stern finger in his direction, "you let your sister speak."
The eleven-year-old sighed, slapping his hands down on the wooden table. "Dad, I don't have all day!"
My seven year old daughter, Hartley Beau Cullen, ('Beau' because, like 'Bella,' it's another word for 'beautiful') first began to stutter at the age of four. What started off as repeating the first syllable a couple times soon escalated into struggling to pronounce nearly every word she says. She's very reclusive and her school teachers have told us how little she talks, even when playing with her friends. It's heart breaking for us to witness, as parents. Bella and I found Hartley the best help around, yet it hasn't seemed to help the case.
"I don't care how long you've got; you will wait patiently until Hartley has stopped speaking and then add in your two cents." One thing we were told not to do was finish her sentences for her – it's not her fault that she has trouble speaking, so why force it and make her feel worse than she already does?
"Daaaaaddy, Draco said I a baby, but I no a baby, am I?"
I pulled Austin (Austin Anthony, after his old man) into my arms for a cuddle. "What? A baby? You? Of course not, you're my big five year old." Five years old already? God, time flies. It won't be long before I'm chasing the boys away from Hartley with a stick, Draco will be off doing his own thing, and Austin won't be too far behind. When did my babies not become babies anymore? I swear they were only born, like, yesterday. Talking about births, thankfully we didn't have a repeat of the first time, and no emergency caesareans or life support machines were needed – fuck, I still get nightmares about that…
"Seeee. Told you I no a baby!" Austin sneered and stuck his tongue out to his older brother. Although he may appear cute and cuddly, my youngest can be far from charming. It's a rare moment to come downstairs for breakfast and not see the evidence of a cereal/milk fight between two boys. Hartley joins in too, but one harsh remark from either Draco or Austin has her running away crying.
"Hartley, where's your mother?" Normally Bella sits with the kids whilst they're having dinner and to break up any arguments, but it could be that the phone rang and she's gone to answer it.
"Mum's heh-heh-heh-heh…" An audible sigh from Draco had Hartley drop her head and suck in her bottom lip as if trying to hold back tears.
"I've already told you once, Draco – don't make me tell you again. Princess, don't worry about them. Take a big, deep breath, think about what you want to say and then try again."
Hartley ran through the exercises we've been taught before attempting round two. "Mum is…heh-heh…having a bbbbbath." By my winking and grinning slightly, she understood that I was proud of her. I loved seeing the bashful smile I got in return. My plan, in theory, if we praise her every time, is to help Hartley understand that she has nothing to be ashamed of when she talks, and her brother's tease her because that's what brothers do – they tease, but they don't mean it.
Austin hopped down from his chair and ran around to the other side of the table where I sat. I happily welcomed him onto my lap. "Daddy, can I get downed now 'cause I've finished my dinner and I don't like my veggies."
How can I say no to those large, brown eyes? And I never liked my greens either, but Bella would stew my dick for dinner if I said he didn't have to eat them. "How about you have three more bites? One for me," I counted on my fingers, "one for mummy and one for me?" He squirmed like a worm when I tickled his tummy and underarms. "Huh? Can you do that? Huh?"
His giggle broke hearts – especially mine. "Okaaay! Okaaay! Daddy, stop!"
"And remember if you don't eat your veggies you can't get dessert, and I think mummy has ice cream…" That had all six ears perked.
"Can I has chocolate sauce on mines?"
"If we've got some then yes you can."
"We do! We do! And sprinkles."
"Then it looks like we're on a role, Aussie. Now, can I trust you to sit here nicely will I go and talk to mummy?"
"Good. Draco's in charge, okay? And if I hear any squabbling you won't be having any ice cream."
After a confirmation from all, I left my children and went in search for my wife. Yep, wife – still sounds strange to say it because we've only been married for fourteen months. We decided it was about time to make it official, since my blunt proposal ten minutes after Hartley was born. No shit, they were doing all the medical crap and I blurted out that we should get married, y'know, just so there was no confusion with surnames. What can I say? I'm a romantic bastard.
