Cold

I feel cold. It’s been three weeks.

Still no sign.

I’m not sleeping and everyone’s worried I’m going to lose the baby. I’m trying not to worry, but it’s getting to me.

The Sheriff won’t leave his room in the house unless it’s to go out looking for the Twins. He’s determined to find them, even though we haven’t had a single clue as to where they have gone. Even the FBI Agents can’t pick up a single trace.

I feel as though I’m watching a heart tear in two and my family disintegrate, while I can do nothing to stop what’s happening.

It sucks.

It makes me angry.

I am angry.

I’m so angry, that I managed to toss Miles up into the rafters with just a flick of my hand.

It helped that he was wearing a full suit of armor.

“Damn it, Marlowe! Get me down from here!”

I looked up at him and floated him down, but not before the kids got a good laugh out of the situation. Logan crawled in to my lap as soon as I sat down and put his ear on my bump. His latest obsession was to lay his head on my growing belly.

“What is it, poppet?” I asked while running my hand over his hair as he looked up at me.

“Baby sick. Mommy sick. Not happy,” he said as he reached up and touched my face. “Bad. Very bad.”

I studied him and then kissed his forehead. He smiled up at me, it was a little sad.

“Don’t worry, poppet. We’ll find a way out of this soon.”

He shook his head and slipped out of my lap.

“Bad. Very bad.”

I watched him walk to his bother and start playing with the Lincoln logs that Ben had brought home the week before. I watched them with a small smile until Sabine came over.

“He’s right you know,” she said through our link.

“I know,” I replied. “I just don’t know how to fix it.”

“It’s not up to you to fix. You did your part,”  she said.

I looked down at her and met her languid eyes.

“It’s my family. My herd. I will fix it if I can,” I said.

Sabine snorted, but said nothing. I was going to say something to her when Jude strolled into the room.

“Hi Mama,” I said as she dropped a kiss on to my forehead.

“You’re out of bed. Why?” she asked.

“Couldn’t sleep.”

“You need to try. For you and the baby,” she said sternly.

I ducked my head.

“No, you don’t get to go sheepish, it doesn’t suit you.”

That made me laugh and she smiled with me.

“You do need to get some more rest. There’s nothing that you can do to help right now,” Jude said, her voice taking on a scolding tone.

I sighed. “I know, I just need to do something instead of lay in bed all day.”

Jude sat next to me and looked up at the rafters. Her brow furrowed and she started chewing on her bottom lip. While she was thinking about things, I played catch with Logan.

“Lunch,” she suddenly said. “You can help me make lunch for everyone. Then you’ll go lie back down.”

I sighed and smiled up at her, grateful that she wasn’t sending me back to bed right away.

“I can do that. Help me up.” I said as I wiggled to the front edge of the couch. Jude smiled and helped me up and followed me to the kitchen. I was happy just to be included in anything and I think it showed. I was heading for the fridge when Murphy came through the backdoor. I let out a huge groan when I saw her.

“Don’t give me that tone, Young Lady. Jude called me. I’m sending you back to bed,” she said as she took off her coat and shook it out. The snow was still falling outside. I mentally cursed the Ides of March for being so fickle.

“Took you long enough, I was afraid I was actually going to have to give her something to do,” Jude said as she led me out of the kitchen with Murphy following close behind. I sighed deeply and let myself be led upstairs.

“You work all together too much. You were just at the office yesterday to do the books and play with the puppies,” Murphy said. She gave me a little push toward my bedroom and then followed me in when I walked inside.

The two of them together hustled me towards the bed and pushed clothes at me. I looked down and sighed again as I changed. I felt like crying, being pushed around and made to go back to bed. They must have seen my face because they looked at each other and then back at me when I took the potion out of Murphy’s hand and drank it before she could stop me.

I turned my back on both of them as I got into bed and curled under the covers. They left quietly, hissing at each other. I didn’t hear much of anything that they said, I was too busy holding back the feelings of uselessness and depression that had been plaguing me since the fight in the house. I cried myself to sleep. I woke a little when Ben came to bed, but I turned my back on him as well when he tried to kiss me goodnight. I curled tighter and hugged a pillow to my chest, falling back asleep again.

They must have been really worried about me because I stayed in bed for five days. I hardly left. I ate in bed, stayed put, I hardly picked up the books they brought me. On day six I must have worried them so much that they came to get me out of bed. They left just as quickly when I sent the swords over the fireplace sailing their direction. I was so entrenched in my own sorrow and misery that I let more days pass me by while I stayed in bed like I was supposed to do.

I scared the shit out of them and myself with the length of my depression. Not even Ben’s promise of getting out of the house made a difference. I just wanted to go back home and crawl back into bed. That’s all I was sure I was good for.

We came back inside, I barely spared a glance for Sabine and the children as they ran to the door. It made my heart ache inside to ignore them, but I figured it was best. I heard Alphie start crying and Logan shushing him as I headed up the stairs, dropping my coat and gloves in a pile on the stairs. In the hall I just stepped out of my boots and left them in the middle of the hallway.

I crawled back in to bed, the lump in my throat falling into my chest as I cried myself to sleep again and slept for three more days. Sometime in April Murphy finally figured out what was going on with me and came storming in to the room with Jude.

“Grab her. We need to force this down her throat if we’re going to save her,” Murphy said as she pulled the cork on the dark-colored bottle she held in her hand.

The smell of Lilacs and fresh spring grass hit my nose and made me gag. I tried to fight Jude off, but I was too weak from spending all that time in bed and using my abilities to do things for me. Jude gasped as I looked up at her.

“Her eyes have no color!” she exclaimed.

Murphy’s frown deepened. “Let’s hope we got to her in time then. Hold her head back and open her mouth.”

Jude obeyed her instructions and I tried to push the bottle away, the fresh spring smell made me recoil in horror and I wanted to part of whatever was in that flask. Murphy pushed aside my hands like they were nothing and forced the potion down my throat. I gagged, but swallowed it when it was clear that I had to do that or drown. They were firm with getting it down my throat.

When I had swallowed it all and started crying in to Jude’s chest, with Murphy petting my hair after setting the bottle aside, the worry lines on her face deepened.

“Did we get it in her in time?” she whispered.

“We won’t know until morning. Till then we have to watch. To make sure she doesn’t turn. I will not have one of them in my family,” Murphy said, her voice turning to iron at the end. I cried myself to sleep, clutching the woman I  called mother.

I woke the next morning and moaned. My head was killing me. I sat up and looked around, spotting Jude sprawled out on the bed next to me and Murphy parked in a chair next to the bed. I tried to ease my way out of bed for the toilet, but I managed to wake them up. Murphy stirred first, coming out of her sleep slowly, but when she did; the first thing she looked at was my eyes. She must have liked what she saw there because she nodded and helped me up. Jude woke up as we were walking to the bathroom.

