Much Ado About The Big Thing
The Hayes/Addison offspring, little Davey, is 2 1/2 months old now, and Maddie is back to work; the planning of The Big Event aka The Wedding is in process, but somehow Maddie isn't really happy about it whereas David has to deal with the suspiciousness of a jealous father...
'Thank you,' Maddie smiled at her waiter.
Patiently, she parked her baby carriage to the side of the table that she had been guided to – It was a quiet one in a cozy booth. A quick peep into the crib made her smile. The little one had decided to give her an easy time today. How refreshingly different from his dad. The thought made her chuckle. She sat down on the chair that the waiter had pulled out for her – she thanked him again and began flipping through the menu he had placed in front of her.
However, her attention was suddenly drawn to another woman pushing a baby carriage; she was approaching her table with exuberant steps, dark curls bouncing wildly around her face. She was followed hot on her heels by an average looking man with docile eyes.
Maddie had expected Terri Knowles to meet her but, despite knowing that Walter Bishop had kept in touch with Terri after the birth of her child, she was taken by surprise as she saw him heading towards her.
Maddie rose from her chair to greet them both. She waited while Terri parked her baby carriage the other side of their table. The women hugged.
'Maddie, great to see you,' Terri exclaimed breathlessly; a spirited smile making her black eyes glisten.
'Great to see you,' Maddie replied and meant it; then she looked over Terri's shoulder at Walter who smiled at her sheepishly. 'Walter,' she added warmly, 'what a surprise!'
'I just helped Terri fix that new kitchen cupboard,' he explained hastily, 'then I drove her here, hoping to be able to say hi to you.' He leaned forward and kissed her cheek. 'Hi.' He kissed Maddie's other cheek too. 'And bye. Gotta hurry to my meeting.' He threw a glance at Maddie's sleeping son, then into Terri's carriage where there also lay a sleeping baby, and smiled. 'Well, looks like those guys won't be bothering their moms today.' Walter kissed Terri's left temple. 'See you both.'
Maddie's eyes followed him as he walked away but Terri obviously had no intention of commenting on Walter's presence, so she said nothing.
Five minutes later they had ordered a bottle of sparkling water and a light lunch.
'How are you doing?' Terri asked. 'How's it going?'
Maddie smiled fondly. 'Better than I ever could have dreamed. My boy's a treasure.'
Terri grinned, and her black eyes sparkled. 'That's what I always said.' She bent a little forward. 'And what about the baby?'
Maddie couldn't help but chuckle and almost spilled her water. 'No wonder you get along so well with David,' she remarked.
Terri shrugged. 'He's always been a good friend when I needed one. Now I guess I get to keep him.'
Maddie nodded thoughtfully. 'Yeah... that's one of his strong sides – he's not reliable in the common sense of the word but then... when you really need him... he's there.' She raised an ironic eyebrow. 'Even when you don't need him, for what it's worth.'
Terri smiled an understanding smile. 'So... Treasure isn't giving you a bad time then?'
Maddie shook her head. 'No, he's adorable.'
Terri threw a glance into Maddie's baby carriage where Davey was still sleeping. 'Which one are you talking about now?'
She looked at Maddie, and the women exchanged conspiratorial smiles. 'Both.'
'That's good to hear,' Terri remarked with true concern in her voice. 'You're both so lucky that everything turned out this way.'
'We are,' Maddie confirmed, 'and I'm very grateful for that.' She sipped on her water and paused thoughtfully, scrutinizing the other woman closely. 'I just wish you didn't have to handle everything by yourself,' she blurted.
'Yeah, well...' Terri shrugged again. 'I'm not always alone, don't worry.' She cleared her throat. 'I mean, I have... friends.' She blushed in a maidenly manner but this went unnoticed by Maddie who was, for a moment, distracted by checking on her son: Davey was still sound asleep.
Then she looked up at Terri again. 'Well, I hope you count me as a friend too,' she said with honesty.
Terri smiled, nodding. 'Guess I do. Maybe a bit odd that we should become friends, but then again – why not?' she laughed. 'David would say it was meant to be.'
Maddie smiled fondly. 'Kismet.' She nodded. 'Yes, that's what he would say.'
Terri briefly checked her son Wally who was sleeping the same quiet sleep as Davey did, then she turned to Maddie. 'So... how are the preparations for the big event?' she asked. 'Are you taking care of everything by yourself, or do you have help with the planning?'
Suddenly, Maddie stirred uncomfortably in her seat. 'Well... no... actually I'm not sure about the big event...'
Terri's eyes widened in disbelief, so much that they almost popped out. 'Maddie!' she exclaimed. 'You're not having second thoughts about it, are you?'
'About getting married?' Maddie shook her head vigorously. 'Oh no, absolutely not!' she confirmed, and for a moment her gaze drifted off, lost in a dreamy smile. 'In fact, I can't wait to marry David.'
'Then what is it?' Terri wanted to know.
Maddie sighed deeply. 'Well... this might sound weird, but... I just don't want it to be the party of the month. I would like it to be private.' She lowered her voice automatically. 'No big white wedding.'
Terri raised her eyebrows. 'No white dress?'
Maddie shook her head in guilt. 'Would only remind me of...' she fell silent, and averted her eyes for a moment, feeling embarrassed.
Terri nodded slowly. There was no need to explain anything; she had been present at Maddie's unforgettable farce of a white wedding which had culminated in the labor room, where Maddie and David had fought like crazy while Terri had given birth to her son with the help of Walter (Maddie's stop-gap groom). It seemed like an eternity ago. 'I see... well, then don't do it! Don't make it big.'
Maddie raised her hands in a helpless gesture. 'Nothing I'd like more, but...'
Terri shook her head, and her dark curls flew outwards. 'No buts!' she interrupted. 'Don't forget, this is your day, and no one else's! Just yours and David's. You don't have to make anybody else happy.'
Maddie nodded slowly and sighed. 'Maybe you're right.'
'Of course I am!' she confirmed. 'If you're not in the mood, don't invite anybody! Just you and him. Just a simple, quiet ceremony at the city hall...'
'No no,' Maddie interrupted. 'not at the city hall; it has to be in a church.'
Terri raised a questioning eyebrow. 'Sure, if that's what you want...' her voice sounded doubtful.
Maddie was taken aback. 'You seem surprised?'
Terri shrugged. 'I don't know...' she hesitated, trying to put her thoughts into words. 'I guess I just never saw you as a religious person.'
'Well, I'm not,' Maddie admitted. 'I just have a feeling that David would prefer to make those vows in a church.' She paused and drew a deep breath, thinking, then she went on: 'We've never actually talked about it, but I think...' she paused again and nodded, 'yes, I think it would mean a lot to him.'
Terri smiled appreciatively while nodding slowly. 'You are alright, Maddie,' she declared firmly and added: 'Really.'
'Thanks,' Maddie said.
To Maddie's surprise, Terri added: 'I always thought David Addison was a jackpot, but I must say – he is one lucky guy himself.'
'It's about time he walked on his own two feet,' David grumbled, manoeuvring the bulky car seat through the entrance door of the Hayes-Addison residence: aka Maddie's house.
'Don't you think you're asking a bit too much?' Maddie replied dryly. 'Personally, I'd like to wean him first.'
'Got your priorities straight huh?' David raised an eyebrow and curled his lips into his half-smile. 'On second thoughts... you're probably right.'
Maddie suppressed a yawn and stepped out of her pumps. 'I'm not sure I like the fact you agree, but I'm too tired to poke.' She climbed the spiral staircase leading to the first floor with David following her.
'By golly, I must mark that day in my calendar,' he remarked. 'Well, why wouldn't I agree on that? I can't wait for the day when, once and for all, I'll be the only one entitled to lay my hands on your...'
'Watch it, Addison!' Maddie snapped
'You can be sure of that, Blondie,' David purred in a low voice and carried the car seat right into the nursery, placing it carefully on the comfortable couch while Maddie disappeared into the main bedroom with a clearly audible growl.
'Nothing personal, buddy,' David whispered when he lifted the sleeping baby carefully out of the car seat. Then he smiled fondly. 'Don't worry, you take your time. There's enough mom for both of us.' He started to undress his son, humming softly. The baby opened his eyes. 'There we are,' David said and smiled again. 'Excellent timing. You're getting better every day.' He chuckled to himself when his thoughts were led again to the day their son was born – Davey had announced himself with the first contraction during the most significant moment of David's life – he had been about to ask Maddie to marry him! Finally, having pulled all of his courage together (which always seemed to fade away in this woman's presence) he had been ready to pop the question. But luckily, he had managed to make up for that later... well, kind of, he thought, remembering his not really by-the-book proposal. Anyway, it worked. I dunno how, but she bit. Sometimes, he still couldn't believe his luck.
By the time Maddie appeared in the nursery, having changed into soft sweat pants and a matching zipped sweat jacket, David had the baby's diapers changed and had gotten him ready for the night. She gave an approving nod when she took the baby from his arms and settled down in the well-used big armchair to feed the boy.
'Not bad, daddy,' she mocked but with a tender undertone. She unzipped her sweat jacket.
'Piece o'cake,' David replied nonchalantly and sat on the armrest of the chair while Maddie gave the little boy the breast. David watched quietly for a while, he loved sharing these moments with mother and child. Every time he wondered how on earth he deserved this much luck and happiness. Then he shook his head to get back to reality and cleared his throat.
'So – how was your lunch with Terri?' he asked, absentmindedly stroking Maddie's shoulder.
'Fine,' she smiled. 'She's looking great, and Wally's doing fine too.'
'The little ones were being good then? They let you have your girls' chat?'
'Oh yes,' Maddie nodded, 'we're both lucky with our boys.'
'You betcha,' David replied smoothly, 'and your son's not bad either, I might add.'
Maddie rolled her eyes but couldn't suppress a chuckle. 'Terri said the same thing to me. You certainly share the same sense of humor.'
'She's alright,' David agreed and then added: 'Listen, Blondie, when you go to your doc's appointment tomorrow...'
'You know I'm having a doc's appointment?' Maddie interrupted incredulously.
He shrugged. 'Sure. Learned your diary by heart. – What I was gonna say was... what about you leave Junior with me and have your appointment in peace and quiet – take the whole afternoon off?'
Maddie raised her eyebrows in disbelief. 'The whole afternoon?' she repeated.
David nodded. 'The whole afternoon.'
'That would be a nice change for sure,' she admitted, 'but won't it be a bit too much?' She shrugged. 'I mean, you'd have to...'
'Please,' David interrupted, 'don't forget who you're talking to.' He puffed out his chest with a mocking smile, making fun of himself.
'Yeah right, Daddy Cool,' Maddie replied dryly and smiled slowly, appreciatively and – yes – proudly. 'No flies on you, Addison.'
He winked at her. 'Whatever that means.'
The following day, after they had a quick sandwich for lunch, Maddie fed the baby; put him to sleep in the crib (which had been rolled to David's office) and left to see her gynecologist, Dr. Holloway (but not after David had had to reassure her a few times that he was sure he could handle an afternoon alone with his son).
'Piece o'cake,' David murmured with a lopsided smile. He flipped open the file on his desk to check out a phone list; it was part of their latest case.
Junior was sleeping like an angel, covered by the night-blue blanket Agnes had given Maddie as a gift on her last day in the office before the baby was born.
David had been studying the phone-list for about half an hour, and already he had had enough. This kind of paperwork was the really annoying part of the job. He leaned back in his chair for a moment, blew his cheeks out and rubbed his eyes. There was a knock at the door, so soft that at first he wasn't even sure he had heard it at all. Frowning, he was about to rise from his chair, when the door was opened slowly and carefully by Agnes who popped her curly head in. She smiled apologetically.
