Categories > Original > Romance

My Sweetheart

by gtakiller0914 3 reviews

Love story

Category: Romance - Rating: R - Genres: Romance - Published: 2006-09-22 - Updated: 2006-09-23 - 12577 words - Complete

Her green eyes were wet with tears. "I'm pregnant," she said softly as they sat in his car. Outside, it was raining. The drops belted down on the car, falling like her tears did.

He stared at her in disbelief, her words cutting through him like a knife. "Are you sure?"

She nodded and then broke down completely.

He took her hand in his, wanting to give her comfort. He could leave her. He could run from her and leave her alone to do what she wanted like many 17 year old boys did. But he couldn't do that. He loved her.

"I'm 16," she cried to him. "My father is going to kill me."

"How did it happen?" he asked her because he didn't know what else to say. It was a redundant question since he was the one who had gotten her pregnant.

She looked at him through her tears. "You were there, Justin. Remember?"

He nodded. "I know. I'm sorry. That was a stupid question. I didn't know what else to say."

"What are we going to do?" She was panicking now. "I won't get an abortion. I just won't do that."

"That never even crossed my mind," he said to her truthfully.

She tried to smile at him. "Thank you. You don't know what it means for me to hear you say that. Most boys would insist on it or run out on their girlfriends."

He squeezed her hand. "I love you, Jackie. I got you pregnant and I'm going to take care of you. I promise." He took her hand and pressed his lips against it.

She shook her head. "Your parents are going to freak too. You know they will. They want you to go to college next year and this is going to ruin everything. You know it will. They'll probably disown you."

"No, they won't. They know how I feel about you. We made one mistake, honey."

"And look what happened."

He opened the glove compartment of his car and took out some napkins for her. He gave them to her. "Here. Dry your tears. Everything is going to be all right. I promise."

She sniffled as she dabbed at her eyes with the napkins. They smelled faintly of hamburgers. So many times, Justin would take her to the drive-thru and they would sit in the car down by the beach and eat their food. They would talk about their future together as they ate. Now, what kind of future did they have together? She was pregnant. They had been so careful the first time. The second time they had just gone on pure emotion and had tried to be as careful as they could be. She cried harder again.

"Come on, Jackie," he said softly. "We've been together for three years. Our folks know how we feel about each other. Nothing is going to happen. I promise. We can get through this. I know we can."

"I won't get an abortion," she repeated, more firmly this time. "I won't do it. He can't make me. I won't let him."

Justin knew that she was talking about her father. He was very strict with her and extremely protective. He had raised Jackie by himself ever since her mother had died when Jackie was a little girl.

"It's okay." He tried to sound reassuring but he knew how her dad could be. Justin knew that Mr. O'Connor liked him but sometimes, he also got the impression that her dad thought nobody was good enough for her, including him. He'd been her boyfriend for a long time and he really loved Jackie. He wasn't going to let anyone hurt her ever.

"Jackie." He put his arms around her and held her close to him. "I love you. Stop worrying, okay? Nothing is going to happen. I don't care what anyone has to say about it. I love you. I'm always going to take care of you and our baby, always. I promise."


I promise...

Jackie O'Connor stared out the window of her bedroom as the rain beat against the panes. It was a dark and dreary day, matching her mood perfectly. Sometimes, she would look back on that day. It had been the worst of her life. She swiped at the tears that fell down her cheeks. Things had gone so bad for her. She had lost her father, Justin, everything that had been so dear to her.

Almost everything... not quite.


Jackie turned around and saw Jessica standing in the doorway of the bedroom. She was wearing her Tweety Bird nightgown and her long dark brown hair was mussed with sleep. She was wiping her green eyes. Justin's eyes. Her daddy's eyes.

Jackie smiled at her daughter. "You're up, pumpkin!"

"Hi, Mama!" Jessica ran to her and threw her arms around her.

"Hey, sweetie." Jackie cuddled her daughter close to her. "Did you have a good night's sleep?"

Jessica nodded as she clung to her. "It's raining, Mama."

"I know, sweetie. I don't think we can go to the park today but maybe we'll bake cookies later. Would you like that?"

Jessica nodded as she grinned at her. "Chocolate chip?"

"Whatever you like. Are you hungry, pumpkin? Mommy will make some breakfast for you now." Jessica nodded and took her hand. "Can I have a sunny egg, Mama?"

"Sure you can. Let's go inside."

They went into the kitchen together.

The apartment was small but it was theirs. Jackie had left Maryland, coming to New Jersey to start a new life. She had found a job in a supermarket and in the beginning, had collected Welfare to help her get along. She wasn't ashamed. She was a child still herself and determined to raise her child to the best of her ability.

Now, she was able to work at home. She had always loved to do arts and crafts and now she and Jessica were able to live off on the things she made. She had a nice little clientele and even did flea markets from time to time. They still struggled at times but they had each other and that was all Jackie cared about.

She didn't have to put the baby in day care or have someone else raise her child for her. She knew what it was like to grow up without a mother. She took the carton of eggs out of the refrigerator. She smiled as she watched Jessica bend down under the sink to take out the skillet.

"You're such a good girl." Jackie smiled as she took the skillet from her. Jessica beamed proudly. "I love to help you, Mommy."

"I know you do, angel." She loved her five year old daughter so much. Not a day went by when she didn't count her blessings. She was so lucky to be blessed with such an angel in her life.

It was just a shame that Justin wasn't here with them.


They had met in secret after her father had banned her from seeing him.

"Jackie, I don't know what to do." They were behind the bleachers at the ball field at school and Justin was crying.

"What is it?" she asked him as he held onto her.

"My folks are so upset about this whole thing that they've decided to move to Florida. I'm moving down there, Jackie. I don't want to go but I have no choice."

She felt the bottom drop out from her. "But you can't move, Justin! You just can't!"

"I don't have a choice, honey. They're so upset about what happened. They know you won't get an abortion and they don't want me to be with you anymore. I have to go, Jackie. I don't want to leave you but I have no choice."

She clung to him. "But what about us? What about our baby?"

He looked down in shame. "I'm sorry, Jackie. I'm so sorry."

She broke down then. "How could you do this to me, Justin? Why don't you stand up for yourself, for us?"

He looked at her through his tears. "If I stay with you my parents won't pay for college. You know I have to go to college, honey. They already told me that if I stay I can forget about them helping me." She felt like she'd been struck by him. "How could you? What about me? I'm the one who's pregnant. Justin, I thought you loved me." He grabbed her hands. "I do, honey, more than anything. I'm sorry.... so very sorry."


I'm sorry... so very sorry

Jackie heard his words in her mind again and took a deep breath. Justin had left her. Even after all of his promises, he had left her high and dry. His parents had run like cowards because they had wanted a better life for their one and only precious son. Instead of sticking up for them, instead of fighting for what he wanted, he had given in to his parents. She knew it couldn't have been an easy decision. His parents had always made things easy for him. They were sending him to one of the best schools in the country and they did have the money. Justin had always dreamed of going to Florida State. They had talked about getting married after they had both graduated from college. Now, everything had changed. Justin had left her behind to pursue the dreams of his parents. She wanted to hate him but she couldn't.

