Gatto and I continued to rejoice in our post-nap state; me by mindlessly flicking through some TV channels and him by insisting I stroke his stomach. He lay with his head on my hip and, every now and then, would occasionally rub his nose against my bellybutton, as if sensing something was growing in there. At one point, he even licked my skin and although a little repulsed I didn’t say anything. Him and I had only just established a friendship and I didn’t want to ruin such progress by pulling him up on his inappropriate behaviour. Besides, it was kind of adorable.
“Take your shoes off before you go in. You stood in some puddles, remember?”
At the sound of Spencer’s voice, I summoned enough energy to vacate the sofa and shuffled towards the front door, only mildly put out by my aches and pains. It had been a week since I left the hospital and I was seeing a huge improvement to my physical recovery. My emotional one was a little slow on the intake but I took each day as it came. I still found it hard to believe I was growing an actual human being inside me and that I had been moments away from death’s door.
Leila burst through the door moments later, grinning at my presence in the hallway!
She ran to my open arms and decided to undergo a last minute jump, taking me off guard a little.
“Careful, bambina. Jess is still hurting,” reminded Spencer, having somehow sensed his daughter’s actions.
He breeched the threshold with her overnight bag and giant teddy bear.
“Jess, GUESS WHAT? GUESS WHAT?” she probed, straight up ignoring her dad’s warning.
“What?” I asked, sticking my hip out in the hopes it relieved some of the pressure of carrying her.
In the end, it did very little but I still held her close nevertheless.
“Mummy and Daddy are friends again!” she gushed, making Spencer smile from his position by the coats.
“NO WAY!” I replied, bopping her nose.
At that exact moment, Isy hesitantly appeared in the doorway looking much happier, yet still apprehensive. I smiled at her tame expression and ushered her in, setting Leila free in the process.
“Hey stranger, how are you?”
She smiled whilst stepping in, eying my bandaged wrist warily.
“I am good, you?”
“Getting there,” I replied, accepting Spencer’s warm kiss as he passed.
“Leila, sweetheart, help me take your bag upstairs please,” he asked, prompting her to come barrelling through with a content Gatto in her arms.
“Don’t forget your shoes,” I added, pointing to her feet.
Spencer’s earlier instruction to take them off had been well and truly ignored.
“Oops, sorry,” she gushed, slipping off her trainers. “Bye, Mama. Ti amo.”
“Ti amo, Tesoro. Be good for Daddy and Jessica.”
A nod was thrown her way before the two took off, leaving Isy and I alone. I hadn’t seen her since leaving the hospital but Spencer had. In fact, the two had been meeting up quite frequently in order to sort things out. They’d thankfully agreed on an equal rota system for Leila and were working through some personal issues.
“I heard the good news. Congratulations,” she stated, glancing towards my stomach.
“Did Spencer tell you?” I asked, blushing from her acknowledgement.
“No, Leila did. She is very excited.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “I should’ve known.”
She mirrored my smile before turning suddenly serious, seemingly at odds about something. “I just wanted to say thank you for what you did. If it was not for you, I would still be with Alister.”
I frowned, completely disagreeing.
“Nonsense. You would’ve left him sooner rather than later,” I insisted. “You’re much stronger than you realise, Isy.”
“You really think so?”
She seemed hesitant to believe such a thing.
“I know so.”
We stayed silent for a moment, simply taking this opportunity to assess a few things.
“Well, nevertheless…thank you. What you sacrificed for me was incredible given the circumstances.”
She nodded in Spencer and Leila’s general direction, no doubt in an attempt to silently convey her thoughts.
“None of that was your fault, Isy. You were forced into that situation by Alister.”
“I never wanted to split them up,” she insisted, though there was really no need.
I already knew that.
“I believe you,” I replied, laying her pent up anxiety to rest.
She nodded, satisfied with all she had said.
“I should get going. We’ve agreed on two nights since you’ve not seen Leila in a while. I’ll pick her up on Sunday afternoon.”
“Perfect,” I stated, delighted to be given an extra day with the little madam.
“Is two O’clock alright?” she asked, naturally at ease with our conversation.
This is how it should always be.
“Make it one O’clock and stop for a coffee,” I shared, smiling at her obvious delight.
“I would love to. See you both then. BYE, LEILA!”
I waved her off with Gatto by my feet, no doubt fishing for another team nap.
“Maybe later, buddy,” I appeased, laughing at his dismissive meow.
The thing was more temperamental than me and I was the one currently undergoing a cocktail of hormones.
“Jess! Leila packed facemasks,” informed Spencer, shouting his discovery from upstairs.
I made my way towards them as quickly as possible, which ended up taking quite some time. Not that this mattered. By the time I reached them, Leila had our movie snacks and face masks laid out.
“Wow, look at this!” I stated, entering her bedroom.
I’ll put the ice-cream in the freezer!” she announced, overexaggerating her point for reasons beyond me.
Spencer nodded and wrapped his arm around my waist, pulling me in for one almighty hug.
“What’s this for?” I asked, squeezing him back twice as hard.
