30 May 2013

Coming home

Disclaimer: This is an original work of pure fiction. Any resemblance to anyone, living or dead, is purely coincidental. The characters, locations and events, while inspired by actual elements, are purely fictional. 
Copyright 30 May 2013 by K.S. Wood.  Should you wish to reprint this, please ask for permission.


When Brian Green walked across the playground at the end of the school day, Emily McIntyre's heart jumped into her stomach, but she never let her face show the emotion she was feeling. She was in charge of supervising the kids leaving through the south gate after the long day of school so she turned her mind to the numbers of elementary kids who were saying goodbye. She stole a quick peek at him, feeling slightly appreciative that her dark sunglasses hid her eyes, for they had become slightly teary.

He hadn't changed much in the last nine years. His face looked a bit older, but still worn the exuberance of his youth. They parted ways the end of summer before their freshman years of college, but the years had been as kind to him as they had been to her.

They were middle and high school sweethearts, having had crushes on each other since they met that first day of middle school. Everyone was so sure they would get married after high school, so when she was accepted to the state university an hour away, everyone was sure he'd be headed there too. But their were many shocked friends in town when he accepted a scholarship to an elite pre-medical program at a school on the eastern side of the country. Their relationship was ended on this mutual decision, for both knew they could not keep up with the long-distance romance. So after one very romantic, late summer night in which both lost a part of themselves as well as their virginity to one another, the two parted ways.

He had spotted her. With a smile, he waved at her. She nodded to him, puzzled as to why he would be on a school playground.

“Uncle Brian!”

One of her first grade students, a feisty little boy by the name of Michael Ferguson, but who preferred to be called Mikey, was running down the walk, his red and blue backpack bouncing with every bound he took. He flew into the man's arms.

“Hey Mikey! Did your dad and mom tell you I was coming to pick you up today?” Brain asked as he knelt down to give the boy a big hug.

Michael nodded. “Come meet my teacher!” He took Brian's hand and lead him towards Emily. Her heart pounded loudly in her chest as Brian flashed her his smile again, the dimple she had fallen in love with as a twelve-year-old girl making a large indentation in his left cheek. The late spring sun cast blond highlights into his brown hair, giving him a sort of halo as he was half-dragged across the playground.

“Ms. McIntyre, this is my uncle, Brian. Brian, Ms. McIntyre, my teacher.”

His eyes lit up as he “Hello, Emily.”

“Hello, Brian. I didn't know Mikey was your nephew.

“He's not, really. I'm his god-father. His dad, Jonah, was one of my college buddies. He was a couple years older then me. I am staying with them until I scout out an apartment.”

“Apartment? Are you moving here?”

He nodded. “I accepted an oncology fellowship at Methodist Hospital. It was really a surprise that the position was even open, given that I heard about it almost too late to apply.”
He stared at her, almost amazed to speak, as she looked as if she hadn't aged much since their one night together so long ago. Memories flooded his mind. He recalled their first kiss, their first formal dance, that wonderful last night together. He wanted to scoop her up into his arms and apologize

He was taken from memory lane by a child calling for her mommy cheerfully. A slip of a girl with dark hair and piercing blue eyes ran up to Emily. She held a drawing in one hand and nearly slid to a halt, her backpack nearly falling off her shoulders as she grabbed at the teacher's hand with her free hand. “Mommy, I drew you a flower in class today!”

Emily looked down hesitantly, as if she didn't want to break eye contact with the one man she had ever loved. “Oh?” she asked, smiling down at the face that looked so much like her own. “Is it a rose, baby?”

Brian blinked and swallowed quickly when he noticed a certain dimple in the child's left cheek as she beamed up at her mother. The little girl let out a chuckle as she held it up.

“Yeah Mommy. Of course it's a rose. It's my most favorite flower. Can we stop by the park and smell them again tonight on our walk?”

“Grandma's watching you tonight, remember, kiddo? You can ask her if she can take you to see some roses.”

Emily saw the intense look on Brian's face as he stared into the face of her daughter. She took a deep breath. She really couldn't believe he was here. She tried to not remember the pain she felt when he left for school, when they broke up. Even though it was a mutual breakup, it still hurt. After all, he was her first and only, the one love she ever had, and while the relationship had ended, he gave her a piece of himself, a piece she kept from him for eight years now.

