The doorbell rang and Eileen ran as fast as she could (which wasn't too fast). She hadn't had a reason to run ever since she got pregnant, but knowing that she was out of shape wasn't the same as feeling out of shape. She had barely run a few feet at best and she was panting like she'd just finished a marathon.
Shen she opened the door and the young doctor panicked at seeing her in such a state, but Eileen waved her off before she could say anything.
"Thank you for coming so fast. I know you have more important things to do, doctor."
"It's perfectly alright," the doctor said with a polite smile.
"Have you had breakfast yet?"
"No, I haven't but─"
"Breakfast is on me then, I can call the guys downstairs and─"
"Elder, it's not necessary to─"
"Nonsense, child. We can't have you running around the hospital with an empty stomach." Eileen turned around and lead the doctor inside the apartment. "Watch your step," she said with a finger pointed at the sea of toys covering every available surface, including the top of the TV, the bookshelves, and the fridge.
Several toys remained unopened for the sole reason that the twins had far too many toys. Eileen had stacked those up against the wall where they threatened to topple over and burry one of the twins in a toy avalanche. The doctor eyed the mess with a raised eyebrow and Eileen shook her head in a 'don't ask' gesture.
"Is this what I missed at the baby shower?"
"Baby shower, Christmas, Three Kings Day, Valentine's Day, their almost birthday in a week... if you can think of it they've got gifts for it. Don't know how I'm gonna raise these two to not be conceited as hell."
Being in a position of leadership meant that everyone and their mother wanted to earn Eileen's favor. Living a minimalistic life meant that Eileen didn't have an eye for gifts and it had served as a deterrent for ages. So when the opportunity to finally shower her in store bought gifts arose, everyone jumped on it.
It was ridiculous.
The twins were born in October 30 (they couldn't wait one more day to make it perfect, could they?) and by the second week of December, Eileen had filled three truckloads of toys ready to be donated for Christmas. The rest was either sent to random kindergartens or families that Eileen knew. She encouraged her employees at the bakery to take the toys, but even that was no match to the incessant nature of those itching to win her favor.
The only gifts she kept were the diaper boxes. Just in case. One never knew how much poop those little bundles of joy could fabricate in a day.
"I understand this is the first time the twins have been sick?" the doctor asked gently before Eilen opened the door to the twins' bedroom.
"Yes." Eileen shook her head. "Can't believe I've raised half the clan and a bloody cold has got me freaking out like a wee lass. I'm mortified."
"It's understandable, Elder. It's different when the child is yours. I've seen it a lot at the hospital when pediatricians and such become mothers."
"I know that. Don't forget I changed your diapers while you parents were out of state for work."
"It's… not like I remember that…. It was so long ago."
"Oh? Well… I understand. How old were you? I tend to forget such details."
"I think I was two and my sister was six."
"Feels like it was yesterday. Time goes by when your age gets to the point that you forget to count. Lately I've been needing a calculator to answer such a thing." Eileen shrugged. "About the twins, I think you better see them before we continue talking. Try not to get too close to them. I've had to fireproof their entire room."
Eileen opened the door. The twins where on the floor playing with identical teddy bears and ceramic musical toys. The room was mostly empty except for their toys and several cushions and blankets. What could possibly require fireproo─
One of the twins sneezed on her teddy bear and fire came out of her nose and mouth. The fire scared her sister. The twin whimpered and that was enough to make both of them cry.
Snot, saliva, and tears had Eileen rushing to get baby wipes from God knows where and then running towards the twins. She knelt on the carpet and wiped their faces while cooing softly in that way only mothers can do. The twins crawled their way to her lap and cried on her chest. Their soft, little whimpers and high-pitched sighs had Eileen's face crumbling into a pout; heartbroken at the sight of her sick daughters.
"Fire," said the doctor dumbly. "She just sneezed fire like a dragon. H-how─?" She pointed a finger at the pristine teddy bear with a questioning look on her face.
"Borax and boric acid," Eileen whispered while holding the twins tightly to her chest. She pursed her lips in a sad frown and then turned to her children, speaking in soft, silly tones that had them both enraptured despite the tears. "Daddy wanted to be a bloody firefighter, but his body had other ideas. He could barely run a mile without twisting an ankle or coughing up a lung, innit? He wasn't the full shilling, wasn't he? No, he wasn't. No, he wasn't."
One twin laughed while the other rubbed her chubby fist against her runny nose, spreading snot all over cheek. Eileen chuckled and cleaned her up with another wet wipe.
"At least Alice doesn't look too grumpy."
The twins might have been identical, but no amount of red hair and green eyes could fool anyone. Their personalities were like night and day. For example: Alice was never tired of being passed around strangers while Anna would only allow those she considered worthy to carry her for less than a minute. Alice was all smiles and giggles while Anna preffered to silently play with whatever was available.
"She's never grumpy. It's like having a Disney princess for a baby," Eileen said as if she was still talking to the twins. "A princess that sneezes fireballs that scares the shite out of her sister."
"I can see that." The doctor smiled and stepped inside the room to kneel down close to the twins, but not close enough to get burnt on accident. "And here I was thinking it was just a cold."
"Me too." Eileen sighed and rubbed the twins's backs as softly as she could. "I wasn't expecting any special issues to arise until the twins were old enough to have a chat with."
