note: This story contains more detail, in one scene, of
what Emma went through with Derek. While I would
not classify it as graphic, it may be hard to
Wednesday, July 8th
Friday, July 17th
Sunday, July 19th
Wednesday, July 8th, 2015
Peter woke up when he heard the floorboards creak.
Remaining still, he listened. Perhaps Emma only needed
to use the bathroom. After a few moments, he heard what
sounded like dishes clanking. Peter frowned. Emma
was up and probably making spiced milk... which likely meant
she'd had a nightmare. Rising from his bed, Peter went
to check on his fiancee.
Emma was standing over a sauce pan, absently stirring its
contents. Peter felt a twinge in his heart when he
realized she was wearing Joshua's hoodie. They kept the
apartment at a moderate temperature and he was sure she didn't
need it for warmth, at least not physical warmth.
"Emma," he softly called, not wanting to alarm her.
Emma turned away from the stove and gave her fiance a tearful
"I, umm, couldn't sleep so... spiced milk. I'll add more
so you can have some, too."
Peter returned her smile with his own wavering one.
"Then... then maybe we could sit on the couch for a while?"
"But, I mean, if you need to go back to sleep then..."
Peter circled his arms around her waist and kissed her brow.
"I'm fine. I'd like to sit up with you."
Emma returned his embrace and rested her cheek against his
T-shirt. He was so sturdy, so real...
Peter felt subtle tremors run through Emma's body. He
suspected she had been shaking badly when she'd first woken
"Sweetheart, why don't you go sit down?" he suggested.
"I'll finish up with the milk."
"It's okay. Really."
Grateful to get off her shaking legs; Emma smiled, kissed
Peter's cheek, and moved to the couch. A couple minutes
later, Peter joined her and handed her a mug.
Emma sighed after taking a sip.
Peter followed suit.
"Delicious. And soothing. I'm glad Maryam gave you
her recipe," he commented.
They snuggled together with their drinks for a few moments
before Peter spoke again.
"Do you want to talk about anything? Did you have a
"I did, yeah, and I... I guess." Emma placed her mug on
the table then drew in and let out a deep breath.
"You don't have to, Emma. I don't want to push if..."
Emma shook her head before resting it on Peter's shoulder.
"I dreamed that we were at the theatre. Just us.
We were waiting for the others, I think. But... but
Derek came instead and he... he..."
Peter set down his mug and wrapped both arms around the woman.
"He beat you really badly a-and I was afraid you were... were
going to die and I wanted to call 911 b-but he grabbed me
a-and wouldn't let me un-until I did things and then... then
you... you wouldn't look at... at me."
Peter continued to hold his fiancee as she sobbed. He
softly patted her back and kissed her hair. When she'd
quieted, he spoke.
"Emma, sweetheart, that's not going to happen. Two
reasons. First, Joshua told us that Derek was out of
your life. Permanently. Second, if something like
that did happen, I would look at you. And I would love
you. You know that there's nothing... absolutely
nothing... that you could tell me about your past that would
make me stop loving you. Don't you?"
Emma remained still and silent.
Peter closed his eyes, praying for the words to reach
Nothing came to him.
Peter realized that in itself was an answer.
"Sometimes I... Emma, I feel like sometimes..."
Struck by the emotion in Peter's voice, Emma sat up and peered
into his eyes. She was heartbroken when she saw he was
"What is it?" she gently prodded.
"I just... I don't know what else I can do to... to prove to
you that I love you... that you can trust me to never stop
loving you, Emma. I wouldn't have asked you to marry me
if I didn't mean to be around for the rest of my life."
Still weeping, Emma buried her hands in Peter's shaggy hair
and rested her forehead against his.
"I... Peter, I do trust you. But it's like there's
this... this little part of me who... can't. And it's
not because of anything that you've done or... or not
done. It's something inside me. And that part...
it is getting smaller and smaller and quieter and
quieter. But it's just... it's not gone yet. And I
want it to be gone. So much! Because I love you so
much. I do..."
Peter relaxed as she kissed him, first tentatively and then
with more confidence, more passion.
After a few more kisses, Emma pulled away and cupped Peter's
face in her hands.
"I promise I'll keep working on everything. Because I do
want to get better... and not just for you. For me,
"And now I feel that special sorta comfortably tired and I
don't even want to move..."
"Do you want me to move so you can sleep on the couch?"
"Only if you want..."
"I could stay. Big couch."
With a smile, Emma nodded. She took another sip of her
milk then removed the hoodie and folded it up into a makeshift
Peter grabbed a throw off the back of the couch and soon they
were snuggled together beneath it.
"G'night, Peter. I love you."
"I love you, too, Emma. Sleep well."
"Mmm hmmm... Night, Joshua."
"Good night, Joshua," Peter echoed before turning off the
In the darkness, Peter prayed for continued healing for his
After spending a couple hours at Dusty's and then, with Peter,
meeting potential sponsors for St. Genesius' upcoming season,
Emma arrived at her appointment with Dr. Amber-Marie
Sayer. As always, Dr. Sayer greeted her with a smile.
"Hello, Emma! How's your day been? Looking forward
to your vacation?"
"Today's been good! And yeah! I really, really
am. I saw Monica and Liam earlier and was told you've
already heard plenty about that."
Dr. Sayer laughed.
"Oh yes. Liam's very excited. I think it's
wonderful that you're all doing that. Hopefully it'll
get you all rested up before the next season, huh?
Oh! That reminds me..."
The psychiatrist stepped over to her desk and picked up an
"For two season tickets," Emma remembered, reaching into her
purse for another envelope.
Emma laughed when, after they'd switched envelopes, the doctor
clasped her tickets to her chest.
"I was so, so excited when you told me that you're all doing The
Secret Garden! I adored that book when I was
growing up. I was so desperate for a garden that my
parents bought me as many window boxes as we could fit around
our apartment. And I've probably listened to that
soundtrack at least a hundred times!" Dr. Sayer gushed.
"Aww! I'm glad you're looking forward to it. I've
never actually seen it so... learning curve!"
"I'm confident that you and Peter and all the others will make
it a show to remember!"
The two women sat down in comfortable chairs across from each
"Thanks! But first we've got to get through Camelot
and, of course, Superstar. And whatever we
decide to do for Christmas. Probably a revue
again." Emma bowed her head for a moment, praying that
Joshua would again take part.
"And how are you feeling about all of that?"
Emma smiled, realizing that Dr. Sayer had officially entered
psychiatrist mode after her fangirl moment had passed.
"Really good. Earlier today, Peter and I met with some
sponsors who are really psyched."
"And working with Peter is still going well?"
"Oh yes. I mean it's not like we're always around each
other. We have separate hobbies and outings, alone
time. But working together and living together... I love
Dr. Sayer cocked her head and smiled gently.
"What is it, Emma?"
"It's umm... I had a bad nightmare last night and I... I
told Peter and it made him realize how much I'm still
struggling with... with the trust thing. And it is
frustrating! Because when I'm in a good mood, like now,
I feel like running down to the courthouse and marrying him
today. But the other moments... they happen enough that
I can't even bring myself to... to set a date. And I
feel awful saying that because it makes it seem like I don't
want to marry Peter. But I do! Even in my lowest
times, I still want to marry him. But it just doesn't...
"Okay, let's talk about that. What about the dream made
Peter realize that you're struggling to trust him fully?"
Tears filled Emma's eyes and she took a tissue from the
doctor. With a shaky voice, she relayed the nightmare.
Dr. Sayer patted her hand.
"Do you think you're worried that if Peter found out about
specific things that happened in the past then he would be
upset with you?"
"Right now? No. And it... it seems disloyal to say
so. And, intellectually, I know he wouldn't
because... Well, we were watching a special about the
Cosby accusers and... and, first of all, it was really hard to
watch. But I wanted to because it was kind of
empowering, too. And Peter was really bothered by some
of the women saying that people doubted them because it didn't
happen like they assume rape happens. So I know Peter
understands that just because Derek didn't attack me or... or
threaten me with violence... well, not at first, at least...
it doesn't mean I wanted everything to happen. And I can
say that now with total confidence but at other times... like
after that nightmare... I don't feel so sure. And poor
Peter... I know it hurts him because he's done
everything he can to win my trust but..." Emma let out a
"How long have you known Peter, Emma?"
"Almost two years."
"And how long have you been together?"
"Just a few months less."
"And what happened with Derek went on for over a year and then
the aftereffects covered over a decade of your life before you
began to heal, Emma."
"Peter is a wonderful man and he does a fantastic job playing
everyone's favorite miracle worker."
"But he's not a miracle worker, Emma. At least... no
more than we all get to take part in making miracles
happen. And this miracle... it's going to take time."
"I know... I just... I wish we could set a wedding
date." Emma stared down at her ring. "Like I told
you, two of our friends just got married and shortly before
that another couple of friends set their wedding date.
And two other friends are expecting twins..."
"Well, what's keeping you from setting a date?"
"It's obvious isn't it?"
"I think it would be good if you said it, Emma," Dr. Sayer
"It's just... if we get married then we'd be supposed to have
sex. And what if we set a date and I... I still feel
like I might have a flashback and start freaking out or, worse
even, push Peter away and hurt him?"
"Has Peter said anything to you to indicate that he would be
sorely disappointed and/or angry if you didn't have sex on
your wedding night?"
"Well... no. But isn't that assumed?"
Dr. Sayer squeezed Emma's hand.
"These days it's pretty much assumed that if two people move
in together, they're going to have sex. Peter apparently
doesn't hold that viewpoint."
"Is that the only reason you're hesitant to set a date?
Is there anything else that makes you doubt that you want a
"No!" Emma interrupted. She blushed when she realized
how loudly she'd spoken. "Nothing makes me doubt that I
want to be with Peter. He... he's everything I could
ever want. More even. He... he does things and
says things that I didn't even know I wanted done and
said. I mean... it's not that I think he's
perfect. I really do wish he'd learn how to use a
hamper... and maybe not make the enchiladas quite so spicy..."
The psychiatrist laughed.
"Well, there will always be little irritations, I suppose!"
Dr. Sayer declared. "But given you don't have any other
hesitations, I find myself wondering if you might have an
easier time trusting Peter... completely... if you absolutely
knew that he was committed to you for life. Engagements
can be broken. People can move out. But having
talked to both you and Peter, I know that you view marriage as
a lifelong commitment. Emma, I'd hate to see you put it
off if, in fact, it's marriage itself that might be, if not
the solution, then at least a big help in conquering your
trust issues. I wouldn't advise all my clients this way
but with you... I truly believe Peter would be patient."
"Yeah..." Emma sniffled. "He would. He's
already been way more patient than most men... A-and
maybe that's why I'm hesitant. It doesn't seem fair to
ask for patience before getting married and then get married
and ask for more patience before I'll sleep with him."
"What do you think Peter would say to that?"
"I... I think he would say that he would never pressure me
and... and if we spend our wedding night watching Frasier
reruns, that's okay."
"You know, I can just imagine Peter saying that. But I
think, for your homework over these next two weeks when we
won't see each other, that's what you should work on: talking
to Peter about your concerns. I'm not saying I expect to
get a wedding date when you return because I don't want you to
feel pressured, Emma. But when you first started seeing
me and I asked you what you most wanted for your life,
marrying Peter was awfully high on your list. So I think
moving closer to that goal would be good, huh?"
"Very good," Emma responded, her mind beginning to drift to
thoughts of the wedding she sometimes imagined.
Dr. Sayer left Emma to her daydream for a few moments before
gently calling her back to the task at hand: making that
Peter swayed slightly as he stood on the doorstep to St. Mary
Magdalene's rectory. He didn't wait long before Fr. Mike
opened the door and greeted him with a hug.
"Hey Peter! Come on in. Lucky for you, I was just
getting back from a visit home when you called which means...
I have cookies from my mom."
Peter laughed. "Yeah... I could kinda tell."
Peter patted the corner of his mouth.
"Got yourself some frosting."
"Oh!" Fr. Mike wiped it away. "Thanks! Well,
the cookies I haven't yet sloppily eaten are in the study so
why don't we hang out in there? Can I get you some milk
or anything else to drink?"
Peter smiled, feeling like he was six and showing up for a
"Milk would be good. Thank you."
"Okay, let me grab that. You go on in and make yourself
"Will do, thanks."
Once inside the priest's study, Peter surveyed the assorted
photos hanging on the walls and perched on the shelves.
He chuckled when he came to one he hadn't seen before.
"I love this photo of you and Rabbi Yakov at a bar," Peter
He chuckled at the phrase "A priest and a rabbi go into a
bar..." that was written on the plain, wooden frame.
Entering the room, Fr. Mike grinned.
"Thanks. Tiva took it. And captioned it. She
gave it to me last week after our ecumenical meeting.
Thank you, again, for letting us use the theatre."
"It's our pleasure and, well, it seems only fair since I've
been seeking your priestly counsel so often even when I'm not
Catholic. I hope it wouldn't get you in trouble if
The priest handed over the glass of milk and shook his head.
"Absolutely not. It's not like I'm canceling other
appointments or Mass or anything to meet with you. I'm
allowed to have friends... even Protestant ones," he teased.
Peter responded with a sheepish smile.
"And if we're going to start up with who does more for who,
our Spanish lessons mean a lot to me. It's been really
nice to be able to carry on actual conversations with my
Spanish speaking parishioners so... gracias."
Fr. Mike clapped his visitor on the back then handed him a
"Now... cookies and talking time."
Peter selected three cookies then settled into the chair he
usually occupied during their informal sessions.
"So how was your visit home?" he asked.
The priest beamed.
"Wonderful as always. Well, maybe not for my
waistline. Even though she taught me to cook, I
sometimes think my mom doubts by ability to feed myself.
And Dad was his usual animated self. He's been meeting
up with Reuel and trying to determine if our two worlds have
any common ancestors. So how are things with you and
"Pretty great. I still love having her with me.
And working with her... I know some people say that's
really hard but for us it works. It's a lot nicer
visiting sponsors with her as opposed to doing sales calls
alone like with my old job."
"That's really great, Peter."
"Yeah. But... the nightmares still come sometimes.
And occasionally things on the news trigger something."
"Did what happened last month exacerbate anything?"
Peter gave a rueful smile.
"No, actually. Those demons obviously knew very little
about Emma. They gave her the standard 'lose your love
interest' nightmare but it was nothing on what she sometimes
sees all on her own. Lately she's been having a few in
which Derek comes back and I don't fare so well."
Fr. Mike cringed.
Peter finished off a cookie before continuing.
"Last night's was probably the worst so far."
Grateful that Emma had given him permission to confide in the
priest as much as he needed, Peter relayed the nightmare.
Fr. Mike squeezed his hand after he had finished.
"I have to say... it hurts to know that even some part of her
thinks I would act like that," Peter admitted. "A
lot. But I also know Emma's not entirely in her right
mind immediately following those nightmares. And I do
know she trusts me because... well, we slept on the couch
after that. Together. Not obviously..."
"I know. And, yes, I think that's a great sign that Emma
trusts you very much. We're very vulnerable when we're
"Can I ask something very blunt?" the priest requested.
Peter gave a shy smile.
"Have you and Emma talked much about sex? Like what you
would expect when you eventually move to that level?"
"Well... no. I guess not. I don't want to upset
"I know, Peter. But here's what I'm thinking: As I've
mentioned before, this parish was pretty hard hit by the
sexual abuse horrors before I came on. And the ripples
of that... they still surface. I'd have married couples
come in who would tell me their love life just wasn't working
out. And for a few sessions we'd discuss things like
division of labor, romance for romance's sake... i.e. not just
buying flowers because you want sex, and so on. Weren't
getting any where... Then the truth would come
out. One or the other spouse had been victimized when
they were younger and a certain word or act in the bedroom
would send them reeling back to that time and they'd basically
shutdown. But, because they were so traumatized and
undeservedly ashamed, they wouldn't tell their spouse what
those triggers were. And, I'm sorry to say, in same
cases the spouse wasn't willing to forgo whatever it
was. Sadly, those marriages failed. But..."
Peter blinked back tears.
"So... so what if I can't get her to talk to me?"
Fr. Mike rose and hugged him.