It was an unplanned pregnancy. Because they were both virgins, they hadn't thought to use protection. She chose not to tell him because he would have done the honorable thing and married her, making their daughter his priority and putting on hold his childhood dreams to become a doctor. He was so elated when he was accepted into the accelerated program, and she didn't want to crush those dreams.

On the same hand, she insisted on following her dreams. She wanted to be a teacher, and while she had a difficult pregnancy, she continued to go to class. Her daughter was born a week after finals were over freshman year. Emily's grandparents financed daycare for her for a year of schooling. She then traded babysitting and tutoring favors with other young moms and friends for the rest of her college days. Her summers she spent at home, working in stores full time to save up money to support herself and her baby girl while her sister or parents watched her daughter. Never once did she think of contacting Brian for support, thinking it would cause him to drop what goals he had made.

He never came home from college. He had spent his summers taking extra classes and working internships, trying to get ahead. He had graduated from college early, passing the medical school entrance exams with flying colors the first time.  He was then able to get into the third medical school he had applied for. Emily had kept tabs on him through his mother, with whom she was still friendly. She was afraid though that Sara Green would tell her only son he was a father. But Sara never told, seemingly understanding Emily's reasons.

Life had been difficult, but hindsight being what it was, Emily wouldn't have changed a thing, so she had told herself every time her daughter asked Emily about her father. Other children had a mommy and a daddy, but not her. While Brian's name was on her daughter's birth certificate, Emily had chosen to give her daughter her surname, hoping it would be easier for her in time.

But watching Brian stare at his daughter's face for the first time, Emily was questioning her decisions. His eyes were misty, and Emily knew he was trying to control his emotions.

Her daughter looked up at the man who held her friend Mikey's hand. “Hello,” she said. “Mommy says it's not polite to stare. Maybe your mommy forgot to tell you that.”

Brian chuckled before Emily could hush her daughter and swallowed back a sob. Forcing a smile, he bent down to his daughter's face. “My mommy did tell me it wasn't polite, but you look so much like a fairy that I forgot.”

The little girl beamed and it was Emily's turn to hold back a sigh. Somehow Brian remembered her love of fairies and knew her daughter would share that same love.

“My name is Brian. What's your name, little fairy sprite?”

She laughed. “Rosie.”

Brian glanced up at Emily and blinked hard as a single tear rolled down his cheek, Emily had named their daughter after his grandmother, whom he had lost their junior year of high school. He had told her if he ever had a daughter, he'd name her Rosie. It was that memory Emily held on to as she signed the birth certificate.

“Are you crying, Mr. Brian?” Rosie asked.

Brian brushed his cheek and stood up. “No,” he said, forcing a smile as he gained control of his composure. Both children were staring intently at him. “I just have something in my eye.” He quickly turned the focus back on his daughter. “How old are you, Fairy Rosie?”

“I'm gonna be eight very soon. I'm in second grade this year too.”

Emily had to smile at that comment. Rosie always had a knack for telling her grade when someone asked her age, no matter who it was that asked. She had started preschool the year Emily was doing her graduate work for her credential, and it was important to the little girl that everyone knew she was going to school just like Mommy.

Brian's godson sighed and started complaining he wanted to go. It shook Brian out of the magical dawning that he had a daughter. He reached into his wallet and pulled out a card. Taking the pen from his pocket, he scrawled a phone number across the back of it and held it out to Emily. “This is my personal cell phone number. We need to talk later. Call me.”

She gingerly took the card from him, nodding. She was dreading what he would say, but knew he was right. “I have a meeting early this evening, but can call you tonight after I put Rosie to bed around eight. Will that work?”

He nodded. “I do have to be up early tomorrow, but I'm a doctor. I have learned to get on with little sleep.”

An hour later, after dropping Mikey off at home and checking his messages on his professional line, Brian was sitting in the park, looking at the roses, toying with his personal cell phone. He wanted to call his mother, but didn’t know if he could find the words to explain how he was feeling.

He had a daughter; a daughter who was eight years old and possibly knew nothing about him. He wondered if his mother even knew. He had this sinking feeling that she did. He hit his mother's speed dial and waited impatiently through the ringing for his mother to answer.

“Brian! I am so glad you called. Are you getting settled in?”

“Yeah, Mom.”

“When are you coming down to see me?”

His mother had moved three years ago to a town two hours south. It was the same year he finally had time to come home for a mini-vacation, after she had harped on him for years to come home. He spent his trip helping her move.

