Patrick: The Dating Game

The house feels exhaustive as the twins learn to walk and talk. Patrick brings his work home with him, writing reports and researching funding opportunities. Finding himself working late into the night when the twins sleep. He knows he is no substitute for the parents they need. The fear Patrick is not doing right by the girls haunts both waking and dream-filled sleep. All he can do is watch, waiting for the day Charlotte or social services steals them away from him. Patrick works safe, knowing Sparky will bark if the girls stray too far. The big hairy dog is the best nanny they could ask for as he tolerates them grabbing his fur. Sparky settles with the twins, guarding them as they sleep or watching them play. They climb onto him as he lays, pretending he is a horse. Daciana feeds him bits of her food or gives him her toys to chew.

Patrick and Hannah

The type of woman Patrick was looking for needed to love children or approved by his girls. The nannies he hired met that criteria; he was fond of them, although he believed it was inappropriate. Patrick changed his views; a call from Hannah saw him inspect his beard for food particles. He ran a comb through and made an effort to wear something free of toddler mess. Singles night at the bar hanging out with Hannah and a few of her friends. The music pumped, and the conversations grew loud. Voices competing with the throbbing bass lines did nothing to dispel his headache. Patrick worried he had forgotten how to sustain an adult discussion. His job involved plants where communication meant observation. At home, babbling words made sense to him, so how could he talk to these women?

Patrick learns how his desires and those of the women in the bar are not always compatible. Hannah clarified they were out as friends, a hint to the “let’s see what happens”, so Patrick eyed the bar, hopeful. Arlene and Lia were single mothers; they were happy to talk. The discussion focused on the best creams for nappy rash. This followed how to persuade fussy tots to eat their vegetables. Luliana loved her food; the colours interested her. Patrick smiled, certain Luliana had yet to meet a food she did not like. Daciana was fussy; she poked at her meal, screwing her face as though the flavour seemed off. She would taste everything but getting her to eat a full meal was hard work. A selection of dishes might narrow the likes and dislikes, except time was a factor. There was never enough.

Patrick at a singles night

Maki seemed forward in her interest and had a definite description of what she wanted. A full-time father of two who wanted some fun was her ideal, as he would always have his hands tied. The notion of having a committed relationship, Maki had no time for that in her life. She enjoyed travel, speaking of all the places she had been and yet to go. This got Patrick thinking aloud, how he too missed the travel plans he once made. The carefree spirit of the younger twin and Maki, inspired him to reconsider this. Maki grew bored of the conversation. Patrick expressed his desire to take the girls camping, when they were older. With a heavy sigh, Patrick knew dating was beyond him, at least for the foreseeable future. Mothers wanted to compare notes, which was easy, though not a romantic subject. As for the single ladies, they were looking for something he could not offer.

Patrick: Daddy’s Girls

Patrick embraced his role, gushing over the changes in his girls. He wanted to celebrate every detail. He overcompensated; they had heard nothing from Charlotte or Caleb. In the wake of Vicky’s death, Eliza spent less time helping him. It was understandable as she helped Milly adjust to life without her mother. Patrick was alone as he planned the girl’s birthday, they might not remember it, but he would, so it had to feel special. A chocolate cake, Patrick would eat himself, and hot dogs were the order of the day. He smiled, knowing the sofa would soon partake in ketchup. The sticky fingers and faces, those smiles, made every day worthwhile.

Luliana and Patrick

The girls knew no difference, they clung to him when they were sad. The excitement in learning something new, Patrick loved he shared in that too. What hurt him was there was not even a message from Charlotte as the girl’s birthday came and went. Eliza and Milly visited; it had been hard on their cousin. Eliza’s flat was still undergoing renovations, they were still living in Brindleton Bay. Eliza felt weird sleeping in Vicky’s room, so she took the sofa. The back pain affected her job, and the twin’s constant demands on visiting family made it worse.

Patrick had home renovations as the girl’s required a proper place to sleep. Since Charlotte left he kept their cribs in the lounge so he could get a decent night’s sleep. The Kitchen required child locks on the cupboards and an array of toys. The space adjoining the kitchen, Patrick decided would make the perfect nursery. When they first moved in Emilie used it as storage. The irony was the space Emilie intended to be Charlotte’s bedroom. Of course, she preferred the basement rooms alongside him. Patrick understood his father’s desire to own the former church. The downside was, in winter, it could feel drafty.

