We wrote this for Midnight Cougar who stuck with us the entire way, even when the tough got tougher… Thank you, darling. Without you, this story may never have been posted.
Chapter 21 - A little something extra
I've known for a while this day was coming, but I'm not exactly ready for it. Bella has been subtly telling me to wrap my head around it for the last six months, but it's still a shock to me. I am ... stunned ... unprepared … utterly scared shitless … she's my baby girl, after all. She's—
"Daddy? What is you doing?" Inquisitive brown eyes stare back at me; face tilted to the side.
I raise my head from its lowered position, catching sight of my baby. As soon as my gaze meets hers she launches herself at me giggling as I swoop her up above my head. Jesus, she's getting heavy. Good thing I still work out.
I sit her down on my lap and kiss all over her face, making her laugh louder and squeal, "Stop, Daddy, stop. I'm gonna pee."
I set her down on the floor immediately, knowing better than to continue after that statement. I've learned from experience. A very wet one, at that.
"Go on in the bathroom, little love. Daddy'll be in to help you wash your hands," I tell her, scooting her toward the hallway.
Her pigtails bounce as she skips into the bathroom, and I can't help the wistful sigh as I watch her go through the door. They grow up so damn fast. I can feel the frown forming on my face; I'm not ready for this. Not ready at all.
I hear the toilet flush and her little bird-like voice chirps, "I'm ready, Daddy."
Walking into the bathroom, I turn on the water before lifting her up and holding her over the sink to wash her little hands. I sigh again. I really am not fucking ready.
"Is you sad, Daddy?" My little one asks me with a furrow between her brows.
Looking at myself in the mirror I can see the frown still etched on my face. The thing is, I want to be happy, I do, but she's my baby. How am I supposed to let her go?
I carry the giggling, squirmy girl airplane style back into the room, flipping her upside down onto the bed where she crawls up to the pillows and lays down, putting her thumb in her mouth. We're really going to have to try and break that habit soon.
I flop down on the bed beside her. "Did Mommy send you up here to take a nap?" I ask, puckering my face in a way that always makes her giggle.
She nods before answering, "But, I'm not sleepy."
"You want to cuddle with Daddy?" I yawn, covering my mouth and getting comfortable. "Daddy's tired."
She snuggles into my side and the memories it brings forth make me sigh again. I definitely am not ready for this.
We lay there and I stroke her hair, listening as her breathing gets slower and more regular.
I don't even remember closing my eyes.
"Daddy, Daddy," Charlotte yells from down the hall. "I is ready for the homeworks now." She comes running toward me holding her Dora the Explorer colouring book and pack of markers. "How was school, Daddy?"
I pick her up and kiss her cheek. "It was great, Char. How was your day with Mom?"
"Momma brought me to da park and we seen some tuttles," she replies with a lisp that has her little mouth puckering as she tries to say each word carefully. I'm so proud of my little girl. She always tries so hard and never gives up, no matter what.
"Some turtles, huh?" I laugh, setting her down and getting my books out of my backpack. Algebra and French homework tonight. It sucks ass. I have an exam in two days and can't seem to figure out the square root of Pi.
"Yeah, dat's what I say, Daddy. Tuttles." She puts her crayons and colouring book on the table beside my schoolbooks and climbs on her booster beside me. "And den we seen some fish. There was some orange fish and some blue fish and some popple fishes. They was pwetty." Her big blue eyes widen as she tells her tale, and I can't help the laugh that bubbles from deep within my chest. After the crappy day I've had, coming home to her sweet voice and infinite, unconditional love is something I look forward to.
"Oh, yeah? And where's Mom now?" I take out a pencil and wait for her answer. I'm pretty sure I won't be doing much homework while she's sitting next to me because she tends to talk. A lot. At almost three, Mom says she sounds way older and is way more inquisitive than the tiny toddler she actually is.
"She went potty." Charlotte shrugs and picks up a coloured pencil. I use this as my cue to try and get a little homework done while she's busy colouring Boots and Swiper.
