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Everyday from nine am to five pm I get to watch over Morisawa Chiaki’s three little boys Midori, Tetora, and Shinobu. Who are five, four, and two years old, respectively. They were enrolled about a year ago after what was implied to be a very nasty divorce. I will admit, I was a little surprised to see a twenty-six year old come in with so many children, and the other parents dropping off their kids tend to give condescending looks. Of which, he is very conscious of.

“I’m really sorry to impose on you again.” He readjusts how he has Shinobu sitting up against his hip. “I know my boys can be a bit of a handful.”

“Really, Morisawa-san,” I smile. “It’s not a problem at all. I enjoy having them.”

“At least—Tetora, don’t pull at your brother’s hair!” I can’t help but giggle at his attempts to talk to me while having his older two run around us in circles and fight. “At least let me treat you to dinner or drinks sometime, Shinkai. I know you have to deal with my troublemakers the most.”

I hum softly. “Dinner would be lovely.”

“Are you free tonight?”

“I’m free tonight, yes.” Truthfully, I’m not free at all. The bank deposit needs taking care of, all the toys and blankets need to be washed, and it’s the weekly deep clean of the playroom. However, I like Morisawa-san, kind of, a lot.

“I’ll be by at six today,” he gives me a brilliant smile. “Okay, boys, I’ve gotta go to work now. Be good for me, and don’t fight with each other.” After setting Shinobu down, he pulls all three of his boys close into a hug. “I have to work a little later than usual, okay?”

Midori tugs at his sleeve and mumbles, “You won’t forget about taking us to lunch, right?”

“I’d never forget when I’ve got the best little boys in the whole world.” Morisawa-san leans in and blows a raspberry up against his cheek. “I love you much. I’ll see you soon, my loves.”

With a quick peck on the cheek to Shinobu and Tetora, a see you! to me, and a wave good-bye to all of us Morisawa-san leaves for work.


 

I lean on the kitchen counter while Midori and Tetora argue over their snack about whether Kamen Rider or Kamen Rider Kuuga is better. Tomoya butts in and announces that ‘both of them are dumb! Castle in the Sky is way better!’ I chuckle to myself.

“Morisawa-san’s boys really are something else, don’t you think, Kaoru?”

Kaoru sighs. “By ‘something else’ I hope you mean the biggest set of troublemakers we’ve ever had. I can’t imagine how exhausted Morisawa must be.”

“He’s doing his best, you know.”

Kaoru stops in the middle of coring apples. “Oh no, Kanata-kun, don’t tell me you’re in love with him.”

“So, what if I am?” I don’t turn to look at him. “You hit on Hokuto and Subaru’s mom, Anzu-san, every time you see her, don’t you?” He grumbles something I can’t pick up in response. “Speaking of, I need you to do all of tonight’s chores without me.”

“What? No. Not happening. We have to deep clean the playroom!”

I look over at him. “Correction: you have to deep clean the playroom. I have to go out for dinner.”

He frowns. “You, Shinkai Kanata, have to go out to dinner? You’re kidding, right? You don’t date, period.”

I make a dismissive gesture with my right hand. “Well, I do now. Morisawa-san insisted he do something in return for all the grief his boys give me and I accepted. Besides, I did it alone last week when you had a date.”

Kaoru groans. “Fine. But only this once, and you’re putting everyone down for nap time by yourself.”

I grin at him. “It’s a deal.”

Putting everyone down for a nap is an ordeal in and of itself, even more so when doing it alone. Shinobu won’t sleep unless he’s right in the middle of his brothers, Hajime cries if he doesn’t get to sleep next to Tomoya, and it takes thirty minutes to get Subaru to so much as lie down at all. I take a quick headcount before going to get myself iced coffee from the fridge. I get to twenty-four then stop. Lying down in a row should be Tetora, Shinobu, and Midori but the last one isn’t anywhere to be found. From the entrance way there’s soft sniffling.

I go over and sit down next to him. “What’re you doing, Midori?”

“I’m… hic hic… waiting.” He sniffles and gives a quiet little sob.

“What’re you waiting for?”

“I’m waiting for my dad.” Another little sob. “I want to go home. I want to sleep in my bed.”

I pull a tissue from my apron pocket and wipe his face. “Do you want to wait together? It’s kind of lonely sitting here by yourself, isn’t it?”

“Yes, please.” Midori crawls up into my lap, then murmurs, “Do you like my dad?”

