Chapter 33: Epilogue – The Beginning of it All.
Five eventful and yet, very non-dramatic years have passed since our first family gathering with the inclusion of Hank, Bellena and Mathieu. In fact, that very luncheon set a tradition in motion that we as a family, have continuously honoured as much as we possibly can. University and living in different suburbs has set us back a little, but when everyone touches base back in our hometown, we all make an effort to set the table and catch up on missed time.
This time we are called back together to celebrate the last Davidson (by a couple of months) turning twenty-one years of age. Mathieu is finally catching up to the rest of us.
The party celebrations don't start up until six O'clock tonight, but the preparation for Mathieu's big night has been underway ever since I woke up this morning. The household has been unbearable, well almost. Nan's been in the kitchen from about seven in the morning and snaps at you if you even peak your head in the door. So Braythe has taken control of the empty stomachs by ordering pizza and Indian for lunch. No one has complained.
I took three slices of Mediterranean and snuck out the back door to fix up the last of the decorations in the backyard. This is my work space, and the next thing on my busy schedule is to sort out a smorgasbord of photographs representing Mathieu's life so far and display them on a massive backdrop. I have a massive box full of the photographs he was supposed to sort through and pick out favourites from, but alas the birthday boy has been too caught up with other goings on. I blame his girlfriend for his half-hearted effort put in towards probably one of the biggest celebrations of his life.
Speaking of his girlfriend, she comes out the backdoor just as I've pulled the lid off the box, and smiles sweetly at me. Her name is Arianna, but she always tells me to call her Ari for short. I haven't become fond of her yet, and I'm not sure that I ever will. She does however make Mathieu happy and therefore, I suppose, that is all that counts.
"Do you need any help?" She offers kindly.
I consider for longer than I should, but accept the help gratuitously, "If you're not busy, sure, why not?"
The pretty little thing tucks her floral dress underneath her as she joins me on the grass, "Just let me know if I'm getting in the way."
I smile reassuringly at her and shove the box between us, "Don't be silly, you'll make this a lot easier for me."
Ari's hazel eyes brighten as if I've rewarded her with the gold at the end of the rainbow and she eagerly starts sorting through the photos. I join her and soon we are enveloped in a comfortable silence, giggling at all Mathieu's baby pictures together. We make a keepers pile and a definitely not pile and go from there.
Ari is quiet for a little while and then she abruptly starts talking, "You know, Mathieu really adores you." It's a statement that I'm already quite aware of, but it doesn't hurt hearing it out loud. "He looks up to you a lot."
I incline my head, feeling a little embarrassed, "He adores you too." I state truthfully. In fact, he's pretty damn whipped.
"Oh, I know." She smiles dreamily, and then her eyes settle on mine, holding my gaze, "But he really looks to you for guidance and acceptance." Ari's hazel eyes fell from mine to stare blankly at the photograph she's holding, "I know he loves me, but he hasn't fully accepted me yet. I love this family and I want to so badly be a part of it." There was so much passion in her voice that it became overwhelming, "I want what's best for him, and maybe it isn't forever, I don't know. But right now it feels perfect and it would be so much more perfect if-" She broke off, trying to force her next words out without sounding too pushy, "if you could like me too."
I hadn't quite expected that, but I suppose I had it coming. I had, in fact, been a little harsh on the poor girl.
I gave her another of my so called award winning smiles, and took a deep breath in, releasing it along with my tension. "That won't be too hard to do." I extend my hand out in front of me, as if we are meeting for the first time, "Friends?"
She shakes it without hesitation, "The best!"
I'm a little amused by her optimistic outlook, but think that in the near future, we may just be as close as she'd like.
Within seconds, it's as if the previous conversation had never occurred and Ari screams with laughter at a photo she has come across, "this one is a definite." She shows it to me, her hazel eyes tearing up and I nod and chuckle in agreement.
Mathieu may not think so highly of me after tonight is over.
The sound of the back door opening and closing catches both of our attention and we are greeted by a very chipper Nikkye, who strides towards us, his green eyes curious. His face is a lot more ruggedly handsome than the last time I saw him just over two months ago, and I'd never tell him this, but he seems to get even more good-looking as he ages.
"They said you were out here." He smiles at me and then his eyes fall on Arianna and he raises his eyebrows in surprise at my company, "Hey Ari."
The pretty thing gives a little shy wave, "Hey." She focuses back on the job at hand, not interested in the eye candy.
I jump to my feet and march up to Nikkye, who's beaming from ear to ear like someone who's had too much whoopee weed. He reaches out and ruffles my hair before I can get a first word in.