"Edward?" I can feel a hand stroking the side of my face and peek an eye open. Noticing how dark it is and no longer feeling the warm body pressed against mine, I bolt up in bed and look around.
"She's fine; she got up about an hour ago and came down. Said for me to 'leave Daddy, he has the sads.'"
I frown again.
"Want to talk about it?"
I look into my wife's eyes and I can't hold back, I never could. Not after that one time I held back and almost destroyed the best thing I ever had. "I don't think I can do it, Bella," I whisper, sighing and running a hand through my hair. "I mean, I'm not ready. How do I do this?"
She sighs, sitting down beside me on the bed. I take her hand and lean into her for comfort.
"I've tried to tell you," she says softly, playing with the hair at the nape of my neck. A shiver runs down my spine and I squirm a little, nuzzling her neck.
"I know," I pout, "but, I guess, I just didn't think it would happen so soon. I mean she's so little."
At this my wife snorts, raising her brow at me. "Edward, she's twenty-three."
Groaning, I bury my face in the crook of her neck and breathe in her scent. It calms me a bit and reminds me she's right here, sitting on my bed, next to me, and the kids are somewhere else in the house.
I place kisses along her collarbone, causing her to move her head to the side, giving me more room to plant more kisses up along her jaw until I am right under her ear. I breathe against it, causing her to moan and then whisper, "Let's have another."
She pushes me back laughing, before saying, "Edward, we decided three was our limit. Or did you forget about that appointment you have booked for next week?" She arches a brow and smirks.
Shit, I had forgotten about that. I still have time to change her mind ... maybe. I look at her, giving her my best puppy-dog face, but she just laughs louder.
Standing up and shaking her head, she points toward the bathroom. "You need to shower now. Everyone will be here soon."
"Ma and Pop still coming?" I ask.
"Yes, and my parents, Angela, Ben, and the girls. They're all really excited."
I wish I could be excited too, but I know what's coming, and I just can't muster it right now. Maybe after my shower, but I need to think some more. Surely there's a way to stop this madness.
"I know what you're thinking Edward Cullen," Bella says sternly, as she's walking out of our bedroom. "And you stop it, right now."
Shit, now she's getting pissed. I sigh and move to wrap my arms around her. "I'll try." I kiss her cheek, giving her a messy raspberry while I'm at it.
"Try harder," she orders, kissing me quickly, then shooing me toward the bathroom while she wipes her cheek with the back of her hand. "And don't do that in front of the kids." She shakes her head while walking down the hall.
I can't wait for this night to be over.
"Dad!" Garrett yells, slamming into me as I round the corner into the living room.
He always greets me this way. It doesn't matter if I've been upstairs for five minutes, or at work for eight hours, the kid's always so excited to see me. I've never been so happy as I was when he grew those extra four inches. Getting a head to the stomach is a lot more pleasant than getting a head to the balls.
"Hey, buddy," I respond, ruffling his hair. "Your sister here yet?"
He frowns, gruffly saying, "Yes, and she brought him with her." Crossing his arms over his chest, he toes the ground and narrows his eyes. "I don't like him, Daddy."
I have to stifle my laugh. If Bella heard him she'd be all over both of us. Charlotte has always been Garrett's favourite. Despite their gap in age, they've always been close. No matter how old she got, she'd take him to the movies or to the park. Then when she moved out of the house, she'd take him to her apartment for weekends at a time, just to hang out and spend time with the little guy. In short, she was a real godsend, especially after Katie was born.
To Garrett's chagrin, things have changed a little over the last year, though. When Charlotte met him the dynamic changed—she still does everything she used to do with her little brother, but now he tags along too, and Garrett isn't used to sharing Charlotte's attention. He'd had her all to himself for three years, and even after Katie was born, Charlotte still made a point of taking Garrett on his own to do special things. She took Katie as well, but it was no secret that she and Garrett had a special bond.
"You have to get used to him, Gar," I tell him, giving him a hug. "I don't think he's going anywhere."
