narrated by: Cesar
I had considered marrying Annie at one point, but she always pushed me away. Mom always said that I couldn’t help someone who didn’t want to help themselves, and that’s why I’d backed away. I wished that I hadn’t, maybe I could have saved her if I’d tried more. Instead it’s me raising three kids alone with no other adult to share the responsibility with.
The twins are opposite as they could come, Marisol jumps out of bed, ready to tackle the day.
I think she takes after me, which leaves me with two mini-Annie’s in the house. Manuel sloths around, taking his sweet time to get ready for before school.
Now and then, Ella will play with Manuel, and distract him with some games. It doesn’t help when we need to meet the bus at a certain time, but I’m always grateful when she opens herself up to the twins.
Ella is angry about her Mom, and the twins don’t remember her, so she bares it alone. She doesn’t think the twins have any right to the loss, because their lack of memory, but in someways their grief is stronger, filled with an unknowable void. I wish she’d share good memories with them, and hope one day she will.
Once the kids are off to school, I head to my own car dealership. Dad recently gave me the used portion of his business so I could better provide for the kids. And he sent my Mom to be my receptionist, who doesn’t take much pay to keep pleased. One day I’ll need to hire someone else, but for the time being she’s mine.
The sales have been decent, and I’ve been able to begin a savings account. Nadia came in to look at vehicles for her growing family, they are some of my favorite to sell too, especially when they absolutely need a new car.
Mom recommended Marta Steele to come by to find her next car, little did I know she intended for us to go on a date. I came on a bit strong with my sale antics, which usually work, but she had ulterior motives.
She did purchase a car, and she really made me work for it. She complained about the smell of the office, and the wood paneling. I guess she works for the Mayor as a public relations agent, and had an abundance of opinions about the PR of my place.
She confessed that my Mom had arranged it all, and wanted to know if I’d go out to dinner with her later. I accepted, but felt conflicted. Even though me and Annie had stopped seeing each other before her death, I haven’t dated anyone since her. It felt too soon, despite it being years since we dated.
Mom arranged it for the bus to drop the kids off here after school. At first they are excited, because they are allowed a snack from the fridge.
But it completely flatlines after that, they usually get holed up in my office, and whine whenever I have to go in there.
None of my kids are affectionate, they all get that from Annie. Marisol won’t hug Ella, which hurts her feelings.
But she won’t even hug me, and she’s only four. I thought this behavior came in the fifth grade, which is where Ella’s grade.
When we get out especially late, I usually take the kids out for dinner. They love Shortstack Pancake House, and it usually makes eating out less stressful. But Ella has been particularly foul lately, and while we waited for a table, she got into it with poor Manuel. He is my sweetest, shy kid, still not overtly affectionate, but never a rejector of hugs.
I tried getting her to apologize, and the waiter through a fit about how ill-mannered my kids were, and how they shouldn’t eat out if they couldn’t behave like adults.
Another family in the restaurant was staring us down as well, and Ella said she knew the girls from school. I’d never felt more mortified.
Ella finally apologized, but I know she didn’t mean it. I’m not sure what I’m supposed to about that. I’ve known Ella since she was a toddler, but I’ve never been allowed to be her Dad, and even now I share custody of her. She’s not shy to throw “you’re not my father” line in my face.
The rest of the time, if Manuel talked to her, she made gaggy faces, and looked away as if she might throw up.
She starts middle school next year, and I really hope that we can get this curbed before her birthday this March, but I just don’t see it happening. A childhood with Annie has done her in, and I just hope that in time I can bring her back around to having feelings, and being open, at least with someone.
When we get back home, it’s late, and past their bedtimes, but still we try to muster through their homework. Ella has improved with the help of a tutor, but barely, she’s maintaining a C now, which is at least passing. I’d hate for her to flunk fifth grade.
There isn’t much to my evening after they are in bed, I tuck them in, wash breakfast dishes, and go to bed myself. It’s exhausting, and lonely. For these reasons, I look forward to a date with Marta.
When we finally go out for our dinner date, we hit Pacelli Macaroni where I happened to make a dinner reservation. It’s not particularly new, but I’ve never gone. Annie was the type of girl to go on dates, she was the type that you talked off the ledge, and just breathed together.
