Leckadams – I finally delivered on that promise I made you two years ago. I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did.
I had planned for a huge sappy author's note but decided against it. So, I just simply want to thank everyone for taking this journey with me. It's been a pleasure.
I didn't want to get sappy but apparently my beta, Layne Faire wants to be. She warned me not to delete this message that she wrote for me:
BETA NOTE: Last fall, someone posted a link to the first chapter of what has become Sinner's Island, mentioning it was a great new story, but in need of a beta. Little did I know then the gift I would receive by offering to help out Deb with her flight of fantasy. Not only did I get an advance peek at every chapter of an amazing tale, I also acquired a new friend – one I will cherish long after others have forgotten where it all began. Thank you so much, Deb, for taking a chance on sharing your story with someone you didn't know, for allowing me to hone my editing skills on your words, and for being a willing shoulder, helping hand, and caring heart, while my family has gone through so much this year. My MaraBeth can't wait to read about yours. (Thank you so much Laura!)
Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of its characters.
Epilogue 2 of 2
10 years later
"Billy, can you help Jas load the headboard for the Johnsons?"
The lanky eighteen-year-old nods, scurrying toward the backroom, while eying the child sitting on the counter warily as he passes her by.
It's sad that this is the last week Billy will be helping at the store. In two weeks he'll be on his way to LSU to start college. Damn, but time flies.
And all we've heard him talking about this summer is moving to the dorms and meeting all the big city girls, which just makes Amanda fighting mad.
She's got a bug in her brain that she's gonna marry Billy one day.
In fact, two minutes ago Amanda was just telling the boy so – for the hundredth time. Billy just graced her with that dimpled smile she loves so much, and ruffled her blond curls. "Mandy, you're eight. Your daddies would have my hide if I tried to date ya."
"But Daddy says I'm a lady now," she'd insisted, looking to me for clarification.
I'd just shaken my head and sighed. I tell her that all right – at least ten times a day, but for the life of me I wish she'd remember the other half of the sentence. You're a little lady now…and you need to start actin' like one.
Our daughter Amanda is a firecracker, and a tomboy to be certain. She's near perfect with an arrow, climbs trees faster than a chipmunk, and plays baseball with all the boys…'cause girls are wimps, Daddy.
She's been following Billy around more than ever lately, knowing he'll be leaving soon. And as much as I love that boy, I can't wait to see him go…for Amanda's sake.
She jumps down from the counter primed to follow Billy to the backroom. "Mandy, give it a rest, please," I beg.
"But, Daddy!" she declares, with petulant flair.
"Do you remember what we talked about, sugar?" I attempt reason, and thankfully she seems to cooperate. She pouts, but remains near the counter.
I don't know how many times Jasper and I have put her crying self to bed the last couple of weeks. We've tried explaining to her that Billy's too old for her – that she'll find another boy – many other boys no doubt, but nothing's been working.
Listening to her soft cries, I stare at the clock in anticipation. Three o'clock can't get here soon enough.
Normally, I'm not needed in the store. Jasper, Angela, and our four other employees usually have it covered, but today is different…special. I'm not required to be in the classroom for another month, and I suspect I'll be needed around here until then.
In preparation for working the rest of the summer at the store, I've spent the last few weeks fine-tuning my lesson plans for the coming school year. After ten years of teaching children at the elementary school, I still like to challenge the kids and myself in class.
It's imperative to not only coach them on playing the instruments and educating them on the history, but also for me to be knowledgeable on what's popular now. I keep the students interested by teaching them their favorite band's riffs, writing song lyrics, and even have fun with the art of performing on stage. And while lessons are being taught, music is constantly playing in the background – from different genres and time periods. Music hasn't changed much since I was their age – maybe just a little harder, but music is music and I love it all. I can't stress to my pupils enough the importance of staying in touch with music – not falling behind and letting it grow without you.
Yep, I still have passion for what I do.
None of my students have earned a seat in an orchestra or symphony, and though a few have successfully formed their own bands, they haven't won any awards. However, Bon Terre elementary has taken the Bonnefoy County Music Appreciation trophy six years running and we won't be giving that up any time soon.
Jasper and Billy barrel their way through the backroom door hefting the Johnsons' newest piece – a headboard with a stormy seascape carved into the cherry wood.
Our boy Chase is not far behind – always following in his papa's footsteps.
Jasper turns his head before he lowers the headboard for customer inspection, cognizant that his son is sure to be trailing somewhere behind him. I pull Chase out of the way, and the five-year-old unconsciously grabs my hand, taking in the scene around him.
While Amanda is rambunctious and outspoken, her younger brother is more quiet and contemplative. He's a happy boy, and extremely intelligent for his age. Chase tested out of kindergarten this year, after they realized that he was socially adept, and had already fulfilled the objectives of the class. Instead he moved right into first grade, where he's fit in perfectly.
