Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
Stories from Lightport, Massachusetts
More stories from your favorite characters in The Front Row Series
*****Spoilers for What Hindered Love*****
October, Two Years Later
Chloe was surprised when she woke up to see that her clock radio read only a little after 6 am. She wasn’t a morning person at all, and usually it was either her alarm or her children who roused her. She was also surprised that she was completely naked beneath the sheets. She had evidently slept more soundly than she had in a long time.
She wasn’t surprised, however, when Micah’s arm circled her waist, and he drew her close against his bare chest. He never needed an alarm to waken, and Chloe had yet to rise before he did. He nuzzled into her neck and mumbled a good morning against her skin. She turned in his arms to better gaze into his bright blue eyes, which were slightly bleary from sleep.
“I told you last night I would fall asleep. You should have let me get dressed,” she scolded him.
Micah’s hands began to roam and his lips caressed the pulse point behind her right ear, “What’s wrong with falling asleep naked in your husband’s arms?”
Chloe couldn’t help giggling, “Nothing,” she pulled his head from the track he was making down her collar bone to make sure he was really listening to her, “but when said husband and wife have three children, they have to be prepared and fully clothed for interruptions.”
“Good point,” Micah chuckled, but he then proceeded to continue the path she had interrupted, mumbling the rest of the words against her skin, “but isn’t this a glorious way to wake up in the morning?”
Chloe attempted to squirm out of his embrace even as he elicited a moan from deep in her throat. “Micah,” she panted, pushing him away, “I have to get up. Today’s a big day.”
After Micah’s confession almost two years ago, Chloe had yanked him inside her apartment, their kisses frantic and passionate. She had pushed him into the kitchen table, both of their hands roaming until she had slid hers down to the button of Micah’s jeans. With a groan, he had closed his hand over hers and shook his head.
“No, Chloe,” he had said gently. “I want you. You have no idea how badly I want you. But this time, we’re doing this the right way.”
She was tempted at first to be frustrated, but when she had seen the tender love shining in his eyes, she had felt so cherished. So instead, they had surprised Luke by picking him up to decorate the tree early and tell him that Mommy and Daddy had gotten back together. The joy on their son’s face had been indescribable.
They had fallen in love hard and fast as teenagers, then became best friends over the course of a year as adults, so there really was no need to drag things out. Three months later, on Valentine’s Day, Micah and Chloe were wed. She had said at first that a small ceremony with their closest family and friends was okay with her, but he would have none of it. Chloe had never had a wedding, and she deserved her dream one. Besides, Micah had joked with a wink, she was marrying into the perfect family to pull it off. And pull it off they did. It was the wedding she had always dreamed of and thought she would never have.
On their wedding night, when they had finally become one again after 6 ½ years, Chloe literally wept at the intensity of it. Their love had always been so deep and consuming. Now it was also sacred. Micah Barrett was now not only her lover, not only her best friend, but her soul mate.
Chloe rose from the bed now with a giggle on her lips at her husband’s pouty face. She quickly stepped into a pair of underwear, then grabbed Micah’s discarded t-shirt from the night before and slipped it over her head. She walked around the end of the bed and headed for the door, but Micah reached out and grabbed her, pulling her back into bed. She laughed and straddled his waist, resting her hands on his chest.
He smiled up at her, “This is one of my favorite looks on you. On top. In my shirt.”
Chloe shook her head and grinned down at him. She lowered her head, her hair falling like a curtain over his face. Their lips met, chaste at first, but then the kiss grew hungrier. Her hair kept getting in the way, so she pulled him up to a sitting position, wrapping her legs around his torso. Chloe pulled back, suddenly overcome with a familiar feeling.
“What?” Micah asked with a tender smile.
Chloe wrapped her arms around his neck and shook her head, “I just dreamed of this for so long, that sometimes I still can hardly believe it really happened.”
Micah cupped her cheek, “Me too, sweetheart.”
They resumed their kissing, lips and tongue giving and taking hungrily, but then sounds from the baby monitor pulled both of them from the passion of the moment. Chloe tilted her head back in frustration while Micah gave an irritated sigh. He grabbed the video monitor and looked at the tiny screen. He grinned and turned it so she could see. She couldn’t help the grin that filled her face, either. Their daughter wasn’t crying, but squealing loudly and shaking the side of her crib as if it were a cage she wished to break free from. They could clearly hear her ten month old babbling through the monitor:
“Ma ma ma ma ma ma!”
