"Where are we going, Gram'ma Lilly?" eight year old Robert Raymond Oken asked his beloved grandmother. Lilly looked down at him and smiled.
"We're going to meet Grandma Miley at the park," she answered patiently.
"We're going to the park?" little Robbie asked excitedly. Lilly grinned.
"We sure are, buddy… and there's some monkey bars there with your name on them!"
"All right!" Robbie shouted, jumping up and down gleefully. "Can I go down the big slide too?"
"We can do anything you want," Lilly told him warmly, "and maybe after we play for awhile, we can have lunch too."
"Hot dogs!" little Robbie exclaimed.
"You got it, buddy," Lilly agreed, smiling broadly and gently squeezing her grandson's hand. There were no words to explain just how much she loved the adorable eight year-old she was blessed to call her grandson. Her life had turned out happier than she could ever have imagined… and she knew she owed it all to the beautiful brown-haired songstress from Tennessee who had won her heart so long ago. A small smile played on her lips as she thought of the woman who had been her wife and soul mate for over 30 years.
Hand in hand, Lilly and little Robbie walked into the park and found a small bench to sit down on.
"Grandma Miley should be here soon, and then we can all go play," she explained to her impatient grandson. "You want some candy while we're waitin' buddy?"
"Yeah!" Robbie shouted excitedly, and Lilly couldn't help but laugh.
"All right, but don't tell your mom!" she said with a wink. She reached into her purse and pulled out a small bag of M&M's for her eager grandson. She opened it and then handed it to him, grinning as he very quickly began to devour them.
"What's that, Gram'ma?" little Robbie asked after a few moments, pointing at what appeared to be a small piece of paper tucked neatly into his grandma's purse. Lilly looked where he was pointed and smiled again.
"That's a note your Grandma Miley once wrote to me, a long time ago," she explained carefully. "I like to keep it with me."
"Why?" Robbie asked in a puzzled tone.
"That's… kind of a long story, buddy," Lilly said hesitantly. "It's just real special to me."
"Why?" Robbie asked again. Lilly chuckled.
"Well, because it reminds me of your grandma, and how much I love her… and how much she loves me," she said softly. The puzzled expression on her grandson's face only grew, and Lilly knew her vague answers weren't going to work anymore.
"See, a long time ago, when your grandma and I were still dating… well, Grandma Miley's daddy didn't like me very much," she said slowly.
"But you're nice," little Robbie replied, his voice rising slightly as though he was trying to defend her. "You're my favorite gram'ma." Lilly grinned again.
"Thanks, squirt… better not tell your Grandma Miley that, though," she added with a laugh. "Truth is, Great-Grandpa Robbie Ray didn't like me because he didn't want Grandma Miley dating another girl."
"His name was Robbie too?" little Robbie asked curiously. Lilly nodded.
"Yup; your momma named you after him," she explained, smiling sadly. "He was a really great grandpa; I wish you could've met him."
"Where is he?" little Robbie asked.
"He's in Heaven, buddy, with Great Grandma Susan," Lilly said softly. "He passed away just before you were born." She sniffled slightly. Despite how things had started out, all those years ago, she truly loved and missed her father-in-law.
"Anyway," Lilly said, abruptly changing the subject, "Great Grandpa Robbie Ray didn't want me and Grandma Miley to be together, so we decided to run away. We thought we could just find a new place to live, get married, and stay together forever…"
"Why can't he just accept that we love each other?!" seventeen year old Miley Stewart sobbed, tears streaming down her cheeks. Seventeen year old Lilly Truscott held her best friend close, running a gentle hand through her long, silky brown hair. They were sitting together on Lilly's bed, Miley crying her eyes out after another blow up with her father, Robbie Ray. He had been against their relationship from the beginning, and his cruel tirades had only gotten worse.
"He just doesn't understand us, Miles," she whispered softly. "Someday he will." Lilly wasn't nearly as certain as she was trying to sound, but she was determined to do whatever she could to comfort Miley. She had once loved Robbie Ray as the father she'd never had…now all she could feel was anger, for hurting the woman she loved - his own daughter - so deeply.
"I just wish we could go somewhere where no one would bother us, where no one would care, and we could just be together," Miley whispered sadly. "I love you."
"I love you too, Miley," Lilly whispered back, and she kissed her girlfriend gently on the forehead.
"Lilly?" Miley asked quietly. She pulled back slightly and looked up at the woman she loved. Her eyes were red and puffy, and her cheeks shone with still-glistening tears, but she was still the most beautiful thing Lilly Truscott had ever seen.
"I'm here, Miley," she said gently.
