One Year Later
The staccato sound of heels on a hard tile floor was the only sound heard as Mira began down the hall, Lucy's hand in hers as she trotted along beside her. The two-year-old was babbling excitedly about something Mira could barely keep up with, but agreed and smiled all the same.
"Do you know where we're going, baby?" Mira asked her daughter, looking down at her as they walked.
"Uh-uh," Lucy said with a shake of her blonde head, the pigtails on either side of her head waving along with it.
"Mommy wanted to show you something before the party, okay?" Mira checked the time on her phone and grimaced. She was cutting it close. She leaned down and wrapped an arm around Lucy, lifting her onto her hip. The little girl wrapped her arms around Mira's neck in return, head going to rest on her shoulder.
Mira couldn't help but smile as one of her little hands played with the tassel on Mira's mortarboard hat, resting on the right side of her face.
After what felt like an eternity, graduation day had finally come, and Mira was feeling nostalgic. Her experience of high school had been... eventful to say the least. So full of drama, heartbreak, betrayal, breakups, makeups, joy, laughter, friendship, and above all, love. It may have sounded cliché, but she had experienced more love in the last few years than she could ever imagine. From her friends to her family to Seth to her daughter, there was nothing but love.
So when the day finally came that Mira would be leaving the stone building where she had come to grow so much, she found there was just one last thing she wanted to do before saying goodbye for good.
Mira had snuck away from her friends and the rest of the graduating class, found her daughter with her parents, and began down the hall.
Now, in a maroon cap and gown, Mira stopped before the very thing she wanted to show her daughter, the very place she had gone nearly every day for the last four years.
"Look, sweetie, this is mommy's locker," Mira told Lucy, turning her head to look at her. To no surprise, the toddler looked less than interested in the row of chipped orange painted metal with vents in them. She plonked her head against Mira's, her big blue eyes flickering over the door before her as Mira reached out and twisted the combination, opening it with a click.
"'s empty, mama," Lucy informed Mira, now looking a little concerned. She looked like Seth when she made that face.
"I know." Mira laid her hand on the door of the locker just beside it, fingers spread and black nails gently running down the door. "And this is daddy's locker. He got one right next to me so he could see me."
Mira remembered the surprise of seeing him at the locker beside her own. After Lucy's first birthday, Mira spent the summer slowly moving her things into his place, before she was sleeping over there every night. By the time senior year rolled around, Mira assumed Seth would want some space, but apparently he hadn't.
Lucy leaned forward with a hand reached out as well. Mira placed a hand on her chest to help hold her almost vertical as her own tiny hand laid over the metal as Mira's had been. She gave it a few smacks with her palm, giggling at the hollow metal thumps she got in return. Mira couldn't help the laugh that escaped her along with, to her surprise, a few tears.
At the sound of Mira's small sniffle, Lucy immediately looked over, eyes going wide once again in concern. "No, mama," she exclaimed immediately, touching Mira's cheek with her hand. "No cry!"
Mira laid her hand over Lucy's and turned her head, kissing the tiny palm. "They're happy tears," she whispered to the little girl. "Because I am so happy, Lucy."
Lucy didn't look too convinced, so Mira just hugged her closer. Her heart felt so full of love it could have burst right out of her chest. Two years with this little girl and she never stopped being both amazed and in awe of her.
She thought of Seth, once a young man so full of hurt, mistrust, and anger. A boy abused and abandoned by the two people who were supposed to protect him before anything else, now practically a man who loved his new little family with everything in him. She thought of her friends who, despite all the ups and downs she had with them, she still loved dearly. Her parents and siblings, Leda and Emmett, and how much they had done to support her. Mira Pascal was one incredibly lucky girl.
This was a point in her life she was sure would never be reached. She was a teenage mother graduating high school, starting community college in the fall. While she still didn't know what career path she wanted to go down, she at least wanted to get started with the basics.
Mira rested her cheek against her daughter's head and closed her eyes, hugging her close to her body. It was all so exciting and terrifying, facing the future in such a way. She was not the same person she was last year, nor would she be the same person in a year, or the year after that. The last few years had greatly changed where she thought she would end up. Was it ideal? Was it where she had wanted to end up? No, but it was her path. For some reason, she had been put down this path, and she fully intended to be the best that she could be.