Daciana and Sparky

Striking a balance was never going to come easy. Patrick wrestled with emotions. His anger at Charlotte for abandoning her children, and the growing love he held for his nieces. How might he feel if she turned up demanding their return? He doesn’t want to report her absence, but not doing so is harmful. The social workers would be more than happy to rip them from his arms and put them in care. All he needed was for Charlotte to turn up and sign a waiver giving him full custody. Afterwards, she could disappear as she wished. Every day he left them in the care of the nannies Erika (blonde) and Hannah (brunette); he worried. One day they would realise the truth and they. Luliana had so much of her mother, the blonde hair blue eyed child; she was sweet and loving. Daciana would appear quiet, watching before deciding to make her presence known. She did, very much so, a whirlwind through the house and overshadowing the younger twin.

His love life hit a dry patch, and Julianna seemed to have distanced herself from him since the closet. Patrick had called her after; he hoped for a repeat performance, except they could try the bedroom. The closet; would be a fond memory, fumbling with buttons and getting cut on a broken hanger. Patrick grinned, surprised they managed to use some protection. Things happened so fast, and he always knew they would have great chemistry when the clothes came off. The lack of dates was an issue when the toddlers went to bed. He missed the nonsense babbling, teaching them new words and hearing them call him daddy. Sparky took space on the sofa. His idea of conversation included tummy scratches and snoring. He would love to have another special lady, one he could make out in the closet. Someone who would love playing hide and seek with the girls. A woman to cuddle on the sofa, happy to watch scary movies and kid’s cartoons.

Milly: Where do Artist’s go to rest?

She looked asleep, soft white hair tied back. Her green eyes closed, and a hint of the blush gave her cheeks some warmth. A blouse buttoned to the neck and paired with a peach waistcoat and skirt. Vicky always loved her skirts. Milly added a boutonniere made from wildflowers she had found near the bay. Eliza squeezed Milly’s hand; things were going to change.


Milly busied herself in the kitchen. Vicky laughed, nuzzling the cat, teasing how Libby may be in for a fishy treat. It was not the first time Milly wanted to cook dinner. Her early efforts consisted of grilled cheese or rubbery eggs and burnt bacon. That evening the challenge was to recreate one of her favourite dishes, Fish Tacos. The contrast of spicy white fish against the crunch of the hard shell, the cool crisp lettuce. It made her mouth water, thinking of it. She placed a small dish on the end of the counter; Libby wriggled in Vicky’s arms, eager to get her share of the fish. It was pointless wrestling with a cat.

Milly

They sat in front of the TV; to enjoy a successful effort. Milly chatted excited; she and her cousins were going bowling at the weekend. If luck was on her side, Milly planned to beat her previous score of seventeen over three frames. Vicky frowned, hoping they would spend some time together. Her daughter laughed, there would, of course, be time for their usual brunch. An unhealthy dose of food from a restaurant they chose from one of Ziva’s old hats. Milly never minded where they went; she wanted her usual BLT and orange juice. These days with Vicky were important. Milly felt the imminent reminder that her mother would not be around much longer. Part of her wanted to ignore it. The other hugged herself every time Vicky sounded disappointed. Milly felt increasing guilt for wanting to go out with friends.

Milly and Vicky

Milly was in school; she waited for the bell, desperate to get home. She was getting straight As. It was amazing, Vicky would remind her how proud she was and how impressed Ziva would have been. Milly ran into the house shouting, not seeing her mum downstairs, she ran to the bedroom. Milly tripped over Libby sleeping on the seventh step, the cat wailed, then curled again. The air seemed to get sucked from the room, the energy drained, and Milly’s face turned pale. She stood frozen for a moment; the paper floated to the floor. A voice croaked; it did not sound like her; the tears stung her eyes. Milly shook Vicky begging her to wake up. Dropping to the floor, she called Eliza. Her cousin spoke, but Milly struggled to reply; she stared at the phone, resting it on the bedside table. Eliza’s concerned voice crackled through. Milly drew in her knees and rested her head, sobbing.

Eliza: Choices

The Spice District hosted its own festivals. None compared to the fun Eliza experienced at the Humour and Hijinks. It was the beautiful fireworks; they brought her comfort in the early year. She recalled watching them from her window when she first arrived. The people, enjoying themselves below as she hid from the world. Eliza had attended a few times, laughing at the wannabe comics and falling foul to the pranksters. Often she went to feel a part of something. Living in the city; it was lonely, and these festivals offered a temporary friendship. People who would not give a second glance in the street; stopped to tell you a joke and start a conversation. She had tagged along with neighbours, a hint of disappointment as Scarlett was not with them.

