Rachel sighed as the last box was carried up the stairs to Melvin's dorm room. Gar closed the suburban's trunk, dusting off his hands as he walked back to his wife's side.
"She's all set," he said as he loosely looped an arm around Rachel's waist. "I mean, the shelves aren't put together, and her shower rack needs some assembly, but I think we can leave those in Brian's capable hands."
Rachel made a noncommittal sound in the back of her throat, still staring at the building her daughter had disappeared into. It was six stories tall, and wider than it was tall. Hundreds of students would be housed inside, all starting out their college experience together.
"It's a good college," Gar offered after a moment of silence. "With an excellent Sports Medicine program."
The mother crossed her arms over her chest. "I know."
Her companion went on hopefully. "And Mara is the Captain of the lacrosse team here, so she's not alone there."
The eyes narrowed slightly. "I know."
"And Brian is going here," he pointed out quickly. "And is living just two floors down from her, so we don't have to worry about her being with boys we don't know. And he still fears you, so we're good there."
Rachel just shifted her weight. "Mm-hm."
The teacher cleared his throat as he began to list things on his fingers. "It's only four hours way, so she can come visit whenever she wants. And it's not far for us to come get her if something were to happen. She has a partial ride here on her sports scholarship, and the college meets Rita's requirements for the use of the college fund she set up for the kids. There are safe hang-out spots near by, and they've offered her that part-time job in the weight room during her off-season."
Rachel didn't reply this time, and the science teacher scratched the back of his head with a sigh.
"Well, I guess that decides it," he said as he turned to walk back towards the building. "I'll go repack her things…"
The mother glared at her husband half-heartedly. "And what would you tell her that would convince her to leave?" she asked dryly.
Gar cracked a grin. "Something about zombie-professors and a government cover up involving lots of erased memories and cattle prods…I can be very convincing."
"I know you can be," she replied flatly, smiling despite her dour tone. "I'll be fine. I will be. It's just…different."
"At least the loft is open now," he pointed out as he hugged her again. "Timmy was moving his things up there before we had left the driveway, although I'm not sure where Melvin's gonna sleep now when she comes home. However, at least we now have room for these special ones…" His hands drifted to his wife's rounded middle affectionately.
Rachel quirked her brows in what was becoming a familiar manner. "You should have told me twins run in your family."
"I forgot!" the father protested weakly as he hugged her all the tighter. "Especially after Angie was born…"
As if on cue a cubby-cheeked girl with her mother's purple eyes and her father's bright smile burst from the front doors with her older sister right on her heals.
"I beat you! I beat you!" The three year old crowed as she dove for her father's legs. Gar scooped the child up, grunting as he did.
"Oof! Seems like you're getting bigger every time you eat," the teacher teased Angie as she giggled. "We need to stop feeding you!"
"No you don't!" she cried back, shaking her head so her brown curls flew everywhere.
"Are you all set?" Rachel asked her daughter as the college freshman laughed at her sister's antics.
"Well enough," Melvin replied excitedly. "Brian's gonna help me finish a few things, and then we're going out for pizza. Are you guys sticking around, or…?"
"Nah," Gar stuck in quickly as Rachel hesitated. "You need to get comfortable before classes on Wednesday; we'll get out of your hair so we don't get home too late tonight."
"Ok. Bye Ange…" The three year old hugged her favorite big sister and told her she had better come visit very soon. Who else was going to play dolls with her? Gar laughed and took the toddler away to her car seat after Melvin promised to come visit soon, strapping the small girl in securely.
"Call if you need anything, anytime. Even if its just to talk," Rachel said as she was given a moment alone with her eldest daughter. "And remember: school comes first. If you need to drop lacrosse and loose your sports scholarship to keep your grades up we understand, and we can handle it."
Melvin resisted the urge to roll her eyes and instead said, "I know, mom. I love you."
"I love you too," Rachel said as she hugged the lean young woman who now towered over her. "I know you'll do great here."
Her daughter pulled back and shrugged. "Thanks."
"See ya, kid," Gar said as he gave his step-daughter a tight hug. "You take care, alright?"
"Yessir," she said as she hugged him back. "And you take care of Mom and everyone else."
"Always will," he promised as he chucked her under the chin.
She made a face, sticking out her tongue. "I know."
The freshman stood on the curb and waved until her family was out of sight, Brian standing solidly beside her the entire time.
"You really think they'll stay together?" Gar asked as he pretended not to notice the way his wife was quickly wiping away her tears.
"They did last through high school," Rachel replied with a sniff once she had regained control of herself. "Though he knows we're not paying for Melvin's college if they get married before she graduates."
"I think they'll make it," the teacher admitted with a laugh. "He's like me, he knows a good deal when he sees one and he's not about to let her go."
Rachel's brows rose teasingly. "Ah, so that's what I am, a good bargain."
"No," he said as he caught her hand in his. "You're a treasure I was lucky enough to find when digging through the trash."
Again, her eyes sparked with mischief. "So you're calling the town we live in trash?"
"…I just can't win with you," he said, laughing in his defeat.
His wife smiled, squeezing his hand as she settled in for the ride. "And you like it that way."
"I do," he said as he pulled the hand he held to his lips and kissed it.
Rachel drifted off a few minutes later, Gar driving with one hand on the wheel and the other intertwined with his wife's as their daughter snored away in the back. Angie almost always fell asleep when they put her in the car seat, which was a relief on long trips like this.