“Murphy?” she said, letting the question hang in the air.

“She’s fine. We don’t have to worry anymore,” she replied.

Jude let out a huge sigh and moved off the bed, heading for the door. I was a little confused at first, but Murphy helped me to the bathroom and watched over me as I sat and relieved myself. I nearly fell asleep while sitting there, but she nudged me awake and helped me up after I’d dried myself off.

“What happened?” I asked softly as I washed my hands.

“Nothing you have to worry about,” Murphy said.

I got angry and sent the metal stand for the toilet paper across the room. Murphy looked from me to where the stand was embedded in the wall and sighed.

“You were under a particularly nasty spell. Whomever left it in that house, left it for you. They placed all the effects of postpartum depression times three on you,” Murphy said. Her words sunk in and I looked up at her in horror. “Yes, you would have lost the baby if we hadn’t held you down and made you drink the potion.”

“Who, why?” I said, stuttering out the words.

“We still don’t know, but you’re not going anywhere outside if this house without someone with you at all times. They’re playing nasty now and I’m not having it,” Murphy said as she led me back to bed. “They’ve messed with the wrong witches family.”

I sighed and floated my phone over to me. I scrolled through the numbers until I’d gotten to the one I wanted. Hitting call and then the speaker phone icon, I waited for the person on the end of the line to answer.

“Hello?” The person answered.

“Crows and brier thorns.”

“I’ll be there in the morning, Marlowe. Tell Ben I said hello.”

“Will do. Looking forward to your visit,” I replied and hung up the phone.

Murphy looked at me with a raised eyebrow.

“The head of the North American covens. All of the covens.”

She let out a whistle. “I didn’t know you had that kind of firepower in your pocket.”

“Not my pocket. Ben’s. He gave me the number with explicit instructions not to call unless my life was in danger again,” I said as I climbed in to bed and flopped back against the pillows. “I assume you didn’t tell Ben this was a spell?”

“No, we thought it best not to say anything since he’s been worried sick about you and the search isn’t going well. They’ve called it off completely. The Sheriff resigned. We’re without a protector now.”

I lifted the arm I’d thrown across my eyes and looked at her. Her face was drawn with worry and the lines on her face looked deeper.

“Then it’s a good thing I’m calling him in,” I said as I wiggled into bed and yawned hard. “How long till the effects wear off?”

“Few days, give or take,” She said as she pulled the covers up and straightened them over me. “What’s his name?”

“Alvin MacDoogan. He’s the opposite of Ben. You’ll see when he gets here,” I said with a yawn.

Murphy nodded and kissed my forehead before dropping back into her chair.

“Sleep child.”

“Plan on doing that,” I said as I dropped off again. I could hear Murphy chuckling before the darkness overtook me completely.

 

-Marlowe

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Full Moon Rising

So we’ve made it to the full moon in this house and honestly? We’re all really excited. Especially Logan. He can’t sit still. He keeps bouncing from one person to another, looking for a lap to sit on and someone to hold him until he find someone else interesting to switch to.

It was cute the first hour. Now it’s just annoying to have a fifty pound dragonet land on your back.

Alphonse is handling the situation well, he’s understandably nervous, because he keeps asking Ben if he’ll change back in to a human again. We’ve all tried to assure him that he will, but until he actually does, I’m not sure that he’s going to believe us.

With all the new child in the house business, we totally forgot about Jude coming home to visit. She timed it right though, arriving that evening after I’d put everyone in their cages for the change. I was running back up the stairs when I heard the bell ringing. Thinking it was the Sheriff with an update, I ran for the front door and flung it open.

“Oh, it’s you. Don’t you know family doesn’t have to knock?” I said.

Jude laughed. “Well that’s one hell of a welcome home.”

“I’m sorry,” I said as I hugged her. “It’s the full moon. I’ve got everyone down stairs already.”

“Even Ben?”

“Yeah. He’s down with our boys.”

“Logan, Mark and Miles.”

“Alphonse too,” I said absently as I shut the door behind her after she came in.

“Who is Alphonse?”

“Ben and I are adopting Alphonse,” I said over my shoulder. “Are you coming to meet your grandson or not?”

I opened the door to the basement with one hand after gathering up my blankets and things. Looking back at her, I waited while she stared at me with her mouth agape. Then the laughter started. It was answered from below with a bellow that told me the change had already happened.

“Oh, I can’t wait to hear about how this happened,” Jude said as she followed me down to the basement.

“It’s a tale, all right.”

I stopped and opened up the cells for Mark and Miles. Miles leaped out of his and padded over to Jude. He started mouthing her hand, which made Jude laugh and scratch his ears.

“Don’t encourage him,” I said as I walked past them and opened the doors to the dragons.

I was greeted with tears and a little blonde boy running in to my arms. I handed Jude some of my things and wrapped Logan in a blanket before scooping him up and cuddling him close. I looked over at Jude, whose mouth was agape again. I smiled.

“Logan meet Grammy,” I said to him as he cried in to my shoulder.

Logan sniffed and peeked out from under my chin. Jude smiled and waved at him. That got her a watery smile before he started with the tears again. I started singing softly to him while making my way over to where Alphonse and Ben were curled up together in the nest. I smiled at Alphie when he nuzzled my leg. His deep purple scales made him look like he was black in color.

“Jude,” I called over to her. “this is Alphonse.”

“Oh he’s beautiful,” Jude said softly as she came over and scratched Alphonse’s chin when he let her.

Mark padded over to me and nuzzled Logan’s leg. Logan looked down and gasped, pulling his leg back.

“No Logan. That’s Mark.”

Logan looked down and Mark and smiled a little before looking back up at me.

“It’s okay,” I said to him and set him down with his blanket wrapped tightly around him.

Mark sat down and looked at Logan, waiting patiently. Logan reached a hand out of his blanket and touched Marks head gently. I held in a breath, but when Logan squealed at how soft Mark’s fur was and dived both hands in to it and gripped tightly; I let it out again. I knew Logan would be okay with Mark’s wolf.

Jude laughed and I smiled over at her.

“So this is how dragons have children?”

“You know, I haven’t really thought about it? I’m sure that it’s the opposite for male dragons then it is for female,” I said with a laugh.

“That’s got to be a relief for you.”

“Yes, yes it is. I do not want to think about having to give birth to an egg the size of Logan’s before he hatched.”

Jude started laughing again and Logan made his way over to her. He looked up at her and smiled. Jude held her arms out and Logan held his up to her. She cuddled Logan close and sighed.

“I always wanted this, you know. I always wanted grand children.”

“Well now you’ve got two.”

I spread out my blanket in Ben’s arms and crawled in, covering myself with the other one. Ben leaned his head down and nuzzled my shoulder. I smiled up at him as I scratched his chin.

