Arc 1: Chapter 3 – The Friends

Mike was Samuel’s best friend, and Grace was his wife. The couple lived just across the road, and often visited each other frequently. On that day, Mike had witnessed the couple arriving at their home and informed his wife and they decided to visit them.

“I’m glad you’re doing great!” Mike said to Sarah before walking over to the swing and peering into it. “Oh! Look at whom we have here!”

“Ah~!” Grace exclaimed after catching sight of their friend’s baby. “He’s so cute~!”

“Yeah, but I’m sure he’ll grow up to be quite the handsome guy! A much better looking one than his father, surely!” Mike said, glancing sideways at his best friend.

Samuel looked hurt at the comment while the women laughed before he replied, “Hey! That hurts my pride as a man!”

“If it hurts, then take medication to console it,” replied Mike cheekily with a grin on his face. “Besides, it’s your son! Take pride in it man! Come on!”

Samuel laughed and said, “I’m only joking,” and patted his friend on the back.

Sarah, too, smiled down at her baby boy before focusing on Grace’s swollen belly and asked, “Grace, aren’t you close to labour yourself?”

“Yes, Sarah,” the woman replied with a smile.

“Then, isn’t it better to head over to the hospital just in case?”

“Perhaps, but I’ll stay here because I have confidence that my hubby will get me there on time,” she said happily.

Mike looked towards his wife with a warm expression on his face, but his friend commented, “Huh? Copying us, ah? But I warn you now, sister! This guy is an idiot, and falls apart under pressure! So, I suggest you put your faith elsewhere.”

“Man! That hurts my pride!” Mike replied indignantly.

“It does, doesn’t it? So, get medication for it, and you’ll be fine,” replied his friend with a grin of satisfaction on his face.

His friend raised an eyebrow and asked, “Ah? Tit-for-tat, is it?”

“You know I’m never the one to miss a good opportunity,” replied Samuel with a grin and winked at him.

As they laughed, Samuel and Sarah’s son also appeared to to laugh. The reason behind this was due to him enjoying seeing the lovely relationship held between the strangers and his parents. He could easily guess that they were close friends from their body language alone without being told anything.

“Even my son is laughing at the poor you,” said his father gleefully.

“Well, Ha-Ha!” Mike replied in exasperation.

“Let’s sit down and talk,” suggested Sarah, seeing Grace clutching her stomach a little from the pain of standing for too long.

Mike helped his wife to the nearest chair and then returned to sit down on the edge of the bed next to his friend. In the meantime, Sarah left for the kitchen to get some drinks, with her husband right behind her in case he needed to help her. With a tray carrying four glasses of juice, they returned to the bedroom.

“Thank you,” said Grace gratefully before sipping gently from the glass.

“Thanks, but you didn’t have to,” said Mike, glancing at her with a smile in his face.

“No way. It’s rude to not treat our guest with at least this much of courtesy,” replied Sarah, looking proud as she set the tray aside and sat down next to grace.

Mike shook his head in wonder and said to his friend, who sat down next to him on the edge of the bed, “Your wife’s something else! On the same day she got discharged from hospital, she’s already back to normal!”

“By normal, you mean bossy as always? I think so, too,” replied Samuel grudgingly with a small smile on his face.

“It’s called being disciplined,” interjected his wife with a raised eyebrow.

“Yeah. Yeah,” said Mike, waving his hand to shrug her words aside. “Ours is the men language, and yours is the women language. Totally different.”

His wife, Grace, laughed heartily at the two bickering and asked Sarah, “So, how did it feel?”

Sarah turned to her and pondered for a moment before saying, “It’s… difficult to express. I mean, it’s painful and, at the same time, you get this strange sense of satisfaction once it’s over with. I guess the saying ‘if you want it, you’ll have to struggle for it’ spurred me on.”

“I’m sure,” said Grace, nodding her head in agreement, “and you got a cute son.”

Sarah laughed happily and replied, “Yes! I’m very glad about that.”

Grace nodded again with a smile on her face and said, “Yes. I also think a son suits your mentality more than a daughter.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Sarah asked curiously.

“Well,” began Grace and hesitated, glancing sideways at her husband.

Mike immediately shook his head and waved his hands vigorously to tell her not to drag him into that discussion. Inwardly, Grace giggled by her husband’s reaction before turning back to continue speaking with Sarah.

“You’re headstrong, a bit stubborn, and strong willed. With such characteristics, I suspected having a son suited you better than a daughter.”

“Oh!” Sarah said, looking amazed. “That… um… was an odd compliment, but you’re right when you put it that way.” Causing Grace to chuckle.

Samuel, who had sat silently and listened to the two women talk, decided to shift the spotlight onto them.

He turned and asked his friend, “Enough about us. Whom do you think Grace will give birth to?”

“Um,” said Mike hesitantly, smiling sheepishly as he turned towards his wife. “You better ask her about it.”

Samuel grinned and said, “Stop looking so embarrassed! You’re not a newly married buffoon.”

“Say what?!” His friend exclaimed incredulously.

“Then, answer my question,” stated Samuel with a smile and a wink. “Surely the two of you must’ve thought about who you really want!”

“W-We did, but—”

“What? Can’t even share with your best friend?” Samuel asked, looking disappointed.

“Drop it, Sam!” His wife warned him.

However, Mike gave in and exclaimed, “Okay! Fine! You win!” As Samuel smiled proudly, his friend sighed and said, “Well, we… wanted a girl.”

