Is it all chance, or is there cause? I’ve never been one to sit and wait and hope that everything falls into place. I’ve always tried to evoke, to make, to do. But the older I become, the more I learn; and though it seems like too much at once sometimes, all of the things we go through, these cruel teachers, they are important to the outcome of choices and chances.
Cruelty is an important lesson in and of itself. There is nothing you can do sometimes, and in those moments words do absolutely no good and actions are fruitless. It’s your heart that will find the will to not only survive, but thrive. You just make a choice, take a chance, and hang on with all the determination you can find within yourself. Of all the lessons and lectures life has given me, that is the most important. And I can tell you with all the conviction of a saint that it’s worth it, no matter what the outcome.
I look around me now as I set our luggage down in the Grand Lakefront Cabin situated in the mountains near Big Bear, and realize that chance and choice are bound together. They can’t be separated. I close my eyes and take a deep breath of the clean mountain air blowing in off the lake, and smile. I smile because I took my chances, I made my choices, and though I was not saved from the cruelty of life, I am well-rewarded.
“Babe, you okay?”
I turn to look into the warm hazel eyes of my life, my wife, my Tina, and before I used to be lost, but now I am found. I see myself shining in the beautiful orbs and know that I am the best me that I can be, and it’s entirely because I took a chance, I made a choice, and I held on… to her.
I smile with all the love I have in me and she returns it full force as she sets our daughter down… our daughter… our Angelica. She’s almost two years old and growing by the day. I watch her adoringly as she clings to her Hammy, the same bear we bought for her while she was still growing inside Tina, and again smile as her wide, innocent eyes take in the new surroundings of our weekend getaway. Everyone says she’s just like me, but she’s kind, and open, and warm, and gentle… she is just like my wife, and everything I’m learning to be. In essence, she is the best of both of us and our lasting legacy.
This is just what we needed. A place away from the city, a weekend alone as we celebrate three years of a marriage that has not only begun to work, but survived the impossible. There is no good reason that I should be given this time, but as I said, I am well-rewarded. We were given the choice, we took the chance, and here we are here together, always together. I take my wife in my arms and kiss her with all the devotion and passion and love I feel for her, these things that are eternal despite the momentary lapses in strength my hands have been capable of. “I love you, T. So, yes, I’m okay. I’m more than okay.”
She lifts an incredulous eyebrow and I reach up to stroke its familiar warmth as I file it away in the large section of my brain devoted to only her. “Thank you for bringing us up here. Some time away, just the three of us, is just what we need before I start work.”
I smile again and lean in to kiss her sweetly. I hear Angie’s sweet, soft voice to my right as she says, “Mama B, Mama B…” I pull away and look to her to see she’s pointing to the large lakefront deck through the floor-to-ceiling glass windows along the common area of the room. I swoop her up in my arms, setting Hammy down on the luggage, and take Tina’s hand as I walk us over to the sliding doors. “We can unpack later.”
Tina smiles at me as we step across the threshold, out onto the deck where I place Angie down. She starts an adorably awkward run for the lake and I pull her to a stop. “Hold on, babycakes.” We came prepared for a day on the shore. I pull her sundress off, leaving her in an adorable purple baby bikini with little white flower prints. Tina removes her shirt and jeans and it’s everything I can do to focus on our child. She was self-conscious about her body after Angie was born, and my insecurities about her physical stability didn’t help anything at all. I wish she could see herself as I do. She’d never doubt how beautiful she is for an instant, especially standing before me in an emerald green two piece that is markedly not baby or cute.
She grins smugly at me and I squint my eyes at her before I decide two can play this game. I remove my tank and jeans. It’s my turn to grin and wink at the raw lust on her face as I reveal my black one-piece with a plunging back and neckline. She grins and I reach down to take Angie’s tiny hand in my own as we start a trek for the sand. “I’m going to go get my camera and the sunblock.” I smile at Tina in response and watch the way her hips sway as she bends and collects our clothes and heads inside. I’m a lucky woman indeed.
