In the end I’d been unable to just sit by and do nothing while my beloved battled the flames of my firstborn daughter’s birthday cake. I’d placed Rose carefully in Violet’s arms and given her strict instructions to not let go and that if, for whatever reason, anything had happened to take care of her little sister and wait for help. I’d felt bold and reckless as I grabbed our spare fire extinguisher and joined Connor in our modest ‘dining room’ but the sirens were growing ever closer and I had a gut feeling that everything would be alright.
Before the firetrucks had even arrived Connor and I were surveying the lack of damage the fire had caused. We were astounded that somehow our carpet, table and chairs had all emerged from the blaze unmarred. The only thing that hadn’t survived was the birthday cake itself so Connor ran to the grocery store before it closed and by the end of the night Violet was in my arms again with her face scrunched up tight as she wished her wish and then blew out the candles. This time she blew them all out on her first try, no help from mommy and no panic! We cheered ourselves silly, glad that the night had ended up in smiles and not tears.
My earlier warning of sparkle vision was the one part of the birthday process Violet had forgotten in all the excitement of almost losing her house and father so when she started complaining about feeling ‘squidgy’ Connor and I just exchanged knowing glances and I hugged her tight. I again reminded her that it was part of the aging up process, that there was nothing to worry about but as I tried to set her down she clung to me with tears welling in her beautiful green eyes. She was so scared, but I knew it would pass so I unwound her fingers from my shirt and let her down.
As the sparkles took her over it was my turn to get misty eyed. My little girl wasn’t going to be so little in a very short amount of time. Already she was twisting and turning, shivering and shaking as sparkles lit up the room. Even through my motherly weeping I was laughing at the sounds and faces she was making and the way she looked like she was trying to work out how to accommodate her growing bones in her still tiny little body. The way her little tushie wiggled as she grew from toddler to child was a picture I knew I would cherish for a lifetime.
The first thing that Violet asked us for once she had grown up (into the most beautiful little girl I ever did see) was an easel and we, her willing parents, were happy to oblige. The second we set it up at the top of the stairs she was glued to it. If we couldn’t find Violet on the main floor all we had to do was peer up the stairs and there she’d be, humming and painting as if nothing else in the world was important to her. I wish I could say that her first pictures were masterpieces, but readers, that would be a lie.
During the first couple weeks of her sleeping upstairs I checked in on her often. She seemed so far away from us that I couldn’t help but worry. What if she had a nightmare and I wasn’t there to comfort her because I couldn’t hear her? What if she fell out of bed and hurt herself? It was her first time sleeping in a ‘big girl’ bed and there were no bars to keep her safe. Despite my worries every night when I peeked into her room she was sleeping fitfully, happily and safely tucked into her bed and dreaming.
Rosie wasn’t sleeping as well as her sister and that suited us well, since I was up anyways I was more than happy to cuddle my baby until she was soothed and ready to try and get some rest again. Once we’d moved Vi upstairs Connor had tried to persuade me to move Rose’s crib into the ‘nursery’ but I was having none of it. I assured him that she wouldn’t sleep in our room forever but while she was still so small and fragile I was determined to keep her nearby until she was at least a toddler.
Breakfast in the Clarke household was a wonderful thing, at least on the weekend. My heart swelled to sit and have a home cooked meal with my bleary eyed daughter and husband at our small table. It was close and intimate and always brought us closer together. We’d share our dreams and how we slept and we’d just get ready for our days in the warm embrace of a waffles! Violet had perfect table manners which was a marvel considering that her biggest role model, her father, had a tendency to speak with his mouth full and only when his mouth was full!
After breakfast Violet would cheerfully entertain herself while Connor and I started on our days. While I cleaned up after breakfast and Connor got to his writing Vi would pull out a toy and tell me the stories she’d created about Pumpkin the Pony or Wally the Wabbit. I knew her dad was still hoping she would follow in his footsteps and become an author but he didn’t hear the songs she incorporated into each and ever tale and couldn’t see the pictures she painted in my imagination… With no offense meant to my terribly talented husband for he was the best at what he did, I knew Violet was destined for more than just words.
I think that her first day of school was a bigger deal to me than it was to her. I watched her as she ran to the bus with a sad smile, my baby girl wouldn’t be spending her days with me and daddy anymore. She was so excited to meet children her age, to learn from teachers she’d never met about things she’d never heard about that she didn’t even turn back to wave until the bus was already pulling away from our house. I stood there nervously for nearly ten minutes after she’d left partly hoping that she would demand that the bus driver turn around and take her back home to her Mommy.
