Chapter One: Underneath It All

I remember meeting Simon Camden in our junior year in college. He was engaged to marry this girl named Rose who was seriously good looking. I knew that I was jealous, but I never said anything, because I was one of Rose's childhood friends and I would never come between her and what she wanted. I remember slowly drifting apart from her when they announced their engagement, and after she was showing little support for her best friend, Sandy, who was rumored to be pregnant with a high school boy's kid. I didn't want to judge, but I was shocked.

That's how I met more of the Camden family. Sandy became very close to Lucy Camden—or should I say Reverend Kinkirk, as this was her married name as well as her job title—who was the child born before Simon. Lucy was very accepting of me, as I was the one on campus who supported Sandy in her pregnancy. She told me about her husband, Kevin, and their little daughter, Savannah. Sandy had told me that Lucy and Kevin had named their daughter after their honeymoon location—a cabin near the beach, located in Savannah, Georgia.

I would frequently stay the night at Sandy's because I was getting my Master's as opposed to my Bachelor's so as I could have an easier class load. I would go out into the night to the twenty-four hour market near campus, called Food 24, and bring Sandy foods that she would crave. I found the whole arrangement confusing as well as amusing, and was especially amused with her cravings for things like French fries, popcorn, and peanuts. During the weekends, I would have to wake up at three in the morning just to make her large and fluffy pancakes.

I was in my calculus class one afternoon when a counselor called me out. She told me to bring my things and I was rushed to the office, where my father, Daniel, was waiting. Dressed in his usual lawyer's suit, his expression was grave as opposed to the happy one he usually wore; it would be worn when he either won a case or got a new case. He was holding my backpack and my suitcase, and for a moment I wondered if he was back on his mantra of me quitting school to become a wife and mother.

"Dad, I'm not leaving," I began, wanting to grab my things from him. How had he gotten the combination code for my locker anyhow? Since I was over eighteen, weren't there laws against that or something?

"Eve, you have to go," he said, his voice full of sadness.

It was then that I became worried. My heart skipped a beat at his words. I couldn't comprehend what was happening, and a lump rose in my throat as my hands began to sweat profusely. "Dad?" I asked. "What's going on? What happened? Are we broke? Did you lose your job?"

"We're not broke, sweetheart," he said calmly. "And no, I didn't lose my job or anything like that. When we talked to you at Christmas, we told you that the practice is going better than ever and it still is."

I nodded; for the moment I was reassured. "What is it, then?" I asked, wondering that all of this could be about.

He sighed, his eyes taking on a sadness that I'd never really seen before. "It's your mother."

My mother, my mind registered. My mother was Leah Bolton-Matthews, Bolton being her maiden name, who was a picture-perfect housewife who lived in New York with my father. I'd attended college in California to start fresh, but it looked like that wasn't going to happen. My mother and father had divorced when I was twelve, only to get back together my sophomore year of high school.

My mother had dated a man who tried to seduce me—sort of like a Lolita story—only I wasn't into him at all, and thankfully, nothing had happened, if you count him kissing me a few times, and she'd ultimately broken it off and gotten a restraining order when that happened. That's how they started talking again, which eventually got them back together, when he started stalking us like out of some Hollywood movie. My father put him in jail for five years for his offenses.

"What about her?" I asked nonchalantly.

"Her cancer's back," Dad said quietly, almost as if he didn't want the various secretaries and student assistants to hear.

My mother had brain cancer about a year before my parents got remarried to one another. It had gone away by my high school graduation, but now, it seemed to have returned. I nibbled at my bottom lip, frightened by this. I had done research on it—even done my senior project on it and had decided to become a brain surgeon because of this—but now it was back. I wanted to cry, but didn't want to embarrass anyone, so I just nodded.

"Okay," I said softly, hoping that I didn't come across as cold and unfeeling towards my mother's condition. I looked up at him, hoping that I wasn't shaking in fear for her. "What are we going to do?"

"We're going on a flight to New York. We've got to hurry; our flight leaves in an hour or so," Dad replied, handing over my backpack so as I could put my binders and notepads and other things into it; oddly, my calculus book felt a little heavier than it did before meeting my dad. "First class, of course, and we'll be there in a few hours, but of course you know this. Your mother will be anxious to see you."

After I'd put my things into my backpack, we walked outside to my dad's rented Mercedes. I said nothing until we'd driven off campus to the airport, gotten through security, and were seated on the plane. "Dad?"

"Yes?"

"How long has it been back?" I asked. "The cancer, I mean."

