“He seems like a great little boy,” I told Cayden. “You two have a really special connection. It was so cute to see you guys interact. I hope I can see more of it in the future.”
“Austin and I usually have a little New Years’ Eve celebration,” Cayden said. “It’s nothing glamourous, we just watch movies and drink sparkling juice. I know that he would really love it if you came by. Would that be something that you would be interested in?”
It sounded like the perfect way to ring in the New Year. I didn’t want to be with anyone but them.
“That sounds great,” I told Cayden. “I’ll bring the sparkling juice… and maybe some wine for myself.”
“I forgot to tell you something earlier,” Cayden said, pulling me closer. I grew a bit nervous. Was he going to bring up the Brad incident again? I’d hoped not.
“What?” I asked, looking at him. He smiled softly, and I found myself beyond grateful that I’d taken a chance on him.
“I love you too,” he said, leaning over and kissing my nose. “I love you, Tiffany.”
My heart burst. I’d been so distraught earlier that when I told Cayden that I loved him, I hadn’t even realized that he didn’t say it back. I guess I’d always known that he loved me, just as I loved him. I moved closer to him, knowing this was exactly where I was supposed to be and who I was supposed to be with.
One Year Later (Christmas Eve)
“Are we ready to go?” Alice asked. We were all gathered in the foyer of her house, ready to make our voyage to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony. Austin was very excited and had been talking about it all day. After we came home from the ceremony, we were going to make homemade chocolate chip cookies for Santa before going to bed. We were all going to stay the night at Cayden’s parents’ house.
As we got ready to leave, I thought about how things had changed so much in the past year. Cayden and I were stronger than ever. We had talked about moving in together, but I still had a few months left on my lease with Mandy. It didn’t matter, though, I was basically all but officially moved in to Cayden’s apartment. Mandy also had a serious boyfriend, who I assumed would move into the apartment once I was officially out. Her boyfriend, Ryan, was similar to Cayden in personality, and we would often have couples date nights.
It was crazy how quickly Cayden, Austin, and I’d formed this little family. I loved it. Although it had only been a year, I felt like his mother sometimes. I knew that I could never replace Layla, nor did I want to, but I was glad that I was able to be a mother-like figure to Austin. Throughout the year, we had done a bunch of fun family things together, including a vacation to California. I attended all the family events at school. A few people called me Mrs. Lewis and I must admit, I did not correct them.
Cayden and I’d discussed getting married in the future. I was more than willing to settle down with him and make things official. We didn’t want a huge wedding, just something small with both of our families. We wanted Austin to be very involved as well. While we talked about a wedding, we weren’t engaged yet. I was sure it would happen sooner rather than later, though. We wanted to get married and add on to our family. I dreamed of giving Austin a little sister.
Work was going wonderfully, too. I’d continued to talk to the women in our office and it had made a big change. Women were being more vocal in meetings with the men, and standing up for things that they believed in. Our October issue was woman-themed, with all the articles and photographs taken by women. It was our highest selling magazine to date.
Since the issue had done so well, Tim had talked about spinning off the magazine into a women’s edition. Our magazine would still stay the same, but the women’s edition would cover women’s issues. It would be real issues, too, not just about what purse to buy and what color was hot this season. I’d a meeting scheduled with him after the new year to discuss plans for starting the magazine. He had floated the idea of making me an editor.
Cayden continued to excel at work. Tim was talking about retiring in a year or two and hinted several times that Cayden would take over. While it would be a big responsibility, I knew that Cayden would be amazing in that position. We had talked about it more in-depth last month at Nikki and Maurice’s wedding. Maurice was still working with us, but Nikki had quit her job to become a stay at home mom for their one-month old daughter, Nella.
Over the past year, there had been a lot of change, and not only with work and mine and Cayden’s relationship. My mother had checked herself into rehab shortly after Christmas. She spent a few months getting her life together. When she came out, she got a divorce from her husband. Although she took full responsibility for her alcoholism, he was enabling her to drink.
I’d begun to slowly talk to her again, but it would take a lot of time for us to heal our relationship. She told me that she did a lot of soul-searching in rehab and she realized how awful she had treated me. She said a lot of it stemmed from my father. She was always jealous of the attention that he paid to me. Instead of working on fixing her marriage to my father, she channeled her negative energy toward me. She admitted that it wasn’t fair to me, but that she was going to work on fixing our relationship.
Austin, Cayden, and I were going to her house for Christmas dinner tomorrow night. My sister would be there, along with her new boyfriend. I was looking forward to visiting with everyone. My mom had picked up a love for cooking and promised it would be a much better menu than last year. She also apologized for inviting Brad last year. She admitted that she had purposely done that, wanting to ruin any happiness that I may have had with Cayden. Although it was hard hearing those things, I was a firm believer that everyone deserved a second chance. Cayden had given me one, and it was only fair that I gave my mother one as well.
Speaking of Brad, I hadn’t spoken to him since last Christmas. I’d changed my phone number, making it hard for him to contact me. I’m sure he didn’t try too hard. I heard through the grapevine that he and Jessica got back together. I thought about stalking their profiles on social media but refrained. I didn’t need to know what they were doing. To be honest, I didn’t care what they were doing. However, I did notice that Brad’s Gym down the street from my office had closed in August.
Luckily, it didn’t take too long for Cayden to forgive me after last year’s Christmas Day incident. Like any couple, we had our ups and downs, but we always got through it and ended up stronger than before. We had gotten to a point in our relationship where we completely trusted each other. We were in a great place.
As we walked down the street to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony, I thought about how far I’d come from last year. Just a year ago, I was walking down the same street, with these same people, but my life was much different. Now, I was walking down the street, chatting with Cayden’s mother. She had quickly become one of the most important people in my life. We spent a lot of time together, doing girl things like getting our nails done and going shopping. It worked out great because while we did those things, Cayden and Austin could do things like go to football games and other activities that fathers and sons were supposed to do.
“It’s a gorgeous night outside,” I commented as we walked toward the tree. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The moonlight and stars shone down on us. Cayden’s mom nodded.
“A magical night,” she said. I couldn’t help but notice that she was trying to hide a smile. I knew that she liked the tree lighting ceremony, but she seemed especially excited about it tonight. As we walked, I grabbed Cayden’s hand and looked up at him. He looked down at me and smiled.
“I love you,” I said as our eyes met. He leaned down and kissed my forehead.
“I love you, too,” he said. Austin ran up to us.
“I love you, three!” he exclaimed, erupting into laughter. The three of us were a perfect family. The funny part was that people often thought that I was Austin’s mother. It was getting to the point where I wouldn’t correct them anymore. We did all look alike, with our dark hair. Plus, it made me feel good that people thought I was Austin’s mother. He was such a great kid with a lively personality. Why wouldn’t I want to be a mother to a kid like that?