Leo Deppiesse is 28; Helen Deppiesse is 36; Lizzie Bonaccord is 1
Roman Bonaccord is 31; Susan Roseland is 36; Oliver is 2
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Spring was coming soon.
Ordinarily this would make Helen happy, but lately time was just moving too fast, and things were changing too fast, and she just wished that it would all stop.
It had already been over a month since her father died. That alone was frightening, knowing that he would become more and more a distant memory and there was nothing she could do to stop that happening. She worried about her mother now. She knew it would happen someday, but right now she couldn't bear the thought of losing her too.
On top of that, they had moved out of the little townhouse that she loved.
It had been Leo's idea. The baby would need its own room, he said, two bedrooms wouldn't be enough any more. Helen disagreed. After all, hadn't Lizzie spent her first months in a crib in the hall, when Samantha lived in their spare room?
To make matters worse, they weren't renting a bigger place, they were buying.
The cottage was a rare opportunity, Helen couldn't deny that. It had belonged to the same couple for about 50 years, but they were both gone now, and their children just wanted to get it off their hands. So it was cleaned and decorated - if painting everything a neutral, unoffensive beige could be called decorating - and sold at a bargain price.
Even a bargain price needs a mortgage, though, and that was what bothered Helen the most. "Dad gave us the money for your business so that we wouldn't have to start our marriage in debt," she told Leo. "Now, we're doing it anyway."
"It's not like we wasted your father's money," Leo said. "We got the shop started. An opportunity like this doesn't come along every day. Can't you see us like that couple who owned it before, raising our children here, living here together into our old age?"
She had to admit, she liked that idea. She just wished they weren't doing it right now.
It was a late winter Sunday when they moved in. At 8 months pregnant, there wasn't much she could do to help with the move, but between Leo, her brothers, and Andrew, she doubted there would have been much for her to do even if she were able. Leo was back at the shop the next day - they couldn't afford not to open every day, especially now, with a mortgage to pay.
The garden shop was doing well despite the season...
It had plenty to offer, even in the winter...
... and it turned out that Leo was a natural salesman.
Back at home, Helen and Lizzie passed the days unpacking the remaining boxes.
Helen still worried about the new baby, and her ability to cope with two children together. She was more comfortable with Lizzie now that the little girl was older, but Lizzie still seemed to get on better with every else than she did with Helen. She had said her first words to her father, and when she finally took her first steps, it was for Leo.
Leo was doing his best to be supportive, after Helen had tried to explain how she felt. He didn't really get it, she knew that, but he was doing his best, and how could she expect him to understand? She didn't even understand it herself. All she knew was that this whole motherhood thing was too big and too important for someone like her to make mistakes with.
And she had made mistakes. Like taking Lizzie to visit her mother, so soon after her father had died. The little girl had spent the whole visit going between the bedroom and the bathroom, clearly puzzled that her grandfather wasn't there.
They decided not to take her back to the retirement home for a while, and Brandi visited Helen instead. It didn't help, Lizzie was still looking for her grandfather, expecting him to follow her grandmother though the door. She was unsettled for days after that, crying and refusing to co-operate, and nothing that Helen could do would cheer her up.
Helen was relieved when Roman finally called to say that he was well enough to have his daughter for a couple of days again.
To Helen's surprise, Lizzie was happy again when Helen came to collect her. "I don't know how you do it," she told Roman.
"She's just happy because I was here," Roman said. "I didn't have to do anything."
"I don't get what you mean."
"That... kind of makes sense," Helen said.
"Yeah, it does," said Roman. "That's also why Lizzie should come here when you go have the baby. If she stays home with Leo, she'll think you've disappeared too. If she comes here, its just like normal for her."
And so Lizzie stayed with her father while baby Jack came into the world.
Leo was delighted with his son, and Helen was pleased to have a boy and a girl, especially as she didn't know that she wanted any more children after these two.
When Jack was a couple of days old, Helen went to get Lizzie back from Roman.
"Is it fun having two of them?" He asked her.
"I don't know!" Helen said. "I haven't even had them home together yet."
"True, that. I bet it is fun, though."
"I don't know," she said, with a sigh. "I haven't even figured out how to have fun with one of them."
