After supper, Simone’s grandparents, Errol and Olivia, and Melanie arrived to celebrate. Melanie’s husband Gareth had a school board meeting to attend or he would have been there, too. Simone thought over her secret wish carefully and blew out the candles.
As soon as the dust cleared and even before she joined the others for cake, Simone ran up to her bathroom to try out the makeup her mother had bought for her and to see what she could do with her hair. She didn’t want to wear her same old “baby” hairstyle.
When she came back down she thought she looked quite glamorous. She’d used her manicure scissors to snip pieces here and there around her face, then washed it and blew it dry and put on one of her new gift outfits as well. Everyone said she looked tres chic. Her mother handed her a gift box and said,
“One last gift, honey.”
Inside was a wee, tiny dog collar and a note.
“For your new puppy, love,
Mommy and Daddy”
“Where is he?!” Simone cried happily. Just then her father appeared at the side door; an itty-bitty white puppy cradled in his big hands. Mark's shop next door was where they'd been keeping the pup all day.
“He’s a ‘she’,” Mark laughed. Simone promptly named her Suzette which was a name she’d given every one of her dolls and hoped to use for a baby someday but quickly decided she could come up with another name in that faraway future. Suzette would quickly become Suzi over the next couple days.
Yvette played happily with her puppy and they moved Nibbles cage downstairs so there would be room for the ridiculously large dog bed in Simone’s room. Simone felt guilty, though.
“He’ll be fine downstairs”, Yvette insisted. She cuddled Nibbles for a moment before putting him back in his cage. The truth was Yvette really liked the little hamster, too. And as for Suzi, Yvette thought as she cuddled the puppy, what's not to like?
After the party was over Simone took her little puppy outdoors to wee-wee. She wanted to keep Suzette in her bedroom but when she did the puppy cried and cried to get down the stairs which, of course, she was still too little to manage. So Simone put the dog bed down at the bottom of the stairs and the puppy curled up immediately and fell asleep. Simone shrugged a bit unhappily; now she had no pet in her bedroom at all. Still it was a wonderful birthday and Suzette was the best part of all.
It was not long before Simone found out she would be getting a new little sister or brother soon. This was something she’d wanted for a very long time and she was thrilled with the news, although the idea of her parents being romantic at their age was a bit creepy. She was very good about helping out at home anyway, but now she paid extra attention to helping her mother. It turned out Yvette’s old school friend, Allyn, was expecting a baby, too, and even before Yvette.
There had a been a couple of strange incidents after the gardener died. Lalique had been about to get in her car and drive home one night and told them later she thought she saw a woman with a straw hat on in front of the car and then she suddenly disappeared. Not much scared Lalique but she said she’d definitely drove home looking over her shoulder.
A night or two later Mark saw a phantom woman and he recognized her for sure as their old gardener. She floated out of the dining room and didn’t seem to see him.
“She looked pretty irritated, too,” Mark noted, “Kind of inconsiderate since Yvette really pleaded for her life.”
They’d left her gravestone in their yard out of courtesy, but Mark arranged that day to have it (and her) transported to the cemetery, her family should have done that anyway. Enough was enough. He didn’t want his daughter or his pregnant wife to be frightened by the apparition of an ungrateful groundskeeper.
Funny thing was, the new gardener, Ericka, looked just like the old one; red braids and all. Turned out she was her sister. It was a family-run gardening business.
Simone was getting anxious now to know whether she would have a brother or a sister. She mentioned this to Nibbles, but he had no insight to offer so he stood mute. The inference being that they would just have to wait and see…
And then the baby arrived…a beautiful little girl they named Martine Olivia. Simone’s old bedroom had been converted to a nursery again with new furniture and curtains.
Now that she was a teenager Simone was allowed to go off on her own and frequently she and her friends headed to one of the bowling alleys. Good Times Lanes was one of their favorites. They usually had lunch or supper there before they bowled. Her companions on one particular Saturday were Loni Faye Hammond, Kirstie Burb and newcomer Regina Louie.
When they got home later that night Simone had to show off her baby sister to Loni Faye who was properly enchanted. They both declared they wanted to have children of their own someday when they were older. Much older.
For now, the girls were content to be simply teenagers; homework and getting into college were problems enough. However their new freedoms and the attentions of boys were the perks of growing up.