"That the last box?"
Angela nodded, plopping it down on the coffee table. "The bedroom and bathroom are clear. The closets, too. Did you finish packing up the kitchen?"
"All but the pots and pans. I think I'll donate them to my replacement."
Taking Tony's hand, she sighed. "Are you positive you've made the right decision?"
"Angela…" he heeded.
"All right," she surrendered with her hands in the air.
"You're not allowed to ask me again."
Glancing down at her hand, she fumbled with the gold band around her finger. "I suppose that's fair. I'd hate to go through another annulment."
"I've come to my senses," he said, reaching out to touch her cheek. "Can't use the grounds of insanity anymore."
Angela smiled in response, though it was not without a hint of sadness. The last couple of weeks still hadn't caught up to her. Tony returning, picking up the pieces of their relationship, the phone ringing off the hook trying to lure him back to Wells, listening to him turn down outrageously generous offers and incentives, tossing the wedding plans out the window and eloping… Though an Iowa honeymoon spent packing up the Jeep and a trailer wasn't the Tuscan romance she'd spent the first part of the year dreaming of, she was happy. She only wished she could believe in the confidence of Tony's words when he said he was too.
A few moments later she broke their gaze, looking around the empty apartment. "Part of me will miss this place. I feel like I grew here, is that strange given what happened?"
Tony didn't dare agree aloud for fear she'd misinterpret it, saying instead, "All things aside, I'm glad we got to be here alone for a while. I kinda forgot about the part of the relationship that comes before children."
"Maybe once I figure out a job for the fall we can find a little getaway. I feel like the kids will never fully move out — that includes Mona."
"I'd like that." She chuckled. "And you're probably right."
Pecking her lips, he then stepped away and picked up the box she'd brought in a few minutes before. "Let's get going."
"Isn't there anyone you want to say goodbye to?" Angela questioned.
"Ned stopped by while you were napping. Other than him and Candy, I don't dare go see anyone else. They're still peeved at me."
"Disappointed, maybe, but you haven't been hung in effigy. I'd consider that a positive sign."
"They could be waiting to catch me alive."
"You sound paranoid. When I saw the ladies yesterday there wasn't any hostility. Well, aside from maybe Irene, but her son was captain of the team."
Tony shook his head. "Look, Ang, I think it's better to bow out quietly. I said my piece after the award ceremony and they've made it clear since then they want me back. I don't regret my decision, not at all, but I can't pretend there isn't a part of me that does wish things could have worked out all around. I've made peace with leaving. I don't see the sense of digging it up again."
With a solemn nod, she said, "I understand."
"It was a good test," he continued. "Not only did I prove to myself my degree wasn't for nothing, but I think it was also good for us. If our relationship can survive this it will survive anything."
Feeling the sting of tears, she bit the inside of her cheek. "You think so?"
"I just wish…" She started with the same spiel she'd been giving him since the night he returned. Why should he give up his dream for hers? Why couldn't she be strong for him? Why had she felt so suffocated? Why did he have to find his dream job so far away in the first place? Would he ever find a job to compare to this? Would he find a job, period? The look in his eyes halted her words, knowing well he was asking at least one of those questions himself. Most likely more. Now she was the one shaking her head, stepping forward to take the box from him again. "It's nothing."
"Leave it here."
"Excuse me?" She looked down at the box.
"All the doubts and whatever else is running through your head. It's you and me from here on out, got that?"
Tony smiled. "Things will work out for me. Go on and get settled in the car. I'll only be a few more minutes."
"Okay," Angela agreed, allowing her eyes to linger on him a moment longer before walking out the door.
When she was gone, Tony let out a long breath. He scanned the room to make sure he wasn't forgetting something, but also in attempts to memorize it. For all intents and purposes, this had been the first place he'd lived with Angela. Home? Not really. Not knowing what he did now. But it had been the push he didn't realize he needed. They got to experience a real relationship outside of the bubble they'd created around their unique family the last nine years — the joy and the heartache. Once she was gone, he realized how much he'd blindly taken her for granted. The look in her eyes when she opened the door to him melted away any shred of doubt he might have been feeling up until then. Confusion and apprehension turned to jubilation and warmth and he knew he could never let her slip away again.
Collecting the last of the boxes, he stacked them on top of each other and moved for the door. Already the memories of his days here were becoming a blur. All he wanted to focus on now was the future with his bride, starting over yet again and making sure to do things right. So long as Angela was at his side, he was ready for whatever awaited him.
I want to thank everyone who read and left reviews so much again! You guys are so incredibly kind and have kept me motivated to keep writing. I'm kind of sad to see this story come to an end because it's been a lot of fun. I know hit some snags along the way but hey, I guess in the future I can always do an updated version. I thought about including the two months Tony and Angela are broken up but decided to keep that time separate for fear of dragging things out too long. Again, thank you so much for reading and showing your support. I hope you enjoyed!