Chapter 20 ~ Epilogue
Eight weeks later…
We're walking up the driveway to Alice and Jasper's front door, when I remember something and stop short.
"Damn it, I forgot to pick the gift bag up in the kitchen," I say with a sigh.
"No worries, I'll go home and get it," Riley tells me with a smile. "You go on in, I'll just be ten minutes." He's already pulling the car keys back out of his pocket, where his own key to our home now nestles on the key-ring too.
"Are you sure?" I ask, inwardly cursing my forgetfulness.
"Yeah, it's fine. I'll see you in ten." He bends down, kisses the top of my head and then jogs back to the car. I briefly smile after him before turning back and making my way to the front door.
I ignore the obnoxiously loud door bell, and instead raise my hand to knock gently on the wooden door, right next to where a festive Christmas door wreath hangs. Just as I'm wondering if it was loud enough to be heard and whether I should try again, there's a click of the lock turning and the door opens.
My eyes widen a little as I take in just how tiny the blanket-wrapped little person looks in the strong and capable masculine arms that cradle him.
"Hey," I say, a little choked with emotion at the scene. I step forward, into the hall and close the door quickly yet softly behind me to keep out the chill of the December air. Taking a step closer for a better look, I lean over the sleeping baby, just as he sighs deeply. I can't help but smile, and when I look up into Edward's face, I see that he's smiling too. "I wasn't expecting to see you here," I tell him as I unwind my scarf from around my neck and slip my coat off. I hang them up on the post at the bottom of the staircase and follow him through to the living room.
"Alice is taking a nap and Jasper had to run out for more diapers," he explains as he turns to face me. His whole demeanour is different to how I've ever seen him before. He seems relaxed and just…well, content, I guess. "Would you like to hold him?" he asks, nodding towards the baby.
"Yeah, I'd love to," I tell him. We walk towards one another, and stop when we get close. I bend my left arm to mimic the position of his right and lean in. He gently shifts the tiny body across across, pausing for a moment as the baby stirs slightly, but as I take him into my own arms, he stays fast asleep.
"Hey, Noah. Welcome to the world, little guy," I say softly, stroking his tiny hand with my finger as I sway gently from side to side. I look up at Edward and return the smile he's still wearing. "He's adorable," I tell him.
"He is," he agrees with a nod. "Can I get you a drink?" he asks, gesturing towards the kitchen.
"Juice would be great, thanks," I tell him as I settle myself in a large armchair. Edward's soon back with a glass of orange juice that he places on the small table beside me as I thank him. "So, when do you leave?" I ask. He looks directly at me as he turns to sit down on the couch.
"You heard, huh?" he says as he leans back.
"Yeah, Alice told me. I'm sorry about your job. What an opportunity though; it sounds great. First stop Europe, right?"
"A week in London and then on to Paris. I'm meeting Austin over there and he's going to join me for six weeks. We're not sure where we'll go yet."
"Austin Marks?" I ask, surprised at hearing the name. "I've not heard of him in years." Edward smiles.
"No, I hadn't either, but he added me on Facebook a few months back and we've been chatting ever since. It was Austin that suggested traveling when I found out I was being laid off at work. He's lived in France for three years now."
"Wow," I say, thinking how that didn't sound at all like the shy and slightly nerdy, yet friendly kid that we went to school with.
"So how long are you planning on being away?" I ask, glancing down at Noah as he makes a soft, almost snoring sound.
"I'm thinking six months, but if it's going well I might extend it. I'm trying not to make too many plans, the idea of just living day to day is pretty appealing."
"It sounds amazing," I tell him. And although it's not something that appeals to me, I think it will be good for him. "I never had you down as the travelling type," I say. "I used to struggle to get you beyond Port Angeles." I raise my eyebrows in challenge and he looks away, shaking his head as he laughs.
"Yeah, well I guess sometimes things happen that make you re-evaluate everything you did before," he tells me, and looking back at me, his laughter is gone and his remaining smile is tinged with sadness. I look at him for a moment before he appears a little uncomfortable. He shifts ever so slightly and clears his throat. "So, I hear that Riley moved in with you," he says. I feel the corners of my mouth tug upwards into an involuntary smile of my own.
"Yeah, he did," I tell him. Silence floats comfortably around us for a long moment. I risk a glance up at Edward. He looks…satisfied.
"You're happy," he says. Both of us know that there is no question in his words, it is quite simply a statement of fact.
"I am," I confirm. "Very."
"I'm glad," he tells me. And I believe him.
"Are you? Happy, I mean?" I ask, looking directly into his eyes. There's a flicker of something that I don't quite catch.
"I think I could be. Someday, maybe," he says.
"I hope you are," I tell him. And I mean it.