'Sorry to disturb you, Mr. Addison...' she said, almost whispering.
'Just what I needed, Agnes,' David encouraged, meaning it. He was thankful for the distraction; he was already seeing columns of dancing telephone numbers before his eyes. 'Disturb away.'
'Mrs. Hayes wants to speak to you, Mr. Addison,' Agnes informed him, and David's jaw dropped.
'Virginia?' he gasped incredulously. 'They're already here? But...'
'No,' Agnes interrupted and shook her head vividly, tossing brown curls in every direction. 'She's on the phone. I just didn't want to buzz.' She motioned her head in the direction of the crib.
David pulled his half-smile. 'And some say you're slow.'
She shrugged with a benevolent smile. 'I am slow, Mr. Addison. But there's an Italian saying: they who travel slow, travel safe and they will go far.'
David shook his head, still smiling. Another woman who never failed to amaze him, and he had known Agnes for a long time now. 'Put Grandma on,' he said and winked. Agnes disappeared again, and he picked up the receiver as soon as the phone started buzzing.
'Hello, David,' the clear voice of his future mother-in-law pealed out of the receiver.
'Virginia,' he replied warmly, 'how's my second favorite blonde lady?'
She produced a girly laugh. 'You're inveterate,' she chastised fondly.
'So I've been told,' he chuckled.
'And I bet more than once. How's the little one?' she eagerly asked.
'Fine. He's here with me but I'm afraid he can't talk to you right now. He's asleep.' David threw a glance in the direction of the crib where he could see the peaceful sleeping boy.
'Maddie isn't in right now?'
'She has the afternoon off,' David confirmed and added with a smile: 'I convinced her she could leave our offspring with me for a few hours – that I wouldn't be a complete failure.'
'She needs time,' Virginia remarked, voice full of understanding, and David chuckled. Sometimes, when he spoke to Maddie's mother, he had the feeling they shared much more than future in-laws usually do. She didn't question for a moment that he was able to take care of her grandson without the mother being around, and he loved her even more for it.
'Anyway,' she went on, 'I just wanted to let you know that Alex and I will arrive the day after tomorrow, we'll land at 1 pm.'
'Already written it down. I'll be there to pick you up,' he promised.
'That's wonderful. Oh, I can't wait to see my grandson again!' David could hear the wide smile in Virginia's voice, then she seemed to lower her voice in a conspiratorial way: 'And I haven't seen Alex so excited and nervous since Maddie graduated from college.'
'He is?' David himself was feeling insecure right now, imagining he would have to pass under the over-critical eyes of Maddie's over-protective father whom he hadn't seen in ten months.
'Of course,' Virginia confirmed. 'Oh, he's trying to pretend that he's not but I know my husband.'
'Will he let me live?' David asked with a nervous chuckle.
Virginia laughed. 'If he doesn't want to get on the wrong side of me, he will,' she assured.
'I'm relieved to have such a powerful advocate,' David replied thankfully. 'So, I'll see you at the airport on Thursday, 1 pm?'
'Yes, dear. Give Davey our love. And Maddie too, of course,' she added.
As they said their goodbyes and hung up, David threw another glance towards the crib and discovered that the baby had his eyes wide open, observing him closely.
'Sorry buddy, if I woke you,' David said and smiled. 'That was your grandma on the phone. She'll be here to see you soon.' He sighed. 'I might warn you though... The huge and awe-inspiring man beside her will be your grandpa. But don't worry, he's alright when you get to know him.'
The baby seemed to listen closely. David's thoughts were interrupted when the office door was opened, and Agnes looked in again. She scanned the room and noticed the baby was awake. A longing glance crept over her face.
'Agnes?' David asked softly.
'Hmmm?' she turned her head to face him, and it took her a few moments before she focused on his face. She cleared her throat. 'I just wanted to check on you, if you or...' – she motioned her head towards the crib – 'him... needed anything.'
David rose to his feet. 'Well, actually...'
'Yes?' Agnes asked eagerly.
'He was just starting to get a bit fractious,' David improvised and, as if on cue, the baby started to whimper. 'There you go. We don't like to spoil him and usually don't act on the first sound he makes but I really need to finish these' – he motioned towards the papers on his desk – 'so, if you wouldn't mind...'
'Sure!' Agnes beamed and went over to the crib with a spring in her step. 'There, there,' she soothed, lifting the baby from the crib, smiling down at him. 'Your daddy has to do his paperwork.' she sat down on David's black leather couch, cradling the baby in her left arm. The boy had stopped whimpering and was watching her intently. 'That's better,' Agnes said softly, and David sat down in his chair again, watching them both, smiling. He took the phone records in his hands but didn't look at them. And, without even looking at him, as if she knew that he really didn't have any thoughts dedicated to the paperwork, Agnes started talking to him.
'You know, Mr. Addison,' she said in a thoughtful voice while still looking down at the baby, 'call me crazy, but I was always sure it would work out between you and Miss Hayes. Well, kind of. Somehow,' she added.
David put the papers down on his desk again. 'I know,' he replied, 'and I won't call you crazy, I could call you many things, but I won't call you crazy, Agnes. And anybody who does, will have to face me.'
She looked up at him and smiled her shy Agnes-smile. 'That's a very nice thing to say, Mr. Addison.'
He raised his hands, palms towards her. 'Plain truth, Agnes. I swear, you are one of the wisest people I've ever met.' he winked at her and lowered his voice. 'Kind of. Somehow.' She looked a bit embarrassed, and he added: 'You always did have more confidence in us than we ever did.'
Agnes shrugged. 'Well...' and she started absentmindedly humming an unknown melody to which the baby was listening attentively, grabbing a streak of her brown curls with his chubby little fist and twirling it.
'Agnes,' David said solemnly, 'you're gonna make one helluva mother some day.'
She looked up again and smiled, blushing, which made her look very young. 'Oh, thanks, Mr. Addison, I hope...' she let the sentence hang unfinished in the air. 'Well, I always wanted a big family, someday.'
David's lips curled into his half-smile. 'That Bertie-boy is a lucky guy, Curlyhead. Tell him I said he better treat you good.'
She nodded, still smiling, and rose to her feet. 'There,' she said, 'I think he's gonna sleep again soon.' And, indeed, the baby's eyelids looked very heavy, although he tried to keep them open. But within seconds, tiredness got the better of him. Agnes walked over to the crib again and lowered the baby down, lightly covering him with the blanket she had made.
'I like to see this on him,' she said, barely in a whisper. David rose to his feet and walked past his desk to join her at the crib and put his arm around her shoulders.
'Me too,' he whispered back and lightly kissed her on the temple. 'Thanks. For everything.'
It was about 2 pm when Maddie entered her gynecologist's office for one of her routine after-birth checks. When Dr. Holloway closed the door of the examination room behind her, she looked around the room, obviously for the baby carriage. Maddie smiled to herself. The doc's face dropped.
'Glad to see you, Maddie,' she said, only to add with a slightly disappointed undertone: 'Of course, I thought I was going to see the young man today! How's he doing?'
Maddie laughed happily. 'Fine, just fine, thanks.' Dr. Holloway smiled, and she added: 'Well, actually I'm having the afternoon off.'
The doctor nodded in approvement. 'The whole afternoon? You stopped nursing then?'
Maddie felt she had to defend herself and raised her hands. 'No, no, I... arranged for a supply.'
'Oh, I see!' Dr. Holloway beamed. 'Thank the Lord for breast pumps!'
Maddie blushed a little. 'Yeah...'
Dr. Holloway put her right hand on Maddie's arm. 'It's very important that you get time for yourself, Maddie,' she soothed quickly, elegantly circuiting the awkward moment. 'Who's looking after him?'
'He's with his dad.' Maddie smiled.
'Really?' The doctor nodded again approvingly. 'That's wonderful! It's great when dads are good at taking care of their kids too... and not an everyday thing when it's still a small baby!'
'Oh, David is doing great!' Maddie confirmed proudly.
Dr. Holloway smiled and clapped her hands. 'So, shall we take a look?'
A few minutes later, when the examination was done and Maddie dressed again, the doctor scribbled down a few notes in Maddie's patient file and then looked up to face her again with a smile. 'Well, Maddie...' she said, 'I can tell you that you can continue with your personal life again.'
Maddie frowned at first, then, when the meaning of the words sank in, she raised her eyebrows in surprise. 'Are you saying...'
'...that you and David can resume your intimate relations, yes.' Dr. Holloway nodded and closed Maddie's file.
'But I thought that wouldn't be possible for another two weeks!' Maddie gasped, her heartbeat quickening. The first weeks after the birth, she had too many other things on her mind than the physical side of her relationship with David, but then, slowly, the whirlwind of hormones in her body had ebbed away, had seemed to bring her back to normality once again. She had begun to notice that something was missing. It hadn't taken her very long to put her finger on it; in spite of the fundamental change in her, in their daily life rhythms, in spite of their changed roles from a mere couple to parents, in spite of all that – it dawned on her that she was still a woman first, and a mother second; that she was still crazy about her man and that she was desperately longing to make love to him. And although David had been treating her with the utmost concern, behaving both relaxed and natural at the same time, she knew he was impatiently waiting for the day they could go back to their passionate private life again. Maddie was too – but she was anxious not to let it show. She felt slightly ashamed by the thought. He didn't have to know every bit of her – although she had a faint idea he did know her damn well.
'Yes, correct, that's what I said,' Dr. Holloway confirmed, interrupting her thoughts. 'Everything has healed so neatly that I can give you the green lights already.' The gynecologist mistook the light flush on Maddie's cheeks for embarrassment, nervousness, maybe even panic. 'Maddie, relax,' she soothed, 'that doesn't mean you're obliged to. I only state the medical condition, and from a medical point of view you can have intimate relations again. But the only one to decide whether you're really ready for it, is you, Maddie.'
Maddie bit her lower lip to prevent it from trembling. 'Of course, Doctor. Of course.' She replied in a hoarse voice. Her mouth was dry all of a sudden.
A few hours later, Maddie entered the main office of Blue Moon, packed with a few paper bags from exclusive stores, one of them had the Victoria's Secret label printed on it. She stuffed it discreetly between the others. The office was already empty except for Agnes who was just about to leave.
'Oh, Miss Hayes!' she beamed. 'I didn't expect to see you here again today! How was your afternoon off?'
'A nice change from the daily routine, Miss DiPesto,' Maddie smiled back and motioned her head towards the closed door leading to David's office. 'I've come to pick up the guys.'
Agnes' gaze followed Maddie's, and an almost solemn, dreamy expression crept over her face when she thought about how terrible things had been not even a year ago, when her employer had been stuck in Chicago, and everything had seemed to be going out the window. Although – as she had told Mr. Addison a few hours earlier – she had never lost hope, even Agnes DiPesto wouldn't have been able to imagine such a scenario as the one she had just been privy to – , not in her wildest dreams: Miss Hayes going on a shopping tour, buying exclusive lingerie – yes, of course she had spotted that paper bag – and picking up her "guys" – which were Mr. Addison and their baby.
'Miss Hayes...' she sighed, and her voice trailed off, unable to put all that unselfish joy in words.
Maddie nodded. 'I know.' She lowered her voice in a conspiratorial mood. 'Anything special happened?'
Agnes shook her head in earnest. 'No, Miss Hayes, everything went great. You should have seen Mr. Addison with the baby...'
'Agnes,' Maddie interrupted her in an amused tone, 'I have, a few times already!'
Agnes frowned. 'You have?' she echoed, then she beamed again, 'oh right, you have! But what I meant was...'
Maddie put an arm around her secretary's shoulder. 'I know,' she repeated softly.
Agnes nodded solemnly back. 'Well...' she said, 'guess I'll go home now.'
