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Academically Yours Bonus Scene

Five years later...

“Please,” my wife begged, jutting her lower lip out as her big brown eyes looked up at me from her spot on the floor.
I sighed. “Noelle. Sweetheart. We don’t need another one right now.”
I eyed my dog—our dog, after all these years—Snowball. She was curled up at Noelle’s feet, her head resting on my wife’s thigh. It was her favored spot these days, really, anywhere around Noelle was, and I couldn’t blame her.
After all, I was the same way. Even after five years together, I couldn’t get enough of her. Our marriage was better than I’d ever dreamed. We’d turned my old house by campus into a rental for college kids and had moved a little further away a few years back. I loved our house now, living on the same street as our best friends. The life we’d built together.
Noelle rolled her eyes, slumping her head back against the couch. She had a book in her lap, but she wasn’t paying attention to it.
Instead, she was focused on our son, who was playing on the floor in front of her, his head full of dark-blond hair from me and those eyes that he’d gotten from her.
Owen’s face lit up as he tumbled over to our dog.
“Puppy!” He said, tugging on Snowball’s tail. She gave a slight yip in response, but then lowered her head back onto Noelle’s lap.
“That’s right, buddy,” I said, scooping him up in my arms. “But what did we say about playing with the puppy?” He frowned, shaking his head like he doesn’t remember. As if we didn’t have this conversation every day. “No tail, Owen. She doesn’t like it when you pull on it.” I sighed, rustling his hair before looking back at Noelle. “See, this is why another one is a bad idea.”
She frowned, petting the top of Snowball’s head. “I just think Snowball could use a friend. And it’d be good before this little one comes—” Noelle rubbed at her rounded belly. “Think about how cute it would be to watch them grow up together.”
Two. We’d have two kids soon. And now she wanted to have two dogs, too.
I sat down on the floor next to her, letting Owen run over to his collection of toy trucks as I pulled her into my arms.
She sniffled a little. “We can name him Marshmallow.”
“The puppy.”
“Obviously not our unborn child,” I said, resting my hand over her stomach.
“Mm. For multiple reasons,” she said, stoically, and then giggled. I had to resist rolling my eyes, because even when she was trying to talk me into getting another dog, she was so freaking cute.
“So, you don’t think she would appreciate being named after food?”
Noelle laughed, letting her head rest against my chest as she settled into me more. Snowball was unhappy with our current development, because it meant her head couldn’t rest near the baby, but I liked having my wife all to myself.
“I can’t believe she’ll be here so soon,” Noelle whispered. “I feel like we just found out.”
I kissed the top of her head. “Think we’ll survive with two of them?” I watched our son, playing in the corner with his blue truck—just like Daddy’s—and couldn’t help my smile.
Noelle grinned. “If our friends can do it, I think we can handle a newborn and a two-year-old.”
It was crazy to think that we weren’t the first of our friends who’d have two kids, but I liked how our story had ended up in the end. I laughed. “You’re right. Those twins are a handful.”
“But they’re soooo cute.”
“And our little girl is going to be even cuter. Especially if she gets her Momma’s beautiful red hair.” I ran my fingers through a few locks of her hair, curling them around my fingers.
Noelle sighed. “I hope she has your eyes.” She twisted in my arms, pinning me with a look. “Now, stop distracting me by being sweet. I’m serious about this.”
“About what?” I kept on toying with the ends of her frizzy red curls.
“A puppy. I think we should get another one before the baby comes.”
I groaned. “Noelle. Don’t you think that it’s going to be too much, with a newborn and a puppy on top of Owen and Snowball?”
She shook her head. “You’re taking next semester off anyway, right? So we’ll both be home.” Noelle flashed her best puppy dog eyes on me again. She’d quit her job after having Owen, deciding that being a full-time mom and an author was enough for her. She loved working with students, and I had no doubt she’d find some way to do it again in the future, but I loved that she wanted to stay home with our kids.
“Sure, but…”
“Listen,” she said, pulling her phone out and tapping on it before handing it to me. “He needs a home, babe.”
I was pretty sure the pouting would never end if I didn’t concede, so I took her phone with a little eyebrow raise, and on the screen was a little white bundle off fluff, one that reminded me a lot of Snowball when Tessa had first given her to me. The tiny samoyed pup had his ears perked up in the photo.
“Sweetheart, he’s adorable, it’s just…” I sighed, clearly already giving in. How could I say no to that face? Let alone the puppy. “Are you sure? This will make you happy?”
She lit up. “Of course. And we don’t actually have to name him Marshmallow. I was just kidding about that.”
“Mmm. Sure.” I intertwined our fingers, kissing her knuckles.
“Now, up with you,” I said, helping lift her off of the floor. “Come on, I have a surprise for you.”
