“What do you think about this one? Says ‘min. 5 years experience’ which obviously I don’t have, but I fill the rest of the wish list. Think I should still apply?” Esmée sounded serious.
“That is another assistant job. How is that any better than working for me?”
“For one, it wouldn’t be a pity job and I am sure I would have my own desk…”
“I WANT to work with you, not out of pity, and you have a desk.” Nick told her firmly.
“In YOUR office, that is … like a kids table in a corner. All that is missing is a bunch of crayons to keep me entertained.”
“Hm, was pretty sure I WAS keeping you ‘entertained’. I specifically remember that groan when I gave you the Albert files to go with the rest of the pile you moaned about before that.” Nick’s eyebrows were wrinkled.
“I am not saying I am bored … just that I … don’t belong. Even your bosses look at me like they are pissed that they have to pay your girlfriend to sit in your office with you all day. Or like ‘oh is it bring your piece of ass to work day?‘” she argued.
“They look at you like ‘yeah, dude’s way out of his league with this gorgeous girl‘.”
“We both know THAT is you fishing for compliments.”
“Maybe a little. Men like to hear they are desirable and wanted too.”
“Anywhere, really. Oh, by the way I am actually going to court tomorrow.” he said.
“I know, I am your humble secretary and keep your schedule.”
“I know you know, but what you do not know is that I want you to go with as my assistant.”
“Isn’t that a paralegal’s job?”
“Normally yes. Maybe that is something you’d enjoy. You are very familiar with Roberts v. Roberts. I have no worries you will be very helpful. Plus, you get to see me in action. Maybe that’ll raise your confidence in me.”
“I have confidence in you. I moved in with you. And we are a couple again. What else you want? A tattoo on my forehead reading ‘Forrest Nicholas Gray is the greatest’?!”
“Well, the logical next step would be for us to catch up with your brother and cousin. Both already engaged. We need to get to it.”
“Uh – no. No we don’t.” she pulled away from him and went to sit in one of the visitor chairs across the table from him.
“Oh good, another discussion. What is it this time? You hate engagements?”
“No, I love engagements. For others. Not me.”
“So you want to go straight to marriage? Kinda odd. But okay.”
“No, I don’t. I want to skip that too.”
“Wait – you do not want to get married?!” Nick couldn’t hide the shock in his voice.
“No, why would I? Nobody nowadays needs a ring to prove they belong. Either you do or you don’t.”
“So what about the kids? Just throw dice on which last name they get or hyphenate?”
“No kids. Not for me.”
“I don’t know. Never thought about it, but I don’t like them.” Ezzy told him plainly.
“You don’t like … wait, Ez, are you tripping me here? I feel like I am getting punk’d bad. You are literally one of the most nurturing people I have ever met and you don’t like kids? Sounds like stirred BS to me!”
“I’m dead serious.”
“You do not want to marry or have kids?!”
“Not NOW or not ever?” Nick still looked surprised.
“Just not with me or anyone?”
“Stupidest question ever. I wouldn’t even have this nonsensical discussion with anybody else.”
“But Ethan and Amy will one day probably before too long. I KNOW both have talked about it. Not right now of course, but they agree. Marriage within the next year or two, then kids a year or two after that.”
“So?” she asked.
“He’s your brother. You are twins…doesn’t that mean you are pretty much the same.”
“I am going to have Ethan get naked in front of you some time and you will tell me.”
“No thanks. I have seen all I ever needed to see of him back in our baseball days. Shared showers. But why do you not want to get married? And not even one child? I mean, we don’t have to have kids right away. We can wait. We have time. You know what? Let’s just drop this subject.”
Both stood up and walked towards the window where he pulled her into an embrace and kissed her.
While the topic was put to bed and she seemed fine, Nick was so shocked about her attitude that he eventually mentioned it to his father during his visit – without Ezzy – a few days later, looking for advice when his mother walked in and just joined them on the couch, jumping right into the conversation which she overheard.
“I knew it! Well, at least she didn’t let you put a ring on it and then tell you she won’t give you kids.”
“Mom, knock it off! I am trying to understand what is going on here, maybe get some parental advice, not to listen to you bash the woman I love.”
“I am not bashing her, just saying that you deserve better. A nice girl. One much better suited to you.”
“Kaila, quit influencing the boy.” Nick’s father said quietly and was ignored by both, while Nick addressed his mother while trying to suppress his anger.
