‘I’m too old for this shit,’ Scott moans as he face plants onto the bed next to her.
‘For what?’ she asks, running her hand through his mop of gently greying hair.
‘Looking after a newborn’.
‘Technically he’s not a newborn,’ she playfully chastises. ‘You’re five months aren’t you, gorgeous boy?’ she asks the delicious baby snuggled into the crook of her arm.
‘He’s very cute. He’s also very awake. And it’s 3:24am,’ Scott faux whimpers.
‘Uncle Scott’s just out of practice, isn’t he Mason?’ she asks Jordan’s son, kissing his smattering of fair hair.
‘Uncle Scott wishes he didn’t encourage Mason’s parents to leave him here overnight’.
She rolls her eyes at her husband before running her hand over Mason’s head, attempting to coax him to sleep. The soothing motion always worked a treat with their kids, ‘Uncle Scott only has himself to blame’.
‘Does he make you want to go for number five?’ Scott teases. His question is not unexpected. The answer is no. Not one bit. Their youngest, Ashlynn, is now four and their baby making days are definitely behind them. But she adores spending time with their nephew. He is an old soul. The type of baby that watches with their big eyes, drinking in everything that happens around them.
She shakes her head. Mason’s eyes slowly fall shut. Scott smiles and reaches out to rub his foot before mouthing, ‘Me either’.
She passes Mason to Scott, scooping up two empty bottles and takes them down to the kitchen. By the time she returns Scott’s snoring softly with Mason sprawled across his chest, Scott’s hand protectively on the baby’s back and Mason’s sweet face safely tucked up under Scott’s chin. She picks up her phone and snaps a photo before standing to admire the sleepy boys before her.
She gently removes Mason from Scott’s embrace and is thankful that he transfers so easily to the portable cot set up in the corner of their bedroom. It was touch and go whenever they moved their sleeping babies. She scoots into the bed, her back against Scott’s chest and snuggles under the blankets. He immediately curls his arm around her, his hand sneaking under her pyjama top to rest cupped around her boob.
She momentarily thinks he’s about to start something but instead he kisses the back of her head and mumbles, ‘I’m glad you’re my girl, Virtch’. She doesn’t respond, just places her hand over the one he has under her top and closes her eyes.
The morning comes way sooner than Scott would have liked. It’s not Mason that’s woken him but another small child built from fifty percent Virtue DNA.
‘Hi Daddy,’ Ash sing-songs. Her face is so ridiculously close to his that he can smell the garlic on her breath from last night’s dinner. Ugh.
‘Hey Lil’ Lady,’ he croaks.
He rolls into his back and expects to find Tess to his left but she’s not there.
‘Do you know where Mommy is?’
‘What’s she doing?’ he rubs his eyes.
‘Having breakfast with Aunt Jordan,’ Ash responds as if he asked the silliest question she’s ever heard.
‘Can you please look on the phone and tell me the time?’
‘I already know. It’s 6:31am. I waited in my room until after 6:30am. I did go downstairs before that,’ Ash confesses, ‘but Mom said even though Aunt Jordan was here I still had to wait, because it’s our rule’.
He nods in agreement. It is the Virtue-Moir rule. Kids aren’t allowed out of their rooms until after 6:30am. They started the rule for James, who had a horrendous habit of getting up at 5:30am. They allowed him to play quietly in his room until 6:30am, after which time he was welcome in their room with all the kisses and cuddles a small boy could want. Turns out Ash is a lot like her big brother. She’s up with the birds too.
‘Great job in staying in your room until sixty thirty Ashy, I’m proud of you,’ he beckons her into bed with him and she scurries into his arms.
‘Can you read with me?’ she asks.
He can’t refuse, she’s just the most fucking adorable creature. All the best bits of Tess and her brothers rolled into a bundle of cuteness. He nods and she gives a little squeal of delight before reaching for the Fancy Nancy book she’d left on his bedside table the night before.
He’s sitting up against their upholstered bedhead, Ash in his lap when Tess peers into the bedroom.
‘Thought I heard you awake,’ she smiles.
‘We have important things to do, Mommy,’ he says very seriously, ‘Fancy Nancy has decided to get a dog’.
‘It’s true what Dad said,’ Ash affirms, completely missing his sarcasm, ‘and it’s going to be a very posh puppy’.
‘Aha,’ Tess bites her lip to stifle a laugh, ‘best you guys keep reading then. You mind if Jordan comes in to get Mason packed up to go home? She couldn’t last until 8am. She was here just after six’. Tess rolls her eyes affectionately.
He’s dressed in a pair of old pyjamas so not bothered with Jordan traipsing around their bedroom.
‘No worries,’ he chuckles, ‘is he still asleep?’ He can’t see into Mason’s bed but he’d hadn’t heard any baby snuffles, so he’d assumed Tess had him downstairs.
‘Jordan insisted on cuddling him as soon as she got here, he was asleep in her arms until a few minutes ago. You should have seen the smile he gave her when he woke’.
Tess’ own wistful smile brings back a rush of memories. Memories of their own kids, and the gorgeous sleepy smiles they bestowed upon he and Tess as they clattered into wakefulness.
He grins at Tess and he knows she’s thinking the exact same thing. She gives him a confirmatory wink.
‘Dad, you’re not reading!’ Ashlynn barks, a complete contrast to the gratitude which was the subject of the silent discussion he had with Tess.
He gently takes Ash by her chin and tilts his head so she can see his face, he raises his eyebrows and has a wordless discussion with his smallest girl. Ash’s face falls as it immediately dawns on her that her tone was unacceptable.
‘Sorry Daddy, that was rude,’ Ash apologises.
‘Sometimes things that Mommy and I talk about will be more important than things you’d like to talk about, and that’s alright. But we will always come back and finish talking with you, or reading or playing with you, because we love doing those things and they’re important too. OK?’
Ash beams and kisses his cheek. Tess mouths ‘She has you wrapped around her little finger’. He ignores her comment, because it’s such a statement of the obvious that it doesn’t warrant a reply.
‘Let’s keep reading, I need to know how this book ends!’
‘We read this one all the time,’ Ash says incredulously.
‘Really? Really? Really?’ he blows raspberries on her cheek.
When he looks up Tess is still there. She has her head resting on the doorframe, her hair in a missy bun and she’s wearing her old, ketchup-stained robe. It’s been washed so often that the pink heart print had faded, but the boys gave it to her for Mother’s Day one year and it’s her favourite. She wouldn’t dare part with it. A sense of thankfulness sweeps over him. He tilts his head beckoning her into the bed.
Tess doesn’t hesitate, she comes straight over and wriggles into bed next to him. He turns his head to her and she gifts him with her usual three kisses - one to each side of his mouth and a longer, firmer kiss to the centre of his lips. There is so much conveyed in that last kiss it makes his chest tingle. He’s a lucky bastard to live this life.
‘You’re the best thing that ever happened to me, Moir,’ she states.
‘Ditto,’ he smiles.