Coralie Hasslich was an adult.
She carried adult responsibilities and obligations, and she met them, day after day without fail. She was a fiancé, and heiress, and a mother of three. She had a teenage son, for crying out loud.
So if she was so grown up … then why did she still feel like a child?
She should be ready to step up, she thought – to step in for her mother. To guide the family and maintain the Hasslich legacy. That was her job, wasn’t it? It’s what any good heiress would do.
It’s what her mother want want her to do. It’s what her mother herself would have done.
But Aurora was a hard act to follow.
In the weeks after Aurora’s death, Coralie floundered. Ironic, she thought, that she should need her mother so much more, now that she was gone. Aurora was her constant – always there to lay the groundwork, to clear the path, to strap on a head lamp and find a way forward when Coralie thought there was none. And Coralie needed that now more than ever, because try as she might, she could find no way forward.
She couldn’t even find the head lamp.
Paying the bills, cooking the meals, keeping their home – it all was hard work, to be sure. But Coralie knew how to do those things. She didn’t worry about paying the electric bill, or keeping them afloat. The steps were clear, like instructions in a cookbook.
Make money, write check, mail to electric company – Voila! Let there be light!
Two cups sugar, three cups flour, one cup blueberries – Voila! Let there be pie!
When the toilet broke, Coralie knew how to fix it. And when the refrigerator broke….well, she knew where to buy a new one.
What she didn’t know was how to fix this – to fix them. What she didn’t know was how to piece her family back together, how to bring them back from the edge of grief and loss.
There is no recipe for Happy Family Pie.
“I’m at a loss,” she admitted to Kody. The sun was shining overhead, and inwardly she cursed it. How dare the sun shine so cheerily when she felt so miserable? How dare the weather contradict her this way? “I’m not like my mother, Kody. She was so good, she always knew what to do. And I’m so….so….not her. I just can’t do this – I’m too tired, I can’t fix it, I don’t know how be an heir! Maybe I’m not cut out for this, after all.”
She sniffled and choked back her tears. Kody tucked a piece of hair behind her ear.
“Yes you are, Coralie,” Kody said gently. “And you have to be. This family is falling apart. It needs its matriarch – that means you, now, you know? You’re the heir -”
“Co-heir,” she corrected.
He smiled. “Co-heir. Exactly. Which means you don’t have to do this alone. You have Lola, and you have me. We’ll figure it out together.”
Coralie whirled on him.
“Lola’s no help!” The bitterness in her voice sounded venomous, even to her. She stopped short, surprised by her own callousness. She hadn’t realized how alone she felt, how keenly she felt Lola’s withdraw. But Coralie softened, frowning at the thought of her sister. “It’s Lola I worry about the most, Kody. All she does is cry, and lock herself in the bedroom with that guitar! This is hard on all of us, but Lola….. you and I both know this pregnancy wasn’t planned. And now she’s lost her mother and all her dreams in a matter of weeks….”
Kody took her hand, and stroked her palm with his thumb. “And that’s why she needs your help, Coralie.”
Coralie sighed heavily. “But that’s just it. I have no idea how to help her – I don’t even know where to begin. My mother was the fixer, not me.”
But Kody smiled, a twinkle in his eye. Coralie recognized that twinkle – it was the same look her mother would get when she had an idea.
“Well then it’s lucky for you that you have such a smart and thoughtful fiancé. Because I do.”
Lola was exhausted. Her body and her brain begged for sleep, but rest was frustratingly elusive. She missed her mother, she missed Palani, and when she wasn’t missing them, she was worrying about her future – mourning her freedom, grieving the music career she would never have.
Her only consolation was her pick and her guitar.
She was now firmly in the third trimester of her pregnancy, and her belly grew bigger by the day. She tossed and turned at night, the baby doing cartwheels on her bladder and somersaults on her ribs. She never did tell Marcus. What would be the point? They weren’t in love, and Lola wasn’t interested in marriage anyway. No need to force parenthood on him, too. No need to tie him down – to burden him like she was. Marcus still had a life to live, whereas she…. well, she had a baby to deliver. She had bottles to buy, and a crib to assemble.
