Two years later, Sofia Pallis was born.
Mirabel’s second pregnancy suffered from none of the anxieties that had burdened the first. With staff to help at every turn, she retained her usual energy right up until the last few weeks. Leonidas took a great interest in every development. It brought them even closer and she really enjoyed carrying her daughter. When her due date came close, Leonidas wouldn’t go abroad in case she went into labour early and he stayed with her when Sofia was born. His delight in their daughter was the equal of her own.
Sofia took after both her parents. She inherited her father’s lustrous dark brown eyes and her mother’s delicate features. Now three-and-a-half years old, Elias was fascinated with his baby sister, but rather disappointed that she couldn’t even sit up to play with him.
‘She’s so little,’ Elias lamented with all the drama of a Pallis.
‘Sofia will grow,’ his mother consoled him.
‘She yells a lot.’
‘You did too when you were a baby.’ Having settled her infant daughter for the night in the nursery next door, Maribel tugged back the duvet to encourage Elias into bed. He climbed in with a truck tucked under one arm.
Leonidas appeared in the doorway while Maribel was reading a bedtime story. She smiled across the room at him, her heart in her eyes, for he had made her extraordinarily happy and she was not a woman to take that good fortune for granted. When the story was finished, Leonidas walked across the room and opened the door of the built in closet. Mouse unfolded his shaggy limbs and got up to greet him with innocent enthusiasm.
‘Dad!’ Elias wailed in protest.
‘Mouse sleeps downstairs.’
‘You’re getting so tough,’ Maribel told her husband outside their son’s bedroom door.
Leonidas laughed softly. ‘But Elias was clever hiding the dog like that.’
‘No, he was sneaky and so I shall tell him tomorrow when I have the time to explain the difference,’ Maribel told him staunchly.
‘Who says cunning is always wrong?’ Leonidas studied her with smouldering dark golden eyes of appreciation. ‘Didn’t I take advantage of you on the night that Elias was conceived? There you were all weepy and emotional and lonely and I made the most of the occasion.’
Maribel was shaken by that take on the past. ‘I never thought of it that way before.’
‘And as long as I live I won’t regret it, agape mou.’ Leonidas breathed with raw sincerity. ‘I have you and Elias and Sofia and you are the most precious elements in my world. I cannot imagine my life without you.’
It was the same for Maribel. Her heart was full to overflowing at that instant. He told her how much he loved her and she responded with the same fervour, for they both knew that the strong bonds they shared were very precious. Once Leonidas and Maribel had moved out of sight and hearing, Mouse slunk back upstairs and back into Elias’ room again.