I had no idea Freddy knew this many people, but it seemed the entire town had decided to crash his birthday party. They even stayed until after the cake had been administered to the guests, drinking and dancing up until it was time for the clean up crew to take over. The highlight of the evening had to have been a surprise visit from the parents and the little boy who Freddy had saved, along with their dog and the older children as well. Freddy wasn't a crier, but there were definitely tears in that man's eyes the moment he saw the little boy, who's name was Dean, run into his arms to thank him.
I wondered if I had the right tools to raise my boys to be just as honorable as Freddy was. It was terribly inconvenient that your parenting couldn't be evaluated this early on in the game. I wanted to know if they were going to hate me, like all kids hated their parents. I wanted to know if they'd be the kind of men who'd do anything and everything for the people they loved. Even now, while they slept soundly next to each other in their stroller, I felt the panic rising in the pit of my stomach as I pictured how horrible I was going to be at raising them.
Why did I ever think I could do this?
Daniel had decided to join me then, like an uncalled-for beacon, ready to answer all of my questions, ease all of my doubts. He was the reason why I knew I could do this. If I could go through all the hardship we went through during our complicated relationship, I could more than likely raise the boys to be somewhat sane.
"What's wrong?" he asked, his eyes reading my expression carefully before he sat down next to me and took my hand. He was good at reading me. He just wasn't particularly skilled on how to handle whatever it was. It wasn't his fault. He'd grown up with emotionally fucked up female role models, which left him no room to learn anything about women in general. I wasn't any better. I had no clue what went on inside the minds of men, and I wanted it to stay that way.
"We're going to screw them up, aren't we?" I replied, my gaze trailing towards our sleeping children. They were the only babies I'd ever seen who could sleep through all of this noise going on around them, as if it comforted them. I guess they took after their parents after all.
"Stop. We're doing the best we can," Daniel insisted, bringing my hand up to his lips, holding onto it until he managed to get a smile out of me. We'd been arguing all day. About stupid things mostly. Work. The house. Jesse. Aaron. Everything in between. It was a pattern we repeated often, but the end result was always a guessing game. We never knew which argument was going to lead us to call it quits for good, which disagreement would cause us to demolish more than a decade worth of heartbreak, rekindled romance, and amazing make-up sex.
"I just hope they don't turn out to be serial killers," I worried, causing Daniel's chortle to surface, which only made me laugh as well. This. These were the kinds of moments that made it all worth it. The amount of overwhelming emotion this man brought out of me, good and bad, were the most anyone could have ever achieved. I wasn't cold. I was guarded. In every sense of the word. Daniel mirrored me in that way. Which was why I felt he was the only one who could ever understand just how badly I wanted to love him, like normal people loved each other. And I knew it was the same for him. Those two damaged seventeen year old kids, who fell in love far too fast, and far too deep, still remained inside of us. They were the reason Daniel and I kept running towards each other, despite the arguing, and the turmoil we caused the second we step into a quiet room.
"We have to do better. Or try to at least. For them," he acknowledged, leaning in to push a strand of my dark curly hair behind my ear, his eyes skimming over my face as he ran his thumb across my cheek.
"Are you sure this is what you want for the rest of your life? Arguing and getting on each other's nerves?" I queried, trying to breathe as he traced my bottom lip with his finger, forcing my pulse to race in trepidation. What if he didn't want this? What if he decided to leave again? Then what? I'd be stuck with more than just the pain this time. I'd be left with two identical reminders of the exhausting journey we had gone through.
"Is that why you've been trying to push me away? Because you think I'll walk out on you again?" he asked, his chestnut colored eyes capturing mine as he tried to look right through me, just in case I decided to lie. It would've been easy to blame every guy I had met before him for my distant and short nature, for the moments where I purposely created friction just to test how far someone would go before they decided to leave in the end. It was the coldest lesson I had received as a child, growing up with a father who just couldn't care enough to stick around. The truth was, I didn't have to be a stereotype. I didn't have to let these men dictate just how much love to give, and when I should give none at all. In the end, I had become what I fought so hard not to be, and I just wanted it all to stop before I inadvertently passed it on to my kids, just like our parents had done to us.
"If you are, please tell me now," I begged quietly, resting my forehead on his shoulder as we watched the party simmer down, the guests saying their goodbyes before heading home for the night.
"Leaving isn't an option, okay? I made a vow to love you through the good times and bad. And I'm sorry I haven't given you many of the good ones. I just...I love you so much, it suffocates me sometimes," he admitted, while his hand cradled my face against his chest. Daniel wasn't the type to enjoy sharing his darkest of secrets. But with me, the words flew so easily, coiling and bending perfectly with my own darkness. There was nothing more set in stone than us being bad for each other, but there was also beauty in the way we loved each other despite the long list of flaws we wore so freely.
"Do you think any of them are still rooting for us?" I questioned, gesturing towards our friends, Michael and Marley, Jesse and Freddy, who had awkwardly kept to themselves while Daniel and I bickered our way through this entire party. They were all crowding around each other, laughing as they drank and enjoyed each other's company. I understood they were giving us the space we needed to work through the kinks we constantly had, but judging from the conversation Marley and I had prior to the party, I wasn't so sure they were on our side anymore.
"What matters is we're still rooting for each other. Everyone else will understand when they finally find what we have," he explained, slowly releasing me when the boys began to fuss out of their sleep and stood up to fetch for their bottles. I smirked, wondering which pairing he was actually referring to. Could it be Freddy and Marley, the destined lovers who had been trying not to stare at each other the entire evening? Or was it Marley and Michael, the biggest twist no one had seen coming?
"Fifty bucks on Marley choosing Freddy," I wagered, and watched the amusement in my husband's eyes dance as he cradled Zack in his arms, feeding him some of the breast milk I had pumped into a few bottles before coming here.
"No way. Wait until she finds out Michael bought her that beach house," he argued and I grinned, reaching for Zander, who preferred the milk straight from the source, and nestled him against me, covering myself with a bib as I fed him the nipple.
"Make it a hundred then?" I bargained and he considered it for a moment before reaching out to shake my hand.