'Have a nice evening, Agnes.'
'You too, Miss Hayes.' And with a little Agnes-wave she left the office and closed the glass door behind her.
Maddie smiled to herself. 'Guess I will...' she murmured. And with a widening smile she turned towards the closed office door.
David looked up from the file on his desk because he had noticed his office door opening slowly; Maddie popped her head in. He smiled, and she felt her knees go weak and thought immediately and involuntarily of what Dr. Holloway had told her. She swallowed.
'Hey, there's the stray mom,' David observed in a low voice, in order not to wake the baby sleeping in his crib, covered with Agnes's blanket. His tone made the little hairs on Maddie's arms bristle in response. She felt her temper rise as much as her temperature.
She narrowed her eyes and put her hands to her hips. 'Funny. What, were you afraid you'd have to deal with the little one for more than just one measly afternoon?'
'Pleeeeazzzz,' David replied, stretching out his vocals in a placating but self-confident tone.
The timbre in David's voice did not help Maddie's attempt to stay angry or even keep a reserved face. Automatically, she rubbed her forearms where she felt the goosebumps under her jacket.
'To handle Junior's a piece o'cake,' he continued smoothly. 'Wouldn't need you for that.'
She raised a skeptical eyebrow.
'Well, except for the feeding bit, of course,' he admitted and, rising from his seat, he added: 'Needless to say, I'd miss you for my own sake if you got lost.'
Oh well, why bother to put on a face when I know I couldn't fool him anyway. Finally, she returned his smile and met him at the corner of his desk. 'Don't worry, I have a good sense of direction,' she replied in a soothing voice and slipped easily into his arms to kiss him hello. Suddenly, her intestines seemed to form a smoldering knot inside her.
'I always loved girl scouts,' he teased, and she smacked him lightly on the arm.
'Yeah, I bet you did.' She went over to the crib and peeped inside. The boy was sound asleep, and Maddie smiled a tender yet satisfied smile. She had known before that David was able to take care of the baby, but to actually see how well he had done it and how at ease he obviously felt in doing so, made her secretly, incredibly proud. She turned around to face him and saw he was nonchalantly leaning against the corner of his desk, arms folded, watching her quietly with an amused but very fond glance and a twinkle in his green eyes.
'Did I pass the test, Blondie?' he asked mockingly.
She resisted the sudden urge to take three long steps in his direction and just throw herself unceremoniously into his arms. Later, she thought, later. Save the best for last.
'All of them,' she answered without hesitation, and he understood all the unspoken messages that lay deep beneath her almost casual words.
'Shall we go home?' he suggested.
'I can't wait to get home,' Maddie emphasized very quickly and a little breathlessly.
David frowned for a fraction of a second in response to the barely perceptible undertone in her voice that he couldn't quite put his finger on, he dismissed it in the very same moment. Unusually for him, he also missed the slight flush on her face when she eagerly helped him to pack little Davey's things together. He just wondered why she seemed to be in such a hurry...
Maddie was sitting in front of her vanity, brushing her hair. After a few moments, she put her brush down and looked at herself in the mirror, thoughtfully. No, she was not disappointed in what she saw. After the birth of her son, she had surprisingly gotten her slender figure back with ease, although it seemed softer, and in some areas she was a little rounder than she had been before. But she was fine with it. Her blue eyes sparkled; a secret smile tugged at the corners of her mouth; and her cheeks glowed a delicate shade of pink (a nuance deeper than usual). She drew a deep breath.
So, Dr. Holloway had given her the green light to resume her personal life again. As excited as she had been by that announcement, she was suddenly nervous. She had missed making love to David, had missed it very much, and she knew he was missing it too. Eagerly, she had left the gynecologist's office and gone right into the nearest Victoria's Secret store to buy a luxurious black, lace-trimmed night gown with a matching dressing gown, surprising herself with that. Usually, black was not a color she was very drawn to, but somehow, this ensemble had spoken to her and seemed to be the right choice. However, now that she was wearing it and the moment was nearing, she was suddenly experiencing a strange nervousness. What if something had changed? What if, after over two months and considering the changes her body had gone through, there was an awkwardness between them? What if it didn't feel the same?
'What if you just stopped worrying, Blondie?' Maddie said to her own reflection in the mirror, mimicking David's low voice, and she laughed at herself. She was still nervous. Then she nodded, still thoughtful but in a good way this time. After all this time she had spent with David, she still had to get used to it sometimes but every time it was easier to just relax and think it will be alright. This will work out.
Maddie winked at herself and slowly rose from her chair. 'Let's surprise daddy,' she murmured and went over to the bed.
She took off her new black silken dressing gown, climbed into the bed and pulled the sheets up to her bare shoulders. She let her head sink onto the pillow and smiled while she listened to the muffled sound of David's voice as he sang one of his lullabies to little Davey. She couldn't even say that this had become a habit recently, because he had been doing it for months before their son had been born. Maddie closed her eyes and listened to the soft tunes. She would never dream of admitting it, but she simply loved to hear David sing.
'Goodnight sweetheart, well it's time to go
Goodnight sweetheart, well it's time to go,
I hate to leave you but I really must say
Goodnight sweetheart, goodnight.'
After a few minutes, she heard the careful steps of David's bare feet on the thick carpet, and automatically, her lips curved into a smile; a smile of eager anticipation. David tiptoed to his side of the bed, obviously thinking she was already asleep, and lifted the sheets very carefully before slipping under them. Maddie turned around and opened her eyes.
'Hey,' he answered softly and raised his left arm, so she could slip into his embrace and curl up at his side which she eagerly did.
'Is he asleep?' she asked.
David smiled almost foolishly. 'Like a baby.'
Maddie rested her head on his shoulder and gave a pearly little laugh. 'David, he is a baby.'
He tightened his embrace and kissed her on the top of her head, remarking fondly: 'And a very special one.'
'M-hmm...' Maddie murmured and tilted her head so that she brought her face into the nook of his throat, closing her eyes again and breathing in his scent, 'of very special provenance,' she added.
David felt her breath on the side of his neck; suddenly, he was very aware of her close proximity and swallowed nervously. 'That's for sure.'
She put her left arm over his chest, snuggled still closer and placed some butterfly kisses on his throat. He began to stir uneasily. 'Uhm... Maddie...'
She showed no intention to stop. 'M-hmm...?'
David put his right hand on Maddie's left shoulder in order to hold her back and was surprised to feel the bare skin of her shoulder under his fingertips; and that was the moment when he noticed that this was not her usual PJs she was wearing; it was a nightie. The discovery shocked him, and he threw an unbelieving glance under the sheet. Great. It's a black one too. He frowned. Is this new? Why... He cleared his throat in a determined way. 'Whoa, Blondie... you'd better stop that...'
Maddie laughed softly, mockingly. 'Why, are you complaining?'
David raised his hands, as in defense, and took a deep breath. 'Oh, believe me, usually I wouldn't, but...' he swallowed again; why was his mouth so goddamn dry? 'Actually,' he went on, 'I'm not having an easy time time already without you doing... these things.'
Maddie stopped her nuzzling and propped herself up on one elbow. Her eyes were sparkling in a perky manner. 'Which things?' she asked in a playful tone and bent down to kiss him slowly, but intensely on the lips. 'Such as... this?'
'Exactly such as this!' he confirmed, although he hadn't been able to resist responding to her kiss. Damn, her lips were so soft!
Of course, Maddie had noticed his reaction. Her lips curved into a sultry smile; she seemed quite pleased with herself and leaned in to kiss him again, but David held her back. 'Please – stop that.'
She pulled back and pouted in a very un-Maddie-ish way. 'But Dr. Holloway said...' she let her voice trail off.
David frowned. '...said what?'
'...said she can give the green light for...'
His eyes widened in suspicion. '...for what?'
Maddie shrugged, and one of the spaghetti straps of her nightie moved dangerously towards the curve of her shoulder. '...well, for... these things.' She paused shortly for effect and enjoyed the expression in David's green eyes. She blinked in feigned innocence. 'Didn't I tell you?'
In one smooth, single move David sat bolt upright and shot her an unbelieving glance. 'Nnnnooo, looks like you forgot to mention that random little detail!'
Maddie smiled shyly which took his breath away for a moment. 'Surprise!' she whispered. He was still looking at her in disbelief, motionless, and seemed completely taken aback. She was a trifle disappointed and swallowed. 'I thought you loved surprises...'
He ruffled his hair. 'You know damn well I do!'
Maddie provided him with an intense look and was practically challenging him with her eyes. 'Then... where were we?' She smiled again, and her lips parted a little, obviously waiting for him to say something, or better still – to do something.
David was scrutinizing her closely, and he was starting to feel hypnotized; in his head, the thoughts were whirling, stumbling over one another.
The doc gave the green lights!
But it's too early!
But she wants it!
But maybe she feels obliged!
No, she wouldn't.
Addison, control yourself.
How could I? Damn, her eyes...!
He noticed that she leaned in an inch, no more, but it was all the encouragement he needed, and finally, he put his left hand at the back of her neck and pulled her – still carefully – close, until their lips touched, their eyes never losing contact until both closed them. They kissed, very softly, sweetly first, then soon with increasing passion. Maddie let herself sink back on the pillow, pulling him with her, and he held her head in both his hands, all ten of his fingers entangled in the soft waves of her hair. Her hands slid under his t-shirt and pulled him closer, and he could feel hot spots where they touched the bare skin of his back, right below his shoulder blades. His head was spinning in the most delightful dizziness, and for a few moments that seemed to last an eternity he got carried away by his long suppressed craving for her. But then, his conscience got the upper hand, and he suddenly pulled back again, looking down at her searchingly.
Maddie opened her eyes, and he could see they were veiled with unmistakable desire. She whispered a little breathlessly: 'David...? What is it?'
He had propped himself on his left elbow and was slowly, tenderly smoothing her hair out with two fingers. Then he asked gently: 'Are you sure?' Immediately, Maddie took a deep breath and opened her mouth to answer; quickly, David cut her off: 'I mean... we don't have to.' He raised his hand, when he saw the sweetest disappointment in her deep blue eyes. 'Don't get me wrong,' he added quickly, 'I'd love to, but... we can wait.'
Maddie was still looking up at him with hazy eyes. 'Well,' she said dryly, 'speak for yourself, fella, 'cause I can't...' She raised her hands and put them both to his face. 'Haven't you missed this?' she urged. 'Me?'
David couldn't resist the urge to lick his lips and swallowed hard. He answered in a hoarse voice, almost soundlessly: 'Blondie, I can't even begin to tell you how badly I've missed it.'
She pierced his glittering green eyes with her intense stare and whispered with determination in her voice: 'Then why don't you stop talking and just show me how much...'
He observed her again for a moment, with undisguised desire in his eyes now. She just looked at him openly, fondly, her eyes full of longing. Finally, David smiled and bent down to kiss her, propping himself on both elbows and using both hands to take possession of her hair, her face, running his fingertips over her brows, her closed eyelids, her cheeks and her jawline. She sighed deeply and slid her hands under his t-shirt again.
'Maddie...' he murmured between the kisses, 'Maddie... any time you want me to stop...'
She brought her lips close to his ear, so close that he could feel her breath brushing the side of his neck, and whispered: 'Don't you dare stop, Addison... I've missed you so much... don't you dare...'
Finally, he was convinced.
Amazing, thought Maddie while resting her head on David's shoulder. Two months are not really a long time but the intensity of their lovesome reunion had reminded her of their early days of heaven... well: she had felt torn between heaven and hell most of the time back then. Briefly, she shivered at that thought: her turmoil and their mutual difficulties had almost cost them everything that they now held precious.