“What woman would be better suited for me than Ezzy? I LOVE Esmée. And she loves me, has proven it a million times over.”
“What that girl proves is the power women hold over men with their – let’s call it ‘feminine charms’. She uses bedroom actions to cloud your mind and get her way. You need a REAL woman. One that is all woman, not some skinny white girl afraid to ruin her figure by giving you children! Your father and I want grandkids. You are our only son. Who will carry on the Gray name?”
“Mom, what kind of 1950s crap is THAT!? And since when are we doing the race thing?”
“WE are not doing it. The world is. You are not white and you have seen what that means sometimes and will see it again and again. Maybe that’s the real reason she does not want to marry you or have kids with you. And maybe you could contact my friend Neema’s daughter and see if she is still available and interested in going out with you. That was a nice girl. And I am sure she would give you attention in the bedroom just as good if not better than that Cameron girl.”
“MOM what the …. dad, can you please help me out here for once?!”
“What do you want me to say, son? Esmée is a nice girl, and I know you care about her, but I would not call what you kids have a happy relationship. You are constantly at odds about something. She has issues. And maybe your mother is right. Your job is stressful enough …”
“Mom is right about what exactly? Suggesting I choose my dates by skin color to prove I am not racist while actually proving exactly that? NO thanks! Oh and you guys know what else? You two know NOTHING about me. I have dated any type of girl you can think of and probably even – as you call it mom – done bedroom actions with most of them. Yeah, that’s right, your sweet baby boy used to be a man-whore before I got serious about love and started to pursue Esmée. Ezzy is the innocent one here, she only ever dated me. Let me repeat that: ME! Also, she could be green with red polka dots and she would still be the right one for me. You know why? Because she has a brain and uses it. She had convictions for days and fights for what she thinks is right. Always has. When she punched me in school all those years ago trying to help Benny, she impressed me like no other ever has. That tiny, skinny former ballet dancer had bigger balls than all the big kids around, than all the boys just watching. I not only love her, I admire her. Sure, we have issues sometimes, but I am not giving up. I WILL marry her one day and we WILL have at least one kid, if not two, cos you know what they say about twins. But you know what else she has? A great family and an awesome grandmother who has helped me out so many times before, unlike mine, who is a bitch from hell always telling me I wasn’t black enough, which incidentally wasn’t my fault at all. Ezzy’s grandma has already been more of a grandma to me than any of my real ones, ever since Ethan first took me over there when we were kids. And for your information mother, I am neither black nor white, I am bi-racial and proudly so. I am also going home now. And please, for the love of God don’t call me tonight, until I get over this shitstorm you created here tonight. Bye!”
“Forrest, honey … dinner is almost ready.” his mother chirped into the middle of her son’s anger.
“Dinner?! Are you serious now, mom?! You can stick that same place you can put all those eligible women you keep finding for me, to keep it nice and warm! And it is Nicholas now, or Nick, get used to it! Everybody else has!”
“Forrest Nicholas Gray, do not talk that way to your mother!” his father tried, but Nick just stormed out and like an exclamation mark he slammed the door behind himself.
On his way back home Nick drove past exit signs to Brindleton Bay and on a whim steered the car there.
He felt odd knocking on the door to the Beach House.
Once inside the nurturing atmosphere things just spilled out of him.
“Oh, sweet boy, calm down. Your mother means no harm … I am sure she just wants to protect you. Maybe a bit overprotective. He used to be the same way about our daughter …” Katie pointed at Everett.
“I was nothing like that. His mother sounds like a grade A …”
“Anyway, give her time. Ezzy loves you, Nick, and she wants you. She doesn’t even look at other boys. She may just be a bit shellshocked.”
“Listen to her, kid. She used to give me the same grief. Almost killed myself, trying to win her love – and hand. And whenever I brought up having a child … oh boy!” (read here)
“It’s true. I was a LOT worse than our granddaughter, but look at us now. Married for over 50 years, two healthy happy children when I never wanted kids. I was bullied in school too and it does something to you. Just you wait, once either Cole or Ethan get hitched, she’ll lick blood. You better watch out then, you’ll be tripping over hints about engagement rings.”
“You never dropped hints, Katie. I just had enough and asked you!”
