Little Moments: Like Father, Like Son
Chapter 30: Commencement
Disclaimer: I'm not even gonna bother. You know what goes here.
A/N: Hey, guys. First off, if you're an anonymous reviewer, your review reply for last chapter is at the bottom of chapter 29. I didn't want to "junk up" up the bottom of this final chapter. Second, I'm battling mixed emotions with this one. I can't believe the end is here. On one hand I'm thrilled to see everything wrapped up, but on the other, I'm sad to see it go. This was my first spin off. My first break from OTH that I got to write my own kind of story. I so enjoyed getting to explore an older Jamie and introduce new characters and create a life for him. And I never would have continued to do it without the support of my readers and reviewers, so thank you. Thanks for taking a chance and believing in me and the story. You guys will never know how much I appreciate it. It's been a long road, but I'm happy to show you all how it ends. There's a lot of Claire in this one, but I think her lack of appearances in the previous chapters justifies it. So here we go...here's the epilogue! Enjoy!
There was a soft silence that had fallen across the hotel room. Even the mid May air had seemingly been muted. Summer birds and the laughter of children had been quieted by the rainfall of a North Carolina thunderstorm, but that rain had all but passed now. There was now a light drizzle against the window and Jamie's fingers on the keys of his lap top were now the only noises that filled the small room.
Jamie glanced at the clock and knew he'd better get going. He didn't want to be late. Jamie looked to his hands that were calloused with age. At fifty-two, those fingers had typed up more sports related articles and stories than he could count. But it had paid off. He'd been one of the premier sports writers at Sports Illustrated for the last seventeen years- covering topics that got to the heart and soul of athletics. It was the camaraderie in team play, the good will of coaches, and determination of players that Jamie liked to write about.
The particular piece he was hurrying to finishing up was centered on the importance for children to play recreational league sports during their primary education days. He'd centered his research on a handful of successful businessmen and women who had sports in their background, and each section of the article included their individual success stories and how sports played a role. Initially when Jamie had planned the article, he wanted to include a certain former college soccer player who had made it up the ranks to the head nurse of the pediatric wing at New Hanover Regional Medical. Her college soccer days and profound impact on the children and staff she works with would have made for a great read, but Jamie couldn't do it- conflict of interest.
His cell phone buzzed hard against the wood of the hotel desk, and Jamie knew he needed to get going. It was probably her. They must have been waiting on him.
Checking his phone, the time, and then his computer screen, Jamie sent a quick email to one of his friends on staff as an editor. There was only a little bit of editing to do, the article was nearly ready for press, so he went ahead and sent it in because he had somewhere he needed to be.
He moved away from the desk, dropped his wallet in his pocket, and headed for the door. On his way out he stopped by the mirror and straightened his tie. After all, he needed to look good for such a big occasion.
Jamie found his way to the parking lot and barely caught the shuttle to campus. Riding through the quaint college town, Jamie smiled at the familiarity of it all. Everything still looked the same. Top of the Hill was still a packed place and even Yogurt Pump had people lined out the doors. He hadn't been a student in nearly thirty years, but the memories of his past reminded him of some of the best times of his life. It was a surreal feeling to be back.
The crowds of people that got off the shuttle headed in one way, but Jamie walked in another. He would follow their trail eventually, but before he got lost in the crowds of proud parents, Jamie wanted to take the long route- visit places he hadn't seen in decades.
On his way through campus, the father couldn't help but smile as he passed other families in the midst of photo opps and happy smiles. He knew the joy and pride those parents felt. He'd already done this once before. Bennet had graduated from the University of Georgia six years ago, and that was a day Jamie would always remember. Now his son was grown and had a great job working in the communications department for the Atlanta Hawks. Yes, the Hawks. Funny how life worked out, wasn't it? All those years of Jamie trying to convince Liza the Bobcats were the best, and their son goes and gets a job with the Hawks.
Grinning as he looked to the ground, Jamie stuck his hands in his pockets and crossed over the concourse towards the science buildings. Thirty some odd years ago he'd had such a hard time finding his way around. Back then he'd waisted the entire morning of his first day of sophomore year roaming these same pathways. Jamie turned towards the right and approached a large building, spotting someone standing in the shade of a tree. The architecture of Venable Hall had nothing on the woman he was walking towards. He locked eyes with her and knew he'd been lucky to find her all those years ago. They'd had something special from day one.
