Sloane wakes up with a terrible headache, as if she was hung over, but she hadn’t been drinking. She is still in her evening gown and everything feels so tight. Fitz is not in bed, he is still mad at her, as he should be. The argument with her mother is fresh on her mind and that look on his face after her mother’s question; hurt. And could she be any more dramatic to have walked out like that?
‘Ugh.’ She wanted to take back the last twenty-four hours of her life, have a do over, tell Fitz before they flew out. But it’s too late now, the news is out there and she is sure her family have been talking and thinking about it. She wants nothing more than to curl up in bed and hide away, but her sister is getting married today so… no can do.
Sloane jumps with a start at the sound of Fitz’s voice, the room is still dark so she turns on the night light on her bureau and there he is, sitting in the arm chair, watching her
‘Did you sleep on the chair?’
‘Did you sleep in bed?’
‘I did. You kept tossing and turning.’ Fitz couldn’t sleep for most of the night, the news that Sloane dropped on them last night weighed too heavily on his mind. He is going to be a father with the love of his life, a part of him is excited but the other part is worried that she does not want to be a mother. They never really discussed the idea of having children, it feels like it will happen when its meant to be. Sloane never said she did not want to have children, never relayed her fears to him, and now, here they are; a pregnant wife who is seemingly unhappy about it.
‘Sorry, I didn’t sleep very well.’
‘And I know we need to talk.’
Sloane sits up in bed, ‘Fitz I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to keep it from you, I was going to tell you but-’
‘You don’t want to have children?’
‘I do, of course I do. I want to have children with you. I know we haven’t talked about it but I always expected that to be a given. I got scared.’
‘That I’d be like my mother.’
‘Is that such a bad thing? By all accounts your mom is a great mom, sure you have your issues but even you have said what a wonderful mother she was to you growing up. Nobody is perfect Sloane-’
‘I know Fitz, but she doesn’t even like me.’
‘You keep saying that, but have you talked to her about it?’
‘It’s hard to talk to someone who-’
‘She’s your mother, is she perfect? No, but nobody is. You have to at least give her a chance to try.’ He gets up from the chair and sits beside her. ‘How are you feeling?’
‘Rough. As if I did shots and fell asleep. I’m so sorry Fitz.’
‘You always call me Harp in moments like these, you’re the only one that calls me that and I love it. Don’t stop now.’
‘Oh Harp.’ Overwhelmed by the emotions of the last twenty-four hours Sloane buries her head in his neck and cries.
Fitz lets her, she needed to have a good cry.
‘Are you mad at me?’
‘A little.’ Fitz smiles at his wife, nothing she could ever do would make him stay mad at her for long. He is too in love with her, from the first moment he saw her, he knew he wanted to spend the rest of his life with her, grow old with her, have children with her. Sloane is everything to him.
‘How can I make it up to you?’
‘Let’s go to the doctor. I rang one up in the village and he has agreed to see us this morning.’
In a half hour, after a quick shower Sloane and Fitz leave the house quietly as possible, choosing to walk into the village to see the doctor in her father’s surgery- Dr Matthew, a family friend.
The cold gel on her stomach makes her shiver a little from the sensation. Fitz is sitting beside her, holding her hand, both intently watching the screen.
‘Here we go,’ the doctor presses the scanner to her stomach and they immediately hear the rapid heartbeat. They see their baby on screen, fully formed and moving. ‘There we are. Beautiful.’
‘Wow… we are really pregnant.’
‘Yes Sloane, you are. I’m so happy for you.’ Doctor Matthew says, he has been friends with her father for a long time, they worked together up in London and when her father opened the surgery in the Village, Dr. Matthew was his first choice to run it with him. ‘Congratulations to you both.’
‘Thank you.’ She turns to look at Fitz, ‘you alright?’
‘I’m better than alright sweetheart. Thank you.’
‘You think they left?’ Bella comes downstairs to the kitchen, she’s just been upstairs looking for Sloane and Fitz who hadn’t come down to breakfast, their bed was unmade, and all calls to their phones are going to voicemail.
‘No, Bells, Sloane wouldn’t do that, you know how important it is that she be there for your day.’
‘I’m sure they are just taking a moment, don’t worry about anything.’
‘It’s hard not to when- morning mom.’
Briar walks into the kitchen looking somber, she hadn’t had a good nights’ sleep either, and she has Stephen had a falling out. ‘Good morning.’
‘Mom are you okay?’ Serena asks, she’s never seen her mother look so sad.
‘No… where is your sister?’
‘We don’t know. She is not in her room, neither is Fitz.’