“Our little princess is demanding attention,” Micah quipped.
Chloe glanced at the clock: 6:30 am. “It is time for her breakfast,” she admitted, giving her husband a pout.
He leaned forward to give her a quick peck on the lips. “We can resume these activities any time,” he told her with a wink.
Chloe crawled off his lap and headed for the nursery. Clara was eager to see her mama, and reached chubby hands towards her. Chloe scooped her up, blowing raspberry kisses against her cheeks. Clara squealed with glee. This was the way she always greeted the day, with smiles and laughter. Clara had by far been the easiest baby for Chloe. She slept through the night by the time she was two weeks old, took to nursing like a champ while also taking bottles of formula with ease, and was generally content to sit and watch the world go by with a smile on her face. Chloe changed her diaper now, chatting to her as Clara babbled back. Chloe smiled down at the amber eyes that matched her own. After two boys who were each the spitting image of their fathers, Chloe was beyond delighted to have a mini-me of her very own, right down to the dimple in Clara’s chin and the golden locks just beginning to curl at the nape of Clara’s neck. Once the baby had a fresh diaper, Chloe settled into the rocking chair to nurse her. She knew that as soon as Clara finished eating, the boys would be awake.
Sure enough, Chloe heard thunderous feet pounding down the hallway as she burped Clara, followed by squeals of “Daddy!” She didn’t have to witness it herself to know that a tickling/wrestling match was now occurring in her and Micah’s bed.
Chloe came out into the hallway with Clara on her hip just as Micah exited their bedroom with Luke daggling from his back and Lincoln wrapped around his leg. Even though he was already hauling the weight of both boys, he reached out and took Clara.
“I’ll get the kids breakfast,” he told her, “so you can take your time getting ready for church. Today’s a big day for both my girls!”
Chloe’s heart constricted as Micah bounced Clara on his hip. “You look so hot right now,” she told him, and he did. Fatherhood looked good on him. She missed this with Luke, and she didn’t take it for granted now.
Micah wriggled his eyebrows, “That’s me. A hot dad.”
Chloe laughed and smacked him in the chest as she rolled her eyes. She couldn’t deny the truth of the statement, however, and couldn’t wipe the smile from her face as she headed for the shower.
She stepped out of the bathroom, tying her bathrobe around her waist, to the sound of loud knocking on the bedroom door. “Mommy!” Luke shouted. “Are you dressed?”
Chloe shook her head and chuckled, “Yes, sweetie, come on in.”
But it wasn’t just Luke, but all three children plus Micah, who walked through her bedroom door. Luke carefully carried a tray containing a plate of pancakes and a side of sausage. Lincoln carried a fistful of yellow daisies, and Micah carried a glass of orange juice in his free hand while balancing Clara on his hip. Her boys were also all singing “Happy Birthday” as Clara clapped her hands gleefully. Chloe shook her head as tears stubbornly welled in her eyes at the sight. She didn’t think she would ever get used to how blessed she was.
There was a birthday candle stuck in the pancakes, and Luke and Lincoln begged for her to make a wish, bouncing up and down with excitement. She bent over and blew out the candle, only realizing later that she never did make a wish.
Chloe bounced Clara on her knee as she watched Micah and the praise band warm up. Luke sat on the steps leading up to the stage fiddling with his baby Taylor which he insisted on bringing with him every Sunday morning. Lincoln ran around the sanctuary with his cousins, Haley and Noah Barrett. Every once in a while, one of the adults had to admonish them to behave. Tom Barrett sat next to Chloe just like he had every Sunday since she and Micah started dating and driving to church together. She still remembered the first Sunday he sat down beside her, clearing his throat nervously . . .
“Chloe,” he had begun, seeming somewhat nervous, “I’ve never seen Micah so happy in my life.”
She had smiled back, “I’m pretty da-darn happy myself, to be honest with you.” Chloe had blushed furiously at her near slip-up, but Tom had just laughed.
His laughter turned to a frown as she had fidgeted nervously in her seat. “I owe you both an apology and a thank you.”
