Lila anxiously tapped her foot as she sat beside Cass on the sofa the next afternoon. While she was feeling oddly nervous, he looked as cool as a cucumber. She didn't want Dr. Forrester of the Push-Up bra to go after them for how they had kissed and broken the dumb "rules" of her little experiment. Then Lila would have to go after Dr. Forrester in return, and well, it wouldn't be pretty.
Taylor's eyes swept between Lila and Cass before settling back on Lila. "So you two broke the rules then?"
Lila rolled her eyes. "The rules … Damn the rules!" she snapped. "This man beside me – I love him so much and as long as he wants to be kissed – I am damn well goin' to kiss him whenever I want."
Taylor nodded and jotted something in her ever-present chart. Lila sighed and grabbed for Cass's hand. "I am not ashamed of loving my husband and I don't want to wait six months or however long this awkward game plays out to be with him again." She looked at Cass, reaching out and thumbing his cheek. "Tell me, Cass, tell me now. Is there really a chance for us? Can we stop playing these games and just be together? I know I messed up so damn bad but I always have loved you; I always will. There was never anyone else in my heart but you; there never will be."
Cass looked at her. His voice was thick and hoarse. "Lila, baby-"
Taylor interjected, of course. "You heard her wishes, Mr. Winthrop. Now it's time to take an …emotional x-ray, if you will… and tell her what you want; what you need in return."
Cass pressed his cheek to Lila's and his hands found the curls at the ends of dark hair, giving them a light tug. "All I want is Lila; all I need is Lila and our family back together. That's all I've ever longed for. I can't breathe when Lila's not with me; that's the honest truth. If you're ready, Lila, I want to come home; be your husband in every way a man can be."
"Of course I'm ready! That's all I want too, Cass, oh yes it is!" Fat teardrops rolled down Lila's cheeks as she pulled Cass first into a fierce hug and then a passionate lip lock. They might have kissed for hours or mere seconds but it felt amazing. They only came up for air when the damned psychiatrist cleared her throat loudly.
They turned to look at Dr. Forrester. "What?" Lila asked. "Do you not approve?"
"Actually," Taylor said, splaying her hands, "I do approve. You passed my little 'test', shall we say, with flying colors."
"Wait – what about the rules?" Lila asked.
Taylor shrugged and then smiled. "Rules are made to be broken."
Cass beamed. "But I thought-" Lila said. She shook her head and threaded her fingers with Cass's. "Never mind. I will never understand you headshrinkers. All I know is that Cass wants me back; he wants to come home. I am beyond thrilled. I won't let anything come between us ever again – anything at all."
Taylor nodded. "I believe you, Mrs. Winthrop."
Cass kissed the back of Lila's wrist. "I believe that too."
Lila grinned as she looked at Taylor. "Are we done here?"
"Yes," Taylor replied. "Good luck, you two."
Lila nodded and gave Taylor a begrudging smile. "Thank you."
Lila and Cass stood and hand-in-hand, they walked out of the doctor's office together.Together - just the way they had always belonged.
Y – Yearning
Cass returned home, just as he said he would, much to the delight of Lila and their girls. Life resumed much as it had before although Cass and Lila were much more attentive to each other's needs and wants now. Things were good – no, great; wonderful, even – but there were times Cass would look at Lila when she didn't know he was watching and he would see pain in her eyes; note the way her tiny pink fingers would find her flat belly. In those solitary moments, he knew she was thinking about her dead child – yearning for them. Cass felt so helpless to assuage Lila's pain. Especially when he still felt responsible for what had happened.
As Lila's due date – or what would have been her due date – approached, Cass noticed that she became unusually quiet at times, and seemed so far away. He puzzled over how to comfort her; how to reach out to her, but he felt useless. He didn't know how to make her ache dissipate. When Frankie had died, the last thing he'd wanted was people trying to make him feel better when it seemed so impossible.
In the end, he decided to just be there when she was ready to open up to him.
