Last one. I know I took forever on this, but I wanted to make it right, and I finally did, so here you go!
He was the Congregation's vagrant
With an unrequited love
When your passion's exultation,
Then finding refuge is not enough
She was the youngest of the family
And the last to be let go
They decided they would try
And make it on their own
"Memories" – Panic! At The Disco
Morning was my favorite time of day. Everything was crisp and clear, untainted with the heavy feelings of a hot summer day in a small town. The birds were just now starting their songs as I sipped my coffee, looking out into my huge yard filled with a sandbox, full swing set, and slide. A ghost of my oldest daughter ran across the grass, laughing and smiling as a younger me chased after her. Soon, my two children followed behind me, my little boy giggling as he held up a toy plane, and my not-so-little girl smiling as she watched from where she sat amongst the flowers.
This was now my life. No school, no distractions. Just me, my children, and my wife of nineteen years in our home town where we first fell in love. It seems so long ago…
The sound of the sliding glass door sounded behind me before familiar arms wrapped securely around my waist. Her warm cheek was placed in between my shoulder blades, her hot breath fanning against my bare skin as she sighed. Her lovely long hair tickled my sides as the wind picked up. I used one of my hands and grasped both of her small ones, squeezing them tightly.
"Good morning, love," I whispered to her. "Sleep well?"
She hummed in reply before placing a kiss on my back. She stepped away from me and I turned to look at her, taking in her rat's nest of morning/sex hair, my button up shirt, and her black Soffee shorts. She blew me a kiss as she walked back through the door and into the kitchen, both of us knowing that our three children will be up soon, demanding for their mother's delicious pancakes.
Once she pushed the door closed, I turned back towards our yard. The sounds and sights of my three kids running around as they were younger changed to them being at the age they are now. The sights of them made me smile proudly, remembering what today symbolized.
My eighteen-year-old daughter, Emily, is graduating from high school today, much to her father's complaints. She was a spitting image of her mother, deep chocolate eyes and hair, cream colored skin, and smile. Not one thing about her resembles me, but I don't care. I know that she's a complete Daddy's girl who used to follow me around in her early years, demanding and begging me to teach her how "to make pretty music on the pi-ah-no." I couldn't say no to her, much to her mother's complaints, and so she got everything she wanted from me. But then our second daughter came along and that all changed.
Little Miss Leah changed the spotlight from her sister to her as she grew. Her dark bronze hair and bright green eyes locked me in, making it hard on me because now I had two girls that desperately wanted their father's attention all to themselves. Being fourteen now, she thinks I'm the goofiest person she knows, and is afraid that I might embarrass her now that she finds boys not to have cooties. She's a stubborn little thing, just like her mother, but deep down, her heart is pure gold. She loves unconditionally and sees the good in everyone even if they don't deserve it. Her mother and I both agree that she'll be the one you see on the sad commercials about those hurt animals.
And then there's my little boy who turned five two months ago, Anthony. He was an unexpected gift, but Bella and I are glad we got pregnant with him. He was the perfect finish to our family, making it come full circle. And making it so I wasn't the only guy in a house full of girls that owned my heart completely. He follows me around, letting me call him 'buddy' and all those names as he helps me with housework. I've started to teach him how to play piano like I did with his older sister, but he's more interested in the guitar.
A smile appeared on my face as I imagined him older, on stage, singing his heart out to a girl he so happened to fall in love with that was in the crowd. The image warmed my heart.
All three of my children will do wondrous things in this wide world, and I couldn't be happier. I was perfectly content with the life I live now, even if being a teacher in a small town doesn't pay well, I could care less. I had all I needed here in my home, and in the friends I've surrounded myself with.
The door slid opened again before arms grasped tightly to one of my legs. I chuckled as I looked down into the wide green eyes of my little boy. He smiled up at me, one of his front teeth missing, as he wiped the sleep from his eyes with a small fist.
"Hey, Daddy!" he exclaimed once he seemed to have woken up.
"Hey, bud," I replied.
"Mom's makin' pancakes!"
I smiled down at him again as I nodded. "I know, buddy. Why don't we go help her out? She's making a lot of food for today."
Anthony held on tighter to my leg as I began to walk back into our home. Bella turned from the pan she was using to smirk at me. She pointed the spatula at Anthony before saying, "Come here, baby. I could use some help from my favorite boy."
