A week later Matt was released from the hospital. He still had several weeks of physical therapy ahead of him. Leaning heavily on his mom as he made his way slowly to the front door. Stopping he smiled “it’s good to be home.”
“It’s good to have you home,” she squeezed him tight “come on honey let’s get you inside.”
“Ian and Celia have a surprise for me don’t they?” he asked excitement in his voice.
“What makes you think that?” Aimee feigned innocence.
“My birthday for one. I am coming home on my eighteenth birthday.”
“Don’t worry mom I’ll act surprised,” Matt told her as he navigated the steps on the porch. “I’m just happy to be home.”
Opening the door Matty smiled as he brother pulled him into a hug saying “happy birthday bro.”
Celia gave smiled giving his cheek a kiss “happy birthday Matty.”
A tug on his leg had him looking down where a little girl was trying her best to get his attention. As he knelt downs Katrina squealed snuggling into his arms “missed you.”
Looking up blinking back tears he couldn’t help but think this day would only be perfect if his dad were there to share it with him. With his back to the rest of the room he didn’t see the door of his parents bedroom open. “Happy birthday son.”
“Dad,” he shouted turning in surprise.
“You didn’t think I’d miss your birthday did you?”
“I’ve missed you so much,” Matt cried as his dad hugged him tight. “How long are you here for?”
“A couple of days then I have to get back.” Pushing him away he looked into his son’s eyes “you’ve grown.”
Shrugging “a little” he mumbled “I’m never going to get back into dancing shape again.”
Squeezing his shoulder Gene told him “don’t give up. I thought the same thing when my foot was damaged. A little extra work and you’ll be good as new in no time.”
“Do you really think so?” Matty asked grasping for hope.
“I do. Just don’t get discouraged if it takes longer then you expect or people tell you it can’t be done.” Pulling him close “above all else just remember we love you no matter what shape you’re in.”
“Thanks dad,” he blinked back tears embarrassed at how emotional he had become. “I’m glad you’re home.”
“Ian wake up,” Celia demanded from the other side of the bed.
“What?” he mumbled sitting up rubbing his eyes.
“The baby’s coming,” she panted between contractions.
Jumping to his feet he grabbed the bag Celia had packed by the door as Celia made her way to the stairs. He knocked on his parents bedroom door. When Gene poked his head out holding a baby he asked “what’s wrong?”
Pointing at Celia “baby incoming.” Nodding Gene told him “we’ll take care of Katrina.”
“Thanks dad,” Ian helped Celia to the car. Driving to the hospital Ian was overwhelmed with a feeling that time was going be so fast. It was hard to believe that it had been six months since Celia had moved in. Matty had moved to Hidden Springs having recovered enough to resume his dancing career. His parents had triplets, two girls and a boy.
The house was full to overflowing now that his grandpa had moved in with them. It was the way Ian liked it. He liked the feeling of having his family close. It made him feel safe, warm and comfortable. He wasn’t sure how Celia felt about it though. He wanted her to be happy too. Looking over at her he squeezed her hand “we’re almost there,” he reassured her.
At the hospital Ian raced inside to get help and returned with an orderly pushing a wheelchair. It wasn’t long before Celia delivered a healthy baby girl. Looking down at the baby Celia’s tears dropped on the baby’s nose “what the matter?” Ian asked her.
“I wish she were your daughter,” she started to sob “I’ve messed everything up. She won’t even have your last name….”
“She will if I adopt her” Ian told her.
“You would do that for me?”
“For us. I’d do that for us,” Ian amended “Celia I love. You’re the mother of my daughters. I never want to be a part from you again. You are my sunshine. Will you marry me?”
“You’re asking me here? In the hospital?”
“Sure. Why not? It doesn’t change how I feel about you. Will you marry me?”
“Yes Ian I’ll marry you,” she smiled up at him. Seeing him holding her child “thank you for not giving up on me.”
“What can I say? I’m a sucker for lost causes.”
“So not nice,” Celia protested pretending to pout.
“I love you anyway,” he kissed her lips. Looking into her eyes he asked “so what are we going to name our little angel?”
Gazing at her daughter in the arms of the man she loved Celia smiled “Kara, her name is Kara.”
