Chapter 19: Great White North
Buttercup played with her fingers nervously as she rode shotgun in the van hauling accompanying family and their luggage piled in the back. It was really sinking in now as she looked at unfamiliar surroundings; she was somewhere far from where she’d grown up, away from what she had identified for so long as home.
Will sat in the driver’s seat, piloting the van with confidence, clearly knowing where he was going. The jet had dropped them off at an airfield not far from a small town they’d seen from the air. Krystal had taken her children, including Mandy, to her own home while the puffs, former and current, crowded with their luggage into the van. Bunny, Blossom and Bubbles shared the bench seat directly behind them as Bunny pointed out small things they could see outside as they passed by.
“And down there is a creek we sometimes picnic by when we get in the mood. Usually during the summer months though. Around here spring and fall are pretty wet.”
“I love picnics” Bubbles sighed happily. “Somehow it just feels like one of those things that feels perfect when everything works out.”
“Unfortunately picnics always seem to be one of those things that never seems quite right because of all the things that can, and often do, go wrong” Blossom countered.
“Great family event though” Bunny injected. “I’m sure Buttercup will have her fair share of picnic events after the pups are born.”
“One step at a time” Buttercup said tiredly. All these events, everything that had been going on, she felt like she was running some kind of life marathon and hadn’t had a chance to catch her breath yet. With so many changes in her life happening in quick succession she hadn’t had time to deal with all of them yet. Her husband seemed to sense this and reached over to pat her arm before making a left turn onto a private road. Buttercup managed a small smile, letting him know she was happy to be with him, but she needed time to come to terms with everything that involved.
“You girls will be staying with me at Varic and GG’s lodge” Bunny told Bubbles and Blossom. ‘You’ll love it; it’s like a hotel.”
“This is more than a vacation” Blossom reminded her. “We’re here to... just help Buttercup settle in and make sure she’s comfortable.”
Buttercup rolled her eyes. Everyone was well aware that they were there to essentially spy on them to see what was what; however, though she wouldn’t admit it, Buttercup was glad to have her sisters around, it would help her transition into her new life that much more smoothly.
The van pulled up to large wooden building, one that could only be the lodge Bunny had been telling them about. It was built into the hillside with trees in front that partly camouflaged it to make it seem smaller on the outside than it was, but Buttercup had a feeling there was much more to the building than what they could currently see.
Everyone started to climb out of the van, the girls in the back grabbing their luggage for their stay. Buttercup groaned as she swiveled in her seat to swing her legs out. Even though she was barely a month into her pregnancy she felt heavy and sluggish. Maybe she was still getting used to her body again and that’s why she felt so heavy, she knew her breasts had certainly gained some weight.
Will came around and offered a hand to help her get down. She sighed and accepted, grudgingly admitting that she would have to get used to it for the coming months. ‘One down, eight to go’ she reminded herself.
The entrance of the lodge was as large as one might expect, but the windows were one way mirrors, preventing them from seeing inside with normal vision. The atrium was also very much like a hotel, but Buttercup quickly remembered how big Will’s family was and suddenly the lodge and its size made perfect sense.
The atrium was suitably welcoming and seemed much more personal than a typical hotel interior; made it feel much more homey.
GG arrived the greet them. “Well nice to see you all here finally.” She walked up to Buttercup and gave her a gentle hug. “The flight wasn’t unpleasant I hope.”
Buttercup smiled. “Nah, it was fine. Just feeling a bit lethargic is all.”
“Mmmm well you’re probably tired and hungry from your trip.” She took her hand. “Come on, we’ll get you something to eat and put you down for a nice nap. Dray, Bunny, you take the girls to their rooms please.”
“Will do” the two answered as GG dragged Buttercup away. Blossom and Bubbles looked like they wanted to follow but Bunny put hands on their shoulders. “Don’t worry, she’s in good hands. Now let’s find you girls a room to stay in.”
Bunny and Will helped them carry their luggage down the long corridors until Bunny found them a single room with two beds. The room was larger than most hotel rooms and they had a full sized en suite complete with shower/bathtub, sink and vanity mirror. They lacked their own television but at least there was a desk and night tables where they could put one if needed. The room’s warm colours made it inviting, though it seemed a tad dark as far as illumination was concerned.
Bubbles pulled her suitcases against the wall and plopped down on the nearest bed. “Ah this bed is so nice.”
