I look at the fluffy monster, crouched in the corner of the room.
“Why? Billie?” I ask my wife. “Why do we need another cat?” Its tail flicks as it watches me, as if it knows I’m threatening to send it back to the streets.
“In case Genzo gets lonely when we’re out.” She knows I’m annoyed so she’s doing the puss in boots eyes and hiding behind our adorable baby daughter.
“Where is the ginger tom formerly known as Toby?” I ask Billie, formerly Billie Watanabe. She frowns, long bored of me moaning that she changed our cat’s name.
“He’s in the bedroom, I’m going to give them a few days to get to know each other’s scent before they meet.”
My mental cogs turn slowly. “So he’s confined to an even smaller bit of the apartment for the next few days?” Another cog clicks into place. “Does that mean he’s got a litter tray in there? It’s going to stink.” My voice has risen enough that baby Tina is looking around with wide eyes. “Sorry, cutie pie. Daddy didn’t mean to scare you.”
“We have three children now, Xander. You’ll have to get used to it.” Billie is past acting cute. She’s playing boss. The performance is convincing. I wear the trousers, but she bought them.
“I was only gone for nine hours,” I say to Tina. She smiles, dribbling from the right side of her mouth. “She drools a lot now, didn’t used to.”
“I think she’s started teething.” Billie rubs Tina’s cheek, provoking a smile that could melt a heart frozen to zero degrees Kelvin.
“Ah. So we can kiss the good nights of sleep we’ve had so far goodbye.”
“I’m up at four in the morning every night while you snore, Xander. It wont change that much for me.”
“You sleep like a baby though.” I look at Tina, who headbutts me. “You fall asleep faster than this baby.”
“My superpower.” Billie smiles, thoughts of our adorable baby are lost. My eyes soak up her beautiful brown eyes, full lips and bright white teeth. They sink down her neck and-
“Hey, Xander. My eyes are up here.” She points to them with two fingers. Her dimple forms as she smiles. The smile becomes concern. “Did you manage to do anything about Kenny?” She means the manager at my work who forced himself on one of my colleagues.
“I did, surprisingly simple when I worked it out. I pretended I’m the same sort of pond scum he is. Basically said I knew what he did to Carol, and he admitted it. He started bragging about it. I recorded the whole conversation. I edited out my bits during my lunch break. I met him again at the end of the day and borrowed his work phone for a minute. I sent the recording to anyone with the power to fire him and then wiped his memory of both conversations. Kenny should be fired by now, hopefully.”
“Devious,” says Billie with raised eyebrows.
“Thank you,” I reply. Tina starts fussing. “Sorry. Not getting enough attention?” I stroke the impossibly soft skin of her cheek. She grabs my finger in her mouth. Technically she doesn’t have teeth but the ridges in her gums where they’re going to come through start crushing my finger.
“No. That’s for real.” I withdraw my aching digit from Tina. Wailing is her instant response. “How about your binkie?” I look around the room desperately for her pacifier.
“What’s for dinner tonight?” Billie asks. It’s my night to cook. She summons a binkie from nowhere and pops it into Tina’s mouth with a silly face that makes our baby smile.
“My favourite. Not that you’re a bad chef.” She winks.
“Just that every takeout you’ve ever been to makes better food.”
“Not all of them, I’ve had food poisoning worse than the stuff you gave me with those fajitas.”
“I apologised for that.”
“It is forgiven. It can never be forgotten.” She raises the eyebrows to show me she’s serious.
“What’s the master of the takeout menu whisking up tonight then?” Billie takes back our bundle of joy and starts ushering me towards the door.
“Burritos, nothing but the best for you, my love.” I wink.
Tina smiles, eyes glittering as her mother kisses her nose. “Daddy might tell you one day that I married him because he’s smooth. If he does, he’s lying.” She turns to me. “If he really wants to win my affection. He can scratch my back before he goes.” Billy turns around. Once her long glossy hair hung down to the base of her shoulders, but she had it cut short before the birth. I miss her long hair.
I scratch her lower back where she usually asks. “There?”
“Higher,” she says. My fingernails work their way up to the middle of her back. “Higher.” I ignore the area hidden by her bra strap and scratch below her shoulders. “Lower.” Nudging the strap up with my fingers I scratch. Billie starts making noises other people would think are sexual, but when she does, you almost need your fingers in your ears.
“So much better. Thank you. Now go and get yummy food. I’ll feed our princess.”
“Bye Tina,” I say.
Billie tries to wave Tina’s tiny hand, but our baby isn’t having that. Unlike the new cat, nobody puts her in the corner.
I return less than an hour later to find them both asleep together on the sofa. Billie’s porridge sucking snoring is coupled by the synchronised whistle of Tina inhaling and exhaling. They’re too cute to wake. I eat my burrito and then waft the scent of the other towards my adorable pair.
Billie’s eyes flicker open. Tina starts to suck the air as if she’s feeding. “Dinner time?” asks the mother, yawning.
I nod and take the baby from her. She opens her light brown eyes for a moment then flops down into my chest unconscious. “My turn,” I say.
We swap. I lie down on the sofa with my baby on top of me. Billie scoffs down her food as I run a finger through the soft hair on the back of Tina’s head. My eyes are heavy. She’s warm and I can feel the needy love between us both. I secure her in place with a blanket tucked under my legs.