"How can you not have fun with Lizzie?"
Helen shrugged. "I just feel like she doesn't like me much sometimes."
"Of course she likes you!" Roman said. "She's always talking about you when she's here."
"Yeah, really. You're her mother. Naturally she likes you!"
"But is it natural?"
"Is it natural for a kid to like their mother, or a mother to like their kid? What if they don't?"
"Don't you like Lizzie?" Roman asked, suddenly more serious than Helen had ever seen him.
"It's not that I don't like her," she said quickly, "I just don't think I understand her. I mean, look at the way you could see why she was happier after seeing you. I would never have got that. I knew she was looking for Dad, but I never thought about how she'd think other people could disappear, too. I just can't work out things like that."
"It's not hard," Roman said. "You just need to learn to think like a kid. Kyla gave me these books... some of them tell you all this stuff about how kids think. I never would have thought of half of it if I didn't read it." He handed her a couple of books. "You should take these, see what I mean."
"Baby books?" she said suspiciously. There was something almost shameful in having to learn about how to relate to your own child, from a book.
"Go on, read them," he said. "I think they'll help."
With a sigh, she took the books, and picked up Lizzie to leave.
She didn't believe for one minute that Roman had learned to connect with Lizzie the way he did from a book, but if he thought it could help her, then she might as well try.
Helen felt a bit better about the cottage, now that it was looking something like home.
There were some things that she'd always miss, though. Like having her cousin Susan living next door.
"Don't be silly," Susan had said, when Helen bought the subject up. "I'm only a few streets away. We can still drop in on each other any time." And, as if to prove her point, she and Oliver turned up unexpectedly at the door late one afternoon.
"This place is looking great," she said, putting Oliver down on the floor to play with Lizzie. "You must love having so much extra space."
"It is good not being so cramped," Helen admitted. "I just - " she stopped, following Susan's eyes to the book she'd discarded on the sofa when the doorbell rang. She felt her face reddening. Of all the people...
Susan never noticed, though. She went to the sofa and picked the book up, flicked through the pages. "It's - it's Roman's," Helen said. "He thought I might... um... "
"You should have told me he wanted to read it," Susan said. "I'm sure I've still got my copy from when Oliver was a baby."
"You... read that?"
"Sure, I did." said Susan. "There's a lot of useful information in there. You might not need it, but don't you dare think any less of Roman if he thinks he does."
"But... you... you seem like such a naturally good mother..."
"I hope I'm a good mother, but I don't know about the natural part... I love Oliver to bits, but sometimes I just don't know what to do with him!" She grinned. "I guess that's all part of it, though, figuring it out as you go along. I know some people can just do that, but I can understand if Roman needs a few tips to help him along."
They talked for a couple of hours before Susan had to leave. Talking about their kids, the times they didn't understand them, the times the kids had surprised them, the many ways that this whole motherhood thing was nothing like they'd ever imagined it would be...
She might able to just drop in any time, but at this time of year Susan had to leave earlier to get home with Oliver before it got too cold. Helen walked out onto the front step to wave good bye.
She stayed there a few minutes after they had gone. The snow was melting and the sun felt good on her face.
Spring was coming soon.
So, I wasn't quite in time for Mother's Day, but it was close :)
So far, Helen seems a lot more attentive to baby Jack than she was to Lizzie, which is a relief. It was Roman who taught Lizzie to talk, though, and Leo taught her to walk. But at least Helen doesn't completely ignore her daughter anymore.
Lizzie's aspiration level hit the bottom when her grandfather died - I'm not sure, but I think she must have had a 'death of family member' fear or something. Lesson #1 - toddlers in aspiration failure are hard work! She had wants but I couldn't fulfill any of them because she wouldn't co-operate or stick with anything for more than a few seconds. Roman finally managed to teach her to talk, in a series of very brief sessions, and that fixed it.
Oh, and speaking of Mother's Day... Lesson #2 - ACR overrides 'Free will off'. When I went to Roman's place for these pictures and their new family picture, this happened:
When I just go to a lot to take pictures, I usually exit without saving, but I really want to see these two as parents together so this one is for keeps.