Blue Light Crashing

Chapter One

It was late in the afternoon on a beautiful day in May which was perhaps her favorite month out of the whole year. Everything just seemed so alive then; life was blossoming…in more ways than one. Everywhere she looked there were young, new, graceful flowers, the showers of April had quenched the slightly red tinted clay soil of Georgia and the late spring sunshine was enticing the shy buds into bloom. The fresh air that blew around her, swirling her dark blonde locks into tangled waves, held the promise of summer, tempting all creatures young and old to come out and play. Birds were singing happily from the trees, children were playing, and adults were laughing and talking amicably. May was the perfect month for a picnic, the perfect month for a family gathering, and, as she looked across her backyard, her eyes falling across her two children playing together in the sprinkler she had set up earlier for them, her eldest, Bailey who was already nine, watching out for her baby, her little girl, Rowan who, in a blink of an eye, had already turned two the month before, she realized that her life was practically ideal and that she, Marissa Cooper Channing, wife, mother, and business owner, was almost perfectly happy. It was time…time to share her good news.

Turning to her mother and father-in-law sitting with her around the intimate table set up on her patio, she offered them a shy, almost tentative smile before clearing her throat to get their attention. Andrew was sitting across from her, eyeing her very closely as if he knew what she was about to say was important. He had been slightly jumpy all day, excusing himself randomly all throughout their meal and disappearing into the house. Marissa had paid no attention to it before, but, as she sat their preparing to tell him something so important, something that meant the world to her, she suddenly realized that he might not be as excited about the news as she was. He had been distant, so much so that she was surprised she was able to make the announcement she was about to share with her family, but he was a busy man, running his family's successful, reputed horse farm where they raised race-worthy thoroughbreds. It was actually because of his work that they had met in the first place: Caitlyn was his vet, so she had known from their very first date, a blind one thanks to her always intruding sister, that his business was his priority, and she had accepted that.

Bailey, at that point, was the love of her life for he was the only part of his Father that she had left. She had experienced the once in a lifetime, monumental, earth shattering love that they only describe in fairytales and romance novels, and, while she would cherish it secretly for the rest of her life, Marissa knew no one would be able to make her love them in that way again; that part of her heart was reserved for the father of her son. So, she had dated Andrew with an open mind, willing to love him but unwilling to ever fall in love with him. Six months after their first date when he had proposed, she had accepted easily. By marrying him, she gained not only stability and comfort from a constant companion but a family as well for his parents treated her like their own daughter. It had been so long since she had that sense of security that, once she had it again, Marissa realized she would do anything she could to keep it, even marrying someone she wasn't really in love with.

"What is it, dear," Elizabeth Channing asked her. Observing the concerned look on her mother-in-law's face, Marissa became aware of the fact that she had been sitting there quietly for several minutes simply staring off into space as she thought silently to herself.

"I'm sorry," she apologized sincerely. "I just got lost in my own head there for a moment."

"Seems to be a reoccurring theme in our marriage," Andrew whispered under his breath. Marissa heard but didn't care, but, as she noticed the strict glare her father-in-law, Nikolas, sent in her husband's direction, she realized perhaps she should be paying attention to the numerous digs he aimed in towards her, their animosity evident to anyone who could hear them, that perhaps there was a deeper meaning behind the insults besides the normal petty differences a couple often has.

Shaking off her disturbing thoughts, Marissa simply smiled at all three adults sitting around her in an attempt to calm everyone down again. After all, it was Memorial Day, and she had the best news in the world to share. "I didn't want to say anything yet," she revealed, her hands unconsciously dropping to rub against her flat stomach hidden away behind a light, airy sundress, "but I can't wait any longer."

"Is it good news," Elizabeth asked practically hanging on the younger woman's every word. While the two men were totally oblivious, she was a woman herself, an observant woman who recognized the sparkle in her daughter-in-law's eyes, the glow on her tan, flawless skin, the sheer exhilaration of her smile. She had the same look almost three years before when she had told them she was expecting Rowan.

