Devin Rogelio Jones

Devin’s earliest memories always included his twin sisters, Danae and Darcey. He couldn’t think of a time when they weren’t right there, helping him with homework, or playing with him, tickling him or just being together. He was a full six years younger than them, but yet he felt more connected with them than any of his school friends.

He lived in the shadow of his older sister, Darcey, who followed in her mother’s footsteps academically. Every teacher he had compared him to her, expecting him to be more like Darcey and less like himself. It never occurred to him to mind, seeing as he looked up to both Darcey and Danae, until one day he was presented with something he couldn’t do on his own, and needed help. His teacher, who meant well, told him he wished Devin was as brilliant as Darcey. From that day on, his love of learning stopped, and he began to hate school.

What Devin did love, however, was anything sports-related. Football? Loved it. Baseball? Adored it, and wanted to play it someday. But soccer… someday, Devin hoped to follow in Travis’ footsteps and become a soccer legend like his father. He went to every game he could, and watched on television when he couldn’t make it in person. He studied Travis’ every move in the game and learned from watching him. Yes, he was positive he could be as good, if not better, than his old man at the game.

The summer festival was in town, and Devin begged Travis to take him to Verde Park. The festival had soccer posts in a practice field set up, for families to practice or play together. He was itching to show his father how much he had learned. “Please, Dad? I’ll be good, I swear!” Devin begged. “I want to show you how good I am at soccer!”

Travis had the day off, on the rare occasion he didn’t actually have to show up at the stadium, so he agreed. Together, they went to the park in his flashy sports car. Devin carried an old soccer ball that Travis had brought home, a regulation ball that had been retired. He raced Travis to the soccer nets and began kicking the ball around, waiting for his dad to walk from the skating rink. “See Dad?” Devin said excitedly. “Watch this!” Devin placed the ball on the ground and studied the ball, concentrating on where and how to strike the ball. With a forceful kick, he put the old ball exactly where he had intended. Travis had to admit he was pretty impressed with his young son. He was only 6 years old.

“Good job, Dev!” Travis praised him. “Let me show you some of my favorite moves. You’ll never lose control of the ball if you do this.” He showed Devin how to backspin the ball, allowing him more control. It took him more than a few tries to get the hang of it, but to his credit, Devin never got frustrated or gave up.

“This is fun, Dad!” he chirped, running the ball from net to net, kicking goals left and right.

“You’re going to be a great soccer player,” Travis said, “You seem to have inherited my instinct and talents.” Devin heard the compliment and beamed with happiness.

“You think so, Daddy?” He happily kicked the ball a few more times, placing it exactly where he aimed it.

“Definitely, little bear.” Travis picked him up and hugged him tightly. “How about this? Why don’t I sign you up to play in the junior soccer league? Would you like that?”

“Oh boy!” Devin squealed. “Would I!”

“I guess that’s a yes,” Travis smiled. “I’ll call in the morning, and see if we can arrange for tryouts for you.”

“Thanks, Daddy!” Devin was ecstatic. “I’m hungry. All this soccer worked up an appetite!”

Travis laughed. “Okay! How about we go for a burger, and go home?” he suggested, knowing Devin would likely say yes to a burger. They got junk food and fast food very seldom and knew it would be a welcome treat for the young boy.

“Yay!” Devin said, excited. Together, they walked to Travis’ car, and they ate outside at the drive-in burger place, talking about Devin’s hopes and dreams. When they were ready to leave, Travis stopped Devin before they got back into the car.

“Don’t tell your mama we had hamburgers. It’s our secret, okay?” He winked at his young son. Devin smiled.

“Okay, Daddy,” he answered, contented and tired.


“Are you sure this is okay?” Devin asked his friend, George, as he wielded a can of spray paint. The two young boys scampered around the fence of the school, dodging the spotlight of a passing police car. They were out after dark, and just an hour away from their citywide curfew. Charlotte believed that Devin was at George’s house for a sleepover party. Instead, the two best friends were out causing trouble.

“Sure, I’ve done this before,” George bragged. Together, they walked behind the storage building, and he showed Devin his previous handiwork. “See this? This is all me.” Devin was impressed by the artistic flow of the graffiti.

“I can’t draw that nice,” he quipped. “What do I do?” Devin held the can of white paint, looking for a place to spray that wouldn’t cover George’s work.

“Just press the nozzle and spray. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just make a mess,” George encouraged him. “Have fun for a change. You’re such a bore.”

Devin didn’t like hearing that he was boring, especially from his best friend. “I’m not a bore. I just have to be careful. My dad —”

“Yeah, I know. Your dad is famous. Give that a rest, DJ.” George readied his paint can, and picked out the perfect canvas for his graffiti artwork.

Devin walked around to a darker side of the building and pulled the hood of his sweatshirt over his head. Shaking the can, he heard the rattle of the mixers inside, and pressed the nozzle, letting a burst of paint go onto the brick building. It was just a splat of white, formless and drippy. “I’m not very good at this,” he lamented, staring at the paint blob.

‘Just try again,” George persisted. “Don’t give up.”

Devin shook the can again and thought about what to do. In his shaky writing, he decided to paint a “D”. The can hissed as he painted the bricks with a sloppy, drippy “D”. In a moment of severe misjudgment, he shook the can again, and painted a “J” next to it, leaving his initials in bright white paint.

“Time to move on,” George said. “If we stay in one place too long, we risk getting caught faster.” He picked up his backpack full of paint cans and nudged Devin. Spotting his friend’s handiwork, he rolled his eyes in disbelief. “You painted your initials?”

“I didn’t know what else to do.” Devin shook his head. “I’m not artistic like you, George.”

“You do literally anything else but your name or initials, dude.” George shook his black paint can and was about to cover Devin’s work when a light shone in their eyes.

“Stay where you are,” a booming voice yelled to them. Devin was frozen in fear, but George grabbed Devin’s can, and bolted into the woods behind the school, leaving him to bear the brunt of the punishment. The officer shined his flashlight into his face, and immediately he recognized the boy. “Mr. Jones, come with me, young man.” He grabbed Devin’s sweatshirt by the back of his neck and led him to the police cruiser.

“Please, don’t call my dad,” he begged. “He will kill me.”

“You should have thought of that before you came out to deface public property. Where is your ‘friend?’ With a friend like him, you don’t need enemies.”

“He ran away. Look, please, officer. I don’t want my dad to know about this.” Devin begged, desperate.

“Too late, Mr. Jones.” He put Devin in the back of the cruiser, and closed the door. The officer went back to the building with a camera to document the damage and came back to the car a few minutes later. He was weeping in the back seat. “You won’t make a good career criminal, son. You left your initials on that building back there. You’re not so smart, are you?”

“No, sir.” Devin was humiliated. Not only did he get caught, but he left evidence that traced it right back to him.

The ride to the Jones house was excruciating. Every mile closer to home, he grew more nervous. Arriving in front of the house, his lights on, the officer exited his car and rang the call box at the driveway.

“Yes?” Came Charlotte’s voice.

“Mrs. Jones, I have your son Devin out here.”

“That’s impossible. He’s at a friend’s house for a sleepover.” Charlotte shook her head.

“Who is it, baby?” Travis yelled from the living room.

“Police. He claims he has Devin.”

“That boy better pray it’s mistaken identity.” Travis got up from his chair in the living room and walked to the gate. “Devin Rogelio! Get your butt in the house. NOW!” Travis was steaming mad, and he growled at his son. “Officer, I’m so sorry he was out causing trouble. Believe me, this will not happen again.”

“I just need you to sign for him. Since he has no previous record, I’m letting him go with a warning, but this will go in his record. I have a photo documenting the damage.”

Travis glanced at the photo. “I will make him clean this up.” He handed the officer his card. “Call me, and we can arrange for him to make this right. And thank you for letting him off with a warning. He will wish he got to spend the night down at the precinct when I’m done with him.” He shook the officer’s hand and walked back toward the house.

Devin was sitting by the television, weeping. Charlotte was pacing back and forth, trying to abstain from screaming at him. Travis walked through the front door, his face red. “Go to your room, Devin. I need to speak with your mother.”

“Let me explain —”

“NOW, Devin. I don’t want to tell you again.” Travis was livid.

He knew he was in trouble, big time. On his way up the steps, his sisters watched from the loft, happy they were not in his shoes. Danae shook her head and Darcey clicked her tongue at him. Hanging his head, he walked to his room and closed the door. He threw himself on his bed, and sobbed, awaiting his punishment.

Downstairs, Travis and Charlotte were in shock. “I can’t believe he did this,” Charlotte fumed. “He will not be allowed to go to sleepovers anymore. He’s done.”

“Oh, he won’t be going anywhere for a long time. I hope a Paparazzi didn’t see him out there, or this will be much worse for me than him.”

“I never even thought of that. I guess we do damage control in the morning if something leaks out.”

“So, what do you think his punishment should be? I’m thinking grounded for two weeks, and no more sleepovers, no bicycle privileges.” Travis had never been more disappointed in one of his children, and he never expected this from his son.

“I think that’s more than fair, plus whatever clean up the city makes him do. One of us will probably need to supervise that, seeing as I don’t trust him anymore.”

“Me neither. Unfortunately, it will probably be you doing the supervision, honey. Your schedule is much more flexible than mine right now. Neil is being difficult. Again.”

“That’s not a problem. The girls can take care of themselves while I’m at school with him,” Charlotte said. “If we do it on my day off, all the better.”

“What if he pulls this again, baby? Do we let the police take him down and book him? That’s what my mother would have done, but I don’t want to necessarily do things like that beast did. I don’t want Devin to hate me, either, like I hated her.”

