A Thousand Kisses

Part 12

By: Girl Bard

Disclaimer:Please see part 1. Enjoy!

    Journal Entry:
New Year's Eve, 2000

The year 2001 is upon us, and so much has changed. I can't believe it has been one half of one year since I moved to Massachusetts. I love my life now and I'm madly in love. Life is good and I am thankful for every day.
I will miss my sister and uncle. I am eternally grateful for Jaden arranging their surprise visit. I was shocked to hear she called Debbie herself and pleaded for her to allow Lydia to visit.
Why my mother agreed, I will never know. Part of me would like to believe that it is the first bridge erected to improve our relationship. But I'm sure it was just skillful negotiation on the part of Jaden and my uncle.
Stranger things have happened, I guess. Regardless, it was the most wonderful Christmas I've ever experienced. And I feel the same about the oncoming New Year. Jaden and I are going to a gay club with Kim and Stacey, always a fun time. We're all going to meet up for dinner with Val and Steele, who have been dating since Val has been in town for the holidays.
And then, in just a few short weeks, I will be starting at Pressman. I've gotten all of my loans approved and sorted out, and I registered for classes already. I'm in a few with Kim and they accepted the majority of my transfer credits, allowing me to graduate in three semesters along with Kim and Stacey. I'm going to have to work and study my butt off, but it will be worth it.
Funny how a life can be changed in a moment. From the minute I saw Jaden, nothing has been the same.
I have to go and get changed. There is some serious partying to be done tonight.

I'm giggling like an idiot, my hand still on the doorknob to the broom closet. Shutting my eyes briefly in order to stop the room from spinning, I clutch the door in order to remain standing upright. I never should have told them I was okay to come in here by myself, I can't even find the door back out to the club.
This makes me laugh harder, and it takes every last sober strand in my system to not fall onto the floor in hysterics.
"Grace?" Kim's voice calls and I whip my head around gratefully. "What in the hell are you doing?" She questions as she takes my arm gently and leads me out the door.
"I couldn't find my way out." I tell her, focusing on her pretty face. "Where's Jaden?"
"Talking to some hot girl at the bar." Kim responds. My mouth drops open and I start to run back to where I left her. Laughing behind me, Kim pulls me to a stop.
"Calm down, she's with Stacey waiting for you."
I glare at her, or at least try too, a difficult feat when I am seeing double. "Not funny."
"I'm sorry." She amends as she grabs my hand and leads me back to our table. Setting me down unceremoniously on my chair she remarks to Stacey and Jaden. "Look who I found staring at the bathroom closet. She couldn't find her way out."
I shrug, kind of embarrassed.
Jaden smiles at me, the effects of her many drinks showing as she has difficulty looking in my eyes. "Are you okay? I wanted to come and find you."
Wow, I think she's drunker than I am. "I'm okay." I respond, patting her hand. Kim rolls her eyes.
"Normally I'd say something rude about Grace being able to go to the bathroom by herself, but after what I saw, I don't think that's the case." She says wickedly, her eyes twinkling.
I try to stick my tongue out at her but can't remember how. I give her the finger instead and our table howls with laughter.
"Hey, let's dance, it's the last song before midnight." Kim orders and we clear our table and head for the dance floor.
The song is fast and sexual and my completely uninhibited state allows me to freely bump and grind with Jaden. I'm glad we decided to come to the club; it feels good to cut loose.
    My senses are on overload with the feel of Jaden's body touching mine and the loud, throbbing music of the club. I feel Jaden's warm breath on my neck and her mouth nip lightly at my skin.
    I groan, feeling as if she could ravish me right here in front of everyone and I wouldn't even care. Just then the countdown begins and we clasp hands, grinning at each other brightly.
    The crowd chants and practically screams out the last three seconds.
    "1! HAPPY NEW YEAR!!"
    Everyone is kissing, myself and Jaden included. Her tongue brushes gently across mine and I entwine my hands in her long hair. We kiss for what seems like an eternity, and break apart breathless.
    The DJ has put on Pink's "Get the Party Started" and the entire club is going crazy. Jaden and I just stare at each other, our faces flushed from the effects of our kiss and the alcohol.
    "Marry me!" Jaden shouts and I narrow my eyes.
    "What?" I ask, thinking I didn't hear her correctly.
    "I said, marry me!" She repeats and I stare at her in shock. "Come on, I know I've already kind of proposed, but let's do it. I love you, Gracie! I want to spend the rest of my life with you. Marry me now, on Valentine's Day!" Her bright blue eyes are so hopeful and when I look at her I can think of no other answer.
    "Okay!" I tell her and she pulls me into her arms.

