Over the next few weeks, Sean noticed more bruises and small scratches on both Stephan and Sarah. They always seemed to appear when he got home from work and relieved the babysitter of her duties. Roxie kept attributing it to the fact that they were toddlers and always stumbling and tripping over things. Sean wasn’t so sure. He knew Roxie would never hurt them. They did make her scream and pull her hair out, but she loved them. Sean knew he had never laid a finger on either of them so the only suspect left was the babysitter. He was going to sit her down and have a talk with her.

It turned out that Sean didn’t need to talk to the babysitter at all. He got his proof the next day when he performed so well at work, his boss gave him a promotion on the spot and let him off work early. As he walked up to his front door, he heard his children screaming at the top of their lungs and the babysitter hollering. Concerned, he walked through the door to see Stephen struggling to hold up a sagging diaper and Sarah screaming that she was hungry.

“Shut up you little brats!” the babysitter shouted and smacked Sarah across the face, which made both children cry even louder. Sean felt a rage that he had never felt before and grabbed the babysitter’s arm hard. She looked shocked that he had come home so early. “Mr. Coin! I er…”

“Shut up! I don’t want to hear your excuses!” he shouted. “I saw you hit my daughter! Get out of my house before I put you in a body cast and don’t you dare try and collect any pay from me!” he shouted, quite literally throwing her out of the house and slamming the door.

It took quite a while for him to calm the twins down after that. After he quickly changed Stephan’s diaper, made sure he wasn’t hurt and put him to bed, he scooped up Sarah and snuggled her. “Shhh… Daddy’s here,” he murmured, rubbing her back. She ended up falling asleep on his chest while he watched some TV. He told Roxie about what happened when he got home and Roxie started crying.

“I’m so sorry! I really thought they were just regular bumps and bruises from falling down! I should have paid closer attention, but I was just so eager to get out of the house because they were driving me nuts… I’m a bad mom…” she wept, and now it was Sean’s turn to comfort his friend… if he could even call her that.

“Hey, the kids are going to be going to school soon,” he told her, trying to change the subject. “They need their own rooms. This place is getting too small for us, too,” he pointed out. Roxie nodded and wiped her eyes, grateful for the change in subject.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking that, too. I want a real kitchen and living room, too. Not just a tiny room with a kitchen and living furniture stuffed into it,” she agreed.

“I think we can budget that now. We’ve saved up for long enough. I’ll look into it,” he promised her. “… and you’re not a bad mom, Rox,” he added a little awkwardly. He hadn’t been very nice to her lately. It couldn’t hurt to give her one measly compliment. Roxie smiled.

“You’re not a bad dad, either,” she admitted.

Once again, Roxie and Sean had the birthday cakes out. There were three birthdays to celebrate today. Sarah’s, Stephan’s and Sean’s. Sean was turning thirty. I can’t believe I’ve been living in Riverview for twelve years, he thought to himself. Look how far I’ve come. He looked proudly around the renovated house that looked like a real house now. It was still small, sure, but it was bigger than it was and had a bigger bathroom and three bedrooms. Stephan and Sarah each had a place of their own now. There was also tiled floors for the kitchen, better counters and a new table and chairs. Things were really starting to come together. He felt a huge amount of pride knowing that he worked hard for all of this.

“I am so glad they’re starting school tomorrow!” Roxie enthused. “Six hours a day of peace and quiet where I can actually do things I want for a change!” Sean had to agree with her. The twins were going to be more independent and that meant more free time for the both of them. Sean could go out and socialize more and Roxie could practice her guitar and public speaking, two things she was passionate about. Maybe they’d get along better now that the pressure of having two small children was lifted off their shoulders.

They helped the twins blow out their candles and congratulated themselves on having raised them so well in their toddler years. Both of their beautiful toddlers were now beautiful children. Sean grew into a middle-aged man later that evening after the twins had gone to sleep. No cake for him, but he didn’t really mind. He didn’t want everyone around to see him get all old and wrinkled.

He sighed and collapsed in a kitchen chair. How did my life turn out this way? he asked himself.

“Daddy? What’s wrong?” Sarah asked. She had apparently gotten out of bed.

“Oh, just getting old, Honey,” he mumbled. Sarah giggled.

“You’re not old. Mommies and Daddies don’t get old,” she said confidently, which made Sean laugh. His kids were adorable. He ruffled her hair.

“You’re cute. Go back to bed. You need to go to school tomorrow,” he reminded her. To his delight, she flung her arms around him and held him tight.

“‘Night Daddy. I love you,” she told him. Blinking back moisture in his eyes, Sean hugged his daughter back.

“I love you, too, Sarah.”