"Words you should take to heart from what I hear, son," Dad says, coming out of the kitchen.
I walk over and hug him. "When did you and Ma get here?"
"Just a few minutes ago. Katie was telling us about how you and she napped together, and how we 'need a be nice to Daddy, 'cause he has the sads.'" He snorts; doing finger quotes while repeating Katie's words, and rolls his eyes at me when I groan.
"I'm not sad, Dad, I just ... don't know if I'm ready for what's coming," I explain, taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly. I feel like my heart's going to beat right out of my chest.
"Maybe you should talk to Charlie about that one." He laughs, clapping a hand over my shoulder and giving me a little shake. "All part of growing up, son."
I can't help but chuckle, because as much as he doesn't seem to be bothered by what I know is coming, I know he's as affected by this as I am. After all, he did practically raise her as his own and, as odd as it sounds, she's almost as much his daughter as she is mine.
Walking into the living room, I can't help but scowl just a little. He is sitting a little too close to Char for my liking. I cough, and not because I need to clear my throat. When his attention shifts to me, I give him the stink eye and proceed to get a pointy elbow to the ribs, courtesy of Bella. I try and give her a dirty look, but she arches her brow in warning.
Seriously, is it not enough that he's attempting to steal my oldest daughter's affection; he has to try and steal my youngest one's, too? Katie's sitting perched on his lap, babbling away, and he's nodding his head and smiling down at her.
I scowl again. Dammit, there's no way I could ever hate this kid.
"Katie, come and see what I have for you," I call out across the room. Yes, I'm being a child. No, I don't care. He's taking away my eldest and plans to make her his bride. I'm allowed to be an ass.
I quickly dig a quarter out of my pocket to give Katie. I don't want the kid to think I'm a liar. She adores me and I want it to stay that way. Unlike my other traitorous daughter who wants to leave me.
Shit. I have a lump in my throat. Maybe I'm getting sick.
"Monies!" Katie squeals; running and jumping in my arms. I hug her, maybe just a bit too tight because she grunts a little. She squirms, and I let her down, then watch her run right back to him. "Look! Look, Daddy gived me monies!"
"Gave," he corrects her, and I kind of want to fucking strangle him. She's just a baby, like my other baby. You know, the one he's trying to take from me.
"Dad," Charlotte greets me, and her tone's half-amusement, half-warning. She crosses the room and hugs me hard, pinching my side at the same time. I yelp and move away from her.
Everyone in the room is laughing now and I would feel bad, but I don't, so I won't. Yeah, that doesn't make sense to me either.
I blatantly ignore him as I greet Renee and Charlie, Angela, Ben and their girls. Charlotte grabs my hand and pulls me right toward him. "Daddy, you remember Peter, don't you?" she asks me. How could I forget? He's been around for the past year. Besides, I could never forget the motherfucker who's probably— No, no, I can't go there … She's pure … She's innocent. I want to throw up.
Peter, a.k.a. the man who's going to try and steal my baby from me, is a thirty-year-old professor at the University of Toronto. Charlotte was never in his classes, but they met on campus and it was "love at first sight." Her words not mine. He probably just saw a pretty, young girl and nefariously plotted to take her away from her father. Like one of those mustache twirling villains in the movies.
I think it's sick. The man's seven years younger than I am. He's way too old for my baby girl.
Bella loves him. She thinks he's good for Charlotte; that he grounds her. When I try to tell her grounding Charlotte' is my job she reminds me Charlotte's a grown woman now and to "get over myself."
I love my wife. I know she's right, but it doesn't make me feel any better.
I force myself to shake his hand. I don't want to look like I hate the guy, even though I do … maybe … just a little.
Okay, fine. I don't hate him. He's nice. He's smart. He's got a good job. And treats her like a princess. But she's my princess, dammit.
"How's it going, Pete?" He hates being called Pete almost as much as I hate being called Eddie. Vedder's the only one who's ever pulled that off successfully. I like that it irks him, though.