It took another six months before the adoptions became official. The day that Ian received the official documents he cried. It was a weight removed from his shoulders. He had agonized late at night that the adoption wouldn’t go through. That Beth or John would do something to stop it. They had been rather silent since the night they had threatened Celia. Ian wasn’t sure if it was because of the police involvement, the bodyguards or the restraining order that kept them away. He was only thankful that they were gone. Beth had quit the fire department much to everyone’s relief. John had moved out-of-town presumably to finish college. No one knew where Beth went. It didn’t matter really as long as she stayed gone.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Celia asked coming up behind him.
Smiling he waved the documents in his hands at her “do you know what I have here?”
“No,” she started to say then a grin spread across her face “is it official?”
“It is,” he grabbed her and whirled her around the room “I’m officially Kara’s dad.”
“That’s the best new I’ve heard all day,” she screamed clinging to Ian as he stopped to stare into her eyes.
“Are you happy?” he asked her suddenly.
“Yes more than words can say,” she told him “Why?”
“You’d tell me if you weren’t?” he asked as he brought his hands up to stroke her face.
“Ian what’s all this about?” her smiled wavered then faded.
“Nothing,” he said trying to smile to lighten the mood. Turning he started to walk away.
Grabbing his arm Celia demanded “Ian please tell me. What’s wrong? Did I do something?”
“No honey no,” Ian sighed taking her hand as he led her to the couch. “It’s just I asked you to marry me six months ago and we never talk about it. Do you want to marry me?”
“I do,” she nodded her head emphatically “more than anything.”
“Then let’s set a date,” Ian saw the instant withdrawn in her eyes and manner. “How can you say you want to marry me when the thought of setting a date makes you so uneasy?”
“It’s not that it’s….” she looked away getting to her feet she gazed out the window. “I’m not ready to move….” She remembered the night Ian happily discussed finding their own house, moving. She had felt like screaming instead. She had closed down, shut off, refused to talk about getting married ever since.
Ian watched her shoulders shake as she began to cry. Getting up he wrapped his arms around her “honey we don’t have to move. I…I thought you might like having more space….”
Turning in his arms to rest her head on his shoulder “Ian I never had a family before. I didn’t appreciate it
before…before I messed everything up. I know what it feels like to be all alone. No one to turned to….”
“Celia just because we move doesn’t mean we won’t still be family. We’ll still come to visit and they’ll come to visit us.”
“It won’t be the same,” she wailed “do we have to move?”
Kissing her forehead “Oh honey we don’t have to do anything. I thought you’d want to move. I thought that maybe you’d want to move. I thought that maybe having so many people under foot was what went wrong the first time.”
Chuckling a little “we really need to improve in our communication skills.”
“I think we need more practice” Ian smiled down at her. “How about when you’re ready to move you let me know. Until then I’m ok with staying here.”
“Thank you,” she reached up and brought his head down to hers “I love you.”
“So how about setting a date?”
Putting the girls down for the night Ian and Celia went downstairs. “Mom, dad we have something to….”
“You’re getting married,” Aimee cut them off hugging Celia.
“Aimee dear let them tell us,” Gene said grinning at her “since you’re not contradicting her I guess congratulations are in order.” He pulled Ian into a hug followed by Celia “I’m so happy for you.”
“Where’s Grandpa,” Ian asked looking around.
“He wasn’t feeling well,” Aimee explained “he went to be early.” The concern and worry in his dad’s eyes didn’t go unnoticed. Ian knew it was only a matter of time before Grandpa wouldn’t be with them any more. He clasped his dad’s shoulder squeezing while Aimee and Celia discussed wedding dresses together.
“Have you set a date?” Gene asked.
“Next summer,” Celia told him over hearing the question. “The girls will be flower girls. Matty best man and the twins will be my brides maids.” Biting her lips she held her hands out to Gene “I was hoping that you would do me the honor of walking me down the aisle.”
“I’d be honored to,” Gene smiled hugging Celia close.
“Thank you,” she kissed his cheek turning to Aimee “will you go dress shopping with me?”
“I’d love to,” Aimee smiled sweetly at her “let’s go upstairs and make a plan of attack. There are so many more bridal shops in Starlight Shores then there were when I was getting married.” Aimee made the suggestion feeling that her son and husband needed talk.
“Have you told her yet?” Gene asked after the girls had gone upstairs.
Shaking his head Ian sat down on the couch. “I made a huge mistake in buying that house.”
“What? Why?” Gene asked sitting beside him.