So we had Hartley, everything was going fine, and then shortly after her first birthday Bella began to act all moody, she would throw adult tantrums and it wasn't until someone begged her to take a pregnancy test that we knew Austin was on the way. With two little'uns we had to postpone the wedding until Austin was at least a year or two, and then everything happened with Hartley and finding speech therapists that are good enough for my princess, so it really did take that long to tie the knot officially.
We honeymooned off the coast of Rio for two glorious weeks. Since the day I found out about Draco – not quite twelve years ago – Bella and I have been together (if not romantically then as a team), and in those years we've never had time alone to relax without at least one, two or three children to worry about – where are they? What are they doing? What have they stuck up their nose this time? So with Carlisle, Esme and occasionally Charlie looking after them, we quite literally spent the fifteen days seeing how many different ways we could have sex in a beach house. Yes, sand was involved, and yes, Bella refused to go anywhere near it whilst naked again. Shame really, it sure did bring out the scenery.
But I can't imagine that right now, because it seems as though she needs a husband to support her weight and not one that's horny twenty-four-seven. It didn't help the case when the first thing I saw was her ass – clad in some tight denim – and her tits, stunningly displayed underneath a tank top and blouse. Again, no, I need to divert my terrible imagination.
"Are you okay, beautiful?" Bella doesn't take a bath at dinner time unless something is seriously bothering her. I didn't get a worded response, just her falling into my arms and allowing my comfort to be passed through in a hug.
"You know what time I got them to school this morning? Quarter to eleven. By the time I had dropped them off, done some shopping, unloaded it and went to the bathroom I had to drive back to school. I haven't managed to get anything important done today, Edward, and I just feel so emotionally drained."
I continued to hold her, and plant the occasional kiss on her crown. "What happened this morning?"
"I knew that Austin and Hartley needed bath and hair washes – seeing as they refused point blank last night – so I got that out the way after you left and everything was going fine until we were about to leave and Austin decided to make some immature comment -,"
"He's five, love. Everything he says is immature."
"Yes, well, no, I mean…eurgh! You know what I mean. Anyway, he made a comment about Hartley, which she didn't stand for, literally tackled him to the ground, and whilst I was breaking them apart, Draco decided, 'no, I won't go to school today. Instead, I'll sit at the kitchen table and ignore anything that's said to me'. Hartley then decided that clearly everybody hates her and that the best way to deal with it all is to kick off her shoes and hide in her room. I had to ring the school, on the brink of tears, to have them pass on the message to their teachers that our little shits will be coming to school today, I just wasn't sure what time."
"I'm sorry you've had such a hard day, love."
"Yeah, and it didn't stop when we got home either. Austin was demanding a snack; Hartley wanted me to put a DVD on for her and then threw a tantrum because I banned them all from watching TV after today's performance. Draco had a fight at school this afternoon, which meant he stormed up the stairs, effing and blinding and repeatedly telling me how the world is shit. I finally coaxed them downstairs to have dinner and that's when I went for my bath."
"He was fighting again?"
"Yep, and don't ask me what started it because he wouldn't tell me. Anyway, enough about our offspring, how was work?"
I'm still at the garage and repair shop, although now, um, it's mine. Yep, after Aro (the old owner)'s dad passed away, he was finding it too hard to run the company, grieve and plan a funeral in Italy all at the same time, so he did the best thing and passed it on – I was the only one there who knew every little thing about the shop so he gave it to me. Simple. I changed 'Volturi's' to 'Cullen's' and Bella and I moved the kids here to Seattle so I didn't have as far to go every morning. The only thing they miss is not being as close to their Grandparents, but we make the journey a couple times a month, so they don't hate us too much in that department.
" Not too bad, I'm just - Noooo! Daaaa-ddyyyy! DAAADDYYY!"
We both groaned at the tell-tale sign that something had pissed Austin off and that the day was not yet over.
"Ain't no rest for the wicked, Wife."
