Cameron and I spent that weekend wrapped in each other’s arms until we couldn’t resist picking up Jacks and telling him that his parents would be getting married and we were going to become a family.
“How do you think Jacks will take the news? I’m thinking he’ll at least dig settling down out here—you know, to finally pull off from this online schooling bullshit and start gaining friends at a new school,” Cam said.
“Yes,” I answered with a smile, “I know he’ll be happy to learn he’s no longer going to need to do school remotely, now that his mom has made a decision to live in Southern California.”
I was thankful that the school issue could at least be resolved. Since Jackson’s surgery, I wouldn’t settle down and force Jacks into a new school—especially with him going through rehab, and with me not too certain where I truly wanted to live.
Even though the school system in New York worked well with us for him attending remotely like he’d been, I knew it was something that needed to be worked out and soon.
I knew that Jacks wouldn’t have a problem making new friends, or possibly even challenging himself to pursue sports again, even if he wasn’t playing like he used to. I also knew that he needed to be around kids his age to thrive. So, with this year that we had, both healing in our own ways, I knew I had to decide on a school for him to attend in person.
I never imagined this decision would be made because I said yes to marrying his father, and our home would officially be here in Southern California. I had to admit, this was more than I could ask for in moving forward with my life, yet something still had me contemplating how to reveal all of it to Jackson…school attendance was now the furthest thing from my mind. Instead I was more concerned about his reaction to me saying I would marry Cam.
“I don’t know why I’m so nervous,” I said, biting my nails, something I never did.
“Truth be told, I am, too,” Cam said, bringing the back of my hand to his lips while he drove. “Think I should give him the Bronco in case things go sideways and I need to buy my love?”
I smiled at him, winking at his joke. “Because I certainly raised him to take bribes for love.”
“I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for how you raised that boy. Seriously,” he said, changing lanes to get off the freeway, “I probably would’ve fucked him up just by how irresponsible I was at the age. I don’t talk about him much anymore, but my father would’ve been damn proud of how his grandson turned out,” he kissed my hand again, “and proud of you for raising him so well. No doubt about that at all.”
“I’m sorry about your parents, Cameron. I know you don’t bring it up much, but since you did, I want you to know you can talk about them whenever you like.”
“I’ve grieved them well, I think,” he smiled over at me. “I used to go to the cemetery all the time, trying to talk to them and work out my frustrations, but I realized it was stalling me in life. I know I take them with me wherever I go, and you know as well as I do my dad would’ve kicked my ass if he knew I stayed stagnant and in that dark place.”
“He had a profound touch on everyone’s lives. I remember walking into the room with all those stiff, powerful, rich men; somehow, your dad commanded every single one of them.”
Cam smirked, “I see some of my dad in Jacks.” He glanced over at me, his dark Ray Bans hiding his eyes, “It’s so strange how genetics work, you know?”
I smiled, but then a certain sadness washed over me. “I want to say something because I need to put it to rest.”
“Go ahead,” Cam said, and I realized I sorta hated when we both got serious. Especially Cameron.
I shook my head, pushing the awkward nerves away. “I’m sorry I never told you about being pregnant,” I said.
“Don’t do that, baby,” he said.
“No, I’m deadly serious, and this is something I need to say. I’ve watched you with Jackson this past year, and you are such an incredible father. I see how you are with the kids when we get together, and they are drawn to you like a moth to a flame. You have such a wonderful personality, and beyond feeling like I robbed Jacks of you during his important years growing up, I feel like I robbed you too. I did that because I put an idea in my head about how you would take it, not trusting myself or you, and I didn’t allow you to decide for yourself whether you wanted to be in his life. It was wrong of me, and I can’t take any of it back, but I can acknowledge it and apologize. And hope that the years ahead will make up for it.”
That was more than I expected to say, but it had bothered me for years that I’d never given Cam a chance to make his own decision about our son. I never gave him a chance at anything, and over this last year, I’d seen him at work and with all the kids; it was so obvious why he’d chosen to work with children and why his patients adored him. He loved children, and I never gave him a chance with his own because of my insecurities.
“Jessica,” Cameron said, stopping at the red light, “I want you to really understand that I know why you never told me. I get it and feel like an even bigger piece of shit, realizing it was due to how I left you. It was bullshit. I put you in a position to believe I would’ve lost my shit or something. Who knows? But I guess that thumbs-up emoji response fucked up more things than I would have ever imagined. It worked as a full stop, and I’d never thought that’s how it came across.”
“It’s in the past for good, so let’s keep it there from now on.” I’d worked through this pain. We had no reason to revisit it again, and he agreed with a nod. “So long as we’re on the topic of emoji thumbs-up responses,” I said with a smirk, “let’s talk about how it’s going to be forbidden for us to use in our texting from this point forward.”
He shook his head. “You finally had me serious in conversation, and now, we’re going to make fake laws about a damn emoji,” he said with a laugh, pulling up to Elena and Collin’s estate in the Hollywood Hills.
