AN: I still want to write that Cate getting Lux back when she's young, but I have to be honest, I'm a little confused as to the actual ages/grade Baze and Cate were in. 16 or 17? Sophmore or juniors?
This story: Giant monologue from Lux with scenes that she may or may not have been a part of.
We take pictures, we frame moments. These milliseconds seem to be what define our lives. Graduations, wedding days, family trips. They let us look back on our lives through rose colored glasses or at least glossy, high resolution glasses. Our memories are rarely as crisp as those images; we forget the smaller moments that define us. The baby steps that lead us to those images.
The last photo I took with Cate and Ryan when they were still married. By the camera on self-timer on top of the car, they were smiling and had their fingers crossed. All looks shiny and happy in their world. There are no pictures to show Cate's face when she walked into the bar just hours later. There are no pictures of Ryan's face when he walked down the stairs and out of the bar when his face said more than his words did. No pictures of Baze's face when he realized something was truly wrong and how he took the stairs two at a time.
Those were the moments that defined us.
When our world wasn't perfect and we couldn't hide our flaws.
Cate stayed with us at the bar, in Baze's apartment.
There are no pictures of her hair a mess, bags under her eyes, lost in a mixture of Baze's sweats and my pajamas. No pictures of her and Baze sideways on the couch as she leaned against him and he just held her. These weren't millisecond moments, but moments that lasted for hours.
The moments of Baze being so ridiculous in the kitchen that Cate couldn't help, but laugh. There was a picture or two of them dancing like idiots when I came home and found them playing Just Dance, though those seemed have mysteriously vanished off my cell phone, luckily I had already backed them up on my hard drive. There were never any of the random moments they broke out in song or of Baze when he tried to twirl Cate and spun her over the sofa. Or even just the hours spent sitting in front of the tv, not mentioning Ryan's name or the baby.
Those were the moments that healed Cate though.
The moments that made her brave enough to see Ryan at work and convince Portland that all was fine when it wasn't.
Maybe it wasn't that the imperfect parts of us make people love us more, though Cate was surprisingly more relatable when she looked worse than I felt. Maybe it was that in these broken moments we have no choice, but to let others in and we see the love we had denied or limited.
We moved back to Cate's house, after a drunken night and noises that would have sent me to therapy, as if I needed any more reasons. Because Cate and Baze drinking, yea that's always a great idea. Your parents drunkenly making out always bad, even if they think you're asleep. Then there was this weird moment when Baze stopped them as they almost made it into his room and I lifted the pillow from off my head as I realized the noises had stopped. Baze stopping Cate, then desperately trying to explain when she was furious. Well let's just say, if I hadn't already been awake, I would have been then.
Then of course, that weird awkward, everything's fine stage.
One night Cate went out with Alice and Baze was at the bar with Math, I've heard the story from all four of them. Cate was apparently drunk and trying to prove her worth as a female, by getting guys to pay attention to her. Alice texted something to Math about Cate going off the deep end, Math mentioned it to Baze and the next thing Math knew Baze was kicking everyone out of the bar and closing down for the night. That's when they had one of those, 'defining' moments, the kind caught quickly by an iPhone. Baze telling her he didn't want to be a rebound, he didn't want to be another drunken hookup, he just needed her to be patient and not run off and marry another guy before he could make it to the church. That he was the one in love with her. There is no picture of Baze in Cate's kitchen eating cereal in his boxers or Cate's telling me we needed to talk the next morning.
"What are you doing?" Baze ran his hands through his hair as he pulled Cate off to the side to talk.
"I'm having fun, we're single ladies. Woo!" Cate lifted her drink, luckily or not it was almost empty.
"No one woos anymore."
"Well I do."
"God Cate, what are you doing?"
"I'm getting on with my life Baze."
"Is this because of-"
"Oh don't think you're so special. What are you doing here anyway?"
"I'm here because Math got a text saying that you were making out with strangers."
"I was so not making out with him," her head rolled. Then she stopped and glared at Baze, "What would it matter if I was?"
"Cate-" his head cocked and tensed.
Hers tilted right back.
"You need to look before you leap."
"You mean like getting in the back of your mom's minivan?"
"That is-" he nodded, "okay you know what. Fine that is what I mean. We rushed things and yea, we got Lux 16 years later, but maybe if one of us had actually stopped and been an adult we could have done normal things before we had a teenager together. You know like date."
Her mouth was open as she was in a full on dead glare, "Oh you are not one-"
"I can totally say that because I did it twice with you. We drink, we have sex and everything goes to shit."
