So, here it is everyone. The last installment of Rosie. It really has been a joy (and sometimes a struggle) to write this. Thank you for reading, reviewing, alerting, favoriting, etc. For now, this story is over. Maybe a sequel, but right now, I'm going to move on to other things.
Thank you all again.
And now, the last chapter of Rosie.
Four Months Later
"Are you ready?" Greg looked at me.
I couldn't breathe. My stomach was doing flips. I looked to him quickly, "No."
We were sitting in the car, in front of my old, childhood home. My hands were frozen on the wheel. They wouldn't move. I was stuck.
"Mommy? Are you okay?" Rosie asked from the back seat.
Silence. I felt like crying, but tears weren't welling up in my eyes.
"Marilyn," Greg said.
I bit my lower lip.
"Look at me," he murmured.
I turned my head slowly to see his face. He had shaved for the occasion. He looked a few years younger. I didn't want my family to judge me by looking at Greg. Our eyes met for a moment before I looked away, closing my eyes.
"Mo-" I heard my daughter begin.
Greg reached back and put his hand on her knee, "Rosie, give us a moment, okay?"
I started twisting the ring on my right hand. That's what I did ever since I was given it. When I was nervous, I'd spin it around my finger. "I'm scared," I said quietly so Rosie didn't hear.
He put his hand on my own, "I know. But you didn't agree to this without knowing that you'd be afraid."
"Yeah, but what if something happens? What if they're angry or—"
"Well, they might be," Greg said blatantly. "You won't know until you try."
I nodded, "You're right."
"Of course I am," he shrugged.
I rolled my eyes and then said, "Alright. Let's go." I opened my door and got out of the car. Then, I helped Rosie out of her car seat and the three of us stood at the beginning of the walkway toward the front door. The sun poured down on the three of us. I held my daughter's hand tight, taking a few steps forward.
The only thing I heard were my heels clicking against the ground and Greg's breathing. Suddenly, I felt the need to gag. Greg wrapped an arm around my waist, "You're fine. You're overreacting."
Nodding, I continued forward up to the door. I was screaming inside. Greg reached forward and pressed the doorbell. I gasped, "Why'd you do that?"
"That's customary practice when you approach a door," Greg growled. I shot him a glare to which he stuck out his tongue.
Rosie giggled. I looked down and once I saw her smile I felt instantly elated and gratified. Even if this didn't go well, I still had her. I still had Greg. It will be fine… I kept telling myself.
But that all faded away when I heard the click of the door being unlocked. I stiffened, eyes wide. The door opened.
"Dad…" I smiled.
He now had salt and pepper hair with a matching beard that was just a little thicker than the stubble Greg normally wore. His grey eyes glinted upon seeing me. I could swear he was almost tearing up.
I felt Rosie's hands tightened around my arm. She had never met any of her three grandparents. I saw my father's eyes flit to Greg and then to my daughter. A light smile graced her face. I could tell she was trying to hold back a grin or tears of joy.
"We've missed you," he swallowed nervously.
He sucked in a deep breath and then threw his arms around me. His tight hug made me remember how much I missed him. I buried my head into his chest. He hugged me like a father knew how to. Finally, we pulled apart and looked away from one another. I blushed and turned my head away.
As to not further the awkwardness, he held out his hand to Greg, "You must be Greg."
He smiled to my father, "And you're Donald." They shook hands and I smiled approvingly at the match.
"And Rosalie…" he trailed off, looking down at my daughter.
"Everyone calls me Rosie," Rosie sputtered before backing away.
Laughing, my father held out his hand toward her, "You don't have to be shy, Rosie."
Still hiding behind my dress, Rosie looked up at me. I looked to my father, "Go ahead, Rosie. It's alright."
She reached out, their fingers interlacing. My father stepped out of the door frame, "Come in, both of you."
Greg whispered in my hair, "You alright?"
We followed him through the house, everything was the same, but everything was quiet. I was used to my siblings running around, screaming and laughing. But now they had all left and it was just my father and mother. He continued through the living room that still had the light blue couch. His gait was different, slower and more reserved. I remembered when my parents through parties and he practically danced across the room. Now, he shuffled.