Briar sighs, ‘Bella if you don’t want me-’
‘Mom, stop. Please stop.’ Bella says forcefully, ‘look I probably should have said this to you all, but I am sorry to have sprung this on you the way I did. Meeting Kaiser, getting married and then springing all this on you. It’s a lot for anyone to ask of one’s family and you have all supported me no questions asked, shown up for me and I have not even properly acknowledged that. I’m so sorry.’
‘Bells, you’re our sister, we’d probably help you get away with murder by burying the body. Mom, whatever happens, know that we all love you, and yes that includes Sloane too. This is a rough patch and as family we go through them but nothing should throw into doubt our love for each other.’
‘But she’s not here.’
‘She’ll be here. She’ll be back. I promise.’ Serena says, whatever is happening Sloane will not abandon Bella especially today.
‘Don’t you worry about a thing mommy.’ Bella hugs her mother from behind, ‘I love you so much.’
‘I love you too. I really like you girls.’
Bea is the first one to burst out laughing, ‘mom you can let that go now.’
‘I can’t. I need to let Sloane know that-’
‘Let Sloane know what?’ Sloane and Fitz walk into the kitchen from the side entrance.
‘That I love you. That I like you a heck of a lot. And that I am sorry for the way I behaved.’
Sloane sighs and Fitz gently pushes her forward. ‘Mommy…’
‘Oh my darling Sloaney, come here.’
Mother and daughter hug. Gabriel and Edward walk into the kitchen and exchange awkward looks with Fitz who simply shrugs as if to say, don’t look at me.
‘Where were you guys?’ Serena asks Fitz.
‘We had to do something in the village.’
‘Nothing. No big deal.’
‘Fitz, I know this is my day and what not, but technically me and Kaiser are already married so you can really make this about Sloane.’
‘Bells stop, don’t worry we’ll talk about this after the ceremony.’
‘No, we’ll talk about this now. Where have you guys been and what have you been up to?’
‘Okay then where’s dad?’
‘I’m here.’ Stephen answers coming down from the stairs. ‘Wha’ppen?’
‘We went to the surgery, Dr Matthew saw us this morning. We had a scan.’
‘Oh my God!! You’re really pregnant.’ Briar squeals in excitement.
‘Yes, exactly fourteen weeks.’ Sloane shows them the picture and the squealing does not stop.
‘Welcome to the big boys club.’ Edward says to Fitz.
‘Thank you.’ He couldn’t be prouder of his wife.
‘Oh Bells, you look so beautiful. The Belle of the Ball.’
Bella spins around one last time for them and Briar cannot control her tears. Her daughters all grown up and forging their own way in the world. Its mean a lot for children of an immigrant generation to come into their own in a world that tells them they are less than because of their heritage and the colour of their skin. She and Stephen worked hard, to provide for their children, send them to good schools just like they were sent by parents who worked harder than they did to provide a good life for them. This moment and the moments to come will mean the world to them.
Kaiser is waiting at the altar, with his two brothers as best men, for Bella to walk down the aisle towards him and the rest of their life together. The intimate chapel is lit by candle light as members of both families and their friends, Ari and Ben sit in the pews.
‘Ready little bro?’ Mason says to his younger brother.
‘As ready as can be.’
‘You did good Kaiser. I’m proud of you. She’s a good woman, be a good man to her.’
‘I’ll try my best every day. Thanks.’
Ruth Williams fought back tears all day, if her husband was here he would be so proud of his boys, they did good, raised them well and she can take comfort in that. One of her daughters-in-law squeezes her hand, knowing what was going through her mind. The death of her husband hit them all so this is bitter sweet. More sweet than bitter.
‘As I’ll ever be.’
Sloane fluffs out Bella’s dress. The sisters are bridesmaids and their children page boys and flower girls, all dressed in Dior. Stephen joins his daughters and offers Bella an elbow.
‘Thank you daddy.’ Bella says locking elbows with her father.
‘Any time princess, any time.’
To the sound of the harp playing Ave Maria, Bella walks down the aisle, towards her new life with her family guiding her way through, knowing that the thread of family will run deep and through.
Gabriel looks at Serena, his beautiful wife, holding Sawyer’s hand walking down the aisle, the year was rough but they found their way back to each other and he couldn’t be happier, he will make good on the promise he took on their wedding day, to make her happy every day of their life together.
Bea waves discreetly at Edward, this reminds her of their wedding day in the main church that houses this chapel, a day that was filled with love and every day since, surrounded by the very same people here tonight and then some.
Harp catches his wife’s eye and she winks at him, their life is about to turn a new chapter, a family of their own, in a bigger family filled with love, surrounded by love, he couldn’t ask for more. He will love. He will love her always.