Authors: Mia Carson
Yet as I lay there, her earring clasped in my hand and the bright full moon shining high above me, bathing the land for miles in its silvery glow, I could see and think more clearly than I had been able to in months. I knew who I was supposed to be with. And I knew what I should have done from the beginning if I wanted to be with her. I also knew very well who I was not supposed to be with. The only thing I did not know was how to fix it.
I sighed as I remembered the way Tia had looked at me with fear and helplessness in her eyes before she had bared her baby bump. Her expression made me want to drop everything and hold her in a tight embrace. But like a fool, without asking or discussing anything, I had walked out, leaving her on her own. If anything, I needed to be
with her, to have her back and support her. If I were honest, if I really did love her, I needed to be there for her regardless of whose child she was carrying.
As my mind went in circles, I grew restless. If I tried to walk into her life with no warning, she would balk. I needed to think carefully before doing anything. I needed to make sure I kept her person, her needs, and her fears in mind before deciding how to proceed, not just my own. I needed to be thoughtful.
After a couple of hours, I got up. When I looked around and saw everything in sight lit with a silvery glow, the only thing I was reminded of was the last time she had been here with me. She had worn white, and her presence had brightened up the night.
I sighed. Heavens, she was beautiful
With my mind clear as a slate, I drove back to the city.
I spent thirty-six hours in bed following my encounter with Neal.
For the first day, Ella respected my need for space, but on Tuesday morning, she marched into my room, pulled me forcefully out of the bed and shoved me into the bathroom.
“Take a shower,” she yelled, closing the door behind me. “Put on the clothes I lay out on your bed when you’re done and come out of this room. I’m making breakfast.”
I stood in the bathroom in my dirty pajamas, scowling and muttering to myself the things I was too afraid to yell back at her. I took a shower.
Warm water did work wonders. Five minutes under the shower and I felt lighter. I decided to treat myself and filled the bathtub, then stayed in it for a half an hour. I was humming to myself when I walked out of the bathroom.
Ella had laid out a pink chiffon kaftan top with white capri pants. I had never laid eyes on them before and was pretty sure they weren’t mine. However, as I felt more relaxed after my bath, I didn’t fret over it and simply put them on. I looked in the mirror and decided that, for a maternity outfit, it was way too cute.
Ella’s head appeared in the door. “Breakfast is ready,” she announced.
She had made pancakes, which was a rarity. I was really hungry after my one-day hunger strike and ate like I had been starved for days.
“Come with me,” she said when we had finished eating, and taking my hand, she took me to her room.
She made me sit in front of her dressing table. She looked through various dressers and produced an array of cosmetics. She proceeded to apply them to my face. To be honest, I was scared but didn’t want to say anything—Ella had done my makeup more than once, and I was pretty sure I would look like a cross between a middle-aged hooker and one of those movie stars who go insane in their later years. However, when I looked at myself in the mirror after she had finished, I saw a face with a light blush on cream skin, lightly shadowed eyes with a thin line of eyeliner, and baby pink lips. She French-braided my hair on one side, and when she was done, the effect was quite cute.
“Ella, what is going on?”
“You have a date tonight.” I opened my mouth to protest. “You can’t say no. Sorry. You’ll be at Ghyslain at nine. Or our friendship is over.”
I tilted my head at her. “Really?”
“Okay, not really, but you’re going. And don’t ask any questions. Just do it for me.”
“Okay, I guess,” I said too tired to wonder what she was up to. I knew Ella wanted the best for me, so I would oblige her. I also had an idea of who she was setting me up with and for some reason, though I should be mad at Neal, I really wanted to see him.
At five to nine, I was in front of Ghyslain. My heart thudded in my chest. I had not seen Neal since I told him about the pregnancy, and while I yearned with every fiber of my being to get out of the car and sprint into his arms, another, more insecure part of me was causing hyperventilation. I looked at my reflection; I was sweating.
“Calm down, Tia,” I told myself. I took a deep breath and felt slightly better, so I took another and counted until I was at two hundred. I looked at myself in the mirror again. I was no longer sweating. If I waited any longer, I was going to sit here in my car the entire night. At some point, I had
to get out.
As I left the car, I noticed that there were only a few cars parked outside the restaurant and the lights inside looked much dimmer than they would normally be at this time of the night. I spotted Neal’s car among the ones parked out front, and all of a sudden, my nerves calmed down.
He was here. He was here, inside the restaurant right now, waiting for me as I had suspected. All of my fears seemed stupid now. I quickened my pace, and as I opened the doors, I gasped and took a step back.
