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Author's Chapter Notes:

Nick gets introduced to a Smith family tradition. A serious question is thrown around. 

Chapter 3 That’s What You Say Now

            The next day Nick and I woke up to our new routine. He had to go to practice for the upcoming tour and I was going back to work for the first time.

            I was the first to wake up and take my shower. I took a major step that morning though when I actually got dressed in front of Nick. I only did it because I thought he was still asleep. At least I had my back turned to him.

            “Nice ass Kay.”

            “Shit Nick I thought you were still asleep,” I said pulling up my panties then snapping on my bra.

            “I heard the shower start.”

            “You scared me.”

            “I’m sorry. But you do have a nice ass.”

            I chuckled, “Thanks.”

            “This is a big step for you babe. I’ve never seen your bare bottom before.”

            “I know you haven’t,” I answered continuing to get dressed.

            “I guess we have to take these steps before we take the giant leap.”

            He got up to hug me from behind.

            “I guess so,” I answered when he rested his chin on my shoulder.

            “But I’m fine with taking little steps. They always say good things happen to those who wait.”

            I smiled at him and he kissed my bare shoulder.

            He stripped out of his basketball shorts and his boxers before he went into the bathroom. I blushed a little as I glanced at his bare ass.

            I shook myself out of the little trance I was in and asked, “What do you want for breakfast?”

            He answered walking into the bathroom, “Surprise me.”

            “French toast it is then.”

            I threw on my shirt and headed for the kitchen.

            Before we went our separate ways we wished each other luck for the day and kissed each other bye.

            Oh did it feel so good to be back at work. I walked into the studio and a huge banner reading, “Welcome back Kalie! We all missed you! But we love you more!” hung right in my face when I walked in the door. My co-workers all screamed, “Welcome back!” when they saw me walk in the door. None of my students were there yet so they treated me to some doughnuts before my class arrived.

            Mark and I had a good half hour before our class of little kids arrived so we stretched and Mark went over the routines he was teaching. Then the six to eight year olds arrived. Boy, were they excited to see me! They all hugged me excitedly and couldn’t wait for their lesson.

            After my little kids my nine to eleven year olds arrived, then my twelve to fourteen year olds, and finally my teenagers 15-19. Mark had done a really good job teaching all of our students by himself but he needed the most help with the teenagers. Mark was relieved to have me back and so were my students.

            When the lesson was finished we sat in a circle like we did after every lesson and just talked. I did that with all of my classes. We would talk about the lesson we just completed or problems that the kids were having. Our little talks made the groups closer to each other. We became like little family groups. It felt good to be the person my students would come to if they had any problem. But this little talk was just about what went on when I was gone and how much everyone missed me.

“I am so happy you’re back Kalie!” Katie said.

            “I’m happy to be back!”

            “Don’t get me wrong Mark but we all agree that you should stick to teaching the guys and Kalie should stick to teaching the girls,” the oldest of the girls said.

            “Oh I totally agree,” Mark chuckled.

            “Although it was funny when you pretended to be a girl that one day,” my oldest female student laughed.

            “That was creepy!” the oldest boy exclaimed. “Especially because I had to dance with him! Kalie he even made the ‘girlie faces’ that you would usually make! It was just wrong!”

            “Oh please tell me someone got it on video!” I said looking around the circle.

            “Oh wait I forgot I have it on my phone!” Shannon whipped out her cell phone and passed it to me.

            I pressed the play button and I couldn’t help laughing as I watched Mark dance with Sampson.

            “This is hysterical!” I laughed so hard I started to tear.

            “Ok, ok. I get it I’m funny,” Mark started to blush.

            “Look at you Mr. Rosy Cheeks!” I said looking at my partner.

            He hid his face in his shirt then I hugged him when he came out of hiding.

            “I think you deserve the best instructor of the month award for that performance.”

            He just laughed, “If you say so Kayl. Well it’s time for you guys to go home. Our adult group is coming in a few minutes.”

            The teens each hugged me before they left and their parents who picked them up each welcomed me back.

            Katie was the last to leave, “I’ll see you for dinner tonight cousin.”

