Sunday afternoon, after Asia went to work, Jared took his boys—his sons and best friend Irvin Frank—to Bath de Rill in Windenburg for a little fun and relaxation. Jared and Irvin didn’t get many opportunities to hangout ever since Irvin’s comedy career took off. He quit his job, per Jared’s advice, and he’s been blazing the entertainment industry ever since. That ties up his nights and weekends, but that particular weekend he was free and he wanted to spend it with his family-like friends. Kolby and Kaiden called him “Uncle Irvin,” and he loved them too. He was like the crazy uncle that many families had. He filled their heads with all kinds of delicious nonsense like sharks living in the pool at night.
It was getting close to sundown, and the boys were a wee bit concerned. It was almost dinner time anyway, so Jared saved his children and took them all to the diner.
Jared felt some kind of way that week. Kolby’s birthday was approaching fast. On one hand, he wanted to cherish all the moments he had left with the little boy who was his first born. But, on the other hand, he looked forward to seeing him grow up to be the respectful, well-adjusted young man they raised him to be. The signs were all there, and Kolby was not going to be their little boy for long. First, he had begun to favor “mom and dad” over “mommy and daddy” which in turn broke his parent’s hearts a wee bit. Then, he began to ask questions about girls and discussing what he could do with his life. There was no question that he wanted to be a musician and write songs, but his thought process matured and he wondered how he could do it. Young Kolby was definitely fading away, but he wasn’t gone yet. He was sitting across the table from his little brother coloring on the placemat.
“So, the king of comedy decided to come down and slum it with the poor, huh?” Jared quipped.
“Yeah, you know I gotta make sure the world still spins while I’m gone.”
The two friends laughed.
“You made the plunge…how does it feel, man?”
“Pruett…this is the absolute best decision I’ve ever made. I wish I would have done it sooner. I can’t tell you how good it feels to be in control of my own life, bro.”
“That’s so good to hear, Frank. I knew it was gonna be life-changing for you.”
“Dad, why do you and Uncle Irvin call each other by your last name?” Kolby asked.
They both looked at each other.
“I don’t really know, Kolby,” Jared said. “We’ve been doing it since we were teenagers.”
Kolby never had a lot of friends. He knew a lot of kids, but he wasn’t terribly close to any of them. Having friends was never his top priority and still isn’t, but watching the banter between his father and his friend and knowing how long they’ve been friends made him hope to have a friendship like their’s one day.
“Can we go to one of Uncle Irvin’s shows?”
Jared quickly glanced at Irvin who was smirking at him.
“Uhhh…no…I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
“It just isn’t.”
Irvin was enjoying watching his friend squirm.
“That’s not a good enough reason,” Kolby objected. “Can we go? Please?”
Irvin decided to put Jared out of his misery. “Relax, Pruett. I do family shows from time to time. I’m not gonna ruin your innocent little boys, heh.”
“So can we go?”
“Fine. But sometime after your birthday.”
As the boys ate and continued their placemat masterpieces, the men ate and caught up on their lives. By the time the outing was over, it was very late. Asia would be arriving home by the time they got home. Jared usually adhered to a very strict schedule that involved early bed times for all of them, but one late night to hangout with their mother wouldn’t hurt them, he thought. Just as he suspected, Asia was rounding the corner as they approached the house. She waved energetically at her sons as they ran toward her.
“What are you guys doing out here?” She kissed Jared on the cheek.
“We just got back from the diner. Frank came with us.”
“Oh that’s good.” She leaned in closer to whisper something. “I have excellent news.”
She pulled away from him to greet her children. “Hey there, Mr. Sweet Face!” She bent down and kissed Kaiden’s check.
“And you, my cute little maestro!”
“Mom, guess what! Dad’s gonna take me to one of Uncle Irvin’s shows!”
“Oh! Is that so?” She turned to Jared, but he had already left to go in the house. He thought he’d give her a moment alone with the boys seeing as how she had news to tell him. “It’s almost midnight, guys. As much as I’d love to hear about your day, you guys need to get in the bed.”
The boys groaned.
“You have school in the morning! But, I’ll tell you a little secret…I’m gonna be home tomorrow!”
Their eyes widened as they gasped. “You are?!” they said.