With the ability to be content and satisfied just doing what others want, it makes him the ideal candidate for children's playmate. However, Amanda takes it upon herself to hang around, making sure the other children aren't unfairly taking advantage of Chase's ready compliance and good nature – even if it isn't really necessary. She just can't understand his carefree attitude and passivity, when she constantly has to be running the show.
The Johnsons gasp while they peruse the exquisite piece – the scenes Jasper creates always draw awestruck reactions. To this day, the detail in Jasper's work never ceases to take my own breath away. This time, it's a lighthouse beaming rays of hope down on a small ship having difficulty forging through waves of a roughened sea.
This piece is achingly soulful, evoking several emotions from the observer. I often wonder what Jasper sees in his mind when he creates art such as this – where he gets the inspiration to exude so much passion and feeling that shines through in each piece – but it seems to personal for me to ask.
"You have a wonderful gift, young man," Mrs. Johnson praises. The quality of Jasper's work is beyond compare, which is why it's in high demand. The last I checked, it was a year's wait for anything custom made.
"Thank you much, Millie," Jasper says, with a demure smile and bright red cheeks. "Let's load her up."
I grasp harder when I feel Chase's grip wane, automatically wanting to follow Jasper out the front door. "He'll be right back," I assure him. He smiles, hugging my leg.
Staring at the cash register, I attempt to recall how the damn machine works again. I smile tentatively at Mrs. Johnson, acting confident and such, while I start to press buttons.
Luckily, it works and she pays by check, so I'm not forced to remember how to use the credit card machine, too. Angela usually takes care of these transactions, but she happens to be in the hospital right now…preparing to deliver our third child.
After we hired her for the store, I'd suspected that Angela was gonna work out great, but I hadn't realized just how well – and how integral her part in our lives would be.
After a year of employment, she'd offered to be a surrogate for us. It was a shock, for sure. Jasper and I had just started discussing adoption – never did we think having a child of our own flesh and blood was an option for us.
She already had a two year-old son with her husband Ben when she offered, and they weren't planning on having another one any time soon. We thought about it long and hard. It took us six months to finally tell her that we'd be forever grateful if she'd carry our child.
Jasper gave of himself first, and with that, Amanda was born. My contribution came two years later with the birth of Chase.
Angela and Ben had one more of their own after Chase, and then Angela offered one final time. She'd never shown any signs of regretting what she's done for us, so we found we couldn't pass up her offer once again. This time around, we both gave a sample, not caring who ended up the biological father.
We'd both witnessed the birth of Amanda and Chase, but the doctor advised Angela that due to her age and the precarious position of the baby she'd need a c-section, so we'd decided to give her and Ben privacy.
The surgery is scheduled for three o'clock, and I can't wait to meet our new little one.
The chime rings on the front door indicating Jasper and Billy's return. Immediately, Chase lets go of my leg and runs to his papa. Jasper picks him up and starts munching noisily on his neck, causing the little boy to squirm and burst into a fit of giggles.
"Aren't you in a playful mood?" I tease, watching when his blue eyes meet mine. Heat, love, excitement…and longing. He reveals in his eyes, what he doesn't say in words.
I know he's already longing for the nights we'll be too tired to acknowledge each other in bed – weeks of unwanted celibacy, while we acclimate to having another baby in our lives. Sure, we'll get a quickie in now and then, but our sex-life will definitely be suspended while we reacquaint ourselves with caring for an infant once again.
Setting Chase on the counter next to me, Jasper pulls me into his arms, kissing and nibbling at my lips until I open up to him. It's not long enough – this tender kiss, but it's effective, my cock swelling in response to his sexy mouth. He feels my reaction against his leg, moaning low enough for only my ears.
"Hey guys, wanna see the bar stools I built for Miss Margie and Mr. Dale?" Billy asks.
In no time Mandy is at his heels – jumping at the chance to hold Billy's hand while they wait for Chase to catch up.
But Chase sits indifferently, requiring more persuasion. "C'mon Chase, I'll even show you what your papa's been working on."
This spikes his attention – his brown eyes go wide and round. "Papa, help me down," he insists. Jasper releases me long enough to set the boy down, both of us watching while they scamper into the backroom.
Once the door shuts behind them I reassert myself.
"I love you, baby," I murmur. The innocent kiss from just moment's ago picks up where it left off, except without our children watching, it quickly becomes deeper… more aggressive. While our hands roam over each other's body, my palm presses against the front of his jeans, surprised to find him hard as steel…again.
We'd just had sex this morning – just a few hours ago.
Pausing the kiss, he runs the pad of his thumb across my throbbing lips, "Why does it still shock you that I can get a boner just by lookin' at your gorgeous face?"