“We aren’t supposed to be his friends, honeybear,” she countered. “We’re his parents. He needs correction and guidance right now.” She stroked his cheek. “Besides, there’s a stark difference between correction and cruelty. I am pretty sure you know that difference, love.”

Travis nodded in agreement. “Okay, so two weeks grounded, no sleepovers, no bicycle until further notice.” Charlotte nodded. “Alright, let’s go talk to him.”

They walked up the stairs together to Devin’s room and met the girls peeking out of their bedroom door. “Girls, bed please,” Charlotte said. “This doesn’t concern you.”

Travis opened Devin’s door and found the boy asleep on his bed, his arms wrapped around his stuffed bear. Charlotte sighed, hating to wake him, but Travis had no qualms about it at all. His temper was still hot. “Devin, wake up.” Travis shook his shoulder.

His eyes opened, and saw his father standing over him, looming like a harbinger of doom. “Daddy, I’m so sorry,” he cried.

“What made you go with George tonight to break the law, son? Don’t you realize the trouble you could have gotten yourself into? Did you even think about the possible impact your stupidity could have had on the family?” Travis paced back and forth in the boy’s room.

“It sounded like harmless fun. George says he does it all the time and never gets caught.”

“It sounds like he left you to bear the brunt of the punishment tonight. How many other ‘friends’ has he done this to? Some friend you have there, Devin.”

“No, he ran away. I’m the one who got caught.” The boy hung his head in shame.

“What if a Paparazzi had seen you, Devin? We won’t know until morning if this gets into the news. This will make a big mess for your father if you got spotted.” Charlotte frowned at him. “What were you thinking?”

“I wasn’t thinking. I’m sorry.” The boy cried into his pillow.

“I think you know you’re grounded. Two weeks, no more sleepovers, and you’ve lost your bicycle privileges indefinitely. And you’re not to see that boy again. If I find out you’re still hanging around with George, it will be much worse for you than two weeks of being grounded,” Travis warned him.

Devin knew Travis wasn’t messing around. He had tested him once, and that was more than sufficient to find out his father meant business. “Yes, sir.”

“I don’t want to have this conversation with you again, Devin. Learn from this mistake, and don’t repeat it,” Travis said firmly.

Charlotte stood silently, happy that Travis was handling the discipline. She felt much too lenient and would have backed down as soon as she saw tears. That wasn’t what her son needed. But she walked to him and kissed his forehead. “Go to sleep, Devin. It’s past your bedtime.”

“I’m sorry I disappointed you, Daddy. I’ll try harder to make you proud of me.” He saw Travis swallow hard, and turned to leave the room. He didn’t want Devin to see the tears in his eyes. His statement opened old wounds and hearing his son say the words that he had told his own father multiple times cut him to the quick.

“Your father loves you, Devin, and he’s proud of you. He’s just not happy with what you’ve done. Think about it, son.” Charlotte tucked him into bed. “Get some sleep. I love you.”

“I love you, Mama.”

Devin pulled the blanket over his head and cried himself to sleep.


Devin’s fourteenth birthday was approaching quickly, and Charlotte had two ideas for him as a gift. The first was the same thing she and Travis had given the girls for their thirteenth birthday: the purity ring. They both believed it would be good to hold him to the same standards they had set for the girls, and probably even more so for him. The potential for him to be a father several times over by the time he reached adulthood was mind-blowing.

The second idea Charlotte had for Devin was a puppy. The twins were away at college, and she realized how sullen the boy had become in their absence. She and Travis both thought that having a companion would help him break out of his funk, and give him a reason to be happy.

First things first, though, Charlotte thought. She made a reservation at the restaurant off the strip for the three of them and had Chris’ old purity ring polished up and made ready for Devin. Charlotte was looking forward to this special date with him and Travis. In many ways, she felt guilty for lavishing so much attention on the girls, and not as much with him as he grew up. Two of their three children favored their father over her, so she was giddy with anticipation, hoping to build a good bond with her son.

Travis drove them to their favorite restaurant, and the valet took the car, handing him a claim slip. Charlotte had two escorts that evening, her doting husband on one arm, and her handsome son on the other. Devin held the chair for his mother and sat with Travis.

“What looks good tonight, honey?” Travis asked Charlotte as she perused the menu.

“I’m thinking that sea bass looks really good.” It was the chef’s specialty for the evening, and she hadn’t tried it before.

“How about you, son?”

“Probably just a burger for me, Dad.” Devin looked around at the comfortable decor and spotted a fish tank separating two dining areas.

“Are you sure? This is your birthday dinner.” Travis tried to figure out what the boy was thinking.

“Yeah.”

“Well, give it some thought, sweetie,” Charlotte said. “Maybe you’ll change your mind.”

When the waiter came to take the order, Devin was still holding fast to his burger and fries. It was a favorite meal, and he seldom got it at home. Charlotte ordered the sea bass, and Travis ordered a steak, medium-rare. Suddenly, it felt like Devin was being stared at, and he was uncomfortable.

“Is there something wrong? Am I in trouble again?”

“No, honey,” Charlotte smiled. “Your dad and I have a special gift for you for your birthday.” He watched as she dug in her purse and pulled out a black velvet ring box. Oh no, he thought. Nervously, he looked away from the ring as his mother opened the box.  “Devin?”

Her call to him snapped his attention back to the ring. “Um. Uh,” he stammered. “Is that like what the girls wear?”

“That’s exactly what it is, honey. It’s a purity ring —”

“No, Mom,” he said sharply, not wanting to hurt her feelings. “I’m… not interested.”

Travis looked at her. “This isn’t optional, son,” he stated. Charlotte returned his gaze and shook her head.

“Why not, honey?” She tried not to sound disappointed.

“Mom, I’m just not interested. I don’t see myself ever getting married. And if I don’t get married, then why would I put myself through that?” He lowered his head, breaking eye contact with her. “There are a lot of fish in the sea, Mom. I just don’t see me settling down with one girl.”

Travis didn’t want to shame his son into the ring and the promise. Shoot, he understood more than most about the temptations of a young teenage boy. But if he wasn’t willing to take the purity pledge, Travis wanted something more from him. A different promise.

“Son, I understand. I was a young boy once, too. Since you aren’t willing to make this promise, then I’m going to ask you to take another one.” Travis paused for a moment, to figure out how to spring this on him. “Just be sure you are safe, and your partner is safe and protected. Promise me, Devin, when you become active, just please, use protection. Babies are expensive, and if you’re not willing to commit to a woman, you’re not ready for a child.”

“Oh, believe me, Dad, I don’t want kids. I want to play soccer, like you. Play the field, if you catch my drift.”

“Just remember, Devin, that sex is a very adult act to do, and it has the potential for real-life, adult consequences. Don’t make a child you don’t intend to love and nurture.” Travis hoped his words were making a difference, though he wasn’t sure anymore.

That isn’t my problem, he thought. He was going to say it, but decided to tone it down. “Okay, Dad.” Devin looked at each of them. This isn’t over, he thought. “Are we done with the nooky talk now?”

Charlotte and Travis looked at each other, and she shrugged. “I guess we are,” she conceded.

Devin never did get his puppy.


The family gathered at City Hall for Devin’s graduation. Dressed in his blue cap and gown, Charlotte came to the realization that he was the last baby to leave the nest, and she was devastated. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Devin was all grown up.

He was voted Valedictorian unanimously by the faculty of the school, an honor for which he was not prepared, and being a man of very few words, his speech was short, sweet and to the point. And during the class awards, Devin was voted “Most Likely To Be A Sports Star.” Though he was athletic, and he had aspirations to join the Shores Llamas, he surmised he had been awarded that particular honor because he was, after all, a Jones. All his friends knew he aspired to follow in his father’s footsteps, and some sports analysts speculated that Devin’s talents might exceed Travis’ someday.

Lionel O’Reilly hired Devin fresh from high school and into a position on the team where they thought he could develop his particular skill set. On his first day at work, nearly every one took a second look.

“Holy crap, that kid looks just like his old man,” Guzman remarked. And it was true. Though he had Charlotte’s fair skin, the kid was a complete chip off the old block.

“Yes, that’s my boy,” Travis introduced his son proudly to the team.

“Welcome, Devin,” Aaron greeted him. “You’ll make a fine addition to the team.”

Travis walked him to where Smitty sat on the bench in front of his locker. “Trey, this is my boy, Devin.” Smitty thought he was seeing double.

“Wow,” he said, gobsmacked. “Which one are you, Travis?” Devin grinned.

“Pleased to meet you, Trey,” the polite boy shook Smitty’s hand. “I understand you’re one of Dad’s best friends on the team. I can’t wait to work with you.”

“I am indeed.” Trey winked at Travis. “You getting dressed, old man?”

“Yeah, I’ll be out shortly. I’m going to finish showing Devin around.”

The two men returned home from work that evening, and the boy was visibly excited to be part of such a great team. “Thanks, Dad. I appreciate this opportunity, and I promise, I won’t waste it.”

Travis hugged his son. “You’re a good kid, Devin. Welcome to the family.”

*****

The moving van closed up and drove away, and Devin packed the last of his boxes into his car. “You’re welcome to come by anytime, but call first.” He had bought a little bungalow near the stadium, a little one-bedroom bachelor pad, and he couldn’t wait to be out on his own for the first time in his life. “I need to make sure I don’t have a girl over, you know, before you come visit me.”

Charlotte worried about her son. “I sure hope you know what you’re doing, Devin. You’re playing a dangerous game.”

“You worry too much, Mom,” he chuckled. The lifestyle of a soon-to-be sports legend awaited, and the anticipation was killing him. He had his father’s stunning good looks, and none of his inhibition. He walked to Charlotte and hugged her. “Don’t sweat it, Ma. I’ll be good.” At it, he thought, completing the sentence in his head.

