#62 Will you…? OH FUCK!
I’ve never been this nervous in my life. Okay, no, that’s not true. I was anxious as fuck when I got tested to see if I had the gene for early-onset Alzheimer’s, but that was different. Very different. Those were the kind of horrible nerves that almost made me leave the most amazing people I’ve ever met. The jitters I feel today are more like butterflies, I guess. Huge, crazy, scary butterflies that are tearing apart my intestines.
“Why do you look like you wanna puke?” Brittany asks me when she hands me a glass of red wine. “Here. I can’t drink, but you can. And you should. You need to relax, Abby.”
I take a sip and look across the yard at Christopher, who is talking to his friends who flew here from London just so they celebrate the adoption with us. They arrived only about ten minutes ago, so I haven’t met them yet. Chris catches my eye and waves me over, smiling.
“Okay,” I breathe, straightening my dress. “You’ve got the ring, right?” I don’t have any pockets in this dress, and I really wanted to wear a sexy dress tonight, so I asked Britty to keep it safe for me.
“Right here,” she assures me, pulling it out of her purse to show it to me. “Don’t worry.”
“Put it away!” I hiss, stuffing it back in. “I don’t want him to know yet!”
“Abby!” Chris waves me over again, looking over to see what’s keeping me so long.
“Relax,” Brittany tells me, grinning. “Ask him soon, please, because you’re starting to look like you’re going to be sick. Don’t stress. He’ll say yes.”
With a deep breath to calm myself, I walk over to where Chris is standing with two men in their mid-forties. One is a huge guy with showy muscles and carefully styled black hair. He looks like a white, older, less handsome version of Aston. The other has a bit of a belly, a receding hairline, and a kind smile that makes him look ten times more attractive than the muscular one. To me, at least. I can tell from the way our neighbor is ogling him that she doesn’t agree. I guess I’m just not that into looks. I care about what’s inside.
Lucky for me, Chris is gorgeous both inside and out, which is one of the many reasons I want to marry him.
“So this is the infamous Abby,” the tall guy with the slick look says, his eyes moving up and down my body. “Nice to meet you.”
“Eyes are up here, buddy,” I tell him when I catch them lingering at the neckline of my dress.
He laughs and extends his hand. “Paxton.”
“Oh, I know,” I say, relaxing a little now that Chris’ arm is around my waist. “Chris said one of his college friends is an obnoxious dickhead who think’s he’s still 20, and that the other is a nice guy with a wife and two kids. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out you’re the dickhead.”
Paxton laughs loudly. “Spunky. I like her, Chris. She’ll do.”
The other man shakes my hand as well. “Arthur. The nice guy with the wife and kids.”
“Chris was just telling us about what happened in New York after we said goodbye to him,” Paxton says, an amused expression on his face.
“Pax,” Arthur grumbles, shooting him an angry look. “This is a party. Don’t try to start something.”
“Oh, I know all about Chris and Gianna,” I say without flinching. I’m over that, and while it’s not nice to be reminded of our fight, I don’t hold grudges. That’s not me. “You’re not going to start something between me and Chris. Not tonight.” I look at my boyfriend, gazing into his bright blue eyes. “We’re too happy for that.”
“Damn right we are,” he agrees, leaning down to kiss me.
“Ahwww,” Paxton says, smiling genuinely now. “That’s so cute. You guys are so adora-” He stops talking and his eyes almost pop out of his head. “Holy. Shit. Who is that?”
Chris and I follow his gaze across the yard. There are about forty people present, making it quite busy, but it’s obvious who Paxton means. It’s Amelia Berger, Francesca’s mother. Her hair is flaming red with a sparkly silver bow in it, and she’s wearing a skintight black dress that shows off her rocking body. She may be in her early fifties, but she doesn’t look it.
“Too old for you,” Chris says, laughing. “You only date 20-something-year-olds, remember?”
“Yeah, but she…” Paxton seems at loss for words. “How old is she?”
“52, I think?” Chris replies, looking at me for confirmation. “Give or take a year.”
“Hah! That’s older than you are,” Arthur says, grinning. “Not your style, man.”
“For her, I can make it my style,” Paxon says, straightening his shirt. “Damn, look at that tight ass. I’m going in.”