"So you're saying that sex with me is shit?"
"No." He grabbed her arms and pulled her close, his voice lowering even further, "I'm saying that I very much enjoy sex with you and I would like to do it for more one night and without you hating me the next day."
"So you need to just give us time. You are still married and I just broke up with Emma and so help me god Cate if I have to race to another church-" Baze stopped himself.
"I was in love with you then Cate," Baze plainly admitted. "There weren't any mixed emotions or confusion because of Lux. It wasn't the right thing to do because the right thing was letting you get on with Prince Charming-" he looked down to see her smiling up at him, "what?"
"You love me."
"I said that out loud," he nodded uncomfortably. Then started to smile as he realized she still was, then as hers began to falter so did his. "What?"
"Lux," Cate's eyes closed, "we've put her through so much already. We can't-"
Baze took a step in closer, "We don't rush things. We take it nice and slow. Let Lux get used to the thought. Let us get used to the thought. Promise to always put her first." His thumb moved of its own accord across Cate's lips.
"If she's not okay with this-"
"Then we don't go any further," they were basically atop of each other at this point. Baze's head was down, Cate's was tilted up. They met in a soft kiss. "Where is Lux?" Baze said pulling back.
"The entire night?" Baze bit his lip.
"Yea," the simple word left Cate's mouth.
"Huh," his eyes lifted up briefly, seeking strength.
"We could start slow tomorrow."
"Yea," Baze nodded and grabbed her hand, pulling her out of the bar.
You don't take photos of eating breakfast, watching a movie or coming into the room to say goodnight. There's a picture or two of my parents helping me study, but mostly that was for Cate to send to Math and Baze's mom and the one time with both of them Math took claiming to show it at their high school reunion.
There are pictures of the day we moved in completely with Baze. There are pictures of him clinging to some absolutely horrific item, according to Cate, while someone is trying to get him to part with it. There are pictures of us all covered in paint as we changed the walls to go with Cate's furniture.
There are no pictures of all the nights we would hear Baze's heavy footsteps coming into Cate's house after the bar had closed. No pictures of the night we decided to move in with him.
They were well into their Nightmare on Elm Street marathon. The fourth and had been threatening since the second to all be sharing a bed with Baze that night. As it was when he walked in, the floor held a jumble of pillows and comforters. He had smiled with them as they told him that and sat down on the couch. Within minutes Cate had jumped up to go join him on the couch as the music started.
Lux immediately turned around at the worry in Cate's voice. She laughed, "I'm never going to sleep again and he's already out."
"He just sat down."
"Guess he was tired," Lux shrugged.
"And he drove all the way over here?"
"It's not that far."
Cate smacked his leg as she sat next to him.
"Hmm? What?" He shot awake.
"You fell asleep."
"Sorry," he yawned, "I'm exhausted tonight. You should rub my head," he suddenly stretched out and Cate was soon trapped as his head hit her lap and his arm wrapped around her legs.
"Do guys really not outgrow that?" Lux asked with a frown.
"Has Baze outgrown anything?" Cate questioned.
"Being a man whore," Lux chirped.
Baze smacked her leg.
"Go to bed Baze," Cate ordered him.
"I think that was a no," Lux nodded.
"Yea I got that," Cate nodded back and let her hands go into this thick, dark hair.
Half the movie passed before Lux turned around to see Cate looking lost in her thoughts, "Ice cream?" Lux prompted.
"Free me?" Cate smiled and Lux quickly jumped up to help.
"Ooomph, he's dead weight," Lux said trying to lift Baze's upper half as he had sprawled across Cate.
"I think he weighs more than both of us put together," Lux groaned as Cate slid and rolled out from him.
"He's got to be pretty close," Cate agreed on a puff of breath. Both females letting out a sigh as Cate was free and Baze was on the sofa alone.
"I'm pretty impressed you didn't roll him off you," Lux nodded as they headed into the kitchen.
Cate shrugged, she had certainly done than more than a few times, "He was tired."
"So what's wrong?" Lux asked pulling out the ice cream as Cate pulled out the spoons.
"What would you think about just living at the apartment?" Cate spoke quickly before she lost her nerve.
"Like both of us live with Baze?"
Cate grimaced, but nodded.
"Wow," Lux's eyes went wide.
"He works late, so I mean…"
"But your house."
"No one can afford to buy, so everyone needs to rent, so it's not like I'd have to sell-"
"Not there yet?"
"I'm willing to agree to live above a bar."
