|It was the 20th of December, and Reg Entwistle was feeling important. He would have strutted if there had been time. However, there wasn't, so he ran.|
Down the corridor, away from the maternity wards, then the emergency wards, then the TB ones. Towards the receptionist's desk, he couldn't be bothered going round it (too time-consuming), so he leapt over it, then towards the main entrance, out into the night, into the bushes, up his sneaky shortcut, then along the Sonnalpe: past Die Kiefern, then bursting through the front door of Die Blumen, and taking in the sight before his eyes, too exhausted to gasp out the news that Jack himself had given him to carry.
The Mob were all in their nightclothes, gathered in the hallway, but they had coats and shoes on, and were all looking tense. Len came to his rescue.
"Is it time?"
"Yes, yes." he gasped in response.
The Mob ran, he ran with them, back where he had come, him entrusting them with the secret to his shortcut, the older ones carrying the really small fry.
At last, they got to the San., and Reg ran, standing on the stairs and holding his hand out for them to pull themselves up.
"Come on, come on, come ON! She asked for you soon as pos.!"
They still kept running, regardless of stitches and lack of breath, on to where Reg led them: Maternity Ward Number 3.
"They're here!" he gasped out, then collapsed, panting, on the floor.
Jo laughed, a sound that was, to Jack, a golden sound after the pain she had been in all day. He had held her hand then, and he still did, refusing to let go until she had calmed down. There was always a lot of stress for her involved with having a baby. There had been thirteen lots of tears weighing on Jack's mind that day.
They had been arguing about names, Jo insisted on Austrian names for at least SOME of them, and Jack was all in favour of a plain, English name, Meg being the suggestion he had volunteered. That argument was over now, they had chosen names quickly and sent them all to register.
Just then, the rest of their children, wards inclusive, burst in and demanded to know if Mamma/Jo was all right, and how were the babies. How many, as well.
Jo smiled, still not letting go of her husband's hand. "You won't believe this!"
"It's not ten again, is it, Mamma?" demanded Margot, slightly concernedly.
"Nope. Just out." replied her mother, with a grin for the dectuplets, who were now mature young madams of five.
"Nine?" asked Len.
"Eight?" volunteered Clarissa.
"Still no. You're going the wrong way."
"More than ten?!" demanded Will excitedly.
"Yes, my dear lad." Jo smiled at her youngest son and put a hand under his chin endearingly.
"Shall we let them off the hook, my darling?" asked Jack.
"Let's just see if they believe us." said Jo, smiling sweetly. The Mob grinbed. They knew that look, and it meant their mother had News. Not news, but News.
"Twelve." she said simply, then waited for the explosion.
She was not disappointed. They all started yelling at once, almost deafening their parents.
"All right, all right! Don't blow us away!" cried Jack. The Mob calmed down.
"But Jack!" said Connie calmly. She was very quiet as a rule. "Surely not twelve! It has but never heard of before been!"
Jo gestured to the rickety old cradles in the corner. "If you don't believe us, go and count the heads!"
That was another thing they all wanted to know: what colour their hair was.
There were indeed twelve babies, all peacefully sleeping.
"They're all blue-eyed girls in case you're wondering." said Jack gently. One glance at his face would show how radiantly happy he was, especially when he looked at Jo, who had the same expression.
There was a brown head, next to a red-gold one, then a black head, before a chestnut one, then a brown head, a little blonde lass, then another red-gold, then a shock of truly red hair, and another blonde, then a tiny brown head, then another red-gold, topped off with another brown-haired girl. Their features were of the same delicate beauty as their mother's, but their small almond-shaped eyes were from their father.
"They're the best Christmas present EVER, without a doubt!" cried Marie-Claire enthusiastically.
"Oh, I don't know, they have competition!" smiled Jo. "We had our very own Second Septuplets on Christmas Eve, all those years ago!" She shot a mischievous grin at Trice, Gwen, Geli, Crys, Holly, Ivy and Eu, who were, as per usual, standing together.
"Nah." chipped in Reg from the floor, where he was still trying to muster up enough energy to stand up. "Too talkative. Can't you put 'em back, Jo?"
Everyone laughed aloud at the seven's outraged expressions. Jo hastily stepped into the breach.
"Oh, well, I've left it a little late for that! They're all too big now, aren't you, my girls? Anyhow, Crys, Holly and Ivy barely say anything, and none of them could talk at the ripe old age of one day to five minutes old!"
Everyone laughed again.
"Good point." Reg told the floorboards, provoking more laughter.
"What are they to be called?" asked Cecil.
"Well, your father and I decided that, to be fair, he would choose six and I would choose six. I chose the first lot, he chose the second. We sent them off to register as Liesl, Louisa, Brigitta, Marta, Greta, Toria, Lilias, Christianna, Agatha, Meg, Celia and Evangeline."
Cecil whistled. "It still seems an awful lot."
"What're we going to call them?" asked Geoff.
"I beg your pardon?" asked Jo, knowing that he couldn't mean names.
"Well, there's the Second Septuplets, you mentioned, Phil and I are the Second Twins, then there's the Trips, what are these going to be? I don't think there's a word for twelve in one."
"Well, it's hardly a common occurence." said his mother. "I'm stumped."
"Well," said Geoff's twin "a twelve-sided 3D shape is a dodecahedron, and the suffix for a multiple birth is 'tuplet', so I suppose that would make them the dodectuplets."
"Dodectuplets." repeated Jo. "Has a nice ring to it. Well done, Phil!"
"Well, now." interjected Jack. "I suppose you'd better all leave -" he peered over at his future son-in-law "- I say, Reg, are you still alive?" He continued his sentence as the doctor finally stood up. "Nice as it is to see you, it is now-" he checked his watch "- two o'clock in the morning and it is time you all got to bed. Added to that, your mother needs to sleep."
"Your mother has no intention of sleeping, as your father full well knows!" said Jo irritably.
"Ah, but your mother knows that your father will not take no for an answer." replied Jack. "Your mother knows she needs to rest or else she will regret it in the morning."
"Damn you." muttered Jo mutinously, lying down but still not letting go of her husband's hand.
Just as Connie was closing the door, she saw Jack pull his wife into a tight embrace and kiss her goodnight. The young Amazonian Indian smiled to herself.
All was well in this family.