Epilogue – Eight Months Later
Riley sat at the kitchen table, Isabella in her highchair, laughing gently at her daughter as she tried to navigate a Cheerio to her mouth. She stirred the food in the little glass jar before raising the spoon to Isabella's mouth. Riley suppressed a giggle as she watched her daughter contort her face to eat the food.
After Isabella's meal and a quick washing since she had decided that she'd rather wear the carrots than eat them, Riley lay Bella down for a nap. Bella had just fallen asleep when Riley heard the doorbell ring – and was extremely grateful the doorbell wasn't loud on the second floor.
Carrying the baby monitor with her, Riley descended the stairs and opened the door, greeted by a smiling, bouncing Carrie. "Where's the baby?" she demanded gleefully. "I want to play with my goddaughter."
"Shh! She just fell asleep."
Carrie's face fell. "But I wanted to see her."
"Go on up and see her then. Just don't wake her. I need the peace and quiet just as much as she needs the sleep."
"Not sleeping well?"
"I'm lucky if she sleeps a full hour before waking up again. I even talked to her pediatrician and she said there's nothing wrong with Bella."
"Some babies just don't like to sleep apparently, no matter how much you beg them," Carrie said before heading upstairs.
"Apparently," Riley muttered before unloading the dryer.
Carrie came downstairs a few minutes later and found her best friend sitting on the couch and folding tiny onesies and dresses mechanically as she watched a daytime talk show.
"Well don't you look completely domestic?"
"Sure. The only thing that's missing is my apron and some freshly baked cookies."
"Well you should get on that, then."
Riley rolled her eyes at Carrie. "Sure, between the baby and my online classes and laundry and finding time to eat, sleep, and shower I've got plenty of time to bake cookies. Here." Riley shoved the basket of clothes at Carrie. "Fold these; I've got a test due in a couple of hours."
"Sure. Leave the baby monitor with me. I'll check on Bella if she cries. You focus on your test."
"What in the world would I do without you?"
"Probably go insane," Carrie said she began folding Bella's clothes. "What else do you need help with?"
Riley sighed and conceded, knowing Carrie wouldn't leave her alone until she gave her another task. "When the dryer goes off again, could you throw the load in the washer into the dryer?"
"Sure. I told you months ago, Riley, if you ever need help just give me a call."
"I know, Carrie."
"Then you should do it now and then. I gave you my class schedule for this semester." Carrie waved her hand in the air as if waving the issue away. "Whatever. Go take your test."
Sometime later, Riley sat in the rocking chair in the nursery, rocking Bella back and forth and praying for her to fall asleep. Soft lullabies filled the air through the CD player Riley had set up in the room. She had found that Bella slept better when there was music on – like her mother.
Bella was just dozing off when Jonathan stepped into the room. He treaded quietly, knowing the bedtime routine, and placed a kiss on Riley's forehead. Jonathan looked down at Isabella over Riley's shoulder, down at the third girl he had ever loved. They sat in easy silence until Isabella fell asleep and Riley placed Bella down gently in the crib. Jonathan joined her at the crib and wrapped his arms around her waist as they both watched Bella sleep.
Finally, she turned in his arms and smiled up at him. "Hi," she whispered as she touched her lips against his. Jonathan pulled Riley tighter against his body as he deepened what would have been a quick kiss. "God, I missed you," he whispered.
"You saw me yesterday."
"I know. I still missed you."
Riley rolled her eyes and kissed him again. She took his hand and led Jonathan into her bedroom.
"Oh, you want some of that, huh?" he joked as Riley sat down on her bed.
"Hah. I just don't want you waking up Bella. If you did, I wouldn't love you anymore."
Jonathan covered his chest with his hands. "You wound me!"
"You're full of shit."
"I know. But you love me."
"Yeah. Want to know why?"
"Because I'm full of shit?" Jonathan sat next to Riley.
"Because you make me laugh. And because you made me feel beautiful even when I was fat and pregnant. And mostly because you love Bella as much as you would love your own daughter."
"As far as I'm concerned, Riley, Bella is my daughter."
"I know. And that's why I love you."
"I have something for you," Jonathan said as he reached into the pockets of his jeans. Riley gasped as he drew out a red velvet ring box and opened the top. "It's not an engagement ring," he said quickly as he took it out of the box. In a platinum ring were three small diamonds. "It's cheesy, but one diamond for each of us."
"Jonathan it's beautiful."
"I've been saving for it since Bella was born and putting a little from each paycheck when I could spare it. I was hoping to have it by Christmas, but that obviously didn't happen."
"It doesn't matter when you gave it to me, Jon, you know that."
"It's old-fashioned, but I wanted it to sort of be a promise ring. And maybe it would keep other boys away."
"Who knew you were so protective?"
"Oh you knew, you just ignored the fact."
Riley smiled and kissed him sweetly. "So do I have to put it on myself?"
Jonathan smiled as he slid the ring on her finger. "Perfect fit," she said quietly.
"I love you," he whispered.
"I love you, too."
Jonathan kissed her again, harder this time. He eased her back on the bed, covered her body with his, and groaned as a loud cry pierced the air.
"We have to get her to sleep longer," Jonathan said against her neck.
"I am with you there."
I can't believe it's over.
Thanks to everyone who stuck with me through this, even through the year long break from it, or however long it was.
I'm currently working on a new story - something that's completely different from this - so expect that sometime in the near future.