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It Takes Two To Tango

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Evelynn wakes up after groping around the bed and feeling nothing.

Normally there would be three bodies next to her, two small ones and one sturdy figure that encompassed her around strong arms. She wakes up and finds herself tucked delicately inside the comforters, warm, but lacking the additional body heat she sleeps with every night.

She blinks blearily.

The bed felt too big when she was alone, too much space to lay against and not enough body count to accommodate the entirety of it. Her two smaller bedmates had their own room, but her wife had been insistent on keeping them under her watch every night just in case some boogeyman came haunting their dreams (although Evelynn was certain it was just her wife’s own fear of boogeymen that prompted her).

The thought of her wife snaps her into consciousness and suddenly her senses seem to amplify.

Evelynn groans quietly into her pillow. Her wife was up, her kids were up, she should be too.

She sits up slowly and inhales the morning light, her legs were tangled in the sheets and her head was a heavy weight on her shoulders, she wasn’t a morning person sometimes.

She stares at the ceiling for a while, breathing in the misty sunshine streaking through the window and mentally preparing for the day ahead. She counts to ten.

And then she hears a clattering of dishes and a shrill shriek from downstairs.

She takes a breath. Here we go.

She pampers herself quickly and saunters through the short hallway and down to the kitchen, where the chattering grows louder every step she takes and the familiar ‘ratatatatata’ of a knife dicing against wood reaches pleasantly to her ears.

The first thing she sees when she steps inside is a little girl waddling around Akali’s legs on unsteady feet and a little boy standing on a step stool trying to reach over the sink.

“Well, look who’s awake,” Akali sends her a crooked smile over her shoulder, and then hastily puts her foot to the side when their barely-one-year-old daughter tries to yank open a cabinet door. “Ah-ah, no no.”

Aveline whines and tries to reach for the handles, Evelynn chuckles and bends down to pick her up. “Hello, my little love, how are we today?” she coos and Aveline squeals loudly in delight as she pulls on her mother’s hair, tightly. Evelynn winces with a smile.

“Mama,” their son cries out softly for help, his short arms can’t seem to reach the faucet. Akali drops whatever she was holding and makes her way over dutifully.

“Hold on, son,” she dips her voice two octaves lower and Evelynn was forced to roll her eyes.

“Darling we talked about this,” she chastises, they have—in fact—talked about this numerous times, and she has a feeling this won’t be the last one either. “The ‘dad voice’ does not suit you.”

Akali hefts Evan by the waist. “Just have to keep practicing.” She throws her wink, then quickly shifts her attention forward when Evan starts to wash his hands, making sure he wasn’t getting any soap in his eyes.

Aveline wiggles in her arms. “Energetic today, are we?” She carries the hyper toddler to the table, seeing a bowl still full and untouched. “You haven’t eaten your food yet, my love. Calm down.” She chuckles again as Aveline keeps tugging on her stark white hair.

“She’s teething!” Akali says excitedly as she helps Evan dry his hands in a towel. “Down here,” she gestures to her own mouth.

Evelynn widens her eyes, more teeth meant more biting, she gently places her daughter on the highchair. “Say ‘ah’.”

“Ah!” Aveline opens her mouth, not without some squirming and more squealing, she was a rowdy girl. Evelynn has to hold her still, gently tracing her thumb over the child’s bottom lip.

“My, my,” she says with a growing smile. Two pearly whites were starting to peek through girl’s lower gums. “You’re growing faster than we thought, little love.”

Aveline clamps her mouth around her mother’s thumb and chews on it, yeah more teeth also meant more chewing. And more drool. “No, no.”

Eeeeee!” Aveline makes grabby hands and Evelynn tries to feed her oatmeal.

She hears a faint scrape of another chair being moved from behind. Evelynn looks over to the other end of the table, spotting Evan climbing to his seat. He smiles at her shyly once their eyes meet.

Evelynn reaches over to pat his hair, soft and almost wispy between her fingers. “Ready for school, I see?” she says, noticing the boy’s little periwinkle collared shirt tucked under his chin.

“Not yet we’re not,” Akali answers from the other side of their large kitchen, preparing food, it looked. “We’re ready when I say lunch is done. And lunch is not done, so we’re not ready.”

Evan nods wordlessly to that and starts feeding himself with some toast. Evelynn lets out a little huff and then finds her way across the room after making sure their youngest wasn’t going to fling oatmeal on herself. Again.

“Hi there.” Akali jumps.

“Dear god,” she places a hand to her chest, “years of sharing a house and you still give me heart attacks.”

“I’m known for attacking hearts, yes.” Evelynn coils her arms around her waist and leans on her from behind. “Someone’s a little jittery.”

Akali instantly became limp in her arms. “It’s his first day,” she whispers, “just want to make a good impression.”

“Hmm.” Evelynn pecks a kiss on the back of her neck, then rests her head on Akali’s shoulder, keeping their daughter in her peripheral just in case. That kid should never be left unsupervised. “You came home pretty late last night, love,” she comments with an edge of concern in her voice.

