A/N: My dearest friends,
We have been on this journey together for 3.5 years. I have poured my heart and soul into this story and have cherished all of you for taking this massive adventure with me.
But alas, all journeys must come to an end, and this dear, dear story has found its finale.
Thank you to every single person who's taken the time to read, to share, to comment. I've made dozens and dozens of friends and am so grateful to you all.
I won't stop writing, so if you'd like to keep up with me, visit my profile and set up author alerts. You can also connect with me on tumblr (same name).
Thank you to everyone again. This experience has been one for a lifetime.
p.s. Remember the song Beca spent 3 years writing for Chloe? Look up "I Like to Be With Me When I'm With You."
September 6, 2023
"Baby, we gotta go!" Chloe called up the stairs.
"I know, I know!" echoed back down to her. Beca appeared a few seconds later, running down the stairs and nearly falling in her haste.
Chloe caught her at the bottom of the stairs to get her to slow down. "Whoa, careful. We don't need you breaking your arm or something."
"Sorry, yeah, I'm…" She took a breath. "Sorry. Nervous."
"You're nervous?" Chloe asked with a smile. "Not only am I sending my kid to his very first day of school, I'm also his teacher."
"Not a competition." Beca smiled back.
"Mooooommy! Come on!"
"Uh oh," Chloe said with a laugh.
"Called out by a five-year-old. I'm coming, dude!"
Chloe followed Beca to the front door where Presley was waiting in his special first day of school clothes: navy blue shorts, a gray tee with a Tyrannosaurus rex on it, and brand new black Converse low-tops. His backpack, comically large on his 3½-foot tall frame, also sported dinosaurs. They were, of course, his current fixation.
Chloe wondered if this one would outlast the last three of the year: robots, unicorns, and—weirdly—corn.
She gathered her last couple things while she watched Beca crouch in front of him and adjust the straps of his backpack and straighten his shorts. "Remember what we talked about?"
Presley nodded, eyes fixated on Beca's hands. "Be nice and make a friend."
"And what else?"
"Listen to Mama."
"And?" She smoothed her hand over his well-gelled short, dark auburn hair but took care to not mess up the spiky parts in the front he obsessed over.
"Say if I have to go pee."
Chloe bit her lip to keep from laughing; she hadn't been privy to whatever school preparation conversation Beca had had with him and now she wished she had been.
"And the last thing?"
"Remember to call Mama Miss Chloe, not Mama."
"Good job. High five," Beca said as she held up his hand so he could smack it before she gave him a big hug. "I love you."
"Love you," his muffled voice replied. "Is it time for school now?"
"Almost," Chloe said as she held up the blackboard in her hand. "Let's go outside and take your picture."
"But I wanna go to school!"
Beca laughed as she stood and opened the door. "Famous last words. We have to take your picture first, that's the rule. Out you go. Go stand in the yard; Mama has your sign."
Chloe watched Beca watch him bound out the front door and felt the emotions trying to creep up on her. It didn't help that when Beca looked back for her she was already crying.
"Oh my gosh, don't you start," Chloe said with a laugh as she rushed over to hug Beca.
"This is fucking crazy," Beca whispered into her neck as she held her. "We're so old."
Chloe laughed again and leaned back to kiss her. "Speak for yourself. We are totes still young."
"True." Beca grinned at her. "At least I'm still in my twenties."
Chloe shook her playfully and then gave her another quick kiss. "Shut up. Let's go; I can't be late on our first day."
Presley's First Day of Kindergarten
I am 5 years old
My teacher is Miss Chloe (aka Mama)
I want to be a T-Rex! when I grow up
Class of 2036
"Why can't I have a dog?"
"Because you're not old enough to take care of it by yourself," Chloe said as she supervised Presley's thoroughness in putting away his own clean clothes.
"But Jackson is 8 and he has a dog."
"I'm sure Jackson's parents help him."
"You and Mommy wouldn't help me with my dog?"
Chloe sighed and smiled at his big, sad dark eyes. Beca's eyes, but he'd mastered Chloe's art of begging years ago. "You keep Mommy and me busy enough."
"I promise to pick up the poop."
"A dog is a lot of work, sweetheart. Maybe when you're older."
"What if Mommy says yes?"
"I already said no. Now finish up; dinner's almost ready."
"Don't hate me."
Chloe glanced at Beca next to her in bed. "What did you do?" she asked slowly.
"I said you can't hate me."
Chloe set her tablet down so she could look at Beca squarely. "Tell me what you did first."
Beca was visibly nervous, shifty and playing with her hair. "He cornered me, okay? You know I can't handle it when he asks nicely."
"He asked me if we could get a dog."
"Beca! I already told him no. Please tell me you didn't -"
"He did that puppy-dog thing with his eyes like you and you know I can't say no to it!" Beca groaned and hid her face in her hands.
"Then you negotiate him down from a dog to a hamster! We talked about our strategy last time he asked."
"That was a year ago and he's older now -"
"Was that his argument?" Chloe said with a light laugh. She wasn't mad, but boy, was she something.
"...Maybe. But dogs are good for kids! He's old enough that he'll really bond with it and have a friend, and it will teach him more responsibility." Beca looked at her and Chloe had to try to not laugh at how upset with herself Beca looked. "And you love dogs!"
"That doesn't mean I have the patience or time to own one! You know he runs us ragged between practice and Scouts and guitar, so either you tell him we're not getting a dog, or you're the number one dog caregiver."
"He said he'd clean up after it."
"He's 8, Beca. He's not getting a dog. We're getting a dog."
A shriek from the doorway got their attention. "We're getting a dog?!"