All of a sudden the house was feeling big and empty during the days. It took some time to adjust to having Violet away at school for those couple hours a day. We’d become very used to her incessant talking and humming and Rose’s chortles weren’t quite loud enough to fill the space. As a result we spent much of the time we were doing things around the house with Rose in our arms. She had found a comfortable spot on her daddy’s lap while he wrote and I found that there were at least some cleaning jobs I could do one armed.
Before the end of her first week at school Violet and Connor had set a way of things, the way the two of them often did. As soon as she got home from school Connor was up from behind his desk and putting his thinking cap on. They would settle down on the floor of her room or at the park across the road or somewhere less convenient like at the top of the stairs or the middle of the kitchen, it didn’t matter to them. Once comfortable Violet would whip out her homework and they would sit where they’d planted themselves until the work was done.
One morning Violet was late coming down for breakfast, no matter how many times I called her I got the ‘be right down, mom!’ answer. Just as I was about to go up and get her I heard her clambering down the staircase so quickly I thought she was going to fall. Clutched in her hand was her latest painting, still damp in places, and plastered on her face was the biggest smile.
“I made this for you Mama! It’s you!”
As I stood there, gaping at the canvas in my hand I couldn’t help but feel my heart swell – her first portrait was of me! Of her Mama. As soon as it was dry I went and had the picture framed and put it up right where I could see it every day.
By the end of Violet’s first semester at school Connor and I were more than accustomed to having the house more or less to ourselves, at least when Rose was napping, and we starting taking time to just be with one another in a way we hadn’t been in a long time. While Rosie slept we would run around outside like courting teenagers, playing tag or laying in the grass and staring at the clouds. Usually, tag led to the lying in the grass since neither one of us was in particularly good cardiovascular shape but the time we spent giggling on the ground, gasping for air, was golden.
The upstairs of my house had become a little sanctuary for Connor and Violet. On the weekends I would hardly see them as they’d sequester themselves in front of their latest projects right after breakfast and would only come down for lunch if I made Violet’s favourite grilled cheese sandwiches. I was getting concerned that Violet had inherited her father’s love of solitude but soon realized that mostly, she just enjoyed working. She was a straight A student, with help from her father, her teachers loved her, her friends loved her and she was willing to put 100% into everything she did… Maybe sometimes 150%.
Violet wasn’t the only one doing well in the house, Connor’s books were selling like never before and I was starting to calm down around my appliances. Perhaps it was because at least one of them wasn’t breaking or poorly cooking food or clicking or being warm when it shouldn’t be. I do believe that this stove was my favourite thing that Connor had ever bought for me. I was starting to enjoy cooking and I was getting good at it too. I made a point of going to the grocery store every other day to buy fresh ingredients to cook with but I still caught my fish myself.
I was concerned that Violet was still taking so long to really warm up to her sister. She didn’t run from the room any more which was good and every now and then she’d look in on her if she was crying but for the most part she might as well have not known that Rosie existed. I was hoping (based on some eavesdropping I had done) that with Rose’s upcoming birthday all that would change. I’d heard her complaining to her father that:
“She never does anything but cry and make baby sounds. She’s not fun and if she’s awake no one can do anything fun and if she’s asleep I have to be quiet. What’s the point?”
It seemed like only yesterday I had brought a tiny, frail, pink bundle home wrapped protectively in my arms but the night she aged up I wasn’t thinking about who she was, I was wondering who my Rosie was going to grow up into. Where I’d wanted Violet to stay a baby forever, I was now really looking forward to finally properly meeting my youngest daughter. She whimpered bravely as the sparkles enveloped her on my bedroom floor and Connor and I clung to one another in anticipation.
Like her sister and daddy Rose had big, sparkling green eyes that I could happily look into all day long. Unlike her sister I wasn’t running all over the place trying to keep up with her as she crawled all over the place. Rose never went anywhere unless she really wanted something and even then she was much more likely to try to get me to carry her where she wanted to be. I would hesitate to say she was lazy, but for a toddler, she didn’t toddle all that much.
As I’d assumed (and thank goodness I was right!) as soon as Rose was old enough to be a little person and not just a bundle of blankets her older sister was absolutely fascinated by her. They would spend hours talking the family’s trademarked baby babble to one another or playing hide and seek. It was truly precious to watch hide and seek since during the hide portion Rose would become very serious, I’d never seen a baby so still, and during the seeking she’d laugh until she wobbled over and Violet had to sit her upright again if the game was to continue.
The first time I spied Violet actually hugging Rose was momentous for me. It took months even after Rose was already non-toddling everywhere but one day after a particularly long and exhausting round of hide and seek I watched Violet lean over and carefully pull her little sister close.
