Life after Death Ch. 11byExecutive Gent©
We deliberately showered separately so that there were no further distractions, as we had to be ready for when Tim and Issy got home from their after school sitter and Alice came home from her friends. Rachel was pleased, as she had bought a lovely outfit that day that she thought would be ideal for this evening. I pottered around downstairs for a while, making sure that I caught up on my e-mails and fed the dog whilst allowing Rachel the space to get ready. Just before 5.30 Alice arrived, having been brought home by her friend's mum, who was obviously intrigued by Rachel's "new man" as she put it, because she did everything she could to find out about me and what I did, and gushed about what a lovely house I lived in. I thanked her for the compliment and said to Alice that she needed to go inside and find Mummy as we were going out for a meal with Tim and Issy's Nan and Grampa, she thanked Marie for having her and skipped off into the house looking for Rachel. I stood there making idle conversation, as Marie tried to either dig more information out of me or wangle her way into my home to nose around. Neither was particularly forthcoming, I might add much to her obvious disappointment.
She was one of those typical mothers that if you were kind you would call pleasingly plump; however, if she put any more weight on she would be fat. Right now she could still be regarded as attractive, but any more and she would be passed by as being just another overweight woman who took no pride in her appearance. She was still trying to pry into our business, in order to gain more play ground gossip for the next day when Rachel appeared at my side apologising for not coming out to see her sooner but she was changing to go out. As I looked at lovely fiancé my mouth dropped, she had on a clingy black sheath dress with a scoop neckline, stockings and black high heel shoes, a black choker around her neck with a piece of jet at the front, her black hair fell in waves down around her face to make a collar across the tops of her breasts and back. Her eyes were lightly lined with mascara and her full lips shone with her red lipstick. The contrast in the two women was startling, Rachel tall, slim and with her dark hair cascading around her face, Marie, shorter being about 5'3", plumper with mousy hair that was tied into a rough ponytail, it is unfair to compare as I am sure that if she had been going out, she also would have also made the best of what she had. But standing there, as Rachel suggested I needed to go in and change soon, she obviously realised that her mission to gather information had been curtailed for today. Just as she was getting into her people carrier and saying goodbye, my own kids arrived with their sitter, obviously hoping to prolong the chat Marie started to get back out of the vehicle, but although it may have been rude of me, I made a beeline for Vanessa and my children, leaving Rachel to get rid of Marie once and for all.
Vanessa was also a Mum at Issy's primary school, but was the exact opposite, she had picked up the kids from school ever since Jane had been ill, she knew exactly what we had been through and had been wonderful throughout, although I had paid her, she did it out of the goodness of her heart. She was in her thirties as well, and had been a friend of Jane's but not especially close, but recognised our need when it was at its greatest. Since meeting Rachel, she had never pried into our business or been overly inquisitive, however, because of her attitude, I found that we inevitably told her things that were normally reserved for close family. Although, to Tim and Issy in many ways she had been a surrogate mum on times, she never overstepped the mark, infact she was now another vital link in the support chain I had built up in the last few years. She greeted Rachel warmly, commenting how great she looked and hoped that I was taking her somewhere special. We laughed as we waved to a slightly disgruntled Marie as she drove off and told her we were taking Jane's parents out for a meal with the kids.
"Oh lovely she replied, what's the occasion?" she smiled and then immediately looked worried as if it was an important date she had missed.
"We are going out to celebrate... Look" Rachel smiled as she held out her left hand to show Vanessa her ring.
Vanessa squealed in delight "That's beautiful, Congratulations, what did the kids say?"
"Well they know we all want to live together as a family and we talked about Steve and I spending the rest of our lives together last night, but we haven't told them about this yet because Steve only proposed formerly just over an hour ago" She beamed. "That's so great, I hope you will be so happy and I'm sure Tim and Issy will be fine, all they talk about recently is you and Alice and what you all did together." With that she hugged us both and said she was taking her two to KFC as a treat and that she would see us tomorrow.
