A/N: As a heads up, there’s a brief tidbit of strong sexual content in this chapter. Nothing super explicit or anything, of course, but I’d thought I’d mention it anyway so you can skip that little paragraph if you prefer. Also, I didn’t build the shell of their new home—I downloaded it from MTS, but I did redecorate it all…which took HOURS on its own anyway >:O Hope you all enjoy 😛
We hadn’t expected twins, nor had we thought about the fact that a teenaged girl who played the keyboard at all hours of the day would not be the best roommate for a baby, so we set up two cribs in our bedroom.
I liked having the babies nearby, but there was no doubt that it was cramped and uncomfortable. Mostly though, it was awkward, because although Candice wasn’t being outwardly angry with me, she wasn’t speaking to me much either.
So I used my name, and my newfound wealth from writing and painting to hire a real estate agent and a professional decorator to establish a larger home for us here in Starlight Shores.
However, my name and my wealth could make things move only so fast, so we were stuck with our awkward living arrangement for the next six months, accidently bumping into each other and then looking away in embarrassment before moving out of each other’s ways. It was maddening, but I knew I’d deserved it. To be honest, if I were Candice…I probably wouldn’t be keen on talking to me either.
For what it’s worth though (and it may not be worth much at this point), I hadn’t had a drink since the twins had been born and, to my surprise, I hadn’t felt the urge to either.
I loved the twins. With every ounce of my being I loved them, and I found that I could never be away from them for long, constantly attending to their needs or just sitting back and laying down in my bed to read while Augustus and Gemma slept soundly in their cribs.
As for my mind, the sound of Gemma’s gurgle or the sight of Augustus’ smile flattened its rebellion, leaving it feeling more peaceful than it’d been in months.
Of course, the anti-anxiety meds probably helped too.
Regardless, it was a huge relief when our house was finally declared ready to move into. I had spared no expenses—I felt like I owed it to my family to give them the best of everything, especially after all the torment I had put them through.
Both Candice and Jo’s mouths dropped open when we finally moved in, the two walking in a daze throughout the house as I trailed behind nervously.
It was a vast, sprawling thing with much more room than we needed even with the twins, but I figured at least this way there was the option of it staying in the family for many years to come.
“Oh my god,” Joanne whispered when she saw the bedroom I’d had custom-made for her. “Wow this is—this is unbelievable!” she gasped.
“You deserve it,” I said sincerely, looking around the room as well. “I mean that.”
“I’m still upset at what you did though,” she said bluntly, glancing over at me. “That was such a terrible thing for you to do. You have no idea how upset Mom was.”
“I know,” I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “I don’t exactly expect to be forgiven anytime soon…by either of you.”
“And you shouldn’t be,” she agreed with a nod. Jo looked at the room and then back to me though before sighing and adding, “but I secretly do forgive you.”
“Really?” I asked with an arch of my eyebrow, feeling genuinely surprised. “Why?”
“Because like Mom told me like a hundred times when I was little, you’re sick, and you need our love to get better. I mean, I know that’s just what she told me to get a little kid to understand what was going on and all, but I don’t know, I still believe it. ….I know that it’s hard for you. I just want to see it get easier,” she finished softly.
I looked at her for a long time and then slowly nodded, a tight lump in my throat. “Yeah,” I whispered, “me too.”
It was getting easier, to be fair, especially with the twins to keep me distracted around the clock. I didn’t feel like they were unnaturally fussy or anything, but because there was two of them there was twice as much work to do. Although, I was probably biased when it came to how “difficult” they were to take care of because Joanne had, honestly, been an extremely fussy baby. Compared to her, these little ones were practically a breeze. You know, besides the lack of sleep and occasional ear-splitting crying.
Candice’s opinion seemed to differ though, as she always seemed really stressed whenever I saw her. Despite this, she still preferred not to speak to me, a fact that was slowly beginning to kill me no matter how much I felt I deserved it.
Gemma and Augustus usually slept through most of the night, but tonight seemed to be an exception, I noted, as I rolled over only to see that the clock read “2:oo AM.” I groaned, preparing to get up, but Candice cleared her throat and shook her head, insisting on going herself.
I sighed, but let her go. The last thing I wanted was to make things any rockier between us, especially when she still wanted us to share a bedroom, despite the fact that we now actually had a lot more room to spare. It was a small hint of hope and I didn’t want to kill it.
I lay back down, but the crying on the monitor didn’t stop.
Worried that something was wrong, I got up anyway, padding my way into the nursery only to find Gemma still screaming in Candice’s arms.
“Is she okay?” I asked, fear suddenly racing through my veins.
