Prologue/Chapter 1

It had been one of those days that passed quickly because there had been so much to do. Elizabeth had spent most the morning and afternoon doing routine chores around the house: dusting, sweeping, mopping, putting things back in their place. There were also a few stops to make outside of the house. A few items needed to be bought for dinner, and she stopped by the post office to mail a birthday card for her brother, whose birthday was in three days. Before she could drive back to her house she had to make a trip to a local park which had become a Friday tradition within the last two months. It was expected by her daughter, and if they passed by without feeding the ducks, the rest of the evening would turn sour. But she didn't mind the diversion because Fridays were usually very relaxed. The family normally had a late supper because Elizabeth's husband worked later on those days to avoid having to go in on the weekends.

"Me feed duts!"

"Slow down, Emma. You're going to have to calm down unless you want them to run away."

Elizabeth's daughter grabbed her hand and tried the best she could to drag her mother towards the group of birds. A bag of stale bread was swinging in her other hand, and she laughed at Emma's excitement, not clearly understanding why feeding these birds every week produced so much joy. But she wasn't complaining. Anything that could generate this much happiness was well worth it.

As they got closer, Emma's babbling caught the ducks' attention, and they began to waddle towards them. This only increased the toddler's excitement, and Elizabeth had to put forth a little more effort in holding her back. When they were a reasonable distance away, she let go of Emma's hand, and the girl crouched carefully in front of the quacking birds with her arms outstretched, much the same way people would try to call a dog to them.

"'Ello, dutties! 'Ello!"

"Do you want some bread to feed them?"

Emma jumped up. "Yes!"

"Remember to tear it into little pieces so they can swallow it."

Emma did as she was told and proceeded to tear the bread into very small pieces before throwing them at the birds. A few bounced off their heads, but this did not seem to faze the young girl or deter the ducks.

"Be careful. It's not nice to hit them with the bread. Just toss it in front of them."

After fifteen minutes of feeding and observing, Elizabeth announced it was time to go. She let Emma hold the leftover bread as they walked back to the car, and as she buckled her in, she answered her questions about dinner and gave her permission to help prepare it. The drive home wasn't long, and after bringing in their bags, Elizabeth helped her daughter wash her hands and tie the small apron around her waist. Emma poured the premeasured ingredients into bowls and mixed them while Elizabeth worked on most of the other preparations. After a short amount of time, Emma ran from the kitchen and picked up her dolls near her favorite chair and brought them back into the room, where she played as Elizabeth finished cooking.

When everything was simmering and boiling properly, Elizabeth turned and rested against the butcher's block in her kitchen. She was watching Emma play. A few months had passed since her second birthday, and Elizabeth loved seeing her grow. Everyone who met them always remarked on how much the two looked alike, much to the delight of her husband who always reminded everyone what a horrible fortune it would have been if their daughter looked like him. What an ugly little girl she would be, he'd say. That would always make everyone laugh, but Elizabeth hoped that one day (perhaps in the near future) they'd have a son who looked just like him. Until that time, she would be content with entertaining her daughter and watching her grow.

Elizabeth held a secret hope when she was pregnant that Emma's eyes would be blue like her mother's were, but the first time she looked into those brown eyes, any disappointment that may have existed instantly disappeared. Her hair was also starting to turn darker, and she knew it wouldn't be long before they would really resemble one another – especially if Emma continued to practice pouting like Elizabeth.

"Me hungry."

Her thoughts were interrupted when Emma spoke. "Well, everything will be done by the time Daddy gets home."

The notorious pout began to creep onto her face, and Elizabeth relented. She turned and picked up two carrots that had not been used in the dinner preparations. "Would you like a carrot?"

"No."

"You could be just like Bugs Bunny."

"Buds Bunny!" She squealed and ran towards her mother, eagerly taking one of the carrots and leaving one for Elizabeth. They ate their crunchy snacks and grinned at each other until Emma yelled, "Me Buds Bunny!"

"Where are your ears, Bugs?"

"Here!" she shouted, holding up two fingers on the side of her head while fiercely clutching the remaining piece of carrot.

Elizabeth smiled at her while she laughed, but the sound of a door unlocking in the next room caused Emma to spin and sprint towards the sound. Elizabeth stood up straight and checked on all of the food as she heard her daughter say, "Daddy!"

"Emmy!"

"Daddy, me fed duts, and me Buds Bunny!"

"I can see that. How's your carrot?

"Mmm. Mummy! Daddy's here!"

Father and daughter entered the kitchen together, hand in hand, and he smiled at Elizabeth. The two walked towards her, and the couple shared a kiss.

"Tea smells good tonight."

The younger woman huffed. "It's not tea, Paul. It's dinner."

"I grew up calling it tea," he teased.

"Well, I grew up calling it dinner. Will you and Emma get the table ready?"

Paul and Emma placed cutlery and glasses, and Elizabeth began setting all of the food in the middle of the table. Soon, all three sat down to eat. Emma talked more about the ducks while her parents listened, and every once in a while when Elizabeth would catch her husband watching her, she would shake her head and smile before turning back towards their daughter. Suddenly, Emma switched topics.

"What's dat?" she asked, pointing at the name badge on his chest.

"Oh, I forgot to take it off today. This is how people know my name." He handed the plastic card to her.

"Dat's you!" she said, observing the picture on the front.

"Yep. And that's my name and my job and where I work. Right there," he said, pointing to the words that read: Paul Collins, Marketing, Donovell Publications

"What you do today, Daddy?"

"Today? Well, today I talked to some people about how to advertise their products," he said before turning his head to look at Elizabeth. "And then, Elliott offered me the head marketing director's position at the branch here in Brighton."

Elizabeth nearly dropped her fork. Paul had been interviewing for the open position with the magazine executives for nearly a month. They had been hoping for some good news recently, but actually hearing it was somewhat of a surprise for her. "Are you serious?"

He grinned and nodded. "I'm going to complete all the paperwork tomorrow at noon."

"Paul, that's fantastic! I can't believe it!"

Emma started clapping her hands and shouted, "Yay!" not fully understanding what was so exciting.

"We have to celebrate!" Elizabeth exclaimed.

"As soon as I get home tomorrow, we'll go out for a fancy dinner. We might even stop," he paused and leaned towards Emma, "to feed some ducks."

"Duts!" She clapped harder.

Elizabeth didn't think life could get any better as she sipped her wine and watched the two most important people in her life.


A/N: This story is going to be updated sporadically because I'm extremely busy. Have patience with me please!