“Mama?” said Serpent.
“Yes?” I said.
“When Poople Man leaving?”
“He’s not leaving,” I said. “He’s your daddy, and he lives here too.”
“No, he not Daddy!” Serpent said. “Daddy dark and big and not poople!”
“You have two daddies,” I said. “One is big and dark. The other is purple, and your purple daddy is the one you’ll be seeing for a long time.”
“He not Daddy!” Serpent repeated.
“Yes he is,” I said.
“No, he innint.”
“Colin, help me!” I said in exasperation, looking to my son.
“Sorry, busy changing a diaper here,” Colin said as he tossed Scarab into the air.
I sighed. Scarab giggled. Serpent said, “I want Daddy!”
Once we’d gotten them to sleep, Colin turned to me.
“Look, Mom, I don’t know how to teach a baby that their dad isn’t the dad they think he is. You’re gonna have to figure it out yourself.”
“I know,” I said.
“Then why ask me?”
“Because I haven’t been able to figure it out,” I said.
“Well, it’s not my fault you gave them a dad they actually met. They’ll just have to get used to not seeing him.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “That won’t happen again.”
“For real?” Colin asked.
“For real,” I said. “Are you still mad at me?”
“Yes,” said Colin. “But I’ll get over it. I’m just glad you and Dad are back. And back together.”
And he hugged me quickly before leaving the nursery. I am glad he doesn’t seem like he’s going to hate me for the rest of my life.
I couldn’t say the same about Raven. This was the closest we got to each other in the day before her birthday. And I wasn’t even awake to see her.
“Hi, Curly,” I said when he woke me up.
Curly whimpered and looked away.
“Are you mad at me too?” I asked him.
He barked, stood on his hind legs next to the bed, and let me scratch his ears. Then he was off to the nursery. I hadn’t heard the babies squalling till he went in there. He probably wasn’t going to ignore me like Raven.
Raven beat me to the nursery. I walked back out the door before she could see me.
“Why aren’t you and Mom talking?” Butterfly asked.
“No reason,” said Raven. “Don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Yep, I do. I’m cleaning the zoo!” And Butterfly trotted off with the rabbit.
“Why’s no one telling us where Mom and Dad keep going every day?” Dragonfly asked Raven.
“Because it’s none of your business,” said Raven.
“That’s not fair,” said Dragonfly.
“You just realized that now?” Raven said.
The next morning, Raven and Colin stood together at their cakes. They’re not really twins, but they’ve been growing up on the same day so much I figured we might as well keep the tradition.
Raven chopped off her ridiculous bangs and for the first time, I realized how much she looks like me. I felt strange not having noticed before. Guilty, almost. Was I that bad a mother?
She decided she was going to be a private investigator. I had to say, it was perfect for her. I just hoped she wouldn’t be investigating me anymore.
Colin was as handsome as ever, and I found it fitting that he grew up to an adult after Cam and I had made up. After all, he’s a symbol of us.
He decided to go into the science career.
“Well, goodbye then,” I said, just to say something. I didn’t want her to leave without me ever saying another word to her.
“Don’t cheat on Dad again,” said Raven. “I mean it. I’ll come back and rummage through your trash if I have to.”
Cam snorted. “There’s a lot of dirty nappies in there, you know,” he pointed out.
“What did Mom cheat at?” Butterfly asked. “Chess?”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” I said, trying very hard not to glare at Raven. But it was difficult, because now I had to explain to the triplets what Raven had meant. I couldn’t just ignore that.
“Bye,” said Raven, smirking. “Bye Dad.” And she left. Finally.
We gathered the triplets together in front of the TV.
“What did Mom cheat at?” Butterfly asked again.
“I…um…” I stammered. “Well, uh, do you remember Riverview?”
“No,” said Buttefly. “Have we been there? I don’t remember.”
“Yes,” I said. “You were born there, you and Firefly and Dragonfly. I cheated on our marriage. You three have a different father.”
Cam was silent. It was hard for him to hear, even though he already knew.
“What does that mean?” Butterfly asked.
“It means Mom loved another guy when she’d already promised to love Dad,” said Firefly.
“Why has Dad been gone so long?” inquired Dragonfly.
“I was out playing music at concerts,” said Cam. “Didn’t any of you watch me on TV?”
“Not really,” Dragonfly said, shrugging. “I didn’t even know you were on TV.”
“Daddy’s famous!” said Butterfly. “I wish someone had said so.”
That made Cam look happier, to be told he was famous.