Cosette and Niles return home from the doctor with startling, but not unwelcome, news. She is pregnant.
They use what little they have left over from Niles' promotion check to buy a second-hand crib and reserve his next check for the house payment and whatever other baby essentials they need. They are quickly realizing that babies are expensive.
After the news is shared with Ari, she heads outside under the pretense of doing the laundry. In reality, she wants some fresh air and a smoke to calm her nerves. Any day now, Niles and Cosette are going to ask her to leave. A baby changes things and she's already an addition that takes up precious space.
Maybe Quincy has a room for rent...
"I hate that you still smoke." Niles says, interrupting Ari's thoughts. "It's not good for the environment."
"Don't you mean the body?" Ari turns to stamp the lit end of the cigarette in one of the small puddles forming near the porch fence. She frowns as she watches the last remnants of smoke sizzle away in the water.
"I already tried that argument with you, to no avail." Niles smiles pitifully. "Maybe this approach will be more successful."
Ari shrugs morosely in response. She'd rather not have this conversation again. "So... a baby. Congratulations." Thankfully, he doesn't fight her change of subject.
"Thanks, sis. That means a lot." Niles wrings his hands nervously in the ensuing silence.
Ari releases an irritated sigh when she realizes she doesn't know what else to say to him. What can she say anyway? Great. You're becoming an adult and starting a family, when do you want me out of here? A slight pang of guilt brings her back to her senses. She's being selfish. Her brother offered her a place to stay in her time of need, the most she can do is give him a damn smile of encouragement and get out of the way for once. "I think I might know a few people willing to let me stay with them." She lies.
"Okay..." He frowns. "You want to leave?"
"I don't want to be in the way."
Niles pulls his little sister in for a hug. "You're always in the way." He laughs. "But I wouldn't have it any other way. No matter what happens, we stick together."
Ari smiles as she remembers when her brother had said those exact words to her when their father passed away. She was afraid. It seemed like everyone she cared about was disappearing, first her mother and now her father, and soon it would be just her left. Niles shook his head when she admitted her fear to him after the funeral. I won't disappear, he said. No matter what happens, we stick together. She felt a little more secure after that. Niles would never leave her.
"I feel stupid for bringing it up." Ari admits.
Niles smirks. "You should."
With Niles working extra shifts and Cosette being pregnant, Ari has to step up and take care of the house most days. Juggling a band, all-night gigs, housework, and attending to Cosette has left her little time to do much else besides sleep.
It doesn't help matters that her band members decide to have all of their meetings at her house, given that Quincy and Jarrod live in apartments that can barely fit themselves let alone four people and Noemi has a husband that works at home and doesn't appreciate the interruption that visitors cause. Luckily, according to them, Ari has lenient roommates and a "spacious" house for their frequent sessions.
This meet-up is different though. Noemi is the one that calls everyone, saying that she has great news to share. "I have a friend in Bridgeport who just opened a new bar," she says excitedly. "He's willing to hire us for the month and the pay is well worth it."
Ari zones out while Quincy, Jarrod, and Noemi plan everything to a 't'. By the time she snaps back to the present, they're on to discussing when they're going to leave for Bridgeport - as if her consent has already been given. She doesn't much care, she'd rather they finish up without her so she can take a nap already.
"Is that all right with you?" Quincy finally asks once he realizes Ari hasn't said a word. "We won't go unless we're all in."
Her band mate's hopeful faces sway her to give in. "Sure. Whatever."
The only condition Ari gives is that she can't leave until after Cosette gives birth.
Cosette goes into labor just one week later. Niles is definitely not prepared for this. Truth be told, neither is Cosette.
They return home with a healthy baby girl named Amaya.
Ari spends what little time she has before her trip to Bridgeport with her new niece. She's never spent more than ten minutes alone with a kid, but she seems to take to it easily enough. That is, until her diaper needs to be changed and Ari pawns Amaya off to her parents with an apologetic smile.
Ari's flight to Bridgeport is scheduled just three days after Amaya's birth. Niles and Cosette see her off to her cab.
"I wish I could stay a bit longer to help you both out." Ari frowns. Everything feels so rushed, and although she missed being in the city since leaving Elmira, she is going to miss her brother and his small family more.
Cosette smiles in response. "We'll be fine. Concentrate on what you need to do..."
"... and be careful." Niles interrupts.
The taxi pulls up in front of the house, cutting off Ari's snarky reply. It's probably not in her best interest anyway, judging by her brother's worried expression. She settles for a serious nod and a quick hug goodbye before getting into the cab.
Bridgeport, here she comes.
Happy belated New Year? It's 2013 already... where has the time goooonnnneeee??!!
Oh gawd; the story is FINALLY moving on. Seriously, there was a grand bit of puttering to get to this point because I wasn't sure where I was going with it yet (and I may have had about 5 stories planned ahead of time that didn't work out for one reason or another), but I think I finally found a plot that I can accomplish. Maybe...