THE MOMENT THAT CHANGED EVERYTHING
15 Years Later
“Why are we all dressed up, Dad?”
“You know why.” Sawyer looked in the mirror at his oldest kid as he drove down the main street of Lyntacky.
Sadie was twelve and full of attitude. Arms folded, she was looking out the window, bored. His daughter had perfected the pissed off look over the last few months.
“Your grandparents asked us to get dressed up for some kind of event,” Sawyer said.
He had no idea what was going on. They’d just received a random recyclable sheet of paper shoved under their door yesterday. It had said they were invited to the McAllister home for a celebration.
“It could be anything with Bibi and Babu. I mean, who decides they want their grandchildren to call them Swahili names, instead of something simple, like granddad and grandma?” Sawyer shook his head.
If he was honest, he still didn’t understand his in-laws, but he liked them for all their weirdness.
“I get mixed up with those names,” his ten-year-old son said. “But they answer me, anyway.”
Lucas was a replica of his mother right down to the gentle nature that had him often doing stuff for his sister, because she was too lazy to do it herself.
“Where is mom?” Sadie demanded. “I don’t want to be late.”
“I thought you didn’t want to go?” Lucas asked.
“But now we are, we can’t be late,” she added. “So where is she?”
“There,” Sawyer said, pointing out the window as he reached Calloway’s.
Birdie had left early, deciding she needed to go for a walk and pick up some flowers for her mom on the way. She stood outside the shop talking to one of the locals. Her blonde hair was in a messy bun, and she wore a floaty rose pink dress that reached her calves. The sleeves were short and showed off her tanned arms. Age had only made Birdie more beautiful as far as Sawyer was concerned.
She hadn’t changed her outlook on life in the years they’d lived together. Birdie still saw the best in everyone, and was his little Miss Sunshine. Even after fifteen years, she could make him smile just looking at her. He often wondered how come he’d got so lucky and ended up with her as his wife.
Parking, Sawyer got out of the car and walked to where she stood. Wrapping an arm around her waist, he pulled her in for a kiss.
“What?” He looked at Sadie, who was getting out behind him.
“You and mom doing that right here in the street. You’re too old for that.”
“I enjoy kissing your mom because she’s hot and I love her, and—”
“Stop!” Sadie clapped her hands over her ears. “Melinda Perry’s parents never do things like that!”
“Bet they do,” Sawyer said. “They just hide it from their kids.”
“Well, you need to do that,” she snapped.
“So if we stop kissing in front of you and Lucas, does that mean when you’re wanting to get all kissy faced with any boys you can’t?”
“I’m never doing that with a boy,” Sadie said.
“You just hold on to that thought, sweetheart,” Sawyer added.
“So how’s your morning been since I saw you an hour ago?” Birdie asked him.
“Great. No trouble at all,” Sawyer lied. “So, you want a ride, pretty lady?”
Sadie made gagging noises.
“I’d love one.”
“Hurry, before they play the music,” Sadie hissed.
Too late, almost as if she’d tempted fate, the sounds of Grapevine Twist filled the air through one of the many speakers set up around Lyntacky.
“Get back in the car and drive, Dad!”
“You know better than that.” Sawyer said. “Go form a circle.”
“I hate this town,” Sadie muttered.
“She loves it really,” Birdie said, smiling.
Life had been an amazing ride with this woman. She’d changed Sawyer in ways he’d never thought possible, and forced him to do things he’d vowed he never would. Just last week, she’d put aloe vera on his burnt finger and made him drink Burdock tea. He still didn’t know what Burdock was.
Searching for their kids, he found Lucas holding hands with June Matilda, who didn’t seem to have aged a day in the last fifteen years. On his other side was Bart Matilda in a pair of running shorts that should come with a warning to those unlucky enough to see him in them. Coming on for late eighties, the man still walked or ran most days.
“That boy,” Sawyer shook his head. “He’s your replica. All smiles and sweetness.”
“I hope Lucas is way less messed up than I was,” she added, her hand now in his.
“We’ll make sure he is, baby.”
Sawyer looked for his daughter. She was standing beside a kid with a floppy fringe and pimples, who was making eyes at her.
“Who the fuck is that?”
“Easy there, daddy,” Birdie said. “That’s Tyler Johns, Mr. and Mrs. Calloway’s grandson. He’s in town for the holidays.”
“He’s making eyes at my daughter,” Sawyer snarled.