“As soon as I get settled, I promise.”

“When do you start your new job?”

“Monday, but I have to fill out paperwork tomorrow morning and meet the staff. I'll then be spending this weekend searching for a place to call my own.”

“That's wonderful, sweetheart.”

“Mom, I saw Emily today. And I met Rosie.”

There was a long pause at the end of the line.


“You finally got to meet her.”

Her tone was one of relief, as if she had been holding back the information for a long time.  Brian snorted with frustration.

“Mom, why didn't you tell me?”

He heard his mom sigh. It was one of those long-drawn out ones, like she used to do anytime she had bad news to tell him. She had used a sigh like that to tell him his father was leaving the family and again when his grandmother had died. He was starting to dread her explanation.

“Brian, how could I tell you that Emily's little girl, one whose conception was timed pretty closely to when the two of you broke up, might be your child? After the two of your parted ways, you both seemed so heartbroken. You poured yourself into your schoolwork and kept your distance, just as you had done when your father left us. I didn't want to cause you any more hurt by telling you you might have a daughter. I didn't want to cause Emily hurt either, for I knew she was fighting to keep Rosie's paternity a secret.”

“But you knew?”

Yes I knew. Jessica McIntyre is still one of my best friends. I went to her when I suspected I was Rosie's grandmother, and Jessica confirmed. She told me Emily wanted to keep you on your path, following YOUR dreams. She didn't want you to be burdened down with a child when you were too busy focusing on your medical career.”

“You make me sound like I wouldn't care.”

“I know you'd care, Brian. That's why she didn't tell you. Why do you think I kept pushing for you to come home? I wanted you to see your daughter for yourself. I know that Em wouldn't tell you unless you were able to see your daughter with your own eyes. Of course, the one summer you did come home, Emily had accepted a paid internship at a summer camp up north and was able to take Rosie with her.”

His mother paused, as if thinking, before she spoke again. “That child is her mother's daughter, but she has a lot of your spirit in her as well. In the time that I have spent with her, I have seen that. She's smart and very even tempered. She's got a quick wit about her though too. And though she hasn't been spoiled, she's wanted for nothing. I have made sure of that. She has had everything she has ever needed.”

“Except her father,” Brian said, his voice slightly angered.

“I know, and I am so sorry, Brian,” his mother said, her voice soothing a little of the anger he felt. Her ever practical side came out next. “Now that you know, what are you going to do?”

Brian sighed as he watched a father walk through the park, his daughter holding on to his pack like a little monkey. The two were laughing as the daddy pretended to buck off the little girl, who clung to him tightly and screamed with laughter. His throat tightened as he thought of all he had missed with Rosie.

“I guess I will have to wait until Emily calls me tonight. I want to be a part of Rosie's life, but I don't know where I'll go after this fellowship ends. I don't know what will happen. How can I make plans for my daughter without knowing my future well?”

Sara Green chuckled. “Welcome to the world of parenthood, my son!”

Brian spent the hours pacing the Ferguson’s guest room, wanting so badly to figure out the next move. He had spent part of the evening talking to Jonah, taking him into his confidence about his new-found daughter. The older man was amused at how frazzled his normally nonplussed friend was. He couldn't eat, he couldn't focus on the paperwork he had to fill out. Brian knew that until he had an idea of where he stood with Emily in terms of their daughter, he wouldn't be able to do anything else.

Eight o'clock passed with no phone call. Then 8:15 came and went, as did 8:30. Brian was trying not to worry, but the later it got, the more his stomach felt like it were gnawing on itself. Finally there was a phone call at 8:45.

“I am so sorry. The meeting finished up late, and then I had some papers to correct that I couldn't finish at school. On top of all of that, Rosie refused to go to bed so I had to spend a few minutes getting her convinced that she wasn't going to be missing anything by going to bed.”

“Is our daughter always stubborn?”

“Most of the time, yes,” Emily said. There was a pause. “So you know.”

“Yes, I know. And I intend to be a part of her life now that I know. You can't do anything to stop me.”

“I won't. I never intended for you not to be a part of her life. I just didn't want you to have to give up being a doctor to take care of us. It was your dream, ever since your dad left, to be able to be a doctor before you settled down and started a family. I wasn't going to let Rosie or I end that for you.”