She raised her eyebrows. “At thirty-six weeks pregnant, you have a surprise for me?”
“Uh-huh. Go get your coat.” I bent down, placing a kiss over her swollen belly. “We’re going on an adventure. Just the four of us.” Snowball perked up too as I grabbed her leash.
As Noelle grabbed her things, I got Owen’s shoes on—even though he’d probably just take them off in the car—and grabbed his coat, before loading it all up in Noelle’s car. Even though I loved my truck, we took her SUV more now than ever since it was easier for her to get in and out of.
“All ready to go?” I asked her as she came out in the garage. Snowball was already laying down in the back of the car as I finished buckling Owen into his car-seat.
She’d pulled on a little pom-pom beanie on in addition to a camel-covered jacket over her white sweater dress, and I loved the way her bump stuck out of it.
“What?” She asked, catching me staring at her. Noelle put on a grumpy face as I crossed the few steps towards her—less for me, with my long legs—and took her cheeks in my hands.
“Nothing. I just love you.” I kissed her forehead. “And you’re so freaking stunning, baby.”
A faint blush spread across her cheeks. “Even when I’m a whale carrying your giant kids?” She looked down at her stomach. She looked like she would pop any day now, even though we still had a few weeks left till she was due.
“Mmm. Especially then, sweetheart. The sight of you carrying our kids… nothing is more attractive to me.”
“Well, I hope you get your fill,” she said, patting her bump. “Because I’m not doing this again. One ten-pound baby was enough, let alone two.” She winced, rubbing at her side.
“So you’re saying we should enjoy ourselves for the last month, huh?” I wiggled my eyebrows, trying to distract her from her pain.
“Matthew!” Noelle playfully hit me on the shoulder as I opened up the door for her and helped her into the passenger seat.
“What?” I grinned, lowering my voice to a whisper. “I like enjoying my wife. Under me, over me, from be—” She punched me again, and I laughed as I got into the driver’s seat and navigated the car out of the garage.
Owen was babbling in the backseat, playing with his little polar bear toy. I smiled as I turned back around, glancing at Noelle before I started driving to our end destination.
It was a good thing he wasn’t talking much yet—or repeating the things we said.
“So where are we going?” she asked after a few minutes.
“You’ll see.”
“Not even one hint for your very pregnant wife?” She pouted at me, crossing her arms over her chest, practically resting them over her belly. But I wasn’t falling for that, either.
“Nope. You used all your cute points up asking for a puppy.” I rested my hand on her thigh, rubbing the leggings she was wearing under her sweater with my thumb. “Patience, Noelle.”
“You know I’m not very good at that,” she grumped, but she lightened up when I pulled onto the highway and kept driving.
Three years ago, we’d gotten married at an adorable farm and pumpkin patch outside of Portland, and I’d made it my mission to take her back every year to surprise her. Our anniversary wasn’t for a few weeks, but that was close to when she would be full-term, so I figured there was no time like the present.
Plus, this way we could pick out pumpkins and carve them with Owen tomorrow.
When I pulled onto the road that was only slightly better than if we were driving on actual gravel, Noelle perked up. “Are we going where I think we’re going?”
I smirked. “Maybe.”
“Ohhh. Matthew.” Her eyes twinkled with delight, and she turned around to watch Owen through the little mirror on the seat. “What do you think, little man?” She asked our son. “Want to go see where mom and dad got married?”
“Yeah!” He exclaimed. Our little wild child was pretty much just happy going anywhere, and I loved seeing him run around with a smile on his face.
She smiled at him, before turning back to me. “Thanks for this, babe. It’ll be nice to get out of the house for the day.”
I snorted. “Feeling a little cooped up in there, Mrs. Harper?”
“Oh, shut up.” She nudged my shoulder. “At least you get to leave the house. I’ve just been nesting like crazy and writing my next book.”
“How’s that going?”
“Almost done.” Noelle grinned. “I think you’re really gonna like it.” She patted my hand on her thigh, and I picked it up to kiss it.
“I’m sure I will, sweetheart.”
I loved reading her smutty books, and I was happy to support her with it. With anything. She’d been talking about opening up a coffee shop, bakery and bookstore combo sometime in the future for a few years, and I knew that any new venture with her would be just as exciting.
After we pulled into the lot and I found us a parking spot, after opening Noelle’s door to give her a hand out, she got Owen out of his car seat as I grabbed Snowball and her leash.
“What do you think, should we grab some apple cider first?” I asked as Noelle held our son’s hand, letting him walk along next to her.
“Mmm. Sounds nice. We should take a hay bail ride for old time’s sake while we’re here.”
I kissed the top of her head. “Anything you want.”