“I don’t know,” she responded miserably, tears in her eyes. “I tried feeding her but she doesn’t seem to be hungry and her diaper is dry. I-I don’t know what she wants.” I met Candice’s eyes, surprised to see her looking so helpless and upset. I cleared my throat then, walking up to the two of them and saying Gemma’s name in a soft, singsong voice.
“Gemmmma,” I said soothingly. “What’s wrong, Gem?” I asked, reaching out for her. Candice handed her to me, wiping her eyes as she watched me cuddle our daughter close to my chest. “Shhhhh, there, there, Gemma.” I rocked her gently, talking to her in soothing tones until she eventually quieted, her tiny face wet, but her eyes curious now as she reached up to try and grab my nose. I laughed softly.
I had almost forgotten that Candice was in the room at all until I heard her voice behind me. “How do you do that?” she whispered, her face looking pained.
I turned, giving Candice a puzzled look. I was so puzzled, in fact, that I barely even registered the fact that she was actually talking to me for once. “What do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, I can’t calm them down!” she said, suddenly sounding a bit hysterical as her eyes filled with more tears. “I try everything and they just scream and scream until sometimes I’ll just leave them in their cribs until you come and then I just feel like an awful mother and god, James, they hate me!” she sobbed, completely breaking down in front of me.
Gemma squirmed in my arms, her curious, smiling face pulling down into a frown. I let out a breath, trying my best to keep a soothing tone as I put her in her favorite swing. Once it seemed like she was okay, I turned toward Candice, desperate to pull her into my arms, but not wanting her to pull away from me.
“Candice….they don’t hate you,” I said, shaking my head in disbelief that she would even say something like that. “They’re babies. They cry—a lot! With everyone!” Suddenly it made sense why Candice had seemed so stressed lately, and I felt so bad. I wished that she had told me all of this sooner.
“Yeah, but they never calm down for me!” she explained, looking as stressed out as ever. “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong. They just don’t stop screaming and then you come along and they laugh and smile and I wanted a baby so badly, but they apparently hate me!”
I couldn’t take it. Without even thinking about the fact that we weren’t on good footing, I wrapped my arms around her, holding her close. To my surprise, she wrapped her arms around me too, holding onto me tightly as she cried into my chest. “It takes practice,” I said softly, gently rubbing her back. “Jeez…I remember Jo used to screech whenever I picked her up at first. In fact, I feel like it took a long time before she wasn’t trying to claw her way out of her blankets to escape me.”
“Gemma and Augustus do that to me!” she exclaimed, taking a step back from me and clearly not listening to everything I was saying. “They can’t stand me!”
“Babe, that’s not true at all. It really does take practice, and even then they might still scream! It’s just how babies communicate, I guess.”
Candice sniffled, shaking her head slowly and then wiping her eyes. “You’re just so much better at it than I am,” she whispered, glancing at Gemma as she banged playfully on the tray in front of her.
“I had a head start,” I said with a wry smile, and then took Candice’s hand in my own. “Here, look. Gus is waking up. Come over here. Pick him up and just talk to him when you do. You know…like in a happy voice. He laughs if you make snake noises. He thinks it’s hilarious. So I like to say his name like ‘Gusssssssssssss’ and he cracks up. Come on; go ahead…you try….”
For the first time in our lives, I was the one doing the comforting and supporting, unlike every other instance when Candice had to pick up my pieces, and I was more than happy to do it. We started out by taking care of the twins together, instead of stupidly on our own because of this tension that had been between us, and we worked in tandem to tend to their needs.
I told Candice everything I could think of about taking care of a baby. I told her the signs they typically made when they were hungry; how they often just wanted to be held and talked to; how Gemma loved hearing soft little songs while Augustus liked to be held close to your chest; everything I could think of until slowly, but surely, Candice began to feel more comfortable around them.
In fact, one day, when Augustus was throwing a particularly loud fit and I was having an impossible time calming him, Candice took a stab at it and ended up winning him over with Eskimo kisses, rubbing her nose against his and making him laugh in delight.
The look of surprise and happiness on her face was so overwhelmingly adorable and I felt so much love toward her in that moment that I leaned in to kiss her, baby Augustus between us and still giggling. When I slowly pulled away, we looked at each other for a long, tense moment before I finally just couldn’t stand it. “I love you, Candice,” I blurted out, “and I’m sorry for hurting you. I was so stupid.”
I could practically hear the blood rushing in my ears after I spoke, my heart pounding in my throat. She looked at me for a long moment, and then gave a sad little half-smile before looking back down at Augustus. “I forgave you long ago,” she said softly. “I’m just—learning how to trust you again.”