“She’s twelve. I doubt they’re making eyes at each other, but one day that is going to happen,” Nina said.
“Where the hell did you come from?” Sawyer looked down at the woman who was his wife’s friend, as she took his other hand.
“I tried to hide around the side of Calloways, but Cill and Jed’s boy Tommy found me.”
“Back to my daughter. She’s not dating for another twenty years, and especially not some pimple faced, floppy-haired dude.”
Nina laughed at him. “It’s always the asshole bad boys who struggle the most when kids reach dating age.”
“I wasn’t an asshole.”
“You weren’t exactly Mr. Congeniality,” she added as they started moving.
“You step in here any time you’re ready, honey,” he said to Birdie.
“He’s not an asshole now, Nina,” Birdie said. “But you were a grouch before I helped you evolve.”
“Caterpillars evolve,” he muttered. “Men just wise up.”
They moved through the steps with everyone having conversations about different things. He glared at Tyler Johns, which made the kid trip on his own feet. Unfortunately, he recovered before face planting and embarrassing himself in the eyes of Sadie.
“Hey, dad, Bart said I should start running with him!” Lucas called. “He has some old shorts I could borrow.”
“Over my dead body is my son wearing shorts like that,” Birdie said under her breath. Sawyer agreed.
After the dance, the Duke’s said goodbye to everyone, well Lucas and Birdie did. Sawyer and Sadie grunted it.
“Tyler asked if I was going to the movie at the rotunda tomorrow night, mom. Can I?” Sadie said from the back seat.
“No,” Sawyer said.
“I asked mom.”
“But as we parent your surly attitude together, we both get a say in what you do,” Sawyer said.
“Daad,” Sadie said in a whiny voice.
Birdie patted his hand, well used to this kind of discussion in their household. Her eldest and husband were similar personality types, and they clashed often.
“What your father means is we were all planning to go, so I’m sure you’ll meet up with Tyler when we get there.”
“I didn’t mean that at all,” Sawyer muttered.
Birdie laughed. She couldn’t help it. The man who had once avoided all contact with people who weren’t his blood, and was the town's grumpiest resident, was now anything but. He was a big teddy bear with his kids and her.
“What’s so funny?” He raised a dark, sexy brow. He was still, to her mind, the hottest man in Lyntacky.
“Nothing at all.”
“I don’t want to go with you to the movie,” Sadie said.
“Tough, you’re twelve, not a teenager, and this is the end of the discussion. You go with us or not at all,” Sawyer said.
“We’ve talked about this,” Birdie whispered so Sadie couldn’t hear. “We need to discuss things with her, not just tell her the way it’s going to be.”
“Fine,” he said. “Sadie, I appreciate you want to go with some loser kid with ulterior motives, but as your father, I want you to be safe. So you’re going with us.”
“Gees, Dad,” Sadie hissed.
“Better?” He looked at Birdie.
“Much,” Birdie said, deciding now was not the time to discuss this further. Later, when they were lying in bed together, she’d bring it up again.
“I have no idea what this is about,” Birdie said as they pulled into her parents' driveway. Long satin ribbons in a variety of colors were tied to the gate.
In the years since she’d married Sawyer, they’d made plenty of improvements to the home she’d grown up in. Hamish and Meadow weren’t entirely comfortable with the fact that Sawyer had used his money to do this, so they’d repaid him in different ways. Some he’d liked, others not so much.
Once, they’d sent someone to give him a Swedish massage which had him running from the house. Birdie had enjoyed an hour of bliss.
Three years ago, a couple from Brazil, who were spending the summer with the McAllisters helping around their property, had knocked on the door and informed Birdie and Sawyer they were there to plant a vegetable garden. He’d tried to protest, but failed. Sawyer now spent hours in it, pulling weeds and watering. In fact, he loved it, which had pleased her parents and shocked his family when he dropped off vegetables for them.
“It looks like most of the town is here,” Sawyer said, glancing at the cars parked everywhere.
“What is going on?” Birdie asked.
“No idea. Let’s find out,” Sawyer said, opening his door.
“Dad, why did you put the child safety locks on again!” Sadie shrieked from the back seat.
“Again, Sawyer? Seriously, that’s getting old,” Birdie said.
“I have to get back at her when I can,” he smirked. “I did it after the dance just now.”
He opened the back door with a flourish. “There we go, baby girl.”
“You are such a child,” Sadie muttered.
