With the band mid-set and the dancefloor fully packed, I took a moment to text Roger, still feeling on edge regarding the whole situation.
JESSICA: I’m busy this weekend. You free Monday lunch to talk?
I slyly hit send and put away my phone, spinning around at the sound of Catherine’s voice coming at me from behind. “Great speech,” she shared, expressing true appreciation. “What you said about my family was very touching.”
“I meant every word,” I replied, gifting her a sincere smile.
For a while, she just stared. “Thank you, Jessica.”
Her seriousness was unnerving. “For coming into our lives. Not only have you saved my youngest a lot of stress, you’ve saved my eldest in more ways than one.”
We shared a smile.
“I could say the same about them. About all of you,” I ensured, by no means willing to take all the credit. “You welcomed me into your family way before you even knew about Spencer and me.”
My statement was met with nothing but a sly laugh on Catherine’s behalf. She clearly knew something I didn’t.
“I always knew. The way you looked at him the day of my birthday party. You were a woman in love.”
I simply shook my head and smiled, remembering the moment well. “We’d only just started seeing each other at that point. I was completely infatuated by his good looks.”
And his skills in the bedroom!
“He is bloody handsome, isn’t he?” She smiled, not at all bias.
I could only nod.
“I dread to think what would become of his life without you, Jessica,” she admitted, lowering her gaze. “I worry about him every day but now that he has you, I find myself worrying less. Does that make me selfish? Putting that amount of pressure on you.”
“It’s no pressure at all,” I ensured. “I love him. Like I’ve never loved anyone.”
Spencer and I may have disliked each other at first and we certainly hadn’t had it easy since announcing our relationship, but that didn’t mean we weren’t right together. Perfection was overrated anyway. There was nothing human about being completely flawless and what felt right for one person may feel wrong for another. Spencer was my right and I was his.
“Jess! Come dance with us!” begged Leila suddenly, eager for me to join her and her dad in what I could only assume was an attempt at dancing.
Utterly ridiculous and far too animated, the pair proceeded to throw out moves, creating shapes that no innocent person should witness.
“COMING!” I shouted, leaving Catherine with a parting smile. “You’re his mother and because of that, you’ll always worry about him. But just know that I will do everything I can to make him happy. To make them both happy.”
With that, she smiled and ushered me towards the dancefloor, laughing at the image displayed before her. I grabbed Leila from behind, prompting the little madam to swing her arms high above her head, copying her dad in the craziest way imaginable. The two resembled drunken idiots but boy did I love seeing them so carefree.
After a while, she sprung free and I soon found myself moving to the rhythm. I swayed my hips back and forth, no doubt looking just as ridiculous as them, though I didn’t mind one bit. It felt freeing to move in such animated ways and better yet, fun. Spencer and Leila’s laughter mixed together with my own was magical in its own right and if I could, I would freeze the moment.
“You’re dad dancing!” I accused.
Spencer snickered. “The more ridiculous you look, the more fun you’re having.”
“Is that right?”
Leila broke us apart by demanding I lift her again and proceeded to dance mid-air. It didn’t matter that after a while she became heavy in my arms. I simply fought through the pain and enjoyed the moment for exactly what it was. Beautiful. For the first time in a long time, I allowed myself to truly let go and focused only on what was in front of me. My family.
“Looking good, guys!” Smirked Calvin, carrying Teddy under one arm.
The kid was breathless from laughing so hard. Still, not once did he let up. The red-faced cutie simply clawed at Calvin’s back and giggled when he was tipped upside-down.
“You’ll have Lucy up all night with him,” I warned, gesturing towards the hyper-active tot.
“I’ll have Lucy up all night for other reasons.”
“There are children present!” warned Spencer, stern and direct.
Leila shot us all an innocent smile and nuzzled closer into my chest.
Calvin winked. “Cuddling. I’ll keep her up all night cuddling.”
Before I could so much as roll my eyes, we were joined by the others, all of them insistent on showing off their best moves. Sam and Scott instantly began a dance off of sorts, leaving Rosalie and Bethany in fits of giggles. Lucy came sauntering over, eager to position her child the right way up and did so by taking him from Calvin’s hold.
“He won’t sleep for weeks if you keep feeding into his excitement!” she protested, though did so in good fun.
Calvin simply grinned. “He loves it. We’re having fun, aren’t we, buddy?”
“Yes!” agreed Teddy, nodding enthusiastically. “FUN!”
Leila kicked out of my hold and gestured for Lucy to release him, seemingly after someone to play with.
