Five Years Later
This whole thing feels like deja-vu, I thought.
I was sitting on the floor of the nursery, patiently teaching the twins how to speak German. It wasn’t going well. Despite giving me their attention for the first few days, today neither of them wanted to focus. They were bored, and restless, and wanted to play outside.
“Repeat after me,” I said for the tenth time. “Wo ist…”
These weren’t the twins Allie and Barry, of course. No, these were the new twins: Christopher and Danielle. The twins I had given birth to four years ago.
It was Braxton’s idea to name them the way we did. Alexandria, Bartholomew, Christopher, Danielle. A, B, C, D. The latter pair had been conceived on our trip to Paris, and they must have absorbed some of the culture during the experience because they had all the fiery personality of Parisians.
I didn’t know who was the father. Christopher had strawberry-blond hair, while Danielle’s was deep red. But Danielle had blue eyes, and Christopher’s were sea-green. I was fairly certain their father was Mathias or Adam. Or both, potentially. Fraternal twins came from two separate eggs, so each egg could have been seeded by a different man.
It didn’t matter, though. Not really. All three of my husbands love the new twins the same. Adam and Braxton even changed the name of their firm because of it, from ABK Capital to ABCD Capital. It was a tremendous pain in the butt to rebrand the entire company like that, but they insisted on it.
Danielle was playing with her long auburn locks. “I said repeat after me. Wo ist das auto? Where is the car?”
“I want to play with cars,” Christopher said, running over to the toy chest to retrieve a toy car. “I’m sick of languages.”
I sighed and put down my lesson plan. It was tough to keep a four-year-old’s attention for long. And we had been practicing for forty minutes now.
“Okay, I think it’s time to break for lunch,” I said.
“Yay!” the twins said, jumping up and running out of the room.
Our new cook, a grandmotherly Chilean woman named Maria, was fantastic at her job. Claudette had finally retired two years ago, and was spending her time traveling around the world and eating delicious, exotic food. The last photo she had sent was from Switzerland, where she and a grey-haired man were snuggling up by the fire drinking hot cocoa.
Still, I missed her though. And as much as he pretended not to, I knew Mathias did too.
While the twins ate, I gazed out the window at the city. It was a beautiful summer day, and lower Manhattan was glistening in the sun. The tall Nash Capital building stood out more than the other buildings, since we had lived there for several years. We had finally moved to this building once ABCD Capital was up and running. The penthouse here was even larger and more luxurious than the last one.
And it was filled with more love, too.
“Hurry up and finish your sandwiches,” I told the twins. “We’re going to have an adventure outside today.”
The twins squealed excitedly and wolfed down the rest of their food. Then we went downstairs and met the bodyguard by the front door. Nelson had been promoted to head of security for ABCD Capital, so there was a different bodyguard to walk with us today.
A photographer was waiting outside the building. She took a couple of photos, then kept her distance as we began walking through the city. I was used to it by now. That was the price of being married to one of the most famous billionaires in New York City.
It was totally worth it.
We walked six blocks north to the park, played there for a little bit, and then headed east to Mathias’s gym. One of his gyms, anyway. He had ten locations all over the tri-state area. This one was the first, though, and it was crowded.
“Stay close to me while we’re inside daddy’s gym,” I told the twins. “If you get in someone’s way you can hurt yourself.”
Despite their stubbornness with their language lesson, they were good at following directions most of the time. They stayed right next to me as we went inside. I immediately spotted Mathias on the other side of the big room, walking up and down the rows of machinery.
“So strong, Lee!” he boomed to one man. “Nine minute pace, Phoebe? You are a superstar!” He gave the woman on the treadmill a high-five.
I smiled while watching him. Even though he was now a multi-millionaire, he still insisted on giving his personal touch to his clients. I knew he would keep doing that even if he became a billionaire. That’s just who he was.
Mathias caught sight of us across the room. He threw up his hands and came running over to us. He got down on his knees and hugged the twins, one in each arm.
“My dearest!” he said, giving me a kiss. “Have you come to get sweaty? I can watch the little ones if you wish to workout.”
“We’re just out enjoying the beautiful day,” I replied. “Will you be home for dinner?”
He glanced at his watch and scrolled his finger across the screen. “I have several appointments this afternoon. I should be home in time for dinner, but if I am late, do not fret!”
I made myself smile. “I’ll see you then.” I kissed him on the cheek and frowned as we left the gym.
“What’s wrong, mommy?” Christopher asked.
“Nothing’s wrong,” I said, putting on my happy mom face. “Let’s go see your aunt Miranda.”
