Tessa stares at her ring, where it sits snug on her left hand ring finger, a single pear shaped diamond on a platinum band inlaid with pavé diamonds. The whole thing glistens in the sun, catching the light just right and refracting it back out so that it looks like the ring itself glows. Like the light is coming from within. It mimics how she feels, she thinks. Like light is building within her, bursting outward, glowing from her with every smile. She’s so happy she literally can’t contain it.
“Are you just going to spend every day staring at it?” Morgan asks, raising his eyebrows at her, turning away from watching the cresting waves against the shore. He nudges her with his elbow, but she can hear the pride, the happiness glowing from him too as he speaks.
“Probably.” She smiles at him, turning herself to face him completely and taking his face in her hand, her thumb running across the stubble lining his jaw. “It’s perfect.” It is. It is the perfect mix of unique and classic and elegant without being outrageous or ostentatious. Though she thinks at this point it could be a string with a literal rock on it and she would still be glowing inside.
“Love you,” he blinks quickly, like he’s trying to blink away an onslaught of emotions, to remain steady and composed for her. “And I’m very glad you love your ring. But I am right here. If I’d known I’d get ignored in favour of jewelry I wouldn’t have picked such a pretty ring.”
She laughs, big and bold and uninhibited. “I still think you’re prettier. But this is new and shiny. Give me a few days.”
“I’ll give you a week.”
“That’s fair.” She leans into his side and he wraps an arm around her shoulder. If someone had told Tessa she’d be here, in this moment, a year and a half ago she would have laughed at them.
Their relationship didn’t progress like a fairy tale. It wasn’t fate, or love at first sight. There was no great fall. It was a small seed, planted in the right conditions, nurtured with time and care. It sprouted from something light and fun, to comfortable companionship, finally blooming into something more, something permanent with love folded into every crease of every petal.
Even though the relationship was nurtured and each new step was reached with intention, seeing how it sprouted and grew and blossomed open, took her by surprise every single step of the way. Because she hadn’t been searching for it.
Tessa wasn’t looking for a relationship when she met Morgan. She wasn’t seeking a partner or someone to fill a Scott and skating shaped hole in her life. In fact she was in the middle of the very real and difficult processes of tearing down the walls she’d spent years building around herself and rebuilding, discovering who Tessa Virtue as an individual was. Her energies were focused on defining herself outside the career she and Scott built for over twenty-years— figuring out where she wanted to go next as just Tessa, while still trying to honour that shared past. There was a lot of introspection happening. A lot of busy schedules and evenings spent alone in hotel rooms.
This is to say that when Morgan Rielly sat next to her at the Special Olympics luncheon, his shirt a little wrinkled, hair a little mussed, and turned to her with a bright grin and said, “Flying solo this time?” she didn’t hope for more than a friendly lunch conversation.
She nodded, sighing a bit, this wasn’t the first time in the day she’d been asked where Scott was, she wondered how long it would take before she could go somewhere without being asked. Turning her body towards his to give him her full attention as she answered. “Just me, yeah.”
“Is it weird?” He sounded genuinely curious, not trying to pry as so many others had, as he leaned toward her and rested his elbow on the table. “Going to events alone?”
“A bit.” She’d shrugged. She’d be lying if she said it didn’t feel different, but she and Scott had always adopted a divide and conquer approach to these things anyways. And the Special Olympics events have always held a special place in her heart, especially when she had an opportunity to meet and engage with the athletes, to see their smiling faces and genuine enthusiasm. So, she tells him that. She isn’t sure why she shares so much. The words just kind of slip off the end of her tongue and spill into the air between them.
“Same.” Morgan smiled at her and it was a little lopsided and had this kind of uninhibited, boyish charm to it. “I love this organization and I’m really happy to be here. Honestly, I feel really honoured to get to attend. It’s such a privilege of being on the team, getting to support organizations like this and seeing how excited the kids and athletes and their families get to meet players. It’s pretty awesome. Makes me feel like I’m doing good, you know?”
She knew he was being entirely honest with his sentiment. There was something about the quiet, rough quality to his voice and the way he shrugged his shoulders and looked slightly down at the end of each sentence, as if he were self conscious about his confession. She found it endearing, this unexpected sweetness to this young man. It made her smile. Opened her heart to him just the tiniest bit.