Patrick, Eliza and neighbours

The distraction she longed for was not the company of her brother. He seemed hassled on the phone, the twins screaming in the background. Charlotte had vanished, and now Caleb refused to return Patrick’s calls. Part of him wanted to call the authorities, except he had grown attached to the two girls. The idea they would end up in foster care, raised by anyone else but him. Patrick could not bear the torture of losing them.

He fought tears, explaining how he failed Charlotte; and feared the same would become of the twins. Daciana and Luliana were growing, their birthday a few months away. Their parents’ absence concerned him; they should be bonding with their babies. Instead he had begun referring to himself as their father. Eliza glanced at the Jokester tea they were here to enjoy. She pushed it away, resting her hand over Patricks, her guilt at not being more present in their lives. Patrick took his hand back; he needed to get home. The twins would have the best father he could be.

Eliza lost her desire for humorous antics; she walked towards the tube station. Art Gallery sat illuminated and welcoming. She had intended to visit since she had lived next to it. Art had provided her with a space to meditate, relax and process the choices she wanted to make or had made. Charlotte never came to her; as Eliza left without a word, so had she. The difference had been their ages; Charlotte was still a child when Eliza ran away. A foolish notion, someone so young could never understand those emotions. How could Eliza have explained the cruelty of their father? Eliza wondered if that was the reason; Charlotte feared no one could understand.

Eliza

As a child, her sister had begged in e-mails for Eliza to come home, desperate to know why she had abandoned her family. Eliza never explained, at least not to her siblings; it sat as a festering wound between them. She shook the spray can, working her magic on the mural. Their choices separated and disbanded their family. Eliza could not change Charlotte’s mind. As for her own, Eliza would need to make peace with her past to build her future.

Eliza: Home, Sweet, Spice

Eliza breathed in the stale air. The apartment needed ventilation having been empty for months. There had been a degree of uncertainty with the bank as her credit rating had been poor. A boost in her career secured the loan she needed to buy the apartment. The move over to the spice district had not been an easy decision. As a council neglected area, until a recent cash injection, remained overlooked. for redevelopment. When money changed hands it seemed the council would ignore the rumours. His work had unsavoury associations. The papers reported backstreet deals and unproven accounts of criminal activities. Eliza decided she would accept that life was not perfect. The building she lived in was owned by the Carrington Corporation. It was the legal front of the man’s business and they intended to make life in the city affordable.

Eliza

The current layout did not meet her expectations. It had a large open living area with a kitchen, two modest bedrooms and a bathroom. In her mind, there would be three bedrooms. The third serves as a fitness zone and, should Milly be joining her, a place for her to be expressive and creative. Where the kitchen resided, Eliza planned for this to become her bedroom as it offered the best views. It would take a significant cash injection, but it would be worth every penny. She felt uneasy about where this was going to come. Money from the sale of the Brindleton Bay home, Vicky hoped Eliza could create a stable home for Milly. Eliza’s finances would pay for storage as she collected furniture for that day.

For now, her footsteps echoed through the emptiness. The Art District rental may have come with cockroaches and rats, but the petite size was cosy. Eliza tried to imagine this place feeling homey and warm. Lost in her thoughts, sketching the new floor plan with sticky tape, Eliza yelped. Her neighbours arrived to greet her, welcoming her to the building. Among the welcome gifts of bread, eggs, and milk, a redhead caught her attention. They were wearing a fitted red suit and heeled boots. Another neighbour linked her arm enquiring where the kitchen was. Eliza glanced back over her shoulder as the redhead wandered around the open space.

Eliza and her visiting neighbours

Eliza listened to the conversation, as she cooked and stole glances at the redhead. The excited babble of nosey neighbours eager to discover Eliza secrets through observations. As she served French Toast, Eliza asked the individual’s name, Scarlett. They were quiet, but that smile, their laugh, Eliza had to pinch herself. She bite her lip, the name very apt considering their dress. Then laughed as she heard Emilie’s voice in the back of her mind reminding her it was rude to stare. She couldn’t help it; something about Scarlett captivated Eliza.

Milly: The Creative Teen

Milly hit the teenage year with a “Wow”. Her long ginger curls and slender frame reminded Vicky of her youth. The main difference being, by this time, her hair had turned white. Her green eyes and dark complexion showed no signs obvious signs of being Ziva’s relative. It pained Vicky; she hoped Rylan’s genes were strong enough that his twin would shine. They shared a love of Art. Milly had already decided she should dedicate her life to the brilliance of colour. Vicky grimaced at the thought. The refreshed bedroom, suit a growing teen. It might not withstand the flourishes of Milly’s creative flair.

