Two Years Later
"Ben, are you ready to go?" Jack called upstairs of our home.
"Coming now!" Ben shouted back excitedly. It was obvious he was looking forward to the big holiday event that Westbrook held each year. This would mark the third holiday event we went to, and our second since actually living in Westbrook.
I closed my eyes for a moment as we waited for Ben, sitting back on the couch. I felt Jack step closer to me, which caused me to open my eyes again.
"Are you feeling okay?" he asked, giving me a concerned look.
I nodded and offered a small smile. "Yes, just tired. Help me up?" Jack didn't look convinced, but he pulled me off the couch and handed me my coat. Seconds later, Ben was bouncing down the stairs, still with no shoes on. I swear, sometimes Ben took longer than me to get ready.
"Dad, where'd you put my shoes?" he asked Jack. Hearing Ben call Jack 'dad' continued to make my heart tingle. Since Jack and I got married last year, Jack officially adopted Ben and insisted on being called Dad. Ben had absolutely no issue with that, mainly because Jack was the only—and best—father Ben ever knew.
"I put them in the mudroom," Jack replied, prompting Ben to disappear again in search of his shoes.
Eventually we were leaving our house, walking to the town center for the event. Ben went straight over to his friends, immediately talking animatedly with them. I watched them head toward the food, though I wasn't worried about keeping a close eye on them. Besides the fact that Ben was pretty responsible for a nine year old, everyone in Westbrook always kept a close eye on each other. No matter the occasion or time of day, someone was looking out for you in this lovely town.
"How about we hit the ice?" Jack suggested, gesturing toward the frozen lake being used for ice skating.
As much as I wanted to ice skate, I didn't think I should in my current state. Especially since Jack didn't know about my current state yet. "You go ahead, I'm not in the mood today."
Jack stared at me as if I had three heads. "Not in the mood? You love ice skating!"
"I'm going to find my family. Phoebe said to meet them near the food," I said, avoiding the shocked look Jack was giving me. I walked toward the tent where everyone brought food. For the past few days leading up to Christmas, my family traveled to Westbrook and stayed at the Ashford Inn. That way, we could all be together for the holiday.
"Evelyn, that can wait. We just saw them last night. What's wrong?" Jack said, gently grabbing my arm to stop me.
I reassuringly put my hand on his cheek. "Nothing's wrong, I promise. I'm just too tired to ice skate today."
"You've been tired a lot lately," he replied, his eyes gazing on my face. I smiled at the way his eyebrows scrunched together with concern. "What's so funny?" he then asked, a smile forming on his face as well.
"You are," I said before kissing him.
"Get a room," someone interrupted, sounding a lot like my brother.
"Nice to see you too, Greg," I said sarcastically. Greg put his arms over mine and Jack's shoulders.
"I bet it's nice to see me too. You know what else is nice? A moment away from the kids. I love them to death, but I'm happy to see them off playing on their own. Especially now that Amanda is old enough to walk and talk."
"What, you don't miss having to feed them every few hours and change diapers?" Amy interjected, walking toward us.
"Nope! I'm glad that phase of our lives is done," Greg said, moving to put his arm around his wife instead. I glanced behind them, watching my parents and Lorena play with Amanda.
"Honestly, Jack, you're lucky you missed that with Ben. He was a messy baby and toddler," my brother said. Jack just smiled and shook his head at my brother, making me almost want to frown. What if Jack didn't want more kids? I mean, it was something we mentioned but never talked about seriously. There was always Ben to take care of.
"I'm going to get some food," I stated. I started to walk away, though I felt Jack follow right behind. I suddenly stopped once we were away from everyone before making it to the tent.
"Geez, I almost knocked you down," Jack said, putting his hand lightly on my back.
"I don't know why my brother said that," I told him, causing Jack to look at me with a confused expression. "About you missing Ben's toddler years," I clarified.
Jack shrugged. "I don't know. It doesn't matter though. I'm not missing anything else." Jack turned to start walking toward the tent again, until I stopped him.
"Yeah, but would you want to experience that? It's just, we never really talked about having a kid together," I continued, glancing down at my shoes.
Jack paused for a minute before replying. "I don't need to experience that, Evelyn. I'm perfectly content with just having you and Ben in my life." My heart dropped down to my stomach after hearing that. "Now come on, let's get some food."
I watched Jack start to walk away, giving myself the chance to snap out of it. Sooner or later he'd find out my big secret. I just hoped that it wouldn't be too much for him to handle.
(: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (: (:
"Merry Christmas Eve!" I greeted Ruby. Last year Lorena started the tradition of holding a Christmas Eve party at the Ashford Inn, mainly for close friends and family—though it seemed like everyone was close friends in Westbrook, making the inn seemed packed at the party.
"Evelyn! I missed you!" she exclaimed, giving me a tight hug.
I laughed. "I missed you too! Where's your fiancé?"