"I like your hair short." He states, taking in my newest haircut.
I take a step backwards and fix my hair, regretting the move to greet him. "Thanks." I huff out and traipse back to Ari, who is smiling to herself for some peculiar reason.
"What, no hug?" Nikk puts on a wounded puppy dog act, "I've known you for how long and this is the welcome I get? Should have known."
I pick up a photo from out of the box, inspecting it with all the concentration I can muster, "Yes, you should know me by now."
"You don't need a hand do you?" He offers up his services.
I shake my head, deciding the picture in my hand can be discarded of, "Not from you, thanks."
Nikk huffs out a chuckle, "Lovely to see you too."
I give him a mega watt smile and twinkle my fingers, "You'll be more welcome inside the house."
Nikk bows down low, mockingly, "As you wish, princess."
I get a rush of excitement as he uses his personalised nickname for me. I try to hide my fondness for the title and he retreats back indoors, where I'd ordered him to go.
Ari looks up at me with a sparkle in her piercing hazel eyes, "You guys are so adorable." She gushes.
I shake my head, "He's a thorn in my side." I'm only being half serious.
Mathieu's girlfriend gives me a quizzical look, "It's safe you know," her voice is soft and comforting, "Sabre's moved on, you can do the same." Her words hit me hard and I don't have anything to say to that, so she continues, "It's time. It's been time for ages."
I pretend to be pondering over her words, when in fact I'm dismissing them disbelievingly. It just wasn't as simple as all that.
I have been left alone to set up the tables and chairs and therefore am left to my own thoughts. They centre on a certain boy with an adorable dimple and gorgeous grey eyes. We had decided to part ways mutually, just in case there is something or someone else out there for us. I always loved the idea of having a high school sweetheart, but neither Sabre nor myself had been so delusional as to think there was only one person out there for you. We've been apart for almost a year now and he told me recently in a lovely worded Email that he was dating again. Her name is Emilia and I am extremely happy for him, that he can at least uphold our deal, even though I haven't been able to get my head around finding someone else just yet.
I just finished setting up a whole table set, when the back door opens, the boy who I was just thinking about smiles widely as he steps on to the back lawn to join me.
"Hey," He greets me with an adorable smile, his eyes roaming around the backyard appreciatively, "it looks amazing out here, Jezza."
I stop to take in the view as well, realising that all my hard work is finally paying off, "Thank you."
I feel elated for a heartbeat or two, before I become on edge and try to peer over his shoulder to see if Emilia has shown up with him. No one had followed him out and I can't help but feel extremely relieved and disappointed at the same time.
I raise both my eyebrows, "Just you?" I can't help but be a little nosey.
Sabre's expression matches mine, "Expecting someone else to come with me?" There is a little teasing humour in his voice.
"Well," I shift my feet uncomfortably and adjusted a chair out of nervous habit, "I just thought you might have brought Emilia along or something..."
There is a very silent pause before Sabre speaks again, his voice a little more hushed than normal, "I just didn't want things to be...awkward. And I didn't want you to feel like I'd suddenly sprung her on you, because that's not really fair."
"Well I wouldn't have been surprised or angry if you did bring her along," I shrug for something better to do, "in fact I would have been quite alright with it." Or so I'd like to hope.
Sabre huffs out a breath of air and smiles, "Oh good, because she's waiting in the car." I try to keep a poker face, but it doesn't work. In fact I'm pretty sure my expression is something very close to horrified. "I'm joking," he rushes on, "but by the look you gave me just now, you're clearly not ready to meet her."
I suddenly feel guilty, but let myself relax all the same, "I – I..."
Sabre laughs at me and makes his way over, engulfing me in one of his massive bear hugs, "Seriously Jezza, we dated for four years," His lean body is shaking against mine and he bends down to plant a kiss on top of my head, "and I've come to the conclusion that you're a pretty sucky liar."
I swat him away playfully, but I'd secretly missed those hugs, "But seriously," I change my tone to match the seriousness of my voice, "I am happy that you've, you know."
His familiar grey eyes bore into mine and I feel peaceful and reassured, "I know," he nicks my chin with his forefinger, "and I want to see you happy too."
I take a step back and cross my arms over my chest, "I am happy."
Sabre cocks an eyebrow, "Jezza." He warns.
I roll my eyes, "I'll see what I can do."
Sabre gives me a pleasant smile, "Well, I'm going to see what Nan has cooked for me."
"Leave my Nan alone!"
"But she loves me." He states and heads back inside.
There is truth in that statement. In fact, I'm not even sure whose heart broke more over the end of mine and Sabre's relationship, mine or Nan's.