We went into the house and sitting in the kitchen as we made a cup of tea, I asked Rachel if she was ready to tell them our news. Beaming at me she said
"Ofcourse the sooner the better!!"
I called them down and the girls came bustling in chattering away about their day and what had happened in their respective schools. Tim ambled in already play on his Gameboy, but happy never the less, particularly as he had just been told by Alice that we were all going to his favourite steakhouse with his grandparents. We looked at each other wondering where to begin; Rachel had her right hand crossed over her left, inadvertently hiding her ring.
"Guys..." Rachel began "you know we were talking about the future last night and the fact that we would one day all live together?"
They all nodded, and Tim looked quizzical but interested at what was going to happen next, but he was smiling at our obvious discomfort, I think it was pretty obvious to him we were about to make an announcement of some kind.
"Well,... Steve and I love each other very much, and we have talked about how we all move forward."
"Why don't you just get married?" Issy asked with her usual directness.
We both laughed and I said, "Sweety, I asked Rachel to marry me today, but it has to be ok with all three of you. We want to be a family, that is happy and if there is a problem then we need to deal with it now"
Alice jumped up and down on the spot with excitement, shouting I'm going to have a big brother and sister!!!! Issy got up of the chair and ran around the kitchen whooping with joy and Tim hugged Rachel and I and said quietly,
"You know how I feel, Welcome to our family Mum..."
Rachel hugged him and then the girls as the tears running down her cheeks as they all crowded round looking at her ring. Tim looked up at me and smiled just as the girls launched themselves at me, hugging me too. I think Rachel was shocked at their response in the same way I was pleased at Alice's acceptance of me, I said I better go and change or I'd be holding everyone up, Tim asked whether he needed to shower or not and when I raised my eyebrow and grinned at him, He grinned and said
"Ok, OK, I'll shower now" with that he was off up the stairs to get ready. Rachel took the girls off as well and kissed me softly as she left, saying
"I never thought I'd ever say this again, but I love you so much baby and I cant wait to be your wife, lets do it sooner my love, I can't wait for the matching band to go with this ring."
"Are you sure darling? Nothing would make me happier than to be married to you tomorrow if I could."
"Steve, I have never been more sure of anything in my life, lets get tonight out of the way and then we can start to plan our future together."
"Ok sweety, that sounds like a plan" I grinned as I kissed the tip of her nose.
As I stood in the bedroom choosing out some clothes, black linen trousers and white short sleeve shirt, Tim wandered in having changed into a pair of jeans and an Ospreys rugby jersey, and said,
"Dad, I meant what I said last night, if I hadn't been Mum's by birth I would have chosen Rachel as a mum, I hope I didn't put pressure on you to ask her to marry us."
I smiled at his turn of phrase and said warmly.
"Son, you didn't put pressure on me to ask her, we had decided we wanted to be together over the weekend, I just wanted to make it official and after I saw her in Cardiff at lunchtime today, I was walking through Royal Arcade and saw the rings and decided not to wait. Are you really ok with it?"
"Sure dad, She and Alice are great, although both her and Issy together are a right pain, but I like the idea of us all being together. I think mum would have really liked her too. I hope she feels happy about it"
"Tim, someday I'll tell you why I am sure that she is happy about this, I will never forget her though, we loved each other very much and were together for 18 years, and that love will be with me until the day I day, but I can love Rachel as much and we accept our pasts and our new found love unconditionally. I hope you find the same happiness oneday, I really do"
"I often feel she is watching over us, you know? Sometimes when I'm do something I am worried about or if I'm not sure what to do, it's as if I get this little voice telling me which way to go. Do you know what I mean?
"Yeah I do, I know exactly what you mean" I smiled
"Are you sure about this Dad? I want Rachel to be with us more than anything, other than Mum not to having died, but we can manage if you are doing this for us. We would understand honestly"
"Do you think I would do this just have someone look after you both, really?"
