The Right Question
Days like this are so special. We dont often have time to relax; that hasnt changed over the seasons. There are always problems to solve and people to help, no matter where we are and how settled we think our life is.
I glance over at the river and smile. Gabrielle is splashing in the water, sunlight in her burnt-gold hair. It illuminates her perfectly, highlighting, it seems, her importance in my life. She glances over at me and smiles. Her nose crinkles and her moss colored eyes are full of wonder. Thank the gods, she hasnt changed over the seasons. Oh, shes a completely different person, but, at the core, shes still my Gabrielle.
Somethings dripping on me and I realize I have become lost in my thoughts. I reach down and grab a linen towel and wrap it around Callidora. Rubbing her gently, I dry off our little girl. "What are you doing, Calli? Why arent you swimming with Mommy?"
"I need your help," she says very seriously. Some days I dont know who she favors more. Her hair is light, like Gabrielles, but she has my eyes. At seven winters, she stands a head above her peers. I believe Ill see eye-to-eye with her one day, though she has a more petite build. Her heart, thank the Gods, is gentle like my Gabrielles, and for that I am eternally grateful. My mother teases me, not believing she could be my daughter and be so well-behaved. I am astounded as well.
"All right," I glance over her slim shoulders and see Gabrielle rising out of the water. For a moment my heart stops. Shes so beautiful. I drag my eyes back to my daughter, but not before I see Gabrielle blush at my appraisal. "What do you need?"
Calli climbs up on my lap. Her legs stretch across my lap and dangle over onto the log Im sitting on. "I have a project. For school," she explains. I nod seriously, matching her mood. "I have to interview someone and write a paper about them."
"Okay." I think through the people in our small town. Who might capture her interest. "Have you interviewed Clement, the blacksmith? Hes an interesting person. He moved to Amphipolis all the way from Cyprus."
My daughter looks skeptical. "No. I dont want to interview him. I want to interview you."
I blink, completely caught off guard. "You do?" Gabrielle snickers and I toss a twig at her. "Why, sweetie? You see me all the time. Surely you know everything about your Mom by now."
I am in over my head here. How can my own daughter not know me? I glance over at my mate for help, but she looks as baffled as I feel. With a tilt of my head, I ask Gabrielle to join us. Is something wrong? I couldnt have messed up with this one, could I? "What dont you know about me?"
"How much older are you than Mommy?"
The question strikes me as funny, simply by its inanity. "A bit older. More than how old you are now."
She considers my answer. "Did you steal her away from her family then?"
Gabrielle jumps to my aid, out of long habit. "No, honey. Your Mom rescued me."
Calli nods, remembering the story now. "Right. You were sad and went to the river. Aunt Lilla was there, and so were the bad men. Mom took you from the bad men."
"Thats right," Gabrielle praises, rearranging some of Callis strands of hair.
"Did it help that Mom is old?"
"Hey!" I protest, but am not able to be heard over Gabrielles laughter. Calli, for no other reason than her Mom is, begins laughing too. They have the same exact laugh, accompanied by a little snort when theyre really tickled. "I am not old."
Gabrielle rubs my back soothingly. "It helped that your Mom was stronger and smarter."
Calli considers this and seems to find the answer acceptable. "So, Mom, since you were old, is that why you wanted me?"
"Did you want me because you are old?"
If she repeats the word old again, I might scream. I carefully pluck any gray hairs I might find on a daily basis. I doubt if even Gabrielle has noticed them yet. "Why do you ask that?"
"Because, I see that Uncle Toris helps Nana a lot. Nana is old. I thought she might have had Uncle Toris so he could help her."
Got to admit, it makes perfect sense. Except for the fact Calli doesnt know my brother as well as I do. He wasnt that much of a help growing up. Only age, a wife and a couple children of his own have matured him. It would have been an otherwise impossible task. "No, sweetie. I think Ill be able to take care of myself for awhile longer."
"So youll have another baby when you need help?"
I shrug. "Sure."
"Yea!" Calli cries out, clapping. "Im going to have a brother!"
Gabrielle gives me an arch look. Its the same one she gave me during labor. Right before she swore shed never give birth to another child if it involved squeezing him or her out. "Itll be your turn then," Gabrielle tells me sweetly.