"You better get to it then, Husband."
"Because I love you, I'll deal with Draco and you can take Austin and Hartley."
"Oh thanks, so I've drawn the short straw, have I?"
Another scream filled the house. "By the sounds of it, it seems we both have."
"Hey! I was watching that!" Draco exclaimed after I switched the TV off without his permission.
"You know the rules, Buddy, you're not allowed to watch TV after the way you acted this morning."
"But I haven't seen that episode before."
"Draco, I don't give a monkey's left testicle right now. You misbehaved and then you were in another fight at school. TV is a reward which you don't deserve at the moment." He slumped back in his chair, crossing his arms over his chest with a fed up sigh. "So, are you going to tell me what happened?"
"Fine, we'll just ask Mrs. Marcs; I think she'll be happy to tell us. We also need to talk about the way you act with your sister."
Groaning angrily again, Draco slapped his hands on the leather he was sitting on. "Everything is always about fucking Hartley."
"Oi, you are crossing a very fine line right now, young man. I do not want to hear you repeat those words. I don't think you quite understand how difficult it is for her, and to hear those nasty remarks from her big brother – someone she looks up to – is not going to make the situation any better."
"See! You always put her first, just because she can't fucking speak!"
That's it, strike three and he's outta here.
"Right, not only did you swear after I told you not to, but you also bad mouthed your sister. Now, I want you to go to your room and start getting ready for bed, please."
"But it's only seven o'clock! You're so unfair."
"You might think it's unfair, but you have to learn not to disobey my rules. Anymore of this back chat and you're not going to soccer on Saturday, do you understand?"
"Argh, you suck!" The eleven year old stormed away from me and made sure everybody could hear him, stomping his feet loudly on the stairs and then slamming his door closed.
It's times like these where I need a cigarette – even though Bella thinks I stopped.
Fuck it, I'm going to have one.
At the back door of the house, we have a mud room were all the outdoor clothing and boots are kept. There's a shelf right next to the door which only I can reach - hey presto, you've got yourself the perfect smoke and lighter hiding place. I told Bella they were Emmett's and he left them here…but that isn't entirely the truth.
Sitting on a stone slab step, I lit up and inhaled, nearly rolling my eyes at the relief I felt. It had been quite a long time since I last had one (four days ago during my lunch break) and after all the shit Draco caused, this crap felt magical. Now all I need is a six pack of beer and I'm set for the night.
"What's that in your mouth, daddy?"
Fuck, caught red handed.
"What? This? Oh, it's my special medicine."
Austin wriggled his little butt to sit in the space next to me and the wall. I tried to keep the smoke as far away from him as possible.
He grimaced and fanned his hand in front of his face. "Your medidine smells funny."
"Yeah, it's not very nice." I watched the embers slowly burn their way down the paper, wishing that Austin could go back inside so I could take another drag before stubbing it out.
"Why do you need the medidine?"
"Sometimes when adults get tired and a little bit frustrated it helps them calm down a bit."
"When I'm a big year old do I, do I have to take it too?"
When I'm a big year old.
Kids say the funniest shit sometimes.
"No, you don't have to have it."
"Good, 'cause I no like medidine."
"Don't worry, I'll tell mummy not to give you it."
Austin refused to go inside without me, so I take one last, long, drag and followed him back through. Bella was at the kitchen table with Hartley when we came through.
"Austin where were you? I told you to go to the toilet and come straight back again."
"I was outside with daddy having his medidine."
Hartley's homework had been forgotten about, and Bella looked at me with a confused frown. "Medicine? What medicine?"
"The white fings in your mouth that smells funny."
It didn't take long for wifey to work out what he meant. Thank God we don't have a dog because I would have been taking his bed tonight. Bella's frown soon turned into an angry sneer.
"It's bath time, Aussie. And Edward, I think you need to have one too; there's a strong smell coming from you."
Apply cold water directly onto the burn…
"Cleaned your teeth? Gone to the toilet? Brushed your hair?"