“I’ll keep an eye on him, honey, don’t worry,” Travis reassured her. They still worked together at the stadium every day, and would until Travis retired in a year or two.

He drove into his driveway, of his house, and put the car in park. As he sat there, the realization that he was free settled in, and Devin smiled. The only thing missing now, he thought, is my trophy girlfriend. He dialed his cellphone and waited for her to answer.

“Hello?”

“Hey sweet stuff,” Devin greeted her. “I closed on the house. It’s mine.”

“You’re free?” she asked.

“Yep! Free and clear. No strings, no parents. Come on over, let’s celebrate.”

“I’ll be over soon.” Maribeth hung up her phone and smiled. This would be a night neither of them would ever forget.

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Up Next: Clinton Adam Scroggins

Darcey Isabella & Danae Elizabeth Jones

From their earliest memories, Danae and Darcey Jones could never recall being apart from one another. They were sisters, identical twins and best friends all rolled into one package. Their mother, Charlotte, dressed them in similar outfits, but always in different colors, mostly so she could tell them apart. Upon closer inspection, it was easier to tell who was who. Danae was blessed with her Nana’s deep violet eyes, and Darcey’s steely blue eyes were more like her Daddy’s. Danae also had her great grandmother’s sweet, almost angelic voice, and like her mother, loved to sing.

The girls were born into wealth, though they never really realized it. They wanted for nothing, and had everything they needed, but were not spoiled. They did chores to earn pocket money and were taken to the festival at least once a season to get treats for their hard work. That was also when Charlotte and Travis had their family photos done, a tradition that passed down through generation after generation. The girls were excited about the spring festival on this particular day, and couldn’t wait to spend their allowance money at the fair.

Charlotte bought each of them a little basket, and as a family, they collected festival eggs that were hidden around the grounds at Verde Park. Travis walked with Danae, and Charlotte helped Darcey find her share of the goodies, mostly filled with candy. The girls were almost six years old, and Charlotte was amazed at how quickly they were growing. Every egg she picked up was shown to her mama with great pride.

“See, Mama?” Darcey showed her the blue and purple egg she found.

“Ooh, sweetie pie, that’s the prettiest one yet!” Charlotte fawned over her older daughter.

Running to her sister, she jumped around excitedly. “‘Nae, Mama says I have the prettiest egg!” She held it out for Danae to see.

“I can find a prettier one!” Danae said confidently. “Come on, Daddy!” Travis took her hand, shooting a look at Charlotte, who giggled madly.

“Let’s keep looking, honey,” Charlotte said to Darcey. “I bet we’ll find the special one before they do!”

Neither of the girls found the rare egg that day, but they all gathered with their baskets and painted faces for the family photo. Bella and Rog joined them for the second photo, one that had three generations of Farmers in it. Though the names were different, there was no denying each of the ladies in the photo were indeed Farmers, as the family resemblance was strong in each of them.

After the festival, the family returned home. Charlotte was expecting their third child and was very pregnant. Danae and Darcey both loved to talk and sing to the baby and feel it kicking. As they gathered around that evening to hear their mother read a book to them, Danae couldn’t take her hands from Charlotte’s belly. She hugged her sweet little girl close.

“Danae, do you want a little brother or a little sister?” she asked.

“I already have a sister,” she answered, so matter-of-factly. “I want a brother.”

“How about you, Darcey bug?” Charlotte asked.

“I dunno, Mama,” Darcey replied, shrugging her shoulders. “I guess I will take whatever you have.”

Travis laughed. It was something they had said to each other many times, and Darcey repeated it. It also reminded him that Charlotte was right. The girls were like little tape recorders and remembered everything.

“What’s so funny, Daddy?” Darcey asked, very serious.

“Nothing, baby doll,” he said. “That was a very grown-up thing to say.” Looking satisfied with his answer, she smiled.

Darcey and Danae shared the bedroom that was once their great aunt Bree’s room, turned into a nursery when Charlotte found out she was pregnant with the twins. It was small, but it fit two twin beds, a small dresser, and a bookcase, filled with books their Nana Bella had written. Charlotte and Travis tucked their baby girls into bed, and kissed them goodnight, though they suspected at least one of them would end up in their bed that night. Thunderstorms were predicted, and both girls were frightened by the loud noises.

At around 2am, the first flash of lightning lit up their bedroom, followed by a clap of thunder. Danae was startled awake, and she hugged her doll, Patches.

“Darcey!” she whispered loudly. “Darcey, are you awake?”

Darcey rolled over. “No,” she replied sleepily. “Go back to sleep.”

“It’s thundering,” Danae whispered back. “I’m afraid.”

“I didn’t hear it thunder,” Darcey shot back. And suddenly a bolt of lightning hit close by, waking both girls up fully. They ran together to their parents’ room and woke them up.

“Mama.. I’m afraid!” Danae said, trembling. “Mama!” She touched Charlotte gently, watching her slowly awaken. Another flash of lightning lit up the bedroom, followed almost immediately by a loud crash of thunder.

Rog, who was already awake, went to check on the girls, but found them in Travis and Charlotte’s room. “Come here, girls,” he called to them.

“Pop Pop!” they cried, running to his safe embrace. There was really nowhere in the house that didn’t have huge windows, so they all sat together in his rocking chair, one twin on each leg, curled up with him.

Charlotte appeared in her bedroom door and saw Rog covered in frightened little girls. “Babies,” she said to them, “Leave Pop Pop alone and go back to bed.”

“It’s okay, Charli,” Rog said. “I was up anyway.” He continued to rock with them, and they started to settle down. “Go back to bed, honey,” he said to Charlotte. “I have this handled.”

“Thanks, Daddy,” she said, and turned to go back to bed.

“Pop-Pop, who is Charli?” Darcey asked innocently.

“Charli is our nickname for your Mama, short for Charlotte,” Rog explained. “Nobody but Nana and I call her Charli anymore.” He kissed her forehead tenderly. “See if you can go to sleep, sweetie.” Danae was already asleep on his shoulder as he gently rocked them.

“Okay, Pop-Pop,” Darcey said, as she rested her head on his shoulder.

The girls woke up in their own beds the next morning, safe and warm. Neither of them knew how they got back in bed, though. Charlotte peeked her head into their room to get them ready for school, but they were tired.

“Come on, girls, it’s time for school!” Charlotte said happily.

“Mama, we’re tired,” they both said, yawning.

“You still have to go to school, girls,” she said firmly. “Five minutes until breakfast.”

“I want to pretend I’m sick,” said Darcey. “I’m too tired.”

“I don’t think you should,” Danae countered. “She already knows you’re not.” Darcey huffed at her sister.

They got dressed in their matching outfits and went downstairs anyway, hoping for their mother to be lenient. Darcey overplayed her hand by yawning excessively and pretending to cough.

“What’s the matter, Darce?” Charlotte asked.

“I don’t feel good, Mama,” she replied, groaning. “I think I’m sick.”

Charlotte walked to her and kissed her forehead. “You don’t feel warm to me. Sorry, girly, you’re still going to school. And no playdates afterward, so don’t ask.”

“But Mama!” she protested. “I was supposed to go to Uncle Chris’ today after school!”

“If you’re too sick for school, then you’re too sick to see Gregory. I’ll call your uncle to let him know.” Charlotte wiped her hands on a towel.

Danae laughed at Darcey. “See? I told you.”

“The bus will be here any minute. Hurry, girls. Grab your backpacks,” Charlotte told them after breakfast. Darcey was not happy, but Danae had warned her.


They stood in the lobby at the Binder Clips Center, waiting for the show to begin. Danae and Darcey had both begged Travis for tickets to see their favorite band, Rock Tooth, and for their tenth birthday, he got some front row tickets and surprised them. Darcey loved their music, and Danae thought the lead singer was ‘dreamy.’ Since Travis’ home field was at the Clips Center, he got almost first pick on the tickets, and he got a nice discount to boot, though he would have happily paid full price for them.

“Daddy, can I have a shirt?” Danae asked. “I like this one,” she pointed at one bearing the image of her favorite singer.

“How about you, Darcey? What would you like?” Travis asked her. He knew souvenirs and concessions wouldn’t be cheap, but it was their first concert.

“Can I get this CD?” She held up a copy of their latest music. “Maybe we’ll get them to sign it!”

He gathered the goodies and paid for them. He had a special surprise for the girls after the concert. Travis had a backstage pass, and had arranged for the girls to meet the boys in the band. Danae was going to lose her crackers when she saw them, and he was so excited to surprise them.

“Here,” he handed the items to his daughters. “Last call on potty check. Do you need to go?”

“I could,” Danae said.

“Darcey, would you go in with her, please? I’ll wait out here for you.” The girls interlocked fingers and went into the ladies’ room together. Five minutes later, they reappeared, giggly and excited.

“Alright, girls. Let’s go find our seats. Ready to see a great concert?” Travis held out his hands, and each twin took one.

“YEAH!” they both squealed at the same time.

Danae and Darcey were seated in seats two and three, with Travis on the edge, for safety. The lights went down, and dark figures appeared on stage. Machines pumped out fog in copious amounts, and laser-like lights flashed. The drummer started to play, and Darcey began to scream excitedly, recognizing her favorite song. Travis looked at his baby girls, having a blast, and smiled. Well done, Daddy, he thought, enjoying the experience himself.