Brian swallowed. It was one thing to hear it from his mother. He didn't understand it then. But hearing Emily just now, he understood. She didn't want him to feel trapped, as Brian's father had been when he found out he was going to be a dad. By not telling him, she was freeing him up to follow his dreams. But those dreams felt bittersweet now, as he thought of the time he missed with his daughter.

“What do you want to do, Brian?”

“I want to get to know her. Does she know anything about me? Has she asked who her dad is?”

“She does ask. She knows her dad is studying really hard in school to be a doctor, and that when he is all done, he'll come to meet her. She has written you letters over the years. I have kept them in a box, as well as photos and other things for you. You may want to read through them before I introduce you as Rosie's dad.”

“We should probably meet then when she's not around.”

“How about tomorrow night? My parents are taking her camping for the weekend.”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Would you like to have dinner at my place? We can discuss then what we're going to do.”

“Sure. Need me to bring anything?”

“How about a salad and some soda pop? I'm making homemade mac and cheese.”


They made plans for the next night and hung up. All through his meetings and greeting the staff at his new job, he thought about a certain woman with light brown eyes and dark hair, and a little girl with his dimple. Seven o'clock seemed to come by so very slowly.

He was dressed in jeans and a clean black tee shirt, with a collared button down shirt over top and unbuttoned. He had picked out a bouquet of flowers to go with the mixed greens salad and the grapefruit soda he remembered she loved so well.

She beamed at him when she opened the door to her apartment, and smiled shyly when he handed her the bouquet.

“Come on in, and excuse any mess you may see. Rosie didn't do a very good job of picking up her things before she darted out with her camping gear this afternoon. And don't mind the cat, if he even bothers to come out to greet you. He doesn't like strangers.”

“So your mom and dad still camp, huh?”

“Yeah. They promised this trip to Rosie since they will be out of town for her birthday. They're going to a wedding for an old friend of my dad's.”

“I don't even know when my daughter was born.”

Emily sighed and then gave a small grimace of a smile “Rosie Clarissa McIntyre was born on the twenty fourth of May at 10:25 pm. My water broke at three in the morning, but Rosie took her sweet time making an entrance into the world. She was six pounds and four ounces and was 20 inches long. You are listed as her father, but I chose my last name because I wanted her to have the same last name as me until I figured out how and when to break the news to you.”

She walked over to the coffee table and picked up a large box. “Here are her letters to you. There's also a small scrapbook in there for you. I have added at least one page to it for every year Rosie was born.”

Brian took the box and sat on the worn couch. His hands shook as he held the lid in his hands. He looked over at Emily, who smiled at him with a knowing smile.

“I think I'll go check on dinner and get things squared away in the kitchen while you do that.”

She pulled the macaroni and cheese from the oven, and left the casserole dish to set on the counter as she took the bag of salad Brian had brought and put it in a bowl, tossing it with the lite ranch dressing she had bought earlier. It had been his favorite as a teenager, and she had learned to like it because of him. She then set the small table in the kitchen for two and plunked some ice cubes into the glasses and poured the soda over the ice.

She came back into the front room to see Brian cradling the scrapbook in his arms. Tears poured down his face as he stroked one picture over and over again. It was a photograph of Emily and Rosie when Emily first held her daughter. He noticed Emily was watching him and looked at her, unashamed of the tears that streamed down his face.

“I wish I were there with you,” he rasped out, his voice heavy with emotion.

She felt herself becoming choked up. “I know. I often wish you were there too. There were many times I wished I could call you or email you, or just show up at your door and show you this wonderful little gift you had given me. There were days of firsts that I was so heartbroken that you couldn't be there cheering her on, like when she took her first step, or said her first word, or ride a bike without training wheels for the first time. There were nights that I wish you could be there to give me a break when she threw up for what felt like the hundredth time because of a stomach bug, or fell and cracked her chin open and needed stitches, or cried the night through because she was too stubborn to go to sleep. I wish I could go back and change all of that, but I can't. What I can promise is that you will be in her life for all of the new firsts she has yet to achieve, like the new first day of middle school, her first dance, her first drive test.”

He smiled as he thought of all the moments Emily had lined out for him. “She's not dating until she's thirty!”

Emily laughed. “My dad said that about me too. That and 'no sex until I'm dead!' I told him right after I broke the news of my pregnancy to him and mom that I was sorry for breaking that rule, though I have only broken it that once. He was angry, but also very supportive.”