I let Angie lead me to the wet sand by the shore and we sit to make a sand castle together. As I shape and sculpt in the temporary clay, I consider this past year. A lot has happened since Angie’s birth. Not only have I regained my balance, I’m no longer scared, worried, or holding on to my guilt. My confidence, my strength, and my awareness have returned; it’s just more tempered now, due in large part to Tina’s help. As terrible as what we went through was, it was pivotal to the life we live now. I’ve learned to relax, to enjoy life. There’s so much of it to live and I choose to take the chance to live it with complete gratitude and a fevered embrace.
“Look!” I follow the pointing of Angie’s excited little arm to see a small schooner slice through the water in the middle of the lake.
I look back to her wide-eyed and innocent face with a smile. “What is that, Angie?”
She grins and I see Tina shining out of her face as she says, “Boat.”
I smile as I tickle her sweet, little partially exposed belly and she giggles. “That’s right!”
As soon as I stop tickling her, true to her childlike nature, she’s already forgotten the boat and turned her attention back to her castle. I smile and shake my head. Definitely like Tina.
I hear the distinctive click of a camera and look up just in time for Tina to snap a picture of my face. She grins at me as she puts a pail with small plastic shovels down next to Angie, and starts to rub sunblock into Angie’s delicate skin. Once she’s nearly slathered our daughter in the thick white cream, only stopping because I laugh, she glares at me before smiling lustily, switching bottles, and crouching next to me to rub tanning lotion into the exposed areas on my own body.
I sigh and grin and continue to build with Angie as her warm hands stroke across my shoulders, neck, and back. Tina has an affinity for my darker skin just as much as I do for her lighter. She insists that I use tanning lotion when we’re out in the sun. I’m not complaining. I enjoy a nice bronze just as much as she does. I just find it ironic how we are so different and revel in those differences, find completion. In full sunblock, she gets a nice burnished glow, but it’s never really a tan, and I love to kiss the small freckles on her shoulders in the summertime. And while we’re not quite at summer yet, it’s a sunny day and this weekend is supposed to be perfect. I might get to see some of the glorious little specks appear before the weekend is through.
She finishes and I turn to her. “Did you need me to take care of you?”
She smiles and says, “No, I took care of it inside.” She settles in next to Angie and starts to help and I can’t contain the rush of joy and contentment that steals through me. My family. I love them more than life or anything else in it. Tina meets my gaze and grins. She knows what I’m thinking, she’s thinking it too. She raises that glorious eyebrow and I tilt my head, puzzled. She chuckles but goes back to helping Angie. Okay, later it is.
“So, are you excited to start work again?”
She stops for a moment and sits back on her haunches as she considers this. “You know, I think I am. You’ve been home so much now that Malcolm’s figured out the basics. I’m going to miss you both, but I want to get out there again.” She grins. “I’m really excited about this new movie.”
I smile back at her. I’m glad that she’s excited. I’m excited as well. It’s funny, while she wants to go back to work, I want to stay home. I chuckle and she eyes me curiously. I shake my head at her and she continues to play with Angie, shaking her own in response. It’s still just so strange how much can change in a person in a relatively short amount of time. Four years sounds like a lot, but really, it’s not. It goes by so quickly, and we truly have come a tremendous way from our break-up.
“Are you excited to be home more?” I chuckle again and she nods her in understanding now before joining me. “You know, Bette, I’d have never believed it if I hadn’t seen it, seen you.” I grin at her. She does see me. She’s proved it for the last year. We’ve hit a few snags, but being open and honest with full disclosure has corrected so much. She no longer says things that hurt me, and I think it’s because she doesn’t even think them anymore. She’s seen the real me, the me I’ve become, and she’s not only accepted it, she’s embraced it.
I snag the camera and snap a few decidedly awesome shots of my two favorite girls laughing together, smiling as I lower the camera. Tina grabs my arm and pulls me closer, holding the camera out in front of us and placing Angie between us as we all lean in together. She takes a few pictures of our truly happy family and I sigh with joy at my place in life.
Tina stands and I lean in and remove the headphones from Angie’s ears, placing a kiss on her dreaming face. Tina comes around and kisses her as well as I stand and turn on her Baby Einstein Sea Dreams Soother. She’s a little old for it, but she loves Little Einsteins, and it gives light to the room in case she needs to use her portable child potty. She’s fully potty trained now, and I couldn’t be more proud of her, just like her grandma Maxine would be. She’s sharp, brilliant even, and her favorite music is Chopin. She and Malcolm paint together to his nocturnes, just like mom and I used to do.
