The Fourth Season

Parental Advisory Rating: L, N, AC

Break out those V-Chips, everyone!


Created, Produced, Directed and Written:

Fanatic and TNovan


Episode Eight: Happy Together

Rene sighs and leans back in her chair. Kelly is asleep in her stroller next to her, having cried herself to sleep. She was overtired and couldn’t handle life anymore. Harper and I have certainly experienced more than a few of those times with our two. Fortunately, Kelly’s cousins behaved themselves admirably during her time of distress. Collin occupied himself with a multicolored plastic key ring in his Aunt Elaine’s lap, and Brennan sucked on the ear of her stuffed bear in my lap. "Thank God, that’s over."

Mama reaches over and brushes a strand of hair back from Rene’s face. "You’re a wonderful mama to my grandbabies. Do I need to speak to my youngest son about taking care of you better?"

Ohh, that’s the biggest threat that can ever be uttered at this table. All of us wait for Ren’s response. "Mama," she smiles, "you know you raised him better than that. He’s doing great; we’re both just tired."

"Maybe Christian and Clark would like to spend the rest of the weekend with their Grandmere and Grandpa?" Mama’s gaze turns sentimental. "I have a little experience keeping rowdy little boys at bay."

Even as those words escape her lips, we hear a roar of noise from the living room area. It’s been raining nonstop today, and the boys, Harper, and the kids are trapped inside. We’ve heard running up and down hallways and stairs, doors slamming, little and big bodies bumping into things all afternoon. It’s only picked up steam since we finished dinner a little while ago. Never should have given them fuel it seems.

"I wonder what they’re getting into now," Katherine sighs, knowing her husband tends to be one of the biggest troublemakers. Their eldest son, Joseph, is following closely in his father’s footsteps.

Rachel looks perplexed. "Last time I delivered the cookies, they were all settling down to watch a movie."

"Uh oh," Elaine grimaces. "That usually means trouble."

I can only imagine. "What’s happened in the past?"

"There was that time they were on the Monty Python kick …"

Elaine starts the story but Kate quickly picks it up. "Oh, yes, I remember that! ‘Come back and fight like a man, you coward!’ They had the kids pretending to lose arms and legs and swordfight. Broke one of Mama’s vases, I believe."

Mama crosses herself and whispers a prayer in French. "There are no such movies in this house."

"I wonder what it could be then," Ren murmurs, knowing full well her husband could get in trouble with ‘Lady and the Tramp.’ Let alone anything involves swords and gunfights.

I am about to tease her, when I realize my Harper could easily be, and most likely is, the cause of the current noise. She’s like our twins, restless and full of energy. No wonder I am crazy about her. "Should we go see?"

"I’m sure we’ll find out soon enough," Mama says prophetically as Danielle steps into the kitchen.

"Tante Rene?" She comes over and peers down at the sleeping Kelly. "Can I borrow Kelly for a few minutes?"

"Uh, no, not right now, honey. I just now got her to stop crying. Why do you need her?"

Another round of noise drifts in, peels of laughter being the most dominant. Danielle glances over her slim shoulder as her older sister, Laurent, enters. "Uncle Robie asked me to come get her." Denied Kelly, I expect the next question. "Can I take Brennan, Aunt Kels?"

I smile and nod. "Be careful with her."

Danielle breaks into a huge smile and reaches for her cousin. I help Brennan get settled in her cousin’s arms and watch as they head back to the living room. We all turn expectant eyes on Laurent. "May I have Collin?"

I nod and Elaine does the transfer.

Kate snaps her fingers. "They need a Claudius and Brute!"

"Oh no!" all my sisters groan.

I’m intrigued. "Claudius and Brute? They’re reenacting Roman toga parties in there, or what?"

Mama stands up and freshens her coffee. "It is worse, ma petit. And my fault, I am afraid. When they were young, we would play a game together on rainy days. We would sing and act out the musicals I loved so much. Often, it was my only way of getting all five of them to do something together."

"I’m still confused."

"A favorite of the boys was ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.’"

Elaine begins laughing. "It has the world’s most outrageous lyrics. Positively medieval when it comes to gender equality."

