When the meal was done, Eric paid and drove them home. The girls remained quiet the whole drive home, bellies full and their eyes heavy. Amy reminded them they were both to take a bath and then go to bed. Neither girl argued. They both climbed out of the car and hurried into the house.
They were soon in bed, and talking excitedly about the new house, and having a room each again.
“I can’t believe how easily they accepted all this.”
He nodded. “About the secret the girls kept. I didn’t know about another woman either, with more children, I really didn’t know my brother at all.”
“I wish things were different,” she said, entwining her fingers through his.
“That I met you instead. You would never cheat on me. Or have all those woman on the go. Or get them all pregnant.”
“How many are there do you think?” Eric asked.
“I don’t know. I hope Penny, Glenda and this other woman are the only ones.”
“I hope so too. I can’t believe I have all these nieces that I’ve never met, that my brother never even told me about.”
“I know, maybe we should find out about…”
“We should, but that would mean asking the girls. If they know who she is. I don’t know if I should, but…”
“Let’s worry about that tomorrow, right now I think we should go to bed.”
She shook her head, and stood, taking his hand and pulling him to stand before her. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her.
“To bed,” he said, releasing her.
The girls did not even seem to notice that her mother was sharing the bed with their uncle, and it seemed neither cared.
The first morning and most mornings that followed, before the move, the girls would sneak in their bed for morning cuddles.
The new car had arrived, the girls and Amy loved it; she loved driving it even at night. She never liked night driving.
The search for the house began, not once did Eric suggest a price range. He wanted something they were all happy with. It had to have a bedroom each for the girls, two guest rooms and at least two or three bathrooms, and of course a good size kitchen.
Amy started officially at the Philip’s Toys, but she only worked a few hours, Eric wanted her to be by his side, Amy did not mind at first, liked that he was very protective of her. She worked in the test area some days, others she sat in on meetings, learning the business. Eric wanted her to be a part of the business, as she would become his Emily did not give her a second glance when she arrived for her first shift.
Penny made her feel welcome, and introduced her to many of the parents.
On the weekend, Amy brought the girls in to play with the toys. Eric loved the way they looked at the toys, how they examined them, and explored them with interest.
House hunting had come down to three properties; they had plans to visit each one the following weekend.
“I thought we should go out for lunch and make a day of it when we look at the houses, what do you think?”
“I think I like that idea.”
The first house was much like the house Eric lived in now, but had a double garage. The rooms were all a good size, and it had two bathrooms, and a small downstairs toilet.
The garden on the other hand was smaller, and was mainly gravel. Amy shook her head when she saw the garden.
“I guess we could grass it…but…”
“If you don’t like it, we won’t even consider it. Everything has to be perfect.”
“Eric, I can compromise.”
“You don’t have to, not with me.”
He took her hand and led them to the car.
They drove to the second house.
“Mummy, Uncle Eric.”
“Yes,” they said in unison.
“Can we have a burger for dinner, with chips and a milkshake please?”
“That can be arranged.”
“And ice-cream?” Jane added.
“If you’re really good, okay?” Amy said.
They arrived at the second house, Amy stared at it. She shook her head; she did not want to even look inside.
“Not this one Eric, I can’t.”
The house was not the one she had lived in before, but it was close to the house she had lived in with Tom. Three doors down.
“Sorry, I never even thought that you would not want to. Anyway, okay, I will call and cancel this one. We will go eat and then go straight to the third one, is that okay with you guys?”
The girls cheered.
The food was pretty much like any other fast food joint, but tasted better than Amy recalled. Tom would never allow the girls to eat at such a place. She had on the odd occasion taken the girls when she was alone with them.
“When are you and uncle Eric getting married mummy?” Olivia asked.
Amy choked on the chip she was about to swallow and had to wash it down with a large mouthful of coke, but before she could reply, Eric did.
“I think maybe soon, if your mum agrees of course, but first we have things to do, like moving house. I think a bigger house is important and of course, and when we do, we are going to need some bridesmaids, not sure where we can get two of those.”
“Jane and I can do it mummy, I want to wear a pretty dress.”
“Well looks like you girls have decided for me, but we should move in to the new house first, once we find one. Now, I have a question to ask you two.”
Eric looked over to her and smiled.
“It’s time they knew. They have a right to know.”
“I know, and okay.”
“Girls I want to ask you about the girl’s daddy took you to play with.”
“Okay,” Olivia said. “Lisa and Lucy, go to my school.”
“Yes, they are in my class.”
“Have they always been in your class?”
Olivia shook her head.
“When did they join?”
“Does their mum take them to school?”
“Okay, can you show me who she is?”
“I can. Mummy are you mad at me?”
“No, why would I be mad?”
“I didn’t want to make you cross. Their mummy is cross, all the time, they told me.”
“Why would she be cross?”
“I don’t know, but they said she is always crying and shouting at them.”
“Okay, well I will sort it out for you, right now we should finish eating and go look at the next house.”