"You will, Peter. The difference between you and those
couples is I don't think the other spouse wanted to hear about
it. They just wanted a perfect, problem-free
partner. There were other cases in which the couples
went on to have very good, very healthy marriages.
Because the survivor came to realize that they could tell
their spouse anything and it wouldn't scare them away.
And the spouse also knew that some things... maybe they
weren't going to happen for them or would only happen under
certain conditions. They never made their husband or
wife feel guilty about those restrictions."
"I... I'd give up anything," Peter promised. "Even sex
entirely if I had to. I just... I want to marry
Emma. I want to know that she's not going anywhere
and... and that she knows I'm not going anywhere. And
if, God forbid, something happened to me, I want to know that
she'd be protected."
"I know. And, more importantly, Emma knows. But
there's an insidious little voice that tells her
otherwise. A voice that tells her to be ashamed, that
she doesn't deserve this happiness. It's a voice that
this culture, unfortunately, planted in her and it was fed by
all the people who failed to protect her. But I think
one strong, loving, fearless voice could go a long way in
silencing it. Yes, it will be awkward. Yes, it
will be painful. But I believe it will be healing,
Peter. And Joshua, his Dad, the Spirit... they'll be
Peter drew in and let out a deep breath.
"Yeah... they will be."
As he embraced the priest, Peter stared over his shoulder at a
photo of Joshua and prayed.
Monday, July 13th
heart swelled as she watched Clay and Kylie enter their
cabin, both smiling and teary-eyed. During the
five hour drive from Virginia, Emma had noticed the
fervent glances in the rear-view mirror. For most
of the ride, one or the other of the couple had sat up
front with Adam. Emma and Peter had offered to let
them sit together but they'd refused. She knew it
was in part because they wanted to spend time with the
angel of death but she also suspected they were trying
to avoid excessive PDA. Turning away from the
window, Emma couldn't help but grin. She was
fairly confident it would be a while before they saw the
"So wanna get unpacked and settled in our room?" Rose
Emma nodded. "Sure! I barely had a chance to
look at it. Just dropped my stuff and came back
"How about we escort you ladies back to your room and
then we'll do the same?" Max suggested, motioning to
"You just want to know where our room is so you can
steal my Kindle," Rose teased.
Max laughed. "Well, you wouldn't let me pack the
entire Harry Potter series so what if I need a
"Okay, okay! C'mon." Rose grabbed Max's hand
and pulled him up the stairs.
Smiling at each other, Emma and Peter followed them.
"This is our room," Rose informed. "But you need
to knock before coming in. Emma and I might be
having very important girl talk sessions."
"I solemnly swear that I will knock," Max vowed.
"And you have to do the same in case Peter, Owen, Sy,
and me are having very important guy talk."
Giggling, Rose hugged him.
"I promise. Wanna meet up in the living room after
a while? I wouldn't mind taking a walk just to see
"Sure!" Max agreed. He kissed Rose's cheek then
Peter hugged Emma tightly.
"You wanna join them for their walk?" he whispered.
"Then I'll see you in the living room shortly."
"Good," Emma murmured before kissing him.
Grinning, Peter stepped away and followed Max.
Rose sighed as she and Emma stood in their doorway,
watching Max and Peter enter the room they were sharing
with Owen and Sy.
Emma patted the younger woman's back.
"Just think, if we do this again next July, you and Max
will get your own room," she encouraged.
Rose beamed and nodded. After they both entered
the room, she shut the door.
"Do you think you and Peter might be married by
then? It's okay if not. Just wondering
cause... I mean... if you do think you might be getting
married soon then you'd be more than welcome to tag
along on florist visits and craft store runs and the
like. I know you probably won't get much outta
looking at our Harry Potter themed choices
but... you could glance around at other offerings!"
"Aww, thanks. I... well, we're still not sure on a
date. But that would be fun! I mean... it's
going to happen sometime soon. I just..."
Emma sighed and opened her suitcase.
Rose set a gentle hand on her back.
"It's okay, Emma. No sense in rushing."
"I know... But it's not like I'm uncertain.
I absolutely know I want to marry Peter. It's just
"Yeah. That can be tough. Max and I really
would have preferred an autumn wedding but it just
wasn't realistic with school. The changing leaves
and chilliness would have fit in really well but neither
of us wanted to be exhausted and stressed because of
homework and who wants to spend their wedding night
answering essay questions!"
Emma laughed. "No one! I'm glad you both
thought of that. So how did you settle on June
"Well, the 24th is John's birthday so we thought it
might be fun to have a birthday cake for him... hoping
he shows up. That was part of it. At first
we'd looked at June 4th because it looked good on
people's calendars, too, and then Independence Day
woulda been our monthiversary. But... then we
remembered that June 5th is Draco Malfoy's birthday and
neither of us wanted to wake up on our first married
morning thinking that the sniveling brat was having a
Emma's laughter increased.
"And not to mention... I mean what if we actually
conceived that night? We'd be thrilled, of
course. But on Draco's birthday?!" Rose gave
a sheepish smile. "Sorry. This all probably
sounds kinda crazy but..."
"I think it sounds adorable! That's great that you
and Max have an interest that you share. And I
think John will love the birthday cake whether he's
there or not. But given he'll surely know about
it... I'd be surprised if he didn't show up. With
Joshua and Maryam and Yosef, too!"
Rose squeezed her hand.
"I hope so! Anyway... If you're set on a
June wedding and do decide next year will be good,
you're welcome to the 4th! Since you and Peter
aren't total Potterheads, the Draco thing shouldn't
Smiling, Emma hugged Rose.
"I'll keep that in mind. I did always kinda
daydream about a June wedding... But... you're
sure you wouldn't mind? That's kinda tacky to
knowingly set your wedding right before someone else's."
Rose shrugged. "Neither Max nor I would care a bit
and we'd make that very clear. Think of it this
way: it'd force us to take a day off from stressing
about our own wedding and just dance and eat cake and
have a good time. I mean the other thing to
consider is that June 11th would be the anniversary of
Nen's and Tzila's mischief... which maybe it'd be nice
to reclaim that day but I dunno..."
"And we would never pick the weekend before yours and
Max's," Emma vowed. "So definitely not the
18th. That really would be tacky and rude."
"We really wouldn't mind."
"Aww, thanks but... well, another way to think of it is
since it does seem likely Joshua and everyone would
"It'd be nice to space that out a little..." Rose
reasoned. "Assuming you and Peter did take the 4th
and went on your honeymoon right after, you'd barely be
back before it'd be our wedding and you could see Joshua
again! And then, too, seeing him at your wedding would
likely help Max and me calm down if we were stressed or
Emma's eyes glittered as she thought about this
possibility. Then the old anxiety surfaced and a
tear slipped down her check.
Rose steered Emma to her bed then sat beside her and
wrapped her up in a bear hug.
"Oh, Emma... Please, please don't feel pressured
into this now," she pleaded.
Emma began to sob.
"But... I... I want nothing more than... than to go over
there," she waved to the hall. "A-and tell Peter
all this but... but what if I'm not ready by then?
What if I'm a total spaz on our wedding night?
I... I... just wanna get married!"
"You will, Emma," Rose soothed. "In Joshua's
time. And it'll be the perfect time."
Emma nodded against her shoulder.
"And it'll be a beautiful ceremony and an even more
beautiful marriage," Rose prophesied. "And if you
have children, they will grow up knowing they have a
mommy and daddy who love each other very much and love
them tremendously, too."
Emma calmed as Rose continued her hopeful musings.
They were interrupted by a text from Max, informing them
that he and Peter were waiting downstairs.
"Well... we didn't get much unpacking done. Do you
want me to tell them we need more time or would you
rather go for a walk now?" Rose checked.
Emma drew in and let out a deep breath.
"I think some fresh air would do me good."
"Good idea. Off we go!"
Rose pulled Emma to her feet.
"Is my face all blotchy?"
"Your eyes are a little red but..."
Emma peeked into a mirror and shrugged.
"Peter will know regardless..."
Rose hugged her.
"And that's okay," she encouraged.
With a smile at her and Rose's reflection, Emma
Once they were in the living room, Emma managed a quick
smile for Max then hugged Peter, resting her head on his
"Hey there... You okay?" he quietly asked as he
stroked her back.
"Yeah... Just had a little bit of a crying spell
but Rose helped me through it... and now you're
helping." Emma tilted her face up so they could
share a quick kiss.
"And you're okay to go for a walk? Because we can
Emma shook her head.
"I think getting outside will be good. It looks
beautiful out there."
"It does," Peter agreed with a smile, pushing some
matted hair behind her ears. He turned to Max and
Rose. "Lead on!"
"Aye-aye!" Max replied, holding open the door and
ushering the others out into the sunlight.
As they walked along gravel roads and amidst towering
trees, Emma sometimes tore her gaze away from the beauty
of nature to peer at Peter. Catching her, Peter
smiled and brought her hand to his lips.
Emma felt anew that this was the man she was meant to
walk through life with. Glancing up at the clouds,
she sent a prayer of thanksgiving to Joshua and the
Friday, July 17th
"Higher!" Emma cried as
the swing she was on swooped into the air.
Peter laughed as he pushed her.
Accompanying Andrew, JenniAnn, Monica, and
Arthur on a trip to the park with the kids
was proving to be more fun than he'd
"You go much higher and you'll do a 360,
Emma swiveled around to grin at Peter.
With a chuckle, Peter gave a little extra
oomph to his push.
"Woo!" Emma cheered.
As he continued to push Emma's swing, Peter
noticed Liam studying them from where he was
perched on a jungle gym. He waved to
the little boy. Liam waved back then
approached them, settling into a nearby
"You need a push, Liam?" Peter asked.
Liam shook his head.
"No. Just thinking."
Emma skidded to a stop.
"About what? Or is it personal?" she
"Just thinking that I've never seen a grown
up getting pushed on a swing."
Laughing, Emma reached over to lightly
tousle his hair.
"Well, getting pushed on a swing is still
fun even when you're a grown up."
"Oh, good," came the boy's earnest
reply. "Sometimes Uncle Andrew and
Aunt JenniAnn let me push Belle in her
swing. But they don't have that kind
of swing here. She's too little for
this kind. I asked."
"I'm sure Belle loves that when you do,
Liam. You're a very good cousin,"
Liam's face flushed but a smile spread
across his face as he peered over to where
his little cousin was climbing the steps of
a small slide.
"Are you going to have babies?" he blurted
"Umm... Well, hopefully...
eventually," Emma replied.
"Do you think you'll have twins?"
"Well, maybe not twins," Peter
answered. "Twins are pretty rare."
Emma and Peter glanced at each other, both
realizing that since Liam's arrival, he'd
known of two sets of twins and only one
"They are but our group's been very
blessed," Emma explained. "Of course,
babies who come on their own are big
"Exactly," Peter agreed. "And like you
and Jacob and Shelby and Manny and... well,
all of us."
"We're all Joshua's and his Dad's babies,"
Emma felt her eyes fill.
"That's right," she agreed.
"I hope that when I'm a grown up, I have
lots of babies. Babies are cute and
happy... well, mostly happy. But Monny
says it's best to get married first.
Or get a blessing like her and Daddy.
I think I'd rather get married. You
Emma and Peter stifled their laughter,
afraid they would upset the boy who seemed
"What do you want when you get married?"
Liam queried. "I can draw. Not
as good as Jacob, though."
"Aww, honey, we'd be happy with a drawing of
whatever you'd want to do," Emma
replied. "I think you're a very good
"We both do," Peter assented.
Emma nodded. "Flowers would be nice."
"I'm drawing an owl for Uncle Max and Aunt
Rose. Maybe two owls. Like
Joshua made them."
"I'm sure they'll love that!" Emma
gushed. "You're sure good at planning
"Monny says it's good to be prepared.
And when you plan ahead, you get to have the
fun of thinking about what's going to
Emma stared down at her ring.
"You know something, Liam?" she asked.
"I think your Monny's very wise."
"It means really smart," Peter explained.
"Oh! Yeah. Monny's wise!
I'm going to go tell her."
Emma and Peter watched as Liam jumped off
the swing and scampered towards his mother.
"Smart mom, smart kid," Emma murmured.
Peter sat down on the swing next to hers and
clasped her hand.
"Yeah. Would you want to go out for
dinner tonight? I mean... I don't mean
that we have to talk about wedding plans or
anything. But we haven't had that much
alone time. I miss it."
Emma squeezed his hand.
"I miss it, too. And I'd love that."
Peter grinned. "Good. How about
I pick you up in the main room at 6:00?"
"It's a plan! Now..." Emma stood
up. "I get to push you."
Laughing, Peter began to pump his legs and
was soon soaring.
Peter beamed as Emma came down the stairs, donning a
cocktail dress she'd bought from Monica. She,
too, was smiling.
"Ooh... I like this tie," she opined, grabbing for
it when she was within reach. "Matches my
"And it wasn't even intentional. Guess we're
on the same wavelength," Peter hypothesized.
Emma's eyes twinkled.
"You look beautiful, Emma. You always do."
Before they got too googly-eyed, Adam stepped
forward from where he'd been waiting in the kitchen
"Okay, here are the keys. Drive safe, have
fun, and have our girl home by... well,
whenever. You're both adults," the angel
Laughing, Peter took the car keys.
"Thanks, Adam. And will do."
Emma hugged the angel of death.
"Thanks for letting us borrow your car!"
"No problem at all. It's at least a little
cooler than the Jolly Green."
"Hey!" Andrew shouted from where he sat on the
floor, playing with Belle and her building
Alerted to what was going on, Belle gasped and
scurried to Emma.
Emma happily obliged when the little girl held her
"Pitty..." Belle repeated as she got a closer look
at Emma's necklace and earrings. With a
giggle, she kissed her aunt's cheek.
Emma returned her kiss.
"Thank you, sweetie. Uncle Peter and I will be
back soon and we'll see you after nigh-nigh."
"O-ay." Belle reached for Peter who took her
from Emma and exchanged kisses before tousling her
Laughing, Belle reached up to do the same to Peter's
The man grinned.
"I think she approves of me leaving my hair longish
year-round. Don't ya, Belle?"
Belle nodded then twisted around to grin at Adam.
Peter passed her off to the angel of death.
"Pay?" she pleaded.
Adam laughed. "I hope that's an invitation to
play blocks and not an attempt at a money grab."
Belle replied with a laugh and repeated her demand.
Chuckling, Peter took Emma's hand.
"We'll leave that for the three of you to figure
out. See you later! Thanks again, Adam!"
"No problem! Have a great time!"
"Don't skimp on dessert," Andrew advised.
"We wouldn't dream of it!" Emma assured. "In
case you're all asleep by the time we get
back... Good night!"
Just before closing the door, Emma and Peter heard
another cry of "Pay..." and laughed together.
After a stellar dinner at a fancy restaurant, Emma
and Peter decided they wanted to take in some more
local color. They stopped by an ice cream
shoppe then made their way to a nearby park with a
"Such a beautiful night..." Emma admired. "I
love this warm breeze. And, of course, the
With his free arm, Peter gave her an affectionate
squeeze as they approached a bench.
"I'm glad we could get away for a while. I
love being with everyone but I've missed our time
Emma sat down then planted a kiss on Peter's cheek
once he was beside her.
"Me too. I miss snuggling before bed."
"Yeah... And I miss knowing when you get
up. At the cabin, it could be anyone.
So... how have you been sleeping?" Peter questioned.
Emma stirred her sundae before answering.
"Mostly good. I had a vague sort of nightmare
last night but no others."
"I'm glad it's just been that one. Do you
wanna talk about it?"
"I just had this feeling... like I was
trapped. But I couldn't see any walls. I
just... I couldn't move."
Peter rested a hand on her arm.
"I can only imagine how trapped you must have felt
back in Massachusetts."
"Yeah... No where to turn. Not even to
my own mom or... or school or church. And
then, once I left, I felt trapped by my past.
I'd be working at Dusty's and see these little old
men come in with their little old wives... holding
the door open and 'Yes, dear' and 'What are you
having, my love?' And young couples... dewy
eyed and plastered together on one side of a
booth. And I'd think 'I can never have
that. No one will want me, knowing what I've
"I want you," Peter murmured. Then he saw the
unspoken response flash in her eyes. He didn't
know what she'd done...