"Let's run away," Miley said quickly. "Just you and me. No one else has to know. We can just be together." Lilly blinked, wondering for a moment if she'd heard right.
"Miley…" she started to say.
"Please?" her best friend all but begged her. "I… I just can't do this anymore. It hurts too much!" Lilly swallowed.
"Miley, we're only seventeen," she managed. "What about school? What about our families?"
"We'll be eighteen in a few months," Miley replied, trying desperately to convince her girlfriend. "We can finish school someplace else. We can build a life together… and then our families can come visit." Tears filled her eyes again.
"I just can't stand it here anymore, Lilly! You're all I want… and my dad won't even let me have that!!" She sat up then, and pulled Lilly's hands into her own, looking deep into the eyes of the girl she loved more than anyone else in the world.
"I know we can make it work, Lilly… we can be happy, just you and I." She paused for a moment to lean closer, until their noses were almost touching.
"Please, Lilly?" she asked again, her voice barely a whisper. Lilly could feel her heart hammering in her chest, beating so fast she feared it might tear itself right out of her rib cage. As unthinkable as Miley's plan sounded, a part of her wanted nothing more than to just hold Miley in her arms and never let go.
She knew they would never truly be happy while they still lived in Malibu, not as long as Miley's father continued to make it almost impossible for them to be together. If they wanted a future together, Lilly realized, they were going to have to fight for it… and she decided then and there she was ready to do whatever it took to be with Miley.
"Okay," she said softly. Miley's eyes lit up and she practically jumped into Lilly's arms, kissing her soundly.
"I love you so much!" she gushed. Lilly blinked back tears.
"I love you too, Miley… with all my heart," she said, a warm smile working its way onto her face. She took a deep breath.
"So… how are we gonna do this?"
"What happened then?" Little Robbie questioned. Lilly smiled.
"We promised to meet each other under our favorite tree the next day," she said gently. "When I got there, though, your Grandma Miley wasn't there. Instead, I found this note pinned to the tree..."
Seventeen year old Lilly Truscott carefully made her way to the meeting place she and Miley had agreed on, a backpack slung across her shoulders and a duffle back in her hands, ready to jump into an unknown future with the girl she loved. It was exciting and scary all at the same time, but as long as Miley was with her, she knew everything would be all right.
It only took her a few minutes to reach their special tree – the place they'd shared their very first kiss – and she sat down gratefully in its cooling shade. The tree was actually across the street from Seaview Middle School, where they'd gone to school together, and had become a favorite resting place for the two best friends. Today, though, it would become even more special… today it would be witness the start of their new lives together.
"Come on, Miles, hurry up," Lilly whispered to herself, nervous that her father might've found out about their plans and done something. Suddenly she noticed what appeared to be a small piece of paper pinned to the bottom of the tree trunk beside her. To her astonishment, her name was written on it… in what she instantly recognized as Miley's writing. With trembling fingers, Lilly carefully pulled the note free and began to read it, praying to whoever would listen that Miley hadn't abandoned her…
If you get there before I do
Don't give up on me
I'll meet you when my chores are through
I don't know how long I'll be here
But I'm not gonna let you down
Darlin', wait and see
And between now and then
Til' I see you again
I'll be loving you…
"You see, that letter was kind of her way of promising that she still loved me, and still wanted us to be together," Lilly explained gently. "That's why I like to keep it with me... even after all these years." She chuckled at the little frown on her grandson's face.
"Don't worry buddy, I don't expect you to understand all that," she told him. "You will when you're older."
"Okay," Robbie said doubtfully. "So did Gram'ma Miley meet you at the tree?" he asked. Lilly nodded.
"She sure did," she said with a smile. "It just took her a little while."
"Then you ran away together?" little Robbie pressed. Lilly grinned and nodded again.
"Yup," she answered warmly. "We found a nice place to live, got married and built our lives together. A little while later, your momma, Susan, came along."
"What about Great Gram'pa Robbie Ray?" little Robbie wondered. "He musta really missed Gra,'ma Miley."
"He sure did," Lilly admitted. "He missed her a lot. So much, in fact, that he eventually found where we were livin' and came to see us."
"Was he mad?"
"At first," Lilly said honestly. "Let me tell you, your Great Grandpa could really yell when he wanted to… but nothing warms a person's heart like seeing their grandchild for the first time… "
"Lilly, someone's at the door!" twenty-two year old Miley Truscott-Stewart called out from across the small house she shared with her wife and their daughter. Lilly, by now twenty-two years old as well, was standing in the kitchen warming a bottle for their daughter, whose diaper Miley was currently changing in the back of the house. Since she was closer to the front door, the duty of answering it fell to Lilly.