"It's so nice out, I thought we'd have some lemonade and cookies on the porch," my dad turned and looked at Rosie, patronizing her in a grandfatherly way.
I'm almost sure Greg started limping a bit more quickly at the sound of cookies. "Where's mom?" I asked as he stepped more quickly to the door.
"Marilyn" my father turned back to me and reached out for my hand.
I accepted it hesitantly.
"I don't want you to be surprised when you see your mother," he murmured to me.
"Dad?" I asked him quietly. "What's going on?"
My father took a deep breath and then opened the door to me. Rosie and Greg drifted behind me, waiting.
Skeptically, I walked toward the open door and looked out onto the deck. I stopped in the doorway. In front of me was my mother sitting at a table on the old patio. She slowly turned her head toward me. We both looked at each other for a few moments before she said, "Marilyn…" Her face had aged. Her hair was now light blonde instead of the light brown it had been…the way I remembered it. She looked tired, but her eyes were still glowing. Her light blue eyes that I had inherited from her.
"Marilyn!" she exclaimed again. Suddenly, she rolled out from behind the table. I didn't realize until then that she had been sitting in a wheel chair. She came forward until our knees almost touched. "Oh…" there were tears in her eyes. "Hello," my mother held both of her hands up toward mine.
My head was telling me to step back, hell, run for it. But I couldn't let myself do that. I let her take my hands in hers. "Hi, Ma," I whispered my reply.
"I take it your father didn't tell you what happened," she blushed and turned to look at my dad who stood in the doorway with a solemn look on his face.
"Robbie is coming soon, Marilyn," dad interrupted quietly as I stared at my mother. I turned toward him slowly, a look of dismay and grief on my face. Shame convulsed across his face as he stepped astride of the door to let Rosie and Greg step out onto the patio. Rosie nervously reached for Greg's hand and he accepted it without hesitation.
"Hi," Greg said to my mother courteously with a gentle nod. "I'm Greg."
My mother gasped with a smile, "You must be Marilyn's boyfriend." Her eyes gravitated toward Rosie and she squealed, "And this is my granddaughter? Who blessed me with such a beautiful little girl?"
"Actually-" Greg began but I gave him a quick shush before giggling. He rolled his eyes and turned his attention back to Rosie who had stepped to my mother.
"…but people call me Rosie."
As they got acquainted, my father approached Greg with a skeptical look, "Uh…what happened to your leg?"
"Dad!" I snapped. If we were going to make this work, then I wanted everything to go smoothly.
"It's fine," Greg said calmly. I was not used to this side of him. I told him to be cordial, but not completely bereft of his original personality.
I was just waiting for his response.
I was in a freak painting accident. I was actually a young model on the rise, you see, and I was posing nude for a few art students when suddenly one of their brushes came flying at me. I tried to dodge it but ended up falling off of my pedestal and fracturing my leg so badly that-
"Basically, I had a limb infarction here, uh…muscle death. So I'm not provided full use of my leg."
I bit my lip. I was actually looking forward to a bizarre and absurd story from him.
"Infarction…like a heart attack or something?" my dad asked.
Greg looked surprised at my father's slight intelligence, "Yes, actually. How did you know?"
"Well, I had one a few years ago, a heart attack, I mean. And I just remember myocardial infarction."
"You had a heart attack?" I gaped.
"That's what you get when you miss out, sweetheart," dad smiled at me. It was like a stab at me. I felt a bit hurt right then.
"Well, I wouldn't have missed out if it-"
"You know, I'm a doctor," Greg interjected. Our eyes met for a moment. His were calm, but also stern. Back down.
I turned away from them and looked at my daughter who looked quite taken with my mother. Not with her disability, but with her poise and her smile. I sucked in my lower lip, a little worried.
"You're very pretty," she reached out and put her hand underneath my daughter's chin.
"I'm also smart though. Daddy always says that I'll be beautiful and have brains," Rosie declared proudly.
My mother looked endearingly at Rosie, "I'm sure you're very smart." She then looked to my father, "Donald, you know I hate it when you make people stand around me. Sit down, all of you."
