After two long days of driving and a short night at a creepy cheap hotel, we made it to my parents house just before midnight. Of course they weren’t awake, but Rachel was. What’s weird is the fact that Rachel was actually home; normally, she snuck out and spent time with her friends, socializing. She came jumping out the door and basically hopped down the driveway until she reached us. She hurled herself into my arms, squeezing and squealing. I hushed her and stuffed her hand over her mouth, giggling with her. “I’m sorry Di, I just love when you come home! It’s like Christmas more than once a year!” She beamed. “Oh, hey Nick, I guess it’s nice when you come by too, I suppose!” She teased him as we launched into silent laughter together. Nick chuckled, and motioned for us to go inside so he could carry things in.
“Oh, no no no, Nicholas,” a deep, familiar voice warned from behind us. “Bring in a suitcase or whatever is necessary for sleep, and we will all work on this together tomorrow.”
“Daddy!” I squeaked, running into his open arms for a hug. He squeezed me tight and kissed me on top of my head.
“Hi, sweetheart! How was the drive? Took you long enough to come back home to see your folks!”
“Now, now, Tom,” Mom yawned, approaching us, “Let them come inside and settle down before assaulting them with questions.” She beamed at me in the dimly lit garage. “Hi, baby. How I’ve missed you so!” I squeezed her tight and she rubbed my back, returning the squeeze. “Now, y’all need to come on inside, and we can brew up a pot of coffee and sit together for a while, or if you’d like, we’ll leave you two alone so you can rest?”
“Oh no, misses Malley,” Nick interrupted, “This one has been nothing but trouble since we’ve been gone, and I would love some more grown up company!” He chuckled. I gave him a sarcastic smile as I snaked my hand down his back and pinched his butt cheek, causing him to jump a bit. My parents laughed with him, welcoming him back home with hugs and handshakes, as if he’d been in the family our whole lives. I could feel myself practically glowing and floating, full of pure happiness. I got so lucky with this one, I’m never gonna let him go… poor guy!
Mom and Dad ushered us all inside, and Rachel took care of starting the coffee pot as we settled into the giant, fluffy couches. I curled up into Nick’s side as I listened to my family talk about how things have gone down in the South, and how everyone has been. Nick revealed his big news, that he accepted an amazing job offer down here, close to home, so we could stay for good, and that I would work part time somewhere, anywhere, while looking for an adult job. He left out the fact that I’ve been working on a blog and creative writing, he looked to me and waited for me to speak, so he didn’t steal my thunder. Rachel smiled and looked at both of us, then started squealing again. “Ohmygod, Di, are you pregnant? Is that what you’re not telling us?” She was practically screaming with excitement, and Nick’s eyes mirrored mine as they widened and we both frantically shook our heads no. No, no no…
“No!” I yelled, standing up. “Rachel, would you quit shrieking like a banshee, and listen to me for a minute?” Her smile immediately dropped as she sunk back into the couch, and I sat down again, on the very edge of the couch. I was nervous; I knew how Mom and Dad felt about writing, or any artistic profession. I’ve been told it’s not realistic, and I need to find something else to do, something else to bring home the bread. Nick’s warm hand found mine, and with that, I found my strength to speak. This would possibly be a giant disaster. “Mama, Daddy, you know how I told you my whole life how much I’ve loved to write?” I sighed as they nodded silently, urging me to continue. “Nick and I have decided that since he has a permanent, full time job with good enough pay, we will be able to afford if I choose to chase my dream of being a writer,” I blurted. When they said nothing, I continued to babble. “See, I went to college and got a degree in journalism since that was the closest thing to what I’ve always truly wanted to do, but I’ve never found a job and was able to get experience with it. I’ve had to rely on tips from waiting tables and tending bars night after night, and I’m so tired of it, Mama. I’m so tired of not being able to pursue what I truly want to do, the same way everyone else around me is doing or has already done.”
Mom smiled and walked over to my side of the couch, sitting on the other side of me. “Baby, if this is what makes you happy, and Nick here is going to support you and cheer you on the whole way, I don’t see a reason why you shouldn’t chase your dream. We’ve always believed you could do anything you set your mind to, and you’re stubborn about your goals, which is such a great thing. Is this what’s going to make you happy, baby? Because if it is, your father, Rachel, and I will not stand in your way, but we will join Nick on the sidelines to cheer you on through the whole journey.” She wiped the single tear that ran down my cheek, and kissed my hands. “But for now, I think we’ve all had a very long day, and could benefit more from actual sleep and rest than the caffeine in the coffee. Goodnight, babies and Nick!” We all chuckled as Mom blew kisses to Rachel, Nick, and me, before Dad shuffled off to their bedroom upstairs. He didn’t say anything or reassure me, and I know Mom would talk to him about it, but I was terrified of what he would say when he did speak.