“After the wedding, we’ll think about more kids big guy.”

Ben rumbled in response.

“Why do I get the feeling you won’t leave the whole ‘big family’ thing alone?” I said to him.

He nudged my shoulder, which caused Jude to laugh.

“This must be an argument that you two have frequently.”

“Pretty much. He just smiles and goes on his way, like that’s going to convince me.”

“I got news for you kid, you’re already building a large family.”

Ben snorted.

“Oh don’t start or I’m going upstairs for the night,” I said to him.

He rumbled at me, distressed and pulled his legs closer to me. Jude smiled at us and let out a little chuckle. That’s when I noticed that Logan was asleep in Jude’s arms.

“Do you want to put him down? He’s asleep.”

“Should I take him upstairs with me?”

I looked over at Mark, who nodded. There would be time enough for him to sleep down here with the rest of us.

“Yeah, it’s okay. He might not be able to talk yet. We’re still working on that with Alphonse too. So he’ll emote. Try your best, but he’ll probably sleep all night. Changing is hard.”

Jude nodded and wished us good night before going upstairs with Logan and closing the door behind her. I settled in to my spot with my book when Mark put his paw on my leg. I looked up at him and got a face lick.

“Oh, gross. I really hope you didn’t just lick your butt.”

Mark let his tongue loll out of his mouth and barked. I laughed.

“I love you too, Mark.”

I watched him settle in his usual spot with Miles. Alphonse was slowly edging his way towards me. I patted my lap and he put his head down. I went back to reading my book while scratching his neck and eye ridges. Ben rumbled and I looked up.

“You want me to read?”

Ben nodded, so I shrugged and started reading aloud. Shortly after midnight, we all dropped off in to a deep sleep. I woke up to a shivering little boy in front of me, and his adoptive father behind me. I smiled and tucked the blankets around us before drifting off back to sleep.

We all got a rude awakening when Logan and Jude came down the steps. Logan clapped at us like Alphonse does to get attention. I yawned and lifted my head. Logan squealed and reached out for me. I laughed and wiggled out of the nest, going over to him and scooped him up from Jude.

“Look at you! Aren’t you handsome?” I said as I tickled his tummy.

Logan laughed and kissed my cheek. I looked up at Jude.

“Don’t look at me, he’s been doing that since he got up this morning.”

I shrugged and snuggled Logan closer. I felt a tug on my shirt and I looked down, Alphonse had woken up. I smiled and ran my hand over his hair. He smiled up at me in return. Logan saw who it was and held out his arms. Alphonse smiled back at him and I set Logan down, the two hugged.

Jude edged over to me and whispered, “Can they talk to each other?”

“Yeah. Dragon thing, apparently. Ben will explain when he gets up.”

“I’m awake,” He said as he finished wrapping one of the towels from the stack around his waist. “who can sleep with that noise?”

I laughed. “I did warn you.”

Alphonse smiled up at Ben and laughed when Ben scooped him up. I picked up Logan again and looked over at Miles and Mark. They were still asleep.

“Who’s in the mood for waffles?” I asked.

The answer got applause from the boys and laughter from Ben. Jude just shook her head and followed us all up the stairs.

-Marlowe

Shopping with kids

Everything went fine on Thursday night, the waffles were a bit hit with Alphonse and Logan. Bed time? Not so much. It took us two hours to get them into bed and halfway through the night, Alphonse ended up in bed with Ben and myself. Logan was found in bed with Mark later that morning. I guess he knew that Mark needed him that night. 

We had another hurdle the next morning when Ben decided he was going to go into the office only for half the day. Alphonse didn’t want to let him go. Ben managed to talk Alphie in to letting go and was out of the house while I stood in the backdoor with a crying child I couldn’t understand yet.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt that helpless.

I tried my best to calm Alphie down, but there was nothing that I could say to him that wouldn’t seem like I was patronizing him. So instead I held him close and let him cry. Miles walked in then and looked from us to the backdoor and back.

“Ben went to work already?”

I nodded. “He promised a half day and not to leave the office, which means he’ll stay the whole day and leave the office whenever he can.”

Miles laughed. “Got him nailed.”

“Yeah well, I pick up on people fast.” “I said as I cuddled Alphie. “You’re going shopping with us today, by the way.”

Miles whipped around from where he was poking in the fridge. “Shopping? My favorite word.”

“Alphonse needs clothes. You’re going shopping with us.” I said.

Miles looked from me to Alphie and back. “Why am I going again? I’m not suitable for children.”

“You’re a boy.”

“I’m a gay man.”

“Male. XY chromosome.”

Miles’s forehead wrinkled as he thought, then sighed. “You win. I can’t think a come back for that this early.”

I laughed. “If you behave, I’ll let you drag me in to the wedding shops.”

With that, the smile was back on Miles’s face. “You hear that Alphie? Your Mom is going to let me dress her up like a princess.”

Alphonse smiled up at me and reached up. I bent down and he touched my face. Miles laughed.

“I think he’s saying you are pretty.”

Alphonse nodded.

I smiled at him and then swooped in to kiss his nose. “I think you’re pretty too.”

Alphonse blushed and looked down at his hands. Miles grinned.

“You have an effect on men and little boys, Lowe.”

I smiled and got out my mixer. “More waffles today?”

Alphonse nodded so hard he almost fell off his chair. Miles grinned and helped me make waffles for everyone. As soon as the first batch was finished, Mark walked in to the room with Logan perched on his back and shoulders. He trumpeted a hello and startled us; we didn’t see them walk in. I was teaching Alphonse how to get the waffle out of the waffle iron.

“Hey. Breakfast?” I asked and held up a waffle.

Mark looked at all of us and shook his head. “No. I’m going to work.”

We watched as Logan hopped off Mark and on to Miles as he headed out the backdoor.

“What was that about?”

“We brought home Alphonse. He doesn’t approve.”

“Well I can see the hesitation, but you’re right. You can’t hide until all of this blows over.”

“I think that’s what he wants us to do, because of all the forced changes.” I said.

Alphonse grabbed my hand and looked up at me.

“What is it, Alphie?” I asked.

He mimed sad and pointed at the backdoor.

“Oh. You think Mark is sad?”

Alphonse nodded.

“Well, that is something to consider.” I kissed Alphonse’s head. “I’ll think about it, okay?”

Alphonse nodded.

“Come help me wash dishes. I’ll show you how.” I said to Alphie and smiled when he pushed his chair over eagerly.

Together we washed the dishes. I smoothed over looks of concern when a plate was dropped and blew bubbles at Alphonse to make him smile. When they were done, we were both covered in suds and I declared it was bath time before we went shopping. I hauled Alphonse up and over my shoulder while he laughed and took us both upstairs. It didn’t take much to convince him to get into the tub, especially when I put bubbles in to the water. Dish soap is a great thing.