Mira sighed, keeping her eyes closed and smiling, ruminating over what was ahead, what was to come. Not just for her, but for everyone...
Leda Pascal would continuously move up the ladder in her legal career, eventually partnering in her own firm.
Emmett Pascal would be the only child she ever had; he followed in his mother's footsteps by joining the debate team when he entered school. But when he was old enough to make his own decisions about his future, he decided he was more interested in teaching then being a lawyer, a decision fully supported by his mother.
Years later, Emmett would be a happy and successful teacher, standing proudly beside Leda as she was sworn in as a judge.
Marli Pascal and Zack Taylor would be on-again-off-again the entirety of high school, switching between best friends to boyfriend and girlfriend before calling it quits after graduation.
Zack would go on to culinary school, working in various upscale restaurants and bakeries until finally co-owning his own bakery in his late thirties with his wife Sandrine, whom he met while working in a French Bistro. With dual citizenship, she went back and forth from the US to Paris with her family growing up, and therefore knew seemingly everything about cooking and baking. They would have two children, Julia Elizabeth Taylor after Zack's idol Julia Child and Paige's middle name, and Éloise Fleur Taylor after Sandrine's grandmother.
As an adult, Marli went into fashion merchandising, throwing herself into it with everything she had and loving every moment of it. Sometime in her mid-twenties she would fall in love with a man named Leonard; a good twelve years older than her and very successful as a corporate attorney. She would hear endless jokes from her family about bringing another lawyer into the mix, but she didn't care. They would get married and have children of their own; a pair of twin girls named Charlotte and Rory, and a boy named Noah.
Marli was very quick to come into her own, outgrowing her insecurities, and truly finding who she was as an adult and a person.
Matt Pascal graduated from law school a few years later, passing the bar with flying colors, and securing a job in family law. He was sure the fact that his last name carried serious weight in the legal world had nothing to do with it...
Jamie Monroe had been hesitant to get back together with him, but soon realized how serious he was about a future with her. Through every rough step in law school, she stood by his side. It took some time for her to get used to Matt taking care of her as he did. His grandparents assisted greatly in paying for his tuition and housing, leaving her free to only work part-time at a daycare to assist with bills, as well as spend time with her son, Luke.
One year after Matt graduated, Jamie announced she was pregnant with Matt's child. The following day, Matt took her to the restaurant where they had their first date and proposed. They married a month later, in the park, and also announced the news of the baby. It was shortly after the wedding that Matt legally adopted Luke, renaming the six-year-old as Lucas Anthony Pascal.
Seven months later, Matthew (Matty) Aiden Pascal II was born.
Over the following years, Jamie would go back to school and eventually got her degree in hotel and restaurant management. While pregnant with her third child, a girl to be named Isabella Monroe Pascal, Jamie Pascal would be the well-loved manager of a popular hotel chain in town, while Matt worked at running his own law firm. It was a dream he would achieve, not anytime soon, but also not as far off as he thought it would be.
Adam and Audrey would retire further down the line. They decided to do everything retirees should do; purchase a small vacation place in Florida, join a club and play golf on weekends, go on cruises, go to their grandchildren's every event and then going to the club and brag about it to anyone who would listen. They would have many, many more good years together, full of incredible memories.
Ava White would spend the next several years of her life slaving away in a number of different courses in college in the quest to earn her Masters in English. She graduated, at the top of her class of course, and dove into work in a field she so loved.
Ten years later, she took a vacation to travel to Italy with Ryan. It was out on the lanai of their rented hut one late night, reminiscing with him about the old days, that the idea suddenly struck her. She walked back into the hut to her laptop and began to write.
A year later, the first of a fictional series of Young Adult's books would be on Time's best seller's list. "The Adventures of Aiya and Mia" they were titled, about two little girls, the most unlikely of best friends, having a series of wonderful, thoughtful, and meaningful adventures together with a group of other colorful misfits.
