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
Chloe stood in front of her mirror, noting the blush rising to her cheeks as she fastened the clasp of the necklace Micah had given her for Valentine’s Day years ago. Her fingers trembled slightly, and she kept gnawing at her lower lip. It was completely and utterly ridiculous for her to be this nervous. Sure, they were calling this their “first” date, but it was far from a normal one.
“Mommy, stop staring at yourself! You look perfect already!” Her six year old cried out behind her. His voice was equal parts whiny, breathless, and excited. She laughed at his reflection in the mirror. He was jumping on her bed, alternately flinging his entire body down on the mattress then bouncing to his feet again. Luke was a mass of constant motion with a perpetual sheen of sweat and constantly mussed hair.
And Luke was the reason it was ridiculous to call this a first date. Since he inherited that dark, thick mass of messy hair as well as his bright blue eyes from his father.
“Do you think Daddy will bring you flowers? Will he take you to a ball?”
Chloe narrowed her eyes and put her hands on her hips. “A ball? Where do you think we live, Disney World?” Then she reached down and tickled her son – their son – until he was squealing with laughter. Lincoln then came bursting in, yelling, “Me too, me too!” as he tugged on Chloe’s skirt. She complied by tossing the three year old on the bed, tickling both boys anew until they were both breathlessly begging her to stop.
Just as Chloe let them go, she heard the doorbell ring. Both boys yelled, “Grandma!” and raced down the hall. Chloe glanced through the peep hole to check that it was indeed Elizabeth Barrett, then let Luke pull the door open. Both boys showered her with hugs and kisses. It warmed Chloe’s heart to see how the entire Barrett family treated Lincoln with the same love and affection as they did Luke.
Elizabeth rose from greeting the boys and gave Chloe a hug of her own. “Oh, Chloe,” she enthused, still grasping her by both arms. You look stunning.”
“Thank you,” Chloe told her as she shook out the skirt. The top of the dress was simple; black, sleeveless, and form-fitting with a scooped neckline. But the A-line skirt had an overlay with gold embroidery. It was simple, yet elegant, and accentuated Chloe’s figure without being overtly sexy. Kate, who had gone shopping with her, had gasped that it fit her personality perfectly, and Chloe had to agree. It was even comfortable, believe it or not. “Micah said he was taking me somewhere that had to do with Christmas, and gold and black works, right?”
“Absolutely,” Elizabeth agreed with a smile, “red is so overdone at the holidays. Of course, I think Micah would love you even in a paper sack.”
Chloe brushed off the compliment, that infernal blush rising to her cheeks again, and hurried into the kitchen to show Elizabeth the leftovers for dinner. She found herself rambling on about bedtime, then trailed off when she realized that Elizabeth had been taking care of Luke since he was born. But the woman just nodded and smiled. Then the doorbell rang again.
“Daddy!” Luke screamed at the top of his lungs as he darted for the door.
Elizabeth caught him in a bear hug from behind. “No, no, little man. Let your Mommy and Daddy say hello to each other.”
“Why? They say hello all the time.”
Chloe shook her head and laughed at her son’s answer, then took a deep breath and pulled the door open. She blinked as she took Micah in with a heated and appreciative gaze. Would his handsome looks ever cease to take her breath away?
“Wren,” he breathed out with an equally appreciative look on his face, “you are absolutely exquisite.”
Chloe ducked her head and blushed. Then she ran her gaze up and down his frame before giving him a crooked smile, “You don’t look so bad yourself.”
The smile that lit his face dimpled his cheeks and crinkled his eyes. His tailored suit with a shirt of deep blue and a black tie made her relieved that she had picked a fancier dress. They just stood there for a moment staring at each other as if the clock had rewound about seven years until Luke came barreling past Chloe to collide with his father’s waist.
Micah had to greet both boys and attempt to explain for the hundredth time to Lincoln why all four of them couldn’t go before he and Chloe managed to get out the door.
“Maybe I should have picked you up,” Chloe quipped as Micah helped her into the passenger’s side of his truck.
“Nonsense,” Micah argued back, “no gentleman would agree to that arrangement.”
Chloe rolled her eyes at that. “So, where are you taking me?”
