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Merry Christmas to the Willingham Book Club

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When April arrives in the kitchen, Sterling is comforting a young boy in her arms.

“It’s alright, it was just an accident.” Sterling coos, swaying from left to right and stroking her son’s hair to calm him.

“Mama!” A young girl exclaims excitedly at the sight of April, jumping from her seat and running towards her.

This catches Sterling’s attention whose eyes follow her daughter.

“Hello Sweetheart.” April says with a tender smile when her daughter wraps her arms around her, hugging her back.

“Look Gavin, it’s Mama.” Sterling whispers to her son with a soft voice.

The little boy raises his head from her shoulder and looks at his mom. Sterling approaches April.

“Good morning Young Man, why are we crying?” April asks with a curious raised eyebrow, taking her son’s hand.

“He made the pans fall.” The young girl says, pointing to the pans all over the floor. 

“And that’s why you’re crying? Why does it make you cry?” April asks softly.

“It scared me.” Gavin admits with a shaky sniffle.

April and Sterling look at each other with soft pouts.

“It did? Come here.” April says, opening her arms.

Her daughter pulls away and Sterling hesitantly passes her their son.

“You’re sure you’re alright?” Sterling asks.

“Yes Honey.” April answers with a smile, rolling her eyes and placing Gavin correctly in her arms.

His butt is sitting on her arm and her arm is sitting on the bump on her stomach that wasn’t there a few months ago. Sterling puts her hand on April’s back and leans in to kiss her forehead tenderly.

“You slept well?” Sterling asks, looking at her with tender eyes.

“Yeah, thank you for letting me sleep a little more.” April answers with a soft smile while she is rubbing her son’s back.

“Don’t thank me for that.” Sterling assures her. “Is your little sibling talking to you Riley?” Sterling asks curiously, running her hand through her daughter’s hair while she has her ear on April’s bump.

“Yes, the baby tells me they want Christmas pancakes.” Riley says, looking up at her mom.

“Oh yeah, they do?” Sterling asks, putting her hands on her hips and looking down at her daughter with playful, curious eyes, making her laugh.

“Oh, I think she’s right.” April answers with an agreeing nod.

“Then I better make those pancakes quick. How about you set the table while I finish to prepare those delicious Christmas pancakes?” Sterling asks her daughter. 

“Yes Ma’am!” Riley exclaims, running to do it.

“You see, that’s what I call respect.” Sterling jokes, looking at April.

“Go make those pancakes for your hungry fiancée, Honey.” April says teasingly.

“Yes Ma’am!” Sterling exclaims with an amused smile. “And Gavin.” Sterling says, interpelling her son.

The young boy lifts his head and looks at her with curious eyes. 

“You make sure your Mama doesn’t help me prepare breakfast, alright Buddy?” Sterling says.

“Yes Ma’am!” Gavin exaggeratedly screams, laughing at himself. 

“Ok Young Man, let’s calm down a bit.” April says with a laugh. “Let’s go see if your bag is all ready to go to Grandma’s and Grandpa’s later.” April suggests.

“April…” Sterling says, turning in her direction and looking at her with a raised eyebrow. “Love of my life, mother of my children, carrier of the youngest Wesley-Stevens, yesterday we checked together 3 times, 3 TIMES to make sure all our bags were ready, so you’re going to sit and do nothing while I take care of breakfast.” Sterling insists with a playful tone, but April can see in her eyes that she is serious.

The thing is that Sterling knows her fiancée pretty well and that it’s hard for her to sit down and do nothing. It has always been, but right now her body has limits it didn’t have before. 

April looks at her fiancée and lets out a sigh, knowing she should listen to her.

“Yes ma’am.” April says, going to sit on the couch with Gavin. “But, just so it’s clear, we can never check a bag too much. Only the opposite is possible.” April assures her. 

“Of course Love.” Sterling says with a laugh.

 


 

After eating the delicious Christmas pancakes (which were just gingerbread pancakes with whipped cream and raspberry jam to draw Santa’s face on the pancakes, Sterling’s invention), the little family got ready to leave and packed in the car…in their 7-place car. Yeah, with the new baby coming soon, they are that kind of family now. They’re going to sleep at Debbie’s and Anderson’s house for Christmas. It’s not like they live far from their house. 15 minutes separate them from that house actually, but it has been the tradition for many years now and everyone likes that Christmassy sleepover. And of course Anderson and Debbie absolutely love to have all their family under their roof. However, before heading to the Wesley household, the moms need to make a quick stop. 

