Against all odds, p.14
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       Against All Odds, p.14
 

           Kira Adams
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  * * *

  I can’t believe I agreed to this. I mean, I only entertained the idea because I saw how much Austyn was invested in it…but now that we are here…I’m having second thoughts. This is something that most people sleep on before making such a rash decision. You have to think about what would be best for all parties involved. Who will take care of it? Between potty training and feeding, we aren’t going to have as much alone time together.

  Austyn has dragged me into the cat and kitten room and is currently oohing and aahing at each and every single creature. Honestly, I would prefer a dog any day of the week, but we both don’t have enough extra time to care for one. Cats are self-sufficient, and most of the time okay being alone.

  It’s not that I hate cats…because I don’t. It’s just that I am more indifferent about them. The ones I’ve seen have been mean and skittish. Not the best representation of their qualities.

  “What about a ferret?” I ask Austyn as we pass by some in cages. They are smaller than cats and they seem like such a cool pet to have. “Or an iguana?”

  Austyn shoots me a tired look back, rolling her eyes. “You are such a guy…”

  “What?” I ask.

  “Oh my God!” Austyn exclaims, bending down next to one of the cages. “This is the one.”

  My stomach drops. She just had to choose one today… We can’t simply window shop and return when I feel more prepared?

  “Avery, look!” she gushes, sticking her fingers through the cage and petting the furry thing.

  I kneel down next to her and, I kid you not, the cat looked straight up like a gremlin, oversized bite and all. It had to be the ugliest looking thing in the whole damn place. “Are you serious?” I can’t help chuckling a little.

  “You’re so mean,” she says softly. “I bet the poor thing hasn’t had a loving home in a really long time…”

  “I wouldn’t be surprised,” I reply, which lands me with a punch to the stomach.

  “Be nice,” Austyn orders me, then shifts her eyes back to the cage, admiration and love dancing across them. “Ornery,” she reads off the information card. “Hello. Don’t let my looks disarm you, I am a lover once I get to know you. I prefer to be the only cat in the house, but can get along fine with dogs. I’ve had a tough life and am simply seeking a forever home.”

  Austyn instantly locks eyes with me. I can tell what she is asking without a word leaving her mouth.

  I sigh. “How much is she?”

  She glances back to the information card. “Thirty dollars. Come on, Avery…please?”

  When Austyn sets her mind on something, it’s difficult to talk her down. “Oh, alright…but you are going to have to take care of her.”

  Austyn throws her arm around my neck. “I will, I promise! She deserves the same amount of love as any of the others…”

  Austyn is so different than anyone else I’ve ever met. Instead of going for the cutest or most adorable kitten, she is instantly drawn to the one who would benefit from a loving home the most. The one that was more than likely set to be put down soon since the poor thing has been in the shelter for quite some time judging by its tag. I love this about Austyn. I love how incredibly pure her heart is. I’ve known it for a while, but this solidifies it for me…someday, not anytime soon, this amazing woman is going to be my wife.

  Twenty – Make Me the Happiest Woman in the World

  Austyn – Three Years Later

  “Come on, slow poke!” I shout playfully over my shoulder.

  “Running is cheating!” Avery yells back from behind me. I spin around and glance back at him, taking it all in.

  He’s been walking on his own for nearly a year and a half now, with the help of a cane. There was a time when we never thought we’d see this day, and it makes me tear up now just thinking back on it.

  Eight months ago Avery became an everyday miracle when he stood up and walked by himself with only the assistance of his cane. Minus the small limp he still has, he is fully healed. His memories, short term or specific dates are still shoddy and may never return, but he has regained full use of his body and speech.

  There are butterflies swarming my stomach as I continue to lead him through our favorite park. I know what lies ahead, but he has no idea what is in store for him.

  “Close your eyes,” I tell him as I cover them with my hands.

  “Seriously?” he asks, chuckling.

  “Seriously, I have a surprise for you…” I continue to shield his eyes as we slowly make our way over the last hill.

  Everything comes into view and I can’t help gasping.

  “What is it?” Avery asks, nervously.

  Jacqueline did a better job than I could have ever dreamt of.

  I remove my hands from his eyes and watch him intently as he takes in all the chairs which are occupied by our family and friends.

  His eyebrows raise in surprise. “Is this what I think it is?”

  I nod.

