A/N: Well, guys, here's the last chapter—the epilogue. I'm sorry it took so long to update, but the length of this chapter (I hope it's not too long—I got carried away) explains why and hopefully makes up for the wait. Also, please read my author's note at the end, which has some important info, and thanks a lot to everyone who reviewed the last chapter!
Warning: Just to be on the safe side, this chapter is rated M for drinking and sexual content.
Epilogue: For Infinity
Four and a half years later…
Natalie's pen ran furiously across her paper, and every few seconds she would glance at the clock which was on the wall in front of her. She only had twenty minutes left of her exam, and then she would be done.
She couldn't prevent the small smirk that graced her face as she wrote the last sentence to her essay; she was so relieved this was the last exam she had to take…ever. She felt a rush of excitement course through her as she flipped her essay back to the beginning and began reading it over, deciding to take the last few minutes she had left and check for any mistakes.
Fifteen minutes later, she felt satisfied with what she had written, and closed her blue book, a huge smile gracing her face. Honestly, she felt that it was one of the best in class essays she had ever written. Gathering her stuff, she stood up, carelessly throwing her backpack over one shoulder as she made her way to the front of the classroom where she deposited her test.
As soon as she exited the classroom, she let out a tiny squeal, not caring that some other students, who were walking down the hallway, gave her strange looks, because she was done with college.
Making her way to Keith's truck (he had let her borrow it), she reflected on all that had happened in the past four and a half years since she had started college.
Brooke and Travis were still going out, and were living together. Natalie wasn't sure if they were ever going to get married, as they both seemed perfectly happy. They had also both graduated in the spring (Travis majored in engineering and Brooke accounting).
Trish and Robbie got married during their junior year. They had graduated the same time as Brooke and Travis; Robbie majored in criminal justice and Trish nursing. They had moved into an extremely beautiful house in Beaver Creek, near the woods once they had graduated.
April ended up changing her major, from a vet to management. Once she graduated, she opened a bakery and became the manager. A few months after she had graduated, Zach and she had got married, and six months later, they found out that April was pregnant…with twins. Everyone had found it extremely hilarious (and exciting) that a twin was having twins. April was able to still manage her bakery while taking care of her three month olds. Zach was in the process of finishing his bachelors degree in computer science while working full-time at a computer company.
Dawn had only gone out with Derek for about three months, and then she realized what, according to her, a "creeper" he was, and had been single since. She constantly stated how much she "loved being single"; however, Natalie suspected the only reason she said that was because she had the hots for her male co-worker, Joey. Natalie knew they were going to get together, the only question was: when. She knew Joey was as into Dawn as much as Dawn was into him. And that was saying something.
During Natalie's first semester in college, Keith had spent his free time helping Andy out at his shop, and going to frequent doctor's appointments to make sure that his cancer hadn't come back. During Christmas, after Natalie's first semester at college, Henry's boss told him that he needed to move to Michigan, and, without even thinking about it—he quit. And that spring, Henry and Keith bought a small shop, which was going to become a truck repair shop. Henry had decided it was time for him to do something that he loved, and it worked perfectly for Keith, who had decided during Natalie's first semester that he wanted to make a career out of fixing trucks, he just didn't know where to begin. The new shop was his answer. And Natalie had never seen Keith happier.
Natalie still lived with her parents wanting to save her money, and not move into a dorm or apartment. Plus, Keith had moved into his own apartment and she spent pretty much all her time over there. She still worked at Hooked on Books, and was glad to see that business was still doing well.
Natalie's mom, Caroline, had taken up decorating again, while Pete began doing more photography, on the side of his job as a contractor for a phone company. Cynthia was still into Hannah Montana, but shockingly not as obsessed.
A huge gust of cold, biting air, caused Natalie to break out of her reverie as she shivered; she hadn't realized that she had been so caught up reflecting on the past four and a half years that she was standing by Keith's truck. It was just amazing to think what had happened in such a short amount of time. Smiling to herself at the memories (and the fact that she was leaving her campus, which she hoped was for good), she got into Honeybun, starting to make her way towards Keith's shop—she couldn't wait to see Keith.
She hadn't spent much quality time with him in the past week as she had been busy studying for finals, and was excited to spend some time with him tonight. Arriving at the shop, she parked and walked through the doors, only stopping a few seconds to greet Henry. She entered the garage where a bunch of trucks were in various stages of repair, and it only took her a few moments to find Keith, who was busily working underneath an old classic blue truck.
"Hey," she whispered, kneeling on her knees next to his form. She must have startled him, because she heard a bang, a few curse words, and then Keith appeared, rubbing the side of his head. "I didn't mean to scare you," she said. "Are you okay?"
She pulled his hand away from his forehead to check the damage herself. Even though the past four and a half years had passed with Keith remaining healthy, she couldn't stop herself from fretting over him whenever he felt sick or hurt himself. "I'm fine, partner. It's okay. I just banged it."
She smiled at him, running her hands through his hair (ever since it had grown back, she couldn't stop herself from constantly running her fingers through it), and kissed him on the lips, satisfied he was fine, before pulling away. He gave her a small grin, before settling himself back underneath the truck and said, "So, how'd it go?"
Natalie shrugged even though she knew he couldn't see her. "It went pretty well. Honestly, I'm at the point where I don't care anymore. I'm done with college!" she squealed.
"I'm so proud of you. I knew you could do it," he said, his voice strained as he attempted to tighten something.
"Well, I couldn't have done it without you. And even though it took me four and a half years instead of four…"
"Partner," pressed Keith. "I told you, nowadays, it takes between four and five years to graduate. You need to stop freaking out that it took you four and a half years. With you majoring in English and minoring in creative writing and journalism it's amazing you did do it in four and a half years."
"Okay, okay. I know. I couldn't have done it without you, though. You know that? You were the one that stayed up with me countless nights to help me study, you were the one that brought me coffee, you were simply—"
"The best," Keith finished as he rolled out from underneath the truck.
"Yeah," she mused, glancing at him. "You were and still are the best." She bent down and kissed him again—she just loved his lips, they were so perfect.
"Someone's in a good mood," he smiled.
"Yup, so how are you?" she asked, as he sat up and began putting his tools away.
"I'm good," he replied, as he closed his toolbox.
"Great," she smiled. "I'm so excited to spend time with you tonight." At the mention of the word tonight, Natalie swore she saw a look of almost….fear cross his features, but as soon as it appeared it was gone.
"Me too," he said, giving her a small smile as he stood up. She followed suit.
She followed him into the shop, and as he placed his toolbox on the counter, she seated herself in one of the big yellow chairs they had in the waiting room. "So," she asked, as he walked to a cabinet to put his tools away, "we're still going out to dinner, right?"
At her question, the toolbox that he was just about to place on a shelf fell from his hands and onto the floor, opening and scattering tools all around. Keith dropped to his feet and quickly began picking up the tools. "You okay, there, son?" asked Henry, trying unsuccessfully to hide the smirk that was gracing his face, as he made his way over to the coffee machine and began pouring himself a cup.
"Yeah, I'm fine," mumbled Keith, he placed the last tool in the box, closed it, and placed it carefully on the shelf, before closing the cabinet.
Natalie waited until he was behind the counter, putting some scattered pens back into their container when she asked again, "So, Keith, are we?"
He then promptly hit the pen container, which caused the pens to spill out. "Shit," said Keith. He quickly righted everything before turning to look Natalie and said, "What? No—I mean yeah, yes. We—you and I—that is, yes, we're going to dinner. Yeah."
Natalie stared at him, giving him the strangest look she could muster. Why was he acting so strange? "Are you feeling all right?"
"No, I'm feeling quite sick to my stomach, actually," he muttered quietly.
"Sick?" asked Natalie. He did look a little pale.
"He's fine," said Henry, walking over to Keith and slapping him on the back. Hard. "You guys have lots of fun tonight," he added as he started to make his way into his office.
"Are you sure he's fine?" asked Natalie, causing Henry to stop walking and turn to her.
"He's perfectly healthy. You guys better get going, though. Reservations are at seven, right, son?" he asked, turning to glance at Keith, who looked quite…well, Natalie wasn't sure what he looked like. He just didn't look normal.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, seven. They're at seven." mumbled Keith. "Bye, dad," he said, as he quickly walked around the counter, grabbed Natalie's hand, pulling her out of her chair and dragging her to the front door.
Just as Keith placed his hand on the door handle, Henry spoke up, and with a laugh in his voice asked, "Keith, got your tic-tacs?"
At this question, Keith's grip on the handle slid off, and, if Natalie wouldn't have been there to pull him back, she was certain the door would have slammed him in the face. He turned around, giving Henry the best glare he could muster while saying, "Yes, Dad, now bye." The door closed behind them, and Keith, still gripping onto her hand, practically dragged her to his truck.
While Keith drove to his apartment so they could both get ready, Natalie stared out the window, wondering what the heck was going on with Keith and why he was acting so strange.
And why the hell was Henry so concerned about Keith's having his tic-tacs?
Natalie wasn't sure what was going on with Keith. But something was definitely up with him. His odd and nervous behavior hadn't improved since they had left, and if anything, it was getting worse the more time went by.
And during dinner, Keith had spilt his glass of wine, his cup of water, and almost choked on his salad when she asked if they were going to their spot after dinner. She had thought to ask him about his strange and awkward behavior, but decided it might make him even more embarrassed than he already was, so she kept her mouth shut. She figured he was just having an off day and would be more relaxed once they got to their spot.
She was wrong.
He was just as clumsy, if not more, than he had been at the restaurant. Natalie watched him with concerned eyes as he, with shaky hands, helped her spread out a blanket on the ground. Once the blanket was spread out enough, they both sat down, resting against a large rock, as Keith covered themselves with an extra blanket.
It was in the middle of December and quite cold, but Natalie didn't mind, Keith's body heat kept her warm enough. She rested her head on Keith's shoulder, and stared ahead at the sky, just hoping to see a shooting star. It was still a little light out, but she hoped within the next half hour it would be dark enough to see more stars.
After a few minutes of silence, Keith spoke up, and said in a soft voice, "So, I have something to tell you."
For a brief horrible second, Natalie felt her heart skip a beat as her mind came up with a dozen awful things he was going to tell her. Like his cancer was back, and he was dying. But, she kept herself calm, figuring if it was really bad he wouldn't had waited.
"What's up?" she asked, hoping her calm voice didn't betray how she really felt.
"You know how I went to go get those tests?" he asked. "The ones I took a few weeks ago?"
How could she forget? Those tests were checking to make sure the cancer wasn't back. He normally took them every six months. "Y-yeah," her voice quivered. "I know."
"Well," he started, and she could tell by the tone of his voice that this wasn't bad news; she immediately felt herself relax. "I'm officially out of remission."
"What?" she breathed, lifting her head off of Keith's shoulder so quickly she was momentarily dizzy. "Are you serious?"
"Yup," he said, grinning at her, his green eyes sparkling.
"But I thought you said that they won't say you're out of remission until it's been five years?"
"Yeah, well," he said. "I kind of asked…and Dr. Normandy said it's been close enough to five years that he's pretty confident that it won't come back."
At this, she flung herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck; she was probably hugging him too tightly, but she couldn't get herself to let go, even a little bit. "Thank god," she whispered into his ear, her breath tickling his neck. "This is the best news I have ever heard," she added after a few seconds. Tears were building behind her eyes—she was just so incredibly happy.
He wrapped his arms around her and said, "I know." He then gently grabbed her around the waist and pulled her away from him, reluctantly she let go. He kissed her on the forehead, and even through blurry vision she could tell that he was grinning.
"I don't think this day can get any better," she stated, running her hands through his hair. This had been one of the best days of her life—finishing her last college exam, finding out Keith was out of remission…
"I think it could," stated Keith simply, but Natalie thought she detected a slight waver in his voice.
"Really?" she asked, smirking. "How so?"
