ONE YEAR LATER
“Brett! Brett, where are you?” I shouted as I stormed through our apartment after slamming the door behind me.
“In the kitchen, honey!”
I rounded the corner and my eyes fell on my adorable boyfriend leaning into the oven to check on dinner. Normally, seeing him like this would have been enough to calm me down but I was in an absolute rage.
“You will never believe what just happened!”
Closing the oven and turning to face me, his eyes swept over me in concern as he took in my flustered and angry demeanor. “What’s the matter, baby?”
“There’s a new teacher at Malachi’s daycare pickup and this bitch had the audacity to say I couldn’t pick up Malachi because I’m not his mother.”
“What? You’re on the approved pick up list. You pick him up every day!”
“That’s what I tried to tell the stupid bitch! But she wasn’t having it.”
“Why didn’t you call me? Where’s Malachi?”
“I figured you were still at the office. You’re never home this early on Friday’s. I ended up calling Mason and he picked him up. They should be here soon; they were right behind me.”
“Well, that’s good I guess.”
I nodded and collapsed into a nearby chair with a huff, trying stubbornly not to cry.
Brett came over and knelt in front of me. “Tell me what’s really wrong, baby?”
“It was so embarrassing! All the parents at pick up were whispering and staring at me and the worst part of all was that Malachi had to endure it. You should have seen his face crumble when that awful woman told him he couldn’t come with me.”
Brett rubbed the back of my hand as I finally let the tears fall. “She practically dragged him back into the school kicking and screaming.”
His look of worry turned into one of rage. “I will be down there first thing on Monday to address this nonsense.”
“What are you going to say to them, Brett? I’m not his mom,” I said quietly.
“Don’t let him hear you say that,” he teased trying to lighten the mood. I was not amused.
“I’m so sorry that happened, baby,” he said, kissing me gently, and pushing my hair behind my ear. “I promise that it will never happen again. I will take care of it.”
I sniffled and nodded.
The front door opened and Malachi’s screams permeated through the apartment. Mason came into the kitchen a moment later with a furious expression.
“Mommy!” Malachi shrieked, reaching for me. “Why did you leave me?” he sobbed.
“Oh, my sweetheart. I didn’t want to leave you!” I took him from my brother and cradled him in my arms whispering sweet nothings into his ear in an effort to calm him down.
“Brett, you need to do something. The way that teacher talked to Lupe was absolutely unacceptable!” Mason said angrily.
“I’ll be having a word with the headmaster when I drop Malachi off on Monday.”
Malachi shook his head rapidly. “I not go back! I stay with my mommy!” He buried his face into my shoulder and Brett and I shared a worried look.
“You’ll be with mommy and daddy all weekend,” I said soothingly. “Remember we get to go on a trip today?”
He perked up at this reminder. “See Aunt Gabi?” he asked, wiping his face.
“Yes, cuore mio. We’re going to Texas to see Aunt Gabi and Uncle Ryan get married.”
“I have to go pack!” He wriggled out of my arms and bounded up the stairs to his bedroom.
“I’m going to head home to grab my luggage,” Mason said, leaning down to hug me. “See you at the airport?”
“Yeah,” I said quietly. “I’ll see you then. I’d better go help Malachi.” I headed upstairs to Malachi’s room. We finished packing his carry on bag quickly as I had already packed his suitcase.
When we were done, he crawled into my lap and held tightly to me. “Why did that mean lady say you’re not my mommy?”
The sadness in his voice shattered the last bit of resolve I had. I cried quietly, trying not to let him see how upset I was. “Sometimes people who are hurting say hurtful things,” I said after a while. “Maybe she was having a bad day.”
I saw Brett come into the room. He took Malachi from me and kissed the top of his head. “She’s right, son. We can’t always control what other people say. But you know who daddy is, right?”
Malachi poked him in the chest.
“And you know who mommy is?”
He nodded with a smile. “My ’Pita!” he exclaimed, pointing at me. I gave him a watery smile.
“Do you love mommy and daddy?”
Malachi bobbed his head up and down rapidly, his curls bouncing as he did so.
“Then it doesn’t matter what anyone else says. Okay, big boy?”
“Good. Let’s eat and hit the road.”
Malachi wriggled out of Brett’s hold and flew out of his room.
Brett helped me off of the floor and kissed the top of my head. “You are his mom. Don’t let anyone make you doubt that for a second.”
I was sitting alone at Gabi and Ryan’s wedding reception the next evening with a content smile on my face. It had been a small and intimate ceremony with their daughter Bella as flower girl and Aiden and Malachi as ring bearers. In a twist from tradition, Gabi had her sister’s kids as bridesmaids and groomsmen despite their young ages. It was incredibly precious and chaotic.
The small reception was held at her mother Isabella’s house, bar-b-que style. Malachi was happily running and playing with all of the other children. I’d never seen him so carefree.
“Hey cugina,” Alicia said, taking the empty seat next to me. “Having a good time?”
“I really am! I was kind of surprised when Gabi told me about her wedding plans but I love this. It’s perfect.”
“Me too. It’s so nice to just have family and not worry about putting on a show.”
“Speaking of putting on a show, I hear you’re going on tour again?”
“Yeah but I’m bringing Joseph and Aiden along this time,” she said with a smile. “We’re going to have so much fun.”
“I’m happy for you, Leesh.”
Alicia frowned. “Is something wrong?”
“Why would you say that?”
“Something just seems off with you tonight.”
I sighed and told her all about the fiasco with Malachi’s teacher the day before.
“What a bitch!”
“Watch your language,” I admonished quietly. “Although, I might have said the same thing about her myself.”
“I’m sorry,” she said with a giggle. “But forget that vile woman. I’m sure Brett will handle it when you guys get back to New York.”
I sighed. “I know. I’m just worried that it will make Brett realize that I’m not fit to be a mother figure to Malachi and he’ll break up with me.”
Alicia stared at me like I had two heads. “You, my dear friend, are an idiot.” She stood up laughing and walked away before I could question her further.
I turned my attention to the precious little boy in front of me. His little suit was askew and his blonde curls an adorable mess. “Yes, Malachi?”
“Will you dance with me?” he asked, rubbing his eyes and yawning.
I smiled softly. “Of course I will.”
I took his small hand in mine and followed him onto the makeshift dance floor in the middle of the backyard. His arms came around me, resting slightly too low on my waist, causing me to giggle. I opted to pick him up instead. We swayed back and forth to the soft music for a few minutes. I could feel him getting heavier as he drifted off to sleep.
“I love you, mommy,” he whispered as his eyes shuttered closed.
“May I cut in?” I heard Brett’s voice behind me and smiled.
I turned around to give him a sarcastic response but froze when I saw him down on one knee. “Brett?” I questioned.
“Lupita, you came into my life like a whirlwind and brought a joy I can’t explain into my life. I can’t imagine living life or raising our sweet boy without you. Will you make me the happiest man on the planet by being my wife and officially Malachi’s mother?”
I couldn’t stop the tears falling down my face as I nodded rapidly. “Of course I will!”
He grinned widely and I felt something smooth and cold slide over my first finger as he stood up to embrace me. I didn’t even look at the ring. It could have been a ring pop from dollar general and I wouldn’t have cared.
After everything I had been through I was finally getting my happily ever after, and it was even better than I could have imagined.
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