“Grandpapa wouldn’t think I should apologize,” Elena says with the judgmental certainty that is unique to children who are fully aware of how clever they are.
I sigh but stop myself from rolling my eyes because my daughter models everything I do. Most of the time, it’s cute. Today, I am wondering where I went wrong with her.
“Grandpapa wouldn’t think it was nice that you told someone that they were stupid, El.” I chastise her.
She lifts her chin. It’s a gesture I know very well – her father does it every time he’s about to go down with his sinking ship.
“What I said,” she says in her most grown up voice, “Was that if he didn’t know why Andrew Jackson shouldn’t be revered as a hero, then he was too stupid to be talking to me.”
I hear my husband’s amused snicker behind me and I shoot him a warning glance before I look back to Elena.
I only have to bend a little to be at eye level with my taller than average, smarter than average, more beautiful than average nine-year-old daughter.
“Elena, you shouldn’t call anyone stupid. Imagine how you would feel if someone called you that,” I frown meaningfully at her.
“No one would say that. I’m not stupid,” she shrugs her small shoulders matter factly. “No, you’re not And neither is Jack. Not knowing a fact doesn’t make him stupid.”
“You’re right,” she says and the quick surprises me. I study her closely. Her cool grey eyes are so like her father’s and her grandmother’s. Normally, when I look into them, it feels like falling in love at a thousand miles an hour. Right now, it feels like I’m falling, but not in love. This kid…
“Okay, “ I say slowly and straighten up. I glance over at Graham who is watching us from his perch on the other side of the icy white granite counter of our kitchen island.
I had been more than a little livid when we left Elena’s school this afternoon. Graham, on the other hand asked her for a play by play of the altercation and gave her a high five when she got the punchline.
We sent her to her room when we got home, and sat down to talk in the living room.
Graham thought we should let her sleep on it and that in the morning she’d probably apologize on her own. I wanted to talk it out. Back then, he'd said, “Okay, if you think it’ll help, but she’s not going to apologize just because we tell her too.”
Now, I shoot him a triumphant smirk. He only raises his eyebrows at me to let me know he’s not impressed.
“She apologized,” I mouth at him.
“She didn’t,” he mouths back.
I scowl and glance down at my daughters bowed head. Her hair is as dark as mine, but wavy and thick like her father’s.
She wears it cut short the way I did when I was her age. Last year, she tried to cut bangs on her own and it had gone horribly wrong. She was devastated when the hairdresser said it would be best to cut it short and grow it out.
I told her about my own experience with dramatic haircuts and how my father made me cut my own hair, too. Now, she wears it short intentionally.
“You understand that he’s not stupid,” I ask her.
She lifts her eyes to mine, their gray depths flecked with a twinkle of mischief. But she nods, her lips set in a solemn pout.
“Good,” I grin at Graham and he shakes his head in pity.
I quirk a quizzical eyebrow at him. And then, Elena speaks, and I understand.
“Tomorrow, I’ll apologize for calling him stupid and tell him he’s actually just ignorant. That’s not his fault, right?” She asks, her eyes wide with innocence.
Her lips twitch. Graham snickers. Then, Elena does, too. Suddenly, the both erupt with laughter.
I shake my head at them but decide let them have their fun. My words are falling on deaf ears.
The beep of the house alarm, is the only warning before the eruption of thunder of booted feet and the unhinged shouts and shrieks of laughter fill the entire first floor of our Bedford- Stuyvesant townhome. The sound carries it some magic fairy dust that infuses the very air in my lungs and makes my heart go pitter patter. Every time I hear it. I smile and open my arms just as my five year old twins Myles and Malcolm burst through the swinging door from the mudroom.
“Mommy, Mal said the tooth fairy is a ninja and that Santa is really a spy,” Myles whines as he catapults himself into my arms and buries his downy soft cheek into my neck. I smile down at his grinning brother
“Don’t tease him, Malcolm,” I say trying to give him a stern head shake.
He drops his dark eyes to the floor. “Sorry, Myles, I was just kidding, quit being such a baby,” he mumbles.
Myles wriggles out of my arms and turns to face his twin brother and sings, “Well, at least I’m not scared of birds,” and sticks his tongue out.
