"That was delicious." I put my fork down, sitting back in my seat.
"Really?" Tory looks up at me.
She grins, "Thank God."
Chuckling, I follow suit as she gets up and takes my plate to the sink. Ignoring her protests, I help clear the table.
"You want some more wine?" I ask as I pour myself another glass.
She takes the glass from me and follows me into her living room. We sit down, quiet for a few minutes until I glance at her.
"You wanted to talk?" I ask gently.
She glances up at me and nods. It's silent for a few minutes before she begins.
"Brian, I moved away from home two years ago after a nasty breakup. I..." She glances down at her wine, "I was engaged to this guy," My eyes widen. She was engaged? I never knew. "I really liked him and we dated for three years before he proposed." She shakes her head, "I should have known he'd never really be that interested in me." I roll my eyes." His ex turned up a month before our wedding and he broke it off."
"He broke it off?"
"Well, he was coming to break it off with me and I gave back the ring. I'd heard enough rumors by then."
I shake my head. "That guy is an idiot. But I need to thank him. If he had married you, then I wouldn't have gotten you."
She looks up and smiles. "I moved here after that and since then work's kind of become my priority. I've kept myself away from everyone until you. But I'm not stupid. I want this more than anything. And with you, it's like it's mutual. I feel appreciated and loved and I really don't want to lose you."
"Should I feel flattered?" I ask lightly wanting to make her laugh. She chuckles and I move over to sit beside her. Reaching over I take her hand. "Tory, you are a beautiful woman. Any guy would be stupid not to want you, let me just make that clear. That guy is a complete idiot! But at least he did one thing. From what you said, he kept you from being unhappy right? Since you weren't too sure of his feelings?"
"So what you have to do is just learn from it and move on. You're not going to get anything from dwelling in what's happened and keeping yourself back." She looks up at me and I smile. "And for the record, I don't want to lose you either."
"So you really forgive me?"
I nod, "I really forgive you."
She smiles and leaning in, I press a kiss on her lips.
"Where were you all weekend?"
I chuckle, "I have a cabin down by the lake. I sometimes go there during the weekend. Especially if I need cooling off." As she opens her mouth, I hold my finger against her lips. "Don't apologize Tor." I suddenly think of something. "I know how you can make it up to me."
She narrows her eyes, "How?"
"Come home with me for Christmas? Please? My whole family is dying to meet you and I want to be with you then."
She glances down, biting her lip.
"It's your choice Tory."
"When would we leave?"
"Thursday early morning."
"It'll be impossible to get tickets even if I agreed Brian."
"Not a problem. I've already booked two tickets." When she raises an eyebrow, I grin. "Just in case you'd say yes."
She smiles, "Would I get to see your niece and nephew?"
I chuckle, "Of course."
"Then count me in."
"And only because you'll see my niece and nephew and not because you'll be with me?"
"Yup. They are adorable and I really want to meet them after everything you've told me about them."
I laugh, "Alright. Guess I'll have to make do with that."
"Yeah Brian, be happy that I'm coming at least."
"Oh, I am. Don't worry." I tilt her chin up and press my lips to hers.
"And so Santa left the North Pole with his reindeers."
Jasmine and I exchange a smile as we watch Craig narrate the story. I glance back at Mark, who's standing against the wall of the auditorium, video taping the entire play. He looks up from the camera and shoots me a smile.
I turn back just in time to see the reindeers pull in Santa's sleigh. The audience awwwws as they walk across the stage, in their costumes.
"Look at Carly!" Jasmine whispers excitedly and I chuckle. Carly's Rudolph and she's at the front with his red nose.
Everyone's here. I look around. The four proud grandparents are sitting two rows ahead. Jasmine's next to me and Justin and Amber are further down the row. Their youngest daughter's in the play as an elf. And Brian and Tory are right in front of me.
Brian and his girlfriend had met us at the school before the start of the play. They'd flown in a few hours before. Tory is wonderful. What I've seen in her till now that is. When she looks at Brian, there's that look of devotion so clear on her face.
Once the play ends we all stand up and applaud as the cast takes the stage. They hold up their hands, grinning. Brian whistles but then ducks down, not wanting the kids to know he's here just yet.
Fifteen minutes later, Carly and Craig come running down the hallway towards their grandparents. I smile as they start talking animatedly and head towards me.
"You guys had fun?" I ask as we head towards the parking lot.
Carly turns around and waves once more to Mom and Dad as they leave through the back with Mark's parents.
"Yes! It was lots of fun!"
Carly let's go of my hand as she sees Mark and flies over to him.
I'm crouch down by Amber. "Had fun Hailey?"