He was just as cute as ever. That smirk and those piercing blue eyes still made her heart flip. Covering her brow to shield the sun, Liza smiled at her husband as she walked to him. When they met, the former UNC soccer star looked back to the building and then to Jamie with a blushed grin, "Hey." There was something sweet and sentimental about standing with her husband on their college campus in front of Venable Hall. It felt like they were sophomores again.
"Hey." He smiled kindly and looked around to the droves of people walking towards the stadium. "Sorry I'm late."
Liza gently raised her shoulders. He wasn't that late. They still had plenty of time to find good seats. Her lips curled into a smile and she couldn't help but tease him though. "I thought you might have gotten lost."
He let out a laugh and shook his head, "Not this time." He smiled and took in Liza's beauty. She hadn't changed in all the years they'd been together. She was just as beautiful as they day they met on that very campus thirty two years ago. Obviously when she'd left the hotel dressed and ready, he hadn't taken in what she was wearing or how she pulled it off. Now he had and Jamie slipped his hand around Liza's. He looked around and furrowed his brow as they walked toward Kennan Stadium, "Where's Bennet...?"
Liza pointed her finger towards their twenty-eight year old son and daughter-in-law.
Bennet and his wife of three years, Grier, were standing by one of the commemorative, iron signs near Venable Hall taking in the history of UNC's pristine campus. Someone less interested in the history was the fourteen month old little girl Bennet was holding. Blonde, blue-eyed with a Carolina blue bow in her hair to support her aunt, the youngest Scott was gonna be the center of attention no matter the occasion. She was too cute for words.
Bennet saw his parents walking towards him and he shifted his little girl into one of his arms. He smiled at his dad and looked towards the stadium, "Ready?"
They were, and the five Scotts walked towards the commencement ceremony to cheer on the sixth Scott. Claire was graduating from UNC just like her parents had. Majoring in Biology, Claire was headed down a road similar to her mother's. Instead of nursing though, she had hopes of becoming a doctor. Texas bound after graduation, Claire was extending her studies to Baylor's medical school in hopes of finding her way as a pediatric surgeon. Jamie and Liza couldn't be more proud.
As the family neared the entrances of the stadium, Grier took the baby from her husband and figured it best to walk around campus with her. The commencement ceremony would run long and there was no telling how long a fourteen month old would be cooperative. They'd meet back up once it was over and when Claire joined them all.
Bennet pulled out a pacifier and a little, bitty lamb stuffed animal from his pockets and handed them to Grier as his parents walked into the stadium. Jamie came up on those rotating entrance barriers, like the ones they have at Subways, and tried to push through. Liza had gone through the one adjacent to her husband and looked back to see Jamie struggling. She'd made it through perfectly fine.
"Honey..." Liza bit her lip and tried not to laugh. What was it with him and getting doors stuck. Technically the thing wasn't even a door but it might as well have been.
Jamie's brow had furrowed with concentration. "I got it." He pushed harder but the dumb thing wouldn't rotate. He knew there were people behind him, and now his concentration was turning to embarrassment. What the heck? Why couldn't he figure it out?
Bennet had made it through the line next to Jamie and looked over to his father. "Just push, Dad." His arched brow, sarcasm, and way with words- much like his father's, could only make Jamie laugh.
"Sir..." One of the men working security at the commencement ceremony walked towards the sports writer.
Upon hearing the uniformed man's voice, Jamie pushed just a little harder and then heard the click of the rotating machine give. Jamie was lucky he didn't hurt himself or fall down when he'd finally pushed through. He looked to the security officer and held out his hand, quickly walking by him, "I got it. I'm good."
Liza had been watching everything unfold and hooked her arm around her husband's when he walked to her.
Jamie shook his head and laughed, "Just..." He know he'd looked like an idiot. "Don't say anything."
Liza had already thought of a few cute jabs she could have lovingly told him, but opted not to. She simply looked to him and leaned into his left side. "I love you."