Bunny chuckled. “Well despite how the place looks it’s not a hotel. GG says it helps to keep the family close so she looks after the place pretty well. She’s mostly retired but she also likes to get out and do stuff once in a while.”
“And gets excited whenever a new family member comes in” Will added. “She always dotes on the pregnant girls, especially the ones on their first.”
“That’s normal I think.” Blossom brought her luggage to the other bed and sat down on it, resisting the urge to lay down. “So, what happens now?”
Will shrugged. “Not much. My parents are coming over to see us, and Buttercup hasn’t met Dad yet.” He grimaced, as if predicting something unpleasant and Blossom couldn’t help but grin at the thought of something making him uneasy, she found his usual overconfidence irritating at times.
“I think the real question is what are you girls going to do?” Bunny alternated her gaze between Blossom and Bubbles. “You can’t tell me you’re going to be hounding Buttercup the whole time.”
“I’m on vacation, so I’m going to act like it” Bubbles insisted.
“Well then how about I show you girls around later eh? I’m sure you’d love to see all the lodge has to offer a couple of young girls away from home.”
“Does it have an indoor pool?” Bubbles asked. “I’d love a chance to wear my new bikini.”
“I’d like to see the town actually” Blossom declared. “It has a close-knit feel, not the sort of thing you get in the city.”
“I’m sure you’ll get your chance, but one step at a time.” Bunny told her. “People around here are great generally but they’re wary of strangers. That’s how it is with most close-knit communities it seems. So, how about we start with a tour of the lodge?”
Buttercup stifled a small belch after swallowing the last bite of the meal GG had made for her. The ‘something to eat’ had ended up being an entire ham and Buttercup was now feeling a little embarrassed after eating so much and she could feel the weight of it in her belly.
“Good girl” GG said proudly, removing the empty plate and putting it into the sink. “You need to keep your strength up and eat plenty. Don’t worry about gaining weight, that’s what you’re supposed to be doing.”
Buttercup put a hand on her belly, feeling its firm distention. She was both reassured and annoyed that GG seemed to anticipate almost every worry she had, even the ones she never expressed. At the moment though she had another worry, her wardrobe.
Her current outfit consisted of a green polo shirt with three buttons, and a pair of black yoga pants. All her shirt buttons were undone to accommodate her swelling bust-line, revealing a fair bit of cleavage. At the moment the top was snug, but not uncomfortably so, despite the new bulge in her midsection which it was unable to conceal in the slightest, making her feel more self-conscious. She’d always enjoyed the flexibility and casual nature of yoga pants, but now with her body swelling so much she started to feel fat in them. GG told her not to worry about gaining weight, but she’d been fit and trim for so long, priding herself on it no less, that she couldn’t help herself.
“Is it normal to feel.. unsure of everything and self-conscious when you’re pregnant?”
GG chuckled. “Of course dear, especially the first time. You feel fat bursting out of your clothes, everyone is looking at you and on top of that you have to worry about becoming a parent. It’s a lot to deal with but you’ll do fine, I’m sure.”
“I just feel a lot of pressure considering Will probably grew up with the expectation that his wife would be... one of his own kind and was raised the same way the girls in his family were. You know with knowing how to raise kids from a young age and all that stuff. Even know I’m just learning how to cook. I was never taught how to be a wife or a mother!”
GG smiled and walked behind Buttercup, placing her firm hands on her shoulders and began to dig her fingers in, massaging them, sending waves of pleasure through Buttercup’s tired body.
“Sweetie, you may not have gotten a lot of instruction as far as being a wife of a mother is concerned but you have a mother yourself don’t you? She is your father’s wife and you’ve seen how she has acted haven’t you? Even if you never really payed attention you have a general idea. Listen, don’t worry about anything technical just try to love your family as best you can and the rest will come on its own.”
Buttercup sighed. “Is that really all there is to it?”
GG laughed. “Of course not. It’ll be tough and you’ll have your problems but by working together you will both be able to overcome it. Marriage and family is work dear, a lot of it, but it pays off in the end.”
Buttercup ran over GG’s words in her head, thinking about what they had done so far as a couple and what they might be able to do as a family, but as GG’s hands worked their magic on her shoulders and her body began to digest her substantial meal she started to feel weary and her eyelids heavy.
“I think it’s time we got you to bed.” GG helped Buttercup to her feet and guided her the short distance to one of the guest rooms, pulling out the covers before tucking her into them. Buttercup was fast asleep the second her head hit the pillow.
