C.C. stifled a sigh as she dropped her bags unceremoniously on the bedroom floor. She ran a hand over her slightly swollen belly as a wave of discomfort spread through her stomach; she was uncertain of whether it was a result of her pregnancy or of the overwhelming anxiety she was experiencing from finally meeting Niles' family.
"Mum really loved you," Niles was saying. C.C. didn't have the heart to admit that she was still unsure of whether this were true. "I can't wait for Dad to get back from the market so he can meet you too."
C.C. plastered on the best smile she could muster and nodded her head in quiet agreement. Niles, however, could not miss the dullness in her eyes, the tension evident in her body as she moved, or the small wrinkle on her forehead that emerged whenever she was particularly worried about something. He was silent as he moved to her, slipped his arms around her waist from behind, and rested his chin on her shoulder.
"I know you're not yet convinced," he whispered to her, "but you'll see. How could they not love you?"
Niles felt her become even more tense as he said this. She could not hide the fear that spread across her face.
"I'm not exactly the easiest person to love," C.C. spoke hoarsely.
Niles felt a tightening in his chest and, surprisingly to him, a sudden urge to cry.
"Don't say that," he replied, drawing her closer to him.
C.C. meant to pull away from him, but she found that she did not seem to have the energy or courage to move.
"It's true," she said in a small voice.
"No, it's not," he assured her. "Loving you is the easiest thing I know..."
"Don't get mushy with me," she warned, wriggling somewhat in his grasp, as if signaling that she wanted to be released.
Niles paid no heed to her silent request of freedom and instead again held her tighter.
"What if they don't like me?"
"But what if they don't?"
"Then I don't care what they think, because I'm keeping you."
The light, joyful laughter that bubbled out of his wife was a delight to Niles' ears. C.C. opened her mouth in reply but was cut off by her mother-in-law's call from downstairs.
"Niles, your father is home!"
Niles took C.C.'s hands within his own and kissed her jawbone softly.
"I love you," he whispered.
It was all the assurance she hoped she would need.
To be continued