"And I bet they’re doing their favorite song right now." Rene tugs me to my feet and we all wander toward the living room. "You’ve got to see this."

Oh my God.

The TV has an old musical on, with the old guy from ‘Dallas’ as a young guy. He appears to be counseling his, presumably, brothers in a barn of some sorts. Standing next to the screen is Gerrard, acting out the scene with uncanny precision.

"Tell you ‘bout them sobbin’ women

"Who lived in the Roman days.

"It seems that they all went swimmin’

"While their men was off to graze.

"Well, a Roman troop was ridin’ by

"And saw them in their me-oh-my,

"So they took ‘em all back home to dry,

"‘Least that’s what Plutarch says."

I shake my head. This explains a great deal.

All the kids begin singing with the chorus.

"Oh, yes!

"Them a’women were sobbin’, sobbin’, sobbin’,

"Fit to be tied,

"Every muscle was throbbin’, throbbin’,

"From that riotous ride,

"Oh, they cried and kissed and kissed and cried,

"All over that Roman countryside,

"So don’t forget that when you’re takin’ a bride,

"Sobbin’ fit to be tied,

"From that riotous ride."

From his position on his father’s lap, Jake is coached to say, "Then what happened?"

Harper answers the question, taking the lead in singing. I note that she is seated beside Danielle and Laurent, who each hold one of our children.

"They never did return their plunder.

"The victor gets all the loot.

"They carried ‘em home, by thunder,

"To rotundas small, but cute.

"And you never seen, so they tell me,

"Such downright domesticity,

"With a Roman baby on each knee,

"Named Claudius and Brute."

Little Brennan is dubbed Claudius, and Collin, poor dear, is chosen as Brute. It’s rather comical. As the kids do the next chorus, our spouses finally notice us in the doorway. Robie gets up and swaggers over to Rene. He slides his arms around her and positions her front and center.

"Now, when the menfolk went to fetch ‘em,

"Them women would not be fetched.

"It seems when the Romans ketch ‘em,

"That their lady friends stay ketched.

"Now let this be, because it’s true,

"A lesson to the likes of you,

"Grab ‘em up like them there Romans do,

"Or else they’ll think you’re tetched."

Suddenly, he hoists her up in his arms and spins her around the room, narrowly missing the chandelier, Tiffany lamps, and assorted small heads. The kids continue singing happily, unconcerned about imminent danger to life, limb or property. Dodging her brother, my spouse comes over to me.

"Oh, they acted angry and annoyed,

"But secretly they was overjoyed,

"You might recall that when corrallin’ your steers.

"Oh, oh, oh, oh, them poor little dears."

I’m going to ignore the ‘steers’ comment and simply concentrate on Harper holding me right now. I suppose the song is right. Love covers over a multitude of sins. Or stupidity, as the case may be.

I rest my head on Harper’s breast and hold her tightly, not caring we’re in front of everybody. I’ve been needing her presence all afternoon. I love my sisters dearly, but I need this. Need Harper.

Her hold changes from playful to tender. She relaxes against me, and hums softly, rubbing circles on my back. Everything else fades to the background. I’m safe here.

I don’t even realize I’m crying until Harper’s fingers gently brush tears off my cheek. "You all right, Little Roo?" she asks softly, her voice rough with concern.

"Can we go home?" I hate myself for asking, but I need to not share her or our children any longer today.

"Of course." Her hand cups my cheek and I lean into it. "Let me get our things gathered up and we’ll go."

I kiss her palm and immediately miss her warmth when she steps away to get us ready to leave. I stand alone until a slim arm slides around my waist. Mama kisses my cheek. "Ma petit, all will be well."


* * *


I watch Kels carefully as we put the twins down on the floor to play. One of the best shower presents we received was this thick blanket which is perfect for growing babies to boink their heads on. It washes well, provides great padding, and is brightly colored. We put the entire Fischer-Price line of toys around them and lean back against the couch to watch over them.