We wandered around, reminiscing on our perfect fall wedding as we enjoyed the hot apple cider and let Owen ride on the little toddler train ride, before we wandered over to the field.
I looked down at our kid, who was already trying to pick up a pumpkin that was probably twice his weight. “Owen, do you want to pick a pumpkin out for the baby?”
He nodded, his blonde hair flopping with the motion as he took off to look down the path, practically weaving through the pumpkins as he looked for the perfect one.
“A little one!” Noelle called out after him, taking Snowball’s leash from me with a little smile and a ‘go’ as I chased after our kid. Even with his little legs, that kid could run.
He shrieked as I caught up to him, lifting him up into the air like he was flying.
“What do you think buddy? Should we find our pumpkins now?”
Noelle caught up with us after we’d already scanned what felt like acres of pumpkins, looking for the perfect ones. She had one hand holding Snowball’s leash, and the other was resting on her back as she wobbled over to us.
“Any luck?”
“Mhm.” I looked towards our loot in a little red wheelbarrow we’d borrowed. “Let’s get them back to the car?” I kissed her forehead.
Noelle smiled, taking Owen’s hand even as he kept ahold of his pumpkin.
I hoisted Owen up onto my shoulders after depositing our four pumpkins off in the SUV—two nice big ones for us, a medium sized one for Owen, and the most adorable little one for the baby—and I had to admit, life was pretty perfect.
But I couldn’t wait for every moment of the rest.
“What should we do next?” I asked my little family.
“I have just the idea,” Noelle grinned.

Our new puppy came home with us the day after we’d gone to the pumpkin patch. The second I had the little fluffball in my arms, he curled up and fell asleep on me. I knew that it was meant to be. The final piece of our little family.
Of course, our baby girl was still happily inside of me, but I was happy to spend the last few weeks of pregnancy snuggled up with my toddler, a puppy, and my giant husband. Owen couldn’t quite pronounce Marshmallow yet, but that didn’t bother him one bit.
The girls told me I was crazy to get a new dog right now, but he was so freaking cute, that I couldn’t help it.
“What do you think, hm?” I asked Snowball, who was currently sniffing the sleeping pup. “A new friend?”
She looked up at me with those big dog eyes and then down to the puppy, giving a slight huff before wrapping her tail around him.
“Sweetheart?” Matthew’s voice called out, coming home from work.
“In here,” I responded, slowly rocking in the chair we’d first gotten two years earlier. It was a sturdy rocking chair that sat underneath the window in the nursery.
We’d painted it yellow, bright and cheery, and a little red panda plush sat on top of the dresser. The girls had given it to me when they’d found out we were expecting baby number two. I couldn’t explain why the little red panda brought such a smile to my face, but it fit.  
So did the little fox onesie we’d got her, though I’d never told our friends about that nickname he had for me.
“Hi.” He leaned down, placing a soft kiss against my lips. “How are my girls?”
“Mmm. Good.” I rubbed my belly. “Two more weeks.”
“Are you sure about the Halloween party this year?” He asked, rubbing my shoulders. “We could still cancel.”
“No.” I’d already picked out the costumes. Sure, she’d be little, but—“We’re keeping it small. Just our friends. And they’ll be at the hospital, anyway.” We’d practically made it a tradition to all go by and meet the newest member of our extended family once the new parents were up for it.
Even laying in a hospital bed, recovering and holding my son, I’d never forget how happy I was at that moment. I might not have had sisters, or a big extended family, but I had them.
“Besides, Gabbi already got the cutest little costume for Quin.” I picked at a thread on my lap blanket.
“Okay.” He chuckled. “But if anything happens—”
“We’ll cancel. Of course.”
If I was late, or there were any complications… It was just a party. And luckily the kids were still little enough that they weren’t going trick-or-treating yet.
One day, though, I couldn’t wait to take them around the neighborhood, all eight of us with our kids. Maybe our little girl strapped to Matthew’s chest.
Goodness knows, he’d insist on it.
“You know, I’ve been thinking a lot about names,” I said, tracing a finger over my belly as Matthew crouched beside me.
I nodded. “You know… Thought we’d keep up the theme.”
“Mmm.” He rested his hand over mine as our little girl kicked.
“Matthew… Noelle… Owen…” I turned my head, letting my forehead rest against his. “Penelope. But we could call her Penny for short. Pen.”
His face lit up. “I love it.”
“You do?”
Matthew nodded.
“I love you.” I whispered, nuzzling my nose against his. “More than words.”
“I love you, too.” Matthew’s thumb rubbed against my hand. “More than anything.”
Penelope Elaine Harper was born on October 17th, two weeks before Halloween. Our red-haired, blue-eyed, freckled little girl was the perfect addition to our family.
My heart had never been so full.

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