They’d all already made the rounds to my parents’ house, Allie’s parents’ house, Chloe’s Mom’s house, and had parked down the street to hit up the neighbors houses before they got to mine, since my house used to be Emma’s. The neighbors had practically threatened her if she didn’t bring Everly and the other babies by.
“Hey, Emma. And there’s my little girl!” Ian cooed, coming up behind me and taking Everly from me. He disappeared inside just as the others came up the driveway.
I looked over at my brother-in-law and busted out laughing. “What the hell did she do to you?” I asked him when I could talk.
He gave a long-suffering sigh and answered, “A tornado.”
I cocked my head and studied him. “Well, Emma. You outdid yourself this year, I think. Where the hell did you get so many miniature…things?” I asked, waving my hand vaguely at Luke.
His costume was black sweat pants and black hoodie, and Emma had pinned or glued random miniature trees, houses, cars, farm animals…pretty much anything she could get her hands on…in a spiral around his body, starting with his left ankle and ending with his shoulders.
Emma grinned and said, “The craft store. I can come up with something for you next year, if you want?”
“Uh, yeah…maybe…” I replied, then addressed my other sister, Jenna, in hopes that Emma would forget to include me in her new costume making venture. “You and Noah didn’t dress up?”
She shook her head. “No. I swear with these three, I’m lucky to put deodorant on in the mornings. Here. Take your nephew.”
I reached out and took Caleb from her. “Aww…don’t you just make the cutest little elephant?” I cuddled him close to my chest and called hello to Noah, Hayden (who was dressed as Elsa from Frozen), Jarrod (who was in ninja gear), and Jackson (surprisingly not in costume), before I greeted Allie.
“You let my sister get to you, didn’t you.”
She responded pretty much the same way Luke did, sighing heavily. “Ya think?”
“Okay, give. Why are you wrapped in tin foil?”
She spread her arms out. “I’m leftovers. Can’t you tell?”
“Sure!” I said brightly, pasting a fake smile on my face.
Her arm darted out and smacked me on my hip, careful not to jostle the baby in my arms, or the one on her hip.
“Hey!” I cried in mock affront, then laughed when Liam chortled. “That’s funny, huh? You like when Mommy hits me?” I asked him, using my free hand to tickle his furry little tummy. He was dressed in a little monkey costume, complete with stuffed banana. “How’d Jackson get out of it?”
Allie shrugged. “I’m still not so sure of that one myself.”
We moved into the house, everyone milling around and eating the plates of snacks and things I’d put out, knowing that they’d all hang around for a while. We took turns passing candy out to the kids that came to the door, but by the time everyone had gotten there, Trick or Treat was almost over.
It was going on nine o’clock when they all started leaving, and that was another whirlwind of goodbyes, hugs, and kisses. Jarrod had crowed when he’d dug in to the bag of Reese cups (I’d gotten him the bigger bag this year, much to my sister’s dismay) but then had glared at his mom when she forbade him from eating any more tonight.
By ten, Ian and I were alone, snuggling on the couch and watching a movie. Halfway through it, Ian kissed the top of my head and said, “Can you believe it’s almost the holidays already?”
I nuzzled his throat and murmured my response against his skin. “I know. It’s crazy. This year has gone by so fast.”
I felt him nod against my head, and then grumbled when he shifted. “Mmm…don’t move,” I ordered him. “I’m comfortable.”
He chuckled softly, but then time stood still and everything fell away as his hand came up in front of my face and I caught sight of the diamond ring dangling from his fingertips.
I sat up in a rush, my hand flying up to cover my mouth even as I gasped, “Oh my God! Ohmigod, ohmigod, ohmigod…”
His face was earnest, his free hand clasping my wrist to keep me close. “Leah…I was going to wait until Christmas to do this, but I just can’t wait anymore. I had a big thing planned, and I know you probably would want your family to see this, but…” He paused, sliding off the couch to kneel in front of me, eliciting another round of ‘ohmigod’s’ from me.
He took my hand in his once more, then continued. “I’ve learned a lot about love from you and from your family. I’ve learned that sometimes love is quiet, and sometimes love is loud. Sometimes love is small, and sometimes it’s so huge that it encompasses your every breath, your every move. That love…that’s what I have with you. I couldn’t imagine my life without you, and I never want to. So, Leah Nicole Jensen, will you do me the greatest honor and please be my wife? Will you marry me?”
He looked up at me, his face so serious, but shining with so much love that I could never doubt in a million years the way he really feels about me. Tears spilled over and a sob broke from my lips as I reached for him, crushing my mouth to his in a fervent kiss, even as I whispered, “Yes, YES!” against his lips.
He kissed me back briefly, but broke it to slide the ring on my finger. I looked at it, really taking it in. It was beautiful, a large, solitaire princess cut diamond rimmed with smaller diamonds, and a diamond encrusted, white gold band.
“Ian,” I breathed, “I love you, you know that?” I asked him. It was totally a rhetorical question, and he knew it since he just smiled.
His hand came up and wiped away my tears, and he leaned in and took my lips in a sweet kiss. “So, that’s a yes, right?” he asked.
“No, baby, that’s a HELL YES!” I shouted at him, throwing myself into his arms.
“Jesus Christ, for the love of everything holy on this fucking planet, stop ringing my fucking doorbell!” an enraged Brandon yelled as he threw open the door. He was bare-chested, wearing a pair of basketball shorts that hung loosely around his hips, and scowling hard enough that, if I didn’t know he adored me, I’d think my time on earth was over.
I was standing on their doorstep, and in his defense, I’d been ringing the doorbell non-stop for the last couple of minutes, even though I have a key, but I’m not currently keen on using it again any time soon. That’s another story. And maybe it didn’t help that it was barely eight in the morning, but I was a woman on a mission. I had news that I needed to share with my best friend, who didn’t answer her phone last night!
“Oh. L-Leah…Hey,” Brandon stuttered, his eyes narrowing in confusion. “Sorry, I-uh, why did…are you…?” He shook his head, completely at a loss for what to say, apparently, his hand moving up to rub the back of his head nervously.
I took pity on him. “Good morning! Sorry, but I really needed to talk to Chloe and she didn’t answer her phone last night.” I gave him my brightest smile and batted my eyelashes at him, making him look at me even more weirdly, but then he turned to the side and motioned me in.
“Why didn’t you use your key?” he asked me.