What if everything you wanted was just out of your reach?
"Thank you, Patrick." Pete said, handing the baby carrier over to him at the front door that night.
"No problem." Patrick said. "You have fun tonight. Take it easy."
"Okay." Pete said, not taking his eyes off the baby.
"He'll be fine. Pete. Trust me. I've done okay with my two, haven't I?" He said with a smile, his eyes not leaving Pete's.
"Right. Okay! You're right. I'm gonna go." Pete said quickly, ripping his gaze away and smiling gratefully at Patrick.
"Go. Go have fun." Patrick said. "Or as much fun as you can have."
"I'll try." Pete called as he walked away. Patrick kicked the door closed and walked through to the kitchen and opened the patio doors, where Danielle and Josh were playing with each other in the yard.
"Hey, kids, you just missed Pete." He said, hiding the carrier from view as they ran towards him. They followed him inside the kitchen.
"Aww!" They said in unison.
"But... we have Pete junior." Patrick said, showing them the carrier.
"Eww." Josh said. Again, Patrick just needed to raise his eyebrows and give him 'that look' that shut him up and made him inch closer to Patrick.
"Can he talk?"
"Thankfully, not at the moment." Patrick told Danielle. "But I'm sure you'll find a way to bore him with your natter."
Danielle looked at him, offended, and strutted away leaving Patrick shaking his head before she came bouncing back in with a grin on her face. One of her delights was to flaunt her 'acting skills', she called them. Where she'd storm off or pretend to faint, dramatically. The first time she'd copied somebody fainting on the television Patrick was terrified. She just dropped onto the floor without warning, he thought she'd had a fit or collapsed from illness. When she opened her eyes and started to laugh as he bent frantically over her, he wasn't in the best of moods when he realized it was 'acting, daddy'.
"What about you?" He asked Josh. "Are you going to storm off as well?"
Josh shook his head, suddenly shy as he looked at Patrick.
"Come on then," Patrick said, gesturing towards the living room. "You can help me feed him, and Danni can put him to sleep with her stories."
"Why's he small?" Josh asked, tugging Patrick's sleeve.
"Because he's brand new." Patrick said, sitting down and putting the baby carrier down. "And you can't talk... you're nearly as little as him."
"You are too." Patrick said. When he replayed his reply, he sounded just like a little child himself.
"You're short." Danielle chipped in.
"Yes, thank you for that."
"Shorty!" Danielle sang, mimicking the voices of so many rappers she heard Patrick listening to occasionally, when he thought she couldn't hear.
"Lovely." Patrick said to her.
"I'm nearly as tall as you." Josh said, standing up on the couch and looking down at Patrick who was sitting, now holding Pete.
"Not quite." Patrick said, lifting him off. "I'm sure you will be one day. Taller, I'll bet. But don't stand on the couch."
Josh slid down onto the floor and grabbed his coloring book while Danielle sat on Patrick's lap and watched as Patrick held the baby.
"I remember when you were this size." He said quietly to Danielle.
"I was not!" She said, indignantly.
"Oh, you were." Patrick laughed. "In fact, you were a tiny bit smaller because you came a little bit early."
"Because twins usually come into the world early."
Danielle nodded and smiled.
"Were we as ugly as him?" Josh piped up from the floor.
"Josh." Patrick frowned. "Actually... yes."
Danielle slapped his arm and he laughed.
"Okay, okay. I'm sorry. But don't hit me, that hurts. No, you were both beautiful babies."
"Really?" Danielle asked.
"Yep." Patrick nodded. "And you still are."
He flicked her hair with his one free hand and grinned at her, while she returned it.
"Were we as quiet as him?" Josh asked.
"Sometimes." Patrick replied. "The first few days after I took you home from the hospital you screamed your lungs out. You totally exhausted me."
"Sorry." Danielle giggled.
"It's fine, I was prepared." He told her. "And you guys made me get bags under my eyes, and you spit up on my shirts all the time. And you didn't let me get any sleep at all. Sometimes you two would scream, and I would feed you, or change you, or bathe you, whatever you had to do to stop a baby crying and help them. But most of the time, you guys just wanted a cuddle."
"I like cuddles." Danielle said.
"Yawn." Josh said. He always got bored when Patrick told them about when they were babies. Josh became as bored as a grandchild who's grandparents insisted on telling him stories about the war or life when they were kids themselves.
"You wait, when you're a teenager you'll want to hear stories about when you were a kid." Patrick told him.
"Boring." Josh said.
"My apologies. And then there was one time Josh scribbled all over my favorite hat."
Josh pretended to laugh evilly, a trait he'd acquired from Pete when he frequently mimicked the witches on television or in movies.
"That wasn't funny." Patrick said. "I loved that hat."
"What did you do?"
"I washed it. But it went all furry."
"Haha." Josh said, looking at Patrick with a grin.
"Oh yeah?" Patrick asked, shifting Josh's coloring book with his feet and looking at it. "I can color inside the lines."
"Can we stay up tonight?" Danielle asked, now sitting beside him instead of on his lap.
"And why would you think I'd let that happen?" Patrick asked, placing Pete back into the carrier.
"To help with the baby." Danielle said.
"I don't think so." Patrick said, with a laugh. "Pete will come to collect him long after your bed time."