It takes me a moment to respond. “Why do you ask?”

“Well, you’re always smiling when you talk to him and you don’t do that with anybody else’s mom or dad.”

It can’t hurt to tell him. “Yes, I like your dad.”

“Do you like like him?”

I chuckle. “Yes, I like like him.”

“If you’re our new mom, that’ll be okay.” After a minute his sniffles turn into soft little snores.

I think about that phrase for a little while. Our new mom. I wouldn’t mind being that.


 

Shinkai… Shinkai-san… Kanata…

I wake up to someone poking my cheek. I grumble, “Kaoru, I told you don’t wake me up by pinching me.”

I open my eyes to see Morisawa-san’s face centimeters away from mine. My face burns and I stutter, “M-M-Morisawa-san! I, uhm, I was, uh, and Midori wouldn’t stop…”

“Was he crying?” I nod. He carefully pulls Midori out of my lap and into his arms. “Sorry about that, Midori’s a bit of an easy crier when he gets tired.”

Midori yawns, and lets out a sleepy, “Daddy? Are we going home now?”

“No, love, we’re going to lunch.”

I stand quickly and mutter, “I’ll get Shinobu and Tetora.”

I slip behind the closest wall and put my face in my hands. Parents have seen me asleep before, but I’ve never been embarrassed like this. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. If just being close to him makes me this nervous how on earth am I going to survive an entire dinner? I start towards the nap area then realize: I told a five year-old I like their dad. A five year-old. One of the age groups that are the least able to keep a secret. For once, I need Kaoru’s advice.

I’m more than a little rushed in waking up Tetora and Shinobu. Not so rushed that I can’t be gentle waking them, but still rushed enough to be obviously nervous.

“Hnn, Sensei?” Tetora rubs his eyes. “Why’re you so nervous?”

“I-I-I’m not nervous.” I pick up the still asleep Shinobu. “I, uhm, I just, uh, I just had a little too much coffee. Anyways, your dad’s here to get you for lunch.”

Tetora sprints ahead of me with a loud, “Dad! I want ribs for lunch!”

I have to readjust Shinobu up against my hip as he squirms around. Midori gestures that he wants to get down and, after being put down, immediately begins to whisper something to Tetora. Tetora’s face goes from confusion to elation then he turns to me.

“Really! You’re gonna be our—mmrrpph!” Midori puts his hands over Tetora’s mouth.

“Shh! It’s a secret!”

Tetora pulls Midori’s hands down and shouts, “Well, how was I s’posed to know!”

Midori moves his hands to his hips. “Why do you think I was whispering? It’s secret and you can’t tell anyone! Not even stuffed animals!”

I look at Morisawa-san and the two of us laugh. Midori and Tetora continue to bicker when I hand Shinobu over. His boys really are something else.

“Aren’t they?” He smiles at me. “They’re good boys, even with how rambunctious they get.”

“I…” I fidget with the waistband of my apron. I actually said what I was thinking out loud. “I, uhm, they’re, well, they’re definitely the most polite group of kids I’ve, uh, ever worked with.”

“That’s more my doing than my wife…” He pauses, clears his throat, looks down at the floor. “I mean, their mom’s. I’ve, uh, tried to instill how important being polite is into them.”

“Well,” I decide to give him a small smile. “I think you’ve done a really good job getting them to be as polite as they are.”

Morisawa-san leans in until our noses are almost touching. “You’re kind of… ethereal when you smile, y’know.”

I freeze. Morisawa-san’s face turns bright red and he takes several steps away from me. I don’t know what to say to that. Before I can stop it, what I’ve been thinking today tumbles out of my mouth. “I think you’re a fantastic father and I can’t wait to have dinner with you tonight.”

I look down at the floor and curl some of my hair around my finger. What on earth is wrong with me? Glance over at Midori who’s face has lit up in a giant grin. Morisawa-san coughs and says quickly, “So, uhm, I, uh, I’ll s-see you at six?”

I can’t bring myself to do anything but nod. He leads his boys out and I go over to the kitchen as fast as possible. I put my head in my hands, take a deep breath, and drag them down my face. I can hear Kaoru waking everyone in the next room. I grab my iced coffee from the fridge and down it as fast as possible in an attempt to calm my nerves.

“Kanata-kun, it’s your turn to feed the year-unders…” Kaoru looks at me and frowns. “What’re you blushing about?”

I wring my hands a couple of times. “He said… Morisawa-san… he said ‘you’re kind of ethereal when you smile’.”

