Just Tell Me You Love Me

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Epilogue

LIAM

Liam Kmetko-Young strummed the last chord of the song on his guitar and looked up at the booth.

“How did that sound?” he asked, removing the giant headphones he was wearing.

“Great,” Damon replied. “All of our changes made a big difference. Do you want to come out here, and I’ll play it back?”

“Sure thing,” Liam said, putting his guitar down and leaving the booth to join Damon. It had been over six months since Liam had met Damon for the first time, and found out that he was his biological father. Even after half a year, Liam still wasn’t used to it. Here was this man, with a musical talent that Liam had basically worshipped since age twelve, here he was sitting in a recording studio with Liam, giving him pointers on his guitar technique. It still didn’t seem like reality.

A few months ago Damon had finally decided on a career path, managing and producing local talent from the Boulder area. Liam and Ayla had been his first clients, though he had taken them at an extremely reduced rate. The EP the two of them were recording was going to be sent out to all the major record companies Damon had ever come into contact with, and Damon was optimistic that at least one, if not many, would want to sign them. According to him, Liam and Ayla had a quality to their sound that was unlike anything he had ever heard. Liam could only hope he was right.

As Damon began to play the song back, Kaylie entered the room. She was wrapped in a giant wool sweater and had pink Uggs on her feet, but comfy attire aside she looked good. Liam remembered the first time he had seen her at the Rock, the same day he had first met Damon. She had been so thin and fragile, her skin had looked sallow, almost grey, and her legs had been shaking simply from the effort it took for her to stand. Now, she looked like a different person. Strength had returned to her body and to her mind. Her skin was tan and effervescent, reinvigorated by a regular eating pattern and healthy life choices.

Since Kaylie had been checked out of the hospital she had been doing very well, and though they weren’t together, she had been letting Damon use the recording studio in her house, free of charge. It was obvious the two of them still cared about one another fiercely, but it was also obvious they were still wary of each other as well. From what Damon had told Liam about their relationship, there was clearly a lot of trust to be won back on both sides. They had decided to start by just being friends, to find out if somehow they could eventually get to a place together that was truly healthy.

“This sounds really great,” Kaylie said. “I can hear the difference from before. The instrumentation is a lot more confident, and that voice of yours… well that was always good.”

“Thanks Kaylie,” Liam replied.

“Wait until Ayla records the harmony over the top,” Damon told her. “It’s going to blow you away.”

“Talented apart, but better together. Sounds familiar,” Kaylie said, grinning at Damon.

“Most definitely,” he said, smiling back at her.

The final chords of the song rang out and Liam nodded in approval, “I don’t think there’s much else we can do to improve that, at least until Ayla gets here. She just texted me by the way, she is on her way. Her classes ran late today.”

“No big deal, we’ve got time. I can hardly fault her for going to school, can I?” Damon said, fiddling with the strings on Susie, his guitar.

Ayla had finally told her parents that she would rather pursue music than gymnastics a few months ago. They hadn’t taken the news particularly well. Her mother, Payson, had been especially taken aback. But, after the initial shock had worn off they told her they weren’t going to stand in the way of her dreams, no matter what they were. Their only stipulation was that if Ayla was going to drop out of training and schooling at the Rock, she at least had to get her GED. She agreed to their terms, and now Ayla and Liam would be graduating together in the spring. After that they would be heading out on the road for a small tour of the United States, nothing big, just small venues, giving the two of them a chance to get some experience playing live outside of Boulder.

“What do you guys call yourselves again?”

Liam smiled, “Hidden Twin and the Rock Dropout.”

“You’re kidding me.”

“Not even a little. It was actually Ayla’s idea. I think it fits us pretty well.”

“It’s a little punk rock for an indie duo,” Damon interjected, “But it’s freakishly original.”

“It’s better than Brainwashed by Boulder!” Kaylie giggled.

Damon laughed, “I would have to agree with you there.”