"Oh, really?" I teased. "Well, if you put it that way…"
I stepped closer to her, our son still clinging to my leg, as I pressed a soft kiss to her waiting lips. She giggled before swatting at my chest, pushing me away with hitched up eyebrows. My heart swelled as I took in the sight of her again; loving the fact that she was my wife and no one else's.
"I was talking about Anthony, not you," she replied. "But thanks for offering. How about you go wake up the girls?"
I scrunched up my nose and smiled. Anthony let go of my leg before hopping on the chair Bella had pulled up to the counter beside her. I kissed the top of his head before trudging up the stairs, knowing that a war was about to begin.
Waking up these two teens was like pulling teeth. I'm glad Anthony is as little as he is; I don't think I could handle having three at the same time.
I stopped at the first closed door off the stairs, knocking softly. A protest sounded from the other side, so I opened it. Leah sat up in bed, her curls a mess as she glared at me. I chuckled as I stepped in, walking closer to her bed. She held up a pillow in defense as I held up my hands.
"Dad! Don't you dare!" she called, holding the pillow up higher, ready to throw it. "You know I hate it when you do that!"
"Oh, you're no fun anymore," I said with a sad sigh, teasing. "What happened to my little girl that would pretend to be asleep just so I could wake her up by tickling her? I loved hearing her laugh every morning."
She rolled her green eyes at me but dropped the pillow as she pouted. I sat down on her bed beside her, waiting for the response I knew I would get. She was always the one that gave in easily – loves unconditionally and all that.
"She's still here, Daddy," she whispered softly. "She's just grown up a little."
"Don't I know it," I replied, wrapping her up in my arms. She squealed in protest, but wrapped her arms tightly around me. I started to tickle her and she began to squirm, her grip loosening.
"Dad, stop!" she giggled. I loved the sound of it.
"Alright, alright, I'll stop. Let's see if your sister likes the tickle monster in the morning?" I asked her as I stood.
Her evil smirk was a good answer for me. She followed behind me as we tip toed down the hallway towards Emily's room. I didn't knock as I opened her door, taking in the sleeping beauty wrapped up in blue blankets. Her brown hair was fanned across the pillows as her snores sounded softly. I smiled to myself, remembering the sight of her in her crib, waiting for me with wide open arms. Now she was too big to be held, but that didn't stop me from hugging her all the time. She gave the best hugs.
"Em," I whispered as I nudged her arm. "It's time to wake up, sweetheart."
She groaned before rolling over, completely ignoring my voice. I chuckled as Leah pulled the blankets from her body. Emily glared at her sister before turning it on me.
"Why'd you let her in here? You know she's not allowed in here," Emily complained.
"Because she can come in here if I'm in here. You're her sister, love her." I smiled down at her as she scoffed and stood up.
"Yeah, well, we'll see about love after she goes through my clothes," she went on as she trudged to her bathroom. Before the door shut completely, she yelled, "And stay out of my closet, you runt!"
Leah laughed. "Like I'd want any of her clothes."
"You two love each other so much. It just brings me to tears!" I teased.
Leah rolled her eyes at me before exiting her sister's room. I closed the door behind me before heading back down the hallway. Anthony called my name, signaling that breakfast was ready to be consumed. I took the stairs two at a day with Leah following closely behind me. We took our rightful places at the table as Bella and my boy sat plates filled to the brim with pancakes and syrup in front of us.
"Looks awesome, Mom," Leah said with a smile.
Bella kissed her on the head before sitting down beside me. She waited until I took a bite of my food before digging into her own. Emily sluggishly walked down the stairs, hair dripping wet as she tied it up on the top of her head, before sitting down and joining us. Bella waited until she was eating before asking, "You excited about graduation today?"
Emily shrugged. "I guess so. I've been waiting for this day to come ever since I began high school. I thought it would never end."
"Are you kidding?" her sister shrieked. "I'm so ready to be a freshman. It's going to be totally awesome!"
Emily scoffed. "You say that now, but just wait. You'll feel the same way I do once second semester starts up."
"Will I be in high school with sissy?" Anthony piped up, budging his way into the conversation. He turned his expectant green eyes on his mother and I, seeking for an answer.
Bella smiled at him as she shook her head. "No, sweetheart, you'll be in kindergarten in the fall. You'll be at the same school Daddy teaches at."
"Will he teach me how to play music?" he asked with excitement, his eyes shining brightly.