She nods, smiling. "Did you see me?"
"Of course I did darling. You looked adorable!"
She grins and then turns to her mom, tugging on her handbag.
I turn back towards Mark and see both kids talking at once.
"You two still haven't grown out of that habit."
"Uncle BRIAN!" They both scream and Mark steps away as they run around him towards their uncle. Chuckling, Mark drops a kiss on my cheek and heads over to talk to Justin.
Brian bends down in front of them and Carly and Craig throw their arms around him.
"Now who was that narrator in the play?"
"You saw it?! It was mee!" Craig exclaims.
"Really? She was wonderful! That couldn't be you!"
He laughs, "It was!"
"And that adorable reindeer, Rudolph?" "Me! Me!" Carly jumps up and down.
"You were great. Both of you were."
"When did you come? Till when are you staying? You said you couldn't come!" Craig says.
"Woah! Woah! One question at a time. I came this morning and I'll stay till after Christmas. Yes, I wanted to give you a surprise."
"Yaaay!" Carly claps and I chuckle. Brian looks up at me and then glances back at the kids.
"Have you grown taller?" He asks Carly.
"Yes!" She gives a little hop, happy he's noticed. "Daddy measured me yesterday and I GREW!"
"And what about you, little soldier?" He asks Craig.
Craig shakes his head. "I didn't grow."
Brian messes his hair up. "You just wait a while. You'll be tall. But you young lady, better not grow too tall. You'll be taller than me soon and Craig and I'll be scared of you!"
Carly pouts and then shakes her head. "I don't wanna grow tall."
"Why?" Brian asks, pulling on a serious face.
"Because then you won't be able to hug me!"
He burst out laughing and lifts Carly up, getting to his feet and twirling her around.
She glances behind him and sees Tory for the first time. Tory, who's been standing and watching the encounter with a smile.
"Uncle Brian." She taps his shoulder. "Who is she?"
Brian glances back and sets Carly on her feet. He gestures for Tory to come closer and she ducks down beside him. He pulls Craig and Carly beside him.
"Carly, Craig this is my girlfriend Tory. Tory, these are my adorable niece and nephew Carly and Craig."
"Hi." Carly waves at Tory, shyly.
Tory smiles. "Hey hun. Were you that adorable Rudolph."
Carly nods, her finger in her mouth, something she does when she's shy.
"And were you that amazing narrator?" "Yes!" Craig nods, grinning. "I was pretty good wasn't I? There's a boy his name's Frank and he said I stunk. I didn't stunk did I?"
Tory shakes her head. "No. You were pretty amazing and I've seen a lot of plays my entire life. I should know."
"You should come say that to Frank. He won't listen to me."
She chuckles, "I might one day."
I glance back to see Mark holding Hailey, while talking to her parents.
I glance back as Brian slinks an arm around my shoulders.
"How are you?"
Smiling, I look up at him. "Good. You?"
He chuckles, "Doing great, pumpkin."
I shake my head, laughing. A glance towards the kids, I see them surrounding Tory.
"She's a great girl Brian. What I've seen till now."
"Thanks Ness. It means a lot to me."
I smile and he suddenly moves away. Taking my hand he pulls me to the side. "Why don't you sit? Shall I get the car?"
I shake my head. "I'm fine."
"At least lean against this car."
Shaking my head, I lean back. "How's the baby?"
I smile, my hand automatically going to my four and a half month old baby. "Fine."
"Any name yet?"
I chuckle, "Ask your brother. He hasn't come up with anything yet."
Brian shakes his head. "You still have time. When you stopping work?"
"In another two months. Which isn't a lot. There's the new year's break now so only 6 weeks will be left."
"Are you still traveling?"
I shake my head, "No, stopped last month. It's fine till the sixth month but there's been no reason for a business trip."
He nods. I look towards Mark. He's handing Hailey over to Justin and then heads towards our car, parked further down.
"Where are you staying?'
"Mom and Dad's. We'll be coming over to yours Christmas Eve."
"Yeah. Everyone is. Seen Lucy?"
He chuckles, "Yeah before she left for classes. I need to sit down and talk with that girl. She's got a glow around her."
"Doesn't she? I thought so too."
"And you know why but you're not going to."
I shake my head, grinning, "Nope."
I brush at my cheek as something tickles me only to have it do it again seconds later. I lie completely still and a second later, Again.
"Mark!" I groan and he chuckles behind me.
"How did you know?"
I don't have to turn around to see him pouting, his beautiful gray eyes wide. But I doo, because I love the expression.
"Because I know you too well."
He groans and pulls me close. "So you should know the way to my lips, right?"
