Eight years later…
I fastened the last two buttons of my dress shirt before pulling my suit jacket out of the hangar and putting it on.
Now, the tie. Shoot, I could never get this one right.
I sighed and placed the tie over my shoulders and began my first attempt at tying it around my neck.
I was halfway through my fourth attempt, and I still couldn’t get it right. I think I’d have much better luck tying a noose around my neck instead. But you have to give me points for being persistent.
I heard a soft giggle coming from behind me, and I turned around to see my mother leaning against the door, watching me tie this wretched thing.
“My son is graduating from college, and he still doesn’t know how to tie his necktie,” she said, shaking her head. She walked over to me, took the tie from my hands and helped me do it. “What am I going to do with you?” she murmured.
“Well, you know, I do it on purpose just so you can do it for me,” I replied, smiling at her.
She finished tying it around my neck in record time, and I looked at my mom through her reflection in the mirror. I took in the laugh lines and slight wrinkles on her face and the lighter shade of her hair. She wasn’t the young, spritely, sassy woman I met back when I was only six years old anymore, but a classy, intelligent woman near her forties. However, despite the changes, she remained one thing: the woman who entered my life and gave me a chance to have a mother.
I could still remember that promise she made me when she and Dad told me they were together. She promised she would give me all the love a boy like me deserved, and then some.
And even now, with three other siblings to take care of, she was still making good on that promise.
She sighed and placed her hands on my cheek, her eyes looking at every single feature of my face like she always did when she was this close to me. She said I looked too much like my Dad, and she loved it. I knew she wished I really was her kid sometimes, but honestly, it didn’t matter.
She was my mom for all intents and purposes.
“Are you excited?” she asked.
“Kind of, but I’m more nervous than excited. I mean, starting next week, Dad is going to take me as an intern at his company. Shadowing him at work is kind of nerve-wracking,” I admitted, and she patted my arms comfortingly.
“Don’t be nervous! You’re your father’s son. Actually, no. You are MY son, and you will be awesome,” she said with complete confidence, and they were just the words I needed.
We heard a crash downstairs, and we braced for the screaming and yelling that was coming in 3, 2…
“Mom! Orion spilled the milk again!” Andy yelled.
“Uh uh! You pushed me!” Orion yelled back, and my mom sighed.
“I really can’t leave those twins alone for a minute, can I?” she groaned, and I chuckled.
“I’ll help you out,” I offered, but she shook her head.
“Oh no! We’re leaving right after the twins eat their cereal. I don’t want you to get your suit dirty before you get up on stage,” she said, and I nodded, giving in to her.
I followed her downstairs, and when I got to the last step, I felt something collide against my legs, and I looked down to see my youngest sibling, Demi, who had wrapped her arms around my legs. She raised her head to look up at me, her chin resting on my stomach.
I chuckled and picked her up, kissing her on the cheek and then blowing raspberries on her face to make her giggle.
“Ares, stop!” she squealed, trying to push my face away with her little hands.
“Not happening,” I said, blowing another raspberry at her neck.
At three years old, Demi, short for ‘Demeter,’ was the youngest of all of us. The twins, Andy and Orion, were at the impressionable ages of seven, and I was the eldest, at eighteen. I thought that the huge age gap would make it impossible for me to get along with my siblings, but that never happened. Like Mom, my siblings were made of love and laughter, and they often said I was ‘the best big brother in the world.’
My Dad looked up from his newspaper and smiled at me, staring at me from the top of his glasses. He too had aged over time, as all of us did really, but it had become more prominent recently with the white hair starting to pop out of the sides of his hair and the wrinkles on his forehead.
His eyes still lit up whenever he saw mom, though, and it was during those moments when they were together that his face almost went back in time and returned to its younger self.
“Are you excited for the internship next week?” he asked, and I heard Mom sigh.
“You should be asking him if he’s excited he’s graduating today, honey. The internship isn’t precisely a life event worthy of posting it on Facebook,” she replied, and Dad rolled his eyes.
“I already know he’s excited to graduate. So I asked him something I didn’t know,” he fired back, and I inserted myself into the conversation before mom could say anything to retaliate.
“Yeah, I’m excited, Dad. I can’t wait for you to show me everything and learn the company from the ground up,” I said, and he nodded.
“Will Helen and Mark come for dinner later? What about Perseus and Emily?” Dad asked.
“Perseus said they’ll be a little late as Emily has an appointment with her OB in the afternoon. They’re going to find out the sex of the baby,” Mom answered.
“Landon texted me and said they’ll be here too, Dad. Aunt Helen will just make a quick trip to her shop first and make some last minute client calls, or something,” I added.
Landon was a year older than me when Aunt Helen and her husband Mark adopted him. Back then, they were having problems having a baby, and they met Landon when Mark suggested that they enter a Foster Parenting Program. Landon was one of the big kids that were getting left out for being too old, and my aunt took him under her wing immediately. They introduced him to the rest of the family as soon as they registered him as their son and when he punched another kid in the face for stealing Andy’s lunch, I gave him my prized action figure as a thank you. We’ve been best friends ever since.
His little sister, Ariadne, came two years later after he was adopted, and finally, their family was complete.
Uncle Perseus was the last of the first generation Irons siblings to marry, and he was expecting his second baby with Emily, after only being married a year. Their oldest, Hera, was in her last year of high school.
It’s weird to think about it at first, especially when you don’t know the full story behind it. Apparently, Uncle Perseus was a bit of a player back then, and he had met Emily at a club. Something happened between them, and they went their separate ways in the morning, but a month later, Emily found out she was pregnant.
She didn’t think she’d meet Perseus again, though, and she decided to keep the baby and raise her by herself. I guess fate had other plans and when they met again two years ago, Perseus had the shock of his life.
I felt my phone vibrate and I fished it out of my pocket, smiling as I saw Hannah’s name flashing on my screen. My girlfriend probably thought I hadn’t set my alarm again. So cute. I texted her to tell her I was eating breakfast and that I would see her later. We were in the same batch of graduates, after all.
Hannah was two years older than me, but then again, I entered College at an accelerated rate, so technically, I was in the wrong class. Hannah had helped me out a lot, and we started dating six months ago.
“Ares, is college boring?” Andy asked, and my brows furrowed.
“Why do you say that, sis?” and she shrugged.
“Orion told me you were so bored with your classes that you wanted them to end as soon as possible, and that’s why you’re graduating early,” she explained, and I laughed.
“College is okay, Andy. But yeah, Orion was technically not lying when he said I wanted to graduate as soon as possible,” I told her.
“Come on, guys. We’re going to be late,” Mom said, and we finished our breakfast quickly before jumping into Mom’s SUV. Dad wanted to take the Spider, but Mom didn’t think it was a ‘child-appropriate’ vehicle, so SUV it was.
I put my toga on as soon as we got there and I saw Hannah waving at me from the middle of the crowd gathering in front of the stage. I walked over to her and wrapped my arms around her lithe body before kissing her softly on her mouth.
“Hey you,” she greeted after pulling away, and I smiled.
“Hi, babe. Let’s go. We’re lining up,” I said, taking her hand to pull her towards the line. She held me back though, and I turned around to find her staring at my parents, who pretty much looked the way Hannah and I did just moments before. My parents were staring into each other’s eyes with all the love in the world.
“What’s the matter?” I asked her, and she smiled, still staring at them.
“Do you think we’re going to look at each other the same way your parents do after so many years of being together?” she asked, and I chuckled.
“Well, if I’m really like my dad as my mom says, then I’ll pretty much keep staring at you like that forever, babe,” I answered truthfully.
She smiled brightly at me in response, and at that moment, all was finally good in the world.