“Well,” Micah told her, shifting slightly in his seat as he pulled out of Chloe’s apartment complex, “we’re driving into Boston to see a production of The Nutcracker.” He scratched behind his ear as he glanced at her nervously. “Is – is that okay?”
“Okay?” Chloe replied hoarsely, tears filling her eyes. “It’s way more than okay. I haven’t been since Sarah passed.”
He let out a deep sigh of relief. “That’s what I thought.” He then lifted her hand to his lips and brushed a kiss there. It was so incredibly thoughtful, and so like him to remember. Chloe had always dreamed of going to see the ballet when she was a little girl, so when Sarah had adopted her, she had made a point to take her every Christmas. Even Micah had tagged along that year they were dating.
Micah didn’t release her hand. At first. But the longer he clasped her hand, the more jittery he became. She was used to him rubbing his thumb across her knuckles, but tonight his hand seemed to be going into spasms. And either Chloe was imagining it, or his hand was getting clammy. Chloe finally slipped her hand free and set it in her lap. She eyed Micah curiously. Had he gotten sick but didn’t want to cancel their date?
“Are you okay?”
Micah gave a nervous chuckle, “Sure, I’m fine.”
Chloe narrowed her eyes at him, not completely buying it, but she said nothing further. She put on a bright smile and started telling him about Luke and Lincoln’s antics at the park today, but when it dragged on into a one-sided conversation, she petered out. She gnawed on her lower lip as she gazed out the window at the fresh blanket of snow on the ground. They normally had no problem talking for hours over nothing at all, but tonight, on their first official date now that they were a couple again, he was strangely silent.
But then they arrived at the theater, and he flashed her that gorgeous smile of his. He gallantly insisted on opening her door, then took her arm like he truly was escorting her to a ball. She thought of Luke’s childish questions and couldn’t help smiling. Once inside, they were preoccupied with finding their seats, and Chloe was in awe as she always was of the theater itself. The silence between them now was a comfortable thing, and as the lights dimmed, Chloe slipped her arm through Micah’s and squeezed it. He smiled adoringly at her, and she rested her head on his shoulder as the lights came up on Clara, Drosselmeyer, and the enormous Christmas tree.
As the show went on, however, Chloe became concerned again. Micah pulled away from her to lean forward, resting his chin on his fist. Then his legs were bouncing. But the thing that concerned Chloe most was when she pulled her eyes away from Grandmother Ginger to see him kneading his left knee. She swallowed down her concern and concentrated on the remainder of the ballet.
Afterwards, Micah took her to a fancy Italian restaurant down the street from the theater. It was a gorgeous place, intimate, with fancy tablecloths and flickering candlelight. But Micah still didn’t seem like himself. Their conversation kept stalling, and he just couldn’t seem to stop fidgeting. Chloe could only nibble at her chicken parmesan and sip at her wine because of the dry lump in her throat.
On the drive back to Lightport, Micah asked her about work, and Chloe gladly talked on and on about every little thing from one of the other nurse’s new pregnancy to the new Doc McStuffins stickers that all the kids seemed to love. She actually went on a five minute tangent about how the children’s show was doing wonders to help her calm kids down when they were getting an exam. Anything to keep them from lapsing into silence again.
“They should have made a kids show about a doctor for toys ages ago,” Chloe’s chuckle sounded strained, even to her own ears. She sighed with relief when the town sign came into view.
For the first time since Boston, Micah turned to her with a tender smile. “Want to go for a walk along the beach?”
“Are you serious?”
Micah’s face fell, and a look of confusion darted across his eyes. Chloe hadn’t meant her words to come out so clipped and harsh, but what did he expect? It had been one of the most awkward dates in her entire life. With someone she thought she knew better than anyone in the world.
“Why wouldn’t I be serious?”
Chloe barked out a sarcastic laugh. “You can’t be that dense, Micah. You’ve acted the entire night like you’d rather be somewhere else, and now you want to take a romantic stroll along the beach?”
Micah blinked rapidly. “Chloe, you don’t understand . . . I never meant . . . that is to say . . . “
He had turned the deepest shade of red Chloe had ever seen, and he was rubbing at that knee of his again. The way he’d been acting tonight, you would think . . . Chloe gasped. When she spoke, she tempered her words carefully, “You’re not taking the pills again, are you?”