The guests were already arriving, and I only had to do my last round of fairy light draping. I'm stuck half way up a tree when a wolf whistle catches my attention, almost making me fall from the branch I'm perched on. I glare down to find Channa laughing at my clumsiness.
"Oi, get your butt down here and give me some lovin!"
I think about it, but decide to give him an order myself, "Why don't you come up here and help me? Be useful for once!"
I hear Channa sigh heavily and then, the sound of rustling branches and his heaving breaths are the telltale sign that he's decided to give me a hand. I feel a tap on my shoulder and I can only look behind me in way of appreciation.
"So this is all I get? I come up here to help you and you give me the cold shoulder?" Channa tisks, "How rude."
I give him the middle finger only to have him pull it back, excruciating pain shooting up my arm. I lose my balance and fall backwards, a very ungraceful squeal escaping from my lips. My fall is cut short as two strong legs are extended to catch me underneath my armpits. I find myself sprawled in the most uncomfortable position possible, the only thing preventing me from a very hard fall is Channa's legs, and they aren't going to hold for long.
"Now what, genius?"
I'm glad to hear that he's struggling with my weight. Karma my dear friend, karma.
"Now we call for help." He states and without further ado, he calls out at the top of his lungs.
It doesn't take long for help to arrive. Kenai is the first out the back door, followed by Braythe, MC, Sabre, the birthday boy himself, the cousins, Lozza and lastly Nikkye. There is a moment of confusion as they find themselves in a remotely deserted area. The first to discover that Channa and I are stuck in a tree is the ever observant Kenai.
"What are you doing?" He asks as he rushes to cover the ground beneath me.
"Oh you know, just chilling." Channa says sarcastically, his voice beginning to sound strained.
I fall a few inches as his legs begin to give way. If I tilt my head back enough, I can see his face from a distortedly upside down angle. He is, in fact, rather the same person that he's been during our last year of high school. However, he's grown into a very mature young man – well most of the time. This little incident is a very rare occurrence nowadays.
Channa and Emmalynn had departed ways just a couple of months out of high school. She didn't want to hold him back with the responsibility of taking on someone else's child, and therefore dismissed him quite harshly. He is still a part of Christian's life and spends yearly celebratory moments with them, even babysitting when Emmalynn wants a night to herself. But all in all, they are very much over.
"You can let her down now," Kenai calls with an air of impatience, "I've got her."
I shut my eyes tightly and breathe in heavily, realising that my days of living on the edge are going to come to a very abrupt end. At the ripe age of twenty-two, I'm going to have to resign from being a free spirit and live the rest of my uneventful life on the ground at all times.
"Don't drop me." I plead with my brother.
He lets out a very short and defying humph, like it's obvious that I've offended him for doubting his lifesaving abilities.
I find myself cradled in his arms for a time, before Kenai rests my feet firmly on the ground. I opened my eyes in time to catch Channa dismantling himself from the tree, a radiant smile is plastered on his boisterous face. MC comes bounding up to me, a curious sparkle in his childishly, deep brown orbs.
"Did your whole life flash before your eyes?" He asks ever so innocently, "Was it a bore?"
I roll my eyes, but have Kenai answer for me, "Did it occur to you to ever get a brain?"
"I'm a natural screwloose." MC says satisfactorily and he sounds so proud of himself that no one had the heart to jibe at him about it.
I hear Braythe faintly whisper to someone, "That's what happens when you're dropped on your head as a baby."
Apparently this went unnoticed by MC, who continues to stare at me like I am a miracle that the world had yet to discover. My eyes roam around the backyard, with everyone who has made a huge impact on my life, staring back at me. Most of the faces are laughing at me and shaking their heads, as though this is something that would happen in my everyday life.
I waved them all away, "You can go now."
They leave me alone with a pleased looking Channa. I turn on him, pointing a finger, "You are so going to pay for that." I point back up the tree, "But first, you're going to do me a favour. The rest of those lights need to be draped around that tree."
Channa stops to think about it, but gives a casual shrug of his shoulders as he comes to his decision, "Ok, fine."
I'm pleased to know that the boy has become accustomed to giving in to me. And like a pro chimpanzee, he scales the tree with no complications, making me green with envy at his effortless agility.
The hour is late and the sun is just beginning to disappear behind the horizon, the guests are everywhere, scattered around the backyard, catching up on old times. I do my rounds of passing out appetizers, smiling like a good hostess and refreshing everyone with alcoholic or non alcoholic beverages of their choice. There are many faces from Laxon High, including Panama Bourke and Zaidie Jones who are now engaged, and the likes of Wemys Pearce and a mixture of others whose names have escaped me. Mathieu had invited his handful of close friends from high school and a bigger crowd from University. He was even chivalrous enough to allow Ari her handful of close friends.