“And you love me.”
Birdie watched her husband grab their daughter in a bear hug, which forced a giggle from his little girl. “Still love me?” He said.
“Yes.” Sadie’s sigh was loud and exaggerated.
He then rubbed his chin over her head before releasing her.
“You know one day she’ll have a big boyfriend to stand up to you,” Birdie said after her kids had run inside their grandparents’ house.
“I’ll always be bigger and meaner.” He took her hand.
“You do have that look down perfect.”
“And don’t forget it.”
He tugged her through the front door. Not much had changed in here other than the paint which Birdie had insisted on. Sawyer had also forced a new set of mugs on her parents seven years ago, because he didn’t want to drink out of Blue Jay’s home-made ones anymore.
They entered the living area, and she found her sister and brothers there.
“What’s going on? Why are you all here?” Birdie asked.
“No idea,” her eldest brother Finch said.
“Us either,” Sawyer said after greeting her siblings.
“We were just told we have to be here at a certain time, and when we arrived, weren’t allowed outside,” Lynx added.
“You guys have to come out here now,” Sadie said from the doorway. She looked excited.
“What’s going on, Sadie?” Sawyer asked her.
“It’s been a secret which me and Lucas were in on.” She looked smug.
“No way did Lucas actually keep a secret,” Birdie said.
“I bribed him,” their daughter added. “Now you all need to come outside.”
They headed through the doors and found seats lined on either side of an aisle. A large heart covered in flowers was at the end. A rainbow of bows were tied all over it.
“What the actual fuck?” Lynx muttered.
“Welcome!” Tripp Lyntacky stood beside the heart holding a megaphone.
“He’s not serious right now?” Sawyer said. “We’re all a few feet away and he’s using that.”
“Could everyone who is not a child of Meadow and Hamish take a seat!” He called.
“That’s me out,” Sawyer said. He then planted a kiss on Birdie’s cheek and walked down the aisle to his family, who she saw seated near the front.
“I still can’t believe you married him,” Blue Jay said, watching Sawyer walk away.
“Me either,” Birdie said, checking out her husband’s butt in those tan chinos.
“You’re good together,” she added. “I enjoy seeing you happy, little sister.”
“We have more important issues than Sawyer and Birdie’s compatibility. What the hell are our parents up to now? And how much will it embarrass us?” Finch said. He’d spent years in the army, and still talked like he was addressing his squadron.
“Come on down here, Finch, Lynx, Blue Jay, and Birdie,” Tripp said through the megaphone.
“We hear you just fine, Tripp. Lose the megaphone,” Sawyer’s brother Ryder said.
Reluctantly, the mayor of Lyntacky lowered it to the ground.
“Let’s go.” Lynx took Birdie’s hand. Finch, her other one, and Blue Jay his. “If we’re facing this, we’re doing it, whatever the hell it is, together.”
“Seeing as you’re their son-in-law, do you have any clue why we’re all here?” Brody asked Sawyer as he, Sadie, and Lucas sat with them.
“If my wife, who is their actual child, has no clue, you can bet I don’t,” Sawyer said, moving to sit between his kids. History had told him they fought if thrown together for too long. “My children, however, they’re hold outs, and know, but didn’t tell their parents.” He bared his teeth at them. Lucas laughed, and Sadie rolled her eyes.
“Bibi and Babu didn’t want anyone to know. It’s a surprise, dad,” Lucas said.
“And you actually kept it a secret, bud. Nice work.” Ryder said.
“You look good, baby girl,” Sawyer said to his niece Ally, who sat beside her father, with her boyfriend, who the Duke brothers had attempted to intimidate by firing questions at him when his girlfriend wasn’t looking. So far, he hadn’t cracked. In fact, the guy didn’t seem the type to get upset over much.
“Thanks, Uncle YaYa.”
“Today!” Tripp Lyntacky said loudly.
“What the hell is he wearing?” Brody whispered.
“Joseph called. He wants his technicolor coat back,” Zoe added.
Trip wore plain black trousers, but there the plain ended. His jacket was made up of all the colors of the rainbow. On his head, he wore a woven leather band. His boots had spurs.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that man ride a horse,” Dan said.
“He’s all style,” Uncle Asher drawled.
“Come up here, Mc Allister children,” Tripp yelled down the aisle.
Sawyer turned in his seat to watch his girl approach with her siblings. All four of them looked nervous and a bit terrified.
