Dylan followed Olivia into the kitchen where Jade was loading dishes into the dish washer. For now it was only the three of them awake in the house.
"Amanda told me to give you this." Dylan informed Jade, taking a plate from Jade's hand and replacing it with the gift. "And what do you think you're doing?"
Jade glanced at the present before answering him. "Loading the dishwasher before the other kids wake up – like I always do."
"On your birthday?" Dylan objected. "Did the decorations not give you the hint that it was a special day?"
"Honestly," Jade confessed sheepishly. "I had forgotten until Dad reminded me."
"You forgot sweet sixteen? I thought that was a big deal for girls. That's just wrong. All right, you know what? Today is your day off. No dishes, no laundry, no cooking, nothing. Are we clear?"
Jade grinned at the young man before her. "Yes, sir, Corporal, sir!"
Dylan and Olivia took over the dishes and Jade hopped up to sit on the counter, ripping open the striped wrapping paper covering her gift. Dylan looked up at her when she gasped. A portion of sunflower yellow fabric shone through the wrapping. Dylan stood up straight and watched as Jade unfurled an A-line sundress from the packaging.
"It's so pretty!" she gasped. "I love it!"
Dylan smiled at her obvious delight. "Well, go put it on then."
"I can't wear this while I take care of the kids." She objected.
"But you're not taking care of the kids today, remember?"
"You want me to go change right now?"
"Yes, right now."
She laughed at him and jumped down off the counter, dashing into the bathroom to change. When she reemerged, she was grinning from ear to ear. She stopped in the middle of the kitchen and held the skirt of the dress out like a wingspan.
"What do you think?" she asked.
"You look like a princess!" Olivia informed her cheerfully.
"Why, thank you." Jade giggled like a school girl.
"Can I go play outside?" Olivia asked out of the blue.
"Yeah, sure." Dylan gave her permission and the bright-eyes imp darted outside.
He turned back to Jade when she whispered, "I had forgotten what it's like to feel pretty."
"Well, you are." Dylan informed her. "Dress or T-shirt. And, hey," Dylan grabbed the jewelry box that he had retrieved while she had been changing. "One more thing. This is my present to you."
He held it out to her and she took it, looking at him oddly. "Do you want me to open it now?" He nodded and she complied, gasping again when she saw the box's contents. "Isn't this a claddagh ring?" He nodded again. "And you know what these rings stand for?"
He smiled at her. "I do."
"Good." Jade slid the ring out of its box and onto her right hand, heart pointing towards her wrist, to symbolize the fact that she was in a relationship, that her heart had been "captured."
She grinned shyly up at Dylan through her eyelashes and he smiled right back. She gave him a kiss on the cheek and his smile widened.
"Third time is the charm." Dylan whispered hoarsely.
Isabel giggled from the doorway of the kitchen. Dylan and Jade both whipped around to look guiltily at her and Marcos.
"Now you have two rings." Isabel pointed out.
"Yeah." Jade looked down at her purity ring on her left hand, running her fingertips over the diamond-studded heart. "Yeah, I do."
Adam put his truck in park in his driveway, looking at Nathan sitting shotgun. "So, you ready to go see what they've gotten themselves into today?"
"That depends on what 'they' you're talking about."
A smile flitted around the corners of Adam's mouth. "Our teenagers."
"Aren't we waiting until tonight to give Jade her presents?" David asked from the back seat of the truck, having been informed by Nathan of the ring.
"I doubt that he would want to give it to her in front of everybody. I figure he's all ready done it sometime today." Adam informed the other deputies.
Nathan sighed and opened the door on his side of the truck. "Let's go see how much damage he's done to my little girl."
"Hey!" Adam objected, getting out as well. "I resent that!"
"And I resent what that ring is leading to."
"What is that supposed to mean?"
"I did a little research of my own on claddagh rings today."
"No," David corrected. "You had me do it for you and tell you what I found."
"Well, what did you find?" Adam asked.
Nathan answered, "Dylan said it was a friendship ring. And for his purposes it had better be. But it can also be an engagement or wedding ring."
"See, now what that is, is smart money management. He buys one ring and they use it for three purposes over the next, oh, seventy something years."
Nathan smiled. The thought didn't bother him as much as he made it seem like it did.
But three hundred and sixty-five days later, he would have a hard time reminding himself of that.
Okay, so I'm ending this story here, but I fully intend to write a sequel. Please review and tell me what you thought. Thank you in advance! This story is over twice the size of my (now) second-largest story. :)