Several Years Later
I look across our yard, twinkle lights lining the fence and Tikki torches lighting the walkway up to the table I had just set. Jay comes bustling through the backyard, an empty tray in hand as he runs towards the grill. I laugh as he quickly pulls the chicken wings off and onto the tray. Once he’s done, he turns around and gives me a glare. “I was busy setting the table.” I say. He shakes his head, sets the tray down on the table, then comes over to kiss me despite his frustrations. “It’s okay if tonight isn’t perfect. They’re going to be happy no matter what.” Movement stirs in the corner of my eye and I look over to see two nearly identical faces squishing their faces against the glass. I laugh at Liberty and Tasha, the two who look more like and acts like their mother the most. “The little devils are here.” Sighs Jay.
“Stop calling them that. If Letty ever hears you, she’ll kill both of us.”
“But they’re just so chaotic.”
“As all two-year-olds are. It’s just worse because there’s two of them.” Letty and Emmett open the back door, releasing their twins into our backyard. Tango, our hound mix rescue, dashes out from under the porch and runs after the kids. They giggle as he bumps into them and licks their face. “Tango! Stop slobbering on my kids!” Yells Letty as she runs over, a clean wipe in hand.
“You would think as many times as we come over; she would be used to that by now.” Says Emmett as he walks down to us. He gives Jay and I a hug in greeting, all of us grateful to be together for the first time in months.
“I know we just saw you guys last weekend, but I’m excited to have everyone here.” I say.
“Me too. Vance and Min were pulling up as we walked in.” And on cue, the two walk through the back door, excited smiles on their faces. “Uncle Min!” Yells Liberty as she comes running over.
“Hey you two.” She squats down, opening her arms up wide. Giggles erupt from them both.
“Vancie!” Yells Tasha, running over and flinging herself against Vance’s leg before he can react.
“I’ve missed you so much.” Says Min as she swoops Liberty up into her arms. “When are we going to have a sleepover?”
“Tonight!” Liberty and Tasha yell in unison.
“If you let go of my leg, I can give you the present I bought.” Tasha immediately lets go of Vance, then holds out her hands. From Min’s purse, Vance pulls out two plushies. A dragon for Liberty and a dog for Tasha.
“Thank you, Uncle Vance!” They say in unison. Min puts Liberty down, and the twins run after Tango to tell him about their new toys.
“This is why they’re spoiled rotten.” Says Letty.
“That’s what happens when you have a big group of friends.” Replies Min. The backdoor opens again as Micah and his boyfriend Ethan walk out.
“Finally!” I say as I run up to them. I give Micah a tight hug, sad that it’s been the longest since I last saw him.
“What took you so long?” I ask, giving Ethan a hug as well.
“Someone couldn’t find the right blazer.” Replies Ethan.
“We’ve only been home a few days, and I wanted to wear my favorite blazer. There is nothing wrong with that.” Says Micah.
“How was your trip?” Asks Letty as we join the group.
“Exhausting, but that’s what I get for falling in love with someone who does motivational speaking.”
“But you enjoy seeing the world with me.”
“I do.” Micah kisses Ethan, reassuring him that his frustrations aren’t with Ethan’s job.
“Well, let’s eat before it all gets cold!” Says Jay. We gather around the table, the twins running around, screaming like crazy no matter how many times Emmett and Letty beg them to come eat. We catch each other up on what’s been going on in our lives and how we’re excited about the summer being over and we can all finally rest and hopefully see each other more. When we’ve eaten to our hearts' content and we’re just talking about anything at this point, I look to Jay to see if he’s ready. When he smiles and nods his head, we both stand up. Our friends look at us questingly. “We have been wanting to get you all here for a while now… It was unexpected and unplanned, but it feels right. Soon, our group is going to grow by another because I found out I was pregnant last month.” They all look surprised, but everyone smiles and congratulates me.
“I hope you don’t have twins.” Says Letty.
“I hope so too.” Replies Jay.
“We’ll be happy with whatever we have.” I say.
“When is your due date?” Asks Micah.
“March. Close to Riley’s birthday.”
“Really?” The boys look to Jay, wondering how he feels about this. When I found out, I was worried, but Jay reassured me that if our baby was born on Riley’s birthday it will be the greatest gift he could ever ask for. We even decided, boy or girl, that our baby's name was going to be Riley.
“Maybe it’s a sign that my brother is happy with how my life has turned out.” Jay kisses my cheek gently and places a hand on my stomach. “I wish he could be here and be the best uncle possible uncle to our baby. But I have a pretty amazing family. I know you all will pick up any slack.”
“We’ll be the best aunts and uncles.” Says Min.
“Thank you all for being here. I really have missed you.”
“No more putting this stuff off. We made it work while we were in college, we can make it work now.” Says Letty.
“We’ve been thinking about moving closer.” Says Vance. “We love being close to our families, but you guys are different. And now Alia is having a baby, we want to be more present so we can be an amazing aunt and uncle. And if we ever decide to bring a baby in the world, we’ll have you guys near.”
“I’m going to stop traveling with Ethan so much and get back into my career so I’ll be home more.” Says Micah. “I’ll probably still do a tour here and there. But that’s not the life for me. I’m exhausted.” Ethan gives Micah a reassuring smile.
“I’ve been considering reducing my travel. We’re all getting older and just look at how much the twins have grown. I want to be able to watch more nieces or nephews grow up.” Says Ethan.
“So it’s settled.” Announces Emmett. “We’re all going to be more family like from now.”
“I couldn’t be happier to have you all more than once every few months.” I say.
“To family.” Jay holds up his drink as everyone does the same. “Although not by blood, we couldn’t have made up a better family even if we handpicked each and every one of you. Thank you for sticking through the hard times and enjoying the good times with us. I love every single one of you.”
“To family.” We say in unison, clinking our drinks together. I look to Jay and see a serene kind of happiness on his face. We’re about to embark on a new chapter in our lives, and I couldn’t be happier to do it with the most amazing person I know and to have so many great people in my life. I look around at each of my friends, wondering how I got so lucky to be able to spend a night like this with them. I am incredibly grateful for the people who have become my family when I always believed my mother would be the only person I had in life. And I proved her wrong. I am worthy of love. Of happiness. And of these bonds I have with my friends. Nothing will come between me and them ever again.
● The End ●
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