Epilogue: Five Years Later
I awoke to the sun shining on my face, in a big, empty bed.
Every morning I would stretch out and run my hands over the sheets, but Aaron was never there. You would think, after all this time, that I would be used to it by now. But I still never stopped trying and hoping, and I still felt a small pang of disappointment whenever I opened my eyes to nothing but empty blankets.
It had been five years since the two of us went on the run together and set out to fight back against the agency that sought to destroy us. Five years exactly, according to my phone.
I still had that voicemail Aaron had sent me on that last day. When he had finally told our story. When we had finally won. I could remember playing it over and over. Listening to the victory, yet slight fear in his tone. How his voice broke when he said he loved me.
I could remember playing it over and over, listening for the gunshot.
Sitting up in bed, I looked out the window over the lawn and heads of flowers. The daffodils and crocuses were beginning to bloom; I could see them popping up in between the white picket fence. Spring was finally here after a long winter.
Off in the distance, I heard the church bells ringing in their old fashioned bell tower. Announcing that it was nine in the morning.
I had picked the house, nestled in a valley on the outskirts of a small town along the California coastline. It was small, but I liked it that way. Besides, the real treasure lay in the acres of farmland and forest that came with the deed. Over the years a small orchard, vegetable, and flower garden had developed, a cow barn had been built out back, and a place was made for the thirty or so chickens that wandered about the property free-range, to roost at night.
It was idyllic.
Aaron's one goal was always for me to have the chance to build myself a better life, and, thanks to him, I was able to.
As the distant bell toll faded, I was suddenly made aware of a new sound. Low, husky and melodious.
You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy in skies of grey.
Smiling to myself, I slipped out of bed and snagged a loose cardigan to wrap about me, padding silently on bare feet out of the bedroom and across the hall. I paused by the doorframe of another, smaller bedroom, and peered inside through the open doorway, at the two people I loved most in the world.
I saw the strong form of my husband, stooping over the changing table that held the miniature body of our infant son, James, no more than two months old, singing softly to him while he looked up enraptured at the face of his father.
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. Oh, please don’t take my sunshine away.
"Where's a camera when I need it?" I said with a smile at the finale of the song, pushing away from the doorframe and approaching.
Aaron glanced over at me as I made my presence known, his face beaming. "Hey, she's awake!"
I smiled as he reached out one arm to snag me by the waist, careful to keep one hand on James even though technically he wasn’t strong enough to roll off the changing table yet, pulling me close to him and dropping his head to claim a loving kiss.
"Morning," I murmured with a smirk as we separated.
He flashed a cheeky grin, eyes still on my lips. "Mm, and a good one it is too."
I chuckled, stealing one more kiss before shifting in Aaron's arms so that I was before him, facing the changing table. "How's my big boy, huh?" I asked in a tender whisper, stooping to caress James's face and place a light kiss on his forehead, before effortlessly picking up where Aaron left off, continuing to change his diaper.
Aaron moved his hands to wrap loosely about my waist, hugging me to him while he rested his chin on the top of my head, watching the proceeds with a contented smile upon his face.
"I cant wait until he's old enough to sleep through the night," I said, speaking to Aaron. "Then you can sleep in with me for once."
"Yeah, well you know how we operate. You get the day shift, and I get night and early morning," he murmured, pressing a kiss to the top of my head. "Which reminds me, Jason and Nikki will be here around dinner time."
I nodded, beginning to dress James. "Good, I'm glad they can make it. Its been a while since they've visited. Is your shift going to be long?" I asked, turning my head to nod towards the police uniform he was wearing.
"Not too long. I have to make some time to help out before they come, don’t I?"
I smiled at his consideration. "When do you leave?"
He checked his watch. "In forty minutes."
"Just enough time to have breakfast," I replied, scooping up James in my arms, and turning to give Aaron a quick kiss before slipping out of his arms towards the kitchen.
Aaron held James and fed him a bottle, while I prepared a quick breakfast of eggs, bacon, and hash browns, before we all sat down together to eat.
"I heard back from the college," I spoke up.
"Oh? Did they find someone to replace you so you can have some mommy time?"
I nodded. "Another biochemist from Michigan looking to move in."
"Is he good?"
"She. And I think so."
Aaron nodded, saying in between mouthfuls: "Well, no one could ever be as good as you, but I'm glad they finally got a setup. Welcome to full-time motherhood." And I smiled as he reached over to tussle James's head lovingly, who was comfortable in a little rocker by the table.
I was just clearing up when Aaron's watch beeped.
"I gotta go," he said, wiping his mouth with his napkin and quickly rising. "You be good for your momma, okay?" he said very seriously to little James, before laughing and bopping his nose with his fingertip.
I passed Aaron his heavy utility belt, and he strapped it on, gripping my hips with both his hands before I could walk away and pulling me tight against him. "And you better be good for me, you little minx," he murmured teasingly, closing in for a kiss that probably wasn’t suitable in front of our son.
I broke off into a laughing shriek of surprise, trying to escape his grasp, as he transferred his lips to my neck, kissing me right where he knew I was ticklish, and he retracted after a moment, grinning.
"Be safe," I said, draping my arms about his neck and looking into his eyes, "don’t be late for dinner, and catch all the bad guys."
"I always do," he replied with a soft smile, running his hands up and down my sides.
We kissed once more, and then he headed for the door. "Thanks for breakfast," he called over his shoulder, "I'll see you tonight!"
"I love you!" I called after him, and he waved before the door closed.
I stood in the kitchen for a moment, smiling contentedly, as I watched his patrol car pull out of the driveway.
Aaron's one goal was always for me to have the chance to build myself a better life, and, thanks to him, we built one together.