So we've come to the end of this story. Thank you so much to all of you who've stayed with me during all this time. I really am very grateful!
MY BOYS – CHAPTER 10
Owen was in the backyard of his house, sitting by the grass building a tower out of blocks with Robbie and Danny while Thomas and Lucas ran around in superman capes, scaring away the birds and pretending to be superheroes.
It was Saturday afternoon, but Amelia had been paged at 5 AM to scrub in on an emergency surgery. Their guests weren't home either; Nancy had left early for the last day of her conference and Carolyn had gone out with Meredith to visit the place where Derek had been buried.
As they entered July, the days started to get much warmer. Owen was wearing only a simple pair of dark shorts due to the fact that after the boys had sprinkled everything with the backyard hose, he had stripped off his wet shirt and hadn't bothered to go pick a new one. When the kids finally seemed tired of running around in the last hours of sunlight, Owen decided it was time to go back inside so they could be properly showered before he started to prepare their dinner.
He slid open the kitchen door, letting the boys pass, and to his surprise, he found Nancy sitting there, a laptop plugged into a socket nearby while she typed something sitting on one of the highs stools.
"Nancy, hey," Owen was caught off guard by her unexpected presence. "I thought you were at the conference."
"I was," she replied, staring at him for a second more than it was appropriate, clearly uncomfortable by his shirtless figure, "But since it was the last day, they only had a round table scheduled."
Her eyes asked the question she was too polite to formulate and Owen explained while he took from the fridge 4 colorful fruit popsicles.
"We were playing with the hose outside," he grinned, but it felt awkward to be inspected by Amelia's sister, especially after what his wife had speculated with him the previous night. "It's really hot outside."
"Oh, that's okay," she took his explanation as an apology "You let your kids eat that?" Nancy scowled at the popsicles just as he ripped the bags to help the twins.
Owen didn't understand where she was coming from.
"It's just ice cream," he said with a confused look.
"It has an insane amount of sugar and artificial coloring," Nancy justified.
She was really irritating but Owen didn't want to be rude. After a couple of days with her, Owen could see why Amelia found her insufferable.
"I think they'll survive," He joked, trying to get out of there as fast as possible. Nancy was clearly judging him and she just wouldn't stop looking at him as he helped out the kids. "Guys, let's leave your Aunt Nancy go back to what she was doing and let's take those upstairs. Come on, don't spill any on the floor."
Owen took the boys upstairs, thinking it may be better to order food, after all. He didn't want to share the kitchen with his sister-in-law if it could be helped.
Owen had just put all the boys inside the shower when Amelia parked the car outside. She entered the house and slammed the door accidentally, noting from the living room that she had startled her sister.
"Sorry, didn't mean to scare you," Amelia approached, dumping her handbag on the kitchen counter and opening the fridge without ceremony. "What are you up to?"
"Just answering some emails while I wait for mom to get back so I can take her out to dinner. How was your surgery?"
"Surgeries," Amelia corrected her, "I had to wait nearly four hours for an OR because they were backed up. Too many trauma cases today, I'm glad Owen wasn't on call, otherwise we'd be screwed."
"Well, he seemed to be having fun around here," Nancy took her eyes off her screen to look at her sister "relaxing outside with no clothes on all afternoon."
"What?" Amelia choked on her water. She laughed at the absurdity of the situation taking place in front of Nancy.
"And honestly, Amy, the stuff you guys are feeding these kids. Today I saw Owen giving them ice cream. And yesterday one of them was having a chocolate cookie. It won't surprise me if one of them gets sick because…"
"Vincent and Hannah always ate organic carrots, I presume," Amelia tried to keep her cool and took the opportunity to change topics. "How are they, by the way?"
"They're in Yale," Nancy said like that answered Amelia's question. To Amelia's sister, being in Yale apparently meant having no problems. "You should really consider the choices you're making for your kids right now, Amelia, if you want to send them to an Ivy League, a public kindergarten is a lousy start. You know this better than I; you almost got turned down by Harvard because of your problem."