They stare at each other with identical scowls that morph into grins in a matter of seconds.
“Come on, let’s go play,” Mal says. He wraps an arm around my hips, squeezes me and calls “Love you, Mommy,” before he darts around me, his brother wrist firmly in his grasp.
They run over and share a fist bump with Graham before walking to where Elena is standing.
“Are you in trouble again?” Mal asks, peering up at her.
She jumps off her stool and hits her little brothers with her best big sister glare, “I am not in trouble. I was defending myself,” she stamps her foot in exasperation.
“Zion said that’s why he had to bring us home instead of Dad. That you were in trouble,” Myles chimes in. Her expression morphs instantly, she forgets her annoyance at her brother and her eyes fly to the door. “Zion is here?” she asks hopefully.
“Yeah, but he stopped to talk to Rachel from next door,” Myles says before he and Malcolm dart out of the room.
My heart tugs a little as I watch was my daughter’s face falls. I glance over at Graham to see him watching her, too. A wistful smile plays on the edges of his mouth.
She has a crush the size of Texas on Amber’s oldest son. Zion is seventeen and only has eyes for our very lovely next door neighbor, Rachel.
“Well, I’m going to read,” she says quietly and follows her brothers out of the room
I lean forward on the counter, resting on my elbows and gaze at Graham helplessly and confess. “Oh my God, I have no clue what I’m doing. These kids run circles around us.”
“That’s what they’re supposed to do,” Graham says with a small shrug.
He’s such an amazing parent. Patience, empathy and great perspective. He never sweats the small stuff and he keeps me on an even keel.
“Nice to see you, Mr. Davis,” I smile at him. “How was your day?” I reach across the counter and run a hand over his thick, closely cropped hair. He closes his eyes briefly and smiles contentedly.
Whenever he smiles like that, my heart swells. I can’t believe I get to live with this magnificent man and that living with me makes him just as happy.
He grabs my hand presses a kiss to my palm. “Today was great We’re set to break ground in two weeks. I can’t believe it’s almost here.”
“Believe it. It’s been almost ten years. You’ve first class is going to be graduating from high school in two years.” I say pride bursting from my words. Graham’s literacy foundation, From the Cradle has changed so many lives. And now, he’s finally opening his very first book store.
“Yeah, it’s good. We’ve done good,” He nods in satisfaction.
“I’m so proud of you,” I smile at him.
“Are you?” His eyes travel over my face, linger on my lips and then come back to mine. They are pools of hot steel and just like that, I forget all about the stresses of parenting. He crooks a finger at me, “Come and show me how proud you are, Apollo.” He licks his lower lip with just the tip of his tongue and my insides liquify.
“Okay,” I drawl and stroll around the counter. As soon as I get close enough, his arm snakes out and he grabs me by the waist and throws me up on the counter in front of him.
“Hi, baby,” I whisper against his mouth.
He growls, low in his throat, in response. Then he cups the back of my head and kisses me. It’s rough and I like it. This is how we are. Urgent, ravenous, happy. I lock my arms around his neck and kiss him back. Our lips part and our tongues tangle and he drags me off the counter so I’m in his lap. His erection is presses up into me and I wind my hips. His slides a hand up my stocking clad thigh and in between my legs.
“Thank God for these fuckhole tights you still wear,” he strokes the lips of my pussy before he parts them.“Fuck, Apollo…do you know what it does to me knowing you walk around wet like this?” he slips on his long thick fingers inside my pulsing, tingling pussy. I whimper and grind down on his hand.
“Take my cock out. I’m going to fuck you right here.” He adds another finger and thrusts up into me.
“Yes,” I gasp and my back arches and sends my breasts into his chest. My nipples are so hard the press of our bodies sends a shock of electricity between my breast and my womb. My trembling hands fall to the fly of his jeans and I unfasten them as quickly as I can manage. I fist his hard cock and stroke up. I marvel at how the skin around his hot hard dick feels like velvet against my palm. And my mouth waters.
“Put me inside you, Sunshine,” he bites my lip and sucks it into his mouth. I lift up and moan at the sting of his entry. My pussy is still sore from when he fucked me this morning.
I start to slide down. “Grah—"
“Holy shit! Oh my God,” a male voice shouts from behind us. I scream and Graham groans.
