Chapter Three

Maria's older sister Sylvia made an entrance a short while later and was introduced to Jack. He noticed that she was possibly about twenty years old, so definitely no child of his. She was darker than her mother, with shoulder length black hair. She wore tight fitting clothes and jeans that displayed her shapely figure. Jack felt himself blush a little and he averted his gaze shyly. He held out his right hand for her to shake. She took it. "You're handsome, like Pete Doherty, I think," she told him matter of factly.

"Do I really look like him?" asked Jack doubtfully.

"I can see why Mom chose you," she admitted. Gabriela squirmed in embarrassment.

"Sylvia!" exclaimed Maria, the reproach heavy in her voice.

"Sorry bonita," said Sylvia, patting her sister's arm. "We need a family photo." Sylvia fussed a lot over taking the photo with Jack, Gabriela and their daughter. She kept telling Jack to come into greater prominence. After it was over, Maria was eager to show her newly found father a second video she was making in another room. "This is a tutorial on how to feed baby kitties," she told Jack, indicating to a basket lined with a blanket. Inside, three tiny kittens lay asleep. Maria picked up a bottle. "You have to make sure the opening in the teat is wide enough," she told him, gazing at him solemnly with those eyes so like his own. "You must try sucking on it yourself," she added and did just that. "Now they must be fed every three hours and really, you only do it yourself until you get them to a vet. If it is an emergency and you've found some baby kitties, you must do it round the clock until you get them to a vet. Now a vet told me two tablespoons every four ounces of body weight, but with no scales I have to feed them till they tell me they've had enough." She picked up a kitten. It was small enough to fit in one hand and eagerly showed Jack how to insert the bottle into its mouth and then with equal enthusiasm, showed how she rubbed its rear end to help it defecate. She laid it on a pillow while rubbing it. "It's mom's pillow, but if she can't see this, it's OK," she confided.

"Now Maria, that's wrong, you must respect your mom's things," admonished Jack.

"Are you disciplining me?" she asked, her eyes wide.

"You must behave if you want to meet your brother's and sisters and I've decided who to meet next. My youngest child" – he swallowed - "is due to be born next week. He is your little brother. We must be there."

"I'm going to have a little baby brother?" asked Maria, her eyes shining.

"Another little baby brother," corrected Jack. "And you're going to help welcome him to the world."

The following day, Jack and Maria journeyed together in Jack's car to the address of the newest mother. Her name was Irene Evans. "I like this car dad, it's really quite compact," Maria said, taking a sidelong glance at Jack.

"Davinia gave it to me," said Jack. He still refused to believe there could have been anything seriously wrong about her. "Without her I don't know if I could have been inspired even to do stuff like learn how to drive. Life with her was my golden years. Um…" he added, giving it some further thought. "I'm sure we'll have golden years again though," he reassured her. They reached the first floor apartment and a heavily pregnant young woman with long blond hair and thick horn rimmed glasses and a flowery maternity dress opened the door and gave them both a warm smile of greeting. "Irene, it's me, Jack, your sperm donor," said Jack.

"You got here so much quicker than I thought," said Irene, beaming. "You're such a beautiful pair, both of you," she gushed as she ushered them both inside. "I'm so glad to be in your family. Tea?" She poured them mugs of steaming liquid.

"Irene, this is just hot water," giggled Maria.

"Oh, sorry honey, I am such a scatter brain," said Irene with a wry smile. Jack noticed that she had her glasses on upside down and felt that he could believe her self-appraisal. Irene sighed. "Could that be why my ex-boyfriend left me?"

Jack immediately felt uncomfortable and he must have blushed, for Irene patted his arm. "Don't worry about it dear," she said soothingly. "I'd hug you if my belly wasn't so huge. Don't feel pressured. I'm just often wrong about things and he must have been exasperated. He broke my heart when he left and I could scarcely make ends meet. I was so lonely, I thought a baby would fix my problems, which brings me to why I found a donor – you, gorgeous Jack."

Jack felt a squirming mixture of pity and embarrassment. He must make sure things worked out for Irene. He fervently hoped all the other mothers were more capable than she seemed to be.

"Now my little Robby could be due as early as Saturday, but definitely no earlier," began Irene and then she clapped a hand to her massive belly. "Oh no! My water just broke!"

A hasty trip to the hospital later and Irene was laying back on a bed in the maternity unit, eyes closed and giving soft moans. Jack dabbed at her forehead with a cool, damp cloth. "Everything's going to be alright, dear Irene," said Maria, clasping her hand.

"Oh darling Maria," said Irene, smiling and opening her eyes. Then she gave a little gasp. Maria kissed Irene on the nose and Irene smiled again. "Stay with me, alright?" she urged. For a long time they stayed with her. Jack knew a lot about births from his work with Davinia. He wondered how many of the births he had seen had been the fruit of his own loins. Irene kept her composure admirably. She lay very still and moaned softly, always reassured by their presence there with her and a by kiss from Maria every so often. Eventually, in a hot slippery rush Robbie was born. The cord was cut and the afterbirth expelled, Jack had seen it all before and this was a textbook case. Irene beamed as she held her bawling baby in her arms. She radiated such a glow of joy that Jack's heart swelled with affection for her. Despite her haplessness, she had strength of spirit. Eventually she gave Robbie to Jack to hold. Jack tenderly held the little bundle to his breast. Robbie continued to bawl his head off, his tiny mouth a perfect round O like a polo mint. Jack felt a weak, crumbly feeling inside as he reflected how whole hordes of his babies, Maria included, had been born before Robbie and how he had never held them.

"Oh, let me hold my little brother, please?" begged Maria.

"Oh, do let her, she's such a dear, sensible girl," Irene told him.

Maria smiled into her brother's tiny little red face as he bawled. "Welcome to our weird and wonderful life Robbie," she cooed. "I've a feeling you will fit right in."