“Fair enough,” I whispered, my throat tight.
“I love you too. I never stopped.”
The relationship between Candice and I didn’t magically go back to normal after that moment, of course, but it did continue to improve as I slowly regained my wife’s trust once more. As such, instead of only spending time together when we took care of the twins, we’d also taken to doing other things together, like cooking, sharing a meal together, playing video games, or just sitting with each other and talking.
Sometimes, she even let me kiss her again, and I would feel those lightning bolts rocketing through my bloodstream just like the first time my lips ever touched hers, but she would always pull away. It made me worry sometimes….that maybe, after everything that I’d done, she didn’t feel it anymore.
Candice proved me wrong though one afternoon when, right after dinner, she threw herself on me, the taste of cinnamon flooding my senses as she kissed me passionately, her tongue quickly gaining entrance to my mouth. I pulled her closer to me, holding her tightly…and then Joanne barged in singing.
We pulled away from each other so fast you would have thought we were 15 again. Joanne froze in her tracks, but then just started laughing.
“Finally!” she exclaimed, throwing up her arms and looking ecstatic. “I was beginning to think you’d never remember how much you love each other.”
Candice and I exchanged guilty glances, and after that point, our relationship no longer felt awkward. I finally felt like I had my wife back.
Besides the obvious reasons, this was especially great because our babies were quickly growing up into two super curious, and super active toddlers, thus taking up all of our time.
Between feeding them, entertaining them, teaching them to walk, to talk, to use the potty, and how to play nicely (for Christ’s sake if you pull each other’s hair one more time), Candice and I felt both blessed…and completely swamped.
“God, I’m so exhausted,” Candice groaned one evening after the twins had fallen asleep.
“I know,” I sighed, rubbing my eyes and sitting down onto the bed. “Ugh, my back.”
“My everything,” Candice complained. Our eyes met then and we laughed, finding our joint misfortune hilarious. Or maybe we were just delirious from exhaustion at that point.
“We’re getting old,” I lamented, lying down.
“Nah, not yet,” Candice assured me with a laugh, crawling into bed as well. She turned off the light and then cuddled up to me for a kiss. I obliged, my lips finding hers in the dark, but when I went to pull away, Candice slid her hand up into my hair, gently holding me in place as she deepened the kiss.
I didn’t think too much into the gesture though until she gently pushed me onto my back, her weight on top of me as she continued the kiss.
“I thought you were exhausted,” I said quietly, my heart now pounding from being in this position. I kissed the corner of her mouth and then continued trailing my kisses downward.
“I am,” she murmured, and then moaned softly as I sucked at the pulse point on her neck. “But I also missed this.”
I smiled against her skin and then moved my mouth back up to hers, kissing her hard and grasping her thigh. She moved against me and I slid my hand upward, until I suddenly heard Candice’s gasp in my ear. It was a beautiful sound and I longed to hear more of it, but instead she whispered two words in my ears that suddenly made me want her more than I had ever wanted a woman in my entire life: “Now, please.”
I wanted to oblige right that very second, but I also didn’t want to rush this, as we hadn’t made love in far too long. So instead, I whispered, “Patience,” and took my time with her. I started out with my fingers, reveling in the sounds my wife made and the way her body moved against mine, her eyes shut tight and her mouth open. When she let out a shout, I stifled it with a heated kiss before moving downward once again…and that’s when I used my mouth.
By the time I finally did obey her wishes, our bodies fitted perfectly together, it was fire and lightning; gasps and the squeaks of the bed; and finally, muffled shouts, nails digging into my back and Candice’s hips pressed tightly against mine as any tension left between us burst into oblivion—and it was so perfect.
I never wanted to mess this up ever again.
“We’re going to do it!”
“Going to do what, Mom?” I asked, walking around my living room as I chatted on the phone.
“We’re going to move to Starlight Shores!”
“Really?” I exclaimed, surprised. I stopped in my tracks, raising an eyebrow. “What made you change your mind? I thought you said Neverglade was your forever home.”
“Well, Kira said that her family would be moving to Starlight Shores soon and Amelia said she’d been offered a job on their basketball team too and well…our forever home is wherever our family is.”
“That’s great! Now you can finally meet Gemma and Augustus too. Oh, and you can finally settle our battle. Candice says Gemma is my little twin, but I keep telling her she looks much more like her, it’s just misleading because she happens to be light, with brown hair and grayish-purple eyes, like me.”
“So she basically looks exactly like you then…”
“No! Damn it, you’ll see. I can say Gus looks like Dad though. Are you planning on buying a house here?”