Vicky and Milly

Vicky remained cautious; Milly wanted to stretch her teenage wings, join her cousins. They spent weekends at the lounge in Whiskermans Wharf. Yahir rallied behind her, eager to persuade Vicky she would be safe with them. The two had remained close despite him being a few years older. Yahir grinned, determined to teach Milly all the mischievous antics he had done. It worried Vicky; she wanted Milly to be a little girl forever. Yahir teased, promising to cause trouble. Milly was the youngest and, in her eyes, needed protection. Eliza felt Vicky’s mothering was too involved; Milly was likely to rebel against her. It was with reluctance Eliza decided to volunteer and go with the teens.

Milly’s initial freedom took a downward turn. She felt detached from her cousins; they spent so much time together. She watched them pretend to drink alcohol. As regulars, the bartender humoured their desire to be adults by mixing mocktails. Yahir laughed as whipped cream was added to cola, imitating beer. She took herself to the pool, swinging her legs through the water. A guilt had begun to set in, leaving Vicky alone for too long; she worried about her. They had already lost Uncle Simon, Vicky’s brother, Rylan, Ziva and Emilie. Every moment with her remaining mother was precious. After a couple of hours Milly tugged her clothes back on, hovering near Eliza, hoping she would take the hint. Her cousins booed as Milly and Eliza left; the eldest cousin slung her arm around, hugging her tight. Eliza understood even if the rest couldn’t.

Milly

As her initial weeks at Bayside High came to a close, Milly proved herself an academic achiever. Vicky bubbled with pride. This was what she had been looking for; a sign that Ziva, her influence, was buried deep inside their daughter. A flurry of excellent grades were a promise for Milly and her potential future. Vicky wanted to push her daughter to consider other avenues. Find a career she could embody for herself and not because of her artistic influence. Milly teased how her mother feared the competition she would bring to the gallery. She jumped and giggled as Vicky threatened to douse her in the water used for refreshing the brushes.

Patrick: Reckless Abandon

Patrick cradled Luliana, the phone tucked between ear and shoulder, the voicemail kicking in. He stroked Daciana, unable to comfort both his nieces. They were hungry, nappies in urgent need of changing, and Charlotte? – he no idea. His sister had not answered her phone; there were clothes missing and two infants alone. Patrick realised he did not know her friends aside from Caleb, she had not brought anyone to the house. The last group he saw her with was the social butterflies. The phone fell, cracking the screen. The universe suggested he gave up listening to the standard answer message. Wherever she was, Charlotte was ignoring his calls. Patrick would need to play the parental role.

Patrick, Daciana and Luliana

Patrick moved the cribs into the main house; after leaving seven messages, a few dozen texts, he gave up on her. There had been no warning; Charlotte never suggested she needed space. He would have helped, cared for the babies for a few hours, given her space for study, job hunting, or seeing friends. To walk away from her children, leave them alone. What if he had decided to stay out? If he met up with a beautiful woman and stayed over at her place. Why would Charlotte be so selfish and leave them. Caleb sounded groggy as he called back that evening. Patrick kept his cool, not wanting to arouse suspicion. The lover admitted he had not seen her since the babies were born. Patrick held his tongue despite wanting to lay into him about responsibility. The priority was to find Charlotte which Caleb agreed to help.

Patrick apologised for his recent behaviour as he begged Juliana for her advice. Aside from Vicky, who he did not want to worry, Juliana, as a mother, understood children. The eldest twin fussed, Patrick fed, changed, and comforted, but it wasn’t enough. Daciana seemed aware of her mother’s absence. She needed something Patrick was not equipped to offer. As Juliana cradled the bundle; Daciana screamed. She reassured him it was too early for her to be teething, and sometimes a baby needs to cry. Patrick’s ears needed a break. Whether Daciana wanted to expand her lungs or not, his head might explode.

Juliana and Patrick

Juliana came back to visit over the next few months, sharing her wisdom with the unwitting father. Charlotte remained absent, and Caleb reported nothing. He had not called or checked on the twins. Patrick despaired, taking comfort in Juliana. His actions were honourable, keen to ensure his nieces were happy. When Juliana referred to him as “daddy”, Patrick realised his life had changed. From the day Charlotte left, Patrick considered no other option. He stepped in and be a surrogate parent to the girls. He loved them from the moment they were born. The anticipation, to see them grow and be a part of their lives. Daciana remained restless, although her tears eased. He decided to stop mentioning Charlotte and accept his position as a father.