Brian didn’t know where the words came from, but he had to say them. “I'm sorry I left you. It was so very selfish of me to think that I could just walk out of your life so easily.”

Emily brushed back a tear. “I didn't make it easy for you either. I gave you my entire self and then told you goodbye as well.”

Brian moved the box from his lap and stood up. Taking two steps towards her, he pulled her into his arms in a bear hug. Searching for her lips, he kissed her very gently. He was surprised when she pulled away.

“I can't do this, Brian.”

“Why not?”

“I can't live through the hurt again. I can't give you what's left of my heart and watch you take it with you.”

Brian sighed in frustration. “Do you think I walked away and never thought of you? Do you think I am that heartless? You took my heart when you left too.”

A fresh well of tears sprang to Emily's eyes as she stood, watching the father of her daughter. “I know. I was just hurt that you never called or wrote, or emailed, and you never did.”

“We both agreed it was for the best. A long distant relationship would never have lasted.”

“No, romance might never had lasted. But we could have been friends.”

Brian sighed. “I know. There were times I wanted to call you. But I had my pride, and I had made a promise to you and to myself that we'd end it. I thought I'd be weak if I broke that promise. I see now that I was weak to keep that promise.”

She watched him through her tears as he struggled. “We can't go back, Brian. But we can go forward. We can be friends again and see where that leads us.”

He nodded and put out his hand. “Friends then.”

She smiled as she took it. “Friends.”

They spent the weekend together as mutual friends. The rest of the evening, the two of them went through the box, laughing at some of the letters their daughter had written, crying tears at some of the bittersweet ones. Brian got to know his daughter better through her writings, and watched her grow up through the photographs that Emily was so careful to include in the book. She got out other albums, and the two of them spent most of the night talking about their daughter. Mr. Tompkins, the at, finally made an appearance and surprised Emily by letting Brian pet him.

Saturday morning, Emily was able to sweet talk her apartment manager into giving Brian an appointment, and by the end of the morning he had signed a year lease on an apartment in one of the buildings in Emily's complex, with a clause that allowed him to opt out of the lease should the fellowship end before the year was up. They then discussed how they were going to go about telling their daughter that he was her father as they shopped with Mikey's parents for things for Brian's new place.

Brian picked her up for church Sunday morning, having been talked into going by both Jonah and his own mother. He hadn't been to a church since the two of them had broken up, and was afraid he'd be judged harshly by people.  He was surprised that he found that the church was very welcoming. He got to meet Rosie's Sunday school teacher, who was apprised by the situation and said she'd be praying for the family that the news that afternoon would be taken with great joy. If he wasn't nervous about telling his daughter before then, Brian was sweating bullets that afternoon as he waited in Emily's living room with Emily. He paced the floor as she sat her couch, flipping through some papers she had brought home from work.

“Relax, will you? Mom said they'll be here soon.”

“Are they staying too? I don't think I could tell Rosie with them watching on.”

“I don't think you'll be able to not tell Rosie right away. She has a habit of figuring out when people want to say something to her and getting it out of them. I can't keep any secrets from her. Then again, except for this ONE big secret, I couldn't keep any from you either.”

A little while later, they heard howling in the hallway, as if someone were in some pain.

“That would be our daughter,” Emily said. She put the papers down and stood.

“Is she hurt?” Brian looked worried.

“Probably. She's quite dramatic when she gets even a small scratch, so it's probably nothing serious. If it were, my mother would have panicked and called me.”

The howling got louder and Emily opened the door. Her daughter was crying hysterically as tears gushed down her face. She was holding her knee, which was bleeding and scraped.

Emily glanced at Brian with a look that said "I told you so" before turning her attention to her daughter. 

“What happened, baby girl?”

Her father shook his head as he carried in the gear. “She decided to run up the walk and tripped on that big crack in the sidewalk. I told her to slow down, but of course she didn't listen.”

“She never does,” replied Emily's mother, holding an armful of odds and ends from the car ride. “She's just like her mother.” She put down her granddaughter's things and smiled at Brian. “Hello, Brian. It's so nice to see you.”

He nodded to both of Emily's parents before stepping forward to kneel on one foot by the little girl, who had buried her face in her mother's shoulder. “Hi, Rosie, can I see your knee?” he asked softly.