David felt this quiver running through her body and tightened his embrace. 'You okay?' he inquired, still a little breathless.
'More than okay...' she murmured, it came out more as a sigh. She always found it hard to believe, that even after the birth of their baby, they never lost that physical delight they took in each other (it happened to many couples who became parents – but NOT them).
David, obviously, agreed with her. 'Wow,' he purred, 'that was...' he let the sentence hang unfinished in the air and didn't bother to look for the right word because he had a feeling that she knew perfectly well what he wanted to express.
Maddie turned her head to look at him and smiled broadly and very fondly. 'Yeah, wow indeed...'
After seeing her obvious delight, he finally allowed himself to show his own pleasure and grinned. 'So... we can do this again any time we want now, huh?'
She closed her eyes, still smiling. 'Well,' she replied, 'maybe not any time we want, but surely any time we can.'
At that moment the baby made himself heard. Maddie opened her eyes, puzzled at first. She had completely lost track of time. 'There he goes...' she sighed.
David smirked. 'Well, I'm just glad he had the gumption to wait until the last ace had been played...'
She chuckled. 'His timing is getting better.'
'Of course, he's my son!' he declared proudly.
Maddie rolled her eyes. 'Yes, he is.' Reluctantly, she threw back the sheets and sat up, disentangling her legs from David's, ready to get up to look after the baby. He didn't want to be fed during the night, but he had tummy aches that woke him up sometimes, and all it took to calm him down were a few soothing words and a five minute massage.
David held her back. 'No, stay. I'll go check on him, you rest,' he ordered.
Maddie let her head sink back on the pillow again with a thankful sigh while she watched David put his feet down to the floor and pull on his boxers. He winked at her when he left the bedroom, and she closed her eyes again, allowing her mind to float and dwell on her happiness. She had always known David would make a terrific father, but the way things had been going – those first eight weeks had exceeded every single one of her expectations. He was supportive in every possible way, and even taking care of Davey in the office had been working out pretty well. They were both doing a good job as parents, and not once did she have second thoughts about marrying David. The only thing that had been bothering Maddie was that she really hadn't been feeling comfortable with the vision of seeing them in the middle of a huge mass of people cheering them; people she had nothing to do with, people she hardly knew and most probably would never see again. She had the feeling somehow this would be akin to a profanity against what they were – they had gone through quite an ordeal to achieve what they had now and Maddie felt jealous of sharing this special day with any other people than those whom she really felt close to. Besides, putting on a white dress and a veil would always remind her of that first and disastrous wedding she'd already had, where everything, everything had been – and felt – wrong.
She knew she had to tell David that she didn't want the bombastic big white wedding that everybody seemed to expect from them, and the sooner the better. For a moment, she felt a tinge of nervousness and sighed, hoping that he wouldn't take it the wrong way – and maybe think she wasn't comfortable with their bonding, enough to celebrate it in a big way. But there was no point in delaying that conversation.
After a few minutes, David tiptoed back in and looked at her in surprise. 'Hey, you're still awake?' he said, slipping under the sheets again. 'Why don't you close your eyes?'
She sat up and smiled a little nervously. 'I just wanted to wait for you...'
He smirked. 'I know,' he purred in a low voice, 'I just wanted to hear that. No pillow's more comfortable than my shoulder, admit it!'
She was too distracted to react; she wanted to have her say, and she wanted it now, wanted to get it over with. 'David?'
He looked at her questioningly, but still with an amused expression on his face. 'Maddie.'
'I hope you're not... disappointed,' she started, 'that I don't wanna make a big thing out of it.'
David sucked his cheeks in thoughtfully – or, so it seemed. 'Uhm... well...' he said slowly, as if thinking it through methodically, 'frankly, I was looking forward to exposing it on a big blackboard in the main office, but I guess I can live with writing a high importance memo about it instead...' he smiled innocently, but lurking in the very corners of his eyes Maddie detected a twinkle she knew all too well – it was more of a mean glint and it was screaming out to her that he was up to no good.
She frowned. 'What?' she asked suspiciously.
He shrugged. 'Sure,' he said dryly, 'keeping it strictly matter-of-fact, of course – "Notabene – the heads of the company are tangling the sheets again", something like that.' He winked at her, his lips curving into his half-smile.
Maddie felt her fists clench and her eyes narrow without being able to do anything about it. 'How about you write your will instead!' she hissed. 'You might need it!'
David chuckled heartily, obviously pleased with the reaction his words had provoked. Her eyes were firing blue lightning bolts, and he suppressed the urge to pull her right back into his arms; gosh, how he had missed that, too! He raised his hands. 'Blondie, relax – I was just kidding,' he soothed, smoothing over the moment. 'Do you really think I want to let everybody know that we're doing the tighten-up dance again, that we're fanning the flames, hittin' the high notes...' he obviously enjoyed letting the words roll over his tongue, his voice sparkling with enthusiasm, but he stopped himself when he saw the steam welling up behind Maddie's tight-lipped fury. 'Sorry, I got carried away,' he said, struggling to hold back his smirk. 'Really – don't worry, I won't...'
'Oh, drop it, Addison!' she snapped in a disgusted tone and pointed her finger at him like it was a gun, ready to shoot. 'I know you're gonna waltz your way through the office regardless tomorrow, so the whole staff will know exactly what's going on, ...'
'...or coming off...' he threw in and then changed his look to a serious one: 'Maddie,' he interrupted, 'please. I'm serious. You know I don't waltz.' He paused, she waited, teeth clenched, nostrils flared. Come on, spill it, I know you're not done yet. An evil grin curled his lips. 'Well, maybe I'm gonna funk around a little bit...'
She growled, really mad now. 'You...'
Okay, enough. He raised both hands again in defense, palms towards her. 'Hey, I'm joking,' he soothed again, but in a completely sincere, earnest tone now. 'Cross my heart, I won't do anything to embarrass you; I solemnly swear that, okay?' He looked at her imploringly. Maddie raised a distrustful eyebrow, but felt her fury already cooling. The Addison backflip from silly to serious. 'Come on,' David went on gently, 'tell me what it is you don't wanna make a big thing of.'
She grumbled with a kind of rearguard action, pausing before she reluctantly uttered: 'The wedding.'
'The wedding?' he echoed.
'The wedding,' she sighed and searched for the right words to explain what she wanted to say without making it sound completely neurotic. 'I mean, I don't want to make it big like... white dress, tons of flowers and candles, a reception for the masses...' she had counted the points, holding up her fingers, and stopped helplessly. No, that didn't work. He would take that the wrong way.
'You don't want that?' David ascertained, his eyes widening in disbelief. 'I always thought that was your big dream, like every girl's...' he shook his head a little, but somehow he didn't look disappointed or hurt at all.
Maddie noticed, it was more a show of amazement.
'Remember what you once said,' he went on, 'a woman gets only married for the first time once...' He fell silent when he saw the uncomfortable look on her face, and only then did he realized what he had just said. Of course. Their daily life was so filled to the top with happiness that, in his mind, all the pain caused and felt by both of them in equal measure was so far away now that it seemed unreal to him, like a bad dream. Like it had never happened. But it had happened. He nodded slowly. 'Okay, I think I get your point.'
Maddie was relieved by his reaction. 'It was my dream. I've had it.' She smiled a bit sheepishly. 'And when I say I've had it I mean – I've had it.' She sighed with self-reproach. 'Didn't turn out so well, did it?'
'Hey,' he chimed in softly, 'what do you mean, it didn't turn out well? It turned out great!'
She smiled involuntarily and allowed the bitter memories to fade away. 'Yeah, well... in the end it did, of course.' They shared an affectionate, almost conspiratorial glance.
'Of course alright!' David emphasized and raised his left hand, gently tucking a streak of hair behind her ear. 'But this time it would be different, Goldilocks,' he reminded her. 'Are you sure you don't want to fulfill your dream?'
'I'm doing that already,' she confirmed and clarified: 'I'm living my dream.' For a moment, her eyes were gleaming lovingly.
David was touched by that remark and didn't try to hide it. 'You are?' His voice sounded funny.
'Yeah, well...' she shrugged, trying to lighten the situation with a joke, 'sometimes I'm not sure if it's a nightmare, but...' She saw his mockingly raised eyebrow and interrupted herself with a pearly laugh. 'No use in trying to fool you, right?'
For a moment they silently scrutinized each other; the mutual affection was palpably hanging in the space between them, filling the air with the sweetest scent. David raised his left hand again and traced his index finger along her cheek and jawline. He murmured fondly, in a low voice: 'Psyched you from day one, Blondie.' He didn't sound smug, but very sincere, and she knew that, more or less, it was true.
'Well, Dr. Freud,' she said ironically but with good humor, 'then I'll confess. All that fairytale-stuff... it's cute and might be every girl's dream, and I admit it was mine too, but...' she shrugged. 'You see, I'm not a girl anymore, and I don't need it anymore.' David was watching her quietly and listening closely to her words. 'The splendor of the celebration is not important, is it?' Maddie went on. 'What counts, I mean, what really matters is the people you're with and that you're there for all the right reasons, the rest is only random.' He remained silent, astonished by her words and her smile. 'Oh, and of course it's not completely unimportant to have the right guy at your side.' Her voice quivered a little; a quiver that would go undetected by someone who did not love her with the intensity of David.
After a barely noticeable pause, David said in a teasing voice: 'That would be me?'
Maddie nodded solemnly. 'That would be you.'
He drew a deep breath and took her right hand in his. 'Okay, I'll tell you something, Cinderella. I was never crazy about that fairytale-stuff either.' He paused to kiss her hand. 'What do you say, we'll skip all the flowers, candles and masses and make it just you and me at the city hall.' He looked at her encouragingly.
Maddie raised her free hand. 'Not so fast, Frog Prince. I don't want that either.' David frowned, and she went on: 'I do want a few flowers, I want our families and friends with us, and of course we have to dance, don't we?' Again, she smiled almost shyly.
'Hmm... you've got a point.' He nodded and smiled his half-smile. 'We always danced great.'
'No doubt about that.' Maddie nodded, and for a moment, her mind drifted to various occasions they had danced; amazing how they had always matched perfectly on the dance floor. Finally, she added: 'And I don't want to marry you in city hall. We'll go to church.'
That was a real surprise. David raised his eyebrows, doubting for a moment that he had heard right. 'Church?' he repeated. 'But... I thought it didn't mean much to you?'
She nodded again, her gaze never leaving his. 'True, it didn't,' she admitted, 'but I know it means a lot to you, and therefore it means something to me.' She paused, then added firmly: 'I really want to do it.'
For a few moments, David was lacking in words, completely stunned by what she had just said. He swallowed hard. He knew that she was not a religious person, and therefore he had always been pretty sure that her plans for the wedding ceremony didn't include a priest. But here she was, telling him she wanted a church wedding, not even for the sake of the fairytale-stuff and the atmosphere, but because she knew that it would mean something to him. Again, she had surprised him. Awesome! It's still getting better each day. He just nodded solemnly. 'Okay. Then we'll do it your way.'
Maddie placed a kiss on his still shirtless shoulder. 'My favorite answer.' She yawned, and David noticed that her eyes were closing.
He pulled her close and kissed her temple. 'Don't get swellheaded, boss. Sleep now. You'll need your strength.'
He turned off the light on his bedside table, and they both sank back on the pillows, wrapped up in each other's arms. From the immediate relaxing of her body, David could tell that Maddie was almost asleep.
'Maddie?' he murmured into her hair.
Her sleepy voice was barely audible. 'David...'
Along with his half-smile, his eyes glittered in the dark. 'Any chance you'll give the high importance memo a second thought?'
'No second thoughts...' murmured Maddie and drifted off to dreamland.