Emma took another bite of her ice cream.
Unsure of what more to say, Peter began to
hum. It wasn't until Emma started singing that
he realized what he was humming.
"'I've been living to see you... dying to see you
but it shouldn't be like this. This was
unexpected. What do I do now?'"
"'Could we start again, please?'" Peter replied.
Emma set down her sundae and stroked Peter's
face. They kissed then kissed again.
After a third kiss, Peter pulled away slightly but
rested his forehead against his fiancee's.
"Emma, I... I've been thinking about us. And I
can't make myself believe you don't... don't trust
me. And I can't believe you don't trust Joshua
who... who brought us together. I just
can't. So the only thing I can think of is
that... that there's still some part of you that
can't believe how truly good you are... that can't
believe you're worthy of being happy, of being
loved. But you are, sweetheart. The
moment I saw you a-and even more when I first spoke
to you, I felt... not just warmth but the desire for
warmth coming back to me. After Jaz died...
I... I didn't want to get close to anyone because it
would only mean risking that sort of pain
again. But with you... I wanted to know you,
to be your friend, and eventually... eventually I
wanted to love you. Tremendously, Emma.
And because of that... I stuck around St. G's.
I... I got to know who Joshua was. I got to spend
time with him, I got to grow to love him more
deeply. Because of you. Emma, Judas
Iscariot... our Yehuda... he's in Heaven now.
And that's a lot to do with you. You saw good
in a man who has been vilified, reviled, and
despised for almost 2,000 years. See the good
in yourself, Emma. Please."
Emma screwed her eyes shut and conjured the memories
of her time with Joshua in Eternity. The
radiant colors... the peace... his love
everywhere. She remembered clutching his
shirt, so afraid, even then, that she'd be taken
away from him.
"You are my little girl. Always will be."
Emma nodded. Joshua knew everything,
everything she had ever done and everything that had
been done to her. He still loved her.
Why couldn't she?
When no answer came, Peter resumed speaking.
"I'll tell you about the good I see. I see
good when I look across the breakfast table and see
you sipping your coffee and your eyes smile over the
rim at me. I see good when I stop by Lily's
Loot and there you are... taking extra time to help
one of your students master a step or
sequence. I see good when I visit you at
Dusty's and find you helping a single mother get her
kids settled into a booth. I see good when you
talk, for as long as they need, to audience members
who get a little overwrought after Superstar...
even when I know you're exhausted and dealing with
your own emotions. I see good when you sing to
Joshua... yes, sometimes I hear you. Emma, I
see good every single time you hug me or kiss me and
tell me that you love me. I just... I wish you
could see yourself through my eyes because I see a
woman who is... is beautiful inside and out and who
is utterly lovable."
Emma brushed at her tears.
"Oh, Emma... If I could give you my eyes, I
would," Peter murmured.
Staring into his glistening eyes, Emma felt
something... almost electric... surge through her
body. Her gaze traveled to her hand which was
resting on Peter's upper chest. She looked
back up at his face. From the moment she had
first glimpsed Peter, she had thought he was
handsome and the impression had only grown stronger
the closer they'd gotten. But he was beyond
handsome... In the moonlight, with his gaze so
intent yet gentle and his hair windblown, Emma
realized how sexy he was. She wanted him...
not just for a friend, not just for a roommate, not
even just for a fiance. She desired him as her
husband and lover.
But still the latter terrified her...
Though maybe not quite as much as it had even an
hour ago... Her face flushed as she briefly
imagined them together in his... their... bed.
"I... I see... something," she replied.
"Something... good. I just..." Emma felt
as if her head was spinning and her heart might
pound out of her chest. "I need a little time
to... think about it. Then... we can talk?"
Letting out a relieved sigh, Peter nodded.
"Sure. Okay. I... Emma, I'm glad
you see something good." He kissed her
Emma moved so that her head was nestled beneath his
Peter rested his cheek against her hair and stroked
her back. He startled when Emma jolted.
"Ice cream! We had ice cream!"
Peter laughed. "Oh right..."
They both reached for their largely melted sundaes
"Still good... soupy," Emma opined.
After they'd both taken in a few slurps, Emma
reached over and cupped Peter's chin.
"I'm going to marry you," she asserted.
Peter buried a hand in her hair.
"Good... because I'm going to marry you, too."
The couple smiled then, leaning against each other,
finished their sundaes in companionable silence.
Sunday, July 19th
Emma sat on the back porch of the Friends' cabin, admiring the
view, as she thought over the past two days. During the
ride home on Friday night, she and Peter had stuck to talking
about plans for the theatre's upcoming season. The
previous day, they'd been inseparable at the Western North
Carolina Nature Center. The feelings that had surfaced
on Friday night hadn't left Emma. They had, however,
begun to feel even less frightening, especially after they'd
enjoyed breakfast as a group that morning. Zeke and
Diana, Kemara and Sean, Kylie and Clay... they had made
marriage work. Granted, none of them shared her sordid
background but she'd also gotten the impression... and in some
cases outright knew... that at least one, if not both parties,
had arrived at their marriage beds far from virginal and
baggage-free. There was hope...
Emma was ruminating over this when someone squeezed her
shoulders. Turning around, she saw Kylie.
"Hey, Emma! Did you lose Peter to the group who went to
get movie snacks for tonight?"
Laughing, Emma nodded.
Kylie took a seat beside her.
"Clay went, too. He said it was to keep Caleb in line
but I think he just wanted to be sure they get graham crackers
and frosting. He's been craving them."
"Isn't that how you two met?"
Kylie blushed and nodded.
"Yep. I was making graham cracker and frosting
sandwiches in the kitchen of the veterans' hospital, with
Adam, and Clay came looking for some more and..."
"And the rest is history!" Emma finished with a wide
smile. She squeezed her friend's hand. "So, umm,
how's the cabin?"
"So nice! C'mon, I'll show you!"
"Oh, I don't want to..."
"It's okay. Really! Kemara and Sean decorated it
so nicely and, of course, the twins' beautiful path..."
Kylie helped Emma to her feet and the two headed down the
twinkle light lined walk. After Kylie had unlocked the
door, the two stepped inside.
"Aww..." Emma admired the rustic yet beautiful
cabin. Her eyes landed on a sign posted above the bed
that read 'And they lived happily ever after...' with Clay's
and Kylie's names and wedding date beneath it.
"An Andrew and Owen project," Kylie relayed.
"So sweet!" Emma approached the bed stand. "And
these candles look real but..."
"LED. Scented, though. Here." Kylie turned one on
and waved it beneath Emma's nose.
"Ooh... lilies and... maybe a little gardenia?"
"I think so. And this..." Kylie flicked on a lamp
that had a gauzy, rose-colored pashmina tossed over it.
"I'm totally stealing this idea for our bedroom. Perfect
Emma giggled then hugged her friend.
"I love seeing you so happy, Ky!"
"I love being so happy. And Clay and I are so grateful
to all of you. This..." Kylie waved around the
room. "I mean we would have been happy with the
smallest, plainest room in the big cabin. This never
even occurred to us!"
"We all wanted to get it for you the minute we saw that the
owner was offering this one, too. We had to celebrate
you two! Of the three of us couples who got engaged one
right after another, you and Clay are... are the first to...
to actually get married." Emma bit her lip.
Hearing the catch in Emma's voice, Kylie led her to a bench
that was situated against one wall. They sat down
together and Kylie hugged Emma's shoulders.
"Have you and Peter talked any more about setting a date?"
"No... The Wednesday before we left, I talked to Dr.
Sayer about it and there's stuff Peter and I need to talk
about but I didn't want to bring anything up before vacation
and put a damper on it if things got weird or awkward or just
sad. The thing is... I really believe that if I said to
Peter 'Let's elope tomorrow!' then he would. Well, he'd
probably want to wait just long enough for his family to come
along. It's just... me."
"And he understands that, Emma. You know he does."
Emma nodded then, with a flushed face, peered into her
"Can I ask you something really personal? You won't have
"Sure. Go ahead."
"How was your wedding night? I mean... I don't want
details! I just mean... did it go okay? Or... or
did you have flashbacks to Jett or..."
Kylie smoothed some hair behind Emma's ear.
"It was really beautiful, Emma. And I did think about
Jett briefly. I thought about how nervous I was that
first night with him... and how I wasn't nervous with
Clay. And I thought about how I'd had sex lots of times
but... but with Clay I felt like I was making love for the
first time. I felt safe and cherished."
Emma watched as Kylie reached for what was, presumably, one of
Clay's shirts and began to caress it.
"I talked about it with Clay a few days later," Kylie
continued. "I told him how surprised I was when I found
that I really, really wanted to have sex with him. With
Jett, it was always so wrapped up in duty and... well, just
trying to keep him calm and happy. But with Clay... it
was just about Clay and me and how God gave us this love that
somehow... It's not like it made all of the pain of the
past go away. I still feel sad when I think of how
things were with Jett and me... who I was when I was with
him. Not really myself. And... and it makes me sad
to think of Joshua... and to a lesser extent, Adam... having
to see that. But it's a... less lonely sad, I
guess. Because I know I can tell Clay all of that and
he'll listen and hold me and then the past doesn't seem so
"That sounds... really beautiful."
"It has been. But, Emma, it's different for
everyone. You know how much I'd love to see you and
Peter married but I don't want what I just said to hurry you
into it if you're not ready. That's the last thing any
of us would want. Peter included."
"I know... And that's just it. I... I feel like
it's all about me. And I don't want it to be all about
me!" Emma stressed.
Kylie played with a button on Clay's shirt as she tried to
think of how to say what she felt without offending her
"I guess I just see it like... well, like..."
Emma rested her hand over Kylie's.
"Just say it. Please."
"I mean what if Peter had, say, leukemia. Then don't you
think you would go out of your way and even make sacrifices
just to be sure he felt as good as he possibly could?"
Emma swallowed the lump in her throat. The idea of Peter
being sick devastated her. She nodded.
"Even if you really, really wanted to, say, go to Coney Island
but Peter was feeling awful and wanted you near, you'd stay
home with him, wouldn't you?"
"It's just... you've struggled for a long time, Emma.
And, like with cancer, the treatment has its own pain and
negative side effects... in this case having to truly face and
talk about what happened with Derek. And just as you
would do or not do whatever you could to help Peter in that
hopefully-never-to-happen scenario, Peter is going to do or
not do whatever he can for you. That's okay.
Because there may come a time when you're going to need to
give everything you can to him. 'For better and for
worse' doesn't necessarily mean the better times and the worse
times are going to be the same times for both people.
Sometimes taking that vow means slowing down even when one's
own preference might be to go full speed ahead. And
that's okay. I don't think it's at all a bad thing that
you and Peter are learning that before you get married."
"That makes sense. Thanks."
Kylie hugged Emma tightly.
"Peter loves you so much. Everyone can see it. And
a lot of us still remember how he was when we first met
him. Emma, it's like... he's come back to life.
That's no small thing. Sure, he wants to get
married! But he's not unhappy now. You have to
Emma's mind flooded with memories of laughter filled candlelit
meals, dancing on their balcony, and chores at the theatre
which often turned into spirited games of
hide-and-go-seek. No, Peter wasn't unhappy.
"I am going to give you some advice, though..." Kylie warned.
Emma smiled. "Which is?"
"Don't get so worked up about the wedding night. For all
you know, the both of you are going to dance until three in
the morning and then pass out. And that's fine!
It's not like if things don't happen that night, you're
doomed. In fact, I think in that case you'd do better to
wait. Who wants to spend their first time with someone
thinking 'I just wanna go to sleep!'"
With a giggle, Emma nodded.
"Whatever happens and whenever... it'll be fine, Emma," Kylie
comforted. "You'll see."
Emma gazed down at her engagement ring. So
perfect... Peter, even without much help from Joshua,
had known exactly what sort of ring she would want. She
knew she could trust him to honor her needs and wants
throughout their marriage.
"Do you know how long Last of the Mohicans is?" Emma
"Two hours, I think. Why?"
"We watched it in high school but I couldn't remember and I
was hoping maybe it wouldn't go too late and Peter and I could
have a talk afterwards."
A smile spread across Kylie's face.
"If we stick with our plan to start at 8:00, it'd only be just
after 10:00..." she reasoned.
"Yeah..." Emma's own face brightened.
Smiling, they two women embraced each other.
Peter began to feel uneasy as the scene unfolded.
Alice edged closer to the cliff.
Alice looked at the rocks beneath her.
"I need some fresh air!" Emma cried, bolting from her seat
beside Peter and dashing out the door and into the dimly lit
Andrew scrambled to stop the movie and Kylie hurried to her
Peter rose and shook his head.
"No, keep watching. Please. I think we need some
time... just the two of us."
"I'm sorry!" Kemara apologized. "I wasn't sure about
this and tried to feel her out earlier."
Peter smiled sadly and patted the woman's shoulder.
"I know. I brought it up, too. Don't worry.
She'll be fine. We'll be back later."
Just before he stepped outside, Peter heard Zeke suggest that
they all take a few moments to pray. The knowledge that
the Friends were praying for them calmed Peter.
"Emma?" he called, surprised that she wasn't on the
Peter glimpsed Emma peeking around the back corner of the
cabin. He hastened down the steps and joined her.
"I... I just didn't want anyone to see me," she explained.
"Are you okay with me being here?" Peter checked.
"This side is Andrew's and JenniAnn's room, right?"
"Yeah. The kids are on the other side. And Andrew
and JenniAnn are upstairs so this is pretty private."
Peter was glad that there was a bench nearby. Emma
looked shaky on her feet.
"How about we sit down?"
After giving a nod, Emma allowed Peter to escort her to the
bench. To his surprise, she motioned for him to sit down
first. He obeyed and was further surprised when his
fiancee settled onto his lap and hugged her knees.
"Hold me. Tightly."
Peter wrapped his arms around her and rested his chin on her
hair. He listened as Emma began to perform some of the
breathing exercises that Dr. Sayer had taught her.
Having her so close, Peter could feel how tense Emma's body
was. Clearly she'd had a flashback. Wanting to
help, Peter dug his right palm into his fiancee's back and
began to knead. Emma moaned softly.
"Do you want me to stop, sweetheart?"
"No," came her response, muffled by her knee.
Peter's focus shifted to her left shoulder and then her
right. Gradually, Emma unwound from the tight ball she'd
put herself in. With greater range of motion, Peter
reached for her neck and gently massaged it. He stopped
for a moment when Emma gasped.
For a split second, Emma found herself back in the alley near
Dusty's. Derek groped her and his hand drifted from over
her mouth to her neck. Then, just as quickly as it had
surfaced, the memory was gone. It was only her and Peter
and he was taking care of her. He was loving her.
She sighed and reached back to squeeze his hand.
Peter continued his ministrations. He pushed some hair
away and lightly kissed the nape of his beloved's neck.
After a few more moments, Emma swiveled and covered Peter's
face in kisses before pressing her lips to his.
"Emma..." Peter murmured when they broke apart. He
caressed her cheek and held her gaze for a long moment.
Seeing a look of love that was rivaled only by Joshua's, Emma
knew she could no longer hold anything back.
"I... I want to talk, Peter mine. To... to tell you
"And I will listen... to every word, my Emma," Peter vowed.
Emma settled beside him and rested her head on his
shoulder. She couldn't quite bear seeing into Peter's
eyes as she spoke.
"I remembered that part in the movie," Emma began.
"Mostly. I knew that Alice jumped... I knew the subtext
was that Magua was going to hurt her... probably rape her...
if she didn't get away. But I didn't think I'd get that
upset. After all, that was nothing like what happened
with Derek. But... but then when he waved for her to
come towards him... I... A memory hit me really
strongly. That... that first time... Derek kissed
me and... and I... I was so shocked that... that I couldn't
move a-and didn't pull away. Not even when he kissed me
again. Then he... he started to undo my top and... and I
backed away then. I said it was wrong but he... he said
it was right and that he loved me and he asked me if I loved
him and I... I felt so badly for him. He looked so
sad... I... I said yes. I tried to say that I
wasn't in love with him but then Derek... he talked about all
the help he'd given me. He said that he'd done it all to
show me he loved me and now... now I should show him that I
Tears poured down Peter's cheeks. He longed to console
his fiancee but he knew she had to be allowed to speak without
"Derek beckoned for me and I... I came closer again. He
kissed me and... and then he... he led me into the guest
bedroom and... and said he felt so blessed that... that this
was finally happening. A-and he actually used that
Peter gripped the arm of the bench until his knuckles turned
Emma stared straight ahead as she continued.