Before any of us can respond, he’s already striding across the yard. Amelia sees him coming and an amused smile appears on her face as she sips her wine. Oh boy, this is bound to be good. Paxton says something, and Amelia rolls he eyes at him, which causes Chris and Arthur to laugh.
“Oh boy, please tell me Pax is going to strike out,” Arthur says, sounding hopeful. “He needs to be knocked down a peg.”
“If I had to pick between you and Pax, it’d definitely be you,” I say, sensing that Arthur is feeling a little insecure right now. He’s here without his wife and kids, and he’s watching muscular Paxton hit on someone while Chris is hugging his girl. I was nervous to meet him and Paxton, but I can tell that Arthur isn’t at ease here, and that makes me feel a little less anxious. He’s nice. I get why he and Chris are friends. Paxton… not so much. Although… I guess he’s an older, yes less mature version of Aston. I prefer Aston, though.
“Thanks,” Arthur says, smiling.
“Mom!” Davy yells then, cutting right into our conversation. “Dad! Can we have cake?”
“I’ll go,” I tell Christopher with a kiss. “You talk to your friends some more.”
“Love you,” he murmurs into my ear, pulling me in for a hug.
“Love you too.” So much so that I want to ask him to marry me right here and now, but it’s not the right moment. I need to do it soon, though. I want to.
I follow Davy into the kitchen, where Yoah is already cutting the cake into perfectly sized slices and handing out plates. I’m not even needed here, but I stick around to help and to tell Yoah what a great job he’s doing. He smiles proudly and carries the cake out into the yard, where all the kids pretty much attack him to get a piece.
“Hey,” I hear a timid voice say behind me. When I turn around, I see that it’s Celeste, arriving with Freddie and Edward. She went over to their place for a few hours after school to see her new room and get to know her new foster brother. The paperwork isn’t completely processed yet, but it looks like she’ll be moving in with them in a few days.
“I’m happy you guys could make it,” I say, giving Celeste a hug that takes her off guard. I’ve warmed to the girl since finding out the truth about her family. She’s lost, but she’s not a bad person, and I’m determined to show her that there are good people out there who want to help her. People like Jagger, Edward, Chris, and… well, me.
“My sexy little moon goddess!” Jagger exclaims when he walks in and sees his girlfriend.
She grins. “Come here, you weirdo.”
Edward and I look away as she sticks her tongue down his throat, rolling our eyes at each other. I pull him aside and ask him how he’s doing with the whole Celeste thing.
“Freddie likes her,” he says with a shrug. “She’s obnoxious, sure, but I’m used to kids like her, with their walls up so high they can barely see over them.” He pokes my shoulder playfully. “A bit like you when you first moved in here.”
I grin. “Yeah, falling in love with Chris really did a number on me.”
“I’m so happy for him to have those three kids as his own.” Edward sighs happily. “And you and him… it just… you two just fit. I started the process to adopt Freddie as well, since it seems like his parents and other family members will never get their shit together. Now I just need a good woman and I’ll be all set, just like Chris.”
“That’s great, Eddy! As for the woman… what about Mary?”
He grins. “Yeah… maybe. I might ask her out soon. Can’t hurt, right?”
“So you like her too?” I ask hopefully.
“Never looked at her like that, to be honest,” he says with a shrug. “She’s sweet, though. And kinda hot. So why not see if there’s something there, right? God knows it’s been a long time for me to get any kind of action.” When he sees my judgy expression, he quickly explains: “I don’t mean that I just want to go out with her for sex or anything! I haven’t been on a date in ages, and I just mean that it will be nice to have some female attention again. I don’t expect Mary to sleep with me on the first date or anything!”
He’s so cute when he rambles. He’s a bit like Chris: all grown-up, mature, taking care of others his whole life, and just a genuinely good guy. I hope he and Mary can make things work, because I think she’s amazing as well. She’s been so great throughout this whole foster and adoption process.
“She’s in the yard,” I tell Edward, pointing to the door.
“Then I think I should head there too,” he says, winking at me. “God, it’s been so long since I had a woman to flirt with. I better enjoy this.”
A second later, I’m alone in the kitchen, and I take a moment to mentally prepare myself for what I’m about to do. It’s time. There’s nothing left to wait for. Everyone is here, I’ve got the ring, and I know one million percent sure that I want to marry Chris.