The inside of the restaurant looked nothing like I remembered. The entire place had been stripped clear of furniture, and the only lights in the room shone on a walk from the door to the center of the room. The strip of floor, glowing in the muted light, was carpeted with red and white rose petals. Did he rent the entire restaurant out to see me again?
In the center of the room, bathed in soft golden light, Neal stood waiting for me. He wore a charcoal black pantsuit with his hair swept back, and he looked more handsome than I remembered. As I walked up to him, treading softly on the rose petals, he stretched out his hand towards me. I took it as I reached him. His eyes crinkled, and he looked at me with a most tender expression.
“It’s a good thing you came,” he said. “I was worried you wouldn’t show up.”
“Neal,” I said softly, leaning into him and breathing in the scent of him. I felt calmer and happier than I had in a while.
“Tia.” He spoke tenderly, his lips brushing against my hair. I turned my face up and kissed him.
Every fear, every single doubt I had felt in the last month and before that, disappeared as soon as our lips met. We were perfect together. Right here, in this moment, I could see it clearer than ever that we were meant
to be together. There simply was no other way.
Neal handed me a rectangular box. “This is for you,” he said.
Tears sprang into my eyes and rolled down my cheeks before I could do anything to stop them. I opened the box. Hardly able to believe it, I touched the chain and picked it up in my hands. It was exactly like the one my mother had given me, but newer and shinier.
“How did you...?” I could not finish my question.
“When we met the first time, I noticed your fingers often reached for something that wasn’t there.” He paused to wipe a tear rolling down my cheek with his finger. “I knew there had to be some reason. That, and of course, Ella helped.”
He took the chain from my hands and put it around my neck, clasping the hook at the back. I touched the skin around the hollow of my throat, and the familiar cold metal made me shiver with happiness.
“Thank you so much,” I said, tears of bliss still rolling down from my eyes.
Then, he dropped to one knee, and I gasped. “Tia,” he said, producing another small, velvet-covered box from his pocket and opening it quickly. Inside was the most beautiful diamond ring I had ever seen. I struggled to find a way to make myself believe I wasn’t dreaming.
“I love you, Tia,” he continued. “I have loved you since the moment I set eyes on you. I knew everything was going to change for me from that moment. And I was right.” He paused to take a breath, and I noticed that his eyes were beginning to swim with tears. “I didn’t know the meaning of the word
before I met you. I love you like I have never loved before and will never do again. So Tia, will you make me the happiest man on earth by marrying me?”
My eyes were brimming with tears and my body was frozen with shock.
“Will you?” he asked again.
“What about the baby?” I asked.
“Tia, I don’t care whose baby it is as long as I have you. Your baby is mine regardless of the father.”
I stood there in silence, my mind racing in a billion ways.
“So, what do you say?” he asked, grinning. “My knees are beginning to hurt.”
“That’s history. She never compared to you.”
“It’s yours, Neal. The baby is yours.” I whispered.
“Yes!” Neal screamed and hugged me. “I guessed that already and you don’t know how excited I am.”
“So you’re no longer engaged,” I said, the voice of reasoning setting in. All I wanted was to say yes to this man and take off with him, but he belonged to someone else.
“Not anymore. Tia, you made me realize what true love is. I want you. I need you, Tia. So would you please be my wife? Be the mother of my children?”
As I nodded frantically, tears streaming, I realized that on some level, I had always known that Neal would be mine.
Neal put the ring on my finger and stood to kiss me, and the entire room suddenly erupted with cheers and bright lights.
I looked around, giddy, and the first person I saw was Ella. She was there, cheering and crying at the same time, and next to her, Guy stood clapping. Colleen, my friend from New York, was there, as well as Gem and Derrick Swanson.
The rest of the crowd was comprised of people I assumed were some of Neal’s friends. His mother was also there, as well as his driver, Todd. As everyone around us cheered and congratulated us, my hand shot up to touch the golden chain around my neck.
, I thought in my heart,
I wish you could’ve been here to see this
Neal noticed the gesture. He leaned in to whisper in my ear. “I love you,” he said, kissing my earlobe and rubbing my belly. “I know your mom would’ve been very happy. I can’t wait to meet our baby.”
I turned to kiss him fully on the lips. This was crazy and things were happening too fast, but I would have it no other way! Neal had come into my life through an app but had made his way into my heart with his kindness and love. There was nowhere else I wanted to be at that time. And our baby... I couldn’t wait to meet him or her, either. My life had taken a whirlwind turn, but I was happy and grateful for how things had turned out.
“I love you, too,” I whispered to him amidst all the cheers of our family and friends.
*** THE END ***
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