"I know some people might think it's too soon, that they'd say I should enjoy my little girl while I can, but I didn't want such a large age gap between my children again," Marissa explained. At the connotation of her words, smiles erupted onto both Nikolas and Elizabeth's faces, but Andrew's eyes just seemed to widen in panic, a surprised, almost outraged look coming across his countenance. "So next year, in all likelihood late January, Bailey and Rowan will be meeting their new baby brother or sister." It took less than three seconds for the two women to both stand up and embrace each other in a tight, exuberant hug. Nikolas soon joined them, first congratulating his daughter-in-law with a kiss on the cheek and then pulling his wife into his side to share in her excitement. They were young, healthy, loving grandparents to both Bailey and Rowan, and the news that Marissa was expecting another child was the best thing she could have told them. In their eyes, their son had the perfect wife, the perfect children, and the perfect life.

"I'm going to go and tell the kids," Marissa spoke up, breaking away from the group and heading towards the sprinkler. Stopping briefly to kick off her shoes so they wouldn't get wet and to tie her hair back, she overheard Andrew talking to his father.

"So, son," Nikolas beamed, "three kids, huh? You're a very lucky man."

"Yeah, I don't think luck had anything to do with it. If you'll excuse me," he rudely pushed passed his Dad and moved towards the house, "I have some work to do."

Marissa brushed off his disinterest in the baby. It didn't surprise her for he had not been overly excited when she had announced right after their honeymoon that she was already expecting Rowan, and he had never been close with Bailey. As long as he treated her well and let her raise her children as she saw fit, she didn't care if he would occasionally miss her son's baseball games or showed a disinterest in their daughter's new words. She could love the children enough for the both of them.

"How cold is the water," she questioned her children with an infectious grin on her face as she approached them. She was rather timid for she did not want to get wet if the water was too chilly.

"It feels great, Mom," Bailey called out. "Come on!"

"Mama," Rowan greeted her happily, running across the yard through the spraying water to launch herself into Marissa's waiting arms. Standing back up with her daughter carefully positioned on her hip, not caring that she was getting her dress wet, Marissa kissed the little girl before returning her hello.

"Hey baby! Are you having fun?" Rowan nodded her head enthusiastically. "Well, what do you say to Mommy playing with you, too?"

The little girl simply smiled widely, but Bailey spoke up. "Really, Mom, but you don't have your bathing suit on?"

"I'll just play in my dress," she dismissed his concerns. "But first I want to talk to you and your sister. Can you come here for a minute?" The young boy quickly ran to his Mother's side, and the three of them, despite the muddy consistency of the late spring grass, sat down together, Rowan in her Mom's lap and Bailey by her side. "So, there's something I have to tell you, and I hope you'll be excited about it." With both kids' full attention, she continued. "Mommy's going to have another baby next year, in January." She was surprised when both of her children just sat there, neither of them saying anything. While her daughter looked up at her with a confused expression on her face, Marissa could tell that Bailey was silently thinking about something that was bothering him, that he was trying to work through something in his own mind before talking to her. This was not the response she was hoping for. Needing to know what they felt, she pressed. "So, what do you think?"

"Play," Rowan demanded, squirming out of her lap. Marissa let her go, knowing the little girl was perhaps still too young to understand the importance of her news, but Bailey did. Turning towards her son, she pulled him into a hug, leaning her head gently on top of his after kissing his golden brow.

"You're not saying anything," she pointed out to him softly. "Is something wrong, honey?"

"No, I'm just thinking."

When he was quiet like this, contemplative and thoughtful, he always reminded Marissa so much of his father. "Do you want to talk to me about it," she offered her son. "I'll listen, no matter what you're worried about. You know you can tell me anything right, even bad things?"

"I know," he smiled up at her, "but I'm not sure what I think yet. Can I tell you when I do know though?"

"Of course. Now," she added, standing up and pulling him with her, "we better go and play with your sister before she gets herself into trouble."

With that, the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed, young man led the way, running in front of his Mom into the swirling water, laughing at the simplistic fun of enjoying a sprinkler while Marissa lagged behind, squealing in discomfort when her body first came in contact with the frigid water. "You said it wasn't cold," she yelled good-naturedly at her son, chasing him in and out of the cool liquid raining down upon them. And so the little family played on, the mature, adult mother with the heart of an innocent girl and her two children, while the father who completed their happy family remained in their house, on the phone, and the furthest thing from their minds. Like Marissa had told herself earlier, they were almost perfect.