For a moment, Samuel did not believe his ears before asking incredulously, “A girl?”

As Mike nodded in assent, his wife said, “Actually, we wanted a child based on whom Sarah would give birth to.”

“What?” Both Samuel and Sarah asked, looking amazed as they stared at Mike and then at Grace.

“Why, Grace?” Sarah asked curiously.

“Well,” began Grace, and she smiled at her, “Our husbands are close friends, and we get along nicely, and so we thought it’d be beneficial for us if we got children of opposite genders so that we can marry them off to one another. That way, we become family and will stay closely bound like this for years to come.”

As she spoke, a small tear trickled down her face as she continued to say, “You know that I’m an orphan, right? And that I had a miserable upbringing at the orphanage before I met my fated partner and started to really enjoy life? I… didn’t want to lose this feeling of having a family.”

“Grace…” said Sarah slowly, leaning forward and hugging the emotionally disturbed girl.

For a few seconds, they remained like that while Grace gradually calmed down. Once she calmed down, she broke free and sat upright once again.

“Sorry,” said Grace apologetically, wiping away the tears that forked in her eyes. “I was just—.”

“It’s fine,” said Sarah easily with a smile on her face. “There’s nothing wrong with what you’re hoping for, Grace. Truth be told, I also had the idea of maybe marrying off our children to each other if we gave birth to opposite genders.”

“You did?” Mike asked, looking thoroughly bewildered.

“Don’t look so alarmed,” said Sarah irritably, and both Grace and Samuel laughed. “Anyway, just like you, I never knew who my parents were, but my grandmother never made me feel their loss one bit. Whenever I was unhappy and didn’t want to eat, she would please me by saying that she will be reborn as my daughter if I eat the food that she’s trying to feed me. That’s why, even if I had a son, I somehow feel that my daughter-in-law will be my grandmother reborn like she promised.”

There was a moment of silence in the room as everyone had listened intently to her retelling the wonderful time she had with her grandmother. Sarah did not appear to want to try, but she felt warm on the inside just by remembering about her grandmother and the great time spent together.

“Your grandmother sounds like a lovely lady,” said Grace with a warm smile on her face. She leaned forward and placed her hand over Sarah’s and said, “I wish I could’ve met her sooner.”

“Same here,” admitted Mike, “because I, too, was raised by my grandparents, well my grandfather specifically, but he was a crazy old man.”

“I’m sure he was considering who you are presently,” commented Sarah, looking him up and down with a knowing look on her face.

“Hey!” Mike exclaimed, raising a eyebrow and turning to his friend. “Your wife is calling me crazy!”

Samuel laughed and said, “I really wouldn’t know how it would’ve felt by having grandparents because mine passed away a few months after I was born, and I was raised properly by my parents.”

“We’ll, a bystander is a bystander no matter how much he says he understands us,” commented Mike while looking unamused.

“Ouch,” said his friend, looking hurt by the comment. “Was that necessary?”

“Kind of since you took a shot at me earlier,” replied Mike with a wink.

“Yes, but if you’d clear your head and remember properly, you’ll find that you’re the perpetrator that started it all by commenting about me first,” replied Samuel with an amused look on his face.

“I’m your best friend! Don’t I even have the bragging rights to comment about you first?” Mike asked incredulously.

“The saying goes both ways, my friend,” replied Samuel, and he patted his friend gingerly on the shoulder.

Mike shook his head and sighed while his shoulder was being patted by his close friend while both Sarah and Grace smiled upon them.

“Okay. I think we’ve stayed long enough,” he said finally, breaking away from his friend’s patting and rising to his feet.

“What? So soon?” Samuel asked, looking surprised.

“Stay a while longer,” asked Sarah, looking towards Grace for some support.

Grace, however, was in full support of her husband as she said, “No. I think we’ve stayed long enough, and I’m sure you have your own work to do here. A pity that I can’t help in my current state.”

She indicated at her swollen belly and chuckled lightly. Sarah, on the other hand, did not take it lightly and narrowed her eyebrows sharply as she spoke to her about it.

“No way is this a joke for you to work in your current state, Grace, and I’m not the type to ask a pregnant lady to help me in my household chores. Sam’s here so he’ll help out. We’ll be fine, so go home and rest well!” She said firmly to her. Then she rounded on Mike and said, “Take care of her properly!”

“Okay! Okay! I’ll take care of her, lady!” Mike replied vigorously, looking thoroughly alarmed while his wife laughed from the side.

Mike and Grace walked ahead of Samuel and Sarah to reach the door towards the exit first. Once at the door, they opened it and looked back at them with smiles on their faces.

“If you want any kind of help, don’t hesitate. We’re just across the road,” offered Mike, and he winked at his friend.

“Take care,” said Grace, and the two waved their hands at them in farewell before exiting through the door.

Samuel and Sarah walked out after them and stood there as the couple slowly walked towards their home that was located across the road. In the middle of the walk, Grace appeared to have lost balance but Mike immediately grabbed her and held her until she regained her position before resuming their walk towards their home.

“It really would be a miracle if Grace gave birth to a girl,” confided Sarah in her husband, clearly hoping for that outcome. “Then, we’ll be together. We could even live in the same house then.”

Samuel smiled and patted his wife on the shoulder while saying, “I, too, would like that outcome. Let’s pray for that success, okay?”

She nodded at him and said, “Yes. Let’s do that.”

They remained there for a few seconds longer before turning around and walked into their house with their arms intertwined before shutting the door behind them.

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