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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Dichotomy of Love - 1. Part One. Chapter One.

Trigger warning: Severe postpartum complications.

Kyan opened the passenger door and held his hands out. Despite the dark circles under her eyes and her shivers in the shockingly cool June afternoon, Dayna was radiant.

“Easy,” he coaxed as he helped lift to her feet. Moving after a cesarean delivery was not to be messed with. Thanks to the twins, Dayna was all but forced to have another one with Gracie. They had fought for a v-back, a vaginal delivery after a C-section, but Gracie was breech, and Dr. Salomon didn’t want to chance any complications.

Maybe the doc knew what he was talking about. It had been three days since Gracie was born, and this recovery was already proving more difficult than the others.

Once Dayna was steady on her feet, Kyan moved to the back seat and unclicked the car seat that held their newest and tiniest little passenger. He secured the handle in the crook of his arm, then held his other elbow out for his wife. Together, the three walked slowly to the house.

Trudy swung the door open and the three older kids ran out. Kyan set the car seat down and grinned happily as the trio fell to their knees and gasped at their sibling.

Kyan’s heart skipped happily. Four kids under five was no joke, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Don’t touch her face,” he said softly as Henry went for the kill shot with a finger to her eye. The two-year-old adorably tried to give him the stink-eye, then went back to investigating the tiny girl. All three kids held Gracie’s hands and gently wiggled her feet all while she slept through the military-level inspection. They were smitten with their sister. Their big green eyes shone with absolute adoration.

Noah, 4, blinked back tears. “She soooo cute,” he said almost painfully. It was like he just couldn’t love her anymore if he tried.

Ava, Henry’s twin, put her hands to her cheeks and started crying.

“Awww,” Kyan said with a chuckle. Ava was always the more emotional one. He loved that about her. “It’s okay to have big feelings.”

“I wuv her.”

“Me, too, baby girl. Me, too.”

Dayna couldn’t bend over to kiss her kids, so she ruffled their heads instead, then stepped into the house. Kyan kept one eye on her, just in case she needed something.

It was a moot point. Her older brother was at her side in an instant. Perry helped her to the living room, where he doted on her, making sure she had everything she needed and more. Dayna had her feet kicked up on the sofa before anyone could say, ‘Welcome to Four Seasons’.

Once Noah, Henry, and Ava had their fill, Kyan took Gracie out of the car seat and gingerly passed her over to Grandma Trudy. The way she looked at her newest granddaughter, you’d never know she had been through this four times before, including Jessica’s daughter, Charlie. It was obvious that each child was special in their own way.

His own parents couldn’t make it. They weren’t that close. He called them after Gracie’s birth and would email them some pictures when he had a moment, but who knew when or if they would ever meet her. They still hadn’t met his three older kids.

His parents would never fight over who got to hold his kids the way Dayna’s family did. He didn’t have a brother who would swing by unannounced with a bag of tools because the bathroom light was dimming at random times, or a sister who loved to drop off random gifts and baked goods to commemorate all of life’s joys.

“I could just eat her,” Jessica said as watched Gracie from over her mom’s shoulder. Jessica and Dayna could be twins, with long wavy black hair, dark green eyes, and infectious smile. Their decade-plus age gap didn't matter. Jessica might've been thirty-three but she looked twenty-seven. Add middle child, Perry, into the mix, and they could have been triplets, if only Perry didn't tower over his sisters oor his black hair wasn't buzzed short.

But the eyes. The smile.

Just like each of his own kids.

Jessica looked to the living room where her younger brother sat next to Dayna. She waggled her brows. “Are you ready for your turn?”

He scoffed. “You know I don’t do babies.”

Dayna elbowed her older brother. “Gracie won't to bite.”

Perry looked down at where Henry was playing peacefully with his Tonka trucks. He yanked him from the floor and put him on his lap. “I mean, I would hold her, but I’ve got Henry and he would be soo upset if I let him go.”

Henry giggled and shook his head. “Don’t howd me! Me pway wid trucks. You pway wid da baby!”

Perry frowned at his nephew. “Why are you doing me dirty?”