Like you might have guessed, I didn’t tell you everything that happened yet before this very day. First things first, Sterling proposed to April on their first year of cohabitation during April’s studies, not needing to wait any longer to know that she wanted to spend the rest of her life with April. But they still weren’t married though. To this day, Sterling still doesn’t know how she succeeded in convincing April’s christian heart to wait so long. It was probably her speech about the fact that, even though the Bible wants couples to get married before starting their family, she didn’t see it that way because a wedding is an expression of love and she wanted to live it with all the loves of her life which weren’t all there yet, but it could also be something else…So yeah they eventually both agreed that they would get married only when their little family would be complete. Not everyone was happy about it at first, but they ended up understanding their point of view. 

They bought their house and started the process to have their first child when they were almost 25. Yeah, a lot was happening during that year, but April knew how much Sterling wanted children and, sincerely, April was herself excited to see how it would change their life. So Sterling got pregnant and had Riley at 26. About a year later, she got pregnant again and had Gavin at 28. April was never too sure about being pregnant herself, so it was great that Sterling didn’t mind doing it for them. Also, let’s be honest, April thrived in making sure Sterling was treated the way she should during those two pregnancies. They always planned to have 2 kids, but, 2 years ago when they were about to start planning their wedding, April nervously asked one night if it was ok if they tried to have a third child and if she could carry it after having thought about it for a while. Sterling was completely excited and supportive of the idea. After many attempts and tears and a lot of discouragement and questioning (with Sterling, it was always super fast, so of course April felt like she was a failure), the test finally became positive. So here they were, expecting their third and probably last child (they add probably every time people ask because they know how much life can always surprise you) at the age of 32 while having a 6 year old daughter and a 4 year old son on their hands. 

So this is the base of their story, but I’m going to bring you to one of the moments that changed April’s life forever and then you’ll understand why they’re doing that quick stop.

 


 

6 years ago

 

April was waiting nervously outside the room, reluctant to enter. All her life, she thought that moment would never come, but she was scared of how it would go. 

All she knew was that, the day before, she was called by someone from an hospital at 5 hours from her home saying that Mr. Stevens was going to have a really risky heart surgery and that he requested, if she wanted to and if she had the time, to have a talk with her before the surgery in case he died. It wasn’t John Stevens, her father, it was Frederic Stevens, her father’s father, the one she never met. Her father wasn’t in contact with him when she was born and he always said bad things about her grandfather. He said that he was a bad person, he told her not to ever contact him because he would be the end of her like he almost was the end of him and a bunch of stuff like that. April listened to him all that time even after not speaking with her father for years. To this day, she still didn’t know if what he said was true. So yeah she was nervous.

A nurse got out of his room before she decided herself to enter.

“Oh, I guess you’re Mr. Stevens' granddaughter.” The nurse said with a smile when she saw her.

April nodded weakly.

“You can enter if you want.” The nurse assured her in case April didn’t know.

“I know, I know…” April said with a sigh, looking at the wall behind the nurse.

“All I know about you is that you never met him before, but I know a lot about Mr. Stevens, so my best advice would be to cross that door and see what the world could bring.” The nurse suggested with a sincere smile.

April caught her eyes and saw the sincerity, so she nodded, took a deep breath and opened that door. The first thing she saw was that old man she never saw before and whose eyes softened immediately at the sight of her. April remained paralyzed for a few seconds, all this seeming surreal. She let out a breath at the same time the man did and it just made the situation even weirder. April cleared her throat, getting ready to deal this situation the best she could without breaking down.

“So…I guess you’re my grandfather.” April said, not knowing how to start.

The old man laughed softly.

“I guess I am, yes.” Frederic said with a smile. “I know you probably have a lot of questions. Feel free to ask me anything.” Frederic said softly.

“Why did John cut ties with you?” April asked.

Frederic seemed a bit surprised, probably by the fact that April was calling her father by his first name, but he didn’t let it show too much and focused on the question.