"Awww." Danielle moaned.
"Sorry, but that's life." Patrick said. "Sometimes life ain't fair."
Downtown, Pete had taken Rachel to a secluded restaurant, one Pete was sure there was no chance of being recognized. He knew if he was, the papers would have a field day, printing wild articles about Pete having a wild night on the town despite his new role as a parent. He had too much bullshit in his life to deal with accusations and lies spinning from around the globe.
The restaurant was filled with older couples, there was only one young couple in the corner, while the rest of the tables were filled up with people aged fifty up.
"Perfect." Pete said, when they were seated. Rachel was silent as she looked around the restaurant, while Pete cracked his knuckles under the table.
"Are you sure Patrick will be able to...?" Rachel started. Pete reached over and took her hand, pretending he didn't see her stiffen as he did so.
"Honey, we promised tonight was just about us."
Rachel slowly took her hand away and nodded in agreement.
"Good. I just want you to feel better, that's all. I want us to be happy."
"We are happy." Rachel said, a fake surprised tone in her voice.
"Really? 'Cause I got the impression you weren't."
"No, you're not."
"So now you know how I feel?"
"Uh, hello? I'm your fiance, I'm allowed to be able to tell how you're feeling."
"Is this the only reason you took me out tonight? To dictate how I should be feeling?"
"No. Not at all." Pete argued. "Because I know your emotions are everywhere after having a baby."
"Good. Then you can take me home and stop this bullshit."
"Rachel - listen. You said we would talk about it."
"Yes, but you're just sitting here dictating stuff to me."
"I'm trying to help." Pete said, calmly. Rachel sat back, her arms folded, and waited for him to go on, a frown on her face.
"I think it would be a good idea to see a therapist." Pete suggested. "You know, then you'll be able to tell them your problems and maybe they can prescribe you with some pills to help."
"What are you talking about? You know, I heard you Americans think therapy is the answer to everything. They're totally right. Just because I get a little upset after giving birth..."
"You're not a little upset, Rach. Honey, I'm pretty certain you're depressed." Pete played with his napkin and avoided her glare.
"Well, I was just meaning that there's no use in burying your problems. Christ, I know all about that. I'm just saying you should get some professional help." Pete said.
"Is this just a joke to you?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Are you suggesting I'm a nut case? Is that it? You don't want to get married to a screwed up woman."
"Hey! I see a professional therapist. If anything, you're the one marrying a screwed up man."
"You always do this."
"Turn the subject around. Turn it so you're the subject."
"Okay, now you're twisting my words. I don't do that, and I don't want it to be about me. This is about you. I just want you to be better."
"Screw you, Pete." Rachel said, standing up and grabbing her coat off the back of her chair. She turned around and walked away, leaving Pete staring after her.
Later that night, while Pete threw down money on the table and wandered back to the suburbs, Patrick was sitting on his back doorstep, his new cat sprawled across his lap while he gazed straight ahead, absorbed in his thoughts when the streets were calm and quiet. The air was cool, but there was still that summer air lingering late at night as he listened to the crickets and the occasional car that drove past. Pete was asleep in the living room, but Patrick had pocketed his old baby monitors he'd used for Danielle and Josh a few years back. He knew they'd come in handy someday.
Patrick turned around with a jump, startled by the voice in his ear. Danielle was standing in her pajamas watching him.
"Hey." He said with a smile. "Why aren't you asleep?"
"Can't." She said with a shake of her strawberry blond hair.
"Why not?" Patrick asked, as she climbed down the back steps and sat in the grass. He frowned, he didn't exactly encourage his children to sit in the yard in their pajamas. But it was summer and it was still dry, so he let it pass.
Danielle shrugged as she lay back, and Patrick watched her eyes dart back and forth. He looked up and scanned the sky that was scattered with stars, some twinkling and some shining brighter than others.
"What're you looking at?" He asked, walking over to her and lying down next to her. It was so entirely cliche that he almost laughed. This was the sort of thing he'd done with his friends when he was a teenager, sat out on summer nights watching the stars as the sky became darker.
"I keep looking." Danielle said.
"Looking for what?"
Patrick sat up and looked at her.
"You're looking for Amanda?"
Danielle nodded and Patrick leant back on his hands, straining his eyes into the sky with a frown. It was extremely hard for him to see without his glasses.
"Because you said she went to the stars."
Patrick let a small sigh escape him as he lay back and shifted.
"Right." He said quietly into the dark.
"Which one is she?" Danielle asked.
"Well," Patrick said, scanning the sky again. "You can always tell her, because she's the brightest one in the sky."
"That one?" Danielle asked, pointing. Patrick chuckled.
"No, honey. That's the moon."
"Look, that one." Patrick said, pointing to the brightest star that was visible.
"Wow." Danielle said, in awe.
"And you see how she sparkles? That's 'cause she's smiling."
"Will she come back soon?"
"I don't know, Danni. We'll see her one day."
"I want to see her."
"We all do, sweetheart. Especially me."
"Mmm?" Patrick put his arms behind his head as he watched the sky.
"Do you miss her?"
Patrick swallowed. He only wished it really was Amanda smiling and sparkling at him. Life could be so much simpler then.
"Yeah. Yeah, I do." He whispered.
"Do you love her?"
"I do. I love her very much."