Squire’s Isle Created by Geonn Cannon

Birth Day

Summary: Jill and Patricia have a peaceful morning one year after a not-so-peaceful day.

A pair of tiny hands closed on Jill’s nose and cheek, squishing them together as she blinked her eyes open and looked into the wide eyes of her daughter. Isabel was sitting in front of her pillow smiling down at her. The baby was still in her pajamas, but her cocoa-brown hair was done up in a cute bow. Jill turned her head and kissed the tiny fingers, then scooted up and pulled the baby to her. Patricia was kneeling next to the bed, also smiling, and Jill blew her a kiss as she snuggled Isabel. She breathed deep, inhaling the scent of baby powder and cleanliness. She knew that in addition to doing her hair, Patricia must have changed her diaper and cleaned her up.

“Did I sleep through her crying?”

Patricia shook her head. “No. You slept through me sneaking out and sitting in her room until she showed signs of waking up, and then I brought her in here to wish you a happy birth day.”

Jill looked at Isabel. “Hm. She obviously has her calendar mixed up. It’s not my birthday, it’s her birthday. She should have her secretary work on that.”

“Two words,” Patricia said. “Birth. Day. The day you gave birth. She doesn’t know what the day means and won’t remember later on anyway. But you… it’s been one year since you had her, so we’re going to celebrate you.” She brushed Jill’s hair away from her forehead and kissed her. “Happy Birth Day, Jill.”

“Thank you, sweetheart.” She was still snuggling the squirmy toad of a baby, all elbows and knees with the evasiveness of a cat. “Battle plan?”

“All ears, General.”

Jill rearranged the baby against her chest. “You shower and get dressed while I play with the baby. Then I shower and dress myself and Isabel while you make coffee and breakfast.”

“Sounds good to me.” She kissed Jill, then Isabel, and stood up to go into the bathroom.

Jill watched her go and then focused on the toddler sitting on her stomach. “Girl, you got so big. When did you get so big?” She held up two fingers and Isabel wrapped her hands around them. She was a machine, a roly-poly babbling creature that occasionally managed to say “Ahmj,” which they all accepted was her way of saying “Mom Jay.” Patricia was Mom or Mommy, and Jill was Mom Jay, and that was how they referred to each other in front of the baby. So while she was thrilled that Isabel was learning her name first (a small rivalry she and Patricia had been cultivating for months), it hadn’t been her first word.

She remembered sitting in her classroom after school let out, with Isabel hanging out in the romper next to her. She’d been making general noises for a while, forming out sounds with her lips while pointing to whatever she wanted. Jill had just finished grading one paper and had flipped to begin the next when she very clearly heard the baby say, “Bird!”

Jill looked down at her and saw Isabel was leaning toward the row of windows along one wall. There was nothing there now, so Jill didn’t know if she was reacted to a real bird, if she wanted to see birds, or if she thought “bird” meant ‘take me to the place where I see those winged things.’ She picked up her phone and switched on the camera, leaning down to get Isabel in frame.

“Isabel… what’s out there?” She pointed to the window.

Isabel followed Jill’s finger, looked at the camera, chewed her hand, blinked.

Jill pointed again. “What’s out there? What’s…?”

“Bird.”

“Yes!” Jill said. “You want to see a bird?”

“Bird!”

Jill laughed as she stopped the video and lifted Isabel into her arms. She carried her over and sat with her on one thigh. Isabel twisted and turned her head to look out the glass. No birds to be seen, but it was only a matter of time before one showed up. Jill held Isabel against her as she used her free hand to email the video. A few minutes later Patricia called her and she answered on speaker.

“Bird?”

“Bird,” Patricia laughed. “I hate you. You made me cry in a town council meeting.”

“Oops.”

“It’s okay. Thank you for sharing the moment with me. What’s she doing now?”

Jill looked at the baby. “I took her to the window and she’s looking for birds.”

Isabel dropped her head and looked at Jill, then smiled.

Jill heard the shower shut off and got out of bed. It was hard to believe that it was only one year ago that Isabel had woken her in a much more desperate way, and it was also hard to accept that their baby was now one year old. She knew kids grew up much faster than expected. She’d learned that lesson with Michael, whom she had to constantly remind herself was a senior in high school even as her mind relented at the idea.

She consoled herself with the fact that she would always have the memories of Isabel growing up. Even with her and Patricia both working full time, they made sure to find time for the baby. It was exhausting at times, and she was incredibly grateful that Patricia and her mother had made peace so she could help them out. She would watch Isabel while Jill was in class, and she would bring the baby by when school let out. If Mrs. Hood wasn’t available, Patricia would take Isabel with her to City Hall, where the baby had become a sort of mascot for the office.

After all three women were bathed and dressed, Jill took Isabel downstairs to discover Patricia was already sitting at the table eating breakfast.

“That was quick,” she said.

Patricia pointed at the kitchen. “Don’t look at me.”

Their son Michael was at the stove. He looked up and smiled at her. “Almost done with yours, Mom Jay. And I have some Cheerios and yogurt ready for Izzy.”

“Wow.” She put Isabel in her booster seat and pulled out the chair across from Patricia. “Thank you. I really appreciate that.”

