Chapter One: Happy Birthday
"Aren't they precious?"
"They truly are." I agree and kiss her cheek before reaching to close the bedroom door to separate us. "It's late, my love, let's go to sleep." I rub her cold shoulder, and she leans back to me.
"How did we end up so happy? I still can't often wrap my finger around it." Her question makes me smile. We truly made it to the point that everything from here seems like a continuation of what happened after the last page says; 'And they lived happily ever after'.
"It hasn't been easy after all the trials we've been through. The sacrifice we made and tears we shed. I believe we've earned it." I brush her soft hair out of her porcelain pure face witnessing only love and delight in her captivating and magnificent Bambi eyes.
Now it's almost impossible to believe that once they were filled with agony and sorrow. I wish there weren't times when this ravishing young woman thought she wasn't worthy of any of it, since I can't recall ever even being a moment of doubt.
"It was entirely possible because you never gave up. Thank you." Her orbs spark with tears as her delicate gentle hands brushes my heated cheek and rosy lips whisper. "Thank you for not giving up on me."
"I wouldn't ever dreamt I could. From the very first moment I kissed you, I knew...Somewhere deep down in my soul, I knew. I won't ever be able to let go of you." I lean down to kiss her temple as a single tear rolls down her cheek. "I will walk through walls and fight the lions if that is what it takes to always and forever be with you."
"I love you." She sobs, but a big grin covers her face.
"I love you, too, my world."
Water drops from morning grass and stays on my shoes as I make my way through the cemetery. Small smile instantly curls to my lips when I see the faces of my loved ones.
It might be eerie for some, but for the past twenty-six years that has been everything that I've known. To start my birthday meeting my family by my mom's grave.
"Hey, Nanna." I lean down to kiss my grandma's cheek as she reaches for mine.
"Hello, William. Happy Birthday, my dear." She brushes her hands up my arms taking all of it in.
"Thanks," I mumble, hardly swallowing the wish.
"Have you grown up even more, or perhaps it is me that is getting smaller"? Her hand brushes my cheek lovingly as I am left to naturally shake my head at her teasing me like I'm five again. Instead, I look up at my grandad standing close by.
"Your Nanna is right. You seem to be taller every time we see you." He squeezes my shoulder with trembling hands, and I offer him a slight grin, unable to say much seeing his sucked up cheeks and purple bags under his eyes.
I already fulfilled my 8 years at med school and starting my residency. But you don't need to be a licensed doctor to tell... Grandad hasn't been doing great. His heart each year only seems to get worse and unfortunately is not much we can do. He already reserves the best treatment anyone can get. Unfortunately, that's not necessarily always enough.
It's hard, but I have never shied away from the great party, there is something about it, so soul prefilling to start my day here before craziness takes over.
Or perhaps I don't know better. My dad always brought me here the first thing in the morning. Hiding his profound grief to his best ability.
When I was a boy, I didn't understand the tears in my father's eyes, but a smile on his face—the mixture of two emotions that can't possibly be any further apart. But as I grew older, his actions finally started to make sense.
I walk up to my dad, and unspeakable pain from his gaze gets replaced with a usual smirk as we share a look that tells everything that each of us needs to know.
My dad dedicated his life to me, and every day I thank him for everything he has done. Raising me into the person I am today.
According to auntie Sophia, when I'm not around, my dad returns to an emotionless, distant self like he was before meeting my mother. That can't be further from the man I know.
He never concealed his emotions, at least not from me. He taught me to enjoy my life to my best capability. He motivated me to express myself, not be afraid of being vulnerable. To embrace my failures.
For someone that never let love back into his heart. He taught me how important it is to love and let someone love you. Perhaps sometimes not even being aware of that.
Even after so many years, the undying love for my mother still lingering in his heart couldn't be a better example of commitment and dedication to the precise person. It has led me to hope that one day I can love and desire someone infinitely too.
"How much did you already drink?" I lean closer, so only my father would hear the question dedicated to him.
Thankfully my dad never became an alcoholic like his father before. He enjoys a drink once in a while but he never goes above his limits. However, I know whiskey he likes is more tempting today than at any other time.