"Since you graduated," he said softly.

"But…that's when you told me it went away!" I cried.

He nodded.

"You lied, didn't you?" I asked him, my eyes filling with tears. "You didn't want me to flunk on my exams or screw up with the graduation process when I was valedictorian…"

He nodded again. "Yes."

I turned away and looked out the window, where it started to rain.

The flight proved to be five and a half hours. I bought a pair of headphones and watched The Devil Wears Prada. It wasn't due to be released until June, but apparently first class got special treatment. As it was only the end of January, it was six months early. Early…

Suddenly my mind snapped to Sandy, who was nine months pregnant and alone. Of all times for… No, I wouldn't say that. But this was pretty lousy timing all around. Rose would never give up class to give it to Sandy, as she feared that Sandy was going to have Simon's baby, not Martin Brewer's. I knew that it was Martin's baby, but that Sandy wished it was Simon's because Martin was refusing to stand by her.

I could barely watch the spectacular performances done by Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Stanley Tucci respectively, for fear that Sandy would try to get ahold of me. My phone had been totaled—completely—because Rose had gotten into a fight with me and dropped it from our dorm's building. That had been the straw that broke the camel's back, and had sent me to seeking other living arrangements. I managed to find room and a friend in Sandy, whose roommate had bailed on her after discovering the pregnancy.

Since my father had convinced the dean to hook up a phone in our dorm room, he hadn't seen a need for me to get a cell phone until the end of the school year. Now, I was infuriated by all this. What would Sandy and the Camden's and the Kinkirk's think of me now? I just hope they would allow me to explain the emergency situation to them all. Maybe they would classify a death in my family as an emergency.

We touched down in New York just before dinner hour. My hometown was the lovely little island called Manhattan, full of people who really didn't drive at all, though my family seemed to have money coming out our ears. We were the first people to exit the plane, and we immediately made our way to baggage claim to get my simple black roller suitcase. My father got it off the conveyer belt and went outside with me.

I pulled my sweater closer to me as the chill of the night began to pick up. It was in the fifties, of that I was sure, and would be into the forties before we knew it. I watched as my father hailed a limo and the driver exited the vehicle to assist us with our bags. Dad told me to get into the back seat while he got into the front seat and gave the driver directions to our lovely three floor apartment, just across from Central Park.

The drive, I remembered, was a bit over twenty minutes. However, due to the traffic we would more than likely encounter due to the fact that it was rush hour, it would be closer to half an hour. I sat back in the car and watched the dark clouds in the sky. I'd crossed my arms in an effort to keep warm as Dad was speaking to the driver, and I didn't want to seem like a spoiled brat who interrupted conversation just to turn the heat up.

We arrived at the apartment in due time and my father paid the driver appropriately and informed him that he would get my bag himself. We exited the car and my dad asked if I still had my key. I told him that I did and was told to go up while my father got my bag. The doorman, Watson, smiled at me and said it was good to see me again. I smiled tightly back at him and made my way inside the sumptuous foyer. I caught the elevator and pressed the button with the number six on it and made my way to our apartment.

My mother's on-call nurse, Gwen, who was sitting in the front room with her nose in a book, looked up as I came in. Her light brown hair was pulled back and then up into a respectable bun on the top of her head. She had on a white nurses' uniform, along with the starched cap, apron, and the shoes as well. It took a moment for her to recognize me, and then she rose to her feet and proceeded to hug me.

"How's Mom?" I asked, feeling as if I was a wooden plank in her arms as I neutrally returned the hug. "Can I go in to see her?"

Gwen pulled back and smiled. "She's resting now. Your father should have told you that. She has a nap between five-thirty and seven-forty-five every evening before watching T.V. and then going to bed at ten."

Dad came into the room just as Gwen was telling me something. "Oh," he said, lowering my suitcase to the ground. "I was sure she'd be awake by now. No matter. Gwen, you can hold down the fort here for another hour and a half or so, can't you?" he asked.

Gwen nodded. "Yes, Mr. Matthews," she said with a smile, returning to her book and to the couch.

Dad turned to me and looked at me up and down. "Why don't you get a shower in and put on something nice?" he asked. "It may relax you. You look a little tense."

I nodded. A shower did sound good right about now. I kissed him on the cheek and slung my backpack over my shoulder and dragged the roller behind me on my way out. I made my way to the top floor of the apartment where a suite of rooms that belonged to me laid waiting. It had been untouched since I'd returned to school last summer, as I'd spent Christmas migrating between school and the Camden's. I put my suitcase on the bed and my backpack on my desk and began rummaging through the suitcase.

