It's been a long time since I've posted. 24/7, 9-month-long morning sickness meant my brain was not capable of writing anything last year. And it turns out, you can't think well with a baby and sleep deprivation, either. I'm slowly getting back my brain power and blowing dust off of my creative battery. I hate that the momentum of Dean and Kacey's story came to a jolting stop, but such is life. :)
So, it's time to catch back up with them.
As a reminder, here's where we left them. I apologize that it's hard to read. Blogger is so weird, and how posts are formatted when I write them is sometimes totally different than how they appear once they're posted.
On to the next installment! And since we love both Dean and Kacey equally, here's the story from both their viewpoints:
Atlanta sunshine beats down from the sky, incinerating the pavement outside the airport. Man, I do not miss July in this city. Pulling my SUNGLASSES down, I adjust the bag slung over my shoulder, then go outside and hail a cab.
I give the cabbie the address, check for the fiftieth time that the ring is still in my pocket, and take a deep breath. The cabbie glances in the mirror, as if assessing me to make sure I'm not a terrorist or a crazy person. Sorry to disappoint, my man. I'm just a guy on his way to propose to his girlfriend.
I've never been so terrified in all my life.
Forcing myself to relax, I rest my head against the back of the seat and close my eyes. This will work. Kacey has no idea I'm here. I have a plan, and know where to find the key to her apartment that her roommate hid for me. Lacy already texted this morning that Operation Platinum, as she's dubbed it, is going off without a hitch.
Nothing to worry about.
I take another deep breath and think of Kacey. And immediately smile. I always wondered what kind of woman I would end up with. I never would have predicted that a girl from work would destroy me - in the best possible way - like Kacey has. I'm so in love with this woman. With her harsh look of DEFIANCE when she’s unwilling to compromise. With the way she grips her coffee MUG with two hands instead of using the handle. With how she whoops and hollers and tackles me when she manages to beat me at MarioKart.
A text pops up on my phone. “Movie theatre power out. Movie cancelled. Going 2 B early.”
Dread explodes in me. There's still so much to do. ADAPT, Dean. It’s going to be fine. My heart beats like a drum and I’m sweating so much I’ll have to change my shirt. Change shirt. Change shirt. Change shirt. I strum my fingers on my knee , then pull a twenty from my pocket. I lean forward and put the cash where the driver can see it. “Any chance you can go faster?”
I follow Lacy out of the movie theater. So much for that plan. There are no clouds in the sky, just scorching Atlanta sunshine. I glance to the men in HARD HATS working on the new building across the street. Gah, it sucks to be them in this heat. "Well," I ask Lacy. "Now what?"
Lace looks up from her phone. "We could try another theater."
"Nah. Let's go to the mall and bum around."
She raises her brows at my suggestion. I hate the mall. "Looking for something in particular?"
"No. But malls have air conditioning."
She laughs. "Sounds good." Her fingers fly over her phone again.
"I thought you said no work this weekend," I tell her. "That means no EMAILS."
She smiles and tucks her phone back in her purse. "You're right. Let's go."
The mall is bustling with people trying to escape the heat. After a couple hours of window shopping for things neither of us can afford, I suggest we go back and order pizza and binge on Netflix shows. I nearly wrestle Lace to the ground when she pulls her phone out for the twentieth time this afternoon. I'm beginning to wonder if she has some secret guy friend she doesn't want me to know about.
"I'm going to go check our mail," Lace tells me when we pull into our parking lot. She heads toward the mailboxes. Why in the world didn't she just drive? She's crazy to walk in this infernal heat.
I open our door and thank heaven for air conditioning. Dropping my purse on the table in the entry way, I head to the living room. A picture FRAME I don't recognize sits on our coffee table. I pick it up. Inside is a drawing, something crude but lovely at the same time. I trace my fingers over the stick figure boy and the girl beside him, a red heart drawn in between. My conversation with Dean two weeks ago flashes back. A colored pencil drawing, I had told him. I remember putting stamps on that package of colored pencils, satisfaction filling me as I imagined Dean opening it and finding me holding fast to our joke. And here he made a drawing, and must have sent it down to Lacy. Funny I didn’t recognize it yesterday. She must’ve checked the mail and gotten this out then.
I smile and set the frame down, then kick off my flip flops and head upstairs. Something trailing on the floor stops me. Bits of paper litter our downstairs hall. What in the world? Lace is such a neat freak, there's no way she left this out. I bend to scoop the papers up, then stop. They're paper cut outs. Of shoes.
Yellow Chuck Taylors, just like mine.
And checkered Vans, just like Dean wears.
My heart picks up speed, and a weird sensation grips me. The paper shoes lead to our back patio. I follow them, and open our back door.
Dean smiles as soon as I step outside.
Shock ripples through me. He's here.
Here on my patio.
And dropping down to kneel on one knee.
I gasp and cover my mouth with my hand as hope blossoms from secret places inside me. Dean. My ROCK. My somewhere safe. The place I can be me in all my horrible glory, and still feel completely accepted. Loved.
His gaze never wavers, and warmth cuts a RIBBON of love through my heart. He holds his hand out to me, and I step forward and take it.
He smiles, a grin I want to wake up to every morning for the rest of my life.
Kacey." His voice wavers, and he blinks his eyes rapid fast,clearing the moisture gathering in them. Tears are already flowing down my cheeks.
"Kacey," he begins again. "I had my life all planned out. Everything I wanted. Everything I hoped to have." He smiles at me. "Then I found I couldn't get this girl I worked with out of my head."
I grin, my tears pooling in the corners of my smile.
"I never imagined you. Or how good it would be to have you love me." Dean reaches into his pocket with his other hand. He opens a box and holds it out to me. "I love you, Kace." He takes a shaky breath. "Will you marry me?"
A year ago I never thought this would be possible. Love, which always seemed so elusive, came out of nowhere and hit me like a bullet, hard and fast. I smile at Dean - love exploding in my heart and joy spreading down to my toes - and nod my head. "Yes." I laugh and collapse into his open arms. "Yes, yes, yes."
He kisses me, our mouths a mess of salty tears and laughter. Joy bursts inside of me, leaving a shimmery covering of hope. This is what love is. Joy. Hope. Me and Dean.