"You still think I'm gorgeous?" I fish.
"More than ever, darlin'," he confesses, fiercely, leaving no doubt to his honesty.
"Jaaasss…" Now, it's my turn to attack him. While my tongue plunders his mouth, hands are out of control, and our bodies grind, undulating against one another in need. It's like we haven't seen each other for months – there's still so much fucking passion between us, it's enough to make my head spin.
Stopping is downright torture, but I let Jasper bring the kiss to a premature ending, knowing there's no way we'll be able to finish what we start.
"I'll never get enough of you," he whispers, our foreheads meeting while we catch our breaths, and wait for the fire to cool in our pants.
"Are we still goin' to Rose and Em's for dinner?" I pant.
"Yeah," Jasper answers breathlessly.
"But tonight…y'know…no games or small talk? We're goin' home right after we eat…right?"
"Yeah," he repeats.
Knowing there is relief in the near future we allow precious moments to tick by while we revel in the simple intimacy of a comfortable embrace.
"So, are ya ready to do this all over again?" I ask, thinking that I'd love to have added another coat of paint to the baby's room if we'd had more time.
"Do we have a choice?" he asks stonily, but his eyes belie his seriousness – bright with excitement and joy. Jasper's surprisingly great with babies, and is looking forward to taking care of one again.
It's worked out really well for us, too. With Jasper being more of a night person, and me a morning, we have built a routine that flows brilliantly.
I get the kids up and dressed. I prepare their lunches, make sure their book bags are loaded, and after they jump in our bed to give Jasper a kiss goodbye, we all pile in the car for school.
Generally, Jasper takes care of the kids in the evening. While I'm in my office grading papers, and altering lesson plans, he prepares dinner, gives them baths, and helps them with their schoolwork. I try to finish early, so I can play a game with Amanda or laze about with them, but usually I surface when they're winding down before bed.
Most likely, I'll find all three of them in their pajamas in front of the TV. Mandy will be sprawled out on the floor, way too close to the television, watching Nickelodeon or the Disney channel, while Chase sits on his Papa's lap, cuddling and conversing quietly together.
When Chase was an infant he had a horrible case of colic. Jasper spent most nights in the rocking chair, trying to get the poor baby to sleep. It must have been then that this inexplicable bond they have was created. Jasper spends a great deal of time with Chase, showering him with much love and attention, but he says it's merely because Chase requires it more than Amanda. I very rarely ever see Amanda on her papa's lap, but it's simply because she doesn't want to. She's always been independent and strong-willed, preferring to do things on her own. But when Amanda gets hurt, needs something, or is just looking for a playmate she doesn't hesitate – coming to both of us equally.
Amanda's not jealous of the time Jasper spends with Chase, because when she needs him he's always there for her. And neither am I. I know Chase loves me completely, so it doesn't hurt that most of the time he prefers Jasper's attention to mine.
I guess it really shouldn't be a surprise. I love Jasper with everything in me. I swear it's in my blood and in my genes, so it seems only natural that my son would inherit that trait too.
Hearing the kids chatting away, we reluctantly split apart, but before I can separate from him completely he brushes a few strands of hair off my forehead, kissing the exposed skin. One hot stare later, he repeats on a fervent whisper, "more than ever" before pulling away.
Maybe he was only talking to himself, but I understood.
He loves me – more than ever.
After eleven years, I'm still hopelessly, madly in love with the man.
We've had our fights, and some pretty nasty ones at that, especially right after we'd moved in together. With my penchant for not being able to let anything go, and Jasper's desire to leave when the going gets tough, things got blown out of proportion many times. Our fights escalated to name calling and bitter words, right before Jasper would stomp out the door with no telling when he would be back. Often, he'd come home after a couple of hours, but other nights I'd slept alone while he'd stayed at Rosalie's.
Thankfully, our love always prevailed.
Over time, I've learned to pick my battles and Jasper has quit taking off. We've learned to talk it out the best we can, compromise, and after two children, work out our disagreements civilly and quietly in the privacy of our bedroom.
Sometimes we still go to bed mad, but I can't remember a time when we've woken up that way. At some point during the night, we unconsciously search for each other, clinging tight, and if the fight's real bad, we'll whisper words of 'love' and 'forever' – reminding each other of how deep we're both into this.
Truthfully, our sex life has suffered since we've had kids. We don't get the opportunity to make love as much as we used to, but on the flip side, all of the old insecurities are gone. When Jasper stares a little too long at another guy out on the island I don't worry about it – because I'm the one he's gonna dance with, kiss…love forever.
I'm still 'it' for him, and he's everything to me.
Not that men haven't tried to break that bond.
I'd stupidly thought that maybe Jacob and I would have a truce of sorts after he brought me to the island that night to win Jasper back, but our relationship never improved. Our rings didn't even stop the bastard from constantly trying to get Jasper to go to the back with him.