"Tell me everything," Caitlyn demanded as soon as Marissa was safely in her seat, buckled, and they were headed back home. They were in Atlanta for Marissa's first doctor's appointment, and Caitlyn had come along to take Rowan to play in the park. Jackson was home with her two boys, JJ or Jackson Jr., a name that had infuriated Marissa when she had learned they had taken the easy road and named her first nephew after his father, and Carter, but Rowan had insisted that she come with her Mommy, for she didn't want to be with the boys, and Bailey was in school. They were going to pick him up on their way home before going back to Caitlyn's for a couple hours to just spend time together. "I want to know your due date, how you and the baby are doing, even your weight."

Ignoring her sister, Marissa turned around to talk to her daughter. "Hey, sweetie, did you have fun with Aunt Caity?"

"Ah, now isn't that shame," Caitlyn taunted. "You can't get out of talking to me by focusing on your daughter. I played with her so much, she was asleep before we were even out of the parking lot."

"That's not fair," Marissa pouted, making them both laugh. "Fine, we can talk about my appointment, but I don't care what you do or say, you'll never learn my weight. That's between me, my doctor, and the nurse who carries my chart from the filing cabinet to the office."

"Okay, okay, you don't have to tell me how much your chubby ass weighs…"

"Do you know that I can't wait right now until you're pregnant again," Marissa interrupted her sister, "because you're really going to be in for it. Remember what they say about paybacks…"

"They're petty and juvenile," Caitlyn told her with all the seriousness she could muster. When her sister glared at her, she rolled her eyes and conceded. "Fine, I'll lay off the fat jokes until you're actually fat. Now, when are you due?"

"January 28th."

"And the rest of the stats," the younger woman pressed.

"The baby and I are both perfectly health. The pregnancy, according to the doctor, is going wonderfully so far. I got to listen to the heartbeat, and, just like with both Bailey and Rowan, it literally took my breath away. She gave me a prescription for medication to curb the morning sickness, and my next appointment is June 30th."

"Will Andrew be able to make it to that one," Caitlyn pondered, only looking at her sister through the corner of her eyes.

"We'll see," Marissa responded with little concern. "I actually forgot to tell him about this one until last night, and he had a meeting this afternoon with a new breeder. It's no big deal if he comes with me or not."

In a quiet voice, the younger woman pointed out, "Jackson never missed a single one of my appointments with either pregnancy."

"Your relationship with your husband is different than mine."

"Yeah, we actually have one!"

Snapping, Marissa replied, "You were the one who set me up with Andrew. If you didn't like or approve of him, why did you ever introduce us?"

"I set you up on one date; I never told you to marry the very first man you dated after…." Her voice trailed off. They had agreed years before not to say his name. Marissa claimed it was because she wasn't ready for Bailey to know his father yet, that she would tell him his name when he was an adult and give him the option of finding him then. Despite everything, Caitlyn's insistence that he deserved to know they shared a child and her own feelings of regret that she had not contacted him nine Decembers before when Bailey was born, the months stretched by, the years passed, and still Marissa did nothing to inform her former lover that she had carried his son for nine months and had given birth to his only child….well the only child she was aware of. Other than the occasional articles Bailey found in sports magazines written by him, they had no idea what had happened to the man she had fallen for so easily in the span of ten minutes while they had believed they were going to die. "Sorry," Caitlyn apologized, snapping them both out of their memories. Changing the subject, she asked, "Have you thought about names at all?"

"No, not yet," Marissa answered, turning away from her sister and looking out of the passing scenery through the closed, tinted window of the expensive, luxury sedan. "It's too soon."

Cursing to herself, Caitlyn knew her sister had shut down completely, and she hated when they couldn't talk about something. They were as close as they ever were, perhaps even closer now that they were both mothers, but there were two topics Marissa always refused to discuss with her sister: her marriage and its lack of love and the man who still after so many years with no contact held her heart in his two strong, tanned, and tender hands. She could hide in her children, tell herself that the affection she received from them was all she needed, but Caitlyn knew Marissa would never be at peace, would never be perfectly happy until she reconciled herself with the past…no matter how drastically doing so would tear her world apart.

"Mom," Bailey asked quietly, keeping his eyes locked on the dish he was drying while he helped Marissa clean up after their dinner.