“During his high school years, my son changed a lot and, eventually, I guess he thought I was too different from him.” Frederic said with a sad expression. “He told me I would destroy his life, that I would keep him away from God and bring him to Hell with me…that I better not talk to him or his future family ever again. I tried to reason with him, to make him understand that it was unthinkable for a father not to be there for his son ever again and that I loved him, but I wasn’t important enough for him.” Frederic admitted, visibly hurt by those words. “When I learned that you were born, I tried to be in your life…but I quickly realized that he could literally destroy my life, so I gave up. I tried to follow your life the best I could from afar…this was the only thing that brought joy into mine.” Frederic said with sincere eyes. “I don’t know what John told you…or if you even believe me, but just know that, if death comes to take me when I am on the surgery table, I’ll die a happy man because I finally got to see you in person.” Frederic said with emotional eyes.

April already had her eyes closed to try and stop the tears from forming in her eyes.

“How much do you know about me?” April asked with a shaky voice. 

“Well, I could have paid someone to find information about you, but you’re my granddaughter, so it would’ve been a bit weird.” Frederic admitted with a soft laugh. “So I did the best I could from afar without John realizing. I even learned how to use social media. It wasn’t easy at first, but that old man succeeded.” Frederic said with an amused smile.

April couldn’t stop the smile forming on her lips for a few seconds, but she quickly made it disappear, preventing herself from having her heart broken.

“I know a lot about who you were when you were younger, but I don’t really know what has been going on for the last 10 years. My health problems started at that time and fighting for my life for years made me disconnect from reality. Not a good excuse, I know, but I guess part of me wanted to die respecting my son’s wish to stay away.” Frederic said with a humorless laugh.

April opened her eyes to look at him.

“So you don’t know my parents literally kicked me out?” April asked.

His eyes became wide.

“What? Why?” Frederic asked, astonished.

“Because I’m gay.” April answered with a simple shrug, not scared to say it anymore after about 10 years of experience.

Her grandfather’s eyes immediately softened and April didn't know why exactly, but the reaction made her burst into tears.

“I’m so sorry. If I had known…are you doing ok?” Frederic asked with a worried frown.

April just nodded weakly.

“You’re not disgusted?” April asked between two sobs, her voice shaking.

“April…God made you exactly as you are.” Frederic assured her with sincere eyes. “And maybe your father isn’t proud of his daughter, but I am proud of my granddaughter.” Frederic assured her, tears falling from his eyes. “I’ve always dreamed of a big family, but I lost the love of my life at the birth of our only child and I lost our only child when he became an adult. The only thing that makes me really happy is that someone will carry my family name and, I’m sure, do great things for the world.” Frederic admitted with proud eyes. 

April, still sobbing, approached him slowly. She needed to be comforted by his words more, to be sure that this was real and not a dream…that she was finally accepted by a member of her birth family. Frederic reached for her hand.

“I’m a man who lived most of his life alone and, like all the Stevens before me, I have a lot of money. I never really spent it other than for living in order to let it all to you at my death. So obviously the only reason why I made you come here is to make sure you don’t learn this from a will.” Frederic said with a teary laugh.

April closed her eyes and tried to calm her breathing while her grandfather was holding her hand. Frederic simply held her hand tightly, waiting for her to be ready to talk again. She finally had the courage to open her eyes a few minutes later and say what she had to say to that man she just met.

“I don’t want your money.” April said.

Frederic seemed taken aback, but April continued right away not to make him stress. 

“Now you’re going to listen to me. I don’t know what your medical issue is and what kind of operation you’re having, but you don’t have the right to die. I want you to be in my life and I have a daughter coming in two months that I want you to hold and you don’t want to know what I can do when I’m mad.” April said seriously, tears falling from her eyes again. 

Both because of his emotions and the tears in his eyes, Frederic’s eyes were sparkling. 

“A daughter…” Frederic whispered softly.

“Yes…and she needs you.” April insisted with teary eyes. “I need you.”April said with her voice breaking, looking down with a strangled sob.

She felt her grandfather squeezing her hand and she hesitantly looked into his eyes.

“I’ll try, but…” Frederic trailed off with a sad look, knowing he couldn’t promise her anything. 

