Xiao You sat back and looked at her family with warmth in her heart. It had been ten years since their wedding day and every day had brought only happiness. There had been no pain in being with Ximen. No regrets. Of course they argued like the average couple, but even those fights only showed her how much Ximen loved her since most of those sprung from Ximen’s concern for her and their children.
She stared at the man she’d made a commitment to when she’d only known and loved him for the duration of one pregnancy. Her falling in love with him all over again had convinced her that no matter how far apart they were and how many times she forgot him, he would always have the ability to make her fall in love with him. Her heart still beat rapidly when he came near. She still trembled when he smiled that special smile of his. Her mouth always went dry when he came close enough to touch. She’d known on her wedding day that her mind would always crave his company … her eyes would want the sight of him … her ears would yearn to hear his voice … her body would always desire him … and her heart would always love him.
Ximen was sitting there with the children at the dining room table. It was their special family time together; it was right after he’d come home from work and everyone had dinner together. Although he was part of F4 and the CEO of a company worth billions, he made it a point to come home every night to spend time with his family. He had made them his priority.
Her eyes glittered with joy as she saw him scratch his head over a problem in Shen Shen’s workbook, before stealing a glance in the back for the right answer. Shen Shen missed the action. Coming out of the kitchen, she leaned down and kissed him lightly on the head before going to help their son, Cun Xi a.k.a. Spongey (unfortunately the nickname had stuck due to Shen Shen’s insistence). Even if he didn’t know all of the answers, he needed to … would always need to pretend that he had the answers for his children. He’d promised to be their pillar of strength that day at the hospital and he took his role seriously.
“Dao Ming Si called today,” Ximen remarked casually, looking up at her.
Xiao You’s eyes widened in surprise. “Aren’t they still on their sixth honeymoon and trying for their sixth child in Spain? What was he doing calling you at such a crucial time. I thought he left strict instructions not to interrupt them unless it was a matter of life and death and that only of a select few people. His mother wasn’t even on that list.”
“Yeah, but San Chai wasn’t in a cooperative mood. Apparently, Ah Si only told her about the honeymoon part, not the part where they’d be commemorating the occasion with a like-numbered conception. She’d locked herself in the hotel bathroom. I could hear her shouting in the background that she felt they had enough little Ah Si’s running around. She wasn’t contributing anymore to the world population. She said the world would thank her one day. Ah Si quickly hung up after that.”
Xiao You started to giggle. “Ximen don’t say that in front of the kids! You know that they can understand you and will tease Ah Si mercilessly when he comes back,” she admonished him.
“Where are their little rugrats right now? With Mei Zhou or Lei?” Ximen asked, ignoring the reprimand with a cheeky grin.
“Hua Ze Lei and Teng Tang Jing took them to Japan for a trip with their twins. They’re having a blast learning about tea ceremonies and Japanese culture,” Xiao You said with a smile.
“And then what’s the schedule?”
“What?” he squawked. “How long is this honeymoon supposed to last?”
Xiao You shrugged in response. “Mei Zhou and Xiao Qiao took them first and took them to California. While Xiao Qiao had her playing engagements on the west coast, Mei Zhou took them to all the tourist locations. They loved Disneyland and all the theme parks. It seems they wore poor Mei Zhou out with their demon-like energy.”
“It would put anyone off the idea of having any kids when you have five little Ah Si’s running around,” Ximen muttered to himself.
Xiao You laughed and ruffled his hair. “Nope, it wouldn’t put everyone off. I guess Mei Zhou is keeping mum about the news.”
“What news? Don’t tell me …”
“Xiao Qiao is four months pregnant.”
Ximen jumped up with a whoop of joy and Xiao You smiled to see the inexpressible joy in his eyes. He was so honestly … sincerely happy for his brother. It was a beautiful sight to watch. That sincerity was but another reason to love this man.
“I’m so happy for them,” he said finally, finding words inadequate.
“I know,” she whispered in understanding. “They’ve been waiting for this for more than ten years. They’ve been trying for so long … Xiao Qiao miscarried so many times. She felt it safe to tell me because this is the first time she’s actually gotten into the second trimester. The doctors have been closely monitoring her since her return and have found nothing wrong. Xiao Qiao was so happy, I could hear the ecstasy in her voice. Mei Zhou probably doesn’t want to jinx it.”
Ximen nodded in understanding, walking over to her side. “He was always the most superstitious of us. Nothing will go wrong. And in another five months we’ll have another addition to our family,” Ximen said softly.
Xiao You nodded and reached up to kiss him. They pulled apart when the children demanded their attention once more. She didn’t mind, turning willingly to them.
Shen Shen was a bright just-turned-13 year old, a teenager now. They’d decided to tell her the truth one day about her parents … but not now … not for a while.
She wasn’t ready. They weren’t ready. But she needed to know about the father who’d loved her enough to make the ultimate sacrifice. His sacrifice had made it possible for Xiao You to survive … to reunite with Ximen … and have the family they had today. Conversation grew louder as homework drew to a close. Pretty soon it would be time to put the children to bed, but until then they raced off to their respective rooms to do their own thing.
Her family. Her children. Her husband. Through him … her bigger family. The Dao Mings. The Lings. The Hua Zes. And all of their families. Connected in this circle of support. Everything she needed in life … she had because of him. She loved and appreciated each and every one of them, but her husband most of all. Who could have known the playboy would change so much? That he could mature and become the ideal husband? She’d been one of the lucky ones.
She knew that once the kids were in bed, they would once again renew their vows of love … it was a nightly ritual. One that Ximen insisted on keeping no matter how far apart they might have to be. And Ximen usually moved heaven and earth to ensure that the two would go to sleep holding each other.
Xiao You moved over and sat down in Ximen’s lap, leaning down to plant a kiss on his lips.
She’d loved him when she knew him and hated parts of him.
She fell in love with him after she had forgotten him.
But the deepest love of all had been when she’d been able to remember the past and to let go of the pain and hatred. He would always be there … a part of her. Just like she was a part of him.
She’d lived half a life when she hadn’t known him. Her life hadn’t been worth living when she’d been separated from him. But now … in his arms … she was whole. Just like she knew that he was complete only when he was with her. It wasn’t dependency, it was just a recognition of the simple truth that they would always be incomplete without the other.
Hugging him, she whispered her news into his ear and he pulled back in surprise.
He blinked in shock and then quickly got up, almost sending her to the floor in his haste.
She put a hand to her stomach and smiled at him, nodding in answer to the question she saw in his eyes.
She was finally pregnant again. They’d almost given up hope. She’d finally convinced Ximen to try again despite his fear, but it had taken a full three years to get pregnant again.
She thought back to the dream she’d had in that long-ago sleep, when she’d almost embraced the peace of eternal sleep over returning to this life … to this heaven on earth. She remembered the man … her son … her savior. He’d set her back on the right path. She remembered how she’d told Ximen about him. She knew that Ximen hadn’t believed her, but she had a feeling.
Her hands caressed her stomach. This baby would be another boy. He would be handsome. He would have two little dimples when he smiled. He would be tall and strong … just like his father.
She just knew.
Xiao Tian was ready to join them.
Her heart was at peace.