"Victoria, can you say 'Mommy'?" I asked my little daughter, my first, and only possible heir.
"No!" Victoria stubbornly said, shaking her head. "Play now! Play now!"
"Victoria Shea!" I sighed, letting my face go into my palm.
She just giggled a little. I knew from the instant she was born that this little one was going to be a handful. She was barely two and already she was giving me a fit. This kid was gonna be a hard one to raise, I could tell that for sure.
"We can't play yet. It's learning time right now." I explained gently.
"No!" She shook her head vigorously, "Play now! No learn!"
"Victoria." I said sternly.
"Victoria, if you don't finish learning time, you wont have playtime." I spoke while I ran a hand through my hair, trying to calm myself down.
"Okay, kiddo. We can play any game you want in five minutes. Alright?"
"No! Play now!"
I sighed heavily and wondered exactly what I had gotten myself into with this little girl.
"Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy Birthday dear Todd! Happy birthday to you!"
The entire family sang to a now-five year old Todd.
I sighed. He was going to start school in just a few weeks, and I simply couldn't believe it, he had gotten so big, so fast, and now, the only toddler I had in the house was little stubborn Victoria.
I mean don't get me wrong, I loved my little Tori but she was a handful to say the least. The boys didn't give me anywhere near as much trouble as my little girl had. I heard from a number of people that the boys were always the worst ones to raise, and that the girls were going to be easier than the boys. In my experience, that was complete bull.
She was quite stubborn, very smart and she knew how to manipulate her daddy to give her anything she wanted. Sometimes it was cute, other times I had to step in to prevent Clifford from over-spoiling her, and little miss Tori did not like that.
"That's it Tori!" Clifford smiled as he guided Victoria across the floor a few months after Todd's birthday. "One foot in front of the other, little one. There we go!"
"How's our little marathon walker doing?" I asked as I came into the room after doing some laundry.
"She's doing excellent! Right Tori?" Clifford laughed.
"Yeah!" She laughed as her dad spun her around.
"Good job Victoria!" I smiled and walked over to her and messed up her hair a little, causing her to giggle.
"More spinny, Daddy! More spinny!" Victoria insisted.
"Well, if we want more spinny we have to do more walking."
"Daddy!" Tori pouted.
"Nope, in order for there to be spins, there must be walks." Clifford chuckled.
Victoria began to wiggle in his arms so he put her down and walked to the other side of the room. She walked all the way over to him quickly and he spun her around again, as promised.
"Mommy!" Victoria giggled, "Mommy! Spinny!"
I laughed and then did what Clifford had done beforehand, making her giggle with complete joy. I held her in my arms and gave her a tight hug. Even though she could be a little much at times, there was no doubt that I adored my little girl to itty bitty pieces. Mom says that she's a lot like I was when I was her age, and insisted that turn about is fair play and if Tori is anything like me, she'll grow out of it.
All I could do was sigh and hope that my mom was right.
"Natalie?" My mom asked one evening while we were watching Victoria play.
"I noticed that you're not pregnant yet. Victoria has learned all her basic skills and she's nearly four years old. You should be already with another possible heiress," my mom stated calmly.
"Mom!" I gasped, surprised at her bluntness
"What?" She questioned, "You need to have another possible heiress. It wouldn't be fair to Victoria if you didn't give her the option to say no. She may not want to be apart of this, you have to give her the option to accept or decline. To force her into it would just make her bitter. You can't just assume that Victoria will want to have the respectability of being the Stephens Family Heiress. What if she dreams of traveling the world? What if she doesn't end up wanting children? What if she isn't attracted to males? What if she doesn't want to marry? These are all questions you need to ask yourself."
"I see your point, mom," I sighed, "but one, I may not end up having another girl. I could have another son. Two, even if I have another daughter, she may not want children, or she may dream of traveling the world or she may not be attracted to males or never want to marry. There are too many unknown factors."
"There may be, but if you have another daughter at least you'd be giving Victoria the option to decline."