“You have to understand that reaction,” Dan added. “I mean, we didn’t grow up with parents who promoted openness and tolerance as alternatives to the restrictions and regimentation they see as society.”
“No way did you come up with that on your own,” Sawyer scoffed. “You read it somewhere.”
“Google,” Dan added.
“And I object,” Robyn Duke said. “I am open and extremely tolerant, considering who my offspring are.”
“You got that right, Nana,” Sadie said.
“There were also the lunches,” Sawyer added. “I remember Finch begging me for one of my Oreos once, in exchange for what looked to me like a nugget some animal had excreted.”
“Birdie said she wore nothing store bought until she could pay for it herself,” Zoe said. “Her mom made most of her clothes.”
“You remember that hideous vomit green poncho she had?” Ryder asked.
“And that is why she is grounded and not materialistic,” Robyn Duke added.
“What she left out there was that you all are,” Uncle Asher added.
“That’s it, you stand right here,” Tripp said, waving the McAllister siblings into a line to his right when they reached him.
Birdie looked his way, and Sawyer smiled. Sadie raised two thumbs. His wife looked ready to run.
“Your mom is pretty awesome, right?” He put his arms around his kids.
“She’s the best,” Sadie said, leaning her head on his shoulder.
“Yes,” Lucas agreed.
It was moments like this that made the aggravation his kids, mainly Sadie, threw at him worthwhile. Sawyer had married Birdie and thought there was no way he could love anyone even close to how much he loved her. When Sadie and Lucas were born, he realized how wrong he’d been.
“If you will all rise, please,” Tripp said as the music started.
“I’m sure that’s monks chanting,” Brody said as the low harmonic sound reached them.
They watched Tripp produce ribbons of different colors, which he handed out to the four McAllister kids.
“Makes a man happy he was raised by you, mom,” Dan said.
“Amen,” the other Duke’s said.
“Aww, Hamish and Meadow look happy,” Sawyer heard Zoe say.
Looking down the aisle, he found the McAllisters. Thankfully, they wore clothes. Sawyer had once walked into their home unannounced. Birdie’s parents had been naked. He’d never called again without phoning first.
“You look wonderful, Bibi and Bubu!” Lucas called out.
Meadow and Hamish wore lemon kaftans. Bare foot, they were smiling as they walked to their children, who Sawyer noted, looked stunned.
“They’ve never married,” Sawyer said. “My take is this is some kind of commitment ceremony because their kids have been at them to do it.”
After exchanging hugs with their progeny, Hamish and Meadow moved to stand before Tripp.
Birdie was now crying into her brother Lynx’s shoulder. His wife had a soft heart.
“Commitment is about trust. It’s about patience, forgiveness, devotion, and hope. It’s what happens when a relationship becomes a home — a place of safety and love — to which each partner can return, again and again,” Tripp said.
The guests sat in silence while the mayor spoke his piece, and Sawyer had to say they were good words. Simple, but from the heart. He then nodded to Hamish McAllister.
Birdie’s dad took his wife’s hands in his.
“Meadow, we have raised four wonderful children who have flown the nest to grow into amazing humans. We’ve gained more children and grandchildren who we love as well.”
“Mom brought nothing to wipe her tears, so she’s wiping them on Uncle Lynx’s shirt,” Lucas whispered.
“She’s softhearted.” Sawyer looked at his wife.
“I promise to make you laugh every day. Dream with me, my love, hold me and never let me go,” Hamish said. “May we have many more years of happiness?”
Birdie sniffed loudly. She’d be a mess by the end of this.
“Hamish, from the day I met you, I knew we would do naked yoga until we draw our last breath.”
The McAllister children all laughed at that.
“Be my love and my life,” Meadow continued. “My heart and soul have always been yours.”
The older McAllisters then spoke in another language.
“Hindi,” Sadie said, much to Sawyer’s surprise.
After they’d finished, Tripp spoke again. “And now if each of the McAllister children would come forward and tie their ribbon around the wrists of their parents,” Tripp said.
“Wow,” Dan said when the ceremony had finished. “That was really special.”
“It was, Sawyer said rising. “And now I need to mop up my wife’s tears. Come on kids, let’s go congratulate your grandparents and hug your mom.”
Birdie saw them coming and threw herself at him. Sawyer caught her like he always did.
“We have to do that one day,” she whispered into his neck.
But he knew that if she wanted it, he’d do anything for this woman. His love, his life.
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