Epilogue

September 18th

I sat up, heart pounding, muscles contracting in odd places – what a dream.

I sighed, hoping that my sleep self wasn't as loud as my dream self.

My cheeks burned thinking about why I woke up from the amazing dream. I glanced over, feeling a slight edge of panic at the sight of my empty bed. The panic dulled slightly when, in the place of my sleeping boyfriend, sat a large bouquet of deep purple roses.

I didn't even know roses of this color existed.

With my dream in mind, I brought the flowers to my face, inhaling their wonderful scent. That boy was too good to me – even in my dreams, he was too good to me.

His talents would have to remain in my dreamland, though, after we discussed waiting until we were both ready to deal with the associated emotions of our souls molding into one.

Heck, I was just sixteen – I had time.

With a jolt, I remembered why there were roses in my bed. I'm wasn't sixteen anymore. Today was my birthday. My seventeenth birthday.

I smiled against the flowers, my mouth hitting something different than the flower petals. I read the note over quickly, grinning wide at the message, "Beautiful flowers for a beautiful girl on her seventeenth birthday. - G."

My parents must have just started moving around, otherwise, Gavin would be next to me. But, I would take the flowers as a substitute – for now.

Writing on the back of the small card caught my eye, "P.S. Your real present is on your desk." Followed by an adorable hand-drawn heart.

Without a moment's hesitation, I bounded off my bed, taking special care of my flowers, and found a white envelope next to a small-ish, wrapped present.

I sighed and wondered if I should wait to open them. I didn't want my parents to come in here while I was reading whatever Gavin wrote to me.

Hushed whispers caught my attention. I tiptoed out of my room and poked my head out of my door to listen.

"Guys, quiet!" My mom stage whispered. "Let the girl sleep! It's her dang birthday!"

"We were just trying to start her birthday breakfast," Thomas whispered back.

"Well, be quiet about it," she whispered back. I glanced at the clock by my bed – I needed to get an alarm clock for school because I was horrible about sticking with my phone to wake me up.

It was 8:45 am.

My mom shuffled back to bed, hair sticking up every which way.

My eyes widened in surprise. My brothers were being nice and making me breakfast. And my parents were still sleeping. So, they made the breakfast without being asked.

I decided instead of being suspicious, I would just accept the gesture with a smile.

But first, my present.

I tiptoed back to my desk, trying not to let my family know I was awake.

I quietly opened the envelope and smiled, the sight of his handwriting making my heart clench.

"Torrie Marie Adamns," it started. The card had a simple birthday cake design on the front with a blank, white inside – plain except for the small bit of words he left for me, "My one and only...HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I can't wait to celebrate with you. And not to make this about me, but did you know that the February birthstone is a purple Amethyst? Anyways, happy seventeenth, love. Yours always, Gavin."

"Intrigue," I whispered, knowing he would have laughed if he were there.

I quickly opened the present with an eager smile on my face. It was a small-ish, white cardboard box with familiar handwriting on the side that instructed me to "read the papers first, please."

Finding no paper, I opened the cardboard box in hesitation. Inside, there was a black velvet box sitting on top of two neatly folded pieces of paper.

I set the box aside, curiosity almost getting the better of me, and quickly unfolded one of the papers.

"Sorry for all the reading," it said, "but this paper is for you eyes only. I don't need your parents freaking out if they read what I have to say in a card..."

I inhaled, knowing whatever could be next would probably make me cry big, fat happy tears. "First of all, happy birthday, my Torrie. While your birthday has not always been in September, your Torrie birthday is. Since you, Torrie, my one and only, ultimate soul mate are truly only seventeen years old, we're keeping your Torrie birthday and forgetting that any other existed." He was right. My parents would have sent Gavin to a psych ward if they read this. But, it made me smile. I knew what he meant completely.

"And again," it continued, "not to make this about me, but since before you ~knew~, Torrie knew that my birthday was in February. That sounds about right anyways, so from this day forward, February is my birthday. You're probably wondering why I keep talking about my birthday when it's yours, but hopefully, you'll understand in a second."

I sighed. Gavin was nothing if not thorough.

"You only have one more page of my babbling mind to read before you can finally open your present. I really hope you like it. And let's just say, it was inspired by you and your beautiful...mind. Also, it represents a promise. I've been dying to give this to you – I almost just said 'Screw it!' and gave it to you early, but I waited. And I'm glad I did. Just like I'm so glad fate made me wait for you."

And there went the big, fat happy tears.

The letter was coming to a close, "Happy birthday, baby. Enjoy it – you're only seventeen once. Well...you know what I mean."

I laughed, the urge to open the present even bigger than before. But, I had to follow my instructions.

I opened the next and last letter.

It wasn't a letter, really. It was just a list.

The header read, "TOP TEN MOMENTS THAT MADE ME THANKFUL FOR SEPTEMBER 18TH:

"10. When a spunky four year old gave me a semi-toothless grin and a hearty handshake, and confidently told me, 'I'm Torrie.'