“Okay,” I chuckled and laughed, “let’s let Collin, Elena, and Jacks decide whether we keep or ditch that emoji.”
“What are you planning? God, do not tell Collin that that is how I ended things with you.”
I smiled at him as we pulled up to the side of the house next to a bright orange Lamborghini. “Relax,” I said, getting out of the Bronco.
“Relax,” he huffed, opening his door and walking over to me.
“Damn,” Collin said, walking out of the front door as soon as we approached. “I trust everything is kosher between you two? I’m presumably looking at two flames reunited in the fiery combustion of love?”
“Yeah, Dad,” Cameron mocked. “All is fair in love and war.”
“I see it is,” he said.
“Where’s Elena and Jacks?” Cam asked.
“In the kitchen making pizza,” Collin said, turning to walk into their impressive home. “He’s teaching A-man how to make pizza or something.”
“How’s that working for Alex?” I questioned with a laugh, knowing how Collin and Elena’s two-year-old loved Jacks.
“Alex thinks he’s the one teaching Jacks. It’s an entire shit parade, but hell if I care. My son seems to have written the manual on the terrible twos, and whatever works to keep his destructive little butt under control, I’m down.”
“It’s half the reason you were eager to come up with some crazy lie to keep Jacks until this afternoon,” Cam interjected while we walked through the large home.
“It’s the entire reason, my brother,” he said. “It’s the only reason I’m thankful you two needed some alone time. Speaking of which, it’s all good, and no more break-ups, right?” Collin asked with a mischievous smile.
“I think we’re going to survive this one,” I answered as we turned a final corner and walked into the enormous chef’s kitchen.
“And thank the gods for that,” Collin said.
“Who are you, Thor?” Elena laughed as she pulled a hot, fresh-baked pizza from the oven. “The gods!”
“Hey,” Collin walked over to the fridge, pulled out two beers, and then looked at me, “beer or wine, hun? What’s your flavor tonight?”
“I’ll have a beer,” I said, watching Cam meet Collin at the fridge, grabbing his own beer.
“That’s my girl,” Elena said as I walked over to her and hugged her. “How’d it go?”
“Well,” I smiled, but then pulled it back, realizing Jacks wasn’t even in here, “where’s Jacks? We have news.”
“Goddamn right, you do,” Collin said, smacking Cam on the back while he took a sip of beer. “Choke it down because I want to hear all about it.”
“We’d like Jacks to know about it before your ass finds out,” he grinned.
“Oh, dammit,” Elena giggled. “Okay, okay. I get it, but we sort of know.” She squinted with a please tell us expression on her face.
“Okay,” I said, unable to contain my excitement, knowing Jacks wouldn’t be upset. “But where’s Jacks?”
“They’re out back, throwing the ball around,” Collin said, then he looked at Cam. “Before we get into the juicy details, I have to say that Jacks has got a mean left-handed throw. Unlike your dumb ass, he hits his target when he fires one off.”
Cam smiled with pride. Jacks could throw well with his right arm, but the boy didn’t stop until he worked out the left-hand throwing. It’s like he welcomed every challenge thrown his way so that he could conquer them. It’s just who Jacks was, and it was most certainly something he got from his father and, no doubt, from Henry Brandt.
“I’m beyond impressed with his skill. The kid seriously never ceases to amaze me.”
“We’ll go more into that later,” Collin said. “Back to how this lovely lady never ceases to amaze you.”
“How did it all go down?” Elena asked before looking at Cam. “Did you have rose petals all over the room, you know, all that cute romantic stuff?” she said, nudging him as she walked by and put another pizza into the oven.
“Something like that,” Cameron looked at me nervously. I could only laugh because I didn’t consider that we’d have to share our engagement story, and we hadn’t discussed an alternative to the naked, sweaty reality.
“He was pretty cute about it,” I said, my eyes locking with Cam, urging him to follow my lead.
“Bullshit,” Collin said, looking like the cat who ate the canary. “Spill it, Cammy. Were you sappy, or was this a dud proposal?”
Cam and I locked eyes. There was no getting around this. These guys could sniff out a lie like a bloodhound on the hunt. And Collin was onto the game.
“It was a dud,” I said, thinking I might save this. There was no way I would tell them about Cam proposing, still naked, directly after sex. It would never stop there. Ever.
“Total dud,” Cameron said, drinking his beer while Collin and Elena stared at us as if we’d robbed a bank and lied about it.
“Just how dud-like are we talking here?” Elena chimed in. The beautiful woman would roast us if we veered the tiniest bit off track.
“Right,” Collin pretended to act interested, “on a scale of dipfuck to dud, where’d your ass land? Dipfuck, of course, being at the bottom.”
“Right around the dipfuck portion of the dumbass scale you just created,” Cameron answered.