“Love you ZZ.” She whispered in Rose’s tiny ear and ever after she was far more affectionate towards the little one.
I don’t author’s note much, but I feel I should point out that ‘ZZ’ is pronounced Zee Zee and not Zed Zed as written. 😉
Hide and seek became Rose’s preferred game, not only the seated version she played with Violet but the one that became our daily routine. Rose played inside of things and under things. When left to her own devises Rose would disappear into a crook or cranny or box or cupboard and we could only be grateful that she always answered when we called out to her because she was a quiet little girl. We’d call “Rosie!” and with an exuberant cry she would tumble from wherever she had been as if to say “You found me!”
I had hoped that teaching Rose to talk would be as painless as teaching Violet to talk and I wasn’t wrong. In fact, she had a remarkable ability to copy everything that I said… Sort of.
“Rosie, can you say ‘diamond’?”
“How about ‘ladybug’?”
“Can you say ‘handsome’?”
We’d hoped that once she’d learned to talk Rose would actually use the skills we’d given her, but she was as quiet a child as ever and unless she wanted something she didn’t say much. If we doted on her and made sure she was well taken care of during the day, if we anticipated her needs, Rose may not say anything from morning until night unless you prompted her. It was strange but the most she talked was in her sleep, she’d toss and turn through the night, murmuring to herself in surprisingly coherent Simlish for a child her age.
I swear, there must have been gnomes living in my house that caused everything to break down all at once. It seemed as though every piece of plumbing in my house was wired to a timer and like clockwork if the sink in the kitchen broke, so would at least one thing in the bathroom and probably the computer as well. My skills with the limited supply of tools we had in the house were growing by the day but I still never managed to fix things once and for all. On those days Violet would just look at me with an empathetic smile and then go back to her easel or off to school or whatever and I would be left to mop and fix.
After a month of everything breaking every other day all the progress I thought I had made in my personal battle with inanimate objects was undone. It was hard to believe that after almost a year of not checking my stove I was starting to feel insecure about it every time someone used it. I started getting up in the middle of the night to check the elements and make sure nothing was dripping in the bathroom. I would slip out of bed as quietly as I could, check everything and be back in bed in five minutes and sometimes that would be it, but sometimes I would be up two or three times a night, just making sure.
I couldn’t even walk through my kitchen anymore without eyeing the stove, sink and fridge with distrust and my family was getting tired of pizza and autumn salad from mom for dinner. Connor had taken over cooking breakfast after I’d used the excuse of being back at work not allowing me the time three mornings in a row. He had started watching me the way I was watching the kitchen and it made me uncomfortable, I knew that I had to start taking control again. Somehow. It really would have helped if things would stop breaking. There was just always more cleaning, more fixing, more housework to be done.
Connor wasn’t close to Rosie like he was with Violet. Maybe because she wasn’t as demanding, maybe because she was such a quiet and independent little girl he didn’t realize that she wanted his attention as much as every child wants their daddy to love them. He didn’t seem to notice the way she beamed on the odd occasion that he picked her up and actually played with her. He didn’t seem to notice that her laughter was bigger and that she never wanted to be put down. It hurt me to see her want his affection so badly, just to get her hair ruffled. Even when I spoke to him about it he only put in the extra effort for a couple of days before the old patterns resumed.
It was around the time that Rose stopped following Connor around the house using her new found walking skills that she picked up what had once been Violet’s favourite toy. Even as a child she would sometimes sneak into Rosie’s room to knock out a little tune and I think that influenced her little sister quite a bit. She would absolutely hammer on the metal keys with the stick and holler at the top of her lungs a tuneless song. Never had she been this loud and never had we wished she would be quieter. Her ‘music’ was most often just noise and it only got a little bit better the more she performed.
Violet had demanded a birthday party. She was aging into a teenager, going to high school and she had insisted that not only did she deserve a party, but the back yard needed a playground. Connor and I discussed it and the day of her birthday we thew her a party and bought and rented some playground equipment. The slide and one of the swings weren’t ours but that didn’t seem to matter to Violet as she stood up top the structure and surveyed her friends and her party. All the children in her class had been invited, along with her uncle Jared who was just as kind and wonderful to be around as always… Which means he was a genuine pain.
I watched as Violet scrunched up her face to think of a wish and I couldn’t help but marvel at how much she had grown since her last birthday. As we watched her take a deep breath Connor directed my attention to the picnic table and I couldn’t help but grin when I saw the fire extinguisher, ready at a moments notice. In one try Violet had all her candles out and was cheering along with all of her friends when I saw the look in her eye. Squidgy feelings, we’d reminded her of those before the party.