I scrunch my nose, "Really? I might have forgotten."
He narrows his eyes. "Fine then. Your loss."
I watch as he sits up. The blanket falls away from him and I trail my eyes down his well-defined chest. He's got gray joggers on, his normal sleeping wear.
"Mmmm." I stretch and glance at the clock. 7:30. "I want to sleep more but the kids will be up any minute."
"I know." He eyes me as I stretch. "I wanna sleep more as well."
Laughing I get up. "Lemme freshen up and get breakfast started yeah?"
20 minutes later, Mark and I are having our breakfast in the kitchen. His eyes are on me as I scan the newspaper.
"What is it Mark?"
He shakes his head. "I can't put my finger on it."
"Why do you look so beautiful today? I mean, you look beautiful everyday, but exceptionally so now."
"Thank you." When he continues staring at me, I chuckle. "Probably because I'm wearing the sweater you bought for me?"
He snaps his fingers, "That must be it."
Shaking my head, I glance towards the door. Mark's about to say something but I kick him and he follows my gaze. Exchanging a smile, I slip off my stool and walk towards the living room.
Tory slips some gifts under our tree.
She inhales sharply as she turns to see me, her hand on her heart.
I chuckle, "Sorry. I couldn't help myself."
She shakes herself. "It's okay."
"What were you doing... exactly?"
She smiles, "Slipping a few things under the tree for the kids."
"I thought Brian said he already put your things."
"Yeah, both of ours. But I wanted to get the kids something. They're special."
Mark's arms come around my waist. "Morning Tory."
"You didn't have to Tor."
"I wanted too."
I smile. "Thanks. You hungry? I'm just going to start breakfast."
"Wouldn't that be a waste? It'd get cold. Why not we just make hot chocolate for everyone and after the gifts, we'll worry about breakfast."
"I like how you think." I grin and she laughs.
Ten minutes later, we've just finished with the hot chocolate and we're pouring it in the mugs when we hear a commotion from upstairs.
Mark puts his coffee mug down. "They're up."
Half a minute later, there's a stampede as Craig, Carly, Diane, Timmy, Troy and Hailey come running down the stairs.
"Whoa! Careful!" Mark holds up his hands as they come down but they ignore him and run right past him, screaming. I laugh, Tory and me appearing beside him as Brian, Lucy, Jasmine, Teddy, Justin, Amber, Mom & Dad and Mommy and Pappy come downstairs, either dressed or in their robes.
"Morning. Merry Christmas!" After all the hugs and kisses are over, I gesture towards the kitchen. "There's hot chocolate for everyone."
The children are patiently waiting for us in the living room, surprisingly. The next hour-hour and a half, we all exchange our gifts and there are a few tears. The kids start playing with their gifts and there's a tiny mountain of things for the baby.
The best gift is from Mark. His eyes are sparkling as he hands me a gift wrapped box and he's got a huge grin on his face. I know that expression.
I tear open the wrapping, as everyone watches in anticipation. I open the blue velvet box and gasp. Nestled inside, is a diamond heart locket. I lift it up and watch as it dangles on the silver chain before opening it. Inside, there's a picture of Mark and me on our wedding day and opposite is a picture of the both of us and Craig and Carly. I blink back tears as turn it around, closing the locket and engraved at the back is;
To Vanessa, the holder of my heart. I love you forever and always.
It's half an hour later that I get up and start heading towards the kitchen. Mark starts to follow me but I wave him off. Amber, Jasmine and Tory join me minutes later. We start to prepare breakfast. Mark drops in a few minutes later and after dropping a kiss on my cheek, pulls his coat on, grabs his keys and leaves. Ten minutes later, he's back with fresh baked croissants and jam rolls. The girls and I set up the feast of pancakes, waffles, toast, croissants, bread rolls and fruit on the table.
Standing to the side, I watch the mayhem around the dinning table. Mark's talking to Teddy who's on the opposite end of the table and has his three-year-old son, Timmy or Timothy, climbing up his leg. The adults are serving the kids. Amber's carrying Hailey as she chooses what she wants to eat.
My hand goes to my baby bump.
We're all waiting for you. I think, talking to my baby. And we'll be complete.
Tory appears beside me, "You have a wonderful family Vanessa."
"Yeah, I do." I smile, watch my family. Smiling, I turn to her. "And it's even better now that you're here."
She looks up at me and smiles, seeming genuinely happy.
And I really mean it. I already think of her as my sister, probably because Brian is so crazy about her and she already seems as one of us.
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Together as One - Chapter 13Enjoy! 15 comments!
By Sammer A