            “Oh that’s right I forgot its Smith Night. Nick and I will be there.”

            “Alright Kay we’ll see you tonight.”

            My family had an ongoing tradition of going to each other’s house once a month to have a game night and dinner. Each month we would go to a different house and each of my aunts or uncles or cousins or my own parents and siblings would have a chance to host Smith Night. My grandfather and his siblings started this tradition when they all settled in Florida, living close to each other. My dad and his brothers and sisters became a part of the tradition when they got houses of their own. Now a few of my cousins and my siblings were starting to open their houses for Smith Night. Soon it would be my turn to host Smith Night but I had to run it by Nick first.

            I got home before Nick did and I started making dessert for Smith Night.

            “What smells so good?!” Nick called when he walked through the front door.  

            “Cupcakes,” I replied.

            “Hello baby,” he said coming into the kitchen and kissing my forehead.

            “How was practice?”

            “It was ok. I don’t like dancing.”

            “I don’t believe that. You always loved to go to the dance club and should I remind you of my sweet 16?”

            “Yeah you’re right. But I don’t like learning the new moves. How was work today?”

            “It felt so good to be back in the studio. My co-workers all surprised me with doughnuts and that banner rolled up on the living room table. Then my classes started coming in and my god were my students happy to see me, especially the little kids.”

            “Awe! You look a lot happier too.”

            “I am. I really needed to get out of this house. Don’t get me wrong I loved spending all day with you but I didn’t know how many more days it would have taken me to snap. You know I don’t like being cooped up in a house all day.”

            “I know. So what special occasion are the cupcakes for?”

            “Smith Night.”

            “What’s that?”

            “It’s the Smith’s monthly game and dinner night. Every month we go to a different family member’s house and play games and have dinner and just have a good time. It lets the Smiths that live in Florida to have family time together. My grandfather and his siblings started the tradition when they all settled in this state. Tonight will be at Aunt Jewel’s and Uncle Kev’s house.”

            “Oh ok. Have fun babe.”

            “Nick you’re invited too.”

            “I am?”

            “Yeah boyfriends are welcome. Oh and I’m not sure but I think my name might be placed in the hat this year.”

            “What do you mean?”

            “Well every month a different family member gets the chance to host Smith Night. Once they get a house of their own their name gets placed into a hat and before everyone leaves to go home we draw a name to see where the next Smith Night is going to be held. We do the same thing to see who will be hosting holidays. Would it be ok if I open your house to Smith Night? If I do that would make this place the 12th house and someone else won’t have to double up on months. Is that ok with you?”

            “Honey this is your home now too. If you want to start hosting Smith Night here that’s perfectly fine.”

            “Thanks babe.”

            He went upstairs to take a shower and change into more presentable clothes and I waited for the cupcakes to bake. When he came back downstairs he helped me frost them and afterward we hit the road in his Cadillac.

            This was going to be Nick’s first time meeting all of my closest family members in one night and I was actually kind of scared of what they would think of him. I hadn’t introduced any of my pervious boyfriends to my family after that one incident at the Smith Family Reunion where Ryan made my grandfather angry.

            My entire family was very, very important to me and I wanted them to be truly happy for me and I wanted to make them proud. All of us cousins made a pact that if we were in love with someone we all had to meet this person and get each other’s approval. I had already broken that pact when Ryan and I were engaged and some of my cousins were a little angry but I was forgiven after what Ryan did to me. I was crossing my fingers that Nick would make the right first impression but what was I worrying about? He is Nick after all. He always made the right first impression and he never changed afterward. Why was I feeling like this?

            Well when it came down to the final test my family loved Nick. He was being treated like royalty by my aunts who kept his dinner and dessert plates constantly full and my uncles were having varied conversations with him throughout dinner. Also all my cousins loved him too and there were 20 of us there including Kim’s four year old Macy and Kyle’s two year old Karen and Kasey and Trish’s new born twins. We were playing different board and card games and Nick was being really good with my younger cousins and loved talking with the older ones. In total my aunt hosted a packed house of 45 people. It was a good thing my Aunt Jewel and Uncle Kevin moved into my grandparents’ house and out of their rundown apartment because there would have been no way they could have fit all of us. The Smith Family grew drastically over the years with most of us cousins getting married and most of them having kids, it seemed like it was the new trend in the Smith Family, getting married and starting a new family that is.