"No" he grinned
"Listen, I love Rachel with all my heart, I will never stop loving your Mum, but can you understand that I love Rachel equally? Nothing made me happier than when she said yes today, well that's not quite true actually, when the three of you were so happy and I saw the look on her face when you all reacted and then when you teased her by calling her mum, that was in someway better than her saying yes, it meant we all felt the same about each other, so it was doubly special somehow."
He hugged me and said he better get on or we would both get into trouble for being late, I grinned and agreed, best not to keep Nan and Grampa waiting too long, especially not tonight. We went down Rachel had the girls looking lovely, and even though I knew what she was wearing, she still took my breath away when I saw her waiting serenely in the kitchen. Smiling I made sure everyone was ready and we started out to the car, Rachel looked a little apprehensive as we drove out into the country, I surreptitiously held her hand as we drove out of the village and smiled at her encouragingly as we drove, whilst the kids chattered on excitedly in the back about various topics, Alice said she missed her own bedroom and the horses, Issy said she could share hers and Tim said that he was sure we would give her own room when we decided where to live. In my own mind I was sure we would need to move, a thought I was dreading, but that could be discussed another day, preferably after the holiday and the merger. One thing was for sure Rachel needed to be close to the practice and her horses, and in someways my home was just a little to far away from some of her furthest clients.
We arrived at the steakhouse just as Rob and Claire were getting out of their car, The of chatter. We met up with them by our car and Claire gave Rachel a hug and told how lovely she looked whilst Rob smiled and greeted her warmly, I was comfortable with the evening after my earlier phone call with Claire, so I it was just like old times, a close family spending some quality time together, as we walked to the restaurant door Rachel and Claire were ahead of Rob and I, when I heard;
"Oh Rachel, that's lovely, we're so happy for you, look at Rachel's ring Rob, its beautiful"
Rob and I caught up just as Rachel was thanking her, and saying we had discussed marriage but she didn't expect me to go out and buy her a ring today. Rob smiled warmly and kissed her on the cheek and hugged her as he said;
"Its lovely Rach, we hope you'll both be really happy"
As we got to the door the kids were all working out what they would eat, ribs for Tim, Burger for Issy and Sausage for Alice, we all laughed happily as the waitress led us to a corner table near the back of the room, we were quite secluded as this particular chain put up rustic partitions between its tables topped off with coloured glass tiles that were at shoulder height when you were sitting. She handed us menus and gave the girls crayons and a colouring sheet each and once she had taken our drinks order left us to look at the menu. We chatted happily about various things, from what was going on with Jane's brothers and sister to what it was like being a working vet and our forthcoming holiday, but finally we settled into the area of when we planned to marry and what would type of wedding it was going to be etc. we explained we hadn't even thought that far ahead yet, but we would probably work out the details whilst on holiday and sort it out after the merger had gone through when Alice piped up;
"You know now that Steve and Mummy are getting married now..."
Rachel looked at me, and my heart stopped, waiting for what was coming next.
"W-e-l-l, you know that Mummy's parents are in heaven with Jane now..."
Claire went with it, but Rachel looked petrified as to what was coming next.
"Will you be my Nanny now? Because I really need two Nannies and Mum needs new parents too... You can be ours if you want.."
Claire was sitting next to Alice and turned to her with tears in her eyes and scooped her up into her arms and said lovingly;
"Nothing would make me happier than to have you as my grandaughter sweety, and an extra daughter wouldn't go amiss either!!"
She was still holding Alice but reached across the table and held Rachel's hand tightly. Somehow the innocence of Alice's outburst cemented the relationship between us all and I knew that not only would Jane approve if she were watching but her family would grow to love Rachel too. The rest of the meal went just as you would expect and by 9pm the girls were getting tired and we all decided to call it a day. Having settled the bill, we walked out to the car-park together, and as we were about to leave, I couldn't help myself but I hugged them both tightly thanking them for supporting me and making it so much easier for me to start again. They made the suitable reply about it being nothing, but sometimes I forgot that they were suffering as much as I was, that their grief was just as real and vivid as mine ever was. After all no parent should ever outlive their child, I hugged Claire tightly, telling them that I would never forget what they had done for us, before agreeing that we would see them later in the week and heading home.