After Alphonses’ bath it was my turn. While I showered, Miles helped Alphonse in to his clothes. They were both ready to go by the time I got downstairs.

“Well, this is a first. Usually I’m waiting on you.” I said to Miles.

“Alphie insisted on helping me get dressed so I couldn’t procrastinate.” Miles said.

I laughed and grabbed my coat. “Let’s go.”

We trooped out the door and headed for the garage. After getting in to the Jeep, we headed out and to Serene Harbor. It was the only place that I knew of to get all Alphie’s clothes in one place where we wouldn’t have to leave. As soon as I parked and we got out of the car, Alphonse’s hand was in mine and his eyes went wide.

I looked down and spotted Alphonse’s look. “It’s okay, Alphie. No one is going to hurt you here. Just stay next to me, okay?”

Alphonse nodded and we walked in to the mall. Miles dragged us from store to store. We walked out of a shoe store with boots for Alphonse who I could see was on the verge of an epic meltdown. His mouth was drawn and he looked really confused.

“Miles, let’s go shop for my dress.” I said.

Miles stopped dead in the middle of his sentence and looked at me. “You were serious this morning, weren’t you?”

“Yes.” I said and tilted my head to where Alphonse was.

Miles looked down and nodded. “Dress it is.”

I gave Miles my bags and scooped up Alphonse who was sniffling.

“Alphie, honey, do you want to go help me choose my wedding dress?”

Alphonse looked up at me with wide eyes.

“It’s a dress that’s very special. Would you like to help me pick one?”

Alphonse nodded.

“Okay, but you have to keep it a secret. A Secret is a promise that you can’t tell. Understand?”

Alphonse scrunched his nose up.

“You can’t tell Daddy, understand? He’s not supposed to know about my dress.”

Alphonse nodded with a little smile.

“Okay. Let’s go pick one out.”

We headed in to the first shop and were immediately cooed and fussed over while we all picked out gowns for me to try on. Even Alphonse lost the storm clouds in his eyes and helped Miles. He manged to pick out two. One he wouldn’t let go of, it was a strapless with an a-line cut and way too much skirt for me. The second was a mermaid gown that was covered in lace. I shook my head and tried them on anyway.

I stepped in to the dressing room and with the help of the attendant, I tried on the mermaid gown that Alphonse had picked out first. I silently thanked my lucky stars that I’d thought of this to save the day. When the lady helped me zip up I realized that my kid had good taste. The sleeves were lace down the arms and covered me up to my neck, leaving the back free and even had a small train.

“My kid has a good eye.” I said and the attendant laughed.

“He does, but this isn’t your dress.” She said.

“How do you know?”

“You’re not glowing, but lets show them anyway.”

I smiled and walked out to show Alphonse and Miles. As I cam around the corner of the dressing rooms, Alphonse clapped. That caused everyone to laugh.

“Well, the kid’s got a point. You look hot.” Miles said.

“You’re gay.”

“I have eyes, don’t I? I can appreciate a fine figure, but that isn’t your dress.”

I laughed. “That’s what the attendant said.”

I saw Alphonse frown and I bent down to explain. “Honey I’m not glowing. You’ll know my dress when I’m wearing it, okay?”

Alphonse looked like he was unsure of what I said, but nodded. I kissed his forehead and headed back in to the dressing room. I tried on one of Mile’s gowns next, but discarded it before I even got out of the dressing room. It was too froofy. Yes, froofy is a word. It was a ball gown.

I picked up the next gown, the one Alphonse had picked out and wouldn’t let go of. As the attendant was doing up the row of buttons in the back, I looked at myself in the mirror and all of a sudden I was crying. This was it. It was my dress. I looked back at her and she nodded.

“Yes, this is the one. I can see it in your face.”

I smiled and looked over the gown. It was plain ivory, drop waist that was an a-line cut and a full tulle skirt. The top was pleated to the waist, that dropped in to a scrollwork pattern that reflected on the skirt. I was in love with the dress. I had to show them. I grinned at the lady and walked out to Miles and Alphonse.

I rounded the corner and relished the look on Miles’s face. His mouth opened and closed like a fish. Alphonse slid off his chair and walked over to me. He reached up and I bent down. He touched my face, which I’d started to realize was his way of saying beautiful.

I smiled down at him and kissed his forehead. “I think so too.”

I looked over my shoulder at the woman behind me. “I’ll need a veil and the accessories that go with this dress. It’s mine.”

The woman nodded and hurried off to gather up the matching items. Miles came over to me and hugged me hard.

“I never thought I’d see you in your dress. I always thought that you’d get married where I couldn’t go.” He whispered.

“I could never get married without you, Sheep.” I said as I hugged him back. “You’re the only family from back there that I’d want standing with me.”

I felt a tugging on the dress and Alphonse motioned that he wanted up. I scooped him up and kissed him. He hugged me hard. I had a hard time putting him down when the attendant came back over with my veil. I dipped down while she pinned it on. I stood up and put the earrings in that she handed me. When I was done I turned to Miles and Alphonse. Alphonse started to clap again.

“I think so too, Alphie.” Miles said. “That’s it. Man, Ben is going to be so mad when you tell him you found the dress before you guys set a date.”

I laughed and motioned for the attendant to follow me back in to the dressing room. She helped me get out of the gown and while I was pulling on my clothes, they bagged everything. I came out of the dressing room and went to the register so that I could pay for the dress and the alterations. It was just a little bit big and a little too long. After paying for everything, I realized that I did not have shoes.

“I need shoes.”

“What? Now?” Miles said.

“I need shoes, for the dress.” I said.

“You have ages to find them.”

“Nope. We’re finding them today. Come on.”

I marched us back in to the store and asked where the best place to buy shoes was located. They steered us to a smaller shoe store Miles and I had managed to over look.

“Shoes.” I said as I walked inside with Alphonse, who was looking a little worried.

We poked through the shoe racks until I found them at the very back of the store, forgotten in a pile. My shoes were a pair of white satin pumps with almost the same kind of scroll work on the backs, going down the heels.

“What do you think?” I asked Miles as I tried them on.

“I think it’s damn fortunate that we’re here today. Those shoes are fifty percent off.”

“Well I’m not going to question it. They’re here, they will be mine.” I said as I turned to Alphonse. “Well?”

Alphonse clapped.

“Good. They’re mine.” I took them off and placed them back in to the box.

I was pulling my shoes on and gathering up my things when I heard the door open and a familiar voice run through the shop.

“I’m telling you, I saw her through the window! She was trying on dresses! Wedding dresses!”

I laughed. “Hello, Grandmama.”

Grandmama Murphy’s head whipped around and spotted all of us standing there.

“My baby!” She said as she rushed forward and hugged me. “Was it really you in that dress?”

“Yes, Grandmama.” I said with a smile.

