Chapter Thirty: When I Look to the Sky
rains, it pours and opens doors
And floods the floors we thought would always keep us safe and dry
And in the midst of sailing ships we sink our lips into the ones we love
That have to say goodbye
And as I float along this ocean
I can feel you like a notion that won't seem to let me go
'Cause when I look to the sky, something tells me you're here with me
And you make everything all right
And when I feel like I'm lost, something tells me you're here with me
And I can always find my way when you are here
"Daddy, are you okay?"
Elena's voice brought Derek back to reality. "Yeah, I'm fine. I was just… thinking."
"Don't tell me you're going to get all sentimental on me," she said playfully, her green eyes glittering. "You promised you wouldn't get all mushy until afterward… because if you do right now, I'll start crying and my mascara will be ruined. I mean, you saw me at Hayden's wedding; the tears were pouring even before Corrine made it down the aisle."
However, Derek could hardly believe that his little girl—the child whom he had rocked to sleep and taught to read and tucked into bed at night—was now a twenty-four-year-old woman who would, in a few minutes, be promising to spend the rest of her life in love and commitment to the man she would call her husband. He had spent days preparing himself to give his little girl away, to entrust her care to another man, but now that the time had come, he wondered where the years had gone.
"What?" she questioned, but she knew that look. It was the "you're growing up too fast, but I'm so proud of you" look. The look he gave her when she brought her fiancé, Brennan Parker, home last Christmas and announced that they were engaged; the look he gave her at her graduation from medical school; the look he gave her when she received the coveted spot as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital.
"You told me not to get sentimental."
"Well… I guess a little bit is okay," she grinned, and for a moment, it was like nothing had changed.
"I was just thinking about that time you and I decided to drive out to the coast for the day. You were what, nine?"
She nodded and smiled. "I'd forgotten about that. We had a picnic by that old lighthouse and then stayed on the beach all day until we finally watched the sunset," she recalled. "What made you think of that, Daddy?"
"You had on that white sundress that you loved so much. Looking at you now just reminded me of that."
Without a word, because she knew that if she tried to say anything she would tear up, she took his hand into both of hers. Even she couldn't help but notice how quickly the time had flown by. Sometimes it scared her a little bit to think about all the responsibility that would soon be hers—as a wife and a doctor, and maybe someday even as a mother. But she knew that through it all, she would always have a hand to hold.
"Hey, we're about to get started," Hayden, now almost twenty-two, announced as he joined his sister and father. However, upon seeing Elena standing there glassy-eyed and holding onto Derek's hand, he shook his head. "Aw, Dad, you said you wouldn't make her cry."
"It's okay, Hayden," she laughed. Her little brother had always been so protective of her, but she was glad to know that he was looking out for her.
"Dad, can I have a minute with Elle?" he requested, and Derek nodded and left the two of them to a moment of privacy.
"I can't believe I've finally gotten you by yourself," he laughed as he and Elena sat down. "You've had an entourage for, like, the past week."
"I told them that there was no way we'd make it to the ceremony without someone bursting into tears, followed by everyone else bursting into tears. When in the world did I become so sappy?"
"Seriously? Um, you've always been that way, Elle," he said teasingly, then added, "But you wouldn't be you otherwise."
Suddenly, Aida burst into the room and demanded bluntly, "What's taking you guys so long? C'mon, let's get this started. I'm freaking starving, and I'm totally pissed that you let Mom convince you to pick these dresses. I mean, seriously!"
Aida, who from appearances seemed delicate and docile, was quite a surprise when she actually opened her mouth. While Elena and Hayden hadn't given their parents so much as a sleepless night from worry, Aida certainly made up for that. The young woman, who would turn eighteen in a few months and would soon be a high school senior, definitely kept things interesting for the Shepherds and everyone else she came across.
Both of Elena's siblings noticed the look she was giving them, but it was Aida, of course, who demanded, "What?"
"I'm getting married today. It seems like just yesterday that we were sitting in the living room in our pajamas, watching old movies and eating ice cream right out of the carton."
"Elle, that was yesterday," Hayden stated with a smile, then extended his arm to his elder sister. "I know a guy who claims he wants to marry you."
"Apparently he has no idea what he's getting himself into with this family," Aida quipped, actually allowing herself a smile. But secretly, she was very happy for her sister. Most of the time she put on an "I hate everyone" façade, but Elena always seemed to know better. And now her big sister was finally home again, with them where she belonged.
"A toast to Mr. and Mrs. Brennan Parker," William Bailey-Jones toasted, raising his glass for his friend and her new husband. He had never seen her quite as happy as she was when she was with Brennan, and he and William had also gotten along right away. As a matter of fact, Brennan seemed to fit into their huge, chaotic, dysfunctional family just fine. After all, in the course of a single week, he'd managed to learn everyone's name, and that was definitely saying something.
"Hey, Brennan, come dance with me. If that's okay with you, Elle," Sophia asked shyly, while Lydia and their little brother Josh waited for them to come.
"Yeah, of course," she permitted happily. "My feet are killing me anyway. I knew I shouldn't have worn these shoes."
"Just take 'em off," Brennan whispered jokingly as he leaned into Elena and kissed her lips softly before following the Karev trio out onto the dance area.