I take my girl’s hand and lift it gently. I study the cast and read some of the inscriptions my dear family wrote. "The Winner and Still Champion." "Careful, Harper, you could be next." "The Thriller in Gym Shorts." "One Round, Five Teeth." "Do as I say, NOT as I do." "Fifty Thousand Dollar Bracelet." "Feather Weight Champion of the World." "Winner Pee Wee Boxing."

I point to the warning to me. "Should I be worried?"

"No, sweetheart. It’s only Rene’s warped sense of humor. I’ll get her when she least expects it."

My girl lets out a low and evil chuckle. I grab a pen from a nearby table. I uncap it with my teeth, and begin writing without any hesitation. "My defender. I love you."

"Oh, you are sweet." She gives me a kiss. "I never should have let it get that far, but I had to let some of it go. Her face seemed as good a spot as any."

I laugh, wishing I had been there for it. "What did your doctor have to say about it?" I tap her forehead gently, to indicate which doctor I am referring to.

"He said I held out a lot longer than he would have," she gives me a triumphant grin, "that it was a pretty normal reaction and that I shouldn’t beat myself up over it."

"No pun intended, eh?" I join in the joke. "Maybe I can find you a nice pacifist to go see instead?"

"No, I like him. He’s good. He makes me see the things I need to see, and face the things I need to face, without making me feel like he’s forcing me."

I hope we can get to the heart of the matter tonight. I hate not being able to help her, like I want to so badly. "What do you need to face, chér? What do you need to see?" I hope she answers.

She sighs deeply. "Harper, so much has happened. I felt like I was coming apart. I felt like I was losing my grip. I was scared." She takes another deep breath. "And I guess I owe you an apology for really putting you in a tight spot. I should have told you I wanted to come home, but at the moment of realization, I just had to get here. I kinda screwed that up, and I’m sorry."

An enormous load lifts off my shoulders. "Thank you for saying that, and I wasn’t angry. Not after I thought about it," I admit with a rueful smile. "In fact, I was glad that when you thought to run, you ran here. I could have had to follow you to some godawful place." I reach up and trace her cheek with my fingers. "I am glad you came home."

"This was the only place to come. This is home. You gave me this. My home, my family. A place to belong. A place where it’s okay not to be sure about everything, and still know we’ve got support."

"I didn’t give you any of this," I reply, my voice full of emotion. "You gave it back to me." I try to organize my thoughts so I can communicate all that is inside. "God, Kels, I wouldn’t be here without you. And, to the extent I gave you my family, I have to admit they were eagerly awaiting you. You’d fit in with them with or without me." I kiss her fingertips. "Now, what aren’t you sure about?"

"It’s hard to explain. We’ve been through so much, and I’ve had doubts about how I’ve handled things. Sometimes I worry that I’m not doing right by you, or I’m not a good mother." I start to object, but she presses two fingers against my lips. "I know, it’s silly, but I can’t help but worry. I mean, come on, a year and a half ago my biggest concern was could I get a bigger contract. Then this locomotive with blue eyes ran me over," I like that description and join her smile, "and I wanted so much more than that. Then I had both the contract and the girl. In the end, I realized first and foremost that what I wanted was a family."

I nod. "It’s a good choice." I let my gaze drift over to our little ones, who have snuggled next to one another and are happy. "We’ve done very well together, and you should never doubt it. You’ve handled things very well, too, darlin’. My God, I would have died under what you went through." It’s true. She’s stronger than I am. Jesus, she went through childbirth.

"No, you wouldn’t have. You would have been fine." She leans in closer to me. "You have a wonderful family that would have pulled you from the flames of hell, if need be. It’s nice to know I have that too."

"Are you in the fires of hell, Kels?" It breaks my heart to think she might feel that way. I don’t take it personally, but I wish I had a magic wand to fix everything for her.

"I could have been, but I’m not anymore. I’m home. I’m safe. With you and the family to stand by me, I can make it through anything and I will." Snapping out of the maudlin tone, she gives me an impish smile. "And, watch out, because one of these days, New Orleans may regret that Kelsey Kingsley adopted it as home."

"Ooo la la," I squeeze her. "You think you’re going to be painting the town red, huh?" I kiss her temple. "Mind if I tag along? To try to keep you from bopping anyone else?"