"Alright, that's it," Amelia raised her palm in a clear sign that her sister should stop talking "You've said enough already, Nancy. Keep the rest to yourself. I'll take care of what I do or do not feed my children and where I send them to school."
"Amy, I'm saying this thinking of your best interest-"
"Are you," Amelia interrupted her, "Really?" Amelia circled around the counter, standing directly in front of her sister. "Because honestly, it sounds like you're always criticizing just to entertain yourself."
Nancy let out an outraged sigh.
"I'm not always criticizing."
"Oh, but you are," Amelia said with conviction. "Ever since you got here, all you've done is tell me how unfit my life is! You don't think my house is big enough; you don't think it is right that I cook, or clean, or do dishes. You always imply how you're better at this and that, and how your life is perfect in every tiny aspect, criticizing Owen like he was the worst thing that ever happened to me, when, guess what, he was actually the best!"
As words started coming out of Amelia's mouth, she wasn't able to stop. "You're here with that attitude of how your life is better than everyone else's, because you're perfect Nancy, you're never late, you're never loud, your house is as tidy and clean as your life but that's not me!" Amelia paced forward but changed her mind and stepped back, furiously scratching her forehead "I'm late and I'm loud, and I often forget to do laundry… I get parking tickets! My husband doesn't run a multi-million dollar company, but he cooks us dinner, he is a good dad and he tries his best!" She felt her eyes get watery but she was too proud to cry at that moment "He is always here for us and I love him… that's enough for me! I like my life the way it is! I wouldn't change anything about it if could, and to see you look down on me like I'm beneath you because I don't live in a mansion makes me seriously wanna punch you on the face!" As Amelia nearly yelled, she realized what she had been saying was true.
Given a choice, she really wouldn't change anything about her life.
She expected Nancy to say she was being ridiculous and dramatic, as her sister often did. But the instant Amelia started to talk about loving the life she had right now, her sister's eyes lost some of its sparkle and the truth suddenly dawned on Amelia and everything began to make sense.
Nancy wasn't jealous of Owen.
All the moments her sister had been caught staring at Owen, she was actually watching him interact with Amelia. Nancy was uncomfortable when she saw Owen kiss her or come near her, when she watched him play with the boys or when Amelia defended him. But it actually had nothing to do with him.
Nancy was jealous of Amelia.
Her sister's constant critics and attempts to undermine Amelia's life and marriage weren't because she thought Amelia's life sucked, but because she envied it.
The more Amelia thought about it, the more it made sense. Nancy was always worried about appearances, but she never mentioned her husband, and to Amelia it had always seen like they had a distant relationship. Both her kids had gone off to University and she didn't remember ever seeing them or hearing about them in the few times Amelia had gone to their mother's for thanksgiving or Christmas.
And it wasn't only Nancy who reserved that treatment for her. Kathleen also had spent the last seven years looking down on Amelia, but she had recently found out her sister's husband had left her for a young secretary. Liz was the only one of her sisters who didn't make her feel like crap, but Liz was always too busy with her seven kids to ever be a part of anything.
Amelia Shepherd, the black sheep of the family, the one who had screwed up everything her entire life was now the only one of the four sisters who could say she was happy in her marriage and satisfied with her life. Her sisters ran successful practices and had outstanding careers, but their personal lives were a mess, unlike Amelia's.
"I never meant to look down on your life, Amelia," Nancy was obviously fighting back tears and her usually arrogant voice was now sounding much more humble and vulnerable. "Quite the opposite, actually. You've gotten pretty lucky, I'd say."
"It has nothing to do with luck," Amelia snapped. "Nobody gave me anything. I fought to build this home and I fight to keep it together every day."
Nancy seemed to think for a moment and Amelia could swear she heard her sister sniffing.
"Of course, you're absolutely right," Nancy stood up and turned her back to Amelia, grabbing her things "I'm sorry I said anything that might have offended you. I really didn't want to upset you."