Elena found herself sitting alone, splitting her attention between the glittering rain falling all around them—thank goodness Meredith had insisted on holding the reception under the pavilion—and smiling as she watched her friends and family having a wonderful time. Most people took for granted how fortunate they were to have the lives that they did and the people who loved them, but Elena knew just how lucky she was. She had learned not to take a moment for granted, even the little ones. Every instant with someone you loved was precious.
"Hey, Peanut. How come you aren't out there dancing?" her stepfather wondered, kissing her atop her dark curls before sitting down in the chair beside her.
For the past eighteen years, he had watched Elena grow up. Not only was he proud of the woman that she'd become, but he was also proud of the man that he had become because of her. He never thought he'd be the guy to listen to a twelve-year-old gush about her first real kiss or the one who genuinely sat through a three-hour long ballet recital. She had changed him when he thought that he was just a lost cause.
"I'm watching… and thinking. Did you know that it's good luck to have rain on your wedding day?"
She nodded and explained, "It supposedly means that Bren and I are going to have lots of kids and that our marriage will be successful because we'll be able to overcome problems."
"Good thing you got married in Seattle," he teased. Then he stood, extending his hand, and requested, "May I have this dance, Mrs. Parker?"
Elena laughed and took off her shoes. "I guess they can't hurt if I'm not wearing them, right?" she reasoned and followed her stepfather out onto the dance floor.
Brennan burst into laugher when he saw that Elena had, indeed, taken his advice and abandoned her uncomfortable shoes and was dancing around barefoot. Although he loved everything about her, it was perhaps her lighthearted, carefree spirit that most drew him to her; she balanced him out, and she was exactly what he needed in his life.
He remembered the first time he saw her, sitting in their Medical Ethics class their first week of medical school, already surrounded by people who were drawn to her magnetic personality. Finally, about a month later, he saw her alone in the library and worked up the courage to speak to her. They were friends for two years before he confessed that he was in love with her; to his delight, she returned the sentiment. And now, at long last, here they were—both ready to begin their new lives in Seattle. Somehow fate—or more likely Elena's Uncle Preston—had seen to it that both received positions at Seattle Grace. In only a month, they would have to adjust to being surgeons as well as newlyweds, but Brennan was sure that they could make it through anything life threw their way.
"Mind if I cut in?"
Elena laughed and hugged her mother tightly as she walked up to them. Even at twenty-four, Elena still found comfort in the presence of her mother. It had been a long, hard battle with another recurrence about ten years ago. However, Addison kept her promise and fought with everything she had. Of course, Elena had always been worth fighting for.
"I guess I'll give you two a moment alone," Mark said and kissed his wife's cheek. "I'm gonna go get another piece of cake. You want any?"
"No, but get me more champagne. It's my little girl's wedding, and I intend to celebrate," Addison instructed, and Mark laughed but went to do as he had been asked.
"I was wondering where you were," Elena remarked.
"I went out to the car to get your gift."
"Mom, seriously," Elena began to protest. "You and Daddy and Mark and Meredith paid for the wedding; that's more than enough."
But Addison handed her daughter a small square package and said, "I have a feeling you'll want this gift."
She opened it to discover a framed photograph of her mother and Leni, holding a tiny infant who she recognized to be herself. Leni was smiling in complete adoration of the little girl in her arms while Addison close by, watching over them both.
With tears welling up in her eyes and a lump in her throat, Elena found it difficult to speak. "Mom… where did you get this? I've never seen it before," she managed.
"I got it in the mail about three weeks ago. There was no return address, and I don't even remember having it taken. It was postmarked Seattle, but that's all I know. Oh, but there was a note inside."
"What did it say?"
"'Please give this to Elle,'" she said, quoting the quickly written note exactly. "It wasn't signed."
Hugging her mother once again, she whispered, "Thank you, Mommy."
"I'm just playing the messenger," she shrugged, glad to be able to give her daughter such a gift.
But Elena shook her head. "I mean for everything. I love you."
"I love you, too, Sweetheart. More than you'll ever know," she replied, cupping Elena's beautiful face in her hands. However, noticing that Brennan was alone, she said suddenly, "All right, I think we've stolen you away from your husband for long enough."
Addison found herself smiling from ear to ear as she watched Elena hurry over to her husband. As a mother, Addison had always hoped that her little girl would find the love of her life and follow all her dreams. The fact that she was actually there to see it was just another added blessing.
"What are you doing?" Brennan questioned, laughing as Elena took him by the hand.
"I want to dance with you," she answered, pulling him out into the rain. She giggled as she kissed his lips, the rain pouring down all around them, and at that moment, neither had a care in the world.
Maybe the thing that captivates us the most about the rain is that we have absolutely no control over it. For all our capacity to understand it, we can't do a thing to make it subside. But the great thing about the rain is that eventually, it does stop. No matter how fierce the storm, in the end there's always a calm, and whatever is strong enough to withstand it is washed clean. Most of the time, people choose to stay inside where it's safe and dry until the storm is over. But on the other hand, if you're feeling brave, there's nothing like dancing in the rain.
Yeah, I know I kinda skipped ahead like twenty years (eighteen, actually), but is anyone interested in grown-up Elle following in her parents' footsteps and taking on Seattle Grace for herself? I think I might be able to come up with a storyline if you guys are interested. Let me know:D
And, of course, thanks so much for reading/reviewing!