    New Year's Day, 2001

    Stretching slowly, I open my eyes to see Grace curled up around me, her fair head resting on my shoulder. She is soundly asleep, her lips pursed as if in thought.
    I smile in reflex, my arms automatically circling her warm body. She doesn't stir in my embrace and continues to take deep and even breaths.
    Happy New Year indeed. My mind wraps itself around the events of last night. We were all so wasted, and had the foresight to take the train to the club so no one had to drive. After Grace and I announced our wedding date to Kim and Stacey, Kim told the DJ who made a big deal out of it. It was pretty funny, even though I don't like that much attention being drawn to myself at any given time. But Grace was ecstatic, and that is all that matters.
    We've definitely got our work cut out for us. Valentine's Day is one of the busiest times of year for a wedding, so we need to start planning like crazy. I'm hoping for a small and intimate affair with just our closest family and friends. Maybe we could plan to have it at the beach, but it would probably be too cold.
    We can figure it out. Grace is going to be so beautiful. I wonder what she'll want to wear. Hell, I wonder what she'll want me to wear. I'll have to ask Diana for wedding tips, their wedding was really beautiful. Diana and I just became really good friends before the wedding and I was fortunate enough to get invited. It was so pretty and they did everything with good taste.
    I rub my aching temples. I never get hangovers, but both Grace and myself were really drunk last night. No wonder I have a headache, and I know as soon as I get up and get moving I will be okay.
    I carefully extract myself from Grace's arms, smiling when she pouts in her sleep and rolls over. Throwing on a pair of sweats and a warm hooded sweatshirt I head out into the kitchen, yawning all the way.
    Only a few minutes pass before I am out, trotting down the street with the two dogs pulling anxiously in front of me. I found this really great wooded trail close to our apartment where I can let them off leash. They have a great time chasing birds and squirrels while I get my own run in. It's more challenging than jogging on the street because of the hilly terrain and a lot more fun.
    During my exercise, I start mulling over possible wedding locations. I don't want to have it anywhere like a hotel or anything. I want it to be somewhere special for the both of us.
    I think it would be really grand to have it in Grace's uncle's bar, where we first met. But I really want our friends to be there and I can't ask everyone to fly to Ohio. So I guess that is out.
    We could always have it at our apartment. I mean, it's kind of small, but we don't exactly need that many people to come. It's not like we have a huge plethora of friends and family, I imagine the list wouldn't top out above fifty. But still, that would make it really crowded.
    I don't know how comfortable Grace would be having it in a church; I know that I haven't gone since I was a kid. I really don't have any set religious belief, and I don't even know if we want a priest or minister to do the ceremony.
    These are things I have to figure out with Grace. My most important obstacle is making sure I don't have to work, and finding somewhere where we can take a quick honeymoon. Grace will be in her first semester at Pressman and won't be able to take a long time off. But we'll make do.
    Smiling, I whistle to the dogs who are busy digging a large hole and pick up my pace. The thought of being home when Grace wakes up drives me like a blur through the woods.


    "Gross." I mutter to myself as my eyes crank open. My mouth tastes disgusting and I feel like I have a thick film over my teeth. Not to mention the fact that I smell like smoke from the club and my stomach is doing the can-can.
    I hate being hung over. I really really hate it.
    I don't even have to glance around for Jaden, the apartment is quiet, meaning she took the dogs out for their morning run. I don't know how she does it, she drank way more than I did last night and she won't feel a thing.
    Good thing I love her to pieces, or I'd be really jealous.
    Sighing, I force myself out of bed. My bladder lets me know just how much I drank last night and the urge to relieve myself overtakes my aching body's desire just to go back to sleep.
    And I really want to shower so I don't feel like a piece of trash anymore.