"Fair enough. You know Baze would move in here," Lux commented since he had made more than a few remarks about how ridiculous it was all of them carting their stuff everywhere.
Cate nodded. "Driving here at 3 in the middle of winter," she shrugged and took a spoonful of ice cream.
"You are so ridiculously in love with Baze," Lux laughed.
"Can we please not-"
"No, seriously it took Ryan how many years to get to move into your house and you're just going to move in with Baze, live above a bar."
"Okay you know what," Cate stood, "this was a bad idea. I'm sorry I mentioned it."
"Mentioned what?" Baze walked into the room squinting and rubbing his eyes.
Cate's mouth shot open, "Noth-"
"Do you want us to move in with you above the bar?" Lux refused to let Cate backslide.
Baze stopped walking, his hand shifted to the side of his head so he could see them clearly. "Is this some sort of weird girl test?"
"Cate is worried about you driving over here tired."
Cate glared at her daughter.
Baze felt his lips tugging up in a smile, "She is?"
"I hate you," Cate looked directly across at her child.
"So whose idea-" Baze started walking towards them again.
"Oh it was hers," Lux out-ed her mother.
"Really?" Baze continued grinning coming up behind Lux at the counter, hugging his daughter from behind, "You're a good child."
"I beg to differ," Cate glared.
"I don't mind driving here," his body betrayed him as he yawned again. "It's almost four; I'm allowed to be tired."
"Exactly why Cate thinks we should move in with you and not the other way around," Lux's head tilted back to share with Baze.
"See so Baze is-" Cate was ready to support their continued arrangement.
"Oh, I don't think so," Baze said stealing Lux's spoon full of ice cream.
"Hey!" Lux frowned and moved to grab a new spoon.
"Is that strawberry shortcake?"
"It's our new addiction," Lux nodded.
"How do girls always know about these things?" Baze took another spoonful.
"Probably because we go to the store more than once a month," Cate rolled her eyes.
"So where are we living?" Baze said leaning onto the counter.
"It was a momentary lapse of judgment-"
"We had a kid that way, why not live together that way?" He smiled across at Cate.
"And I'm going back to the movie," Lux pulled the ice cream out from the middle of her parents. "Let me know what you figure out!"
There are pictures that show the happy place we got to or at least the smiles we were able to plaster on for the day. There are no pictures that show the day Ryan's son was born and how Baze showed up at our front door with Alice hot on his heels. There are no pictures that caught Ryan's reaction, when Baze acting like a teenager left a hickey on my mom's neck that she didn't notice when running out of the house and Ryan was the one to discover it. Baze calling in to defend their actions definitely didn't help. They did get great ratings though and gained more advertisers than they lost. Or the day that Ryan decided to announce on the air that Cate was moving in with Baze.
"So tomorrow is a big day for Cate folks," Ryan smiled into the microphone.
"Ryan, don't," she tried to keep her voice light.
"Cate is moving in with her boyfriend after only what is it, four months Cate? Oh wait no four months ago we were still married."
"Were being the operative word Ryan and I'm sure our listeners remember that our divorce was official last month and they're sick of hearing about it."
"Well why don't we see about that," Ryan kept up the phony grin and answered the first call.
Ryan moved in with Jules and their son eventually, after he proved to her that she was the one he wanted. Everyone managed to keep the smiles on their face for that housewarming. There are moments that deserve cameras that you wish afterwards that the moment was recorded in time. Like the first time a child crawls or walks or calls for their mother when they want her attention.
"Hey Mom," Lux said walking out of her room, Math's old room, she had declared it the least scheevy of her choices.
The word stopped Cate in her tracks, she had already begun the motion to spin back on her heel as her daughter began to talk, but she was frozen staring at Lux.
"Thanks for the pillows, I'm sorry I snapped."
Lux nodded, she had been working herself up to the word for months, "Is that okay?"
Cate nodded, not trusting herself to speak without crying. She couldn't stay quiet for long, "It's just-" tears started to fall.
"I'm your only kid, you're my only mom and I think it's safe to say we piss each other off as much any of the girls in my class and their moms. So Mom. It's time," Lux nodded as she said all the words in one breath.
Cate made the 'trying to keep a cry in' face.
"Are you okay?"
"I'm great," Cate creaked out and then decided to give up any pretense and covered her daughter in a hug.
"What happened?" Baze asked walking in with a worried look moments later.
"She's going to call me Mom," Cate cried.
He looked confused, then he smiled, then confused again, "She gets Mom and I'm Baze."
