The next morning, Grant woke up before the kids did. He puttered around the kitchen, making coffee and pancakes. They hadn't gotten back home until after midnight, with the girls falling asleep on the ride home.
Skye came in a few minutes later, stretching and yawning. "I can't believe that you're already up."
"My body is finely tuned machine, geared to function on limited sleep," he deadpanned.
Skye giggled, wrapping her arms around him and kissing him on the cheek. "Good to know."
"Coffee?" Grant offered.
"Nah. My tummy's bit rumbly this morning. Too much cotton candy in the park."
Grant cocked his head to the side. "That's been happening a lot lately. Are you sure you're alright?'
"I'm sure," Skye said vaguely. "You made pancakes!" she exclaimed as looked over to the stove.
"They're nearly done. I've got the oven on low to warm them until the kiddos wake up. Do you want to hide the eggs while I finish up?" Since they didn't have a backyard, Skye had planned to hide Easter eggs around the apartment for the girls.
"Great idea," she said and then walked over to the closet to find where she had hidden the eggs.
The girls and their parents didn't wake up until well past eight. Sandra and Sofia squealed in glee as they saw their large Easter baskets filled with Disney-themed goodies. Then, they raced around the apartment, finding all of the eggs that Skye had hidden in less than five minutes. Afterwards, they ate breakfast together and then everyone got changed for church.
The girls were decked out in matching lemon yellow dresses, bows in their hair. Grant gulped, as they looked more like twins than ever and he reminded himself not to mix them up again and earn Sofia's ire. Once they all arrived at church, the girls were dropped off at the kids' program and Tommy and Marta followed Grant and Skye into the main sanctuary.
"I didn't know that you were much into church," Tommy said as they sat down.
Grant shrugged. "I wasn't . . . for a long time. But, Skye started coming here a few months back and well . . . I thought I'd give it a try."
Tommy smiled. "You have changed."
Grant didn't know what to say. "Thanks."
After a few opening songs, the pastor took the stage, clad in khakis and a button-down shirt. He beamed at the congregation. "Good morning."
"Good morning!" the crowd cheerfully replied.
"It's good to see so many new faces. My name is Pastor Michael; I'm the lead pastor on staff here. Now, for those of you who don't know me, my wife and I have three beautiful children, two girls and a boy. And my kids love the 99 cent store. Any other parents out there that can relate?"
Quite a few hands in the crowd went up, including Tommy and Marta's.
The pastor smiled. "So, I see I'm not alone. We go there almost every week. And you know what my kids want me to buy there?" He paused. "Toys. Cheap, flimsy toys. And I hate it because they always end up like this." He held aloft a twisted piece of plastic. "This used to be a pair of binoculars. Now, it's a piece of trash. The reason I don't like buying toys there isn't that I'm upset that they get broken. I mean . . . they only cost a dollar. No, what bothers me is the way my kids bring me these broken, malformed things and want me to fix them. They want me to put them back together. And I can't. Once they're broken, they're broken. And I feel bad when I look at my kids in the face and I have to tell them that there's nothing I can do."
He took a deep breath, holding the toy up again. "A lot of us feel like this toy. Like we're damaged beyond repair. Like we're useless. Like there's no way to make us whole again."
Grant thought of his past. Of the pain. Of the hurt. Of the anger and cruelty. No matter what he did, the burden of it pulled at him. The self-loathing, the recriminations. He felt weighted down by them.
The pastor continued. "But Easter is a remembrance of good news. Of a hope of redemption, of renewal. Of being made whole, unblemished, complete. Christ's sacrifice gives us a way to let go of our past, free ourselves from the pain that has kept us bound. God loves you and wants to have an abundant life full of joy. That is the radical promise of Easter. Through Jesus' redemptive act, we are released from our past so that we can become the men and women God intended us to be. No longer haunted by our pasts, no longer forced to repeat the same destructive patterns. We are offered life. You are not this toy." He held up the gnarled piece of plastic again. "Whatever your past, you can be made whole. The slate can be wiped clean."
"Remember this. Never forget this. You are loved. Completely and perfectly loved. That's why we have Easter. It is a manifestation of God's love for you. Of the lengths He went to for you to bring you back home, whole and complete, safe and sound."
Not long after the service, Tommy and Marta had to leave. They were planning on going up to San Francisco for a few days before flying out of LAX at the end of the week. Sandra and Sofia gave Grant and Skye their crafts from Sunday school, covered in glue, cotton balls, and glitter. Grant promised that he'd put them up on their refrigerator.
"Thanks again, for letting us stay. It was really good to see you," Tommy said to Grant as Marta buckled the girls into the car. "The girls will be talking about this trip for years."
"Thanks for coming. Thanks for that letter . . . I didn't deserve your forgiveness. The things I've done . . . " and with that, Grant broke down, tears streaming down his face. "I'm sorry, man."
Tommy hugged his older brother for the first time in decades. "Hey, it's okay. Really it is. I forgive you. It's like your pastor said. Grace is getting what we don't deserve. And we all need a little grace. We all need forgiveness. We're good, Grant. Really, we are."
Grant held on tightly for a moment, not wanting to let go. For a moment, he was a little kid again, all the pain and brokenness swept away in a moment of mercy. Finally, he nodded and stepped back. "Thanks."
"You're welcome. You should come out to Maine. We'd love to have you and Skye stay with us. Maybe you could finally learn which one is Sandra and which one is Sofia," he teased good-naturedly.
"I'd like that," Grant said genuinely, feeling more at peace than he had in years.
Once all the good-byes had been said, Grant and Skye trudged up to their apartment, both still tired from the day before. "Do you want me to make lunch?" Grant offered. "I could make chili?"
Skye shook her head. "Not for me. Actually, I need to go to the bathroom. My stomach isn't doing so well."
Grant knit his brow, concern for his wife overcoming him. She had seemed out of sorts lately.
Then, it struck Grant.
Skye's clothes didn't fit her.
She wasn't drinking coffee.
She refused to go on the roller coasters at Disneyland.
She was queasy all the time.
"You're pregnant!" he nearly yelled through the bathroom door.
Skye opened the door and nodded, wiping her mouth with a towel. "I wanted to wait to tell you until after your brother left. I didn't want to overshadow your time with Tommy."
He took her in his arms. "I'm so happy!"
She held onto him, returning the embrace as she kissed him. "Me, too. I know that we thought it might take a little longer, but . . . I can't wait."
Grant nodded. "I'm going to be a dad!"
"That you are."
"You are going to be the most amazing mother ever. I saw you with our nieces. You were incredible," Grant said.
"You were, too."
"So, who do you want to tell first? FitzSimmons or Coulson and May?" Grant asked. He knew that she had probably been dying to tell them.
"Coulson and May. He did walk me down the aisle after all. He should know he's going to be an honorary grandpa. And May's gonna flip at the idea of being a grandma."
Grant kissed Skye once more. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
A new baby on the way, Grant thought. New beginnings, indeed.
Author's Note- Thank you all for your very kind reviews! I'm so glad that you've enjoyed this story. If there's enough reader interest, I might consider writing about SkyeWard and their new baby some time in the future. That might be fun to explore.