Ten years later
“And just then, my heart hurt for my baby girl. Because I knew all too well what heartbreak felt like.”
“I’m worried about Aria,” I said, turning to Adam as I sighed.
“Why?” Adam’s arms circled around my waist as his eyes wandered outside, looking through the same window I’d just been staring out of, finding Aria sitting under a big tree, reading a book in the garden.
“She’s changed recently. She’s quieter. Keeps to herself a lot more.” I felt a little frown forming between my brows.
“And I haven’t seen Austin around recently, either,” I added, realizing that Aria hadn’t been asking to go over to the Johnsons’ house recently, either. The two of them had been best friends since kindergarten and had been inseparable for the last couple of years, so much so that Austin’s mom, Ali, had jokingly said on occasion that the two of them would probably end up getting married one day.
Adam’s gaze met mine and he nodded.
“Now that you mention it – I haven’t seen the Johnson kid around recently either. Which, mind you, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because I got the impression that perhaps Aria was starting to look at him the way that I stole glances at you in high school, Baby Powers. And trust me – I’m not ready for Aria to even start thinking about boys in that way.”
Adam’s eyes blazed with intent, and I smiled, because he was very protective of his girls, as he liked to refer to the four of us.
“She’s fifteen, Adam. It’s bound to happen sooner or later. Better a kid that you’ve known their whole life than a little punk who knocks on the door out of nowhere, right?” I sighed. Knowing that my baby girl was growing up fast – way too fast for my liking.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s not dating until she’s thirty,” Adam said dryly, and I started laughing.
“That’s harsh. What would you have done if my dad had said the same to you when you came knocking on his door?” I lifted my eyebrows in a challenge, and there was a sudden fire in his eyes as the grin around his mouth spread wider.
“There was no way in hell that anything your dad said would’ve stopped me, Ari, and you know it. But things were different. You were twenty-five when I started knocking on his door, not fifteen.” He said adamantly, conveniently leaving out that we had quite the history way before that.
“Hmmm... but I was fifteen in high school when you started saying hi to me all of a sudden and began paying attention to me.” I challenged him cheekily, and his arms tightened around me as his eyes started throwing flames.
“It was different, Baby Powers. I was mature for my age. As were you.” He teased stubbornly, and I laughed openly at him again.
“Hmmm... you’d like to think so, but I’m not so sure. Your nickname was Asshole, my dear, for a reason. And Aria is pretty level-headed for someone her age. She seems to be becoming more serious, actually, as she gets older. More focused on her schoolwork.” I said with another sigh.
Because even though I was proud of Aria’s academic achievements, I worried that she was missing out on life. She had friends, but it was as though lately she preferred spending time by herself, and it concerned me a little because the last thing I wanted was for her to miss out on having a healthy social life.
She was a pretty girl by anyone’s standards – and I didn’t just think so because I was her mother. But lately, there had been an almost haunted quality to her eyes. A flash of hurt that seemed to have taken up residence in her gaze. And that made me wonder...
“Don’t worry too much, Ari. Teenagers are moody. At that age, the decision between which outfit to wear could result in an existential crisis.” Adam said flippantly, clearly not sharing my concern. But call it mothers’ instinct, I just knew that something wasn’t quite right.
“I’ll keep an eye on her. I know she won’t tell me if I ask directly – I used to be the queen of keeping secrets, and not telling my parents what was going on in my life...” I sighed.
“That you were. But not anymore...”
He lowered his head, and his lips brushed over mine, lingering there for a second before my arms slipped around his neck, and I sighed as we deepened our kiss.
“Eeeeewwww – Mom and Dad are being gross again.” Hayley stormed into the room, with her sister right behind her.
Adam and I both smiled as we reluctantly unfused our lips.
“Get out, Hailes,” Adam said, trying to hide his smile, not letting go of me in the least.
“There’s someone at the door.” Melody chimed in, clearly expecting us to do something about that inconvenient little piece of information.
“You know how the monitor works – find out who it is.” Adam motioned impatiently with his head, and the twins giggled as they took off again, no doubt amused by their parents who still behaved like teenagers around each other sometimes.
