Chapter Forty-One

Andrew and I settled into a comfortable routine after that moment. One that could be described as instantaneous. The years of separation and even the fact that we had barely crossed the line between friendships did not matter. The transition was smooth and felt perfectly right and Andrew did everything in his power to ensure it would stay that way. We entered the committed relationship without any discussion. We were not children anymore, there was no need for him to ask if I would be his girl, it was simply acknowledged and both moved on knowing full well how the other felt.

We flew back to San Francisco together, surprising Aunt Edith upon our arrival who had expected me to get off of the plane alone, but once we had made it back to her house and explained the situation, sitting side by side, she was over the moon with happiness for us. Andrew, he had told her, had made the decision to relocate to California. He was searching for a hospital to continue his residency in and had made plans to have his things moved from Tennessee while he searched for a job. After hearing this my aunt, surely in an effort to appease me, invited him to stay with her. I was grateful for it because with my land lords strict rules there would be no way I could let him stay at my apartment.

Christmas came and went quietly. I worked both Christmas Eve and Christmas evening, leaving Andrew in the capable hands of Aunt Edith during both shifts. The atmosphere had changed on the naval base now that we were at war and I was surprised to see that changes had begun to occur rapidly even before I had returned from Hawaii. Three of the nurses I worked with, all with their commissions, had already received orders transferring them to hospital ships that would departing to the Pacific within the next few months. Patients in my ward, seaman and marines, openly discussed the revenge they planned in the name of our country on the Japanese. I quietly kept my comments to myself when they spoke of these things. No one at the hospital, save for my supervisor, knew that I had witnessed the attack and none of them knew that my brother and former husband were now off training in a top secret location for the very revenge they all spoke of.

Rafe's first letter arrived the day after New Year's. The envelope contained only my address and he said very little in the letter aside from the fact that he was fine. There was no mention of Danny, a fact that I was only half grateful for. My heart was still torn where he was concerned. I had told Andrew everything that had happened, even my feelings on the matter and I felt lucky to say that he was so understanding. We had spent much of our time together engaged in long conversations many of which concerned Danny.

"Do you still love him?" he had asked one night as we had sat in Aunt Edith's living room, the radio softly playing in the background. The Christmas tree was still lit, though the windows were properly covered with dark sheets and it gave off a peaceful atmosphere that made considering my words comfortable.

"Yes," I finally said honestly, snuggling myself into his embrace, "But not like I did and not like I love you."

He stroked my hair.

"Does that bother you?" I had asked, "That I still feel that way?"

"You're here with me." He said, "That is all I need."

We ended the conversation there, a comfortable and positive closure and nothing more was said on the subject for quite some time. We enjoyed our time together and foolishly tried to go about our lives ignoring the war. By the end of January he had found a residency position at a hospital through the University and made plans to move out of Aunt Edith's spare room. One cold rainy day he dropped by the naval hospital as my shift was ending and greeted me with a kiss and smile at the reception desk. Two of the nurses that stood behind the station giggled at the outward display of affection before they scurried off and left us.

"This is a surprise."

"Well that was my intention." He grinned back. "Do you have any plans? I'd like to show you something."

I shook my head. "Just let me get my things." I went into the back room and grabbed my coat and handbag, slipping both on as made my way back towards the reception desk. The air was wet and salty when we stepped outside and Andrew quickly led me to his car, a vehicle he had purchased used for a very good price just a week before from a young man who had decided to join the Navy and needed it off of his hands fast. I soaked up the little warmth I found once inside and waited in silent impatience as he came around the other side and started the ignition. As the engine came to life Andrew suddenly reached across the seat and pulled me towards him. The kissed he brushed on my lips was deep and breath taking and thrilled me to the core. Even after all of these weeks the fact that we were now together didn't seem real. I sometimes feared it was all just a dream and that one day I would wake up and he would be gone. No one could put blame on me for thinking that way either. Andrew was positively perfect. He was understanding, he showed no discomfort in anything that had happened to me, especially within that last year. Even hearing about Chris and the night before the attack on Pearl Harbor didn't anger him. He accepted it just as I had accepted his time with Marge.

It seemed that he and Marge had ended their relationship quite amicably together and if there were hurt feelings on either side, none of what I heard seemed to indicate it. After he had heard about the Japanese attack and knowing I had been in Hawaii, Andrew said that after he knew I was fine that he had gone to Marge and confessed everything to her. I didn't envy that conversation, but their relationship, he had told me many times over, had never been based off of love and after she had heard the way he felt for me, she accepted it with a quiet understanding. Perhaps it was because of those previous situations with Marge and Danny that we were both so determined to get it right this time. Because even though the relationship itself had solidified itself in a relatively fast pace, we were still taking our time with other things. We had not even gone to bed together yet.