Rosie stopped mid-sob to look at him, then wailed a bit more. “Hi, Mr. Brian,” she hiccuped. “My knee hurts.”

“I can see that. Would you like me to make it feel better?”

She nodded and took one step towards him. He held back a smile as he watched her exaggerate a limp. He checked out the scrape.

“Well now, little Rosie, it doesn't look like we have to cut your leg off or anything. I think we just need to clean it up a bit and put a bandage on it and you'll be as good as new.”

Rosie sniffed as she let out a little sob. Emily was amused that she had cut the dramatics. Usually cleaning a scrape too some acrobatics, since Rosie hated having her cuts cleaned even more then she hated getting them in the first place.

She brought over the first aid kit as Brian talked Rosie into coming into the kitchen and sitting in one of the chairs. As he administered to her knee, he told her a story. By the time Rosie realized she was supposed to be in dramatic hysterics, the procedure was done, and Brian was washing his hands at the sink.

“Mr. Brian, you should be a doctor like my daddy!”

He swallowed back a sob at her words. He glanced at Emily, who pretended to look at her parents. There was a small smile on her face.

“Well, Rosie, I am a doctor.”

“Really?” Rosie's voice had dropped to a whisper full of wonderment. “Does that mean you're my daddy?”

He blinked back tears as he swallowed back another sob. “What would give you that idea?”

“Well, Mommy said my daddy would come meet me one day when he was a real doctor and not just going to school to become a doctor, but that I won't meet him at the hospital. You are a doctor, but you aren't wearing one of those things that listen to my heart around your neck and aren't at a hospital. So you have to be my daddy. Are you?”

He nodded and looked up at the adults in the room before answering. Every single one of them were crying.

“Yes, Rosie Clarissa, I am your daddy.”

“Hi, Daddy!” Rosie said as she launched herself into his arms. Brian held her tightly as he cried, wetting her back with his tears.

“Don't cry, Daddy!” Rosie said, hugging tightly. “Mommy and I will make you feel all right, right Mommy?”

Emily wiped away her tears as she walked over to the pair and put her own arms around them both. “Yes little fairy, we'll make it all right.”

A couple of months went by, and the trio found a routine. Rosie, though disappointed that her parents weren't going to become a “real family” and live together, was happy to have her dad in her life and told everyone she knew her father was back from his studies. Even though the fellowship meant some grueling hours, Brian found every spare moment he could to spend with his daughter, and always managed to include Emily in that time. Often, they went to church as a family, and they planned many outings. One trip they were able to take was down to visit his mother, who was happy to be able to finally be called Grandma.

Thanksgiving came and both Brian's mother and Emily's family decided that they would host a thanksgiving feast together at Emily's parents' home, where Sara was staying as a guest. Even though Brian drew the short stick and had to be the on-call doctor for the morning shift, he was able to celebrate with the extended family when supper time came.

Rosie had crashed on her grandmother's bed about an hour after eating, and the adults went back to the family room to reminisce about the “olden days” and watch the snow that was gently falling outside. That left Emily and Brian to clean up.

Brian looked at her. “I bring them into the kitchen and scrape them, you rinse them and put them in the dishwasher?”


They got to work, talking of Thanksgivings past and sharing some laughs as they did some reminiscing of their own.

“By the way, Dad picked us up this morning at our place since my check engine light popped on again last night and we knew we couldn't get a mechanic to look at it, so I was hoping you could give us a ride home.”


'Can you carry Rosie? She's getting to heavy for me to lug around when she's sleeping, and I hate to wake her.”

“If she's not awake when it's time to leave, I can.”


They said their goodbyes a little later, and with a half-asleep child fastened in her booster seat in the back seat of Brian's sedan, they started the drive across town to their apartment complex. Christmas music played softly in the cd player, and Emily hummed along with it.

“This is nice,” Brian said quietly.

“Hmm?” Emily asked, dreamily. She was watching the snow fall softly out the window.

“This is nice, having you sitting next to me in the car, our daughter sound asleep, coming home from a family dinner. I don't remember many of these with my own dad. I am glad I could make the memory with my own child this year. I'm thankful for her.”

Emily turned around to check on Rosie, who had nodded off again. She had awakened briefly when they were putting her jacket on her, and had trudged out to the car herself. She was snoring lightly, her head tucked up against her shoulder on the booster seat.