At that moment the door to the studio opened and in walked Liam’s girlfriend, Ayla Russo. Liam still wasn’t quite accustomed to seeing her dressed in something other than a leo and sweats. Today she was wearing a tight black skirt and a long-sleeved, white blouse, and instead of tennis shoes she had thick-heeled ankle boots on her feet. Her chestnut brown hair cascaded in waves down her shoulders, another thing Liam was becoming used to, since her hair was usually pulled back severely into a bun on top of her head. Regardless of what she was wearing, Ayla was the most beautiful girl Liam had ever laid eyes on. There was a powerful grace about her, something she had clearly inherited from her mother, and she was one of the sweetest human beings Liam knew. He pinched himself every day, trying to figure out if she was real, and even more than that, if she was actually his.

“Hi everyone!” Ayla said, her voice chipper per usual. “Sorry I’m late!”

She walked over and planted a small kiss on Liam’s cheek before wrapping her arms around his shoulders, “Hiya, baby. How’s it going in here?”

“Really well actually. We have everything done except your harmonies.”

“You’re kidding! Can I hear it? I know you guys were talking about making some changes…”

“Yeah, it sounds great. Damon had some pretty sweet ideas.”

“Here, I’ll play it back for you,” Damon said.

About halfway through the song Liam was getting a pretty clear idea of what Ayla needed to do to make this track a home run, when all of a sudden Kaylie let out a high pitched squeal, making Liam jump.

Damon stopped the track, “Are you okay?”

“Yes!” she exclaimed, holding out her phone. “Austin just texted me! Emily’s in labor!”

Liam could feel a huge smile spread across his face, “Are you serious?”

“Yes! Come on I’ll drive you. You guys can finish up here right?”

“Of course,” Ayla replied. “We’ll get it done. Go meet your new sibling.”

Liam gave Ayla a quick kiss and waved goodbye to Damon as he grabbed his coat and headed out the door. Kaylie, a little overly excited drove fifty all the way to the hospital with very little regard for the speed limit.

They got to his Mom’s hospital room, and found out that they were not the only two there. Outside the door stood pretty much everyone Liam knew. The triplets were there, huddled in a group with his brother and Chantal. The three of them had been doing better since putting their father to rest the month before. Liam even saw Mark crack a smile at something Ty said, and he hadn’t seen Mark smile in a long time. His Uncle Brian and Aunt Lauren were also there with their own newborn baby girl, Josie, and in one corner his Aunt Melissa was pacing nervously, her son Junior doing his best to calm her. But, the most surprising turn up of them all was Chloe Kmetko, Liam’s grandmother.

Liam didn’t know her very well, and she hadn’t been in their lives for very long, but he did like her. Damon had finally convinced Emily that it wasn’t right to shut her mother out of her life, and with Brian’s help, the two had reunited and were beginning to rebuild former bonds.

In that moment, though, Liam kind of felt bad for her. She was sitting on a nearby bench all alone, looking very out of place. Liam watched her tug nervously at her leopard print dress, and felt the urge to go and talk to her. Tyler locked eyes with his twin down the hallway and gestured for him to come and join their group. Liam waved him off, and instead went and sat down by his grandmother.

“Hey there,” he greeted her.

“Oh, hi, um…”

“I’m Liam. I know the twin thing can be confusing at first.”

“Just a little bit,” she laughed nervously.

There was a brief silence and then Chloe changed the subject, “So are you excited about the baby?”

Liam nodded, “Definitely. I’m excited to have a sibling, even if they’re going to be so much younger than me.”

“You say that like you don’t already have siblings,” Chloe said, eyeing the group of teenagers across the hall.

He shrugged, “Adopted siblings like the Beloff’s are what they are, and I’m glad they finally agreed to be a legal part of our family, and Ty has always been with me, there has literally never been a time that I have been on Earth without him. But, for some reason this feels different, bigger. Are you excited?”

“Yes, of course,” Chloe smiled shyly.

“In a way this is kind of like getting your first grandchild isn’t it?”

“In a way… But that doesn’t mean—“

“I know, I’m not taking it personally. The triplets and my brother and I, we’re all pretty much grown. It’s different when you get to know someone from the get go, and help shape the person they’ll become. I know that.”

“God, you’re so smart. You remind me a little of my Brian sometimes, you know.”

“My middle name is Brian.”

“It is not!” Chloe exclaimed like she didn’t believe him.

“It really is. My brother is Tyler Beloff, for Sasha, and I’m Liam Brian, after your son.”

“So she didn’t forget about us.”