Ava tugged at his leg and looked at him with larger-than-life eyes. “You howd me?”

A grin stretched across his face. He set Henry on the floor and picked up his twin instead. Perry looked at his sisters triumphantly. “I’m busy with Ava.”

Dayna and Jessica rolled their eyes. Perry was a great uncle, one of the best. He just wasn’t a baby guy.

The family hung out, passing Gracie around, doting on the older kids, making sure Dayna was comfortable. As the hours passed, Kyan watched as his wife’s eyes grew heavier and heavier.

“You need a nap.”

She blinked, then yawned. “Maybe. I’m so exhausted and the cramps are annoying.”

“Why don’t you feed Gracie, then lay down?”

Jessica placed a fussy Gracie in Dayna’s arms. Kyan watched happily as the mother and daughter found their rhythm. It wasn’t long before Gracie slipped off the boob.

Dayna covered herself and laughed at the infant. “Milk drunk is my favorite.”

Kyan put Gracie on his shoulder, then looked at his wife. “Off to bed you go. I’ll bring Gracie in when she’s hungry again.”

“So like, ten minutes?” she joked, but she didn’t hang around to find out. After three kids, Dayna didn’t need to be told twice when it came to getting a few minutes of shut-eye.

Perry helped her to the bedroom.


Kyan pressed his nose against Gracie’s mess of fine black hair and breathed in. His eyes fluttered as he cradled the tiny child to his chest. He wasn’t sure of the science behind baby pheromones, but he loved it. It was his favorite part of being a dad. Three days old and he was absolutely addicted.

Dayna laughed when he said he wanted another kid after Gracie. Dayna had been thirty-eight weeks pregnant. Bad timing on Kyan’s part. He might bring it up in another year and see where things stood. They were still young, both only twenty-three. Young parents by chance, but a big family by design. Noah was the whoops! baby. The twins were planned, at least one of them, anyway. Gracie was planned in terms of desire, but a surprise in turnaround time.

Turns out Dayna was a fertile field and Kyan had top-grade seed. Together they were FarmVille-on-steroids grade fertilizer.

He was in Los Angeles, a long way from Cincinnati, for a leadership conference during his senior year of high school. There were kids there from all over the country, including Dayna. They were in a breakaway group together. The attraction was immediate.

Every dream he ever had came true with her. Including being the kind of parent that went against the social norm. Dayna had big aspirations for college. Kyan didn’t. When she found out she was pregnant a few weeks before graduation, everything fell into place.

He moved in with her at her parent’s house after graduation. At the end of the summer, just before Dayna began at Portland State University, they got married at the Clackamas County Courthouse. When Noah was born, Kyan made daddy duty his full-time gig. Good thing, because the twins came just around the corner. The opportunity to be home with the kids was only possible because Dayna’s parents let them live rent free while paying for Dayna’s college. As uncomfortable as it made Kyan to be on the receiving end of such incredible generosity, Kyan’s desire to be elbow deep in diapers and Cocomelon was stronger.

While most stay-at-home parents had vaginas and a messy bun, Kyan rocked a six-foot frame and broad shoulders, perfect for comforting the most distraught child. His radiant, all-encompassing smile was hard not to get lost in. More than once, the kids stopped crying when he smiled, mesmerized by his goodness. Or maybe it was his eyes, orbs of melted chocolate and gold, that made them feel safe. The years he spent skateboarding as a teen made balancing three young kids a breeze. Kyan was frequently compared to Ryan Sheckler because of their similar names and stunning smiles, but Dayna said he reminded her of a young, and more handsome, Tony Hawk.

Ava wiggled out of Uncle Perry’s arms and tiptoed toward the sofa. Her face was full of glee as she watched Gracie with adoration. A real-life babydoll. What two-year-old could ask for more?

Kyan smiled his famous smile and patted the spot next to him. Ava’s coal-black pigtails bounced as she clawed her way up, but when it came to touching baby Grace, her touch was feather-light and careful. She cooed affectionately while Gracie slept. Henry tired of his trucks and joined them. Then Noah. The five snuggled on the couch with the TV on in the background while Dayna’s family cleaned up.