“What!” Micah yelled. “How could you think that?”
“Then answer the question!”
“Of course I’m not! You have that little faith in me?” He had gotten so upset, he had pulled the car over. He shifted in his seat to face her, rubbing the back of his neck agitatedly.
“What am I supposed to think? You’re jittery, your palms are clammy,” Chloe counted off the symptoms on her fingers, “you’re unable to focus, I mean, what else could it be?”
The color had drained from Micah’s face as she spoke, and suddenly another possibility washed over her like ice cold water.
“Or . . . “ she swallowed, her eyes filling up with tears. She shook her head briefly, and cut the tears off. “Take me home, Micah,” she whispered.
“Chloe, no, please,” Micah protested, reaching for her. Chloe shook off his hand.
“So can you explain why you’re acting so uncomfortable tonight?” Chloe sat there with her arms crossed, watching him as he stared out the windshield, his hands squeezing the steering wheel, and his jaw clenching.
“No,” he finally whispered, defeated, “I guess I can’t.”
Wordlessly, he put the truck back in drive and headed back to her apartment complex. The silence between them now was a painful, tangible thing. When he parked right outside her unit, Chloe shifted in her seat, clutching the pendant of her necklace in her fist to give her courage.
“Micah, remember how you told me that you wouldn’t push me for more than I was ready for in this relationship?” At his curious nod, she continued, “Well, that’s true the other way around. I don’t want you forcing this because . . . I don’t know, because you think I need you or because Luke wants it so badly. If the spark just isn’t there anymore, then –“
“Chloe,” he said, cutting her off, “check the glove compartment.”
He said it with almost resignation, but when she glanced at him, he had a tiny, wry smile on his face. He gestured with his hand. “Go on, just humor me. Open it.”
Chloe took a deep breath as she reached for the glove compartment. She couldn’t help flashing back to Thanksgiving seven years ago when she opened Micah’s glove compartment and an almost empty bottle of pain pills fell into her palm. But this time, she saw a small velvet jewelry box. Her mouth fell open as she cut her gaze back to Micah. His grin had widened and he gave a rueful shrug. With trembling fingers, Chloe pulled out the box and opened it. Inside glittered an engagement ring. A simple, round diamond with two other tiny round diamonds set on either side of it. Chloe blinked, her mind reeling.
“This,” she whispered, “is why you were so nervous tonight?”
“Aye.” There was a long pause before he continued. “I know it sounds crazy, since this is only our first date since we got back together. But, Chloe, that ring is honestly seven years overdue. When I bought you that necklace, I looked at rings first. I almost bought one. Maybe I should have.”
Chloe placed a hand gently on his arm. “No, Micah. We weren’t ready then.”
He pulled in a deep, shuddering breath and nodded. “But I’m ready now, Chloe. I’ve wanted this for years, if I’m being completely honest. And like I said, I know it might seem fast, but think about it. We’ve actually been dating for eight months anyway and were just in denial about it.”
Chloe was able to chuckle at that. “You sound like Maggie.”
Micah managed a nervous laugh himself and then shrugged. “Well, she was right.” He ran his tongue nervously along his bottom lip as he shifted closer to her and clasped both her hands in his. She could tell he was completely earnest and sincere right now, but all she wanted to do was grab him and kiss him.
“So, Chloe, will you marry me?”
That was it. She couldn’t hold the tears back any longer. They poured down her cheeks, and he grasped her face tenderly, wiping them away as they fell. She managed to nod, and then finally to speak. “Yes, yes, of course I will.”
He kissed her then, and her tears turned to deliriously happy smiles. He managed to slip the ring on her finger, despite the way she kept peppering his face with kisses. Then their lips met again, with passion this time, and it was all Chloe could do to pull herself away. She laughed at Micah’s whimper of protest, but grasped his face and rubbed his nose with hers.
“Sorry, but we’ve got a kid inside who is going to flip out over this news.”