No one read actual books anymore, but that didn't stop Ava from sending a signed copy of each book to Mira every year, along with her yearly Christmas card.
Ava's writing took her traveling all over the globe, but she never forgot her roots. Her two dads whom she loved dearly; her adopted brother, always a sympathetic ear when she needed to vent or a cheerleader when she found success; even her birth mother, Bridgett Adelman, was someone who could keep up with her in a debate on just about any topic, and still able to be a trusted confidant whenever one was needed. In her early forties, Ava would begin to foster children before eventually adopting a pair of sisters named Beatrice and Victoria, aged fifteen and thirteen, to raise as a single mother. The way she saw it, there was enough love in the White family for a few more, or even several more should she choose.
It was a mixed bag of family, but she wouldn't have traded that, or her life, for anything in the world.
Ryan Perry would drop Perry from his last name and legally change his name to Ryan White shortly before he went away to Berkeley College in Boston. It was a lot of paperwork and signatures, but it was well worth it when he saw the looks of sheer joy and speechlessness on his dads' faces. Their plans to officially adopt him had been thwarted when Ryan's birth parents refused to sign over any of their rights, so Ryan decided the best he could do was to change his last name.
Ryan graduated from Berkeley and started making music for fun on various forms of social media while teaching guitar and piano classes out of his own home. It took many years of working up the courage -and being "gently" persuaded by sister Ava- before he put out his first album. The reviews for it were impressive and he made a tidy sum of money from it, and he knew it wouldn't be long before he put another one out.
He later married a tall, dark haired bartender named Liam with a bright smile and a great sense of humor. Three years into their marriage, they adopted a two year old girl by the name of Danielle, who insisted on only being called Dani. Ryan took that as fate that she was meant to be their child.
Danny and Mason immediately went out to purchase matching "World's Greatest Grandpa" sweaters at Dani's adoption. Even Ava showed up in a "Best Aunt" sweater, but Ryan suspected their dads had bribed her on that one.
Two years after that, the two adopted a newborn boy, and baby Mason joined their family.
Ryan White lived in happiness he never knew could even exist. His hard and hateful past was nothing more than a memory, even the scar on his stomach was covered by a tattoo of a string of musical notes. He had found his own form of utopia.
Zeke Preston took a slightly different approach in his route in life. After he and Ava broke up shortly following graduation, he took a gap year to backpack across Europe on his father's dime. Upon returning home, he decided to enroll in community college, despite his parents' pushing to go to a more prestigious university.
Unfortunately, a case of dyslexia and a problem paying attention led to Zeke figuring he wasn't smart enough for college. In his very early twenties, he got a job as a personal trainer to keep himself occupied while he tried to find a plan for himself. He was really tall and very broad, so most of the clients at the gym flocked to him.
Despite breaking up to go their separate ways in life, Zeke and Ava remained fairly close. He called her one day, four years into being a trainer, in search of advice. If there was anyone who could be brutally (brutally) honest with him, it was her. They talked for a while and she said her piece, but there was one word she said that stuck with him. Privilege. Zeke had money, therefore he could work part time as a trainer for the rest of his life and never worry about a thing. He had never thought about it that way. And it gave him an idea.
It started as something small, Zeke started volunteering his time at the community center teaching kids and teenagers football and basketball. He had always loved sports and his height and build gave him quite a knack for it, so he decided maybe he could help people by showing them how to play, or giving them the courage to at least try.
Ten years later "Zeke's Kidz" was a program running successfully through the tri-state area. It was a free program run by community centers for kids under eighteen; they were given the choice of playing sports, reading and writing, or doing art or music. The child was then given the necessities of whatever they chose, such as a ball for their sport, access to their favorite books, or painting supplies or a musical instrument to practice with. It kept children busy and possibly off the streets, along with giving them a place to unwind and practice their skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Alongside it, Zeke also ran a foundation that gave kids with learning disabilities grants and scholarships to help them with college, to take some of the stress off of them so they could get the help they need and focus on their futures.
Zeke never realized he was capable of helping so many people. He'd left a legacy unlike anything he had ever dreamed. It helped him to know that he was making a difference, showing kids they weren't always as alone as they thought they were.
