They read together. It's something they do.
Mason is required a certain amount of reading for school, but Charlotte likes to carve out a little extra reading time with him on top of it. It's good for them, she thinks, especially now. The more pregnant she's gotten, the more obvious this whole impending baby thing has become, the more she's noticed him acting out. Little things, small protests, meant to get attention more than anything. Like he thinks they need a reminder that he's still there.
So she thinks these times, the quiet reading hours at the end of the day, are good for the two of them. It's his time with her, and her alone. If there's another baby boy in the bed with them, well, they don't talk all that much about him unless Mason wants to.
Tonight, it seems he does.
They're reading Charlotte's Web, a book both Mason's parents were horrified to learn Erica and the Los Angeles Unified School District had managed to overlook thus far. They're not too terribly far into it, and as Mason discovers how good it is, Charlotte is reminded how much she liked it herself when she was a kid.
She turns a page to read another line, and Mason pipes up, "Hey, Momma?"
"Do you and my dad have a name for the monkey yet?"
He looks at her, tentative, questioning.
Charlotte tucks her finger into the book to mark their page, then closes it, giving him her full attention. "No, not yet. We haven't been able to settle on anything we both really like."
"Oh." He looks back at the book in her hand, and frowns a little.
"Why?" Charlotte coaxes. "You have a suggestion?"
He shrugs his shoulders, then wriggles a little, leaning against her more fully and tugging the book open again. "Maybe. I dunno. It doesn't matter."
Charlotte shifts her grip and tells him, "It matters to me."
Mason shakes his head, looks at her and says, "I'm still thinking. If I decide I really like it, I'll let you know."
"Well, alright then," Charlotte smirks, turning her attention back to the book and reading the next line.
But she doesn't forget, and the next time the three of them are together - over breakfast, the next morning - she makes a point of bringing it up.
"So…" she begins, settling herself into one of the chairs around the kitchen table as Cooper sets a plate of cheesy scrambled eggs and bacon in front of Mason, then heads back toward the stove to get another plate for Charlotte. "What do you think of Alexander for the baby?"
She aims the question at Cooper, but keeps Mason in the corner of her eye. He perks up ever so slightly, but says nothing.
Cooper, however, has something to say. He makes a face, and says, "Not a fan. Too… something. I don't know. Not a fan."
"So much so you said it three times," Charlotte mutters, and truth be told, she wasn't that much of a fan herself. It was a token offering, something meant to start the conversation, but not end it.
"Twice," Cooper corrects, adding, "I still think we should name him after my grandfather," as he carries both his and Charlotte's breakfasts to the table and takes the seat across from her.
"We're not namin' him Walter," Charlotte denies, picking up her fork as Mason makes a face like he's tasted something sour. "He's not eighty years old."
"Walter?" Mason questions incredulously, and Cooper sighs and gives Charlotte a sarcastic thanks-for-that expression, as Mason says that it's super old. Like, really super old. Nobody names kids Walter anymore, and he should know, because he knows a lot of kids. And Charlotte thinks to herself that if a kid with classmates named Dash, Emirsyn, Colbyn, and Neveah is protesting a name as being too out of touch, they really have problems. "But it is like Walt Disney," he adds after a moment. "So that's kinda cool."
"See?" Cooper argues. "Walter's a good name."
"I don't think that's what he was sayin'," Charlotte smirks, taking another bite of her eggs. They could do with some hot sauce, she thinks, but then she has to weigh whether the extra flavor is worth the inevitable discomfort of heartburn this early in the day.
She decides against it as Cooper suggests, "Okay, my dad, then? Russell?"
"Blech," Mason declares, and Charlotte tries hard not to snicker, then offers a slightly more civilized response of, "It doesn't go with Mason."
"It has to go with Mason?"
"If we're gonna be introducing them together, and signin' holiday cards and all that, yeah." She sips her juice, then adds, "I mean, c'mon. Happy Christmukkah from Charlotte, Cooper, Mason, and…" She drops her voice, makes it monotone and boring for, "Russell."
"I hate when you two gang up on me," Cooper says, pouting into his eggs. "And there's a whole Jewish tradition, you know - naming people after relatives, especially relatives who are no longer with us. And we are Jewish - at least, I'm Jewish, and I wouldn't mind throwing in a Jewish tradition now and then."
"I agreed to a bris," she reminds him. "And isn't the baby naming thing supposed to be inspired by relatives, but not directly naming them after them? Sharin' initials or somethin' like that?"
Cooper frowns. "Well... yeah, it can be that, too."
"So," Charlotte reaches for her juice. "How about... Wyatt? You've got the W for Walter."
"We're not birthing a cowboy," Cooper points out.
"I like Wyatt," Mason says, his mouth half full of food. Charlotte doesn't even bother scolding, just levels him with a glare that he must understand immediately, because he rolls his eyes and makes a big show of chewing and swallowing.
"It's a name that's gainin' in popularity," Charlotte reasons, turning her attention back to Cooper.
"Maybe in Hick-town, Alabama-"
Charlotte feels a flash of irritation and asks, "Must you always insult my heritage? I don't rip on yours."
"Okay, well, first of all, sometimes you do," he insists, and then, "And either way, I don't like Wyatt."
There's a low burn of ill will simmering under Charlotte's skin, and rather than let them slide into a real, honest-to-goodness argument over breakfast, she turns her focus to Mason.
"How 'bout you?" she asks him. "You got any ideas over there? Anything you really like?"
Mason rolls his eyes at her and says, "I know what you're doing, y'know."
"Well, then, why don't you just give it up and tell me?" Charlotte asks teasingly, and Mason huffs a little sigh.
"Fine," he mutters, spooling some cheese around the tines of his fork before finally giving up the goat: "I thought maybe Avery. Like Fern's brother, in the book. And it's not stupid and old or anything like that."
Charlotte smiles, and looks at Cooper. "Avery, huh? I think I like that."
"It's not bad," Cooper agrees, testing it out again. "Avery Freedman. A little girly, though."
"I think gender distinction has largely gone out the window these days," Charlotte excuses, pointing out that of the three Masons in their son's class, only two are boys.
"I know a girl Avery and a boy Avery," Mason supplies as confirmation. "So it works for both, I think."
Cooper cedes their point, and Charlotte lists off the whole family unit, slowly, weighing the feel and the fit, "Charlotte, Cooper, Mason, and Avery."
"See? It fits," Mason insists, and Charlotte has to agree with him. It fits. It works. Truth be told, unisex names aren't something she'd normally steer toward, but she's not so averse to them that she won't consider this one.
"It does, indeed," she agrees, adding, "We'll have to add it to the short list."
The short list never gets very long, and Avery holds the top spot the whole time running. And as if to will it into being, and probably because it worked so well with "monkey," Mason stops calling the baby anything other than Avery, until he gets Charlotte into the habit, too, and eventually Cooper. Avery Warren Freedman gets his name out of sheer brotherly persistence — eventually, they just can't imagine him as anything else.