Feeling his smirk slide across his cheeks, Jamie nodded. He looked right back into her blue eyes and said everything he needed to. Silent, their gaze said everything. After being together over thirty years now, words were sometimes overrated.
"Over here." Bennet eyed three seats and waved his parents over. They'd have a great view and could even see the biology majors seating area. Claire was lost in a sea of cap and gowns, but they'd spot her soon enough. It wouldn't be long until they watched her walk across the stage.
Once the speakers had finished, a well fashioned line of UNC graduates began to file into place near the stage. When the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences rose to his feet and welcomed the crowd, the Scotts new Claire was soon to cross. Their attention was taken to names the dean was reading and then they heard the one they'd been eagerly anticipating.
"Claire Louise Scott."
Rising to their feet with happy smiles, applause, and cheers, Jamie, Liza, and Bennet watched Claire, draped in Carolina blue, glide across the stage.
Jamie's felt a sudden rise in his heartbeat as he watched his daughter shake the dean's hand. It was a special moment. Not only had Claire graduated from college, she'd graduated from UNC- his and Liza's alma matter.
Liza took a deep breath in. It was a unique feeling seeing her daughter walk across the stage at Kennan Stadium. Turning towards her husband after Claire walked off the stage, Liza looked to Jamie and they shared another wordless moment. This was big. This was huge. Their little girl had grown up. Jamie could see the emotional excitement begin to gloss over Liza's eyes and he took her hand in his.
In that instant the pediatric nurse closed her eyes and leaned into her handsome husband. They both knew this was a defining moment. In the coming weeks Claire would be off to Texas and Bennet would head back to Atlanta. Their children were growing up. They'd been grown for a while now, but somehow this occasion made it seem all the more real.
After the ceremony ended the Scotts meandered through the crowds of people and met back up with Grier and the baby to find their graduate. Claire told them where she'd be and when Liza saw her twenty-two year old daughter, she hurried over with a hug.
"Mom...! Dad!" Claire held her mom tight and then hugged her father. She quickly caught sight of her niece and squealed, "Holy cow..." That little blue bow and precious little face was way more exciting to Claire than her recent graduation. "She looks so cute!"
Jamie and Liza couldn't help but laugh at Claire's reaction. Somehow they knew Claire would be less enthusiastic about graduating than seeing their sweet grand-daughter.
Taking off her graduation cap, Claire placed in on top of the fourteen-month old and watched it slide past the little girl's eyes. Gently elbowing her brother, Claire smiled. "Look. It's already official. She's coming here."
Smirking with a laugh, Bennet couldn't help but agree as to how cute the little one looked. "Maybe one day."
Watching their two children and grand-daughter interact with happy smiles warmed both Jamie and Liza's heart to the very core.
After pictures and a slow walk through campus, Claire stepped out of her gown and the family headed to a celebratory lunch at Carolina Crossroads. Claire's newly graduated boyfriend was joining them with his family, so it would be a large bunch of about ten.
On their way, Jamie and Liza drove up to the Carolina Inn where the restaurant was housed and when Jamie pulled up to the entrance, he looked to his wife with a grin. "We should have brought that free valet voucher."
Laughing, Liza opened up her door before stepping out. "I think it's a little out of date." Out of date plus the fact that she had no idea where it was. The last time Liza saw it, it was tucked away in the pages of a book.
Jamie knew Liza was probably right. That old voucher wouldn't probably hold its worth anymore, but he couldn't help but remind her and be reminded of the early days of their relationship. Jamie walked up to the hostess and inquired about their reservation.
The college aged employee happily nodded and told them they'd be seated once the rest of their party arrived.
Thankful their table hadn't been double booked this time, Jamie took a seat next to Liza in the waiting area. Thirty years late and with extra company, Jamie and Liza were finally gonna get that first anniversary meal at Carolina Crossroads they never had.
Nearly two weeks had passed since Claire's graduation and since Jamie and Liza had visited Chapel Hill. Now back home, the sports writer and nurse were back to their day to day lives.
It had been a pretty lack-luster Friday afternoon at the hospital. Not to say that wasn't a good thing, but Liza liked a little bit of excitement sometimes. Making sure medications had been administered, overseeing her staff of nurses, and checking in on patients had called in for a pretty minimal day. Just after lunch she did get to stitch up a little boy's elbow. And when stitches are the highlight of your professional day, you know it's slow-going.
