“You look beautiful,” Hale says.
I glance up from my seat in front of the vanity mirror to see him staring at me from the doorway of our bedroom. We’ve been married for years, and he still looks at me like I’m his whole world. The love and joy that dance in his eyes makes me feel treasured. He cherishes me and our kids every day.
“Are they awake yet?” I ask softly.
He shakes his head. We have two beautiful kids, Ollie and Mindy. Ollie is almost ten, and he loves skateboarding, hiking, and following his dad around the gym.
Mindy is eight, and she’s likely to follow in my footsteps. She got the lead in the school play last year, and now she’s convinced she really is Florence Nightingale. She’s always carrying around stuffed animals that she’s bandaged and she loves nothing more than cuddling up with me while I’m studying. Or while I was studying.
My time at the medical university is officially behind me after today’s graduation ceremony. Hale and I stayed in the cabin while I was in college, and I commuted. But once I was accepted to a medical university that had a five-hour commute, Hale bought a home a few minutes from it. This allowed our family to stay under one roof together.
Now that I’m graduating, we’ll be moving again. This time, it’s for my residency at a teaching hospital in Maryland. We both want to return to Courage County as soon as we can. I plan to practice medicine there, in the town I love with the man I love next to me.
He moves to sit on the vanity bench. It groans under our combined weight as he slips an arm around my shoulders. “I’m so proud of you, and all you’ve done.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you,” I tell him. It’s true too. He’s been the one with me through every step of college and studying for the MCAT, and getting accepted into medical school. He’s gotten me through everything, sacrificing his dreams so I could live mine.
As it was, I thought I was going to quit in my third year of medical school. I’ve never doubted myself like I did during that year. But every time I was convinced I couldn’t do it, Hale would be right there, cheering me on. He’s been my rock through it all.
“I got you a gift,” he murmurs, his lips brushing the side of my neck. Even all these years later, the slightest feel of his skin against mine is everything to me. He always makes me feel so desired, like I’m the only woman in the world that exists in his eyes.
“Oh, good. I was wondering when being the wife of a millionaire would pay off,” I tease. Hale is always getting me gifts. He spoils me every day. Sometimes, it’s big and expensive things like that diamond bracelet for my birthday last year. But what I really love are the small thoughtful gifts like a homecooked meal every night and the way he brings me hot chocolate in my favorite mug when I’m busy studying.
“Seems today is your lucky day,” he chuckles and produces a necklace box, opening it to reveal an emerald necklace. It matches the custom engagement ring that he designed.
“It’s beautiful,” I whisper, running my fingertips along it. Just like the ring, I know that he poured countless hours into choosing every detail. It’s not the gemstones that make it precious to me. It’s the care and thought he put into it. Knowing my husband, he spent weeks on it.
He fastens it around my neck, and I smile at the reflection of the two of us in the mirror. In the past few years, he’s changed. His beard is now peppered with silver, and his hand is scarred from where he had the seizure last year when he was cooking. He was fine, and Ollie knew to call for emergency services. If anything, the experience brought us closer as a family and gave us a chance to talk to our kids about disabilities and differences in our world.
“You’ve given me the world,” Hale murmurs, interrupting my thoughts. His hands reach for my swollen belly and lightly caress it.
Our kids have been arguing over whether they’re getting a baby brother or a baby sister. Hale and I found out yesterday we’re getting one of each. We’re over the moon and so excited about it. I cried when I saw the ultrasound picture of our little miracles.
I know it’s going to be hard being a mother and a resident, but I’m not afraid. Hale has my back, and he’s insisted since I started this journey that he always will. Whatever it takes, he wants me to see my dream of becoming a doctor through. He says it’s good for our kids to watch their mom achieve her goals.
I put my hand over his and put my head on his shoulder. “I love this life we’re building together.”
He presses a soft kiss to my forehead. “It’s only going to get sweeter with every passing year.”
I smile because I know that my husband is right. We’re raising a family together, chasing our dreams with each other, and loving every minute along the way.
He follows me around town. He prowls around my house. He’s always in the shadows. My father’s best friend thinks I don’t know he’s the man stalking me.
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