David whispered: 'My favorite answer.'
Two days later, David was waiting at LA International Airport for his future parents-in-law to arrive. Virginia had been with them for two weeks around the birth of the baby, and David was very fond of her. They got along wonderfully, and he looked forward very much to seeing her again. Maddie's father... Alexander Hayes was a tall and intimidating man, especially if you were the one who had stolen the heart of his precious little girl. It had been ten months since they last met (when Maddie had been staying at her parents' home in Chicago) and the encounter had started badly but ended in mutual respect. So, there really was no need to be scared. Or even nervous. David sighed. Gosh, he was nervous.
Then he saw the elegant, elderly couple coming his way. Virginia was already beaming at him from the distance and waved eagerly. Alex, two steps behind her, wasn't smiling, but he didn't look unfriendly either. David ruffled his hair and took a deep breath.
'Alright then,' he murmured, 'come to daddy.'
When they had reached him, Virginia exclaimed 'David! Good to see you!' and hugged him. As always, he was marveling at her strength (that one wouldn't have expected to find in such a slender, fragile-looking woman). 'No worries,' she whispered in his ear and kissed him on the cheek.
'Happy to see you, Virginia,' he retorted, and she slipped her right hand through his left arm.
David extended his right hand to Alex and smiled a little sheepishly. 'Mr. Hayes,' he said and hoped the nervousness was not detectable in his voice. 'Pleased to see you too.'
Alex nodded. 'David.' They shook hands. David sighed.
After packing the Hayes' suitcases into the trunk, David wanted to open the back door of the car for them, but Alex was faster. He opened the door, and after Virginia had slipped in, he closed the door again and opened the passenger door for himself. That was the moment when David started to worry. In a nervous move, he blew his cheeks out and nodded to himself, as if pulling his wits together. Then he got into the car, started the engine and left the parking lot.
After a minute or so of silent driving that seemed to last at least double that, David cleared his throat. 'So... did you have a pleasant flight?'
Before Virginia had the opportunity to open her mouth for an answer, her husband jumped in, answering rather curtly: 'Not so much.'
'Sorry to hear that,' said David, and Alex grumbled something. Virginia, from the backseat, sighed.
The conversation had been killed before it had even had a chance to get going, and the following silence was not really comfortable. Great. After a while, Alex remarked: 'So... you're finally getting married then.' Virginia, unnoticed by the two men in front, covered her eyes with her right hand. There he goes.
'Yes, we are...' David replied carefully and threw his future father-in-law a questioning sideways glance. Relax, he thought. This man's not your enemy. He's just crazy about his daughter. We all are, as a matter of fact.
Alex looked straight at the street. 'It's about time.'
'Alex...' came Virginia's voice from the backseat like a summer breeze, melodious, crystal clear, and with the slightest, subtle tinge of warning in it.
'I do agree, Sir...' David replied, his voice a little more self-confident. He didn't really feel too much guilt, and he knew that Alex was aware of at least part of Maddie's contribution to how complicated things had been.
'Of course,' Alex went on, 'it would have been desirable had it happened before your child was born...'
'Alex!' Virginia snapped.
'What?' Alex replied stubbornly.
'No, Virginia,' David interjected firmly, 'your husband is certainly right.' His hands seemed to tighten their grip slightly on the steering wheel, and, taking a deep breath, he went on: 'All I can say is... I guess all is well that ends well.'
'Well?' Virginia turned to her husband with an encouraging smile, raising a questioning, yet severe eyebrow.
'Well,' Alex growled.
'Well...' David added with a little sigh.
The rest of the drive home was not as quiet as David had feared. Virginia was obviously determined to keep the conversation going and to make him feel comfortable. She asked him questions over questions about the baby and how they organized their daily lives.
'Two and a half months!' she was just saying. 'Isn't it amazing how time flew by? And now you're already taking him with you to work?'
'Yes,' David confirmed, 'Maddie stayed home for eight weeks, then she started to eat raw meat and alphabetized my record collection.'
'What's wrong with that?' Alex threw in a bit stiffly.
'You mean,' Virginia quickly inserted, 'she was starting to feel annoyed at home.'
David nodded. 'Yes. We knew then it was time for her to go back to the office.' He shrugged. 'She had planned to anyway.'
Alex grumbled: 'I'm not sure if...'
'I know,' Virginia interrupted again, firmly. 'Maddie had planned it. She never wanted to stay at home for long, dear,' she said to her husband and added: 'Our daughter is a modern woman.'
'And here we are!' David announced in an almost relieved tone and pulled in the driveway. 'Maddie will be so happy to see you!'
He parked the car and got out quickly to open the door for Virginia, but again, Alex was faster. 'Wonderful,' David muttered under his breath, 'just wonderful.'
When Alex and Virginia were heading towards the entrance steps, the front door was opened, and a beaming Maddie cried out: 'Mom! Dad! You're finally here!'
She flew down the last few steps to greet her parents while David was busying himself with the luggage, giving the three of them their private moment to reunite.
'Baby!' Alex exclaimed and pulled Maddie into a beary hug. Then he held her at arm's length and eyed her intensely. 'You look... radiant', he finally declared.
Virginia just smiled and put her right hand to Maddie's cheek. 'You look happy,' she simply said.
Maddie smiled back and took her mother's hand in her left. 'Well, I am,' she confirmed and reached out for Alex's hand with her right. 'You better get used to it.' Then she smiled an almost conspiratorial smile. 'Come on in... there's somebody who wants to meet you!'
'Oh, I can't wait to see him again!' Virginia put one hand through Maddie's arm and the other one, firmly, on her husband's shoulder, beckoning him down towards her with a slight, gracious nod of her head. 'Darling,' she whispered in his ear, 'why don't you help David with the luggage?' And she turned around on her heel and pulled Maddie towards the door.
Alex pursed his lips and turned around to look for David who was still rummaging in the open trunk of the car. 'Wonderful,' he muttered under his breath as he saw his wife and daughter disappear into the house, 'just wonderful.'
After having carried the luggage upstairs into the spare bedroom, shadowed by Alex, David had excused himself and hurried back into the office. Maddie, unusually, had taken the day off to give her parents the opportunity to spend time with her and their grandson. With the excuse of having to pick up some stuff at the grocery store, Maddie left the house shortly after David, leaving her mother in charge of Davey who was now awake.
Virginia held the baby very naturally and effortlessly in her left arm, as if she were used to coping with babies not much bigger than a newborn. Alex, on the other hand, seemed anxious to even touch him, but eyed him very closely.
Virginia beamed. 'Isn't our grandson gorgeous?' she said to her husband after Alex had had the opportunity to admire the tiny baby for a while, and she could tell by the softening expression in his eyes that he was deeply moved.
'Indeed,' replied Alex and cleared his throat. 'Well, you could expect nothing less, of course. He's Madolyn's son.'
'Not only,' Virginia reminded him flatly.
'Hm,' he managed grumpily. Virginia suppressed a smile. Someone is definitely jealous here.
'They must be very proud of him,' she went on.
'Looks like they are,' Alex remarked with a certain edge to his voice.
Virginia raised an eyebrow. 'What exactly are you saying?'
Alex shook his head. 'Oh, nothing, dear, nothing!'
'Uh-huh...!' his wife made.
He shrugged. 'Well, you know that I never was so fond of naming children after their parents, but obviously, it's a way of expressing...'
'Funny you should mention that, dear,' Virginia interrupted innocently.
Alex frowned. 'Why funny?'
'Because,' she went on firmly, 'it was your daughter who insisted in naming the baby after his dad. Our son-in-law...'
'Future son-in-law,' Alex corrected with a slight tinge of stubbornness in his voice that reminded his wife very much of their daughter.
'Yes, well, future son-in-law, if you insist, my dear. Not that you could do anything about it,' she added brightly and went on: 'Anyway, as I said – Madolyn insisted in naming the baby after him, whereas David, already being a Junior himself, objected and wanted to call him Alex. After you,' she added needlessly, and then she waited a few moments until the meaning of the words sank in.
But Alex wasn't ready to give in that easily. He cleared his throat 'How do you know that?' he finally grumbled.
'Because Madolyn told me, of course.'
Alex, building his confidence, was now stroking the silky cheeks of his grandson, barely brushing them with his fingertips, as if he were afraid to touch him too firmly. 'I see,' he managed after a while, in a slightly croaky voice, and looked into the little baby's eyes that were unmistakably starting to show their deep green color now. 'Hello, David,' he said.
That same evening, the four of them enjoyed a delicious dinner consisting of veal roast, baked potatoes and green beans and cooked by Virginia. The conversation had flowed rather nicely as the baby had been the main issue. Of course, his grandparents had wanted to know every little detail about him, and Maddie and David had been eager to tell them how surprisingly easy their daily life was with him in it.
'Virginia,' David sighed when he put down his fork, 'this was the most delicious veal roast I've ever eaten. Really.' He threw Maddie a mischievous sideways glance. 'And I'm not only saying in this house, which probably wouldn't have been a big surprise. I mean – ever.'
Maddie snorted, and her mother almost giggled. 'Oh, that's such a sweet thing to say, David,'
Maddie and Alex looked at each other and, almost simultaneously, rolled their eyes.
'Well,' Alex threw in, 'I'm sure your mother did some good traditional Philadelphia cooking too, David. When are we going to meet your parents?'
David took his fork again and started to play with it. 'My mother died when I was very young,' he answered somewhat reluctantly, and briefly a shadow crept over his face. He cleared his throat and added with the slightest touch of uneasiness in his voice: 'My dad and...' – he cleared his throat – 'stepmother will be here in a few days.'
'It's nice for your father that he didn't stay alone,' Virginia remarked softly, assuming a tone of encouragement. 'Do you get along?'
David looked up and found his future mother-in-law eyeing him closely. He smiled. 'I'd say not bad.'
'They got married only last year,' Maddie interjected, 'We attended their wedding.'
'Oh, that's wonderful, and now they're attending yours.' Virginia leaned across the table and put her hand on David's. 'Your father will be so proud of our grandson, just like we are, don't you agree, Alex?' She threw her husband an inviting look.
Alex couldn't help but smile and nodded. 'I'm sure he will. Plus, I've heard that he carries the same first name...'
'Yes, isn't it great that the little one carries the name of both his grandfathers?' Virginia interjected firmly.
Later that evening, in the nursery, Maddie had just finished feeding little Davey, who had very sleepy eyes already, when the door was opened and David popped his head in.
'Are we ready for takeoff?' he asked.
Maddie smiled and lifted the baby so she could look directly into his eyes that were of the same shape and color as David's. Secretly, she already pitied the poor teenage girls who would have to put up with those lethal weapons in fifteen years from now. 'Shift-change, angel...' she announced softly. 'The bedding shift manager is here.'
David folded his arms and curled his lips into his half-smile. 'Bedding is my specialty,' he purred.
Maddie snorted in her best imitation of disgust, unable to seriously deny the utter truth of his statement. 'Addison, why do you always have to head straight for the gutter?' she spat.
He shrugged nonchalantly. 'Why, it's a cozy place, isn't it, lover?' he winked at her.
She pursed her lips as if she'd just bitten into a lemon. 'Is there any chance you will ever change?'
'Oh, of course there is, Blondie!' he assured innocently. 'I can change any time, into anything or anyone you want.' He unfolded his arms and walked through the room towards her, lowering his voice. 'But I happen to recall a certain occasion when you almost begged me not to.'
Maddie recalled that occasion, too, only a few months ago. You are a royal pain in the neck. Hell, most of the time you drive me crazy! But please... don't you ever change. She pulled herself and her dignity together and hissed: 'I don't beg!'