"You get Dad," Lux smirked.
He joined in the group hug, "She got Mom first?" He questioned a few seconds later.
"Umbilical cord," the females responded in unison.
We see the pictures from Christmas my senior year. The holiday party my mom decided to throw at the apartment. We see my parents under the mistletoe. We see Jones giving me a Claddagh ring. We see Jamie and his girlfriend, the same girlfriend from all pictures taken across several prior months. We see Math putting a baby's santa costume on Alice's non-existent stomach. We don't see Mom weeks prior coming to terms with that, while trying to smile to everyone, while Baze and I knew it killed her because Alice's excitement over her baby was the same my mom had felt a year earlier.
"I am, I am happy for them," Cate turned away from Baze in the kitchen.
"But nothing," she shook her head, "they're our friends, they're having a baby. Really soon after they started dating."
"We have a daughter from a one night stand."
Cate rolled her eyes.
"Still not funny?"
"Not at all."
"Okay," he said sliding an arm around her waist and pulling her to him, cradling her back against his chest, "I know you're not upset about how quickly they're having a child. Is this about your miscarriage?"
"I can't have more kids, it is what it is," Cate spoke simply.
He tensed she noticed.
"I don't want more kids Baze, it's just- I didn't want to get pregnant in the first place last year, but I mean I," Cate took a breath and continued, safe to speak this to him and only him, "I didn't want to be pregnant with Lux and she ended being the best thing in my life. Alice is so happy and excited and," Cate sighed, "I don't know."
"All the smelly baby diaper stuff?"
"I don't know," she repeated.
"You know it's not like we're old. Half the people we went to high school with still don't have kids. There are surrogates and adoption."
"We have a daughter graduating high school in 6 months."
"Exactly and do you know what that means?"
"What?" Cate laughed as he got handsy.
"We are months away from getting to walk around naked in our home. And you want to know the best part?"
"What?" Cate smiled as he turned her in his arms.
"Our bodies still look good. Yours actually looks spectacular," he started to tug up the dress she had worn to dinner with Alice and Math. Her shoes and stockings had been pulled off the moment they walked in the door.
She struggled to keep a straight face.
"We," he walked her backwards until her back was against the fridge, "can do things like have sex in the kitchen," he lifted her against the fridge.
"Ruining the moment," his mouth went to her neck.
"They're paper, they'll flatten," he separated and looked at her.
"Fine," he said holding her tighter to him. He carried her over to the sofa and let her go with a devious smile a few inches above.
"What now?" Baze frowned, but started unbuttoning his shirt anyway. They had an empty apartment, it was not going to waste.
"Lux's hairbrush," Cate said as she pulled it out.
"Yea," Baze said pulling it out of her hand and chucking it across the floor, "about what I said before. No more kids. Between your stuff and Lux's stuff. We'd have to move into a mansion for a baby," he shoved his pants down; Cate did her best to keep a straight face for his rant. "Three grown men lived here and we had enough space with you two I spent ten minutes this morning looking for my body wash. I smell like a rose."
"Actually you smell like a hibiscus."
"The point is, we're done, we're free," he nodded as he stood in his boxer briefs. "When our friends are 50 and worrying about the SATs we are-"
"Going to be visiting our grandchildren?"
He stopped and stared at her with a blank face as she continued her attempts at keeping a straight face. "You're actually not fun tonight, I'm not sure I want to sleep with you," he turned his back on her and walked away.
"Oh come on Baze," Cate called out.
"Nope," he waved a hand in the air.
"Baze," she went after him reaching him as he stared into the fridge. "Baze," she placed a hand on his bare back.
"I can't believe you fell for that," he said with a smile as he lifted her and pinned her once more to the fridge.
We see the big moments in these photos, but we don't see the smaller. We don't see the countless hours they spent studying with me. The way my mom proofed all of my papers and then went over every single red mark. My dad quizzing me from index cards and text books while we ate. My dad likes to say he finally earned his diploma by helping me get mine, my mom without fail remarks that he was a meathead.
We see me and Tasha getting ready for prom, Jones picking me up, my father giving him the talk for probably the 50th time. We don't see how my mom scoured the city at the last minute when I realized my shoes looked horrible with my dress, coming home with 14 pairs of silver shoes. We don't see the times I caught my parents dancing in the living room as my mom was completely caught up in the event and my dad played into the moment. All those moments that made those big moments mean everything.