And the moment they disappeared Adam resumed his previous position, letting me know in no uncertain terms that he was nowhere near done with that kiss, because his lips pounded down on mine, kissing me rough and fast, our breathing unsteady as I felt my pulse flutter and my body ache for more.
“It’s Uncle Henry!” One of the twins yelled out, and we froze mid-kiss.
“Damn that brother of yours,” Adam whispered hotly against my lips, as we both sighed, and let go of each other. “We have unfinished business, Mrs. Davis, as soon as the kids are in bed tonight...” He said threateningly with intent glistening in his eyes and I nodded in furious agreement.
“A whole lot of it.” I took a moment to catch my breath, and Adam and I walked towards the front door, opening it to see Haz and his family standing there.
“This is an unexpected surprise – come on in!” I smiled as I took turns giving everyone a hug.
“Sorry for just dropping in like this, but Maddie was whining in the car that she wanted to play with her cousins, and you weren’t answering your phones, so we thought we’d take the chance and see if you were home,” Eden said apologetically, ruffling Madeline’s dark hair.
“Sure – come on in!” I invited them, holding the door open.
“Hey Sis, Adam.” Haz greeted us warmly, his youngest on his hip.
“Can we drop this one off here as well for an hour or two so Eden and I can have a nap?” Haz asked jokingly, clearly still sleep-deprived from having an almost-one-year-old who kept them up during the night.
“Sure. Three kids or five – doesn’t make much of a difference.” I teased back, offering to take baby Archer off him for a cuddle, giving him a kiss on his chubby cheek.
“You’re a godsent. Come on, Edie – let’s get out of here.” Haz grabbed Eden by the hand, pulling her back towards the door.
“Were you serious?” My jaw dropped.
“Deadly. You’ve agreed, sorry. It’s a binding contract. There’s no scope for renegotiation now.” Haz said tongue-in-cheek, and I shook my head at him.
“Fine. But you owe us one child-minding session. Next Saturday night is date night.” Adam challenged Haz, who nodded at him.
“Deal. At this stage, I’d sell my soul to the devil for an hour’s sleep.”
“Any chance for a sleep-over?” Adam pushed his luck, and Haz’s eyebrows shot up to the roof.
“You’ll have to put something better than two hours’ worth of babysitting on the table, my friend.” Haz countered good-naturedly, and Eden and I looked at each other, shaking with laughter.
“We love them dearly, we really do...” I started, but Eden interrupted me.
“I understand. I really do. Same here. I love my two little angels to pieces, but sometimes you just need your space a little.” Eden sighed.
“Oh, sh-oot – I adjusted my language for the audience of little ears – I forgot I’ve agreed to the Blake boys coming over tonight as well. Mayhem and Taylor have their wedding anniversary and they’re going out to dinner.” I said with wide eyes, realizing that Adam and I were going to be stuck with seven kids to a ratio of two adults, and we’d be way outnumbered.
“Have a great evening, Sis. Go easy on the sugar. No red cordial for Maddie, please.” Haz said unsympathetically as he dragged Eden out by the hand.
“We’ll be back by seven at the latest...” Eden yelled as they exited through the front door.
“Maybe...” Haz added for good measure, shutting the door behind him, and Adam and I looked at each other with wide eyes.
“So much for getting lucky tonight...” Adam groaned softly into the shell of my ear, and I could only sigh.
But it was a happy kind of sigh, even though there was some frustration in there, too. Because even though life was hectic, my heart was full. So, so full of love. Because I was so damn blessed, and I knew it.
And just as I entered the kitchen to fetch the kids some snacks, I nearly bumped into Aria, who’d made her way back inside. I frowned as I took in her eyes, which looked red and swollen from tears.
“Is everything okay, Aria?” I asked softly, hoping that she’d give me a clue as to what was on her mind.
“Yes, I’m fine thanks.” She said dismissively, avoiding my gaze, then immediately turned her attention to baby Archer.
“Archie – come on over here little man!” She offered to take Archer off me, and I handed him over. I knew it was an avoidance tactic, but at the same time, it would help to have my hands free in the kitchen.
But then, I decided to push my luck.
“How’s Austin doing? I haven’t seen him around lately.” I fished innocently for information.
“He’s fine.” That look of hurt flashed across her face again for barely a second, but I noticed it.