Sitting down at her desk, the fifty-two year old started to read a science journal that incorporated new technologies regarding children's care. It was always so fascinating to see what scientists were dreaming up to help foster the next medial breakthrough. When she read past the part describing a new procedure for cochlear implants, there was a knock on the doorframe. It wasn't shut so Liza looked up to see Emma, a sweet young nurse who had gone to high school with Bennet.
"Hey..." Liza rolled away from her desk and started to get up, knowing she must have been needed somewhere.
"We just got a patient who came in complaining of dizziness and nausea..."
Gearing up for what she loved most, Liza listened to the room number of the patient and walked that way. In route she couldn't help but think it was a little strange that they'd put a patient with an undiagnosed condition in a room with two beds. The other patient taking up the first bed was a seven year old girl who was recovering from ear tube surgery. She was in the latter stages of recovery and would be released within a few hours most likely, but it still seemed odd to pair her with an abdominal case.
Rounding the corner, Liza walked closer to the hospital room and heard a child's laugher and familiar voice. Stepping into the doorframe, the mother of two saw her daughter enthusiastically telling the little girl a story. Clearly there was no patient who had come in with dizziness and nausea. Claire must have sent Emma with a diversion.
Hearing a presence in the room, Claire turned towards the door with a smile. "I was just telling Bailey here, the story of when I had a bad ear infection when I was her age. Remember that?"
Smiling, Liza nodded. "After we took you to the doctor, they filled your ear with so much medicine you could barely hear out of left ear. You came home and practically screamed every word that came out of you mouth."
Claire nodded with a grin, "I did. I couldn't tell I was talking loud." She started to laugh and looked to Bailey and back to her mom. "My older brother was trying to study for his driver's test and got so mad that I was talking so loud. He couldn't concentrate. All during dinner that night I was like, PASS THE SALT!"
Bailey's eyes lit up and she covered her mouth in laughter. It was nice to hear that someone else had suffered through bad ear infections. Granted, Claire's weren't so bad and frequent that she'd ended up needing tubes, but the young woman seemed to know just the right thing to say to put a smile on the younger one's face. As much as she was like her mom, it seemed like Claire had some of her father in her, too. She was good with words as well.
Liza walked closer smiling at Bailey but wondered why her daughter was there. "I didn't think you'd be here for a couple more hours?" Later that evening everyone was coming over to Jamie and Liza's for a send off party for Claire. On her way to Texas paired with a U-Haul and her boyfriend, the graduate was stopping by home before she headed to Baylor.
Winking goodbye to Bailey, Claire got up off the bed and shrugged her shoulders. "We hit the road earlier than expected. Wyatt dropped me off here and was driving the U-Haul to the house." Claire walked towards the door with her mom and waved bye to the little girl again. She'd only met the youngster half an hour ago, but already made an impact. Maybe it was in her nature, but Claire was a people person; always looking after those who needed caring.
Hugging Claire once they got into the hallway, Liza was still a little in shock to see her youngest at work. Then again she wasn't. Claire had been coming up to the hospital since she was in junior high. Every chance she could, she was shadowing her mom. Clearly she'd known from a young age what she wanted to do. The only shock in this visit, was the time. Liza thought Claire wouldn't be home for a few more hours. "So did you get everything moved out?"
"Yep. Wyatt got like seven of his friends and they had my apartment clear in no time." Perks of having a boyfriend was a really fast move. "He's probably hanging out at the house now."
Liza grinned and could already see Jamie and Wyatt in an awkward stare-down. Wyatt was a great, fantastic guy for Claire, but it was just that. He was dating their daughter and Jamie was Claire's dad. He would never stop protecting her. Liza would know. She'd witnessed him nearly run out the boys Claire dated in high school.
And oddly enough, Jamie and Wyatt were doing just as Liza suspected.
Jamie had been on the phone talking about work stuff when he saw the U-Haul pull up to the curb. Assuming his daughter was in the car, Jamie ended the phone call and walked out the front door to greet her. But instead of the Claire, he only saw Wyatt.