Perry came over with a large glass of iced tea and held it in front of Kyan’s face. “Thought you could use a pick-me-up.”

Kyan drank it all in one go while Perry snuggled into the other end of the sofa, dragging Henry to his lap.

Kyan set the empty glass on the side table. “I didn’t realize how thirsty I was.”

“It’s hard work having a baby.”

Kyan threw his head back and laughed. “If only I could take all the credit.”

Perry squeezed his shoulder supportively. “Best supporting role.”

Besides being his brother-in-law, Perry had become his best friend. He dragged Kyan out of his comfort zone and made him part of the coed softball team in the spring, took him skiing in the winter, and surfing in the summer. He was Kyan’s only life outside of marriage and kids and the brother he had always wanted.

They lounged in the living room until Gracie began fussing. Since Dayna was still sleeping, Kyan let Gracie wake up some more.

“Okay, okay.” Kyan got up and swayed the baby in his arms. “Time to wake mom up.”

Gracie’s three-day-old lungs were strong. She was loud enough to wake up the neighborhood, and yet Dayna didn’t stir.

Kyan sat on the edge of the bed and waited for Gracie’s cry to work its magic.

Kyan nudged her. “Time to get up, babe. Dayna.”

Gracie refused to wait any longer. Kyan peeled back the comforter and was about to lift Dayna’s shirt to get the show on the road when he noticed the sheets. He froze.

His ears rang. “Oh, god.” He set the screaming baby on the bed and shook his wife. “Dayna! Wake up!” he yelled. He shook her, trying to coax her into consciousness. His gaze kept landing on the blood-soaked sheets.

“Call 9-1-1!” He yelled towards the living room. “Hurry!

Kyan fought the panic and pressed his shaky fingers to her neck. A faint pulse. He lifted her into his arms. “C’mon,” he pleaded. “Wake up.”

Perry ran into the room and froze. Jessica barrelled in behind him, shoving him past the door frame.

“She needs an ambulance.” Kyan sobbed into her hair. “Call an ambulance!”

Chaos erupted. Jessica took Gracie out of the room while Trudy called 9-1-1. Perry took Dayna from Kyan’s arms and drug her to the floor and began CPR. He didn’t stop until the paramedics arrived.

When the EMTs arrived, they loaded her onto a stretcher and rushed her out of the house.


Despite being a young family with almost no money, life with Dayna was a soft cotton sweater. It had been easy to spend the last five years basking in her easy warmth. A stark contrast to life without the love of his life, the mother of his children, the women he planned to grow old with.

The comfortable sweater was now woven with glass shards that cut with every breath he took. It hurt to breathe.

It hurt to be alive.


Formula dripped from his elbow into the sink. Kyan blinked, then pulled the bottle from the faucet and shut it off.

Gracie didn’t care that he was tired. She screamed into his neck as he dumped the bottle out and started over. Poor girl had a lot of feelings. Kyan’s world, on the other hand, was now so dystopian, he found it hard to feel anything at all.

He shoved the bottle in Gracie’s mouth and lumbered back to bed. If he was lucky, which he wasn’t these days, she would let him escape this nightmare for a few more hours.


There was a foot pressed against his back and a head wedged under his armpit. It was claustrophobic and comforting in the same breath.

He looked at the bassinet. Gracie’s arms popped up over the rail as she stirred. Kyan got up, maneuvering over the small, sleeping bodies. “Good morning,” he whispered as he cradled the wiggling Gracie to his chest. Her diaper was heavy and her jammies were pungent. He grabbed spares off the dresser, then closed the door behind him.

He swayed her in one arm and prepped a bottle with the other. It was these moments that kept him together, kind of. If it wasn’t for his kids, who relied on him for everything, well, he wasn’t sure where he’d be.