He skillfully lifted her up again, and at the same time turned around so he could place her on the rock they normally leaned up against. And then, he said simply, "Tic-tacs."
"Tic-tacs?" she said, laughing. "You always think tic-tacs make everything better."
"Well," he started, and Natalie was certain this time that his voice was wavering. He shakily grabbed something out of his pocket and handed it to Natalie. "They do," he finally finished.
He kept his hand wrapped around the tic-tac case, as he gently placed it into Natalie's hand. In the few seconds that their hands were touching, she felt that Keith's hand was clammy and shaking. "Thanks," she said, looking at him; she was a little confused. Why didn't he just give her one tic-tac like he normally did, instead of giving her the whole case? He was just acting so strange.
She gave him a small smile, and glanced away from him and to the tic-tac case in her hand, ready to open it and take one. But, when she opened the case, she didn't hear the normal movement of a bunch of tic-tacs clattering against each other; instead, she heard a noise that sounded more like a cling. Confused, she glanced down at her now opened hand and gasped. Inside the case there were no tic-tacs.
But instead a ring.
"Oh my god," she whispered, bringing her hand up to her face, as she simultaneously glanced up to Keith, who was now kneeling down on one knee.
"Partner, will you marry me?" he asked, as soon as their gazes met.
"Oh my god, Keith," she whispered. She felt the familiar prickling sensation behind her eyes and knew that she was going to dissolve into tears any second. She blinked furiously before she flung herself at him, hugging him even tighter than she had earlier.
She never, ever, wanted to let go.
Keith was going to be hers…forever. She thought that was possibly the best thing she had ever heard. Finally, the tears came. Gripping his shirt with her fists, she tried to hug him tighter. "I guess this is a…yes?" he asked a bit hesitantly.
At this, she realized she hadn't answered the most important question he probably would ever ask her. She reluctantly pulled away from him, and staring into his eyes as she said, "Yes, Keith. Yes, I will marry you."
At her answer she could see his eyes glaze over. "I love you, partner," he said, his voice cracking. "You have stayed with me through one of the hardest times in my life, and you have always been there for me. Always. No matter what. I am so in love with you. I don't think I can put it into words how much I am in love with you—how much I love you." A single tear fell from his eye and slid down his cheek.
Freely crying, Natalie had to calm herself down before she said, "Keith, I don't want to be with anyone else but you. You complete me. I-I love you, times infinity," she said, before she leaned forward and touched her lips against his.
When she pulled away, he gently took the tic-tac container that was resting on her lap, and with shaky hands, opened it and the ring fell onto his palm. "May I?" he asked. She nodded, and he gently grabbed her left hand and slowly slid the ring on her finger.
Once it was on, she lifted her hand up, the moonlight shining so she could see the ring in perfect clarity. It was exactly what she wanted—a white gold band, with a raised solitaire diamond in the middle. "God, Keith, it's beautiful."
"Really?" he asked. "You're not just saying that?"
"No, it's beautiful—it's perfect."
He visibly sighed. "Good. I-I picked it by myself. I didn't want anyone else to help me. Um, I also had it engraved."
"Really?" she asked, and she slid the ring off her finger, anxious to see what it said. She brought the ring up closely to her face, and squinting enough, saw that on the inside band engraved were the words, Times Infinity. "Times infinity," she said out loud, looking back up to Keith and giving him a watery smile.
"Yeah," he responded. "Times infinity."
Two hours later, they arrived back at Keith's apartment. Natalie had wanted to stay longer, but the later it got, the colder it got. As soon as Keith closed the door behind him, and threw his keys on the table, Natalie glanced at him and asked, "Are we really going to get married?"
She grabbed his hand and plopped on the futon, hating how it creaked under her weight. He really needed to get an actual couch, since she was certain this futon wasn't going to be around much longer; it felt like it was going to break any day.
"Yes, partner," he said, snuggling up next to her. "We are really getting married."
"I can't wait," she squealed.
"I can tell," said Keith, as he gave her his trademark lopsided grin. Natalie grabbed a tiny throw pillow that was on the futon and hit him with it. "Hey!" he exclaimed, rubbing his arm and glaring at her.
"Oh, please," she said, rolling her eyes, "like that hurt. You big baby."
"It really did hurt."
Natalie sat up and kissed him on the cheek before saying, "I have to make a call."
"Another one?" asked Keith, frowning. "You've been making calls nonstop since."
"Not really," said Natalie, running her fingers down his arm, causing goosebumps to appear. "I think I stopped for awhile…remember… the back of your truck?"
"Hmm…" started Keith, "I'm not sure I really remember…I think you might need to remind me." He leaned towards her, trying to capture her lips in a kiss.
Gently, she pushed him away. "I will remind you. After I make this call, that is."
He pulled away from her, crossed his arms over his chest and huffed. "Who are you calling now?" he asked.
"Brooke," she stated simply.
"Are you gonna be long?"
"Nope," she said. "I'm just going to tell her the news." She squealed again, before quickly dialing Brooke's number.
After four rings, Brooke answered. "Hey, girl, what's up?"
"NO WAY! FINALLY!" Natalie had to move the phone away from her ear as Brooke started screaming. Giving Brooke a few seconds to calm down, she glanced over to Keith, who was glancing at her cell phone with wide eyes. "You have officially freaked Keith out with your screaming," she stated.
"Omigod," said Brooke, calming down a bit. "Can I talk to him?"
"Yup," she said. "I'll put you on speakerphone."
"Hey, river," said Keith once Natalie had put her cell phone on speakerphone and had resting it on the coffee table in front of them.
"Keith!" reprimanded Brooke. "You know how much I hate that nickname."
"I know, that's why I always call you it."
"One day I'm gonna come up with a really annoying nickname you'll hate."
"Haven't you been trying to find one for the past three years?"
"Yes, actually, I have. And just so you know, I'm so close I can taste it." Natalie and Keith laughed. "Mark my words, you will have a nickname the next time I see you."
"I'll hold that to you," laughed Keith.
"Good, just as long as you know," said Brooke. "So, congratulations. I've been wondering, Keith, when you were going to get brave enough to ask her."
"Funny," he said sarcastically. "It wasn't that I was scared…I was just waiting for the right time."
"Right," Brooke laughed.
Natalie turned to him. "Oh, so you're telling me that your nervousness and clumsiness the whole night was just how you normally are. That it had nothing to do with being scared."
Keith glared. "Nope, none at all." But when neither Natalie nor Brooke said anything he finally said. "Geez! You girls act like it's easy to propose!"
"It is," stated Brooke.
"So, you girls are telling me that every guy out there should just not be worried about rejection? That the thought of rejection isn't scary?"
"Well, when you put it that way…" mused Brooke.
Natalie then said, trying to divert from Keith and Brooke having an argument, "Brooke, I'd love it if you would be my Maid of Honor."
Keith jumped at the scream. "Geez. You girls and your screaming. It's going to give me a heart attack."
"Don't geez me," said Brooke. "This is huge. Natalie, I will definitely do it. Just as long as you don't make me wear like a hideous bright orange dress with like a huge bow just so you will look better, because that's totally not gonna fly with me."
"I was thinking of more like a puke green color, what'd ya think?"
"That's much better," Brooke responded sarcastically. "Well, I better let you two lovebirds go commemorate your engagement…"
"Oh, we already did that," said Natalie, "So we can still—"
"Actually," spoke up Keith, grabbing the cell phone off of the coffee table. "Natalie will call you tomorrow…because—"
"Don't say anymore," said Brooke. "I'll talk to you guys tomorrow. Bye!"
Keith threw Natalie's phone on the ground, before turning to look at her. "What?" he asked, glancing at her dumbfounded expression.
"I wasn't done talking to her!" she exclaimed.
"Yes, you were!" he said. Then, he smirked and leaned over, capturing his lips against her. This time, Natalie didn't push him away, but instead wrapped her arms around him, gripping onto his shirt as he gently moved her so she was resting on her back.
They kissed heatedly for a few moments before Keith pulled away and said, "So, are you going to remind me?"
"Uh huh," mumbled Natalie, dizzy with his kisses. "Let me think…first…I did this…" She brought her arms down and began unbuttoning his pants. Once she had taken them off, she moved his arm towards her shirt. "Then, you took my shirt off," she stated.
Keith moaned, as he began skillfully unbuttoning her dress shirt with one hand, as his other held himself up. When her shirt was off, Natalie went to say something, but he silenced her with a kiss before saying, "I remember now…"
The next week passed in a daze; Natalie had been so excited that she could finally call Keith her fiancé that she honestly didn't pay that much attention to the fact that she had her graduation and some of her family had arrived—she was just too excited; too excessively happy. Her relatives had already left town, only staying long enough to see her walk, and then go out to dinner to catch up with everyone. It had made Natalie a little sad that they hadn't stayed longer, but it was nearing Christmas and they needed to go back to their families for the holiday.
It was only two days until Christmas and Trish had invited Natalie and Keith over for a Christmas party. As soon as they arrived, close to six, they walked in the door, not bothering to knock. Keith retreated into the living room to go say hi to Travis, while Natalie went in search of Trish and Brooke.
"Hey, guys," she greeted, as soon as she caught sight of them in the kitchen. Trish was preparing a salad and Brooke was flipping through a book called, Fancy Drinks.
"Hey, Natalie!" said Trish. "Glad you could make it. Dinner should be done soon."
"Ugh, forget it. This book sucks. I say we stick with the traditional Egg Nog—it is Christmas after all," exclaimed Brooke.
"Sounds good," said Trish.
"You want one Natalie?" asked Brooke.
"Definitely. So where's Robbie?" she asked, realizing that Robbie hadn't been in the living room with Travis.
"On an emergency run," Trish stated simply, as she began dumping carrots and tomatoes into the salad.
"An emergency run for what?"
"What do you think?" asked Trish, shaking her head as she pushed the salad bowl over to Natalie. "Do you think you can add the oil and vinegar? I have to check the lasagna."
"Sure," said Natalie, pulling the salad bowl closer and grabbing the oil and vinegar that was on the table and adding it to the salad. "So why couldn't April and Zach come?"
Trish pulled out a huge plate of lasagna from the oven before saying, "April went to Zach's work Christmas party, and Dawn decided that she'd rather go to her work Christmas party, too."
"Ah," said Natalie, as she mixed the dressing into the salad. "I bet I know why she'd rather attend her work Christmas party."
"Joey," said Brooke, as she finished pouring the Egg Nog into three wine glasses.
Just as Natalie was finishing the salad, Trish suddenly stopped, glanced at Natalie, and squealed. "Oh my god! I haven't seen it yet." She promptly grabbed Natalie's hand, and brought it close to her face so she could check out Natalie's ring. "It is gorgeous. He did a really good job."
"I know," said Natalie, and just as she was about to tell her how incredibly perfect the ring was she felt a strong arm wrap around her stomach, while the other reached out and grabbed a carrot from the salad bowl. "Keith," she said, smacking his hand before he could get away. "Stop it."
She turned around, glaring at him, as he slowly chewed his carrot. "I'm hungry," he stated simply.
"Dinner is pretty much done," said Trish, cutting up the lasagna.
"Sweet," said Keith, "That's why I came in here, actually. Travis couldn't get his butt off the couch to come ask."
Trish brought her lower lip out into a pout and said, "You're not here to say hi to me?" she asked.
"Or me?" asked Brooke.
"Hey, Trish," said Keith, grinning at her. He then glanced over to Brooke. "And hey, river."
"Shit!" said Brooke. "I haven't come up with a name for you yet!"
"I thought you said you were so close you could taste it?" reminded Keith.
"Shut up," she said. "Mark my words; you'll have a nickname by the end of the night."
"If you say so," said Keith, winking at her.
"Oh, Keith?" spoke up Trish, as she grabbed the lasagna and carried it to the dining room table.
"Congrats on doing a fantastic job with Natalie's ring—it's stunning."
He blushed. "Thanks a lot."
Just then, the front door opened and Natalie heard Robbie call out, "I have the beer!" He then entered the kitchen, carrying two twelve packs.
