One night, Yin and I were getting ready for bed, standing at our separate closets changing into our night clothes. We had just put the kids to sleep and I had an early day at work tomorrow, so we insisted that we get to bed as quickly as possible.
"Leaf," she said, as she changed into her lacy pajamas.
"Yeah Honey?" I asked, glancing behind me.
"Nothing," she said after a moment of silence. I sigh silently and walk over to her, despite the fact that I haven't put on a shirt yet, and I put my arms around her waist and lean my head on her shoulder.
"Come on, tell me what's bothering you." Now it was her turn to sigh as she looked up at me.
"The kids." I looked at her with mild surprise and I stroked her head.
"Sweetie, the kids are fine. They're asleep in their beds."
"I know, it's just that... they said we were supposed to have bad weather tonight." I think for a moment.
"Honey, we'll be fine, and so will the kids."
"Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." I kiss her forehead for good measure.
It was about 11:45 when my eyes opened to the sound of taps on the window. It started to rain, but I tried to get back to sleep. The sound of the rain stayed soft at first but then light filled the room for a second and my eyes shot open, and the patter of rain began to grow louder. Then the thunder came and shook the house causing Yin to stir.
"Leaf?" she groaned softly, having been woken up. She rubs her eyes and gasps as another round of thunder shakes the house. "I told you."
"I know." Suddenly, we both freeze as something moves onto the bed, under the cover. It comes toward us and stops next to Yin. She carefully lifts the cover to see nothing. But lightning fills the room again for a second lighting up a pair of eyes. Yin cries out, but then sees it's Alexis, her ears down with a sad and scared expression.
"Jeez! Sweetie, you scared me," Yin says. "Were you woken up by the storm?" Alexis nods meekly. "Aw Sweetie, come here." She crawls over into her arms and curls up.
"I didn't even hear her come in," I said softly, petting Alex's head softly. "She must have opened the door during the thunder." I look over and when lightning comes through the windows, I can see the bedroom door open a bit. That's when I hear something so I stare down the hallway.
"Leaf, what is it?" Yin asked, slightly worried.
"They're coming," I told her simply.
"Who?" As if to answer her question, when she turns on her bedside lamp, we see the rest of the kids walk into the room and crawl onto the bed. "Of course," she said with a smile. They crawled up and I moved over to let them sleep between us.
"Mommy, can you leave the light on?" Alexis asks in her small voice.
"Sure Sweetie, sure," she says, petting her. I lay back and smile as Nico and Cinema crawl into my arms. With all of us together, we're able to sleep through the storm.2: Kia: 6 Years old
Today was a big day for the kids. It was their first day of Kindergarten. Yin and I enrolled them in school and bought their supplies. The school was relatively excited to get 9 siblings in the same grade. It was a bit chaotic. But when the fateful day arrived, the nightmare began.
"Okay, I'll be taking care of Alexis, Harry, and Rouge," one of the teachers, Ms. Boucher, who was of French heritage, said. Yin and I smiled as the three of them walked over to the teacher.
"Bye Mom. Bye Dad," Alexis said.
"Have fun Sweetie," Yin said.
"We'll be back after school," I said. Rouge nodded and Harry yawned as they stepped inside the classroom and the rest of us continued to the next classroom.
"Hello," the relatively young teacher said in a friendly fashion. "I'm Ms. Ackerman. You must be Leaf and Yin."
"Yes," Yin said.
"So nice to meet you. It looks like I'll be having Akira, Cinema, and Kia." The three of them stepped forward. "Hello children. Oh, you look so pretty."
"Thank you," Angel said with a giggle.
"Okay, have fun now," Yin said.
"Wait, what about Rikki?" Kia asked, her ears falling sadly.
"I'm sorry," Ms. Ackerman said. "Rikki is with Nico and Angel in Mr. Hanz's room, the next door down." Yin drew in a breath and looked at me. I looked back into her worried eyes. She gave a small movement toward Kia who had tears in her eyes.
"B-But I wanna be with Rikki..." Yin bent down and hugged her.
"Sweetie, it's okay. Rikki'll be fine."
"You're going to have to get used to being separated," I told her.
"Um, if there's going to be a roster problem-" Ms. Ackerman was cut off by Kia bursting into tears. Yin gasped and hugged her tightly.