"What, honey?"

"So….what is Rowan," he timidly queried, finally looking up at her with confused eyes, but she had no idea what he was asking. "I mean….since we don't have the same Dad's, is she really my sister?"

"Of course she is," Marissa answered him, turning off the water. Taking his hand, she led him over to sit down at the kitchen table. "Where is this coming from, Bailey?"

"Well, I was telling some of my friends at school that you were having another baby," she smiled at his words, knowing that if he had shared the news of her pregnancy with his friends then he was at least not upset about the idea, "and they said that the new baby wouldn't be my full sibling. I argued with them and said that Rowy is my sister, but they said she wasn't my full sibling. They're wrong," he pleaded with his deep, soulful blue eyes, "right, Mom?"

"That depends upon how you look at it," she answered him slowly. "Yes, technically, because you have different Dad's, you're what people call half siblings, but what's important is how you feel here," she held her warm hand over his heart, cupping his face with her other hand. "Do you love her?" The little boy nodded his head to show he did. "And are you going to love this new baby, too?" Again, he responded the same way. "Then it doesn't matter what biology or the law says. To me, Rowy is your sister, and, in your heart if she and the new baby feel like your full siblings, then that's what they are. Other people can't tell us how to feel about those we love."

Bailey was quiet for a moment while he thought some more. "Do you think my Dad has any other kids with someone else, like you have kids with Andrew?"

"He might," Marissa admitted, swallowing thickly at the idea and closing her eyes for a moment to will away the tears that instantly formed. The idea of him having a baby with another woman…even if it was his wife upset her, and she often wondered how he would react to the news that she had carried and given birth to another man's child. "Someday, when you're older, I'll help you find him, your Father, if that's what you want," she promised her son, "and then, together, we'll find out if he ever had any other kids."

"Mama," Rowan walked into the kitchen, dragging her favorite blanket behind her. She had been in the playroom while Marissa and Bailey cleaned up the kitchen. With tired eyes, she looked at her Mom and brother sitting together, holding up her arms to let Marissa know she wanted picked up.

"Are you sleepy," she asked her youngest child, smiling serenely when she felt her lay her head against her chest and nod drowsily, her soft, chocolate brown curls she inherited from her grandmother tickling Marissa's neck. "Do you want Mommy to tuck you in?" Again, the little girl nodded, but, as they made their way towards the stairs which would take them up to her daughter's room, Rowan lifted her head off of Marissa's chest and called out, "Baiwee, too," for she always wanted both her Mom and her big brother to tuck her in.

"Come on, sweetie," Marissa encouraged her son. "Your sister," she emphasized her words, "wants you to come with us."

Together, the little family of three, soon to be four, made their way up the stairs, and, as Bailey's hand found its way into his Mom's, a sense of calm washed over her. The nagging suspicions she had been harboring about her husband, wondering why he was, yet again, not home in time for dinner and why he had not bothered to call her to let her know she shouldn't be expecting him, disappeared. She forgot about the strange phone call she had early that evening where someone, a woman, had asked for Drew and proceeded to hang up when Marissa had told her he wasn't home, and she pushed out the worry she felt that there was a person more familiar with her husband than she was, for Andrew didn't even allow her or his parents to call him by the nickname. With her children with her, Marissa could ignore the problems in her marriage and focus upon the things she loved in her life.

"So," she broke the silence that had been stretching between them, "what story do you want Mommy to tell you tonight?"

"Punkin boy," Rowan answered quickly, a giggle escaping her smiling, pink lips. Marissa merely looked down softly at her daughter, kissing her forehead before the little girl went back to resting against her. It was an exaggerated tale she had invented when Bailey was a baby to tell him about his Dad, one that he had passed on his love for to his younger sister, but neither child knew its importance. As they made their way into the little girl's bedroom, a small lamp on her bedside table the only illumination lighting up the soft pink walls and princess themed room, the three of them crawled into Rowan's twin bed, Bailey situating himself at his sister's feet, while Marissa wrapped her daughter in her arms under the covers as she started the story, her tone tender and almost nostalgic, her eyes soft and dewy with cherished memories.