"Good grief, Robbie!" said Trish, glaring at him. "That's too much beer! What are we going to do with it?"
He furrowed his brow in confusion. "Um, drink it? And did you just say 'too much beer?" He turned to glance at Keith. "Did she just say 'too much beer'?"
"I think so, man," said Keith, shaking his head.
"Well," spoke up Travis who had just entered. "There is no such thing as too much beer."
"Exactly," agreed Keith and Robbie.
"Well, dinner's ready so let's all move into the dining room," said Trish, and everyone followed her.
The girls grabbed their Egg Nog, while the boys grabbed a beer, and soon they were sitting down at the table, commenting on Trish's meal.
Dinner passed by quickly. As they were cleaning up their dishes Brooke asked, glancing at Natalie and Keith, "Do you guys have a day planned out?"
"No," said Natalie, shaking her head. "But definitely in the summer. I've always wanted a summer wedding."
"You've got to get moving, then! That's in like six months."
"I know," said Natalie. "I'm already stressing."
"Don't worry, partner," started Keith. "We can always just get you some sweatpants and you can wear that instead of a dress. Ow!" he exclaimed, pouting, after she had promptly slapped him on the arm with the rag she was using to dry the dishes. "That hurt," he pouted, rubbing his arm, which was a little red.
"Sorry," said Natalie sheepishly, even though she didn't look all that sorry.
Once the dishes were put away, Trish brought out the dessert, a fancy chocolate cake. While Trish was cutting it, Robbie poured everyone a cup of coffee. It wasn't long until they all moved into the living room.
Natalie sat down next to Keith on the big comfy couch closet to the fireplace and everyone else found seats on the other couch, and the two recliners. "Keith, I forgot to say congratulations for being out of remission. How does it feel?" asked Brooke, once everyone had gotten comfortable.
Keith glanced over to her and replied, with a huge grin, "It's great. It's almost surreal in a way…"
"I bet it's the best feeling, though," replied Brooke.
He took a sip of his coffee before saying, "Oh, yeah, it's the best. It's just strange, because when I relapsed the first time I didn't think there was any way I was going to beat it—it's not that I didn't have hope, but you know the odds get lower and lower with every time you relapse." Keith glanced up, shocked to find everyone staring at him, incredibly interested in what he was saying. "So…yeah…" he finished.
"Wow," breathed Trish. "It's really like a miracle, isn't it?"
Natalie smiled at Trish, thinking the same exact thing. It really was a miracle that Keith was with them—with her; she never took the fact that she had him for granted.
And she never would.
"Yeah," nodded Keith. "It really is. You know, I just wish I knew who paid for it all—I mean, they basically saved my life. If they wouldn't have paid I-I wouldn't be here. I used to constantly wonder who paid for it. Still do, actually."
"And you never had any clues? Nothing?" asked Travis, glancing at Keith expectantly.
Keith shrugged, and then took a bite of his cake. "I have no idea."
"Natalie," started Travis, "you don't have any idea either?"
Natalie choked on her coffee, surprised that he had addressed her. She hoped the expression that was gracing her face wasn't one of guilt. Clearing her throat she said, "No—nope. No idea." She let out a tiny nervous cough.
No one but Keith seemed to think anything of her reaction. At Keith's expression, however, she knew that he knew she suspected something. She felt herself blush as she stared at him, and just hoped that he didn't say anything, but by the way that he kept opening and closing his mouth, she knew he was trying to figure out the best way to ask her.
Natalie never felt more relieved to hear Brooke scream, "I GOT IT!" This seemed to take Keith's attention, and Natalie was sure that he wasn't going to bring up any questions dealing with who paid for his treatment until later. "Well, doesn't anyone want to know what I figured out?"
"What?" asked Robbie.
"Keith's nickname!" She gave them all a huge, proud grin.
"Really?" asked Trish. "What is it?"
"Yeah," started Keith, confident he didn't need to worry about anything she came up with, "what is it?"
"You're going to love it," she said.
"The suspense is killing me," muttered Keith sarcastically.
"So, what is it?" asked Natalie.
"Bubba?" repeated Keith. "Are you serious?"
"Yes, it's perfect. And, also, the only name I could come up with. I think it suits you."
"I don't know if that's a good one…"
"That's the point, Bubba. You're supposed to hate it, Bubba. Hey, Bubba?" she asked, a little too excited over his new nickname.
"What?" he moaned.
"Oh, nothing," she said in a sing-song voice. "Just trying your new name out…"
Keith and Natalie didn't leave the party till close to midnight. On the ride back to Keith's, he was quiet. Natalie suspected that he was thinking about the conversation that they had had earlier, regarding who had paid for his treatment. As much as she wished she could deny that she had no idea—she knew he knew well her well enough to not have seen that flicker of guilt cross her face.
He was going to want to talk about it, so she took her time getting ready for bed, trying to think of the best way to tell him. She couldn't keep it a secret her whole life, so why not tell him now?
When she was done washing her face and changing into her pajamas, she got into bed. Once she had the covers pulled over her, and was facing Keith she smiled at him before he said, in a soft voice, "Partner, we need to talk."
"About what?" she asked, hoping to sound innocent enough that maybe, just maybe, he wouldn't bring it up. Honestly, she wasn't sure exactly why she was so worried about telling him.
He sighed as he brought his hand to gently run his fingers through her hair. "You know."
"Yeah-yeah," she finally said. "I know." The way he was looking at her so desperately, she couldn't not tell him.
"So, do you have any idea who paid for my treatment?" he asked, as he stopped running his fingers through her hair and stared at her intently.
Running her fingers up and down her arm, she cleared her throat and said, "Keith, I know who paid for your treatment."
His eyes widened. "You do?"
She gave him a soft smile, nodding. "Yeah…"
"For how long? Why didn't you tell me?" She was glad that his voice didn't seem to hold any anger.
"I've known since you were getting treatment."
Keith's eyes got wider. "Really? So who is it? Who paid?" he impatiently asked.
Natalie took a deep breath and said, "My parents. They paid."
"W-what?" he breathed, sitting up in bed. She sat up too. "Your parents?" he asked, looking at her. "They paid for my treatment? For all of those medical bills?" He looked incredibly shocked.
"Yeah, they did," she nodded.
"Are you sure?" he asked, his eyes were searching her face, as if trying to tell if she was telling him the truth.
"I'm positive. I've talked to them about it."
"Really?" he asked, sounding a tad bit confused. "Why did they tell you and not me? Why did they not want me to know?"
"They never really told me, Keith. I found out. I'm pretty sure they probably never would have said anything if I wouldn't have found out and said something."
"Why didn't you tell me, though? Once you found out?"
Natalie gave a small laugh, as she really thought about why she didn't tell him. "Well, it was purely for selfish reasons. At first, I didn't want to tell you because I was afraid that you would stop the treatment because you'd feel too guilty. And to me, nothing was more important than you getting that treatment. And, plus, there was a reason my parents didn't tell me, and I think they probably didn't want you to know—they probably felt that you would feel bad and guilty as well."
"You're probably right," said Keith. "If I would have known…I probably would have wanted to stop the treatment. I just—I can't believe…." His voice cracked—just a tiny bit, but it did. She grabbed his hand and gently began rubbing her thumb across the back of it. "Why didn't you tell me after I was done with the chemo?" he asked.
She shrugged. "Honestly, I thought about it, but every time I went to tell you I kept coming up with reasons not to—you'd get mad, you'd be upset...I thought maybe it would have been too much for you to handle at the time. Then time just kept on passing and I felt it would be strange to bring it up. I kept thinking I should tell you, but I just never did…then it got to a point where it seemed like I had waited too long to say anything without it being really weird."
"Wow," breathed Keith. "All those nights I laid awake, while I was getting treatment, wondering who was paying, and I was staying in their house." He looked incredibly shocked at the news he had just been told, but grateful at the same time.
"You're not mad at me, are you?" asked Natalie after a few minutes of silence. "For never telling you?"
"No! No, not at all. I'm just…I'm so grateful for everything your parents have done for me. They've just…they gave—they have given me the chance to live. To really live. I could never thank them enough."
"I know what you mean," said Natalie. "I've thanked them countless times, and I don't feel like I've done it enough."
"Thanks for telling me, partner," he said, and he lied back down, resting on his side. She followed suit, and scooted close to him—so close their foreheads were touching.
They lied there, staring in to each other's eyes for a while, and when Natalie saw his eyes flutter closed she suddenly whispered, "Keith."
"What?" he mumbled, almost asleep.
"Just please don't tell my parents I told you, all right? They-they probably have a reason for never mentioning it…"
"Okay," he mumbled. "I won't say anything…" His eyes closed again, and his breathing began to get deep. Sometimes she envied how quickly he could fall asleep.
Snuggling up closer to him, she kissed him on the cheek before saying, "Thanks."
The next two months passed by quickly, and once it turned February Natalie was sent into full panic mode. She had yet to plan much of her wedding, with being busy with the holidays. The only thing she had managed to do was stop by a few wedding boutiques to try on some dresses; she had yet to find one that was perfect. She was trying to remain calm, but the fact was her wedding was in less than six months, as she and Keith had decided on the date.
Not only was she busy planning her wedding, but she was also busy with her new job—a copyeditor for an independent writing magazine. The job was actually really exciting, and she enjoyed editing articles for the magazine, which were actually really interesting—at least her job wasn't dull. She did however miss working at Hooked on Books, but she knew she couldn't work there her whole life. She still stopped by occasionally to drink coffee and flip through some wedding dress magazines, getting Melanie's, April, and Dawn's opinion.
Feeling stressed and nervous about getting behind on planning her wedding, Natalie finally decided that she needed to be more proactive and start searching for the perfect dress, which is why she, her mom, Brooke (her Maid of Honor) and all her bridesmaids (April, Dawn, Trish) were going out with her today.
To go wedding dress shopping.
She wanted as many friends to come, so she could get as many opinions as possible. Having spent countless hours searching on their website, Natalie had already selected the top dresses she wanted to try. So, when they arrived at David's Bridal, they already had her top dresses ready for her to try on.
However, after two hours, and trying on every dress she could possibly find, Natalie felt like she was going to cry. They hadn't found anything; she had even taken a break, and helped everyone find their bridesmaid dresses. She hadn't been too picky on what she wanted the dresses to look like, only that they be as close as they could to dark purple.
After some more searching, Trish, Brooke, April, and Dawn all selected a short charmeuse satin dress that was strapless and rested just above the knees. It even had pockets which they all seemed to love. Natalie thought they were perfect since the wedding was going to be in June and it would be hot.
However, even after getting the bridesmaid dresses and starting with a new hope, she still found nothing. Slumping into a chair, she said, "I'm never going to find a dress, nothing looks good on me."
"Oh, please," said Brooke, trying to sooth her. "Those dresses are just made wrong." This comment made Natalie laugh. "What?" asked Brooke.
"You sound like Keith. Remember that time he tried on those pants inside out and kept telling me they were made wrong?"
"He did that?" asked Caroline, who had come back from looking for more wedding dresses for Natalie.
"Yeah," said Natalie, feeling a tad bit better. "You're not surprised, are you?"
"No, not at all. I can only imagine what he did, to try and get out of shopping." She stopped and laughed. "Now," she started again. "Don't worry about the dress. I'm sure there is a dress just for you in this store. Everyone but Natalie follow me."
"Where're you going?" asked Natalie, standing up.
"We are going to find you the perfect dress," said Caroline smiling.
"Yup," said Dawn. "We're going to find you a dress that's gonna make Keith not wanna wait to get you into the bedroom…" she stopped once she saw Caroline's look. "You know, only so they can have a deep conversation."
"I'm sure," smiled Caroline.
Natalie laughed, as they all disappeared among the dresses. Fifteen minutes later, April came running back saying, "We found a dress for you. It's perfect."
"Really?" asked Natalie, a grin reaching her eyes.