"I got it!" she shouted back. Grabbing the bottle out of the microwave, along with a small towel, she hurried to the front door and unlocked it. When she opened it, she was greeted with the last face she ever expected to see.
"M-Mr. S?" she stammered nervously.
"Where's my daughter?" he asked coldly. He took a step forward, putting his foot in the doorway so Lilly couldn't close the door. Lilly swallowed; she tried to speak, but she couldn't seem to make her mouth work.
"Who is it, hon?" Miley asked as she appeared from around the corner, the baby in her arms. She froze as her eyes caught sight of her father standing in the doorway, his face a mask of hate.
"Daddy?" she managed, her voice small and weak.
"I don't believe you, Miley Ray," he said in a low, angry voice. "How could you do this? Abandoning your family and your responsibilities so you could live in sin with her! Your mother and I taught you better!!" Miley's faze instantly hardened.
"Momma taught me about love," she muttered. "Somewhere along the way, you forgot what that means."
"You're coming home," Robbie Ray snapped. "NOW."
"I'm not a child anymore, daddy," Miley retorted, saying his name as though he was unfit to use it. "You can't tell me what to do. This is my home now… with my wife and my daughter. If you don't like it, there's the door." If it was even possible, Robbie Ray looked even angrier as he listened to his daughter lash out at him.
"You did this, didn't you?" Robbie Ray growled, turning to look at Lilly. "You poisoned my little girl against me!" Miley was instantly at her wife's side.
"No, daddy!" she hissed. "You leave Lilly alone! She loves me, and I love her! She's made me happier than I ever thought I could be, and I belong right here at her side!!"
"It's a SIN, Miley!!" Robbie Ray thundered. "Against God! Against nature!!" Miley just glared at him.
"No, daddy… you're wrong," she said softly. "Nothing as beautiful as this could ever come from sin." She held up her infant daughter then, who was beginning to fuss at all the yelling and screaming, and gently wrapped her arms around her tiny angel.
"It's all right, sweetie," she whispered to her beautiful baby girl. "No one's gonna hurt you; I won't let them." For the first time, Robbie Ray's eyes settled on his infant granddaughter… and almost at once, the anger in his face began to fade.
"We named her Susan," Miley said softly, looking up at her father again as she continued to gently rock the baby in her arms. She paused. "After momma." Lilly walked over to her wife and daughter and placed her arms protectively around them both.
"I…" Robbie Ray started to speak, but words failed him.
"Are you going to tell your granddaughter she's a sin too?" Miley asked him bluntly.
"No," Robbie Ray managed. "No, I… I…"
"We're happy, daddy," Miley continued, seeing her father's resolve finally weaken. "God gave us this precious little girl, and our lives together, because He loves all of us, and He wants us to be happy. Are you honestly going to stand there and tell me that's wrong?"
"Miley…" Robbie Ray started to speak again, but Miley cut him off.
"I miss having a daddy," she said simply, and a single tear trickled from the corner of her eye, "and I want Susan to grow up knowing her grandpa, but if all you can do is shout words of anger and hatred at us, then maybe you should just drive back to Malibu and forget we even exist." For a long, tense moment, no one said a word. Then a single tear, matching Miley's own, spilled down Robbie Ray's cheek.
"Dear, God," he whispered, sagging against the door frame. "What have I done?" For a moment it looked like he was going to fall, and Miley bolted forward, love and concern overriding her own anger and mistrust at last.
"DADDY!!" she shouted. Lilly rushed forward as well and carefully helped Robbie Ray into the living room, easing him onto the couch.
"Take it easy, Mr. S," she said gently. "It's gonna be all right." Robbie Ray looked up at her, a stricken expression on his face.
"I'm sorry," he managed. "I'm so sorry…" Lilly swallowed.
"It's… it's okay, Mr. S…" she started to say.
"No, it's not," Robbie Ray retorted. "I was so… afraid… of losing my little girl… I almost… I almost…"
"You almost pushed her out of your life forever," Lilly finished solemnly for him. "Sounds to me like you've got a second chance, though." She looked up at the shaken expression on her beloved wife's face and swallowed again. She wasn't nearly as comfortable as Miley was with the thought of forgiving Robbie Ray so easily for all he'd done, but for the woman she loved she was willing to do anything.
"I'm willing to try again if you are, daddy," Miley said to her father in a gentle voice. "But Lilly and Susan are my family now… and you need to accept them into yours too." Robbie Ray nodded weakly.
"I'll try," he said honestly. "I promise."