The picture of me standing with my parents at the front of a church. We see my mom sitting and leaning onto the bar in a vintage wedding gown, probably meant for afternoon tea. My father leaning across from behind it, the sleeves of his white shirt rolled up, his tie has been loosened. Most people wouldn't picture your parents talking across the bar as the perfect wedding picture, but somehow, for them it was. As they were caught in the moment, oblivious to the remaining guests around them. The guests are blurred, but my parents are finally perfectly in focus.
"Marry me," Baze whispered as Cate was waking up.
"Not normally the response."
"What did you ask?" Cate snuggled a little tighter into his side, wishing away the hangover she felt from Lux and Tasha's graduation party.
She was frowning as she looked up at him.
"Marry me," he said it with conviction this time.
"How much did you drink?"
"I'm being serious; I think we should get married."
"Because I love you? What kind of a question is that?"
"Fine," Cate said pushing up, "why now?" She pulled the sheet up with her.
"What do you mean why now? We've been together over a year."
"So just, let's get married."
"Is this because Math and Ryan didn't let you throw them bachelor parties?"
Baze scowled, "Camping," he muttered.
"Baze," Cate got her boyfriend back on track.
"You know this is not the normal reaction most females have," he sat up as well.
"First off, when have I ever been most females. Secondly, normally there's a ring and some sappy moment. Not you looking like you didn't sleep at all last night. Oh god, do you feel old because Lux just graduated?"
"Oh come on, like you don't," he nodded at her, "you think I didn't see all those little tubes you came home with?" He referred to the anti-aging products that had inundated their bathroom.
"Oh my god, you've totally been using them."
"Okay can we just get back on track. Why don't you want to marry me? I know you love me a hell of a lot more than you ever loved Ryan."
"I was with Ryan for six years and I didn't say I didn't want to marry you."
"You do?" An eyebrow lifted.
"I asked why you wanted to marry me first."
"Marry me, did you miss the question in that?"
"You are so infuriating."
"Trust me the feeling is mutual. So why now Baze? I mean Lux is legally a grownup, in 2 months she won't even be living with us-" Cate noticed his momentary reaction to that, "Oh my god that's what this is about. This is about Lux."
"This is not about Lux," he quickly snapped.
Cate's mouth hung open.
"This has never been about Lux. This is about us. Unless all of this has been about Lux to you."
She frowned not sure how to answer that question because honestly pretty much everything in their lives seemed to revolve around their daughter.
"I'm in love with you, not because you're Lux's mother, but because you're you."
"Do you think I'm only with you because of Lux?"
"No," he shook his head, he didn't, not really. "It's just, we made it," he shrugged.
"And now you don't know what we're supposed to do?"
"No," he shook his head. "This," he waved his hand between them, "this is what we're supposed to do. What I want to do. Is this what you want to do, without Lux, just you and me."
She resisted the nagging motherly concern about their daughter being truly separated from them and instead looked at Baze, looking desperate. "Yes," she kept her eyes locked with him.
"So are you going to marry me or do you want to be in our fifties still calling me your boyfriend."
"This really means that much to you?"
"Lux is supposed to leave. You know, that scares me, but I get that it's life, but Cate- The thought of you…"
"Yes," she whispered.
Photos don't always tell the story. Sometimes photos can go from one to two, sometimes they reverse and go from two to one. There are no captured images of that first magical moment or those torturous grief stricken moments. Sometimes we can see the change developing, the rounding stomach, the excited faces. Sometimes we see those excited faces without warning as 2 goes to 3.
"Fern," Baze smiled as the social worker walked into the sparsely populated bar, Tuesdays were never popular drinking days, "you missed us."
"You know what," she smiled, "I did."
"Can I get you a drink?"
He quickly filled the glass and placed it before her.
"What brings you by?"
"I'm meeting my husband up the street for dinner."
"The new curry place?"
"We went last week, it was good. Then again we went righter after Cate cooked so, pretty much anything tastes good."
Fern chuckled, "She still hasn't improved."
"You know it's weird. She can cook when she's not actually trying. The moment she wants to prepare something good," Baze flinched.
"So how is Lux doing at school?"
"A 3.4 fall semester," Baze smiled, "she is completely not my kid at all."
"I'm very impressed. You and Cate did an amazing job."
"We have an amazing kid," Baze grinned.
Fern just smiled for that.
"Cate sent you a thank you card for the wedding right?"
"She did," Fern nodded, "thank you for the picture of me and Lux. It's a nice reminder. That there can still be happy endings out there."
Baze again just smiled, he completely knew that. Just over 3 years ago he hadn't even been aware he was supposed to be looking for anything and then his future showed up on his doorstep.