As I sat down on one of the wooden patio chairs that circled the low, wrought iron table, I looked out over the backyard. It was a bit unkempt, but nonetheless beautiful with the flower beds and the vegetable garden that my father tended to. Greg limped to the chair across from mine.
"Would you like anything to drink?" my mother asked, Rosie fluttering to her side as she rolled her chair closer to the table.
I looked to Greg, "Uh…coffee?"
"Yeah, coffee would be nice," he smiled at my mother who looked quickly to my father with an expectant gaze.
Dad snapped up out of the chair he had settled in, "Right…" Then he mumbled something under his breath. I couldn't tell if he was angry or embarrassed, but whatever it was, he was very unhappy.
"So anyway," my mother looked over at me. "You look well."
I smiled meekly, "I am well."
The afternoon continued on for another hour without a hitch. Greg and my father got along very strangely. And Rosie loved my parents, adored them. Then the doorbell rang. My father shot up and ran to the door. I stood up slowly. I didn't know if he'd be welcoming or kind of standoffish. I wouldn't blame him if he didn't want to be here or want me to be here.
Really, I didn't belong.
My dad ushered Robbie onto the patio. He had grown up nicely with light brown hair and dark green eyes. "Marilyn!" he shouted with a large grin.
"Hi…" I choked out.
Robbie threw his arms around me and picked me up off the ground, "Oh my God, you're here! I can't believe it!" Then, he dropped me.
My face was frozen in shock, "Robbie…"
"Oh, come on," he smiled. "You must have something to say besides Robbie."
I laughed, "Shut up!"
"There we go!" Robbie put his hands on my shoulders and then let go. "Let me get a look at you."
I stepped away and held out my arms awkwardly, "Well, then."
He grinned, "Still awkward."
"Shut up, Robbie!" I gasped and hit his arm.
"I'm surprised you managed to snap this guy up," Robbie pointed at Greg who began to stand up.
"I'm Greg," he held out his hand.
"Robbie," he put his hand in Greg's. "How do you put up with her?"
Greg smirked, "Drugs."
"Don't even joke about that," I pointedly said, but with a smile on my face. Rosie nudged her way next to me and I looked to Robbie, "Robbie, this is Rosie, my daughter."
"Oh, hey," he crouched down to her. "I'm Uncle Robbie, but you can just call me Roberto."
"Well, that'd be weird," Rosie giggled.
Robbie smiled, "Kid, I'm weird."
I remembered how strange Robbie could be. He was weird, even at fourteen. Alright, especially at fourteen. He liked D-Movies from the fifties and always wore his hair slicked back, greaser style. Thankfully, he had grown out of the second habit. Now, his hair was cropped close to his head. He had worn blue rimmed glasses with really thick lenses. Now, he wore contacts.
Rosie enjoyed Robbie's company. He made her laugh and he even brought her a gift, granted, it was just a packet of gum.
"Not just any gum," Robbie held up his hand toward me. "It's my own flavor combination. It hasn't even been released in stores."
"So you work at a gum factory? You don't hear that often."
"You don't hear about girls who run away from home often, either," he teased, not knowing the pain behind his words.
My mother snapped at him, smacking his leg, "Robert!"
"What?" he frowned.
Rosie looked up at him, ignoring the previous comments and wallowing in the excitement of the gum, "You mean no one else has ever had this?"
"Well, you're one of the first," he smiled at her.
Her eyes were wide. I leaned back in my chair, happily fulfilled. Greg and my father had migrated back inside over some beers and a conversation about politics which I dreaded even thinking about.
"How do you open it?" she held out the packet toward Robbie who examined the packet.
"Huh…there's no strip to open it," he looked at it. "Well, I'm just gonna get a pair of scissors." He got up off of the chair and started to walk back inside. Rosie jumped off of her seat and followed close behind him.
So my mother and I sat in an awkward silence for a few moments.
"I guess you're wondering-"
"Yeah, I am."
She looked to me with a sorrowful frown on her face before running her hand along the wheel of her chair. "You left."
"I know," I murmured. "It was one of the best things I ever did."