One night, she woke up screaming, desperately clutching the blankets, the words "My baby, my baby!" wrenching from her lips. Cass immediately flipped on the bedside light and looked at her. Tears streaked down her face and her eyes were wild.
"I'm sorry – I didn't mean to wake you," she murmured when she had stopped thrashing about.
"Don't apologize. I am worried about you, Lila."
"Cause of some nightmare?"
"Cause it's not just some nightmare, is it? It's about your baby – the one you lost."
Lila nodded. "Yes… I keep dreaming about them and then tonight, I dreamt I actually got to hold them – it was a boy - and then Matt came and took my son away. Isn't that insane?"
"It's not insane. You are hurting."
"I guess I am," Lila said.
"You want to talk about it?"
"Not at three a.m. in the morning… I just want …"
"What do you want, Lila?"
"For you to hold me; for you to hold me so tight. Can you do that?"
Cass smiled. "Try to stop me." He held out his arms then and she crawled into them. He burrowed his lips in her silky, tussled hair. She pressed her slender body to his and rested her head against his chest.
"This is all I need to start feeling better, Cass," she whispered. "You and our girls give me a reason to keep moving forward. I need you... We're always going to stay together, right?"
"If you'll have me."
"Oh, Cass, you silly man, of course I will. I love you so damned much."
"I love you too, Mrs. Winthrop. Always."
"For better or for worse?" Lila said softly.
"In sickness and in health?"
"Till… till death do us part?" Lila sniffled.
"Forever, Lila, forever," Cass promised. "I mean that."
"Me too," Lila said. She leaned up to press a soft, almost chaste kiss to his lips. He returned the kiss and then smiled gently at her.
"Get some sleep, sweetheart. I will be here if you need me."
"I know you will be," Lila said and snuggled to him. She was soon asleep in his arms. Cass stayed awake the whole night, just watching her.
She had no more nightmares that night.
Z – Zoo
"Oh look at those flamingos!" Charlie enthused as they stopped at the latest exhibit in the Bay City zoo. "They're so pretty! Wait, what are they doing?"
Lila squealed as one of the flamingos was clearly getting frisky with its mate. "Come along, girls!" she said though she could hardly contain her laughter.
"But, Mom," Jasmine whined, "I like those birds."
"Well we can circle back here later and see them when they're not … so busy," Lila said with a snicker. "Now come on; Cass must be wondering where we ran off to."
The girls reluctantly trailed after Lila and they soon found Cass standing on line at a churro cart. He had on a baseball cap and was chatting animatedly with a little boy in the stroller in front of him. The boy was giggling and Lila couldn't resist chuckling too. Cass was such a good man, and so good with kids too.
Cass spotted his three girls and waved them over. He bought them all churros and then Charlie wanted to go see the reptile house. Jasmine was scared to go in, but Cass promised he would not let any harm come to her. Jasmine clung to her stepfather's side for the longest time as he read the placards on each case and told her what sort of creature they were looking at. Lila was so busy looking at him that she didn't notice anything else.
The rest of the day passed perfectly uneventfully. The girls fell asleep in the back seat of the Lexus on the way home. Lila watched Cass from the passenger seat. "Have I ever told you how wonderful you are?" She asked.
"A time or two, but I don't object to hearing it again," Cass said with a smile. He reached over and squeezed her kneecap. "What brought that on though?"
"I just see the way you are with our girls, the way you are with all kids, and Cass … I know this sounds crazy but do you want to have a baby with me?"
"Wait, why is that crazy?"
"I don't know. We just haven't talked about it in a really long time…"
"Do you want another baby?"
"Yes," Lila said. "It's been almost a year since I lost my baby and I'm ready… Assuming you want that too."
Cass smiled. "I do."
Lila grinned. "Want to start trying to make a baby tonight, after we get the girls tucked in for the night?"
Cass nodded. "I want nothing in the world more."
Lila snuggled against him and kissed his cheek. "Me either … I love you, Cass Winthrop."
"I love you too, Lila Winthrop."
THE END (thank the lord!)