Eric drove towards the next house, a mile outside of the town they lived in, they drove down a country road and then they came to metal gates. Eric pushed the buzzer to let them know they were there. The gates opened and they drove towards down the road, which led to the house. A house that had the girls gasping in the seats behind them, Amy turned to face them, and smiled. The look on their faces, told her that if the outside was anything to go by, the inside would be so much more.
The front door opened and a man with grey hair welcomed them in, he showed them around talking a little about each room, as he showed them one after the other.
There were more rooms than Amy could image. It was double the home in size she had with Tom, and she was not sure she could allow Eric to buy it, as she had no money, but every time she tried to mention that, he told her that she was his family, and they would own the house together. Her name would be on the deeds.
“Girls, this is the one isn’t it?”
A month later, the last of the boxes sat in each room, ready to be emptied, the girls rooms were the first to be unpacked, as well as the kitchen. Amy could not believe how quickly the girls accepted her relationship with Eric, or how others had.
Amy was worried that Tom and Eric’s parents would find the whole situation odd. Yet when they had found the truth out about their son they were beyond angry. They were disappointed in their first born child. How could he do this to her, and how could he have kept those grandchildren away from them. They loved Amy’s girls, doted on them, and to be denied such a relationship with the twins and Hannah. They wanted to meet them, and that had led to a very awkward conversation in the playground one cold misty Monday morning. Eric had insisted her accompany her to meet the woman.
Amy had walked the girls into the playground, once they pointed out the woman with the twins, did Amy take a deep breath and walk over to her, with Eric beside her.
The woman looked up and stared at Eric, her mouth fell open. She apologised for staring, but could not believe how much he looked like her late fiancé.
Amy asked if she would like to go for coffee if she was free. She had no intention of making a scene or having every parent here staring at them as she told her exactly who she was.
They arrived at the café and once the drinks and cakes arrived did Amy begin.
“I first would like to give you my condolences on the loss of your fiancé, Tom.”
She stared at her for a moment, and then to Eric.
“You knew my Tom?”
“You could say that.”
“Are you his brother, because you look so much like him, you have his eyes.”
“I am his brother yes,” Eric replied.
“And you must be his wife.”
“No, but I will be.”
“Thank you,” she said, it was half true he had told her she would be his wife, but he had not actually asked her and she was not about to tell this woman that. “But you misunderstand about Tom.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, Tom lived with me. We had the wedding and the life a married couple should have. How he managed a whole other family I don’t know.”
“Are you trying to tell me that you and Tom were married?”
“Yes. Well, no, technically we were never married; he never divorced his first wife, Glenda, but we lived together, and had two children.”
Eric watched the two women with interest.
“I wish I was.”
“Why would you do this, money? Is that what you want, because I can tell you now, he left me without a penny.”
“Well that makes two of us.”
“All he did was make sure we had a house. He told me the girls he brought when we met where his nieces, and that he brought them along because our girls would get on as they were family and…”
“They are family, but not cousins. They’re sisters.”
“Eric, if you are really his brother. Tell me this is not true?”
“Eric and I wanted to meet you, because you deserve to know the truth. He was nothing but a liar and a cheat. I don’t know how many more families he may have had. But I do know there is another mother and daughter out there. I’ve met them.”
“Yes, and I know you may not believe that any of this is true, but my girls know. They know that their dad kissed other ladies and did more….they lied to me for him. He told them it was their secret. That is the worst part about all this; he made the girls a part of it all.”
“I can’t believe this, I don’t want to, it makes sense though, it does, he would shower me us with gifts, and make sure we met every weekend, and some evenings he would come over to our house, but he could not stay, he told us, he was living with his soon to be ex-wife. That they had two older boys, and that as soon as they were old enough to understand, he would leave and marry me.”
“He left Glenda when the boys were young, and then he met Amy. He proposed to her six months later. They married six months after that.”
“That is true, but we know now, he was not my husband. But what happens now is up to you. This is not about him anymore; this is about us and our girls.”
“I don’t know what to say, this is a lot of information to take in, I mean I knew something felt off, but I loved him, and I thought he loved me.”
The two woman hugged, neither said another word, as they stood.
“I need time to digest this. Can we meet another day to decide where we go from here?”
Amy nodded and watched her leave. Eric placed a hand on her shoulder.
“That went better than I expected.”
Amy agreed, he was right, it did.
A month later, Jennifer, the mother of the twins walked over to Amy in the playground.
“I am sorry that I took this long to get back to you, but I honestly didn’t know if what you told me was true.”
“However, I do believe you. I do and the girls know now that your girls are their sisters. I told them at the weekend, I wanted to talk to them and…”
“They just accepted it?”
“My girls did too.”
“So where do we go from here?”
“I honestly don’t know. Other than the girls should get time to be sisters outside of school.”
“Okay, maybe we should make a day at the weekend for them to spend together, a Saturday, somewhere like the indoor play area.”
“I like that idea, okay we can do that.”
“I think if we meet at ten, they can play, eat and play a little longer.”
“Sure, okay, we can do that.”
“Okay, we will see you there at ten.”
Amy walked to her car and drove to Philip’s Toys. Parked her car beside Eric’s car. Entering the building she was greeted by those lingering in the reception area.
