They got the kids and Noah in the car and soon after they were driving to Sawyer’s parents. Lizbeth seemed somewhat nervous, which was a state he wasn’t used to seeing. It was kind of cute.
When they were ten minutes away, she began fidgeting with a paper in her hands, looking out of the window with a blank stare. “What are you so nervous about?” Sawyer joked, looking through the rear mirror to check on the kids, who were distracted counting the red cars they saw.
“Hmm… What about meeting your parents?” She sarcastically fired back.
Sawyer burst out laughing. “You already know them!”
“It’s not the same!” She slightly frowned. “When they met me I was like… Twenty? And I was just your friend’s sister, now you’re introducing me as a girlfriend. Besides, there’s gonna be more people there to judge me.”
“They won’t judge you, Liz! They’re just my parents and Matt’s. They’re sweet people that just want to meet the woman that my kids can’t stop talking about every time we call them. I’m crazy about you and so they will.”
“Smooth talker…” She mumbled.
“Am I?” He smirked, but at the same time grabbed and squeezed her hand lightly. “You’ll be fine.”
Minutes later, they were pulling in his parents' driveway. Lizbeth got out of the car and helped Sophia down while Sawyer opened the trunk so Noah could jump out too. “Hey, Adam, why don’t you give this to your grandma?” Sawyer asked, giving him a bouquet of flowers as he looked at his mother. She was already making progress with walking again and the kids wanted to buy her something pretty as a gift. “I’m sure she’ll love it!” He grinned.
“Can I?” he asked as he held the colorful flowers.
“Of course, you and Sophia picked those, so it’s fair that you give it to her.” He nodded with a smile.
“Cools!” Adam smiled. After the talk they had with his teacher and the mom of the kid that was bullying him, he was more joyful again. In fact, he had been talking a lot more, which made Sawyer indescribably happy.
He glanced at Lizbeth and Sophia walking hand in hand to the house and smiled. Watching the woman he loved enjoying his children's company the way she did was a blast. He had never imagined his life would turn out that way and he felt so pleased he couldn’t even put it into words. He had everything he needed and was keen on treasuring it.
“Benvenuti!” [Welcome!] Sawyer’s mother cried out as she opened the door. Sawyer smiled when he saw she had dressed up with some black suit pants and a light grey knit sweater. She was even wearing some makeup and had her hair up in a perfect and classy bun, something she rarely did. She wanted to cause a good impression on Lizbeth and that warmed his heart.
Noah immediately jumped on her. “Hello, Girl!” she said while petting the dog’s head, trying not to fall as she was walking with a crutch.
“This is for you,” Adam told her as he handed her the flowers.
“Oh! My Boy! These are beautiful!” she exclaimed as she hugged him. “I’m gonna put them in water right away!”
“I picked those!” Sophia told her, pointing to the light pink lilies.
“They’re gorgeous, Princess!” She sweetly smiled at her.
Lizbeth seemed shy all of a sudden, just standing there looking at them with a small smile on her face. Sawyer approached them, put his hand on her lower back, and lightly pushed her. “Hi, Mrs.Cox! Thanks for having me over,” she said clutching her hands on the plate she was carrying with a handmade cheesecake with raspberry sauce she had made.
“Mrs.Cox!” His mother laughed. “Sweetheart, call me Diana! I’m not that old! And you’re more than welcome!” She smiled. “Come inside, it’s freezing here!” She stepped aside to let everyone in.
“Thanks!” Lizbeth smiled.
“How are you, honey?” Diana asked her son.
“Doing great,” he told her as he took off his black long coat. Then he hugged her. “How are you doing?”
“I’m fine, I’m fine. I’ll have to sit down a little now, but I’m glad I can still move around.”
“Glad to hear that.” He smiled at her. “Let me help you with that, Liz.”
“Yeah, thanks!” She gave him the cake and unbuttoned her coat, revealing her amazing figure.
“What a beautiful dress, Liz!” Diana told her. She was wearing a pencil black dress that wrapped around her curves in a beautiful and inviting way. It had long sleeves and a square neck, it was classy, but Sawyer had some indecent ideas about it.
“What’s that?” Diana wondered, snapping him back to the real world.
“It’s a cheesecake I made… I hope you like it.” Lizbeth slightly blushed and Sawyer chuckled, making her turn to him. “What are you laughing at?” She narrowed her eyes at him.
“Nothing, you’re just too cute right now acting all shy…”
“Shut up!” She rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, Sawyer, leave the woman alone!” his mother scolded him. “Thank you, darling! I’m sure it’s delicious! Come inside and meet everyone.” She motioned her to follow her into the room, slightly limping.
His father, Elain, and Phillip were already there. Chatting and drinking some punch. The fireplace was lit and decorated with autumnal colored flowers and leaves, giving the space a warmer and cozier atmosphere.
