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(The spring festival (2)

It was the liveliest New Year for the Lu family. In the past, only three people spent New Year's Eve together. While other families were celebrating Spring Festival together, there was nothing to be cheerful about for the Lu family. Charles never cared for the grand festivities so it did not matter whether his family had a party or not. So Spring Festival was usually quiet and cheerless.

Gary was usually upset over the lack of celebration, but could do nothing to change the situation. So this year was totally different since Autumn and Sam were now members of the Lu family and would be participating in their first family reunion.

Even better, the Zhao family also decided to participate in the New Year festivities as well. Gary stared at Autumn, who had wrapped her arms around young Cindy.

He was looking forward to having a great-grandson as soon as possible.

There was delicious food, merry-making, and laughter in the house. The joy was unmistakable.

With a big smile, Gary called out, "Gather together everyone. It is now time for red packets." He rubbed his hands together before bringing out the red packets. "Everyone will be getting a red packet. It is my New Year's wish for each of you," he announced.

Everyone chorused, "Thank you, Grandpa!" Gary was tremendously pleased to see how his family sincerely appreciated his gifts and how much fun they were all having. After Gary, Arthur also gave away red packets to everyone.

Autumn was teary-eyed with joy as she received two envelopes. Seeing her sentimental, those around her burst into laughter.

After dinner, Autumn asked Cindy to go out to the yard to join her in setting off the fireworks. Others started playing mahjong in the chess room. Emily, who said she was already tired, went to rest early.

Cindy, however, could not mask her sadness even as she tried to enjoy setting off the fireworks. Autumn, who happened to look at her, was concerned about Cindy's mood and decided to ask why she was feeling blue despite the festivities.

She walked over to Cindy and gently asked, "What's wrong Cindy? Why do you look upset? You can tell me." She caught Cindy's hand in hers and then wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Sister Autumn, I…" Cindy found it difficult to speak as she felt Autumn's kindness. Then she could no longer keep the tears from streaming down her cheeks.

Seeing her distress, Autumn hugged Cindy tight to comfort her. She waited patiently until Cindy had calmed down, and then asked, "Why are you so sad, Cindy? I can't bear to see you like this. Please, tell me so I can help you out."

Cindy sniffed and nearly choked as she opened up to Autumn. "Sister Gina said my mom was pregnant and I would have a baby brother or sister soon. She also told me that once the baby was born they would no longer like me." Cindy wrapped her arms around Autumn while trying to hold back tears. "She even said my mom would throw me away when my baby sister or brother was born," she wailed.

She sobbed some more, while she was still clinging to Autumn. Then Cindy looked up and said, "Sister Autumn, will my mom really abandon me? The thought really upsets me."

Autumn blew out a breath. "Cindy, I think Gina is just joking. You have nothing to worry about. Your mom and dad will never abandon you even with a new baby. You know that they love you very much." She kept stroking Cindy's hair to console her. Autumn felt very bad for the little girl who must have been secretly upset for several days. So she took a deep breath hoping to make her feel better. "Cindy, you are an adorable girl. And your parents will never leave you or throw you away."

Cindy shook her head and cried out, "But Sister Gina told me that my mom and dad would only love the baby. She also said my grandparents would act the same way." Autumn understood that Cindy was still very young and her fear came from not being able to differentiate a joke from the truth.

It annoyed her slightly that Gina could be so cruel saying such things to the little girl. Autumn hugged Cindy tighter, and then lifted her face before talking. "Cindy, listen to me. You have nothing to be afraid of, okay?

Your mom and dad care for you very much. And parents will love their children forever. You must always remember this. Parents do not abandon their children, so yours won't," she asserted.

Autumn paused to think of more to say something that would ease Cindy's fears. "Even if they have a baby soon, they will not stop loving you. While it's true your parents will pay more attention to the baby, it's only because little babies need a lot of care because they can't do anything for themselves yet. But Cindy, you also know that you will be a big sister and you have to help your parents take care of your baby brother or sister.

Do you understand what I'm saying?"

Cindy tried to comprehend what Autumn told her but still felt anxious. "Are you sure my parents won't throw me away," she asked.

Autumn quickly replied, "Of course I'm sure!" Then she patted Cindy on the back. "To your parents, you are a treasure, someone very precious to them. I promise they will love you all of your life," Autumn said confidently.

Cindy hugged Autumn once more. Then she slowly calmed down. Autumn finally heaved a sigh of relief at seeing the child less anxious. In order to distract her, she asked Cindy to help her start the fireworks again. This time, Cindy looked better and was already smiling.

Inside the living room, Abby was talking about her pregnancy and everyone listening were happy about the news. No one noticed Cindy and how upset she seemed.