“Di, Mama’s not gonna let Dad freak you out or yell at you or anything,” Rachel reassured me, joining me and Nick on our side of the couch as she rubbed my back. “You know how he is with those things, but he will come around. He loves us both more than anything in this world, and I think he values our happiness and success above his own, you know. Even though he’s not on board right this second, he’ll jump on the crazy train with us!” She smiled and squeezed my shoulder gently, before hurrying off to her room.
I stood quickly, ready to go hide in a dark room with never-ending pillows, and not emerge until I was at least sixty. My old bedroom and pillowtop bed would have to do for now, I suppose. Nick stood up with me and pulled me into his arms, kissing me on top of the head, letting my stiff body relax in his arms. “Lead the way, babe,” He whispered into my ear, “We’ll talk more when we’re in a dark, quiet place. But for now, let’s get you changed and let you relax.” I nodded slowly, pulling him down the hall and to the left, into my bedroom, closing and locking the door behind me. I plopped down on the bed, face first into the pillows, and screamed. Nick’s hand rubbed gentle circles in my back, as he allowed me to let out my frustration. No tears came, just angry screaming, and after a few minutes, I finally sat up across from him, cross-legged.
“Sorry,” I muttered, “I can get a little too easily frustrated, and quickly feel like I failed before I even started.” Nick’s hand cupped my chin and forced me to look up at him.
“Don’t ever say you failed, Di. You haven’t failed, and you definitely won’t, especially not before you start,” he warned. “I know it’s hard because your dad didn’t jump right in to support you the way your mom and Rachel did, but I truly believe that Rachel is right, and he will come around, sooner than later. But do not ever, ever,” he stressed, “Say you failed. As long as I’m with you, you will never fail, and neither will I.” I blushed, smiling as I leaned in for a kiss.
“Nick, thank you so much for everything you’ve done and will do for me,” I sighed dreamily, “You’ve been there for me more than any of my other friends in the few months we’ve been together. I love you, Nicholas.” He kissed me sweetly, and snuggled up close to me, as my heavy eyes finally gave up fighting the exhaustion I felt.
The next morning, I stumbled out to the kitchen, like a zombie seeking out coffee, to see the only other person awake in the house was Dad. When I saw him, I stopped only for a moment, before continuing my slow walk to the coffee pot. I’m waiting for him to make the first move. I’m not going to say anything, make any comments, or anything…
“Good morning, Princess,” Dad smiled at me from across the kitchen from behind the newspaper. So far, so good. Let’s do this.
“Good morning, Daddy,” I smiled back, wandering over to the table with my coffee. “Anything good in the paper?”
“Yes, actually,” Dad sighed. “There’s this story about how this guy’s daughter wants to pursue her author’s dream and when she told her Mama and Daddy, her Daddy acted like a jackass and he feels real bad about it.” I finished a sip of coffee, and rested my hand on top of his.
“It’s okay, Dad,” I gave his hand a gentle squeeze. “I know how you feel about those things, that those professions aren’t very realistic and that often times only a few make it through, and it’s best to have a backup. That’s why I continued college, though I wasn’t very happy,” I sighed. “I did it for you, and I was nervous to tell you, but honestly, the conversation went a lot better than I expected. I thought it would be a complete disaster and start World War Three!” I giggled, and seeing my dad’s smile while I talked completely dissolved my fear of it being an awful morning after.
“I am sorry, baby,” Dad sighed again. “If this is what makes you happy, I’m going to jump on your bandwagon. I do suggest getting a full time job until it takes off, but whatever you need help with, or whatever you choose to do, I will be there for you, with your mother, Nick, and Rachel, every single step of the way. No matter how big or how small.”