“Mm-hmm.” Collin eyed me, trying to get me to crack. “Go on,” he said dramatically, pulling Elena close to his side. “This shit is so hot and romantic, I’m—”
“Don’t interrupt, Col,” Elena said, both husband and wife trying to play Cam and me. “She’s just getting started.”
“So, I agree with Cam. It was very close to the dipfuck part on the scale,” I said.
“One would argue that I was the reason it all fucking flopped,” Cam played along, and now I had to hope I could hang with him.
“You fucked up the proposal?” Collin asked me.
I shrugged and took a sip of my beer.
“So, we’re having this amazing sex. Amazing, off the fucking charts,” Cam said, and I kept a straight face while Collin and Elena knew they were being bullshitted. In fact, I don’t think they knew what to think. “Jessa practically needs a nap after I prove my worth to her—once again,” Cam said seriously. “Then, my lady rolls over, and while I’m trying to spoon and shit—being romantic, you know? It’s been a fucking year since I had her in my arms—and, to my surprise, she reaches for the phone.”
“Fuck you,” Collin responded to Cam. “How the hell did this shit go down, you two little bandits trying to keep shit a secret.”
“I grabbed my phone to see if Jacks was okay,” I said, playing into the lie. They seemed to start buying it now. “And, of course, I didn’t have any missed calls or texts from him.”
“So, I texted her,” Cam said, shrugging at Collin and Elena. “I should’ve been pissed, I know.” He shook his head, “But I wasn’t. She was just so beautiful, laying there, naked polished body—”
“Skip the details that would make us sinners blush,” Collin said. “You texted?”
“Anyway, with profound love, I texted her, Marry me?” Cam said, acting emotional.
All eyes were on me for my portion of the proposal lie.
“Well, I was about to locate Jacks on the GPS tracker, but I saw Cam’s text come through, and I checked it first.”
“Good damn thing because he might have smacked your bare ass while lying by you on the bed,” Elena said.
“Right,” I smiled, “I read the text and knew in my heart the answer was yes, but I wanted to verify Jacks was with you guys and didn’t drive off looking for a party like teens do. So, I just hit the thumbs-up emoji, and that was it. We’re engaged.”
“Oh, for the love of all fucks, hot and sweet. That is the biggest load of shit I’ve ever allowed anyone to go on about in my presence. The thumbs-up emoji as a yes?” Collin interjected.
“Hey, that thumbs-up emoji stole my damn heart,” Cam said, crossing his arms.
“That emoji is dismissive, and I hate it almost as much as I hate that lie,” Elena said, walking over to pull the pizza out of the oven.
“Not the thumbs-up emoji again,” Jacks said. I turned and crashed into my boy as soon as I saw him, hugging him tightly. “Did Cam do it again to you, Mom?”
“Do it again? What are we talking about here? Seriously?” Collin asked.
“Mom and—” Jacks paused, and he’d done this from time to time since learning Cam was his dad. It’s like he wanted to officially call him dad but hesitated out of uncertainty.
“You better call me dad,” Cameron teased.
I leaned into Jackson’s side, shocked at how much he’d grown in the past year. Jacks had a proud smile on his face.
“Mom and Dad,” he said. “It’s how he dumped her in college or whatever. Mom hates that emoji more than anything in the world.”
“Yet, you said yes to him with it?” Collin said, pointing his thumb toward Cameron.
“Yeah,” I said. “I have no idea, but he got the point just like I got the point when he dumped me.”
“It was an emoticon back then, okay?” Cam insisted.
“This had better be one massive and irritating lie, or I will insist you both hire me as your full-time therapist,” Elena said.
“Lie about what?” Jackson said as Alex ran to Collin, only to be flipped in his arms and hoisted onto his dad’s shoulders. “What’s up with you two?” Jackson’s eyes shifted from me to Cameron.
“I know it’s been a long year,” Cameron started, “and too long of a lifetime, not having me in your lives as I should have been. My selfish immaturity is why I didn’t experience the best years of your life growing up, but I vow to you and your mom that I will never miss another day. I want, more than anything else, to have you both in my life forever and for us to be a family.”
“I accepted your dad’s marriage proposal,” I said, overcome with emotion after seeing tears in Jackson’s eyes.
He only nodded to Cameron and turned to me. My son’s strong, muscular arms enveloped me, and his silent sobs rendered me an emotional mess. Jacks and I had held each other so many times like this, during good and bad times. Funny times and sad. And now, as we held each other again, I knew my son, who’d been through so much, had a full and happy heart.
We didn’t need to exchange words. We just knew. We knew what we’d been through and how fortunate we were. Jackson was seizure free and healthy, and the man we both loved, who treasured us as much as we treasured him, was here to stay.
We were complete. We were a family now, and our lives would forever be blessed.
Cameron’s arms came around us where Jacks and I stood, crying and holding each other. In some funny little way, it was like putting a big bow on this gift of us. I’d learned to appreciate every struggle in the journey that’d pulled us apart because, in the end, it brought us to now. Together.
This was our happily ever after.
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