The concert lasted almost three hours, and the girls had the time of their lives, but it wasn’t over yet. After the last song, the security guard came and got Travis and the girls and pulled them back behind the stage. The twins had no idea what was going on, thinking they were in trouble. Travis was bubbling with anticipation, knowing this was going to be a night the twins would remember for a long time. Suddenly, the lead singer, Colton McCloskey and the drummer, Rickey Hughes, appeared from behind a curtain. Danae screamed and nearly passed out from excitement and Darcey couldn’t believe her eyes. Both of the boys posed for pictures with the girls, and they all came out eventually to sign Danae’s shirt and a photo, and Darcey’s CD cover.

In the car on the way home, both girls were pretty worn out, but still awake. “Did you girls have a good time tonight?” he asked, smiling at them.

“Did I ever!” Danae chirped. “Meeting Colton was awesome!” She took her autographed photo of them out to look at, and then put it back in the folder the band had given the girls, to keep them safe.

“How about you, Darce?” Travis queried.

“Oh, daddy, it was amazing. Thank you for the best birthday ever.”

“You’re welcome, punkins.”

Danae was mostly asleep by the time they got home, and Travis carried her into the house over his shoulder. Darcey walked behind him slowly. Charlotte was awake and waiting for them to come home, and she smiled when she saw her two tired, sleepy little girls.

“How was the concert, love? You were gone awhile!”

“The boys were surprisingly good, for a boy band. Danae lost her stuff when we went backstage.”

“Oh, I am sure she did! She is crazy about that boy.” Charlotte chuckled. “She only wanted a poster for her wall. I think you outdid yourself.”

Travis smiled. “I aim to please.” Danae stirred briefly and looked around. “We’d better get them upstairs and to bed. I would imagine they’re going to have pleasant dreams tonight.”


Charlotte piled all three children into her car for an afternoon of shopping. She needed to get evening dresses for the girls, suitable for dinner at The Tower. “Why can’t I go, Mama?” Devin asked, tears in his eyes.

“You’re too little for this place, honey,” Charlotte tried to comfort him, but he just didn’t understand. “Someday, Mama will bring you, just you and me, okay?”

“But I wanna go with Darcey and Nae.” His tears were testing the limits of her conviction.

“Devin, I said no,” she said firmly. “But, if you’re good, I’ll stop for ice cream on the way home.” The chance of a sweet treat calmed him down for a while.

Charlotte preferred a little boutique that specialized in higher-end clothing for children. Holding the door open, all three of them entered the store before her, and Charlotte smiled at the shop owner. “How can I help you today?”

“These two lovely ladies are going on a special date with their daddy at The Tower for their thirteenth birthday, and we need an evening gown for each of them,” Charlotte replied.

“How lovely!” the owner gushed. “Happy birthday, ladies!” The girls both blushed, shy around strangers.

“Say ‘thank you,’ girls,” Charlotte prodded them. “I’m sorry. They are usually not this shy.” The twins just smiled and hid behind their mother.

“Oh, they’re perfectly normal little girls,” the owner reassured Charlotte. “So, what did you have in mind?”

“Girls, do you want matching dresses, or do you want to look different?” she asked her daughters.

They looked at each other, and said, “Matching.”

Charlotte laughed. “They’re not identical too much.”

“They sure look identical to me!” the owner fussed over them. She looked at Darcey, and asked, “Which one are you?”

“I’m Darcey. That’s Danae,” she said, pointing at her twin.

“Such pretty names!” The girls blushed. “Let me show you what I have in evening wear for little girls. Our selection isn’t that great. There isn’t much need for children’s evening clothing, even in the Shores, but hopefully we can find something cute for our little ladies.”

The owner went into the back and brought out five beautiful dresses and set them out for the girls to inspect. “Come look, girls,” Charlotte nudged them. Danae looked at one, a pretty velvet gown with a white shrug, and really liked it. Darcey looked at a different one, which was more of a chiffon and taffeta in pastel colors. They bickered among themselves over which one they would get. “You know,” Charlotte finally intervened,” you don’t have to wear matching gowns, sweethearts. You can wear something different.” The girls were aghast. They had never really worn clothing that didn’t match before.

“Here, why don’t you each try on the dress you like, and see which one you like better,” the owner suggested. “I do have both dresses in other colors, too, if you don’t like what you see.”

“Good idea!” Darcey beamed. She grabbed the pastel dress, and Danae took the velvety dress, and each went to the dressing room.

“Devin, be a good boy for a few minutes, okay? I’m going to help sissy get dressed.” He was busy with his toy and just nodded while he played. In the meanwhile, the store owner tried to engage him.

“Okay girls, who is first?” Darcey tried on the pastel dress first, but Charlotte didn’t like how it hung on her, plus it was a little too revealing for her tastes.

Darcey looked in the mirror and wrinkled her nose. “It looked better on the hanger,” she said. Charlotte nodded her agreement.

Danae tried on the velvety dress, which under the shrug was spaghetti strapped, but the cute little sweater covered their shoulders. “What do you think, girls?”

“I love it,” Danae said, smoothing the velvet under her hands. “I love how it feels.”

“It’s prettier than the other one,” Darcey concurred. “I like it, but maybe in a different color.”

Charlotte peeked her head out. “We’d like to see the velvet dress in purple, if you have it?”

“We absolutely do!” The owner rushed off to the back room and plucked a purple velvet gown in the same size, and brought it to Charlotte.

“Here, Darce, try this one honey.” She helped Darcey shimmy out of her taffeta dress, and into the velvety one and put the shrug on her shoulders. Side by side, her twin daughters stood, in nearly identical gowns. “Come on out here. Look in the big full mirrors, so I can see you.”

The twins walked out of the dressing room and stood in front of the full-length mirror, modeling the gowns for Charlotte and each other. The store owner gasped. “Well, don’t you two ladies look lovely! Your daddy is going to love that!” That was all Danae and Darcey needed to hear.

“This one, Mama,” they said in near unison.

“I guess we’ll take these,” Charlotte smiled. She picked up little shiny purses and shoes to match and went home with their treasures. And as promised, they stopped for ice cream on the way, because Devin was such a good and patient boy.

*****

It was the twins’ birthday, and Travis had gotten a reservation at the exclusive restaurant on his own merit, being the star athlete in town. They even offered him his own table, any time they needed it, but he politely declined. He much preferred the intimate and cozy restaurant off the strip to the glitz and glamour of The Tower, but he was happy to splurge for this special occasion.

Travis took the day off, so they wouldn’t keep the kids out too late, and Charlotte had the day off already. The girls came home from school, and Charlotte got them into the shower immediately and started primping them. She did their hair identically and dressed them in their gowns.

“You ladies look amazing,” Travis swooned over them. He was wearing his dinner jacket with a tie, that Charlotte needed to tie for him. With the girls ready, Charlotte slipped into her slinky black dress and stiletto heels she had worn for their date night a few weeks earlier. At 5:30, a call came over the call box. “That’s our ride, girls,” Travis announced. Tracy was at the house with Devin, ready for a night of games and coloring. “Thank you, Tracy,” he said as he escorted his family to the waiting limousine.

“My pleasure, Travis!” she yelled to them.

The girls were flabbergasted over the limousine ride. Neither of them had been inside a stretch car before, and both of them were impressed. Inside Charlotte’s purse were two beautifully cleaned and polished rings. They were so identical, she couldn’t tell which one was the ring she had worn for so many years. The golden bands were perfect, and she was positive the girls would love them.

The limo pulled up outside The Tower, and the girls were overwhelmed by the throng of people waiting outside the door, waiting for a chance to get in. Charlotte took their hands, and Travis held the door for them as they walked inside. “Jones, party of four, please,” he told the Maître D’.

“Ah yes, Mr. Jones, it is a pleasure to have you and your lovely family with us tonight. Right this way, please.” Travis took one twin on each arm and led them to their table. “What are we celebrating tonight?” he asked as he led the family to a secluded area of the restaurant.

“These sweet young ladies are turning thirteen years old today!” Travis said proudly.  “Their mother and I are treating them to a special evening out.”

“Very well,” the Maître D’ replied. “A happy birthday to you two.”

They were seated at a semi-private table near the kitchen, and Travis pulled out and held the chairs for each of them, beginning with Charlotte. The girls looked too cute in their little gowns, their hair pulled up and a little bit of blush on their cheeks. Travis had lilies on the table for Charlotte, as this was their make-up date night as well. Even though this was not where Rog had brought Charlotte, the memories flooded back to her first date with him, and she got emotional. Seeing the tears glistening in her eyes, Travis reached for Charlotte’s hand and kissed it.

Travis ordered for the whole table, and a bottle of wine for Charlotte and him. The girls were given juice in wine glasses, and the four of them raised their glasses and clinked them together as Travis toasted to his lovely family. “For the three most special ladies in my life. My beautiful wife, and my two little punkins. I love you all.” Danae saw Charlotte blow him a kiss.

Travis looked at Charlotte nervously, and she nodded at him. Clearing his throat, he began. “Girls, this is not just a birthday celebration today, but a special day for you and for us, too. Your Mama and I have a special present for each of you, and with it comes a promise.” Charlotte reached into her purse and brought out two small boxes and set them in front of Travis. “Your Mama is here because this is a tradition on Nana and Pop Pop’s side of the family that she wishes to pass down to you. I’ll let her explain.”

“Sweeties,” Charlotte continued, “When Nana Bella was just a little girl, just about your age, her Daddy, great Papa Arthur gave her a present, this ring.” Travis held the ring box open, and the girls gawked at it, swooning. “And when I was your age, Pop-Pop gave that ring to me. Now, I am giving you my ring, and your great aunt Bree’s ring, as an heirloom, and a keepsake.” Charlotte watched their daughters’ faces as they stared at the diamond ring, excited. “Do you remember that talk we had about a week ago, about where babies come from?”

