“Ben?” Gena called, leaning over the arm of the couch and pecking him on the lips to draw his attention away from the game on T.V.
“Hi, honey,” he murmured as a small smile curved onto his lips at the unexpected kiss. “What’s up?”
Gena came around to stand next to him. She fiddled with the ring on her right hand. Her hazel eyes were dark and pleading as they met his green. “Can… Can we talk?”
Ben frowned at the hesitation in her voice. “Uh… sure.” He scooted over and patted the empty cushion beside him. “Come sit.”
“Not here.” She gestured to the other room. “In the kitchen.”
Uh, oh. The kitchen was reserved for serious conversations. And none of the kids were home. What am I about to get myself into? He paused the DVR halfway into the fourth quarter and pushed up to follow her. “What’d I do wrong?”
Gena laughed. “It’s nothing bad,” she assured him. “It’s just important and I don’t want you distracted by that silly game.”
“Hey! Football is America’s favorite pastime.”
“Actually,” she quipped as she took a seat, “I think that’s baseball.”
Ben crossed his arms and smirked as he lowered himself to the chair. “Smart ass.”
“I learned from the best.”
“That you did.” He chuckled and Gena whacked him on the bicep.
Ben grinned. “All right, enough games. What did you drag me all the way in here for?”
Gena stiffened. She wiped her palms on her jeans and focused on the grooves of the newly polished oak table. Her perfectly prepared speech vanished from her mind.
Crap! What am I going to say?
They already had a hyperactive son, and a new baby on the way as of three months ago. He was a great dad, but it was Gena who’d wanted to become a foster parent, back when she thought she couldn’t have any children. If they adopted Bridget, where would that lead? Would she become this attached to every foster kid that entered their house from now on?
Bridget was the sixth child who’d been placed with them, but unlike the others, she’d stayed for almost a year now. Even seven-year-old Dylan, who never took to strangers, adored her since the first day she volunteered to help him get rid of the training wheels on his bike, about four weeks after moving in with them. He started introducing her as his big sister when she came along with Gena to pick him up from soccer and Bridget protected him like he was her real brother.
But with every day that passed without a call from her social worker, Gena saw the young girl’s grey-blue eyes grow a little darker, a little sadder, and a little heavier with the thought that she wouldn’t find a forever home. She hid it from most, especially Dylan, but Genevieve could see how the possibility weighed on her. She caught the fear every time they left her alone for more than a few hours, as if she expected they might never come back. She noticed how Bridget paid attention to prices and budgets when they went shopping, and remembered the way she’d gone out and gotten herself a job just a week after she arrived from her old group home in New York, as if she were preparing for some inevitable day when they would kick her out or tell her to go live on the streets. The thought made Gena’s heart ache. Bridget was only fourteen, yet she acted like she was thirty. Life had thrown her so many curve balls, and she’d never gotten a chance to be a kid. She loved Bridget as if she were her own, and she didn’t want her to have to worry about being left for the dead any longer. She could only hope Ben felt the same.
“Earth to Genevieve. Are you okay?”
“Hmm? Oh, yes, I’m fine.” Her cheeks flushed. “Just thinking, that’s all.”
“Care to share?”
She bit her lip and used her free hand to brush her shoulder-length blonde hair out of the way. “You might think I’m crazy.”
“Didn’t we establish that before I married you?” he asked with a cheeky grin. Gena snorted.
“Hey!” She laughed. “I’m not any crazier than you!”
Ben grinned. “There’s that smile.” He pulled her forward and pecked her lips. “And, if you were, who says that’d be a bad thing?” He tried to snag another kiss, but she giggled and shoved him away.
“You’re such a schmoozer, Ben.”
“And you love me anyway.”
“True.” Gena conceded. “But you’re still a big tease.”
Her husband chuckled. “Okay, okay.” He held up his hands in defeat. “Now, can you please tell me what’s going on? Five minutes ago, you said it was important.”
Ginny sighed. She knew she couldn’t avoid the subject forever, but she had hoped to have come up with a tactful way to ease him into it. “Well, I…”
“You…?” Ben prodded. “Come on, honey, just tell me. You said it was good news, right?”
“It is!” She toyed with the edge of her frayed white cardigan that just barely concealed her growing baby bump. “At least, I think it is. I hope you will too, but…”
“Gen, spit it out babe. You’re starting to worry me. Is it something with the baby?”
“No,” she assured him. “Nothing like that.”
“Then what? Just say it.”
“It’s, well…” She shifted in her seat. “I want to adopt Bridget.” So much for easing him into it.
Gena winced. Not exactly the most reassuring response.
“At her Quince. I want to announce her as part of our family, officially, during her Quinceanera.”
“Wait, wait, wait, wait.” Ben rubbed his fingers to his temples. “Since when are we throwing her a Quince?” he asked. “I mean, not that I didn’t assume we were throwing her some kind of party, but… a Quince? As in, the big poofy dress and the expensive hotel and traditional shoe ceremony and father/daughter waltz? That kind of Quince?
Ginny tried to hide her guilty smile. “…Yes?”
Ben ran a hand through his hair. “Gena…”
“She’s turning fifteen this year, Ben. It’s an extremely important birthday for Mexican girls; it’s the age they enter womanhood.”
“Gen, I know, but with the new baby on the way and all… That’s a lot of money, sweetheart.”
Gena exhaled. “I know. But how often are we going to get a chance like this, babe? She’s never had anyone acknowledge her birthday before, shouldn’t she be able to enjoy at least one special day?”
That made Ben pause. “Never?” His wife shook her head.
“The most she’s ever gotten, according to her social worker, is a vanilla cupcake she brings her every year. She’s been shuffled around so much that no one ever had enough time to find out when her birthday really was.”
Ben frowned. “I had no idea…”
“So, can we?”
“Throw her a Quince, or adopt her?”
“Both?” Gena ventured, sticking out her lower lip. Her husband laughed.
“You don’t have to beg.” He chuckled. “I’d love nothing more than to have her as my daughter.” His wife beamed and blinked back tears.
“Absolutely.” He grinned and took her hand. “I always wanted a little girl.”
Ginny laughed. “Well, what about this one?” She gestured to her swollen stomach. “What if it’s a girl too?”
His smile only widened at that. “Then I’ll have two angels to spoil.”
“You mean it?” Gena’s eyes sparkled with pride.
“Of course I do, Gen. I love Bridget as if she’s already my daughter.”
“Me too,” she agreed. “So, does this mean the Quince is okay too?”
“Well…” As much as he wanted to give his soon-to-be-daughter an amazing birthday, he wasn’t sure they could afford it while adding two new additions to their growing family.
“’Cause I may have already booked the hotel…” she confessed, offering her best innocent smile.
Ben gasped. “Genevieve!”
“Please, Ben. I made sure it was within our savings budget before I booked. I just… I just want our little girl to feel special, for once.” Her husband sighed.
“Alright. As long as it’s okay with Bridget, I guess we can have the party.”
Gen stood up and wrapped her arms around him. “Oh Ben! Thank you, thank you!”
“You’re welcome, baby.” He laughed. “Now, let’s go get our daughter.”