"One more push," yelled the nurse. Tadako was exhausted by this point but she gathered every last bit of energy. Her dark-green hair was damp from the sweat and her mother, who held her hand the entire time, had to move it away from her face. It wasn't the first time she was giving birth, but it didn't get easier at her age. She screamed and pushed one last time. Cries of a newborn baby filled the room. "It's a girl," the doctor announced. She cut the umbilical cord and wrapped the baby in a blanket before placing her in her mother's arms.
One of the nurses went outside and came back accompanied by a tall blond man wearing glasses. Tadako knew the man was excited even though it didn't show. He gave his wife a quick kiss on the cheek before embracing her and the baby.
"Kei," Tadako said proudly, "I want you to meet your first daughter."
"She is beautiful, just like her mother," he said. "I can't wait for the boys would meet her."
"Did you think of a name?" asked the grandmother.
The couple nodded. "We did," said the mother. "Welcome to the world, Tsukishima Shion."
The day the mother and the daughter were released from the hospital they were greeted by two young blond boys. The taller one had few freckles around his nose, the other had a smooth hair with one hair standing up. Both had brown eyes like Tadako's. "Touya, Satoshi, meet Shion, your sister."
The two boys looked at the baby. "I'm Touya," said the taller boy. "I'm the oldest brother, I'm eight."
"My name is Satoshi," said the younger boy. "I'm almost six. Nice to meet you."
'This is so cute,' thought both parents.
"Here," said Kei, handing Tadako a bouquet of flowers. It was made with sunflowers, with different unrelated colorful flowers. "The boys saw me buying this, so they picked up random flowers and added them."
"Dad said this is a present for you and Shion," said Satoshi.
"And it's a beautiful one too," Tadako grinned.
The next few months were filled with many blissful moments. It was hard with the baby waking up at night or the attention the mother had to give to the newborn child, but she had the support of her family to ease things. Kei took it upon himself to take care of the boys, like he did with Touya when Satoshi was born. Shion was growing well and also turned out to be a quite baby, she only cried when she needed something.
There was one thing that bothered Tadako. She looked at the mirror with displeasure. After giving the birth the first time, she lost weight easily. The second time it was a bit harder, but she managed to pull it through. But she was at her mid-twenties back then. Now she was thirty-two and it seemed she couldn't lose any weight. She gained more weight than ever before.
She didn't like it at all. Each birth her body had gotten worst. This time she was fatter then before. What if took her years to lose weight? Would Kei wait for her? No, she thought, he would find a beautiful woman who would be much worthy standing by his side. Kei was always popular with the ladies. She still wondered why he chose her when so many girls confessed to him in high school. She was never pretty in the first place.
She heard her family members calling her for dinner. She got dressed again. The men waited for her around the table. Shion was napping at her crib, and the sight warmed her heart.
She sat down next to her husband. "How was school?" she asked the boys.
Both of them were ready to share their stories from school. Kei also talked about his day at work. There were some details he skipped and words he couldn't say in front of the children, something he would have to let out when they are alone.
"What do you guys want to do on Saturday?" Kei asked. "I don't have to work, so let's spend some time together."
"That's a great idea!" agreed Tadako. "Let's go to the mall."
"Let's go to the beach," said Touya. "We didn't go there for two years."
"You and dad promised to play volleyball with us," said Satoshi.
Tadako was about to agree with the boys but remembered going to the beach meant wearing a swimming suit. A feeling of horror washed over her when she heard her husband also agreeing to the idea. All the guys looked at her, waiting for her approval.
"Yes," she forced herself to smile. "Great idea."
The boys cheered, accidently waking up their sister. She knew Kei noticed her reaction and he later that night he confronted her.
"What was that all about?"
"What are you talking about?"
"When the boys suggested to go to the beach, you looked like they suggested murdering someone."
"I guess I was worried about Shion. She is still too young, don't you think?" She looked away so he wouldn't be able to read her expression.
"We took Touya around this age to the beach. Besides, you love going outside." He was worried for her, she could hear it in his voice.
She went to bed. "I guess today I'm not in the mood."
He laid beside her. "Fine, I hope you'll change you mind." He gave her a kiss. "You know, the kids are sleeping…" He kissed her on the neck then the shoulder. She was enjoying the moment until he slipped his hand under her shirt. She pulled it off, turned out the light and got under her blanket.
"I've a headache." She lied. Kei didn't say anything, but simply gave up.
"Don't for-" Tadako yelled at the boys but the two didn't listen as they quickly stripped and ran towards the sea. She made a note in her mind to make them put sunscreen again when they come back. Kei took off his shirt and took Shion to his arms. "I guess I'll go too. I'll hold her, you watch the boys."
He took few steps before noticing she wasn't coming. "Are you coming?"
She was wearing a plain old white shirt and short pants over her swimming suit. She thought it would be enough to cover her, only to realize on the way that wet white shirts were revealing. "I'll watch them from here. Just tell them not to go far away."
"Is everything alright?"
"I'm fine," she lied. "I'm just not in the mood for swimming, that all."
She could see something came up to Kei's mind, but he did reveal it. She felt guilty for sending him by himself with three kids, but she couldn't let her family seeing her in that state. She saw Kei talking to the boys and they ran back to her.
"Please come with us," said Touya. "It's not fun without you."
"You don't have to swim, just play with us!"
'Goddammit Kei, you know I can't say no to the boys.' Knowing it was a losing battle, she stripped and joined her family. At first, she was aware of body and how young teenage girls glared at her, but later she had too much fun to care.
When they came back, all of them were exhausted. The kids fell asleep quickly, giving the couple few hours for themselves. "Do you want take a shower together?" asked Kei.
"No, you go first. I'll wash the dishes."
"It had been a long time since we had time without the kids." He took a pause. "Why are you avoiding me?"
"I'm not avoiding you. You need to be patient." She promised.
"Patient? What for?"
"For me to lose weight," she admitted out loud.
"Tadako…" she heard the pity in his voice.
"It's almost impossible now to lose weight. I've been trying so hard. That's why today I lied. I don't want you to look at me when I'm like that. I don't want you to lose interest in me, so please wait patiently."
"This is the most idiotic I've heard."
She looked time, shocked. He sighed, stepping closer to her, looking into her eyes. "You're the most beautiful woman in the world to me. Nothing will change that. So, what if you gained few kilograms? That's not going to drive me away."
"I don't want you to see my body."
"Too late, I have three kids to prove I've seen it at least three types. I want to be with my wife, not just her body. If anything, it would be hypocritical of me because in case you haven't notice, I lost my abs and my hair is already losing its color."
She hugged him, tears in her eyes. "I always thought you're the coolest guy in the world. You're still are. Every day I'm thankful you chose me."
He hugged her back, pulling her closer. "And it's still hard for you to believe I still love you the way you are?" They faced each other, still hugging. "Next time talk to me. I will remind you you're beautiful."
"What if I nag you every second?"
"Then I'll remind it to you every second until you believe me."