Charlotte glares, and Bella rolls her eyes. "Going well, sir." He smiles and puts his arm around Charlotte's waist, pulling her against his side. She looks up at him adoringly, and now I'm the one rolling my eyes.
"Good." I nod, letting go of his hand, but not before giving it a firm squeeze.
"Well," Bella says, elbowing me again. "I think dinner's almost ready. Why don't we all go sit in the dining room?"
Dinner's awkward—Peter has this really annoying habit of feeding Charlotte from his fork. It makes me want to puke and ask him if he thinks she's Katie's age.
Renee and Charlie seem to think it's cute. Angela and Ben look suitably mortified by it, and their girls are giggling quietly behind their hands. My dad looks about ready to yell and my mom's whispering in his ear.
Despite her best efforts to engage him in conversation, Garrett's being very short with Charlotte. I can tell it's upsetting her, and I'm torn between wanting to tell her what's bothering him and knowing it's up to the two of them to sort it out.
After dinner I get up and start clearing the table, as I always do, but Bella's hand on my arm stops me. I look down at her with a raised brow.
"I think Peter wanted to speak to you, in private," she whispers to me.
Oh, my God; can this not wait until at least my food has settled? I feel as if I'm going to lose my dinner. I'm not ready for this step; I can't do this. I can't.
But then I glance at Char, and the look on her face breaks me. She looks equal parts nervous, scared, and happy … She looks happy, and I can't be the one to make her look anything but. So, I put the plates down, square my shoulders, look Peter right in the eye and say, "You needed to speak to me privately?"
He drops his fork and stammers, "Y-yes, yes, sir." I can see his hands shaking a little, so I choose to ignore the kiss he plants on my daughter's lips and with a sigh lead him to his death.
I'm just kidding, but I do lead him to the music room.
As we walk out I hear Charlotte ask Garrett if she can help him clean up. I hope she takes the time to talk to him.
We walk into the kitchen and I can see the scowl in his face. God, he looks so much like Dad when he does that. I can't understand why he's in such a foul mood. Maybe he's had a bad week or something. But if anyone can get it out of him it's me.
"So, Gar-bear, how was your week?"
He huffs out, "Fine."
No matter what I do to try and engage him in conversation tonight he's been short with me, but now that we're alone I plan to get to the bottom of it.
"Okay," I say, putting the plates in the sink to rinse them. "What's the deal?"
"Gar, I know something's bothering you. Dad and Bella aren't fighting, are they?" Now I'm getting worried. Dad and Bella never fight.
I sigh, frustrated; if it's not Dad and Bella, I have no idea what it could be. I'm sure he'll tell me eventually, though, so I shrug it off and start rinsing the dishes, passing them to him to place in the dishwasher.
"So, that new Lego movie is coming out this weekend and Peter and I want to take you."
"I don't wanna go," he mumbles, not looking at me.
"But you've wanted to see it together since we saw the trailer." I turn to him and raise an eyebrow.
"I said I don't want to go." He's speaking through clenched teeth.
I pass him another glass. "Well, Peter and I just thought—" I'm cut off by the sound of smashing glass and look in Garrett's direction, hoping none of it landed on him or cut him.
"I SAID I DON'T WANT TO GO!" he yells. "I HATE HIM, AND I HATE YOU, TOO!" He whips around and runs to the back door, opening it and slamming it behind him.
I can feel the tears welling up in my eyes. I have to fix this, but I don't know how. I don't understand why he's so angry. Peter loves him; I love him. He's been my little man ever since the day I watched him come into this world by Bella's side.
I wipe the tear from under my eye, then hear a throat clear behind me and turn to see Bella standing there. She moves to clean up the glass on the floor, and I stand there helplessly watching her. "You okay, Char?"
I start to nod, but my lower lip trembles harder, and I shake my head furiously and burst into tears.
She takes a few steps toward me and wraps her arms around me. "You know," she says softly, rubbing my back. "For the longest time it was just you and your dad, remember?"