"Well done, Princess." Scooting Hartley across her bed, I cuddled up next to her, putting one arm around her and holding the Dr. Seuss book between us. We have a rhyme that Hartley runs through – soon she'll manage to say it faultlessly and without any stutters. Her rhyme this time is from 'One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish'. "Remember, Princess, take a deep breath and think about each word before you say them. We're in no rush and you can take as long as you like."
"…Yes. Some are…red. And some are blue. Some are old. And some are….new. Some are sad. And some are…g-g-g…ggggggl…" Her head fell forward, even though it seemed like she had given up, Hartley went through her exercises and tried again. "And some are… glad. And some are vvvvery, very bad."
"Well done, Princess, I knew you could do it."
"Why are…Drrrrraco and…Auuuustin mean to me?"
"Let me tell you a story about brothers, Hartley. They can be mean and say nasty things, but if mummy and I aren't around and someone is mean to you, Draco will be there and he'll make sure you're okay. Brothers look out for their sisters, no matter what happens. But the one thing to remember when they tease you is not to react to it – they want to see you cry, or run away screaming, but if you sit there and don't say anything, they'll soon get bored."
I stood up from the bed, helped Hartley lie down and tucked the cover around her.
"Absolutely. Uncle Emmett and I used to tease Auntie Alice, but now we get on really well and are friends. But if you ever feel sad or they do something that you really don't like, come and tell me or mummy and we'll sort it out, okay, Sweetheart?"
"Goodnight Princess. I love you."
"…Love you, daddy."
"What is it, Eds?"
I know that she's annoyed with me – who wouldn't be? – but I had to get this off my chest and receive another person's opinion on the matter. "When I was talking to Draco earlier he said something that's been playing on my mind a bit."
She turned over in bed to look at me – the look of confusion filling her face. "Oh yeah? What's that?"
"Well I was talking to him about the way he treats Hartley and he suddenly said 'everything is always about fucking Hartley,' and I'm wondering, do we put her first before the others?"
Bella nibbled on her lip in a way that made my mind go wild. "I don't think so…I mean, I know we have to put more into her therapy and what not, but we put the same amount of time into each child."
That still didn't settle my anxiety. "Yeah, but even so, I think this might be why he's so troublesome right now and all the fights at school – maybe he feels left out? I'm thinking I might take him out to do something on Saturday after soccer – throw a football about or catch a movie; some one-on-one time, y'know?"
Filling the space that separated us, she pressed a kiss against my cheek. "Sounds like an excellent idea; he'd love some time alone with his dad."
My hands slipped under the thin layer of her nightgown, over the smooth surface of her stomach and I suckled on her ear lobe. "I'd love some time alone with his mum, too." It didn't take us long to get deep in the display of affection. My wife beater seemed to fly off me and onto the floor somewhere. Bella was seconds away from removing me from the confines of my lounge pants when the door creaked open and a beam of light was cast over us.
Fuck. There stood Austin with his teddy tucked under one arm and a miserable expression on his little face. I pained me to slide away from my wife, but needs must.
"Aussie, love, what's the matter?"
"I hads a bad dream, can I sleep with you?"
It would be cruel to say 'no', wouldn't it? Shit…
"Come on then, bud. Up you come."
I'm buying a lock for that door. Pronto.
"Mum! I can't find my soccer cleats!"
"Have you checked the Mud Room?"
"Muuu-mmyyy! I finished my Cap'n Crunch! More pleeeease!"
"Ask daddy please, Austin. I'm a little busy right now."
"Mum! My cleats aren't there!"
"Maybe you left them in the car, Draco."
"No! I gave them to you to get the mud out!"
"Daaaa-dddy! More Cap'n Crunch pleeeease!"
"Don't worry! I found them!"
Saturday mornings in the Cullen house always start and end in the same fashion. Draco loses a part of his soccer kit, Austin demands our attention – from wiping his behind to getting more cereal, and whilst this is going on, Bella is helping Hartley go over some phrases before her speech therapy and I'm running over the paper work for the garage. There's never a dull moment in this house.