"Of course!" I replied. "Who else would? Tony the Tiger?"
Anthony giggled. "No! My Daddy will!"
"And don't you forget it."
The table erupted in soft laughter as Anthony squealed in excitement. Bella's eyes caught mine as the laughs continued. They were gleaming with love and laughter as she smiled sweetly at me. Her mouth opened slightly as she mouthed "I love you" to me. I mouthed it back to her as our children started to beg for our attention.
This was my life now, and I was so fucking happy about it that I was sure I would die with a smile on my face. Nothing could ever top this high I feel when I'm around my family. I never wanted the feeling to stop.
Alice and Jasper, Emmett and Rosalie, and Bella and I all clapped loudly as our children threw up their graduation caps. The four teenagers circled each other, wrapping their arms around each other as they hugged each other tightly. Emily laughed up towards the sky as one of Emmett and Rosalie's boys whispered something into her ear.
Emily was surrounded with love as she grew up. Alice had Mattie a few months before she was born, and Ryan and Luke followed after her a week later. They all were glued to each other's hips as they grew up, and once they began school, they only wanted to be with each other. Now at eighteen, they wanted nothing more than spend this last summer with each other, creating memories they'll never forget.
Back at home, the party for them commenced. Mine and Bella's whole family showed up, and so did everyone else's. It was a time for a celebration, and this was the fullest I've ever seen my back yard. I enjoyed every minute of it as I watched my oldest child interact with her friends. One boy in particular caught her eye and she smiled at him, a deep blush taking permanent residence on her cheeks. My smile faltered a little at the scene.
"Dude, chill out," Emmett said with a laugh. "She's old enough to date."
"That doesn't mean that I have to like it," I replied as I flipped the burgers that were cooking on the grill.
"True, but relax, man. You're starting to get this look on your face."
"Not to mention that it's creeping me out," Jasper butted in. "I mean, I totally get how you feel. I feel it all the time when Mattie brings home her dates. The protective gene in you rears its ugly head. But they hate that shit, dude. Just ease up."
I shrugged. "At least I'm not alone."
My two friends raised up their beer bottles in agreement as we laughed. Bella danced her way over to where we were, her hands holding an empty plate. I placed the few burgers that were cooked on the plate before leaning in for a kiss. She conceded, and walked away with an extra sway in her hips. Jasper and Emmett chuckled next to me as she went.
"She's such a tease," Jasper commented. "How do you not have, like, ten kids?"
"Pure luck, I guess," I replied with a smirk.
Emmett guffawed, bending at the waist and placing his hands on his knees. Jasper and I looked at him like he was a mad man, but then noticed his pointing finger. We followed it and saw that my son was dripping wet. His wide green eyes found mine and he ran towards me, wrapping his arm around my leg.
"Aunt Rose hit me with a water balloon!" he whined before glaring out towards the yard. "Get her!"
"With pleasure," Bella said as she placed the plate down besides the grill. She bent and picked up one of the balloons before searching out her friend. Emmett, Jazz, and I laughed as we watched Bella search out Rosalie, finally finding her as she hid behind a tree. She walked out behind it with a shocked expression on her face, her shirt soaked.
"That's what you get for picking on my kid!" Bella said with a laugh.
Rosalie frowned. "It was just for fun, Bella. Calm your tits!"
The party erupted with laughter as the two bantered back and forth. Finally, Alice went in between them and separated the two, claiming that she needed help in the kitchen. The laughter died down, and my eyes went back to Emily, who was now sitting with the boy she was smiling at earlier. One of the twins walked over to me with an empty plate.
"Can I have another one, man? You make amazing burgers," Ryan complimented.
"Thanks, Ry," I replied as I placed his food on his plate. Before he could walk away again, I asked him about the boy who caught my daughter's affection.
"Oh, Riley? He's a good kid, Ed. You don't have to worry about him," he replied with a smile. "And, besides, you know Luke and I will watch out for her. She's practically our sister."
I smiled at him before nodding. "You better."
"You have my word," he said with a chuckle before walking back over to his friends. I noticed that he and Luke pulled Riley aside to talk to him, probably warning him about Emily's crazy father that was over protective.
I didn't care. I knew they did it only because they cared about her just as much as I did. I appreciated it a lot, too.
