**This scene includes some spoilers for those who have not read Restoring Us.**
A Glimpse into the Future
“I resent that!” Dan yells. “I’m a fucking good father.”
“Facking,” Brooke, Dan and Jess’ youngest daughter, says. Yes, youngest. That means Dan’s a father to more than one child.
“Case in point,” Ethan points to her, and we all laugh.
“You’re just jealous.” Dan shrugs.
“My daughter doesn’t curse.” Ethan raises his eyebrows.
“You know, before fatherhood, you used to be cool. Now, you’re all serious and shit.”
“PMS?” Ethan mocks.
“Fuck off.” Dan stands and walks to the cooler housing the beers and bottles of wine.
I look around our patio and smile as I see our friends still united after so many years. We have been through ups and downs together, and these last two years have been interesting to say the least.
Actually, the last seven have been.
I watch Jess tell Stella, her oldest, to be careful with Arabella. I smile as Stella holds Arabella’s hand, and they walk towards the swing set.
Turns out that Jess was pregnant during our wedding, and both her and Dan kept it a secret until Dan got too drunk one day and spilled. Jess would have killed him, but we were ecstatic for them. Therefore, Dan has been a father for seven years. They were the first in our circle to have children. Now, they have two girls. I’m pretty sure it’s karma’s way of getting even with him.
I catch Ethan’s eye as I stare off at our daughter’s backside, and he winks. I give him a crooked smile and sip my wine.
It has been two years since Arabella entered our lives. Two years since we became parents and figured out how to balance life and a child. We’re still trying to figure it out. But no matter how insane the process of adoption could be, it was worth it to have my baby girl in my arms.
As difficult as our road to get here was, I don’t resent it. It’s perfect in how it was supposed to be. It took me some time to understand that, but I finally did. Ethan and I have grown together, and our love has matured.
“Ava.” I look up and smile at Stacy. “Where did you buy Arabella’s bow?”
“A small boutique not far from the gallery. It’s adorable, right?”
“Yes! I want one!”
“Umm… Relax. We don’t know yet if it’s a boy or girl,” Aiden tells Stacy. I chuckle as Stacy rubs her small bump. Aiden and Stacy got married two years after Ethan and I in a gorgeous, chic wedding in the gardens at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
“I think it’s a girl.” She raises an eyebrow, and I have never seen my brother back down from a comment so easily.
“They’re moody when they’re pregnant, right?” Ethan tells him.
“Fuck. Oh shit! Damnit.” Aiden rolls his eyes. “How the hell am I supposed to not curse around children? Or have sex,” he adds the last part quietly. Stacy smacks him in the stomach.
“Hit me all you want, I’m not sorry.” Aiden leans forward, his elbows on his thighs. “Tell me a newborn doesn’t fuck with your sex schedule.”
“Schedule?” Ethan asks with raised eyebrows.
“Yeah, like when you can have sex.”
“Aiden, sex isn’t some therapist’s office you schedule into your week,” says Ethan.
“But the crying and feeding and wake-up calls in the middle of the night.” I try not to laugh at my brother’s panic.
“Sex while they sleep. You’ll be exhausted but satisfied.”
“Ah, I knew I could count on you, Katie,” Aiden states.
Katie laughs as she rocks Caleb in her arms.
“She knows what she’s talking about,” Tristan says next to her, smiling smugly.
“This kid wasn’t going to mess up with my sex life.”
“Ah, so glad you love that child,” I joke.
“I do. Seriously. This kid is my world, but a girl has needs.” We all laugh as she shrugs.
“Yes, she does,” Tristan says next to her, kissing her temple.
I was so excited when those two finally admitted they wanted more out of their relationship. Katie had Caleb a few months ago (unplanned). And no one hates a surprise pregnancy more than she does.
After a few years of dating, Katie got pregnant with Caleb. I’m pretty sure he will be her only child. Mostly because she said she’d get her tubes tied after that delivery. Twenty hours of labor will do that to a girl. He really is the most adorable baby, and the only boy in our circle of friends. At least until we know what Stacy is having.
“Just keep that boy away from my babies,” Dan tells Katie. She laughs loudly.
“Aw, are you scared he’ll try to make a move on them? Karma.” She raises an eyebrow.
“My girls. Not for your kid to take advantage of.”
“Dan, he’s like five months old,” Katie widens her eyes.
“Yeah, but he’ll grow up.”
I try not to laugh at Dan’s overprotection. Ever since he had a girl, he has been a mess. From not knowing how to comb their hair to mismatching tops with bottoms. It has been so much fun to watch.
“You need to stop freaking out,” Ethan tells him.
“Look at them.” Dan points to his girls. “They’re so small and innocent.”
“They all are,” I nod, smiling. “They have each other though. They’ll be okay.”
You don’t realize how precious—and fragile— a child is until it is your own. You want to protect them from the bad in the world, but you know you can’t, so you give them tools that will help them. When I see our children, I see a mirror of all of us. Innocent and naïve, yet I know life can throw curveballs. If we teach them anything, it will be how to swing without striking out.
I sigh in contentment as I lean back in my chair. I love when we all get together like this and hang out. Our friendships strengthen through the years.
After a few more hours, everyone leaves our home with grumpy kids and slightly buzzed husbands. Ethan walks down into the kitchen after putting Arabella down for bed as I finish cleaning up the patio and bringing the glassware inside.
“Do you need help?” He hugs me from behind and kisses the back of my neck.
I close my eyes, and my skin prickles with goosebumps.
“I’ll finish up tomorrow.” I dry my hands with the dishtowel.
“Did you have fun tonight?”
I turn in Ethan’s arms and smile up at him. “Yes. I love that we continue to get together and that our kids are growing up with our example of friendship.”
“Me too.” Ethan lowers his head and kisses below my ear. Then, his lips touch mine. “I’m glad they’re gone though.”
I lean back and smile up at him. “Oh, yeah?”
“Yup. I’ve been wanting to do this all night.” He pulls me tighter, his arm around my waist as the other hand cups my face, and he kisses me deeply.
I welcome the kiss, sighing into it.
“So no seven year itch?” I ask, teasing him, when we pull away from each other.
“Never. Infinity, remember?” He gently runs a finger over my infinity necklace.
My arms tighten around his neck, and I tug at the loose ends of his hair. “I remember. So… You’re going to show me how much you still love me?”
Wordlessly, he picks me up over his shoulder and rushes up the stairs. I laugh loudly.
“All night long, baby,” he says. “I’ll never get enough.” He stares into my eyes after lowering me back down his body.
“I love you,” I whisper, cupping his face.
“Love you, too.”