She laughs, music to my ears. "You can try." She nudges me playfully. "Since you’re an unemployed bum at the moment, I have a question for you."

I nod solemnly. "Yes, I am willing to be your sex slave for the next twenty or so years."

"I knew that." She laughs harder. "That goes without saying."

"I’m still willing to interview, though." I lean in and nuzzle her perfect neck, taking a nip when I pull away. "But what is your question?"

"Question? Did I have a question?"

I touch her cute nose with my fingertip, enjoying the glaze of lust I find in her eyes. I hope I always make her feel that way. "Yes, you did, chér. Especially since our children are laying not five feet from us right now." Of course, Collin is sleeping and Brennan is chewing her bear’s ear.

"Right." She calms herself and swallows. "Okay, how would you like," she rolls her eyes, "and I can’t believe I’m giving you such a great set up," I snort already, "a new position?"

I chuckle delightedly. "Sweetie, you know I’m all for trying out new positions." I trace the swell of her breast. "Spice of life and all that."

"I’m talking about a job, Tabloid," she chastises without one hint of sincerity. "The pay stinks and it’s definitely a step backwards, but the perks could be pretty good."

If they’re anything like what I’m imagining, I couldn’t agree more. "A job? We’ve been women of leisure, ladies who lunch, for a whole couple days. What scheme do you have cooking?"

"I’m thinking of starting up an independent production company. I’ll need an Executive Producer type I can kick … umm … work with."

"Huh, Champ, I thought slugging was more your style." Kels teasingly points to the warning message to me on her cast. "So what would this independent production company produce?"

"Oh, you know, the wonderful little things they use on The Learning Channel and the like. I’ll go spend a week in a women’s prison or something. I’m kinda getting used to the setting."

"Just say no. Think we could get the Crocodile Hunter guy? He’s insane. I’d love to go traipsing about with him somewhere." I know this will get Kels. "Maybe we could get Brennan an internship with him when she gets older."

"We could try," she concedes. "If you want to be gator bait, go for it, but leave my daughter out of it."

"My daughter," I correct. "Looks like you, acts like me."

"Yeah, well, I hope to fix that eventually." She leans forward and lays a blanket over our babies. "She’ll learn to appreciate her Mom’s sage advice. Especially when I point at you and whisper in her ear, ‘See her? She is the type of woman your Mom is warning you about.’"

I laugh. "Gee, thanks."

"It’s not you I’m worried about. It’s the woman she may want to take up with that scares me."

I make the sign of the cross. "So true. And, let’s please not talk about them dating yet. It scares me." I mock shiver. Well, not all that mock. Back to business, "Is there anyone else associated with this production company yet? And do we have a name?"

"Nope, not yet. It’s pretty much us and my father who is looking into money for us. As for a name I was thinking B.C.H. Productions." She smirks.

I can’t help it. I fall over laughing. "My God, Kels, you realize that people will pronounce that Bitch, don’t you?"

"Yeah, I know. Great, isn’t it?" Kels’ eyes sparkle with mischief. This is the best thing in the world she could be doing.

I can’t get over that. "It’s a hoot. Mama will die, but it sounds great to me. Where is the K, though?"

"No. Just the initials of my three favorite people. For good luck."

I glance over. The babies are asleep. What the heck? "We don’t need luck, darlin’. We make our own." I lean forward and kiss her meaningfully, slowly and deeply. My hand trails up her chest, tracing her collarbone through her light shirt, along her neck and circling under her ear.

When we pause to breathe, she nuzzles my ear. "This is one of the perks I was speaking of." I growl and lean into her, guiding her to the floor. "So I take it you’re interested in the," she pauses as I begin to unbutton her blouse, "position?"

I nod. "Yes, this position and many, many more."


* * *


Rolling over, I watch Harper sleep. She’s very happy woman right now. Although, she wasn’t really happy with me when I made her stop long enough to put the babies to bed and move our plans to the bedroom. Last thing we needed was to have Brian walk in on that scene. He’d never let us live it down.