We took our time ending our embrace and so it was nearly dinner time, the overcast sky dimming as we finally reached Andrew's destination. I looked out my window, the building we were parked in front of four stories and well kept. "Where are we?" I asked, turning towards him.

"I told you," he winked as he opened the driver's door, "It's a surprise."

The surprise, as it turns out, was an apartment. A lovely, large apartment on the top floor on the building. It was sparsely furnished, a fact which took nothing away from the beauty of its wood working or large rounded windows, a staple of any good San Franciscan home. I looked around, my shoes clicking against the shiny wooden floors, in awe. "It's beautiful." I finally said.

Looking smug, Andrew crossed his arms in satisfaction. "A doctor at the hospital told me about it a few days ago. The price was so good, I couldn't refuse. Especially after I saw the size of it."

"I think my little place could fit into it three times over." I remarked with a grin, peering through a set of French doors that seem to lead into a bedroom. "How big is it?"

"Two bedrooms." He told me, moving to my side to open the set of doors. We moved into the bedroom together, the size still shocking to me, "One bathroom and a smaller room I could probably use as an office because I doubt much more than a desk would fit in it."

I nodded, "But still, for one person, that's a lot of room." I went to the window and looked out, taking in the view of the city streets, knowing that a view of the Golden Gate was just behind the building across the street.

Beside me, Andrew stuck his hands in his coat pockets and nodded. "You're probably right."

"Maybe a roommate?" I then suggested.

"I thought of that."

I turned to face him. "Someone from the hospital?"

His lips twitched in a smile that he couldn't seem to contain. "How about you?"

I couldn't deny that the suggestion caught me off guard, I could not even mask my shock in front of him. I stared, silent as his words took over. Outside the rain began to fall with more strength and as the drops drummed against the glass of the window, long seconds passed between us inside. "I can't do that." I finally said. "Couples don't do that where we come from and as modern and independent as I like to think I am, I just couldn't."

He nodded again, hands still in pockets. "I had a feeling you would say that." His voice feigned disappointment. "I guess that only leaves me with one alternative then." And as he slowly freed his hands, I watched, shocked even more, as he produced a tell-tale tiny velvet box and came down on one knee. "Will you marry me?"

My voice caught in my throat and my arms and then my legs began to shake. I reached for the window sill for support, but instead sunk to me knees, on his level and gripped my hands together.

"It's too soon?" he asked, no doubt scared by my reaction.

"No." I shook my head. "No, it's not." It really wasn't, how long had we known one another now? No, it was everything else.

He reached for me, and brought my still shaking hand to his lips. "I love you. I love you so damn much, Emily." His voice soothed. "I know what it's like to live with without you and I hate it." He smiled at me, "Damn it doll, I absolutely hate it. I want a life with you in it. I want quiets breakfasts and entire days spent in bed together. I want to fight with you about how to spend our money and where to go on vacations." He moved closer and pressed a warm kiss to my lips. "I want to adopt at least ten babies with you."

I started sobbing through my smiles, my heart completely warmed and full of love.

"I want to fall in love with each and every one of those babies with you. I want that chaos, I want that love, and I want those memories with you by my side." Softly, he wiped the tears from my cheeks with a tender hand. "Fate gave us a chance, Doll, let's not waste it."

I nodded, still crying. "Yes." I agreed through the tears, "Yes, of course I'll marry you."

As my sobs began anew, he opened the box and revealed the beautiful princess cut engagement ring inside. The gold band and modern style of the setting was breathtaking and I managed to quell my shaking hands while he fitted it on my slender ring finger.

"In the absence of both of your parents, I'm afraid I have to ask Aunt Edith for permission to do this." He spoke the words in a low chuckle. "She was thrilled to say the least."

I sniffed, wiping away tears with my free hand, smiling at the thought. "Yes, I'm sure she was." She loved Andrew and had never wasted the opportunity to tell me so.

His smiling gaze fell on mine as he wiped away the tears I had missed. "We're going to be so happy. I promise you."

I felt the truth in his words, having no doubt it was true. I did not foresee perfection in our future or a fairy tale happily ever after, but I had no doubts where love or passion were concerned or companionship. Before anything else he had been my friend and most importantly of all, I trusted him. I trusted him to always care for me and to be there, even when things got difficult. I kissed him once more to seal the promise and then let myself fall into his comforting arms as the euphoria of the moment settled around us.