"Kia, it's okay," she said over and over.
"I wanna be with Rikki!" Kia cried.
"We can change the roster," Ms. Ackerman said quickly.
"Really?" I asked.
"Oh yes," she nodded. Yin picked Kia up and looked at me.
"But it won't be necessary," she said. I looked at her with mild confusion. "Kia, I'm sorry Sweetie, but you're going to have get used to being in a different room than Rikki." Oh, she was agreeing with me.
"I don't wanna!" Kia cried. Yin sighed and continued to try calming her down when Rikki tugged on her pantleg.
"What is it, Rikki?"
"Let me talk to Kia," he said. Yin looked at him and set Kia down who instantly jumped into his arms.
"Rikki don't leave me!" she cried.
"Kia, it'll be okay," he said, petting her. She gasped and looked at him. "I'll be okay."
"Okay," she said softly after a while, wiping her eyes. She walked to Cinema who held her hand and walked her into the classroom.3: Nico: 6 Years old
Nico, Rikki, and Angel sat next to each other among the rest of the kids in the Kindergarten classroom as the teacher, Mr. Hanz, was taking roll. The kids, having started this new chapter in their lives, looked at each other with glances of both shyness and friendliness.
"Alright," Mr. Hanz said, moving to his chair in the front of the arc of sitting children. "It looks like everyone is here today." He gave the children a nice smile. "Okay kids, my name is Mr. Hanz and we are going to start out today by introducing ourselves." Much to Angel's surprise, he started with the other side of the circle of kids. "Okay," he said, pointing to a girl with twin pony tails. "We'll start with you."
"Okay," she said with a smile.
"Tell us your name, and your favorite color." She nodded and stood up.
"My name is Hikaru and my favorite color is light blue!"
"Alright, next." Hikaru sat down and the boy next to her stood up.
"Uh, m-my name is Oliver a-and I like green," he said shyly. After awhile, it was finally Rikki's turn.
"My name is Rikki," he said after he stood up. "My favorite color is red."
"Alright Rikki, nice to meet you," Mr. Hanz said. "Next?" Rikki sat down and Angel stood up.
"My name is Angel and my favorite color is purple," she said.
"First purple," Mr. Hanz said. "And finally?" Angel looked at Nico who just stared back at her. "It's okay, you don't have to be shy little guy."
"He doesn't talk much, Mr. Hanz."
"Oh. Is that so?"
"Yeah," Rikki said. "Even at home, he doesn't say anything."
"His name is Nico," Angel said. "I don't know what his favorite color is."
"That's okay," Mr. Hanz said. "Thank you for helping your brother, Angel. That was very nice of you." Angel smiled and sat back down. "Now that we all know each other's names, I would like to tell you a little about me." He grabbed a folder from under his chair and he cleared his throat. "Now, you know me as Mr. Hanz, so I'm sure my name sounds kinda funny to you, right? Han-z," he drew his name out in a dramatic fashion and some of the kids giggled. "The reason why, is because my grandma and grandpa came to this country from Germany." He pulled an old photograph of a young couple. "These are my grandparents, and they took this photo shortly after coming into America." He held the photo and showed it around to the kids so they could all see it. "Even though they became official citizens of America, they still liked their German heritage. So, they taught things to their kids, my parents, who then taught me those things." Suddenly, Hikaru raised her hand. "Yes Hikaru?"
"What did they teach you?"
"Well, I was just about to get to that. They taught me how to play the tuba in a Bavarian band." He showed the kids a picture of him dressed in lederhosen, holding a big, brass tuba. As he moved the picture, the children laughed, even Nico giggled. "Yeah, even though that was me back in college, I looked pretty funny, didn't I?" After Mr. Hanz told the kids his story, Nico raised his hand. "Yes, Nico?"
"My name is Nico," he said softly. "My favorite color is yellow." Mr. Hanz smiled.
"Thank you very much for sharing, Nico," he said.4: Rouge: 7 Years old
I awoke one morning with a happy smile as today was a day off work. I sat up and got dressed and as I finished putting on a shirt, Yin groaned and sat up with a yawn.
"Leaf?" she asked.
"Yeah?" I asked back.
"Why are you up so early?"
"I have the day off."
"Come back to bed," she almost begged. "Please?"