Marta has a college degree, which is more than me, since I went straight into the family business. And has worked with the past two Mayors of Boone County.
She’s fascinating, confident, and an entirely different breed of women than I’ve ever met. Because of my Mom, she knows all about the three kids at home that are being babysat, and while she’s not wanting a huge family of her own, she’s not scared off by them.
We danced upstairs, though no one else was, and she demanded the limelight.
We had met at the restaurant, and did our goodbyes on the patio. She told me she was interested in seeing me again, and didn’t tippy-toe around how she had a good time.
I went home feeling refreshed, and it wasn’t until I climbed into bed that I felt angry that Annie couldn’t have been something more than she’d settled herself to be.
Mom invited us over for Christmas dinner, we didn’t do presents at her house, but she did buy each of the kids some clothes to open when they got home. I helped her prepare the feast, and she burnt the turkey, which seems to be her tradition.
She set up the basement for the kids to play in when we come over, all my old toys are out for them to play with.
The twins kept sneaking upstairs to check out what new food was on the table, and went crazy for the pumpkin cakes. We had to keep sending them back to the basement, while they complained of their stomachs growling.
The dinner went pretty well to start, Dad is always engaging with kids, and even Ella likes him. He’s always telling tall-tales about customers that are ninety percent fiction.
Manuel is very shy, except around Grandpa, then he’s full of inquisitiveness.
It all went perfectly, it could have been a Hallmark movie, where Ella’s heart unfrosted, and we all bonded. Until my Mom asked about my date with Marta, not thinking how the kids might take it, not considering that I might not have told them about it at all.
Ella had been clearing her plate very politely when the conversation was broached. I hoped she didn’t hear.
But she did, and she lost it. Started screaming, stomping and telling us all how much she hated us, and hoped we die. Mom and Dad ignored her, saying that was what she needed when she threw tantrums.
I took her upstairs instead to their room. I thought I could talk her down from her anger, knowing she was reacting from a place of hurt, but she was beyond listening.
When she finally calmed down, I went up to speak with her and found she’d fallen asleep on the bed. She looked peaceful and calm, and I hoped that with time I could break through her barrier.
The twins performed a skit for my parents of a children’s book they did at school. While they watched, they also shared their opinions on Ella and how to nip her behavior in the bud.
When it came time to leave, Ella stood on the outside of the crowd, if my parents had offered her a hug, I think she might have accepted, but no one did.
At home, the kids opened their clothes, and put them away. When the twins were all tucked in, I called Ella over. I had a surprise for her, part of her Christmas present from me was her own microphone, and singing lessons.
For that surprise, I do get a hug. I’m hoping that her love for singing will help her through her grief, and give her a focus.
My parents won’t approve, thinking I’m spoiling her, but they aren’t here when she has to leave to her Dad’s place.
He stand surly against the wall, as if Ella is an utter waste of time, and she always wears her attitude.
I try to encourage her to have fun with her brothers, which she usually does, and Matt isn’t around much anyway. She softens very subtly, but it’s still there.
But when she turns to follow Matt out into the hall, that’s when I see her pure heartbreak over the situation.
She wanted to keep in touch with her twin brothers, and I think the courts did the best they could in a rotten situation, but she’s still being hurt, and I don’t know the solution. Annie may have died, but she always cared more for Ella than Matt ever did. I hope in time that Ella can forgive her Mom, and move forward with the fond memories that they shared.
Notes: Ella rejected hugs from Marisol (and vice versa), and she started a fight with Manuel on her own at the restaurant, though they are close to being friends. She also did put her plate in the dishwasher on her own, then proceeded to throw a fit. I found that Marisol was also slightly angry, and all three kids wanted to resurrect Annie. Ella will have her teen birthday in March, just around the corner. Oh and the faces she’s making when Matt is there, they were her own, she was thinking of Matt too. She really doesn’t care for her deadbeat Dad, but she does adore her twin brothers.
Cesar and Marta went on a date, and have good chemistry, I think they might go on another date in the future, but he’s a busy single Dad with a business to run. His Mom Maria, seems like a meddler out of the “goodness of her heart” so I imagine her causing problems for Cesar without intending it. Oh and I added some new photos to Cesar profile here, the twins look SO much like him other than coloring which is from Annie.
Thanks for reading!
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