"I have an ulterior reason for coming here."
"Lux is ours," he smiled, "you can't take her away."
"No it's just I had this file open when my husband called to mention the restaurant and ever since I got this case, I've been thinking of you and Cate."
Baze warily looked at her.
"You really are a great success story and I just wanted to see if you and Cate would ever be interested in becoming foster parents or adopt-"
"No," Baze shook his head, "definitely not."
"Okay," Fern quickly nodded, "see so now I know. So I don't need to think about it again."
"Well thank you for thinking we're so great, but Lux…Lux is-" he just nodded, it wasn't that there were no words to describe his daughter, but too many.
"Okay. Well like I said. I just figured I'd ask."
"So," Baze asked as he cleaned up after the man who had just left, "what made you think of me and Cate?"
"He's showing signs of being dyslexic, he's had some behavioral issues. It's just going to be hard to get him the kind of help he needs if he keeps changing foster homes. I've had him in 4 in the past two years."
"That's rough I'm sorry. Honestly Cate and I, we're-"
"No it's fine I got it. He just reminded me of you guys," Fern nodded again.
"I'm a little concerned that behavioral issues remind you of us."
Fern chuckled, "No he's just adorable. Floppy brown hair, big blue eyes that have this devilish spark," Fern grabbed at the photo peaking out of the side pocket of her purse. "Very you and Lux," she handed over the photo, "figured he could use someone like Cate to keep him on the straight and narrow," she smiled.
"He's just a kid," Baze said frowning at the photo.
"He turns five in May."
"Five," Baze continued to frown, "you said he was in a few foster homes already."
"Court took him away from his mom when he was two. His original foster parents wanted to adopt him, but it took forever to strip his parents of custody and then," she shrugged. "It's just one of those things aren't lining up for him, but don't worry. I'm not about to give up."
They both turned for the door and smiled at Raymond, Fern's husband, whom Baze had only met at the wedding. They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes before they were soon saying goodbye. It was only when they left did Baze notice the photo still on the bar in front of him.
You don't see jealousy in pictures, you don't see envy, you don't see regret. In photos we put our best face forward. We don't see the turmoil that comes before change.
"I hate Jamie," Baze said walking into the apartment, pulling the wet tee shirt off his head.
"What's going on down there?" Cate questioned, she was in her sweats and had no interest in exploring the noise herself.
"Bachelorette party, I don't think you want to go down there." Baze told her as he walked into their room.
"I will take your word on that."
"What are you looking at?" He asked walking back out wearing a new tee shirt and pulling on a button down.
"Lux when she was a little girl, there are not enough pictures," Cate let out a sad sigh.
"I know, I'm sorry," Baze walked over to the couch. Cate had done everything in her power prior to Lux's graduation to track down every single photo from her childhood. They had a few, but not enough.
"You're supposed to have pictures of growing up; you're supposed to have happy memories."
"Lux has happy memories," Baze moved to sit on the couch, hoping Jamie wouldn't let the bar fall apart in his absence.
"I wanted her to be raised by a doctor and his wife."
"A doctor and his wife? I think you just broke the heart of all those crazy feminists that listen-"
"A feminist is a woman who knows what she wants and knows she can do anything. I wanted Lux to have a mom that always wanted to be a mom and she'd do all the mom stuff: cooking, PTA, homemade costumes."
"Your standards were way too high for a mom."
"Yea at least me as a mom," Cate made a face. "But you know that's what you want for your kid, you should at least want to be that for your child. I knew I couldn't give that to Lux so I wanted someone else to."
"Because you're an amazing mother."
Cate gave him a half hearted smile.
"Please don't start this again."
"It's just all the people that turned down Lux because she had problems. That couple that turned their back on a baby because she had a hole in her heart, all of the other couples that wouldn't even look at her."
"But Lux is fine now," Baze took the book away from her and moved her into a crushing hug.
"She deserved that childhood, you know with soccer and summer camp, all kids deserve that."
"This is about that photo."
"Can you get him out of your head? Why did you show me that picture and why did you let me call Fern to say I was sorry I missed her?"
"Because I was hoping you'd make me feel better about the photo," he made a duh face.
She shook her head at him, "Go back to work," she ordered him.
"Stop looking at pictures and watch some sappy chick flick."
