A/N: This is a long one – at least compared to my usual posts… But it’s an important one. And I couldn’t bear to separate it into two different posts. Hope you like it!
I stared up at the sky, letting the snow fall around me, the river flowing slowly at my feet. It’d been warmer the past couple weeks so it hadn’t frozen over, unlike everything else in the area. Dominic and I decided to take the kids on vacation for their Christmas break. A celebration of a lot of things.
It’s Delilah’s last Christmas break of high school. She spent the first half stressing about her college applications. Dominic and I finally finished our counselling. Or at least Dr. Burr says we’ve gotten through the critical part. It was weird – going to marriage counselling when we weren’t married. To be honest, I don’t think we were together at all when he suggested it.
When I told him about the twins he’d accused me of cheating on him, and I’d kicked him out. But then he showed up at the hospital when I went into labour… and then he came home with us. And I guess we just started to work it out. Six long years of monthly therapy sessions.
Six very long years. Seventy-two therapy sessions. Thirty birthdays. Eighteen new school years. One wedding. Two nieces. Seven promotions. Hundreds… probably thousands of arguments. Three walk-outs. One ridiculous house renovation. And finally, this vacation.
“Momma I’m hungry. How come you’re laying in the snow?” I glanced to my side and saw Bennet, one of the twins, and my only son. His cheeks were flushed, hands tucked in the pockets of the jacket we’d gotten him. Growing up in the deserts of Oasis Springs, none of the kids had been prepared for the snow. Dominic and I took them all shopping before we left to get sweaters and jackets. Really, the only one that enjoyed it was Delilah.
“Hungry, hmm? How about we go get some dinner then?” I smiled, bending to wrap him into a hug. “What do you want to eat?” I couldn’t help but laugh as he started listing off all kinds of ridiculous combinations… Pancakes and spaghetti, bacon and cookies, pie and and marshmallows. I’d almost think he was pregnant.
The majority of the vacation passed in a blur. The kids loved the horseshoes, and Dominic had a little too much fun teaching them how to play poker on the card table. I just hope they forget about it by the time we get home. The last thing I need is the twins going back to school and telling their teachers they learned how to play poker over the Christmas break. I’m guessing it’s not the kind of extra-curricular they were suggesting.
On the evening of our last night there, we had a campfire. Everybody bundled into their warmest clothes and cuddled around the fire. If I’m being honest, it’s the first time I ever sat at a campfire. It’s not like that was something we ever did out on the island when I was growing up. Really, I’d have told my parents they were crazy if they even suggested it. But it was the first time I really felt like we were a real family. Like the several years of hell we’d gone through were for good reason. Like the series of terrible decisions I’d made were worth it. I looked across the fire at Delilah and back to Dominic, who looked back at me knowingly.
“How about a story?” He asked with a cheeky grin. Delilah groaned, mumbling something about lame ghost stories. I shook my head with a laugh, watching the twins’ eyes widen in excitement. “It’s a not a scary story. But one about a queen.” Bennett’s turn to groan. “She didn’t know she was a queen though. She met a king and they made some mistakes. Sometimes they forgot what was most important.”
“Being a queen!” Aspen exclaimed, sure that she knew the answer. Dominic shook his head, glancing at me.
“Family.” I answered quietly.
“Family.” He repeated, glancing back at Aspen, who was now pouting. “They forgot that being family was most important. So the King and Queen didn’t rule the kingdom together for a really long time. They tried to look after all the princes and princess on their own, from different castles.”
“That’s stupid. It’d obviously be easier if they worked together.” Delilah finally spoke, rolling her eyes.
“You’re right, it would be much easier. But they couldn’t figure that out by themselves. They needed help from their friends. But once they learned that they could work together, they took over the kingdom and all of the princes and princesses were happy. And they lived happily ever after.”
Honestly, all three of the kids had tuned out a long time ago. Delilah was looking at her phone, Bennett and Aspen whispering about the toys he’d found in the bedroom – completely uninterested in the story. But I could feel the tears. It took everything in me not to burst into tears just then. Dominic felt it too. We exchanged a glance before I shuffled the kids off to bed and left him to extinguish the fire.
When we crawled into bed that night, I snuggled into his chest, and felt as if mine would explode with emotion. “We’ll talk in the morning, Ari, but I meant what I said.”
I woke up earlier than the rest of the cabin. I didn’t even hear the birds. I made breakfast and left it on the counter for the kids, left a note to make sure they started packing up, and woke Dominic. We walked out to the edge of the river together, comfortable silence between us. When we got there, he took my hands in his and looked at me seriously.
“I know I’m not very articulate, Arizona. But last night I was trying to say that you don’t give yourself enough credit. We both made mistakes. I did things I regret, I’m sure you did too. But I don’t regret our family.”
I reached out to touch him, savoring the rough stubble on his chin. “I know. I don’t regret it either. Not anymore. I feel like we’re really a family now. I’m really proud of us.”
“I’m really proud of you.” He emphasized as I leaned in to kiss him. “I’m serious!” He insisted leaning towards me to whisper in my ear. “I got you something. Another Christmas gift.”
I laughed, shaking my head. “You didn’t need to get me anything, silly. This vacation has been the best gift I could ever ask for.” But when I looked back at him, I felt the tears stinging the back of my eyes almost instantly.
“Arizona Harper Priest, these past few years have been the hardest years of my life. I know we didn’t do things the conventional way. But I love you. I love our family. And I would love to have you make me happy for the rest of our lives.”
Gonna be honest, I didn’t answer right away. I was in shock. I wasn’t sure if he was serious. I just stared at the diamond, glittering in the morning sun, tears welling in my eyes.
“Arizona, I’m serious. And I’m happy to wait here as long as it takes, but it’s a little cold.” He laughed, and I finally came out of my trance.
“Of course, Dominic. I’d love to be your wife.”
He smiled and scooped me up into his arms, “For the rest of our lives.”
For the first time in my life, I really believed it.
A/N: Phew, you made it! Apologies about the time jump, but I was feeling a little stuck, as you probably noticed by the hiatus. But I took everybody out for the vacation with a particular plan in mind and a certain couple of sims had whims I wasn’t expecting, which changed everything. I’m pretty happy with the direction it’s taken and I hope that you are as well.