And Jasper! God, he frustrated me to no end, because he'd always go easy on him, trying to let Jacob down gently. It finally came to a head one night when Jacob had grabbed Jasper's hand right after we'd almost jacked each other off on the dance floor, asking if he could help relieve the raging boner Jasper was sporting. I could tell that Jasper was gonna lay into him, but I'd reached my breaking point and punched the asshole in the nose.
A couple of the guys had to split us up, including Jasper. I thought he'd be mad at me for interfering and not letting him handle the situation, but he wasn't – opposite actually – it made him hotter than hell. We hadn't even made it the bedroom that night. We were spilling our loads, with me bent over the sofa, jeans wrapped around our thighs.
In the months following that incident, Jacob would lead any poor sap to the back that hadn't felt the sting of his callousness. A year or so later, he found a new job with a shipping company, and left for other parts.
I wasn't sorry to see him go.
The oversized storeroom doors open with a bang, Billy, Amanda and Chase bounding merrily through the opening.
Chase stops to study a small wooden treasure chest in the corner before he absently makes his way over to us. I'm about to ask him about it, but Jasper unknowingly interrupts me.
"You ready to go?" Jasper asks. It's almost two o'clock, and we've got an hour's drive to the hospital. Angela's doctor used work in a clinic right outside of Bon Terre, but he'd relocated last year to a much bigger hospital, one with cutting edge technology.
We let Billy close up shop while we all pile into my new SUV. We'd just purchased it a few months back, since my Volvo wouldn't be room enough for three kids, and a dog.
We don't have the dog yet, but Jasper had finally convinced me that no child – without an allergy affliction – should grow up without a pet.
Mr. Lattimore is breeding a brand new litter of pugs, and Jasper and I'd decided to adopt one as soon as they were ready to be separated from their mama. The kids have no idea, and we're hoping the pup will be set to come home by Christmas.
Buckling my little boy in, Chase leans over and kisses me on the nose. I give him a peck back, and then a sloppy kiss on his cheek in return. He smiles, humming happily.
Reaching over him, I check Amanda's buckle. She just pats me on the head – like I'm a good boy.
"Smarty pants," I accuse.
We've cut it close for time, and the hospital proves to be a massive structure. I'm trying to give Jasper the instructions that Angela wrote down for me, but we can't find any street signs. Finally, we call Rosalie and she navigates us through the complex hospital grounds.
We make it in time to see Angela being wheeled off.
"Aunt Angie! Uncle Ben!" The kids holler in unison, running down the stark white hallway toward the bed. Amanda jumps into Ben's outstretched arms, while Jasper picks up Chase so he can give his Aunt Angie a kiss. The doctor gives us a few moments to talk, while Chase reaches out tentatively, rubbing her protruding belly through the thin hospital blanket.
"Gimme a hug, you!" she says, holding her arms out for our boy. Chase leans down, embracing Angela - their resemblance is striking. While Amanda is almost identical to Jasper, Chase is a perfect combination of her and me.
"Where's Justin and Laura?" Amanda asks about their own two children.
"They're stayin' with their grandma for a few days," Ben responds. "But Auntie Rosalie, your cousin, and grandparents are in the waitin' room."
The kids squeal loudly, drawing attention, so, we all kiss Angela and head down to the waiting area where we find Jasper's mom, dad, Rosalie, and Cain.
Emmett had to work, and Alice will be coming next month to stay for a few weeks. We'll probably see my mom somewhere closer to the holidays. And my dad…
Well, I suspect I won't ever see my dad again.
It's been over nine years since I've talked to him. He couldn't handle me being gay and in a relationship – he tried at first, but when we'd told them that Angela was gonna carry a child for us, he told my mom it was the last straw, basically writing me off. So it'd been an easy decision, after Amanda was born, to change my name to match that of my husband and newborn.
Edward Hale – no hyphenation.
Mom visits without him, and dotes on the kids while she's here, but sometimes I wonder if she does it in spite of my father. Their marriage has been on death row for years now. Alice insists the relationship didn't go to shit because of me, but I'm not sure if I agree.
Notwithstandin', our children have grandparents that love and adore them. As a matter of fact, Jasper's parents are taking the kids with them tonight to spend a week at their house while we get everything situated with the little one at home.
As soon as Cain sees me, he rushes into my arms. We've had a very special relationship from the day he was born, and even though he's getting older and I see less of him, he still means the world to me.
"Uncle Edward, did you hear the new Falling in Reverse song 'Bleed Drum'?" he asks, the ear buds of his iPod dangling around his neck. I swear that contraption is attached to his body.
"Those guys are still around?" I ask, feigning ignorance.