“Morning,” she said as she passed them and walked the route to Eric’s office. She passed the receptionist without asking if he was in. She lightly tapped on the door and entered.
“You left early this morning,” she said, as she walked in.
“Sorry,” he said walking over to her and placing a kiss on her lips.
“Are you free for lunch today?”
“Of course, I have a lot to do today, but always have time for you.”
“I have some other news for you too.”
“You do,” he said, stepping back.
“What is that look for?”
“Sorry, I thought you had that kind of news.”
“No, I’m not pregnant. If I was I would not tell you like this.”
“Sorry, what do you have to tell me?”
“Jennifer was ready to talk to me about the girls today.”
“I know, but I can understand it was a lot to take in.”
Amy went on to tell him the plans for the girls to spend time together, she decided she should invite Penny and Hannah; after all she was their sister too. Eric agreed that she should too, and he wanted to be their too, after all they were all his nieces.
Saturday arrived, Amy was nervous, but she should not have been, they got on and even looked out for little Hannah.
“Looks like we had no need to worry.”
“You were worried?” Amy asked.
“A little, I mean now I know the truth. I was worried after they found out that their father was also the girl’s father that they played with at the park. They took it better than I thought they would.”
“I don’t know what I expected from all this,” she said. “But all our girls, Hannah too, should get to know each other, family is family.”
Amy nodded again.
“I just hope there is not another family out there we don’t know about.”
“I worried about that too,” Amy admitted.
“We would just have to deal with it. Sorry Eric, but your brother has a lot to answer to, if he was alive I would…”
“No need to apologise, my parents are disgusted by his behaviour and they understand that you need time to adjust to this, but they would like to meet the children.”
“I never even thought about that, I mean he never mentioned them, I assumed they were dead.”
“No, they are very much alive.”
“I don’t know what to say, this is all a lot to take in, but I am happy for the girls, because before they lost their dad, they had just me. Now we have…”
“A family,” Amy said.
Jennifer put her hand on Amy’s. “Yes, a family.”
“I know this is too soon, but I think that we should all spend Christmas together, as a family, all of us. At least something good has come out of all of this.”
“I love that idea,” Eric said. “If you are all willing, I would love it if you all came to us, we have room for you to stay or just come for the day, no pressure.”
“We have a good few months before you have decide, but I would be honoured if you would join us.”
“I think the girls would love it,” Penny said. “You can count us in. I don’t need time to think about it.”
“Okay.” Jennifer shook her head. “You’re right, the girls would love it, but we should plan the day together, we may have different ideas on how the day should go.”
“We can do that, besides this is our first as a couple too,” Amy said. “Anyway, should we order some food, I am starving.”
“Good idea,” Penny said.
“Yeah, let’s eat.”
The day ended on a high, the girls were full, excited and tired all at the same time. The moment they arrived home, they were falling asleep. They carried them to their rooms and tucked them into bed.
Once they were asleep, Amy made her way back down the stairs to the living room, where Eric sat waiting, a glass of wine sat on the table.
“None for me, I would prefer a nice got cup of tea, if that’s okay.”
“Sure, come sit, I’ll make you one.”
Tea made, Amy sipped at it, snuggled into arms.
“I can’t believe how things have changed.”
“Me either, but for the better, don’t you think?”
“Oh yes, for the better.”
Amy meant it, she was truly happy, often she wished that she had met Eric first, things would have been so different.
So far no other families had surfaced.
His parents met their grandchildren, delighted at being able to spoil more children. All they wanted was Eric to have some of his own, but Amy was not sure she wanted any more children yet.
She had not planned to have more; Eric she knew wanted a baby of his own, even if he loved her girls as if they were their his.
When she found her period was late, she was not sure how she would feel if she was indeed pregnant.
When a day a later her period arrived, she felt disappointed. She realised she wanted to have a child with Eric and when she told him, he pulled her towards her and told her they better start practicing. She giggled as he led her to their room and made love to her.
Seven months later, Christmas morning, the families gathered around the Christmas tree, it would be a day of joy for all of them. Amy handed Eric a small box with a red silk bow. He looked at her, his eyes shining with love.
She watched him open it, and inside was a card, and on the card she had placed a pair of baby socks. She watched his reaction as he realised what the gift meant.
“Really!” she replied.
He stood and pulled her towards him, kissing her full on the lips as she pushed him off her, they realised everyone was watching them.
“A baby, you’re having a baby,” his mother said, pulling her towards her and hugging her. “Best Christmas ever.”
“It is,” Amy said.
The children busied themselves with playing games and with the toys they got from Santa. Amy watched the girls with interest, her hand on her belly, she hoped this baby would be a boy, she loved her girls but a boy would complete their family.
Tom’s older boys arrived for the cooked lunch, along with Glenda, as much as she disliked the woman, it was not her doing, not all of it. She no longer cared that she had her home. She had everything she wanted in this home, she had a man who loved her, and only her and a big family. On learning that Tom had more than just Amy and Glenda as his lovers, she was as angry as the other mums were.
They were family, and Tom was what connected them, but the love the girls had for each other showed them all that time was a healer and life went on. For all of them.