I pulled out my little pink polka dotted bag of toiletries—razors, shampoo, conditioner, lotion—and made my way to the adjoining bathroom. I flipped on the light and looked around. The pink rug was in its place; there were no stains on the tiled counter or the floor; the bathtub across the room was its same pristine white; the shower had no hair in the drain; the toilet was white and shiny clean; everything was in its proper place.

I shut the door and locked it behind me and set my bag on the counter. I stared at myself in the mirror and sighed. Thankfully I'd remembered to tuck my green makeup kit under my arm as well, for the purple bruise-like marks beneath my eyes seemed darker than ever.

I turned towards the shower and pulled up the silver mechanism which turned it on. Warm water and steam filled the room and I sighed at the familiarity of it all. I turned on the fan which filled the room with that familiar hum and adjusted the temperature to a setting that I liked. I took off my clothes and placed them by the sink on the counter. Then I took out my shampoo, my conditioner, and my razor from my toiletries bag and stepped into the warmth of the shower. As the steam and hot water soon engulfed me, I shut my eyes as my thoughts drifted away.

I wrapped myself up in my dark green bathrobe after toweling off and blow dried my hair as soon as I stepped out of the shower. My hair was long and dark and soon was dry about my shoulders as I took my brush to it. I stepped out of the bathroom and went to my wardrobe, as I'd left my finer clothes at home, since they'd had no place at my school.

I selected a black flare dress that Mom had picked out for me for Christmas two years before. It was a simple cut, but looked just ravishing on the model, so she knew I had to have it, apparently. I slipped on some black pantyhose and black heels and put the dress on last. I put two diamond barrettes on each side of my head and put my black pearls at my throat. I selected a bright red lipstick for that evening, as well as golden brown eye shadow, black eyeliner, pink blush, and traditional black mascara.

I put on my Wallis black faux fur jacket which had been in its garment bag from my last birthday as well as the matching earmuffs; I was very careful not to mess up my hair as I put them on. My elegant black gloves came next; I pulled them on as I turned off the light and came out of my bedroom. I descended the steps and came down into the living room in no time at all.

Dad, freshly showered and shaved and in a different suit, nodded in approval when he saw me. "Perfect," he said, a tight smile on his face. Though his eyes remained sad, I tried my best to ignore the look on his face, due to the fact that Mom was so sick. "We won't be long, Gwen," he tossed over his shoulder as we exited the apartment.

"Where are we going?" I asked as we rode the elevator down.

"The Prime Grill," he replied.

I knew the Prime Grill well. I'd had every birthday up until I was eighteen there, when I graduated high school. I nodded my approval to my father's choice of restaurant as we made our way outside. My father hailed a cab and we were soon absorbed in its warmth. The Prime Grill was only about ten minutes from our apartment, and, as we were regulars, I was sure my father had reserved a private room—the Walnut Room, perhaps.

We made it there in four and a half minutes. My father paid the cab driver and opened my door for me. He linked his arm in mine and escorted me into the foyer of the restaurant. He smiled at Paul, the maître d that we knew so well, and nodded at him. Paul took two leather-bound menus with the so familiar gold writing stamped onto them and led us to the grand staircase which led to the two private rooms—they were called the Walnut Room and the Oak Room.

We were taken to the Walnut Room and Paul handed over the menus and we were told the waitress would be with us shortly. Paul closed the door behind us and we turned to our menus. We skipped the Appetizers, Soups, the Flatbreads, and the Slider Bar section and turned to the Salads, Entrees, and Steak menus.

"Do you want a drink?" Dad asked.

I nodded. Since turning twenty-one, (at heart, at least, and since I was never carded, and because of the day I'd had...), I'd treat myself to the little bar near campus called Sweet 21. "Fountain of Youth," I said, peeking at the menu and nodding in approval. "It's like a drink I've had."

"I guess I'll get a Stella," he said to himself. "I'm going to get the Prime New York steak with the garlic spinach," he said thoughtfully as he flipped through the pages. "What about you?"

"The Garlic-Herb Crusted Prime Grill Fillet," I said, almost as if in a trace. It was then that I just realized how hungry I was. I'd skipped lunch, and had eaten breakfast with Sandy at seven that morning. "Roasted artichokes and the creamy Yukon golds sound good with it," I said with a smile. "We should probably pre-order the dessert so we're not here forever."

"Walnut Carrot Cake," Dad said dreamily.