When I was a kid, he would put me to bed first before returning to his study and finishing a full bottle on his own. But as I grew older, he made it clear that it is not the proper behaviour; nevertheless, he never hid anything from me. Today is particularly hard for our family, him in particular.
"Not enough to abstain from the fact that you are wearing yesterday's clothes." He fires back as I press my lips in the tight line to contain my smirk.
"Daphne and I broke up."
"Aaa, break up sex." I bit my inside cheek afraid I would laugh at the really inappropriate moment because of my dad's ability to read me like a book.
"Unnecessary, if you must know. Can't say no to a girl when she persists in wishing me a happy birthday, but I just broke her heart."
"Understandable." He taps my shoulder with a smirk when he locks eyes with auntie Sophia that just arrived.
I love my auntie Sophia, she always was fun growing up, but sometimes she can be ridiculous if anyone may ask.
Sophia utterly insists that my dad hates her. While he told her a million times, it's not true.
He could never hate her.
I know dad loves his little sister, he always looked after her and been there when she needed it the most. Despite that, today is the day when she takes her distance from her brother.
"I will have a word with Sophia. I will catch up with you later."
"She is allowed to come if she wants. Make sure to remind her that she doesn't because she chooses this way."
" Why don't you say that yourself?" It never gets old to witness my dad's unimpressed face. It never fails to crack me. However, this time the circumstances force me to hold back. Even though we both know, I craved to laugh.
His words are final, and he won't beg anyone even Sophia. Not anymore, she never listened in the past anyway. That's simply a matter of principle.
Dad and I share another knowing look before he turns to leave with my grandparents. Where I see Tom waiting by the car, we will soon rejoin for family breakfast like we do each year.
I placed my bouquet on the headstone and stood still for a minute. I might never meet her, but I know she would have been a wonderful mother to me. My dad mainly made sure I know that. I loved to hear him talk about her when I was younger. She was a wonderful woman that gave me life.
Taking a moment of silence, I watch her name on the cold stone as Sophia comes to stand by my side.
"Has he left because I came?" She obviously points out to my dad leaving, and it's hard to miss the bitterness in her tone.
"No, he has not. He has been here for a while now. He also said you are welcome to join us for breakfast." I add and fully face to greet my aunt with a kiss to the cheek.
"Of course he would say that to you. This only makes me look like a bad guy if I don't show up. While I know, he still hates me for the day your mother took that bullet that was meant for me." She pulls out the tissue, and I mentally prepare for what comes each time.
"He didn't talk to me for like the first 6 months and the daggers he would send to me when I would hold you were unmistaken." She sniffs, linking her arm with mine.
"If I recall right from what Nanna and Maria said. He barely talked to anyone for the first six months and I would cry when somebody but my dad would hold me." I smirk as she waves me off, brushing a tear that isn't fully there yet from her cheek.
"Of course, you are at his side. You love your dad. He has been an amazing father to you, so you do not see it, but I know that he hates me. Sure he took care of me and provided me with everything I wanted. Yet it's undeniable he blames me as much as he blames himself for Lyla's death. Suppose if he didn't have you. I know for the fact he would have destroyed himself."
That might as well be a fact for how many times I heard that from the people closest to my dad.
And the older I grew, the more I appreciated the weight of those words. It made me understand better how my dad manages to smile, looking at me, even on the day like this.
"Anyways, would you join us?" I change the topic, but Sophia just puts her dark shades over her eyes and shakes her head.
"I love you, Will, but we will have to catch up the next time. I have breakfast with my lawyer. Sailas and I are getting a divorce."
"Oh, that one has been fast." I couldn't contain my laugh this time, but thankfully, we are alone now and Sophia joins in.
"What have I been thinking by marrying that pleb?"
"I recall you calling it love at the first sight." I mock her as we turn to leave, and she pokes me in my ribs.
"Idiot I am. I should have never divorced Thomas in the first place. He is the father of my children, after all. After him, my love life has been a disaster." Fact. I want to add but knowing how dramatic auntie Sophia could be I refrain from it, simply giving her my support.
Sophia is everything you can imagine a posh British woman would be. She is elegant and graceful; she always looks ravishing. Her hair is periodically slick and her make up is always flawless. She is intelligent and polite. But damn she has bad taste in men.
