“Can I look nooooooow?” Laurel asked, her voice going up at the end in a type of sing song voice. She bit her lower lip, pinching her eyes shut tighter in excitement.
I chuckled, pulling out a key into my hand. Despite myself, a huge grin spread itself across my face, “Not yet!”
Today is gonna be the day that they’re gonna throw it back to you.
Laurel let out a huff of breath, her face falling for a second. A devious but angelic grin was woven into her lips, “How about now?”
“Just one second,” I replied, dragging out the last word.
I settled her on the porch, turning her in the direction to where she could have a perfect view. “Okay,” I said, “Now. Now you can look!”
She opened her eyes, which cringed from the shock of lights. But once they opened, and she took in the view, they widened, to where she look like a deer caught in head lights. She tried to speak, but no words came out of her mouth. She turned me, grinning, her hands rushing towards her mouth to hold back her excitement. “Is this – is this what I think it is!?” she shrieked.
I smiled, wrapping my arms around her waist, pulling her closer to me. I kissed her nose, ignoring how I had to bend slightly to reach her face over the baby between us. “Well, what do you think it is?” I laughed.
She licked her lips, staring up at the house, her eyes trying to choose what and who to look at – my face or the house before us. “A home?”
I leaned in and gave her a kiss on the lips, “Yes. A home for my – our – family.”
“It’s a bit big though, isn’t it?” she asked, a bit skeptically.
By now, you should’ve somehow realized what you gotta do.
I shrugged, tucking my head into the edge of her face and shoulder, “Well… I don’t know if you know this, but I want quite a large family…”
Her eyebrow raised, “Is that so?”
“Ah, it is, milady!”
“Well,” she breathed, “I suppose it’s a good thing we got a jump start, ay?”
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now.
I put my hands on my Laurel’s belly, cradling the bump that was the main sign of the life that I helped to create. I glanced up at Laurel, my eyes quickly falling back to the child. “Any names you like, yet?”
Laurel shrugged, “I don’t know. I haven’t really thought of any.”
“You haven’t?” I asked, raising an eyebrow in disbelief. I thought she would have list upon list of names.
She laughed, throwing her head back as her stomach jutted forward, “Nope. Why, was I supposed to?”
I shrugged, “I dunno. I just thought you would have. You never seemed to like my suggestions…”
“You’ve never suggested anything,” she interrupted, wrinkling that delicate nose of hers.
“I have to.”
Her lips puckered to the side, “Well. I don’t remember you telling me these baby names.”
“Of course you do,” I grinned. “Israel Junior or Laurel Junior. It’s perfect, isn’t it?”
She groaned, rolling her eyes playfully, “Please tell me you’re joking.”
I chuckled, kissing her nose, “Of course, love.”
Her eyes slid up to my face, narrowing in a sly way, “You know, Israel, you still haven’t swept me away to marry you.”
“Well, I can’t marry you until we’re engaged, can I?”
Her face fell in what I had come to understand to be hurt and confusion all in one, “Do you not want to marry me?”
Back beat, the word was on the street that the fire in your heart is out.
“I want to marry you more than anything in the world…”
At that moment, a cat with orange and green patterns across it came waltzing out from along the bushes, stopping at Laurel’s feet to let out a purr. A dog quickly came bounding after it, not in a chasing manner, but in a way that said it wanted to play. It glanced up at me, letting out a bark, it’s tail wagging back and forth.
Laurel knelt down to pet the cat, “Israel, do you think they’re strays?”
I grinned, “They’ve got collars. Why don’t you check those?”
Laurel grabbed the tag on the cat. She smiled, scratching his head, “His name is Beast.”
“What does the other side say?”
Her face pinched, “It says ‘will you’.”
“What about the dog?”
“Other side, again,” I laughed.
“How did you,” she began.
I cut her off, “Just do it.”
She looked at me warily, then flipped the bone shaped tag over in her hands as the dog licked her face. “Marry,” she breathed. She glanced up at me, her face frozen in shock.
I grinned, sliding down onto one knee, “Now, love, put all the words together…”
“Will you marry – ”
“Us?” I finished for her, pulling out the ring that had been my mother’s.
I’m sure you’ve heard it all before, but, you never really had a doubt.
She let out a squeal, her hands cupping her cheeks in excitement, “Yes! Yes! A million times, yes!”
I slipped the ring onto her thin, green finger. She admired it for a moment, her eyes sparkling.
Then her body crushed into mine, “How did you train them…?”
I repositioned her, to where my lips were brushing against her’s as I spoke, “I believe I told you that magic takes time. Now, you know why.”
She buried her head in my neck, and my nose breathed in the scent of her perfume. She smelled like daises, which when mixed with the night air, was a very lovey combination. “I love you,” she whispered into my ear, causing the hair on my neck to stand up and goose bumps to appear up and down my back and arms.
I gave her a slight squeeze around the waist, “Then all is right with the world.”
I don’t believe that anybody feels the way I do, about you now.
Her green hair bounced as she took unsteady steps towards me, her interest in her snuggle bunny having been burnt out for the day. Her orange skin, which was identical to that of my siblings, inherited from my father, glowed softly with the overhead lights, her skin shining from the oils and lotions her mother insisted upon putting on her to keep her skin smooth. Her upturned nose was the button of her adorable face, her freckles like sprinkles on a cake, and her smile showed off her round face, complete with full cheeks and adorable dimples. Her legs shook, still not used to be used to hold up body weight, and her hands reached out to grab onto something, but came about a foot short from touching the nearest chair. She fell forward as gracefully as a toddler could manage, and rolled back up, rebounding in the way only a child could.