Her heart felt heavy in her chest as she cracked the egg open.

Then she heard giggling. She turned around and saw Jessica sitting on the floor playing with their new kitten Snowy. She had adopted the kitten for her as a playmate. There weren't very many kids around that were her daughter's age.

Jessica looked up at her. "I love Snowy so much, Mommy."

Jackie smiled as she went to take the orange juice out of the refrigerator. "But not as much as I love you, Mommy."

Jackie felt her eyes well up with tears again and she sucked in her breath. Outside the kitchen window, the rain fell harder.


Justin McKenzie looked out the window of his office and sighed. The rain was still coming down. The east coast had been hit with an unusual amount of rain lately. It was April and spring was coming but still, the temperatures remained raw and ugly, even in Florida. He took a pencil out of the cup that he kept them in on his desk. You're so special!!, the cup read. There was a picture of two puppies on it cuddling with each other. Jackie had given him the cup for his birthday once, with tickets to an Orioles game in it.

Justin broke the pencil in half and threw it across his office. It hit the wall across from him and fell to the floor.


He looked up and saw Louise standing in the doorway of his office. "Are you okay, honey?" she asked him.

He nodded as he scrubbed his face with his hands. "I'm fine," he assured her in a soft voice.

"Well, you don't look fine." She bent down to pick up the broken pencil. She walked over to his desk and threw it down into the wastebasket there. It clanged against the side of it.

She put her hands on her matronly hips and glared at him over her glasses. "What is it? You've been miserable for the past week. I want to know what the problem is or I'm leaving."

Justin had to smile. Louise Richards was a great secretary and he knew of her value. She was old enough to be his grandmother and often acted as such. She was plump and good natured with a heart of gold. He'd never met a kinder, more gentler woman but she was feisty and always stuck up for the people she cared about.

"I'm depressed," he admitted and cringed as he waited for her reaction. According to Louise, life was too short for such menial things. She surprised him by sitting on the edge of his desk, her chubby knees exposed as her blue skirt rode up a bit. "What are you depressed about? You're 23 years old and you run a very successful business. You have a beautiful girlfriend who adores you. You're smart, good looking and rich. What could you possibly be depressed about?" Justin ran his finger along the rim of the cup that Jackie had given him. "It doesn't matter," he said softly. "I don't think you'd understand."

"Try me. I'm older than you and wiser. Maybe I can."

He shook his head again. "I'm not ready to talk about it. Not yet. When I am, you'll be the first to know."

Something in his voice kept her from making a sharp retort. She jumped down onto the floor again and put her hand on his shoulder. "You know where to find me when you are ready to talk." Justin watched as she turned and left his office, leaving him alone to his thoughts. His eyes turned to the window again and he watched the falling rain. Her words came back to haunt him. I hate you! I never want to see you again, Justin McKenzie!


"Jackie, please."

She was walking away from him, tears spilling down her cheeks. "Leave me alone, Justin! You promised me that you would always love me and now you're doing this! We have a baby to think about and you're running out on me. Well, I don't need you! I don't need anybody! I can take care of this baby without you or anyone else!" He followed her. "Come on, sweetheart. Please don't do this. I never meant for
this to happen. You've got to understand my situation."

She glared at him. "Your situation? What about mine? I'm the one who's pregnant. My father won't even talk to me unless I get an abortion. He despises me, his own daughter. Well, I won't do it. Nobody can make me! I'll leave and start a new life for myself! I don't need your help, Justin! Run to Florida! Go ahead! I don't care anymore!"

"Jackie!" He grabbed her shoulders. "I love you! Please don't do this. Please understand!"

"No." She shook her head and shrugged him off of her. "I can't understand you, Justin. I just can't."

The way she looked at him broke his heart. Tears poured down her face like a torrent.

"I hate you!" she told him. "I never want to see you again, Justin McKenzie!"


Jackie was making Jessica's breakfast and staring out the window at the pouring rain. She was so lost in thought that she hadn't heard the doorbell ring.

"Mama." Jessica was tugging at her blouse. "Somebody rang the bell, Mama."

Jackie blinked. "I didn't hear it."

She walked through the living room to answer the ringing of the bell. She opened it and was greeted by a very wet and good looking blond man. He grinned at her. "Good morning. Am I too late for breakfast?"

She returned his smile. "What's the password to enter?"


She laughed and allowed him inside.

"John!" Jessica came running into the living room.

"Hey, pumpkin!" He held his arms out to her and Jessica ran into them. He scooped her up and gave her a kiss on the cheek. "How's my favorite girl?"

She giggled. "I thought Mommy was your favorite girl."

"She is. She's my favorite big girl. You're my favorite little girl." He put her back down on the floor and then turned to Jackie. "How're you doing?" he asked her softly and very gently touched her face.

"Okay. I'm making breakfast. Come into the kitchen."

They all went inside.

"Coffee?" Jackie asked him as he sat at the table.

"Sure. Thanks. Hey, Snowy." He bent down to pet the little white kitten. "Snowy," Jessica called and sat down to pick the animal up in her arms.

"Not in the kitchen, honey." Jackie told her. "Go in the bathroom and wash your hands. Your breakfast is almost ready."

"Okay, Mommy." Jessica stood up and obediantly did as she was told. While she was gone, John Bender smiled at Jackie again. "It's lousy outside. I wonder if it's ever going to stop raining."

"I'm sure it will." She popped some bread into the toaster. "Are you off today?"

He nodded. "I don't have to go back on duty for another two more days." He was a firefighter at the local firehouse.

"Good." She brought a mug and a spoon to the table for him.

"Jackie." He gently grabbed her wrist.

"What is it?" She looked at him.

"Sit down a minute."

"I've got the eggs on."

He shook his head. "Don't care. Sit, just for a minute." He pulled her down onto his lap. He put his arms around her.

"What is it?" she asked again.

"Nothing." He kissed her on the lips. "I just want to hold you for a minute."


"Come on, Jackie, you know how I feel about you."

"I know, but..."

He kissed her again. "I love the both of you. When are we going to be more than just friends?"

She sighed deeply. "The eggs are burning." She stood up and pushed her dark brown hair out of her eyes. She went to the stove to check the eggs. The toast popped and she put two more slices in.

"What are we going to do, Jackie?"

John was persistent. She had known him for two years, ever since he had moved to their apartment complex. He was a very brave and courageous man, strong and muscular. He had short blond hair and big blue eyes. He was very good looking and sweet and kind. At 30, he was a bit older than she but he never looked down on her. He was always respectful of her and he adored Jessica.


He shook his head. "I promised you that I wouldn't rush you but it has been two years already. I can't wait for you forever, you know."

She smiled as she put the milk and butter on the table. "I don't expect you to."

"You want to tell me why you won't see me?"

