*This is my cue to say holy crap, I can't believe its been 5 freaking years! My dudes, so much has happened. I moved, I met a guy, I got married, I moved again. We got a dog, 2020 hit and life went to shit. I've been dealing with a lot of anxiety this past summer, and I think getting back into my writing will help take my mind off of things. To those of you still around and those of you just joining, welcome! It feels good to be back.
I hope you enjoy the latest installment. It feels weird to be writing again, but also feels good. Here goes nothing!*
Thursday, October 12th, 2017
The Swanson household was at peace. As it was on the eve of their departure, the house had been cleaned from top to bottom, and their luggage, packed and ready to go, awaited them by the front door. Their resort stay had been reserved, dining reservations had been made months in advance, and their Disney Magic Bands had arrived two weeks earlier. In her bed, Alex slept soundly, as dreams of a Disney adventure swirled in her head. Her Frozen night light softly lit the room casting soft shadows throughout.
Across the hall, the soft sound of the overhead fan whirling gently was the only sound to be heard. Peacefully, Beca and Jesse slept, blissfully unaware of the world around them.
For a brief moment, all was quiet and all was calm.
And yet, within minutes, the peaceful calm of the night was broken as Beca's cell phone light up and vibrated, buzzing around the bedside table.
Sluggishly, she shifted, as reality slowly began to penetrate her dreams. Blindly, her arm reached out, searching for the source of her disruption until her hand finally landed on her phone.
"Hello?" She answered hoarsely, not even bothering to see who was calling. The response that came back was an air horn, blasting loudly through the speakers and killing the sense of peace Beca had been enjoying just moments earlier.
"Jesus Christ!" She screamed, so alarmed, she nearly jumped out of bed. With her hand on her chest, she exhaled deeply, trying to adjust to her new surroundings as she sat up in bed. Amid the panic, she had thrown the phone across the bed.
Jesse awoke with a start. "Shit! Is this it? Did we oversleep? Did we miss our flight?! Oh God, Alex is never gonna forgive us."
"What is happening, what the hell time is it?" Beca mumbled, scanning the bed for her phone. The last memory she had had was talking with Amy and deciding on a 15-minute nap. And then, without warning, chaos had erupted.
"It is 3:15AM!" Came Aubrey's shrill response as Jesse found the phone and put it on speaker. "Beca! Did you not ready my PDF?!" She continued. "It was right in the fine print. Wake up is 3AM. Those who do not call me by 3:15 get the airhorn. We are due at Kennedy airport in 1 hour and 45 minutes!"
"I thought you were the maid of honor. Shouldn't this be your job?" Jesse whispered to Beca, earning him a hateful glare. While Beca was Stacie's Maid of Honor, and had thrown her bridal shower and bachelorette party, behind the scenes, Aubrey was the unofficial wedding planner, and had every minute over the next 72 hours accounted for in the form of itineraries.
"Damn, is it 3:15 already? I'm gonna go start the Keurig, I'll just-yeah, okay." He mumbled, throwing a shirt on and shuffling downstairs.
Beca laid back against the headboard, her head in her hands as she tried to rub the sleepiness from her eyes and wake herself up. Everything seemed to be spinning in the moment and nothing made sense. It then hit her. Had Aubrey just said an hour and 45 minutes?
"Aubrey, 5am? Our flight doesn't even leave until 8." She pointed out, mid yawn.
Beca could hear the eye roll that followed.
"Yes," Aubrey huffed. "And the FAA recommends being 2 hours early for all domestic flights! The extra hour is allotted for traffic, and small child emergencies."
As if on cue, Alex came bursting through Beca and Jesse's bedroom door and jumped up onto the bed with the energy only a small child headed to Disney World could contain.
"IT'S DISNEY DAY!" She screamed, excitement oozing out of her. Beca couldn't help but smile as Alex twirled around, jumping and clapping, and talked a mile a minute in her Elsa pajamas. The day the young girl had been counting down over the past week for had finally arrived.
"...And Elsa, and Anna, and the Tea Cups, and Cinnarella's Castle, and Minnie, and Mickey, and... Mommy!" Alex suddenly gasped as she stopped jumping. "Do you think Belle will be there? She's my princess, mommy!"
Beca chucked softly. "Aubrey, I have to go. Trust me, we will be there. Alex's energy alone could fuel the plane."
"Don't forget your shirt!" Aubrey cried out before the call ended.
"Okay peanut," Beca began, lifting Alex into her arms. "It's time to get dressed."
"A 'cause it's Disney day!" Alex exclaimed, her eyes wide.
"Yes," Beca agreed. "It's finally Disney day."
After months of planning, researching, and preparing, the time had finally arrived. Stacie was getting married, and a 10-day trip to Disney World lay upon them. Beca was both frightened yet excited at the same time.
