A DITFT Challenge

Gen. 1 – Gardener

Chapter 1.7 – Passing The Torch

Despite our hectic lives, Gala and I made sure to spend time with each other every day. As a result our relationship stayed strong, and we felt closer and more connected to each other than ever. One day while we were relaxing on the couch together, I brought up the subject of which one of our children would continue on the family name after we were gone.

“Oh, don’t remind me, Oliver,” chided Gala. “My birthday’s tomorrow, and I’m really not looking forward to it.”

I chuckled. “You think grey hair and a few wrinkles will make me love you any less?”

“Oh, I’m sure I’ll have more than just a few wrinkles, but anyway, dear, I know what’s been on your mind. You can’t decide which of the children would be best suited to leading the family, right?”

I couldn’t help but nod. “Jonquil is the eldest, but she’s expressed to me on several occasions that she doesn’t understand why the garden is so important to me. Fern has this crazy idea in her head that she’s going to be a famous celebrity someday, and all Ivy seems to care about is having a lot of money. I don’t think Clover has decided yet what she wants to do, and the boys are still so young.”

Gala squeezed my hand. “You’ll make the right decision. Don’t worry so much.”

I wish I had Gala’s confidence that everything would work out for the best. The next day was Gala’s birthday, and to my surprise she did not want to throw a party to celebrate the occasion.

“And show off all my new wrinkles to the whole of Twinbrook?” she asked. “I think not!”

Gala was less than happy about her birthday. I did my best to try and reassure her that she was still as beautiful as ever.

Gala was not the only one to celebrate a birthday. Our oldest twin boy Kale grew up handsomely.

And so did his brother Sage.

I was so proud of Gala the day she told me she had finally achieved her dream. She officially knew every recipe there was to know. Apparently, she learned the last one she needed by watching the cooking channel on TV. I shook my head in wonder.

“See? The TV is good for something after all,” said Gala.

Though Fern had set her sights on becoming a famous celebrity one day, her favorite hobby was fishing. She was a natural at it, and every night she went out fishing she’d never come back empty-handed. Her catches were good for more than eating too; they made wonderful fertilizer for the garden. Fern happily gave me some of her catches. Unlike Jonquil, she saw no problem with my dedication to gardening. Perhaps she understands, because she feels the same sort of dedication to her fishing.

Fern was so good at fishing that she quickly learned everything there was to know about the skill. Pretty soon many of her catches turned out to be perfect specimens of their respective species. I was very proud of Fern. Even if she did become a famous celebrity, I was content in the knowledge that at least she wouldn’t be an airheaded one. Fern has a very good head on her shoulders; her mind is very quick. I’ll readily admit that Fern is much smarter than I am.

“Honey, what is this thing?” I asked my wife one day when I came home to find a strange machine in the kitchen.

“It’s a food replicator,” said Gala, a bit uncertainly. “You store food in it, and it replicates it without you having to cook it all over again. I’m not so sure about it though…I do love to cook.”

I just laughed. “Don’t worry. This thing will be full of your recipes before you know it. I don’t think it will stop you from cooking. Nothing could do that.”

Gala smiled.

Fern continued to catch many different species of fish. Her favorites quickly went into an aquarium Gala and I bought for her to store her prized fish. I think my favorite is the clownfish. He’s ridiculously cute.

“Tag! You’re it, Daddy!” yelled Sage, giggling wildly as I struggled to catch my breath.

“Oh boy,” I gasped. “I’m getting too old for this!”

Sage giggled even harder. Despite my complaining, I wouldn’t give up a good game of tag with my son for anything.

Before either Gala or I knew it, our oldest child was about to become an adult. The thought made me feel even older than I had while playing tag with Sage. It didn’t seem all that long ago that I had been Jonquil’s age now, greeting my empty parcel of land and excitedly planting my very first seeds into the ground. But my time has now passed. It’s time for my daughter to lead the family into the next generation, different though her ideas may be from mine. Somehow I know, like Gala said, that things will work out for the best. Deep inside I feel that it is right for Jonquil to take the lead. I can only hope that she finally understands where her old dad has been coming from all these years before it’s too late.


Chapter 1.6 – Full House

Gala delivered twin boys. Kale was born a few minutes before his younger brother Sage. Exhausted and terrified at the prospect of raising another set of multiples, Gala nevertheless was relieved that at least there were only two instead of three. I, on the other hand, was completely ecstatic. This was the family I’d been dreaming of for ages. Our family finally felt complete, and it’s probably a good thing too as our house is now quite full.

It was a rare moment for all our girls to be gathered around in the same spot for very long, but when it did happen I always took a moment to savor the occasion. I loved them seeing them together. I was very glad that they were so close.

“So what do you think about our new little brothers?” asked Jonquil.

“Ew,” replied Ivy. “Boys have cooties. Everybody knows that. Mommy and Daddy better not make me change their icky diapers.”