When Gracie finished eating, he walked around with her head on his shoulder, gently patting her back until she threw up half of what she consumed down his back. Refreshed, he put her in the front pack and started breakfast. Dayna was a night owl. She would stay up late with the babies and make sure they got to bed. Kyan loved mornings. He’d wake up before everyone and make breakfast. Every morning, no excuses. They never bought cereal, and if it was up to him, they never would. Cereal was a lazy man’s breakfast. A lazy parent’s crutch. He spent too many years pouring bowl after bowl until he was old enough to teach himself to cook.

And now he cooked for his kids. This morning was pancakes and sausage.

Kyan flopped the last four pancakes onto a plate and set them on the table in front of the kids. He was about to toss the spatula on the counter when the front door opened.

Hello, hello, hello!”

Uncle Perry!” Noah shouted in glee.

Kyan looked away. It was hard enough surviving each day with his kids, but Dayna’s family made it worse, which was ridiculous because they made it better.

Perry looked at Noah’s plate and gasped in horror. “Why are you eating rodent pannies?”

Kyan smiled.

Noah laughed. “It’s Mickey Mouse!”

Perry smacked his palm against his forehead. “Silly me.” Then he cut everyone's pancakes into small pieces, added butter and syrup, and dropped diced sausage on each plate. Once the kids were taken care of, he came into the kitchen and pointed at Kyan. “You’re next.”

“I’m not hungry.”

“None of us are,” he whispered. “But you have to do better. If you don’t put yourself first, you won’t be able to take care of these kids. Now—” he reached for Gracie and awkwardly took her out of the pack attached to Kyan’s chest, “Jessica is going to show up any minute with Charlie. I’m not saying it’s your responsibility to alleviate anyone’s stress, but if you and I happen to be eating when they arrive, it will be one less thing for them to fret about. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay.”

He was about to head to the bathroom, but made the mistake of looking at Gracie.

Now, Perry was the kind of guy who was good at everything he did. He could pick up a ball and master the sport with no instructions. Get him on the dance floor and he’d tear it up, no matter what was playing. He had a natural grace about him, yet he couldn’t arrange Gracie comfortably in his arms.

Perry glared at him. “I’m not going to drop her.”

Kyan arched his brow. “You sure about that?”

Perry narrowed his eyes. “You know what? I was trying to be nice, but you stink. Go shower and I’ll get food ready.”

Alarm bells from childhood rang in Kyan’s head. Years of feeling like a burden for simply existing made it hard to rely on anyone. It wasn’t an issue when Dayna was alive because it was her family and she was the one asking. Her family dynamic differed vastly from what Kyan was used to. Aside from giving them a place to live and raise their babies, all while paying for Dayna’s education, Jed and Trudy kept the kitchen stocked and the diaper bag full.

His own parents never would’ve done that, and at first, Kyan was in agony. It went against everything he believed in to rely on Jed and Trudy for their most basic needs, but it was the only way. The four years Dayna was in college felt like his hairs were slowly being plucked one by one, but it was worth it when they got the keys to their very own rental. The six months they lived as a family of five before she died were the most amazing of his life.

Now Dayna wasn’t there to ask for help, and every offer of aid felt like a double-edged sword.

Perry shooed him away. “Go.”

Kyan bit his tongue to stop from hand-feeding Perry an excuse. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘It’s okay, I can shower later.’ ‘Why don’t I take Gracie with me?’

Halfway through the shower, Kyan poked his head out and listened. The silence was a relief. Since things didn’t seem to be blowing up, he took a few extra minutes getting dressed.

Jessica was sitting at the table with Charlie, a sleeping Gracie nestled in her arms. She took one look at him and her eyes welled up. At least it was an improvement from when she’d look at him and bawl inconsolably. His own eyes glistened. Jessica reminded him too much of his wife. He wasn’t kidding when he said they could be twins. They shared more than the same physical appearances; they had the same mannerisms and kindness.

She wrapped her arms around him. “It will get easier.”

He wasn’t sure. It had been a few weeks since they buried Dayna, and every day felt harder than the last. He knew the day would come when things felt easier, at least he hoped, but it seemed so far out on the horizon he would only ever see it from a distance.