Ashley closed the zipper on her suitcase and sighed as she sat on her bed. Morning had finally arrived.
With her hair tightly encased in a tight side pony tail and a fresh face of makeup, she silently prayed she would be able to keep herself together and pull off a sense of normalcy in the coming days.
The past 24 hours had been an absolute whirlwind and she could hardly fathom how she was going to get through this trip, or even begin to tell her friends everything that had unfolded the previous night. She tried to fight the excuses coming to mind of why she might need to end the trip early.
After her iPhone had become the victim of her temper tantrum the night before, Ashley was left with messenger as the only way to communicate until a new phone could arrive. Crafting a white lie, she had messaged the girls, told them her phone had accidentally fallen into the sink and that the baby's crossed legs had prevented them from finding out the sex. The truth was of course far more devastating and could only be explained in person. Ashley had made the decision relatively quickly that she would not do anything to take away from Stacie's well-deserved day and would table the conversation for another day, another time.
Michael had left, had gone and spent the night in a hotel, leaving Ashley behind in the empty house with her thoughts. And after a sleepless night of filing claims, ordering a new phone, researching doctors, schools, and statistics, she was more physically and mentally exhausted than she had ever been in her life.
Staring ahead at the picture frame that rest on their dresser, she scoffed lightly.
In a metal 4x7 frame was a black and white picture of Ashley and Michael, holding hands, with their backs to the camera, as they walked down the aisle after saying their vows.
Happily Ever After started today
"Yeah, some happy ever after..." She whispered.
She had wanted to cry. Wanted to allow the tears to flow freely as she allowed herself to throw, kick, punch, scream, and fully feel her grief. But she just couldn't muster the energy required. As she sat on the bed, she felt completely drained and void of any and all emotions.
Her computer chimed, taking her out of her thoughts as she looked over to see a message from Jessica.
"Hey lovey! B and I are on our way over to pick you guys up. See you in about 15 minutes. Love you!"
Ashley stood, taking the handle of her suitcase and took a breath. The acting began now. Looking down at her slightly protruding belly, she rubbed it softly.
"It's you and me against the world little one. Here we go."
At 6:15 AM, Jesse, Beca, and Alex had arrived at Kennedy airport. Beca, knowing just how important this trip was to Alex, put her feelings aside and went all out to make this experience as magical and special as it could be. After several missed calls and texts from Aubrey, the Swanson's had finally arrived, and in style. Beca wore the custom-made Disney bridesmaid racerback tank Lily had created for everyone. Each shirt had 'Bridesmaid' or, in Beca's case, 'Maid of honor', designed on it, with a silhouette of a Disney princess. Chloe was Ariel, Cynthia Rose had Tiana, Ashley was Belle, Jessica was Elsa, Amy was Rapunzel, Lily had Mulan, and Aubrey was Aurora. In a pair of jeans, her converse, and a coffee in hand, Beca began to feel more like herself.
As Jesse printed their boarding passes, Beca text Stacie, who was already in Disney.
"Made it to the airport. Aubrey's only called me 4 times and text me 7-imagine that! Text you again when we land. Love you."
Alex attracted all kinds of smiles and compliments with her beautifully crafted Belle costume as they made their way through checking luggage and security checks. The bright golden yellow gown, filled with ruffles, frills, roses, and sparkles, shined brightly. Beca had curled Alex's hair, pulled it up into a bun, and had even made an exception and allowed her a touch of make-up. Her tiny little heels gently click clacked along the tile floor. With some glitter in her hair, and a dab of body glitter on her shoulders, Alex Swanson was a sight to behold. The only thing missing was a tiara. Thankfully, Alex hadn't yet brought that up.
"Mommy, I'm a princess..." She whispered the first time she saw herself in the mirror. And now, as they made their way to their gate, she rejoiced in the attention she was receiving as passerby smiled, pointed, and continuously complimented her.
"Oh my goodness, would you look at her!"
"What a doll!"
"Must be a trip to Disney World, how cute!"
"How precious is she!"
"They I think I'm a real princess!" Alex squealed. "I can't wait to tell Parker about this when I get back to school!"
Beca smiled as she looked down at her daughter. She was determined to make this a trip none of them would forget.
Chloe and Luke soon came into view as they arrived at their gate and Alex stopped, unsure of what to do next. It had been months since she had last seen Chloe or Luke, and she wasn't quite sure how to feel.
Chloe was feeling equally as unsure and nervous. She had several people to answer to for her past behavior, and it hadn't been easy.
It had been 8 weeks since Chloe's car accident and the weeks had brought about total transformation. She had gained 10 pounds, quit drinking, and had set a date for her return to work. Therapy was a twice a week occurrence, one for individual therapy and one for marriage counseling with Luke. Her face had filled out, her bones healed, and her color had returned.