“Well,” Kaoru makes a consolitory gesture with his left hand. “That’s something to be happy about, you know. Besides, that’s just a fancy way of saying you’re pretty. I use that phrase with girls all the time.”

“But, wait,” It’s my turn to frown. “if you use it ‘all the time’ does that mean he didn’t mean it?”

“Oh, no, he definitely meant it. I’ve never met anyone as honest as he is. So, odds are he probably likes you back.”

“Oh… In that case, I need your help.”


 

Kaoru’s advice was actually kind of seriously helpful. He said that I should not, under any circumstances, wear my work clothes to dinner and even went so far as to pick out clothes for me after all the kids—excluding Midori, Tetora, and Shinobu—went home. While Kaoru plays dress up with me as his doll, Morisawa-san’s boys have been looking on and offering commentary. Midori even went rooting through my closet and handed Kaoru a large stack of clothes.

“Hey, you guys,” I protest as Kaoru hands me the fifth outfit he and Midori have picked out and twelfth overall. “There’s only thirty minutes until he gets here, can you please just decide on something already?”

“Let’s use lots of blue. Whaddya say, Midori-chan?” Kaoru picks up a blue striped knit sweater.

“Yes,” Midori crosses his arms and tries to nod in a sagely kind of way. “Something that goes nice with his eyes.”

“You know, Midori-chan, you’re really quite good at this.”

Tetora pipes up with, “That’s because he dresses up his mascot character dolls every day.”

Midori turns to him and says angrily, “They’re not dolls! I told you, they’re figurines!”

“Wha~tever!” Tetora points at Midori. “Besides, you’re the one who won’t tell Dad you like all the figures he brings home from the set!”

Midori gasps. “Hey! That was a secret and you promised you wouldn’t tell anyone!”

Kaoru sits on his knees and says, “Don’t worry, Midori-chan, we won’t tell anyone else.”

“Really?” Midori fidgets with the bottom of his sweater. “Pinky promise, cross your heart?”

I sit next to Kaoru and hold out one pinky. “Pinky promise, cross my heart.”

“Okay,” He curls his pinky around mine. “You should wear the white shirt under the striped sweater with black pants. My dad will like it.”

I ruffle his hair. “Thank you.”

I pull all of it on, then stand in the mirror pulling at the cowlick on the top of my head. It just won’t stay down. I’m still trying to make it lie flat when I’m helping the boys into their shoes and Kaoru is greeting Morisawa-san at our front door. I give one final pull when I slip into my shoes and it lies flat. I have only about twelve seconds of satisfication in the accomplishment before Morisawa-san reaches over and pulls it back up.

“You should—Shinobu don’t take off your shoes!” Morisawa-san catches Shinobu as he starts to fall backwards off the threshold. “You should leave it up, it’s cute how you wrap it around your finger when you’re thinking about something.”

I drop my right shoe and my face burns. “I, uhm, I-I’ll, uh, leave it up, then.”


 

Getting to Morisawa-san’s apartment begins with a loud argument about Tetora having to sit in a car seat while Midori doesn’t. In the end, sitting in a row in the backseat are Shinobu who’s playing with a frog plush, Midori who’s looking extremely pleased with himself, and Tetora who’s pouting and staring out the window. I’m more than a little nervous sitting so close to Morisawa-san, but also enjoying listening to him absentmindedly hum to himself while driving.

He counts under his breath. “Five… four… three… two… one. They’re all asleep back there aren’t they?”

I look over my shoulder and raise my eyebrows. “They are. How did you know?”

Morisawa-san chuckles. “They’ve always been like that. The only reason I wound up getting a car in the first place is because as babies the only thing that’d put them to sleep was taking a long car ride.”

“I’ve had parents tell me something along the lines of that before. Who was the worst about falling asleep?”

“Definitely Midori. He’d keep crying even when in his car seat, so, in the end I had to sit him in my lap and sing until he finally fell asleep. I was nervous the first couple of times I did that.”

I push some hair back behind my ear. “Why were you nervous?”

“Well,” Morisawa-san keeps his voice quiet. “Midori was the first and I wasn’t quite twenty-three, so, it was all just very new and a little scary.”

“Huh… do you regret having kids so early?”