It was the first in a list of unexpected things. She knew who he was, of course. Though only peripherally. She knew the name Morgan Rielly , had seen him play games with the Leafs, so when they were introduced briefly before the luncheon she already knew his name. She didn’t think she’d learn all that much more than that.
After the lunch in PEI they had continued getting acquainted at the Phaneuf residence, making more easy conversation. There she learned that he’s a boy with a soft spot for his mom, that he’s sweet and a little soft spoken, but he’s also fun and excitable. She learned she was comfortable talking to him and was able to let that public Tessa veneer she has at events or when meeting new people melt away and talk freely and casually.
They shared a flight back home to Toronto and accompanied each other to the airport. Which suited Tessa well, she missed having a travel companion — though she and Scott rarely sat together on flights, she’s always hated traveling entirely alone.
“So, are you in Toronto often?” Morgan ran a hand through his hair, pausing slightly between words. “For work and stuff.”
“At this point, yeah. I’m probably there more than I am at home.” She laughed.
“Oof,” he huffed. “I get that, though. I feel like I’m on the road most of the time.”
“I do it to myself nowadays,” she sucked in a sharp breath and shook her head. “I like to be busy. And I feel weird, restless, at home. Even when I am back in London I often stay with my mom or at our family cottage.”
“Oh yeah. When I’m back in Vancouver I spend most of my time with my parents, and Maggie… uh she’s my dog.” He smiled at her, cheeks pinking, hand in his hair again, causing the short blonde strands to stand up every which way.
She laughed again, a little louder, piercing the air around them and turning a few heads in their direction. “I do remember you mentioning Maggie, the dog.”
This was their stumbling block conversation, the one that opened the doors to, well, everything.
They were sitting at their gate, after having stopped to talk and take photos with some fans, taking a moment to talk with them about some amazing work they were doing with refugees. Morgan left a seat between so he could easily turn to face her to talk. She liked it. That he didn’t immediately occupy the seat right next to her, that he’d waited patiently while she talked to a girl about her job, listening intently, in awe of the work she was doing.
“Well,” he started, pausing for a moment, waiting for her to make eye contact. “If we’re ever both actually in Toronto at the same time would you like to meet up? For a coffee or lunch maybe?”
“I’d really like that.”
They take a moment, looking out at the expanse of Vancouver before them. She loves this view, has since the first time Morgan brought her up here, the first trip she went on with him to B.C.. It’s a bit of a hike, but Grouse Mountain, she thinks, might be her second favourite view, after Lake Huron from the back deck of the cottage. Watching the steady lapping of the water against the beach. Here she looks down the Mountain at the city below, it’s getting darker so the lights are flickering to life, the setting sun casting an orange glow across the water. She loves sharing this view with Morgan, looking out at his home city and a city that holds such a special place in her heart. She’s always had a weird relationship with Vancouver having won her first Olympic gold here at twenty overshadowed by the pain she was in and the tenuous relationship she and Scott were working hard on rebuilding. It was still always special though because they had been together and they won and it had set up so much of what their lives were to become. And now it’s the place where the man she loves is from, where they’ve shared so many memories and milestones and it’s begun to take on new meaningfulness for her, on top of what she’s accomplished in this city.
Being here to share the newest stage of their relationship with his family feels right, she feels at home here and in Ontario.
“This really is such a beautiful view.” She lets herself sink further into his side, pulling her jacket tighter around her.
“It‘s still my favourite.” He kisses the top of her head. “It’s why I wanted to bring you up here as part of my grand plan.”
“Alright, so tell me how would you have proposed right here?”
“Uh, like, I didn’t have the exact thing planned. Just that we’d come up here and then somehow I’d ask. Then we’d take the gondola back down and go for dinner. Maybe, I dunno, pick you up some flowers on the way.” He holds her tight against him, she can feel the heavy rise and fall of his chest under her head.
“That sounds really amazing, I would have loved it.”
“You can tell people that’s how it happened. Right here, right now. That we came up here and I asked you.”
She laughs, the breezes carrying the sound out over the Vancouver skyline. “No. I like that you couldn’t wait. This would have been a beautiful proposal and I would have loved it and I would have said yes. But I love our story.”
“Okay.” He lets out a long breath and relaxes under her. Like that was exactly what he was waiting to hear.