Trish arrived, carrying the dress, a few seconds behind April. "Try it on," she said handing it to Natalie.
Having a little more hope than she wished she did, Natalie went into the dressing room, Caroline followed behind her to help her. When she slid the dress on, before it was even zipped she knew.
It was the one.
The dress was strapless and had a satin bodice with gorgeous beaded embroidery. It came down in a ball gown skirt with a train that extended about four feet from the waist.
"It's perfect," she breathed. It was simply amazing. She felt so beautiful and so stunning in it—the exact feelings she was certain a bride should feel. When she turned around and saw tears in her mother's eyes, she knew she thought the same.
Smiling at her mom, she opened the dressing room door and as soon as she stepped out, she heard a gasp all around. "Oh my god, Natalie. This is the dress. It's perfect," said Dawn.
"Keith is going to have a heart attack when he sees you in that," said April, her mouth hanging open.
"You like it?" she asked nervously, glancing down.
"Like it?" asked April, glancing to everyone. "We love it."
"This is it, then," she said. "This is the one."
February turned into March, and Natalie felt quite accomplished with all of the wedding planning she had gotten done. The weekend had arrived, and Natalie was on her way to Keith's, since they were going to get some wedding stuff done today. She arrived at Keith's apartment just as it turned seven in the morning. When she walked in, however, she saw no signs of him. She had expected him to be sitting on the kitchen table, drinking coffee and trying to stay awake.
But he wasn't.
Natalie knew exactly where he was. She made his way into his room, and there he was, sprawled out on his stomach, taking up the whole bed, his covers strewn on the floor.
She walked over to the side of the bed he was facing. "Keith," she said. "Wake up."
"Keith!" she screamed.
This time he moaned and grabbed an extra pillow and covered his head with it before moaning, "Go away. 'M tired." At this, she grabbed his arm and pulled, trying to pull him out of bed, but she wasn't strong enough.
"Wake up!"she said. He didn't budge. "Fine, you asked for it!" she said, as she left his room and walked into the kitchen. She filled the biggest glass Keith had with ice cold water, then made her way back over to him.
Standing where just had been previously, she bit her lip hard to stop from laughing and quickly grabbed the pillow that was covering him, threw it to the floor, and then poured the cup of ice water on his head.
He sprang up sputtering. "What the hell was that for?"
"You are not ready," she explained, as he shook his head to get rid of the excess water. Once he was satisfied, he grabbed his comforter from the floor and covered himself with it. "Get up!" she said.
"I'm sick," he said, and then promptly let out a very fake cough.
She grabbed the comforter and tore it off of him. "You. Are. Not. Sick. There is no way you are getting out of this; I don't care how you feel. You've got ten minutes," she said before promptly stomping out of the room.
Natalie was quite pleased when she heard his shower turn on not two minutes later. And exactly ten minutes later, he came walking out wearing a pair of loose fitting pants, and a hoodie, while yawing. Maybe she should have let him sleep in a little more. He did look a bit tired. "Ready," he mumbled.
"Morning," she said, as she got up from kitchen table. "You wanna go to Starbucks and get coffee and muffins before we start?" she asked, as she walked over to him, and wrapped her arms around him and hugged him—tight.
At this, he perked up. "Definitely." She pulled away, and he went and grabbed his wallet and keys. "So, what exactly do we have to do today?"
"We have the cake tasting at eight, and then we have to go do our registry for Target. I think that's enough for one day. What do you think? I guess we could also—"
"Partner," said Keith. "That is enough. I mean, are you crazy? It's only March; we have a few months to do all of these things."
Natalie glared at him, as she put the list she was going over back into her purse. "I am not crazy. These things have to be done a few months in advanced," she stated, as she closed the apartment door behind them. As they were walking down the stairs she also added, "I think we've had this conversation...oh, a bazillion times. Don't you want the wedding to be perfect?"
"Of course, partner. But to me, as long as you're the woman I'm marrying the wedding will be perfect."
They stopped just by his truck, and she looked up at him. "You are," she started, standing on her tip-toes and gave him a light kiss on the cheeks, before finishing, "the sweetest."
A blush rose on his cheek, and a grin graced his face as he whispered, "Partner," before walking away and getting into his truck.
Keith seemed to be much more excited for the cake tasting once he had got his coffee, and it had woke him up. They arrived at the bakery, which was only a half hour away and were directed into a small room. They waited patiently for someone to bring out their cakes to taste.
Five minutes later, a cheerful lady, Marie, walked in their room, carrying two trays filled with tiny square shaped cakes. She set them down in front of them and said, "All right, let's get started." She sat down in the chair in front of them and then promptly explained what flavor each sliver of cake was. Once she was done, she caught her breath before she said, "Now, I'll leave you guys to it. I'll be back in a half hour or so—enjoy!"
Once Marie had left the room, Keith grabbed his fork and was about to dig in to the piece of cake closest to him, but Natalie grabbed his wrist and gently stopped him. "Keith, the point of this is to taste the cake—not eat all of it in less than thirty seconds."
He furrowed his brows. "You expect me to look at all this cake and spend the time tasting it?"
"Good grief. You're hopeless," said Natalie, before she started with the first slice, a vanilla cake, with a raspberry center and cream cheese frosting. "This is really good, but—"
"—it's not chocolate," he finished.
"Exactly," smiled Natalie, before she took a bit of chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. She tried to ignore how quickly Keith was devouring the cakes. To her, it didn't seem like he was tasting the cake, he was eating them so quickly. It wouldn't be her fault if they got a cake he didn't like.
By the time they had finished tasting the cakes (Keith had been done way before Natalie), she didn't think she could eat another bite—and didn't really need to, as she had found the perfect cake. She wanted to know which Keith's favorite was, but he had decided he wanted to keep this bit of information to himself, until he told Marie.
Still trying to convince him to tell her, she argued, "Keith, this really defeats the purpose of cake tasting if we can't decide on a flavor we both want, because you won't tell me."
"Don't worry; I'm sure we want the same one," was all he responded.
Natalie was about to give him a snarky reply, but Marie entered and she held her tongue. "So, what's the winner?" she asked expectantly, once she sat down and noticed the mostly empty plates.
Natalie turned to Keith and gave him a look that she hoped meant 'don't you dare', but he just gave her a grin, turned to Marie, and with a straight face said, "Well, we think that the wheatgrass would benefit our guests, since it does a body good."
Natalie's mouth gaped open, and she could tell Marie was quite surprised as well. "Well, if that's what you want—"
Natalie jumped in and said, "Absolutely not. He's just playing around. I liked the chocolate cake with the raspberry filling and chocolate frosting," she said. She then turned towards Keith. "What cake did you really like?"
"Honestly?" she nodded. Did she want him to lie? Geez. "The same one you did."
Natalie smiled. "Well, then it's perfect."
Marie clasped her hands together, and said, "Well, let's choose the design, then!"
"Actually," said Natalie. "I already have a picture of the cake I was thinking you could make. Let me get it." She dug into her purse and a few seconds later, handed Marie a piece of paper with the picture of what she hoped the wedding cake would look like. "I hope it makes sense," she stated, as Marie's eyes trailed over the paper.
"This is a beautiful picture. I think I can definitely make this. Is that the infinity symbol?" she asked, pointing to the picture.
"Yeah," said Natalie, nodding her head. "It's the theme of our wedding and it's kind of special to us, so we'd really like that on there."
"Well," smiled Marie. "Don't worry; I will make you guys a cake you'll love."
"I was wondering," said Keith, "what kind of wedding toppers do you have?"
"We have all different kinds," she said, grabbing one of the albums at her feet and opening it up. She placed it in front of Keith."What were you thinking?" she asked.
Smirking, Keith quickly turned a few pages of the book until he suddenly stopped and said, "That one," he pointed to a picture where the bride and groom were in a car, waving. "But I was wondering—is there any way you could make this a yellow truck?"
Marie looked thoughtful for a few seconds, and then suddenly a smile graced her face and she said, "Absolutely. I've got the perfect idea."
An hour later, after they had finished talking to Marie about the specifics of their cake, they drove straight to Target where they were going to do their registry. Natalie had already gone to Bed Bath & Beyond with Brooke and signed up for a registry, but wanted to take Keith with her to at least one.
However, by the time they parked in front of Target, Natalie wasn't sure how much Keith was actually going to help; he kept complaining that he was tired, thirsty, and hungry. "How can you be hungry?" she asked. "You had a muffin at Starbucks, and all that cake!"
"But I am," he moaned. "I don't wanna go shopping."
"It's not shopping, technically, and it won't take long as long as you don't complain."
"Fine," he said. Natalie smiled at him, and unbuckled her seatbelt.
Once they walked into Target, Natalie dragged Keith over to customer service and signed up for their registry, before they were handed two scanners, used to mark the items.
Keith's sluggishness and boredom completely disappeared once he was holding onto one of the scanners. "This is going to be fun!" he said, eyes sparkling with mischievousness.
Natalie grabbed his arm to stop him. "Keith," she started seriously. He narrowed his eyes at her. "We need to get things that we need, you understand?"
"Yup!" he stated, easily pulling her grip away from him.
"We'll start in the kitchen area, all right?"
He let out a huge sigh, looking a bit confused. "Kitchen area? We don't need anything from the kitchen area."
Natalie rolled her eyes. "Yes, Keith, we do."
"My stuff is perfectly fine," he stated.
"You mean all your chipped dishes? The ones that don't even match?"
"Yup," he said, nodding. "They do their job— and a great one at that. Why do dishes need to be pretty? All we do is put food on them. It's not like we stare at them and comment on how pretty they are. What? Do you want the food to have something pretty to—"
"Oh, brother," said Natalie, cutting him off. She grabbed his wrist tightly and pulled him towards the kitchen area. He was so hopeless. "For that comment, we're going to get really, really girly ones. With flowers and everything."
"Partner," he said, trying to release her grip on his wrist. "Please, no. Can't we compromise?"
She didn't reply and took an immediate right into the aisle that had plates, so quickly that Keith stumbled into her. She eyed the various dishes, and turned to Keith. "Yes, we can compromise. As long as you stay serious about this. Now, which ones do you like?" she asked.
It seemed like Keith was actually considering the various dishes, but then a smirk crossed his face, and Natalie felt herself get a bit wary. "What if we got one of each design? So, like all the plates with this set," he stated, pointing to some plain black plates, "and the bowls with this set," he added, pointing to some ugly looking red bowls. He then looked up at her, looking extremely proud at his idea.
"Absolutely not," she said, causing his grin to falter. "Keith, it all has to match!"
He huffed loudly. "Why? It would be funny! Just think when we have guests over, they would be entertained at our crazy dish collection."
"We are never going to have guests over until we do something about the condition of your place!"
"Excuse me?" said Keith, giving a fake look of hurt. "What is wrong with my place?"
"It's boring, it has no design, and it's just ugh!" she said, throwing up her arms.
"You need to stop being so OCD about all of this!" he replied, before he aimed the scanner at a horribly ugly chinaware set that looked to be almost puke green in color.
"Don't!" screamed Natalie, grabbing his arm which was holding the scanner and aiming it at the floor.
"What?" said Keith, trying to look serious, but Natalie could hear the laugh in his words.
"Those are ugly!"
"Exactly," said Keith.
"All right," said Natalie, "if you keep doing that I'm going to take the scanner away."
Keith pouted. "No, don't, it's fun."
"Well, then behave."
"I will, partner," said Keith softly. "Now, which dishware set do you like best?"
At Keith's question, Natalie walked up and down the aisle a few times, before she stopped in front of a dishware set that kept catching her eye, and she knew it was the one— they were black and white and had oriental designs on them. "These," she said, pointing her finger at them. "What do you think?" she asked, turning to Keith.
"They're prefect, partner." He glanced at his scanned hopefully and then asked, "Can I?"
"Yes," she sighed, as she watched Keith excitedly scan the dishware with his new favorite toy.