Miranda’s condo was only a few blocks from there. The doorman let me in and we took the elevator up to her floor. As soon as she opened the door, we were buffeted with the sound of screaming children.
Instantly, Christopher and Danielle went running inside to join the joyful playing.
Miranda gave me a weary look. “Come to gawk at the zoo?”
“It’s not my fault you and Nelson have been popping out kids like a conveyor belt!” I said with a smile. Their first was conceived on their honeymoon in Paris, and they hadn’t stopped since then. I couldn’t imagine being pregnant for nearly four straight years. The nine months I spent pregnant with the twins was tough enough.
“Sometimes I miss my nanny job,” Miranda told me while serving afternoon tea. “At the end of the day I could just… leave! I could go home to peace and quiet!”
“You wouldn’t change a thing,” I teased.
“Oh, I know. Raising children is so much more fulfilling when they’re yours. But sometimes… Connor! What did I tell you about pulling your sister’s hair?”
I smiled while she scolded her child on the other side of the room. As much as my twins were a handful, it was good to come over here and get a reminder that I had it easy.
“You excited about tonight?” Miranda asked when she returned.
“I don’t know.”
“What? Why not?”
“I think the guys forgot.”
She snorted. “They wouldn’t forget.”
“It’s not a big deal,” I said. “Adam and Braxton have been so busy lately preparing for the Seoul location. And Mathias is opening two new gyms on Long Island. It would totally be fine if they didn’t plan anything.”
“Well, I’ll be there regardless,” Miranda said. “If they forgot, I’ll help you glare at them all night.”
“Yeah? You found a new nanny?” I asked.
She rolled her eyes. “Yes, but I don’t think I like her. I caught her ogling Nelson the other day. If she so much as winks at him I’m going to smash her car with a baseball bat.”
“Your nanny has a car? In the city?” I asked skeptically.
“It’s a figure of speech. The point is, she better watch herself.”
“I think you’re being paranoid. A nanny sleeping with the father of the kids she’s watching? That would never happen.”
I managed to say it with a straight face. Miranda glared at me and snatched the empty teacup away. “That joke was funny the first thousand times you said it. I’ll see you tonight.”
I retrieved my kids from the whirlwind of excited children and we walked back to our building. Instead of going to the penthouse, though, I took the elevator to the office floor.
“Mrs. Renfroe!” Braxton’s plucky personal assistant said when we arrived. “And the twins! I think I’ve got some lollipops in my drawer…”
“Sorry to drop in unannounced. Are the guys busy?”
“Mr. Nash and Mr. Renfroe are having a strategic planning meeting… But I don’t think they would mind an interruption.”
After accepting two candy lollipops, the twins barged into the big office room that Braxton and Adam shared. My husbands were standing in front of a huge computer screen mounted in the wall, which was filled with charts and graphs. Adam touched the screen and a new line appeared underneath his fingertip.
“I agree about the market cap valuation, but…” He trailed off when he saw us. “Christopher! Danielle!”
The twins rushed across the room and hugged him. Then they turned and hugged Braxton just as fiercely.
“Just wanted to check on you two,” I said. “Do you have a preference on dinner?”
It was a probing question to see if they had remembered what today was. Braxton shrugged and said, “Whatever Maria has planned sounds good to me.”
Danielle had stolen Adam’s glasses. She put them on her own face and squinted around the room. Adam took them back and said, “We’re going to be working after dinner, unfortunately. So I’ll wolf down whatever she makes.”
“Oh, okay,” I said. “I’ll let you get back to it, then. Come on, you two. Let’s leave your daddies alone.”
I frowned all the way back down to the penthouse. They had forgotten.
I threw myself into the afternoon German lessons. Now that I had worn them out with our little trip, the twins were more attentive than before. By the end of the day I felt good about what we had accomplished.
Allie and Barry got home from school around four. They were adorable in their black-and-white school uniforms. Allie hadn’t had her growth spurt yet, but Barry was tall and lanky. He was going to be every bit as handsome as his father when he grew into his frame.
“Chrissy, Dani, tell me what you learned today,” Barry said.
“Don’t call me Chrissy! My name is Christopher.”
“And how do you say it in German?” Allie insisted.
“Mein name ist Christopher,” he said stubbornly and without hesitation.
“Good job, Christopher,” Barry said, ruffling his hair. “Want to watch me play videogames?”
“Yeah!” They went running off together to the other room.
The older twins had been a big help with the languages, practicing with them at the dinner table and whenever they played together. That made things really easy for me. I knew that Allie and Barry would get to the point where they didn’t want to play with their younger siblings, but for now I savored it.
