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The day of my birthday arrived and I could not believe I was so old already. I certainly didn’t feel like a mature adult but my simology said otherwise. I decided to throw myself a party since it was my last chance at having a birthday party. I knew I would not want to have a party when it would be time for me to become an elder. Me and grey hair? Ugh. I definitely would not want to celebrate that.

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In spite of a few wrinkles on my face I didn’t look or feel any different. I was glad I decided to blow out the candles on my cake as soon as the party began so that way I got the chance to spend more time with my guests as my new self.

“Mummy you look just as pretty as before!” My sweet Leni said to me. I wanted to call her my mini-me because she resembles me so strongly when I was her age but she’s so much nicer to everyone than I was.

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“Thank you, sweetheart!” I said to her. She always brought a smile to my face.

Both Louise and Phoebe looked like they were about to pop. Phoebe was complaining about the babies kicking during the entire party. The poor thing should have stayed home to rest since she was due any day now but she insisted on not missing my birthday.

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Dad made herb crusted salmon for dinner and everyone gave it rave reviews. The salmon was tender and well-seasoned and the dollop of mashed potatoes that went along with it was creamy and smooth the way I liked it. Quality-wise, it was the best meal he had made at that point. Clay would have loved it too but unfortunately he had to work late that evening and couldn’t attend.

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Helena, Gemma and I enjoyed ourselves by dancing for most of the night. It was nice doing fun stuff like that with them and they seemed to be having a good time as well. As much as I loved my job sometimes I wished I could quit and stay home with my daughters to spend more quality time with them.

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They were both growing up so fast and I was worried that I was missing out on too much. Leni didn’t worry me as much as Gemma. She always kept herself busy with violin practice or drawing, but Gemma on the other hand was always up to some mischief.

The day after the party while I was at work, Louise and Gemma had a falling out. Gemma came home from school and went straight to the playground I set up at the side of the house knowing full well that she was supposed to do her homework before playing with any of her toys. When Louise went to call her inside Gemma was very rude to her.

“Ahoy maties there’s a huge pregnant whale down below!”

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“Gemma that was not nice at all! Get down from there and go do your homework.”

“I’m not done playing!”

“I don’t care. I’m in charge of you until your mother gets home from work, so go do your homework now.”

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Gemma didn’t listen to her and kept on playing on the pirate ship. Louise was heavily pregnant so she couldn’t climb up behind her and neither Felix nor Dad were home at the time to help her deal with Gemma. Louise was forced to argue with her until she finally decided to come down when it started to get dark.

“I’m going to tell your mother how rude you were to me.” Louise said to her and it set Gemma off.

“Shut up you fat cow! Go cry to my Mummy like a big baby! You’re not my aunt, you’re just Uncle Felix’s girlfriend so stop trying to tell me what to do!”

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I punished her by taking away her playground privileges for a week and making her personally apologise to Louise, which she just loved doing. Gemma’s attitude problem was way worse than mine was at her age. I was just playfully mean to my brothers a few times but Gemma treated Leni like garbage. One time Leni was sharing some ideas she had for an arts and crafts project she had to complete for school.

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“I want to use gold and purple glitter, I think it will make the princess drawing stand out more. Ooh I can also use some matchsticks for the trees in the background and then…”

“Oh will you just shut up! I hate your whiny cry-baby voice! It’s so irritating!” She screamed at her.

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“And you just keep talking like you think I care about your stupid ideas! I don’t care and I don’t like you so just leave me alone!”

“Ok fine! Geez you don’t have to be so mean to me Gemma.”

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Leni complained to my Dad about what she said so he talked to Gemma about being nicer to her sister and she of course acted all innocent and agreed to do better but things didn’t change at all.

Phoebe and Louise gave birth to their babies on the same day. Phoebe and Landon welcomed twin girls Maranda and Adalynn Goth.

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Louise gave birth to a baby boy named Jackson Sloane. He was such a cutie and Felix was so proud to be a father. Dad was thrilled to finally have a grandson.

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Louise went back out to work at the restaurant soon after Jackson was born leaving Felix and Dad to babysit Jackson during the day. When Gemma came home from school one afternoon, Felix asked her to keep an eye on a sleeping Jackson because he had to go out to run some errands and Dad was busy tending to the plants in the garden. She was supposed to call Dad when the baby woke up so he could take over, instead she sat there in the room leaving Jackson to cry in his soiled diaper while she ignored him and continued doing her homework.

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Leni heard Jackson crying but thought Dad was with him. It was only when she went downstairs and saw him outside in the garden that she realised he wasn’t. If not for Leni calling Dad who knew how long Jackson would have remained in his bassinet crying before someone got to him. The thing that concerned me the most about that incident was that she just sat there for so long hearing that baby cry and it didn’t bother at all. She knew he had a dirty diaper and he was uncomfortable and yet she didn’t care!

“There’s nothing to be concerned about, honey.” Dad said to me the following morning after I expressed my concerns to him. “She’s just a child. We should expect her to be a little immature.”

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“This is more than immaturity. She was careless and… kind of callous to just leave Jackson to cry, don’t you think?”

“I don’t think it was deliberate. I think she just didn’t understand that young babies need immediate attention, that’s all. Like I said, she is just a child.”

“Ok Dad.”

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I decided not to argue with Dad since he obviously had on rose-coloured glasses whenever it came to Gemma and would go down defending her because he saw her as his sweet little granddaughter. His argument about Gemma being just a child was weak. Leni was just a child too and younger than Gemma at that. When she heard Jackson crying and realised there was no adult with him she went to find someone unlike Gemma who just sat there like she couldn’t be bothered.

At least Clay understood me. “I just don’t know what to do anymore. Do you think I am overreacting?”

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“I don’t think that at all. I think everyone else is under-reacting and making excuses for her behaviour which is in fact making it worse.”

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“I don’t know what to do anymore. When I punish her, she acts up even more. When I let things slide, it still gets worse. My family members think I’m too hard on her or that I didn’t spend enough time with her when Stephan left and that’s why she’s so angry but honestly she’s always been this way, even before our marriage ended. Sometimes I think if he and I were still together she’d be the same way or worse. Sometimes I wonder… what if she’s like him?”

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I started to feel a little overwhelmed but Clay took my hand and led me to sit on the bed with him. He then looked me in the eyes and said, “Then we won’t let her become like him.”

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I noted the way he stressed on the word we. Just that word alone gave me comfort in knowing that he was in it for the long haul and that my problems were his problems as far as he was concerned. In that moment I was so grateful to have Clay in my life and my family’s life. I was concerned about entering the next stage of my life on my own. Now I’m glad I’m not.

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