Feels Like Forever



Emilie rolls her eyes when Niall shifts in the passenger seat for the third time in less than twenty minutes. He’s been patient for most of the drive so far, but it is incredibly clear that his patience is reaching its end. She glances in the rear-view, finds Ryder asleep in his seat.

“Are we -“

“I swear, if you ask if we’re almost there, I will leave you on the side of the highway.”


Emilie sighs and checks to see if it’s clear to change lanes. “No, don’t be. I’m just crabby right now.”

“I told you to get something other than just coffee for breakfast,” he reminds her gently, laughing when all she does is give him a halfhearted glare.

Ten minutes later, Emilie comes to a stop outside the long, white house. The curtains shift in the front window, and she bites back a smile. Of course their arrival has been noticed. Niall stares through his window at the house, and Emilie frowns at how his hands start shaking slightly in his lap. She reaches over, rests her hand on his.

“Hey, deep breath. It’s gonna be okay.”

“I know.”

“You’ve met Mom and Daddy. They weren’t that bad, right? Well, there’s nothing to worry about with Mama. Most she might do is pester you into eating more than your belly can hold.” Her lips twitch when he catches her eye. “Trust?”

And god, saying that to Niall fills her with something she can’t describe. “Trust” has been a thing between her and Ryder since he learnt to talk - before, actually. So to include Niall in it... She wonders, as she stares at the man she fell in love with and always will be, why it’s taken so long for her to do it. She wonders why she’s taken so long for a lot of things when it comes to him.

His eyes widen infinitesimally, then he’s grinning, wide and bright. He leans over the centre console to brush a kiss to her lips, whispering, “Trust, forever and ever.”

Thoughts race like shadows in her mind; Emilie can’t catch hold of any of them, but they don’t scare her. They don’t hold the pain and doubts and fears from only a few days ago. They’re painted with promises, galaxies and discoveries floating in free-fall within her veins. They sing songs of praise and hope, worship of the man who has so effortlessly stolen her love and given her so much in return.

Paige throws open the front door as Niall and Emilie approach, Ryder held securely in his aunt’s arms. Thankfully, Paige is completely ready to accept a squirming, screeching toddler, so Emilie passes him off to his grandmother and turns to take the diaper bag from Niall. He follows her into the house, closing the door once he’s over the threshold.

Emilie sets the bag on the floor against the wall while sliding her flip-flops off her feet. Paige and Ryder have already disappeared into one of the bedrooms, most likely so the toddler can dig into the bin of toys that Paige keeps around for the grandchildren. Emilie cups Niall’s cheek, brushes a kiss to his lips, then moves away.

“Hey, Mama, I’m stealin’ a soda!” Emilie calls out as she makes her way to the kitchen.

“Okay, sweetheart. I’ll be out in a minute.”

“You want anything, babe?”

Niall shakes his head and stares around the living room, at the photographs that cover the walls. “I’m okay. This is Danielle?”

Emilie nods when she sees he’s examining the graduation photo of her stepsister. She grabs a Diet Pepsi from the fridge, pops the tab, and takes a drink so she doesn’t have to speak. She’d forgotten, in the excitement of seeing her Mama again, that the house would be full of reminders of the woman who abandoned her own child. Sighing, she sets the can on the table and moves to stand next to her boyfriend.

“Yep. That’s her before she fell so hard.”

“She looks happy.”

And Danielle does. The smile on her face is real, eyes clear and bright, and there are no signs of what was to come for that eighteen-year-old in only twenty short months. University certainly wasn’t a good time for Danielle, and it’s only lead to where she is now. Emilie swallows thickly then turns away from the photograph.

“Okay, Ryder’s playin’ in the other room, so come give me a hug.”

Paige’s embrace is just as warm as Emilie remembers it ever being. She melts into the strength and comfort, Comfort, smiling as something settles into place in her chest. She’s missed Paige so much, has relied on the woman throughout most of her life. The only downfall to living in LA is that she can’t just get in her car and drive for a couple of hours. Emilie is just thankful that today could happen.

“Oh, uh, this is Niall. Be nice to him, Mama. Niall, this is Paige.”