"If Clifford and I end up having another child, then okay, if we don't that's fine too. I have time, mom." I smiled, "I'm barely 35, I have what, another 10,15, hell maybe even 20 years before I start menopause? I don't need to worry about that right now. I have a lot of life left to live and a lot of that life can be used for making babies. I'm in no hurry. I have tons of time."
My mom just smiled sadly at me, "You know, Natalie, that's the problem with life. You think you have all the time in the world to accomplish something, but then all the sudden 20 years turns into 20 minutes and all the time you thought you had is lost. Life is what happens when you're making other plans my dear. Remember that."
I just looked over at her and tilted my head and wondered if I would ever understand what my mom meant by that, and really everything that had been said in our conversation. After a moment I sighed and turned to my daughter who was happily playing with her toys.
Is it fair to not give Tori a choice? I don't understand why she wouldn't want to be a part of this legacy. Julia just wanted to be sure she could accomplish her Lifetime Wish, if she could have doe that then she would have been happy doing whatever, including being a mother and continuing the legacy. Paige and I both were happy and wanted it, and from what I understand, it was the same way with my mom and my aunt.
I don't see why Victoria wouldn't want to be a part of this. It's an honor. If I don't have another daughter, it might not put her under the stress that both Paige and I underwent as we were waiting for mom to make her choice. That was awful, and it tugged at our bond as sisters.
I was deeply lost in thought, pondering if I was going to have another child or not, and if I could be sure it's a little girl, so when my mother gently touched my shoulder, I jumped.
"It's alright Natalie. You do have some time. Just think about it, okay?"
"Okay mom." I sighed as I turned and gave her a hug.
"Your father and I are going to go to dinner. We'll be back later, okay honey?"
"Alright, mom! Have fun!" I laughed as dad came down the stairs.
"We will, wont we Kenny?" My mom smiled as my dad got her coat and helped her put it on.
"Of course, dear." My dad smiled, "Come, let's go to dinner."
My dad opened the door for my mother and the way my mom smiled at him made my heart melt, and I couldn't wait until Clifford and I could be like that.
Later on that night, right after I put Victoria to bed, I got a call from my mom.
"Hey, mom." I said happily.
"Natalie?" My mom sobbed.
I instantly changed moods, I never heard my mother cry before, not like this. She was crying because she was in pure agony.
"Momma?" I gasped, "Mom, what's wrong?"
"It's your father," she cried, "he-he-he had a stroke..."
I couldn't quite understand the rest of what she said, and I tried to get her to calm down, but soon enough the phone was taken from her.
"Natalie?" I heard Jordan, my sisters husband ask.
"Jordan!" I gasped, relieved that he was working that night, "what's going on? What happened?"
"You need to come down to the hospital, Natalie. Your dad is in critical condition. He's had a massive stroke and it's taken out anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of his brain. We're not quite sure yet. He continues to have mini seizures, and we just did an MRI, and it looks like there's a blood clot in his brain. We're going to see if we can get it out. If we can, he may be able to make a full recovery, if we can't, the outcome will not be good for anyone in this family."
"I'll be there as soon as I can." I said softly.
We said our goodbyes and hung up and I called a babysitter for Victoria, gathered the boys and my husband and drove to the hospital as quickly as I could.
"Is Paige here?" I asked.
"Yeah, she's here with your mom right now. Davion is also here."
"Okay, good. Are you dad's doctor? Or did you just oh so happen to be the unlucky one who got to call and tell me what happened?" I asked.
"I called because you needed to know. Yes, I work here, and I am a surgeon, but I'm not a brain surgeon. However, Dr. Richards is going to be taking care of Kendrick, and he's the best doctor in a few thousand miles, so he's in good hands. Plus, we'll only have the best for Riverview's all time best sports player."
"Thank you, Jordan." I smiled a little. He just shrugged and went to go sit by Paige.
I opened the door into my fathers private room and gasped at what I saw.