“You’ll make that boy cry.” She said.

“Good. I don’t want to be the only one crying when I get married.”

Grandmama Murphy laughed and hugged me again. Then she spotted Alphonse.

“and just who is this?” She asked.

“This is Alphonse, you’re great-grandson.”

Grandmama Murphy looked from me to Alphonse and smiled broadly. “Well-A-Day! I’ll be. I didn’t know you and Ben were adopting!”

“We didn’t either until we saw Alphonse. He’s ours.” I said as I looked down at Alphonse. “Alphie, this is your Great-Grandma Murphy.”

Alphonse smiled up at Grandmama Murphy and lifted his hand.

“He wants you to bend over.”

Grandmama Murphy bent over and Alphonse touched her face. I smiled.

“He says you’re beautiful.”

“Well I think he’s pretty too.” She said as she stood up. “Dinner this week so you can explain. I’ll be over. For now, I’m off to go brag my babies are getting serious.”

I laughed and kissed her cheek. “I love you Grandmama.”

Miles handed me back my box and while I paid he was kissing and hugging grandmamma Murphy goodbye.

“Well, I think it’s time we went home.” I said to Miles when he got back.

“I think so too. I’m actually tired of shopping.” Miles said.

I gasped. “You?!”

Miles laughed. “Shut up.”

We made our way back home in record time and were just hauling in the bags when Ben got home. I smiled up at him and kissed him hello after dumping my bags on the table.

“What’s all this?” He asked when we broke apart and scooped Alphonse up.

“We went shopping for Alphie’s clothes and a few other things.” I said with a smile.

Ben didn’t notice. He was staring intently at Alphonse, who was smiling.

“You bought your dress, but he won’t let me see what it looks like.” Ben said with a little pout.

I laughed. “That’s right. I made him promise not to tell.”

“I like the shoes though.” He said as he kissed me again.

I kissed him back. “Now we just need a date and my ring.”

“Still insisting on that?”

“Yes I am.”

“That’s good because I have it with me.” Ben said as he set Alphonse down on the table and pulled a box out of his pocket, opening it up and taking a ring out. Set in to the white gold band was a flower that held a pearl. I gasped.

“Oh Ben.” I said.

“I take it it’s perfect?”

I nodded with tears in my eyes. I looked up at him. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” He said as he slipped the ring on to my left hand.

I kissed him hard and broke apart laughing when Alphonse clapped.

It was perfect.

– Marlowe

Arrivals

I pulled the car in to our drive and stopped at the end. The house had outdone itself, the pine trees had been replaced by large oaks and while everyone was out of the house, it had changed from a two-story castle to three and added a turret. Everything had been edged in multi-colored lights. I started laughing.

“Ben.” I said as I nudged him so he’d stop checking on the boys in the back seat. “Look.”

Ben turned around and his eyes went wide. “I guess no one’s home then.”

I snickered and took my foot off the brake pedal. The car moved forward and we made our way down the drive and went right in to the garage after pushing the button. Ben and I got out of the car. I went to the backdoor and before I could reach in for Alphonse, he was already up and in my arms. I smiled down at him.

“It’s okay, luv. You’re home now.” I said and tucked him under the cloak with me.

I’d have to do something soon about his clothing situation soon. I looked over the car at Ben, who had Logan. He grinned at me and I shook my head, smiling at him. I started toward the house with Alphonse and Ben caught up with me, taking my hand in his.

“You still sure?” Ben asked.

“We’re home. I’m sure. Now let’s go in.” I said and gave his hand a tug.

I gave Ben my keys so he could open up the door for myself and Alphonse, Logan had wrapped himself around Ben and hung on. As soon as we got inside, Logan took off, chirruping and flying through the house.

“Well, it looks like someone is happy to be home.” I said with a smile.

I walked in with Alphonse and Ben helped me take off my cloak. I tried to set Alphonse down, but he clung to my neck tightly. There was no way Alphie was going to let go of me yet.

“My darling, I have to make dinner, it’s my turn so you have to sit down. Would you like to sit down in the kitchen with me, where you can see?”

Alphonse nodded and finally let go when I pulled out a stool for him to sit at the table. Alphonse climbed on to the stool and sat, staring at me.

“I wish I could hear him.” I said to Ben softly.

“You will.” Ben said.

“Dinner ideas?” I said, wanting to change the subject. It hurt not hearing Logan or Alphonse.

“Pancakes?” Ben said.

“Is that coming from your or Alphie?” I asked as I opened the fridge.

“Me. He wants waffles. I can’t trust a kid who likes waffles better.”

“I knew I liked him.” I said as I winked at Alphonse. “Waffles it is.”

“You wound me, woman.” Ben said, dragging the words out in to a whine.

Alphonse giggled and I looked over at him and smiled.

“What should we have with the waffles? Berries? Bananas? Lots of syrup?”

“Alphonse wants Bananas and syrup. I want the berries in that sauce you make.”

“All right, but I need a favor from you.”

“Anything.” Ben said.

“I need you to go find Mark and Miles so they know what’s for dinner. You’ll also need to tell them about Alphie.” I said.

“What about my translating?” Ben asked.

Well well just have to deal until-” I was cut off by the backdoor opening and Mark walking in, stomping his boots off.

“You would not believe the amount of epic sh- ah, crap that is going on out there.” Mark said. He got a good look at Alphonse and then at me and Ben. “Did I miss something?”

I smiled over at Mark. “This is Alphonse.”

Mark looked at me, then back at Ben again, his mouth opening and closing like a big fish. Alphonse giggled at Mark. I looked over at Ben.

“He says Mark looks like on of the fish from the tank at the hospital.”

I laughed. “I thought the same thing, Poppet.”

“Hospital? But you- I mean, how could you- you’ve only been seeing each other for six months!”

I burst out laughing. “Mark! We’re adopting him. I didn’t give birth that fast!”

Ben started laughing and scooped up Alphonse, setting him on his lap. “This little one hatched a month before Logan. He needed parents. We’re adopting him.”

Mark looked at all of us. “You people are crazy.”

“Ben take Alphonse in to the Great Hall with Logan.” I said as I went over to Mark and led him to the table.

Mark dropped his bags and sat down as Ben and Alphonse left the room.

“There’s something out there, causing this much havoc and you want to adopt a child? Ben almost died!”

“I know better than anyone how it feels to lose someone, but life doesn’t stop going on just because they’re dead. Ben and I made the decision together,” I said. “we’re going to try to keep living our lives, Mark. Even with all this mess going on. Alphonse needs a family. We just happen to be building one.”

“Yes, but what about if one of you dies? What’s going to happen then?”

“I imagine that either one of us will find a way to keep living, even if it’s just for the kids at first.” I said. I placed my hands over his. “You’re over thinking things. It’s over for now. Let’s just take the quiet as it comes and hope that it stays that way for a good long while.”