As the sparkle vision set in and the shivers crawled up her spine I could see the excitement in her eyes at becoming a young woman… Or closer to a young woman. I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to jump as high into the air as Violet did when she was aging up and had I not been watching intently I don’t think I would have seen her land. The second she did her hands went to her hair (which had come out of the two buns she wore every day and refused to change), let out a scream and ran for the house. I followed her in but she had locked herself away in the bathroom, yelling for me to leave her alone.
I waited outside the door, ready to reassure her that she was beautiful and also eager to get my first look at Vi as a teenager but she darted past me and once more locked me out of the room she was in. For a moment I heard nothing, and then I heard a thud and her use words I swear her father and I never use around the house. The thud, on the other hand, was often heard since she was still prone to falling head over heels without any provocation. I had certainly hoped she would grow out of it with age but it seemed as if Violet had two left feet and butterfingers to boot.
Overnight Violet had become a stunning girl, full of self-confidence and a wardrobe neither her father or I entirely approved of for a girl her age but try as we may we couldn’t get her into anything more conservative (perhaps I, with my tongue pierced and shorts was not the best example?) she was determined that we not stunt her personal style and so we gave up. She was responsible enough, we figured, and her friends were good kids (even if they did scribble all over her shoes) but what we were worried about was the little laugh she’d developed and the way her eyes looked as she peered at people through her eyelashes. This one was going to drive the boys wild!
Vi was still great with Rosie though, every morning before she left for school she’d cuddle her sister close to her and say “I gotta go to school now ZZ, you be good for Mama and Daba, ok?” to which Rose would nod and chortle and then Violet would be out the door. The moment she got home Rose would be on her feet and toddling over to Vi, demanding to be let up and after that she would spend as much of the evening as she could following her sister around and mimicking her every move. Her big sister was her role model and I couldn’t help but think that she couldn’t ask for a better person to emulate than her hardworking, artistic and caring sister.
I was pleased to be able to be both mother and friend to both of my daughters. I liked knowing that Violet felt comfortable telling me anything and everything – from boy troubles to body issues to bad dreams. The only thing I couldn’t help her with was her homework and that was only because she had a standing date with her father in that regard. But everyday Vi and I took some time to catch up with one another, to chat and laugh… It was really nice having a grown daughter, I no longer had to worry about how I was raising her because she’d grown into a wonderful girl and I knew I’d done OK.
I could only hope that once Rose was older she would be just as cheerful a child as her sister had been, I hoped that once she was older Connor would pay more attention to his youngest daughter but instead it was just Rose and I around when she aged up. I held her hand like I had when Violet was a toddler and warned her about the squidgy feelings and the sparkle vision, I clapped and hooted for her as she spun the funny growing up dance and I happily sung “Happy birthday dear Rosie, happy birthday to you!” off key and at the top of my lungs, just to make her day as special as I could.
Rosie grew up good. She grew into a precious child who absolutely loved colour wherever it was to be found. Her clothes looked like they were sewn out of rainbows and her bedsheets the same. She was still a slightly lazy child, but since we didn’t have a couch for her to sit on all day every day she found other ways to entertain herself. Unfortunately, little Rose developed a scowl that seemed almost permanent. Even the littlest thing would set off a deep, dark mood that worried me and the second she got worked up (and it only took a second) she was liable to snap at anyone around her. We all took to walking on eggshells when she got into one of her moods.
Rose no longer followed Violet everywhere, she hardly spoke to her although I could always see jealousy in her eyes watching her older sister and father together but Violet hardly noticed. She was either working hard or getting ready to go out with her friends or standing at her easel, all activities that left Rose out altogether. It seemed to me as though she was spending more and more time locked in the bathroom, and since I wasn’t in there to see what she was up to I was concerned. The bathroom was where I most often went to let out all my frustrations for the day. It was private and more or less soundproof and I worried that Vi may be following in my footsteps where I would rather she didn’t.
Rose continued to quietly and solemnly follow in Violet’s footsteps. The first thing she demanded for the room we built for her upstairs was an easel, just like her sister. She would spend hours standing in front of her canvas carefully applying brushstrokes to exactly where she felt she needed them. If something didn’t look right the painting was scrapped and before we even saw a finished piece we had a small stack of canvasses ready for the trash. The worst part was seeing all the potential in each and every abandoned piece. Rose was really talented with her paints, even more so than Violet and that seemed to please her.
My dream house was coming along well, I finally had the structure of my bedroom the way I wanted it and that should have made me happy but I found that I was sleeping poorly again. My dreams were overwhelming once more. Every night I felt as though my brain simply wouldn’t stop spinning. Budget figures and dust and paintings and books and sinks would whirl around in my head until they woke me and they would continue to mix into a stressful ball of anxiety that would keep me awake or keep me from sleeping restfully. Either way, I took to cleaning early in the mornings again and was making breakfast as well… Long before anyone woke.