Chloe wore her matching Disney bridesmaid tank, a pair of Nike athletic shorts and flip flops. Her vibrant red hair had been curled and pulled into a half ponytail, her diamond earing studs returned, and her fingers and toes had been newly manicured. It was like the past six months had been some weird, bad dream they had all suddenly woken from. The Chloe everyone had known and loved was back once again.
But while she had transformed physically and emotionally, the past six months had happened, and it did not take away from the fact that she had hurt many people along the way, and there was work to be done in repairing those relationships.
Chloe feared her relationship with Alex was going to be the hardest to repair. She had been guilt ridden for months knowing how she had hurt her Goddaughter. It was going to be hard at first, but knowing she needed to make the first move, she took a breath and looked to Beca for confirmation. Beca nodded accordingly.
Bending down to Alex's level, Chloe smiled nervously.
Alex hid behind Beca's legs, peering out slightly after a few seconds. Beca bent down.
"Hey peanut, why don't you, and Aunt Chloe and I go sit and talk for a little bit while we wait for our plane?" Alex shrugged in response as she stared up at her mother.
Beca picked Alex up in her arms and the three ladies found a row of empty seats by the windows.
The sky was just starting to lighten, with sunrise imminent. Alex, sitting between Beca and Chloe, kicked her feet and stared out at the planes coming and going.
"Alex, I know it's been a while since you've seen Aunt Chloe, but she has something she would like to say you." Beca began.
Chloe tucked a piece of hair behind her ear and took a breath as she faced her niece.
"Alex, I'm sorry I haven't been around this summer and that I missed your dance recital. Aunt Chloe has been very sad and frustrated lately, but I never meant to hurt you. I'm so sorry that I did."
Chloe cleared her throat, pushing back the tears that threatened to form. "Sometimes when you're really angry and upset, you don't make the best choices, and you end up hurting the people you love" She explained, glancing over at Beca. "I should have learned to handle my sadness better, but I'm working on that now. I do hope you and I can be buddies again."
Alex appeared to think it over in her head as she put her index finger to her chin. Beca and Jesse had often talked to Alex about forgiveness and making mistakes, and most importantly, treating other's the way you wanted to be treated.
"It's okay Aunt Chloe. One time I got sad and yelled at mommy and Aunt CeeCee. And then I got grounded and couldn't go to dance that time. So, I had to learn to make better choices too." She explained.
Chloe couldn't help but laugh as a tear slipped from her eye. "I love you, Alex. I'm sorry." She whispered, hugging her niece tightly.
Alex hugged her back. "I love you too. Does this mean your belly is fixed now?" She questioned.
Beca's face softened as she and Chloe exchanged glances.
"No, baby girl, it's not. But maybe someday soon it will be."
Outside of Chloe and Luke, only Beca, Jesse, Stacie, and Scott knew at this point. Scott had gotten Chloe and Luke set up with a top fertility specialist, and after the trip to Disney, Chloe was going to start the IVF procedure. If it worked, it worked. If it didn't, she and Luke were ready to look into adoption and begin their family just the same. After weeks of recovery, Chloe refused to feel sorry for herself any longer.
Alex leaned forward and kissed Chloe's shirt at her belly. "Maybe this will make it all better. Mommy kisses my boo-boo's when I get hurt and then I feel all better!"
"I think you're right Alex, thank you." Chloe replied with a smile, the tears continuing to flow.
"Oh! Before I forget!"
Chloe reached into her bag and pulled out a shiny, golden tiara. "What's a princess without her crown?"
Alex's face lit up, with eyes wide as the crown came into site and she held it in her hands. This completed her outfit.
Luke and Jesse soon made their way over to their wives. Sipping a cup of coffee, Luke lovingly rested his hand on Chloe's back.
"Excuse me, princess, would you like me to put that on for you?" He asked.
'Please!" Alex delighted. Bending down, Luke gently pressed the crown into Alex's hair.
"There," he said. "Now you're a real princess."
Alex beamed as she looked at the adults around her.
"This is the bestest day of my whole entire life, people!" She proclaimed, causing everyone to laugh.
Beca smiled as she reached for Jesse's hand and squeezed it. It had been a good morning. And it had only just begun.
The shrill sound of Aubrey's whistle from behind caused Beca to nearly jump out of her skin and she felt destined to be on edge for this entire trip. Nearly spilling her coffee, Becca let out an exasperated huff.
Caroline continued to sleep soundly against Aubrey's chest in her carrier, completely unphased by the startle and no doubt used to her mother's dramatics at just 3 months of age.
Luke rubbed at his ear as he looked up at Aubrey. "Okay, I have to ask. Is it even legal to blow a whistle in an airport?"
