With another of her little ones beginning their education, Amelia already feels that it's time to try for another baby. Going back to her "waiting list", she invites round her stunning Scandinavian chess partner, Bjorn Bjergsen - who's at the door quicker than a dog chasing the postman.
Taking a leaf out of Pascal's book, Amelia gives him a love token for his trouble.
A few cuddles and cheeky snogs later, and they head to the bedroom.
Amelia's efforts aren't wasted. Shortly after she bids Bjorn goodbye in the morning, she learns that he's given her a souvenir of his visit. Patting her tummy, she whispers words of love to baby number 6.
(That-a-girl, Amelia... only twenty more to go!)
In the months that follow, Benjamin takes to school like a duck to water - thoroughly enjoying his lessons and studying hard to get his grades up, just like his responsible big sister. The pair even become "homework buddies", helping one another with assigned reading and quizzes as their busy mother cares for their three baby sisters.
Skills must also be developed to help get their grades up higher... and each of these two little Livingstones decide creative outlets are they way to go.
Benjamin, blessed with a musical ear, takes up the violin... something the Reaper would undoubtedly be proud of, if artists such as Camille Saint-Saëns are to be believed.
(Side note - this whole story smacks a little of the Death and the Maiden motif, wouldn't you think? I do like my cultural references... smart-ass that I am.)
Adelaide, on the other hand, likes to display her imagination in a manner akin to her mother: through pencils and paint.
It's not as if Amelia ignores her older children in favour of her babies, though. True, the tiny trio keep her very busy, during those most precious moments when the nursery finally falls quiet, she does spend some quality time with her first and second-born. In particular, she loves to read them books. Here, she and Benjamin are enjoying a story entitled How I Dumped Your Father.
(No, seriously. You couldn't get a more fitting work for this challenge, could you?)
When the kids are at school, though, and the babies aren't crying, it's work, work, work for Amelia. She has to keep the wolves - and more importantly, the social workers - away from the door. Even in the late stages of pregnancy, she spends long hours stood at her easel, producing painting after painting. It's worthwhile - her painting skills increase dramatically, as do the profits from her sales, and she even creates one or two masterpieces.
Then, one night, Amelia almost ruins her latest canvas with a wild streak of paint, as her shaking hands cause her to lose control of her brush. Pain has burst forth from her belly. The already-crowded nursery is about to welcome another resident.
And the family's recent feminine streak shows no signs of stopping yet!
Acknowledging her paternal heritage, Amelia names the pretty child after the Viking goddess of love and beauty.
F is for Freyja, with fairest of face.
(Baby 6 - Freyja Bjergsen Livingstone)
Just as she'd feared, getting all of these little ones fed, cleaned and off to sleep is like herding cats for Amelia... but miraculously, by 3am, she's somehow managed it. Almost dead on her feet, the exhausted mother savors the sound of silence.
With another money in the bank to pay the bills for a while, and the babysitter's number on speed dial... it may be time for Amelia to get out of the house.
The next afternoon, as she wanders around Willow Creek looking for unexplored hotspots, Amelia takes a wrong turn somewhere, and finds herself in a cul-de-sac. Just as she's about to turn around and make her way back towards the main road, she hears a voice calling to her from one of the nearby lawns.
(Honestly - what is it with people shouting to her from lawns recently?)
"Amelia! Over here!"
The voice has an undeniable Irish twang. With a relieved smile, Amelia walks towards it... and spots Miles outside his house, doing push-ups on the pavement.
"Hi again," he says, in between pants of breath. "You're looking grand."
"I'm guessing you're not up the pole at the moment, then?"
"That you're not pregnant."
"Oh... no, not right now."
"Don't worry! I'm not calling you a brasser, or anything. You live your life how you want to - it's not a problem to me. Besides, you're a good ma to those babbies of yours."
Amelia isn't exactly sure what he just said, but it sounded like a compliment.
"What exactly are you doing?" she asks, looking at him curiously.
"I've got a class at the gym in ten minutes," Miles explains. "I'm just warming up."
Amelia nods in understanding - but then turns towards the house as she hears a second voice calling from inside. Another man. English accent.
"Miles? Who are you talking to?"
"Just a friend, Indy," Miles shouts back, getting to his feet. "Nothing to worry about."
"Who's that?" Amelia asks.
