Gene watched Aimee walk back from the make shift parking lot. “What were you and Robert talking about?” he inquired.
“Nothing much,” Aimee sighed “I think Casey’s wedding was hard on him.”
Glancing back Gene watched Robert drive away wondering if he should go after him. A tug on his arm broke his train of thought “I love this song,” Aimee said looking up at him. “Come dance with me.”
Smiling he took Aimee to the dance floor. Gathering her into his arms he enjoyed the feel of her soft skin as he caressed her hand in his. Looking deep into her mesmerizing pink eyes “your different, what’s up?”
Shaking her head Aimee giggled “maybe it’s the cool night air. The romance of dancing under he stars. Being held in the arms of the man I adore.”
Gene stopped dancing drawing Aimee close to him as she peered into his beautiful brown eyes. Other couples danced around them while they stood motionless caught in this moment in time. “Gene I,” she brought a hand up to caress his face. Placing a finger across his mouth as he started to say something “no please hear me out. I’m sorry.” She bit her lip as she brought a hand to his chest, feeling his heart beat against her palm “I’m sorry for making you doubt your love for me. For making you think I was afraid of you, of your touch, of your love. You’re the best thing that has ever or will ever happen to me.” She heard his breath catch as he inhaled sharply. Pulling him close she continued “you taught me how to love and be loved. I may not know much about the real world or my place in it,” she reached up and took his face between her hands smiling “what I do know is I love you. I want to be by your side forever. I will strive everyday of my life to prove my love to you.” She brought her lips to his and kissed him for the first time in several months. Their kiss deepened as Gene drew her close, holding her tight in his arms. Their bodies molding into each other. Breaking the kiss, their breathing hard and rapid she said “I love you now, always and forever.”
Gene smiled tenderly into her eyes. Clearing his throat he asked “what took you so long? My heart has been bleeding for you to come back to me.”
Threading her fingers through his, leaning forward she brought their lips together “I was lost and a lone. I will spend the rest of my life loving you if you’ll let me.”
“Are you proposing to me?” Gene smiled trying to lighten the mood as people looked on trying to listen in on their conversation.
“I think I am,” Aimee lifted her chin raising an eyebrow “will you marry me?”
“You’ve had my heart from the moment we met. You’ve stomped on it, trampled over it, left if bruised and bleeding. Are you offering now to mend it? To heal my heartache?” Gene asked gently wondering if this was for real or was he just dreaming.
“If you’ll let me I’ll nurse you back to health again.” Laying her cheek against his chest she murmured “I’ll mend your broken heart.”
Lifting her chin he looked deep into her eyes “don’t make promises you can’t or won’t keep. I want you to be happy whether that’s with me or someone else I don’t care. Do you mean what you’ve said? Do you love me?”
Nodding she reached up and stroked his face “yes, yes I do. I’m sorry for doubting. For running away when I should have stayed. I caused you nothing but pain and I don’t deserve you but if you’ll give me another chance I promise I’ll take it and you won’t regret it.”
Taking her hand Gene led her off the dance floor where everyone had stopped to listen. He led her to a quiet corner of the yard, looking up at the night sky Gene brought her hand up to his lips. “Aimee, Aimee what am I going to do with you? I wasn’t joking when I said you broke my heart. I’m not going to lie to you and say I trust the promises you made me a moment ago. I appreciate the sentiment I …” Gene stopped shrugged “I don’t want to hurt you but I need someone who will be there for me. Are you strong enough to be my support when I can’t support myself? You left me drowning when I found out about the girls. I understand why you ran but it doesn’t lessen the pain, the hurt you put me through. I would do anything for you. I put my life on the line for you. I need to know you will do the same for me. For the girls. I have to think of them too. What kind of mother will you be? Can you be a mother to my girls?”
“Are you saying it’s too late for us?” Aimee asked pulling away from him “Give me a chance. Please I love you. I don’t want to lose you.” She began to cry as she saw her dream slipping away from her.