I nod, sniffling, my shoulders bobbing with my heartfelt sobs.
"Do you remember how you felt the first time he had a girlfriend?"
I let out a low, involuntary keening noise, nodding furiously. Oh, boy, do I ever.
I skip in the front door, making sure it doesn't slam behind me; I know Mom hates that. I hear a noise in the living room and go in to investigate. When I grow up I'm going to be a police detective. I tiptoe to the entrance of the living room. Daddy's sitting on the couch with a girl. I tilt my head to the side and stare. Is it possible to get a boo-boo there?
"Daddy?" I call out, and he and his friend jump apart. "Does your friend have a boo-boo on her lip?"
Dad's face turns red. His friend's doesn't, though. She smiles at me, and I narrow my eyes. I don't know her.
Dad runs a hand through his hair. "Geez, Char, I think I need to get you a bell or something."
I'm confused—why would he get me a bell? What would a bell do? I start to ask him question after question. It's what detectives do, you know.
"All right, all right, Char." Dad laughs. "Enough with the inquisition."
"What's an in - an, in-quinestion?" I ask.
"Inquisition," he says in that tone he uses when he's trying to teach me stuff. I hate that tone. I stick out my tongue at him. "It means: too many questions."
The girl beside him giggles. I narrow my eyes again. Is she laughing at me? I hate to be laughed at.
"Come here, Char. I want you to meet Daddy's friend. Char, this is my friend Sarah. Sarah, my daughter Charlotte."
Mom always said I need to be nice, even if I want to kick someone. And Sarah makes me want to kick her.
Like Ben on the playground, she stares too much; I don't like being stared at. But I need to be nice; Mom will ground me if I'm not. So, I stick out my hand.
"Nice to meet you." I don't know if it really is nice, but I'll pretend, like when I play Barbies.
"Nice to meet you too, Charlotte," she says back, and maybe she's pretending too, 'cause she smiles at my daddy as if she just solved a really hard math problem or something. Dad calls that face "being proud."
That night when he's tucking me in, Dad tells me that his friend Sarah wants to do stuff with us. Like go to the park and the movies. I don't want her to do those things with us though; those things are for me and Dad only.
"Oh, God, Bella," I say to her; tears still streaming down my cheeks. "I didn't even realise."
She hugs me. "It's okay, Char. I know what it's like when you're in love. I also know that you know how to fix it now."
The one thing I've always loved most about Bella is her ability to not choose sides, even though, biologically, I'm not hers she's never made me feel any less. She always knows when to give me a nudge in the right direction, but she also knows when Garrett or Katie is crossing a line.
I hug her again before heading to the backyard to see Garrett. He's twisting himself on a swing; his head down and shoulders slumped. I walk up slowly, not wanting to scare him away. The last thing I need is to make him run. I can see he's crying, and it breaks my heart a little to know I haven't been sensitive to his feelings. I should've known better.
"Is this swing taken?" I ask, motioning to the swing beside him. He shrugs, wiping his eyes with his sleeve.
I take the swing next to him. "I owe you an apology."
He looks up at me, shocked. "But I yelled at you, and I said—" He starts to cry again. "I said I ... hate you Char, and I don't hate you. I love you."
I stand up from the swing and crouch down in front of him, wrapping him in my arms and holding him while he cries. Once he's calmed down a little I start again. "So, I should've realised it was wrong to have Peter with us every time we went out. I didn't even do that with Katie, and it was wrong. I ... I wanted you to like Peter."
He sniffs and wipes his nose on his sleeve … eww. "I just ... I want us to have our time, you know? I think you like him more than me. Like you don't want me anymore, 'cause he's always there."
If it was possible to feel worse, I would right now. "Oh Gar, you'll always be my special little guy; you're my brother, nobody will ever replace you. But I'm growing up, and one day I'll have kids of my own, but it won't mean I'll love you any less. It'll simply mean the time we do have together will be more special."
He hugs me. "I don't hate you Char, and I guess—" He mumbles and I can't hear the rest.
