“Happy B-day, man.”
“Thanks” Gerard took the box with him back to the bed. “Guess I’m officially old now.”
Frank got out of bed, “Yeah, old. I’m gonna hit the shower. Okay?’
Gerard nodded absent-mindedly. He turned the wrapped gift over in his hands a few times wanting to wait to open it when Frank was out of the room. Finally he heard the shower running and Frank start to sing. Gerard smiled and pulled off the wrapping paper. He was about to open the box when his cell rang.
“Happy Birthday to You” Monica sang. “Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday dear Gee. Happy Birthday to you.”
He smiled, “Thank you.”
“Now you know why I wanted to know what time you were getting up? My mom always called me on my birthday every year. I knew when I picked up the phone it would be her singing.”
“So you promise to sing to me every year?’
“If your ears can stand it.” Monica laughed. “Gee, Kelly has to get ready for school. She wants to wish you a happy birthday now, okay?’
“Sure” he answered happily.
“Hey, Dad. Happy Birthday.” Kelly said simply.
“Thanks Kell. And thanks for your gift. It really means a lot to me.”
“You’re welcome. I gotta go get ready for school. Here’s Mom.” She started to hand the phone back to Monica but added, “Kara wanted me to wish you a happy birthday too. Now here’s Mom.”
“So you haven’t opened your gift yet have you?’ She asked once she had the phone.
“Just started. I got the box unwrapped.”
“Well keep going.” Monica told him. “I wanna know what you think.”
He laughed, “Okay” He put the cell on his shoulder and used both hands to pry off the lid. Inside was a smaller box. “Oh, you camouflaged the real box. Tricky. He lifted out the velvet box and opened it. Inside was a plain gold band.
Monica was getting more and more nervous. What did he think? Maybe he didn’t want to wear an engagement ring.
Gerard lifted the ring out. He had a huge smile on his face. “I love it.” He said softly.
“Look inside” Monica said feeling a weight lift off her. He seemed pleased with the gift.
He stood and walked over to the window needing the light to read the inscription. “G & M Happily Ever After” it read. “Monica, I love you.” He said slipping the ring on his finger.
“So you’re okay with wearing an engagement ring?’
“Hell yeah. Shit, it’s not like it’s a secret we’re engaged.”
“I know but I just want you to know that if you don’t want to wear it all the time I’ll understand.”
He sat back down on the bed, “This ring isn’t coming off my finger ever. It says it all. It’s my engagement ring and it will be my wedding ring.”
Monica felt tears in her eyes, “Happy Birthday, I love you Gee.”
“I love you more than I’ll ever be able to say. This is the best birthday ever. Only thing would make it better is if you were here.”
Liv sat looking out the window blind to the world outside. Her mind was lost in thought. Today was Gerard’s birthday. Wasn’t it ironic that it was Elle’s birthday too? Her mind traveled back to this date three years ago. The fear, the uncertainly that she had endured. The day had started out bright and cold. Her soul too had been cold that morning until the nurse placed the baby in her arms. Liv remembered looking down at the infant and truly believing she would feel nothing. How wrong she had been. Seeing her perfect daughter she felt something she had never known before. She felt the coldness of her soul melt. It had shocked her when she realized this was what pure love felt like. The emotion frightened her at first but then she had felt a surge of hope. Strangers came into the room and tried to convince her that giving up her baby was the best choice she could make. Had she made the right decision, keeping Elle? What if she had given her up? Elle’s life would no doubt have been better than it was now. So many times during her pregnancy she had wanted to reach out to Gerard but she had kept herself from making the call. She had hurt him too deeply and there was no going back. The chance he could be hurt even more still lingered. There was however one thing she allowed herself to do. A small remembrance of the life they had shared. She had given her baby the name of his beloved grandma. At the time she believed that it was her gift to him that he would never discover. At that time she had believed that somehow she and her baby would make a life for themselves far away from here. Liv smiled sadly. Fate had a different idea. Once more she thought back to that morning when she held Elle in her arms and she remembered breaking down and crying. They were the first real tears she had shed in so many years. The only other time she had truly cried was the day she had broken down in front of Gerard when he’s said he’d loved her. The day they had found their field of wildflowers. She smiled sadly remembering the look on his face when it had happened. He hadn’t known how to deal with her tears. Liv shook her head as if to expel the memory. She had learned not to cry at an early age. She had learned not to show her true feelings. Never let anyone see how you really feel then they can’t have control over you. Yeah, the one thing her mom had taught her. Really the only thing her Mom ever taught her before leaving was to hide yourself from the world. That was a lesson she would never get to teach Elle. There would be no need for her to learn it. Liv was going to make sure there was no way Elle would ever have the kind of life that required that lesson. No one would ever hurt her little girl. Elle would never know the kind of life she had endured, this Liv would make sure. She glanced over at her sleeping daughter a smile lighting her face. They would walk to the park today. The weatherman had predicted sunshine and mild temperatures. God how time seemed to fly. Her baby was three years old. She had left Gee more than three years ago but the hurt still felt like it was yesterday.
She turned back to the window in anger. Life was so unfair but then it had always been unfair to her, hadn’t it? She couldn’t even afford to buy Elle a decent birthday gift. The voice in her head once again reminded her that if she had told Monica about Elle’s birthday there would be gifts for her little girl. As much as she hated the thought she should have told Monica. It was just that she had wanted this birthday to belong to just her and Elle. Next year it would be different. Next year she wouldn’t….”
“Mommy I’m hungry.” Elle sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes.
“You’re always hungry, baby,” Liv told her. She crossed the room and sat down on the bed. “Remember what today it?”
Elle’s face lit up. “It’s my burfday.”
Liv smiled at the way she pronounced the day. “Yes and we’re gonna go to the park and have ice-cream. How does that sound?’
Elle wiggled excitedly, “Gonna see Mommyca and Kewee and Kawa too?”
Liv flinched inwardly. “Not today, baby.” She reached over and pulled Elle into her arms, “I love you, baby.” She hugged her close. “Today it’s just you and me.”
Elle hugged her as tightly as her little arms could. “Wuv you mommy. Can we go to the park now?”