April sat on the edge of the bed and took refuge in her grandfather’s arms as if she had done it forever. 

“Please don’t do this to me.” April begged desperately, holding on to him as if he would disappear if she didn’t.

Frederic closed his eyes and simply hugged her while she cried, feeling bad to force this situation on her. Part of him wished he took the selfless decision, but the other part of him was glad he took the selfish one because he never felt more at peace than while holding his granddaughter. He didn’t know what the future had in store for him, but the only thing he hoped was for April to be ok no matter what.

 


 

“Sterling, there was no need to escort me to the car.” Frederic says with a laugh. 

I hope you all seriously didn’t think I would kill off a character just like that. Give poor April a break 😂

“I’m not sure about that, you’re getting pretty old.” Sterling says with a teasing smile.

The old man lets out a belly laugh.

“I might be 75, but I still have the heart and the energy of a young boy.” Frederic assures her.

“We’ll see about the energy after Christmas.” Sterling says with a knowing smile.

She knows her children. Frederic does a Huh, you might be right face and pats her upper back.

“How is April doing?” Frederic asks with a smile.

“Freddie…you had a video call with her yesterday.” Sterling reminds him with a raised eyebrow.

“I know, I know, but I want to know from your perspective.” Frederic says with knowing eyes.

“Oh, I understand now. Well, in my perspective, pregnancy is suiting April amazingly.” Sterling says with a joking smirk.

“You know I don’t want to hear about that.” Frederic says with a laugh, shoving her softly.

Sterling lets out a laugh and becomes more serious.

“She has less energy than usual, but she has a hard time accepting it. I wonder who she takes that from.” Sterling says with a soft smile, nudging him softly.

“I wonder too.” Frederic says sarcastically, laughing.

“But she’s doing great. When I look into her eyes, I see the same thing I have seen for the last decade…happiness and peace.”  Sterling says with a soft smile. “And it is even more true since you’re there.” Sterling assures him with sincere eyes.

Frederic smiles softly.

“I’m glad she found you.” Frederic says sincerely.

“I’m the lucky one.” Sterling assures him. “Now let’s go in case the kids are fighting in the car.” Sterling says with a laugh.

“Papi!” Gavin exclaims excitedly when he enters the car.

“Hi my little monkeys!” Frederic exclaims with a big smile, looking at his great-grandchildren. “Are you excited for Christmas?” Frederic asks.

“Yes!” Riley exclaims.

“Yes!” Gavin exclaims louder than his sister just because, raising his fist in the air while doing so. 

“Let’s not scream while Mommy is driving, ok my loves.” April says from the passenger seat while Sterling is starting the engine.

“Yes Mama.” Riley says. “Ok Gavin, we don’t scream.” Riley says, stroking the hair of her little brother. 

“Hi Darling.” Frederic says, putting his hand on her shoulder.

April smiles and puts her hand on his, squeezing it. 

“Hi Grandpa.” April says, looking at him with soft eyes.

“Love…” Sterling trails off softly, putting her hand on her leg while holding the wheel with the other.

“I know, I know. If I don’t look in front of me, I’m going to get nauseous.” April says, rolling her eyes softly and taking her hand in hers.

Gavin and Riley tell Frederic all about the Christmas pancakes during the ride until they arrive at the Wesleys' household. The kids run into the house the second they’re out of the car.

“My favorite monsters!” Anderson exclaims when he opens the door to them.

“Grandpa!” They exclaim at the same time, wrapping their arms around him.

“Hi Anderson, thank you again for your hospitality.” Frederic says with a smile, holding out his hand.

“No need, it’s always our pleasure to have you here Frederic.” Anderson assures him, shaking his hand.

“April, I’m taking care of unpacking the car.” Sterling says with a laugh when she sees her April take stuff in the back.

“Honey, like they say in practically all the movies with a pregnant woman involved, I’m pregnant, not sick.” April says, looking at her with a smile.

Sterling takes the bags from her and puts them back in the car. She then wraps her arms around her.

“I know, but you did the “overprotective” thing with me two times, it’s your time to suffer.” Sterling says with a teasing smile.

April rolls her eyes with a smile and leans into her, closing her eyes for a moment. 