She seems very happy.  I really think she like being home.  Reaching out, I pull her hair back behind her ear to watch her fuss in her sleep.  She whimpers and digs deeper into the pillow.  This must be where Brennan gets her dislike for having her sleep interrupted.  I admit, I don’t like getting up in the morning, but Harper really hates having her shut eye disturbed.

I reach out and rub her bare back. She sighs and pushes back into my hand.  This she likes.  I think she was a pet in a past life.  Probably a cat.  She enjoys this kind of thing too much.

Things finally feel like they’re coming together and settling down.  I don’t feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions. I finally have a handle on everything I have to take care of.  My family, my home, myself and then my career, if I choose to do so.

I can handle everything.  I simply hated the feeling of being out of control and getting ambushed. Now that everything is back under control and in focus, I have a much better chance of keeping it that way. 

"Kels?" she mumbles, her face still buried in the pillow.

"Yeah, Stud, what can I do for you?"

"Either get serious about all that rubbing or keep your hands to yourself."

"Grouch," I tease and snuggle up, getting very serious about the rubbing I’m doing. "Better?"

"Ah, yeah.  That’s," she pauses briefly and swallows hard, then begins nodding as a smile spreads across her face.  I notice she never opens her eyes.  She merely rolls over to enjoy it.  "That’s good."

Yup. She was a cat.


* * *


I wake up to knocking on the front door. It better not be Robie again. I go to the window and lean out. It’s Papa. I hope everyone is all right.

I hustle down the stairs and fling open the door. Thank God, I remembered to pull on boxers and a T-shirt before I left the bedroom. "Papa!"

He smiles brightly, far too awake for this hour of the morning. The crickets are still chirping. "Harper, let’s go."

I must have missed something.

Papa scowls. "Harper Lee, it is the start of the height of crawfish season. I have Robie, Clark, and Christian in the Suburban. You and Collin need to get out here as well."

Oh, this’ll go over well. "Okay. Can I have five minutes to pack some milk and some diapers?"

My father looks at his watch and notes the time. "All right. I’ll make some coffee while we wait."


* * *


Harper and Robie took ‘the boys’ fishing and Brian and Mama took ‘the girls’ shopping. Thus, Rene and I are childless in New Orleans. We’re enjoying it immensely at the moment as we sit on the back porch and relax. Kam is laying in the sunshine, on his back with his feet in the air. He looks totally silly, but he’s a very happy dog, with his tongue hanging out one side of his mouth.

"Should I be stressed over the fact that Harper took Collin with them? Doesn’t seem like fishing for crawfish is something easily done with a four month old along."

"No. Don’t sweat it, Kels. They don’t use them as bait until they’re six months old." She snickers and hides her smile behind her glass.

"Very funny."

"Sweetheart, if you’re gonna stay in New Orleans on a permanent basis, you are going to have to learn to relax when it come to the Kingsleys and the kids. God, they’ll be dragging these babies off to do things you’d rather cut off your arm than let them do, but they always come back safe." She sighs and sips her tea again. "I used to worry until I realized that Mama and Papa raised five without losing any. And between all the children and spouses we’ve managed sixteen grandchildren. We must be doing something right."


"Besides. I trust Papa to keep them from doing anything really silly or dangerous."

"Rene, this is the same man Mama doesn’t like to trust with extension cords. She says it means trouble. Why are we trusting him with our babies?"

"Hmm, Kels, not our babies," she nudges me, "Cecile’s grandbabies. He knows better than to let anything happen to one of them."

I nod and laugh. This is true. There would be hell to pay for any adult member of this family who knowingly puts one of Mama’s grandchildren in harm’s way. She would be a woman possessed and there wouldn’t be a place you could hide from her.

"I have a proposition for you, Ren."

"Okay, but we can’t tell Harper or Robie." She grins.

I close my eyes and groan. Boy, I walked right into that one. "Be nice."

She nearly snorts tea through her nose. "I’m sorry. What’s up?"

"Well, you know, I’m looking into starting up an independent production company?"


"I need an executive assistant. I’d like you to consider taking the job."

She settles back and considers my offer. "I’m flattered, Kelsey, but I don’t know anything about news or the entertainment industry."