"Good," Miley said simply. "Now… meet your granddaughter." Robbie Ray looked over at his daughter and the blonde-haired sitting beside her – her wife, he reminded himself – and the baby girl sitting in their loving embrace. She looked so much like Miley when she was a baby it was uncanny. She seemed to notice her grandfather's gaze and returned it, a small smile appearing on her tiny lips.
"Can I…?" he started to ask. Miley and Lilly shared a look, then Miley nodded, the ghost of a smile appearing on her own face. Carefully and gently, she handed little Susan to her grandfather, who reverently took his precious granddaughter into his arms for the very first time…
"So your great grandpa finally learned to accept me and your Grandma Miley being together, and we were a family again," Lilly finished quietly.
"Good," little Robbie said simply. "You and Gram'ma Miley are s'posed to be together." Lilly couldn't help but grin.
"Thanks, buddy; I think so, too." She looked at her grandson with a mischievous sparkle in her eyes, then abruptly reached out to tickle his ribs while little Robbie howled with laughter.
"S-stop, gram'ma!" he managed through the laughter.
"All right," Lilly relented, still smiling. "I may have to tickle you again sometime soon, though!" she added with a wink. Little Robbie instantly wrapped his arms around himself, as if to protect himself.
"I'll tell Gram'ma Miley on you!" he said teasingly.
"You play dirty, squirt," Lilly laughed.
"Someone talkin' about me?" a familiar voice interrupted. The moment she heard her wife's softly accented, slightly husky voice, familiar emotions of love and adoration washed over Lilly, wrapping around like her a warm blanket. Even after all the years they'd been together, the love she felt for Miley was still as strong as ever.
"Hey, you," Miley greeted her beloved wife softly, sitting down beside her on the park bench and wrapping her arms around Lilly in a gentle hug.
"Hey, beautiful," Lilly replied, smiling warmly as she returned the embrace.
"Flatterer," Miley said with a laugh.
"You're still beautiful to me," Lilly insisted. "You were beautiful to me at 16, you're still beautiful to me at 50, and you'll still be beautiful when we're both old and gray."
"Now I know you're just suckin' up for something," Miley teased her wife, but unshed tears still shone in her eyes from Lilly's heartfelt admission.
"Who, me?" Lilly asked innocently, her hand on her heart as though she was taken aback by the accusation.
"Yes, you, Lillian Danielle Truscott-Stewart," Miley laughed, "and for the record… it worked." Grinning, she leaned forward and gently kissed her wife on the lips.
"Hi, Gram'ma Miley!" little Robbie called out excitedly. He jumped into her lap, abruptly ending her and Lilly's kiss, and hugged his grandmother tightly. Miley just laughed and engulfed him in a matching hug.
"Hey, bud," she greeted her grandson happily. "How's my favorite grandson?"
"Gram'ma Lilly was telling me a story about you!" he told her excitedly.
"Oh yeah?" Miley replied, turning slightly to give her wife an amused sideways glance. "What kind of story?"
"She told me about the special letter you left her on the tree," little Robbie explained.
"She did, huh?" Miley responded, and her smile grew. Little Robbie nodded eagerly.
"She also told me about Great Gram'pa Robbie Ray, and how you b'came a family again," he continued.
"He was the best daddy ever," Miley replied, her voice hitching slightly. "Would you like to see a picture of him?" When little Robbie nodded again, Miley reached into her own purse and pulled out her wallet. Inside it, beside a picture of her and Lilly on their wedding day, was a picture of Miley, Lilly and Robbie Ray; they were holding their newborn daughter, Susan, while Robbie Ray stood slightly behind them, his arms around them both. All three were smiling happily. It had been taken on the day he'd finally met his granddaughter… and finally accepted Miley and Lilly's relationship. A family reunited…
"That's your momma when she was just a baby," Miley whispered.
"Do you miss him, Gram'ma?" little Robbie asked thoughtfully.
"Very much," Miley said softly.
"I bet he misses you, too," little Robbie said after a moment. Miley felt tears sting her eyes again, followed by Lilly gently squeezing her hand in a silent gesture of support.
"Thank you, bud," she whispered, kissing him gently on top of his head. "Tell you what – how 'bout you head over to the big slide and me n' Grandma Lilly will meet you there in sec?" Little Robbie nodded excitedly and took off running as fast as his legs could carry him.
Watching her grandson Robbie playing happily, feeling her beloved wife Lilly snuggle up against her, Miley took a deep breath, letting all the warmth and happiness envelop her. Then she raised her eyes skyward, to the heavens, where she was sure her parents were still watching over her.
"Thank you, daddy," she whispered softly.