After Keith scanned the dishware, Natalie dragged him over to the rest of the kitchen supplies. They found some simple glassware, a blender, coffee pot, placemats, knife set, mixing bowls, pots and pans—everything Natalie could think of that they might need, as she knew Keith was seriously lacking in kitchen supplies.
"Where to next?" asked Keith excitedly, ready to use the scanner again.
"Well, we need some furniture for the living room. What do you think?"
He didn't look too excited at that but said, "Okay."
"I think we need some new bedroom furniture, too…" she said, seductively running her fingers down his arm, causing goosebumps to appear.
"Hmm," said Keith, leaning his forehead against hers. "I think that's a great idea." He then looked a bit more interested once they made their way to the furniture area. There weren't many bedroom sets to choose from, but she saw a set catch Keith's eye. "This one's nice," he said, pointing to a black headboard and footboard with a matching dresser and nightstands.
"Yeah," agreed Natalie. It was a nice set and would match Keith's apartment. Grinning, Keith used the scanner and clicked at the headboard, bed stand, nightstands, and dresser."Perfect," she added once he was done.
Afterwards, Natalie led Keith over to the bedding, so they could choose which comforter would match the set. They ended up choosing a simple dark red comforter, with black sheets. "Great," said Keith after scanning the comforter and sheets. "Are we done?" he asked.
Natalie rolled her eyes. "Almost. I wanted to see if they had any nice furniture for the living room."
"What? Why?" asked Keith. "I have furniture in the living room," he stated.
"Yes, you do," said Natalie, as she made her way over to some sofas. "But it's ugly. And I think the futon you use as a couch has had much better days. I think it's broke."
"You wanna know how my futon broke?" asked Keith, raising his eyebrows.
Natalie felt a blush rise on her cheeks because she knew exactly how it had broke; she glanced away from the furniture and to him said, "Not particularly."
"Let me remind you. I think it was oh, I don't know, not even six months ago, that someone decided they wanted my sexy manly body right in the middle of the movie—"
"Keith!" said Natalie, slapping her hand over his mouth. "Not in public!"
He laughed against her hand, gently pulling her hand away. "You know, you were really aggressive that night—you did break the futon. I kind of liked it. No, I really really liked it. Actually, I loved it."
"I broke it?" she hissed. "I think you were involved too, mister."
"Yes, I was," said Keith, "and it was great."
"Okay," started Natalie, "I can't concentrate with you around. You go somewhere else while I decide what to replace that futon that we broke, all right?"
"Great," said Keith. "I'll just before over there," he said pointing near the music.
"All right," said Natalie. She was just glad to be able to focus on getting what they needed on the registry, without him annoying her.
It wasn't until Natalie found a sofa, a kitchen table, and nice entertainment center that she realized that she hadn't taken Keith's scanner away from him. Groaning, she didn't even want to imagine what items he was scanning without her knowledge.
She quickened her pace into a fast walk, glancing everywhere for him. He wasn't in the music area like he said he was going to be, nor was he in the magazine section. Getting more worried by the second as to what Keith could be getting into, she began to look more frantically for him.
She was just about to go to the front of the store and see if she could find him there, when she spotted him. "Keith!" she hissed, as she quickly walked over to him. "What are you doing!?" He didn't respond and when she stood near him, she felt her face heat with embarrassment. He was scanning over and over again a box of condoms. "Stop it, right now," she said, trying to grab the scanner from him, but he was too fast and quickly held it above his head.
"Partner," he said, as he moved away from her, "let me rephrase what you said earlier, 'We need to get things we need' and if I'm not mistaken, we need those," he said, pointing to the huge box of condoms. "I even got that KY Jelly stuff you like to—"
"You are so dead," said Natalie in a low voice. "So so dead."
"What? You don't like the KY stuff anymore?"
"Keith, do you realize that this list is going to be available to all our friends and family?"
"Yup," he said. "Hopefully, we'll get lots and lots of those boxes," he said, indicating towards the condoms. "I think I scanned it at least fifty times, so they'll get the point." He grinned.
"We don't need condoms!" said Natalie, so loudly that an old lady walking by gave her a strange look, causing her to blush, if possible, deeper.
"Oh, really?" said Keith, as he suddenly started walking down the aisle. Natalie had to practically chase after him he was walking so fast. He ended up in the baby clothes section and began scanning madly away at baby clothes.
"Keith!" she screamed. "Stop it!" She went to grab the scanner from him as he started marking a yellow duckie robe, but he was too fast.
"If we don't need condoms," he said, scanning another item, "then, we'll need all this baby stuff, because with the way we go at it—"
Before he could finish his sentence, Natalie did the last thing she could think of and threw herself at him. Her jump was forceful and unexpected enough, that it caused Keith to fall over and onto the floor. Straddling him, she grabbed his arms and pinned them above his head. Then, she grabbed the scanner from him and said. "Never again will you hold one of these in your hands."
"But, partner," he pouted, struggling to get out of her grip.
"Shut up," she said, getting off of him. "You are too old to be acting like this!" She glanced around glad that no one had seen that little tiff they had just had. Satisfied that no one had seen them, she glared at Keith who was getting to his feet, eyeing her nervously. She didn't say anything, only gave him a deeper glare before stomping away. She was glad she had scanned everything they needed, 'cause they were leaving.
Keith kept his distance and followed a few feet behind her; she could tell he was a bit wary about what she was going to do to him once they left the store. She handed the scanners back to the lady at customer service, making sure not to look her in the eyes. She was just glad she'd be able to edit her registry before notifying her family about it.
She didn't speak to Keith until they were both in his truck. Glaring at him, all she said was, "You're going to pay."
That night, after Natalie had come home from Keith's place she called Brooke, explaining what had happened at Target. "He seriously marked condoms? And baby clothes?" laughed Brooke.
"Yes! And KY jelly! Can you believe it?"
"Actually, with Keith, yes, I can," admitted Brooke. "I mean, did you really think he was going to act serious? Think about it. Keith inside a store is bad enough—there's already a list a mile long of things that boy could get into, but adding a scanner on top of it…well… how do I put this lightly? You got yourself into this mess."
Natalie leaned up against her headboard. "Ugh, I knew it was a mistake! I knew beforehand I shouldn't have let him go…"
"So what's your plan to get back?"
Natalie smiled. "Are you busy right now?"
"Wanna come do something with me? It won't take long." A mischievous smirk graced her face.
"Do I even want to ask what you have up your sleeve?"
"Oh, you'll see let's just say it involves a certain yellow truck…"
"Oh, no," said Brooke. "I have totally got to take part in this."
"Be there in fifteen."
Fifteen minutes later, Natalie pulled up to Brooke's house. She didn't even have to get out of her car as Brooke was already waiting outside for her.
"Okay, so what's the plan?" asked Brooke, excitedly, as she got in.
Natalie pointed to the bag at Brooke's feet. "Look in the bag."
Brooke grabbed the Wal-Mart bag and rested it on her lap. As soon as she opened it up and glanced at the contents her eyes got wide. "Oh no, you're going to spray paint his truck? His precious Honeybun?"
"And how long did it take you to find these?" she asked, indicating to the half a dozen spray paints cans ranging colors from purple to green.
"Not long. I got them at Wal-Mart…I personally feel that Honeybun needs a certain girly makeover. You know hearts and flowers…What do you think? It's just paint for the windows. It's nothing permanent." She glanced at Brooke when she stopped at a red light.
"He's going to kill you," stated Brooke bluntly. "Are you sure you want to get involved in this mini war? Anything that has to do with his truck…this could get ugly. And plus, aren't you taking this a little overboard? I mean, you know you can just delete the condoms and stuff before you let your relatives know about the registry."
"I know, but this will show him not to mess with me. This is like a lesson."
"This could get interesting…"
"Don't worry," said Natalie. "In the end, we'll both be happy."
"You sure about that?" Natalie nodded. "Don't you think he knows that you can just go onto Target's website and delete everything?"
Natalie laughed. "Yeah, right. The thought will never occur to him. Trust me. He has no idea how this stuff works."
"I really hope you know what you're getting yourself into…"
"Oh, I do," smiled Natalie. "I do."
They spent the rest of the drive on the way to Keith's apartment talking about how they were going to decorate his truck, so once they parked, they both new exactly what their jobs were. They wanted to do it quickly and quietly, as they didn't want Keith to hear or see them. Natalie didn't think it was very likely as it was late, and he was probably already asleep since he had work early the next morning.
Brooke grabbed a few colors of spray paint for herself before handing the bag over to Natalie. Quietly, they set to work. Natalie's job was to paint extremely girly flowers on the side windows while Brooke set to paint red and pink hearts and the outer parts of front and back windshields of Keith's truck.
An hour later, Brooke and Natalie stepped away from the truck with amused and proud expressions. "Is he going to freak or what," said Brooke, quietly giggling.
"Yup," agreed Natalie. "Now, for the finally touches." She grabbed the bag that was sitting next to the truck and grabbed out an antenna topper that was shaped as a flower and put it on. Then, she took the two huge bags of confetti shaped as hearts and handed one over to Brooke.
Brooke eyed the bag in the dark, and once she realized what it was she said, "No way. He's never going to be able to get all of these out."
"I know," said Natalie coyly. "You toss those around the bed of his truck and I'll toss these inside his car."
"Isn't it locked?"
"'Course," said Natalie and with a smile she pulled out of her pocket a seat of his keys. "These are his spare set he gave me."
Brooke laughed as she quietly got into the bed of the truck and began tossing the pink and red glitter in random places. Natalie did the same inside, and when completed, she felt herself feel a bit guilty, since really, fixing the registry was pretty easy.
But, this was really too much fun.
And, plus, she was feeling a bit vindictive.
"Done," said Natalie.
"I can't wait to hear how he reacts," said Brooke as she and Natalie got back into their car.
"Oh, I'll be getting an extremely frantic call tomorrow morning. Trust me."
The next morning, at close to six, Natalie's cell phone rang. Half asleep, but with a smirk, she grabbed her phone and clicked ignore, snuggling further under her covers; however, not ten seconds later, her phone went off again, and she did the same thing. She let Keith call her back another five times, before she felt like she had tortured him enough before she answered in a groggy voice, "What?"
"What the hell did you do!?" he screamed, seeming strangely out of breath for so early in the morning.
"What are you talking about?" she asked innocently.
"You know exactly what I'm talking about! You have completely defiled my truck!"
"Messed up! D-defiled! Whatever!" he sputtered. "You need to come over and get these stupid hearts and stupid flowers off right now. I have to be to work in fifteen minutes and I will not drive to work in with my truck looking like this. I will never hear the end of it from guys at work."
"Why are you doing this? Is this some kind of fucked up—wait a minute," he suddenly stopped. "Oh, shit," he mumbled a few seconds later.
"What?" said Natalie, biting her lip hard to keep herself from laughing.
"This is because of the registry, isn't it?"
"Keith, what makes you think I did this?" she said, trying to sound extra innocent.
"Because you are the only person who has a key!"
"Oh, right." She didn't really care if he knew it was her. Actually, she wanted him to know it was her who did it. "Yes, this is because of the registry." She didn't even bother to cover up her laugh.
"This is no laughing matter," he hissed. "Come fix it NOW."
"Partner," he growled.
"Maybe you should have thought about how embarrassing it is for my whole family to see my registry list full of condoms, KY jelly, and baby clothes before you decided to scan them all in…"
"Hey, my family will see that, too!"
"Like you care," she fought back.
"I'll go fix the registry, I promise. After work. Just please, pick me up so I don't have to drive."
"Can't," she supplied.
"Why not?" he huffed, seeing quite upset. "Please, I realize what I did was a mistake, and I'll fix it, but please—"
"Because I am busy replying to emails!"
"Emails? About what? From who?"
"Let's see…emails from pretty much my whole family asking me why I have condoms on my list and how far along I am!"
Okay, she was lying. Big deal.
"I'm sorry, partner. Tell them it was me and that I'll fix it."