Gene looked away. Watched his girls running around with their young Auntie Susan laughing, having fun. They needed a mother, someone to love them. To care for them. He had to think of them. He couldn’t let his feelings cloud his judgement when it came to their welfare. He wouldn’t let them grow up with a neglectful mother. No mother was better than that. “Aimee I’m not trying to be cruel or mean,” Pointing towards his daughters “those beautiful little girls need a mother as much as they need a father. It’s been six months Aimee. Can you tell me anything about them besides what they look like? Do you know what their favorite toy is? What scares them? What they like to eat? Anything at all Aimee?” Silently she shook her head knowing she hadn’t taken the initiative to get to know them. “They’re my daughters. They’re a part of me. I can’t love someone who ignores them. In order to love me, you have to love them. It’s a package deal. They’re part of the package. You can’t have me without them. Do you know what I’m saying?”
Nodding “please let me try. I can be a good mom. I know I can. Please give me a chance,” she cried grabbing his arm.
“You’ve had six months to try. Six months of chances.” Gene sighed trying to ignore her tears and his desire to comfort her. “It nearly killed me when Jazzy came up to me the other day asking me why you didn’t like her.”
“But I do. I do like her,” Aimee insisted.
Crossing his arms he felt tears building up behind his eyes. “Do you? Think about it. Carefully. This isn’t a game where you can reset, pause and start over. This is real life. The good, the bad and the ugly. If you want to be a part of their lives you have to be more than a mere presence in the room. You have to be willing to let them into your heart. You have to show them by interacting with them that you enjoy being with them. Being a mother is more than just taking care of their needs. Sure you feed them, change their diapers and put them to bed. It takes more than that to show them, to reassure them that you like them. They need more than an impartial tolerance of their existence.”
“This is about me getting back into video commentary isn’t? It takes time to build up your fan base….” Aimee muttered feeling like he was expecting to much.
“I did and you can,” Gene said as he felt his frustration growing “but there’s more to life than video games. There has to be a balance. I love my career Aimee but I’d give it up in an instant for my girls. If I had to make a choice between my career or my daughters. They come first. Can’t you see the difference?” He walked away stopping to turn back “you asked me for another chance. I’m doing my best to point out what’s involved. What’s at stake if you blow it again. This time there will be no other chances, no redos, let’s try it again. It’ll be over. If you hurt my girls that will be it, game over. Do you understand? I’m not playing games and I hope to god you’re not either. Think about it Aimee. Think long and hard if you want the package deal. We can’t go back to the way it was. I have two little girls to think about and I will do whatever it takes to protect them from having the same nightmarish childhood we both had growing up. I gave you six months to see if you could come to grips with things on your terms but you didn’t. Now these are my terms. Your last chance. If you still want it come to me. You know where I’ll be. The girls are staying tonight with dad. So it’s your choice. Your decision.”
Gene turned and walked away. He said what needed to be said. He regretted the defeated look he left on Aimee’s face. He knew she expected him to be blown away by her confession of undying love for him. In a way he was and he wanted to believe her but she said it all before. Said she was sorry before. Words are only words until they’re put into action. So far the only action she’s taken was to build up her video commentary again. Her fans welcomed her back with open arms. At first he had been excited for her until that excitement turned to resentment as she ignored everyone around her. “Daddy, daddy” Jasmine and Stephanie called to him excitement clear in their young voices.
“Hey pumpkins, are you having fun?” he asked them. They nodded their little blond heads up at him.
Stephanie pulled on his hand “Come dance with us,” she demanded as Jazzy grabbed his other hand pulling him towards the dance floor. Chuckling he allowed them to lead him to the dance floor. He stooped and pulled them close to him. Picking them up he danced around with them in his arms until the song was over.
Jasmine pointed towards something, Gene turned to look in the direction she was pointing in. “Aimee sad,” she told him “why?”
“Because daddy upset her,” he told the little girls. She turned inquisitive eyes towards him.
“Daddy mad at Aimee,” she stated.
Stephanie poked out her lip pouting “not mad at us?” she asked.
Smiling “no I’m not mad at you.” The girls smiled at him relieved.
Stephanie snuggled into him “are you gonna marry Aimee?”
“Like Uncle Casey married Lynn?” Jasmine asked.
