Bree Ann Atwood arrived in early spring, perfect, pink, and soft. She was the light of her mother and father’s life, and with her arrival, everything in their world was forever changed. Her career was temporarily on hold while she doted on their first baby daughter. And Arthur continued to work, though his earning potential was dwarfed by his wife’s big salary. But he loved his work, and it gave him some purpose to provide for his family. Desi was there when Bree took her first steps and was dismayed when her first word was “Dada.” She made sure she read Bree to sleep every night, choosing a book that would help to shape the young child in her older years.
Soon after Bree’s third birthday, Desi and Arthur found out they were expecting a second child. Neither one of them was where they wanted to be in their career, but raising her family was Destiny’s top priority, even more than being the biggest star in Starlight Shores. They knew they had some decisions to make, and soon.
Destiny’s agent was not happy to hear news of their second child. “We can’t keep you in limbo indefinitely, Destiny. Stardom doesn’t work like that. You need to choose what you want to do.”
“I know,” Destiny responded on the phone call. “Arthur and I are discussing it, and we’ll have an answer for you soon.” She hung up the phone and wiped a tear from her eyes. She knew the decision had to be made, but she feared it might be more difficult to walk away from her career than she thought.
When Arthur returned home that evening from work, he was beaming, It wasn’t because he had gotten a promotion or a raise. But he had talked everything over with his boss and coworkers, and everyone advised him to let Destiny continue her career. He would be perfectly happy being at home with the children, being Mr. Mom. He couldn’t wait to tell her his solution.
Destiny was feeding Bree when Arthur came through the door. “Well, Babe, I have everything all figured out.”
“Oh, you do?” Desi was waiting to tell him that she was quitting her job. “Well, I do, too.”
“Well, I want to go first, sweetheart. I am going to stay home with our children. You shouldn’t have to sacrifice a career that you love, and besides, the town needs a gem like you.” Arthur was smiling ear to ear. He reached out to touch her cheek, and she took his hand.
“Are you sure? Two toddlers are going to be rough for a while.” Desi stated very matter-of-factly. “We could hire some help?”
“Nonsense!” Arthur replied. “I don’t need help to take care of our babies.” He took the spoon Desi was using to feed Bree and took over the job. “Besides, I really want to do this. You deserve it, my love. Now, what were you going to say?”
Desi smiled sheepishly at him. “I was going to tell you that my agent called today, and he wanted an answer about my decision. I was going to tell him to cancel my contract, but I guess I don’t have to now.” She wiped baby food off Bree’s chin with a napkin. “He wasn’t very happy to hear about the new baby. I guess not everyone is a family man, like you.”
Arthur leaned forward to kiss her. “Nope! Aw, Babe, I’m so happy you are going to stick with singing. But you know, this house is only two bedrooms. Even with a significant remodel, it still won’t be big enough for four of us.”
“I thought of that, too, but when I was thinking of quitting my job, it wasn’t going to be affordable. I’ll call my real estate agent tomorrow, and see what she can find for us.” Desi picked up Bree, took her bib off and kissed her dirty cheek. Bree returned the favor by placing a hand, covered in baby food, right on Desi’s forehead. “You see this, Art? This is what you’re getting yourself into.” She blew bubbles on Bree’s tummy, making the child giggle and squirm.
“I can’t wait!” Arthur kissed both of them on the forehead and took Bree from Desi. “I’ll give her a bath tonight. You rest.”
Destiny’s real estate agent found a beautiful modern house in the hills for the growing family, and surprisingly enough, it was well affordable even with Desi’s extended maternity leaves. Arthur quit his job shortly after Bella was born. But the housework, baby care, and an active toddler proved too much for him to handle alone. Reluctantly, Destiny and Arthur hired an executive butler to take care of the cleaning and repairs in the house, so Art could focus his attention on Bree and Bella. Desi concentrated on reviving her career by booking the big show venues in town. Her comeback show at the Hoi Polloi was sold out, and the following night at the Binder Clips Center was, too. The next day was Leisure Day, a city-wide vacation dedicated to, well, leisure time. But Destiny had a show booked that day at the Brotherhood Hall. All three venues wanted her to come back as a steady performer, which meant very good money and citywide recognition.
The day after her last comeback show, she took an unpaid day off to take the family to the summer festival. It was there that she had her family picture taken every season, and she wasn’t about to stop the tradition now. That picture went into the digital frame above her fireplace, along with the long gone, but still familiar faces of her past. She pointed out Nana and Papa to Bree and Bella and told them how very much they loved the girls because she knew in her heart that Charlie and Fran would have adored their granddaughters.
Destiny’s return to the stage was very well received, booking shows and tours all over Simville. But there was a hiccup in the plans as Destiny got the unbelievable news that she was expecting their third child. Bree was now a teenager and Bella in grade school. It certainly wasn’t anything that Arthur and Destiny were planning, and Desi worried how her agent would react. Heck, she worried about how Art would react. So the evening she planned to reveal her pregnancy, she cooked his favorite meal and gave the butler the night off. The girls were at sleepovers at their friends’ homes, and it was just the two of them. In a vase on the table sat five long-stemmed roses, each one with a note attached to it. Each rose bore the name of a family member. One for Desi and one for Art. Two flawless red roses represented their flawless daughters, Bree and Bella. And one rose just had question marks and hearts on its slip of paper.
Desi lit the candles and turned on the stereo with the remote control. Art was puzzled by the display before him, but an uneasy feeling washed over him. Each time before, a surprise dinner brought questionable news, and he was unsure.
