“I can’t believe our little girl is thirteen.” I said as I got ready for the party. I looked at Shirley in the mirror. “I don’t feel old enough to have a thirteen year old daughter.”
“I know, it’s crazy.” Shirley shook her head. “I can’t believe how old the kids are getting. Josh is fifteen. Did I tell you he’s on the baseball team now?”
I groaned softly and dropped down onto the couch. “I don’t want to get old, Shirley.”
My wife laughed and kissed me. “You make video games for a living. You, Camille Thoreau, will never get old.”
I laughed. “You’re right. You’ll get old while I will remain young and beautiful forever.” I jumped off of the couch before she could retaliate for that remark. I stuck my tongue out at her. “If you’re nice, I’ll keep you young.” I looked towards the front of the house when the doorbell rang. “That’s probably Hadley. She’s always early.”
Shirley and I went downstairs and opened the door. I smiled at Hadley, Carter, Joshua, Nora, and Alison. “Come on in, guys. Loralee is getting ready, but she’ll be right down.”
Hadley came in and gave me a hug. “Hi, Camille. I can’t believe she’s thirteen!”
“Shirley and I were just saying the same thing. It won’t be too long until it’s Nora’s turn.”
She shook her head. “Don’t even say it.” Hadley looked around the living room and leaned in to ask, “So, is he coming?”
I shrugged and took a seat on the couch. “If he does, color me deeply surprised.” I had invited Huy to the party, but I seriously doubted that he would come. “I don’t think he’s seen Loralee since she was…ten? I think he stopped by the week after her tenth birthday to give her a few bucks or something.”
Hadley sighed. “That’s so awful. Houston is always there for the big stuff, and Nora still spends every other weekend with him and Monica. Joshua…he has a complicated relationship with his father.”
“I suppose Huy is too busy with his three other kids to make time for his oldest one. But I’ve long since stopped expecting him to have anything to do with her. It’s better that he’s out of the picture anyway.” I got to my feet when the doorbell chimed again. “Excuse me.”
I smiled as I went to the door. “Chastity, Santiago, come in. Watcher, Tito, you’re getting so tall.”
He smiled and gave me a hug. “Thanks for inviting us, Aunt Camille.”
“We love to have you.” I led them into the house. “You’ve all met Shirley’s sister, Hadley, and her family, but I don’t think you’ve met Alison. She’s Carter’s sister and a friend of the kid’s.”
Thinking all of the guests had arrived, I was about to go upstairs to see what was keeping Loralee when the doorbell rang again. I frowned and looked towards the door. Standing on the other side of the glass was Huy’s wife, Anna, and their two little boys.
I went to the door. “Ah, hello, Anna.”
She smiled hesitantly at me as I stepped outside. “Hello, Camille. Huy…couldn’t make it, but I thought that maybe I could bring Bradley and Blake over for their sister’s birthday party. I know that you and I don’t really know each other, and we’ve got no reason to be friends, but I thought that it might be nice if my children knew their sister. I really hate that they don’t have a relationship with each other. Family is so important.”
I studied her for a minute and looked down at her boys. Bradley, I seemed to remember, was about eight, and Blake was somewhere around five. Right now, Loralee wouldn’t have much in common with them, but age gaps tended to mean less once you were older. Just look at Hadley and Carter. And they were siblings. I also had to respect Anna for being brave enough to come here. I smiled at her. “Won’t you please come in, Anna? I’ll introduce you to everyone.”
I looked at my daughter talking with her step-mother. It amazed me how beautiful Loralee was. When she was younger, I hadn’t been able to see much of myself in her. But, looking at her now, I could see some of my features blended in with Huy’s. We may not have worked as a couple, but we certainly had made a beautiful daughter.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Shirley said as she came over to me.
I smiled in Loralee’s direction. “I was just thinking about how quickly she’s growing up.” That seemed to be the theme of the night. “About how funny it is the way things turn out. I never would’ve thought I’d have willingly let Huy’s wife into my house.”
Shirley smiled and wrapped her arms around me. “Perhaps age has mellowed you.”
“One day,” I said thoughtfully, “I need to tell Loralee everything. When she’s a little older and can understand. I want her to learn from the mistakes I made. I made life so hard for me and for you. And for Huy.” Looking back, I knew that Huy was never the greatest of men, but I think he’s different with Anna. He never could get past what I did to him. Who knows? If I’d never met Shirley, never cheated on him, he might’ve been a good husband. “I just…I want Loralee’s life to be better. I know we have a great life, but…”
Shirley smiled softly. “I know what you mean. You don’t want her to have all the bad parts at the beginning.”
“But the bad makes you appreciate the good, love. You need a little pain to make the beauty sweeter.”
“Forget medicine, you should’ve been a poet.” I teased.
Shirley laughed softly. “I’m serious.”
“I know.” I sighed softly. “And you’re right. But that doesn’t mean I have to be happy about it. I don’t want my baby to be hurt. Either of my babies.” I was sure that Luc was going to cause me no few grey hairs. Please just let them both get through high school without getting knocked up or knocking anyone up.
“At least they’ll have us. We’ll always be there for them. And they’ll have their aunts and uncles and all their cousins.”
I smiled and leaned my head on her shoulder. “Somehow, I have acquired a rather sizeable family, haven’t I?”
“We both have.” She leaned in and kissed me softly. “Let’s go rejoin the party. I think I heard some requests for ice cream.”
I smiled over at her and took her hand. “Lead the way, love.”
A/N: I hope you have loved following Camille, Shirley, and Hadley’s stories as much as I’ve loved writing them. I’ll be starting Loralee and gang’s stories tomorrow or Tuesday, so keep an eye out! And don’t think you’re saying goodbye to Camille or anyone else – I’m going to keep you all up-to-date on what’s going on in everyone’s lives.