"No," I said firmly. "Not for me. The Molten Chocolate Cake with vanilla ice cream sounds good, though."

We ordered in no time and soon all our food was there, with the exception of the desserts. We ate in silence, simply chewing, swallowing, and drinking to pass the time. I felt full as soon as the last bit of cake and ice cream entered my mouth, but I knew that food could not fill the empty feeling inside me. I knew that we had to get home; I had to see Mom.

Gwen was in tears when we returned home. "I've been trying to reach you for over an hour!" she blubbered, her hands flailing about.

"What is it, Gwen? Is it Leah?" Dad asked.

Gwen nodded. "She's at the hospital. You've got to get there, now!" she urged, pushing us out the door and following us.

We got into a cab and made it to the hospital without incident. Dad and Gwen went back to check on Mom while I tried to make calls. I got everyone's machine and sat down to wait. I felt very silly just sitting there, wondering if anyone would mistake me for a hooker who was waiting for her pimp to get out of the E.R.

A young man with semi-long brown hair walked by, and wore a badge that said "Camden". I stood up, remembering Simon going on and on about his brother, Matt, who would be graduating from medical school in June. He was a student at Columbia with his wife, Sarah. I was seriously considering going to Columbia myself, and had already been accepted.

"Matt!" I cried, standing up.

He turned and looked at me. "Me?" he asked.

I nodded. "Yeah, I'm sorry," I said. "I'm Simon and Rose's friend, Eve. I'm also Sandy's friend and roommate. I've also met Lucy and your parents. Maybe they mentioned me?" I asked.

Matt smiled and nodded. "Yeah, they did," he said, coming to sit beside me. "I must say I didn't expect to find you here. It's nice to meet you."

I smiled. "It's nice to meet you, too."

"What are you doing here? Are you all right?" he asked.

I nodded. "Yes. It's not me, though. It's my mom."

"What's wrong with your mom?" he asked.

I sighed. I figured since he was technically a family friend, I could tell him. "She has brain cancer," I said softly. "She's been suffering side effects from her chemo for the past six months and tonight she had a relapse. It's not helping as well as we would like, I'm afraid."

"You sound like a doctor," Matt said.

"Guilty," I said, giving him a small smile. "I'm planning on going to NYU or Columbia like you, actually."

"I got accepted into both," he said. "I didn't know for days, though, because my sister Ruthie hid the letters from me. She didn't want me going anywhere, and I was really close to telling my mom about it."

"I've been accepted, too," I said. "Simon says you want to do something with pregnant women or something. Gynecology, right?"

Matt nodded, smiling proudly. "That's it. My wife, Sarah, is a doctor—well, almost—too."

I smiled at him. "I know. Simon told me."

"What area do you want to study?" Matt asked.

"Neurosurgery," I answered.

"Because of your mom?" he asked.

I nodded. "Yes."

Sarah came around the corner then; I recognized her from their wedding picture. She looked from Matt to me, her eyes questioning.

"Sarah!" Matt cried, waving her over. "Come meet Eve."

"Eve?" she asked.

"Hi," I said, standing up. "I'm friends with Simon, Lucy, Rose and Sandy," I explained. "I go to college with Simon, Rose and Sandy. I'm also Sandy's roommate, and I spent Christmas at Matt's house. Well, some of it when I wasn't cramming," I said.

"She wants to be a neurosurgeon and she got accepted into NYU and Columbia," Matt said.

"Congratulations!" Sarah cried, smiling. "Do you know which one you're going to pick yet?"

"No," I said. "But I am spending my spring break touring them. I only wish my parents have been as supportive for the last seven years that you two have been in the last seven seconds."

Sarah smiled. "I know what lack of support is like. My parents are Jewish and they didn't want Matt and me to get married."

I nodded. "I remember Simon recounted that story. Needless to say, it was entertaining to hear," I chuckled.

"Her mom is here," Matt said softly.

Sarah was then all business. "What's happening?"

"Side effect from her chemo," I replied. "She has brain cancer."

Matt and Sarah sighed. "Sorry," she said.

I shrugged. "Hey, it happens."

"But only to the best of us," Sarah said softly.

After a heartfelt weekend, I assured Dad that I could easily get from LaGuardia to the Glen Oak Airport by myself. It would be good to get back to school, I thought. Then I could talk to Sandy about everything. I really needed a friend right now, but I was perplexed to see Simon at the airport. Surprised, I walked across to him, puzzled.

"Simon?" I asked. "What's up?"

"I heard about your mom."