"You guess what?" I ask, holding my hand up beside my ear.
"I guess I don't hate Peter. I just wish he didn't have to come with us every time." He sniffs and wipes his nose on his sleeve again. Someone needs to talk to him about that … gross.
I ruffle his hair. "Listen, I promise we'll do stuff just the two of us again." He looks up at me with a huge watery smile. "We'll start with The Lego Movie, okay?"
He grins. "Deal."
"Hey Gar, can you do me one favour, though?"
"Can you lay off Peter a little bit? He really wants you to like him, and I think he has enough trouble with Dad."
Garrett laughs before running toward the house. "Yeah, I don't think Dad likes him much. I heard him telling Mom something about 'stealing innocence' and how 'gross it is.' What does that even mean, anyway?"
My face blushes red and I mutter, "I'll tell you when you're older."
But what Garrett said about Dad not liking him much has me worried what's going on in the music room. Peter and I discussed it ahead of time, so I know what he's doing; hell, the whole family knows, but now I'm nervous what Dad's going to say.
I go back in the kitchen and Bella's hugging Garrett, whispering in his ear. When she looks up at me she smiles and gives me a wink. I love Bella; I always have, but moments like this make me love her more, and I hope she's told Dad to behave.
"So I hear congratulations are in order?" I slap Pete on the shoulder, a little harder than what would usually be a friendly gesture, and motion for him to sit. "You know, usually the boyfriend asks the father for permission before he asks his girl to marry him."
I'm being a jerk. I know how antiquated that tradition may seem in this day and age, but I would've liked for him to come to me before dropping to his knee and asking my baby for her hand in marriage.
He nods, sitting across from me. "I know, sir. It was very unexpected. As you know, I didn't even have a ring."
I get, it. I do. They were caught up in each other and apparently he blurted it out, then proceeded to get on his knee and do it like a gentleman, sans ring, mind you. "I get that, Pete, but there're steps to these things. What if I object?" I raise an eyebrow in question, waiting for him to give me a good answer.
He looks down at his hands, wringing them on his lap as he seems to contemplate my question.
He looks up at me then, his eyes searching my face as if I've got the answer written there, or something. "Edward, sir, I love Charlotte. I love her like I love living; like I love breathing. I love her when she wakes up and when she goes to sleep. I love her when she's mad and happy and sad. I've never felt this way about anyone, which is why I never married any of them. I know we have challenges ahead of us, our age being one of them, but you have to understand, I wouldn't have asked her to be my wife if I didn't feel the way I do."
I nod, my throat feeling tight. I can see in his face, in his eyes, and the way he speaks so openly that he's telling the truth. His words are how I feel about Bella, how I felt all those years ago when we first fell in love, and I completely drop my guard as I nod. "That'll do." I extend my hand to shake his. "You can marry her, Peter."
The look on his face, relief and happiness and so many other emotions, is worth every ounce of grief I've given him over time. He's earned my respect and earned my daughter's hand.
"Thank you so much, sir."
"Call me, Edward. Just … Edward." I don't feel old enough to be called "sir" every time he comes here. He's apparently going to be a large part of our lives, so we may as well bury the hatchet. "And keep in mind that you may have a daughter one day. Treat my baby the same way you'd like your daughter's future husband to someday treat her."
He chuckles nervously and nods. "I will, Edward. You won't regret this. I promise."
I put my hand on his shoulder and look him straight in the eye. "I'll hold you to it."
When he moves toward the door and looks back at me, I raise an eyebrow and make the universal 'I'm watching you' motion, pointing two fingers toward my eyes and back to him.
His eyes widen in response and I smirk, knowing I'm still able to rattle him.
I'm so nervous waiting for Dad and Peter to come out of the music room. When they finally emerge, Peter flashes me his gorgeous smile, reassuring me everything's okay. And later, when he gives me a ring, in front of my entire family, I'm pretty sure my face goes up in flames, it's so red. I had no idea he was going to do that, officially, in front of everyone.