The triplets were specially close with each other and responsible too. Amazingly enough, they regularly sat down together to do their homework without Gala or I having to make them. I was very proud of them. I knew they would do well in school.

Before we knew it, the twins were toddlers. Kale was handsome little boy with his mommy’s brown hair and my green eyes.

Sage was the complete opposite. These were definitely not identical twins we had on our hands. I couldn’t wait to see whether the boys would develop opposite personalities as well to match their different coloring.

Once the boys had grown up a bit, the girls became enamored with them. Fern loved playing with and hugging her little brothers. She was turning out to  be quite the good big sister.

Kale was happy toddler all around. He had smiles and laughter for everyone.

Despite her earlier misgivings, Gala couldn’t help but be glad now that things had turned out the way they had.

“Everything happens for a reason, right?” she asked me with a small smile.

A full house meant even more messes than usual. Between taking care of the children and gardening, Gala and I were finding it harder and harder to keep the house clean. Gala finally caved in and called a maid. I was a little less than enthused, but Gala convinced me it would take a load off our backs and enable us to spend even more time with the children, instead of washing dishes or scrubbing toilets. The new maid arrived and immediately set to work on tackling our filthy house.

Gala whispered in my ear. “Ooh, I’m glad we hired him. He’s easy on the eyes.”

I grumbled something incoherent at this statement.

What’s this? Jonquil dancing with some friend of Gala’s I’ve never met before? That can only mean one thing. Gala’s thrown another party.

Gala insisted that the thirteenth birthday was a special one and needed to be celebrated with a party. The transition into being a teenager is a big one, she said.

Gala certainly pulled out the stops. Our little kitchen and living room were packed full of guests, all straining to watch little Fern at her cake. It felt like Gala had invited half of Twinbrook to watch our triplets grow up.

And grow up they did. Beautifully, if I might add. Fern had stunning blonde hair and warm brown eyes. She would capture the hearts of many men, I knew. She seemed to know this as well for she confided in me that her dream goal was to become a famous celebrity one day. Ivy looked remarkably like her mother. It’s amazing how much of Gala I can see in her. Clover is an interesting mix of mine and Gala’s features. I really can’t say who she looks more like.

Gala’s party was apparently awesome, verging on epic, according to the guests. Gala celebrated enthusiastically.

“Oh yeah! Wooooo!” she yelled.

“Er, Gala dear,” I said. “Kale needs to go to sleep.”

“Oh yeah. I’ll tone it down a bit. I promise,” said Gala sheepishly.

Ah, how I love my party animal of a wife.

The girls still loved taking care of their younger brothers. Ivy had thankfully grown out of the phase where boys have cooties, and she no longer had any problem changing the boys’ diapers or feeding them their bottles. Jonquil and the triplets’ were a huge help in the raising of the boys. As a result, taking care of the twins seemed a lot easier than taking care of the triplets, just because we had a lot more help now than we did back then.

As I looked at my growing family, I couldn’t help but feel a little sadness. One day my children would be all grown up, and they’d leave home to start their own lives. At that point, I knew what I had to do. I needed one of my children to take the reins of the family and lead it into the next generation. Gala and I wouldn’t be around forever. I needed to know that our family would continue long after we passed on. The only problem was…I had no idea which of my children would make the best heir.



Chapter 1.5 – A Boy At Last

“I’m pregnant again, Oliver. I can’t believe this has happened!” cried Gala, clearly distressed. “We already have four daughters. I’m just scared…what if we have another set of triplets?!”

I paused. The idea that we could possibly have another set of triplets had never crossed my mind before, and as I let the idea sink in I could begin to see where Gala was coming from and why she was so anxious and distressed at discovering she was pregnant again.

“Honey…” I began uncertainly, not really even knowing where to begin to try and allay Gala’s fears.

She just sighed and turned away.

“Gala,” I said.

“Not now, Oliver. I just want to be alone for a while.”

The only thing that could cheer Gala up was a party. So I didn’t even try to protest when she announced that she was throwing a birthday party for Jonquil. Gala invited several of Jonquil’s friends and several of her own. Our little house became very crowded, but Gala seemed to be loving every minute of it. The party seemed to take her mind off her pregnancy.

Jonquil was one very happy girl on her birthday. Never before had we thrown such a birthday bash for any of our girls, but Gala insisted that this wouldn’t be the last time. Seeing the joy on Jonquil’s face as she relished the sight of so many people gathering to watch her grow up, I decided that I had to agree with Gala. We’d certainly be throwing more birthday parties in the future.

Jonquil grew up into a beautiful young woman, and her aspirations of wealth hadn’t dissipated. She still wanted to be very rich when she grew up, she told me. She told me that she’d always been disappointed as a child that our family didn’t have the luxuries many other families took for granted.

“When I’m an adult,” she said, “I want to have a huge house with giant flat-screen TVs and a pool and everything.”