I nodded. "Yeah," I said. "From who?"

"Matt and Sarah," Simon said. "So what'd you think of them?"

I smiled. "They're an example of what happens when you get exactly what you want."

"Rose and I made up."

"Did you?" I asked.

Simon nodded. "Because of Sandy."

Immediately, I was on the edge. "Why? What's wrong?"

"She had him!" Simon cried as we began to walk.

I stopped short. "Him?" I cried, grinning. "It was a boy?"

"Yes, she named him Aaron."

"That's such a sweet name," I said softly.

"She's been asking for you, so Rose and I came to get you."

"Where is Rose?" I asked.

"She's waiting at the car while we get your stuff," Simon explained.

I nodded, surprised that Rose trusted Simon. We got my suitcase and went outside and to Simon's car. Rose was behind the wheel, but when she saw us, she darted out of the car.

"Eve!" she cried, throwing her arms around me. "Hi, hi, hi!"

I laughed. "Hi," I said as Simon put my suitcase into the trunk. Soon we were on our way back to school. I made small talk with them and Rose apologized about my mom. "She's pulling through nicely," I explained. When I made it back to the room, I used my key and opened the door. Baby stuff was everywhere, and I could hear Sandy singing softly. Her sweet voice stopped as I came into the back room.

"Eve," she said.

"Sandy," I said. My eyes widened at the beautiful baby in her arms. "Is this him?" I asked. "Is this Aaron?"

Sandy nodded proudly. "I'm sorry you couldn't be there. I heard about your mom, and I'm sorry about that more."

I smiled. "It's all right. He's beautiful," I complimented.

Sandy grinned. "He is, isn't he?"

Sandy got an apartment close to the school and I got the dorm room to myself for the time being. The extra space and the quiet really helped, but I was always there for Sandy if she needed me. The next few months had passed by without a hitch, but one night, Rose and I got into a fight.

It was mid-May, and the wedding was in two hours. I was set to be the Maid of Honor, but the fight changed everything. "Why are you doing this to Simon, Rose?!" I demanded.

"I don't see a problem," she said coldly.

"Of course not," I said, rolling my eyes. "Inviting your ex-fiancé to the wedding is perfectly proper. Umberto," I said, rolling my eyes. "I mean, what kind of name is that?!"

Rose looked away. "He was my first love. Simon understands."

"Are Deena and Cecilia coming to the wedding, too?!" I demanded.

"No," she said shortly. "That would be uncomfortable for me."

"And what about Simon?" I asked. "Did you ask him about his comfort level, or are you just being selfish, as usual?!"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

I looked away, blushing. "Nothing."

"Eve…"

I narrowed my eyes at her. "Fine, I love him, okay?! I love Simon. I love Simon Camden."

Rose gasped. "Eve! How could you?!"

"Don't pretend that you're so perfect," I said. "Umberto kissed you just an hour ago and told you to call the whole thing off."

Rose looked away. "I won't do it, you know."

"Of course you won't," I said. "You have to have it all, Rose. You aren't even in love with Simon."

"But Simon's in love with me—"

I shook my head. "I won't do it. I quit. I'm not going to be your Maid of Honor while you marry someone I love." I stomped out of the room and drove an hour to Sandy's apartment. I sat on her couch with her while Aaron was taking his nap and cried and cried and told her everything.

Sandy nodded, and I knew then that she understood. She listened attentively, and I knew then that she would make a wonderful minister, just like her role model, Lucy. I knew that, at one time or another, Sandy had had feelings for Simon. Hey, I mean, the two had been together at least once, so she had to have some sort of romantic inclinations towards him at one time or another. However, Sandy was unbiased, since she was friends with both of us, and didn't seem to allow her opinions on Simon get in the way of my feelings for him.

I didn't know what to do, though. Hours passed, and Sandy told me what we needed to do, and I was forever grateful. She went to check on Aaron, who was awake, and got him dressed in an adorable little outfit. She put him in his car seat and carried him downstairs, me at her heels. We got into the car and drove as the sun set, eventually arriving at the Camden's house, where Simon and Rose were to have to reception, and I felt my heart navigating its way into my throat.

I heard the song Embraceable You being sung in the backyard, and peeked through the fence, seeing Rose and Simon dancing and laughing together. Sandy gave me a smile and we waited.

Umberto cut in good naturedly and Simon stepped back to stand with his family. We heard Matt and Sarah announce that they were having twin boys, as well as Lucy and Kevin. Then I heard Carlos's voice, informing the Camden's that he and Mary had gotten back together and that they were having twin girls.