The party was a hit, and soon everyone was leaving at the late hour of eleven. Bella had carried a sleeping Anthony up to his bed around nine, and now we were left to clean up the yard. Leah was over at a friend's house and Emily had asked permission to see a movie with Riley. After Bella had calmed me down and told our daughter it was all right, I let her leave with the boy. I felt like my little girl had finally grown up, taking that first step into the real life she would live without me.
"Hey," Bella's voice called to me, "you're supposed to be working, babe. Where'd you go?"
I turned to her with a sad smile. "She's grown up too fast."
Bella stood up straighter. "I know, but you have to admit, we raised her as best as we could. Now it's up to her to make the right choices that we can't make for her."
"I know, but I just wish she wasn't leaving so soon. It seems like it was just yesterday we were bringing her home from the hospital after she was born."
My love laughed softly and agreed, walking over to me to sit on my lap. She wrapped her arms around my neck as I pulled her closer to me. I rested my head on her shoulder, kissing her neck as she relaxed.
"We still have a whole summer with her, Edward," she whispered, calming my fears. "And she'll visit as much as she can. It's just college, anyways. We survived it."
I chuckled. "It's not that I'm worried about."
"Oh, no? Then, could this possibly be about the boy?" she asked, almost teasing.
"Yeah. It has everything to do with that boy Riley." I frowned as his name spilled from my lips.
Bella turned in my lap, grasping my face with her hands. "She's young and in love, were we too different when we were her age?"
I smiled up at her, moving my face closer to hers. "No, I guess we weren't."
"So let her have this moment," Bella said. "God knows she deserves it."
I nodded and connected my lips with hers, reliving all the moments when we were younger. The fight that led to our separation seems like a lifetime ago, but I can remember it vividly. If it wasn't for that fight, I would have never found her again after letting her go. I still, to this day, haven't forgiven myself for letting her slip through my grasp, but I was thankful now that I have her. After everything I put her through, her love remained strong for me, and I knew that we could tackle any mountain in our way.
The only mountain now that was left standing was our daughter heading off to college in the fall, and our two children starting a new year in school here. I had a whole summer with my little ones, but it never seemed enough.
That night as Emily walked up the stairs to her room, I stopped her by wrapping my arms tightly around her. Instinctively, she hugged me tightly, hiding her face in my chest.
"Daddy, will it always feel like this?" she asked softly as she looked up at me with her big, brown eyes.
I smiled softly down at her and nodded. "Love does that to you. You just have to learn to accept that."
"I hope it never goes away," she whispered into my chest as she held on tighter. "He makes me so happy."
"I'm glad," I replied into her hair as I placed a soft kiss there.
"I love you, Daddy."
My heart swelled as the words left her lips, tears forming in my eyes. This was my baby girl, getting ready to tackle the world on her own, and yet she seems so small. But she knows I'll always be here for her, waiting for her to come back home.
"I love you, too, Em," I replied, placing a kiss to her forehead.
I tucked her into bed that night, imagining doing it to a smaller version of her. She whispered her love to me again as I left her room, and I couldn't keep the tears in. I let them fall from my face as I watched her drift off to sleep. My baby girl was all grown up, and there was nothing I could do to hold her back.
She was ready to face the world without me.
I tip toed back to my room and wrapped my arms around my wife, pulling her into my body. She snuggled close to me as she slept, and I placed a soft kiss to her shoulder. This was my life now, and I wouldn't change a thing about how I got here. Everything was perfect, even if my daughter was ready to leave home. I was content with who I was and how well things have played out for me, and I wouldn't change a thing.
Life was good.
And there we are. The closing to this story. Thank you all so much for reading and taking this ride with me. This is the first of many stories to be completed here, and I can't wait to start on a new one. I want to thank all the messages I got from the reviewers. You all filled up my e-mail, but it was so worth it. I loved every single message I got! So thank you! And finally, I would like to say thanks to all the amazing musicians out there that influenced this story. Without those songs this wouldn't be possibly. So, how about it, loves? One more time? Let's end this right. Lovelovelove!
Thank you all so much for reading and taking this ride with me. This is the first of many stories to be completed here, and I can't wait to start on a new one. I want to thank all the messages I got from the reviewers. You all filled up my e-mail, but it was so worth it. I loved every single message I got! So thank you! And finally, I would like to say thanks to all the amazing musicians out there that influenced this story. Without those songs this wouldn't be possibly.
So, how about it, loves? One more time? Let's end this right.