“After you thought you cheated on me -which you didn’t but turned out to be to world’s oddest misunderstanding ever – AND you thought you had knocked me up, wrong again!” (read here)
“What?!” Nick didn’t understand a word anymore.
“Oh son, you don’t want to know.” Everett told him smirking.
“Why not? I have seen him almost go to third base with our granddaughter behind our house before, so he can take it, can’t you Nick? When we were about your age I seduced Everett during a Christmas party at EC Architects, in the HR office of all places, during a masquerade ball, but in his passion he tore my dress so I had to change. Afterwards this brainiac wasn’t sure it was really me he slept with or another girl, so for weeks he drowned in guilt, he withheld sex, then presented me with a pregnancy test after I got some stomach bug and kept puking, while trying to stutter his way through confessing he may have cheated. When the truth came out, once I could stop laughing at him, he dragged me to that path behind this very house down to the beach and proposed. Spoiler alert: I said yes. Not one for the romance novels, but did the trick and I wouldn’t trade it – or him – for the world. I am still as crazy about him like the day we met.”
“Oh – wow! Thanks for being so … candid. My parents would rather bite their tongues off before even thinking the word ‘sex’ around me. And to this day I don’t really know how they met.”
“That’s just silly. Rett and I were young once. And a handsome young man in the prime of his life like yourself, oh, I have no doubts about what goes on in that penthouse of yours.”
“Just beware of that Cameron curse.” Everett interjected.
“The … what?”
“Oh, nothing, honey. Just a little trick fate likes to play on us Cameron women.”
“Women!? I think we Cameron men are affected by it too!” Everett protested.
“We have a few generations worth of unexpected pregnancies usually in the worst possible moment, that’s all. It always worked out for the best, so no reason to be worried.”
“I am not worried. To tell you the truth, part of me wishes it would just happen like that, a surprise pregnancy making us an instant family, but your granddaughter is very adamant about birth control I think she would forget to breathe before she’d forget her birth control and she makes me use the male variety every time to double up. Between you and I, not counting the few times she surprised me with passion and neither of us thought about preventing pregnancies, there have been a few times where I purposely ‘forgot’ to do my part hoping something may come of it – you know the 1% failure rate of hers. If Ez even as much as suspected that, she’d personally put an entire family pack of condoms on me all at once and probably tie my tool into a knot if she ever even as much as dreamed of letting me near her again.”
“Don’t do that kid. That isn’t the right way. If it happens, it happens. But don’t force that on her. You both are still so young, still almost babies yourselves, and while Katie is the one with all the answers if it comes to things of love and family – especially the female members and their intricate workings – I will tell you Ez is not going to leave you unless you were to really mess up. The Camerons are through and through a loyal bunch. Her mother and uncle – and me – we are all the best examples. We only had one divorce in the family for several generations now, and that is my sister Natalie, but she and her husband Rhys live in Del Sol Valley and are in the show biz and nobody can make heads and tails of their relationship. They remarried since.”
“And divorced again since but are living together. Now, that aside, you are an attorney and trustworthy, so I will let you in on a bit of a roller coaster that is going to happen. Our son Joshua is going to hand over EC Architects to his sister Everleigh, Ezzy’s mom, soon. The stress is too much for him, he suffers from PTSD after a traumatic experience when he and Emmi were still teens and had run away from home, we recently found out that he has terrible trouble functioning under too much pressure and has had a few scary moments medically because running that company is very stressful. Josh will step back and just work on projects behind the scenes. Evey will take the lead. Ethan will obviously get Evey’s current job. Nobody outside the small circle directly affected know about this yet, not even Esmée or Ethan, so keep it under wraps. Reason I am tell you this, Nick, is we are also going to be in the market for a new council, the old Abernathy has retired and his son is a bit of an iffy subject with KC, since he used to be Evey’s ex-boyfriend and … long story. So if she is the CEO and lead architect, we don’t want her working with Abernathy as much as it would be needed. If you are up to speed on commercial laws, you may get yourself a nice and usually fairly easy gig on retainer for years. Truth is Rett and I are officially out of EC Architects but unofficially, nothing happens without our blessing. You are a smart boy and I liked your right away, back when you and the twins were still kids. I have an eye for such things and predict you have a long future with Ez, if you don’t do something immensely stupid. I predicted that with Evey and KC, with Josh and Emmi and with Ethan and Amy, when his parents thought he was moving to fast. You and Ez belong. If you are willing to deal with the fact that it will never be boring with you two firecrackers and all your issues and hangups, you have yourself a mate for life. Right, Rett?”