“Can I tell you a secret, Dad?” I whispered. He nodded, urging me to continue. “Nick was the one who gave me the idea. He saw how discouraged I was when he continued to get offer after offer down home for these amazing jobs, yet I could never manage to get a call, since I just graduated and have no experience yet,” I paused. “But Nick, he was the one who refused to let me give up and have a pity party, and even better, he was the one who convinced me to tell you guys. I was going to keep it a secret, but it felt wrong, and Nick pumped me up and has been there for me ever since we went back to San Diego.”
“He’s a good guy, Nick,” Dad smiled. “Can I tell you a secret?”
“Yes! I love secrets!” I hissed excitedly.
“I think you two will get married someday,” he beamed. My breath hitched as he continued. “He definitely has my permission and your mother’s. We’ve already discussed the matter, and now the rest is up to you two. He’s perfect for you, and I can tell by the way he looks at you that he’s completely in love with you. It’s the way I’ve looked at your mother since we’ve met, and I trust him with my older girl.” I wiped a tear that trailed down my cheek, and stood and hugged my dad tightly. Just a few minutes ago, I was nervous that he would yell at me like I was a child, and wake the rest of the house. Instead, he completely surprised me and made me feel a lot better about chasing my dream, and pursuing a career I will love and be proud of.
Dad and I decided to make breakfast, and allow Mama to sleep in. We made a huge breakfast, full of scrambled eggs, french toast, pancakes, sausage, bacon, orange juice, and coffee. Mama, Rachel, and Nick all sniffed their way into the kitchen when we started cooking the bacon, Dad and I singing along to the radio together, dancing around the kitchen. In no time at all, it was finally time to sit down and enjoy a meal together, our first meal as a full family after Nick and I moved back home. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling- I felt that I was just radiating happiness through the room, and it seemed that everyone else was on a happy high also.
After breakfast, it was time to move our things in and rearrange our bedroom, and after the huge breakfast, hardly anybody wanted to move to the couch. Luckily, Nick and I don’t have much, so moving everything in was pretty easy, but the rearranging was where we had some difficulty. We couldn’t agree on where things were to go, and bickered a lot throughout the day. At first it was all in good fun, but by evening, I grew very irritable and annoyed. Once dinner was over, I stomped into our room and plopped down on the bed, letting out an irritated huff. I buried myself under the blankets, all warm and hidden from sight. At least five minutes after I decided to hide myself in my bed, I heard the door open and the light being switched on, followed by a large, male indent at the end of the bed. “Is somebody tired?” Nick teased, grabbing my foot.
“No, somebody is extremely freaking irritated, and possibly kinda tired but mostly sick of fighting with you!” I snapped. I snatched my foot out of his hand and curled up into fetal position, hugging my legs to my chest tightly. About five seconds later, Nick started crawling on top of me, peeling the blankets back. With how he sat on me, I was unable to escape and keep crawling more under the blanket, and would have to face him. I closed my eyes, refusing to look at him.
“Oh, come on, Di,” Nick pleaded, “Don’t act like this, on our first full day back! What’s the matter, babe?” He whined. I was trying to avoid looking up, avoiding those puppy dog eyes that were sure to be there, sure to make me melt and apologize for acting like an ass. Don’t look, don’t look, don’t look… His fingers grabbed my chin and he turned my face toward him, forcing me to look at him. “Open your eyes, baby,” he teased, “let me see those beautiful, blue eyes of yours. Don’t hide from me!” I made the mistake of opening my eyes and there he was- alligator tears, puppy dog eyes on, right in my face, forcing my ice cold heart to melt and give in.
“Damn you, Nicholas!” I growled, making him smile down at me. “You and your damn adorable eyes kill me every single time. How am I supposed to be stubborn and allowed to have a tantrum if you bat those eyes at me? Stop it!” I giggled, trying to sound stern and fight a smile. He tickled my sides and leaned down to kiss me, completely breaking through my hissy fit and bringing me back. “You’re killing me, you know that?” I said breathlessly, breaking the kiss and sitting cross-legged across from him. Nick smirked at me, and laid down, resting his head in my lap. I smiled, and softly ran my fingers through his hair, gently massaging his head. Nick started kicking his foot in the air, acting like a dog trying to itch his ear, sending both of us into a fit of laughter.
“Di, Mom and Dad want to take us all out for dinner,” Rachel said in her happy, sing-song voice. She skipped over to my vanity and sat down on the small bench, close to us, but far enough away that it wasn’t weird for any of us. “Nick, do you ever put a shirt on? You’ve walked around all day practically half naked, and I’m sure Di has already seen it all, but that doesn’t mean we do,” she sneered, sticking her tongue out at him.