Brian Samuels met the love of his life just a few years after graduating trade school. He went into the field of IT, gaining all of his certifications and securing a job with Google only a year after graduation. The job had caused him to relocate to another state, something he had been hesitant for, but later came to thank when he met Katrina Mitchell.
Ebony skin, green eyes, a dazzling smile, and a very outspoken opinion about things he never thought of, Brian was in love with that girl the minute he saw her. And as luck would have it, she felt the same way. Katrina came from a huge family that lived nearby, four siblings, two parents, four grandparents, aunts and uncles, and almost a dozen cousins, and they all took Brian in as one of their own immediately.
They were married less than a year after they met, with Seth standing at his side as best man. Best friends forever meant doing such a thing even when you are half a country apart.
Kat was studying to be an environmental scientist, and vowed nothing would stand in her way of attaining that dream. Not even when she found she was pregnant.
They came a couple months early, but Brian and Kat couldn't have been more thrilled to meet Cagney, Lacey, and Seth Samuels. Kat had taken some time off from her studies before deciding she wanted to go back. So Brian worked from home; troubleshooting with one hand while bottle feeding a baby with the other. He took care of the babies and did the cooking and laundry while she was the primary breadwinner. And when she came home at night, he got to fall in love with her all over again for being so amazing and letting him find this amazing life.
Paige Taylor and Sara Morganson were ones to show life that fate has a way of coming into play. They lasted a year and a half after graduation before going their own ways.
Paige worked a number of odd jobs though the following years. She was a cocktail waitress for a while, followed by a bartender, blackjack dealer at a casino for a couple years, she was even a stripper for a few months when money got tight and she realized how much she missed dancing. It was a long time before she found her niche as a yoga instructor and a gymnastics teacher. Throughout the years, she dated a number of girls, some lasting longer than others, but none of them had the same impact on her that Sara once did.
Sara went straight to nursing school after high school, earning her degree and beginning work at a private practice office. She adored her work, taking pride in everything she did and how hard she had worked to get there. After breaking up with Paige, Sara dated a handsome mechanic named Robbie for almost two years. Following him was a bank teller named Layla, then a firefighter named Molly, and then a very tall Cuban security guard named Ángel. For whatever reason, none of them seemed to last long for Sara, who just seemed to grow uninterested as time passed.
By age twenty-four, Sara had grown tired of attempting to date, and finally agreed to let her overzealous romantic of a coworker named Janine set her up with a friend, promising Sara would have a great time.
Lo and behold, the friend was Paige.
It was a rather short amount of time after that they realized they truly only wanted each other. Within months, they were married; Sara in a flowing white dress with purple accents, Paige in a simple white dress with hints of gold in the skirt, before changing into a more Paige-esque style strapless white jumpsuit for the reception. Mira stood at both their sides, both as a maid of honor, and the officiant of the ceremony.
Paige had little to no interest in being pregnant or having a biological child, whereas Sara was more than happy to carry their children.
Emelia Grace Morganson-Taylor came into the world shortly before they turned thirty, all big brown eyes and tiny brown curls atop her tender scalp. Their second daughter came a couple years later, Sofia Elizabeth Morganson-Taylor, looking similar to her older sister. Three years after that, Paige finally caved and said she would carry their third child. Through her, their third daughter, Miranda Isla Morganson-Taylor was born.
Yes, through some miracle, Paige and Sara had found each other once more, and they had no intention of letting the other leave again
"Thought I'd find you here."
Mira turned to find Seth behind her, also clothed in a maroon gown, cap in hand.
"You found me," Mira told him with a small smile.
"Hi, dad!" Lucy declared, waving from Mira's shoulder. "Hi-hi, daddy!"
Seth grinned at his daughter and tickled her side, making her squirm and shriek with laughter. "C'mere, sunshine." He reached out and hauled her from Mira's arms onto his hip, holding her with a large hand on her back.
"Everyone was looking for you," Seth told her, resting his hand on the small of her back.
"I just wanted to show Lucy our lockers." Mira gestured over her shoulder. Seth followed her hand and smiled at the two side by side doors.