It wasn’t the future she envisioned, that was for sure. Her days of adventure and whimsy were behind her. The future was planned out, settled, written in stone. Surprises were a thing of the past, and spontaneity, she knew, would be next to impossible once the baby was born.
Lola sighed, and placed a hand over her belly. “Turns out you were my last big surprise, baby boy.” And there was no doubt in her mind that’s exactly what he was. Boys will be boys, as they say, and her son had gotten a head start already – bouncing around her womb at all hours day and night. He was a rambunctious little scamp, and Lola knew her work was cut out for her.
As if in response, a tiny limb jabbed her on the inside.
“Calm down in there, would you?” she pleaded. “Do you ever sit still?”
Of course not, she thought – like mother like son. And anyway, who could sleep through all this racket? It started two weeks ago now – the pounding and the hammering and never-ending drilling. She’d had a headache for four days straight.
“They must be tearing this house down around us,” she told her belly, wishing – not for the first time – for a pregnancy-friendly pain killer. But to venture out of her room to see for herself felt like far too much work, and so the source of the commotion remained a mystery.
And so, when the phone rang a few nights later, Lola only knew it was ringing because she felt the vibration. She could barely hear Joaquin’s voice on the other end.
“The Spin Masters are getting together tonight,” he said hopefully. “Can I count you in?”
“Maybe next time,” she mumbled.
“You said that last time.”
“But I’m pregnant. Pregnant people don’t spin, Joaquin.”
“Well I don’t see why not. You have to get out of there sooner or later,” he argued. There was a huge clatter from the other room, and Joaquin hollered over the noise to be heard. “What the plum is going on over there?! Sounds like an earthquake!”
True enough, Lola thought. Maybe it was time to get out of the house after all. At least she’d get a break from the demolition team in the basement.
She found her headphones under the bed, and dusted them off. They hadn’t been used in weeks. She hung them around her neck and looked down at her belly.
“Come on, Diego,” she said to her bump. “It’s time for you to learn something about Mommy’s favorite hobby.” He jigged around inside of her, and she pictured his small body dancing, his tiny fists pumping in the air. He definitely was her son. And for the first time, she smiled at the thought.
Lola wobbled down to the station, and stared wistfully out the window as the train sped down the tracks. She was excited to see her friends, and she yearned to get inside the DJ booth again. The party was in full swing by the time she got there, and Joaquin waved to her from across the dance floor.
“Glad you could make it!” His grin was genuine, and he gestured toward the DJ booth. “Ready to get back on the horse?”
Lola nodded excitedly, but as she crossed the dance floor to the booth, a sharp pang shot through her abdomen. She pursed her lips and cocked an eyebrow, shooting her belly a look.
“I take it you have other plans?” she asked the bump bemusedly.
Another contraction was her response.
“You are just full of surprises, little man.”
She pulled out her cell phone and made two calls – one for a cab, and one to her sister. The Spin Masters would have to wait.
Lola pushed and pushed, while the machinery whirled around her.
Coralie held her hand, whispering encouragement, and Lola was reminded of her mother. There was so much of Aurora in her sister – Lola could only hope she would find some shred of that maternal instinct in herself.
“You’re doing great!” Coralie told her. She breathed in dramatically three times, and then out hard once. “Remember to breathe! Just a little longer, Lola, you’re almost there! I can see the head….!”
Lola felt a wave of relief, and the baby wailed.
“It’s a healthy baby boy!” the doctor announced, and Lola smiled as an unexpected wave of motherly love washed over her.
“I’m not surprised,” she said, smiling as she watched the doctor place him in the bassinet. “His name is Diego Hasslich.”
The doctor raised an eyebrow. “Well I hate to tell you, Miss Hasslich, but it’s not over yet.” He threw his hands up with a shrug and a nervous grin. “Surprise!!! Are you ready to do this again?”