Both girls blushed. “Yes,” Danae finally answered.

“You remember how I told you, when two people love each other, they perform an act and they can make a baby?” They both nodded. “Honey, that act, it’s called making love, and it’s a very intimate thing. And only people who are married to each other should be doing that act. Remember how we talked about this?”

Darcey wanted to crawl under the table. “Yes,” she said, blushing a deep red.

Charlotte laughed. “This is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of, sweetie. Anyway, your Daddy and I would like you to promise when you take this ring, that you will save that act for your future husband after you are married, and no one else.”

Travis wanted to tell them about Amy, and Charlotte had already agreed. “Girls, I want to tell you a story about me when I was a little bit older than you.” He didn’t want to get into the minutiae of his whole horrible upbringing, just the parts about Amy. The rest of it could wait for some other night. “I met a young girl. We were twelve, so a little younger than you, and we went out on dates together for a couple of years. But we didn’t have a promise to our mama and daddy like what your mama just told you about. Her name was Amy, and we made love together. But we were much too young to deal with the consequences. And girls, she got pregnant and was going to have a baby. We were only fifteen years old.”

At first, Danae thought it was cool to have a baby since she loved taking care of Devin. “What’s wrong with that, Daddy?”

“Well, for one, you’re still in school, and you’re still growing up yourself. A baby is a big responsibility, and one I wasn’t ready for when I was a boy. Neither of us was ready.”

Charlotte continued, “They cry, they always need to be changed, and when you are their mother, you are the one who has to do those things. Feeding. Burping. Cleaning up messes. It is a tiring job, honey, and having a baby at your age would be devastating to your plans. What do you want to be when you grow up, Danae?”

“I don’t know. Maybe a doctor like you. Or maybe a singer, like Nana Destiny.” She thought long and hard. “Maybe a singer.”

Charlotte took Danae’s hand. “If you have a baby at age fifteen, you wouldn’t be able to do any of those things, sweetie, because you would always be at home with your baby. No friends, no fun, no after school projects, because you would always be taking care of your baby. And if you wanted to go out, you would have to pay a babysitter, like Tracy, to take care of the baby when you go out. Babies cost a lot of money, and a lot of time.” A gleam of understanding twinkled in her eye.

“That doesn’t sound like fun at all,” she wrinkled her nose.

“It wouldn’t be,” Travis piped up. “Being a parent is hard work. We want you to enjoy the rest of your childhood, baby girl, and not waste it doing an adult’s job.”

Darcey nodded her head. “I don’t want to be a mother yet. I still want to have fun.” Even though it was hard for him to talk about, even after more than 20 years, Travis knew the story was relevant and would get the point across.

“What happened to Amy, Daddy?” Danae had never heard of her before, and she was curious to know what happened to her big sister or brother.

“Well, sweetie, she died in a car accident before she had the baby.” Danae saw the sadness in Travis’ eyes and ran to him to hug him.

“I’m sorry, Daddy,” she said. “It must have been hard.”

“It was Punkin. It was very hard.” He was hoping that would be the end of the questions about Amy. Though they had agreed beforehand about bringing Amy into the story, he knew it was still a difficult topic for Charlotte.

“Anyway, this brings me back to the rings,” Charlotte continued. Travis opened the other box, so both rings were on the table. “Daddy and I want you to wear these rings in exchange for a promise that you will keep that special act for your future husband, and no one else. The ring will be worn on your left hand until it is replaced by your wedding band.” Charlotte looked at her daughters’ faces and saw them smiling. “Are you willing to make that promise to your Daddy and me? Are you willing to wait?”

“I am,” Danae volunteered. “I promise I will wait, Mama and Daddy.” Travis took one of the rings and slid it on to Danae’s slender finger, smiling at her.

“How about you, Darcey?” Travis asked.

“I am willing, Daddy,” she answered. “I promise I will wait.” Travis took the other ring and slid it on to Darcey’s finger, smiling.

Charlotte stood up and held her arms open for her baby girls, and hugged both of them. “I am so proud of you for doing a very grown-up thing today.” She wiped away a tear of joy. “I will tell you, when you get older, it may be hard to keep that promise. Daddy and I always hope you will keep to your word, but I want you to know that if you fail, that we will still love you, no matter what.”

“I will keep it, Mama. I promise,” Darcey reassured her. Charlotte knew Darcey had aspirations to go to Sim State, and having a toddler would make that impossible to accomplish on her own.

“I will, too,” Danae said.

Charlotte sat down, and the girls did, too. “We have one more thing to tell you,” she said, just as the waiter brought their dinner. As they ate, Charlotte wanted to tell them about their older brother or sister, the one for whom the tree growing in the backyard was planted. They always sat under the tree in the summer and played games. It was time they knew.

“When your Daddy and I were first married, we were expecting our first baby.” Danae smiled. “But when I was just a couple of months along, we lost it.”

“Mama, what do you mean you lost it?” Darcey looked at her, confused. “Where did it go?”

“I mean, sweetie, the baby died before he or she could grow.”

Danae’s little eyes welled with tears. “I’m sorry, Mama. That must have been so hard.” A tear dripped onto the tablecloth and soaked in.

“It was, but you know what? We made it through, and we had you two beautiful blessings.” Travis took her hand and smiled. “You and Darcey are our rainbow babies.”

“Why are we called rainbow babies?” Darcey asked.

“Well, you know how when it rains and thunders, and sometimes the sun comes out afterward and makes a rainbow?” Darcey nodded her head. “Well, the loss of that pregnancy was our storm, and it was a bad storm, too. But afterward, we had you.”

“Oh, I see,” said Danae. “Rainbows.”

“It’s a metaphor. We learned about that in language class last week.” Darcey said.

“That’s right!” Charlotte beamed, happy they were actually learning things in school. “So, that tree in the backyard, the one you play under every summer when it gets hot outside. When the baby died, we planted that tree in the baby’s memory.”

Both of the girls smiled and got up to hug Charlotte and Travis. “I love that tree even more now,” said Darcey.

“Me too!” Danae agreed.

They finished dinner, as both girls stopped every now and then to admire their new rings. The waitstaff came out to sing to the girls, and brought out a slice of decadent chocolate cake for the table to share. Charlotte and Travis let the girls eat most of it, only trying a nibble or two.

“I hope you had a good birthday, girls,” Travis finally said, handing his card to the waiter with the check. Both of them nodded exuberantly and thanked them for dinner and their rings. Charlotte and Travis both walked their girls to the waiting limo and opened the door for them. When they were all inside, he spoke one last time to the twins. “I am hoping that this is the first of many ‘dates’ I will have with you two, as I teach you how you should be treated by young men, when you start to date, and what to expect. Never let a young man treat you differently than I treated you tonight. With respect and honor, and most of all love.” Charlotte nodded her head in agreement, wiping a tear from her eyes.

“I can’t wait, Daddy,” Danae said, and Darcey agreed.

Once the limo dropped the family at home, the girls walked upstairs to their bedroom. Travis paid Tracy and dismissed her while Charlotte helped the girls undress and get into bed. He came up to help her tuck the twins in, and they kissed them goodnight.

“Dream sweet dreams, my babies,” Charlotte said, as she closed the door and turned out the lights.


“Mama,” Darcey asked, “the spring dance is coming up. Can I go?”

Charlotte thought for a moment. “Who is taking you?”

“Just me and some friends. And Danae, too.”

“You’re not going with a boy?” Charlotte was surprised that her beautiful 15-year-old daughter didn’t have a date, though secretly she was happy.

“No, I’m afraid to ask the boy I like,” Darcey lamented. “I know he’ll say no.”

“Aww, honey, you won’t know unless you ask him!” Charlotte encouraged her. But, she knew Darcey was too interested in her studies to be interested in boys. Darcey was exceptionally brilliant, not unlike her mother and uncle Christopher.

“No, I’ll just go with Danae, and we’ll have fun together.” To Darcey, that sounded like more fun than trying to muster up the courage to ask a boy she knew would reject her.

“I’ll take you girls shopping this weekend when I’m off work. How’s that?” Charlotte offered. She considered taking them to Isla Paradiso for the day, as an excuse to see Jayna again, but it was more expensive than she wanted to pay for a day with the girls. With Travis in the off-season, his paychecks weren’t as regular, and they had to penny-pinch.

“I’d love that, Mama,” Darcey sang. “Nae!” she ran off, happy. “Mama says we can go to the dance!” Somewhere downstairs, Charlotte heard a faint ‘Yes!’ and she laughed.

When Saturday came, as promised, Charlotte took her daughters to the dress boutique on the strip while Travis stayed home with Devin. It was the same boutique where they had gotten their date dresses two years earlier, and the store owner remembered them.

“Welcome back, Mrs. Jones, and Miss Darcey, and Miss Danae!” She smiled warmly at the young ladies. “It must be spring dance time!”

Charlotte nodded. “I have to say, I’m impressed you remembered their names. I don’t even remember yours.”

“Dixie,” the store owner replied. “My name is Dixie. I’m not sure I properly introduced myself the last time you brought your beautiful young ladies here.”

“Pleased to meet you, officially!” Charlotte stated. “We need dance dresses for them. They probably prefer matching dresses in different colors, just like last time. Right girls?”

Danae looked up briefly from browsing the dress rack. “Yes, Mama.”

“I just got these in for this spring season, and they’ll be the hit of the ball in these!” Dixie brought out the same dress in two different colors, one of them being purple for Darcey.

Charlotte’s jaw dropped. They were beautiful evening gowns with bows on the back, strapless but tasteful. “Wow, girls. These are stunning.”