"Once upon a time in a faraway kingdom there lived a sad little boy who, although he didn't know it, had been kidnapped by two greedy, selfish thieves and taken away from the castle where he would have been a prince. Years passed, and the man and woman the little boy believed to be his parents plotted away, trying to determine when the best time would be to return the prince to his parents in hopes of the king and queen paying them more money than they could ever spend, but, every time they went to confess their crimes to get their reward, they would change their mind, and, eventually, the little boy turned into a young man. Even at a young age, he knew he was different than his family. His parents seemed to hate him, barely giving him enough food to survive, while his older brother resented his presence and would always try to get him in trouble. Anything he was ever lucky enough to make or earn by himself, they would steal from him. Life was sad for the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed young man, but he did as he was told, never questioning the word of his elders.

"The poor little boy was having a very bad day when his luck suddenly started to change. It was the day after Halloween, and, after he had rushed home from school to have a piece of candy, just one for he wanted to savor the few measly pieces he had received for as long as he could, he found that someone had discovered his hiding spot and had stolen all his prized possessions, his candy, the book his teacher had given the year before for Christmas, and the forgotten change he had picked up off the street. With an unshed tear in his eye, he left his room and went into the kitchen where he found his family eating his candy, ripping his book, and putting his money in their own pockets. No matter what though, he wouldn't let them see him cry. As he went outside to be by himself, to go for a walk and try to lose himself in the happy people around him, his Mom yelled that he was supposed to throw his stupid pumpkin away that the neighbor had given him for trick-or-treat. He had worked so hard on it the day before, carving it so carefully in order to show others that he wasn't as useless and stupid as his parents told him he was, but no one had cared. With a heavy sigh and a slow step, he left the house and did as he was told, tossing his prized pumpkin into the garbage heap behind their house, having no idea how much his actions would change his life for the better.

"Fall turned to winter, winter to spring, and the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed young man continued to do as he was told, cleaning the house, mowing the lawn, raking leaves, and picking up the sticks that would fall from their few trees. The food his family wasted he would toss back on the very same garbage pile his rotten pumpkin was in, along with the grass clippings, leaves, and sticks he would pick up from the yard. One day he wasn't paying attention, merely walking by himself behind his house, when he tripped, sprawling out and landing on his face. Rolling over, the scrapes the hard ground had made on his bare knees and elbows, for it was summer and too warm to wear a lot of clothes, stung his sensitive skin slightly, but he realized what had made him fall: a large, long, healthy vine growing out from the garbage pile. Curious, he went and found a rake, pushing the discarded waste aside to find a growing pumpkin plant, and, as he realized his prized pumpkin from the fall before had rotted away until its seeds could grow again, a large, happy smile took over his slightly dirty face. This was something that would just be his for his family wouldn't care about a living, growing, wholesome thing, especially since they hated going outside, probably, he realized, because they were allergic to sunshine and cheer.

"No one knew about the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed, young man's treasured plant; it was his secret. He took care of it carefully, watering it, telling it stories, and trimming the tree branches that shaded it so that it could get enough sunshine. When he heard fertilizer would make it grow even more, he went to his elderly neighbor, a kindly, compassionate gentleman who had a garden himself, and offered to help him weed his vegetable crop if he would pay him with fertilizer. The older man agreed, and, while they worked, he would share with the younger boy all his knowledge about growing plants. When September came again, the young man went back to school, but, as soon as the bell released him from his classes, he ran home to check on his beloved pumpkin plant. Eventually, it was time to harvest, and no one had ever seen such beautiful pumpkins as those the boy had grown. The whole town noticed his talent, and the local paper came out and took a picture of him standing beside his crop of deep orange, round, perfect pumpkins.

"Word of the amazing young gardener reached the castle where the sad parents of a baby boy long since taken from them still wondered what had happened with their beautiful, quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed prince. When they saw the boy's picture in the paper, they wondered if perhaps they had found their son after so many years. Calling for their royal coach, a long, stretch limousine, they had their chauffeur drive them to the small, poor town where the child lived, eager to see him and to find out if he was their long-lost prince. Pulling up to the house the little boy lived in, a tear fell from the queen's eye as she realized an innocent child had grown up there. Even if he wasn't her son, it still saddened her to see that he had suffered through a harsh, cruel life. Before they could even knock on the door, the young man in question walked around the house, carrying one of his pumpkins carefully in his arms. With a wave, he approached the two adults, smiling at them before asking if they were there to purchase one of his prized plants. They told him they were there to meet him, and, after introducing themselves as the king and queen of all the land, they asked if it would be possible for them to look at his right foot.