“Okay, what’s your big announcement, love?” he queried. He only glanced at the roses, not paying particular attention to the details.
“Wow, am I that transparent?” Destiny laughed nervously.
“I wouldn’t say transparent, but this isn’t my first rodeo, either. The way I figure it, you have some…” Art paused to gather his thoughts, then continued, “…unsavory news.”
Destiny frowned at the thought of their child being called unsavory. “Well, you’re half right.” She sat down next to him, her head in her hands. “We’re pregnant, Art. I’m… pregnant.”
At first, Art looked confused, but when the reality settled in, his unease turned to profound relief. “That’s it? That is your news?” Destiny nodded, a tear choking her words. “Babe, why are you crying? This. Is. AWESOME!” He couldn’t even hold his joy inside. “You have to know how excited I am!”
Destiny felt relief come over her, and her emotions welled up within her. She cried for an hour, and he just held her, stroking her hair and kissing away her tears. “Are you sure this is okay? I mean, I thought we were done with babies until we have grandchildren. Are you ready for diapers and high chairs and potty training and…”
Arthur cut her off. “Babe, it will be fine. I promise.” It was then that he noticed the roses, and the one with the question marks and hearts. “So, that’s what the roses are for!” He smiled ear to ear, blew out the candles, picked up Destiny and carried her upstairs. She clung to his neck, now smiling in anticipation of their evening together.
The next morning, when the girls returned home from their friends’ homes, Destiny sat them down and told them their good news. At first, Bree was livid. “Mom! You’re already not home enough as it is. How could you do this?”
“I’m sorry, Bree, but sometimes things happen that you don’t plan.” Destiny was annoyed but was trying to understand Bree’s point of view. Being an only child, she didn’t have to worry about younger or older siblings. Sometimes, it was a little difficult to relate to the girls when it came to sibling problems.
“What are my friends going to say, Mom? They’re going to… know…” Her young teenage mind was just assaulted, mortified to think that her mother and father were doing… “that.” And worse, her friends would know, too. It was a living nightmare for a girl of 14 years.
“It’s nothing to be ashamed of, Bree Ann!” Destiny was getting flustered. She looked to Art for help.
Art, who always had just the right thing to say, took his daughter for a drink and a treat at the coffeehouse. He mouthed to Desi on his way out the door, “I’ve got this!” and jingled his keys. “Come on, Bree. Let’s go talk.”
Destiny then approached her younger daughter, Bella. “What do you think, sweet girl? Are you happy about the new baby?”
“Sure, Mama,” Bella said very matter-of-factly. “But can I have a little sister? Boys are icky.” Desi laughed at her innocence and sheer honesty.
“I’ll try, darling. I’ll try.” Desi kissed Bella’s forehead and handed her a textbook. “Homework, Bella. Play afterward, okay?”
“Okay, Mama.” Bella took her schoolwork from Desi and settled at the kitchen table, working patiently until she was finished.
At the coffeehouse, Art sat down with Bree. “What’s bothering you, honey?”
“Daddy, Mom is never home. And when she is actually home, she lets you do everything. She never spends any time with me anymore.”
“Now Bree, that was a decision that your mama and I made years ago. That’s not her fault, and it’s not fair to blame her. It is because of your mama that we can have our home and all the things you love. I won’t tolerate you disrespecting her like this.”
“But Daddy!” Bree protested. “I didn’t ask for another brother or sister.”
“You know what, Bree? We didn’t plan on it, either. But we love you and Bella, and we’re going to love this new little life, too.” Arthur was firm but loving with her. “Bree, can we count on you?”
“But Daddy!” Bree pouted, crossing her arms in front of her.
“No more, Bree. I don’t want to hear you bring this up with your mother again. You be supportive and you be nice to her!” Arthur scowled at his oldest. “Unless you have something nice to say, Bree Ann Atwood, you don’t say a word.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but Arthur stopped her. “Not a word, Bree. Do we have an understanding?”
“Yes sir,” Bree slumped in her seat, sipping on her iced tea. Her eyes filled with tears, and she wiped them away.
“Why the tears? Am I being unreasonable, Bree?” Art’s countenance softened and he reached across the table for her hand.
“No Daddy, you’re not. But my friends… they’re going to know that you and Mama—”
Arthur cut her off, “Love each other? Bree, I know this might be hard to understand, but your mama and I made you. You are a living, breathing miracle, and so is your sister. So is this baby. That is nothing to be ashamed of, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed by.”
Bree sighed, accepting defeat. “You’re right, Daddy. So many of my friends’ parents are divorced.” She stopped in her thought, as she realized how lucky she was to have them together, in the same home.
“You never have to worry about that with your mama and me, Bree. That, I promise you. Remember, when you get older, how much I love your mama. Never settle for a man who treats you differently than I treat your mother. I would die for all of you.” Arthur smiled.
Bree got up and moved to the bench seat next to Arthur. “I love you, Daddy.”
Art hugged her close and kissed her forehead. “I love you too, angel. Now, let’s go home.”
Bianca Atwood arrived in the middle of the night in the spring the following year, pink and perfectly healthy. The third daughter of Destiny and Arthur Atwood, she was welcomed into the family with little pomp and circumstance, but it wasn’t long before Bianca’s two older sisters were taking turns holding and bouncing her. Even Destiny’s agent sent a toy for Bianca, and a bouquet of flowers for Desi, with a note saying how he was looking forward to her next tour. But Desi wasn’t so sure that she would go back on the road, and she was beginning to believe that she might never reach the top of her career.
Up Next: Chapter Seven, Generation Two