Amelia was angry at Nancy, furious to be honest, but seeing her sister heartbroken like that really messed with her. She felt a protective instinct develop inside her heart and lowered her voice:
"Nancy, I didn't mean to hurt you, either. I am not judging you. I didn't mean to say you have a shitty life."
"Oh, but I do." Nancy turned around, not bothering to fight back tears anymore. "Who am I kidding, Amy? I've known forever my marriage is over, but I never admit it. I mean, my husband and I barely exchange any words anymore. Hannah and Vincent hate us, the only reason they ever come home is to ask us for more money. I guess I can't really blame them." Nancy took out a tissue from her handbag, politely drying her tears "I mean, we sent them to all the best schools and they went to Europe every summer, but I never really sat down on the floor to play with them the way you do it with your kids. They never welcomed me home hugging my legs and cheering the way your kids do, because truth be told, I never let them. My husband looks at me and he doesn't see a woman, he sees a business partner. I see the way Owen looks at you. And the way he takes care of you and the kids. He is a good guy, Amelia."
"Yeah, he is," Amelia sat beside her sister.
"I know you've been through hell in your life, so you probably know this but I'm going to say it anyway, don't ever take him for granted. I know I did and it ruined my marriage."
"Nancy, you're still young, your life is not over. You can start again. You can be happy."
Nancy was silent for a few seconds, thinking about what her sister had said. Then she broke down crying.
"Since when do little sisters give advice to their big sisters? It's supposed to be the other way around."
Amelia chuckled and was compelled to do something she had never done before; she hugged Nancy. As her arms involved the fragile figure of her sister, she felt Nancy crushing her against herself, as if she had been needing that hug for a long time.
When they finally broke apart, Amelia encouraged her:
"I'm not just saying this, Nancy, I mean it. If you're not happy with your life, you can change it. You have the strength inside yourself, I know you do."
"Thanks" Nancy sheepishly agreed.
Amelia didn't know what to say anymore, so she just waited until her sister pulled herself back together.
"You know, I've always known one day you could turn your life around and become an example for other people, Amelia. It seems like you really have."
As Nancy said the words, she left the kitchen, heading to the guest room. Amelia stood by the counter, thinking about what she had just heard and not quite believing it. Never in a million years had she thought she would hear anyone in the family say that.
She had always been the wrong, the unfit Shepherd. As she grew older, Amelia had accepted that her relatives thought ill of her but as of now, she'd matured enough so that she didn't feel like her mother's or her sisters' approval were necessary for her to be happy anymore. The last seven years were proof of that. Ever since she had married Owen and taken control of her own life going against of what her family thought was right and towards what really made her happy, Amelia had experienced a feeling of freedom like no other. She had done it, she had chased happiness and she had moved on with her life, from her obscure past to her gratifying present. And it paid off a great deal every day.
But still, to hear her sister say that she had become an example meant more than anyone could ever imagine. And Amelia believed her, finally being able to make peace with her past.
Amelia went upstairs, to find Owen and the kids sitting on their king size bed, watching cartoons on the TV. The boys had a healthy color to their faces and their blonde hairs were still wet from the shower. Amelia was so happy to see them she couldn't begin to describe it.
"Momma!" One of the twins stood up on the bed, quickly followed by the other.
Amelia stood by the edge of the mattress, her arms wide open to welcome them in her embrace.
"Oh, I missed you guys so much!" She rejoiced in their happy smiles when they saw her.
"Momma, dad says he isn't cooking tonight, can we go out, please, please?" Lucas greeted her with a toothless smile.
"Oh, Luke, you lost a tooth!"
"Yeah, it happened during lunch!" The boy proudly showed off his new smile "So, mama, can we, please?"
"Luke, mom's been working since very early this morning, she is very tired. Why don't we order something? You guys can choose what this time."
"No, it's okay, really." Amelia lay on the bed, dragging Thomas down with her and covering his head with kisses "We can go out to that space place." She knew that Lucas's desire to go out had everything to do with the themed restaurant.