"Trust me; it’s not that hard. What I really need is someone I can trust to keep me on track."

"Wow. I’m honored. I’ll have to talk to Robie first, but I’m definitely interested. Can I have a couple of days?"

"Take all the time you need. I’m still working out the details."

"Great. I’ll let you know soon."

"Perfect. In the meantime, let’s go spend some money somewhere." I pat her leg and stand up, stretching. "I feel the need to shop."


* * *


I am not quite sure how I managed to get Collin out of the house. Kels must have still been half asleep and not quite understood what I was asking. I certainly didn’t stick around to explain it, that’s for sure. When you like the answer, leave. I stroke Fuzzy’s hair and tighten the straps on the snuggle pack. If this boy comes back with so much as a mosquito bite, my ass is grass.

"Tante Harper?" Christian tugs on my pants.

"Yes, Christian?"

"You gonna help me crawfish?"

I nod. "Sure enough. Your Papa never seems to catch much."

"I heard that," Robie calls from the back of the Suburban where he is unloading our gear with Papa.

Christian nods. "Thanks. Aunts Kels isn’t here to help me like she does with the dub … dub …"

"Doubloons?" He nods again. No wonder he’s won two years straight. Oh, Kels, honey, you’re mine now. "You got it, short stuff." I tousle his hair affectionately. "Go check on your brother, okay?"

He runs over to the pile of stuff where Clark has parked himself. Papa, Robie and I like to gather crawfish the simple way – toss a line out with a piece of fish on it for bait, drag it along the bottom and slowly bring it to the surface. Typically, there will be a couple crawfish hanging on, which you scoop up in a big net. That is, when Papa and I do it. Robie can’t seem to catch a thing.

We also bring a couple wire mesh traps with us, to ensure plenty of success. The traps have a cube shape, with a funnel leading into it. We bait it with a fish head, and the crawfish swim in, but can’t swim out. We use carp for the bait. It’s an oily fish and seems to attract the little guys the best. After an hour or so, we’ll have plenty for dinner. Of course, we’ll stay here longer than that, shooting the breeze.

We have a cooler to fill up with the caught ones. They can live in there for a couple hours, long enough for us to bring them home for our crawfish boil. Ooo la la. I love Mama’s crawfish. I need to make sure Kels gets her recipe.

We’re at my Nonny’s farm. We drove almost an hour out of the city, to her property line, and as far back as you can go without hooking an outboard motor on the back of the truck. The cypress trees are huge, and full of Spanish moss. There are gators around, but mostly they stay where they belong and we do the same. To ensure no run ins, Papa has his shotgun. He’s never used it, but he’s never without it. It only takes one time to be sorry.

Clark cries out happily and points. "Bird! Bird!" The egret looks over from his perch and stares at my nephew. He seems to decide that he is far enough away to be safe.

"Very good, son," Robie praises, scooping up his youngest boy. He kisses his cheek and settles him on his hip. "You ready to go fishing?" Thump, thump, go Clark’s hands on his father’s chest. That is an emphatic yes. With his free hand, Robie picks up a load of equipment and starts heading a little further into the swamp. I grab up some equipment too and carry it. Papa and Christian bring the rest behind us.

We have a favorite spot that over time we have made quite luxurious, as far as a swamp fishing hole goes. There’s a wooden platform we can sit on, and a bench made out of a fallen log and rocks. We have a place for our gear which stays dry and bug free, for the most part. It’s great.

There’s a strict rule on these trips – no Walkmans, Game Boys, comic books, or whatever floats for kid entertainment these days. It’s all about being together, talking a little, and fishing more.

I sit by Christian and pull my Swiss Army knife out of my pocket. Carefully, I cut pieces of carp off and lay them on a newspaper beside us. Once we have enough to last awhile, I clean the blade and put it back up. Christian holds the line and the hook up for me. "All right, this is how you tie it off," I say, demonstrating.

"Can I put the bait on?"

"Absolutely." Little boys love the squishy parts, Christian especially. I held guide his fingers, so he doesn’t accidentally use himself as bait. "Very good. Now throw it out there as far as you can and let it sink all the way to the bottom." He obeys. And we wait.

