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IN ARGYLE, MY BIRTHDAY was usually full of warm winter sun, sand, and maybe a bit of surfing. Growing up, I’d try to hide away from my family, but they always found me tucked away in some corner of the castle and drag me out to celebrate.
In Farcliff, my birthday is full of snow.
I wake up early to a fresh, white blanket over the world. It takes me thirty minutes to clear the driveway enough to get the car out. I run inside to give Margot one last kiss.
“I’ll be back in an hour and a half, I just need to sign some paperwork at the center.”
“Okay,” Margot mumbles, turning around in bed. “Where are the kids?”
Hope is almost seven years old now, and her little brother, Ollie, is two. We adopted Ollie when he was a baby, and he brought another wave of joy—and sleepless nights—into our lives.
“They’re still asleep.”
“I’ll get up now,” Margot says, sighing.
“Take your time.” I drop another kiss on her forehead. “I’ll check on them.”
With the kids still asleep and Margot shuffling around the coffee machine, I make my way to the car. After a forty-minute drive to Farcliff, I park the car behind the Huntington’s Disease Society Center. Our receptionist is already there. She gives me a broad smile, sliding a stack of paperwork toward me.
“Just need your signature, Your Highness.”
“Call me Dante, please. How many times do I have to say it?” I shake my head, smiling. “I’m not much of a Prince anymore.”
“You seem like a prince to me,” she says, shrugging.
Signing the papers, I duck into the office and make sure I don’t have any messages. The center is quiet today, with no planned activities until next week.
Happy that everything is under control, I drive back through the snowy streets toward our cabin outside of town. As soon as I leave the city, I let out a breath.
The snow muffles the sounds, making the air feel heavy and crisp. I drive slowly, cracking my window slightly to feel the fresh air coming in.
After a few years here, I’m finally starting to get used to the cold. A part of me actually likes it.
The best part about cold weather, though, is walking inside a warm house.
When I enter our home, I’m greeted by the clattering paws of our dog, Fletch, on the hardwood floors and a squeal from Hope.
“Happy birthday!” she exclaims, rushing around the corner after Fletch. She’s wearing a party hat and a broad grin, throwing her arms around my waist. “Come to the kitchen.”
One of Hope’s front teeth fell out last week, and she smiles wider, tucking her tongue into the gap. I slip my palm into my daughter’s, giving my dog a head rub with my free hand.
In the kitchen, Margot is waiting for us. Ollie’s wrapped around her legs, laughing at something only a two-year-old understands. A massive cake sits on the kitchen island with a blaze of candles burning on top of it.
“I had to go to two stores to get enough candles,” Margot grins. “You’re getting old.”
“I must be,” I laugh, shielding my face from the heat of the candles.
“Make a wish!” Hope jumps from one foot to the other, her eyes shining as she looks at me. “Blow them out.”
I squeeze my eyes shut, thinking of something to wish for.
When I open my eyes again to see my wife, my son, and my daughter staring back at me, I’m not quite sure what else I could want.
More of the same, maybe. More kids. More dogs. More love and laughter.
Taking a deep breath, I blow out all but two candles. I extinguish them with another breath. Hope laughs, clapping her hands. Margot gets to work taking the candles out of the cake, and I grab some plates from the cupboard.
Ollie somehow climbs up onto a chair when both our backs are turned. He smashes his fist into the double chocolate cake, spreading icing and crumbs all over the counter and himself. Margot yelps, grabbing him and whisking him toward the sink, but not before he manages to stuff his face with cake. It’s all over his mouth and arm, with a big swipe of chocolate icing across his shirt.
“Yummy,” he says, grinning until Margot can’t help but laugh.
“Cake for breakfast only happens on birthdays,” I say to Hope, nudging her with my shoulder. “So don’t get used to this.”
“I know, I know,” Hope says, rolling her eyes. “And my birthday isn’t until April.”
Margot throws me a glance, smiling. Hope will be seven years old in April, and she’s already as sassy as a teenager.