I can see Mom and Bella wiping their eyes and Grandma Renee and Aunt Angela are both beaming. Pops, Grandpa Charlie, and Ben all seem to be pretty happy, too. Garrett's talking to Peter, something that makes me happy, given what happened this afternoon, and Katie's twirling in a corner, unfazed by everything happening around her. I smirk at that. She's always off in her own little world, reminding me a lot of myself at that age, from what I've been told.
Looking around the room to find my dad, I frown when I can't see him.
"I'm gonna go see if Dad's okay," I whisper to Peter.
I wander around the downstairs until I catch sight of him sitting outside; forearms resting on his knees and his head down. Opening the door quietly, I close it behind me, but its soft click alerts him to my presence. He glances up at me briefly, before looking away and trying to subtly wipe beneath his eyes.
I sit down beside him and rest my head on his shoulder, like I would do when I was a little kid and was too scared to go to school, or of the monster under my bed. Or even those times when I was sick and wanted my daddy when Mom just didn't do. My dad had the strongest shoulders in the world, and I knew he'd always protect me.
"Are you happy, Char?" he asks suddenly, quietly. "Really, really happy?"
I sigh, a smile playing on my lips. "Yeah, Dad. I really am."
His sigh is sad and soft, as though he's trying not to cry. "That's all I ever wanted for you, you know? But I still see you as my baby girl. I don't know how to get over the fact you're old enough to get married."
I kiss his cheek, then choke out, "Oh, Daddy," and throw my arms around his neck.
We sit there, enjoying the quiet again, both sniffling and wiping what I hope are happy tears on both our parts, then he pulls a picture out of the pocket on the front of his shirt. Pictured is an awkward, gangly looking teenager. The look on his face is a mix of pride, fear, and awe. In his arms is a tiny little bundle of pink with oddly coloured hair. I realise quickly that it's the first picture of my dad holding me.
"Do you know what I was thinking in this moment right here?" he asks, gesturing to the picture.
"Oh shit, I'm totally fucked?" I giggle lightly, wiping under my eyes and smiling.
"Language, Char," he chides, laughing. "Do you remember the first time you said a bad word?" he then asks suddenly.
Do I ever.
It's hot; it's so hot, running around, under the water, twirling, spinning. Spinning is fun, but I'm getting dizzy. Daddy's talking to that guy. He can't see what I'm doing—giggling, laughing. I glance at Daddy, still not looking. The water's wet and now I'm cold. Where's Mom? Want my towel. Shivering, cold.
Mom's not here, just Daddy, still talking to that guy. Don't like him. He looks at me mean. I'm calling Daddy, finger up like "hold on." Cold, shivering, water in my eyes. I don't like water in my eyes. Where's my towel.
I stomp over. "Daddy."
"Hold on, Char."
"Daddy!" More loud, normally gets me his attention.
"Char, just hold on a minute."
"I want my fucking towel."
Silence. Both Daddy and the man are looking at me. Daddy's got his mad face on. I think I'm in big trouble. Daddy doesn't even say anything as he cleans up our stuff, says something to the man, and we leave the park.
"Boy was I ever in big trouble when we got home," I muse, remembering the shocked expression on his face at hearing me say such a "bad" word.
He pulls me closer, and I snuggle into his side. "Yeah, but so was I. You were in bed when I got the lecture about my language around you."
We both laugh.
We go back to silently looking at the picture, then he finally says, "I was scared shitless, you know? The picture doesn't do it justice. The thoughts I had running through my head … Char, I was sure I was going to break you, or just … fuck you up emotionally or something. I had no clue what I was doing. I was a kid who had a kid."
I laugh a little.
"But Mom told me I was going to be fine, and as long as I loved you that was all you really needed at the end of the day. Material stuff is just that: material. I loved you Char, no matter how many times I fucked up; those times I dropped the ball and wasn't the best father you needed. I've always loved you." He stops to wipe away one of his tears, then one of mine. "And I always will. I'm proud of you. I'm proud of the woman you've become. I'm proud of all the great things you've done in your life. I'm proud of how amazing you are with your brother and sister. Most of all, I'm proud you've found yourself a great guy, one who treats you with the respect you deserve, and I'm proud you're going to be the best wife and mother one day."