"Oh, that's not necessary."
"I just said if they to get the box of condoms, the size was wrong. I told them they needed to get extra small, not large."
"YOU SAID WHAT?"
Natalie had to pull her cell phone away from her ear at the loudness of Keith's voice. Slowly, she said, "You heard me. Have a nice day!" she said, then hanging up.
Okay, so maybe she felt a little bad that she had lied. And probably damaged his pride a bit. Big deal.
He deserved it.
It was nearing five that night, and Natalie had yet to hear from Keith. He hadn't even called her during her lunch hour, and that's when she knew she had gone a bit too far. So she decided that she would do something nice for him, and then they could both make up and forget about all of this.
She decided to make him dinner.
She arrived at Keith's place at five that night, right after she got off work, hoping she could get a good start on dinner. She wasn't the best cook (or even a good one), but she was going to try and make one of his favorite meals.
Just as she had all of the gnocchi made, she heard his key in the door. Keith was home. She wasn't sure what to expect when he saw her, but she definitely wasn't expecting what happened next.
"You are dead!" he yelled, eyes blazing. She would have run, if she wouldn't have been stuck in the tiny kitchen.
She cowered in a corner, glancing at Keith's blazing green eyes. "I spent all day freaking out, feeling all guilty about what I did, so guess what I did during my lunch break?"
"What?" she asked timidly.
"I went to Target."
"And you know what they told me?"
"I have no idea…"
"They told me that the registry wasn't even online and that you were given a password so you could add and delete items. And I'm assuming that you knew about this."
Her calm attitude seemed to infuriate him more and he suddenly shouted, "You defiled my truck! And-and my pride!" A few seconds later he added, for affect, "For no reason."
"Did not!" She hadn't done those things for no reason; she had done it to teach him a lesson.
This was getting out of hand; she didn't want to be standing in the kitchen, fighting over something that had gone way out of control.
They needed to be mature about this.
So, she placed her hand in the bag of flour, grabbed a handful, and threw it at him.
Time seemed to stand still for a moment, as Keith shook his head to get the excess floor out of his hair, glaring at her. Then, he pounced, grabbing a handful of flour and tossing it at her, most of it falling in her hair.
"You didn't," she screamed.
"Did," he said, before he suddenly ran out of the kitchen, bag of flour in hand.
She chased after him, into the living room, and got close enough to grab the back of his shirt. She yanked on it, causing him to stumble and fall onto to the floor. Still gripping his shirt, she fell with him onto the floor, landing on top of him; he let out a low groan as all of his air left him.
Taking his moment of weakness, as he was trying to breathe properly again, she grabbed the bag of flour, or what was left in the bag, as most of the floor was now on the floor, and threw another handful of it in his face. She didn't realize that at that exact moment he was about to say something, so he got a mouthful of flour. This caused him to start coughing.
And a lot.
"Keith?" she asked after a few seconds of him still coughing. "Keith!" she said. Frantic, she got off of him, hoping it'd help. Shaking, she watched as Keith moved onto his side, still coughing. He was going to die, from coughing on flour that she had thrown at him. She could just see it now. "Do you need some water? Ice cream?" What does someone need when coughing on flour?
She was too busy worrying over to him notice that he had grabbed a handful of flour that was on the floor, until she felt him grab the collar of her shirt, and dump the huge handful down her shirt; she could feel the flour getting stuck into her bra. "You little—little ugh!" she said, standing up and shaking the flour out of her shirt.
He started laughing, uncontrollably on the floor. "Got ya," he said between laughs.
"This. Is. Not. Funny." She glared at him. "I thought I killed you!" When she finished pouring all of the flour out of her shirt and onto the floor she said to him, arms crossed over her chest. "We need to be mature about this."
"Mature? We?" he laughed. "I wasn't the one who started the flour fight."
She narrowed her eyes at him, ready to start yelling at him again, but then something in her changed. She saw him, leaning casually on the floor, flour all over him, and she didn't want to fight with him anymore.
She wanted him. Wanted to do dirty, dirty things to him. And now.
She wanted to stop this stupid fight, kiss him senselessly and…"What?" he asked, looking a bit worried. "A-are you planning something?"
"No," she breathed. "I've decided. I don't want to fight anymore." She crawled over to him and gave him a big, needy kiss on his lips. And it was perfect, even if he did taste a bit like flour.
His reaction wasn't all what she had hoped for; he pulled away from the kiss and said, "Do you think you can tempt me with sex after everything that you did? You think I'll forgive you that easily?" He honestly didn't look too shocked at this. They had been dating for six years.
"Keith," she said, running her tongue across his bottom lip, as she slowly ran her hand down the front of his jeans, causing him to let out a low moan. She felt him get immediately hard at her touch. "I'm sorry," she breathed, kissing him again. "God, I want you," she moaned as he moved his hand underneath the front of her jeans.
She stopped running her hand down the front of his jeans to unbuttoned them, before she resumed what she had been doing before. The change in contact seemed to affect Keith greatly, as his moans became more frequent. She smirked against his lips and what just her touch could do to him. "Do you forgive me?" she asked, pulling away to look at him. His eyes were closed.
When he didn't answer, she stopped her activities, ready to ask again, but he muttered his voice low, "Don't stop."
She started up again, and he thrust his hips forward as soon as she did. "You do forgive me, right?" she asked.
His only reply was a low, deep moan, which Natalie happily took as a yes.
The next few months passed by quickly, with Natalie working and getting all the final touches done for the wedding. Everything was pretty much done, so now she only had one thing left to partake in.
Her bachelorette party.
Natalie and Keith had decided to hold their parties on the same night. She had no idea what Keith had was doing, and was a little nervous since Zach was the one planning it. Honestly, she was fine with anything that they did as long as it didn't involve naked women. Or half naked women.
She was just finishing curling her hair when Brooke slammed open her bedroom door, and following behind her was Trish, April, and Dawn. "Hey," she said, curling her last section of hair before turning around, and when she did, her mouth gaped open.
"What are you girls wearing?" she asked, glancing at all her bridesmaids who were wearing pink identical shirts that said, 'Bachelorette Party!' with a Martini bottle next to the saying.
"What does it look like?" said Dawn, rolling her eyes. "Our bachelorette party shirts." She then, grabbed a bag she was holding and threw it at Natalie. "Put those on."
Natalie glanced at them in confusion. "I'm already dressed."
Brooke huffed, grabbed the bag from Natalie and started taking stuff out. "This is your bachelorette party—you're only going to have one, so don't you want to flaunt that you're going to be a bride?" she asked, as she proceeded to make Natalie take off the tank-top she was wearing and replaced it with a bright pink one that said, "Bride!"
Natalie glanced down at the tank-top and said, a smile smirk crossing her face, "I guess."
"Great, 'cause you're not done," said Brooke, and she proceeded to grab a small cheap tiara from the bag, and carefully placed it on Natalie's head. "Perfecto," she said, once she was certain she had the tiara on the perfect place.
"Great! Let's get back in the limo and drink more of that champagne," said April.
"You know," started Brooke, glancing at April and smirking, "you're going to be drunk before we even get to the restaurant; I think you should slow down."
April just chuckled. "Are you kidding? A night free with no kids—I'm drinkin' as much as I want!" She then left the room saying, "Better come or it'll be all gone."
Trish turned to Natalie. "We better hope not 'cause we got six bottles."
"Six bottles?" asked Natalie, checking herself in the mirror, before grabbing her purse and following her friends out of her room. "Isn't that a bit much?"
Dawn stopped suddenly on the stairs, causing all three of them to crash into her. "Natalie, I only have two words for you."
"And they are?" she asked.
Brooke then added, once they got into the huge black limo, and were pouring glasses of champagne, "Also, in case you don't know, you have to do whatever we say tonight."
"I do?" asked Natalie, after taking sip of her champagne.
"Yup," nodded Brooke. "Even if it means that you have to do a body shot off some random guy."
After constantly letting all her friends know that there was no way in hell she was going to do a body shot of any random guy, they had arrived at the restaurant and were taking their seats.
They had all decided to go to Old Chicago since they had great prices, and it was downtown, so they could go to clubs and party afterwards (well, at least according to April and Dawn).
Once their drinks had arrived (Natalie had gotten a Sunset Beach which was a combination of coconut rum, pineapple and cranberry juice, with a touch of blackberry brandy. Which was really really good), Trish dug something out of her purse, looked at Natalie and said, "All right, ready?"
"Ready for what?" she asked, taking another sip of her drink. She was definitely going to get another one.
"My quiz?" asked Natalie, wondering what the hell Trish came up with.
"Yup, it's called, 'What Kind of Bride Are You?'"
"Can't wait," giggled Brooke, excitedly.
Natalie didn't look as excited as everyone else, feeling quite hesitant on what this quiz might contain.
Trish cleared her throat. "All right, questions one: Is your fantasy groom Leonardo Dicaprio, Will Smith, Zac Efron, or Brad Pitt."
Groaning was heard all around, and Dawn said, "Man, has she got it bad." Agreement was heard all around.
"Okay-okay, if I have to pick, I'd say Leonardo Dicaprio—back in his Titanic days, though."
"Yeah," said Brooke, a dreaming expression gracing her face, "Now, that was nice."
"Okay…"spoke up Trish, when no one knew how to respond to that. "Question two: when you were younger you always dreamed of becoming a princess, a vet, a teacher, or a movie star?"
"Teacher," said Natalie without hesitation.
"I knew you'd pick that one!" said Trish, looking quite pleased with herself as she marked the quiz.
"That's so boring," said Brooke, "You really wanted to be a teacher? You never once hoped you were a princess?"
"Well, maybe…like the princesses in my books. But, I loved to read so I thought 'If I can be a teacher, I'll be able to read all the time!'"
"Strange, that one," said April.
"Yup," agreed Dawn. "So, have you gotten Keith to enjoy reading as much as you? I remember you telling us that you were going to get him to enjoy reading if it was the last thing you did."
Natalie took a sip of her drink. "Hell no. He still thinks it's torture. Although, I did get him to read the Harry Potter books finally."
"No way, what'd you bribe him with?"
"Nothin'," she said, but when she saw the looks her friends were giving her she said, "Okay-okay, I bribed him with ice cream and you know…stuff the first time, but then he couldn't put them down. Read all seven in like a month."
"No way," breathed Brooke, shocked.
"Yes way." She grinned. "Okay, what's question three?"
Trish cleared her throat again and said, "Which color would you never, in a million years, pick for your bridesmaids? Blue, Pink, Orange, or Black."
"Black," said Natalie. "It's kind of morbid, don't you think?"
"Well, it doesn't have to be; it just has to be done tastefully," said April.
"So you wouldn't have cared if the bridesmaid dress I choose for you was black?"
"Ugh, I'm not talking about your wedding, maybe someone else's. Where I'm not a bridemaid."
Everyone laughed, and once Trish could calm down she said, "All right, question four : what's your idea of the perfect honeymoon? Lounging on a beach in the Bahamas, Skiing in Switzerland, relaxing at a spa in Tahiti, or touring England."
"That's easy," started Natalie, "Touring England, I mean that is where we are going."
"Are you sure Keith wouldn't rather relax at a spa in—" Trish stopped to glance down at the quiz, before looking back up to Natalie and finishing, 'Tahiti?"
"Keith? At a spa?" said Brooke, before cracking up.
"Definitely not," said Dawn and April at the same time.
"All right, last question," spoke up Trish, "Which of these performers would you rather have at your wedding instead of your band—Miley Cyrus—"
Natalie interrupted. "Whose wedding is this? Cynthia's?"
Everyone laughed and Trish continued, "Justin Timberlake, Madonna, or Jesse McCartney!"
"Jesse McCartney?" said Natalie, raising her eyebrow.
"Hey! I just had to add him in there. Plus, Keith would get a kick out of it."