“I want to accept that. I do, but I can’t help thinking that the two of you have made a huge mistake.” Mark said as he looked down at my hands.

“If it is a mistake, then it’s our mistake and you can blame us for it later. For now, I’m going to make waffles for my family. That includes you, if you’re interested.” I said as I got up from the table.

Mark shook his head and picked up his things. “I’m going up to shower. Don’t hold dinner for me.”

I watched him walk out and sighed. That hadn’t gone well and I made a note to sit down with him and Ben later to air everything out between the three of us. I was pulling out my stand mixer when Miles came bounding through the door, covered in snow and looking furious. I put my hands on my hips and frowned at him.

“My kitchen is not a place for an abominable snow beast. Go back outside and brush yourself off.”

“But I have news!” Miles said as he shed his outerwear and plopped down on to the stool that Mark had just vacated.

“What kind of news?” I asked because he was clearly not going to listen to me.

“They found a trace of magic left at the site that could lead them back to whomever is doing all the nasty business in town!”

That got my attention away from the waffles. “Go on.”

“That it, that’s all I’ve got.” Miles said.

I sighed. “You didn’t get any information from Eric?”

“No and he told me to tell you to keep your nose out of it.” Miles said.

I laughed. “That sounds like him.”

“The FBI was there too, including that man.” Miles said.

“Come off it, I know you’re still attracted to him.”

“Attracted, yes. In love? No. The jackass broke my heart.” Miles pouted.

I shook my head. “As it happens, I have news too.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. You’re an Uncle.” I said.

I watched the emotions play across his face.

“You’re pregnant? Already?” Miles asked and then let out a whoop, picking me up and spinning me around.

“No you great loon! Let me go.” I said, laughing.

“Then how am I an Uncle?” Miles looked perplexed.

I snickered. “Ben and I are adopting a little boy from the hospital. He’s in the Great Hall with Ben and Logan now.”

Miles set me down and looked at my face. “You’re serious?”

“Yes. His name is Alphonse.”

“Who saddled the kid with that name?” Miles said with a wrinkle to his nose.

“He chose it. We’re not saying at word, understand? He likes it and that’s that.” I said firmly.

“Can I call him Alphie?”

“We already do. Go say hi.” I said as I started pulling out the ingredients for the waffles. I turned around and he was gone.

Shaking my head, I started making the batter on auto-pilot, letting my mind drift. I made up lists of things Alphonse would need that he didn’t have and sighed.

“What’s up, habibi?” Ben asked as he came back in to the room.

“Alphie. I’m going to need to go shopping tomorrow with him. You too, if you feel up to it.” I said as I finished up the batter and set it back in to the fridge to chill.

“He’s going to need quite a lot of stuff, isn’t he?”

“Including a better coat than the one he has now. It’s too thin.” I said as I stepped in to his arms.

“A lot to take in.” Ben said.

“Yeah; but we can handle it, can’t we?”

“We can handle anything.” Ben said.

I really hoped that was true.

-Marlowe

Mountain Snow

Sometimes I think of Blueville as a snow globe.

Right now it’s white and there’s a couple of inches of snow on the ground. It might be gone tomorrow, but right now it looks like someone shook the globe and it’s falling down.

That’s what I woke up to this morning. Well, that and the twins jumping on the bed. Gibbs and Winston joined them and pretty soon we had a tumble of bodies, both furry and clothed, on top of Ben and I as we woke up. After chasing everyone out so that Ben and I could get dressed, we joined them in the kitchen for breakfast.

“Since there’s no flour left, how about bacon and eggs?” I said as I pulled out the bacon from the fridge.

There were gagging noises coming from Peter. I raised an eyebrow at him and he looked sheepish.

“I really don’t like eggs. May I have oatmeal, please?”

“Since you asked nicely, yes.”

Ben and I were halfway through making breakfast when Miles and Mark stumbled in from upstairs. They’d looked as if they had showered some time in the night. They slid on to stools and Miles promptly slumped over, laying his head on his crossed arms. It took me all of five minutes to slide a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon in front of either. Ben placed a glass of whatever juice we had in the fridge in front of them.

When the Twins had finished eating, they went off to explore the games closet with Ben as I cleaned up breakfast. I eyed the two sitting at the counter still.

“I wanted to thank you two for what you did last night.”

“Ben told us why they’re here last night. He caught us as we were stumbling up the stairs.” Miles mumbled.

“It’s a damn good idea, Marlowe. I hate being so out of the loop.” Mark said.

“Thanks. Now I want the two of you to go back to bed.”

“Can’t, gotta work.” Mark said as he got up from the table.

“Well, you’re not going anywhere in that mess.” I said as I pointed at the backdoor.

It was coming down even harder. It looked like the weather man was wrong about the snow. Miles and Mark swore in unison when they saw the snow coming down.

“I’m going to call in to the library and see if they’re opening. If they aren’t I’m going back to bed. This is bananas.” Miles said as he shuffled out of the kitchen.

“I guess I’ll be in the library, catching up on the paperwork I have here.” Mark said.

“That’s a good idea. Ben and I will be in the Great Hall with the twins. Their father asked us to keep them again tonight. He’ll be pulling double shifts because of all the snow.”

“So early in November though?” Mark asked.

“With all the strange business that’s been happening lately, I’m not surprised there’s an out of season blizzard building up out there. I already did the shopping this week so we’re okay for a few days at least.” I said as I finished cleaning up and set the dishes to dry.

It’s a shame that Castles don’t come with dishwashers, I thought as I went to join Ben in the Great Hall.

I walked in on a rousing game of Munchkin going on and was content to watch as they played. It was a deceptively simple game and Ben managed to get trounced by Bonnie who got up and did a little dance to celebrate. I laughed and looked over at Ben, who nodded at me and mouthed that we’d talk later. The rest of the morning went by like that, then around noon we broke for lunch. Ben and I went for the whole grilled cheese and tomato soup standard. After lunch we sent the twins off to explore the castle. They had more than enough rooms to find trouble in, while Ben and I sat down on the sofa for some rest.

“Two, maybe even four.” Ben mumbled.

“What?” I said with a yawn. I wasn’t used to kids.

“Kids. We need to have kids.”

I snuggled in to his chest. “Really? I was thinking we’d just go until the castle couldn’t hold us any longer.”

Ben snorted a laugh. “Yeah right. You’d lose your patience after while.”

I yawned again. “Fair point. I’m not known for my limitless patience.”

My yawn caught on, because Ben soon followed and pulled me down so we were laying on the sofa, rather than sitting on it together. I nuzzled his chest and didn’t hear what he was saying because I passed out cold.

I woke up to whispers later and someone draping a blanket over us. I smiled and snuggled back in to Ben’s warmth, falling asleep again.