9. When a quick-witted girl with beautiful eyes took pity on me in the woods when I was too tongue-tied to form proper sentences.

8. When she taught me that something could be both sinful and heavenly – like lips and hips and fingertips.

7. When that beautiful girl, covered in bruises and scrapes in a hospital, opened her eyes and the first word out of her mouth was my name.

6. The first night she fell in asleep in my arms. / The first night I fell asleep in hers.

5. When she shared her beautiful dream with me – and I saw myself through her eyes.

4. When she said, in the most casual, matter-of-fact tone that she loved me.

3. When she called herself my Torrie, and said her only reason she existed was to love me – making me realize I would never lose her.

2. When I felt how much she loved me.

1. 'Thank you, my love. Thank you for finding me. You found me, and when I looked at you, I saw my heart, my soul, my life, and all my love waiting for me.'"

I could barely see through my tears, cradling the list to my chest, hoping beyond hope I would never lose this.

I carefully popped open the box and cried harder at the beautiful sight. He had called it a promise.

Inside the box was a silver ring that had three loops made my two intersecting lines, reminding me of the infinity symbol. Each of the lines were impressed with beautiful, small, glittering gems. The purple looped with the blue – Sapphires and Amethyst. Two lives intersecting over and over.

The stones reminded me of my dream – of our wedding rings. He had said it was inspired by my beautiful mind.

I placed in on my right hand, ring finger – a promise *ring to remind me of how much he loved me, and I loved him.

Of course, it fit perfectly.

February 23rd

"While I could not possibly top your way with words, I still want to wish you a happy birthday. Even though it seems utterly impossible, I love you more today than I did when you gave me a promise ring. And I know tomorrow, I'll love you even more. But, today, you're 'eighteen' – and you only turn eighteen once.

"So, happy birthday, my love. I tried to surprise you because you seem to like that about me. Inside the box, you will find a version of my top ten moments...well, you'll see. I labeled them in case there was any confusion. I hope you love your birthday present as much as I loved mine. One day, I'll be giving you a ring that symbolizes a similar promise, but hey, I'm only seventeen, so that day will have to wait. Until then, you already have my heart, soul, and love – and now you have frozen memories.

"Pay special attention to the message on the one in the middle. I love you dearly, and I always will. Happy birthday to you, my favorite old man – you're better than I could have ever dreamed of wishing for. With sinful and heavenly lips, hips, and fingertips that are all yours for forever, I love you. - Your Torrie."

I sighed, taping the letting to the large picture frame I managed to sneak into Gavin's room. I got the idea of the moments from him, but the idea of the pictures came from me. I had finally filled the empty spaces in the frame on my wall with what they had been waiting for – new memories from my new life. A lot of the spaces were filled with Gavin's beautiful face.

I sighed, loving that I was going to surprise him again.

Callie helped me keep him distracted, but that wouldn't last for long.

The picture frame contained ten slots for images, each filled with his face and mine, featuring a small description written on the back – small except for the one in the middle.

The descriptions on the back of the pictures said:

"10. I didn't have a camera with me for the real moments, so I had to make do. Thank goodness our families are nosy little bastards – I wouldn't have been able to do this without them. Anyways, this picture is one my mom took of us slow dancing at the roller rink when we took Annabelle. While that was a fun day, I'm going to pretend this was our first date, where I started falling you.

"9. The two of us posed in front of the Georgia welcome sign – representing my moving to Georgia. :)

"8. Your mom took this one without us knowing – we really need to be careful when we kiss in your pool. I think you can figure out what moment this represents.

"7. Our pajama mirror pics from the first night you hung out with me and my family. Even then, I knew I loved you.

"6. You took this one, you butthead. My flushed cheeks and sheepish grin are like large arrows to the HICKEY on my neck. But, I love you for this.

"5. My brothers bursted into my room on September 18th, trying to catch my face on camera when they came in with my birthday breakfast. Instead, they caught me sitting on my bed, holding my beautiful roses, and staring at my breathtakingly-gorgeous promise ring.

"4. Annabelle took this one during our New Year's Eve trip to New York. Your lips were on mine before I even realized it was midnight. You kissed me like kissing was all there was.

"3. Callie took this one. It's my second favorite picture of us. She caught us looking right into each other's eyes. I was pleased to find out that look you give me translates through pictures. And that dang grin. I love that grin.

"2. This is actually the real moment – when I first thought about how I would give anything to freeze moments with you. So, I did the next best thing. You're sleeping in my lap, in my bed, clearly making me a very happy girl.

"1. This is just my favorite picture of us. Faces smushed together, smiling like idiots. But, I'm using it as a place saver for the day I get to give you a beautiful ring that represents a similar, but stronger, promise that my beautiful ring represents. That will be forever my favorite moment. But until then..."