"He finished getting my shirt off a-and then my bra and...
everything. He told me to lay down and then he... took
off his clothes and then he kissed me a few more times and
asked if I was nervous and I said yes. He asked if I was
sure I wanted to do this and... and I nodded because... cause
what if I said no? I'd already kissed a married man
a-and he'd seen me naked and he did... he did say he loved
me. Then it started. I... I was just in shock that
it was happening. How... how would that be
happening? Derek wasn't violent or forceful but I did
nothing to... to stop him."
Peter opened his mouth to offer a defense, to remind Emma of
how young she had been and how manipulative Derek was.
However, he stopped himself. Emma needed to say those
words... and, more importantly, she needed to recognize how
true they were.
"After that, he justified what was happening by... by saying
that Jodi didn't love him any more and that they hadn't had
sex since Zoe was born. He said that wasn't normal a-and
what we had was normal. And one day, after he felt he'd
built up enough of a case to get sole custody, he'd divorce
her and... and we'd get married and raise the girls. And
I know it sounds absolutely crazy that I believed that but..."
Peter shook his head.
"No, no it doesn't, sweetheart."
While maintaining a calm, soothing veneer, Peter
inwardly seethed. As repulsive as it all was, that Derek
had used Emma's love for Joccy and Zoe, and the promise of a
future with them, to harm her made it even worse.
"He was the first person in a long time to... to tell me he
loved me," Emma explained. "And... and, at the time, all
the weirdness and the embarrassment and the discomfort seemed
worth it... for that. So I... I would go when he'd call
and say to... to meet him somewhere. And for the first
month or so... at times I actually... I felt good a-and loved
and... and valued."
Emma let out a shuddering breath.
Peter tightly clasped her hand.
"Then Derek... One day, he told me to tell my mom that
he and Jodi were going away overnight and I needed to babysit
until the morning. But it was... was us who went to a
hotel. We had sex and then... then Derek said he wanted
us to watch a movie. It... it was an adult movie and
really... really bad. And afterwards, he... he said he
wanted to... to try some of what we'd seen. So... so...
he p-pushed me to my... my knees a-and told me to...
Emma burst off the bench then looked around, her eyes wild and
With blurred vision, Peter watched as she grabbed a log and
began to swing it at the hillside behind the house. He
let her take a few swings but when the hits became more
erratic, Peter wrested away the log and enclosed Emma in his
"You're safe, sweetheart. I have you now. No... no
one is ever going to make you do anything you don't want to
do. Never again," he promised.
"I... I didn't want to do it!" Emma wailed. "I... I
threw up right after a-and... and he told me to stop being
a... a baby."
As Peter stroked Emma's hair while she nuzzled his neck, the
thought occurred to him that Joshua may have sequestered Derek
in a monastery as much to keep him from wreaking vengeance as
to get the man to repent and leave Emma alone. The last thing Emma needed was
to testify at a trial if he'd attacked Derek. Peter said a silent prayer to
Joshua, thanking him for his wisdom and asking him to take
away the hate and anger in his heart.
Peter led Emma back to the bench. She spent a few
moments doing more breathing exercising before continuing.
"After that... he... he was out of control. Sometimes
he... he'd come home early when I was babysitting a-and tell
me to put Zoe in her playpen and get Joccy settled with a
movie and then we'd go into the guest room and... and...
It... it would be so awful when one of the girls would start
crying a-and he wouldn't let me go. And I know you're
probably wondering why I didn't run then..."
Peter once again struggled to bite his tongue.
"But he still told me he loved me and in some weird way... I
needed to hear that even more because I felt even worse about
myself and... I... I didn't think anyone else would ever want
me if... if they found out."
Peter tenderly caressed Emma's tear soaked face.
"I want you, Emma. I love you. There's a whole
cabin full of people here who love you. And a lot of
people Up There who love you, too."
Emma peered at the stars that Peter was pointing to. She
managed a smile before letting out a shaky breath.
"He... he was very, very wrong."
"I... I felt indebted... he made me feel indebted... and then
he used that debt to... to get me to do what he wanted...
when-whenever he wanted. A-and he never loved me at
all. He... he lusted. Because if he'd really loved
me, he wouldn't have made me do what I didn't want to do a-and
he wouldn't have called me a baby when... when I didn't like
it. And he didn't let... let me take... take care of...
of the girls who... who I did truly love. Do...
love. He used them, t-too. To string me
a-along. But then... then I ended up losing them for...
for so long because of... of what we did... And he made
me scared... scared that if I got too... too close to anyone
then... then they would start... start demanding things
that... that made me feel bad. Then they would belittle
me a-and not respect me and... and use me. B-but why...
why didn't I break off contact after... after that first
time?" Emma implored.
Relieved that she was finally looking into his eyes, Peter
kept his own eyes locked on his fiancee's as he spoke.
"Because you did love Derek, Emma. I believe that you
weren't in love with him. I completely do. But
this is someone who had been kind to you, someone who had a
place of honor in your school and church, someone whose
daughters you adored. He made it incredibly hard for you
to break away. And don't you think he knew exactly what
he was doing when he took your virginity? Derek knew
what sort of education you were being given... complete with a
handful of toxic messages. And he knew you would feel
guilty and sinful. You said it yourself earlier.
You already felt guilty for the kisses and for him seeing you
naked. He created a scenario where you would already
feel tainted. Because he knew that would make it harder
for you to say no and even harder... impossible... for you to
tell someone and get help. But, sweetheart, you were not
tainted. God wept over the sin that was being committed
against you. You know He did, Emma."
Emma nodded and rested her forehead against Peter's.
Burying his hands in her hair, Peter continued.
"And I am so, so sorry for how much you suffered. And I
want to spend the rest of my life doing the best that I can
to... to keep you from further suffering. I... I know I
won't always be able to do it. But I will try. I
swear to you, Emma, that nothing you've said tonight has
changed how much I love you... how wonderful I think you
are. I... I still want to marry you. So
much. And I promise that... that when that day comes and
with every day we're married, I will never, ever ask you to do
anything... anything at all... that makes you feel less than
the extraordinary, beloved woman you are."
"A-and what if... if there are some things I... I can never
do?" Emma questioned.
"Then I'll do without them and continue to feel very grateful
for my wife." Peter cradled her face. "I love
you... so much."
"I... I love you, too, Peter. With... with all my heart
a-and soul," Emma replied before throwing her arms around him.
The couple held their embrace for several moments, drinking in
the other's presence.
Emma let out a wearied sigh.
Peter rubbed her back as he spoke.
"Do you think maybe we should head inside? I'm sure
"Yeah... And I think we maybe have Clay and Kylie held
hostage in there. I don't want to keep them from their
cabin any longer." Emma turned and smiled at the
structure just down the little hill. Then her face
clouded. "But... but I'm scared to go to sleep.
A-and I love Rose but... I... I don't want to tell her why I'm
upset if... if I have a nightmare tonight when... when it's
all so... fresh."
Peter helped Emma to her feet.
"We'll figure something out. Let's see what's going on
Holding hands, the two made their way back inside the
cabin. They found the main room cleared out except for
Clay, Diana, Zeke, and Kylie who had Manny in her arms.
"Hi," Peter greeted.
Diana was the first to her feet and hugged the two, kissing
"Hi," she replied. "How are you doing, sweetie?"
"Better." Emma looked to Peter with a teary smile.
"Sorry if we..."
Diana shook her head.
"Everything's just fine here. We all... we prayed for
"Thank you," Emma whispered as she hugged her.
Peter followed with his own hug.
"Is everyone else in their rooms?"
"Yes," Zeke answered as he approached. "They asked us to
text them when you were back in, though. Is that okay?"
"Of course," Emma agreed. She was touched that they were
all waiting up. Peeking around the Wilsons, Emma smiled
at the Stanfords.
"I'm sorry if you two felt that you couldn't go out to your
cabin," she apologized.
Kylie returned Manny to Diana then hugged her friend.
"It was just fine. I enjoyed my time with the little
man. A lot. I... I just hope that... that your
talk went well."
Emma linked her arm around Peter's waist and nodded.
"It was... healing. But now... now I'm really tired
"After the movie, Rose went downstairs to check on the kids
and she decided to stay with the girls tonight," Kylie
Emma cringed. "I hope she didn't feel like she needed
"Not at all," Kylie assured. "But..." She leaned
in closer so only Emma and Peter could hear. "She knows
that sometimes it helps to have your fiance near. Andrew
has a sleeping bag that he hasn't used. It's in
there. Not that anyone thinks Peter needs to use it
but... just in case."
Emma glanced at Peter who only smiled gently at her. She
knew this was her call to make.
"That, umm... actually, that might be perfect."
"Sounds good to me," Peter assented.
Kylie hugged them both.
"Then we'll let you both get to bed."
A round of hugs and well wishes began.
"Sleep well," Clay wished. "You'll be in our prayers."
Kylie took his hand and nodded.
"Thank you," Peter replied, reaching over to squeeze Clay's
Zeke gave Emma and Peter bear hugs.
"I love you both... Joshua loves you best of all. I'll
pray that you feel him near tonight."
"Th-thank you," Emma choked out. "Love you, too.
All of you."
"Very much," Peter added.
After Zeke took Manny, Diana gave the couple hugs, too, and
looked intently into their eyes.
"You let me know if there's anything you need. We'll
keep the phone nearby. Just text if you want your spiced
milk or anything." Her eyes flitted back to Manny.
"I'm already on mom duty tonight so... I'd love to do that."
"Aww, thanks. We will," Emma assured. "G'night,
"See you in the morning."
Peter smiled at his friends then took Emma's hand and followed
her up the stairs. They separated for a few minutes to
change and get ready for bed. When he returned to Emma's
room, Peter found her standing in front of the window.
She turned and smiled at him.
After encircling his arms around her waist, Peter softly
Emma twisted around so she could rest her hand over his heart
and her head on his shoulder.
"I... I'm so tired that... that the words won't come," she
admitted. "Will you pray for us?"
"Sure." Peter kissed her hair then, looking back to the
night sky, began to pray. "God, thank You for helping
Emma to be so brave. Thank You for bringing us together
and for helping to build trust between us. Thank You,
too, for this amazing group of friends that You built up
around us. More than anything, we thank You for being
our Friend... who loves us best and first. Please,
continue to heal Emma and help me to know how I can best help
her. Because I... I love her and because she's helped
me... so much... to find beauty and excitement in life
again. We love You very, very much. Amen."
"We love You. Amen," Emma echoed.
Peter tightened his embrace for a moment then peered into
"Where would you like me to sleep? I'm fine with
Emma's face flushed.
"I... I'd like you to sleep with me but... but feeling like I
do tonight... I'm afraid everything is too... close to
the surface a-and I would maybe hurt you if I woke up a-and
was uncertain where I was and... and with who."
Peter nodded. "Good point."
"But... but I'm also afraid of... of being alone tonight."
"How about I put the sleeping bag right by your bed? If
you need me, you won't even need to get up to wake me.
"You're sure you'll be okay? It can't be very
"I'll be fine, Emma. C'mon, let's lay down."
As Peter unrolled the sleeping bag, Emma got settled into her
bed. When she was done, Peter crouched by her bedside
and kissed her forehead. He smiled when she clasped his
neck and guided his lips to hers.
"I love you, Peter," Emma murmured.
"And I love you, Emma. Remember, wake me up if..."
"Good night, sweetheart."
"Good night, Peter mine."
Once Peter was tucked into his sleeping bag, Emma turned off
the light. Peter closed his eyes but remained awake,
listening for Emma's breathing to settle into a steady
rhythm. Only then did he allow himself to drift to
Emma was relieved when she opened her eyes for the fifth time
and realized that, finally, it was daylight. Four times
nightmares had woken her up and, four times, Peter had helped
Peering over the edge of the bed, Emma saw that Peter was
still sleeping. She glanced at the clock and noted it
was just after 7:00. Unfortunately, they had to get up
soon. At least she could make waking up more pleasant...
After getting out of bed, Emma laid down bedside her fiance
and began to caress his face and hair.
Peter smiled before opening his eyes.
She moved in for a kiss which Peter readily welcomed.
Emma snuggled against him.
"It's 7:08. We should probably get up soon."
"Soon..." Peter echoed as he rested his cheek against her hair
and stroked her back.
Emma sighed with contentment.
"Thank you for getting up with me all those times."
"Of course. I just hope you're feeling okay."
"Better than okay. You?"
"Definitely better than okay. I got woken up in a very
Emma smiled and kissed him again.
"I have a request," she murmured.
"And what is your request?" Peter encouraged as he brushed
hair behind her ears.
"I'd like to spend a little time alone tonight... so we can
discuss a wedding date." Emma's eyes filled as she
looked into Peter's.
With tears in his own eyes, Peter nodded.
"I... I'd like that a lot. We'll make it happen."
After a third kiss, the couple cuddled for a few moments
longer before rising so they could get ready for an exciting
day at Chimney Rock with the Friends.
"Okay, ladies, smile on the count of three. One...
two... three," Peter counted off before snapping a photo of
Emma, Joccy, and Zoe in front of the flag atop Chimney
"Now one of you and Emma!" Zoe called before dashing towards
Peter and taking his camera. Her older sister moved
behind her and studied the couple.
"Aww! Now, Zoe!" Joccy directed.
With a click, Zoe captured a sweet image of Emma and Peter
looking at each other just as the flag unfurled in the wind.
Joining the two and peering over Zoe's shoulder, Emma's eyes
misted when she saw the picture.
"It's perfect." She embraced the two. "Thank you,
Joccy kept hold of her arm and Zoe grabbed Peter's. They
led them out of the way of the prime photo-taking spots.
"At lunch, we were talking to Andrew and JenniAnn and Zeke and
Diana and they were thinking that maybe it'd be fun to have a
picnic dinner at one of the parks near the cabin," Joccy
began. "So if you want to do that, that's totally
cool. But if you don't... Zoe and I would really like to
make dinner for you at the cabin."
"It would be romantic!" Zoe gushed. "We'd go to our room
after fixing it all up."
"Aww, girls..." Emma hugged them both.
"We really, really want to," Joccy stressed, sensing that Emma
was going to turn them down.
Emma glanced at Peter who nodded.
"That would be very nice," Emma assented. "I love that
idea. But you don't have to eat in your..."
"We'll come up for dessert, maybe?" Joccy negotiated.
"I think they're pretty set on a romantic dinner for two,
"Yep!" Zoe verified. She grinned at Emma then grew more
serious. "It's just... we've been able to tell that...
that you've been sad sometimes and maybe... maybe having us
around is a little hard and..."
Emma shook her head and wrapped an arm around each of the
"No, no. Not at all. Seeing you and spending this
time with you makes me very, very happy." Emma lowered
her voice. "You know that what happened between your dad
and me... that's completely separate from what I feel about
you girls. I love you so much! But... I have been
having some personal issues. Peter and I... we've been
working on those a lot and I'm getting so much better!
In fact, we were hoping to have another talk tonight so your
dinner idea is absolutely perfect!"
"It really is," Peter agreed as he squeezed the girls'
shoulders. "Thank you. I'm really looking forward
"Yay!" Zoe cheered. "We want to make this really yummy
pasta recipe that our grandma taught us. Do you like
ricotta and tomatoes?"
"That we do," Peter assured. "But I don't think we have
ricotta at the cabin."
"Andrew said he'd take us to the store," Joccy relayed.
"He has to go after we leave here, anyway, because Belle needs
more juice. He says she's suddenly decided she doesn't
like apple juice and wants grape juice."
Emma laughed. "Reminds me of when someone
suddenly decided she'd start throwing her cup whenever I gave
her milk instead of the Juicy Juice she really wanted."