“She doesn’t want to move,” Ian looked up “What am I going to do? I can’t tell her I already bought a house.”
“Why doesn’t she want to move?”
“She feels safe here,” Ian felt his dad put a hand on his shoulder.
“It’s not the end of the world,” squeezing his son’s shoulder deep in thought Gene grunted “give me a week and I’ll come up with something.”
“Are you sure?” Ian asked “I should be able to solve my own problems by now.”
“Son you never get to old for help” Gene told him.
“This is what I get for not talking to her first,” Ian mumbled “I thought she wanted to move. I thought she was finding living here too cramped…”
“Son it’s not the end of the world,” Gene repeated chuckling “give it a week before you tell her….”
“Do I have to tell her?” Ian complained.
“She might wonder what you’re up to if she get’s calls about property tax, insurance and the like.” Gene explained “don’t keep secrets Ian. Even in small things secrets have a way of causing complications. She’ll understand and who knows maybe she’ll change her mind.”
“What if she doesn’t? I can’t afford a house; especially one I’m not ever going to live in.” Ian muttered causing his dad to laugh harder “it’s not funny.”
“If you couldn’t afford it why’d you buy it?” Gene asked him becoming serious.
“You know what I mean,” Ian rolled his eyes “it’s just that paying rent and a house payment is dipping into our savings.”
“You’re the one who insisted on paying rent,” Gene told him. His voice held a note of pride in his son. “Give it a week. Talk to Celia. If she still doesn’t want to move I have an idea that might work.”
“You do? What is it?” Ian asked perking up.
Shaking his head “I have to make some calls before I commit to anything. Talk to Celia then worry about my idea.”
Frowning at her reflection Celia turned to Aimee. “Is it just me or does this dress look hideous?”
“It’s not you,” Aimee confirmed “I don’t think that consultant listened to a word we said.”
“Here she comes,” Celia sited as she saw the stack of dresses she was pulling behind her “I hope at least one of those will be worth the time and effort” she muttered.
Aimee eyed the consultant as she held up the first dress. Shaking her head Aimee frowned at her “that’s not what Celia requested. There’s too much tulle and that one’s too poofy.”
Anger flashed in the consultants eyes as she retorted “these dresses will be suitable for her.”
“What exactly does that mean?” Aimee asked eyes flashing.
“Exactly what I said,” the girl replied “try this one” she demanded holding the dress out to Celia…”
Grabbing it before Celia could take it Aimee turned to the girl “she will not. You will either bring her something she requested or we’re going elsewhere.”
“Fine by me. I didn’t want to wait on you anyway” the girl shouted back drawing the attention of the manager.
“Is there a problem?”
“No,” the consultant responded.
“Yes there certainly is a problem,” Aimee contradicted her “for one thing she refuses to bring any dresses that my daughter requested insisting that these….things are more suitable. They maybe suitable but they’re not what she wants.”
The manager listened eyes narrowing “what are you looking for?” she asked turning to Celia.
“Mermaid style. Something off the shoulder” she stammered “please I don’t mean to be any trouble.”
“It’s not trouble at all,” the manager smiled “a pretty girl like you shouldn’t be hidden behind yards of fabric.” Turning to the girl “Beth you’re fired the manager spoke harshly to the girl.
“Good I didn’t want to work here anyway,” she snapped knocking over the rack of wedding dresses over as she left.
Celia stared after the girl recognizing her now she knew her name. She may have changed her hair color but the cold hatred was still the same. Shivering as she recalled the night Beth and John had forced her to go with them. No wonder she had felt so apprehensive and afraid around the consultant. Somehow her self-conscious had recognized her.
“I apologize for her behavior,” the manager told them “I never saw her act this way before.”
“Jealousy does that to some people,” Celia muttered.
Sitting in the restaurant Aimee patted Celia’s hand “is something wrong?”
Shaking her head “no I’m sorry. Just lost in my thoughts I guess.”
“Don’t let what happened at the bridal shop dampen your joy. You’ll find the right dress. I remember when I was…..” She went on to tell Celia about how she found her wedding dress.
Celia nodded half listening to her future mother-in-law. “Aimee?” she interrupted her “did you meant it?”
“Mean what dear?” Aimee asked her.
“What you said. That I was your daughter.”
Squeezing her hand Aimee smiled “of course I did dear. Your marrying my son. That makes you my daughter. More than that you make him happy and that means a lot.” The waiter came and took their order. Aimee leaned over the table asking “what’s bothering you? What are you afraid of?”