She smiled again. "You're such an old man. I'm only 22 and you're already 30. That's a big age difference. It would be robbing the cradle for you."

"Very funny."

"I can't, John. You know that. I like being just friends. It's comfortable. You're a great guy."

"But you don't want to be involved."

"I can't. You know that."

He watched her as she put the eggs on a platter. "That guy really messed you up, didn't he?"

She pretended to be confused. "What guy?"

"Jessica's father, Jason."

"You mean Justin?"

"You know who I mean."

She brought the platter to the table. "John, please, not now."

Jessica came running back into the kitchen and took her place at the table. She smiled. "Mmm. Sunny eggs. I love dunking my toast in the sun part." John grinned at her. "Me too, pumpkin. I love it too."

I love it too.

The words hung in the air like a thick fog.

"I love listening to this song with you," Justin had told her as they lay together on her bed. Her father was working the late shift at the warehouse and wouldn't be home for hours. "I love it too."

She smiled at him as he held her close in his arms. "I love you, Justin."

"I love you too, sweetheart. I always will." He kissed the top of her head. "Did you finish your homework already? I know it's Friday and you have the entire weekend but I know how you like to get it out of the way."

She nodded. "I have a big trig test to study for next week but I finished all my other assignments."

"Good girl." He kissed her again. "What do you want to do, go see a movie?"

She shook her head. "I just want to lie here like this with you." Her hand went to the front of his shirt.

He took it and kissed her fingertips. "I don't have anything with me," he said to her in a whisper. "I thought we were going out."

"We can be careful." She sat up and looked down at him.

"I don't know, Jackie. Anything can happen."

She began to unbutton her blouse. "I love you, Justin. My dad won't be home for hours. Please?"

She removed her blouse. Justin stared at her and then he smiled. "How can I resist that face, or the rest of you for that matter?" He reached out to unhook her bra.

"I love you, Jackie," he whispered as he took her in his arms again. "I love this, being with you. I love it so much, more than anything."


"So that's when we got pregnant... I mean, when I got her pregnant... that night." Justin looked at Louise. "She skipped her period and she went to the doctor. That's how she knew that she was pregnant." They were sitting in his office, eating lunch together. He had been such a moody bear lately. Louise had come into his office to find some files on his desk.

"How can you work with this mess?" she had asked him. She picked up the mug that Jackie had given him, the one that held his writing instruments. "Look at this thing. It's all chipped and whatnot. I'm throwing it in the garbage."

"Give that back to me!" Justin had yelled at her and grabbed the mug out of her hand.

Louise stared at him, a bit taken back by his angry outburst. Justin was always so gentle and laid back. He had acted as if she had committed a terrible sin by taking his mug.

"I'm sorry," he said softly as he placed the cup back on his desk. "I'm so sorry, Louise. Forgive me, please."

"It's okay," she assured him in an unsteady voice. "I didn't mean to offend you."

He shook his head. "You didn't. This cup means a lot to me. Somebody very special gave it to me and it's the only thing of hers that I have."

She noticed how wistful he became. "Do you want to talk about this, Justin? It obviously means something to you. I've never seen you look like this before. Can I do anything?" "Can we talk at lunch? I've got to finish this report."

She nodded. "Of course. And I'm sorry. I won't touch your mug again."

He grinned at her. "Thanks for understanding."

They sat there eating turkey club sandwiches together.

"So, what happened?" Louise asked as she sipped her diet Coke.

"She wanted to have the baby and I wanted the baby too. An abortion was out of the question as far as the both of us were concerned. My parents went through the roof when they found out. They had high expectations for me. I'm the only child and they always wanted the best for me. Getting my girlfriend pregnant at 17 was not in the picture for me."

"So they wanted her to get an abortion."

He nodded. "That's correct. My parents told me that if we went through with the pregnancy, they would disown me and they wouldn't pay my way through college. I knew they were serious too. When they saw that Jackie wouldn't relent, they decided the best thing to do was move. So we came to Florida and I started school down here."

"But didn't you stand up for her?"

"Of course I did but it turned real ugly. My dad and her dad got into a big brawl. I mean, they really went at it with each other. My parents called Jackie all kinds of horrible names. They said she was a bitch and that her father did a lousy job raising her. You see, her mom died when she was small so her dad raised her by himself."

"Was she a... good girl?" Louise asked gently.

He nodded. "She really was. We slept together only twice. We really loved each other, Louise. She was a good girl. She had the top grades in her class and she was in the church choir and she did errands for all of her elderly neighbors. She was someone very special and I was very angry at my folks for putting her down like that. But I had to make a choice. Do I go to school and move to Florida with them or do I stay and struggle and give up my dreams and be a daddy at 17?"

"So you took the easy way out."

"Oh, don't say it like that. I was miserable for months when I came down here."

"But you were too afraid to stand up to your parents."

He looked down, knowing that she was right. "It was such a messy situation. Her dad forbade her to see me and demanded that she get an abortion. He even hit her in front of me and I almost got into a scuffle with him too. She wanted to have the baby. I guess a lot of it had to do with the fact that her mom died and she didn't know what it was like to have a mother."

Louise nodded knowingly. "I was just going to say that. What happened after that?"

Justin took a sip of his root beer. "She and her dad stopped talking to each other. He was so disappointed in her and she was hurt that he couldn't understand. She kept telling me that she was going to run away and raise the baby on her own. When I told her that I was going to Florida, she was very angry with me and hurt too. She thought that I didn't love her anymore. By this time, we had to meet in secret because her dad didn't want me two miles near her. She said that I didn't stand up for her, for us, and she was right. I didn't. That was the last time I saw her. She did run away and I never heard from her again. I came to Florida with my folks and went to school and here I am. But every single day, I think about her and where she might be and what my baby looks like and if there's another man holding her and I hurt so much." Tears came into his eyes. "I hurt so much, Louise." He shook his head as he remembered.


"What the hell are you doing here?"

Justin looked at Mr. O'Connor in shock. He had always been an incredibly handsome man with his thick, dark hair and piercing green eyes. Now, he looked tired and flushed, as if he had been crying. Justin could smell the booze on his breath and that shocked him. Mike O'Connor had never taken a drink before in his life. He had worked so hard to be a good parent to Jackie, a mother and a father in one.

"Where's Jackie? I know you don't want me to see her but I need to. It's really important."

"She's gone," he said and Justin watched as her dad broke down into tears.

"She left me."

"What?" Justin was certain that his ears were playing tricks on him. "When? How?"

Tears ran down his face. "She told me that she was going to leave but I didn't believe her. She wrote me a note and now she's gone. My little girl is gone."

Justin felt his heart explode in his chest. Jackie has said that she was going to run away but he didn't believe her. She wasn't the type to do something like that. She had always been so level headed. He watched as Mr. O'Connor took out a crumpled piece of pink paper from the pocket of his shirt. He gave it to Justin.

Justin recognized it immediately. The paper had pictures of kittens on it. He had given the stationery to Jackie because she was always writing him love letters.