Zoe giggled when her babysitter playfully glared at her.
She continued to laugh when something caught her eye.
Following her gaze, the other three saw Andrew come trudging
up the last of the steps with Belle on his back. A
wearied but far less exhausted JenniAnn was just behind them.
"Thank... You... God..." the angel of death got out as he
huffed and puffed.
"Pitty!" Belle shrieked when she saw the flag.
"Okay, okay!" JenniAnn began to remove Belle from the
carrier. "We'll look at the flag while Daddy takes a
much needed and much deserved rest."
Peter and the girls shifted so Andrew could take a seat beside
"Thanks." He took a long sip from his water bottle then
whispered to Zoe who was nearest.
"Yep! They agreed. But are you going to feel up to
going to the store?"
"Oh, yeah." Andrew nodded. "Just remind me to get
ice packs, lots and lots of ice packs."
Peter grinned at him. "You're a very good daddy,
Andrew. Now, as soon as you can stand again, get up
there. We need a picture of you three by the flag."
With a smile, Andrew nodded.
"That would be nice. There's a break in the crowd so I
can do it now." He got back onto his feet. "Laja,
let's do a photo."
Once the three were posed, Peter took a couple photos.
Turning back to where the girls were, he was struck by how at
ease they seemed. Zoe's head was resting on Emma's
shoulder and Emma was redoing Joccy's ponytail so she wouldn't
have hair sticking to her neck. Peter took a candid shot
then continued to admire the tableau. Not wanting to
upset the teenagers, Peter fought back tears as he reflected
on how truly beautiful his fiancee was.
Emma took a break between bites of her pasta and smiled at
Peter who was clearly enjoying the dish.
"Joccy and Zoe sure know how to cook," Peter praised.
Emma nodded. "I'm just glad they're getting to spend so
much time with their grandma. I only met her a couple of
times but she just lights up a room."
"They've changed a lot... for the better... since I first met
them that day they came to Adrian's. They were so shy."
Emma glanced around to be sure neither Joccy nor Zoe happened
to have come back upstairs.
"Shell-shocked, I think. Little things they say
sometimes make... make me realize how unhappy their home life
was. And lonely... It does make me so glad to see
how they've fit in with the other girls. Girlfriends are
a great thing to have. I sometimes wonder how things
would have been if I'd had a few really good friends back in
high school. But I do now... and now is what
matters. And the future, too."
Sensing the conversation had taken a turn, Peter reached
across the table and squeezed Emma's hand.
"I really would like to set a wedding date," Emma began.
"Me too. Very much."
"Did you have any in mind?"
"Why don't you pick and I'll be sure to clear my calendar
accordingly," Peter teased.
With a grin, Emma continued. "Well... Rose made a strong
case for June 4th. And I do really like the idea of a
June wedding. And while I'm tempted to... to speed it
up, I also like the idea of having time to actually
plan. It's like Liam said. A lot of the fun is in
the expectation. Of course, I would want to double check
with Max before telling everyone... just in case he thinks
it's too close to their date... although I'm sure Rose knows
his feelings on the matter. But first... What do
Peter rose and crouched beside Emma, taking both of her hands
"Nothing would make me happier than marrying you on June 4th,
Emma knelt in front of her fiance and caressed his face.
"Thank you for... for being so patient and compassionate...
for loving me even... even when it must have been really
"Emma..." Peter shook his head. "It was
al-always... worth it."
Emma sighed when he brought her hand to rest over his
heart. She moved in to kiss him, wrapping her arms
around his neck.
"You think we could call Max now?" she asked when they were
Peter nodded. "We can try!" He pulled out his
phone and dialed then put it on speaker phone.
"This is Max."
"Hey, Max. It's Peter. And Emma. Any chance
we could ask you and Rose something and, umm, is there any way
you could be sure the others don't hear?"
"Sure. Most everyone's at the playground area. Let
me grab Rose and head to one of the gazebos. I hope this
is what I think it is..."
Emma and Peter smiled at each other, listening as Max fetched
"It's Emma and Peter. They need to talk to us... yeah,
just us. Let's head to the gazebo for privacy."
After some shuffling noise, they heard Rose's voice.
"Hi! How's the romantic dinner?"
"Delicious and romantic," Emma replied. "And the
"Fun. But not very romantic and pretty loud."
"Maja and Dad had to deal with a little bit of a meltdown when
someone wanted to play before eating... but Violeta's
Laughing, Emma and Peter envisioned Belle pitching a righteous
"So..." Max prodded. "Should I make sure I'm not
scheduled at the comic book store on June 4th?"
"Max! Don't be so pushy!" Rose protested. "They
could be calling about anything. But it's about
that? Isn't it? Huh? Huh?"
Their eyes alight with amusement and joy, Emma and Peter could
only smile for a few moments. Finally, Emma spoke.
"Yes... We're calling just to make absolutely sure that
you're both fine with us getting married three weeks before
"To be honest, I'm really touched that you even asked us," Max
replied. "But since you did... yes!
Definitely! Rose mentioned that there was a chance and
I've been hoping ever since. Congratulations!"
"So happy for you!" Rose gushed. "And we absolutely
promise we won't tell anyone but... please don't make us hold
this in for too long. Please?"
Peter chuckled. "We wouldn't think of it. I think
we need to tell Joccy and Zoe and then, of course, call my
family. Dusty, Doug, and Samson, too. But we
should have those calls done by the time you're all home and
then we'll tell everyone. Sound good?" he checked with
"I can't wait til June..." Rose sighed.
Emma beamed at Peter.
"It... it'll be something... something wonderful," Max agreed.
There was a long pause and Emma and Peter got the idea that
Max and Rose would likely appreciate a bit of alone time in
the gazebo. And they had news to spread!
"Thank you both so much," Peter told the couple. "We'll
let you go now so we can start those calls. See you
"Yay!" Rose cheered. "Enjoy!"
"We will," Emma assured.
"Have fun! Talk to you later!" Max replied.
When the call ended, Emma and Peter peered at each other.
"Should we call the girls up?" she checked.
"Actually... looks like they texted us while we were
talking. They want to know if we're ready for dessert."
"Can you tell them we are so they'll come up?"
"Definitely." Peter typed a quick message.
Only a few seconds passed before they heard footsteps coming
up the stairs.
"How was dinner?" Joccy asked.
"Absolutely delicious!" Peter gushed. "It makes me very
excited for dessert."
"But first..." Emma reached out and took the girls'
hands. "Peter and I have something we want to tell you."
The sisters exchanged a quick, hopeful look.
Peter stepped nearer and wrapped an arm around Emma's waist.
"Joccy... Zoe... Peter and I are getting married on June 4th
of next year."
The announcement was met with screeching and clapping.
Both girls hugged Emma first then moved to Peter before
deciding a four-person hug was the best way to show their
"I'm so happy for you both!" Zoe cried.
Joccy's eyes filled. "So happy..." she echoed.
"I... I just wanted you to... to be happy, Emma. A-and
Peter... you're so great and... this is... is perfect."
"Aww, sweetie..." Emma kissed her hair. "Thank
Peter patted her on the back.
"That means a lot to me, Joccy and Zoe. Both of you
girls mean a lot to me and Emma and I are so happy that you're
with us now to celebrate."
Emma sniffled when both girls hugged Peter.
"I need a photo."
"But then we need a photo of you and Peter! To remember
tonight!" Zoe insisted.
"Absolutely," Emma agreed. "Now, one, two, three..."
Emma's eyes filled when she looked at the three smiling faces
on her phone. For a moment, she remembered Derek's false
promise: to marry her and raise the girls with her.
After drawing in and letting out a deep breath, Emma
beamed. Joshua's plan was so much better. She was
going to marry the man she truly loved and who truly loved her
and, together, they would help raise Joccy and Zoe.
"Can I have a print?" Joccy quietly asked as she peeked over
After Emma had given Joccy an affectionate squeeze, Zoe
grabbed her hand and led her back towards Peter.
"Picture then dessert!"
Emma and Peter happily posed for the teens then joined them
for brownie sundaes.
As they sat around the table, wedding planning began.
"Will you get married in your church?" Zoe asked. "Or
"I think it'd be cool to get married in the theatre," Joccy
Struck, Emma and Peter glanced at each other.
"I love that! Getting married where we met..."
Emma began to dreamily imagine it.
"And the setup's perfect. We have seating, an aisle, the
lobby for the reception... And it... it's also where we
"Do you think Joshua will be there?" Zoe asked after loading
up her spoon with ice cream, brownie, whipped cream,
sprinkles, and chocolate sauce.
"I really hope so," Emma responded. "He's two for two on
Zoe sighed. "It'd be so nice to see him again."
Joccy silently nodded as a lump formed in her throat.
"I wish he was here now. Physically, I mean. He'd
be all over this sundae bar."
The girls met Peter's remark with laughter then began to joke
about ways to integrate Froot Loops into wedding fare.
By the time they started their phone calls, Emma's and Peter's
cheeks were sore from all the smiling and laughing they'd
Dr. Sayer smiled when she stepped into the waiting area of her
office and found Emma perusing a wedding magazine. It
had become a common sight since Emma and Peter had returned
from their vacation two months before.
"Emma, are you ready to come on in?"
Emma stuck a bookmark in the magazine and followed her
psychiatrist into the counseling room.
"So have you found any good ideas?"
"Well, I saw where, for favors, the bride and groom loaded
mason jars with jam they'd made. I don't know anything
about making jam but Peter and I make our own salsa
sometimes... mango, pineapple, corn, traditional... That
seems like it'd be fun."
"I definitely wouldn't complain! Sounds delicious."
"It is!" Emma smiled. "Maybe Mama and Abuela could
Dr. Sayer looked up from her notes.
Emma's face flushed slightly.
"Peter's mother asked me if I would have any interest in
calling her Mama... like Peter does. At first I was a
little taken aback but... but I like having a mom again.
And Mama just seems more... right than Rosario at this
point. We've talked a lot. Actually... The
reason I couldn't make my appointment last week is she and
Abuela... Renata... flew up to spend some time with Peter and
me... mostly me. It was more time than we'd ever spent
together, just the three of us, and... and I ended up telling
them everything. It was easier than when I told Peter...
I guess cause I'd already done it once... but still
hard. But they both hugged me so tight and cried with
me. I haven't felt that sort of love since the last time
Joshua's mother was in town. I talk to her... to
Maryam... all the time but it's nice to have a couple mother
figures who I'll be able to see more often."
"That's wonderful, Emma. I'm very happy for you and that
you could tell Peter's mother and grandmother about what
happened shows how much progress you've made.
"Thank you. I couldn't have done it without you and so
many others," Emma demurred.
"I believe that's why we're put on this Earth. To help
each other. I happen to know you do a lot of helping,
too, Emma," Dr. Sayer reminded.
"I really try."
"And it shows. So did you do any wedding planning or
shopping when your Mama and Abuela came to town?"
"A little. We bought some things for decorations and
browsed dresses just a little bit."
"And how was that? Have you felt at all stressed?"
"Oh no. Not about the wedding. It helps to think
about how we're getting married in a place I feel so
comfortable in. St. G's really is like a second
home. And Dusty, my boss, is insisting on doing the
catering. No charge. That's his gift to us.
So... comfortable place, comfort food."
"Good! Any stress with the idea of marrying Peter, in
"Actually... a little. But in a good way, I think.
We're still really set on waiting until we're married.
But now that's... well, it feels more like resisting
temptation than nervousness or worry. I mean I'm still a
little nervous about having a flashback or something but... I
also feel excited. I trust Peter and I love Peter and
I'm excited to become even closer."
"That's wonderful, Emma! And a perfectly normal, healthy
way to feel. Your pre-wedding counseling is going okay?"
"Oh yeah. We have a couple friends, Zeke and Diana,
working with us on that. They've been married for almost
"This is 'Judas', right?"
Laughing, Emma nodded. "Right. And Diana played a
disciple our first year but she sat last year out because
their baby was still nursing and, well, it's kinda a
lot. Anyway, that's been great. And then I have
you and Peter talks with Fr. Mike who, actually, he just asked
to be his best man. I really, really like that
idea. Peter and I both have a history with the Catholic
Church... complicated ones. But we both took some really
beautiful things from it, too. I don't think I could
ever get married in the Church but having Fr. Mike there will
be a nice reminder of those beautiful parts."
"It sounds like it. It all sounds beautiful, Emma, and I
can't wait for the big day!"
For a split second, Dr. Sayer saw Emma's smile falter.
She reached out and clasped her hand.
"Emma... something's bothering you. What is it?"
After inhaling and exhaling deeply, Emma unloaded her latest
worries onto Dr. Sayer.
Emma twirled in front of one of the mirrors backstage,
admiring the royal blue and golden gown that Monica had made
"Oh... it's so beautiful! Actually... I wouldn't mind
something like this in ivory for my wedding."
"It could be done. What color would you want the satin
trim to be?"
Continuing to admire the dress, Emma thought.
"Green. Like the pashmina that goes with my Mary
Magdalene costume. It'd be nice to echo that. But
you don't have to worry about going to the trouble of making
my dress, Monica. Especially after all these costumes
and then with The Secret Garden to come! I'm
sure I'll find something to buy. This is so beautiful,
Sitting nearby, Kemara smiled.
"I don't know, Emma. Once one captures your heart, it's
hard to think of any other dress," she cautioned.
"But I'm sure it's fun to look," Monica offered.
"Still... if you don't find any that capture your heart, you
know where to find me."
Emma hugged the angel.
"Thank you. It really is... just absolutely
"You look gorgeous in it!" Kemara complimented. "You
should go see what Peter thinks."
With a grin, Emma nodded and moved to peek out onto the main
stage where Andrew was directing Caleb, Peter,and some of the
other guys in a sword fight. The angel of death smiled
when he saw her.
"All right, boys, let's pause it there. I think maybe
right now we're in need of a mood shift. Maybe some 'I
Loved You Once in Silence.' What do you think, Emma?"
Hearing his fiancee's name, Peter spun around to look for
her. His face lit up with a wide grin when he saw her.
"I think I would like that very much," Emma replied. "So
long as my knight agrees."
"Heartily, milady," Peter replied, reaching for her hand.
Eric, modeling his King Arthur garb, stepped over from the
other side of the stage. He smiled as he studied the
"Andrew, what do you say to an Act II edit where Guenevere and
Arthur have a very civil divorce, she and Lance marry, and
Arthur runs off with one of the most beautiful stagehands
Neela smiled from where she was seated in the first row.
"And Mordred sees the error of his ways and, I don't know,
maybe finds himself a really nice, cute audience member?"
Caleb added on.
Andrew chuckled. "I'd say I love it but I think Lerner
and Loewe may disagree. But I really do think we need to
give Jenny and Lance a moment. So everyone else clear
the stage, please."
The rest of the cast and crew moved quickly, excited to see
Emma and Peter perform as the star-crossed lovers for the
first time in costume.
"Let's start right with the song," Andrew suggested as he
looped his arm around JenniAnn's shoulders and balanced a CD
player on his lap.
"Got it," Peter responded.
Though the scene wasn't properly set for the ballad, Emma and
Peter took their places on either side of a riser, pretending
it was Guenevere's bed. Emma nodded to Andrew then,
gazing at Peter, whose head was in his hands, she began to
loved you once in silence and mis'ry was all I knew.
Trying so to keep my love from showing, all the while not
knowing you loved me, too.'"
Peter raised his head and gave her a tearful smile.
"'Yes, loved me in lonesome silence; your heart filled with
dark despair. Thinking love would flame in you forever,
and I'd never, never know the flame was there.'"
Emma slid closer and reached out to Peter who clasped her hand
in both of his.
"'Then one day we cast away our secret longing; the raging
tide we held inside would hold no more. The silence at
last was broken! We flung wide our prison door.
Ev'ry joyous word of love was spoken.'"
Peter's shoulders heaved. He enveloped Emma in his arms
then kissed her neck.
Emma shifted so their foreheads were touching. She
buried one hand in Peter's hair and used the other to lightly
stroke his back.