There aren't photos of the twisted moments of jealousy and guilt. Watching my parents be the kind of parents they eventually were to me to a new child, Declan. I was grateful, thankful and I adored him even from the start, but there was a jealousy I swore never existed. A jealousy I never felt watching other parents and children because they were my parents. There aren't photos of that though there aren't recorded conversations where I'm hateful and spiteful towards my parents without warning. There aren't photos of Deck's temper tantrums that could melt your brain, of my parents carting him around to school and appointments of my father sitting in a waiting room looking like he wanted to bash his skull in from boredom. All the small steps that built towards them being a family that built towards healing Declan just as they had healed me.
They were sitting at a light in Baze's truck, when Cate turned around with a smile, then a frown as she saw Lux and Tasha crushed into the backseat with Declan in his booster seat.
"Okay this is just ridiculous, you have to get a grown up vehicle."
"What are you talking about? This vehicle-"
"Should be in a nursing home."
Lux quickly began to defend the truck, "I love-"
"There is no way in hell you're getting this death trap-"
"This car has character."
"Yea and you want to know what that character says, I'm a twenty year old guy, who doesn't have a family to drive around."
"This car is like a tank, what-"
"Will you look at them Baze," Cate said with wide eyes.
Baze looked up in the rearview to see them in the backseat.
"Not a family vehicle."
"Two of those people are 19, they don't need me driving them around."
"I wouldn't if I had a car," Lux chirped.
"Lux we already decided you're getting my car," Cate silenced her daughter with the decision they had reached now that Lux was old enough to have a car on campus in the fall.
"Because Cate is getting a minivan to match her haircut."
She gave him a death glare, "You said you liked my hair."
"You don't need to cut off your hair every time we get a kid," he exclaimed.
"Oh he's dead," Tasha muttered.
"You are a middle aged father of two, you need to stop clinging to your youth."
"I am thirty-"
"You have a daughter in college and a son starting T-ball in a few weeks. Deal with it."
"You know what, we're here. Get out and if you have such a problem with my car then you can get a ride home from someone else," they stormed out of the car.
Lux smiled over at Tasha, "I'm getting a car."
"Daddy gonna get a car with tvs too?" Declan asked nonplussed by the argument between his parents.
"Probably," Lux nodded as she unclipped him.
No one made a single joke about the SUV he ended up with months later that looked like it was a tall station wagon. There are changes that happen, changes that you think go against the core of everything you are, but you learn to adapt because of those you love. We forget them over time, maybe we never even notice them in the first place, the sacrifices, the changes people make because of those they love. Declan remembers the long road trips we took in the new SUV, all of his friends piling in after whatever sport he was in for the season and the car taking them out for pizza and ice cream. Getting the SUV that seemed excessive just for the few days of the year we would spend together, unaware of how one day the size would be needed. How the extra room in the house they bought would one day be required.
"I'm exhausted," Cate said walking into the house after work to see Lux at her laptop.
"You went to bed at like 8."
"You don't understand being old."
"Mom, you're not that old."
"Yet I'm going through menopause," Cate collapsed into a chair.
Lux stopped typing, "Already?"
"Yea, I googled it. Awesome right?"
Lux bit back a laugh.
"Don't laugh, this sucks trust me."
"You're seriously going through menopause."
"Eh perimenopause. Same thing. Like really? Can't just be menopause? I have to get a warning that I'm getting old?"
Again Lux bit back a laugh.
"Still not funny."
"So are you getting like hot flashes?"
"Thankfully no I have not gotten that joy yet. If I could sleep through this though…"
"I'm sorry Mom, do you want me to pick up Deck from school."
"Not at all, it's Baze's day."
"So perimenopause," Lux said as she googled the term. "Vaginal dryness? Seriously."
"Okay you know I don't have that one. Fun things to look forward to."
"Ugh, I don't even want to think about that. Wow sex drive…Really don't want to think about that one…"
"Okay so moody," Lux laughed at her mother, "um Mom changes in sleep does not mean you're falling asleep everywhere. It's supposed to mean you can't fall asleep."
"Tired is tired."
"So you're tired, moody and I'm guessing your period is off?" Lux asked after a moment.
"I'm old," Cate said closing her eyes.
"Um you know there's actually another diagnosis for that."
Cate slowly opened her eyes.
Lux kept looking at her.
Cate frowned after a moment, "Oh shit," she said shooting forward.
"You're up now.