Dear Daddy,

It hurts me so much to do this but you have no idea how I'm feeling. I'm going to have my baby whether you like it or not. You disappointed me in the way you've been acting. I know this hurts you but you have to accept me no matter what I did. I'm still your child and you have treated me terribly because I am pregnant. You and Justin both disappointed me and I will never forgive you for that. I am sorry that you won't be able to see your grandchild when he or she is born. I just want you to know that I will always be a good parent to my child. Up until this happened, you were a good parent too. I love you, Daddy. I wish I could forgive you.

Love always,


Justin felt tears mist his eyes. "This can't be."

"Well, it is and it's all your fault." Mr. O'Connor snatched the paper out of his hand. "If you would have kept your..." he shook his head, "my little girl is gone. She's gone."

Justin watched as he went back in the house, sobbing. He slammed the door in his face.

"It can't be," he said to himself again and he sobbed too.


Louise's eyes sparkled with tears. "And that was the last you ever heard from her."

He nodded. "I don't know where she is. I have no idea where she went."

"What about her father? Did you ever see him again?"

He shook his head as he grabbed his can of root beer. "That was the last I ever saw of him. We moved to Florida after that."

"Do you think she ever went back home?"

"I don't know. Jackie was always pretty stubborn about things. She was so angry at her dad and I. She wouldn't even speak to him. He was so set on her getting the abortion and that hurt her a lot."

"Maybe you could try getting in touch with him. It has been five years, Justin. Maybe it's time to set things right."

"What difference would that make? He always blamed me for everything that happened. My parents blamed her. Things were so screwed up."

She sighed and set her sandwich down. "Why did you leave her, Justin?"

He stared at her. "What do you mean?"

"I want to know the real reason for you leaving her. Was it because of your parent's demands on you or were you just afraid? I know you really loved her. Why did you leave her?"

He crumpled up a napkin and threw it in the wastebasket. "I was scared out of my mind. I wasn't ready to be a daddy. I didn't even have a job then. My parents were taking care of me to insure that I could just focus on my education. I didn't want to fail."

"But you did. You failed the minute you turned your back on that poor girl."

Louise took a sip of her cola. "I know you were both young but you obviously had something special together. She got pregnant... these things happen. You were both dead set on her not getting an abortion. You left her because you were scared. That's understandable but think of how she must have felt. She was the one who was pregnant and she left because she felt like everyone had let her down. You, her father, everyone. I'm sure she must have struggled. She was just a child herself and yet, she sounds so mature to me. She had no choice to be. Wouldn't it have been better to be scared for awhile than to live with this regret?"

He nodded as he picked up the cup that Jackie had given him. "I still love her," he whispered. "That has never changed."

"And it's five years later. Aren't you the least bit curious to see if she reconciled with her father? Don't you want to know your child?"

He nodded again and a tear fell down his cheek. "That's the part that hurts me the most. I don't even know my own baby. I let her down. I let the both of them down and I did it because I was chicken. I was too afraid to face the future. I was too afraid to hurt my parents."

"So you hurt Jackie instead."

He nodded. "I was scared."

"I'm sure she was too."

"She was always very strong. That's what I loved about her. She never let anything get her down. I knew she could handle anything."

"Except a broken heart."

Justin sighed again and put the cup down. "I miss her, Louise. Not a day goes by when I don't think about her, obsess about her. I wish I knew. I just wish I knew."

"Why don't you call her father? It might do a world of good for you."

"I don't know. He was pretty sore at me when I left. I don't think he'd appreciate hearing from me."

"Justin, it's been five years. It's time to forgive and forget. At least think about it. Okay?"

He saw her smile and felt her encouragement. "I'll think about it."

"Good. That's all I want to hear." She pats him on the hand and they finished their lunch in silence.


The rain had finally stopped. The sun came out and everything looked bright and fresh again.

"Mama, can we go to the park?" Jessica asked her one morning as they were eating breakfast.

"Sure, sweetie." She smiled at her daughter. "We can go today since it finally stopped raining. I know how much you love the swings."

She beamed and went back to eating her waffle.

Jackie watched her from the other side of the table. Her daughter was so precious to her, such a beautiful, special little girl. Her long brown hair was so shiny and soft and her green eyes were so clear and bright.

She had Justin's eyes and his nose too. She looked so much like her father in many ways. It was so sad that she didn't know her daddy.

"Mommy, how come I don't have a daddy the way the other little girls do?" she had asked her this one day when they were playing on the swings.

The question had taken her completely by surprise and she didn't know how to respond to it. She had pointed to someone walking their dog then just to get her mind off of the question. It had worked and Jessica hadn't asked her again. It still burned a hole in her memory.

"Mommy, how come I don't have a daddy..."

She thought about her own father. She hadn't spoken to him in five years. She knew she had done a horrible thing by leaving him that way but he had hurt her so much too. He had worked so hard to raise her the right way and she had let him down by getting pregnant at 16. But she had loved Justin and she was a good mother to her daughter. If only he could see her, he would be so proud of her. Tears burned in the back of her eyes. She had struggled so many times with calling her dad but she knew that it wouldn't do. He would probably be so angry at her and wouldn't forgive her for what she had done. He would probably tell her never to bother him again and then he would hang up on her. Her dad always had a bit of a temper.

The doorbell rang and she knew that it would be John. She went to let him in and he was holding a huge bouquet of flowers for her.

"Good morning." She smiled at him.

"Hey." He grinned at her and kissed her cheek. "I've got to get to work but I wanted to bring you these." He gave the flowers to her. "Can we have dinner when I get home from my shift?"

She nodded. "Just swing by."


She looked at him.

"I love you," he told her.


"Ssh." He kissed her again. "I'll see you in a few days." He touched her face and then left.

She clutched the flowers and felt herself shaking. She liked John a lot. He was great to her and Jessica but she knew that she could never love him back. She still loved Justin.


"I love you," Justin had told her for the first time when they were out on their third date. He had taken her to a movie and then for burgers. "I really do, Jackie." He reached across the table to cover her hand with his. "You're the best thing that ever happened to me." He reached into the pocket of his jacket and took something out. He put it on the table in front of her.

"It's my grandfather's ring," he explained to her. "He gave it to me before he died and it means a lot to me. I was real close to him and... well, I'd be real proud if you wore it."

She picked it up, blinking back sudden tears. "I don't know what to say, Justin."

"Don't say anything. Just know that I love you. I really do, Jackie. I can't stop thinking about you when we\'re not together. When we are together I'm so happy. I've never felt this way before and I like it a lot. Thank you for making me happy." He reached across the table and gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

She smiled as she took off the chain that she was wearing from around her neck. She put the ring on it and then put it back on.

"This means so much to me," she told him as she squeezed his hand back. "I love you, Justin."


I love you, Justin.

"Justin, did you hear me?"

He opened his eyes and turned to Julie. "I'm sorry?"

"I said I love you." She cuddled close to him and sighed.