"They have spaceships, mom," Thomas smiled from ear to ear.
"Yes, baby, they do," Amelia smiled back and moved her body on the bed, nestling next to her husband.
"Hi," Owen smiled at her, placing one lock of her hair behind her ear, "Someone looks tired."
"And happy to be home," She kissed him on the lips hearing Lucas's 'eww'. "Just keep thinking like that until you're 20, ok?" She told her son.
The boy gave her a confused look but quickly hurried up to his bedroom in search of his astronaut shirt, being closely followed by Thomas.
"You're really up for going out?" Owen asked her as she turned around to face him, watching the twins, whose attentions had gone back to the cartoon on the TV. "I know you're tired, I can take Luke and Tom if you want to stay home."
"No, let's go," Amelia was exhausted but she wanted to spend time with their family, especially after the moment she'd just had in the kitchen with her sister. She felt like she had no time to lose. Every day, she was given a chance to create those memories with her family. She didn't want to miss out on any of it.
"Ok, then." Owen gave her a meaningful look as his hand traveled up toward her waist, playing at the exposed skin at the hem of her shirt. Once he locked eyes with her, he slid his palm beneath the shirt onto her stomach, his thumb playing on her bellybutton as he gently squeezed the soft skin of her belly. "You know, maybe when we come back, we can put another baby in there."
"What?" Amelia laughed hard at the insane idea. Owen's hand was so large it nearly covered the whole area of her stomach, but she loved feeling the touch of his rough palm against her delicate skin. "You're very funny."
"Think about it, babe," Owen lay down next to her, propped his head up on his elbow to look directly into her eyes. "Wouldn't you love to have another baby? Maybe we could have a girl."
"It could always be another boy, you know… fifty-fifty" Amelia blurted out, but when she realized she had actually been dragged to his insane idea, she disregarded it "Or maybe, it could be none. No more babies."
"Or maybe," Owen continued with his game, being adorably sweet as he drew idle circles with his fingers around her bellybutton "This is the perfect time for us to have a daughter. She would have four big brothers. The boys would be thrilled to have a sister. This house could use some flowers, and butterflies and princesses tiaras. There's too much blue in here already."
"You mean, the house that is already too small for its present occupants?" Amelia teased him, recalling the way he had "sided" with her sister before.
Owen laughed at her sassiness, knowing it wouldn't be Amelia if she didn't take the opportunity to get back at his comment when she felt he had not "taken her side".
Amelia looked at him, saw the hope in his eyes and smiled gently into his lips. Her family with Owen was everything she had ever dreamed of. She thought having another baby was an insane idea; they were already in over their heads with four kids. But she didn't have the courage to deny him something that she knew would make him so happy.
"I will think about it," she said, not really agreeing or denying.
Owen was satisfied with her answer and bent his head forward, capturing her lips in a sweet, long kiss.
"Mom, Dad, we're ready!" Lucas and Thomas came back storming inside the room, dressed in astronaut shirts.
"Eww, you're kissing each other again," Lucas scowled, making his parents laugh.
"Yeah, one day you will have a girlfriend and won't think like that, buddy." Owen smiled at him, changing his clothes to go out to dinner.
"I don't like girls," Lucas said with conviction. "All they do is dance ballet and try to hold hands with me. They don't like it when I invite them to play soccer with me." He added, very offended.
Amelia laughed at her son's disappointment with the opposite sex, grateful it would be a while before any of their sons started showing interest in girls. She did not look forward to dealing with that.
"Alright, let's go," she said, after she had changed Danny and Robbie.
Amelia spent the next two hours having the time of her life as she listened to Lucas's and Thomas's stories and theories about the universe and how they would become astronauts one day, except maybe for when Lucas would be playing soccer down on Earth. The twins tried to participate in every conversation that was started, looking up to their oldest brothers in a loving manner. Amelia was impressed by how their vocabulary was quickly improving. They would turn two later that month, just three weeks after Lucas's sixth birthday.
