Monica sniffed. "Pop, it's Dad. Ever since we've moved, it's like I don't even exist. After school, he and Goby swim off going deep in the water and he doesn't even notice me." She stopped to wipe another tear away.
Monica shook her head. "No, he spent lots of time with both of us."
"I'll talk to him, sweetheart. I'm sure that he loves you just as much as Goby." Goddess, I hope that's true or we are going to have words; serious and angry words.
"Will you Pop?" she sniffed a few more times. "I've been afraid to ask. What if he really says that I'm just not as important as Goby? I'll never swim nearly as well as he can. I'm not a strider, I'm just...me." The tears started flowing again.
I hugged her again. "Monica, you are always you. That's really all any of us can say. But if it makes you feel better, we can find something you can do really well. Drawing, music, science, dancing, there's a lot of things out that you can try." I crouched down so I could look her in the eyes. "Everyone in this family is very important. Don't forget that."
"So, what was your favourite part of today's swim?"
"The sunken ship! Do you think it has treasure?" Goby clapped his hands in enthusiasm.
Jer laughed, "Unlikely this close to the islands. But if we get a bit further out, we probably will find some ships with treasure chests that still have stuff in them."
"Jericho? Can I talk to you outside?" We didn't need to have this chat in front of Goby. The toddlers were out there but they were still a bit small to understand too much.
"Sure Sam, Goby and I were done. It was a good day for some serious exploring."
"It's probably nothing, Jer. I am curious, about how much time are you spending with Goby in the afternoons?"
He grinned. "We've been swimming every afternoon for at least an hour, sometimes up to two hours before the light fades." He paused. "It's so fantastic to finally be able to teach Goby what he'll need to know if he ever wants to live in the Depths."
He stopped smiling and put a finger to his temple. "Monica..."
"You do remember her? Our oldest daughter? The one who takes after me?"
Jericho looked at me, horror dawning in his eyes. "I can't remember. I mean surely..." he shook his head. "No, I just don't remember when I last said anything directly to Monica."
Jer momentarily covered his face with his hands. "Sammy, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to neglect her."
"You do know that I'm not the one that you have to apologise to, right?" Jericho nodded. "I didn't think that you were deliberately ignoring our oldest daughter, but I did have to check."
"It's just that I got so involved with teaching Goby. I didn't even think what Monica might be feeling if I spent a lot of time with Goby."
"Just remember, love. There's plenty of time to teach Goby. I don't know what age a young Strider usually leaves home but I'll bet that it will be at least a decade before it happens. And I do promise, we will never live from far the sea again." I pulled him closer. "You do promise not to ignore any of your land-based family, don't you?"
"By the goddess, I swear I won't. I'm horrified that Monica thinks I don't like her." Jericho shuddered slightly in my arms.
"They will be. Whether none of them are Striders, all of them are Striders or somewhere between the two; they will all be loved," Jericho replied softly. "I'll take time for each and every one of them."
I could resist no longer. I pulled him just that little bit closer for a big smooch. "I'm glad. Just don't forget to spend some extra time with Monica over the next few days." I pulled back and looked him those beautiful blue eyes. "You make Monica happy and I know this cute little resort with some very affordable accommodation."
"So it's already your turn to make me work for a bit of fun? But you haven't done your stint yet," protested Jer.
"We can combine the two and spend the whole weekend. I'll tend bar to earn one night and if Monica feels loved by then we'll spend two nights."
"That sounds very fair, Sam. You know, I don't remember us ever spending an entire weekend by ourselves. Having a little break for just us should be heavenly."
"True. We never even had a honeymoon, since we already had babies and I had a job. We've been very busy ever since."
Driving around gave me time to think. I know that Jericho thinks we should concentrate on the resort. Even with the promotion, I'm not going to be earning that much in a day. But being a cop is important and I do get to meet lots of people this way.
Of course, the resort would have guests and so I'd be meeting people there too. It's a difficult decision when you love your job.
"Oh, love, you cut off all that lovely hair."
"Sammy, you know how beautifully hair floats around you in water in movies?"
"That's faked. In reality, it tries to tie itself into one big knot or floats in your face so you can't see. It had to go." He paused. "I hope you don't mind too much."
"Goddess no. You're still hot. I did like the long hair but I love this too."
"Sure, Jer, why?"
"I promised Monica I'd take her to whatever movie she wants."
I laughed, "And so what are you in for?"
He grinned back, "Apparently, the Adventures of the Very Berry Bearys. It sounds sort of dreadful from the online descriptions."
"Serves you right for neglecting Monica," I snickered at him.
"I know. Then we are going for ice cream after."
"I hope the two of you have fun." I was looking forward to some quality time with the toddlers.