Beside us, Robie and Clark have cast their lines. Papa wades back in from where he set the wire traps. I think Papa loves crawfish fishing just so he can wear his hip-waders. Mama hates the things and makes him store them in the garage. Out of sight.

"Harper, it’ll be good to have you around for Breaux Bridge this year."

I nod enthusiastically. I love the Breaux Bridge festival. It’s one of the biggest crawfish celebrations in the area, just outside of Lafayette. One of my favorite parts is the crawfish races. That and the food. Growing up, I wouldn’t eat the day before so I’d have plenty of room.

"Pop pop?"

Papa looks over his mug of coffee. "Yes?"

"Grandmere grew up here, right?"

Papa nods and points to the north and west. "Over that way. She and her Mama and Papa and seven brothers and sisters."


"Seven. Ambroise, Jean, Pierre, Anne, Madeline, Remy, Jacques and then your Grandmere. She was the baby of them all."

"Grandmere was a baby?"

Oh, Lord, never let Mama hear that question. Both Robie and I cross ourselves. Papa laughs and pats Christian’s knee. "Looked exactly like your baby sister, Kelly, in fact. Did I ever tell you about what Remy and Jack did to me when I was courting your Grandmere?" At Christian’s insistence, Papa goes on with his story. "I was invited over to Nonny’s for dinner one night. So I showed up, looking all nice in a suit, trying to impress them. Nonny looked over at me and then told Remy and Jack to take me out to fetch the food. I figured we’d just go out to the smoke house, but we kept walking. We went into a shack on the edge of the swamp, and then into a boat. Remy looked over at me and asked if I knew how to use a shotgun."

"Did you?"

Papa nods. "Sure enough. So I said I did, and he handed me one. Remy then took this spear in one hand, and it had a long rope attached to the end. Jack poled us out into the swamp and we watched and waited. Soon, the biggest gator you’ve ever seen poked his eyes up out of the water."

"How big, Grandpa?"

Papa holds his arms out wide. "Bigger than this." Christian’s eyes go round. "Well, before I knew what happened, Remy took that spear and stuck it in the gator, right at the back of the neck."


"Yup. That’s what the gator thought. He tore off as fast as he could, taking Remy with him over the side. Remy was hanging onto the rope for dear life. I looked at Jack and he just shrugged and started taking the boat over to where Remy and that gator were. It took all three of us to wrestle that ol’ boy up into our boat and take him back to Nonny’s house."

"Did you eat him, Grandpa?"

"Sure, we did. Not that night, though. I was invited back a couple days later."

"Did you look pretty when you came back?"

"No. I think that was Nonny’s way of telling me not to wear suits."

Robie shakes his head. "Nonny likes to get her point across in strange ways."

"Strange, but effective," I amend. I drop a kiss on Collin’s head. He’s beginning to squirm a little so I know he’s awake. He’ll be wanting food in a few minutes. Let’s see if Christian and I have had any success first. "All right, Christian, start drawing your line toward you real slowly. Don’t want to spook any of them crawfish."

He obeys well, moving it at exactly the right speed. When he pulls it clear of the water, I hold the net out to capture the two hanging on. "Yea!" he exclaims, pumping a fist. Damn, that’s cute.

I look at the two in the net. The most common species of crawfish in the bayou is red swamp. Adults grow to about four inches in length, anything else is too young. "Looks like you caught one good one and one guy we need to let go back to his mama." I dump the two beside us, into a baking pan of Mama’s Papa stole long ago for this very purpose of sorting out the young ones. I toss the one we’ll take into the cooler.

"How can you tell, Tante?"

I point to the one remaining. "Well, it’s little, to begin with. And see how it’s more green than red?" Christian nods. "Adults are dark red on the side and black on the back. What color is this one’s tail?"

Christian peers closely. "It’s brown with brown stripes."

"That means it’s a baby. Let him go home. We’ll come visit him later."

Christian takes the pan and dumps the little one back into the water. "When Collin is big enough to fish?"

I smile. "Nah, a bit before then, little man."