Chloe shook her head in confusion, “I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“I owe you an apology for the way you were treated at Community Fellowship all those years ago.”
She had dropped her head, suddenly studying her nails with intense scrutiny, “Some would say I should apologize for destroying your church.”
Tom’s face had softened at that, “Oh, Chloe, no! On the contrary, I have you to thank for saving it. When I saw how my congregation treated a hurting young woman, not to mention how they treated my own son, it was a wakeup call. I knew that wasn’t what the church was meant to be. I lost members yes, but I regained truth, compassion, and the true gospel of Christ.”
“But you’re not in that beautiful building anymore.”
“No, but a church is more than a building. It’s people. And yes, we had very few of those too when we first moved to this warehouse. But look at us now! We’re full every Sunday, but more importantly, we’re a group of people who have learned to truly love others. This is now a church that practices grace. And I don’t know if that ever would have happened if not for that little boy right there.”
He was gesturing to Luke, who was patiently showing Lincoln how to wave one of the worship flags. The smile on Tom’s face was so full of love, not that it surprised her in the least. Luke’s grandparents had always adored him. But then Tom turned towards her, his face still filled with love and acceptance. Chloe never would have believed it possible, but in Tom Barrett she found the father figure she never even knew she wanted or needed.
Now, Tom eagerly took little Clara from Chloe’s arms and bounced her on his lap. Clara rewarded him by grabbing his cheeks with her pudgy little hands.
“She isn’t wearing the christening gown Elizabeth bought,” Tom pointed out, eyeing Clara’s cotton dress covered in pink butterflies.
Chloe laughed, “I’m not putting that on her until the last possible moment. I’ve seen that episode of The Office.”
Tom nodded in understanding as he smiled and cooed at his granddaughter. Chloe thought back to when she used to be afraid of mentioning TV shows and other entertainment around Tom and Elizabeth. But eventually she had stopped trying to censor everything she said when she came to the realization that Tom and Elizabeth were normal people just like anyone else. Whatever normal was, anyway.
“Well,” Tom said, eyes focused on the baby girl in his arms, “Clara is beautiful no matter what she’s wearing.”
A few hours later, after the worship set, Chloe Barrett stood at the front of Community Fellowship, Micah at her side, holding a precious bundle of white in her arms. And they were surrounded by family. Yes, Chloe Barrett, surrounded by family. More family and friends than she would have ever thought possible, two years almost from the day that she had made the bravest decision of her life. Here, on her 28th birthday, they were dedicating to the church their precious baby girl.
Chloe wiped the tears from her eyes as Micah draped his arm around her and pressed a kiss to the top of her head. She looked up into his eyes and thought of the long and winding road they had to travel to get here. But if that broken road was what it took to get them here, she would gladly walk it all over again.
Tom said a few words to the congregation about how dedicating a child to the church meant that they all had a responsibility to love that child, teach her, and guide her. He had Chloe and Micah repeat a few words after him, and then asked the congregation to respond “yes” as he asked them to assist the parents in raising the child up in the way she should go.
“Now I invite Clara’s immediate family to come up and pray blessings over her,” Tom announced.
Lincoln walked forward and leaned over his baby sister. He was five now and in kindergarten. He had grown into an extremely precocious child who was already reading well. He also loved to tell stories, and Micah and Chloe were always amazed at his imagination. Micah’s mother called Lincoln an old soul, and Chloe had to agree.
“I prayed for a baby brother,” Lincoln said now, as the congregation chuckled, “but I guess you’re okay. And even though you smell bad sometimes, you’re pretty cute once Mommy and Daddy change your diaper.”
The congregation laughed again, but Chloe glanced at Micah, who was swallowing hard. Lincoln had started calling him “Daddy” not long after their wedding, but it still moved them both. Scott at first became “my other daddy,” and now Lincoln had taken to calling him just plain “Dad” while Micah exclusively was “Daddy.”
“So,” Lincoln finished, heaving a small sigh, “thanks for making me a big brother.”