I peeked in on my girls every night, making sure they were sleeping soundly. Violet always was but Rose still tossed and turned all night long, still muttering to herself though never loud enough for me to hear what was being said. I don’t think she even realized how restless she seemed when she was sleeping because every morning she came down the stairs with bright eyes and a chipper good morning. We tried so hard to keep mornings jovial, to get Rose to school in a good mood because we knew that by the time she got home she would be on the warpath.
Rose didn’t much enjoy school, even though she was quite good at it, she only enjoyed being with children her own age but she never invited them over and was never invited to anyone’s after school either. I secretly suspected it was her love of gossip and her sharp tongue. Nothing was sacred around Rosie, if she heard a secret it was practically guaranteed that someone else would hear it from her and unfortunately it tended to come with a rather nasty spin to it. I tried to talk to her about it because I knew she never meant to be cruel, but she would yell at me and storm away and I couldn’t bear that. When she was mad at me she would look around the house with a wild gaze that made her look so.. Alone.
After we moved Rose upstairs I left the nursery intact for as long as I could. Neither Connor nor I really wanted another child but I couldn’t bear to pull apart what had been both of my daughter’s rooms for their earliest years. It felt like pulling apart memories, at least that’s what I told Connor to keep him from packing everything up right away. I wasn’t going to have another baby but having the room there and ready to receive an infant let me know that my options were still open. I was more than satisfied with my home, my family, my friends and my career but I still liked the security of knowing there could be more.
One afternoon Violet wasn’t on the school bus when it came by to drop her off. This wasn’t unusual, however the fact that she didn’t call first was. She had always been good about letting us know where she was and who she was with, that was why she was allowed a cell phone. But that day not only did she not call us but she wouldn’t answer her phone either. We called all of her friends but they didn’t know where she was. We called the school but she wasn’t in detention and thank goodness she wasn’t in the hospital but other than that we had no idea where she was.
Connor was out canvassing the neighbourhood and Rose and I were sitting down to a late dinner when Violet waltzed in the door. She rang out a annoyingly pleasent “Hey mom! Zeez!” grabbed a plate and sat down at the table with us. She didn’t notice that neither of us smiled and she didn’t notice Rose’s bitter “Don’t call me that.” she just continued on as if nothing had happened that evening.
“So guess what?” no time to respond “Mr. Davis told me today over lunch that he heard the bookstore was hiring so I went by after school and they hired me on the spot! I worked my first shift, isn’t that great?!”
I was dumbfounded, she was looking at me so expectantly, so happily, and I was so furious! So I said nothing, and Rose said nothing. When Connor walked in I asked him to please talk to Violet because I thought I was going to yell.
While Connor sat Violet down I went upstairs to help Rose with her homework. I had heard Violet complain when she’d started school but since I was magically formed as a young adult I really didn’t have any context for her disdain but once Rose grew up… I hated homework. Today was no different. Not only was the subject matter totally foreign to me (why does my Rosie need to learn French?) but I was so distracted by how the evening had gone that I hardly helped at all; it was all just English to me.
Downstairs I could hear a muffled arguing as Connor took care of what we’d decided to do before he went out searching for her. With quite a bit of arguing Violet handed over her cellphone. Gone for the next two weeks, a reminder that if we didn’t know where she was she wasn’t supposed to be there. Of course we were proud of her for taking the initiative and getting herself a job so soon but that didn’t change the fact that she had worried us sick for hours without thinking to call. For the next two weeks Violet would be at home, at school or at work… Except on the night following her ‘excursion’ when we went out to a movie as a family to celebrate.
As Rose and I finished her homework Connor and Violet were just sitting down to start hers. For the first time in Violet’s life her relationship with her father was beyond strained. Neither one of them cracked a smile, never mind a joke and they said as little to one another as possible. She was ‘really pee-d off!’ with us for treating her ‘like a child’ and for our ‘lack of faith and confidence’ and I think more than a little upset that the bad news had come from Connor who she thought she had wrapped around her little finger. Lucky for me he was already wrapped around mine, either way, she knew it was serious when it came from him.
Doesn’t anyone else have any questions?
What if I’m tired of asking when I already know all the answers?
Insert query about Connor and Rose’s relationship here
Who gets squidgy feelings and sparkle vision next?
Why do birthday’s crash my game to desktop every. single. time?
Those are rhetorical questions but Chapter 6 is coming up and for the first time I don’t know what to name it since I haven’t quite finished playing it yet! Yippee!