“Well, we’re home.”
Mandy looked through the window of Krystal-her mother’s minivan. The house was two stories tall with cream siding exterior. It had a very classic, humble look to it, despite being the size of a mansion. Sort of the kind of house you would expect a very wealthy ranch owner in Texas to live in, but without all the tacky cowboy decor.
Mandy got out of the van and helped Krystal to remove her restless children from their car seats. The boys ran about as soon as they were released, laughing and yelling as they chased each other. Miril quietly joined them and launched a surprise attack, taking them both down in a single pounce, making use of her larger size. Lily was content to remain in her mother’s arms, clutching her stuffed dolphin.
Krystal went over to the door and unlocked it, depositing Lily inside so she could retrieve their luggage. The boys, eager to prove their manliness insisted they help carry the suitcases. Mandy, had several boxes and suitcases full of things, all rather hefty for a pair of four-year-olds, but working together they managed to drag one of them inside the house as Krystal and Mandy shuttled the rest.
They stacked the boxes into a pile near the entrance and Mandy took a moment to look around. The house was an open concept one on the inside, looking much more modern than one would have expected from the outside. A light peach colour adorned the walls and the house’s interior lights cast a warm glow. The floors were of hardwood but the stairs were glad in cream carpeting.
Krystal took Mandy by the shoulders and looked into her eyes, her own welling up with tears. She smiled and said: “Well, I guess it’s ‘welcome home’ Amanda.” She hugged her daughter closely and Mandy felt her own eyes well up as she returned the hug.
“It’s good to be home” she replied quietly.
Krystal pulled away and held her hands. “How about we go show you to your new room.”
Each woman grabbed a suitcase and pulled it up the stairs to the second floor. Krystal took Mandy to what looked like a guest master suite. It was painted a very light blue and aside from a bed, a dresser and a night table on the left side of the bed, it was unfurnished. There was a small walk-in closet and her own en-suite which was half as big as the bedroom, containing a large bathtub, vanity mirror and shower.
“Wow... this is quite something.” Mandy was completely beside herself. This room seemed more extravagant than what she’d been expecting, actually the whole house was. Such accommodations were generally not what one expected a single mother to be living in. It would be a lot of work for her to clean it all up herself too.
“This should be suitable for you dear. I know it’s up the stairs but I’m sure you’ll be able to manage.” Mandy grimaced, her mother just reminded her that in a few months time her mobility would be significantly hampered.
Your father was a Leviathan, a water element, hence the emphasis on bathrooms, and there’s a nice pool downstairs as well. Trust me, you’ll be using that a lot.”
Mandy tended to forget that her father was not even human. She herself was apparently a medial, a girl who was mostly human but could become a full female of any of the elemental species.
“Well I guess we should get back to moving stuff.”
After another fifteen minutes all of Mandy’s belongings were now up in her new room and Krystal suggested they have a snack break before unpacking. Mandy, was more than happy to put something in her stomach which was gnawing at her insides, demanding sustenance.
The entire family was gathered in the kitchen where Krystal took out a box of cookies. Mandy, wanting to act the older sister she was, let the young ones pick first, although her stomach seemed to disagree with her morality when there was an even younger child inside her that needed to be fed. Fortunately the children wasted no time in grabbing their individual handfuls and start munching, so Mandy grabbed a handful herself and sat on one of the chairs, oddly already feeling like it was more plush than she remembered.
Krystal sent the children off to play upstairs and sat down adjacent to Mandy. “Are you alright?”
Mandy nibbled on her cookie a bit before answering. “Well I think it’s going to take a while before I get used to all this. This is sort of my first experience being part of a real family.”
“Well it won’t be the last” Krystal assured her. “We won’t let it.”
Mandy managed a small smile but it quickly vanished with a sigh. “But how am I supposed to raise a child, raise a family, when I don’t even know how a family is supposed to work? I mean I’ve seen some things on T.V but-”
Krystal held up her hand to cut her off. “Amanda, you don’t need to worry so much about that. Nobody knows how to raise a family before they make one of their own. True, some might seem more prepared than others but they never feel like it. Just keep your eyes open and don’t be too proud to accept help. You’ll be just fine.”
Mandy chewed thoughtfully. Come to think of it Krystal hadn’t had a lot of family support either during her own gestation, and she didn’t know how much she had during her pregnancy with the quadruplets, after all her husband had died.