"I love you, Dad." I cry, giving him a huge hug.
He hugs me back, just as tight, "I love you too, Char."
Our hug ends and we go back to sitting quietly—me with my head on his shoulder—until Bella comes out and tells us people are starting to get ready to go and Katie's wondering, "Where's my daddy. I needa go sleep and he's gotta check for monsters."
I chuckle and stand up. "Well, I guess Peter and I should head out, too." I wrap my arms around Dad again and kiss his cheek. "Hey, Dad?"
"Thanks for not killing him."
He smirks, that one dimple making a deep impression in his cheek. "It was hard, Char. I'm not gonna lie."
But I know he's kidding, and though he might not want to show it, he does like Peter … maybe … a little.
Walking back in the house, I turn to see Dad and Bella standing there with their heads pressed together. Her hand is on his face and she's whispering something to him I can't hear, and he's nodding his head before he leans in to kiss her. I smile, loving the way they always seem to look so in love with each other.
Giving them some privacy, I hurry inside to say my goodbyes.
The train rumbles along the track, wheels grinding out a familiar rhythm. I stand in front of the gorgeous brunette, much like I did ten years ago today.
I'm right in front of her, invading her space, arms up on the bar, knowing the swaying tilt of the train causes my crotch to rub on the back of her hands as she holds her phone.
Yes, I knew it back then. Yes, I'm a pervert, and I know it's completely as wrong now as it was back then. The only difference is now she's mine and always will be, while back then it was an accident that I didn't make any effort to fix.
We're heading into the city today for my dreaded appointment. Well, dreaded on my part. I would cover my crotch, but it feels really good bumping lightly against my wife's hand. I wonder how she would feel if I pressed a little harder.
When I do, her eyebrow shoots up and she spares me a glance, then goes right back to her phone. I wonder what she's looking at so intently.
I nudge her foot with my boot, she looks up. "What are you looking at?"
She smiles. "Just some pictures of the kids."
I take her hand and help her stand up. Sitting down in her place, I pull her into my lap so we can both see her phone. She scrolls through the pictures as the train ambles on, showing me images she carries with her of our family as it grew: Her, Charlotte and I on one of our first outings; her and Char at the R5 concert; all of us at my family reunion; our wedding day with Char, helping her place her veil on her head; the day Garrett was born—all of us smiling, even though we were exhausted; Char's graduation, her holding Garrett in one arm and her diploma in the other hand. There's picture after picture of Garrett and Charlotte and both of us, until Katie was born. Pictures of the five of us together. Pictures of Charlotte and Peter. Pictures of our extended families on vacation together; running in the sand, building castles.
Bella sighs. "It's hard to believe she's getting married in only three months."
I frown. "It's hard to believe Katie's going to school next year."
She sniffs a little, and I turn her face toward me to wipe the tear that's running down her cheek. "And Garrett's in grade two already."
I kiss her gently.
"Let's skip the appointment."
I tilt her head up so I can see her eyes. "Yeah?"
The train's approaching the next stop, so I quickly get us to our feet and move toward the door. Once the door opens, I don't hesitate to get off it and pull her out of the way of the crowd until she's up against the wall. I cage her in with my arms. "You sure?"
She nods. "Yeah."
I smile. "Yeah."
I lean in and kiss her softly; taking my time and exploring her mouth, tasting her sweetness before pecking her lips and moving back to lean my forehead against hers.
We smile at each other as I lean in for another kiss. I make sure to keep myself in check, holding her closely, but discretely. After all, we aren't Alice and Jasper.
We'll save the baby-making until we get home.
And by little...we meant BIG! We hope you've enjoyed this last little tidbit with these two. We will certainly miss them, but plan on writing more together in the future. :D
Maple and Missy