17 - Challenged
"Ready?" Shine asked with a smile as she slipped her hand in James's palm and held it firmly.
"Ready." He answered with a determined nod and intertwined their fingers.
They marched to the front of the house, hand in hand, where her parents were having afternoon snacks by the Zen garden.
With his resignation letter in hand, they were going to speak to Ted and Ann about their relationship.
Both hopeful and determined, the young couple went straight to telling her parents that they are officially together, that he was resigning from his job and…
"Mom, Dad, James and I are moving to their old beach house in the Southern province." Shine said as she gazed dreamily at him with sparkling eyes. "His Dad kept it although they struggled with his Mom's condition before because of the memories they have there as a family. James said it's rickety and small and that he would need to make repairs but it would be perfect for the two of us. He can still perfectly take care of me there and I would be in my happy place by the beach, in the arms of the man I love. That's where I want to live out the rest of my life, creating and sharing beautiful memories with him. As soon as James is cleared here and we have your blessing we would be on..."
"No." Ann said sternly while Ted kept quiet.
Between the two of them, his wife was the more lenient parent. He figured it was best to let Ann speak out what he knew they both thought at that moment.
"Mom?" Shine gasped in surprise. She expected that reaction from her Dad but not her Mom. Ann was always the supportive and understanding parent so to Shine hearing her Mom opposed to their decision came as a shock.
"No, Sunshine." Mary repeated. "Ever since you told us about your set up with Mr. Faulkner, we have been putting up with this weird, frankly, inappropriate relationship that you have with your private nurse because you said that you were just friends and will remain just friends. I thought that my daughter was smart enough not to let it come to this and that you..." Ann paused to glare at James. "Were responsible enough not to take advantage of our daughter's weakness."
"Mom! Don't talk to him like that! I am NOT weak! James IS responsible and kind and decent. He respects you. He was the one who convinced me to talk to you about this because I, quite frankly, would rather run away with him. I love him and he loves me. You have no right to insult him like that." Shine retaliated passionately, her voice trembled in anger as tears fell uncontrollably from her eyes.
James placed a hand over her shoulders and she turned to bury her face in his chest. He gently stroked her hair and back as he held her close.
"It's alright, Love. Just calm down. Let me talk to them, okay?"
Shine nodded her head and sobbed as she wrapped her arms around his waist to hug him tighter.
Looking over her shoulder, James addressed Shine’s parents.
"Sir, Ma'am, I understand you questioning my intentions. You have only known me a few months. And I definitely understand that you want to protect your daughter. Even I would want to do that. Shine is special. I have never met anyone as beautiful, smart, brave, kind and inspiring in my life. Her smile can brighten up anyone's day. Her laughter can make everything seem right. She is the sunshine that radiates in our lives and I love her. I truly love her."
He sighed and closed his eyes as he squeezed Shine tighter. He opened them again and looked at Ann and Ted.
"Mr. and Mrs. Malden, I love your daughter and I am prepared to do everything to prove that my love for Sunshine is true."
Ann nodded her head thoughtfully and said. "Two weeks. You two so conveniently fell in love because you were always together. For all we know, these are confused feelings of a girl who was floating in a whirl of her new life living with ALS and finds her anchor in a handsome boy who was willing to be her knight in shining armor. Two weeks apart can clear this up for everyone. Leave here and go home, Mr. Faulkner. Find a new job, spend time with your family, take an exam to med school, fix that house you were telling us about, party with your friends, it's up to you. Do whatever you want and if after all that, you realize that you really love my daughter then come back and if Shine feels the same way then we won't stand in your way anymore. We will support your decision then." Ann stated her challenge to the young man.
James was quiet for a few seconds before he gently pushed Shine away from his embrace.
"No." She protested.
"My love... Please listen to me first." He whispered.
"No! James, No! Say No!" She sobbed.
He took a deep breath as he held back his own tears and caressed her face. "Ssshhh... Please calm down. Stop crying. Please."
"You were thinking of leaving me."
"No." James bit his lip and closed his welling eyes shut as he pulled her back into his arms. "Never. I would never think that. I'm thinking of liberating us. It's hard. My God! It hurts so much. It hurts so much to be away from you even just for a little while but this... Two weeks... Two weeks, Shine and we'll be free to love each other after this. We will have the support of our loved ones after just two weeks."
"What if I don't have two weeks?" She whispered and the horror of that possibility crushed through his soul but he believed in something more powerful than fear.
"Don't say that. You will have two weeks. God wouldn't allow for us to not be together again. After that, you will have a year more, three years, five years, ten years, fifty years, an entire lifetime with me." He then let go of their hug and held her face in his hands. "You'll wait for me, okay? You'll stay strong for me?"
She nodded her head and closed her eyes.
"I'll be back soon. I love you so much, Shine.” He whispered.
"Don't forget to bring back some treats for me, okay? Bring me some white cheese from your Aunt Tess. I won't let you back in if you don't have those." She sobbed then looked up at him and smiled. "I love you, James. Two weeks. Don't be late. If I get tired of waiting for you, I'll get another boyfriend." She grinned between her sniffles.
"I promise. I'll be back soon and I will destroy any guy who attempts to get close to you with 5 kilos of white cheese." He laughed through the tears that escaped his eyes. "I love you."
Shine smiled and in a moment James knew everything would be alright. "I love you more."
He lovingly planted a tender kiss on her forehead, her nose and her lips then with a nod to her parents walked inside the house to pack up his bags.
James sighed as he watched the saddest video in the file.
It was taken through a window as raindrops trickled down the glass. It showed him walking down the cement path of the driveway through the huge garden of the Malden mansion headed for the gate with his luggage in hand.
The background was quiet save for the pitter patter of rain on the glass, some soft sobs and sniffles and her voice in a whisper saying, “See you soon, Love. Hopefully…”