Micah wholeheartedly agreed. They hurried inside to find both Luke and Lincoln asleep on either side of Micah’s mother. She looked up at them sheepishly, knowing she had been caught spoiling them, but Chloe cut off her apologies by holding out her hand to show off the ring. Micah’s mother leapt from the couch, pulling Chloe immediately into a tight hug. When she pulled away, tears shone in her eyes, and she held both hands up to her mouth. When she finally spoke, her words shocked Chloe.
“It’s about time.”
Micah laughed and leaned down to brush a kiss to his mother’s cheek. Chloe decided to refrain from reminding her how she felt about the two of them getting married seven years ago.
“Mom, we want to go ahead and tell Luke,” Micah whispered.
Elizabeth nodded her head in understanding, quickly gathered her things, and hurried out. Chloe and Micah then knelt beside the couch and began gently shaking their son. Finally, his eyes blinked open and he frowned at the sight of the two of them.
“Waz – goin on,” he muttered as he rubbed at his eyes.
“Look what Daddy got Mommy,” Chloe told him, showing him the ring on her finger. Luke furrowed his brow and rubbed at his hair as he stared at it.
“That’s nice,” he finally muttered, collapsing back down on the couch, his eyes falling shut.
Micah laughed as he shook the boy again. When Luke finally opened his eyes again, Micah explained, “We’re getting married, little buddy. Mommy and Daddy are getting married.”
Luke sat bolt upright at those words, his eyes growing as wide as saucers. “Seriously?” he asked. Chloe and Micah nodded. “Yes!” Luke cheered as he leapt from the couch. “This. Is. Awesome! Are we all moving into Daddy’s apartment? Or will we get a house? Do I need to pack right now? Will Lincoln call you Daddy now too? Awesome, awesome, awesome!”
Chloe and Micah laughed as they watched Luke run circles around the room. Getting him back to bed proved to be impossible, so Chloe and Micah both changed out of their fancy clothes and cuddled up with both boys on the couch to watch Star Wars: A New Hope. Amazingly, Lincoln only woke up long enough to mutter unintelligibly and then curl into a ball on Micah’s lap.
They woke up like that the next morning, Chloe in the crook of Micah’s arm with Luke’s head in her lap, and Lincoln splayed across Micah’s chest.
Her engagement ring sparkled in the light of dawn.
Eight weeks later, Chloe is standing in front of the sanctuary doors of Community Fellowship, dressed in a form fitting, white lace gown. Her hair is in a low bun, a simple veil tucked into it. Luke is clutching her right arm, bounding on his heels, and her left hand clutches her simple bouquet of pink roses. In some ways, it’s hard to believe they pulled this off in only eight weeks.
In other ways, it had been the longest eight weeks of her life.
Of course, when your fiancée, his brother, and your two cousins run a catering and event business, pulling off a last minute wedding is nothing. And Micah’s dad being a pastor meant they had no trouble reserving the church – for free. On Valentine’s Day.
Yes, it is Valentine’s Day. If someone had told Chloe even a year ago that she would be marrying Micah today, she would have laughed. She laughs now, thinking about her phone call to Micah a year ago exactly and how she mistakenly thought he was dating someone else.
“What’s so funny, Mommy?” Luke asks.
Chloe shakes her head, “Nothing kid, I’m just happy, that’s all.”
Luke grins broadly, revealing the two front baby teeth he recently lost. “Me too, Mommy.”
The first notes of the song “God Bless the Broken Road” by Rascall Flatts begins to play from inside the sanctuary. It’s their cue. With a deep breath, Chloe pulls the doors open and steps inside. As she walks down the aisle, every word of the song rings true for the journey that brought them here. She is torn between locking her eyes with Micah’s at the end of the aisle to looking down at their son, who looks happier than she’s ever seen him. As for Micah, his grin threatens to split his face, and his eyes are filled with so much tender awe, that it almost makes her start crying already.
The song ends as they reach the front, and she can’t tear her eyes from Micah’s. Pastor Ryan, who is officiating, opens by asking, “Who gives this woman to be wed to this man?”
“I do!” Luke shouts enthusiastically, shoving his hand up in the air. Everyone chuckles at his exuberance. Luke then turns to point to Lincoln. The three year old was the ring-bearer and he’s currently attempting to share Elizabeth Barrett’s lap with the flower girl, Josiah and Kate’s little girl Haley. “And my brother, too. We’re both excited for Mommy and Daddy to get married.”
