“I never stopped loving you either, and I have never been with anyone else, and that is the truth.”
“Ever, I have never kissed another guy other than you.”
“As much as I want to say I never slept with another woman, but I can’t. I cannot lie to you.”
“Good, I only want the truth.”
“And I want to tell you it all.” He took my hand and declared that he never felt anything for them, he wanted to marry me, he said. Did he just say he wanted to marry me? “I mean it, I want to marry you, but…”
There had to be a but.
“I want us to be a family, I want it all, but I want to get to know my daughter first, spend time with her.”
“I think that is a great idea, maybe we should stay here for a few days, spend time with her, us.”
“Okay, we should do that,” he began. “I also want to spend some time with her on my own.”
My heart raced, alone, I was not sure about that, I trusted him, but it scared me. I was sure it was written on my face.
“I mean in time, I would not expect you to let me take her on my own until she knows me.”
“Sorry, I don’t mean to come across as I don’t want you to have her on your own, but…”
“It’s fine, I understand.”
As we agreed my phone rang, I picked it up, my sister's name flashed on the screen, I declined the call and switched it off.
“Your sister, or mother?”
“Sister, I don’t want to talk to them, what we do is none of their business.”
“So, what shall we do then?” I asked.
“Well, we could go to a zoo or a theme park, what do you think?”
“She would love either of them; maybe we could do both, not on the same day.”
It was agreed, we would do both. I had not been to a zoo in years, and Annie had not been to one at all. She would enjoy it.
The next morning, we got dressed, nestled in his car and drove the hour and a half to our destination. On arrival, we parked the car, and each held one of her hands as we led towards the booths to pay before we could enter. The car park was already beginning to fill up. We entered the opening of the zoo, Annie's eyes lit up as she saw the animals before her, the sounds were deafening, but thrilled my daughter as she pulled us towards the first cage which housed a variety of birds, the one that called to her, had her full attention, was a parrot. She stood before it, turned to look at us, I nodded as she tilted her head and said hello birdy. When it repeated her words, she smirked and continued to talk to it.
“Should we go see the other animals now?” I asked
We sat on the bench behind her, an hour passed before she was ready to venture around the rest of the zoo. We saw the elephants, giraffes, tigers and monkeys, before leaving we rode the train that travelled around the whole zoo, it was the best day.
Back in the car, Annie buckled in her seat her eyes once wide with excitement, closed, she slept the whole way back to the flat.
We put her bed, and both exhausted and fell asleep ourselves. Too tired for anything else.
The next morning, I woke early, showered, and fixed breakfast. Annie woke up and joined me in the kitchen. I placed a pancake and yoghurt before her, she chose the pancake and began to eat.
“You still look tired sweetie.”
She shook her head.
“What do you want to do today?”
“How about we go to a place that has rides, and…”
She shook her head.
“Okay, how about a place with ball pits and slides, I am sure we can find a place like that to take you too.”
She nodded and smiled.
“Okay, now do you want another pancake?”
Again she nodded and devoured one more.
Wyatt entered the kitchen, kissed me before sitting beside Annie.
“Hi, looks yummy, do you think I could have one of those.”
“I can make you a couple if you want one or two, or more.”
“More,” he said, watching me as I added the batter to the pan.
“Annie and I talked this morning, we thought it might be nicer if we went to a place with a ball pit and slides, do you know anywhere like that close to here or we could find a place.”
“I can find out, I like the idea, we could eat out today if you like.”
“Are you saying you don’t like my cooking,” I joked.
“I was kidding, how about we grab a bite to eat at lunchtime on our way to wherever it is, and then a couple of hours should be enough time there, I think.”
He agreed, and ate the pancakes, adding fruit and yoghurt to them, a combo I had never tried before.
The ball pit was a mile away, we arrived, parked and entered, we had already eaten at a local cafe.
“This place looks amazing, look at all the places you can play in, Annie. Take your shoes off honey, and go explore.”
We found a table next to the opening she took off through.
“Yes, do you want a coffee?”
“Sure, thanks, Annie will have a squash, if that’s okay?”
“Of course it is.”
The more I thought about us, about us being a family and going back to that house, without him, or the house he said I could live in the more I did not want to return, I wanted to stay as far away from his family and mine as possible. I wanted to be here, alone with Wyatt. We needed no one but us. It was then I realised I had made a choice, a decision. He returned and laid the drinks before me. I watched Annie, climb and slide down the slide, she had a smile on her face. She joined us, took a sip of her drink before took off again.
“She looks happy, doesn’t she?” he said.
“Yes, she does, I am too.”
“Yes, and can I be honest?”
“I don’t want that house you want me to live in…”
He opened his mouth to speak, I leaned forward and placed a finger on those lips.
“Let me finish.”
He nodded, “Okay.”
“I don’t want to go back to my old house either. In fact, I don’t want to go back there at all, I want to stay here, with you, as your wife, as a family.”
His smile broadened.
“I do, of course, you would have to ask me to marry you, and…”
“Surprise me, anyway, what do you think about what I said?”
“If that is what you want, but I don’t think a flat is a great place for us to live as a family, she needs a garden, a room that is her own, and…”
“Okay, but I don’t want to move back to there, I mean it.”
“Okay, that is fine, I will get your stuff, we can get all your things and bring them here, and then we can look for a family home.”
We arrived at the flat a few hours later, we made plans to drive back to our old house, hired a van to pick and pack up all our belongings. Then we would move back here and never look back.
That evening he booked a table, and told me to dress up nice, I titled my head and stared at him.
“Don’t I look nice now?” I asked.
“Yes, of course, you do, the place we are going has a certain dress code, now I had a dress delivered, one for Annie too. They are in your room, I will have a car pick you up and meet you there, I have a little business to see to.”
“Okay,” I said.
“I am leaving now, so will see you soon.”
He kissed me goodbye and then was gone. I heard the door close and turned to Annie.
“Want to play dress up?” I asked her.
We entered the bedroom, two dresses in clothes bags hung on the wardrobe. I opened the one for Annie and stood back, it was then I noticed the note attached to the dress for me. The words marry me were there in black and white.
I opened my mouth and opened the zipper. The dress was stunning. I stood back and looked at Annie. Chewed on my lip, did he mean today, now? I had to assume he did and I did not need to think about it. I ran a bath for Annie, took a quick shower and then helped Annie into her dress, fixed her hair and slipped her feet into a pair of sandals.
“Look at you, my princess.”
She twirled around staring at her reflection. As I put the dress on that was for me, and with a little time to spare we were ready.
I had always imagined family at my wedding, as I walked down the aisle, but with the way things were I did not care, all I wanted was to marry the man I loved and the people I loved the most would be there, Annie was that person.
We climbed into the car, we were driven down to a building, a man in a suit stood waiting for our arrival, he opened the door, and led us inside, handed me flowers, and Annie a basket with flowers in.
He led us into a room, where a couple stood, and Wyatt in a suit, tears in his eyes. I walked towards him as the music played. We said our vows, pronounced man and wife in less than half an hour. We signed the documents as did the witnesses and then it was done, we were man and wife, a family.