“Yep! Now, come on. Let’s get you guys to bed!”
They went inside and up to Kaiden’s room. As much as the boys loved their father, they enjoyed it more when Asia put them to bed. She was much more whimsical than he was and made it fun for them. She entered the room first, and the boys collected behind her. As she was bending down to pull back his sheets, she paused.
“Did you guys hear that??”
Kolby went with it. “There’s something under your bed!
“It’s one of those sharks from the pool!”
“Good heavens! Sharks in the pool??” She started to ask what they were talking about, but it was late and she needed to stay in character. “Well, if it is a shark under this bed, I’ll just, ummm…” She saw a bottle of multipurpose cleaner on Kaiden’s desk. Jared must have left it behind after one of his cleaning frenzies. She grabbed it. “I’ll just spray around the bed with Plumtastik! All monsters and sharks are allergic to Plumtastik.”
“Yeah! Because if they weren’t, the shark would eat you in your sleep!”
Asia straightened up and looked at Kolby seriously. “Nobody eats my baby.”
“Hmph!” Kaiden turned up his nose at Kolby went to sit on his bed.
“Ok, Mr. Sweet Face!” She gave him hugs and kisses. “I love you! Sweet dreams!”
“Come on, maestro. You’re next.”
Jared crossed paths with them in the hallway. He looked tired, but she really wanted to talk to him.
“You’re gonna wait up for me, right?”
“Yeah, of course,” he said. “I’m just gonna take a shower.”
She was so excited about her news especially because it meant she could spend more time with her children. Perhaps this was the opportunity they had been looking for to have another child. When they got to Kolby’s room, they sat on his bed. She draped her arm around his shoulder and held him in silence. She was going to miss holding him like that and halfway regretted not holding him more. But, she knew he understood, and he was happy. That’s all that mattered to her.
Finally, she spoke. “Are you excited about your birthday?”
“What are you most excited about?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“You’re not gonna grow up and disown me, are you?”
He chuckled. “Of course not, mom.”
“Good! I don’t care how big you get, you’re never going to out-grow my hugs!”
Good, he thought.
“Ok. Time for bed.” She kissed his forehead. “I love you!”
“Love you too, mom.”
She left him and went to her room. Jared was coming out of the shower at the same time. They sat on the bed together.
“So?” he said.
“I did it! I got my license!” She was beaming.
He gasped. “You got your license,” he said with wide eyes.
“Yes! I’m a licensed mixologist now!”
“That’s wonderful! Congrats, babe!”
He briefly thought about all the sacrifices they had made and was relieved to know they were finally paying off. This was the moment they were working toward, and the sky was the limit for her now. She had a long road ahead, but now she was going in the right direction. “Heh, my baby, the mixologist,” he said proudly.
“Does this mean you’ll be too tired of making drinks to make me some of those flirty cocktails?”
“Of course not, Jared! There will always be something waiting for you…”
They sat in silence for a moment reveling in their pride.
Asia quickly snapped out of it as she realized her window of time was closing with him. “Oh! But that’s not even the good news!”
“The promotion came with a more favorable schedule! Well, not completely favorable, but I’ll be around more.”
“I’ll be working Friday through Monday from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.”
He gasped. “So you’ll be home three days during the week? And you’ll be home three hours after the boys get home from school? Good heavens! That means they’ll see you every day now!”
Her eyes got big and her jaw dropped. “You took my phrase!”
“Oh! I did, didn’t I. Sorry. This is such good news, baby.”
He took a moment to admire her, but his mind began to drift.
“What are you thinking about?” she asked.
“Heh, well…I was thinking that we currently share two off days now. I think this is about as ideal as it gets for us.”
“Do you think we should…pause right here? Maybe just until we’re done having children?”
“I don’t know. That’s definitely a good plan. Probably the wise thing to do. I guess it might be nice to just go to work without working so hard and trying to outshine everyone.”
“We don’t have to decide tonight you know…or maybe at all. We’re experts at making things work, remember?”
“Yes. Yes we are.”
“You’re tired,” she said. “Let’s go to sleep. Then, maybe on one of our off days, we can do a little family planning, eh?”
He smirked. “I love you, Asia.”
“I love you more!”