"Keith would get a kick out of it once he kicked him out!" said Natalie. "Anyways, I'd pick Justin Timberlake because he's just so…you know…"
"Yup, exactly," said Natalie. "So, what kind of bride am I?"
"Let me calculate," said Trish, as she began marking the quiz. Two minutes later she said, "You are the Storybook Bride."
"Storybook Bride?" asked Natalie. "And that means?"
"That you want your fancy day to be traditional and a bit old-fashioned, and yeah…"
Natalie bit her lip and said, "Hmm…interesting. Um, Trish?"
"Did you make that quiz?"
"Yup! I did," she grinned, not looking at all ashamed. "Well, kind of. I stole some of the questions from this one site but changed the options. I kept getting the Storybook Bride for the answer no matter what options I choose, so well, that's why you got it."
"Well, that explains it," she smiled. "So, what's next?"
"Now," started Dawn, "we order our food, and you another one of those Sunset things, and then after—after we start the scavenger hunt."
"Scavenger hunt? What exactly does this scavenger hunt entail?" asked Natalie a bit nervously.
"Oh, you'll see."
Even though Natalie had refused to part in the scavenger hunt, she ended up getting suckered into it. That was after she had a made a deal with everyone that she only needed to find five of the items. So far she had gotten a male bartender's number on a napkin, a free drink, a random guy's business card, and a picture with a cop.
Now she only had one item left to get. She was glancing at the list as she followed her friends into the last bar. Just as they sat down on a table near the back, April said, "Oh my god," while glancing down at her phone.
"What is it?" asked Brooke.
"Zach just sent me something. A—" She started laughing so hard that it took her a few minutes to finally say, "A video of Keith doing karaoke."
"Seriously?" asked Natalie.
"It gets better," started April. "It's a video of Keith doing karaoke to "Beautiful Soul" by Jesse McCartney."
At this, everyone scrambled out of their chairs, crowded around April, and waited for her to play the video. After the video played, everyone was cracking up so hard that they had to take a few minutes to calm down. Once they were back in their seats Brooke asked, "I wondered how they even got Keith to do that…"
April smiled and said, "Who's the one person Keith has never said no to?"
"No way. Cynthia?" laughed Natalie.
"Yup, according to Zach's message, they couldn't get Keith up there so they called your sister, and all she needed to do was ask him to do it and he couldn't say no…"
"Poor guy," spoke up Trish. "I mean they used one of his weaknesses to pretty much damage his pride."
Everyone laughed and then Natalie casually asked, "So, do you know what else they're doing tonight?"
"No idea," said April. "Zach wouldn't tell me. I begged him for days to let us know what he was planning tonight. He said it was a secret…well, other than the karaoke, 'cause he just couldn't help showing us that. I mean that's pretty much classic."
"But I wanna know," complained Natalie. "There were girls in that video, hollering for him to take off his shirt!"
"You don't need to know, missy," started Dawn. "What you need to do is pick your final item."
Natalie sighed and glanced at her list, trying to find the least embarrassing item to get, but April tore it away from her."Okay, I've decided. Everything you've gotten has been really lame, so if you're only going to find only five items, the last item will be the condom one."
"What!? No way! I am not asking a random person—a random guy—for a condom. He may get the wrong idea." She felt like she had sobered up immensely at the prospect about what her friends were going to try and make her do.
"Well, then, you have to find everything else on this list…which would mean that you'd have to do the condom one anyway."
Natalie glared at April, and then glanced at Dawn, who just nodded. Why was everyone against her?
Glaring, Natalie said, "I'm not going to ask a random person for a condom. Nope, no way. Absolutely not."
They all glanced at her expectantly. "You know, I bet you half of the guys in this bar have condoms," mused April after a few moments of silence.
"Ya think?" asked Natalie, trying her best to sound mad.
All four of her friends nodded. "Yup, pretty much," said Brooke confidently.
"All right," said Natalie. "Let's find out, shall we?" Summoning up all of the courage that she had, she stood up on her chair, and breathing deeply, she yelled, "I NEED A CONDOM!"
For some reason, even against the loud noise, and music, it quieted down, and a bunch of people turned to glance at her. A few embarrassing seconds passed, while the people continued to glance at her strangely, before suddenly, a guy walked over to the table and dropped a condom on it. "Enjoy," he said, before walking away.
"Thanks," she said, and was just about to glance at her friends proudly, when another guy dropped a condom on the table…and then another...and another. Natalie was silent, wondering when the men were going to stop dropping condoms on her table. She had enough.
Finally, when the last condom fell on top of the pile she had accumulated April spoke up. "You know what? I think that I may be right. I bet half the guys do have condoms."
They all laughed. "Well, you completed the scavenger hunt!" said Dawn, clapping her hands together in excitement, while looking proudly at Natalie.
"Thank god," murmured Natalie, leaning her head on the table.
"Wasn't it fun?" asked April.
Natalie mumbled, "I'm not sure if fun is the right word. I'd use…embarrassing…I mean, it's not like I do this every day."
"Well, we sure hope you don't go yelling for condoms to random guys every day…"
"Shut up," hissed Natalie.
The next morning, when Natalie woke, she was pleasantly surprised to find that she did not have a hangover; instead, she actually felt quite refreshed. It was quite strange, but she wasn't complaining. She had stayed in bed a few minutes, relaying events that had happened the night before, and when she remembered the video of Keith singing karaoke, she knew she had to go over and see how he was fairing…and try and get some information and what he had done last night for his bachelor party.
She then forced herself out of bed, and got ready, packing a few things since she was pretty sure she wouldn't be home until the next day, before she got into her car and drove to Keith's place. She stopped at Starbucks to pick her and Keith up some coffee on the way.
When she walked into Keith's apartment, thirty minutes later, she was momentarily frozen as her eyes trailed over the state of his apartment. It was a mess, no it was chaos. There were empty beer bottles lying around, empty bags of take-out, and food scattered all over the place.
What had gone on last night?
It looked like a tornado had passed through his apartment. Stepping over some random clothes (happy that there was no bras or girly underwear mixed in), she made her way quietly to Keith's room.
She had to bite her bottom lip—hard—to keep from laughing. His head was at the foot of his bed, and he was lying on his stomach, clad only in his boxers, using a pair of jeans as a pillow, as his pillows were thrown to the other side of the room.
Laughing she stepped over his sheets that were on the floor and set the tray with their coffees on his nightstand before glancing back at him. She was just about to debate if she should go and find a camera to take a picture of him, when he rolled over onto his back, the jacket he was using as a blanket falling off of him, as he mumbled, eyes still closed, "'M gonna kill you."
Natalie let out a surprised huff as she crossed her arms and said, "Excuse me? I brought you coffee!"
At her voice, he opened his eyes. "Partner? 'M sorry, I thought you were Zach."
"Oh," she said, as she sat down on his bed. "Looks like he left, no one else is here." He slowly sat up, running his fingers through his messy hair. "What's that?" she asked, pointing at the back of his hand.
Slowly, he turned his hand around, and at the sight of it he let out a low, deep chuckle. "Oh, that." He chuckled again. "Those," he started, "are how many shots I took last night." He seemed quite proud of himself.
Natalie rolled her eyes, and gently grabbed Keith's hand as she counted the marks on his hand. "Thirty, Keith? I don't think so."
He just grinned and said, "I got a bit carried away, okay? Plus, the more marks, the more manly I looked. So maybe I kind of added a few….when no one was looking…"
"Oh brother," said Natalie, "But, really, there was no point to try and prove your manliness since I'm pretty sure it was taken away once you sang the first verse to "Beautiful Soul"."
His eyes got wide. "You saw that?!"
Nodding, Natalie said, quite cheerfully. "Oh, yes."
"Zach said he wasn't going to show it to anyone!"
"Hmm…" said Natalie. "Well, he lied. It's on YouTube, too," she added, remembering the text message Zach had sent her, containing the link to the video.
"It's on YouTube?"
"Yup," she smiled. "And I think it already has like three thousand views." Okay, maybe she lied—a bit. She wasn't exactly sure how many views it had, but three thousand sounded like a good number.
"Shit…Now I know why Zach needed my computer so badly last night…"
Natalie laughed. "So, what else did you do last night?" she asked casually.
She frowned. "Why not?"
Natalie crossed her arms against her chest again. "Fine, then I'm not telling you what I did!"
They were quiet for a while before Natalie got up, throwing the covers back onto Keith's bed, before she grabbed a random DVD and put it on. She then got under the covers next to Keith, who was leaning up against his headboard looking quite out of it. She handed him his coffee and said, "I think today is a good day to do nothing but watch movies."
"Hmm…good idea," he said, taking his coffee from her and taking a large sip of it.
They watched the movie for a few minutes before Keith hesitantly asked, "There weren't—there weren't any naked men involved last night were there?"
"No," she said quietly. "Um there weren't—there weren't any naked women involved were there?"
"No way," he responded. He went back to watching the movie, but after a few minutes, he spoke up his voice soft, and a bit nervous, "Um…were there any half naked men involved?"
"No…were there any half naked women involved?"
Today was the day.
Natalie was shocked at how quickly the week had passed by since her bachelorette party. She had been so busy getting the final touches with the wedding done, that she was shocked when she woke up this morning, and realized that it was her wedding day.
Natalie felt her nerves increasing the closer the time ticked to two. In less than thirty minutes, she would be walking down the aisle, soon to be Keith's wife. She couldn't help but let out a tiny squeal at the thought. "Quit squirming," said Brooke. "I'll have to touch up your makeup again!"
"Sorry," said Natalie, trying to her best not to move. She felt bad (okay, not that bad) that she had to keep getting Brooke to touch up her makeup. A few of the times had been when she had started bawling, not believing that she was getting married to Keith. Today.
She wondered if it would ever feel like she was living reality, and not just some fairytale she had made up in her mind.
A few minutes later Brooke pulled away examining her makeup before saying, "Okay, perfect. Now, no more crying, okay?"
"All right," she said, as she looked into the mirror. Brooke had done a perfect job. She had kept her looking natural, since she hadn't wanted to look like she was wearing an inch of makeup, but had done something extra special to her eyes by making them a dark purple and a hint of silver. "It's perfect," she said. She was happy that she hadn't gotten a makeup artist, since she figured they would go way too overboard.
Dawn, who was currently fixing Natalie's hair, stopped to glance at her. "You look absolutely stunning."
"Thanks," blushed Natalie.
"How's the hair coming?" asked Brooke, as she began putting her makeup away.
"Actually, I just finished," said Dawn. "How's it look?"
Trish walked behind Natalie, and through the mirror she saw Trish's mouth gape open. "Gosh, Dawn, it's amazing."
"Let me see!" said Natalie. Dawn handed her a mirror and Natalie twirled around in her chair to face her back towards the mirror. "It's beautiful," she said. It was exactly what she had wanted. All of her hair was curled, and then half of it was brought up in a tiny twist, and then Dawn had placed a few purple flowers around the twist.
"You really like it?" asked Dawn. "Because if you don't, I will totally fix it."
Natalie lowered her mirror and glanced at Dawn. "It's amazing."
April then walked over, carrying the veil. Just as she finished putting it on, Natalie parents walked in. "Oh, dear, you look beautiful," said Caroline, tabbing her eyes with a tissue.
"You think so?" asked Natalie. She waited for Dawn to finish putting on her veil before she stood up and faced her parents. "What'd you think Keith will think?" she asked them.
Pete smile and said, "I think Keith isn't going to know what to do with himself when he sees you."
This made Natalie blush.
"Well," started Caroline. "I better get to my seat. You all look amazing." She went and hugged Natalie and when she pulled back she was crying and saying, "I can't believe my girl is getting married."
"Mom, don't cry," said Natalie, feeling the prickling sensation build behind her eyes. "You're going to make me cry."
Caroline dabbed her eyes with a tissue. "Okay, okay. I promise you I'll keep it together. For now. I love you, Natalie," she said, before walking out, still dabbing her eyes.
Brooke and Dawn helped Natalie get into her shoes, before they left to go walk down the processional.