As Autumn walked in, Abby teased her, "Autumn, I am pregnant again. You better hurry to catch up."

Instead of joining in the banter, Autumn requested Cindy's grandmother to take care of the child. Then she went to sit down beside Abby and asked in a low voice, "Are you really pregnant?"

The question shocked and confused Abby, who was briefly silent. Then she answered, "Of course I am pregnant!" Almost hissing, she told Autumn, "I had a pregnancy test before the Spring Festival. I am already two months pregnant now." She looked at Autumn's face, her eyes wondering why there seemed to be doubt about her pregnancy.

"Why do you have such question?" she asked Autumn. "What's wrong?" she said worriedly. Abby then noted that Autumn looked more worried than cheerful. And this added to her confusion. "What's the matter Autumn? Aren't you happy for me? You look kind of worried," Abby pointed out.

"I'm sorry, Abby. I didn't mean to upset you. Of course I'm glad for you and your condition. It's just that…" Autumn hesitated slightly then continued, "Please don't forget to pay attention to Cindy even while you're pregnant. She has been upset these days," she said and waited for Abby's reaction.

"Cindy?" There was a look of confusion in Abby's face. "What's wrong with her? Is she upset because of my pregnancy? Is that what you're trying to tell me, Autumn?" The reminder shocked her, and Abby started to worry about her older daughter.

Autumn frowned as she related what happened. "Cindy cried while we were outside setting off fireworks. When I asked her why, she said someone told her that you would abandon her once the baby was born." She stared at Abby and then continued, "Cindy is just a little girl and can't distinguish between jokes and the truth, so she is worried and afraid she will be abandoned when the new baby comes." Then she blurted, "And who is Sister Gina?"

There was a flash of annoyance in Abby's eyes before she replied, "Oh, I see. I've been feeling uncomfortable last few days and was wondering why Cindy appeared upset. But she doesn't even want to come close to me. Now I get it."

With that, she stood up, left a startled Autumn and headed straight to the mahjong table where her husband Andy was playing. She quickly pinched his ear and it made him cry out, "Ouch! That hurts. Honey, stop that!" He stared at his wife, but was turning red from embarrassment.

"Yes, that hurts all right! I'm warning you to get Gina out of our house," Abby demanded. "If you don't, I will move out with Cindy." While Abby was usually kind and even-tempered, she could also behave like a shrew especially if it came to protecting her daughter. She would never tolerate anyone hurting Cindy. And her little girl was hurting now because of someone saying very cruel things to her.
"What's wrong with Gina?" a bewildered Andy asked. Amy quickly walked over and patted Abby's hands. "Please watch your manners," she said. Amy pointed to Abby's belly. "Remember that you're pregnant. It is bad for the baby when the mother is stressed or angry. Not good for antenatal training."

Abby relaxed her clenched fists. Then she touched her belly, rubbed it gently and sat down on a nearby chair. She inhaled and exhaled to relax and told Andy again, "I want Gina out of my house when we get back." She still could not contain her anger and threatened, "If you can't promise to do that, I am not keeping this baby!"

"What?! You…" Andy was still clueless about what set off his wife's sudden violent behavior. As irritating as it was, he knew he could not get mad at Abby considering her delicate condition and her temperament, which he was very well aware of. "Okay, okay. I promise to do what you said. Just don't be so furious and take care of our baby," he said.

"Watch out for the baby? You only care about this unborn baby, Andy? Why haven't you been paying more attention to Cindy?" Abby cried out. Thinking about Gina, she lost her cool again and snarled at Andy, "If you insist on letting her stay in the house, she will continue to mislead Cindy with thoughtless words. Are you aware that Cindy has been upset and frustrated lately?"

Andy looked even more confused at his wife's ranting. "What nonsense are you talking about?" Amy nearly shouted. Amy stepped in, frowning, and said, "Gina may be a country girl, but she is understanding and sensible. Besides, Andy's relative entrusted her care to him until she finds a job in Y City. I'm certain it is a small matter to let her stay in the house. Don't be so mean," she addressed Abby.

Abby blew out a breath, and exasperated over the situation. "Mom…" she began. "Do you really think I am a selfish and cruel person and I will not welcome those who need a home temporarily?"

Abby asked. Then eyes flashing with fire she continued, "If she did not say those things to Cindy, I would definitely not ask her to leave the house." Eyebrows raised she turned to Andy, "Do you know what she told Cindy?"

Abby then looked at Cindy and motioned her to come. "Cindy, please come here." She waved at the little girl, feeling guilty that she had ignored her daughter and her feelings lately.


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