“Just cause I love ya.”
“I love you too,” I replied, pulling away an inch to steal a quick kiss for myself.
“How was your talk with Isy?” I asked, knowing they deliberately set aside today to discuss more personal matters.
It had been a long time coming.
“Great actually,” he shared. “We both said what needed to be said and had a cry. We’re working through some things and hoping to remain friends for Leila’s sake.”
“God, Spencer…you’ve no idea how happy I am to hear that,” I sighed, finally releasing some tension.
“I’M READY, DADDY!”
Leila’s sudden interruption prompted Spencer into making a move, his instruction clear and concise. “Okay, coming!” he yelled, turning me around. “Leila has a surprise for you.”
“Oh, really?” I smiled, enjoying the feel of his front pressed up against my back. “Lead the way, Mr. Michaels.”
He did so with no further encouragement and guided me towards the living room, using only his ability to feel. Leila was patiently awaiting our arrival; cheeky smirk in full swing.
“All set, bambina?” he asked, seemingly undergoing some sort of last minute check.
I looked between the two with equal deliberation, settling soon after on Leila’s butter-wouldn’t-melt smile.
“I made you a card, Jessica,” she informed, handing over a handmade envelope made with pink card.
“Thank you, darling,” I said, taking my time opening it up.
On the front of the card was a hand drawn picture of us as a family, only now with the added addition of ‘Leila’s little bruver’. I bit my lower lip and smiled at her spelling mistake, welling up at the image of my perfect little family.
“I love it,” I shared, holding back my emotions.
Her eyes grew wide with excitement, overjoyed at my approval. I bent down to kiss her on the cheek, taken aback when she whispered in my ear.
I pulled back an inch and cracked open the card, catching my breath at her neatly written words.
‘Will you marry my daddy?’
I wasn’t sold on its authenticity. Leila was known for her insistence to meddle and it wouldn’t surprise me if she had conducted this entire plan all by herself. Spencer would no doubt laugh when I told him what her message read.
I turned to face him and gasped, catching sight of him down on one knee, holding a glistening ring.
Oh my fucking God!
“Will you marry me, sweetheart?”
I lost the ability to speak, too overcome with emotion to think coherently. His hopeful expression conveyed everything he was thinking in that moment and more. Miraculously, his gazed fixated firmly on me, promising nothing but happiness in our future together.
“Sì!” I replied, throwing myself at him.
I held onto his T-shirt in fistfuls, kissing him feverishly. Every ounce of love I felt for him poured out, smothering us all in the most delightful way possible. From behind, Leila squealed and demanded in on our moment, welcomed into our embrace by Spencer quickly grabbing her by the waist.
“She said yes, baby!” he stated, finally removing the ring from its box.
Seeing this, I immediately held out my left hand and winked at Leila as she watched on with gleeful eyes. “It’s beautiful,” I told them, admiring the modest rock and silver band.
It was the most elegant piece of jewellery I’d ever seen.
Spencer grinned and proceeded to tear up, taking me along with him. If what we had to go through ensured this outcome, I could happily say I would do it over and over again. No regrets. Meeting Spencer was hands down the best thing to ever happen to me. Not only was he my boyfriend–actually, fiancée–he was my best friend too. He was everything I could’ve hoped for in a partner and more. He had the most caring nature, not to mention the sassiest daughter known to mankind. Leila was part of the package deal and my God, did I luck out on this occasion. And what a way to propose! It felt right to include her in this moment as she was such a fundamental part of our lives. She’d no doubt talk about this moment for years to come and I was more than okay with that. It was special to us. Our little family.
“We should celebrate!” announced Spencer, jumping up in an instant.
Leila followed his movement and questioned what he had in mind. “How?”
“With facemasks!” I added, not forgetting the most important part.
“And snacks!” yelled Leila, seemingly onboard with this plan.
Off she ran upstairs, likely on a mission to change into her pyjamas. We heard her shuffling around in her bedroom and took this opportunity to rejoice in some stolen alone time.
“I can’t believe you said yes.”
“Like I’d ever say no,” I scoffed.
He smirked and captured my lips, bending me at the waist like I was some princess in the midst of running away from her prince charming. He took me to new places with this exchange, introducing me to new levels of satisfaction with brilliant laps of his tongue and nips of his teeth. He never made me feel ordinary with the way in which he handled me, always seeking opportunities to sweep me off my feet. He was the bravest person I knew, overcoming his struggles on a daily basis. Over a year ago, he lost his sight and continued to battle that unfortunate circumstance every day. With everything that had happened, I never once saw him give up. Sure, he had his moments. His doubts. But he never once stopped fighting for our love or for his daughter. Hell, he didn’t even give up on his ex-wife when those around him were encouraging him to do so. Spencer was incapable of disappointing me and the rough start to our relationship had not only taught me that our love for each other was solid, but also that it was significant. No couple was perfect and we were living proof of that. What began as a mutual hate blossomed into something beautiful. Something incredible.
I started off as his replacement, became his burden and finally won the role of his forever.
And I couldn’t be happier.