I read a book while the kids played, but it didn’t succeed in taking my mind off of tonight. My disappointment was like a weight in my stomach, growing heavier as the evening went on.
Miranda and Nelson came over around six. By then the kitchen smelled delicious from whatever Maria was making.
“Still nothing?” Miranda asked me.
I shook my head.
“I’m sure they remembered,” Nelson said while pulling out his phone.
Miranda snatched it out of his hand. “Don’t you dare text them to remind them.”
Nelson held up his hands. “I wasn’t, I swear. I was just checking the Mets game.”
Mathias got home first. He came out of the elevator hallway and gave me a big hug, spinning me around.
“What’s that for?” I asked.
“I do not need an excuse to hug my wife!” he declared.
But he was still holding onto me, facing me the other way. Like he was trying to hide something. I twisted to look behind him and saw Braxton and Adam hurrying into the kitchen, whispering to each other.
I squinted at Mathias. “You all forgot until just now, didn’t you? They’re rushing into the kitchen to sign a card or something.”
Mathias glanced over his shoulder. He looked worried. “Oh, uh, no! Of course not! We would never forget.”
Miranda scoffed loudly.
My other two husbands came out of the kitchen, looking as guilty as two boys who had eaten all the cookies.
“Dinner is served,” Adam said. “Kids! It’s time for dinner!”
We all gathered around the big dining room table. Braxton sat at the head, with me on one side and Barry and Allie on the other. Next to me were Christopher and Danielle, with Mathias and Adam on the other side. Miranda and Nelson were across the table from me, next to Allie. There was one empty chair down at the end.
“Whatever is cooking smells amazing,” Braxton said with a smile.
I poured myself some red wine and said, “Hope you can stay long enough to enjoy it.”
“Oh, I think we’ll manage,” Adam chimed in.
The door to the kitchen opened and Maria came out carrying a big pot in front of her face.
But when she lowered the pot, I saw that it wasn’t Maria. For a few seconds my brain didn’t understand. Braxton, Adam, and Mathias were all grinning widely at me, waiting for me to realize.
“Claudette?” I asked. “Claudette!”
She put down the pot and beamed at me. I jumped up and hugged the little grandmotherly woman tightly. In the kitchen doorway, Maria smiled happily.
“I have returned to America for a few days,” she told me.
“We wanted it to be a surprise,” Braxton said.
“I gave your new cook my recipe for chicken al vodka,” Claudette said, giving the pot a sniff. “I think the results are satisfactory.”
Claudette sat at the table with us while Maria served us. I glared at each of my husbands, who each grinned back smugly.
“You like surprises,” Adam said.
“I like real surprises,” I said. “Pretending you all forgot our anniversary isn’t a surprise.”
“Anniversary?” Allie asked. “I thought that was in October.”
“This is the anniversary of the night I started working as your nanny,” I explained. “If I never began the job that day, then I wouldn’t be your mommy. And Christopher and Danielle wouldn’t be born.”
“And most importantly,” Miranda said, “Nelson and I wouldn’t be married.”
“I wouldn’t say that’s the most important thing,” Adam said.
“Not everything’s about you,” Miranda said haughtily. “You missed your chance with me, Mr. Renfroe.”
Adam smirked and bit into a piece of garlic bread.
I raised my glass in a toast. “I’m glad you’re all here. Especially you, Claudette. To the last five years!”
“To five more just like it,” Braxton said.
“To fifty more!” Mathias boomed.
“I’ll be in my nineties by then,” Braxton pointed out. “I’m not sure Kate would love me as much by then.”
“They make pills to help with this!” Mathias said.
Barry contorted his face. “Pills? Like, vitamins?”
“Yes!” Adam quickly said. “Vitamins. That’s what Mathias meant. Right, Unkie Mat?”
Mathias’s face grew serious. “I was speaking of erectile dysfunction medication.”
Everyone groaned. Mathias looked around in confusion.
“Minus ten points for Mathias,” Braxton said.
“What?” Mathias asked. “I explained the joke. So everyone would understand.”
Allie raised her hand. “I still don’t understand.”
“We’ll tell you when you’re older,” Adam said.
I leaned over and kissed Braxton on the cheek. “I’ll love you when you’re that old, with or without pills.”
“As long as you’re still a billionaire, I’ll love you forever,” I said jokingly.
Braxton smiled while eating his pasta. “It was never about the money.”
“No,” I agreed with a smile. “It wasn’t.”