“Purple for you, Darcey,” Dixie said, handing it to Darcey. “And this pretty red one for Miss Danae!”

Charlotte helped the girls try the dresses on, and they were a huge hit. “I don’t think we need to look any further!” she said happily. Dixie showed Charlotte a pretty pashmina wrap that coordinated with the dresses and added those to their outfits. Shoes and little purses finished off the look for them, and both girls were thrilled. They finished the sale, thanked Dixie and they left the store.

*****

The spring dance had the unfortunate timing to be scheduled on the same day as Travis’ season-opening game. The girls wanted to be in two places at the same time, because they looked forward to being at the home games. “You’ll only get one spring dance, girls,” Charlotte told them. “Daddy has a home game once a week in the regular season.”

“But it’s the season opener, Mama,” Danae said. “That doesn’t happen every week.”

“I’m going to miss it too, so don’t worry,” Charlotte reassured them. “I need to be home with you to help you get ready for the dance.”

“Won’t Daddy have a problem with you missing a game? He says you’re his good luck charm,” Darcey countered.

“He’ll get over it. Besides, he knows about the dance, and we already agreed.” Reluctantly, the girls agreed to miss the game in favor of the dance.

The dance was on a Sunday, which was a silly day to have a formal dance, Charlotte thought. Nevertheless, she kissed Travis before he went to the stadium and the girls wished him luck. And then, the primping began. Both girls showered and Charlotte did their hair up in the same cute little updo, and helped them into their dresses. She dabbed a little makeup onto their skin and finished the look off with a dusting of shimmering powder that she had ordered from the spa in Isla Paradiso.

“You girls look so grown up!” Charlotte cried, not believing they were almost sixteen years old. In just a few years, they would both head to Sim State, and start careers in their chosen fields. Suddenly, Charlotte felt old.

“Thank you, Mama,” Darcey said, admiring her reflection. “I love this color purple.”

“Well, I like this red better,” Danae countered. “But purple looks good on you, Darcey.”

“Thanks, Nae.”

A horn sounded outside the gate. The white stretch limo that Travis sent from the stadium had arrived to pick them up. Charlotte made them pose for a photo before she walked them outside.

“Have fun, you two!” she hugged them. “Be good, and come right home afterward.” The city had a 10 o’clock curfew for teenagers, and being out beyond that without a parent could earn them a citation. With Travis in the spotlight constantly, he didn’t need the publicity for a curfew violation.

The girls sat in the back of the limousine, and waved from an opened window. “Wow, this is cool,” Darcey remarked. “This is the first time we’ve done something like this without Mama and Daddy with us.”

Danae was much more skeptical. “I’m not sure I’m ready for this, Darcey.”

“Too late now,” came the sarcastic reply. “We’re committed.” She nudged her sister and hugged her shoulders. “Once we’re there, and we’re with our friends, we’re going to have a great time,” Darcey encouraged her. “You’ll see.”

“I hope so.”

The limo pulled up in front of the school and the driver opened the door for them, helping them out. “I’ll meet you girls here at 10, no dawdling.”

“Thank you, we’ll be here,” Darcey assured him. Taking Danae’s hand, they walked into the school auditorium, which was decorated for the spring dance. Almost immediately, Danae saw someone in a bubblegum pink version of their dresses.

“Uh oh,” Danae said, pointing toward the DJ table. “Kristy has on the exact same dress.”

“It’s okay, Nae,” Darcey said. “There are only so many dress shops in the Shores. It’s going to happen.”

The twins stood in line to have their photos taken. Darcey decided to do a funny candid shot, while Danae posed more demurely, looking statuesque. They giggled at each other’s photos and went to sit down.

After photos were taken, the dance committee announced the winner of the dance queen and king. Not surprisingly, Darcey ended up being voted Dance Queen, and they gave her a trophy crown to wear for the evening. Danae was so happy for her sister and gave her a hug. “Congratulations, Darcey!” Danae squealed. “You deserve it.”

The twins grouped up with their other friends who were single at the dance, and all was going well until Darcey saw the boy she had a crush on sitting alone at a table across the room. Remembering Charlotte’s advice, she got up the courage to say hi, and ask him to dance.

“Hi,” Darcey said, approaching him, the Dance Queen crown sitting atop her head. “Mind if I sit for a minute?”

“Yes, I do.” Truman Altman looked at Darcey as though she was repulsive. “I’m not going to dance with you, so don’t even ask. I don’t even know how you won that crown. So many prettier girls than you.”

“Well, that wasn’t nice,” Darcey said, trying not to cry. “Sorry I bothered you.” She moped back to where Danae sat, looking dejected and on the verge of tears.

“What happened?” Danae asked her.

“Truman is a jerk,” Darcey announced. “I don’t have a crush on him anymore.”

“What did he say?” Danae’s fuse was long, but her temper burned hot when someone messed with her sister.

“He said he didn’t know how I won queen. That there are prettier girls than me. And that he wouldn’t dance with me, so not to even ask.” Darcey wiped tears from her eyes, visibly upset.

“You’re right, he is a jerk.” Danae gave her flowers to Darcey to hold. “I’ll be right back,” she announced.

“Where are you going?” Darcey asked.

“I’m gonna go straighten him out,” Danae answered.

“No, Nae, please don’t,” Darcey begged her.

By the time Danae walked to where Truman sat, his date was with him. “I hear you were mean to my sister,” Danae got up in his face.

“You’re just like your old man, getting into things you don’t need to be sticking your ugly head.” Annika Polk stood almost six inches taller than Danae, but the feisty violet-eyed girl wasn’t fazed.

“I wasn’t talking to you, Annika,” Danae spat. “I was talking to that worthless jerk behind you.”

“Yeah, well, I’m his date, and what you have to say to him, you can say to me.” Annika held her ground, as Darcey watched from across the gym.

“Darcey is a beautiful person from the inside out,” Danae said, very matter-of-factly. “You might look pretty, but you are ugly on the inside.” She looked at Truman and growled, “You don’t deserve my sister, Truman.” Danae spun on her heel to leave, but Annika caught her arm.

“You should have stayed over there with your sister,” Annika said, pulling a handful of Danae’s hair.

Danae jumped on top of the girl, and they slap fought for about a minute before a chaperone broke them up. “Miss Jones! I do not want to see you over here again, do I make myself clear?”

“Well, they started it,” Danae countered. “Darcey tried to talk to him, and he was mean to her.”

“Did he come to you and start an altercation, Miss Jones?” Jeremy Wilson, the new principal of Central High asked her.

“No, sir, but…”

“I don’t want to hear any buts, Miss Jones. No more, or you’ll do in school suspension tomorrow. Do you understand?”

“Yes sir,” she answered, feeling defeated. Not only did she lose the fight, but now she was on the principal’s list. If Travis found out, she would be in deep trouble, and she hoped Mr. Wilson wouldn’t call him.

Darcey consoled her sister when she returned to where their friends sat. “Thanks for sticking up for me. I will stick up for you with Mama and Daddy if you get in trouble.”

“Thanks, Darce. I have a feeling this isn’t over yet.”

The girls and their friends tried to have a good time for the rest of the night, but Danae spent the rest of the night angry, mostly with herself. And at 10pm, the dance ended, and everyone had an hour to get home. Danae and Darcey walked outside to the limousine, both of them feeling dejected and beaten.

“Did you have a good time, ladies? I suspect not, by the looks on your faces,” the driver quipped.

“Yes and no,” Darcey answered. “I won dance queen, but that was the end of the fun.” The girls sat quietly in the back of the limo, their heads resting on each other as the driver brought them home. Travis and Charlotte awaited their return happily.

“How was the dance, babies?” Charlotte beamed, and then frowned when she saw their sad faces. “What happened? The dance was supposed to be fun.”

“It was fun, right up until I went to ask that boy if he wanted to dance,” Darcey said. “It went downhill from there.”

“Oh, sweetie. I’m sorry. That was my fault.” Charlotte felt terrible.

“No, it was mine. I didn’t realize he had a date.” Darcey left out the part where Truman had been mean to her, but Danae wasn’t about to let her skip it.

“He was mean to her, so I went to confront him.” She shook her head. “It didn’t end well for me.”

“What happened, Nae?” Travis asked.

“Well, I told him he wasn’t good enough for Darcey, and when his date came around and started making problems, I told her she was ugly from the inside out.” She shook her head. “She grabbed a handful of my hair and pulled it hard, so I jumped on her.” Danae sighed deeply. She had basically just confessed to everything that Mr. Wilson would be calling about in the morning. At least they heard her side first.

“Danae Elizabeth!” Charlotte exclaimed. “I’m surprised at you! This isn’t how we raised you.”

“Actually, we kinda did,” Travis countered. “We taught the girls to stick up for themselves, though this isn’t what I had in mind, Danae.” He hugged her anyway. “I’ll keep this in mind when Mr. Wilson calls in the morning, and I’ll explain your side of it.” He would most likely be fielding the phone call since he would be home in the morning.

“Come on, girls, I’ll help you get out of your dresses and get you all tucked in for bed.” Charlotte directed the twins upstairs. “You and I can talk later, Travis,” she said.

“Mama, I’m sorry,” Danae cried. “I hated seeing Darcey’s feeling hurt. She was crying.”

“I know, sweetheart, but you can’t go attacking people when they are mean to you. You should never repay evil with evil. But, I am proud of you for sticking up for your sister, even if your approach was misguided.” Charlotte kissed Danae’s forehead. “Thank you for telling us. It makes me feel good, that you know you can talk to us about anything.”

“I did win dance queen, Mama,” Darcey piped up. “The night wasn’t that terrible.”