“No, I know for a fact she didn’t. She used to tell us these crazy stories about all the jobs you worked just to put food on the table for your two kids. I think in a way she tried to model herself after you. She’d do anything for the five… soon to be six of us.”

“Thank you for saying that,” Chloe said quietly, pushing her freshly-dyed, blonde hair back from her face.

“Don’t mention it… How long has she been in there, my Mom I mean?”

“She just started pushing a few minutes ago. Apparently she’s been in labor for most of the day, but she didn’t want people waiting around so she didn’t tell anyone until it was almost over.”

“Typical, even when giving birth she’s thinking of others.”
Chloe snorted, “She wasn’t always like that you know, all selfless and good. She was a teenager once, and she could be extremely stubborn and extremely self-centered. I think motherhood really changed her, in a way nothing else could have.”

“I think you’re probably right. I’m glad it did.”

“Me too, but anyway, it should be any minute now.”

Just then, as if the nurse had been listening in to their conversation, the door to Emily’s room opened.

“There is nothing to worry about,” the nurse started. “The baby and the mother are perfectly healthy. I was told to request that the twins and the triplets come in first. Please try not to crowd.”

Liam got up and followed his siblings, natural and adopted alike, into the hospital room. Emily was sitting in bed, laying back against Austin who was still straddled behind her in typical La Maze fashion. In her arms lay a tiny, pink, wrinkly baby wrapped in a blue blanket. She looked up at all of them, and smiled an exhausted, relieved smile.

“Hi everyone,” she said. “Come meet your baby brother.”

“Not another boy!” April teased, bumping hips with her sister.

“I’m afraid so,” Austin replied.

Emily giggled, pointing at Austin, “And this one was so sure that it was going to be a girl…”

“At least it’s not another set of twins!” Austin exclaimed, taking all of Emily’s teasing in stride.

“So what’s his name?” Liam asked over the commotion. The room fell silent.

“Austin, do you want to do the honors?” Emily asked her husband. By this time everyone else had piled into the room, and were craning their necks to catch a glimpse of the new addition to the family.

“I would like to introduce you all,” Austin said, “To Julian Sasha Tucker.”

“He’s perfect,” Amber said, tears in her eyes at the mention of her father’s name.

“He really is Mom,” Tyler agreed.

“Do you want to hold him Amber?”

Amber looked taken aback, but then readily agreed and took the boy in her arms. She cooed at him, and April looked over her shoulder doing the exact same thing. Liam felt the urge to roll his eyes but he abstained. The little guy actually was really cute. He had a patch of dark brown hair on the top of his head, but the rest of it was bald. Besides that he had all the typical cute baby traits, the tiny, button nose, the tongue that couldn’t seem to stay in his mouth, the fingers that seemed too tiny for any one human to ever actually have, but gripped like they were made of steel.

When the baby finally made its way from Tyler’s arms to Liam’s, he thought he was prepared to hold his brother and not talk to him like a baby-struck idiot, but he was wrong. The minute he had Julian in his arms, Liam melted.

“God, you’re so tiny, yes you are, you’re so tiny,” he said, as Julian latched onto his pinkie finger. The nurse handed Liam a little blue hat to put on his brother’s head, and as he put it on he marveled at how tiny he truly was. How could a human possibly be this small?

“Could I hold him?” a meek voice asked.

Liam turned to see his grandmother with a questioning look on her face, and immediately he was glad he had sat down by her earlier. If he hadn’t, she may not have had the courage to ask anyone else if she could hold her new grandson.

Before he handed the baby off, Liam looked at his mother who gave him a smile and a nod, letting him know it was okay. Chloe took the baby, and Liam could see her heart open to him the second he was in her arms.

“Oh Emily, sweetie, he is so beautiful. All of your babies are,” Chloe said, looking around the room. “You are extremely blessed.”

Emily smiled back at Chloe, “Thank you, Mom. Honestly, I’m not sure how a mousy girl who was discovered as a gymnast in a YMCA and then left gymnastics because of an unplanned pregnancy got to such a good place, but it must have had something to do with the way she was raised. Perseverance and integrity and all that good stuff you taught me.”

Chloe didn’t say anything in reply, but Liam could tell that what his mother had said meant a lot to her.