I gasped at the news, and Sandy grinned. She walked passed me and into the yard and went straight up to Simon. He looked pleased to see her, and began asking her if she was fine and if Aaron was fine.

"Simon, we should really talk," she said.

"About what?" he asked.

"Eve," she said, almost as if there was no way to doubt it at all. "We need to talk about her. All about Eve," she said with a slight grin.

I stepped through the gate then, and rushed to them, my heels clicking on the concrete below me, and seeing some of the Camdens turning to stare at me. "Sandy, I've got to tell him this," I said quietly, turning to look at him. "Simon, I know you and Rose got married, but—"

Simon shook his head. "We called it off," he said softly. "She's back with Umberto and they're engaged."

I sighed. "Simon…we need to talk…"

Simon took my hand as Sandy gave me a knowing smile and walked away. "I know," he said.

"I…" I began, catching Rose's eye from where she was in Umberto's arms and nearly losing my nerve.

Simon took my face in his free hand. "I know."

"I love you," I said quietly.

"I love you, too," Simon whispered.

I smiled. Anything You Want by Roy Orbison played. Simon led me out and began dancing with me, where I quickly caught sight of Rose dancing with Umberto one more time. She smiled and nodded at me.

. . .

Another year had come and gone. Simon and I had only casually dated for a few months before eventually becoming completely serious about eight months before we graduated. He was going to go to Harvard Law School and I was going to Harvard Medical School.

Choosing graduate schools on the East Coast hadn't been easy, but my family liked Simon a lot, especially since he was going to my father's alma mater. We'd only told Ruthie about the relationship in full. I told Ruthie to tell Eric and Annie, but for them to attempt to keep it to themselves.

They were all coming up in an R.V., which had been a gift from the Colonel, whom I'd met last Christmas. I was surprised that he liked me as much as he did—not subjecting me to quite as many questions as he had done to his other grandchildren's partners—but Simon said that it was because I was strong-willed, had a good career picked out, and it was so obvious how much we loved each other.

At graduation, both Simon and I were valedictorian, which was something almost unheard of. Rose had transferred to a school back east in New York to be closer to Umberto. They'd gone to Tahoe last Christmas and eloped, because they'd thought it was classier than Vegas.

Sandy had graduated already, because she needed her Bachelor's, and was coming with the Camden's in the R.V. When they were all there, and after we'd given our speeches, we were met with immense applause. I loved how everything had turned out.

But Simon said into the microphone, "Can we have quiet, please?"

The applause stopped.

"Eve," he said, turning to me. "I know I'm going to Harvard Law next year, and you're going to Harvard Med, and I don't want to lose you. So…" Then he was getting down on one knee, and my heart was in my throat as it had been when I'd thought he and Rose had gotten married. "…I don't want anything to happen to this—to us. I love you with all my heart—more than I've ever loved anyone—and I hope you feel the same way. So, Eve Cassandra Matthews, will you marry me?"

I laughed, tears flowing down my cheeks and getting all over my ceremonial robe and awards and other honors. I was surprised he'd even felt the need to ask, especially here in front of all these people, but I found myself to happy to care. "Yes!" I cried. "I mean, of course!"

"Yes?" Simon asked, happily.

"Yes, Simon Camden, I will marry you."

Simon put the ring on my finger—which was actually way nicer that the one he'd given to Rose—and kissed me in full view of everyone. "To the next Mrs. Camden," he whispered.

"Dr. Camden to be," I said softly, as I saw Eric cheering and Annie crying tears of joy from the stands. "With a loving family… It almost makes the loss of my mom bearable…"

Simon smiled. "I had some roses sent to her grave. She's with us in spirit, and your dad's up there in the stands with my parents."

I smiled. "And we're getting married… Can your dad marry us before we have to go to Massachusetts?"

"You don't mind going to med school as a married woman?" he asked.

I shook my head. "No. I mean, Matt and Sarah did it. And maybe we can do what they want—open a law practice and maybe I can join their med practice if they ever open one out here."

Simon smiled. "You'd want to live here in Glen Oak?"

I nodded. "I love Glen Oak. I love your family. I want to raise our family out here with them."

Simon smiled, taking me into his arms and twirling me around. "Nothing you just said could make me happier. But we'll have to get married in Cross Roads, and, who knows? Maybe Lucy can marry us."

"Lucy?" I chuckled. "I'd like that."

Simon and I embraced again, and it was in that moment that I knew our lives together were only just beginning.