No matter how often I tried to explain to her that material goods don’t bring lasting happiness, she shrugged it off and ignored my words.

Gala had been distant with me ever since she discovered she was pregnant. When she started to show, however, her attitude began to soften a bit. I found her rubbing her tummy occasionally, and talking to her belly when she thought no one else was around. She was still being rather distant with me, but I let her have her space. I knew that as her pregnancy progressed, she’d eventually come around. Gala couldn’t help but love the little one growing inside her, no matter how much she professed she hadn’t wanted it.

Jonquil continued to be best friends with Shavon Kindle. She’d invite Shavon over to our house almost every day, and the two teenage girls would stand in the kitchen, talking about boys and giggling. I shook my head. If there is one thing I’ll never completely understand, it’s teenage girls and their priorities.

As I had predicted, as Gala’s belly grew, so did her happiness. One day I caught her dancing in her pajamas, a huge grin on her face. It was the happiest I’d seen Gala in a long time.

“Honey?” I asked a bit hesitantly, afraid she would snap at me as she had been prone to do lately.

“Oliver! Come dance with me and the baby!” she laughed. “We’re having a great time.”

Gala had become receptive enough to let me listen to her tummy. She couldn’t help but smile as I leaned in her close to her belly.

“Do you hear that, Gala?” I asked. “The baby says ‘I’m a boy!'”

Gala laughed. “You wish, dear. I, on the other hand, wouldn’t mind another girl.”

I groaned as I rubbed Gala’s belly. “We have four already, Gala. I’m outnumbered five to one already in this house. I don’t know how much more talk of boys and makeup I can stand.”

Gala smiled mischievously. “That’s the idea. We love to torture you, dear.”

“Jonquil, what are you doing out here?” I wondered, as my oldest daughter entered the garden.

Jonquil sighed. “Mom said I had to come out here and help you in the garden. I told her I had homework to do, but she wouldn’t listen. Anyway, what am I supposed to do?”

Secretly delighted, but trying hard not to let my excitement show too readily on my face, I pointed to a nearby tomato plant, ripe fruit hanging heavily from the vines. “You can help me with harvesting, Jonquil,” I said.

As I worked on the grape vines, Jonquil took over the tomatoes. “Hmm, this is pretty easy,” she said, stuffing tomato after tomato into her gathering basket.

“You think that now, but try harvesting the whole garden,” I said. “It takes hours.”

“Jeez, why don’t you just hire some people to do it for you, Dad?” said Jonquil. “This work seems so monotonous and boring. What’s the point?”

I sighed. Jonquil still didn’t understand. “The point, Jonquil,” I tried to explain, “is that I love working in the garden. I love the feel of the earth on my hands, the feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction I get when I raise a crop to harvest successfully.”

Jonquil just shook her head, clearly still nonplussed.

Meanwhile, while Jonquil and I were working in the garden, Gala had gone into labor. Jonquil and I heard a scream coming from the house. We both looked at each other and then started running toward the kitchen, where Gala was doubled-over and cross-eyed with pain.

“I’ll call a taxi to take us to the hospital,” I said.

Gala just shook her head. “Not this time,” she panted. “I want to do it at home.”

I looked at her uncertainly but didn’t grab my cell phone to call a cab.

Long, excruciating hours later Gala delivered a healthy baby boy we decided to name Kale. As she cradled Kale in her arms, she winced and quickly passed him to me.

“What’s going on?” I asked, alarmed. “Is everything okay, Gala?”

Gala gripped her stomach and groaned with pain again. “There’s another one coming!”

All I could do was gape. We were going to be the proud parents of twin boys.

Chapter 1.4 – Growing Up

The garden was bigger than ever. It was almost to the point where I couldn’t handle it by myself anymore. Gala couldn’t help me though. Though she loves the environment as much as I do, she’s not talented at gardening. Her abilities lay in other areas, especially cooking. So my thoughts turned to my daughters, especially Jonquil. Jonquil would soon be old enough to help me out in the garden. I decided to talk to her about the subject right away to see how interested she’d be in helping her old dad out.

“What’s the big deal with all these plants?” asked Jonquil, after I brought up the subject of her helping me in the garden one morning while we were watching cartoons on TV together.

I tried to explain to her the importance of the garden and how much it mattered to me, but she only became even more confused.

“The garden doesn’t even make that much money,” she said. “Not really. When I grow up, I want to have lots of money, Daddy!”

I sighed. Apparently I have not been doing a great job of instilling the appropriate values into my daughters. I vowed to do better with the triplets.

Though Jonquil’s attitude troubled me, I put it out of mind for the moment. Instead, I couldn’t help but smile at Jonquil playing peekaboo with her little sisters. Though she might have different ideas about her future than what I had planned for her, there was no doubt that Jonquil was a great big sister and loved her younger siblings very much.