"'A-and now there's twice as much grief, twice the strain for
us; twice the despair, twice the pain for us as we had known
Peter kissed Emma who sunk against him for a few moments
before pushing away. She burst onto her feet and soon
Peter went after her and wrapped his arms around her waist,
resting his chin on her shoulder.
"'Jenny, it's because we're here, here in Camelot that
everything is so wretched.'"
"'Jenny, come away with me. To Joyous Gard. Let us
have it open and above board at last!'"
Emma wrested herself away from him.
"'Lance, I've told you a thousand times I shall never leave
Arthur. Ever! Now, let us say no more about it!'"
Peter stalked away from her and beat his hand against his
"'But this agonizing torment! Day after day, year after
year. Would God I had your talent for acceptance, your
invincible English calm!'"
With tears in her eyes, Emma spun around and glared.
"'Oh, the insensitivity of sensitive men! Always
suffering so much they can suffer nothing for others!
You think you're the only one in torment? I'm just as
tortured, just as anguished as you. But what would you
have us do to this man we both love? Run away?!
Leave him?! Make him publicly miserable?! Force
him to declare war on... on you, where either one of you...
if... if not both... would be killed, as well as hundreds of
others? What sort of heartbreaking solution is that?'"
Emma slumped onto a riser and began to sob.
Crestfallen, Peter knelt beside her and rested his head
against her knees.
"'Forgive me, Jenny. I shall never mention it
again. I swear. Nor shall I come to you
again. I... I swear that, too.'"
Sitting up, he brought her hand to his lips then moved to
Emma stood up and held her hand out.
Peter turned back to her.
"'Ha-have we no more tender words to say to each other?'"
Peter closed his eyes briefly then strode towards his beloved,
clasping her hands.
Emma offered him a teary smile
and resumed her song.
"'The silence at last was broken! We flung wide our
prison door. Ev'ry joyous word of love was spoken.'"
"'And after all had been said, here we are, my love,'"
Peter replied, reaching up to caress her cheek.
"'Silent once more, and not far, my love.'" Emma grabbed
his hand and covered it with kisses.
"'From where we were before,'" the couple finished together
before clutching each other in a passionate embrace.
The Friends were silent for a few moments before responding
with thunderous applause.
Emma and Peter, their arms about each other's waists, beamed.
"Thank you. Really felt that one!" Peter revealed.
"Very, very much," Emma agreed, giving him a quick peck.
Caleb raised his hand.
Andrew laughed. "Yes, Caleb?"
"I would like to conscientiously object to one of my duties in
this musical. Like that lady in the news. But not
illegally. And because I have really good reason."
"Oh no..." Edward muttered.
"And what is it you object to, Caleb?" Andrew prodded,
repressing his laughter since he couldn't tell if Caleb was
joking or genuinely distressed.
"I don't want to pull those two apart! Mordred
sucks! And what the hell was he doing slinking around a
lady's bedroom, anyway!? That's creepy!"
"Well... he is the villain," Sean pointed out.
"Still..." Caleb pouted.
Peter winked at Emma then, with her, descended the steps.
"Caleb, we hear your conscientious objection and will offer
you an accommodation. You have to pull Emma and me apart
at the end of this song. It's just... It's how
it's written. But then... we'd like you to DJ for our
wedding reception. So you'll get to setup the songs my
beautiful bride and I will dance to as we celebrate never
being parted. What do you think?"
Caleb beamed. "I definitely like the sounds of
that... Accommodation accepted!" He hugged Emma
and Peter tightly.
Andrew winked at JenniAnn and stood.
"I'm glad we have that settled. So now how about a
lighter, group song? Everyone up for 'Lusty Month of
The majority of the group hurried to the stage while Emma and
"I could get used to this look," Emma teased as she rested her
hand against the open neck of Peter's tunic.
"You're looking exceedingly beautiful yourself," Peter
replied. "And this material feels really nice."
"Uh huh..." Emma kissed him then hurried away and up the
steps, grinning at him from onstage.
Peter let out a deep breath and jolted slightly when Eric
clapped him on the back.
"We've all come a long way from those early JCS practices,
"A... a very long way," Peter agreed through the lump in his
"Thank Joshua for that."
The two men smiled at each other then moved offstage from
where they would enter as Arthur made the fateful introduction
of Lancelot and Guenevere.
Emma smiled when she heard singing coming from the costume
room. Stepping inside, she found Diana swaying with a
sleeping Manny in her arms.
Diana returned the younger woman's smile then gently laid her
son down in his playpen.
"Now to get back to arranging these costumes!" she whispered.
"You really don't have to. If you want to head home then
Diana shook her head. "Thank you but Zeke is hanging out
at True Light until dinner and Sy and Kendra went with Ivy and
Violeta to take Shelby to a movie for her birthday.
They'll probably have dinner at Willowveil so... Manny and I
are on our own until 7:00 or so. I wanted to try to get
these all sorted by character. You certainly have a lot
of costume changes, Queen Jenny."
Emma laughed. "I'm surprised Monica's fingers aren't all
pin pricked and bloody!"
"I suppose when you have hundreds of years of practice..."
"He went with Andrew and Owen to pick up some wood for the
sets. I was thinking of just heading back to our
apartment but when Kylie said you were in here..." Emma
stared down at her hands.
Diana placed a gentle hand on her friend's back.
"Emma, what is it?"
"It's something... kind of private that I was wondering
Diana waved to a faded but comfortable couch they kept in the
Emma sighed as she sat down.
Diana nodded. "She loved this old couch. She told
me it was the first piece of furniture she and Doug bought
They were both silent for a few moments as they remembered her
taking naps there on chemo days.
"Did you, umm, ever think it was odd they only had one kid?"
Emma queried. "I mean... they were so Catholic and...
and they loved Toby so much."
"They would have liked to have had other children but it just
didn't happen for them."
"Oh. Was there... something wrong?"
Diana peered at Emma, trying to figure out why she was
suddenly asking about Lucy and Doug.
"It... it's just... Back in May when I was maternity
clothes shopping with Kemara, Kylie, and Rose; I got to
thinking about how with... with all the guys I've been with...
and especially with Derek... I never had so much as a single
pregnancy scare. A-and with Derek... for a while I
wasn't even on birth control. And while I mostly had
safe sex after that... I... I mean... well, sometimes condoms
broke including with Er..."
Emma's face flushed.
Diana patted her on the back.
"With Eric. Sweetie, most of us suspected something had
happened between you two."
"It was just a one night stand. I swear!"
"Does Peter know?"
"Yeah. I told him before Eric even resurfaced.
Cause, well, he was the last person I was with..."
"And do you know if Neela knows?"
Emma nodded. "I asked Eric and he told her... also
before he showed back up."
"Well, if neither Peter nor Neela cares then there's no reason
for anyone else to," Diana consoled.
"Yeah..." Emma gave her a wavering smile.
"So are you worried that you're infertile?" Diana softly
With tears in her eyes, Emma nodded.
"Well, I don't think Lucy would mind me telling you that she
struggled with endometriosis. That's why she and Doug
only had Toby. Emma, you'd know if you had that.
Diana glanced up at the ceiling and smiled.
"I know it was a disappointment to her and Doug but they
didn't wallow over it," she assured. "They adored Toby
and then they had those three beautiful grandbabies. And
they had kids like you, Emma. So many St. G's babies!"
Emma smiled as she remembered Lucy's tenderness and Doug's
continued care for her.
"That's true. And we love them..."
"We do," Diana concurred. "You know, Zeke and I
struggled for a while. Hailey, Sy, and Kendra came so
easily! I'd always wanted to have four kids and Zeke
agreed but..." She looked over to Manny with glossy
eyes. "We just couldn't get pregnant again. The
doctors never could decide on a cause. We wouldn't have
Manny if Joshua hadn't..."
Emma hugged Diana.
After warmly returning the hug, Diana wiped at her tears and
smiled at Emma.
"My point is, even if something were wrong... it's not
hopeless, Emma. There are treatments... and
miracles. And other options like adoption. But I
also don't think it's good to get worked up when you're not
even sure you have a problem, sweetheart. You were under
duress when you were with Derek. Stress is never going
to be conducive to conception."
"Yeah... Kemara said that. And Dr. Sayer, too, when I
discussed this with her. But the other times..."
"I know what Derek did to you was awful. But I've also
gotten the impression that your other partners... your time
with them wasn't ideal. Would you say you were ever
unstressed when with them?"
Even though she hated revisiting those memories, Emma pushed
herself to. Eventually, she shook her head.
"No. Because I was always worried that... that I'd have
a flashback. Or... I... I slept with them because
I was scared of being alone because I knew what I did to
myself when I was alone." Briefly, Emma's hand rested
over her scars. "But then I... I also knew that
sometimes... sometimes they weren't good people to be
with. So I was scared of some of them, too."
"That may be the answer right there Emma. And you'd be
in a totally different, much better situation with
Peter. Still... I think for no other reason than peace
of mind, you should see a doctor. Have you?"
Emma bit her lip and shook her head.
"Not since this came up. I intended to after that talk
with the other girls. But... I actually went in
for a physical and pap smear and everything shortly after
Joshua left that first time. I didn't totally freak out
but I got really anxious and started shaking and everything
and it kind of weirded the doctor out," she admitted.
"I'm sorry to hear that but I'm glad you went then."
Diana squeezed her hand. "Everything was normal?"
"That's definitely a good sign. Do you think going to
Portia might help? I know it could be a little awkward
but I also think being with her might be less intimidating."
"I thought about that but if I still get worked up then Portia
might feel bad and..."
"Emma, Portia works with the Phoenix. I'm sure that
wouldn't be the first time she'd experience that," Diana
"Yeah... good point."
Diana could tell the prospect still made Emma nervous.
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"It's not going to be much of a fun outing," Emma fretted.
Diana gave her a sympathetic smile.
"No. But it's important."
"I do think you being there would make me less nervous," Emma
ventured. "You have such a calming presence."
"Thank you, sweetie. Do you want to try to call Portia
"Sure," Emma agreed with a nod.
When she didn't move, Diana reached for her own phone.
She dialed and put it on speaker then clasped Emma's hand as
That night as they ate dinner, Peter could tell that Emma was
on edge. She was slow to respond to his attempts at
making conversation and kept absently staring out the window,
at the fireplace, or at him.
"Emma, sweetheart, what's wrong?" he finally asked.
Emma swallowed her salad then set her fork down and took a
"I'm, umm, just in a weird mood, I guess. Kind of
anxious. I, well... can I ask you something about Jaz?"
"Why didn't you two have kids? Didn't she want
them? Or did you not at the time?"
"No, no. We both definitely wanted kids. But Jaz
was a dancer and just about to take off at Julliard when she
died. She wanted a few years to enjoy her career first
and I decided to use the time to earn a nest egg for us.
We, umm, thought we had time but..." Peter smiled sadly
and shook his head.
Emma reached for his right hand and clasped it in both of
Peter shrugged. "I think it's for the best. It
would have been really, really hard to tell a little one that
his or her mother wasn't coming home. And, to be honest
with you, I'm not sure I would have been the best
father. I really did go through a workaholic
streak. Over that now." He smiled.
"Yeah... You are." Emma leaned over to kiss
"So what brought that up?"
Emma blushed. "Well... I talked with Diana after
you left with the guys and, umm, I told her about something
that's been worrying me."
"It's just that, well, I... I'm kind of afraid that... that
maybe I'll have trouble conceiving once we're... there."
"Emma, why would you think that?"
"It's just... don't you find it at all worrisome that... that
with my past I... I never got pregnant or... or even thought
that I might have gotten pregnant? I mean don't get me
wrong. I'm glad I didn't because I could barely handle
myself let alone an innocent child but..."
"I guess I don't really since you were on birth control and it
was mostly safe sex," Peter answered.
"But accidents happen..."
"True. Is there anything happening... or not
happening... that has you concerned?" Peter's heart
began to race when it occurred to him that maybe Emma was
"No! Not really," Emma reassured. "I
just..." She heaved a sigh. "Maybe I just got
paranoid because I suppose I have babies on the brain a
little. I mean seeing Brittony and Diana with their
little ones... And even though she's older, Belle's
still such a little cuddler. And then Kemara... I
know everything's kinda scary but still... To know such
a huge miracle is happening inside of you! I just... I
want us to have that."
Peter hugged Emma tightly.
"I want that, too. But you mentioned Belle.
Belle's adopted. And I know Andrew and JenniAnn think of
her as a miracle... and rightly so. How she came to them
is a miracle, too. It would be really, really great if
we could have kids but that's not the only way, Emma.
Our miracle might happen in any of countless ways."
"You wouldn't be disappointed?"
"Well, sure. Not at you. Never at you. And,
for all we know, maybe I'd turn out to have
difficulties. I have no reason to believe that but you
simply never know. The situation would be disappointing
but we'd get through it and welcome children into our family
however God saw fit to send them to us. But I
still... I don't want to see you worked up over
something that's possibly nothing. I wouldn't be the
least bit concerned until we'd been trying for a year or so."
"Yeah... So logical." Emma smiled at him and
caressed his cheek. "Still... I made an appointment with
Portia. I'm overdue anyway and Diana thought maybe it'd
give me peace of mind."
"I think that sounds like a great idea. When's your
"Tuesday at 3:00. Diana's gonna leave school a little
early to go with me. I would have asked you but I
thought it might help to have another woman with me."
Peter kissed her temple.
"Of course. I understand completely. I was
planning to meet with Fr. Mike then so we'll be praying for
you, sweetheart. I really believe everything will be
Calming, Emma kissed Peter's hand.
"Thank you. I hope so. I really would like to see
a mini-Peter Garcia-Campbell."
"I'm not sure about that. I was a pretty homely baby."
"No, you weren't! I've seen the photos!"
"Totally was!" Peter countered with a grin. "My ears
were practically the same size as they are now. I looked
"Okay... your ears were a little big... But they'd be
perfect on our baby."
Peter's expression softened.
"They would be," he agreed, caressing Emma's face.
For a few moments, each was lost in imaginings of their future
and the little ones they hoped would be part of it.
"So do you think she has any reason to worry?" Peter asked as
he helped Fr. Mike pot mums to be delivered to the sick and
homebound in the parish.
The priest shook his head as he dumped another cupful of soil
into a bright green pot.
"I really don't. One of my sisters had a hard time
getting pregnant. Then, after four years, she and her
husband announced they were expecting. We were all
thrilled, of course. My sister, always a sensitive soul,
ended up confiding that she had a really combative co-worker
who was making 9 hours out of every day hellish. She
conceived a month after the co-worker was shown the
door. Coincidence? Maybe. But I think it's
proof that stress can do bad things to our bodies.
Between stress, birth control, and protection... I don't think
it's at all startling that Emma never got pregnant."
Peter let out the breath he'd been holding.
"Good. That's what I think, too. Just helps to
hear you say that."
"I'm glad. But... it does beg the question: would you be
okay if it turned out you and Emma couldn't conceive?" Fr.
Mike gently inquired.
"Disappointed... in the situation, not her. And that's
exactly what I told Emma. And also that, for all we
know, it could be an issue with me. But it does worry me
because I know how she is. First, she felt bad because
she thinks she put me through a lot. And, yeah, there
were some scary times in the beginning... like when she ran
away from Joshua. But the good has outweighed the bad
and it's not even been a close competition. Then she
felt bad thinking about how our first time might be
difficult... and that made her put off setting a date.
But I really believe we can get through that. But if
there is something to this worry of hers... I wonder if
I'll be able to convince her that I'm not upset with
her? I really would be open to adoption."
"But maybe Emma's not."
Peter dropped the spade he was using.
"How can you think that?"
Fr. Mike grimaced.
"Sorry! That came out very ungracefully but I had a
sudden thought. Hear me out, please. It's not that
I think Emma would be opposed to adoption. But what if
she's wary of it? You told me what Derek did... how he
used Jocelyn and Zoe. I think it's possible that, in
Emma's heart, she already adopted two children. And she
Tears welled in Peter's eyes. He thought of how Emma
interacted with the girls. Motherly was definitely the
word. He remembered, too, how broken up she'd been about
missing so much of their lives.
"Thankfully, they've reunited," the priest continued.