“If you’d brought me here to propose, you would have been acting all nervous-excited like you get and I would have guessed. I know we talked about it and you knew my answer, but I liked being surprised by the question.”
Honestly, she loved the unexpected moment that was just the two of them in the privacy of their home. Where she’s always felt safe and comfortable, cherished and loved. When she thinks back, she still feels a little taken off balance by how quickly that level of comfort and dependability developed. But also, by contrast how light and fun things were.
“Jo,” Tessa Tessa said, as she quickened her pace to keep in stride with her sister. “He’s a 25- year- old hockey player.”
“Your point?” Jordan slowed her walk, realizing Tessa was struggling to keep pace. They’d just finished a barre class and Tessa had already done a condensed work out in her hotel room, plus a long walk through the city the previous night with Morgan. She and Jordan were headed to their favourite breakfast spot for coffee and pastry. “He’s cute. You enjoyed yourself, right?”
“Yeah.” She nodded, toying with the sleeves of her sweatshirt. “God, yeah. I did. It’s been amazingly easy. I didn’t think dating could be this simple.”
“Then keep it simple?” Jordan linked her arm through Tessa’s and tilted her head down to rest it on the top of Tessa’s, something she’s done since they were kids. The gesture always comforts her, reminds her her sister has been there for her through everything. “Things were complicated for you before. They aren’t now. You seem happy after you spend time with him, and don’t think I haven’t seen you smirking at your phone. No reason to put a stop to an easy thing because he’s a young, dumb jock.”
“He’s not dumb,” Tessa found herself jumping to his defence quicker than she would have imagined. “A little goofy maybe, and yeah definitely sometimes I’m reminded he’s still 25, but he’s actually pretty considerate and well thought out when he speaks.”
“Seems like a winner already, Sam.”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.” Tessa bit at her lip, unsure what she’s so hesitant about. “What will people think though?”
“That you’re dating a cute hockey player? Who the fuck cares.” Jordan paused, both in her walking and speech, turning toward Tessa. “I mean, I know you do, but like you said it’s just simple and fun and you don’t really know it’s going anywhere beyond that. He’s 25 so who knows where his head is at. So right now no one needs to know anything about it. And who knows, if it takes you by surprise and does lead somewhere then people can know and what they think won’t matter because you’ll know how you feel and what you want. Deal?”
They walk hand in hand away from the lookout area toward the gondola to head back down toward civilization. Her left hand fits securely in his right and he runs his thumb back and forth over her ring, feeling it’s newness under his touch. She leans her head against his arm as they walk.
“You’re sure you’re okay keeping this on while we’re out for dinner?” He moves the ring around a little on her finger as it follows the up and down movement of his thumb. “I won’t be upset if you want to keep it off for awhile.”
“Do you want me to?”
“Absolutely not,” he’s full of conviction as he says it. His voice firm and a little louder than his normal register. Just one concise statement to sum up that he is ready for anyone and everyone to know that this is a forever thing. “But I understand if you want to keep it just between us for a little while longer.”
She pauses on the path and he anticipates it, stopping alongside her. She loves his consideration. She’s appreciated since day one his shared desire to keep their private lives mostly private, while still allowing themselves to live and freely be themselves. She’s gotten better, the past few years, at not dwelling on what she should and shouldn’t share and what people will and won’t think. She’s more open these days, better at striking a balance between her public and private life and persona. A lot of that has been growing as a person, being more confident in herself, but a large part of that has also been him. Steady and reassuring at her side. She thinks on it for a moment, on what she is willing to share in this instance, keeping her head tucked against the firmness of his bicep while she plays scenarios in her mind.
All the people who need to know, know. They called their parents and had seen her mom shortly after he proposed and now they’re here in Vancouver sharing the news with his parents over the weekend. They’ve told siblings and teammates and close friends. She’d called Scott right after her siblings, because no they aren’t and have never been like brother and sister, but family is the best way she can think to describe who he is and always will be to her. She talked to him for nearly an hour over facetime -- the longest they’ve spoken over the phone in a very long time, maybe ever outside of work related conference calls. His smile split his face in two through her screen and it nearly brought her to tears. His pride when he said, “I’m happy for you kiddo,” meant more than she could put to words. And she knows she’s ready, maybe not for a public announcement, but for people to find out if they find out.