The congregation laughs again, especially when Luke fist bumps his father before going to join the rest of the family on the front row. Once it has died down, Ryan glances at the couple mischievously before beginning the homily.
“Well, I think all of us here at Community Fellowship would agree on one thing: It’s about time!” Ryan’s opening is greeted not only with laughter, but even a few amens. Behind Micah, Josiah shoves him teasingly in the shoulder. Chloe glances back to see Maggie giving her a smug look.
“I also think,” Ryan continues, “that we all got a little tired of watching these two date while swearing they weren’t.”
Micah rolls his eyes at Ryan, but his smile shows that the ribbing doesn’t really bother him. As for Chloe, she can’t seem to wipe the stupid smile off her face. Ryan wraps up his short message, then tells Micah to share his vows. Chloe turns and gives her bouquet to Maggie and almost loses it when she sees Kate and Hannah wiping at their tears. She takes a deep breath as she turns to Micah and takes his hands in hers. She anchors herself in his bright blue eyes.
“First, Chloe,” he begins, “I have to say that I don’t deserve you –“
“Stop,” Chloe breaks him off with a hand to his lips. She blushes as she glances at Ryan. “Sorry, I just can’t let him say that.” She looks back at her groom. “Micah Barrett, you are a good man, and I am honored to become your wife.”
Micah smiles as her fingers slip from his lips, and he quirks a brow at her. “I thought I was the one saying my vows right now.”
Chloe ducks her head, blushing slightly as the congregation laughs once more. Kilian releases one of her hands and grasps her chin gently. He tilts her face to look at him, and he says his vows while his thumb ghosts along her jaw.
“Chloe, I think we have an advantage over some newlyweds. We already know that neither of us is perfect. And we understand that we don’t have to be. We choose to see the best in each other, and I vow to keep doing that every day for the rest of my life. It always amazes me how you can’t see how big your heart is. The way you forgive. The way you never give up on people. And I vow today to make it my job to cherish you. With my words and my deeds. Forever and always.”
Chloe can hear several people sniffling in the audience when Micah finishes, but for some reason a calm has settled over her. Micah’s gaze is like a peaceful place in the storm. She grasps the hand that still cups her cheek and kisses it before clutching both his hands firmly in hers.
“Micah, if I’m being honest, I’ve longed for this day since I was 19 years old. Then I thought I had to put that dream aside. But look what God has done. Using our son to bring us back together.” Her voice falters for a moment, her tears threatening to spill over. Micah gives her a tiny nod of encouragement. “And so I choose today to look forward, not behind. When we were young, we were lovers. Now we’re best friends. And today my vow is to take it one step further: to be your soulmate. Your partner in all things. Forever and always.”
Her tears are slipping down her cheeks now, but she doesn’t care. Micah reaches out and catches one with his thumb. The rest of the service goes by in a blur, from the exchanging of rings to Kate and Hannah’s duet. Then Ryan is giving them a knowing grin.
“I am blessed and honored, in front of all these witnesses, to now pronounce you husband and wife. What God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”
There is a long pause, and finally they both glance curiously at Ryan. For Micah, it’s more of a glare.
“Oh, did I forget something?” Ryan asks, feigning ignorance. Once he’s gotten sufficient laughter from the crowd, he smiles and says, “That’s right. I forgot. You may kiss the bride!”
Chloe surprises Micah by pouncing first, grabbing him by the lapels of his tux and hauling him in. He catches up quickly, though, kissing her back with fervor that elicits hoots from the crowd. He then dips her dramatically. He holds her close as he sets her back on her feet, and whispers for only Chloe to hear.
“What was that you said years ago about not feeling comfortable making out in church?”
Chloe leans back to see the cocky, slightly rebellious smirk of a smart-ass pastor’s kid. She then pulls in close and whispers back, “You’re my husband now, making out with you is considered holy.”
Micah waggles his eyebrows. “As a PK, I can confirm that your opinion is scripturally and theologically sound.”
Chloe rolls her eyes and kisses him again for good measure, thrilling slightly at the teasing reprimands from the rest of the family. They’ll just have to get used to it. Because forever and always is a very long time.
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.