"But Emma did miss out on a lot, Peter. So the idea of
adoption might be really scary for her. Do I think she
could move past that? Absolutely. But that could
be part of what's driving her worries now. She may think
that the only way she'd be guaranteed to be able to keep her
child is if she physically delivered that child. And if
she can't do that? Yeah, I can see where the possibility
would shake her."
Peter let out a ragged sigh.
"I think you're right... totally right."
"I think it was an inspiration from Joshua," Fr. Mike
"He does know her heart," Peter murmured. "I'll try to
talk to her about this."
"Good idea." Fr. Mike clapped him on the back before
reaching for another mum and pot.
"Hey, what time is it?"
The priest glanced at his watch.
"Emma's heading into her appointment. Could we say a
"Absolutely. You lead?"
Peter nodded and took his friend's hands.
"Joshua, please bestow your peace on Emma. Make her feel
as comfortable and calm as possible. Help her to focus
on Diana's and Portia's support and care... not the
pain. And, please, Joshua... if it's Your will... give
Emma some answers so she can let go of this worry. And
if you could give me the words to confront her underlying
fears, I'd really appreciate that."
"Josh, surround both Emma and Peter with Your unceasing
love. Please use this current trial to bring them even
closer. We've already seen so many miracles that You've
worked through their love. We know there are more to
come and we turn it over to You to decide what form those
miracles will take."
Peter hugged Fr. Mike.
"Thanks. I already feel better."
"Good. For what it's worth, I think you already made a
good first step with comforting Emma tonight."
Peter smiled at the pot of asters that the priest had waved
to. He'd bought them for Emma when they'd gone to pick
up the mums.
"I hope so."
After allowing himself a brief pause to imagine his fiancee's
sparkling eyes as she peeked over the blooms and drank in
their scent, Peter resumed working on the mums with his
Emma smiled as she breathed in the fresh scent of the flowers
that were awaiting her when she returned home.
"Thank you. I love them... but I love you more."
Peter smiled as she nuzzled his neck before kissing him.
"I love you, too. I'm glad you like them. How was
"Uncomfortable but not awful. And... I didn't freak
out. I held Diana's hand during the bad parts and I was
fine. I won't have the test results for a couple of
weeks but Portia didn't see anything alarming. And she
gave me this."
Emma pulled a thermometer out of her purse.
"Yeah but a special kind. It tracks basal body
temperature... which is your temperature right when you wake
up, before you even get up. It gets kinda technical but
the short version is that if I notice my temperature spiking
slightly at a particular time every cycle then that means I'm
ovulating. Which would be a big deal because Portia says
ovulation disorders are one of the main causes of
infertility. Sorry, this is probably too much
Peter wrapped an arm around her waist.
"Not at all. But if Portia doesn't suspect anything's
wrong, why did she give that to you?"
With a slight blush, Emma reached into her purse again and
withdrew a chart.
"I'd use this for tracking. Portia thinks if I can just
see the spikes month after month then it'll make me feel
better. She really is a wonderful doctor. It's not
that I doubted before but... now I know personally. She
knows that this is bothering me so even if it's nothing... she
just knew I needed something concrete to make myself feel
"Portia's a wonderful doctor and friend. We're both very
blessed in the regard. Actually... I had a kinda big
moment with Fr. Mike."
"Oh? Tell me about it?"
"Sure. Is there anything you want to do first,
though? Change or..."
"Actually... I'm dying for a shower. Is that okay?"
"Absolutely. I'll start some dinner."
Emma kissed his cheek.
"Thanks, Peter mine."
"You're welcome, my Emma."
Beaming, Emma went to her room to collect some fresh clothes.
While she was showering, Peter preheated the oven for a pot
pie. Since it would be a while, he got out some carrots
and spinach artichoke dip for snacking. He was slicing
up a pepper when Emma returned.
She laughed when she saw what he had.
"You do love your spicy food!"
Peter grinned. "Almost as much as I love chocolate."
"Well, at least we won't be arguing over our wedding
cake! The more chocolate the better. Although I
suppose we should have an alternative for the non-chocolate
"True. Maybe we can ask Adam about his vanilla raspberry
"Yum. I'd have to have a slice of each," Emma opined as
she dunked a carrot.
"So now... Fr. Mike."
"Right. Let's go sit down first."
Peter grabbed the tray and brought it to the coffee table.
Once they were both seated, Peter took Emma's hands in his.
"Emma, I mentioned our talk on Saturday with Fr. Mike because
"Peter, you don't need a reason. I told you that you
could confide in him about anything. I trust Fr.
Mike. Joshua does. John does. So why
"Yeah, thanks. I appreciate that a lot. Anyway, he
asked me about how I felt about adoption and I told him what I
told you. And then he brought up that maybe adoption
would be difficult for you. It occurred to me that I
didn't ask you how you felt about it, Emma."
Emma bowed her head as her eyes welled.
"I... I don't want to adopt."
Peter stroked her hair.
"Is it because of Joccy and Zoe? Fr. Mike thought
Emma jolted in shock. She was surprised that the priest
would have made that connection. Her lip trembled as she
tried to keep from crying. She felt like she'd done
enough of that lately. But it was no use. She
nodded as the tears began to trickle down her cheeks.
"I... I wanted to adopt them."
"I know, sweetheart."
"B-but then... then they drove me away from them a-and I
didn't even get to... to say good bye. I... I wasn't
there for... for so long. I... I diapered and fed and
bathed Zoe and I helped Joccy fix her hair and pick out her
outfits and do her homework and I'd soothe them when they
cried or had nightmares but then... then nothing."
Peter held Emma as she softly cried.
"I don't want anyone to... to take away my babies ever...
never again," she quavered.
"Oh, Emma... My poor Emma... No one will," Peter
assured. "Even if we did adopt, those stories that make
the news... they're such a rarity. Think of Andrew and
JenniAnn. They even met some of Belle's birth family and
Belle's still with them. That's the way it usually
is. But I am still so sorry about what happened to you
and Joccy and Zoe. And I can understand now why that
would make adoption not seem like a real option and how that
would then feed into your worries about not being able to get
Emma nodded against his shoulder.
"I... I just want to have my own baby so... so I would
Peter ran his hand up and down her back. He knew this
fear was unlike the infertility one. Emma only had small
reason to worry about being unable to conceive. But
losing a child one hoped to adopt? That had been reality
for her and no amount of reason would help in that moment.
"I want that for you... for us. So let's put any idea of
adoption aside for now, okay?"
Emma swiped at a tear and nodded.
"It... it's not that I don't think it's a really, really good
thing to do but..."
"I understand, I do."
Emma attempted a smile.
"Thanks. A-and seeing Portia did make me feel more
optimistic about us having kids. She said that there are
treatment options if it did end up being an issue. We
even talked about some."
"Good. I'm really glad you feel better about that.
But Emma, there's just one more thing I want to say about
Peter cradled her face in his hands.
"I am truly sorry about what happened to you and the
girls. But now that you're back in contact, I hope you
can see how much you mean to them. You're a natural with
them. So I know, however it happens, you're going to be
an amazing mom someday."
"You really think so?"
"I absolutely know so. You have doubts?"
"Being a mom is different from being a babysitter, Peter."
"I know. But you're much more than a babysitter to Joccy
and Zoe, sweetheart. They don't need a babysitter any
more but they still need you."
"Yeah... And I need them."
Emma sighed and sunk against her fiance. She closed her
eyes and let the sound of his heart soothe her until she felt
"I want Joccy and Zoe to be in my bridal party," she
Peter's face lit up.
"I think that's a great idea! I'm sure they'd love
"I'm going to call them now!"
Peter beamed as Emma burst up from the couch and went for her
phone so she could call the sisters.
While she was talking to them, Peter stared at the photo of
Joshua on the mantel. He prayed that Portia's hunch
would be correct and that Emma would be fine so she wouldn't
have to face her deeper fear.
The following night at Bible study, Emma and Peter were taking
their turn watching the kids. They sat in the window
seat of the playroom, not wanting to intrude on the children.
"I have a feeling Shelby might turn out to be a teacher," Emma
posited as she watched the older girl patiently play an
alphabet game with Omar and Belle.
"Could very well be," Peter agreed. "It runs in her
After abandoning a doll she'd been playing with, Aiyla plopped
down beside Belle and hugged her. Belle giggled in
response and threw her own arms around her cousin.
Nearby, Liam looked up from the truck he'd been pushing.
He left it sitting on its track and headed over to the others.
"Looks like everyone wants to play with the alphabet!" Emma
However, it soon became apparent that was not the case.
"She's my cousin!" Liam bellowed.
"Uh oh!" Peter exclaimed, rising from his seat and heading
towards the kids.
"Liam!" Shelby cried. "Everyone here are cousins so..."
Not content to be defended, Aiyla stood up and put her hands
on her hips.
"She's my cousin, too!" she shouted.
"She was my cousin first!" Liam countered.
Omar began to bawl.
Belle crumpled to the floor.
"Oh no..." Emma murmured as she hurried towards the squabbling
and crying group.
"Liam, Aiyla, you're both Belle's cousins," Peter reminded as
he wedged himself between them. "And you know what,
you're also each other's..." He stopped speaking when he
saw Emma pick up Belle and cradle her.
"B-Belle?" Liam whimpered, trying to step around Peter.
Emma peered down at the toddler who was squinting and holding
"Peter, go get Andrew and JenniAnn. I think she's having
Peter nodded before leaving the room.
Shelby gasped and knelt beside Emma.
"Oh Belle..." Shelby murmured, reaching for her hand.
Belle let out a shaky breath then began to whimper.
"It's okay, sweetie. Mama and Daddy will be right here,"
Emma cooed as she snuggled Belle closer.
Still crying, Omar crawled over to Emma and rested his head on
Emma stroked the boy's thick curls which were nearly identical
"Did... did I hurt Belle?" Liam asked as he knelt in front of
them, his eyes brimming.
"No, Liam. Belle just sometimes gets a little sick but
she'll feel better soon. We're all going to have to be
very gentle and quiet, though. Can you do that?"
Emma peered at Liam and Aiyla. "Peter and Shelby were
right earlier. You're both Belle's cousins and it
doesn't matter who was first. Belle loves you, Liam, and
you, Aiyla, and you, little Omar. And because you're all
her cousins, that also means you're each other's
cousins. So you should all be friends. Okay?"
"Okay," Liam and Aiyla answered in unison.
"Hug?" Aiyla checked.
Through his tears, Liam smiled and nodded.
"There you go!" Emma cheered as the two embraced.
Watching, Omar decided he needed hugs, too.
Once the younger boy had released him, Liam again gazed
intently at Belle.
"I... I think I did hurt her. I made her sad and then...
"Liam, have you ever had a headache?"
The little boy nodded.
"Okay, well, what Belle has is kind of like that," Emma
explained. "And it happens, sometimes, when she gets
upset. But sometimes it just happens for no reason
anyone can tell. You didn't do this to her. But I
think it would be a good idea to play quietly because she's
going to be pretty tired for the rest of the night.
Actually... you know what I think would really help?"
"Wh-what?" Liam pressed.
"Could you sing a song to her?"
"Can I sing, too?" Aiyla whispered.
Liam and Emma both nodded.
"Do you know the Beauty and the Beast song?" Liam
Aiyla responded with an eager nod.
When Peter returned with Andrew, JenniAnn, Vincent, Monica,
Arthur, Isra, and Behnam in tow; they found the little group
clustered around Belle with Liam and Aiyla singing.
"'Tale as old as time, true as it can be. Barely even
friends then somebody bends, unexpectedly.'"
"I'll go peek at Belle but looks like Emma has this under
control," Andrew whispered.
When she saw her father, Belle gave a weary smile but didn't
move beyond squirming so she could better see Liam and Aiyla.
Shelby stood up and hugged Andrew.
"Belle had a seizure," she reported, her voice hushed.
Andrew nodded. "I know. Peter told us.
She'll be fine once she rests and she looks pretty comfy right
"Emma did a really good job. She got Aiyla and Liam to
stop fighting and took care of Belle and Omar. He was
Emma eyes filled as she peered down at Belle who was
attempting to sing along. She found herself wondering if
her and Peter's baby might look at all like Belle with her
olive skin and thick, dark curls.
Once the older kids had finished their song, Andrew crouched
near Emma and lightly squeezed Belle's hand.
"Hi there, baby girl. How are you feeling?"
"Eepy..." Belle replied.
"I know..." Andrew bent to kiss her forehead before directing
his attention to Emma.
"Thank you, Emma, for taking care of our little elf. Do
you want me to take her now so you can go back to the group?"
he offered. "JenniAnn and I were headed in here soon,
Emma smiled and shook her head.
"Actually... This feels really nice. I wouldn't
mind keeping Belle."
Approaching, JenniAnn heard Emma's response.
"She does look awfully content... Aren't you, sweet
Belle gave another sleepy smile and patted her mother's
"You wanna stay with Aunt Emma?" JenniAnn checked.
Belle nodded. "Aunt Emma..." she cooed, smiling at the
Emma returned her smile and caressed her face.
Monica stepped closer and set a hand on JenniAnn's shoulder.
"I'm going to stay. Liam's still a little upset.
If anything more happens, I could run and get you and Andrew,"
Reluctant to leave but also sensing she wasn't really needed,
JenniAnn nodded. She kissed Belle's hair.
"Daddy and I are gonna go back downstairs, is that okay?"
Belle nodded again.
Vincent stepped towards them, holding out Belle's blankie
which he had fetched when he saw how lethargic she was.
"Appa..." Belle reached out for him and the
Vincent smiled and knelt in front of his granddaughter, laying
the blanket over her.
Emma gently tucked it around the girl.
Belle let out a contented sigh and turned into Emma before
closing her eyes.
"Thank you, Emma," Vincent whispered.
"It's no problem at all. But I think I am going to move
back to the window seat where it's quieter."
Peter helped his fiancee to her feet.
"Monica, how about we get the older kids focused on a game?"
he suggested. "Cheer them up."
The angel readily nodded. "Very good idea."
Noticing that Belle kept opening her eyes, Andrew took
"Let's go. I think we're just keeping her up.
You're sure you're okay, Emma?"
JenniAnn hugged her shoulders.
"You're very welcome. We'll see you soon."
JenniAnn nodded to Andrew then, with Vincent, they briefly
talked with Isra, Behnam, and Arthur before all six left the
Peter rested a hand on Emma's shoulder.
"I'll go help Monica so long as you're good here?"
Peter stooped to kiss her cheek.
"You are," he whispered.
"Thank you," Emma replied, smiling at him.
Peter nodded, returned her smile, and then joined Monica and
the kids in putting together a Frozen puzzle.
Emma stroked some curls away from Belle's forehead.
"You want to go to sleep, sweetie?"
"Okay. It's okay."
"Awn?" Belle requested.
"Song?" Emma checked.
The toddler gave a nod.
Emma began to softly sing Maryam's lullaby, shifting to
humming when Belle drifted to sleep.
Looking up from the girl, Emma caught Peter staring at
them. She blushed slightly when she saw the wistful look
in his eyes but there was something else, too.
Pride. Emma peered back down at Belle.
"I can do this," she whispered.
A half hour later, the group in the playroom joined the others
for cookies and ice cream in the ballroom. Belle had
roused a bit and sat on JenniAnn's lap, gnawing at an oatmeal
cookie. Diana, Kemara, Kylie, Rose, and Emma were
clustered around them as they enjoyed their own desserts.
"So how did you know she'd had a seizure?" Kemara asked Emma.
"She just dropped to the ground so suddenly but it didn't seem
like she'd ever lost consciousness so I didn't think she'd
fainted," Emma explained. "Then she just looked so
confused and tired. Poor love..."
Belle smiled when Emma reached over to pat her head.
"I'm sure that's what happened," JenniAnn agreed. "I can
remember when I was younger and one hit, I ended up sitting at
the boys' lunch table. Eeek! But it was just
because I had to sit down right that moment because I was too
exhausted to walk a few more steps to my usual table."
She kissed Belle's curls and gave her an affectionate squeeze.
"I'm glad she doesn't convulse because that can be so
dangerous but it's also kind of worrisome that it's so hard to
tell. What if one of the twins has that sort of
epilepsy? How would I know?" Kemara questioned.