Sitting in the car, Rachel seemed quieter than normal, asking her if she was ok? She told me she was fine, but I could see that she was still deep in thought, the kids were quiet too, so I drove through the lanes lost in my own thoughts, thinking how lucky I was to find her, hoping that the merger would be ok, a million things that run through your mind abstractly when you are in that situation. After about 15 minutes we were home and Rachel got the girls up to bed as I said goodnight to Tim too and put the kettle on and made a pot of coffee for us. After a little while she called me to go up and say good night to them, and if I didn't mind could I bring her coffee up too. I gathered our drinks and headed upstairs, I found Rachel sitting on the bed in just her bra and panties looking at her ring and as I put the drinks down I leant over and kissed her forehead. Smiling softly, she whispered;
"Say goodnight to the kids babe, and come back and give me a cuddle, I need one, a big one"
I was a little worried as she seemed to have the weight of the world on her shoulders, and I began to worry she might have thought we had moved to fast, I went in and sorted them out, which amounted to arranging their quilts as they were so shattered, Tim was already asleep, which was surprising as it was only just 9.45, so I headed back to the bedroom. Walking in Rachel, was now wearing my robe and curled up on the bed, I didn't know if she sill had her underwear on or if she was naked underneath, it was impossible to tell, other than she had taken her stockings off. Sitting next to her, I stroked her hair lovingly, asking;
"You ok love? You seem down, have we gone to quickly for you?"
She moved so quickly holding me tightly and said tearfully
"Hold me Steve, just hold me tight"
"What's wrong Sweetheart, Tell me please, we can sort it out, if you tell me"
"Nothing really, I am so happy and I love you so much, but I'm scared... what happens if I can't live up to Jane? I'm not her; I want to be loved for me not as her replacement. I was so happy when Claire said those things tonight, but then I began to worry about everything from her memory, to you comparing her to me when we make love. I know its stupid, but I can't help it"
With that she started to sob, it was obviously a bigger deal than I had thought, I took it at face value, she had always told me that she was dealing with Jane's memory, but I needed to show her just how much I loved her.
"Aw Babe, come here, let it out, you mean the world to me, I love you without any thought of comparison, you are so special, and yes I cannot erase her memory..."
"I don't want you too Steve..."
"I know love, but you don't understand how much I love you, you are the first thing I think of when I wake up, the last thing I think of before I sleep and there is hardly a minute during the day when I don't think of you. I will never forget Jane, I can't, I don't want too, we had a fantastic marriage and if she hadn't died we would still be together, but when I met you I knew that we could have an equally special life together. You are so different from her, when you make love, you are more adventurous, you know what you need and have no problem telling me exactly what you enjoy and when you want it. She was more reserved, we had our comfort zones, in many ways she expected me to know what she needed and hardly ever asked for anything. She loved to tease but we had definite boundaries, I have no concerns of telling you what I am thinking, you might not like the idea but you won't judge me. She never did consciously and our love life was superb, we did most things, but always at my instigation, very rarely would she start something new. I will do anything that makes you believe that my love for you is real, and that I am not just a sad man trying to recreate the perfect second wife in the image of the dead first one. I know that I can love again without any legacy from the first time, other than I know I can make someone happy and I truly believe that marriage is a great thing when two people love each other unconditionally. Rachel, please believe me darling, when I tell you that my love for you is life long and without condition. I want to spend the rest of my life with you and explore every new experience along the way with only you. If that means kids, new places to visit, new place to experience making love or even when we face the inevitable pitfalls that life will throw our way then as long as we can face them together, then that is all that matters."
She was crying now, deep heart felt sobs that wracked her body, as held me so tightly I was struggling to breathe.
"I know Steve, please forgive me, I don't know why I got so worked up, I am so happy, I have never felt this kind of love before, I know you have and its scares me that I won't live up to her in someway. I keep waiting for you do something to hurt me or put me down, I know you won't but he used too all the time, I get paranoid sometimes, please forgive me Steve. "