“Hey, don’t get any ideas, sister,” I warned, “Besides, you’re a bit too young for him. He would have to call you jailbait, right baby?” I smirked, Nick scrambling off the bed, looking for a shirt. Rachel rolled her eyes and stood up again.
“Anyways, I just came in to warn you two lovebirds that we’re leaving in about an hour, and to be ready, dressed nicely,” She smiled, “We’re going somewhere fancy!” She squealed, leaving the room and slamming the door behind her. I noticed that in Nick’s scramble for a shirt, he had completely disappeared altogether. I turned around and found him standing in the doorway to the bathroom, wearing nothing but a towel, smiling his sexy, half smile at me.
“Oh, Miss Malley, I do believe that means we need to shower,” He drawled at me. “Would you take a shower with me, Miss Malley? We can save water, and shower together,” he winked, tugging at the towel. I blushed, and as I heard another two knocks on my door, I scurried to the bathroom door, locking it behind us.
“If we do this, we have to be quiet,” I giggled. I felt like a teenager trying not to get caught, but my parents room was directly above ours, Rachel’s right next door. If someone had to hear, I would hope it would be Rachel, as she would keep a secret. “If we get caught by the parents, we’re never going to hear the end of it,” I smiled, pulling him closer to me. He nodded, trapping me against the door.
“Deal,” he whispered against my lips. He pulled me into his strong arms, pulling my clothes off and shoving me in the shower.
We had to hurry after our shower, as we took a little longer than we had anticipated. We ended up taking over an hour to fully get ready, which for me, included makeup, hair, and finding an acceptable outfit. I finally settled on a simple black dress, with black wedges, and gold accessories. I was ready just as Rachel came to my door, knocking frantically, babbling about how “Mom and Dad are leaving right now with or without you, we’re going to be late for our reservations!” She stopped when she saw me, squealing in approval. “Ohmygod, Di! You look hot!” She clapped, taking out her cell phone. “We need a sister picture right now! Oh, Nick, can you take this for us?” He chuckled and quickly snapped the picture. “Okay it looks great but we for reals need to go!”
“You look beautiful, baby,” Nick smiled at me, a hint of pink in his cheeks. My face flushed red and warm, batting my eyes at him. “Okay, now you really are hot when you do that!” He chuckled, lacing his fingers through mine, leading me out to the car. As we sat down in the captain’s chairs, Rachel squeaked some more in the backseat.
“Oh, em, gee, you guys are totally couple goals!” She sighed dreamily, as I turned around to face her. I shot her a very obvious look, causing Nick to giggle like a child next to me.
“Rach, how are things with you and your guy?” I smirked as her eyes shot wide.
“Rachel, are you seeing someone without telling us?” Mom teased, giggling as Dad looked back at all of us from the rearview mirror.
“Well, the thing is that I might be-”
“Rachel, honey, we’ve known how you sneak out all the time,” Dad chuckled, herding us out the door and to the car. “Nick, if you’d like, you can drive yourself and Diana, and Rachel can ride with us,” He added, as Nick nodded in agreement.
“Sure, we’ll see you all soon,” Nick smiled, shaking Dad’s hand before we crossed the lawn. Both of them were beaming, and I could tell something was odd. Plus, we never went out to a super nice dinner, with reservations and things like that. This couldn’t possibly be a dinner for our homecoming, I thought. Nick squeezed my hand, pulling me out of my thoughts.
“Hmm?” I hummed, still in a slight trance. Nick pulled my hand up to his lips, kissing it softly until I looked over at him, smiling brightly.
“Can I tell you a secret?” He whispered, with a grin similar to a child’s. I nodded, leaning in closer so he could whisper in my ear. “I think your parents have news for us,” He whispered in my ear, “They’ve been whispering and plotting something all day, and I think Rachel’s in on it, too.” He breathed deeply before pulling me into a soft kiss. “I love you, Diana, and you look incredibly beautiful tonight.”
“I love you too, Nick,” I sighed dreamily, “And you look super handsome tonight, I might have to have you go change so any waitresses or other customers don’t get the wrong idea, and that you’re available,” I teased through a giggle. “We do need to get going so we don’t show up too far behind them,” I added, lacing my fingers through Nick’s, as he drove away from the curb.
TO BE CONTINUED…