Juliana embraced him; this gentle, loving man put the girls before himself. His prior self-serving energies that once repulsed her were dissipating. A warmed inviting smile crept across her face as she asked him when he was going to kiss her. Patrick leaned in, stealing a quick first. In a rush of excitement, Juliana grabbed his top. He walked her backwards until her back pressed against the closet door. Her hand fumbled behind as Patrick kissed her. The door slid open, and unto the pile of coats, they fell.

Charlotte: Losing Herself

Patrick worried; Charlotte distanced herself from the girls more each day. It was getting to the point he considered moving them into the main house as a permanent solution to their care. Patrick blended plant care with childcare. Settling them in the shade whilst tending the garden, chatting to them as he worked. Teaching the sleepy girls about the types of vegetables he was growing. Despite their newborn status they needed to know what would make them strong and tasted the best.

Charlotte

Charlotte celebrated her birthday with quiet reflection. She blew out the candle without making a wish. Her heart failed to know what she required to feel whole again. There was hope Caleb would stand before her, tell her he would stay, then everything would fall into place. A confession of love would transform her into the mother the twins deserved. Motherhood, she believed, should be as natural as breathing. Something that blossomed with each memory captured. Instead, it felt alien. Vicky tried to reassure her that everyone finds a way and the girls will love her no matter what.

Those feelings of inadequacy remained within her. Charlotte shook: tears bubbled beneath the surface. A constant wave of fatigue threatened to consume her. Looking into the puffy red faces of her children, she begged them to stop screaming; her body weakened, a lack of food and sleep. Charlotte considered taking the cribs and leaving them somewhere. Trying to live up to the expectations of her family and the babies, it terrified her. Playing the role of mother, it felt forced upon her. She resented it, sinking deeper into the guilt of hating the responsibility. It was worse than that, she could not admit she did not love her daughters. 

Charlotte

Patrick learned she walked out of her finals, leaving uncertainty over her graduation. He expected arguments as he questioned her decisions; the mounting irresponsibility concerned him. She would sit for hours crying. How could she explain the devastation of disconnection from her offspring? Patrick doled out his lectures on how she should be; all she wanted to do was disappear. 

That was the answer, to disappear. If Charlotte could somehow vanish from this life, surrender her role. Her babies could be raised by a person who would give unconditional love. She imagined being happy, sorrow free, a weight lifted, giving her a life where she and Caleb were together. There could be several lifetimes to approach the theme of motherhood; she did not have to consider it now. If there was a way to remove her memories of Daciana and Luliana, live in their non-existence. Charlotte wanted that life.

Soft closure meant the twins were unaware of their mothers’ decision. They drifted off with full tummies as silence filled the surrounding rooms. Minutes became hours; nothing stirred. Patrick crept into the room expecting Charlotte to be sleeping. Instead, clothes lay scattered across the bed. The wardrobe door ajar. A weight of disappointment turned to shock as two babies cried.

Support for anyone struggling with low mood or depression after giving birth is available either via the Doctor or through charities. Included with this post is a link to MIND – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/

Charlotte: Baby Blues

Patrick blamed himself. Emilie had made him responsible for Charlotte in the event of her death. He had suspicions and reservations about her dating an older man. Caleb had seemed pleasant and respectful, but he abandoned Charlotte as the pregnancy progressed. Patrick watched as his baby sister, a week shy of her eighteenth birthday, gave birth to twin girls. He could not stand by as Charlotte struggled to adjust to motherhood. Holding Daciana for the first time changed everything. Patrick fell in love. He gazed into her large eyes and knew he would do anything for her and Luliana. Imagining himself as a father figure, Patrick doted on the girls, learning what each cry meant. He was a natural; they nuzzled against him, grasped at his beard, whatever they needed. Charlotte managed to praise her brother for all he did; exclaiming how her daughters would boast they had the best uncle.

Patrick

Patrick wondered if her continued low mood was due to Caleb choosing to remain absent. The father had a brief encounter with the twins. A pained look in his eyes as he pressed cold lips to the warm skins of his daughters, inhaling deep that new baby smell. The feeling in Charlotte ran deeper; motherhood was not coming naturally to her. She knew it would be difficult raising them alone, or as it turns out, with Patrick. She imagined loving them, an instant bond, being what they needed. She stroked the soft fabric surrounding their cribs feeling disconnected from them. When they were inside her, she had these mixed thoughts, excited, filled with hope and love. Then darkness; the pain crept, and Charlotte was ready to evict her offspring from her body. She wanted to punish herself for having such thoughts. This resentment and rejection of her children did not leave when they were born. At the hospital, Charlotte was tense as each offered child cried for her; the unexpressed relief when Vicky stepped in to comfort them.