Natalie waited for her cue, and then her dad twined their arms together and asked, "Ready?"
Fighting back tears, Natalie smiled and said, "I've never been more ready for anything in my entire life," she answered.
Tightening her grip on her dad's arm, she slowly walked with him down the aisle to Keith.
Where she belonged.
As soon as she caught eyes with Keith, she felt her eyes prickle and she knew she wasn't going to leave this room with dry eyes.
Sooner than she thought, her dad stopped in front of Keith and the pastor spoke, "Who gives away this bride?"
Natalie gave her dad a small smile and he replied, in a tight voice, "Her mother and I." Pete lifted the front veil and gave Natalie a kiss on the forehead, before he walked to his seat next to Caroline.
Once Pete was seated, the pastor began his opening speech but Natalie only listened to the first few words, her mind was racing too quickly, and she just couldn't believe that she was getting married to Keith.
She didn't think she could be any happier. Or any luckier.
Natalie was too caught up in staring into Keith's brilliant green eyes that she was surprised to hear the pastor say, "Keith, please speak the vow you have written for Natalie."
Keith, in a shaky voice, said, "Natalie, I love you," His voice cracked, but he was able to keep himself composed and continued, "You're everything to me, and without you…I wouldn't be me. You have been there with me through one of the hardest times of my life, and without you, I don't think I could have been as strong.
"You have always been there for me and you have always believed in me, and I can't thank you enough. No matter what, you were there, you stayed by my side—you stayed in that passenger seat next to me. Natalie, I promise to always love you and to always be with you. I will be with you for forever and infinity," he finished.
The pastor glanced over to Keith and said, "Natalie, please speak the vow you have written for Keith."
Natalie felt tears spilling over her eyes, and had to compose herself before she spoke. "Keith, I love you. You are the most amazing, kindest person I have ever met. You have shown me how to live life, how to be me. You complete me, without you I would be lost. Keith, I promise that I will always love you, and always be there for you. I will never get out of that passenger seat and I will be with you for forever and infinity."
The pastor then spoke, "I will ask you now to seal the vows you have just made by the giving and receiving of rings. May I have the rings, please?" Natalie watched as Zach carefully handed the rings to the pastor.
"The wedding ring has been a traditional symbol of commitment and enduring love that, like a circle, and the infinity symbol, has no end. These rings are your gifts to each other that ties your two hearts in love, and that has no end. With these rings, you will seal the vows you have just exchanged, reminding each other to remain faithful to your promises of love forever and infinity. Let these rings be a symbol of a never ending friendship, and a never ending love."
"Keith," said the pastor, turning towards him, and handing him Natalie's ring. "You may place the ring on Natalie's finger and repeat after me. Natalie, with this ring, a symbol of our live times infinity, I thee wed."
Keith shakily slid the ring on Natalie's finger he repeated, "Natalie, with this ring, a symbol of our love times infinity, I thee wed."
The pastor then turned to Natalie and said, handing her Keith's ring. "Natalie, you may place the ring on Keith's finger and repeat after me. Keith, with this ring, a symbol of our love times infinity, I thee wed."
Sliding Keith's ring on his finger, she repeated, "Keith, with this ring, a symbol of our loves times infinity, I thee wed."
Keith gently grabbed her hands as the pastor said, "Keith and Natalie. May the challenges in your life together only be met with bravery and optimism. May you learn from your challenges and only let them allow your love to grow stronger. May you both live a happy and healthy life, and be together for infinity.
"You both have openly declared your wishes to be united in marriage and have pledged in the presence of these witnesses your love to one another. By the power vested in me, it is my honor and delight to pronounce that you are husband and wife. Keith, you may kiss your bride."
As soon as these words were pronounced, Natalie felt Keith's soft hands cradle her face, and as he leaned in for the kiss, she wrapped her arms around him, not wanting to ever let go.
When they finally broke apart, the pastor said with a smile, "Family and friends, it is my pleasure to present you Mr. and Mrs. Keith Zetterstrom."
Natalie and Keith walked down the aisle hand and hand, and once they walked out of the room, and were by themselves in the hall, Natalie stopped him and whispered, "Finally."
Keith didn't need any clarification, only lowered his head so their foreheads were touching and replied, "Finally."
"If you drop me or hit my head on the door …I am going to kill you…" said Natalie, trying to sound serious, but the giggle in her voice said otherwise.
"Partner," started Keith. "I am not doing to drop you, okay? Now c'mon…you're wasting the time that we could be in our room…doing…you know...things."
"You're right, I am wasting time…just if you drop me…we won't be doing those things you've been whispering in my ear since the start of the reception."
Keith just chuckled as he gracefully—surprisingly to Natalie—lifted her up. "I've always wanted to carry you through the door with you wearing a wedding dress…"
"Oh, really," said Natalie, as Keith began making the short distance from where they were standing in the hall to their room.
"Yup," said Keith, as he skillfully opened the door and led Natalie through the doorway. Natalie was glad that he seemed to take extra care in making sure that he didn't hit her head on the door or any of the walls as he carried her inside of the room.
When he gently stood her on her feet, Natalie glanced around the room. It was a huge suite, but that wasn't what was making her eyes blur with tears. There was a trail of rose petals scattered on the floor, and reached a tub which was already filled up with water. Natalie walked over to it and gently tested the water. "It's warm," she said, turning back to Keith who was still standing in the middle of the room, giving her a look so full of love that it almost made her start bawling.
"Of course it's warm," he said, walking over to where she was standing, "And, there's a bottle of your favorite champagne, and your favorite dessert—"
"Chocolate strawberries," she finished for him.
"Yup," he grinned.
"Keith," she started, "this is just so sweet. Why do you have to be so perfect?" she asked, feeling the tears she had been fighting all day spilling over.
He chuckled, almost a bit nervously at her comment. "I'm not perfect, Natalie, I'm just me."
"To me, Keith, you are perfect," she replied, as she closed the distance between them and brought her lips to his. "For me," she whispered against his lips.
He brought both his hands to the side of her face and kissed her deeply, their tongues colliding and when she heard Keith moan against her mouth, she knew she needed to get his clothes off of him.
Keith must have been thinking the same thing, because just as she brought her hand down and began undoing his button on his pants, his hands were gently and carefully unzipping her dress. When her dress was off, she helped him slide his pants off, then his jacket, his shirt…
In less than two minutes, Natalie entered the tub, followed seconds behind Keith. Once they were in the water, Keith gave her his trademark lopsided grin, that made her push him against the tub—and hard. "God, Keith, I love you," she whispered, her breath warm against his neck. "You've made me the happiest woman in the whole world."
He brought his soft, wet lips to her shoulder and kissed her, so lightly it felt like a feather was gracing her skin. "And you've made me the happiest man in the whole universe."
The first thing she saw when she opened her eyes was the night sky— dark and still, all but the twinkling of the stars. After a few minutes of hoping to catch a shooting star, she checked her surroundings, only to find herself in the bed of Keith's truck, at their spot. The problem was something was missing.
He wasn't in his normal spot, next to her, where he was supposed to be. She didn't want to cry at this realization, but she couldn't help feel the prickling behind her eyes get more intense the longer she lied there.
Finally, knowing that the only way she was going to prevent herself from crying was to get out of the back of his truck. Maybe staring at the calming water below the cliff would make her feel better. But as she jumped out of the truck, she saw something that made her heart skip a beat.
"Keith?" she asked hesitantly, her feet crunching against the gravel as she made her way hesitantly towards him. It looked like him, but she couldn't be sure as she could only see the outline of his silhouette, in the darkness.
As soon as she heard the figure speak, she knew it was him. "Partner," he said. "Finally."
"You're here," she stated. She closed the remaining distance between them and carefully brought her hand to touch his arm; she felt herself let out a breath she hadn't realized she was holding when she felt the warmth of his flesh.
"Of course I'm here," he said.
"You're—you're feeling all right?" she asked. She was just expecting him to suddenly faint, suddenly collapse, suddenly stop breathing.
And be torn away from her…forever.
At this question, he chuckled. "I'm feeling great, partner. Never better."
She narrowed her eyes at him, taking in his appearance. She was standing close enough to him now that she could see him quite clearly with the light the moon gave off. And, after noticing the glimmer in his eyes, and the healthy glow his skin was emitting, she believed him.
He was here, with her, and was healthy.
She shook her head in complete amazement. "I just—I can't believe that you're here…with me. Just—just don't leave, okay?"
Keith brought up his hands to cup the side of her face as he said in a soft voice, "Partner, where am I gonna go? I'm right here, with you, where I belong." He dropped his hands down to hang loosely at his side as he gave her a gentle kiss on the forehead before backing away, and glancing up at the sky. "Shooting star," he stated after a few moments. "Make a wish, partner."
"I don't need to," she whispered, watching the expression on his.
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because," she said, giving him a watery smile. "I have everything I ever need. You."
Natalie woke up, eyes scanning the unfamiliar room; it took a few minutes to remember that she was at a hotel, and she had just gotten married.
She rolled over onto her side, facing Keith. He was lying on his back, sound asleep. Gently, in hopes not to wake him she ran her fingers through his brown hair; however, soon his eyes fluttered opened, and he turned his head to look at her.
"Somethin' wrong?" he mumbled, his voice thick with sleep. When he was finally awake enough, his eyes got wide when he looked at her. "Did you have a nightmare?" he asked frantically.
Natalie felt tears fill her eyes. "No, I-I didn't."
"What's wrong?" he asked, wondering why her eyes were filling with tears.
"I had a dream."
Even in the darkness of the room, Natalie could tell Keith was confused. "Keith, for six years, I've had nightmares, and every one of those consisted of you being torn away from me—of you being gone—"
"I'm right here, I'm not going anywhere," he spoke up before she could finish explaining. He moved closer to hers so their foreheads were touching.
"But tonight, Keith, I had a dream and you were there."
"I was right where I was supposed to be, then," he smiled.
"Keith, we're going to be together forever, aren't we?" she stated, voice cracking.
Keith stared directly into her eyes and said, "Yes, Natalie, we're going to be together for infinity."
A/N: Well, that's the end. I'm kind of sad. Actually, I'm a lot sad. I can't thank all of you enough for your support. Thanks to everyone who reviewed, favorited, and/or added this story to story alert. It means so much to me. I know for a fact this story would not be what it is without your encouragement. I do want to personally thank Purple Shamrock 17, Ash Riley, accioRpattz, and JJJameson, for reviewing every chapter. Also, I want to thank m81170 for reviewing and for those many nights that you stayed up till four in the morning editing my many chapters. I hope it didn't make you go crazy.
On another note, I've decided that I'm not quite finished with Times Infinity just yet. Because of this, I have decided that we all need to see what Keith and Natalie's honeymoon is like. What do you think? Please let me know if you're interested. I'm planning on it being a long one-short, but more than likely it will be a short story like five chapters or so. I haven't outlined it yet, so don't expect it to be up for at least a few weeks, but more like at least a month. Check my profile for status.
Also, while writing the epilogue, I had sudden inspiration to write the scene where Keith asks Pete's blessing to propose to Natalie. I have decided that whoever reviews this chapter (since I REALLY want to know what people thought of this story/chapter, and plus, reviews will cheer me up from my depression of this story's completion) I will send you the scene.
Now, for those of you who have accounts, I can just PM or email you the scene—just make sure you allow PM's/emails. Also, I'm aware that some of you don't have accounts, so I have added my email to my profile and you can email me and let me know you reviewed and I will send you the scene. If you do put your email in the review, you need to space it out, or this site will delete it. This offer does not expire.
Lastly (I swear), I have added links on my profile to pictures of Natalie's wedding dress, Natalie's wedding ring, and the Bridesmaids dresses. If these links stop working, let me know.
With that being said, I hoped you enjoyed this story as much as I did writing it. I will see you guys soon-ish when I post the, I guess you could call it, sequel (honeymoon).
Bye! *Drives off in a yellow truck*