“I wish I could sleep like that still,” Brian chuckled, having glanced at her through the rear view mirror.

“Yeah,” Emily said, turning back to glance at his profile. He still looked amazed that the child sleeping in his backseat was his own. She sighed as she realized she was still in love with him. It was a quiet reawakening of the love she had held fast to all those years. It was the love that had created the child that snored ever so softly in the back seat.

He took his eyes off the road for a second to look at her, and then turned back to the road.

“What are you thinking on?” he asked.

“I am thinking about how amazing a dad you are,” Emily said. She reached out to touch his arm. “And how amazing a man you've become.”

“You're not too bad yourself,” Brian said. “How's about you and I take tomorrow night to go get a bite to eat, sans kid? Your parents have offered to watch her.”

“I'd like that.”



He smiled a cocky smile as he pulled into the parking lot and into a parking space near Emily's building's door. He unbuckled his daughter's seat belt and got her out of the car. The small family trudged up the walkway. A few minutes later, Emily was tucking Rosie in as the girl murmured something in her sleep. Emily smiled and kissed her forehead. Brian then leaned down, smoothing his daughter's hair before kissing her cheek.

“Good night, my little fairy,” he whispered.

Emily made sure Rosie's night light was on and then turned off the light, shutting the door behind her as Brian walked down the hallway to the front room. He started to put his coat back on.

“Don't go just yet,” Emily said. “it's starting to snow pretty hard out there.”

“Um, you do know I live only two buildings over. I can walk home.”

“I know. I just don't want you to go just yet.”
He put his jacket down and opened up his arms. She willingly went to him and let him hug her. She felt him sigh with relief as she melted into his embrace.

“You don't know how long I have wished for this,” he said.

“Me too,” she whispered in agreement.

He pulled away from her a bit so that he could look into her eyes. “What made you change your mind?”

She smiled. “It was what you said in the car, about being thankful for being able to make this memory with our daughter. I realized then that I have always been in loved with you. I want Rosie to have both of us here – or in your place – together.”

Brian cocked one eyebrow and squinted at her.  "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"

Emily smiled coyly.  “You're supposed to say it, and if I remember correctly, you're supposed to do it on one knee.”

He smiled and dropped down as instructed. “Emily McIntyre, will you marry me?”

She smiled. “Yes!”

He let out a hoot of joy as he pulled her back into his embrace. He kissed her sweetly before coaxing her into a deep kiss, dipping her as he did so.

“Mommy? Daddy? What's going on?”

Their sleepy-eyed fairy stood in the hallway, rubbing her eyes as she looked from one parent to the other.

“Nothing, sweetie. Go back to bed,” Emily said, laughing as she stayed in Brian's embrace.

“Are you guys gonna get married?”

Emily nodded as Brian answered his daughter. “Yes, we are, little fairy.”

Rosie let out a shriek of delight as she ran to her parents. The three of them hugged tightly, and all of them felt complete.

Brian laughed as he whispered into his fiancee's ear “Want to get a marriage license first thing Monday?”

She laughed. “You forget something. We are both only children, and our mothers have planned this wedding since we first started dating in middle school!”

“And I have to be the flower girl. And Mikey has to be the ring bearer.”

“Oh, is that right?” Brian asked.

Rosie nodded. “Yep. Daddy, did you get down on one knee before you asked Mommy?”

“I did, kiddo.”

“And did you ask Grandpa if you could marry Mommy first?”

Emily blinked and looked at her daughter with an amused look. “Where did that come from?”

“Grandpa told me that any boy that ever asked to marry you or me had to ask him first. So, Daddy, did you already ask Grandpa?”

“I sure did. I asked him tonight.”

Emily looked taken aback. “You did?”

He nodded. “Sure did. When we went outside so your dad could smoke, I asked him if I had his blessing to marry you, if and when you were ready. He said yes, and told me that my mom, your mom, and him figured it would be sooner then later.”

“I guess we should call them, because we got a wedding to plan then.”

Four weeks later, on Christmas Eve, Rosie was able to walk down the aisle of the church by Mikey's side, gleefully dropping rose petals. After having been able to just barely squeeze in the requisite amount of marriage counseling sessions, Brian stood with their pastor at the front of the church, waiting for his bride, who was escorted down the aisle by her father. In front of many friends and family members who were happy for this day's final arrival, the two said “I do” to the each other, having stolen the other's heart so long ago.