My mother looked ashamed. Her eyes filled with tears, "Look, Marilyn. It was my fault, but you left your brothers and sister alone like that-"
"Because a teenager should not have to sacrifice her own happiness to hold together her family," I said coldly, looking away. "What the hell happened to you, ma? You just started disappearing."
"It was my fault," I heard my father's voice. I turned to look at him.
He closed the door behind him and said with a wavering voice, "It was my fault."
"Don," my mother shook her head. "I can handle this."
"The night your mother first started to…disappear and…" my father lowered his head.
I stood up. Everything was so confusing right then, I was actually a little dizzy.
"That night, your mother found out that I had been having an affair."
I froze. My heart was pounding. Those five question, who, what, when, where, and why, were running through my head.
"Donald," she choked out. "Stop, this is my story," my mother sighed. "Don't make yourself the villain."
"Wh-who? How did this happen? Dad, you were-you were never that kind of guy," words started to creep through my mouth with reckless abandon.
"Marilyn," my mother garnered my attention with her tone. "Listen to me. Your father made a mistake, we are human."
I turned around, my teeth clenched and tears running down my face, "Ma, I know what a mistake is. Greg was addicted to pain medication when I met him. It got to the point where he hallucinated that he tried to kill me and he left me. But he went to rehab. He knew what he had done and he made up for-"
"That is not a purposeful mistake, that is circumstantial!" she shouted over me. "Your father chose to do this. Please, just listen."
Looking over at my father, I sucked in my lower lip. Not only did he look panic stricken, but also very frightened. I turned to my mom and sat down on the chair beside her. "He made a bad decision…he started working later and later and his boss' secretary—you remember her. Carol…" my mother almost growled.
I did vaguely remember Carol, a young twenty-something with red hair and a beautiful smile. But how my father ended up with that beauty, I didn't know. At any rate, my mother continued.
"Well, the night I started all of that was the night I found out. Your father…actually told me," she bit her lip. "And I freaked out, as you know. I know that sounds like an awful explanation. I know you'd say I overreacted, but at the time…you know we were both still fairly young. I never wanted what happened to happen. I was practically set on leaving. But I couldn't stop running away. It helped…It hurt. I wanted to leave, but I didn't have the courage."
My father floated quietly over, sitting across from me. "And when you left, we were both…devastated. And we ran out to look for you." His gaze shifted to my mother who had become completely silent.
I couldn't even hear her breathe.
"Your mother was inebriated and I was driving…I couldn't really see," he swallowed. "I was crying and I just wasn't thinking straight. Ran through a red light and…"
My mother smiled at him slowly, "And there was an accident."
He stayed silent, looking at me. I couldn't meet his eye. Everything was overwhelming.
"After that I was forced to stop everything…I really couldn't go anywhere. I'm paralyzed from the waist down," she smiled meekly. I couldn't believe her smile. "So your father and I talked like we hadn't in a long time…and he took care of me. And everything has been okay."
"We understand why you left," my father finally spoke up. "It definitely taught us about ourselves. And I wish we could take it back. I wish we could fix it. We missed your life."
I folded my hands over my face, intertwining my fingers around my hair. I could hardly breathe. Slowly, my mother put her hand on my back and ran it down my spine, "Marilyn, I'm sorry."
"I'm sorry…for causing it."
For all those years, I had blamed my mother, thinking she had abandoned her family, gotten fed up with children and being a mother. And now to know that it was my father who had caused it. Even if he did regret it, I didn't know if I could look at him. All the respect I had had for him was gone.
I had gotten into a pattern of sobbing where I couldn't catch my breath. My mother took me up in her arms. "Marilyn..." she pressed her lips against my forehead. "Please, forgive us. We both made terrible mistakes and we know how much you struggled."
"I know," I choked out and then brushed some tears from my eyes. Then, I looked to my dad who looked to me apologetically. Maybe I did have it in my heart to forgive him. "I guess I'm just glad you found me."
"We're glad too," my mom smiled. "Now stop crying, everything is okay now."
