They were such a great help that Jessica wasn’t sure what she would have done without them. Sure, Ariana was a little… surprising, at first, but Jessica saw how happy she made Courtney, and that was all she needed to know.
One by one, she spent a few minutes with each of the triplets before she would start making dinner. She was home early, so it was her turn. She didn’t mind so much; it was nice to listen to the triplets babbling in the high chairs or on their day mats.
They hadn’t had any specific naming themes for the triplets, but had simply chosen names that they had both agreed on (which was a surprisingly difficult task).
Little Summer lived up to her name, but she was also the shyest of them all. She was often hiding behind Jess or James whenever strangers tried to greet her.
Skye, however, was easily the daddy’s girl of the lot. Usually, James left the house later than Jess and returned later – Jessica loved to see Skye become excited whenever James came home. She would always go to greet him and clumsily peck his cheek like James always did to Jessica when he came in the door.
“Faye, stop chewing that! It’s not to put into your mouth!”
Whether they listened or not was another thing entirely.
To humour him, Jessica made a purring noise. James laughed; the sound made a happy smile curl her lips. She was half asleep as James trailed his fingers through her hair. It was so relaxing, and she felt the stress of work and three young toddlers melt away.
“How’s work?” she asked sleepily, half mumbling the words.
She felt James shift position on the bed before he answered. “It’s challenging,” he laughed. “But it keeps me interested. You still enjoying all that confusing scientific research that I don’t understand?”
Jessica grinned. “Yup. It’s interesting.”
“Yeah. All those… enzymes. Those sexy, sexy enzymes.”
“Shut up, you idiot,” she laughed.
It was peaceful, at least until Courtney, or Nate, or her mother arrived to take care of the triplets for the day.
James wasn’t usually spontaneous, especially not with money – but look at this car! Look how amazing it looked! And it drove like a dream, too. He had fallen in love with it, and… well. It was parked beside the house now.
It wasn’t like the car was hard to notice. It wasn’t like he hadn’t expected Jessica to notice, exactly, he just hadn’t…. thought about what she would say.
James’ face must have given him away. “It’s our own car! Do you want to go for a drive? It drives like a beauty, Jess, it’s -”
“It’s a two seater, James. What the hell is wrong with you?”
“I just got a bonus -” he began lamely.
Jessica screamed in frustration. “Yeah, because that makes this okay!”
“I would have thought the first car we bought would be something to ferry the triplets about, not fulfilling your worryingly early midlife crisis!”
James opened his mouth to argue, and then quickly closed it. He avoided Jessica’s angry gaze. “Sweetheart -”
“Don’t try to butter me up.” Her voice was acid. “I – I can’t believe you didn’t think about the triplets, James. I just can’t believe you did this!”
James reached out cautiously. He placed his hand on Jessica’s shoulder and rubbed his thumb over her skin. “You girls are the most important things in my life. I’m sorry, I made a really stupid choice – you’re right. I can take it back, or -”
“No, James.” Jessica’s voice was quiet and hurt. “I don’t want to make you do that. I know you’ve always wanted a nice car so… We’ll figure it out. We’ll save up for a big one for the kids, or something.”
How could he have felt worse than before? James winced. “If… If you’re sure.”
Jessica smiled, though it was a poor smile. “I hate being an adult, sometimes,” she said quietly.
James chuckled and pulled her into a hug. She smelled like the vanilla body lotion she used, and it always seemed to ground him. He closed his eyes. Note to self: don’t buy any more expensive silly things that you don’t need. Even if you feel like you need them at the time.
“You smell like new car, it’s gross,” Jessica said, resting her chin on his shoulder.
James snorted. “It’s the best cologne around. None of that lynx shite.”
“I suppose anything smells better than dirty nappies,” she sighed. “Speaking of, you’re on kid duty tonight, given that you need to get out of the doghouse,” she winked at him.
James groaned. He couldn’t really argue with that.
The sun dipped lower. It bathed the garden in an orange glow. The dusk was quiet, with only a few birds filling the silence. James closed his eyes and listened to their songs. He rarely came out here; usually, the triplets were too demanding. He enjoyed spending time with them and would have happily played with them the whole evening if not for the day’s events.
James pulled in a deep breath and settled down to give it some thought.
“Is everything okay?”
He could hear the nervousness in her words. To reassure her, he smiled and patted the spot next to him. “Come sit with me. We need to talk about something.”
“Sounds ominous,” she croaked.
“Don’t worry,” he promised. “It’s work stuff, not… us stuff.”
“Work has offered me a six month position with one of their contractors because of my language skills. It’s a good deal of money, too.”
Jessica’s eyes lit up. “Hey, we could get a useful car!” She laughed when James pouted at her, but it quickly died. “That’s not all, is it? That sounded like good news, and you don’t look like you’ve got good news to tell me. What’s the catch?”
“France,” he sighed. “They want me to go to France for six months.”
Jessica’s eyebrows shot up. Whatever she had been expecting, that clearly wasn’t it. “Oh,” she managed.
James nodded. “I could come back every second weekend, or so, but the main issue is the triplets. I know you’ve got your mum and your friends, but it’s still a lot to ask of you. As far as I’m concerned, the decision is in your hands.”
“It’s your decision too,” Jessica said firmly.
Jessica settled back in the seat. It wasn’t like they were desperately struggling for money, but having some rainy day money would alleviate some of the stress. She chewed her lip. The triplets were already looked after in the day by a rotation of her mum, Nate, and Courtney. Jessica didn’t doubt that the old university friends would offer to help out, Aja especially. James’ parents had offered time and time again to come up for a little while if they ever needed a break… It wasn’t like she would be alone.
Six months, though. That was a long time.
“I think you should go for it,” Jessica said. “We’ll manage. Yeah. We’ll manage.”
“I love you, sweetheart,” James told her, pressing his lips to hers.
Jessica mumbled something against his lips, which James assumed to be the same words, but he was too distracted to tell.
Well, they had six months to compensate for…
Jessica snorted. “Kinky.”
Aja snickered. “Yup.” She stretched her legs in front of her and glanced to the small hand prints on a piece of A4 paper that was pinned to the wall. Jessica watched her.
“Have you and Aiden spoken about kids?”
“I – no. No.” She frowned and stared ahead at nothing. “He won’t bring it up, considering my commitment qualms but… I know he wants them.”
“Yeah,” she said faintly. “That would be nice. Being a mum, white picket fence, the whole she-bang.” She laughed humorlessly. “I’d find a way to fuck it up. I can’t have little lives relying on me, Jess.”
Jessica linked their fingers together in the hope that it would give Aja comfort. “If it helps, I don’t think you’d do that. I wouldn’t let you do that, and neither would Aiden. But if you can’t do that… no one would blame you.”
“I want what you have so badly, Jess. I’ve seen you go from the girl who denied any feelings for James to the mother you are now. I wish I could do that too, but I don’t think I have it in me.”
Despite her sadness, Aja barked out laughter. “Communication is the key. Spare me your preaching, Jess. Fine, fine. I’ll talk to him tonight. And I guess I’ll see you when you need rescuing from triplets.”
Jessica grinned. “You’re my saviour.”
“I’m something, alright,” Aja mumbled under her breath.