“Well, we’ve been looking. Amelia has found some pretty nice places so far, but I think she probably wants to get away from us,” my mom admitted with a laugh.
“You guys should just move in with us. I mean, I’ll double-check with Candice, but we have more than enough room. I can take you guys off Amelia’s hands…haha.”
My mom, of course, refused the offer, but after many subsequent calls and arguments about why it would be best, it was finally decided that my parents would indeed be moving in with us. Candice, unsurprisingly, loved the idea. Not only because it would be extra help maintaining the house and with the twins, but also because she loved the idea of our children getting to know their grandparents, especially since her own parents had passed away some time ago.
In anticipation of their arrival, I had one of the first floor bedrooms, AND the sprawling basement, completely remodeled for them.
Why the basement, you ask?
Because of the truck that arrived not two weeks later with just the items my mom had collected from all of her travels. She originally planned to just stick it all in storage, which was why she sent it all ahead anyway, but I figured I may as well use the basement for something, so we had three of the basement rooms converted.
One was for all her items from China, one was for Egypt, and one that I would have to avoid like the plague was the one with her items from France. I debated actually putting that stuff in storage, but to be honest, I didn’t even feel tempted, and Mom had fine nectars in her collection dating back hundreds of years.
I figured if even that didn’t sway me, nothing would. ….although to be safe, I wouldn’t be spending any time in that room.
When my parents finally arrived their first course of action was to take selfies—I shit you not.
“Whaaaat? They’re for SimBook!” my mom explained. “It’s the best way to stay connected to all the Winters—hell, all the world! You should join. All the pictures I’ve tagged of you look pathetic since they don’t actually link to someone.”
“Uhhh, maybe not. …wait, what pictures!?!”
Despite their new technological hobby, having my parents around was a huge help around the house. Dad liked tending to the small garden we’d tried to start, and Mom loved tinkering with all the new appliances, adding upgrades and improvements to them that she assured us would make them break much less frequently. She even installed a whole new sprinkler system to make things easier on Dad, and would help him out in the garden as well.
They were also, of course, a big help with Augustus and Gemma, both of whom seemed to absolutely love their grandparents.
It all made me step back and really marvel at it all—who would have thought that someone as royally screwed up as I’d been, could now lead such a beautiful life?
I knew that my life had finally reached a comfortable equilibrium when I felt like—and had time to—write again. Whenever Gemma and Augustus were sleeping or otherwise occupied, I could be found in my office taking advantage of these brief lulls to write as much as I could. And so it was there that Candice found me one afternoon.
“Mmm?” I hummed absently, my eyes still on my laptop screen and my fingers still flying over the keyboard.
“Could you pause that, for a moment? We need to talk.”
My fingers froze in place, my breath catching and my heart suddenly quickening its pace. I took a slow breath. When did those words ever mean something good? I cleared my throat. “Sure,” I said, hating the fact that my voice already sounded shaky. I hastily saved my progress and then closed my laptop. I kind of just wanted to stay sitting at my desk so I could avoid eye contact, but I forced myself to stand up, turning to face my wife.
“Umm…is everything okay?” I asked uneasily, my palms already starting to feel sweaty.
“Um…I think so,” Candice said uneasily, biting her nail. “It’s just um, well…I’m pregnant again, James.”
My mouth fell open, and for a moment I just stood there processing this information while Candice continued to talk, growing more uneasy by the second. “I know it’s probably not super surprising, considering…well, yeah, but…it’s soon, I know…since Gemma and Augustus are so young, but…I mean I don’t think it’s terrible! I think, um—”
“It’s not terrible at all,” I interjected slowly, a small smile pulling at my lips.
“Y-y-you think?” she asked, looking at me unsurely.
“No…I know,” I said, smiling genuinely now. “I mean, it is pretty soon, but that’s…that’s really great news,” I finally finished with a laugh. Candice looked at me for a second longer, and when it became clear to her that I wasn’t joking, she let out a happy squeal and leapt up into my arms.
I stumbled, letting out a brief, startled gasp, but somehow managed to remain on my feet. She giggled, wrapping her arms around me and hugging me tightly.
“Crazy woman,” I mumbled, but I couldn’t help but smile. I held her close to me, breathing in her light cinnamon scent, and I knew that everything was going to be okay. “This time,” I whispered, “I promise you I’m going to be with you every step of the way.”
And this time I knew that I really, and truly, meant it.
A/N: The next chapter will be either the last, or second to last chapter for James–depending on how this all works out 😛 Due to the fact that he’s still like 12 days away from becoming an adult at this point, he may have one last chapter, and then an epilogue of sorts, I’m not really sure yet. Whatever works out best for James and his story!