"It's our Paris," he quipped, giving his former locker an affectionate tap with his knuckles. "We'll always have it."
"Yeah, I guess we will."
Seth turned his head, tipping her chin up to kiss her to keep from taking his eye out on the corner of her mortarboard hat. On his hip, Lucy had now placed her father's cap atop her own head, the brim covering her eyes.
"Ready to graduate?" Seth asked, nudging his nose to hers.
"Ready to face the future?" Mira asked back, taking his hand to lace their fingers.
"Then I'm right beside you."
EPILOGUE TO THE EPILOGUE
Five years, two months, and six days later
As it turned out, the opinions you have in your teens usually aren't permanent. Namely about where you stand on commitment, family, and marriage.
It was a late night in August, the sky clear and full of stars, the night air warm, as the dark SUV pulled into the garage of a house and came to a stop, the door closing behind them. Inside, two very formally dressed young adults sat.
Seth sat at the steering wheel for a moment before turning his head to look at Mira in the front seat. In the dark car, they smiled at each other, leaning over until their lips met in the middle.
"I love you."
"I love you."
Seth's hand touched hers on his cheek, his thumb rubbing the cool metal of the ring on her third finger. He heard her exhale tiredly and smiled faintly, resting his brow on hers for a moment and closing his eyes. She had stunned him earlier, in her white dress with the pink accents, her hair back in what he could only describe as an extravagant ponytail/braid, and her eyes fixed solely on him. Now the dress showed the effects of a full day of dancing, posing, walking, and her hair had mostly fallen from her updo until it framed her face. He was sure he looked about the same; his styled hair escaped its light gel cage, his white dress shirt sleeves unbuttoned, tie draped over his shoulders, slacks wrinkled. It was the glorious aftermath of one of the most incredible days of their lives.
Seth had proposed fourteen months ago, with the plan to get married within a year, when they discovered something that put the date off for a while. At first he feared it would all be too stressful for them and they would never make it to the altar, but luckily they were able to throw together a small wedding in Carolyn and Dave's backyard, with strings of lights hanging from the trees, flowers, a photographer, and enough chairs for a small, intimate gathering.
He would have chosen this over the large ceremony they had initially planned any day.
"Ready for Barbados tomorrow?" He asked, keeping his eyes closed. Mira nodded against him. Their kid-free three day honeymoon would begin the next day, but they had both decided on spending their first night as husband and wife in their own home.
"We should go inside," Mira whispered tiredly, rubbing his jaw with her thumb absently. "You gonna carry me over the threshold?"
"I can either carry you or..." Seth nodded at the backseat. He heard Mira laugh softly in the dark.
"Okay, let's get inside." Mira unbuckled her belt, gathering handfuls of her large, billowy white and pink skirt, shifting around to keep from stepping on it. Luckily the dress wasn't long enough to touch the garage floor or Seth was sure he'd have to make two trips to be able to carry everyone in.
Together, they stepped out of the car. Mira opened the car door behind her and ducked in as he did the same on the other side.
"You got her?" Mira whispered, shouldering the bags on the floor of the car.
"Yeah, I got her."
Seven-year-old Lucy Elsen was out cold, head cushioned on her arm against the back of the seat. One of her sandals was missing and Seth had no intention of looking for it, as his daughter had spent the last five hours dancing with anyone and everyone she could come in contact with at the wedding. Her long golden hair had been curled, teased, spun, and woven into an elegant updo that lasted all of ten minutes after the post-ceremony wedding pictures had been taken and the flower girl was no longer needed, and Lucy was free to run around as she pleased. Her colorful flower girl dress (Lucy insisted on all the colors) was wrinkled, with smears of cake and icing along the front, and she still had chocolate around her mouth and chin. He was so lucky the amount of dancing counter acted all the sugar she had inhaled and she was now asleep.
Seth brushed her hair back and pressed a kiss to her forehead before unbuckling her seatbelt and carefully extracting her from the car. Her arms went around his neck even in sleep and he couldn't help but smile. Perhaps it was the enormity of the day, but he couldn't help but wonder how much longer he would be able to carry his little girl around with such ease. The way she balanced both dance class and soccer practice, it wouldn't be long before she declared herself "too big to be carried". It was not a day he looked forward to.
