Bae woke up to the sound of his papa's laughter, which made him smile. The days papa was happy enough to laugh were always the best, and he couldn't wait to find out what it was. He carefully got out of bed, still leery about his leg even months after the cast had been removed. He clutched Nick close, knowing he'd like to see what the news were, and then slipped his feet into his shark-shaped slippers.
He as he trotted down the stairs, following the sound of his mama's lilting voice, he thought about how nicer life had gotten once mama had gone to live with them. She had brought flowers and sweets into the house, as well as music, and Bae had discovered he liked dancing around the living room with his mama while his papa laughed and gave him pointers. After that his mama would usually kneel next to him, messily kiss his cheek and call him "a little life-ruiner". It sounded rather cool.
His papa loosened up quite a bit, but he still seemed to enjoy scaring people every now and then, but they were mostly bad people who usually yelled a lot, including the big man that was supposed to be his mama's papa. He'd heard him say once very loudly that he was not her son and shouldn't waste her time raising another woman's mistake. That time it had been her the one to bare her teeth and drive him away before crying silently. He'd offered Nick to console her, cause his friend was cuddly and soft and usually put him in a much better mood, but she had cuddled him instead, and that had been fine too. Later his papa had praised him for being such a good boy for his mama and when Bae had spotted the glimmer in his eyes he'd known the bad, fat man had been taken care of. And he'd smiled that sort of strange, manic grin his papa sported some times. It made him feel sort of like a shark, so it was good.
Then they had the big party meant to let everyone know his mama was his, well, his and papa's, and he'd gotten a nice suit and gel in his hair. He'd danced with Ava, who'd gotten all prettied-up and tidy for once and was not constantly taking care of her brother and it had been really weird in a good way. Ava was like his mama, only in a different way and made his hands clammy. She also liked that he was really good at math even though he wasn't as good in sports.
Mama had been lovely in something called a "mermaid" dress (though it didn't have a tail, he looked) all white and lacy. His papa had taken him to a place called "jewellers" were they had pretty shiny things girls liked and had him pick out a nice necklace so mama would have "something new", which had seemed to be important.
Ever since the big party mama had always been with them, stroking his head when he'd had a tummy ache, holding his hand on the waiting room at the dentist's, dragging his papa out of his big office when he got caught up in work and even making snow angels with him. And every time a nosey kid told him she was not really his mama he'd just reply they were jealous his mama was prettier than their old, mean-looking moms, and then quietly arrange for their favourite sweater to fall into the mud or for their snacks to go missing for a week. Once, when he couldn't do anything and had been very sad about it Ava had punched the little girl in the face. Alexandria Herman had never again even looked at him.
He was aware of the gossip, though, and not just from other kids. The adults would whisper it too. They would talk about how young and pretty his mother was, which was true, and how mean and scary his papa was (which was also sort of true) and then would shake their heads and say it wouldn't last. They'd talk about age, about "scandal" (he figured whatever that was had broken them up that one time years ago) and about his mama one day seeing reason and "dumping his papa's sorry ass".
He knew better, though. He'd seen them dance around each other when mama had come back, had seen them doubt and worry and trip. But he'd also seen them find each other again, make each other happier than they'd ever been before. No one in the world knew his parents as well as he did, though others thought they did. He saw them in the most scared, or sad, or happy. He saw them when they weren't pretending to anyone else, and knew that many things could happen in his life, but his parents separating wouldn't be one of them.
"Morning!" he greeted, letting his mama ruffle his hair and murmur something about cutting it.
"Hey, Bae." his papa patted his hair down after his mama had messed it up and then helped his mama reach for a bowl of cereal. She was awfully short.
"What's up?" he asked, sitting on his favourite chair. His papa was wearing slacks and a white shirt, which usually meant a boy's day out.
"Well, son, I thought we might go to the aquarium today. It's a long ride, but it's a nice day and you did very well in school according to you report card."
Bae squealed, nearly sending cereal flying all over the place and wolfed down his breakfast, eager to get dressed so they could leave. He put on his favourite t-shirt, one with an image of a mean-looking hammer-head shark and instructed Nick very sternly to hold down the fort. He raced downstairs only to find his mama by the front door, apparently waiting for his papa to find his car keys amidst the usual clutter of the house. He laid his head against her tummy, trying to feel the usual kick that indicated his little sister was awake.
"You're going to love the aquarium Rose, it's the bestest place ever. When you finally come out I promise I'll make mama and papa take us again so you can see all the cool animals, but when you get big enough so it's not dangerous. And I'll teach you their names and we'll get papa to buy you a t-shirt with your favourite fish like I have."
He patted his mama's heavy belly, grinning when Rosie patted back from the inside. He couldn't wait to meet her.