"Hey..." Wyatt walked around the hood of the truck towards Claire's dad. He had a blue Texas Rangers hat he was breaking in and smiled. He was Texas bound, too. Originally from Indiana and a graduate of UNC, Wyatt was on his way to law school, following his girlfriend to Texas. It was gonna be the best of both worlds. He'd get to study at the University of Texas Law School in Austin and Claire would only be an hour and a half away.
Using his thumb to point behind him, Wyatt laughed with a shake of his head, "The hospital. I dropped her by on our way in."
That wasn't surprising at all and Jamie put his hands on his hips. He laughed and looked in the direction of the medical center. Of course Claire was there. If anywhere else, he might be worried. "Well come on in. I'm sure you've had a long day with the drive and moving."
Nodding, Wyatt smiled and walked into the Scott's house. The two men made small talk about the move and about Texas. The lawyer-to-be wasn't moving to Austin until late July, but he was the one who was gonna drive across the country to settle Claire in.
Jamie would be lying if he said Wyatt didn't make him nervous when it came to all that. Not in a bad or creepy way. Claire had always raved about her Indiana guy and had clearly loved him for the last two years. Wyatt only made Jamie nervous in the 'Wyatt is a good guy- the marrying kind' way. And call it a sixth sense, experience, or the simple fact that the two of them were alone, but when Jamie watched Wyatt fiddle with fingers and take a deep breath, he knew it was coming.
And there it was. Wyatt looked to Jamie, smiled and asked Jamie if he could marry his daughter. The words that were coming out of the young man's mouth seemed to all mumble together after the initial question, and all Jamie could think about was Claire- the times she rode on his shoulders, the time she'd fallen into his parents pool, the way he'd taught her to drive in that old FJ-40, and the way she'd grown up. Looking to Wyatt, his hopeful expression familiar from the day he'd asked Mr. Bennet about Liza.
"So what do you say?" Wyatt took the biggest breath he ever had and hopped Jamie would say yes.
His slow response was probably killing poor Wyatt, but this wasn't something Jamie wanted to rush. Of course he'd say yes. Claire loved him and lit up each time she talked about him, but Jamie wanted the silence to put Wyatt in his place. And maybe that was mean, but Jamie wanted to make it perfectly clear that this was not an impulse decision.
Wyatt was wondering what he was saying wrong, so he took off his hat curious if that had been the issue. He knew he should have done it earlier.
Jamie couldn't help but laugh when he saw Wyatt take off the hat. Instead of letting the poor guy sit in silence, the sports writer held out his hand. "You take care of her in Texas." As soon as the words came out of his mouth, Wyatt's excitement fell over his young face as he shook Jamie's hand. In that instance, Jamie knew everything was gonna be alright.
"Yes, sir. I will."
"Hello..." Jamie heard his mom's voice ring through the house and he got up to greet his parents. He saw his aging mom and dad who were in their late seventies walk into his home. "Mom, Dad. Hey."
"Oh, I know we're a little early, Jamie, but we were already out." Haley hugged her oldest.
"That's fine. Bennet called and said they'd be here in half an hour and Charlotte will be here soon."
"Claire not here?" Nathan looked around for his oldest grand-daughter. Normally she was so quick to say hello and greet her grandparents.
"She's at the hospital with her mom." Jamie looked to his dad and walked towards the living room. "Why don't you tell Wyatt about Texas, Dad. You played the Rockets, Mavs, Spurs all the time. I'm sure you've got some stories."
"Yeah, I'd love to hear them." Wyatt looked to Claire's grandfather and grandmother with a smile.
While the four adults headed to the living room, two others across town were on their way home. Liza had gotten off work a little early, and she was driving towards home with Claire.
Glancing out the window to see her hometown pass her by, the younger, dirty-blonde Scott smiled at her mom, "It's gonna be hard to leave."
"It'll be fine. You did it before when you went to college."
Claire smiled but shook her head, "Not Tree Hill." Her blue eyes wandered over the town and then back to her mother. "You and Dad." Leaving for college and leaving for Texas felt like two totally different things. Chapel Hill felt like a home away from home. Baylor was completely new and unfamiliar. Not to mention she wasn't going to know a soul in Waco.