"The quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed, young man thought their request to be weird, but he was just a poor boy, no one important enough to deny a king and queen. So, he took off his shoes and socks, each with their fair share of holes in them, and blushed when the royal couple gazed upon his dirty foot. It wasn't his fault his feet weren't clean; his parents only allowed him to take a bath once a week. Embarrassed, he refused to look up at them, but, when an abrupt gasp was sounded by the queen, the shy boy gazed up at her to notice tears falling from her crystal blue eyes, eyes so much like his own. He asked her what was wrong, if he had upset her, but she said they were happy tears, that she had finally found something she had been looking for all around the world for many years: him. In shock, the king and queen sat down on the steps with the little boy and explained the story of their son, how the young prince had been kidnapped when he was a baby, and how he had a unique, red birthmark, oddly enough, in the shape of a pumpkin on his right foot. As soon as they saw the mark on his sole, they knew he was their son.

"Soon, everything changed for the special young man. He found a family who loved him, who wanted him, who cherished him and took good care of him. The mean people he had believed to be his parents were sent to jail, and their nasty, rude son had to go live with his grandparents who, though they were not mean to him, made him behave, while he went to live in the castle, was allowed to have as many books as he wanted, and went to a good school. However, he never forget the special pumpkins that led him to his happiness, and, every year, after his large pumpkin patch was harvested, he would give away a pumpkin to every child in his parents' kingdom, hoping that they would provide them with as much pleasure as he himself had.

"I met the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed, young prince once," Marissa revealed as she came to the conclusion of her story. "We were on a plane, and the pilot was scared it was going to crash, but, for some reason, the prince was not scared. He shared his secret with me, dropping into my shaking hands a few of his precious, special pumpkin seeds. He told me they were magic, that as long as I had them with me, nothing bad would ever happen, and he was right. Eventually, our plane landed safely, I thanked the kind, young prince for his help, and, from that day on, I kept those pumpkin seeds. Some of them we planted so that we could make more seeds to pass on to others, but, no matter where I go, there's always one on me." Unclasping the locket around her neck, Marissa revealed a lone seed to her son who was still awake. He had seen it hundreds of times before, but it always made him smile, especially when he opened his own, similar locket and showed her the seed he carried with him. "And that is the tale of 'The Pumpkin Boy'," she concluded the beloved bedtime story, the smile fading from her face as the vision of that quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed young man gradually disappeared from her mind. Leaning down, she placed a tender kiss on her daughter's sleeping head before picking her up off of her lap and tucking her into bed. Standing up, she held out her hand for her son, smirking when she realized he was already yawning. "Come on," Marissa told him, ruffling his own blonde hair, "I'll tuck you in, too."

Without a word, the two of them moved towards his bedroom which was decorated in typical boy fashion with a sports theme. Marissa had never told him about his Dad's affinity for the Cubs, but, somehow, on his own, Bailey had picked the blighted Chicago Cubbies as his favorite team, and their memorabilia covered the nine year old's room. Just as they walked through the doorway, the phone started ringing. "Put your pajamas on and brush your teeth while I answer the phone," she told him quickly before running out the door and down the hall to her own bedroom she, in theory, shared with Andrew. When he was actually home, he often slept in his office, falling asleep at his computer, and, if he did make it to their bed, one of them would find an excuse as to why they couldn't sleep and would get up to leave the other one alone. Breathlessly, she picked the phone up, sitting carelessly down on the precisely made king sized bed. "Hello."

"I'm not going to make it home tonight," Andrew's crisp voice assaulted her ears. There was no greeting, no sense of affection or even friendship. "So, I'm just going to get a hotel room."

"You were meeting with a new breeder," Marissa stated, her tone betraying her confusion. "I don't understand how you could possibly have so much to say to each other that you're meeting lasted this late."

"Well we had drinks…then dinner…and then some more drinks, and, before we knew it, we were both slightly tipsy and in no shape to drive home."