Aria was being a typical teenager. She was a vault, shut so tight that nothing and no-one could get through to catch a glimpse of what was really going on with her, most of the time these days.
“Do you have any plans this weekend?” I tried again, not letting her see how much I was really worrying about her.
“No. I have to study for my exams.” She replied stoically, keeping her attention firmly on Archie, tickling him on the cheek as he cooed with laughter.
“Okay, just checking.” I smiled at her, pretending that I wasn’t onto her. Because the last thing I wanted to be, was a pushy mom who drove a wedge between us even further with my line of inquiry. But her reaction when I mentioned Austin’s name, gave me a fair idea as to what might have been going on. And just then, my heart hurt for my baby girl. Because I knew all too well what heartbreak felt like.
“Teenage boys can be stupid sometimes,” I said to her softly, hoping that she wouldn’t think I was completely overstepping the boundary here.
“You’ve got that right.” She sniffed, and finally looked at me, giving me half-a-smile.
“And contrary to what you might think, I was your age too, darling. I know exactly what high school can be like...” I tried my luck even further.
“It sucks.” She said with resignation, sounding defeated.
“It doesn’t last forever, you know? It might feel like it right now, but one day, the day will come that you walk outside those gates, and all of a sudden your whole life will lie in front of you. And none of it will matter anymore.” I tried to encourage her, knowing first-hand that my life really started when I met Adam in college.
“I can’t wait.” She said with a bitter little smile. And I got a little glimpse into what was going on with her. Her heart hurt...
“I’m here for you, you know. If you ever wanted to talk.” I pushed a little more, and she shook her head.
“I’m good thanks. But... thanks for offering, Mom.”
I nodded and smiled at her.
“I understand. Keep your head high and your chin up, darling. Always. Don’t let them see how much it hurts.”
And my words must have hit home because she looked on the verge of tears again.
“Yeah. I know. It just gives them more power of me if they know they can hurt me, right?” And that look of quiet devastation was back on her face.
“Exactly right. And Aria, never, ever doubt your self-worth. You’re beautiful. Smart. Witty. You’ve got so much going for you. And one day, you’ll meet someone who’ll see it as well.”
“Someone like Dad, who saw you like that?” She asked hopefully.
“Exactly like that. And don’t you settle for anything less than you deserve, ever.”
I hoped my words hit home. I hope that she believed each one of them.
“I hope you’re right...” She said with a sad little smile, that made my heart ache. Because I remembered so well what it felt like to love someone from afar, silently, without any hope.
“Of course your mother is right, sweetheart,” Adam said as he walked into the kitchen, catching the tail-end of our conversation.
“I’ll take Archie and check on the kids,” Aria said with a sigh, sounding much older than her fifteen years.
“Thanks, love. I’ll be right out.”
And as Aria left the room, Adam looked at me quizzically.
“Everything okay with her?”
“It’s boy-trouble. Definitely.” I said with a sigh, meeting his gaze.
“Oh no... it’s starting...” Adam groaned with a pained expression on his face.
“The time has come, my dear...”
And all of a sudden, my little girl was not so little anymore. She was growing up – fast. Too fast for my liking. She was on the cusp of becoming a woman, falling in love, having her heart broken and mended again. And as daunting as that was, it was also exciting. Because there was so, so much still ahead of her.
I hoped with all my heart that one day she’d find a love like the one Adam and I had. It didn’t come easy. We had to go through so much heartache before we found our happily-ever-after. But it was never a choice, but always destiny that we’d find each other, again and again. Because we were an unwritten law of the universe...
(C) Copyright 2020, Talita Lawrence. The author asserts all intellectual property and moral rights over this work.
This is a work of fiction, and any resemblance to persons, places, or incidents, whether real or fictional, is purely coincidental.
A big thank you to all of the wonderful readers from Chapters who have followed me on here - I appreciate your support more than you will ever know, and heart you all! I have seen and appreciated every vote and comment - thanks so much for the soft landing you’ve given me on this new platform!
Love, T.L. xo
P.S. - Coming next - a series about the next generation. The Davis girls, the Blake boys, and the Powers posse. I’m excited about this! Aflame is now live on Wattpad - https://my.w.tt/JyeTP9abi8 and I've just started uploading here on Inkitt as well, should be live soon.