He gives a soft hmmm. “Not at all. Before Midori was born, friends and family would tell me that I’d regret it real fast, but standing there in the hospital, holding Midori for the first time, I just knew that I’d never regret having him.” He lets out a deep sigh and continues. “I’m not sure exactly why, but there was just something about holding him that made me think, ‘no matter how exhausted, and overworked, and sleep deprived I get, and how hard this’ll be I’m never going to regret this.’”

I find myself smiling. He’s perfect. Listening to him talk about his boys cements the thought into me. I kind of, sort of, love Morisawa-san. If this were my everyday… For once, in the entire seven years I’ve been running a childcare center, I want children of my own. Or, rather, I’d like to be as Midori said. ‘Our new mom’. The longer I sit here next to Morisawa-san, the more I realize that it’s not that I wouldn’t mind being that, it’s more that I want to be. I realize that I love both Morisawa-san and his boys.

“Hey, Shinkai?”

“Mmm?”

“I, uhm, I…”

“What is it?” I lean over close to him and his face turns a bright crimson.

“I just, uhm, I… can I call you ‘Kanata’?”

I answer without thinking. “Only if I get to call you ‘Chiaki’, in return.”

“Th-that… that’s…” Morisawa-san slowly closes the gap between us. “That’s fine.”

Just a little bit further, a little bit closer, a little bit more and he kisses me. It soft and sweet and feels kind of like I’m melting. He pulls back and mumbles Kanata… pretty… before kissing me again. It’s cliché, but I’m absolutely positive my heart skipped a beat when he said my name. He pulls away and rests his left hand up against the side of my face. I didn’t notice until now that his skin is soft and overly warm. It feels so nice I can’t help but start to smile.

“Up close… you really are ethereal when you’re smiling, Kanata.”

My breath hitches, and before I can kiss him again there’s a sleepy, “Daddy are we home yet?” from the backseat. We jump away from each other, Chiaki coughs and I swallow hard.

“Yes, love, we’re home. Help get Tetora out of his car seat for me, okay?”

Neither of us say much of anything during the process of getting groceries, the boys, and several unmarked bags from the car and up to the door to their apartment. He readjusts how Shinobu is sitting up against his hip and fumbles with his keys while trying to balance having bags of groceries hanging off his other arm. With a quiet aha! he gets the door open and says to Tetora and Midori, “Shoes are left at the door!”

With two sets of thump thumps as shoes hit the tile, the two shout Mister Tiger Man! and Kitty-tan! Walking into their apartment is something else. It looks so… lived in. There’s bookshelves full of DVDs and comics; books with the spines starting to fall apart at the seams haphazardly stacked on the floor in front of a large bookcase; blankets strewn across a couch just big enough for five people; one wall with a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard covered in notes and drawings in red, green, black, and yellow marker; a large desk with two half-finished do-it-yourself miniature rooms and watercolor paintings with messy Midori and Tetora written in hiragana at the bottoms; a cork board littered with photos of the four of them; four shelves with carefully placed stuffed animals and figurines lined up in a row vertically; a child’s easel in need of a new roll of paper; and toys spread out all over the floor.

It’s the complete opposite of the clean state of Kaoru and I’s apartment. Compared to our apartment where everything is organized and put away: theirs looks like a home. There’s several potted plants hanging from the ceiling in front of a window facing the street, a small tank with two frogs on a table next to the TV, and constant noise. Noise from the frogs, Shinobu standing in front of the tank holding onto a large frog plush and cooing at them, Midori announcing to a group of stuffed animals spread out on the floor that school has started, Tetora holding a comic in one hand and a large tiger stuffed animal—who I’m assuming is ‘Mister Tiger Man’—in the other while asking Chiaki what does this character say?, then Chiaki putting groceries away in the fridge while answering Tetora from over his shoulder sound out all the hiragana next to it, and finally me standing and watching the four of them… no, watching this family go about their daily routine.

I’m forced out of my fascination by Shinobu tugging on my shirt sleeve and mumbling, “Froggies.”

I tilt my head and say, “’Froggies’?”

He nods and leads me over to the small tank and introduces me to the two small little green frogs that I don’t remember the name of. “These are Peachy and Thunder. They’re hyla japonica or Japanese tree frogs. I found them in some rice paddies and Daddy let me keep them. He doesn’t mind the noise, but she did.”