“Oh, sweetie, I’m so happy for you!” Charlotte beamed. “That must have been exciting!”

“It was. I think I was just overconfident. I really wanted to just dance one time with that boy. At least I don’t have a crush on him anymore.” She smiled faintly.

“There are other boys, honey. You’re going to find the perfect boy someday, and you’ll marry him like I found and married your daddy.” Charlotte finished hanging their dresses in the closet and sat on Danae’s bed. “Come here, girls.” She rounded them up to her and hugged them, kissing their cheeks. “I’m sorry the dance wasn’t all you expected it to be. Your senior prom will be better. Just don’t let a boy treat you the way that one treated Darcey tonight. You were right to stick up for yourself, but next time, try it without getting into a scuffle.  You’re lucky you didn’t get hurt, Nae.”

“I know. I’m sorry, Mama.” Danae hugged Charlotte. “It won’t happen again.”

“Darcey, never let anyone tell you you’re ugly, or you aren’t worthy of respect. Remember what your daddy is trying to teach you about love and respect, and don’t put up with that nonsense from any boy. You don’t deserve it, my Punkin.” Charlotte kissed Darcey’s forehead. “Night night, termite,” she sang to them, turning the light out. “Get some sleep.”


Charlotte was preparing the girls for their last dinner date with their father. It was the last of their life lessons that Travis felt they needed to know before they graduated and went to Sim State University in the fall. Touching up Danae’s makeup, she took a step back and admired her work. “Beautiful!” she said, smiling at her younger daughter. Gazing towards Darcey, she quickly checked her makeup and hair but decided that Darcey had done a fantastic job all by herself. “You two are growing up way too quickly. Please stop.” Charlotte couldn’t believe they were eighteen years old, and graduating from high school in less than a week. After that, they would be headed to Sim State, her Alma Mater, and the place where she met their father.

“If it was up to me, Mama, I’d stay little another ten years,” Darcey laughed. “But at the same time, I want to start my life. Go to school, maybe you can train me like Pop Pop trained you at the hospital when I graduate college.”

“I would love that, Punkin,” Charlotte quipped. If Darcey finished her degree and got a job at the hospital with Charlotte as her mentor, it would make her a third-generation doctor. “Your Pop-Pop would be so proud of you, Darce.”

“What about me, Mama?” Danae fussed with her hair and smoothed out the dress she wore, nearly identical to the one Darcey was wearing. “Would Pop Pop be proud of me, too?”

“Of course he would, sweetheart! But you know who would really be proud of you? Great-grandma Destiny.” Danae had an interview scheduled with the Sing-A-Gram the day before graduation, and it was all but certain she would be hired on, with the understanding she would complete college first. She was determined to be the newest “Next Big Thing” in the Shores. And she couldn’t wait.

Danae smiled. “She would, wouldn’t she?”

Charlotte’s phone rang. “Girls, it’s your Daddy. He’s waiting outside to pick you up.” She gathered their sweaters and escorted them down the steps, and walked them to the gate. “Be good, and listen to your father.” Blowing them a kiss, she yelled, “I love you!” They both turned and waved, and got into the car with Travis.

“You two look so beautiful tonight, ladies.” Travis swooned over his identical twin daughters. They looked so much like their mother, it was eerie.

“Thank you, Daddy,” Danae said, smiling. “I’m going to miss doing this when we go away to school.”

“You’re not the only one, Punkin.” Travis, though he was proud of them, was not looking forward to letting them go. They were still so innocent and young.

They pulled up in front of the little bistro off the strip, and Travis opened their doors, one at a time. With a twin on each arm, he walked them inside and checked in. “Jones, party of three. We have a reservation.”

“Of course, Mr. Jones!” Russell, the Maître D’, knew Travis and Charlotte well. Not only had they been visiting the establishment once a week since their tenth anniversary, but Travis was easily the biggest celebrity in Starlight Shores. Everyone knew his face, and he was loved as the man who made the Shores Llamas a winning team, season after season. “Right this way, please.”

Travis followed Russell, with Danae on his left, and Darcey to his right. Their usual table, set in a secluded corner off the main dining room, was set with lilies for the girls, and a bottle of nectar, chilled and ready to open. After the girls were seated, and Travis took his chair between them, Russell popped the bottle of nectar open and poured three glasses. Travis stood and proposed a toast to his two young daughters.

“To the loves of my life. You girls taught me to love in ways I had never thought I could. Your mama and I will miss you as you head to college. So, a toast to spreading your wings, and flying your own paths.”

They both smiled, and they all clinked their glasses together gently. The nectar, which was made locally by a small vineyard, was a non-spirit version of Charlotte’s favorite wine, and both twins loved it as well. “Thank you, Daddy,” Darcey said.

“Well, this is the last time we will have a date like this one, and after this, the next dates you will be on will be with young men who want to know more about Darcey and Danae.” Travis shook his head. “I can’t believe you are eighteen. My goodness, where did this time go?” It was only five years ago they had gotten their purity rings. Neither one of them had dated through high school, but Travis wanted to make sure they had the skills necessary to navigate dating, especially since he wouldn’t be there to help them, or give advice. “Do you girls have any questions for me tonight?”

Danae spoke up. “If we make a mistake, are you still going to love us, Daddy?”

“Well, now that’s a silly question, Nae. Of course, we will. We promised you that when we gave you the rings. But, that doesn’t give you free rein to purposely make mistakes, either. We still hope that you will do your best to honor your original promise.” Travis had learned so much from Charlotte and the girls, and was totally on board with the purity pledge they had taken. “You know you can call your Mama or me any time if you’re having problems or just need a pep talk.” They both nodded.

“What can I get for you this evening, Mr. Jones?” The waiter came, and Travis ordered for the table.

“Darcey will have the ham and provolone crepes, Danae and I will have the Thermidor, if you please.”

“Absolutely, Mr. Jones. I’ll put these in right away.” He turned and left the table.

“Remember when we gave you the rings, girls. Just because you’re adults now doesn’t diminish the responsibility of a baby or toddler, especially if you’re not ready for the commitment. You’re both accepted into college, and you will want to finish what you start. That would be nearly impossible with a baby in tow.”

“I know, Daddy. But what if we’re careful?”

“Nothing is 100 percent foolproof, except for waiting. Pills can fail, condoms break. Waiting is the only way to make sure you don’t have to worry about it, sweetie.” He looked at Danae and had to know. “Do you have a boyfriend we don’t know about, honey?”

“No, but my friends… they all talk about it like it’s the best thing ever. I feel like a prude.” Danae shook her head. “No one else in my class has a ring like mine.”

“Then that makes you special, Nae. You know what? It is the best thing ever, but it should be with the man you’re going to marry, and it should be after he puts that wedding band on your hand. You have a beautiful gift to give your future husband, even if he didn’t wait for you. Don’t deny him that.” He paused, fondly remembering his wedding night. “Believe me, I wish I would have waited, Nae.” He took her hand and kissed it gently. “Your time will come fast enough.”

Darcey blushed. “I still promise to wait, Daddy. I just want to get through school and start my career. Nothing is more important to me right now than school.”

“I know, Punkin. I’m so proud of you, too. I’m proud of you both.” Travis sipped the last of the nectar in his glass and poured another for himself, and topped the girls’ glasses off, finishing the bottle.

“I feel like you’re disappointed in me, Daddy. For asking questions about sex.” Danae lowered her eyes from his.

“No, in fact, I’m happy you’re comfortable enough to ask me questions, Danae. This is what I’m here for.” He patted her hand. “I always want you to feel comfortable enough to ask, either your mama or me. We’re always here for you.” She seemed happy with his answer and sipped on her nectar.

The waiter returned with their dinner, and Travis continued. “So, again tonight, I want to talk about respect. A man’s greatest wish is to be respected. And that is very important, but even greater, girls, is to respect yourself. You are worthy of respect, and you’re worthy of love and honor. A young man should treat you like you are of great value, not as a prize to be won or a possession to be owned, but a treasure to be cherished. There is no one else like you.” He laughed. “Well, except for each other. You’re pretty identical. Likewise, you should treat a young man with respect, the way your mother treats me. It has always been her hope that she has set a good example for you, in how she carries herself, in how she treats others, how she treats me. Remember this, when you begin to date, and always remember how I treat her, too. Don’t let a man verbally, physically or emotionally abuse you. Ever. If a man does not treat you properly, you have to walk away. He will not change, no matter how much you think you can change him. Trust me on this.”

“How do we know, Daddy? Can’t a guy hide his real self from someone?” Darcey was so very intuitive and smart.

“That is a good question, sweetie. Yes, a man can hide his intentions from you. This is why you want to be careful with your heart, and by extension, your body. Never give it too quickly to a man. Be stingy with your affections, and guard yourself. And if a friend warns you about something related to him, listen to them. They might see things that your feelings have blinded you to.” Travis hoped he was answering Darcey’s question. “Trust your instincts. Trust your gut. And when all else fails, wait.”

Danae nodded. “That’s why you want us to wait.”

“Yes, honey. Let me tell you a story about Nana Bella. You remember, she had a ring given to her by her daddy when she was young. But she fell in love with a boy when she was about 16 years old. He didn’t respect her, and he tried to get her to do things that pushed the boundaries of her promise. They did some other things, even though she shouldn’t have, and the more they did, the more he wanted. When she finally put her foot down and refused, he made it his life’s purpose to get revenge on her, for sticking to her promise. Nana had a very hard time her whole life because she gave her heart to that young man way too quickly. She almost paid the ultimate price for it.”

“Like what, Daddy? What did she do?” Darcey asked.

