Motherhood the second time around was far from easy. You’d think, since I’d been through it once already, that it would be a piece of cake. Maybe if they weren’t from Jack’s loins that would be true, but Keller and Kaiden were their father’s sons. Meaning they ignored me, did what they wanted, ordered me around, and shook their heads when I tried to argue with them.
Having two little Jacks in the house along with dealing with the big bad original, you’d think I would run screaming for the hills. However, just as it was with their father, I was helpless at first sight to do anything but fall in love with them. And just like their father they were possessive of my time and brooded when I left them alone for too long. Just like they were doing now after returning from a long weekend in Alaska for Jack’s cousin Max’s wedding.
Jack and I had taken the trip without the boys, leaving them here with their big sister. They, of course, were making me pay for abandoning them for a few short days. Keller and Kaiden were now three, and they weren't precocious little boys who drew on walls and gave me sloppy kisses, but future lawmen in the making. They scowled at me when we arrived home as if I had been a bad mother. Then they proceeded to let me have it just like their father did when he thought I’d gone too far with a story. I had no doubt that if they could have put me into timeout they would have done it; such was the heinousness of my crime by leaving them behind. What made it worse was they didn't even blink an eye at their father for leaving. Instead, they’d run to him while glaring at me all while verbally abusing me with, "We told you not to leave," at the top of their little boy lungs. I gawked at them while Jack picked them up, chuckling at their reception. He mumbled, “You’ll get used to her not following instructions." This was because when we tried to leave three days earlier they had, in fact, shouted, “You aren’t leaving, Mommy!"
Honestly, when he'd left the room with the boys if they'd looked back and given me two fingers to the eyes as if saying, “I’m watching you,” I wouldn’t have been surprised.
Now I was at home with them, and Jack was at the office. They were giving me a good taste of their cold shoulder. Currently sitting at the table eating their lunch, they would talk and yell at each other, but they would barely look at me. Done with being ignored I sat down with my own sandwich and decided it was time to reason with the two. I’ll remind you that they are their father’s sons so reasoning isn’t exactly the word I’d use, more like creative manipulation in order to bring them around to my way of thinking. Not that it’s ever worked with Jack . . . but they're three, and there’s a first time for everything.
“If you two will stop being mad at me for going on a very short trip, Mommy will first take you to the park and then let you visit Daddy at work.”
The boys turned and looked at me, then looked back at each other, and I watched their beautiful blue eyes sparkle with excitement as something unspoken passed between them.
“Ok, Mommy,” they both replied smiling.
Huh, that was easier than I thought.
“Then finish your lunch and we’ll head into town when you’re done,” I told them, smiling now that my little men were happy with me again.
An hour later we were in the park, and I sat on the park bench where Jack and I had spoken four years earlier when I’d first moved to town. I kept an eye on the boys as I worked on an article for the paper about the new principal, who had been hired to replace the retiring Principal of Gunnison High School. The new guy, one Sam Steele, was forty-five, divorced and quite a handsome man with broad shoulders, a head of thick light brown hair, and stunning green eyes. I’d met him once to interview him for the article, and I’d also soon heard that all the single women between the ages of thirty-five and forty-five were chomping at the bit for an introduction.
As I watched the boys swing, a shadow blocked the light of the sun, and I looked up to find Sam Steele standing there smiling down on me.
“Hello, Mr. Steele,”
“Sam,” he answered.
“All right,” I replied. “How are you settling in over at the high school?”
“Your former principal ran a tight ship. My transition with the staff in preparation for the new school year has been easy,” he responded taking a seat next to me.
“How do you like our fair city?”
“Can’t complain. The welcoming committee has been more than...welcoming,” he smiled.
“I’ve heard. You’re a shiny new toy,” I explained, then laughed because I knew how he felt. Small towns don’t get many newcomers, so when they do, and especially if they are single, they get a lot of attention.
Sam chuckled in response as I looked back at the boys to make sure they were still behaving themselves. They’d stopped swinging and were now running towards me.
“Are those your boys?” Sam asked as he watched them approach.
“Yeah,” I smiled, but then frowned when I saw the look on the boys’ faces. They were scowling at me again. Clearly they were going to hold on to this grudge longer than I thought.
When they made it to the bench, they immediately grabbed my hand, saying, “We want to go see Daddy.”
“Oh, ok, well, it was nice to see you again, Sam. Let me know if I can assist the school in any way. Maybe if I lend a hand now, you’ll overlook the two hooligans when they grace your halls,” I laughed.
I’d barely gotten that out before the boys were pulling me down the sidewalk towards Jack’s office, so I waved at Sam as he smiled.
When we entered the reception area, the boys took off down the hall as I greeted Dorothy, the receptionist. I took off after the boys, expecting them to head towards Jack’s office, but I found them begging Barry to show them one of the isolation cells instead. He shook his head no, but then they leaned up and whispered into his ear. He laughed at the boys while I stood there wondering what in the heck they were about.
“Come on boys, let's go find your father,” I told them, but Barry shook his head and buzzed the boys through, so I followed them.
We walked the long hallway down to a single cell that they only used for dangerous criminals so they wouldn’t be around the general population. I had seen this cell up close and personal when Jack and I had first started dating, and the boys had heard the story about how their father had locked me up.
“Is this the cell that Daddy put you?” Kaiden asked.
“The same one,” I informed him.
They walked into the cell, so I followed them in and just as I cleared the door, they darted behind me and grabbed the cell door and closed it.
“Boys, what are you doing?” I cried out as I moved to the door and tried to open it. They smiled their impish little smiles, then turned around and took off running down the hall.
“Keller, Kaiden?” I shouted at their retreating backsides and watched as they were buzzed back through the door.
“Barry,” I shouted at the camera in the ceiling, hoping he was watching from his position in the control room. Nothing.
Not about to panic that I’d been locked in the cell yet again, I walked to the cot and sat down until help arrived. I knew the boys would run straight to their father, so it was just a matter of time before Jack came and let me out.
Five minutes later I heard the door buzz open, and in walked Jack holding both boys hands.
“It’s about time,” I hollered.
When they reached the cell, I expected Jack to laugh and open the door, but all three of my men stopped and crossed their arms, staring at me.
“Open the cell, Jack,” I demanded.
“Did you sit on our bench and laugh and smile at another man?”
“What? Where did you—“
“Yes or no, Jenn?”
“You set me up,” I gasped at the boys.
Everyone who knew Jack knew he was possessive and easily jealous where I was concerned. He kept it in check enough that it didn’t annoy me, but I had no idea the boys had figured that out.
“Baby, answer the question,” Jack grumbled, but there was a bit of a twinkle in his eye.
“I can’t believe you boys set me up,” I repeated.
Keller and Kaiden’s little faces pulled into grins that matched their father’s, and I knew then they were getting back at me for leaving. So I crossed my arms and glared at them both just as I would Jack, letting them know, in no uncertain terms, that they could not order me around.
“Boys, it looks like your mother needs time to think about her answer. Who wants ice cream?”
“You wouldn’t!” I shouted.
“Babe, I would.”
“I’ll never speak to you again.”
“Sweetness, that’s not much of a bargaining chip.” Then he looked down at the boys, put his hands out in high five, and, after celebratory slaps, all three of them turned on their heels and headed for the door.
“Boys, I’m... I'm so sorry I left you behind. I promise, OK? I’ll never leave you again," I whimpered, hoping my sad voice would appeal to their love for me.
Jack stopped when they reached the door and looked back at me, smiling, and then he called out, “Baby, this hurts them more than it hurts you, promise.”
And then they were gone.