"Whatever!" he scoffs, seeing through the façade. "Can you show me some chords from the chorus when I get back from grandma and grandpa's?
"Sure thing." The timing couldn't be worse, but I'll never be able to say 'no' to him.
"Score! Thanks, Uncle Edward." he exclaims, wrapping his arms around my waist again.
Over the head of my nephew, my attention focuses on the table in the center of the room where a wooden treasure chest lies – just like the one at the store, and it's overflowing with onesies, bottles, diapers and other baby paraphernalia.
My gaze darts to Chase, but he doesn't seem to care much that it's there. Interesting.
Pushing any forthcoming thoughts on the matter aside, I focus in on the eleven year-old in my arms.
"So, in a few more months, we'll be here again for the arrival of your baby brother or sister. Gettin' excited?"
He looks over at his mom, blushing when he notices all eyes are on him. "Sure," he states nonchalantly, but we all know he's just trying to act cool.
"You're not gonna be an only child anymore," I rib.
"It's no biggie," he says, shrugging.
Rosalie rolls her eyes, rubbing her thickened belly. It took her and Emmett eight years of trying to conceive, and one year of giving up, before she got pregnant again.
She'd been the caretaker for our children before they'd begun coming to school with me. This past year has been the first she's had in eleven years with no little ones during the day. Now, she's gonna have two newborns only months apart.
But if anyone can do it – she can.
"You ain't gonna mind it too much, Cain," Amanda advises.
"Mandy! Don't use that word," I reproach.
'Ain't' is one of the few words that I don't allow in my house. The words 'shut-up' and 'stupid' are also on the list.
"Oops, sorry, Daddy."
I'd given up on my battle with grammar about three years back, when I'd attempted to instill in Amanda how important it is to speak properly. Jasper didn't completely agree with my idealization of something he considered mundane, but he kept quiet about it.
Surrounded with southern twang and slang day in and day out, we both struggled with our speech for over a year, but one day, when Amanda came home talking like her friends I'd scolded her. Throughout the night she began stuttering, and eventually when she couldn't seem to get it right, she ran to her room with frustrated tears streaming down her cheeks.
Jasper threw his hands up in the air and stalked out of the room. Several minutes later I heard our front door slam. God, it'd been so long since he'd done that. I remember that it took everything in me to stay on my feet – the urge to crouch in on myself overwhelmed me when I stood trembling by the kitchen counter, watching Jasper's truck pull away.
Much later, Jasper had come home dusty and tired. The cold attitude he exuded when he passed me to enter our bathroom made me shiver. I tried staring him down, but he wouldn't look me in the eye. The silence stretched until I felt like I couldn't handle it.
When he spoke, his voice scared me. There was no yelling. No derision. No fury. I knew then that he'd never been more disappointed with me than he was at that moment, and it was devastating.
"No more, Edward. This ends tonight," he'd demanded.
I didn't need him to tell me – I'd already made a decision earlier that evening.
"I know…I talked to Mandy…you're right, baby…no more…I told her…please," I'd begged. He still wouldn't look at me, but his face had softened and he dropped the discussion. Before he crawled into bed, he'd kissed me on the forehead, then turned on his side, facing away from me.
Unable to sleep that night, I'd recalled the pivotal conversation I'd had with Amanda, when I'd repeated what Peter had told me so many years ago – that we speak the language of our heart, and that it was high time for us to stop denying that plain truth.
Her blue eyes expressed hopefulness, but traces of disbelief still marred her sweet face and it broke my heart that she didn't trust me. As I laid in bed that night, I'd had to press the blanket to my lips to stop myself from crying out in anguish, and I'd practically jumped out of my skin when I'd felt that reassuring squeeze on my shoulder.
"C'mere," he'd whispered, but I couldn't make my muscles unclench, paralyzed with regret and grief.
He circled his arms around me, and that's all it took for the damn to break. "I hurt my baby…" I sobbed, trying unsuccessfully to keep my voice down. All my fears, and self-loathing had resurfaced, "How could I do that to her? God Jas, I'm such an awful dad."
"Shh, no Ed…you wanted what you thought was best. It's okay. She'll be okay. She loves you so much."
"I feel like I've let her down."
I'd burrowed my face in his neck and cried…and cried.
At the breakfast table the next morning I'd casually asked her, "What instrument ya wanna play after school?" Amanda had looked stunned, before she smiled brightly.
"Imma thinkin' the French horn, Daddy," she answered, glowingly.
We never looked back after that.
My family means everything to me, but that doesn't make me perfect at it.
Jasper and I still make plenty of mistakes.
I can be too strict… uh, a nagger basically, and Jasper can be too laid back, which can be misconstrued as uncaring in certain situations.
I want to control everything so they won't get hurt or fail, but Jasper wants them to learn from their own mistakes. I agree with his concept in some cases, but it's still hard to let go.