“Well, she was intimate with him. But they didn’t have sex together. But the more intimate things they did, the more he disrespected her, until they finally broke up over it. Nana wasn’t proud of herself, especially when she had made the promise that she wouldn’t do those things.” Travis wiped his sweaty palms on his pants. The girls were testing his comfort level with their questions.

“I think I get it,” Danae said, finally understanding.

“Darce? Do you understand everything?”

“Yes, Daddy. I do.”

“Remember, there is nothing wrong with just being friends with a boy. I speak from experience on this. Your mama and I started out being best friends.  We studied together, bowled, went to a concert with your uncle Chris. And then, our friendship blossomed into something much better, deeper. Friendship is a good foundation for a romantic relationship, because when there are no expectations, he is more likely to show you his real self.” The waiter came and took plates from the table, and left the check for Travis. “Do you girls have any more questions for me?”

“No, I’m good,” Danae said. “If I never told you before, Daddy, thank you for spending so much time with us on our dates. I will never forget them.”

“Me too, Daddy. Thank you.” Darcey chimed in.

“I love you girls so much. Thank you for letting me teach you, for the privilege of being your dad.” He hugged both of them close, wiping a tear from his eyes.


Darcey and Danae stood in front of the house, dressed in graduation gowns, and posed for a photo together. Charlotte dabbed her eyes with a tissue, while Travis snapped pictures of his daughters. Devin sat in the car, waiting in the driver’s seat. “Come on, guys. Let’s move!” he quipped, tired of waiting. Travis was allowing him to drive his fancy sports car to City Hall for the ceremony, and it was the highlight of Devin’s life to this point.

“Okay, son,” Travis laughed. “I guess we’re good here. Are you ready, my sweet Charlotte?” he asked his wife, taking her arm.

“Yes, my love. As ready as I’ll ever be.” She sniffled, watching her adult twins pile into the car together. Travis helped her into the back seat and sat shotgun next to Devin.

At the ceremony, Darcey earned the title of valedictorian, the same as Charlotte, Bella, and Destiny before her. She was also voted “The Most Likely To Fulfill Her Lifetime Wish,” and graduated with highest honors. Danae was voted “Most Popular,” and like her sister, graduated with highest honors. After graduation, Travis treated his family to dinner at The Tower, as a congratulations for the girls, and as their last dinner out as a family. On Monday, the girls would leave for Sim State University, and the family dynamic would forever be changed.

*****

Danae hung her diploma on the wall by her bed, and straightened it, while Darcey finished packing the last box of things to put on the moving van in the morning. “Are you ready to leave home, Darce?” Danae asked her sister. “I don’t feel like I’m old enough to be on my own.”

“Yes and no,” she replied. “On one hand, I can’t wait to start my own life. On the other hand, I want to stay little forever. I’m jealous of Devin, getting to stay home. He still has a year before he even gets to high school.”

“Do you worry that we won’t be as close when we’re done with school, Darcey? I mean, I’ve never known life without you right by my side.”

“I’ll always be there for you, Nae,” Darcey replied. “I can’t imagine a life without you.”

“Promise me, Darce. Promise me we’ll always be best friends.”

“I promise. Let’s get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow.”

“I’m gonna go say goodnight to Mama and Daddy. I’ll be back in a few.” Danae pulled the sheets back on her bed, and fluffed her pillow, then left the room.

“There is our baby girl,” Travis said, looking up from a book. “Going to bed, Punkin?”

“Yeah, I wanted to say goodnight. One last time.” Danae looked unusually sad.

“I’m glad you did, sweetheart,” Charlotte said. “Tomorrow night will look so much different for us.” Danae thought she heard her mama sniffle.

“I’m not so sure I want to go, Mama. I’m not ready.” Danae sighed and sat on the ottoman near Travis’ chair. “I’m not ready to be an adult.”

“You’re more ready than you realize, Punkin,” Travis answered. “Your mama and I have no more to teach you. We just have to trust you, that you’ll make sound decisions, and you’ll remember everything we taught you.”

“But what if I have trouble? What will I do?” Her violet eyes filled with tears. “I still need you.”

“Your daddy and I are only a phone call away, honey.” Charlotte motioned to Danae, who went to sit by her mother. “You can call me at any time. I will always be here for you, my sweetie pie.” Charlotte kissed her forehead. “Besides, you’ll have Darcey with you. You girls will take good care of each other, and you’ll have the house we leased all to yourselves.”

“I hope you’re right, Mama.” Danae’s uncertainty overwhelmed her.

“Hey, I didn’t raise a doubter,” Travis said, smiling at her. “You’re going to thrive at school, Nae. Just remember the things I taught you. Keep yourself pure. Dedicate yourself to your studies. But don’t be afraid to make friends. Have fun. And watch the parties. We aren’t sending you to school to go to parties.” He winked at her.

“I love you, Daddy.” She walked to Travis and hugged him. “I love you, too, Mama,” she added, walking back to Charlotte. “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, honey,” they both said back to her, as they watched her climb the stairs.

Darcey noticed Danae’s tear-stained face when she entered their bedroom. “Are you okay, Nae?”

“I will be. I’m just tired.” She climbed into bed and pulled the covers up to her chin. “Goodnight, Darcey.”

“Night night, Danae.”

*****

Morning came quickly for the twins, as Travis woke them both before the sun rose. “Girls, time to rise and shine,” he announced. “Your mama has to be at work this morning, and she wants to see you before she goes.”

They both grumbled as they got out of bed, but smiled when they smelled Charlotte’s famous pancakes cooking downstairs. Together, they walked down the steps to Charlotte’s smiling face. “There’s my college students!” she beamed. “They’re almost ready, babies. I made coffee if you want some.”

The twins both fixed a cup of coffee and grabbed a plate of pancakes, and all of them sat and ate breakfast together. The moving van was scheduled for a 10am pickup, and they would be leaving for the airport shortly afterward. “I want you to call me when you get to the house this afternoon,” Charlotte said. “I don’t care what time it is, and if you don’t get me, leave me a message, and I’ll call you back.” She finished her coffee and gathered her plate to bring to the kitchen. “I know you’ll have to deal with the furnishings in the house until the truck gets there, but we have some new stuff ordered that should be there before you arrive today.” As she cleaned up breakfast dishes and the skillet, she poured another cup of coffee to bring upstairs with her as she got ready for work. “The landlord should be there to open the house for the deliveries.” She put her coffee mug down and held her arms open for her girls, who walked to her sadly and let themselves be enveloped into her embrace. “I love you two more than you know. But you’ve got each other, and you’re going to have the time of your lives at university.”

“Thanks Mama,” Darcey said. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you Mama,” Danae said, holding back tears.

“You won’t even miss us once you’re involved with school. Just remember to call us once a week.” Travis hugged Danae close, and kissed her cheek. “Remember, you can call me anytime, honey.”

“Okay, I need to get in the shower. My carpool will be here in less than an hour!” Charlotte sprinted up the stairs.

Travis helped the girls bring their boxes down from their room, and set them among the furniture they had pulled from storage to go on the truck, which was gathered in the garage. Charlotte returned from the second floor in time for her carpool. Holding her arms open again, she embraced her daughters for the last time. “I love you girls to the moon and back. Call me tonight, and be safe.”

“I love you, Mama,” they both said in unison. They watched as Charlotte exited through the gate and got into the car with her ride, and wept as she drove away, waving to them.

“Why don’t you girls go upstairs and get cleaned up? Devin will want to say goodbye too, so don’t forget him.” Travis hugged them again, and walked toward the house.

Devin was in the kitchen finishing his breakfast when the girls walked in from the garage. “I guess you girls are leaving me home with the parental units,” he joked, getting a mock dirty look from Travis. “I wish I was going with you. I’m ready to get out,” he whispered to Darcey. “I’m going to miss you.”

“I’m going to miss you too, Dev. But we’ll be home in the spring.” Darcey thought that seemed like an awful long span of time, and suddenly, the realization was beginning to hit her. She hugged Devin, and kissed his cheek. “We’ll talk soon. I love you, bro.”

Danae walked to Devin and hugged him. “I love you, Dev. Don’t have too much fun here without us.” Outside, the horn of the school bus sounded.

Devin walked toward the door, his backpack slung over his shoulder. “I will miss you,” he said, sniffling. They watched as he walked through the gate and onto the school bus; for the first time in years it would leave the house without the twins on it.

Darcey and Danae finished getting ready and brought their luggage downstairs for the flight. Darcey packed some cash and a few granola bars into her backpack, and Danae grabbed some fresh fruit from the garden for the trip. The moving van arrived a bit early, and Travis helped load the van with boxes, furniture, and the girls’ bicycles. By 10:15am, the van was on its way to Sim State.

Travis put the girls’ luggage into the trunk of his car, and packed their carry-ons into the car. “It’s go time, girls,” he said, his heart breaking. They piled into the car and Travis drove them the thirty minute trip to the airport. None of them spoke on the way, knowing that tears would follow any attempts to talk. He pulled up to the terminal to unload their suitcases and checked them curbside and helped them with their tickets and backpacks. Danae’s face was contorted with agony, not wanting to leave. “Aww, Punkin, you’re going to be okay,” Travis hugged her. “Don’t cry, sweetie.”

“I love you, Daddy,” Danae wept.

“I love you too, Nae Nae,” he replied, wiping his own tears from his eyes.  He hugged his baby girls one last time, and kissed their cheeks. “Don’t forget to call us when you get there. Have a safe trip, and have fun! You’re going to love it. I promise.”

“We will Daddy,” Darcey cried, giving him one last hug. “I love you.” Darcey took Danae’s hand, and together they walked into the terminal, and turned one last time to wave as they disappeared into the crowd.

…. To be continued.

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