I remember stories of how she demanded to marry her high school sweetheart Thomas Jones as soon as she turned 18. Or she will run away with him. My dad was almost on his knees, asking her not to do it, but she didn't listen. So dad had to give up, agreeing with it as long as she doesn't disappear from his grip.
My dad honestly couldn't afford to lose her too. No matter what Sophia claims, he loves her, and he wants the best for her.
I was still tiny but perfectly recall the wedding. She was truly the happiest I ever saw her. Although they had their ups and a lot of downs. My nieces were born from love. At least Sophia always says that.
The youngest one, Harper, wasn't even a year-old when my auntie demanded for a divorce. It came like lightning from a blue sky even for her husband because they seemed to do better than ever after her daughter was born.
However, Sophia claimed Thomas doesn't love her anymore and rushed to conclusions as she usually does. But that's what makes auntie Sophia what she is now.
Getting divorced for the four-time and second time this year I might add.
Wouldn't change her for the world.
As I walk through the door of the house, I grew up. Familiar face greets me by the entrance.
"Hello, Katherine." I greet her with a smile as she returns it and squeezes me in a hug.
"Happy Birthday baby." She kisses my cheek, definitely leaving red lipstick all over my face as she enjoys doing it for as long as I can remember.
"Thank you. How have you been? I feel like I didn't see you in a while." I wrap my hand around her shoulder as we stroll through the house.
"Oh, you know me. Working hard then working a bit more trying to seduce your father and then he ends up by giving me more work. So nothing new. Better tell me how you are enjoying your new place, how is work?" Katherine kindly smiles at me as she always does, with a general curiosity in her tone.
"My apartment is amazing, and I have to thank you for finishing it." I squeeze her little bit closer to myself as she laughs.
"Oh, don't. Sebastian bought it after all. I only spent 3 weeks of my holiday allowance decorating it and making it perfect. No biggy."
"And that's why I love you." The smile on her face always warms my heart, and I try to give her more reasons to be happy to the best of my capability.
I might have never had a mother, and my dad was absolutely perfect and worked non stop making sure to be the best parent. However, I still sometimes wish I had a mom and Katherine have been the closest thing to it.
She tried really hard to fight over my dad but never succeeded. Despite that, she was always at his side supporting me at each of my high school football games. She would come even when he couldn't make it.
It doesn't change the fact that she would play with me when I was a child and took me on the fun days out when my dad was too busy.
She might never achieve the ultimate goal of winning over my dad, but I love her nevertheless for being exactly what I always longed.
We walk to my dad's study, and I'm not even surprised to find him here. He works the most when he is sad.
Katherine gives me a nod before knocking on the door and pushes it open.
"I have a report you asked. Also, William is here for breakfast as for Adams and Sam they are waiting for you too." Katherine casually switches the paper in front of my dad and refills his whiskey without having to be asked. She picks up and straightens my dad's jacket before hanging it on his chair.
That woman has been in this house for too long. She is his secretary and housewife, two at one.
"We will be right there," I assure her before as she gives my dad a loving gaze and getting ignored leaves the room.
Dad doesn't even lift his eyes from the document he is reading as he sips his drink.
"For God's sake, just put a ring on that woman's finger and release her from the misery." My bold statement makes him to lookup.
"That won't ever happen. I married once, and don't have a desire to do it again." I indeed see the wedding ring on his hand, he never takes it off. Besides, I am giving up on the conversation already, knowing it would take me nowhere. Been there, done that.
"Only saying you could. You have my permission for what it matters. Now get your old cranky ass up and let's go eat."
"Who raised you to be such an asshole? I want a refund on this child." I chuckle, spotting a smirk on my dad's face too.
"No, you don't.You love me and would not change me for anything," I claim confidently, and my dad raises from his seat.
"That is a fact. So tell me what is the plan for tonight?" He joins me as we make our way to the dining room.
"Ben has booked VIPs in some club. I don't actually want to know what he is even up to. But I know we weren't supposed to go crazy. Because remember I told you Ben's sister is going to come live with us for a bit and she is moving in on Monday."