We've learned that compromising on both of our parts is fundamental in making our home a happy one.
For instance, I'm allowed to put hand-sanitizer in their backpacks, and I'm allowed to stress the importance of its use, but I'm no longer allowed to lecture them if they choose not to use it as much as I would like them to.
And Jasper is allowed to take them to the lake (aka 'the germ bath') five times a summer, at which time he's allowed to bring an overabundance of unhealthy foodstuffs for the kids to gorge on throughout the entire day, and he's allowed to grill hotdogs for dinner (which shouldn't even be considered a food). But I don't argue or complain so long as I'm allowed to bathe them in sunscreen at least once an hour, and make sure they each drink a minimum of three bottles of water.
It's not a flawless plan, but we make it work.
A nurse appears to inform us the surgery is taking longer than expected. She assures us it has nothing to do with the baby or Angela, but merely the pre-op set up had been delayed.
The kids have already abandoned the game of "Sorry" I'd been playing with them. Cain's turned on his iPod, and Amanda and Chase are darting around the confined quarters, playing tag.
Rosalie lowers herself into one of the seats next to her son, draping her arm over the young man's shoulders. He doesn't acknowledge her, but lays his head on her shoulder.
"Do you want me to take the kids outside to the park?" she asks, watching unfazed while my kids dash around chairs and tables, giggling and squealing.
"They've got a park?"
"Oh, yeah, a real nice one."
"Maybe I'll take them out there – let off a little steam," I suggest.
"Ya want me to go with ya, darlin'?" Jasper pipes up from several seats over.
Jasper had been talking quietly with his parents. He doesn't get to see them much anymore, so I'm hesitant to break up their conversation.
"No, we're good. C'mon kids."
Cain elects to stay behind, while we make our way down a long corridor that leads outside.
It's a beautiful park for sure…but that's not what makes me gasp.
We're finally here.
The vision I'd never forgotten.
The vision I'd had of my kids long before they were born.
Our wedding day, when I'd traced the letters Jasper had carved so intricately in the tree, I'd seen my beautiful children – here – in this park.
How fitting that the vision was stolen from the very day our third child is to be born. And now it's time for that vision to become a reality.
It's a large open space of soft green grass, flowery bushes, and various shades of wavy petunias. The kids resume their game of tag, while I find a comfortable perch to watch them from.
Taking a seat on a long wooden bench, I exhale a gush of air. Knowing what's to come sends a warm tingle through my body, but I wait patiently, relishing this experience.
I never told Jasper about this particular vision, but I did finally admit to him that I'd seen the letters he'd carved into 'our tree', months before he'd actually did it.
I have to give him credit; if he was skeptical, or thought I was crazy he didn't hint toward it at all.
I swore to him that it was the tree or the backyard causing these mysterious encounters, but he didn't think so. He'd insisted that he'd never had such an experience, and he'd been in its depths often enough to know.
He suggested that maybe we look into my family history – even driving me to the library in Baton Rouge and helping me research my family tree on the Internet.
And that's how I learned about my Great Aunt Bethie.
Marabeth Sizemore had been admitted to Danvers State Insane Asylum in Massachusetts when she was seventeen years old by her parents, after she'd claimed to have visions of the future. It was stated in released reports that Aunt Bethie told her psychiatrist her parents became scared when she told them about a fire she'd envisioned a few days before it actually came to pass.
Her parents believed that she had been the one that started the fire.
From inside the barred windows, she'd also predicted her parents' car accident and subsequent deaths two years before it happened. The information befuddled her team of doctors, but it didn't stop the asylum from holding her prisoner until her death ten years later after a botched lobotomy – just one year before the state of Massachusetts banned the controversial procedure altogether.
Upon a visit to Chicago, Jasper and I had shared this information with Alice, who had admitted to us that she'd also seen the signs of my ability when we were younger, but our mother had shown Alice techniques to help suppress my 'silly, pointless thoughts'.
I was four, and Alice only six, at the time.
She said not to blame mom, that she didn't want me to be different – she'd said kids that were different got picked on. And for that reason alone, Alice never second-guessed her decision to follow our mother's orders.
I haven't had any more visions, but I do have gut feelings once in a while, and the outcomes never fail to be spot on. Most people think I have really good instincts, but it's obvious to me that it's more than that.
For some reason, it seems the backyard of The Stormy Haven Inn sets my nerves on edge. The darkness, the mysteriousness, the cool damp feeling of ancient bark pressed against my palm – it messes with my senses, leaving me feeling vulnerable and small, giving me an adrenaline surge that must trigger my ability.
But they're only guesses, since I haven't talked to anyone about it professionally.
We still go into Rosalie's backyard, but I mainly keep to the deck. When one of the kids drags me down to the forest's floor I'm sure to steer clear of the old, thick tree. I still admire it from distance – love what it means to Jasper and I, but I prefer not knowing what's in store for us.