“Hello, Mr.Cox!” Lizbeth said as she approached his father.
“Nice seeing you again, Liz! And call me John, please.” He shook her hand, widely smiling at her.
“Hello!” Elain greeted as she hugged her, her green eyes shining happily.
“Hi!” Lizbeth chuckled.
“I’m Elain and this is my husband, Phillip,” she told her.
“Nice to meet you, Liz,” the white-haired man said as he held his hand out to her.
“Nice meeting you too!” She shook his hand.
“Hey, Sawyer!” They greeted him too.
“Grampy!” Sophia shouted from behind them, running towards them.
“Here’s my baby girl!” John exclaimed as he picked her up. “God! You’re getting big so fast!” He sweetly smiled at the girl.
“I’m going to leave this in the kitchen and check on mom, okay?” Sawyer told his father, patting his shoulder.
“I’m coming with you!” Elain said.
“Be right back.” He kissed Lizbeth’s cheek and walked away, followed by Elain, who didn’t waste any second to interrogate him.
“How long have you two been dating?” She questioned him.
“A couple of months,” Sawyer responded with a chuckle.
“She’s gorgeous, Sawyer! Where did you find a woman like that?”
“It’s his best friend’s little sister,” Diana barged in as they approached her.
“Oh! I see… And why haven’t I heard anything about her until this very moment!?” The ginger-haired woman acted as if she was offended. Matt was their only son and losing him in the accident that took Beth’s life too destroyed them.
However, Sawyer’s parents didn’t let them go through it all alone, they were a family and there was no way they would endure all that by themselves -his mother said-, no matter how far they lived. So, after some time, Elain and Phillip became like second parents to Sawyer.
Death has some funny ways to bring people together. He thought as he looked at the lively woman wearing a dark green dress. “We hadn’t seen each other in years until Liam’s wedding.”
“Falling in love during a wedding! My God! It’s like a romance movie!” Elain squealed, making Sawyer roll his eyes.
“It wasn’t exactly like that but… Okay!” He chuckled.
“Whatever, hon!” Elain moved her hand in the air. “She seems really nice and you make a beautiful couple.”
“Thanks.” He couldn’t hide the smile. “Let me help you with that, mom.” He grabbed her arm and waist as she was trying to sit on the wheelchair by herself.
“Do you see this expression?” his mother said as she pointed at him. “It’s the same silly expression he had since they met that weekend.”
“Mom!” Sawyer protested.
“What? A mother knows those things…”
“Yes, sweetheart, we know when our boys are in love even before they realize. Happened the same to my Matty…” She told him with a sad smile. Being barely fifty made her a really young grandmother, but she was way too young to already have lost a son. Sawyer’s heart tightened in his chest thinking about Matt and Beth. “After everything you’ve been through, you deserve to be happy, honey. So don’t be so shy about it!” She smiled, trying to change the mood.
“And I’m not! My mom is the one that doesn’t let me talk about the details!”
She slapped his leg. “Of course, I don’t! I didn’t raise you to be so cheeky!”
Sawyer laughed. “See?” Elain laughed her heart out.
He had seen them broken, crying, and going down the dark spiral of depression after losing their son and daughter. He had been beside them the whole time, and watching those women finally laugh like that was the best gift for him.
“Is there anything I can help you with?” Lizbeth asked after clearing her throat.
“Oh, hi, hon!” Diana smiled. “Could you help Sawyer bring the plates to the table?”
“I’ll go check on the kids!” Elain said.
“Thanks. And tell those men that dinner is ready! If not they’re gonna keep talking about football and getting drunk with my punch!”
“Mom, why don’t I bring you to the table and you stay there until we’re done here?” Sawyer suggested to her. He was worried because she was still recovering and, apparently, she didn’t know how to sit still.
“No buts! Let us help you at least this time, okay?” he said as he began to push her chair towards the dining room.
The table was decorated with a light brown tablecloth that perfectly matched the dark plum red napkins. The center of the long table drew attention as there was a beautiful autumnal centerpiece. Pinecones and different types of leaves filling a round glass bowl. It was exquisite and colorful.
Noah came running into the room with Sophia and Adam following her. “Noah, time to eat!” Sophia exclaimed.
“It’s not the time for her to eat yet.” Sawyer chuckled.
“Kids, no running in the house!” Elain shouted from the corridor. “My God! These children have some energy!” She sighed as she entered the dining room, giggling. “I’m too old for this!” She gestured towards Adam and Sophia running after the dog around the table.
“Have you washed your hands, Young lady?” Lizbeth asked her as she stopped her in the middle of her race. She put her hands on her chest, bringing the kid’s back to her legs and then looked at her from above.