    I adjust the water to a warm temperature and step in. It's really amazing how refreshing a hot shower can be, especially when you feel disgusting.
    Languidly, I wash my hair and feel the effects of the alcohol slowly dissipate. I stand under the water for what seems like an eternity, a smile forming on my lips as I remember how sexy Jaden was dancing last night.
    My eyes suddenly pop open and I wince as the shampoo stings them. Cursing, I rinse them off, my mind wrapping around the thought that just slapped me upside the head.
    She wants to get married on Valentine's Day. That's like a month and a half away. My stomach clenches in panic and I struggle to take a breath.
    Did she know what she was doing? Jaden was really drunk last night, how do I know it wasn't just an effect from the alcohol? What if she just got caught up in the excitement and blurted it out and the reason she wasn't here this morning is because she doesn't know how to face me now?
    I try to think rationally, I really do. Jaden never says something she doesn't mean, that just isn't her style. And regardless of how drunk she was, she was more sober than the rest of us. She didn't get stuck in the bathroom staring at a broom closet for Christ's sake. So I think I'm just jumping to conclusions.
    And Jaden's hardly ever here when I wake up, she's an early riser and is usually gone with the dogs. So I highly doubt she's trying to avoid me.
    Despite my rational reasonings, I'm still unconvinced. Maybe I just won't say anything to her about it and wait for her to bring it up first.
    I know that's unhealthy. Cheryl would tell me that I'm letting my fear and past hurts take over to allow me to avoid the situation rather than face it.
    "Want some company?" Jaden's silken voice startles me as she opens the door to the bathroom and slips in the shower.
    "Always." I answer, relieved to have her here despite my mixed emotions. I turn to face her, wrapping my arms securely around her slender waist.
    "Morning." She says, kissing my wet skin. "How do you feel?"
    I gaze up into her clear blue eyes. They are bright and filled with little flecks of happiness, revealing no regrets about the previous night. Of course, maybe she doesn't even remember it.
    "Okay." I answer, ducking my head into her shoulder. "Better now that you're here."
    She responds by hugging me tight against her, humming with approval as my hands caress her bare skin.


Grace and I work as a team, cooking breakfast in silence. She's gotten pretty adept at teaching me how to prepare some meals, and I have to admit I enjoy cooking.
But there seems to be tension between us this morning, Grace has been kind of aloof since her shower. I'm not really sure what the problem is, but I have a sinking feeling it's because of last night.
What if I'm rushing her into things? I know she wants to have a ceremony with me, that I would never dispute. But it's possible that she could suddenly realize she has too much on her plate at the moment and cannot commit to having a wedding.
I want to forget the entire thing. I mean, I don't, but I will if she wants to. The intelligent thing to do would be to talk about it and come to an agreement. But I'm a pathetic baby who can't think about bringing it up.
"Why don't you sit down, Spots. I'll finish this up and bring it to you." Grace tells me, her voice subdued.
I pour myself a glass of juice and sit at our small table. While I'm waiting for her to join me I pull on my boots and tie my long hair back with an elastic. It blows goats that I have to work a long shift today, but at least I got last night off.
They gave me a break at the station because I've worked every New Year's Eve since I joined. I never really had anything better to do, but being in the Common on horseback in the freezing night air isn't that much fun. Especially when it is filled to the gills with drunken people looking at the ice sculptures.
    Today should be okay, mostly just overseeing clean up and making sure the people passed out around the city get home okay.
    Grace puts the finishing touches on breakfast and sets it down, taking her seat next to mine.
     "Thanks, this looks wonderful. I'm famished after last night." I tell her as I pick up a large piece of egg and scoop it onto my toast.
    "You helped." Grace remarks, smiling. "I didn't do it all myself." She begins tentatively eating and I know there is something wrong. I haven't seen her eat like this since having dinner with her psycho-host beast psuedo-mother Debbie.
    "Do you feel okay? I can stay home with you if you want, someone could probably cover for me." I ask as I take her hand in mine. She feels cold to the touch and she's shaking.
    "I'm fine, just tired I guess." She responds quietly, avoiding my eyes.
    Okay, there is definitely something wrong here. It could be a few things, but at the top of the list lays the wedding.
    She doesn't want to do it and she doesn't know how to tell me.
    Grace has changed her mind.
    Feeling nauseous, I push away the remains of my breakfast. I need to get out of here. I stand up quickly, my chair scraping the tile floor.
    "Call me if you need me. I'm going to be patrolling all day today, but someone at the station will page me." I remark to Grace as I grab my coat and race out the door.
    Starting my Explorer, I peel out of the driveway and race to work. Funny, since Grace moved in I've been racing home from work, desperate to be with her as much as possible.
    Now, the only thing that will clear my mind is the winter wind against my face. I can't wait to get to the station and just escape from this entire morning.
    Through the drive, I berate myself. Why in the hell did I have to fuck everything up? Things were going to perfectly between Grace and myself and I just had to blow it by opening my big mouth and pressuring her.
    She has so much to deal with right now; I just should have waited for her to bring it up. She'll probably leave me. I'll come home tonight to an empty apartment.
    And I should.
    It's what I deserve.


