Months passed in bliss with the kids fully settled into the big house and us back to our normal routine. I had gotten letters from the guys and gotten to know them all better. I sent them pictures of all of us together and videos of birthdays, Claudia and everything else that they were missing. I talked to Andrew more about his proposal and all the things that I expected and didn’t expect. It seemed like we spent more time negotiating and laughing at things. Both of my jobs were going well and it seemed like my life was getting back on track. I was civil to Parker when we talked, but I kept my distance for obvious reasons.
My phone rang as I ran from the office to a parent teacher conference at Aleria’s school. I answered it professionally just to cover all my bases, but smiled at the voice that answered me back.
Me* Sid Anderson, how may I help you?
Andrew* Wow, I don’t get bored of hearing that, ever.
Me* Hey Drew, how are things?
Andrew* Hot as usual, listen I just wanted to let you know that my mother should be there in the next day or two so that she can actually meet the woman I love.
I giggled at his sarcastic tone.
Me* No prob, house is clean, kids are good and Claudia has been a dream. I am really proud of Laura, she has stepped up as a mother and made me ecstatic.
Andrew* I am glad to hear it. So I was wondering what you were doing in the next couple months?
I thought for a second.
Me* Well I graduate in three weeks, I have a contract I have to work on in Cali and I still have to put more time into my Virtual Rep job so I don’t let my old boss down. When it comes to the kids, Aleria decided she wants to do Ballet and Karate. Reese and Christian decided on Soccer and of course the younger two want t-ball. So I seem to be a bit stretched, why?
Andrew* We got out date to come home in about 6 weeks and I was wondering if you could come pick us up.
I jumped up and down, I had become so close to the guys over the past few months.
Me* Yeppers, just let me know the day and I promise that I will be there.
Andrew* Great, I can’t wait to see you guys.
Me* I can’t wait to see ya’ll either. I hate to be the one to cut this short, but I have to go, I am at the school and the teacher is waving to me.
Andrew* Alright, take care and let me know how things go with Aleria’s teacher.
Me* Alright, stay safe soldier.
Andrew* Yes Ma’am
The phone clicked off and I walked over to the teacher who smiled at me before she held out her hand. “Hi Ms. Anderson, I am Joanie Walker, Aleria’s teacher.
I shook her hand. “Nice to meet you. Sorry I didn’t come right over but I have a few friends overseas and they call when they can to check on us. So how is my daughter doing in school?”
The teacher looked at me for a moment. “Aleria is such a beautiful bright little girl, but she seems distracted by things. Every now and then she just zones out and then starts to cry. Every time I try to ask her what’s wrong she just looks away. I was wondering if you could shed some light on what’s going on.”
I looked at her for a second. “What is it that you are studying?”
She looked at me confused. “Well in Reading we have been working on a story about war, History I am teaching them about different military tactics through time.”
I nodded my head. “I see, I think I understand now. As you know I have seven kids, well eight now and we moved here after losing my husband. He died in the military, was brought home covered with the flag. Anything to do with the military still kinda makes us a bit emotional, I hope you understand. Aleria’s mother didn’t want her and her father took her and her brothers in just as I took in my oldest step daughter. We are all so close, so protective that we don’t give ourselves time to mourn. I mean Aleria, Reese, Charles and Christian lost their real father as Laura, Celeste and Scott lost their step dad. I wonder sometimes how they don’t explode, but they want so much for life to be normal again. Please take your time with her and understand that it hurts her to think of the military since they let us down and she blames them for her father’s death.”
The teacher put her hand to her mouth. “I had no idea, it makes so much more sense now. You guys are such a strong family and I will work harder to start to recognize the signs in her and help her through her grieving process.”
I nodded. “Is it effecting her grades at all? I know she works so hard on her homework, shows it to me when she is done, so I guess I didn’t think there was anything wrong.”
The teacher shook her head. “No, her grades are wonderful, she is top of her class, she is a study hard and play harder type of girl and I was glad she went out for the soccer team. It seems to alleviate some of the stress that she accumulates throughout the day.”
I nodded. “It is hard sometimes when they smile so much, to see that they are in pain. I am sorry and I will pay closer attention from now on. It seems that we just kinda put it on the back burner in hopes that it would go away.”
She nodded. “I understand, when I had to bury my son, I pushed all the pain behind me and tried so hard to forget. All it does is linger under the surface until you snap and I don’t want to see Aleria get to that point, she is so wonderful.”
I put my hand out and shook her hand. “Thank you, I promise to be more attentive to them. I guess between two jobs and school I am pulling myself just a bit thin. I appreciate your time, and thank you for the warning.” I got up and nodded before I headed out of the classroom and sighed. I wasn’t doing such a good job at being the mom I should be and it was even more evident than I was able to see. I hoped that when the guys got home, things would get better and I could spend more time with them, but with the turmoil in my heart I wasn’t sure that would be the case.
I walked out to the soccer field and watched as Aleria kicked the soccer ball and giggled with her friends. As I looked at her I couldn’t see the pain that she hid, she was good at it and I was a fool. I stayed until the end of practice and watched as she bent over to catch her breath. I whistled and smiled as she looked over at me. She came running and launched into my arms.
“Momma, what are you doing here, didn’t you have to work.” I could still hear the pant in her voice as she tried to catch her breath.
I shook my head. “I had to meet with your teacher, she has been worried about you, and I can under. Honey why didn’t you tell me that your school work has been stressing you out?”
She shrugged at me and looked down and kicked the ground. “I don’t want to be a bother, I mean you have the new baby to help Laura with and then work and school. I am afraid that you will ship me back to my mom and I don’t want that. I keep my head down and stay quiet so I don’t bother you.”
I pulled her to me and hugged her tight. “Baby, I would never send you back there. You are my daughter and I will always love you. You may not be of my body but Aleria you are my daughter in my heart and soul and I won’t ever let anything happen to you. Now sweetie, go get showered and changed and I am taking you guys out to dinner tonight. No second job, no school work just us as a family.”
She looked up at me and smiled before she hugged me back and ran for the locker room. I smiled at myself and decided right then and there that I would slow myself down and take more time for my family. No matter how much I hurt from Parker’s rejection, I will carry on and love my family with every bit of myself that no one else seemed to want.
My phone rang and I looked at it before I smiled and answered it.
Me* Sid Anderson
Madi* Hey Sid, wanted to let you know that I am going to be coming over tomorrow, maybe you me and the kids could do something together. I need to get to know you guys if you are marrying my son.
Me* Sure, how about we go to the big park on the far side of town and have a picnic before it gets too hot, it seems like summer is trying to sneak up on us.
Madi* Sure. How about 11am by the playset near the fountain.
Me* Sounds good. I will see you then. Tonight I am taking the kids out so we can have some fun as a family. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.
Madi* Wonderful see you tomorrow.
After I hung up the phone I smiled evilly to myself and wondered if I could convince my children to behave or if the horde would ensue chaos. Well I guess tomorrow we were going to find out.
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