Because maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me.
Spindle, who noticed this tumble, wondered off his bed from the corner to sniff her and make sure she was alright. Fluorine giggled and tugged at his ears, pressing her nose against his snout, giving him one of her ‘penguin smooches’, as she called it. Beast, however, never left his spot on the couch. He glanced at her then firmly turned away – he was never one up to getting it tail tugged.
“Daddy!” Fluorine giggled, her light grey eyes sparkling. She was without a doubt a gift from some super power – I’m not religious, but my daughter, she made me wish I had a stronger faith. She beat the odds to live, and somehow, became one of the few lights in mine. “Up, up!’ she commanded, her little hands reaching towards the ceiling.
And after all, you’re my wonderwall.
I laughed along with her, that little girl had a way of making every worry melt away with something as simple as a smile. I tightened my hands around her torso, the soft fabric of her jumper bunching between my fingers. Her feet dangled in the air as she soared over my head. “Vroom, vroom!” I shouted, running around the living room.
Parsley raised an eyebrow at me, “Just how old are we, exactly, Israel?”
I stopped running, and balanced Fluorine on my hip, whose face was still filled with utter bliss. “Ducky,” I said, calling her my her nickname that I bestowed upon her at birth. “Tell Uncle Parsley that you’re never too old for a thing called fun.”
Fluorine turned towards the couch, the place her uncle usually sat when he came to visit the two of us – Laurel still had a hard time being around him, and she didn’t want to risk having an outburst around her daughter, so she founds errands to run when he came over. “Unca Par,” she said in her baby talk way of speaking, “your neva too old for fun!”
I hadn’t expected him to still be here. Most of the time, he was gone within an hour or so, only sometimes staying for two. But this time, I was gone for three, almost on the verge of four, hours and when I stuck my key into the door, with a pizza in hand, I had expected to see the two loves of my life, my husband and daughter, sleeping on the couch after a long day of daddy-daughter bonding.
I was not, however, expecting to see my daughter holding onto my brother, laughing.the way she did for her father.
The door closed silently behind me, but it was still noticed – what had I expected, though, I wasn’t sure. I mean, the two of them were cops, one of them was bound to notice the rush of cool air slip by their face.
“Hey, sis!” Parsley called out, setting Fluorine in Israel’s lap as he came to help me, even though it was unnecessary. I could manage a pizza box just fine myself.
“Hey, Parsley,” I said in reply, trying to thaw out my usually icy tone.
And all the roads that lead you there are winding, and all the lights that light the way are blinding.
He smiled, “What’s up?”
I shrugged, “Not much. Went to the spa today. It was very relaxing.”
“Sounds like it.”
“Anything interesting happen today in the field?” I asked, vainly trying to keep this small talk going. We walked into the kitchen, where I wiped my hands off on the towel. The grease of the pizza had somehow soaked through the box.
“Well, I caught two teen kids drinking and doing things in the car today… but I guess things could always be worse,” he added on, a sly grin slipping on his lips.
‘Yeah’, I thought to myself, having to bite my lower lip to keep my mouth shut, ‘like killing their mother?’
Israel came into the kitchen then, saving us from going to far into the awkward pit of silence, “Ducky wanted to come say hi to her mommy.”
Fluorine reached out her arms towards me, “I missed youuuuuu!” she sang out.
“I missed you too, love,” I replied, giving her a quick kiss on the cheek.
Parsley suddenly spoke up, shoving a piece of pizza in his mouth. “You know, guys, today, at the station, some of the new recruits were playing a game. And since only one is married with a kid on the way, one of the guys asked him ‘if you were in a boat accident with your wife and child, and you could only save one other person, who would it be? The wife or child?’ The guy was pretty much speechless. But it made me curious.”
Parsley paused and sat down, then his eyes shot up to the two of us. “Who would you save?”
I watched as Israel took a bite of pizza, and I turned to look at my daughter. I cracked a grin, “I love ya, Israel… but… you’d pretty much be dead weight.”
Israel smiled, not at all hurt by my words. He swallowed his pizza, “Yeah. Never been too strong of a swimmer.”
I raised an eyebrow, “But who would YOU save?”
There are many things that I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how.
He glanced up at me, “I’m surprised you’re asking. I thought it would be obvious.”
“Who?” Parsley asked, saving me from looking ignorant.
“I would save Ducky and Laurel, obviously.”
“But you can only save yourself and one other…” Parsley said slowly, as if the slower the words were, the more they’d be understood.
Israel licked the tips of his fingers, dropping the crust back into the box, “That’s just it. I wouldn’t want to save myself. I’d save my wife and my child, because I can’t survive with just one or the other. They’re both parts of my core.”
“So you’d die… for them?” Parsley clarified.
Israel looked at me, his eyes level, “A wise man once told me, that to protect your family is the greatest thing a man can ever do.”
I said maybe, you’re gonna be the one that saves me.
I felt a tear roll down my face. Even though Parsley probably hadn’t noticed my absence in his life, or if he had, the reason why I seemed so distant – at that moment, he was forgiven. Because I finally learned what it was to love a life more than your own. The exact reason my father had put everything on the line to protect his own son; the way Israel would die in an imaginary world where he, the worst swimmer, would save us both. Because, in a world where friends stab you in the back, where lies can easily be the truth, where the weekday never seems to end – a person has to have something to hold onto, a bond to keep you from falling apart. And that’s what a family was.
The people who you wouldn’t regret risking it all for.
And after all, you’re my wonderwall.
-Lyrics by Oasis; “Wonderwall”-