David chuckled. 'We can discuss that later...' He was standing before her now, extending his arms. 'Now the little man needs my attention...'
She handed him the baby and almost jumped up. 'Never mind!' she snapped. 'Hopefully I'll be asleep later!' Maddie stormed out, but didn't slam the door of the nursery due to the baby who was almost asleep. David grinned, full of amusement and affection. Then he packed his son carefully into his baby sleeping sack and tucked him into his crib. Sitting on the chair placed beside it, David sighed and watched his son whose eyelids were fluttering as he glided off to dreamland.
'So, buddy...' he murmured and reached out for his son to stroke his forehead with one finger, 'today didn't go too bad, did it?' It sounded like he was talking to himself. 'Looks like you took the old man by storm...' he went on, 'not that I ever doubted it. It's that deadly combination of Addison irresistibleness and baby cuteness...' David let his voice trail off and sighed again, thinking of Maddie's severe-looking father who obviously seemed to have put him under close and critical observation. 'Guess I'll have to rely on the cuteness...'
The baby frowned, with closed eyes, and whimpered softly.
'Yeah, I know,' David soothed, 'I owe you a lullaby.'
He cleared his throat and started to sing.
'Goodnight my love
Pleasant dreams and sleep tight my love
May tomorrow be sunny and bright
And bring you closer to me...'
Alex frowned, stopped dead in his tracks, tilting his head. He had been on his way back to the guest bedroom from the bathroom, when he heard the muffled singing coming from the nursery, together with a faint glimmer of light falling softly on the carpet through the door crack.
'If you should awake in the still of night
Please have no fear
For I'll be there, darling you know I care
Please give your love to me dear...'
Alex shook his head slightly and slipped back into the guest bedroom where Virginia was still reading her book by the bedside light. She looked up when he entered the room and noticed his frown.
Before she could ask what was wrong, her husband murmured: 'That's odd.'
Virginia blinked and closed her book. 'What's odd?'
Alex shrugged and took his dressing gown off. 'I just thought I heard a radio playing in the nursery.'
Virginia laughed softly. 'Oh, that. That must have been David, singing his lullaby to our grandson.'
'This didn't sound like a children's song to me,' Alex remarked.
'Oh I bet it wasn't,' Virginia agreed. 'Maddie told me he always loved to sing for the baby, even before it was born, and not the classic lullabies.'
'What's wrong with classic lullabies?' Alex grumbled and slipped under the sheets.
Virginia rolled her eyes. 'Nothing, of course. But Little David loves his dad's.'
He gave a little snort. 'I never sang lullabies for our daughter.'
'No, darling,' Virginia confirmed quickly, 'and I'm really thankful for that.'
Alex sat bolt upright. 'What does that mean?'
His wife gave a silvery little laugh. 'Oh nothing, darling, please. You had other qualities. Important qualities. You were a great father. You are.'
'Hm. I hope so.' Alex decided it was better not to pursue the subject and leaned over to kiss his wife goodnight, like he had done almost every single night since they had got married. 'Good night.'
'Night, dear.' Virginia turned the light off, pulled the sheets up to her shoulders and was soon fast asleep.
Alex sighed and stared up to the ceiling, wide awake.
Four hours later, after having looked after the baby (who had awoken with a little tummyache), David went downstairs into the kitchen. He was barefoot so he could silently sneak without waking the household. He took the chocolate milk out of the refrigerator and opened it. Drinking chocolate milk directly from the carton was still one of his "guilty pleasures". He could have sworn it tasted differently when drunk this way, in fact mucho better than from a glass or mug.
He was contemplating taking another sip, when he heard muffled footsteps outside, and then his future father-in-law appeared in the kitchen door, wearing his dressing gown over his PJs and leather slippers on his feet. He hesitated a tad when he laid eyes on David.
'Oh,' Alex said, 'I didn't know anybody was up.'
David lifted the milk carton with a gesture that explained his presence and grinned sheepishly. 'Oh, I just... uhm...' he looked at the carton he had been drinking from and screwed its cap on, feeling strangely guilty. 'Can I get you something?' he asked, feeling a bit uneasy.
'No, thanks,' Alex's voice was firm. He stepped up to the kitchen sink and took a glass from the board just above it. 'I just wanted a glass of water.' He filled it from the faucet and drank.
David was watching him quietly in a puzzled way. Water, huh? There's plenty of water in the bathroom, right beside the guestroom. He cleared his throat and said: 'Well... I hope that me and Junior didn't disturb you...'
Alex emptied glass and raised his left hand in a reassuring gesture. 'No, no, don't worry, I...' he fell silent for a moment, then went on: 'Oh, you got up to...' he motioned vaguely upstairs with his head.
'Yeah...' David nodded slowly, still awkwardly turning the chocolate milk carton in his hands. Addison! he chastised himself. Now get on the ball! There's nothing to be nervous about!
Alex pointed his index finger suspiciously at the milk carton. 'But surely not that milk!'
'Oh no,' David laughed, 'that one's strictly for me.' He forced himself to put the milk carton back in the fridge, although by doing so, he deprived himself from the possibility of keeping his hands occupied. Suddenly, they seemed useless, and he put them both through his already midnight-ruffled hair. 'During the night, luckily, he doesn't have to be fed anymore so Maddie doesn't necessarily have to get up.' He shrugged. 'It's just... guys' stuff.'
Alex raised his eyebrows, turning the empty glass in both hands now. 'Guys' stuff?' he echoed.
David nodded matter-of-factly. 'Three-month-colics,' he blurted out.
'Must be some modern stuff,' Alex remarked. 'Madolyn never had such a thing.'
'Well, girls don't have them much,' David explained. 'It's mostly the boys who suffer from them.' He grinned feebly and shrugged. 'Guys' stuff.'
Alex scrutinized him for a while in silence, and just before David began to feel uncomfortable, the faintest wrinkling around his eyes showed that he was not displeased with what he saw. 'You've been reading books, haven't you?'
David shrugged again and looked him directly in the eyes, feeling more self-assured now. 'Call me bookworm.'
Alex shook his head slightly, as if to get rid of spiderwebs. Then he finally put down the empty glass in the kitchen sink and motioned to the stairs 'Well, I'll...'
David nodded eagerly. 'Yeah, me too...'
By the time David had reached the door, Alex had already disappeared, and when he set foot on the stairs, he heard the soft closing of the guest bedroom door. 'Night,' he murmured, a lopsided smile curling his lips.
Alex woke up rather early and was surprised at first to hear the unmistakable sounds of a house slowly coming to life but then he remembered where he was and that this was a household with a three month old baby. My grandson. He smiled, threw the sheets back and slipped out of bed, not without checking first that his sleeping wife's shoulders were covered. He stepped into his slippers, pulled the dressing gown over his PJs and quietly tiptoed out of the guest bedroom. He heard muffled sounds and his daughter's voice, and a smile curved his lips. He was looking forward to saying good morning to his grandson and his daughter.
When he closed the door behind him, he just saw David's back disappear into the nursery and stopped dead in his tracks. He didn't want to disturb the scene but couldn't help, despite the slight feeling of guilt, listening in. Are you really happy, girl?
'Morning, gorgeous,' David said. Alex shuffled his feet.
'Hey,' replied Maddie with a smiling voice, 'right back at ya!"
'Thanks, but I was talking to my son,' he paused for a comedy beat, 'Morning, woman.'
Alex frowned. What the...
'Jerk!' Maddie spat, and a satisfied smile curled her listening father's lips. 'If I wasn't holding the baby in my arms, I'd...'
'...throw yourself right into mine, I know,' came David's answer in a mocking voice, and Alex rolled his eyes. 'Unfortunately,' David went on, 'I have to hurry to the agency.'
'Nobody's keeping you!' Maddie snapped.
'Right you are!' David sounded amused. 'I work damn hard for my living.'
'As if you even knew how to spell the words!' Maddie hissed, and Alex shook his head. Give the guy a break, he thought involuntarily, but David didn't seem to be affected by her words.
'I can work hard if the goal is worth the strain,' he replied smoothly. 'I just have to look at my toughest piece of work, sitting before me right now.' Alex had to suppress a chuckle. Touché. Now he got you.
'Alright, already,' grumbled Maddie, and Alex heard the unmistakable sounds of a kiss being shared, but not one of the kind you're embarrassed to watch. 'When do we meet with the priest?' she finally asked.
'2 pm. Listen, Blondie, right beside the parish office is a nice cozy Italian restaurant. Let's say we meet there noon-ish for a nice lunch?' Oddly, something in David's voice that he couldn't put quite his finger on suddenly made Alex feel guilty and somehow like an intruder because he was listening in, but the moment passed by when David asked: 'Do you think it's okay for your parents to keep Junior?'
'Sure is,' Maddie replied brightly. 'I'll see you there at noon.'
'High noon.' Again, the sound of a kiss, immediately followed by a mocking 'Be on time.'
'Butt outta here!' Maddie snapped, but Alex could hear the smile in her voice.
David left the nursery and sped down the stairs without noticing Alex. He slowly walked over to the nursery and entered the room. Maddie, like him, was still in her dressing gown (only that hers was falling to the floor) and she was just putting the baby back into his crib. When she turned around, she had still a smile on her face, and that warmed Alex's heart.
'Good morning,' he smiled.
'Morning, daddy!' she replied brightly. 'Did we wake you?'
'No, no, don't worry. I...' he lost track of his words when, accidentally, her feet caught his gaze. They were bare, and her toes curled in a funny way, gripping at the thick carpet.
Maddie noticed his expression and looked down at her feet. She laughed softly and wiggled her toes. 'Sometimes I just forget to put my slippers on...'
She glanced up again, looking her father in the eyes, and he saw that she indeed looked happy, relaxed, totally balanced and at ease with herself, like there were no cares in the whole world that could have threatened her sense of well-being. Never had his daughter looked more beautiful to him. It had taken little more than a Quarter and a kiss to take her pain away when she was a child; now obviously, David had found a new remedy. You taught her how to tie her shoelaces. But I'm the one who taught her that it's okay to run barefoot once in a while. Alex nodded a very small nod to himself. Well, you sure did.
He smiled and said: 'I guess that's okay.'
Maddie noticed his somewhat thoughtful expression and decided to repeat it. 'Guess it is...'
Alex went over to the crib. The baby was fast asleep again. 'He looks great.'
Maddie slid her arm around her father's waist. 'He's doing great. Everything is running smoothly.'
He put his arm around her shoulders. 'Except for the three-month-colics,' he threw in seriously.
Maddie's eyes widened in disbelief. 'You know about the three-month-colics?'
'Hey, why not?' Alex asked back. 'Can't your old dad know something, too?'
'Sure, daddy!' she replied eagerly. 'David knows everything about them.' She looked down at the baby again, and her gaze became unfocused. 'You know,' she said slowly, thoughtfully, 'sometimes, when he's in pain and cries and nothing can soothe him, David just picks him up and talks to him...' She looked her father in the eyes again. 'That's all he does, he holds him in his arm, and he talks to him, and that's enough for him to relax.' She smiled and shrugged graciously. 'I don't know how he does it.'
I might have an idea. Alex nodded earnestly. 'Guys' stuff.'
Maddie frowned. 'What?'
He tightened his grip around her shoulder. 'Never mind. Come on, I think I've heard your mother downstairs. I bet she's cooked up one hell of a breakfast.'
Maddie spent a very pleasurable morning with her parents and Davey; and she was delighted to see how her father seemed to build a close bond with his grandson within the shortest time. Of course, this wasn't a surprise to her as the boy was gorgeous and easy to handle – unlike his parents, she thought with a self-critical inner smile – but all the same, she knew it meant something that her awe-inspiring father had thawed fast and was not ashamed to show it.