"Scarlett, isn't it?" I nod, and my dad surprisingly laughs. "I just remember how on your 5th birthday you dipped that poor girl's hair into a cake."
"I was five!" I roll my eyes as my dad wipes a tear of laughter.
"Does she still hold a grudge?"
"I am afraid so," I mumble, and my dad suddenly stops us.
"Be careful, son; there is nothing worse than a revenge-seeking woman."
"I'm not afraid of her. Besides, what's the worst she could do? Dip my hair into a cake?" I mock, but my dad's face has a knowing smirk.
"That's not what I meant."
"Ben, I'm serious! One more shot and I will be throwing up on you!" I shout through the loud music and push yet another shot of tequila that my best friend is trying to force down my throat.
I love Ben, like my brother. We clicked from the first day in primary school and have been inseparable ever since.
He is like a little devil on my shoulder, that always can come up with yet another prank that will get us in trouble. Worse part nobody believes me when I say it has been Benedict's idea. Ben knows how to play his cards right.
All the way since high school, he has been the quiet, nerdy kid and most believe he still is. Meanwhile, only a selective amount of people knows that to be very far from the truth.
In high school, Ben figured out how he can get away with being naughty. From that point on, he went wild and roles were reversed. That was the moment I realised I want to go to medicine. So I took my studies more seriously, while Ben has become the one to drag me out.
I won't deny I've had my moments too, but since I usually got signed-up for Ben's shenanigans rather quickly I was never a mastermind behind it. Just like now.
I know I should have stopped three shots ago, but here I am.
I know I will be sick, but I know that Ben will convince me to do something stupid that I will regret in the morning. But he is just that kind of a friend, and our friendship is just that - ride till the end or die trying.
When we are not being silly, he is my rock. We tell each other about everything and we are always there for one another.
When I told him I am thinking about studying medicine in Oxford because it's one of the best med schools in the UK. He calmly opened their courses, and after some time, he said: "Well, it seems I'm studying business in Oxford then."
I'm delighted I have him, and after so many years of friendship, I don't believe anything can shake us down.
"You only turn 26 once Will!" He screams in my ear, obviously having one too many as well.
"Help." I duck for cover behind Zoey that hasn't stopped laughing at mine and her boyfriend's childish behaviour for what it seems have been hours.
God, I am lucky to have met her even though we didn't click immediately. Funnily enough we kind of had this rivalry going on for some time.
From the day one we met on our first lecture, Zoey and I made this a competition. We both wanted to be the best in our year.
We often would run into each other as we argued for the same books at the library or who would get to answer tutor's questions. It happened so much it eventually got in your way.
Instead of listening to our argument, professors would just ask other students. The librarians started kicking us both out empty-handed. This girl was annoying me at each step until this one party.
I told Ben all about her annoying habit to get in my way before he met her. So I never anticipated what would happen after I introduced them.
I witnessed first hand how the love at first sight looked. He quite literally drooled over my shoulder when he saw this wile woman with chocolate skin and curly afro hair.
He insisted I introduce him to her completely ignoring me repeatedly saying we were not friends.
Nevertheless, I did, and from that day forward, I never looked back.
Zoey and Ben started dating in a matter of weeks, and I had no other option but take her in.
Eventually, we have learned to work together. We started sharing books and helping each other with test preparations. Finally developing a respect for one another.
I mean we had to. Ben and I had an apartment right next to university dorms where Zoey lived. But with each passing week she spent more and more time at ours. That's when we come up with a natural understanding that we are way more alike than we are different.
Zoey likes to tease our bromance with Ben. She often says that Ben picked her because she is the female version of me. Quite a few people would agree; it's not that far fetched.
After finishing his business degree, Ben stuck around in Oxford for another few years. Till Zoey and I finished ours.
My dad gave him a job there, and now I wasn't the only reason Ben didn't rush back to London. Witch, I'm honestly more than okay with.
As I said. I learnt to love Zoey. She became one of us. I have to adore her for how fortunate she makes my best friend as she becomes my mate too. We became terribly close back at uni but the time there ran way too fast.
I enjoyed Oxford but was rather eager to return home and so was Ben. However, Zoey isn't from London. She lives just a little bit over 200 miles away in Manchester. Where she was born and raised, and planned to return after her studies.