Luke came forward then, eight years old now, the top of his head now hitting the bottom of Chloe’s chin. But he still liked to kick the soccer ball in the backyard with Micah. (The backyard of their split-level, brick ranch. Chloe had watched enough House Hunters to know that most couples would turn their noses up at the dated 1980s style, but Chloe still pinched herself sometimes to remind herself that it was actually their home.) He still loved Star Wars and pirates, and he still wrestled his little brother on the living room rug. But Chloe knew how fast the years would fly, so she was determined to cherish every little boy moment.
Luke cleared his throat and shuffled his feet. “When I was a little kid, I told Gramma that I wanted my Mommy and Daddy to get married so I could have a real family.”
Chloe stepped closer to Micah and threaded her fingers with his.
“So Gramma told me to pray and ask Jesus. Well, he did it, and it’s so awesome. You’re gonna love this family, little sister.”
Then Chloe thought she might die of sheer joy as Luke bent his dark head over his sister’s blonde one and kissed her gently. Once Luke stepped back, Micah relinquished Chloe’s hand so he could gather his baby daughter in his arms.
“Clara, the first time I held your brother Luke, fear gripped my heart. I knew I wasn’t ready to be a father,” Micah cleared his throat, and Chloe lay a comforting hand on his arm. It still wasn’t an easy time for him to talk about. “God used that moment to change my life, and I will never forget it. But my sweet little girl, the first time I held you, it was like I was holding hope itself in my arms.” Micah was choking on tears now, but he swallowed and continued, “I pray for you, my daughter, that you never lose hope, no matter what darkness may surround you. And never doubt my love. No matter what you do, no matter where you go, you can never make me stop loving you. And God’s love? It’s even stronger than mine. Never forget that.”
Tears were streaming down his face now as he handed Clara back to Chloe. Most of the congregation was sniffling, too. Chloe was surprised to find that she was calm, maybe because she was nervous about talking in front of everyone, but that didn’t mean Micah’s words hadn’t moved her deeply. She’d never been more proud of him than she was in that moment. She smiled at him, and then gazed down into her daughter’s smiling face.
“Clara, when your big brother Luke was born, your daddy and I were all alone with a storm raging around us, in more ways than one. But when you were born, we were surrounded by friends and family, and joy just filled the room. The moment you arrived, I laughed with joy – literally laughed. The doctor laughed, too. She said she’d delivered hundreds of babies over the years and not once had she laughed like that. We named you Clara, sweet girl, because it means light. After so many years of darkness, our family is finally bathed in light.”
Chloe placed her hand tenderly on her daughter’s head, “I pray you would be brave, sweet Clara. Brave enough to love freely, without walls. Brave enough to cling to hope no matter what difficult times may come. Brave enough to be a light in the midst of darkness.”
Chloe lifted her head to see her entire family watching her with eyes full of love and pride. It was then she could no longer hold back her tears.
“Micah,” Chloe sighed, shifting a sleeping Clara in her arms, “is this really necessary? Can’t it wait until Monday morning?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie, I hate to do this on your birthday, but if I don’t get those cupcakes into the refrigerator, they’ll go stale.”
Chloe regarded him with a quizzical expression as he unlocked the event center door. A smile was flirting with the corners of his mouth. What was he up to?
He grinned wider at her as he flung the double doors wide to reveal a room packed with people shouting “surprise!” Chloe startled, and so did little Clara, who started to fuss. Micah took the baby from her arms as she took in the people filling the place. All of Community Fellowship seemed to be there, as well as her co-workers from Dr. Carter’s office, Adam Murray, and even Ally and Pete from the diner. Chloe bit her lower lip, overwhelmed at the community that surrounded her. Hannah bounced up to her with a cupcake on a plate. It was decorated not only with a birthday candle, but with a small spun sugar bird’s nest with a tiny chocolate heart resting inside.
“The Wren?” Chloe asked her husband.
He winked at her, “Of course!”
“Make a wish!” shouted Kate from the corner where she held little Noah in her arms. Soon, a chorus of voices were demanding the same thing.
Chloe looked around the room at all of these people who loved her, her gaze finally settling on her husband and three children who were standing close by, grinning from ear to ear.
“I’ll blow out the candle,” she finally said, “but I don’t need to make a wish. I already have everything I could ever want.”
With a prayer of thanks on her lips, Chloe leaned over and blew out her birthday candle.
I am a former English teacher turned homeschool mom of three who writes Christian romance novels on the side. You know, in my huge amount of spare time.