They were lying in bed together. Justin was completely distracted. He had tried so hard to make her happy but he had failed. She had wanted to make love and his heart hadn't been in it. Ever since he had that conversation with Louise, he couldn't think about anything else except Jackie.

Julie grazed her long, red fingernails on his bare chest. She was a beautiful woman, stunning in every way. He was lucky to have her. She was a gorgeous blonde with a perfect figure and he was the envy of every man that he knew. And most importantly, Julie really cared about him. She was a decent woman who really loved him. He knew this and yet all he could think about was Jackie.

"What is it?" Julie asked him in that soft voice of hers. "You've been in another world ever since you picked me up. What's wrong?"

He looked into those pretty blue eyes of hers. "Nothing's wrong, honey, really."

She smiled at him, revealing perfect white teeth.

"I thought maybe you were mad at me for something."

He shook his head. "Of course not. Why would I be mad at you?" He sat up and the sheet fell to his waist. He ran his hand through his short brown hair and looked out the window. Night was falling fast. "At least it stopped raining."

"Thank God for that." She sat up next to him, the sheet stretched tight over her ample breasts. "Justin, I know something's bothering you. I wish you'd tell me what it is."

He felt his resistance waver. He had told Julie about Jackie a long time ago but he hadn't gone into too much detail. They had a conversation about past relationships that had been more lighthearted than anything else. He had never told her about how he still thought about Jackie and his baby, how he obsessed about her day and night. He knew he had to tell her. It wouldn't be fair to go on the way they were when his heart was still with someone else.

"Justin?" she said his name softly and put her hand on his shoulder. "Just tell me. I need to know."

He turned and looked at her. "You're a great girl, Julie."

She smiled. "Is this the 'you're a great girl but I can't see you anymore' speech?"

He sighed. "I care about you a lot but... remember when we were talking about our past loves that night? Remember when I was telling you about the girl Jackie I used to date?"

She nodded. "Your high school sweetheart."

"Well, there's a lot more to it than that. I... I got her pregnant and she... well..." Justin found himself telling Julie everything.He owed her the truth.

When he was done, she tried to smile but tears threatened her eyes. "What will you do, Justin? You have no idea where she is. You don't even know if she's met someone else. At least I'm here. I love you. I want you, Justin. I want to make you happy."

"I wish I could make you happy too but it wouldn't be fair to you. I've got to find Jackie. I don't how I'm going to do this but I have to try. I'm going back to Maryland to see if her dad is still there. I've got to do something. I can't live like this anymore with the not knowing. I hope you understand."

"And if you do go back and she's not there and he's not there then what will you do? Will you come back to me?"

"I don't know, Julie. I couldn't give you what you need, what you deserve. Please try and understand that."

She shook her head. "But I love you, Justin. I don't care if you do go to Maryland and find her. I'll still love you. I'll wait for you if she's not there."

"Julie..." He reached out and cupped her face in his hands."You're really special to me. Please remember that. I want you to know that."

"I do. Thank you."

He kissed her lips tenderly.

"I know she was your sweetheart," Julie said quietly.

"She'll always be my sweetheart," Justin replied and lay back down again.


You'll always be my sweetheart.

Jackie was putting Jessica to bed when the words came back to her. Her daughter was holding her favorite teddy bear, cuddling it to her.

"Goodnight, Frankie." She kissed it. "You're my sweetheart."

Jackie smiled as she kissed Jessica on the cheek. "Goodnight, darling. Mommy loves you very much."

"I love you too, Mama."

Jackie closed the light and left the room.

John was waiting for her on the couch. He smiled as she came back into the room.

"She go to bed?" he asked her.

She nodded as she sat down next to him.

"Want to watch a movie?"


He stood up. "Which one?"

She shrugged. "I don't know. I don't care. Whatever you want to watch is fine by me."

He looked at her for a second and then sat back down next to her. "Jackie, what is it? What's wrong?"

She shook her head. "Nothing. Why?"

"You haven't been yourself the past few days. Something's on your mind. I wish you'd tell me what it is. I care about you so much and I want to help you."

She suddenly burst into tears and buried her face in her hands.

"Hey." John put his arms around her and held her close to him. "What is it, sweetheart? Tell me what's wrong."

She buried her face in his tee-shirt. The scent of his cologne enveloped her. "I can't go on like this anymore. I have to do something or I'm going to go crazy."

"What are you talking about?"

"My father. I haven't talked to him in five years. I don't even know if he's still alive. I feel so guilty. I miss him and I wish I could make things right with him."

"So why don't you call him then?"

"I'm so afraid to. I know I broke his heart when I left and he probably never wants to speak to me again. Part of me knows that and yet the other part wants to make things right with him."

"You won't know until you try."

"What should I do?" She sniffled.

"Why don't you try writing him a letter first? Send him your address and phone number and a few pictures of the baby. Then wait and see if he gets in touch with you."

"Do you really think I should?"

He nodded. "Sure. He's your dad. If he doesn't get back to you, then you know that you tried. That's all you can do, honey. No one says that you have to go there in person. You're great at writing letters. Try that first and see what happens."

"I don't know. Even doing that makes me nervous. My father was so angry at me the last time I saw him. He was so disappointed in me. I feel like I failed him."

"Jackie, he's the one who failed you. He's your dad. He should have accepted what happened even if he wasn't happy about it."

"He was always good to me, John. He did his best. It was hard for him with my mother gone. Her death really affected him. He tried hard and I let him down. I loved Justin and I knew what I was doing."

"Jackie, you are a wonderful mother and Jessica is a terrific kid. Your dad would be proud of the life you made for yourself and for her. You shouldn't be ashamed of anything. I know you were just a kid yourself when you got pregnant but you've always struck me as being very mature. You're an incredibly special woman. Your dad would be proud of you." He squeezed her hand.

She smiled at him. "Maybe I will write a letter. I just need to put some closure on this situation between him and I. He's my father. He has no idea where I am or even if I'm still alive. I feel so guilty about this."

"Then write," he said softly and went to kiss her. He pulled her into his arms and his kiss grew deeper. His tongue found hers and he pulled her onto his lap.

"No," she whispered and broke away from him. "I can't."

"When, Jackie, when?" He reluctantly let her go.


He shook his head. "I love you."

She turned away from him. He would never understand. Her heart still belonged to Justin.


Dear Daddy,

I know this letter must come as a shock to you but I felt that I had to write. It has been five years since we last spoke and saw each other. A lot has happened to me since then. I have a beautiful daughter named Jessica. Enclosed you will find some photos of your granddaughter. She is the most precious thing in the world to me and I love her more than I could ever explain.

We live in Marlboro, New Jersey. I work out of our apartment. I sell arts and crafts and though life can be a struggle at times, we are doing well. I recently adopted a kitten for Jessica. She named her Snowy because she is completely white. They are both a joy to me. I hope you are well. I miss you very much and I hope that we can put our differences behind us. I know it has been a long time and that you must be very hurt and angry at what I did. I should have never left the way I did but I was very hurt and confused. I should have kept in touch but I guess I was stubborn.