“No…” Sophia giggled, fidgeting with the blue ribbon in her white dress.
“Oh, well! Then the brownie your grandma made is all for me!” She told her.
“You did brownie?!” The little girl’s eyes opened in surprise.
“Of course I did! It’s a special occasion.” The woman laughed. Sophia didn’t need another word and just ran down the corridor in the direction of the bathroom.
“Did you wash your hands, Adam?” Lizbeth asked him, raising an eyebrow and resting her hands on her hips.
“Yeah?” The boy hid behind a chair, grinning.
“I know that expression! You didn’t!” She tickled him. “Come on, let’s all wash our hands!” She grabbed his hand and disappeared behind the door, the clicking of her heels fading away.
“She has her way with the kids, huh?” Diana smugly smiled at Sawyer.
“You bet!” He laughed.
“I had never seen Adam so lively,” Phillip mentioned as he sat beside his wife.
“Me neither,” Elain agreed.
“I know…” Sawyer smiled.
“She’s gonna be a great mom for those kids and any other that comes in the future!” Elain declared.
“Wow! Too soon to be talking about more kids!” Sawyer laughed.
“Anyway, I think she’s perfect for you, son! Smart, beautiful, and amazing with the kids...” His father said as he approached them. “Now, make some space for this guy!” He motioned to the table.
Sawyer put some plates aside and let space enough for the tray he was carrying with the turkey. “Did you buy this to feed an army, or what?” He asked his mother.
“Elain did!” She pointed to her, making her laugh.
“I didn’t want my family to starve! Besides, like this, you can take some leftovers with you so you don’t have to cook this weekend!” She shrugged.
“Fair enough!” Sawyer nodded. I’m not feeding in food this weekend, anyway. As he thought this, Lizbeth came back, swaying those amazing hips she had. He bit his bottom lip as his eyes locked with hers, making her raise an eyebrow with a funny expression on her face.
“Sit with me?” Sophia asked Lizbeth.
“Sure, Baby girl. But first I gotta help your dad to bring a few more things from the kitchen, okay?”
“Okay.” Sophia agreed as she climbed the chair.
They walked out of the room and as soon as they were alone in the kitchen Lizbeth turned to him. “What were you talking about?” Lizbeth asked him in a low voice.
“They were saying how beautiful you are and stuff like that.”
“Oh.” She instantly blushed. “Do you think I’ve overdone it?”
“With what?” He looked at her, raising an eyebrow.
“With the dress, the cake... I don’t know! It’s been so long since I wanted to make a good impression on someone…” She breathed anxiously.
“Hey…” He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “You’re perfect, don’t worry about anything. Just relax and be yourself. They’re gonna love you.” He softly kissed her lips. “Okay?”
Lizbeth smiled at him, brushing her nose to his. “Okay…” Then, she kissed him again as he circled his arms around her waist, bringing her closer to him. He tucked her bottom lip between his teeth and lightly sucked on it.
“Can’t wait for our first real date tomorrow…” He softly chuckled against her mouth.
“Me neither…” She whispered.
“Sorry to interrupt!” His father said, clearing his throat. “Is there anything else to bring?”
“Yeah, these.” Sawyer pointed to the counter there were still were four plates
“How much did your mother and Elain cook today? Do they want us to die from a heart attack or something?” John softly laughed.
“Looks like it,” Sawyer responded as he took two plates. “Can you get that one, Liz?”
“So how’s life treating you, Liz?” John asked her as they walked back to the dining room.
“Great!” Sawyer couldn’t see her because he was walking in front of them, but he could sense the smile on her voice. “I’m preparing the final tests for a few students that are graduating this winter… I’m so proud of them.”
“That kind of job must be really satisfying, shaping brilliant minds so they become our future.”
When everything was finally ready, Sawyer’s eyes roamed over the table, fixing on the tasty cranberry brie bites -Her mom’s specialty. There were also fried mashed potato balls and stuffed Brussels sprouts as appetizers. A corn salad, a sweet potatoes casserole, garlicky green beans with crispy onions, mashed potatoes, vegetables au gratin, some cranberry sauce, a basket full of handmade bread, and bottles of red and white wine.
It was flooding the room with a delightful smell. Sawyer wasn’t exactly hungry but his mouth watered, making him swallow hard.
“Thank you all for being here on this beautiful day! Now let’s eat!” John said with his glass of wine in the air.
They sat around the table. Talking, drinking, laughing. Plates full of delicious food moving around, passing from one hand to another. It had been a while since all of them sat to have dinner together and had such a good time.
Sophia started yawning beside him. She was already wearing her pajamas but insisted on staying with the grown-ups until late. It was barely ten but it was late enough for her since she used to go to sleep around eight, at the latest. “Wanna go to bed, Baby girl?” Sawyer asked her. She just nodded as she rubbed her eyes. “Okay.” He got up and picked her up, letting her small head rest on his shoulder. “Adam it’s late for you too, let’s go!”