Music is playing, Nan and MC are singing merrily and even timid little Corral has come out of her shell to join in the birthday festivities.
"Have a break," Mathieu says to me as I pass by him with a platter of warm food in my hands, "I'll take it from here." I don't have time to decline the offer, as his nimble fingers prize the weight from my own hands. He winks at me and happily gives me a thumbs up. "Go have some fun." It was an order.
I'm after a little peace and quiet, and make my way past a dancing Braythe and Mirelle, who are going together stronger than ever, and duck under Kenai's arm as he lunges to give me a head lock. I take a seat at the farthest table and zone out of my surroundings completely, being totally distracted by the lulling of the lights in the ripples of the pool water.
I hear someone approaching and am shaken out of my reverie by a voice, "Do you mind if I join you?"
I look up to be met with vibrant green eyes and a smiling face, "No," I return the smile, "take a seat."
Nikkye sits down in the chair next to me, his eyes not leaving my face, "Jesamae?" His voice has become a soft whisper and it sends a shiver up my spine.
I cock an eyebrow, "Nikkye?"
There is a sparkle in his green eyes, "Is it now yet?"
It takes me a while to register what Nikkye means and then realisation dawns on me and I feel my heartbeat quicken with a sudden anticipation I didn't know I was holding out for. His eyes are staring at me, waiting for my answer, and over his shoulder, I am distracted by another boy. Sabre's face smiles at me, almost knowingly and I feel encouraged and in control of my feelings all of a sudden. I had said not now five years ago, because it wasn't our time. Who's to say it's not our time now?
"Jesamae?" His deep, soft voice asks again.
I set him with a fixed stare. My eyes raking over every familiar aspect of his face. He is Nikkye Dryw Hellings and I am Jesamae Tonia Davidson, how is this going to work? I sigh and push all of my doubts aside and unconsciously reach my hands out cup the young man's face in my palms. He closes his eyes at my touch and I feel him relax, all the tension leaving his body. His hands find mine and he holds them firmly in his, as if the moment won't last long enough.
Nikkye's eyes flutter open and he's still waiting for an answer. I give him a soft smile and squeeze his hands, liking the feel of them encasing my own.
"I think," I hesitate, trying to get my words out coherently, "I think it's been time for a while now, don't you?"
Nikkye's smile is perfect, and I can't help but return the look of complete joy on his face. My heart, that I thought had been caged, is fluttering freely in my chest.
We rise in synchronisation from our sitting positions, trying to contain maniacal looks of pleasure.
"C'mon," Nikkye nods in the direction of the party goers, "let's dance."
And there you have it. The ending to my book. Fill in the blanks as you will. Over and out.
I thank you all immensely from the bottom of my heart for reading, reviewing and everything else. You are all superstars and deserve medals and what not for the constant support.
I love you all.
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CoUrAgE mAkEr: OMG, I've missed your reviews and being able to message you! :) You've been a great friend throughout this story and I love your enthusiasm and all of your reviews. I thank you so so so much and I hope that you get the happily ever after that you were looking for. Until we meet again. Thank you so much Misha. Xx
HungerInHerEyes: Thanks for jumping on board the bandwagon! Thank you, thank you, thank you. xx
Aveangeladarkangel: Pretty sure we did explain the phone calls? :P Hopefully... Ha ha. You are too kind a person and I have enjoyed receiving reviews from you. All very appreciated and will be missed I'm sure. Xx
mylittlePrincess: Hello there and thank you tonnes and tonnes for reading and reviewing this story of mine. I see you're a full on Nikkye and Jezza fan, and therefore hope that the ending has satisfied your curiousness. :) Many, many thanks. Take care. Xx
jenjen-0: Oh thank you, I'm so glad you're still/or have been reading this story. I'd become to think I'd lost a lot of my old-time readers due to how awfully long I took to update every chapter and actually finish the story. So thank you for reviewing, it means a lot. :) xx
eminemlinkinpark: Thank you so much for your last message, it made me move along and get this thing done and dusted. About time really, considering how long ago I started it... :) Thank a heap and loads more of course. Xx
So without further ado, I must bid you all farewell until next time. This has been my pride and joy for almost 5 years...that's scary and now it is finally finished, complete, done, etc, etc. Hope you all stay well and my gratitude to you all!
Many cheers all round,