    Curling up in a ball, I pull the covers around my head. Maybe if I stay here long enough, I'll fall asleep and realize this morning was just a dream.
    Oh to be so lucky.
    I think I did some serious damage here. I took the one thing Jaden is really sensitive about and used it to hurt her. I know I didn't do it on purpose, but I'm appalled at how I let my own fears in turn destroy her.
    What do I do? I can't call her at work today; she made it clear that she wasn't going to be at the station all day. And I can't picture her wanting to have a heart-to-heart over dispatch.
    Oh Goddess, what if she doesn't come home tonight? What if she thinks that I'm rejecting her and she just vanishes for a while? She's going to run from me and I don't know how to stop this.
    Forcing my eyes shut, I lay in self-pity for a few moments. I try to wrap my brain around what just happened rationally but all I can see is the self-torturing look in Jaden's eyes as she bolted for the door.
    She really thinks I don't love or want her. Good Goddess, how could I do that to her?
    Self-hatred boils inside of me and I grit me teeth in anger. I don't deserve her. She is too wonderful of a person and I continually hurt her with my nagging self-doubts and fears. I don't know how to convince her otherwise.
    Reaching for the phone, I dial Diana's number by memory. I need help here, and Di is her closest friend.
    "Hi Jaden or Pixie-head." Kasey answers the phone and I smile.
    "How did you know it was me, Kasey-girl?" I question and she giggles.
    "Caller id. Here's mama." She responds and I can't help but laugh.
    "Hey Jaden." Diana greets me.
    "Wrong Jaden." I correct her, smiling.
    "Grace! Happy New Year." Her bubbly voice is infectious.
    "Thanks, you too. How are you? How's Joe?"
    "Driving me nuts. What's up?" She answers.
    "I need some help. I really messed-up big time with Jaden today." I confess, feeling guilty.
    "I need to get out of the house for awhile. I'll stop over in a few." She says and I thank her gratefully.

    "So you did fuck up, huh?" Diana muses after I spill the story. I shake my head glumly.
    "What do I do? You know Jaden as well as I do. How can I fix this?" I ask desolately.
    She laughs. "Grace, I don't know Jaden half as much as you do. We've been friends for years, and sometimes I feel as if she's a stranger. You're the only one who can fix this. What do you think she needs?"
    I shrug. "To know that she has my undying love and commitment forever."
    "Exactly." Diana says, tipping her bottle of water toward me. "And how do you give that to her?"
    Clueless, I look at her. "I don't know."
    "Yes you do." She says confidently. "Come on, Grace! Jaden has done nothing but commit to you since you moved here. She was the one who asked you to spend the rest of your life with her, hell; she even had you get a dog together! She is serious about your relationship and scared as hell that you're not. You have to show her you are."
    "How?" I ask, throwing my hands up in the air. "This is all new to me, the only relationship I've ever been in is with a guy my parents betrothed me too! I have no experience on how to do this on my own."
    "I know." Diana says, her voice sympathetic. "Jaden needs to know that you want her as much as she wants you. So when she comes home tonight, you need to be on your knees in front of her professing your undying love."
    "But what if she's gotten freaked and bolted. What if she doesn't come home?" I question, insanely worried about her.
    "She will. That, I can do for you, okay? Listen, I'll call the station and talk to her, let her know that you're upset and want to talk to her. She's probably told dispatch to ignore your calls unless they are an emergency. She's upset, probably worried sick, and is trying to shut you out."
    "Do you think you can get through to her?"
    Diana smiles confidently. "Absolutely."


    I rub my nose with the back of my glove for the hundredth time. It's really freezing out here, and the smell of wet horsehair doesn't improve my mood any.
    Regardless, I pat my trusted mount, Robbie. He's a nice horse, a mixture of some draft and a lighter breed. He's been my mounted partner since Studley retired, and he's a good and solid horse.
    But he still stinks in this weather.
    Clucking to him, I gently squeeze my calves and am rewarded when he starts a slow pace down the street. We amble our way back to the station and I am grateful to at least be doing something, anything, which allows me to take my mind off Grace.
    Not that it's working.
    My radio suddenly becomes alive, the voice of Kara at dispatch calling me.
    "Phillips." I answer, patting Robbie again when he keeps meandering purposefully down the street even though I'm not directing him. He's a nice boy.
    "Diana on the line for you."
    I sigh, wondering if she's spoken with Grace. She must have or she wouldn't be calling me.
    "Okay." I tell Kara and I hear her switch my radio over.
    "Hey Di." I greet her neutrally.
    "Hi, you guys want to do dinner tomorrow night? I thought we'd do Chinese and Kasey's been dying to show you her lost tooth."
    "Um, I'll be there. Let me check with Grace though." I answer.
    "She already said okay. I was over your place all morning." Di answers, and I know I'm in trouble.
    "Oh?" I ask, trying to sound nonchalant.
    "Yeah, seems you ran out of the house like your tail was on fire this morning." Diana says and I feel suddenly angry at her intrusion.
    "Leave it alone." I growl. "This is not the time or the place for this, and besides, I know what I need to know."
    "So stubborn." Di chastises me. "Besides, you don't know anything. Go home Jaden, turn your brain off for once and listen to the girl."
    I sigh again.
    "I have to go, Kasey is trying to put make-up on Joe, who is still on crutches. I could kill his mother for getting her that beauty set for Christmas." Diana groans as she hangs up the phone.
    I can't help but chuckle at the thought of poor Joe helpless against Kasey's attacks.
    My thoughts are quickly sobered by Diana's words. She wouldn't lie to me, and if she was with Grace this morning, maybe things aren't as they seem. Or, maybe Di is just trying to have us work things out because she and Grace really like each other.
    Regardless, I still have an hour of my patrol. But suddenly, instead of dreading the end of my shift, I am looking forward to it.
    "Come on, Rob, let's get moving." I call to him and his large, heavy feet pick up into a careful trot on the wet concrete.
    I post with his rhythm, my heart racing with the anticipation of seeing Grace again.