The boys fell asleep on the way back and while Amelia left Owen the job of carrying them inside, keeping busy with changing their clothes into pajamas and putting them in their beds. When Owen came back from the twins' room, closing the door after him, he went to the check on the oldest boys, finding Amelia sound asleep next to Thomas in a car shaped bed. She had probably fallen asleep the minute she had finished changing his clothes.
He couldn't help smiling when he noticed how small and fragile she looked sound asleep curled up next to their son. But he knew there was nothing fragile about Amelia. She was tough, strong and very resilient. He admired her more than any other person he knew. Amelia made his life better every day, with her contagious joy, her inner strength and her wonderful smile.
Owen thought about the long day she'd had, and how she still insisted in going out because the boys were thrilled about it. Amelia wasn't satisfied with being good. She wanted to be great. And she was. A great mom, a great wife and a great woman.
He carried her to their room, but this time, she didn't move a muscle when he placed her on the bed. Owen lay next to her, and passed one arm around her waist before falling asleep too. When he woke up the following morning, they were still in the same position.
Nancy and Carolyn left Seattle on Sunday morning, after they all had breakfast together. Owen noticed the change in Nancy's mood; she seemed sadder but at the same time, more honest. Even though he had offered to drive them to the airport, they insisted on taking a cab.
Amelia walked them outside and just as she was about to close the door on her mom's side of the car, Carolyn grabbed her elbow and pulled her closer, within hearing distance of her nearly whispering voice:
"Amy, I know I don't say this nearly enough but it's important that you… I want you to know that I do feel proud when I think of you. Don't go thinking you're a disappointment to everyone because baby, you've more than enough reasons to be proud of yourself."
Amelia wasn't expecting to hear that from her mother, at that moment or ever. She didn't know how to react or what to say, so she just gave her mom a gentle squeeze on the hand that held her arm and watched her, as the cab drove further away.
It felt like a heavy weight had been taken off her chest, a weight Amelia didn't know she had been carrying. She felt happier than she ever remembered feeling and to Owen it was obvious on her expression that something had changed.
They spent the entire Sunday being lazy with the kids. After lunch, the skies turned gray and it started to rain soon after the boys had gone inside. Amelia sat down with Owen to plan their upcoming trip to Florida, checking their reservations and when they were finally alone after the boys went to bed, she decided it was time to tell her husband about the moment she'd had with her sister the previous day and with her mom a few hours before.
Later that night, as she lay naked in Owen's arms, Amelia narrated details of the discussion she'd had with Nancy. He listened carefully as his wife opened her heart to him, sharing how she felt about what she had heard from her relatives. Owen didn't say anything back, he just held her tightly and kissed her head. Amelia knew that in that embrace, a thousand words of understanding and care were said and she didn't need anything else.
As she closed her eyes in the warmth of Owen's body, feeling him fall asleep next to her, she recalled every event in her life that had led her up to that point. Her mind drowned in memories of how she had overcome drug addiction and alcoholism, the loss of her firstborn, of Derek… All the painful decisions she had to make between what was right and what was easy, and how she had never taken the easiest path.
Amelia didn't regret ever making the hard choice. She had fought in her life. A lot.
And ultimately, she had won.
She had the life she had ever dreamed of, and it had all started when the wonderful man next to her held her hand, in a candlelit chapel.
Back then, she didn't have much. She was still struggling, trying to fit in while feeling lost in the world like a million other souls out there.
But now, she had love, a home, and most important of all, a family to call her own. They were her everything: the main reason for her smiles, the first thought in her mind every morning and her biggest and undying source of happiness and love. Everything she did was for them. She was entirely theirs: body, heart and soul.
And they were all hers. Owen, Lucas, Thomas, Robbie and Danny.
I'd love to hear your opinions/impressions !
A couple of people have asked for a sequel, let me know if you guys are up to it!
Thanks for all the support!