I love writing these tiny stories. If you missed the first one, you need to sign up for the email newsletter. There will be a story each month – and there will also be links to the previous month’s email so you can catch up. But this is an extra – a Valentine’s Day gift from me to you.
The Bellingwood stories are written from Polly’s perspective, so if she isn’t around, we don’t see what happens in the lives of other characters. These vignettes, though, give me an opportunity to peek into their lives, if even for just a few minutes. They won’t change the story or add anything that you would necessarily miss if you didn’t read them, but they will give you a little background and a hint as to what’s happening next.
This story is part of the happenings of Book 9 …
Make Room for Everyone
“C’mon, honey. The babysitter will be here soon. I don’t want to be late.”
Joss Mikkels sat on the edge of her bed with her shoes in hand. Today had been a rough day. Both of the babies were crawling and sometimes they moved faster than she could keep up. She’d felt guilty when Cooper pulled himself up to stand at the sofa and not only had she not taken a picture, but up until this point, she’d forgotten to tell Nate about it.
She looked up at him with weary eyes. It would keep. Maybe Cooper would do it tomorrow afternoon when they were all in the living room at the same time.
Later that afternoon, Sophie had been playing with her favorite soft book when her brother decided that he wanted it for himself. Joss had turned around for just a second and all of a sudden the two were screaming at each other. She wasn’t sure why today was worse than any other day. Maybe it was because she was looking forward to a romantic evening with Nate. They hadn’t had too many of those since the twins had come into their lives. Or maybe Sophie and Cooper had picked up on her desperation. After eight months, though, she thought they’d gotten past all of that. It wasn’t teething. She knew that sound. Oh, did she know that sound.
“Joss?” Nate was standing in front of her, holding her coat.
“Where are the babies? Why aren’t you watching them while I finish dressing?”
He looked at his watch. “Are you about ready?”
Joss put her feet into her shoes and stood up. “I’m sorry. It wasn’t the best day around here and I need to shake it off so we can have fun this evening.”
Nate helped her into the coat and kissed her nose. “You’ll have fun, I promise.”
“I’m looking forward to it. How late can we stay out?”
He chuckled. “First it was our parents and now it’s our children. Do you miss the days when no one cared what time we got home?”
“Sometimes and not really? Does that make sense?” She wouldn’t trade any point in her life for these days with Sophia and Cooper, but there were moments when she craved a little freedom.
“It does. Do you want to say goodnight to the kids?”
“Are they happy with Cindy right now?”
“Then let’s slip out so they don’t have to watch us leave.”
He escorted her to the Impala. Joss didn’t care what car they took, but whenever Nate had an opportunity to take his baby out on the road, he grabbed it. The weather had been rough enough lately that it had been trapped in the garage, but tonight was special and they only had a few blocks to drive to Sycamore House.
Nate had already warmed the car up and Joss leaned into him as he drove. She felt warm and snuggly this evening, just like one of their date nights back when they were still in college.
“Where are you going?” she asked as he drove south past Sycamore House.
“It’s a nice night for a drive, don’t you think?”
“You made me think we were going to be late?”
“I might have exaggerated. I just want to spend some time with you, all alone.”
Joss squeezed his arm. “Are we going parking? I could get into that.”
“We’re a little old, don’t you think? Can’t you just imagine Ken Wallers pulling up beside us, shining a flashlight into the back seat?”
“He knows this car. He wouldn’t think a thing of it.”
“Except that he’d worry that something was wrong and would stop and check on us and there we’d be in flagrante delicto. And besides, there’s a perfectly comfortable bed at home.”
Joss let out a very audible sigh. “I knew it. We’ve gotten old. There’s no spark left. You never take risks anymore.”
“Honey,” he said, patting her hand. “Don’t be ridiculous. I’ve never been a big risk-taker. Especially when it comes to having sex in the great outdoors.”
That was absolutely true. She’d tried to get him to make out with her on the beach during their honeymoon and the poor man had done nothing but look around, worrying that someone might sneak up and catch them.
Joss let him off the hook. “It’s okay. You do when it’s important. Cooper and Sophia were a big risk and you never flinched. Not once. You’re pretty wonderful.”
“Now you’re just being sappy.”
“I know. It’s a good thing I don’t have any wine in me yet.” She took a breath. “When do you think we should get back on the list to adopt more children?”
She felt him chuckle beside her, and then he said, “After the day you’ve had with those two and you want more?”
“I told you I wanted a houseful. Did you ever meet my friend, Janet?”
Nate shook his head. “I don’t think so.”
“She was the fifth of twelve kids. She had two older brothers and two older sisters and then there were … ” Joss had to think. “Two more girls, three boys and then a set of twins, a boy and a girl. Their dad was a doctor and they lived in this huge, sprawling ranch house out in the country. It was always a crazy zoo out there, but they had so much fun. And now that they’re all grown up, they come back with everyone for immense family reunions. That’s what I want.”
“You want twelve kids?”
“Maybe not that many, but a lot.”
“Are you going to let Mom come out and help with all of them?” He cackled evilly.
“If I have to.” Joss leaned back. “That would be so perfect, though. When they get older, their friends will come over and the house will be complete chaos. Joyous chaos.”
“You know it probably won’t be just like that. There’s always the potential for tons of problems.”
“It can be just like that,” she insisted. “It’s all in how you look at it.”
“That’s why I love you.” Nate pulled off the highway onto a gravel road, and directly into a driveway. He got out of the car and came around to open her door, offering his hand to help her stand up.
“What is this?”
He left the car’s headlights on, shining on an old dilapidated two-story house with four other buildings in close proximity. Trees and brush had overgrown most of it. Nate turned on his phone’s flashlight app, shining it on the concrete driveway, then held her close to him while they walked. He stopped, bent over and opened a red cooler that had been left on the ground. With a flourish, he pulled out two red roses and presented them to her.
“I was thinking this could be your sprawling ranch house. We would pull everything down except that building over there.” He pointed to one of the better looking buildings. “That would be my shop. It’s big enough for everything I need.”
“What?” Joss stunned. She brought the roses up to her nose to give herself a moment to take it all in.
“It just came on the market and the land is a great deal. Henry would build the house. Any house you want. There are nine acres here. What do you think?”
“I don’t know.” Joss was glad for darkness that hid the tears in her eyes.
Nate grew quiet. “If you don’t think we’re ready for this, we can wait until you’re ready. I haven’t done anything or talked to anyone. I wanted to show you first.”
“No, that’s not it. I just wasn’t prepared for anything like this today. We can really do it?”
“No reason, I guess. It’s just such a big step.”
“Bigger than adopting two children? We have plenty of room here for a lot of children. All that you want.”
“I don’t know what to think,” she said.
“Talk to me.”
“All of this, for us?”
“For all of us.”
Joss threw her arms around her husband and lifted her lips for a kiss. Nate’s lips were chilled from the evening air and they held onto each other as she finally let the tears flow into the shoulder of his coat. “You really know how to wish a girl Happy Valentine’s Day,” she said.
“It’s perfect. Can I tell everyone when we get to Sycamore House?”
“That’s up to you. All I wanted to do was surprise you with the idea. You and I will do everything else together.”
Joss kissed him again. “This is amazing. Maybe we’ll put a barn up and get some horses, too. That way our kids can ride over to Polly’s house. We aren’t that far away.”
“Sweetie, that’s her land right back there.”
“This started out as such a rough day. Now it’s turned into one of my top ten days. Thank you!”