"Honey..." Liza looked to her youngest and smiled, "Your dad and I are so proud of you, and you have done such wonderful things. You going to Texas will be great. It will give us a perfect excuse to travel more." Since Jamie worked from home and Liza spent most of her time at the hospital, they didn't explore as much these days. Now they'd have a solid reason to stray from Tree Hill.
Letting out a soft laugh, Claire laughed, "Yeah."
"And Wyatt will be close. You're gonna have a blast down there. Think about Bennet. He left home and look at him now."
Claire hadn't thought about it like that, but her brother had been in a similar position. He wasn't quite as far away, but he'd created a life in Atlanta that Claire hoped to have. He had a great job, wonderful wife, beautiful little girl, and the world at his finger-tips. Sighing, the twenty-two year old knew she was gonna be fine. Her sheer determination and love for doing what she did would get her far if she let it. Last minute jitters couldn't stop her, especially when she felt her mom's hand reach over the console and take her own.
Liza turned the car onto their street, and pulled into the driveway. "Looks like your grandparents are here." It was a little earlier than she'd anticipated people coming over, but that was fine. Liza just hoped Jamie had at least set out an hors d'oeuvre or two.
Claire smiled and then saw another car pull up to the house. "And Hattie!" The Baylor bound college grad got out of the car and hurried over to her cousin's car. Charlotte's two girls had driven together and immediately hurried over to hug Claire. Hattie and her younger sister had always looked up to Claire and loved that she was back in town- even if just for a little while.
Liza waved to her eighteen and fourteen year old nieces and let the three young women catch up. The nurse walked inside and greeted her in-laws. Nathan, Haley, and Wyatt were deep in conversation regarding the best places to get a steak in Texas, and Jamie got up when he saw his wife come in.
Motioning towards the stairs, Liza caught Jamie's eyes letting him know she wanted to get out of her scrubs before everyone else started to arrive.
As family and close friends started to filter in, conversations varied but most everyone recalled stories of the past about Claire. It was her going-away party after all. The only time people stopped was when Bennet and Grier walked in the door. As soon as they brought the sleeping baby inside everyone had to coo and awe at the precious little girl.
Bennet gently put the carseat down and smiled proudly as people crowded around his daughter. He asked his wife if she wanted anything to drink and made his way to the kitchen passing his dad on the way. "Where's Mom?" Normally Liza was first in line to see her grand-daughter.
That was a good question. Jamie looked towards the ceiling and wondered if Liza had ended up taking a shower. "Upstairs. I'll tell her you're here." Jamie started walking away but stopped to turn back to his son, "Hey...and there are hamburger patties ready for the grill that you can take out whenever you want."
"Alright." Bennet nodded and continued to get Grier a drink before he started to take over grill duties.
Jamie headed up the stairs and then walked into the bedroom expecting to find Liza. But when he walked into their room it was only the ceiling fan letting out a continuously, soft rotating sigh cooling the room that he found. Moving towards the bathroom, he stuck his head in but still no Liza. The mirrors above their sinks were coated with a diminishing steam from an earlier shower.
With another place in mind, Jamie left the bedroom and headed down the hall. The childhood bedrooms of their children were straight ahead; Bennet's up first. Cracking open the door, Jamie looked to see the redecorated guest room vacant. It had only been a couple years since beige had replaced blue, that their son's trophies from years past, toy trucks, and school books had graced the bookshelves. Now calming neutral tones and a muted green bedspread covered the past. Family pictures hung in place of old movie posters, but an acoustic guitar Haley handed down to her grandson still sat on its stand. Spots above Bennet's closet door were still discolored from the mini basketball goal that had hung and rubbed the doorframe raw, but other than the hidden memories, everything else had changed.
Seeing that his wife wasn't in their son's room, Jamie left the bedroom on to the next. He knew she had to be in Claire's old room. The door was ajar so his speculation was right and he gently pushed on the wood to open it further. The polka dotted blue and green comforter matched the light green paint on the wall. A shaggy rug was spread across the hardwood, and Jamie could remember the countless numbers of nights he'd walked across that rug barefoot to tell Claire goodnight. On the far right side of the room Jamie caught sight of his wife. She'd taken a seat at Claire's desk and was flipping through an old photo-album.