“I think I’d like to keep it on. If people see it, they see it.”
She’d been on her way to a little Toronto cafe to meet Morgan when Scott finally called her back. She’d been trying to reach him since the day before to talk some details about tour planning, including booking buses and venues. She was fairly certain he was in Florida, though it could have been Ilderton — a strangeness settled deep within her at not knowing where he was -- and she was itchy to talk to him, hoping to get this work out of the way before her date.
After having worked as much as she could over the phone while walking, Tessa was frazzled and a little less composed than she would have liked by the time she sat down across the table from Morgan, who smiled at her and pushed a coffee (the same she ordered last time they met here) across the table towards her.
It only took a few minutes before Morgan noticed something was amiss, placing a hand over hers to gently coax her to look up at him. “Is everything alright?”
She looked to where his hand covered hers, encompassing it within it, though barely touching her and smiled. Enjoying how her hand looked in his. His feather light touch grounding her to the moment. “Yeah. Yeah.” She rubbed her temple with her free hand. “I was just on the phone with Scott and my mind is a thousand places right now. I’m sorry.”
“Oh.” He didn’t move his hand from hers, but cocked his head to the side, eyebrows raised in question.
“It’s just tour stuff. Trying to figure shit out. It’s a lot harder from a distance and I don’t think we’re always the best communicators when we aren’t together all the time working on a singular goal.”
“You’re not used to this kind of distance, eh? Not being in each other’s pockets?”
“I mean over the past year … I’ve been working at getting used to it, yeah.”
She could see the questions he hadn’t asked yet forming in his mind before they worked their way to the tip of his tongue. The inevitable So what’s the deal with you two anyways? Not that she would mind answering, necessarily. She liked him, was comfortable with him and he’d to this point made her feel very much just like Tessa as her own individual. Just like he is Morgan, who accomplishes things as part of a team but isn’t defined by that team.
He surprised her yet again by saying, “That must be really hard, to go from being so close to someone, you know, intertwined like you were, to not really seeing each other at all. I’m sorry it sucks.”
“Thank you.” It came out as a breath, something lifted from her chest. His consideration, his acceptance of the big piece of her life that was and will always be held by Scott, cracked her open just a bit. Everything was still so new between them, but she found herself blooming, open like a flower in the sun, willing to expose all of herself. “It is really hard. But it’s getting better.”
“You don’t need to tell me about it, if you aren’t comfortable. But I’d like to know about it, if you are.”
The way he looked, his blue eyes wide, unwavering from hers, the muscles of his face neutral, relaxed, not demanding of answers but open to listening made her feel something. A chill ran down her spine before a warmth settled over her, like a hug, she felt safe. She wanted to tell him anything he wanted to know and didn’t fear he’d judge her for any of it.
“It’s definitely more complicated than we ever admitted publicly, but a lot less messy than I think a lot of people think it is.”
He raised his eyebrows and twisted his lips, questions forming, and disappearing. Instead he waited for her to explain.
She twisted and folded her hands together, fiddling with her fingers, attempting to compose her thoughts. “We were never together, not like a couple. But that isn’t to say that there weren’t feelings and definitely attraction. We talked about it a lot, after the Olympics, and in the end we both knew you need more than chemistry and history to make a functioning relationship. Once we didn’t have that common goal of winning it was always harder for us to be on the same page about things. It was a hard choice, but we knew that we needed space and to be able to be a bit independent of each other. I think it was the only way for us to develop healthy relationships, both with each other as friends and with others as romantic partners. To get some distance.”
“And what about here? Between us? Is there enough here to make it work?” Hope pooled in his eyes, swam in the wide blue pools as he looked at her, laying everything on the table for her.
“Yes!” It came out almost as a gasp, filling her lungs with fresh air and possibility. She didn’t know she was going to say it until she did. But she meant it, she truly did, but it took him asking for her to really realize it. She felt the potential of this relationship in every inch of her being.