Gar gently woke his wife with a shake when they pulled into the driveway later that evening, smiling as she apologized for making him drive the whole time.
"It's alright," he said as he helped her gather up her things. "Go inside and check on the boys. I'll get Angela."
"Are you sure?" she asked around another yawn, shaking her head to wake herself up.
"Yeah," he replied, smothering his chuckle as he started to unsnap the car seat harness.
Rachel left as she snagged Angie's diaper bag, going inside to find her living room transformed into a giant blanket fort with both of her boys and two of Kori's three boys inside firing rubber bands at each other. Richard was in the kitchen with his wife, cleaning up the pizza boxes from dinner, Kori seated at the table as she fed their youngest his bottle.
"Friend Rachel!" the cosmetologist called as she spotted her friend. "You are home early."
"Mom, save me!" Tommy called from the living room, laughing as both of the younger boys jumped on him.
"You're on your own," she called back, smiling as Timmy swooped in to scoop up the smaller of the boys and blow a raspberry on his stomach.
"Ah, lemme go! Lemme go!" Wayne cried as he wriggled around in the red-head's grasp, a two-year old miniature copy of his father except for his bright green eyes. Ryan, his older brother who had dark eyes with red hair, laughed hysterically as Tommy caught him by the ankles and held the four-year-old upside down.
"Did Melvin like her room?" Richard asked as he pulled a seat out for the very pregnant Rachel, sitting next to his wife as the boys continued to wrestle in the living room.
"She did," Rachel replied with a small smile. "She'll do well there, I think. Gar should be coming soon…"
"Right here," the young man called from the fight, Angela in one hand and the car keys in the other. He glanced in at the mayhem in the living room as he passed by. "Whoa, easy there guys. Those boys are a lot smaller than you."
"We know," Timmy called with a wicked grin as he spun Ryan around a few times.
"They're tough," Tommy added as he chased Wayne back into the fort.
"Where's Vic and Jenny?" the teacher asked as he gave his daughter over to his wife.
Kori beamed and shared a knowing grin with her husband. "They had to stay home," she said with a hint of triumph. "Jenny is not feeling well."
Rachel's head perked up immediately. "No," she said as her eyes widened considerably. "I thought the doctors said…"
"Doctors are not always right," Richard replied with a wide smile. "And the results from the test were absolutely positive. They wanted to be here tonight and tell you themselves but apparently pregnancy is not agreeing with Jenny…"
"Sick as a dog," Timmy called from the living room. "I heard her yurking in the background when I was talking to Uncle Vic."
"They gave us permission to tell you," Kori added as she wiped little Richie's face, the infant giving a faint mewl of protest. "For they knew we could not keep it to ourselves, and did not wish to interrupt your remaining time with Melvin."
"They tried so hard for two years," Gar laughed as he reached for the phone. "I can't believe now…Vic? Hey, it's Gar. Congratulations, man! How's Jenny?"
The teacher wandered into the next room, leaving the others behind as Kori continued to gush with her joy for their friends.
Rachel closed her eyes for a minute, listening to the sounds of her full house as the voices danced around her. Her thumb absently stroked the ring set on her left hand, a wedding band of gold and an engagement ring with three sapphires in a row. Both had belonged to the late Marie Logan, and both had been entrusted to Rita Dayton before the young Logans had left for Africa. Thus, when the accident occurred, Rita had set the rings aside for the day the Logan's only child, Gar, would find someone special and ask them to marry him. That day had been almost on the year mark of the couple's first meeting, and all most people could say was what had taken them so long. The small person in her lap protested, and the mother looked down at her first-born child to see Angela looking up at her with big eyes.
"I'm hungry," the three year old declared sticking her lip out sadly.
"You're always hungry," Rachel teased with a laugh as she kissed her daughter. "What do you want to eat? Is there any pizza left?"
The toddler perked up immediately. "Oooh, pizza pizza pizza!"
"There's a few slices," Richard replied, getting up quickly to fetch them from the fridge. "Cheese or pepperoni?"
"Pepperoni!" she crowed, wiggling around excitedly.
"I still can't believe I have a daughter who's primarily a carnivore," Gar announced as he came back in the room. "Vic had to go, Jenny was sick again. They both send their love, and said they'd see us soon."
"Serves you right," Richard called as he pulled the pizza from the microwave. "You're the one that went away for a week with Rachel right after your daughter turned one and left her with Vic and Jenny. You should have known he'd convert her to the meat-side every chance he got. And all it took was one piece of bacon."
"That's ok," the Logan father said as he hoisted his daughter into her booster seat at the table. "Daddy still loves his girl."
"Pepperoni! Pepperoni!" she yelled as she was strapped in.
Gar laughed as he pulled the plate close to her. "Here it is, you little monster. Dig in."
Everyone laughed, and Rachel sat back and sighed as her husband sat beside her and held her hand.
It was perfect.
And that's it. There is a possibility of an added chapter (The Missing Years) but if it does occur there will be only one, and for the time being this story is complete. Thank you for your support and many words of praise, your reviews have often made the difference of how long the updates took. I hope this story was worth the wait, and that all of you have enjoyed yourselves. Oh, I know Rita and Steve weren't in this epilogue, at the moment things stand as before. She is welcome, he is not, end of story.
That's it for now. Until next time, I remain as always the incorrigible, the lovable, and the completely insane: