Meet the family.
“So, does it bother you?” Jon casually asked, taking a sip of his Dr. Pepper.
“What?” Christian didn’t even try to make a guess as to what Jon was talking about. She was clueless.
“Anna saying those things about us? You know I’m not taking you away for the weekend just so that I can hurt you, right?” Jon asked, watching as Christian tore apart her mini-pizza.
“Anna is just weary because of Benjamin. She doesn’t trust my judgment and- well no, I know you wouldn’t hurt me Jon.” Christian smiled as she took a bite of her pizza.
Jon smiled as well, “I really like you.”
Christian looked up suddenly, dropping the piece of pizza she’d been tearing apart. “Jon, um maybe we shouldn’t talk about this here.” She swallowed hard, more nervous than she’d ever been.
Jon stared in confusion, “I-“ He looked down at his untouched burger, “I thought it bothered you that we weren’t in a relationship, I thought maybe you felt like I-“
“No.” Christian shook her head, “I completely understand.”
But Jon didn’t understand.
He didn’t understand at all.
“Are you mad at me? You’ve been quiet since we left the restaurant.” Christian spoke softly, glancing at Jon as he continued to drive.
“Mad? No. I feel like crawling in to a really dark hole though.” Jon sighed loudly, “Look, I made a fool of myself Christian. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have even tried to say what I tried to say. I just thought- and I was wrong, and so I’ve since then stopped thinking. It puts me in awkward situations.”
Christian smiled for the first time since they’d left the restaurant. “I wish you wouldn’t feel awkward around me. I get that you were just trying to make me feel better. You always try to make me feel better.”
“I thought you said it always worked.” Jon commented.
“It does.” Christian replied, “Except for when it makes you feel bad, because I don’t like you feeling bad.”
“I just feel stupid.”
“Stupid is bad.” Christian answered, “And you are definitely not stupid.”
“You’re amazing, really.” Jon said, finally giving Christian a smile. “We’re here.”
Christian’s smile slipped away and Jon laughed, “What’s wrong?”
“What if your mom hates me?” She asked, suddenly nervous again. “Or your cousin? Oh god.” Christian brushed her fingers through Jon’s hair, “They are going to think that I beat you.”
Jon grinned, “You did.” He joked.
Christian about had a heart attack as he opened the door, letting in fresh air. She suddenly wanted to run far, far away- away from all of this normality that she wasn’t used to.
Jon wouldn’t let her though, and his smile was so inviting.
She couldn’t run from him.
“Jon, it’s been so long!” Jon’s mother threw her arms around him, hugging him tightly. “I missed you son.”
“Mom, it’s been two months.” Jon replied, hugging her tightly in return, “But I have missed you too.”
“Is this her?” Jon’s Mom’s attention turned to Christian as she stepped away from her son, “Is this Christian?”
Christian blushed; unaware of what had been said about her. She just hoped it was all appropriate, and lacked any details of her life before Jon. “I’m Christian.” She answered, smiling kindly. “It’s so nice to meet you. You’ve raised such a spectacular guy.” And Christian meant it. It was the one thing she really wanted to tell Jon’s mother because it was true. He was so spectacular. She couldn’t find a bad bone in his body. He’d done nothing but help her, without even really knowing her.
Jon’s Mom smiled widely, “Thank you.” She patted Jon on the back before her eyes narrowed, “Oh dear, what happened to the both of you?” She shook her head, “You both look as if you’ve gotten in to a fight, hopefully not with each other.”
Jon groaned, “Mom, don’t.” He warned, “It’s not something we are going to talk about right now.”
She frowned but quieted.
The quiet didn’t last long but fortunately the conversation changed direction as a spunky little girl ran in to the room, “Jon! You’re here!” She rushed in to Jon’s arms, and he lifted her high in to the air.
“Little Bella, you’ve grown. I’m not going to be able to do this for much longer.” Jon warned.
“Yeah you can.” Bella replied, “You just need to work out more.”
Jon rolled his eyes, grinning. “Of course. I’ll get straight to the gym then.”
“No, start next weekend!” Bella demanded, “Who is that?” She pointed at Christian.
Jon smiled, lowering Bella to the ground. “Bella, this is Christian. Christian, this is my little cousin Bella.”
“Hi Bella.” Christian smiled and extended her hand for a handshake, making the little girl giggle.
Seconds later Christian was nearly thrown off balance as Bella ran in to her arms, hugging her tightly, “If you’re here with Jon then he must really like you! Are you guys getting married?”
Jon started laughing awkwardly, “Uh Bells-“
Bella interrupted him though, “Joooonn! Have you not asked her yet? When you love someone you’re supposed to ask them to marry you!” She turned, breaking the hug. “And it’s supposed to be you that asks! Now ask her!”
“I’m afraid I don’t have a ring.” Jon said, grinning.
Bella placed her hands on her hips. “I’ll get you one.”
“I think we’re in trouble.” Jon said, smiling at Christian, as Bella disappeared from the room. Jon’s Mom was laughing from the corner of the room, watching the entire situation.
Christian shrugged, glancing towards where the girl disappeared. Suddenly she appeared, clutching something in a wrapper. She tossed it at Jon, “It’s cherry!” She said, grinning.
Jon barely caught it and glanced down. His face instantly lit up. “Well Bells- it seems you fixed my problem.”
Christian took a nervous step back as Jon stepped forward, falling down in front of her on one knee. Her breath caught as she gazed at him with widened eyes. “Christian Taylor,” Jon opened up the package and Christian realized what he was holding; Bella had given him a cherry ring pop. “- will you marry me?”
Christian stared in to Jon’s eyes, and she gently bit her bottom lip. “Yes.” She breathed out, a grin breaking out across her face. “Yes, of course I will.”
Jon’s smile widened, and he slipped the candy ring on to Christian’s finger. His soft fingers fumbled, caressing Christian’s hand. The ring was a little tight but Christian didn’t care. She felt weightless, as if all of the dead weight in her life had been lifted.
“Now you guys have to kiss!” Bella demanded, staring at them.
Christian extended her hand to help Jon up, and once he was on his feet he shrugged, “What do you say?”
Christian blushed, “I’m waiting.” She teased.
“She wants you to kiss her Jon!” Bella yelled; her tiny face alive with joy.
Jon ran his fingers through Christian’s hair, brushing it all to the side. As he leaned down he smiled at her, watching as she smiled back reassuringly. His lips connected with hers, just as their fingers became entwined. The sound of Bella cheering was drowned out as the kiss continued, Jon’s tongue running over Christian’s bottom lip. She was more than happy to part her lips- until a flash went off, interrupting and confusing them.
Jon’s Mom had captured the moment.
Jon apologetically glanced at Christian just as their fingers lost contact. She just smiled, bringing the ring pop to her mouth. Jon watched as her lips closed around it, his eyes widening.
“Now we have to plan the wedding!” Bella took charge from the center of the room, much to the amusement of everyone else.
Jon sat up on the couch as Christian entered, “Did the spawn of satan decide to get some sleep?” He joked.
Christian grinned, “She passed out in the middle of Cinderella.”
“How fitting, seeing as how she was trying to make you in to Cinderella.” Jon replied, “You ate the ring!” He pretended to be shocked.
Christian grinned, “Don’t give me something sweet and expect me to not eat it all.”
“I’ll remember that.” Jon smiled, patting the couch next to him.
“So, how does it feel to know that you’ll be married in just three months?” That had been the decision that Bella had come to, explaining to them that waiting too long before getting married could lead to bad things. She didn’t really explain what that meant though.
Christian laughed, “Quick. That’s quick.”
Jon nodded, frowning. “Yeah, Bella’s Mom never married her Dad. Unfortunately Rachel left Todd before Bella even turned one. They’d been engaged for six years before that.”
“No wonder…” Christian let her sentence end, “Does she see her Mom often?”
“No.” Jon shook his head. “Courts can force parents to pay child support- but they can’t force a parent to be there. Rachel didn’t want anything to do with Todd or Bella once she left. She sends monthly checks but Todd makes more, and frankly the money does nothing for him. He just doesn’t want her to forget that she has a daughter.”
“Poor Bella.” Christian frowned, “Did she say why?”
“She said that motherhood wasn’t for her.” Jon laughed humorlessly. “It was a little late on the decision though.”
“Wow.” Christian had never heard of something so cold.
“She’s a sad little girl.”
“You’d never know it by talking to her.” Christian replied; just as Jon’s hand fell on to her knee. He gave her a soft squeeze, as he glanced over at her.
“You wouldn’t know a lot of things just by talking to some people.” Jon answered, giving Christian a tight smile.
She felt knots tighten in her stomach but just at that moment Jon’s mother walked in.
“So, what happened?” She stared directly in to Jon’s eyes- and Christian knew she wouldn’t let the subject go.
Just then her cell phone ringtone went off, saving her. “Do you mind?” She asked, glancing at them both.
Jon shrugged, “Go ahead. I have to talk to my Mom anyway.”
Christian nodded, darting from the room.
She put the phone to her ear without even thinking about it, “Where are you?” Benjamin’s voice sent shivers through her entire body and she forced herself to stare down at the fake candy engagement ring she was still wearing, though she’d eaten the candy. She forced herself to think of how happy she was with Jon. He never scared her. He never hurt her.
“I’m teaching her self-defense.” Jon began to explain, gesturing to his face. “She’s doing great so far.”
“You’re teaching her using your face?”
“Well, er- kind of. Look, it’s not as bad as it sounds. I just wanted, No, I needed to feel confident knowing that she could protect herself.”
“So, what you’re saying is… she means a hell of a lot to you?”
Jon felt himself being pulled in to a smile at the smile his mother was giving him, “Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.”
“And her face?”
Jon groaned, knowing ahead of time that the question would be asked. His Mother wasn’t blind. “Courtesy of her ex-boyfriend.” He wasn’t going to lie to his Mom.
“Why are you out of state?” Benjamin demanded.
Christian had been getting nowhere in the conversation and the latest question left her winded and angry, though Jon’s earlier statement came back to haunt her. “Are you tracking me using this phone?”
Benjamin seemed surprised, which was out of character for him. “I get worried about you. You don’t know what you’re doing. You’re proving it right now. You’re off running around with what’s-his-face, when you should be at home with me.”
“I’m not your girlfriend anymore.” Christian replied confidently, “I can return the phone if that’s what you want but that will be the extent of our contact from now on.”
“Keep the phone.” Benjamin spit out, obviously growing angry. “You’ll come around eventually.”
“Don’t hold your breath.” Christian had never before felt so confident talking back to Benjamin but right now she wasn’t afraid of him. She felt safe near Jon, and she knew he wouldn’t let anyone hurt her- she was just worried about him being safe now.
“You don’t know everything about him Christian. You know me, you don’t know him.”
“No, you’re wrong.” Christian muttered, holding the phone tightly. “I know you both. The difference is I like what I know about Jon. I can’t say the same about you.”
“Just listen to me,” Benjamin’s tone turned dead serious and Christian bit her lip as she listened, “- I found out some things about him.”
“What?” Christian snapped, “Stop trying to break us up if you don’t have anything worth hearing.” She immediately covered her mouth with her hand.
“Break you up? You’re going out with that fool?” Benjamin demanded.
Christian clumsily shut her phone, loudly exhaling.
“Everything okay?” Jon peeked his head in.
Christian stared at him with widened eyes, “I don’t have any more candy.” She held up her finger.
Jon grinned, “I can fix that.”
“I’ll be back in a moment.” Jon’s Mother said, standing quickly as someone knocked on the front door.
Jon leaned towards Christian, “So, what was really upsetting you? Did Anna call again?”
“I take candy seriously.” Christian joked, but she saw from the look on Jon’s face that he wasn’t going let the subject go. “I got a call fr-“
“Dear?” Christian looked up, “Someone named Benjamin is asking for you at the door. I told him that I’d fetch you.”
Christian’s face paled, and Jon made a fist. “Here?” He snapped, “How dare he come here!”
Christian stood just as quickly as Jon did and she placed her hand on his chest, to stop him in place. “Please Jon, just stay. We don’t need drama, not anywhere near your family. I don’t want to do that.”
Jon frowned, “You aren’t going to talk to him alone. I won’t allow it.”
Christian frowned in return, “You won’t allow it?”
Jon sighed heavily, “You know I don’t mean it like that.”
“I’ll be right back. Just keep talking to your Mom.”
“No Christian. He could hurt you, and I- I wouldn’t know.” Jon’s voice broke.
Christian shook her head, running her fingers over his cheek. “You taught me some good self-defense moves, though I doubt I’ll need them. Give me twenty minutes, if it takes any longer then I give you complete permission to come drag me back in to your arms.”
Jon smiled a little, “Remember, you’re marrying me in three months.” He joked, “Bella made it official.” He lifted Christian’s finger, where the ring was still around her finger.
“I’ll be there.” Christian promised, pulling away.
Jon watched her walk away, a frown falling back on to his face.
His Mother placed her arm around his shoulder, “Some hot chocolate with ice cream.” She murmured, “Oh sweet boy, sometimes they have to walk away in order to stay.”
Jon nodded, thinking over his Mother’s words.
She’d never been wrong before.
He could only hope that Christian would come back to him, instead of disappearing.