I assume that by she Shinobu means their mother. It dawns on me now that while Midori and Tetora have clear memories of their mother he doesn’t know much, if anything, about her at all. What he does know can’t be very good. Shinobu rambles about his frogs, but I’m not paying much attention. I can’t help but think about how sad it is that the only things he knows about her are bad. I look above the tank where the cork board is hanging. There’s pictures of Midori as a toddler playing at the edge of a river, three in a row of Chiaki holding his boys after they were born with their names written on their respective picture, Midori and Tetora playing in snow, and at the lower right corner… one that’s been ripped in half so all that’s left is the four of them.

The date at the bottom is five months before Chiaki enrolled his boys at Kaoru and I’s childcare center. A small voice behind me says, “Don’t mention that one.”

I turn around to see Midori looking up at me. “Why?”

Midori leads me over to where he’s been playing and replies, “Dad kept looking at it and it was making him sad, so, after he fell asleep one day I ripped it in half and got rid of the other part.”

“Is he happier with it gone?”

“Yes. He stopped staring at it and started smiling again.” Midori moves the arms of a stuffed bear up and down. “Are you good at folding things?”

“I am,” I start slowly, confused at the sudden subject change. “Why do you ask?”

“I need help with something.”


 

The ‘something’ is a set of miniature books that go along with the half-finished rooms sitting on the desk. Midori pulled out two small sandwich bags filled with small pieces of paper, some glue, a pair of scissors, and a metal ruler. Currently, he’s showing me how to fold the paper using the ruler.

“See, you match up the little black line, push it over the edge of the ruler, then fold it nicely with your hands.”

“Okay,” I follow Midori’s instructions and get the fold to be perfectly on the line. I know what to do next, but ask him anyways. “Now what?”

“Now, you take this long piece,” He hands me a long, thin strip of paper with tiny illustrations on the inside. “And fold it back and forth so the white part on the back touches.”

I do as he says and hand over the little book cover and inside pages to him. He sticks his tongue out of the side of his mouth while very, very carefully putting glue on the inside cover and squishing the book shut. I glance over towards the kitchen to see Chiaki looking over at the two of us and smiling. Midori has me make the folds for baskets, little seed packets, teeny little decorative bags, boxes, and planters so he can glue them together.

He’s so focused on getting everything to be just so that it’s adorable. When we’re all done, he gets up and brings over the room itself. The furniture and lighting is already put together. It’s a cute little thing with a porch swing, bookcase, shelves, table, couch, pillows, plants, and small cat figure. He pulls out the bookcase, table, and shelves.

“Now we have to put all the paper parts in.” Midori moves over to sit down next to me and hands over a set of tweezers. “The books go on the top shelf of the bookcase, and the pink box, blue bag, green bag, and little plate on the bottom shelf.”

I’m not sure how long I’ve been sitting on the floor here putting all the parts for the room in their proper places when Chiaki scoops up Shinobu into his arms and tells everyone that it’s time for dinner. Dinner—just like Chiaki and his boys—is something else. Midori and Tetora sit next to each other, with a bright green set and tiger themed training set of chopsticks respectively, Chiaki next to Shinobu in what appears to be a hand-me-down high chair, and myself sitting at the side of the table in between Tetora and Chiaki.

Before the three pick up their chopsticks, Chiaki claps his hands together and says, “What do you say before you eat, boys?”

His older boys follow suit and reply, “Thank you for the meal!”

Dinner is louder than the four going about their daily routine. Tetora is insisting that Midori take his carrots, Midori refusing, and Chiaki turned towards Shinobu with miso soup in one hand and a spoon in the other.

“Shinobu, go ‘aaaahh~.’” Watching him carefully give Shinobu soup by the spoonful makes me forget all about my own meal.

“Kanata-sensei!”

“Hmm?” I turn to Tetora. “What is it?”

He holds out his bowl and says, “Will you, please, eat my carrots? I don’t like them.”

His emphasis on the please makes me laugh and reply, “Sure, I’ll eat your carrots.”

I find myself being forced to listen to Tetora recount the life story of ‘Mister Tiger Man’ while I eat. From time to time, Chiaki turns away from Shinobu to remind Tetora not to talk with his mouth full. Shinobu and Tetora make mess of their faces to the point where I have to reach over and wipe the latter’s face clean with a napkin. This is the best time I’ve had during a dinner in a very, very long time. Dinner at home is quiet with talk about nothing but work. Dinner here… Dinner here is loud and messy and full of the older boys rambling about nothing in particular.

I bite the inside of my cheek to keep myself from turning to Chiaki and saying, I love you and your boys and I love being here. I can’t say it just yet. When asked what movie they want to watch after dinner Midori whispers something in Tetora’s ear that I can’t quite make out.