We don't take pictures when supposedly happy moments aren't happy. There are no pictures to show the vacant look on my father's face, sitting up in the living room when I returned home from my shift at the bar. The pained look on my mother's hiding behind her smile as she got my brother ready for school. The relief as I offered to take Deck so they could drop the masquerade. The pictures we take for the next 8 months do their best to look happy, but there is long three month period where Cate is in no pictures outside of our house or the hospital. My parents look older than their years in these pictures, they finally look old enough to be my parents. Then suddenly the years melt off, the tension is broken and my parents are allowed to return to their true state of being. They have the picture they never had with me or Declan. Two happy and exhausted parents gazing at their newborn. Pictures of my father pointing at baby Gabriel's fair hair with a confused face, then giving my mother a pointed look. Followed up by a video monologue that pointed out all their similarities, I still don't see the ears.
There are no pictures of the three breakups Jones and I had from high school to after college. The look on his face and the feeling in my heart when he said he was coming back for me. We needed time to learn and grow on our own and not just keep falling back into the familiar relationship we were so used to. In my heart I had always believed that somewhere down the line our lives would meet up again, and we would be like my parents, only we didn't.
There are definitely no pictures from when mine and Tasha's drunk cyber stalking of Eric and where he had disappeared to finally paid off. No photographic evidence when we drove out to Corvallis, he had settled only an hour and a half away. We both moved back to Oregon the year earlier. Only he had settled into a house with a wife and I had settled back into the apartment above the bar with Tasha, after my mom had Gabe.
"Everyone gets this once right?" Eric smiled across the table at her.
Lux looked at him confused, she had expected him to say something when Tasha left the table for the bathroom, but she wasn't quite sure what he was saying.
"The whole star crossed thing, the person that you wonder, what if?"
Lux left out a nervous, breathy laugh, "Feels like my entire life has been full of what ifs."
"You said things are going well," concern flashed across his face.
"I have a family and I not only graduated from high school without cheating, but college. Things are actually spectacular."
"That good," he nodded in relief.
"I'm happy. I'm definitely happy. I may be made every girl I talked to show me their license at the start, but-" Eric laughed.
Lux laughed as well.
"I'm glad you're happy," Eric nodded.
"You too," Lux nodded back.
Definitely no pictures of my father's reaction when he noticed Eric on my list of Facebook friends as my mother's reminded him that I was an adult, then privately having a talk with me. Eric and I didn't talk though, not outside of the normal posts everyone made, anyway.
Life isn't what happens in those glossy images, not really. Life is all the little steps in between. The things we don't see reminders of. The things we don't even think of. Life is all the stuff we'd rather fast forward through. Waking up when it's still dark out, the automatic coffee maker that fails at being automatic. The frantic rush to shuffle out the door. An absent minded kiss or farewell. The life we lead in all those forgotten moments that shape us to what we view as our defining moments.
"Telling Cass about the pictures?" Grant asks as he walks by his wife and baby daughter standing in the hallway, looking at the recently completed picture/knickknacks wall.
"Telling her about everything in between," Lux said as she gave a small snuggle to her daughter.
"All the things she's going to miss," the 6'1 accountant nodded his head. Baze liked to make fun of her that she had married her mother instead of her father and more often than not admitted it relieved him.
"Are you sure we're doing the right thing?" Lux asked not for the first time.
"I know you miss your family Lux, but Portland isn't that far away from Seattle."
"3 hours." That seemed like an eternity. No popping over for dinner. No parent to come relieve her when Cassidy wouldn't stop crying.
"Three hours and two paychecks, two significantly larger paychecks," he smiled down at her.
Lux opened her mouth.
"I know, I know. Money doesn't replace family and if we didn't have technology and a new car, I'd raise our daughter above a bar with you."
She smiled weakly up at him. "You really are my mom."
"I'd probably have more fun with her at a strip club than your dad," Grant shuddered still recalling Baze at his bachelor party two years earlier.
"Or you'd have to pull my mom off the pole…"
Grant snorted, "I love your mom drunk."
"So does my dad," Lux chuckled, then gave her husband a dirty look.
"Anger is better than sadness," Grant shrugged off the look.
"You know Cass-"
"Cass is going to miss what Lux? Didn't Declan just read to her when you were stuck in traffic yesterday?"
He had, she had rigged up her cell to dangle in front of her daughter.
"Did I get a single word in at dinner yesterday or did you and your mom spend a half hour debating what solid food Cass should start?"
She hadn't even noticed when he got up.
"Do you really want me to start with your dad and Tasha?"
"Not really," she admitted.
"The wall looks really good," he smiled at it.
She turned and smiled at it, "Moments like this are what makes it even better."
The glossy images were beautiful, but the rest of life was breathtaking.
Thank you for reading and for all the great reviews with the last story!