I want us to be a father and daughter again, Daddy. I am enclosing my phone number and address. I am hoping that you will call me or write back. I leave it up to you. If I don't hear from you, I will understand. I know how much I hurt you and that I broke your heart. I never meant to do that. You hurt me too and I just would like for us to start anew with each other. You have a gorgeous and special grandchild and I want you to know her. Wouldn't you like to know her, Daddy? Wouldn't you like to get to know me again too? I love you very much and I miss you.

Love always,


Mike O'Connor held Jackie's letter in his shaking hand and wept. "Oh Jackie," he cried. "My darling. I miss you so much, honey, so much."


He looked up and saw Lillian run into the house. She had been outside in the backyard pruning his rose bushes. He had let a lot of things go the past few years and Lillian had been a godsend. She had offered to do his gardening for him and they had become an item since then. Lillian Muller was an attractive red-head with lovely gray eyes and a slim, slender figure. She had become a light in the darkness for him ever since his daughter had run away five years before.

"What is it, dear?" She put her arms around him. She was still wearing her gardening gloves and smelled faintly of the rose bushes. His hand was shaking even more so as he gave her the letter from Jackie. She read it and her eyes brimmed with tears. "Oh Mike." She threw her arms around him. "You've dreamed of this for years, ever since she left. What are you going to do?"

"I'm going to New Jersey to see my daughter. Look at my grandchild." He handed her the pictures that Jackie had sent of Jessica. "Look at what a beauty she is. Isn't she gorgeous?"

Lillian nodded, too choked up with emotion to say anything. She stared down at the pictures. One of her tears fell on a photograph of Jessica sitting on Santa's lap. "Oh Mike. She's beautiful. She's an angel."

"That's my grandchild." He couldn't stop crying. Emotion had overcome him. He shook his head as he remembered. "I was so insistent that Jackie get an abortion. I crucified her about it. I'm so glad she didn't listen to me. Look at my granddaughter, at how beautiful she is. What was I thinking, Lillian?"

"You were just being a father, Mike. Jackie was still a child herself. You were just trying to look out for her."

"I miss her so much." His voice cracked. "I'm so glad that she's safe and well. I've been worried sick about her. I know that sometimes I pretended not to care but I was too hurt by what she did. Now I want her back. I want my daughter back. I miss my sweetheart."


I miss my sweetheart

Jackie had been cleaning out the closet as she looked for the box that contained some of Jessica's summer clothes. They didn't have too much closet space in the apartment so she had learned to pack things away carefully. She found it beneath the shoebox that contained some of Justin's love letters to her.

I miss my sweetheart, the first one had read. I miss her when she's not beside me. I miss her when she's not there in my arms. I miss her smile and her gentle touch. I love you, Jackie. Always, I will love you. You will have my heart forever. You'll always be my sweetheart and nothing will ever change that. Justin. She was crying and that was how Jessica found her.

"Mama, what's wrong?" She was holding Snowy in her arms.

"Nothing, angel." She picked her daughter up in her arms and snuggled close to her. Snowy meowed in protest but Jackie wouldn't let go. "I love you so much, honey," she whispered to Jessica. "I can't even begin to tell you how much I love you."

"I love you too, Mama."

"I think we'll go and buy you some new clothes for the summer." She put Jessica down and put the shoebox back into the closet. There were too many memories there, memories that still hurt so much. "Would you like to go shopping, sweetheart? We can have lunch at McDonald's too."

Jessica grinned and nodded. "Okay!"

Jackie laughed and closed the closet door. "Go wash your hands and then we'll go to the mall."

Jessica disappeared and Jackie heard her run into the bathroom. She ran a brush through her long brown hair and then grabbed her purse.

The doorbell rang just then. "That's John," Jackie said to her daughter. "Maybe he'll come out with us."

She went to go let him in.

Her heart skipped a beat inside her chest when she opened the door and saw her father standing on her front porch. Jackie's apartment was in the back of a complex and she had a small porch and little patch of garden that she could call her own too.

"Daddy?" she said softly.

"Jackie, honey."

She burst into tears the same time her father did.

"Oh Daddy," she cried against his chest when he took her into his arms.

"Jackie, Jackie," he whispered her name over and over again. "My darling. My baby."

He held onto her so tight that she thought she would stop breathing. She clung to him, remembering what it was like to be held by him. This was her father, the man who had raised her. She had never stopped loving him, even after what he had done to her.

"I'm ready to go, Mama!" Jessica came skipping to the doorway. Jackie and her father broke apart from each other.

"Is this Jessica?" he asked as he gazed upon the child in awe and wonder. "This is my daughter, Daddy. Jessica, this is your grandpa Mike."

She was uncertain of him because he was a stranger. She cuddled next to her mother. "Hello," she said shyly.

"Jessica, honey, this is my daddy. Remember when I told you about him?"

"Is he the man who used to take you on the pony rides?" she asked her mother.

"That's right, honey."

She looked up at her grandfather with big green eyes. "Will you take me on pony rides too, Grandpa Mike?"

He nodded and smiled through his tears. "Oh yes, darling, I'll do anything for you. Anything at all."

Jessica gave him her brightest smile.

"Go give Grandpa Mike a hug, baby," Jackie whispered to her. She watched as Jessica ran into her grandfather's arms and tears continued to fall like rain.


It's raining

They had been lying in each other's arms on her bed. Her father was working the late shift again and they had been hanging out in her room, watching Dances With Wolves.

"Do we have to watch this movie again?" Justin had asked her. "It's so boring. You know how much I hate Kevin Costner."

"And you know how much I love this movie."

"You cry everytime the wolf gets shot. This movie is three hours long, honey." He got up and looked out the window. "It's raining."

"I can hear it. Come back here. I'm cold."

He lay back down next to her. "I love you," he whispered to her.

She didn't say anything.



He clucked his tongue. "Oh, I get it. You'd rather look at Kevin Costner than your own boyfriend," he teased her.


He laughed. "I hate this movie."

She rolled her eyes at him. "Would you rather watch Predator since that's your favorite movie?"

He shook his head. "I don't want to watch any movies anymore." And when he took her into his arms, she forgot all about Kevin Costner for the moment.


Justin remembered how Jackie used to tease him about his love for action movies. She had to sit through Predator with him at least several dozen times. She used to tease him about Arnold Schwarzenegger and how he got his butt kicked by the alien.

"But he still won in the end," Justin would tell her.

They always loved teasing each other about their tastes in movies. He took a deep breath as he went up the walkway to Mike O'Connor's house. It still looked the same although the lawn and bushes looked better than ever. Her dad had stopped caring after Jackie had left. Now, everything looked the way it used to when Jackie had been home. He had dressed carefully for this. He wore the kind of clothes he would normally wear to the office, nice slacks and a dress shirt.

I run a successful computer software business, he was planning on telling her dad. I'm not the loser you once thought I was.

The truth was that her dad had always liked him, up until Jackie had become pregnant.

