If You Only Knew(6)

By: Kristan Higgins

“Nothing,” Grace says. Then there’s the sound of something spilling.

Cheerios. All over the kitchen floor. Those things have impressive sliding power. “Don’t dump the cereal, sweetheart. That’s our food.”

“I want more circles,” Grace says, emptying the box. “I want to color all circles.”

Charlotte is already stomping on the Cheerios, grinding them into fine powder, which makes Grace scream in fury. Rose hesitates, then joins in the stomping. “Settle down, girls,” I say, scooping up Grace.

“My circles! My circles!” she wails, arching her back so that I nearly drop her.

Nap time. Such blessed words. I am eternally grateful that my daughters are such good sleepers.

Twenty minutes later, Rose is in clean clothes but weeping because I won’t let her drink the Windex I used to wipe up her pee. Grace is angry and stony-faced and has told her sisters she hates them, which made me flinch; I don’t think Jenny and I ever said that to each other, and I have no idea where the girls learned the word hate, especially in reference to other humans.

Charlotte is making the strained poop face again.

“Mama, more pooping,” she confirms.

“Great,” I say. “Not a problem.”

It’s 1:34 p.m. Bedtime is six hours away.

But no, it’s not that bad. It’s just...well, it’s tiring, having three kids at once. People like to tell me how blessed I am, and trust me, I know that. Four years of trying to have a baby, three on hormones, four in vitro attempts...four years of hope and yearning... Adam and I went through a lot to have this family.

Which doesn’t mean it’s not tiring some days.

“I not sleeping,” Charlotte tells me. “I hate sleeping. I hate! I hate!” Grace’s anger seems to have infected her.

“Sleeping is a happy time,” I say, kissing her head. She rubs her eyes and glares at me, but she’ll be the first one asleep. Grace will be the last, and she’ll need a good twenty minutes of snuggling when she wakes up, flushed and confused. Rose already has her little butt in the air, thumb in her mouth. She gives me a drooly smile and closes her eyes.

Their room is my favorite place in our gorgeous house, yellow and green with mobiles that I made, an overcrowded bookcase and three hammocks filled with stuffed animals. Unlike a lot of the houses I’ve seen, this room isn’t a showplace, an adult’s idea of how a child’s room should be, with four tasteful stuffed animals and books arranged by height. No. This room is real and beautiful, sunny and light and airy. These books are read. “Sleep tight, my babies,” I say, closing the door.

Charlotte kicks the wall a few times, but that’s tradition. I now have an hour and a half of what Adam calls “your time.”

Me Time is spent vacuuming and washing the kitchen floor, cleaning the bathroom, putting the lids back on the paint pots, washing the brushes, chipping dried paint off the table, hanging up Grace’s picture on the fridge. I then wash out the sink and check the menu I made on the weekend. Being organized is kind of a must when you have to grocery shop with three little ones. Tonight’s dinner is salmon with couscous and roasted almonds and a broccoli salad. I stick a bottle of sauvignon blanc in the fridge, take the broccoli and red cabbage out of the fridge, then pause, glancing at the computer.

It’ll just take a second.

I Google “five star hotels, new york city” and scroll through the list. The Surrey—nah, too fussy. The Peninsula—just looked at that one last week. Anything Trump—no, thanks, too overdone.

Ah ha. The Tribeca Grand. I click and look at their suites, then call up. “Hi, I’m interested in booking a suite for a weekend in September,” I tell the woman, who has a gorgeous accent. Swiss, I decide, not that I’d know. “No, just for one person....Business with some entertaining thrown in....Well, I’m looking at that one right now, but I’m not sure that’ll be big enough. Is the penthouse suite free the weekend of the twenty-first?...It is? Great. And the rooftop terrace...that’s for penthouse guests only, correct?”

The dishwasher kicks on as the woman tells me about the cost, the amenities, the restaurant, and I imagine lying on a chaise lounge on the terrace, looking at the city, or sliding into that giant bed, the thrill of those polished cotton sheets. I’d get a martini at the bar; a specialty martini, not something on the menu, but something I’d ask the bartender to make just for me.

Then I glance at the clock, realize I only have forty minutes of Me Time left, thank the Swiss woman and switch the laundry.

* * *

When Adam comes home just before seven o’clock, I’m clean—thanks to taking a shower while the girls played on the bathroom floor with my makeup brushes—and dressed in clean clothes. The house is picked up, I managed to put some flowers in a vase—after scooping a tulip head out of Rose’s mouth and calling the poison hotline to ascertain that she’d be okay. Dinner is in the oven, the wine is in an ice bucket, the table is set, the girls are fed and bathed and sweet and in their little jammies, jumping up and down with excitement at the sight of their father coming through the door.

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