The rest of the night went like that. We didn’t move until morning.

-Marlowe.

The Shop

It was hard pulling myself away from Ben yesterday morning.

We’d spent all weekend relaxing and just taking it easy, but it was Monday and I finally got the go head from the Doctor and the Physio-therapist to go back to work. I was excited to get back under the hood. Ben was not as pleased as I was to get out of the house. He was still stuck in it for a few more days.

I’d only been at work five minutes when Miles sent me the first photo of Ben hanging upside down. The rain gutter had him by the leg and put him within reach of Miles so that he could bring him back inside. I received two more as I went through the motions of opening up for the day.

Ben outside being held by a gargoyle.

Ben outside being chased back inside by the stone lions at the doors.

I finally gave in and called home at noon when I got the one of Ben, covered in dirt and being dragged back inside by Mark.

“This place is a prison and I can’t take it anymore.”

“You can and you will. The Doctor’s orders say rest, Ben. The photos I’ve been getting are not rest. They are the exact opposite.”

“Come home. I’ll rest with you.”

I sighed and tapped my forehead against the wall. I got a brilliant plan when I heard him whine that he was bored.

“Come to the shop. I need someone to go over my books.”

There was silence on the other end, then Ben cleared his throat. “On second thought, maybe I’m not that bored.”

I started laughing. “Ben, I know how much you love your work and I know this is killing you being stuck at home, but I’m not letting anything happen to you again. I need you to say there.”

Ben sighed. “One more day, then I have to go back to work.”

“One more day. We’ll go out to dinner tonight. Just you and me.”

“You’re on.”

“I’ll see you at home.” I was about to hand up when I thought of something wicked. “Oh and Ben?”

“Yeah, Lowe?”

“I’m out of underwear. Can  you do laundry today? I had to go without.”

I heard cursing on the other end as I hung up. That would keep him busy. I turned my phone on silent and tucked it into my back pocket. The Judge had brought in his hearse for a tune up and I wanted to get my hands dirty.

I picked up a socket wrench and was halfway through changing spark plugs when I heard the shop door open and someone shout my name. I shouted out for them to come to the back and grunted when the Sheriff came around the side.

“Hello, Eric. Any news?” I asked as I pulled a plug and chucked it in to the bin of used parts that couldn’t be reused.

“Yeah. Every single one of the dragons homes had Hex Bags and all 13 of them changed.”

“You said that before.”

“Now I’m sure. I was just guessing before.”

“You do an awful lot of guessing these days. Is there something that you’re not telling me that I can not tell Ben?”

“We still don’t know what’s going on and who’s doing all the incidents. The best we can do is call a specialist.”

I stopped what I was doing and looked up at the Sheriff. He looked like he hadn’t had any sleep in a few days.

“Bonnie keeping you up at night, Eric?” I said, trying to keep the mood light.

The Sheriff smiled. “No and neither is Peter. Both sleeping like angels now. It’s easier now that I have help at night.”

“I was sorry to hear about Sue being caught in that mess back in October. Is her sister helping out?”

He rubbed a hand over his face and looked at me. “Yeah, though she blames me for what happened. Like I could have known Sue was going in to work that day.”

“If you need a break from her and the twins, bring them over to me and Ben. We’ll watch them for an evening. The whole evening.”

“You’d take on twin eight-year-olds? For me?” The look on his face was priceless.

“Think of it as a trade. I’m plenty angry about what happened to Ben. Someone could have been hurt, but I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and I’ve come up with a deal. I’ll babysit for information. You keep me in the loop, I’ll make sure your twin witches don’t go turning people in to toads again or making the dog fly around the house.”

I watched the Sheriff consider my offer for all of five seconds. “Done. Tomorrow night okay? I need a break and so does Sandy.”

“Done.” I said. “You have my phone number, call when you’re ready to bring them over.”

“Thanks, Marlowe.”

“You’re welcome. Now about your car..”

He laughed. “I’ll bring it in next week. I know I’m behind on my oil changes.”

“You also need new brakes.” I pointed out and smiled when the Sheriff sighed.

“Next week. I promise.”

I nodded. I was about to ask him if he remembered to change his wiper blades when his phone rang. He nodded at me and then stepped outside to take his call. I went back to changing spark plugs. I didn’t notice when the Sheriff stepped back in.

“I might have to take you up on your offer to sit earlier than tomorrow night, Marlowe.”

I jerked and slammed my head against the hood. Cursing, I pulled myself out of the car’s guts and looked up at the Sheriff.

“What happened?”

“Sandy’s in the hospital. Heart attack. It seems the twins made her fly.”

I coughed to hide a giggle and that got me a look from the Sheriff. “I’ll close up early and pick them up. Who’s watching them now?”

“Miss Maggie. She says to pick them up at five. No rush.”

I snorted. Miss Maggie obviously didn’t know how long it took to get grease out of my hands. “Okay. Five it is. I’ll pick them up.”

“I hope I didn’t ruin any plans for you this evening.”

I thought about Ben and what I’d promised earlier. I really hoped he wouldn’t be angry. “Nothing that couldn’t be changed.”

The Sheriff left then and l went back to work on the Judge’s hearse. I worked steadily, letting my mind cycle through of all the memories that came with touching the metal that old. I was deep in the memory of a woman who pressed herself up against the hearse, begging to be taken with her husband when I felt a hand grab my shoulder. For the second time that day, I slammed my head against the roof so hard I saw stars.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! I tried calling your name but you weren’t paying attention.”

I pulled myself out from under the hood and glared at the person who interrupted my day. It was Sally Kolodney from the ice cream parlor. I nearly lost my temper, but reined it in. I kept telling her there was no hope for her car, but she kept insisting I try to fix it the poor thing.

“Hey Sally. How can I help you?”

She looked down and well, bashful. “Well, I finally took your advice and got another car.  I was hoping you could give it a tune up this week.”

If anything would surprise me yesterday, that’s all it would have taken. “What’d you buy, Sally?”

“Oh, that little Geo you said would be great for me. You were right. It’s perfect. Between that and the van, I’m all set for cars.” she was babbling, but I let her.

I was stunned someone in this town actually took my advice about cars. Sure, they’d let me fix them. Take my advice about what to buy? Not until today.

“Sure, Sally. I can tune her up for you. You’ll need to replace those breaks before we get too deep in to winter though.”

“Oh I’m sure. I’m sorry I didn’t believe you sooner, Marlowe. You were right about that car. We’re perfect for each other.”

I smiled. “Come back on Thursday. I’ll give you the whole morning.”

“Thanks!”

I watched her scoot out of the shop and then saw the clock. Swearing, I pulled off my coveralls and made my way around to close the doors. It was nearly four thirty. I had to hurry to get over to the Sheriff’s place to get the twins before five. I hurried through the motions, managing to close up shop in fifteen minutes. I broke every speed limit to get to the house and was only five minutes late.