Looking at the tablecloth “what makes you think I’m afraid?”
“It’s written all over your face,” Aimee told her “tell me. Maybe I can help.”
“It’s not that I’m afraid exactly. I don’t doubt Ian loves me. Look what I put him through and he’s still here. I don’t deserve it…”
“But..” Aimee prompted.
“I get anxious at the thought of moving. I know the house is overflowing but I …. I feel safe knowing that everyone we love is right there.” Looking up at Aimee “I never knew what a family felt like before. I always had to fend for myself. When my mom was so sick I took care of her but I always wondered what it would have been like if we belonged to a family and it wasn’t just the two of us.” Wiping tears away as the waiter brought their meal. Taking a bite of her club sandwich she continued “I guess I’m afraid if we move we’ll miss out on the closeness I’ve grown to love and appreciate.”
“Celia just because you move doesn’t mean we stop being family.” Aimee told her “do you feel differently towards Matty because he moved away?”
“No of course not,” she mumbled “I never thought about it like that. He’s my brother.”
“See you don’t stop being family just because you don’t live together,” Taking a sip of water she asked “have you told Ian how you feel?”
Nodding “he’s being very patient with me. I know he was disappointed that I didn’t want to move though.” She saw the half-smile that flashed across Aimee’ face “he said he’d wait until I was ready.”
“There’s no rush dear. Stay as long as you need. Gene and I love have you and our grandchildren so close,” Aimee reassured her.
When they finished eating Aimee asked “are you ready for more dress shopping?”
Groaning “I’m beginning to think my dress doesn’t exist.”
“It does. We just have to find it.”
Later that night as they were watching TV Ian asked “did you find a dress?”
Looking down as he laid his head in her lap she nodded. Running her fingers through is hair she asked “were you serious about wanting to move?”
“I am if you want to,” he smiled up at her “it’s no rush sweetheart. I thought you might want more room. I thought you weren’t setting a date because you didn’t want to live here.” Sitting up he looked away “I’ve got something to tell you,” sighing “I bought a house…”
“You what?” she cried.
“I bought a house. I wanted it to be a surprise.” Shrugging ruefully “I should have talked to you first and I’m sorry.”
Laughing she pulled him close and kissed him “Ian Bennett I love you even if you buy houses without my knowledge.”
“Dad says he has an idea as to what to do with the house since you’re not ready to move yet…”
“Are you sure you don’t mind staying here for a while?” Celia asked him maintaining eye contact.
“I am,” he said with sincerity.
“Alright let your dad help us with this house but” she smiled as she added “when we’re ready to move we’ll go house hunting together.”
“Alright I can live with that,” Ian leaned in close and kissed her.
“Have you asked Matty yet?” she asked him.
“I haven’t spoken to him yet but I sent him a text” Ian replied “He’ll do it though. Don’t worry.”
Wiping sweat from his brow he saw her waiting for him. Standing by the dressing room door as he approached her he pasted a smile on his face. “I need to change,” he told her. Closing the door behind him he sat on the bench in front of his locker wondering what it was going to take to convince her to leave him alone. He didn’t want or deserve a relationship. Kimber’s face flashed before his eyes and he moaned. He was a walking jinx. His childhood friend left him for the school bully. His first real girlfriend died in a tragic fire. He didn’t want to experience that kind of pain again.
“Hey Bennett hurry up,” someone called out to him “it’s never a good idea to keep the ladies waiting.”
Shrugging he went to shower trying not to notice the burn scars across his chest and upper arms. He had been lucky to survive. Next time he might not be so lucky.
Walking out he looked around hoping she had given up and left. “Matt” a hesitant voice spoke from behind him.
“Hey Payson,” he smiled despite himself “sorry I took so long.”
“It’s alright. I don’t mind waiting.”
A pang of guilt knifed through Matt’s conscious knowing he had delayed coming out as long as he could “I’m sorry.” The sadness in her eyes wasn’t lost on him as he realized he had hurt her. Lifting a hand he stroked her cheek “I am sorry” he repeated. There was something about Payson that made him want to be the person she thought he was. Something that made him want to protect her. His heart told him to trust her to let her in but his head told him to run before someone got hurt.
[Authors note: Payson Oliver was made by Phyrcracker93. Thank you for letting me have her in my story.]