“Just a bit more…” He begged. He was playing cards with both John and Phillip.
“When you end this game you go brush your teeth, okay?”
“Yes!” He nodded his head fervently, making Sawyer softly laugh.
“Want me to come?” Lizbeth asked him. She had relaxed around his family, even joked with them during dinner, but she still felt kind of scared of being left alone with those women, but he couldn’t blame her because they sure would attack her with endless questions about them, he knew.
“Sure, I’ll show you the rest of the house too.”
“Be right back,” he told his mother.
“We’ll be waiting here,” she said without averting her eyes from the movie they were watching.
As they made their way upstairs in silence, Sophia started mumbling in dreams. “She’s so cute.” Lizbeth giggled.
“Yeah…” Sawyer breathed, opening the door to their room. While he put Sophia on the bed and tucked her in, Lizbeth wandered around the space, looking to the posters still hanging on the walls. It was Beth’s all room, and except for the change in the furniture, so they could fit two beds in there, everything had been kept the same way she had left it when she moved in with Matt.
“They seemed so happy...” she whispered. He knew she was looking at a picture of Beth and Matt they had on a small altar over the dresser. They put it there so the kids wouldn’t forget about their parents. They had to move forward, but Sawyer wanted to honor them, make them live in their hearts and memories of their kids.
“They were…” He responded as he hugged her from behind.
“What happened?” Her voice quivered. It was something she never asked, probably because she knew it was a delicate matter for him.
“It was some stupid drunkard…” Her hands tightened on his.
“That’s awful. I’m so sorry…”
“It’s fine. It’ll be three years next July...”
“I’m glad that you have such a wonderful family…” She sighed.
“Yeah, I don’t think none of us would have survived this without the others.” He lightly smiled. The sorrow of losing his sister the way he did would never go away, he knew, but it didn’t hurt as much as it used to be. “Let’s go back,” he told her.
Before going downstairs, they walked hand in hand while he showed her where the master bedroom was, the bathroom, and his own room. They were staying the night and he wanted to make sure she knew where everything was so she could freely move around. Then, they walked down again.
“Uncle Sawyer, I’m done!” Adam ran to him as he saw him.
“Did you win?” He asked him.
“Yeah!” He laughed, making his heart flutter.
“Cool, Buddy! Now let’s get ready for bed.”
“I’ll go with him, Sawyer. Just sit and relax a little with your family,” Lizbeth told him, putting a hand on his forearm.
“Okay,” he nodded. “Good night, Adam.” He whispered into the kid's ear as he hugged him.
“Good night,” he responded.
He watched them walk up and moved to the living room when they turned the corner of the hallway. Then, let himself fall on the armchair.
“Sawyer, she’s amazing,” his father told her, looking over his shoulder. “I mean, I trusted you when you said she was, but she’s really a good one. She’s smart and so kind. Don’t let her get away.”
“I don’t intend to.” He tiredly chuckled.
“You know… I had never seen you this happy,” Elain said out of the blue.
“She’s not only a good girl, but she also loves the kids so much, and God! How they love her!” Phillip added. Having four parents wasn’t that good at times.
“And she makes you smile so much!” his mother said.
“Mom!” he huffed, putting a hand over his face, smiling. Whenever she said stuff like that he felt somehow embarrassed. Luckily for him, the room was dimly lit, so they probably didn’t notice how his cheeks slightly blushed.
“What?” She shrugged. “I haven’t seen you this happy in a long, long time… And that’s all a mother wants for her kids.” She sweetly smiled at him. “You were in such a bad mood when she moved to California…”
“Of course I knew, she was the only girl you ever brought home besides April and Lauren-- That I know of.”
“You’re something else, Mom.” He shook his head to the sides, smiling.
“Losing your sister nearly killed all of us… But Liz+’s mended your heart in such a beautiful way… You shine with a different light now, and the way she looks at you… God! It just melts my heart! She loves you so much, hon. It’s a bliss that you two found each other again.”
“Thanks…” he softly said, looking at the floor, knowing that what she just said was true. And when he raised his head, there she was again. Illuminating everything around her with that breathtaking smile of hers and those captivating amber orbs that haunted him from day one.
He was sitting in an armchair, but it was wide enough for the two of them. “Come here, Kitten.” He moved on the couch to let space enough for her.
“Thanks,” she said as she sat beside him. “What were you talking about?”
“Just how much the kids like you,” he told her as he entwined his fingers with hers and kissed her temple.
“I like them more!” She grinned, completely unaware of the intense emotions she made him feel every second of his existence. Fuck, I love this woman!