Akali exhales heavily. “Kitchen, you know how it is,” she briefly mentions the constant mayhem of her workplace and Evelynn tightens her arms. Her wife worked as a chef in one of the most prestigious restaurants in the city, and she had seen how hectic that place could go. “Though, I think I’ll be off early today.”

She perks up. “Oh?”

“Yeah.” Akali puts away the chopping board and leans their heads together. “So you might wanna pick me up too,” she smiles cheekily and Evelynn pokes her on the ribs.

“Why didn’t you wake me?”

“You looked tired yourself,” she ventures softly and pats the arm around her waist. “Figured I get a head start in calming down our little terror in the morning.”

“Eeeeeee!” Speaking of which.

“Avi no!” Akali frantically runs over to their youngest child who was ready to toss a spoonful of oats at their direction. Thankfully her aim was off, and a chunk of it lands on the foot of the table instead. “Young lady!”

Evelyn immediately follows and lets out a little breath.

They get ready with much bustling and clamoring (curtsy of Aveline). Evelynn finds her keys and carries their wriggling child in her arms.

“Lunch, lunch.” Evan shrugs on his bag as Akali gently shoves his pack of lunch inside. She snatches her work apron from the coat rack and ushers the five-year-old out the doorway. “Don’t wanna be late.”

“Peep! Peep!”

“Yes, peep, peep.” Evelynn carries her down the driveway and opens the back door of a black Maserati—one that she had custom made with a larger and more spacious backseat (and with a sticker that reads “baby on board, so don’t you fuckin’ ram me or I swear to god” that was also custom made plastered on the back glass).

She carefully places Aveline in the child seat, who keeps making honking noises. “I’ll teach you how to drive when you can finally balance on your legs, little darling.” She tickles the child’s feet and Aveline kicks her legs in the air cheerfully.

“Then maybe we can have a race,” her wife says as she approaches. Evelynn shoots her a glare.

“No one is having a race.”

Akali peers inside the backseat and winks. “I’ll buy you a helmet on your birthday,” she whisper-shouts, Aveline seems to understand that and claps her tiny hands in delight.

Evelynn flicks her on the forehead as Evan slides in next to his sister. “We’ll talk about driving privileges later.”

Akali gives her a smile, bright and all too knowing, Evelynn tries not to be charmed.

“Sure we will,” she wiggles her eyebrows and hints at something, but Evelynn tuts at her. Their kids have ears.

“You better keep that grin on your way to work, chef.”

Akali’s smile quickly falters into a groan. “Now you just ruined it.”

She steps closer and pats on her on the cheek almost teasingly. “You’re off early today,” she reminds her, a suggestive whisper close to her ear, “then we’ll discuss those driving privileges.”

Akali snorts despite the growing flush on her face and tilts her head slightly, capturing her lips in a kiss that was smooth as butter and sweet as the sun was ripe. Evelynn hums and presses into it, tasting a faint trace of something minty, toothpaste perhaps.

“Peep! Peep!”

“Mmm, you heard the boss.” Akali pulls away with a small grin, Evelynn resists the urge to roll her eyes. “Peep! Peep!” She opens the passenger door and salutes their daughter on her way inside.

Evelynn lets out a heartfelt sigh despite herself, and turns to their children to make sure their seat belts were secure. “We’re going to have a talk later as well,” she says to the youngest, poking her on her little nose. Aveline giggles and holds her finger in response.

Evan looks outside and watches the lone buildings and trees whizz by in a colorful blur. The sun was rising, a finger of golden light hitting his face and forcing him to shuffle backwards and ruffle his hair—short tawny locks that swept around his head in tangled threads, tawny and earthy compared to Akali’s own reddish-brown.

Aveline sits next to him, her own hair silky and dark as the night sheen, with her bright orange eyes and barely contained energy.

She reaches a hand to him and Evan holds it, she babbles and Evan nods along as if he understood, or at least trying to. He liked to think she was actually saying something to him.

The car slows as they make a turn and Evan looks up, his mothers were unbuckling their seatbelts.

“Here we are,” Akali announces and makes her way out. “Let’s go buddy.”

She opens the door for him and Evan steps out tentatively, gripping the straps of his backpack as Akali takes his hand. He hears another door clicking on the other side.

“Have fun, darling,” Evelynn rounds the car and bends down to press a loving kiss on top of his head, Evan sniffs almost sulkily. “You’re going to do great.”

Evan lifts his chin at her and sniffs again, she chuckles and pats his hair, his sister squeals excitedly from the car window. Giving her support, he guessed, that actually cheers him up a bit.

He waves at them and Akali leads him toward the rusty school gates.

He glances around curiously. The place had a very wide yard, the grass was trimmed into a carpet green everywhere he looked and he could see a small goalpost in the distance. He perks up at that.

“Pretty big school huh?” Akali says as she notices his curious eyes and Evan nods distractedly. “They’ll probably let you play out here. And hey—look at that! That might be a playground.”

Evan looks to where she’s pointing and blinks, other children were running around. He holds her hand more tightly.