"Especially when they're tiny and don't move much, anyway?"
JenniAnn cast her friend a sympathetic look.
"Well, they can sometimes tell with brain scans and
stuff. It also helps that the best treatment is just
what we're doing now: comforting Belle, letting her sleep when
she wants. If Ian or Joy fussed, even if you didn't know
the cause, you or Sean would console them. They'd be
"True..." Kemara smiled at her niece and imagined.
"How you feeling, sweetie?" Rose inquired
Belle nodded but refused to relinquish her cookie in order to
JenniAnn laughed. "Back to normal, I take it. But
it will be an early night to bed." She turned to
Emma. "You really did do a wonderful job with her.
Andrew and I were a bit torn about going back to Bible study
but she just looked so content with her Aunt Emma."
"Aww, thanks. I was pretty content myself. It felt
so nice to cuddle." Emma sighed happily.
"Peter and Shelby said you were really great with the other
kids, too," Kylie relayed.
Blushing, Emma shook her head.
"It was nothing. I think Liam and Aiyla would have
resolved their disagreement on their own with more time.
And Omar just needed a little attention."
"Still... Sometimes when Belle's like this, I get so
wrapped up in her that I'm not sure I woulda had the
wherewithal to deal with the other kids. It's really
great that you could," JenniAnn praised.
Diana patted Emma's back.
"She's right. Take the compliment, Emma," she whispered.
"Thank you," Emma murmured.
"You're very welcome," JenniAnn replied.
"I have a question."
Emma turned to Kylie who had spoken so softly.
"During our prayer requests, you thanked God for a promising
outcome from a doctor's appointment. I was hoping... did
that have to do with what we discussed when we all went
shopping for Kemara's maternity clothes?"
Rose and Kemara each roused from their own mental musings and
directed their attention to Emma.
With a smile, the woman nodded.
"I don't have any test results yet but Portia was pretty
optimistic. She definitely didn't see anything that
caused her concern. So that was really great to
hear. And she also went over what we discussed that
day... stress and everything. And it's not that I didn't
believe all of you but..."
"Of course it's more assuring to hear it from a doctor," Rose
"Yeah. But then... I got a little uncertain about
whether I'd actually be a good mother... a fear Peter
immediately shot down but... it was still there a
little. Tonight, though..." Emma's eyes misted.
JenniAnn reached over to set a hand on hers.
"Tonight should reassure you, Emma. You handled
Kemara nodded. "And it's not like, when you have a baby,
you have to know everything right away. Sean keeps
reminding me of that... and of how much support we have.
I know I can call Diana or Zeke or Andrew or JenniAnn or our
parents and so on if I have a question."
"And questions are normal," JenniAnn confirmed. "I mean
Andrew's crazy old and he didn't even know everything."
Emma laughed. "That also makes me feel better!"
"It should," Diana responded. "Emma, I think
you'll be a wonderful mother."
"Seconded!" Kemara chimed in.
"Thirded," Rose echoed.
Kylie laughed. "Fourthed."
"Fifthed," JenniAnn finished. "And I think Belle here
would 'sixthed' if she could pronounce it... and if that
cookie wasn't just so good!"
Emma beamed at them all and began a round of hugs.
"Thank you... that does make me feel better."
"And thank God for that!" Diana cheered.
Belle popped the last bite of cookie in her mouth then smiled
Laughing, Emma turned to JenniAnn.
"Did she just ask for another cookie?"
Sighing, JenniAnn nodded.
"She loves her sweets just like Mama and Daddy. I
suppose one more would be fine."
"Belle, can I take you to pick out another cookie?" Emma
Belle nodded and held out her arms towards her aunt.
After relinquishing Belle, JenniAnn smiled after her and Emma.
"I think this is definitely one of those times Joshua worked
Belle's condition for good," she observed.
The other four women nodded as they watched their friend and
niece approach the snack table.
"Thank you, Joshua," Kemara prayed.
"Amen," the others echoed.
When Emma and Peter returned to their apartment, she began
making spiced milk while he started a fire. A few
minutes later, they cuddled together on the couch.
"I was so proud of you tonight," Peter praised as he kissed
Emma's forehead. "I have to admit, I was a little bit
terrified when Belle was so dazed but you... you knew exactly
what to do."
"Except I didn't really. I mean if you'd asked me what
to do after a child has a complex partial seizure... I would
have been clueless. But it just seemed right to snuggle
with Belle. Andrew and JenniAnn said they'd leave her
feeling confused and weakened and who wouldn't want to be
Peter nodded. "You have good instincts,
sweetheart. Now do you feel more confident that you'll
be a good mom?"
Emma gave him a smile and a nod.
"Yeah and I think you'll be a very good daddy. Omar was
hanging all over you. And I saw that big hug Liam gave
"Poor little guy. I think tonight's gonna stick with him
longer than it will for Belle. And Omar's great.
Doesn't say much but such a bright little fellow. You
should have seen him getting those puzzle pieces in place!"
"Isra was telling me that Vincent asked a Helper to evaluate
him since he's speech-delayed. I think there was a
little concern about autism. But the lady thinks Omar is
just so self-sufficient that he hasn't really grasped how
useful speaking is... and that maybe Aiyla's just a little bit
into the habit of speaking for him. Anyway, the
specialist is pretty confident that the more he's around other
kids and sees them laughing and chatting, the more he'll join
in. I thought he was already a bit more chatty than the
first time we met him."
"I think so," Peter agreed. "I'm pretty sure he was
trying to tell me about Yonah at one point. Do you think
Vincent will let them have a dog or cat or some sort of pet in
the house? Both Omar and Aiyla seemed awfully into Fawn,
Lulu, and Theo."
Emma rested her finger against her lips and grinned.
"Ah, Isra mentioned something else, I take it."
"Yeah. I guess Vincent actually approached her and
Behnam about it after he noticed how much the kids love the
Willowveil pets. They're going to start looking, ideally
for a cat and a dog since Aiyla seems to prefer cats and Omar
likes dogs." Emma sighed. "It feels good to know
that, when we do have kids, they'll be surrounded by such
caring, generous people. And the girls and I were
talking about how nice it is to have other, more seasoned
parents to run things by."
Peter chuckled. "I think, in the years ahead, Diana and
Zeke especially may be fielding panicked but not terribly
serious phone calls."
"Definitely! And some of them will be from us, you
Peter cradled Emma's face and nodded before resting his
forehead against hers.
Emma stroked her beloved's hair before leaning in for a
kiss. Then, abruptly, she stood up.
"I just remembered! I have something for you and meant
to give it to you before Bible study," Emma announced.
Peter laughed as she hurried into her room.
"Please tell me I didn't forget an important date."
Emma smiled and shook her head when she returned.
"No. I just wanted you to have this."
Peter beamed as he took the small box Emma held out to him.
"I hope you like it. I think I'll have to explain a
"I'm sure I will, sweetheart."
Peter ripped away the paper then pulled the lid off the
box. At first, he thought the gift was a bracelet.
Only when he removed it from the box did he see what it truly
"Abuela mentioned how much you used to like her rosary and how
you'd sometimes pray with it. But then she also told me
about how you wouldn't touch it after you found out about why
your family left the Catholic Church."
Peter gave her a wistful smile as he fingered the beads.
"I just couldn't understand why anyone... let alone a whole
church filled with supposedly good people... wouldn't want my
Mama and Daddy to be married. Of course, I understand
now that it was a bunch of racist people who just happened to
be Catholic... not that Catholicism itself is racist.
But as a kid..."
Emma hugged him.
"I know. Anyway, I saw Father... Tunnels Father... with
a rosary which I thought was kinda weird since he's not
Catholic. So I asked him about it and he said it was an
Anglican rosary. He showed it to me and this is what it
Emma pulled the rosary from the box so Peter could better see
the beads arranged in four groups.
"Father wrote down how to pray it. That's the note
there. But he also said the beads are often just used
for aids. So I thought you could pray whatever you
want. And I also thought... Since it's four groups
and since we've been talking about having kids... Maybe
it could be about that. Family. The first group
for Joshua and then for Yosef and then for Maryam and then for
Joshua again. At least, that's the way I was thinking of
praying mine. Asking them for guidance, you know?
I made one for myself, too."
Peter blinked back tears.
"You made this?"
Her cheeks flushed, Emma nodded.
"Andrew gave me bits of wood he wasn't going to use and
various stains. It was actually really fun making the
beads. At first I was kind of disappointed about how
they're not at all uniform but..."
Clasping the rosary, Peter embraced Emma tightly.
"Knowing you made it makes me love the gift even more.
It's perfect, sweetheart." Peter kissed her cheek.
"Thank you. And I... I really like your idea on how to
pray it. And... and tonight, I'll use it when I thank
the three of them, Joshua, Maryam, and Yosef, for helping us
come together because I can't imagine the past year and a half
without you, Emma. I love you so much... so, so much."
Emma felt both dizzy and wonderful as Peter covered her face
in gentle kisses. Gazing into his love-filled eyes, Emma
knew that she could make it through any challenge that they
would face together... with Heaven on their side.
"It's that door just on the right, girls," Emma directed as
she and Peter, holding hands, strolled behind Joccy and Zoe.
"Ooh, I like this place! It's like a home!" Zoe gushed
as she stepped inside. She smiled at a woman who hovered
near a coffeemaker.
"Well, hello, young lady! How can I... Emma,
Emma gently pushed past Joccy who had hung back near
Peter. She approached Gayle, Dr. Sayer's
assistant. The two women embraced.
"Hi Gayle! I know it's not my usual day and we won't
stay long but Peter and I just wanted to drop in." Emma
waved to the two girls. "This is Zoe and her older
sister, Joccy. I used to babysit them when they were two
adorable little girls. Of course, I still think they're
Beaming, Zoe approached and held her hand out to Gayle.
The older woman returned her smile and shook her hand.
"Hi there, Zoe!"
Shyly, Joccy mimicked her sister.
"Hi," she murmured.
"Nice to meet you, honey."
"Joccy and Zoe are staying with us over the weekend so they
can celebrate Halloween at St. Genesius'," Peter
Gayle clapped. "Wonderful! My grandkids are so
looking forward to it!"
"Me too!" Zoe chirped.
Emma wrapped an arm around Joccy's shoulders.
"The girls are also here to help us make some
deliveries. Dr. Sayer wouldn't happen to be in between
clients, would she?" she asked hopefully.
"As a matter of fact, she is. She's having lunch,
actually, but I know she won't mind being interrupted.
Let me go get her."
While Gayle went to fetch the psychiatrist, Emma withdrew two
envelopes from her purse.
Peter smiled and squeezed her hand.
"Emma! And Peter, too!" Dr. Sayer greeted as she
approached, a wide smile on her face. "And who have you
brought with you?"
"Dr. Sayer, this is Jocelyn... Joccy... and her younger
sister, Zoe," Emma introduced.
Dr. Sayer smiled tenderly at the two teenagers.
"Hi, Joccy and Zoe. I'm so happy to meet you. Emma
speaks so warmly about you two."
"We're so happy to be here!" Zoe gushed.
"We love visiting Emma and Peter," Joccy added.
"Especially this weekend."
"Because of Halloween?" Dr. Sayer guessed.
"Well, that, too..." Zoe answered, casting a furtive glance at
the envelopes in Emma's hand.
Peter laughed. "You better hand em over, Emma.
Zoe's about to burst."
Grinning, Emma glanced down at the envelopes and handed the
appropriate ones to the two women.
"Isn't this beautiful?" Gayle mused as she carefully broke the
seal on the envelope.
Emma noticed her psychiatrist had tears welling as she opened
her own missive.
"It really is beautiful," Dr. Sayer praised as she admired the
card it contained.
"June 4th..." Gayle murmured.
Peter stepped behind Emma and set a hand on her shoulder.
With tears in her own eyes, Emma nodded.
"Gayle, that first time I came in here with Joshua and Peter,
you were so kind and calm. And all the times you sat
with me as I waited for my appointment... And... and,
Dr. Sayer, I'm not sure Peter and I would have gotten to this
place without your guidance so... so we didn't want to get
married without you there... if you can be and want to be."
Gayle hugged Emma and then Peter.
"You can count on me!" she accepted.
Dr. Sayer brushed at a stubborn tear and sighed contently.
"Me too. I... I'm going to add it to my calendar the
very moment I get back to my desk!"
Emma's smile lit up her face as she embraced her psychiatrist.
Before breaking away, Dr. Sayer clasped her hand.
"I'm so proud of you, Emma." Her gazed shifted to
Peter. "Of both of you. This..." She looked
back down to the save-the-date card she was still
clutching. "This is going to be an amazing wedding
that's going to lead to an even better marriage. I can't
As Emma was again swept up in hugs from Dr. Sayer and Gayle,
Zoe stood nearby and smiled giddily.
Peter noticed that Joccy, though, appeared to be on the verge
"Joccy, what's wrong?" he questioned in a hushed voice.
"Will... will you still let us visit when you and Emma are...
are married?" the girl asked.
Peter was stunned for a moment, wondering why Joccy thought
that would matter. Then he remembered...
"Sometimes he... he'd come home early when I was
babysitting a-and tell me to put Zoe in her playpen and get
Joccy settled with a movie and then we'd go into the guest
room and... and... It... it would be so awful when one
of the girls would start crying a-and he wouldn't let me go."
Peter hugged the teen and patted her back.
"Joccy, I promise you that I will never, ever try to come
between you and Zoe and Emma. And I wouldn't even want
to. I care about you girls, too. An awful
lot. Mi casa es tu casa," he vowed.
Joccy smiled, remembering all the times she'd called Peter for
help with her Spanish homework. He'd never once told her
to stop bothering him or that it wasn't a good time.
Maybe he really did care.
Alerted to Joccy's absence beside her, Emma turned away from
Dr. Sayer and Gayle. Glimpsing her fiance and the girl,
Emma felt her heart flutter. Maybe her and Peter's
broken hearts weren't the only ones Joshua was healing by
bringing them together...
Emma sang and pranced around the gilded, flower-filled stage,
flitting her skirts and twirling as the ensemble danced around
"'It's May, it's May, that gorgeous holiday! When every
maiden prays that her lad will be a cad... It's mad,
it's gay, a libelous display! Those dreary vows that
everyone takes, everyone breaks, everyone makes divine
mistakes, the lusty month of May!'"
"Guenevere" glowed as she sang, enchanted by the romantic
sights around her. Emma's joy and amusement were
contagious and every member of the audience couldn't help but
smile at her sweet, impish ode to the spring and romance.
One patron, however, was particularly taken in. Because
walls were no barrier to him, he could see Emma's beloved
knight standing offstage left, gazing adoringly at his
bride-to-be. They made for a beautiful pair.
Sitting in the private box, Joshua beamed. When the song
ended and the audience roared with applause, Joshua took a
moment to gaze down at the save-the-dates that had been
waiting for him there. He traced the delicate writing on
Ama and Abi
In his mind's eye, Joshua saw the stage transform. The
medieval garden fell away and was replaced by less frenetic
florals and a cross... the same cross he had carried and that
Peter had carried after him. Zeke stood in front of the
cross with Emma and Peter, their hands clasped. The
couple peered into each other's eyes with such love and
Coming back to the present, Joshua watched Arthur/Eric
introduce Lancelot/Peter to his lady. He felt the
electricity of the moment when Emma and Peter took each
"It is good," Joshua intoned.
On stage, Emma and Peter both felt a surge of immense
love. Unable to help themselves, both looked up to the
box and saw Joshua smiling down at them.
Not wanting to disrupt the show; Joshua held up the
cards, blew the two a kiss, and disappeared.
A giggle escaped Emma but, thankfully, no one except Peter
took it as any more than a display of her character's
The scene proceeded as if nothing unusual had happened but, as
soon as it ended, Emma and Peter hurried offstage and
"He was here..." Peter murmured.
"He... he was... And he will be again. On June
4th. I know it," Emma insisted.
Smiling from ear to ear, Peter swept his fiancee into his arms
and spun her around as they celebrated.
The Secret Garden
musical and book
The Last of the
"Tale as Old as Time"
from Beauty and the Beast
Genesis 1- "It is
to the Author's Cut