"You got Brian?" Seth whispered, looking over the top of the car.
A moment later, Mira's head ducked out of the car, six month old Brian David Elsen asleep against her breast in his tuxedo onesie, his downy brown hair standing up on one side. His sonny boy had more or less been a centerpiece the entirety of the wedding, sitting happily in his car seat as guests fussed over him, cooed over his round face, commenting on the blue-green eyes he had inherited from his father -along with almost every other likeness- until he finally conked out and slept the rest of the reception in Grandma Carolyn and Grandpa Dave's house.
"After you, baby," Seth said with a wave of his hand and a large grin on his lips. Mira passed by him, opening the door and stepping into their house where Cujo II the Siberian Husky joyfully greeted them. Someone had brought him home from the wedding to keep him from waking the kids in the car.
They put Lucy and Brian to bed with ease before retiring to their own room. Seth had just changed out of his tuxedo when Mira stepped out of the bathroom in her own pajamas, placing her dress on a hanger on the back of the door. For just a moment, the newlyweds regarded one another, small smiles on their faces.
Seth raised a hand, wiggling his fingers just so. "C'mere," he whispered. Mira walked to him, her silk nightgown almost flowing behind her, eyes never leaving his. His hand found the small of her back as he scooped her in for a less than chaste kiss. Her arms slid up around his neck, stroking his soft brown hair back from his face.
Mira pulled back with a small smack, her body pressed to his, noses nuzzled together. "I love you, Seth Joseph Elsen," she breathed. "With everything in me."
"And I love you, Mira Laraine Elsen," Seth whispered back. "I have been hopelessly in love with you for a long time."
Mira's face relaxed into a warm smile as they both remember his saying those exact words over seven years ago. He wanted to say so much more; write poems, prose, and songs about what she meant to him. The life they had created, their two incredible children, their friendship, their trust, their everything. She was everything. And from the way she smiled at him, he knew she was thinking the same things.
His fingers brushed through her hair, twining the silky blonde locks around his long digits as they kissed again. Her arms tightened around his neck as he leaned down slightly, never breaking the kiss, and tucked an arm under her legs, hoisting her effortlessly into his strong arms. He laid her on the bed and climbed on top of her, cradling the sides of her face as they continued to kiss. He broke it long enough to pull her nightgown over her head and divest himself of his sweatpants and the shirt that he had foolishly even put on.
Seth poured everything he had into each kiss, each touch, every thrust of his hips as he buried himself deep inside of her again and again and again. She clung to him just as hard, fingers digging into his back, legs around his waist, those delicious moans escaping her lips beside his ear. It went beyond words, because they already knew what was being said.
I love you.
It ended in the height of pleasure for them both, and they lay under the sheets in one another's arms, their sweat chilling in the air. Seth leaned over and clicked off the lamp beside the bed, settling further into her embrace amongst the pillows. It didn't take long before husband and wife were sleeping soundly.
Today had been another step forward in their future. The houses they would own, the jobs they would take, vacations, pets, the other children -Nate, Samantha, and Cora- who would be born to them in the coming years, they were one step closer to it all.
After all, that's what life really was, just one step after another. And come tomorrow, another step of their life began.
TEN YEARS AND ALMOST HALF A MILLION WORDS LATER AND I HAVE COMPLETED IT!
I would like to take this moment to thank every single person who has stuck by this story. I know it wasn't easy for me to keep it going, but i always knew I would finish it one day and sure enough, I did! I had this epilogue planned out for a number of years and it thrills me to no end that I was finally about to write it. I put my heart and soul in thinking where everyone would end up!
With that being said, I am always open to suggestions so if there is something more you would like to see in the Meta/Asc universe from these characters, let me hear it! These stories have been 100% life changing for me and you all have been so wonderful and kind and supportive with each chapter and I will forever be thankful for that!
Well friends, I will hopefully see you on my next work!
READ AND REVIEW!