  People are beginning to take notice of us and are standing up now to get a better look. I swallow loudly, preparing myself. God knows I’ve been playing this exact moment over and over in my head a thousand times.

  Avery is staring back at me, silently, with so much love in his eyes, tears begin stinging mine. I didn’t realize how nervous I am. I’m shaking with anticipation. He grabs my hands and squeezes them as reassurance.

  “When you were in a coma, I missed you so much. I used to make promises to you that if you would just wake up, I would marry you. And then you opened your eyes for me and I knew that one day you were going to make me the happiest woman on the planet.”

  Avery’s eyes begin filling with tears.

  “You know that I fell in love with you quickly and unequivocally. You were everything I could have wished for on a star and more. I would have married you the day I met you…that’s how much of an impact you left on me. But you weren’t ready, and I accepted that. After your accident, I wasn’t sure we were going to have another chance. I didn’t know if I would ever get the privilege of being Mrs. Phillips. But, I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that I have never loved anyone quite like I have loved you, Avery. After everything we have had to go through over the past few years, I don’t want to spend another moment wishing you were my husband. I want you to be my husband.”

  I reach my hand into the pocket of my jeans, pulling out the ring Lee had helped me pick out a couple of days ago. I roll it between my fingers as I drop down on one knee. “Please tell me you’ll make me the happiest woman on the planet. Will you marry me?”

  Tears are spilling down Avery’s cheeks just as they are mine. “God I love you!” he exclaims as he reaches to pull me up to his level. His lips attack me the moment I’m standing and instantly I hear a thunderous round of applause and cheers. He pulls me deeper, melding our bodies together, so close I can feel the ferocious beating of his heart. When our lips finally part, I am gasping for breath.

  “I take it that’s a yes?”

  “That’s a hell yes!” He holds out his hand for me to slip the ring on. After, I raise our hands in victory as we come out from the tree line and begin making our way to our guests.

  “How did you do all of this?” Avery asks, wide-eyed and taking it all in.

  “With a lot of help from friends and family.” I smile back at him.

  He shifts his eyes back to mine. “I wish I would have known, I might have dressed the part.”

  I can’t help but grin. “Don’t worry, we’ve got that covered.”

  Less than a half an hour later, Avery and I are both exiting the dressing rooms. I know it’s bad luck to allow the groom to see the bride before the wedding, but I have to see him. Before we go back out and face the crowd I invited…I have to see my future husband.

  He gasps, throwing his hand over his mouth as I walk out to meet him, the train of my dress following behind me. “Baby,” he says, taking in my elaborate ivory dress. “You look incredible.” He reaches for me and p
ulls me into him.

  “Thanks,” I reply, blushing.

  “I love you to the moon and back,” he says the familiar statement we’ve been using for over five years.

  “I love you to the sun and back,” I shoot back. I suck in a long breath of air, looking up into his emerald eyes. “You sure you’re ready to do this?”

  He reaches up and caresses my face with his hand. “There’s nowhere else I’d rather be.”

  * * *

  It’s the vow exchange and so far there have been no shortage of laughs and tears. Because I proposed, I get the privilege of going first.

  “Avery,” I begin, squeezing his hands lightly. “I promise to love you and care for you for the rest of my life. I promise to be patient and understanding with you. I promise to be your biggest cheerleader. But most of all, I promise to continue to be your best friend.”

  He smiles back at me lovingly. “Austyn, I promise to always be there for you. I promise to be the best husband and father I can be to our children…” he pauses as some of our guests seem to catch on.

  I turn to face the crowd real quick, rubbing my hands over my stomach. “We’re pregnant!” I mouth and everyone seems to sigh. Jacqueline is holding Lincoln in her arms and she squeezes him tightly, whispering something into his ear.

  “I promise to love you all the days of my life,” he finishes.

  “And now for the rings,” the officiant announces.

  I slip Avery’s ring off of his finger and watch as Lee slips him mine.

  “Repeat after me,” the officiant addresses Avery. “With this ring, I thee wed.”

  Avery repeats the sentence, slipping the ring onto my finger. I can’t help but smile. My heart is glowing.

  I follow the same instructions and place the ring onto Avery’s finger.

  “I now pronounce you husband and wife, you may kiss the bride.”

  Avery ditches his cane, causing cheers from the crowd, and tips me back in a mind-blowing kiss.