These days, I like to take my life day by day, enjoying all the little surprises and nuances life throws at me.
But, in learning of my gift, we've both accepted there are things out there that are bigger than us – beyond our comprehension.
One night, when Jasper was sprawled across my chest happy and sated, I could feel a sudden tension in his body before he asked if it was strange that Amanda seemed to have the same exact dreams that he did as a child…'y'know, with the wolves', he'd said.
I knew what he meant.
Irina and Jane.
He carried no such suspicions about the sister's in particular…but I did.
I never verified with Irina and Jane that they were the two wolves that spared my life that night, but I didn't need to. The next year when they had shown up for their annual two-week vacation, their piercing yellow eyes were exactly how I'd remembered them on that lonely walk back to the inn, when I'd come face-to-face with them in a different form.
I didn't tell Jasper what I thought, because it really isn't my place to say. I just told him that I didn't think it was strange in the least that Amanda had the same dreams – she was just reacting to the howling that can be heard through her bedroom window, just like he had.
But deep inside I do believe – and really – why wouldn't I? I'd like to think that someone other than me is watching over and protecting Jasper and the kids – maybe they're even watching over me, too.
And what does it hurt? Amanda adores them, and Chase is absolutely mesmerized by the pair.
Irina and Jane are equally smitten with both of them, but I can't help but notice they've got that gleam in their eye for Amanda, just like they do for her papa.
Blinking out of my thoughts, I watch while Jasper approaches.
He shakes his head when I begin to rise.
"No darlin', not yet," he murmurs, sitting beside me, latching onto my hand. "I just wanted to see what you guys were up to."
"Just lettin' them burn off some excess energy."
He chuckles, "Mmom and Dad will appreciate that." We smile at each other for a long moment, basking in the warmth of each other's gaze. It doesn't feel like my life can get any better than this, even though I'm positive it will.
Squeezing my husband's hand, my eyes stray back to the kids.
Technically, he's still not legally my husband. Many states have changed their views on same-sex marriage, but I'm not holding out hope for the state of Louisiana to ever recognize Jasper and I as a couple in the eyes of the law.
But, now that Chase and Amanda are in school, we've had the 'two-daddy' talk with both of them. We are accepted as a couple in our community for the most part, but after all this time, there are still a few stubborn lumps that don't think Jasper and I should be allowed to raise kids.
I don't care about those narrow-minded assholes none. I just remind them the war is over and that we all live together now, even with our differences.
Still, Bon Terre is my home, and there's nowhere else that I'd rather live and raise my children.
Although, we may not be legally married, Seth and Garrett are. They married about five years ago on some island in the Caribbean.
They don't have kids – and most likely never will.
We'd found out later that Garrett is rich – apparently, he owns a chain of hotels. Imagine that! And when Seth revealed to him that he'd never left the state, Garrett made it his mission to whisk Seth all over the globe, in a private jet no less, spoiling the living shit out of him, if you ask me.
They only come home a handful of times a year, and when they do they always make time to see us. Seth always brings trinkets from different countries for the kids, so of course they freakin' love him.
But I'm truly happy for both of them. It's nice to see my friend happy.
"I should probably text Pete," Jasper says.
"I thought he told you to wait, so you could send a picture of the baby."
"I know, but I can guarantee you he's pacin' around the house, since we told him the baby'd be here long before now."
"True." I watch while Jasper pulls out his phone and types his message. "Make sure you tell him there's no problems."
Peter is definitely a worrier.
I'm surprised it hasn't rubbed off on their two kids, but when Jasper and I had taken them a few weeks ago those two boys were just as carefree as ever.
After school lets out each year, we drop our kids off with them for a week, and then we have their kids for a week. It gives us all a much needed break.
Biologically, both children are Peter's, since Embry's cousin carried their babies for them, but thankfully, the kids ended up with Embry's relaxed disposition.
Oh my God!
There it is…
The world blackens around me while I behold what a tree had been trying to show me ten years ago.
My boy had been catching butterflies!
My breath stutters with emotion. Throughout the years, I'd wondered many times what Chase was showing Amanda in the palm of his hand.
"Here's your butterfly, sissy." He crouches down, opening his palm slowly.
Sitting behind him, with her arm over his shoulder, Amanda stares into the palm of his hand, asking him, "What does it look like?"
And even though she can't see what he sees, she believes in him.
We'd realized about a year ago that Chase was going to know my gift as well, but we weren't sure to what extent. Last summer, he'd begun staring off into the distance, and pointing out things that we couldn't see.
Innocent things – like butterflies, but he hasn't had any visions of the future that we know of, and these special occurrences have dwindled significantly since he's started attending school this year.
