As I stood at the bar making drinks, my mind drifted back.
“Can I get you a drink?”
She laughed quietly as she faced me. “That’s original.”
“I prefer to think of it as reliable.” I grinned. “So, how about that drink?”
The night I had first met Shirley…that was nearly two decades ago. What a different person I had been then. I felt chagrined now to think of the way I had manipulated Shirley and Huy. There was no doubt in my mind that I had been meant to meet Shirley, but how differently I should’ve handled everything. And yet…
I looked over at Loralee, my nearly twelve year old daughter, as she put away some dishes. If I hadn’t done things as I had, I might not have her. I might not have this life.
“You’re looking awfully maudlin, Camille,” Chastity said as she came over. “Don’t you know this is a party? Your party, in fact?”
I laughed softly and handed her a drink. “You’re right. My mind wandered.”
“Well, you should keep it away from whatever had that serious look on your face.”
“Oh, it was nothing that bad. I was just thinking about how times change, you know? It’s been nearly twenty years since I moved to Newcrest and met Shirley. Loralee will be twelve next month.”
Chastity smiled softly. “I know. Tito turned thirteen a couple of months ago. I can’t believe how fast he’s growing. Before you know it, he’ll be out of the house and starting his own family.”
“They shouldn’t be allowed to grow up. They should have to stay young and cute forever.”
Chastity snorted softly. “We’d get sick of them. Eventually.”
“Maybe.” I got back to my feet. “It’s time to go rejoin the party. It’s my anniversary, after all.” I smiled, remembering our wedding day.
“Happy anniversary, by the way. Has it been a good five years?”
I smiled as we went into the living room. “Absolutely.”
After chatting with my ex-sister-in-law for a few more minutes, I made my way over to Carter. “Hey, Carter, I’m so glad you could come tonight. You didn’t have to take off work, did you?”
He smiled and shook his head. “No, I was off tonight.”
Goodness, he really was handsome; his twins were going to be real heartbreakers when they grew up. “How is work, by the way?”
“Oh, it’s good. It’s hard making it in the music business. I’ve started brushing up on the piano. That seems to be all anybody wants to hear these days.”
“Well,” I said, “let me know if I can help you somehow. I’m not exactly in the music biz, but I’ve got some connections.” Mine was the name in gaming now, and I wasn’t just saying that to brag. There was a reason I’d become a successful developer so quickly and stayed at the top.
He smiled. “I appreciate that.”
I looked over towards Shirley and Hadley, talking on the couch. “How are you and Hadley doing? Is marriage suiting you?” They’d been married for just over a year now.
He looked over at his wife, an adoring look entering his eye. “Everything is great. It really is. And the twins couldn’t be better. I got them both little guitars to play with. And Nora is starting to really get the hang of violin.” He looked over at Hadley again. “And actually, speaking of, I think I’ll go steal my wife. If you don’t mind?”
I laughed. “Actually, why don’t we both go steal our wives?” I grinned at him, and we went over to the couch. “Hey, Hadley, it’s great to see you. Shirl, let’s get some air. It’s getting crowded in here.”
She smiled up at me and took my hand as she got to her feet. “That sounds like a great idea.”
Together, we walked upstairs to our room and went out on the balcony. We sat down on the old couch of mine from my old house. I don’t know why I hadn’t gotten rid of the thing – it didn’t go with any of my décor – but somehow I just couldn’t bring myself to part with it. It was nice having little reminders of the old days.
I pulled Shirley into my arms, leaning my head against hers. “Who would’ve thought this would be our life, huh?”
Shirley smiled, squeezing her arm around me. “I know. It’s hard to believe all of this came from one meeting in a bar.”
“Would you change anything? I know everything I did…I was a horrible person.”
She leaned back to look at me. “No, I wouldn’t change a thing. Everything that happened, it led us here, to this moment. It gave us Loralee and Luc and our amazing family. Besides, we might not appreciate these gifts as much if we both hadn’t had to go through so much to have them.”
I smiled and kissed her softly. “I love you, Shirley. Happy anniversary.”
She kissed me back and stroked my cheek. “Happy anniversary, Camille. I love you, too.”