“You’re early.” Governor Vindico smiled as Dan and Fionna arrived for Aida.
“Daddy!” Aida trilled. “I beat Grampa in checkers three times!”
Fionna shook her head at Governor Vindico. They both assumed Aida had a little help from her grandfather in her success.
“Wow!” Dan chuckled.
Mrs. Vindico marched into the entryway carrying a notepad. There was a pencil perched obnoxiously over her ear. “Daniel, Fionna, I’ve barely had time to get the invitations out for Lindley’s wedding. Now, I’m having the same company do the birth announcements for our little Halia but I do not intend to be rushed like this again. When do you think she’s going to make her appearance? And I really do feel that the Vindico crest should be on the birth announcements.”
“Mother, not tonight.”
Glancing between Dan and his wife, always trying to soothe their relationship, the Governor cut in. “How was birthing class?”
“One of the most bizarre experiences of my life and you know just a few of the cases I was called out on when I was Chief of Iodex,” Dan huffed.
Confusion etched the Governor’s face. “Your mother and I took a class before you were born. All I remember is that I nearly hyperventilated trying to get your mother to breathe.”
Dan and Fionna both laughed.
“I really just want to know how to cast her. Try to make this as comfortable as I possibly can,” Dan admitted to his father as Aida went to gather her things. Fionna gave him her adoring smile. Warmth and calm flooded through his body.
“Talk to Zach. He did a remarkable job of keeping Kara calm,” the Governor instructed. “They wouldn’t let us do that when you four were born, but I imagine Stephen could help you as well.”
Aida returned to the couch and snuggled up beside Fionna. “I help Grandma put lace on bubbles even though she said I couldn’t blow any.”
Dan shot his mother a look. “She couldn’t even play with one bottle, Mom?” he huffed. There was a wicker basket the size of a bathtub full of small white bottles of bubbles for the wedding Lindley didn’t want and that Dan didn’t want to attend.
“The child has plenty to play with here and at home, Daniel. Unlike your wedding, this is a full Senate affair. There will be hundreds of people there,” Mrs. Vindico smarted.
“Of course there will be.” Dan rolled his eyes. His mother loved nothing more than showing off even in light of her husband being accused of having an affair. As he considered that he wondered if that was why she was going all out.
“What’s wrong with my girl?” Fionna kissed the top of Aida’s head. She’d clearly picked up on something in Aida’s rhythms he’d missed.
She tucked closer to Fionna. Her face fell as she shrugged.
“Hey.” Dan scooped her up and settled her in his lap. “Daddy’s got you.”
“Thank you,” she whispered.
“Hey, you’re my international checkers champion. What turned my baby girl’s smile upside down?” Governor Vindico looked devastated.
“I meant to tell you but then I got to play checkers and I forgot.”
“Well, tell us now,” Dan urged.
“Okay. Today at school Jessica said that Haley and I couldn’t go through the tube on the playground because we can’t be in her club. So, then we couldn’t get to the slide. It felt yucky.”
“Did you tell Ms. Powell?” Fionna soothed.
“What did Ms. Powell do?” Dan asked.
“She told Jessica that we could go through the tube but then when she went back to the teacher’s bench Jessica called Haley a very mean name, and said that no one liked her. Haley started to cry. I said that I like Haley and that she’s my friend and it isn’t nice to call people names because it hurts their feelings,” Aida explained. “Then Jessica said I was a baby and she and Saran started making crying noises.”
“Aida, sweetheart, you just tell Jessica who your granddaddy is and that if she can’t be nice then we’ll have her moved to another class,” Mrs. Vindico decreed.
“Mom.” Dan shook his head.
“I’m sorry Jessica isn’t being nice,” Fionna soothed. “But you know that Haley is your friend and that the way Jessica is treating both you and Haley isn’t the way we’re supposed to act.”
“I know but it makes my tummy hurt.”
“I know, baby,” Fionna assured her. “Believe me, I know.”
Pain seared through Dan’s chest. His stomach roiled. This was how a Receiver’s internal shield developed. This was how their energy and their spirits learned to cope with the fact that they could feel all kinds of emotions around them constantly. The hurtful, the pained, the terrified, and the haunting. Dan knew, but knowing something and watching it happen to his precious baby girl were two entirely different things.
“Are you nervous?” Fionna asked the following Saturday morning as Dan carefully zipped her into her dress.
“I’ve learned a few things being married to a Receiver. When they ask you if you’re feeling nervous it’s because you are and they don’t want to call you on it outright.” He squeezed her ass reveling in the squeal she gave him as she jerked away. “Thanks for letting me go on feeling like I’m handling everything.”
She laughed. “You’re handling everything better than I would. The woman who may or may not have had an affair with your father back in the day will be coming to a wedding with four bazillion people. You hate weddings. You hate crowds. And, on occasion, you’re not a big fan of your family.”
“I don’t hate weddings. I loved ours. I just know something will get fucked up because my sister is involved.”
“She is clean, Dan. She looks so good. Her hair is healthy. Her eyes are clear. I’m so proud of her.”
“Yes, but you are my Maylea, able to find the good in every bad situation.”
She wrapped her arms around him as best as she was able. He inhaled her delectable coconut island scent. “For me, try not to go into today thinking it’s going to be bad,” she urged.
“For you? I’ll try.”
“Oh!” She gasped. Dan smiled as Halia placed a well aimed kick from her stomach to his.
“Little one wants to be heard from, too.” Dan ran his hand over her belly. “Hey, baby girl.” Her hand shot across Fionna’s stomach.
“Maybe she’s excited to meet whoever this woman is that’s coming to the wedding today,” Fionna teased.
“She needs to stay put for another two months. She can meet her the next time my father gets accused of cheating on my mother.”