“They aren’t stopping today.” Sterling says, feeling the baby kick against her own stomach.

“Yes…” April sighs with a pout.

Sterling pulls away and puts her hands on her cheeks.

“Why don’t you go inside and relax a bit? Maybe they will calm down a bit.” Sterling suggests with soft eyes.

“What a great way to subtly make sure I don’t help you unpack.” April says with an amused smile.

Sterling smiles and gives her a kiss.

“I love you.” Sterling says with a big smile. “Now go sit and relax. Even the little one is trying to tell you to relax.” Sterling says, pointing her bump with her head.

“I don’t think that’s why they’re kicking.” April says with a laugh.

“I’m telling you it is.” Sterling insists with a laugh. “I’ll be right back.” Sterling assures her.

“Alright.” April gives in with a smile, giving her a pat on the butt on her way to the house.

When she enters the house, Anderson is already playing with the kids in the living room and Frederic is sitting on the couch, watching them. She goes into the kitchen, knowing Debbie would be there. 

“Can I help you with something?” April asks.

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m just preparing a tray with things to eat for everyone.” Debbie answers with a smile. “You just sit and relax.” Debbie insists with a raised eyebrow.

April lets out a dramatic sigh, sitting on one of the counter stools.

“Everyone is going to tell me this, right?” April guesses.

Debbie smiles softly and goes around the island kitchen to hug her. April lets out a long breath at the contact. Even after 10 years, there is always something special with Debbie’s hugs. It’s probably because it’s the closest thing from the motherly hug she always dreamed to have from her own mother. 

“How are you feeling today Sweetheart?” Debbie asks, stroking her head tenderly.

“The baby is really active, but besides that I’m fine. I’m just happy.” April answers, relaxing in Debbie’s embrace.

“Your baby is talking to you. You should try to listen to them.” Debbie says, kissing the top of her head.

“But what do you all want me to do? Do nothing? Lay in bed until I give birth? Where is the pleasure in this?” April asks with a sigh.

Debbie pulls away and looks into her eyes, stroking her cheeks.

“It’s not that we want you to do nothing. You’re capable of doing plenty of things even though you’re pregnant.” Debbie says. “But you need to learn to relax more.” Debbie insists.

“I know how to relax.” April retorts back.

“Oh yeah? That’s why you rearranged the pantry last Wednesday on your day off.” Debbie says with a skeptical raised eyebrow.

April lets out a soft groan.

“Sterl told me it was going to stay between us.” April says, embarrassed.

She knows it wasn’t her brightest moment…particularly since the day off was because she didn’t feel well when she woke up and needed to rest. 

“Just let yourself be treated like a princess.” Debbie says, rolling her eyes.

“I’m already being treated like a princess by your daughter every day.” April points out.

Debbie just looks at her with a raised eyebrow.

“Ok, ok.” April says, raising her arms in surrender.

“Come on, let’s go join the others.” Debbie says, taking the tray she had been preparing.

“You’re sure you don’t want any help?” April asks her fiancée when she sees her packed with bags.

“100% sure.” Sterling assures her with a confident nod before continuing her path to the bedrooms. 

Debbie looks at her with an unimpressed look.

“What? It was just a simple question.” April says with a shrug.

“You’re lucky you’re really loveable.” Debbie says.

“That I know I am.” April says with a confident smile, making Debbie laugh.

“Hey my angels, I have snacks for you if you’re hungry.” Debbie says with a tender smile, putting the tray on the coffee table.

“Grandma!” Gavin exclaims, running towards her and attacking her leg with a hug.

Debbie’s smile grows and she strokes his hair.

“My happy boy, are you excited to sleep here tonight?” Debbie asks.

“Yes, even if I have to sleep in the same room as Riley.” Gavin answers, pulling away and looking at his sister with a disgusted grimace.

“Gavin, don’t say that.” April reprimands with a frown, taken aback by the comment. 

“It’s ok Mama, I know he’s only joking. He loves me too much.” Riley assures her, going to hug Gavin hard and give him kisses.

“No I don’t.” Gavin says, laughing while trying to get away from her.

“Yes you do.” Riley says, ruffling his hair and giving a last kiss on the cheek.

“Help, I don’t want to catch the annoying sister disease.” Gavin says, running away.