Lola’s eyes widened. TWINS? Panic set in, but there was no time to contemplate. There was another baby coming, and she had to push.
The second time was easier.
“Congratulations!” The doctor laughed, holding up her newest baby. “Ten fingers, ten toes, and a va-hoo-ha! You have yourself a daughter!”
Lola looked at Coralie, and Coralie stared back at her, slack-jawed. What were the chances they would both have twins? Coralie let out a laugh, and suddenly, Lola was laughing too.
“What will you call her?” Coralie asked. Lola thought for a minute. She’d never considered she might need a name for a girl.
“Libby,” she said finally. “Her name is Libby Hasslich.”
She shook her head and started to laugh again when another jolt of pain sliced through her. She stared at the doctor, incredulous. He shrugged and threw up his hands with a familiar nervous grin.
“Don’t tell me – ” Lola growled, but she already knew.
One more time she pushed, and with that, her third baby was born. “Is it over?” she asked, throwing her head back in exhaustion. “Please say it’s over!”
The doctor chuckled. “It’s over, Lola. And it’s a girl.”
Lola looked at Coralie, pleading. “You name her, Cora. I’m too tired to think.” She leaned her head back and closed her heavy eyes.
Coralie thought for a moment. “How’s Celia?” she asked, and Lola nodded wearily in agreement. “Then it’s official. Her name is Celia Hasslich.”
Later that night, Lola stood before her babies and stared down at them in disbelief. If one baby was anchor, then three…. well three were an anchor for an ocean liner.
Triplets, she thought, shaking her head. Who would’ve guessed? And here she thought her days of surprises were behind her. Maybe motherhood wasn’t so predictable after all.
Happy Birthday, Diego Hasslich…
And Celia Hasslich!
Lola tucked the babies into their bassinets and headed off for a relaxing bath. After a long soak in the hot, bubbly water, she pulled herself out of the tub and trudged back to her bedroom. Sleep when the baby sleeps, they say. In her case, it was sleep when the babies sleep. And right now, they were sleeping.
She was only steps away from her bedroom door when Coralie intercepted her in the hallway.
“Lola!” she beamed. “Will you follow me? Kody’s been…. what I mean is, there’s something we want to show you.”
Lola hesitated – her eyes were drooping and her muscles ached – but Coralie was beyond excited. And so Lola nodded, and followed her sister down the hall. They passed under the stairs, back towards the huge walk-in storage closet. Only now, Lola saw, there was no storage closet. Instead, there was a large, black double door that glowed from floor to ceiling.
Lola’s jaw dropped as the realization dawned on her. “So this is what all the noise was about? You really were tearing the walls down around us!”
Coralie grinned at her from over her shoulder. “Well, I wasn’t tearing anything down. It was all Kody!” She beckoned for Lola to follow. “Now come on!”
Lola walked through those big black doors, and her eyes lit up in delight.
“What is all this?” she squeaked. “You guys….you did all this for me?”
There was a bar, and a piano, her very own DJ booth and a brand new guitar. Lola was speechless. She was stunned, shocked, utterly surprised.
“It was all Kody’s idea!” Coralie beamed up at her. “Do you like it?”
“It’s amazing.” She wiped a tear from her eye. “I…. I don’t even know what to say.”
“We thought you could use a pick-me-up,” Kody said. “We wanted you to have a place to go, to practice your music and hang out with your friends! You might not get to go to Windenberg every night anymore…but why not bring Windenberg to you?”
Lola threw her arms around Kody’s neck, hugging him tight in gratitude.
“Just because you’re a mom now doesn’t mean your life is over,” he said brightly. “You have your whole life ahead of you! And it will be full of surprises.”
“Thank you, Kody. Thank you both.” Lola laughed. “I really lucked out on this whole brother-in-law deal, huh? Now when is this wedding exactly?”
Coralie hugged her sister. “Well that all depends – when are you free to DJ?”