Charlotte holding Luliana and Daciana in the crib

Charlotte sank into the black recesses of her mind; it flooded with thoughts. Words twisted, caught in her throat, suffocating her. Emilie made it look easy, raising the three of them. Charlotte was failing already. A terrible mother. Doubts that she could be good enough for these innocent girls kept her awake. She tossed, bedclothes heaped in the centre, suppressing the urge to scream. Charlotte clutched her chest, her breathing rapid as she tumbled from the bed. Sweat dripped down her back as she paced the halls, trying to calm herself. The control failed, dizziness overwhelmed her, and Charlotte collapsed on the floor. The sadness weighed her down in a cascade of tears. 

Support for anyone struggling with low mood or depression after giving birth is available either via the Doctor or through charities. Included with this post is a link to MIND – https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/postnatal-depression-and-perinatal-mental-health/about-maternal-mental-health-problems/

Charlotte: Babies Vatore-Grace

Charlotte settled in Milly’s room, the single bed emphasising the loneliness she felt. She refused to see Eliza and Patrick, fearing judgement. Vicky offered reassurances, leaving a small suitcase in the room. Charlotte’s refusal to speak meant they left without answers. Her mind raced; they would fail to understand the truth, the weight of secrecy her relationship with Caleb brought. Patrick had recoiled at the cold touch of Caleb’s handshake, her mother referenced his sense of style, and Eliza suggested he should get out in the sun. In isolation, these were simple observations, meaningless; together, they revealed his occult status. Vampires were private; the temptation when living amongst the humans was like trying to be on hunger strike at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Caleb described how each human had a unique smell, their pheromones. He found hers enticing, the kind where he was unsure if she was food or his lover. Charlotte had felt jealous when he admitted this was how he chose his partners. As if the female of the species was not enough for her to contend with, Caleb enjoyed many male companions. If he was honest, gender identity played no part in his desire, letting his animal instincts lead him.

Vicky knitted her brow; the darker side of Charlotte’s lover concerned her. The description, what Charlotte chose to imply, led Vicky to believe this man wanted the fantasy life. His avoidance of Charlotte in the latter stages of her pregnancy, the vampire analogy, was merely an excuse to avoid responsibility. In schools, occult history was glossed over, with references to them confined to literature. Newspapers had tiny sections poking fun at people who claimed Vampires invaded their homes. Others suggested Spellcasters made them ill or stole from them, usually when their partner. There were sightings of Mermaids in Tartosa, Sulani, and Fisherman, claiming their song made the storms or lured others to their death. Whatever the reality, Charlotte embraced hers, at least for the moment.

Vicky and Charlotte

The future seemed unbearable, at least in the uncertainty of what would become of her relationship with Caleb. Staying in Brindleton Bay would need to be temporary, her niece grumbled, wondering when she could have her bed back. Vicky kept quiet, but Charlotte overheard her complaining on the phone as Milly slept restless, kicking her. Beyond her vampire dreams, Charlotte had given nothing else much thought. Being told that having children so young would not get in the way of her future was little comfort. She could feel the strain; her stomach tightened through another contraction. Shaking her head, Charlotte believed she was about to lose everything. Nothing prepared an adult for the trials of parenthood, and she was still a child herself. How could she be a mother?

Charlotte

Charlotte pushed Vicky away; the doctor gave a sympathetic look, and the onlookers whispered, thinking it shameful someone so young was pregnant. Vicky sat reluctant, waiting for Caleb to arrive. She could hear Charlotte calling for him as they rushed her into the delivering room. Caleb paced outside the hospital, wrestling with his bloodlust. Over the centuries, he had learned to control it; hospitals were places he knew to avoid, everything centred on blood. Caleb licked his lips, his inner demon flickered behind his eyes, and he took off into the night.

Caleb had agreed to let her use his name, and since Grace was her grandmother’s name, they sounded beautiful together. Charlotte’s face tensed, shuffling back as the nurse handed the first twin. Vicky intervened, comforting the crying child, opening her arms to take the second. A whispered sob escaped Charlotte, almost unwilling to name her daughters. Charlotte continued to sob; with Caleb’s absence, she wondered what life she could offer Daciana and Luliana Vatore-Grace.