She sighed. They hadn't been married for almost three years for her not to know what his statement meant. He had taken his business associate to a strip club, gotten wasted, and now didn't want to come home to his wife and kids. "Fine," Marissa hardened her tone to make it seem as if he couldn't hurt her. "I guess I'll see you whenever you get here."

"Mom," Bailey called out loudly from his room. "Are you coming?"

Sighing thankfully, she dismissed her husband. "Listen, I have to go. My son needs me." And with that, she clicked off the phone, pushed herself up off of the bed she was supposed to share with her husband, and went back to the only thing she had left to remind her of what it felt like to be loved. "So do you want to read to me the next chapter of your book, or are you too tired tonight and want me to read it to you?"

"Could we maybe just talk," Bailey asked shyly.

"Of course," Marissa answered him, kissing the top of his head before climbing into his bed beside him and taking him into her arms. "You never have to ask me to talk to you, sweetie. I'll always be here to listen or to answer any question you might have."

Uncertain, he pushed, "anything?"

"Bailey, what is it? You never should be nervous to ask me something."

"Yeah, but when Aunt Caity brings him up, you get upset," the little boy protested "I don't want to make you sad, Mommy."

"Oh, honey," she pulled him into a tight hug, "you could never make me sad. I get mad at your Aunt, because she sticks her nose in places it doesn't belong, but whenever you have a question about your Dad, I want you to always come to me. I'll tell you anything you want to know."

Bolstered, he posed, "did you love him, my Dad?"

"Yes, I did."

"Like you love Andrew?"

"Well, that's different," Marissa revealed, marveling at how insightful her son's questions were. "I love Andrew for different reason than your Dad. Andrew gave me a family, new parents after I lost mine all those years ago. He gave me your sister and this baby I'm carrying right now, and he gave us, you and me, a real home, not some apartment above my studio."

"I liked living there," Bailey interrupted her explanation. "It was fun, and we were always together then." She smiled down at him, their eyes locking together as memories of their years spent with just the two of them flashed through both of their minds. After a moment, he spoke up again. "And why did you love my Dad?"

"For many reasons," she told him honestly. "Your Dad….he was the first man I ever loved. When we met it was just….meant to be. We could talk about anything, we trusted each other, and he could always make me laugh, but what I loved most about him was how I felt about myself when he was looking at me. He made me realize I could do anything, be anyone, and he always made me feel as if I was the most beautiful woman in the world."

Sadly, the little boy pointed out, "you don't laugh a lot now, Mom."

Unable to deny it, Marissa merely said, "yeah, not so much, sweetie."

"Mom," Bailey started to ask another question.

"What is it, honey?"

"Do you still love my Dad?"

Gazing down into her son's face, the words she was about to say caught in her throat as the blue light crashing from his eyes connected with her own, and she knew she couldn't lie to him no matter what the consequences might be. "Yes," she finally satisfied his curiosity by speaking up. "Yes, I still love your Dad, and I always will."

That was enough for the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed young man, and, with a content smile on his face, he fell asleep in his Mother's arms. A good night's rest didn't come as easily to Marissa though. For hours after her confession, she sat awake in her little boy's bed, holding him to her closely while running her long, slender fingers across his cool brow, wondering the whole time what Bailey's father was doing while she embraced their son in her arms.

In a very familiar apartment in a special, meaningful city, a lonely man sat in his bedroom, a room he had once shared with a woman he had never been able to forget, searching online for a new job, a new life, a new him. He was tired of being cut off from the rest of the world, he was exhausted with the traveling his job required, and he was weary of the life of a bachelor. The friendless man had been on quite a journey during the last nine years of his life, and he was ready for more. He wanted a home, a wife, and a family, and, resigned to the fact that he would never win back the woman he had given his heart to years before, he was determined to make the most of the existence he had left. So, with his hope intact, he put his laptop aside, turned off his lamp, and burrowed down under the crisp sheets of his companionless bed. With the moon shining through his open window, the soft sounds of the metropolitan nightlife serving as a song to lull him to sleep, Ryan Atwood, with a smile on his face, closed his eyes to picture the quiet, blonde haired, blue eyed beauty he was reconciled to love secretly for the rest of his life, for he was about to leave the painful reality of consciousness to spend a long, dream filled night with his Marissa Cooper.