“So, why did you call this meeting, Your Highness?” Alex clicked the key fob to lock his Porsche, more out of habit than necessity. Mark and Hazel’s property was so isolated the likelihood of anyone stealing his car was slim.
Mark stood in the doorway proudly displaying his three-month-old baby as if this was the first time Alex had met Prince Hayden.
Alex felt a little twinge of jealousy in his stomach wondering why he wasn’t celebrating the future arrival of his own baby. He and Krystina had been married for five months and not a sign of life yet. None that he knew of anyway.
He did what any best friend would do and cooed at the little prince to show his unending devotion to the child, shoving aside his own frustration.
“I didn’t call the meeting,” Mark said, stepping back to let Alex enter the home ahead of him. Both of their wives were in the kitchen cooking up something that smelled heavenly. “I thought you did.”
“No, Krystina told me to come straight here after work because you guys wanted us over for dinner.” Alex slipped off his Oxford dress shoes and removed his suitcoat, carefully hanging it on the hook in the foyer.
“Hazel told me you and Krystina wanted to come over for dinner. She made it seem like you had some big announcement to make.” Mark leaned closer and whispered. “You’re not having a baby, or something are you?”
“I wish.” Alex creased his brow. “You’re gonna need to tell me the secret to success because I’m not doing something right. My failure sure isn’t from lack of trying.”
“I think I need to learn how to get this to stop.” Mark joked, holding up his pride and joy as if he wasn’t loving being a dad. “They just keep popping out. I’m single-handedly ensuring the continuation of our monarchy.”
Hazel came around the corner into the foyer. “Who is single-handedly ensuring the future of our monarchy?” Hazel raised her eyebrows and placed her hands on her hips.
“You are, Princess, of course.” Mark leaned over to give her a kiss.
“Speaking of your progeny, could the two of you please locate the older princes and get their hands washed for dinner?” Hazel reached for baby Hayden, not waiting for an answer to her rhetorical question.
“Right away, Your Highness.” Alex nodded to his younger cousin and stepped all the way into the kitchen to give his wife Krystina a hug and kiss before heading to the living room.
Mark was already lifting Owen from the playpen that sat within sight of the open kitchen. Aaron hopped up from the floor of the living room where he’d been zooming cars through an elaborate network of roads built using a variety of building materials including most of the books from the shelves, CD and DVD cases, plastic placemats with cartoon characters, and some magazines.
Alex figured Mark had the boys under control, so he sauntered over to the dining room table where a Caesar salad rested in the middle of the table along with a breadbasket full of crispy and buttery garlic bread. Alex felt his mouth water. His hunger was momentarily displaced by an interesting addition to an otherwise normal dining room table.
In front of his place setting was a blue envelope with his name written on the outside. A matching envelope sat in front of Mark’s place setting. Neither of them had a birthday anytime soon. Alex picked up his card.
“Don’t you dare!” Krystina called out. “You boys have to open those together.”
“Boys?” Alex placed his card back on the table and turned to his wife with a playful grin. “I think the word you meant was men.”
“Boys, men, same thing.” She giggled as Alex pulled her into his arms. “You all want the same thing.”
“Food.” Alex and Krystina said at the same time.
“You know me so well, darlin’.” He leaned closer for a little kiss then whispered, “Besides, the other thing I want needs to wait until we get home.”
“I can wait,” Krystina whispered back.
“Who’s ready for dinner?” Mark called out, a boy hanging from each arm.
Krystina pulled one-year-old Owen out of Mark’s right arm and took him over to his highchair.
Mark carried three-year-old Aaron like a monkey hanging from his left arm and strapped him into his booster seat.
Hazel brought the bouncy seat with her to rest three-month-old Hayden next to her on the buffet.
Alex pulled the chair out for his wife to sit, then lowered himself into the chair by her side. “So, ladies, what’s this all about?”
“To what do we owe the honor of our favorite homemade lasagna and garlic bread?” Mark asked, lifting the blue envelope sitting in front of his plate.
“You have to open them at the same time.” Hazel bit her lower lip and glanced over at Krystina. Was that nervousness or excitement?
“On the count of three?” Alex chuckled as they both lifted the flap on their envelope.
Alex momentarily forgot he was hungry when butterflies of excitement leapt from deep within his stomach and his jaw dropped at the little black and white photograph tucked within a Happy Father’s Day card.
A note in Krystina’s handwriting said, Announcing the arrival of Alexander Stephenson, Junior, November 14th.
“Are you serious?” Alex gazed at his wife in awe, a warmth filling his heart and a chill running down his arms. She grinned but then nodded toward the other side of the table where Mark was holding a similar Father’s Day card with his own little black and white photograph.
Mark’s jaw dropped as he glanced at his baby, toddler, and preschooler, then back to his lovely bride, Alex’s cousin, Hazel. Mark gulped then read with a smile, “Announcing the arrival of Prince Augustus Sayid, November 14th.”
“Happy Valentine’s Day,” Hazel blinked innocent eyes at her prince.