The tension that had slowly come to settle over the Seward household was uncomfortable to say the least. Lily’s sunny attitude had once again been clouded over with a grey sadness, and Johnny had taken shelter in the garage from the impending storm of emotion with his trusty Skylark and a bottle of wax, the car getting shinier with each passing day. The longest fortnight in history had passed since their appointment, and in that time they’d bounced between avoiding the subject and obsessing over it, but nothing they could do or say relieved their grief. Lily had been trying her hardest to brush it off, to make a light acceptance of the fact that no children were coming their way any time soon, but it hovered like a dark cloud on her horizon, tainting her mood.
It was a sunny afternoon when it hit him. He’d just finished polishing the hubcaps for the fourth time and the idea tapped him on the shoulder gingerly as he set down the cloth. He was hesitant to address it at first, but it nudged him gently until he gave in and then it hit him like a meteorite. He would do anything for the beautiful woman he’d married, make any sacrifice he needed to, so this was no different. As he acknowledged his little epiphany, his excitement began to grow. With a smile spreading across his face, he burst out of the garage and raced across the garden to where his wife was sat on the swing chair with a glass of white wine. His sudden appearance startled her, and as she jumped she spilt a large drop of wine.
“Fuck, Johnny, look what I’ve done now. This is a precious commodity! Did something happen? Did you start a fire?”
“A fire? No. What? You think I’m that irresponsible?” he asked, watching her raise an eyebrow in reply. “Actually, don’t answer that. I came out to tell you I’m taking you to dinner tonight!”
“Ooh!” she exclaimed, a delighted smile blooming across her features at his impulsive gesture. “What’s the occasion?”
“No occasion,” he answered coolly, with a shrug. “Just because I love you.”
“You ran out here to tell me we’re going to dinner because you love me?” she asked with suspicion, sliding her sunglasses down her nose so she could look over them at him. “You wouldn’t even run for the bus, Jon. What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” he insisted, with a laugh of disbelief. “Can’t I just treat my beautiful, wonderful, amazing wife?”
“Now I’m really suspicious,” she giggled, “but okay. You can take me to dinner tonight.”
“My favourite couple,” Salvatore Moretti grinned as he approached them. They never even got to the podium to wait for a table because he would always descend on them as soon as they opened the door.
“Do you have a table?” Johnny asked, hopefully.
Salvatore laughed and began ushering them into a quiet corner, “For you, always. I get you drinks. The usual?”
“Thanks, Sal,” Lily beamed, as he slipped her coat from her shoulders before breezing away. She got comfortable at the table before leaning forwards on her elbows towards her husband. “So, are you going to tell me what’s going on?”
“Nothing,” he insisted, though the ensuing nervous laughter made for an unconvincing statement.
Lily giggled at his poor act and sat back, “I can read you like a book, Jonathan Seward, but I’ll play along for now. Now, onto more important things, what are you getting?”
With their stomachs full of pasta and a few glasses of red wine running through their veins, they bid Salvatore Moretti goodbye and pulled the door closed behind them. Johnny wrapped an arm around his wife and pulled her close, planting a kiss on her cheek.
“What do you say to a walk through the park?” he asked, lingering against her skin and breathing in the scent of her perfume.
He felt he cheek twitch as a smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “Okay, that’s it. Tell me what’s going on,” she demanded. “Last time you did this you asked me to marry you.”
“And you did marry me, so how about a little of that spousal trust?” he teased, ushering her forwards in the direction of their park.
“I’ve always adored this place in the evening,” Lily sighed as they approached the gates. “The light hits everything perfectly and it looks beautiful.”
“Just like you,” Johnny remarked, taking in the radiance of her features as the sunset painted them with golden hues.
She raised her eyebrows playfully but didn’t say anything, even though her curiosity and impatience were bouncing about in her mind and threatening to crash together in a spectacular collision.
They came to a familiar wooden bench, slightly set back into the greenery. To anyone else, it was simply a bench in the park, but to the couple approaching it, it held a thousand memories. It had seen a first date, a first kiss, a proposal and a handful of wedding photos, not to mention a hundred evenings just like this one. As soon as they sat down, Lily’s fingers wandered along the back of the top plank, expertly finding their way to the untidy, teenage carvings they’d made.
LH + JS <3
“Can you believe we’re still sat here together, all these years later?” she asked dreamily, her fingers tracing the letters.
Johnny took a deep breath, letting the nostalgia flow into his lungs and set his senses tingling. “You always say that, every time we come here,” he grinned, watching her tip her head back and close her eyes, enjoying the sunlight.
“I know,” she smiled, leaning into him.
He let the magic of the moment envelope him for a second before breaking the spell, “I’ve got something to tell you.”
She sprang away from him, her lips curling with delight, “I knew it! I knew you were up to something. Come on, tell me, tell me, tell me!”
He laughed at her boundless excitement, one of the many things that had pulled him into her when they’d first met. Clearing his throat nervously, he looked her in the eye, “I’ve got the money.”
“Huh?” she asked, her excitement replaced with confusion.
“For the IVF treatment,” he clarified, taking her hand up. “We can do it. We’re going to do it.”
“What?” she stuttered, dumbfounded by his big reveal. “What are you on about? Did you rob a bank or something?”
“Not exactly,” he chuckled, turning to face her properly. “I mean, I don’t have the money right now, but I’ll get it. I’m going to sell the Skylark.”
“What?” she repeated, a frown lining her forehead, “but you’ve spent months on it. You love that car.”
“I love you more, and I love the idea of our family more,” he smiled. “And besides, it’s not a practical car for a baby. We’re better off sticking to the Range Rover,” he added teasingly.
“Johnny, I don’t know what to say…” Lily trailed off, her frown deepening. “I can’t ask you to do that.”
“You’re not asking me,” he shrugged, pulling her into an embrace. “I want to do this. I’m doing it. I don’t care what you say, it’s happening.”
“But it must be worth-”
“I can get at least $15k,” Johnny interrupted, grabbing her shoulders impatiently. “Lily, listen to me. We can have IVF… We’re having a baby.”
Her eyes filled with tears as she wrapped her arms around him and squeezed, “I love you, you crazy dwarf.”
“You’re shorter than me,” he whispered into her hair as he gripped her back equally as tightly.
Their lips met as they deepened their embrace, and another memory was created on the bench that always had, and always would, belong to LH + JS <3