I turn around to see Zion standing with his back to us in the door of the mudroom. “This is why ya’ll have so many kids. It’s the middle of the day,” he yells indignantly."And ya’ll are lucky I didn’t drop Ari and run,” he says sounding like he’s trying to stop himself from gagging.
“Uh, hi, honey. We’re sorry. I forgot you were still outside,” I start to slide off Graham’s lap and stops me by tightening his arms around me. I gaze into his eyes and shiver at the heat I them.
“Hold my place,” he whispers against my lips, before he lets me go.
My legs are wobbly as I walk over to the fridge. I grab a bottle of water and press it to my flaming face before I turn around and look at him. His back is still to us.
“You can turn around,” I say with an amused laugh.
“Nah, I’m good,” he shakes his head vehemently.
Graham hops off his stool and walks over to Zion, “See, we’re not fucking anymore,” he says he plucks our fourteen month old daughter out of the Baby Bjorn strapped to Zion’s chest. “Thanks for that,” he says dryly as he walks back to his seat with a sleeping Ari nestled against his chest.
“Ignore him, Zion. You staying for dinner?” I walk over to press a kiss to my daughter’s head.
“Yeah, I’d like that. Mama’s doing the evening broadcast all week, it’ll be nice to eat something I didn’t bring home in a paper bag.” He drops his back pack and walks into the kitchen.
The kids are asleep, Zion is gone and it’s just us.
Apollo’s standing over the sink washing the last of the pots she used to make dinner tonight. Her dark hair is pulled back into a ponytails, but huge locks of it have escaped and frame her downturned face like feathers. She’s so beautiful. And she’s given me everything. We have built a beautiful life. I watch her and marvel that I met her twenty four years ago.
We’re only two days away from our tenth wedding anniversary and I feel like time is flying. I never became a teacher, but I’ve spent my life empowering children with books. We’ve used the money from the Comet Water deal to build our foundation.
Every once in a while, I’ll say yes to an endorsement deal. If some Swiss watch maker wants to pay me millions of dollars to be the face of his newest collection, I’ll do it. They money means my kids will have choices, and that I can continue doing the foundation’s work. Apollo’s museum is now part of the foundation and it functions as a cultural center, too. We’re both happy.
“What are you smiling about?” Apollo’s question draws my eyes back to her. She smiling at me indulgently. Her white fluffy robe is falling open in the front and she’s naked underneath. Her luscious breasts, made fuller by four pregnancies and twenty extra glorious pounds, sway as she leans toward me.
“I want another baby,” I say. Surprising us both.
She throws her head back and laughs. “Graham, if we have another baby people are going to start thinking we’re weird. You know like, one of those families that has a whole team of kids.”
“I don’t give a fuck. I love everything about you being pregnant. From fucking you to make it happen to watching those babies slip out of your body into the world.”
Her eyes flare and her laughter stops abruptly. A sexy, slow smile spreads across her beautiful face. “Well, when you put it like that.” She unties the belt of her robe It falls to the ground and she stands before me naked.
She runs a hand down and cups her breast. I suck in a quick breath when her thumb traces her plump nipple.
“Babe, come here.”
She shakes her head to say no. She pinches her nipples and sighs.“I actually love being pregnant, too. You want to know why?” she asks and then continues before I can respond. “Because in those months that I’m growing our little demigods, I get to carry a physical peace of you inside me. And it makes me feel like I can do anything.”
I believe that. She ran her first marathon when she pregnant with the twins.
I stand up and start toward her, my erection growing when I round the counter and can see her entire naked body.
“And, it doesn’t hurt that pregnant sex feels so fucking good,” she says brightly as I reach her. I cage her against the sink with one arm on either side of her.
I press my nose to the side of her head and inhale. “Mmmm, strawberries,” I murmur and kiss my way to her ear.
She pulls back and holds my gaze. “Let’s do it again, Star."
Her eyes, those bright galaxies of endless love, hold in them the promise of perpetuity. She’s given me a love that has defined every known constraint and knows not a single condition.
I nod my agreement and lean down to kiss the mouth of the woman who fell from the sky and saved my life.
I lift her into my arms, carry her into the bedroom and make us last forever.