The baby got passed around to a few more of his relatives, but eventually Emily took him back, not ready to be apart from him for long. There was talking and laughing for a little while longer, and then Emily announced that she and Julian, and even Austin needed some time to rest.

As everyone began to file out of the room, Liam walked up to his mother, and kissed her on the forehead.

“Congratulations, Mom,” he whispered.

“Thanks, sweetheart,” she replied, and Liam heard a twinge of emotion in her voice.

“Are you okay?”

She nodded, “A little apprehensive. I can’t believe I’m starting all over with him, you know? It’s a bit surreal.”

“You’re the best mom in the world,” Tyler chimed in, and Austin nodded in agreement.

“I just want this one to be…” she trailed off, but Liam knew where she was going with it.

“Less complicated?” he asked.

A pained look spread across his mother’s face.

“Don’t worry about hurting our feelings, Mom. We understand that your circumstances with us weren’t exactly ideal,” Tyler said, touching Emily’s arm. “But, did you see how many people were in this room today? You are so far from alone this time.”

“I promise you,” Austin added, “That I am in this with you, for the long haul.”

“I just don’t want to mess this up,” Emily said. “I have this real chance to raise Julian right…”

“Mom,” Liam said, looking her straight in the eyes, “Just tell him you love him, everyday, as many times as you can, and he will be just fine.”

Emily smiled, “I guess you two turned out okay, didn’t you?”

“Well, I know I did,” Ty joked, and the pointed to his twin, “But this, kid… He’s a trouble maker.”

“He is my little sneaky boy. Always has been, always will be.”

“Julian is going to be fine, Mom. We all are,” Liam reassured her one final time.

Tyler and Liam kissed their mother goodbye, and then turned and left the room. Liam followed Ty out, and he wasn’t sure if his brother was out of earshot, or just unobservant, but right before Liam walked out the door, he heard his mother murmur one final thing to his baby brother, and it made him smile.

“You know,” she said in the hushed kind of voice you only use when you talk to a newborn baby, “I think, for the first time in a very long time, we are all, really and truly, going to be okay. What do you think of that, little guy?”

On his way out of the hospital he said his goodbyes to his brother and the triplets, who were headed to the Pizza Shack for a celebratory dinner. There would be plenty of time for Liam to celebrate later, but he had a lot of work still left back at the studio, and he couldn’t leave it all to Damon and Ayla.

On cue, Liam’s cell phone rang.

“Hello?” he answered.

“Hey there,” Ayla’s sweet voice came over the line. “So, is it a brother or a sister?”

“It’s a boy. Julian Sasha Tucker.”

“Oh, how sweet,” she cooed. “Someday we’re going to have a whole gaggle of them just like your parents. Twins do run in your family line after all.”

Liam could just imagine a bunch of perfect, brunette children running around their house someday, their bare feet leaving marks on a hardwood floor. In fact his future with Ayla was something he liked to imagine often, no matter how far off he knew it may be.

“One step at a time, baby doll,” he teased. “How about we just focus on the music for a little while, okay?”

“Okay,” she agreed, “But, not for too, too long.”

“No, not too long… I love you, you know.”

“I love you too, Liam.”

Liam sighed, still wondering if she was too good to be true.

“So are you on your way back to me?” she asked.

“I am. I can’t have you doing all of the work.”

“I can’t wait for you to hear what we’ve done with it. I can’t wait for the world to hear what we’ve done with it.”

“Me neither.”

“I’ll see you soon, okay?”

“Okay.”

Liam hung up the phone and pulled out of the hospital parking lot. He flipped through the radio channels until he found a station that was playing one of his favorite songs from his childhood: “The Middle”, by Jimmy Eat World. The lyrics had always felt poignant to him as a kid, telling him that he was just “in the middle of the ride”, and that eventually things would look up. It had also seemed melancholy to him then, and he had listened to it mostly when life got him down.

Now, as the song told him “everything will be alright, alright”, he believed it. His family was all in one piece for the first time, he was in love with the most beautiful, most talented woman he knew, his music, while it had always been there, had begun to achieve some higher meaning under the teaching of Damon, his birth father. He had told his mother they were all going to be okay, and he had meant it when he said it. But, in this moment, driving down the road listening to a mediocre nities band, Liam realized he was actually starting to believe it himself.



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