“Well, it’s her birthday, so…” He brought over a plate with eggs, bacon, and hash browns. He put it in front of Jill, and a small plastic bowl of cereal with an opened yogurt container on Isabel’s chair. “Don’t get all excited. It’s just, you know, frozen food stuff.”

Jill said, “All that matters is the love you put into it. Thank you, Michael.” She pulled on the collar of his shirt and kissed his cheek.

“You’re welcome. So I’m going to go…”

“You’re not going to have breakfast with us?”

He was already slinging his bookbag over one shoulder. “I’m meeting Callie at Yolk’s.”

“You should have invited her here. We love having her.”

He shrugged and rested his hand on the door. “We’re just going to hang out with some friends from school.”

Patricia said, “Okay. You can go. Have fun, be safe, school well.”

He smiled and waved goodbye.

Once the door was closed Patricia said, “Just when you think he’s the perfect teenager, he proves he’s just like all the rest.”

“Eh, so he still needs some work,” Jill said. “At least we got breakfast out of the deal.”

“True.” Isabel had her hand around some Cheerios and was trying to push them through her face, and Jill reached over to help her. “So a whole year, huh? Doesn’t seem right.”

Patricia said, “A whole year. Watch out. Tomorrow you’ll look up and she’ll be talking, then she’s going to kindergarten, middle school, high school…”

“Hey, hey, hey. Don’t give her any ideas.” Jill leaned closer to the baby. “You’re going to be just like this until I’m ready for you to be bigger. Deal?”

Isabel grinned.

“See? She just promised.”

Patricia laughed. “Michael promised, too. You know, the young man who just walked out the door and drove away? I would swear last week he was the one in that bib.” She rested her chin on her hand as she watched Jill feed the baby. “Jill.”

“Hm?”

“Do you know when I knew you were different?”

Jill looked at her. “Different than what?”

“Different from anyone else I’d ever met, or dated, or fallen in love with. I knew I wanted you from the moment I saw you. You were gorgeous.” Jill chuckled and blushed. “But I didn’t know you were my missing piece until I saw you being a mother. When I saw you with Michael, that was when I knew. And that’s why I’m glad you get to try your hand with one of these monsters from scratch. One year down and a lifetime to go… you’re going to be an excellent mother.”

Jill focused on getting the yogurt to Isabel’s mouth without making a mess. “Your mommy’s trying to make me cry,” Jill whispered to the baby. “But I’m not going to.”

Patricia chuckled. “I love you.”

“I love you, too. Thank you. I love being Mom Jay.”

“You wear it well.”

Jill grinned. “What are the plans for tonight?”

“I’ll pick you up after school… four-thirty?” Jill nodded. “We’ll come home and Izzy will get her delicious banana cake with the buttercream frosting, and then we let Michael and Grandma watch over her while we spend the night at the movies.”

“I still don’t know about spending her birthday away from her.”

“The purpose is twofold. One, it really is a day more about you than her. She has no idea what’s going on most of the time. She’ll enjoy the cake and the attention, but as for a party… it’s lost on her. We’ll have plenty of birthdays down the road to celebrate having her in our lives. This is a victory lap for us getting through a year as parents.”

Jill said, “So the hard part is over?”

“Yes.” Patricia laughed. “But the second part is helping her get used to the idea that we might not always be around. We’ll have work or we’ll have to leave her at daycare or preschool. This will help her separation anxiety. It’s an important step. Letting go for the first time.”

“Who says we have to let go? I could just bring her to school with me.” She snapped her fingers. “I can become a kindergarten teacher, then a first grade teacher, then–”

Patricia said, “That–”

“Let me finish! Then a second grade teacher, then a third grade…”

Patricia said, “Hardly seems feasible.”

“Then fourth grade…”

Patricia grinned. Isabel saw her grinning and mimicked her, and it made Jill smile.

“Fine. You win. I’ll abandon our baby to the horrors of other teachers. One or two of them are actually good people.”

“Aren’t some of them your best friends?”

“There’s a difference between best friend and being worthy of taking care of my child. That is a very small list.”

Patricia said, “Am I on it?”

“You’re on it. And then about two dozen second-bests.”

Patricia got up and walked around the table. She wrapped her arms around Jill’s shoulders and kissed the side of her head.

“Happy birth day.”

“Thank you.” She brought Patricia’s hand up to her face and kissed the knuckles. “A lot of birthdays ahead. Think we can handle ‘em?”

Patricia scoffed. “Look at us. It’s going to be a cakewalk.”

Jill nodded and turned her head to kiss Patricia’s lips. “Pretty good birth day.”

“And it’s only just begun.” She pecked the corners of Jill’s mouth and patted her arms. “Finish breakfast and I’ll drive you to work.”

“Deal.”

Jill gave Isabel some more yogurt. They were going to film the little party, and she was sure they would get footage of her tearing apart the banana cake with her bare hands. Isabel might not remember the party but she would get to see the videos in years to come. In the meantime she and Patricia, along with Michael and Callie and Mrs. Colby, were going to do their best to preserve those memories for her.

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