Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Eric and Charlotte had found a house for sale in Brindleton Bay, but its price tag was just a little out of their reach, even with his parents’ help, and as he had told them, Charlotte’s father was not helping out. So, before they could scrape together the missing money the house was sold from right under their noses.
The same day they learned the house was gone, however, Eric came home to the Beach House to find a stack of documents a courier had dropped off for him with his mother earlier that day.
You guessed it.
An early wedding present from Ewan to Eric and Charlotte.
Normally, Eric would never have accepted such a gift, but circumstances were different here and refusal would have really hurt Ewan’s feelings. So instead, Eric and Charlee called Ewan to thank him and tell him he would always be welcome at their home.
At that time nobody could have guessed how soon that offer would be made use of.
And nobody could have guessed how that would come about.
After moving in with Charlotte into their brand-new lovely home – Eric had meanwhile climbed the ranks to senior detective at the police station – one day by sheer coincidence he ran into one of the lower ranking officers about to book someone familiar – as it turned out for minor theft, evading arrest and resisting an officer.
Eric took over the case quickly for some made up reason.
“Ava, what the hell?” he whisper-yelled at her now sitting with him in his cubicle at the police station.
“Sorry! I had no choice.” she whispered back.
“Does Ewan know about this, assuming this is because of him?” Eric pointed at the stolen item, a pregnancy test package, now on his desk.
“Of course he does not know and please PLEASE don’t tell him!”
“Please! I’ll go to jail for however long you want, just please don’t tell him. Don’t you have this client thing where you cannot disclose anything?”
“I am a detective, not a doctor or lawyer. Also, we don’t get any kind of satisfaction out of sending people to jail, Ava. I’d rather keep you out, for everybody’s sake. And I really shouldn’t tell him, YOU should.”
“I don’t even know if there is anything to tell, hence the need for the pregnancy test.”
“But you have reason to assume there may be, which he should know. He is in this as much as you are, Ava, and I know him, believe me, he’d do the right thing. He had a pregnancy scare before, under the worst imaginable circumstances, and even then he kept his calm and was kind about it. Whatever the outcome for you, stealing and running from the law is not the answer, nor is hiding it from him.” Eric told her calmly, but firmly.
“I know, and if I had any money I never would have, but I needed to know NOW, the uncertainty is driving me insane! I do not want Ewan to know, whether the test comes back positive or not.”
“I beg your pardon?!”
“I don’t want pity help, a pity check or least of all a pity marriage and I also do not want to be some dumped single mom. I’d end up just like my mom did, stuck in some awful town barely making ends meet until she snapped and just up and left one day, never to be seen or heard from again, leaving all her kids with our father. My dream was always to get out of that rut, see the world, make a real life for myself not live and die in that trailer like the rest of them.”
“Trust me when I say Ewan would never marry anyone just because of a pregnancy. He’d take care of the child, financially and as a father, but he learned from his parents that marriages for the wrong reasons hurt all involved. And if you want out so badly, why don’t you take Ewan up on his offer? I know he has invited you to live with him. That would get you out.”
“Because I don’t want it like that. I don’t want to be the next Cassandra. She hurt him so much.”
“She sure did, but trust me, you’re nothing like her.”
“You knew her?”
“Oh yeah! She lived with us, Ewan, Hannah and me … and later Sven. You know how that went.”
“Is she really so beautiful? I went to the library to look her up and I just cannot compete with that.”
“She is attactive and not even a bad person, even though she and I never clicked. Ewan clearly is very interested in you, you are a different kind of beautiful, and take it from someone who would know – a perfect appearance isn’t everything. Look, Ava, as much as I enjoy chatting, I really can’t, so here is what we’ll do. First we have to fix this problem. I’ll take you back to the store, you’ll apologize nicely and we’ll pay for the test, I’ll try to talk the store manager into dropping the charges. Then I’ll take you to my home, Charlotte is there, she’ll take care of you. One of us will call Ewan. I betcha he’ll be in town before nightfall, and over dinner we will discuss next steps, unless you prefer to have that talk alone with Ewan.”
“Thanks Eric for being so nice. I’ll pay you back.”
“Look Ava. You are part of the group now, through Ewan. We don’t do the tit for tat thing. I am sure at some point one of us needs something and you can help. You already have, by keeping that idiotic cousin of mine out of too much trouble when he went on his little self-finding trip.”
Eric managed to fix the problem without breaking the law himself or Ava ending up with a record, Charlee was the perfect person to calm her frayed nerves as she was always so composed and warm.
Later that day, after work, when Eric steered his car into the parking lot near their home he noticed a fancy rental car, smiled, knowing that this was a telltale sign that Ewan had made it.
He found him sitting with Charlee and Ava on the couch. When he walked in Charlee came to greet him with the usual kiss, briefly updating him quietly.
Ava was not pregnant, Charlee had taken her to a clinic and gotten her a prescription for birth control filled.
Ewan had only been here a few minutes himself, so they gave them privacy to catch up while preparing dinner in the kitchen together.
“You did a genuinely kind thing today, detective.” Charlee smiled up at him.
“I have been known to have my moments. How is she?”
“Much better now. You should have seen her eyes light up when Ewan got here. I am no specialist, nor would I ever meddle in other’s affairs on purpose, but these two need to happen. My inner romantic burst into ponies and rainbows watching her when he arrived.”
“Hannah was gonna have a talk with Ava to sway her his way. If anyone can convince her to give him a real chance, it’s her.”
“Well, you may be surprised.” Charlotte smiled again, as she played with his collar.
“You talked some sense into her?” Eric was surprised.
