multiplication by phoenix.writing

28 Nov

The odds of having quadruplets without fertility drugs of any kind was approximately 1 in 705 000.

Zita’s mother said it was a miracle.  Sometimes, Zita remembered to agree with her.

The problem was that multiplying everything by four was more math than Zita liked.  It meant four times more diapers.  Four times more sleepless nights.  Four times more mouths to feed.

It meant four times more chances that your husband would run for the hills because he hadn’t signed up for quadruplets, and while child support helped, it was two fewer hands and two fewer feet actually helping.

Zita was only twenty-four years old, and being known as “the mom of the quadruplets” was actually not that much fun.

The terrible twos were looming, and she didn’t need anyone to tell her that in her case, that meant four times the trouble.

Zita did love her babies, she really did, but forty mischievous fingers and forty wandering toes….  Zita felt like all she did was run around like a mad woman sometimes.

She didn’t get Zita time anymore, hadn’t got Zita time in what felt like an eternity. And she needed time to herself.

It was why she’d started taking a class part-time.  Her mom thought she was crazy, and she was probably right from a time-management perspective, but it was the only way that she’d been able to get any time to herself, and that made the juggling worthwhile.

At least, it made the juggling worthwhile until she had a mid-term, the babysitter bailed at the last minute, her mother was sick, and the ex wouldn’t even answer her phone calls.

It meant that she was quite desperate but completely out of ideas when she showed up on her brother’s doorstep with four more children in the car than should be in the car when she was going to sit an exam.

There were lights on, and she was about a quarter of the way to being relieved—it would be an uphill battle to convince him that this was a good idea—when the door opened to reveal … someone she’d never been before.  A cute guy who looked to be about her age.  And a giant dog.

She blinked at him, then looked to the side to make sure she’d got the right number.  She was so frazzled right now that it was possible she’d just misread.

But no, this was definitely 424.  Maybe he’d moved and forgot to mention it?

“Are you looking for Adam?”

“Sorry, yes.”  She realised that she’d just stood there, staring, for a very rude amount of time.  “Mid-term in about half an hour and kids in the car with no babysitter.  Very frazzled.  Is he home?”

The man at the door shook his head.  “Apparently someone’s account went disastrously wrong at work, though how it managed to do this at six in the evening, I’ve no idea.  I’m Aiden, by the way, and this might seem a little … forward, but I’d be happy to watch the kids for you.”

Zita’s heart leapt, and she realised that she was probably out of her mind.  She didn’t even know who Aiden was.  But really, the likelihood of his being a serial killer with Adam chopped up in the bathroom was slim to none, and she trusted Adam’s judgement; if he trusted the man alone in his home, she could trust him with her children.

“That’s awfully generous of you,” she said, “but I feel it only fair to warn you, they’re just about two years old.”

He smiled.  “I love kids.  And I’ll put Dess next door—that’s where my mom lives—as I think he’d get a little too excited.”

“There are four of them,” she pushed out with an effort, seeing  her happy ending diminishing with her every word.  “Quadruplets.”

His eyes widened slightly, but the smile didn’t falter.  “Four times the fun.  Bring ’em in.”

Zita was well past desperate, so in she brought them, introduced them to the nice man who was going to take care of them since Uncle Adam wasn’t here and saw Aiden’s look of surprise.

“Adopted sister,” she said.  “He never talks about me, I’m used to it.”

Aiden shook his head.  “No, he just doesn’t talk to me about his family much at all.  It’s great to meet you.”

“And it’s really nice to meet you.  Here’s all the emergency numbers.”  She pressed them into his hands.  “They don’t have any allergies.  If you can convince them to go to sleep, I will be forever in your debt.  I’ll be back by ten thirty at the latest, though I’m hoping the exam won’t go that long. My cell’s at the top.”

“Highlighted and underlined three times.  Got it.”

“Right.”  Zita smiled at him.  “I’m sure I’m forgetting everything.”

“Not to worry.  Kids, I can handle.  School’s the tough one.  Here’s my cellphone number, but I’ll answer Adam’s phone too.  Now get out of here.”

“You’re a lifesaver.  I didn’t know Adam had such great taste in friends.”

Although Aiden smiled, Zita realised she’d said something wrong, but then he was shoving her out the door, and she was driving too fast to the college, reminding herself that cramming was not supposed to be useful so there was no reason to attempt it while driving.

She arrived with four whole minutes to spare and tried not to spend the entire time worried about her children.  This was Zita time, and Zita had spent her hard-earned money on the course she was determined not to fail.

All in all, it was probably not her best effort, but since it was worth forty percent of her mark, a pass would be enough for her at this point.

It was as she was getting back into the car that she realised that not only was she an idiot, Adam was a bigger one.

Someone he trusted enough to leave alone in his home, a friend he’d never mentioned, and his flimsy excuses as to why he was never bringing a girl home to meet his gran.

She couldn’t believe he hadn’t at least told her.

She knocked lightly on the door when she got back, ever hopeful, but still entirely astonished when Aiden opened the door with a finger on his lips and four babies sleeping in little nests on the floor.

“The way little animals sleep.  They thought it was exciting.”

“May I hug you?”

He laughed softly and opened his arms.

She hugged him.  “You’re my hero.  And Adam is very lucky.”

For a moment, Aiden’s arms tightened around her, and then he slipped out of her embrace.

“Let’s see if he still thinks so when he gets home and sees that his turf has been invaded.  He’s still touchy about my bringing Dess over.  Come on into the kitchen, I made dinner for you.”

Zita followed him, reminding herself that it was surely very bad form to try to steal your brother’s boyfriend.

She supposed the chances that Aiden had a twin were pretty slim….

At this point, she’d settle for an occasional babysitter, but she was damn well going to make sure that Adam realised what a treasure he had.


Adam and Aiden have featured previously in Blame Aiden and Flustered.


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