            Of course I was the only “of age” cousin that hadn’t gotten married yet and the one question all of my aunts were dying to ask me was, “When are you going to get married Kalie? You’re the only Smith child that is of age and still has a bare finger! Where’s the lucky guy that will be called your future husband?”

            “I don’t know where he is,” I answered after Aunt Jewel asked when all of my aunts and the older girl cousins moved into the kitchen to help clean up. “I don’t think he’s out there.”

            “What do you mean you don’t think he’s out there?!”

            “I don’t think I’m the marrying type. Not after Ryan.”

            “But Ryan is long gone honey there are plenty of fish in the sea.”

            “Well I’m not throwing out my hook Aunt Jewel.”

            “What about Nick? He seems to treat you very well and is great with kids. He’s also very, very polite. Is he a family man?”

            “Yeah he is but he doesn’t believe in marriage after his parents went through a nasty divorce and… I don’t like to talk about the future. I like living in the present with him right now,” I looked into the living room where Nick was playing guitar hero with Katie and a few of my other cousins closer to her age. They asked him to sing and at the end of the song he was making crazy noises with his voice making whoever was listening start to crack up. I smiled when he was giving my cousins high fives and telling them that they rocked when they received a new high score.  

            “Baby are you in love with him?” my mom asked. “I see the way you look at him and this is the happiest I have seen you in a long time.”

            “I am in love with him.”

            “Have you talked about your future together?” Aunt Jewel asked.

            “No we haven’t. But neither of us want to talk about our future. Like I said before I like living in the present with him and he is more than content with doing the same.”

            “Does he love you back? I mean really love you back?” my sister questioned.

            I looked at him again and he caught me. I smiled at him and he winked back then went back to the game of Uno he and my younger cousins started.

            I turned back to the Smith Ladies and said, “He does love me back. I could see it in eyes.”

            “Then why hasn’t he proposed yet?!” Aunt Jewel nearly screamed.

            “Aunt Jewel I already told you he doesn’t believe in marriage, not anymore anyway.”

            “Does he want kids? And do you want kids?” she asked.

            “I think he does and I know I do.”

            “But he doesn’t want to get married.”

            “He doesn’t believe in marriage.”

            “Well you better tell him to get a ring on your finger before he asks you for a kid.”

            “Aunt Jewel!” I started to laugh, “Nick and I are not going to get married.”

            “That’s what you say now. How many of you in the room want to make a bet that Nick will change his mind and our Kalie is going to be the one to change it?”

            Everyone except me raised their hands.

            “Sweetie if he doesn’t propose you better because you have a great guy in your reach. Don’t let him slip away.”

            “Thanks Aunt Jewel. And trust me I’m not going to let him get away but… I doubt I’m going to marry him.”           

            “What is it going to be a ‘life partnership’? What’s the fun in that? Besides you wouldn’t be able to show off a fancy engagement ring. God knows he’s got enough money to afford one.”

            “Aunt J, I don’t care about his money. I just care about him. And right now I’m happy that I’m his girlfriend and I’m content with being just his girlfriend.”

            “Alright Kay. If you say so but that’s what you say now.”

            Aunt Jewel and the rest of the Smith Ladies dropped the subject when we set up the dessert table. I made a plate for Nick and I to share and sat next to him on the floor as we watched a mini marathon of Laurel and Hardy, we always ended Smith Night that way.

            In the car home I couldn’t help but ask my boyfriend, “Do you want kids?”

            He was taken aback at first, “Where’d that question come from?”

            “I just saw how much fun you were having with my cousins and I couldn’t help but think about what a good father you would be.”

            “Well thanks for thinking that. I do want kids but not right now. Do you want kids?”

            “Yes but I’d rather be married first.”

            “Well I guess you won’t have my kids then,” he sounded somewhat disappointed.

            “Alright let’s stop talking about the future. Because I don’t know about you but I like living in the present.”