Between Gala’s work at the bistro and my time spent in the garden, there was not a whole lot of time left for the two of us to spend with the triplets. But at least they had each other. We’d often find them playing with the doll house together or at the block table. Unlike with Jonquil, who was relatively easy to train, Gala and I struggled to teach the triplets all their basic skills like walking and talking. Still, somehow we managed to get it done between the two of us.

Jonquil loved going to school. Her favorite part about school was getting to meet her fellow classmates and then getting the chance to befriend them. It seemed like she made one or two new friends every day. She was always asking us whether or not she could go to a friend’s house after school. I was glad Jonquil seemed to be adjusting so well.

Life, of course, is never perfect though. Things still broke on occasion. Gala insisted that she could repair the TV or the dishwasher when one of them broke down, but I was nervous about it so I decided to call a repairman instead. There’s no use taking chances. I’ve read several times in the Twinbrook Times of people dying by electrocution after trying to fix their stereo.

In the hectic chaos of trying to care for four daughters, three of them triplet toddlers, I briefly forgot about my desire to have another baby, a boy hopefully. One quiet evening though my desire resurfaced, and I decided that it was now or never to talk about the subject with Gala. When I brought up the idea though, to my disappointment, she did not share my desire.

“I’m sorry, Oliver. I just don’t think it’s a good idea. We can barely keep up with the triplets as it is, and I haven’t had much of a chance to progress in my career at the bistro. I’ve always been on maternity leave,” said Gala. She touched my shoulder gently, as if to soften the blow of her words. “Maybe…later. Maybe,” she offered.

In an effort to assuage my disappointment at Gala’s words, I threw myself into the care of the children I already had. I made efforts to know what Jonquil was up to especially. I still harbored hope that I could somehow persuade her to take an interest in the garden. But she was always busy making friends. She even became best friends with a fellow little girl named Shavon Kindle.

Before we knew it, but much to our relief, the triplets’ toddler days were at an end. They were ready for school at last. Fern is the oldest triplet, so she grew up into a remarkably beautiful little girl first.

Ivy was next.

Finally, Clover.

From the first, it was obvious that each girl had her own interests. Ivy was a fan of the block table. She loved building little houses and cities.

Fern’s favorite thing to do was playing video games on the computer. Clover preferred to watch her favorite shows on TV.

Gala was happiest when she was cooking. She loved preparing our family’s favorite meals, much to the delight of our daughters. It’s Gala’s dream to learn every recipe there is to know. It’s an ambitious goal, but I know Gala can do it.

“Oliver!” shouted Gala from the bathroom.

“Yes, dear?”

“We need to talk!”

Chapter 1.3 – Babies Everywhere

As Gala’s pregnancy progressed, she found herself having more and more backaches. Unfortunately, I had very little time to massage her as the garden takes up much of my time these days. Gala reassured me that this was okay; she’d just take a quick trip down to the local spa and then head on over to the bookstore to buy a pregnancy book when she was done.

I tried to take over primary care of Jonquil while Gala was pregnant, but Gala would have none of it.

“I’m pregnant, dear, not disabled. I can still take care of Jonquil.”

Jonquil of course adored the extra attention.

I can’t say enough times how happy I am that Jonquil is such a sweet-natured (most of the time anyway) and healthy little girl. She loves playing with the toys in her toy box. Her favorite toy seems to be Mr. Wabbit, as she’s named him. Although here I have to say I fear for Mr. Wabbit a bit; it looks as if Jonquil wants to eat him instead of play with him.

“Get that camera away from me, Oliver!” said Gala. “I’m as big as a house!”

“You look lovely, dear,” I tried to reassure my wife. “You have that pregnancy glow.”

“I’ll give you a glow if you don’t get that camera away from me,” muttered Gala.

Hmm. Her hormones must be acting up.

“I heard that!”

“Sorry, dear…”

I was asleep when Gala went into labor. She quickly called my cellphone to wake me up and let me know what was happening.

“What? Where are you?” I wondered.

“I’m already at the hospital! Just get here quickly!”

“Why are you already at the hospital? Never mind. I’m coming!”

I’m in shock. That’s pretty much all I can say to express my feelings at the birth of our TRIPLETS! After a long, hard labor, Gala, on the brink of exhaustion, delivered three healthy baby girls into the world. We decided to name them Fern, Ivy and Clover. Fern was born two minutes before Ivy, who was born four minutes before Clover. I really don’t know what to say. I’m the proud father of four daughters now. I think I sense feelings of being outnumbered by women in the house in my future. But honestly I couldn’t ask for anything more. This is what I’ve wanted ever since leaving the orphanage behind, a big family to call my own.

After bringing the triplets home from the hospital, I made sure to continue to shower Jonquil with lots of hugs and kisses to show her she was still loved, despite the fact that she now had three little sisters.

As Gala laid Clover into her new crib, she turned to give me a panicky expression. “How in the world are we going to do this?” she cried.