“You seem tense,” acknowledged Spencer, clutching onto my waist. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m just thinking.”
“About Isabelle?” His tone was indifferent.
“Yes.” I paused. “I have to tell you something.”
I moved us towards the edge of the dancefloor and away from the others, just enough to offer up a sense of privacy.
“It’s about our situation.”
His concern was evident and his urgency, deep. “Go on…”
“She’s reached out.”
He frowned. “How?”
The music kicked in again, offering us both a moment to think.
“She sent a note in Leila’s card.”
He suddenly halted all movement, caressing my face in gentle motions. I could tell he was struggling to see, though I didn’t dare interfere with his movements. He could read a person just fine by simply feeling and I decided to offer him the time he no doubt needed.
“What did it say?”
“Jessie, get over here and show us your moves!” hollered Sam, beckoning me over with an exaggerated arm movement.
“Just a minute!” I replied, shouting over the loud bass before returning my attention back to Spencer. “It said help me.”
“Shit!” His sigh was thick, dripping with distain. “I’ll murder the bastard.”
“There’s more,” I added, cupping his clean-shaven jaw. “Roger has found Alister’s true identity. He wants to meet up as soon as possible.”
I could tell by his clenched jaw that things were getting to him. Isy’s note was practically proof that Alister was abusing his position as her fiancé and that made him furious beyond belief. He couldn’t hate Isy if he tried and I loved him all the more for it.
“I’ve suggested Monday lunch. I’ll arrange a place that suits us all.”
Silence consumed us both as we gave ourselves a moment to recover. With Roger’s news came the possibility of moving things forward and that was huge. It was both a relief and a burden.
“Do you trust me?”
His reply was instant. “With my life.”
“Then don’t question what I’m about to tell you. Know that what I’m doing will benefit us all in the end.”
“I would like to meet Isy alone.”
He instantly recoiled, holding me at arm’s length. “Not happening.”
“Please, you don’t understand-“
“I understand perfectly.”
I let slip a deep sigh, attempting rationality. “She wrote a note, Spencer. Think about it. She obviously didn’t intend for you to read it. You have to know that this was extremely difficult for her. To reach out to me of all people.”
“You have history with her. A past that, at one time, brought you both joy. My involvement is less personal. I can help her, Spencer. We both can but if you show up there and perform your caveman act, she may go running for the hills.”
He scoffed. “Caveman act? When have I ever performed one of those?” he asked, generally insulted.
“Jessie! Don’t make me come over there!”
“You’re protective, Spencer. There’s nothing wrong with that but at times, it’s not needed. We must do things on Isy’s terms. If we don’t, we risk scaring her off.”
He eventually nodded, though remained tense. “Let’s cross that bridge when we get to it.”
“You’re a hard man to persuade.” I smiled, kissing him on the cheek. “A pain in my arse!”
“You love the pain!”
I left him to join Sam, keen to appease my eager brother. There, he swung me around and dipped me like the civilised dancer he wasn’t. I found his smile infectious and mirrored it with my own. Deep dimples popped into place on each cheek, knocking years off the twenty-seven he was packing.
“Today’s a good day,” he revelled, offering me a blinding smile.
“Hmm, I’m feeling more like my usual self, ya know?”
I did know. “That’s great, Sam.”
Mum’s passing had hit him hard. It hit us all hard but my big bro had a habit of refusing help. He saw the good in everything but even life had a tendency to throw ugly situations at us and in those times, he struggled. Thankfully, he had Bethany looking out for him.
“I’m glad Dad has Karen. She makes him very happy.”
“That she does,” I agreed, instinctively looking towards the two.
They were locked tight in a loving embrace and couldn’t quite stop the huge smiles from shining through. Each day, I was getting more and more used to seeing them together.
“She’d want that for him,” I shared, thinking of Mum.
“Yeah…” Sam nodded, squeezing my waist. “She’d want that for all of us. She always did love a happy ending.”
I ignored the knots churning in my stomach. Dad had Karen, Sam had Bethany and whilst I had Spencer, I couldn’t quite relax in the knowledge that we had our happy ending just yet. So much was still unanswered and things had the potential to go wrong. Very wrong. I was optimistic that it wouldn’t but I had to prepare for any eventuality. Spencer’s rights as a father were up for question and such a thing couldn’t be taken lightly. We had a long fight ahead of us. Isy seemed ready to accept help but we had to be careful. One whiff and Alister would no doubt manipulate the situation. There was a reason he’d changed his name. We didn’t know the exact details just yet but in time we would and I just hoped it wasn’t anything too sinister. For Isy’s sake.