“It’s nice to finally meet you, Niall,” Paige says with a soft smile - and Emilie knows that her stepmother means it. “Emma and Ryder talk about you all the time.”

Niall grins and shakes Paige’s hand. “Same about you. I feel like I already know you.”

“I’m just sorry it’s taken us so long to meet in person. I really wanted to be there for Emma’s birthday.”

Emilie walks away to let them talk, to get to know each other without her encroaching. Ryder barely looks away from the Hot Wheels in front of him, and she sits on the floor next to him. He passes over a baby-blue Mustang and makes vrooming noises as he pushes the monster truck across the floor. This is the peace she's craved for so long, but the doubts are still here.

She wonders if he’s really, truly healed up from the separation or if he’s already learnt how to hide the pain he feels. He may not even be three yet, but Ryder has had so much heartbreak in his life already. Emilie is most proud of how loving and kind he is, though, even with everything he’s gone through.

Leaning over, she brushes her lips to his hair. “I love you, baby boy.”

“Love you rainbow.”

“Yep, that’s exactly right. Love you more than the rainbow.”

The rest of the day passes easily and quickly. Emilie spends another half-hour playing with the toddler, then goes back out to the living room to talk with her boyfriend and stepmother. Most of the conversation revolves around Niall and his career, his life before Emilie and Ryder came barrelling into it. Before he made Emilie fall so far in love with him, no one else will ever compare.

Ryder eventually gets bored of the toys and joins the adults with a book in hand, and Emilie can see the adoration on Paige’s face as the child climbs up into Niall’s lap. Despite obviously knowing both women are watching him closely, Niall doesn’t falter; he just opens the book to the first page and starts reading about a velveteen rabbit with Ryder’s head tucked securely against his chest.

Around four-thirty, Emilie kisses Niall’s cheek then rises to her feet. Paige follows suit, trailing after Emilie as she begins rifling through the cupboards in search of ideas for dinner.

“Emilie Taylor, what do you think you’re doing?”

“Makin’ dinner.”

“No, you’re not. Just come sit down and relax.”

Emilie gently pushes Paige from the kitchen, laughing as her stepmother protests. “Mama, please. Go enjoy time with your grandson.”

“Why can’t we just order pizza like a normal family?”

“Do you even listen to yourself, woman? We’ve never been normal. Now go!”

“Fine. If you insist. Just know that I cannot be blamed if your boyfriend finds the photo albums in the trunk in the guest bedroom," Paige warns, her voice louder toward the end of her statement.

“Gee, Mama, I don’t think Niall heard you.” Emilie gasps, clapping a hand over her mouth. “No, Niall, don’t you dare!”

“Too late!” comes his cheeky response, and Emilie wilts, groaning.

“Fantastic. At least tell me you got rid of my high school pictures?”

Paige pats her shoulder with a soft smile, though it does little to reassure Emilie. “Of course I didn’t, sweetheart. What kind of mama would I be if I had?”


But Paige is gone. Emilie stands by the island counter and stares after her mama. Well, Niall did say he wanted to see what she looked like in her cheerleading uniform. Sighing, Emilie turns back to the stove. She should probably focus on cooking dinner like she promised instead of the embarrassing stories Paige is going to tell Niall.

She can’t say that she’s actually upset, though. Emilie has heard loads about Niall’s childhood through Mully and himself, but neither man has knowledge of Emilie’s not-so-fine moments. She’s told them some of the less mortifying memories she has, just... not everything. It’s only fair, she supposes.

Besides, it’s a rite of passage in a relationship - to be regaled with tales of your partner’s life before the relationship started. Emilie has gotten lucky in that it took a year for this moment to come. Rose and Jackson hadn’t had much opportunity to remember and compile all the embarrassing memories. Paige has had more time to prepare the juicier stories, however, and Emilie can only imagine what her stepmother is telling Niall right now.

Emilie sighs as she slides the tray of chicken into the oven. All she can hope is that nothing of what Paige says will make Niall run in the opposite direction. Losing him because of her idiocy in the past is a worse prospect than losing him due to her stubbornness, and this is a relationship she’s learnt to cherish.
♠ ♠ ♠
another update to make up for the lack of updates next week. and i made sure it was more of a cutesy thing before we really delve into the aftermath of the past few chapters!