That's how the long-distance relationship came into planning, but it was clear neither of them really wanted to do that. Naturally, they worried it would break them apart as it does in most cases. All these years they spent together it was rather hard to imagine them separating, even for myself.
To be exact, I feel proud of taking the matter into my own hands. While I was sending out my residency applications to pretty much all hospitals in London I did the same with Zoey's. And for two top students in our year, it hasn't been that hard to get offers.
Seeing she can very much have her career in London too, Zoey jumped on the train and came back to us even if her job made different turns.
During the last few years at Oxford mine and Zoey's priorities parted separate ways. I wasn't entirely sure what specific path I wanted to follow in medicine, but I knew I wanted to be in the front lines. So I initially picked a job at ER at the best-rated place in the city - St Thomas Hospital.
Where Zoey very clearly said she wants to work with kids and be a paediatrician. So she headed to Great Ormond Street Hospital.
At least we still live together because after I told my dad that I want to do a residency in London. He bought me this amazing penthouse apartment in central London that was way too big to live on my own. So understandably, I dragged my best friend with me, and we couldn't be happier for how things worked out.
"Benedict Edwards you are bad news." I pointed out to my friend dying on the counter beside me. Feeling rather proud, I managed to get out of my bed the morning after the party.
"Oh, hush. You had a good birthday, haven't you?" He smiles like a burst of sunshine, and I silently thank Zoey for a coffee mug she passes to me.
"I don't fucking remember more than half of it." I rub my temple before I steal a slice of bacon from Zoey's plate.
"Hey!" She protests way too loudly so both Ben and me quit her.
"You two are idiots. Who made you drink so much last night?" She shakes her head at us while we point at one another.
"Ben literally forced me to have those few last shots." I whine sinking into my chair next to Zoey.
"Have you lost a head of your own? If Ben would say jump, would you?" She asks, but when I look back at her, she giggles, swinging her head again. "Nevermind. Forget, I asked. Of course, you would."
"He will be the death of me," I say in a rather serious tone while both of my friends chuckle. Deep down knowing it's true.
"So when is your sister coming tomorrow?" I got serious now fully concentrating on Ben. Anything to distract my hangover.
"I rented that van to pick her from her ex at 9. So I don't know about 10/11 depending on how much shit she has." Ben casually shrugs his shoulders. "Are you sure you are okay with helping her out? Because I guess I can reschedule my meeting tomorrow?"
"Nonsense. Of course, I would help. My shift doesn't start till 5." I wave him off. "Me and Scar-Scar hanging out. It will be fun." I mumble sarcastically as Zoey barely holds her giggle and Ben rolls his eyes.
"You can tell she really doesn't want to go to mom's place when she agrees to share a roof with you." Ben releases a deep breath, and Zoey and I share a look. We both know the situation between his mom and her boyfriend.
I know why Scarlett refused to go there. That's one of the reasons I told Ben she can live here. I am also aware of how worried he is of his little sister. They might not have been the closest siblings for the past few years, but she is family and Ben is like a brother to me.
"Just don't pick a fight with her place." He quickly adds before we get uncomfortably silent.
"Hey! I don't pick fights with her; it's the other way around. If anything, it's her that bullies me at every chance she gets."
"Oh no, poor William, can't stand for himself against an adorable tiny woman." Zoey teases me with a mocking tone as she pokes me while Ben joins her laugh.
"Haha, very funny. But you both know she is mean to me." I moan dramatically.
"You will be fine. While I'm rather excited to have another girl in a house." Both Ben and I roll your eyes as Zoey claps her hands eagerly.
Perhaps it won't be as bad as I think. We might even finally learn to get along. Future is uncertain, and I'm counting on it.
AN: Hey, it's me again. I know it been a while, but I'm glad to be back!
If you enjoyed Sebastian's and Lyla's tragic story in book Desire, I hope you will also love this one. At the end of the day, it follows there grown-up son William. Showes what kind of person Sebastian raised.
The little paragraph, in the beginning, will pay off in the future. Just you stick around.
Please keep reading and let me know your first thoughts in the comments.