Water under the bridge, Justin kept repeating in his mind as he kept taking deep breaths to calm himself down. It's five years later and it's time to forgive and forget.

He rang the doorbell as he held onto a box of her dad's favorite cookies from the local bakery. He hadn't forgotten.

He was surprised when an attractive, older woman came to the door. She smiled at him. "Can I help you?"

He returned her smile. "Is Mr. O'Connor home?"

"Mike's in New Jersey right now. Can I help you with anything?" She seemed very warm and friendly to him.

"I hope so. I'm here visiting from Florida. I came to see Mr. O'Connor because I used to date his daughter and..."

"Oh my God." She put her hand over her mouth in a gesture of disbelief.

"You're Justin?"

He nodded. "That's right. How did you know?"

She began to cry. "This is too much. Mike is in New Jersey visiting Jackie right now. He's been gone for two weeks already."

"Oh God. You mean, Jackie is... she's okay?"

"Of course she is. I spoke to her on the phone several times already. She's such a sweetheart. Oh dear. Forgive me. I'm Lillian Muller, Mike's friend. Please, come in." She held the door open for him.

"Thank you." He stepped inside. The house looked the same. He wondered if Jackie's bedroom was still the same. Had her father kept it the way she had or had he gotten rid of anything that was hers? They had spent hours in her bedroom watching movies, doing homework and studying, making out. He missed that. He missed her.

"I can't believe you're here," Lillian told him. "This is all just too much."

He held the cookies out to her. "Is Jackie, I mean... how is she?"

"She's fine. She lives in Marlboro in an apartment complex with her daughter Jessica."

"Jessica," he repeated the name softly. Tears came into his eyes. "I have a daughter. That's my daughter too."

"Oh Justin, forgive me. I forgot. I didn't realize... oh dear. Come into the kitchen and I'll make you some tea."

Tears spilled down his cheeks. "My daughter," he repeated.

"Would you like to see some pictures of her?"

He nodded. "Yes, please."

They went into the kitchen and Lillian put up water for tea. She gave Justin the note that Jackie had sent her father along with the pictures of Jessica. He didn't know whether to read the letter first or look at the pictures. He looked at the pictures because he was so curious to see what his daughter looked like.

"She's beautiful," he whispered as he gazed at the pictures of Jessica. "Oh God, she is so beautiful."

"Yes, she is," Lillian agreed as she brought a couple of mugs to the table. "Mike says she's absolutely gorgeous and a perfect angel too. Jackie's done a good job raising her."

"I knew that she would. She's such a special person."

He read the letter that she wrote to her father. He looked at Jessica's pictures again and then he read the letter a second time.

He began to cry then. It was all too much to take. He missed Jackie. He wanted to hold her in his arms.

"It's okay, honey." Lillian put her arms around him. "I understand how you feel."

"I miss her so much. Is she... she's not married, is she?"

"No, but she does have a boyfriend. Well, there's this man that she sees. He likes her very much and wants it to be more but she prefers to remain friends with him. Mike told me about him. He's a firefighter, a very nice man but he can see that he's not the one for her. They're neighbors and he spends a lot of time with them. Oh, Justin, Mike says that he feels terrible for the way he acted with you too. He and Jackie have gotten so close with each other since he went to see her. He hasn't even wanted to come back home. He's so happy being with her and the baby. He's been trying to convince her to move back to Maryland."

He suddenly stood up. "I'm going to New Jersey, Lillian. I'm leaving right now. I have to see her. I just have to. I can't let another moment go by. Will you come with me?"

"But, Justin, New Jersey is so... I mean... you're serious, aren't you? Oh dear. Of course I'll go with you. I do miss Mike. He's been gone for two weeks now. Oh, of course I'll go with you. Let me get my purse and we can leave."

Justin looked down at Jessica's pictures again. "Daddy's coming, sweetheart," he whispered. "Daddy's coming."


"Grandpa, you're silly!" Jessica giggled as her grandfather chased her around the living room with Snowy in his arms. She giggled wildly as he put the kitten on her head.

Jackie was in the kitchen preparing dinner.

"Sounds like they're having a great time," John said as he sat at the table watching her. She smiled as she put the roast in the oven. "I'm glad. He adores her. That makes me happy."

"He adores you too."

"I love him," she said softly. "I'm glad we patched things up."

"He's a great guy. And so am I."

"I know that."

He stood up. "I've got to go, Jackie."

"Aren't you staying for dinner?"

"I'd love to but believe it or not, I have a date."

She stared at him. "Oh John, that's wonderful. Why didn't you tell me?"

He laughed. "I didn't know how. I've been in love with you ever since I met you and I know I can never have you. I'm okay with that now, Jackie. I really do love you and I guess I always wanted to protect you. But you and your dad are together again and that makes me real happy for you. I'm proud to be your friend. You're a real special lady. And I still love you. I always will." He kissed her gently on the cheek. "Thank you for being special to me."

"Oh John." She hugged him close. "I love you too. You're very special to Jessica and I. You know you are. I'm moving back to Maryland, John."

He nodded. "I know you are. I think that's great. I'll miss you like hell."

"We can keep in touch."

"Oh, I know that. We'll always be friends, sweetheart." He kissed her again. "I've got to go."

She heard the emotion in his voice as he walked out of the kitchen. John had always been a good friend and she wouldn't forget him ever. He was a gentleman and had treated her and Jessica so wonderfully. He deserved to be happy.


You deserve to be happy.

The words rang in her ears as she set the table. Justin had uttered these very words to her when he had given her an ankle bracelet for her sixteenth birthday.

"It's so beautiful," she had cried as she threw her arms around him. "I'm so happy, Justin."

"You deserve to be happy, sweetheart." He kissed her as he held her close to him. "I love you so much, Jackie."



That brought her back to reality. She heard somebody calling her name. She looked up. Her father had come into the kitchen, holding Jessica under his arm. She was giggling.

She blinked at him. "Dad?"

"Someone's at the door, honey. You want me to get it?"

She shook her head. "I'll get it. It might be John again, asking me what he should wear for his date tonight." She wiped her hands on the dish towel and went to open the front door.

She opened it and her heart stopped. The man standing on her porch was not John. He was tall and muscular the way her neighbor was but he had dark brown hair and green eyes.

"Justin?" She could barely speak his name.

"Jackie," he whispered her name as he gazed at her. "Jackie."

"Oh God." She felt tears again. "Oh my God."

"Oh Jackie."

She opened the door and they were in each other's arms, holding each other with everything that they had. They wept against each other.

"Jackie," he kept whispering her name over and over as he sobbed into her hair. "Jackie, sweetheart."

"Justin." She clung to him, never wanting to let him go. "I can't believe it. I can't believe you're here."

"Lillian?" Mike came into the living room still holding onto his grandchild. "Justin? Is that you?"

"Mike!" Lillian ran to him and threw her arms around him.

"Jessica," Justin whispered her name as he stared at his daughter. "Oh, Jessica."

"Justin, this is your daughter. Jessica, honey, come to Mommy."

She obediently went to her.

