“I don’t feel like I’ve lost all the baby weight.” Elizabeth turned the side and studied herself in the mirror against the back of her bedroom door.
“Who’s a big girl?” Emily cooed, ticking Stephanie’s stomach. Stephanie kicked her arms and legs up at her honorary aunt and giggled. “Elizabeth, it’s just dinner and it’s just my brother. He wouldn’t care if you were wearing a paper sack.”
“It’s the first time we’ve done anything without Stephanie.” Elizabeth tugged at the waistline of her jeans. “It’s been five months and I’m still two sizes from where I was before.”
“Ugh, so you’re a two and not a zero. You make me sick,” Emily grumbled. She sat up and pulled Stephanie into her arms. “She’s five months old and this is the first time you’ve let me baby-sit. I’m so excited.”
“What about this shirt?” Elizabeth modeled a green tank top. “I’ve got a sweater in this shade. I didn’t ask where we were going–”
“Oh, no, no, no, no.” Emily stood and handed Stephanie to Elizabeth before moving to the closet. She slid shirt after shirt aside until she removed a black crop top complete with a low V-neck. “This with those jeans.”
“Where did that come from?” Elizabeth asked suspiciously.
“The closet fairy,” Emily said in a sing song voice with a wink. “Early Christmas present.” They traded. Emily took the baby back and Elizabeth slipped into the top. “Perfect.”
“I thought it didn’t matter,” Elizabeth teased.
“Well, if you look sexy, you’ll feel sexy and perhaps that’ll translate…” Emily trailed off and wiggled her eyebrows.
“Don’t say sex in front of my daughter,” Elizabeth chastised. She adjusted the top and slid into a pair of black boots. “What if he’s not thinking of this as a date?” she asked softly. She sank onto the bed. “What if I’m reading this all wrong?”
“You’re not. Look, you and Jason have been inseparable for months. And since this angel was born? It’s like this warped family. Seriously, I was in Kelly’s the other day–you remember when we all met for lunch?”
“Thursday right? Stephanie spit her applesauce all over poor Nikolas.”
“Yeah, after the three of you left, one of the new waitresses who didn’t know…said that you two made the cutest couple and it was so nice to see a father who loved his kid so much.”
“So…other people think so. But what does Jason think?” Elizabeth shook her head. “No, I promised myself I wouldn’t overanalyze this.” She stood back up and moved over to her dresser to reapply her eyeliner.
The doorbell rang and Elizabeth set the eyeliner down. “You’ve got both of our cell numbers right?”
“Yes.” Emily trailed after Elizabeth towards the living room. Elizabeth pulled open the door and smiled when she saw Jason standing there–also dressed in a black shirt, blue jeans, and black boots topped with his customary leather jacket.
Stephanie caught sight of her favorite person and reached for Jason. Without prompting or anything else, Jason took her from Emily and kissed her cheek. Stephanie giggled.
“I’ll get my coat.” Elizabeth kissed Stephanie’s cheek as Jason handed her back to Emily. She retrieved her leather coat and slid into it. “You sure you’re okay with watching her?”
“Yes,” Emily repeated rolling her eyes. “What are you guys doing tonight?”
“I don’t know.” Jason looked at Elizabeth. “I thought we’d just get something to eat, go for a ride?”
“Sounds great.” She slid her hand in to his and they left the apartment, Elizabeth looking back at the door longingly. “The only person who’s been alone with her is you, do you think I’m insane for wanting to just go back already?” she asked.
Jason punched the button for the elevator. “I felt like that with Michael. Robin was the only one I left him with at first. But then I let Emily baby-sit him and it got easier.”
“It’s not that I don’t trust her because I do, but…” Elizabeth shrugged. “But you know what I mean.”
The elevator doors pulled apart and he pulled into the car. “Yeah, I know.”
Elizabeth slid off the bike and yanked the helmet off. “That was just as much fun as I remember!” she yelled over the engine.
Jason grinned and turned the key, silencing the roar. “I can’t believe how long it’s been since the last time we took a ride.”
“Well, first we weren’t talking and then I was pregnant and then I was so busy with work…” Elizabeth shrugged it all off. She tilted her head up to the sky. “It’s nice to know that at least some things don’t change. The stars still look as close as ever.”
He put the kickstand down and swung his leg over the bike. “I can’t believe it’s almost Christmas Eve. Are you finished shopping for Stephanie?”
“Yeah, between me and Emily, we bought out Wyndham’s. She’s gonna need another room,” Elizabeth laughed. She took a deep breath. “So…why’d you suggest dinner without Stephanie tonight?”
“Well…” Jason rubbed the back of his neck. “Before she was born, we spent a lot of time together and got–I got really used to it, y’know? And we haven’t been able to be alone since…I love her, that’s not what I’m trying to say–”
“So you want to be alone with me, huh?” Elizabeth teased.
“You’re not mad?” he asked hesitantly.
“No.” Elizabeth stepped towards him. “I love my daughter, Jason and I know you love her but it’s nice–it’s nice that you want a relationship with me that’s separate from her.” She blinked. “Friendship, I mean.”
“No…you got it right the first time,” Jason confirmed. He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, trailing his fingers down her jawline. “This past year has been–it’s been one of the best of my life, you know? No expectations, no disappointments–it felt like…”
“Like when we first met?” Elizabeth finished softly.
“Sort of…but even different from that. It felt right. Being there every step of your pregnancy. First kick, the delivery, just being with you, talking to you…” he took a deep breath. “I guess what I’m trying to get around to is that…I love you, Elizabeth.”
Her heart stopped for a moment and then started pounding against her chest. “Tonight…when I was getting ready, I was talking to Emily about…if maybe I was hoping for too much…if maybe you weren’t looking at tonight the same way I was…” she sighed. “And now…Jason, you have no idea how incredible it is to hear those words from you. Because…I love you, too.”
He slid his hand to the base of her neck and tugged her mouth towards him, finally fulfilling a desire he’d had since the moment she’d kissed his cheek nearly five years ago. They’d kissed before but this time it felt different–felt better.
Felt promising. They weren’t kissing because she was angry at Lucky or because he was trying to push her away–but because she loved him and he loved her and this time…
They were going to get it right.