“Shh,” I said. “It’s going to be fine. We’re going to do it together.”

Slowly, Gala nodded. “Together. But Oliver Shaw, you so owe me a huge party sometime in the near future.”

I laughed. “I think we’ll both need a party soon to unwind and deal with the stress of having triplets.”

Despite Gala and I trying our best not to neglect Jonquil, our oldest daughter still cried whenever we weren’t giving her attention. I think it’s because she’s realized that she’s not the only child anymore, and she’s scared that we won’t love her or give her as much attention as before. I’m determined to make sure that doesn’t happen though.

Time passed by in a flurry of bottles and diapers. Before I knew it, my little Jonquil was growing up. She’d learned how to walk and talk and go to the potty. It wasn’t long before Gala and I were going to have to face watching Jonquil go to school for the first time.

At Jonquil’s birthday, I was anxious. Had we done everything right? Had we taught her everything she needed to know?

I needn’t have worried. Jonquil turned out to be a beautiful little girl, ready for her first day of school.

“Is it time for school yet? Is it time for school yet? Is it time for school yet?” she’d constantly ask Gala and I.

I don’t know how we managed it, but before we knew it the triplets were toddlers. Fern, the oldest of the triplets, has my blonde hair and her mother’s brown eyes. She looks like Jonquil did as a toddler.

Little Ivy has her mother’s dark brown hair and brown eyes.

Clover has her mother’s dark brown hair, but she is our only daughter with her daddy’s green eyes.

I’m older now. A stage of my life is over and complete. The garden is doing well. I’ve managed to plant and grow every type of plant they sell at the grocery store. I have four beautiful daughters. However, I’ve been thinking about it lately, and I’ve decided I want to try for one more baby. I want a son. Isn’t that what every father dreams of? After the triplets, I can understand if Gala doesn’t want another baby, but I’m going to talk about the subject with her soon and gauge her reaction. I hope she agrees. I’ve read in one of my gardening books that eating a lot of apples while pregnant raises a woman’s chance of having a baby boy…

Chapter 1.2 – Farm Life

The very first thing I did with Jonquil was take her outside the very next day to introduce her to nature and the garden. It’s my hope that when she grows up she will be just as attached to the farm as I am, just as in love with the feel of earth in her fingers.

“I’m always so unlucky! It’s not fair!” shouted my wife as she clogged up our toilet for the nth time.

“Just call the repairman, honey,” I called back to her. I’m a gardener, not a plumber.

Gala just gritted her teeth and set to work on unclogging the toilet herself. I love Gala’s determination. She’d rather fix something for herself than rely on someone else to do so for her.

Gala seemed worried that she wouldn’t be a good mother because of her unluckiness. I tried to tell her that was completely silly; of course she would be a good mother, but she didn’t seem entirely convinced.

“All I do is break things,” she worried. “How can I take care of a baby?”

I continued my work in the garden, though it was a lot harder to find time with a baby in the house. Still, I managed to become an expert in the field. I can proudly say now that I know everything there is to know about gardening! I even got a call from the diner recently, informing me of a technique in which I would be able to grow eggplants and cheeseplants. I hear that after I plant some perfect eggs and cheeses I’ll learn the trick of planting steaks too. I can’t wait. We’ll be eating well for sure when I learn how to grow steaks.

As I mentioned before, we decorated Jonquil’s room in a gender-neutral theme, which just so happened to be frogs. I think she likes it. I hope so. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to make my daughter happy. Although it’s hard at the moment to tell just what makes her happy when the only sounds she can make are coos and gurgles. Oh and not to mention crying. Little Jonquil cries a lot. She seems to be a very needy baby. If Mommy and Daddy aren’t around to shower her with love, she gets very cranky indeed.

It’s a good thing then that between Gala and I, Jonquil gets showered with love quite a lot. Despite her earlier fears, Gala has taken to being a mother quite well. She seems to have an preternatural sense of when Jonquil is hungry or needs to be changed. She’ll be up and feeding Jonquil before Jonquil even cries or I have any idea that Jonquil needs something. Gala is an amazing mother.

Due mostly in part to Gala’s efforts, parenthood hasn’t made us into hermits quite yet. We still have visitors over every once in a while to socialize and catch up with whats been going in the rest of Twinbrook. Alma Drill, a mutual friend of Gala and I’s, dropped by one evening. Oddly enough, though we invited her inside, she preferred to chat with us outside. Well, I can’t say I blame her. The view of our garden at night is very beautiful.

With a little one in the house, it’s hard for Gala and I to find time to ourselves, especially between my gardening and her culinary career. Still, we try and find time each day to just sit back, relax and enjoy each other’s company. It’s what keeps our relationship strong, even if it’s just having a nice dinner together or relaxing on the couch.