The three of them went for an extended walk, Maddie and her mother walking arm in arm, happily chatting away, while Alex proudly pushed the baby stroller, speaking in a serious tone to his grandson. The women didn't understand what he was saying but they both noticed his behavior and exchanged conspiratorial, smiling glances. Yes, it was happy company.
When they got back home, Maddie fed the baby and put him to bed. Then she changed and got ready to leave for her planned lunch with David. Her perfectionist father questioned her on every single detail regarding the care of the baby, but Virginia told her all would be well, there was not reason to worry and would she please just leave.
Later Virginia heated up some leftovers from last evening's veal roast for lunch, and while she and Alex were cleaning the kitchen afterward, they were talking about the approaching happy event. Only, Maddie's mother noticed that her husband didn't seem too happy about it.
'Oh, Alex,' Virginia was just saying, 'I really don't know why you insist on referring to our daughter's wedding as odd.' Her voice sounded a little, just a little annoyed as she repeated the word he loved to use in that characteristic way of his.
'...I'm just saying that I really don't understand why this wedding isn't being held the traditional way, that's all.' Alex raised his hands in a defensive gesture, preparing for his wife's reply which, he sensed instinctively, was on its way.
Virginia frowned. 'The traditional way?' she echoed. 'What do you mean, darling? They're going to a church, there will be a reception with family and friends...'
Alex growled: '...no white wedding.'
'No white wedding?' she repeated. 'But Alex, what does the color of the dress matter?' She tried to skirt over that lightly, but she knew her husband better than to hope he would drop the subject.
'How can you ask this, Ginny? You know our daughter.' The thought of his beloved daughter getting anything less than what she deserved riled him to the extreme. 'She has always dreamed of this... her wedding day, I mean. She always dreamed of a white wedding, a big white wedding, many flowers and candles...'
'Alex...' Virginia tried to soothe.
'...of a dress that makes her look like a princess...' his voice was rising like bubbling lava.
'Darling...' she urged.
'...of being the centre of attention on that great day, on her great day, like every girl does...'
'Alexander Hayes!' she cut him off sharply. It was enough to stop his rant. For the moment.
'Give it a break!' her voice had lost its edge again. 'This is not for us, it is for them.'
'Of course it is! I know!' he confirmed. 'I just thought...' he shrugged. 'Well, I want the best for our daughter. She deserves the best.'
Of course. Virginia smiled and put a hand on his arm. 'She already has the best, Alex.'
'Hrrmph,' Alex grumbled, 'I know you're fond of him,' his voice had a bit of an accusing undertone. Virginia managed to suppress a smile. 'Well, I guess he's not exactly a scoundrel...' Alex conceded reluctantly, and she rolled her eyes. 'Okay,' he admitted quickly, 'David is probably... quite alright.'
'Quite alright,' Virginia repeated ironically, 'yes, I assume that we can say for sure.'
For a moment, there was the tense silence of a ceasefire between them, and Virginia knew her husband wasn't through with the issue yet. 'All the same,' he finally said, with that certain stubborn touch to his voice that always stunned her because it reminded her so much of their daughter. 'Madolyn should have her great day.' He shrugged. 'Well, I guess he's just not too comfortable with...'
'...Alex...' she warned.
In a defensive tone, he went on: 'It just doesn't feel right to me...'
Virginia let out a little snort, very untypical for her, indicating her slow loss of patience. 'Have you ever taken into consideration that it might be your daughter not wanting a big thing?'
Alex raised his eyebrows. 'Madolyn? Why wouldn't she?'
'Well...' Virginia managed vaguely, 'she could have her reasons...'
Curtly, Alex shook his head and drew his eyebrows together in that I-know-better frown that was one of the few things that was inevitably destined to make his wife lose her patience, and on top of this, he made his next mistake by firmly cutting her off: 'Nonsense! You're not seriously saying...'
'I am serious,' she interrupted quietly, but very severely, and Alex realized that everything in the composure of her voice and her poise screamed "danger". Her voice was barely a whisper when she added: 'And... and don't you dare to nonsense me.'
Alexander Hayes, same as his daughter, knew when he had to apologize. 'I'm sorry, dear,' he soothed sheepishly, 'I just can't imagine for the life of me why...'
Virginia couldn't hold it back any longer. She blurted out: 'She's had her white wedding.'
'What?' he cried in disbelief.
Virginia sighed and closed her eyes for a moment. Then she told him quietly: 'I said our daughter has already had her white wedding.'
Alex opened his mouth for a thundering reply, but then reconsidered that and merely cleared his throat. 'Well...' he remarked carefully, 'I won't exactly say you're talking nonsense, Ginny, but...' he frowned as she, without a word, turned around and walked away from him. 'Where are you going?'
She looked back at him, over her shoulder. 'I'm pouring you a scotch, dear. You might need it.'
David had been waiting for about ten minutes at a cozy little table in a small, but welcoming Italian restaurant just around the corner of the parish office where he and Maddie had an appointment with the priest to discuss the wedding ceremony, when she finally showed up. She entered the room, and – like always – he was stunned by her beauty (that made more than one man turn around to follow her with their gaze). He smiled a secret, lopsided smile to himself. Sorry, guys. This lady is taken.
When she reached the table, her cheeks flushed by the hurry, she smiled and said a little breathlessly: 'I'm sorry, but my father made me double-check that I had left enough milk in the fridge, and...'
'Never mind.' David stood up to pull out the chair for her and, bringing his mouth close to her right ear, he hummed in a low, melodious voice: 'I got a gal that's always late, every time we have a date...'
Maddie's hell-freezing expression was reward enough for him. 'Very funny,' was her icy reaction.
'Yeah, I know, it is,' he replied gleefully, sitting down again and bending forward, his eyes glittering. '...but I love her, I'm gonna ask her...'
Maddie was staring into the menu with frozen features, but David could see that an unwilling smile was creeping into the corners of her eyes, not yet having reached her mouth, and so he hummed on: 'Is you is or is you ain't my baby...'
Without looking at him, she asked, feigning annoyance: 'Are you gonna stop singing if I say that me is... I am?'
'Maybe,' he purred. 'If you raise the stakes.'
'Better not raise yours too high, Addison,' she snapped, but without any sharp edge to her voice. 'I might tell the priest that I have changed my mind.'
David shook his head theatrically. 'Oooh... bad move, Blondie,' he warned. 'Lie to a man of the cloth? Very unwise. Lightning will strike you.'
'Yeah, well...' she shrugged. 'I'd say I'm used to those lightning bolts by now.' Her eyes were still fixed on the menu, but David saw the twinkle in them and took his menu too, his mouth curling into a pleased smirk.
'I take this as a compliment,' he remarked nonchalantly, not looking at her.
'Please do so,' she replied as casually.
Both smiled into their menu and at some point, as if on cue, looked up at each other at exactly the same time. Maddie's lips formed the word "jerk".
David blew her a kiss. 'Yeah, I love you too.'
Later, when they were driving home, Maddie and David discussed the guest list, and they agreed on keeping it short, and they also agreed on the people to invite. The closer family which, anyway, on David's side included only his father, his stepmother and his brother.
'I still think we should keep the circle smaaaall,' David, sitting on the passenger's seat, said with a sour face.
Maddie laughed. 'David, your father, Stephanie and Richard is small.'
'Is it really necessary?' he pouted.
She dismissed him with a wave of her hand. 'Oh come one! They are nice people, and they are family. You are impossible, really, David. Besides,' she reminded him, 'your brother will be your best man!'
He moaned, covered his eyes with his left hand and mumbled something unintelligible; Maddie suppressed a chuckle and decided not to push the subject further. Of course, David's family would be invited, and all would be well. She understood why he felt a bit awkward about his father's wife, and she knew that the father-son-relationship was not uncomplicated, and Richard was... well, Richard – from what she knew he had always been a troublemaker, but mostly it was himself he got into trouble, and he had a golden heart and adored his little brother; David. On the other hand, David had reluctantly confessed to her that he indeed loved his brother. Not that she ever had doubted that. Maddie knew that, underneath the surface, the emotional bonds within the Addison family were strong.
From Maddie's side her parents would be there and maybe one or two of her numerous cousins – she was closer to some of them more than others. The Blue Moon staff, being their substitute family, would be there, and Maddie had asked Agnes to be her maid of honor, almost causing her to have a heart attack from the sheer pride and joy. Asking anybody else would have seemed wrong to her, and besides – neither Maddie nor David had any really close friends in LA.
'I think, if you don't mind, I'd like to invite Walter,' Maddie suggested, 'and Terri too.'
David nodded thoughtfully. 'Yeah, good idea.' he smiled his half-smile. 'Walter and Terri. I like that.'
'That would add four more to the list then,' Maddie stated. 'I think we're reaching the limit now, but anyway those are all I can...'
'Four?' David interrupted, frowning. 'Why four?' He held up two fingers of his right hand. 'Walter – one. Terri – two.'
'Well, aren't you forgetting something? They're not supposed to come alone, of course. It will be Walter Bishop and partner, Terri Knowles and partner.' Maddie nodded, obviously pleased with herself.
David threw her an amused sideways glance. '...and partner?' he repeated. 'What do you mean, and partner, partner? They'll be coming together, of course. So, instead of making a fuss we should simply invite them together. Walter Bishop and Terri Knowles.'
Maddie was baffled. 'They'll be coming together, of course?' she echoed doubtfully. 'Why would they?'
'Why would they?' David blurted out in disbelief.
'Why would they,' Maddie repeated with a frown.'That's what I asked. They're not a couple, are they?' She shrugged. 'It would be... odd to invite them as one.'
'They're maybe not a classic couple,' David agreed, much to Maddie's surprise, and added: '...yet.'
'What do you mean – not yet?' she asked. 'They're friends.'
David ruffled his hair, his body language saying: what the hell are you talking about, woman? He repeated with a bewildered tone: 'Friends?'
Maddie was getting slightly annoyed. 'Friends.'
He threw his hands up in despair. 'Maddie, didn't you notice that whenever you see Terri, there's Walter lurking around at her heels, and vice versa?' Maddie vaguely raised her eyebrows and David, a wicked glint in his eyes, went on ironically: 'And before you ask – yes, I know what vice versa means.' Maddie's eyes narrowed dangerously, and she threw him a fiery glance. 'And they stick together,' he added. 'Nuff said.'
'You can't say that,' she insisted, that typical stubborn edge to her voice, looking straight at the street before her. 'That's nonsense. Just because they spend so much time together? You could have noticed the same with us.'
David nodded sarcastically. 'Oh yeah,' he moaned, his voice dripping with irony, 'and we surely are the best example, because we have always been just friends, right?' he stretched the words like chewing gum.
Maddie was clearly annoyed now. 'You can't compare them with us, David. They've known each other for what, seven months? Eight months?' she shook her head. 'They're friends. Pals.'
David contorted his face, looking like he was having a sudden attack of toothache. 'Pals?' he exclaimed and almost spat: 'Blech!'
Maddie's hands gripped the steering wheel tightly as if she wanted to strangle it. 'What do you mean, blech? What's wrong with pals?' her voice became louder.
David shrugged in an exaggerated manner. 'Nothing's wrong with pals. If you're talking about the bunch of guys you're playing poker with, you're having hangovers with...' he threw Maddie a naughty glance and added: '...you're sharing your Playboy with.' She pressed her lips together. 'But a girl being pals with a guy...' he shuddered. 'Oh please, Maddie, that's even worse than saying let's be friends. Don't you ever call me your pal, do you hear me?'
'Never mind,' she dismissed him and added stubbornly: 'We're not going to invite them together.' It sounded like We're not gonna take this case.
