James chuckled and she felt his breath brush over her lips. “Why don’t you come down to England?”
“England sucks,” she said cheekily.
“Technically, you are English.”
“Shh, don’t tell. You’ll ruin my street rep.”
“You don’t need my help with that, sweetheart,” he murmured, finally closing the gap and kissing her. She would have protested but found herself with a far better activity to do.
The flat was soon bare enough for Connor to play around with his football inside without worrying about breaking anything, though at the end of the day there were several dirty marks on the walls that hadn’t been there before.
Well, it wasn’t Jessica’s problem anymore. Next year they had a flat – a real flat, not owned by the university, which meant bills and other adult stuff that sounded no fun. She was going to share with Courtney (of course), Connor and Aja. It was going to be a blast.
“New university year, new me. Gotta get our heads down and study.”
Jessica snorted. “Yeah, right, I’ll see that when I believe it.”
James grinned. “Ah, I missed your constant insults and disbelief.”
“Yeah, well, I guess I missed you too.”
“Don’t sound so unsure.” He dug his fingers into her side and she squealed, twisting away from him. He laughed brightly, backing away when she brandished a cushion from one of the many unpacked boxes.
“Well, when I said I missed you, I meant that I missed the sex,” she teased.
James held a hand over his heart. “Ouch. That was harsh even for you, sweetheart,” he gasped, but he was smiling.
“I have to study,” Jessica murmured, though in reality it was a weak protest when James ran his warm hand over her thigh.
“I’ll help you study,” James said, gaze trailing down. He pointed to her knee. “What bone is that?”
“Oh, my god,” she laughed. “I’m doing Biochemistry, you idiot.”
“It sounds like it has biology in there somewhere,” he said airily.
“Don’t you have to study too?” Jessica pointed out, reaching up and brushing some of James’ fringe behind his ear.
“I am studying. Moments ago I was whispering French insults into your ear.”
“And here I thought you were being romantic.”
“What… why are there flowers sitting there?”
Aja arched an eyebrow. “Well, it is good old V-day.”
“Afternoon,” he greeted, a little nervously.
“This doofus decided to wake me up at nine this morning and send me on a treasure hunt to find them. He’s lucky that I’m a curious person by nature.”
“I seem to remember a lot more excited squealing,” Aiden muttered. Aja flashed him a grin, though he only rolled his eyes.
“So… Are you guys together now?”
“That’s what we were talking about before you came in,” Aiden protested, at the same time as Aja grinned again and said ‘yes’.
“You were kissing when I came in,” Jessica pointed out.
“The best way to talk things through,” Aja said with a decisive nod.
The best thing about this news was that Jessica could finally double date, given that it was only Aja that shared her enthusiasm for the idea.
Jessica sidled up in front of the TV and waited until James turned it off. “Everything okay?” he asked cautiously.
“I was thinking…”
“Ass – anyway… It’s not long until we’re in fourth year,” she said, fidgeting uncomfortably. “And then after that – what are we going to do?”
James tilted his head to the side. “Okay, sit down, sweetheart.”
“Are you scared?”
“Of course I am,” she murmured. “But I want this to work. Even if the thought of it makes me panic.”
“You know that we don’t have to live together, or get married, or any of that shit. I don’t need that, and I know you don’t want it.” He studied her carefully. “What’s bothering you?”
“I do want to live with you,” she blurted. “But I’m scared that this means the next step is marriage and I don’t want that. I don’t think I ever want that.”
“You’re operating under the assumption that I do. I don’t care about it either. Except for the legal purposes of it, I think it’s a load of bull.”
“C’mere, you idiot,” he chuckled, pulling her closer to him and hooking his arm over her shoulder. “Communication is the key, remember?”
“Okay, okay,” she sighed, “I get it. Talking is good.”
“Aw, I’ll make a functional girlfriend out of you yet.”
“You’re an asshole,” she huffed, wiggling away when he began to kiss up her neck. “No, I haven’t forgiven -” She gasped as he began to tickle under her top and ended up sliding onto the floor. She pouted up at him when he stretched out to take up the whole sofa.
“Mine now,” he grinned like a smug, satisfied cat.
“I -ugh – you’re a dick.”
“So you keep reminding me.”
And – well, that’s all, folks, as they say.
It was time to be thrust into true adulthood. A terrifying prospect, but at least she had this idiot by her side.
Nate, who had talked his fianceé into moving back to the UK with him, put the two of them up while they began to look for a neighbourhood to settle down in. It was a prospect that both terrified and excited Jessica.
Nate was actually involved in real estate and the like, so he was happy to talk it over with them. They already had ideas forming in their heads: they needed to be close to a city that had research jobs available (James could get a job almost anywhere, given he had graduated with a 2:1 in Marketing and two languages), but they didn’t want to live in the city. The reason for such was not something that they had voiced to one another, as it was a barely formed thought that had yet to even make itself known: they wanted somewhere safe for children to grow up.
Just in case.
Slowly but surely, they began to work through the list of places Nate thought they might like.
Cascade Shores was a little too far out from the city; Jessica wanted to get away from the tiny community that she had growing up. Sure, it was safe, but rural places had a way of holding onto the worst values of the past.
Anne Arbour was used to refer to the city and the town next to it, though it was almost entirely cut off from the city except for a small coastal road that curved around the tall hills. It was here that they found a secluded spot, with a house that looked as if it had been waiting just for them.
That niggling thought about children only got louder.
It was strange. In the month it had taken them to find a house, and the two months it had taken them to settle in and score jobs, already some of their old flatmates were marrying or settling down. Even Courtney was beginning to get angsty for it.
The news came that Sam and Jeremy were engaged, and that his parents were understanding enough to attend the wedding. Jess suspected Brian and Kelsey wouldn’t be too far behind. Aja was like Jess, and though she didn’t think either of them would get married, she also knew that they were lucky with their boyfriends, who also didn’t seem to care much about the idea.
Anyway, they were happy – that’s all that mattered.
It didn’t take all that long for the thought about children to be voiced, and acted upon…
James kept different hours to her – while Jessica worked the usual nine to five, James tended to be asked to travel and attend meetings abroad, usually in Spanish or French speaking areas. She missed him, but it was never for too long – and this time when he arrived back she had good news for him.
She had waited by the window and watched the taxi pull up. She ran out of the door and down the stairs, grinning widely, and was in his arms before he could even pull his luggage out of the vehicle.
Jessica scrunched her face up and he chuckled. “I have good news.”
“Is it that the takeout got here before I did? Because I ordered one, by the way.”
“No,” she said, stretching up to whisper in his ear. “I’m pregnant.”
“I know.” As the sun dipped lower, Jessica happily stayed in the circle of his arms, sharing his warmth. “I have to warn you about something, though.”
“I do have a history of multiple births in my family. I’m the only kid in the family not to have a twin or a triplet. My mum is a triplet, both of her sisters have had twins, and her grandmother was a quad, seriously, a quad -”
James laughed. “I bet you twenty quid that we’ll have just one, then.”
Jessica giggled. “I’m not sure this is something we should bet on.”
“Fine!” She tilted her head back and looked at the darkening sky above them. She could hear a car climbing the steep slope up to this part of the neighbourhood, and wondered if that was their take out. “I’ll bet on twins, then.”
And that, of course, was why they had triplets.