Julian was given some time off of work during my last few weeks of pregnancy. He helped out around the farm and took it upon himself to teach Zeus how to jump hurdles down at the equine center. One day while he was saddling Zeus up and I was in the yard with Lily, I felt the telltale, sickening gut-wrench of my water breaking.
“The baby’s coming,” I gasped.
Julian hopped right back off of the horse and swatted his rump, sending his shooting ward the barn. He scooped up Lily with one hand and took mine in his other. “Lets go,” he said, gently.
For whatever reason, perhaps because I was so much older now than when I had Fennec and Becca, this pregnancy was much harder. I was in labor for a little over seven hours and, when the baby boy finally emerged, I was just happy I could stop pushing.
Lily and Colton, the newest member of our family, grew to be quite close as they got older. They were always together and would cry if separated – we learned very early on that sleeping in the same room was something we were going to have to do if we wanted a quiet night.
As they grew, it became more and more obvious that the two were like peas in a pod. When one was hurting (usually Lily), the other would comfort. When one was picked on at school (always Colton), the other would stand up and be the protector.
I was thrilled to have their connection, but had obvious apprehension. I was quick to remind them that they were related if their rough housing or play seemed to get a little too close for comfort.
As Lily grew up, I got more and more nervous about her lack of attraction to any of the boys in her classes. She was a sweet girl, though, and perhaps just a late-bloomer. She helped out around the farm and was always close to the chicken coop, playing with the new chicks that seemed to hatch every few weeks, like clockwork.
Colton, too, found a distraction none of us were expecting – woodwind instruments. He joined the school’s band and took up playing upright bass. He was phenomenal at it, too.
To help him out with his practicing, we got Lily a guitar, which she would often jam on right along side Colton. Their music was always bluesy and bordering on rockabilly. They would make up songs and lyrics and belt them out loud in Lily’s room (we had to stop the room-sharing once they were teens, even though they were still a little annoyed about it). The lyrics were usually about heartache or some other emotion neither of them had felt yet, but needless to say, Julian and I were just glad it wasn’t crude or sex-charged.
It was during Fennec and Becca’s last year of art school when I got the phone call.
“Mrs. Mayberry, we apologize for the inconvenience, but we are expelling your son, Fennec Quezada.”
I wasn’t too stunned, but it still made me choke. “Expelling? Why? What did he-“
“No doubt you have seen the reports we send home about finding him fraternizing with the girls here, staying out past curfew, bringing alcohol onto our premises…”
The woman kept rambling before sighing. “Frankly, we’re done with his behavior. His sister, though an exemplary student, has also requested to come home. We will be using the remainder of their tuition to purchase a flight back home for them.”
I held my daughter close, breathing in the smell of her. I had missed my children more than I realized until they were back.
Fennec was smug and seemed overly proud of himself when he proclaimed, “Well, Becca, might as well get the surprise over and done with.”
Becca beamed. “Mom. Dad. Remember Jelly Bean? The real reason I went to France was to track down a special stone. A stone that was a key ingredient to a potion that would make Jelly Bean real.”
“What?” Julian and I asked simultaneously.
And then Jelly Bean joined us. I was instantly wary of him. He smelled like trouble – there was insanity in his eyes, too. Not to mention he wore a bunny suit.
“Slut,” he snapped at me.
Becca quickly stepped between us and Julian stepped forward, anger on his face.
“Jelly Bean!” Becca snapped, putting a hand on his face. “That’s my mom! You need to be respectful to her! Okay?”
He muttered something else. I just shook my head. “He’s not sleeping in my house.”
“What?” Becca cried out, looking sad. “Mom, you can’t-“
“He isn’t family, Becca, he’s not staying,” Julian agreed. “We know nothing about him.” Never mind the fact that dolls can’t just become real because you find a rock, his tone said.
Jelly Bean muttered some more, something that sounded oddly like, kill them, but Becca shushed him, holding him close.
“That’s final, Becca,” I added in seriously. “He stays outside on the porch. He cannot come into the house.”
“I get it!” She yelled hotly. I turned my back on them and went inside, needing a strong drink.
I should have realized things wouldn’t be hunky-dory with four teens in the house. Especially not when two of those had their father’s temper and were resistant to change.
“Get off my horse!” Becca was screaming at Lily.
“Mom asked me to trot him around, get him some exercise,” Lily tried defending herself. “He needs a quick trot every morning. She’s cleaning out his stall but if you wanted to ride him a bit-“
I sped up my step, going toward them when I saw the look in Becca’s eyes. It was the look Beau used to get – the angry, hot look. Becca strode forward and reached toward the reigns, as if the tug Zeus away from Lily.
But Zeus snapped his jaws at her, making Becca recoil in fear and Lily gasp. “Zeus!” Lily exclaimed, trying to calm him down. He kept stamping angrily at Becca, though, who finally tore off and into the house.
When Lily saw me, there were the beginnings of tears in her eyes. She’d always been so sensitive. “I swear I didn’t-“
“I know, Lily,” I sighed, walking into the house and after Becca.
Something had colored Becca’s world the green of envy. She made fun of her siblings, all of them, relentlessly. She was cruel and angry, even with Fennec. And, to my surprise, Fennec seemed to really take her mocking words to heart.
When I walked in on and heated session of Becca detailing all of Fennec’s faults, I sent Becca to her room and had a sit-down with Fennec.
“What happened to your sister?”
He kind of smiled then shrugged. “Nothing has happened to her, Mom. That’s the thing. She’s always been like this. She was just better at hiding it from you.”
I didn’t understand what I was hearing. “But she was always so sweet-“
He shook his head. “She was whatever she wanted you to believe, Mom. Seriously. Now that she has what she wants –Jelly Bean — I don’t think any of us will be seeing the sweet side anymore.”
It couldn’t be that simple. There had to be something else.
When Becca came down to say goodnight to Jelly Bean, who slept on the outdoor sofa, I cornered her. “Becca, we need to talk.”
She rolled her eyes and slipped outside. I sat up waiting in the living room until, finally, she came back in. “What’d you want?” she asked.
I pointed to one of the chairs. “Sit.”
“Tell me why you’re acting this way. Being rude to your siblings – to your parents,” I added.
She crossed her arms and leaned on her knees, smirking.
“I’ll sit here all night if I have to,” I warned her.
She didn’t move and didn’t answer. So I knelt beside her and did the same.
I finally let her go up to bed around three in the morning. She still hadn’t spoken to me and I hated the proud look in her face, like she’d won something.
Julian was at the station for the next two days and nights – I wasn’t sure if I could take dealing with her alone for that long.
How do other parents do it? I wondered. Or am I the only one who created a mysterious demon child?
I kept dreaming of that dark figure skirting around the corners of my room – the black and red tinged nightmare creature.