At first, she’d meet up with him when she was in Toronto for work and he was available. Then she began making excuses to go to Toronto more often, booking more photoshoots, visiting Kelly for a haircut more often than was strictly necessary looking for more reasons to see him. Eventually she stopped making excuses and started coming into the city or staying an extra few days just to spend time with him. She liked telling him about her day and hearing about his, she liked that he, as an athlete, could understand the dedication, the amount of her life that went into what she did, while not actually knowing every detail of it -- giving her parts of her life that she could still share with him if and when she was ready. She liked his drive to be the best, to go to every game and every practice with laser focus, but how he balanced that with a sweetness, a bit of boyish goofiness (that was never over the top) off the ice. She liked how he made her feel cherished, understood, listened too, safe and protected but not like she was in need of a protector. He made her feel, well, normal.
“I’m getting hungry,” Morgan says in a low voice into her ear, his breath ghosting across her skin.
“Well, what’s your grand dinner plan?” she smiles into his shoulder. “I assume that was part of this whole thing?”
“It definitely was. I thought we could stop by the house really quickly because you’d probably wanna change,” he nods at her leggings and crop top with a zippered jacket that she’d worn because they hiked up the mountain. “Though I did put a dress in the car for you, in case you didn’t want to go all the way there first.”
“Aren’t you thoughtful?” she laughs. “I don’t want to make you wait though, if you’re really that hungry.”
“So hungry, Tess,” he groans, grabbing her sides in a playful tickle and nuzzling into her neck. “It’s been hours. I should have brought those cookies from the car. I’m so hungry I could eat you!”
Her eyebrows shoot up, but she snorts out a laugh. Burying her face into his chest to try to contain it. “We’re in public.”
“Woah,” he holds up his hands as if he’s scandalized, by her insinuation but she can see the smile growing on his lips as they curl upward, pushing his cheeks with them as they go. “That was definitely not what I meant at all. I would never imply that in public, Ms. Virtue...But, if that’s what you want…”
“Dinner first or you’ll get cranky later.”
“I mean we could always get take-out on the way home and I bought your favourite ice cream, it’s in the freezer. Spend the night in?”
“My favourite ice cream or your favourite.”
She smiles at him, and she’s sure that it looks less than glamorous. It’s a little lopsided, her eyes are all squinty from how far up her cheeks are pushing and you can probably see every one of her teeth. But god she’s happy. She’s filled to the brim with this lighter than air joy, a brightly coloured hot air balloon ready to float away. She feels free, freer than she ever has, even with the ring that symbolized that her heart is forever tied to someone else’s shimmering on her finger, or maybe because of it. She loves her life. Loves this man standing next to her making her smile and laugh.
“That sounds like a perfect evening.”
Tessa had her computer open on the dining table, reviewing some contracts, ensuring that she hadn’t missed any crucial information. She rubbed at her temples and took a long sip of her coffee.
“If you have work to do, you don’t have to stay here to watch me wallow.” Morgan called from where he was reclined, foot elevated on the couch.
“I can go, if you don’t want me here?”
“Don’t get me wrong, like, I never want you to leave if you don’t have to. But I don’t want you staying just because you feel bad. You have work and a house and things to do. I thought you were supposed to have a photoshoot?”
She got up from the table and walked deliberately over to the couch, she would have put her hands on her hips for good measure, if that wouldn’t just make him laugh. She needed to be serious for just a second. She stopped right in front of him, looking down at where he lay.
“First, let’s get this straight, you aren’t wallowing, you’re hurt and that sucks and you’re allowed to feel bad about it for a bit. Second, I want to be here. I rearranged my schedule because I wanted to stay with you. I like being here with you.” She took a breath. “Finally, I do feel bad for you. But not in the pitying way you think but because I get it. I know what recovering from an injury is like. I know how useless you feel when you can get up and practice, can’t compete. Like you’re letting your team down. I’m here because I wish I’d had someone with me after my first surgery.” She breathes in and out more deeply this time, pausing her small tirade for a moment longer. “I’m here because I love you.”
She watched his eyes widen as he took in her words, absorbed and processed everything she said until they were round like saucers. He nodded, grappling for something to say. His “Okay,” came out with a stuttered nod. “Okay,” again.
She smiled at him, not afraid that he wouldn’t say it back, confident enough in her feelings and their foundation that it wasn’t really a scary thing at all.
“Fuck. I love you too, Tessa. So goddamn much that some days it’s a little scary. Like, why’d you pick me?”
“So many reasons,” she leaned forward to kiss him, first a gentle peck, but then more firmly, parting his lips with her tongue when he wrapped one hand around the back of her neck, the other arm around her waist to pull her into him.
