The next weeks were filled with wedding plans for two weddings, work, school, after school activities and football. Sammy was exhausted every night after running all day. She had no idea why kindergarten was so much more than preschool, but Sammy was running on fumes being a single parent. She had no idea what she would have done without Ashley helping her. She claimed it was no big deal and good practice for when her baby came, but Sammy knew she liked helping. Whatever the reason, Sammy was grateful.
Sammy and Jake’s wedding planning was going along great. Cliff was a huge resource and got the photographer and security all set up and coordinated with the church and country club. Plus he lined up several floors at local hotels for their out of town guests. All she had to do was find a dress and bridesmaid dresses. They were going to look during the bye week when Lexi could fly in and the whole group of women could go looking together. Sammy had the appointment all set at a new bridal shop in Denver.
Mike and Abby’s wedding was set and ready to go for the bye week as well. A lot would be happening in the eight days Jake had off. The tent would be set up, along with the heaters. They had a caterer taking care of the food and Lynn was making the small cake and cupcakes. There were only going to be about 50 people there, but it was going to be a beautiful and simple ceremony.
Emily was flying in on Thursday to spend a few days with her mom before the ceremony. Abby had moved in with Mike and they were making a home together. They had some of the rooms redone and new furniture brought in, showing off their new combined taste. Emily and Mike got along well and she couldn’t wait to meet Jake, being a lover of the game just as much as her mom.
Mike’s good friend was a judge and would be performing the ceremony with Jake standing up with his dad and Emily standing up with her mom. Gracie would be the flower girl. Thrilled that she got another new dress, Gracie practiced throwing tissue squares all the time. Sammy had finally reached her limit and made her clean it up each time she did it. She called Jake on her IPad to cry on his shoulder over Mommy being mean to her. Jake backed Sammy and Gracie thought the world had ended. Being too smart for her own good, she snuck Sammy’s phone when she was talking with Jake on the IPad and called Uncle Kevin to come and rescue her.
After promising Kevin that she was not abusing Gracie or using her for child labor, Gracie lost the IPad privilege until her dad came home and couldn’t go to Emma or Tara’s house to play. Gracie cried herself to sleep that night and Sammy joined in while she was in bed.
The football season was going wonderfully. Jake’s team was 8-1, with them only losing by one missed extra point the week before. Kate had been able to make it to the first seven games, but the last two she couldn’t. Gracie had a bad cold and she couldn’t leave her with any of the family and then Sammy came down with the same cold the following week. She had a fever of 101.3 when the game started and watched from home. That week there was just too much going on and couldn’t get away.
She missed Jake and hadn’t been able to go meet him in two weeks. The weeks were getting harder not being together and it was wearing on her. Jake was feeling it too and didn’t know how he was going to be able to do it the following year. This current season was half over and with the wedding in the very near future he kept up the hope and pressed on.
Sammy made a special dinner for everyone to meet Emily when she flew in before the wedding. She wanted to make her feel welcome and Abby was grateful for her extra effort. Emily was a really nice young woman, and very easy to get along with. Studying to be a pediatrician seemed like a perfect fit for her and she blended into the group with ease. Jake had a Thursday Night game and they watched it during the meal.
Emily had good knowledge of the game like her mom and joined into the talk with everyone else. Ashley was impressed by the young woman and asked what her future plans were.
“Well, I start my residency next summer and I haven’t heard back from any of my choices yet. Then I have a couple of years to do that, and then I think I want to go into private practice,” She answered as she ate the last of Lynn’s apple pie and sighed in happiness.
“Do you mind if I ask where you want to go for your residency?” Derek asked.
She smiled, “Not at all! I put in for Boston, UCLA, Riley in Indianapolis and the one my mom is hoping for, Children’s here in Denver. I should hear right before Christmas where I am moving to.”
They all talked among themselves during half time as Sammy cleaned up with Ashley’s help. Jake’s team was winning and they had a good lead as long as they didn’t blow it. Sammy was so excited that Jake was coming home tomorrow night and was on pins and needles waiting for him. The team was in Kansas City and they had to fly back then he could come home. Sammy was ready for him and was counting the hours.
Gracie fought to stay awake for the whole game and threw a big fit which shocked everyone. She had never acted this way before and Sammy was so embarrassed. Abby could see that Sammy was close to tears and took her by the hand and coaxed her into bed and talked with her.
“But Grammy, I don’t want to!! I want to watch Daddy and play with everyone!” She wailed.
“But you have school and you know the rules that your Mom and Dad have for you right?”
“Yes, but this is special! Emily is here!”
“I understand that, but you still have school. So it’s time,” Abby calmly reasoned.
“You are so mean!”
“Yes I am and that means I am doing my job. Now get in bed,” Abby said more firmly.
“I’ll get in bed if you buy me a new dress.”
“Nope. You got a new dress for the wedding. And it doesn’t work that way, Grace. Now in bed and no more noise or you won’t be in the wedding.”
Gracie stopped and looked at Abby in disbelief, “Really? You won’t let me be in the wedding?”
“The law says that only well behaved little girls can be in weddings as flower girls, so the choice is yours. I can’t change the law.”
Grace looked at her and then laid down, not wanting to chance that she was telling the truth. Abby kissed her forehead, told her she loved her and left, closing the door behind her.
Abby went down and explained what she said to Sammy who sighed, “She has been so off the last few weeks. I don’t know if it’s the weddings, school, Jake not being here or what, but she had me running in circles!”
“It’s probably all of it. You are doing a good job Sammy. Don’t worry,” Mike said hugging her and kissing her on the head.
She nodded and tried to focus back on the game and not the little girl upstairs hopefully sleeping. They finished the game and after a win and seeing the interview Jake gave about another stellar performance, everyone left for home. Sammy cleaned up the last of the garbage and put the glasses in the dishwasher. Exhaustion setting in, she closed the door and set it to wash. She checked the front door, turned off the lights and trudged up the stairs, really feeling the last few weeks catching up with her. She had no idea how, but she got on her pajamas and climbed into bed, falling deeply asleep the minute her head hit the pillow.
She never saw the lights pull into the driveway and then leave. She never heard the front door open and then close quietly. She never heard the footsteps on the stairs or felt the bed dip as he climbed into bed with her and pulled her close to him and whispered, “I love you Baby. I’m home now!”