“Why do we gotta dress up?” Blaine frowned, wrinkling up his nose.
“Because you and your sister need to look nice,” his mother worried as she fiddled anxiously with Blaine’s bowtie. “Stand still, baby love.”
Francey flopped down on a nearby chair, sliding all the way down the slick vinyl surface. “I wanna go on an airplane,” the seven-year-old announced. “Can I get on an airplane?”
“We’re not going on an airplane, remember?” Lilah said, picking Francey up and setting her on her feet. She brushed imaginary wrinkles from Francey’s striped sundress. “We’re here to get Cooper off the plane.”
“Mama, tell me why we have a Cooper?” Blaine asked, flinging himself on his mother’s lap.
“I already told you, precious lamb,” Lilah said.
“I forgotted. Tell me again?” he implored, tilting his head to the side.
Lilah sighed. “Daddy had a different wife before Mama, remember?” she said, a little stiffly. “He was married to a different lady, Rebecca. And Daddy and Miss Rebecca had a baby.”
“Was it me?” Blaine asked. “I’m the baby.”
Lilah nuzzled his dark curls. “No, lambie, you’re my baby,” she said. “Cooper was the baby.”
“Oh,” Blaine said, puzzled. “I didn’t know Cooper was a baby.”
“No, he’s not a baby, he’s eleven,” Lilah reminded him. “Daddy and Miss Rebecca…decided not to be married anymore, so Miss Rebecca lives in Boston with Cooper and Daddy lives here in Ohio with us.”
Francey paused. “Mama, are you and Daddy gonna decide to not be married anymore?” she asked.
“No, no, sweet pea, Mama would never let that happen,” Lilah reassured her.
Blaine bounced impatiently on his mother’s knee. “So why are we gonna get Cooper from the airplane?” he pressed
“’Cause Cooper’s gonna spend the summer with us!” Francey said. She threw her hands up in the air. “We’re getting a brother for the summer!”
“He’s not really your brother, honey, he’s just your half brother,” Lilah said. “Blaine’s your real brother.”
“And I am the baby,” Blaine declared, settling back against his mother’s shoulder with a satisfied smile.
Lilah watched her husband pace by the arrivals gate, arms folded across his chest. “Yes, honey, you’re the baby,” she murmured absently.
Jack suddenly turned around and waved to them. Francey waved back. “Hi, Daddy!” she bellowed.
“His flight’s deplaning,” Jack called, and Lilah stood up, setting Blaine on her hip.
“All right, lovies,” she said, patting Blaine’s back nervously. “We’re going to go get Cooper. I want you both to be on your best behavior. Be sweet.”
“Yes, Mama,” Blaine said obediently. Francey ran over to her father and latched her arms around his waist; he patted her head absently as he scanned the gate. Lilah joined them, still patting Blaine’s back.
“Is that Cooper?” Blaine asked with every new arrival. “Is that Cooper? That Cooper?” Lilah shook her head, covering his mouth with her fingertips.
“There he is,” Jack said at last. “Cooper!”
A boy walked towards them, tall and thin with the uncomfortably large hands and feet of a duffel bag slung across his shoulder. The Anderson resemblance was striking- dark hair, strong jaw line, thick eyebrows. But while Blaine and Francey had their mother’s hazel eyes (Blaine’s a golden shade, Francey’s veering towards green), the newcomer had deep blue eyes. He walked over to them a little uncertainly, as if he still wasn’t sure that the man calling his name was the right person.
“Cooper!” Jack called. He clapped the preteen on the shoulder and pulled him in for an awkward hug. “Hey, kid. How was your flight?”
“Good,” Cooper said, shrugging away.
Jack wrapped an arm around his shoulders and led him towards the rest of the family. “Cooper, this is…well, this is my wife, Lilah,” he said.
Lilah set Blaine carefully on the ground and held out her slim hand. Blaine darted behind her, clinging to her legs. “It’s so nice to meet you, Cooper,” she said, smiling hesitantly.
“Nice to meet you too,” Cooper mumbled, shaking her hand quickly before sticking his hands back into the pockets of his hoodie.
“And, Cooper, these are your siblings,” Jack pressed. “This is-”
“I’m Francey, I’m seven,” she announced. She looked him up and down. “You’re a giant.”
Jack laughed. “He’s just tall for his age,” he said. He reached behind Lilah’s legs and tugged Blaine out of hiding. “And this is your little brother, Blaine.”
Blaine whimpered and hugged Jack’s legs, hiding his face in the back of his father’s knee. Cooper grinned and held out his hand. “Hey, little guy,” he said. “High five?”
Blaine peeked out, apparently weighing the pros and cons, and tentatively patted his small hand in Cooper’s. “I want a high five!” Francey announced. Cooper held out his hand to her; she jumped up and slapped it loudly.
“We’re going to go out for an early dinner,” Jack said. “Let’s go grab your suitcase, okay?”
He led Cooper towards the luggage carousel. Lilah sighed heavily and picked up Blaine. “Come on, babies, let’s go,” she said, holding her hand out for Francey to take. Blaine hid his face in Lilah’s shoulder. “Oh, honey, don’t be shy.”
“It’s okay,” Francey said, reaching up to pat Blaine’s knee. “I don’t think the new brother is that cool. Blaine’s still my favorite brother.”