The four of us sit around the kitchen island and eat a slice of cake each. Ollie asks for more, but Margot moves quickly, covering the cake up before he can do any damage.
When the kids run off to play, Margot walks up beside me and wraps her arms around my waist.
“What did you wish for?”
“If I tell you, it won’t come true.”
“Well, I have some presents for you, but first…” Margot reaches into one of our drawers and pulls out a letter. Her eyes shine as she stares at me, a soft smile stretching her lips. “It’s the approval letter from the adoption agency. We can have another kid.”
“Really?” My eyes widen as I scan the letter. I let out a breath. “That was way quicker than last time.”
“If you still want to adopt another one.” Margot sucks her lip between her teeth, arching her eyebrows. “You do still want to, right?”
Her voice is small. She stares at me, wide-eyed, as I try to process the information.
We were approved. We can adopt again.
My birthday wish just came true—more kids. More love. More laughter.
“Dante?” Margot asks in a whisper.
Then, I start laughing. I throw my arms around my wife and spin her in a circle in the kitchen, planting a kiss on her lips.
When I set her down again, her eyes are shining. “I’m assuming that’s a yes?”
“Of course it’s a yes,” I say, nuzzling my nose against hers. “That’s the best birthday present I could ever ask for.”
As soon as I finish the sentence, a loud crash sounds from the next room, followed by the sound of Ollie wailing.
“It’s nothing! Don’t come in!” Hope calls out.
Margot’s shoulders drop as she lets out a sigh. “You’re absolutely sure you want another one?”
I chuckle, following her toward the sound of the chaos in the next room.
“I am if you are.”
THE REST OF MY BIRTHDAY is spent with my family. The kids give me homemade cards, and Margot presents me with a top-of-the-line computer that I’ve been looking at for months. When the kids fall asleep that evening, Margot and I curl up on the couch. She lays her head in the crook between my shoulder and my chest, and I stroke her hair with the tips of my fingers.
“Thank you for a great day,” I tell her.
She smiles, glancing up at my face. “I set up a meeting with the adoption agency for next week, so this might be one of our last times with only two kids.”
My heart thumps as my throat tightens. I shake my head, intertwining my fingers with hers. “I love you, Margot.”
Pressing her lips to mine, Margot promises me one last birthday present. She takes me by the hand and leads me to the bedroom, locking the door behind us.
When she takes her clothes off, one garment at a time, I know there’s no one luckier than me.
I don’t need a royal title. I don’t need a private island in Argyle. I don’t need money or clout.
I just need Margot, the kids, and the life we’ve built together.
On days like today, Margot and I don’t even mention her illness. We don’t talk about the future, except to talk about hope and happiness.
When I run my fingers over Margot’s body, my heart fills up to the brim. I kiss the woman of my dreams, claiming her lips and tangling my fingers into her hair.
We fall into bed together. I make love to my wife the way she deserves to be loved. I watch the ecstasy pour out of every pore, and I drink up her desire until we’re both spent and sleepy, tangled in each other’s arms.
With a sigh, Margot rests her cheek against my shoulder. “I love you, Dante.”
I hear those four, simple words almost every day, but they never cease to make my heart beat harder. I wrap my arms around my wife and hold her tight.
Sometimes, I forget that she’s ill. I live in hope that research for Huntington’s disease will progress enough to find a cure before it’s too late. I live in the present, trying to soak up every minute we have together.
When she told me she wanted to adopt again, Margot showed me that she feels the same way. We may not have as much time together as a normal, healthy couple, but we’re going to make the most of it.
We’ll create the family that we want. We’ll love our children fiercely and completely, and we’ll always be by each other’s side.
Margot is everything to me, and when she whispers one last ‘happy birthday,’ I press a kiss to her temple and hold her close.
Soon, we’ll have another child to take care of and even more chaos in our busy household.
But we’ll be together, and for me, that’s all that matters.