Aubrey squared her eyes. "As the designated wedding planner, it is my job to make sure everyone is on time and in place when they need to be. Do you have any idea the kind of dedication that takes when this is your circus and these are your monkeys?" Slowly, her eyes drifted towards Amy and Lily who stood nearby. Amy quickly caught her glance.
"I don't know what you're looking at me for," Amy huffed. "Me, Bumper, and belly are all here on time. And-" Amy looked around and leaned in closer to Aubrey. "There's a lot more to getting ready now a days. The hemorrhoids and constipation alone can leave you sitting on a toilet seat for hour after hour after-"
"Twins! Twins, Amy. I had twins in July, I remember." Aubrey curtly reminded.
Lily shrugged. "I'm here too. Offered to fly us myself in my dad's plane, but nobody listens to me anyway, so..." She whispered.
"Please!" Aubrey cried. "I'm still not fully recovered from the near-death experience of 2012. I swore that night I'd never put you at the wheel of any vehicle and that still hasn't changed."
"Okay! Boarding time is in T-5 minutes if my calculations are correct. Now, roll call time!" She continued, clip board and pen in hand.
Knowing the drill, the group lined up, ready for a head count. Aubrey wasn't about to have a repeat of Beca's wedding, with Aubrey and Bumper mistakenly getting on the wrong plane.
"Jesse, Becca, Alex, Chloe, Luke, Benji, Jessica, Lily, Donald, Cynthia Rose, Callie, Amy, Bumper, Matt, Conner, I've got Caroline, and last but certainly not least, Ashley, and Michael-"
Aubrey paused, looking up. "Wait, where's Michael?"
"Oh!" Ashley immediately spoke, nerves spreading through her. "Uh, last minute business emergency. Stupid, really. Some investor misdirected funds and it's a big thing and Michael had to step in." She spat out in a hurry, telling herself the more she told, the more believable it would be.
"Oh," Aubrey softened. "Well, he'll just get a later flight, right?"
"Uh, yeah, probably." She replied, digging around in her purse, looking for a piece of gum. "I gotta get with him and figure out what his plan is, but I'm sure he will."
Aubrey smiled lightly and nodded. Something told her Ashley wasn't telling her everything, but she didn't bother to push.
"Attention passengers on board United flight 1634 with non-stop service to Orlando, Florida, we are pleased to begin boarding our first class and military passengers."
"Ah! Right on time! Alright people, it's show time! Single file line, like we discussed." Aubrey ordered, gathering everyone around her.
Beca sighed, shaking her head. They were all used to Aubrey's antics at this point, and through the years, Beca had learned to roll with it.
Jesse gathered their carry-on luggage and handed their tickets to the gate agent for check in. Without even looking up from the tickets, she scanned them and handed them back to him. As she did look up, she paused suddenly, grabbing the arm of a co-worker.
"Dave!" She gasped. An older gentleman glanced her way. "I had no idea we had royalty flying with us this morning!"
The two agents smiled as Alex soaked up the attention.
"My goodness, you're right! Dear princess, what is your name?" He questioned
Alex smiled shyly. "Alexandra Kate Swanson."
"Well Princess Alexandra, please accept this pair of flight wings as a token of our appreciation for flying with us."
The young woman bent down and pinned the wings onto Alex's dress. "And say hello to the castle for us!" She whispered. With a smile and a wink, she sent Alex, Jesse, and Beca on their way.
"This day just gets better and better, daddy!" Alex beamed. Jesse looked down at her and smiled. All their months of planning had totally been worth it to see Alex so happy.
As they stood in line, waiting patiently to board the flight. Beca tried to breathe away the wave of nausea that suddenly overcame her. Looking to her right, she watched as Alex and Jesse, swinging their held hands, talked about all the things they had planned for the week.
All at once, she felt gross. Using her shirt to fan herself, she quickly felt her body temperature rising and the familiar churn of her stomach. The beginnings of a migraine were coming on and Beca was quickly growing impatient at the lack of movement onto the plane. She was desperate for something fizzy to settle her stomach, a nap, and some Aleve.
"I can't believe I'm still dealing with this virus." She whispered to herself. She continued to fan herself and breathe deeply, begging the feeling of nausea to be gone.
"Here we go!" Jesse exclaimed to Alex as the line finally started to move.
"Finally!" Beca breathed. She had only taken a few steps before it finally hit her. Suddenly, it all made sense. She stopped dead in her tracks, causing Amy to nearly slam into her.
"Woah, hey Shawshank!" Amy bellowed. "God gave you legs for a reason, now's the time to use them!"
"Bec, you good?" Jesse asked as he turned to her.
It took her a moment to shake herself out of her thoughts. She looked to Jesse and smiled.
"Yeah, never better. Let's go."