David sighed and folded his arms. 'That would be a mistake,' he insisted, trying to sound convincing. He couldn't believe that Maddie didn't see the obvious. 'It would embarrass them if they're supposed to bring somebody and want to come together instead. That's ridiculous.'
'You are being ridiculous!' she shot back. 'Just because you always see something beyond everything that in reality probably is nothing...'
'Yeah,' David interrupted, himself angry now, 'bad mistake I saw something and hallucinated you were interested in me back then, wasn't it?'
She snorted. 'Addison, you're a despicable...'
He cut her off with an abrupt wave of his left hand. 'How about we just ask them, Einstein?'
Virginia was upstairs with Davey as it was his feeding time. Alex had settled down in the living room in an armchair with his newspaper, had unfolded it and was intensely staring at it. He was not reading though – he was still too shocked by the news his wife had just given him, still refused to believe it. He had been sure that, when their daughter had left their home in Chicago, she had gone right back home to straighten things out with David, and his wife had never told him anything else. In fact, after a phone call shortly after Maddie's journey back home, she had confirmed that things were settled between them. And, to be honest, Alex had been glad about that. Granted, the circumstances under which he had met David during Maddie's stay in Chicago hadn't been the best, but their encounter had left Alex convinced that David was seriously and deeply in love with his daughter and that he was the right man, in fact, probably the only man on the face of the earth who could handle her and make her happy.
But obviously, for some reason even Virginia hadn't been able to explain to him, their prudent and rational daughter had decided to take a little detour over Las Vegas and had married a total stranger she had met on the train. And David, instead of completely freaking out at this blow, had organized a white wedding for the newlyweds. Which had ended in a disaster.
Alex, admitting it to himself now, had been unaware of how deep David's devotion to Maddie really went – he couldn't imagine that any other man would have put up with all this, would have taken her back after those escapades – any other guy would have dropped her like a hot potato long before. And yet, they were together now. Were getting married. Were happy. Definitely, David had risen in Alexander Hayes' esteem, and by a great deal.
All of a sudden, ripping him from his thoughts, the front door burst open violently. Maddie and David entered the house, vividly talking with their hands and high-pitched voices, obviously fighting. Neither of them saw him.
His daughter yelled: 'Maybe we should call the whole thing off!'
David, his anger obviously matching hers, yelled back: 'Yeah, maybe we should!'
She slammed the front door with a force that seemed to make the house shake. 'What do you mean by the whole thing?'
David raised his hands abruptly, as in defense. 'I didn't say the whole thing! You said the whole thing!'
'And you agreed!' Maddie shot back.
David snorted sarcastically, and when he spoke, his voice was a nuance calmer. 'Well, not sure 'bout you, Blondie, but I meant only the reception. No way you'll wriggle out of this shindig!'
Maddie pointed her right index finger at him like a gun. 'You neither!'
He stared at her with a piercing green look. 'Fine.'
For a moment, they measured each other with angry, confused stares, asking How did this happen? David's jawbone tightened. After a few seconds, he turned around and headed for the kitchen. 'I'm making coffee,' he announced quietly.
'Don't count me in!' Maddie yelled at his back.
He disappeared with a wordless slam of kitchen door. Maddie threw her hands up in the air in frustration, growled and stomped into the living room, throwing herself on the couch, still not noticing her father in the armchair at the window. 'Unbelievable!' she hissed.
Alex cleared his throat. 'Is it a bad moment to ask David to count me in?'
Maddie almost jumped. 'Oh!' she exclaimed. 'You scared me. Sorry, Daddy, I didn't mean anybody to hear that.'
He got up and walked over to the couch, sitting down by her side. 'What's the matter, honey?'
Maddie shrugged. 'Oh, nothing! It's just that...' She clenched her fists and made a growling noise. 'Sometimes I really ask myself if I'm doing the right...' she let her voice trail off, fell silent, paused. Then, a deep sigh. 'No, of course I don't.'
Alex put an arm around her shoulders, at first not knowing what to say, and she leaned her head against him, closing her eyes for a moment; then she sat upright again and looked at him. 'Do you know what the hardest thing is?'
Alex raised his right hand and stroke her hair lightly. This was his beloved daughter, and he knew how much she mirrored him in her stubbornness. Virginia had always been the softer, the balancing influence in the Hayes family, with her strong ability to handle both her thick-headed husband and daughter, without them ever noticing that they were being handled. Suddenly he understood his wife's affinity with their future son-in-law.
He cleared his throat and offered softly: 'When you know they are right, and you just can't admit it – you know you should, but you just can't.'
They shared a long and understanding look, exchanging feeble smiles around their mouths and eyes, softening their features. 'But why, Daddy?' Maddie finally asked in a small voice.
Alex shrugged. 'Because, like everybody else, we're not perfect.' He paused. 'Even if we might think we are.' He winked at his daughter, lowering his voice to a whisper. 'But shhhh – we won't tell them.'
She gave a little girlish laughter. 'Oh, Daddy...' She hugged him. 'I'm afraid they already know.'
Her father kissed her forehead and nodded solemnly. 'Yes, they know. They always did.'
In a determined effort, Maddie visibly pulled herself together, rising from the couch to her feet. She drew a deep breath and cleared her throat. 'So... do you still want this coffee?'
Alex raised his eyebrows. 'Do you think you can put in a good word for me?'
She nodded with a smile. 'Sure.'
When she entered the kitchen, David was still rummaging in the closets and cupboards, his back to the door. By his movements you could tell he was still a upset. When he heard the door open, he froze in mid-movement but didn't turn around.
Maddie cleared her throat again. 'Is it too late to ask for a cup?'
David turned around slowly to look at her, and eyed her a bit grimly, but not really unfriendly. 'Changed your mind, huh?'
She shrugged and tried to sound casual. 'It's not for me, it's for my father.'
He raised one questioning eyebrow. 'You sure you don't want one?'
She smiled a bit sheepishly. 'Well, maybe a little cup.'
'Comin' right up.' He turned around again.
After a short, silent pause Maddie sighed. 'David?'
'Do you really think Terri and Walter would like to attend our wedding together?' she asked.
He turned around again slowly, a serious, but open expression on his face. 'Yes, I really believe that,' he nodded.
Maddie tilted her head slightly to the right. 'They'd make a weird couple, wouldn't they?'
'Weird?' David echoed.
'Well... your ex Lamaze partner and my ex husband, attending our wedding together...' she let the sentence hang unfinished in the air.
David shrugged. 'So what? We're not the picture-book couple either, right? Besides – remember, your marriage has been annulled which means legally you have never been married. So, he's not really your ex-husband.' David winked at her and added amiably: 'But if you have doubts, we should simply ask them. Where's the problem? They're our friends.'
She shook her head slowly. 'No, that won't be necessary. I trust your instincts.'
David was taken by surprise and raised his eyebrows. 'You what? Since when?'
She smiled a wonderful, sincere smile that simply took his breath away and swept him off his feet. 'Since the day you insisted it did mean something that there were numbers engraved in that dead punk's fake watch.'
Almost automatically, his lips curled into his half-smile, and his voice sounded a bit funny. 'Really?'
She nodded solemnly. 'Really.'
His eyes were glittering and twinkling. 'Do you still wanna call the whole thing off?' he asked playfully.
'Do you?' she asked back.
He shook his head, still smiling. 'None of it.'
He nodded. 'Good.'
She beamed. 'Good.'
He beckoned her towards him with a slight nod of his head. 'Come over here, knucklehead.'
Maddie didn't suppress her smile, instead she walked over to him, slowly, hands on her hips, and when she was within reach, he pulled her close. When she spoke, her tone was menacing, in a playful way. 'Whom are you calling knucklehead?'
He tightened his embrace. 'Oh c'mon, you know that you love it.'
She placed her hands on his shoulders. 'I'm still here, so I guess I do.' She winked at him, totally at ease with their banter. 'Kind of.'
David tucked a streak of hair behind her ear and remarked softly: 'You know, Blondie, you never fail to amaze me.'
'Well... I wouldn't wanna bore you.'
'Bore me?' he repeated in disbelief. 'Bore me? Boy, you are a knucklehead. You could never bore me.' He leaned in for a kiss, and she eagerly met him halfway.
'You know,' she said slowly when their lips parted again, 'I'm still not convinced about Walter and Terri.'
He grinned with twinkling eyes. 'Wanna bet?' he purred.
'On other people's relationships?' Maddie cried out. 'David, that's disgusting!'
He shrugged. 'Well, betting on our own would be kinda unfair, right? Besides – where's the point as we'd be betting on the same upshot.'
'Are you sure we would?' she teased.
He smirked. 'You betcha.'
That moment, Alex entered the kitchen, quickly scanning the scene, obviously to check if they were alright. He was pleased to see they were indeed. He cleared his throat. 'Do you... uhm... need help with that coffee?'
David, reluctantly, let go of Maddie who smiled at her father. Alex smiled back, an almost conspiratorial smile. 'No, it's just ready,' David announced, pouring a cup and handed it over to Maddie's father. 'First cup for you.'
'Thank you.' Alex took a sip and nodded almost enthusiastically. He raised the cup. 'This coffee... tastes great,' he declared, obviously wanting to say something nice to David.
Maddie suppressed a smile. David nodded, slightly confused. 'Okay... always at your service.' For a moment, several glances flew across the kitchen between the three of them, questioning, understanding, affectionate glances. Then David broke the silence, clearing his throat. 'Well, I better check out if the proud Grandma fancies a cup too...'
The next day, David and Maddie took their son with them to the office, as they had gotten used to, leaving Alex and Virginia some time for themselves. Virginia had announced she'd planned to do a bit of shopping, and Alex had heroically offered to accompany his wife. They wanted to drop by at Blue Moon in the late afternoon to pick Maddie and Davey up.
It was the day when David's brother Richie would arrive, and David had planned a lunch out with him to talk about the ceremony – as Richie was to be David's best man. A visit to the parish office was also on their schedule.
Shortly before noon, David went to the airport to pick up Richie and, after having him check in at his downtown hotel, brought him to Blue Moon so he could greet Maddie and his nephew.
Maddie was always pleased to see him; somehow he reminded her of a big, clumsy puppet, even though he was a few years older than David he always seemed the younger one. 'Richard!' she exclaimed, beaming. 'It's so good to see you!'
They hugged. 'Maddie!' Richie replied in his deep voice. 'And it's always good to see you, especially when the occasion is one of your infamous weddings...'
Before Maddie could react, David, who was standing nearby, punched his brother hard on the upper arm. 'Hey, shut up, jackass!'
'Addison!' Maddie snapped.
David and Richie looked at her and replied in unison: 'What?'
Maddie rolled her eyes.
After a sandwich for lunch, Maddie fed the baby and changed his diapers, then she went to David's office where the crib was placed, so that she could make a few phone calls in the afternoon without disturbing Davey's sleep.
Agnes looked at the closed office door and hummed absentmindedly, smiling, waiting for the telephone to ring. Her rhymes were full of poetry these happy days. When she felt a breeze from the opening glass door brush her curls, she turned her head and smiled her best Agnes-smile to greet the visitor.
It took her not more than a fraction of a second to recognize the good-looking man standing before her desk, smiling at her with blue eyes. 'Hello,' he said.
Agnes' features froze in shock, and her eyes almost popped out. Slowly, she rose from her chair and felt a growl rise from deep within her guts, up towards her throat.
To be continued...
Goodnight Sweetheart – Calvin Carter & James „Pookie" Hudson, sung by The Spaniels
Goodnight My Love – George Motola & John Marascalco, sung by Jesse Belvin
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't (My Baby) – Louis Jordan & Billy Austin, sung by B. B. King (or, also much adorably, by Tom Cat in Solid Serenade – my secret fave)