Jackie picked her up in her arms. "You know how you asked me about why you don't have a daddy the way the other little girls do? Well, this is your daddy, sweetheart. This is him."

Her eyes went wide. "He's my daddy, Mama?"

She nodded through her tears. "That's right, honey. His name is Justin McKenzie."

"Jessica," he whispered her name. "Daddy loves you very much. He loves you so much, sweetheart."

Justin broke down again.

"Give Daddy a hug," Jackie whispered to her.

She watched as Justin took his daughter into his arms for the first time. He clung to Jessica for the longest time, as if letting her go would mean that she would disappear on him. Everyone was crying. It was a poignant moment.

"I love you," Justin whispered to his daughter over and over. "I love you so much, angel."

"Daddy," she said as she hugged him. "Are you going away again, Daddy?"

He shook his head. "Never, never, never. I'm going to be with you forever. Daddy loves you so much, sweetie, so very much."

"Honey," Mike quietly said as he touched Jessica on her arm. "This is Lillian, the lady I told you about. Lil, this is my daughter Jackie."

They hugged each other like old friends. "It's so nice to meet you," Jackie told her.

"It's wonderful to meet you too. Your dad always spoke about you. He was so happy when he got your letter. I can't even begin to tell you what it meant to him. I'm glad you worked it out with each other. I'm glad everything's okay with you now."

Mike grabbed Lillian's hand and motioned for her to follow him into the kitchen. He wanted to leave Jackie alone with Justin and Jessica. Justin continued to hold Jessica in his arms as he smiled at Jackie. "She's so beautiful," he told her. "So are you."

She returned his smile. "She has your eyes and nose."

He couldn't help but laugh as the tears continued to fall. "I can't believe this. I miss you so much, Jackie. I can't even begin to tell you."

"I miss you too, Justin. More than you know."

"Jackie, honey." Her father poked his head in the livingroom. "I think the roast is done. You want me to start cutting it up?"

"Would you?"

"Sure." He went back into the kitchen.

"I'm sorry," Justin told her. "I didn't know you were ready to eat."

She laughed. "You're eating with us. Let's go inside."

"Wait." He grabbed her shoulder gently. "Jackie?"

She turned back to him. "Justin."

"I love you. I'm not going anywhere."

"I don't want you to."

He put Jessica down but continued to hold her hand.

"Can I sit next to you, Daddy?" she asked him.

"Yes, honey," he whispered to her. "Daddy would like that very much."


Can I sit next to you, Daddy?

Yes, honey. Daddy would like that very much.

The words came back to Jackie too. She remembered when her father had taken her to the Girl Scouts picnic and he had encouraged her to go sit with her friends while he sat with the other dads.

"But I want to sit next to you, Daddy," she told him. "Can I sit next to you, Daddy?"

He had smiled at her then and gave her a hug. "Yes, honey. Daddy would like that very much."

She knew her father had done his best with her. It had been hard for him not having her mother around but he had worked hard to be a good parent to her.

"I'm so glad you wrote me that letter," he told her that night before he went to bed. "I love you so much and I am so proud of you. You're a wonderful mother, Jackie. I never meant to hurt you when I was so insistent about you getting an abortion. I only wanted the best for you."

"I have the best," she assured him as she went to put Jessica to bed. "I have my daughter and she's the best thing that ever happened to me."

Justin went in with her to put the baby to bed. He read her a bedtime story and sang a lullaby to her. He was reluctant to leave her but she finally fell asleep.

"You have the rest of your life to be with her now," Jackie reminded him.

Her father had been sleeping in her bed while he was staying over. Jackie had been sleeping in Jessica's room with her. Now with the extra people in the house, he insisted that he and Lillian go stay at a hotel. Jackie wouldn't hear of it.

"You guys sleep in my bed and Justin and I can stay on the couch."

Her father and Lillian did stay and they were exhausted from the events of the past few hours.

"Your dad's not a spring chicken anymore," he had teased her.

She was glad that he and Justin had forgiven each other for what happened too. They did go up to bed and her and Justin were finally alone. They had so much catching up to do.

He told her about moving to Florida and how he had gone to school and was running his own business now. He told her that he didn't see his parents that much since they were always traveling.

"Things were really never the same between me and them," he told her. "I was angry at them for what happened and they knew it. I resented them but it was my fault too. I should have stayed."

"You were afraid, Justin. It's understandable."

"I left you alone. I abandoned you. You had to raise Jessica on your own."

"And everything worked out fine."

He told her about Julie and how he knew that he could never make her happy because he was still in love with her.

Jackie told him about John and how he loved her but she could never reciprocate the feelings back because she was still in love with him.

"What happened to us, Jackie?" he asked her. "We never stopped loving each other. Why did it happen this way?"

"I don't know. I hated you and my dad for the longest time. I felt so guilty over the years for running away. I couldn't take the guilt anymore. I had to write to him and then one day, he just showed up. I'm moving back to Maryland, Justin. I need to be close to him again and he deserves to see Jessica all the time. He told me that he and Lillian are planning on marrying. I want us all to
be a family again."

"I want that too. I'm coming back to Maryland too. I want my family back. I need you and Jessica. I love you, Jackie. I never stopped loving you. I want to hold you in my arms forever and never let you go. Tell me we can start over again and be a family. Tell me that, please, sweetheart."

"Oh Justin, of course we can. You need to be with your family now. I wouldn't have it any other way."

He pulled her into his arms and kissed her madly. He was making up for five years of lost time.

"I love you," he whispered and held her in his arms. "I've dreamed about this for the past five years. I'll never let you go again and I'm sorry, so very sorry that I left you high and dry. I was selfish. I was a jerk. We were kids but you were always so mature. I love you for that. You've done a great job with Jessica. She's a wonderful little girl."

"Of course she is. She's your daughter too." She smiled up at him. "I love you too, Justin."

"Let's get married, Jackie, honey. When we get back to Maryland, let's get married."

She nodded. "Yes, all right."

He kissed her again. "I love you. I'm so tired. I'm so worn out from the drive, from everything but I don't think I could sleep a wink tonight."

"Would you like to watch a movie? Maybe that will get you sleepy."

He grinned at her. "The only movie that will ever put me to sleep is Dances With Wolves. You know that, honey."

"Now, don't you start up again about that!" She playfully swatted him on the arm.

He laughed and hugged her.

"If you think I'm going to sit through Predator again with you, buster, then you've got another thing coming."

He laughed again. "I don't want to watch a movie. Maybe we could just sit together and hold each other close and fall asleep that way the way we used to do when we were laying in your bed."


They snuggled together and it felt right to be that way again.

"I love my daughter," he whispered to her. "She is absolutely amazing. You've done an incredible job with her, Jackie. I'm proud of the both of you."

"Thank you. You'll be a good father, Justin. Don't you worry."

"I know. Thank you."

They were quiet again. They had the rest of their lives to talk.



"I love you. You'll always be my sweetheart, always." He kissed the top of her head and then closed his eyes.
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