Foto bij 763. - Lucien

The little ones, as it turns out, catch on rather quickly to the fact that their mommy and daddy are nowhere to be seen. Especially Emilia seems to be inconsolable; Emma's been walking around with the toddler on her arm for a good twenty minutes now, but she won't stop crying. I've been able to keep Felix distracted well enough, but it's clear that the constant fuss is getting to him. I haven't seen the pets since it first started, despite Lance clearly being interested in Felix.
Emma throws me a desperate look when Emilia, after a few minutes of just sniffing instead of sobbing, gets right back into it. If this is the precursor for the weekend, we're in for some rough days. I flick through the binder that Kenna gave us, hoping to find a chapter called 'what to do when they won't stop crying and the urge to toss them out a window is growing' or something similar. There isn't one, but there is a little picture book full of family pictures with 'If you miss us' printed across the font. I take it out and hold it up for Emma, who's now pacing past the window in hopes that the view might distract the girl. The idea to go outside popped up, but since there's still rumours going around about the whole abortion-fiasco, we're hesitant to do so in case we're spotted. We don't need to add fuel to an already raging fire.
The moment Emilia gets her grabby hands on the picture book, it seems to do exactly what it was intended for: the crying stops, and instead she excitedly exclaims: "Mommy!" while pointing at Kenna on the front cover. Emma's face expresses immediate relief.
"Yes! And who else is on there?"
"Daddy! And Felis!"
"Anyone else?" Emma purposely covers Emilia's own face with her thumb, causing the girl to laugh.
"Auntie Em, nooo!" She coos, wrapping her tiny hand around Emma's thumb to pull it away. Emma sits down on the couch as they go around all the people on the front once more, and then when Emilia opens the booklet, Emma tosses me a reassured look. First crisis averted. We can do this.
      An hour of peace later I'm just about to go make lunch for all of us when my phone rings with my regular ringtone, and a number I don't have saved. Since it breaks through my do-not-disturb, whoever it is must have known to call twice. Checking that Emma is okay dealing with both kids, I retreat to the office to take it.
"Lucien speaking."
"Hey, Luce. It's Liliana."
"Lily, hey!" When I pull back my office chair, I find that Lance has made himself a little nest of peace in the seat of it. To his obvious displeasure, I push him off to sit down. "What's up?"
"Is it a good time to call? There's some things I wanted to discuss with you."
I glance at the office door, despite it being closed, but don't hear any sounds of distress. "We're babysitting, but as long as no one starts crying I've got time."
She laughs, which brings up a lot of memories that I wasn't entirely prepared for. "Does that include you and Emma?"
"Of course it does." I turn on my computer, more out of habit than that I need it for anything.
"Just making sure. Anyway, I saw everything that I've been seeing online. Regarding the..." She hesitates, which is enough to clue me in.
"Yeah, it's been messy. Eailyn is trying to deal with it without us having to make a statement, but the press has been especially vicious on this one."
"I noticed." Something has snuck into her voice, but I can't name it. There used to be a time where I knew her so well that I'd immediately have known what's bothering her, but that's long gone. "I know the answer, but I'm asking anyway: it's not Emma, right?"
"No, it's not. It's..." I falter, unsure.
"You don't have to tell." She cuts in. "I have a suspicion, but I don't need it confirmed. That's none of my business. I called because I want to help you out."
"What?" I frown to myself, confused. "You don't have to, Eailyn is on it..."
"You just said yourself that she's having trouble with it. But I can offer you an easy solution."
"Which is..?"
She sounds surprisingly upbeat when she replies: "You say it's me." It leaves me silent, which is an invitation for her to elaborate. "I'm a big part of your past, so people won't question you supporting me. Everything that happened to me is out to the world as well, so people will be less likely to write scathing articles about it - and even if they do, I know for a fact that a lot of women will come to my defense. It's the perfect solution." When I still don't manage a reply, her voice softens. "You've done so much for me, Lucien. Let me do this for you."
      I promise her to call back after letting her offer sink in, and discussing it with both Emma and Eailyn. Since we have a toddler and a baby in the apartment, I told her I wasn't sure when I'd be able to get back to her, which she completely understood.
Because it's lunch time and we need all hands on deck for that, I don't tell Emma who called and she's too busy keeping Felix from smearing his potato and beet puree everywhere to ask. I take the task of getting Emilia to eat her jam on toast without getting it in my hair, because not getting it in her own is an immediate lost cause. About a third of the toast actually gets in her mouth, because she's too busy singing the themesong of a children's tv program that neither I nor Emma knows. Felix is happily dancing along with it, bouncing up and down in his chair.
"Are children always this messy when eating?" I ask Emma when Emilia tosses a piece of toast away from her. It lands on the floor, face down and with a wet thud, where it immediately becomes a snack for Lance, who's been scouring around the table for any scraps. Frank is still working on the jam stain on my jeans from another attack. Emma snorts at my defeated look, then gets sprayed when Felix blows a raspberry with a mouthful of puree. I can't hide my grin, feeling vindicated.
"We're going to need a deep clean after the weekend is over..." She laughs, wiping her eyes. "They better be worth it."

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