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Jamie walked towards Liza. Close, Jamie could see Claire's bulletin board that had various cut-outs and pictures pinned to the cork. Two medals hung next to each other and he knew exactly what they were from. One was his and one was hers. The picture pinned against one of the them showed a fifteen year old Claire and forty five year old Jamie. Both of them were sweaty and both of them red in the face. They'd just competed in the Diligence Dash and were holding up their consolation prizes as if they'd won first and second place. No where near the top of the pack, the father-daughter duo rounded out the bottom half of the competition but still did well.
Jamie's hand found the top of Liza's shoulder and he stood over her looking down at the pictures.
"Remember this?" Pointing to a photo of her husband and son, Liza looked up with a smile.
Nodding, Jamie shifted his weight as he studied the Rivercourt, it's cracked concrete showing its age. "That was the day he came home and told me he didn't make the seventh grade basketball team."
Reminiscing, Liza shut her eyes. "He cried all the way home from school that day. He'd convinced himself that you were going to disown him."
Laughing, Jamie shook his head still humored by the situation. As if a bad basketball tryout would define his relationship with his son. It would never, and it didn't. Basketball may have run in their blood, but it didn't define them. Bennet would go on to make other school basketball teams, but missing the cut on the seventh grade team had probably been a good thing. "After dinner we all went to the Rivercourt and played horse."
"Claire and I were on the bleachers."
"Mmm-huh. You took that picture." Jamie could still see Liza and Claire watching in the distance.
Flipping the page, Liza laughed when she saw a picture from Halloween. Claire had been about ten and was dressed in a white overcoat, her hair was teased up, and she had cracked glasses on. "This was the year she went as a mad scientist."
"And those glasses kept falling down her nose, so she went around with one hand stuck to her face and the other holding out her candy bag." Jamie could remember it perfectly. He also remembered carrying her up to her room when she'd fallen asleep, and sneaking a few Reese's Cups out of Claire's candy bag for When Liza turned the page, Jamie's attention was taken back to the bulletin board and he reached out for a picture that had to be thirty years old.
Liza looked up and smiled at the sight. "Look how young we are."
Jaime nodded and studied his younger self with a grin. His face had been painted in Carolina Blue and he was standing next to his favorite soccer player. Number six with a mean right kick, Liza was leaning into Jamie's side smiling ear to ear. It seemed bizarre that so much time had passed.
The mother of two glanced out the window and slowly got up to watch what was going on in the backyard. It seemed the party had moved outside and Liza turned to face Jamie. "You think she's gonna be okay out there?"
Her lack of specificity might make some wonder what Liza was talking about, but Jamie knew. Liza was worried about Claire. He stepped closer to her and nodded. "She's gonna be fine."
Liza thought so too, but it was her duty as a mother to worry about her children. "At least Wyatt will be close by."
Jamie wanted so badly to tell Liza that Wyatt would be sticking around for the long haul, but that was an occasion for a different day. "She'll get out there and blow those other kids out of the water. She'll get out there and sweep everyone off their feet."
Liza nodded and leaned back into Jamie's chest. He was right, but hearing him say it out loud somehow made it seem more likely. They both quietly watched their family outside in the comfort of one another. Bennet and Nathan were standing by the grill. Charlotte and Haley were sitting by the patio smiling at the baby. Wyatt was throwing the football with Charlotte's sons, and it looked like Brooke had kept with tradition and just handed Claire a small rectangular piece of paper.
Leaning into her husband even more, Liza turned her cheek to her chest. "We did alright, didn't we?"
Nodding and kissing the side of her head, Jamie smiled with a smirk. "I think we did just fine." He moved away from her and reached out for Liza's hand, "Come on."
Leaving Claire's room, Jamie and Liza headed downstairs to join their family. By any standards, the two of them over the last thirty years had done more than just alright or fine. They'd built an entire life together that was bound by love and trust. Not only was their relationship standing the test of time, but Jamie and Liza continued to grow as the years went by. It hadn't always been easy, but through the good and the bad, they'd always been there for one another. No matter the time or place Jamie and Liza had conquered it all. That spark that began in Chapel Hill was still burning bright in the small Atlantic town. It wasn't ever going out.