“Thanks mom. I’ll.... I’ll try.”
Krystal took her hand. “That’s all you need to do.”
Mandy shook her head. “But there’s still something that’s been bugging me. My personality, I.... I was very different before and not at all like I am now. I just.... I still don’t know how or why my personality changed so quickly.”
Krystal said nothing at first, she just stared at Mandy for a long while. It actually unnerved her a bit.
“Maybe it’s not so surprising. After all that cold personality wasn’t the real you, so is it any surprise it shattered when it was forced to deal with a situation it had no idea how to handle, when it didn’t know how to act. In those situations your mind flashes back to try and figure out how to handle it, in some cases it recesses. Basically, at that moment, you went back to being a little girl.”
Mandy thought back to moment when she found out she was pregnant, and brought a hand up to her neck, remembering the cold steel of Grim’s scythe all to well. She realized how pathetic and weak her cold self had really been to take the cowards way out like that. She wouldn’t be missed.
“Well I’m better now but, I think I’ll have to rediscover who I am.”
“We all need to do that a few times in our life” Krystal told her. “It’s part of how we adapt. Unlike before though, you’ll have a family to help you this time.”
Many smiled and went over to hug her mother. “Yeah, family.” Her mother hugged her back, holding her daughter closely, feeling complete for the first time in a very long time.
Buttercup’s eyelids slowly slid open, her body feeling more rested after a nice nap. She groaned and sat up, looking at the clock on the night table. Four O’clock, she’d slept for two hours. She stretched and let out a little yawn before swinging her legs out, grimacing when she realized she’d gone to bed with her socks still on.
She stood up and walked out of the room back into the main corridor. Her super hearing picked up the noises of people shouting and talking nearby. She followed the noise down the hall and through the atrium to the large family room where several people were gathered. She saw G and GG sitting on one couch and Laura sat on another all sipping tea and watching someone keep Will in a headlock.
He was taller than Will by about two inches but otherwise looked very much the same, except older looking.
“Oh welcome back Buttercup” Laura said. “Come sit down and have some tea with us.
Boys, behave yourselves! Roughhousing is not allowed near young children or mothers-to-be; you know that!”
“He started it!” Will argued.
“Tanner, let him go!” Laura demanded.
Reluctantly the older man released him and slumped onto the couch next to Laura. “You’re way too soft on him.” Laura elbowed him in the ribs.
“There’s a time and a place for everything, and now isn’t it.”
Buttercup sat down on a free couch and accepted some tea from GG, settling in as Will sat beside her. “Your father I’m guessing?”
Will sighed. “Yeah. You could tell eh?”
“Well it’s easy to second guess when you have so many relatives but somehow it seemed the most likely.”
“Fair enough. Enjoy your nap?”
Buttercup grinned. “Nah it was boring. So boring in fact I slept right through it.” This caused some chuckled from around the room. Buttercup wasn’t sure if it was because of a mood swing but suddenly she was in a very good mood.
“I can see why he chose you” Tanner said, raising his tea cup. “Guys love a girl with a sense of humor, especially when she’s pregnant.”
Buttercup shrugged. “Well I think considering our circumstances we’d both need a sense of humor to get past it.”
“True enough. Don’t worry though, we have plenty of time to talk about William’s embarrassing childhood moments before the babies come. It’s our parental duty after all and it’s a way of reminding our children what pains in the ass they were as kids so they don’t complain as much when their own little terrors come out.”
Buttercup laughed. “Well I already know about that hamster one. You telling me there’s better than that?”
Tanner laughed. “Girlie, that’s not even half as good as some of the other stuff.”
Will rolled his eyes. “I was pretty tame you know. In fact out of the two of us I’d say Buttercup’s the wild one.” His wife chuckled and nudged him in the side with her elbow.
“And don’t you forget it.”
“I didn’t, that’s why we’re having a daughter now too.” He smirked.
“Yeah well don’t think just because I’m filling out that I’m gonna be any less wild. I can be creative too.” She winked.
“Heh, we’ll see if you’re still saying that a couple months from now” Tanner grinned. “You’ll be nothing but tired.”
Laura rolled her eyes and Buttercup had a feeling this was going to be a subject of future private discussions between girls.
Tanner raised his cup again. “Well at least now I can say: Welcome to the family.”
Buttercup smiled and raised her cup in return. “It’s good to be here.”