A Beautiful Year – Fall
Now Michelle understood why Robert’s Dad had come to stay with them for a few weeks at the end of the summer. She was ashamed of how annoyed she had been to have an unexpected guest in her house. Her cheeks burned.
The next picture was from their vacation to Hilton Head. Robert was giving her a piggy back ride down the beach. The children were running ahead and the darkening sky silhouetted them. It was a gorgeous picture. It was an amazing time. The beach was Michelle’s happy place. The sound of the water, the sand between her toes, the salt air in her clothes and hair stole her away from the stress and pain of everyday and dropped her somewhere free. Her parents had taken the kids back to the vacation house that night and she and Robert had laid in the sand. She could remember his body over hers and the salty tang of his lips. For moments she had forgotten everything but them.
A video followed of Robert and her Dad sitting at her Dad’s desk in his office. Robert’s posture was very nervous.
“Sir, you’re probably wondering why I’m here.”
“Well, I’m hoping you want to buy a life insurance policy.”
“Ahh,” Robert hesitated, not quite sure what to say.
“I’m kidding son, what can I do for you? Is everything alright? You look a wreck.”
“You know I love Michelle more than anything and Audrey and Tatum are everything to me. I know that we’ve been through a lot in the last few months, but that’s exactly why I’m here to see you. I want to ask Michelle to be my wife, and I want your blessing to do so.”
Her Dad was smiling, holding back a laugh, she thought.
“You know Robert, I didn’t see you as this traditional. With her being married before, and all that. But I’m glad you asked if only so that I can tell you how happy you two being married would make me. I’m happy to give you my blessing. Michelle’s mom and I love you like a son, we know how much you love her and we couldn’t ask for a better step Dad for those kids. I wish her ex would have asked me, just so that I could have said no. Oh, hindsight. But you know, just cause I say yes, doesn’t mean that she will. She knows her own mind.”
“I know sir. I love that.”
Michelle’s heart felt too big for her chest.
“Well then, I guess all you can do is ask.” Michelle’s Dad held out his hand. “Good luck, Robert. I hope to hell that she says yes.”
Michelle looked over at her Dad and saw that he too was blinking back tears.
More pictures of her at rehab flashed across the screen, pictures of her and Robert with friends out for dinner, and cheering on Audrey at t-ball. There were videos of the children singing some of Robert’s songs while he accompanied them on the guitar. Pictures of all four of them on the back of his parent’s hay wagon when they went to visit for Thanksgiving.
Michelle’s stomach dropped. That had been such an amazing visit, a great trip. Knowing now that there was this cloud over it, his mother’s disapproval, she didn’t know what to think. It felt like she was swimming in jello. The two of them had sat chatting for hours about pumpkin pie recipes and what Robert had been like as a child. They had shared too much wine and made inappropriate jokes about the Pry men’s body hair patterns. It hurt knowing that the whole time his mother was thinking that she wasn’t good enough.
She tasted blood. She had bitten through her bottom lip.
The next pictures were of her and the kids decorating cookies and Robert with icing and sprinkles all over his face. There was a picture of her asleep in Robert’s arms as he carried her to bed. They had been watching a Christmas movie and she had drifted off on him. She had awoken as he tucked her in, sweeping the hair so gently out of her face. She wanted to pretend to be asleep still, to see what he would do next, but she was afraid he would leave. When he saw her open eyes he crawled into bed and held her until she fell asleep again.
They had a beautiful life. Michelle loved and trusted Robert more than she thought she could, more than she thought was possible. But she couldn’t help but agree with his mother. She wasn’t good enough for him. He was so kind, and thoughtful, and handsome. He was so driven, he had so many dreams, and she just couldn’t stand in the way. She couldn’t expect him to always want to carry her, or to be the one who jumped up in the night when a child had a bad dream.
It was high school all over again. She was the broken and imperfect girl dating the larger than life boy. Wondering what he saw in her, how she could ever possibly measure up. She wondered now as she did then what people thought of them together? Was she some sort of charity case? Someone to pity? Or was Robert broken too, the way that Matt was, the way that she didn’t know that he was until after he had smashed her heart into a million pieces. She had spent two years feeling lucky and special that this amazing guy thought she was worthy of him, only to be t-boned by his diagnosis. Of course she was good enough, good enough for a manic, paranoid, delusional schizophrenic. She wondered why it had to be that either she was trapping Robert, or he was too good to be true, but it was.
Michelle, for the thousandth time that day wished that she had use of her legs. She wanted to run away. She wanted to drag Robert from this room filled with their friends and family and explain to him that she couldn’t marry him. She couldn’t doom him to a life tethered to her. Instead of running all she could do was look up at him and shake her head. He leaned down, his mouth in her ear.
“Stop it. Stop over thinking. Just watch.”
The video moved on to them on the porch. Michelle was surprised; it was the proposal that just happened! How did Ray do that? He was taping them from the balcony, and again she was embarrassed that she didn’t even notice him anymore, she hadn’t even known he was there. A sprinkling of snowflakes was falling and Michelle couldn’t stop looking at herself.
In the video she was smiling so widely, her cheeks pink and her eyes bright. Robert was looking at her was though there was no one else in the world. There was no voice recording to the clip, only one of his songs playing, her favorite. Michelle found that she was slightly disappointed to not hear what he was saying; she wanted to hear it again.
She watched her own face, and his and she realized that she couldn’t see her doubt, or fear. She couldn’t see her wheelchair or her broken legs. She can only see the hope on his face and the joy on hers.
She had wanted to believe that he would be like everyone else and disappear when the going got tough. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t staying to prove her wrong; he wasn’t leaving because it wasn’t easy anymore. He loved her. He loved her enough to make it work and she loved him enough to try.
The next frame wass a text from Robert’s phone. Michelle didn’t see it because she was kissing Robert so hard and so deep that they became one.
“She said yes.” It said.
Part 1: Winter
Part 2: Spring
Part 3: Summer