When I step out into the yard, I see Christopher standing with his parents. I know that if I go over there, it’ll be another hour before I can pop the question, because his mother keeps bursting into tears and telling everyone how much she loves Chris, me, the kids… It’s sweet, but not what I need right now. I see Nathan and Caroline chatting to Dshawn and Shaughna, and I head over to them.
“Hey!” Caroline says, hugging me tightly. “Thanks for inviting us.”
“Glad you could make it.” I squeeze her tightly and then say hi to the others, paying special attention to Daisy, who’s smiling at me from Nathan’s arms. She’s not even one year old, and although not many people know it yet, there’s another baby in Caroline’s belly right now, ready to meet the world in eight months or so. I love the way Nathan looks at his wife, like she’s the only woman in the world. That’s how Chris looks at me. It’s the best.
“Hey…” I say softly to Caroline, pulling her to the side. “I want to do it. Now.”
“Now?” she asks, squealing as quietly as possible. “Oh my God! Okay, what do you need me to do?”
“I need Chris in the middle of the yard, and for everyone to shut up and listen,” I say, shrugging. “That’s all.”
“Consider it done.” Caroline moves over to Nathan, whispering something into his ear, and he nods, walking off to find Chris. She says something to Shaughna next, who looks a little surprised at whatever Caroline is asking her, but she nods anyway.
Nathan has handed Daisy to Chris’ mother, and now he’s slowly walking Chris over to the middle of the yard, talking to him about something. Chris nods, looking serious. Shaughna stands up on a chair and starts yelling, taking me by surprise.
“Everyone!” she exclaims. “Shut the fuck up!”
“Language!” Jagger yells back from the other side of the yard.
“You’re one to talk!” she shouts back grinning. “I’m serious, though. Shut up!”
When everyone is quiet and staring at her, she hops down from the chair and winks at Caroline. “Is that what you meant by figuring out a way to get the yard to quiet down?”
“More or less,” she replies, laughing. Caroline gives me a push in Chris’ direction. “Go get your man.”
Christopher looks at a loss when Nathan steps away into the shadows while I walk up to him, my hands shaking. Damn, I’m nervous.
“Sorry for interrupting the festivities,” I say loudly, trying to control my voice. “I just… I want to say something. Boys?” I ask, looking around.
“Here!” Jagger says, stepping up with Yoah and Davy on either side of him. He winks at me with a broad smile, knowing what’s about to happen.
“Okay,” I say softly, trying to force out more words. “Erm… Hi everyone…” I wave lamely, and I hear Jaxon cheer loudly, making me smile. “I’m not good at giving speeches, so I’ll make this quick. I’ve only been here for seven months, but that’s long enough to know that Christopher, Jagger, Yoah and Davy are the most amazing, sweet and beautiful people in the world. I’m so happy that they’re officially family now.”
“Baby…” Chris smiles at me, still looking a little surprised by me giving a speech. “You’re a part of this family too.”
“Not yet,” I say, swallowing down my nerves. “But I’d like to be. Christopher… I love you.”
“Love you too,” he says immediately.
“Okay, great, but shut up,” I bite back, making a few people around us laugh. “I’m really nervous and I need to get this out, so stop interrupting.”
He cocks his head to the side. “What’s going on, honey?”
“Nothing.” I assure him quickly. I try to focus on his face, ignoring the fact that everyone is staring at us. Fuck, why did I decide to do this at the party? I could have just done this on the couch or in bed, with no one but him looking at me. “Like I said, I love you. You’ve shown me that there are good men out there, and that you are the best of all of them. You’ve taught me how to open up, to love and to let others love me back. You gave me three wonderful boys to take care of, and you treat me and them like we’re the most precious people in the world to you. I love every single thing about you, Chris, and that’s why…”
Okay, here we go. No going back now.
“That’s why I want to ask you something.” I sink down on one knee and I hear people gasping all around us, while Chris’ eyes go wide. “Will you… OH FUCK!”
I forgot about the ring.
“Here,” Brittany says, running over to put the box into my hand.
I flip open the box and show him the ring, looking up into his blue eyes that are full of awe. “Chris, will you marry me?”