"Is this… a curse or…?"
Eileen shook her head. "Nothing like that. I can sense it's their own magic."
The doctor hummed in assent. "Gifts usually develop during puberty, but then again the twins aren't normal kids."
"No, they bloody aren't." Eileen snorted and counted to ten before turning her attention back to the twins with a tired smile on her face and a silly voice. "Daddy had to eff that up, didn't he? Yes, he did. Yes, he did."
Alice clapped her hands and gurgled at her mother's words while Anna watched with a confused frown as if she was trying to do complicated calculus.
"Alright, let me check them. Where's your changing table?"
"In the nursery, but nothing over there's fireproof."
"Neither am I," the doctor said nonchalantly. "I'll just summon a hard-light table, if that's alright with you?"
"I'll do it."
Eileen blinked and her pupils shone like the moonlight. She summoned what appeared to be a mattress made out of light on the floor. Alice was busy playing with Eileen's red hair while Anna squinted her eyes at the glowing mattress and Eileen adjusted the brightness until it was dull enough to ignore. The smooth mattress rose into the air and attached itself to a wall like a floating shelf.
"A little higher? Thank you, Elder."
Eileen nodded and then both twins sneezed. Alice aimed her sneeze at Eileen's hair, setting the tips on fire, while Anna aimed her's at her sister. Both twins cried. Eileen cooed at them. She calmly patting the flames off and grabbed more wet wipes to clean the snot from both their faces. Alice stood still to let her mom do what she wanted, but Anna whined and tried to push her off.
"Alice wasn't burned." The doctor knelt in front of her. "Here, I'll grab her."
Eileen handed Alice over and the doctor set her up on the makeshift examination table. The doctor took out a small kit from her purse and gave Alice a full check up minus the weighting part.
"Got a bit of a fever, don't we?" she said to the baby and checked her temperature. She did so while playing with the girl and making her laugh, accidentally making her snort. The doctor barely dodged the small flame.
"Nothing to worry about, Elder!" The doctor let out a nervous laugh. "Let's check Anna now." She repeated the same steps and came to the same conclusion. "It looks like a normal cold."
"Does that mean antibiotics?"
"No, colds do not require antibiotics." The doctor tickled Alice. "If symptoms get worse instead of better after three days or so give me a call and we'll see if it's something else, alright?" She picked up Alice and put her down next to her fireproof teddy bear. "Since it's their first time getting sick, I took the liberty of getting you some supplied." She took another bag and a box out of her purse.
"Something tells me I'm not the only nervous adult in here."
"Gosh, no, Ma'am. Everyone in the clan is a little on edge. The guys downstairs at the bakery are a prime example of this."
"Bloody mother hens the lot of them."
"And for good reason." The doctor started to set up a humidifier in the center of the room. "Humidifiers like this one can help hydrate the baby's skin and it will help with that sore throat. I usually don't recommend warm-mist humidifiers, but I don't think the twins mind the heat at all."
"They scream at me if I put on the A/C. Should've guessed something was different from that."
"Reminds me of cold blooded familiars. They tend to share many characteristics with their animal counterparts and it's very interesting. Mom has done a lot of advances thanks to your husband's research."
"Who would've known a human veterinarian is what we needed?" Eileen smiled sadly. "What else you've got?"
"Cherry flavored Ibuprofen and a herbal remedy made by Manjari. Instructions are inside the bag for both medications. I also suggest getting some petroleum jelly and dabbing it under Anna's nose, her skin looks a bit too raw."
"Anything else I can do?" Eileen asked. She knelt down to once again wipe Alice's nose with a wet wipe.
"You said Manjari gave you this?" Eileen asked. She stood to grab the paper bag and studied its contents carefully. "This must've taken her ages ta finish."
"Little Amir was sick last week. I'm guessing it's the same bug. Wouldn't be surprised if one of the older mages got it. We are a resilient bunch, but this bug's got one up on us."
"Grand! I don't have time to get sick. I've got a clan to run and babies to watch." Eileen looked at the twins. "And I've gotta fireproof half the apartment on top of that! That's just utter shite!"
"Mom said you were thinking of moving," the doctor said meekly. She didn't want to ask the one person who could kill anyone with the snap of her fingers.
"Move? Your mother said that?" Eileen scoffed. "Of course she would. No offense."
The doctor didn't feel offended because she didn't understand.
"So you are not… moving?"
"I should. Doesn't mean I'm doing it." Eileen kneels and picks up Alice while Anna is busy hoarding the teddy bears and blankets. Eileen puts a hand on Alice's red curly hair and sighs. "This place is too small for the twins."
Eileen hugs Alice to her chest who just seems happy to be used as a teddy bear herself.
The door is open and Eileen looks at the crowded living room. The apartment was cozy, but impersonal like a fake movie set rather than a place a human lived in. She'd stripped off every reminder of her late husband, haunting memories of what could've been. The walls had been painted over to erase the sun stains left by old bookshelves and picture frames. Now only holes remained from where the frames had hung, a chip in the wall where her late husband had an accident when he'd bought the coffee table, and a flickering light bulb in the guest bathroom he'd promised to fix but never had the chance to. Potted plants, colorful pillows, and mainstream books now filled the empty spaces left by the toys.
"I guess it's time we move on, innit?" Eileen asks Alice. "How about that breakfast, doctor?"