            “No I love living in the present with you.”

            That night I fell asleep thinking about what Aunt Jewel said about Nick and I getting married. Then I had a messed up dream.

            I dreamed of that horrible night when Ryan shot me. But in this dream I had actually slipped my dress on and Nick helped me zip it up. After he did he got down on one knee and proposed. I had just excitedly answered “Yes!” when Ryan flung open the door. He was in his full police uniform.

            Nick shot up to his feet and stood beside me.

            “Come on Kalie you have to get ready for our wedding.”

            “I’m not marrying you! You fucking cheated on me!”

            “I did no such thing. You were the one who cheated on me with him! But I have forgiven you and we are going to be married this afternoon.”

            Ryan walked defiantly toward me and grabbed my wrist, “Come on baby I’m taking you out of here.”

            “Over my dead body!” Nick ripped Ryan’s hand off of my wrist.

            Ryan simply smiled and replied, “That works for me.”

            He whipped out his gun and I screamed, “NO!”

            Ryan shot Nick right in the heart and my best friend fell to the ground.

            I ran to him and crouched over his lifeless body.

            “Nick! No! Nick! Nick! Wake up! Wake up! NICK!” I shouted and when there was no response I started pounding my fists onto his chest.

            “It’s no use he’s dead!” Ryan yelled. “That’s what you get for getting engaged to him, a dead best friend!” He came over to me and tried to pull me away from Nick.

            “NO!” I started to cry uncontrollably as I continued to beat his lifeless body trying to make him wake up.

            Then I felt someone lightly shake my shoulders and I heard a voice say, “Kalie, wake up. Kalie… baby wake up.”

            I stopped screaming and throwing my fists to open my eyes. I started breathing heavy and when my eyes focused in the dim light I found myself staring at my pillow. I looked to my shoulder and found Nick’s hand.

            “You must’ve had some nightmare baby. I heard you screaming from the guest room down stairs.”

            “Why were you in the guest room?”

            “I couldn’t sleep. You were tossing and turning all night. You even kicked me a few times.”

            “I’m sorry Nick.”

            “It’s alright. Now what made you scream so loud and beat the shit out of your pillow?”

            “Ryan came and shot you. You wouldn’t wake up.”

            He sat on the bed and wrapped his arms around me as tears started to escape my eyes.

            “Baby it was just a nightmare. I’m still here and Ryan is the one who is gone.”

            “But I still feel like he’s around. It’s like he’s haunting me!”

            Nick started to rock me gently back and forth. I buried my face into the crook of his neck and his arms tightened around my waist.

            He started singly softly in my ear,

“I could see in your eyes

Broken windows fallen skies

Kalie baby what you hiding from?

The light that followed you around

Lately nowhere to be found

Don’t you know that I’m your place to run?

You’ve been holding on so long

Tryin’ to make believe that nothing’s wrong

Not letting it show

And there ain’t nothing you could do

To make me turn away from you

I need you to know

That you can let go

Sifting through the shattered dreams

Living in the in-between

Kalie, babe it’s gunna be alright

When you’re lost, let down, disappointed

And jerked around in this cold, cold world

I will always be by your side

You’ve been holding on so long

Trying to make believe there’s nothing wrong

Not letting it show

There ain’t nothing you can do

To make me turn away from you

I need you to know

That you can let go

Don’t be afraid when you’re falling apart

Don’t hesitate I’ll be right where you

Open your eyes there’s a crack in the dark

You never let me see you cry

You locked it somewhere deep inside

Kalie baby let me hold you tight

I’ll make it alright

Kalie, baby gunna be alright

Cause I’m by your side

When the whole world turns against you

I won’t turn against you

Kalie, babe gunna be alright

Cause I’m by your side

When the whole world turns against you

You can let go.”

            His voice seemed to end my tears instantly. He kissed the side of my face and looked into my eyes when I lifted my head.

            “Don’t sleep down stairs. I really want you to hold me,” I whispered.

            “Don’t worry I’m right here. I’m not leaving. Just lie down and go back to sleep. Everything is going to be alright. I’m here now.”