“A little. She won’t commit to anything definite, but she will fly to Del Sol Valley with him tomorrow. He had invited her to some black tie thing this Sunday and she is bursting with curiosity, but didn’t want him to buy the dress. Luckily some of the designer gowns I had kept fit her, and there is one in particular she really loves that looks amazing on her. All she needs is help with hair and makeup now.”
“Look at you, my princess. Fixed the problem with eloquence and grace.”
“Oh, don’t call me that. I’d much rather be a cop’s wife than a princess.”
“You’ll always be my queen.” Eric’s voice had gotten deep before he kissed her, both forgetting all about dinner preparations.
In the meantime Ewan had been talking at Ava.
“I just cannot comprehend why you would even consider keeping this from me. What was the big plan, had you actually been pregnant? Just not tell me, while I am totally oblivious that I have a kid running around somewhere who thinks I am the world’s worst father?! ”
“I don’t know! I was a fucking virgin, Ewan, I didn’t need birth control and it wasn’t like I planned any of this. None of it ever crossed my mind, all just happened. I never even thought about anything like pregancies until I was late. This is really not something I want to talk about with you. It was false alarm, a lot of ado about nothing.”
“Oh, we are having this talk now! I can’t believe I have to say this, but I am not one of those men that run away from responsibility.”
“I know that. But I don’t want you to be there because you feel like you HAVE to.”
“I’d want to be there – period, but someone here likes to play hard to get.”
“I am not playing hard to get, I am trying not to be another Cassandra!”
“That never even crossed anyone’s mind but yours!”
“Then take me home with you if that offer still stands. I need to get away anyway.”
“Good to know that all it needed to finally convince you to come with me was you not wanting to go back home. I feel loved.”
“That’s not what I meant.”
“Whatever, at least you are coming with me. You still going to the event on Sunday with me?”
“I am! I even have my own dress. Oh, don’t look at me like that. A good one. Designer. Charlee gave it to me and she knows what to wear to events like that. You’ll shit your breeches! I mean, you’ll be very surprised when you see me in it.”
Ewan realized that Charlee must have done a lot more than open her closet to Ava, when she corrected her own pottymouth, which seemed incredibly adorable to Ewan, but he said nothing. And if Charlotte deemed the dress appropriate, it would be, that much Ewan was certain of.
“Well, anybody here need to borrow something to sleep in? Charlee already put extra toothbrushes, towels and stuff in the bathroom for you guys. Some among us here have workdays starting early and need to turn in.” Eric appeared, already in his sleep clothes.
“No, we’re good here, unless you need a kiss goodnight from me.” Ewan grinned.
“On that lovely note – see you at breakfast! Good night.”
“Don’t say I didn’t offer.” Ewan called after him as he was running upstairs.
Eric went to bed with Charlee, something that had not gotten old to either of them yet and likely never would. Not after all they’ve been through to get here. Neither of them even really cared if they were ever gonna be married or when, as long as they were together.
In the living room Ewan looked at Ava, who seemed unsure about what to say or do next.
“Do you need to tell your family you are coming with me?” he asked her.
“No! We had a big fight, dad, three of my brothers and I! And since dad is besties with my boss at the diner, I lost my job there too, at least until we all make up. Kind of a Mexican standoff situation. I want them to apologize, and they me, which isn’t gonna happen, so they can go bite me.”
“Do I even want to know?” Ewan frowned.
“It was about you.”
“Me!? What did I do?”
“Nothing. Kevin – one of my brothers – found out who you really are and now they want me to marry you ASAP, after I tried to borrow money for the test.”
“Maybe you should tell them it was false alarm?”
“They didn’t even know what it was for. They know you are rich now and want me to marry you because of that! NEVER!”
“Uh … hang on there now. Let’s not throw around such final terms here so lightly. I have nothing to do with that family feud. Why am I being shelved for them pissing you off?”
“I am not shelving you. I am flying back with you and going to that event with you, aren’t I?”
“I am kind of the more traditional type though and eventually, I do want to get married.”
“I don’t know. Possibly. Since we never really got to develop this relationship beyond a handful stolen kisses and nookie one time, because one of us has to be so complicated – spoiler alert: it’s not me – nobody knows what potential it has or does not have. I don’t want to rush into anything any more than you do Ava, all I can say is I am crazy about you. You can’t or won’t come to me, so when I come see you the walls have eyes and ears – and in some cases grabby hands and pursed lips – so neither of us can say for sure where we stand with each other now, let alone where we could be.”
Ava was trying so hard not to laugh, undoubtedly remembering the night her drunk brother burst in on them thinking Ava’s room was his and Ewan was his ex girlfriend, but then the reality of it all set back in and she looked desperate.
“You are right. I want to, but just don’t know how. It’s all so complicated.”
“I tell you how. I thought I was looking at a problem because of work, but now I am thinking it could be a blessing. Two days after the event we’re going to I am going to have to travel, to film on location. Nobody ever knows how long that will take, but at the very least a month. Come with me. Live with me on site, there won’t be any family interfering. You’d be alone some of the time, when I have to shoot, unless you want to watch, but I warn you, it will be super-boring.”
“Okay. Let’s do this. If you still want me to after the event. Hoping I won’t embarrass you too much. And now let’s turn in, kinda rude to still be sitting here after the hosts already went to bed.”
“Can I see the dress Charlee gave you?”
They went to the guest bedroom, even though neither of them had resting on their minds at least not initially. First they talked, then they traded kisses and caressed one another. A natural progression of events was put into motion.
It would become their second – and third – time of intimacy, every bit as special as the first had been, but this time Ewan made sure there wouldn’t be a reason for another pregnancy scare.
When they finally drifted off to sleep, it was in each other’s arms, both smiling.
-to be continued-