Gala’s birthday came and went quietly. I was surprised that she hadn’t wanted to throw a party about it, but she said she preferred a nice relaxing birthday at home without a lot of fuss. She confided in me that her own aging saddens her, especially every time she looks in the mirror and spots a new wrinkle or grey hair. I told her that I will love her no matter how grey or wrinkly she becomes. She just smiled at that.

Unfortunately, when it came time for Jonquil’s birthday, Gala was downtown working at the bistro. Jonquil was happy and excited about her birthday, despite her Mommy not being there. The two of us made the best of the situation, and before I knew it my little girl was growing up before my eyes.

She’s so beautiful. I can’t believe she’s already a toddler now. The years really do fly by. Jonquil has my blonde hair, but she has her mother’s warm brown eyes. Her skintone seems an interesting mix of Gala and I’s. It’s not quite as dark as Gala’s, but Jonquil is not as pale as I am, that’s for sure.

Jonquil proved to be a mischievous but adorable toddler. Whenever it was time for bed, she would always run to hide in her toybox and sit there giggling while I or  Gala pretended to not know where she was.

“Oh, where oh where can little Jonquil be?’ I cried.

The toybox seemed to giggle. Then the lid popped open and Jonquil poked her little blonde head through the opening. “Here, Daddy! Here!”

Though my days were busy with perfecting the garden, I made sure to devote time to helping Jonquil learn her basic life skills like potty training, walking and talking. Gala helped out when she could, but she was also busy at the bistro most evenings.

Jonquil was growing up. One night I saw her playing alone with her block table in her room, and I suddenly knew that I wanted another baby, if only for Jonquil to have a playmate and not end up lonely. I broached the subject with Gala, and she agreed that she wanted another baby as well.

Several months later, Gala discovered she was pregnant after much stress. It took a long time to conceive baby number two. Near the end of it, both Gala and I were becoming strained and worried that we would not be able to have another child. We ended up going to the doctor, who prescribed fertility treatments for the both of us. The treatments did the trick, and Gala was finally able to conceive. The two of us, especially family-oriented me, could not be any happier. I can only hope that this next baby is just as happy and healthy as Jonquil.

Chapter 1.1 – Love

After our first kiss, Gala and I became almost inseparable. If we couldn’t meet every day, we would at least talk on the phone. Sometimes we’d go out to eat or talk in the park. Other times she’d come over to my house and we’d pass the time admiring the plants in the garden. Gala was not as natural of a gardener as I was, but she had a great love for the environment. Like me, she preferred to carpool or ride a bicycle to get to where she needed to go and she always had a recycle bin handy in her home.

The environment was only one of Gala’s loves. Her other was cooking. She had a real knack for it. She works down at the bistro. She’s only a kitchen scullion at the moment, but I have no doubt she will quickly rise through the ranks. Though I’ve told her she doesn’t have to, she always likes to cook something for me when she comes over. Her meals are delicious! I can’t help but think we are a match made in heaven; I can grow the ingredients and Gala can turn them into a world-class meal! Not that I only love Gala for her cooking, of course. She is a warm, vibrant person, and I’ve fallen deeply and irrevocably in love with her.

I knew I wanted to make Gala mine. I saved up the money I had earned from my last few harvests and bought a diamond engagement ring. I was almost trembling with nervousness as I asked Gala to come outside with me, under the pretense of looking up at the stars. Then slowly I got down on one knee. Gala didn’t seem to understand what I was doing for a moment, but when understanding came she looked down at me with big eyes and a sudden, bright smile.

“Gala. I love you. Will you be my wife?”

The words were simple but from the heart. I had come up with something very romantic to say beforehand, but it all slipped away when the moment came. In the end, it didn’t matter.

“Of course I will!” she exclaimed.

I stood up, a foolish grin spreading over my face as I offered the shiny ring to her.

“You know, Gala. At first I wasn’t sure you’d still like me after you’d seen my farm,” I said, suddenly confiding the fear I had had while first getting to know her.

Gala laughed. “The city has its perks, but out here in the country we’re a lot closer to nature. It feels so much more peaceful. That was something I really missed in the city. It’s frantic, chaotic there. No, Oliver. You have nothing to worry about. I love it here. I just have one condition.”

“What’s that?” I asked, nervous all over again.

She smiled deviously. “We’re going to have to throw a party here every once in a while. You know, just to liven things up a little.”

I laughed. “We can do that.”

Though Gala loved parties, she agreed to a quiet, private wedding with only the stars for company. As I slid the golden band onto her finger, I couldn’t believe that Gala was now my wife. I was filled with happiness, but as we kissed I couldn’t help but feel a twinge of foreboding. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my life so far, it’s that nothing good lasts forever. You can’t have good without the bad. I just hoped that whatever dark things lay ahead in our future, that they were still a long ways off.

I’m not a hopeless romantic, but as my wife and I stepped over the threshold into our home I couldn’t help but stare at her like an idiot. She was so beautiful. I was lucky to have her as my wife.