“Could you name a few?” He said against her lips. “Reasons, that is.”
She raised her eyebrows at him, cocking her head.
“Take pity on me, kay? I’m all incapacitated and I just wanna have that little ego boost hearing all the reasons my girlfriend loves me. I’ll start it off if it helps,” he smiled at her, the cheesiest grin. “I love you because you’re awesome, you’re intelligent and crazy beautiful, and also kind and generous like to ridiculous degrees. You’re also funny as hell, but in like an understated way. And I especially love that you know what you want and are willing to put in the work to get it. Also, you’re too good for me and I’m seriously the luckiest bastard alive.”
Fuck if hearing that all laid out like that didn’t do something to her, make her feel aglow with his praise. Even if it was in her nature to want to rebuke it, to put herself down and tell him it wasn’t true, she could see the earnestness in his confession, the truth behind his words and she knew him well enough to know he’d be willing to fight her on it.
“I love you on that last sentence alone you doof,” she laughed, leaning in for another quick kiss. “Let me think on the rest for a sec.”
“Oh are you gonna percolate?” he asked with a snort.
“Oh shut it, I take it all back.” She laughed, louder than she expected, letting it escape her in a low bark. She loved how he could take all their conversations and make them light, make her feel comfortable enough to be a little silly, but also know when things needed to be quiet and serious, understanding her balance. So she told him that, in between kisses. “You make me feel balanced, settled in a way that I didn’t know was possible. Like all my life I’ve pushed towards the future, future goals, but you make me want to just enjoy the present and be without worrying about what’s next. I don’t know... there are so many reasons and listing them out makes me feel like I’ll miss all the important ones. I can’t quantify my feelings.”
“It isn’t a test, Tess,” he smiled gently, softer than before, all the edges of his face smooth and calming. “You don’t need to tell me any of it. I love you and I really don’t need to know all the reasons to trust you feel the same.”
She bit at her lip, it wasn’t difficult to feel that she loved him, it had grown slowly, opening up over time, built on so many little things. There was never one big moment that smacked her in the face with it, just one day she woke up and it was there. She thought that trying to list it all out there’d be too many things to count. “I love that you’re totally a mama’s boy at heart but not in the way that makes you less independent, like you need your mom to take care of you, but in the way that you respect your mom and aspire to be like her and make her proud.”
That made him smile, she loved that he loved his mom, had a big soft spot for the woman who made him who he was but still prioritized Tessa first and foremost.
“I love that you like to take me on dates and hold my hand in public and every date somehow feels like the first one, like you’re constantly invested in getting to know me and there’s always something new you can draw out. But I also love that you understand and prioritize the fact that sometimes I just need quiet and space and that you also need quiet and space. I love how smart you are, even when you think you aren’t, that you’re always willing to learn new things and share that with me. I love that you’re willing to joke around with me, to poke fun but never ever in a mean spirited way… god, Morgan you’ve got to stop me or we’ll be here all day.”
“I could be here all day. I’ve got nowhere to go.”
“I was going to tell you you’re way nicer than I am. Anyone would tell you that. You’re the guy who’d give a stranger the shirt off his back if he needed it and then just shrug it off like it wasn’t important. But now I feel like you’re being mean, trying to make me stroke your ego.” She swatted at his shoulder playfully.
“I would never.” He scoffed but then his expression changed to something more serious, the blue of his eyes growing darker. “I mean it though. Like you never need to share any more than you’re comfortable sharing. I don’t need you to stroke my ego. Even though hearing how awesome I am is pretty sweet.”
She swatted at him again and he laughed, pulling her back in for a kiss.
With his hand guiding her at her waist, careful to avoid jostling his leg, Tessa moved to straddle his hips. Keeping her lips firm against his one had found his hair, pulling it lightly between her fingers as he brought her hips flush against his. He groaned into her mouth when she rolled her hips against his and she smiled against his lips. “Still think I don’t want to be here?”
“No.” He brushed her hair off her face, sweeping it over her shoulder as she leaned up on her elbows to look at him. “I hope I didn’t come across as ungrateful that you’re here… I just thought you’d get restless or something, stuck here with me doing nothing.”