"What makes you think itll be a boy?" I decide to ignore my mate.
"I want one," is the simple answer. That matter decided, Calli considers her next question. "What would you name him?"
The name tumbles out even before I can stop myself. "Lyceus."
"Eew." Calli is not impressed. "What would you want that name, Mom? It sounds like Lice Eat Us. Thats yucky, Mom. Real yucky."
"Lyceus was the name of your Moms baby brother, Calli. He died a long time ago, long before you were born."
"Long before you were born, too, right, Mommy?"
Gabrielle chuckles. "No, I was born then, honey. He was around my age."
"A few winters older," I amend. I am comforted when Gabrielle leans over and brushes her lips against my cheek. Amazing how the winters havent managed to fully take away the ache of his death.
"Why would you name my brother after your brother, Mom? Is it because you want me to be like you?"
"I want you to be like your Mom."
I must admit to being surprised. "You do?"
Gabrielle frowns. Shes spent half her lifetime with me, so shes used to this bit of insecurity I have. It doesnt make her like it though. "Of course, I do."
"I do too. I want to be tall and strong and nice and fix things and ride horses and all just like you." Calli winds her slender arms around my neck and snuggles against me. "And then I can have someone pretty and sweet like Mommy and we can have a little girl too."
"Uh." I sneak a glance at Gabrielle. I think its time for that ol birds and bees talk. It would be better for Gabrielle to do it. Alone. In fact, maybe I should go hunting. Right now.
"Stay here, warrior," Gabrielle says, knowing me all too well. "Sweetie, you might not be able to have a little girl in that case."
"Why not?" Calli is indignant. She doesnt ever like hearing she cant do something. A trait she shares with both her parents. "You and Mommy had me."
"Yes, well, uh " my mate is being very unhelpfully silent, "we had to ask for help on that one."
"You did? Why, Mom?"
"Yes, why, Mom?"
Gabrielle is in so much trouble now. Yet, while I may be cornered, they havent caught me yet. I give myself a moment to collect my thoughts and smile. "We wanted you to be extra-special."
I nod. "We did. So we asked a friend to help us out."
"One of your Mommys best friends: Aphrodite."
"Wow!" My daughter is easily impressed.
"I heard that," a voice says behind me.
I cringe. Busted. "Hi there."
Gabrielle jumps up and embraces the goddess. Of course, she looks as vivacious and young as ever. Being immortal certainly has its perks. "Dite! Its been too long."
Aphrodite gives Gabrielle a long hug, and then turns to look at me, her arm slung around Gabrielles waist. "Like you two need any help in the romance department." She winks. Thank the gods I am too old to be embarrassed by her anymore.
"Are you really Aphrodite?" my daughter asks, her eyes wide.
"I am, cute stuff." She pressed her index finger to my daughters small nose. "Are you really Callidora?"
"I am." Quickly getting over her nervousness, she asks, "Mom says you helped make me."
Aphrodite beams. "I did. I took a little pinch of your Mom," she reaches out and touches me, taking a small glowing bit of my essence, "and a little pinch of your Mommy," she does the same to Gabrielle, "and then I just popped you in there." Without warning, she takes the now merged pieces and presses them into Gabrielles stomach. "And there you were!"
"Wow!" Calli exclaims. "Thats neat!"
Gabrielles eyes go wide. "Dite?"
"Did you just do what I think you just did?" Gabrielle voices my question. We both eagerly await the answer.
A radiant smile is our answer. "Congratulations."
Calli slides off my lap and hurries over to Aphrodite, wrapping her arms around the goddess legs tightly. "Thank you! Thank you!"
"No problem, short stack."
I look over at my Gabrielle. "Are you all right?"
Her hand travels down to her stomach and covers it, covers our child, the third miracle in my life. "More than all right."
"Good." I lean over and kiss her. "You wont mind letting the little one out into the world in nine moons, will you?" I ask, recalling her earlier comment.
Gabrielle smirks. "Not if youre there for me to yell at."
We share a tender kiss and then glance over at our eldest child and one of our oldest friends. They are whispering conspiratorially. Both are giggling and stealing glances at us. They seem a wee bit too friendly for supposedly having only now met. As I am about to voice my suspicion, it is confirmed by Aphrodite.
"See, Calli, I told you we could do it if you asked the right question."
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