And the afternoon continued without any hitches. I smiled. I could smile. My mother and I interacted like we used to. Everyone was sitting around on the patio, drunk with laughter and smiles. Greg had his arm around me and Rosie was resting her head on my arm. Robbie had been telling a story of work in the gum factory. It was so boring, especially for him, but it was great to just be here in the company of some of my family for the first time in sixteen years.
"So, will you stay for dinner?" my father looked to me. "I learned to cook since the accident."
"Yeah," Robbie rolled his eyes. "That took a few years of learning."
My mother laughed to the chagrin of my father, "Oh, dear, you know it's true."
I looked to Greg who was running his hand against his bare chin, probably enamored by the smoothness, "What do you think?"
"Can we stay?" Rosie chirped after a long quiet spell.
"Well, I can't say no to that, can I?" Greg rolled his eyes. I smiled boldly as my family gave a bout of polite laughter.
My dad stood up, "Well, I'll get going on that."
"Don, push me in, will ya?" my mother looked up at him. Then, she looked to me, "You three just relax."
Robbie frowned, "What do you want me to do?"
"Come on, Robbie, you'll help me cut vegetables. You always used to want to do that."
"Well, I'm thirty now. I'm not as enamored with knives," he rose.
Rosie looked up with excitement, "Can I come?"
"You're not playing with knives kid, leave that up to a professional," Robbie pointedly noted.
Rosie got up quickly and I tried to pull her back, "Be careful. No knives. None. And don't start throwing them around like you're a…a knife thrower."
Greg started laughing, "Calm down, Marilyn."
The rest of them retreated into the house. I didn't realize that the sun had begun to set and the sky was an orange-pink. We were both very quiet before I leaned my head on his shoulder looking out over the sky and garden. Greg ran his hand down my leg slowly. I looked to him with a smile, "What?"
"Are you happy?" he frowned.
"Yeah," I nodded. "I think I'm happy."
He patted my knee and looked forward, "Good. I'm glad."
"Do you like them?" I looked to him and smiled.
"Your parents?" Greg groaned. "I mean…they're your parents. It's a bit worrisome. Even for me."
I blushed, "You're a lot different from the first time I met you, you know?"
"Yeah, but deep down I'm still an asshole."
"Well, at least you know it," I rolled my eyes.
"Hey!" he glared. 'You're supposed to say 'Darling, you're not an asshole. You're nothing like an asshole.'"
Laughing, I copied his speech, "Darling, you're not an asshole. You're nothing like an asshole."
"But you're lying!" Greg turned his head toward me.
"Oh, like you never lie," I put my hand around his chin, squeezing his cheeks. Then, I quickly gave him a small kiss, dropping my hand.
"I don't lie."
He shrugged, "But you love me."
"No," I said sarcastically.
Greg sighed, running his hand through my hair, "Well, I could just take that ring back…"
I held up my hand, admiring the simple band with a diamond set in the center on my right hand, "You can leave me, but I'm keeping this rock."
He chuckled, "You don't mean that."
Shaking my head, I replied, "No, I don't."
His lips brushed my ear, "I love you."
I lowered my head. He really loved me. He told me practically everyday. If not with words, than we actions.
Something that I never thought he'd say to me.
It had already turned into months of him telling me.
He loved me. Despite his cold nature, he was managing to become softer. At least for us. He still treated James the same way and his team on the occasions that I saw them.
"Sometimes, I wonder why you're still here," he murmured quietly.
"Oh, don't think about that," I ran my hand across his bare face. "Don't think about that ever."
The door opened. Rosie ran out and over to us, grinning, "Robbie told me to tell you to 'stop sucking face and come into the kitchen and help out.'"
We both laughed and Greg replied, "You go tell Robbie to-"
"Mind his own business," I said, knowing where Greg was going to take that.
Rosie shrugged, "Okay." And quickly she rushed back inside.
Greg looked to me and pressed his lips against mine quickly. It was a calm kiss, not like one at the beginning of our relationship. It was more familiar. "What was that for?" I asked.
"I can't just kiss you?"
"Yes, you can," I smiled. "Any time you want."
"Guess I have Rosie to thank for that," he smirked and kissed me again.
Yes, he did have Rosie to thank for that.