Kyan sat down at the crowded table and ate. The first few bites churned in his stomach like acid. Each piece threatened to come back up. The plate was far from clean when he finished, but he felt better.

“I’m going to take the kids outside,” Charlie said as she grabbed a couple of dirty plates and took them to the sink. She was Jessica’s eighteen-year-old daughter from a first love high school relationship. Another thing Dayna and Jessica had in common, although Dayna was technically eighteen when she got pregnant, where Jessica had been much younger. And Dayna married her boyfriend.

Charlie was the only person who didn’t get the Steele genes. Kyan had never seen Charlie’s dad, but he swore she was a dead ringer for Trudy. They had the same caramel hair and light brown eyes.

The kids clambered down from the table and ran out the back door. They loved Charlie and would do anything if it meant spending time with her.

Charlie winked and moved her hands in the air. Dance puppets, dance!

Kyan smiled as the kids followed their cousin out of the house like ducklings. “She is my secret weapon,” he said. “What am I going to do when Charlie goes off to college?”

Jessica laughed. “Who are you kidding? If it wasn’t for you, those kids wouldn’t be so easy for Charlie to handle. You’re the Cesar Millan of parenting.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that.”

“Well, I do. You’re the best dad. No joke. You validate their feelings and make them feel special every day they’re alive. They are so lucky to have you. It might be hard now, but they are going to come out luckier than most.”

“Their feelings are valid,” Kyan reiterated. He was on the defensive. Growing up in an environment where his feelings were often blown off made Kyan hyper-protective.

“And so are yours…” Perry added.

The affirmation pushed Kyan over the edge. He buried his face in his arms and cried. He knew his feelings were valid, but he also had kids to be strong for, which made his own emotions that much harder to handle.

Hands softly rubbed his back. With his kids safe and occupied, he let himself be overwhelmed with grief and sadness. Who knows how long he would have laid there if the sound of his in-laws’ diesel truck pulling along the curb hadn’t cut the pity party short.

Trudy and Jed wouldn’t care that he was behaving like a worthless pile of crap. They would have encouraged him, and told him to rest as long as he needed, but Kyan didn’t want them to think he was weak.

He took a deep breath and sat up just as the front door opened.

“‘Mornin’,” Jed greeted as he slipped out of his plaid jacket. He paused and watched his grandkids play from the window. A fond smile tugged his lips.

Trudy made her way to the kitchen table and held each of her children’s faces and kissed their foreheads. Kyan included. Her thumb gently brushed the remnants of his tears away.

No one asked how anyone was doing because no one was okay. Everyone was handling Dayna’s death like shit. No one made claims that their pain and grief were more intense or valid than anyone else's. No one made anyone feel bad for not reacting or feeling a certain way. They were equals. They all loved Dayna to the end of the earth. They were managing how they could.

Jed sat next to Kyan and rubbed his back while he addressed the room. “It’s been a terrible few weeks for all of us. I have never known such heartbreak. Some days, I don’t want to get out of bed. Every morning when I wake, I wish I was waking from a terrible dream. But the nightmare is real …”

Kyan blinked as fresh tears formed.

“There are things we don’t want to address because it seems insensitive, but the only insensitive thing we can do is not make sure the details are taken care of. That is what Dayna would have wanted. So, I called Evan, and he will be here in an hour.”

Trudy’s gaze darted to Kyan, then back to her husband. “Jed…”

Jed continued rubbing Kyan’s back in a protective manner, but the next words were for him. “We can’t ignore the legalities any longer. There are things that should have been done already. But if we do this together, and if we do it sooner than later, the burden will not fall on one person. But of course—” Jed waited for Kyan to look up. “If this is something you’d rather do alone, we will respect that. We do not want to overstep.”

“I don’t—” Kyan swallowed hard. He had long since given up stopping the tears. “I don’t even know what to do.”

“None of us do,” Jed said. “But we will figure it out together. One day at a time.”

Copyright © 2023 Mrsgnomie; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
Note: While authors are asked to place warnings on their stories for some moderated content, everyone has different thresholds, and it is your responsibility as a reader to avoid stories or stop reading if something bothers you. 
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