Our life soon took on the comfort of routine. Predictably, Gala took control of the stove and wouldn’t let me cook anything except to pour some cereal in a bowl for my breakfast sometimes. Cooking was her passion. I’d often come in from the garden and hear her humming softly to herself while she stirred the contents of a large pot, a smile on her face all the while.

Though I made money from selling my harvests, I had not yet earned enough to expand our tiny house or even to upgrade any of the appliances. So it was, unsurprisingly, that our sink broke one day while Gala was using it. She was mad at herself, and though I told her it wasn’t her fault, she wouldn’t listen to me. She told me this sort of thing happened to her all the time. Needless to say, I felt bad that I couldn’t yet provide quality items for us, but Gala didn’t seem to mind. In fact, she offered to sell her car. At first I protested, but I finally gave in after she convinced me that she didn’t use it that much anyway and would much rather use a bike.

One night I broached the subject of children. I was getting no younger, and I yearned to expand our little family. I knew Gala was not as family-oriented as I was, but she was not averse to the idea of having a baby. In fact, she seemed rather excited about it.

“My only worry is that we don’t have enough money,” I fretted. We’d managed to expand the house with the money that came from selling Gala’s car, but the garden was not yet big enough to really bring in a good profit yet.

“Don’t worry, dear,” she assured me. “We’ll manage.”

And we would have to as Gala announced not all that long later that she was expecting. I was overjoyed and went right down to the bookstore to purchase a parenting book so I could know what to expect. We turned one of the new rooms we’d managed to build on to the house into a nursery for the coming baby. I itched to paint it pink; I wanted a daughter, a little daddy’s girl, but Gala urged me to decorate it in a gender-neutral style. So I did. It’s probably a good thing too as we have no idea what the baby will be.

Gala’s pregnancy was hard. During the early months, she had terrible morning sickness and would have to get up in the middle of the night as much as two or three times to throw up. As her pregnancy progressed, her back began to ache almost constantly. Whenever I was not out working in the garden, I made sure to massage her back.

As Gala’s pregnancy progressed, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something bad was going to happen. I suppose it’s normal for an expectant father to worry. So many things could go wrong. Gala could go into labor prematurely. The baby’s umbilical cord could wrap itself around its neck during delivery. I tried to keep my spirits up for Gala’s sake, but part of me kept expecting disaster to strike as violently and unexpectedly as a bolt of lightning.

Gala didn’t share my worries or fears. Despite the rough first trimester, she was thrilled at the idea of becoming a mother. She seemed to enjoy every aspect of being pregnant, even the strange cravings. I’d sometimes come into the kitchen to find her eating a bowl of ice cream with pickles or something equally as odd. As she grew bigger, I offered to take over kitchen duties, but she flat out refused.

“You have to admit, dear,” she told me one afternoon, “your cooking skills are not exactly up to scratch.”

That was an understatement. I had no talent whatsoever for cooking. I’m surprised I haven’t set the kitchen on fire.

As Gala grew ever closer to her due date, I began to grow ever more excited. Oh, I still worried of course, but the fears were becoming tempered with much sweeter emotions. I couldn’t wait to welcome my son or daughter into the world. I pictured them helping me out in the garden, developing a love and passion for growing things as I did.

It was early morning when Gala went into labor. I was headed out to the garden for the day, but I came running back as Gala cried out in pain. I quickly called a cab (no pregnant wife of mine was going to ride her bike to the hospital while in labor, environment or no), and hurried Gala out to the street. The cab driver couldn’t drive fast enough to suit me, but we did end up getting to the hospital in time.

I was extremely happy to find that my worries and fears were groundless as Gala delivered a healthy baby girl we named Jonquil. As I looked into my daughter’s eyes, I realized that nothing on the earth, not even a well-tended garden, was more beautiful than my little girl.

Chapter 1.0 – Free

As I stepped onto the small lot I had recently purchased, my heart soared. I was finally free, finally on my own.

My name is Oliver Shaw. I have just moved to the town of Twinbrook from an orphanage in Sunset Valley to start my future. The very first thing I did upon arriving in Twinbrook was to use the savings I had accumulated from working several part-time jobs in my teen years to buy a lot on the far edge of town, with a large plot of land in which I could plant and tend a garden.

The house wasn’t much; it was barely more than a shack. I didn’t mind too much. The most important thing to me was the fenced in area where my garden would eventually thrive. Although my parents died when I was very young (leaving me with no living relatives willing to take me in, thus relegating me to an orphanage), I knew that they had owned a farm. My earliest memories are of playing amidst the warm, dark earth, getting it underneath my small fingernails and laughing. The only memory I have of my father is his booming laugh. Every time the scent of roses reaches my nose I am reminded of my mother’s perfume. Losing my family so young and being stuck in an orphanage, where I owned nothing but the dirt on my shoes drove me to seek out this plot of land. I want a place to call my own, a place to raise a family, a family I had never gotten to experience. Now I was finally getting that chance, and I was happier than I had ever been in my eighteen years on the earth.