    The apartment looks quiet, the flickering of candlelight visible through the windows. Sighing, I turn off the Explorer and walk my weary body up the stairs to our door.
    After spending eight hours on horseback in freezing rain, I feel like crap. I want a nice warm shower and a cup of hot chocolate and to lie in front of the fire with my Gracie.
    But I don't think that's going to happen. Instead, she is probably going to tell me that she's tired of me and doesn't want to be with me, the wedding proposal was stupid, and she's leaving.
    I know I'm being negative. Sometimes seeing things in the worst possible light makes whatever happens instead seem okay. According to Miranda, it's a defense mechanism I've been using since I was a child. It's easier for me to anticipate the worst so no matter what really happens; it's not as bad as I expected. Pretty fucked up, I know.
    My hands fumble and shake in the lock as I open the door. No dogs greet me, and there is no sign of Grace.
    She's gone? My heart almost bursts with agony until I hear a noise from the bedroom.
    Instinctually, I know it is Grace. I pause to remove my boots and coat and as I make my way to the bedroom I self-consciously undo my hair from its ponytail and run a hand through it, trying to put it in some semblance of order.
    The bedroom is filled with candlelight, and I spy Bean and Bella obediently lying in their beds, next to ours.
    My eyes find their way to Grace, who is sitting cross-legged on our bed, wearing a creamy nightgown and holding her guitar. She has the sweetest smile on her face, and before I can do anything, she begins to softly play and sing.

"At last, my love has come along
my lonely days over
and life is like a song.

At last, the skies above are blue
well my heart was wrapped up in clover
the night I looked at you.

I found a dream
that I could speak to
a dream that I could call my own
I found a thrill
to press my cheek to
a thrill that I have never known

You smile
oh and then the spell was cast
and here we are in heaven
for you are mine at last."

I am stunned speechless, and I stand in front of her with my mouth hanging open.

Grace looks at me shyly, putting down her guitar and crossing over to where I stand. She reaches her hand up to brush my rain-dampened hair back from my face.
    "I love you." She tells me earnestly. "Please always believe that." Gracie gently tilts my head down to meet hers and brushes my lips with the faintest of kisses. "Nothing would please me more than to marry you on Valentine's Day."
    My eyes close with joy as I bring her into my arms. Holding her close to me my senses are overwhelmed with everything that she is, the feel of her, her scent, her entire soul.
    We must stand like this for hours, because when we finally break apart, my body is stiff and sore. Grace's eyes are the color of the warmest Irish spring and sparkling tears overflow onto her cheeks.
    "I didn't know you could sing." I tell her, finally finding my voice.
    She shrugs self-depreciatingly. "I've never done it for anyone before."
    "Thank you. It was beautiful." I tell her honestly. "Etta James, huh?"
    Gracie smiles not only with her mouth, but her eyes as well. "It was the only song that really fit how I feel." She purses her lips in thought. "I think that should be our song at the wedding, you know, the one we dance to."
    I smile so wide it makes my face hurt. "Yeah."
    We look at each other, and something so profound and deep passes through us that it makes me shiver. All my doubts, all my insecurities, suddenly vanish and all I can see is my everything standing in front of me.
"Come on, Spots. I need to get you into bed." Grace tells me softly, taking my
hand and leading me to the soft mattress. "And then we have a wedding to plan."
    I am home.
      At last.

The End!
Don't worry, the lives of Jaden and Grace will be continued in their next story, titled: "At Last." Thank you to my wonderful beta readers and fans of the series. You are all the reason I keep writing.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope it brings laughter and happiness to you all.

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