"No need to worry, I made it to the party. Now the real fun can begin," Liam interjected, his arm wrapping around Ruby. Seeing them together never ceased to amuse or amaze me. I always knew they'd end up together, even when they couldn't realize that themselves.
"Still the same, I see," I laughed, shaking my head at Liam.
"You know it. Now where's your hubby?"
"In the kitchen," I answered.
Liam rolled his eyes. "I don't know why I even asked," he said, walking in the direction of the kitchen. He certainly should've known that Jack would be in the kitchen, spending time doing what he loved. Every party or family event, he always made sure there were fresh plates of food out for everyone to enjoy.
"So tell me about your wedding plans," I said to Ruby, guiding her toward the living room.
I spent the next few hours talking with family and friends. I mingled with everyone, listening to hilarious stories from the neighbors and fellow Westbrook residents. I even attempted to play one of Ben's video games, but quickly gave up after losing multiple times. I left the game-playing to Charlie, Bradley, and Ben.
Eventually most people went home once it got late. It was just our family left after a while, which meant it was time for the kids to open one gift. It was a Christmas Eve tradition that allowed them to choose one small gift to open early. The kids tore open their gifts of their choosing and immediately started playing with them. It was only a matter of time when they started to fall asleep, tired from the busy party.
"Okay, it's bed time! You need to get straight to sleep so Santa won't miss us!" Greg said to the kids.
"Can you still tell me a story, Daddy?" Amanda asked him.
"Of course, sweetie. Come on," he said, ushering the kids upstairs. Ben also went upstairs since we spent Christmas Eve night at the inn as well. Trusting Greg would make sure the kids would go to bed, I started cleaning up after the guests from the party. I was going to start the dishes when Lorena came in.
"You should get to bed too, darling. I can do these," she said.
"It's okay, I can do them," I replied. I did feel exhausted, yet I wanted to help as much as I could.
"You should get some rest," she insisted, giving me a knowing look. The look like she knew what I was temporarily hiding. I was going to say something in return, until Jack entered the room.
"I brought the gifts up from the basement. Your mom's arranging them under the tree now," he said.
"Great, thank you. I'm going to head upstairs then."
Jack nodded. "I'll be up soon."
I walked to our bedroom and got a change of clothes out of the duffel bag for our overnight stay. As I was going through the clothes, I took out the small gift I put in there last minute.
I sat on the edge of the bed, looking down at the wrapped box. I had this particular gift ready and wrapped for a few weeks, waiting for the right moment to give it to Jack. Originally I was going to give it to him before Christmas, but things came up each time. Then Jack said he'd be fine with just Ben and me in his life the other day, which only made me feel more nervous and uneasy. What if this made him upset? What if he didn't want this in the first place?
"Did we forget to put that under the tree?"
I glanced up at Jack and then back at the gift. "No."
I saw he stepped closer to me before sitting next to me on the bed. He didn't say anything, so I was the one to break the silence between us. I figured now was as good of a time as ever.
"This is for you," I said to him, handing the gift over.
"You want me to open it now?" Jack asked. He gave me a cautious look, which was understandable. I'm sure I looked like the nervous wreck I felt like. Without words, I nodded and watched him start to open the gift.
Time seemed to slow as he opened the box, when really it was only a matter of seconds that passed by. I watched for Jack's reaction as he took out a pair of baby shoes from the box. His eyes widened with surprise as he looked at the tiny shoes. Then he looked at me.
Tears were building up and just about to spill over. I nodded again. "Yes."
Then, all of the sudden, my nervousness was washed away and replaced with an immense feeling of joy. Jack grinned, tears escaping his eyes, as he wrapped his arms around me.
I started laughing. "You're happy, then?"
Jack wiped his eyes, laughing with me. "Of course I'm happy! I couldn't be happier! This is great! No, this is better than great!"
I laughed again until Jack started kissing me. He gave me excited kisses all over my face. I noticed how we both couldn't stop laughing and realized how stupid I had been to think that Jack would be upset about this.
"I thought you'd be upset," I admitted.
"Why'd you think that?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. I guess what you said the other day at the town event made me start to think that. You said you'd be happy with just me and Ben in your life."
"Well, that's true, but I'd be happy to add to our family too. I just didn't know if you wanted to have another kid," Jack said.
I grinned at gazed into his blue eyes, which were bright with excitement and delight. "I love you," I said.
"I love you too," he said sincerely, then shook his head. "Man, this is going to be a hard Christmas present to beat."
I laughed and kissed him again, feeling like the luckiest woman in the world. Being married to Jack, seeing Ben happy in Westbrook, and having a baby on the way, this definitely would be a Christmas I'd always remember—and it seems like I owe this all to a huge snowstorm.
Author's Note: And that's the end! Once again, a huge thanks to everyone who has read this story! I thoroughly enjoyed reading your feedback and encouraging words. Hope you all have a great new year!