"But we need to get ready."
"Ready for what?" she asked with a tired huff. I went over and whispered in her ear and then she perked herself awake. "Oh, that'll be fun. It'll be their first time, right?"
"Yeah. So let's go."
"Let's get the kids up first." She climbed out of the bed and went into the kids' rooms. "Come on everyone, it's time to get up." She went around and woke the kids while I went down to make breakfast. One by one, the kids sauntered down to the dining room and sat down in their chairs, complaining and still half-asleep. I laughed to myself and passed out plates with their favourite toasts. Once the kids caught the scent, the were instantly up.
"Thanks for the breakfast, Daddy," Alexis said.
"Yeah," Cinema agreed. Nico nodded in silence while he ate. I just smiled, which was rather devious, but they couldn't tell. Yin joined us as the kids ate.
"Toast?" she asked with a smile.
"Woke em' right up," I said and she laughed.
"Oh Babe, you're so bad." I gave her a smile.
"Well, I wasn't sure what else to do." She laughed again and helped herself to some slices as I sat down with mine.
"So what are we doing today?" Kia asked.
"Daddy and I have a special surprise planned for today," Yin said. The kids exchanged a happy gasp. "But first you need to finish your toast and milk."
"Aw," Rikki groaned.
"If you don't finish your breakfast then no one will go," I said.
"Eat your toast, Rikki!" Kia commanded her brother. Yin and I laughed, seeing the seriousness in her eyes. Rikki hurriedly ate his toast.
"Okay, now that we're all done, before anyone gets dressed, it's bath time," I said.
"Aw!" the kids groaned, a lot louder than last time.
"No bath, no surprise," Yin said. The kids grumbled as they left the table and went toward the bathroom. I went upstairs to said bathroom and ran the bath water while Yin quickly did the dishes. One after another I took the kids and gave them each a good pre-bath cleaning, licking the food off of their cheeks. Alexis giggled as I cleaned her and put her in the tub. The kids don't like being bathed, except Cinema really. She's the only one who doesn't cry the entire time. But when It came for Rouge, he asked me a question.
"Daddy, where are we going?" he asked.
"I told you Rouge, it's a surprise," I answered as I rubbed the shampoo through his hair.
"I won't tell no one." He gave me an innocent stare.
"I said no. Besides, it's 'I won't tell anyone'." I know it seems pointless to correct your child's grammar, but they're 7 years old now and in the 1st grade, so they shouldn't be talking like a redneck. I heard Yin running through the house, chasing down Angel and Akira, trying to dress them.
"Angel! Akira! Get back here!" she yelled. "Leaf I need your help!"
"One more to go!" I replied back. I finished bathing Rouge then grabbed Nico as he was last in line. I'll bet by now you're wondering where we'll be going. Well... it's a surprise.5: Alexis: 8 Years old
One day, Yin and I got into a heated argument about the fact that I needed another job an it ended abruptly as she left the house in a storm of anger. I sighed and went to the living and sat on the couch.
"It's alright kids, come on out," I said loud enough to fill the room as the kids came out of their various hiding places, with still slightly scared and sad expressions. "Mommy and I just had a little argument." I sighed again and rubbed the bridge of my nose.
"A-Are you and Mommy gonna get divorced?" Alex asked with a soft sniffle.
"No, Sweetie," I said, petting her softly. "Mommy and I are not getting divorced."
"Are you sure?" Cinema asked, clutching her box of Pocky closely.
"Yes, I'm sure."
"Are you really sure?" Akira asked.
"Yes, I'm really sure."
"Pinky promise?" I look at her and meet her pinky finger with mine.
"Yes. Just please, let Mommy and I work things out and we'll all be a happy family again, okay?"
"Okay," Alex is the first to say. I give her a good, reassuring hug and she purrs softly. Then, the other kids line up for a big hug as well. I smile and give them all what they want. Then we group hug. Afterwards, I sent them back off to their playroom while checking my phone for a second. I'm sure when Yin gets back we can hopefully settle this like the mature adults we are.6: Cinema: 8 Years old
I was working in the shop one snowy January day, when my manager came out of his office.
"Hey guys," he said. All of us stopped what we were doing and looked over. "They just announced that the weather was just going to get worse later, and they're closing some schools early."
"Which ones?" I ask.