He studies a young oak tree dappled with woodpecker touches as they make their way towards the classrooms, colorful and new with fresh paint and filled with distant screaming and laughing of other kids like him. Evan shuffles closer to her, he doesn’t like the loud sounds.

Akali halts as she meets up with what appeared to be a teacher and Evan peers inside the classroom they stopped at. The walls were a sky blue and the floor was a warm peach, but there were already many kids inside and he doesn’t like this at all.

“Alright, pogchamp,” Akali crouches to his level and Evan tore his eyes away from the bustling room. “I have to be at work today, but mum will come pick you up later, okay? She’ll treat you some ice cream on your way back too, sound good?”

He shuffles forward and hugs at her pant leg, clinging to it firmly like it was the only thing keeping him safe. Akali’s eyes soften.

She kneels fully and cradles his small face in her hands. “You’ll be fine,” she reassures him in what she hopes was a soothing voice, Evelynn was better suited for that kind of thing, but she’s done a lot of practicing and Evan seems to be comforted. “The teacher is very friendly, you can ask her about anything.”

She gestures to a young woman with a short ponytail and thin-rimmed glasses, who smiles warmly at him. Evan shyly looks away.

“You’re going to be okay,” she repeats, this time more gently, he meets her eyes and sniffs. “If anything happens, just tell Miss Patts and we’ll come get you, alright?”

He nods lightly and Akali kisses his forehead with a little ‘mwah’.

Miss Patts shepherds him inside and helps him find a table, Akali stands by the doorway and watches for a while, smiling when he settles himself. She waves.

Evan waves back weakly, dreading the moment his mother makes her departure.

He looks around, the other children were busy with themselves and Miss Patts had gone around to calm everyone down.

He feels curious eyes pinned on him and keeps his head low. He definitely doesn’t like this.

“How is he?” Evelynn asks the second the other woman entered the car.

“Nervous.” Akali sighs out, then smiles. “He held on to my leg when we got there.”

“Poor darling,” Evelynn croons as she backs up into the highway. “I understand this may be nerve-racking for him, I hope he didn’t cry.”

“No, but I did mention you’ll get him ice cream later.”

“Fair enough.”

“Eeeeee!” Aveline shrieks at the mention of ice cream and Akali jumps. Oh god, she has a daughter.

Akali twirls her head at the backseat and makes a face. “You want some treats too, booboo?”

The toddler responds by shooting her chubby arms to the sky and Akali reaches out to tickle her belly. “Yeah I know you do!” She tickles her and Aveline laughs and tries to gnaw on her fingers.

“We’ll get her something to chew on,” Evelynn says, glancing at their child through the view mirror before focusing on the road. “She’s drooling, Akali.”

Akali wipes the wetness off with a bib and lets Aveline bite on her ring finger. “I bet she’s gonna be so rowdy on her first day,” she says almost proudly, maybe a bit too proudly, smiling at the thought of her bouncing around and giving everyone headaches. She was mama’s girl.

However, Evelynn tuts. “We’ll need to teach her manners.”

Aveline whines at that and Evelynn wags a finger from the steering wheel. “Manners, little love.”

Akali pokes her tongue out, Avi copies. “Don’t worry,” she whisper-shouts, “I’ll teach you how to race when you’re done with mum’s boring manner lectures.”

She laughs as Evelynn smacks her on the shoulder. Aveline wriggles happily and claps her hands at them.

Akali entertains their barely-one-year old until they stop in front of posh-looking restaurant. Akali exhales slowly, her workplace.

“Welp, I’m off.” She ruffles her daughter’s hair and shuffles in her seat. “Think you can pick me up in a few?”

Evelynn shrugs a shoulder. “If you ask nicely, perhaps I will.”

Akali huffs and leans over for a goodbye kiss, Evelynn closes her eyes and returns it wholly, tender and syrup-slow like the wake of morning, and taking their sweet time.

“I love you,” Akali whispers against her mouth as they part, Evelynn taps their foreheads together.

“Love me still? I think you may have a problem, darling.”

“Trust me,” she grins, “the only problem here is that my boss is a prick and doesn’t give me enough time to spend it with all of you.”

Evelynn laughs quietly and kisses her again. “Have fun, chef.”

“Alright, my little love,” Evelynn says dutifully as she closes the door. “First rule of the house, we don’t scream and throw oatmeal at our elders.”

Aveline grabs her nose and Evelynn gently pries her hand off as she meanders to the living room, clean and pristine if you ignore the various lego blocks and crayons scattered across the floor.

She sits cross-legged on the carpet and places her daughter on her lap. “How about we learn a few more words to pass the time, hmm?”

She reaches for one of the stacked children’s book underneath the coffee table. Aveline eyes the colorful figures of animals and fruits, enraptured. This was the only moment her daughter ever behaves for a good amount of time and Evelynn found it a splendid opportunity to keep her occupied.

She settles in as Aveline traces a curious finger on a giant apple. Evelynn smiles at her from above.

“Now,” she begins, pointing to it, “repeat after me….”