I drop the pen and file away the bills – in case a certain five-year-old goes a snooping – and head off to the kitchen to see said five-year-old. Austin is sitting patiently at the table, swinging his feet underneath his chair and waiting for someone to fill up his cereal bowl. Knocking his head from side to side, he sang a little song. "I… waaaaant… moooore… Cap'nnnnn… Crunnnnch…"
"What's the magic word, bud?"
"Good boy. Okay, how many pieces?"
"Er…ten!" Pouring a small pile into my hand, I counted out ten cereal bits into his bowl. Austin stared at the contents with a scowl. "No…I want more than that!"
"Do you want another ten?"
I gasped in false surprise. "One hundred pieces? Are you sure you can eat that much?"
"Yes, I can, I can. I'm a real big boy and I can eat aaaall my cereals."
I began to pour, I wasn't counting but his bowl was getting quite full, so I put a stop to the tipping and let Austin believe there was one hundred cereal bits waiting for him.
"Daddy I have a secret…" His eyes were wide in mischief.
"A secret? Can I hear it?"
We put our heads together, even though there was nothing silent about the way he spoke. "Mummy said to only has one glass of apple juice…I had two!"
God, I love him.
"Two? You're so sneaky."
"Won't tell mummy, right?"
"No, I won't tell anyone – this can be our little secret."
The studs on Draco's cleats tapped against the kitchen tiles, he stood before me, kitted out in his soccer gear, outside jacket on but not zipped up and his bag hung against his hip. I passed him his water bottle and a banana for after the game. "Who's taking me today?"
"Mum is; I'm too busy here this morning, buddy."
He stomped his foot with an exasperated sigh then ran to the bottom of the stairs before shouting up: "Mum! Hurry up! We're going to be late!"
"Get into the car please, Draco, I'm just coming. Hartley, I'm not telling you again to put your shoes on."
My heart goes out to Bella, it really does. Handling one of our kids on your own is hard enough, let alone all three without anyone there to help you. Monday to Friday, breakfast, school runs, home time, homework, dinner and bed times all on her own with three very uncooperative children. I don't like working five days a week, sometimes twelve hour shifts, but with no other source of income and five people to live off my wages, we don't have an option. Bella completed her English studies whilst heavily pregnant with Hartley, and with that little bit of extra work she could become a teacher, but there is no time in her day for that. The plan is to start her teaching degree when Austin is a little older.
Hartley's screams got louder and louder as they got nearer. She was hanging on to Bella's side, sock clad feet kicking, her face was red and tears glistened in her eyes. Bella, on the other hand, had a face of fury, her bag hanging off an arm and her fingers hooked inside a little pair of shoes.
"Austin needs new sneakers – go to the mall for that. I'll see you later, bye."
I don't know how she opened the door, but she did anyway. They were out the house before I could call out, 'I love you…'
"Come on, bud, we're on strict orders by the mothership to go to the mall and we might not make it out alive."
"You have to hold my hand when we go in here, bud, okay? It's very busy." Streams of people were coming in and going out of the Westlake mall, and ever since I lost Draco when buying fucking flowers that one time, I've been a bit cautious with my children and busy places. We headed to the second floor and over to Foot Locker. A guy welcomed us with an over-enthusiastic smile, dressed out in his black and white striped shirt and told us to let him know if we needed any help.
After looking over all the shoes in the kids section, and asking Austin which one he liked the look of more, we chose some grey, Converse slip-ons and a pair of black, Nike Cortez. The same man who welcomed us came back over with the same smile glued to his face and took a note of the shoes and went to find them in the correct size.
Austin tried on each pair and went for a little walk around the bench I was sitting on. It took him a while to decide, and put my patience to the test, but it wasn't long before we were walking out the store with a brand new pair of Converse.