Chloe sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. "Oh my…Pres, honey, why aren't you in bed?"
"I wanted to say goodnight."
"We already said goodnight, buddy," Beca said. "Maybe you decided you didn't want to be in bed?"
"Maybe," he said as he wiggled in the entrance to their bedroom. "Are we really getting a dog?"
Chloe looked at his excitement and hope, and even Beca seemed excited about it despite her guilt. She sighed in defeat. "Fine, we can get a dog."
"Yes! Thank you!"
The next thing she knew, Presley barreled into the room and onto their bed to throw his arms around Chloe's neck. She laughed as she hugged him and threw a playful glare at Beca.
Presley's First Day of 3rd Grade
I am 8 years old
My teacher is Mr. Martinez
I love Molly! & soccer
I want to be a dog trainer when I grow up
Class of 2036
April 12, 2027
"Shit, I'm so out of practice."
Chloe watched Beca struggle with getting the velcro tabs tight enough that the tiny diaper wouldn't work its way off. "Need help?"
"I'm fine. Okay, Pres, go wash your hands and sit in the big chair in the corner."
Chloe pressed the button to tilt her bed up a bit more so she could see better; if she wasn't already emotionally spent she would have cried at all the memories watching Beca swaddle their newborn in a blanket. She had been sure of herself even the very first time so many years ago when Presley was only minutes old. She was sure again now, and despite her frustrations, much more efficient than she had been that very first time.
"There we go," Beca said as she lifted her out of the bassinet. She was quiet save for a few little grunts. "Are you going to be a screamer, too? I hope not," she said as she kissed her forehead.
Presley still wasn't back from Chloe's delivery room bathroom so Beca took a seat on the edge of Chloe's bed.
"How are you doing?" Beca asked, one hand on Chloe's knee, the other holding their new addition easily in one arm.
"I don't know if I'm more hungry or tired," she said with a laugh that made her wince.
"I'll make sure they bring you something to eat."
"Did you call Bree?"
"Yeah; she'll be by in an hour. Said she's all set for a sleepover with Pres. I think Stacie's setting them up to make homemade pizzas or something."
"Oh, he's going to love that."
"I'm sure he'll make something disgusting." Beca leaned sideways, having to stretch a little, to kiss her. "I still can't believe you did this," she said after a minute, lifting the tiny bundle.
"We did this."
"Okay, I washed my hands," Presley announced as he marched back into the room. "And my arms. And my face."
Chloe laughed. "Good job. Hop up in the chair over there so you can hold her." She watched him hop into the chair and settle back into it, arms out expectantly.
"Okay, fold your arms like I am," Beca said as she stood up. "Just remember to support her head and don't hold her too tightly or squish her to your chest. And don't bounce around."
"Yeah, I got it, I won't."
Chloe watched Beca cautiously pass their new daughter to their son and somehow found more tears to cry. Beca must have heard her because she looked over her shoulder from where she was keeping watch and gave her a wink and a gentle smile.
"Hi, Stevie," he whispered and Chloe could see the awe on his face clear across the room. "I'm your big brother, Presley, and I'm going to take care of you."
Presley's First Day of 6th Grade
I am 11 years old
My teacher is Mrs. Fraser
I love my moms & Stevie & Molly
I want to be famous like Mom when I grow up
Class of 2036
September 7, 2032
Stevie's First Day of Kindergarten
I am 5 years old
My teacher is Miss Chloe (aka Mama)
I want to be a fish when I grow up
Class of 2045
August 16, 2036
"Humor us. Please?" Chloe asked.
"Ma, there are people everywhere."
"Who cares? They don't know you."
"That's the point! I don't want to look lame."
"You don't look lame, you look handsome. And the longer we argue about this, the longer it is until we leave. So." Chloe folded her arms, blackboard sign and chalk in her hand.
"Presley, listen to your mother," Beca said firmly. "Let her take your damn picture."
"Fine," he said with a huff and held out his hand for the sign. "At least let me fill it out myself."
Chloe beamed and handed it to him.
"Don't be a smartass on it," Beca said to him as she closed the trunk of their rented Audi.
Chloe leaned on the car next to her and felt Beca's arm slip around her waist.
"This is fucking crazy," Beca whispered as she pulled Chloe closer. "We're so old."
"We are totes still young."
"I don't think our forties count as young anymore."
Chloe nudged her with her hip. "I love you."
"I love you, too." Beca paused, then, "It's weird to be here. Good weird, but weird."
Chloe gazed out at the hustle and bustle of the thousands of students (and their parents) on the Barden University campus, suitcases and boxes and luggage carts moving into dorms. At their son, all but fully grown, with a backpack on one shoulder and messy hair he insisted was cool and torn jeans and a Lakers T-shirt, and she couldn't help but think about his very first day of school. She still had his dinosaur backpack in a box somewhere.
"Why is it weird?"
Chloe glanced down at Stevie sitting on the curb playing her video game. "Because last time your mommy and I were here, we were Presley's age, and now we're back to drop him off for his first day of college."
"I don't think it's weird. I think it's cool."
She felt Beca shake with silent laughter. "I'm glad you think it's cool; maybe you'll want to come here, too," Beca said after a minute.
"I want to be a Bella, so I have to come here."
It was all too much and Chloe felt the tears sneaking up on her, but Presley spoke up just in time.
"All right, let's do this before the entire school sees me."
Chloe clapped and grabbed her phone as he flipped the sign around and smiled.
Presley's First Day of College
I am 18 years old
My teacher is IDK I have 6
I love my moms & Stevie
I want to be as cool as my moms when I grow up
Class of 2040