“You can’t escape from it.” Riley says, laughing while chasing him.

April sits on the couch with a sigh.

“I hope they’re not entering a I hate you and I love to annoy you until you cry phase.” April says with a nervous laugh, reaching to take a biscuit from the tray.

“Everything is going to be fine.” Anderson assures her. “They have a good bond. It’s just some teasing.” Anderson says. “I’m going to make sure they are ok though.” Anderson says with a laugh, going in their direction.

“Why is Gavin running away from Riley?” Sterling asks with a laugh, entering the living room.

She is a bit out of breath because she entered all their luggage as fast as she could, but really satisfied with herself (if you think sleeping to Grandma and Grandpa one night doesn’t require a lot of luggage…well you weren’t like my sisters and I when we were younger).

“He doesn’t want to catch the annoying sister disease.” Debbie answers with an amused smile.

Sterling lets out a laugh and sits beside April, wrapping her arm around her.

“Memories.” Sterling says, remembering moments from her’s and Blair’s childhood. 

“I’m here!” Blair exclaims, entering the house.

“Speaking of the origin of this disease.” April whispers.

Sterling nearly chokes on the grape she was eating and the others are already snickering. April pats her back while she coughs.

“April, don’t say that.” Sterling says, laughing.

“Where are my favorite kids?!” Blair exclaims.

“BLAIR!” The kids scream excitedly, the sound of their run to her being heard all over the house.

“I have candies!” Blair adds.

“She deserves the nickname.” April mutters before rising from the couch. “Blair, no! It’s only 10 am!” April exclaims, walking towards the entrance where Blair was already giving the candies to the kids.

“OMG, April, hey!” Blair says enthusiastically, April looking at her with her hands on her hips and a severe look. “Is it just me or you look so fine today?” Blair says, approaching her. “Look at you, still a model.” Blair says, gesturing to her with her arms.

“It’s really nice, but it won’t work.” April assures her.

“Come on April, it’s Christmas!” Blair whines as if she is a kid and is the one who isn’t allowed to eat candies.

“Yeah, come on Mama, it’s Christmas!” Gavin says, doing the same as her.

“I know that I pass like the mean mom right now, but I just don’t want my children to be sick because they ate too many candies and to ruin their appetite to eat dinner.” April says, folding her arms. “You’ll be allowed to eat a bit of them after lunch.” April says, looking at her children who pout.

Blair turns around to look at them and mounts a Trust me, I got this

“April…” Blair says, turning around to look at her with her I’m going to convince you face.

“Blair…” April says with a raised eyebrow.

“I have…stuff for you too.” Blair whispers as if it is drugs, taking a box from her bag and handing it to her. 

April just looks at her with an annoyed look. Blair moves closer to whisper into her ear.

“It’s from one of my coworkers who just went on a business trip to Canada…I asked him to make a special delivery for you.” Blair whispers.

When she steps back, April is starting at the box with desire in her eyes and she’s practically drooling. 

“You’re ok to handle the situation, Love.” Sterling says, arriving just when Blair is opening the box to show its content to April. “Blair! No! I told you to stop doing that.” Sterling says, looking at her twin.

“It’s Christmas Sterl.” April says, ripping the box of Blair’s hands.

“Yay!” The kids exclaim, joining their mom in the living room to eat their candies.

Sterling lets out a soft whine, knowing she can’t do much now.

“Just be reasonable!” Sterling exclaims.

“How can someone so smart and with so much restraint lose her reason at the sight of a few chocolate bars and Ketchup and All Dressed chips? Pregnancy is so fascinating.” Blair says with an amused smile.

“Now she’s going to crave that for days.” Sterling says with a whine, looking at her sister with a Why would you do this to me? look.

“Awww…Merry Christmas to you too, my twin.” Blair says with a smile, attacking her with a big hug.

“You know this isn’t what I said.” Sterling says, still hugging her back.

“You should probably go make some orders on Amazon now.” Blair says, patting her back before pulling away.

Sterling lets out a groan and follows her sister in the living room.

“You know they exaggerate the prices and we practically never receive exactly what they advertise.” Sterling says.

“I can’t hear you Sterling. I just hear Christmas joy.” Blair says.