Midori speaks for the two of them with, “We want to watch Cinderella.”

Chiaki sighs and replies, “You two just watched that the other day.” Looks at me. “I’m sorry, they’ve been in a bit of a Disney kick lately.”

With the dishes washed, faces cleaned, a loud argument about who gets to put the DVD in, a small plate of cookies set out, and everyone crammed onto the couch Tetora insists on pressing play. While his brothers are watching intently, Midori seems to be waiting for something. Tetora mumbles along to the entirety of Sing Sweet Nightingale then later makes his brothers do the same with him for The Work Song. Midori jumps up off the couch around the time that Cinderella makes it to the ball and tugs on both my and Chiaki’s arms.

“Hurry, hurry! You’ll miss it!”

“Miss what, love?” Chiaki is confused but nonetheless indulges Midori.

“The song! Okay, Kanata-san, you stand here and be Cinderella. Daddy you’re gonna be here and be Prince Charming. Dance and sing the song, okay?”

Chiaki puts one hand on my waist, uses the other to hold my hand, and I give in and start to sing. Start with a hum, sway around the room, then: So this is love… hmm-mm-mm… So this is love… With everything that’s happened today, the song is really quite fitting. I’ll touch every star in the sky… Lean in close. So this is the miracle that I’ve been dreaming of… Stop dancing entirely at the last set of hums. So this… A little bit closer. Is love… Kiss him softly.

Behind me I can hear Midori say, “See? I told you so. I told you they like each other.”


 

Getting the boys into bed is more than a little bit of a spectacle. It involves forty-five minutes of Chiaki chasing Midori and Tetora around the apartment with Shinobu looking out from behind the couch and ducking whenever the three come near. Chiaki catches Midori with a grah! and loud, “Caught you! Now you’ve gotta get into your pajamas.”

From the looks of it, this spectacle is a nightly game meant to make it much easier to get everyone ready for bed. Tetora is caught several minutes later and gets a raspberry blown up against his cheek that makes him giggle. After a quick pace around the living room with a faux contemplative I wonder where Shinobu could possibly be? and the older two shouting I know, I know! Chiaki looks behind the couch.

“I found you! Come on, get into your kigurumi.” Shinobu comes out grinning and lets Chiaki put him into a frog kigurumi that’s about one size too big. “Time to brush your teeth, boys.”

Ten minutes and three rounds of A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes later they’re all in bed and asleep. Chiaki stands in their bedroom doorway for a minute, looking at his boys and smiling.

He sits next to me and I can’t help but ask. “Do they all sleep in the same bed?”

“Mhm. Or, well, for about an hour and a half. After that they come and get into my bed one at a time.”

“Have they ever wound up pushing you off your bed?” I rest my chin on my palm.

“A couple of times, yeah.” He pauses, lets out a long sigh. “I don’t mind it, though. Midori will deny it, but he’s been getting up and crawling into bed with me since he figured out how to open doors.”

The smile on his face is kind of dreamy, and with most of lights off his eyes are a dark amber that’s really quite pretty. Put together, they make up one seriously handsome man. Chiaki stares off somewhere behind my shoulder and mumbles something I can’t make out.

“Come again?”

“Oh, I was just thinking back to the day Midori was born.”

I twist a bit of hair around my finger. “Anything about it in particular?”

“Well,” He leans back on his palms and moves his stare to the ceiling. “In the months leading up to it, I was incredibly nervous. I mean, I’d been the one who insisted on keeping him and I had people telling me left and right that I was going to regret it once he was born, but… when I was there holding him for the first time, I’d never seen anything so small and perfect before. In those first couple of hours, I definitely held him the most out of everyone.”

“Did you do the same thing with Tetora and Shinobu?”

He looks at me and chuckles. “Yeah. They’re probably so attached to me from all the time I spent with them when they were babies. …You know, Kanata, this is the most mellow night we’ve had in a while.”

I can feel my face flush. “Really?”

Chiaki nods. “Yeah, no one threatened to throw something out of the window, or argued so loudly the neighbors complained, or started crying. The boys really like you. They were whispering something about you being their ‘new mom’ when the four of us went out to lunch today.”

“I really like them.” I swallow hard. Take a deep breath. “I really like you, Chiaki.”

“In that case,” He leans forward, takes hold of my hand. “Would you come over for dinner again sometime?”

My face lights up with a large grin. “I’d absolutely love to.”