“Yes, I agree with what she said. All of it.”
Nick just couldn’t help but smile and was still smiling as he left.
The next weekend, Nick had convinced Ezzy to let him invite her for a long weekend away in Selvadorada.
“How did you come up with the idea of a surprise vacation just like that?”
“I figured jungle would be perfect to keep you from trying to get away from me, by either finding some unnecessary new job or your own place.”
“Why were you talking about getting engaged. Back home, I mean. Why is that so important to you?”
“Because I cannot imagine a world without you, nor do I want to. And I am a romantic at heart, I guess. Two becoming one, through marriage and maybe through a child, I find that the ultimate aspiration. I never meant right away. I know we are still young and have a lot left to learn, do and see. Just in future. And engagement is just a promise. Doesn’t mean you have to get hitched and procreate a month later.”
“Grandma said the other day you went to see her and grandpa. Without me.”
“Yeah, sorry about that. I went to see my parents that day and they just …. after I left I just … I needed to hear someone speak some sense.”
“So you go to MY family? Just a bit odd. I mean, I think it is cool and all … just unexpected.”
“I have known them since we all were kids, through Ethan and all the times I had to chase you down. And if you knew my grandparents you wouldn’t be so surprised. My dad’s side is kind of okay, just so aloof and quiet like him. But my mom’s mother even ran my grandpa off long before I was born. Not the type of grandma you got to for milk and cookies. Ugh.”
“You went there to talk about us, didn’t you? The marriage and kids thing, right?”
“Why are you asking? Did they say anything to you?”
“You know they wouldn’t. But I could tell. Grandma was selling you hard again. I swear if I wait too long, she’ll elope with you.”
“Hey, she’s still a good looking lady for her age. And smart. And funny.”
“Hey hey hey, slow down. I love you Nick. Always have and always will. I know I can be complicated and a bitch sometimes …” joking at first Ezzy became serious for the last part.
“Let me finish. I have been thinking too … and oh gawd, I don’t even know what I am doing here, and this can go so very wrong, but … ”
She slid off the bench, kneeling before him, holding his hand.
“Forrest Nicholas Gray I know this is like super weird and all, and I know I have no real ring because I have no money, but … will you marry me, Nick?”
“What the fuck?! YES, of course I’ll marry you, girl! I love you Esmée Cameron!”
She jumped up atop him on the bench nearly knocking him over for a long kiss.
Afterwards he looked at her seriously and said
“That is the most amazing imaginary piece of jewelry I have ever had and will ever have. So much better than that imaginary SuperBowl ring I used to wear for a very long time until realizing I suck at football. I will never stop trying not to suck at being everything you need me to be.”
“You’re already my everything, Mr. Gray.”
“Come on, let’s get us over that bridge. I got something to show you too.”
He wanted to stop on the hanging bridge, but Ezzy just rushed past him.
At the other side, he caught up and stopped her.
“Since you started this, I know it should be ok.”
He got down on one knee.
“Great minds think alike they say, I have been sitting on hot coals about how and when to do this, but you beat me to the punch. However, I actually have a visible ring. So, here goes, Esmée Cameron, you are the light of my life, the reason for being, you are everything I could ever want and some stuff that just gets me on an emotional roller coaster, but will you marry me back. Please don’t say no, cos I already said yes and you will have to marry me now anyway.”
“You are such a crazy man! Yes, I will marry you – had I known you could do this much more romantic and with a ring, I would have just let you. I love you Forrest Nicholas Gray. By any name.”
“Even ‘You again?!’? For a while there I thought that was my name too.”
“Any name. And I hope it will be you again …. and again … and again … for all my life.”
“Oh, count on it, Xena!”
“Something is nibbling on my entire backside and unless you have even madder skills than I thought, I think it’s some creepy crawlies. Can we go back to the cabin and the bug screens now?”
“I’d even carry you back. I am kinda hoping for some extra attention – times two – since we have two engagements to celebrate .. kinda.”
“Get me away from those murderous monster-whatever-bugs and I will do whatever you want!”
They made it back to the cabin and didn’t leave it much other than to go to grab meals in the small village. The rest of the days were spent exactly how you’d expect a young and newly engaged couple to spend their vacation.