“I’m not though,” she leaned forward to plant a kiss next to his lips, feeling his stubble scratch against her own lips. “It feels nice to stay still for a bit. I didn’t think it would. But it does. I feel relaxed and comfortable and honestly there is no place I’d rather be.”
“Then stay with me for as long as you still feel comfortable.”
“Forever?” She didn’t mean for it to come out, tried to force a little laugh at the end as heat rose in her cheeks.
She saw how he swallowed hard at the implications, she watched his throat bob, but then he broke out into a grin, holding her cheek to pull her focus back to his face. “I mean, I was thinking until next week,” he winked, nuzzling his nose against hers, watching as her face scrunched up as she tried to hold in her own laugh. “But any time between then and forever would be good with me.”
Their forever doesn’t begin how she thought it might, at least when she began to think of the potential of a forever with him. Life took them both by surprise this time, moving them along more quickly than they may have otherwise. She’s further surprised to find that she doesn’t mind. Their whole relationship has been filled with happy surprises that sprang up around her, even though seeds were there under the surface all along. She’s grown to realize that their love isn’t a single flower but an entire garden. With so many varieties of plants and flowers that all sprouted and bloomed at different times, imbued with love, respect, kindness and goofy lightheartedness, with stability, dependability, compatibility and mutual respect.
Tessa tucks her legs underneath her, flipping through Netflix while she waits for Morgan to come back in from the kitchen. Though she pays less attention to the entertainment options flashing by on the screen than she does to her newly added ring. It’s simple high polish finish complements the lighter look of the pavé diamonds set in her engagement ring and it contours the pear shaped diamond perfectly. She loves how it shines, even in the low light of the living room.
Morgan smiles at her when he gets into the room, a small carton of ice cream in each hand. It’s a blissful kind of smile, the kind you get when your whole being is filled with nothing but joy. It’s breathing in your favourite scent, the one that makes you think of home, or the warm sun on your cheeks, sinking into bed after a long day. It’s soft and carefree and a breath of fresh air.
“Hey,” he says. “You look pretty cute.”
“And you have ice cream, which is pretty cute too.”
He laughs before walking over to where she’s curled up on the couch, dropping a kiss to the top of her head and handing her her carton of ice cream and a spoon. “They were all the way at the back, but I think they’re still good.”
“Are these the ones you bought after we got engaged? When we came to visit your parents and you wanted to show me your grand proposal plan?”
He laughs again, cheeks turning pink, a little embarrassed chuckle. “Yeah, uh, we never ended up eating them that night. I dug them out because I thought it kinda fit to have them tonight.”
“They’re perfect,” she smiles and it’s full of light and joy and also a little bit sleepy. “How’d you know I was craving ice cream?”
“You’re always craving ice cream, and this one is your favourite… so really just a lucky guess.”
He snuggles in next to her on the couch, tucking a blanket around her, even though it’s July in Vancouver so it isn’t really cold, he just knows how she likes the comfortable weight of it.
They watch some Netflix original rom com that neither of them are particularly invested in, but is entertaining all the same, as they cuddle close on the couch. She’s feeling wholly content and at peace with her life and where it’s ended up so far.
“So,” he says, at some point not long into the movie when she adjusts so her head is resting on him, but allowing her to still be upright enough to continue taking small bites of her now soft (not quite melted) ice cream. “How’s my wife feeling about forever now that it’s been a few hours?”
“Has it only been a few hours?” She puts her ice cream down and snuggles into his chest. “Your wife is feeling cozy and happy. Also, like she’d like you to share your ice cream.”
“You have your own!” He pinches her side, faux outrage in his voice, half heartedly attempting to hold it out of her reach.
“But now I want to try yours.” She pouts, eyes growing wide before she giggles and makes a grab for his spoon.
“You don’t even like this one,” he protests, though his smile betrays that he’s just playing, she knows he’d give her whatever she asked for, even if it’s his food, which is a big deal. Morgan loves food, especially treats. She likes to tease him that if he didn’t have to work with nutritionists his grocery trips would be little more than chips and cookies.
“Well, I guess the baby has the same taste as her dad.”
“Oh well if the ice cream is for the baby…” he lets himself trail off as he hands over the ice cream and pulls her in close, her back to his chest. She contently eats his ice cream while he plants soft kisses to her shoulder and neck, his hand pressed against her belly, covering the entire expanse of her little bump.