"There was Uptown, Riverside, South Hampton, and Homewood Valley."
"My kids go to Homewood Valley."
"Okay. Do you pick them up or do they ride the bus?"
"They ride the bus, but my wife won't make it in time to get them."
"So then you need to go?"
"Alright, then you can go ahead and clock out. Does anyone else need to get their kids?" Everyone else shook their heads as I packed up my things and made my way to the door. "Alright then. Go ahead and finish the job you're on and we'll close early today." I walked out to my car and drove away. At least the city streets were cared for, but I still had to drive pretty slowly. When I finally made it to the suburban area where we lived, I saw the bus that the kids rode and I followed it home. The kids waited outside and I hurried the best I could to get the door open.
"Hurry up Daddy," Cinema said as she and her siblings shivered. I opened the door and they all scurried inside.
"Stomp the snow off your boots," I told them as I did so myself on the large mat inside. Once I had, I went straight to the thermostat and got the heater going. That's when I heard a sneeze. "Who was that?" I asked the kids as they started up the stairs. As an answer, Cinema pulled on my dirty pant-leg. Her face was red, but not from the cold. "Sweetie," I said, bending down and feeling her forehead. It was so warm, hot even.
"Daddy," she said.
"You've got a fever." I took off her coat, hat, and mittens and had Alexis fetch her blanket. I wrapped it around her firmly and set her on the couch. "Do you need any medicine?"
"No!" she whimpered. "Medicine is gross."
"But it'll help with the pain."
"Daddy, it's gross!" she cried. I sighed in defeat.
"Alright." I picked up my phone and called Yin.
"Hi Sweetie," she said when she picked up.
"Can you leave early?"
"Are you home? I heard they let out the schools early."
"Yeah. I'm home with the kids, but-"
"What's the matter?"
"It's CC. She has a fever."
"She's refusing to take any medicine, so... I'm not sure what else to do to help her."
"You should know that she won't eat anything unless it tastes sweet."
"I know. But can you get out early?"
"Well, my boss is actually thinking about it right now, but she hasn't made a decision yet."
"Okay. Try to get here a soon as possible."
"Mama!" I heard Cinema cry from the living room.
"Oh, can I talk to her?" Yin asked, suddenly sounding worried.
"Sure," I said. I take my phone to Cinema and she holds it up to her face.
"CC, are you okay?"
"Mama, I don't feel good," Cinema said.
"I know Sweetie."
"I want you home."
"I know, but Mommy can't come home right now. I'm sorry." I watch as CC talks and Alexis comes back with a towel and the bathroom trash can.
"I saw this on TV once," she said softly. "In case she pukes." She sets the towel under the trash can by the couch.
"Good girl," I smile, petting her. She purrs happily in response and goes back upstairs.
"CC," I hear Yin continue, "I promise that I'll come home as soon as I can, okay?"
"Okay," Cinema says with a sniffle.
"Can I talk to Daddy now?"
"Okay." Cinema gives me my phone back.
"What's up?" I ask her.
"If it's that bad, I'll talk to my boss."
"You don't have to if you don't want to," I say, stepping back into the kitchen. "We don't need you fired."
"I know, but... maybe she'll understand."
"Alright. Get here as quick as you can."
"Okay. I love you."
"I love you too." With that, we hung up.
"Daddy!" Cinema called before falling into a fit of little coughs. I went into the other room.
"What is it, CC?" I asked her.
"When's Mommy coming home?"
"Mommy's still at work, but she's going to try to get home as quickly as she can, okay?" I gently pet her.
"Okay," she sighed.
"Just try to get some sleep, okay?" Cinema nodded and lay down.7: Harry: 11 years old
One day, Yin's phone rang. She picked it up to answer.
"Hello?" she asked.
"Hello, Mrs. Harmony," the caller said. Yin recognized the voice as the middle school principal.
"Hello Mrs. Davis."
"I'm calling abut an issue with your son, Harry."
"Oh no. What's the matter?"
"The teachers are getting tired of having him falling asleep during class." Yin sighed, knowing that this call was going to come sooner or later.
"Well, he has always been my heavy sleeper."
"Mrs. Harmony, I'm only calling so he won't get a detention... yet."
"Okay. Do I need to come get him?"