"Indigo," Miles replies. "My housemate, and my best friend. Bookish sort of fella - works at the library. Bit of a gobshite, but a good lad."
"Really?" asks an intrigued Amelia.
"Aye. You should go in - say hello. Anyway, I'd best be off. I'll see you around."
As Miles jogs off towards the gym, Amelia smiles. Meeting a man could lead to making a baby. Perhaps she should introduce herself to Miles' friend, after all.
After smoothing down her clothes and checking herself in her compact mirror, she knocks upon the door of the house.
"Come in," Indigo calls. "It's open."
As Amelia lets herself in, she is greeted by the sight of a tall, slim man in a red jacket and matching fedora - book in hand as he heads down the corridor. As he turns to her, Amelia learns that he is wearing glasses, and has a round, boyish face.
In contrast to Miles' athletic physique, this Indigo seems like a geeky type. Nevertheless, he has an undeniable charm to him.
"I'll be with you in a moment," he tells Amelia. "I'm just putting this away."
As he heads into another room, Amelia throws etiquette to the winds, and follows him. Just as she'd hoped, it's the bedroom. The direct approach has worked well for her before - hopefully it will again. In any case, someone's else's bed springs can bear the brunt of her vital work for once.
As Indigo slides the book back into its place on the wall shelf, he is shocked to see that his guest hasn't stayed put in the hallway.
"Why - ?" he begins, but Amelia shushes him.
"Forgive me," she purrs seductively. "I couldn't resist. Miles has told me a lot of good things about his housemate -"
" - but he never mentioned how handsome you were. I just had to get a better look at you."
It's the ultimate charm offensive, and it works a treat. Immediately, Indigo feels his pulse begins to race.
"I'm... I'm Jonas," he stammers, flustered. "Jonas Cassidy."
"Miles told me your name was 'Indigo'," Amelia replies, bemused,
Thinking quickly, Indigo laughs off his error, and corrects himself.
"Oh... oh yeah," he giggles, almost uncontrollably. "'Jonas' is... his old flatmate. Yes, I'm Indigo. Indigo Maxwell."
Codenames only, damn it! You and Miles didn't get this far as a dynamic duo of secret agents by giving yourselves away like this!
But then again... we've never had to deal with someone so... charismatic before...
Luckily for him, Amelia isn't one of the agency's enemies. With a bit more sweet talk, Indigo is putty in her hands.
Seizing the opportunity, Amelia seals the deal with a fiery kiss, as she pushes the geeky guy across the room towards his bed - rapidly unbuttoning his clothing.
Some time later, Amelia lounges back on the pillow, satisfied: turning to face Indigo as he sleeps softly beside her - the fingers of one of her hands still interlocked in his from their afterglow embrace.
Gently freeing herself, Amelia picks her handbag up of the bedroom floor, and tiptoes off to the bathroom. A few minutes later, she returns, crestfallen.
The test was negative. She hasn't conceived Indigo's child.
That means they need to try again.
Crawling onto the bed, she reaches for her latest lover, gently shaking him awake. As Indigo stirs, reaching up sleepily to stroke Amelia's cheek, they both jolt upright in shock as they hear the front door slamming shut.
"Indy! I'm home!"
Nervously and hurriedly, Amelia scrambles back into her clothes as the sound of footsteps approaching the room grows louder and louder. Until now, none of her previous lovers have ever met one another - at least, not in these circumstances. She has no idea how Miles will react to seeing her and his roommate together like this. Indigo, unaware of why Amelia is panicking, simply watches her as he lay in bed, utterly confused.
Just as Amelia is pulling her tights on over her feet, the door opens. Miles enters, smiling - but this fades away as she catches sight of his former lover and his friend together on the bed.
For a few moments, the scene is a silent tableau. No movements are made. No words are said. Unable to stand it, Amelia hastily pulls up her tights, grabs her shoes and handbag, and rushes out of the house.
For the first time since this all began, she actually feels like a whore.
As he looks at the now-solitary Indigo under the bedsheets, Miles sighs.
"She seduced you too, huh?" he says matter-of-factly.
Indigo's eyes widen.
"You mean... you and she...?"
"Yeah. Thank God she's not an evil minion. At least, I don't think she is."
"But...but I thought you were into guys?" Indigo asks, with genuine shock.