* * *


I take another deep breath. I clear my throat, knowing it’s not me who smells like that, and Brennan hasn’t been rolling in any mud pits since she got back with Brian a little while ago. As a matter of fact, the last time I checked on them, they were both crashed out on the living room floor. Apparently, shopping with Grandmere Cecile is a very tiring experience.

I slowly close the door to the fridge and find Harper and my son both standing in the kitchen. Collin is bouncing up and down in his snuggle pack and Harper is standing there with a silly grin on her face. "Hi, honey, we’re home."

As if I couldn’t tell. "And you brought half the swamp and most of the smell with you."

"We wanted to share the experience with you."

She tries to lean in and kiss me, but I put a finger directly in the middle of her forehead, stopping her. "Oh, no thanks. I’ve had enough experiences for this lifetime. If I wanted to go romp in the swamp, I would have gone with you."

She snorts. "As if."

"Exactly," I tease, pointing to the nearest bathroom. "I prefer to keep my dirt in the newsroom and the bedroom, Tabloid. So if you intend to get even remotely close to me anytime soon, you will go and wash that body of yours, and make sure you scrub down the little thing I sort of recognize as my son, while you’re at it."

She takes a moment to make Collin wave at me. "Hi, Mom! I’m in here. Wanna kiss me?"

"Not on your little stinky life, buddy. Tell your Mama to take you for a shower first."

"Okay. Then you’ll kiss me?" I have to laugh as the conversation continues from him.

"Absolutely. Make sure she washes behind your ears."

She hides his face behind his hands. He laughs and chews on her fingers. Harper says on Collin’s behalf, "Aww, Mom."

My first official ‘Aww, Mom’ protest. "Go on. Get out before I send you out to sleep with Kam tonight. You’re making my eyes water. The milk’s gonna curdle next."

She starts to head for the door, but then spins around and tries a quick lunge for a kiss. My finger finds its way back to her forehead. "Don’t make me hurt you, Stud." I lift the cast. "I have the power. Go get clean."

Harper laughs and gives up, reluctantly heading for the showers.


* * *


I can’t believe we haven’t done this already. Has it really been over four months since these two entered our lives? I feel like we’ve had them forever, and I feel like we’ve had them but a moment. Being a parent is weird that way.

I straighten Brennan’s outfit. She’s such a beautiful little girl. Decked out in a dark green satin dress, complete with bow, she is the picture of sugar and spice. Her hair is filling in now, giving her the same angelic look of her Mommy. Only yesterday she started trying to talk back to us. We were so excited. I doubt if we’ll feel the same way in sixteen years. But now whenever we talk to her, she begins babbling up a storm. It’s specific and it’s definitely conversation on her part. I wish we had a translator.

Collin is looking very dapper. He’s wearing a dark blue suit with cloth suspenders. Give the boy a briefcase, and he’s ready for the law firm. Robie claimed him as an associate, but Gerrard said he could be a legislative intern. Guess that answers the family’s question about whether Gerrard planned on running for the state senate next year. I don’t know which would be more corrupt in Louisiana, the politics or the law. It’s pretty much a toss up.

Kels finishes giving some instructions to the photographer. Once an anchor … I’d tease her about it, but I know whatever she told the guy is spot on. She knows lighting and angles, because she lived and died by them for years. I could do the shoot too, but I’m happy over here with the kids. Besides, this guy is terrific. He’s been doing private photography shoots for years, and has done all of the Kingsley family portraits. After we finish up here at our house, we are to take him, the kids, and ourselves over to Mama and Papa’s house for more of the same.

I look up when Kels walks over and I have to remind myself that we have company. She’s wearing a dark green colored dress that hugs every curve of her body absolutely perfectly.


I won, I won, I won. The old refrain comes back easily.

She scoops up Brennan and settles her in her lap. RooToo is rightly nicknamed. No doubt who this kid belongs to. Brennan sits up easily. As long as she has a little support, she’s good to go. I pick up Collin and put him next to his sister. "Can you take a picture of the three of them for me?" I ask the photographer.

"Sweetheart, get over here," Kels objects.

"I will. But this, I want."

Looking at the three of them, I realize they are all I ever want.


<fade out>


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