  I can’t believe I just married my best friend. I can’t believe we are starting a family together. For so long life was dark and dreary and now everything is falling into place. It’s everything I ever wanted. Everything I could have ever wished for.

  Epilogue

  Austyn

  Avery is my best friend. Whether we can communicate properly or not, he completes me. Simply seeing those green eyes light up at the sight of me is worth all the devastation we endured the past few years. Our journey may not have been easy or predictable, but it is ours and ours alone.

  Avery

  I was a dead man. In those last moments, I was sure of it. Right before my body slammed against the windshield, her face was the last thing I saw and the first thing I woke up to out of my coma. My mind, my heart, my soul all knew that angelic face. It was the face of my future.

  2 Years Later – Avery

  They called my recovery a miracle. I defied the odds and proved the doctors, nurses, and prognosis’s wrong. Eventually, I was able to ditch the cane entirely. I still walk with a limp, but it’s barely noticeable these days.

  Austyn and I were finally able to start the family she always dreamed of. She returned back to work full time and I became a stay-at-home dad. I still do some minor computer work on the side, but her income and our savings keep us afloat. We had a baby girl. We named her Iris.

  Lee and Jacqueline come to visit at least three times a year. Lee predicts Lincoln will be chasing Iris around soon enough. They are already the best of friends.

  I still play music on the side, but mostly for myself. I don’t play out anymore. Having a child is very time consuming. But, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world. Iris looks like the spitting image of Austyn, and it reminds me just how much I fucking love my wife. She is the best person I’ve ever met. I have no doubt Iris will grow up to be just like her mama.

  I haven’t seen Dakota in a couple of years. While I miss the music we created together, I know it’s for the best. I check in on her Facebook artist page from time to time and it looks like she’s gone on to do bigger and better things. I’m waiting for the day her voice skyrockets her to the fame and fortune she deserves. I have no doubt it will happen.

  “Babe? Iris?” Austyn calls out as she enters our newly purchased home.

  Iris’ eyes go wide and she hops up from the ground, running toward Austyn’s voice. “Mommy!”

  I grin to myself as I clean up her toys scattered about the floor in her room before joining them.

  Austyn looks beyond exhausted as she removes her jacket and plops down onto the couch. “Hey,” I greet her as I go in for a quick peck. “Long day?”

  She nods, rubbing the back of her hand against her forehead. “You have no idea. How was your guys’ day?”

  I look at Iris who is now seated directly next to Austyn. “Do you want to tell Mommy what we did today?”

  Iris smiles big and bright. “Daddy and me played.”

  Austyn runs her hand gently through Iris’ dark hair. “Oh yeah? Did Daddy let you color today?”

  Iris nods, stuffing her face into Austyn’s stomach.

  “Where’s my picture?” Austyn asks her.

  She pulls her face back and then looks up at Austyn, shrugging.

  “Oh, great,” Austyn teases, but she stops abruptly, her facial expression changing.

  “What is it?” I ask worriedly, taking a step closer to her.

  “He’s kicking. Quick!” She reaches for my hand and positions it on top of her blouse.

  I wait for a moment. “I don’t feel anything.”

  “Shhh,” she orders. “Just wait.”

  Iris lifts her hand to Austyn’s stomach as well and just as she does, we feel the pressure from a kick. Iris’ eyes light up as she gasps.

  “He’s been busy today,” Austyn murmurs, her eyes lifting to meet mine, full of love.

  I grin back at her. I can’t believe I have a son on the way.

  “I told you he was going to be just like his father,” I joke.

  Austyn rolls her eyes at me.

  “Iris is such a Daddy’s girl. I have a feeling Braxton is going to be a Mommy’s boy.”

  “What makes you say that?” I ask, leaning down.

  “Just wait and see.”

  For so long, I let the idea of being tied down scare me. But I understand now that life doesn’t mean anything, unless you love the people you choose to spend it with. I feel bad that I made her wait so long for the life she deserved, but I know now to never waste another moment; to cherish each and every second as if it’s our last. Austyn is my soulmate, my other half and Iris and Braxton are now a part of me. I feel all of them in every choice I make, in every beat of my heart. I’m a family man now and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

  Reasons Why I Love Avery Phillips to the Sun and Back:

  You taught me how to love myself again. You helped me see the beauty inside of me.

  You push me to be a better person because of how selfless you are.

  You never make me question the depth of your love.

  Your piercing green eyes that can see through to my soul.

 
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