"So did I," Miles explains. "I've never liked women before - or since, for that matter. But, well... I don't know. Something about her just... stirs you up. As if she has some sort of power. It's almost... supernatural."
"I... I think I know what you mean," Indigo tells him. "I... I felt it too."
He looks at Miles, embarrassed.
"So, you're not mad?" he says hesitantly.
"Of course not," Miles tells him.
"Good," Indigo replies. "Because I... I think I want to see her again."
"Knock yourself out, boyo. And good luck to you."
He smiles - but moments later, after he retreats to the safety of his own room, he blinks away tears.
In truth, he is angry... but not at Indigo. Amelia is the one he's jealous of. He's loved Indigo for years, since not too long after they started working together. But Indigo's straight, and not into men. Miles has been there when he's dated and broken up with various women. But nothing could ever blossom between them, no matter how much he may want it to.
Then again, he thinks to himself... at least he got to see Indigo all disheveled in bed like that. Now that was a pretty sight to come home to.
He knows Indigo is going to end up heartbroken. Amelia never called him once after their own encounter... which, to be fair, once that mysterious allure of hers wore off, would have probably resulted in a very awkward conversation. But telling Indy that now will only result in an argument. It's a lesson he's going to have to learn for himself.
And when he spots Indigo through the ajar bathroom door later that night after a phone call, slavering himself in cologne as he gets ready for a trip to Forgotten Hollow, he makes a mental note to have a nice, welcoming pot of tea ready for when he comes back.
The poor eejit is going to need it.
When Amelia answers the door, Indigo's face lights up like a Christmas tree when he sees she is already in her lingerie.
"I'm so glad you came over," she says sweetly. "I was scared you and Miles might have had a fight."
"No, he... he was quite understanding," Indigo replies. "But enough about him. Here and now, it's about you and me."
He grins as Amelia takes his hand and pulls him into her own bedroom, locking lips with him passionately.
Yet Indigo wakes up alone the next morning. He's concerned at first, dressing hurriedly before rushing out into the living area of the house, but then breathes a deep sigh of relief as he spots Amelia coming out of the bathroom. She looks very happy indeed.
"Was... was last night good for you?" he asks.
"Absolutely," Amelia tells him. "Now, if you don't mind... I have to get the kids ready for school."
"Oh... oh, of course," Indigo replies, a little put out, but understanding. "Shall... shall I come by again later?"
"Well, I'll... I'll probably be a bit busy," Amelia replies as politely as she can. "Painting, and things. Tell you what. I'll call you, as soon as I can - once I have a bit more free time, OK?"
"Sure," Indigo tells her weakly. "That.. that sounds great."
"All right then. I'll see you soon."
"Yeah... bye for now, I guess."
Seeing his hopeful smile as he leaves, Amelia's heart breaks a little for him. The second attempt was successful. She has no intention of calling him. All she's done is give him false hope.
It's not as if she feels no remorse. She does - very deeply. She doesn't want to keep doing this - to keep seducing and using all of these good, kind men just to get pregnant. To keep on hurting them... to keep breaking their hearts. But the cold hard fact was, she'd made a deal - the fate of her very soul rested upon it. Anyone performing a task for such an important prize was never going to have things easy.
Besides... Miles would look after him, right?
She can't dwell on him and his feelings now. She has important stuff to do... like bake a birthday cake. Both Clara, who has inherited her hazelnut locks, and the raven-haired Dahlia have started to get up and about now - growing up into two beautiful little toddlers.
When Adelaide and Benjamin arrive home from school, they rush into the nursery to play with the birthday girls - Amelia watching them with a loving, maternal gaze. But despite his cheesy grin, the mother can see a sadness in her son's eyes.
It must be so hard on him, she thinks. To be the only boy in a family filled to the brim with sisters. My little man of the house.
Yet, as she lays a hand to rest on her still-flat stomach, Amelia feels a sense of hope. Perhaps this new arrival would be a boy, too.
After all... seven is a lucky number.
Indigo Maxwell is another character from my series Evil Minions Union.
To explain why Clara and Dahlia aged up together - I got a notification about Dahlia's birthday, but never Clara's, which couldn't be right as she was born earlier. A glitch, perhaps. So, just to help keep things running smoothly, I let them have their toddler birthday at the same time.
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