I had hoped to be home by the time Bella and the others got back, but my plan fell through when Austin shouted: "Hey, Auntie Alice!" Up ahead, my delightful sister was pushing my niece, Lucy, in the stroller and browsing through some shop windows. She searched around before seeing us walking over.
"Oh, hey you two. Edward, I can't recall ever seeing you in a mall." She smirked.
"My buddy needed new sneakers. I'm guessing Jasper isn't home, then?" At eight months pregnant with their second child, my brother-in-law doesn't let Alice in a place so crowded.
"No, he's in Montreal for a business trip. I'm sure I told you that…?"
Austin let go of my hand and went to kneel in front of the stroller, playing with Lucy's tiny feet. "Oh, yeah…sorry, must have slipped my mind. He's away for a week, right? Don't hesitate to phone us if you need something, okay?"
The famous Alice-Eye-Roll came into play. "Edward I'll be fine," she tapped her swollen stomach, "my little meatball will stay where he is for the time being." She gasped when noting the time on her watch. "Oh! Sorry, I need to dash – I'm meeting Rose and Maisey for a coffee in five minutes."
"Rose is here too? What is this, a family reunion or something?"
"Maisey has her Kindergarten Halloween parade on Monday; they need to find a costume, so we decided to meet up. Anyway, I'll call you later, okay?"
"Yeah, sure. Aussie, say bye-bye now."
"See you later, Aus."
Even though we got caught up, I still managed to get home before the others, and helped Bella out by doing the washing up piled by the kitchen sink.
I'm such a doting husband.
I was sitting at my desk when Bella appeared behind me, slipping her arm down my chest and up onto the opposite shoulder, awkwardly hugging me. "I was wondering how your parents would feel babysitting…soon." She brushed her lips along my neck and when I turned my head, we made full impact.
"Hmm…I like the sound of that."
"We could drive to Forks on Friday night, they'll have a fun weekend with their grandparents and we could book a hotel room in Port Angeles – be close enough if anything goes wrong."
Scooting the chair back, I assisted Bella in sitting on my lap and wrapped my arms around her tired body when she fell into me. "Why, Mrs. Cullen, you sure are a smart one, sometimes."
"Yes," I kissed her, "only sometimes." She was quiet for some time, nibbling on her thumb in thought. "Hey, are you okay?"
"Mhmm…I was thinking what it would have been like, had you not changed your mind all those years ago…"
I'm never going to live that down, and I'll always hate myself for even thinking about walking away.
"I would have been a depressed alcoholic, living in a slumber, killing myself on cigarettes with no high standards set for myself or anything to work towards."
With a gasp, Bella spun her head to face me, eyes wide in sympathy and mouth agape. "You really think that?"
I could only shrug, "It's probable – I wouldn't have been happy, babe, and simply thinking about if you married somebody else and brought a new father figure in Draco's life turns my stomach." I wrapped my arms tighter around her, bringing us so close that I could only whisper. "But you don't have to worry about that, because I love you, I love the kids and that's all that matters."
"You know what I find oddly amazing? If I wasn't about to pee my pants that night of Emmett's party, and if I followed his directions and didn't turn off into your room, we wouldn't be here right now."
Damn, that's right. "So, what you're saying is that we should be thanking your bladder and not fate?"
With a coy smile, Bella licked her lips and fisted the neck of my shirt. "You can thank my bladder if you want, or you could just thank all of me…right now."
The atmosphere suddenly changed, and all I can say is thank fuck for thick walls.
"Oh, my God…Dad, look at this!"
For a father-son day trip, I took Draco to the Pacific Science Center. He's still really into his dragons, dinosaurs, science stuff and this is the perfect place to go. We only live a twenty minute drive away, but still have never managed to come here, which makes this day extra special. We were walking through the featured exhibitions – first one being Tutankhamun: The Golden King and The Great Pharaohs.
"Wow, buddy, that's twice the size of you." Draco was standing face-to-face (or, face-to-groin) with a statue of King Tut. He was staring up at it in amazement. "It's says this is the largest statue of the pharaoh even unearthed, at ten feet tall."