Before answering them Gene looked at each of the girls “do you want me to?”
The girls looked at each other than at the their dad “we don’t know,” they said together. “We don’t think she likes us.”
“Would you like her if she like you?” he asked intently watching them. Their opinion meant everything to him. If Aimee’s ignoring them ruined all hope, why even give her another chance?
Stephanie turned to Jazzy to answer “yes daddy,” Jazzy smiled “she’s pretty.” Which in her mind was a high compliment.
“Daddy feels Aimee needs to make some changes before he considers marrying her.” He smiled at them still amazed at how they had wrapped themselves around his heart.
“We’ll watch her for you,” they solemnly announced.
Chuckling a little he hugged his daughters tight. Looking up he found his dad standing quietly behind them. “Dad?” Gene asked.
“I was coming to get the girls to put them to bed,” William explained.
“I’ll help you,” Gene volunteered.
“Oh” William said not sure what else to say.
“She asked for another chance” Gene sighed “I told her she already had six months of chances. I was honest with her. When we were dancing a part of me wanted to give in to her. To forget the past. I couldn’t.” He turned troubled eyes towards his dad.
“Why didn’t you?” William asked.
Nodding his head towards the door where his girls slept “the reasons are asleep inside that room. We’re a package deal. Aimee needs to know that. To except that. I can’t love her unless she’s willing to be a mom to my girls. I don’t know if she can or wants to be.” Leaning back he closed his eyes “I told her the choice was hers. If she wanted another chance she had to do so on my terms. If she blows it this time there will be no more chances. I laid it on the line.” He looked at his dad “I can’t hold my breath any longer. I won’t be manipulated by her tears or empty promises. I’ve had enough.”
“Son I love you and I’ll support you no matter what,” William told him pulling himself to his feet “you’re not alone. If it doesn’t work out with Aimee don’t hesitate to call. I’ll come day or night.”
“I know you will dad,” Gene said giving him a hug. Pulling away he walked out of the house and collected his car. Driving to the hotel he kept thinking the support he wanted was from Aimee and he doubted that would ever come. She was too reticent, too broken to make the effort. As much as it will hurt he was preparing himself for the worst. Slowly building a wall around his heart. Running his hands through his hair he yawned as he opened his hotel room door.
He noticed the adjacent door leading into Aimee’s joining room was open. Shrugging he tossed his jacket and tie on the bed. “Gene?” Aimee called from the other room. Walking through the adjacent door he stopped in his tracks as he found Aimee relaxing in the hotel hot tub.
Smiling she motioned for him to come closer “I thought about what you said. I wasn’t lying when I told you you were the best thing that has ever happened to me.” She smiled up at him enjoying how he was looking at her. “I have a confession to make. I’ve been seeing a psychiatrist. I realized I needed help coping with what Wallace did. I didn’t want him to come between us. I’m tired of being a victim. I’m ready to take control of my life.” She stood up from the hot tub.
“Aimee,” Gene breathed as his heart pounded in his chest. He couldn’t take his eyes from her.
“I’ve decided I want another chance. I accept your terms.” She walked towards him skin glistening in the dim light of the room. She reached for his shirt slowly unbuttoning it as he stood there frozen. Tossing his shirt aside she kissed him with all the passion she had for him. “No holding back,” she peppered him with kisses as she reached for his pants. Letting them drop to the floor “no hesitation,” she took his hand and led him to the bed. He kicked his shoes off before following her onto the bed. Snuggling into his arms she turned his face towards her, kissing him long and hard “no fears,” she murmured as she felt him respond to her.
Waking up in each others arms Gene mumbled “did we actually do it or am I dreaming?” He looked down into her eyes kissing the top of her head.
She ran her fingers through his chest hair finding comfort laying in his arms. Her leg thrown across his. Lazily she let hand wander down giggling as he groaned in response to her touch “Gene I love you.”
“I love you too,” he said before capturing her mouth with his.
Giggling she pushed him away “you can’t be ready to go again, can you?”
“I’ve had a long dry spell. Of course I can go again,” he said pulling her to him.