"Not now. Just at your regular time after the dismissal bell."
"Okay. I'm sorry. You know how cats like to sleep a lot..."
"I'm allergic to cat fur."
"Oh. I'm sorry."
"But I am well aware that cats do spend the majority of their time sleeping, but I shouldn't have to remind you that your children are also human students."
"I do not want this to become a problem, Mrs. Harmony."
"Neither do I Mrs. Davis," Yin said quickly.
"Good." Then she hung up. Yin stared at her phone for a moment before the call screen changed.
"God," she muttered to herself. "I hate that woman..."8: Akira: 15 years old
I came home one day after work only to hear Akira crying in her room. My fatherly instincts took over and I immediately jumped up the stairs and into her room. She was sitting on her bed and I moved next to her, my cat ears drooping sympathetically.
"Akira, Sweetie, what's the matter?" I asked her. She didn't answer me and continued crying, but she hugged me, her tears wetting my oil-stained work shirt. "It's okay Sweetie, I'm here for you." I gently rubbed my hand down her hair, trying to calm her, at least until my wife came home, which was a few minutes later. I knew for a fact that Yin had heard Akira's crying, as she too flew up the stairs and into the room.
"What happened?" she demanded, her hazel eyes laser focused on us. Akira jumped out of my lap and into the open arms of her mother. "It's okay Baby, it's okay."
"I don't know what's wrong," I told her. "She hasn't told me yet."
"Akira calm down, okay?" Akira nodded and sniffled, wiping her eyes. "Tell me what's wrong."
"Y-You know that guy... that I really liked?" she asks. I think to myself for a moment.
"Yes," Yin answers, already ahead of me this time.
"Oh," I say, remembering. "You mean Chad "Calico Casanova" Flanagan?" Akira nods. "What about him?"
"Well," Akira continues, "I wanted to ask him if he could come over... for dinner and a movie maybe... but when I did," her voice cracked again as more tears came. "He said... he said he wasn't into freshmen." Her crying resumed. Yin sighed and hugged her.
"Sweetie, it's okay," she said. Sure, because of my five daughters, I've heard about Chad before, but since he made Akira cry, I suddenly find myself clenching my fists and Yin looking at me. "Sweetie, it's okay," she continued. "He didn't deserve you anyway. Harmony girls are too good for any Flanagan."
"You think so?" Akira asked her mother with tearful eyes. Yin gave her a kiss on the cheek.
"I know so." Akira leaned into her and sighed. Yin smiled and stroked her hair. "You better not have Alexis find out... you know how she is."
"How who is?" Alexis herself asked, having been walking by in the hallway. She peeked into the room.
"It's nothing Sweetie." Alexis glowered slightly, puffing her cheek in an immature manner.
"Whatever Mom," she pouted, and went on her way.
"Don't be rude to me," Yin called after her. "Are you feeling better now, Akira?"
"Mm-hm," she nodded, curing up in Yin's arms. Yin smiled and pet her. I smiled to myself as I drew in the scene.
"Leaf, I'll take care of her. You need to shower, you're filthy."
"I know," I said, leaving the room. I walked to our room and Alexis was waiting in front of the door.
"C'mon Dad, what's up with Akira?" she asked.
"I'm not supposed to say anything," I told her, moving her out of the way and opening the door, "Now go do your homework."
"I don't have any."
"Good," I said, closing the door behind me and smiling. I heard her sigh and walk away.
"Seriously, what's up with her?"
"I can't say," Cinema said in a song-like manner.9: Rikki: 16 Years old
It was that fateful day. The day Rikki would get his learner's permit. I was in no way worried, not too much anyway. I had already gone through this with Alexis, Akira, Cinema, and Angel.
"Leaf?" Yin asked me later that morning.
"Yeah?" I asked back.
"We're out of milk. Can you and Rikki go get some more?"
"Alright," I said, grabbing the car keys.
"We're taking the car?" Rikki asked me with a curious expression.
"Unless you'd prefer the van."
"No, that's okay," he said quickly. I see Yin smirk out of the corner of my eye.
"Alright then Honey, we'll be back in a bit," I give her a quick kiss.
"Okay," she said. "Be careful, Sweetie."
"I was talking to Rikki." I stared at her for a moment. "What?" She blushed and glanced away, puffing her cheek slightly. "I'm not allowed to worry about our kids?"