Tina smiles at me as we leave the door slightly ajar and make our way to our room down the hall. Tina steps into the en suite, leaving the door open while she moisturizes, and I stand in the doorway just watching her. I’ve already completed my nightly ritual. I’m ready to cuddle up with her and get some rest. The trip up here was only about two and half hours, but it’s been a big day.
She steps up to me as she finishes and smiles as she takes my hand and leads me to the bed. We lie down and she flips off the lamp. She turns to face me and I scoot up close to her, stroking her smooth cheek with my thumb as I lean in to kiss her sweetly. She sighs as I pull back and smile as she starts to place warm sweet kisses along my neck and throat and chest. I sigh as I ask, “So do you think Angie should have a baby sister or baby brother?”
She leans back and gazes into my eyes as she strokes my face and asks, “What?” I smile again as her eyebrow raises incredulously and a brilliant smile lights her face. A long moment passes as she reads the seriousness in my open gaze. “Really?”
Her voice is so soft and inviting and disbelieving that I can’t help but chuckle softly at her. “I think I am. I’m not getting any younger. Angie’s the right age, and I think we’re solid.”
She chuckles and strokes the curls from my eyes, asking again, “Really?”
I sigh and I can feel the radiant smile reach my eyes. “Really.” She stutters out a happy chuckle and I join her in it before she kisses me. My world has been complete for a long while now, but the utter joy of this moment knocks all of that away with one sweet, warm, excited kiss. Not only does she consider me, she wants this with me, and me only.
She pushes me onto my back and leans up above me to gaze at me. I pull her hair back so I can look deep into the hazel eyes in front of me, so open that I can see the doorway to a thousand churches. I can’t help but thank her. “Thank you, T.”
She chuckles lightly. “You want to give me, us, a baby, and you’re thanking me?” There’s that wonderful eyebrow again. “Thank you, Bette. Thank you for coming back to me.”
I furrow my brows at her in puzzlement. “What do you mean?”
She strokes my face and I can see something coming together in her mind. She knows I see it, and doesn’t hesitate to speak to me. That’s how much she trusts me, how much we trust each other. “Monday, we’re shooting my favorite scene of the whole movie. It’s the last scene…” I chuckle and she snorts delicately. “…I know, shooting the last scene first, but that’s Hollywood… ass backwards.” We chuckle together and she continues. “Anyway, it’s the scene when the lead character finally ends it with her mistress once and for all because her husband has threatened to kill her. Her heart is broken, and she thinks there’s no way she’s ever going to love again.”
I smile at that. “Well, because her mistress was her first love. And everyone always thinks that when their first love leaves.”
She grins knowingly and strokes my hair. “Yeah. You were my first, and I thought I would die.”
I kiss the palm that’s resting against my cheek and say, “I never left you…”
Her grin turns sweetly serious as she says, “Yes you did…but then you came back.” I sigh as I gaze up at her. She’s right and it might hurt to think about if her face wasn’t so radiantly happy as she says, “So, thank you.”
Our smiles grow wider as we look at each other and she finally leans in to kiss me again. It starts sweet and gentle but quickly becomes open and passionate and heated as she strokes my tongue with hers. I reach behind her back and hook my hands on her shoulders as she pulls the buttons of my blue silk sleep shirt apart easily, and kisses each inch of newly-exposed flesh. Her mouth reaches the waistband of my pants and she sits back on her haunches with a smile as she removes them. She frees one leg and softly says, “So, when we get home…” I smile as she frees my other leg and comes back up over me to kiss me again. She pulls back and watches the path her hand makes down my neck and chest as she continues. “…I’m going to get you pregnant.”
My breathing turns ragged as her hand reaches my center and starts to stroke me. I close my eyes and grind my head back into the pillows releasing a breathless “Yes…” as her lips and teeth meet her hand at my middle.
I feel her lips smile against me and her warm breath as she says, “Might as well practice now, anyway.” Her tongue strokes the length of me and I tangle my hands in her honey tresses, losing myself in the euphoria of this moment, euphoric because she loves me; euphoric because she’s making love to me; and euphoric because we’re going to increase the circle of our family.