I swoop in and set her upright. “Whoa there, tiger. What’s the hurry?”
The tot shoves the crown of mangled daisies into my face. “I made this.”
“It’s very pretty.” I reach out to touch it, but Gwennie twists out of my grip.
“No. It’s for Mommy.” She pushes away and wobbles over to her mother, who is cradling five-month-old Tristan.
Violet gives me a rueful smile as I take the sleeping baby so she can handle our toddler. “It’s beautiful, Gwennie. Do you want to put it on my head?”
Our baby girl nods solemnly as if she’s the queen ready to bestow honor upon a new knight of the realm. Just as seriously, Violet bends her head to receive the favor.
“There.” Gwennie pats the top of Violet’s dark locks with a pudgy hand. “You look pretty, Mommy.”
“Thank you.” My wife drops a kiss on the top of our girl’s head and smooths the wild curls down. “Where’s your brother?”
“He’s playing with them.” She points an accusing hand toward the sandbox, where her twin is happily making mounds of sand with a pink plastic bucket. Two other kids about their age are helping, and by helping I mean pouring sand all over each other. “He ‘bandoned me.”
“Here, baby, have a sandwich.” I pull out a peanut and butter jelly sandwich shaped like a heart and crimped around the edges. It’s a work of art, as are all of the goods that come out of Sweetheart Treats’ Kitchen. The company that Violet and Eden started up five years ago is still small. They’ve never wanted to be a giant corporation. Instead they sell specialty baked goods at a modest price but packaged so beautifully that sometimes you’d rather stare at it than eat it. Unless you’re a hungry man or a four-year-old. Gwennie mashes half of her heart into her mouth and then smiles impishly at me, grape jam smeared on her cheek. “Bet Art wants one.”
“Bet he does.” I shift the sleeping baby to the side. Over Gwennie’s head, Violet presses her lips together to keep her laughter in. She offers me a wet wipe, which I use to clean Gwennie’s face. Contrary to the twin myth, ours are in a constant battle of supremacy but are so deeply attached that if you gain the attention of one, the other twin will become consumed with jealousy. They’re so fucking entertaining, and Violet and I struggle to keep straight faces at all times.
“Do you want to give one to him?” I offer another sandwich, this time in the shape of a castle.
Gwennie immediately bites the turrets off and then runs over to the sandbox, yelling, “I ate your towers. I ate your towers!”
“They take after you and Miles,” I say.
“Miles and I never fought.”
“He says you constantly ride him about being born five minutes earlier.”
“He pushed me out of the way!” she exclaims. “In the ultrasound I was before him.”
“But you never fight.”
“Hmmph.” She slams her arms across her chest and purses her lips together so adorably that I want to devour her right here regardless that we are sitting in a public park and our youngest is asleep in my arms.
“Oh no.” She shakes a finger at me. “I know what you’re thinking, and there are two sets of parents not twenty yards away.”
“They know what sex is. They have kids,” I reply blandly.
I shrug. “I’m just looking at you.”
“In a way that makes me think you’re hungry.” She pulls out a sandwich heart for me. “Feed the other appetite.”
I dodge the food and lean in for a quick kiss. It turns out to be a longer one, and I don’t back away until I hear a throat being cleared.
At the edge of the blanket, one of the park moms stands with her hand shading her eyes. “Hey, neighbors,” she chirps.
I stiffen and place a hand on Violet’s shoulder. She pats it reassuringly. “Hi, there,” she answers without a hint of strain in her voice.
“Is that your little boy over there?” The park mom points in the direction of Arthur.
“Sure is. Is he playing with your son?”
“Yes. He’s adorable. I was wondering if you wanted to meet up again next week for a playdate. This park is wonderful and private, but there aren’t many kids that play here so I was super happy to see your family show up. You from around here?”
“We moved in a few months ago down the road.”
Park mom’s forehead crinkles. There isn’t much down the road except a lot of land which is why we bought it. When Violet got pregnant with the baby, Tristan, she decided she didn’t want to live in the pool house anymore. She wanted a place of our own, so we hunted down a plot of land and built a big house on it. The security around the perimeter rivals that of a bank or the White House, and even the mice on the ground and the birds in the air are tracked. Ever since we moved in, she’s been slowly expanding her circle of safe places. This park is one of them.