"I wasn't saying that."
"Just go get the milk."
"And cream!" Cinema adds from the living room. I look at Yin for confirmation and she nods.
"Alright, we'll be back," I said. Rikki and I walked to the car and she climbed into the driver seat. "You know what to do?"
"Yeah," he said. "Sit down, adjust seat, buckle in..." he said as he did them. "Adjust mirrors, and start the car." He turned the key and put it in reverse.
"Make sure you look behind you," I said, turning my head. He slowly backed the car out of the driveway and onto the street. "Look both ways," I said as we reached the intersection and he turned on the turn signal.
"Both ways twice," he added.
"Smart kid." Once it was clear, he turned right which would take us straight to the store. Once we got there, he pulled into the parking lot and slowly pulled into a parking space. I looked down to make sure he was between the lines, unlike some people. I look over and see him adjusting the mirror. "What are you doing?"
"Using the mirrors to make sure I'm in the lines." He checked then moved the mirrors back to where he could see clearly.
"Interesting." Did he learn that from me, because I sometimes do that. Once we're parked, he places the car in park and shuts off the engine. "Well, let's go." We climb out and walk inside. We grab a gallon of chocolate milk, then 2% milk, and a half-gallon of cream. I pay and we take things back to the car and put them in the back seat. We climb back in and he does the same procedure of starting and looking before backing out of the space, then we eventually make our way back home. I could see Cinema sitting impatiently in the window sill.
"So how'd I do?" he asked me nervously.
"You did very well," I said with a smile, petting him on the head. He smiled and purred softly in response and we took our groceries inside. "Honey, I'm home."
"It's about time," Cinema said, snatching her cream and running away to pour herself a glass. Yin came over and kissed me on the cheek.
"Dad said I did very well," Rikki told her.
"Good," Yin said, petting him too. "Thanks for doing that Leaf."
"Sure," I said.10: Angel: 16 years old
I was in the garage one day, working on my car when I heard the door open. Since I was down underneath it, I could only see a pair of feet, but I could tell it was Angel because of her black and white shoes. Laying on a wheeled creeper, a skateboard-like tool for mechanics to lay back on, I wheeled myself out and looked up at her.
"Hey Angel," I said with half a smile.
"Hi Dad," she responded with a similar expression.
"Um," she slightly blushed nervously, "do you need any help?" My eyes widened slightly with utter surprise. I'm sure it's not every day a father gets asked that question by his daughter. Well, one of them anyway. I get up in a sitting position to look her in the eyes.
"You want... to help me?" I ask.
"Yeah." We stared at each other for a bit of an awkward moment.
"Why?" I did my best to keep my excitement and confusion level.
"Um, well... Mom told me to do something productive... rather than laying around like Harry all day."
"Really? Your mother told you that?"
"Word for word?"
"Hm." I think to myself for a few moments before laying back down. "Alright." I get back under the car. "Can you hand me the 10-millimeter socket?"
"Okay." She turned toward my toolboxes. "Which one is that?" I sigh relatively loudly, realizing I made a mistake. Did you catch it? I wheeled myself back out and was met with her confused face, her ears angled curiously.
"Maybe I should teach you about tools first."
"Yeah," she agreed with a soft giggle. I get back up and show her the ratchets, sockets, wrenches, torque wrenches, screw drivers, pry bars, and my digital multimeter. I tell her what each one is and what it is used for and before we know it, an hour passed, and the door opened again. We turned to see Yin. "Hi Mom."
"Leaf, what's going on?" she asked.
"What do you mean?" I asked her.
"You're letting Angel help you?"
"She told me that you told her to do something other than laying around like Harry."
"Well yeah, but I didn't want her to bother you."
"Honey, it's fine. Really." She thought to herself with an unsure expression.
"Oh... okay. Angel you can help your father, but you stay out from underneath that car, understand?"
"I understand Mom," Angel said.
"Good. I don't want you hurt... or worse." She slowly hugged her arms together. "It's bad enough I worry about you, Leaf..."
"Honey, I can assure you that we'll be fine," I said.
"Okay. Angel, you listen to your father, and do exactly what he tells you to do."
"I will Mom," she said, hugging her.
"Good. I'll make some lunch then," she smiled.