Miss Maggie came out of the house with Bonnie and Peter, who ran up to the car, laughing.

“Miss Marlowe! Dad told us we’re going to your castle for the night because Aunt Sandy is sick!”

“All true poppets. In the back with you. Maybe the two of you eight year old terrors can tire my puppy out.”

They laughed and climbed in to the back with their bags, buckling themselves in before I could tell them to do so.

Miss Maggie coughed then and when I looked at her, she smiled. I knew that smile.

“No hints. Not even for you.”

“But haven’t put anything in to the pot yet on the date!”

“If you don’t know your own adopted grandson by now, then I can’t help you.” I said with a laugh.

“Now you’re just being mean.” She said as she put her hands on her hips.

“I am.” I replied with a laugh. I dropped my voice and leaned out of the car window as the two in the back started to squabble. “How is she?”

“Fine, fine. I saw her collapse when I was walking by. They didn’t see a thing. She’d started that movie about the talking things that look like Twinkies for them.”

“Ah, That one. I like that one. I’m glad she’s okay and that they didn’t see anything.”

“Me too. They’ve already been through enough.” When I looked in the rear view mirror and saw Peter raise a hand to his sister I raised an eyebrow and made the middle seat belt wrap around his arms so he couldn’t hit her.

“Hey! No fair!” He shouted. “You promised!”

“It’s not me!” She said and looked at me in the mirror.

“That’s right. It was me. You don’t hit each other, understand?”

They both looked down and sullenly replied, “yes, ma’am.”

Miss Maggie chuckled and patted my arm. “You’ll be just fine.”

“I’ll see you tomorrow night. Ben and I will need a night out.”

“I look forward to it. See you then.” She said as she stepped back from the curb and waved good-bye to me and the twins.

I headed home with the twins in the back and prayed that Ben wouldn’t be too angry about not getting his night out just yet. When I pulled in to the drive, he met me at the garage and got a look at what was in the back seat.

“Well, well. Where’d you get these two?”

“Jail birds. I broke them out for fun in a haunted castle and to tire out Gibbs.” I replied as he kissed me. There was gagging sounds from the back that made Ben pull back, laughing.

“That’s enough, you two. Inside.” He smiled when they got out of the car with their bags and ran for the door.

I got out of the car and as I locked it, I found myself turned around and pressed against the door.

“That was a naughty thing you did this morning, Marlowe.” He said.

“Did you do laundry?” I asked as I nipped his lower lip.

“Yes.” He said as he kissed me.

“Then it worked.” I said against his lips.

“Still dirty.” He said with another kiss and pulled back. Taking my hand in his, we walked in to the house together.

-Marlowe

“But he followed me home!”

I love Ben.

But there are some days where I’m not exactly certain that he understands why I do not want any more animals in the house.

“He followed me home!” – This works when you’re eight-years-old and cute enough to carry it off well. It does not work when you’re 32 and staring at your girlfriend who’s three-year-old golden retriever just ate her running shoes and she’s chasing him around the house trying to get the shoe back.

“Hey, Marlowe? He thinks it’s a game, so if you just stop-” Ben was trying to say as I ran through the house after Winston. I’d had just about enough of his shoe chewing ways.

“Ben?” I said as I stopped and leaned against a wall, panting.

“Yes, Marlowe?”

“Being another animal in to this house that you’re going to con me in to keeping and you’ll be sleeping next door.”

He winced and fed the parrot on his shoulder another cracker. The parrot squawked and grabbed on to it with a purple tentacle that slid out from under his feathers by the base of his wing. The bird sat there, holding the cracker and nibbling on it while giving off this air of ‘I really don’t care to be here.’

“but Marlowe, he has no where else to go.”

“Oh yes he does. He goes home with you or back to the clinic. I cannot handle another animal. Look at the mess that just two dogs creates!” I said as I gestured around me.

Ben frowned and sighed. “If you moved in with me..”

“No, you’re not getting out of this with that. It’s barely been six months, Ben. I’m not moving in with you yet. As for the bird, it cannot stay.”

Ben sighed and looked at me. His eyes were turned down and his shoulders fell. I felt my resolve weaken a little, but I was not going to be swayed. I’d said yes to the freaky dogs. I said yes to the dragon egg. I was saying no to a bird. Anything but a bird at this point.

“No, Ben. No birds.” I tried to make that sound as firm as possible while still being gentle, but I was afraid I failed at it when he got up off the chair he was sitting on and walked toward the door.

Before I could say anything else, he reached down and snatched my sneaker from Winston’s mouth before he could get up and run off with it again. Tossing me the shoe, he watched me as I caught it and dumped it in to the trash bin I had installed under the counter so the dogs couldn’t get in to it anymore.

“You need training.”

“For what?”

“For Winston, you need to go to obedience training. So he’ll stop chewing on your shoes.”

“Is there a class near by?” I would have paid the man in gold if he taught it, but no. He wasn’t a trainer.

“Next month. Miles can sign you up. It’s held at the library on Thursday nights.”

“Okay. I’ll go.”

“Just like that?”

“Just like that, as long as you promise not to bring another animal here without telling me first.”

Ben eyed me. “I knew there’d be a catch.”

“I don’t like surprises that I have to feed.” I pointed at the bird. “I don’t know how to take care of that, or what to feed it. I’m not just telling you to hurt you.”

“Feels like it some times.”

“Well I’m not. I actually considered the squirrel before I realized I knew diddly about its care.”

“You would if you moved in with me.”

I sighed. I walked right in to that one and Ben knew it too. The rat smiled.

“Not yet. I’m not ready.”

“You keep saying that, but I’m not entirely sold that you actually believe it.”

“Well I do, and I’ve got Mark still here. There’s him to think about too, you know. He is family.”

“He can come too.”

I laughed. I couldn’t help it. “You’d day anything to get me to move in with you at this point, but my answer is still no for now.”

“For now. I’ll wear you down yet.” Ben said as he walked over and backed me up against the wall before he kissed me. “Unless the houses decide for us. They’ve been known to do that.”

I sighed and leaned against his chest. Great. Another thing about my house that I didn’t know. “When does it usually happen?”

“Oh, usually around a major holiday if the couple hasn’t decided for themselves. It makes it rather awkward when the houses combine right before all the relatives show up for a holiday like Thanksgiving.”

I groaned. That was not what I wanted to hear.

“I’ll think about it, but for now you have to go back to work.”

“Not yet. You’re looking so very tasty and I haven’t had lunch yet.”

“Well Darling, I hate to break it to you, but your bird just let one rip on your shoulder and it’s disgusting.”

Ben swore and looked at me. “No birds.”

I laughed as he walked out of the house, an air of indignation at the bird on his shoulder that ruined his moment.

-Marlowe