"Wooow…was he really that big?"
"No, no – he was a lot smaller than that. This is just a statue to represent him."
We carried onto the next section, inspecting the intricate gold canopic coffinette that once held King Tut's mummified stomach. It took my explanations to help Draco understand what I meant, and he was soon acting like any normal eleven-year-old. "That's so awesome! Can I do that to my stomach?"
We followed the signs leading us to Dinosaurs: A Journey Through Time, I could practically feel the excitement radiating off of Draco as the loud roars came from up ahead. In the exhibit, were either life size or half size models of eight dinosaurs, looming over the room was the ferocious Tyrannosaurus Rex.
"Dad, they have my favourite one, look!" He ran over to a bulky looking dinosaur. I knew which one it was instantly, but I didn't want to ruin the fun in Draco telling me everything he knew. "It's a Triceratops – they only ate leaves and grass and green things and the horns around their heads helped protect them against bigger ones – like a T Rex. And see that one? The Deinonychus, they had a claw on the middle of their back feet which they used to rip the stomachs of predators."
It hit me then just how little I knew of his obsession. He's my son and I've been oblivious this whole time. He could look at a picture of a dinosaur, tell me their name without a second's hesitation, tell me their fighting tactics and whether they were a carnivore or a herbivore. How did I not know this until now? Is it true? Do we pay more attention to Hartley and Austin? Well whatever the reason is, I'm not going to let that slip past me again.
"Draco, that is seriously amazing. How do you know all of this?"
He was too busy checking out a fossil to look at me, "we did a project on them at school. I got an A for it, but you and mum were too busy with Hartley that night."
It was like someone grabbed a knife and stabbed it straight through my heart. We had paid so much attention to Hartley that we never noticed Draco getting an A in a project at school – he hates school, he never does his homework, yet he put all this effort into his dinosaur work and came out with the top score. And what did we do in praise? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
"Buddy, let's go over here a minute."
"Hey, but I'm looking at this!"
"I just want to talk to you for a second, Draco. Come on, we'll sit here." The hallway had some benches looking out the window which faced the ponds down below. "Draco, I'm so, so sorry."
"It doesn't matter…"
"No, it does matter; it matters a lot. I'm so proud of you and you're smart – I was blown away with all that dinosaur knowledge and you got an A for your project? That's amazing; I never got an A at school. I'm so sorry that we never noticed it, but remember, that that doesn't mean we love Hartley any more than you, because we love all three of you equally and that won't change."
"But it's always about Hartley." Draco refused to look at me and stared at his fisted hands that rubbed together roughly.
"It's not always about your sister, Draco, but we need you to understand that Hartley needs these therapy sessions and our time so we can help with her speech problem. It's not that we don't want to spend time with you, because we love our Draco moments, but if we're busy with Hartley, or helping Aussie with something, then we'll make the same time for you as well. You understand that, buddy?"
"Can I have a hug, or is it too embarrassing to be seen hugging your old man in public?" I held my arms out anyway and with a shy smile, Draco pushed aside any awkwardness he felt to hug me. "I love you, bud, and nothing will change that, okay?"
"We had a good day, didn't we?"
"Yep. Dad, can we go to McDonalds for dinner?"
"McDonalds? Hmm…I don't see why not. Are you going to pay, yeah?"
"No! You're the dad, you pay."
That evening, I sat nursing a beer with everything Draco admitted to still flowing around me and then add that to what Bella asked me yesterday – what if I hadn't changed my mind? I wouldn't have any of this; I wouldn't have had Bella as my loving wife, welcoming me when I got home and loving me regardless of all the stupid things I get up to. I wouldn't have had my three children, all longing my attention day after day and even though they fight, and sometimes I want nothing more than to go on holiday and leave them here, I wouldn't change what I have for the world.
And there we have it…
Thank you so much for following my silly story and it would mean the world to me if you could leave your final review, telling me your thoughts.