After I finished putting away the few possessions I had taken with me from the orphanage, I hopped on my bicycle and rode into downtown Twinbrook. My very first stop was at the science center where I signed up for a gardening class. I came away from the class with only the most basic knowledge of gardens, but I knew it wouldn’t take me very long to get a handle on the skill. Like my parents before me, I had an affinity for nature that seemed inborn.

After leaving the science center, I headed for the central park, where I hoped to meet a few of my fellow residents. I breathed deep of the warm summer air, which carried the intoxicating aroma of nearby flowers. Birds chirped happily in the trees and swarms of butterflies flew here and there. The scene was idyllic and beautiful.

The very first person I met was a very kind and polite woman named Alma Drill. She was quite a bit older than I was, though still very pretty. We talked for a while. It turned out she worked in education and was a bibliophile. I read on occasion but not near as much as Alma so I eventually found myself running out of things to say. I politely excused myself and continued wandering around the town, in search of a person whose interests were more along the line of my own.

Gala Ball and I got on very well. She cares about the environment as much as I do. She didn’t get bored when I talked about the benefits of recycling or my hatred of big, gas-guzzling, air-polluting SUVs. We talked for quite a while, but it started getting late so I said goodbye. I told her I would see her around town and then I hopped on my bike and pedaled back toward home.

As the sun sank into the horizon, I planted my very first seeds. I covered them with warm, soft earth, all the while thinking about my future. I hoped to find someone who loved the earth and gardening as much as me. The euphoria of realizing I was finally on my own had begun to fade away and loneliness had crept in to take its place. I knew I had many years of my life ahead of me to find love, settle down and have children, but I was so unused to being by myself. It was strange and disconcerting. In the orphanage I had been surrounded by others.

Time passed and the seeds I had planted finally sprouted from the earth. I gazed at them happily, imagining the day when I had row upon row of perfect plants. At the rate I was learning all there was to know about gardening, I was sure it wouldn’t take too long to achieve my dream.

Because I was alone, I had no one to talk to except my plants. Other people would probably think I’m weird, or even crazy, to be talking to plants, but it’s always felt natural to me. There was no garden in the orphanage, but outside there were at least a few trees and shrubs. I was somewhat of an outcast, so when the other children ignored me I took refuge among nature, as I’ve always done. If that’s insane, I don’t care.

However, I couldn’t stay at my lot forever or I really would go crazy. I hopped on my bike, not really knowing where I intended to go. Maybe I’d run into Gala and we could talk again for a while.

But I didn’t end up running into Gala that day. Instead I met a woman called Jenni outside of the bookstore. We talked for a while, and she seemed nice enough but all of a sudden she started flirting with me! That wouldn’t have bothered me, but she was quite obviously pregnant and I assumed she must have been in a relationship with the father of the baby. Family is important to me, and I didn’t want to become a home wrecker so I quickly excused myself.

I felt pretty proud the day I sold my first harvest. That’s not the reason why I was all dressed up in my formal wear though. I’d gotten pretty hungry and the bistro was the closest restaurant so I decided to drop by and have some lunch. Apparently they have a very strict dress code.

Time passed, and I had grown closer to Gala. We chatted on the phone almost every day. She was becoming a very good friend, but I wanted more. I couldn’t get her out of her head. We were different in many ways, but I think that was a part of her allure. One day she dropped by my lot unannounced. I was very nervous. What would she think about my small house and garden? Gala was a city girl at heart. I was afraid she’d take one look at where I lived and dismiss me as a country boy. But that didn’t turn out to be the case, thankfully.

She looked around at my house and at all the plants growing peacefully nearby and didn’t turn tail and run like I’d thought she would do. Instead, she said, “I like your house. Did you grow all those vegetables yourself?”

I nodded. She smiled. “A man after my own heart. I’ve always wanted to grow a garden, but living in the city I’ve never been able to. Still, I do manage to buy organic fruits and veggies when I can, even though they are more expensive.”

“If you want, you can have some of my next harvest,” I offered.

She beamed. “That’s very nice of you, Oliver. Thank you!”

Then, without warning, she hugged me, and it was much more than just a friendly hug. She pressed her body close to mine. A surge of relief flooded through my body. It seemed Gala felt the same way about me that I did for her.

As we broke away from each other, neither one of us could tear our gaze from the other. My breath started coming faster, and my stomach flip-flopped in anticipation. I couldn’t help but stare at Gala’s perfectly shaped lips and think about what they feel like pressed against mine. I didn’t have long to wonder for Gala (always the more direct of us) leaned in close and kissed me. The scent of her was intoxicating, and the feel of her lips on mine was even better than I could ever have imagined. Happiness flooded me, and made me feel as if I were soaring. So this was what falling in love felt like.