"It's all different purples," he says, studying the invisible creature.
"Really? Purple's my favorite color." She smiles, and hugs her brother. "I wish I could see it, too."
We once read that children are more susceptible to outside forces because they're more open-minded, but as adults we learn to suppress or tamp down the unknown, for more reasonable and practical rationale. So he may or may not lose his ability with age, but if he doesn't, I know he'll always have his big sister there to protect him.
"It's pretty…just like you, sissy."
My eyes blur with overwhelming emotion. When they refocus, Jasper is bent down in front of Chase asking where his butterfly is.
He laughs, happily. "Silly Papa, it's right here on your shoulder."
Chase reaches forward, scooping his hand over Jasper's shoulder, bringing the cupped hand over for Jasper to see. Jasper lifts the little hand and blows softly into his palm, smiling when Chase springs up.
His eyes look toward the sky while he runs after Jasper's butterfly, but Jasper clutches onto him and tackles him gently to the ground. Amanda quickly joins in as they wrestle with each other.
Jasper crawls over to me, while the kids are engaged in a tickle fight. They're rolling on the ground, getting filthy - but I can't find it in me to give a shit.
"Why're ya cryin', darlin'?"
Stunned, I swipe at my face, surprised to feel wetness there.
Shaking my head - there's just no words to describe it. "I'm just so fuckin' happy," I tell him.
He looks contemplative for a moment – like he's got a question to ask. "So, you don't know…right?" He asks, cautiously.
He's talking about the sex of the baby.
I grin, and he gives me the evil eye.
"Nope - promise." I cross my heart for emphasis, while he studies my face for lies. He can always tell when I'm fibbing.
And I really didn't know.
But after putting my ear to Angela's belly last week, there's no mistaking that it was Jasper's heartbeat I'd heard, leaving me no doubt that his blood ran through our unborn child's veins. Fortunately, I'd pulled away before any more details would've been revealed.
"Alrighty, just makin' sure," he says, with a warning tone.
He turns around and chuckles, "Look at our boy," Smiling, he watches Chase continue to run around, huffing and grasping at air, while Mandy bathes in the sun.
"Well, when life gives you butterflies, what choice do you have but to chase them?"
And it's the truth.
Because if you're lucky enough you'll catch one, and when you open the palm of your hand and they spread their wings, you can stare into nature's beauty, and maybe see your own life. Every vivid color, intricate wave, delicate pattern is every choice you've ever made – every path you've ever taken, and hopefully every one of those choices is outlined with a thick bold border. Because it means that whatever choices you've made in your life – right or wrong – you've done them with purpose and gusto.
Before I met Jasper, my life…my butterfly used to be dull and lifeless, but it's been reborn. With strong vibrant colors of imperfect shapes encased in dark curvy lines, it flutters in the wind, happy and carefree.
I know…I've seen it.
Jasper's phone beeps.
He rises, glancing at the message on the screen.
He holds his hand out to me, and pulls me from my seat. "I love you."
"I love you too." Our lips meet in a sweet chaste kiss.
"C'mon kids, time to meet your new brother or sister," Jasper commands.
"Yay! C'mon sissy," Chase tugs on Amanda's arm, "it's time to go see Mara!"
Jasper stops in his tracks and levels me with a look of undiluted exasperation.
We'd discussed baby names privately, and Mara was on our list, named after my Aunt Marabeth, who struggled, suffered and died for having the same gift my son and I have.
The name meant a lot to both of us, but we'd picked out several other names, and decided we wouldn't make a final decision until we'd seen the baby.
I can't help but laugh, and shrug helplessly at Jasper's dour expression.
What can I say? That's my kid.
He shakes his head, throwing his arms around me, and kissing my temple. "Well, let's go see Mara then."
And so we do – and she is the most precious baby girl.
With Chase on my lap, laughter and good cheer all around, I watch contentedly as Jasper cradles our newborn daughter in his arms.
In a couple of days, we'll be able to bring her home, and then it'll be time for us to live out that happily ever after…
Not that I knew we would have one or anything… I promise.
AN: I wish I could have given you some facts, or concrete proof in the closing of this fic, but some of this story was based on things that don't have a clear answer - it's all about what you believe in. I don't know whether I believe in shape-shifting guardian angels or clairvoyance – but one thing I do believe in is fiction – and that's what this story is. So, take or leave it, because that's it folks. It might not be perfect, but I'm sticking by every word of it.
Final thoughts. Like it? Love it? Hate it?
For those of you that don't like to review, how about a scale of 1 to 10.
1 = please throw your laptop away.
5 = It was decent.
6 = entertaining - I likey
8 = Pretty damn good
9 = Love
10 = I will read this over and over again, until you come out with something else I can stalk.
Cajun references were found at – LSU's dept of French studies